Sunday, March 31, 2013

zucchini, cheese and sun dried tomatoes frittata... quick Sunday brunch and chai...



Fritatta with vegetables is easier than omelets when you want to prepare breakfast or brunch for the family. Adding vegetables like zucchini and broccoli or spinach makes it easier as you don't have to scrub clean or peel the vegetables, just grate or chop roughly and you are set for great tasting breakfast with the flavors of the day. Flavors of the day play a great role on shaping up your mood for the day as well, the fresh seasonal vegetables, any herbs you feel like and any cheese of your choice. You could add some dry fruits or vegetables if you wish. May be some pickled vegetables as well.


ingredients...

6 eggs (these were a little smaller organic eggs)
one large zucchini grated (it fills 2 cups)
grated cheese (cheddar or processed) 3/4 cup or about 80 gm
finely chopped coriander greens 1/4 cup
fresh cream 1 tbsp
sun dried cheri tomatoes a handful (or use fresh cheri tomatoes)
minced garlic 1 tsp
paprika powder 1 tsp or to taste
crushed dry rosemary a generous pinch
salt and pepper to taste

procedure...

Mix everything up, pour in a greased round dish and bake in preheated oven at 180 C for about 20 minutes.


The diameter of the baking dish would be important to decide baking time. Mine was a 19 cm diameter baking dish and the frittata was a good 2.5 cm thickness. Pricking in the middle and checking if completely done will be a good idea to have an idea of you want it to be a firm frittata.


The zucchini has a lot of moisture and the frittata will be quite moist inside. The cheesy flavors melding with the tart sun dried cheri tomatoes will be great fun to be in a soft melting type frittata.


A nice springtime Sunday brunch in the garden with some milky masala tea.


We had a large slice as leftover too between the two of us. This frittata is quite filling and keeps you full till the evening.

Rich flavors or herbs, cheese and sun dried tomatoes will make you repeat this frittata over and over again. Use broccoli or cauliflowers if you don't like zucchini much and replace sun dried cheri tomatoes with thinly sliced fresh tomatoes arranged on top if you haven't sun dried some tomatoes on your own. They are available in markets and I suggest using the dry variety not the oil preserved to get the rich taste they have. I keep my sun dried cheri tomatoes refrigerated for the whole year and use them with various flavors..

fermented foods | white radish pickle or mooli ka achar .....



Mooli ka achar or white radish pickle is a nice pickled salad that can be compared to kimchi and saurekraut in it's taste and pungency, as well as in it's probiotic food value.

The taste, sourness and the pungency differ with the vegetables and spices used in all these pickled/fermented veggiess but the 3-4 days minimum of fermentation ensures a good dose of probiotic activity in these sour condiments.

Strangely, I realised the probiotic value of these traditional foods later in life when I worked with microbes myself. Before that this mooli ka achar was a yummy pickle that my grandmother used to make almost every week and we used to finish it within a couple of days. I remember how a jar of this pickle used to constantly pulled back and forth on the dining table, at dinner time and on weekend lunches. These were the times when the family used to have meals together. How I remember my grandmother whenever I make these pickles and chutneys, the way she used to chop the vegetables and work with them with utter patience. Almost like a meditative activity.

I used to make this white radish pickles and a few more seasonal vegetables pickles about a decade ago when I was overenthusiastic about trying out everything that was cooked back home, in order to remind myself the taste of home. Arvind was not much eager to try new flavors back then as he was grown up on more bland kind of foods. He was totally dependent on milk and other milk products, all types of sweet foods like halwa, pancakes, home made laddu, horlicks, smoothies, shakes and kheer. Yes, he was someone who could have halwa or kheer for a meal, horlicks and bananas for breakfast and parathas for meals in between. A lot has changed since then and he has started enjoying the other flavors and textures more. Good for me as I need variety all the time.


So somehow this pickle was forgotten over time. This year we had a lovely crop of mooli in the garden, it was wonderfully soft and crunchy and I would love to just have a large mooli for snack sometimes. The joys of having a fresh thing in your hands. I used the leaves for stir fries and parathas a lot. But then the problem is, such crops become ready all at once. So we couldn't consume the mooli as it kept getting fat everyday and soon we saw it started bearing flowers and fruits as well. I was thinking of discarding all the mooli that was hard by now and that is when the mali (the gardener) told me not to throw them and make a pickle with them rather. I was instantly reminded of my daadi's (my grandmother) mooli ka achar.

