Pickles & Thokku.

Delicious Onion Thokku (Onions sauteed with spices and made in to a quick delectable pickle)

Delicious Onion Thokku
Delicious Onion Thokku

Onion Thokku used to be my favourite side for chappathis as a student. Amma would always make Onion Thokku and she would pack delicious soft rotis for lunch, along with a side of this delectable thokku. On some days, it would be smeared on the rotis and made in to a roll. It has the most amazing flavour and aroma and is a favourite among my cousins during travel. I remember, when I was about twelve, we had gone to this trip to my cousin`s place in Delhi. The Grand Trunk Express would take it`s own sweet time to cover the 2000 odd kilometers. A standard breakfast that amma would pack would be idlis neatly parceled in green banana leaves smothered in gun powder and gingely oil. Lunch would always mostly be soft puris and this yummy Onion Thokku.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 big Onion cut in to big pieces.

1/2 cup of Broken Urad Dhal.

5-6 Red Chillies.

Lemon sized Tamarind.

Salt to taste.

Oil.

Curry Leaves.

Turmeric.

PREPARATION:

Spices roasted for the Onion Thokku.
Spices roasted for the Onion Thokku.

  • In a kadai, add 2 spoons of oil, and when ready, add mustard and curry leaves and then the chopped onions. Add a little turmeric, saute well and set aside to cool.
  • In the same kadai, add a spoon of oil and fry the Urad dhal, red chillies and curry leaves. Set aside to cool a little.
  • Add the roasted spices to a mixer, add salt, tamarind and give it a pulse. Now add the sauteed onions also to the ground powder and pulse well to get a near smooth paste.
  • Use the kadai and a couple spoons of oil and add the ground onion paste and saute it well. This not only compounds the flavour but also helps in preserving the thokku for a long time.
  • Serve with Chappathis, Puris, Curd Rice , Idlis or Dosa.
Rotis/ Parathas/ Flatbreads.

Paneer Onions and Herbs Rolls.

Freshly baked fragrant bread...
Freshly baked fragrant bread...

The art of Bread Making has been something of a dream for me. I always loved the smell of freshly baked break whenever I entered a bakery. There is something comforting in those aromas…Freshly baked bread, sweet fragrance of fruit cake baking in the oven, the stirring aroma of freshly brewed coffee, lemon zest and freshly squeezed lemon juice,  the scent of pouring rain on parched soil, the aroma of christmas pine, and the list goes on and on…

I always wanted to “bake my own bread’…If you dont mind my expression. Personalising the flavours in the bread brings forth a lot of options on the creativity…There are a variety of forms of bread – pretzels, dinner rolls, ciabatta, sourdough,croissants, bagels, buns and so on and so forth. There are delicate differences in each of them in taste, form, texture and usage. Today I was browsing through Aparna`s site at MyDiverseKitchen and came across the Paneer Dill Onion Rolls.  I rehashed it to exclude the Dill as many times the flavour of dill tends to overpower over the others. I substituted the recipe with Herbs De Provence and my home was almost fragrant like Pizza Hut!!!  There was a lot of basics that I need to learn like what was yeast, how it works and how does it help in the process of bread making. The original recipe had no  eggs, which suited me just fine.

The most important ingredient for bread making is yeast. The primary function of yeast is to supply carbon dioxide gas which inflates the dough during proof and the early stages of baking. Yeast works by consuming sugar and excreting carbon dioxide and alcohol as byproducts. In bread making, yeast has three major roles. Most of us are familiar with yeast’s leavening ability. But you may not be aware that fermentation helps to strengthen and develop gluten in dough and also contributes to incredible flavors in bread.

Yeast and Honey - Basic Ingredients for Bread Making.
Yeast and Honey - Basic Ingredients for Bread Making.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all purpose flour.

1 tsp clover honey.

1 cup whole wheat flour.

1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast.

1/2 cup warm milk.

1 onion chopped in to tiny pieces.

1/2 cup grated or crumbled panneer.

1 tsp of parsley and oregano.

1 tsp old fashioned oats or flax seed powder.

1/2 tsp salt.

