Arbi/ Baby Taro in Spicy Yoghurt Curry (Chembu Moru Curry)

Food spells memories, for all of us. But there are some dishes, the very thought of which opens an overwhelming floodgate of memories. This dish does that to me!

I have eaten this baby taro in spicy yogurt curry, (otherwise known as chembu moru curry in my native language) as long as I can remember. Though I am a great veggie lover, there are a few which are my strong favourites of which taro or arbi features at the top.

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All through my childhood, my mum used to prepare this traditional Kerala curry which goes perfectly with steamed white rice; add a side of fried fish and it is bliss on a plate. (I am sure the ‘Mallus’ are drooling at this stage).

But once I left home for higher studies, this dish became a rarity in my life. I used to crave like crazy for this chembu moru curry but to no avail. I still remember distinctly the first vacation when I went home and my mum had made this for lunch. I sat there with an overwhelming feeling looking at my plate, not wanting to finish the meal wondering when I will get to eat it next. Even though I was so grateful to my mum for understanding my hidden desires, I never even thought of thanking her on that day. A simple thanks would have made her so happy, but it took me years to learn the art of saying ‘thanks’ to my parents.

And every vacation, this dish would be a feature on the day I arrived home or at least the next one. Even after marriage and learning to cook this dish, my dad would source these for my mum when he knew I was visiting saying ‘she likes it so much, make it for lunch’ much to the chagrin of my siblings (they do not share my enthusiasm for this taro in spicy yoghurt curry).

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It’s a little hard to find the same variety of baby taro as used in Kerala, and I have to rely on the frozen ones. I have tried this dish with the locally available taro which tastes delicious too but whenever the memory strikes, I have to make the same using the frozen ones.

And every single time, I make it today and feed my son, I say a silent thanks inside to my parents for showing their love in such simple ways.

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Ingredients:

1. 200 gm Baby Taro/Arbi /Chembu; peeled and diced
2. 2 cups yoghurt/curd(thick curd which is not too tart is best)
3. 4 tbsp grated coconut
4. ¾ tsp Red chilli powder
5. ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
6. 3 sprigs Curry leaves
7. 2 cloves Garlic
8. ½ tsp Jeera/cumin seeds
9. ½ tsp Mustard seeds
10. 3 Dry red chilli
11. 2 tbsp Coconut/vegetable oil
12. Salt, to season

Method:

• Cook the chembu/arbi pieces along with red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and half of the curry leaves in a deep pan or pressure cooker.
• Blend curd, coconut, jeera and garlic with a little water (the consistency has to be creamy and slightly thick, not runny)
• Once the arbi/chembu has cooked, add the curd mixture and bring to boil; remove from heat.
• Meanwhile, make a tadka using mustard seeds, curry leaves and dry red chilli and add this to the above.
• Serve hot with steamed rice.

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Do you have a special dish like this in your life? Which one would it be?

Adzuki Beans Curry with Kadai Spice Blend

Adzuki beans are small reddish beans commonly used in Japanese and Chinese cooking. In fact, the name ‘adzuki’ is of Japanese origin. In the East Asian cuisine, these red beans are common in sweets and desserts, often used as a paste or boiled with milk to make a reduction.

In India, dishes using adzuki beans can be commonly found in Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Referred to as Lal Chavali in Marathi which literally means red cowpea, chori in Gujarathi or ravaa’n in Punjabi, these beans are often used in chaats (Indian street food). I am not quite sure if there are other traditional dishes using these beans. If you know anything more about it, please do write to me and let me know.

I first came across adzuki beans at the local market; though the beans looked familiar to many others, I knew I had not cooked or tasted it before. So a pack of these came home with me and I have been trying out many dishes, especially Indian ones with these red beans.

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Recently, I made a batch of the kadai spice blend which is commonly used to flavour Indian curries. And it suddenly struck me to combine this spice blend with the adzuki beans and come up with an Indian curry of sorts.

