Thursday, February 12, 2015

101 alternative flours : jowar methi paratha | flat bread made with sorghum flour and fenugreek leaves | how to cook millet flours

Jowar flour is gluten free, a millet that grows all over India, even in arid and semi arid regions, but since wheat and rice have become major staple grains owing to the yield supported by fertilisers and irrigation facilities, the millets have taken the beating and very few farmers still grow it. Thankfully we can still get sorghum flour in the markets during winter months and now I even know a farmer who grows these millets organically. Thankfully more people are realising and coming back to millets. Let's learn how to cook millets now.

I had visited Aiyor Bai farm in Hyderabad recently if you remember, and had met Madhu Reddy who left a promising career in the US and came back home to grow organic food at her farm. She had sent some sorghum flour my way through a friend and some aromatic fresh methi was growing in the garden, I made this jowar methi paratha and shared multiple times on intagram and facebook. A few friends wanted to know how to make such perfect looking jowar methi paratha as most people experience very brittle and dry flat breads when they cook with jowar or other millets. I had promised jowar methi ka paratha and here it is, along with the instructions regarding how to make the jowar flour more suitable for flat breads.

I had done a post about how to use ragi flour to make perfect flat breads and this is next in the series.

Note that some traditional folks have mastered the art of making jowar rotis just by hand and that is the best roi I have ever had. Jowarichi bhakri is a hand patted flat bread slow cooked on an Iron skillet and served with traditional curries. But that skill is not easy to come by so we resort to innovation.

How to make flat breads (roti and paratha) with jowar (sorghum) flour...

Since jowar flour is gluten free and has complex carbs and lot of fiber in it, the dough is not sticky and cannot be managed easily. The best way is to knead the dough using hot water for a longer duration so the starches release and make the dough sticky enough to roll well if you are making the traditional jowar ki roti or jowarichi bhakhri. But this method still requires some skill.

The other way is to use a binding agent to the flour that is not too starchy, doesn't alter the Glycemic index of the flour and adds softness to the dough as well.

#I have experienced cooked rice flour into a slurry works well and I had used a red rice flour that was available at Aiyor Bai fam when I cooked the jowar mooli paratha there. Just cook 2-3 tbsp of rice flour with water to make a slurry and knead about 2 cups of jowar flour with it. You can add some grated vegetables of chopped greens to the dough as well. Cook roti or paratha as required.

Here is a methi paratha I made using rice flour slury as the binding agent to jowar flour.

This was about 4 months ago when water chestnuts were in season and I was adding them to most of my stir fries. These methi parathas we love with a spot of amla chutney on the side.

#You can use leftover cooked rice to knead the flour too. Just add some water, cook the rice once again to make it mushy, blend if required and use this slurry to knead the dough.

#The other easy way is to peel, cube and pressure cook a large potato (150 gm) with a cup of water, puree it to make a slurry and use this slurry to knead about 2 cups of jowar flour dough. You can add grated vegetables or chopped greens to this too, along with some seasonings, herbs etc.

#If you don't want to cook a slurry and to add any more starches to the jowar flour, You can add besan (chickpea flour) to jowar flour (1: 3 ratio) and knead a dough using warm water. I use this method quite a lot but the cooked roti or paratha gets dry when cold with this method. It is good only when served really hot. 

Here is one jowar gobhi pyaz paratha with besan as a binding agent. I use grated cauliflowers and chopped onions, chopped coriander greens and some grated ginger in this paratha. Omum seeds (ajwain) is generally used in these parathas to make them easily digestible.

I served it with plain yogurt and amle ka achar (Indian Gooseberry pickle). The jowar paratha with besan feels a little heavier than the other variants.

Recipe of jowar methi paratha

(6-8 parathas enough for 3-4 meals, jowar parathas are heavier than wheat parathas)

jowar flour or sorghum flour 1.5 cup
leftover cooked rice 2 tbsp
finely chopped methi (fenugreek leaves) 2 cups packed
ajwain (omum) seeds 1/2 tsp
anardana powder (dry pomegranate seeds powder) 1 tsp
chilly powder 1/2 tsp
salt 1/2 tsp
water 1/2 cup
ghee 1 tsp for each paratha


Cook the leftover rice with 1/2 cup water till very mushy. I did this in microwave, for 3 minutes.

Mix all the other ingredients except ghee and massage them together so most of the water from methi greens comes into the flour. Add the ricr gruel into it slowly and knead a soft dough. Make 6-8 portions and smoothen them into balls.

Roll out each ball using a rolling pin and flip the flat bread over to a hot griddle, preferably an iron griddle. Cook both sides till small patches appear. Brush with ghee and cook till the brownish patches enlarge and the paratha gets crisp and flaky.

Serve hot with curry or chutney, pickle and yogurt.

Leftover parathas can be reheated and had with tea or coffee as a snack. I sometimes fall for this kind of snacking ans skip the next meal because these parathas are quite filling.

Jowar methi ka paratha or jowar gobhi or mooli paratha will not be too difficult to make now. Parathas are made for breakfast all over north India and is had with a dollop of white butter or fresh clotted cream (malai). Arvind loves such parathas with malai and it makes a complete meal for him many a times. I love these with malai too but then such a breakfast keeps you going till evening. This is one of those meals that would have kept a hard working farmer active through the day.

