Tales from the Kitchen

Homemade Pita breads!

So, one among million other things that I have wanted to cook is fresh Pita breads at home. And guess what…I made it yesterday. The entire process felt so magical especially for a beginner-level baker like me. Starting off with a simple yeast dough that puffs up like a balloon towards the end of the process was such a joy to watch with my side-kick(my son) who was equally excited and stood beside me as I cooked these on the stove. Its a very easy recipe which I found on youtube but I like to be adventurous at times so changed it a bit.

I have managed to post this recipe sooner than I thought(Thanks to Instagram). A few lovely women on Instagram appreciated me and wanted to know how I made it. Luckily, I also have pictures and short videos from yesterday… To tell you the truth, I always like to click pictures and videos for such recipes only because I can go back to refer when I am making it again. And as an added bonus, I get to use it for the blog when I want to!

SO here goes…

This recipe will make about 14-16 medium sized breads!

3 cups of all purpose flour or you can use whole wheat flour! ( I used 2 cups of AF and 1 cup wheat flour)

1/2 half cup fine semolina

1 tablespoon milk powder

1 tblspn instant yeast

1 Tspn sugar/ honey

1/2 tblspn salt

Some warm water

1/4th cup extra virgin olive oil and more for rubbing on the dough later

  1.  In a wide bowl, mix flour, semolina, salt and olive oil. In another small bowl, add little warm water(shouldn’t hurt your finger when you dip in) add yeast and sugar and dissolve well. Wait for a few minutes and you will see some foaming. Now add this to the dough. Now, I know you can add instant yeast directly to dry ingredients but I prefer doing it this way so I can be sure the yeast has activated. Feel free to add it directly to flour if you have worked with yeast previously.
  2.  Mix very well and make a nice dough by adding warm water. And at first its okay to add little extra water so you get nice sticky dough. Then take it off the bowl and knead knead knead for a good 15 minutes or so while adding drops of warm water every now and then. You will be pleasantly surprised to see a beautifully smooth dough as you keep kneading. When you get a nice bouncy feeling to the dough and a sore feeling to your arms, oil the bowl well and transfer the dough back to the bowl.​​ Also coat the surface of dough with oil.

    ​3. Cover and allow to rise for an hour or more.

    Once it’s risen well, punch the dough and take out all the air. So therapeutic I tell you!​

  3. Now divide dough into preferred sizes and dust some flour on the work surface or your regular roti board. Start rolling the balls into preferred shape round or oval. Roll it thicker than chapatis. Like a paratha maybe!
  4. Arrange each rolled out bread onto kitchen towels side by side. Cover and leave this to rise for another 30 mins. Might not rise too much but I read that this step helps with puffing up later while cooking. ​

  5. After 30 minutes or so, heat up a skillet, medium to low flame and cook each bread for about 40 secs in total.As you keep turning and cooking, you will see how beautifully it puffs up. Then take it out and place on clean kitchen towels. 
  6. Don’t stack immediately, wait for it to cool and then stack.
    Cover the stacked breads well and store in kitchen towels in room temperature or freeze them in freeze safe bags.

We love yoghurt and anything yoghurt based. And we are also partial to greek yoghurt. SO you can be sure we love Labneh..the strained yoghurt cheese that is just so so so good… When I finished making the breads, I started to crave for a good dip. I quickly took a cup of greek yoghurt onto a muslin cloth and allowed it strain for a couple of hours or so. But the longer you strain, the thicker and creamier it is.

Just before serving, I transferred it to a bowl and drizzled some extra virgin olive oil on top. You can add olives, fresh parsley, fresh oregano, za’tar spice on top of this. I didn’t have any of these in stock. But trust me this stuff is rich and delicious on its own. It is good on toast, good on top of herbed vegetables, or simply get sweeping with some warm homemade pitas like we did.

As we are always greedy and want lots of food, I also made pan fried falafels with whatever ingredients I had. Because, it is not the original recipe without parsley,  I will not be posting the recipe for falafels in this post. But there are a lot of websites and youtube videos to learn from.

And this is the final platter I put together for dinner

Hoummus- store bought, homemade labneh, homemade falafels and homemade pitas. For the salad, I Had a bag of mixed leaves. To a cup of that I added grated carrots, fresh cut cucumbers and cherry tomatoes drizzled with some olive oil and add a bit of French mustard. 

