Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stollen and to all of you A Very Happy New Year 2009 !!


Baking Stollen or Christstollen at Christmas time is an age old custom and has a long tradition in Germany and some neighbouring countries, like the Netherlands (Kerststol). The shape of the Stollen is supposed to remind one of the swaddled baby Christ.
One of the cities well known for this tradition is Dresden and it was one of the first cities where this tradition of baking Stollen for Christmas has been recorded in different chronicles and earliest records date to as early as the 15th Century. Dresdner Stollen is also famous here in Germany and is considered to be one of the best recipes of Stollen.
Thanks to Ulrike of blog Küchenlatein I got to know that Dresdner stollen is a protected designation of origin (PDO) and can only then be called so when it is baked in and around Dresden. But what I could find out after asking bakeries who then call their stollen 'Dresdner Art' (i.e., made in a way like the Dressdner Stollen) is that is that there really are general guidelines which say when a stollen can be referred to as 'Dresdner Art' or something similar.
I had almost given up the thought of baking Stollen this time, but then finally decided on trying it out. It is my very first time. One can so easily get Stollen here that I hardly had the motivation to do it until now. Although, the thought has been on my mind since a couple of years now. Every bakery is offering Stollen during Christmas time. The supermarkets start selling them much earlier, in fact, as well as many of its new reincarnations - the cookie sized stollens. This Christmas I had not bought any Stollen, or for that matter bought a single Stollen at all. The Stollen season at the shops will also be over as soon as the new year starts. So, I thought "let me not break the tradition of eating Stollen at this time of the year and make my own" ;)
After searching through a couple of recipes in the net I saw this recipe (in German) which found my liking and got an instinctive "OK".

Stollen 'Dresdner Art'

Recipe by PG of My Kitchen Stories

Based on the recipe from www.weihnachtsbaeckerei.com (in German)

Preparation time: 1 day + about 1-1/2 to 2 hours
Baking time: 60 minutes

For 2 loaves

Ingredients:
500 g raisins (I used 300 g only + 100 g each of chopped dates and apricots)
200 g candied orange peel (orangeat)
100 g candied lemon peel
150 g peeled and chopped almonds
100 ml water
70 ml rum (i replaced it with 50 ml water)
600 g wheat flour type 550 (I used a mixture of types 405 and 550) - divided (300 g + 300 g)
some flour to roll the dough
1-1/2 cubes (60 g ) fresh yeast
25 g sugar
250 ml milk - divided (150 ml + 100 ml)
2 egg yolks (size Medium)
2 level tsp salt (I used only one)
1/2 tsp Lebkuchen spice* (or gingerbread spice) - I prefer using only cinnamon
1/4 tsp organic orange peel flavouring (orange oil + maltodextrin)
200 g raw marzipan
300 g butter - divided (200 g + 100 g)
150 g confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1 packet bourbon vanilla sugar** (= vanilla extract + sugar + ground vanilla bean)

Left: before folding the Stollen; Right: Stollen, after folding it (method: see below)

Method:
  • a day before, soak the raisins, candied peels and chopped almonds in the rum and water in a closed container at room temperature
  • the next day, in a large and deep bowl add 300 g flour, make a well in the centre, crumble the fresh yeast and add 150 ml cold milk and sugar (25 g), stir to dissolve and knead everything together into a smooth but stiff dough
  • let the dough in the bowl rise (proof) at a warm (but not too warm) place covered with a wet dish towel
  • once the volume is doubled, add the remaining (300 g) flour, milk (100 ml), egg yolks (2), salt (1 tsp), the gingerbread spice and orange peel flavouring and knead everything together for a while
  • add marzipan slowly and knead it together
  • knead 200 g butter into the dough (don't let it get warm!)
  • followed by the soaked raisins, peels and nuts until you get a soft and uniform dough
  • let it rise (proof) for another 20 minutes at a warm place
  • roll out the dough on a floured surface into a rectangle, don't knead!
  • fold it twice, first lengthwise (longer side) and then breadthwise (shorter side)
  • let the dough rise (proof) for another 20 minutes
  • divide the dough into two halves now
  • For each dough follow as given below:
    • gently roll out the dough (each half) into a rectangle of 30 x 20 cm2 with a rolling pin
    • make one half lengthwise (30 x 10 cm2) thinner than the other
    • with the lower side of the hand (holding the hand vertically and straight) make a groove (depression) in the middle
    • at the groove fold the thinner side over the thicker one to get the typical shape of a Stollen
  • put both the stollen over a baking sheet (I didn't use any, just nicely sprinkled flour on the try)
  • let them rest for 10 minutes
  • bake in a preheated oven at 200 °C (Gas: 2; Convection: 160 °C) for 45 minutes
  • bake at 175 °C (Gas:3; Convection: 150 °C) for another 15 minutes
  • In the mean time
    • melt the butter in a small pot at the lowest temperature on the stove top and switch off heat as soon as it is done, don't let it get too hot
    • mix vanilla sugar with confectioner's sugar
  • once the stollen are done, brush their tops with the melted butter
  • sprinkle with the sugar generously
  • once it has cooled down a bit, carefully turn it up side down and put the sugar on the lower side as well generously
  • ideally one should let it stand for a week or two before cutting it
  • stollen, if stored properly in a cold and dry condition, can be easily kept for months.
  • while serving make 1 cm thick slices and serve with spiced tea or coffee or to German Glühwein (hot wine punch)
*Lebkuchen spice: it is usually a mixture of ground cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, mace. ginger and allspice. It is similar to gingerbread spice.
**To make your own vanilla sugar just put a scraped vanilla bean into an airtight glas jar of plain table sugar and close it tightly. In a few days time you will have a wonderful vanilla flavoured sugar, grind the vanilla bean and add to the sugar, if desired.

