Konju Peera (Shrimp with grated coconut)

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Konju Peera: Konju malayalam means prawns/shrimp and Peera is grated coconut. This dish is one of the easiest dish I have ever learnt to make. Peera pattichadu/vattichadu is not so common dish towards northern Kerala. Since it is not a dish made in my home ever, I wasn’t keen on making it also. However, one day I just happened to go through some cooking video of ‘Netholi(Anchovy) peera’. Looking at the ease of preparation method and the time it would take to cook this, I decided to try making it once and see how I would like it. By the way, Netholi Peera is a more common dish than Konju Peera 🙂 The only reason I made Konju peera is because, I didn’t have anchovy in my fridge but had shrimp. And when I decide to make or do something, I have to do it then and there – Impatience!!! My loved ones aren’t very proud of this character on mine 😛

Anyway, long story short, I made this dish within 30 mins of watching that cooking video 😀 Such a traditional and authentic dish and it tasted yummmmm!!! This was my first ever ‘peera’ experience and this dish has definitely taken a place in my heart 😉 It is a very simple dish with very simple, yet most authentic Kerala flavors 🙂 It goes very well as a side dish with rice.

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Shrimp/Prawns/Konju/Chemmeen – 100 gms or 12 large shrimps
Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
Ginger – 1/2 inch, chopped
Shallots – 3 nos, sliced
Curry leaves – 1 strand
Green chilli – 3 nos, slit
Kudampuli/Gambooge – 1.5 nos
Turmeric powder – 1/3 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste (apprx. less than 1/2 tsp)

METHOD:

1. Wash and clean the shrimp/prawns.
2. Put all the ingredients mentioned above except for coconut oil, in a sauce pan or meen chatti(clay pot) and give it a good mix with your hands or a spoon.
3. Heat the sauce pan and pour little water(apprx. 1/4 cup) and let it boil.
4. Once it starts to boil, bring the flame to low heat and cook covered for about 10 mins(till the shrimp/prawns/konju is cooked).
5. Pour the coconut oil to the sides of the sauce pan/meen chatti and give a light mix. Do not stir the Konju peera too much. Remove from heat.

Serve with rice 🙂

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Chettinad Chicken

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Chettinad Chicken has become one of my favorites off late. In different restaurants, you will find different versions of chettinad chicken. However, one thing I have realized is that the basic flavor in all of them, is pretty much the same. For that matter, in most preparations, there is something that is unique and common. And in Chettinad preparation few of the ingredients that gives it that distinct flavor are fennel seeds, shallots, curry leaves, coconut paste and mint leaves. So even if you don’t follow the below recipe in the exact manner, ensuring that the above mentioned ingredients are added in some order or the other, the taste will be pretty much good 🙂

What I like about this chicken curry is that, it is different from the usual style of chicken curries we make otherwise. I love the flavor the fennel seeds add to this curry. It goes very well with any kind of bread, ghee rice, dosa, Kerala porotta, idiyappam or even plain rice 🙂 And for me, this is one of the comfort foods 😉 Somehow, I feel it is light to ones’ tummy 😀 I strongly recommend this curry if you are a fan of South Indian food and I guarantee that this will be as good as the chettinad chicken you get in restaurants. Am sure, everyone will like this awesome Chettinad Chicken curry!!!

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Chicken(with bone) – 1 kg
Onion – 3 nos. small sized, chopped
Tomato – 3 nos. small sized, chopped
Garlic – 10-12 pods
Cinnamon – 1 inch stick
Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cloves – 3-4 nos
Cardamom – 3 nos
Bay leaf – 2 nos
Curry leaves – 2-3 sprigs
Mint leaves – 4 strands, chopped
Coriander leaves – 10 strands, chopped
Oil – 5 tbsp or as needed
Salt – to taste (apprx. 1 tsp)

To grind-1:
Ginger – 3/4 inch piece
Shallots – 5-6 nos.
Garlic – 10-12 pods
Green chilli – 3 nos
Chilli powder – 2.5 tsp
Coriander powder – 2.5 tbsp

To grind-2:
Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
Cashew – 5-6 nos

