Chicken Piralen, Malabar style

Chicken is definitely the most versatile meat. And this preparation is one of the most common one all around Kerala. Almost every blog has a version of this recipe. This is the way my Mom makes it: 

Chicken 1kg, medium to small pieces
Coriander powder 3 tbsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Turmeric ½ tsp
Pepper-Saunf powder* 1 tsp
Cumin powder ½ tsp
Cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, a little of each

*'Pepper-Saunf powder' :
Take pepper and saunf in equal proportions and grind and store in an airtight jar. This masala can be added to almost any non-vegetarian preparation.  It improves the taste a lot. 

Grind all the masala ingredients together with a few drops of water and marinate the chicken in it for an hour.

Ginger 2” piece, chopped
Garlic 10-12 cloves, crushed
Shallots, 10-15, sliced
Apple cedar vinegar 1 tbsp (You can substitute with normal vinegar if you don’t get this one)
Water 3 cups
Salt 1 tsp

Cook all the ingredients together with the marinated chicken, until the chicken becomes tender. Then take the chicken pieces from the gravy and keep both aside.

Coconut oil 4-5 tbsp
Onion 1, sliced thinly
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Curry leaves, a few

Heat the oil in a deep skillet and fry the onion and curry leaves in it. When the onion turns golden brown in color, add the chilli powder and sauté for a minute. Now add the chicken pieces and fry well for about 10 minutes on a medium heat. The chicken shouldn’t get scrambled. Now add the gravy which was kept aside and mix well into the fried chicken. Keep cooking on a medium to low flame till the gravy becomes thick.

Goes well with Rice, Chapatti, Vellayappam etc. 

Koorkka fry

I love this preparation. It’s not a complicated one, but the complication comes in the preparation part, it needs to be fried and fried and fried… for at least 20-30 minutes.. that’s a lot of work for a simple vegetable fry if you ask me.. but the final result is definitely worth the effort though, no doubt..

Koorkka, peeled and cut into small pieces (The small ones taste better than the larger ones)
Onion, 1 big, chopped
Green chillis 3-4 chopped
Turmeric powder ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Mustard ½ tsp
Urad dal ½ tsp
Coconut oil 2-3 tbsp
Curry leaves, a few

Heat the oil, add the mustard, when it sputters, add the urad dal, curry leaves, onion and green chillis. When the onion starts to turn pinkish, add some salt. Now add the Koorkka and the turmeric. Keep frying till the Koorkka is well cooked. Close the lid and let it cook for about 3 minutes, sprinkle a little water if necessary.  But Rosh never adds water, he says adding water spoils the taste and texture of the vegetable. It’ll need to be cooked for at least 20 to 30 minutes, altering between closing the lid and stirring every few minutes.

Vellarikka unakkachemmeen curry

Vellarikka 1 small, cubed
Toor dal ½ cup
Turmeric ½ tsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Garlic 3 cloves
Curry leaves, a few

Cook all the above in a pressure cooker till the dal is well cook. The Vellarikka shouldn’t get over cooked.

Coconut grated, ½ cup
Jeera, ½ tsp
Turmeric ½ tsp
A small piece of onion
Water ¼ cup

Grind all these into a smooth paste and add it to the cooked dal mixture. Add some salt. Let it boil for about 5 minutes.

For the garnish:

Coconut oil 1 tbsp
Mustard ½ tsp
Dry red chilli, 2
Curry leaves, a few

Heat oil, add the ingredients for garnish in the given order. Add to the curry, close the lid and serve after 10 minutes.

The curry goes well with rice, curd and your choice of side dish.

Karnataka style greens curry, Soppu saaru

Cheera curry (in Malayalam), which is called Soppu saaru (Soppu is 'leaf' and saaru is 'curry' in Kannada), pronounced "Soppsaaru", is one of the most popular vegetarian curries in Karnataka. It's rich in fiber and flavor. Pretty easy to make except for the part of cleaning the leaves.

In Bangalore we're usually woken up early in the morning, every Tuesday and Friday, by the calls of the 'Soppu aunty' as we call her. She comes to our doorstep with a broad smile and a basket laden with freshly cut greens  and fresh flowers on her head. She'll always have at least about 10 different types of greens and around 5 or 6 types of flowers. It's a pleasant sight to wake up to. The reason she comes very early on Tuesday and Friday is b'coz around here these two days are considered very auspicious and almost every Hindu house will buy flowers to decorate the Puja room on these days. On other days she makes her visits a little later in the mornings.

