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“. . . a meal for a King – Uppuma”

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Breakfast is unarguably the most important meal of the day.

I was raised in Germany on the old saying “….Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper” – something which I adhered to on and off over the years.

Like most of us I too rushed out in the morning far too often without a bite to eat, just a cup of coffee “on the run”, lunch often was a sandwich or two and come evening it was either a visit to a restaurant or pub, eating food which I should not eat, especially late in the evening. In Germany we normally try not to eat a full calorie-laden meal after 7 pm!

But, over the years, and with gained experience and with accumulated ‘wisdom’ I tried to eat more sensibly and healthy – not always succeeding, mind you!

So living here now, my eating plans simply had to change – and they did. I do not have what we call ‘European’ breakfast any longer, except when I make a small bowl of oats with a few raisins and a small spoonful of honey for myself to see me through till lunchtime. In the last 14 years, I have quite happily adopted to my new eating routine.

I love breakfast – and I so enjoy occasionally starting an often quite hectic day with one of South India’s most common and popular breakfast dishes.

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I do like ‘to ring the changes’ when it comes to our meals and therefore I find it a little bit difficult to talk about my favourite choice for a good Indian breakfast – after all I do like nearly all varieties of dhals, potato curry, Idlies with chutney and sambar, masala dosa etc etc and of course then there is UPPUMA – made from Wheat rava (semolina) with a few items added to suit our own personal taste bud. There are of course once again numerous slight variations on the same theme – but what I present to you today is, as usual, what we would serve you if you happened to join our breakfast table.

All measurements given are for 2 portions.

I like to buy pre-roasted Rava (Semolina) – so no need to fry this in your own kitchen any longer.

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1 x cup pre-roasted Rava (semolina)
½ x cup of Ullis (shallots) – sliced
2 x long green chillies, cut into 2-3 pieces, seeds not removed!
4 x cloves of garlic, sliced
1 x Tbsp Cashewnuts (or shelled Almonds)
1 x Tbsp Kismis (Raisins)

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½ x tsp of black mustard seeds
½ x tsp of black pepper
½ x Tbsp of Uppu (Salt) (you may want to adjust this)
2 x sprigs of Curry leaves
1 x Tbsp of vegetable oil
2 x cups of water (boiled)

Method:
Heat up a large wide vessel, add oil, when hot add mustard seeds (remember – those little sneaky ‘bullets’ will fly all over your stove – so keep pot covered for a couple of seconds), when they have stopped ‘popping’ add chillies, Ullis, garlic, raisins, nuts, curry leaves, salt and black pepper. On medium heat stir all this and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

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Now turn down heat even more and add Rava in a stream all over this mixture, stir again and again for another 2-3 minutes before adding the water.

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Mix well – making sure nothing sticks at the bottom or the sides of the vessel. Keep stirring before covering with a lid for another 3 minutes.

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This is usually the time when I have a quick sip of coffee!!

Switch off your flame, using a fork I break up any possible little lumps.

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Since I make Uppuma this way, I never ever have burnt bits at the bottom or sides of my vessel, just beautiful fluffy delicious Uppuma.

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This is normally served with a steamed banana.

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That’s it – all done – enjoy!

Namaskaram
Carina

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Mild Leek Soup

….. with an Indian/Welsh twist …..

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As many of you know by now – I do love vegetables ……or at least most of them!

When I grew up Leeks, in one form or another, appeared on our table at least once or twice a week.

Grandpa had a nice biggish vegetable garden behind his house where he grew nearly everything possible and the women in the family at that time always managed to come up with a wonderful variety of recipes for this and other vegetables.

But since leeks are not always readily available in the Supermarkets here, I make full use of them whenever I find them in their shelves. This means that we will be eating leeks at least 2-3 times that week – changing my recipes around to avoid boredom. And yes, this is just one of those weeks – a delivery of leeks had arrived in our Supermarket and so, you guessed it, I have been cooking various different dishes, partly from memory, partly from my little box of old old recipes and partly with my new ‘spur-of-the-moment’ input. So far, touch wood, I seem to have hit just the right button on my taste buds and hopefully at least some of you, who read this, will like today’s delicious soup and the other leek recipes which will be posted in the near future.

