Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Masal Vadai

Festivals and food go hand in hand in any culture. Our household is no different. I cook dishes that are specific for the festival and often cooked fare includes a payasam and a vadai. While certain dishes are made as offering on specific occasions, payasam and vadai are made almost on every occasion. In many households feast is synonymous to a variety of dishes that without fail will include the two. I make the softer textures ulundu vadai/medhu vadai and the paruppu vadai which is otherwise known as aama vadai in Southern India.
Many restaurants include the medhu vadai in their breakfast menu along side fluffy idlies, the paruppu vadai is most likely a snack. Most eateries, even pushcart ones, on the roadside might serve the paruppu vadai with addends like onions and fennel seeds which then becomes masala vadai. Onions are avoided on festivals in food; thus, masal vadai is an occasional snack that is consumed as is without any need for accompaniments like chutneys or sauces.
I use the split yellow  peas, known as pattani paruppu in Tamil for this along with the usual channa dhal/ bengal gram when I can find this dhal. These peas have a slight bitter taste and are harder in texture. It gives an extra crunch to the vadai. The crunch and the taste of deep fried onions and extra spices makes this a popular snack.
I stumbled upon this dhal quite accidentally. Few years ago, I found it in the store and mistaking it for another dhal, picked a pack up, only to find it would not cook to desired softness and the taste was a put off. To use up the purchase, I looked up cookbooks and found that they yield a good texture to vadais. I do not find it very often here, when I did, I picked up a packet, promising my husband that he will have masal vadai.

Masal Vadai

Makes 20 vadais

1 cup Split yellow peas/ pattani paruppu/ muttar dhal
1 cup Bengal gram/ kadalai paruppu/ channa dhal
2 large onions sliced fine
10 -12 dry red chillies
6 green chillies
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
A fistful curry leaves chopped
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

Wash both the lentils separately until clean. Soak them separately for an hour.
While they are soaking, chop the onions and the fresh leaves.
Once the lentils are soaked enough, drain the water completely.
Grind them along with chillies and salt to a coarse, dough like consistency adding as little water as possible. The resultant dough should be such that you are able to gather in a ball and flatten without being runny.

To the dough add the onions, chopped leaves and fennel seeds. Mix well.
Divide the dough in small portions.
Heat oil in a heavy pan.
When the oil has attained optimum heat, slightly wet your palms and roll one portion of dough in a slightly thick circular disc and slide it in the oil.
Flatten some more, as many as the pan can fry without crowding them.
Deep fry initially until half done. Remove from the oil with a slotted ladle and work on the rest of the dough.
Once all of the dough has been used up and are partly done, drop the vadais back in the oil in batches and fry further until they are crisp on the outside. The double frying gives it the desired crispness.

Enjoy them as snack along with tea and coffee. You may opt to serve with a chutney though it is not required. .

Friday, December 18, 2015

Rawa Kesari

How often I quickly make rawa kesari for neivedhyams and yet not taken a photograph so I can share? This was until I was given a photography assignment to try and replicate a photo from Pinterest. I had seen some orange ice cream picture and loved the vibrant colour on the mild blue background. I wanted to give that a try.
I had given up ice cream some years ago and I did not also find the right oranges, even to make just for a photograph. Still, I wanted some picture nearly as seen there. Then it was on a Friday that I made rawa kesari for offering with prayers. I did not add any orange/ yellow food colouring that might have given a nice orange colour. Instead since I used saffron, the colour was somewhat mild and mostly yellow. Yet I wanted to use it for the photograph and tried.
I have earlier posted this rawa badam burfi. We had liked the combination of almonds and semolina then. I had on hand also almond meal and decided to substitute part of rawa with powdered almonds. The result was a flavoursome, rich sweet treat.