Coming back to Soppu saaru, this was a preparation I had never seen before coming to Bangalore. The way my Mom prepares greens is very different from this and the taste is entirely different too. Frankly I prefer Mom's preparation, but this version is supposed to be extremely nutritious as it contains not 1, but atleast 4 to 5 types of leaves.
Mixed greens, 4 or 5 types, which includes spinach, coriander leaves and gongura leaves, washed and chopped, about 4 cups
Toor dal, or sambhar dal, 1/2 cup
Moong dal 1/2 cup
Garlic 10 cloves
Tomato 1
Green chillis 6-8
Turmeric 1 tsp
Water 1 cup

Cook all the above together in a pressure cooker for 5-6 whistles or till both the dals are cooked well. Remove from heat and when it cools, add salt and use a heavy ladle to mash the contents a little.

Coconut grated, 3/4 cup
Jeera, 1/2 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp

Grind the above to make a smooth paste. Add this to the curry.

Tamarind pulp, 1 tbsp (If you are not adding gongura leaves, then you'll have to increase this to 2tbsp)

Add to the curry along with the coconut mixture. Mix well. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.

For the garnish:
Coconut oil, 1 tbsp
Mustard, 1/2 tsp
Dry red chillies, 2
Shallots, sliced 2tbsp
Curry leaves, a few

Heat the oil, add the ingredients in the given order and fry till the shallots turn golden brown. Then add the curry leaves, pour onto the curry, close the lid for about 10 minutes. You can add a dollop of ghee too, but that would be a lil on the heavier side. I usually avoid the ghee, even though it improves the taste drastically.

This curry goes well with rice, chappati or Ragi ball or Ragi Modde, as its called in Kannada. It tastes best when accompanied with curd and fish fry.

English breakfast

For some reason, the simplest of things are often the best. An English breakfast would be the best of examples for this... it's so simple, yet so awesome.. and the best part is, there's no predefined way that it needs to be in, there's a wide variety of combinations to choose from. I've made a version that I used to have regularly at a restaurant on MG Road, Bangalore, called Koshy's, during my college days, when even for the simplest of things we had to resort to restaurants as we weren't allowed to use the hostel kitchen.

I happened to visit Koshy's a while ago, but somehow, it didn't feel like old times, now it's just another restaurant, maybe it's the company which made all the difference.. that's when I realized that I was missing college and old friends, who are all in different parts of the world now.

Hmmm...anyhow, I decided to have it home-made this time, in fond memory of college days... it tastes the same, but definitely doesn't feel the same.

Toast, 2 slices
Upside down egg, 1
Fried sausages, 2 (this one's my addition, Koshy's didn't serve sausages)
Baked beans (canned), sautéed in very little oil, with some chopped onion and green chillies

Serve with a cup of hot tea.

Vellayappam or Lace rimmed rice pancakes

In Kerala, Vellayappam is one of the most popular breakfasts. Almost every household has Vellayappam for breakfast atleast once a week. But they can pass really well for lunch or dinner as well.
The lore is that this delicacy is a foreigner to the Mallu-land. It's said the Dutch got the Appam into our land ages ago.  I’m really not sure about the authenticity of that tale, but if it’s true, I’m so thankful to the Dutch!!  
Traditionally this recipe uses ‘toddy’ instead of yeast, but I really have no way of getting toddy here! So the next best alternative is active dry yeast. I’ve heard that people collect water from the coconuts they use for regular cooking for about a week  or so and store it up in the refrigerator, (We Mallus use quite an amount of coconut in our cooking, I’m sure that isn’t news for most people). The stored up coconut water is supposed to be a good enough supplement for the toddy, but I haven’t tried it yet, so no guarantees on that one. I’ve come to trust the good ol’ yeast by now.
Raw rice 3 cups (Soak for 5-8 hours)
Coconut, grated 1 cup
Cooked rice ¾ cup
Yeast mixture ¼ cup*
Sugar 2 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp or as per taste
Baking soda ¼ tsp (Optional)

*For the yeast mixture:
   Warm milk or water ¼ cup
   Sugar 1 tsp
   Dry yeast ¼ tsp

·        Add 1 tsp sugar to the warm milk or water. To this mixture add the yeast. The milk should just be lukewarm. Leave the mixture aside for a few minutes to let the yeast develop.