This following recipe is pretty much a standard one – in fact ideal for a light supper or an after party treat.

What does she mean by this, I hear you ask – simple, exactly what I wrote.

Many many years ago I started a habit (which soon became a sort of ‘tradition’ in our house). I started serving big chunky mugs filled with delicious hot nourishing soup after our official entertaining. Some of you know these occasions, where in a room (or garden) filled with well over 100 people one does not have a chance talking to some of the people one would really like to talk, like old friends etc., due to protocol, priority or whatever. Just imagine weddings, big birthday bashes etc. – so we started asking certain people discreetly to stay behind after the 2-hour long reception, which was very much appreciated, more so when we lived abroad somewhere on this planet. The ladies were only too happy to shed their high heeled shoes and literally flop onto the nearest sofas, chairs or even floor. The men, tie loosened, followed quickly suit and that’s when we brought out our soup. And after a few drinks and delicious ‘finger food’, the hot heart-warming, soul refreshing soup, was more than well received.

This became such a success that it was not only copied (the biggest form of flattery, right ?) but guests started to ask “what is the soup of the night?” And so I kept this by now ‘tradition’ going well past retirement from official life.

As always, I tell you what I used here for 2 people – so do not be too rigid – adjust to your own need and taste.

What you need:

250 gr Mincemeat (Keema)
3 x medium sized leeks, cleaned, most of the top green part discarded
4 x garlic cloves, finely chopped (or use garlic powder) – optional.
2 x Beef- or Vegetable Stock cubes dissolved in appr. 500 ml water
200 – 250 x gr of soft cheese (I used Mozzarella), cut into small cubes
3 x Tbsp of thick curd or crème fraîche
1 x medium sized potato, peeled and sliced thinly
Salt, pepper, to taste
2 x tsp (home-made) curry powder
2 x tsp paprika powder
2 x tsp ground nutmeg
2 x Tbsp Vegetable oil

How to cook:

First of all prepare your leeks further by washing them thoroughly to remove all the dirt between the layers. Then cut them into fine rings and keep aside.
Heat the oil in a wide pot – add the Mincemeat and quickly fry this for app. 5-8 minutes; add salt and pepper. Stir.

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Now add the previously prepared leeks, mix and fry this further for another 5 minutes or so.

Add the stock, stir, reduce heat to fairly low, cover with lid and let this cook for maybe 10 minutes (check – don’t let leeks get mushy).

Add the cheese, Mozzarella is fine here, let it melt completely.

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Add curd or crème fraîche and turn up heat a little bit for just a couple of minutes. Keep stirring.

Taste and add all the remaining spices. Mix well and check if this to your own liking.

I frequently serve just a couple of thin slices of ‘French bread’, slightly toasted and my own garlic butter scraped over it.

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That’s it. Guten Appetit.

Namaskaram
Carina

A V I A L – അവിയല്

(A little healthy vegetable shopping trip at the local market)

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For the time being and in fact only for a very short while some of our many wonderful multi-cultural and multi-religious festival days are over.

My own birthday this year fell right into the middle of Diwali, and Halloween and this is one main reason why I did not post anything regarding those two festivals.

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But I just want to say a big thank you to you who did write to me – I am only sorry I cannot share this huge cake with you which JS had especially ordered. As always he surprised me at midnight (which is a sort of tradition here) with this cake, a huge bunch of beautiful yellow roses (I am not very keen on red ones for a reason) and some lovely gifts – our girls telephoned me at that time as well and so I was very happy indeed.

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Now, since I came to India I have always liked a vegetable dish called AVIAL which is a dish originating from South India and is in fact quite common in Kerala and is of course part of the Sadya, the famous Keralite Vegetarian Feast, especially during the sumptuous feast of Onam. But recently I have developed such a yearning for this healthy dish that I now make it for us on average three times in a week.

