Spicy Baked Fish in banana leaves (Meen Pollichathu)

Fish roasted in banana leaves is a specialty of Kerala cuisine and if you have ever taken a houseboat tour in the backwaters of Kerala you would have most certainly been offered this culinary treat! Traditionally, ‘Kari meenu’ or pearl spot fish is used for this where an entire fish is marinated in spices, coated with a masala of fried onions with ginger garlic and other spices, wrapped in banana leaves and roasted (over a pan usually). It tastes heavenly and I must say that ‘Pearl spot’ fish is really the best for this as the naturally sweet and salty flavor of the fish combined with the flavors of coconut oil and banana leaves makes this an irresistible dish anytime of the day!

Since we do not get Kari Menu (Pearl Spot)fish here in the US, I use whole Mackerel to make a similar dish using frozen banana leaves from the Chinese supermarket. Although the end result is not as great as the traditional one, it is quite close. Plus what an unusual presentation – Try making this for your special guests sometime and you are bound to impress!

Extra virgin coconut oil and fresh curry leaves are an absolute must for this dish! This method of first pan frying the fish and then baking it results in a fish that is crispy fried on the outside and moist and flaky on the inside. Absolutely delicious! Enjoy!

Spicy Baked Fish in banana leaves (Meen Pollichathu)
Author: 
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Kerala, Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Whole Mackerel lightly pan fried and then coated with an onion and spice mixture and baked wrapped in banana leaves resulting in a fish that is crispy fried outside and moist and flaky on the inside
Ingredients
  • 4 Whole Mackerel or any other fish (cleaned from inside, you can retain head or cut it off)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil for frying
For the marinade:
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp red chili (cayenne pepper)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil (melted)
for the onion masala:
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • one 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped fine
  • 1 green chili, slit length wise
  • 6-8 fresh curry leaves
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp red chilli (cayenne pepper)
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala(optional)
  • 1 small piece of kodampuli/kokum soaked in ¼ cup warm water (optional)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 fresh or frozen(thawed) banana leaves, washed and wiped dry
Instructions
  1. Clean the fish and make cuts on it horizontally with a knife so that the marinade can creep inside.
  2. Mix all the ingredients listed under marinade in a small bowl and coat each fish with the marinade paste lightly.
  3. Heat a frying pan with coconut oil. When hot add the marinated fish and cook on medium to high heat for about 2 minutes on each side so as to get a crispy skin(Do not overcook). Keep the fried fish aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 deg F (or 200 deg C)
  5. In the same frying pan, add the rest of the coconut oil and heat. When hot, add the sliced onions and sauce for about 2-3 minutes until they begin to soften.
  6. Add the garlic, ginger, the green chili and curry leaves. Saute for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Next add all the spice powders and sauce for another minute.
  8. Add the kodampuli with the water (if adding or just add plain water) and the vinegar and cover and cook for about 2 minutes until you see the oil separating off. Turn heat off.
  9. Take each banana leaf and cut in half so you have 4 pieces.
  10. Place a fish inside the center of each piece and place some of the onion and spice mixture over it to cover it. Wrap the leaf edges to form a packet (you can use a string or toothpicks to make parcels)
  11. Place all the parcels on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 400 deg f (200 deg c) for 20 minutes.
  12. Serve warm right out of the oven. Garnish with red onions and lime wedges!
Notes
Kokum/Kodampuli is optional - it gives an additional tangy flavor to the dish but vinegar alone is sufficient too.
For AIP version, skip cayenne, coriander and garam masala.

Tapioca Pearl and Sweet Potato Hash (Sabudana Khichdi)

Tapioca or Yucca or Cassava has become one important component of my diet these days since I am avoiding all grains and all other starches. I mostly just boil fresh yucca pieces (after peeling and chopping them) with sea salt. Or eat them with onion chutney. And they taste delicious! I also have been making the tapioca ‘rice’ or the steamed kappa Puttu which is a traditional Kerala breakfast item. And occasionally when I miss my rice, I tend to cook this hash using tapioca pearls.  Tapioca pearls are called ‘sabudana’ in both Hindi and Marathi and this savory hash recipe is called as ‘khichdi’, which just means a mish-mash of tapioca with potatoes or sweet potatoes. Traditionally in Marathi cuisine this ‘khichdi’ is eaten during religious fasting periods.  Doesn’t it seem like our ancestors were indeed very smart ? – Avoid grains and eat sabudana khichdi and only fresh fruits for the entire day- what better way to detox than this!