This adzuki bean curry is as Indian as it gets; the curry paste is prepared by caramelizing onions and aromatics to which tomatoes and finally the spice blend gets added. Just like any other lentil, it is best to soak these beans overnight and then cook the following day to reduce cooking times. And yes, if you have the Indian pressure cooker, life is bliss!

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Like I mentioned, the kadai spice blend is quite common in North Indian cuisine and a regular feature in all restaurant menus. Quite a versatile blend incorporating the flavours of coriander, cumin, fennel, cardamom and bay leaf, this blend can be used in other Indian curries too, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

So, here is the method to prepare Indian style adzuki beans curry with kadai spice blend;

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Ingredients:

1. 2 cups adzuki beans, soaked overnight
2. 2 red onions, finely chopped
3. 2 ripe red tomatoes, finely chopped
4. 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5. 1 inch ginger, finely chopped
6. 1 tea bag
7. 5 sprigs coriander leaves, finely chopped
8. Salt, to taste
9. 2 tsp kadai spice blend
10. ½ tsp turmeric powder
11. 1 tsp red chilli powder
12. 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil

Kadai Spice Blend:

This makes around half a bottle of spice blend; store the excess in an airtight container.

1. 6 tbsp coriander seeds
2. 1 tbsp fennel seeds
3. 1 tbsp cumin seeds
4. 1 ½ tsp black peppercorns
5. 8 green cardamom
6. 2 black cardamom
7. 1 inch cinnamon stick
8. 2 dried bay leaf
9. 10 dry kashmiri red chillies

Method:

To prepare the spice blend:

1. Dry roast all the ingredients (and as always, take care not to burn). Cool and grind to a fine powder. When dry roasting spices, remove from the pan onto a parchment or baking paper after switching off flame. Never leave it in the same pan itself as the spices continue to roast in the residual heat.


To prepare the curry:

2. In a deep pan or pressure cooker, heat oil and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Saute till the onions have caramelized well.
3. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook till the tomatoes turn mushy.
4. Turn down the heat and add all the spices. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
5. Add the washed and soaked beans along with a tea bag (use an ordinary tea bag and not the flavoured ones). Adding the tea bag is optional; this is only to lend the deep dark colour to the dish and does not really add much flavour to the dish.
6. Season with salt and add 2 cups of water. Cook till the beans are done to the consistency you like.
7. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
8. Serve hot with rice or flat breads.

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Murgh Dahi Kebab with Spicy Mint Pesto

Ever since I became a food blogger, I have been on a cookbook winning spree. I am not particularly sure how this happens, but I seem to win most giveaways I enter especially if the prize features a cookbook. And I must say, it’s quite a pleasurable thing; building up my cookbook library!

One of the first ones I received is a copy of the cookbook,‘Around the World with the Tadka Girls’ by Ranjini Rao and Ruchira Ramanujam. These beautiful and spirited girls are the faces behind Tadka Pasta, where you can find a large repertoire of fusion recipes.

I won this cookbook as part of a giveaway hosted by ‘My Diverse Kitchen.’ Thanks a lot Aparna for the opportunity and sorry for blogging about it so late. Since the contest was open only for those with an Indian address, the book was shipped to my home back in India and it took a considerable time to get it to Melbourne.

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A bit about the book; it is a simple cookbook with a bunch of well tested recipes and a lot of fusion twists. What strikes one immediately is the humbleness of the book and the passion of the authors. It is not one of those fancy coffee table cookbooks with glossy photographs but one that prompts you to cook from it every single day.

One of the recipes I tried out from the book and especially loved are these Murgh Dahi Kebabs which I served a la burger style with Spicy Mint Pesto.

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There is a bit of history about the origins of this dish in the book. The use of yoghurt or thick curds to flavour and tenderize the meat is an ancient Middle Eastern practice which arrived in India too. Whether it is Turkey, Athens or Rajasthan, you will find dahi kebabs a prominent feature with variations according to the region.

In India, hung curd is used which is a thick, creamier version to the regular yoghurt/curd. A very easy procedure which can be done right at home, hung curd adds the rich, creamy and delicious texture and flavour to the chicken kebabs.

