Friday, September 30, 2011

Saucy Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Even long before I first got a chance to eat this red, saucy(pun intended), spicy, Pasta dish, I knew it would be delicious and I'd love it forever. I was watching tv one day, when I was really young, in my teens and I heard an Italian woman talking about this pasta dish. The way she said the name of the dish had me captivated. The stressing on the 'tt' of the 'spaghetti' and 'puttanesca' and the way the words rolled off her tongue- so endearing ...well that was my first brush with the now very familiar pasta. I don't think I saw her cook it though...or maybe I did and I just don't remember. Now that would have been an even better memory, I reckon.






Alright, so for those people who aren't familiar with Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, I'll simplify it. It means spaghetti (long. thin, cylindrical pasta about 20-25 cms long) with puttanesca sauce (whore style sauce). I know, shocking, right?! The name of the sauce is derived from the Italian word for whore -puttana which just means that the sauce is easy, quick, spicy and hot. 

Sophie Dahl even goes on to say "Whore's pasta was ever a name so perfectly suited to a dish? It's edgy, spicy and just the right side of wrong, conjuring up visions of neapolitan streets and dangerous women in tight dresses" 


There's also a different theory that prostitutes in Italy used to make this sauce and put the pot of cooked spaghetti on the window sill to attract their 'customers'. Its upto you to chose whatever theory you want to go with. But I'll guarantee you this, the sauce WILL make your day! 


So now that you do know what we are about to make, be sure you add that last pinch of chilli to make it especially spicy.


The traditional version of the Puttanesca uses anchovies that melt in the sauce and you don't even realise that they are there. I couldn't get my hands on anchovies. Also if in case you didn't like anchovies, you can skip them. Some people like to use parsley. I've had both the varieties and I personally prefer the basil one over the parsley. It sort of cuts through all the heat and adds an element of freshness to the dish. Again, adapt it according to whatever tickles your taste-buds.


Oh and what makes this pasta even better is the pan-seared chicken that we add to it. So delish! Try it out and you'll know what I'm talking about. 





Serves: 3-4

Complexity: ***

Time taken: 35-40 mins


You'll need

1 lb/500 gms spaghetti or linguine
4-5 garlic cloves chopped finely
8-10 whole red tomatoes (you can blanch and peel them, I left them as they were) or around 1 1/2 can of roma tomatoes
2 tbsp drained capers
3 tbsp black pitted olives, sliced
2-3 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
1 tsp of sugar
10-12 leaves of basil , torn in halves or quarters with your hands
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
water for boiling
Pinch of love





For pan seared chicken


2 chicken breasts, skinless and evenly pound
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano



Marinate chicken on the oil, herbs and seasoning over night or for 1 hour min for maximum flavour.


Method

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Take a pan that has depth so you can toss the spaghetti in it once the sauce is done. We don't want to miss out on those tasty chicken juices so we will sear the chicken in this pan itself. 



Add your chicken breasts and sear them for 3 mins each side or depending on the thickness of your chicken breast. We want the chicken to be slightly golden brown on the outside and soft and tender in the middle. Nothing worse than a chewy, over cooked chicken breast. Take them out of the pan. You see those amazing juices at the bottom of the pan? That's what is going to add extra flavour to your sauce.

Now add the chopped garlic to the oil and saute it for about 30 secs till it turns golden in colour. 



Make sure your flame is on medium because you don't want the garlic to burn otherwise it will turn bitter. Add your drained capers. Here's a neat trick, smash half the capers with the back of a fork or a wooden spoon. That helps releases the flavour better. Saute for another 30 secs. 



Meanwhile take the tomatoes, chop off the heads and put them all in a blender to make a lumpy paste. Add that to the sauteed garlic and capers. Add the sugar to it to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Let them simmer for 10 mins on medium flame. Make sure you cover the pan with a lid.



While you let the tomatoes simmer, make the spaghetti as per the instructions on the packet. Don't forget to add the olive oil so it doesn't stick and enough salt to the water. Quick tip: Always boil the pasta for a minute less than what it says on the packet. It will be perfectly al dente( firm to bite) when its ready to eat because it continues to cook when its tossed in the sauce. Drain the spaghetti. 



The tomato sauce should be cooked by now and even reduced a little. Add the rest of the ingredients including the herbs and seasoning with the hot chilli flakes except the chicken and pasta. Add the drained spaghetti in the sauce, and toss well. Taste for seasoning and adjust if required. 



