20 December 2014

Winter special: Gujarati Methi Thepla [Indian flatbread with fenugreek leaves]

Fenugreek or methi is one of my favourite greens. In Bombay markets, we would find two varieties - one with the bigger leaves, somewhat milder and ones that were sold in tiny tight bunches, small leaves, more like shoots, and these were intensely flavoured. I don't seem to find the latter in Bangalore, so I make do with the big leaf variety. Methi greens are bursting with freshness in winter and the aroma wafting through the kitchen is so delicious and warming on a winter day. 

I have quite a few favourite recipes with methi - the first one being Thepla, a Gujarati roti which has quite a few spices and is good to eat on its own. The other is a Methi Muthia that is added to Undhiyo, another Guju winter specialty. I also like adding finely chopped methi leaves sauteed in ghee, along with other spices to dal. It tastes unique and delicious. Do find kitchen gardening tip on how to grow methi at the end of the post (and hey, also a coupon from ShopPirate).

Gujus love their theplas, they have it for a snack with tea, or even the previous day's leftovers for breakfast. These also make the perfect travel food or for kiddie lunchbox. It's dry and doesn't make a mess, just roll one up and munch! This is an easy unleavened flatbread recipe with whatever fresh greens you can lay your hands on and trust me it is delicious.

methi thepla
Methi Thepla

Recipe for Methi Thepla
Makes 10-12

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
1/4 cup besan (gram flour)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 - 1 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp ajwain seeds (omam in tamil, bishop's weed in english)
1/2 overripe banana, mashed (optional)
1 big bunch methi / fenugreek leaves (1-1.5 cups when cleaned and finely chopped)
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 cup mildly sour yogurt ( To make this recipe vegan, omit yogurt and use water)
2 tsp oil plus more oil to cook rotis

Prepare the methi leaves by cutting off the roots and tough stems. Soak the rest in a big bowl of water or in the sink, swish until all the soil falls off. Remove them out and repeat process 2-3 times. Drain well, and finely chop the leaves and tender stems. The chopped methi leaves should fill 1-2 cups.
In a large bowl, or a parath, which is a traditional dough mixing wide dish, add all the ingredients, except the oil. 
A word about the methi leaves - they must be really finely chopped and since their flavour is the star of this recipe, the more the merrier. But if you are just getting used to their taste, then you can start with a lesser quantity. 
Using the yogurt and if required some more water, bind this to a reasonably tight dough, as the salt will release some water from the leaves, so you need to keep that in mind.
Towards the end, add 2 tsp of oil and give it a final knead. Cover and keep aside for 20-30 minutes.
Now, roll out time!
Divide the dough into 10 or 12 portions.

To make the theplas (or any other flatbread), you need to keep the following things ready.

  • A rolling base or a large wooden chopping board
  • A rolling pin
  • a small dish with wheat flour
  • a heavy based skillet or Tava
  • some vegetable oil in a cup with a spoon, used for cooking the thepla
  • a flat steel or wooden spatula to turn over the theplas
  • a hot box with a tea-towel or cotton cloth to hold the cooked theplas
Start heating the skillet before you roll out the first thepla, so it is sufficiently hot, when you are done rolling it. If you are a newbie cook, then I recommend you roll out half the theplas, and lay them out on a clean counter, cook them one by one, roll out the remaining and then proceed similarly. This is beacause you may not be able to multitask between rolling and cooking simultaneously.

Flatten one ball of dough, dip both sides in the dish containing flour. Pat out any excess flour.
Place it on the rolling base, using rolling pin, thin it out uniformly, to as thin a circle as you can, sprinkling some flour intermittently so that it does not stick to the base. You can watch my video on How to make phulka roti, to learn the rolling out process. The cooking process is not the same though. 

Place this on the hot skillet. When small bubbles seem to appear, turn it around and apply 1/2 tsp of oil around this cooked side, spread it uniformly with a spoon. By this time, the second side would have got golden spots, so turn it over once again, and oil this side similarly. Turn over one last time, on this oiled side, so that the oil doesn't smell raw.
You can now press down the whole roti with the spatula so it is cooked through.
Typically, if you roll it out really thin, it should not take more than 45 seconds per side to cook. It all depends on the thickness of the roti, so ensure you first cook it dry, then oil it, then cook once again by pressing through both the sides.

Save these in a hot casserole box or serve immediately. These also taste great cold, rolled up and had with masala chai. 