The good thing is, this pickle uses mature white radishes, the soft baby radishes don't make good pickle. So if you have a radish that has turned too tough to munch on in a raw salad, pickle it.

Read on how easy it is to make this white radish pickle or mooli ka achar....

ingredients...

large mature white radishes 1 kilo
yellow mustard powder 1/4 cup
turmeric powder 1 tbsp
red chilly powder 2 tsp or 1 tbsp or to taste
salt about 50 gm or to taste


procedure...

Clean and chop the radishes the way you like. I prefer cutting them all lengthwise first and then slicing them all in half moons.

Mix everything up and keep in a sterilised glass jar. Keep the jar on a sunny windowsill or on your terrace whatever is convenient to you. The pickle gets ready to eat instantly if you like mustard but the radish will be properly pickled in minimum 3 days and keeps well for 2 weeks. You can refrigerate after that but the taste keep getting more sour and you might not like it as much. The radish slices also loose the crunchiness over time.

The radish slices release a lot of water that works like brine, it is better to keep shaking the jars once in a while to keep all the slices equally soaked.

I like adding some mung and moth sprouts into this pickle and have it like a generous serving of salad with my meals. Just the sprouts added to the mooli pickle and allowed to rest for about an hour or so. This salad makes a nice lunch box salad as well in Indian summers as it doesn't get spoiled and is cooling in nature too.


I also like to make a salad with boiled chickpeas and raw spinach leaves form the garden with added mooli ka achar. Just toss everything up in the morning, keep the jar closed and have for lunch.


A tangy, crunchy pickle that has a very pleasant pungency.

Detoxifying and cleansing properties, affordable probiotic food and an easy condiment to prepare. That's how I would describe this pickle.

Would you like to make it?


Friday, March 29, 2013

whole wheat whole orange cake with added wheat bran...


Whole wheat and added bran make this cake dense and whole orange makes this really fragrant and moist. Whole grain cakes baked without white flour are great with fruits and no one would tell you it tastes healthy. It is yummy, just that.

I love baking tray cakes with fruity flavors, orange being an all time favorite of course. Sometimes I add carrots to add more moisture to the cake and supplement the orange flavor with marmalade glaze. This cake was different from that. The orange is pressure cooked first, pureed and then used in the batter, so the softness of the cake is even better.

Cooking the orange takes a little extra time, but you can always cook it a day in advance and refrigerate, so it is cold to be pureed and blended into the batter when required. The good thing is, this cake does not require any flavoring agents, essence or extracts. The whole orange going into the cake ensures potent flavors.

ingredients...

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp wheat bran
1 cup muscavado sugar or raw brown sugar
2 large oranges ( I used Kinnu or tangerines)
3/4 cup butter
5 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda


procedure...

Pressure cook the oranges with 1/2 cup of water till the first whistle. You would like to remove the stalk of the oranges if it is still attached. Cool down, cut into halves and press to let the seeds slip out. Collect all the liquid that drains and puree it along with any remaining liquid. The puree will be about 1.5 cups.


Cream the butter, sugar and eggs together. Add the pureed oranges to it. Whip again to mix well.

Mix the flour, baking powder and baking soda together and put into the whipped eggs and oranges mixture. Whip again to mix well. Do not overdo the whipping at this stage.


The batter will be quite thick that hardly flows. You might want to add 2-3 tbsp of whipped yogurt if it is too thick to spread.

Pour the batter into a greased tray or a loaf tin if you want bread like slices.


Preheat oven for 5 minutes, slide the tray on medium rack and bake at 180 C for 50 minutes. You would want to check if it is a loaf by pricking a skewer.

In case of a tray bake, a lightly browned crust indicates the cake is done.

Take out of the oven, invert the tray onto a cooling rack and let the cake cool down completely before slicing. It has a bread like texture but very rich aromatic taste.


It was loved with the Kumquat-chilly marmalade and with whipped cream as well. Arvind even liked it with nutella and also with peanut butter. One more very unusual topping he loves with oranges cakes, it is the Amul saffron flavored shrikhand. It tastes really good as a cake topping believe me.

