Sunday, January 27, 2008

Njandu Varutharachathu – Crab Cooked in Roasted & Ground Coconut gravy

Crabs…..crabs….crabs…all over…..few on our kitchen counter......few crawling on the kitchen floor……..some breaking my fingers with their claws…..some hanging on my apron…….!!!

This was almost like a nightmare for me whenever I thought of buying crabs from our International store where they sell fresh crabs which literally crawl, on top of one another, in that big container and people are given something like tongs to catch them and put then in a brown paper bag. The only time I curse myself for not staying with my mother in the kitchen and not learning how to clean and cut fresh crabs!! I had to suppress my cravings whenever my mother casually told me , “…oh…we got some crab today…..and I made your favorite Varutharacha curry and it came out very tasty as the crab was really fresh this time….your father was feasting on it.....” Phew!!!! And ever since I started blogging, I was lucky enough to get good blogger friends who religiously posted crab dishes every now and then and made me salivate!!

Finally I decided to conquer my fears of handling crabs and as a first step, I bought some cooked King crab legs from a local store and made some Crab Roast and oh boy, I was floored! It was so flavorful and tasty that I wanted to eat more and try all those scrumptious dishes my mother makes. Luckily last time when we went to the store, I saw the shop assistant at the seafood section cleaning and cutting “the crawling yummies” …….I was uncertain of only one thing, whether to hug the guy or jump up and down!! Though I had my own fears of cooking fresh crab for the time, I bought some and made my favourite Njandu Varutharacha curry or curried crab in roasted ground coconut gravy and yes, I did get some gratification finally! :)

This curried crab in roasted and ground coconut gravy is one of my mother’s specials and one of my favourite seafood preparations. Roasted ground coconut has a distinct and powerful taste and when the seafood flavour is blended with this, it elevates this dish to a whole new level where the aroma is just irresistible. This is a MUST TRY for all crab lovers and when I say it IS a delightful seafood preparation, you have to trust me as even CJJ who has not eaten crab much, especially with the shells, was gorging on this dish and it was sort of funny and cute at the same, him eating the crabs with both his hands :)

  1. 5 medium crabs, thoroughly cleaned and cut into two parts
  2. 3-4 Indian green chillies, crushed
  3. 2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
  4. A small piece, around ½ inch, of ginger crushed
  5. ½ tsp freshly ground pepper powder
  6. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  7. ½ tsp salt
  8. 1 small piece of Kudam-Puli/Gamboge
  9. Water to cook
  10. 1/3 cup small cubed potatoes
For Dry Roasting:
  • 2 ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp chilly powder
For Roasting and Grinding:
  • ½- ¾ cup grated coconut
  • 2 small pearl-red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 small clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 small pinches of fennel seeds/Perinjeerakam
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
For the Masala Powder:
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds/Perinjeerakam
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 small broken 1” inch sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 cardamom
For seasoning:
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • A handful of thinly sliced big onions
  • Make the Masala Powder: Grind the whole spices, noted in the Masala Powder section, to make a fine powdered spice mix.
  • Make roasted & ground coconut Paste: Heat 1 tbsp coconut oil, add grated coconut, thinly sliced small red onions, garlic and fennel seeds and roast, in low heat, till it becomes nice and brown ( do not burn it); put everything in the small jar of mixer or coffee grinder and grind till it turns to be a smooth paste.(Note: If you re using frozen grated coconut, you may have to add few drops of water, while grinding, to make it a paste; please note that adding water dilutes the roasted flavour.)
  • Dry Roasted spice Paste: Dry roast the coriander powder in low heat for few minutes, till the raw smell goes and the colour changes; repeat the same for chilly powder as well, without burning the spice powders at all. Keep these dry roasted powders aside add 1 tbsp water to make a smooth paste.
  • Cooking Crab: In a “curry-chatty” or any earthenware, add all the ingredients from 1 to 10 and add water, just enough to cover all the pieces, and bring it to a boil, in medium heat and cook for around 10 minutes (Note: Crab gets cooked fast). At this stage reduce the heat, add the dry roasted spice paste of coriander powder and chilly powder and bring to a boil and then add the masala powder; stir well and let it boil again. When it boils, add the roasted and ground coconut paste and mix well with the rest of the ingredients in the cooking vessel and let it boil, in low-medium heat and then let it slow cook for some more time or till the gravy gets a bit thick and creamy; Do a salt-test and switch off the stove when it is done. In another pan, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil and splutter mustard seeds, dried red chillies, thinly sliced big onion and sauté till it turns transparent; tear some curry leaves and add it to this seasoning and pour the whole thing to the cooked crab and gently stir to blend the seasoning with the curry; close the lid and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.
  • Serve warm with rice, chappathi (Indian flat bread) or palappam (Kerala’s laced pancakes)
Note: While cleaning the crab, remove the yellow layers and keep the orange ones which is crab eggs. Back home at kerala its called “Ponnu” and add this only towards the end of cooking , i.e just two minutes before turning off the stove prior to the seasoning part. The colour: According to my mother, the color of the curry depends on how well you brown/roast the grated coconut. If the coconut is not browned evenly it will lack the rich dark brown colour which is missing in my pictures. So if you get dark rich brown colour, then it has come out how it has to be.

