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‘Kulukki Sarbath’ Gin and Tonic- A classic with a hint of Kerala

‘Kulukki Sarbath’ Gin and Tonic- A classic with a hint of Kerala

Anjali Venugopal May 26, 2020 NO COMMENTS

The Kulukki Sarbath is a popular and dearly local drink of Kerala. The kind you’d stop for at a roadside shop during a road trip in the hot sun. It’s not your regular lemonade. There’s a tiny bit of brazen Kerala added to the tall glass of cold lemonade in the form of green chilli and puffed basil seeds. And most importantly, its shaken. Not stirred. And hence the name, ‘Kulukki Sarbath.’.

I love the Kulukki Sarbath. It takes me back to my hometown every time I make a glass for myself. So, I decided to give it a little lift by combining it with a good old Gin and Tonic. The result, my friend, is pure magic. Give it a go.

Things you will need:

(for one drink)

  • Simple syrup – 15 ml ( If this is an unfamiliar term, fret not, I have included the method to prepare simple syrup in the ‘Notes’ section. Add more syrup if you like your drink sweeter. Remember the tonic adds sweetness too.)
  • Dry Gin- 60 ml
  • Soaked basil seeds (Sabja/Tukmaria)- 1-2 teaspoons (Soak one or two teaspoon of seeds in a few tablespoons of water for 10 minutes. They absorb the water and will puff up like chia. This is an inherent part of the roadside Kulukki Sarbath of Kerala.)
  • Green chilli- 1 slit lengthwise (add another if you’d like a bit more heat)
  • Juice of half a lime or 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • A pinch of salt
  • Tonic water as needed
  • A slice of lime for garnish
  • Ice cubes

How to go about it:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, add the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, salt, slit green chilli and 2 ice cubes. Shake well for 5-6 seconds. In case you don’t have a cocktail shaker at hand, you can use something else like a bottle with a tight lid to do this. The shaking bit is important as, that is how the ‘Kulukki Sarbath’ derives its names. ‘Kulukki’ in Malayalam means ‘shaken.’
  2. After shaking the mix for 5-6 seconds, carefully strain the contents into a glass with more ice cubes. Add 1-2 teaspoons of soaked and now puffed basil seeds. Top up with tonic and give it all a light stir.
  3. Garnish with a slice of lime and a green chilli if you like.
  4. Enjoy the easy and super fresh cocktail you just made at home. Go back and make more.

Notes:

Simple Syrup and how to prepare it at home. The first time I saw this term in a recipe, I chose not to go ahead with it because I knew I didn’t have it at hand. Moreover, I thought it was some complicated thing I had to buy from a store. Well, it’s not!!

Add equal parts of white sugar and water (eg. ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water) in a saucepan heat it all until the sugar melts and you get a nice syrup as a result. Voila! That’s simple syrup for you. You can even make a slightly bigger batch and store it in a bottle in the fridge. Perfect for the drink maker in you! 🙂

My Grandmum’s Perfect Ghee Rice

My Grandmum’s Perfect Ghee Rice

Anjali Venugopal May 2, 2020 1 COMMENTS

Let’s face it, cooking rice perfectly is an art. Fine, long grained Basmati which holds its shape, does not get mushy and when you serve the meal, the rice grains have to fall perfectly on to the plate. It looks like my grandma cracked the code for perfectly cooked rice a long, long time ago. And this is her recipe for perfect and beautifully flavoured rice. I’d say it’s a little like a dessert recipe where you have to follow every instruction to the T to get the right results. Sure, it’s a tad time consuming but the end result is a 100% worth it if you, like me, are not a fan of mushy goo instead of perfect rice every single time. But I must warn you, this isn’t the easiest recipe. So, here goes.

Things you will need:

(Serves 3-4)

