Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Spiced pancake

Why do pancakes have to be just rounds of cooked white flour that depend on syrup for taste? Try out these pancakes with the motley bunch of slightly atypical ingredients and enjoy the sweet spice burst for breakfast.

For about 8 pancakes you will need:
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground mace
- 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp yoghurt
- 3/4 cup milk at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp sweet basil seeds (sabja seeds)
- 3 Tbsp roasted wheat germ (optional)
- 1/2 cup millet flour (we used proso millet)
- 1/2 cup white flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt

Melt the butter on very low heat in the bowl that you will be using to make the batter and add the sugar to it. Mix to cool as well as to dissolve the sugar. While the butter cools, mix the yoghurt, milk and the basil seeds and keep aside for the seeds to ooze their gel. Once the butter cools completely add vanilla extract, ground mace, fennel seeds and the egg and mix well. Add millet flour and mix until well incorporated. There is no need to be extra careful as with wheat flour, as there is no gluten that will develop. By now the basil seeds would have become gelatinous. Add the milk mixture along with salt, stir well and let stand for about 30 mins. This time is necessary for the millet flour to soak in the liquid a little and for the basil seeds to further thicken the mixture. You can even make this ahead and keep it in the fridge overnight, in which case use only one tablespoon of yoghurt. The spices will be more pronounced.
When it is time to make the pancakes, sift in the white flour and baking soda (and wheat germ if using) and stir carefully till the flour is just incorporated and there are no lumps. Heat a skillet and add some oil to it. Ladle in the batter and cook on both sides. Serve with fresh fruit or honey.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Pumpkin pie

Store bought pie shells or even just frozen pastry is fairly hard to come by in India. That doesn't stop one from making the occasional pie at home with pastry made at home. This is a savoury pumpkin pie.. a quiche if you will. It can by all means be converted into a sweet pie by just adding sugar and the adjusting the spices. Spices that go with a sweet pumpkin pie are cinnamon and maybe some nutmeg.

Pumpkin pie with a quirky crust

Ingredients for filling:
- 400 gm yellow pumpkin (whole piece)
- 60 gm grated cheese of your choice (cheddar is fine)
- 50ml milk
- 1 egg or 1 Tbsp plain white flour (optional)
- Lemon basil
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Black pepper
- Salt

Ingredients for the shell:
- 1/4 cup flax seeds
- 1/4 cup millet
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1Tbsp Tbsp olive oil
- 40gms chilled butter
- Salt
- Dry rosemary

The making of the shell and the filling go in tandem. Follow through in order to not have to wait between steps.

Begin with the filling. Cut the piece of yellow pumpkin in two and with the skin on pop them in a pressure cooker. Cook for about 3-4 whistles. Open once the pressure is off and let cool.

Meanwhile roast the flax seeds and the millet in a wok with 1 Tbsp of olive oil until they just begin to pop about in the wok and let them cool. Be careful not to burn them. That could make the entire shell taste burnt.

Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the cooked flesh into a bowl. You will find this easy as the skin being tougher would hold the softer flesh intact. Mash the pumpkin flesh into as smooth a puree  as you like. We like it a bit chunky and a even otherwise a blender/hand whisk is really not required.

The millet and flax must be cool enough to run in the blender. Blend into a fine powder. In a bowl mix this powder, the whole wheat flour salt and rosemary. Add the chill butter and break into pieces with your fingers. Rub the butter into the dry mixture until the result resembles wet sand i.e. it should be friable yet hold shape when pressed together. Also add one ice cube into the mixture and repeat the rubbing in process like with the butter. Spread this mixture evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a pie dish and press to make it firm. Then put the pie dish into your deep freezer. It would like like this before going in.

The shell ready to be frozen!
The pumpkin mash would have completely cooled by now. Add all the remaining ingredients for the filling except the lemon basil and also reserve about a third of the cheese. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Take out the pie shell from the freezer which would be rather firm now from the butter solidifying. Pour in the filling and spread evenly with a spoon or a offset spatula. Cover the top with the reserved cheese. Use more cheese if not covered and bake for about 40 mins.

The pie ready to be baked

Snip the lemon basil into shreds and spread on the hot pie as soon as taken out from the oven. Serve warm.

The pumpkin pie is served

- The pie shell described here is a very crumbly one. If you don't like it so crumbly step up the ice water, a tablespoon at a time and knead into a dough then press into the pan.
- The egg/flour is for binding. I actually did not use it. But if you are entertaining, its better to use it as it would give a clean cut.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Millet patties with tomato coulis

The millet mania continues... Did you know that the word "rice" is actually a generic term, which has come to mean paddy rice by default. Paddy is the grass and the seeds harvested as food is rice. Similarly seeds harvested from millet grasses are referred to as millet rice. It can be substituted in meals for rice as a healthier less starchy option.

We have been doing so recently and feeling good about it. It can be eaten just like regular rice with vegetable curries, daal etc. Naturally, as with most staples there is some left over at the end of the meal and this is what was used in this recipe. Of course you can make it fresh for these patties if you don't have left overs. The patties make for a good breakfast or snack idea.