Crab Roast is already in my drafts and will post it soon. Watch out this space for more crab preparations….. :)

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chukku Kappi – Kerala’s Herbal Coffee & Home Remedy.

When a local politician makes an unsolicited entry at the naming ceremony of a baby and tries hard to be part of that family, cracking a joke or two or giving a helping hand in serving food, thinking he is an indispensable part of the community events, an elderly person, who is not so fond of this politician, from the crowd might sarcastically say, “Chukkillatha Kashayam undo?!” Though in this case it is used colloquially to metaphorically convey the idea that he/she is an all in all and central figure of that community, this popular saying has its origins in Ayurveda, an ancient treatment method that is native to India. Chukku is dry ginger and Kashayam is a herbal combination decoction, a type of medicine in Ayruveda. Chukku/Dry ginger is a significant and vital ingredient in preparing Kashayam as well as a common ingredient in most of the Ayurvedic medicines, because of its digestive properties and hence the literal translation of this saying, “chukkillatha kashayamilla” would be that there is no decoction without chukku/dry ginger.

Those days when I returned from school, feeling feverish with a slight throat infection and cold and lied down there tightly holding on to my blanket, trying all possible ways to attract some “sympathy waves”, from the “Supreme-court” of the family, to get exemption from going to school the next day, I remember my mother slowly going to the kitchen, lighting the stove, grabbing some spice jars and throwing few stuff into pot and then rushing to the front yard to snip off some fresh Tulasi/Holy Basil from that small plant and coming back to my room with a piping hot cup of coffee in her hand. The decoction used to be hot n’ spicy, sweet and aromatic at the same time. Sitting next to me, making sure that I inhaled all that steam coming from the coffee, she used to wait for me till I drank the whole thing and let me sleep. After half an hour or so, I found myself trying to come out of the blanket zone as I would be sweating heavily as the herbal coffee would have kicked out that mild fever which gave a ray of hope, of skipping school, few hours back!! A home remedy that shattered the dreams of an innocent school kid!

Chukku Kappi
is a herbal medicinal decoction using pungent spices like dry ginger, peppercorns, cumin and an aromatic herb like Tulasi/Holy Basil with a touch of jaggery and flavored by coffee or tea. It’s quite strong and spicy and sweet which helps alleviate cough and cold, mild fever, throat infections and nasal congestions. This is the simplest of Kashayam (A type of Ayurvedic medicine) which you can make at home.

After marriage, whenever one of us were down with fever or cold, I used to call up my mother for the right ingredients and measurements for this home remedy and those who have been following this blog, know well that I don’t have the good habit of writing down such things and hence when this routine was repeated two weeks back, I heard a long sigh from my mother, before she gave the pointers, implying that,” Hasn’t she learnt it yet after so many years?! “; so I thought it’s high-time I write it down somewhere before she loses all respect for me, if any!! This post is for all those who are staying away from home, not knowing the simplest home remedies, not wanting to take a Tylenol or a Crocin and searching the net frantically for grandma’s home remedies, to take a mouthful and settle down at your comfort zone, rekindling the memories of a colorful past!

  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tsp coffee powder or tea leaves
  • 1 tsp powdered dry-ginger/chukku OR a small ½ ” piece pounded
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper powder
  • ½- ¾ tsp cumin/jeera powder
  • Jaggery/Sharkkara to taste (I Used 3 cylindrical pieces, like the one in the pic)
  • 6-7 fresh leaves of Tulasi/Holy Basil
  • In a saucepan, heat water and jaggery/sharkkara pieces together; when it starts melting, add the powdered dry –ginger/chukku, pepper powder and cumin powder. When boiling, add the coffee powder and let it continue boiling for a minute and at this stage, add the Tulasi/Holy Basil leaves and turn off the stove and close the pan with a lid.
  • Strain the coffee and pour it to a coffee mug and immediately inhale the steam coming from the coffee. Try to have a facial steam bath and sip the piping hot coffee slowly, enjoying the aroma coming from tulasi and the pungent flavors from the spices. (Note: Consuming more dry ginger may cause constipation and hence please do not take more than 2 servings of Chukku Kappi per day, on sick days)
Here is an interesting read on Chukku and its medicinal benefits.

