26 March 2012

How to make fresh pasta without a machine - Step by step pictures

I made fresh pasta from scratch for dinner this evening and on a whim, I live tweeted the making of this using the hashtag #makingfreshpasta which evoked a lot of enthusiastic responses. That's the reason I decided to compile all the tweets and the pictures (iPhone camera) into a quick post. Pardon the picture quality, my iPhone was already groaning under the blanket of flour and olive oil it was being subject to!


I only want to show you how simple the procedure is, even without any fancy machines. The fettucini procedure is a bit lengthy but for starters, you could just cut squares (as in step 6), in fact that was yummier than the more labour intensive fettucini.


This recipe is vegan as it uses no eggs or butter. If you use eggs in the pasta dough, surely you'll get a richer tasting end product. If you can make rotis, you can do this handmade pasta. No sweat!


If you don't want to miss a single interesting update from my kitchen, then follow my facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/SaffronTrail - We can also have many an interesting foodie conversation there!


On to the recipe:


Vegan handmade pasta from scratch , no pasta machine required


Pasta dough adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to cook everything vegetarian
I used the recipe eggless pasta dough recipe:
2 cups AP flour ( I used 1/2 cup cornmeal and 1.5 cups AP flour along with a tbsp of dried basil)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
½ cup hot water plus some more
Make a smooth but very firm dough by mixing flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well, add olive oil. Add 1/2 cup hot water, mix with a fork until it comes together. Knead with your hands using a tsp of hot water at a time until you get a firm, smooth dough.
Wrap in cling film.
Refrigerate for 30 mins at least.
Make 5-6 balls from the dough, and follow the given procedure with each.

Step 1 - roll each ball into a thin sheet 







 Step 5 - Keep each such batch spread out on a plate to dry for a few minutes










18 March 2012

Amma's Cauliflower Peas Koottu

I've separated the cauliflower into florets, kept the kadai on the flame and then, I call Amma.


"...Amma, how do you make that Cauliflower koottu that you serve with rotis for dinner?"
 Amma laughs. 
"But there is no recipe for it. It is the easiest thing ever!"


That's how I extract recipes from my family, often on a weekly basis. So I can taste the flavours of my childhood.


This is one dish that my granny used to make in the evenings, to go with chapathis / rotis. Usually, it would be rice with sambar / rasam and curds for an early lunch before 11 am, then a tiffin time - something light like idlis, dosai, upma etc at around 4 pm and then dinner at 8 pm. Dinner would be either rice or roti. And for rotis, there would be no fancy 'punjabi' side dishes, because on most days my grandparents wont eat onions and garlic and imagine making anything 'fancy' without these two star ingredients.


As a child, this boring stew like vegetable preparation would be no incentive for the rotis. But protesting against any food was unheard of when I was a kid, so I would quietly eat what was served, carefully avoiding any second servings. 






Nowadays, at mum's place, it is always rice (with various accompaniments) for lunch and roti for dinner, so when cauliflower is in season, this dish is almost always made. It is a zero-effort dish, no peeling, cutting onions or garlic, no tomatoes, no ginger even. A potato is usually added to this preparation. Heck, you don't even peel the potato for this recipe. You might wonder how boring this will taste. But there is one secret ingredient in this dish that keeps it far from boring and that is asafoetida. A much ignored and maligned seasoning, it subtly stands out in this dish, making up for the lack of more exciting flavours like onions or garlic.


This winter we got the most amazing, fresh cauliflowers in our local Hopcoms and what better thing to make than this minimalistic dish with simple ingredients. I chopped up the cauliflower into florets, cleaned them in salted water and then made a call to amma, asking her how she makes her cauliflower kootu for rotis. Technically, koottu has some kind of dal along with the vegetables. In this case, it's just easy to call it koottu as the preparation is not entirely dry like a curry. 


When cauliflower is not in season, the same recipe is prepared with cubed or quartered brinjals and potatoes.






