Chicken Kheema Pav Bhaji

Something I read yesterday on Facebook hit me hard –  “I am being forced to not eat meat to respect you. What if you’re forced to eat meat to respect me?” Bang on! Please answer, judgers, the right wing vegetarian converters and especially the born again vegetarian converts out to sermonize the barbaric chicken tikka eaters at the other end of the table. Before you call me names, before you judge, let me explain. I am a mostly vegetarian, occasional meat eater who can’t live without eggs. I am neither, yet I am both. I don’t think vegetarian food is tasteless. In fact I think it is vastly under-rated and I think it can be as tasty as the cook wants it to be. I never chastise vegetarians for uprooting living, thriving greens (keerai), leaves, roots and all, for yanking cute little carrot tops out of their homes, for coldly cutting off all water to the rice paddy fields to let the plants dry so that they can be killed (ouch)/ harvested. To me, a chicken’s life is as precious as a turnip’s as a cow’s as fenugreek greens’ as a dinasaur’s as a carrot’s. We are finding newer, more dangerous ways of one-upping one another, of being the more righteous group, the more moral group, the more correct group, the better group; in the food we eat, in the books we read, in what we speak, in the cartoons we laugh at, in how well behaved we have our women. Scary. Someone who today supports the meat ban in Maharashtra today, may have been shocked by the ban on AIB roast and may be outraged if alcohol is banned tomorrow. Many of us are missing the larger conformist angle because the particular conformist action now fits us, because “I am a vegetarian and I am better” or “because I can’t appreciate literary freedom, I can’t accept non-conformism even in a story, I need to burn the book, hound the author and make him promise to behave, to think proper, to write decent”.  I am pained that this one-upping had to move into what we should and shouldn’t be eating, and what others should be eating. I am as surprised as you are that this post turned out as sombre as it did. I needed to say this though. I love me my vegetarian readers and my meat eating readers. I...

Biryani Collection

I am surprised I haven’t posted a biryani compilation before. I really am. Not that I have tried all of the biryanis out there. I still have a long biryani bucket list that I am yet to explore. But it is just one of those things you thought you would have done and long back. It is like realizing that I don’t have a little black dress (called LBD, I learnt when I read the magazine at the parlour). But I don’t. It is like when someone asked me incredulously “You haven’t watched Sound of music?”  I haven’t. But I’ve watched “Thillana Mohanambal”. Have you? So it is with biryani. After all it is how we identify ourselves – biryani lovers. I haven’t met a biryani I didn’t want to try. Jagan will compulsorily order biryani everywhere he goes. At Hard Rock Cafe he’d leaf through the menu a few extra times as if looking for something. We may miss a relative’s wedding but never a Muslim friend’s. My kids took to biryani long before they tried rice. Like adventure seekers, storm chasers, I, a true biryani lover have set myself the lofty goal of eating through and cooking up all the different biryanis in the world. Should I go crowd fund myself? If you have a spectacular biryani recipe, will you please share it with me? Here are mine: Thalapakatti biryani: It tastes much like Thalapakatti’s signature biryani – spicy, heady, aromatic, ghee laden seeraga samba rice biryani. No tomatoes in this biryani. The magic is in the ground spice paste. Ambur Biryani: Reminiscent of the fiery hot Ambur biryani, this one will blow your pants off. Flavour bursting, heady and super hot. Chettinad style Chicken Biryani: Freshly roasted and ground whole spices lend this biryani a wonderful punch. Biryani cooked in coconut milk – My mother’s version, this is a delightfully mellow biryani. Simple home-style biryani – My mamiyaar’s version, this one is loaded with ginger and whole spices but isn’t too hot. Super quick and easy. Keep watching this space for more lip-smacking biryani recipes.
Honey mustard grilled chicken & bamboo fried rice

