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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! 🙂

Easy Chicken Biryani for Mr & Mrs Lazybones

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! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Tastes like home, Part 2: Kerala style Parippu Curry, traditional lentil curry from Kerala

Tastes like home, Part 2: Kerala style Parippu Curry, traditional lentil curry from Kerala

Anjali Venugopal March 27, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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All our 16 year old selves have been found guilty of wanting to grow up, be independent and leave home eventually. The rules, the curfews, and the choices our parents made were never good enough for us. Life was “boring” as we called it. Especially for an upper middle class teen like me, the city wasn’t as “happening” as I would have liked and incessantly dreamt of a “cool” life in a bigger city.

My dream was to find my way, by hook or crook, out of that lovely, green corner I was born and raised in, which is home to the most beautiful rain I have witnessed; where it is commonplace to wake up listening to the birds outside your window at dawn; where it is the norm to know the entire neighbourhood by their first names; where twilight is welcomed by the soft scents of agarbati, where my happy family sat on the verandah, watching the sun go down, sharing a joke and laughing to our hearts content, where Amma would make a stern reminder about our homework at 7 PM on the dot as though she had some sort of alarm clock embedded in her system. A couple of hours of fiddling with my homework would mean dinner time and food would miraculously appear on the dining table and all I ever had to do was show up, washed and clean. Amma would serve the usual staple of some boiled rice, sautéed seasonal veggies tempered with a hint of coconut and some spicy fish curry or even some fried fish on the good days. My sole duty was to quietly wipe my plate clean but no! I would choose to make a fuss, making a face at the veggies and maybe even throw a verbal tantrum as I grew older. All this would last till Amma’s patience snapped or when she would just beckon to my dad to come take care of the situation, when all of a sudden, silence would fall like those thick velvety curtains back in my school auditorium. To think this was the life I wanted to run away from…

Somehow, in our eternal pursuit behind what will be instead of what is, maybe we lost out on the sweetest fruits of life. Today as we sit, laboring away at a corporate job, staring into the computer screens for hours at a stretch, nibbling at a sandwich made of some dry bread for lunch, struggling to pay our bills, craving for a warm plate of mom-cooked food, how many of us can say honestly that we are indeed happy? And how many of us would trade the lives we lead now to go right back to your wooden study desks at home racking your brain to somehow make sense of the quadratic equation staring back at you from those single lined note books, while you fiddled with the new gel pen that you proudly got for yourself after saving up 10 rupees from your pocket money?

Well, one can wish. As somebody once said, we are the oldest we have ever been and the youngest we will ever be, and keeping that in mind let us resolve not live in the past or whine about the present. I have realized that there are few things a warm, tasty meal cannot solve. Let me arm you with a simple recipe to combat that yearning to go right back in time to your mom’s kitchen waiting for her to serve you dinner. This is a Kerala style lentils dish that is extremely popular in my part of the world. This goes best with some hot, white rice with a generous spoonful of ghee drizzled on it.

Things you will need:

1. Moong dal (aka Mung bean, green gram)- half cup (peeled and spilt)
2. Coconut- 2 table spoons (grated or desiccated)
3. Cumin seeds- ½ teaspoon
4. Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
5. Green chilli- 1
6. Ghee- as your heart desires
7. Mustard seeds and dried red chillies (curry leaves if available) for tempering

How to go about it

1. In a pressure cooker, dry roast the moon dal for about 4 minutes or till you start to get the lovely, roasted aroma of the dal.
2. Add three times the amount of water and a tablespoon of ghee to the dal and pressure cook it for around 4 whistles on a medium heat. (dal: water = 1:3)
3. In the meanwhile, grind the coconut, green chilli, cumin seeds and the turmeric powder to form a nice smooth paste. Keep that aside.
4. After 4 whistles, keep the pressure cooker aside to let the pressure release naturally.
5. After the pressure is released, using a whisk, mash the dal very well to make the consistency even. You may also use the back of a large spoon for the same.
6. Add some more water if you feel the dal has become too thick for your liking. Put the cooker back on the heat, sans the lid, add the paste, stir well and bring to a boil.
7. While that is being done, heat a bit of ghee in a pan and temper the mustard seeds and dried chillies (and curry leaves if available). Add this to the dal, mix well and enjoy your happy meal.

Malwani Chicken Sukka

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! 🙂
Tastes Like Home, Part 1: Dal Khichdi

Tastes Like Home, Part 1: Dal Khichdi

Anjali Venugopal February 25, 2017 2 COMMENTS

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‘Home’ is one word that can trigger a myriad of emotions in us; especially ones like me, living in faraway lands hoping to get a solid grip of the real adult life. There is something about twilight that invariably reminds me of all things home. Just as I watch the sun bid adieu outside my window, I cannot help but reminisce about my own little corner in the world, where I was taught that ‘love’ was the answer to all the questions life had to throw at you.