METHOD:
1. Heat oil in a sauce pan. Put cinnamon, fennel seeds, cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, mint leaves and curry leaf mentioned under Ingredients section. Once it splutters, add chopped onion and saute.
2. Once the onion turns light pink, put crushed garlic and saute for 2-3 mins.
3. Add chopped tomato and cook till the tomatoes cook well and become a paste.
4. Meanwhile, grind the ingredients mentioned under ‘To grind-1’ section into a smooth paste. Once tomatoes cook, add this mixture into the pan. Saute till the raw smell goes.
5. Then add the chicken and salt and mix it well so the masala is coated well on the chicken pieces.
6. Cook covered in medium flame till the chicken cooks well. Chicken will leave a lot a water. But if needed, add water for chicken to cook well.
7. Meanwhile, grind the ingredients mentioned under ‘To grind-2’ section into a smooth paste. Once chicken is cooked, add this ground paste into the gravy and mix well.
8. Let it cook for about 5 mins. Add water if you need more gravy. If you want a thicker gravy, cook in medium high flame till the desired consistency.
9. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Uzunnu Vada(Medhu Vada)

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Uzhunnu vada/Medhu vada is a deep fried snack made of black gram. It could be considered a savory doughnut 🙂 Whatever said, it is one of my favorite snack. This goes absolutely well with coconut chutney or sambar. For Sambar vada, you should dip/immerse your medhu vada completely in a bowl of sambar. Similar to how you would eat Mini idli and Sambar. Another way to relish this deep fried doughnut is with yogurt/curd. That combination is called Dahi wada or Thairu(meaning curd) vada.

In our childhood, mom used to make this often. It always amazed me how the hole came in the vada 😉 I din’t know for a long period how to get those round, crispy fritters with a hole in the center. And when I learnt how, for a long time, I was scared to take my palms near the hot oil for dropping the vada. For those of you, who are scared like me to do this frightful task :-P, let me give you a good alternative. If you have a long flat spoon/serveware, replace it for your palm. Instead of dipping your palm in the water bowl, dip the flat surface of the spoon. Put the batter on the spoon. With you finger make the hole, and then slowly drop/slide the vada into the oil. That way, you don’t have to be scared if the oil splashes. Isn’t it a brilliant idea 😀 Well, it definitely helps me!!! Good luck for getting those perfect vadas. If you ask me, the only trick mainly is the thickness of your batter. You should grind the urad dal with as less water as possible. Seriously, that’s the only way to get non-oily, crispy vadas.

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Whole urad dal/black gram – 2.5 cups
Black peppercorns- 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 spring, finely chopped
Onion – 1/2 no, chopped
Green chilli – 3 nos, finely chopped
Ginger – 1 inch piece, finely chopped
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1.25 tsp)
Water apprx. 1.25 cups
Oil – enough for frying the vada(apprx. 2-3 cups)
Note: Some recipes call for baking soda. I haven’t used baking soda because, it might make the vada more fluffy, but it also makes it very oily.

METHOD:
1. Soak urad dal for 2-3 hours. Then grind the urad dal into a smooth thick paste in a blender/mixie using as little water as possible.
Note: Adding more water could result the vada to absorb more oil. Also, it would be difficult to put the hole in the vada if the batter is watery
2. In a deep kadai, heat oil for frying the vada. The oil should be heated well.
3. In the meantime, mix black peppercorns, curry leaves, onion, green chilli, ginger and salt to the batter and mix well.
Note: Add onion right before frying the vadas. Else onion would leave out some water and the batter could turn watery
4. Keep a bowl of water next to you before shaping the vada and dropping it into the oil.
5. This is the tricky part. To make a hole in the vada, first wet you palm by dipping your palm into the bowl of water. I would wet my left palm since I am right-handed 🙂
6. Take a spoonful of batter into your palm. Dip your index finger into the bowl of water and using that finger, put a hole in the batter.
7. Then slide the vada into the hot oil. Fry the vada in medium high flame. Fry till its golden brown on either sides.
8. Place the vada on a kitchen towel for few mins to drain excess oil.
9. Repeat steps 5-7 for each vada. Remember to wet your palms each time, to prevent vada from sticking to your palm when trying to slide it to the oil.

Yummy crispy uzhunnu vadas are ready to be served with coconut chutney or sambar. Or you could make it into Thairu vada/Dahi vada.

For Thairu vada/Dahi vada, take some yogurt/curd. Add salt as needed. Pour it on the vada and sprinkle some red chilli powder for taste.

