Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Kerala Parotta

There are moments, bell ringing loud, when my mind tells me to aspire beyond, and I mean way, way beyond that which it can sanely behold. Does it happen to you? Then you know the waning gap between your dreams and reality, a hope above and besides anything you really can hope for and how impossible it may so be. Trying to run a mile in 6 minutes, when best record set thus far is double and a half the time. Wearing 6 inch heels when your seriously strained disc prolapse refuses to. Punching words into a blog you believe will soar, but is often left to fend for itself. Wanting to deconstruct and recreate nth number of times an utterly failed recipe. Why do I go where I don't need to? Or do I? Is there an answer? Even in many disparaged moments, I believe in nonsensical pursuit, the one that has my 5"2" frame want to jump like LeBron, filter some great expectations, both mind and faith pushing through, gearing, my not so ambitious body into an always forward view.

Getting to point; even if you dare fail once, twice, hundred and two times over, it cannot, will not be the end and my next few paragraphs and these glimpses of my life shall prove to reiterate that point.

But before I forget, this goes to the houseguest who, once-upon-a, bullied me into taking today's theme to task, my first, when I probably was more a novice at kitchen work than I agreed to admit. The experiment failed to utter chaos, a whole day's disastrous mess, jokes at the expense, and left sulking moi to never ever forget That Day

Thus, the memory doesn't fare well, but the pursuit did not end. I was fixated on mastering this thing called parotta. Then and again, within newly occupied kitchens, fiddling with alternate ingredients, pro tips/tricks, even wearing a new shirt. Because we all need wardrobe updates when we're trying to nail a dish, right?

Finally, we arrive, to this post and megapixelled screen, due to perhaps, circumstances(when your specialty grocers sell out of freezer megapacks too fast), few hundred hours spent in relentlessly trolling the web, new and improved mindset, or all three. Though, in great probability it could just be the Most Entertaining Chef on Youtube who showed me how fun it could be. Thus, our subject did pass test, immutably well, proof being in each of the ten times we had it for dinner, past few weeks alone. 

Parotta, Kerala parotta as its fittingly known, comes from the same place I do, great State of Kerala, God's own country, strip of India's beautiful southwest coast, and land displayed in many of my spotlightsThe region that gifts much to India's colorful culinary backdrop. I've given you a few peeks, in deep, dark beef fry, coconut-spice cloaked seafood, not-so-basic basic chicken curry, and yeasty champion breakfasts, these distinct plates are commonfare, not only in their local land, but mentionably so throughout the country's diversified streets. And much of the above, companions astoundingly well with a stack of cloudlike bread. Kerala's parotta is worthy of much and I intend to showcase that worthiness in the next less than hundred words.

For those of you who have no idea, knowledge or pronunciation skills for my task at hand, no worries; neither did I, advancing back twenty odd years ago, when close encounters with the finest, flakiest, unleveled flatbread became the most exciting thing in my life.  

Critical to understanding it's craveworthiness, we need to dive into those countless gossamerlike layers in it's delicious construction, a requirement that makes parotta a thing to pine for. Rounds of crisped brown outsides and pillowy depth are perfect for enveloping golden curries and thick gravies. This well structured fluff defies all odds and relies on almost a militarylike workflow. The methodical process involves much kneading (if you use hands), much rolling, much resting, much turning, much oiling and bits of twisting. A full on white flour gorgeous gluten formation becomes foolproof, assisted only with a right amount of water and generous spills/ smears of fat. In finality, it's these three magical components that you will ever truly need, not counting salt and sugar, those that might transform your status from home cook to Parotta Whisperer.

So, working through glitches and 10 a few trial-errors, this be the parotta-making sequence of infallible results, one you may actually enjoy, after powering through past season Abbey episodes during several of Grand Dough's interval rests. And sidenote, bouts of laughter are not uncommon on the expertise gained, while you secure through each level of  K. parotta's multistep process.

Over a decade and here it is, an end better than I could ever dream. So, do we then celebrate with another batch?

What's your dinner tonight?