Honey Mustard grilled chicken and Fried Bamboo rice

When I teeter between eating that last ladle of biryani and finding a dabba, transferring the last of the biryani into the dabba and putting it in the fridge I usually elect to eat it. It is so much simpler. While eating the extra biryani, I imagine myself determinedly jogging round after round the next morning burning away all those extra calories. When (if) I am jogging the next morning, I am panting like a crazy dog halfway through the first round and I stop and walk the rest of the way I imagine myself thoughtfully taking tiny bites off an un-buttered slice of toast. In short my life. Could bamboo rice be the redemption for all the biryani excesses? I doubt. But I gave it a shot anyway. Jagan bought a pack of bamboo rice while on our vacation in Kerala. We bought it in a small souvenir shop in Wayanad. The bamboo rice came in simple plain plastic packing. It was un-branded and un-processed. For the first time in nearly 2 decades, I transferred the rice onto a moram and sat outside in the portico to pick out stones from the rice. The last I saw someone doing this was my ammamma who’d take the rice in a moram and pick out stones and grit from the rice, everyday. I felt all nostalgic, got carried away and spent about half an hour going through the rice. This ain’t the green rice (rice that is infused with bamboo juices) that is popularly called bamboo rice in the west. This is the real deal. Bamboo rice looks almost like wheat. It takes much longer to cook than white rice. It is chewier and has a grassy, nutty undernote. I was sceptical if it’d taste good as fried rice. I was surprised that it actually tasted better in fried rice form.  We grilled the chicken on our barbecue. But you can grill it in your oven too. We loved the combination of hot, sweet and tangy flavours. I served the grilled chicken on the fried bamboo rice. Jagan was smitten with the combination and the kids ate with great gusto. Overall – big success. And to think it was healthy too. I am surprised it went down so well. Prep time: 15 mins (grilled chicken) + 25 mins (fried bamboo rice)Cooking time: 20-30 mins (grilled chicken) + 25 mins (fried bamboo...

Coconut and poppy seed chicken curry

I turn down the fan speed to the lowest possible. I’ve not switched on the AC in weeks. Hindu’s pages are filled with kutchery schedules and concert reviews. Garden fresh green peas, mochai and double beans call out to me from the vegetable market on Mambalam Station road. Sundari silks and GRT Jewellers are already handing out their 2015 calendars along with sarees and jimkis.  I am craving hot, spicy curries, some rice and a not too sweet dessert (which I probably do all year round). Winter must really be here in Chennai. Which also means December is here. More importantly November is gone (did I really have to say that? please grit your teeth if you have to, but stay with me. I am on to something here) and with that Hasini’s 5th birthday as well. After twisting myself into crouching tiger and hidden dragon positions (Hiyah! Oo! AaaI) frosting a single barbie cake, running out of frosting midway through making barbie’s skirt (as expected), starting over again making frosting, colouring and then finishing in a haze of neck pain and back ache, I am ready to give my readers some invaluable “What not to do” advice while making a barbie cake. I’ll save that for another day though. The point is I managed to PLAN, prep, prep and prep some more (I prepped like mad), cook, bake, decorate, take a bath before Hasini’s  friends arrived, make conversation with my friends (and not really worry about the empty chutney bowl. That’s kind of hard for me) and pick up the dirty plates and glasses before my feet gave way.  One more birthday party up my sleeve or rather – down my back. Oucch! I lounged around the entire weekend after the party. I had to. I felt I had to. Fought for the remote, argued with kids over Chota Bheem vs movie, watched about 10 half movies on TV (I am never able to catch one full movie from start to finish these days),ate mochai kottai kuzhambu,  vazhakkai bajjis (Amma samayal), slept, ate out, came home and went to bed early. On to the season special, I ain’t making no pumpkin pie or mashed potatoes ‘cos my maamiyaar is always putting the parangikai (read pumpkin) in the kootu and the potato in the thokku (although I’d really like to give the pumpkin pie a shot). My winter special dish...

