Tuesday, August 31, 2010

making soy milk and tofu at home..............

First of all i apologize for being so so late in posting this particular process , making soy milk and tofu at home , mostly it was just plain procrastination but also because taking good pictures of the process was always difficult . I hope the humble pictures this time are good enough for understanding the process which is relatively simple , many people have successfully tried it after just a detailed telephonic instruction .

I used to make soy milk twice a week till the last week of the last year as my daughter seemed to have become lactose intolerant and soy milk was a better option . After a few initial trials which were successful but not perfect i discovered this foolproof process of making soy milk  from this wonderful blog just hungry..
The mistake i used to do earlier was that i did not stir the cooking mixture ( suspension in this case ) continuously and it used to get burnt in the base and give an offensive burnt smell n taste . Given that soy milk is not at all tasty when compared to the 'good old milk' , that burnt smell seemed offensive. But it was perfected after reading this blog .

Later on i read about tofu making and soy yogurt and tried those things successfully and incorporated soy yogurt in Indian style recipes successfully . Soy Yogurt can be easily fermented at home just like the dairy yogurt using the same dairy yogurt culture , soy yogurt is thicker and creamier in texture and slightly beany  in taste but as soon as you add an Indian tadka it is a different story altogether...

For making tofu i tried making it with lemon juice and the result was great , using epsom salt also results in good results but i found lemon juice version better suited for my convenience . Traditionally Nigari is the product which is used for making tofu but nor have i access to nigari , neither i care for as the process i follow is very satisfactory..

Okara is the name for the fibrous leftover after making soy milk and it is probably more nutritious that the soy milk . I add it to my breads and chapatis and am happy with the results.

Starting with the process...

I will start with making soy milk first ...store bought soy milk can always be used for this but it is so economical this way , if you have some time and patience , the effort is worth.

Soak 2 cups of soy beans overnight , or for 12-14 hrs. , pick any blackened beans or impurities ..


Use your trusty food processor or mixie to make a fine paste of the soaked soy beans , adding water , just like you grind the idli or dosa batter , it will be a frothy batter to start with .


Now transfer the contents to a large pan or kadai and add enough water to make it this consistency....


It is a suspension of soy fibrous solids , proteins , fats , some carbs and minerals etc. cooking this suspension is going to result in an emulsion ........ all the nutrients will be extracted from the grainy soy bean bits and make a milky emulsion.......... for that it needs to be cooked for about 15 minutes . During cooking this mixture is going to froth unbelievably so it will be better if you choose a large pan keeping a fair margin from the boiling surface. I have a good practice and can manage to cook it in a marginally sized pan ... see the froth ready to spill over.....now one thing to keep in mind is constant stirring of this boiling mixture , to prevent sticking and burning in the base........( like i instruct over phone to my friends stir it like you cook kadhi ) ....


After 12-15 minutes you will see that the milk has been extracted as the soy grains will seem to be floating over a milky emulsion . Pour the liquid and feel if it is milky......the picture doesn't do justice as i was pouring with the left hand and clicking with the right ....... take it off heat and proceed to separate the milk.


Now line a large sieve with muslin ( i used a kerala towel ) , place it over a large bowl and ladle out the liquid into it . You can keep the lined sieve ready but the cooked liquid can wait this much .


This step can take time as the milk passes through the muslin slowly and you have to be patient . Press to extract as much milk as possible , the remaining fibrous byproduct can be stored in the fridge as it is to be added in bread or chapati dough .


Or it can be dried in the oven , the dried product is called 'okara' and you can use your imagination to use that effectively. I just transfer this wet byproduct into a steel dabba and keep in the fridge , the dabba being used to press the tofu before that....See the milk ...


If you want to drink the soy milk as it is you need to develop a taste for it , it is a cultivated taste after all , especially for the dairy milk fed people like us. Making a banana smoothie is a very good idea and we do it frequently . Oats cooked in soy milk and topped with a fruit is a good way to consume soy milk .