Cauliflower Peas Potato Koottu
Serves 3-4
Under 30 minutes
A simple accompaniment for Rotis


Ingredients
2 cups medium sized cauliflower florets
1/2 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen peas
1 large potato, cubed
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Fat pinch of asafoetida (LG asafoetida powder or Goldie's Pure Hing)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tsp sambar powder 
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp rice flour (optional)


Directions

  1. In a big kadai, heat the oil. Pop the mustard seeds, add the asafoetida. 
  2. Within a few seconds, add the vegetables. Toss them in the oil.
  3. Add salt, 3/4 cup water, turmeric powder, sambar powder. 
  4. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook on medium heat for around 8 minutes. The vegetables should be just tender and not mushy. If the water dries out in between, add 1/4 cup water to aid cooking.
  5. In the end there should be a few tablespoons of watery 'gravy' in the dish, not fully dry. So adjust water accordingly while cooking.
  6. If you find the end result too watery, then make a slurry of 1 tsp rice flour in a tbsp of cold water, add to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Remove from flame and serve hot with phulkas.
Minimalistic recipes like these really bring out the flavour of the vegetables due to the use of very few spices. So it is important that the vegetables you use are a 100% fresh. Try it with eggplant and potato, which are in season all year round. If you don't have homemade sambar powder, borrow from a Tambrahm friend or if you rely on any brand that comes close to the authentic taste do share in the comments. You could try making your own sambar powder from our authentic tambrahm recipes blog.

15 March 2012

Masala Vadai from a tea shop in Mannargudi : Guest post by Bharath M.

A few days ago, Nandini & Ajit, Bharath and me decided to cook up a mega Tambrahm feast for dinner. The menu was:
Cucumber Salad
Masala Vadai
Seppankizhangu
Roast
Cabbage Koottu
Radish arachuvitta Sambar
Jeera Rasam
Vetthakozhambu
Arisi Appalam

Banana Chips (from Hot Chips)
Curds
Rice
Semia Payasam
Out of this list of delicious items, it was Bharath's Masala Vadai that stood out. He got the batter ready at his place in the morning, refrigerated in his office and got it to my place by evening, where he fried the vadai fresh and served it with drinks. Such delicious vadais, I've never tasted. I pestered him enough to share the recipe, so I may do the first guest post ever, on my blog, in six years!


Bharath in the kitchen 




Bharath is a train enthusiast, an impulsive traveller, amazing photographer and a most evocative writer. Go through his blog Puri Subzi and you will know what I mean. And more than anything, he has grown to be a friend I can always depend on. And in his own words, he is a "Photographer of faces, writer of bus travels, driver of trains, lover of pongal, purveyor of seedy bars."


So here's Bharath's Masala Vadai for you, written in his own words...




Masala Vadai - Freshly fried




"...but this is against TamBrahm culture. How can you put onions and garlic in an aamavadai?", my amusement disguised as a protest.

"Sssh, this is not aamavadai. It's a masala vadai. The inspiration comes from some tea shop in Mannargudi", my mother's indignant voice peaking.

"You had masala vadai from a tea shop in Mannargudi?", I bait

"Please don't be so righteous. Everyone eats from weird places once in a while. Now shut up and tell me how it tastes"

Crisp. Light. Golden brown and d-e-l-c-i-o-u-s. "I am sold, ma, I am sold". That chubby grin finally shows itself.

It may be against TamBrahm way of life, but by god, this vadai is brilliant. Goes well with beer. Or a single malt.

Here's how you put it together (I've made a few changes to the basic recipe from my mother's original)



Ingredients

For the batter:
2 1/2 cups channa dal (soaked in slightly salted water for a good 4-5 hours)
1 teaspoon saunf (fennel seeds)
1/4 inch ginger
3 cloves of garlic
A generous pinch of black pepper powder

For the flavouring mix:
1/4 inch ginger, finely cut
2 cloves of garlic, finely cut
2 largish green chillis, finely cut
A handful of coriander and mint, coarsely cut
1 large red onion diced finely (2 if they are small to medium)
Salt to taste
A small pinch of red chilli powder (if you need the extra kick)


For the frying:
Some groundnut oil or rice bran oil.

