Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vegan Cauliflower Crust Pizza




It's summer. You can try to deny it, but when the sweat pours from your scalp and into your defiant eyes, you have to give up, give in and accept the fact that it is summer.

It feels like being at the focal point of a magnifying glass, being in Salem, India. The newspaper says so too.
"40 C heat bakes Salem!" ->
The people of Salem read it and feel vindicated. Yes, yes, we are being baked. My dogs and I nod along as we lie spread-eagled on the floor of my room. Then, inevitably, I unglue myself from the floor and switch on the air-conditioning, pushing aside the voice that worries about 'the role of the individual in energy conservation'. It sounds like the title of a middle school essay. But if my conscience was a book, this would be in the index. Thankfully, consciences can be conveniently ignored. And pizzas can be made.

I joined the bandwagon. I made the much celebrated 'cauliflower crust pizza'. It's vegan too! This totally balances the aircon usage. Doesn't it? It does. Anyway, this does not taste like a normal pizza for sure. The crust isn't chewy, its mealy. There's no cheese involved. However, it is delicious. The garlic powder in the crust and the herby flavors of the amazing sauce make it lip-smacking in it's own right.

A word to the wise- Make the pizza sauce, garlic powder, almond meal and any other ingredients you wish to make yourself a day or two ahead of time, leaving only the cauliflower crust to the final day.

Pizza Sauce:

2 onions, chopped
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
6 mint leaves
5 basil leaves
1 bay leaf
6 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried parsley
2 tbsp olive oil

Throw everything into the pan together, cover and cook till it all softens. Cool, grind to a paste, place back in the pan and cook till reduced.

Pizza Base:

2 small cauliflowers
2 tbsp flax seed powder  stirred in 3 tbsp hot water left for 5 mins
4 tbsp ground almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp chilli flakes

Remove the florets, wash, drain and place them in a blender in batches. Put the pulp in a frying pan and spread it around for a few minutes. Place the pulp in a cloth and squeeze it multiple times until it's as dry as you can make it (The liquid retained along with chopped stalks make for a good soup)


Place the pulp in a bowl, add all the other ingredients and mix it all together.



Place on a baking sheet and flatten it into a 1/4 inch disc. Bake at 200 C for 30 minutes. Some of the recipes call for flipping it and baking it a while longer, but my crust was brown on both sides. I always use both the upper and lower coils of the oven.


Assemble pizza with sauce and toppings and bake for 5 to 8 mins at 200 C, upper coil only.



Home-made garlic powder and almond meal...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Way-too-healthy Cookies!


The problem with maintaining a healthy diet is that when evening comes around, you want something to bite into, and a carrot just doesn't cut it. I've tried that. I eat the carrot and then I pounce on a bag of potato chips in fury- because I made myself eat a carrot.

So I googled high and low for some guilt free yet enjoyable options that I could stock up on, and this cookie recipe caught my eye. After days of trying to get to it, I finally churned out a few batches.

No white sugar
No white flour
No eggs
No butter

I mean, come on!

Oat Flour, coconut oil, flax seeds? This is gonna be brittle sawdust, my inner pessimist told me gloomily.

As soon as they came out of the oven, I tasted a bit of one. I could smell and taste the coconut oil- probably because it came straight from our farm and was really potent. I was a bit disappointed, to be honest, and simply left the tray on the kitchen counter, writing it off as a mistake. However, my mom had one the next day and she told me they were really good. And they were! Apparently, the oil needed time to dissipate or whatever. The ones with the filling which I placed in the fridge were just awesome. So thankfully, my list is off to a good start.

