Butter Croissants and Coffee

One of the most best aromas on a beautiful morning

Samosa Chaat

Snack a little

Seekh Kabab

Try something different!

Decadent Chocolate

Do not forget to indulge once in a while

Steamed goodness

Various cooking methods bring variety in your palette

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kovakkai Poriyal - Ivy Gourd Stirfry

This is the first guest post on this blog, from one of the biggest followers of my blog, my dear husband!
Now that he has started trying his hand in cooking, he surprised me one day when I came back from work, by cooking up this beautiful poriyal. I have never tasted anything like it before and it was scrumptious! He even plated it and took photos for me to post this on the blog. How sweet! Hopefully there will be more guest posts on the way.
This recipe is followed from Solai's True Chettinad kitchen blog.


Ivy Gourd/Kovakkai/Tindora-1/2 kg
Big onion- 1 (cut length wise)
Garlic - 2 cloves
Sambar powder - 2 tsp
Chana dal (roasted and powdered) - 2 tsp
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

Mix the sambar powder and salt needed with the kovakkai and keep aside for 15 minutes. Now keep the kadai (wok) in the stove. In one table spoon of oil, splutter mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the onions and garlic, fry till golden brown. Now add the kovakkai pieces and sauté in the oil itself for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, mix well, close the kadai, reduce the flame and cook for 7 to 8 minutes. Check in between if there is enough water in the wok. When you feel that the veg has been cooked till soft, increase the flame and let all the water content evaporate. The oil you added in the beginning will come out at this stage. Now add the Bengal gram mix kept ready and mix well. If you cook for another 2 to 3 minutes stirring continuously, the Bengal gram powder will form a coating on the kovakkai and it will get roasted well. If you don’t have Bengal gram powder, paruppu podi (toor dal powder) can be used.

Hummus (Hummous)

Hummus or pronounced as Hummous in the Middle East, is a ground chickpea, tahini dip that goes great with almost anything! As a child, my dad would bring home Arabian Barbecued chicken or Chicken Broast on days we decide to eat takeout. In Riyadh, Chicken broast was a popular local fast food. A popular fast food joint was Maccoys, where the queues are sometimes so long, it goes far out of the store. Hummus is always a free accompaniment with any item on the grill.
After I left Saudi Arabia, I missed hummous so much that I started making my own. It comes close to what I used to get there, but I guess it will never match upto the magic of food back in Riyadh.
This is more of a taste and go recipe. You keep tasting it as you're grinding the ingredients and add whatever you feel the hummous needs more of.
If you're wondering what tahini is, it's a paste of ground white sesame seeds. I used to make my own tahini as well while I was in India, but you can find them easily in most grocery stores in the US.

Chickpeas - 1 cup, soaked overnight in water (about 8 hours)
Tahini - 2-4 tbsp
Garlic - 1 large clove, minced fine
Lemon juice - from half a lemon
Water - 3 cups (for boiling chickpeas)
Extra virgin Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Paprika - a pinch (optional)

Boil chickpeas with enough water in a pressure cooker, for about 6 whistles. Drain and store some of the remaining water. In a mixer, add the boiled chickpeas, tahini sauce, garlic, 1/4 cup drained water, salt and lemon juice. Grind till it becomes a coarse paste. Add olive oil and grind a bit more. Don't make it too fine like peanut butter, its good to have a few chunks of chickpeas for texture.

Store in a bowl. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and drizzle more extra virgin olive oil.

Hummous can be used as a dip for carrots, cucumber sticks, or pita chips, tortillas and crackers. Or as I said, you can eat it with fried or grilled chicken. Falafels and hummus are a killer combination! Smear it on toast or shawarma sandwich. Serve with accompaniments such as olives, pickled radishes, turnips, cucumbers, feta cheese. The choices are endless!