Now, I'll begin with what all went wrong or what I did differently with purpose :D :
  1. I didn't use any Rum (alcohol), I don't do it as a rule since a few months, unless it is really a small amount and cannot be done without. The reason is sunny boy. Against regular belief, about 95% of the alcohol remains in the food, even if you cook it for long. I was shocked when I read it in the "Eltern" (German for Parents) magazine the first time about a year back. since then I don't use any alcohol in any form in food. No more wines for us for the coming few years. But, both me and hubby don't mind that at all.
  2. I didn't use the Lebkuchen spice. I dislike it even more than cinnamon, which I have begun to like a little bit after many years of eating it in different sweets, but Lebkuchen spice (gingerbread spice) , no that has to wait till I begin to like it a bit. I used cinnamon and orange oil instead, as oranges are something I very much associate to Christmas too.
  3. I made a big blunder while preparing the dough. I by mistake used 250 g butter instead of 200 g while kneading the dough. It made the stollen much too soft. I was totally puzzled as to how it could be, until I checked the recipe and my ingredients to find the mistake. I tried to add a little bit more of flour (about 50 g) and just about managed to keep the whole thing together. Next time I'll actually use much much lesser than 200 g and take maybe 100 g only. It is more than enough in my opinion.
  4. I used a lot of flour to shape the stollen because of the blunder (too much butter)

As you can see, the Stollen has kind of melted down because of too much butter in it and does not have that typical raised shape it is supposed to have in the centre. But, the big consolation is that it has turned out so lovely! I love the flavour of this Stollen. I guess, for some of you a christmas sweet means the spices, but I have not been able to befriend myself with them as yet. And I found this packet of orange peel flavouring from a Reformhaus, which found its use here and gave it a wonderful flavour and made a very pleasant combination with cinnamon -you see, I did use some spice. :) And Hubby gave the best compliment I could have from him. He said it tastes better than what we buy, and we have been buying all kinds of them in all these years and I'm quite particular about what I buy when it comes to Stollen. I don't buy just anything. And he even said "good.... too much butter is tasting good" All I could was laugh at that. :D

My Verdict: I liked the use of marzipan in the original recipe, which is not always the case for stollen. The butter was a bit too much, but, partly it was my mistake and can be easily reduced, as a stollen is a dense bread and doesn't have to be soft or for that matter fluffy. The amount of sugar you put on top of it is all up to you. I found replacing a small part of the raisins with apricots and dates made a wonderful change and I will surely keep it like that the next time as well. The absence of rum in the raisins made them more delicious to our taste, but it is a matter of taste again. All in all, a wonderful recipe!
Stollen, brushed with butter, before sprinkling sugar on it

I'm sending this not-so-perfectly shaped but tasty Stollen to Zorra's Bread Baking Day # 15 hosted this time by Annarasa.
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Wising you All  
A Very Happy New Year 2009 !  
May it bring lots of joy, good health, peace 
 and love in your lives!

Some more Stollen recipes:

Zorra's Christstollen at 1x Umrühren bitte
Jude's Stollen at Apple Pies, Patis & Pâté

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brussels sprouts with kidney beans


Brussels sprouts is in season and is growing in plenty here. I have been making Brussels sprouts practically the same way since I tried it the first time, using a recipe from a German book, by cooking it with carrots, onion and garlic slices and a can of tomatoes and at the very end adding some parsley and after switching off the heat topping it with about 50 g of Gouda until it melted. I make some modifications sometimes by leaving out Gouda and making it a bit Indian by adding cumin, turmeric and ground coriander seeds to it in the very beginning. A few days ago I felt that I need to make a proper Indian curry with it and was surprised at the thought that in all these years I never tried it.
The next day I bought Brussels sprouts and also found a nice looking fresh coconut and again couldn't resist buying it, even though I have had bad experiences with it the last two times I bought it and had to practically throw them away. This time luckily after I opened it, it was all OK and looked very good. The water was so tasty that I even gave it to sunny boy to drink and he happily drank it all away.
So, I knew I would like to use coconut in the gravy and started thinking of how it would look like and got going that afternoon and was very pleasantly surprised by the wonderful results.

Brussels sprouts with kidney beans

Recipe by PG of My Kitchen Stories

Ingredients:
350 g Brussels sprouts, outermost leaves peeled and the stems (the base) cut off, and halved if desired
3 medium potatoes, peeled, and cubed about the same size as the Brussels sprouts
1 can kidney beans (250 g), rinsed in water and drained - use more if desired
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rings (optional, I left it out this time)
1 small can (300 g) tomatoes, chopped coarsely
2 tbsp rapeseed oil or olive oil
salt to taste

Spices:

1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 large pinch asafoetida, crushed
2 red chillies (optional) - I kept them separate as sunny boy doesn't eat hot food much yet
10 peppercorns
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sambhar powder - home made (use 1 tsp if not using garam masala)
1/2 tsp garam masala (use 1 tsp if not using sambhar powder)
a few curry leaves (I used dried leaves)

Onion-coconut paste (grind with a blender):

1 yellow onion, chopped coarsely
1-2 large garlic, chopped coarsely
1 " ginger, peeled and chopped coarsely
3 square inch piece of fresh coconut, grated

Method:
  • clean and cut the vegetables, prepare the onion paste
  • heat oil in a large saute pan, reduce heat if required and add the mustard seeds when the oil is just about hot so that they splutter
  • to check if the oil is hot enough, add one or two seeds first and see if they splutter, if yes, then proceed, but keep the vegetables handy so that the spices don't get burnt
  • after adding the mustard, while it is spluttering, add the cumin and let both splutter for a few seconds and add the asafoetida, peppercorns and turmeric, mix once
  • immediately add the onion paste, fry on medium heat till it gets a nice light brown colour
  • add potatoes and stir everything to mix and cook for about 5 minutes covered, stirring in between
  • add Brussels sprouts and carrots and stir
  • add the sambhar powder, garam masala and the curry leaves, stir
  • add 1 cup water and cook further till the vegetables are almost done, stirring in between
  • add the kidney beans and cook for another 5 minutes
  • serve warm with steamed rice

