Wednesday, 24 April 2013

How to clean Banana Blossoms (Vazhai poo)


Banana blossoms are the flowers from the plaintain or banana tree. The one we get here in India, is the maroonish coloured flower. It consists of large maroon petal like encasing with long creamish or yellowish flowerettes. These long flowerettes are the edible part. The juice from the blossoms can stain the clothes and hence one needs to be careful while dealing with these blossoms.

1. Peel the maroon petals away and pick the long flowerettes.
2. Gently peel the layers of the flowertte to reveal the long strand with a slightly bulbous head and a thin plastic like sheet. Remove that bulbous strand and the thin plastic membrane like thing. They are not used for cooking.
3. If you want to prevent discolouration of the floweretts, soak them in water mixed with vinegar. They turn brown if left in the open for sometime.

4. The banana blossoms are now ready to use.


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Monday, 22 April 2013

Cinnamon rolls and Nutella rolls (Tangzhong method)

 I had some leftover Tangzhong from the previous milk bread preparation. I decided to make fillings this time. We are not particularly fond of the sweet coconut filling (Dilkhush or Dilpasand). So I made large Nutella rolls and small cinnamon rolls.

Some variation to the proportions mentioned in the milk-break recipe.
Ingredients

350gm/ 2½ cups bread flour (I used Maida) 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour (this is a variation) 55gm/3tbsp+2tsp caster sugar 5gm/1tsp salt 56gm egg (equals to 1 large egg) ( If you want eggless, increase amount of milk or add a cooked potato)  7gm/1tbsp+1tsp milk powder (to increase fragrance, optional) 1 cup milk (increased the quantity of milk) 100 gm of Tangzhong (refer to milk bread recipe) 5 to 6gm/2 tsp instant yeast 30gm/3tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)

Method of making dough: refer to the milk bread recipe.
Method to shape the dough:
After the first rise, gently deflate the dough and divide into two equal halves. 
For the Nutella rolls:
Take one portion and divide into 4 equal halves and make balls. Let the balls rest for 15 minutes. 
Roll each ball into an oval approximately half an inch think. Smear a table spoon of nutella evenly on the oval. Rolls it starting at the wider of the shorter sides. Place in a prepared loaf pan.
For the Cinnamon rolls:
Ingredients:
4 tbsp - cinnamon sugar - refer to cinnamon toast
2 tbsp - butter 
Cut the butter into cinnamon sugar and make a smooth paste.

Let the second portion rest as such for 15 minutes. Roll the ball into a large oval approximately 1/2 inch thick. Smear the cinnamon sugar paste onto the oval shaped dough. Roll the dough starting form the longer sides of the oval. Make long log. Cut the log into 8 equal sized rolls and place them on the a prepared 8" square pan.

Allow for a second rise. 

Bake each tray for 30 minutes at 180 degrees C.

When one is baking, keep the other tray in the refrigerator.

Verdict: 
You can also try to allow the second rise to happen in the refrigerator. Keep it in the refrigerator overnight for the second rise and bake the rolls fresh in the morning. Awesome soft and spongy flavoured rolls for yummy breakfast!
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Saturday, 20 April 2013

White bread with Tanzhong method (Eggless)

Baking with yeast has finally been conquered. Checkout the softest and spongiest milk bread ever eaten in our household and to top it all home-made. What better joy than seeing your efforts bear fruit? 

Baking a whole wheat loaf is not quite there yet. But I am trying... hang on... In the meanwhile, check this  recipe out... 

I came across this recipe on Baking Partners, but at that time I did not have this wonderful yeast, so I missed that challenge. I finally made it when I got my packet of good yeast. I did not understand what the Tangzhong would do and how it would help, but apparently it acts as a dough enhancer. It produces really soft and spongy bread. 

