Thursday, 21 February 2013

Kerala Chicken Stew - Two Recipes

Chicken stew is one of the curries that I prepare ever since I started my cooking expedition. It has evolved much since then, as I improved much in cooking, and learned to balance the flavours and spices. I make two versions of it now, one being the easy, low fat version without using nuts and other one slightly richer version using ground nuts and thick coconut milk. The gravy is usually white, as no powdered spices are used apart from little garam masala. Curry gets most of its flavour from the whole spices that flavour the oil, along with onion, ginger and garlic. Even though the curry looks plain and white, it is very aromatic and full of flavour.

I usually use maggi coconut milk powder to make coconut milk, but if you could extract fresh milk from coconut it would be even better. You may use fresh, frozen or even desiccated coconut to extract the milk. I tend to be lazy when it comes to grinding coconut and squeezing all that glorious white milk off it, leaving behind extra pots and pans to wash. So almost always use Maggi coconut powder. You can also used canned coconut milk by diluting it with water to thin it out. I never use canned coconut milk in my cooking as I feel it has got a strong synthetic aftertaste.

This curry is usually served at home along with appam, ghee rice, pathiri, chappathis or even bread.

Kerala Chicken Stew

Preparation time:10-20 minutes
Cooking time:30-40 minutes

Recipe 1:


1 kilo chicken
1 large potato,300g, peeled and cut into 2 “ pieces
2 large onions, finely chopped, 2 ½ cups
1 ½ tbsp grated ginger
1 ½ tbsp grated garlic
3 twigs of curry leaves
1 large tomato, 175g, cut into long strips
2 tbsp coconut oil/vegetable oil
5 cardamom
5 cloves
2 -3 2” piece of cinnamon sticks
1 tsp pepper corns slightly crushed or use it as whole
3 bay leaves
4-5 green chillies slit lengthwise
1/3 cup cashewnuts soaked in ½ cup thick coconut milk
½-1 cup thin coconut milk
½ tsp garam masala powder
1-2 tsp lemon juice

1.Wash chicken well and place It in a colander to drain of all the excess water.

2. In a wide non stick pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil. When hot add cardamom, pepper corns, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon and cook for few seconds until it leaves aroma. (Heat is kept to medium as high heat burns the spices).

3. Add the chopped onion and salt and sauté until it starts turning golden. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and cook till the raw smell fades.

4. Add tomatoes, 2 twigs of curry leaves and sauté until tomatoes are pulpy.

5. Add chicken pieces and mix well and cook for 5-6 minutes.

6. Pour in the coconut milk, stir, and cook it covered on low heat until the chicken is half done, for about 10 minutes.

7. Add in the potatoes and cook till the chicken is tender and potato is cooked.

8. Add in cashew paste, remaining curry leaves, lemon juice, green chillies and garam masala. Gently heat to simmering point and take off the heat. Serve it along with ghee rice, appam etc.


1 kilo chicken
2 large onions,sliced thin, 3 cups
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 ½ - 3tbsp grated garlic (10 cloves)
3 twigs of curry leaves
1 large tomato, 175g, cut into long strips
2 tbsp coconut oil/vegetable oil
5 cardamom
6 cloves
3 2” piece of cinnamon sticks
2 tsp pepper corns slightly crushed
4-5 green chillies slit lengthwise
11/2 - 2 cup thin coconut milk
½ tsp garam masala powder
2 twig curry leaves

1. Wash chicken well and place It in a colander to drain of all the excess water.

2. In a wide non stick pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil. When hot add cardamom, pepper corns, cloves, and cinnamon and cook for few seconds until it leaves aroma. (Heat is kept to medium as high heat burns the spices).

3. Add the chopped onion and salt and sauté until it starts turning golden. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and cook till the raw smell fades.

4. Add tomatoes and sauté until tomatoes are pulpy.

5. Add chicken pieces and mix well and cook for 5-6 minutes.

6. Pour in the coconut milk, stir, and cook it covered on low heat until the chicken is fully cooked, for about 20 minutes minutes. Towards the end of cooking, add curry leaves, green chillies and garam masala. Gently heat to simmering point and take off the heat. Serve it along with ghee rice, appam etc.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Kappa Masala (Spiced up Cassava/Tapioca/Kolli kizhangu)

Everyone has certain area of expertise when it comes to cooking, isn’t it? I also assume that has lot to do with their palette. I have a very sweet tooth and I am more into baking cakes, pastries and desserts. That is my forte and I am aligned to making sweet things by default. But on the other side, there are people who make savoury goodies better than their sweet counterparts.

Like many of you being intimidated about baking, I should say, I am intimidated or rather not comfortable when it comes to traditional Kerala cooking. I am not talking about the Malabar cooking, but the traditional Kerala Sadya recipes and alike. I make few of them at home, but not the elaborate ones. These are the not the kind of dishes that were cooked at home regularly and I grew up eating. At my home, meat, fish , chicken, basically , any non-veg dominated our dinner table.  As of vegetable, it was just thoran of any kind, sambhar, pumpkin curry etc that we had.