Rawa Kesari with Almonds

Serves 8 -10
1/2 cup semolina / rawa
1/2 cup powdered almonds
1/4 cup milk
1-1/4 cup sugar (I like it sweet and thus the quantity of sugar may seem more)
1/3 to 1/2 cups ghee
1 tablespoon broken cashews for garnish
Few strands of saffrom mixed in 1 tablespoon milk

Heat a tablespoon ghee in a pan, add broken cashews and toast them until a fine golden colour. Transfer to a dish and keep aside.
Add saffron strands in warm milk.
In the same pan heat about 1/8th of a cup of the ghee and on medium heat toss the almond powder until it gives away an aroma.Transfer to a wide plate and keep aside.
Reserve a portion of the rest of the ghee for later and heat about 1/4 cup. Add the rawa and fry it until golden and aromatic.
Transfer to a dish.
Use the same pan; Add a cup of water to the milk and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest and stir in the rawa first not allowing lumps to form. Similarly add the almond powder quickly. Cook them both on low fire stirring regularly until they have cooked well.
Add the saffron infused milk and mix it in.

Once the rawa has cooked, drop the sugar and stir vigorously. The sugar will dissolve and the mix will become a semi liquid. Keep stirring until they have blended and the mixture is thickening.
Add the rest of the ghee in small increments while cooking.
Add the cashews and mix.
Switch off the heat when the kesari is still a bit loose. It will thicken on cooling.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Krendl - Russian/ Ukranian Fruit Filled Bread - We Knead to Bake -34

The year 2015 seems to have gone in a flash and soon we will be bidding goodbye and ushering a new year in. It was a year was a mixed bag for me and the family. While there were personal loses and eventful holidays, the shock of seeing nature at her worst gave me more sadness. My home state seem to have taken the wrath at its fullest. The loss of life and devastation has left many of us numb. We can only hope and pray for all those who have suffered. I hope it will not be a year that will be remembered only with these nightmarish memories.
That said, December is dotted with many happy occasions among my friends and family. Though we do not observe Christmas in its spirit, we enjoy the season that brings joy of giving. I attempt to bake, keeping up with tradition. It is not much to boast about, I must confess.
Aparna tries her best to get us, the We Knead to Bake group friends, to bake some fabulous breads to mark special festivals. This Christmas we are baking a very festive bread, the Ukranian Fruit Bread called Krendl. This bread has the texture of bread and tastes like fruit cake was the comment my husband had to suggest when tasted the same.
Aparna shares the following information on these breads:

"The Krendel is a Russian/ Ukrainian Christmas bread shaped like a large pretzel and  filled with a mixture of fresh apples and dried fruits that is lightly covered with a sugar glaze or a dusting of icing sugar. The Krendl is also served on birthdays or what were more important and called name days.

In Russian orthodox tradition, the name day is an important occasion and often celebrated instead of a birthday. The name day, considered a holy day, is the feast day of the saint after whom a person is named and it is observed with a visit to the church and ends with a celebration party. The highlight is always the serving of the pretzel shaped, fruit filled Krendl. At Christmas time the Krendl celebrates the birth of Jesus.

Krendel is thought to be of German origin and the name is supposedly a corruption of the German Kringle which is a cookie. The Krendl, like a lot of European celebratory yeasted breads is made from enriched dough. The filling is typically fresh apples and dried fruit like apricots and prunes cooked to a jam like consistency with some spice."
The following recipe uses figs, prunes and apricots along with apples. I had not found dried figs this season though I always have found them in the dry fruits aisle in my local store. I had cranberries from a friend and hence used them, just as Aparna had done.
The list of ingredients, the procedure may be seemingly elaborate. But with a little planning, it can be done fairly easy. I am glad that I chose to make the glaze. The tart taste of the lemon rind adds more flavour. 

Krendel (Russian/ Ukrainian Fruit Filled Bread)
Adapted from http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/russian-krendl-bread

Makes about 20 slices.

For the Dough:
2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
50gram butter, softened
1 egg ( I have substituted with 1 tablespoon extra cream plus 1/4 cup milk)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3/4 to 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Filling:
1 cup apple juice
2 large apples, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped dried figs (optional) ( I added dried cranberries)
1/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots
2/3 cup chopped prunes
15 gram (1tbsp) butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon chai masala (optional)

For Spreading Over the Dough:
25gram butter, soft at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

For the Glaze*:
8 gram (1/2 tbsp) butter
1/2 tablespoon hot water
3/4 to 1 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp finely grated lemon rind/ peel

*If you are not interested in the glaze, you might just dust the top of the bread with icing sugar