This cake is better consumed warm as whole wheat and bran make it feel dry when you have it cold or at room temperature. Reheating it in microwave just for 5 seconds is enough if you are having one slice.


This cake makes a nice breakfast option along with milk and you might want to add some nuts if you don't have nuts otherwise for snacking. We consume a lot of nuts as snacks so I mostly don't add more to the cakes.

Sweetening is mild as I have used very little sugar in it. This raw sugar I use is not too sweet so you might like to add some more sugar if you like the cakes fully sweet. Or you can always have it with jams and marmalade or even nutella.

Enjoy this deeply orange cake and let me know if whole wheat cakes are enjoyed in your family.




Tuesday, March 26, 2013

my fruity version of Insalata Caprese, more colors more and flavors to make a salad meal...


A fruity Insalata Caprese. Yes, when you are getting your most favorite fruits of the season you better use them differently for variation. I do consume about 2 kilos of gorgeous Cape gooseberries and one whole large pineapple within a week sometimes. That too along with some strawberries and bananas thrown in during the week. Oh grapes too.


I'll tell you how I made this salad for 4 days consecutively last week. Not to finish all the fruits but to experiment with different cheeses every time. I liked it with feta the most, the husband liked it with paneer the most.  So it's not a true Insalata Caprese in any way but the inspiration comes from there of course.

 It has been long time I posted any of my salad meals. This one with a 4 day repetition in a row, urged me to be posted. As a therapeutic working lunch, this is the best thing you can do to yourself. Chopping the fruits and tomatoes slowly, tearing Basil leaves and tossing up a salad like this a pure joy. A multi sensory experience.

ingredients...
(serves 2-3 or more people if served as part of an elaborate meal)
Cape goose berries about 4 dozen
cheri tomatoes about 3 dozen
green or black grapes about 1 cup
cubed pineapple 1.5 cups
basil leaves 6-8 torn
spinach leaves 8-10
feta cheese or crumbled paneer or buffalo mozarella crumbled 3/4 cup

dressing, to be mixed in a separate bowl..
1 tbsp of EVOO
1 tsp of balsamic or lemon juice or vinegar (I used balsamic)
salt n pepper to taste
I added a pinch of dried rosemary as well (optional)


preparation...

Mix the dressing and crumble the cheese into it. Toss and set aside.

Chop all the fruits and tomatoes and toss them all the with the dressing and freshly hand torn basil. I added a few leaves of fresh spinach from garden too.

Layer the plate with spinach leaves and pour the salad into this. Serve immediately.



My lunches become exciting when I have some fresh fruits, cheese and herbs. This I eat on my work desk many times. I know it's not good and wont ever advise someone doing that, but it is inevitable sometimes. This salad perks up.

I wonder why I don't do it more often. Make this salad I mean.

May be because I want so many other things to try and eat too..what to do..

Sunday, March 24, 2013

double textured scrambled eggs with sun dried cheri tomatoes, smoked cheese and parsley ...


Double textured with the chopped hard boiled eggs and scrambled eggs, fragrant with fresh parsley and tangy hints of sun dried cheri tomatoes.

Wait, there is one more exotic flavor into this scramble.That is a smoked cheese, a crumbly dry smoked cheese that Charis had brought to me from Calcutta. It is such a yummy cheese to have in my egg scrambles and even parathas.

For the two of us, I used 2 hard boiled eggs and 2 raw eggs, half cup of finely chopped onions, handful of sun dried cheri tomatoes, hint of chopped green chilies, and some finely chopped parsley. Salt and pepper to taste and the cooking fat is Olive oil. Two tbsp of finely chopped smoked cheese was used.

The trick is to stir fry the green chilies. parsley stems and onions first, mix the chopped smoked cheese and sun dried tomatoes to the broken eggs in a bowl, cube the boiled eggs and dunk them too into the raw egg mixture. Season with salt and pepper and gently pour into the frying onion mixture. Lightly turn and flip a few times and you get a beautifully textured egg scramble.


Have it for breakfast or for a meal with some carrot sticks on the side. It will keep you full till you forget when you had your last meal.

The taste is ruled by the yummy ingredients used. Good ingredients never lie, they nourish you, the body and soul both.

