Pune Peanut Chutney

Pune Peanut Chutney1

Having grown up in the peanut growing state of Maharashtra, India, I have eaten my fair share of a variety of peanut chutneys. Some of the most popular ingredients that go into making peanut chutney are fresh or dry grated coconut, garlic, dry red chillies, sesame seeds, tamarind, and whole garam masala.

You can easily make this recipe your own by changing the quantity of the ingredients to suit your taste. I love all the different peanut chutneys I learned to make when I lived in Maharashtra. Peanut chutney goes well with plain rice, dal, and a vegetable fry. I hope you will try it out.

Pune Peanut Chutney
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 3-4

1 cup roasted peanuts, (salted or unsalted)
¼ cup freshly grated coconut, (or frozen grated coconut)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
5 dry red chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
2-4 garlic cloves, (depending on your preference)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon tamarind pulp
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1 teaspoon sugar

Place a non-stick pan, over medium-low heat. Add the coconut and roast until it turns light brown. Transfer to a plate and cool. Next, add the sesame seeds, chillies, garlic, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds to the pan. Roast until the sesame seeds pop and the rest of the ingredients are fragrant. Transfer them to the plate with the coconut. Let the ingredients cool for about five minutes.

Grind all the ingredients to a coarse powder in a food processor, or blender. Use very little salt, if you are using salted peanuts. Make sure you don’t turn the chutney into peanut butter! Store in a small bottle or jar. Peanut chutney is a great accompaniment to any meal.

Fish Molee – Fish Cooked in Mildly Spiced Coconut Milk

Fish Molee3

Fish Molee, also called Meen Molee in Malayalam, can be found on the menu at almost all wedding receptions and family celebrations in Kerala. It is a fresh fish curry, mildly spiced, and cooked in a coconut milk gravy. Definitely, one of my all-time favorite fish dishes. The recipe is simple and straightforward, with no exotic spices.

My variation of Fish Molee will give you a true taste of Kerala. I use fresh coconut milk and coconut oil, which brings out the authentic taste of this dish. But, if you have to use canned coconut milk, buy the best quality. Don’t shake the can before you open it. Use the thick top layer formed as the first extraction and the dilute coconut milk in the bottom of the can as the second extraction. Whisk both, the top layer and the bottom layer, with three-quarter cups of water for this recipe. I find that canned coconut milk from Thailand works well for my recipes. I’ve use Tilapia fish for this recipe, but you can also use other boneless, skinless fish.

Fish Molee is one of the most flavorful Kerala delicacies. Eat it with steamed rice, appams or rotis and you’ll understand why Kerala is called “God’s own country!”

Fish Molee
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 3-4

For the Marinade
3 Tilapia fish fillets, each cut into 3 pieces
3 teaspoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon chilli powder

For the Gravy
3 tablespoons coconut oil to fry fish + 3 tablespoons coconut oil for the curry
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
2 cups thinly sliced red onion or shallots
5 green chillies, slit down the center, (adjust depending on heat and your preference)
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 cup first extract (thick) coconut milk
1 cup second extract (thin) coconut milk
2 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Rinse the fish pieces thoroughly, drain off excess water, pat the pieces with a paper towel, and add the lime juice, turmeric, chili, and salt. Marinate for 20 minutes. Heat three tablespoons coconut oil and shallow fry fish on both sides until lightly brown. The fish does not need to be cooked as it will cook in the gravy. Remove and set aside.

Place a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add three tablespoons of coconut oil. When the oil shimmers, add mustard seeds. After the mustard seeds crackle, add curry leaves and onion. Sauté for two minutes and then add the green chillies, ginger, and garlic. Fry all the ingredients until the onion turns translucent. Next, add the coriander, chilli, and turmeric powder. Turn the heat to medium and pour in the thin extract of coconut milk. Add lightly fried fish pieces and salt. Bring to boil. Cook for seven minutes or until the fish is cooked. If you use fish other than Tilapia fillets, it may take a few minutes longer to cook.

Next, add the thick second extract of coconut milk, tomatoes, and freshly ground pepper. Turn the heat to low and let the curry simmer for a minute. Do not bring the curry to boil once the thick extract of coconut milk has been added, because it may curdle. Turn off the heat. Let the Fish Molee rest for 15 minutes before you serve it with steaming hot rice, appams or rotis.

Tamarind and Tomato Rasam


There are as many rasam recipes as there are South Indian families in India. Every home has their own unique blend of rasam powder and steps that they follow to make their favorite rasam. There are also several variations, such as, pepper rasam, cumin rasam, garlic rasam, lentil rasam, and buttermilk rasam. The list goes on and on! Today, I am sharing a rasam receipe that is easy and fool-proof. You won’t need to buy rasam powder. Everything is made from scratch. This post is for a my good friend, Bhadri, who requested this recipe.

