Or, the challenge in which we actually follow the recipes for a change.
We’ve been on quite an Indian food kick lately, so we were excited to try making Appam for this month’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge. We had previously ventured into this region’s cuisine when we made Dosas in one of our first Daring challenges, way back in September 2009. Appams, also known as hoppers, are quite a different beast: a fermented rice-based batter that is made into a thin, lacy crepe and served with curry. Our gracious host Mary also provided several delicious recipes for curry and accompaniments, which we were also enthusiastic to try. Thanks Mary, for a different and delicious challenge!
Whilst we loved the flavor of the appam, we think we still need a bit of practice, since our renditions weren’t particularly pretty, We did manage to get them to be a little crispy around the edges, which provided a nice contrast to the softer interior – however they were never perfectly round and one bit always seemed to stick to the pan. Nevertheless, it’s the taste that counts and they were very tasty indeed. Here is our first rendition of the challenge recipe:
Servings: Makes about 15
1 ½ cups (360 ml/300 gm/10½ oz) raw rice
1 ½ teaspoons (7½ ml/5 gm) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
½ cup (120 ml) of coconut water or water, room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons (22½ ml/18 gm) cooked rice
½ teaspoon (2½ ml/3 gm) salt
about ½ cup (120 ml) thick coconut milk (from the top of an unshaken can)
1. Soak the raw rice in 4 to 5 cups of water for 3 hours.
2. Dissolve the sugar in the coconut water or plain water and add the yeast. Set aside in a warm area for 10-15 minutes, until very frothy.
3. Drain the rice and grind it in a blender with the yeast mixture to make a smooth batter. You can add a bit of extra water if needed, but I did not. Add the cooked rice, and grind/blend to combine well. You can see that it is not completely smooth, but very thick—that’s about right.
4. Pour into a large bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for 8-12 hours. You not only want the mixture to rise and collapse, but to ferment. When it is ready, it will have a slightly sour and distinctly yeasty smell. Don’t worry--they are mild tasting when cooked!
5. Add the coconut milk and salt, and a bit of water if necessary, so that you have a batter that is just a bit thicker than milk. Notice how it bubbles after you add the coconut milk. I recommend test-cooking one before thinning the batter.
6. Heat your pan over medium heat. Wipe a few drops of oil over it using a paper towel. Stir the batter and pour in 3-4 tablespoons, depending on the size of the pan. Working quickly, hold the handle(s) and give the pan a quick swirl so that the batter comes to the top edge. Swirl once only, as you want the edges to be thin and lacy.
7. Cover the pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Uncover and check. The center should have puffed up a bit, and will be shiny, but dry to the touch. When ready, loosen the edges with a small spatula and serve immediately. These need to be served hot out of the pan.
We also made a tasty shrimp curry to go with the appam:
Shrimp in Coconut Milk (Chemeen Pappas)
This is a creamy, spicy and delicious shrimp dish. When you cut the shrimp in half lengthwise, they curl like corkscrews. Unlike many curries we’ve made, this one came together really quickly. We’ll certainly make it again.
3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) mustard seed
1/8 teaspoon (⅔ ml/½ gm) fenugreek seeds
10 fresh or frozen curry leaves
2 cups (480 ml/480 gm/½ lb) thinly sliced onion
2 teaspoons (10ml/8 gm) minced garlic
1 teaspoon (5ml/4 gm) minced ginger
2 fresh green chiles, split lengthwise
2 teaspoons (10 ml/10 gm) tomato paste
● 4 teaspoons (20 ml/7 gm) ground coriander
● ½ teaspoon (2½ ml/1½ gm) paprika
● ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) cayenne
● ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) black pepper
1¼ teaspoons (6¼ ml/7½ gm) salt
¾ cup (180 ml) coconut milk
1 ½ pounds (750 gm) medium or large shrimp, shelled and deveined and sliced in half lengthwise if large
1. In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot add the mustard seeds and cover until they stop popping. Add the fenugreek seeds and stir until they color lightly. Add the curry leaves (they will sputter and spatter), wait about 20 seconds, then add the onions and fry until they are soft, but not brown.
2. Add the ginger, garlic and green chiles and cook for one minute. Add the tomato paste, dry masala and salt and stir and fry for another minute. If it dries out, add a few drops of water.
3. Add ½ cup (120 ml) of the coconut milk, along with 1 cup (240 ml) of water. Increase heat to medium-high and cook at a strong simmer, uncovered for 5-10 minutes to thicken the sauce and blend the flavors.
4. Add the shrimp, and cook, stirring, until they have all changed color and curled up. This will take less than 5 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. Add the remaining ¼ cup (60 ml) of coconut milk, bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Taste for salt and serve immediately.
Since we had leftover coconut milk we tried another challenge recipe, Carrots with Tropical Flavors. The picture doesn’t really do them justice: they were delicious…
1 pound (½ kg) carrots, about 5 medium, peeled
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
about 8 fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons (30 ml/15 gm) minced seeded green cayenne chiles
3 tablespoons (45 ml/27 gm) minced shallots
2 teaspoons (10ml) rice vinegar (I used lime juice)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/6 gm) salt
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml/1 gm) sugar
½ cup (120 ml) coconut milk
¼ cup (50 ml) water
coarse salt, optional
cilantro (coriander) leaves to garnish
1. Julienne or coarsely grate the carrots. Set aside.
2. Place a deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then add half of the curry leaves, the chiles and the shallots. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring.
3. Add the carrots, stir, and add the vinegar, salt, sugar and mix well. Increase the heat and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until they give off a bit of liquid.
4. Add the water and half of the coconut milk and bring to a fast boil. Stir, cover tightly and cook until just tender, 5-10 minutes, depending on size. Mine took about 5 minutes. Check to ensure the liquid has not boiled away and add a little more water if it is almost dry.
5. Add the remaining coconut milk and curry leaves. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired, and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.
Round 2: Vindaloo!
We had another go at making appam, and although we were aware of our stick-to-the-pan problem from the first attempt, I’m afraid these weren’t any prettier. We’d tried to make them thinner by using the thin coconut milk from the bottom of the can, but it didn’t help at all. They were, however, still an excellent way of mopping up our tasty pork vindaloo, which came from My Indian Kitchen: Preparing Delicious Indian Meals Without Fear or Fuss by Hari Nayak which we had the good fortune to review this month.
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.