Recipe adapted from Vahchef , Sanjay Thumma's Malabar Parotta
Method  adapted from ShowMeTheCurry, Kerala Parotta

  • 3 cups all purpose flour plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1-2 cups warm water
  • Set aside a substantial portion of counter space, work slab or large kneading board. clean it and spread oil over the top throughly.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the kneading attachment, sift flour, salt, sugar on lowest speed setting.
  • Add 2 tbsp oil and continue beating on low speed.
  • Add water at intervals, until dough forms but is still slightly sticky. You might not need to use the full amount.
  • Take speed to medium high and machineknead for about 3-5 minutes until dough becomes elastic. You should aim for a tacky dough instead of dry one , so if you need more water add by small spoonfuls until desired result is reached. Cover and keep aside for 15 minutes.
  • Take out of bowl. Turn dough out onto prepared, greased work area and knead a few times more until totally smooth and soft. Divide into 8-10 equal sized balls. Brush dough balls with oil generously. Cover and let rest for another 20 minutes.
  • Take each piece out individually, leaving the remaining covered. Reapply oil onto work surface and roll ball into a stretchy thin rectangular shape, translucent enough to see through. You can use your hands to pull at ends. It should stretch to a membrane like sheet, about 12-15 inches in length.  Over this, apply oil generously using hands or brush.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of flour evenly over the top of your thinly formed sheet.
  • Gently, with two hands pick up one long end of dough sheet and pleat, using an in and out motion, fan-like, laying one pleat over another, until it becomes a long, layered, thin strip. It doesn't have to be perfect.
  • Starting from one end, pick up the pleated strip and coil the strip around itself in a spiral, with layers facing up, into a rosette shape. Tuck and secure the loose end under the coil(see pictures).  Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
  • Brush these coiled rosette pieces with more oil and let rest, covered for 10 minutes. 
  • On medium-high flame, heat a large griddle.
  • On your workspace, apply more oil if needed and roll out each coiled rosette using rolling pin to a diameter of 6-7 inches, being careful not to flatten out the coiled layers.
  • Drop a tablepoon of oil into hot griddle and brown parottas on each side, heating through to cook thoroughly, flipping once over.
  • After browned and crisped, take off griddle and place on baking sheet.
  • Repeat with remaining parottas.
  • Use both hands and crumple each cooked parotta from all sides to have layers stand out.(kind of like a light clapping motion)
  • Serve with stir fry or curry.
Note~ If you don't feel the need for a stand mixer, the videos above are recipes and methods for hand kneaders.
Not serving parotta immediately? Keep  them stacked and wrapped in foil, until time of serving, then reheat on a baking tray/sheet in a 300°F oven for about 5-10 minutes.
These freeze amazingly well, for upto a month. Place rolled and formed parotta discs between strips of parchment in a freezer safe container and heat on oiled griddle when ready to use. No need to thaw :-)
A right mindset and foreknowledge of the workflow deems for success.
Pleated and turned into rosettes, layers are facing up and get ready to be pressed into shape. 
As you can see, my shaping and rolling skills won't exactly pass a test. But misshapen parottas taste just as good.
Ofter served with a dusky and spice endowed side, like the egg masala I have here. A pair of parotta stacked neat against chicken curry or marvelous beef fry can make for an epic meal. 
" You hear the prayer in it all. We all arrive at your doorstep sooner or later, loaded with guilt, Our sins too much for us - but you get rid of them once and for all. Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest at home in your place! We expect our fill of good things in your house, your heavenly manse. All your salvation wonders are on display in your trophy room. Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer, Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser, Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash, of mobs in noisy riot - Far and wide they'll come to a stop, they'll stare in awe, in wonder. Dawn and dusk take turns calling, "Come and worship."  Psalm 65:2-8, The Message

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Peanut,cashew,chocolate bars (almost copycat Larabars)

Well, here we are, a new year, a new post and dare I say if not a new me, possibly a new you.

Apart from the one book-a-month resolution I made the previous year, which by the way, got me through three books, come this January(pat,pat), I had not much to resolute about. Except that reading about the charm, dash and wayward ways of 1940's Hollywood(book 1), valor of my favorite Victorian policeman (book 2) and the creepiest human minds (book 3) brought me to a righteous realization, one that existed once upon a time, when I began this website. I can accomplish things I set my (determined) mind to.  Here, I digress. I know I haven't been fair in postwriting and archive filling . So, I guess you could call it motivation or focus, maybe my 2016 resolution, and as I say this, with hesitant-inner-emoji smiles, I hope to sit in, type up and update away on a more uniform basis. Moreover, I wish beyond anything that you don't completely abandon me.