  • Long grained Basmati rice- 2 cups (I recommend you use a reasonably good quality brand of rice. As for the cup, I use the 1 cup measurement that I use while baking. But that doesn’t matter. Pick any cup/glass that you regularly use for measuring rice and use it as the measure for the entire recipe.)
  • Water- 4.5 cups (Now listen up, this is math. The ratio of rice to water for this recipe is 2 : 4.5. For every 2 cups of rice, you use 4.5 cups (the same cup!) of water. Use your calculator and work your way up if you’re cooking more rice. Just make sure you do NOT add more water than the specified amount. A little less works perfectly well. For instance the specified amount for 3 cups rice is 6.75 cups of water. DO NOT add any more than 6.75 cups, instead I would add just 6.5ish cups to be safe. Too much water is what gets the rice mushy and weird. This rule holds for good quality Basmati. If you’re using regular Basmati, water exactly double the quantity of rice is enough. So, for 2 cups rice, use 4 cups water.)
  • Ghee- 2 tablespoons (and a little extra for the last bits)
  • Cardamom- 4
  • Cloves- 4
  • Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
  • Bay leaf- 1
  • Star anise- 1 small
  • Salt to taste
  • Caramelized onions- 1 medium sized onion’s worth
  • A handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • Cashews- 8-10
  • A fork

How to go about it:

  1. First, wash the rice thoroughly twice in running water. Next, soak the rice in water and keep aside for 15 minutes. Keep the right quantity of water in a pot or kettle in the meantime.
  2. Once the soaking time is up, drain the rice rice well using a strainer. Keep aside for another 10 minutes or until the rice is nice and dry.
  3. Now, it’s time to cook. Keep a pot big enough to cook the rice on medium heat and add the ghee. Once the ghee is hot, add the whole spices (cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and anise). Saute for about 30 seconds or until the flavours release into the hot ghee.
  4. Keep the water to boil separately. Important to have boiling water for this recipe.
  5. While the water boils, you add the soaked and strained rice (yes, the raw rice) to the ghee. Then you must saute the rice lightly. Make sure all grains are coated with the ghee and keep sauteing the rice till the rice grains begin to feel a little crunchy to the touch. Make sure you do this sauteing bit without using too much power because it is important not to break the grains of rice in the process. Do it lightly.
  6. Next, add the boiling water to the pot, salt to taste, mix it up to make sure there are no rice clumps in between. Increase the heat a slight bit more and cook the rice (with the pot uncovered) until the rice is al dente (just about 80% cooked), there is still a bit of moisture left in the pot (meaning all the water has not completely evaporated). At this point, take the pot off the heat, drizzle a couple of TEASPOONS of melted ghee to the rice and lightly stir it all up with a fork. Next, keep the pot closed with the lid and place something heavy on top of the lid. I usually put my mortar and pestle on top as weight. The rice has to sit completely undisturbed this way for 20 minutes.
  7. So, while the rice sits for the 20 minutes, you can caramelize your onion. Keep aside. Lightly fry the coriander leaves in a tablespoon of cooking oil or ghee and keep aside. Fry the cashews in ghee or oil and keep aside.
  8. Once the 20 minutes is up, stir up the rice grains (lightly again) using a fork making sure you don’t break up the grains too much. Top with the caramelized onions, cashews and coriander. Serve warm with a meat curry or vegetable curry and raita. This recipe gets easier with practice, I promise 🙂
Green Chili and Coconut Chicken Curry

Green Chili and Coconut Chicken Curry

Anjali Venugopal February 20, 2019 2 COMMENTS

First off, here is a confession. I have for some strange reason always used the formula of putting up a post when I have a recipe AND a story to back it up because that is the formula that seems to have worked for me the most. More often than not, I find myself with ready recipes (because I cook for a living now) but without a story I find worth telling. So, I always end up putting the post off for later. The end result being, the recipes remain forever pending because stories are not things that can be conjured in the blink of an eye; at least not for me. So, here’s me, deciding to take a step in another direction. I have no story to tell today, but what I do have is this recipe which I came up with last week and instantly fell in love with; a recipe that is going to be a staple in my kitchen; a recipe that had me licking my plate clean both the times I tested it.

This is a hearty chicken curry with some strong North Kerala undertones. The main players in this recipe are coconut, ginger, garlic and green chilies and it may nudge your fancy to know that there is absolutely no red chili powder used in this dish. So, here you go.

