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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Walnut - Prune Yogurt

While hunting for Russian recipes during "Around the World" marathon, I came across a quick and easy dessert from the region. It had some walnut stuffed prunes served in smetana. Smetana is the central and eastern European version of sour cream and in absence of it, can be substituted with yogurt, sour cream or crème fraîche. Walnuts are stuffed into dry prunes and a sweetened sour cream is poured over them. Then they are refrigerated overnight or until the sour cream solidifies.
I goofed up somehow while noting the recipe and got fresh prunes instead and kept wondering how to stuff them with walnuts. I couldn't do it obviously and so chopped the fruit and added it to lightly sweetened yogurt along with some chopped walnuts. I refrigerated it overnight and it made a yummy breakfast next day. I am not posting the original recipe as it just involves the steps I mentioned above. The recipe requires only four ingredients - sour cream / yogurt, some icing sugar to sweeten the sour cream, dried prunes and walnuts.
This goes to Blogging Marathon #49, under the theme of "Weekend Brunch".

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Chutney Sandwich

Sandwiches can be one of the quick and easy options when doing brunches. One can go with the simple ones like peanut butter - jelly, cheese, nutella or jam sandwiches for kids and some spicier versions for adults like this chutney sandwich.  Butter, green chutney and tomato ketchup add beautiful layers of color and flavor to this Indian style sandwich. Green chutney is kept on the spicier side and is prepared using cilantro, mint leaves, green chillies, lemon juice and salt. The ketchup can even be replaced with sweet chutney. These sandwiches can be prepared in a jiffy as no grilling or toasting is needed. They can be a great addition to a party menu too. Three bread slices yield 4 mini sandwiches and I have given the instructions below for that quantity.
Ingredients for each serving:
3 bread slices, crusts removed
1 tbsp. slightly softened butter
1 tbsp. thick green chutney
1 tbsp. tomato ketchup / sweet chutney

(I am giving numbers to bread slices - 1, 2 & 3 for easy reference.)
* Apply butter on one side of slice #1 and keep the buttered side up.
* Apply green chutney on one side of slice #2 and place it on slice #1 so that chutney applied side rests on the buttered side of slice #1. 
* And now the plain side of slice #2 would be up. Spread butter on that side or it can be omitted if counting calories.
* Apply ketchup / sweet chutney on one side of slice #3 and place it on slice #2 so that ketchup / chutney applied side rests on the buttered side of slice #2. (I repeated one more step with green chutney.)
* Cut diagonally or cut into 4 pieces and serve immediately.

This goes to Blogging Marathon #49, under the theme of "Weekend Brunch".


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mixed Vegetable Rice

The word 'Brunch' is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch. The brunch aka the late morning / the early afternoon meal originated in England in 1800's. And as the name indicates, an array of breakfast and lunch dishes are served in a buffet style during a brunch session. I usually don't do brunches in my home as no one is ready to give up their early morning breakfast for various reasons and besides, I don't have the patience to come up with a feast in the name of a brunch on a weekend. I know you can cook one dish when you don't have company, serve it late and call it a brunch but some how an image of a wide range of colorful and yummy dishes comes to my mind whenever I think of brunch. And so I am talking about those kind of brunches and I don't do them on a normal weekend.
I  had to come up with some 'Weekend Brunch' ideas for this weeks' marathon and being a south Indian, chose to go with a 'rice' dish on the first day. Rice plays a major role in Indian cuisine and especially down south, every meal, including a festive one is built around rice. A rice dish would definitely be the star of the meal if an Indian style buffet is planned and here is one simple yet flavorful 'rice' idea for that kind. This can be a part of a wide range buffet or when served with just some yogurt rice will make a wholesome, filling meal. 
This rice uses a spice powder which adds flavor and aroma to the dish. It is simple to make and can be prepared ahead in large quantity and stored in an airtight container. This is a versatile powder and can be used to prepare rice dishes like these and also spice up gravy style vegetable subzis.

