Kerala Peppery Chicken Curry (My husband’s Chicken curry)

  I really struggled with what name to give this curry and I had a good mind to just leave it at ‘My husband’s chicken curry’ 🙂 It is also the most delicious chicken curry you will ever have! My husband loves to cook and when we got married, he would cook this chicken curry every now and then. When I was pregnant with my second child, I had severe nausea and I did not feel like eating anything that I cooked. The smell of Chicken curry would make my nausea worse and so I pretty much gave up eating chicken for most of my pregnancy. Then everything changed when my husband decided to cook this chicken curry once sometime soon after my delivery. I tasted it and it was like ‘heaven on earth’!  That first time after a long hiatus from chicken, I stuffed myself with chicken curry and rice!  It was that good! And yay! I was back to loving chicken again 🙂

And my husband continued to perfect his chicken curry over the years. Since I don’t eat tomatoes now, he has stopped adding tomatoes too. Yet his curry remains so tasty! You may ask what is so special about this curry? Actually I used to wonder too since I use almost the same spices and everything else. For one, my husband is very systematic in the kitchen. (He is very systematic, period.) He will first clean the kitchen counter, chop up everything and arrange them in different bowls, blend up the spices etc. and only then begin making his curry. Its like a ritual for him. You see I am nothing like that! I chop and cook at the same time moving from stirring to chopping and chopping to stirring! Over the years I would ask him multiple times to note his recipe down but he never bothered to do that.

Finally a few weeks ago, I decided to video record him while he was making the curry. I noted down all the quantities of spices etc too and so finally I have this super tasty recipe to share with you too! Hey when a curry is this good, you have got share the love you know! I am still working on editing the video and will post it soon too.

So did I find what he did differently? I think its the magic of his hands. lol 🙂 Jokes apart, the key thing here is slow cooking. I realized that he sautéed his onions slowly till they get really really soft, added very little water and added lots and lots of black pepper and not many other spices. And finally the curry is slow cooked to get a perfect chicken curry!The potatoes are also an important part of this curry – sometimes I can’t decide what I like more – the chicken pieces or the ‘curry smothered’ potato pieces. (My mouth is watering!) This curry tastes delicious with rotis or plain white rice.

If you are strictly paleo and avoid potatoes, then you can substitute taro root for potatoes as I do sometimes. Well this recipe is for you guys. As for me, when it comes to chicken curry in our house, 9 out of 10 times, you can guess who will be making it 🙂

Kerala Peppery Chicken Curry (My husband's Chicken curry)
Author: 
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-5
 
A fiery and flavorful 'chicken and potatoes' curry slow cooked with lots of black pepper and other spices
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs chicken thigh pieces, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces
For marination:
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chilli pow (use less if you want mildly hot)
  • 2 tsp coriander pow
  • 1 tsp fennel powder
  • ½ tsp turneric powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
For the curry:
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • About 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger chopped finely
  • 2 green chiles, slit length wise (optional)
  • 10-12 whole black pepper corns (use fewer for less spicy)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large (or 3 medium) onions thinly sliced
  • 3 tsp coriander pow
  • 2 tsp black pepper powder (freshly ground)
  • 1 tsp fennel powder (freshly ground)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 small potatoes cubed (or 2 medium taro root cubed)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Instructions
  1. Marinate the chicken pieces with all the ingredients listed under marinade and let sit for at least 15 mins (up to 30 mins)
  2. Heat a broad bottomed cooking pot (which has a tight fitting lid). When hot add the coconut oil and the garlic, ginger and green chillies. After 30 secs, add the whole spices - black pepper, cloves and bay leaves. Saute for 1 minute on medium heat.
  3. Add the onions and sautee for about 8-10 mins on low until onions turn slightly golden and soft(This is very important step)
  4. Next add all the spices - coriander pow, black pepper powder, fennel powder, turmeric , salt and garam masala. Saute for about 2 mins on low till you get the nice aroma from the roasted spices.
  5. Add about 2 tbsp of water at this point to avoid burning of the spices.
  6. Add the marinated chicken pieces and the potato/taro pieces and mix everything well together.
  7. Cover with the lid and cook on low heat for about 25 mins stirring every 10 mins to stir and avoid scorching.
  8. Add the fresh cilantro and turn heat off.
Notes
It is very important to use a tight fitting lidded pot for this recipe. The chicken needs to slow cook. The ground black pepper and ground fennel should be freshly ground otherwise you won't get the same flavors.