Egg & Cabbage scramble | Muttai Muttagose podimas

I am feeling jittery and overwhelmed. Come next week, I have 2 snack boxes and 2 lunch boxes (3 when Jagan returns from his trip) to pack, a breakfast to make that not everybody hates,  2 spoilt little kids to ready for school, a tennis lesson for Hasini squeezed somewhere in-between and all this by 8:30 am!! Hasini’s school reopens next week. Terror Yuvi will also be starting school next week. Terror Yuvi is a mighty spiderman at home but wails the shrillest in school. I’ll have to be fanatically-prepared and extraordinarily organized none of which I am. And I’ll have to wake up early which my neural network has been unable to ‘get’ in its 30 year history. I tend to round off my age to the nearest lowest round number divisible by 10 to keep things simple and to feel better. There’s no better time to use my Meal planner than now. I created the meal planner at the beginning of the year meaning to use it every week but haven’t used it continuously. Now is the time. I need to plan my menu for the week, stock groceries and produce for the week and also prep them as far I can so that I can pull something out and finish quick. I need quick, healthy and tasty recipes. This Egg & Cabbage scramble is just the thing, perfect for lunch boxes too. It is super quick, tasty and most definitely healthy. My kids love eggs in any form and they love this one too. If you’ve never tried the combination, egg and cabbage may sound weird but try this one and you won’t be disappointed. Serve this scramble alongside variety rice, rolled in rotis with a little ketchup if your kids are the ketchup loving ones, with pooris or sandwiched between toasted bread, mayo and some fresh veggies.   Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 15 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Cabbage – 3 cups shredded or chopped Eggs – 3 Salt to taste Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp Green chillies – 3 or 4 chopped fine Onion – 1 medium chopped fine Oil – 3 tbsp Method 1.      Beat eggs lightly in a small bowl. Add turmeric and salt and beat till frothy. Set aside. 2.      Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add the chopped onions and green chillies and sauté till the onions turn translucent. 3.     ...

Pallipalayam Chicken

It feels like I finally found my calling (in what to blog I mean). After doing my share (however miniscule) of the usual blog staples – red velvet cake, vanilla cupcake, eggless chocolate cakeand pasta in pesto sauce (hard to find a blog that doesn’t have these recipes) I discovered that I am deeply interested in Tamil cuisine. I mean truly interested, interested enough to study about it.  I can see myself sitting beside the Kezhavi (old lady) in her little village house making the Kari Kuzhambu nodding appreciatively, tasting a little and exclaiming “Hmmm.. Unbelievable, divine”. Like in those cooking shows where David Rocco drives to a dusty little village with kids running behind his car, and an old lady shows him how to make Kanji (gruel) while the celebrity chef makes a stylized salad of shallots and green chillies drizzled with vinegar to go with the Kanji. No, I don’t want to be on a show (not that anybody is asking). But I would really want the old lady to smile and share her Kari Kuzhambu recipe with me. I unashamedly ask for recipes wherever I go – waiters, marriage caterers, our canteen cook, long lost friends, moms and aayas of long lost friends, maid servant and complete strangers. But not everybody smiles and makes Kanji for me. They do for David Rocco. The old ladies used to smile for Chef Jacob too. I have a very high regard for him especially because of his efforts to research traditional Tamil food. His specialty restaurant on Khader Nawaz Khan road served wonderful Kongunadu specials but I didn’t have a chance to eat there while it was still open. The restaurant closed soon after his demise. I bought one of his cookbooks recently. This Pallipalayam chicken is from his cookbook.  Pallipalayam is a small town near Erode known more for this chicken fry than anything else. The recipe is amazingly simple. Just 3 ingredients – chicken, whole dry red chillies and garlic. I am obviously excluding salt, turmeric, oil and coriander leaves as otherwise it won’t be 3-ingredients. But the fact is – it’s minimal yet tasty. I loved it that the chicken was not rubbery or stringy even though I’d cooked it for nearly half an hour. It takes time for the chicken to soak up the chilli juices. So be patient and don’t add water or red chilli...

