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Posts tagged ‘Indian’

on pita & filling our pockets

Making your own pocket bread may not be the thing for you. Do you have some leisure hours on one of your weekend days that you might like to spend playing with soft little pillows of dough? Do you find it a thing of pleasure to create something from scratch, something you can easily grab off the shelf, machine-made and already shrink-wrapped for you in plastic? Would it thrill you (just a tiny bit?) to watch flat pancakes fill like hot-air balloons in your oven while the aromas of a bakery fill your house?   hmmm! – well –

then…

PitaBread-5

Pita  – from your own oven

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makes 16 pita pockets

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1 Tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1 package)

2½ cups lukewarm water

¼ teaspoon sugar

Approximately 6 cups unbleached white bread flour  (or unbleached all-purpose flour)

1½ – 2 teaspoons salt

3 Tablespoons vegetable or extra-virgin olive oil

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 Into a large bowl, pour ½ cup of warm water and stir in the yeast to dissolve. Add the sugar. When the mixture begins to froth (proving that the yeast is still lively) stir in the remaining 2 cups of water. Gradually add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring vigorously. (You may either do this by hand, or with a stand-mixer.) You’ve now made a “sponge”. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes, or until it too froths.

Stir in the salt and 2 Tablespoons of the oil and mix together well. Gradually add the remaining flouryou may need less than the total amount specified – once you have a dough that holds together into a ball and isn’t sticking wetly to your hands, you’ve added enough flour.

(Because the flour hydrates gradually – and depends on ambient humidity amongst other things – if you add large amounts of flour all at once, you can overshoot the mark. All would not be lost…just add a bit more water – gradually – to find that happy balance.)  

Knead well by hand in the bowl, or on a floured board, ten minutes or so; or in a stand mixer using the dough hook for maybe 7 minutes. You’re looking for a smooth, shiny and elastic dough that no longer sticks to your fingers when held for several seconds. Dust with a bit more flour occasionally if it proves too sticky. Form it into a ball.

Put the remaining tablespoon of oil into the bowl and roll the ball of dough around so as to grease it all over. (This prevents a crust from forming on it.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a comfy warm place free of drafts for about 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C), placing a large baking sheet in the hottest part. (Generally about ¼ of the way up from the bottom.) Allow it to preheat for 20 minutes.

Punch the dough down and then knead again for several minutes. Divide the dough in half. Divide the first half into 8 “equal” lumps and roll these into balls.

PitaBread-1PitaBread-2

PitaBread-3

On a lightly floured surface, using either your hands or a rolling pin dusted with flour, flatten each lump into a “pancake” about 7 or 8 inches across and 1/8 to ¼-inch thick.  Spread a kitchen towel on your counter and sprinkle it with flour. Dust each of the rounds with flour and arrange on the cloth, leaving an inch between them.  Cover these with another flour-dusted cloth and allow them to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. (If your counter is particularly cold, you could leave them to rest them slightly longer.)

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just another ‘ordinary’ breakfast in India

Last fall I introduced you to my friend Amit who grew up in Delhi, India. (See a wonderful rice and beans dish of his mother’s, Rajmah, that I posted at the time.) Amit, a man who loves all things associated with the kitchen, has inspired me in my own. Now borrowed from him are chai, rice and bean dishes, chutney, a couple salads and several curries that he brought to the US when he immigrated here. This is Amit’s father’s birthday month and in honor of that, I was asked if I could share a favorite dish of his Dad’s too. I told my good friend I’d be happy to.

Have you ever heard the expression that a person grows into the name he or she was given? It appears to be the case with Amit’s father, a gregarious man with a smile that lights up his entire face, and possibly the entire room. His name: Prakash Chandra Jain. Prakash means light, and Chandra – moon! Can you imagine being given such a name?! And then, having the privilege of growing into it?

Seen here with wife Anjana, at the wedding of their son Moni to his new bride, Richa.

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Sri Prakash Chandra, since retired, had his career as an experimental physicist.  He’s always been an exacting man – both in his lab and in the kitchen where he loved to cook for his family. His interest in the culinary world was already well-evidenced by the time he was a young man in college where he took the lead in his dorm’s dining hall — purchasing the food, planning the recipes for the cooking staff and in general, managing the kitchen. Experimentation wasn’t restricted to his physics lab either – he’s been known to work and work on a recipe until he’s perfected it. And one of his favorite dishes is one that Amit and his family grew up eating on a typical (ever-delicious) Delhi morning.

