A Guide To South Indian Cuisine

Contrary to popular perception it is not all idlis, dosas, vada and sambhar, the region provides for an amazing array of seafood, meats as well as some incredible vegetarian preparations.

Here is only a glimpse into the many-hued tastes of Southern India.

Karnataka

This is the state that brought about the Udupi revolution in the country, if not the world. But there is so much more Karnataka offers! Take the bisi bele bhath for example. This spicy delicacy full of fresh vegetables and lentils is topped off with a unique blend of masalas which is made with coriander, fenugreek urad and chana dal. These masalas, pastes and pickles are a pillar of the cuisine of this region. The state is also famed for its chutneys, the red chilli chutney being one of the most favoured. Coconut, red chillies, chana dal and garlic, tamarind, cloves, and ginger to add flavour, and voila! The delectable Kundapura Koli Saaru is something you’d not want to miss if you love your chicken hot. This curry like chicken preparation uses the Kundapura paste, a unique paste consisting of coconut, red chillies and cumin seeds and whole coriander.

Kerala

The cuisine of God’s own country is just as beautiful as the countryside itself. Seafood is huge in this part of the country and so is their love of their all-year favorite – the mighty coconut. The delicacies of this state range from the tangy shrimp coconut curry that can make any meal seem better, to the sweet slurping delight of the much-famed aviyal. Take the simple breakfast of puttu and kadala curry – steamed rice and coconut rolls with a spicy curry of black Bengal gram (black chana), filling, delicious and easy on the stomach. If you want something exotic to try the kallummakaya, a tangy mussels curry that is sure to make any sea-food lover go weak in their knees.

Andhra Pradesh

The home of the hallowed Hyderabadi biryani is one of the spiciest food destinations to visit in the country, if not the world. Their liberal use of spices, chilli and tamarind make the experience here one of a kind. The Andhra style chicken curry is something you’d want to go for if you enjoy spices and tender chicken. If you are a meat lover you would not want to miss the gongura maans, a lamb curry made with gongura leaves that are sure to leave you panting for more. While focusing on the spices, this region also serves up some brilliant desserts. The boorelu, or friend sweet dumplings are a delicacy for every occasion, made with urad dal and jaggery.

Tamil Nadu

Tamil Food is usually differentiated in the following brackets – Sweet, sour, astringent, bitter, salty and pungent. The cuisines here are both spicy and mildly flavoured depending upon the area of preparation and there is no particular trend in the use of spice here. There are some scrumptious delights that this region boasts of. The unique Chettinad cuisine, famed for its use of spices is well known around the world. Try the urlai roast, roasted baby potatoes in a glorious masala mixture if you are a strict vegetarian. Sea food lovers would want to get their bibs on and dig into a bowl of steaming meen kozhambu, a spicy fish curry that is paired with steamed rice.

Each state in this region provides a different experience, all of which bound together by a few common but delicious gastronomic threads. Truly, Southern India is a palette of a thousand flavors.

Various Knife Cutting Techniques

Chopping and cutting might not be the most relevant activity in the kitchen but it can make the life of the chef much easier and the food on the plate much prettier. There are some cutting and chopping techniques used regularly in the kitchen that can be learned by anyone.

  • Slice

This is the most basic cutting technique that anyone who works in the kitchen will know how to do. This technique is often used on vegetables such as baby marrows and cucumber. Depending on which fruit or vegetable you are slicing will determine which knife to use, namely whether it should be serrated or straight edged. Depending on what type of dish you are making the thickness of the slice will vary too.

  • Julienne

This is a technique similar to slicing but not quite. The style leans more towards the cutting of strips. To achieve this type of cut, you would first need to top and tail (cut off both ends) the vegetable. The seeds will then need to be removed to cut the vegetable into rectangular pieces. After it has been cut into rectangular pieces you will need to cut it into strips along the longer side.

  • Dice

Dicing is another common cutting technique used by anyone who works in the kitchen. Chefs often use this technique on onions when making anything from pasta sauce to curries. There are also different sizes that you can cut the onion into depending on what you are fond of. Professionals prefer to leave the root of the onion intact when using the dicing technique. They do this so that they can keep the onion together during this process.

