Monday, 28 April 2014

Healthy Start with Raagi-aata Bread!!

Baking is an addiction! And very recently one of my readers got hooked on to baking breads. The romance of the yeast rising, the softness of a well kneaded dough, the red hot oven; and the hard/crispy outsides, yet fluffy moist insides of perfectly baked bread! Tell me if the last line didn’t excite you enough already!! This is called bread-o-graphy in my opinion, and its an addiction that will take everyone off, by a sweep!

Baking a perfect loaf is very rewarding and fills you up with pride! If you want to start eating healthy, steer clear of the bakery breads claiming to be wholegrain. They pump the bread with synthetic gluten to strengthen the slices and increase their shelf life. If you have accepted to eat healthy, then try making your own bread the way I do it. I make a huge batch at a go, then freeze one portion after the first rising, and bake one portion after 2 risings. When the other needs to be made, simply take it out of the freezer, to room temperature for 2 hours; the bread would have risen exactly as the first loaf. The only thing remaining before you could enjoy a fresh warm loaf of bread, is baking it!  

Alternatively, you could also bake the whole of the dough, and then freeze slices of the baked bread. Even after a week of baking it, take it out from the freezer and straight to a hot tawa (pan) to roast and it will taste exactly like fresh toast!

But baking fresh bread will not allow you to use your toasters the way you would with a bakery brought bread. The synthetic gluten strengthens the bread enough to let the slice remain non-crumbly, something your fresh bread would not if you ever attempt at vertically toasting it. As a great tip, someone once told me to put the toaster horizontal and toast the bread likewise! Maybe that could work...

1 and ¼ cup all purpose flour (APF)
1 cup Ragi Flour (Finger millet)
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
1 and ¼ cup milk (lukewarm)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter/oil/ghee
1 tbsp instant dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp warm water

In a bowl dissolve yeast in lukewarm water, taking care that the water is not too hot or else it can kill yeast, not too cool as it will not excite the yeast as much. Add sugar to the yeast mixture and set it aside to proof in a draft free place.

In a mixing bowl mix all three flours and salt well. Now add the bubbled yeast mixture, along with 1 tbsp oil/butter/ghee and mix with warm milk to form soft sticky dough.

Knead the dough well with the reserved 1 tbsp of oil. If the dough looks nice a smooth and springs back up on indenting it, the dough is well kneaded. Let the dough rise in a warm draft free place for an hour to 90 minutes, till it doubles its size.

Once it doubles, knock out the air and put it in the loaf tin to rise once again, this time in the shape of a loaf. Oil the tin well before putting in the dough. Let it rise for another 30-40 minutes, till it domes up twice the size.

Brush the top of the loaf with some milk or honey and scatter on some rolled oats and flax seed (optional).

Bake the loaf in oven on to 200 degreeC for 35-40 minutes; keep checking it with a skewer after 35 minutes mark to ensure perfect cooking. The best way to tell the bread is ready when a tap sounds hollow from inside. Cool on a wire rack for an hour, before slicing with a serrated knife!

Viola, the magic happened! Beautiful fresh bread is made, to be had with a thick layer of nutella on top. The guilt kind of lessens, for the yummy sugar in nutella, u have added a good dose of ragi fibres in the dish. Balance is a beautiful thing of life! Cheers!!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Year’s Journey Through Food!

Shubho Nabo Barsho!

In Bengal, no festival can go by without some heavy weight cooking and a big silver thali of all your favourites to savour from! And I being a true blue bong, couldn’t really escape this in the festive air. This post is here to chronicle all the mouth-watering home food that I ever made and served in a traditional thali, quite as, many would be enjoying today!

The traditional Bengali thali can be so very tempting! Its huge, lots of things to start and end with; and every dish is an absolute yum from start to end. A lot like the picture below.

But finishing a whole thali of thus in one meal, is definitely a difficult ask. This thali was served to me on my shadh (Godhbharai- baby shower). It started with something bitter, shukto- a mix vegetable curry made with all healthy vegetables like bitter gourd, raw banana, raw papaya, eggplants etc, and delicately flavoured with a special Bengal spice called randhuni.

