p Box o' Spices: December 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hotel Chicken Kurma

Some days you suddenly remember a dish you ate somewhere and know you cant get it where you live. I live in Hyderabad and have always felt the lack of a good south indian non veg restaurant. I grew up in POndicherry and there was a restaurant (or should i say "hotel") called "Salem biryani hotel". It was one of those places where you cant really have a cosy meal but the food is to die for. They made the best biryani and fish fry. In later years I got exposed to the chettinad and military style restaurants in Chennai. Particularly Ponnuswamy. They served a watery chicken kurma. It was unlimited and they just had pots of it and walked around serving it. You could order idly or idiappam (Rs.4 per piece during my college days) and have a yummy meal in under 20 Rs thanks to the chicken kurma. This was not a rich gravy or one with lots of chicken. It was a yellow, thin gravy.

So anyway, a decade later, here I am in Hyderabad suddenly wanting that chicken gravy. I try to remember what it was like. I know it was yellow. and the chicken was very soft. almost falling off the bone. It was mostly bones i think... they probably made it with bones leftover from all the other chicken dishes. It was not very spicy. After browsing around for similar looking dishes, here's my attempt at recreating it, and I must admit, it was pretty close.

Set 1:
Jeera -1 tsp
Saunf - 1 tsp
Khus khus - 1 tsp
Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
cardamom - 2
Cinnamon - 1 inch
Cashews - 8-10

Set 2:
Green chilies - 5
Grated coconut - 0.5 cup
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Shallots (small onions) - a handful (about 50 grams). peeled and sliced
mint leaves - about 15
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp
Dalia / pottu kadalai - 1 tbsp

Set 3:
turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder - 1 tsp or to taste (I added kashmirilal mirchi, so it came out a bit red)
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp

Dry roast ingredients in set 1. Fry set 2 in a tsp of oil. Grind together the 3 sets into a smooth paste adding water as needed.

Onions - 4 medium (200 grams) - chopped fine
Tomato - 2 - chopped fine
Jeera - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Chicken - 1 kg. cut into small pieces

Heat some oil, add jeera. Then add onions and fry till soft. Add the tomatoes and fry till soft. Add the masasla paste and salt and cook for 2 min. Then add the chicken, lemon juice and cook for another 2 minutes mixing well. Add water and pressure cook for 3 whistles. You have to pressure cook a bit more than usual, so that the chicken gets very soft. Open the pressure cooker and check the chicken. Boil with lid open for a while if necessary. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. This goes well with plain white rice, biryani or a plain ghee rice. We had it with paati's Thengai sadam.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Vatha Kozhambu

Sra's event Grindless gravies got me thinking so much this week that I decided I had to send an entry being the biggest fan of no fuss meals and all. I realised that I use the "mixie" more than I thought I did. All curries that went with chapati - kurmas, makhnis (I guess you could make one with tomato puree and onions chopped very fine), and even chole these days involved some level of grinding. I think having the blender on the countertop (as opposed to in a cabinet having to get it out everytime I needed it) has increased the amount of grinding I do. I guess that proves that the more accessible any gadget is the more dependent on it we get. Then I thought I found my grindless dish. Sambar. I almost started typing and then i see... no lentils. hmm.. now sambar isnt really a dal, but it probably still wont qualify. I then gave up.

Today was one of those days when the fridge is full yet there is nothing to cook. No eggs, no vegetables. Went down to the kirana store down the street and all they had was dondakaya (kovakkai). Got those for a poriyal. I finally decided on making vatha kozhambu. Halfway into cooking I realised what a perfect grindless gravy it was.

Here's a simple vatha kozhambu:

You'll need:
Onions: 2 chopped
Shallots: a handful chopped (optional, but it gives a nice flavour. you could replace the regular onions with more shallots if you want too.)
Garlic: 1 (yes we use a lot of garlic, you could cut down if you want. the garlic soaks up and gets tangy... its not all that garlicky after that) or about 10-15 cloves
Seasoning: mustard, urad dal, some toor dal, manathakkali vathal, curry leaves
Vatha kozhambu podi - 3 tsp (can replace with combination of sambar powder and red chili powder)
Tamarind paste (I used paste this time because it was supposed to be an 'easy' version, but there was no compromise on the taste): 1 spoon
Jaggery: 1-2 spoons
Sesame oil: 1-2 tsp (optional)

Heat some oil, add the seasoning, and then add the shallots, garlic and onions and fry well. Then add vatha kozhambu podi and salt. Fry for a few seconds an then add about 2 cups of water. Bring it to a good boil and then add the tamarind paste. Now let this boil for about 15 min to thicken. (If you are in a hurry, add a spoon of rice powder to thicken but if you have the time do let it boil on a low flame for some time. It really helps) The kozhambu should get to a maple syrup consistency. Now add some powdered jaggery and mix. The jaggery should be just enough to make it tangy but not sweet. Add the sesame oil, mix and you're done.Serve with white rice. I especially like this with fried vathal (vadams).

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cooking from the blogs... Date cake

Although I have not posted anything, I have been checking all the wonderful blogs regularly. And with so many new blogs now its just amazing how many of us share this common interest. I am so impressed with some of you who post so regularly. I find some reason or other. The picture didnt turn out ok, or I have already blogged about the dish I cooked, or we ate it before I could take the picture, and so on. I have also been drooling over all the wonderful food pictures out there. I'm sure a lot of effort goes into planning the shot and maybe even working on the picture after the shot has been taken.

There is one recipe that I go back to and judging by the number of comments on the post its obvious that everyone else loves it too. It's Shilpa's Date cake. Its was so yummy that my daughter who generally rejects anything sweet ate a slice and even asked for more. I had set the timer on the microwave and the power went off somewhere midway, and so I have no idea how long I baked it. I think it must have been a bit longer than needed, because the middle of the cake sunk a little. But it was still as delicious as it can be. I am going to bake it again this week.