Slice the grilled chicken and serve along the pasta. You can toss it along the spaghetti in the sauce or keep it separate. Garnish with parmesan and a few fresh basil leaves. Your Pasta all puttanesca is ready to eat! Indulge!! :)) 









Thursday, September 29, 2011

Health on your Plate

So if you have been reading my past posts, you'd know by now that I'm the last person who should be talking bout eating healthy, but then each one of us have our moments. I am certainly not a health food nut or can't even say that I eat only healthy, but once in a while, I do like to eat light.

I had a variety of fruit lying in my fridge. And its not a mystery of what I decided to do with it. Something reeeaallly easy and fast. Also, this is dedicated to a couple of friends of mine K and S who are on a diet like I should probably be on, but I have a will power the size of an ant! I went ahead and made a simple fruity salad with a really yummy dressing that wasn't just low fat but NO fat!!! Now thats what we all want, when we're eating a salad, a no fat dressing thats still rich in flavours, right?!?!



Serves: 2

Complexity: **

Time taken: 10 mins


You'll need

Fruits of your choice-
I had fresh sunny pineapple, crunchy apple, ripe plums, soft pears, bright green kiwis and ruby red pomegranate in my fridge, You could definitely add some berries or figs or something else catches your eye. I don't like to remove the skin from the apples, plums or pears.

Cut the fruit up as you'd like. Bite size pieces work the best. You want to be able to load them all on your fork in one go.

For the dressing I kept it really simple

2 tbsp lemon juice
1" ginger grated
handful of mint leaves torn in halves and cleaned under running water.
1/2 tbsp black salt

Now if you want, you could replace the black salt with organic honey if you like the dressing to be sweet. I just wanted to be able to cut through all the sweetness of the fruit with the saltiness of the black salt and the heat of the ginger. You could also add paprika to this if you want.

To assemble, I made a bed of fresh lettuce leaves. On that I placed the mixed fruit and drizzled on the dressing. Now isn't that so easy and fun to make. So colourful and healthy and delicious- all in one! I ate it by itself for lunch. You can use it as a side to your dinner or as breakfast to kick start your day! Indulge! :)








Monday, September 26, 2011

Blondie Brownie Heaven


Good news: You don't have to die to go to the Blondie Brownie heaven
Bad news: You won't be able to stop at just one.



The long and the short of this post is that believe you me, this combination of the blondie and the brownie is just fantabulously am-ah-zing and you have to try them!!!

For those who are not familiar with a Blondie, its is simply a brownie with no chocolate added to it and the flavour in it comes from brown sugar instead of plain white sugar. Dense, rich, fudge-like, they absolutely will melt sinfully in your mouth. Because it is a light golden colour when ready, its known as a blondie. 

Get it? Blonde- blondie. 

And as for the brownie, me thinks that it has the ability to bring about world peace!

                              


The heavenly combination of both these, caramalised blondies with dark chocolatey brownies tastes even better when you add some nuts to it. I added walnuts to mine and the contrast of the texture and the slight bitterness of the walnuts goes really well with the sweetness of the B-Bs. I ate one when it was a little warm and couldn't stop myself from eating another one right then. I was in bliss-land. I was brought back to reality when my mom  chided me when I was stealthily going in for the 3rd helping. I pouted like a petulant child but of course she was right. But I'm waiting for tomorrow morning and you know why....



I really tend to ramble, don't I? And I can't even make a claim that I won't do it again because I know I probably will. But thank you readers, for bearing with me patiently and keeping my company in my ramblings and experiences. Now on to the recipe.


For the Blondie you'll need

1 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp white sugar
1 egg + 1 egg white (save the yolk for the brownie)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter or 2/3 cup cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
Pinch of love


For the Brownies you'll need

1 cup flour
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter or 2/3 cup cream
2 tbsp of espresso (secret ingredient to give it a kick)
100 gms dark chocolate (60%)
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
less than a pinch of salt
1 cup of chopped walnuts
Pinch of love


 Serves : 20 2" squares

Complexity: ***

Time taken: 1 hour


Method

The secret to fudge-y brownies is NOT TO OVER-MIX. Remember this please.

