Stuffed Chillies.

I have had mind-boggling two weeks which along with the weather hasn’t helped my disposition at all.

Really groggy weather in my neck of the woods right now. It is not raining but it seems likes it would rain any minute now and its been like that for the past three days without a drop of rain. The greenery seems to be going brown without going through the customary color change and that is just sad. For fall is not fall until the colors come in. Three weeks into september and I am already missing summer. The weird weather is to blame. There is slight chill in the air. Not much but enough to send the kids into the customary change of season cold. I am already dreading the winter this season.

The weather, though, has had me craving for deep-fried stuff all week. I am resolutely ignoring it. Thinking ahead, I am saving myself for Diwali, you see. Maybe if I abstain for the next month, I can gorge away the diwali goodies guilt-free. One can always hope. Sedentary lifestyles make you plan ahead for these things. But I digress. I was talking about the last two weeks.

Early on, as soon as I posted about the sweet appe, my blender died on me. Serves me right for cribbing about it in the last two posts. I had a good GE model with a coffee grinder attachment which had served me well the past 4 years. With the kind of use I have made of it, I am surprised it took so long for it to give up on me. But, the whole thing was disappointing. I always thought that the day it dies on me would be the day I have a dozen people for dinner. There I would be trying to grind up a heavenly curry paste and it would blast out, make horrible sounds, keep sputtering and the red light that signifies the machine is on would fade away slowly, kind of like the eye of the terminator at the end of each movie. And that I would see my dream of an Indianised Martha Stewartesque meal fading away with that light. O, the horror! O, the pain! If nothing so melodramatic, I thought that it would at least do me the favor of dying a spectacular death with the top flying away and the stuff that I was trying to grind hitting the roof and coming down in a shower. You know, a shower of strawberry smoothie early in the morning would be a spectacular way to start a day, wouldn’t it? But alas, no such luck. It just sputtered and ground itself to halt, never to make a peep again. Why? Because.

So anyway, I am having the biggest internal debate. I have decided to take this oppurtunity to invest in either an Indian mixer/grinder or the wet grinder. I can’t decide between the two. So I have decided to make it a democratic decision. I invite my readers to please vote for either so that I can finally decide. Yes, the word decide is on my mind too much these days. The Libran moon is up, my friends.

While you guys are voting on that, you could also comment on how one should deal with a 3 year old when you trying to talk to him about a certain not-good-boy thing he did and he replies,

“I don’t want to talk about it”.

To say, I was flabbergasted would be putting it mildly. I was completely dumb-founded and had no idea how to proceed. I stood there mute, actually feeling the sting of the ‘chaata‘ I would have got from my parents in such scenarios. They same ‘chaata‘ that they never got a chance to dispense, btw. He hasn’t repeated the action, but I would still like to be more prepared for statements like that one in case they make an appearance again. I still haven’t thought of a good retort. Yep, amazing two weeks I have had.

I decided to stuff my misery, my undecisiveness and my complete lack of ability to overcome a 3 year old among other stuff into some Anahiem Peppers and have a good dinner, instead. This decision was the easy part.

Stuffed Chillies

Recipe:

1)

Prep the chillies. Make a small horizontal cut,parallel to the stem about 1 cm below it. Make a vertical slit perpendicular to the first slit to the tip of the pepper. OPen up the pepper gently and remove all the seeds inside. I don’t remove the ribs. Sprinkle some salt on the peppers and keep it aside while you prepare the stuffing. The salting is an optional step. I do it because it softens the peppers just enough to allow it to cook quicker.

2) For the Stuffing. Mix

1/2 cup Besan/Chickpea Flour
1/4 cup Fresh Coconut gratings
1/4 cup Peanut powder
1 tsp Coriander Powder/Dhaniya
1/4 tsp Turmeric/Haldi
1 tsp Peanut Oil
a pinch Asafetida/Hing
Salt to taste
Juice from One lemon

together to almost form a dough. This stuffing is enough for 6 medium length peppers.

3) Gently stuff the dough into the chillies.

4) In a 8′ pan, heat a tsp of oil and spread it all over the pan’s surface . Add

a pinch of hing

Place the peppers on pan so that they are not overlapping. Immediately lower the flame, cover and cook for about ten minutes on each side. The time taken to cook would depend upon the amount of stuffing in your chillies. The steam and juices from the pepper should go through the stuffing right to its center. Make a cut on one of the chillies to make sure it has cooked all the way through. There is nothing good about uncooked besan. Enjoy.

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Phodis

There is no dearth of deep-fried goodness in konkani food. There is an seemlingly endless variety of bajjo-s, phodi-s and ambado-s , just to name a few.

This is what I understand is the difference between each.

