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Kerala Toddy Shop Style Fish Curry

Anjali Venugopal June 23, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_5805Summer seems to have officially made an entry. Before I moved to Vienna, I would have expected the temperatures in the city to not soar beyond maybe a 20 degrees, but I now realize I could not have been more wrong. At a solid 33 degrees, Vienna ensures that I am not spoilt beyond correction or recognition in the little ways she does. With the city that has not embraced the concept of air conditioners (apart from the ones you find in swanky offices) yet, gym visits are not so fun anymore. The idea of a ‘summer glow’ gets oft mistaken for the term ‘sweaty pig.’ The good part is that all the coats and the jackets have all been duly stowed away and the shorts, the tees, easy breezy dresses and the best of them all, open sandals that lets you show off pretty pedicures that cost half a fortune, have been brought out. Well, you win some, you lose some I reckon.

While walking back from the gym, sipping on a bottle of cold, freshly squeezed orange juice with a hint of ginger, watching the sweaty cyclists whiz past and the new moms ambling by in the sweltering heat with their babies in colourful prams, I realized that I am still lagging behind my whole plan of a-recipe-a-week. The past two weeks somehow kept me on my toes. Especially this week with the little nephew bobbing around in the house, with demands no less than Kathakali performances from your truly to keep him from crankiness, I am surprised I found time enough to eat three square meals. No, I am kidding. Food seldom gets jeopardized in a household I run and you must know that by now.

Anyway, since time does not make the effort to find you, I decided to keep dinner plans simple and instead put up the recipe of a dish a lot of you have been asking for; the Kerala toddy shop style fish curry. This is one recipe that can take me back to the Kallu Shaap (toddy shop, and toddy being fermented palm wine which is native to my part of the world, Kerala) by the backwaters of Kuttanaad, on that bright, sunny day in April, where I had my first taste of toddy with my dad. Kuttanaadu is one place, I am sure every malayali holds close to his/her chest with immense pride. Being the point with the lowest altitude in India, the beauty Kuttanaadu encompasses is something I believe no words can do justice to; her vast expanse of green paddy fields under the pastel blue skies; the canals and the backwaters that stretch out for as far as your eyes can reach; the coconut trees swaying in the wind that line the pristine water bodies; the kettuvallams or the houseboats with intricately woven thatched roofs that stand testament to the efforts put in by the natives; kids running by the narrow roads chasing old cycle tyres with sticks; the run down toddy shops serving cold toddy in tall, glass bottles; the peace, the quiet and the serenity; the food.

The toddy shop kitchens I believe are homes to raw, brazen culinary skill at its finest. Home to arguably the most beautiful water bodies on the planet, a dearth of fresh fish and seafood is unheard of in Kuttanaadu. That, coupled with the bold use of fresh condiments make the food served in the toddy shops not only spicy but also an unforgettable experience in itself. Today I share with you the recipe to the fiery, red fish curry, the way it is served in the toddy shops of Kerala. This is one dish for which my marginal utility never dips. If I had to pick just one dish for the rest of my life, it would be this red hot gravy. So, here goes.

 

Things you will need:

  • Fish- 500 gms washed and cleaned (I use Trout here. In India, this curry works best with Seer Fish or King Fish)
  • Onion- 1 large chopped finely
  • Tomato- 1 large chopped (this is strictly optional. A lot of people I know do not use tomatoes in this curry, but I love the flavour tomatoes lend and the fact that it helps in thickening the gravy, just the way I like it)
  • Ginger- 1 small piece chopped finely
  • Garlic- 6-8 pods sliced finely
  • Mustard seeds
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Curry leaves
  • Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri Red chili powder (not Kashmiri chili powder)- 3 tablespoons (this is for a medium to hot curry. The ratio is 1 tbsp for about four pieces of fish)
  • Malabar Tamarind- 4-5 pieces (soaked in water for 15 minutes. This is the fulcrum of the dish and is absolutely unavoidable)

 

How to go about it:

  1. First, in a wok, heat some cooking oil and temper 1 tsp mustard seeds, a generous amount of curry leaves and ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add the ginger and garlic, sauté for a minute.
  2. Next, add the chopped onions to the wok. Sauté till they start to turn golden brown. Add the tomatoes to the wok, keep the wok closed for about a minute for them to cook. Once the tomatoes have softened, keep sautéing till the raw smell goes away. Add the turmeric, red chili powder. Mix well and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave the sides and the raw smell of the condiments is lost.
  3. Add the tamarind pieces along with the water. Add about 1 glass and a little more of water and add salt. Mix the gravy well and then proceed to add the fish to the gravy. Coat the pieces in the gravy and keep the wok closed on high heat.
  4. Once the gravy starts to boil, reduce the heat to a medium. At this point, shake the wok well to mix the gravy that may look a little watery. Do not use a spoon to stir as that will break the pieces of the fish and the entire dish becomes unappetizing. Keep the wok closed to simmer for about 20 minutes. After that, open the lid and let the gravy boil on high heat for about 5 minutes or till the gravy starts to thicken.
  5. Once the fish is cooked and the gravy has thickened, the dish is ready to be served. This fish curry tastes better a day after it is made. Serve with hot rice or tapioca. Enjoy!

Butter Chicken Pasta

Anjali Venugopal June 10, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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Walking up and down a couple of unfamiliar streets in Vienna with the sun on my nose and the wind in my hair, in search of that perfect corner in that perfect café, I realized that I still have so much left to see in this city. Every nook beholds something new, something fascinating, something that has a story to tell. Be it that old record store run by that old bloke with white, wispy shoulder length hair, wearing a pair of ragged, old jeans (which seemed to have stories and dirt from the 1960s buried in its back pockets) and a black vest with arm holes so huge that the piece of cloth was barely serving its purpose; or that run down, forlorn looking piano repair outfit; or that swanky café by the sidewalk which had a few good looking blonde women sitting at wooden tables, sipping on wine, staining the rims of their glasses with pretty shades of expensive lipstick.

I doubt if I have ever felt at home as much I do here, in Vienna. Of course, there is no disputing the fact that I miss my home and everything it stands for; the people I call my own; all the memories I have gathered whilst I spent my life in Trivandrum. But there is something in this city that makes me comfortable; at ease, at peace with my own being. The quaintness of this city somehow gives me the confidence from within to live life on my own terms; without as much as giving a fleeting thought about the expectations or the results I am obliged to fulfil; no one keeping track of the number of beers I can chug and ones I cannot; doing what I love the most, not worrying (too much) about daunting terms such as finance, security, legal career etc. I cannot help but admit that this feels new as much as it feels good. Until maybe last year, I always felt that my personal space was something so permeable which means I felt that I was constantly being monitored, being judged, my wins and falls being counted uncompromisingly. But now, a lot seems to have changed. For the first time, I have come to learn where my real passion stands with a stone foundation, ready to weather all the typhoons and the rain that may.

I finally seem to have found that perfect nook for myself in this city. Something tells me that you are going to be hearing a lot of my musings; sitting by this window next to a huge indoor plant with uncannily dark, succulent leaves, in the back end of the café (that is supposedly rather famous for its brunches, a quick scan of the place on the internet tells me) that is so tastefully done in shades of pale green accompanied by light wooden furniture. This could also mean that you are going to be bombarded with blog posts in the coming days. Just kidding, remember I have not quit law altogether. Yet.

Anyway, today I share with you the recipe to something I came up with on one (not so) fine day, buried under hundreds of exhibits for a hearing scheduled for the coming week. Butter Chicken Pasta. This is my first shot at fusion cuisine and I must say that I was pretty kicked about the results. This is penne in the thick, creamy gravy of the eternal favourite and second in line for the flag bearer status for Indian food (after Biryani, duh!), Butter Chicken. As always, this recipe of mine does not need anything more than a few ingredients within your arms reach and then, believe me, the end result is going to be totally worth it. So, here goes.

Things you will need: (Serves 2-3)

For the Butter Chicken

  • Chicken- 250 grams (boneless)
  • Tomatoes- 2 large or 3 medium pureed
  • Garam masala powder- 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri chilli powder- 1 tsp (as per heat tolerance, but not more than 1 tsp)
  • Ginger garlic paste
  • Cashews- 10-12
  • Yoghurt
  • Lime juice- 1 tsp
  • Turmeric- 1 tsp
  • Cooking oil
  • Freshly chopped coriander- to garnish (optional)

For the Pasta

  • Penne- 1 cup

 

How to go about it:

Pasta:

  1. Boil water in a large sauce pan on medium heat. Once boiling, add the penne to the water and let it cook for 11-12 minutes. After that, drain the water thoroughly using a colander preferably and keep aside.