Ingredients for the spice powder:
1/4 cup chana dal / split chick peas
1 tbsp urad dal / skinned black gram
1 tsp dhaniya / coriander seeds
2 cloves
1 piece of one inch cinnamon stick
1 - 2 strands of dagad phool /stone flower / raathi puvvu
10 - 12 red dried red chillies (adjust the quantity as needed)
1 - 2 tbsp. grated dry coconut

* Dry toast chana dal and urad dal in a pan until they start to change the color. Add the rest of the ingredients in the above list and toast for about 40 - 60 seconds. Turn off the stove and let them cool.
* Grind the ingredients fine or into a slightly coarse powder.
* Store it in an airtight container and use it as needed.
Ingredients for the vegetable rice:
1 cup rice (I used sona masuri rice.)
2 - 3 cups mixed vegetables *
2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp chanadal / split chickpeas
1 tsp urad dal / split black gram
1 tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves
A handful of cashew halves / peanuts
2 -3 tbsp. spice powder from above
Salt to taste

* I used carrots and potatoes (peeled and cubed) and green beans that are stringed and cut into one inch pieces. Green peas and chayote can be used as well. Use your choice of vegetables that won't turn mushy after cooking.

* Pressure cook rice adding 2 cups of water. Or rice can be cooked using a rice cooker or in a sauce pan covered, on stove top.
* Heat oil in a pan and add chana dal, urad dal, mustard. Fry for few seconds and add cashews and curry leaves. 
* When the dals and cashews turn golden brown and mustard seeds start to pop, add the vegetables, turn down the heat, cover and cook until done. 
Alternately, vegetables can be steamed or cooked in a microwave, drained and added in the above step.
* Next add the spice powder, salt and mix. Finally add the rice and mix well to combine. Taste and adjust spice powder / salt if any needed.

This goes to Blogging Marathon #49, under the theme of "Weekend Brunch".


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Aloo Paratha ~ Stuffed Potato Flat Bread

I realized that there is a dearth of stuffed parathas at my blog when I signed up for this week's theme of Indian Bread Basket. I haven't featured the most common, delicious and filling Punjabi stuffed breads yet in spite of making them at home now and then. Stuffed parathas can prove to be a nightmare to novice cooks who lack the experience and the technique to nail them. I had my share of woes regarding these in my early days of cooking, especially with the aloo parathas. The stuffing would come out from everywhere while rolling out the parathas and stick to the rolling pin and the board. I frustratingly would roll out rotis instead and grudgingly start cooking a side dish to go with it. Serving those tempting and piping hot parathas in my kitchen seemed like an elusive dream until I learnt the trick. My success rate with stuffed mooli parathas has been good and consistent all these years while with the potato filled ones, it has been a hit and miss situation until I chose to go with the  fool proof method of stuffing between two rolled out parathas and rolling it again.
I have provided both the methods of making the parathas but as I mentioned above, the second method is lot easier. And as usual, the spices that go into the stuffing can be omitted / altered according to one's preferences. However remember to keep it on a spicier side since it s used as a stuffing and if not kept spicier, the final parathas taste bland. The following measurements give about 10-12 parathas if stuffed directly (method 1) and about 6 parathas if stuffed between 2 parathas (method 2). 

Ingredients for the stuffing:
3 potatoes (about 1 & 1/2 cooked and mashed potato)
2 tbsp. finely minced cilantro
2 finely minced green chillies that are spicier or red chili powder to taste
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp each - amchur powder / dry mango powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and chaat masala 
Salt to taste

Ingredients for parathas:
2 cups whole wheat flour + extra for dusting
1 - 2 tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Oil/ghee to toast parathas

Preparing the stuffing:
* Peel and cube potatoes. Wash and drain them completely. Transfer them to a container that fits into a pressure cooker and cook them for up to 3 - 4 whistles. Do not add any water to cook them to ensure that potatoes don't turn soggy. Remove the potatoes after the valve pressure is gone and drain in a colander if any water is present. Cool and mash the potatoes very smooth so that there are not even tiny bit of lumps. Or you can refrigerate the potatoes before mashing, to use them up later.
(Or scrub the potatoes and cut them into big chunks and cook them in water in a sauce pan and mash them. Or microwave them until done.) 
* Add the rest of the ingredients mentioned under 'stuffing' to the mashed potatoes and mix well.