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Things you will need:

  • Chicken- 500 grams (preferably on the bone. But if you must get the boneless variety, get chicken thighs)
  • Grated coconut/ full fat desiccated coconut- 3 tablespoons/ quarter cup
  • Onions- 2 medium sized, chopped finely
  • Tomatoes- 2 small, chopped
  • Green cardamom- 3 pods
  • Turmeric powder- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Coriander powder- 3 heaped tablespoons
  • Ginger- 1 inch stick
  • Garlic- 8-10 large pods
  • Green chilies- 6-7
  • Coconut milk (thick)- 200 ml
  • Cooking oil (I prefer coconut oil)
  • Salt
  • Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
  • Water- half cup

 

How to go about it:

  1. First, grind the ginger, garlic and green chilies to make a coarse paste. Keep it aside. Next, grind the grated coconut with two tablespoons of water (more if using the desiccated variety) and grind very well into a smooth paste. Keep that aside.
  2. Next, heat (medium heat) two tablespoons of cooking oil in a heavy bottomed wok. Add the cardamom pods and fry for for a minute. Add the chopped onions and saute till they turn nice and brown. Make sure you stay patient and get the onions brown as this is crucial for this recipe. Adding salt to the onions while you saute them helps in getting them to brown faster.
  3. Once the onions are brown, add the ginger, garlic and green chili paste. Saute for a minute. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, mix well and keep the wok closed for a minute or until the tomatoes soften. Once soft, saute the mixture well for another two to three minutes. Next, add the turmeric and coriander powders and mix well and keep stirring until the oil starts to leave the sides of the mixture.
  4. At this point, add the coconut paste and keep mixing for another minute. Add the chicken pieces and curry leaves. Mix well and keep frying the chicken till it loses the pink and starts to seal in the masala.
  5. Add half a cup of water, mix well and keep wok closed for another four to five minutes. Next, add the thick coconut milk, mix well, and let the curry simmer on low heat (with the wok closed) till the chicken is cooked and the meat begins to fall off the bone. Stir once in a while to make sure the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok.
  6. Once the curry achieves a nice, thick consistency, adjust the salt, turn off the heat, garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot. Goes amazingly well with rice, appams, idiyappams and chapatis.
  7. Dig in!
Kerala Chicken Stew

Kerala Chicken Stew

Anjali Venugopal January 11, 2018 1 COMMENTS

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A bleak Thursday in January. Since my duties as an attorney demand my presence in office only for the first three days of the week, here I am sitting within the confines of my cozy apartment in Vienna, nursing what probably is a holiday hangover from the fleeting three weeks I spent in my hometown, Trivandrum. As exciting as sitting at home on a weekday sounds, the grey undertones that seem to have overpowered this magical city during the day, make me somewhat uneasy and inexplicably nostalgic. Maybe it is the silence? With just the little ticking clock that I bought cheaply off the internet to keep me company at home, I feel strangely forlorn. Maybe I just miss the sun?

Our customary yearly visit to the hometown this time sure saw a great deal of sun, sand and sea. However, the older I get, the more I realize that the visits you make to your home are not to unwind or to relax or to put your feet up. They are for you to wear the many other hats you are obliged to wear in life. The many hats that have been sitting in the back corner of your closet, gathering dust for the rest of the year. The hats bearing labels such as daughter, sister, grand daughter, daughter in law, grand daughter in law, best friend, the list does not seem to end.

The yearly visit is the one time I get to be there, physically, for the family; to do seemingly silly bank work for my grandma, to run to the optician to get my granddad’s glasses fixed; to take my sister shopping, to get driven up the wall and back with her treading (foolishly, I believe) on treacherous adolescent territory and to give her boundless advice on everything under the sun; to spend hours on the couch with Amma listening to tales from her school, her daily battles, the local gossip. I refuse to take for granted the way my Amma’s eyes light up when she drives back home from work to see me at the door waiting to scan her purse for goodies. I refuse to take for granted how the menu for the day gets fixed depending on what I want to eat, how my mum and I talk into the wee hours of the dawn reminiscing of the good old days when dad was around and duly taken for granted; when life just seemed too perfect to be true.

I admit life did turn out to be very different from what we had all predicted or planned for. But in all honesty, in spite of all the bouncers life continues to throw at us even today on a daily basis, somehow there always seems to be so much around us at all times that warrants a heartfelt thank you to the Universe. As we stand at  (pretty much) the dawn of 2018, all I want to be this year is grateful. I don’t believe we focus on the good half as much as we focus on the bad and how we just refuse to see the beauty of our blessings, until the moment they are taken away. A few years ago, who would have thought I would be living in such a beautiful city in Europe, married to the love of my life, doing what I truly love. Not me for sure. I would have expected my life to be confined with fortresses built of fat, black folders piled up on my desk while I burned the midnight oil in some law firm in Mumbai. I just realize I would be an insolent fool to turn a blind eye to everything I have; how important I am in many lives; how fortunate I am to be missed when I am away; how absolutely special I must be because I mean the world to a few but twinkling specks on the globe.