 

Methi Aloo Paratha with south indian flavors (Potato and Fenugreek leaves stuffed flatbread)

Paratha is typical North indian food right? So why am I trying to ‘southernize’ it? He he…just happened like that one day by accident and a new ‘paratha’ was created in our household 🙂 So here is what happened. Once in a week I make Methi theplas for my kiddos’ lunch box.  And usually I make more theplas for them once they come home from school for a healthy snack. One time I had a boiled potato left over too and so I thought of stuffing the thepla with the potato. I just wanted to keep it simple and decided to just add some ‘chaat masala’ to the potato stuffing. I quickly grabbed the ‘chaat masala’ pack from the fridge and sprinkled on the mashed potato. But after I had added it, I realized that I had actually added ‘sambhaar masala’ 🙂 So that was the birth of this Methi Aloo paratha with sambhaar spices!

 The kids just loved the hot, spicy parathas and gobbled them all up in a few minutes. Then I made them again on a weekend when my husband enjoyed them too and that’s how these parathas came to become so popular in our house now. My youngest always wants me to make the ‘stuffed Aloo’ ones instead of just the plain methi theplas 🙂

Isn’t it fun when mistakes lead to sweet (or in this case, spicy) innovations ? 🙂

Methi Aloo Paratha with south indian flavors (Potato and Fenugreek leaves stuffed flatbread)
Author: 
Recipe type: Main course, Breads
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
A whole wheat flatbread stuffed with fenugreek leaves and potatoes with a hint of south indian spices
Ingredients
For the dough (outer covering):
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen methi(fenugreek) leaves
  • 1 tsp ajwain seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper powder (use kashmiri chill powder for mildly spiced)
  • about ¾ cup water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
For potato stuffing:
  • 2 large Boiled potatoes, peeled and mashed
  • 1 tbsp sambhaar powder (I use Aachi brand)
  • 1 tsp salt (check if your sambhaar masala has salt already before adding)
Instructions
  1. Add all the dough ingredients except water and oil in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the water little bit at a time and form a dough. (You can use a stand mixer also to form the dough). Add the oil and mix again so that the dough is soft and smooth. Divide dough into small balls about a golf ball size.keep aside covered.
  2. Mix all the stuffing ingredients in a small bowl and use a potato masher to make the mixture really smooth - there should not be any lumps. Keep this aside.
  3. Heat a chapati pan (or any non stick pan).
  4. Roll each dough ball into a small circle and place 1 tbsp of the potato stuffing in the center. Bring the outer edges of the circle into the center to pinch at the center (like a dumpling) and then again roll carefully to form a paratha. (use lots of extra wheat flour for dusting to prevent sticking)
  5. Place the paratha on the hot pan and cook for about 2 minutes on one side before flipping. Apply oil or ghee on the flipped side and again flip to the other side and apply ghee again. Flip once more to cook on the second side and when you see golden brown spots on both sides, transfer to a dish. Keep warm covered with foil until serving.
  6. Repeat process for the rest of the dough and stuffing.

‘Probiotics 101’ and a recipe for a homemade probiotic drink: Beet Kanji

What does the word ‘probiotics’ mean? It seems to be the new buzzword? Everyone seems to be talking about probiotics and gut health. For the last 18 months or so I have been reading up a lot on the relationship between the gut and the immune system and thereby the implications for autoimmune diseases. I have been following a strict paleo diet(autoimmune protocol version) . Many of my friends and family have asked me about the relationship between diet and disease. Some of them seemed confused that our gut would have so much of an impact on our health and wanted to know why ‘probiotics’ were important.

