Malvani Chicken Curry(Chicken curry with roasted coconut masala)

dsc_0230Born and raised in Mumbai by parents who were natives of Kerala, we grew up greatly influenced by both Keralan and Maharashtrian cultures. Our next door neighbor hailed from the Malvan region of Maharashtra which is also a coastal region just like Kerala. As a result there are lots of similarities in Kerala and Malvani cuisines like seafood specialties and the liberal use of coconut!

Our neighbor aunty used to make this lip smacking Malvani Chicken curry along with a doughnut shaped bread called as Kombdi vade.  Kombdi vadas are made with a mix of rice and different lentils and deep fried like puris. Oh the combination of this chicken curry with kombdi vadas are probably one of the most delicious culinary experience I have had.My mouth starts watering just thinking of the combination!  Whenever aunty made these, she would send over some to share with our family. And how we loved it!  We kids liked this chicken dish so much that we begged our mom to learn this recipe from our neighbor aunty and she gladly obliged by giving a cooking demo in her kitchen one time.  I was in college those days and had already developed an interest in cooking and so I took very good notes!  In the early years after my marriage after moving to the US, I made this curry a couple times. But after that somehow the craziness of work and kids made me forget this curry dish.

Anyways last year when my good friend Vaishali visited us and made Misal Paav for us, I was again reminded of this curry!  And ever since then I have been meaning to make this curry. I was hoping to make this with the kombdi vadas too. However, now that I am doing a Paleo diet, where grains are not allowed, I decided to pass the vadas for now. But I was still craving for the curry and so decided to just make the chicken curry. And I cheated by having the curry with some basmati rice :).  Was heavenly! So worth the little bit of extra effort of roasting the coconut and making the ground masala paste.

The way I remember distinctive tastes of different curries is by remembering the unique combination of spices used. For this curry, it is cumin and garlic that stands out along with star anise and dagad phool.  Dagad Phool whose literal translation means ‘rock flower’ is a spice that is a lichen and has an earthy , musk like smell.  Here’s a picture to those who are not familiar with this spice. Its botanical name is paramecia prelate and this is one of the ingredients of the Maharashtrian Goda masala.

Dagad Phool (Black Stone flower)

There is no coriander (seeds or powder) used in this curry. Also dried coconut or Khopra is used traditionally in this curry however I used fresh coconut which is fine too.

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Malvani Chicken Curry(Chicken curry with roasted coconut masala)

  • Servings: Makes about 4-6 servings with rice
  • Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Ingredients:

2 lbs whole chicken (1kg ) cut into bite size pieces

1 tsp salt

1 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

For the ground masala:

  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut or khopra(or fresh frozen grated coconut that has been thawed)
  • 2 medium onion, sliced long
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 4 garlic pods
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup warm water

For dry grinding:

  • 2 star anise
  • 1-2 dagad phool
  • 4 about 1 inch cinnamon sticks
  • 8-10 cloves
  • 8-10 whole black peppercorns

2 tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp garam masala powder

1 tsp red chilli powder (optional)

1 tsp salt (or as needed)

2 cups water

Method:

Clean the chicken and pat dry with towels. Add the salt, chill powder and turmeric and rub the mixture well into the chicken pieces. Let marinate for 15-30 minutes.

In a non stick frying pan, add the sliced onions and fry them on medium heat stirring frequently until they turn reddish brown.( about 3-4 minutes). Take them out of the pan and transfer to a blender. Next add the fresh coconut (or khopra) and roast that stirring frequently until they start turning brown (about 6-7 minutes). Towards the end add the cumin and garlic pods. Stir for 1 more minute and transfer this coconut mixture also to the blender. Add the water and grind to a fine paste.

Dry grind the whole spices using a spice grinder. Keep aside.

Heat a wide bottomed cooking pot. Add the 2 tbsp oil. When hot, add the chicken pieces in batches and lightly fry them (no need to cook fully) just to get a nice sear on the outside. Transfer to a plate.

To the same oil in the pot, add the chopped onions and the ginger and garlic. Lightly fry them until the onions are golden brown. Now add the ground masala to this and add the dry spice blend (ground earlier) along with salt, red chili powder and garam masala. Keep stirring the masala continuously for 4-5 minutes until the oil starts separating out (This is an important step)

Finally add the lightly fried chicken pieces back into the pot.  Add the 2 cups water. Check for seasoning and add salt or more red chili powder as needed.

Turn heat to low and Cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally to avoid any sticking of chicken pieces to the bottom.

Serve chicken curry hot with plain white rice or chapatis!