There are as usual many many variations of the same theme here and what I show you today is my own basic Avial. Sometimes, depending what I have in my fridge and what is available in my little local market, I might exchange one item for another – one can be pretty flexible. The standard vegetables used in Avial are Eggplant/Aubergine, Drum sticks, Snake Gourd, Plantain, Pumpkin, Carrots, Beans and Elephant Yam. The only thing to remember is not to use “soft” vegetables like tomatoes etc.

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This is not a hot – as in chilli hot – dish, but JS and I like to throw in a couple of Kashmiri Chillies, for colour and taste really, not so much for heat. We also like to include a fresh green mango, but if not available, don’t fret; just add some slightly beaten, slightly sour, curd/yoghurt.

As you might have gathered by now, cooking to us is not as much as sticking to the original authentic recipe, but bringing something to our table we like to eat, and anybody else who happens to join us.

For a large pot I normally use approx.:
1 x cup of Ash Gourd, washed
1 x cup of Cucumber, washed and peeled
3 x Carrots, washed and peeled
1 x whole Drum stick, washed and peeled (like you do with beans)
12 x green Beans, washed and ‘topped and tailed’
2 x raw Plantains, hard skin removed
1 X BIG Eggplant/Aubergine, washed
1 x ‘fat’ slice of Elephant Yam
1 x largish Potato, peeled and washed
10 x Lovoka, washed and cut into half lengthwise
1-2 x medium sized green (cooking) Mangos, peeled and stone removed
2-4 x Tbsp of slightly sour curd/yoghurt (optional)

How to prepare everything ready for cooking:

I like to chop up my vegetables to the sound of some nice music – anything good, but depending on my mood of the moment!
So sit down as well and cut all your vegetables into nice uniformed pieces, like fat match sticks.

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Since the various chosen vegetables take different times to cook, some people prefer to cook them in separate stages – I don’t!!! (and I do not use a pressure cooker either). I just start off with those veggies which take the longest and then just a few minutes later I add the others. Just watch and take care – you do not want to end up with a mushy dish.

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Also add only very very little water when starting to cook (you can always add a few drops later if and when needed) – followed by salt and pepper (optional) and some turmeric powder. Stir very gently and let simmer for 5 x minutes on the lowest heat possible (with the lid on)

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GRINDING THE COCONUT

In your Mixy quickly grind appr. 1 – 1.5 cup grated coconut, 3-5 x green chillies, and 1 x tsp of Cumin seeds coarsely. Do not add any water!!

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Check ‘the bite’ on your vegetables and add all your coconut paste to the vegetables, check salt once again, stir gently and continue cooking for another 5-8 minutes. Let it cool down just a little bit before adding 2 or 3 (or if you like, more) Tbsp of yoghurt/curd, mixing it in briefly.

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If liked, use 1 x Tbsp of Coconut oil over the top and decorate with some curry leafs. Serve it with rice, chapattis or, have it on it’s down. Delicious.

And that’s it! Guten Appetit.

Namaskaram
Carina

A FISHY TALE . . . . .

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So that’s it – ONAM (and all the other combined Festivals which come up every year around this time) is now over and everything in our beautiful State of Kerala, where the people are blessed with an abundance of Coconuts, Spices and most of all with the Treasures of the Sea, has returned to the usual normality.

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This year we did not make our own Sadhya of 18 delectable dishes – instead we went out visiting!!!

But when JS went out to our little local market ‘around the corner’ to visit his ‘friendly fish man’ – you know the kind who quietly lets you know of some special kind of fish coming in, when the price of prawns will go up or down! Who takes trouble in cleaning your order etc. etc. – in order to maybe get some extra treats for the long ONAM week, he not only succeeded in getting some lovely looking Karimeen (Pearl spot)

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which he and the girls love fried with just the right amount of his ‘secret’ masala massaged into the fish, but he returned home with also a special surprise for me!! A whole THIRUTHA (Grey Mullet).