We ate the beans and Brussels sprouts with steamed rice. Honestly, none of us in my family is a big fan of Brussels sprouts, but we try to cook it at home as it is a seasonal vegetable and I believe that seasonal vegetables should always be coming on our plates, even if not too often. So, I always try to make them in some or the other way. But, this is the first time that I heard from hubby that he liked it and I also felt that it had turned out so good. All the ingredients blend so well with each other.
Apart from the coconut, what made this dish so special was the use of the kidney beans. They made the dish perfect and wholesome. I was very happy to have had this idea of adding the kidney beans. To me it was important that I add some legume, as without the legumes, if you want to keep the dish vegetarian, the meal is not so wholesome because of it being quite low and imbalanced in amino acids - the protein building blocks, especially when you also have a child at home.
Back home in India, I grew up with eating a legume dish every day as a vegetarian. My mom made it a point that we eat every day at least one katori (a small bowl) of Dal, which is any of the legumes, skinned or with skin, but split into the two halves -the cotyledons of the seed - a bean here). In India vegetarianism is a way of life, since ages. But, in a vegetarian diet it is very very important that one uses different sources of proteins to cover the complete variety of the 24 amino acids which our body requires to grow (for children) and maintain our body healthy. That is why I always try to cook legumes at least 2 times weekly, even though I do cook fish and chicken every now and then.
Now, I actually had planned to submit another dish, a daal, for the MLLA event, but after I made this dish I knew it had to be this one. So, here is my entry to this month's My legume Love Affair created by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and being hosted this time by Suganya of The Tasty Palette (I know her mainly through a number of her wonderful shots in the CLICK events of Jugalbandi).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Frohe Weihnachten!
Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

May this christmas be as special and unique as you are!
May it bring you joy and happiness!

This is our very first christmas tree ever and we are so happy to have finally bought one this year. Since three years we are thinking of buying one, but every time we thought that sunny boy was too young. But, now is just the right age for him. We went together to a nearby place where they were selling them on the weekend and decorated it in the evening - me, Rishab and hubby. It was such a pleasure. When I took the photo, I didn't notice that hubby had already switched off the lights, as it was already quite late and time to go to bed. But, I think it looks good even without the lights. I have brought some basic decoration and we will increase our stock of christmas ornaments every year, little by little. :)

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas time!


PG

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen


Nürnberger lebkuchen is a speciality made during Christmas time and originating from Nürnberg in the state of Bavaria, Germany. It is now a protected name and can only be used for Lebkuchen actually originating from there, when sold. A comparatively newer variant of this lebkuchen is the Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen, which are baked without any flour. And this is one fact which makes them so interesting for me. Need I mention why? They are gluten free!
But, another reason for this is that I don't like the lebkuchen found in the markets usually. They taste too much of cinnamon and you might know that I prefer it with only little cinnamon. So, that means I have to bake them myself.
And going through this book I got as a gift from a friend of mine, I found this lovely recipe of these exquisite Nürnberger Elisenlenbkuchen. The recipe couldn't have been more perfect for me. After having baked my first round of cookies already, I felt confident enough to try these myself as well.

Nünberger Elisen-Lebkuchen

Recipe by PG of My Kitchen Stories

Based on the Book: Dr. Oetker's Weihnachts Bäckerei (Dr. Oetker Verlag)

Preparation time: 20-25 minutes
Baking Temperature: 130-150°C (convection oven: 120°C) ; gas - position 1
Baking time: 25-30 minutes

Ingredients:

75 -100 g candied orange and lemon peel, finely chopped
125 g almonds meal
2 eggs
200g fine crystal sugar
1 pack vanilla sugar or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch ground clove or cinnamon (I only used cinnamon)
a few drops rum flavouring or 2 tbsp rum
1 tbsp lemon peel or a few drops lemon flavouring
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
75-125 g ground hazelnuts (depending on the size)
30 small paper thin round wafers* ( communion wafers / host, called Oblate in German), to place the batter on
or
spread ground nuts (almonds or hazelnuts) on the baking sheet (almond or hazelnut)

Icing:

white:
150 g powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
1-2 tbsp warm water or lemon juice or a mixture

Chocolate:
75 g dark chocolate icing
or
75 g dark chocolate
10 g coconut fat

Method:

  • mix together finely chopped candied orange and lemon peel with almonds and set aside
  • beat the eggs in a deep bowl at highest speed to get a fluffy and creamy mixture
  • add vanilla extract or sugar and slowly sprinkle the sugar into the mixture while beating, which takes about a minute
  • fold in the aromas, cinnamon and lemon peel
  • add baking powder to the almond mixture and fold it slowly into the egg mixture (you can use the egg beater at the lowest speed)
  • fold in so much ground hazelnuts so that the batter is still easily spreadable
  • spread baking sheets over baking trays and grease them
    • if using hosts/wafers then place them on these sheets
    • if using ground nuts then sprinkle slightly on the sheet to have a thin layer to prevent the cookies from sticking to the sheet
  • using two spoons place spoonfuls of the cookie mixture on each of the wafers or on simply on the sheet to make around 30 cookies
  • bake in preheated oven (requires about 5-10 minutes) at 150°C (convection oven: 120°C) for 25-30 minutes
  • for the white sugar icing mix so much water or lemon juice with the sugar to make a thick paste and
  • for the chocolate icing melt the ingredients in a double boiler / water bath and stir
  • spread the icings on the still hot cookies, by dipping the cookies in the icing or by pouring it on the cookies with a spoon
*NOTE: the wafers are not always gluten free, so one needs to either make the without the wafers or use wafers made with a substitute like rice flour. I made the majority of these without the wafers and only a small part with the wafers.

As you can see here, these haven't turned out perfect. I have no clue as to why these got wrinkled on top or when. It did not affect the flavour or the taste, as they taste fantastic. I made both the coatings for them, sugar and chocolate. But, hubby didn't want any, so I also left a part of the cookies plain. And they actually taste wonderful! But, again each one of us has found his favorite, while sunny boy always chooses the ones with sugar coating (surprisingly, as chocolate in general is his favorite) and I like the ones with chocolate and hubby plain. I'll be making another round soon and let me see if I can figure out why the surface got wrinkled, maybe the oven wasn't hot enough or I had opened it once. Or that I used the mixer at lowest speed to fold in the almond meal.
But, it was utter pleasure to bite into these chewy and flavourful orange and lemony cookies or to be precise, lebkuchen, as these are a special type of cookies made for Christmas. And I'm so happy to have tried these and I will surely make them again.

