Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Roti- How to Make Soft Roti in an Electric Cooktop- Step By Step Post

I feel rather ashamed to admit this. I used to suck at making Chapatis/Rotis. I have heard from people whose staple diet consists of Roti that every demure housewife is judged by the shape and texture of the Rotis she rolls. I am not demure.  Nor was I a perfect Roti maker. The latter saddend me, of course. So I decided to push things further and tried everything I could think of- every tip food blogs and recipe books had to offer. Most of my experiments ended in roadblocks and rock-hard Rotis.

My father-in-law, when he visited us for a couple of weeks along with my mother-in-law, used to be half scared during dinnertime, thanks to my skills or the lack of in the Chapati-making department. So I trudged on for a few weeks more to realize this: I needed to come up with my own method. The problem was my cooktop. Our environment-friendly apartment has an electric stove. Although it gives off heat and cooks food rather wonderfully, it needs a whole new skill-set to perfect making foods like Roti, Dosa and pancakes. The method of preparation doesn’t affect the latter two but making perfectly soft Rotis starts with making the dough.

Why? This is because you cannot show the Rotis on naked flame on an electric cooktop, an essential step for making soft Chapatis or even Phulkas. So the need to correct the dough arose and this is what I set out to perfect. After mixing, remixing and changing the quantity of  the wet ingredients I used (thanks to diet-conscious Roti dinners every night), I hit jackpot. And I decided that it would be cruel to not share my method with the part of the world that owns/rents homes with electric stove. Since it is a tricky process (haha, just joking!), I decided to add the step-by-step process with pictures. Since I seldom do this, gather around and make the most of it, everyone!

The key to soft Rotis is three-fold:

  • Warm water
  • Use of yogurt
  • Autolyse (autolysis)

When you hit all the aforementioned notes, there is no reason to eat another tough/crunchy/pull-your-tongue-out-and-die Roti again!

Ingredients:

One cup whole wheat flour + extra for dusting

Two Tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil)

Two Tbsp yogurt (any kind would do)

Quarter (to half cup) very warm water

Quarter tsp salt

Method:

Mix wheat and salt in a bowl. Add the olive oil and yogurt and mix it into a crumbly dough. Now add water gradually as you knead into a soft pliable dough. The amount of water you need could be anywhere between a quarter cup and half a cup (influenced primarily by the humidity in the air). When it forms a rough dough, transfer it to a clean working surface and knead with the heel of your palm. Stop when it comes together into a soft ball of dough.

Wrap it up in a kitchen towel or cheese cloth and let it rest anywhere between 30 mins and two hours (autolyse time!). If you plan to make it the next day, put it in a ziplock and leave it in the fridge. Bring it out the next day and bring it down to room temperature and then make the Rotis.

The Process of Making Soft Roti

The Process of Making Soft Roti

When you are ready to start making the Rotis, heat a pan on the stove top. Pinch the dough into equal size balls (one cup makes roughly 5 Rotis) and roll them smooth on the counter top. Dunk each ball ever so slightly in wheat flour. Gently press into a flat disk. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a thin, round (-ish in my case) circle. Switch the stove to medium. Place the circle in the pan/Tawa/griddle and let it cook. You will see small bubbles forming.

When quite a few of them form, turn it over. While it cooks, bunch up a piece of kitchen towel and use it to rotate the Roti on the pan. This will aid it in puffing up and cook evenly. When the other side has also equally browned, take it off the stove and place it on the cloth that you used to cover it initially. I like my Rotis with a drop of butter so I spread some before wrapping it up. You don’t have to if you prefer non-buttered Rotis.
rotiSo yes, Vaish- 1, Electric Cooktop- 0

 

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Hot Carrot Halwa for Winter

Halwa is the most diverse of all sweet treats/desserts in the world. From the Middle East to South Asia, Halwa finds its rightful place in a whole repertoire of cuisines. Halwa (or halva or sometimes Alva as we call it in the Indian down South) is typically made out of flour, sugar, butter and dry fruits and nuts which are added in the end to the dish. My most favorite kind will forever be the wheat Alva we get in Tirunalveli, a city in Tamil Nadu. Oh my gosh, the taste. I seriously cannot do justice to this wonderful dish on a single blog post that is not about Tirunalveli Alva. Let me just say this: if I had to choose one dessert and I was allowed to eat only that all my life, I would choose this sweet. And I won’t regret it.
carrot halwaiA couple of days ago, we decided to take advantage of the fresh carrots at home and make carrot Halwa. This is one of the easiest sweets I’ve ever made and it is also one of the yummiest. The condensed milk gave it a wonderful depth to the halva. So it really is a win-win situation. My only regret was that we made very little. I cannot wait to make more and eat it hot out of the pan, a kick in Winter’s cold a**.

