Peri Peri Chicken | Nando’s style Peri Peri Chicken

My family loves all things chicken and Jagan loves grilled chicken – any kind. He tells me that when he was in the UK, he visited Nando’s every other day, more often than he called me. So when we heard Nandos had opened in Chennai, we fought Velachery traffic for over an hour (not much by velachery standards), parked for a ransom, waited in line for a table and finally sat down to a chicken-aholic dinner. I ordered the mildly spiced variant and kicked myself for not interpreting the chilli scale correctly. Even hot is generally not really hot for us, Indians. But the chicken was really good. It was really different from the grilled chicken that we’re used to. The chicken was mildly hot with a slight lemony tang and bursting with lovely fresh flavours. I made a mental note to try it later but forgot about it until I signed up for the “African cuisine” theme in Srivalli’s blogging Marathon. If you don’t know the connection, peri-peri means African bird’s eye chilli. Portuguese explorers who came to Africa discovered this wonderful chilli and also concocted the peri peri sauce. I found a recipe that I really liked and I followed for the most part and it turned out great. I served it with a slaw alongside a west African Peanut soup (recipe coming up tomorrow). I just cannot tell you how easy grilled chicken is. Photographing it isn’t easy but making it is really easy. Easy enough to make on busy weekday mornings as well. Just marinate the chicken the previous night and shove it in the fridge. If I am using frozen chicken, I don’t even wait for it to thaw. I get nervous if I need to wait during cooking. I score the chicken (you’ll have to use a little bit of brute force and blow over your hands while doing this) and then rub the marinade all over and let it thaw in the fridge overnight also soaking in the marinade at the same time. It works. Then first thing in the morning, before you brush your teeth, preheat the oven. Then brush your teeth. Then just dump the chicken, marinade and all into a roasting pan, place in the oven and forget about it. The aroma will beckon you after an hour. Prep time: 10 minsMarinating time: 4 hours or overnightGrilling time: 40 minutes...

Fish Fingers

These fish fingers were the biggest hit at Hasini’s birthday party couple of weeks back. Fish fingers are a great make-ahead party appetizer and they were one of the first things I got done for this party and they were the first things to go. Kids loved the fish fingers as did the adults. I prepared nearly 4 kilos of fish fingers (the day before the party) and it took me approximately 1-1/2 hours to get it all done. But I was mighty pleased that one big item on the party menu was done and was sitting snug in the freezer ready to be deep fried.  I stacked the fish fingers in neat lines in a big rectangular plastic box, and used butter paper to separate the layers of fish fingers to avoid sticking/breaking. The next day, I thawed them for a couple of hours and then deep-fried them in the afternoon but the party was not until late in the evening. I just warmed them in the oven before serving and they were perfect. I served them with mayonnaise and ketchup. I’ve given the scaled down family-size recipe though. This is an Indian fish finger recipe with just the right amount of heat and masala. I was apprehensive of trying the western type fish fingers with just salt, pepper and parmesan as I was serving it at a party and the crowd was mostly Mayandi Kudumbathinar type. This is really easy and there’s almost zero cleaning (seafood generally involves a lot of cleaning) involved. So here it is, a sure winner and a must try recipe. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 10 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Seer Fish – 15 boneless pieces cut into 1 inch strips Ginger paste – 1 tspGarlic paste – 1 tspLemon juice – 1 tbspRed chilli powder – 1-1/2 tbspSalt to tasteEgg – 1 beatenBread Crumbs – 1 cup spread on a plateOil – as needed for deep frying Method 1.      Rinse the fish pieces in 2 changes of water till the water runs clear. Handle gently. Pat dry and set aside. 2.      In a bowl, mix lemon juice, ginger paste, garlic paste, red chilli powder and salt to make the marinade. Dump the fish pieces into the marinade and mix well so that all the fish pieces are well coated in the marinade. Let rest for 20 minutes. 3.      Pick one fish piece at a...