Seekh Kabab

Seekh kababs are my favorite variety of kababs. Grilled on skewers also known as seekh, until juicy and succulent, they're just mouth watering.
The seekh is a round metal skewer, however I used bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water (to prevent them from burning when grilling).
You can use any kind of ground meat for this - beef, lamb or chicken. But it should not be too lean, or it will become too dry. So make sure it has some amount of fat in it. They will melt into juices when its cooking, and the excess will drip down.
This weekend, our neighbor took us to a meat packing company at Sussex, NJ. I bought a pound of ground sirloin (beef). It looked so beautiful, that I decided to try out seekh kababs for the first time.
Since I don't have an outdoor grill yet, I broiled it in the oven. They need to be cooked at the highest temperatures possible. Traditionally, seekh kebabs are grilled in a tandoor (clay oven), that has temperatures as high as 800°F. As ovens cannot be this hot, crank it up to the highest possible.
Another thing to note is that the final mixture should not be too moist, or it will not hold onto the skewers. So make sure you absorb most of the moisture from the ground meat in some kitchen towels.
This recipe was inspired by vahchef.

Ground beef - 1 lb (500 gm)
Red onion - 1/2 medium
Garlic - 4 cloves
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Green chilli - 1 or 2
Grated cheese - a handful (optional)
Parsley or Cilantro - small bunch, about 10 sprigs
Mint leaves - a handful
Red chilli powder - 2 tsp or to taste
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Egg - 1
Lemon juice - from half a lemon
Salt to taste
Bread crumbs - optional (see note)
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water - 10

Preheat oven to the highest temperature or on broil.
Chop onion, garlic ginger and green chilli finely. Or run it through a food processor. Collect it in a mixing bowl. Add grated cheese, finely chopped parsley or cilantro (or use small amounts of both), finely chopped mint leaves, red chilli powder, garam masla and coriander powder and mix it. Add ground meat and thoroughly mix everything together by hand. This is so therapeutic, trust me! Sprinkle enough salt, squeeze lemon juice, and break an egg into this mixture. Continue kneading this mixture.
Note: If you feel that the mixture is too moist, add bread crumbs or chickpea flour (besan) to this. It will help making the mixture more dry.
Let the mixture marinate for about 15 mins. If you want, you can prepare this in advance and allow it to marinate overnight.
Take a lemon sized ball of the mixture.

Push it through a skewer.

Using your fingers, work it along the length of the skewer to form a long kebab.

Place these skewers across a rectangular cake pan, or on a baking sheet.

Place it on the top rack of the oven, and cook until done, around 12-15 mins. You can also grill these beauties on an outdoor grill.
Serve with lime wedges and coriander-mint chutney mixed with yoghurt.

Or serve over a bed of cumin rice.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vendakka Pachadi - Stir fried Okra in yoghurt sauce

Okra is a vegetable that I would steer clear of as a child. My dad used to say that his mother would prepare okra curry like beef curry during the lent season. And nobody would miss eating meat, coz it has a meaty texture. I never liked the slimy gooey texture, but after being married to someone who loves this vegetable, I had to prepare it to keep him happy. The okra stir fry is one of his favorites and my mother-in-law gave me the easiest recipe for it.
For a change, I tried this pachadi (South Indian gravy made with yoghurt). Its definitely healthy for you.
Okra is high in fibre and also high levels of antioxidants and vitamin A.
The key to making a good okra recipe, is to slice it in thin circles, about 1/4 inch thick, and to sauté it in a wide pan so that it can spread out, stirring regularly, until most of the moisture dries up and its slime free. If the pan is overcrowded, the okra will release a lot of moisture and become a slimy mass.

Okra - 2 cups, sliced
Red pearl onions - 5, sliced (can use 1/2 red onion as substitute)
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tsp
Green chilli - 2 (or to taste)
Turmeric - a pinch (optional)
Oil - 1 tbsp
Plain yoghurt - 1 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste

Whisk yoghurt with water, salt and roasted cumin seeds in a bowl, and keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Add mustard seeds and allow it to splutter. Sauté pearl onions and green chillies till they turn brown. Add a pinch of turmeric, if using. Now add sliced okra pieces and fry till okra is cooked to a good crisp (takes about 15 to 20 mins). When done, take it off the heat and allow it to cool.
Dunk the okra mixture into the bowl of whisked yoghurt.
Serve with steamed rice.

Inspiration from Edible Garden.

Samosa Chaat

My previous post was about Punjabi Samosas. In this one, I'm using the same samosas to make a flavorful Indian snack called Samosa Chaat.

