Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lapsi Biryani (Cracked Wheat Biryani)

Inspite of rice being very dear to many Indian hearts, this is one recipe that you are very likely to enjoy instead of rice. Personally, this is my favorite healthy alternative to Basmati rice.
'Cracked wheat' has a soft texture when cooked and also has an interesting "nutty" flavor. To make cracked wheat -raw, whole wheat kernels are crushed down into smaller bits. By including this outer portion of the wheat - bran and germ, cracked wheat comes along with even more benefits than whole grain.
Being naturally low in fat and absolutely free of saturated fats, cholesterol and trans fat, this food is also a great way to help maintain a consistent weight loss regimen.

So let me share this wonderful Lapsi Biryani recipe with all of you and help you introduce whole grains in a delicious way into your diets.

Serves: 5 to 6 people
Level: Easy
Adapted from: Amhi Sare Khavaiyye (Cookery Show)

1.5 cups cracked wheat/daliya/lapsi
3 cups water
2 tblsp oil
1 tblsp butter
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 green cardamoms
3 cloves
3 black peppers
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 tblsp heaped biryani masala (I used Shan Bombay Biryani Masala)
4 tblsp yogurt, lightly beaten
1 tsp broken cashewnuts (optional)
2 tsp slivered almonds (optional)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups assorted veggies
(I used cauliflower, peas, corn, green beans, carrots)
1/2 cup paneer, grated/cubed (Indian cottage cheese)
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - In a pressure cooker pan, heat 2 tblsp oil. Add the cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves, black peppers, bay leaf and cumin seeds. Saute for a few seconds.

Step 2 - Add the onions and saute till they turn light brown. Add turmeric powder, red chilly powder, ginger garlic paste and biryani masala. Stir well. Add the butter. Stir again. Add a few tblsps of water if you think the spices are sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Add the beaten yogurt and the cashewnuts and almonds if you plan to use them. Stir well.

Step 3 - Add the lapsi/cracked wheat and mix everything well. Add the assorted veggies, potatoes and salt. Saute for a good 6 - 7 mins. Add the water and stir well. Adjust the salt and red chilly powder. Let the water come to a boil. Pressure cook for 2 whistles or till the cracked wheat is completely cooked. Generally the time taken is the same as you need for cooking rice.

Step 4 - Add paneer into the cooked biryani and lightly mix everything together.

Decorate with coriander, some almonds and grated paneer and serve hot with some raita.

Need a few more reasons to include cracked wheat into your diet?
-Cracked wheat is packed with dietary fiber which helps to maintain your entire digestive track on the whole.
-With high levels of iron, magnesium, Vitamin E and B and even some antioxidants to boot, cracked wheat can help prevent fatigue and fend off stress as well as preventing anemia and low blood iron. When put up against the much more processed white rice, it is clear which is the champion for overall nutrition.

Source: Read some more on cracked wheat here!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Instant Oats Lapsi Idlis (Oats & Cracked Wheat Idlis)

Oatmeal is thought to be one of the few foods that can actually help lower cholesterol. This is because oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which is thought to decrease the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the intestines. Oats gain part of their distinctive flavor from the roasting process that they undergo after being harvested and cleaned. Although oats are then hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and germ allowing them to retain a concentrated source of their fiber and nutrients.
Cracked wheat is made by cutting or crushing whole raw wheat berries (kernels) into small pieces. It has all the benefits of wheat flour and since it contains the outer bran and germ of the wheat, it provides some additional benefits as well.

Inspite of understanding the importance of these super grains, Indian cuisine rarely gets them included in our diets. Oats are quite restricted to porridge that you have for breakfast which is not really enjoyed by most. It is just about gulping it down for the day as it helps lower cholesterol. Let me help you include some of these super grains in your diet.
Let us kick off with - Oats Cracked Wheat Idlis. Now don't expect these idlis to mimic the taste of regular rice idlis, mostly because they are not! But trust me, they are a great snack and just like our regular idlis they go really well with piping hot sambar and chutneys. No fermentation time required is always a huge bonus. You can make these anytime you feel like having some.

Serves: 20 medium idlis
Level: Easy
Source: Instant Oats Idlis - Sharmis Passion

1 cup instant oats (I used Quaker)
1/2 cup cracked wheat (daliya/lapsi)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 medium carrot, grated
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 green chillies, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp asafoetida
4 tsp coriander leaves
1/2 tsp baking soda
Water as required
Oil spray (to grease the idli plates)

Step 1 - Dry roast the instant oats till they let out a nutty aroma and slightly turn brownish. This should take around 3-4 mins only. Cool and grind. Dry roast the cracked wheat for 4 -5 mins. Set aside.

Step 2 - In a pan, heat 2 teaspoon of oil. Add mustard seeds, let them pop. Add the asafoetida, green chillies and grated carrots. Saute for 3 - 4 mins till the carrots get slightly soft. Add the coriander leaves. Mix well. Keep aside to cool. We do not want to cook down the carrots a lot as they will be steaming with out batter soon.