I get carried away to the laughter, the fun, the fights and the tears the walls of my home have witnessed through the years. I can just close my eyes, take a deep breath and I can smell my pillow who has seen more tears than I would like to admit to; I can feel the warm rice porridge seasoned with nothing but a pinch of salt on my lips fed to me by my amma’s soft hands when I came down with that wretched flu when I was 8; I can feel the taste of that crisp, raw mango my granddad plucked for my sister and me, from the neighborhood tree, which we relished with some chilli powder and salt with a dash of coconut oil; I can see my dad helping me out with my first set of tube paints; I even remember vividly the first sip of beer I had with him; I can see myself in my new pink and black frilly dress ready to celebrate my sister’s second birthday; even the first swing my dad put up for me on the chikoo tree behind my house; I can almost see myself at my granny’s knee listening to her ramblings of her first time on a ship. In fact, I can even see myself at my first formal date with the Husband, many years ago by the sea nibbling on a plate of chicken stir fried in some oriental flavours.

However, coming to think of it, I realize that the concept of ‘home’ has little to do with the structure of your house. It is the memories you have made all your life with the people you love without realizing you were making them. But to me, food plays a serious role in bringing back these memories. I associate a great deal of nostalgia with every bite I take and it is no secret that every time I miss home, a good home cooked meal helps to alleviate the emotional turmoil at least by 20%. Well, that is how it works for me.

There are days when I am moody beyond human comprehension and the only thing I want to do, is devour a plate of hot rice with amma’s spicy fish curry. There are other days when I sense a void, when nothing but a plate of some steaming hot momos, drenched in that killer sauce can satiate my soul. I come to realize that every single place I have spent a reasonable amount of my time at, has something to contribute to what I call ‘my idea of home food’. I have seen a considerable portion of India, ever since I left home at 17 and each of the cities I have had to spend a fraction of my life in, have in some way or the other affected my taste buds and the way I see food in general.

When I left home in 2007, my palate could not have been more mallu. All I craved for, day in and day out, was some boiled rice, stir fried vegetables and the mackerel curry. However, at some point in my life, it dawned on me that my palate has evolved and that there are days when I crave for that Andhra Chili Chicken from Nagarjuna on Residency Road, in Bangalore. There are other days when I all want is a plate of Rajma Chawal from my hostel in Delhi. Or maybe just some rich Dal and that sweet Kadhi that is lovingly served at Mayur Thali on JM Road, in Pune. Maybe this signifies that all these cities have, in some way or the other, altered my definition of home and have broadened it to include the love that is served in the form of food in our incredibly diverse nation; and this being solely because I may have unlocked certain cockles of my heart when I unknowingly felt at home in the nooks and corners of these places that warmly took me in.

So, today I share with you my recipe for a dish that is so warm and wholesome that it could arguably be the number 1 comfort food for many of us; the Dal Khichdi. It took me many years to comprehend that the sick man’s khichdi had a yummy variation too. Here I share with you, the not so sick man’s version of the simplest Dal Khichdi. Whip up a plate of this for yourself, and feel at home!

Things you will need:

  1. Masoor dal- ½ cup (red split lentils)
  2. Basmati rice- ½ cup
  3. Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
  4. Chilli powder- less than ¼ teaspoon
  5. Onion- 1 medium sliced finely
  6. Garlic- 4-5 pods sliced finely
  7. Ghee- as you may deem fit
  8. Water- 4-5 cups
  9. Mustard seeds, dried red chillies- for tempering

 

How to go about it

  1. In a pressure cooker, add the rice and the dal (1:1 ratio) along with the turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt and one tbsp of ghee. Add 4-5 cups of water. (I prefer my khichdi nice and gooey) Let it cook on a low flame for about 5 whistles. After the whistles, keep the cooker aside and allow the pressure to drop on its own.
  2. In the meantime, in a pan, heat some cooking oil and temper the mustard seeds and the red chillies. Once tempered, sauté the onions and the garlic till they turn nice and brown and start giving out that wonderful garlicky aroma.
  3. Once the pressure has dropped, whisk the rice and dal well to achieve an even consistency. Add the tempered onions and garlic to the khichdi and mix well. Drizzle some ghee on your khichdi in the end and your khichdi is ready to be pounced on.
Chicken Chettinad

Chicken Chettinad

Anjali Venugopal February 17, 2017 NO 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 🙂