One of the best things about the Daring Kitchen is being introduced to new styles of food. One of the other best things is the amazing community of really great people, not to mention inspirational cooks. This month, the two come together, with the challenge being hosted by one of the members who is always super supportive, super creative, and whose dishes are always amazingly inspiring.
Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.
I have embarrassingly little experience with Indian food, and thus even less knowledge about it. The challenge looked fantastic, and I was excited to try something new, but I was also extremely nervous. While the appam themselves looked relatively straightforward, all of the curries and accompanying dishes that I was seeing had massively long lists of ingredients including things that I'd never heard of before, much less knew what they tasted like.
After a trip to a local Indian grocery for inspiration, though, I got up the nerve to dive in.
The appam require some prep work and fermentation time, so I started with that recipe. I set some plain (raw) rice to soak overnight, then gathered up the rest of the initial ingredients - yeast (bloomed in sugar water) and a small amount of cooked rice.
Straining the soaked rice was tougher than it should have been, since I don't actually have a big sieve. I thought about using one of my colanders, but I was worried that the holes were too big, and that the rice would drain out with the water. So I went at it with my little sieve.
The ingredients were to be blended together to make a (very) thick batter. Not having a full sized blender, I used my mini-blender, which actually worked much better than I could have hoped.
And then the batter was covered and set on top of the stove, covered in plastic wrap, for the whole day to ferment. Yup, all that done by 8 am.
With the appam batter doing its thing, I was able to spend the afternoon focusing on the curry. I scoured the internet looking for a recipe that I felt comfortable with. Meaning one that didn't require me to buy tons of specialty ingredients, as well as one that my five year old would eat. When I found this one, I knew it was the one to try. Chicken cauliflower curry sounded delicious, and the review were good (and offered some delicious sounding modifications), so I knew I had a my recipe.
In addition to all of the vegetables, the curry requires specific spices. Like curry powder. Which is not something I have ever cooked with before. My sister (and fellow Daring Cook) happened to stock up on a variety of Indian spices in preparation for this challenge, and graciously shared some with me.
The recipe that I chose didn't call for all of these spices, but I wanted to include them anyway, so in addition to the ready-to-use curry powder, I prepared the other spices to include in my dish. I dry-pan-roasted fenugreek seeds and ground them in my mini blender.
Then crushed green cardamom pods to release the seeds, to add into the curry as well.
Preparing the curry was surprisingly simple. I sautéed onion and garlic, then added chicken to the pan to cook through. Once the chicken was ready, I simply layered on the other components - first vegetables, then the spices, then finally added coconut milk and stock to create the sauce for the curry.
Once all of the ingredients were added to the pan, I put on the lid and let it simmer away, filling my house with delicious smells.
Curry doing its thing, it was finally time to do the final preparations on the appam. The fermented batter being too thick to use, coconut milk is added, plus a touch of water (if needed, and I did) to create a batter slightly thicker than milk.
In order to make the appam, a few tablespoons of the batter (three worked well for me) are swirled around a lightly greased pan.
The pan is then covered to allow the appam not only to fry, but to steam.
And after two minutes, voila!
Once the appam were done, it was time to take the lid off of the pan of curry, and I was so excited by what I saw.
I was a bit unsure as to how to plate everything - some people served their curry on their appam, some on the side... I went for the side, to allow each of us to choose how we wanted to eat it, but I wound up putting most of my curry right onto the appam anyway.
I was really pleased with this dinner! While it was probably significantly less spicy than most traditional Indian fare, I think it was a really great recipe, and made for a really nice change of pace dinner.
The only problem was that there was a LOT of appam batter. Luckily, Mary told us that it can sit in the fridge for a couple of days, and gave us an idea as to what to try with the leftovers. Apparently, if you crack an egg into the batter after it is swirled in the pan, then cook it like the appams, it becomes something called an egg hopper:
As you can see, I thought that sounded like a good breakfast. The only problem is that I like my eggs cooked a bit harder. So I tried to flip my egg hopper to further cook the egg. The result, when I tried to check on it, was that the yolk broke, making the breakfast less than photogenic.
It was, however, delicious, and a great use of some of the leftover batter!
Mary, I can't thank you enough for introducing me to the delicious world of Southern Indian cooking. You were a fantastic, enthusiastic and energetic hostess and provided us with a great, well researched, fun and delicious challenge!
If you'd like to see the other delicious dishes cooked up in the Kitchen this month, check them out here.
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