The recipe is divided into 2 parts. We will make the Blondie first and when it is barely set, we will add the brownie batter to it so it gives us two distinct layers of delicious gooey B-Bs.

Preheat oven to 150C or 300F. Line your baking tray with foil that has an over hang of about 2" on all four sides. Makes it easier to handle. Brush it with oil as a precaution. Set aside.

Take your brown sugar and white sugar and powder it well. Put that in the mixing bowl. We are going to mix this batter manually so minimum amount of air is incorporated in the mix. Add the eggs to it. Combine it well with a whisk but don't whisk it too much. Add all ingredients except flour and baking powder. Mix again. Don't sift in the flour but just add the whole amount to the batter and add the baking powder last and mix again just to the point when everything is incorporated  well. The batter should be quite smooth. Pour this into the baking tray, even it out and pop it in the oven for 15 minutes. Increase the temperature of the oven to 180C or 350F.

                              


Meanwhile get your walnuts chopped. You need 2 cups, one for the middle and one for the top.

Prepare your brownie batter after 12-13 minutes of your blondies being in the oven. You don't want the brownie batter to sit out for long.

For the brownie batter, take the eggs and whisk them with sugar. Add cream, vanilla extract, espresso, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, salt and mix well. Remember- do not overmix. Add the flour and baking powder to it lastly. Combine well till smooth. 

I used the folding technique to mix the batter evenly without incorporating air. With a flat metal spoon or a spatula, bring the batter from the side of the bowl to the middle, cutting it in half and folding it again (does this make sense?). This whole process should take a couple minutes or so.

Take it the tray out of the oven. The top should be almost done but if you move the tray, the batter should jiggle. Layer one cup of walnuts over this.



Now pour your brownie mixture over it. Pop it back into the oven and let it bake for 15-17 minutes. Take it out to check. If the top looks set, add the second cup of walnuts to it and let it bake again for 20 minutes. Insert a toothpick after 20 minutes or so and the toothpick should come out with a few crumbs attached to it. If not, give it a few more minutes and check again. Mine took around 30 minutes but thats because I had kept my oven temperature a little low.



Take it out of the oven and rest it for 10 minutes to cool down. Remove the foil and cut into desired size squares.



The crust of the brownie should be brittle, the inside rich, soft and fudgy and dense. Yummalicious! Blondie Brownie Heaven indeed! Be ready to eat and share with love! Indulge! :))

                                            





Saturday, September 24, 2011

La Pina-Lemonade





There's nothing better than a lemonade that can quench your thirst on a summery day especially when its going to be for a special picnic thats arranged in your very home! ;) And this is not your plain lemonade, but a Pina lemonade. I think pineapple's one fruit that I can absolutely associate with the summers. The juicy succulent tropical fruit thats so sweet and so yellow! Looks like sunshine personified. Hence, the association with summer. 

The same goes for lemonade. You think of a hot summery afternoon and the vision isn't complete without the image of a tall glass of lemonade, chilled of course, filled to the brim with cool water droplets beading on the sides of the glass and ice-cubes floating through it. 

Now my clever brain (I'm such a genius!) thought of combining these two beautiful summery things together to make a fabulous mocktail. I thought for days and days calculating and working out the clinches and ended up with this concoction (jk). Yeah yeah I know, I must sound crazy, and I probably am to some extent and I do realise that this obviously must have been made before, but thought even I'd share this with my readers. You could convert it to a cocktail with a splash of rum and some grenadine I suppose to make it even more fabulous. But since I do live in a dry state (YES!!! NO ALCOHOL here in my state!!!!) and I survive, though God only knows how, and I just went for the fruity mocktail. 



Its a great drink for a BBQ, a luncheon, brunch with your gfs, or even for a kid's party! yayyyy.... So come join me in making this Pina -lemonade


You'll need

4-5 slices of Pineapple 
If you're using canned ones, use 3 tbsp of syrup from the can
3 lemon juice +1 for garnishing
zest of 1 lemon
4 tbsp sugar (adjust according to your tastes)
Ice cubes
5 cups of cool water, use sparkling if you want (add more if required)

