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All about the little things- Happy Diwali!

All about the little things- Happy Diwali!

Anjali Venugopal October 18, 2017 2 COMMENTS

Yet another Diwali far away from home; far from the colour and the lights; far from amma’s mutton curry and delicious mithai; far from the pretty clothes, the jhumkas and the bindis; far from love, farther from the warmth. Vienna in her dreary attire for the day lends little comfort even as I turn to the enormous windows. Little does she realize that I am homesick with every chord in my heart yearning to be a part of the festivities back home in India; pangs of envy creeping up like ivy from corners of my being I didn’t even know existed, as I scroll down my Instagram feed to see my friends with their happy faces gorging on ladoos, wearing happy hues of yellow and orange and red. As I give a glance at this baby diarrhoea green sweatshirt I am sporting as we speak, I can feel the corners of my mouth drooping further down.

Diwali for me has always been and will always be synonymous to my dad; the enthusiasm, excitement and cheer that his soft brown-grey eyes would exude for at least a full month. During the hours we spent in the evenings, planning the budget for the crackers, the food and the festivities for Diwali eve, I would see him turn into a little boy, his bespectacled crinkly eyes barely able to contain their excitement. I remember those trips probably more than 20 years ago that we made to Sivakasi, the hub of super fancy fire crackers, solely for the purpose of purchasing crackers for our home celebration. We would pick some of almost every variety they had; the regular sparklers, the coloured ones which spat out fire in hues of green and red and blue, the flower pots, the flower pots which would whistle on being lit, the chakras, the rockets, oh the ones that would go up and burst into inexplicably beautiful, exquisite designs (those were his favourites) you name it, we had it. After my sister made an appearance in 1995, we made a few adjustments and resorted to local cracker shopping. We would fix a date well in advance and on that date, my sister and I would barely be able to sit through school hours before hopping on to the school bus to rush home; take a quick shower with little to no drama and be ready in our frocks, all set to make the visit to the cracker store.

I still have those scenes in the busy streets of Trivandrum, illuminated all over with cheap string lights in every colour under the sun, etched in my memory. The October-November air always had a crisp and borderline chilly feel to it and just reminiscing about it brings back the same old butterflies I used to feel year after year, Diwali season after Diwali season, in my stomach. Who knew then that we were busy making memories; memories we will take to our graves. I will ever be thankful to our parents for just teaching us that it was and that it will always be about the little things. No fat paycheque or fancy designer wear can ever be a substitute for the untainted happiness we shared as the tightest group of four as we celebrated each day we had together; for utter sense of importance that prevailed in our young minds as we made reasoned decisions, as to what to spend on and what to keep for the “next time” depending on the number of currency notes dad had in his well-worn leather wallet.

Many years have passed since I moved out of my hometown. I run my own home today and I have noticed (and you may have too) the fondest of memories are seldom about the gifts that were showered on me, or anything remotely worldly for that matter. My most favourite memory compartment is, to date, filled with lame jokes, laughs, fights and make ups, walking on dad’s feet, squeezing amma’s hand while we sat wobbling in the auto rickshaw, the great food we enjoyed at our old dining table laid with that white lace table cloth with frayed edges,  the 4pm movies on the television, foolhardy with the sister, the ice cream dates, the trips to the beach, the drives around the city, the tears, the victories, the failures. There is not a single moment that I spent with my little family, the four of us alone,  that I would have had any other way.

Today, although dad is farther away, I know deep inside that this is his time of the year and that he’ll still be grinning his foolish grin maybe still taking a sip of rum and coke from that glass I know so well. Today, I know better than to take things and life for granted; that every moment is a blessing and that there is more than enough time to just stop and smell the roses. Today, I know that tomorrow is not a promise or an eventuality and I make it a point to tell the souls I love, that I love them lest I be left alone with unsaid goodbyes or hugs and kisses that were kept for another day, yet again. Today, I know that it is all about the little things and I sincerely hope you do too. Happy Diwali, folks! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Butter Chicken Pasta

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. 🙂

 

 

 

Homemade Kerala Parottas!

Homemade Kerala Parottas!

