Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Potato Sesame Toast (Instant)

Having grown up in India, it is not rare for us to crave street-side food now and then. This was one such day. But I did not want to spend a lot of time making paav bhaji or ragda pattice or chutneys. Neither did I want to fry anything. I needed something super quick!
While digging through my pantry, I saw a box of instant mashed potatoes. I thought, why not try to re-create something street-food-like out of this! I could just adjust the water content to make it thicker. And then when I started thinking about potato snacks, I thought about 'Masala Toast'! Safest option where the consistency of the mixture prepared would not really make or break the dish.
Then just 10 mins later when the entire mixture was ready, I decided to beautify it with some toasty sesame seeds on top. And they were as cute and as tasty as they can be!

This dish makes a great party starter, especially if you have kids attenting it. It makes a quick breakfast dish or something awesome to indulge with tea or coffee in the evening. We even enjoy these as a full meal!

Hope you enjoy this super quick dish as much as we did!

Level: Easy
Serves: 12 discs

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1.5 cups instant mashed potato powder/flakes
0.75 cups water
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 pinches asafoetida
5 to 6 curry leaves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder or as per taste
3/4 tsp ginger garlic paste
3/4 tsp chaat masala
4 to 5 tsp fresh coriander leaves
2 tblsp sesame seeds
Salt to taste
Cheese, optional
Red chilli flakes, optional

Step 1 - In a small pot, heat 2 tblsp oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafoetida and the curry leaves. Saute for a few seconds.

Step 2 - Add turmeric powder. Stir and immediately add the onions. Do not let the turmeric burn. Saute till the onions turn light brown. Add the ginger garlic paste. Saute for 2 to 3 mins till you get rid of the raw smell of ginger and garlic.

Step 3 - Add the chopped tomatoes and red chilly powder. Saute for 2 mins. Add salt. Saute for 2 more mins till the tomatoes are soft and almost mushed up.

Step 4 - Add the mashed potato powder or flakes. Mix well. Let the onion, tomato mixture coat the flakes. This should take just a minute. Add water slowly. Stirring continuously.

Step 5 - Sprinkle the chaat masala and coriander leaves. Stir for a few seconds. Let this mixture cool.

Step 6 - Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Take a small pan. Add the sesame seeds and dry roast them till they slightly change color. Keep aside.

Step 7 - Separate the english muffins into 2 discs. Smear the potato mixture on top. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top. Slightly press the sesame seeds into the potato. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 mins, till the base is crispy brown. Sprinkle some cheese and red chilly flakes on top if you would enjoy that.

Serve hot with some ketchup or chutneys if you like!

You get English Muffins in the bread section in your supermarket. You may also find them in the cooler section, where they sell yogurt and butter.
But if you don't get hold of some, any kind of bread would work.

You will get the mashed potato flakes or powder in the aisle where you get boxed pancake or waffle mix.
It does not matter if you get hold of flakes or powder. You will anyway end up with a mashed mixture.
Every brand of mashed potato flakes needs a different quantity of water. So you might need to adjust the water a little. Keep adding it slowly, so you have control on how soft or thick you need your mixture to be.

Once I realized the convenience of the instant mashed potato flakes, I tried it for making potato bhaji for my dosas, to increase the quantity of my paav bhaji, when I had unexpected guests and also to make dabeli. It worked well on all three counts. YEY!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sabudana Khichdi (Spicy Tapioca)

Sabudana Khichdi is a favorite Maharashtrian breakfast dish. It is generally made while fasting on 'Sankashti Chaturthi'.
'Sankashti Chaturthi' is the 4th day of the waning lunar phase after full moon. If this Chaturthi falls on a Tuesday it is called 'Angaraki Chaturthi'. On this day, devotees observe strict fast. They break their fast at night after having the auspicious sighting of the moon preceeded by prayers to Lord Ganpati. Devotees believe their wishes would be fulfilled if they pray on this day. Also 'Sankashti' means deliverance during troubled times.

Getting back to the awesomeness..
This dish has suffered a great deal of bad publicity! Every generation has stories of how they messed up this dish when they were younger. I sincerely hope this post, will give your more confidence in preparing this delicacy.
I believe there are 2 most important steps in this preparation, which need special attention.
First and the most critical part is the soaking process. This is what makes or breaks this dish.
Second, is the quantity of oil used in this dish, which decides if this dish will clump up into a huge mass and get chewy or be perfectly soft and delicious!

Now with these 2 super handy tips, let us get making some Sabudana Khichdi

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 to 6 people

2 cups sabudana (small white tapioca pearls)
1 medium potato, chopped
2.5 tblsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 pinches asafoetida
3 - 4 green chillies, finely chopped OR1.5 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 cup roasted crushed peanuts
8 - 10 curry leaves
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
5 tblsp coriander leaves, finely chopped

Step 1 - Take the sabudana in a large bowl. Wash it under running water. Handle gently while washing. Do not rub the sabudana roughly. This might destroy the pearls. Soak them till the water is 1/4 inch above the sabudana. That is all. Cover the vessel and keep aside for 4 to 5 hrs.

Step 2 - Lightly fluff the sabudana which will be stuck to each other with a fork to separate all the pearls. Add the roasted crushed peanuts, salt, sugar and coriander leaves. Add the red chilly powder if you plan to use it instead of the green chillies. Mix well with a spoon. Taste a few of the pearls and adjust the salt as per your preference. This is how your khichdi will finally look. So adjust the peanuts and coriander too, if you think you would enjoy some more. Keep aside.

Step 3 - In a large wok, heat the 2.5 tblsp oil on a medium high flame. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. When they dance around and turn brown, add the asafoetida, curry leaves and green chillies. Stir for a few seconds till the green chillies slightly brown at the corners.