Chicken Tikka Masala – Punjab special

I love the Punjabi food ideology – whole milk, full fat, heavy cream. These guys really know how to eat. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, chicken tikka, kebabs, shahi paneer, Rabri, Batoora, Kulfi – Cream, butter, Ghee, paneer their food is rich and lip-smacking. This is not to say they don’t make healthy everyday stuff which they do, but those don’t interest me as much as these cream and butter loaded goodies do. Most Tandoori dishes originated from the former undivided Punjab. Most restaurants carry many of these Punjabi dishes, proof of their universal appeal. The chicken tikka masala and butter chicken masala are legends. The tandoori roti deserves a life-time achievement award.Among the most successful of all my state-wise recipe experiments and the most enjoyed one was this Chicken Tikka Masala. Chicken tikka masala has perfectly spiced chicken that is grilled and folded into a creamy, delicious onion-tomato based curry, laced with cream and butter.  Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular british curries and I forget the number but several tonnes of it are sold every week. CTM as it is fondly called, although a recent adaptation, it is very much a Punjabi dish. I adapted Madhur Jaffrey’s chicken Tikka masala recipe from her book “Curry Nation” using her marinade as is but changing the curry slightly. It is a winner, no doubt. You can safely try this for the first time for a party without worrying about how it’ll turn out. It is perfect. But be mindful while grilling the chicken as it is very easy to overcook them. Vegetarians, just switch paneer for the chicken and you have the wonderful paneer tikka masala. Just as delicious. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 40 minsServes: 4 Ingredients – Marinade Chicken – ½ kilo boneless pieces cut into small chunksGinger-Garlic paste – 2 tbspFresh cream – 4 tbspLemon juice – 1 tspKashmiri red chilli powder – 2 tspCumin powder – 1 tspGaram Masala – 1 tspGhee/Melted butter – 2 tspSalt as necessary Ingredients – Curry paste Onions – 2 medium chopped roughlyTomatoes – 2 medium chopped roughlyGreen chillies – 2 roughly choppedGinger – 1 inch pieceGarlic – 4 clovesCinnamon stick – 1 inch piece Ingredients – Curry Yogurt – ¼ cupKashmiri red chilli powder – 1 tspGaram Masala – 1 tspCumin powder – 1 tspSalt as necessaryButter – 2 tbspOil – 1 tbspSugar – ½ tspFresh cream –...

Mutton Rogan Josh – Kashmir special

I broke the cardinal rules of making rogan josh but still managed to make a top notch mutton rogan josh and I am mighty pleased with it. Mutton Rogan josh is a kashmiri delicacy, a spicy, deep and flavourful mutton curry that must undeniably be one of the best mutton curries around, a pride of India. This is probably why it features in most restaurant menus. There are many versions of mutton rogan josh but I liked the authority and confidence with which ecurry proclaimed its rogan josh and I can now vouch for it. I went ahead and added onions because I wanted more body to the gravy and I guess its ok ‘cos I am not a Kashmiri Pandit (who don’t include onions). Onions were not part of the original recipe. I substituted fresh ginger for dry ginger powder because I couldn’t find the stupid thing in the cupboard although I found 2 boxes of it 2 weeks later when I organized the kitchen. I always seem to have more of the rarely used ingredients but I am never able to find them when I need them in a recipe. Sounds familiar? Kashmir is famous for its apples, pashmina shawls, silk carpets, dum aloo and mutton rogan josh and militancy. Kashmir the much fought over state, at the northern end of India, one of the most picturesque places in the world and probably one of the bloodiest too features in Roja (directed by Mani Ratnam) an all-time hit and a classic. Mani Ratnam makes everything stylish. Suddenly engineers were sexy and romantic, patriotism was cool and chinna chinna aasais (little whims) were cute and adorable. There’s no girl who didn’t fall for Arvind Swamy in that movie. What a stunner! Ahem.. It’s Kashmir and Mutton Rogan Josh we’re talking about. Everybody wants a piece of Kashmir. Don’t know if everybody can have Kashmir, but everyone can have this mutton Rogan Josh. Follow the recipe exactly and it’s yours. Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time: 1 hour Serves: 4 Ingredients Mutton – ½ kilo cut into 2 inch piecesOnions – 3 large thinly sliced (not part of original recipe)Yogurt – 3/4 cup yogurt + 2 tablespoon yogurtLemon juice – from 1 lemonAsafoetida – ½ tspKashmiri Red chilli powder – 3 tbspGaram Masala powder – 1 tspDry ginger powder – ½ tbsp. (I substituted fresh ground ginger because I couldn’t...