On that note, since my heart is till partly living in Kerala, under the coconut trees by the water, swaying in the cool breeze, here is a recipe that is probably a strong contender for the flag bearer status of Kerala cuisine. The Chicken Stew or the Kozhi Ishtu as we affectionately call it. This dish is exactly what I believe comfort to look like in a bowl.

Things you will need:

  • Chicken- 500gms (on the bone, cut into medium sized pieces)
  • Potatoes- 2 medium, cubed
  • Carrots- 2 medium, diced
  • Onions- 1 large thinly sliced
  • Ginger- 1 inch stick chopped finely
  • Green chilies- 2 slit
  • Thick Coconut milk- 2 cups
  • Cashew- 5-6 soaked in two tbsp. water and ground to a smooth paste.
  • Cardamom- 6 pods
  • Cloves- 5
  • Whole Pepper- – ½ tbsp.
  • Cinnamon- 1 small stick
  • Curry leaves
  • Water
  • Cooking oil (I used coconut oil)

How to go about it:

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a wok. Add the whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon, whole pepper, cloves) to the oil and sauté for a minute or until fragrant. Add three quarters of the sliced onions and sauté until soft and translucent. You do not need to get the onions to brown for this recipe (Hallelujah, right?!)
  2. Add the ginger and green chilies and sauté for another minute or two. Add one cup of the coconut milk and half cup of water to the wok. Add the chicken pieces and sufficient salt. Stir well once and keep the wok closed (on low heat) until the chicken is half done.
  3. Once the chicken is half done, add the potatoes and the carrots. Stir well and let the chicken and veggies cook well.
  4. Once this is done, add the remaining one cup of thick coconut milk and cashew paste to the gravy. Let the gravy boil on medium-high heat for about five minutes or until the gravy achieves a beautiful, thick consistency.
  5. Caramelize the rest of the onions in ghee or oil. Garnish the stew with curry leaves and the caramelized onions.
  6. Serve hot with appams, idiyappams or bread 🙂

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Kerala Style Beef Cutlets

Kerala Style Beef Cutlets

Anjali Venugopal October 23, 2017 2 COMMENTS

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I doubt there’d be any true Malayali whose eyes would not twinkle at the mention of the word “cutlet” and I am no exception. Cutlets crept into our staple diet long before we knew it. Especially on a cold, rainy day, there is indeed nothing more comforting that a couple of piping hot meat cutlets and maybe a pot of hot tea if you please.

Last night, I spent some time catching up with an old friend and a fair share of the conversation was about the amazing beef cutlets that were served in our school canteen. The St. Thomas school canteen is (with very good reason) known for the incredible food it serves. Be it the hot, spicy beef curry that would give any thattu kada (the local food shacks in Kerala) in the city a run for its money, or the warm beef cutlets the Santhomites gorged on, wrapped in parottas (a trend that is supposed to have originated and promptly stayed within our school campus boundaries), or even the regular oonu (the regular, fuss free meal served in Kerala)  that was served ever so lovingly in our school canteen; food that we all took for granted for all the years we spent there and the food, the thoughts about which, brought serious pangs of nostalgia when we learnt what default hostel canteen food was supposed to taste like. Yikes!

Other memories I associate with the good old beef/chicken cutlet (veggie cutlets are sacrilegious just the way veg biryani is) is from the days I would stop by the neighbourhood bakery, right after school before heading to my math tuition. Amma would have given me about 20 bucks to spend on a snack, just so that I would fidget less while I tried to keep myself from banging my head against the wall, while the teacher went on relentlessly about the god forsaken differential equations or that integration. Let me not deviate. The sole motivation for my heading to that horrid math class was what the yummy beef cutlets in that tiny bakery lent.

Even to date, when I make a visit back home, Amma always makes it a point to either make a batch of yummy beef cutlets for me or at least take me for a visit to Supreme Bakers (arguably the best in Trivandrum) so that I can roam around like a wide eyed 5 year old who wants every single thing the shop has to sell. This should give you a decent idea about what cutlets mean to me. So I felt it was only justified if I had my own recipe for this wondrous creation. Well, this is my grandmum’s recipe which I have only as much as tweaked, a slight bit. So here goes.

