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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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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

HAPPY ONAM 2016

It is the biggest Festival Season in the State of Kerala right now.

With a good number of holidays over a stretch of 10 days (including the week-ends) people are engaged in the various multi-cultural and multi-religious festivals during those days with ONAM being the main festival of the year.

Please check my old post of 16 August 2012.

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So for this year once again I send ONAM Greetings to all my readers, near and far, with this beautiful greeting card which JS especially designed for my Blog on this occasion.

The background of JS designs represents a model of the traditional Kerala Saree with the Pallu on both ends decorated with the time-honoured Kasavu (Jerry).

The illustrations shown within the Saree represent the famous Pulikali (Tiger dance), Pookalam (floral designs which are exclusively for ONAM) and the customary Banana leaf (a.k.a. Vazhayila/Kerala Plate) on which the sumptuous ONAM Sadya (a meal of more than 30 Vibhavangal !!! (different kinds of delicacies)) are served.

Namaskaram 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

Ulli Theeyal (Little Onion Curry)

ഉള്ളി കറി

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This is a wonderful sidedish to our Kerala Cuisine, mostly associated with part of the traditional Onam Sadhya, but if you like onions, and we certainly do, I promise you it is very difficult to resist not having it fairly frequently as a side dish to any curry or just with some rice or even just with a couple of freshly made chapattis or parathas. The choice is yours – all I am asking is that you please do give this dish a try.

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Before you start your preparation make sure you have a small face towel near you (to wipe away the ‘tears’ which will come from peeling a small heap of tiny onions), some music to while away the time needed for peeling and also assemble all the remaining ingredients within easy reach.

For the Theeyal you see in the final dish I used 2 heaped cups of peeled onions – and as you can see there is not too much to show for in the end and that’s the reason why I normally make 2 or 3 times the amount for us two!!

Soak a small lump of Tamarind pulp in luke warm water for 15 mins, squeeze, discard the pulp but retain the brown water for later.

Over medium to lowish heat gently fry 1.5 cups of grated coconut*, 5 dry red hot chillies*, 1.5 tsp of coriander seeds, 1-2 Tbsp of sliced onions, 1 Tbsp of broken cashewnuts*, – keep gently stirring all the time, if anything burns throw away and start afresh.

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The coconut should take on a dark! Colour (I personally prefer just a slight shade lighter).

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When done, let it cool down a bit and then in your Mixy grind all this to a very fine paste, adding a spoon full of water if needed. Keep aside.

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Now in a large deep pan or wok heat up 2 tsp of coconut oil* or vegetable oil if preferred, still working on low heat now, add a dash of turmeric powder, mix and then add all your washed little onions and at least 6 green chillies*, slit in half.

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Keep stirring until everything is well mixed, turn up your heat to medium, keep stirring and once the onions start taking on colour add the tamarind water. Bring this quickly to a boil, add all the ground masala from your Mixy, check for salt and also add some more plain water, maybe ½ cup or so. Stir once more, cover with a lid, turn down the heat a bit and let it cook until the gravy thickens. This might take anything from 15 to 20 minutes – just keep checking. At the very end, when everything is cooked, add 1-2 tsp of brown sugar*, mix and serve.

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Now in a small pan heat 1 tsp of coconut oil, add just ¼ tsp of mustard seeds and a tiny pinch of fenugreek seeds (rubbed between your fingers to release their beautiful flavour) and 1 or 2 dried red chillies, and when the seeds finish crackling, pour this over your Ulli theeyal.

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Bring to your table and watch the smile on the faces of all who are eating this – like we do shortly when we sit down for our lunch.

Notes:
• Try to use very small onions, otherwise cut in half.
• Frozen grated coconut is fine but never use dehydrated!!
• You can of course use less or more of those red chillies, but 5 are just right (I think).
• Use broken cashewnuts, they are cheaper than the whole once – after all they go into the Mixy.
• Personally I only use a tiny amount of Sweetener.
• If you can get coconut oil use it, it brings out the flavours more – otherwise vegetable oil is fine.
• And by the way – it tastes even better the next day IF you have any left.
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Carina

PINEAPPLE PACHADI

(Malayalam: പച്ചടി)

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The last week has been quite a bit hectic on the social front – meaning, eating out nearly every day! And this is not good for me, not good at all – tell me friends how does it happen that one always eats a bit more when one does not have to cook oneself?

So in order to get back into my (healthy) eating routine I made a wonderful little treat for myself.

P….P….Pachadi! It is most delicious, refreshing and healthy and is normally served as a side dish, a wonderful accompaniment for plain rice, snacks like dosa and idli and goes especially well with hot and spicy curries. You can even find this and other Pachadi’s in top international Indian Restaurants.

Pachadi is also part of the traditional Kerala Onam Sadya and is also often served at weddings (and all this on the traditional Banana leaf).

I use a whole large pineapple just for myself when I want to get back “on track” – it keeps a couple of days in the fridge alright and anyhow there is never any left for a third day.

Try this recipe and you too might get hooked on Pachadi.

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For what you see in the photographs I used:

1 large pineapple, chopped into fine cubes (2 cups)
½ tsp of Turmeric powder
2 ½ tsp of Chilli Powder (adjust to your own taste)
½ cup plus of Curd, slightly beaten for smoothness
Salt to taste
(2 Tbsp Jaggery or other sugar) I did NOT use any of these, since our pineapples are quite sweet naturally and I also like that “kick”.

Items you will need to grind into a smooth paste are:

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½ cup of grated fresh (or even frozen – but never dehydrated!) coconut
2 tsp of cumin seeds
2 tsp of black mustard seeds
A couple of Tbsp of water (if needed)

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Before serving you will need to temper with the following:

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3 tsp of Coconut oil
1 tsp of mustard seeds
2-3 dry red hot chillies
Some curry leaves

Now start cooking Pachadi:

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Add 1 Tbsp of water to the pot, followed by pineapple, salt, turmeric powder (sugar etc if you are using) and the chilli powder. Mix gently and cook on medium heat until pineapple becomes soft. Here again I like a little bit of ‘crunch’, but it’s up to you.

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Add your coconut paste and cook for a few more minutes until all the water evaporates.
Switch off heat and let this cool down for 10 minutes before you add your curd. Do not boil any more after this or it will curdle.

Remove to a nice serving bowl.

Heat oil, add mustard seeds and when it splutters in a minute or two add the dry red chillies and curry leaves and immediately pour it over the waiting Pachadi. A word of warning thou – be very carefully when you drop the dry chilli into the oil. Twice now they ‘shot’ at me quite ferociously and barely missed my eyes. Not funny – from now on I keep my face averted.

And as you can see from “Mini” and “Mo” (the cats!) and their bowl I just had a little bit of long-grain basmati rice with my Pachadi.

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Enjoy
Carina