Serving Size: For one plate


For samosa chaat:
Samosas - 1 or 2
Chana masala - 2 tbsp (recipe below)
Green chutney - 1 tbsp (use coriander chutney/mint chutney/ Coriander-mint chutney)
Date and Tamarind chutney (Sweet chutney)- 1 tbsp
Plain yoghurt - 2 tbsp, whisked with a pinch of salt
Red Onion - chopped, 1 tbsp
Tomato - chopped, 1 tbsp
Cilantro - chopped, a pinch
Chaat masala - a pinch
Black salt - a pinch (optional)
Red chilli powder - a pinch
Fine sev - 1 tbsp

For chana masala:
White chickpeas/garbanzo beans - 1 cup, soaked overnight
Oil - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Red onion - 1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
Garlic clove - 1
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece
Green chilli - 1 or 2
Tomato - 1, chopped or Tomato paste - 1/4 cup
Amchur (dry mango powder) / Anardana powder (dry pomegranate seeds) - a pinch
Chole masala or garam masala - 1 tsp
Water - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste


Chana Masala:
This recipe is different from the one I posted earlier. So you could use that one minus the coconut milk, or this one.
Boil the soaked chickpeas in a pressure cooker for about 6 whistles. Drain and keep aside.
Grind garlic, ginger, green chilli and half of the chopped onions into a paste.
Heat oil in a deep pot. Add cumin seeds, asafoetida, red chilli powder, turmeric and temper for 10 seconds. Add the rest of the chopped onions and sauté till it becomes translucent. Then add the ground paste and fry for another 4-5 minutes. Add tomato paste or chopped tomatoes. Sauté till tomatoes are mashed or sauce is boiling. Add cooked chickpeas, amchur/anardana powder, chole masala/garam masala and salt to taste. Add 1/2 a cup of water, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Samosa Chaat:
Place samosas on a plate and break them a little.

Pour a ladle of the chana masala over it.

Add chopped onions and tomatoes over it. Drizzle yoghurt over it. Drizzle a bit of green chutney and sweet chutney (date and tamarind chutney). Sprinkle a pinch of chaat masala and a pinch of red chilli powder. Also sprinkle black salt, if using.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and fine sev. Yum!

Inspired from Chakali.

Punjabi Samosa


For stuffing:
Potatoes - 6, medium
Green peas - 1/2 cup
Oil - 1 tbsp
Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Green chillies - 3-4 (increase or decrease according to your spice level)
Ginger - 1/2 inch piece
Fennel Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Crushed black peppercorn - 1/4 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Amchur (dry mango) powder or Anardana (dried pomegranate seeds) powder - 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
Crushed dry roasted coriander seeds - 1 tbsp (optional)

For samosa cover:
All purpose flour - 1 cup
Wheat flour (Aata) - 1 cup
Salt - 1 tsp
Carom seeds (Ajwain) - 1 tsp
Oil - 4-5 tbsp
Water - about 1/4 cup

Oil for deep frying


Dough for the samosa wrappers:
In a mixing bowl, mix 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup wheat flour together. You can also use 2 cups of all purpose flour and leave out wheat flour. Add salt, carom seeds and  oil. Mix well with your hands, it will become crumbly. Add a little water and knead it to a firm dough. Cover and leave for 15-20 mins.

Make the filling:
Wash and peel potatoes. Pressure cook with salt and enough water to cover the potatoes, for about 4 whistles. Or you can boil them on an open stockpot till its cooked.
Drain and mash roughly. You need to have some chunks in there too.
Grind green chillies and ginger into a paste.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan on medium heat. Add cumin seeds, asofoetida, red chilli powder and fennel seeds. Allow it to temper for 10 seconds and add the green chilli - ginger paste. Sauté for few seconds and add green peas, turmeric powder and coriander powder. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Now add the mashed potatoes and mix. Add garam masala, amchur/anardana, black pepper. Taste and adjust salt. Mix well and take off heat. Let it cool down completely.

Make the samosas:
Roll the dough into lemon sized balls. Now roll it out with a rolling pin into an circular or elliptical shape. Cut it in half with a knife. Fold the cut edge in half and stick them together. You can dab some water for help in sticking. It should form a nice cone shape. Fill this cone with the stuffing in keep it compact. Then pinch and fold a portion of the outer edge. Then pinch from two sides and close together in the middle. Pull the edge up a little. You can refer Sanjeev Kapoor's video recipe below to understand this technique. From 8:08 onwards.

Heat oil in a deep wok or frying pan to a medium heat. Deep fry the samosas till they turn an nice golden brown color.

