23 February 2013

Eggless Buckwheat Crepes : Health on a plate



Last Saturday, I looked at my dinner plate and I felt "Damn, it should be illegal to eat this healthy on a Saturday night." Yes it was so good that it was bad. And we were watching a brilliant brilliant series to add all the necessary wickedness and spice to this healthy plate. 

You may think food bloggers have proper weekly menus and they are always on the top of what to feed their families every single day. In my case, that's so wrong. I print out menu formats. I order my weekly produce and groceries and think of making a plan that will use them in the most systematic manner. But no, that never happens. I'm best when I'm impulsive. And sometimes there are so many bits of assorted vegetables leftover that even the most creative part of my brain wont figure out how to put them together. 

I've come up with an idea for such situations. One is to make this all forgiving Tamil dish called Poricha koottu where you throw in every possible vegetable (well, not actually, but it works), add mashed dal, a freshly ground masala and you're done. It tastes fabulous with steamed rice or broken wheat or any such grain. The other idea is if there are 3-4 leftover veggies, microwave them individually and then saute them individually in some olive oil and garlic, adding a pinch of salt and lots of pepper in the end. This is much better than 'boiling' them. Microwaving them for a short burst of time with very little water (1-2 tsp) keeps them crunchy while not keeping them raw and then everything tastes fabulous with garlic and olive oil. 

But this post is about buckwheat crepes. Having had the authentic French style buckwheat crepes (galettes) from our local pizzeria run by a French lady and her husband, I was inspired enough to buy a bag of buckwheat flour. I tried making crepes using a traditional recipe (using butter, milk, eggs). While the crepes turned out beautiful, the smell of eggs was not the most pleasant feeling for me. This is my own improvised recipe that's egg free and gluten free, because I've used rice flour along with buckwheat instead of all purpose flour. You do need a good non stick skillet / dosa pan to be successful with this. 



Recipe for Eggless Buckwheat Crepes
Makes 5-6 crepes

Ingredients
1 cup buckwheat flour*
1/3 cup rice flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp vinegar
butter or oil to grease pan

Directions

  1. In a mixer jar / food processor, add the flours, salt and water. Spin for 30 seconds, open the jar and bring the contents together using a spatula. Run the mixer for 30 seconds more until you get a smooth batter. Remove this into a bowl and keep covered for 30 minutes. 
  2. You can refrigerate this if you plan to use this much later.
  3. Just before making crepes, add baking soda, add the vinegar on top of the soda and 1-2 tsp of water and beat the mixture well. It will fizz up a bit and the batter will become light.
  4. Grease a non stick skillet. Wipe off excess oil / butter with kitchen tissue. When the skillet is moderate hot, take a ladleful of batter, pour it in the centre and with back of ladle quickly make outward circles to spread the batter to an 8" thin lacy round. As soon as bubbles appear all over the crepe (around 45 seconds) turn it to the other side. Cook for 20 seconds, fold it in half and half again and keep warm.



There's another indulgent way to eat buckwheat crepes. Smear Nutella throughout the crepe and roll it up. 
Also, my other favourite way to eat these is with a filling of sautéed spinach and ricotta or feta cheese.

Buckwheat flour is  naturally gluten-free, high in iron, fiber, protein, selenium and zinc. Read about the numerous health benefits of buckwheat.

*Food Shopping Guide:
You get buckwheat flour in the Gluten Free shelf of Godrej Nature's Basket. It's also available in various organic and health food stores. The one I buy from Nature's Basket is ground along with the skins making it healthier and higher in fibre.

16 February 2013

Breaking Bread with Pesto Pull Apart Loaf

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight... 
[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” 
― M.F.K. FisherThe Art of Eating



The food-blogging world is full of inspirations. And there are some bloggers (now friends) whose blogs are bound to leave you with an instant urge to try out something. Aparna's blog Diverse Kitchen is one such blog for me. So when she called out to people last month to bake with her by saying "We Knead to Bake" some 60 other foodbloggers joined her in baking bread and the theme was 'Pull-Apart Breads'. 

