Friday, May 18, 2018

Chettinad Masala

Chettinad masala is a fiery delicious blend of spices and a key ingredient in many dishes from the Chettinad Cuisine.
Chettinad Cuisine hails from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, India and is renowned for its spicy vibrant curries with complex yet perfectly balanced flavor. The fiery gravy that forms the base for these curries is made with a combination of a few fresh ingredients and several freshly ground local spices.
Chettinad masala is loaded with red chilies and coconut and earthy ingredients like cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon along with some local spices like star anise and Kalpasi flower. The distinct aroma of freshly ground spices that engulfs the air while making this blend is enough to make me drool.

I keep the spice level high in my curries. If your spice threshold is different then use a few less dry red chilies in the recipe. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days or refrigerate. Use this masala to make chicken, fish, shrimp or lamb curry. Vegetarians and vegans can use it for vegetable stir-fries or veggie curry using tofu or potato or eggplant etc.

Chettinad masala
10 dry red chilies
5 tbsp (heaped) dry shredded coconut
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
4 green cardamoms
5-7 cloves
2-inch cinnamon
2 Star anise
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp paprika for color
  1. Dry roast all the ingredients except paprika. I like to roast all these separately as each has a different roasting point. 
  2. Cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Place all the spices in a grinder and grind to form a coarse mixture. 
  4. Store in an airtight container for 10 days.

Friday, May 11, 2018

6 delicious ways to fancy up your Avocado toast

Smashed avocado on a perfectly toasted Multigrain Rye, sprinkled with salt and freshly cracked black pepper - pure bliss, our favorite Sunday Breakfast. Quick to prepare and rich in heart-healthy fats this classic avocado on toast makes for a healthy start to your day. If you love avocado toast then here are six delicious ways to make it even fancier. All these recipes are perfect for lunch/brunch, and taste just awesome.

Tips for a perfect Avocado toast
  1. Choose perfectly ripe avocados - Gently squeeze into the avocado and feel it give a little. This level of ripeness will mash and spread easily. For slicing, you can choose slightly less ripe ones.  
  2. Toast your bread to perfection - Toasting your bread properly is super important to a perfect avocado on toast. The contrasting texture of a crisply toasted slice to the silky rich avocado spread is a match made in heaven. Most wholegrain varieties take longer to reach the perfect crispness while the fruit and nut bread will toast rather quickly. Another technique that works really well is brushing a dense multigrain slice with a little oil and toasting it on a hot griddle until crisp. 
  3. Try selecting a bread that complements the toppings - A good dense bread will work best for all avocado toast recipes but there are some combinations that enhance the flavor quotient. Sourdough or rye work really well with avocado and tomato. If you’re topping it with smoked salmon, try seeded bread or bagels. A fruit and nut bread is super delish if you are topping with pear slices and feta. Multigrain works well for almost any topping.

Avocado on toast with sunny side up fried eggs and wilted spinach. An egg is essential to this lineup. 
  1. In a moderately hot skillet add a teaspoon of olive oil and a large handful of spinach leaves. Saute for a minute till spinach wilts a little. Keep aside.
  2. Fry a couple of eggs sunny side up, season with some spiced salt. 
  3. Spread mashed avocado on toast and top with the fried egg and a large spoonful of warm spinach. 

Avocado on toast with poached eggs and fresh seed sprouts. Unique onion flavor and texture with onion sprouts.
  1. Toasted bread spread with mashed avocado. Seeded bread/bagel works well here.
  2. A thin layer of onion sprouts.
  3. Topped with a poached egg and sprinkled with seasoned salt.
  4. Cherry tomatoes on the side.

Avocado on toast topped with herbaceous scrambled eggs and pico de gallo. A hint of Mexican flavor. 
  1. Scramble an egg and mix chopped fresh coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Keep aside.
  2. Mix finely chopped red onion, tomato, and fresh coriander. Season with some salt and pepper and some lime juice. Keep aside. 
  3. Toast bread until crisp and spread with mashed avocado. I recommend multigrain bread. 
  4. Top it with scrambled egg and a heaped tablespoon on Pico de gallo. 

