Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Falafel - The Middle Eastern Fritter

Falafel – a deep fried, Middle Eastern fritter, made of chickpeas and some herbs and spices. Crispy outside, softer inside, full of flavors and deep fried! Whats not to like it, taste wise? Yes, you must sometimes forget about the amount of oil needed for deep frying if you want to enjoy some of the great foods. It is OK occasionally!

I was almost dreaming of these Falafels, till I finally decided to make them. So planned it along with the Hummus, so that the chickpeas can be cooked together. And the hummus does make a good dip for the falafel as well. Though these can be had by themselves as well.

Well, it is almost like our pakoras, vadas and bondas – all these look like cousins to me. With some variations in main ingredients, and the method of preparation. Of course each region uses the herbs, spices and other ingredients easily available in that region and that makes the difference.

So here's the recipe. BTW, the fat-stingy me tried to bake these as well, and also shallow fried a batch. But honestly, I was not very happy with the results. So I'd suggest you to make it occasionally, but please do deep fry them. Indulging occasionally is alright!


Preparation time: 20 min
Cooking time: ~30 min + 20 min
Serves: 4

Dried chickpeas or garbanzo beans - 1 cup
Onion - 1 large, chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped
Fresh parsley - 3 Tbsp, chopped
Coriander - 2 Tbsp, chopped
Cumin - 1 tsp
Chickpea flour / Besan - 2 Tbsp
Salt to taste
Green chilies - 2-3, optional - only if you need an extra heat
Pepper to taste
Oil for deep frying

  • Soak dried chickpeas in cold water overnight. Omit this step if using canned beans. 
  • Drain chickpeas, and cook in fresh water in a pressure cooker till cooked soft
  • Drain and allow to cool for 15 minutes 
  • Combine cooked chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl.
  • Mash chickpeas, ensuring to mix ingredients together. You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste. 
  • Add flour to make the consistency that of a thick dough
  • Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of ping pong ball and slightly flatten.
  • Deep fry in oil until golden brown on medium heat.
  • Serve hot with hummus or tahini as appetizer
  • As a main course, stuff pita bread with falafel, lettuce, tomatoes, tahini, salt and pepper, and serve
  • Do not add water when mashing or grinding
  • If the dough seems very loose increase the quantity of besan

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hummus - the versatile Middle Eastern Dip

Hummus had been on my list to try for a long time. Somehow i had not made it, surprisingly for it is such a simple dip with all the ingredients I almost always have. Finally i made it along with Falafel, a fritter with chickpeas and pita bread (recipes will soon follow).

Hummus is a dip/spread that is made from chickpeas/garbanzo beans. In fact, hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea. It is apparently one of the oldest foods dating back to ancient Egypt.

There are so many variations for the recipe of Hummus, just like our chutney, fo example. Each one has their own preference for ingredients, and their quantities, spice and salt level and so on. The only common factor being Garbanzo beans and Olive oil. Some versions use Tahini - a paste of roasted sesame seeds and olive oil and some do not. I have however made tahini as well and added it to my version of hummus.
Here's my version...

Hummus - The versatile Middle Eastern Dip

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: ~30 min to cook the beans, none after that

Chickpeas or garbanzo beans - 1 cup, washed and soaked overnight
Lemon/lime juice - 2 Tbsp (adjust acc to taste)
Tahini - 2 Tbsp - Recipe below
Garlic - 2 cloves
Red chili powder - 1/2 tsp, optional
Parsley - 2 Tbsp, chopped
Roasted Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp, optional
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Olive oil - 2-3 Tbsp

For Tahini
White sesame seeds - 2 Tbsp, roasted
Olive Oil - 1 Tbsp

  • Cook chikpeas in enough water till well cooked - for about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. Reserve some of the water used for cooking
  • Roast white sesame seeds and grind it to a paste along with olive oil to make tahini paste.
  • Combine the chikpeas, tahini and the remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from boiling the chickpeas.
  • Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
  • Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.
  • Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well.
  • Garnish with parsley (optional).
  • Serve immediately with fresh, warm or toasted pita bread or falafel or cover and refrigerate for later use.
  • Stays fresh in fridge for about 3 days.
As said earlier, there are a number of possibilities to experiment with this simple dip. Vary your spices, add your favorites and try out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Shankar PoLi / Shakkar Para

This is one easy and common sweet that I grew up with. Mom used to make these often for us kids, during festivals, during our holidays, for trips and so on. And most of the times we’d sit with her and help her with it. This is made by mixing a chapathi like dough, rolling it, cutting into diamond shapes and deep frying. 

Our part of the work would be cutting the rolled dough and lifting them off the rolling board… it was fun! And as soon as the fired ones are out of the oil, we’d let it cool a bit and pop them into our mouths, while helping for the next batch!

They are crispy, and the sprinkled sugar adds a nice taste. They do stay fresh for a couple of weeks, that is if we let them stay that long! Works well if you need something to make in a large scale as well.

So here’s Shankar Poli and wishing you all a
Happy Deepavali / Diwali!