Preparation of dough:
* Combine wheat flour and 1/2 tsp salt in a mixing bowl. Add water in small increments and prepare a soft, pliable dough. (I added about 1 cup minus 2 tbsp. water.)
* Next add oil and knead the dough for a couple of minutes. Cover and allow it to rest anywhere between 30 minutes to a few hours.
(You can proceed with the below recipe to make parathas at this point or refrigerate it to use the dough within a day or two. If refrigerating, bring the dough to room temperature before rolling out the parathas. Or to quicken the process, cover the dough and put it in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 20 - 30 seconds depending upon the quantity. The refrigerated dough would be ready to work with, in a jiffy this way.)
* Divide the mixture into about 12 portions and roll them smoothly between your palms to shape them into balls.
* Work with one dough ball at a time and keep the rest covered. 

Rolling parathas: (Method 1)
* Roll a dough ball into 3 - 4 inch disc and place about 1 - 2 tbsp. of filling, depending upon how comfortable you are with the rolling
part. Place the stuffing at the center of the disc, leaving the edges free.
* Bring the edges together so that there are no gaps and the stuffing is inside intact.

* Press it into a disc taking care that there are no gaps anywhere so that the stuffing wouldn't spill out while rolling.
* Roll the disc carefully into a 5 to 6 inch thin circle, dusting with flour if necessary. Take care not to break it or let the filling coming out. Repeat the steps of paratha making with the remaining dough.

Rolling parathas: (Method 2)
* Roll out a couple of balls into 4 -5 inch discs, dusting with flour if necessary.
* Spread 1 - 2 tbsp. curry evenly on one disc, leaving out the edges.
* Cover it with another rolled disc. 

* Neatly seal them so that the stuffing wouldn't spill out when they are rolled again.
* Dust the work surface and stuffed disc lightly and proceed with the rolling part. Gently roll it into a thin disc.
* Heat iron griddle or a shallow, non stick pan and place the rolled out paratha.
 * Toast the parathas, brushing generously with oil / ghee, until both sides are cooked well and brown spots appear.
* Repeat the steps of rolling and toasting the parathas with the remaining dough balls and the stuffing. Serve them hot with yogurt and a spicy pickle.

This goes to Blogging Marathon #49, under the theme of "Indian Bread Basket".


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mooli Parathas ~ Stuffed Radish / Daikon FlatBreads

The second entry under "Indian Bread Basket" theme this week is going to be these soft and yummy mooli parathas. Mooli is the Hindi word for radish while the parathas are the unleavened flat breads. The white colored one is the commonly available variety of radish in India and so that is what gets used in these parathas for the stuffing. Daikon is however a very good substitute for radish in this recipe and I regularly substitute it for radish in other recipes as well. Mooli paratha is one of the stuffed breads commonly prepared in north Indian kitchens and needs no special side dishes to go along with it. A spicy pickle and some good home made yogurt will do.
Preparing stuffed parathas like these need some experience since there is the possibility of the stuffing spilling out while rolling out the parathas, making it a frustrating experience, especially to a novice. Another fool proof method of preparing a stuffed paratha is rolling out 2 identical sized parathas, placing the stuffing on one paratha and covering it with the other one. Seal the edges and roll it again. Coming to the stuffing, it can be kept simple and raw as I have done. Or spices can be added according to one's preference and further the radish can be sauteed to make sure that it is dry to stuff. I use it raw and it doesn't make any difference with the final result.

Ingredients: (Make 8 parathas)
Oil / ghee to make parathas
 For the outer layer dough:
1.5 cups wheat flour / atta + extra for dusting
1 - 2 tbsp oil (optional)
Salt to taste
For the stuffing:
1.5 to 2 cups peeled and grated radish / daikon
Salt to taste
2 tbsp. minced cilantro
2 finely minced green chili

Preparation of dough:
* Combine wheat flour, salt and oil in a mixing bowl. Add the radish water if using. Add water as much as needed to form a soft, pliable dough. Cover and leave to rest for about an hour.

Preparation of stuffing:
* Add salt and grated radish to a bowl or a colander and just mix to combine. Keep it aside for about 30 minutes to an hour.

