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 🙂

Watch Video:


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.

 

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.

Happy Vishu! : Papaya Coconut Halwa (Vegan,Paleo)

   Happy Vishu to all those who celebrate – Vishu falls on the 14th of April this year. In Kerala, the start of the Zodiac New Year is celebrated as ‘Vishu’. It is believed that what one sees when one first opens one’s eyes on Vishu morning is an indication of what one can expect in the year to come. Thus on the morning of Vishu, ‘Vishukkani’ is prepared, which is an assortment of beautiful things – the image or idol of Lord Vishnu, beautiful flower arrangements and a panorama of vegetables and fruits to show abundance. Even gold jewelry and gold coins are displayed as part of the kani. It is said to be auspicious to open one’s eyes before the decorated ‘vishukkani’ on Vishu morning. And an elaborate and delicious sadya just like Onam is prepared in all Malayalee households for Vishu.

Although I don’t usually prepare an elaborate sadya for Vishu, I do make some sweet dish at least. This year that was hard too considering my dietary restrictions. But I am one not to be easily discouraged – I decided to make this Papaya halwa.  Traditionally this halwa is made using milk and rice flour along with ripened papaya. But since I am on a paleo diet, I came up with some alternative ingredients – coconut milk instead of regular milk and coconut flour instead of rice flour. The coconut flour gave it a wonderful texture. I also skipped the sugar and used maple syrup instead. The halwa came out delicious!

Mind you, this version is indeed an easy version of the traditional halwa since I cooked it only for about 30 minutes until I got the desired fudge consistency. But I remember my aunts in kerala making the traditional version of papaya halwa by cooking it over slow fire for at least a couple hours stirring constantly. The resulting halwa under the laborious process is of course even more tastier with all the sugars in it getting caramelized completely. But the result of this easy vegan version is not far behind either. So I hope you do get to try making this!

The celebration of Vishu signifies the importance of ‘making a good start’ and of asking for divine blessings before embarking on a new project. Hope all your dreams for the following year come true!

Papaya Coconut Halwa (vegan, paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Indian, kerala, fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Papaya Halwa is a delectable dessert of Southern india and this version is a modified, vegan and paleo version of the traditional halwa using ripe papayas, coconut milk and coconut flour
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups ripe Papaya pieces pureed in blender
  • ¼ tsp or pinch salt
  • ½ cup thick coconut milk or coconut cream
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
  • ¼ cup coconut flour (or desiccated coconut powder
  • ½ cup water
  • Chopped nuts for garnish
Instructions
  1. Take a non stick frying pan or a wok style pan (kadai). Add the coconut oil and when hot, add the papaya puree to it. Add the salt and Cook on low heat stirring frequently for about 10 mins. You should begin to see the oil separating from sides.
  2. Next add the coconut milk and maple syrup and continue cooking on low heat stirring frequently. After about 10 mins, when you see the oil separating out again, add the coconut flour with the water to the papaya mixture. Stir very quickly to avoid forming any lumps and then continue to slow cook for another 5 mins stirring regularly until the mixture attaining a 'halwa' consistency - i.e. semisolid and smooth. Remove from heat. Serve garnished with the chopped nuts.
Notes
For AIP version: Skip the cardamom powder and the nuts

  

Tips for hosting a Kerala sadya at home

Since Vishu, the zodiac new year celebrated by Keralans is just around the corner, I thought doing this post now might be useful for some of my followers. I have been consulted a few times regarding tips on cooking a ‘sadya’ meal at home.  Having been cooking sadya meals every Onam (and sometimes for Vishu too) for the past 18 years in our US home does qualify me for advising folks I guess. We usually host an average of 3-4 families. I get a lot of questions from new cooks all the time! “Chechi, help!” ‘How many dishes to cook?’ ‘How much quantity to cook’ ‘Will there be enough food?’ ‘I have never cooked for so many people’ ‘Will all the food be fresh for the sadya?’  And so on and so forth. Well, my response is always the same – “Take a deep breath. Don’t worry. Its all about planning and once the plan is perfect, execution will be a breeze!”  I guess all my years leading projects at work has also helped me to execute successful sadyas 🙂  Plus I did have the best resources available to me – my husband and I together make a great team 🙂 So before embarking on this particularly adventurous mission, my strong recommendation to you is to first enlist your spouse’s or family members’ support! It will be much needed!