Ambur Biryani

On your way to Bangalore (from Chennai), there’s one stop you need to make and that is in Ambur. Make sure you’re there in Ambur by lunch time or dinner time because Ambur Biryani is world famous. It’s one biryani that should feature on every biryani lover’s bucket list. Ambur biryani is fiery hot, headily aromatic and absolutely lip-smacking. It is usually made with Seeraga Samba rice (but I’ve used Basmati Rice in the recipe). Whenever we’re returning to Chennai, we stop at Ambur for dinner and buy parcels for those at home. The biryani is so intoxicatingly fragrant, Mahindra Scorpio suddenly feels like a huge biryani Deksa. The secret to the Ambur biryani is the whole dry red chillies that are soaked in hot water and ground to a paste before being added to the biryani. No chilli powder in this biryani. The biryani gets its heat from this chilli paste. Freshly ground cinnamon powder is the other magic ingredient. Together the chilli paste and cinnamon powder fashion a masterful biryani. I marinated the chicken in the masala before cooking it and the chicken turned out unbelievably soft, juicy and most importantly was as wonderfully flavoured as the biryani. Usually the meat in biryanis is a stranger to the biryani it sits in, it doesn’t soak up the masala and it usually tastes bland. But not this one. So people, please marinate the meat. Always do. Follow these steps and you have my word, you will have wonderful Ambur Biryani in your own house. Your house will smell heavenly, i.e. like a Biryani kadai type of heaven, be prepared for it. Here’s a handy list of other biryani recipes:Chettinad Chicken BiryaniHome-style Chicken BiryaniChicken biryani cooked in coconut milk Prep time: 30 minsCooking time: 30 minsServes: 5-6   Ingredients Chicken – 750 gmBasmati Rice – 4 cups rinsed and soaked for a minimum of 1 hourOnions – 3 large chopped fineTomatoes – 3 large chopped fineGreen chillies – 2 kept whole Yogurt – 100 gmCloves – 4Cinnamon stick – 2 inch pieceMarathi Moggu – 2Bay Leaf – 2Mace – 2 piecesCinnamon sticks – 2 powdered (makes about 1 heaped tbsp.)Turmeric powder – 1 tspCoriander leaves – 1/2 cup choppedWater as necessarySalt to tasteGhee – 4 tbspOil – 4 tbsp Masala paste Ginger – 5 tbsp choppedGarlic – 1 entire head peeledWhole Dry Red chillies – 15-18 (I used the long...
Chicken stir fry

Chicken & Bell Pepper stir fry

In the early days of my marriage, when we were in Bangalore less the joint-family, stir fries where the staple. We had stir-fries every-day for dinner. I had a kitchen all to myself (glorious times those) and all I did were stir fries those first few weeks (dumb me). But Stir-fries are the easiest, quickest and sometimes the healthiest options too. We’d have stir-fried vegetables, stir-fried sprouts.. This stir-fried chicken is quick and yummy. This stir-fried chicken was perfect for my little ones. They loved it. Each picture shows you a dynamically changing bowl of stir-fried chicken. Because my kids kept nibbling on the chicken while I tried to click these pictures. There are innumerable ways you can vary this stir fry but just make sure that you adhere to the basic principle of stir-fries. Always stir fry at high heat, while constantly moving the food around. You want your food to cook but you also want to retain the freshness and crunch. So the order in which you add vegetables is important. Capsicum/Bell peppers cook very fast and therefore you add them towards the end. If you were to add carrots or baby corn, you’d have to add them earlier or leave them to cook a little longer. If you want to add mushrooms, cook them separately till all the water evaporates and they’re nicely browned and then combine them towards the end. And don’t ever overcook chicken, it gets stringy and tasteless. I served this stir-fried chicken along with Thai red curry and steamed rice. My kids ate the stir fried chicken as is. You could also serve these alongside Mexican rice, sandwich them between two layers of toast slathered with some mayonnaise or roll them up in a tortilla along with your favourite sauces. Another great way to serve these to kids is to give them little toothpicks to pick out the chicken. My kids recently went crazy using their toothpicks at a restaurant. Try it. Prep time: 5 minsCooking time: 10 minsServes: 3 Ingredients Chicken Breasts – 2 cut into bite sized piecesCapsicum/Bell peppers – ½ cup chopped into bite sized piecesGarlic – 4 pods mincedGinger – 1 inch piece mincedOil – 3 tbspSoy sauce – 1 tspBlack pepper powder – 1 tspSalt to taste Method 1.      Wash and clean chicken. Pat dry and chop into bite sized pieces. 2.      Heat up a pan, add oil...

