Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Southern Spice: Chicken 65

Until I came to Madras, I did not know what Chicken 65 was. A long time after I arrived, I avoided ordering Chicken 65 because the name sounded sort of inedible. What a strange nomenclature, I remember thinking. Imagine eating a Beef 108, or Squid 46. Just plain weird!

I did Google the origins of the nomenclature, and found several stories, lending to the dish the status of a myth. The first story is that the spices used for the marinade must soak for 65 days. The second story is about Indian soldiers who needed something quick and easy during a war in 1965 and the unanimous choice of the soldiers was to have deep-fried boneless chicken pieces dipped in yogurt and spices - the Chicken 65. The third story had to do with someone who used 65 dried red chilies to make the chicken hot. The final - and by far the most plausible - had to do with a restaurant in Tamil Nadu that had its menu written in Tamil, which not many could understand. The menu item, though, was listed at #65, and led to the more accepted and recognized name of the dish.

I finally did try eating it, and learnt the lesson of my life - just like you should never judge a book by its cover, you should also never try to judge a recipe by its name. This crunchy, spicy, red-spice coated chicken with its juicy white interior works just as well with rice as with roti, and can also work amazingly well as a starter.

Here is the recipe - this is a more homemade version, and will not include the ajinimoto (MSG) that most restaurants douse their Chicken 65 with. It also has no color additives.

Chicken – ½ kg boneless, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
Yogurt – 2 tbsp
Soya sauce – 2 tsp
Corn flour – 2 tbsp
Ginger – ½ inch piece, finely chopped and crushed smooth
Garlic – 2 cloves, finely chopped and crushed smooth
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp
Garam masala powder – ½ tsp (optional)
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Egg – 1 (optional)
Salt to taste
Vinegar - 1/2 tsp
Oil – for deep frying

Mix well all the ingredients together except oil in a shallow vessel. Add the chicken pieces to this marinade and mix evenly. Marinate it covered for 2-4 hours in the refrigerator. Heat oil in a fry pan and deep fry the chicken pieces until they turn reddish brown. Serve it hot garnished with onion rings & lemon wedges.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Southern Spice: Tangy Eggs

Eggs: Soft boiled (2-4, prick with fork or make deep slits on the sides)
Onions: 4, large, finely chopped
Tomato: 2, large, 2 finely chopped
Garlic: 8 cloves, crushed well
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder: 1/4 spoon
Chili powder: 3/4 spoon
Curry leaves: A handful
Mustard seeds: 1/2 spoon
Cumin seeds: 1/2 spoon
Chenna dal: 1 spoon
Urad dal: 1 spoon

Heat oil in a kadhai. Add mustard, cumin, chenna dal, urad dal and curry leaves. Let them splutter well. Add garlic and fry till it turns golden. Add onions and fry until translucent. Add tomatoes and fry for a while. Add salt, turmeric and chili powder. Keep frying and add eggs, blending all the ingredients together. Let it simmer on low heat.

Serve hot with rice or roti.

Southern Spice: Pepper Chicken

I decided to introduce a category on the South Indian recipes I've learned during my stay @ Chennai. Sifting through my previous entries and tagging them might take some time... I can remember including rasam, podimaas and pachdi... but I'm sure I'll find more as I go through the archives. The series is called (rather unimaginatively) Southern Spice, and here is one of the babies from the collection.

This is a pepper chicken recipe, but is not the Chettinad style spice-laden variety that brings tears to your eyes. For one, the ingredients are stuff that are staples of every single's kitchen, and it gets done fast, and is just the thing to cook after coming back from work. Couple your cooking with a glass of wine and your favourite show on TV, and life's about complete!

Chicken: 250 grams (skinless, boneless & diced)
Black peppercorn: Coursely ground 2 tbsp
Garlic: 10-15 cloves, finely chopped
Curry leaves: 1 cup
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder: 1/4 spoon
Cumin seeds: 2 spoons

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add cumin seeds and wait till it crackles. Add chopped garlic and fry till fragrant. Add salt, turmeric and pepper powder, and fry for around 2 minutes. Now stir-in diced chicken. Fry till it turns opaque. Cover and cook till done. (Do not add any water until your chicken is very tough and stringy. The chicken tastes best when it stewed in its own water content). Transfer to a bowl.