You can make this vegan by omitting yogurt, and using only water to bind the dough. A squeeze of half a lemon will give it some extra flavour, when you omit the yogurt.
I know of Gujarati families that add a spoonful of sugar while binding the dough, again to balance out the flavours and to neutralise the mild bitterness of methi, but this is entirely optional. The mashed ripe banana is used for this very effect, so if you use that, then don't use the sugar.

Kitchen Garden Tip:
Soak seeds in water for four hours, discard floating seeds (these won’t germinate) and sow the others, in a flat tray with good quality soil + compost, or in the ground. Snip as you see methi leaves coming up and you will get new leaves again. This can be done for 3-4 times.

These holidays, we love to cook special dishes for our family and friends, but sometimes you may just want to huddle together, have conversations, play board games or watch your favourite movies. Keeping that in mind, ShopPirate has these special Dominos Pizza coupons for you. Do bookmark the link and use the coupons when you order in next time and ring in some savings, yo!

methi thepla, gujarati thali
Mini Gujarati Thali
Stay tuned for other recipes from this Thali in my Gujarati recipe series.
Subscribe to my youtube channel to see recipes for other Indian flatbreads and more easy indian cooking!

14 December 2014

Xmas Special Spiced Thumbprint Cookies with Orange Compote

Thumbprint cookies
Holiday spiced thumbprint cookies

When the 'KitchenAid turns Santa' mail landed in my mailbox couple of weeks ago, I was all excited to take part in this contest. Not only because the prize is a much coveted KitchenAid 4.8 L Tilt Head Stand Mixer, but I always love a good cooking challenge. A recipe using nutmeg, cinnamon or all spice is just so perfect for the Christmas season. Also, it was my redemption because I was too lazy to get into the small scale industry of making Christmas Cake for my family and friends, this year. 

Prep for orange compote

This morning, I peeled off the orange skins, cut them up, cleaned up orange segments, threw them into a pot with sugar and then got on to sipping my coffee and reading the Sunday papers, while the compote cooked itself. In this matter of zesting, I MUST share this secret with you. If you don't have a citrus zester, don't worry. The dear husband got me one from Williams Sonoma store in NYC, unfortunately that one just doesn't work on our Indian lemons or the loose jacketed Nagpur oranges. So here's my epic tip for you. The Tupperware vegetable peeler does a fantastic job of peeling the thinnest slice off the peel, which you can stack up and cut into thin slivers. Trust me, when you've used this peeler, you'll be left wondering how you ever managed without it. 

Coming back to the holiday spiced thumbprint cookies, these are some of the easiest to make and yet so glamourous! The jam once baked gets a lovely stained glass look. You could even make it with 3 different coloured jams to get an assortment of colours. 
My recipe is an attempt to make it with lesser butter and substituting 2/3rds of the all purpose flour (maida) with healthier flours. But you can totally go ahead and make it with 100% all purpose flour- the results will only be better. If you are short of time, use any jam with high fruit content, instead of making compote from scratch. This compote is bursting with citrus flavours that come from the zest and pulp, resonating with deep notes of cinnamon and clove, giving it that xmassy touch.

instant orange compote
Spiced orange compote
Link to entire Printable Recipe

Recipe for Orange Compote
Makes 1/2 Cup
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time (mostly inactive): 30 minutes

2-3 tbsp orange zest
1/3 Cup sugar
Segments of 3 oranges (pith, peel and seeds removed), cut into smaller pieces
4 cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp water

Take all of the above in a heavy bottomed pan and simmer until thick and syrupy and the orange segments have completely broken down. Stir occasionally.
This takes around 20 minutes and more if you have added more water to the mixture.
Once done, fish out the 4 cloves and discard. Keep aside to cool. 
You can bottle this and use it for any other dessert.
A dash of orange liquor will add a lot of flavour to this as well.

Orange compote filled in bag for easy piping
For thumbprint cookies, spoon the compote into a plastic bag or ziploc, sealing the top off with a rubberband or so. Keep aside.