Winter Carrot Halwa

Ingredients:
Four huge carrots finely grated (I used the bigger holes on my grater because I hate the mushy texture of the smaller side)

One cup condensed milk

One Tbsp Ghee/brown butter

Few slivered almonds and raisins

Five pieces salted roasted cashews (unroasted would do too, just add them with the almonds and raisins)

A generous pinch cardamom powder (or crushed whole cardamoms)

Method:
Cook the carrot and condensed milk along with cardamom powder on medium hear. It is done when the carrot becomes completely soft and all the water from the milk and carrot condenses. Melt the Ghee, add the slivered almonds and raisins. Let them brown. When done, mix them into the Halwa along with the salted cashews.

Carrot Halwa tastes the best when eaten hot off the pan with vanilla ice cream. So good!


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I Love Punjabi Kadhi!

Punjabi food is amazing! Dal Makhani is one of the tastiest (and one of the easiest) Dals I’ve ever made. The Tandoor method of cooking is very common to Punjabi dishes. Made of clay, a Tandoor is an oven that gives food cooked in it a distinct, rustic taste that is seldom found in any other method of cooking. It has a distant cousin, the American barbecue. But which kind of barbecue method is beyond me because I have never barbecued and don’t see myself doing it anytime in the future either.

Although Butter Chicken (or one of those richer gravies) is the most popular dish that rolls out of a Punjabi kitchen, there are so many lighter and equally wonderful Punjabi recipes also. My favorite would always be the Punjabi Kadhi. Made of sour yogurt, this side is spiced generously with dry red chilies, cinnamon and cloves. Channa Dal flour aka basin gram flour is finally whisked in to thicken it for a soupy consistency, perfect for dipping your Roti in or mixing with rice.
kadhiKadhi, as it is with every dish in this world, has many variations and is actually native to many other Indian cuisines like Uttar Pradeshi, Gujarati, Rajasthani and Maharashtrian. The one we made at home had fried chickpea dumplings (Pakoda) in it to make it meatier and wholesome. But I have made Kadhi with potatoes and without anything dunked in too and they have all been wonderful!

Punjabi Kadhi is a wonderful dish to eat when the weather starts turning cold and you just want something warm and comforting for dinner. Fall is here so this is the most perfect time to make Kadhi!

I realized only after posting that I had not given the recipe! I quickly asked Amma for hers and she gave me her nifty little notebook she writes recipes in. This method is a mishmash of various versions of Kadhi, adopted into one tasty dish. Although it has been adapted from different places, it is as authentic as a Kadhi that comes out of a non-Punjabi kitchen gets!

Panjabi Pakoda Kadhi

Ingredients:

For the Pakoda:
One cup Besan flour

One medium-sized onion chopped

One medium-sized potato chopped

One tsp cumin seeds

One tsp cayenne pepper powder

One tsp grated ginger

Half tsp baking powder

Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

For the Kadhi:
Three cups yogurt

Two Tbsp Besan flour

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

Salt to taste

For Tempering:
Half inch stick cinnamon

Two cloves

Two whole dry red chilies

Half tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp cumin-coriander powder

Quarter tsp fenugreek seeds

Two tsps grated ginger

Few curry leaves

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

two Tbsp oil

Method:
Mix the Pakoda ingredients with water to form thick dough. Roll into one inch-size balls. Deep fry in oil and drain on kitchen towel. Mix the Kadhi ingredients together in a bowl. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the tempering ingredients until fragrant. Turn the heat to low and add the yogurt mixture. Let it simmer. Switch the stove off when it starts bubbling and the Kadhi thickens.

When done, dunk the Pakodas in. Eat before it turns soggy.

My most favorite way to eat Kadhi is with Papad and a pat of Ghee/clarified butter. Now you know the reason for my generous BMI, dontcha? 😉


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Mid-week Crisis: Tomato to the Rescue

Crabby evenings- Aarabhi is going through another growth spurt. Or that is what we think it is. It could also be because she hardly sleeps during the day and when evening strikes, she gradually goes into a tantrum-y mood. We haven’t figured this one out so we are still looking into it. Whatever it is, it has been mentally and physically draining everyone at home. So in-between trying to soothe her, writing a couple of exams for my Financial Accounting course (ugh, puke!), trying to keep the normalcy going, we have also been doing our best at getting meals on the table. When I say we in connection to cooking, I mean Amma and me.

