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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

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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

Mango Relish – Companion for Mushroom and Okra Curry

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Yesterday I decided to “blitz” the inside of my 2 refrigerators – clearing out an array of containers with bits and pieces which by now most definitely were beyond their ‘best- sell- by- date’.

And when I came to my bottom vegetable drawers I knew that this was the end of a lazy Saturday afternoon for me. I know, I know – I should have attended to this matter in hand a week earlier, but….for one reason or another I never got around to it. Please do tell me, how often do you actually clear your own vegetable drawers?

Once I had started I decided to fill a number of boxes with cleaned and cut up vegetables. Beans – top and tailed, cauliflower and broccoli – cut into florets, the usable stalks of those cut into small pieces and kept for my soups, Carrots peeled and cut into nice little ‘matchsticks’ – ready to be nibbled on whilst writing on my computer or/and late night snack when watching a movie; I am sure by now you get the picture. By the time all this was done, labelled and put back into the fridges after having thoroughly cleaned them I was in no mood to start cooking much.

But since we do like Mushrooms, Okra and Mango – we decided that I would make this little light Lunch for us – its quick, nutritious and most of all delicious. I peeled the Mango and onion and put some nice music on whilst I quickly did the rest.

Mango Relish – Companion for Mushroom and Okra Curry

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I did not weigh anything, so just go as well by how hungry you are.

I used for the 2 of us the following:

2 handfuls of nice firm Okra (Ladyfingers), topped and tailed and cut lengthwise in half (or rounds, if you prefer)

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1 pre-packed button mushrooms, wiped clean with dry cloth, (never ever use water!)
1 biggish onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
4 small garlic pods, sliced
2-3 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
3 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped into small cubes
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander seeds (or ½ Tbsp coriander powder)
1 handful of coriander leafs (cilantro), washed and chopped
1 Tbsp of Vegetable oil
½ cup of water
Salt to taste

How to cook:

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Take a Wok and over medium heat add oil and when hot add fenell- and coriander seeds and allow them to sizzle for only a second (or they will burn).
When this is done, add turmeric- and ground cumin powder and stir quickly.

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After only 1 minute add onions and cook for another 5-6 minutes and then add garlic, ginger, tomatoes and little bit of water (so that Masala will not stick), stir and now add all your mushrooms and okra.

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Stir carefully again, cover and let it simmer for maximum 10 minutes.
Check for salt and maybe add just another Tablespoon or two of water to this and uncovered let it cook for just another 5 minutes or so. Keep checking the ‘bite’ on the okra – you want them just a little bit crunchy but not soft or mushy.

When ready, take off the flame, stir in some of your chopped coriander leafs and serve.

It is delicious with just plain (long grain) Basmati rice and some of the mango relish on the side.

For the mango relish you will need:

1 or 2 large ripe Mangos, washed, peeled and cut away from the big stone inside
1 medium sized onion, chopped into small pieces
1 small piece of ginger
2 red chillies (or more!) – deseeded
Pinch of each salt and sugar

How to make:

Add the chopped mango(s), garlic, chilli, ginger and onion into your Blender and ‘blitz’ this for a couple of seconds until the relish is quite smooth.
Check your seasoning: you may want to add more salt since the mangos are quite sweet.

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Note:
I used the famous Alphonso Mango, which Jo brought back from the market. The Mango season has just started and so the kitchen is never without this delicious fruit right now.

According to Wikipedia, Alphonso mango is a seasonal fruit, considered to be among the most superior varieties of the fruit in terms of sweetness, richness and flavour.

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The variety is named after Alphonso de Albuquerque, a Portuguese general and military expert who helped establish Portuguese colonies in India. The Portuguese introduced grafting on mango trees to produce extraordinary varieties like Alphonso.

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The fruit was then introduced to the Konkan region in Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat and some parts of southern state of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

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Potato Curry Kerala style

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This past weekend was supposed to be a very relaxing one – we had plans, like most people, to do this, that and the other, but….. like all well laid out plans things went slightly wrong. No – wait! – what do I say here, have to correct myself by typing “…things went from bad to worse!

I will not bore you with my problems, you might have some of your own and the last thing you want me to whine on and on and on…….

Just one thing I will tell you briefly, so you understand for this very short entry today.

Our small fridge in which we keep most of the items I plan to cook for this Blog (and for us of course) decided to go into sort of hibernation, i.e. stopped working!! Having just been to our fairly new Hypermarket we had stocked up on many things, like meat, fish etc.

But on Saturday night (do these things not always happen either over a weekend or holiday??) this little fridge decided to pack up. No electricity went in to feed it. So everything had to be moved to the big fridge which was already packed. Sunday I cooked as much as possible of the by now thawed items in order to rescue whatever I could.

So today finally all this was sorted out and the fridge is finally working again!

So I leave you for now with our own house-version of Kerala Potato Curry, which we enjoyed for lunch.