Now moving forward to make the tofu ....

Do it just after extracting the milk as it is quite hot and needs not to be heated further . Add about 2 tbsp of lemon juice to the milk , slowly .... stirring after adding a tsp or so and you will notice the milk curdling . If the milk has cooled down after the extraction process you can place it over the stove and then stir to curdle it..



Till the whey is separated ....


Again use another end of the muslin ( kerala towel in my case ) to line the same sieve and pour the contents into it ....


 Wrap like this to cover the top...


Place an appropriate sized plate over it and some weight , i placed the wet okara containing dabba.....


Let it sit for ten minutes and your tofu is ready........soft when freshly prepared . It tastes really good as compared to the store bought ones ( at least the ones i have tried ) ...


 To store it needs to be kept in a round container , i keep it in a steel dabba submerged in water . Or it can be freezed wrapped inside a ziplock bag . Frozen tofu develops a spongy texture and absorbs more flavors , becomes more firm as compared to the freshly made. In my experience freshly made tofu is better suited for scrambled preparations and quick stir fries . While after the next couple of days it is more suited for gravy recipes. Frozen tofu develops a nice sponginess and soaks the flavors of a curry like this one...

There are a few tofu recipes on this blog and you can find many more on searching , i hope this post motivates a few of you to try making tofu at home. In a paneer and cream obsessed nation tofu is something like an outcast but more people are converting to tofu for it's numerous health benefits . You just need to experiment a bit and give it an Indian tadka , as i say , and this wonderful ingredient will prove a good friend for you.

Yes , the process is a bit time consuming , try doing it along with some other tasks in the kitchen and you'd realize it's worth all the effort . A great blogger friend posted about making tofu and a recipe of tofu too about a month ago , check this out and you'd see how many more people are doing it.

A recipe using the soy yogurt is waiting next.........stay tuned...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

onion stuffed paratha ..... made healthier...

Stuffed paratha is not a very common breakfast during summers in my home but it's a different story when it is raining . It's not so easy to succumb to a paratha n still stay guilt free ..... well , we can always try for more ways of being guilt free......


At my place it is the husband who asks for a paratha and i have to think of ways to make it healthier , having said that , parathas are not a unhealthy breakfast at all if it is not dripping with ghee n made of refined flour. Yes , some people really poke holes in the paratha so that it can absorb more ghee n become more crisp .... there was a time when i also loved that kind of paratha but those were my younger and athletic days , faster metabolism and active life.... Thankfully , age makes us wiser n smarter to think of alternatives and here it is a great alternative to onion paratha ......... more fiber , less ghee n some protein thrown in....

ingredients....
 ( makes 4 parathas )
whole wheat flour 1 cup
oatmeal 1/4 cup
onions finely chopped 3/4 cup to 1 cup (depending on how much you can manage to stuff in each paratha )
green coriander leaves 1/2 cup
green chillies 2-3
roasted skinned chickpeas 2 tbsp or roasted chickpea flour / sattu 2 tbsp
salt n pepper to taste
ghee 1 tsp per paratha

procedure....

Mix whole wheat flour and oatmeal , add enough water and make a dough of medium firm consistency ...

Mix green coriander , green chillies , roasted chickpeas , salt n pepper and grind in a mixie jar to make a coarse powder , it will be a moist crumbly powder .

Mix chopped onions to this crumbly powder and mix well , the moist onions will get coated with this powdery dry mixture ....mix it till copped onions start binding together ...now the onions can be stuffed easily into the parathas ...

Proceed as any stuffed paratha , try to stuff as much onions as you can and shallow fry with minimal ghee.

Frying on very low heat using a thick base tawa ensures crisp parathas when you are using less ghee ... addition of oatmeal also results in a crisp crusted paratha.... use of a non stick tawa is optional but i detest non stick ware...

Serve with fresh plain curds or cucumber raita if you want more fiber  :)


The pictures are bad but the parathas are yummy n filling .......... the crust is very very crisp , you get a mild green coriander flavor , it's quite hot with green chillies n black pepper used and onions are as they should be in a onion paratha ... translucent n mushy still having a slight crunch about them.