Bajjo : They are different veggies that are dipped in batter and deep fried. They are best hot off the oil and tend to become oily when cool. They are served as part of a meal or as a snack with some hot coffee. Essentially, Bajjo is konkani-speak for pakoda. Eg : piava(Onion) Bajjo, Goola(Green Brinjal) Bajjo etc.

Ambado : is a mixture of vegetables/herbs and spices, with potato/legumes/besan used as binder. They can also be seasoned mashed vegetables/tubers dipped in a batter and deep fried. Ambado is konkani speak for vada/vade Eg: Batate (Potato) ambado, Biscoot (Seasoned Urad Dal) Ambado etc.

Phodi : They are deep-fried veggies, too. However, there is no batter involved. They are marinated with a dryish paste of (red chillies+hing+salt and rice,soaked in water). The veggies used for phodi’s tend to be vegetables which have a low content of water in them. Root Vegetables like Suran (Indian yam), Sweet Potato etc. work best. Heat levels (as in Scoville) are higher in phodis than your average bajjo.They are sliced very thin and fried on medium heat for quite a bit longer than bajjos, making them crisp and chewy. They are great at room temperature, too. eg: see below . But they really come into their own when made with cross sections of fish like mackeral or pomfret. Yummm…..

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Clockwise from top : Karate Phodi, Surana phodi, Kadge Phodi, Ghointa Phodi

This post talks phodi. As explained above, they are marinated with the spicy paste. We call the spicy paste ‘Goolli’ and the whole process of applying the paste to the Vegetables/fish is called “Goolli Lavche” or applying the paste. However, the english translation comes nowhere to describe the importance of its konkani counterpart. Especially, if seafood is involved. It is not that you dunk the paste and the veggies together in a bowl and swish them all around. You take each slice and apply the paste to it and set aside. It takes a lot of time, but such kind of attention to detail results in properly seasoned fish or vegetable that are just amazing. It is all about details.

The phodis are , most often than not, part of the festive meal or a very large meal. Each vegetable that is to be fried has a special shape in which it will cut for the phodi. Traditionally, five types of phodi are made for any festive meal. I could get hold of only four. The one’s I made for Sansar Padwa and their traditional shape are

1. Suran-a Phodi : Indian yam. They are usually cut into 1 mm thick/thin quadrilatrals of about 1″ * 1″. I used the frozen suran availabe in Indian store, and they are available pre-cut into cubes.

2. Kadge Phodi : Raw Jackfruit. 1 1/2 mm thick wedges . The actual width would depend upon the radius of the Jackfruit. Again, my only choice was the canned variety. I cut each piece into two cross-sectionally.

3. Ghoint-a Phodi : Parwal. Each parwal is cut into three or four pieces depending upon its thickness length-wise. My favorite.

4. Karate Phodi : Bitter gourd. They are cut into thin rounds (As thin as you can make them) and fried crisp, almost like chips. It kind of takes the edge away from the bitterness, yet maintaining it’s integrity. Even haters of this vegetable eat thid deep fried version of them.

Certain rules that are followed.

1. Each type of the vegetable should be cut in approximately the same thickness, length and breadth. They all cook at the same time that way.

2. All vegetables except karate (bittergourd, because of the bitterness) can kept in the same bowl once the “goolli” is applied.

3. Irrespective of whether the vegetables have been mixed together or not, when deep-frying fry like vegetables together. Again, different cooking times for different vegetables.

4. Always fry the bittergourd the last as changes the taste of the oil.

5. You know the veggies are crisp enough when the oil around them stops bubbling.

6. All safety rules for deep frying apply. 🙂

Recipe for “goolli”:

1 cup un-cooked rice, soaked for about an hour or two.
A fistful of dried red chillies (about 10-12)
1 tsp of hing powder
Salt to taste.

Grind together in a blender, using as little water as possible, to a smooth paste. Absolutely no water used when my mom makes it. But then, she has the magic mixer, too. However, my recent acquisition, the cuisinart coffee grinder, with the detachable grinder, works great for this as well for most chutneys. At $29.99 (at Bed, Bath and Beyond), it is not as hard on the pocket as some other ones. 🙂

Apply to the sliced/cut vegetables and keep aside for about an hour. Deep fry. Best served with Rice and Daalitoy.

Psst,Dear Behena, Pudding recipe coming soon….Dheeraj Rakh…

Update : ‘karate’ to be read as Kaa-raa-tey’. Thanks to the ever-vigilant Coffee’s comment below.

Making the Weekday Special with Chilli Chicken

Aayush has decided that he likes to bite into things and chew his food rather than having it mashed and gulping it down. Finally! I almost had visions of feeding him mashed food into old age.