So I thought of writing up this post explaining the basics for my readers.

  1. Significance of gut health on our overall health:  As I was reading up about the impact of diets on disease, one of the facts that really helped me understand this relationship was that “80% of our immune system resides in our digestive tract”!  Now, once you begin to appreciate this, it all begins to make sense doesn’t it? yeah, so if immune system is located in the gut, then what you eat has an impact on the immune system! Ta Da! Many health issues, such as thyroid imbalances, chronic fatigue, joint pain, psoriasis, autism and many other conditions originate in the gut.
  2. Good bacteria vs bad bacteria: The secret to restoring your digestive health is all about balancing out the good and bad bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are bacteria that line your digestive tract and support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. There are actually 10 times more probiotics in your gut then cells in your body! If you don’t have enough probiotics, the side effects can include digestive disorders, skin issues, candida, autoimmune disease, and frequent colds and flus.
  3. Probiotic ‘Killers’ or Eroders: In the olden days, our ancestors used plenty of probiotics in their diets from eating fresh foods from good soil and by fermenting our foods to keep them from spoiling. However, because of refrigeration and dangerous agricultural practices like soaking our foods with chlorine, our food contains little to no probiotics today, and most foods actually contain dangerous antibiotics that kill off the good bacteria in our bodies. Following are some ‘probiotic killers’ in our environment today: prescription antibiotics, Non Steroidal Anti inflammatory medications (NSAIDs/Pain killers), sugar, tap water , GMO foods, Grains, emotional stress etc.

Thus adding probiotics to our diet can help  to provide us with a

  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved digestion
  • Increased energy from production of vitamin B12
  • Healthier skin, since probiotics naturally treat eczema and psoriasis
  • Reduced cold and flu
  • Healing from leaky gut syndrome and thereby all autoimmune disorders

What are some natural probiotics?

Sour foods and fermented foods like apple cider vinegar, yoghurt (dairy free coconut yoghurt is best), kefir, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), Kimchi (fermented vegetables), beet kvass (fermented beets) are all great sources of probiotics.

What are some other sources of probiotics?

Nowadays you can buy probiotic capsules from the pharmacy and GNC stores that contain the good bacteria inside a capsule. Make sure you use a probiotic supplement that has a mix of strains from the two main genus lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. Pick a brand that has at least five billion CFU (colony forming units) of bacteria. Otherwise it is not good enough. And always store them in a cool place always.

(references: https://draxe.com/probiotics-benefits-foods-supplements/

http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/what-are-probiotics#1

http://dailyburn.com/life/health/choose-best-probiotic/)

I recently came across this lovely recipe for an Indian probiotic drink called as Beet kanji from Myheartbeets.  This drink has been traditionally made in Northern India and I am so glad that I got to know about this drink.  I have been making it regularly now.  The first time I made it , it came out too strong and so after a couple variations, I have the process nailed down – adding just the right amount of mustard and keeping it for fermenting for the right amount of time. I love having this drink chilled! At our dinner gatherings at home, I sport a glass of bright red kanji while others have their alcoholic drinks 🙂  Oh, and you can use the fermented vegetables to add to your salads!

Probiotic 101 and a recipe for a homemade probiotic drink: Beet Kanji
Author: 
Recipe type: Healthy drink
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A healthy traditional indian probiotic drink made from fermenting beets and carrots.
Ingredients
  • 1 large organic beet, peeled and cut into thin, long slices
  • 1 large organic carrot, scraped and cut into thin, long slices
  • 6 cups filtered water
  • 2 tsp powdered mustard seeds (coarsely powdered is fine)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. Take a large glass jar and add the vegetables and the mustard and salt. Pour the filtered water to cover all the vegetables completely plus leave about 1-2 inches of water above. Cover the jar with a lid and keep it aside on the kitchen counter for 4-5 days or until you see bubbles on top. Taste the liquid to see if you get a strong fermented taste and that's when it is done.

 

 

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.