 

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Tiramisu

We are back in London after a rather long holiday in India. This week has been busy as we have had a lot of things to clear out and also do all the unpacking. We are almost done and slowly this change is starting to feel more normal. I even managed to whip up some dosa batter in between all the de-cluttering. Last night I was the tired mother who was sipping on a glass of Merlot and also trying to make dosas for the half pint who was happily sat on the kitchen counter to see his mum in action. Somehow, those few moments I shared with him while I served him and watched him eat made me feel oh so nostalgic. I was the little child in my mother’s kitchen who always sat on the counter and enjoyed having food off the stove while mom and I spoke random things. Yesterday, I saw myself sharing a slice of my childhood with Neil while he enjoyed his dinner just like the way I used to. This whole scene from last night made me feel something that pretty much sums up life for me. All I want to do is cook for the family with a bottle of wine perhaps….

It may only be appropriate to share one of my favourite recipes while I am talking about how much I love to cook. The recipe is only a matter of getting things in order and layering them up to form a Tiramisu. This is a non-alcoholic version only because I find the existing amount of coffee and cocoa is enough for me to go bonkers. So feel free to add a bit of rum to your coffee decoction if you are more grown-up than I am.

 

Ingredients

Cocoa powder to sprinkle the tiramisu

Coffee to wet the sponge fingers

Mascarpone -500 g

Eggs- 6 medium

Sugar -120 g

Finger sponge -it depends on the size of the box/tin u will use

 

This is the dish I like to use so it is easy to build a neat layer. The wider the better!

First prepare the coffee like you would normally do.( enough to soak the finger sponges , I usually fill a pasta plate) pour into a bowl and let it cool.

Whip the egg yolks with half the sugar to obtain a very light and creamy mixture.

Add the mascarpone to the mixture and work the whole thing with a whisk (or wooden spoon until creamy with no lumps, At this stage it should be very creamy

Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt, add the sugar (the remaining half), with a wooden spoon, add them gradually and gently into the mixture of mascarpone and egg yolks, so you now have the cream for the tiramisu.

Soak the sponge fingers one by one in the coffee and start to build your layers.

Cover the fingersponge soaked with a layer of mascarpone cream adjusting with a spoon.

Sprinkle the surface with cocoa powder. Go ahead with  the second layer of fingersponge, cream and cocoa. Also, if before you have them arranged vertically, then place them horizontally (and vice-versa).

Complete with plenty of cocoa powder to cover the surface of your Tiramisu and Store in refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Really simple yet healthy south Indian breakfast ideas!

I have to admit that ever since I started to cook on my own, I may have not given breakfasts much of an importance for a very long time.Thankfully, years ago, I realised I shouldn’t skip breakfast. But  after I became a mother, I realised I should only make it more healthier than other meals. And here I am with a quick roundup of some healthy Indian breakfast ideas. Although these recipes need a little bit of pre-prep the previous night, they are all family friendly recipes which makes it ideal for busy mornings.

  1. Brown rice Set dosa 

Ingredients: 

Brown rice – 1.5 cups , Idli Rice – 1/2 cup , Aval/Poha/Rice Flakes-White or red(I have used red)- 3/4 th cup, Urad dal-1/2 cup Fenugreek seeds– One teaspoon, Salt– to taste

Soak the brown rice and fenugreek seeds for a minimum of 4 hours. The rest of the ingredients can be soaked for an hour or so. Grind all together in a mixer/blender to a smooth batter. The batter should be slightly on the thicker side after grinding. Add salt and mix well. Leave to ferment overnight. Once fermented, if the batter looks very thick, you could add some water to adjust the consistency.The batter should be light and you should be able to pour it quite easily onto the tawa/pan. And try not to spread it too much like normal dosas. You should be able to see those little holes forming as soon as you pour a ladle of batter. And cook like normal dosa and serve with any side dish of your choice.