Things you will need for about 20 medium sized cutlets:

  • Beef- 700 gms
  • Potato- 1 medium-large (boiled and mashed well)
  • Onion- 1 large chopped finely
  • Green chillies- 5-6 chopped finely
  • Ginger- 2 inch stick chopped finely
  • Crushed whole peppercorns
  • Garam masala- 1 tsp
  • Currly leaves
  • Egg- 1 beaten
  • Breadcrumbs- 1 cup
  • Oil for deep frying

How to go about it:

  1. In a pressure cooker, cook the beef thoroughly with about 2 teaspoons of the crushed pepper, a little less than half a glass of water, salt to taste and half of the ginger. Once cooked well, allow it to cool for a bit and run the meat through a food processor to mince it well. A regular mixer grinder will also do. Keep that aside.img_0676
  2. Next, in a wok, heat some cooking oil, sauté the onions until they begin to turn brown. Add the garam masala, green chilies, the curry leaves and the remaining ginger and keep sautéing for another 2-3 minutes.img_0675
  3. Add the cooked beef to the wok and mix well and sauté until all the water content is lost. Add more salt if required.img_0677
  4. Let the mixture cool. Then, add the mashed potatoes to the mixture and mix thoroughly with your hands.
  5. Make small balls of the mixture, depending on how large you want the cutlets to be. You can either let me remain as balls, or you can flatten the balls slightly with the palm of your hand the way I did itimg_0678
  6. Dip each of them into an egg wash and then promptly put in a bowl of breadcrumbs to make a coating all over.img_0679
  7. Deep fry the cutlets in oil until both the sides are nice and brown and serve hot with ketchup.img_0564

Note: these cutlets after coated with the breadcrumbs stay well in the freezer for a month easily. You can make a big batch and leave them in the freezer, frying them as and when you need them.

Coastal Style Prawn Curry

Coastal Style Prawn Curry

Anjali Venugopal July 31, 2017 2 COMMENTS

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My undying love for coastal flavours and cuisine is not the best kept secret. On the days I am not whipping up flavours from the seaside in the kitchen, take it for granted that my mind will be wandering far away, somewhere on pristine, white sands with a cool sea breeze on my face, salt on my lips, watching the waves wash against the shore, tirelessly. There is indeed something so comforting, so soothing about the ocean; especially in the dead of the night, under the moonlight.

Although it’d be criminal to whine, sitting in the beautiful city of Vienna, I cannot help but admit that I do sometimes miss the close proximity of the ocean and the fresh sea food that comes with the package of living by the coast. Anyway, today being one of my fidgety days when I can’t seem to find enough patience to put pen to paper, I am going to get down to business sooner than usual. This recipe is as easy as coastal cuisine gets. It is an authentic Kerala delicacy and may be prepared using prawns or fish. Another fact that may garner your interest is that you can fix on a south Kerala style or a north Kerala style depending on the variety of tamarind you use. Read on for more.

Things you will need:

  • Prawns- 500 gms
  • Grated coconut- ½ cup (even full fat desiccated coconut works fine)
  • Fenugreek seeds- ½ tsp
  • Turmeric powder- ½ tsp
  • Chilli powder- 1 tbsp (vary according to spice tolerance)
  • Tomatoes- 1 chopped roughly
  • Onion- 1 small
  • Green chillies- 3 slit
  • Ginger- a half inch stick
  • Malabar Tamarind/Cocum- 4-5 pieces soaked in water for 15 minutes. (If you would like to make this a south Kerala delicacy, instead of the cocum, take a gooseberry sized tamarind ball, soak it in water and take the juice)
  • Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
  • Cooking oil (I prefer to use coconut oil for the authentic flavour

How to go about it:

  1. Make a smooth paste out of the coconut, turmeric, chilli powder, onion, ginger and water enough to make it a loose paste.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a wok, and allow the fenugreek seeds to splutter. Add the coconut paste to the wok with sufficient water to make a thick gravy. Add the chopped tomatoes, curry leaves, salt and slit green chillies. Add the soaked cocum pieces (or if you are using ordinary tamarind, add the juice to the gravy but make sure you reduce the water used to make the gravy, lest the gravy should be too watery)
  3. Add the cleaned prawns to the gravy, mix well, bring to a boil and leave the gravy to simmer for about 20 minutes keeping the wok closed.
  4. Your prawn curry is ready to be served with steamed white rice, or idiyappams (string hoppers) 🙂