Recipe source Christine's recipes
Ingredients of tangzhong
50gm/ 1/3 cup bread flour
250ml/ 1cup water (could be replaced by milk, or 50/50 water and milk)
Formula of  1 parts of flour with 5 parts of water heat at 65 c/ 150F

Ingredients of bread:



350gm/ 2½ cups bread flour (I used Maida)

55gm/3tbsp+2tsp caster sugar

5gm/1tsp salt

56gm egg (equals to 1 large egg) ( If you want eggless, increase amount of milk or add a cooked potato) 
7gm/1tbsp+1tsp milk powder (to increase fragrance, optional)
125ml/ ½cup milk
120gm tangzhong (use half of the tangzhong you make from this recipe)
5 to 6gm/2 tsp instant yeast
30gm/3tbsp butter (cut into small pieces, softened at room temperature)




Method of making Tangzhong:
  1. Mix flour in water well without any lumps. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring consistently with a wooden spoon, whisk or spatula to prevent burning and sticking while you cook along the way.
  2. The mixture becomes thicker and thicker. Once you notice some “lines” appear in the mixture for every stir you make with the spoon. It’s done.  If you want to check the temperature of tangzhong it is 65 C/149 F.Remove from heat.
  3. Transfer into a clean bowl. Cover with a cling wrap sticking onto the surface of tangzhong to prevent from drying up. Let cool. The tangzhong can be used straight away once it cools down to room temperature.  Just measure out the amount you need. The leftover tangzhong can be stored in fridge up to a few days as long as it doesn't turn grey. If so, you need to discard and cook some more. (Note: The chilled tangzhong should return to room temperature before adding into other ingredients. )
Method of making bread:
  1. Combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Whisk and combine all wet ingredients: milk, egg and tangzhong, then add into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead until you get a dough shape and gluten has developed, then knead in the butter. Mind you, it’d be quite messy at this stage  Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, not sticky and elastic. To test if the dough is ready, you might stretch the dough. If it forms a thin “membrane”/ window pan test, it’s done. The time of kneading all depends on how hard and fast you knead.
  2. Knead the dough into a ball shape. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a wet towel or cling wrap. Let it proof till it's doubled in size, about 40 minutes (Note: the time will vary and depends on the weather. The best temperature for proofing is 28C/ 80 F.) During summer in Bangalore, it only takes 30-35 minutes for the first rise.
  3. Transfer to a clean floured surface. Deflate and divide the dough into eight equal portions. Knead into ball shapes. Cover with cling wrap, let rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Grease and prepare a 8" square pan. 
  5. If you want to make a simple white bread roll without filling you can do that at this time. Roll each ball of dough into an oval shape. Fold the shorter edges of the oval and form a square roughly. Turn it over and roll it again into a rectangle or oval. Turn it over and then start rolling from the wider side of the two shorter sides of the rectangle. Place it in the prepared pan as shown. This picture is after the second rise.
  6. Leave it for the 2nd round of proofing, about 40 minutes, or until the dough rises up to 3/4 of the height of the tin inside.
  7. Brush some milk on the surface gently. Bake in a pre-heated 180C (350F) oven for 35 to 40 minutes. I baked for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and tin. Transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Slice to serve or place in an airtight plastic bag or container once it's thoroughly cooled.

Verdict: This is by far the best bread we have ever eaten at home. Mom was thrilled at the sponginess of this fresh loaf. Hubby and daughter downed large chunks at breakfast and tea times. I strongly urge you to try it out!
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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Cauliflower Potato Curry

Cruciferous vegetables are widely considered healthy foods and are believed to have components with potential anti-cancer properties. This is one of our favourites at home other than cabbage. We rarely get broccoli in India. I do want to buy brocolli sometime for soup. Lets see how that goes.

A larege variety of dishes are possible with cauliflower, and a significant number of curry varieties suitable for  roti. This is one such vegetable.

Ingredients:
Cauliflower - flowerettes from 1/2 a flower, cleaned (See Note)
Potato - 2 medium, diced
Onion - 1 large, chopped thin and long
Tomato - 1 medium, sliced thin
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Green chilli - 1
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Salt - to taste
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Amti masala - 1/2 tsp

Tempering:
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1/2 tbsp

Method:
Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed vessel. Add the cumin seeds and when they splutter, add the cleaned cauliflower (see Note) and chopped onions. Add a pinch of asafoetida and turmeric powder and fry until the raw smell is gone. Slit a green chilli and add it  while the onions and cauliflower fry. Add the chopped tomatoes at this stage and keep frying. Add amti masala, chilli powder, salt, ginger and garlic paste and continue frying. Add the potatoes at this stage and fry for a minute. Transfer the contents to a cooker. Add a little water and cook until soft (I usually give 1 whistle if the cauliflower is fresh and 2 if it has aged a bit in the fridge). Once the cooker has cooled down, check the consistency of the gravy. If it needs thickening, use any of the methods in the post on "How to thicken gravy". Garnish with Coriander leaves and serve hot with roti or rice.