Recipe (slightly modified) from - http://beamingbaker.com/healthier-vegan-chocolate-chip-cookies/

INGREDIENTS
Dry Ingredients
1.5 cups homemade oat flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tbsp Hershey's cocoa powder
½ teaspoon coffee powder

Wet Ingredients
⅔ cup frozen coconut oil (10 tbsp)
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 flax eggs (2 tablespoons ground flax + 6 tablespoons warm water, whisk together, let set for 5 mins)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or greased foil.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: oat flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, coffee and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add coconut oil and brown sugar. Cut solid coconut oil into sugar. (Cutting tip: you can use a pastry blender or a very sturdy whisk. Using the whisk method, grind the coconut oil into the sugar using a downward, smashing motion. Keep going until you get a slightly grainy, dough-like texture).
Add flax eggs and vanilla to sugar mixture. Whisk until well incorporated.
In thirds, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. You’ll need to flex some arm muscles for this part: whisk until it gets tough to stir and is a cohesive, well-mixed dough.
Scoop 1.5 tablespoons of cookie dough into your hand and roll into a ball. Make sure the ball is smooth and round (like a globe), otherwise the cookie will spread.
Place these balls evenly spaced apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten slightly.
Bake for 8-10 mins. After removing from the oven, place on a rack and allow it to cool.


The Filling: This is my baby. I experimented and fell in love with it when I first made tarts. It's got just two ingredients- white chocolate and cottage cheese/paneer.

So melt a bit of white chocolate using the double boiler method and to this, add paneer that you've mashed up nicely- either with a spatula or a blender. Mix them up nicely and once it's at room temperature, use it for sandwiching two of the cookies together. It's great in tarts as well!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Kambu Koolu (Pearl Millet Gruel)

This is a staple at home because of its many health benefits and sheer yumminess. Now that summer is making its presence felt, there's nothing like a couple of glasses of kool to cool down ;)


Method: 

Soak 1 cup of pearl millet for an hour. Drain and spread onto a cotton cloth for roughly twenty minutes under the fan. It shouldn't dry out completely. There's a way to test this- if you run your hand through it, a few grains of the millet will stick to your hand for a bit.


Grind it to a coarse powder.


Heat 5 cups of water in a large vessel. In a bowl, mix the millet powder with 1 cup of water and a tsp of salt. When the water in the vessel is one the verge of boiling, empty the contents of the bowl into it. Rinse the bowl with a half cup of water and empty it into the large vessel. So that's a total of 6.5 cups of water. You can add a bit less or more, it doesn't matter.

On a high flame, stir constantly for 4 to 5 minutes. Use a circular motion to stir, scraping the sides and bottom as you go. Don't stop or slow down- switch hands coz its gonna hurt. This is done to prevent lumps from forming. Then simmer, remove the spoon/ladle, cover partially with a lid and allow to cook for 10 minutes. That's it. Push the lid on properly and leave it overnight. In the morning, you'll see a glutinous mass. This is called the kali.


Kali can be eaten as such with a spicy gravy. Traditionally, it is rolled by hand into large lumps and placed in a clay pot of water to sit another night. It's a mild fermentation process that will make it a bit sour, which is said to go well with a spicy side dish.

However, kali is also made into kool, which is gruel. Just blend the kali with yogurt, water and a bit of salt into a gruel. The ratios are up to you. I prefer more yogurt in it than others do.

Traditionally, coriander leaves, finely chopped onion, green chillies and raw mango bits are added to the gruel. I sometimes sprinkle idli podi onto it when I crave more heat. Otherwise, for crunch, I add grated carrots, chopped grapes or pomegranate seeds.


Chill and enjoy!


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Wheat Pita with Zucchini Fritters





No recipe for this one, because I'm lazy it's simple. The pita recipe is from one of the innumerable ones online, but it's a work in progress as I get the feel for the dough. The zucchini fritters are just shredded zucchini lightly cooked with spices and then crumbed and fried.