If you have time, read how Charline, a French belle , in love with Kerala , writes passionately about Chukka kappi in her blog; for the English version click here.

This goes to Meeta’s Comfort Foods and Jyothsna’s RCI- Kerala.


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Parippu Pradhaman/Payasam to celebrate swimming in crocodile pool!

Over an year ago, I was chatting online with my very close friend LJ and as the habit goes we got into a philosophical mood contemplating on things which we have no control over or discussing about dreams and future ventures or pondering over things which we did not pursue and that day also we chewed over many such aspects and somewhere she reminded me of that story of the rich man and his party around the crocodile pool. Am sure most of you have heard this story where the rich man throws a party at his house around a crocodile pool and somewhere in the middle of the party, he poses a challenge to his invitees asking them to swim across the crocodile pool, to receive a great offer. As everyone stands there astounded, someone jumps into the pool, swims through the pool, wrestling with those crocodiles around and reached the other side and everyone crowds him and asks “How did you do it?” and the guy answers,” Someone pushed me in !!!!!

Almost after two weeks or so, after this chat with LJ, I saw myself in a similar pool but unlike the guy in the story, I knew who pushed me into it, none other than my CJJ who created a BlogSpot for me, when he saw me glued to the monitor, admiring all those food bloggers out there and the creative element embossed in the whole thing and not trying out or cooking any recipes from there. I was not at all confident and had my own doubts about maintaining such a place, especially with my track record of not sticking to any hobby for more than a month or so. But now when I look back, I think that was a very clever move from CJJ’s side, as I saw myself trying more recipes and delicacies and also diverting my creative energy into a humble place like this. But the pool I was pushed into was one of very talented and creative group of bloggers in general, instead of crocodiles :D I went through the initial phase of infatuation, then the obsession, honeymoon period and occasional short breaks and here I am, for the first time in my life, still continuing a hobby I was pushed into a year back!!!!

My very first post, written exactly an year ago, was concluded like this:” I don’t know how far I will be able to sustain this new found interest in blogging but as long as I have a bulldozer behind me, yes my CJJ, I will be sharing some of my experiments from the kitchen...and I start my first one here, raising a toast to my parents, my CJJ and to all of you, my friends !! “ CJJ is still the bulldozer, my technical and photography support, and my family, including the one I married into, have been giving me all the support and help they can and my mother being the main contributor and tip provider of most of my recipes, and my great critic as well; but let me tell you, if I have kept this place for one year, all that credit goes to this gracious and wonderful blogging community around me and each of my readers, who gave me continuous encouragement and showered words of appreciation and lovely feedbacks. I am 101% certain that I would have wrapped up this place long back , had YOU not come back to me with that feedback and support.

It has been a great year, knowing a wonderful community, making a handful of good friends, exploring my interests, polishing my skills, learning about various cuisines and last but not the least, bringing variety to our dining table thanks to all those talented bloggers out there! When food bloggers tickled my palette, my non-food blogger friends made me laugh with their wit and humour. Some of you inspired me …some helped me relax. I may not have seen your faces or listened to your voices, but some out there are very close to my heart and I feel a nice rapport with many of you through the little notes and chats we share through the comment section. Let me admit, there were times I wished some of you were staying close to me in the same town!!!!

I have learnt a lot in the last one year and also I would like to thank all those who have come here, read my stories, shared your stories, appreciated me , gave constructive feedback and moreover, tried the recipes from my humble blog and left feedback here. And for all those anonymous readers and those who gave search for “mishmash beef stew ..mishmash fruit cake…mishmash wedding cookies……mishmash chicken roast…..” , and tried out these recipes, “THANK YOU” :)

Let me wrap up this anniversary post the traditional Kerala style, with a traditional dessert :) Parippu Pradhaman/Payasam is a traditional sweet lentil pudding, served as part of sadya, a grand feast, a vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf, as part of any auspicious occasions like marriage, child-birth, birthday celebrations, house-warming ceremonies or marking any happy occasions in Kerala. This is one of my favourite traditional desserts and at my father’s place, it was prepared in a big Uruli, a wide mouthed bell metal vessel (shown in the pictures) and I remember my aunts stirring it with a Chattukam, a heavy brass spatula and this process is called ”Payasam Verakal/varattal”. The thought of crushing Pappadam (Indian wafers) squishing ripe bananas onto the Pradhaman/payasam served on a banana leaf itself is enough to make my mouth water to sail a ship ! To view a picture of traditional sadya, click here and read more here.