Chettinad style Pepper Chicken | Pepper Chicken Masala

This chettinad style pepper chicken can give any restaurant pepper chicken a run for its money. It’s absolutely fabulous and minus the restaurant style oil spill on top. This pepper chicken is loaded with the flavour of freshly ground peppercorns, shallots and garlic rounded out by the fried coconut. The fried coconut provides excellent texture and that lovely scoopable body to the curry. I love this with rice and Sambar or rice and rasam. It would also make a really nice pair with chappathi. I served this chettinad style pepper chicken with rice, Arachivitta sambar and Paneer fry. I altered my mother’s mutton chops recipe to arrive at this chettinad style pepper chicken.  If you feel like Chettinad food, don’t pick up the phone, pick up the karandi instead – this is so much better and definitely safer for your tummy. I almost always end up with an upset stomach the day after we eat hotel chicken. I love the RealGood Chicken that sells in department stores. It’s always fresh and it’s already cleaned, cut and neatly packed which means absolutely zero prep-work with the chicken. Cooking chicken just got even easier. Ours is a chicken crazy family and every weekend it is chicken at home and I need to find new ways to spin it. Not that our family will ever get bored of chicken. It’s just that I’d be bored of cooking it the same way every time. But there is a wonderful charm in making that familiar oft-repeated dish which comes so naturally, a little bit of this, a little bit of that, stir, mix, done. You don’t measure, taste or adjust seasoning. You just know. The only thing that I make that confidently is the vegetable biryani and maybe bulls eye. Everything else, I still like to check. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 30 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Chicken – ½ kiloTurmeric powder – 1 tspSalt to tasteCurry leaves – 1 stemOnions – 2 medium slicedOil – 5 tbsp + 1 tbsp Masala Ingredients Grated Coconut – from half a coconut (3/4 cup)Whole Black peppercorns – 2 tbspSambar Onions/Shallots – 6Curry Leaves – 1 stemCumin – 1 tspGinger – 1 inch scrapedGarlic – 5 cloves peeled Method 1.      Wash and clean chicken. Pat dry and set aside. 2.      In a Kadai/skillet, add 1 tbsp oil and all masala ingredients other than grated coconut and sauté for 2-3 minutes...

Mutton Thengai Araitha Kuzhambu / Kari Kuzhambu

I did not start out to make this kuzhambu. I started out to make the traditional Kari Kuzhambu (without coconut) and then meandered to this kuzhambu because of some indiscriminate salting. Some unasked Kitchen Advice: Always add salt in one go. Whenever you do it in phases, you overdo it. I certainly overdo it. In trying to correct the kuzhambu I made some additions and stumbled on this kuzhambu. However, this is a nice, thick, full bodied mutton kuzhambu that will make a great side dish with Kal Dosai or Idli or Chappathi or even rice.  The most important thing in a Kari Kuzhambu is obviously the Kari (mutton), so make sure it is tender and fresh. The reddish ones are no good I’ve been told. Fresh tender mutton is pinkish. Start with good tender mutton and you’ll end up with succulent, flavourful mutton kuzhambu. Prep time: 12 minsCooking time: 30 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Mutton – ½ kiloOnions – 2 large chopped fineTomatoes – 2 large choppedGinger – 1 inch piece scraped (optional)Green chillies – 3 slit lengthwiseGarlic – 8 cloves peeledShallots/Sambar onions – 5 peeledRed chilli powder – 2 heaped tbspTurmeric powder – 1 tspSalt to tasteCinnamon – 1 inch pieceCloves – 2Oil – 2 tbspWater – 2 cups (Adjust) Ground Paste Grated Coconut – ½ cupWhole Black Peppercorns – 1 tsp Method 1.      Wash and clean mutton well. Grind the ginger, garlic and shallots together to a paste. Set aside. Grind together the coconut and whole black peppercorns adding a little water to a smooth paste. Set aside. 2.      Take the mutton in a pressure cooker. Add the chopped onions and tomatoes. Also add the ginger garlic paste, slit green chillies, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and just enough water to immerse the mutton. Close and pressure cook for 3 whistles or about 20 minutes. If mutton is not soft, cook for a further 5-10 minutes. 3.      In a kadai, add oil and when hot, add the cinnamon and cloves. Then lower the heat and transfer the cooked mutton mixture to the kadai. Turn heat to high and cook till the mixture has thickened slightly. Add the ground coconut masala and water if required to thin to the desired consistency. Stir well and let it come to a boil. Simmer covered for 5-10 minutes. Uncover, give it a good stir and switch off. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Simple Chicken Curry