Kishore has enough to do already between work and playing babysitter (or just being the baby’s father) in the evenings. To top this, he has signed up for a 5K this October and hasn’t found time to train for it. Oh well, we all know how that one is going to go! So today, I broke my resolution and decided to make dinner in the middle of the week. I wish I hadn’t. Thankfully, Amma did all the background work like chopping, grinding and making the side dish because I had to keep an eye on Aarabhi too. Although she is at this wonderful stage where the running ceiling fan amuses her, she fusses if we ignore her for more than two minutes. But her adorable smile every time she glances up at her new buddy is priceless! Sigh, my baby is growing up already…
Tomato riceBack to dinner, what started as an interesting version of a tomato rice I read somewhere on the blogosphere ended up becoming my own recipe. And after making it, I realized that it was very similar to the Biriyani recipe. Surprisingly, it tasted pretty different. We ate it with cucumber Raita but I do wish we had had some potato chips in the pantry. That was dinner done on a Wednesday and I swear I will keep my weekdays to merely photographing what Amma makes rather than getting adventurous in the kitchen. Phew!

Tangy Tomato Rice

Ingredients:
Two and a half cups Basmati rice, washed, rinsed, drained and cooked in three and a quarter cup of water

Six tomatoes, finely chopped

One huge onion, sliced thin

Two tsp Garam Masala, curry powder or any Masala really!

One tsp turmeric powder (optional)

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt to taste

For tempering-
One piece cinnamon stick

Four pods of cardamom and cloves

Two bay leaves

Few mustard and cumin seeds

Two Tbsp oil

To be ground into fine paste-
Half an onion

Six pods of garlic

One inch piece of ginger

A small bunch cilantro

A small bunch mint leaves

Four Thai green chilies

Method
Fluff the cooked rice and set aside. Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat and add all the tempering spices. When done, add the sliced onions and turn the heat to med-low. Let it caramelize. When light brown in color, turn the heat to medium and add the ground paste. Let it cook for five minutes. Now add the tomatoes, Masala, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder and salt. Close the pan with a lid and let it cook for ten minutes until the tomatoes are mushy and the paste is semi-solid. Take the lid off and let it cook a few minutes more until it thickens. When done, mix it with the cooked rice, make sure the rice doesn’t turn mushy. Eat as a side or as a main dish like we did with Raita.
Tomato rice2


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Snacky Paneer from the Fake Tandoor

Don’t you love Paneer? Don’t you just love that chewy goodness called Paneer, a close cousin of ricotta and just the perfect replacement to meat in most dishes that roll out of a Tandoor kitchen? Um, I don’t like it all that much. True story. But when I was young(er), I used to have dreams about devouring huge amounts of Paneer Butter Masala and Paneer Tikka and miraculously escaping the indigestion that was sure to follow. That phase passed and fortunately-erm, for Kishore, really- I make Paneer exclusively for him these days.

Paneer Tikka is one of those appetizer dishes that holds a permanent place on any Indian restaurant menu. It is a breeze to make (without the Tandoor, of course), an ultimate favorite with the hub and my round two recipe for a frozen piece of Paneer that was sleeping in the freezer. I cooked it in the oven and finished it on a pan because with a sleeping child in the house on a scotching Alabama summer day, the broiler was something I wanted to avoid switching on.
Paneer tikka
Paneer Tikka

Ingredients:

To be diced into huge pieces-
A slab of Paneer

Half an onion

One tomato

Half a green bell pepper

For the marinade-
One cup thick yogurt

Two Tbs gram flour (or AP)

Half tsp chili powder

Half a tsp turmeric powder

One tsp Garam Masala

One tsp Chat Masala

One Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

One tsp salt

Method:

Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Marinate the Paneer for two hours. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Lay the Paneer pieces on a foil lined sheet. Dunk the veggies in the marinade and lay them out. Bake for twenty minutes. When done, heat a pan, transfer the Paneer and the vegetables and toast till brown on both sides. Serve with green chutney.