1/4 cup sliced almonds for garnishing

In a small bowl mix honey lukewarm milk and the instant yeast. Allow the yeast to proof.
In a large bowl or in that of your processor, place softened butter, vanilla, eggs or the substitutes, cream, salt, the yeast mixture and 1-1/2 cups of flour. Whisk until they combine well. Add the rest of the flour (of the 2-3/4 cups) and knead to a smooth soft yet sticky dough. Add just as much flour required to obtain a smooth, elastic dough which is a bit sticky.
Turn it on to a dusted work surface and knead for a further 6 to 8 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic. Roll it in a ball and place it in a slightly oil smeared bowl, turning the dough to coat with oil. Cover and let the dough rise and double in volume. This may take an hour and a half to some more minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the filling.
In a wide sauce pan, add all the ingredients except the chai masala. Heat them to a boil and cook on reduced heat until they come to a jam consistency. Add the chai masala, mix and turn off the heat. Allow this filling to cool completely.

Take the risen dough, deflate gently. Roll the dough in a rough large rectangle.
Spread the softened butter on the surface leaving about an inch along the edges of all the sides.
Mix sugar and cinnamon powder and smear well over the butter spread dough.
Spread the cooled filling over this.
Roll the dough in a Swiss roll like roll from the long side of the rectangle. Pinch the seam to seal well and the sides as well.
Shape the rolled dough in a large pretzel shape.
Place it on a greased baking sheet/ tray.
Loosely cover and leave it to puff up well for 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes on a pre heated 180 degrees C/350 degrees F oven until golden on top.

To prepare the glaze, mix the ingredients and whisk in a lump free solution. Add little more hot water as necessary. Pour over the bread, garnish with toasted sliced almonds and allow it to cool.
Cut in desired slices and enjoy.
We are all posting this bread at earlier dates than our usual the 24th of the month for our readers who want to try and enjoy.
Please check Aparna's post here to see what other members ave shared.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Beetroot and Roasted Tomato Soup

I had signed up for the 30 Days to Better Photos course conducted by Learn Food Photography Blog. For the duration of the course, we were given assignments on various aspects of food photography. It was required that we pay attention to the food we were to photograph, think about showcasing it as we visualise the food and so on. I had wanted to make a soup and photograph for one such exercise.
Earlier I had seen a few images of  beetroot soup on pinterest and wanted to have a go at the soup for it looked so colourful with nicely set up backgrounds in all of those photographs. I had also read somewhere that to give a good deep colour to your tomato soup all you need to do is add a little beetroot to the tomatoes. Now, if such a colour was possible, I wanted a more pink looking soup; thus I decided to make beetroot soup and add tomatoes to it for an extra tang. Now, if only I can roast those tomatoes with some herbs, would it not be a better idea, I thought and executed the same.
The result was a nice pink soup where the sweet of beets were balanced with the slightly sour tasting tomatoes and a hint of herbs in it.
In one of those many recipes I looked up, there was one which had some cheese added to the soup. While I do not relish cheese so much, I still wanted to give it a try. I only had some paneer/cottage cheese cubes on hand and thus used them. It was a good addition as it gave an added ingredinet soft to bite and chew as you sipped the soup.
Where I live the only seasons that change are summer, hotter summer and downpours that can open the skies up. So I have to make soup whenever I feel like as the weather is not going to change and throw some chillness to enjoy a warm soup.

Beetroot and Roasted Tomato Soup

Serves two

3 medium large beetroots/ about 400 grams
5 large and plump tomatoes
1/2 of a whole garlic (about 5 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs of choice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 medium onion
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons olive oil for rubbing over tomatoes
350 - 400 millilitres of water or stock if you can make
Salt to taste
6-8 cubes of paneer/ cottage cheese

Peel the beetroot and cut  them in small cubes.
Crush the garlic.
Halve the tomatoes and fill the crushed garlic and the herbs in these.
Rub the 2 teaspoons olive oil around the tomatoes, place them in a baking tray. Oven roast them in a pre heated 200 degrees C oven for half an hour.

Slice the onion thinly.

Place a pan on the stove, add the oil and toss the sliced onion until they are slightly transparent.
Add the beetroot and the water or stock. Cover and cook until the beetroots are tender.
Once the tomatoes are roasted, cool them and remove the skin.
Add the tomatoes to the cooking vegetables and cook for a further five minutes.adjust salt and the black pepper to taste.
Switch the heat off. Allow to cool and puree in a blender until smooth.
Adjust the level of liquid by adding some more water if necessary and pour it back into the pan. return the pan to the heat and cook until the desired consistency of soup is obtained.