Pull apart breads are just perfect for a little group of family or friends, sitting around a table where food and conversations flow freely. These breads are totally rustic and they make for cozy eating together where no fancy cutlery is required. I would give you a tiny little warning before making this bread if you live alone. These loaves are so addictive that you'll go 'just one more slice' a few times and before you know you've eaten a whole loaf by yourself. Bake this for others and this bread will win you many friends. Eat this alone and you'll end up...never mind. 



You should have this one basic pull apart bread recipe in your repertoire because there are a lot of variations you can do with this. Make a sweet cinnamon bread by omitting the garlic in the dough and using cinnamon, sugar and butter instead of pesto. You can also make an Indian Masala Bread by smearing coriander chutney or using finely chopped coriander, green chillies and garlic with some toasted cumin seeds. The sweet version can be customised for Christmas time by using orange zest, cinnamon, marmalade, ground cloves. Use your kid's favourite jam in the filling for a kiddie's party. 

Either way, this bread is a showstopper - truly a rustic beauty, so much so, that within 5 minutes of me posting this picture on my Facebook page, a friend who runs a bistro in Chennai wanted the recipe so he could add it to his menu. So try it out this weekend and if you don't have pesto on hand, use your imagination and whatever is available in the kitchen and don't forget to share this with loved ones.



You'll end up with some leftover dough- for which keep a couple of foil tins or smaller tins handy-you could use the same stacking technique or roll it out into a rectangle, smear with butter and pesto, roll lengthwise and cut into one inch pieces. Place these pieces cut side up in the smaller tins and proceed with second round proving. Brush with milk and bake similarly. Note that smaller tins will take lesser time to bake.



Recipe for Pesto Pull Apart Bread

Makes one regular sized loaf plus 2 baby loaves or a few pesto rolls extra
Takes roughly 3-3.5 hours in all, including proving time
Recipe adapted from My Diverse Kitchen

Ingredients

½ C warm milk
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast / active dry yeast
3 cups all purpose flour (maida)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp soft butter or 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, grated or ½ tsp fresh garlic paste
¾ cup milk (at room temp)

½ cup Pesto
2 tbsp melted butter

Directions
  1. Dissolve sugar in ½ cup slightly warm milk (slightly over room temp, any warmer and yeast will be killed)
  2. Mix the yeast into this and cover for 5 minutes. Milk with froth and bubble, indicating yeast is active.
  3. In a large bowl, take flour, salt, grated garlic, soft butter / olive oil, add this yeast mixture and use upto ¾ cup more milk at room temp. Knead to make a soft pliable dough.
  4. Grease a large bowl with oiled fingers. Place the ball of dough in this and allow to prove for 60-90 minutes, until dough doubles in volume.
  5. After doubling- punch down air gently, make a ball again and on a clean floured surface, roll this out to a rectangle –roughly 20 x 12 inches. Using a measuring scale, cut out the rectangle into a square of 12 x 12 and use the remaining strip of dough to make other baby loaves or rolls.
  6. Brush surface with melted butter and then smear pesto  (or any other filling such as coriander chutney, tomato pickle, cheese for other flavours) all over the surface.
  7. Cut this square into 6 equal strips 2 inches wide (a pizza cutter works well for this)
  8. Stack the strips one on top of the other, pesto side up.
  9. Cut these stacked strips again into  2” wide squares (6 squares). So you will get 6 square stacks of 6 layers each.
  10. In a parchment / foil lined loaf tin (not the very broad kind) – line the stacks next to each other like pages of a book, making sure the pesto smeared top of the stack are all facing one direction.
  11. Cover with damp towel and allow this to rise in a warm place for one hour.
  12. Preheat oven at 180C. Gently brush the top of the risen loaf with milk and place this in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, till it’s lightly golden on the top. Serve warm with pasta or eat as it in like an appetiser. 