2. Samba Godhuma Rava idly/Wheat Idli/Lapsi Idli 

Ingredients :

Lapsi/Plain godhuma Rava/Wheat Rava/Samba Rava– 3 Cups, Urad dal– Just over one cup , Red rice flakes– A big spoonful, Salt– to taste

Soak Urad dal and Red rice flakes for an hour. Soak the Wheat rava for half hour. Grind the urad dal and red rice flaked to a smooth and fluffy batter and squeeze out as much water as you can from the wheat granules. Add half the quantity to the blender/grinder and grind til smooth. Add this ground wheat paste, rest of the whole wheat granules directly to the ground urad dal and red rice flakes. Add salt and mix well. Leave to ferment overnight. You will be able to make spongy idlies for breakfast. Serve with any side dish of your choice.

The reason why only half the wheat rava is ground and added is to get that coarse texture for idli. If you want, you can either add the soaked wheat rava directly to ground urad dal or you can just roughly grind and then add. The ground batter will look like this.

3. Ragi red Rice dosa with Moringa/Drumstick Leaves

Ingredients: 

Ragi flour/ finger millet flour– 2.5 cups , Red raw rice flour-1/2 cup, Urad dal– 1/2 cup, Fenugreek seeds-1 teaspoon , Salt– to taste

Moringa/Murungakeerai/Drumstick leaves– As preferred

Soak fenugreek seeds for a minimum of 2 hours. Soak Urad dal for atleast 20-30 minutes. Grind Urad dal and fenugreek to a smooth paste and mix in the flours and add salt. Mix well and leave to ferment overnight.

Just before you make the dosas, clean and wash the drumstick leaves and add them to the batter and make dosas as you would normally do.

4. Mung dal dosa /Mung beans Dosa

Ingredients: 

Green Mung beans/whole moong dal/Pachai Payaru– 2 cups, Idli rice or raw rice– 1/2 cup, salt to taste.

This dosa is also known as pesarettu although pesarettu is a little more prettier looking than my version.

Soak the dal and rice together overnight. Grind them together with salt to a smooth batter in the morning. This batter need not ferment. You can make dosas immediately. Optional ingredients to add to the batter are cumin seeds, shallots, green chillies and minced ginger. Serve with chutney of your choice.

5. Turmeric Idlis

Ingredients : 

To the normal rice idli batter, add a tablespoon of turmeric powder before you steam the idlies. Mix well and then pour it onto idli moulds. This is one of those simple ways to include more turmeric in your diet.

6. Jowar/Sorghum Dosa 

Ingredients : 

Sorghum/Jowar/Cholam flour– 2 cups, Idli rice or Raw rice – 1/2 cup, Fenugreek seeds– one teaspoon, Urad dal-1/2 cup Salt– to taste

Soak Idli rice, urad dal and fenugreek seeds for a minimum of two hours. Grind to a smooth batter and add the sorghum flour to the ground batter. Add salt. Mix well and add water if necessary to bring to a dosa batter consistency. Leave to ferment overnight. And make these dosas like your regular dosa and serve with side dish of your choice.

Smoothie series #4 Popeye smoothie

Quinoa, brown rice, wholegrain breads, millets, leafy salads, beets and fruits! Oh how I wish I only ate what I just said above. Someday I am hoping to eat these regularly. Until then, I will only keep liking pictures on Instagram and make some healthy smoothies occasionally. So here is the next one called the Popeye Smoothie! 

It has a good amount of spinach to keep you charged through the morning. I have been told most greens are best to have for breakfast but I hardly follow this rule because I am most of the time just plodding along to get the breakfast done rather than think about making it healthier. But I am getting there slowly and I will hopefully make many more super healthy breakfasts.

 

A handful of spinach – I used organic baby spinach 

One banana 

Milk 

Pistachios or any nuts of your choice 

Simply blend it all together and sprinkle any seeds of your choice or you may just drink it as such. This time I added a scoop of pistachio protein powder because the husband requested for it. And it was delicious anyhow! So feel free to mix and match. But spinach seems to go very well with bananas for some reason. 

From farm to plate(About my parents farm)

When I was little, I didn’t think I would ever learn to cook. I thought cooking was one of those menial tasks and it involved no amount of fun. Maybe because our mother never let us help her much. The best she wanted from us was that we helped her decide what to eat and that we finished what was served. But, as I got older and a little wiser if I may say so, I started to realise that there was more to cooking than merely chopping and mixing.

Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about where the tomatoes or spinach that you eat came from? No no, I am not that kind of a person who grows her own vegetables and eats only from her own garden. But I am the kind that likes to go pick stuff from the farm preferably or to the least from the market. I find it comforting. I am a little more independent here in London than in Chennai, so I end up buying way too much and often times from very expensive organic shops. I do this with a slight hope of avoiding those greasy takeaways that we do every now and then. Buying too many vegetables is one way of making sure that i almost never want to waste any of it and less of hearing that ” we have eaten out so much this week and we should be spending less bla bla” from the husband. But only the one who cooks can understand the emotions of another isn’t it??? So,When I do cook, I try to use the best possible ingredients.I don’t make what I made the day before or sometimes even a week before. I love food cooked with different coloured vegetables and a reasonable amount of flavour. Apart from trying to make it healthy,I do all of the above to earn that well deserved break from cooking. So when we eat out, I feel a little less guilty.

But here comes the best bit, I am actually very pleased to tell you that my parents own a small farm in Chennai which is a few miles away from our home. And ever so often we get some lovely greens and other vegetables delivered to our house. What a blessing!!! And every time my mother tells me on the phone that she cooked some really delicious stuff using our own farm fresh produce, I would feel so jealous. The last time while I visited home, I was lucky enough to have tasted lots of food made with vegetables from the farm. And needless to say, today I am a bit nostalgic and missing all the food and fun.

Here are some pictures of the produce from the farm which I clicked last year.

 

The Entire lot_MG_6979

The white long ones are Banana Stems which make for an amazing South Indian Style Kootu/Lentil coconut gravy.

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Raw Bananas, Guavas and Vazhapoo(Banana Stem flower)_MG_6981

Musmusukai Keerai(Mukia maderaspatana)

Usually served in the form of Kootu(Curry with lentils and coconut)

_MG_6982

Agathi keerai(Sesbania Grandiflora)

Usually served as Kootu or a dry stir fry with Toor dal and coconut

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Manathakkali Keerai (Solanum Nigrum)

Usually served as Kootu or a chutney

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Helpers around the farm and the house_MG_6993

The bunch of leaves below the Banana Stem flower is Murungai Keerai (Drumstick leaves). This is a very tasty one and usually cooked in Sambar or added to dosais and adais. 

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Banana stem flower (Best had as Kootu or a Vadai(Dumpling)_MG_6997

 

Agathi Poo (My mother made an amazing thokku(Pickle) with this flower and it was out of the world.  I will find a picture of this pickle and post it sometime soon. _MG_6998

 

The little black beauties in the picture above are fresh manathakkalis/black night shades/sunberry. These berries are sun dried and added to kara kuzhambu(a spicy tamarind based curry).

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I hope you enjoyed this post 🙂

 

Smoothie series #3 Papaya, Dates& Seed mix Smoothie

I am not going to lie by saying I was so busy and I couldn’t post any smoothie recipes after the first two. I have only been eating some proper finger licking south Indian breakfast all this while on most days because the mother was here. So, it was clearly a well thought through decision to only make healthy smoothies once a week when family visits you. And get pampered for the rest of the days. Now, the family is back to good ol’ Madras and the three of us are back to the grind. Which means, I will be trying very hard to eat healthy and end up getting stressed only to gobble up cheesy potato wedges with Jalapenos and almost half of the medium(sometimes large) pizza which the husband lovingly orders to cool me down. Oh well! So,while I am still in the mood for a smoothie for breakfast, here is the next one.


To make this you will need : 

Fresh Ripe papaya- roughly cut to one cup

Two pitted dates 

A sprinkle of sunflower seeds and any other seeds of your choice. 

Milk or yoghurt of your choice 

First crush the seeds in the blender and then add fruit and milk. Blend altogether once and enjoy. 

Smoothie Trails #1 Banana Flaxseeds and Vanilla

I am kickstarting a new series called the “Smoothie Trails” on the blog. This series will feature some( I am aiming for 5-10 atleast) easy and healthy smoothie recipes to start your day on the right note. This is my attempt in spreading the word on eating well. All of these recipe ideas will use simple ingredients but most importantly fresh ones. You can also easily tweak any ingredients to make it just the way you would like it. Let’s get started with the first recipe that uses everyone’s favourite Bananas.