Drop the cottage cheese cubes while the soup is thickening so they absorb the flavours and become tender.
Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spiced Pumpkin Bread Rolls for Thanksgiving - We Knead to Bake 33

I have not been writing or doing any blog reading during the past month. There were other commitments outside of this small space that kept me away. I hope to get over being irregular and get back to blog more regularly. I fall into the trap of my own laziness and keep going off. Call it, if you may, a writer's block or by any other, I sit keeping the page open and stare at the blank template, not knowing where to begin. I hope this post will be a start of getting back to routine, even if only slowly.
One of the members of the We Knead to Bake group, Ms. Mayuri Patel found this interesting bread and highlighted a link on our group. By then Aparna had chosen this bread for thanks giving season and hence we shall bake it this November.
These spiced rolls are not only shaped as tiny pumpkins but also have the real vegetable added to the recipe. These are slightly sweet, very soft and are very easy to make. They look gorgeous in the bread basket during this festive season.
I made the pumpkin puree at home. you might use store available ready made puree too. I shall add the recipe for making the puree also.
I share here the recipe as given by Aparna for both the rolls and the puree. There are other recipes found to make the puree, but I found following Aparna's recipe easier. I have as is usual with me, baked with reduced proportions to get five rolls in all. This following recipe, however, makes 8 to 10 small size rolls.

Spiced Pumpkin Rolls for Thanksgiving

(Adapted from Beyond Kimchee - http://www.beyondkimchee.com/pumpkin-dinner-rolls/ )

Makes 8 - 10 small rolls 
1/3 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons honey (or 1/4 -1/3 cup sugar if you like sweeter rolls)
2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
40 grams butter melted
1 egg (I left the egg out, did not substitute also)
1 teaspoon salt
21/2 to 23/4 cups all purpose flour
1/ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered dry ginger
1/2 teaspoon all spice
5-6 pecans cut in 3 vertical portions (or any that will pass of as a stem; I used dates seeds)
Glaze with melted butter or honey mixed with warm water.

To make pumpkin puree:
Remove the peel of pumpkin, cut and remove the core with seeds and membrane.
Cut small pieces and cook them until soft.

Cool and blend in a puree in a blender.
This can be used in a variety of dishes.
Store in a clean container in the refrigerator until you want to use.

For the bread rolls:
Place warm milk, honey and yeast in a bowl. Allow the yeast to proof. This step is not a must for instant yeast. but it will help to see if the yeast is active.
You may knead the dough by hand or use a processor.
Place flour in a large bowl/ that of your processor.
Add salt and spice powders and mix them.
Add the yeast mixture, pumpkin puree, melted butter and egg (if you are using). Knead until a smooth and elastic dough that is somewhat sticky is achieved.
The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Add little ore flour or liquid to get this consistency.
turn the dough on to a flour dusted work surface and knead for a couple more minutes, roll in a ball shape and place in an oil smeared bowl, turning the dough in oil to coat all over.
Cover and keep the dough aside for an hour to an hour and a half allowing it to double in volume.
Turn the risen dough on the work surface, gently deflate it and divide in eight or ten small portions. if you want larger rolls, divide in six. Roll each portion in a ball.

Flatten slightly and using a sharp knife make eight diagonal slits in the dough to give it a flower with open petals shape. This will make a cute pumpkin shape when the dough gets the second rise.
In the centre of the flower pattern, use the back of a wooden spoon or tip of your finger, lightly dipped in oil to avoid sticking, and make a slightly deep dent. This will hold the pecan 'stem' when baked.

Place the shaped dough on a parchment lined or lightly oiled baking tray.
Repeat this with the rest of the dough portions.
Brush with some milk.
Loosely cover and allow the rolls to puff up.
Bake in a pre-heated 180 degrees C/ 350 degrees F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and give a glaze.
Place the cut vertical pecan stem in the centre.

You may use, celery stalks, stems of small bell peppers or any of your choice.
Serve these very cute pumpkin rolls for thanksgiving.
Please head over to Aparna's post here to check other members' posts too.