Note: Cauliflower has to be cleaned very carefully. Wash and clean the flowerettes under running water. Drain the water and keep aside. In a sauce pan heat 2-3 cups of water with a lemon peel or 1 tsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of salt, until lukewarm. Add the flowerettes to the water and let it stay for 5-10 minutes. Drain the water and wash them one more time under running water. Drain the water from the flowerettes and now the flowerttes are ready to use.

Verdict: Fry the cauliflower until the raw smell goes. Some people find it difficult to take cruciferous vegetables due to some PTC related compounds in the veggies, that they can taste and find pungent. Frying the cauliflower lowers the concentration of such compounds.
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Sunday, 14 April 2013

How to Thicken Gray


I am starting a new section in this blog, called "How to". This is to share very basic kitchen tips and techniques that I have picked up from elders at home and from fellow bloggers. This is intended to be a very useful learning experience for those who have just stepped into the culinary world.

There is often a necessity to thicken gravy, else it gets too runny. Especially when used as a side dish for rice varieties, the gravy should not be too runny. There are various ways to thicken gravy. We will discuss a few here: Please feel free to let me know any other methods you use.

a) Using ingredients from the gravy itself:
1. If the gravy has potatoes, mash the cooked potatoes into a fine paste and add it back. Heat the dish one more time to get the right consistency with mashed potatoes.
2. For Channa (chick-pea), take some cooked channa and grind it into a fine paste. Add it to the channa masala and bring to a boil.
3. Before making the gravy vegetable, chop one or two onions and a tomato and fry them using a tsp of oil. Allow the onion and tomato mix to cool down and then grind into a fine paste. Add this paste to the gravy just before actual cooking begins (after the fry stage).
b) Using external thickening agents after the gravy is cooked:
1. If you do not mind the smooth texture of chinese gravy, make a tsp of corn-flour with 1 tbsp of water. Add this to the gravy and bring to a boil until the gravy thickens to desired consistency.
2. For a more desi taste, add either a tsp of besan or rice-flour to 1 tbsp of water, make a paste and add to the cooked gravy. Bring the mix to a boil until the gravy thickens to desired consistency.
3. Make a paste of 2-3 tbsp of dessicated coconut and water. Grind in the blender until the coconut shreds cannot be felt. Add this coconut mix to the gravy and bring to a boil until the gravy thickens.
4. Soak 5-6 cashews in 1/4 cup of hot water. Once the water has cooled down to room temperature, grind the cashews in the water to a smooth paste. Add the cashew mix back to gravy and bring to a boil until the gravy thickens.

For the methods 3-4 in "b", remove the gravy from heat just before the desired consistency. The gravy continues to thicken as it cools down.

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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Sambhar Podi

Idly-Sambhar is very satisfying for breakfast. If the sambhar is especially yummy, one can even drink a bowlful of it. What easy way to make sambhar predictably every single time than have a ready made podi in hand. We make just one boxful and use it up within a month or two so the flavours remain fresh until the last helping.

Ingredients:

Dried red chillies - 1/4 Kg
Dhania - 1/2 Kg
Pepper (Milagu) - 50 g
Toor dal (Thuvaram paruppu) - 200 g
Channa dal (Bengal gram, kadalai paruppu) - 150 g
Jeera (Cumin, seeragam) - 60 g
Methi (Vendhayam) - 30 g
Curry leaves - 8 - 10
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp

Method:
Sun-dry chillies and dhania. Dry roast them separately. Dry roast pepper, cumin, curry leaves, methi, turmeric, toor dal and bengal gram. Keep them aside. After the roasted ingredients have cooled down, use the large mixer jar, to blend them into a fine powder.

Use a teaspoon ful of sambhar podi to make sambhar serving 4 people.

Variation:There is a short-cut to this recipe. For those of you who have already ground chillies and dhania for milagai podi, you can use powdered ingredients in the right proportion to make sambhar podi.

Use 1 cup milagai podi (made with chillies and dhania in 1:2 ratio). Dry roast this and keep aside. If pepper and jeera are in powder form, dry roast 2 tbsp pepper po, 2 tbsp jeera powder with 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder.