Anjali Venugopal June 9, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_4983It is a lovely, sunny afternoon with a cool breeze in the hipster part of Vienna, and here I am sipping on a large mug of wheat beer with just the right amount of froth, on a Thursday while I sit down in this little nook, by the cobbled by-lanes of this dreamy city, under the blue skies, to work on the blog; one of the many luxuries a part time legal career offers you and something that ensures that my sanity (or the lack of it) stays put. As I look around, I see tourists in pretty, flowery outfits and seemingly over-the-top sunglasses, scaling the old architecture in this part of the city; grumpy looking women on their way back home with what looks like full bags of groceries; lovers reuniting in a tight embrace; over excited kids on their scooters whizzing by (and I cannot help but say a prayer that they get back to their respective homes in one piece); immaculately dressed women in their early thirties (I assume) observing intently the paintings and some exquisite art (which is right out of the boundaries of my comprehension), exhibited in the circle about 30 meters from the spot I have decided to call my own. I must admit at this point that I have always been quite fascinated (bordering on suspicious) by people who call themselves connoisseurs of modern art, jazz and wine. Maybe they know, maybe they don’t, who am I to tell? I will laugh (in my head, of course) and laugh, I will.

Let me get to what I came here for, before the beer kicks in. So, today I have finally decided to put out my post on Kerala Parottas. The one thing, with the blasphemous accompaniment of beef fry, that can get you lynched in almost every other part of India except my own. But as they say in the recent release in Malayalam Cinema, Godha, Parotta and Beef roast/fry is not something trivial for a true bred Malayali like me; it is an emotion (check the scene out here); an emotion that got injected into my veins a long time before I knew it; an emotion that takes me back, thousands of miles away to that green speck in the globe where I was born, raised and taught to love unconditionally without giving as much as a thought to trifling matters such as religion, political affiliation or food preferences; an emotion that takes me back to the times in my childhood when I have sat in the back seat of the car with my sister, and my mom who called shot gun even before I was born.

Another sip of this beautiful beer gets me reminiscing and takes me back straight to the backseat of our Ford Ikon which has seen me wave vigorously at strangers in fits of excitement and laughter that overcame me during our family trips to Munnar, as well as when the tears fell silently down my cheeks at 16, like little streams that flowed past the lush green in the mountains, when my dad passed his verdict on the boy I thought I had then given my heart to. Ah how we grow up! Anyway. I vividly remember the times I have spent in that very seat, with my mom and sister waiting for my dad to bring back that packet; the packet that smelled as though the heavens had descended; that packet which could make even a statue purr in delight; hot parottas and right-off-the-stove beef roast. While we waited in the car, we have stared endlessly at the art and the dexterity with which the chettan at the roadside stall slapped the parotta dough against the steel coated table, kneading it with so much love, not once questioning his liberal use of cooking oil, flattening the dough with so much skill that made our jaws drop to the ground. That is probably when that emotion called ‘Parotta’ got kindled somewhere in the left side of my chest.

So, getting down to business. Today, I share with you that one recipe which took me ages to pen down, primarily because of the confusion created in the process of fixing my amateur video. However, I have gathered all the courage in me to get it sorted and to let out to the world the fact that Kerala Parottas are doable at home; within the confines of your own kitchen; unsupervised. Also, I used Rapeseed oil which has the least saturated fat among all oils, quite contrary to the popular belief that Kerala Parottas are oily and supremely unhealthy. I wouldn’t call this healthy under any circumstances, however, that is not what a pure blood Mallu aims at while deciding to go for these beauties. So, here you go.

Things you will need: (for about 8-10 medium sized parottas)

  • Maida/ All purpose flour- 1.5 cups
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt
  • Sugar

How to go about it

  1. First step towards Kerala Parottas is to make a soft dough. Add about half a teaspoon of salt and about the same quantity of sugar to the flour along with about two tablespoons of oil to the flour. Add water little by little and then knead it to form a soft ball. This step is super important and you need to ensure that the dough is kneaded well and there are no cracks visible on the surface of the ball of flour. Take your time with this step. I kneaded the ball for about a full 10 minutes.
  2. Once this is done, cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes. No concessions there. Sorry.
  3. The next step would be to make small, even balls of the dough. Make balls that are about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. No, you do not need to fetch the rule for this purpose, it is merely an approximate.
  4. Knead the dough balls well for a minute each. Set them aside for another five minutes.
  5. The next step is to flatten the balls out to form disks that are about five inches in diameter. Basically, all you need to do is to flatten them out with your hand to form circular looking discs. As you make each disc, make sure you brush sufficient oil to each of them before stacking them up together. This will make sure that the discs do not stick to one another. Once the discs are stacked up, let them rest for another 10 minutes.
  6. The next step is the crucial one. Now that you have left the discs to rest, they will spread out easily which is what needs to be done. So, take one disc at a time, lay it out on a flat, clean surface and start spreading it out by pulling the edges. It will now easily spread to form a thin sheet and you need to pull it from all sides in order to spread it out evenly.
  7. Gather the spread out dough from one side, so it resembles a handkerchief that is being held from one corner, and place the dough on your free palm as a spiral.
  8. Once the spirals have been made, brush a little bit of oil on them before you let them rest for another 5 minutes.
  9. Next, flatten the spirals out with your hand to make the parottas.
  10. Heat a tawa/pan up, brush some cooking oil on it, and place the parottas on it. Each side would need to cook for about two minutes. Once the parottas start getting that lovely, brown colour, take them off the tawa/pan.
  11. Once all the parottas have been cooked, stack them up again, and then clap your hands after keeping the stack in between. Please check video if this step is unclear. This is to hep in fluffing the parottas out, and again a crucial step.
  12. Your fluffy parottas are now ready to be served hot with a delicious beef roast, the recipe for which is available right here 🙂