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To make this smoothie : 

Banana- 1 medium sized ripe

Any Milk of your choice or Greek Yoghurt

Vanilla pods or extract

Flaxseed powder – A spoon

Granola bites or Oatmeal to give you more fiber.

Blend all ingredients except the flaxseed powder to a thick puree. And sprinkle some flaxseed powder on top and there you have it.

 

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Some television talk and a healthy recipe 😁

First of all, I am not a TV person. I don’t remember the last time I sat down on the couch to watch some tele on my own. Not because I am so busy but it is just not my thing. Pah! What a boring wife/friend do I make of myself!

My way of relaxing is to lie down and browse for recipes after I have had a glass of good wine. When it comes to a drama or a sitcom, I hardly have any patience to begin with. But there have been a few shows which I really loved watching. Downton Abbey will remain my most favourite ever. I also liked watching Gavin and Stacey, Only fools and Horses and some episodes of IT crowd. Okay, they are all British because I am a little biased towards the English when it comes to humour, cakes and manners.

We now find a little time to watch our favourite shows after the man-cub goes to bed, but the challenge now is choosing which one to watch. So, every time my husband and I decide to watch, we spend way too much time on choosing than actually watching. This is one of those things like “where do we eat out” dilemma. But there are always exceptions. So, we do manage to find shows that interest both of us such as the ones I said above. But 99 times of 100 , we are on opposite poles and choose what each other won’t enjoy. So, one such show that I watched recently which I knew he wouldn’t enjoy is an American TV show called Grace and Frankie. It was surprisingly a delightful watch. I am now moving onto Season 2 which was released earlier this month. This is available on Netflix if you want to watch too. I am not great at reviewing TV shows as I don’t watch a lot but all I can say is if you are looking for something rather warm yet funny, then you might give this a try.

But before you do that, you may also check out my recipe for a delicious side. Perfect for munching on while you Grace and Frankie.

Oven baked Sweet Potato fries:

Step 1 : Cut Sweet potatoes lengthwise. Put them in a food bag, add salt, paprika and Olive oil. Shake the bag to coat evenly.You could leave for about 20 minutes before you bake. (Might be a good idea to turn the oven on now for preheating)

Step 2 : Arrange them on a baking tray. Make sure you use a cooking spray or some sort of oil to avoid sticking. And another tip I learnt is to separate each of these sticks so they don’t stick together and become mushy.

Step 3: Bake in a preheated oven at 190-200 degree celsius until they start to look like fries 🙂

Serve on its own or with any sauce of your choice although my favourite is Sweet chilli.

A Mangooooeey fudge recipe.

Is your mother one of those generous souls who never knows to cook in small quantities? Mine for sure doesn’t know. The other day when we were on the phone chatting, my mother had told me she was busy all day as her dearest sister visited her after long. I knew she must have cooked a lot and spent the day gossiping and also exchanging recipes etc etc etc. My auntie is no less when it comes to cooking. She cooks well and cooks a lot of food each meal. These two ladies can happily spend their time watching tele, shopping and what not. Simply because they have a lot of house helpers and they can afford to be served each meal. So much so that I do feel very jealous at times. But despite all the help, they  choose to cook each meal only taking very little help from the maids. They find so much pleasure and happiness in cooking for others. Be it for the men of the house or for maids, the food is the same. And needless to say, the food is way too delicious when it is cooked with so much love. I have seen my mum make dosas after dosas for her maid and still does. I would’ve expected it the other way round, but such is the kind of love the family shows when it comes to serving food. I failed to understand this respect while I was younger, but I am ever so glad that I have realised it now. I may not cook enough to feed an army like they do, but whatever little I cook, I cook with love.

While we are on the theme of cooking with love and no negativity, I did manage to flop a lovely recipe this week. I tried to bake a cardamom cake and failed miserably. Not because I went in with anger, but because I was lacking sleep. That’s all!  But we all tasted it a little bit while it was warm, and fed the rest to the ducks this morning. Oh poor ducks, they must’ve cursed me later on for giving them such awful cakes. But just to compensate for that cake disaster and feel rather good about fixing our vintage refrigerator, I thought I should make an easy dessert that I was quite sure would be a hit with the boys because whats not to love about anything with mango in it. I have been wanting to make fudges for a while and this came about as a good chance. It was whipped in five minutes and cooked in seven minutes. But took overnight to set as a fudge. Yummy was my son’s response while he was licking my mangoo-eeey fingers.

image1

I thought I should share this very simple recipe on the blog and here it is

Mango puree- 1 cup or less (I used Alphonso)

Milk powder-3 cups

Double cream – 180-200ml

Sweetened condensed milk – According to your preference for sweetness

A pinch of saffron

Mix all the ingredients except mango puree. Do a taste check for sweetness.