One slight drawback about this dish is that it does need a little bit of advance planning in that you need to soak the tapioca pearls in advance for at least 6-8 hours. Peanuts are what is used traditionally however I use walnuts nowadays since I seem to be having some reaction to peanuts. Also regular potatoes or sweet potatoes are used. However if using sweet potatoes, they have to be ‘white sweet potatoes’ or the Indian/Japanese variety of sweet potatoes with white flesh, which also are less sweet as compared to yellow sweet potatoes or yams.

This past week when I made this I paired it with a fresh kale and orange salad. Was so good and definitely filling!

Tapioca Pearl and Sweet Potato Hash (Sabudana Khichdi)
Author: 
Recipe type: Main course, side dish
Cuisine: Indian, Maharashtrian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Tapioca pearls cooked with sweet potatoes and mild spices and mixed with roasted nuts and grated coconut
Ingredients
  • 1 cup tapioca pearls (soaked overnight or for 6-8 hours in water)
  • ½ cup roasted peanuts (or any other nuts)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated coconut (or fresh frozen grated coconut that has been thawed)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds(skip for AIP)
  • 1 green chili (serrano chili) cut into 3-4 pieces (skip for AIP)
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger grated
  • 4-6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 large sweet potato or potato (boiled, peeled and mashed)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or lime juice
Instructions
  1. Soak the tapioca pearls overnight in a large bowl with enough water on top (pearls will swell up). Drain them using a sieve or colander and blot dry using paper towels.
  2. Place the pearls in a mixing bowl. Add the nuts and the coconut to it and mix everything well together. Keep aside.
  3. Ina wok style pan or kadai, heat the oil. When hot add the cumin seeds and after 30 seconds add the green chillies, ginger and curry leaves. Stop fry for 1 minute on medium heat.
  4. Next add the tapioca pearl mixture to this and turning heat to low, keep stirring mix continuously to prevent the pearls from clumping together too much. After they start becoming transparent (about 4-5 minutes or so), add the mashed sweet potato (or potato) to the pan and str everything together well.
  5. Add the cilantro and lime juice and stir well before serving.
Notes
For AIP compliant version, skip the nuts, cumin seeds and the green chillies. Use only white sweet potatoes if using sweet potatoes otherwise the dish will be too sweet.

 

Mangalorean Style Chicken Curry (Kori Gassi)

If you are a lover of ‘all chicken curries’ like me, then this is one that you need to definitely try!  Its funny how I ended up making this curry – Last week when I was chatting with my sis who lives in india, she happened to mention this curry that she had just eaten and how fabulous it was.  Her daughter’s best friend’s mom had sent over some of her Mangalorean Chicken curry to share with the rest of the family.  Oh my, the rave reviews from my niece and my sis were enough for me to start salivating! I had to make this curry myself.  My sis gave me a vivid description of the texture of the curry and also told me that it had a coconut masala baed gravy. Well that was enough to get me started on my recipe hunt. Sis offered to talk to the mom and get the recipe from her. But I could not wait that long.

That evening as I pulled out chicken from the freezer for making dinner, I knew what exactly I was going to make with it!  I had looked up recipes for this Mangalorean chicken curry on the internet and printed out a couple of them. The traditional name of this curry is Kori (Chicken) Gassi (curry). I ended up making a version that was a combination of a few of the recipes plus I made some variations – since I do not use tamarind, I used Kerala tamarind or Kodampuli or Kokum for providing the tartness. Also I used Kashmiri chill powder instead of the badega red chillies since I wanted to cut down on the heat.

This curry in general is very mild in spices and heat. It does not use much of the traditional spices used in chicken curry like garam masala. In addition fenugreek and tamarind I thought were two unique ingredients in this curry since these are not typically used in chicken curries. The fine coconut paste masala gives it a great texture – smooth and silky! And thereby goes excellently with chapatis, naan, paranthas or neer dosas.  The last one is what it is traditionally eaten with in Mangalore. As for our family, I had it with some steamed yucca. And the rest of the family had it with rice! The gravy of this curry is just finger licking good – Yummy Yummy Yum!