Mango Ice-cream

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In India, Mango is considered the king of all fruits. In different states/regions, you get different varieties of mango. If you want to get the best mangoes, summer is the time for it. Some varieties of mangoes that are available in India are irresistible 😀 They literally melt in your mouth and are sweeter than honey!!! One thing I really miss in the US is good mangoes 😦

I haven’t met anyone so far who doesn’t like Mangoes. So its always safe to make any form of Mango dessert/dish like Mango lassi, mango pudding, mango ice-cream or even mango cheesecake. I am glad that we get good mango pulps in the stores. As I mentioned earlier, in India, Mango is the King of all fruits and among all those different varieties of mangoes, Alphonso holds the prime place! This easy ice-cream uses alphonso mango pulp as its main ingredient. Super easy to make and guaranteed compliments from anyone who relishes this ice-cream. It would take 10 mins of your time to come up with this mouth watering dessert that is just perfect during summer! Wondering why am I posting this during winter then??? Well, I think I myself am confused 😉 Having said that, no season is a bad season for such awesome ice-creams 😛

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INGREDIENTS:

Alphonso Mango pulp – 825 gm
Whipped cream(topping) – 225 gm
Condensed milk – 2 tbsp
Alphonso Mango(optional) – 1 no, cubed into small pieces

METHOD:

1. In a bowl, mix mango pulp, condensed milk and whipped cream. Whisk/Mix it lighly till the ingredients mix well.
2. Transfer it to a container in which you want to freeze the ice-cream(should be air-tight container).
3. Freeze it for an hour. Put the mango cubes into the ice-cream mix and give a light stir. Note: Skip this step if you are not using mango pieces.
4. Continue for freeze for 3-4 hours before serving.

Mini Idli ‘n Sambar

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Mini Idli and Sambar is a killer combination. I had never seen mini idlis till I came to US and went to Saravana Bhavan with my colleagues. As an appetizer they ordered the 14 piece mini idlis and I thought I wouldn’t like it. But to my surprise, I loved it. The small idlis looked so cute. And when served with a bowl of delicious sambar and ghee, wow..my mouth is watering already 😛 Ever since, I have always ordered this appetizer when I go there.

Though I had bought idli plates, I had never used it. To be honest, I wasn’t a great fan of idli ever. I always thought it is to be eaten only when you are sick 😉 But now, I wanted to buy mini idli plates. I went around all the Indian grocery stores and finally got what I wanted. Though I am not a fan of idli, I somehow like mini idlis 🙂 But you should get your idlis right. It should be soft and fluffy. If it is hard, then it won’t taste good.

See my post on Idli to get those perfect soft idlis. I have seen, with idli and dosa batter, many people use many variations to get it right. I also had to go through some experiments, to finally get my perfect batter. Whatever method you follow, as long as it works for you, thats all that matters 😉

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INGREDIENTS:

Idli Batter – as needed
(click for Idli batter recipe)
Sambar – as needed
(click for Sambar recipe / click for Palakkadan Sambar recipe )
Ghee – 1 tsp

METHOD:

1. In steamer, keep some water for boiling.
2. Grease the mini idli plates with oil.
3. Using a spoon, pour/drop the idli batter into the moulds. Stack the plates.
4. Once the water boils, lower the idli plates into the steamer and steam it for 4-5 mins.
5. Once ready, let the idli cool down a little. Using a knife or sharp spoon, scoop out the idlis into a plate.
6. In a bowl, take hot sambar and add ghee into it.
7. Before serving, put the mini idlis into the sambar bowl.

Serve hot!

Sambar

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Sambar is one of my all time favorites. So is it for DD 🙂 From my childhood, this is one thing that I have consistently liked. Usually in my home, mom mostly prepares Palakkadan Sambar. Taste-wise, no doubt I like that better, but when it comes to ease of making it, the regular sambar is the best. Especially because I just make it all in one shot, in pressure cooker. There would be rarely any South Indian family that doesn’t have sambar atleast once a week 🙂 These days, things are a little different though, specially when you are in other countries 😛

Though there are various curries that could be used with rice like rasam, moru, dal etc. etc., according to me, there is no replacement for sambar. Till I met people from other states, I was thinking that Sambar is made of assorted vegetables and thats the only way it could be made. But from friends and colleagues, I came to know that they make Drumstick sambar, Raddish sambar, Okra sambar etc. Its individual preference, but atleast the place I come from, Sambar is a lovely combination of lentils and all kinds of assorted vegetables. The aroma of sambar can awaken your pallets. The best part is that it is such a healthy dish to have. I don’t know why I didn’t post this recipe earlier 😮