Fried veggies and simple dal follows this, after which the two dishes of fish are eaten. Sweet chutney and a big fare of different kinds of desserts follow it. As I mentioned, it was a real treat for the whole family, and after tasting a bit of everything, you are done! To grace an occasion it was ok, but it definitely was not a simple home fare to be had more than once in a year!

The next comes a relatively lighter version of the last thali. The star attractions here were the awesome Dhokar Dalna- steamed lentil dumplings which are fried and put in a simple curry delicately flavoured with bay leaves, coriander and cumin paste; and Jhinge Posto- ridge gourd and potatoes cooked with poppy seeds paste.

My little one had a ball and blast on the day he was fed rice for the very first time- Annaprashan.

His tiny appetite was first quenched with a big spoon ful of Payesh (missing from this picture) - a rice pudding made with milk and delicately flavoured and sweetened with dates syrup (Khejur Gur). It was mishti-mukhe start for him to enjoy the big journey of being a bong foodie for all his life!

Now after talking about all of the most elaborate spreads of last year, lets look at the more humble home-made fare I dished out yesterday to welcome the big Bong new year- 1421.

It was a simple and easy to put together. The star attractions were the Kacha Aamer Mosala diye Chutney- raw mango hot and sweet pickle; and Murighonto- biryani made with Gobindo bhog rice (small grains but very flavourful) and fish head.

That chronicles a beautiful year filled with lots of great home-made bong food. It was fun and nostalgic to write it all down in this lovely post. Hope all of you had fun reading it as much as I did writing it down. So 1421, bring it on!! Shubho Nabo Barsho!!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Summery Delight – Pesto Pasta and Preserved Lemon Salad

The summer is here, and I am more than unhappy for its arrival. It’s hot, humid, sticky and not fun at all. And with summers, the appetite too has gone down which for a recipe developer like me is the worst thing possible! But, how much so ever you crib, it’s a fact of life that we can’t change. And so here is my summery meal, which is fast and cold and perfect with a chilled glass of white wine!

With summers, I also have another problem! You just don’t feel like working out; or doing anything that makes you sweat. Cooking too is a chore that you want to get finished with fast. And to top that, when it’s that sweaty; an average Indian wife/mother/cook would be slaving it off on the stove with direct heat on. I don't only think that's unhealthy, but a torture as well. So I have decided on doing a few dishes that are easy, micro-waved and baked, using minimal stove top. So, all my next posts would be about using electricity wisely in kitchen!!

For today, it’s a non baked, simple meal of Preserved lemon Salad with Pesto Spaghetti and Grilled Prawns


For the salad:
Preserved Lemon- I used home-made, where I sliced the lemons and cured it in with table salt and sugar. I followed this recipe, here.
Sun dried tomato
Fresh tomato
Chop it all in little cubes. You may very well use a chopper for this!

Take 2 tbsp of the syrup of preserved lemon and mix it well with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Add some fresh ground black pepper, and the vinaigrette is made!
Mix all the chopped veggies with the vinaigrette and serve chilled; garnished with fresh cilantro!

For the Pasta:
Boil a pack of whole wheat spaghetti according to the instructions given on the pack. Salt the boiling water well so that we dont loose out on the flavour!

For the sauce:
Handful of fresh basil leaves
1 clove of garlic
2 green chillies
1 lemon grass stalk/ grated lemon peel
Handful of almonds
¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Few drops of water, if required
Salt and pepper to taste

Grind fresh basil leaves, garlic and green chilly to a paste. Chop a good chunk of lemon grass (soft –whitish part) and add it to the basil paste; blitz it again to puree.

Add a handful of almonds and blitz on a high speed till all get to a paste. If you need water, add a few drops at a time. Remember a few drops of water were stuck on the fresh leaves before it was blitz and the almonds will soon release some oil too. So add water stingily!

Once you are happy with the texture, add the EVO, and whisk it well in the pesto.  Salt it to taste.

Now combine the boiled spaghetti with Pesto, and let the sauce cling on to the pasta! Use the starchy pasta water to get the sauce and spaghetti to your desired consistency!

Serve it with grilled shrimps or prawns! And it’s a beautiful summer meal, made in minutes!!


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