Step 3 - In a large mixing bowl, combine the roasted ground oats, the roasted cracked wheat, yogurt, sauteed carrots, salt, and baking soda. Mix well and add water till you get a thick lump free batter. Batter consistency should be similar to idli batter.

Step 4 - Grease the idli plates with oil. Pour the prepared batter till each mould is 80% full. Steam for 15 - 18 mins or until done.

Serve hot with some piping hot sambar and chutney of your choice.

Do not skip the baking soda. This will be the ingredient that makes your idlis fluffy.

You can add any veggies of your choice instead of carrots and indulge in these healthy idlis.

You can just grate and add your veggies, instead of sauteing them if you are in a hurry. They will get cooked while steaming.

How to steam idlis in an idli steamer/pressure cooker?
Step 1 - Grease the idli moulds with oil. I use an oil spray. I also spray the bottom of the mould, so the batter from the bottom stacks do not stick to the base of the top plate.

Step 2 - Fill each idli mould with the prepared batter. If the batter is too thin, it will seep out of the tiny holes the idli moulds have. So be careful while adding water if you are not used to the process.

Step 3 - Take your idli steamer and add water to it. The water should be at such a level that your lowest idli plate should not be immersed in water. You do not want to boil the batter. You need to steam it.
Until you get used to it, every time you add water, place your idli plate in your steamer and pick it up to make sure no water touched it's bottom. Also, do not be too paranoid and add very little water. You will be boiling water for almost 15 - 18 mins for every set. You do not want the water to completely evaporate. This will burn the base of your steamer. After adding water, cover the steamer with a lid and let the water boil.

Step 4 - Once the water boils, carefully place the idli stands into the steamer. The placement of these stands is also crucial. You will notice that your idli stand has idli moulds and 2-3 holes between each mould. Stack in such a way that moulds do not get stacked on top of each other. They should alternate each other (Holes over moulds). Idlis need space to plump up.

Step 5 - After 15 mins, carefully open the steamer. Using oven mits, remove the idli plates and let them rest for 2 - 3 mins. Run a knife around the edges and remove the idlis with the help of a spoon onto your serving dishes.

Step 6 - Every time you steam a set, you will need to add water into your steamer and repeat the process.

You can also steam the idlis in a pressure cooker. You need to place the idli stand on a grid or a steel rack, so the stand would not touch the water. Also while steaming do not keep the whistle or pressure on. Steam each set for 10 - 12 mins.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Masala Papad (No fry)

Masala Papad does not need an introduction. They are everybody's favorite at an Indian restaurant. A perfect snack to munch on, till your food arrives.
Masala papads are generally deep fried and then topped with onion and tomatoes. The health conscious roast these papads before topping them. Though healthy, topping roasted papad with onions and tomatoes makes it soggy and chewy almost instantly.

So why not find a mid way?! The technique I use to make these masala papads, will fool your tastebuds into believing that they are fried. All the taste and very little calories, I think this recipe is a keeper!

A few tips before we go ahead. You can use your favorite flavor of papad for this recipe. Just remember to cut down on the spice if you plan to use black pepper or green chilli papads.
Some recipes call for a squeeze of lemon juice in the end. But I avoid this as the Chaat Masala takes care of the tangy flavor and the addition of lemon juice often softens the papad really fast.

Serves: 6 papads
Level: Easy

6 papads (I used green chilli papads)
1/2 onion
1 tomato
3 tblsp fresh coriander leaves
2 green chillies
Red chilly powder, as required
Chaat masala, as required
Black pepper powder, as required
Fine sev as required (optional)
Oil Spray/2 tsp oil

Step 1 - Let us get everything ready and arranged onto a plate. We cannot waste time once our papads are ready. Chop the onion finely. Cut the tomato into half, scoop out and discard the liquid with a spoon and finely chop it. Finely chop the green chillies and coriander leaves. Keep aside.

Step 2 - Spray oil onto your raw papad on both the sides and microwave cook for 50 - 55 seconds. Do not let it burn. If you do not have an oil spray, smear oil on the papad using a brush/spoon dipped into oil. Every microwave is different. So keep an eye on your first papad to decide how long each piece takes to cook in your microwave.

Step 3 - Place the papad on your serving dish. Scatter some onions, tomatoes and green chillies if using. Do not overload the papad. Sprinkle some red chilly powder, black pepper powder and chaat masala. Scatter some fresh coriander leaves and some sev if you plan to use any.

Serve immediately with some cold beer or any drink of your choice.

Do not sprinkle salt on the papad. The salt in the chaat masala and the salt already present in the raw papad, takes care of the flavor. Moreover addition of salt could result in the onion oozing out it's water. We do not want that.

Generally 2 or 3 fully prepared masala papads are kept on top of each other. You can do that too. But do not make a tower out of this.

After reading my post, if you still think you want to fry the papad or you do not own a microwave, make sure you fry the papad in a flat pan. This will make sure that the papad does not twist and turn into a roll while frying.