Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kerala Style Spicy Mutton Curry

Mutton aka goat meat is classified as 'red meat' even though mutton fans claims it as healthier.  It’s consumed widely in Middle East, Northern Africa and Asia.  Mutton stew is a delicacy served with laced crepes during Christmas and Easter feasts in Christian families in Southern India.  I remember my dad used to buy mutton during the weekends when we were in North India, where you get the baby goats that are claimed as very tastier.  I was never a fan of mutton.  My hubby was neither a fan.  So I refrained from making mutton curry at home.  It was sometime during my pregnancy with my elder son, I started to like the spicy mutton curry my Mom specially makes for me during the occasional visits.  But my taste for mutton subsided very soon due to my bad experience with cooking this meat.  Every time it resulted in chewy stringy piece of meat due to lack of availability of good baby goat.  So I stopped buying it and my kids never developed a taste for it.  I would be an exception to the non-vegetarians, because, I never had heard from an Indian that they dislike Mutton.

I remember my grandma used to put papaya pieces while cooking the mutton which was then taken out when the curry was ready.  But I never knew the purpose of it; I always wondered what was the point of adding papaya to the curry.  Now I know that it was used as the meat tenderizer. The key to make a good mutton curry depends on the quality of the meat.  Meat from young goats and meat from young male goats won't have a leafy smell and they cook faster.  Older meat is best cooked through slow, moist cooking which takes more time to cook. Pieces with thigh bones enhance the flavor and juiciness of a good mutton curry.  Knowing the tips/trick to make a good mutton curry really helped me to experiment with the mutton curry that I prefer to eat.  Last Saturday I was determined to give my Mom's recipe a try with few changes that I thought would enhance the flavor to our liking. I have to say, the curry imparted the aroma that would have tickled the palates of any mutton lover even though I thought I should have cooked the mutton for couple more whistles in the pressure cooker to get a little more soft meat texture. 

When I was making the curry, my elder son Nathan was home and he was very much pleased with the aroma of the curry and he tried the gravy.  He gave me a thumps up, which is hard to get from him.  Since I got the confirmation from him, I was confident to do a post on my Experimental Mutton curry.  So I pulled my camera and clicked few shots for the post. This mutton curry had changed my attitude towards mutton and things are changing in the Thomas family now.  The younger ones still gave a big NO to the curry even without trying. But I am sure I can change their attitude towards mutton by making delicious mutton curry.

To marinate
2 lbs. - mutton pieces with bone
1 tbsp. - lemon juice
1/2 tsp. - salt
1/2 tsp. - freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp. - turmeric powder
5 - dry red chili broken into half & deseeded
1/4 tsp. - fenugreek/Methi seeds
1/4 tsp. - turmeric powder
1 cup - caramelized onion paste/2 red onions thinly sliced (refer notes)
1 tbsp. - ginger garlic paste
1 - medium size potato peeled, washed & cubed
1 - medium size carrot peeled, washed & cut into discs (optional)
2 1/2 cups - water
2 tbsp. - oil

Gravy Masala
1 1/2 tsp. - coriander powder
1 tsp. - hot chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. - red kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp. - garam masala (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, anise seeds & fennel powder)
1/4 cup - water
1/8th tsp. - asafoetida/hing powder
1 - bay leaf
1 tsp. - oil
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
salt to taste

3 - small shallots thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. - mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. - freshly crushed coriander seeds
2 - dry red chili broken into half
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
1/4 tsp. - freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. - coconut oil