Step 4 - Add the potatoes and sprinkle 2 pinches of salt over them. (Remember we have added salt to the sabudana mixture in Step 2. So no not over do the salt here.). Cover and cook till the potatoes are almost done. Stir occassionally.

Step 5 - Add the sabudana mixture from Step 2. Mix well for a good 4 to 5 mins. Reduce heat to medium. Cover the wok with a lid and let it cook for 3 to 4 mins. Stir occassionally.

We are done!

Serve hot with some yogurt. As a kid, I used to have it sprinkled with some sugar on top. I know..WEIRD!
Sabudana Khichdi goes well with a pipping hot cup of Indian Tea by it's side.


How do I roast peanuts?
Take a wide pan, heat it on medium flame. Add the raw peanuts. Stir it continuously till the peanuts turn brownish. Do not roast them on a high flame as this might burn the peanuts. Cool this down and roughly grind them in a blender till they are crushed.
Sometime, I enjoy large pieces of peanuts in my khichdi, so I just pop the roasted cooled peanuts in a zip lock bag and hit them or roll them with a rolling pin.
(And before you ask, I do not de-skin the peanuts once they cool. Too much mess and once they are all ground, it really doesn't matter.)

If while cooking, you notice that the sabudana seems too dry, sprinkle or spray a little water on it and continue cooking. Do not over do this, you don't want your khichdi to clump up.

Once you soak your sabudana, it might seem like the water was absorbed quickly and your sabudana looks too dry. Hold yourself back. Do not be tempted to add more water. Excess water makes the khichdi chewy.

Happy cooking everyone!

Submitting this recipe to the Bon Vivant Moments #3 on Sumee's Culinary Bites.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baklava Muffins

Baklava though tempting, is not something I see myself make in the near future with weight management forever on my agenda!
I did notice that inspite of it's exotic looks, Baklava is really simple to make.
The only thing I know is that we don't need a tray of this decadent dessert sitting in our refrigerator seductively staring down at us all the time. And knowing us, we will cave almost everytime!
So I dug and dug for Baklava siblings to enjoy this dessert on those special occasions or when my dinner themes were Mediterranean or just for brunch.
To tell you the truth, you don't really need a special occassion to make these muffins of joy! They are simple, quick and awesome!

These muffins have a light muffin texture and a nutty top or inside. They have a characteristic walnut and honey flavor with a hint of cinnamon in the background. By themselves, they are not as sweet, but if you eat them the way you are supposed to - with some warm honey, it tastes perfect! I will definitely try these again really soon.

Now, you can add the walnut-cinnamon filling in the middle or on top of the muffins. I personally sprinkled it a little in between the batter while assembling and a lot on top, as I loved how roasted and caramel like the topping got when these were all baked. And the aroma that spread in the kitchen while these were baking...was pure bliss!

Let us get to the baking now..

Level: Simple
Serves: 12 muffins
Source: Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'

(honey soaked muffins)

For the filling:
1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sugar
1.5 tsp cinnamon powder
3 tblsp butter (melted)

For the muffins:
1 cup + 7 tblsp plain flour (yes..that is how she measures it)
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tblsp butter (melted)
1 cup + 2 tblsp buttermilk

For the topping:
1/2 cup honey (I used 1/8th cup. That was all the sweetness we needed)

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 400 Deg F. Place your muffin liners in your muffin pan and spray them lightly with some nonstick spray.

Step 2 - Let us make the filling. In a bowl, add all the filling ingredients together (chopped walnuts, sugar, cinnamon powder and butter). Mix well. Keep aside.

Step 3 - In a large bowl, take the plain flour, baking powder and baking soda together. Mix it well with a spoon. Make a well in the center to pour in the liquid ingredients. Keep aside.

Step 4 - In another medium bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter and buttermilk. Whisk it till it all incorporates together and forms a creamy, liquidy mixture.

Step 5 - Pour this mixture into the well formed in the dry ingredients in Step 3. Mix lightly and gently with a spatula or a spoon remembering to keep it bumpy rather than smooth. Do not get your electrical appliances out for this. I cannot stress enough on how gentle you need to be here. Too much handling of the batter will result in heavy muffins.

Step 6 - Now let us get assembling. Fill in each muffin cup 1/3rd full with the batter. If your batter is too thick, spread it around so that it covers the base of the muffin cups completely. Sprinkle a little filling mixture from Step 2. Cover this with the remaining muffin batter till the muffin cups are 3/4th full. Do not overfill the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining filling on top of the muffin batter. Lick those cinnamonny fingers! ummmm...

Step 7 - Bake these in your preheated oven for 15 mins, by which time they should be golden-brown and ready. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out without any liquid batter on it.

Step 8 - Take the honey in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 10 - 15 seconds. Stir the honey well. This should make the honey runny (that just rhymed!).

Serve warm with some warm honey over it. The warmth in the muffins, soaks in all the sweetness from the honey! DIVINE!

If I want to enjoy these at a later time I let the muffins cool down, put them in a box and store them in the refrigerator. When it is time to eat, I just pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds and serve. I keep the bowl of warm honey on the table, so people can adjust the sweetness of these muffins as per their own desired sweetness levels.

By now, you have likely heard that a diet rich in certain types of fish helps ward off heart attacks and strokes. But if you can't stand the thought of eating fish - try WALNUTS instead!
A new study suggests that walnuts have a similar beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation marker that is strongly associated with atherosclerosis and heart diseases.
A recommended serving of walnuts is 1 ounce, which equates to 1/4 cup or 12 - 14 walnut halves.