Paranthas stuffed with cauliflower & spices

served with cumin raita and an out-of-this-world green chutney

Sounds complicated, no? Well, it’s not a bowl of instant oatmeal or a cereal bar grabbed on the way out the door (but who writes of that?)  It’s sit-down food, meant for moments to savor.

Cauliflower stuffing

  • 1 medium cauliflower, shredded (using a coarse grater)
  • Grated ginger root (using fine grater) – a piece about 1 x 1-inch
  • Cilantro: 2 to 3 Tablespoons, chopped (Amit’s family uses leaves only)
  • 2 teaspoon Garam masala
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (optional, but we like) – minced

(NOTE: Amit has also made this stuffing with purple potatoes, cooked & chopped finely, then prepared as in the directions for this stuffing. How very pretty that would be.)

Heat oil in a pan. Add ginger and sauté until just slightly brown. Add the cauliflower and spices. Cook uncovered over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes (or until tender).

Should you have any left over, this stuffing is delicious to eat as a side.

Green Chutney

fresh ginger – 1 inch x ½ inch piece

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

15 – 20 leaves of fresh mint

2 whole bunches of fresh cilantro

2 cloves garlic

1½ salt  (Amit likes 2)

juice of 2 limes

1 jalapeño – ribs and seeds removed

¼ to ½ water (more like 3/8)

1 to 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt  (optional – I wanted to preserve the brilliant green color so didn’t add)

3 Tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

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chai for two, & two for chai

We read the other day that locally-based Tazo Teas will be pulling up stakes and leaving Portland for a colder and damper clime. (I know, you thought that not possible. Portland gets such a bad rap.)  We’ll still be able to buy their teas of course, but we’ll be sorry to see them go. Having Tazo in our backyard is a bit like a blanket thrown over the back of the couch, or a delicious book on the nightstand – a bit of a comfort –  there, should you need it. The building that houses Tazo is striking in its simplicity, spare in its details, but rich, warm and inviting. Is there something subliminal in its design that makes one suddenly crave a steaming fragrant cup of tea? Wait here, I’ve got just the ticket!

I’m not claiming to be an expert, not by any stretch, but I did learn from one. My friend Amit from Delhi taught me how chai was made in their kitchen back home and I’ve been making it in ours ever since. It’s very simple to do and I predict you’ll never go back to those cartons of chai after tasting this one. Take ten minutes of your time before you sit down to address your holiday cards, or wrap your gifts, or pay your bills. If your attitude is running a bit sour, you might try chai. A hug around your heart, held in a steamy pot. (I know. Ridiculous you say. But only because you haven’t tried it yet.)

For those who’ve never enjoyed the treat that chai is – imagine steaming milk (cow’s milk, soy, rice, coconut – whatever your preference) – into it fragrant cardamom, allspice, freshly ground pepper and grated fresh ginger root – allow it all to steep so that the milk itself is imbued with all the fragrance and warmth these spices impart – then the tea (black or green or a combination of the two) for the last 3 minutes. Strain and serve. Warm your hands, warm your soul.

(And though I’ve strongly advocated for your chai to be served steaming hot, I can tell you that over ice in the summer, it’s refreshingly delicious and wonderful!)

Chai for Two

  • 2 cups milk (I’ll use any milk, but for chai I think soy might be my personal favorite.)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root (see NOTE)
  • sugar to taste (see NOTE)
  • 2 teaspoons tea (see NOTE)

Directions:

Into a medium saucepan, over low heat measure the milk of your choice and water. Add allspice, cardamom, freshly-ground pepper. Grate the ginger, measure and add. Bring the pot slowly to just steaming, stirring frequently. (Don’t allow soy, rice or coconut milk to boil as it will separate which is never pretty.) Turn heat to lowest setting or turn off entirely. Spill the tea(s) over the steaming milk. Stir once then leave undisturbed for 3 minutes. (After 3 minutes, the bitterness of the tea leaf begins to leach into your brew.)

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the chai of its solids.

This will cool it off some, so return to the pot and gently rewarm. (Again, careful not to boil.)

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Serve steaming. Or chill, and serve over ice.

See below for NOTES on Ginger, Sugar and Tea. Read more

Feijoada – Spicy Beans Goan-Style – from India

Installment #4 in our continuing series on Rice & Beans. 

The idea behind this series of mostly vegetarian meals is that if we eat more frugally just once a week, with the money we save We Can Feed Another…(Read about the hunger problem in the November 1st post that introduced the series.)