In this recipe, there is of course the tadka twist which is the addition of a medley of Indian spices to the chicken mince and hung curd. The kebabs are succulent and you can serve it as a starter or in a burger format like I did with a spicy mint pesto.

Coriander mint chutney is the traditional Indian accompaniment to these Murgh dahi kebabs but of course, inspired by the tadka girls, I also ended up with a twist of my own. Delicious, fresh pesto flavoured with mint and a hint of chilli is perfect with these juicy kebabs.

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Recipe for spicy mint pesto adapted from here.

Ingredients:

For the hung curd:

1. 2 cups regular yoghurt/curd
2. Cheesecloth

For the kebabs:

3. 400gms chicken mince
4. 1 cup fresh coriander leaves
5. 1 cup fresh mint leaves
6. 2 spring onions
7. 5 green chillies
8. ½ cup hung curd
9. 1 tsp cumin powder
10. ½ tsp garam masala
11. ½ tsp black pepper powder
12. ½ tsp kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves
13. Salt, to season
14. 1 tsp vegetable oil
15. Vegetable oil, for shallow frying


For the mint pesto:

16. 2 tbsp. toasted pinon nuts (pine nuts)
17. 1 cup packed mint leaves
18. ¼ cup olive oil
19. Juice from one lime
20. 1 raw garlic clove
21. 1 tbsp. minced onion
22. 1 tsp honey
23. ½ tsp. red chilli flakes
24. Salt, to season

Method:


To prepare hung curd:

• Line a cheesecloth in a bowl and add 2 cups of yoghurt/curd into it. Gather the sides of the cloth into a bundle, knot at the top and hang to let the excess whey drain out, for at least 6-8 hours or overnight. Since it was cold here, I let the cloth hang over my sink; you could place it in your refrigerator too, especially if keeping overnight.


To prepare kebabs:

• Finely chop ingredients 4-7 in a processor or by hand.
• In a pan, heat 1 tsp oil and sauté the chopped ingredients for just a minute.
• Add this to the chicken mince along with hung curd and the spices. Season with salt.
• Mix well and shape into small patties. Keep aside or refrigerated till it’s time to cook.
• In a flat pan, heat oil and shallow fry the kebabs till done.


To prepare pesto:

• Lightly toast the pine nuts.
• Put all mint pesto ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
• Transfer to a serving container and refrigerator until ready to use.

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These Murgh dahi kebabs can be served as a starter with this spicy mint pesto dip. Or serve it in a burger style with the kebabs inside a bun and spoon over the mint pesto.

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Scandinavian Pumpkin and Potato Soup

Today, I am going to talk about a topic that is increasingly becoming important to me – buying locally.

When I started off my life in Australia as a new migrant, my shopping habits were similar to scores of others – buy decently good products at the lowest price possible without a care where or how the product is sourced. But as my life evolved here, especially as my blogging journey took off, I started to become more aware of where my products came from, especially the produce and food I eat.

The benefits of buying local produce are immense. To start with, it is an immense boost to the local economy. It is giving back to the community, to the farmers, who toil so hard and relentlessly to bring us the best food possible.

It is about eating healthy; local and seasonal produce are much fresher and likely to have lesser chemicals than the ones bought in from other countries.

It is about supporting local and small business owners who are being forced to shut up shop due to the pressure of competing with foreign businesses and not finding enough customers for their produce.

I know that locally sourced produce can sometimes be slightly more expensive and there is no dearth for cheap imports too. And I also know money is important to all of us. But if you are willing to look around, attend local farmer’s market than big chain supermarkets or food stores, you will find plenty of produce for reasonable prices that fit right into your budget.

And sometimes, it is ok to spend a few extra cents or dollars; look at the long term and not the short term benefits. So which ever part of the world you live in, take a little effort to find out where your food comes from and do your bit to support local farmers and businesses.

So, that’s what I did for this recipe; visited the nearby farmer’s market and bought a couple of locally grown small pumpkins and potatoes.