You can make plenty of variations as mention in (6) – choose from spices like panch-phoron, chilli flakes, roasted ajwain, cumin seeds to sprinkle before cutting into strips and stacking.




13 February 2013

A Photo essay of Flavours of the World at Park Plaza Hotel



The world famous dish from Spain - Paella


Paneer Mirch Ka Shoal from the Indian grills counter which also has the subji aur badam ka sheek, matar ki tikki and Mysore Bonda | Fresh vegetables for grilling | Chicken satays being grilled


Chicken sausages and grilled marinated chicken breast | Vegetarian kababs/ starters plate


The Laksa counter with beautiful, fresh ingredients for soups and stir frys


A variety of Chinese mushrooms - edible, yes! I asked them if they could make me something from that, but it was for decoration purposes, it seems :)


Visually appealing salad arrangements - Beetroot with artichoke, roasted pumpkin with carrot and garlic, homemade chicken roulade, lamb roulade


More Salads


Arabic style biryani


The wide main course spread comprising of Thai curries, stuffed zucchini, mashed potatoes, Kadi pakodi ( I loved this), Gujarati khichdi, Dal Kabuli

The regions covered in the Flavours of the World buffet are the North Western Frontier Province, Rest of India, Far East, South & North America, Mediterranean region in the form of interactive chef stations, grills and hot buffet stations. Apart from this there is a range of desserts to choose from. There's a huge variety to suit every foodie's likes. Only, don't try to sample them all! This event is on on Saturday evenings until April 2013, so if you are in Bangalore, do make it a point to check out the flavours of the world festival and don't blame me if you come back thoroughly stuffed :)

Venue: Mélange,
Park Plaza Bengaluru,
90-4 Marathahalli, Outer Ring Road, Bangalore
Time: Every Saturday. 7:00 PM – 11:30 PM
Until: April 2013
Price: INR 999 plus taxes
With select alcoholic beverages: INR 1499 plus taxes


11 February 2013

The CaL Bloggers Table at Blue Terrain: Novotel Bangalore

Two weeks ago, a bunch of Bangalore food bloggers who are a part of the Chef At Large Blogger's Table were hosted by the newly opened Blue Terrain - a barbecue and bar by the poolside at Novotel, Bangalore.

Since all my fellow bloggers have already written about their experiences, I would like to highlight the things I loved about Blue Terrain.



The ambience is fantastic. The mood lighting is just enough to see the food served on the plate and to allow the magic of the evening sky unfold over you. The pool on one side and the artificial waterfalls, and cool blue lights are just perfect for that evening date. Bangalore weather is nice enough that evenings are always pleasant. In the winters, you'd need something to keep you warm outdoors, though.



The bartenders whip up some brilliant cocktails that use ingredients like blue cheese (yes! That's the Blue Cheese & Jalapeno martini), white chocolate & saffron (Lady Saffron), galangal (in the Wild Voodoo Kick). Aside of the cocktails, there are many softails (the non alcoholic drinks) and a wide selection of Indian and international liquors.
The most dramatic cocktail that breezy evening was the one that Natasha dared to drink- the Blue Fire Shoot, that showed off some amazing pyrotechniques and of course her daring. I loved my totally drama-free Mango Connexion (center of the pic above) made using vodka, mango juice, salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, tabasco AND a green chilli. Served with a mango jelly on the side, it was the best cocktail I've had in a long time.



The dinner started off with a fresh salad and a thin crust grilled eggplant & onion pizza, both of them were quite faultless. And then we were pretty much hit by an avalanche of good food.