Cheers.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

strawberry topped double chocolate brownie with a quick chocolate sauce...



I baked this strawberry topped double chocolate brownie last week for two cute kids. Their exams were just over and I decided to give them a brownie treat. I had some fresh strawberries and knew that the kids loved them. I prepared a hung yogurt and strawberry preserve dessert for them as well, but they were so glad with this cake that it was had like a meal (kiddie meal obviously) and the hung yogurt dessert had to be packed for them.

They just loved this double chocolate brownie, even before tasting it they were gushing over it's looks as I took the baking dish out of the oven. I loved to watch as they took second helping and licked the creamy thick chocolate sauce. I rarely get such expressive kids to be with me. Already looking forward to the next time.

We went in the garden after that, plucked tomatoes, knol khol, broccoli and uprooted carrots. Watched a few birds that happened to be there and spotted beetles and chameleons. Picked up some dry sticks and saw how they sound when we break them, the hollow ones sound different than the solid ones and  a few more such games in the nature. The chocolate sauce was being licked now and then, it was placed on the dining table to lure them. I am smiling as I type this.

This cake is intensely chocolate, on the bitter side as dark chocolate normally is. You would love it if you are a dark chocolate lover. My brownies are mostly egg less as I have experienced that egg brownies become a little spongy and on the drier side. May be the recipe I have tried makes them like a brownie cake. This double chocolate brownie is made using yogurt.


ingredients...
all purpose flour 1/2 cup
whole wheat flour 1 cup
cocoa powder 1/2 cup
baking powder 1 tsp
baking soda 1/4 tsp

thick yogurt 1 cup
butter 3/4 cup
sugar 3/4 cup
pure vanilla extract 1/2 tsp

chopped/flaked/shaved dark chocolate from a large slab 1 cup or a little more if you wish
You can always use dark chocolate chips as well.

6-7 large strawberries to be sliced for topping. More to serve if required.

procedure...

Mix the flours and cocoa powder with the baking soda and baking powder using a sieve or just fluff up using a folk. Keep aside.

Cream the sugar and butter together and then add the thick yogurt, whisk again to make it creamy.

Add the flour mix to this wet mix and fold in nicely, no need to whisk vigorously.

Grease a square baking pan (2 L capacity) and keep ready. Preheat the oven to 200 C for 5 minutes.

Mix the chopped dark chocolate to the batter and fold lightly again.


Pour into the greased baking dish, layer the sliced strawberries on top and slide the baking dish into the hot oven, on middle rack.

Bring temperature to 160 C and let the brownie bake for 30-35 minutes.

This can be baked in convection microwave oven as well, if you have been using a convection MW, you would know what temperature setting or wattage and how much time.


The skewer test wont be correct in this case as the melted dark chocolate flakes will anyways coat the skewer if inserted. So just watch the brownie to rise a little and then dehydrate on top.

This is how it looks when done. Few cracks, the top layer dehydrated. inside looks a little damp through the cracks and the strawberry slices are dehydrated yet soft.


Let it cool a little before cutting squares, serving warm with the creamy chocolate sauce is a great idea.

I had initially planned to serve it with vanilla ice cream and a chocolate sauce like this brownie I baked for a large gathering once. But the kids did not want any ice cream to dilute a brownie full of chocolate.

They loved the chocolate sauce more.


This thick chocolate sauce had a hint of salt that worked really well with the sweetness.

Recipe of the quick chocolate sauce with a hint of salt...

1/2 cup of cocoa powder
50 gm butter (amul)
a cup of full fat milk
3 tbsp sugar or more if you want the sauce sweeter (sugar can be added later to adjust)
1.5 tbsp of corn starch
pinch of salt

Mix the cocoa powder, corn starch, sugar, salt and use a whisk to mix them well, pour milk slowly and let it all become a slurry. You can cook this slurry in a pan on low flame but I microwaved it for 1 minute, whisked again and then microwaved again for a minutes to get a thick creamy custard like consistency of the sauce. Whisk well, and microwave again for a minute or 30 seconds, add the butter chopped in small cubes and whisk well to absorb all the butter. It makes a nice thick chocolate sauce.