Today’s recipe is a rich, creamy, luscious, Scandinavian pumpkin and potato soup flavoured with coconut milk, toasted sesame seeds and red chillies.

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A simple and easy to make soup with robust flavours; you could call it a winter soup as it is a hearty and warming dish. But for me, it works in all seasons; I could enjoy a bowl of soup at any time of the day in any season.

For me, the highlight of this soup is the toasted sesame seeds, chillies and coriander leaf garnish. Silky smooth, creamy, sweet pumpkin and potato soup, flavoured with nutty sesame seeds, fiery chillies and the freshness of coriander leaves.

Recipe Courtesy – Le Creuset, The Scandinavian Way to Cook

Here’s how you prepare Scandinavian pumpkin and potato soup;

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Ingredients:

1. 500gm small pumpkin, diced
2. 3 large potatoes, diced
3. 4 garlic cloves, peeled
4. 2 medium red onions, diced
5. 2 tbsp olive oil
6. 2 tsp thyme
7. 1 green chilli, finely chopped
8. 2 cups fresh coconut milk
9. 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
10. 2 tbsp lemon juice
11. 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
12. 2 sprigs fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
13. Salt, to taste
14. Freshly milled black pepper, to taste

Method:

1. Heat olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the diced pumpkin, potato and onions. Add thyme and chopped green chilli. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add coconut milk and enough water to just cover the vegetables and slow cook for 40-50 minutes till the vegetables are tender and soft.
3. Toast the sesame seeds and keep aside.
4. Cool and blend the soup. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. (Make sure to taste the soup before seasoning and add accordingly.)
5. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, red chilli and coriander leaves.
6. Serve hot with bread of choice.

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Spicy Dragon – a Review

My first restaurant review!

And before we get into it, let me say that I am not a professional reviewer or critic. I have a fair understanding and knowledge of food and cuisines, based on which this review is written. It is an honest opinion of what I felt about the food, ambience, service etc…

Spicy Dragon, located at Carnegie, is an easy place to get to as it is situated near the metro station. The cuisine is predominantly Indo-Chinese and hence you are likely to rub shoulders with many Indians here. The Chinese would never understand what we have done to their cuisine!

There is not much in terms of ambience at Spicy Dragon. Mostly frequented by families and large groups, the place is noisy and boisterous. So if you are looking for a cozy, intimate dinner for two, then this is definitely not the place. But if you are part of a large group of friends with kids in tow, then you will fit in right with the crowd.

Weekends can get really busy at this place so it is strongly recommended to book a table ahead especially if you are a large group. We had booked one which ensured that we had a table waiting our arrival. Again, not much in terms of customer service; even on weekends, the place seems to be understaffed so expect a bit of a wait.

The bar is quite a basic one, so we settled down with glasses of lemon lime bitter and the house reds.

The menu is quite extensive and you have a good choice of dishes to choose from. We started the dinner with two soups; a Chicken corn and Tom yum soup (again, with chicken). Both were quite average fare and nothing much to write about.

Chicken corn soup

Chicken corn soup

Tom yum soup

Tom yum soup

And for starters, it was a double round of Chicken lollipop. Anyone who has been exposed to Indian cuisine would know that this is the most ordered non vegetarian starter in any Indian restaurant. Perfectly fried chicken drumsticks coated with a mélange of spices, the dish didn’t disappoint and I would strongly recommend it at Spice Dragon.

Chicken lollipop

Chicken lollipop

For the main course, we ordered two types of rich dishes; Chicken fried rice and Schezwan mixed fried rice. What I liked about the rice dishes is the use of plenty of vegetables especially those used in Chinese cooking which is not very typical for Indo-Chinese rice dishes. Both the rice dishes were flavourful but not the best I have eaten.

Chicken fried rice

Chicken fried rice

Schezwan mixed fried rice

Schezwan mixed fried rice

And the other mains were Chicken manchurian, Chilli chicken and Schezwan fish. The first two were again average but I did enjoy the flavours of the Schezwan fish; a nice hit of chilli but not too fiery, the fish was succulent, just cooked and coated with delicious schezwan sauce.