 Free Photography lesson here to use non-shiny/matte plates for your food photos! Chicken is like potatoes. Delicious however you make it and there are innumerable ways you can make them (Chicken and potatoes). This chicken curry is simple, smooth and finger-licking good. It goes beautifully with rice, roti or chappathi. Since I started cooking seriously I’ve started paying attention to the little details. Most curries have onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic but how you use these in your curry makes a lot of difference to how the final curry tastes. You could just fry onions, tomatoes and ginger garlic paste, you can grind them all raw and use them, you can fry them and then grind them before incorporating them in the curry (which is what I do in this recipe), you can blanch, puree and then add them in.. and so on. Now there’ll be folks who’ll say it’s all the same. But serious foodies, people who are passionate about their food will know that each one tastes different however subtly so. I can’t say between a Toyota Fortuner and an Outlander. Jagan goes freaking wild if I say both seem the same (like JKB in in Sindhu Bairavi). But I really don’t mind if people don’t appreciate the nuances in the food as long as they enjoy what I cook. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes: 3-4 Ingredients Chicken – ½ kiloOnions – 2 large choppedTomatoes – 2 large choppedGinger – 2 inch piece scraped and choppedGarlic – 7 cloves peeledGreen chillies – 4Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp.Turmeric powder – ¾ tspSalt to tasteOil – 4 tbsp Method 1.      Wash and clean chicken. 2.      To a kadai add 2 tbsp oil and when hot add the chopped onions. Fry till they turn translucent. Then add the tomatoes and fry till they turn soft. Add the green chillies, ginger and garlic and fry till the green chillies are scorched and the garlic browned in places. Transfer the fried ingredients to a mixer. Let cool slightly. Grind to a smooth paste. 3.      To the same kadai add the remaining tbsp. of oil and the chicken. Fry till the chicken turns white. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, the ground paste and salt. Mix well. Cover and simmer till the chicken is cooked through and the oil has separated – about 15-20 minutes. Uncover, give a stir. Switch off....

Chicken Momo – Steamed Chicken Dumplings

I’ve made momos every-day the past couple of days, they’ve been such a huge hit. I made a small batch of chicken momos as appetizers for the Sarakku party (Booze party) last weekend as I wasn’t sure all of them would like it. But surprise, the chicken momos were gone in a flash and they wanted more. I made a vegetarian version of the momos which went a little slow as most of them were non-vegetarians but the vegetarian momos were good too. These chicken momos are quite easy to make in that there are no complicated techniques and you can’t really go wrong with it unlike a genoise cake that I screwed up pretty spectacularly last weekend. You see, the last few days I’ve been cooking up a storm, mostly good with a few disasters thrown in. I quite enjoyed pleating up the momos into little round bags, but it takes some time. I couldn’t click the momos the day of the party; it was crazy. I made them again the next day by popular demand and managed to photograph them. The chicken filling is super easy to make and is delightfully fresh and flavourful. The freshly minced ginger and garlic add loads of flavour and punch to the chicken. Use fresh ginger (not the hard, dried ones) for maximum flavour. Finish with chopped spring onions to give that Chinese-food touch. I made the filling the previous night and put it in the fridge. It keeps well for 3-4 days. If you have the filling ready, it is that much more quicker to make momos. I am sending these chicken momos to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon for the theme – “Dallying with Dumplings”. Now you know why I made momos for the party last weekend. Menus will now be centred around the blogging challenges that I take up and my family will have to endure. This time they’re not complaining though. Prep time: 20-30 minsCooking time: 10 minsMakes: 20 Momos Ingredients – For the filling Minced Chicken – 250 gmCabbage – 4 tbsp shredded fine Ginger – 2 tbsp mincedGarlic – 2 tbsp mincedOnion – 1 medium finely choppedSoy sauce – 1-1/2 tspGreen chilli sauce – 2 tspSalt to tasteBlack Pepper powder – 2 tsp (adjust)Spring onions – 2-3 finely chopped (green & white separated)Oil – 2 tbsp Ingredients – For the cover Maida – 1 cupSalt to tasteWater as...

