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Food and Drink

Instant Carrot and Ginger Pickle

Anjali Venugopal May 19, 2020 NO COMMENTS

I love pickles. They have the power to make even the laziest of meals more appetizing. This one is made with carrots and ginger. It’s hot, sour and sweet all at the same time and it is a favourite.

Things you will need:

  • Carrots- 3 medium to large sized, cut into two inch long wedges. See picture above.
  • Ginger- 2 inch piece, julienned. Even slightly thicker bits work if you like the bite of nice fresh ginger. Works very well in this pickle. See picture above.
  • Fresh green chillies- 6-7 finely chopped
  • Kashmiri red chilli powder- 3 heaped tablespoons
  • White vinegar- a little less than 1/3 cup
  • Black mustard seeds- 1.5 teaspoons
  • Fenugreek seeds- ½ teaspoon
  • Dried red chillies- 3-4
  • Water- ½ cup
  • Salt- to taste
  • Sugar- 1-1.5 teaspoons
  • Cooking oil- ¼ cup (Gingelly oil is your best bet. Canola works too, I used Canola)

How to go about it

  1. In a pan, heat the cooking oil. Medium heat. Once hot, add the mustard, fenugreek and dried red chillies. Allow the seeds to spultter.
  2. Next, add the ginger and the green chillies. Saute well for 1.5- 2 minutes. This will ensure that the flavours are released well into the oil.
  3. Now take the pan off the heat and add the chilli powder. Move the chilli powder around for 30 seconds while it is off the heat to ensure it doesn’t burn. Place the pan back on LOW heat. Fry the chilli powder for another 30 seconds. It will get darker in colour but make sure it does not burn!
  4. Add half the vinegar and mix well. Keep mixing for another 15-20 seconds.Next, add the remaining vinegar and water. Mix well. Add the salt too (you may want to add a little extra salt as this is a pickle. Helps to preserve the carrots and also tastes great with all the chilli, vinegar and sugar).
  5. Add the carrot wedges and mix it all up well. If you feel you’d like a bit more sauce in the pickle, add more water. Mix very well and keep the pan closed for about two minutes (on medium heat) and allow the carrots to cook ever so lightly. The carrots must be crisp even at the end.
  6. Add the sugar (add 1 tsp and see if you need more to reach the right balance), mix well again, check salt and add more if required. Pickling is a skill you acquire with time. So, if you’re a newbie, keep tasting at every step to get to the right balance that works on your palate.
  7. Allow the pickle to come to room temperature before storing away in clean and dry glass bottles. Keeps well for months in the fridge. Just make sure you use a clean and dry spoon every time you serve the pickle.

Dal Makhani – The True Queen of Dals

Anjali Venugopal May 15, 2020 NO COMMENTS

I love my meat. But there are a few vegetarian dishes that truly get me to overeat. One is this royal Dal Makhani. Serve it with some hot jeera rice and it’s a meal in itself. It’s rich and absolutely flavorful and one of my most favourite things to eat any day. But you must remember that the Dal Makhani is not something you can decide to cook when you are already hungry. It takes time, patience and love. Give this dish the love it needs and you’ll see magic.

Things you will need:

(serves 3-4)

  • Whole black urad dal- 3⁄4 cup
  • Red kidney beans (Rajma)- 1⁄4 cup
  • Water- 3.5 cups (to pressure cook)
  • Butter- 2 tablespoons or two 2 inch cubes
  • Red onion- 1 medium sized, chopped finely (chop well!)
  • Green chilies- 3 chopped finely
  • Ginger garlic paste- 2 teaspoons (grind a 1 inch stick of ginger along with 5-6 cloves of garlic)
  • Tomatoes- 2 large, pureed with skin on
  • Cumin seeds- 1⁄2 teaspoon
  • Cloves- 3
  • Green cardamom- 3 pods
  • Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
  • Indian bay leaf- 1
  • Kashmiri red chili powder- 2 teaspoons
  • Cream- ¼ cup
  • Kasuri Methi crushed- ½ teaspoon (optional)
  • Salt- to taste
  • Chopped coriander leaves (optional)