So keep active and eat good food even though it is a bit rich by skewed modern standards. Eat plenty of vegetables and hydrate well to balance. Practice intuitive eating and see how you never over eat and balance out over the course of the day.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

101 alternative flours : how to use ragi flour and a recipe of ragi thalipeeth with seasonal vegetables

Millet flours are not too easy to work with. They don't bind well and become dense after coking. But they pack great flavours and nutrients for good health. Ragi flour is my favourite of all the millet flours because of easier availability as well as the rustic flavours it imparts to everything you cook. Some people say ragi is too gritty or sandy and that it doesn't take flavours well. I agree to the flavours part because ragi is itself a earthy nutty flavour that doesn't take delicate flavours too well, but add the Indian spices to ragi and see how ragi rocks. Regarding ragi being sandy and gritty, I say you haven't experimented enough with ragi if you say so. Or you haven't had ragi the traditional way.

How to use ragi flour in that case? I was reminded of this ragi based thalipeeth I had cooked and photographed last year when a friend from Assam told me she has procured 2 kilos of ragi with great difficulty and asked me how to use it well. Obviously she doesn't want to waste her efforts and the ingredient procured with much difficulty.

One thing to note about all millets in general is that these have a thicker seed coat that results in a coarser flour and since there is no gluten in them the kneaded dough is not sticky and doesn't bind well. But once you add hot water or cook the millet flour with water to make a thick slurry, the starches are released and make the dough sticky enough to roll easily. This slurry can be made thin and use to knead more flour into it or it can be cooked really thick and later can be kneaded to make the dough. See how ragi roti is made using this method.

Ragi idli steams after a long soaking time and fermentation too so the idli is also really soft and you never find the dryness or sandiness you fear about ragi. Dosa made with ragi is perfectly crisp without any trace of the dreaded dryness for the same reason of prolonged soaking time and fermentation.

If ragi is being used for something instant like a ragi cake, waflles, pancake or a flat bread, the best way is to use more grated fruits (in the case of sweet recipes) or vegetables along with the batter so the ragi particles hydrate more while cooking and result in a soft texture. Ragi bread bakes well with added potato slurry for making it moist. Also to note that the serving portion of ragi roti or flatbread will be almost half of the regular wheat bread because ragi is much more filling than wheat and keeps one full for longer. The wonders of low Glycemic index grains.

Now let's see the recipe of ragi thalipeeth with seasonal vegetables, some seeds and amla thrown in for boosting immunity. Thalipeeth is a savoury pancake or flat bread or something in between the two and it is a specialty of Maharashtra, made using roasted mixed grains and lentils flour. You get thalipeeth bhajni (the roasted mixed grain flour for thalipeeth) in stores and just make thalipeeth the way you want it. This ragi thalipeeth will be very different in taste from the authentic one but since ragi flour is as corse as the thalipeeth bhajni, I call this recipe a ragi thalipeeth.

(2-3 meal servings and leftovers if you are a small eater)

ragi flour 3/4 cup or 1 cup
grated cauliflower 1 cup
finely chopped onion 2 tbsp
chopped green garlic 2-3 tbsp
chopped coriander greens 1/4 cup packed
minced green chilly and ginger to taste
grated amla 1 or 1 tbsp
mixed seeds 1 tbsp (I used sun flowers and sesame seeds)
flax seed meal 1 tbsp
salt and pepper to taste
thin buttermilk 1/2 cup or as required
ghee for cooking the thalipeeth on a flat skillet 1 tsp or a bit more for each one


mix everything except the ghee and buttermilk together and massage the mixture together so the water from the vegetables makes the flour mixture moist. Add the buttermilk slowly and make a loose dough. Divide in 6-7 portions.

Now heat a skillet, preferably a cast iron flat skillet (tawa) and grease with ghee. Take a portion of the dough and flatten it over the skillet using your fingers or a wet spatula.The consistency is like a butter cookie dough or even looser than that. Once the flat bread is about 6-8 mm thick make three holes using the tip of a knife to drizzle ghee into them. This allows even cooking and crisp textures both sides of the thalipeeth.

Flip and cook both sides till crisp outside and still soft in the middle. Serve hot with raita and tomato salsa or whatever you feel like.

This is a perfect weekend brunch for us as we tend to delay our day on those days and have a few cups of darjeeling tea and green tea before our breakfast. This kind of late breakfast also means skipping lunch and working in the garden or reading through all the weekend news papers at leisure. It keeps you really full for very long. Some of the leftovers are again reheated when we have tea later in the day. Minimal work in the kitchen on weekends is what we believe.

Here is another thalipeeth made with the authentic thalipeeth bhajni my dear friend Suranga sent me from Bombay. This one I made with chopped methi (fenugreek greens) added to it and made only one hole in the center as the dough was a bit more crumbly than ragi dough. This authentic thalipeeth tastes a bit more toasty and nutty due to the roasted and then milled mix of lentils and grains. These are the traditional ways to neutralize phytates found in grains and lentils.

This made a perfect breakfast for me along with a sooran ki chutney, idli podi and a small masala omelet. I have serve thalipeeth with my soups several times, just a quarter of thalipeeth is enough for a soup. Thalipeeth makes perfect crusty crisp flatbread for a soup.

Thalipeeth will make it easier to accommodate more vegetables in the meals and use more and more millets too for everyday meals. Try it with ragi or other millet flours, use any seasonal vegetables and have a new bread every day. Thalipeeth must have been developed over the years to bring more variety into the flat breads of rural homes back in time.