 

Butter Chicken

  1. Cut the boneless chicken into small pieces and keep aside. Next, marinate the chicken in two table spoons of yoghurt, 1 tsp ginger garlic paste, lime juice or vinegar, quarter teaspoon of garam masala, salt and a bit of turmeric. Let it sit for half an hour.
  2. In the meanwhile, soak the cashews in 2 tbsps of water for about 15 minutes and then proceed to make a paste out of them.
  3. Next, grill the chicken till it is nice and tender and maybe a little charred. If you do not have the option of grilling, you may shallow fry the chicken instead. Once the chicken is cooked, shred it and keep it aside while you prepare the gravy for the butter chicken.
  4. Place a wok on the stove and heat some cooking oil in it. Add 1 tbsp of ginger garlic paste to the oil and fry it till the oil is fragrant. Next, add the pureed tomatoes with the salt and sauté for about five minutes. Add the chilli powder, 1 teaspoon and a half of garam masala powder and 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave the sides and the water content in the tomatoes has minimized.
  5. At this point, add the cashew paste to the wok and mix thoroughly.
  6. Add one glass of water to the wok and using a whisk, mix the gravy to make it homogeneous. Keep the wok closed for three minutes to help cook the cashews.
  7. Next add the shredded pieces of chicken to the gravy, mix thoroughly. Your butter chicken is ready!

After both the pasta as well as the gravy is done, add the cooked penne to the hot gravy, mix thoroughly but carefully so as to not mash it all up. Garnish with some freshly chopped coriander leaves and your spectacular Indo Italian fusion dish is now ready to be devoured. 🙂

 

 

 

Kerala Beef Roast

Anjali Venugopal April 28, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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It’s a cold, cold day in Vienna. We even had a snow shower this morning and all this in the middle of April when it is supposed to be bright, sunny with all the flora in full bloom, occasional showers here and there and all things happy which we associate with Spring. However no, Vienna chose to play a wet blanket this week and I can’t offer any prizes for guessing that all I would want right now is a warm, cozy blanket, a mug of hot cocoa (with maybe a few marshmallows) and a good book to take me to another world. But responsibilities, responsibilities.
As I sit back, trying to focus on my to-do list for the day, I can feel my mind wandering away to the good old days, a little less than 2 decades ago, when I would spend most of my holidays in bed, reading. Apart from the frequent visits I made to the refrigerator to replenish the chocolate bars I kept munching on or to the kitchen to refill the tall glasses with more lemonade infused with dried ginger, I don’t think I ever moved from under that large worn out blanket I still hold dear. My dad made it a point to buy me books from every city he visited on work. Most of my birthday gifts, if not all, have been books. My dad was the one who introduced me to the magical world of Harry Potter before it became the life blood of my contemporaries. I remember re-reading the Enid Blyton books so many times that I can still recall the food spread on the table, complete with the large jug of warm, creamy milk, fresh from the dairy, Philip and Dinah were welcomed with, on their first trip to the farmhouse nestled in the Welsh mountains. There was something in the books that I read and re-read countless number of times, that instilled that yearning that continues to draw me to the countryside.
Among the various compartments I have meticulously segregated in my memory for all the places that have pulled at the strings of my heart, the people who have walked in and out of my life, the food I have relished, the scents I have known and the lessons I have learned, the fondest compartment would be the one where I have saved all my memories from my innumerable trips to the Munnar, the upper middle class version of the Welsh mountains for a Malayali like me. In fact, as far as my family is concerned, there is much more to Munnar than just being a summer holiday getaway. My dad was born and raised there, among the trees and the flowers, the woods and the brooks. He lived and breathed the mountain air. Needless to mention at this point that the emotion called Munnar was injected into my veins long before I knew it.
Even today, as I sit thousands of miles away from the nook that saw our little family drive through the narrow, winding mountain roads, scale the mountains covered in the majestic green velvet woven by the tea leaves, sit on the rocks by the stone chapel counting the tulips by the stone graves, all I need to do is just close my eyes and I can feel the cold mountain breeze on my nose; the scent of freshly cut tea leaves stronger than ever before and the cool of the pristine water lashing against those round pebbles as I gently put my bare feet into that shallow brook by the woods. I go back to those clear, starry nights the four of us spent huddled around the fire talking about everything the sun shines on, laughing till we cried, singing odd Mohammed Rafi numbers, pulling each other’s legs. I go back to the incredible mashed yam and hot meat curry served in old rundown shacks in the mountains; to the scent of the fresh cardamom and ginger boiling in the tea served in the village in those tiny glasses made of steel.
The recipe that I share with you today, is one that reminds me of my trips to the mountains; the traditional Kerala style beef roast. Although this is quite a staple dish in Kerala, the memories I have attached to the exotic flavor of the whole spices and the heat from the red chillies are from the time I savored this spicy meat curry from one of the shacks on the wayside in Munnar. The taste of this dish from back then still lingers on my palate and without further ado I shall get in to how it is done.
Things you will need:
1. Beef- 500 gms chopped into small bite sized pieces
2. Onions- 2 large finely sliced
3. Tomatoes- 2 large chopped
4. Ginger- 2 inch stick
5. Garlic- about 10 pods, you can afford to be liberal here
6. Red chili powder- 1 tbsp
7. Coriander powder- 2 tbsp
8. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
9. Ground peppercorns (powder)- 1 heaped tsp
10. Garam Masala powder- 1 tsp
11. Cloves- 6
12. Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
13. Bay leaf- 1
14. Star Anise- 1
15. Vinegar- 1 tbsp
16. Cooking oil
17. Curry leaves, mustard seeds and dried red chilies for tempering