  • Wash the meat thoroughly and drain.  I add some lemon juice and salt while washing the meat to remove any smell.
  • Now add the lemon juice, salt, pepper powder and turmeric powder to the meat pieces and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for minimum 1 hr.
  • In the pressure cooker, splutter 1/4 tsp. of fenugreek seeds in 2 tbsp. of oil and add dry red chili on low heat.  Once the red chili starts to change color, add the caramelized onion paste/the sliced onions with salt.  If using caramelized paste, just sauté for 1 minute, else cook till the onions starts to become translucent.  Then add the ginger garlic paste and turmeric powder; cook till the raw smell goes.  Add cubed potatoes and carrots.  Sauté for a minute.  Then add the marinated meat the pressure cooker and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water.  Close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook till 6 whistle blows.  Once the pressure subsides, open the lid and check the texture of the meat.  If the meat is still tough, cook for couple more whistles.
  • Make a paste of chili powder, Kashmiri chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala ,asafoetida powder by adding 1/4 of water to the mix.  Heat one 1 tsp. of oil in a non stick pan, add the masala paste to the hot oil and cook by stirring continuously on low heat for 3 to 5 minutes till the raw smell is gone.  Add tomato paste/chopped tomato to this and cook for another minute till the paste comes together a big lump.  Turn off the flame and add the masala mix to the cooked meat along with a sprig of curry leaves in the pressure cooker.  Add one bay leaf; secure the lid and cook till 2 whistles blows.  Turn off the flame and let the pressure subside.
  • Mean time prepare tadka by spluttering the 1/2 tsp. of mustard seeds in coconut oil, add the crushed coriander seeds, sliced shallots, red chili, fresh ground pepper.  Sauté under low heat till the shallots become golden brown.  Turn off the flame and add the curry leaves. 
  • Transfer the mutton curry to the serving bowl and add the tadka above it.  Serve the mutton curry with Kerala Porota, rice or Indian flat bread like Roti or Naan.
  • Since mutton/goat meat takes longer to cook, it is always better to add a meat tenderizer like papaya pieces or papaya paste.  Alternatively you can marinate the meat with lemon juice or yogurt.
  • It is advantageous to use a pressure cooker for this curry, otherwise you may have to slow cook the meat for at least an hour to get a tender texture.
  • You can add more water to the curry per your desired consistency.  I prefer thick gravy than runny gravy, so 2 1/2 cups of water was adequate to attain the thickness.
  • I used coconut oil for making the seasoned garnish/tadka which imparts the authentic aroma and taste of the Kerala style curry.  So I highly recommend the tadka made in coconut oil for this curry.
  • You can use tomato paste or fresh tomato in this curry.  Caramelized onion paste and tomato paste helped me to attain the thick consistency for the gravy.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

Green Smoothie With Apples, Avocado, Grapes And Spinach

The sun is shining bright through the window and fills me with the rapture I need to wake up from the passive mode of my blog.   I am enjoying some sunshine and a long waited vacation time.  Meantime I have recipe for a green smoothie I tried.  I know the word 'Green Smoothie' is not well received by everyone.  The raised eyes brows, the disgusted look and unpleasant face are some of the common gestures people make when they hear the word 'Green Smoothie'.  But I think if we take baby steps in making green smoothies, it will be lot better than hopping all the way to the 'All Green Smoothie'.

This recipe includes only one green leafy vegetable.   Trust me, there is no leafy after taste because of the apple, grapes and honey added to this smoothie.  The nutrient rich Avocado and Spinach makes this smoothie a healthy and filling option for those who try to skip meal to lose the extra adipose.  Besides the ingredients in this smoothie helps to rejuvenate your skin, boosts up your immune system and provides hair health benefits.

Serves - 2 Adults


1 - Avocado pitted and flesh scooped out
2 - Apples peeled, cored and cubed
20 - baby spinach leaves
25 - green seedless grapes
2 cups - cold water
1 tbsp. - honey

  • Blend all the ingredients together in a blender and enjoy them immediately.
  • You can increase the amount of water per desired consistency.
  • If using Green Granny Smith apples, you may have to adjust the amount of honey.  I used yellow apples in this recipe.
  • You can add few pieces of ice cubes too while blending the smoothie for a chilled smoothie.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Lemon Yogurt Cake With Lemon Cream Cheese ButterCream Frosting

Happy Easter to everyone!!!  Kids got tons of candy from friends and school and I am in the hunt to find their hiding spots and keep them away.  But they somehow sense my hiding spots.  I remember the same story with my brother and me; my Mom used to hide the candy from us as we liked to feast on them when we were young.  My brother was an expert in detecting my Mom's candy hide out spots and we used to sneak in and eat the candy secretly.  I see wrappers all over the place in my house and I have to make my little one pick it up as he is the one who likes to leave it where ever he wants after gobbling them.  But the good thing about them is that they share the candy with their cousins and friends too.