Serves: 4 

Complexity: **

Time taken: 5-7 mins


Method

Pour the lemon juice in the water, add sugar, the lemon zest. Its so fragrant, I love it! Chop the pineapple slices in 1 cm cubes. Very thinly slice the remaining lemon in discs. Mix the water with the sugar and lemon juice well so all the sugar is dissolved. Add the cut pineapple cubes and add the pineapple syrup spoon by spoon. Make sure you keep tasting it so it doesn't become really sweet. You could use just 3 tbsp sugar and the syrup to sweeten it.  Add the thinly sliced lemon to it. Give it a final stir. Place the ice cubes in the glasses and pour the pina-lemonade over it. The pieces of pineapple will settle at the bottom, so you might want to pop in a skewer there. Goes great with my Picnic Sandwiches. Quench your thirst and Indulge! :)







Fresh Picnic Sandwiches

Its a long lost love of mine. Picnicking. As a kid we used to go on a lot of picnics outdoors. With friends, with families, with parents. Playing and making a racket, no one bothering to even give us a second look while me and my younger brother had the time of our lives being silly. Life used to be so simple! We'd usually decide the previous day or most of the times for an impromptu day out. Now, to plan a picnic, I'd probably have to inform everyone atleast 7 days in advance while people adjusted their schedules and such. 



Just to revive those old times, I brought the picnic in my home. Well, alright, not the whole picnic, but the picnic food atleast. And when I think of picnic food, the one thing that stands out in my mind is sandwiches and nimbu pani or lemonade as it is also known. 

These sandwiches are not just any sandwiches but fresh summer sandwiches in Indian style. Served with different garnishes that make it look more like street food than a refined restaurant meal. Its something that I'd like to call shabby chic. Although I didn't have any picnic equipment lying around in the house, not even plastic cups or paper plates when I made these, they still brought me back to my childhood days. Hope you try them out and enjoy them as much as I did. They're really simple to make. Actually nothing to it, but makes me heart swell with joy when I eat this because they make me nostalgic. So here we go

Serves: 4

Complexity: **

Time taken: 20 mins

You'll need

8 Slices Bread (You can substitute it for wheat or multi-grain bread)
2-3 tbsp Salted Butter
4 tbsp Mint and coriander chutney (recipe below)
2 medium red onions sliced in rings about 1/2 cm
2 red tomatoes sliced round, thinly in rings
1 large boiled potato sliced round, thinly
1 Cucumber sliced round, thinly

Garnishes

Rich Tomato ketchup
Nylon Sev (Pressed gram flour, fried savoury noodles, can be found in Indian stores)
Chaat masala (tangy mix of ground spices, also found in Indian stores) OR just use a little bit of salt and pepper and dry mango powder
Chopped coriander leaves

Method

Cut the edges of the bread slices. Spread generous butter on one slice and the mint coriander chutney on the other. The bread will get a little wet because of the chutney so you have to be kind of quick with it. 



Layer the veggies on it. first the cucumbers followed by onions, followed by potatoes and then tomatoes lastly.



Cover with the second slice. drizzle some ketchup over it. Sprinkle the Sev, along with the chaat masala and coriander leaves and your love et voila! Your Picnic Sandwich is done!!! Cut them into quarters and there's nothing left to do but to eat!



You can enjoy these with this yummy, healthy and the made-in-a-jiffy-sandwich with lemonade. But wait, its not just your regular lemonade, its Pineapple lemonade or as I dubbed it La Pina-lemonade!



Mint-Coriander Chutney


The mint coriander chutney for this sandwich is the simplest possible version. There are many variants even to this simple chutney, and you can use this for upto a week of making it. Here's my go to version of this chutney!



Indulge! 









Thursday, September 22, 2011

Murgh Tikka/ Skewered Chicken

Perfection is hard to find or in this case achieve, especially for something like a Murgh (chicken) tikka which is the pride of the North Indian cuisine. It sits so proudly on your plate. Dark, spicy, aromatic, tender, inviting, you dare not refuse a piece of it (as if you really could!). You just pick up the piece, don't bother with forks or formalities, dive straight into the mint coriander chutney, and bring that piece to your mouth and eat it whole. The succulent chicken, the vibrant flavours nearly drown your senses. Thats when you back it up with onions pickling in a little salt and lemon. Mmmmmmmmm .....



For people who are not familiar with what tikkas are, they are simply marinated pieces of chicken(mostly boneless) that are skewered and cooked over a grill, in the oven or on the stove top.

