Category Archives: Food Discoveries

Kuzhi Paniyaram

So pleased to have begun the new year with this new dish in my breakfast and  lunch-box repertoire !

For brunch today I made paniyaram (more correctly, Kuzhi Paniyaram, which is the formal name of this dish in Tamilnadu), a sort of idli but one that is  different to the latter in three or four  chief ways. The former are much smaller in size; are cooked by stove-top baking instead of by steaming -as idlis are; and they have a lot more flavor because of the addition of a variety of things – grated ginger, a tempering with mustard seeds and curry leaves, and sautéed onions – to regular idli batter. Of course, the shapes are quite different too. Paniarams look quite like muffins, unlike the distinctive, flying saucer-like shape of idlis.

paniyaram2

I re-discovered paniyaram at breakfast one day during our recent trip to Nasik,  and was glad to see that Noor and Shri seemed to like them quite a bit. In fact both the girls said they knew these from their friends’ lunch boxes. So I wasted no time in picking up a paniyaram pan on my first trip to Dorabjee after we got back, so pleased was I to find another possibility for a healthy  snack!

Paniyarams are so simple to make too. Here’s how I made them this morning, after browsing through some recipes I found online –

Masala Kuzhi Paniaram
(makes about 18)

14-16 tablespoons of idli batter (of a cake-batter-like consistency, and to which enough salt has been added already)
3/4 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
2 quite small onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of skinless urad daal
1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander leaves
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil, for tempering
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
a few finely chopped curry leaves
1 or 2 finely chopped green chillies (optional but will add a great zing)
some oil to coat the holes in the paniaram pan

In a small pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When these begin to splutter, add the daal and as its grains start to turn pink, add the onion and sauté till the daal is a golden brown and the onions are soft. Add this mixture, the ginger and the coriander  to the batter and mix everything well.

Heat the paniyaram pan over medium heat, after drizzling just a little oil (2-3 drops will do) in to each indentation so that it’s sides are coated. Now add a tablespoon (and perhaps a little more, depending on the size of the indentations) of batter to each slot in the pan and then cover the pan to allow the batter to cook. Each paniyaram will rise like a cupcake as it happens. When the sides start to look done (this will take just a few minutes) – tip out one or two of these little beauties to check for a slightly crispy, golden color all over the sides at this point – flip over each one to cook the other side till it is a very light golden color too.

Et voila. In just a few, un-messy minutes- for I LOVE how easily these close cousins to the idli come out of the cooking pan – you have the makings of a great breakfast. Some piping hot sambhaar and a tangy coconut chutney – and it’s good to go !

Interesting trivia that I gathered on this one from googling for the recipe – the pan used for these little idlis is of the exact same kind that they use in Denmark for a particular kind of pancake. Because these pancakes were traditionally made with bits of apple, the pan is called an “ebleskiver” (Danish for apple slices) pan. So basically you could make paniyarams anywhere in the world, as long as you’ve bought yourself an ebeleskiver pan ! Really neat, I thought, this serendipitous sameness of cooking forms/gizmos in two parts of the world so distant and different from each other.

Vegan-and healthy-substitutes for common dairy products

When I mentioned to Ingrid last week that I had been looking for vegan/non-dairy versions of some Indian desserts because one of the women coming to the lunch at Jenny’s next week (for which I’ll do the catering) is lactose-intolerant, she loaned me a couple of her books on the subject.

Browsing though those books has been so much fun – the writers of each have a very droll style – as well as being informative. I have in fact often wondered, especially after tasting in recent months the delicious and all-vegan cupcakes that Ingrid makes, whether I ought to substitute ingredients like egg and butter with healthier alternatives when I bake, at least some of the time. But so far my efforts to bake healthier cakes were limited to using wholewheat flour instead of the bleached sort, and cane sugar instead of white sugar.

So it all came together nicely when the lunch next week provided me the impetus to foray in to vegan cooking.

Here are some alternatives for common dairy products, as suggested by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer, the authors of “How it all Vegan” –

For 1 egg – they suggest using instead 1/2  a banana or 3 tablespoons of applesauce or 3 tablespoons of flaxseed paste (should be like a thick milkshake; to make: blend 1 part seeds – first crushed to a mealy texture – with three parts water). One more substitute that caught my eye was a mixture of 1 tablespoon of psyllium husks and 2 tablespoons of water(the authors say that the longer the psyllium husk sits in water, the more egg-like it becomes). The former is what is commonly prescribed in India for constipation; how I hated this stuff, called “Isabgol” in India,  when I was a child !