The addition of roasted chickpea flour facilitates stuffing of this crumbling mixture and adds to the protein content as well , but the taste of roasted chickpeas is quite subtle in this .....it is onion , coriander , pepper ......... in that order .......... taste wise...with just a hint of roasted chickpea.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

basil pesto with almonds and flax seeds ...........

Pasta is a great way to indulge yourself with a warm pleasant meal , and if you grow fresh basil in your garden , the basil pesto is a great sauce to go with your spaghetti..........


And if you want to make your basil pesto more nutritious you can always tuck in at least one ingredient which can be masked by the fresh aromas of basil and tingling taste of garlic and Parmesan..........basil pesto or any kind of green pesto or even chutney is always a matter of personal preference and we adjust and tweak the ingredients to our liking and that is great ...... any recipe which allows flexibility is great....isn't it ??

Adding flax seeds or flax seed meal to the pesto does not hamper with the taste much as fresh basil and garlic are packed with flavors and the parmesan , nuts and olive oil make the basil pesto multi dimentional on your palate. flax seeds have a different earthy kind of nuttiness and when ground wet it lends a thickness and smoothness to the pesto . Yes you can make out the taste when you use the quantity like i used but it is good .

Just remember fresh basil is must , i use walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts just because pine nuts are maddeningly costly here . Indian small cloves of garlic are more pungent with flavor so keep that in mind if you are here in India , i love garlic so it's great for me.


ingredients...

fresh basil leaves 2 cups ( i used about 1.5 cup and that's why the pesto is not as green as it should be )
grated parmesan cheese 1/2 cup
extra virgin olive oil 1/3 cup
almonds 1/3 cup
flax seeds or flax seeds meal 1/3 cup
garlic cloves 6-7 or to taste
black pepper 1 tsp
whole dry red chillies 2 nos. ( optional , it's not used in authentic version )
salt to taste

procedure... 

 Just whiz everything together in your mixie , preferably the chutny jar . Flax seeds absorb water and you may need about 1/4 cup of water while grinding . keep the texture to your liking ...smooth or gritty .... mine is a bit gritty and this is how i like it.

Use of red chillies makes it hot and i love it this way , you can give red chilly a chance with your green pesto if you like your pasta a bit hot.

This pesto keeps in the fridge for a couple of days and if you grind it without cheese it can be frozen for longer period of time. Any kind of pasta will be good as long as it is cooked perfectly for the soft glutinous bite....


We loved this pesto and even Arvind who often complaints the healthy ingredients for 'tasting healthy' too , was happy with this pesto . No complaints when it is pasta anyway ........ including the healthier ingredients in combination with more flavorful recipes is a key factor , especially when you are trying to feed flax seeds to the kids ..... what do you think ??

You will never look down upon pasta for being a carb food , if you use whole wheat pasta and if you try n make it more healthy ..........yummy things aren't always bad for your tummy....


The sad looking basil inflorescence on the side of the dish is to tell that my basil plants are getting hurt ( yes , physically hurt ) by the torrential downpour in Delhi these days .........this is a month old picture and now all the leaves from the basil plants have gone .....new leaves will sprout only when the rains stop ..........what has happened to the clouds ??

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

many healthy ways with the humble corn............

The Indian corn or maize ....bhutta , makki or chhalli as we call it locally can be a good dieters choice , even when you fell like eating something fancy ........... street foodish .....or even something fried for a while...

 This is a post intended for a few friends who wanted some healthy home made snacks ideas including fried ones .......using whole grains...... i will be posting more but since corn is in season n we have been hogging over it guiltless i thought why not to share corn first...........

Corn is in season and we are getting them abundantly in this part of the world. Sweet corn is more visible in Delhi though but whenever i find the Indian corn on sale i buy at least a couple of kilos ....... even if they are not the best milky soft ones ....... the more mature ones keep well in the fridge for long , dehusked and wrapped in cling film ....all the recipes here are made with the mature almost dryish corn kernels ........ softer milky ones are best suited for roasting........