This is a fish extremely popular especially with the visiting Tourists, who love to order this fish whole so it can be shared amongst two to three people.
Thirutha is available normally in abundance, but because of its very delicate taste any catch gets snapped up by Hotels, Restaurants and even certain vendors, especially in places like Fort Cochin, where domestic and foreign tourists can choose their own fish, have it grilled right there and then and enjoyed ‘al fresco’ mainly along the seafront by the famous “Chinese Nets”.

But now I have to confess something here to you – when it comes to fish I am just a little bit squeamish. I am certainly not a female Rick Stein, the seafood master himself, and so looking at and handling a large fish, head, eyes, etc, does not come easy for me. But surely . . . one is never too old to learn, right!?

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And so, with JS’ help and under his guidance, I set about in tackling this nice, fresh, slippery ‘friend’. This being my first attempt of cooking Thirutha I decided to keep it simple and just steam the fish in foil with some vegetables (after all – it’s healthy, too) – and here now is the result!

It turned out to be a really delishes meal and now I want to think up a different recipe using the same kind of fish– there is of course always a curry!!

This fish may look big for you – but in the end it was just enough for the two of us. Unfortunately I did not weigh him, just as a matter of interest.

And here is what I did:
1 x whole Thirutha, scaled and gutted by “Friendly Fish Man”
At home washed and dried thoroughly.

I made 5 incisions into the back of the Thirutha and then rubbed a mixture of salt, pepper and 1 tsp of dried Dill all over the fish (including the inside).
Sprinkle fresh lemon juice over the whole fish incl. the inside.

Prepare vegetables: I used carrots, leeks, onion slices and parsley
I blanched the three vegetables in photo for just 2 minutes, not more!! Drain well.

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Preheat oven to 180/200 C
Put fish onto a double layer of foil, drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil around fish, add blanched vegetables incl. a couple of half cooked potatoes.

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Now make the foil into a parcel and leave in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes – check!!! Ovens vary in temperature.

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When done open foil carefully, averting your face – steam is really hot! Taste and when cooked (fish should not be dry) keep fish parcel open on top of oven in order to cool down slightly.

Carefully take the fish off the bone from one side first and put on a plate with the vegetables and just a few plain boiled potatoes.

As an edition I served separately some dill-lemon-butter-sauce.

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There is a saying in German, my mother tongue, which goes:

……Uebung macht den Meister”. (Meaning: Practice maketh the Master) – so now I will try and make fish more often!

But for now, THAT’S IT!

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Guten Appetit!
Carina

Devilish Hot TUNA Curry

As you well know by now we live right on the coast of the Arabian Sea in the beautiful State of Kerala – the land with an abandonment of Fish, Coconut, Herbs and Spices.

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A Keralian household without fish – unthinkable! And of course there are as many different versions of “Red Fish Curry” as there are families in Kerala. This particular curry today is by all means not a typical traditional Kerala Fish Curry, but it is just one of many favourites in our house. This recipe started off one way or another quite differently but over time we perfected it until we got it just right for our own taste – ok, admittedly, one has to like love spices!!! Of course, you can always tone down the heat a notch (or even two or three), but if you do love “the heat” in your curry, then I suggest do not change anything – it is truly so delicious and it will only make you want more.

We love coconut in our cooking, but in this case here we completely omitted this – and don’t you agree, this beautiful red colour looks sooo inviting.

Traditionally this curry is made in an earthenware pot, a “Kalchatti” made out of clay. Unfortunately my “Kalchatti” broke the other day and I have not been able to pick one up from the road side, where vendors selling those for very little money. Somehow cooking this curry in a “Kalchatti” improves the flavour.

So, I made this curry in my normal wok on the gas stove and it tasted equally fantastic (even if I may say so myself!!!).

Again, what you see here in the photographs is just for the 2 of us, with enough left over for the following day, since letting it stand overnight will really improve the flavour. I also used a nice chunk of beautiful Tuna, which JS got from the market.