Method


  1. Drain the water completely from the soaked channa dal. Dunk the, by now slightly soft, dal into a mixer along with the fennel seeds and the rest of batter ingredients. Add a tablespoon of water and start grinding. Initially for about 20 sec and then pulse 3 times for about 5 sec each. The batter by now should be quite coarse and the fennel, garlic, ginger and pepper incorporated. If the batter resembles a gooey paste, then you've gone too far. The ideal batter should have a mix of pulped dal, coarse dal and almost whole dal. Scoop out a bit in your hand - if it feels grainy and stony, then it's perfect.
  2. Transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl and refrigerate for 30 min.
  3. Chop all the flavouring mix ingredients according to the instructions above.
  4. Remove the batter from the fridge and all the flavour mix, except for the onions and salt. Let this now rest until you are ready to fry them up.
  5. 2-3 min before you ready to fry, add the onions and salt and give everything a thorough swirl.
  6. Heat the oil and drop a small roundel of the batter to test. If it raises to the top, the temperature is right and you can start.
  7. If you are comfortable patting the batter nice and thin, please do so, else shape it into small roundels. The later is much easier if you are doing all of this on your own!
  8. Fry until a nice golden brown.
Serve with either coconut or coarse coriander chutney.

13 March 2012

Six years and counting

It was in March 2006 that I gingerly typed out the first few words of this food blog. I had no clue what this would turn into. I wasn't even aware that what I was doing would be called 'foodblogging' - though it does seem to be the obvious term for it now.

I got connected with the other early food bloggers from India and abroad. Some of my favourite blogs in my first year of blogging were Mahanandi, Sailu's Food, One Hot Stove, Fat Free Vegan and What's For Lunch Honey. Over the last few years, food blogging became quite a phenomenon, with every home cook documenting his / her recipes (and why not?) - so much so, that at last count, our Bangalore Food Bloggers Group on Facebook has 75 members. 75 foodbloggers in Bangalore city alone (!!), and may be many more who aren't a part of the group.

I've managed to meet quite a few food bloggers in the last six years and some of them are my dearest friends today, friendship tempered by the love of food. I've gone on long blogging breaks, the audience has possibly changed but there's something that's always brought me back. It's quite impossible to abandon a baby like that.

Saffron Trail was recently nominated in the category of Best Healthy Cooking Blog in the Homies 2012 and it was an honour to be nominated with my blogger batch mates like Susan from Fat Free Vegan. Also, words of appreciation from people who try my recipes, a pat on the back from local publications, chefs and fellow foodies respecting you for the persistence in doing something you are passionate about-all of the above keeps me going in making this blog a better place for food lovers to visit.

I think I'm finally finding my blogging groove back so do keep checking back for more from my kitchen (and garden).







10 March 2012

On growing strawberries and recipe for Eggless Strawberry Yogurt Cake

My three year old son and me have a morning routine nowadays. After his drink of milk, we go to the garden and check if there's any red peeking out of the strawberry patch. If we didn't do this, the squirrels and ants, who have been blessed with a better foraging sense than us human beings, will get to the juicy berries before we do. We don't get too much, but a small handful a day, to add to cereal or to make a couple of muffins, or to eat as it is. The latter doesn't happen often as I am not very tolerant to acidic fruits and I'm yet to taste lusciously sweet strawberries grown in India. Here, strawberry needs sugar as a partner to make it more palatable. 