I don't think there's anything more quintessentially Punjabi than a Murgh tikka or a chicken tikka as it is also known. And given the fact that I'm myself a Sikh and that we've been cooking punjabi food in our homes since the beginning of time (beginning of the punjabi cuisine :D) I can guarantee that you won't find a more authentic recipe to make a murgh tikka at your very own home! No need to go to restaurants now to have this spicy, succulent, tender and amazingly delicious appetizer. I have my elders to back me up on this one, numerous trials and errors and a lot many discussions with quite a few dhaba (Google it please) owners to come at this ultimate recipe.

While on my travels to North India, especially Punjab, the aroma of these tikkas permeated the air we breathed. We used to gorge on tikkas of all kinds. Making these tikkas at home brought me back to those times, and it felt like I was again roaming the streets of my Punjab and I just HAD to share the recipe. So here it goes! :)

Warning: It is highly addictive. If you have it once, you will want to keep eating it again n again n again 


Serves : 4

Complexity: ***

Time: Prep: 5-6 hours             Actual time: 30 minutes


You'll need: 

12 pieces of boneless chicken (use thighs, not breast)

First Marination

3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder or paprika (to add colour and not heat)
1 tbsp ginger paste
1/2 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp onion paste

Second/ Main Marination

1 tbsp carom seeds/ Ajwain
1/4 cup of Chickpea flour/ besan
1 tbsp of oil
1 cup thick yoghurt (use Greek if available or hung curd)
1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp salt (add more if required)
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp Mustard oil
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp  dry Fenugreek leaves, crushed (kasoori methi) - optional
Pinch of saffron + 3 tbsp warm milk
Pinch of love

Extra

Skewers
Oil/ melted butter for basting
2 red onions, sliced rings
Mint coriander chutney
Salad (optional)

Please do not add red colour. It tastes better without it! 

Method

Wash and pat dry your boneless chicken thighs. Cut into roughly 2" pieces. Put them in a bowl and add the ingredients of the first marinade. Use your fingers to rub in the marinade onto the pieces. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Meanwhile, take the tablespoon of oil in a non stick pan and heat on low flame. Add the chickpea flour/ besan to it and keep stirring. Let the flour get cooked. It will give out a nutty aroma and the colour will change from pale yellow to a light gold and then gold. Add the carom seeds to it. Keep stirring constantly so as not to form lumps. Take it off the flame in about 3-4 minutes or till it turns gold in colour.

You can also now add the saffron to the warm milk. This helps releasing the colour of the saffron and brings out the aroma in it. Just how beautiful the milk looks when the saffron begins to colour it in a deep orange shade!

Now take out the chicken from the fridge and add the thick yoghurt to it. Make sure it is really creamy. This tenderizes the chicken and makes it succulent. Add the other masalas, ginger and garlic pastes, the chickpea flour mix, the milk and the saffron and everything else that is left out. Don't forget to add your pinch of love! :)
Mix well. Don't be shy to use your fingers. Massage the chicken well with this marinade and cover the bowl with cling film and rest in the fridge over night. You need to marinate it for minimum of 4 hours. I usually leave it overnight.

To make tikkas,


Soak your skewers in water if you are using wooden/ bamboo ones.

Preheat your oven to 450F or 250C.  Arrange your grilling tray on it. Also place a baking tray at the bottom to catch the marinade that drips off the chicken. I don't have an authentic outdoor grill at my place so I used oven. You could even do it on the stove top. But the resultant tikkas are almost the same if cooked in an oven or an outdoor grill except for the charred flavour.

Pierce the chicken pieces with the skewers. Make sure they are well coated with the marinade. Place no more than 6 pieces on a skewer. Make 3 such skewers and place them on the grilling tray in the oven. Keep turning every 4-5 minutes for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the the chicken pieces and the oven temperature. Baste them while turning with ghee/ butter or oil. Ghee will give an authentic flavour. The aroma of the spices should now be permeating through the house....you should be able to make out the distinct fragrance of saffron amongst all the other aromatics. If that doesn't get your stomach rumbling, I don't know what will! :))

Your Murgh tikka is ready. To serve, plate it up along with sliced ring onions. You need to add lemon juice and a little salt to the red onions to take away the pungency. Serve with mint coriander yoghurt chutney and salad. Serve with a lot of love and brace yourself for all the MmmHhhMmmHNnnSss when everyone eats them! Indulge! :))




Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Certifiably Awesome Coffee Almond cake


Dedicated to roaring laughter, silly giggles, knowing smiles and my beautiful girlfriends!



