“The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk” – Dustin Hoffman
To the south of India lies Kerala -God’s own country, famous the world over for its spices and cuisine. A few ingredients thrown into most of the dishes are mustard seeds, dry red chillies, tamarind, small onions and coconut. Kerala also takes great pride in the wide variety of seafood and non- vegetarian fare it offers to all the foodies who like to experiment with their food.
Pal appams or Lace appams as they are fondly called in Kerala or Appams is nothing but fermented rice batter, coconut and yeast. For people living in Kerala yeast is substituted with toddy and there is a distinctive taste to the appams. Appams are firm in the center but soft inside and its border is light, paper thin, crisp and is like golden brown lace. Appams are generally eaten at breakfast time; however, it is the spotlight of every festive meal served any time of the day.
Appam and egg stew or chicken/ mutton stew is the all- time Sunday breakfast favourite in most Christian homes.
Well, here I must mention Mary, an indispensable member of our Family who has been with us for more than 3 decades. She is an integral part of our family and has played an active role when we were growing up. Now she looks after our children and they dote on her. To all our kids Mary chechies food is the best- whatever we may cook- maybe the same recipe too – there is just something missing! As fas as I can remember it’s always been appams on Sunday and for her the number really does not matter-she has her own recipe with rice powder, coconut milk and toddy if available or she uses yeast. Her method of cooking is something else and the appams she turns out every week – light, soft and spongy in the center surrounded with a crispy lace around it. You could try and ask Mary for the recipe but all you’ll get is – a little bit of this and a little bit of that, add salt and sugar and your batter is ready to be kept for fermentation. That’s it!!!!! No wonder even today the grandchildren miss her so much when they go back to their respective homes after a holiday at home. They are spoilt rotten during their holidays, it’s difficult to match her pace once we leave home.
After trying out a number of recipes, here is one recipe which I follow to the T. Every time I make appams using this recipe l’m happy.
- Raw rice- 1 cup
- Cooked rice – 1/4 cup
- Grated fresh coconut-4 tbsp
- Dry yeast – 1/2 tsp heaped
- Salt and sugar to taste
- Soak raw rice for 3-4 hours.
- Grind the rice along with grated coconut to a smooth paste.
- Add cooked rice, yeast, sugar and salt and blend well again.
- Remove the batter to a bowl and keep aside for 8-10 hours.
- Add the desired quantity of milk/ coconut milk/ milk & water to thin down the batter.
- Leave aside for 15 minutes.
- Take an appam pan or any round pan, warm the pan, pour a big spoon of batter, swirl the pan round so that a nice lace frill is formed. Cover and cook on a low flame till the edges turn brown.
- Serve with stew.
This quantity makes 8-10 appams.
It’s divine, it’s delicate, it’s the taste of Kerala.
- Onions sliced- 2 medium
- Green chilli slit- 6-8
- Ginger – garlic paste- 1 tbsp
- Cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns- a few each
- Carrot -1 (cut into thick strips)
- Potato-1 large (cut into cubes)
- Second Coconut milk – 11/2 cups
- First Coconut milk- 3/4 cup mixed with a tsp of cornflour
- Oil (A mix of any vegetable oil & coconut oil)
- Shallots or Small onion sliced- 6-8
- Curry leaves-a few
- Boil eggs.
- In oil, put in cloves, cinnamon and peppercorn.
- Add sliced onions and fry till light brown.
- Add slit green chillies, curry leaves, carrots and potatoes and mix well.
- Add second coconut milk and salt and simmer till vegetables are cooked.
- On high flame, add boiled eggs and first coconut milk.
- Stir till thick and remove from heat.
- Test for seasoning, a tsp of pepper powder could be added to the stew.
- Do not overheat as the stew could curdle.
- In a small pan, heat some ghee and fry sliced shallots till golden brown, add curry leaves and mix well.
Pour on top of egg stew and serve with love!
- In the case of chicken stew, instead of ginger- garlic paste you can mince ginger and add it to the sliced onions while frying.
- For mutton stew cook the mutton along with the whole spices, salt and 1 tbsp of ginger garlic paste and second coconut milk in the pressure cooker. Remove and follow the recipe given above, do not add whole spices and second coconut milk again.
- Chicken has to be cut into bite size pieces. (skin removed).
- For vegetable stew, follow the above recipe -you could 1/2 a cup of fresh peas.
- Serves 4.
The coconut is the unsung hero of mallu food – from hot curries to mouth – watering desserts- the presence of coconut – either ground, as coconut oil or coconut milk it cannot be substituted. It adds a delicate flavour to the dish, it tones down the spice and is indispensable to Kerala cuisine – be it vegetarian or non- vegetarian.
Till my next post