Saturday, July 7, 2018

Ela appam

Heirloom recipes. They are established. Time honoured. And, as you'll come to see, stupendous enough to pass onto generations beyond XYZ. Maybe even to lift the credibility curve on how dependable I am in delivering, despite long, echoing intervals.
Thank you. I am grateful you're reading.

The gorgeous treats flooding your screen come from old-school Kerala. I use old school, here in a tradition-is-cool sort of way, where once upon a time these were food items made by real Moms-Pops -grand and not, in their own kitchens, perhaps, quite charmingly, on wood burning stoves. In the wake of quick-fix, packaged treats and more palates taking to modern-ish Western tastes, these have become almost obselete. Almost. But if it weren't for the few hundred bloggers who've decided to usher in the light, and revive numerous classics, such as these, we see a resurgence of retro eats. And that's a tremendously good thing.

A common excuse for everyone and their mother turning their backs on a snack so loved, is lack of help and hands, something I'll soon reveal, should never, ever be a contingent, per se. Though, It's the same nontruth I fed into, and became sufficient reason to deprive myself of what far-away Travancore never wanted left behind in the first place. Obviously, I could not hold off forever. And, since I've attempted things far more complex, I knew, beyond doubt that it would be easier than cake. 

Which is why, before we start, it's imperative to provide you a coordinating Malayalam word bank.


Ela (eh- laa) means leaf. 
If I had a banana tree in my backyard,  I would have the perfect illustration because it's that ela or leaf that these are cooked in. But I don't. Ask Google.

Appam (aa- pumm) is usually a breakfast item, for the most part, but not here. It is typically made of rice flour and at least one or two forms/derivations of coconut. 
Examples can be found here and here.

Palaharam (pah-la-haa-rum) snacks, shorteats, ideally, but not limited to, being consumed at midday(could mean anywhere from 4 to midnight) tea time.
I have a plethora in archives. Feel free to thumb through.

Ela appam. Could be served as an afternoon high tea accompaniment, yet with sufficient motivation, and deft motor skills, an additional dozen could see you through a break of dawn revelation. 

In essence, ela appam is a sort of crepe- pancake- flattened dumpling, hand pressed into the medium it is to be steamed in. Since my Southwest backyard grows nothing more than cactii, the banana tree I hope for may never happen, so also, the leaf, which these would ideally steam in. In lieu of the leaf, we have the beauty of parchment paper, a veritable and very disposable nonstick, which dough adheres to, yet springs easily from. 

As you can see, it is not a direct clone. Nor is it a traditional recipe, in view of the elements used for manufacture and build. However, it does reasonable justice to the serious culinary assignment it has been given. And is as good as made-over old-fashion gets. I promise.

With enough practice,  you can seal one with a hand while spreading the second with the other.

Chia seeds aren't original to the recipe, but they bring in an entirely new dimension to the texture-mouthfeel game. Moreover, frozen, shredded coconut is timesaver gold. Together with readily-grated jaggery, they are just about the best things in Asian markets. 
The task to seek and find is entirely yours now and can be a truly educative, wholesome experience. 
And I am grateful for leading the way🙏

I cut American standard parchment from the roll, approximately 5'' in length, then split those pieces into 3 equal strips, widthwise, enough to wrap around and tuck under each appam.

Spreading the dough takes not much aptitude. That being said, it's susceptible to tear, but quite forgiving. Patch up, or reroll and try again.

  • 2 cups rice flour( roasted, if available)
  • salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup grated brown jaggery
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder
  • ¼ tsp cumin 
Some good hands in my kitchen

Other items needed:
Parchment paper, cut into 12 long-ish rectangles
oil (for hands)

  • Mix together the flour and a pinch of salt. Add in enough water(you don't need to use a full cup) and combine with a large wooden spoon until mixture becomes a smooth dough. Turn out and knead with lightly greased hands fora minute or two, until you have a clean, round ball. Cover and keep aside. 
  • In a separate bowl, combine coconut, jaggery, chia seeds, cardamom, and cumin. 
  • Make 1 ½ inch balls of the rice flour dough. 
  • Spread each dough ball into somewhat of a circle or rectangle, on individual parchment squares. 
  • Place 1- 1 ½ tbsp of filling inside the flattened dough, leaving about inch off edges
  • Fold in half, pressing edges of dough to seal the filling in, like a pocket.
  • Put steamer, with enough water over medium-high heat and place packets on top tier.
  • Steam for 5 minutes on high.
  • Reduce to medium and steam for another 10-13 minutes.
  • Let rest in steamer for 5 minutes. Take appam out.
  • Peel back parchment.
  • Enjoy:-)
Jaggery is a sort of non-distilled, unrefined sugar/sweetener from the sugarcane. It is brown in color and I have used it in prior recipes.
Whole cardamom can be powdered and sufficient amount added.

2012- En papillote

"I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing." John 15:5

Friday, June 22, 2018

Easy butter chicken

When a pot of cream-flecked Indian chicken you've been forever making on fleek, is being likened to the menu item the Indian joint near you serves, you may need to take a patent. And maybe a few pictures. Perhaps, also, type a few words. This restaurant version I speak of is adequately flawless, served on fancy brass, and as I understand it, has a cult following, at least in this part of the Valley. 

Thus, having a near close match might just upshot my game, a tad. Don't you think? Or, clear the haze surrounding once noble aspirations in sharing multitudes of great things that now just clutter my head, and 8 pages of unedited, skeleton posts.

