Onion Crispies (Pyaaz Pakoras)

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I don’t know what is it about the rains and pyaaz pakoras. If you are in India during the monsoons, you’ll know what I mean. Showers almost invariably call for indian chai and hot pakoras- I guess we’re just celebrating the rains, so important for our crops. At this point, we are not really counting our calories and it’s tough to reach the point of taste satiation.

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Looking through the window and seeing the showers takes my mind to the song by BJ Thomas, “Raindrops keep falling on my head”. I love every word of the song as much as the music.  This song was released in 1969 and had won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song. True, I wasn’t even born then. I got introduced to the song through my mum and dad who used to keep humming this song (and actually most of the classics I know today are because of my parents and … “I thank you for the music…. for giving it to me (-Abba)“).

“Pyaaz”= Onion, “Pakora”= Fried crisps or fritters, are a delight. They’re best had hot and fresh. It has a simple batter made from “Besan” or Gram Flour salt, and couple of Indian spices. When I had initially tried making the pakoras at home, I used to add water to the flour to get a thickish consistency. After deep frying, my crispies weren’t as crisp as I wanted them to be. Back in my graduate study days, one of my friends made these pakoras and invited me over for a taste. So inquisitive was I to see how her pakoras got so crisp, I stormed into her kitchen and I remember I telling myself, “Aha! So that’s the trick“.

These flavorful onions, as we all know, are used in plentiful dishes. If you go to an Indian restaurant, you’ll often times find “Pickled onions” being served on the table, since they go very well with tandoori snacks and curry dishes. But, I, for one, have still not developed a taste for raw onions. That’s probably because when I was little, I bit into an onion slice and I didn’t very much like getting sprayed by the juice from the onion. Onions have a relatively high water content. And keeping this basic fact in mind, my friend had got her pakora just right. All you need to do is coat the cut onion slices with gram flour  and leave undisturbed for a good 30 minutes- the water released from the onions does not necessitate you to add more water to make the batter.

What you need:

1/2 yellow onion (large), sliced

2 tbsp Gram Flour (Besan)

2 big pinches of Chaat Masala

Little Mirchi Powder (depending on how much heat you want in your pakoras)

1 tsp Coriander Powder

Salt to taste

Combine the onion slices and flour in a bowl. Sprinkle some salt on the onions (this will help release the water from the onion quicker).  Let this rest for about 30 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Meanwhile, heat oil in a kadai (pan) for deep frying. You can check if the oil is ready for frying by just dropping a little batter in the oil. If it rises to the surface immediately, it your indication that the oil is hot enough for deep frying. Now, carefully drop the onions in to the hot oil and fry till they color changes to deep golden brown. Savor these with a hot cup of tea or your favorite chutney or tomato ketchup.

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Gustoso Pizza

Okay, so who doesn’t love pizzas. It is one of our best-loved eats while watching your favorite shows, the ballgame, or just a weekend meal with beer. My husband and I were (till a few months) regular pizza eaters and being vegetarians, we used love the all-veggie-topping-pizza. A large pizza would easily suffice two meals. Why we all love pizza? Well, we don’t look for reasons. We just love it.

I generally don’t try something in my kitchen unless I’m totally convinced that its doable. Since I wasn’t that sure about making pizza from scratch, what I did a couple of times earlier was to get pizza crust and top it with my favorite toppings (veggies, mozarella cheese, pineapple)and 20 minutes later our home was welcome with a bouquet of essences. What I was glad about what was the power of control I had over the ingredients (especially cheese).

A few days back, I was motivated to bake a pizza right from scratch and googled the recipe to making the pizza dough. I was surprised by the number of results. My recipe was closest to the one below:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 packet active dry yeast (7 gms)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup warm water

First, I mixed all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Yes, I skipped the step of proofing the yeast. Added the olive oil and warm water, in batches, as I was kneading. i tweaked the recipe in that I added 1 part all-purpose flour and 1 part whole wheat flour. (The next time I am inclined to try the recipe with only whole wheat flour to make it a healthier option). It is important that the dough should not be kneaded a lot.

