November 29, 2006

Less is more - Orange Bread

As a rule the words 'low calorie' draw my immediate and unwavering attention to a recipe but when they precede the words cake, cookie or quick bread, I do a happy jig and start preheating the oven :-)

This recipe for orange bread is from an issue of Cooking Light and has no butter. Yes you read that right - no butter. This absence is not substituted by a lot of oil; just 1 tablespoon.

Now one wouldn't necessarily tweak a recipe that sounds so good does it? But I couldn't resist myself. I used a mix of whole wheat flour and all purpose and reduced the sugar. Then I began to worry that I had experimented too much. I know, I am weird that way.

The bread still rose beautifully and tasted great, especially the crunchy coconut. Perfect for brunch, afternoon snack or whenever you wish to nibble on something sweet.

bread5

ORANGE QUICK BREAD
(makes one 9 x 5-inch loaf)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup milk
1 (8 oz.) carton orange yogurt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp flaked, sweetened coconut
2 tsp grated orange rind
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease loaf pan. Combine sugar, oil and egg in a bowl and whisk till smooth. Stir in yogurt and milk.

Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup and level with a knife (as opposed to scooping from container). Combine flour, coconut, orange rind, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the centre and add milk mixture.

Stir until just moist. Spoon batter into greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of coconut on top. Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes or until tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Cut in slices and serve (it's divine warm and topped with a little orange marmalade :-))

* Original recipe calls for 1 cup sugar
* Using whole wheat flour will yield a denser bread
* Since I didn't find an 8oz. carton of orange yogurt I used 6oz. orange yogurt plus 2oz. vanilla yogurt

Entry for - WBB # 7/ Baking for Breakfast hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail

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November 27, 2006

Flour Power - Fenugreek Zunka

Zunka is considered the quintessential Marathi dish; not without reason since it is prepared in almost all homes across the state. Zunka and bhakri (jowar bread) is a common, daily meal in rural Maharashtra. While urban households may replace bhakri with chapati (roti), zunka still finds favor without question.

I think this is because the recipe is highly versatile - as long as you have some chickpea flour handy you can make this dish. Since my family likes leafy vegetables (weird I know), I like to make zunka with fenugreek. The nutty taste of the flour compliments the bitterness of the greens nicely.

zunka2

METHICHA ZUNKA (Fenugreek with chickpea flour)
(serves 2)
2 bunches of fenugreek
1 small onion, chopped
3/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch of asafoetida
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp jaggery (optional; if you find fenugreek too bitter)
salt to taste
oil

Wash fenugreek in 2-3 changes of water then chop finely. Roast the flour on low heat just till it changes texture and doesn't smell raw.

Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they splutter add asafoetida and garlic. Add chopped onion and saute till it turns translucent. Next add turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala. Mix well.

Add fenugreek and season to taste. Cover and cook on steam till done. Add roasted flour gradually mixing all the while. Sprinkle a little water as necessary to combine the mixture. Cook on low heat for a few minutes.

Remove from heat when flour is cooked. Don't cover the pan.

* Zunka can also be made with onions, cabbage and scallions (spring onions)

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November 20, 2006

More comfort food - Khichuri

Yes, it's pretty much a continuation of the previous theme though I am a lot better (thanks everyone for your lovely wishes). Khichuri, the Bengali version of khichdi was introduced in our dinners along with other gold standard recipes like aloor dum and poshto during our long stay in Calcutta. Since we don't let go of a good thing when we spot one it has been a regular feature on our menu since :-)

My mother learnt the recipe from our Bengali neighbour. Though many versions of this classic abound, one thing remains the same - roasting the moong dal. I think it is the single most distinguishing feature of this khichuri, as roasting intensifies the flavor of the lentils.

An onion and ginger less version of this khichuri is served as part of 'bhog' (prasad) during Durga Puja. I have had the good fortune of eating a traditional bhog - khichuri, bhaja, tomato chatni and payesh - with my friends in India and it's a meal I won't forget soon.

khichurii

KHICHURI (Bengali rice & lentil Casserole)
(serves 2-3)
1/2 cup rice (Basmati if you prefer)
1/2 cup yellow moong dal
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 medium size onion, chopped
3/4 tsp ginger paste
salt to taste
ghee
Spices -
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder (adjust to taste)
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
Vegetables -
1/4 cauliflower (about 6-8 flowerettes)
4 baby potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
1/2 cup peas
(or carrots, beans, bell peppers etc.)
Garam Masala -
3 green cardamoms, peeled
1 small piece of cinnamon
2 cloves

Roast moong dal on low heat until golden. It will take about 5-6 minutes and the aroma is hard to miss. Let cool.