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In Goa, the smallest of India’s states and a former colony of Portugal, the people enjoy a spicy bean dish called Feijoada.  It’s made with either black-eyed peas or kidney beans and is traditionally served over steamed rice. Even though Feijoada is sometimes made with the addition of sausage, India has a long tradition of vegetarianism and this dish holds up very well without it.  Black-eyed peas, if you’ve never had them, are much smaller in size, have a more delicate taste and a more pleasant texture than their large red cousin the kidney bean, and it’s the bean we’ll use here.

With all the spices that make up a fragrant curry, and coconut milk that softens and mellows, Feijoada is another hearty and especially delicious dish. 

I made my own curry powder for this – (only because I kind of like playing with spices – you might have noticed) – but you can certainly avoid that step and simply add a mild, good-quality curry you’ve purchased. I certainly would if I were looking to save time.

If you’d like to make your own curry powder –

Fragrant Curry Powder

(makes about ½ cup)

  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg pieces (nutmeg can be broken with kitchen knife or back of heavy pan)
  • seeds from 5 white cardamom pods (or 4 from green)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon red peppercorns (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup coriander seeds (yes, ¼ cup)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 dried curry leaves, if you can find them (Indian grocers and some Asian markets would have them.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek

Combine all the ingredients except the fenugreek in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking or stirring often, until the spices are lightly browned and their fragrance is rising. This will only take a few minutes. During the last minute of cooking, add the fenugreek powder and continue stirring.

Remove from heat and cool.  Using a spice or coffee grinder, process the spices until finely ground. Store in a small lidded jar for up to several months.

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I started with dried black-eyed peas. For one thing, dry beans cost pennies. For another, I like the taste of home-cooked beans better. But again, if you’re short of time, you can find them canned and frozen. I’d recommend the frozen if you have a choice between the two.

If you’re starting with dried beans, soak them in enough water to cover by several inches for at least a few hours. (You can begin the morning of if that’s most convenient.) Discard the soaking water, start with fresh to cook the the beans. Put them in a good size pot, covered by a couple inches of water, no salt, and bring water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer while you prepare the rest of the stew.

Feijoada – Spicy Beans, Goan-Style

(serves at least 4)

  • ½ pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over (or several cans – or – 1 or 1½ packages of frozen)
  • 2 large onion, peeled (cut into large pieces)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small dried red chile or 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • one 1-inch piece fresh ginger (about the thickness of a thumb) peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed, canola, corn or other neutral oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Fragrant Curry Powder or any mild, good-quality curry powder
  • 2 large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (or about 1½ cups of canned diced tomatoes)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon tamarind paste (see NOTE)
  • Garnish:   Torn cilantro leaves, wedges of fresh lime, and finely chopped red onion

NOTE: Tamarind paste is found in Asian section of many markets, next to curry paste. If you can’t locate it, you can use fresh lime juice to taste, but the tamarind paste also imparts a nice rich color to the soup as well as its characteristic tart.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onions, garlic, chile, and ginger and process until thoroughly combined and resembling a paste.

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Indian red bean curry – rajmah

Installment 2 in the series – we can feed another… 

My very good friend Amit was born and raised in Delhi, India. He tells me  how much time he would spend outdoors as a boy, running long distances, playing hard with his friends and his brothers, from morning until the hot sun was nearly down. Here he is, on the left, with his mother Anjana and his middle brother Moni, resting in a field of nasturiums at the end of a long day of play.

But something else was happening while Amit was growing up a boy in India. He was paying close attention to what his mother was doing in the kitchen. I know, because to eat at Amit’s house today is a treat, a sumptuous, sensuous, exotic and deeply satisfying treat! Even the simplest of meals feels like a feast at Amit’s house. He moves around his kitchen with ease and a deep but relaxed concentration, spooning spices from their metal tin, peeling and finely slicing ginger, roasting seeds in a pan on the stove. It takes but a few minutes of watching him at work in the kitchen and smelling the aromas rising before you know that the meal you’re about to be served is well on its way towards being amazing.

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I told Amit that spree was doing a series on beans and rice dishes and the reasons why. (See rice & beans.) I asked if he’d share something his mother had cooked while he was growing up – something he’d loved then and brought with him when he moved to the States. He readily volunteered today’s recipe.

As often happens, we pick up the recipes of our parents and adapt them to our changing tastes and ideas about food and what we expect from it. Amit has made a couple changes to the recipe below, but we have first his mother Anjana to thank. This was a dish she was eating growing up a girl in India (seen here with her brother) –  long  before it came to be one of Amit’s very favorite dishes.

pressure cooker was used for this recipe. It makes very short work of cooking with dried beans, and cooking your own dried beans from scratch is always a more flavorful alternative to canned.