The husband wanted a thin syrupy sauce the next day and I added 2 tbsp milk to it and heated again in the microwave. The syrupy sauce soaked the slice of cake well and became all gooey good.

See the extreme right picture in this collage.


Brownies can't be had alone, some good people around you, some sauce, some cream or ice cream.

Homemade is always better as we know what all goes into it and we can control the portion size too.

Good quality cocoa, pleasant bitterness from dark chocolate, fresh tang of strawberries and a hint of salt from the creamy chocolate sauce makes this brownie a burst of flavors. 

Not just good old chocolate. A lot more to see into it...

This brownie is not for sedentary adults. Although the sugar is just enough to make it lightly sweet, there is enough flour to give you a sugar high. Butter is good so I wont frown at it.

Cheers...

Friday, March 22, 2013

a Chinese style stir fry salad with soy noodles, spring onions, green garlic shoots, bok choy and red cabbage...a one dish meal..


I love one pot meals for the convenience and simplicity. We can always make such meals packed with flavors and colors. Yes, we need to chop more vegetables and cook simultaneously on 2-3 burners, but this meal gets ready within 30 minutes. Even when you chop slowly and your hands tremble when peeling piping hot soft boiled eggs. I find such meals a great cook together exercise too. Like the husband peeled the eggs and arranged them on the plate when I was doing the cooking stuff and this meal was ready within 20 minutes for us.

The crinkled noodles are a new product I spotted on the shelves that looked good, nutritionally as well. These are soy noodles and I liked the taste. Since I love soy nuggets in Chinese style stir fries more, I thought of tossing up this quick stir fry salad with them. It was absolutely a well loved meal by the both of us.

I have used spring onions and green garlic shoots in this stir fry salad along with shreds of purple cabbage and chopped bok choy (or pok choy). It is such a wonderful crunchy mix that we ended up wanting for more. Even when it was a super filling meal.

The ingredient list looks long but is not that cumbersome to work with.


ingredients...
(serves 2)
soy noodles ( I used half of a 100 gm packet, it swells up after boiling)
you can use soba noodles or any noodles you wish..

5 baby bok choy slit lengthwise twice and then halved in length (1.5 cups)
1/4th of a red cabbage shredded (about 1.5 cups)
5 stalks of spring onions (base only) slit lengthwise and then chopped into 1.5 inch batons (1 cup)
6-7 stalks of thick green garlic shoots (greens included) slit lengthwise and chopped into 1.5 inch batons (1 cup)

half an inch of cinnamon stick broken
3-4 cloves
5-6 schezuan peppers
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2-3 petals of star anise
Pound coarsely all these spices together..
you can always replace these spices with a ready five spice powder, use to taste.

broken red chilies 3-4 or to taste
salt to taste
drizzle of soy sauce to taste
1-2 tbsp sesame oil (or use any oil you prefer)

eggs to serve on the side to make it a complete meal as many required.

procedure...

Keep the eggs to boil in a pan on one of the burners. Boil them for 4-5 minutes. Place them under running cold water and peel immediately. Arrange on the serving platter.

At the same time, keep the soy noodles to boil in lightly salted water.

On another burner, heat the oil on high heat and tip in the broken red chilies. Tip in all the chopped vegetables within seconds after that and start tossing them using a fork or tongs. Add minimal salt, the spice powder and drizzle soy sauce while tossing the vegetables up. It takes only about 3-5 minutes on high flame. The vegetables shouldn't get soggy. Take the pan off the heat while you strain the boiled soy noodles.

Strain, rinse and squeeze the soy noodles gently. Add to the stir fry vegetables, return to high heat and toss them all till the flavors mix up with soy noodles.

Serve on the platter lined with soft boiled eggs.


The spices can be adjusted to taste but don't let the vegetables become mushy while you cook them. It makes a wonderfully flavorful meal, rich in textures and deeply satisfying.

Do let me know when you try this stir fry salad. A salad for meal that it is....

Thursday, March 21, 2013

a vegetarian (eggetarian) goulash as good as lamb goulash...