  • Mince

Use this technique when dealing with garlic. Many people prefer not to have pieces of garlic floating around in their food but love the flavour. Mincing is a way to get the flavour into the dish without having large pieces in the food. Crush the garlic with the flat side of the chef’s knife then constantly chop and repeat until you have miniature pieces.

  • Chiffonade

This technique might sound complicated and difficult but it really is quite simple. Chefs often use this technique to create a presentable garnish for the plate. All you do is roll up the herbs or leaves such as basil or spinach and slice them to make coils of garnish.The type of knife varies on the type of food you are preparing. Some knives can’t be sharpened normally such as serrated knives and birds beak knives. Always note which knife is best for certain vegetables, fruit or meat to avoid the fast degrading of the blade. A cash and carry wholesaler will have a wide variety of knives to complement your cooking methods.

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5 Quick Tips For Preparing And Cooking Grilled Pizza

Whether you’re grilling for a small group or a large crowd, pizza is a great choice for every party menu. It’s easy to make yet filling, not to mention delicious! It’s also a safe choice even if you’re expecting children at your party. These 5 quick tips for preparing and cooking grilled pizza will help you have a wonderful meal at your next backyard barbecue.

Use a gas grill if you’re a beginner

If it’s your first time to grill pizza, experts recommend using a gas grill because the temperature can be regulated easily. A charcoal grill works fine as well (some even claim it’s better for achieving the delicious smoky taste), but given that the dough cooks quickly, you would have to be extra attentive to keep your heat at the right temperature until the dish is cooked through.

Choose your dough

The dough is the heart of a pizza, so be sure to get a good quality one that can withstand the heat of the grill. You can buy some ready-made ones at your local grocery store but you can always opt to make your own for better results.

Prepare toppings beforehand

Whether you’re baking or grilling pizza, it’s important to have your toppings ready and within reach once you start the fire. Make sure that you’ve sliced your onions, grated your cheese, chopped your mushrooms and any other preparations needed. Experts also recommend pre-cooking your meat so that once it hits the grates, it will be cooked through.

Flip the dough right

Flipping the dough while cooking on the grates isn’t the easiest thing to do especially if you’re a first timer. Use pizza peels (wooden or metal) for this. Use long-handled tongs to assist with turning the dough over – grab the dough at the edge then slide it onto the peel for turning. However, if your peel is metal, you can use it as a spatula for turning the dough.

Prepare your cheese

Cheese is one of the ingredients that may make or break your grilled pizza. Make sure to use grated or very finely diced cheese for your pizza so that it melts faster with the heat of the grill and cover your dough evenly once cooked.

Many people say that pizza cooked on a grill is the best variety because it has a more natural taste to it on top of the appetizing smoky flavour. Follow these 5 quick tips for preparing and cooking grilled pizza for better results!

The Difference Between Ghee and Cooking Oil

You might come across a recipe that requires you to add ghee instead of oil. There isn’t a big difference and you can substitute ghee with cooking oil if you prefer.

Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is prepared from cow’s milk. Normally, the ghee is made by heating up the butter in a deep pan to avoid spilling. The butter is stirred slowly to avoid remixing the fat. The oil from the butter will eventually separate from the butter.

You will notice that when you cook with butter it will release froth once heated and melted. This froth will be strained so that none of the oil will be wasted and discarded. The leftover oil from the butter will turn into a pale yellow which will be strained to remove any remaining bits and then stored as what is known as ghee.

On the other hand, cooking oil is a neutral and non-polar chemical substance which means that it does not have an electric charge and will not conduct electricity if it is in such a situation. It is also a sticky or greasy liquid when it is exposed to regular temperatures.

The extraction process of oil is dependent on the type of fruit or seed it comes from. For instance, the sunflower seeds are compressed until the liquid gets released. It will also be refined to change the appearance so that it looks like the cooking oil on the shelves. Other cooking oil may also go through processes to change the taste and smell of it thus making it more appealing.

In some cuisines, the type of cooking oil used in the dish is very important. Flavour is important and chefs prefer to achieve unique textures and flavours that are native to their culture.

Ghee is lighter on the stomach because of the way it has been extracted from the butter. There are some people who struggle to digest food because of the viscous properties it may have. With ghee, a person does not have to worry about uncomfortable indigestion.

Cooking oil, however, has properties that can only come from fruits, vegetables and nuts. This means that there are other fats, such as trans fats, that your body needs to maintain a healthy immune system.