How to go about it:
1. Heat some cooking oil in a deep wok and temper the mustard seeds and the dried red chilies. Keep the curry leaves for later. Add the whole spices (cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and star anise) to the oil and let them release their aromas.
2. Add the finely sliced onions to the wok and sauté for a good ten minute or until the onions turn a lovely golden brown. This step is indeed important. Don’t be lazy, keep sautéing. You could add salt to the onions to make sure they brown faster.
3. Grind the ginger and the garlic to form a rough paste. Add this to the onions. Mix well and keep sautéing. Scrape the bottom of the pan as ginger garlic paste has a tendency to stick to the bottom of a hot pan. Add a bit more oil if you feel it is too dry.
4. At this stage, add the chopped tomatoes. Mix well. Keep the wok closed for about 1 minute to make sure the tomatoes are soft and cooked well. Add the powders and the vinegar at this point, mix well and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave from the sides and the mixture begins to look homogenous, as opposed to the onions and tomato pieces floating around.
5. Add the beef pieces and mix very well. After that, transfer to a pressure cooker and cook for about 6 whistles on a medium flame or until the meat the cooked thoroughly.
6. Once the beef is done cooking, transfer the meat with the gravy back into the wok and leave it on the stove on high heat to get the water to evaporate and the gravy to thicken. Add the curry leaves at this point.
7. Allow the gravy to thicken while stirring occasionally until you achieve a semi dry, rich consistency.
8. Add a spoon of oil, fry up the meat and the lovely thick gravy nicely, one last time and your Kerala beef roast is ready! 🙂

Easy Chicken Biryani for Mr & Mrs Lazybones

Anjali Venugopal April 24, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_3374It looks like I am still pursuing my goal of putting up one post a week. Last week was particularly busy (to be read as insane amounts of fun) with the sister around. We have been spending our days gawking at the sheer beauty this city encompasses, going on long walks on cobbled streets with tulips blooming all along the wayside, pausing at every little nook that catches our fancies, treating ourselves to an occasional ice cream cone or two. We spend all our time talking about everything the sun has ever shone on; about the challenges at our respective workplaces, the days that we spent in our childhood engaging in all sorts of mischief but sticking up for one another no matter what, about the time and effort wasted on people who least deserved it, love lost and found; in short, life in the greatest of detail.

