Wednesday, July 25, 2012

'Coz I'm still a southie at heart :)

In May this year, I took on a full-fledged South-Indian meal for some of my friends here. I wanted to do a non-curry based meal 'coz that's one stereotype that annoys me no end. I mean, I understand what they mean when they say 'curry' and I have my favourites too but please Indian food is about so much more than the one tomato based gravy that seems to have caught the world's fancy! Anyway, I also wanted to do a specifically South Indian meal 'coz it isn't something people who don't know much about Indian cuisine would have tasted before.

This was my very first attempt at trying a lot of things and so a record here is mandatory from that perspective alone. But since it did eventually turn out to be a relatively successful meal, I've been wanting to post this with relevant pictures as well. Unfortunately, I was too scatter-brained to think of taking photographs of the food on that day and have been waiting to remake them so I could put in this post. And hence the delay. However, as you can see here, that is yet to happen. I'm too lazy to remake all of that or even one dish at a time! So here are the recipes for now and the pictures will come as and when I get around to it. :)

My Menu
Spiced Buttermilk served as an aperitif
Rava idlis with coconut chutney & a tomato-onion chutney
Lemon rice with roasted peanuts
Vegetable kurma
Chicken stew in coconut milk
And a lentil & coconut milk-based pudding as dessert

Some of this I've made before and have linked to the relevant posts. You'll find the rest below.

Enjoy on a hot summer day and keep the heat at bay! 
Spiced Buttermilk
1 cup plain yoghurt
3-4 cups cold water
1 tsp cumin powder
2-3 split green chillies
1 tbsp freshly made ginger paste

Blend everything together in a large bowl and chill for a couple of hours before serving.
You can also add some lime rind and a little squeeze of lime juice to kick this up a notch.
Alternatively, add the leaf from a lemon/lime tree. Does wonders to the flavours.

The consistency should be thinner than that of regular milk. Adjust the water content accordingly. And remember to stir well before you serve.

Coconut Chutney
This is my favourite go-to chutney when I want authentic flavours but don't have the time to fry and temper things.

1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup plain yoghurt
1 inch piece of ginger
2-4 green chillies, as per taste
Salt to taste

Grind everything in a blender to a fine paste. You can use some warm water or more yoghurt to help with the grinding but do not make it very runny. It should be a finely ground thick chunky mass. Do a taste test for salt and spice levels. And you're done!

Onion and Tomato Chutney/Chammandi
This was a super-duper raving hit! I was surprised by how much everyone liked it. I had people wiping the last drops straight out of the bowl! So here is the recipe for this super flavourful and simple chutney.

6-7 ripe tomatoes
2-3 red onions
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp curry leaves (optional but good to add it)
1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
1 tsp coriander powder
salt to taste
3-5 tbsp oil
1-2 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)

Cut the onions into thin slices.
Chop up the tomatoes into tiny bits.
Heat about 3 or more tbsp of oil and fry the onions till they reach a nice golden colour. Sprinkle a little salt while the onions are getting done since this helps caramelise them nicely and also quicker.
Add the tomatoes once the onions are golden.
Stir the whole mix and let it cook on a medium flame till the tomatoes have let out their juices and the mixture looks soft and mushy. You can add the sugar at this stage if the tomatoes are very sour.
Use a food processor to grind this cooked mushy mixture into a smooth paste.
Heat the oil again in the same wok/frying pan and add splutter mustard seeds.
Add the asafoetida and curry leaves and mix.
Now add the coriander powder and chilli powder, if using. Turn the heat down to low when you do this so that the coriander and chilli powders don't char.
Add the tomato-onion paste to this and turn the heat back up.
Check for seasoning. The chutney is ready to be served once you see the oil sizzling around the edges of the paste.

Have it on toast, sandwiches, idlis, or as a relish with grilled food of your choice.