These cookies go to Susan's Eat Christmas Cookies (part 2) at Food Blogga , the round up is here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jingle bells! Jingle bells!...yum yum...yum yum yum!!

...Oh what fun it is to munch on lovely christmas yums.... :D
Christmas time is time for cookies. Do you agree or do you agree?
Yes, you do. Of course, you do!
So, here are two recipes which I had selected which were gluten and dairy free too and still so perfect for Christmas! Sunny boy's favorite is the almond cinnamon stars and mine coconut macaroons, and hubby's BOTH! I just hope they last till Christmas. maybe I need to make another round of cookies. I already have two more cookie recipes to post about, though.

Before I give you the recipes let me tell you why I choose these two recipes, apart from the reasons of their being gluten and dairy free. I love coconut in any form. Although, I know about this recipe of coconut macaroons since long, I had not tried making them until now. So, now with Christmas coming I had to hurry up with my Christmas baking. Here are two recipe I chose to start with. One is, as already mentioned, the coconut macaroons and the other is a very popular Christmas cookie here and is practically a must at Christmas time and children and adults alike love these "Zimtsterne".
These are two gluten and diary free recipes and the best thing about it is that I didn't have to make any substitutions as these neither require flours nor any milk products. Although there are many different recipes for"Zimtsterne" available, so I was very happy with this one. But, in these recipes you couldn't do without eggs, I would think. But, hey, who knows maybe you expert bakers out there know about that too. I would love to hear it, if you know something more than me.

So, here are the recipes....

Zimtsterne (Almond cinnamon stars)


Based on the Book: Dr. Oetker's Weihnachts Bäckerei (Dr. Oetker Verlag)

Ingredients:

4 egg whites (make sure that no traces of egg yolk are there, otherwise the egg white will not become stiff)
250 g powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
50-100 g sugar for rolling the dough
1 packet vanilla sugar (or 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
3 drops bitter almond aroma (I left it out)
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
350 - 400 g almond meal (ground with skin) - depends on the size of the eggs (I required 400 g for medium sized eggs)

Method:

  • beat egg whites in a deep clean and fat-free bowl until a knife cuts in the stiff froth remain visible (another test: invert the bowl and the stiff froth will not fall off)
  • slowly add powdered sugar to the egg white while beating (1 spoon at a time, once it is incorporated, add more)
  • !! remove about 3-4 tablespoons of meringue in a clean fat free bowl, for coating the tops later
  • add vanilla essence to the remaining and fold in spoonfuls of almond meal into the meringue until it is not sticky anymore and makes a nice ball
  • place the ball on a clean surface sprinkled generously with powdered sugar
  • roll it out with a rolling pin, using some powdered sugar on top in between
  • cut out stars or any desired shape with cookie cutters
  • place baking paper sheets on two baking trays and place the cookies on them
  • coat each cookie with little meringue using a spoon
  • bake in oven for 20-30 minutes at:
    • 130-150°C (preheated)
    • convection: 120°C (preheated)
    • gas: position 1 (preheated)
  • the cookies will still be soft at the base when you take them out of the oven

Coconut macaroons


Recipe from Huettenhilfe.de

Ingredients:
4 egg whites, free from any traces of egg yolks
200 g sugar, fine grained (or use confectioners sugar)
200 g grated dessicated coconut
45-50 round paper thin (rice) wafers*, about 1" in diameter (communion wafers, called Oblate in German)

Method:

  • beat egg whites in a deep clean and fat-free bowl until a knife cut in the stiff froth remain visible (another test: invert the bowl and the stiff froth will not fall off)
  • slowly add sugar to the egg white while beating (1 spoon at a time, once it is incorporated, add more)
  • fold in grated coconut into the meringue with a spatula
  • place baking paper sheets on two baking trays and place the rice wafers on them
  • take about one spoonful of the meringue and carefully from a round or oval shape with two spoons
  • place on one wafer with a spoon, pressing it down gently to spread it over the wafer
  • repeat for all the wafers or till the meringue is used up
  • bake in oven for 20-30 minutes at:
    • 130-150°C (preheated)
    • convection: 120°C (preheated)
    • gas: position 1 (preheated)
* TIP: use a well greased baking paper sheet or simply grease the baking tray properly as these are very sticky, if no such communion wafers are available.

Since I feel these fit so well to this months theme of Food In Colours : White, an event started by Sunshinemom of Tongueticklers and being hosted this time by Lubna Karim at Yummy Food, I'm sending these yummy cookies over to Lubna.
And these also go to Vandana's event Baking for Beginners at her blog Cooking up Something Nice.

Similar recipes:
Cinnamon stars at Meeta's WFLH

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Multi-grain cheelas


Cheelas, simply put, are North Indian pancakes (or crêpes) made with un-fermented batter, usually these are savoury, made with salt and spices and I actually haven't come across any sweet Indian recipe so far. I have eaten cheelas at home made with simple semolina batter (un-fermented) or ground mung beans, sprouted or un-sprouted, and most often, the quick fix besan cheelas (chickpea lentil flour - I'm using the word lentil, as the flour is made with the skinned black chickpeas). I loved them all. But, somehow I haven't made cheelas since a long time. Before my son, I did make them a couple of times with sprouted mung beans, which are quite easy to grind and although it was a sticky business and required a lot of oil. Somehow, I hadn't figured out the right way of doing it, I guess.
So, cheelas were somehow pushed deeper and deeper into my memory, locked some cupboards of the brain. You know what I mean? Old forgotten recipe you made so often before life changed with a child. But, now that sunny boy is growing up and things are again becoming easier - in some ways at lest - and, of course, the motivation of this this blog has surely added to the enthusiasm.
I saw these cheelas at Monika's blog and liked them so much as they also appeared so healthy too. I knew that it is not going to be a ditto copy of the recipe, but, I wanted to try making it as balanced as this one was. But, somehow I never came to doing it until recently. That too very spontaneously, only to find a couple of ingredients missing or only too little. But, I felt it was still a good idea and went ahead with making cheelas. And this is how I made them:

Another important thing about these is that I wanted to purposefully keep them gluten free and therefore did not use any ingredient with gluten, otherwise I consider using barley and oats as a wonderful addition too. I think wheat is eaten so much that we can easily do without it once in a while, especially in these savoury pancakes, the cheelas, as they are called.