Mutton Kola Urundai – Fried Meat balls

Mutton Kola Urundai was my father’s favourite order at military hotels. That’s what non-vegetarian hotels now called “Chettinad hotels” were called back then. In military hotels, there was no menu card. The waiter would bring in a tray with the actual dishes, diners would choose what they’d like to have and the waiter would go back, re-heat the chosen dishes and serve them. This is how it happens still in small towns outside Chennai. No frills, no pretence. What you see is what you get. I tried to re-create these military hotel specialties at home and it was a breeze really. You really can’t go wrong with this recipe, just don’t skip any of the ingredients. Gather together all the ingredients, grind, mix and deep fry. It’s that simple but the results are impressive. These fried meat balls are succulent and perfectly flavoured. The coconut and fried gram add body and texture to the urundai and the masala is just the right blend of heat, spice and aroma. Together they create a beautiful symphony that is Mutton Kola Urundai. Mutton Kola UrundaiPichi paaru RendaaiUrundai ku podadhe SandaiCar vikaraange Hyundai Ayayo aaghi pochu semma Vambai! Ingredients Mutton – ½ kilo mincedRed chilli powder – 1 tbspTurmeric powder – 1 tspEgg – 1Salt to tasteOil – 1 tbspOil for deep frying Masala Onion – 1 medium chopped roughlyGreen chillies – 4 chopped roughlyWhole dry Red chillies – 4 stalks removedCoconut – 3-4 tbsp gratedRoasted gram/Pottu kadalai – 2 tbspGinger – 2 inch piece peeled and choppedGarlic – 6-7 clovesCardamom – 2Cinnamon – 1 inch pieceFennel seeds/Sombu/Saunf – 1 tbsp Method 1.      Rinse the minced meat in 2 changes of water. Squeeze out all the water completely and set aside. 2.      In a kadai/skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil. When hot add the minced meat and sauté. Let the meat cook on medium low for about 7-10 minutes. By this time the meat would start to pale and would be cooked through. Remove from fire. Let cool. 3.      Grind the fried and cooled mutton to a smooth paste. Set aside. 4.      Grind together all the ingredients called for under masala to a coarse paste adding as little water as possible. 5.      Mix the ground meat and ground masala together in a medium ball making sure that the two are well blended. Add red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well. Break an egg...

Chettinad style Chicken Biryani

This chettinad style chicken biryani comes close to the Thalapakatti style biryani in terms of flavour and taste. The freshly roasted and ground masala powder adds wonderful aroma and beautiful flavour to the biryani. The core of this biryani is this masala powder. It is a heady masala combination which just cannot fail – hot, aromatic and lip-smacking. Red chillies, whole black peppercorns, fennel, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon – you could try using this masala powder for your chicken gravies and kormas and I’ll tell you it is absolutely fantastic. Serve this biryani with chilled raita and boiled eggs for a perfect weekend meal. My husband a very picky eater gave the thumbs up to this biryani and my dad, a very conservative eater (he hates experimentation) finished off the biryani in no time, which all means it really is good. I was worried I had made too much biryani and that I’d have to do the refrigerate-reheat-refrigerate routine the next day but guess what, there was no biryani left over. If every family had to have a family dish (like a family song), biryani would be our family dish. Dosai would also be a strong competitor though. Biryani defines our family – grandiose, masala rich and extra large. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 30 minsServes: 6-7 Ingredients Chicken – 1 kiloBasmati rice – 3 – 1/2 cupsCurd/Yogurt – 1 cupOnions – 2 large chopped fineTomatoes -2 large chopped fineGreen chillies – 2 slit lengthwiseRed chilli powder – 1 tbspTurmeric powder – 1 tspFennel seeds/Saunf/Sombu – 1 tbspSeaweed/Kalpaasi – 1/2 tspMarathi moggu – 1Cinnamon – 2 inch pieceCloves – 3Ghee – 3 tbspOil – 4 tbspSalt to taste Dry masala powder Whole dry red chillies (long variety) – 5Whole black pepper corns – 1-1/2 tspFennel seeds/Saunf/Sombu – 1 tspCoriander seeds/Dhania – 2 tspCumin – 1/2 tspGreen Cardamom – 2Cloves -2Cinnamon – 1 inch piece Paste Ginger – 4 inch piece peeledGarlic – 10 clovesCoriander leaves – a handful Marinade Ginger-garlic-coriander paste – 1 tbsp (from above)Curd – 2 tbspTurmeric powder – 1/2 tspRed chilli powder – 1 heaped tbsp.Salt to taste Method 1.      Wash and clean the chicken and cut into fairly large pieces. Marinate the chicken pieces with the ingredients called for under marinade for 20 minutes or more. 2.      Rinse Basmati rice/long grain rice in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak basmati rice in...

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