Chicken manchurian

Chicken manchurian

Chilli chicken

Chilli chicken

Schezwan Fish

Schezwan Fish

My rating – 3/5

Details:

Spicy Dragon
3/23, Koornang Road
Carnegie, VIC 3163
Phone: (03) 95715668.

http://www.spicydragon.com.au/


Restaurant Timings:

Lunch hours:
Sunday – 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Monday – Closed
Tuesday – 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Wednesday – 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Thursday – 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Friday – 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Saturday – 12:00 am – 3:00 pm

Dinner Hours
Sunday – 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Monday – CLOSED
Tuesday-Thursday 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Friday – Saturday 5pm – 11:00pm

Fish Mappas

Today, I am not going to spend much time talking to all of you. School holidays are on here and my boys have demanded some exclusive family time, without work getting in the way.

So it is straight on to the recipe today….

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From the backwaters of Kerala, fish mappas is a true culinary representation of the region. Get hold of the freshest fish that you can and let it indulge in a spicy marinade. Shallow fry and then let the succulent fish pieces soak in a spicy coconuty gravy….perfect with white steamed rice or soft phulkas (flat bread). I was in the mood for fusion and so teamed it with this beetroot and curry leaf rice.

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Ingredients:

1. ½ kg fish (any type), I used basa fillets but this recipe works for all kinds of fish
2. Vegetable oil, to shallow fry the fish

For marination:

3. ½ tsp Red chilli powder
4. ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
5. ½ tsp Black pepper
6. ½ tsp Ginger paste
7. ½ tsp Garlic paste
8. Salt, to season
9. 1 tsp vinegar

For gravy:

10. ¼ tsp mustard seeds
11. 2 medium red onion, finely sliced
12. ½ inch ginger, grated
13. 3 green chilli, chopped finely
14. 3 Garlic cloves, grated
15. 3 sprigs curry leaves
16. ½ tsp turmeric powder
17. Salt, to season
18. 1 tsp coriander powder
19. ½ tsp red chilli powder
20. 1 cup thin coconut milk
21. 1 cup thick coconut milk
22. 3 tbsp coconut oil

Method:

• Prepare the marinade by mixing all the ingredients and marinate the fish pieces in this for at least one hour or as long as you can.
• Shallow fry the fish pieces and keep aside.

• Heat oil in pan and crackle mustard seeds. Add curry leaves along with ginger, garlic, onions, green chilli and sauté till the onions turn golden brown.

• Then add all the spices and sauté till oil starts clearing.

• Lower the heat and add second milk of coconut and mix well. To this add the fried fish pieces; season with salt. Cook for 5 minutes.

• Next lower flame and add first milk of coconut to thicken the gravy and remove from fire. Do not boil or place or high heat or the coconut milk will split.

• Garnish with curry leaves.

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Indian style Pork Burger with Caramelized Pineapple + Winner of the Cookbook Giveaway

I cannot contain the excitement any longer, so let’s announce the winner before we get to today’s recipe.

I decided to go old-school for the draw, not trusting any software to pick my winner. So all the names got written down onto individual chits and then the most important job of picking the winner – gave it to my son to do the honours; oh my, wasn’t he excited!

And yes, we have a winner and it is…………..Sarah Moss. Congratulations Sarah, hope you enjoy cooking from this book as much as I did picking it for you. And please do inbox me so that I can send it over to you at the earliest.

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Now, I am equally excited about today’s recipe too…..it is a hearty, indulgent pork burger with an Indian twist.

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Pork and pineapple is a classic combination, a match made in heaven. And just to spice things up a bit, I added some familiar Indian flavours to the burger.

The secret to a delicious, succulent, juicy burger lies in mainly in the quality of meat. Instead of going for a store-bought mince, it is best to get good cuts of meat from your local butcher and ask him to mince it up for you. This way, you get to choose how much fat goes into the mince. For this, I chose the pork shoulder and the ratio of fat to meat in the mince was 1:4.