Onam sadya was a something we usually get to taste when our neighbour aunty brings us in small containers or in restaurants during Onam. You would be surprised if I tell you I have never had onam sadya from India and probably the first proper Onam sadya that I had was for last year’s Onam, where it was served in a traditional manner on a banana leaf. It felt good, really good. I got to taste many things that I never had before and absolutely adored. I realized that there are things, vegetarian, that are very delicious. On that day, I decided to learn as many Kerala dish as possible and to make it a regular part of our meal.

That is when Nags of Edible Garden suggested cooking up a kerala dish every month and post on the blog. A bunch of food bloggers joined the venture at KeralaKitchen. Nags started it off with the first recipe being tapioca masala. If anyone of you want to join the Monthly Kerala Cooking, please join us. I thought it was a brilliant idea, with me already having plans to broaden my knowledge on kerala cooking, I hope this this joint cooking will motivate me further.

Coming to Kappa, again, it is not something we cook at my home a lot, but very popular vegetable in and around Kerala. At my place, it is occasionally made for evening tea. Tapioca plants are grown in plenty back home in the back yards and they yield quite well. But most of them are given away to workers, and few of them are cooked with coconut for evening tea. With nag’s recipe, it is prepared in a different way and it tasted great along with a cup of hot tea. It is garlicky and spicy and great along with evening tea. The chilli and garlic flavour domintes the dish, yet balancing the whole dish beautifully.

Living in the British land for a while now, our spice tolerance has come to bare minimum, and in spite of cutting down the chillies to three from five, we still found it quite fiery! So you may want to cut down on your chillies further down if your tolerance is as low as ours or increase to suit your taste.

Kappa Masala
serves 4
Adapted from Cookingandme

½ kilo Tapioca/cassava/kappa/kolli kizhangu, cubed
5 cloves of garlic
2-5 whole dried red chillies
¼ tsp + ¼ tsp  turmeric powder
2 strands of curry leaves, chopped
½ tsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp coconut oil
salt to taste
1 litre boiling water

1.Peel the tapioca and wash thoroughly.
2. Cut them into 2 inch cubes.
3. Throw them in to bowl, pour in 1 litre of boiling water, salt to taste and ¼ tsp turmeric. Cook till tender for about 10-15 minutes, but not mashed up.
4.While the tapioca is cooking, grind together dry chillies and garlic in a grinder or just crush them in a pestle and mortar.
5. Once the tapioca is cooked well,drain the water off and keep them aside.
6. To temper, heat a pan and add oil. When hot, add in the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add in the ground paste and chopped curry leaves and sauté on medium heat for a minute or so to get rid of the raw garlic smell. Add ¼ tsp of turmeric and more salt if need be and mix well.
7. Add in the cooked tapioca and mix well to coat the masalas. Serve along with some chutney or a spicy fish curry or on its own.

This Kappa Masala Recipe was adapted from Edible Garden, who is hosting the Kerala Kitchen cookout this month. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Éclairs with Crème Chantilly filling and Chocolate Glaze

Life has changed very much for me over the past few years by all means. Looking back to where I am, what I did, how I thought, what I cooked, what I ate and what I did, all has changed big time. Settling down in UK and Blogging has done so much to me, probably transformed me to a different person. I learned many things – to live in a new country with conflicting  culture, food, ethos and ethics, respect it and live with it with my own values and what I was taught. And with blogging, I learned different kinds of cooking, baking, making new friends with same interests and learn much about photography. On the contrary, it has also added few extra pounds to my waistline. Would I have done this if I were not into blogging? May be not. What I wanted to do in life was something different and what I am doing is greatly antonymous to what I am supposed to be doing. Looking at it, I get a feeling that I am more of a foodie fanatic and do something in food, but what do I do with the education that I earned painstakingly? 

I was never the kind who cooked and baked so much and I was never someone who knew how to handle any camera, let alone shoot pictures. I am an admirer of everything beautiful- beautiful food, beautiful pictures, beautiful people. To achieve beautiful food doesn’t only mean that you need to cook it beautifully, but  you also need to style it or garnish it and be able to take beautiful pictures if you are a food blogger. You eat with your eyes, before you actually eat. So every food served should be beautifully presented to make it more appealing.   I had spend several hours looking at beautiful foodie pictures, fabulously styled and trying to figure out how they must have done it! I spent huge amount of time reading photography tutorials, practiced what I learnt,  pestered several bloggers, read many articles, borrowed many books from library and went through them and practiced them to study more. Now, is it food or photography that I love and I want to move on with?

Soon after my college, I had my baby boy and not much later, I was uprooted to an Alien land called England where I had no relatives and friends and everything was unfamiliar to start with. It was a brand new world, a world and life that I was not a bit familiar with. Especially being brought up in an orthodox family, it took me a long while to adjust to the new culture, grasp the ethos and the people. 