How to go about it:

  1. Soak the black dal and the red kidney beans together, overnight in enough water for a minimum of 9-10 hours. Once that is done, drain the water and rinse the lentils well. Keep it aside.
  2. Add the 3.5 cups (the same cup you used to measure the dal) of water and pressure-cook the lentils for at 20 whistles on high heat. Don’t add salt now. Check after 20 whistles to see if the lentils are cooked well and can be mashed with the back of a spoon. If not, add another cup of water and let it cook for another 2-3 whistles. The point here is to make sure the lentils are cooked thoroughly and that the black dal melts in your mouth.
  3. Once the dal is cooked, keep it aside.
  4. Next, in a heavy bottomed dish, heat 2 tablespoons of butter. Medium heat. Don’t let the butter burn though. Add the whole spices (cumin, cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf). Saute for 30 seconds or until the spices release the flavour into the melted butter.
  5. Add the finely chopped onions and saute till they turn golden brown. Next, add the ginger garlic paste and green chillies and saute for 20 seconds.
  6. Next, add the pureed tomatoes, salt to taste and chilli powder and keep sauteing till most of the water content from the tomatoes evaporates and the fat starts to release from the sides. The mixture will now be slightly darker.
  7. Add the cooked dal with the stock and a cup of water and mix very well. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it stay on the stove on a low heat for a minimum of 40 minutes uncovered. Make sure you keep stirring the pot frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. The longer you let it simmer, the tastier it gets. So, 40 minutes is a minimum. Stay patient.
  8. If you feel the dal is getting too cakey or dry, keep adding half cups of water and mix well. I keep tasting the dal every now and then and you’ll actually feel the flavours deepen and come together to form a balance like never before. You can also ensure the salt it just right.
  9. Once the dal has simmered for a while and is nice and thick, add the cream. Take off the stove immediately and mix well. The Dal Makhani is not a watery dal. It’s rich and luscious.
  10. Add the kasuri methi (optional) and give it a good mix. Garnish with a small swirl of cream and chopped coriander leaves for an enhanced flavour.
  11. Serve warm with Naan or Jeera Rice or Rotis. Tastes even better the next day!

Tamil Chicken 65

Anjali Venugopal May 13, 2020 NO COMMENTS

Disclaimer. This dish is deep fried and this means 1) it’s not your healthiest bet and 2) you’ll end up having to throw away the leftover oil. Having said that, this crispy fried chicken is delicious as an appetizer, or for a regular meal with rice and dal and the best still, as a munchie while you are sipping on a cold beer.

Things you will need:

  • Boneless chicken breasts- 2 (cut into small bite sized pieces)
  • Oil for deep frying- about 400 ml (I use rapeseed oil for frying)
  • Curry leaves- 2-3 sprigs. Be lavish as the curry leaves give the base flavour for this dish.

For marination:

  • Kashmiri red chilli powder- 2 tablespoons (If you prefer it hotter, use 1 tablespoon of regular red chilli powder and 1 tablespoon of Kashmiri. The Kashmiri chilli powder is what gives this recipe its colour as I am against using artificial food colouring.)
  • Ginger garlic paste- 2 teaspoons (make a paste with a 1 inch stick of ginger and 5-6 small cloves of garlic)
  • Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
  • Black pepper powder- 1.5 teaspoon
  • Lime juice- 1 tablespoon
  • Egg- 1
  • Salt- to taste
  • Corn flour- 2 tablespoons
  • Regular all purpose flour- 1 tablespoons

How to go about it:

  1. In a bowl, make a marinade using all the ingredients listed under ‘for marination.’ Rub the mixture on the chicken pieces. Mix very well, preferably with your hands, and allow this marinated chicken to rest in fridge for about 30 minutes to one hour.
  2. When ready to fry the chicken, place a heavy wok on medium heat and heat the oil. Once the oil is hot, add some curry leaves and wait for 10 seconds. Place the marinated chicken bits in the hot oil, making sure you don’t over crowd the wok, and deep fry with the wok uncovered, until the outer covering is nice and crispy.
  3. Fry in batches with enough curry leaves every time. And serve hot with sliced red onions, a dash of lime juice and a frosty beer on the side.

