Vegetarian Concoctions

July 5, 2007

Khasta Kachori

I have’nt been blogging for over a month now. No particular reason. I did make some interesting crunchies and munchies, but did not bother to take photographs. My husband even asked me if I was feeling well when I let him eat the spring rolls without capturing some shots for records. Photographing the food, for me, takes more time than cooking it. I do have a good camera, with the macro mode(which is quite a feature for photographing food!) capability, but my kitchen is not open to natural light. I have to take pictures during the day, with the lights on. Most times, I just cannot manage a decent shot indoors.

My typical photography sessions are filled with activity. I carry the food, the garnish, a cloth to spread on the ground and the camera to the patio. A pair of curious eyes watches me with interest. I spread the cloth and place the serving bowl on it. A pair of energetic legs jumps into action. I wipe the bowl for any unwanted traces of food, garnish it and switch on the camera. A pair of meddling hands is what I see through the viewer. Then I do a little pleading and screaming. More often than not, this just increases the levels of curiosity and activity. I threaten a ‘time out’ session and that doesn’t work either. I wonder how the father manages this dialogue so effectively. Finally, I turn to my saviour – ‘Barney’. He has came to my rescue more times than I can count. Works like a charm. With the little monkey safely watching the dino, I get back to work. After a couple shots I can see the head turn towards me again. I quickly take another shot and clear everything out before hurricane Ananya decides to change path.

Now you see why I am not really fond of the picture displaying part of the recipe writing process. Anyway, this is a picture sequence I had taken a few months ago and completely forgotton about. When I chanced to see it in my camera waiting to be uploaded, I didnt lose much time compiling this post.

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Khasta kachori is a recipe I learnt from a friend’s mom. She made the most amazing kachoris. This is what you need.

All-purpose flour (maida) – 2 cups

Ghee/butter – 1/3 cup

Moong dal – 3/4 cup

Saunf(fennel seeds) – 2 tsp

Dhania (Corriander seeds) – 1 tbsp

Jeera (Cumin seeds) – 2 tsp

Red chilli pwd – 2 tsp (or less)

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Hing – a pinch

Garam masala – 1/2 tsp

Oil for deep frying

Soak the moong dal overnight or for at least 3-4 hours. Mix the maida and ghee with hand to a crumbly texture. Add water little by little to make a stiff dough. Let rest for 1/2 hr. Dry grind the jeera, saunf and dhaniya. Add oil to a pan and add the soaked moong dal.(Alternatively you can grind the soaked moong dal coarsely with minimum water and then roast it in a little oil till the water evaporates and it forms a crumb-like texture. Add the masalas and the dry powders and saute for a few minutes. Let this cool. Fill it in the dough (do not overfill) and flatten it out a bit. Deep fry till golden brown and serve with chutney or ketchup.

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February 13, 2007

Sourdough bread

Filed under: All-Purpose flour, Baking, Breads — Hema @ 11:00 am

It was a cold, lazy weekend afternoon early last year. The little one was happily tucked away into her blanket for a nap and dear hubby was watching football. I was flipping through one of the baking books I had bought recently and a recipe caught my attention – Sourdough bread. We both love this bread and always bought it from the store. Can it be made at home? Then, began an extensive research for methods and ingredients on the internet.

What I found was quite fascinating. You mix all-purpose flour and water and leave it in a warm open place for a few days with frequent monitoring. The batter picks up yeast and bacteria from the environment, starts bubbling and turns sour. This would be the starter. The quality of a starter would depend on where you live and whether the batter picks up the right guys. San-Francisco starters are supposed to be the best. Also, once someone has a starter going, it is fed periodically and kept alive for a long, long time – for generations sometimes.

I tried. The first time, nothing happened. February was a cold month (Yeah! sometimes, even in Florida) and so, I decided to wait for the spring. I gave it another shot in March. This time it looked like things were happening and I saw some bubbles on day 3. It was exciting! I added half a cup of all-purpose flour and warm water everyday, for the next 4 days. It got bubblier. It was time to try out my very own bread….or so I thought! I mixed more flour, sugar, salt and waited for it to rise to twice its size. I waited, waited and waited even more! It rose but not to the extent described in the cookbooks and internet sites. With a heavy heart I punched it back in for the second rise. Waited for 3 more hours for the rise and baked it. What came out was a shame. The crust was too thick, the inside was no-where close to being called soft and the taste…I had…ahem…added a little too much salt.

Totally frustrated with my first attempt, I put off the thought of baking bread for a while. I still kept the starter alive for a few more months. It was not before June, that I made my second unsuccessful attempt and dumped my starter in disgust and decided not to venture into the bread making business anymore.

Then, in September,  THIS happened! I read through the post at least 3 times before I left a comment. Few days later, she baked her first biscuits. Now, this was exciting. I left another comment and she replied ‘Thanks, Hema! If you want to give it a shot, I’m more than happy to pass along some starter anytime’. Really? I wrote back to her with my mailing address and sure enough received this package with some dried starter and a lovely little note with instructions. She actually took time and dried some starter for me. Yes, she is our very own ‘Out of the wor…garden – Linda!’.

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Thanks Linda! You are awesome!
I stored the dry starter in the refrigerator for over two months before I got a chance to get working with it. I followed Linda’s instructions and pretty soon the starter was bubbling with activity.