I have loved Chicken goulash and Lamb Goulash, have cooked them for gatherings as these stews are so easy to cook in large quantities. Someone requested for a vegetarian goulash recently and my mind started tickling. I always love the vegetables part more in Goulash type stews, the chunky carrots and potatoes, sometimes thick slices of zucchini and loads of red bell peppers and marjoram. I add loads of celery as well, just because there is always fresh celery from the garden. The stew is a very flavorful mix of vegetables, as much as it is about the meat and the meat stock. But then, you wont miss the meat stock or chunks of meat if you are a vegetarian.

And the best thing is, this is a stew in a hurry. Being posted in a hurry as well. It was cooked yesterday for lunch, was meant to be shared by evening but somehow things didn't workout. I am sure it is being cooked in some kitchen tomorrow. Be ready for a deep red bell peppers flavor laced with fragrant herbs.

ingredients...
(2 servings)

red bell peppers chopped roughly 1 cup
tomatoes chopped roughly 2 cups (you might like to blanch and remove skin)
roughly chopped red onion 3/4 cup
roughly chopped carrots 1/2 cup
chopped ribs of celery 1/3 cup
finely chopped garlic 1 tbsp
soaked, cooked and rinsed (squeezed too) soy nuggets 1 cup or more
baby potatoes with skin, halved 3-4
2-3 eggs
salt to taste
red chilly powder 1/2 tsp
paprika powder 1 tsp
shahi jeera/siyah jeera (Caraway seeds) 1 tsp
Olive oil or butter 1 tbsp

marjoram dried or fresh, a generous handful
chopped leaves of celery 1/3 cup (optional)


preparation...

Heat the oil or butter in a pan and tip in the mix of garlic, onion, carrots and celery (the mirepoix). Add salt to taste and baby potatoes, fry this mix for a couple of minutes or till it all gets translucent. Now add the chopped tomatoes and red bell peppers. mix well and add the celery leaves if using.


Add the red chilly powder, paprika powder and the caraway seeds as well and keep cooking till the tomatoes get squishy.

Add 2 cups of water and the soy chunks, add the marjoram as well and cook covered till the potatoes are cooked. It will need simmering for about half an hour on low flame.

Adjust the consistency of the stew as you want it, adjust seasoning too.

Break eggs gently over the cooking stew, cover and cook till they set.

Serve in soup cups or bowls and have it hot. It is a complete meal, or just have a few crudites.


I did not miss meat in this vegetarian goulash. The herbs and the red bell peppers make it really flavorful in a very unique way. You can make it more chilly spice if you like. Three types of peppers make the chilly flavor rock. It will be your favorite if you love the smell of chilly peppers. Marjoram pairs with them magically. Celery is optional.

It is a great way to eat soy chunks if they feel boring to you. I have always loved the texture and their ability to absorb flavors.

Monday, March 18, 2013

pan roasted baby potatoes with rosemary and garlic....


This would be my favorite comfort food as we had loved it as kids as well. Just the rosemary was missing from this dish as we had it only with the chilies, garlic and lots of black pepper. It was a snack, a side dish or a lunch box meal. We couldn't have enough of these pan roasted baby potatoes.

Rosemary was known just as a medicinal herb then, useful for dandruff and scalp infections along with tea tree oil. I remember because I was working on herbs for some time. Most people did not know what herb it is as it was not available readily at grocery stores like it is now.

But I am making most of this herb now. Tried growing it a few times, it thrives for one season and then dries up without any apparent reason. This time I have got some seeds and will sow them during summers as instructed. Wish me luck my friends.

With potatoes, garlic and some dry red chilies, rosemary is insanely yummy and aromatic as well. You feel like eating them out of the pan when they are roasting. The good thing is, it doesn't take much time to cook.

Here is how I make it. No measurements, just go the way you are feeling that day. Less garlic , more rosemary, lots of crushed peppercorns, loads of rosemary add everything the way you like it, the way you are feeling that particular day.


Boil about a pound of baby potatoes, or more if you think you are going to have it for a meal. Keep the skin on but don't forget to clean them well with a soft brush. It might feel cumbersome but when you have placed the colander under running water, just go on brushing them gently and remove any blotchy skin if required.

Boil them up to 3/4 done. Strain them and keep aside. Do not microwave them as it makes the potatoes dehydrate a little which is not suitable for this roasted recipe. Otherwise I prefer the microwave for boiling potatoes for any other purpose.

Cool the potatoes well and then halve them.