Its spring break for kids here and they are having a gala time.  I didn't make anything special for Easter, but I made this Lemon Yogurt Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Butter Cream frosting for my lil one's birthday.  Since his birthday was few days before Easter and we were observing lent, I made this eggless layered cake.  I think the pastel yellow color choice I made was apt and it fitted perfectly for an Easter recipe :)

The amount of frosting will be good enough if you are making a three layered cake otherwise there will be left over.  So instead of making a three tiered cake, I made 2 tiered cake and a single layer square cake and the frosting worked out good to decorate the 2 cakes.  You can reduce the recipe into half to decorate a 2 tiered cake.

2 - 8 inch round lemon yogurt cakes
8 oz/226g              - plain cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 cup/350gm - sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp                    - fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp                    - lemon zest
2/3 cup                   - cold heavy whipping cream
few drops of pastel yellow gel color

2 8oz/226g                        - plain cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup/8 tbsp./1 stick   - unsalted butter at room temperature
4 cups/950g                     - sifted powdered sugar
2 tbsp.                                - fresh lemon juice
1 tsp.                                   - lemon zest
few drops of pastel yellow gel color to color half of the frosting

  •  Bake two 8 inch lemon yogurt cakes by following the recipe for the lemon yogurt cake for each 8 inch cake.  The recipe makes one 8 in cake, so you need 2 such batches.  Refrigerate the cakes overnight.  The cake will be flat at the top, so no need to cut the cake.
  •  In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer beat the plain cream cheese till there are no lumps with the paddle attachment.  Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat till smooth.  Add lemon juice, lemon zest and color  and beat for 30 seconds.  Now change the paddle attachment and fit the whisk attachment.  Add the cold heavy whipping cream and whip till soft peaks are formed. 
  •  Apply the filling on top of the cake board and place the first cake.  Apply dollops of filling on the first cake and spread evenly.  Place the second cake and apply the frosting on top and crumb coat the cake with rest of the filling.  Cover the cake and refrigerate till the frosting is prepared.  There was little left over for me.
  •  Beat the cream cheese till now lumps are found in a mixing bowl of a stand mixture using paddle attachment.  Now add butter and beat till the mixture is smooth.  Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and  beat till all the sugar is used.  Replace the paddle attachment with whisk attachment.  Add the lemon juice and lemon zest beat till stiff peaks are formed.  Scoop out half of the white frosting and place in  a bowl.  To the remaining white frosting in the mixing bowl of the stand mixer, add few drops of yellow color and whip till there are no streaks of yellow color are found and everything is mixed well.
  •  Frost the cake using a offset cake spatula with the white frosting.  It was really hard to get the smooth edges as the frosting was not as stiff as butter cream frosting as I didn't add loads of sugar. I decorated  the cake with #2D tip to make stips, #22 tip to make stars are swirls and the edges, #2A to make small round shape.  I inserted few raspberries in between the edges.
  •  Refrigerate the cake if not using right away.  You can leave the cake outside for 2 hrs before cutting if the temperature is not too high.

Monday, March 30, 2015

White Sandwich Bread

A well fermented batter or well proofed bread dough is the simple joy that thrills me.  I feel that the exertion of cooking and patience is rewarded at those special moments.  Seriously the joy is unexplainable; you have to experience it yourself.  It means a lot when you are living in a place where more than half of the year is cold.  You will find all the means to ferment an idli batter.  The furnace vent in our old house was a great alleviation for me to get the perfectly fermented batter.  But few mishaps had happened which surely ticked off my hubby where the overly fermented batter got out of the bowl and fell through the vent into the furnace.  That was really a nightmare to clean up all the crusted batter inside the furnace.  Luckily it didn't break the furnace.  Later on I used to take precaution by placing the batter bowl in another big container to avoid the spill into the furnace.  Now I rely on my oven for fermentation.  It works and few spillages have occurred too.  But I always get thrilled to see the perfectly fermented batter or well proofed dough.  My kids ask me ‘Why you are so happy Mommy?’  I am not sure if I could convey it to them till they start cooking their own.  You know what I mean :).