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A day before I decided to take the plunge, I added a cup of flour and half a cup of warm water to the starter. Next morning, I took a cup of starter for the bread and stored the rest in the refrigerator. With it went in ½ tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt. Then, I cheated (blush). Well, you see I have had horrible sourdough experiences in the past and really wanted soft bread this time. So, I added some commercial yeast…just a pinch, actually (blush, blush). Dissolved it in a tbsp of warm water and added it to the dough after 5 minutes. Then I added flour(about 1 cup), one spoon at a time till the consistency felt right – soft and workable, but not sticking to your hands. I brushed some olive oil on it and let it rise in a warm place (oven with lights on).

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It rose to twice its size in about 2 hours! YAY! I punched it back in and this time put it into my loaf pan for the second rise. 2 hours later, I made a slash on the top and popped it into the 425 F preheated oven for 8 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 375 F and baked it further for another 20 minutes till the crust turned golden brown.

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Out came my precious bread, with my home smelling like a bakery:) I let it cool and gave hubby the honour of cutting my first bread and taking this picture.

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It was soft and tasted almost like what we get at stores..a little less sour, but that maybe because of the extra yeast I added. Now, I can proudly say baking bread is not a big deal’. Thanks Linda. Could’nt have done it without your help.

October 26, 2006

Diwali treats Part II

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Mixture: This was the most time consuming. It has 7 parts to it: oomapodi, boondi, maida biscuits, aval, curry leaves, peanuts and seasoning

1. Oomapodi
besan 1 cup
salt to taste
oomam (ajwain) – 1 1/2 tsp
turmeric – 1 pinch
oil for frying
Mix all the ingredients to make a soft dough. Transfer it to the achchhu and fry in batches

2. Boondi:
Besan – 1 cup
salt to taste
chilli pwd – 2 tsp
turmeric – a  pinch
hing – a pinch
Soda-bi-carb – a pinch
Make a batter using water with the above ingredients. You can use a boondi karandi (a big flat ladel with holes) or a plate/colander if you dont have one. th eholes should be about 2-3 mm in diameter. Hold it over the hot oil and pour a spoonful of batter on it. Now spread the batter on the karandi as if making a dosa and the drops that fall down should fry up into nice round boondis. For checking the consistancy, test fry with little batter first. If the boondis turn out pear shaped, then more water needs to be added and if they are too big and stuck together, you may need to add more besan. Trial and error is the way to go

3. Maida biscuit:
I am not sure if it has any other name, but that’s what we call this at our place. This is the best part of mixture in my opinion
Maida – 1 cup
rice pwd – 2 tbsp
salt – to taste
Oil for frying
Make a soft dough with the roti dough consistency and roll it out to the thickness of a thin roti. You do not have to be precise about the shape here. Use a knife or a pizza cutter and cut out diamond shapes. Deep fry the biscuits and make sure they are crisp before removing them from the oil
Deep fry (4) 2 cups of Poha, (5)1/2 cup of curry leaves and (6) 1 cup peanuts. Crumble the oomapodi and add together items 1 through 6.  Heat up 1 tbsp oil. Mix salt, chilli pwd and hing on a plate and pour the hot oil over it. Now, add this to the mixture and season it uniformly.
Thattai: I was not around whan MIL made these, but got the recipe from her.

Rice pwd – 1 cup
Udad pwd – 1 tbsp
Chilli pwd – 2 tsp
Til – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Butter – ¼ cup
Mix the Rice and Udad pwd. Add softened butter and mix it well with you hands till you get a crumbly mix. Add the chilli pwd, til and salt and make a soft dough with water. Heat up the oil for frying and make small flat discs with the dough. The best way to do it is to use a thick plastic sheet or cloth. Deep fry in batches of 5-6 and store in an airtight container.

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Gulab jamun – used the GITS mix

Ribbon pakoda: My achchhu did not have the perfect ribbon making option, so I decided to go with a plain, thin slot.
Besan – 1 cup
Rice pwd – 1 tbsp
turmeric – 1/4 tsp
chilli pwd – 1 tbsp
salt to taste
Oil to fry
Make a dough with all the above ingredients using water. Transfer to achchhu and deep fry

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Thenguzhal:
Rice Flour – 1 cup
Udad flour – 1/2 cup
Jeera – 2 tsp
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Hing – 1/4 tsp
Oil for frying
Mix all the dry ingredients together. Heat up the ghee and add it to the flour and mix it up with your hands. Add enough water to make a soft dough. The consistancy: should be tight enough to retain a depression made with your fingers and soft enough to let the dough pass easily through the achchhu (I will post a picture for those of you who do not know what it is – its like a pasta press). Transfer the dought the achchhu. Heat up oil and fry up the thenguzhal in batches till done.

Gajar Halwa:
Carnation condensed milk (or any other brand) – 1 can
Carrots – 1 lb 
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Cardamom pwd – 1 tsp
Almonds, raisins, cashews – 2 tbsp each or according to taste
Grate the carrots using a medium sized grater. In a pressure cooker (or any thick bottomed skillet), add a tablespoon of ghee or butter. Put in the condensed milk and grated carrots. And stir it till all the water content evaporates. This may take about an hour. Keep stirring it so that it doesn’t get stuck to the bottom. Once done, heat up some ghee in a small pan. Add sliced almonds, raisins and halved cashews. Fry them for a bit till the raisins puff up and the nuts turn a little brown. Put it into the halva. Add cardamom pwd to the halva and stir it up well. Though I have never tried, my guess is this should work well in a microwave as well. It will take a lot less time. Just make sure you use a big glass container

and, last but not the least! My latest creation for my little one for Diwali….

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