No Pressure Cooker?  – it can also be made using a simple soup pot,  though it will take somewhat longer…or, if you’re in need of getting dinner on the table a bit faster, canned beans (likely pinto) would be a good option. Keep in mind though that cooking the beans with these wonderful spices really is the secret behind a fabulous dish of beans!

See bottom of post for serving suggestions, which include rice and raita (an Indian yogurt sauce)

Red Bean Curry – Rajmah

  • 2 cups dried light red beans, preferably soaked overnight in water that covers by 3 inches (See NOTE on variety of beans to use) – if using canned beans, 3 cans should do
  • 3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut oil (or grapeseed oil – any oil with higher smoking point)
  • fresh ginger root    (3 thin slices 1-inch x 2-inch each, then cut into narrow strips)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala (a wonderful Indian spice blend)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 jalapeño pepper coarsely chopped (if you prefer a spicier dish, finely dice it)
  • 6 – 8 whole cloves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons tamarind paste – I like 2 (find in Asian section of the market – see photo at bottom – if you absolutely can’t find, add fresh lime juice to taste)
  • salt – to taste
  • cilantro ½ to 1 whole bunch, washed well and chopped, stems included
  • 6 to 8 green onions, sliced

NOTE:  You can use a variety of red beans for this recipe: pinto, Anasazi, Borlotti or any other of the “cranberry” beans. You could also use kidney, but they are a bit less “creamy” than others just named, and a bit gummier too.

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Soak beans overnight in enough water to cover by 3 inches. Discard the soaking water.

Cut long thin (longitudinal) strips from the ginger. Add peanut oil to the pressure cooker (or soup pot) on medium or medium-low heat. Add cumin seeds. Amit says to fry until they “chit-chit”  which is the sound they’ll make as they approach doneness and are dancing around the bottom of the pan. Turns out, that’s a pretty good guide!  Once the cumin has begun to chit-chit, add the julienned ginger and fry until it’s turned a light brown.

Add the diced tomatoes. (I’ve only had this recipe a very short time, and already I’m making my own little changes. I almost always like to add to a dish that has cooked tomatoes, some freshly-cut ones towards the end so that their beautiful color and brightness is present. Therefore, I reserved a 4th medium tomato for that purpose here, cooking for only 2 minutes or less when the dish was nearly ready to serve.) Add the spices – turmeric, garam masala and coriander. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes.

(You will not believe the aromas filling your kitchen! Exquisite I tell you!)

Add very coarsely chopped jalapeño. (If you want the dish more spicy, finely chop the pepper. Want it less spicy? Add it later in the cooking process.)

Add the beans along with 2½ cups of water. (This will create a stew-like consistency. If you’d prefer something a bit soupier, you can add 3 cups of water instead. Turns out that I needed 3.) Add also the whole cloves at this time. Bring the pressure cooker to full pressure and then cook for 15 minutes.

(OK, here’s where a bean dish can go terribly wrong. : ) I cooked for 15 minutes and sampled a couple beans at that time. Not exactly rock-like. Back to the stove. Cooked an additional 7 minutes, figuring they needed at least half again as much time as they were originally given. In the end, my beans required a full 25 – 27 minutes in the pressure cooker. I’ve included a note at the bottom of the post that helps explain. I’d advise that you not take it for granted that your beans will be finished in 15 minutes – though they COULD be!)

Cool down the pressure cooker – then put it back on the burner on medium heat. Add the tamarind paste and stir to mix thoroughly. Add salt to taste.  (Be sure NOT to add salt to un-cooked beans! Their tough little skins will never soften if you do!)  Heat thoroughly, then remove from the burner and allow it to sit with the lid on while you prepare the rice. (Or keep warm on the lowest possible setting on your stove.)

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Serving:

This bean dish goes beautifully atop or alongside white or brown basmati rice or your favorite pilaf. Garnish with torn cilantro and sliced green onions.

Also very delicious served with Raita – in fact I consider it a must. It’s just the right amount of cool and fresh to balance the deep aromas and warmth.

Quick how-to: Thin yogurt with a tiny bit of water. Dry-roast cumin seeds in a pan. Grind coarsely. Add to yogurt along with salt. (Especially Himalayan Pink Salt, naturally.)

Amit also suggests a salad of kale, pomegranate seeds and apple slices, tossed in a dressing of olive oil, fresh lime juice and salt. Allow the kale to sit for a while in the dressing in order to soften and for the various flavors to marry.

A few notes on beans:

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