For eight patties you will need:
- 1 cup cooked millet rice (Kodo or any other of your choice)
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 2 medium or 1 large potato cooked and mashed
- 2-3 table spoons of whole wheat flour
- 2-3 cloves garlic chopped
- Crushed black pepper corns
- Salt to taste
- Oil for shallow frying

Mix all the ingredients for patties to a firm dough and make 2 inch balls. Apply some oil on the palm of your hand and flatten the balls to 1/2 inch thick patties. If you don't apply oil on your palms you will end up wasting more of the dough as it will stick to your palm. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the patties till brown on both sides. Take out on to a kitchen towel to let oil drain off. Serve with tomato coulis explained below.

For the tomato coulis you need:
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 6-8 leaves of lemon basil
- Salt to taste
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

Make a smooth puree of the tomatoes with the sugar added. In a heavy bottom wok or pot add the butter and turn up the heat to high flame. Once the butter just begins to brown and smoke, add the tomato puree. It will sizzle and turn a deep red. Do not reduce the flame. Stir lightly and keep covered for 2 mins. Open and add the vinegar and salt. Keep the flame high and stir only occasionally. At the end of 5 minutes the tomatoes should have reduced to a thick deep red paste. Add finely chopped lemon basil and turn off the heat immediately. Stir in the olive oil.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Millet Banana Breakfast Muffins

Yes, it's muffins again, but this is not so much a recipe as it is an idea that opens up to several recipes for the imaginative. So, we all know muffins, cakes and most bakery are best enjoyed when you don't make them yourself i.e. you don't see the amounts of white flour, fat and sugar that goes into them. We try to add some healthy things in them such as vegetables or fruits and try to step down the fat by substituting milk but alas these are tricky options as the gluten in the flour begins to develop when in contact with water (in the vegetables/fruits/milk) yielding a bread like chewy consistency. So we keep the healthy stuff to a minimum, step up fat and the vicious circle repeats.
Enter - the millet. If you have already jumped onto the gluten free bandwagon, you have probably started experimenting with millets. Millets are perfect if you are aiming at a gluten free diet. Considered among the most ancient of grains, millets provide you with a healthy alternative to rice, wheat and corn. They don't grow big and fat with starch like other main grains, but this is the very trait that makes them an healthier option. India is almost the top producer of millets in the entire world. If you are in India you can add 'responsible eating' to your portfolio while consuming locally grown millets.

Millet muffins
Ingredients (yields up to 7-8 muffins):

- 2/3 to 3/4 cup mashed bananas
- 1/4 cup fat: butter (or oil)
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg or equal volume of thick non-sour yogurt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla or nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cup millets *
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup or 2 tbsp white flour.

* options are: foxtail millet, barnyard millet, amaranth or a mixture of these.

Here's how you make it.
Whisk butter and sugar until fluffy followed by other wet ingredients i.e. egg/yogurt, milk, bananas and vanilla.

Run the millet(s) in a blender to make a fine powder. It can be made coarse if you like some extra texture in the final product. Experiment varying the coarseness to find out what you like.

Mix salt and baking soda to your millet powder and add this dry mixture to the wet and mix. This is the step where you would truly appreciate the gluten free nature of the millets. Were this white flour, you would have to be extra careful not to over mix and your cook book will advise you to "gently fold in the flour". With millets however, there is no fear of turning the batter bready due to over mixing. Give it a good whisk until the millet powder is thoroughly incorporated.

Finally add in the two tablespoon of white flour by sprinkling it evenly over the mixture and gently folding in until just moist. This small amount of white flour is to provide some binding, else the cakes would be too crumbly.

Divide batter among muffin cups and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 mins or until the cakes pass the toothpick test.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Cornbread breakfast muffins

Though we do not make muffins as often as we would like to, we are all for the simplicity of muffins. Especially the savory ones. It is - just throw in the flour, oil / butter and some vegetables and mix it and spoon it into the tray - simple. When I found this recipe for Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins at Damn Delicious, I knew it was a must-do. As you can see, I used her entire recipe (down to the styling of the dish) but made it savory by skipping honey.

The challenge though, will be the availability of cornmeal in India. What we did was simple. We bought dried corn from the supermarket (not the frozen ones, but you get dried ones in the pulses section) and ground it coarsely. That became an effective cornmeal for this recipe. Don't let the unavailability of ready cornmeal deter you from making these little beauties. Just make your own!

Here's how I made it.

Your dry ingredients

Your wet ingredients

whisk together to form a spoon-worthy batter

Pour the batter in muffin trays and bake

This recipe yields 4 large muffins. Good enough for a breakfast for two.