We sat on a lone park bench in the woods for hours yesterday under the azure skies adorned with those white, fluffy clouds floating around like bits of cotton candy from the carnival, listening to the little birdies chirping away in the bushes and the trees all around, our feet softly brushing against the grass so green that it almost looked like Nature herself had decided to give the Instagram filters a shot, trying to count in vain the white and yellow daisies that seemed to have scattered themselves all over the grass carpet, chasing dandelions. It was just one of those beautiful days right out of a story book, when all you wanted to do was to spend some quality time with your loved ones talking, laughing, reminiscing, and we did just that.

With the sister around, it has been an easy week for the Husband and for me because it means that there is an extra pair of hands in the house, and that too, a pair that is ever so willing to help out with the household chores. Although we have been getting her to try out all our favourite joints in the city, we have still been cooking at least one meal per day at home. In other words, she is being bombarded with food and drink from all sides, every single day.

That brings me to the point.

I have been receiving quite a few requests for an easy biryani recipe, for some time now. And with two people in the house who are possibly the biggest fans of the enterprise called Biryani, I could not have been bestowed with a better opportunity to try out a recipe that I have been developing in my head for months. I do not normally deviate from my fail safe recipe for Biryani, but I did realise that the recipe does not exactly cater to the crowd that I want to help out; the beginner/lazy cooks, who enjoy great home cooked food nevertheless. A bad biryani is unpardonable in my books and this, in all likelihood, is the easiest recipe for a yummy Biryani and trust me, not a soul will guess the negligible amount of effort that goes in to whipping up this royalty. This took me exactly 45 minutes and that I believe is quite something. Added bonus, you end up looking like nothing less than an Indian chef extraordinaire. So, here goes.

Things you will need:

(Serves 4)

  1. Chicken- 500 grams (boneless, cut into small pieces)
  2. Basmati Rice- 2 cups
  3. Onions- 2 medium sized sliced finely
  4. Tomatoes- 2 medium sized chopped
  5. Cloves- 6
  6. Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
  7. Green Cardamoms- 3
  8. Bay Leaf- ½
  9. Garam Masala powder- 1 tsp
  10. Red Chili powder- 2 tsp
  11. Coriander Powder- 1 ½ tbsp
  12. Turmeric Powder- ½ tsp
  13. Ghee
  14. Cooking oil
  15. Cashews- 15-20 (broken into halves)
  16. Raisins- 15-20
  17. Fresh coriander leaves chopped- ¼ cup

For the marination

  1. Yoghurt- 2 tbsp
  2. Red chili powder- ½ tsp
  3. Turmeric- ½ tsp
  4. Salt
  5. Vinegar- 1 Tbsp

How to go about it

  1. First, marinate the chicken with all the ingredients mentioned under the head “for the marination”. Let the chicken marinate for about an hour, lesser if you are too hungry to care.
  2. Next you need to cook the rice. While cooking the rice (you may choose to use a rice cooker or pressure cooker or even an open vessel to cook rice) add ½ a teaspoon of salt, the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom and a little more than 1 tablespoon of ghee to the water. Once the rice is cooked well, keep it aside to cool. Important to ensure that you don’t overcook the rice since the consistency of the rice is what determines the texture of the biryani.
  3. Next, in a deep wok, heat some cooking oil and sauté the sliced onions till they turn a nice golden brown. Yet again, for the umpteenth time, the effort you put into sautéing the onions is what determines the final quality of the dish you serve.
  4. Add the tomatoes, mix well and keep the wok closed for about a minute so that the tomatoes are cooked well. After the tomatoes are cooked, keep sautéing for about three to four minutes or until the tomatoes lose their raw smell. Add the powders at this point and mix well and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave from the sides of the mixture.
  5. Add the marinated chicken to the wok, mix well and keep stirring for about two minutes. Add a little less than half a cup of water to the chicken, mix well, check the salt and keep the wok closed till the chicken is cooked completely. Once the chicken is done, open the lid and let the water content evaporate till you reach a semi dry consistency. Make sure you don’t dry the dish up completely.
  6. Next, in a pan, heat some ghee and sauté the cashews and raisins till they turn a nice golden brown. Add the chopped coriander leaves to the pan, sauté well for about another 40 seconds. Keep aside to cool.
  7. Remove the chicken from the wok temporarily. Layer half the cooked and cooled rice in the bottom of the wok. Layer the chicken on top of the first layer of rice. Layer the remaining rice on top of the chicken. Garnish with the coriander, cashews and raisins sautéed in ghee. Close the wok, leave it on the stove on minimal heat for about three to four minutes and your biryani is ready to be pounced on! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Malwani Chicken Sukka