Grind the ingredients for the paste with half to one teaspoon of water. This can be difficult in a coffee grinder or blender so powder them in a mortar beforehand then mix with water.

Wash dal and drain in a colander. Wash rice till water runs clear then drain in a colander.

Heat oil in a deep saucepan. Add bay leaves and cumin seeds. When they sizzle add onion. Saute till it turns golden. Next add ginger paste. Add rice and saute it until it is well glazed.

Add dal, vegetables and spices. Mix well. Season to taste. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and stir once. Bring to a boil. Cover with a lid, lower heat and cook until done.

Sprinkle a little water if khichuri appears too dry. When rice and dal are cooked (not mushy), add garam masala and 1-2 teaspoons of ghee. Mix well and remove from heat. Cover and allow flavors to blend. Serve hot with fried eggplant & potato slices (bhaja).

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November 16, 2006

Comfort Food - Daali Tauy

I have been missing from action because of a throat infection. For the last few days it felt like both my voice and taste buds had been taken hostage! Food is not exactly high on the list as you can imagine.

I have gone right back to basics with hot, comforting meals of rice-dal, khichdis and soups. They help my throat a little and my mood a whole lot more.

Daali Tauy is the Konkani version of the much loved Indian dal. It has a ginger-y flavor and unlike regular dals is quite watery. Serve it piping hot with rice and your favorite pickle or papad .... isn't it amazing how the second we are asked to avoid certain foods we can't stop thinking about them!

daalitauy

DAALI TAUY (Konkani Dal)
(serves 2-3)
1 cup red gram/ pigeon peas (toor dal)
1" piece of ginger (I am heavy handed with the ginger; adjust to taste)
1-2 green chillies, slit
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
lemon juice/ finely chopped cilantro (optional)
For seasoning -
ghee or oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
4-5 curry leaves
1 red chilli, broken into pieces

Wash dal in 2-3 changes of water. Drain thoroughly and transfer to a pressure cooker or a deep sauce pan. Mash ginger lightly and add to dal along with turmeric, green chillies and about 3 cups of water.

Cook till dal is done then season with salt. Heat oil in a tadka pan. Add mustard seeds and when they begin to splutter add curry leaves and chilli. Saute briefly and pour over the dal.

Cover pan and let sit so flavors can blend. Add lemon juice or finely chopped cilantro at the time of serving. Serve hot with rice and pickle... (there I go again!).

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November 06, 2006

Fruit of the Fall - Persimmon Salsa

Though there are a thousand ways in which I dislike being away from home, one thing I like about it is the new experiences. Whether it's the cool but not cold weather of autumn or the yellow and red hued trees or the new produce that this golden season brings - it's all magical for a girl used to a year divided into summers and monsoons.

persimmons

Of all the fruits that started appearing in my local market, it was the persimmon that caught my eye. It looked beautiful - like a tomato dressed up in an orange gown, and it looked delicious.

I thought the fruit would be equally striking from the inside and was disappointed to see it looked and felt like a papaya. However all my negative feelings vanished with one tentative bite. For such a confused fruit the persimmon does have an unique taste - a subtle, juicy mix of papaya and peach. I used it in a salsa for a sweet and spicy contrast.

salsa

PERSIMMON SALSA
(adapted from Cooking Light)
(serves 3-4)
2 Fuyu* persimmons
1-2 green chillies, chopped
1/2 red onion, finely minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
salt to taste

Wash, peel and chop persimmons. Combine with other ingredients in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with chips, appetizers or grilled sea food.

Alternately you can make an Indian style chutney by blending the persimmons with lemon juice, red chilli powder, cumin seeds etc.

* Most supermarkets sell two types of persimmons - Fuyu and Hachiya. The Fuyu is non astringent and eaten when crisp. The Hachiya (used in baking) is astringent and cannot be eaten until completely ripe. The cashier at the market told me how she ate an unripe Hachiya as a child and it almost turned her off all fruits! This site has more information on each variety.

** See more persimmon recipes here

November 05, 2006

Peek into the Pantry

The Konkani kitchen is quite similar to kitchens throughout India in its use of spices, souring agents and dried foods. But there are some ingredients that are very specific to the region. 'Peek into the Pantry' highlights some of the more unique spices from the region.

Teppal - a variety of peppercorn that grows in the region. Teppal is crushed and added to vegetarian and seafood curries for a distinct, heady aroma. Since it is quite a strong spice, seasoning is generally minimal or avoided in such dishes.

Bedgi Chillies - looking at India's use of chillies today it is hard to believe this is actually a comparatively 'new' spice brought to us by the Portugese. Almost every state in India now has a chilli of its own, and the coastal areas are no exception. Bedgi chillies from Karnataka are commonly used in Konkani cuisine. They are highly prized because they are not spicy but impart a wonderful color to any dish.

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