Heat oil (olive oil or cold pressed sunflower oil) in a thick base iron kadhai or a cast iron pan or kadhai, and throw in a few broken dry red chilies. Let them get heated and add the potatoes and garlic with peels at once. Sprinkle rock salt or coarse sea salt and keep stirring after every 30 seconds, keeping the flame medium high.

So all you need is a pound of baby potatoes, 2-3 tbsp of olive or cold pressed sunflower oil, lots of garlic pods unpeeled, dry chilies to taste, lots of freshly milled black peppercorns and rosemary. Add salt to taste, better to use coarse sea salt.


Wait till the potatoes start browning and the garlic also start getting soft and spotted. Sprinkle rosemary generously and freshly milled black peppercorns too.  Keep stirring for about 3 minutes more so the rosemary gets absorbed into the potatoes.

The cooked garlic pods will be fun to slip out of their skins and gobble them up. Potatoes will be had with the skin on. You get extra points for eating potatoes that way.

If you want your hands free while this baby potatoes dish cooks and absorbs rosemary flavors, just mix everything up and bake on a wide tray for 15-20 minutes at 200 C.

We had it along with this Knol khol curry made the Kashmiri way, they call it Monji Haak. This knol khol was from the garden, very tender and full of taste.


Monji haak...

To make this soupy curry you just need to heat about 2 tbsp of mustard oil, sprinkle some asafoetida (dry or dissolved with water) and add all the (about 500 gm) knol khol chopped roughly along with the leaves.

Toss a few times till some of the pieces start getting browned, add salt and 2-3 broken green chilies, add about 2 cups of water as well and cook covered for about 15 minutes. Simmering for a little more can be good if you want the vegetables really soft.

Check out this Monji haak recipe and how it tastes great with plain boiled rice..

This recipe can be cooked with Turnips as well, or a combination of Turnips or Knol khol and lotus stem, like this Gogji nadir cooked Kashmiri way.

We also had some besan ki roti with this meal. A heavy meal that doesn't make you feel heavy after enjoying it heartily.

Cheers...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

two quick soda breads | focaccia with sun dried tomatoes and parsley and another with black grapes and rose petals..




Irish soda bread was the first bread I tried when I started playing with my new microwave oven a long time ago. The soda bread that I tried following a recipe published in Femina, turned out to be a distant relative of bread. The shape, the texture and the taste is still fresh in my memory as I swore to never bake a soda bread again. Yeast was a better friend as I had watched it under microscope too and was fascinated how it grows and multiplies. I searched and got fresh yeast and the rest is history.

And then I started baking a few soda breads again. It happened recently. And that was because I was getting many requests to post easy breads on this blog as well. In my experience and opinion, all breads are easy and enjoyable once you know what are you doing with your dough, the time taken differs though. Kneading the dough perfectly, folding it and then proving it takes time but all the time is well worth because you get great bread at the end of this.

Not to loose heart, soda breads are also great tasting. If made along with some herbs and sun dried tomatoes or anything flavorful you would be surprised to see how this bread becomes a favorite.

Actually I made a second focaccia with rose petals and black grapes and had a slice with home made strawberry preserve and to my surprise it took me back to my childhood when we used to eat bread and jam sometimes. Bread was mostly a picnic food in my childhood and this focaccia and strawberry preserve reminded me of those old times. Eons ago.


I knew instantly that I should share the recipe here for the beginner bread bakers. Or even for busy parents who want home baked breads for the family and don't want to spend time slaving the dough. I am reminded of a mail I received some time ago from a male reader of mine who said that my recipes are so easy they can be easily executed by busy working men. Now that's a good change I can see in my countrymen. This complement made me smile wide :-)

ingredients...
2.5 cup whole wheat 
(I used chakki wala atta,i.elocally milled flour) which is coarsely ground, along with the bran)
1/4 cup wheat bran
3/4 cup or more sun dried cheri tomatoes 
(preserved without oil, this was my last years home made stash)
1 cup chopped parsley
2 generous pinches of dried rosemary
2 tsp finely chopped garlic (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream 
or butter or use the Olive oil if using oil preserved sun dried tomatoes
1 tsp salt or to taste
2 tsp soda bicarb
2 cups whey* (the watery residue after making home made paneer)
Some olive oil or melted ghe eto drizzle over the bread, about 2 tsp

*The whey also had some fat because some of the milk fat comes to whey even if I use 3% milk.

procedure...