* Working with a handful of mixture at a time, squeeze out the water as much as you can from the radish. This is done in order to have a dry stuffing. The radish water can be either discarded or used to prepare the roti dough.
* Add minced cilantro and chillies to the squeezed radish and mix well.

Stuffing the parathas:
* Divide the dough into 8 portions and shape them into balls by rolling between your palms. Work with one dough ball at a time while keeping the rest covered.
* Roll a dough ball into 3 - 4 inch disc and place about 1 - 2 tbsp. of filling, depending upon how comfortable you are with the rolling
part. Try with a little amount of stuffing initially, if you are a beginner. Place the stuffing at the center of the disc, leaving the edges free.
* Bring the edges together so that there are no gaps and the stuffing is inside intact.
* Press it into a disc taking care that there are no gaps anywhere so that the stuffing wouldn't spill out while rolling.
* Roll the disc carefully into a 5 to 6 inch thin circle, dusting with flour if necessary. Take care not to break it or let the filling coming out. Repeat the steps of paratha making with the remaining dough. One can roll out parathas and fry them simultaneously. A beginner may roll out 4- 5 parathas at once and then start the frying process. Remember to cover the other rolled out parathas.
Making Parathas:
Heat a shallow non stick pan or an iron griddle. Place the paratha at the center of the griddle and fry until there are brown spots on both sides, drizzling with oil / ghee in between. Click here for a picture tutorial on how to toast the parathas.

This goes to Blogging Marathon #49, under the theme of "Indian Bread Basket".


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tomato Dosas

This tomato based dosa is one of our favorites among the dosas I make at home. The tomatoes add a rich color and flavor to the dosas though they are not on the tangier side. It is not an instant kind and so needs some prior preparation like the other fermented dosas. It is not a cumbersome recipe though the list of ingredients is long. Many just go into the batter while grinding. Give it a try if you are bored of the regular dosa varieties and you would not be disappointed.

Ingredients: (for 15 dosas)

For dosa batter:
3/4 cup rice (I use extra long grain rice.)
4 - 6 tbsp chana dal / split chick peas (two handfuls)
1/4 cup urad dal / black gram (A handful)
Salt to taste
To grind:
1 small tomato
3 - 4 green chillies
1/4 cup fresh shredded coconut
To add:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
2 - 3 tbsp finely minced cilantro
1 tsp cumin seeds

Ingredients for dosa making:
Dosa batter
Oil (I use Canola oil.)

Preparation of the batter:
* Wash and soak rice, chana dal and urad dal in plenty of water for about 3 to 4 hours. Grind it smoothly into a thick batter. Transfer the contents to a bowl, add salt and mix well. The batter rises while fermenting and so chose a bowl accordingly. Allow it to ferment overnight.(I usually soak the ingredients afternoon and grind the batter in the evening.)
* Just before ready to make dosas, grind all the ingredients mentioned under 'to grind' using a little water if needed.
* Add the above ground coconut mixture and the ingredients under 'to add' to the fermented batter and mix well with a ladle.

Dosa making:
* Heat an iron griddle or a shallow, flat non stick pan. Pour a ladleful of batter at the center and spread it with the back of the ladle to form a circle. Pour 1/2 tsp oil around the edges and let it cook on medium flame. When the bottom side turns golden brown and the surface appears dry, flip it with a spatula and pour about 1/4 tsp oil around the edges again. Cook until the other side is done as well.
* Remove with a spatula and transfer it onto a plate.
* Repeat the steps of dosa making with the remaining batter.
* Serve warm with coconut or peanut chutney.

This goes to Blogging Marathon #49, under the theme of "Indian Bread Basket".


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chettinad Vegetable Biryani / Kaikari Biryani

We have no aversion towards pulaos / biryanis but we are not great fans either of this rice genre. It may seem surprising coming from an Indian but it is true that they get made once in a blue moon in my kitchen. And so I was contemplating whether to try this Chettinad Vegetable Biryani or not for this month's Indian Cooking Challenge.