Not saying that what I am about to reveal is the outcome of a blogger draft weed-and-clean, nor is BFMK a disposal ground for castoff recipes. I believe this is something so essential, kind of like a staple entry to the doors of The Exotic. And as uncomplicated as cooking can be.

So, shall we?

Butter chicken is that iconic dish, which for the most part can be paraded as a meal on its own, but  really is not. Often served as a grand spread, it would be plated with naan, maybe rice- better both- taken with dressed yoghurt, and fair amounts of pickle/condiments/chutneys. It is infinitely categorized as Indian cuisine, because if any region can incorporate spice and sauce and make it look like an absolute dietary requirement/fashion statement/stand-all, it certainly is India. 

Although grouped within the desi profile, murgh makhani is unofficially the perfect cross- continental pot of gold. It appeals to a broader circuit of people, throughout streets and kitchens of many parts of the globe. In essence, we experience brilliance; chicken zested and plushly seasoned, at the same time not making cheeks sweat and eyes bulge out from sockets. This curry that showcases the silkiest tomato gravy fares beyond several taste expectations and, is guaranteed, an attainable goal.

So, when, sometimes, ingredients and methods don't quite match up to the ideas of people who claim divine revelation on such a topic, you may find it your calling to  (ahem) respond accordingly.
Explanation models can go along the lines of...

-Yes, baking chicken allows for fantastically moist and tender pieces. This one step saves you from buying a roasting tandoor for the same purpose.

-Powdered spices work just as well as whole, maybe not to full potency, but can run as utterly close contenders.

-The idea of boiling and pureeing does not always apply in authentic butter chicken recipes, but I am theoretically a non-purist.

- the fact that a well-thought out dish can be done and plated in the time it takes to sit down and eat it, is certainly magnificence, pointing to an upward curve on culinary awesomeness skills.

So you see how imperative it is to spread the knowledge on how a celebrated plate of chicken is not so non-doable at all?

Do I hear you say it?
Winner, winner, genius chicken dinner. 

  • 2-3 tbsp red (Indian)chilly powder or cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • salt
  • ½ cup plain yoghurt
  • juice of one lemon
  • 5 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large red onion, cut into medium chunks
  • 3 tomatoes, roughly cut into chunks
  • 2 tsps thinly sliced ginger
  • 6-7 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 small-ish cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 2 sprigs cilantro
  • water
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • ¼ tsp powdered fenugreek leaves- kasoori methi (optional
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2-3 medium pats of butter
  • 1-2 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 sprig mint(optional)
Don't  let the long chain of ingredients dissuade you. Most of the stuff bastes on to the chicken, the rest get boiled and blended. All this requires is some intermittent supervision and approximately 35 minutes of your time(not counting the 30 min marinade). 
  • In a large foil lined sheet pan, mix and make paste of cayenne, coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, ginger powder, black pepper, salt, yoghurt, lemon juice, 3 tbsp oil.
  • Add the chicken pieces and coat each in the spice mixture thoroughly.
  • Set aside to marinade for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • In the meantime, in deep set pan or dutch oven, add remaining 2 tbsp oil, cut onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom. Saute these ingredients on high flame for a minute or two. No need to brown.
  • Add cilantro.
  • Pour in enough water to just cover everything in pot. Allow ingredients to boil on high heat.
  • Once it has boiled, bring down heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until onions, ginger and garlic are soft and fork-tender. There should be a slight amount of cooking liquid.
  • Allow the mixture to cool a bit.
  • At this point, remove, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Take boiled ingredients into a blender or use an immersion blender to puree into a smooth, thick liquid.
  • Set aside.
  • Bake the marinaded chicken in preheated oven for  about 15-20 minutes. It needs not to  fully cook. 
  • Take pieces out of oven. Allow to cool a bit. Cut into 1" cubes or pieces.  
  • Pour the onion/tomato puree back into same pan as you had it cooked in.
  • Bring to boil. Add chicken.
  • Taste and add salt, if needed
  • Reduce flame to simmer ingredients. Allow chicken to fully cook through and take off flame, after 10-12 minutes.
  • Stir in the sugar. 
  • Stir in powdered fenugreek leaves.
  • Add cream, and butter.
  • Garnish with cilantro and mint.
Kasoori methi(fenugreek leaves) can come packed as dried, whole leaves or in powder form.  A little goes a long way, so use it sparingly and taste after each sprinkle. Leftover powder should be stored in an airtight container.
A slight disclaimer...I am at total odds on whether you truly need dried fenugreek leaves, that most insist is a requirement for authentic flavor. The few times I have omitted it, I really didn't miss it (shhh!!). It has a hugely distinct flavor, that works to distinguish this type of curry. That being said, if your desire is to go full-on, legit khana khazana style, sprinkle away✨✨

2017: Tender coconut ice cream
2016: Pastry tarts
My firstborn and Boss Grad child. Getting ready to turn that tassle🎓
The Best Is Yet To Come🎉❤️
She knows it. Do you? 
The scripture below is what a friend texted me on a mad Monday morning. Seconds later, it appeared before my eyes, on the media feed, from a page I follow. It was what I was praying for, at the particular moment. The Lord showed me He was listening. Beyond a shadow of doubt, He is everpresent, all knowing, a good God, always keeping watch over His children, covering them in the shadow of His wing. 

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, 

yet my unfailing love will not be shaken

    nor my covenant of peace be removed, 
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10