Making up with Mirchi ka Salan

The first weeks of November saw me go back to the world of 9 to 5 and my son going into deep disillusionment. He had believed that his mommy was going to be there ‘always, always’. Turns out mommy just goes out all day, comes back only in the evening and spends just a couple of hours a day with him. His solution, make for lost time on weekends. So, the last two weekends saw me juggling to do the things that need to be done around the house with a 2 year old attached to the hip, literally. All of this has , of course, taken a toll on the kitchen. It was feeling real neglected.As I entered into the world of planned meals and easy to cook recipes, the past two weeks had seen me sticking with the basic food and really not venturing too far from the roti-dal-sabzi menu. The kitchen was not happy. Yes, disillusionment was just around the corner. Having trouble dealing with one kid who had already decided it was time to force the issue, I decided that making up with my kitchen was the smart thing to do. So, when Aayush, finally trusted me enough to get a shut eye (I guess, he just thought, I would disappear again if he slept), I decided to venture into the world of Hyderabadi food with its much touted Mirchi ka Salan.

MirchiKaSalanNow, I dont claim to be a connosieur of andhra food. In fact, the first time I heard about Mirchi ka Salan was through an Andhra-ite friend of mine. When ‘M’ described it to me, I knew I was going to like it. I mean, fried peppers in a peanut sauce, How can you go wrong!!! It was time to give it a taste. So, armed with a recipe, I forged into the world of Hyderabadi Cuisine.

I went with jalapeno peppers for this dish, though, she had suggested using anaheim. Let me tell you, I should have gone with the Anaheim. Wowee!! Cleared up all our sinuses for sure! Leftovers a couple days later were just too hot for consumption. The next time I would probably remove the innards of the chillis if I decide to stick with jalapeno. Phew!! The gravy is simply fabulous. Not just simply fabulous, but simple and fabulous. My husband suggested putting chicken pieces in the gravy along with the peppers next time. I like the idea and will try it soon, though, ‘M’ thought it was blasphemy to meddle with the perfect Mirchi ka Salan. Sorry, Dear. 🙂

For those of you who haven’t tried this dish, I would certainly recommend it. Try it once. Go for the milder peppers before you venture into the more hots ones. The gravy is a keeper for sure!!

Here’s the recipe as I tried it and as ‘M’ makes it.

Ingredients

Deep/Shallow fry

4 Jalapenos/Anaheim Peppers (Deseeded, if you don’t like things too hot

in

Ghee/Peanut or Corn Oil

Keep aside. I removed the outer skin of the jalapenos even though ‘M’ doesn’t. Just a personal preference. Wrap the deep fried Jalapenos in a paper towel till cool enough to handle to completely cover. Then just wipe the skin off. The steam does most of the job that way.

Make the salan paste. Grind to a fine paste

¼ cup Roasted Peanuts
¼ cup Dessicated Coconut
1” Fresh Ginger, chopped
1 tsp Sesame Seeds

Add to the paste

1 tsp Asafoetida

Heat

2-3 tbsp Ghee/Peanut or Corn Oil

Add the salan paste and cook it till the oil leaves the paste. This takes quite a while and you need to keep stirring it as the peanuts have the tendency to stick. Very important to cook it that long to keep the peanuts from tasting raw. Take the time. Juggle the kid to the other hip(Of course, he is up by now). Sing him a song and take a few seconds away to keep stirring it.
Add a few drops of water, if it starts sticking too much. I did this in a cast iron skillet set on medium/medium-low heat, took about 15 minutes and 2 splashes of water.Once the paste starts leaving the oil (you will actually see the layer of oil separate and its quite gratifying), add

½ cup yogurt, whisked smooth
Tumeric/Haldi, a pinch
Salt, to taste

According to ‘M’, thats the proportion. The peanuts,coconut and yogurt go in a 1:1:2 ratio to make the ‘perfect’ salan. The rest can be eye balled. Keep stirring until the oil separated again. A lot quicker this time. Add

2 tbsp Tamarind paste
Water, enough to make it a sauce consistency

Cook for a couple of minutes till the water and tamarind blend with the paste to make a smooth sauce. Add the fried peppers. Bring to a boil and remove from flame. Garnish with

2 tsp coriander leaves, chopped finely

Mirchi ka salan is ready. I served it with hot chapatis and rice, though traditionally, it is served with Hyderabadi Biryani. That, though, is another post. 🙂

Chicken 65 or 66 or whatever…

I am always looking for recipes that serve as good finger food at dinner parties. The kind of dinner parties I host are mostly impromptu ones .Ones that  do not leave me with much time for menu planning and shopping, much less going through long winded ingredient lists.Thats why, recipes that use few ingredients and stuff that are almost always part of my pantry, rate high on my list of preferred dishes. Also important, is not just how easy it is to make but also how easy it is to remember . Last minute entertainment does not allow for constant double checking of a recipe.