  1. Mix the flour, bran and soda bi carb well. Add the sun dried tomatoes, chopped herbs and dry herbs, salt , mix well with fingers or a wire whisk. Keep aside.
  2. Rub the heavy cream (I actually used the home made malai) into the flour mix lightly.
  3. Preheat the oven on maximum temperature while you move to the next step with the dough.
  4. Grease a wide baking dish, round or rectangular which is wide enough to accommodate this quantity of dough. A bigger baking tray will also be good but you don't need to spread the bread dough till the edges in that case. 
  5. Pour the whey slowly and knead a tacky sticky dough using your fingers and palm quickly. Do not knead too much as this will allow the air bubbles to escape. Just mix everything quickly to bring them all together into a sticky dough. you might use more or less whey depending on what kind of atta (whole wheat flour) you are using.
  6. Slap the dough into the greased dish, flatten using your knuckles and fill up the dish till the margins. If using a bigger baking tray, just spread the dough till it comes to 3/4 inch thickness. It will bake and become about 1.25 inch thick.
  7. Drizzle some Olive oil or melted ghee over the flattened dough, brush all over and slide the dish into the hot oven. Bring down the temperature to 180 C and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Keep a watch after 25 minutes and take out the dish as soon as it browns well.  
  8. I baked this bread in night and wrapped it with a cling film. This picture was taken the next day.



The bread was loved dearly by friends and the husband. The best way to eat this bread is with extra virgin olive oil. A basil pesto will be the next best partner in crime.

Soak the bread with good quality EVOO and enjoy. I don't eat much breads but loved a couple of these.

Arvind loved it more with butter though.


The extra virgin olive oil here is a special garlic and rosemary infused oil that keeps well for a month or more.

A cup of garlic cloves and a tbsp of dried rosemary is heated with 250 ml of EVOO on very low temperature in oven for a long time. At 90 C for about an hour and half.

I kept this jar of the mixture in the oven along with some green pea pods placed on the grill. The peeled roasted green peas tasted great with this garlic and rosemary infused EVOO.


Soak the bread well in the infused olive oil. Or have it with cheese or butter. The bread makes good lunch box meal as well. In that case soak the bread with this infused oil or butter them and then pack them. Tastes good at room temperate too. Warmed up or toasted tastes a lot better though.


And have those softened garlic cloves as well. You can mash them with fresh herbs to make a dip.


For the black grapes and rose petals Focaccia I used the whey that we get after making hung curd. I had made some strawberry yogurt that day and wanted to experiment with the focaccia. Normally I mix mint powder and some pink salt to the hung curd whey and drink it.

This focaccia was also great in texture and taste though I was skeptical about how black grapes and celery that I used with this one, will combine together. But they did, though celery got masked by rose petals, so you might skip parsley. I used just the celery leaves not the ribs that too because I had it fresh from the garden.



 1.5 cups of halved black grapes, dried petals of four fragrant roses from the garden, handful of celery leaves and everything just the same as the above recipe.

The strawberry preserve is a basic jam recipe, cooking sugar and chopped fruit together, so nothing new. You can always make it even in the microwave.

This soda bread focaccia is a keeper recipe. Whole wheat goodness, lesser time required and great taste  It actually takes only about 15 minutes preparation time. Baking time is not actually work.

Do try and let me know. You will be delighted if you are a beginner bread baker.

Edited to answer Rachna's questions :

  1. You can use stir fried and dehydrated fresh tomatoes as well, if you don't have sun dried tomatoes. Tomato slices arranged on top of this bread bake really well. I have baked sliced tomatoes on top of focaccia countless times and it looks great. Though you can use any dried vegetable of fruit like chopped prunes, a mix of raisins and walnuts etc etc. Fried or sauteed onions are also great.
  2. The bread keeps well for a week or more if refrigerated. I have kept it for 2 days at room temperature too but I wont take any chances with Indian climate.
  3. wrapped in a cling film or sliced and kept in a airtight dabba is a good way to store this bread, after cooling it completely. Wrapping it loosely with parchment would be ideal.