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

 

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

  

Mixed Berry ‘nice cream’ smoothie (Vegan, Paleo)

I love Instagram! Don’t know why I stayed away from it for so long! I am loving meeting different food bloggers and seeing their inspiring creations!  Am I inspired? Nope, I am floored! Gosh, so much talent out there and so many young kiddos creating such cool stuff. One of my favorite things in the morning (whilst waking up in bed) is to quickly check out the insta posts to get inspiration for my morning breakfast smoothie. These days along with smoothies, a new healthy deliciousness has been trending – ‘nice creams’!  He He, ‘nice cream’ sounds a bit shady but it  is nothing but a healthy version of ‘ice-cream’ which uses only fruits and other vegan ingredients.  Most recipes use frozen bananas to get the ‘nice cream’ texture. And then with that as the base, you can add different fruits – frozen or otherwise of your choice and blend everything to a creamy, smooth ‘nice cream’ texture 🙂 Oh so yum!

So these days mixed berries nice cream is my favorite afternoon snack to satisfy my sweet cravings!  I make sure I keep a few slices of bananas in the freezer at all times so i am adequately prepared to meet my cravings 🙂 The other morning I woke up to see a couple nice cream posts and oh, boy I started craving for one right away. So I decided to make a smoothie ‘nice cream’ for breakfast. A couple dashes of coconut milk gave it the perfect smoothie/nice cream texture. I made a separate blueberry compote to give it some additional richness and sophistication 🙂 Hey, you’ve gotta love your breakfast!

Hope you get inspired by this post to come up with some lovely creations of your own. Please do share with me! Btw, looks like spring is almost here! Yay!

Mixed Berry 'nice cream' smoothie (Vegan, Paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, Snack, Dessert
Cuisine: Fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Mixed berries blended with frozen bananas and a dash of coconut milk to create this healthy and delicious 'nice cream' with a topping of blueberry sauce/compote
Ingredients
For the nice cream:
  • 1 banana, peeled, sliced and frozen for 3 hours or more
  • 1 cup mixed berries (I used combination of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries - if using frozen, thaw them to room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut cream or thick coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
For the blueberry compote(sauce):
  • ½ cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
  • ¼ cup water
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch mixed in 2 tbsp water to form a slurry
Instructions
  1. In a small cooking pot, add the blueberries, water, salt and maple syrup and cook for about 4-5 mins until the blueberries turn soft. Add the tapioca slurry and mix on low heat for another 2-3 minutes till you get a thick sauce. Turn heat off and transfer sauce to a container.
  2. Blend all the ingredients under 'nice cream' in a high speed blender until you get a creamy smooth consistency (should be like slightly thawed ice-cream)
  3. Take a tall glass or jar. Add some blueberry sauce on the bottom. Add 'nice cream' on top and drizzle more sauce on top. Top with berries!

 

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.

 

How to Cook Banana Blossom (Vaazha Kodappan Thoran)

 When you are kids, you live in a blissful state…you take everything for granted.  Mom slogs in the kitchen and presents tasty dishes to you which you devour without even pausing to thank her for her hard work and talent. It’s not that you are a spoilt brat or anything …it just never occurs to you to thank her.  Or to peek in the kitchen while she is cooking to see how she does it. Unless of course she calls you out specifically to do a chore. In which case you do oblige as any well raised child would.  As you might have guessed, I wasn’t talking about my kids here. I was talking about myself. And why this sudden self-deprecation? Well, it all started with my buying a banana blossom when I spotted one at our local Indian grocer only to come home to realize my absolute lack of knowledge on how to go about cutting it!  And when I thought of all the times amma had cooked this for us!

So I very enthusiastically bought it one Saturday afternoon and then announced to the Mr with great aplomb that I was going to make ‘Banana Blossom stir fry’ for dinner.  Hubby dear, being the gentleman that he is, politely nodded. I am sure he was wondering in his mind about how I was planning to attack this particular piece of vegetable. Fortunately for him he had to work that weekend and so off he went to his office room leaving me alone in the kitchen to tackle this unknown beast!