Chicken Vindaloo

Chicken Vindaloo was the first thing that came to mind when I thought of Goa although I didn’t taste Vindaloo when I went to Goa a couple of years ago. I did taste a Goan fish curry which was quite remarkable too. This month being the statewise blogging marathon month, I and my fellow blogging marathoners will be posting a dish from each of the Indian states – one state a day. Today it’s Goa. Vindaloo was originally a Portuguese curry made out of pork marinated in wine. We ingenious Indians substituted chicken for pork and vinegar for the wine and included potatoes for good measure. So the Vindaloo of today is very much an Indian curry – hot, spicy and lip-smacking. I am always game for new ways to cook chicken and Chicken Vindaloo sounded just about perfect. I used the recipe from steamykitchen. I found that the curry tastes even better with rice than rotis. You’ll have to start a day early though. The chicken needs to marinate overnight for the Vindaloo. The Vindaloo was quite sour from all that vinegar and I thought it could do with a bit more heat. But a vindaloo is not a vindaloo without the vinegar. So don’t skip the vinegar if you’re making vindaloo. If you do, don’t call it a vindaloo.  Goa is a nice place, I loved their markets. They sell really cute shorts, pretty hats and beautiful coloured glass lamp hangers. I wasn’t as enthusiastic of the beaches as the beaches were crowded and hot (don’t know if it was the wrong time of year) and I’ve experienced enough of hot, crowded beaches right here in Chennai. I really wish I’d tasted more of their local cuisine which is actually my number one agenda when visiting any place. Number 2 is of course shopping. The next time I am in Goa, I am going to have to taste their Vindaloo and Bebinca, no excuses. Prep time: 15 minsMarinating time: OvernightCooking time: 30 minsServes: 5 Ingredients Chicken – 750 gmPotatoes – 2 medium cubedOnions – 2 large chopped fineOil – 2 tbspCumin seeds – ½ tspMustard seeds – ½ tspWater – ½ cupSalt to taste Marinade Vinegar – ¼ cupWhole Red chillies – 15 soaked in the ¼ cup vinegarGarlic cloves – 10Ginger – 3 inch piece chopped roughly Dry spice Mix Cinnamon – 2 inch pieceCloves – 5Cardamom – 3Cumin – ¾ tspMethi/Fenugreek seeds –...

Chicken Rendang – Malaysian Chicken curry

I am now squinting through my puffed up, watery, half sized eyes as I write this post. I’ve caught Madras Eye (conjunctivitis) and a whole lot of other things on the side as well. Fever, horribly painful sore throat and chills in the evening. I’ve not felt this weak and sick in a long time. I’ve returned to work today after 2 days of sick leave (the only nice thing about this whole sickness thing, I got to  spend a lot of time with Hasini and Yuvi) and I feel slightly better than the past few days. I’d wanted to post this Chicken Rendang right after Pongal because Chicken rendang uses whole turmeric and turmeric leaves and during Pongal we use these turmeric plants (the leaves and all) in the pooja.  And it is only during this time of the year that I’ve seen them in markets in Chennai. They may be available at other times, I don’t know. If they are, then you should definitely try this recipe for Chicken Rendang. I noted this down from the “Taste off” show on TLC the rare day when I fought off Jagan and the kids for the TV remote. Actually I think the kids were asleep that day and Jagan was on his phone. Anyways, I got a rare chance to watch a cookery show and me being a sucker for curries, I noted this down as soon as I saw it. I made this right after Pongal but never got around to posting this. The Rendang made a wonderful side with parotta – fresh, spicy and flavourful. I used the fresh turmeric sparingly as fresh whole turmeric is extremely pungent. You could break up a small piece of it and check. The original recipe called for much more if I remember right but I wasn’t taking chances. You’ll be using the leaves as well. The turmeric leaves are not as strong as say the lemon leaves you use in the Thai curries but they add a mild flavour. You could chop up those turmeric leaves and drop a few of them while the curry is simmering to turn up the flavour some more. You’ll be seeing a lot more delayed, postponed un-seasonal, in-appropriate recipes in the coming days as I catch up with my blogging. Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 45 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Chicken – half a kilo...

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