Multi grain Cheela


Inspired by the recipe at Monika's World and Thoughts

Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped green beans
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp heaped cumin
1 heaped tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
2-3 small carrots, peeled and coarsely grated (depending on how much you eat up while grating them!)
1/4 zucchini, very finely cubed or grated
300 g multi-grain flour*
1 pinch asafoetida
1" piece ginger, grated
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

water to make a very thick pancake like batter, which should not be too runny
3-4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)- optional - I didn't have any
rapeseed oil to fry the pancakes
1/2 onion sliced horizontally and a fork stuck into it from the back (rounded side), to be used for rubbing the pan with the flat / cut side in between two rounds of baking


*Multi-grain flour**
(mix everything together)
400 g Brown rice flour
100 g fine ground whole grain cornmeal
100 g Buckwheat flour
100 g sorghum, ground in a coffee mill (DE: Hirse)
100 g gram flour (besan) - use garbanzo beans flour or chickpea flour
50 g skinned sesame seeds, ground in a coffee mill
50 g Urd lentils (skinned black gram), ground in a coffee mill
2 tbsp flax seed meal
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric

**NOTE: the amounts can be varied and the grains and lentils too, as per liking. Using coarsely ground home made sprouts, like mung bean sprouts, is a wonderful addition too.


Method:

Batter:
  • heat oil in a pan and reduce heat to medium
  • add mustard seeds and cumin in hot oil to let them splutter
  • add the green beans with turmeric and cook till done, stirring in between
  • once done switch off heat, add salt to taste and mix with carrots and zucchini
  • in the meanwhile prepare the batter with the flour, remaining spices and water to make a thick batter
  • add the vegetables to it and adjust salt to taste
  • the dry ingredients should have been dissolved in water for at least half an hour
Baking the pancakes :
  • heat a clean fry pan, a crêpe pan or skillet
  • add 1 tsp rapeseed oil and spread with the cut side of halved onion
  • reduce heat to about medium high (on my ceramic cook top with 9 divisions / levels 6 1/2 works quite well)
  • add a ladle of batter over it and spread carefully moving very slowly in circles to make a pancake
  • cover with a lid with holes to allow steam to escape
  • loosen the cheela from the base carefully with a very flat and clean spatula and change sides
  • if it does not work, spread some oil on the sides around the cheela and try again, it should work
  • cook further for another minute and remove - either serve directly or store in a dish, covered, and keep warm
  • rub the base of the pan with the cut half of the onion nicely and remove any (burnt) residues sticking to it
  • pour a ladle of batter and repeat the process, as mentioned above
  • the cheela may still require some oil before turning, but after the third or fourth, it may not be required any more
We ate them with the chutneys I have talked about before and a quick fix coconut chutney. We enjoyed the cheelas a lot. Yes, hubby too! :) But, sunny boy wasn't as fond of eating them, but I'm not counting him in this time, as it also had to do with other factors like there were too many veggies in the cheela and he was tired and sleepy. But, he ate one! So, it couldn't have been that bad. I, I looooo....ved them. After a long time I had had cheelas and I think the combination of flours was wonderful.
But, the best thing I liked about them was that after the third cheela, I didn't require any more oil and they all came out so good. They were not sticky at all afterwards. But, I think the reason could have been either the proportions of the ingredients or the onion I used. I really rubbed it on the pan and could see the juice coming put a little while doing it. This is one trick I have learned in India, I don't remember from where, about keeping the pans clean and making the dosas and cheelas not to stick onto the pan.
This is how my onion looked after it had done all its work, i.e., making all the cheelas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pak Choi with shrimps


The moment I saw these lovely baby Pak Chois (restaurant style Chinese Bok Choi) at Rasa Malaysia, I knew I had to make them and really fast. It was so tempting to see them. And I was lucky as hubby agreed to get them as he works quite near a chinese shop, but still needs an opportunity, depending upon the work pressure, to be able to go there. And of course I did improvise a little bit, after having tried a couple of recipes from there, like this one, and having got some ideas from other recipes.
I think this is such a simple but flavourful dish. I can always make hubby happy with such chinese recipes.
Some information on the Nutrient value of Pak Choi.

Pak Choi (Bok Choy) with Shrimps

Inspired by the recipe of restaurant style Chinese Bok Choi at Rasa Malaysia

Ingredients:
200 -250 g frozen cold water shrimps, thawed and drained
5 -6 Pak choi, washed to remove gritt and cut into stripes
2 medim garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated or chopped finely
1 large onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices
oil- sunflower and/ or sesame oil
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1-2 tbsp soya sauce
dash of black pepper or red chilli powder
1 heaped tsp sesame seeds
salt to taste (if required)

Method:
  • heat 1 tsp oil in a pan, add sesame seeds till they splutter and
  • add the shrimps and stir fry with some soya sauce or salt till done, take out and keep warm
  • add 1 tbsp oil and add garlic, onion and ginger and fry
  • add pak choi and add the remaining spices, oyster sauce and soya sauce
  • once almost done, put back the shrimps and mix
  • adjust salt to taste - use soya sauce or oyster sauce
  • switch off heat and let simmer covered on the stove top
  • serve warm with steamed rice
We loved it. Hubby, me and my sunny boy. It satiated our tummies, but also our minds to the full. Good and healthy food can work wonders, I feel. So, did this one.