Microwave for 3-4 minutes till it starts to bubble on the sides. Take it out and tip in the puree and mix well.

Microwave again for 3-4 minutes till it has bubbled well and looks like a thick paste.

At this stage, it should be still a bit flowy. Now, take a plate or a wide pan, grease with ghee or butter. Spread the cooked mixture evenly. Let it cool before you refrigerate for setting.

Beautiful looking easy peasy fudge is ready to be gobbled up.

mango blog 1

 

My inability to deal with helplessness and a quiche recipe

If you have been reading my blog, then you may have read a couple of posts on how much I miss my homeland.It looks like I am never going to get over this feeling. Well, there is so much to love about the place where you grew up and where you have such wonderful memories. So, when you have been taken away from where your heart belongs, how do you cope up with home-sickness? I make endless calls back home, I make food that smells so much like my home and I sometimes simply sit down and sob like a loopy little girl.

And when I do hear that any of the family member has been poorly, I find it so hard to be away. It may have only been a fever or some sort of a regular ache/ infection which has been checked with doctors and given assurance that he/she will be fine in a couple of days,but being thousands of miles away, I never know to stay calm. I may not shout out loud or panic but it would show all over my face.This feeling of being away and not being there to check on your lovely people often makes me want to hate my life at times. I want to admit that I still haven’t found a good way to deal with helplessness other than annoy my husband and make a few dozen calls to disturb everyone back home in such situations.

Sorry to have taken you down the gloomy train, I am leaving you with a very colourful recipe to cheer you up and I am sure you will forgive me for everything else.

quiche 2

This is one of the most easiest quiche/savoury pie you will ever make. If you call yourself a vegetarian but don’t mind eggs, then you may love this recipe a tad more because it is loaded with vegetables. You may want to add/omit any veggies of your choice.

Here is what you need :

If you don’t feel like making the base by yourself, then skip this bit and buy a ready-made tart case or savoury base.

For the pastry base

1.5 cups of plain flour

Half cup of cold butter

a pinch of salt

Ice cold water enough to make a firm dough

Dry beans for baking pastry initially

For the filling :

2 eggs

One cup of milk

Vegetables of your choice- finely chopped

I have used Sweet potato and mixed peppers for this recipe.

Butter to season the veggies with any herbs of your choice

Pastry Base :

Add salt to flour. Mix flour and butter till crumbly. Then gradually add cold water until you gather all the flour mixture to form a dough. Now, fold the dough and wrap in a foil or cling film and chill it in the fridge until you make your vegetable filling.Give it about 20 minutes atleast to chill.

It may now be a good idea to turn the oven on for pre-heating at 180 degree.

If using microwave, then follow instructions on the manual on how to turn the convection mode on your microwave and you can make delicious varieties of quiches.

Filling :

Heat a pan with some butter. Once melted, add the herbs. I used Italian seasoning dried herbs. Now add the vegetables and cook till soft. Add enough salt and pepper for the veggies. Switch off flame.

Take the eggs and beat well. Add it to the milk. Once the veggies have slightly cooled, pour the egg+milk into the veggies and give a good mix.

You can also add grated cheese at this point this to make it very rich and also use double cream instead of milk. 

Take the pastry out and roll it thinly and slightly bigger than the size of your pan on a floured surface. Now slowly tip the rolled out pastry onto the pan you are baking with. Trim the excess and do any sort of pattern with fork around the edges or simply press it down with your hand. Now bake this pastry with some beans for ten minutes in the preheated oven. After ten minutes, remove the beans and pour the vegetable+milk/egg  filling you prepared and spread evenly and gently. Put it back in the oven and bake till you see a beautiful brown crust around the edges of the pastry and a well set egg vegetable mix. It took me about 20 minutes in my age old oven.

quiche 3

Serve it warm with salad or just on its own for a nice sunny day lunch.