Apple Cinnamon Preserve

Anjali Venugopal May 12, 2020 NO COMMENTS

This is an old fashioned apple preserve which works well on toast or pancakes or in pies.

Things you will need:

(yields 500 grams worth)

  • Apples- 3 large (peeled, core removed and cut into small pieces)
  • Cinnamon- 2 inch stick powdered or 1.5 teaspoon
  • Sugar- 1.5 cups
  • Juice of 1 lime

How to go about it:

  1. In a dry, large, deep and heavy bottomed pot, place the cut apples and add the sugar. Mix well. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Place the pot on a medium heat and keep stirring while you wait for the sugar to melt.
  3. Once the sugar begins to melt, add the cinnamon and lime juice and keep mixing it all well. The apples will now begin to release water.
  4. Keep stirring the contents for another 25-30 minutes or until the apple pieces soften up. Break down the larger pieces with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon.
  5. Aim to get the preserve to a nice jam like consistency with little chunks of well cooked apples here and there. Don’t allow it to get completely smooth.
  6. Cool down completely before storing away in dry, glass jars. Keeps well for 3 weeks in the fridge.

Trivandrum Chicken Fry – The Pulse of my Hometown

Anjali Venugopal May 9, 2020 NO COMMENTS

This recipe is reminiscent of all the meals I’ve had from the roadside shacks of my hometown. The thattukadas. This is not your best bet if you’re looking for a healthy recipe as we use lavish amounts of oil here. The key to perfecting this recipe lies in the way you adjust the heat throughout the process.

Things you will need:

  • Chicken on the bone, cut into medium to small pieces- 500 grams (make a few lines on the pieces with a sharp knife.)
  • Kashmiri red chilli powder- 1 tablespoon
  • Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
  • Lime juice- 1 teaspoon
  • Coconut oil for best results. Regular cooking oil like rapeseed oil etc works too. You need to be a little lavish with the oil for this recipe.
  • Curry leaves- 2 sprigs

To grind

(for this recipe, it’s important to keep this paste coarse. Don’t grind it all together to make a smooth paste as this will affect the end product. The brazen flavours and little bites of ginger and garlic give this recipe its soul. It’s the imperfections that make this dish perfect.)

  • Dried red chillies, the big variety. Not bird’s eye chillies)- 12-15 (bump it up if you like it hotter) You can substitute this with ready made chilli flakes. Use 1.5-2 tablespoons BUT do not grind it. Add in after you make the coarse paste out of the rest of the ingredients given below.
  • Shallots- 6-7 (if you don’t have shallots, use half of a medium sized red onion.)
  • Ginger- 1 inch stick
  • Garlic- 8-10 cloves if you’re using the regular variety. 4-5 cloves if using the large variety.
  • Fennel seeds- 1.5 tsp
  • Whole black peppercorns- 1.5- 2 teaspoons

How to go about it:

  1. First, rub the clean and lined pieces of chicken with the Kashmiri red chilli powder, turmeric, lime juice and salt to taste. Keep in the fridge while you do the rest.
  2. Next, make a COARSE paste out of the ingredients listed under “to grind.” DO NOT add the chilli flakes if that is what you’re using. Instead, make the paste out of the rest of the ingredients and just mix in the chilli flakes after.
  3. Add this marinade to the chicken kept aside. Mix it all up well with your hand for best results. Check the salt again. Add more if needed. Allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for an hour.
  4. When ready to fry the chicken, heat a little more than quarter cup coconut oil in a wok or deep pan. Medium to high heat. Add the curry leaves. Wait for about 20 seconds for the flavour to infuse into the oil.
  5. Next, place the chicken pieces along with the marinade coating the pieces in the hot oil. Don’t over crowd the wok. You can always fry the whole thing in two or more batches. Reduce the heat to a low and cover the wok. Allow the chicken to cook for 12-15 minutes or until the chicken is almost cooked checking once or twice in between and moving the pieces around to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Once the chicken is almost cooked and the meat begins to fall off the bone, increase the heat and fry it all up well. Add more oil at this point if needed. Fry the chicken till the chicken is completely cooked and the masala is a deep brown. Don’t wait until it’s completely black. It tastes best when it’s at a point right before it turns black. Again, a couple of attempts will help you perfect this 🙂 Get the chicken pieces out along with the fried masala and place it all in a dish lined with paper napkins.
  7. Serve hot with chapati or dosas or ghee rice with crisp slices of red onions. Make sure you help yourself to the fried masala and curry leaf bits. It’s the absolute best!

The Best Crème Caramel Ever!

Anjali Venugopal May 7, 2020 6 COMMENTS

I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth but this crème caramel is my Achilles’ heel. Having said that, I dislike most crème caramels of the world almost as much as I love this recipe. The reason being, I have a problem with puddings that are not firm. I need my pudding well cooked and firm without the overt smell of eggs. So, if you’re like me, this recipe is for you!

Things you will need:

  • Sugar- 6 heaped tablespoons
  • Eggs- 5
  • Condensed milk (sweetened)- 400 gm or approx 1.5 cups (the regular tin of Milkmaid we get in India works. If you’re using the Nestle tubes, I used two of them. 170 gm each)
  • Water- Equal quantity as the condensed milk (If you’re using the tin of condensed milk, fill the same tin up with water. If you have tubes of condensed milk like I did, I emptied it into a bowl and then used the same measurement of water.)
  • Vanilla extract- 1.5 tsp

How to go about it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
  2. Keep the pan (which can be used in an oven) in which you will be preparing the crème caramel ready. Next, you need to caramelize the sugar. Place a clean and dry frying pan on the stove (on medium heat) and add the 6 spoons of sugar. Wait for it to melt. Try and resist the urge to keep moving the sugar around too much with the spatula. Gets it all lumpy. Once it starts melting, lightly stir it and allow it to caramelize completely without any lumps. The caramel must be a nice, rust colour. IMMEDIATELY, pour the caramel into the prepared pan next to you and swirl it around to allow the caramel to coat the base of the pan completely. Caramel hardens in no time! If this is your first tryst with caramel, you will see. Haha.
  3. Next, take a large mixing bowl and add the 5 eggs. Beat the eggs (with a hand mixer or a whisk) very well until its a pale yellow. Takes only 2-3 minutes with the mixer.
  4. Add the condensed milk, mix well. Next, add the water and the vanilla extract. Mix well for another minute.
  5. By now, the caramel will have hardened. Pour the beaten mixture on top of the caramel. Place this pan in a larger oven friendly pan just about half filled with water. You don’t need to fill it up too much. Once immersed, the water needs to come up to just about 1/3 of the smaller pan.
  6. Carefully place it in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. Check once in 45 minutes. (Some ovens, especially if older, may have a temperature variation, and if you feel the pudding is still very wobbly and undercooked after the time is up, bake for some more time. Until a toothpick comes out clean.)
  7. Once done, take it out carefully, allow it to cool down before popping it into the fridge. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving. You can run a thin knife along the edge of the pan before upturning the crème caramel onto a plate. Serve cold.

(This recipe can also be prepared in the steamer. For that, you don’t need a water bath. But cover the pan with aluminium foil and place it directly in the steamer and steam for 40-45 minutes. The rest of the steps remain the same.)