I think I'll dedicate this post to the beauty that is the pickled gherkin, and let's throw in a spicy jalapeno as well. I always ask for extra in my subs, sandwiches and burritos. Combined with crunchy iceberg lettuce, I don't think there's anything more one could ask for.  I certainly don't. It's so fresh and bursting with flavor that I think any such bread with filling combo would top my list of what one food I would eat for the rest of my life. It inspires me. So much so that once, I wrote a review (anonymously) that perfectly captures what I feel and (tsk, tsk) who I am:

'No, I don't want anything', I insisted. So my partner went ahead and got himself a veg burrito and placed it carefully in the fridge that night. The next morning, I woke up starving. The silver foil shone enticingly and being a believer of fate, I reached out and grabbed the damn thing.
Knife in hand, I went back in and cut myself one quarter of the burrito- coz my parents raised me right. I know what's fair and what's not. I ate it. It was..... I'm not a weird-sound-making person when it comes to food, but I made 'em. Many of  'em.
I looked at him. He was sleeping. Partners in life, I told myself as I cut another quarter. It disappeared, along with my righteous upbringing. I peered at him for a couple of seconds to make sure he wasn't showing signs of regaining consciousness. If he had, I planned to use the pillow.
When I threw the foil in the trash a few minutes later, I felt cheated. What kind of man doesn't buy another burrito for his woman, even if she insists? I need to rethink this relationship. But I know where I stand with (brand) burritos. We've mated for life.

Chapathi Dough Minions

Meet Beetroot Butt Horn and Spinach Spit Pox...(minions born in Jan, 2014)





Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sweet Potato Filled Zucchini Parcel on Barley Salad



The whole cooking spree that's been going on this month was inspired by my tiny vacation in December. I stayed with a friend in Bangalore and we dined at this quaint place called 'Red Fork'. I had a dish similar to this one there, and it was absolutely delicious. There was a strong feeling in me at the end of the meal- I really want to eat delicious well-presented food often, and the healthier, the better. I've been able to make quite a few dishes since. It's a nice feeling- one that would be even better if a professional cook materialized in my kitchen ever so often, but hey, my millionaire days are just around the corner ;)

This dish is quite easy and quick. Tastes really nice too.

For the Barley Salad

4 tbsp cooked barley
1/2 cup of steamed peas and carrots
3 each roasted and halved cashewnuts and almonds
1 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and paper to taste

Combine all the ingredients and set aside.

For the Filling

2 tbsp mashed, cooked sweet potato
salt and pepper to taste
dry herbs (optional)

Mix all the ingredients into a mash and set aside.

For the Zucchini cover

Cut the zucchini into long strips lengthwise, about 2 mm thick.
Marinate in salt, pepper and lemon juice for an hour.

On a grill pan, add a dash of olive oil and cook the zucchini until soft.

Assembly: Place the salad on  a dish. Shape the sweet potato mash into a cube. Place 4 zucchini strips- in the shape of a cross- two lengthwise, two across. Place the mash in the center and fold the zucchini around it.

I felt that the dish could have benefited with something wet- either a creamy or a zesty sauce.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Baked Broccoli and Cauliflower in Herbed Oats



So when I decided to bake these flowers today, I knew I didn't want something heavy- no eggs, cheese and stuff. So what's a good binding agent then for this bake? Oats. I cooked the oats, looked at it and went, ewwwww! I don't wanna eat oats. But that was an unimaginitive reaction.

Once I hit those oats with herbs and breadcrumbs and spice, it was a thing of beauty. The flowers baked in it well and added their own aroma. This recipe is a keeper since it is a low-fat one pot dish, and those are my favorite kind.

Baked Broccoli and Cauliflower in Herbed Oats

1/2 cup oats
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 tbsp oil
20 almonds, in slivers
2 tbsp roasted peanuts
3 cups of broccoli and cauliflower florets
6 tbsp chopped spring onion leaves
salt, pepper to taste
1 tsp chilli flakes, 
2 tsp each dried oregano, parsley
breadcrumbs, as needed.

Cook the oats in the milk and water just so that the oats lose shape.
Cool a bit. To it, add the oil, almond slivers, peanuts, spring onion leaves, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, dried oregano and parsley. 
Place the florets in a baking dish and pour this oats sauce over it. 
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and gently fold it in a bit, making sure not to incorporate it fully. 
Bake at 180 C for 45 mins.