Therefore, before I have you read 2016's first editorial, I need to wave hi to many kind folks, readers that actually read, chime in, even silent visitors and of course those likers/followers, all who trust me to deliver the goods. Everyone of you who pay some homage to these pages and keep stats running, I owe much gratitude. I really enjoy this space I have to culinarily communicate with you. And it is in my interest to, at least, cover your appetites with worthy menus on the horizon, ones that've been etched in my mind for ages and will hopefully make their screen debut without interruption.

Shall we then, gear BFMK into groove and learn about our topic today?
I knew you'd say yes.

It's not always I say I love a store-bought, readymade treat so much, I feel the dire need to to copycat it. Still, confession: I'm a junkie when it comes to those energy, paleo, health bars we slot into the high performance, nutritious snack category (paradoxical living may relieve stress). Not to name names, but particularly the L- and K-bars ( I know, I m bad at subtlety) would cover my hunger pangs astoundingly well. So well that I began to consume substantially slightly more than Normal People's given serving. It was a pretty harsh discovery, one that set me back some serious bank. Really, cravings snowballed, my liking turned into obsession (usually the story anyway) and those quality-nothing-more-than-five-ingredient bars were having me revamp (sneak from) my ninja-like budgeting skills.

So began as routine as ever,  a webstroll for recipe copycats, which led to several gorgeously, pin-able prospects. I arrived at an easy, delicious, doable and what-many-call Larabar copycat, would take less than ten to make and last me a week. It was the end of the rainbow, guys. 

Sounds good, right? Well, of course, especially when you can take the platform and change ingredients to form your own holisticsnackbar experience. And I did, alter from the original to create my own handheld sunshine.

On construction, you will notice as you pulse peanuts/cashews, the initial lumpy, rutted texture, which is precisely what/where it should be be, the prelude canvas for luscious dates to do their thing, melding to a dottedcrumb-almost jammy dough. A gentle handcombining of the remains, transforms into a gloriously squishy, studded, chewy, ethereal outcome, of a more-than-you-can-imagine cereal bar. 

With a basic flatten, shape and score, you will have one epic of a snack. Nuts, dates, coconut and chocolate cover every level of craving, be it your need for protein, sugar, carbs, all in all, fulfilling that inner zen even when you thought you had none.

And really isn't it the most impressive nibble you've ever seen? Give it a chance and it might turn your year around, if not, change your life. For sure, it will shake up the snacking routine and give it brand new vigor.

That being said, I can also verify the testimony of two lunchbox toting kids who share habitat with the author of this blog. Their quote... " Amma, these should be on the blog already!"

Amma  listened.

Adapted from My Whole Food Life
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • ¼ cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • pinch salt 
  • 15-20 mejdool dates, pitted
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut, unsweetened
  • ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Place peanuts and salt into the bowl of food processor. Pulse to form chunks.
  • Add cashew, pulse 2-3 times, till all nuts are broken and mixture is still chunky.
  • Add the dates and process till dough forms.
  • Transfer contents to a large bowl. Using wooden spoon or spatula, mix in coconut, chocolate chips.
  • Spread mixture between two large parchment sheets.
  • Smooth with hands or flat bottom of a large bowl/ pan to 1/2 inch thickness
  • Store in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  • Cut into shape desired.
  • Can keep chilled for upto a week.
  • If you're using smaller dates, you'd probably have to add more, until mixture is bound properly.
  • Dough might be sticky, it would be best to smooth/shape using parchment paper, even wax paper- though I believe the latter might stick.
  • You can swap more/less cashews to peanuts; whatever/ wherever your pantry/tastebuds allow.
Love me some dates.
Originally starting from 3 ingredients this magical recipe can be transformed in many ways, almonds can swap in for dates or macadamias for regular peanuts. Anywhere your budget, pantry, tastebuds, imagination takes you.
One first bite... might exactly be the moment you realize all is well with the world.

wrapped and pretty= uncontainable lunchbox glee

2015 and 2014 never saw a January update ( just wasn't industrious) and since I began in Feb 2012, the only year that took on January recipes (3 to boot) is 2013. Hurrah!

Blessings to you. May 2016 be your best year yet. 

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9