about all things hot'n'spicy , sweet'n'crazy

Kerala

Falling in Love in India

Some general ranting followed by a  Raw banana stir fry.

Last week I read 2 states by Chetan Bhagat,  a long overdue , and  fell in love with the book and author. I realised you ain’t need to do complex empirical calculations to know why this man has a huge fan following among Indian youth. I flipped through the pages  and I was asking myself how could everyone in India who falls in love goes through the exact same series of events.

Falling in love in India and getting married to the same person is an achievement on it’s own. One may wonder why? The reason is that in India falling in love is not just a natural phenomenon as one grows up. It has to be a well planned and executed task. The top rules to fall in love in India:

  1. Is the boy/girl from same caste(same religion isn’t always enough)?
  2. Are they from the same state (Yeah we all are Indians, but we belong to our respective states than to the country itself).
  3. Do they have same social background ?
  4. Do they have similar educational qualification? (If girl is an engineer the boy “atleast” has to be an engineer!)
  5. Above all can their families get along well(You know marriage is not just about the 2 individuals , it’s about 2 families starting a lifelong relationship!)

In short falling in love in India is the modern approcah to arranged marriages where parents can show how modern they are by letting their children choose their life partner(huh!). I’m sure there are exceptions but the numbers are too few in comparison.

Now from a complex/complicated recipe of life to a simple “raw banana stir fry”.In Kerala just after the first monsoon, it’s the season of  Bananas. Kerala banana , as they are commonly called, are a variety of banana native to Kerala – a southern Indian state. It’s one giant banana and firmer than the usual varieties. The banana chips made from the raw banana is a famous  export  from Kerala to the world of savoury snacks . From breakfast to dinner there is always something with banana during that season and needless to say after the initial excitement it’s just the patent wait for it to get over. The “mother” used to make a simple “ethakkaa mezhukkupuratti” (raw banana stir fry)  and the recipe follows.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 500 gm of Raw banana, skin off and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1-2 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 pods of Garlic crushed

Method:

Cook the banana with 1-2 tbsp water, chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt for about 5 mins or until they are cooked but firm. Take care not to over cook the banana as they will get mushy when stir fried.

In a non-stick pan heat oil, add crushed garlic and when they start to brown add the cooked banana and fry on low until it’s roasted well. Serve with rice and a good helping of “moru curry”.

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A thing to love or despise?

Banana heart /flower  stir fry with mung daal and coconut .

Often in life we look down upon things that come to us free.Most of the times in the course of life we realise  that some of best things in life are free .But sometimes the realisation happens only when it’s no longer free.This truth of life even applies to a simple banana flower/heart.Did  I ever think that one day I would have to travel about 2 hours and pay 5 pounds for a banana flower.The answer is no.To me this was always something that was readily available in mom’s vegatable garden in the backyard of the house.

The banana flower in one form or another had its place on our dinner table and to me that was only because it was “there” pleading to be to be picked up.Needless to say, I wasn’t very appreciative of it’s taste and it’s nutrition quotient.Things changed drastically after I moved here and now this dish enjoys a top spot in the list of things I crave for.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 Banana flower , cleaned, chopped finely.
  • ½ cup moong dal cooked
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Salt to taste

To Grind

  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 4-5 green chillies
  • 2-3 Garlic pods
  • ½ tsp Cumin

For seasoning

  • ½ tsp Mustard seeds
  • A few Curry leaves
  • 1 tsp finely chopped Shallot/Onion
  • 1 tsp Oil

Method

Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan.Add finely chopped banana flower and cook for about 6-8 minutes.Add the cooked moong dal, ground coconut paste and salt.Cover and cook for further 5-8 minutes.Add 2-3 tbsp of water if the mixture is getting stuck to pan.Remove from fire when its done.

For seasoning, heat oil in a pan , add mustard seeds.When it starts to splutter add shallots/onion and curry leaves.Fry till the onion is brown.Pour the seasoning over the cooked banana flower mixture.

Best served with rice and a generous helping of curried buttermilk (moru kachiyathu).