Isn't spending some time with you old friends just the best?! And specially if its a girl's night! I was thrilled beyond words! I had a chance to re-connect with my gal pals sans their spouses, just like old times! Just to clarify though, I love all their spouses as well, but we all know, girls need some alone time just to be able to be silly and gossip (YES!!!) and share and listen and mostly be silly. And our girl's night was yesterday. We decided to stay in, no drinks, so we all were sober and could indulge in all the talking and listening that we could cram in one night. A night is a relative term. It roughly translates to 8-9 hours which is more than plenty of time to sleep, but if you're with your BFFs, its barely any time! We were celebrating the visit of a dear friend S who had come back to town after getting married. I've known S for more than 6 years now and the two things that stand out when I think about her is her love of food and her love for dance. I could atleast do something for her in the food department! 

Yesterday, I decided to bake a cake! And not just any cake, but a coffee almond cake (just so we had the energy to stay up all night and the coffee would give us a boost!) You can also make this yummy cake. Its just so darn easy. Pop everything in a food processor, blitz a few times, pour the mix in your desired moulds, bake and you're done! Easy peasy...Just follow the recipe! 

Serves: 6-8

Complexity: ***

Time: 45 mins

You'll need

1 1/2 cups All purpose flour/ maida
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup cream/ 1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/4 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup warm milk
2 tsp vanilla extract, essence (if using paste, about 1 tsp should be enough)
1 cup almond slivers + few blanched whole almonds to decorate
3 tbsp coffee powder (more if you want it really strong)
Pinch of love

Method

Preheat oven at 180C or 250F. Line your moulds with parchment paper or brush with oil and set aside.

Cut your almonds and have your slivers ready. 



In the food processor, add the sugar and cream/butter and whisk until fluffy. Add the eggs, be careful not to get the shells in. Whisk till it becomes pale yellow and a little frothy. Now add the milk and vanilla extract to it and whisk again till the mix is smooth and even. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with baking powder and mix so the baking powder is evenly spread throughout. Add this to the food processor along with love, coffee powder and almond slivers. If you like, you could add espresso instead of powder, but I wanted the cake to have flicks of coffee all over so I used powder. 



Blitz it a few times till the ingredients are well combined. Do not over mix. Take a spatula to clean off the sides and blitz or pulse a couple more times. The batter should be thick and glossy. Pour the batter into the lined moulds. I took half the batter to make cup cakes and half to make a round cake. 

Don't you just love the dark brown specks of coffee powder peeking through the batter?!? :)



Pop it into the oven for around 20 minutes for the cup cakes and 30 minutes for the round cake. After about 10 minutes of the cupcakes being in the oven, I topped them off with blanched whole almonds so they don't sink but are set on the cupcakes. Remember not to fill the cupcakes till the top, just till 3/4 of the mould. 

{**Note: I made a mistake and placed the almonds on top of the cup cake batter in the beginning even before they were half cooked, so they sunk in. I then added almonds again after 10 minutes of them being baked. Those survived!} 

To test, insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. Take it out of the oven and rest for 10-15 minutes and then remove from molds.



Add a dusting of icing sugar if you feel like it. I didn't! They looked pretty with the almonds on top. Serve how you like, with or without tea/ coffee/ icecream/ frosting. They are absolutely moist and delicious! Give it a try and don't forget to share with your loved ones and Indulge! :)) 




Sunday, September 18, 2011

Falafel Pita Pockets



Life can't get any better than this. I am talking about the time when I bit into my food and I had a taste of the soft pita bread, crunchy salad, tangy pickles and soothing sauce toppings. The burst of flavour in my mouth was a rhapsody that still tantalizes my senses. And this happened just yesterday. I'm yet to taste a tastier version of chick pea (garbanzo beans) fried patties that they so lovingly call The Falafel! 



Before I forget, let me introduce you to my new best friend - Sumac. Sumac is derived from berries that gives it a uniquely earthy tangy flavour. Its a recent favourite and boy oh boy, it imparts such flavour to the falafels. Made me think I'm eating the authentic ones there in the middle east itself. 