1/2 cup of corn flour
1/2 cup of plain flour (maida / all purpose)
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/4 cup of cooking oil (we use rice bran)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
Salt, according to taste
1 egg
1 block of cheddar cheese
2 green chillies 

Here's how you make it:

1) Combine the dry ingredients - flour, soda and salt
2) Combine the wet ingredients - buttermilk, egg and oil
3) Pour the wet over dry mixture and whisk gently to combine
4) Add shredded cheese, chopped green chillies and combine
5) Spoon the batter into greased muffin trays and bake in preheated oven for 200 F for 15 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test (poke a toothpick and see if it comes out clean, if it does, your muffins are ready)
6) Serve hot over coffee.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Cucumber dosa with green chutney - Easy Breakfast Recipes

If Tamil Nadu is the Masala Dosa capital, Karnataka stakes its claim for the Dosa crown with many easy to make variants - neeru dosa, cucumber dosa and so on. While I haven't mastered neeru dosa as yet (it is made with a super thin batter and takes good expertise to swirl it around in the dosa pan), making cucumber dosa wasn't a difficult task. It makes for an easy breakfast / dinner recipe with only a teeny bit of planning. 

When I started looking for recipes (on the internet as well as asking around colleagues who are native to Karnataka) to make cucumber dosa, I found an overwhelming number of variations to this recipe. Some suggested urad dal, some plain rice, while some fermentation. In the end, I picked and chose the techniques from various recipes and arrived at this one.

The measurements yield about 10 tiny dosas. Here is the recipe for dosa and green chutney.

Ingredients for the dosa:

1) 1/2 cup of uncooked raw rice (pre-soaked, preferably overnight)
2) 1/2 cup of uncooked boiled rice (pre-soaked, preferably overnight)
3) 1 tiny piece of ginger
4) 1 green chilly 
5) 1 cup of grated cucumber
6) 1 handful grated coconut

How to make dosa:

1) Wash and grind the rice along with the rest of the ingredients (do not add a lot of water while grinding because the cucumber has water in it)
2) Let the batter sit for about half-hour (if you are in a hurry, go on and pour your dosas)
3) Heat up your dosa pan and spread the dosas

Your cucumber dosa and chutney are ready to be served!

Here's how you make the green chutney to go with it.


1) 1/2 cup of grated coconut
2) 1 tiny bunch of coriander leaves
3) 1 tablespoon of roasted gram dal (pottukadalai)
4) 1 pod of garlic 
5) 1 green chilly
6) 1 teaspoon of oil

How to make chutney:

1) Heat up the oil and fry chilly and garlic
2) Grind the rest of the ingredients along with the fried chilly and garlic. Your chutney is ready.

Enjoy your quick-fix breakfast.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Can you make Cappuccino at home? Without a machine? With instant Coffee? Yes.

Some things hide in plain sight - like this supremely simple method of making a mug of steaming, frothy coffee with instant coffee. We are coffee drinkers (actually sort of snobs) and believe a day without coffee in the morning is a day not worth spending altogether. 80 - 20 is our blend and instant coffee is frowned upon. It is only for those days when real coffee runs out and we did not realize we are out of it. 

Recently, when we went on a weekend holiday with a friend, I discovered a new method of making coffee (actually if you are a North Indian who is reading this, there is nothing new you will learn from this post). My friend took some instant coffee and sugar and beat it with a drop or two of water until the mixture got fluffy. And voila, we all have frothy cups of cappuccinos in a few minutes.

And I became an instant coffee convert. Beating instant coffee with sugar does something to the flavor. Try it to experience it. Though it is not as frothy as your cafe cappuccino, it comes close.

Here is a three step method of making cappuccino with instant coffee.

Step 1: Take a tea spoon of instant coffee with two teaspoons of sugar in a mug

No excuse for the bad picture, but it is visually representative!

Step 2: Beat the hell out of the mixture with just a droplet or two of water until it froths up like this

You can store this mixture in the fridge for a later time, I was told
Step 3: Add hot milk and stir nicely!

Your steamy cup of frothy cappuccino is ready.

This is as close as you can get to a home-made cappuccino with instant coffee, without a coffee machine or the added froth.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Sugarfree Strawberry - Banana smoothie

Strawberries are in season, at least in India. I have only heard strawberries being inherently sweet because the ones you get here are tangy at best. Sometimes, they are just too tangy it is impossible to consume them without sugar. When I picked up a tiny packet of strawberries from the supermarket this time around, I did not have a plan. But as I placed it next to the bananas that were already at home, I suddenly knew what to make - Strawberry Banana Smoothie. 

The ingredients, well almost. Milk is missing.

Making smoothies are super simple and this one is no exception. I did not add any sugar in this but did add a couple of teaspoons of honey. You can skip it if you want it absolutely sugar free. 

Garnish with a mint leaf before serving.

Bananas - 2
Strawberries - 3 medium ones
Milk - one glass (some recipes call for yogurt, I have never tried though)
Honey - 2 tea spoons (optional)

Here's how you make it:
  • Pulse all the ingredients in your blender and pour it into an old fashioned stout glass
  • Garnish with a mint leaf and drizzle some honey on top if you like
  • Serve chilled

Simple, no?