First of all i will address the fried version of corn .......... pakode or fritters ....... we Indians have grown up eating something or the other kind of fried thing on a daily basis ......... it's only later in the life we realize that the sedentary lifestyle does not allow us to eat as much of fried food as we actually would like to . It's a major craving for those on diet to have pakode of some kind , i have posted a few versions of shallow fried pakode earlier and have received great response for them. Corn pakode is something which does not soak up oil even when deep fried , if made cautiously ......... see how...

Grind the corn kernels without using water in the chutney grinder , with seasoning to this consistency...


It will be coarse and starchy and when you press it in your fist it binds , when you corner a portion of the mixture with a spoon it takes it's shape........and that's how i fry it.


No fancy ingredients....... you can use your kind of flavors and spicing , whatever you are feeling at the moment , after all it has to satiate your cravings for fried food...:)

I used the following ingredients ........

corn kernels 2 cups
ginger 1 inch piece
green chillies 4-5 nos.
cumin seeds 1 tsp
black pepper corns 1 tsp
salt to taste

grind everything together and proceed to fry........never add any chopped onion or chopped curry leaves etc in this mixture as the fritters get porous and absorb oil while frying..........curry patta can be a great addition but grind with the corn if using for flavor..........

To proceed  just scoop out with a spoon of appropriate size , roll the scoop in the spoon pushing the mixture to the wall of the container making a dense ball  ......... this way it will be less porous..... and drop in hot oil to fry....it gets cooked with a couple of minutes and becomes crisp on the outside .......while remaining soft n pillowy inside..........perfect to soak a hot tangy chutney........


Interestingly , i started making idli with this mixture first , that is about 8 years ago because i love steamed dishes and this corn idli was something very very north Indian and yet steamed like an idli which i love for it fluffy pillowy texture.............it was a heavenly discovery for me when i started ......but the husband likes everything fried so i started frying the same mixture and it was a hit........... the same thing goes well with both of us........see how....


For making the idli ( i do it super fast ) spoon in the mixture into a small glass or ceramic bowl , microwave for a minute on high covered ...that's it . Repeat to make more idlis or place many bowls together n adjust timing accordingly......... i don't like using the plastic microwave idli set , one... because it is plastic and secondly...because i have to clean a lot of it's parts after cooking........ and when you are making just a couple of idlis this is the best way..........


Soft porous corn idlis without fermenting the mixture..the fiber content of corn makes it possible , though the mixture can be fermented too n it tastes a bit different......also , the idli can be flash fried in hot oil when it just out of the microwave.........it will take seconds to brown and almost no oil...........howzzat ??


The chutney here is made with tamarind extract , microwaved tomatoes , red chillies , garlic and salt ........... choose yourself how hot and how tangy you want at the moment and enjoy with just anything........idli or pakoda..........keeps well for a week in the fridge.


Boiled corn on the cob is another option , it is a common street food in India , as is the roasted corn on the cob ( bhutta as it is called locally ) . The corn on the cob can well be roasted on the gas flame directly , and then can be seasoned with either butter n salt n pepper or with lemon juice n salt n pepper .

Roasted corn is more suited when the corn is soft , that is , when the kernels are milky n juicy . Whenever you find the corn kernels starchy and dry , boiling in the pressure cooker is a better idea . Boil with salt and water ( and a pinch of soda bicarb if the corns are too hard ) and then smear with any chutny or spice mix of your choice to enjoy a healthy snack.

I boiled it and smeared with the same chutney and it was awesome in taste .......... hot and sour chutney and a bit chewy corn kernels bursting with flavor........


This is the kind of food which makes sure you don't feel deprived and starved , fills up and satiates your senses ........ both the appetite and the palate ............