Anjali Venugopal March 9, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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Realization dawned on me this morning that it has been six whole months since we moved to this enchanted city, Vienna. That thought, coupled with the fact that we are on the third month of 2017, leaves me with my jaw on the floor. I cannot for anything believe that it has been almost a full year since I said goodbye to my bustling and not particularly exciting life in Mumbai; when my mom had come over to help me pack, into twenty thousand suitcases, all the earnings I had fetched for myself in the form of all sorts of garbage, over the seven years of my stint in Pune/Mumbai.

Today, as I sit around munching on a bowl of dried fruits and crunchy nuts, I get reminded that this will be my first spring ever. Spring to me, has always been confined within the hardbound covers of the books I have loved or behind the screen of the television. The closest I have got to spring was probably in my Social Studies classes in third grade, sitting in a boiling classroom in Kerala, when I was taught the four seasons. That piece of information obviously made little sense to that 8-year-old who came from that part of the world, where people would refuse to give the weather talk a break, if the temperature dared to fall as much as below a solid 30 degrees Celsius; where we wore the same kind of clothes all the year over; where we were taught to shower twice a day from January to December. Now that I am in a place where I get to witness spring for myself, I can finally accept that it is not as mythical as it seemed to that 8-year-old.  Watching the trees, the shrubs and the grass coyly coming back to life, is as exciting as the child once imagined it to be.

Sorry, the powerful desire for an afternoon siesta took over my soul and I dozed off. Now that I am up and have stuffed my face with a second lunch that comprised another bowl of the leftover chicken pulao from last night with a cold glass of orange juice to wash it down, I am ready to talk more. Yes, coming back to what I was saying. I lived a score and six years of my life in India. Apart from the occasional holidaying abroad, I have never ‘lived’ anywhere else. So, it goes without saying that Vienna is a land of firsts, for me. It is probably my first time when I don’t know a single other person living in my building. Coming from India, where the line between friendliness and psychotic intrusion got blurred a long time ago, if I am honest I am sometimes torn between feeling the need for someone to know me by my name versus the absolute pleasure of just going about doing your own sweet thing. I can’t tell if this particular emotion is a tiny prick to the ego because I don’t seem to bear any significance whatsoever, in the lives of the people around or if it that feeling of utter cheerful abandon, where you are more than welcome to just do what your heart tells you without the constant anxiety of what the neighbourbood would say.

Something else that is a first for me, is the miraculous public transport system here and how people, irrespective of their designation or bank balance, use public transport. I remember, in Mumbai, I would rather stay stuck in traffic for 2 hours than get my visceral organs squished out of my mouth on a local train. I used to be the one to call for an Uber every time I sneezed. Back in Kerala, beyond a certain level in the social strata (not that high up either), using public transport such as buses is looked at with disdain. Utterly illogical but that is unfortunately how a group of insecure people, who have nothing to their credit apart from the money they happened to recently get a hold of, living together thrive; the criteria that are prevelant while making the progress report for a person’s worth is ridiculously funny in most parts of our country but I shall reserve that for another day. Coming back to cabs, I learnt as soon as I moved here that I couldn’t do that primarily because the public transport is on point and also because I can’t afford cabs by habit.

