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A Marriage of Fennel & Carrot

Hallo – hallo – yes, I am back!

But do not worry, I will not bore you with the many stories of WHY I have been away from my computer that long – too many to be told – but just in case there are one or two of you who actually missed me (  and no this is not meant to be in an arrogant manner) the main reason for being off the air for 2 months is quite a simple one – I needed (and wanted) to do some other things around the house, away from the computer desk!!!.

So today I like to introduce you to one of my favourite vegetable dishes. I am not always able to get Fennel here, so when I see it in our Hypermarket I buy some bulbs and make the most of it.

300 g Carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
300 g Fennel, cleaned and sliced thinly
15 g plain oats
15 g butter
50 ml Vegetable Stock, (I use a Knorr Cube)
50 ml Cream (light)
1 small onion, chopped finely
2-3 Garlic (optional) finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter (but do not let it get brown!), add oats and stir for 1 minute before adding all the carrots and fennel, onion and garlic. Mix and stir for another minute or two. Add prepared stock, cover and on medium heat let it cook for 10 minutes or so. Before serving add Cream, spices and bring to your table.

In our house I serve mainly some creamy mash potatoes with this for myself and rice for JS.

That’s it – ready – Guten Appetit!

This is one of my “Speedy-Gonzales” vegetable dishes which is wonderful just by itself or with meat or chicken and ideal for all of us who are “in a hurry” since it can be on your plate in less than 30 minutes.

Namaskaram,
Carina

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Indian Spinach and Pork

As you well know by now I do have a pretty good relationship with my WOK.

For only 1 or 2 people producing a delicious meal in no time and with no fuss and most of all without lots of washing-up, a wok is the perfect tool for somebody who is always on the go and often running short of time.

So, therefore I share with you today my recipe for yesterday’s lunch.

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I remembered I had bought a bunch of “Palak” the South Indian equivalent of our Spinach and it needed to be used fairly quickly. I also had some pork left over from a Pork Vindaloo dish. Some nice fresh peanuts I had just bought winking at me from their jar – and so very quickly I had assembled everything I needed and just 30 minutes later (that included the time to take some pictures for you to see) I was able to sit at the table and enjoy my “Spinach and Pork Stir Fry”.

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So, for 1 slightly hungry person you will need:

3 x spring onions, I used only the white, cut into rings
1 x small piece of fresh ginger, very finely chopped
2-3 x garlic cloves, very finely chopped
Some pork (appr. 100 gr), cut into small mouth sized pieces
1 x Tbsp Soya sauce
1 x tsp Honey (or less if you don’t like it too sweet)
2 x tsp lemon juice
1 x bunch of fresh Palak or appr. 150-200 gr fresh spinach, well washed, keep aside in a colander to lose some of the water
1 x tsp Oil
1 x small handful of fresh Peanuts
Salt and Pepper to your taste

To cook:

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Heat Wok with the oil on medium heat. After 2 minutes add your Peanuts, Garlic and Ginger, keep stirring, add Pork and continue stirring for app. 2 minutes or so.

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Add the prepared Palak/Spinach and all the Spring onion rings; stir and cook for a further 2 minutes.

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Mix honey, lemon juice and Soya sauce together and add to the wok. Finally check, and if needed, add salt and pepper.

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Since I like my Palak/Spinach slightly crisp I continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes.

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And that’s it! Ready. Serve with rice.

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Guten Appetit!

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

Carina’s own “Greek Moussaka”

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This week Friday the 5th of August, the 2016 Olympic Summer Games will be officially inaugurated in Rio de Janeiro/Brazil and once more Millions of people will be watching – the lucky ones live in Brazil and the rest of us in front of our TV screens in the comfort of our home. We wish them good luck and of course, “May the best team win” keeping up with the Olympic Motto: Faster – Higher – Stronger.

The first modern Olympic Games started way back on April 6, 1896, and were held in Athens, Greece, with athletes from 14 countries participating.
So I thought that maybe it would be only appropriate to dig deep into my private recipe file box and make once again my old favourite from times gone by; you might have guessed it already – MOUSSAKA!