But, however little, that sense of joy we get from having watched something grow for nearly eight months, and finally bearing fruit, is such a fulfilling one. These strawberry saplings were planted in June and they quickly propagated and covered the ground, but there was not a single flower in sight even after six months. The newbie gardener that I am, I quickly lost hope. Patience is clearly not one of my virtues, hence I stand to benefit a lot from gardening. I am slowly learning that nature doesn't work at the speed of a 4Mbps internet connection. It takes its own sweet time. And what sweeter time than spring time? I don't need my neighbours to drench me in permanent colours (albeit organic) and hose me with tons of water, to announce the arrival of spring (I'm talking about the one festival I dread, Holi). The new blooms and fruits in my garden had already whispered to me a few weeks ago that spring is not far away...


Just plucked strawberries basking in the morning sun




A few years ago, if someone told me that I could grow strawberries in India, I would have laughed it off. But Bangalore weather is somehow to conducive to growing almost anything. Like my friend @abithaanandh tweeted this morning -
 "Am willing to overlook 11pm deadlines,bad infrastructure,forever 90s music loop- all 4 those few precious hrs in the garden! Tk U #Bangalore"
It is so true. I'll continue to grow strawberries next year too. I'm told they bear better fruit in the 2nd and 3rd year. Only, I'll be growing them in hanging baskets, so I dont have to compete with the ants to pluck the fruit!


I've been wanting to bake a strawberry cake for a while now. Not the types where the fruit is pureed in, but stands out like red jewels, slightly mushy from the baking and a burst of flavour in the mouth, when you bite into it. And somehow, I wanted to pair it with yogurt as I couldn't use eggs in this. A Foodblogsearch didn't find me the kind of recipe I had in mind, so I did my own improvisation. Yesterday afternoon, just before the baking session, I found a bottle of strawberry essence at Nilgiri's, so the fruit, the essence and the jam made the taste pretty intense, but not in the cloying sort of way.


The recipe I'm sharing with you seems to be the most low-fat and healthiest version among all those that I went through as a result of my various searches.

Pin It






This is a tea cake or a weekend breakfast cake. I'm not asking you to believe that it's dessert. Umm...may be with ice cream, yes :)


The texture was very moist and delicate despite not using eggs or butter.
Do give it a try before the strawberry season bids us a goodbye.






Recipe for Strawberry-Yogurt Cake
Eggfree / Eggless / Lowfat
Tea time or breakfast cake
Makes 1 tall 8" cake




Ingredients

¾ cup yogurt
¼ cup milk (skimmed or toned, as you prefer)
¼ cup rice bran oil (or any cooking oil)
¾ cup sugar
2 generous tablespoons of strawberry or mixed fruit jam
1 tsp Strawberry essence or mixed fruit essence (gives a more fruitier flavour, if you don’t have either, use vanilla extract 1 tsp)

1.5 cups all purpose flour OR 1 cup AP flour + ½ cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt

Roughly 1 cup finely diced strawberries
Handful of tutti-frutty (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven at 180 C
  2. Grease an 8” round cake tin. If using silicon pan, no need to grease.
  3. In one bowl, whisk the oil, yogurt, milk, sugar and jam.
  4. In another big bowl, sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well. Add the whisked wet ingredients. Fold until they come together. Over enthusiastic beating / whisking is better avoided.
  5. Towards the end, fold in chopped berries and tutti-fruity.
  6. Scrape the batter into the greased tin / silicon mould and bake at 180 C for around 45-55 minutes, checking with a tester if it comes out clean.
  7. After 10 minutes, unmould and cool on a wire rack.
  8. Cut into wedges, dust with icing sugar and serve with tea.

The same recipe will work with raspberries or blueberries to make a blueberry yogurt cake or a raspberry yogurt cake.