Grilled cheese-n-tomatoes on toast topped with avocado slices & freshly cracked black pepper. When tomatoes are in season, this is a must make combo. A great vegetarian option.
  1. Rye or sourdough bread pairs well with grilled tomatoes. 
  2. Top toast with cheese of your choice and sliced tomato, grill till crisp and cheese had melted. 
  3. Top with avocado slices and season with freshly cracked black pepper. 
  4. I would recommend some red chili flakes on top as well. An evergreen combination perfect for brunch. A fave with my daughters. 

Avocado on toast with smoked salmon and fresh greens on the side. A feel-good combo.
  1. Mash avocado and season with salt and pepper. Add some finely chopped red onion and mix well.
  2.  Seeded bread or bagels pair well with smoked salmon. 
  3. Spread on a toasted slice of bread. Top with a couple shavings of smoked salmon.
  4. Serve with baby spinach and lemon slices. 

Avocado on toast topped with pear slices, walnut bits, and feta cheese. A dose of healthy fats!
  1. Choose firm but ripe pears. Slice thinly.
  2. In our family, we prefer feta cheese in this setup as the salty taste contrasts well with the slightly sweet pear slices. Choose your preferred cheese.
  3. I recommend choosing a fruit and seed bread such as raisin or cranberry and pumpkin seed variety. 
  4. Spread mashed avocado on a toasted slice of bread and top with a few thinly sliced pears and sprinkle with some chopped walnut pieces and crumbled feta cheese. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Mutton fry

A delicious dry mutton fry dish that pairs beautifully with rice or roti.  This is one of the faves in our house. Mutton pieces are tossed in whole spices and chilies till moist tender. This dish has no gravy, only a thick spicy masala clings to the meat pieces. The spice level is high, as it has both red chilies and black peppercorns. If your spice threshold is less then adjust the amount of these two ingredients.
I usually cook the mutton in a pressure cooker prior to frying. You can also cook it in the pan by adding a little more water and cooking covered for 20-25 minutes.

The spices and aromatics in this dish will set your taste buds alight with a symphony of flavors.

2 lbs mutton
2 cloves of garlic
A small piece of ginger
⅓ tsp salt
⅓ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp red chili powder (optional)
  1. Marinating mutton - Season the mutton pieces with salt, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Crush ginger and garlic and mix it in. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. 
  2. Cooking mutton - Place the marinated mutton with a ¼ cup water in a pressure cooker. Cook till the steam starts to escape. Simmer for 5 minutes and then take off the heat and allow the steam to release on its own. 
Dry spice mix
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
4-5 cloves
1 black cardamom
2-3 green cardamoms
½ inch cinnamon stick
8-10 black peppercorns (as per your spice quotient)
2-3 dried red chilies (as per your spice quotient)
  1. In a skillet dry roast all the whole spices written under dry spice mix till fragrant. Cool and then grind coarsely. Keep aside.
Other ingredients
2-3 tbsp oil
2 onions
2-3 cloves garlic
A small piece of ginger
½ cup plain yogurt whisked
Salt to taste
Garam masala powder (optional)
Fresh coriander to garnish
Red onion rings and naan as accompaniments
  1. Dice the onions very finely (or grate) and crush ginger and garlic. 
  2. In a skillet heat the oil and add onions. Saute on medium high stirring for a minute and then add the ginger and garlic. Continue cooking on medium till golden brown. Stir frequently to avoid burning. 
  3. Add yogurt and cook on high till the oil separates from the sides. 
  4. Now gently add the cooked mutton from above including any liquid in the mixture. 
  5. Season with salt as required. Keep in mind that the cooked mutton is already salted. 
  6. Cook on high till all liquid evaporates and you see oil separating from the sides.
  7. Mix garam masala and sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve hot.