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This beautiful Greek dish containing mainly Aubergines/Eggplants/Melanzane, Lamb- or Beef Mincemeat, Zucchini, slices of potatoes, Onions and topped with a beautiful cheesy Béchamel Sauce.

But – if you are expecting to find the recipe here for this incredible original Moussaka, then sadly this is the wrong page for you. This one here is totally my own personal successfully tried version of “Greek Moussaka” – cooked for a long time by me for family, friends and for when I had to entertain on a larger scale. It also freezes well and therefor perfect for those occasions. (Oh dear, time creeps up on you if one has fun!)

So here now is ‘Carina’s Moussaka’ recipe – I hope you will try this one and even like it as much as we do. Having been absent from our table for a few years now, we have decided to say “Welcome back C.M.”.

Again, this recipe is for 2 people:

I used here:

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½ kg minced Beef (Mutton is delicious, too) let it drain in a colander until you need it,
2 x medium sized aubergines/eggplants (or whatever you call them), thinly sliced
1 x large zucchini, thinly sliced
1-2 x large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 x onions, finely chopped
2-3 x medium sized tomatoes, thinly sliced
½ x of a whole cinnamon stick, broken into 3
½ x cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp x of Allspice

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And to make your Béchamel Sauce:
2 x Tbsp of Butter, more or less
Some olive oil
3 x Tbsp flour
1 x cup of milk (you might want to use a bit more if sauce is too thick for your liking!)
Generous pinch of nutmeg
¾ cup x of sharp cheese, pref. cheddar, grated and mixed with 1 tsp of ready-made mustard (optional) for that extra little ‘kick’.

Heat your oven to 180 Celsius. Take a large bowl and add aubergine-, potato- and zucchini-slices with very little olive oil and carefully with your hands (don’t break the vegetables thou) ‘massage’ the oil into them. Then on a baking sheet just spread them all out (like in my photograph) and bake in the oven for ca. 15-20 minutes (but, please keep checking on them).

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When soft, switch off gas and leave them to rest until later.

Now, in a large deep pan or wok add 2 tsp of oil and sauté all the onion with a pinch of salt until they start changing colour, moving them around all the time. After that add the mince meat, your broken cinnamon stick (ahhh – that smell!!) and a very generous amount of allspice. Mix and sauté until meat turns brown.

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After this add your chopped tomatoes and the parsley, stir and check on salt and pepper. Simmer for maybe 30 minutes until the smell starts invading your kitchen and playing with your senses. During this time do not cover your pan/wok but keep a watchful eye on this – should it start to stick, just sprinkle some water! Into this – no more oil!!

Keep this now aside and make the Béchamel Sauce.

In a small pot melt some butter (don’t be too stingy) over low to medium heat – add flour gradually whilst whisking to avoid lumps. This might take 3-5 minutes; now add milk slowly and gradually, all the time whisking the milk into the flour/butter mixture. Do not add all the milk at the same time – you will most likely end up with a horrible lumpy mess. Once the mixture is smooth add half of your cheese and some nutmeg. Keep stirring until everything is well incorporated.

Now take any kind of oven-proven dish, butter is slightly and start to assemble your Moussaka.

First, a generous layer of the prepared meat followed by potatoes and aubergines, another layer of meat and then cover everything generously with the prepared Béchamel Sauce. Top with the remaining cheese and into the pre-heated oven (I had mine now on 200 C) this goes for maybe 30 minutes. When your Moussaka has a nice golden brown cheese crust then ……. It’s ready!

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Remove from oven and let it rest for 10-20 minutes before serving – a chunk of hot baguette is just nice.

Guten Appetit – Καλή όρεξη Kalí órexi
Carina

But wait my friends! – before you go please take note of two more things:
1) I like to give full credit and thanks to Jo, who presented me with this beautiful artwork of his to use in my Blog.
2) Take your time and try and listen to this befitting piece of music – who does not know it, honest!

The Sirtaki danced by one of our absolute favourite actors, Anthony Quinn. It is of course from the all-time classic film “Zorba the Greek”. Greek title: Αλέξης Ζορμπάς (Alexis Zorbas) is a 1964 film directed by Cypriot Michael Cacoyannis and starring Anthony Quinn as the title character. It is based on the novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. The supporting cast includes Alan Bates, Lila Kedrova, Irene Papas. Winner of the Oscar 1964.