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Lamb Coconut Curry (Kerala Mutton Stew)

dsc_0329Mutton ‘Ishtew’ is a mildly spiced but rich mutton/lamb stew cooked in coconut milk and garnished often with cashew nuts and raisins.  This curry is really mildly spiced – The mutton pieces are slowly cooked with whole black peppers, cloves, cinnamon along with some fresh ginger and green chillies.  There is no red chili used in this curry at all and hence it has this pale color.  Turmeric is not usually added but by habit I added a pinch when I pressure cooked the meat.

Growing up I enjoyed this curry in our neighbor’s house often and especially on Christmas or Easter where aunty cooked this rich and yummy curry. Its perfect for kids since its not spicy and overpowering. The coconut milk makes it creamy and rich and the potatoes in the stew are so delicious since they soak up all the fat from the meat.

dsc_0335I thought of making this curry today since I am on a Paleo diet (PAI – Paleo autoimmune version) since last two weeks. It has been hard without any grains. I miss my rice and my potatoes even more. I also cannot have any red chillies. However since coconut and coconut milk are welcome in this diet , I thought of this curry.  I decided to use taro root instead of the potatoes.  I also avoided the cashew nuts and raisins this time because nuts are not included in the PAI diet. In any case, this stew ended up being a perfect meal for me 🙂 Do try this – of course you can use potatoes instead of taro root although the taro root also was so creamy and tasty in this stew.

Bringing this rich and creamy stew to Throwback Thursdays and also to Fiesta Friday where the co-hosts this week are Caroline @ Caroline’s Cooking and Tânia @ Iwanttobeacook

Lamb Coconut Curry (Kerala Mutton Stew)

  • Servings: Makes about 2-3 servings when served with rice or 2 servings as a meal
  • Time: 30 minutes preparation time and 15 minutes cooking time
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of lamb/mutton pieces cut into small pieces (include bone pieces too)
  • whole spices – 4-6 whole black peppers, 2 bay leaves, 1 half inch piece of cinnamon stick, 4-5 cloves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 medium size red onion sliced thinly
  • 2 medium taro root peeled and cubed (or potatoes, peeled and cubed)
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 green chillies, slit length wise
  • 1 cup coconut milk (fresh* or canned)
  • 4-6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Optional garnish: cashew nuts and raisins toasted in some coconut oil or ghee

Method:

In a pressure cooker, add the mutton pieces along with the whole spices , sea salt, turmeric (if adding) and water.  Pressure cook on medium heat for 3 whistles. Turn heat off and let cool. (Alternatively you can cook the meta in a large cooking pot with a lid on low heat slowly for 30 minutes or so)

To the same pressure cooker or cooking pot, add the taro root (or potatoes), onions, ginger and green chillies. Cover with lid (no whistle) and let cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until the taro root (or potatoes) are well cooked. Open and add the coconut milk and let simmer for 1 minute. Add the curry leaves and coconut oil. Turn heat off.

*: To make fresh coconut milk

Take 3/4 cup of freshly grated coconut or frozen grated coconut that has been thawed and grind with 1 cup of warm water. Pass the ground mixture through a fine mesh sieve to get fresh coconut milk.

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Spicy Vegetable Tawa Pulao (Vegan)


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dsc_0973Vegetable Pulao is a dish that you will find in every decent Indian cook’s repertoire.  It is so easy to put together and its a one pot dish!  Plus what I like about making pulao is that you can vary the amount or types of spices, use different combination of vegetables to come up with variations of the pulao so that it is never boring.  A vegetable Pulao is one item that always features in our potluck dinner gatherings with friends. It is one solid dish around which other curry dishes and appetizers truly become ‘sides’ but they all work perfectly well to complement each other !

In our home, at least every now and then on a weeknight, I tend to go the Pulao route. Mainly because of its ‘one pot’ quality.  This past week when I thought of making the pulao mid-week for dinner, I wanted to make a variation. So I thought of the famous ‘Tawa pulao’ which was popularized by Pav Bhaaji stalls(vendors) in Mumbai.  But it has quickly gained acceptance in other reputable restaurants too now. Tawa Pulao uses a large griddle (Tawa)  to cook the vegetables using the spicy Pav Bhaaji masala and then cooked rice is mixed with these vegetables on the same griddle along with lots of butter. Another unique thing about the Tawa pulao is that the vegetables having being cooked on a griddle along with loads of butter tend to be a bit crispy/crunchy on the outside and have tons of flavor! I used extra virgin olive oil to replace the butter.

dsc_0973Pan Bhaaji masala is an unique blend of 15-18 different indian spices like cumin,coriander,dry mango,ginger etc.  Tomatoes or tomato paste is one key ingredient when cooking the vegetables. Since I am avoiding tomatoes I used a few cranberries to get the tartness. And then on a whim, I decided to lightly sweeten the cranberries in maple syrup and threw in these sweetened cranberries also to top the pulao and to give it a thanksgiving feel 🙂