Thumbprint cookies

Recipe for Spiced Thumbprint Cookies - A healthier version
Makes 18-20 cookies
Preparation Time- 15 minutes
Waiting time- Minimum 1 hour
Baking Time- 20 minutes

1/4 cup soft butter (57 grams)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp orange oil or use 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup foxtail millet flour
1/4 tsp Nutmeg powder ( I use Keya)
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder ( I use Keya)
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
1-2 tsp milk (optional, only if required)

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter until fluffy, for 1 minute or so. 
Add the sugar and cream again until pale and fluffy. 
Add the egg and orange oil (or vanilla extract) and whisk well until combined.
In another bowl, mix the flours and spice powders with a whisk until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine until it forms a smooth dough. Use up to 1-2 tsp milk if the mixture is dry, to aid in forming a smooth dough.
Remove the dough into airtight container and chill for 1 hour or more.

Thumbprint cookies
Easy to make indents using a round spoon like this oil spoon

Preheat oven at 175°C and prepare a baking tray with parchment paper or silicone mat. 
Remove the dough from the fridge and pinch out walnut sized balls. Roll into a smooth ball and place on the prepared tray. Roll out the remaining dough similarly and place on the tray, leaving space between two cookie balls.
With your thumb or a round spoon, make an indentation in the center of the cookie. Take the plastic cone filled with compote, snip a small diagonal piece in a corner and fill each indentation with some compote. You can also spoon a bit of compote into each cookie, but the snipped cone gives a neater effect.

Thumbprint cookies
Ready to bake

Bake these for 15-18 minutes until golden around the edges.
Cool on a wire rack and serve when cooled. Store in airtight container.

Foxtail millet flour, like any other flour gives a somewhat coarse texture to this cookie, so if you are not a fan of that, you can use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour, or experiment with any other healthy flours instead. 

This recipe goes to the KitchenAid turns Santa Bloggers' Contest held across five countries.
Get a special ‘Christmas Frosting Kit’ as gift with purchase of the iconic KitchenAid 4.8 L Tilt Head Stand Mixer from 1st-31st December 2014, and make delectable memories this Christmas. For more details, visit www.christmas.kitchenaidapac.com #KitchenAidTurnsSanta

For PRINTABLE RECIPE, click here

13 December 2014

Gifts for someone who loves to cook

Few of my readers from abroad wrote in to ask what foodie-gifts can they gift their family back in India-what's hot and what's not kinda information. Every holiday season I love to do a compilation, and most times I do end up compiling a list :) So here's my list on fun and useful gifts for a kitchen-proud person, or someone who loves to cook. I for sure, would be a happy camper to receive any of these. They are not really Christmas specific, but quite right for any occasion. These things are quite trendy in India right now, and if I were not on a clutter reducing spree, I'd buy every one of them (the ones I don't have already, that is).

Herb seeds - Kitchen gardening

Kitchen Gardening is quite the in-thing these days and everyone with a little sunny spot on a window sill wants to grow something. For people who love to cook, there’s nothing as useful as herbs growing in pots in the kitchen window sill. How wonderful to be able to stretch out, and pluck a few herbs to do a fresh garnish over food! Fresh herbs elevate the flavour of food hugely and as someone who uses them regularly, I can vouch for that! This set of herb seeds makes a lovely gift for a garden proud person or even someone who is a newbie gardener, for they can easily sow them in pots with minimum help from a local nursery.

foodie gifts
Bakeware set

One can never have enough loaf tins or baking sheets. This 3 piece set from Alda that I use extensively, is something every home baker will appreciate. It’s regular stuff, alright, but something that can be used on a day to day basis. Not something that will stay stacked away in the attic only to be give away later! For the no-nonsense practical person who loves to bake, this one will make an apt gift.

foodie gifts
Oil Mister - Foodie gifts

An oil mister is a super tool when you want to cook / grill with just a spray of oil. What’s more, you can flavour the oil as per your liking. Garlic, herbs, chillies, you name it, you can get a spray of your favourite flavour of infused oil. The Mastrad oil mister is a trusted brand, and its less than 5 calories per spray!

foodie gifts
Stainless Steel cookware - Foodie Gifts 

Heavy duty stainless-steel pans are the best to cook in. Not only do they look very professional, it is safe as there is no risk of any non-stick coating chemicals leaching into your food. They also look good enough to serve on the table. This 3.3L Wellberg Turbo Cook Frypan is perfect for making curries, stews, soups. 

foodie gifts
Handheld Milk Frother

If you follow my blog, or have attended my workshop, you will know that the handheld milk frother is my favourite little appliance. To froth the milk for your coffee, or to blend dressings in seconds to a thick creamy consistency, or to beat 1-2 eggs, it is just perfect. You may need to buy a couple, one for coffee and one for other purposes  Please remember this is a delicate appliance, used to froth a single cup of milk, or a small portion or dressing or one egg. It's not a substitute for a hand blender (like the disappointed comments on Amazon indicate) :)

foodie gifts
Air Fryer

Air Fryer is a fabulous gift for yourself or a loved one, who love their fried nibbles but are making an attempt to lead a healthier life. The fries do turn out unbelievable and it is, to put it straight, a mini oven on steroids, so you can even bake the pizzas, cakes and muffins in a jiffy. Do read my detailed review on the Philips Air Fryer.