Now you only need to dry roast, toor dal, channa dal, methi and curry leaves. Powder these fine and once cool, tranfer to the storage jar (400 - 500 ml). Add the chillie powder and pepper, cumin powders in the jar. Close the lid tightly and shake it well to combine all ingredients. Keep aside. Once the powders have completely mixed and settled down, transfer a small quantity to a small jar (150-200 ml).

Use the sambhar podi from the smaller jar and refil at regular intervals from the larger storage jar. This will help keep flavours of the spices fresh.

Verdict:
Definitely recommend this to anyone who uses store-bought masala. This is a small step towards avoiding artificial colours and flavours.

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Monday, 8 April 2013

Chickpea Stir Fry (Kondai Kadalai Sundal)

Sundal is the best evening snack, easy to make and totally healthy. Some pulses though require pre-soaking. This is never pre-planned in our kitchen. Whenever we decide to make channa masala for dinner, we keep some soaked channa aside and make the sundal.

For the Indian  recipes I use the 150 ml rice measuring cup as reference.

Ingredients:
Chick-peas or channa, soaked and boiled - 2 cups
Green chillies - 1

Tempering:
Mustard - 1/2 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 4-5

Salt - to taste
Oil - 1/2 tbsp

Method:

Boil the chana until soft and edible. Drain most of the water and keep it asdie. A little moisture will not hurt.

Heat the oil in a kadai. Add the mustard, urad dal and curry leaves. When the mustart starts sputtering and urad dal turns golden brown, add the channa, green chillies and salt. Toss them around a few minutes and keep frying until the water evaporates completely.

Serve hot with tea/coffee.

Verdict: This is a good recipe to make for neivedyam too on festive occasions, in lieu of or in addition to the popular vadai. I made this for Shivrathri this year along with Ada pradamam.
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Saturday, 6 April 2013

Ada Pradaman

I was introduced to Ada pradaman by a dear friend of ours hailing from Kerala. It is a heady payasam indeed. I was interested in making this at home and innocently asked our family friend Aunty for the recipe. No sooner was she half-way through the recipe, I was exhausted listening to the amount of pre-preparation this dish entailed. What pre-prepararation, you ask? How different is it from the pre-preparation for cakes and baked goodies... Not at all different and quite simple rather compared to the baking recipes. Yes, I realized that after I started baking cakes and so decided to give Ada pradaman, a shot.

I used store-bought ada and hence had to soften it before using it. Please note that the measurements given here are in 150 ml cups (rice measuring cup)

Ingredients:


Coconut milk - 1 1/2 cups
Ada - broken pieces - 1/4 cup or 8 long stands
Jagger, shredded - 1 cup
Caradamom - 1/4 tsp
Cashews - 8 to 10
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Water - as required

Method:

Heat 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan. When the water comes to a boil, add the ada to it. Let it soften in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain the hot water, run the ada through cold water and strain it well. Keep aside.
Place the shredded jaggery in a sauce pan or kadai. Pour very little water, just enough to cover the jaggery upto halfway. Heat the saucepan and leave it on simmer while the jagger melts. Use a spatula to stir it so there are no lumps. Keep aside.

Shred the coconut and extract the coconut milk. A large coconut should yield 150 ml of thick coconut milk in the first pass and another 100 ml of dilute coconut milk in the second pass. Keep the coconut milk aside.


Once the jaggery syrup has cooled down, run it through a strainer to remove any impurities. Mix the jaggery syrup into the coconut milk. Heat the sauce pan and pour the mixture into the sauce pan. Add the ada to the jaggery-coconut milk mixture. Add the cardamom. Let the mixture simmer and thicken while cooking the ada for 5-7 minutes. Keep the sauce-pan aside to cool down to ada-pradamam. Heat the ghee on a tawa or tempering saucepan and add the cashews to it. Roast the cashews until golden brown.

Pour into the cooling ada-pradamam. Serve warm or chilled. 

Optionally you can also add boiled Sabudana (Javvarisi) to the coconut-jaggery mix while adding ada. It makes an interesting and welcome addition.