I know that a wonderful dish like this biryani do not deserve such a lousy introduction. :) However I would like to point out that we, out of all the people who prefer to stay away from overtly spicy dishes got sold by this biryani. I had thought of giving this dish a try only because I have been missing the recent ICC challenges and oh boy, I am glad that I did. The husband started reminiscing about the biryani he used to eat in his college canteen and applauded it, while my house filled with an aroma that I usually associate with the Indian restaurants. The spice levels were perfect in this dish, tasted wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

This biryani comes from the Chettinad cuisine, from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Another version I saw on Sanjeev Kapoor's cook show also included coconut, fennel seeds and other spices typical to the region but since this recipe comes from a person native to the region, I did not play with the recipe. This is an apt kind of dish to prepare, when you have company. Even this halved recipe yields a substantial amount of biryani to feed at least 6 - 8, given that you have other dishes to feed them.This recipe uses samba rice that is grown in Tamil Nadu region in India. This grain supposedly has a distinct aroma and is shorter in size. Basmati would be a typical substitute if there is no access to the samba variety. I had only brown Basmati at home and so substituted sona masuri instead.  And of course don't get intimidated by the long list of ingredients mentioned below. Many go in tadka and some are added at the final stages.
1.5 cups Jeera Samba rice
1 tbsp. ghee
2 tbsp. cashews
1 tbsp oil
3 cloves
2 cardamom
1 inch piece of cinnamon
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
2 Maratha moggu
2 green chillies (I used 1 chilli as they were hot.)
2 pieces of stone flower / dagad phool / rathi puvvu (optional)
1/2 cup minced shallots or 1 big onion, finely minced
1 tsp. ginger-garlic paste
A handful of coriander leaves + extra for garnishing
A handful of mint leaves + extra for garnishing
1 tomato
2 cups mixed vegetables (green beans, carrot, potato and green peas)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. red chili powder (My chili powder is really hot and so I used 1/2 tsp.)
Salt to taste
2 & 1/4 cups water

* Wash and soak the rice in water for about 30 minutes. Drain and keep it aside.
* Peel and chop shallots / onion. Chop tomatoes. Peel and cube potato and carrot. String and cut the green beans into one inch pieces. Chop green chillies into big pieces.
* Chop finely mint and coriander leaves.

* Heat ghee in a deep saute pan or directly in a pressure cooker and toast the cashews until golden brown. Remove the toasted cashews with a slotted spoon and keep them aside.
* To the same pan, add oil and heat it. Add cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, bay leaf, moggu and stone flower. 
* Saute for few seconds and add green chillies and shallots/onion. Fry until the onion turns translucent. 
* Next add ginger-garlic paste and saute until the raw smell leaves. Then add the chopped leaves and saute for about a minute.
* Add vegetables now and fry for about 3 minutes. Next add tomatoes, turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder and salt. Continue to cook until the tomatoes turn softer.
* Add about 1/4 cup water to the vegetables and bring the mixture to a boil. 
* Then add the (soaked and drained) rice and water. Stir well and cover with the lid if using pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles. 
Or if using a saute pan, just cover with a lid and cook on low flame until done. It would take around 15 - 20 minutes to cook this way and don't be tempted to stir and peek often.
(I used a saute pan to fry the vegetables and transferred the whole mixture into a container that could fit in my pressure cooker. I put the container in the pressure cooker without the pressure valve on and steamed the mixture.)
* Once the rice is cooked, garnish with ghee fried cashews and coarsely minced cilantro - mint leaves.
* Serve with onion raita.

* Either you can use 1.5 cup (standard American measuring cup size) or about 3 cups (that comes along with the rice cooker) rice.
* The original recipe mentions to use 4 & 1/2 cups water for 3 cups of jeera samba rice. I used sona masuri rice and used about 2 & 1/2 cups of water for 1 & 1/2 cups rice.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cheddar Cheese PopCorn