Lemon Rice
1.5 cups cooked and cooled basmati rice (cook with salt)
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp black gram/lentil (urad dal)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 dried red chillies
1 small red onion, chopped fine (optional)
2-3 Tbsp oil
1 pinch asafoetida
handful of curry leaves or coriander leaves

Heat the oil and splutter the mustard seeds.
Add the asafoetida and black gram. If using curry laves, add them now and quickly stir it in.
Add the turmeric to flavour and colour the oil.
Dump in the rice and peanuts and mix really really well. Make sure every grain of rice gets coloured by the turmeric flavoured oil.
Add the coriander leaves, if using, now.
Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Mix thoroughly to evenly distribute the juice. Do a taste test to check for seasoning. You can add more salt or lemon juice if you need more.
Serve hot!

Optional: You can sprinkle some freshly grated coconut and coriander leaves on top as garnish before serving.

Chicken Stew - Kerala Style
A very mildly-spiced chicken stew in coconut milk. Usually had as a breakfast accompaniment with Aapams (a kind of savoury pancake) or Idiyappams (a type of rice noodle cake) in Kerala. It can also be made as a vegetable stew by replacing the chicken with any combination of vegetables - potatoes, carrots, beans, cauliflower etc.

3 cloves
1 small piece of cinnamon
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 slit green chilli
1 onion diced thickly lengthwise
1 Tbsp ginger paste
1Tbsp garlic paste (optional)
2 chicken breast pieces cut into bite size pieces
200 ml coconut milk
1/2 cup water
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil

Heat the oil and drop the whole spices in as it gets hot. This will flavour the oil subtly.
Add the ginger and garlic pastes and saute for a few minutes. Also add the slit green chilli now.
Once the pastes feel less raw, add the onions and stir fry till the onions are transluscent.
Add the chicken pieces and saute till it starts changing colour.
Now add the water and let it cook on the med-low heat till the chicken is done. The water will not cover the chicken but this is okay. The water is just to ensure that the chicken doesn't loose all moisture and that the spices don't stick to the bottom and burn while the chicken cooks.
Once the chicken is completely done, turn down the heat to very low and add the coconut milk.
Let the whole mix warm through but do not let it come to a boil or the coconut milk might separate.
Turn off the heat and add salt as per taste.

The whole process takes about 20 mins including the chopping etc and your chicken stew is ready to serve with plain rice or aapams!

Parippu Payasam (Pudding made of whole green moong lentil)
While growing up, I had a dislike for anything dal-based. Kids can be strange like that! :) But since I got married and moved away from the delicacies from the south, I have a new found appreciation for these flavours like never before. This is one of my more recent favourites from the desserts of Kerala.

1.25 cups whole green moong dal
2.5 cups whole milk
200 ml coconut milk
1/2 cup cashews and raisins mixed
200 gms jaggery
1 tsp cardamom powder

Pressure cook the lentils in 4 cups water on a medium high flame till you hear 5 whistles. Take it off the heat and let the steam escape completely before you open the pressure cooker.
Put it back on a med-high flame, add 2 cups of milk and bring to a simmer.
Add the jaggery in 2 batches stirring often to make sure it dissolves completely and doesn't settle at the bottom and burn.
Check for sweetness before you add the second batch of jaggery.
Add 1/2 cup milk more if you think the consistency is thicker than you'd like. Add the cashew and raisins.
Once the jaggery has completely dissolved and the pudding has reached the desired sweetness levels, take the pan off the heat and add the coconut milk.
Bring it back to a low simmer on a very low flame, making sure not to let it boil or the coconut milk might separate.
Sprinkle cardamom powder to finish.
This dessert can be served warm or chilled, anyway you like.

Variation: You could also make this entirely in coconut milk if you want. In which case, skip the whole milk.

Note: So I told my mom about this and she says, "Eh? Green Moong? I've never heard of any payasam using green moong!!" So, I will now change my stand on this and call it a non-authentic version but still a very authentic tasting dessert! :D


Moonshine said...

That is quite a lot you made that day!! I know what you mean when you say people do not know about south indian cuisine. They only identify idli / dosa with it. There's so much more to it than idli. Totally lipsmacking.

the-mommie said...

arre yahan to haal kaafi kharaab hai. idli-widli kya hai kuchh pata hi nahi. bas curry khilate jao sabko! lol. and yeh bhi nahi pataa ki hum daal ke shaukeen hain. badi ajeeb si duvidha hai baba. ;)

Scarlett said...

Brave woman!!