Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Mambazha Pulissery/ Mango in a coconut and yoghurt sauce

This post is part of Onam and Sadya. The recipe below will be enough to serve 6 - 8 people. Measurements are approximate.

Mango, the King of fruits, is the most favourite fruit in the state of Kerala. In my childhood days, there was not a single house in Kerala that didn't have at least one variety of mango tree. Mango is consumed raw and

Monday, 30 July 2012

Vegetable Cutlet (Kerala Bakery-Style)

This is how I ended up preparing Kerala bakery-style vegetable cutlets at home.

We, my friends and I, threw a baby shower for two of our 'latest' mums-to-be two weeks back and decided on a potluck. I chose to make vegetable cutlet for entree` and roughly estimated that 5 cups of mixed vegetables and 1 1/2 cup of mashed potato should make me at least 25 vegetable cutlets. But it was only when I made the cutlet mix that I realised my estimates on mashed potato had gone terribly wrong and I didn't have any extra potatoes in the pantry. Battling with going ahead of making cutlets with the mixture I had at hand against running to the supermarket for potatoes and being late for the party, the vegetable cutlets that is so common in bakeries in Kerala came to my mind. Well, why not use their most important ingredient?...... Bread Crumbs...... It may not be perfect but that was the best choice I had.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Meat Cutlet

Celebrations in a Christian household in Kerala is never complete without the humble looking brown meat cutlets. Marriages, engagements, christenings, birthdays or even a gathering with friends - the meal always begins by nibbling on meat cutlets served either with Challas or tomato ketchup.

Origins for meat cutlets can be traced back to meat croquettes of the Western world. Westerners who came to Kerala for trade spread Christianity and also shared some of their recipes to the region. And our ancestors, from Kerala, added some spices found here, to add an "oomph" to these crumbed fried bites. (This story can be disputed by the fact that our cutlets also have a close resemblance to the Arabic Kibbeh. But I am not here to confirm history and so for the time-being let's just move on). Though there are several seafood and vegetarian varieties of cutlets prepared now, meat cutlets still remain the favourite among Kerala Christians.

Monday, 23 July 2012

White Chocolate Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is a classic Italian dessert which means cooked cream. It is velvety smooth and decadent and has a very close resemblance to the Indian Phirni or the Arabic Mahlabi. While Phirni uses rice flour and Mahlabi uses cornstarch to thicken boiled milk, Panna Cotta uses gelatin to a mixture of boiled milk and cream. And then there are also differences in the flavouring agents used and the way these desserts are served. I am hoping to post recipes for Phirni and Mahlabi very soon; so more later.

The recipe here is a change to the traditional one since it uses white chocolate (source: Woolworth's Australian Good Taste magazine). The original recipe serves Panna Cotta with coffee syrup but here I have used orange marmalade sauce (source: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/orange_marmalade_sauce.html). The first time I made this, the sauce turned out more bitter, since the marmalade I bought was more on the bitter side. The next time I tried it with a different brand of marmalade which was more sweet and the sauce turned out better. You can also serve it up with a berry coulis or a berry sauce. The choice is yours.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Wholemeal Curry Buns

Breadtop is an Asian influenced Australian bakery franchisee, that serves a wide range of breads, cakes, buns and pastries. While their cakes and sweet pastries are all good, they are more in demand for their savoury buns and pastries. Their chicken curry bun and spicy beef bun are the favourites in our house. There, comes the demand from my little ones to try curry buns at home. And their Mum thinks "Why not"?

I've never baked any breads or buns at home. So my first experiment was to bake some plain buns that I made with plain flour. With success at hand, I felt confident to try out curry buns, but with wholemeal. All recipes I read, warned me to avoid working with wholemeal by itself, since it lacks gluten, which is very important to trap air inside to make soft, light bread. So this time I decided to mix plain flour and wholemeal flour to make the buns for my curry buns. The success story repeats!!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Hot and Spicy Chicken Wings

This recipe is inspired by the infamous Buffalo Wings.
There was a time when I very naively thought that buffalo wings came from buffaloes. Though I knew that buffaloes didn't have wings, and to my knowledge they didn't evolve from any species that could fly, I couldn't get the thought out of my mind. But that was before I ate it; when I realised it was chicken and also realised an even greater truth of the foolery in me. And then I realised that buffalo wings are called that only because it originated in Buffalo, New York.
Coming to think of it; why is Buffalo, the place, called Buffalo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

While my family loves the hot and spicy wings coated in buffalo-wing sauce served at TGIF, I, unfortunately, couldn't get hold of the recommended Frank's Red Hot Sauce, in any supermarkets in Melbourne, to make the buffalo-wing sauce at home. The only alternate for me was to make a spicy sauce that could come as close to Buffalo Wings or could easily replace it at home.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Cinnamon Spice Scones

I've been enjoying making lemonade scones for a while now; which is a simple, easy and no-fail recipe. But today I decided to step up from my comfort zone to make a traditional scone with butter and milk. And then, to pep it up with cinnamon and nutmeg.