See what people have to say about this cake! (via Twitter)





8 March 2012

On how the monstrous zucchini got Tambrahm-ised

[Those who voted for me and got me into the final 6 Healthy Cooking Blogs, thank you! In the finals, my blog as of now is 5th. Feels kinda pointless asking to vote now as the better blogs lead by tons of votes, but if you've loved my work here, go ahead and vote for me. Directions here ]

My garden always surprises me. Which is why I like to take my morning tea up to my terrace garden, perch myself on one of the tiny stone benches and sharing that morning moment with the plants to the background music of the birds. While I try to get a few sips of my tea, a little fruit, a new flower and small shoot will beckon me to admire it. And I will go take a look at them while my tea sits on the bench going cold. Every morning, a new surprise, however little, that makes me smile and sets the mood for the rest of my day. It is an exercise in positivity. Many flowering plants that I assumed were dead, suddenly start showing signs of life as spring is round the corner. My lavender bushes, since 9 months didn't show one sign of flowering and I thought "Damn! The nursery fooled me with a non flowering variety!" And I was proved wrong when the prettiest lavender flowers bloomed this month. If there is a tiny bit of life left in the plant, come spring time and it will revive. What's more beautiful in life than hope, after all?

And then sometimes a garden makes you laugh out loud. Like this monstrously huge zucchini that had been hiding under the huge leaves for nearly a month, that had missed my keen scrutiny each morning only to be found by my driver a few days ago. He showed me this green thing nearly as big as a new born baby-and I shuddered! And then laughed so hard when I knew that it was indeed a zucchini that had hidden away from all prying eyes and grown so big~nearly 2.5 kilos.

Not to show off my (old) iPhone but to give you size perspective :)
This is after a third of the zucchini has been chopped off


I kept it on my table to admire it's beauty for the first 2 days, then it spent a few more days in the refrigerator. When other vegetables came in from the supermarket, this big fellow could no more occupy precious refrigerator real estate and he had to be brought out. 

The husband is not a big fan of zucchinis and though we had shared enough jokes about how big this sly vegetable had grown, his enthusiasm stopped there. When I was cutting it up this morning, he said, "Please, I don't want this for lunch." Since there are very few things he doesn't like, I usually indulge his whims, but this time, I just smiled and said "We will see."

Over the six years that I've been food blogging, I've seen several bloggers making Zucchini thogayal. But zucchini, in India, has always retailed at around Rs.100 a kilo. At that price, why on earth would I want to puree it to death in a blender. I wanted to see and enjoy this vegetable in salads, pasta and such. But thogayal, no way!

But when you have a 5 pounder zucchini sitting on your counter top, the thogayal did indeed seem like a good idea. And boy, did it taste good or what.

Zucchini Thogayal and Zucchini Curry (both recipes below)


For the uninitiated, thogayal or thuvaiyal is a Tambrahm style of converting mildly unpalatable vegetables (Chow-chow, pumpkins, ridge gourds, bottle gourds etc) into chutneys so Tambrahm uncles will mumble good things about the food even if they are eating some vegetable they don't like. Many blogs will say you can eat Thogayal on bread or with idli or dosai or chapathi or pasta or just about anything. I wont say they are lying. But there is only one way to really savour this. Hot rice, gingelly oil (yes, oil and NOT ghee) and thogayal and a roasted appalam on the side.

And the zucchini hating husband tasted some of it, hesitantly, after he had eaten beans curry-rice and rasam and said "Please keep some for me, I want to eat this for dinner."


I guess after this, I can well call this 5 pounder- 'Zucchini Iyer'.




Ingredients
2 medium sized green zucchinis 
1/4 cup scraped fresh or frozen coconut
a tiny piece of tamarind soaked in 2-3 tsp of water
2.5 tsp gingelly oil or any other cooking oil
2 tbsp + 1 tsp udad dal
4 medium dried red chillies
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
2 sprigs curry leaves
Fat pinch asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 green chilli