Whistling Kettle
This teal whistling tea kettle is the stuff tea-times are made of. It’s a no-brainer to gift this to a tea-loving friend or relative. An array of loose leaf teas or tea bags, a tea pot, slices of sandwiches and tea cakes, how I would love to attend such a tea-party!

I have an exhaustive Chettinad cookbook, written by a family friend. I must say it is one of the most flavourful cuisines from the South of India, and so much more to offer than just Chicken Chettinad. Surprise someone who loves to cook ethnic Indian cuisine with this book, The Bangala Table. I have only heard good things about this book, from anyone who has bought a copy. 

The newest cookbook from superchef Yotam Ottolenghi’s stable, Plenty More, is something I can’t wait to lay my hands on. His unique way of playing with vegetables and simple style of cooking is appealing to both new and experienced cooks and a gift that will be much appreciated. 

Disclaimer: Please note that the Amazon links and affiliate links and your purchase via them will help support the blog in a small way. However, you will not be charged anything extra for the same. Thank you!

21 November 2014

Recipe for Cranberry Orange Loaf with Chocolate Chips

Thanksgiving is round the corner and Pinterest is so full of Cranberry recipes. Apparently, this was one of the three fruits growing wild in North East America and beyond its edible uses, it was also used to dye rugs, clothes. It was clearly a part of the diet of the Native Americans and that's how it has become an inherent part of Thanksgiving dinners since the 1600s. Cranberries lend a burst of sharp sourness to any sweet bake, adding a totally new dimension of taste, not to mention, a gorgeous red colour, that is pleasing to the eye.

My generous neighbour left me a big stash of groceries when she was moving out from Bangalore to Dubai, stuff she had been saving in her freezer, brought in from different parts of the world. Among other things, there was this bag of frozen cranberries. It has been staring at me in the eye, each time I open my freezer compartment and I've been wondering how to put them to good use. I have only eaten cranberries in dried form. The fresh berry in frozen form is MUCH tarter, something that will make you screw your eyes shut as your tastebuds tingle.

Cranberry pairs well with white chocolate, as the latter is intensely sweet and the sour of the berry adds such a perfect contrast to it. Orange is also an excellent partner to cranberries, bringing to the table, a mellower tartness and a beautiful citrusy fragrance. 

This loaf can be made with rehydrated dried cranberries or with any other berries you can lay your hands on. Strawberries are in season in Bangalore now and you can chop them into bite sized pieces and use instead of cranberries.

The house was filled with the most amazing aromas when this loaf was baking. Who needs room fresheners, when you can bake your cake and have it too, really! 
A bite from one slice had the right level of sweetness. The tartness of cranberries mellows down considerably after baking and the coating in a little sugar surely helped that along. The sweet bursts from the chocolate chunks felt so complimentary to the sour bursts of fruit. It made a perfect bite, beautifully balanced in flavours and boy, was it gorgeous to look at! These are my favourite kind of bakes, simple and delicious :) Do bribe one of your friends travelling abroad to get you a pack of cranberries or try them with what you find locally, you won't be disappointed at all!

Cranberry Orange Loaf 
Makes 12 slices

2 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar

1 egg
3 tbsp oil
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of one orange
4-5 drops of orange oil flavouring (optional) or Use Vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, roughly chopped and tossed in sugar
1/2 cup mix of milk chocolate and white chocolate, chips or roughly chopped

Grease a loaf tin and keep aside.
Preheat oven to 175 C.
In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients until combined.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg with the oil. Add the orange juice, zest and orange extract and whisk well together.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir gently to combine, finally stirring in sugar coated cranberries and chocolate chips. 
Scrape out the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake at 175 C (350F) in the middle rack, for 50 minutes to an hour, until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove from oven,allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Carefully, loosen the sides and turn it out on a cooling rack. Let it cool. 

Slice and serve with a cup of tea.