The first picture is the marble mortar and pestle that I mentioned using in my book. I love that little guy. We've had a lot of fun times together, and he does my spices just right every single time. All he asks in return is that I keep him clean, and trust him to grind my spices. And I do. I trust nobody else!
The second was inspired by my friend Lelly, who made Pongal cakes (mix up some Venn Pongal from the book with gram flour, and deep fry them). I figured, if she can step outside the box, I can too. She's quite the talented cook!
I've gotten a few questions as to what curry leaves look like, so I'm showing you what my trees look like.
They smell so strongly that when you pass them by, the heady aroma fills your nostrils, and inspires you to cook. I hope you now know why I am so gratuitous with curry leaves in my cooking! I've been surrounded by them since we moved into this house so many years ago. They used to be such little tiny shrubs! I remember when I could easily see past them. Now, they've taken over, and made a thick curtain around our yard. A curtain of tasty.
I started out with a medium sized plum tomato, and five cloves of garlic. I ground it up really quick-like in my mini chopper. Then, I filled up the chopper with cold rice from the fridge. It got really well combined. At this point, the chopper really incorporated the cold rice (which doesn't exactly mash well!) with the tomato and garlic. I pitched in some chili flakes, a bunch of black pepper, and a heaping tablespoon of lightly crushed ajowain seeds (you can use cumin and coriander powder or crushed seeds if you don't have ajowain).
The reason I was so generous with the spices to start out with is because whenever I make fried food, after adjusting the dish until I get the consistency just so (add a bit more flour, add a bit more water, add a bit more ... you get the point), you don't want the food to be weakly flavoured. On top of it all, when you deep fat fry food that's been spiced, a fair bit of those spices end up in the fat. This is why you NEVER want to throw away oil that you've used for deep frying. Save it like gold, and use it for cooking. Use it when you're making roasted vegetables. Use it when you make beans. Use it to bathe in ...
No wait. Don't bathe in it, that's gross. But you get my point. The flavour of fry oil is so tasty that you can't not use it later!
OK, so moving along. After the rice and tomatoes were combined, I threw in a cup or so of smashed potatoes that I had in the fridge. (Side note: To make smashed potatoes, bake 2 kilos of yukon gold potatoes in the microwave. While they're going, heat up 4 cups of cocoanut milk in a skillet. Add in a head of garlic to the cocoanut milk, and sprinkle in a generous dose of salt. Add in as much ground black pepper as you can take. Let it simmer for at least 15 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked through, pour out the cocoanut milk into a large bowl. Add the half the potatoes to the bowl. "Wash" out the skillet of leftover cocoanut milk by smashing the remaining potatoes in the skillet. Combine all the potatoes together, and smash them up until they're smooth, but still a little chunky. Add water to thin out the taters as needed. SO tasty.)
I used a potato masher to combine the cold smashed potatoes with the rice and tomato mixture. Add in a good hefty dose of rice flour. I needed something like a cup or so. At this point, it should be about as thick as modelling clay (ish). This is why I used the potato masher to combine the ingredients at this point. I didn't want to tire out my arms! Initially, I formed them into balls, flattened out the balls into flat cakes, and deep fried them. I would fry it for three minutes on the first side, then flip it over to cook the other side for another two or three minutes. Once it was a deep, golden brown, I took it out of the oil, and drained the cakes in a wire basket.
I didn't want them to be so firm in the centre, however. I wanted more of a creamy texture inside. I grabbed some leftover cocoanut milk and poured it into the mix. I mashed it up again with a potato masher. At this point, the consistency of my dough was roughly that of oatmeal, fresh from the microwave. I plopped them by rounded spoonfuls into the hot fat, and deep fried them till golden. Bingo. Perfect for me. Steve preferred the firmer ones, and I like the softer (on the insides, of course) ones. If you're planning to freeze them for later, certainly make the firmer ones, because the softer ones get all yucky really fast in comparison, and won't hold out for too long once they come out of the oil.