Directions

  1. Chop the zucchini into medium sized cubes. No need to peel the skin.
  2. Heat 1/2 tsp oil in a pan. Add 2 tbsp udad dal and red chillies and saute on medium heat until the udad dal is golden brown. Remove onto a plate and cool for few minutes.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tsp oil in same pan. On high heat, scald the chopped zucchini by tossing it around for a minute or so.
  4. Reduce the flame, add 1/4 cup water, pinch of salt, cover and cook till zucchini is tender and fully cooked.
  5. In small mixer-grind the fried udad dal-red chillies, soaked tamarind and coconut to coarse paste. To this add the cooled cooked zucchini, salt and scrape the sides of the mixer and grind to a paste. Remove this into a bowl.
  6. Heat 1-2 tsp oil in a tempering ladle or small kadai. Add pinch of asafoetida, mustard seeds, once they splutter, add curry leaves and udad dal. Wait for dal to turn golden and transfer the tempering over the thogayal.

Notes
Traditionally a lot more coconut is used, so you could use as much as your health consciousness permits.
If you know this one recipe, you will have at least one way to deal with most of the vegetables that the world at large considers boring.


Another way to Tambrahm-ise Zucchini : Zucchini Curry

A small clarification here. In Tambrahm cooking, a curry is not a gravy dish that Brits seem to love. It's a simply prepared dry saute with minimal spices and the star being the tempering. I pressure cooked this for a bit as it was a mature zucchini, if your's is tender, you can simply add it raw and cover and cook till done.


  1. Place 1.5 cups of zucchini pieces (small) in a container in a pressure cooker. Don't add water to zucchini. Pressure cook for one whistle. 
  2. In a kadai, heat 2 tsp oil. Add pinch of asafoetida, 2 dried red chillies, 1 tbsp udad dal, few curry leaves, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and saute till udad dal is golden. 
  3. To this add the cooked (or raw) zucchini, pinch of turmeric (optional), salt and toss gently to coat with tempering, on a low flame.
  4. Add a bit of fresh coconut and it's ready to serve. Those who find this very bland can add 1-2 tsp of sambar powder or rasam powder towards the end and give it another toss.
See what people on Twitter have to say:

5 March 2012

Homies 2012 Finalist in Best Healthy Food Blog- Need your Votes

Thank you for responding to my appeal on my blog, FB page, Twitter and Facebook. Despite getting nominated with 2 days to spare, I made it into the final round of voting.


I need all your support (and votes) to win this. The voting process is a little cumbersome if you dont have an apartment therapy website log-in. So here's taking you through the process:


First, click here and go to the voting page for the Healthy Cooking Blog finalists.


If you already voted for me in the previous round, use that same Twitter/Facebook id to directly sign in and vote - using the 'SIGN IN' link on the page.


REGISTER
If you don't have an existing sign in, then you have to register by clicking the 'Register' link.









Register your email id and password as shown below

SIGN-IN
Get back to the voting page link  and click Sign in with your mail id and password


VOTE
Now you can vote for me...





It isn't as complicated as it seems, just register, sign back into the voting page and vote for me.

A big thank you, to my friend Punita for helping me with the screenshots!

1 March 2012

Nominated for the Best Healthy Cooking Blog - Homies 2012




This is one of the rare occasions in the last six years that I've been blogging, I'm kicked enough to do some self-promotion and ask you to vote for me as the Best Healthy Cooking Blog in the Homies 2012 awards conducted by thekitchn.com - This is the first time they have a Healthy Cooking Blog category in their awards and I'm happy that my blog fits the bill quite neatly.

The voting process is a little tedious, you need to log in with your twitter or facebook id over here
and then go to the nominations page here for Healthy Cooking Blogs, search for 'Saffron Trail' and vote for me.

This is the first round of voting for nominations which is open until March 1 (midnight EST) after which the top six contenders will be open to votes once again.

Looking forward to your support!

Once again - the links

To log in - http://community.apartmenttherapy.com/sign_in

The voting page - http://www.thekitchn.com/best-healthy-cooking-blog-nominations-the-homies-2012-166622

Thanks a lot!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...