Ingredients:

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½ x kg Tuna, washed, skin and bones removed and cut carefully into neat cubes
1 ½ x large onions, halved and sliced
5 x green chillies cut lengthwise
8 x garlic, thinly sliced (our garlic is quite small)
1 x Tbsp fresh ginger, finely diced
2 x large tomatoes, deseeded and cut into quarters
Some sprigs of curry leaves
½ x tsp of Mustard seeds
2 x Tbsp of best-of-the-range Fish Masala Powder (I used a local brand Nirapara)
Little oil and salt and pepper, according to your taste
4 x pieces of Kodampuli (Kokkum), washed and then soaked in lukewarm water for 15-30 minutes (do not discard the water)

Method:
1. Soak Kodampuli and keep aside.
2. Wash and prepare Tuna, keep aside.
3. Prepare all your vegetables, keep aside.
4. Heat wok on medium heat and when hot (stay on medium! Heat) add Mustard seeds and wait for them to go ‘pop’ – WARNING: they are real little devils and will spit at you when they ‘pop’ – so do keep your face away.

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5. Now add onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, curry leaves and a little salt. Stir gently – don’t allow any of this to get dark (you might have to regulate your heat)

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6. Add 2 Tbsp of your Fish Masala Powder, mix, and now followed by tomatoes, all the Kodampuli and half their water – stir again and carefully add your Tuna into this Masala (without breaking any of the pieces).

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7. Add enough water to cover everything well (but, if you want extra gravy, just add a bit more water and the remaining Kodampuli water).

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8. Cook gently on medium heat for 10-15 minutes (keep checking) – Done!!!

9. Cover with lid and let it stand for a while before serving. And of course as I mentioned earlier, this is even far superior the following day.

So maybe you might like to prepare this Curry a day before you have guests.

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Serve this either with plain white rice, mashed potatoes, mashed Tapioca (Kappa Puzhukku), or chunks of nice bread (after all, this gravy is simply delicious).

Namaskaram, Carina

Mughal Kadhai Tender Mutton……

(…fit for the one I love!)

Just over one month ago Jo, my husband, posted on his own website the story of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Arjumand Banu Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal. (see The Most Worthy Of Love (17.6.2016) – on https://manningtreearchive.com/2016/06/17/the-most-worthy-of-love).

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We talked at length about Shah Jahan and his beloved Mumtaz and this inevitably triggered off not only our own fond memory of the first time when Jo took me to see the Taj Mahal in Agra but also in the end……yes, you guessed it, to food – glorious food. To be precise to one particular Mutton dish the Chef in our favourite Indian Restaurant back on the East coast of England often made for me (at my special request) … Mughal Kadhai Mutton, a dish one frequently finds at weddings up in the North of India.

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It is a dish without too much gravy and best eaten simply with either Chapattis (fresh and hot straight out of the pan) or Naan or Hoops (Arabic bread); but if you need your rice, then why not by all means go for a nice Pulao of your choice.

Although Chef eventually parted with his restaurant recipe but, as usual, I tweaked a little bit here and there to suit our own taste and that of family and friends. And proudly I confess it became sort of mini runaway success in our house at impromptu get-togethers with friends who loved Indian food – but, in order to suit their taste I often served a bowl of French beans as well, just tossed in a little bit of butter with salt, pepper and finely chopped garlic.

As with quite a number of other dishes I had not made this one for quite some time and Jo’s story reminded me to serve it once again here in Kerala.
The head butcher at my local Hypermarket here did me proud – he chose a beautiful piece of mutton, boneless (although I added 2-3 little marrow bones whilst cooking – just for taste and removed them before serving). The meat was beautiful, succulent and tender.

So again, what you can see in the photographs is just for the 2 of us.

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Ingredients:
Marinate the following over night:
½ kg x Mutton (Lamb), cut into nice bite-sized pieces
1 ½ x cup of good plain yoghurt
2 x heaped Tbsp of garlic paste
2 x Tbsp Garam Masala
3 x Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 x Tbsp Curry Powder
Salt and black pepper to suit your personal taste.

Add all the above into a large bowl (with lid) and best with your clean hands sort of massage the spices etc. into the meat. Cover bowl with lid and let it stay in the fridge over night until you are ready to cook the next day.