What I am about to list out next, is something that warrants a longer rant, so, I shall leave just a precis here which will be developed on another day. It is nothing but the bizarre Indian practice of keeping people who speak English reasonably well, high up on a pedestal with a garland around their necks, and treating them like gods. Don’t be surprised to see other measly beings touching the god’s feet every now and then too. It could possibly be the aftermath our colonial masters left behind them, but it is more often than not, atrociously funny. I am used to seeing people around me being apologetic and filled with shame when (if ever they do) they need to introduce some family member of theirs who does not know English. It is invariably this line. “Hey, sorry man, my mom does not speak English.” I have heard that umpteen times since my Hindi was at that point, negligible and a work in progress. Why were they apologetic?! I was pleasantly surprised to see the change in how the same sentence is framed in this part of the world. “Oh my parents speak only Italian!” Do you spot the difference or are you thick? That was a first. When a single language became the yard stick for a person’s worth, I will never know. Most people in this part of the world are multi lingual to the extent that they are people who speak as much as seven languages fluently. That, I feel is reason enough to be proud. But you, measly creature, who barely manages to scrape the epidermis of English and says with utmost pride that you don’t understand/speak even your respective mother tongues, please go hang your head in shame for a good two hours. It really does not count for anything. And for those of you who think you have conquered the world with your subliminal English speaking skills, let me assure you, you haven’t. 🙂

Back in to business. Today I share with you the recipe for a dish that can make you look nothing short of an Indian chef-extraordinaire. It is a Malwani Chicken Sukka. Malwani cuisine comes from the Konkan region of Maharashtra and Goa. Typically a coastal area, the cooking in this part of the nation is extremely flavoursome and uses coconut liberally, which I love. So without further ado, here goes the recipe.

Things you will need:

  1. Chicken- 500 gms
  2. Onions- 2 medium thinly sliced
  3. Fresh coriander leaves- 1/4 cup

For the Malwani Masala

  1. Dried red chillies- 5
  2. Whole peppercorns- ½ tsp
  3. Cloves- 5
  4. Bay leaf-1
  5. Mustard seeds- ½ tsp
  6. Cinnamon stick- a small piece
  7. Cumin seeds- ½ tsp
  8. Star anise- 1
  9. Coriander seeds- 2 heaped tbsp.
  10. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp

For the paste

  1. Coconut grated- a little more than half cup
  2. Onion- 1 small
  3. Green chillies- 2
  4. Garlic pods- 3
  5. A small piece of ginger

How to go about it:

  1. Dry roast all the ingredients from 1-9 under the head “for the malwani masala” in a pan till they start releasing the aroma. Let the spices cool, before proceeding to make a smooth powder in a mixer grinder. Add the turmeric to this powder and keep it aside. “malwani spice mix”
  2. Next we move to the coconut paste. In the mixer grinder, grind all the ingredients from 1-5 under the head “for the paste” and keep it aside. “coconut paste”
  3. Next heat some cooking oil in a wok and sauté the onions till they are a nice golden brown.
  4. Add the coconut paste to the onions, stir well and keep sauteeing till the coconut is beginning to change colour. This should take about 7-8 minutes on medium flame. Keep sauteeing to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok.
  5. Add the malwani spice mix to the wok and stir well to form a homogenous texture.
  6. Add the chicken to the wok and mix it well to make sure the masala is coated well on all the pieces uniformly.
  7. Add about half a glass of water, mix well and keep the wok closed till the chicken is fully cooked. Open and check once in a while to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked, open the wok and fry the chicken on a higher flame to ensure the gravy is thick and the dish attains the desired consistency.
  9. Add the coriander leaves, mix well and take the wok off the heat.
  10. Keep wok closed for about ten minutes before serving.
  11. Dig in! 🙂

Chicken Chettinad

Anjali Venugopal February 17, 2017 1 COMMENTS

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Today for some strange reason, feels like a super productive day; feels like I have achieved quite a bit. Whereas, in reality, all I have actually done is find my way around the city, relying solely on my phone or my instincts as I would rather believe. My exceedingly pitiable navigational skill is no secret. I currently hold the record for the maximum number of times a single person has circled the same area around my (ex)house in Mumbai before eventually ‘accidentally’ finding the house, that seemed to have miraculously risen from the ground sometime during the last lap. Keeping that in mind, you cannot blame me for gloating a slight bit for having successfully found the way back home, after my jaunt to the newly discovered salon.

It is a norm all the world over, that the lady at the salon would be talking nineteen to the dozen while tending to you. At least that is how it normally is with us women, I am not quite certain if that’s how it works with the men. Care to update me on that front? The nice lady at the salon today, was no exception. She was warm and friendly and refrained from asking any inappropriate questions whatsoever (brownie points right there). She was just happy to yap on about how she moved to Vienna 21 years ago, newly married and how she set up her home from scratch with her husband; how she knew absolutely no one in the city and how daunting it was at the beginning; how she made a drab little apartment her home and how she started warming up to the new environment.