“Kha re, deva. Hoddu jatalo!!”.. “Eat it, my lord. Make you a big boy!” .

Amazing how he can set his tooth grinders on when he is eating a chakuli (murruku) or tukdi or even potato chips. But, a roti or rice, god forbid if he would chew through them. After a lot of explaining, showing him how dad (and all ‘big boys’) eat, trying to enforce the rule by refusing to mash his food and finally, breaking down and just praying to god for salvation, the bugger decides to eat like a grown up. So what pushes him to do it ? Not peer pressure, not shame, not wanting to be a ‘big boy’ nor any of my culinary creations. Oh no!! It was the blasted Chick-Fil-A Chicken Nuggets. Not that I have anything against them. Rather them than the ones at MacDonalds, I say. It is the sheer perverse-ness of it that frustrates me. After going through a lot of struggle to avoid getting him on the fast food bandwagon (struggle, not only because of the sheer amount of outlets and Ads , but because we have had to avoid it, too), the one food that drives him to take that next very important step in his development comes straight out of a fast food chain. Ugggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

Thats kids for you. So, how does the a two year old with parents trying hard not to expose him to fast food, come across a Chick-Fil-A Chicken nugget? Ah, see , thats a whole other can of worms. Of late, there have been discontent in the family about the food that coming out my kitchen during week days. Discontent that they were just not as exciting as before. Discontent that began erupting with mild comments, mild comments that turned into mutterings when food was served, mutterings that turned into snide comments, and snide comments that finally became loud complaints. When even those didn’t have the desired effect, they decided to hit it where it really hurts! The ego. Oh yes, the hubby coming home with one of the drive-thru specials was becoming a regular feature and signs of a full blown mutiny were apparent. I was not ready to give in, though, and a full blown war was about to start, when Aayush decided, he liked fast food.

And, peace was sketched out between the waring factions (read, the parents) in the interest of the innocent people (read, the kids) whose life was blown apart by the silent war (though I am sure, Aayush doesn’t look at it that way). It was decided that something “exciting” (in terms of food!) will be made mid-week, the day hubby comes home at the same time as me, and that he would help in any way he can, begining with staying out of the kitchen and making sure the kids stay away, too. He was very happy with that suggestion. Poor guy, has no idea the tornado that is going to hit him in the form of two kids who have missed their parents the whole day. *snicker, snicker*

So, the good news is, Aayush likes chicken and that means a quick route to good proteins for him and another reason for us ( S and me) to gorge on chickens and hubby takes care of the kids for one WHOLE evening. Not a bad deal. I began the healing process with some darn good, Indo-Chinese concoction that I guess would be known as fast-food in India, but since I make it at home, is alright ;).

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Cube into bite size pieces

3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

Make a paste of the following and marinate the chicken in it for about an hour.

1 tbsp Red Chilli Powder
1 tbsp Soya Sauce (Dark or lite, I prefer the dark)
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbsp Cornflour

In a large frying pan, heat up

a couple tbsp of Peanut Oil

Shallow-fry the chicken cubes in the oil. If you have used a large enough pan, you will be able to do this in two rounds. Follow the usual rules. Don’t over crowd the pan, don’t try moving the chicken around for a couple minutes until a shake to the pan has it dancing in the pan. Usually, with chicken pieces this small, you know you are ready to turn them when the side on top if white with small pink center on top. Drain on paper towels when cooked through. Cool. This part you can do ahead of time. I have to warn you though that the family might think they are chicken pakoda and finish them off.

Raise the heat on the remaining oil (there should be about 2 tbsp oil, if there isn’t add more), add

2 whole dried red chillies (optional)
1/2 cup sliced Green Onions
(usually a bunch. only the white part, save the green for garnish)
1 tbsp chopped Garlic
4-5 chillies slit length-wise

Stir fry for 2 minutes. Add

2 tbsp Soya Sauce
2 tbsp Chilli-Garlic Sauce (you get these in most grocery stores)

Add salt, depending on taste. Usually, with that amount of soya sauce, its not necessary. Mix to coat all the chicken with the sauce. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from flame and top with

chopped greens from the green onions
(That sounds very knowledgeable,doesn’t it?)

I served this with dal and rice. But, it works as an excellent finger-food,too.

And All was as should should be and peace reigned the kingdom again. With the mutiny squashed, the queen was joyous. The king was happy with the time he was getting with the kids and the prince and the princess were just happy with the attention. The chicken nuggets got to stay in the outlets where the bad grown ups (us) can go and pig out without the kids knowing about it. Everyone gobbled down on the ‘exciting’ home-made food, and they lived happily ever after

…………………………………………………………….until the next meal.