Makki ki roti n saron da saag ( i haven't posted it still ) is a north Indian delicacy using the flour of dried corns ....super healthy but it's up to you whether you want to load it with ghee and butter or make it with minimal fat and that will be an ideal main course food for dieters ...

what do you think ??

Friday, August 6, 2010

home made breads ...the ultimate feelgood cooking exercise....

Baking bread makes me happy .

It is an indulgence , watching the yeast to rise , and i don't feel that the yeast smell is awful ...it is actually a sign of good things to come . 

Kneading the dough and watching it turn pliable ...something you have control over , something you can mold as you like , shape as you like , cut it , fold it  , knock it , churn it and pat vigorously...........all by your hands ........ and cook as you feel comfortable .....on a griddle or inside a red hot oven .......and wait for the rising , the browning , and the aroma filling your home..........


                                                                whole wheat bread

 The aroma is invigorating , uplifting and and initiating a Pavlovian response ........you feel hungry at once ........ look out for some butter and don't wait for the bread to cool down ....... damn...

But you know the bread needs to cool down to develop a firm crust and a soft airy interior........more anticipation...:)

and finally when you slice it , butter it and layer it into a sandwich or pair it with a soup , you know that all the upper arm work out was well worth it.....

                                 
Sometimes the crust is nicely light brown ......and sometimes when you are not watchful enough it turns dark.......


                                                                   semolina bread
But you know the labor of your love and your arms :) .....is well worth ..............when you slice it ........it even makes you fall in love with the knife ............ and you can't even imagine wasting a tiny crumb .........


Because you know that you have used all the best ingredients and made you bread as healthy as you can.......
semolina , whole wheat or oats ....or multigrain , seeds as a topping or seeds mixed with the dough......with herbs , butter or olive oil............you work with all permutation and combination and feel like having a new fresh customized loaf of bread each time...........


I love marking them in diamonds...........


 This left one is an oats n whole wheat bread and the right one is whole wheat n cracked wheat (daliya) bread. I do not a have a loaf tin and like to bake my bread in this oval shaped loaf , though i have a pyrex loaf dish but i think the crust is better when the bread is baked this way .............what do you think ???


                                                        oats wholewheat bread

Though the side get cracked sometimes and it becomes a little difficult to hold if you make a heavy sandwich .

I like my bread warm , warmed up in the microwave if not toasted.........lightly buttered with sliced cucumbers ( and nothing else ) .......



Breads other than the plain white bread are damn costly and it feels good that i make good quality bread at home which is affordable ....apart from the pleasure of baking a loaf....


Someone said that prawns are the Angelina Jolie in the world of food photography...........i disagree .........it is the bread ...........the bread is the ultimate model for photography in the world of edibles...........even though i am not at all a good photographer .........look at those bread baking blogs who showcase such beautiful breads ............ i have to go a long way to shoot such beautiful pics .........i am content with baking a fresh loaf whenever i want and whatever way i want............including oats and other whole grains makes me feel very happy ............


And a small tip to make oats bread .......use cooked oats ( even porridge ) to make bread , make the yeast starter , mix with the cooked oats and add whole wheat flour to make a dough ......and proceed as you do for other breads.........oats is wonderful in breads............



And here is another tip .....keeping a bowl of boiling water in the oven when the bread is baking , results in a moist bread with good crust.......



Learning is an everlasting process and i am still learning to make better and new types of bread.....

I have posted a basic process of baking breads for beginners  .......... and baking bombay pav for pav bhaji
 ...................and my cute little buns in microwave ............these breads are baked in an oven but i feel there should not be any restriction if you really want to bake your own bread ..... pita bread and kulcha etc. can be baked on griddle too.............just start thinking about healthy ingredients and get going...

I am not providing any recipe of bread here as there are so many wonderful blogs and websites on this topic ..........anybody can learn baking bread from those sites , though i am willing to share these recipes if anybody is interested..............i just wanted to motivate some of you at least ........that it's not that much of hard work ........ once a week a little hard work with lots of fun  ........... can't you do that for your good health ???