I could relate to her banter on so many levels. Hearing that this path I am walking on has been trodden many many times before me, felt like a cool breeze on my forehead glistening with sweat on a sultry day in May. While walking back to the tram station I kept replaying the stories I had heard for the day in my head, as usual. What she had said was so true; there certainly is something incredibly beautiful about setting out on your journey of life, in a new city, with the love of your life. Something endearing about that strange emotion you encounter just as you hug your mother tight right before you set out to make your own home, just as your mother did, many years ago. Something unnerving about the responsibilities that await you in a foreign land.

I have been living on my own since I was about 17. For the longest time I thought I had mastered it all; living alone, cooking, cleaning, looking after your keys and other such belongings, dealing with homesickness, managing money, the list is endless. However, nothing can (or should be allowed to) take away the joy of setting up your own home as a couple. Starting from the first step of figuring out (to be read as arguing/ biting each others’ heads off) the expendable budget for a home, the journey is nothing like anything I have done before. I still remember the day we moved in and we were faced with the quick decision of who sleeps on which side of the bed. That was cake walk because the Husband picked the side with the plug points which meant that I got what I wanted; the side with the bed side shelf to store my lip balm and foot cream. Haha. Well, the point being, every single step is a joy in its own way. Be it picking that gigantic floor lamp together, or the visits to ikea and spending almost your life’s savings, be it the day you sit together under the blanket on a cold day browsing through fifty thousand pages on amazon trying to fix on the right vase for round wooden dining table, be the aimless walks through the supermarkets every weekend stocking up on groceries, be it that bottle of white wine that called to be opened since new wine glasses had joined the family or even the walks to the florist around the corner to decide whether to pick yellow tulips or those pretty white carnations.

I shall now make an abrupt detour and get into business. Today, I share with you the recipe to an incredibly yummy chicken gravy (yet again 🙁 I promise I am finalising a few of my vegetarian recipes and you shall get hold of them in no time). This time, a Chicken Chettinad recipe. This popular and much loved dish from south India does not need an introduction. For all those days your palate craves for some spicy south indian food,  here you go.

Things you will need:

  1. Chicken- 500 grams
  2. Onions- 2 large sliced
  3. Tomatoes- 2 medium chopped
  4. Ginger garlic paste- 1 tbsp
  5. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
  6. Corinader leaves (chopped)- quarter cup

To roast:

  1. Cinnamon sticks- 2 pieces about an inch long
  2. Cloves- 6
  3. Peppercorns- 1 tbsp
  4. Whole coriander seeds- 1 tbsp
  5. Cardamom pods- 4
  6. Dried Kashmiri chillies- 3 large
  7. Grated Coconut/ desiccated coconut powder- 2 ½ tbsp.

How to go about it:

  1. First, in a pan, roast on a medium flame, the ingredients from 1-6 under the heading “to roast” till you get the aroma of the spices. This should take about 4 minutes.
  2. Then add to the pan (with the spices) the grated coconut or coconut powder and roast till the coconut turns a nice golden brown. The coconut powder will brown much faster in comparison with actual coconut. Once it reaches the golden brown colour, take the pan off the heat and keep it aside to cool. Once cool, grind the roasted mix in a grinder without using any water, to form a smooth powder, keep it aside. (“Roast Spices Powder”)
  3. Next, in a wok, heat some cooking oil. Sauté the onions well till they are turn a golden brown.
  4. Add the ginger garlic paste and keep sauteeing till the raw smell is lost.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, sauté for a couple of minutes and keep the wok closed for a minute or two.
  6. Once the onions and tomatoes are soft and cooked thoroughly, add the turmeric powder the Roast Spices Powder and mix well.
  7. Add the cleaned pieces of the chicken along with a teaspoon of vinegar, mix well and then keep the wok closed till the chicken fully cooked. (Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok).
  8. Once done, add the chopped coriander leaves to the gravy and mix well before taking the wok off the stove.
  9. Serve with hot white rice or chapatis or anything else that suits your fancy 🙂