Shankar PoLi / Shakkar Para

All Purpose Flour / Maida - 2 cups
Hot oil / Ghee - 1-2 Tbsp
Sugar - 3 Tbsp
Salt - 1/4 - 1/2 tsp - I’d suggest not to skip this - Salt brings out the other tastes well
Oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)

  • Mix all the ingredients except the oil kept for deep frying, in a bowl.
  • Prepare a firm and tight dough with using water and keep aside for 10-15 mins
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll out each portion by dusting very little flour thicker than a chapathi.
  • Cut the rolled out dough into small diamond shapes using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter.
  • Heat oil in a pan and deep fry the cut out dough in medium heat till golden brown.
  • Drain it on absorbent paper, and sprinkle with some powdered sugar. I used some vanilla sugar that I had.
  • Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  • Allow to cool and store in an air tight container.
  • It stays fresh for a couple of weeks 
  • Addition of ghee/hot oil while making the dough gives the snack a crisp texture.
  • Can make a savory version of it too

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gobi Matar Pulav / Cauliflower and Peas Rice

Here is one quicky quick post with a quicky quick recipe. A flavorful pulav with cauliflower and peas. Makes a hearty one pot meal and gets done in a jiffy. Suitable for lunch packs as well.

Wish you all a Happy Deepavali in advance!!

Here goes the recipe…

Gobi Matar Pulav / Cauliflower and Peas Rice

Preparation time: 15 min
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4
Source: Self experimented

Gobi/ Cauliflower       - 1 cup of florets
Onion              - 1 small sized, chopped (optional)
Green peas      - 3/4 cup
Carrot - 1 small, shredded
Cooked Rice    - 3 cups (preferably Basmati)
Cooking oil      - 1 Tbsp
Cumin seeds    - 1 Tsp
Cinnamon        - 1” stick, broken into 4-5 pcs
Cloves              - 4-5
Ginger             - 1" cube
Green chilies   - 2-3, depending on taste
Garam Masala powder - 1 tsp
Dhania powder - 1 tsp
Red chili powder - 1/2 tsp, depending on taste
Salt                  - ~3/4 tsp or as per taste

  • Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves and pepper
  • After half a minute, add grated ginger, slit green chilies, chopped onion, grated carrot and peas. Sauté for 1-2 minutes
  • Add cauliflower florets and sauté till it is cooked tender but still firm
  • Sprinkle some salt, garam masala, dhania powder, red chili powder and let the veggies absorb the flavors for a minute or two
  • Mix in the cooked rice thoroughly, add more salt if required and optionally heat it for another few minutes
  • Serve hot, optionally with any raita
  • Do not overcook the gobi/cauliflower.
  • Make the rice with a little less water so that the grains are separate

Friday, November 2, 2012

Eggless Dates and Walnut Cake

The sun has started getting quite lazy these days! He hardly shows up in time in the mornings and even if he does, disappears even before I realize he is there! And he’s in deep slumber by late afternoon itself! In this place in Scandinavia, getting to see him over the next few months would be almost a rare treat! Though the weather calls for nice cozy snuggling one the couch, with warm food, the scope for food photography is almost nil. I’m baking and cooking so many varieties every week, but unfortunately with bad pictures that I don’t even want to see myself!

Thanks to my fore-thought over the last few months of sunshine, I have some posts in draft with some decent pictures. And for the rest, I’ll post some great recipes but with bad pics, till the Sun decides to favor me ;)

So this is one easy breezy cake that I baked a couple of months and saved it for the rainy day (not the cake, I meant the pics for the post). It is a nice moist cake, quite a sweet one - have made adjustments to the sugar after that, in the recipe. Less oil, less sugar, iron rich dates and walnuts… not a bad snack to indulge in, more than a single slice :)

Here it is…

Eggless Date and Walnut Cake

Preparation time: 15 min + soaking time for dates
Baking time: 30-35 minutes
Adapted from: Multiple sources over internet

All purpose flour/Maida - 1 cup
Baking Soda - 1 tsp
Dates - 18-20
Milk - 3/4 cup
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Vegetable Oil - 1/2 cup (I reduced it to 1/4 cup and it worked fine)
Chopped walnuts - 1/4 cup

  • Sieve together flour and baking soda a couple of times for even mixing.
  • Take nuts in a small cup and sprinkle a tsp of flour and coat the nuts with the flour.
  • Warm the milk and soak dates in it for 15 min. If the dates are with seeds, remove the seeds after it is soaked.
  • Preheat the oven at 180 deg C/350 F.
  • Grease an 8" inch round or a bundt pan with oil and dust with a tsp of flour over it evenly on all sides.
  • Once the date-milk mixture comes to room temperature grind it along with sugar to a smooth paste and transfer to a wide mixing bowl.
  • Add oil to the mixture and mix using a wire whisk until the oil blends into the batter properly.
  • Add the flour in four additions and fold in the mixture slowly using a silicon spatula.
  • Add nuts to the cake mixture and mix with a spatula.
  • Pour the cake batter into the ready tin.
  • Bake it in preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30-35 min until done - do a tooth pick test to determine if it is done. Mine was done in about 30 min.
  • Cool the cake in the tin for 15 min and invert it onto a wire rack and let cool.
  • Cut into pieces after completely cool.
  • Many sources for this cake called for 3/4 cup of sugar. I did reduce it to 2/3 cup considering the sweetness of the dates. It was still too sweet for our palette, and hence I recommend using just 1/2 cup of sugar.
  • Reducing the oil by half didn't seem to affect the texture much