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Minced onion, aromatics and a freshly roasted and ground spice mix was added to the pork mince to infuse the classic Indian flavours. The caramelized pineapple adds the hint of sweetness and brings the spices to life.

The best thing about homemade burgers is that these are healthy as you are in control of all the ingredients that goes in and is a great way to get your family to eat veggies too. My hubby would eat tomato in a burger sandwich but would throw it out if I put it in a curry. Got the point?

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So, here’s how you make Indian style pork burgers with caramelized pineapple, tomatoes, onion and coriander.

Ingredients:

Makes about 8-10 patties (these freeze well so you can make batches and stock away for later use; another idea is to make meatballs and use it the next time you make spaghetti).

For the burger;

1. 1 kg pork mince (use any meat that you want)
2. 1 large red onion, finely chopped
3. 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4. 1 inch ginger, finely chopped
5. 1 large green chilli, finely chopped
6. Indian spice blend
• 2 tsp Coriander seeds
• 2 tsp Dry chilli flakes
• 1 tsp Cumin seeds
7. Salt, to season
8. 1 egg

For the final sandwich;

9. Burger buns
10. 1 pineapple, cut into thick slices
11. Cos lettuce, shredded
12. 1 tomato, sliced
13. ½ red onion, sliced finely
14. A few sprigs of fresh coriander leaves
15. Barbeque sauce

Method:

1. To prepare the spice blend, dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds. Cool, add the chilli flakes and grind to a fine powder. I used the entire blend as I was wanted a good kick of the spices but you can add just enough to suit your taste preferences.
2. If you are using a food processor, throw in all the ingredients for the burger including the spice blend; or finely chop the onion and aromatics and then mix all ingredients together for the burger patties.
3. Form the mince into circular patties and keep aside. Again, the thickness of the patty is entirely upto your preferences; I make thick ones and for a kilo of mince, made 10 patties.
4. Heat a grill pan, brush with oil and grill the burgers till done; flip around after giving a couple of minutes on each side to get the char grilled marks. Rest the burgers for at least two minutes before preparing the sandwich.
5. Grill the pineapple slices (make sure the grill is smoking hot to instantly caramelize the sugars which keeps the crunch intact and seals the juices inside; on low heat, the pineapple slices go limp and soggy).
6. Cut the burger buns in half and grill for that extra crunch.
7. To assemble the sandwich, place shredded lettuce on the bottom half of the bun and layer up – patty, barbeque sauce, pineapple slice, tomato, onions and coriander leaves.

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Stuffed Cucumber Salad

For a person who has an insane passion for all things food, many find it incredibly surprising that I own very few cookbooks. I have 4 books, pertaining to food!

And this is even more surprising for those who know that reading is my biggest hobby, one that I share in equal measure with my boys. But whilst we have a huge collection of other books, I have never found myself wanting any cookbooks.

But I find that slowly changing now; guess the passion is becoming an obsession and I do gravitate towards the food section every time I am in a bookstore now. The cookbooks that fascinate me the most are ones from the yesteryears; most of these do not have any amazing photography, exotic ingredients or cooking styles. But these books do have a wealth of information and stays true to the writer’s background, culture and tradition.

And one of the best places to find such treasures is at my local Red Cross charity shop. One man’s waste is another’s treasure! You can find me at least once a month here and I come home laden with vintage props, table cloths, cookbooks etc… You will find things here that are impossible to come across in a regular store and at such incredibly low prices.

One of my favourite cookbooks that I purchased from here is Marguerite Patten’s 1000 Favourite Recipes (and shhh, the book just costed me a dollar!)

A thousand recipes…….and that’s where this stuffed cucumber salad comes from.

This stuffed cucumber salad is the perfect canapé for your spring/summer party. It is easy to make, refreshing, delicious, looks pretty and stylish too.