For the batter:

·        Grind the raw rice, cooked rice and coconut to make a fine batter (slightly thicker in consistency than Dosa batter)
·        Add the yeast mixture and salt to the batter. Use a bowl in which the batter will only be half full. This is because the batter will rise up in a few hours and there should be space for it to come up, if not it’ll spill out of the bowl and that’ll be lotsa mess to cleanup, and lotsa batter wasted
·        Keep it aside in a warm place overnight or for atleast 6-7 hours
·        Next morning, add the baking soda and sugar (2 tbsp) and mix it in very slowly, so as not to disturb the batter too much. DO NOT mix vigorously, as that will affect the quality of the appam

To make the Appam: 

·        Lightly grease an appam chatti or wok, and heat it on a high flame. Once it’s heated, lower the flame and pour one ladle, or ½ cup, of the batter in and swirl the chatti or wok around so that the batter coats the wok to make a thin crust around the rest of the batter which settles into the center. Close with the lid and cook on low flame for about 2-3 minutes, or till the appam is cooked in the middle (slowly poke with a skewer in the middle part and if the batter doesn’t stick, then the appam is ready) and lacy part around the middle would have turned into a light brown color.
·        Gently remove the appam onto a plate or tray and repeat this process to make the number of appams you need. If there is any batter left, you can store it for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator
·        Appam is best served hot, with a variety of side dishes like stew, chicken curry, pork curry, fish curry, vegetable korma, kadala curry, egg curry and the list goes on and on… in short, appam tastes good with almost any side dish, but i suppose the winning combo is Appam with sweetened coconut milk.

Varutharacha Sambhar, better known as Kerala style sambhar

An unavoidable part of the Kerala Sadya. 

Step 1:

Dal, ¾ cup
Onion, 1 small, sliced
Tomato, 1 medium, cut into small cubes
Potato, 1, cut into small cubes
Carrot, 1, cut into lil longer cubes
Beans, 5-6, cut into 1” pieces
Vellarikka  or Yellow cucumber ½ of 1, cut into small cubes
Ash gourd, 1 piece, cut into small cubes
Curry leaves, 1 sprig

Cook all the ingredients with a pinch of salt and turmeric in a pressure cooker for about 3-4 whistles.

Step 2:

Tamarind extract, 1tbsp, Diluted in 3 cups of water
Drumstick, 1, cut into 4” pieces
Ladiesfinger, 4-5, cut into 2” pieces
Brinjal, 2, cubed
Sambhar powder, 1 ½ tbsp, I used Eastern Sambhar powder

Cook all the vegetables in the tamarind water, with a little salt, for about 8-10 minutes. Just before removing from heat, add the sambhar powder.

Step 3:

Coconut ½ of ½ grated
Red chillies 6
Garlic 8-10 cloves
Curry leaves 1 sprig
Fenugreek ¼ tsp
Jeera 1tsp
Whole dhaniya or coriander seeds 1 handful
Peppercorns 1tsp

Dry roast all the ingredients till the coconut is golden brown in color. Grind to make a smooth paste.

Step 4:

Asafoetida ½ tsp
Salt, to taste

For garnishing:

Mustard seeds 1tsp
Dry red chillies 3, broken into pieces
Curry leaves 1 sprig
Coconut oil 1tbsp
Coriander leaves, a few stems, chopped

  • Add the ground paste and the dal mix from the cooker to the tamarind mix. Let it boil for 5 minutes. Add asafoetida and more salt if necessary. Remove from heat.
  • In a separate pan, heat the oil for the garnish, add mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves. Pour over the sambhar. Add the coriander leaves.
  • Can be served with Idli, Dosa, or Rice.

Onion chutney

Onion, 2, sliced
Dry red chillis, 4-5
Tamarind, a small piece (or if you’re using the paste, ½ tsp)
Curry leaves 2-3
Asafoetida, ¼ tsp
Salt, to taste
Coconut oil, 1tbsp

Heat the oil, add the chillies, tamarind and asafoetida, as soon as this starts to heat up, add the sliced onion, curry leaves and salt. Fry till the onion starts to turn brownish. Once it cools, grind to a smooth paste.

Can be served with Idli, Dosa, Uthappam etc.

Mango Milkshake

Ripe mangoes, 2, peeled and cubed
Cold milk, ½ litre
Sugar, 3tbsp
Mango or Vanilla ice-cream (optional)

  • Blend all the ingredients, except the ice-cream, to make a smooth paste.
  • Pour into tall glasses and top it with a scoop of ice-cream.
  • Serve cold!

Banana/Plantain milkshake.. also called Banana Cream

This is one from my past again, yeah yeah, I know… I’m back on the nostalgia track yet again.. but I just have to put this one up, I just remembered it when mom happened to mention it today. It seems silly that I’d forgotten about it, coz it’s such a simple thing, but I suppose we all forget the simpler things in life most often, than the complicated ones. It’s a delightful drink, especially for kids. For me, it’s like finding lost love.. hehe.. I know how silly that comparison sounds.. but that’s how it is, I used to be in love with it as a kid. So here’s my long lost, and found, or remembered ratherBanana cream

Ripe plantains, 2
Cold milk, 4 cups
Sugar, 3tbsp
Vanilla essence, 2 drops

  • Cook the plantain in a steamer, with the skin on, for about 10-15 minutes. Let it cool.