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Paneer Dahiwala, or Anything You Want to Call it…

This dish is loosely based on the other Indian dish called Dahiwala Paneer or Paneer Dahiwala. I came across this recipe on Tarla Dalal’s website once and bookmarked it for future use. Fast forward a year and I discovered today that my book on Paneer had the same recipe (no surprises there since it was written by the same chef). Although I started the Subzi by following the book, I gradually branched out and threw in ingredients that I found fitting. Hence, you can call it anything you want. I won’t blame you.
paneer dahiwala2We bought a huge slab of Paneer last week in Atlanta and Kishore was going crazy trying to decide what he wanted me to make out of it. These days, it is a pretty huge task, trying to find a good recipe for this Indian cheese that would make it the star of the show. I blame this obsession on the lack of fresh Paneer available at our local Indian grocers. Most of the time, I end up making it from scratch. At times like these, I buy it from Atlanta when we go shopping once in two months. Not surprisingly, the hub prefers the commercial version and I kinda don’t blame him for that. It is less crumbly and it doesn’t disappear when you fry it. My mom rightly observed today that taste-wise, the homemade version kicks the commercial version any day!

What I am trying to say is, make it or buy it, that is your call.

Paneer Dahiwala

Ingredients:
Two cups cubed Paneer

Two cups finely-sliced onion

Ten cherry tomatoes

One tsp tomato paste

Cilantro to garnish

One and a half Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

One tsp each of-
Cumin seeds

Fennel seeds

Nigella seeds (optional but recommended)

Mustard seeds

A small pinch of fenugreek seeds

Quarter tsp asafoetida powder (optional)

Two tsp Kasuri Methi (optional)

One tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Two tsp Chat Masala/Pani Puri Masala/black salt

Salt to taste (but avoid if using black salt)

One Tbsp all-purpose flour

Two cups Greek yogurt

Quarter cup milk

Quarter cup water

Four Tbsp cooking oil

Method:
Heat the oil in a pan. Add all the seeds and when they begin to crackle, add the sliced onion. Let it caramelize on low heat. When it turns golden brown, up the heat to medium and add the ginger-garlic paste and cherry tomatoes. Saute for two minutes and then add the tomato paste, water, turmeric powder, cayenne powder, Chat Masala and salt. Let it cook for five minutes. When done, mix in the Paneer. Give it three minutes to cook.

(L-R) Sauteed caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes. Paneer in the pan with the seasonings. Simmering the gravy after adding Kasuri Methi

(L-R) Sauteed caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes. Paneer in the pan with the seasonings. Simmering the gravy after adding Kasuri Methi

Now add the yogurt and milk along with the Kasuri Methi and all-purpose flour. Cover and let it simmer on low heat for five to seven minutes. Once done, switch off the heat and garnish with cilantro leaves. If the gravy is too thick, add some water. If it is watery (which I doubt it will), add another tsp of AP and let it simmer for a few more minutes without the lid.


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Why Mommy Should Blog Instead…

mixed veg subziThis here is the reason why my mom should be blogging this post instead of me. I seldom go into the kitchen these days and hardly give an idea for what to make for a meal. Hence, when Amma asked me what we should make for dinner tonight, I, being my ever helpful self, suggested Chapati. I brought Mallika Badrinath’s 100 Delicious Curries book to her and asked her to make any Subzi she fancied from it. And then, I went to sleep. At 2pm. In my defense, I had just put Aarabhi down for a nap and I was excited about taking advantage of the quiet house.

This Subzi, my mother informed me when I tumbled out of bed in search of coffee at 5pm, was a fusion of two sides from the book. It is a wonderful option for Rotis, can be made fancy if you are entertaining and a great accompaniment for Jeera Rice or any fried rice/Pulao/Biriyani you decide to make.

Here is how Amma made it-

Mixed Vegetable Subzi
Two cups mixed veggies (as you know, I always prefer the frozen kind)

One huge onion, chopped

Two tomatoes, chopped

Half cup tomato puree

One Cup low-fat sour cream

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Salt to taste

Three Tbsp vegetable oil

Cilantro leaves for garnish

To be ground into a paste:

One tsp poppy seeds, soaked for half hour in warm water

One tsp cumin seeds

Two tsp coriander seeds

Six pods garlic

Method
Heat the oil in a saute pan. Fry the onion until slightly brown. Add the ground paste. Fry until the raw smell goes away. Add a Tbsp sour cream. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry until mushy. Add another Tbsp sour cream the puree and the vegetables. Mix in the salt and cayenne pepper powder. Add the rest of the sour cream. If too thick, add a little water. Let it simmer until semi-solid. Garnish with cilantro.

Now I gotta go!