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I made a few changes to the originally outlined recipe and created my stuffing using boiled eggs, tomatoes, feta, parsley and chives. Pick out the freshest cucumbers that you can find and go for ones with slightly thicker skins so that it holds shape. And to get a contrasting look, I peeled the skin of the cucumber in an alternate fashion.

So let’s get to making stuffed cucumber salad – refreshing crunchy cucumber slices filled with soft mashed eggs, tangy sweet tomatoes, salty creamy feta and fresh herbs.

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Ingredients:

1. 1 large, thick (not the overripe ones) cucumber
2. Salt, to season
3. Freshly milled black pepper, to season
4. 1 tbsp lemon juice
5. For the filling;
• 2 boiled eggs
• 1 tomato, blanched, skinned and chopped finely
• 2 tbsp feta cheese
• 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
• 1 tbsp chives, chopped
• 1 tbsp mayonnaise

Method:

1. Peel the cucumber skin in alternate strips as shown in the picture. This is not mandatory but adds to the visual appeal of the finished dish.
2. Cut the cucumber into thick circles; scoop out the seeded part in the centre leaving just a thin layer at the bottom to hold the stuffing.
3. Season the cucumber slices with salt, pepper and lemon juice. This also helps to draw out the excess water and firms up the cucumber a bit.
4. To prepare the filling, mix the eggs, tomatoes, herbs, mayonnaise and then sprinkle in the feta. Mix well to form a creamy texture; if you think the mixture is runny, then add more eggs or cheese to firm it up.
5. To assemble, line the cucumber pieces, fill with the stuffing and garnish with chives. Place in a platter and refrigerate till serving time.

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There’s just one more day remaining for my first blog anniversary giveaway to end. Have your taken part?

South Indian Curry Leaf Rice (Karu vepillai Sadam)

Curry leaves have always been an integral part of Indian cuisine, especially in the cuisines of Southern India. Though the world is slowly waking up to the benefits of this herb, it still remains underutilized and practically unknown in many other parts of the world.

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Highly aromatic, curry leaves are also referred to as ‘sweet neem leaves’ as these are not bitter unlike the ordinary neem leaves. It is a much valued medicinal herb in Ayurveda and is believed to have anti-diabetic and cholesterol-lowering properties.

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Since curry leaves do not stay fresh for a long time in the refrigerator, many people tend to use it in the dried and powdered form but these are less aromatic than the fresh leaves. In Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine, these leaves are usually added to hot oil to release the oils and impart flavour to the dish.

Now I am a huge fan of curry leaves, not just because it is such an inherent part of Indian cooking but also because I like the flavour these leaves impart to the whole dish. In the past few months I have been playing around with these leaves in my kitchen trying to use it in different ways especially in my style of fusion cooking. While I was researching on the Web and learning more about curry leaves, I came across this traditional rice dish which is quite popular in a few South Indian states. Now there cannot be a better way to showcase the flavour of these leaves than this dish and I couldn’t resist trying out the recipe myself.

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South Indian curry leaf rice or Karu vepillai sadam (as it is traditionally known) – pungent, aromatic and mildly spiced from the roasted curry leaves, red chillies, peppercorns, fenugreek, coriander and asafoetida.

I came across this recipe here.

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Ingredients:

1. 4 cups white rice; washed and soaked
2. ½ tsp mustard seeds
3. ½ tsp urad dal (vigna mungo/dehusked black gram)
4. ½ tsp chana dal (split bengal gram)
5. ½ tsp cumin/jeera seeds
6. 2 red whole dry chillies for tempering
7. ½ tsp turmeric powder
8. Cashew nuts roasted for garnishing/peanuts also may be added
9. Salt to taste
10. 2 tbsp sesame oil ( this oil makes a great difference to the taste )
11. 1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the curry leaf spice blend:

12. 1 ½ cups washed curry leaves firmly packed
13. 8 whole red chillies
14. 1 tsp pepper corns
15. 1 tsp coriander seeds
16. 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
17. Tamarind , size of a small marble
18. Asafoetida/hing powder