I started by staring hard at it a couple times, then gently touching and feeling it. Still no clues. Do we have to remove the petals and cut it one by one or what? I vaguely remembered mom (and sometimes dad) applying coconut oil to their hands while cutting it. Which meant that this was sticky! Hmm…So I quickly googled ‘How to cut banana blossom’ About a handful of posts showed up – some were recipes and then there were a couple good albeit long videos – one from a Bengali food channel and another from a tamilian one.  I sat and watched both those videos.  Finally, I took the banana blossom and stashed it back into the refrigerator.  Husband dear was concerned. What happened hon? I responded ‘Will do it tomorrow – too much work. Plus I will call dad also in the morning first thing’. Okey Dokey, so banana blossom got postponed for the next afternoon.

Next morning had me on the phone with my dad for a good thirty minutes with him explaining me how to clean it and how to cook it too. I was glad I waited – since what dad told me was a bit different than the two videos I watched. Could be due to the regional differences. The thrifty Keralan way was to use up pretty much everything sparing the first one or two petal layers.  So finally I began to feel confident. And embarked on my mission.

As instructed by my dad, I discarded only the first red petal layer. Since the rest of the petals were very tightly attached together which meant that they were tender enough to be used. But I did use the small florets attached to the first two petals. I chopped them up too finely. I removed the tall center husky piece from each floret since I had watched that in one of the videos although my dad didn’t seem to be particularly concerned about taking that off. It is important to place the chopped / shredded pieces into a bowl of water, lightly salted and use coconut oil to oil your hands to prevent that stickiness.  The chopping method suggested by dad was pretty cool (after all he is my dad :)) – Just make horizontal and vertical cuts from the base of the blossom (after first discarding the outer petals) and then shredding the tiny pieces into the bowl of water. I was unable to do it directly from my hand into the bowl of water. So I had to use a cutting board to make the shreds.  Hopefully the step wise pictures below will help you.  Next time, I will try to do a video so you can have a better understanding.

Btw, the stir fry came out fabulous. Maybe the shrimp I decided to add to it last minute added to the flavor too! This was a perfect Paleo meal for me with the shrimp added in! Of course, you can make a vegan version without adding any shrimp and that will still taste fabulous! My dad was pleased to hear of my efforts and I am sure my mom is smiling at me from the heavens – I must have made her proud!

How to Cook Banana Blossom (Vaazha Kodappan Thoran)
Author: 
Recipe type: Side dish, Main course
Cuisine: Kerala
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-5
 
Finely shredded Banana Blossom stir fried in coconut oil with shrimp and shredded coconut mixed with cumin and other spices
Ingredients
  • 1 medium size banana blossom, shredded (see step wise pictures below recipe)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ of a red onion, finely chopped (or 3 pearl onions, chopped)
  • 5-6 fresh curry leaves
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)
  • 6-8 shrimp, chopped up into tiny pieces (optional)
For the coconut masala paste
  • ¾ cup fresh grated coconut (or frozen grated coconut, thawed)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp warm water
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Remove the top one or two layers of petals from the banana blossom until you get tightly fitting layers at which point you don't need to discard them. (I removed only the top one layer)
  2. Fill a large bowl with water. Add 1 tsp of salt and a few drops of lemon juice to avoid discoloration. Mix well.
  3. Hold the banana blossom such that the broad bottom is facing you. Make horizontal and vertical cuts on it by whacking on it using your knife - like you see in the picture below.
  4. Then place it on a cutting board and begin to shred it so you get really tiny shreds. Start moving the shreds into the bowl of salted water.
  5. Finish cutting all the blossom this way and place all the shreds in the bowl of water.
  6. Now strain the water using a large strainer. Squeeze the shredded blossoms to squeeze out maximum water out. Leave in the strainer.
  7. In a food processor, grind the coconut, cumin and garlic with the 2 tbsp of water to get a coarse paste. Do not grind it fine. Keep aside.
  8. In a kadai or a wok style pan, heat the coconut oil.
  9. When hot, add the mustard seeds.When they splutter, add the onions and curry leaves. After a minute, add the shredded blossoms and add the turmeric and red chili powder. Stir fry for 2 -3 minutes. Check for seasoning and add salt as needed (be cautious since the blossoms were soaked in salted water already). Cover and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
  10. Next Add the shrimp and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes till the shrimp is opaque and cooked all the way through.
  11. Finally add the ground coconut masala (paste) and stir fry well for 1 minute or so until well blended. Check for seasoning before turning heat off.
Notes
For AIP version: Skip mustard seeds, cumin seeds and cayenne pepper and double the amount of turmeric