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Potato Curry Kerala style

For 2 large portions I used:

6 x medium potatoes, cubed
1 x big onion, cubed
6 x garlic cloves (ours are quite small), chopped
Some fresh ginger, chopped
4 x green chillies, split
A generous pinch of Turmeric powder
2 x tsp of Sambar powder
1 x Tbsp Garam Masala powder
1 x Bay leaf
Salt and black pepper, to your own taste
1-2 x Tbsp of Coconut oil
Some Mustard seeds and some Fennel Seeds
1 x Bayleaf
½ cup of good Vegetable Stock
A couple of dried red chillies
Coconut Milk
Some Curry leaves

Method:

Boil your prepared potatoes until they are just a tiny bit under-done. Drain and keep aside.

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In a deep pan or wok heat 1 Tbsp of oil on medium heat and when slightly hot add the mustard-, fennel-seeds and Bayleaf, stir for a couple of seconds only and then add the onions, ginger, garlic and the green chillis.

Let this simmer for a couple of minutes.

Make sure your heat is on low, because you do not want to burn your Masala.

Add Sambar powder, Garam Masala, salt and pepper and turmeric – keep stirring for a few more minutes. Add Vegetable Stock before it gets too dry.
Now add your boiled and drained potatoes to your Masala and stir gently; check seasoning.

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Keep heat still on low whilst you add ¼ to ½ cup of thick coconut milk and let this simmer for 5 more minutes.
Take off flame. Keep aside.

In a separate little pan heat little bit of oil, mustard seeds, some curry leaves and 2 red chillies and after a few seconds pour over your finished Potato Curry.

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Bring to your table and enjoy.

Guten Appetit – enjoy your meal – znegosmac – buon appetito – bon appétit – ทานให้อร่อยนะ –
Carina

“Falscher Hase” – or, a meatloaf by any other name

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This is not a dish you often find on the menu card of restaurants in Germany or in other countries. It was known in Germany just after the war as “the poor man’s Sunday roast” – then later it ended up on many of Buffet tables at parties as part of “the spread”, only to fade over the following years slightly into the background – but never ever disappeared completely.

This happened in our house, too – up to now!

My mother used to make “Falscher Hase” (Imitation Hare) when I was little, but I never got the original recipe from her, I had to make it up from memory.

Then, when in my ‘previous life’ we lived in Trinidad + Tobago/W.I. and I had to really learn to cook good food fit for entertaining in our own Residence, it was the wife of the then American Ambassador, herself a superb cook, who taught me to make her kind of meat loaf, which I then adapted to our own personal taste.

I started, originally just as an experiment, a monthly get-together for some of us wives of Ambassadors (and/or their No 2!) and High Commissioners where we only served a typical dish of our home country – a family dish! really – and not something we would serve our official guests. To my surprise, it became a huge huge success. And every time our own British High Commissioner and his wife had to give a big buffet reception, (it was their custom to get each of the wives of our own Mission to contribute a special dish to their buffet table) I was asked (or shall I say correctly “ordered”) to make at least half a dozen of my meat loafs, of which nearly always 2 wandered into their own personal deep freezer for future use. As it turned out that the ones with plenty of garlic and hotness were the High Commissioners personal favourites – a nice compliment, really.

But, over the following years, I somehow stopped making this dish. Did we grow tired of the taste, or what. I really do not know.

And then, only the other day, my friend Heidi in Berlin mentioned “Falscher Hase” in her email and I developed this near urge to seek out my old recipe and make one for JS; so off we went shopping (again!) for the items needed and not readily available in our kitchen at that time and so, here is the result of my first “Falscher Hase” in Kerala.

I like to point out again; as always I give the details for the dish we actually have on our own table – cooked to our own personal taste. Feel free therefore to adjust any measurements and ingredients to your liking.

For this dish there are most likely as many recipes as there are families. It is an ideal dish for which to use your imagination in regards of ingredients, spices, herbs, etc. etc. Feel free to experiment – I do; quite often.

Oh – and one more thing I have to mention – we never used a hardboiled egg inside the meat, but served halved hard boiled eggs on the side at buffets, for those guests who loved their eggs.

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For the Pyrex dish in the photograph I used:

Ingredients

750 g Mincemeat (I could only get Buffalo that day)
2 slices of stale bread, soaked in broth (from a Knorr cube) and squeezed out
1 leek (white only, very finely cut into rings)
10 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
10 green olives, chopped
3 Tbsp good tomato ketchup
2.5 tsp of Mustard (readymade)
1.5 Tbsp of Lingham’s Hot Chilli Sauce (optional)
Fair amount of chopped parsley
Fair amount of chopped chives
Pepper and ‘black salt
1.2 Tbsp Paprika powder
1 whole egg
½ cup of stock cube broth

Method

Make broth, soak the bread, squeeze out and keep aside.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 C.

Add all the above ingredients into a large bowl, mix well, taste and maybe adjust your spices.

If you are using a dish, like I did, for baking, make sure it’s very well-oiled or buttered (this is my preferred method)

Or, if you like, take a baking sheet, line with paper and add your mixture, shaped as a loaf, on top.

Bake in pre-heated oven for app. 1 hour. After 30 mins just add a little bit of your broth to the dish (to keep it moist).
After 1 hour check to see if it’s cooked. Switch off heat and leave inside the oven for a little while longer in order for the meat to settle.
That’s it – serve with either smooth mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes, Carrots, Peas, Cauliflower, Beans. But most importantly – ENJOY!

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Guten Appetit!
Carina