Those are the properties and differences between ghee and cooking oil. It is up to you as the chef to decide on which one is best suited to your recipe.

5 Essential Tips For Grilling During Winter

Grilling during the winter season is a lot different than doing so in the summer. There are more elements to consider and the weather is overall more harsh. Not to mention that it’s freezing cold! But that’s what makes a fresh off the grill burger, hotdog or steak more appetizing – a warm, delicious meal on a cold day.

Here are 5 essential tips for grilling during winter that you can try this holiday season:

A cover makes all the difference

Using a cover for your grill, whether it’s winter time or not, ensures that your grill will be protected from harsh elements outside, making its life longer. When it’s snowing, all the more a cover is needed – it will protect your grill from heavy rainfall and will keep it snow-free. Just have a brush or a small shovel nearby to dust the snow off the cover before cooking.

Keep extra fuel

If you’re grilling using charcoal, it’s ideal to have some extra as charcoal burns quicker because of the cold and the wind – you don’t want your barbecue to be cut short because you’ve run out of fuel. If you’re grilling using gas, make sure that your tank is full before each barbecue session to make sure that your grill is able to maintain the right temperatures to cook food evenly.

Don’t over check

Once the lid is down, set your timer and wait for your food to cook properly. When you check too much, the winter weather will cause your grill’s temperature to drop and your food won’t be cooked evenly. Keep the lid closed and check only when necessary.

Practice safety

During winter, the grease can accumulate at the bottom of your grill quickly which increases the risk of fire. Have a bottle of water ready (it’s not as easy to access the hose during winter as it is in summer time) or a fire extinguisher ready in case of fire or flare ups.

Pre-heat your grill earlier

When the weather is cold, your grill takes a lot longer to heat up before you can cook anything on it. You also have to allow some time to melt off the grease first. Also, it’s ideal to pre-heat your serving platter – when the food is cooked, you don’t want it to cool too quickly. Serve warm, delicious grilled food on a pre-heated serving plate.

A Healthy Way of Cooking Rice & Grains

Cooking rice and grains is a bit more complicated than cooking other foods. While too less heat may leave them uncooked or unevenly cooked, heating them too much may make them mushy and ruin their natural flavor. Similarly, while adding too much water may make them watery, using less water may cause them to be dry and not be soft and fluffy like you want them to. The thing is – the cookware plays a great role in cooking them with just the right amount of water and heat distributed evenly and thoroughly.

Most conventional cookware made from metals or ceramics fail to serve this purpose. First of all, the heat from this cookware is too harsh and is never evenly distributed. It’s usually more at the bottom than at the top which leaves the grains unevenly cooked. Secondly, there is no efficient way to filter out excess water so that just the right amount of water may be left that makes the grains moist and fluffy – just the way everybody likes them.

Another serious problem with conventional cookware is that most metals and ceramics leach toxins into food while cooking. I did an alkaline baking soda test on some cookware to confirm this fact. The alkalinity of food makes it reactive to the metal ions that this cookware leach. So, when an alkaline baking soda solution is heated in such cookware, they do the same to it. The test is pretty easy to do though:

  1. Boil 2-3 cups of water in any pot, when it starts boiling add 2 tsp of baking soda, boil for 5 more minutes. Turn stove off.
  2. Wait till cool enough to taste then taste the water (take a sip). If you taste metals, that’s what you’re eating! If water has a rubber/paint taste it’s the chemicals from enamel/glaze.

As a control, stir 2 tsp of baking soda to 1 glass of water and take a sip – you will taste just the baking soda.

I did the same test on a pure clay cookware as well and surprisingly it didn’t leach. I did some research and found out why it happened. Pure clay is a naturally inert material and if no chemicals are used in manufacturing process or for glazing, it stays that way and so, doesn’t leach.

Unlike metal/ceramic, pure clay cookware radiates far-infrared heat that is food-friendly and penetrates deep into each grain to cook evenly and thoroughly. They are good heat retainers, so you can turn the stove off even before the water fully boils – the grains keep cooking with the heat retained in the pot.

Pure clay pots are semi-porous which lets excess water evaporate and leave just enough moisture in cooked grains to make them soft and fluffy. I cooked rice in them and noticed that they were delicious and each grain was separate from each other without adding any fats, oils or additives – the pot took care of everything. I can confidently say that pure clay pots are ideal for cooking rice and grains.