For the last 'Cheese' post this week, I wanted to showcase something that my kids really enjoy, the cheddar cheese popcorn. This is a simple and quick dish to put together and can be a great homemade gift to give others during holiday season. My daughter crazily loves cheese and eats in some form or other everyday for at least one of her meals. One of those happily devoured forms is this yummy, cheddar cheese coated popcorn. I indulge her though I cannot understand her addiction. :)
If you don't have the cheese powder, then the processed cheese powder that comes in the macaroni & cheese box can be substituted. I keep our popcorn just cheesy but chili powder / mustard powder / or any other flavors can be added as well in the recipe. Mix them with the cheese powder and proceed as directed.
About 6 cups / 1.5 quarts Popped corn
5 - 6 tbsp. Cheddar cheese powder 
3 to 4 tbsp. Melted butter

* Preheat the oven to 120 deg C / 250 deg F.
* Pop the corn kernels in whichever method you choose to pop - on the stove top, microwave or the popcorn maker. 
To microwave, put about a handful of corn kernels in a brown bag, fold the bag twice at the top edges and put it in the microwave. Pop them for about a minute, shake the bag once vigorously and microwave again for another half a minute or so. It took about 90 to 95 seconds for me but the time varies depending upon the strength of a microwave. Remove the bag once you stop hearing the popping noise or else it may get burnt easily if cooked for longer than the required amount of time. 

* Separate out the corn kernels that were not popped. You may try to pop them once more as some of them do pop the second time.
* Transfer the popcorn to a wide mixing bowl. Pour the butter over it and shake to coat. Then add the cheese mixture and again shake the bowl for the cheese to coat evenly.
* Pour the cheese coated popcorn onto a baking sheet evenly and bake in the pre-heated oven, stirring once in between. Bake for about 8- 10 minutes or until the cheese dries up and the pop corn is crunchy. 
(I prefer baking after the cheese mixture is poured over the popped corn. Baking gives a uniformly crunchy popcorn without burning. The baking part can be skipped and the cheese coated pop corn can be again put in a brown bag and popped for about 25 - 30 seconds. It will turn crisp in a short time compared to baking but gets burnt quickly.)
* Enjoy it immediately or cool the popcorn and store it in an airtight container.

This goes to 
1. Blogging Marathon #49, with the theme "Cheese".
2. 'Kids Delight' event, with the theme 'Cheese'.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cauliflower - Cheese Soup

I had so many fancy ideas for this 'Cheese' theme but when it came to execution, I ended up preparing simple everyday dishes that are loved by my kids. My husband and son love soups and so they get frequently made in my kitchen. The one showcased today is loosely based on the broccoli - cheese soup, I make regularly. This creamy, yummy soup was a hit in my home going by the comments I got. I also ended up adding finely minced, cooked carrot at the final stages of cooking.

Ingredients: (2 servings)
1 tbsp. oil / butter
1 onion, finely minced
Cauliflower florets from half a cauliflower head (About 1 & 1/2 cup florets)
2& 1/2 cups vegetable broth / water
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese (white / yellow)
Salt and ground pepper to taste

* Heat oil in a sauce pan and add onion. Fry until the onion softens and then add cauliflower florets. Fry them until they start to turn golden or about 6 - 7 minutes.
* Add broth / water and cook until cauliflower is tender.
* Puree the mixture until smooth. Use caution if using a blender to puree the hot soup.
* Add the cheese and heat through until it melts.
* Check the taste and then add salt and pepper. Stir and serve warm.

This goes to 
1. Blogging Marathon #49, with the theme "Cheese".
2. 'Kids Delight' event, with the theme 'Cheese'.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Paneer Bhurji

Paner bhurji is a side dish prepared with paneer, the rennet-free Indian cheese. This protein rich dish is very quick and simple to prepare and is an apt dish for the morning rush hours. It can be served with breads, buns or rotis to make a wholesome, filling breakfast. One can of course omit or add spices they prefer or use in lesser quantities if serving kids. Using cilantro leaves is optional or it can be replaced by kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves to add a different flavor. Homemade or store bought paneer can be used. The following ingredients would be sufficient to fill 4 sandwiches or about 3 rotis. 