These are some steps that I follow for hosting a successful sadya whether it is for Onam or Vishu or just any other day when you feel like having a sadya meal.

  1. Create a Menu:  Take a pen and paper and scribble down the menu items.  I prefer pen and paper to doing it electronically since paper makes it easy to scratch off things while still letting you see what changes you have made. Just my personal preference but you can use a notepad on your phone or computer as well. Write down the different dishes you would like to make.  Sambhar and Avial I think fall in the ‘must-have’ category meaning they absolutely need to be on the sadya menu or else you won’t have a sadya! Another ‘must have’ are pappadums! After that, come all other lentil or bean type curries – let’s call this ‘Other curries’ – like erisseri, parippu, moru kootan, green mango curry, potato stew etc. I like to include at least two from this category.  Next would be ‘dry vegetable dishes’ like cabbage thoran or green beans thoran or kadala and kaaya thoran etc.  A fourth category would be all spicy and tangy ‘pickle type’ curries called as ‘thodu curries’ – these include paavakka varatharachu curry, pearl onion curry(Ulli curry), Pulli inji (ginger curry). Another very important ‘must-have’ item of the sadya is the ‘Paayasam’. Which paayasam to make?.  Although it is traditional to make two varieties of Payasam, I would recommend doing only one since not only is it time consuming to make two different payasams but after the heavy sadya, in my experience, folks generally will not have room for two different payasams and so it becomes a waste of effort. Decide which one you want to make. ‘Paladda’ is always the easy one and everyone loves that so its a safe bet. If you are ambitious enough to make Parrippu paayasam then so be it – you just need to plan adequately for it.

Here’s what a sample menu would look like. Other than the ‘Must-haves’, you can      pick one or two from each category

SAMPLE MENU
Main Dishes (Must-haves) Other Curries: Vegetable side dishes: Spicy and tangy (Thodu) curries:
Sambhaar Erishery Cabbage thoran Pulli Inji
Avial Mooru Kootan Kadala kaaya koottu Paavakka varatharachu
Paayasam Pacchadi Paavakka thoran Ulli curry
Pappaddum Rasam Manga curry
Parrippu curry Manga Pickle
Potato curry Lime pickle

2. Decide how much quantity to cook for each dish:  This depends on your final count. hence get a final count of people sufficiently in advance. Once you have the final count, divide by 4 (for the 4 categories of dishes you have) and that’s how many people you should cook each dish for. The logic behind this is that since you have so many dishes, you don’t need to make huge quantity of each dish.  For deciding the quantity of rice, I take the total headcount and take about 25% off – again the logic being that having a variety of dishes means that folks get full without eating too much rice. So if I have a head count of 20 people and say in general we cook about 1/2 cup of rice(uncooked) for 1 person for a regular meal, which would mean cooking 10 cups of rice, but for the sadya 75% of 10 i.e.  7.5 cups of uncooked rice should be sufficient. For doing all the above, if you are going to be following some recipes from your favorite sites, then make sure you print all of them first and then prepare the grocery list.

3. Plan the grocery shopping: Prepare the grocery list based on 1 and 2 above. And do the shopping sufficiently in advance -at least 2-3 days before the sadya weekend. Include all other ancillary items like plantain chips, plantain leaves, small bananas and any ready made pickles. Make sure you check the quantity of rice you have in your pantry and add to the list if you are short.

