Ayesha Marikar’s biriyanis and short eats are much in demand, especially for Iftar parties

An appetising aroma of spices envelopes visitors stepping into Ayesha Marikar’s home at Bains Compound. In fact, her scrumptious treats for her children, Haroon and Shakheela, brought home her first customers. Gradually, the flavour and aroma of her homemade food spread far and wide and today the homemaker picks and chooses her customers. Word of mouth publicity has made her biriyanis, Malabari treats and Ramzan specials well known among gourmets in the city.

“Once the countdown to Ramzan begins, I am busy supervising the food being made for Iftar parties. I don’t make for more than 75 people to ensure that I am able to maintain the quality of my food,” she says.

A home science graduate, Ayesha turned to her mother Nabeesa’s cuisine to replicate the taste of the food she had at her home. “Although my parents settled in Alappuzha, my mother was from Malabar and she was a great cook. However, then, I never used to enter the kitchen or learnt any cooking from my mother. When I began cooking for my family, the taste of my mother’s scrumptious cooking inspired me to try and emulate her culinary style,” says Ayesha.

Beginning with squashes, pickles and jams, Ayesha added to her list of homemade goodies. Many parents organising a do for their children knocked at her door for help. Hamburgers, rolls, puddings and more garnered a niche clientele who asked for more of her food that tasted of home. Depending on the tastes and requirements of the customers, Ayesha modifies her menu, which includes eats for vegetarians as well. “Moreover, when my son was studying at the Trivandrum Medical College, I began to get orders from many of his friends, teachers and colleagues.”

Habeen Thampi Marikar, her husband, and her children, all foodies themselves, encourage her passion for cooking and are her staunchest supporters. She feels that her food tastes better because she uses only fresh ingredients and no preservatives. Now, with Iftar parties becoming the talk of the town Ayesha is busy dishing out thari kanji, jeeraka kanji, different kinds of pathiri, kozhi ada, chicken curries, kozhi nirachathu, unnakaya, chicken biriyani, neichoru, Aleesa, soft drinks and more.

She says that dishes such as thari kanji and jeeraka kanji have many spices and herbs that help those fasting for Ramzan. There are also several varieties of the basic gruel. Some people add kheema to the kanji while some others add veggies. Agreeing that Malabari staples such as unnakaya are still not very easy to buy off the counter, she says it’s because such delights are only catching on among the residents. Another reason, she feels, is the price factor.

“However, I don’t make Mutta Mala but I make Mutta sirka. I also make a range of puddings,” she says.

She was invited by Vivanta by Taj, Thycaud, to demonstrate her culinary skills to an invited audience. She made her signature kozhi nirachathu for guests. She has also taken classes for various organisations in the city. “Many of my friends have been motivating me to hold classes on a regular basis. I might do that. A cookery book is in the making too. I have compiled many of my recipes but there is a lot of work to be done,” she adds.

That should be a new chapter in the life of this enterprising homemaker.

Ayesha shares with our readers her recipes for kozhi nirachathu (stuffed chicken) and pathiri.

Stuffed Chicken

Ingredients

Medium sized chicken: 1

For stuffing

Bengal gram dal: Half cup

Hard boiled egg: 1

Onion: 2 (sliced)

Garlic paste: 2 tsp

Ginger paste: 2 tsp

Coriander powder: 3 tsp

Turmeric powder: 1 tsp

Green chillies: 8 (sliced)

Garam masala powder: One and a half tsp

Raisins: 10

Cashew nuts: 10

Coriander leaves: half a bunch

Sugar: 3 tsp

Refined oil: quarter cup

Salt: to taste

For gravy

Onion: 3

Green chilli: 8

Ginger paste: 3 tsp

Garlic: 3 tsp

Coriander powder: 3 tbsp

Chilli powder: 2 tsp

Turmeric powder: 1 tsp

Perumjeerakam powder: 2 tsp

Garam masala powder: One and a half tsp

Coriander leaves: half a bunch

Sugar: 2 tsp

Refined oil: quarter cup

Lime juice: half lime

Salt: to taste

Cashew nuts: 10

Method

Clean and wash the chicken. Keep aside.

The stuffing

Wash and cook the dal with coriander powder and turmeric powder till the dal is cooked well and all the water is absorbed. Mash it well and keep aside. Heat oil and sauté the onion till it is transparent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and green chillies and fry for a few seconds more. Add cooked dal, coriander leaves, sugar and garam masala powder. Stir well. And remove from fire.

Stuff the chicken with the masala and whole hard boiled egg. Push both the legs of the chicken through the tail end and stick the legs together. Keep aside.

The Gravy

Slice onion and chillies and sauté in oil. Add coriander powder and two cups of water and salt to taste. Put in the chicken. Cook on a slow fire. Turn the chicken occasionally. Cook till the chicken is tender and the gravy thickens. Add sugar, lime juice and garam masala powder. Remove from fire. Take off the stitches before serving. Garnish with tomatoes and coriander leaves. Option: Grind cashew nuts and mix in the gravy.

Pathiri

Ingredients

Fine rice flour: 1 cup

Water: One and half cup

Salt to taste

Method

When the water is boiling, add the rice powder. Mix it well to prevent lumps from forming. Remove from fire and cool. Then add a little cold water and knead the dough to form a smooth mixture. Make balls and roll out like chappathis. Roast on a tava. Serve with thick coconut milk.