Several trials of perfect whole wheat sandwich bread have failed in my kitchen due to many reasons.  The honey oats bread was a great success.  But my quest to find the perfect recipe for plain sandwich bread kept going on.  Finally I decided to try a white bread first and see the results, so that I can improvise it and develop a whole wheat sandwich bread recipe.  It’s been ages I had used white bread, but I had to give it a try to get a step closer to the recipe for the wheat bread.  I was over cloud 9 now when I sliced the first piece out of the White bread I made.  It was soft and firm enough to cut through each slices just like the store bought sandwich bread, I would say even better than the store bought bread because there are no preservatives in this bread and it’s freshly made and it tasted delicious.  It was an instant hit.  My home smelled like a bakery.  Kids approved both the texture and the taste of this bread and it was all gone within 2 days.  They enjoyed it for their weekday breakfast with homemade mixed berry jam.

If you had trouble making your bread in the past, I bring you the good news.  This is the recipe for you.  Now that I am so happy with the outcome of my homemade white bread, I am excited to try the wheat bread pretty soon.  Meantime I will share this recipe with you so that you can try your own and I am sure you will do a happy dance just like me :)

1 1/2 tsp. - active dry yeast
1 tsp. - sugar
1/4 cup - luke warm water
4 1/2 cup - all purpose flour
1/2 tsp - salt
1/4 cup - sugar
1 1/2 cup - luke warm milk
1 tbsp. - honey
4 tbsp. or 1/4 cup - melted butter

3 to 4 tbsp. - all purpose flour for dusting the surface
2 tbsp. - milk for brushing the top of the bread

  • In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup luke warm water, yeast and 1 tsp. sugar.  Keep it aside for 10 minutes or more in a warm place to activate the yeast.  The mix should be frothy.
  • In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, luke warm milk, yeast mixture, salt and honey.  Attach the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes.  The dough will be very sticky and loose.  Now add the melted butter and knead for another minutes.  Scrape the sticky dough in to a greased bowl or you can leave it in the mixing bowl.  You shouldn't be able to make a ball and it will be sticky.  But that's how we want it to be. Cover and keep it in a warm place for the dough to proof or till it gets double or triple the size.  I kept mine for 1 hour and came all the way up to the rim of my mixing bowl.  Alternately you can knead the dough using greased hand to form and sticky dough. 
  • Grease a standard loaf pan.  Transfer the proofed dough into a generously floured surface.  Punch down the air bubbles.  Use 2 to 3 tbsp. of the four to knead the dough for 30 seconds so that they are not sticky, but still very elastic and loose.  Using your hands stretch the dough into a rectangle.  Roll the longer side to the other to form a log and pinch the sides.  Place the rolled log shaped dough into the greased pan with seem side down.  Cover with a kitchen towel and keep in warm place for 30 to 40 minutes for the dough to proof the second time.  This time the dough should rise above the rims of the loaf pan.  If it is not risen enough, keep it for another 20 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
  • Brush the top of the proofed dough with milk.  Bake the bread in the middle rack of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  The top of the bread should be golden brown and it will be in dome shape.  Let the bread  sit in the pan for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  • Slice them and enjoy as you like.
  • The dough should be very loose.  While kneading the dough will be very sticky.  The sticky and lose the dough is the softer the bread will be.  So don't try to add more flour than what is needed.  The extra flour should be added only during the time when the dough is shaped to log.
  • Brushing the top of the bread with milk/melted butter gives the bread the nice color.
  • This bread is similar to the white sandwich bread and you can use it for sandwiches, French toast or simply toast it and enjoy with your favorite fruit preserve.
  • Wrap the bread with aluminum foil and you can keep it outside if it is not too humid for 2 to 3 days.  Otherwise wrap and store in the refrigerator for a week.
  • The key to a soft bread is that it should have enough moisture and fat to get the right texture without over drying.  The milk and the butter surely worked out in this recipe.
  • You can increase the amount of sugar to make it as a sweet milk bread like Wonder bread.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Kerala Style Stewed Bottle Gourd And Green Gram In Coconut Gravy / Lauki Moong Dal Curry