Ingredients for Parippu Pradhaman/Payasam OR Sweet lentil Pudding:
  • ½ cup Cherupayar parippu/split Moong dal/ dried yellow split dal of green gram
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup melted and filtered black/brown Sharkkara/jaggery, medium-thick consistency
  • 1 cup thin coconut milk/Monnaampaal
  • ½ cup semi-thick coconut milk/Randaampaal
  • ½ cup thick coconut milk/Thanipaal
  • 1tbsp ghee + 1 ½ tbsp ghee
  • A handful of cashew nuts
  • A handful of thin & small coconut slices/Thangakothu
  • 3 whole cardamoms crushed
  • A small pinch of salt
  1. Heat a pressure cooker and dry roast the Cherupayar parippu/Moong dal/dried yellow split dal, till it is hot to touch and add 1 ½ cups of water and cook till it is soft. (Note: You may use your convenient method to cook dal)
  2. Once the steam and the sizzling sound goes off, open the cooker and mash the dal with the back of a spoon, to the consistency of a baby food.
  3. Heat a big saucepan/Kadai or Uruli; add the mashed dal and the melted and filtered sharkkara/jaggery together, with a small pinch of salt, in low heat, till it turns into a thick and almost dry consistency. You need to keep stirring to avoid this mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. When it reaches the required consistency, add a tablespoon of ghee and blend everything together and turn off the stove. (Note: At this stage , once it cools down and comes to room temperature, you can refrigerate the whole thing for a long time, even up to an year; but please keep in mind that its refrigeration life depends on how well you have “varatti/veraki”- the dal, meaning how well you have made the dal+jaggery mixture into a thick and almost dry consistency)
  4. At this stage, add a cup of thin coconut milk/Monnaampaal, stir well and then let it boil, in low heat. When it is boiling add the ½ cup semi-thick coconut milk/Randaampaal and bring it to a boil and when it is boiling fully, pour the ½ cup thick coconut milk/Thanipaal and again bring it to a boil; add the crushed cardamoms , stir well and then switch off the stove.
  5. In another small pan, heat 1½ tbsp ghee and fry some broken cashews and keep aside; fry some small coconut slices/Thangakothu, till its turns golden brown in colour and pour everything, both the broken cashews and coconut slices, including the leftover ghee to the Payasam/Pradhaman and serve warm after 30 minutes.
Note: Parippu Pradhaman/Payasam has a general tendency to thicken once it rests for sometime and hence, even-though the Pradhaman/Payasam may look more liquid-y at the end of the preparation, the 30 minutes resting window is enough to get its semi-thick consistency. Also note that the taste of the Pradhaman/Payasam is purely dependent on the Sharkkara/jaggery – coconut milk proportion and hence go generous on the latter but use jaggery according to your sweet tolerance. Coconut milk is a significant ingredient in enhancing the taste. The above measurement is as per our family’s taste preferences; feel free to adjust the proportions. This tastes better if you are using freshly squeezed coconut milk but canned coconut milk, diluted with water, is also good. Also, I used canned coconut milk and hence those who are using freshly extracted coconut-milk, should be going for more quantity as the consistency differs; hence make changes accordingly as coconut-milk is the taste enhancer here. Adjust the number of crushed cardamoms based on its strength. Some home grown ones are quite strong. As I noted earlier, you can stop at the third stage and refrigerate it for a long time and complete the 4th & 5th steps when it is needed. Again the colour of the payasam is dependent on the colour of the sharkkara/jaggery you use; so make sure that it has that rich dark brown colour.

I wish this post was more than a virtual one to share a cup of Parippu Pradhaman/Payasam with you all !

This goes to RCI-Kerala, hosted at Currybazaar and Susan’s My Legume Love affair.

I know this was a mile long post, but those who know me got it right, “yeah….I cant help it!” :)

UPDATE: For Sadya recipes check out SADYA VIBHAVANGAL - Learn to make the traditional Kerala Feast- An Artist’s Edible Palette !


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Hand-made Baby Booties on an edible shoe-stand!

Just got back home from a get-together…I know it’s quite unusual on a Sunday night, atleast in our case and I knew I had some unfinished task to attend to before I hit the sack…blogging ! Ever since the holidays started blogging had taken a backseat, especially with the short break ….without beating around the bush, let me admit that I don’t have a decent post for the first post of the year….and luckily these are some of the pictures I found in my drafts; hand-crafted baby booties made of gum paste/sugar paste placed on a layered cake! This cake was designed and prepared for a cute little new- born baby boy and his parents, when we visited them around 3 months back. It’s a basic white cake recipe flavored with lemon zests and layered with butter cream and crushed fresh berries. For decoration, I piped sotas all over the cake, one of the easiest techniques to cover the cake and borders were decorated with blue Forget-Me-Nots flowers, again made of gum paste. Initially I was thinking of lining the borders with blue daisies but later opted for Forget-Me-Nots, for their simplicity. These gum paste baby booties can be saved and will stay for long, if stored properly.

That’s it for the week! I promise I will come back with a recipe next week :D

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.