I fall into the category of Malayalees that would be thrilled at the sight of steaming hot Vellappam for breakfast. Or dinner. Mind you, they’re best eaten if they’re made by mom so they are magically replenished and you can tuck into them leisurely. With tiny variations in ingredients according to the region, the batter is essentially rice and coconut ground together and allowed to ferment overnight. Its lacy edges and pillowy soft centers are characteristic features of these hoppers that are popular in the south of India and Sri Lanka. It is made in an Appam Chatty which is pretty similar to a wok. Ladlefuls of batter are poured into the heated pan and then swirled by the handles to spread where it rests against the sides to crisp and brown. The residual batter trickles to the centre where it is would be cooked through from the steam of the covered pan. One of the food resolutions I made for the new year is to tackle my list of food fears. This list has recipes that I have tried myself and they have fallen flat in either flavor or because of my imperfect technique. I have re-read these recipes and the thought of failing again and discarding the failed product puts me off. And sitting right on top of this list was Vellappam.
The night before Ramadan began this year, I went out with my friends for dinner. We meet up once a month taking turns to pick our restaurants and this month it was Vietnamese fare. We tucked into roast Chicken with Bao buns, duck breast grilled and dunked in Hoisin sauce and shared an enormous bowl of Pho that my friend insisted we try and still couldn’t finish completely. I really wanted to go all out on dessert and the menu didn’t quite impress. We were in Downtown and decided to walk towards Dubai Mall just for dessert. We bounced ideas and settled on the seemingly popular Milk Cake. It was close to 11 pm and the cafe was almost full and we were lucky to snag a corner. Knowing long hours of fasting begin the next day and to satiate sugar cravings that seemed to have risen during the walk, ee ordered a classic Milk cake and a sizzling Brownie accompanied with of scoops Vanilla ice cream drowning in chocolate sauce. Milk cakes have been doing the rounds for quite some time in Dubai, and this was the second one I was trying. While we took turns with our spoons from different sides, I decided that this years’ Eid recipe on my blog has to be Milk Cake.
Ramadan is undoubtedly, the busiest time on my blog. I have been lying low throughout the year but closer to Ramadan, I feel obliged to shoot and share recipes for my table and yours. I almost always start planning with dessert for the day of Eid and then work my way backwards. This year I made a Pistachio Milk cake for an Iftar I hosted for my cousins and was inundated with requests to share the recipe. There were a few ideas that didn’t make it beyond the testing stage on the blog and I felt I had to make it up for it with more dessert. Given that we’ve been blessed with the season of mangoes coinciding with the month of fasting, it made perfect sense to try my hand at making a refreshingly light milk cake that would make for a sweet (and cool!) ending after generous servings of celabratory Biriyani.
For the past few years, Ramadan has been arriving in the peak of Dubai summers. The golden lining, if I may say so, is the influx of seasonal mangoes from the Indian subcontinent. They’ll slowly start appearing, tart, green and far from the ripening stage in the early days of May. Towards the end of the month, the color lightens revealing tints of yellow and before you know it the aisles of the supermarket will be hosting Mango ‘festivals’ where you get to pick and choose from over a dozen varieties that have arrived across the breadth of these countries. Rajapuri, Mallika and Malgova from the southern coastal areas, Alphonso and Kesar from the western parts and Chaunsa and Sindhri from across the border. I gravitate towards Badami and undoubtedly the most popular one, Alphonso.
During the early years of my marriage when we used to live with my husbands’ parents, these Curry Puffs were was a recipe I earned brownie points with. Prior to my arrival, these were not made at home. For me these curry Puffs were a staple for Iftar, growing up, especially when we had cousins over. For this reason, these were one of the first recipes I could make from scratch independently. Cubed chicken is marinated briefly with spices and a dash of lemon and cooked and shredded. Onions are caramelized alongside garlic and ginger paste, chillies for heat and a little more spices are added before the chicken is mixed in for the filling. It has all the ingredients you would use in a good chicken curry except for whole tomatoes to keep the filling dry. With the notion of the table has to be filled with favourites when entertaining for Iftar, these would almost always by my contribution.
In a household where at least one fried dish is expected for Iftar, you’re constantly looking for new options. Kerala has plenty of fried food options and Cutlets and Samosas stuffed and filled with meat are a staple on most tables. My home is no different and we have some form of fried dish almost every day for my husband. It’s mostly boiled egg, spicy Potato masala or thinly sliced onions dipped in Gram flour batter and fried till gold and crisp. These options are rotated throughout the week and he’s content with the options. On the other hand, I still look out for new recipes that are a bit different from the usual Malayali fanfare. Last year, I was introduced to these Mozzarella stuffed Potato Croquettes. I added one little tweak and it’s now one of my go-to recipes when entertaining family members for Iftar.
Ramadan Kareem to you! It’s that time of the year to reflect, to be grateful and to gather around the table with family and loved ones. We’re precisely halfway through the month and the routine of kitchen frenzy is balanced with introspection and worship. It is also the time when the last round of Iftar invites are sent out before the blessed ten nights of worship begins. Through this week, I will be sharing recipes that will make entertaining easier. Like these elegant croissant sandwiches filled with garlicky Chicken salad and a tang of citrus. It comes together very quickly and will make a classy yet fun addition to grace your table.
Today has been a whole year since Vellima left this world. Truth be told, we didn’t share a close bond. She came to live with us in Dubai 15 years ago right after I turned 15. She had a very strong personality and was a stickler for routines. The word clockwork could have been coined just for her. She always spoke her mind and was not one to sugar coat her words. And today when I think of her, I admire her. And for someone I haven’t seen preparing meals, a few of her recipes have a firm place in my list of favorites. Today I am sharing her recipe for Chemeen Vada.
We’re inching towards the middle of Ramadan and the temperature is rising steadily but with His Mercy, the humidity still hasn’t set in yet. If you entertain quite a bit, this recipe would make a perfect dessert considering it is a no-bake one. This dessert is especially for those who hated their daily dose of milk. Chances are that a spoonful of malt powder went into the glass and was vigorously stirred and handed over in the hopes it would be go down without gagging revolts. Regardless this is almost effortless and something sweet to end a long day of fasting.
Ramadan Kareem! My blog is the busiest at this time of the year and it has become a ritual of sorts picking and planning on what to share with you. This year, I started looking into recipes from my parents’ time. A few of them were dishes Umma made only during Ramadan too. With all the recipes out there, I was convinced that there would be some variation of this drink on the internet. It is part of planning process to see how many variations of the recipe are available and only pick to publish those recipes that aren’t too common to avoid adding more to the mainstream. So imagine my surprise when I found no recipe even remotely similar to this. I did a quick pop quiz with the above photograph too with the grand prize of a sinfully chocolate cake freshly baked. Alright, I did make it difficult and gave the bare minimum clues. I thought given the few ingredients seen, I would have at least one right guess. The guesses bordered on the dessert spectrum including sago pearl, rice and a rather ambitious coconut rose creme brûlée. Nothing remotely traditional except for one lovely lady who suggested a beverage given to increase lactation in new mums. If you’ve drunk that, I’m wincing with you too.