Note: To clean the flower , discard the deep purple coloured outer layers of the flower (bracts) and use only the lightly coloured densely packed inner core .Finely chop it and soak  immediately in buttermilk for about 10  minutes to get rid of its bitterness.


From my Father’s Food Memoirs

Stir fried Beef with shallots.

This is the story of a young boy who lived in a small town in Kerala. He was the youngest among his six brothers and this earned him special privileges in the family. One of the privileges of his life then was that he would always get a portion of  special dishes cooked for the elders of the family. It was very common in those days to save the best dishes for the head of the family and to be able to have a taste of those was a rare treat. He would wait to have dinner with his dad when ever his mother prepared this special beef fry and his dad never disappointed him. Days and years went by, everything around him changed but his love for the beef fry his mother made  remained the same.

This young boy is my father and every time he narrates this story to us he would be beaming with joy. You would be surprised to know this beef fry has proven to have medicinal powers and works better than antipyretic in treating fever in the case of my dad. Every time he falls sick my mother makes sure he gets a dose of his mom’s beef fry along with the tablets. This is definitely the ultimate comfort food for him not just for taste but for the flood of memories it brings back.

I am excited to share the recipe with you and you would be amazed to know a beef fry recipe can’t get any simpler.

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 500 gms of Beef cut into bite sized pieces
  • 5-6 Green chillies split lengthways
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Ginger
  • 1 cup Indian Shallots halved
  • 1-2 tsp of White Vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Sprig of curry leaves
  • 1-2 tsp oil

Method

Wash the beef and place in a pressure cooker. Add 1/2 cup of water and salt to taste and cook for about  10 minutes after the first whistle. Alternatively, you can cook the beef in a regular pan with enough water to cover the beef for about 30 minutes until the meat is soft. Make sure there is at least  half a cup of stock remaining in the pan at the end of cooking.

Add  the chopped shallots, chopped ginger, slit green chillies and vinegar to the beef and cook until all the liquid in the pan is gone.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan .Transfer the contents of pressure cooker to the pan. Add curry leaves and fry it on a low flame until the meat is browned as seen in the picture.

Serve it as side for rice or even better use it as filling for your tortilla wrap.


The harmonious union of Spinach and Lentil

Spinach – Lentil curry with ground coconut.

I had the privilege to enjoy fresh home made lunch for about a month when my parents visited me last summer. I would impatiently wait for the clock to tick 12 to rush home to savour the mom-made lunch. No, 12’O clock is never too early for lunch especially when it’s cooked by mommie dearest. It was during one of those merrier days I had this curry that tasted very similar to my old favourite “Paruppu curry” but greener in appearance. I was told that it was  “cheera paruppu curry” , translates to spinach lentil curry,  and it featured often in our menu (!) during my growing up years in Kerala. I am not too sure about this claim and didn’t bother to care much as I was too busy wiping off every bit of the curry left on my plate.

Now lets move to the apparently not so new spinach with mung daal curry.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of finely chopped Spinach
  • ½ cup Mung daal
  • ½ tsp Turmeric
  • ½ tsp Chilli powder
  • Salt to taste

To Grind

  • 2-3 Green chillies
  • 3 tbsp grated Coconut
  • ½ tsp Cumin seeds
  • 2-3 Shallots

For seasoning

  • ½ tsp Mustard seeds
  • A few Curry leaves
  • 1 tsp finely chopped Shallot
  • 1 Red Chilli
  • 1 tbsp Oil/Ghee

Method

Cook the Mung Daal in a regular pan or pressure cooker with the chilli powder, turmeric powder and enough water to cover.

While Daal is being cooked , grind all the ingredients listed under  the “To grind” section to a fine paste. Sauté the finely chopped spinach until it’s wilted. Once the Daal is soft add the spinach, salt and  coconut paste to the Daal and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a small frying pan, heat oil/ghee and add the mustard seeds. When it starts to splutter, add the rest of the seasoning ingredients and fry until the shallots are browned. Pour this over the curry and  leave it covered till it is served. My mom adds thinly sliced shallots to most of the seasoning and I can vouch that it definitely enhances the taste.

This tastes great when served with rice alongside an accompaniment of fried pappads and lime pickle.