The only entertainment was the tv and all that I liked was the cookery show. There were soaps and comedy trails and movies, but it was the cookery shows that broadened up my culinary horizons. There started my cooking expedition. I was inspired and motivated to cook, bake and serve. Disasters after disaster, my cooking started to show some better outcomes. Rachel Allen, James Martin, Ina Garten, Farah Khan were few of the chefs that taught me what cooking was all about and ispired me to enter the Kitchen. They were the people who taught me how to handle a kitchen beautifully.

Nowadays, the little baby has grown to a five year old. TV is no more my own possession. Sponge bob square pants, Ben 10 and others dominate the screen these days.It used to be Mickey Mouse, Tom & Jerry once. We still watch Tom & Jerry together.  Before drifting further away, the other day I was skimming through the cookery channels before putting on the cartoon for the son. I happened to watch Great British Bake off series and they were baking Eclairs in the show when my son said, he wanted some éclairs and asked me if I could bake it for him. I was dying to bake some goodies as I haven’t baked anything in January to keep some justice to the resolution of cutting down on my baking. I just had to break it with éclairs. He never asks for something until he really likes them. So the next day, I went ahead and baked some éclairs.I don’t regret, they were so good and he being one of my best critics loved it to bits.

Eclairs are French pastries basically made of a very light pastry dough called Pâte à choux or choux pastry. It’s the same dough that is used to make profiteroles, croquemboches, Cream puffs, St. Honores cake, beignets etc. The pastry is very light, crispy and airy, and is usually filled in with different types of cream and dipped in chocolate or caramel. The recipe is very straight forward, you could use the same recipe for profiteroles, but instead of piping them into fingers, just spoon them into small mound spaced well as they expand quite well during baking.

As long as the recipe instructions are strictly adhered to, choux pastry will always give perfect results. Before starting to make the pastry, collect all the ingredients together as all the flour needs to be added quicly as possible as the mixture has come to a boil. Raw choux pastry is too soft and sticky to roll out, so it is generally piped or spooned onto a dampened baking sheet for baking. During baking, moisture in the dough turns to steam and puffs up the mixture leaving the centre hollow. Thorough cooking is important as insufficiently cooked, choux pastry will collapse when taken out from oven and there will be uncooked pastry in the centre to scoop out. When the cooked choux pastry has cooled down, it can be filled with whipped crème or any savoury filling. Choux pastry can also deep fried in oil – pipe or spoon it directly into the oil. ~Complete Book of desserts by Good Housekeeping.

Éclairs with Crème Chantilly filling and Chocolate Glaze
Makes 12-14 small fingers

50g butter, cut into cubes
150ml water
65g plain or strong plain flour, sifted
2 eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling
300ml whipping cream, whipped
2 tbs icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence

For the chocolate icing
150g plain chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp milk

1.Put the butter and water into a heavy saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the butter melts. Bring to a boil and then remove the pan off the heat.

2. Tip the flour in all at once into the hot liquid and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Stir the mixture vigorously over the heat until the mixture forms a smooth, soft ball. (Take care not to over beat the mixture as the mixture will become fatty).

3. Remove from heat and leave the mix to cool slightly for couple of minutes.

4. Gradually add in the eggs, beating well between each addition, to form a smooth, shiny paste. It is important to beat the mixture well at this point to trap in as much as air as possible.

5. To fill the pastry bag, fit a 1-2 cm nozzle on to a piping bag and place it in a tall jug and turn back the open end over tha jug rim. Spoon the pastry in the bag and squeeze it down to eliminate any air bubble.

6. Butter a baking tray and sprinkle with water. Pipe 12-14, 7cm fingers of pastry, spaced 2 inches apart, and cut the ends with a wet knife. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 20-30 minutes or until well risen and is golden in colour. Remove them from oven, split open each éclairs for the steam to escape, return back to oven and bake for further 5 minutes at 190°C. Remove from oven and cool it completely on wire rack.

N.B: For making profiteroles, instead of piping fingers,  pipe about 20 small bun shapes on two damp baking sheets and bake as above. Once baked, poke a hole in the side of each choux buns with a knife or skewer and bake for further 5 minutes.

For the Chocolate Icing

Gently melt the chocolate with the double cream/milk in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth and shiny (taking care not to let it get too hot).

For the Crème Chantilly Filling

Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold in sifted icing sugar and vanilla essence. Chill until used.

When the eclais are cooled down, Spoon  the crème Chantilly into the a piping bag and pipe the crème onto one side of éclairs and sandwich with other side. You caould also poke a hole into the éclairs instead of cutting them in half and pipe the cream through the hole until it is well filled.

Pour melted chocolate into a small deep bowl and dip the top of each éclair into it to form a glace. Serve immediately.

It is better to serve immediately as it would go soggy if they are kept filled for long. You could also fill the pastry with creme, ice it and keep in fridge until ready to serve. 

But it is also better to fill the pastry just before serving. The pastry could be frozen, and heated in the oven to crisp up once they are thawed.
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