Just one thing, falafels are quite green on the inside because they use a lot of fresh herbs. Mine are a little darker because I dry roasted my spices till they were darker in colour and I could add in a little more herbs but this recipe gave me the best flavour combination. Use your discretion, you're the colonel of your falafel. 

They make an excellent substitute to meats and are really healthier. Without further ado, I'm just going to dive straight into the recipe.


Falafels

Makes: 20

Complexity: **

Time: 40 mins

You'll need

2 cups Hummus/ chick peas/ garbanzo beans (soaked in water over night if not using canned)
1 cup fava beans/ broad beans (soaked in water overnight if not using canned)
1 large onion
1-3 tbsp flour
5-6 big cloves of garlic
Bunch of coriander, 1 cup
bunch of parsley
Salt about 2 tsp
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp sumac (magical ingredient)
1 tsp of red chilli powder (more if you like spicy)

Pinch of love

Method

Boil your garbanzo beans for 15-20 minutes. We want them tender but not softened. Remove from water and  place them on a towel so they don't have excess water. Look at the texture here, they look dry when squished and it cracks instead of turning to mush. Perfect! 



In a food processor, cause its easiest that way, add in a bunch of coriander, parsley, garlic and onion. Pulse this a few times to grind them coarsely. 



Just about done. See the onions are still chunky. Pulse it a couple times more.



This is just right. You can also add these all directly with the chickpeas in the food processor but doing this separately just makes it a tad easier for me. 



Add the chickpeas in the foodprocessor. Traditionally falafels combine garbanzo beans with fava beans, but I was out of fava beans. Alas!! But a home cook never frets! I added some sprouted mung bean. Its super healthy, a gold mine of nutrients, and has almost the same texture as that of Fava beans. I started pulsing the food processor when I realised I hadn't taken a picture. But you can still see the mung beans and chickpeas. Pulse this a few times. 



Also add in the herb, onion and garlic mix so they can be well combined. 



Next add in the flour. Depending upon how bread-y or meaty you want your falafels to be, add in around 2-3 tbsp of flour. 



Next come in the spices. I like to dry roast cumin and coriander to bring out their flavours. Just add them to a skillet on low heat like this.



Dry roast them till they turn slightly darker in colour. Make sure you keep stirring them around so they get browned evenly. 



Add that to the food processor with all the other ingredients. Also add in salt, cayenne pepper 



2 tbsp lemon juice.  



Give it a whizz till it forms a crumbly mixture. It won't be a dough though, just a crumbly mixture that bunches up in a ball when shaped. I'm so glad I am this articulate in expressing the consistency levels of the mix.



To this mix, add in the delicious exotic middle eastern spice- Sumac. This is what makes a whole lot of a difference and takes the falafel from here ( gesturing to my waist level) to here ('palm over my head' gesture). You get me, don't you?! Just trust me, add in the Sumac. 



If its too dry, add  a few tbsp of water to it. Divide the mix into 16-20 small portions. Roll them into balls and press it down slightly to form a patty. It will be roughly about 2 inches in diameter.



Now we're going to shallow fry it. No deep frying so its healthier. Pour about half an inch of oil in a skillet and heat it. The oil should just start to shimmer when you place 4-5 patties in the oil.



Be careful not to splutter yourself with oil. I have an easy way to do that. I just place my patty over a slotted metal spoon and slide in into the oil. Easy! Keep your flame on medium while the falafels are inside. If they start to break in the oil, then you need to add a little more flour and some water to bind it all better. Fry all the patties till they are reddish brown. Your falafels are ready!

{Note: If your falafels are splitting n breaking in the oil, add in half about a tbsp flour more in the mix and combine it well. That should help with the patty not breaking.}


Now you can choose to use these falafels in a salad or in pita pockets. I will upload the recipe for a falafel salad soon. For the pita pockets, Have your assembly line ready like so. This pic is from a previous time I had made falafels. I make them quite often! 



Make sure you have Tahini sauce on hand which is made from sesame seeds and has the most beautiful nutty flavour.




And Tzatziki which is a cucumber and yogurt based sauce



Cut the round pita in halves. Lightly toast them so they're barely golden on the outside. Just place them flat in the oven for 3-5 minutes at 300F. Now place your salad first, add in your falafels, dress with the sauces. If you don't want to add the sauces, you can just cut through the flavours with a spritz of lime. Absolutely spectacular! Indulge!!



I made them yet again because they are one of my favourite things to eat...