And in case all of that sounds too dense, the video I have put together is below (it is sped up, but very amateur work, so do bear with my lack of skill :P):

[wpvideo 1O3Qbarp]

Stir Fried Carrots in Chilli Onion Paste

Stir Fried Carrots in Chilli Onion Paste

Anjali Venugopal June 3, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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My love and passion for home cooked meals is not something that germinated in my veins overnight. I grew up in a household that took (and still continues to take) home cooking extremely seriously; to the extent that I can with the help of a negligible amount of effort to back me up, recall practically all the occasions my family has eaten out during my childhood. Both my Amma and my grandma are fantastic cooks with a convincing belief in a fact that they have proved time and again; that a wholesome, home cooked meal is the secret to fitness and good health. And this is possibly what got me hooked to the idea that the tastiest food, the food that gives a nudge to all your five senses, the food that lingers on in your mind for days after you have tasted it, can be whipped up within the confines of your own kitchen while you have absolute control over the quality and the quantity of every ingredient that goes into the wok.

Good food has always been held in great regard in my home; where every dish prepared is critically evaluated; praised when it was called for and criticized (constructively of course) otherwise; where a lot of love and effort goes into the preparation of a meal. As a Hindu household in Kerala, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that we have and continue to celebrate festivals of all other religions alike. I use the term ‘Hindu’ with caution, lest I should be brought within the ambit of the sheer mockery our country, headed by fanatic goons masquerading as saviours of this pure and noble way of life, propels today, shamelessly under the guise of this term. No, I am not one of them. And proudly so.

Let me not unnecessarily venture into areas that make my blood boil.

The term ‘celebration’ in my home had one, and only one meaning and that was to make a delicious, home cooked meal. I still see the twinkle in Amma’s eye when she brings up suggestions such as “maybe we should buy some tender mutton for Christmas” or “how about we prepare a yummy biryani for Eid?”

That would be followed by all of us sitting down together for lunch, laughing, smacking our lips in delight and wiping our plates clean. This practice went on meticulously for all the years I was at home and in all probability counts for a large chunk of the fondest of memories I hold within. Ah those were the days!

Today I share with you yet another incredibly easy recipe which you can whip up with around three ingredients. The base for this yummy recipe is something a lot of us don’t find too exciting; carrots. This has been a favourite dish all through my childhood and I have lost track of the number of times, Amma packed me this for lunch. Till rather recently, I was completely unaware of the possibilities of having this with anything else but rice, or Chapattis. A friend tried this recipe out and came up with the option of using this in a sandwich with some grated cheese. So, the possibilities are many, try it out and keep me posted as always.

Things you will need:

  • Carrots- 4 or 5 large ones (Chopped into round disks, not too fat)
  • Onion- 1 medium sized
  • Dried red chillies- 4-5 (vary according to heat tolerance)
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt

 

How to go about it:

  1. Grind the onion and the dried red chillies to form a roughly smooth paste.
  2. Heat some cooking oil in a wok, add the chopped carrots and the onion paste to it with adequate salt. Stir well to make sure the paste is evenly distributed. Add about ¼ glass of water, keep the wok closed and let the carrots cook well.
  3. Once the carrots are cooked, get the excess water to evaporate. Once that is done, add a bit more oil and nicely fry up the carrots. This should take about ten minutes or maybe a slight bit more. The key to this recipe is to make sure the onion paste is nice and brown, since this is what gives it that lovely flavour. So, as I always tell you, patience is the key 🙂

That was easy as pie wasn’t it? Serve with rice or chapatis and dal or even as a sandwich topping with some grate cheese. Yum Yum. This dish is quite a favourite in my part of the world and I feel it deserves a lot more. So try it out, and let me know!