I once read that just smelling cinnamon can boost your brain function and improve memory. It also regulates blood sugar and reduces bad cholesterol. Not too bad for a simple looking bark, heh! So now, I have no second thoughts on including this bark in my recipes. Benefit or no benefit, the best thing about using cinnamon in your baking is its sweet aroma filling the air in your house that perks up everyone fast asleep.

I made these scones for a morning tea with my friends and served it with whipped butter and it went very well with most of them. My two little boys, gave me a big thumbs-up and said that I could include this in my kitchen menu, but they want whipped cream to go with it. My big boy, gave a small grunt, a satisfied grunt, which is the best I can get from him at any time, and I know he liked it.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Zucchini-Pistachio Cake with Lime Glaze

This was the first successful cake I baked in my kitchen.

I've had some awful disasters with my baking experiments, not a very long time ago. My cakes would either be burnt, too dry and crumbly or just prosaic. I couldn't get the sugar right, the batter right or even the oven temperature right. My Mum, who bakes wonderful cakes couldn't provide me with much help either. When she was young and started baking, she didn't face half the problems that I seemed to be 'nurturing' in my kitchen.
I was lost! The baking world was closing its door at me!

And then, one of my best friends came to my rescue. She gave me the recipe for this Zucchini Pistachio Cake and encouraged me to try it out. She promised me that this was a no-fail recipe and I had to try it before saying no to baking. One day, when I had nothing to do and was totally bored, after months of holding on to this recipe, I decided on giving it a try.
And Viola! A perfect cake in my kitchen.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Kaeng Khiao Wan Pla Thot/ Sweet Green Fried Fish Curry

It is Thai today!

A marriage of Eastern and Western influences, harmoniously combined with the traditional Thai style of cooking has led to what is now known internationally as the Thai Cuisine. It is a balance of spicy, sweet, salty and sour. The food is loaded with fresh herbs like coriander leaves, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, basil and mint and what awaits your palate is simply dazzling and delightful.

My first experience of Thai cuisine was Kaeng Khiao Wan Pla Thot served at Okra Restaurant, Hawthorn in 2006. I was carrying my second child at the time and my friend from work (who had seen and experienced my love for seafood), ordered this for me.
Man! Did I fall in love? With the dish I mean; not the Chef!
Unfortunately, this was not the case with my husband, when I took him to the restaurant later. While he did like the dish, he kept complaining about the aroma of lemon grass which was a reminiscence of a bitter medicine he had as a child. But he grew out of it and now loves anything that is Thai.

Kaeng Khiao Wan is sweet green curry and Pla Thot is deep-fried fish. So this is deep-fried fish in a sweet green curry, with pak choy, okra, eggplant, water chestnuts and bean sprouts to make it a complete meal served with Jasmine Rice. I guess they call it sweet only because it is not as hot and spicy as the other Thai curries like Massaman.

Thai Green Curry Paste

There are different interpretations of what makes an authentic Thai green curry paste. Experts in Thai cooking advocates using a mortar and pestle with fresh Thai ingredients to make an authentic curry paste. However, I used my mixer grinder to make this paste and made some substitutions and was quite happy with the result.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Spiral Curry Puffs

Childhood memories of my birthdays include Mum's cake and beef cutlets, my Aunt's mixed fruit wine and my Grandma's beef and vegetable noodles and chicken and vegetable curry puffs for a high tea, in the evening, after school, when my family and extended family got together to celebrate. My favourite in the list has always been the curry puffs.

Curry puffs found its way into our home menu through my Grandma's Malaysian family connections and it is simply a variation of the Malaysian Karipap. The simplest way of making this is to prepare a poori dough, make small balls and flatten it, fill it with your favourite filling, close the open edges and deep fry in oil (just a stuffed poori).

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Garam Masala

Garam means hot and masala means mixture. It is a blend of ground toasted spices. The mixture is more of a fragrant spice mixture than a hot spice mixture and is extensively used in Indian cuisine. There is no single recipe for Garam Masala as the ingredients vary from region to region and from household to household.

The recipe here was handed over to me by my Mum. And it is exactly how she makes it. She says that for any recipe that calls for Garam Masala, half of the masala should be added during cooking along with the other spices and the other half should be added near the end of cooking, to bring out true flavours.

The recipe here works well with chicken and vegetable dishes. For a dish with red meat, add extra ground fennel seeds.

Lemonade Scones

Enid Blyton introduced me to scones.

Every Famous Five adventure has at least one picnic where the four children and their dog goes off to the moor, the beach or the countryside to enjoy a cold lunch of hard-boiled eggs, potted meat sandwiches, puddings and lemonade. In fact, Enid Blyton made me wonder how many things looked and tasted like; treacle pudding, mince pies, jam tarts, sausage rolls, jacket potatoes, cold chicken, ham, tongue sandwiches with lettuce and cream cheese and ginger beer. And then, there is the Secret Seven and the Five Find-Outers, who always gather together for a tea of freshly baked goodies to discuss and solve their mystery at hand. Food is at its height in Malory Towers and St. Claire's with the scrumptious Match tea and the exciting midnight feasts. The list is endless.

The children in Enid Blyton books are always eating and discussing about food. And scones, freshly baked, warm from the oven served with 'running' butter, devon cream, home-made jam and cream tea tops the list.