Spicy Vegetable Tawa Pulao (Vegan)

  • Servings: Serves 4-6
  • Time: about 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup long grain Basmati rice, washed and soaked in water for 15 minutes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (You can add fresh minced ginger too additionally)
  • 1/2 cup onion sliced
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup capsicum (green pepper) slices
  • 1/2 green beans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 small potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp sea salt (as needed)
  •  2 tbsp Pav Bhaaji Masala ( I used Everest Brand)
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sweetened cranberries and sliced almonds for garnish

Method:

Fill a large cooking pot with water and keep it for boiling.  Add a tsp of salt to the water. Drain the washed and soaked rice and add the rice to this boiling water. Cook rice on medium uncovered for about 8-10 minutes or until rice is tender but not too overcooked.

Drain rice immediately using a large strainer.  Keep drained rice aside to cool (uncovered)

In an other large bottomed cooking pot, heat the oil. Then add the onions and sauce for 2-3 minutes. Next add all the vegetables including the potato and saute for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Next add the cranberries and the salt and spices. Mix well so that all vegetables are well coated with spices. Cover the pot with a lid and let cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat.  Now check to see if the vegetables are cooked – they should be al dente – that is still retain a bit of crunchiness. Now add the cooled rice to this vegetable mixture slowly a little bit a time and  also drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil on top and continue to throughly mix the rice and the vegetables taking care not to mush up the vegetables. Check for seasoning – add salt or pepper as needed.

Serve Pulao warm topping with sweetened cranberries and sliced almonds on top!

To make sweetened cranberries:

In a small pot, add 1 tbsp water, pinch salt and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Add about 8-10 cranberries to this and cook on low for 2-3 minutes or until all liquid is evaporated and cranberries turn plump. Turn heat off.

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Tawa Pulao

 

 

 

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (with Cranberries)

img_2204Winter is here after all. Sigh. The last few weeks I have been visiting all our local farms to try  and stock up on all the fresh apples of this season. Along with apples, there have been a good bounty of pumpkins and squash as well. This past weekend when I scouted the farms again to pick up any leftover apples – before they closed for the season, I found squash at throwaway prices. 99c for one. Not a bad deal! So I picked up Butternut squash and a couple acorn squash.

Butternut Squash is a winter squash very popular in the US and Canada and also in Australia and New Zealand. It tastes very much like pumpkin – quite sweet but has a nutty flavor. Because of its sweet taste, I have personally liked it only in soups. Roasting it is the easiest way to cook it plus also gives it additional flavor.

So I decided to make the soup mixing both the butternut and acorn together since acorn squash is a little less sweet. Halfway through my cooking process, I decided to add cranberries. I thought that would be a good way to mellow the sweetness down plus add a bit of tanginess.  You could also use tomatoes for this purpose but since I am avoiding all nightshades I decided to use cranberries for this purpose. Cranberries turned the soup into a nicer color too, imparting it more of a reddish tinge. Unfortunately since it was night time the photos don’t do justice to the actual color of the soup.

Butternut Squash soup with cranberriesMy son who is my main food critic at home, loved it and gulped down two bowls of the soup! And my daughter who doesn’t usually eat any vegetables much slurped it down too merrily. What more can I ask for 🙂

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (with Cranberries)

  • Servings: Makes 5-6 servings
  • Time: about 1 hour prep(baking) and 30 mins cooking time
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a large butternut squash
  • 1/2 of a medium acorn squash
  • 2-3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 6 cups water
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling on top
  • red chili flakes for extra heat (optional)

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 400 deg F. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Cut the acorn squash in half and place in a tray lined with al foil face down (skin up). Add the garlic cloves with skin on onto tray as well.

Place tray in the oven and roast for about 40-50 minutes until the flesh inside the squash is tender. Remove from oven and Cover the squash pieces with foil and let cool for a few minutes. Peel the skin from the squash and the garlic and keep the flesh aside.

While the squash is in the oven, chop the onions and celery.

In a large cooking pot, add the oil and the onions and celery. Salute for 5 minutes on low until tender. Then add all the spices and the salt.

Next add the roasted squash and the roasted garlic(peeled). And add the cranberries and the water. Let simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat.

Turn heat off. take an immersion (hand) blender and puree the soup in the pot. (Alternatively, if you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender – but wait until the soup is less warm)

Serve with a dash of extra virgin olive oil and some red chili flakes on top!

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Butternut Squash soup with cranberries