Miriam’s Earthen Cookware is known to be the only makers of pure clay pots and I got mine from them. They have chosen this healthy material, pure clay for making cookware after a lot of research and people are really happy and satisfied with this healthy way of cooking, as evident from Google reviews.

Six Benefits of Coconut Oil That May Change Your Perspective

It’s no secret that coconut oil has become very popular all over the world. With all its benefits and uses it can definitely be on the top of your next shopping list. Here are six benefits of coconut oil that may change your perspective.

  1. High in saturated fats, your body automatically becomes healthier turning all LDL cholesterols in your body to HDL cholesterols. This means that any unhealthy and dangerous cholesterol found in your body gets converted to improve your health and reduce your cholesterol levels.
  2. Coconut oil is easier to digest and passes through the body quickly. It turns into energy rather than fat because it passes through the liver. Whilst it is an easily digestible food it also adds great flavour and volume to most of your dishes that makes the body crave more.
  3. It also treats UTIs and kidney infections. The components that make up coconut oil have antibacterial properties that help to speed up inflammation in the kidneys. The water of the coconut is also beneficial when trying to heal any kidney infections or UTIs.
  4. The coconut oil improves energy making a day easier to handle. As it does not get stored as fat and gets converted into energy, like most food, it helps you to live your day without feeling tired or fatigued. Your metabolism also increases to help you with digestion throughout the day.
  5. Besides being consumed, coconut oil can also be applied on the skin. Components that make up this oil helps to heal skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, burns and dandruff. Its hydrating feature cures any flaky or damaged skin that does not have moisture anymore.
  6. Best of all, it is an oil that does not contain carbohydrates. Most oils don’t actually contain carbohydrates but they often don’t settle well in the stomach if a lot is consumed. This oil, on the other hand, agrees with many of the body’s organs and helps them to fight off disease and infection whilst being digested.

So there are the six benefits of coconut oil that may change your perspective and views. All facts have been scientifically proven but it is always advisable to check with your doctor if you have any adverse effects. Before deciding to only consume coconut oil, keep in mind that to survive and to be healthy, your body needs to consume all types of food from the various food groups.

3 Essential Tips For Cooking Fish On The Grill

Once in a while, it’s nice to take a break from heavy meats like beef and pork. Try grilling fish – it’s a lighter meal but equally satisfying. Fish that are firm and thick are most ideal for the grill because they won’t stick as much and won’t fall apart easily. Halibut, salmon and tuna are great choices because they are packed with natural oils (they don’t dry up too quickly).

Follow these 3 essential tips for grilling fish and you’ll have a light smoky and hearty meal in no time!

Choose good quality fish

While frozen goods are an option, the fresh variety is most ideal. When at the market or store buying fish, be aware of its smell – there is indeed that distinct odor but it shouldn’t be too strong and won’t make your pinch your nose together. Aim for one that is firm to the touch with moist, shiny skin and pink gills. The meat should be white, not beige or yellow. If you must buy frozen fish, go only for those well-packaged ones – tightly wrapped in plastic without dryness or freezer burns and displayed in a bright and clean section.

Prepare it right for the grill

Experts recommend to grill the fish on the day of purchase, depending on the packaging’s “use-by” date if bought frozen. If you got it fresh, immediately clean it and transfer it to a container. Cover it tightly then refrigerate until ready to grill. If you got it frozen, keep it in its original packaging then refrigerate as well. Marinate for only about 3 to 4 hours as the meat of fish is soft and could easily get mushy. Tuna, swordfish and other dry, firm and thick fish are best for marinating. When grilling delicate ones such as flounder or tilapia, it’s ideal to wrap them in foil packets so that they won’t fall apart on your grill.

Grill it right

When you’re ready for the grill, make sure that your fish is dry as a wet one won’t sear. To prepare your fish, rinse it with cold water then use a paper towel to pat it dry. If you’re not using any marinade, brush the fish with oil then sprinkle it lightly with salt and black pepper before it hits the flames. Oil the grates and pre-heat the grill – this will help prevent the fish from sticking to your grill.

These 3 essential tips for grilling fish will help you successfully make a light, delicious meal!