After that, just spray oil in the same bowl (of course, after taking out the dough. I actually kneaded my dough directly on the counter- just gave me a lot of working space). And gently roll the dough in the bowl to coat it with oil. Wrap the dough now with a shrink wrap and leave the dough undisturbed for about an hour.

In he meantime, I cut all my veggies. Onions, tomatoes, baby, spinach, green peppers, black olives. I missed adding pineapples this time, but will next time.

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The next step is to roll out the dough with a rolling pin sprinkling the dough with flour to prevent it from sticking to the counter. Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 475 deg C. Spray some oil and pizza sauce on the flattened dough and arrange all the veggies and mozarella cheese. I then sprinkled some salt, crushed pepper, and garlic powder and put it in the oven for baking.

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And what came out after 20 minutes was a delectable pizza, which tasted as good as it looked.

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Alternately, the next time I bake a pizza I will be replacing the all-purpose flour entire with whole wheat flour and active dry yeast with baking powder.

Although making this pizza took a good 2 hours, yet it was a great experience, especially for a first-timer and the results were quite impressive. My next venture would be making a plum torte. In fact, I will be running to the store this evening to get some plums (hopefully I find some). So, stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting my blog!!

Inspired by smittenkitchen.com

Green Lentil Flatbread

This is a rather simple recipe to use leftover lentils. It is healthy, delicious, and quick to prepare. I used boiled Green Mung Beans. This variety of beans is a great source of proteins and is high in soluble fiber. I pressure cooked the 1 cup of the beans in 2 cups of water. I had some left over from the previous evening’s meal, so I thought of incorporating it in a flatbread (also called paratha).

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Approach:

Green Mung Beans (Boiled): 1/4 cup

Whole wheat Flour: 1/2 cup

Water (Lukewarm): 1/4 cup

Milk (at Room Temperature): 1/8 cup

Cumin seeds: 1 tsp

Salt to taste

Put the beans/ dal and other dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix well, while gently crushing the boiled beans. Slowly add milk and knead. The dough will be dry at this point. Add water in batches such that you can knead the dough to the desired consistency. Cover the bowl (in which you kneaded the dough) with a lid and let stand for about 10 minutes.

You’re now on your way to savor this delicious Indian Flatbread. Hold on, not so fast. You still have to make the flatbread. Take a small ball (about the size of a golf ball) from the kneaded dough and roll and press it between your palms gently. Now flatten the ball with a rolling pin. You don’t have to make it superthin (like chapati/ roti).

Preheat the pan. Gently lift the bread and place it on the pan. Drizzle some clarified butter (ghee) on the bread. When the bread browns slightly, flip it and brush some more butter/ ghee on this side too. Lift (with tongs, don’t burn your fingers) to check whether the other side is cooked. You’ll know it when you can see brown spots. Your flatbread is cooked and ready to be savored.

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Serve hot with yoghurt or pickle or green chutney.

QuickBerry Lassi

Hailing from India, Lassi is one of the drinks that cools you off in the hot weather. Lassis have also come of age. Many flavors, many colors. I am so used to having Lassi as a breakfast drink that I wanted to try out something innovative and quick. This ‘QuickBerry Lassi’ is a perfect drink to quench your thirst or satiate those in-between-meal-cravings.

IMG_3123Ingredients:

1/2 cup Plain Yoghurt

2 tsp Strawberry crush or preserves

1 tsp Sugar

Water (Per the desired consistency)

Blender

Put all the above ingredients in a blender and blend it till a homogeneous mix is obtained. Serve chilled.

Notes:

1. To watch those calories, you can always substitute Full Fat Yoghurt with Low Fat Yoghurt and regular sugar with sugar substitute.

2. If you don’t have Strawberry crush, use Strawberry jam or jelly. You can also experiment with other flavors like apricot, raspberry, black currant.

3. Although you can make this recipe with fresh strawberries, it is for times when you’re out of strawberries at home (and don’t want to run down to your local grocery store) or if they are not available in your area.