Another thing I want to mention about these shrimps :
I used cold water Northern shrimps (Atlantic Canada Northern shrimps : P. borealis) the only and the best alternative to the MSC labeled Oregon pink shrimps (Pandalus jordani) which I had found here until then, when I made this dish. But a few days ago, to my utter disbeliefe I saw this packet of MSC certified frozen oregon pink shrimps at my regular grocery store and my happiness knew no bounds. I had searched quite long for these, just these ones and was quite happy.
Here is a link to the infomation available from Seafood Watch at Montery Bay Aquarium website about shrimps. Another detailed information given there about the nothern shrimps is also here (pdf). One more good source of information from year 2007 is here (pdf).

And here is a photo of the packet of MSC certified frozen Oregon pink shrimps which I bought and will be hopefully posting some recipes of soon (just can't resist showing it off! ):


I end up paying more for all these MSC certified fishes, but I feel it is worth all the effort. I just cannot bring myself to buying anthing else in any case. But, since all three of us love fish and I consider it healthy and important for my son to eat some regularly, I do buy fish. It does reduce our choice of the fishes we can buy, but I can live with that easily.

Now I'm sending this recipe over to a wonderful event Seven Fishes Feast - A Food blog Event which I saw at Maryann's Finding La Dolche Vita and is being cohosted by her friend Joe at Italyville . There are already some mouth watering recipes posted, yum yum!


Other related posts:

Potato Red Cabbage Casserole with Pan fried Fish

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rice Buckwheat Pancakes



Sunny boy got a contagious infection from the kindergarten, which isn't that bad actually. He was a little down on the first day, or maybe on two days and I noticed it a day later when the rashes started to show up in the morning. Since I had to keep him at home for the next few days and keep him busy too, this whirlwind that he is, one minute you think he is playing peacefully and the next moment - you just have to forget him for only a minute - and he is again up to some mischief.
So, one day I thought of making some pancakes for lunch for both of us. This time for a change I decided not to use maple syrup, which is usually always at the table when we make pancakes. I made a simple plum compote instead from the plums lazing around in my fruit basket and served the pancakes with the compote and a ready made apple sauce. I also put a tiny dollop of margarine (free of trans fatty acids and fortified with vitamins A, D and E - butter contains them naturally). A good dose of vitamin D in these cold months is very much required by the body to utilise calcium properly at his growing age.

Rice Buckwheat Pancake


Ingredients:

Pancake batter
8-12 tbsp brown rice flour
8-12 tbsp whole buckwheat flour
2 tsp whole cane sugar ( powdered jaggery)
1 pinch salt
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/4 tsp powdered cinnamon or cardamom, as per choice (optional)- I left it out
100 ml (or more) rice milk (calcium fortified organic) to make a thin batter
2 tbsp rapeseed oil

Compote
5 plums, washed, seeds removed and cut into 6 pieces each
2 tbsp sugar
a few tbsp water
a small piece of cinnamon- optional - I left it out


Method:
  • cook all the ingredients for the compote for about 15 to 25 minutes on medium low heat
  • mix all ingredients except for the oil for the pancake batter thoroughly to make a thin batter
  • heat two tbsp of oil in a fry pan on medium heat
  • add a ladle of batter in the pan and slowly spread it with circular movement to make a pancake
  • cover with a lid with holes to allow steam to escape
  • when the upper side is no more fluid (take about 30 -45 seconds) flip the sides
  • bake the other side for another minute and remove from pan and keep warm
  • make the following rounds without adding any oil
  • serve warm with maple syrup, honey, apple sauce or any fruit compote
By the way, these are gluten free and dairy free pancakes! :)

Sunny boy loved it. He ate- you won't believe it- but he really ate five of these. OK, two of the pancakes were small in size, but still, I was afraid that he might get a stomach upset, but nothing happened, and then, as expected, he ate very little in the evening. And I think it is OK, for every now and then. As you can see these were only very very healthy with whole meal flours and only mildly sweet just like the apple sauce and the compote. And I didn't use any more oil for the pancakes. And I made about 10 pancakes and I could have easily made five more without adding any oil to the pan. So, except for the first pancake, these were also low on fat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A quickfix Coconut Chutney or Dip, and the dietary mineral Calcium


Need makes you inventive. I think there exist a couple of sayings on this too. So, yesterday I made Cheelas (North Indian savoury pancakes) -a spontaneous idea again! So, I required a real quick fix chutney to accompany it. I had the sweet varieties in stock in the fridge, but I wanted something spicy and salty. Sunny boy didn't really require it, it was more meant for me and hubby. I made it at the very last moment infact. I basically opened the fridge and saw these preserved chillis and just got going, tasted it and was totally surprised with the wonderful taste. The cheela recipes will follow soon- a gluten free version. *grin* :)

Here is the Coconut Chutney:

Ingredients:
1 cup dessicated coconut
150 g plain yoghurt (5 oz or a little more than 1/2 cup)
3 red or green chillies / hot peppers preserved in brine or vinegar* ( reduce amount to taste)
salt to taste
1 pinch sugar
1 tbsp chopped coriander or fresh mint (opional)- I didn't have then handy

Method:
Puree eveyrthing in a deep bowl with a hand stick blender for a few minutes. Serve in a bowl!

*Optinally: add some vinegar to chopped fresh chillies and grind with the coconut.

We were both tremendously pleased and missed nothing after eating it along with our wonderfully tasting cheelas.

Calcium
An unrelated topic to this post is some information I have collected in these posts at Healthy and Tasty on dietary calcium:
How much calcium does a child need?
What affects calcium absorption?
I'm posting these here to have a link to them here at this blog as well.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Banan muffins - gluten free and casein free and the tag of sevens


The only difference betwen day and night right now is the grey sky during the day and black during the night. So, every now and then when I get some sunlight during the day, it makes me happy especially when I want to take a picture of my food for this blog!
Although, about two weeks ago, I saw very clear sky and it looked so beautiful. The stars shining. I had come back home late and just kept standing for a while outside, despite the cold weather, as I don't get such lovely opportunities so often. So, now finally the page hanging on my fridge can be removed, which just said "Watch the Night Sky!!". I had to wait long, first because during summers, when I wrote it, the nights are too bright for us to be able to see any stars until 11 PM. By that time I'm too tired to do something like that. Now that the winters were approaching I had hopes, to be ruined by the cloudy weather all the time. In addition, either I didn't rememeber to go out or when i did it was cloudy. So, I enjoyed it to the full on that day, watching the night sky.
Although, I realised this time that I hardly recognised many of the constellations. Only some easy constellations like Orion - which I had to search for a while, as it was already quite deep at the horizon on the eastern end, Cassiopeia was quite on top and then there were some whose names I couldn't rememeber. Now, there is one constellation, the only constellation whose name I know in my mother tongue, it is called "Ramji ka Jumka" which means "Rama's earing", it is a tiny cluster of stars and actually looks like a diamond danglers in the sky!