Mangalorean Style Coconut Chicken Curry (Kori Gassi)
Author: 
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Indian, Karnataka, Mangalorean
 
Kori Gassi is a delectable chicken curry made by cooking chicken pieces in a mildly spiced creamy and slightly tangy coconut sauce
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs (about 1 kg) chicken pieces (I prefer whole chicken cut pieces or at least thigh pieces if using boneless)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp kashmiri red chilli powder (I use kashmiri chill powder since I prefer mild hot but you can other red chillies for more hot curry)
For the ground masala paste:
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
  • 8-12 whole black peppercorns (depending upon how spicy you like it)
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 one inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 large cloves of garlic (or 8-10 if smaller)
  • ½ cup grated coconut (freshly grated or fresh frozen that has been thawed)
  • ¼ cup warm water
For the curry:
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig of fresh curry leaves (about 8-10 leaves)
  • 3 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (1 tsp is for mildly hot so use more if you would like it really hot)
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 piece of Kokum (kerala tamarind) dissolved in ¼ cup warm water. (optional)
  • 1 tsp lime juice
Instructions
  1. Clean the chicken pieces well with water and dab dry with paper towels. Add the salt, turmeric and red chili powder and mix well. Marinate for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, start making the masala paste - In a small frying pan, dry roast the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon for 2-3 minutes on low heat stirring frequently until you get the aroma of the spices. Transfer to a food processor.
  3. In the same pan add the 1 tsp coconut oil. when hot add the sliced onions and sauce for 2 minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic too and continue sautéing for another 2-3 mins until the onions start getting slightly crispier and brown. Transfer this to the food processor as well.
  4. Next add the grated coconut to the pan and lightly cook it on low stirring frequently for about 3-4 mins until some of the pieces start browning. Turn heat off. Transfer to the same food processor. (Do not brown the coconut completely since that will result in a different taste)
  5. Grind everything using ¼ cup water. The paste should be very fine - hence do not use too much water to grind.
  6. Next take a large bottomed pan to cook the curry and add the 1 tbsp coconut oil. When hot, add the other set of sliced onions. Add the curry leaves as well and sauce for 2-3 mins.
  7. Add the marinated chicken pieces and cook on high heat for about 3-4 mins. Flip the chicken pieces and cook again for another 3-4 mins.
  8. Now add the ground masala paste, the turmeric, red chili, coriander powder and salt. Add about 1 cup of water rinsing the blender with it to get all of the paste.
  9. Stir to mix well and then cover and cook on low heat for 15 mins.
  10. Open lid and add the water from the soaked tamarind.
  11. Check for seasoning and add salt or more red chili powder as needed.
  12. Cook for another 5 minutes covered. And turn heat off.
  13. Add the lime juice and serve warm over plain white rice or chapatis.
Notes
I have used Kashmiri chili powder here for milder and less spicy taste. If you prefer your curry to be hot and spicy, add more quantity or use another hotter variety of red chillies.
The traditional mangalorean kori gassi curry uses tamarind juice or extract. But I have used kokum extract here since I have been avoiding tamarind.

Crispy Chicken Bites (Paleo, Gluten Free)

Indo Chinese cuisine is pretty popular in India with the craze first starting sometime in the early 90s I believe. I was in college those days and we would sneak out from college to have lunch at one of these make shift stalls outside our campus to have delicious lip smacking ‘chicken manchurian’ soup and chill chicken curry.  The origins of this fusion cuisine is a bit ambiguous I think because the last time I tried to research about ‘manchurian curry’,  I only ended up finding out that Manchurian is a historic region in NE china and there is no curry chicken or otherwise by that name from that region. So I decided to end my research. Anyways, I am so glad that this fusion cuisine came into being combining the best of flavors from both the sub-continents even though the ‘how’ of it is not clear.  Hey, let’s enjoy the food right?

I cooked these crispy chicken bites similar to the chili chicken recipe where corn starch is used as the starch/binder. Only thing I did was replaced corn starch with tapioca starch and replaced soy sauce with coconut aminos to make it paleo. As I have mentioned before, even though I am following the stricter autoimmune version of paleo which restricts even chili peppers, I have been having small quantities of red chili powder and other spices occasionally. But you could easily skip the red chili and these chicken bites would still be delicious I can guarantee.! I also pan fried (shallow fry) these using coconut oil and they still came out very crispy!