PREPARATION:

  • Warm the milk in the microwave for 30-40 seconds and dissolve the yeast and honey in the milk. In about 4-5 minutes, it will begin to froth, and this shows that the yeast is still active.
  • In a mixing bowl, take the flours, and add onions, herbs, crumbled paneer, oats,salt and mix it in to a smooth elastic dough with the warmed milk.
  • If required add a little more water and make a smooth dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and keep it covered allow to rise till double in oil.
Allowing to rise...
Allowing to rise...
  • Remove the dough and place on a working surface. Gently deflate the dough and divide in to 6 balls. Roughly shape in to rolls and place on a  cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to about 350 F and bake for 30 minutes or until the rolls are brown. Serve with a brushing of melted butter.
Italian Cuisine.

Penne Pasta & Roasted Vegetables in Quick White Sauce.

Penne Pasta with veggies in white sauce.
Penne Pasta with veggies in white sauce.

My forays in to italian cooking are definitely inspired by Giada Laurentis of foodtv fame, but I have my own methods and madness of cooking up a storm here. I always like to start with a lot of veggies as I am always looking at ways to compensate the body`s requirement of fibre, iron etc, that might not form a part of our regular south indian cooking. I dont have a fixed recipe in the mind when I begin, but some how as I chop the vegetables, somewhere in the back of my mind, there are instructions and my hands fluidly follow them…

Today I knew that hubby dear would come home ravenous, and I need to give him a filling dinner with a lot of vegetables. I looked at the vegetables that I had to start my pasta…Yes I did have the Whole Wheat Penne, as I had already tried the angel hair pasta the last time and well, in my opinion penne is a lot more easier to pick wth a fork!!! I would have appreciated butternut squash or my all time favourite – zucchinni, but I had to make do with what I had…Onions, carrots, peppers and hey I had some fresh mushrooms. I still had some leftover Italian flat leaf parsley from two weeks back, which I had saved in a ziploc, rolled tightly in a soft fresh tissue towel. I also felt like using cilantro today, although I knew that was distinctly “Not Italian”!!!

The instructions would definitely “seem” a little winding and long, but its definitely a quick dish to make, once you get a hang of things.Don`t worry about the ingredients – You could make do, even if you have one or two of them missing.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound of Whole Wheat Pasta. ( I used the one with the extra fibredsc002161

1 Onion sliced thin and long.

1 green pepper sliced.

1 carrot sliced thin and long.

12-13 Mushrooms sliced.

Small Bunch of Itlain Parsleychopped. (Optionally use dried parsley)

3 spoons of Part Skim Ricotta Cheese.

2 spoons of Part Skim Cream Cheese.

1 spoon of Light Sour Cream.

1 spoon of dried basil.

1 spoon of dried oregano.

A pinch of nutmeg.

Salt & Pepper.

1 spoon of butter.

Mozzarella Cheese to top.

PREPARATION:

  • Saute the vegetables and mushroom very lightly for 2 mins in a spoon of butter. This enhances the flavour of the vegetables and the mushroom.  This step is optional and can be omitted.
  • Line a baking sheet with oil spray and add all the sliced veggies and mushrooms. Sprinkle salt and pepper sufficiently and some of the chopped parsley and dried basil.
Veggied with parsley, basil and pepper ready to get roasted.
Veggies with parsley, basil and pepper ready to get roasted.
  • Preheat the oven to 375F and pop it in to the oven to roast for ten  minutes or until the veggies are roasted and soft. Pull out and keep aside.
  • In a wide mouthed container add enough water to allow the pasta to drown and cook for 12 mins or according to the instruction on the pasta container, along with  1 spoon of salt.
  • When its cooked almost 70% drain out the pasta and save one cup of the pasta water.
  • In a cup mix the ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sour cream and add some chopped cilantro and chopped parsley.
  • Into the baking dish containing the roasted veggies, add the hot pasta, dried basil, dried oregano and a pinch of nutmeg  and the cheese mixture.
  • Mix well so the cheese will slowly melt in the heat of the pasta. If you find that its too dry, add 1/2 cup of pasta water and mix the vegetables, the pasta and the cheese sauce.
  • Add more salt or pepper if you deem it necessary.
Mozzarella Cheese sprinkled over the pasta before baking.
Mozzarella Cheese sprinkled over the pasta before baking.
  • Sprinkle part skim grated mozzarella cheese over the pasta and pop it again in the oven covered with a foil sheet  for about 1o minutes at 350F.
  • Bake for another 5 minutes with the foil removed.
  • Serve simmering Hot pasta to your family and enjoy the fragrance of the cheese sauce, herbs and veggies.