Now coming back to the recipe, here it is , my very special experiment, which turned out so good....

Banana Muffins

(See basic recipe of Muffins here).

Ingredients:


Dry Ingredients:
150 g rice flour (coarse grind; gluten free)
50 g cornmeal (polenta; gluten free)
50 g cornstarch (gluten free)
50 g almond meal
2 tsp cream of tartar baking powder (partly contains baking soda too; gluten free)
1/2 tsp baking soda

Wet Ingredients:
3 ripe bananas, whipped with a (hand-) blender
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
70 g castor sugar
60 ml oil (neutral, like sunflower or peanut)
200 ml soya milk
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

Sugar glaze:
150 -200 g confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
2-4 tbsp lemon juice / milk / water

Method:

  • Measure and mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl together and set aside
  • Chop bananas into large chunks, add 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice and whip it to a fine puree with a hand blender
  • mix soya milk with 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice and set aside
  • add oil and sugar to the banan puree and stir with a spoon, add the soya milk and stir again to mix
  • add the flour mixture and mix quickly with a spoon
  • pour the batter with a spoon in a greased muffin pan of 12
  • bake in a preheated oven at 165 °C convection oven for 25 - 30 minutes
  • in the meanwhile prepare the sugar glaze by slowly adding the lemon juice to the sugar till a thic paste for spreading on the warm muffins is ready
  • spread wih a spoon on the warm muffins over a plate (to collect the glaze flowing down)
  • serve warm or cold


I was so surprised with the results. I felt it to be a very daring experiment on my part. if you look at the recipe, you can se that I not only exchanged the eggs, but also the flours to make it gluten free, and dairy milk with soya milk. Next time I will try using calcium fortified rice milk to the recipe.
The muffins were lovely. The picture on the top is actually one piece which I made in a porcelain bowl, as small amount of batter was remaining and I did not know where to put it. So, it was like a soft idli and it was so good in taste. we enjoyed eating these muffins, which were also so healthy, being low on sugar and not so high on fats (60 ml for about 16 muffins isn't much, isn't it?). Although, one could reduce the amount of sugar even more if you like to have it only very mildly sweet, as the ripe bananas are sweet enough. And the sugar glaze also comes on top.

So, these wonderful muffins go to Madhuram's Egg replacement event: pureed fruits , the inspiration behind this recipe.

I was tagged by Priya and to do the tag of seven sevens and finally I have done it and you can look at it here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Eggless Apple cake with Caramel sauce


I wanted to make this cake after I saw Madhuram's announcement to bake egg less cake with silken tofu. I was totally surprised, as I had never heard before that one could use tofu to replace eggs in baking. For that matter, I had never bothered to know of any egg replacers. But, then my father, who is a vegetarian, would have loved to eat a home made egg less cake, and isn't it much more healthy to replace eggs with silken tofu? Yes of course! The only restriction I have is that I have plan something like this in advance, as I don't get silken tofu locally, but only in the city centre.
I was so curious to know how it would turn out. But, by the time I had got to now of the recipe, I had two weeks of time and I usually bake only on weekends, and somehow didn't get time to bake and missed the event. But, I knew I had to bake it despite that. And I also wanted to use a normal recipe prepared with eggs and replace the eggs with silken tofu. So I did!

I used my recipe - a recipe I got from my friend- the recipe of 2's, which I have modified though to a certain extent. This time I wanted to stick to the original recipe as much as possible.
Here are the changes I have made:
I used 200 g 150 g margarine (no hydrogenated fats) instead of butter
I replaced the 2 eggs with 100 g silken tofu, whisked thoroughly with a hand stick blender
I used 80 g currents and 3-5 apples (enough to cover a 26 cm springform pan) as a topping

And I made a caramel sauce using Ivy's recipe. It was delicious!


This is a very special cake. Special.... once, because it was my first ever effort to replace eggs with something vegan and it also came out so wonderful, a big success! And special also because I feel I have found the perfect egg replacer for such butter cakes I make quite often. But, the bestthing about it is the very special flavour tofu imparted to the cake. I cannot describe it in words, but it was so delicious!
Now, sine tofu is a lot of protein and the flour contains a lot of starch, so this was a result of maillard reaction, so vital to cooking without which what would food taste of?! Now, I'm sorry if I made your mood off with my explanations from chemistry for food. I find it quite fascinating and I assume that you also find it like that too.

Now, to another sweet thing to talk about...
I was loaded with these lovely awards (and a tag - will follow soon) from two wonderful blogger friends - I feel so good saying this :) - Priya and N33ma. I consider myself a comparatively new blogger, although I was surprised to see recently how long I have been blogging now and actually feel not so new any more, but it is all becuse of you all, my blog viewers without whom it wouldn't be half as much fun.
Dear Priya, dear N33ma, thank you so much! Thank you for having thought of me and extending your hand of friendship! It makes me feel good. Tight hugs to you both!




And I got these award also from N33ma. How I love to own them! Thanks a lot N33ma!
I would like to forward these to all my blogger friends, for passing by and taking your time to leave comments and taking notice of my blog - one of thousands of wonderful blogs out there. Please forgive me if I leave out anybody's name, but it is truely meant for all of those who visit my blog, regularly or irregularly:

Anudivya of ...and a little bit more...