One point of note was that the potato that is the first thing a vegetarian gets served in most places, was conspicuous by its absence (thankfully!). We got more than our share of 5-a-day veggies in the form of maple roasted pumpkin, glazed carrots, masala arbi, tandoori broccoli (LOVED this) and cauliflower. Apart from these, there was the Chatpata Paneer Tikka and Vegetable and Paneer Brochettes with Pimento Marinate. 
Tandoori Broccoli

My personal favourites were the tandoori broccoli- utterly fresh, big florettes of broccoli in a flavourful marinade, grilled to perfection and the paneer brochettes. 


Tandoori Chicken grilled on the table

My non-vegetarian table mates well all in praise of the huge spread that was served to them comprising of Chicken wingsFish Hariyali, Lasooni Tikka Zaffrani Makmali Jhinga Peri Peri Shrimps, Lamb Sheekh kebab, Jack Daniel Glazed Beef Brochettes and more. Towards the end, they were pleading with the servers to stop getting them more food :)

Yeah, we are foodbloggers and we love good food, but even we could not manage to order main course after eating so many appetisers. I was sceptical about eating dessert after stuffing myself so much but the dear lady from marketing, Abanti, wouldn't hear of it. We ordered one each of the four specialty desserts on the menu and needless to say, each of the four plates were wiped clean by the 7 of us on the table.



Out of the Kilimanjaro (a chocolate mousse dessert), Baked Cheese “ A La Maison” Yoghurt Sorbet and Berry Compote, Barbequed Baked apple Cake with Caramel Parfait and the Grilled Seasonal Fruits with Toasted Almonds and Rum Ice Cream, my favourite was the cheesecake paired superbly with the mildly tart yogurt sorbet. The Kilimanjaro would score top marks for it's stunning presentation replete with the tiny gold leaf garnish on its peak. It was totally melt in the mouth. At third place was the apple cake and the grilled fruits was a little lackluster purely because the other three desserts were so spectacular. 

To summarize - a lovely ambience, well stocked bar, innovative cocktails, a wide menu of excellent food and attentive service are all good reasons to dine at Blue Terrain. It would make the perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two. I hear they are planning to start a Sunday swim and brunch soon. What's better than working up an appetite with a swim and indulging in some good food!

DETAILS

Blue Terrain- The Poolside Bar & Barbecue Restaurant

Novotel Bengaluru TechparkOpposite RMZ Ecospace Business Park,Marthahalli - Sarjapur Outer Ring Road, Bengaluru – 560103, Karnataka, IndiaTel.: +91 (80) 66700600

www.novotel.com

Pictures courtesy Chinmayie & Swapna.

6 February 2013

Foxtail Millet Salad - An old grain in a new avatar

Foxtail Millet

Recently, Hindu carried a story on Foxtail Millet on how it used to be the staple of people in rural Andhra and how it was put away when people were supplied with subsidized rice. It has a very short crop cycle of 60-90 days and it can be grown in any season. The article states the re-emergence of this forgotten grain as a diabetic-friendly food, high in fibre, protein and low in glycemic index (causes steady increase in blood sugar post consumption as compared to rice). 
In India: Tinai, chamai, kavalai, kambankorai are some of the names for millet in Tamil. Nuvanam is millet flour. The gruel made from millet, the staple of Ancient Tamils, is called kali, moddak kali, kuul, and sangati. Korralu (Telugu), Navane (Kannada) [Source: Wikipedia]
It cooks as easily as rice in the pressure cooker or using the boiling method. It can be easily eaten with all the side dishes that you would eat with rice - eg. sambar, rasam, curds, dal etc. You can even make pulao, khichdi, pongal, upma and other such dishes with this. If you cook it carefully, each grain stays separate after cooking, and it goes beautifully into salads, adding a lot of body and fibre to your salads. I've read that you can soak and sprout them similar to 'ragi' and powder the sprouted millets for making gruel like weaning foods for babies. The fact that it's naturally gluten free is a boon to people with gluten intolerance. 

Other health benefits of foxtail millet include reducing bad cholesterol and high antioxidant levels. 