Serve with date and tamarind chutney and/or coriander-mint chutney. If you don't have these chutneys, you can use ketchup as well.
Or you can use these to make an amazing Samosa Chaat.
Enjoy! :)

Notes: You can store these samosas in the refrigerator for a couple of days, and fry them whenever you're ready to eat.
Oil can be any vegetable oil like canola oil or even olive oil for a healthier option.
You can even bake these samosas instead of deep frying for a healthier snack. Just pre-heat the oven to 400°F, and bake the samosas on a baking sheet for 15-20 mins until they're golden brown.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Kottayam style Red Fish Curry

This recipe is not for the faint hearted! One look at this blood red curry and you know why. ;-)
But this is how fish curry is prepared in most Christian households in central Kerala. Its popularly known as Kottayam fish curry. Kottayam is one of the districts in central Kerala, with a large population of Syrian Christians. In Malayalam, its called Meen Vevichathu. The gravy is of a thin consistency laced with red chilli powder and a hint of other spices. Every household has their own version of this curry, the difference is mainly in the level of heat (amount of chilli powder). My aunt in Michigan uses a whopping 4 tablespoons of chilli powder. My mom uses only 2. When I have this with rice, I would like to dilute it with Moru Kachiyathu, as the yoghurt cools down my tongue from the heat of this curry. If you're not left panting, sweating and with a running nose, then you have not done this right. ;-)
Traditionally, this fish curry is prepared in a Meen Chatti (a wide mouthed clay pot) on a gas stove. In my gradparents' homes, the meen chatti was placed on the support of two bricks on either side, and firewood burning underneath. This ancient cooking setup is also known as a Chulha in Hindi or Aduppu in Malayalam. Nowadays this method is discouraged because of the fire hazard and it's not a 'green' way of cooking due to the use of firewood. The Indian population could literally wipe out the remaining forests if they continue using firewood.
But since my stove is the electric coil type, I used a regular pot. A sauce pan, dutch oven or stock pot, take your pick. But they say that the real flavors come out, if it's made in this traditional earthenware, that's red or black in color. The first time I attempted to transport the meenchatti by air, (Kerala to Bangalore) it broke into several little pieces, thanks to the rough handling of the Indian ground staff. The second time, I wrapped it in several layers of clothes and placed it in the middle of my suitcase. The first thing I did after reaching my hotel room in the US, was to check the condition of this pot. Thankfully, it made it through the whole journey in one piece!
Another key ingredient in this curry is the Kudampuli (Gambooge in English, scientific name: Garcinia gummi-gutta). It gives the signature tangy flavor to this curry, and is often used in most seafood preparations in Kerala. I have not found this in any of the Indian stores here in NJ so far. A near but poor substitute for this would be Kokum (scientific name: Garcinia indica), which I did find in the Indian stores here. Both belong to the same plant genus Garcinia, part of the mangosteen family, but are just not the same!!
Thankfully, I did remember to bring 6 packets of these gems from India, enough to last me at least 2 years! As its used in its sun-dried form, these can last for a very long time, usually 2 to 3 years if stored in a cool, dry and dark place, like your kitchen cabinet. You can see how it looks like in my Chemmeen Peera post.
If you want to have the red color but not the heat, I suggest you use Kashmiri chilli powder, as its very low in heat, but high on the red color. I use the regular Indian chilli powder which has the same heat as cayenne pepper.
Also, the onions used in this curry are red pearl onions. It's never prepared with any other type of onion because it would have a sweetness to it. The red pearl onions are not sweet like the other varieties.
Fish is an integral part of a Keralite's diet. I don't remember a single day in my grand parents' house without this curry. If any visitor comes to the house, the main topic of discussion would be about what fish you got for the day. If you spot a neighbor pass by, they wouldn't greet you with the usual hi or hello. It would be 'what fish you got today?' If my grandfather does not get to eat fish curry and rice one day, he feels like he has not eaten anything. His face would be glum on the special days when Chicken Biryani or Onasadya (traditional vegetarian feast) is prepared. He needs his 'eriyum puliyum' meaning 'hot and sour' dose for the day. May his soul rest in peace. This is my mom's recipe.