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen

Aparna of Sumi's Weblog

Aparna of Three Mangoes

Curry leaf

Deesha of Vegetable Platter

G. Pavani of Food Lovers

Ivy of Kopiaste

Laxmi Venkatesh of Kitchen Chronicles

Malar Gandhi of Kitchen Tantra

N&A of Delectably Yours

Priya of Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes

RC of Redchillies

Soma of eCurry

Sunshinemom of Tongueticklers


Now, it maybe that you already have a couple or all of these awards, so it is upto you if you wish to just add me to the list of bloggers who awarded you and leave it at that or pass it on and do the tag of seven.
Just wanted to add: I'm sorry, but I'll do the tag soon, it is right now under process here!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bharma Bhindi (stuffed okra) - my favorite

Yes, this is one of my favorites! Now, it is already a while ago that I took these pictures and that too hurriedly, but then I didn't get time to post about this favorite food of mine - Bharma Bhindi (stuffed spicy okra), but then on hearing about Ivy's Weekend Herb Blogging , an event i have been wanting to take part in since a while now, this was just the right opportunity and motivation needed to finally post this recipe.
I got to eat it after such a long time. Hubby went to the Asian grocery store recently and got me these and even karela (Bitter melon)!! You can't imagine how happy I was. I love both these vegetables and it had been ages that I had eaten them. I will post about the karelas some other time, but here is the bharma bhindi recipe which I have learned from my mother, but this time I realised that it has been so long that I didn't even remember how to make it and some how the timing was so bad that I couldn't even call any of my sisters at that time, so I just thought hard and got it more or less right. Although, I did make a variation: I also added coriander powder which my mother didn't use while making Bharma bhindi. Another thing, which I wouldn't do next time: I roasted my spices before. I think this step is not necessary, as the okras get roasted long enough in the pan for the spices to be roasted separately.

Before I begin, I have to tell you something about the traditions of cooking in my family, which is not unique to my family alone but probably more to the region from where my family originates - the state of U.P., India. I still remember my mom telling me that my father's (paternal) grandmother - my great grand mother, was very particular about the kind of food served to her when she came to visit his mother - my grandmother. Over a short period of time we - my parents and us children- and my grandparents lived together and I remember the visit of my great grandmother - yes, I got to see her for quite some time of my childhood - something I was always so proud of, as I didn't know many friends or classmates who had great grandparents and I had two great grandmothers -one on maternal side and one on the paternal side with both of them we children had a lot of fun! :)
So, coming back to the topic, she was very particular about eating food which was cooked without any onions and garlic. If she ever saw a skin of onion or garlic in the house when she came to visit us, then she would surely not touch the food, that strict she was. My grandparents were one of the first generation of people who deviated from this culture and started including onions and garlic in their food. In contrast to his mother, my grandfather was a big garlic lover and attributed it many health properties. I still remember, how he used to say that one should swallow 1 clove of garlic (from the variety with very thin and tiny cloves) every morning and drink a large glass of water afterwards. His favorite chutney was also coriander(cilantro)-garlic chutney.

So, maybe you can guess that this is one of those recipes of okra I grew up eating which does not use any onions or garlic, but still is very tasty, being so full of spices.

Here it goes...

Bharma Bhindi (stuffed Okra)

NOTE: Recipe requires the use of latex gloves, if you don't want the yellow colour of turmeric to stay on your hands, which is otherwise quite healthy actually. I don't use it though, as it goes away after a few washings, which may however take a day.

Ingredients:

20-25 okras, washed, pat dried
2 tbsp oil for frying
1 tsp ajwain (carom seeds) (optional)
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro, for garnishing

Stuffing:
1 heaped tsp turmeric
2 heaped tbsp coriander seeds, ground (optional)
3 heaped tbsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground
4 tsp Amchur (dried unripe mango powder) - sour in taste as it is made from unripe very young sour mangoes
1/4th tsp red chili powder (or more - to taste)
1/2 tsp black salt
2 tbsp oil, just enough to bind the powdered spice mixture
2 tsp salt, or to taste


Method:
  • mix all the spices and enough oil to bind the mixture
  • then add enough salt that it tastes a bit too salty, but not too much, as when okra dries out while frying, it does not require as much salt
  • check each okra for freshness while preparing it, if it is fresh then you will be able to cut it easily with out it showing any resistance
  • carefully cut off the lower tip of the okra, if required - sometimes it has become dark in colour and it is a good indication if it can be easily cut off that it is still fresh otherwise it has become too fibrous to be eaten
  • cut off the caps of okras so that a thin layer of it is left behind to hold it together once they are slit in the middle
  • slit the okra deep along the length on the concave side (inner side of the curve it often has), but not the ends - the caps and lower tips - keep them intact - prevents the stuffing to come out while frying.
  • fill the stuffing with hands by taking a small amount between the fingers and pressing it gently into the slit in the middle and then pressing and moving your fingers on the filling sidewards in both the directions -sounds easier than it appears!
  • Fill all the okras like this
  • heat 1 tbsp oil in a shallow pan and add ajwain till it splutters, remove ajwain immediately and set aside
  • add 1 more tbsp oil and put all the okras into the pan, keeping the stuffed / slit side upwards or sidewards
  • fry on medium heat initially and then medium low heat, turning each one of them carefully once or twice till they turn soft
  • if the pan gets too hot sprinkle with a tbsp of water in between
  • as per your taste, you can either remove the okras once they are cooked or let them fry further till they start turning crispy
  • serve warm (or even cold), garnished with cilantro, with any kind of toasted bread - Indian or others, or rice and daals as an option
Typically it is a part of an Indian Thali, where you have some cooked vegetables, daal (lentils), Rotis (Indian flat bread) and rice as the main ingredients. But, it can be eaten in any way as a spicy accompaniment to the food and is quite flexible and can be combined with meat or vegetarian dishes, as a stuffing for a nice sandwich or would make a wonderful combination with couscous.


I'm so happy to send this over to Weekend Herb Blogging, my first ever participation to it, and this time it is being hosted by dear Ivy of Kopiaste!