This is my first time cooking with this grain and I'm extremely happy with the ease of cooking, texture and taste. It comes close to couscous in texture, only more easily available, much cheaper and locally grown. You can easily precook and refrigerate this so you can add it to soups, salads, burgers, muffins, pancakes - the list is quite endless.



Foxtail Millet Salad 
Time taken: Under 30 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients
1/2 cup raw Foxtail Millet, soaked for 2 hours in water
1 tsp rice bran oil (or any other cooking oil)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cups of any lettuce, washed, dried and cut into bite sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, grated
2-3 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1 medium potato, boiled, peeled, diced
4 strawberries, diced (optional)
1/2 tsp dried mint
Juice of 2 small lemons or 1 big (3-4 tbsp of juice)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or cold pressed coconut oil, if you like the flavour)
Salt to taste

Directions

  1. How to cook foxtail millet: Pressure cook the drained millet with 1 cup water, 1 tsp cooking oil and 1/2 tsp salt for two whistles. Turn off the flame. Remove once cooker is cooled and spread on a plate to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, assemble the bell peppers, onion, lettuce, garlic, coriander leaves, potato, strawberries. 
  3. Crush the dried mint between finger tips and sprinkle around the bowl. 
  4. Add as much freshly ground black pepper as you like. Add the lemon juice, olive oil and the cooled millets. 
  5. Toss well, and add up to 1/2 tsp of salt (or as per taste) and gently get all the seasoning into the salad with a couple of forks.
  6. Serve chilled or at room temperature. 


You can find Foxtail Millet at stores like Namdhari's in Bangalore. I buy it from Towness- our produce and grocery supplier. I'm assuming in other cities, you would get it at the traditional grain merchants, organic stores or health stores over regular supermarkets. 


4 February 2013

Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter

There's this joke about Pinterest on how everything is only good to see, and nothing ever gets translated into real life. That's not entirely true. I've come across some brilliant fitness ideas, recipes, fashion ideas on the multiple boards. This recipe is another beautiful discovery from one of the food boards. Very few ingredients and minimal time taken means it's simple enough to make each time a bottle gets empty, elegant enough to be a part of a gourmet gift basket or a simple gift for family and friends. You do need a mixer or a food processor though. It will make many nutritious yet yummy sandwiches for kids (and adults). The evening I made this, I was afraid I will lick this clean straight from the mixer. Scary! 





I usually make my own peanut butter, but the two additional ingredients definitely add a gourmet twist to good ol' peanut butter. Coconut oil, used in South India for centuries, got a bad rap over the last few years for being a saturated fat (solidifies at room temp) but it's back in the ranks of healthy food. Organic cold pressed coconut is being consumed raw by the tablespoon by many a Hollywood star. Make sure you use a good quality coconut oil for this. It is of course optional, but it adds LOADS of flavour to the butter. 





Homemade Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter 
Makes 1 medium jar
Time taken: 5-10 mins
Adapted from NeverHomemaker

Ingredients
1 cup of roasted skinned peanuts (use ready roasted variety to save time)
1/2 tsp salt (avoid if using salted roasted peanuts)
50-100 grams of dark chocolate, chopped or use 1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 tbsp cold pressed coconut oil (or any edible coconut oil)

Equipment required
A food processor or mixer

Directions

  1. In a food processor or mixer, blend all of the above until it turns into a fine paste. Scrape down the sides of the jar 2-3 times and run the mixer for a total of 2-3 minutes until everything comes together to a buttery consistency.
  2. With a silicone spatula, scrape everything into a clean dry glass bottle.
  3. The butter solidifies in the fridge. When left out it is a nice spreadable consistency and I prefer to leave it out. Prepare a small quantity at a time so that there's no chance of spoilage.




Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter on Homemade No Knead Sandwich Bread


Use this to make sandwiches or eat with sliced apples or pears. Fruit with peanut butter is one of the healthiest snacks for adults and kids alike.