1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp. red chili powder or according to taste
1/8 tsp. cumin powder
1/8 tsp. coriander powder
1/4 tsp. garam masala
1 cup crumbled paneer (I used homemade paneer.)
1 tsp. finely minced cilantro to garnish

* Heat oil in a saute pan and add cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle and turn brown, add onion. Fry until the onion turns translucent and add tomato pieces. Cook until they turn mushy.
* Add salt, turmeric and all the spice powders to the pan. Stir and cook for few seconds.
* Next add the crumbled paneer, mix and cook for about a minute.
* Turn off the stove. garnish with cilantro and serve warm.

This goes to 
1. Blogging Marathon #49, with the theme "Cheese".
2. 'Kids Delight' event, with the theme 'Cheese'.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

 When I was planning for the "accompaniments" or the "complimentary starters" themed dishes for this week's BM, I automatically had to rule out the Indian restaurants since the only complimentary stuff they offer is papads or poppadums, the thin lentil wafers. I don't care much about them and in fact feel like gagging to eat them alone. My initial ideas were revolving around 'Olive Garden's salad and bread sticks and the breads at American restaurants. 
And so I had prepared in advance some bread sticks as planned but the various breads I had bookmarked earlier from here kept tempting me to try one more bread recipe for today. Many American restaurants are trying to do away with the complimentary bread basket as a cost cutting measure but I gather there are still plenty of places that offer good varieties of bread. I read somewhere that a restaurant offers hot, soft pretzels and that prompted me to try this recipe.
 As the name suggests these pretzels hot from the oven are generously buttered. They taste delicious with a soft and chewy texture and we enjoyed them thoroughly. We generally don't like the salt on pretzels and so I omitted it. 

Ingredients for the pretzel dough:
2 & 1/2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 & 1/4 tsp. rapid rise yeast 
7/8 to 1 cup water
Ingredients for the topping:
1 cup boiling water
2 tbsp. baking soda
Coarse / pretzel salt (optional)
3 tbsp. melted butter 

Dough Preparation:
* The dough can be prepared by hand or by using a mixer or a bread machine or food processor. Add all the dry ingredients in a bowl and beat until combined if using a mixer or preparing manually. Knead the dough for about five minutes, by hand or mixer, until it's soft and smooth. 
If using a bread machine, place the ingredients in the pan of the bread machine and program the the machine for dough / manual and start. Proceed through the kneading cycle and stop the machine.
* Flour the dough and place it in a bowl. Cover and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.
Prep work before baking:
* Prepare the topping at the final stages of the resting period. Combine boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is completely dissolved. Let it cool to lukewarm. Pour the mixture into a 9 inch square pan.
* Prepare the baking sheet by greasing or lining with parchment paper.
* Transfer the mixture onto a greased work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces of about 70 grams or 2.5 oz each. (I divided the mixture into 16 portions instead.) Allow the pieces to rest for about five minutes, uncovered.
* Preheat the oven to 475 deg F / 250 deg C
* Roll each piece of dough into a thin, long rope (about 28 inches or so) and twist each one into a pretzel. Place the pretzels in the pan with baking soda solution, working with four pretzels at a time. Spoon the water over their tops and leave them in the water for about 2 minutes. 
* Gently remove and place them on the prepared baking sheet. 
* Sprinkle lightly coarse / pretzel salt over the tops, if desired. allow them to rest, uncovered for 10 minutes.
* Bake them for about 8 to 9 minutes or until they are golden brown.
* Remove them from the oven and brush them thoroughly with melted butter, until you use up all the butter.
* Serve them warm or reheat them in the oven or a microwave.

* I used active dry yeast and so initially did the yeast proofing before the dough preparation. If using active dry yeast, add salt, sugar, yeast and water in a bowl. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, or until it foams. Add flour and prepare the dough as instructed. Allow it to rise it until the dough doubled in volume.
* The final dough should be on the softer side. Use the lesser amount water mentioned in the summer and the greater amount in winter.
* I didn't sprinkle any salt on pretzels as I don't personally prefer it.
* The baking soda "bath" is supposed to give the pretzels a nice golden brown color. I have baked earlier stuff involving 'baking soda bath' and I think why my pretzels are not uniformly browned is because either the quantity of baking soda water prepared
here was not enough or a smaller pan should have been used for the baking soda solution. A smaller pan would allow the pretzels to completely dip in the solution. 
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