Butter – can be replaced, they say, with applesauce, or nut butter (made from almonds, cashews or other nuts) or vegan butter (to make- blend 3/4 cup soft tofu, 2 tbsp olive oil, a pinch of salt and turmeric).

Milk– they suggest replacing the dairy kind with milk made from soy/rice/oats/coconut or almonds.
To make almond milk, blend 3/4 cup raw, peeled almonds (crushed beforehand in the blender to a mealy texture), 2 cups of water and 6 pitted dates. Though I’d skip the dates, I think, unless the milk is for adding to a bowl of cereal.

Coming up – Vegan gajar ka halwa made in almond milk, vegan cakes made with flaxseed paste and applesauce instead of egg and butter, and vegan crepes made with flaxseed paste and almond milk instead of eggs and regular milk.  From a nutrition point of view, they would be such winners, each of those substitutions, apart from the fact that they replace dairy products which are a source of  extra fat and cholesterol.

Mesclun

We eat this so often – it is my favorite mix of salad greens – that I thought it merits a mention here.

According to sources such as wikipedia and wisegeek, Mesclun (“to mix” in the Provencal language of the south of France) is a mixture of young greens (i.e. harvested while they are young, for a great flavor)  and can include  dandelion leaves, sorrel, rocket or arugula, mache or lamb’s lettuce, other leafy lettuces, spinach, mustard, swiss chard, chicory, frisee and sometimes edible flowers such as rose petals and nasturtiums. The original mix apparently consisted of chervil,rocket, types of lettuce and endive mixed in equal amounts.

A delicate olive oil and lime juice dressing is all a Mesclun-based salad needs, I feel, so that the fresh flavors of the leaves are not subdued.

http://www.foodreference.com/html/fmesclun.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesclun

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-mesclun.htm

Getting to grips with Jowar/Bajra/Ragi

Neelam asked some weeks ago if I knew whether ragi flour is available here. That was the first time I actually looked for the French – or indeed the English – name of this flour since I have never cooked with it.

Turns out it’s called finger millet in English and eleusine cultivee, coracan or koracan in French.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finger_millet

She has also been trying to find out about jowar and bajra, two other very healthy grains that are popular in India but which I have no experience of.

While bajra is another variety of millet – pearl millet in English, millet perlé in French – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_millet ,

jowar, I believe, is a variety of a group of grasses/cereal crops called Sorghum http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_sorghum

I believe millet is very rich in calcium and that’s the reason I remember Harshini used it a lot to make baby food for Kavana.

Now to start the search for these flours here. It would open up whole new possibilities for our daily bread, so to say !

Pain de Sarrasin- aka Kuttu ke Paranthe!

Talk about it being a small world.

When I wrote recently about buckwheat crepes I had no idea that buckwheat flour , called sarrasin in French or ble noir, is the good old kuttu ka atta that is used all over India to make things like cheelas, paranthas and pakoras for people who are fasting for religious reasons and therefore not allowed to eat grains. But then I have never actually eaten anything made with this flour in India, nor indeed have I seen it, since in our home my Aryasamaji mother and dadi never observed any fasts for any festival or occasion. So, being only very vaguely aware of this flour,  I had never given any thought to it or to what it might be.

My good friend Priti wrote to tell me about it, after reading about the crepes here.

So when I made paranthas today, for the girls’ lunch, with the flour I originally bought to make the very French galette, it felt like I had taken the long way home, in a manner of speaking 🙂

sarrasin-paranthas-002

Kuttu ke Paranthe

I made the dough as I would for any other paranthas – with water but also with some crushed rock salt in this case –  then rolled out and cooked the paranthas in the same way too. I noticed that the flour had a tendency to get sticky so I added water very carefully, only a little bit at a time.

The girls, as they sat down to eat, sniffed at their plates and said, “hey but these smell like those crepes !”

I did tell them eventually why. And though they were evidently not too excited about this new culinary experiment, they did eat them, good girls that they are, without further comment, with some aloo ki subzi , a little pickle and yoghurt.

I have no idea how far from the original these are in taste or look, but they are good enough to eat that I would definitely make them again.