Verdict: Give this a shot and it is totally worth it. Funnily, my little girl was outside playing with friends when I made this. When she came back home, I served her the ada-pradaman, and she wanted to know when our family friend aunty had come home and given the payasam. I told her I made it and she did not believe me. So I suppose this either means, she does not trust my culinary skills enough or it tasted as good as the original from Su aunty. I choose to believe the latter ;)
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Thursday, 4 April 2013

Tandoori Chicken


Chicken recipes are always interesting at our household. In a home where non-vegetarian dishes are restricted to eggs, chicken and very rarely fish, you can very well imagine the buzz around the kitchen when we cook chicken. That makes it all the more interesting for me to come up with variations in the dishes.
I never miss an opportunity to make a grilled dish or nuggets when we have boneless chicken at home. Hubby dear bought ½ kg of boneless chicken breast on a visit to the hypermarket and when I asked him if he had dry starters or gravy in mind, he said its up to me. So I decided to give the gravy a miss and work with starters instead. There were 4 pieces. I cute two of them into smaller pieces for tikka and the remaining two I just marinated them whole. They rested in the freezer for a couple of days before I could make the tikka. I have no pictures here so I will post that some other time.  This is the recipe for tandoori style chicken grill.

Ingredients:

Boneless chicken breast – 2 large pieces
Oil – 1 tsbp
Marinade:
Chili powder – 1 tsp
Cumin – ½ tsp
Amti masala or Garam masala – 1/4 tsp
Salt -  to taste
Ginger paste – ½ tsp
Garlic paste – ½ tsp
Curd – 3 tbsp
Cornflour – 2 tbsp
Juice of 1 lemon
Garnishing:
Coriander leaves
Thyme (optional)

Method:
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together and keep aside. 

Make incisions on the chicken breast pieces. This is to facilitate the chicken to absorb the spices well. 

Smear the marinade paste generously on all sides of the chicken pieces and place them in a freezer safe box. Smear the remaining marinade mix onto the pieces and refrigerate for a couple of hours. If you intend to use it later, then place the box in the freezer and thaw the chicken 4-5 hours before you intend to grill it.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Place the chicken pieces on a roasting tray. Brush them generously with oil. 

Using the microwave+grill mode in the convection oven, place the roasting tray on the high rack, and grill for 15 minutes. The chicken should be almost cooked and nicely browned on top. 

If not, put the tray back and use just the grill mode (without microwave cooking option) for another 5 minutes. Let it stand for 4-5 minutes and then garnish with coriander and thyme. 

Serve hot with chutney as a starter or as main course with bread.
Verdict: One cannot go wrong with this recipe. You might have to adjust the temperature and time to suit your oven and the type of chicken. Some tender varieties cook in just the grill mode without the microwave. 

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Banana Cranberry Cake (Low Fat)

Low Fat baked goodies always entail some oil and definitely sugar. Although the calorie count in a low-fat cake is less than a butter cake, if you are planning to stay away from oil completely, then it still does not help. I got a wonderful book from my dad last week - Rosemary Conleys - "Complete Hip and Thigh Diet". The best thing about this book is the variety of recipes that suit any lifestyle but still low on fat and sugar.

I picked this recipe up from the book, but adapted it since I did not have sultanas in hand. The cake is called "Banana Sultana Cake" in the book.

For the benefit of diet freaks out there, I am not going to babble any more. So here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

Bananas - 5 large and ripe, mashed
All Purpose Flour - 1 1/2 cup
Whole Wheat Flour - 1/2 cup
Baking powder - 2 tsp
Brown Sugar - 3/4 cup
Cranberries - 1/2 cup

Yes that is right. There is no butter or milk in this recipe.

Method:
Pre-heat oven to 180 degress C. Grease and line a loaf tin or 8 inch cake tin.

Sift the APF and wheat flour with the baking powder. Keep one table spoon of the flour mix aside.

Add the brown sugar to the mashed bananas. Add the flour mix to the bananas mixture and whisk with the mixer until combined.

Toss the cranberries in the tablespoon of flour kept aside earlier. Mix the cranberries into the batter.

Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. The crust should be light brown in colour. 

Verdict: This is listed in the book as a dessert recipe for dinner, or for breakfast. Baking this cake was an eye opener for me. The smoothness of the bananas replaced the butter perfectly. The top was perfectly cursty and the inside had the smooth yet curmbly texture. 
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