 

Fried Eggplant in Coriander Chilli paste

Fried Eggplant in Coriander Chilli paste

Anjali Venugopal May 16, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_4024Getting to leave work when the sun is still out is a lovely feeling. Also, this is something which I promise to never take for granted considering all the frowns (and mumbles) that I have had to put up with in India, if and when I ever had the audacity to as much as walk out of the office door any minute before the wee hours of the night (or morning). Yesterday, as I was skipping down the winding stairs in the old, beautiful Viennese structure that houses my workplace a little past 5, I gulped when I realized that this would have been treated as nothing but a half a day’s worth of work in India. This thought nudged that sense of gratitude in me for letting me escape the monotony in that part of the world where ‘work-life balance’ is just an unholy, fictional term which is never to be uttered and is treated almost at par with the term ‘remuneration’. On giving it a second thought, I think ‘remuneration’ still takes the gleaming trophy.

We live in a world where it is somehow illogically unpardonable to speak about money at your work place, lest you should be seen as “money minded”. When being confident of your own worth (on monetary terms, of course) was deemed to be an outright crime I will never know. So, in short, once you decide to take up an employment in an organization, you are expected to erase from your memory the fact that you have a home to go back to; the fact that you have people in your life who would want (maybe need) a fraction of your time every day; the fact that you had something called a ‘life’ right before you made up your mind to inscribe your initials onto that sheet of white paper with fine print which is your employment contract. And all this without being as much as concerned about the sum that is expected to hit your bank accounts (hopefully) by the end of every month? Really now?

I am not one to preach about high flying deals like “quit your job and travel the world”. On a side note, I have always thought that such ideas are nothing but absurd, and propounded by kids who have a tad too much in their respective bank accounts all thanks to the gold plated spoons they were born with in their mouths; gold that came from the lives of toil their parents lived. Coming from an upper middle class family, I don’t need to be taught about the importance of being able to fund for yourself and for the people you love. I do not need to be taught the sheer delight a well-earned pay cheque brings. All that bothers me is the fact that the term profession and all that it stands for in our world today, is seldom seen as the ‘means to the end’; the end which is your happiness. Instead, it is seen as the end in itself and that my friend, I feel is ridiculous.

Yesterday, as I walked back home from the subway station in the warm sunshine, with the lovely, cool spring wind on my face, I felt strangely content. I was happy to go back to our warm, cosy little apartment while the sun still streamed in; while I was still pepped up as opposed to my Indian law firm days when all I would have the energy to do once I got back home in the dead of the night was to change in to my pyjamas before hitting the sack. I was in such a light mood as I got back home, that I wanted to cook something elaborate for dinner. So, I changed into one of my oversized tees and a clean pair of stone washed denims, made a visit to the supermarket round the corner, came back home and prepared a feast for the two of us, opened a can of beer each, chattered about my day to the Husband, watched a movie and went to bed early. This was the kind of day I had always dreamt of while in India. And today, as I live the dream, I cannot help but wish the same for every one of us.

Anyway getting down to business. A lot of you had written to me with suggestions for the blog and I could not be any happier. Something that I come across a tad too often is that I should concentrate more on vegetarian dishes and this is something I plan to take up very seriously. So today, I share with you a recipe to a vegetarian dish which you can whip up in practically no time. This is something I chanced upon during my pursuits to get to something more complicated which a friend of mine had suggested. Although I did not quite get the dish I had in mind quite straight, what came out of the experiment was delicious. So, here goes.

What you will need:

  1. Brinjal/Aubergines/Eggplant- 250 gms (cut into long pieces)
  2. Coriander leaves- 1 small bunch
  3. Green chilies- 4 or 5 (vary according to your heat tolerance levels)
  4. Turmeric powder- ¼ tsp
  5. Cooking oil
  6. Salt
  7. Curry leaves (optional)

 

How to go about it.

  1. Make a smooth paste of the coriander and the green chilies and keep aside.IMG_3949
  2. Heat some cooking oil in a wok and temper some curry leaves. Add the cut eggplant to the wok and sauté well. Add the salt and turmeric, mix well and keep the wok closed to make sure the eggplants are cooked well. Once they turn soft, add a bit more oil in case you feel the wok is running dry, and fry the aubergines till they are almost well done. This should take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Add the coriander chili paste and mix well. Fry the eggplants well in the paste till you lose the raw flavour of the coriander.IMG_3955
  4. All you need to do for this recipe is to make sure that the eggplants are fried well. They taste the best when they are fried till they are a step away from burnt.IMG_3960

Your eggplants fried in coriander chili paste is ready and tastes great with some hot rice and dal (lentil curry). Give it a try and let me know 🙂

 

 

 

 

Kerala Beef Roast

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! 🙂