Rasam is a popular soup used as an Ayurvedic remedy for coughs and colds all over Southern India. Whether you are sick or not, do give this recipe a try. It goes well with rice and a vegetable side dish like my avial, green bean thoren, or cabbage thoren.

Tamarind and Tomato Rasam
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2-3

3 cups hot tap water
¼ cup of tamarind, (or one small lime-sized ball of tamarind)
1 ripe Roma tomato
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 cloves of garlic
1½ teaspoons ghee or sesame oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon black gram dal, (urad dal)
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds, (methi seeds)
2 whole dry red chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida powder, (hing)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro leaves

Soak the tamarind in one cup of hot water for 10 minutes. When it is cool, mash it with your fingertips to extract the tamarind pulp/juice. Strain the juice into a bowl. Using the same tamarind, repeat the process with the remaining two cups of water. This will give you three cups of tamarind juice. Set it aside.

Crush the tomato with your fingertips and add it to the bowl with the tamarind juice. Trust me, the rasam tastes better when you use your fingers to mash the tomato! But you can cut it, if you prefer. Add the turmeric, sugar, and salt to the tamarind and tomato mixture.

Grind to a coarse powder the pepper and cumin seeds. You can do this in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Add the pepper and cumin powder to the tamarind and tomato mixture. Taste, and if the mixture is too sour, add a tablespoon or two of water. Crush the three garlic cloves and set them aside.

Place a wok (kadai), over medium-high heat. Add the ghee and when it shimmers, add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add black gram dal. Watch carefully so you don’t burn the ingredients. When the dal turns light brown, add fenugreek seeds. Break the dry red chillies in half and add them next. Then add the asafoetida powder, curry leaves, and the tamarind and tomato mixture.

When you see the rasam beginning to boil and bubbles forming along the edges add the crushed garlic cloves. Let the rasam come to a rolling boil. As soon as you see froth forming on the top of the rasam, add the cilantro leaves and turn off the heat. Transfer the rasam to a serving bowl and cover it with a lid. Serve rasam with plain rice, papadums and a vegetable side dish. Yum!

Korma with Potatoes and Peas

Potato & Pea Korma1

I want to introduce you to Parmotrema perlatum, commonly known as black stone flower, a species of lichen used as a spice in India. This mysterious lichen is the secret ingredient to my Chettinad and korma preparations. In India, it is called patthar ke phool in Hindi, dagad phool in Marathi and kalpasi in Tamil. It slightly resembles mushrooms and the plants grow on rocks and walls. An interesting fact about black stone flower is that it only grows in unpolluted air.

Black stone flower is sometimes included in some of the spice blends sold in Indian grocery stores. However, few home cooks use it knowingly. It is one of the ingredients in the famous Goda masala from Maharashtra. This unusual spice adds a very distinct, strong earthy aroma, and deep flavor to many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. You will see, in the picture above, that I have added the spices I used in this recipe on a small white plate. Black stone flower is in between the bay leaves and cloves.

Well, now that my mystery ingredient has been disclosed, let’s use it in the korma recipe that I’m sharing with you today. Do you use black stone flower in your recipes? Tell us what recipes you use them in and how.

Korma with Potatoes and Peas
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6

3 tablespoons ghee
1 whole green cardamom, lightly crushed
1 clove
1 bay leaf
½ inch piece cinnamon, broken into bits
2 cups finely diced red onion
2 cups medium diced tomatoes
¼ teaspoon turmeric, optional
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
5 mint leaves, torn into bits
2 cups medium diced potato, (I used red potatoes)
1 cup frozen green peas
2 cups water
½ teaspoon garam masala, (use my Home-made garam masala)

To be ground
1 inch-piece cinnamon, broken into bits
2 cardamoms, outer cover removed
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 small pieces of black stone flower
8 cashew nuts, (soaked in ¼ cup hot water for 15 minutes)
¼ cup grated fresh coconut
1 tablespoon roughly chopped ginger
1 tablespoon roughly chopped garlic
2 roughly chopped green chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)

First, prepare the ingredients to be ground. Add the dry spices to your blender or spice grinder and powder them. Next, add the cashew nuts along with the water it was soaking in, coconut, ginger, garlic, and green chillies. Grind everything to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Heat ghee in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the whole spices – cardamom, clove, bay leaf, and cinnamon. Sauté for 30 seconds and then add the onion. Cook until the onion turns translucent. Add the ground spice and coconut mixture. Fry for five minutes being careful not to burn the ingredients. Sprinkle a few drops of water, if it is catching to the bottom of the pan. Add tomato, turmeric, cilantro, and mint. Fry until the tomato turns mushy and you see the oil separate. Add potatoes, two cups of water, and salt. Cook on high until the water begins to boil. Turn the heat to medium-low, add peas, cover with a lid, and cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Sprinkle garam masala and cook for another three minutes. This dish goes well with chapatis or puris.