Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yes...Indian Primal Appetizers!

After turning primal I have come to realize that it is difficult to eat healthy when you are out traveling and it takes some serious effort to eat so! This weekend I attended a potluck party where I was determined to make my dish primal, so I opted to make these appetizers, stuffed jalapenos and grilled shrimp. They were easy to make, less time consuming (I didn't want to spend a good deal of time in the kitchen) and turned out to be hit with everyone! One thing common in both these dishes is that I used the broil mode of the oven to cook them, I don't know the exact technical differences between broiling or grilling, but imho broiling gives the closest effect of grilling indoors! It does generate a lot of smoke indoor so be prepared for that smoke alarm!

Stuffed Jalapenos
This appetizer is not completely primal because it includes chickpea flour, Indian chickpea flour is usually made after hulling and splitting the beans, which are then roasted and ground into flour this takes takes care of anti-nutrients concentrated in seed coat. Stuffed chillies make a regular appearance in my mom's kitchen during chilli season but I couldnt remember the recipe very well and didnt want to call her at an odd time, so I made them based on this recipe from Jugalbandi. I modified the recipe by completely skipping the tempering step, but the tempering can added to the stuffing before filling in the jalapenos for added flavor. One important lesson I learned while making this was 'ALWAYS WEAR GLOVES WHILE HANDLING JALAPENOS' yes it needs to be yelled out because after I was done stuffing the jalapenos, my hands burned for over two hours! This in spite of having oiled my hands with coconut oil!! It was only after I applied some after-shave lotion did I feel better! Moving on to the recipe, it serves 20 people or so but can be easily halved for less number of people.

30 mid sized jalapenos
2 cups besan (chick-pea flour available in Indian grocery stores)
1 cup grated coconut (I used frozen)
1 and 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
5 Tbsp sesame seeds toasted
1 tsp turmeric powder
Juice of one lemon
1tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Wash the jalapenos well and pat them dry. Chop the tops off, make one slit lengthwise and remove the seeds and pith from inside (particularly important if that jalapeno variety is hot), keep aside. Roast the besan on medium heat till it gives off a nutty fragrance and becomes slightly dark in color (this can also be done in the oven at 350F for 10 mins). Once the besan is well roasted add coconut, cilantro, sesame seeds, turmeric, lemon juice and salt, combine everything till well mixed. Now using the olive oil make a stiff dough such that if held in a fist tightly it holds shape, use olive oil only as needed by adding little at a time. Now stuff the jalapenos with this dough and line them on a broiler pan. Brush them slightly with oil and broil them till the surface is charred. Once done flip them and let the other side cook. These are done quickly, they require only about 5 minutes on each side. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve hot.

Grilled Shrimp
This is another fairly simple recipe, all I did was marinated the shrimp in green cilantro-mint chutney and broiled them. The key here is marination time, the longer you marinate the better they will taste.

40 jumbo shrimp (wild caught)
2 cups packed cilantro
handful of mint leaves 
10 cloves of garlic
1.5 inch ginger piece
10 green chillies (I used small ones)
 3 tbsp lime juice
1tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Clean and de-vein the shrimp, pat them completely dry. I left the tails on, you can choose to remove them. In a blender or a spice grinder make a thick-smooth paste of the rest of the ingredients using olive oil only, do not add any water at all. Marinate the shrimp in this paste for a minimum of 30 minutes (overnight is preferred). Before cooking, thread them on pre-soaked bamboo skewers and arrange them on a broiler pan. Brush them with olive oil, broil them for about 8 minutes on each side till the marinade has dried out and appears very slightly charred. Keep a close eye while in the oven as they get cooked very fast. To serve, arrange them on a plate, sprinkle some lemon juice on top.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Indian coastal style green chicken curry from my memories

I grew up in Mumbai (former Bombay) but my dad's family is from a small village on the western coast of Maharashtra called Malvan, he moved to Mumbai when he was in 10th grade. Malvan is no longer the village it used to be and has turned in to a tourist spot for people seeking a coastal alternative to close-by Goa. I have lovely memories from having spend every single summer vacation in the village which we all as a family looked forward to getting away from the city. A typical day used to be something like this: wake up early have tea and light breakfast, then make a beeline for the village lake to avoid later crowds, swim for 2 hours or so and then get trek back eating a light snack on the way. Have lunch after noon and then either nap or run around, play, explore, read in my gandma's farm all afternoon long. In the evening we used to walk to some local spots or the beach, dinner prep started early because everyone ate early there unlike in cities, I used to help mom in the prep then :) Post dinner we just sat around chatting (the real one not virtual one), played cards or star gazed (there was no tv)!! Ha...such was life then which I am so glad I got to experience!! We also enjoyed nature's abundance, during the summer it was the tastiest-of-all hapus mangoes, jack-fruit and sun-ripened cashew nuts from my grandmas farm! We also enjoyed lovely coconut products and fresh catch from the sea.There was something about the village air or water that made even simple meals taste exceptional!
This particular recipe is from the cuisine that is fairly typical of coastal region near the village. It is fresh coconut based (abundant in the region) making use of cilantro, mint and freshly roasted and ground spices. Make sure you use whole pastured (deshi) chicken, which is low in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, with all the organs and bones because that's where the flavor comes from. I enjoy this curry with a side of kokum kadhi (a kokum fruit based coconut drink, the recipe of which I have shared) and a small amount of steamed white rice.      

1 whole chicken (pastured) cut into bite size pieces
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
1 + 2 tbsp Ghee
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp whole pepper corns
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic

1 cup shredded coconut (fresh/frozen)
2 cups packed cilantro
4 green chilies (like thai bird)
5 leaves of mint
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp yogurt
1 bay leaf (Indian type)
1 large onion (or 2 medium) finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro and 2 slit green chilies for garnishing.

In a bowl take the chicken, make deep cuts in it using a knife, rub turmeric and salt all over it and keep aside.
Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a pan at low-medium heat, when hot add coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, toss them around for about 30 secs and then add ginger-garlic. Fry together till the garlic no longer smells raw. (Spices should appear slightly toasted and ginger-garlic light brown, be careful not burn them.) Remove the pan from heat and keep aside to cool down.
In a blender add the coconut, cilantro, green chilies, mint, lemon juice, yogurt and the roasted whole spices. Grind them to a fine paste using water only as needed. Marinate the chicken in this paste for a minimum of 20 mins (or overnight for best results).
To make the curry heat 2 tbsp of ghee in a pan (can use the same one used earlier for roasting spices) on a medium-high, add the bay leaf and onions once the oil is hot. Stir around till the onions become golden-brown; add a little salt to speed up the process. Once the onions are done, lower the heat to a low-medium, add the chicken along with the paste. If any paste is sticking to the bowl, rinse it out with water and add that water to the pan. Cover the pan and cook till chicken is done all the way (about 20 mins.) Finally check for the salt content and adjust as per your taste. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and slit green chilies.