4. Stagger the cooking – Begin cooking in advance: 3-4 days before you can make the pickles or tangy curries like the paavaka curry or inji puli since they don’t spoil and keep well. 2-3 days before you can make moru kootan or mango curry etc.  1 day before you can make sambhaar, erisseri and payasam and also finish all the prep work for all the rest of the dishes. For example, finish chopping all vegetables for avial which is best when prepared the morning of the sadya. All thorns with fresh coconut should also be prepared on the morning of the sadya. You can fry the papadums the previous day but make sure to keep them in airtight containers to prevent them from getting soggy.  Create a project plan one week before the sadya so you don’t forget any important steps.  The plan need not be detailed but would look something like this :

Sample project plan:

  • Weekend 1 week before sadya/ 3-4 days before sadya day – Grocery shopping,
  • Thursday – Moru kootan, Pachadi, Inji Puli,
  • Friday – Chopping all vegetables for avial and sambhaar, make sambhaar, make payasam, fry papadums
  • Saturday(Day of sadya): Cook rice, avial,cabbage thoran

5. Ask for help: After completing steps 1-3, take a step back and do a reality check. See how you feel about executing the plan. If this is your first time doing something like this and if you don’t have enough help at home (for example having young kids etc), then consider delegating some tasks to some of your expected guests. Chances are some of your guests may call you in advance offering to help and if you are feeling overwhelmed then that would be a perfect time for you to ask for some help. You can outsource tasks like grocery shopping – either all or some items, ask them to cook one dish or just request if they could stop by early that day in the morning before the sadya – a set of hands always helps, right?

Hope these tips are helpful! What are some tricks you use for hosting a sadya at your home? I would love to know! Happy Feasting – Have a spectacular sadya this Vishu!

Yucca/Tapioca ‘Rice’ (Kappa Puttu using grated kappa)

If you have been following my blog, you might wonder why I am posting this kappa Puttu recipe again? Well guess what this is a different way of making kappa puttu.  I guess this is the traditional way of making it.  What I had posted earlier was an easy or short cut version.  Actually speaking both versions are not that hard and if you already have some cooked leftover kappa (yucca) then you can go for the recipe I posted earlier.  My aunt had suggested I try making Kappa puttu since that would be a great grain free bread option for me.  I loved the version I made before.  However my darling cousins kept insisting that I should try making it using raw grated yucca (tapioca) and that tastes much better. So then how could I not give it a try right?

My husband was kind enough to grate the yucca for me. Since yucca is hard, it is really a little tough on my weak RA stricken hands to grate this. Hence so kind of him to volunteer!  Well the resultant ‘puttu’ was moist and delicious and the texture was ‘rice’ like.!  And goes perfect with some chicken curry or fish curry! Yum!

Puttu is traditionally steamed using an utensil called “puttu Kodam’ which basically consists of a long mould that fits on top of a steamer pot.  Since I don’t have this contraption, I make do with a strainer fitted on top of a cooking pot.  To get a round shape, I pack the cooked ‘puttu’ in a small bowl and then invert it onto the serving plate. But if you have a puttu maker, you can make it in that.  You can check out what a puttu maker looks like over here.

This Yucca Puttu or Yucca Rice as I like to call it as become my staple ‘bread’ for eating with fish / chicken curry and has made my transition into a Paleo diet so much more acceptable! I don’t miss rice anymore since this yucca rice is so delicious and perfectly complements curries since it has the wonderful ability to sop up all that gravy! yum! Traditionally, kappa Puttu uses a mix of kappa (yucca/tapioca) and rice flour. But I replaced rice flour with coconut flour to keep it Paleo. But you can use same recipe replacing rice flour with coconut flour too.

Yucca/Tapioca 'Rice' (Kappa Puttu)
Author: 
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Indian, Kerala, Paleo
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Freshly grated yucca mixed with coconut / rice flour and steamed to get a 'rice' like consistency that is a perfect complement to spicy Indian curries like chicken curry, fish curry or vegetable curries
Ingredients
  • 1 cup freshly grated Yucca (tapioca or kappa)
  • ½ cup coconut flour (or rice flour) - Use coconut flour for Paleo version
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut (or frozen grated coconut thawed)
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the freshly grated yucca/tapioca. Add the coconut flour (or rice flour) and salt. Add the freshly grated coconut. Mix well using your hands.
  2. Steam this mixture using a Puttu maker or using a make shift steamer as explained below.
  3. For make shift steamer, fill a large cooking pot ¼ th with water and heat till water boils. Place a strainer that fits on top of this pot on it and spread the yucca mixture over it. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and steam cook for about 10 minutes. To serve, pack in small bowls or moulds and invert onto a plate.