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When you are ready to cook take your Kadhai/Wok and on medium heat only heat up 1 ½ x Tbsp of Oil, add 4-5 large green chillies, split in half, and fry those just for a couple of minutes. Be careful; avert your eyes, chillies ‘spit’!

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To this add all your marinated Mutton (Lamb) WITH all the marinate , mix and fry for maybe 5-10 minutes (I do this on the lowest gas-setting!), stirring all the time.

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After this add 2-3 x large tomatoes, chopped into small pieces, at least 2 x Tbsp coriander powder and 1½ x tsp of cumin powder and some fresh ginger, julienned, mix all this carefully. You might need to sprinkle some water over this mixture if you feel it starts to stick to the bottom of your Kadhai/Wok.

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The near intoxicating smells from all those spices suddenly turn your kitchen into a mini-heaven for curry lovers.

Remember, this is meant to be a fairly dry dish, without too much gravy. But, having said that, since we do like this particularly delicious gravy I make sure there is always some to be ‘mopped up’ with a chapatti or naan.

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Guten Appetit
Carina xx

Fusion-Chickpea-Burgers

Namaskaram friends – who is ready for Tea?

You – you or you ? Then please come and join me at my table for some delicious little “Fusion-Chickpea-Burgers” – (…… of West-Africa and India).

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The original recipe I managed to extract from a dear friend in Nigeria, where we lived for nearly 5 years a long time ago! Her cook seemed to have a never-ending supply ready for ‘Madam’s visitors’, and there were always plenty, since her husband was the Governor of Western Nigeria. She and I became very good friends over those years and it was truly sad to have to say goodbye to her and the family.

Over the following years I ‘tweaked’ the recipe a bit here and there to suit our personal taste. I have not made this for quite some time until the other day, when I was caught having been a bit over ambitious cooking far too much ‘white Kaddala’ – Chickpeas. I believe that most of you can just go to the nearest grocery store and buy tins of readily cooked chickpeas – I cannot, but this is not too much of a bother. I normally just soak the amount I need overnight and wash and cook them the next day, ready to be used in all sorts of recipes – Indian or International – (I particularly love to use them in a nice fresh salad), so you can always find a container of them in my fridge.

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Now, cut a long story short, looking at this big bowl of cooked chickpeas suddenly the idea of making some delicious snacks for our tea time came like a flash. But where did I keep the old recipe? Of course, in the hurry I could not find it and so just from memory I jotted it down and started ‘tweaking’ again and I came up with the following:

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I do hope you like this and will give it a try.

Remember: if you cannot buy tinned chickpeas – soak and boil!!!! In advance.

I used the following for 8 little Burgers:

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1 ½ x cups of boiled chickpeas
2 x medium sized boiled potatoes
½ x cup of very finely grated carrots
¼ x cup of finely chopped red capsicum
4 x garlic cloves
1 x tsp of hot red chilli flakes
1 x Tbsp of wheat flour (you can use 1 x egg instead for binding, if you prefer)
1 ½ Tbsp of Chaat Masala (store bought)
Salt and pepper to taste
A splash or two of Tabasco
Plenty of finely chopped coriander (you can also use parsley instead)
Oil for shallow-frying!

Method:
Put everything with the exception of the carrots (those have to be grated separately) into the Mixy and pulse just for a few seconds. You may have to add a few drops of water – so keep checking.

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Do not over-pulse this, a little bit of crunch is nice!
Wet your hands and start making small Burgers – not to thick thou. Keep on a plate/tray and move to your freezer for 30 minutes or so.

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Add little bit of oil to your favourite frying pan and on a medium to low heat start frying those little Burgers – 3-5 minutes each side was enough for mine, but please keep checking yours – they should end up golden brown and not dark!!!

Drain on plenty of kitchen paper and serve while still hot – with a nice cup of tea or coffee.
They are also very nice for Lunch or a light evening meal with a good salad on the side.

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And guess what – tomorrow I will make yet another batch for my freezer!!! – after all there are still chickpeas left!!!

BTW, today is my late mother’s birthday – Happy Birthday, Mutti – R.I.P

Guten Appetit.

Carina xx