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Toor dal(yellow dal) – 1 cup
Shallots – 4-5 nos
Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp
Tamarind – 1 inch sized ball
(If you are using tamarind extract – 1 tsp)
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 3/4 tsp
Sambar powder – 1 heaped tsp
Tomato – 1 no, cubed
Assorted vegetables cut lengthwise:
Carrot – 1/2 no
Drumsticks – 1 no
Green Beans – 9-10
Raw banana – 1 no, small sized
Baby brinjal – 2 nos
Salt – to taste (apprx. 1 tsp)
Coconut Oil – 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Dry red chilli – 2 nos
Curry leaves – 2 strands
Coriander leaves – 3 strands

METHOD:

1. Soak toor dal in water for sometime, say 30 mins. Boil it in cooker and give 3 whistles. Mash the cooked dal to form a thick smooth paste.
(For those who do not know how much quantity of water to use to boil the dal, use 1:1.5 ratio of dal vs water)
2. Soak the tamarind in warm water for few mins and extract the tamarind juice.
3. In the same cooker, to the dal, add shallots, asafoetida, tamarind, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, sambar powder, tomato, all the cut vegetables, 1 spring curry leaves and salt. Add 3-4 cups of water also.
4. Close the pressure cooker and cook sambar in high flame. After 2 whistles, keep in simmer/low flame for 5 mins.
5. Once all the steam escapes, open the cooker and mix the sambar well. At this time, you can adjust the consistency of the sambar by either adding more water or boiling it for some more time to make it thicker.
6. In a pan, heat coconut oil. Add mustard seeds, let it splutter. Then add broken red chillies and curry leaves to it. Switch off the stove and add this tempering to the sambar.
7. Garnish with some chopped coriander leaves and sambar is ready in no time.

Serve with Idli / Mini Idli / Dosa or rice!

Banana Bread

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Banana bread or Banana loaf has always been one of those things, which I would only buy and NOT make. Reason: Coz I didn’t know its so easy to make one 😛 After I made it once, which was like 3 weeks back, I have already made it thrice!!! I love the texture of the bread and the crunch that is added by the walnuts. DD and few of my friends also liked it a lot. Especially because it wasn’t super sweet and sounds healthy – Banana and Walnuts 😉 !*%$#@! Hehe..

Well, I wonder why it is called banana bread and not a cake. The ingredients doesn’t seem to be very different from that of a cake. The best reason I could come up with is that, may be because it is in the shape of a bread or loaf that its called so 😉 Whatever be the reason, I like this bread 🙂 Now I know what to do when I have those ugly looking black bananas, which I would never eat otherwise. The more ugly/black your banana looks, the better your banana bread would taste. Isn’t that cool 🙂 I referred to some recipes and replaced some of the regular ingredients with yogurt, olive oil etc. to reduce the amount of butter and also to give it a variation and I am absolutely happy with the results 😀

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Ripe Banana – 2-3 nos
Walnuts – 1/2 cup
All purpose flour – 1.5 cups
Baking Soda – 1 tsp
Egg – 1 no
Butter -1/3 cup
Sugar – 3/4 cup
Salt – a pinch
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Yogurt(Greek yogurt preferred) – 2 tbsp

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
2. Peel the banana and in a bowl, mash them well using a fork and keep aside.
3. Mix baking soda and all purpose flour.
4. In a mixing bowl, beat egg and melted butter well. Then mix in the sugar, salt, vanilla extract, yogurt and olive oil.
5. Add all purpose flour and mix well. Then take the mashed banana kept aside and stir in with the mix.
6. Roughly chop the walnuts, add it to the bread batter and give a stir so that it is evenly distributed.
7. Prepare the loaf pan by greasing it with some butter/oil and then adding little flour so that the loaf/bread doesn’t stick to the pan.
8. Pour the bread batter into the loaf pan and bake it for about 1 hour – 1 hour 10 mins. You would know that the bread is ready, when a knife/tooth pick inserted into the center of the bread, comes out clean.
9. Once the bread is ready, let it cool before you slice them. Please note, this is an important step. Else you would not be able to slice it smoothly.

Note: Please don’t stir/mix the banana too much into the batter, else the loaf would become dry and crumbly.