A basket of washed laundry is sitting in my closet for one week.  Daily I am getting into the closet and pulling out clothes to wear at work and simply ignoring the full basket of washed clothes which is staring at me since last week it was placed there.  Am I the same person?  How did I change so much?  I was not like this, years ago.  Huh…. good old memories of school and college days...It was well organized and things had its place and no pile up of anything.  Well ironed clothes and perfectly organized closets and speck free study table.  Wait a minute, the only thing I had to do was to study, nothing else to worry.  Let me come back to the current scene.  I am a Mom.  Of course the priorities have drastically changed now.  Before you never had to worry about what comes on the dining table, you just had to sit there when the meal was ready, but now you are responsible for getting the meal to the table accompanied with lots of chores and responsibilities.  Oh yeah, that's a pretty good excuse to ignore the pile of clothes.   My excuse seems to be reasonable and it is trying to convince my conscience. But still a tiny bit of guilt is poking me from inside when I see the full basket every day.  I have to get it folded tonight, period.  NO MORE EXCUSE!!!

I am sure all Moms had gone through this dilemma of prioritizing things or there are some chores she wish to completely skip or hate to do.  She never finds enough time.  I wish the day was extended little more.  Hope I am not the only one who thinks this way!!

Today I am sharing a recipe that I have been making for years.  I am not sure why I didn't post this earlier.  This is a simple yet nutritious and delicious curry that can be served with rice or Indian flat bread like Roti.  The ingredients of this recipe are similar to the traditional Kerala Erriserry, which is simply a thick coconut based curry made with beans and a vegetable.  The traditional Erriserry uses either pumpkin or green plantain. This recipe uses protein rich green grams and bottle gourd; this curry is not as thick as the traditional Erriserry.  It takes long time to cook the beans and vegetable to get the desired consistency when made in earthen pots in those days.  But now with the use of pressure cooker, this curry can be prepared in a jiffy.  Give this recipe a try and let me know how it turns out for you.

1 1/2 cup - green gram / Moong dal
3 1/2 cups - water

1 1/2 cup - peeled & chopped lauki / bottle gourd
1 - medium size tomato chopped
3 - medium size green chili splits
1 - garlic clove
1/2 tsp. - turmeric powder
3 cups - water
salt to taste

To grind
3/4 cup - grated coconut
1/2 tsp. - cumin seeds/ jerra
1/4 tsp. - turmeric powder
2 - small shallots peeled and sliced
1/2 cup - water

2 tbsp. - grated coconut
1/2 tsp. - black mustard seeds
1 tbsp. - coconut oil
2 - dry red chili broken into half
1 tbsp. - shallots thinly sliced
2 sprigs - fresh curry leaves
1 tbsp. - oil (preferably coconut oil )

  • Soak the Moong dal/ green gram in water for overnight.  Add 3 1/2 cups water and soaked Moong dal into a pressure cooker and cook till 4 whistle blows.  If you forgot to soak the moong dal, don't fret.  Cook the washed Moong dal with 3 1/2 cups of water till 8 whistle blows.  Turn off the stove and let the beans cool down completely.  Use a ladle or potato masher to mash the moong dal.
  • Add the chopped bottle gourd/lauki, turmeric powder, tomato, green chili, garlic clove, salt and 3 cups of water.  Pressure cook again till 3 whistle blows.  Turn off the flame and let the pressure subside.
  • Meantime grind all the ingredients from the 'To grind' list into a very smooth paste.
  • Open the pressure cooker after all the pressure is gone.  Add the ground coconut paste and cook for 5 minutes or till the curry comes to rolling boil.  Adjust the amount of water and salt during this time.  Turn off the flame.  Transfer the curry into a serving bowl.
  • Prepare tadka in a non stick pan by spluttering the mustard seeds in 1 tbsp. of oil.  Lower the flame and add the sliced shallots, red chili and grated coconut. Cook till it gets light golden brown color.  Turn off the flame and add the curry leaves.
  • Pour the tadka over the Lauki Moong Dal curry and serve with steamed plain rice or Indian flat bread like Roti/Chapathi.
  • The curry gets thicker as it sits.  So adjust the amount of water per desired consistency.  I like this curry to be very thick when serving with rice.
  • You can increase or decrease the amount of green chili in this recipe per your taste.  Sometimes I skip the green chili and grind fire roasted red chili.  This adds a nice flavor to the curry.