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

Kohlrabi Gratin

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Kohlrabi Gratin (In memory of Mutti)

When I woke up this morning I, at first, was a little bit ‘confused’; for a couple of minutes I believed it was still in the middle of the night.
Instead of bright sunshine finding its way into the house it was like I was back in England – dark, gloomy and wet!!!

Looking out of the window I found:
Sky as dark as a sky gets when ready to burst open and pours rain down on us.
Clouds hanging so low that one can easily imagine being able to touch them.
Cooler climate, less daily use of A/C’s or Fans in the house and offices.
All this and much more goes with the momentary season here and what is known as

MONSOON!

All this made me change my mind in the last minute what to post this time.

For the past few weeks I wanted to post a few dishes from my home country, Germany, especially using some of my late mother’s recipes. Although she was an average cook (but a very good and keen baker) who kept very few recipes written down (hence the reason why I have to make most of her dishes from memory with a few of my own in-puts here and there) she always brought food, including vegetables, to the table which as a child I hardly ever disliked and in fact have still very fond memories of, even today. Her food was simple, nothing too fancy, and by today’s standards certainly not highly photogenic, but always delicious – mainly great comfort food!

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So todays dish for example would be something she would quickly make in the morning before going to work and all it needed later was appr. 30 minutes in the oven to heat through.

Thanks Mutti – I know we both liked this casserole! Especially on a miserable rainy day.

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I used 2 separate bowls this time since in one I added Chilli for Jo, but not in mine.

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So, for those 2 dishes I used the following:
4 x medium sized onions, peeled, cut into fairly thin slices
6 x medium Kohlrabi, peeled, cut into fairly thin slices
4 x potatoes, peeled, cut into fairly thin slices
1 x tub of pre-washed Spinach, just over 2 hand full
1 x + Tbsp dried Thyme (if you can get fresh, use this)
200 ml Vegetable Stock (from a cube)
¾ of a small tetra pack of double cream, (app. 200 ml)
2 x tsp of sunflower oil
A generous lump of butter
Salt, pepper and nutmeg (use to your own liking)

For the topping:

Simple: I just put 3 x slices of bread, grated cheese (I had to use Mozzarella, nothing else here)
(Any hard cheese like sharp Cheddar is good), 1 x small sprinkling of Paprika (hence the colour of the gratin), a little bit of softened butter into my Mixy and blitzed this for a few seconds– ready!!

How to make:

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Take a wide pan or wok (so useful), add oil and butter, and let it foam on medium heat only. When it’s done add all the onions and sauté those gently, with a pinch of salt, for maybe 10 minutes until they slightly change colour.

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Now add the kohlrabi, potatoes and thyme and, best with 2 spoons, mix carefully. Add more salt and black- (or white) pepper. Cover with lid and continue cooking for 5 or so more minutes.

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Add cream and stock, cover again, and simmer for another 15 minutes or so. When liquid has reduced a bit add spinach. Stir once more carefully, cover with lid, switch off heat and move container to side.

Preheat oven to app. 190 C, butter lightly your casserole dish or 2 smaller ones, as I did, and fill them with the cooked mixture.
Top all this with the cheese/breadcrumbs- mixture made earlier.

Put dish or dishes on baking tray and continue baking the gratin in the oven. Keep a watchful eye on this, oven heat various and you do not want a burnt gratin.

That’s it really but do take time to read my notes:

In the distant past I also have used medium sized individual ramekin dishes for lunch- or dinner parties and they were always a great success.

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Mutti sometimes added sliced sausages (anything she had in her kitchen at that moment, i.e. Frankfurter’s, Fleischwurst, Ham etc.)
Don’t skimp on the cream here, using just milk will not do, it will be bland.
Of course you can use as much or little of the 3 main ingredients as you wish.
Glamorous for a photo session this dish might not be, but it is nevertheless a good, satisfying comfort dish!

Guten Appetit!
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