In a separate pan, heat oil. Add curry leaves to this and fry for around 2 minutes. Garnish the cooked chicken with the curry leaves. Tastes best with paratha.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cucumber Pachdi

Pachdi is essentially the South Indian raita, and a great way to get all the goodness from the otherwise boring curd and cucumber. You can make this with tomatoes as well.

For the mix:
Cucumber - 1 large (Grate and strain the juice)
Curd - 2 cups
Salt to taste

For the seasoning:
Dried red chilly - 1
Mustard seeds - a teaspoonful
Bengal gram - a teaspoonful
Curry leaves - 10-15
Green chillies - 2, chopped finely
Asafoetida powder - a pinch

Mix the grated cucumber and curd well and add salt. This is the only time you add salt in the recipe, so keep tasting as you mix both. Keep aside. Heat oil in a kadhai, and add mustard seeds and Bengal gram dal. Fry on low heat, and add curry leaves, dried red chilli, and the green chillies. Fry on low heat for 2-3 minutes, add the asafoetida powder to this. Stir well, and pour this crackling mix to the cucumber and curd mix. Mix well.

Arhar ki Daal.

It's been a while.
I don't have any excuses.
I'll try and be more regular, however. Starting off the second coming with one of Baba's favourites - a simple yet tasty arhar daal recipe. It goes well with both rice and roti, and is perfect for a winter night.

For boiling
Arhar Dal/Toor Daal/Tuvar Daal/Split Pigeon Peas - 2 cups
Turmeric powder
Tomatoes - 2-3 medium chopped
Salt to taste
For seasoning
Jeera/Cumin Seeds - a tablespoonful
Garlic - 6-7 large cloves, finely chopped
Green chillies - 3-4 chopped finely
Ghee - a teaspoonful
Asafoetida - a pinch

Pressure cook the daal with a pinch of turmeric, salt, and the chopped tomatoes. You should let it boil for 5-6 whistles, this will cook the daal well. Heat oil in a kadhai, add jeera seeds until they splutter. Add the chopped garlic and chillies and fry for 1-2 minutes on low heat. Add the boiled daal to this, tasting for salt. (This is important, the salt you will add for cooking the daal will never be enough.) Let this simmer on low heat for 4-5 minutes, and add asafoetida powder and ghee. Remove from heat and garnish with coriander.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coriander Mutton.

For someone who maintains a food/recipe blog, I have to admit that I don't experiment with food too much. I know the flavours I want, I know the type of pulse, meat, or fish I want on a particular day, and I stick with it. What's more, if I'm ever eating out (an event with is decreasing by alarming degrees... I just don't like eating out anymore), I pick a restaurant I frequent, and choose the same thing, unfailingly, each and every time!

So for a stickler for order like me, the recipe 'Coriander Mutton' just sounded weird. 'It looks green!', I thought. Mutton curries should always be nice and fiery red. How else can anyone want their mutton curry? How can anyone else even TRY eating green mutton.

But the recipe (that aired on a Bengali channel one morning at 8.00 am while I was slicing cucumbers for my sandwich breakfast) looked so easy, and the ingredients so simple, that I decided to be a little less rigid and manic and go ahead and try it anyways.

So I did, and am I glad for it. You'll see why too, if you try this at home.

Mutton - 500 gms, boneless (And by this I mean goat meat, not lamb. Try getting some fatless lean red meat.)
Coriander leaves: One thick bunch
Mint (pudina) leaves: One thick bunch
Onions: 6 to 7, medium
Green chillies: 5-6
Garlic - 8 to 9 cloves
Ginger - Two-inch piece
Tomato - 2 medium, diced
Coriander seeds
Juice of a lemon

Boil the meat with salt until tender. While the meat is boiling, make a paste out of the following:
3-4 onions, coriander leaves, mint leaves, green chillies, garlic, ginger, and lemon juice. Marinate the boiled mutton in this for around an hour. Apart from the boiling that will have made the mutton tender, the lemon juice will also make the meat soft.

