Appam and beef mappas. I didn't think that I would add this recipe so early on...just the thought of the steps involved and typing the whole method of appam/ curry making made me get to slacking a few days. Trust me, though, the preparation and number of steps look daunting, the process in itself is not .
The meal and the consequent post are a result of having made this as a special request dinner for my older child's birthday, specially requested by her, of course. She is our baby #1, born with a keen love and inclination towards all foods South Indian.
Although, officially tagged a breakfast food in Kerala, appam and beef mappas are deemed fit to consume any time of day. It is also a celebration dish of sorts. Easter and Christmas mornings are hailed in with feasting on this sumptious breakfast fit for champions, or should I say kings? Kerala breakfasts are usually elaborate affairs, often bordering on extensive menus. Many of us, however, neither have the time, nor the energy to prepare and scarf down a huge, uber- exotic meal at the break of dawn, so this can be a perfect "breakfast for dinner" experience.
Appams, also known as hoppers (I have yet to know why... your guess is as good as mine), are made with a fermented ground rice, coconut batter and griddled like pancakes. They were originally made to rise using the fermented alcohol sap, toddy, of the palm tree. But down the line, people realized that rising can happen without inebriation, though toddy is still a favored leavener for this soft rice pancake. Yeast is used as an alternate to bring out the rising and doubling of the batter.
Beef curry, mutton curry, egg roast, vegetable stew are some of the well known sides that best complements the hopper. The beef preparation here is known as mappas, a curry native to Kerala involving a slow simmering of spiced ingredients in rich coconut milk.
Appams rely on some advanced preparation, but are so worth it. Here goes: listed in the order it should be done-appam prep, beef curry, finishing the final appam cooking on a griddle.
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup cooked rice
- *1 cup fresh or frozen shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- 2 cups rice flour
- 1-2 cups water, maybe more to achieve a "pancake- like" batter
- 5 tbsp sugar
- pinch of salt
- To proof or test yeast, combine it with 1/4 warm water and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl, stir and let alone for 10 minutes. A creamy foam should form on top- it's ready to use!
- Put your cooked rice and coconut , along with your yeast mixture in a blender/grinder, to help grind on high for a 2- 3 minutes until well blended, don't allow the coconut to grind to a paste, there should be a light chunkiness to it. .
- With the blender on a medium setting, drop in half cupfuls rice flour alternatively with the half cups of water until a smooth, thick batter forms, use a rubber spatula to help you blend the ingredients.
- Add sugar, salt and give the blender a final whir for a minute or so until all ingredients are incorporated well.
- Pour into a bowl, large enough to let it "grow".Cover and keep aside in a closed, warm, dry place, preferably an oven ( turned off) , undisturbed for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight.
- 3 tbsp oil
- *1 cinnamon stick
- *2 whole cloves
- *1 cardamom pod
- *1/2 star anise
- 1 medium onion, chopped small
- 3 serrano peppers or jalapeno,slit
- 2 tsp garlic
- 2 tsp ginger
- 11/2 tsp cayenne (chili powder) pepper
- 3 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped small
- *1 lb beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup water
- *1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tsp salt or according to taste
- curry leaves (optional)
- Take out a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil.
- Crush whole spices and add it to oil.
- On medium heat saute in onions till translucent.
- Next in order: serranos, garlic, ginger, saute for 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in cayenne, coriander, cumin, saute another 3 minutes.
- Next, go in the tomatoes.
- Stir until tomatoes cook down, 2-3 minutes.
- Slowly add beef. Now, using a strong wooden spoon, stir and press beef into the spice onion mixture, sort of massage -incorporating the beef with the spice mixture.
- Add in warm water, 1/4 can coconut milk,vinegar and salt.
- Bring to a boil and have it cook on medium-low heat for 40 minutes up to an hour
- Check the beef occasionally and stir
- Pour in remaining coconut milk, simmer on low for an additional 5 minutes.
- When pieces are fork tender, take off heat
- Sprinkle in some curry leaves.
- The beef can be made in advance and once your batter has leavened, mappas can be reheated up to a slow simmer.
|There will be more of a gravy, I wanted the beef to show through, so I didn't add too much in my plating.|
|yeast proofing, before and after batter, meeting the griddle|
- After the wait of 6- 12 hours, the batter should have doubled up in volume .
- Stir batter well and season with salt or more sugar, according to individual taste.
- Preheat your griddle, nonstick, preferably. I use a large one where I can cook up 3 to 4 appams at once.
- Smear a tiny bit of butter onto the griddle's surface (intitially), or a light coat of cooking spray.
- Pour in a ladleful of batter and spread a bit, pancake-likish.
- Once bubbles surface on top, about 2-3 minutes per appam, it is time to flip.
- Another 2 -3 minutes and it will be cooked through.
- Repeat with remaining batter. Makes 25-30 medium sized appams.
- Excess batter can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
|Forget the silverware, now you have your own perfect utensil to sop up that wonderful curry|
Shredded, unsweetened coconut needed here can also be found in the frozen section of Indian grocers. Another option are the organic supermarkets, where I've purchased the dried variety.
Traditionally raw, short grain rice is soaked and then ground for appam batter, but after knowing the ease of rice flour, I have never gone back to tradition.
If you like Indian cooking, a visit to your local Indian or Asian grocer will do you good. Or even specialty spice shops... looking at these recipes you''ll see a uniform set of spices, ingredients that carries through in most Indian preparations .
Whole spices are optional, but it always lends flavorful punch to the dish.
I buy tender stew meat and cut each piece into 1 inch cubes. However, if the meat is not of a tender cut, you can marinade beef in spices,ginger/garlic, tomatoes with the vinegar and pressure cook for 20-30 minutes and then finish the dish by sauteeing onions with your cooked meat and adding any remaining ingredient.
Though, I haven't mentioned it in the recipe, I sometimes add a couple of potatoes ( cooked in the microwave and added to the curry at the end, in addition to coconut slices simmered along with the beef. It is optional, though it gives a flavorful texture to the dish.
Hope for leftovers on the beef mappas -it tastes so good the day after and can complement sweet Hawaiian rolls, white rice or chappatis ( flatbread) .
So, like I said earlier, it's not half as difficult as it looks( is, it?) and the end result a tot-ally delicious Indian meal, that you prepared all on your own. So come on, give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Be mindful of the climatic conditions in which you live, it contributes a lot to the proofing condition of your batter. Cooler climates require more a wait time ( and possibly some help) for the batter to rise. I have lived in one of the coldest places in the U.S. and it would take more than 12 hours for the batter to rise, sometimes using the warming option on my oven to coax it.
Now, at the extreme end of the weather scale, I'm housed in one of the warmest states, and, as you can see in the pictures the batter needed no coercion, in a mere 4 hours it tripled in volume!