 It is rarely that one comes across something that satisfies all the above criteria. But when one does, you etch it into your brain.This is an amazing dish that requires just 5 ingredients (well 6 if you count the salt) , no 8 hour marination jhanjat and is a jiff to make. Its called Chicken 65.

Why 65 you say? Apparently , it was number 65 on some trucker's dhaba's Menu list in madras.  That also explains why this recipe uses Sambhar Powder instead of the usual Garam Masala. Sambhar Masala and Chicken…..huh…never tried that before.I found it in the depths of eGullet Forums. The fact that this was a chicken dish was what attracted me to it in the first place. (Dear S loves chicken!!). Given the small ingredient list, and the fact that it does not drown the chicken in all the spices that one can think of,I couldn't get it out of my mind. This weekend ,I decided to give it a try. Alas, No chicken at home.

ME : You know , I forgot to get some stuff when I went out grocery shopping yesterday

S:    hmmmmph….So Whats New?

ME : I was hoping you would go out and get some of it.

S:   <irritated>Can't you make something else?

Me : I actually wanted to try out this fab chicken recipe that I got, you know, chicken 65.

S:    <salivating>Chicken 65???..Cant you skip that ingredient and still make it.

Me : <coughing>Its the chicken that I'm missing.

S : <muttering on the way to his car>You really should make a list. Your Inventory Management sucks!

Ten Minutes later………..

Armed with all the ingredients, I started putting it together.

Start with a cup of Yogurt.The recipe calls for hung thick yogurt. I didn't have the patience to do it, so just put in regular yogurt. In goes 2 tbsp of Sambhar Powder,2 tbsp Chili Powder, 2 tbsp ginger/garlic paste and salt.  Put in cubed skinless boneless chicken and Mix well. Keep aside for an hour. Just enough time to bathe the kids and make some veggie pulao for lunch…..

An hour later………

The marinade has become watery…must be why the recipe suggested hung thick yogurt. Note to Self :  Next time Use Hung Thick Yogurt!! :)) .Decanted the top watery portion of the marinade.Next, the recipe suggests heat 1/2 cup oil. Started with half the quantity.Heat the oil in a wok ,throw in chicken, marinade and all. Cook on high flame stirring every now and then.The marinade first becomes watery , and then starts cooking,giving out the most delicious aromas. S starts making rounds to the kitchen.

"Is it ready yet?"

"No Dear, 10 more mins".

10 mins later…..

The Yogurt mixture has cooked into a very aromatic dry sauce that is coating the chicken but not completely dry as to classify as finger food. At this point, I, of course, had to add my own touch to it and decided to add onion rings to the mixture. Keep cooking and stirring till it all dries out. At this point, the yogurt mixture has evaporated completely and become one entity with the chicken and the onions are nicely caramelised with the yogurt coating. Remove from Flame and empty into serving bowl. Add a tadka(seasoning) of black mustard seeds and curry leaves. Garnished with fresh chopped coriander leaves.

"Can I try some?"

"Sure, I am gonna take a look at what the kids are upto in the meantime"

"ok"

2 mins later…..

"I saved a couple of pieces for you"

"But I made them for lunch"

"Hey, You were the one that said it was finger food"

"But……"

"Finger food is always eaten before the main meal"

"But….."

"So, What were the kids upto?"

Note to Self : Next time try it with Paneer or better yet Tofu..

The actual recipe….

500 gms boneless chicken cut into thick shreds(Approx 1 cm by 2 cm) 
Marinade :

1 cup hung thick yogurt(dahi),

2 tbsps sambar powder,

2 tbsps red chilli powder,

2 tbsps ginger garlic paste

and salt to taste.
Marinate Chicken for an hour.

Heat 1/2 cup of oil.Stir fry Chicken till the yogurt mixture dries up. remove from flame. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a small pan. Add 1/2 tsp Black mustard seeds. After they start popping, add curry leaves. Pour over cooked chicken.Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.