  • Blend this with the remaining ingredients in a mixer, to make a smooth paste.

  • Serve warm or cold!! It’s yummy either way!

Biriyani Chutney

This chutney is quite hot, but can be sobered down a bit with jaggery and dates. This is one indispensable side dish with a Malabar Biriyani.

Coriander leaves, with part of stem - A small handful
Mint leaves - A small handful
Garlic - 6-8 cloves
Ginger - a small piece
Dates - 3, de-seeded OR Jaggery - A small piece
Chilli powder - 1tsp, (dry roasted)
Tamarind paste - 1tbsp
Salt to taste

Grind all the ingredients to make a smooth paste. Chutney's ready!!

Malabar Chicken Biriyani

Malabar chicken biryani is a standard choice for most Malabari functions.

For the rice:
1. Jeerakashala rice - 4cups
2. Ghee – 4tbsp (to fry the rice) + 2 tbsp (to fry onions for garnishing)
3. Lime – 2tsp
4. Salt – To taste
5. Water – 8cups
6. Spice-pouch
7. Rose water – ¼ cup
8. Saffron – 5-6 strands (soaked in 4tbsp warm milk)

For the Spice-pouch:
    Fennel seeds – 1tbsp
    Cardamom – 3
    Cinnamon sticks – 2 pieces
    Cloves – 8
    Star anise – 3
    Shajeera/Caraway seeds – 1tsp
    Bay leaf – 2 leaves

   Crush all these spices lightly and put them into a small pouch, made from a soft muslin cloth, and tie it up.

For the chicken masala:
1. Chicken - 1kg, cut into medium pieces
2. Onion - 4 (for the chicken masala), 1 (for garnishing), sliced thinly
3. Tomato – 1, cubed
4. Green chillies - 5-8 (according to heat tolerance)
5. Ginger - 1 big piece
6. Garlic – 1 pod
7. Mint leaves – 1 small bunch
8. Coriander leaves – 1 small bunch
9. Fennel seeds – 2tbsp
10. Pepper – 1tsp
11. Lime juice – 2tsp
12. Curd – ½ cup
13. Turmeric – ½ tsp
14. Salt – 1tsp
15. Ghee – 1tbsp


·        Wash and soak the rice for about an hour. Drain out all the water, you can move the rice onto a soft muslin cloth, tie it up and hang it somewhere so that all the water it drained out.

·        After you have soaked the rice, you can start work on marinating the chicken. Roughly crush together ingredients 4 to 9 (listed under chicken masala). You can do this in the chopper in the food processor or use the pulse option on the mixer. Mix this with the chicken, along with ingredients 10 to 14 and keep aside for at least 2-3 hours so that the masala seeps well into the meat.

·        Heat a skillet and add 2tbsp ghee to it and fry the onion for the garnish, add some sugar to it so that it gets slightly caramelized. Keep frying on a medium flame till the onion become light brown in color. Strain out of the ghee and keep aside. Keep the ghee aside too for garnishing the rice at the end.

·        To the same skillet add the remaining 4tbsp ghee and fry the rice till it’s almost golden in color, on a medium flame. This should take about 20 minutes. Keep stirring gently, ensuring that the rice doesn’t break. While the rice is getting fried, in a separate vessel, boil 8cups water with the spice-pouch, lime juice and salt. Once the rice is fried add the boiled water, close lid and cook on a medium to low flame for about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat and leave it for another 10 minutes, without opening the lid.

·        Now, heat a pressure cooker, add 1tbsp ghee. Add the sliced onions and sauté till it turn pink. Now add the tomato pieces and sauté well. To this add the marinated chicken. Mix well. Cook for about 3-4 whistles. Do not add any extra water. Ensure that the chicken doesn’t get over cooked. Once you open the lid, there will be some gravy. Cook on a low flame till the gravy thickens a little.

·        Open the lid on the rice and remove the spice-pouch. Add the rose water, soaked saffron and the ghee that was kept aside for garnishing. Mix well and close lid for another 10 minutes.

·        Now for layering the biriyani. Take a skillet in which you plan to set the biriyani, add about 4-5 spoons of the chicken masala, then add 5-6 spoons of rice, repeat this procedure to make about 3 such layers. Garnish with the fried onions. Cover with a well fitting lid.

·        Heat an iron tawa on high flame and keep the biriyani’s skillet on top of it for about 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and leave it for another 15 minutes. This is for the dum and helps all the flavors blend well with the rice and the meat.

·        Biriyani is ready to be served!!!

·        Serve with Pappadam, Biriyani chutney and Salad/Raita.