Crispy Chicken Bites (paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer, Main course
Cuisine: IndoChinese, Fusion
 
Chicken pieces marinated with the flavors of ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper and coated with tapioca starch and fried to get crispy nuggets
Ingredients
  • 1 lb chicken pieces, boneless thigh pieces, cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 tbsp tapioca flour
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger and garlic paste (made by crushing equal quantities of fresh ginger and garlic without any water in a mortar pestle or a food processor)
  • 2 tsp coconut aminos or soy sauce (use coconut aminos for paleo)
  • About 3-4 tbsp coconut oil for shallow frying
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, add the chicken pieces and blot dry using paper towels.
  2. In a small bowl, mix all the rest of the ingredients and stir using a spoon to form a thick paste.
  3. Add this paste to the bowl with the chicken pieces. Mix using your hands to coat the chicken pieces completely.
  4. Add about 1 tbsp oil at a time in a small frying pan and shallow fry the chicken pieces in batches until they are cooked well and crispy on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
Notes
For AIP version, skip the red chili powder

 

Venturing into the Raw foods world: A super yummy vegan ‘Cheese Cake’

I have to confess…until a few months ago I did not know that there were an increasing number of folks in the world who were following a totally ‘raw foods’ diet!  My first reaction was – wow, that’s great – so healthy and ‘no need to cook’!  I looked over a lot of raw food bloggers’ websites  and saw how creative they were getting with their raw food recipes!  Gosh, it is mind boggling! Personally for me I don’t think I can manage a complete raw food diet since I would crave for warm food from time to time!  However, hats off to those who can pull it off and doing well with it.

So anyways as I have started following more raw food bloggers on my instagram, I continue to get inspired by their creations. One of these was the ‘raw cheese cake’ which is only made using nuts, dried fruits and other fruits! Watching numerous such vegan ‘cheese’ cakes and reading their recipes, I have been meaning to try making one for a few weeks now. The fact that I am currently on a AIP (autoimmune protocol) version of the Paleo diet was one reason – cos I am not allowed to eat nuts on this diet :(.  However, last week was hubby dear’s birthday. Him being a lover of cashew nuts , I thought why not give this raw cheese cake a try?

I looked for recipes and found that the basic recipe was pretty much same – nuts and dates for the crust or the base. And then a cashew nut cream filling. Then you can use your imagination for flavors – I decided to use mixed berries to create a two layer cake. And then topped it with a lot of fresh berries.  I also decided to do the crust only with shredded coconut and dates. I was so proud of my creation!  Our rhododendron had just blossomed too and the color of the topping of the cake perfectly matched with the light purple flowers! What a beautiful evening it was – my husband absolutely loved the taste of the cake!  He said it was better than any dairy cheese cake that he had before! The kids also loved it. I also had a couple bites – I had to see the result of my efforts, you see? 🙂  – Creamy, mildly sweet filling combined with the wonderful coconut crust  made for a delectable dessert! Simply superb is my verdict.

Btw, I would like to mention here a few of the bloggers who have inspired me to make this cake and whom I love to follow:

Edgar raw: https://www.instagram.com/edgarraw/?hl=en

Olivia from Lovehealthok : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoCEQG-JcqA

Sophie from A squirrel in the kitchen : http://asquirrelinthekitchen.com

Bringing this raw, vegan cake to the Plant based Potluck party this week.

Venturing into the Raw foods world: A super yummy vegan 'Cheese Cake'
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, sugar free dessert
Cuisine: Vegan raw cake
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 9 dates
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil melted
  • Pinch sea salt
For the Filling:
  • 2 cups cashew nuts soaked overnight
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup mixed berries
Instructions
  1. Soak cashew nuts in warm water and let sit for at least 24 hours.
  2. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  3. For making the crust, in a food processor blend all the crust ingredients except the shredded coconut. Then mix this with the shredded coconut in a bowl to form a thick mixture. Press this mixture to the bottom of the pan. Freeze the pan for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling by blending all the filling ingredients (without adding any water) except the berries to get a thick creamy filling.
  5. Pour ¾ of the this filling mixture onto the pan after the base has set. Then to the rest of the filling mixture, add the berries and again blend to get a creamy smooth mixture. Pour this over the top of the white filling layer. Place pan back in freezer for at least 5-6 hours.
  6. Remove pan from freezer about 30 mins before serving the cake.