Method:

1. Cook the rice in salted water till just done, drain and keep aside. It’s important not to get the rice mushy or overcooked.
2. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil and roast the curry leaves till dry and lightly crisped up; remember to do this on low heat or the leaves will burn.
3. Cool the leaves and grind with the rest of the ingredients under spice blend. It might get a little pasty due to the tamarind; just add a few drops of water which will help bring all the ingredients together.
4. In a wok or large pan, heat mustard oil, crackle the mustard seeds and then add the lentils, dry red chilli, cumin, cashewnuts and turmeric. Add the ground curry leaf spice blend and mix well for a minute. (If you prefer less heat, add only half of the curry leaf spice mixture).
5. Add the cooled rice and stir through till well mixed.
6. Serve hot with raita/yoghurt dip.

collage

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And a little reminder…the first anniversary cookbook giveaway ends on so make sure you have participated by then. Get the details here.

Carrot Barfi – A Guest Post from ‘At the Corner of Happy and Harried’

This month, so far, has been a whirlwind one filled with so many happenings and events, both personal and professional. Usually the guest post goes up in the first week of every month but I have not been able to do the same till today.

My guest blogger for this month is Anjana and her space is At the Corner of Happy and Harried. Anjana’s was one of the first blogs I followed when I started out; her simplicity, clean but colourful photography and amazing recipes drew me to her blog. I am so happy that she was keen on taking up my request and has bought us this gorgeous looking Carrot Barfi.

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All that I am going to do now is enjoy this delicious Barfi and I guess you must also be doing the same.

In Anjana’s words….

I am sharing a quick and delicious sweet treat using carrots. It is extremely common in Indian cuisine to use sweet vegetables in desserts. Carrots, beets and pumpkins end up being made into halwa, kheer or barfi. Somehow, using vegetables in desserts makes it feel less indulgent, right?!

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This is a very quick recipe and can be made with very little ingredients. If you’ve read my blog, you would know I am all about easy recipes. The carrots give it a lovely natural orange colour, making it extremely attractive to adults and kids alike.

Ingredients:

(Makes 8 squares)

1. Ghee – 3 tbsp
2. Carrots – 2 – 2 ½ cup, grated or chopped finely
3. Milk – 1 cup
4. Cardamom powder – ½ tsp
5. Sugar – around ½ cup (or as per taste)
6. Salt – a pinch
7. Golden raisins – 2-3 tbsp (optional)
8. Toasted almonds or cashew nuts – for garnish

Method:

1. Heat ghee in a large pan. Add the grated/chopped carrots and sauté on medium heat for 4-5 minutes.
2. Now add milk, cardamom powder and ¼ cup sugar and cook the carrots further.
3. When most of the liquid evaporates, taste and add more sugar, golden raisins and a pinch of salt. I ended up using slightly less than ½ cup of sugar as I like the barfi to have the natural sweetness of carrots.
4. The sugar will introduce some more liquid. Stir constantly and cook it further till fairly dry. The barfi is done when the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and starts to come together. It will also have a lovely sheen to it.
5. Remove from heat and spread the barfi onto a greased plate/flat dish and flatten to 1/2 inch thickness. Top with toasted almonds or cashew nuts. Cool slightly in pan and refrigerate till set.
6. Cut into squares using a greased knife and serve. The barfi will be set, but with a soft, melt-in-the-mouth consistency. Refrigerate any leftovers in a closed container.

Notes:

• I have cooked the carrots in milk as this makes the barfi creamier. If you are vegan, use vegan butter instead of ghee, and water or milk substitutes instead of regular milk.
• For an even easier recipe, use sweetened condensed milk instead of milk and sugar.
• Use beetroot instead of carrots to make beetroot barfi. Beets may need more milk as it takes longer to cook.
• The recipe can be easily scaled up for a large party or gathering.

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I hope you guys enjoy this quick, delicious and fairly healthy dessert. It is fancy enough for special occasions and quick enough to be made on a busy and regular weekday.

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