Fish - 1/2 kg or 1 lb. (I used salmon this time, but you could use almost any fish, big or small for this curry)
Kudampuli (Gambooge) - 3 pieces
Red pearl onions - 4 or 5 (1/4 cup), sliced
Garlic - 4 large cloves, sliced
Ginger - 1 inch piece, chopped
Chilli powder - 2 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/3 tsp
Fenugreek seed powder - a pinch (optional)
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
Water - 1 cup
Oil - coconut, canola or sesame - 1 tbsp

Soak the kudampuli in a small bowl of warm water. Wash, clean and cut the fish into medium size chunks.
Heat oil in the pot on medium heat. When it heats up, add mustard seeds and wait for it to splutter. Then add the fenugreek seeds. Do not allow the fenugreek seeds to burn, as they easily do, or it would taste bitter. Couple of seconds later, add the pearl onions, ginger and garlic. Sauté till it turns brown.
In a small bowl, mix chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder and asofoetida with a tablespoon or two of water to form a thin paste.
Add this spice paste into the pot with the fried onions. Fry for a couple of minutes and you would surely cough and/or sneeze and/or your eyes could water at this point. Haha!
Now add the soaked kudampuli along with the water. Add salt and curry leaves, and give it a good mix. Now place the fish pieces in the pot, evenly distributed. Add enough water so that it just covers the fish pieces. It may look too watery now, but keep in mind that it would thicken over time especially if you store it in the refrigerator. Cover and just walk away. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes. You can also cook this uncovered for 20 minutes. Do not stir the curry after you've added the fish pieces. Its a no-no! The fish would crumble into pieces and would spoil the beauty of this curry. Uncover and simmer for another 5 minutes and its ready to be served!

Another interesting blog post about this fish curry is in Vazhayila - Sarah, the writer of this blog also talks about fish being a common topic of discussion in their neighborhood.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Photo walk on a beautiful Autumn morning

Last weekend, my neighbors were off for their son's wedding, so they asked us to take care of their cats for them while they were away. My husband usually goes over every morning and evening to feed them, but I decided to accompany him last Saturday as it was such a beautiful morning.

The whole place is gearing up for Halloween and the decorations are already going up. I brought my camera along to capture interesting sights along the way.
This one is my personal favorite:

I love the way the leaves change their color during the fall season. Back in India, the trees were mostly evergreen, so this view is quite mesmerizing for me.

 Fall is also the season when mums (chrysanthemums) bloom, and they're all over the place! 
I have two pots on my patio too.
and Rust
They've just started to bloom.

 People have started putting out their Halloween and harvest decorations.
 We made sure the cats were fell fed and relaxed.
This is Pepper. He's such a sweet fella. So adorable! And he loves to be cuddled.
Here he is looking at me with those yearning eyes, asking me to  cuddle him.
And this is Snowy. She's the exact opposite. Hates to be cuddled. She'll come over only when she wants to, and she's always very touchy.
Hope you enjoyed looking at these pictures as much as I did. :-)
Until next time.. Au revoir!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Italian Spaghetti Sauce served with Chicken Hawaiian Meatballs and Linguine

My husband came back from the grocery store with a packet of Aidell's Chicken Meatballs - Hawaiian style Pineapple. So I made an easy pasta sauce (similar to the one I made for Chicken Parmesan), and served it with Linguini. I did not have spaghetti in stock, and I like Linguini better.

Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Garlic - 4 cloves chopped finely
Olive Oil - 3 tbsp
Red Bell Pepper - 1/2 chopped
Tomato - 1 chopped
Salt to taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Bay Leaf - 1
Tomato paste or Pasta Sauce - 1 cup
Dried basil - 1/2 tsp
Ground black pepper - 1/2 tsp
Parsley - a handful chopped


Heat meatballs in oven as per instructions on packet. Or make your own. (I've never done this yet).
Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add chopped garlic and onions. Saute till onions turn translucent. Add red bell peppers and saute for a few minutes. Stir in chopped tomatoes, salt, sugar (if using), and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 10 mins.

Now add tomato paste and basil. (I used a pasta sauce that has tomatoes and basil), black pepper and meatballs. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve on cooked linguine and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

Note: Inspired by All recipes Italian Spaghetti Sauce. It says that the simmering time is 90 mins first, and 30 mins after the tomato paste is added. I was not so patient, but you can try and see if it really brings out the flavours more.