In a kadhai, heat oil, and season with coriander seeds. When these begin to spluttter, add chopped onions (the remaining from what you have not made into a paste), and fry until the onion begins to brown. Add tomato pieces to this and fry for some more time. Add marinated mutton and salt to this. Remember to put in all the marinade as well, this is what will make for the gravy. If you want, you can also add the stock in which the mutton was boiled, and not add any extra water at all. Boil this for half an hour more. By this time, the pieces of meat would have begun to come apart in strands. This will tell you that it's done.

This tastes best with naan or roti.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chilli Prawns.


Prawns (shelled and deveined) - 500 gms
Plain flour - 3 tbsp
Cornflour - 3 tbsp
Crushed Pepper - 1 tbsp
Egg white - of 1 egg
Onion - 1 medium
Ginger & garlic - 1 tbsp each, chopped
Capsicum - 1 small
Spring onion - 1/2 cup chopped
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Crushed pepper - 1/2 tbsp
Soya sauce - 1 tbsp
Tomato sauce - 1-2 tbsp
Mix plain flour, cornflour, crushed pepper, egg white, and salt to make a thick paste. Marinate the prawns in this paste for 20 minutes. Fry the prawns and keep it aside.
In the same oil saute ginger, garlic & chopped onions. When the onions become soft and translucent, add capsicum & spring onion. Saute for 5 minutes & add chilli powder & crushed pepper. Mix well. Add the sauces & salt. Stir for a few minutes and add the fried prawns. Mix well. Cook for some more minutes till it becomes dry. Garnish with spring onion.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

the Samosa connection.


4 large white potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
0.5 cup boiled and drained green peas
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp amchoor (mango powder)
1 tsp red chilli powder
0.5 tsp saunf (fennel) powder
0.5 tsp garam masala powder
1 tbsp chopped cashewnuts
Salt to taste
3 cups maida (white flour)
1/2 cup maida, for rolling out
1 tbsp heated ghee or oil
Oil for deep frying the samosas
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) for the stuffing
1 small bowl of cold water


Heat the ghee for the stuffing and add the cumin seeds and cashewnuts. When the seeds splutter add the dry powders and fry for 10 seconds. Add the mashed potatoes and green peas and mix well. Mix in salt to taste. Fry on a low flame for about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Prepare the cover for the samosa by combining the maida, hot ghee or oil and salt to taste. Add enough water and knead the dough. Set aside for about 10 minutes. Divide the dough into round portions. Take each portion and coat it with some maida so that it does not stick to your hands. Roll it into a not too thin perfect round. Seal two sides of this round shape together with cold water. You should now have a small triangular maida pocket.

Stuff it with the potato mixture and now water-seal the upper edges. Repeat for the rest of the dough. Deep fry in oil till golden brown and serve with mint chutney. Do not overheat the oil, since this will cook only the outer maida covering and the inner layer will remain uncooked even if the samosa has turned dark brown on the outside.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Kaju Burfi aka Kaju Katli.

Tomorrow is Diwali. So first, Happy Diwali one and all!

I know I've been inactive of late, and I attribute it only to the billion things being thrown at me from all corners of my planet - people and work just gets more demanding, time is always running out, and I feel constantly headless.

Now, a sweet recipe on this blog is a surprise. Although I am a Bengali- a community known for their affinity to sweets - I am not much of a sweet lover myself. Whenever I head homewards, the requests from office and friends to 'get back some sandesh/rasgulla' gets just a little annoying because a, I'm not much of a sweet-lover myself, and b, I honestly can't fathom what the fuss is all about.

But I thought I'd go easy for the festive season and dished this treat up. I hope you all have a wonderful Diwali and a very prosperous year ahead!

Cashews - 500 gms (soaked 2 hours in water)
Sugar - 300 gms
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
Silver foil (optional)

Drain and grind cashews to a fine paste, using as little water as possible. Take a sturdy non-stick pan and put the sugar and cashew paste in it. Cook on slow to medium heat, stirring continuously until a soft lump forms. Add ghee and cardamom powder and mix well. Spread on a clean greased worksurface. Roll lightly with a rolling pin, to a thickness similar to the picture you see above. Apply silver foil. After cooling, cut into diamond-shaped burfis and serve.