Monday, July 31, 2017

Croissants


Back in 2007, I was churning croissants out at an astonishing rate. My family had come together, a rare event, and croissants were my way of saying,"Here, enjoy and be fat." After almost a decade, I'm at it again and this time, for no reason at all.

Soft, buttery, delicious...and nerve racking. Placing the croissants in a warm space to proof before baking sounds easy enough, but it isn't fun to be constantly checking them every ten seconds to see how much they've risen, wondering why one batch rises more than another and generally worrying. On the other hand, watching them plump up like soft, light pillows is nothing short of miraculous. I bow my head to these creatures we call yeast.


Add caption


The recipe is right here :

https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/classic-french-croissant-recipe/

I followed it as is except for the measuring out of the croissant triangles, which I thought too finicky. It's a great recipe, provided you keep in mind the pressure points
1. Get a kitchen scale if you don't have one. It's a great help.
2. Get great quality baker's yeast.
3. Test a batch in your oven to get the baking times right.
4. When you roll out the triangles on day 3 to stretch them out, be gentle. Too much pressure destroys the layers. Also be quick, the butter melts as you handle the dough. This is something you need to be kind to yourself about because it may take a batch or three to get the hang of.

It may sound complicated, but this is actually a relaxed, easy process. And the rewards are well worth it!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mushroom Potstickers with Mint Sauce


I am constantly reminded that I am Indian when I cook. It's tough for us to show restraint- we have too many masalas. When a traditional gravy is made, I usually go for the entire line up of spice powders on the shelf. Pick, open, shovel, dump, repeat. You don't even have to think about it. That's why I like cooking non-Indian dishes. It's challenging. Like some food pervert, I have to stop my hands from grabbing those bottles.

Potstickers. What can I say. They're always a hit. But this is the first time I made a simple western herb sauce and I tell you- you could pour that thing on stale bread and I'd wolf it down. Beautiful. I'll be making this again.



Mint Sauce

6 sprigs of mint (1 tbsp blitzed mint leaves)
1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.




Mushroom filling

1 cup of button mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying.
1 large onion, finely chopped

Slice the mushrooms and place them on a frying pan with a dash of oil. Season, fry both sides on high flame till golden brown and set aside. (Traditionally chopping up mushrooms and cooking them all together results in a soggy mess- which isn't bad, but I prefer this drier version albeit its complex cooking process) In the same pan, add a dash of oil, add the onions, season and fry lightly. Mix it in with the mushrooms.


Potsticker dough

1 cup plain white flour
1/4 cup of boiling water
1 pinch salt

Mix all the ingredients together and knead thoroughly for 10 minutes. The dough would be stiff and firm. Cover with a wet cloth in a bowl and set aside for 2 to 4 hours.

Assembly





Roll out the dough into a log, portion it into 7 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rough circle. Use a cookie cutter or small lid to make a perfect circle. Gently use the rolling pin to make the edges thinner than the middle. Place filling in the center, run a wet finger along the edge and seal the edge. Pleat it gently.




In a pan, add 2 tbsp of oil and place the potstickers in it. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes till the bottom is nicely golden brown. Then add about 3 tbsp of water, cover with a lid and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Serve potstickers with mint sauce.








Friday, June 9, 2017

Jackfruit Jam


This is one of the most delicious fruits- aromatic and sweet.  Unripe, the flesh is great for chips with a dash of salt and turmeric powder. The seeds make a great spicy fried dish.  But I've never tried jam before. Leaving a whole fruit in the car and forgetting about it for a day and a half is enough to push a person towards salvaging the flesh and making a jam out of it. Simple recipe, really. I'm not a great jam eater, but I liked this on buttered toast. Making a bottle of this when the fruit is in season might be a good idea for those who like the flavor. 

Ingredients

6 cups jackfruit, deseeded, cut into strips
2 cups water
1.5 cups sugar (depends on the sweetness of the fruit)
i pinch salt
juice of one lemon

Method

Place the water to boil in a large non stick vessel. Put the jackfruit slices in and cook till the water is half gone. Add the sugar, lower the heat and cook till the mass thickens. Add the lemon juice, salt and keep it on low till it's thick. Take off the heat and leave it to cool overnight in the same vessel. It'll thicken to a jam consistency. Transfer it to a glass bottle and refrigerate.





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.




Monday, January 2, 2017

Whole Wheat Pasta with Almond Basil Pesto


Long ago, I made pasta. Today, I made it again. Some people never learn.

Moving on to the less painful part of this plate- pesto! I love pesto. I could write a poem about it. Like 'Pesto, it's besto, makes me zesto!' I could go on. But I'll just say- this is a good combo. I halved the amount of basil leaves other recipes call for because I don't like being overwhelmed with that particular flavor.

Since I must, I'll touch on the pasta a bit. It's plain wheat flour with salt and water. I didn't fancy putting eggs in there, so its your basic chapathi dough. Lessons learnt:

1) Don't overcook the pasta. Hover over the boiling water like an overprotective mother.
2)  Don't be a hero. Don't use a bottle cap and make circles with the pasta dough because it'll 'look cute'. It's not worth it. Just saying. Random suggestion.
3) Don't be an idiot. Just buy the god-damned pasta.

Almond Basil Pesto

1 cup almonds, dry roasted
1 cup of basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 dried red chilly
1/2 tsp salt

Blitz the almonds first- just one or two pulses. Then add the other ingredients and pulse a few times to get a coarse paste. This is drier than usual, so add olive oil or water to make it smoother. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Veg Rolls with Sesame Dipping Sauce



With the new year, I've decided to cling less to sadness and be more open to joy. Though my father's passing will long remain in a corner of my heart, screaming fiercely, I hope to learn to live with it and still find happiness. It's kinda living next to railway tracks, I imagine- how people there live and sleep as if all the rattling and noise doesn't matter. One can get used to almost anything.

So instead of the usual, 'Bah! New Year is meaningless, it's just an arbitrary point on a man-made clock', I did things differently today. I made an effort.

In Bangkok, I frequented a salad bar in a market that had the most amazing sesame dressing. The nutty flavor made me a life-long fan. With these rice paper rolls, I decided to make a dipping sauce that could compare. I'm not a fan of soy sauce, vinegar, etc., mainly because I use them so rarely, they expire in the fridge, bottles almost still full.

This has got be to be the simplest sesame sauce, but it packs flavor, and doesn't need fancy (to me) ingredients!

Dry roasted sesame seeds - 4 tbsp
Dry red chilli - 1
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Water

Process: Blitz the dry roasted sesame seeds- because of their natural oils, you'll get a powder-paste consistency. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. That's it! 

I think I'll try it with a dash of honey as well next time around. As for the rice paper rolls, this filling was a lightly sauteed mixture of thinly sliced carrots, onions and bell peppers with fresh lettuce from our terrace garden. For my mom, I made a version with slivers of fried potatoes. I love foods like this that are open to endless variety and experimentation.

I hope the new year brings such discovery to us all, outside the kitchen and beyond! :)