Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chapati (roti), Mushroom biryani and Chicken pasanda

I just love ethnic food. I can't get enough of them. Unfortunately for me, I cannot eat hot foods due to very sensitive and complicated digestive system, but the beauty of ethnic foods is that you can substitute spices and make them suit different tastes. While my husband is fond of Chinese cuisine, I love me some Indian. I don't mind Chinese, don't take me wrong, but if I ever had to choose between the two, my vote goes to Indian cuisine.
So, after (not) sitting pretty for some time, I decided to do little Indian feast from scratch. There was not the option of buying ready made sauces or vacuum packed bread. Million pots, pans and bowls were (ab)used, but the end was worthwile. The result: empty plates and very little leftovers.
Here we go with the ingredients and the methods:

Chapati (roti)

Ingredients for 4 pieces:

1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of lukewarm water
pinch of salt
pinch of baking powder
4-5 spoons melted clarified butter (ghee)


Mix the dry ingredients and add the water. Make the dough and if it's sticky add some more flour. Put few drops of oil on your hands and knead the dough until smooth. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Divide the dough into 4 balls. Heat up a skillet or heavy bottomed non stick pan. Dust the work surface with flour and with rolling pin make circle about 6-7 inches in diameter and put it on the hot skillet. When brown spots appear on the bottom, flip the chapati on the other side and it should start puffing up. As soon as brown spots appear on the other side, flip again for few seconds and remove it. Place on a dish lined with paper 2-3 napkins. Pour some clarified butter on top of each chapati and stack them like pancakes until you have used up all dough.

Mushroom biryani

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

1 cup basmati rice
1 small chopped onion
7-8 quartered mushrooms
2 medium tomatoes finely diced
green chilli finely diced (optional)
1 inch piece ginger finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
2-3 cardamom pods
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 cup garden peas (optional)
salt to taste


Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed cooking pot and add the cardamom, cloves, cumin seeds and cinnamon. Stir for few seconds and then add the onion. Stir well until the onion gets glassy and then add the garlic, ginger, ground coriander, chili flakes (and fresh chili if you're using). Stir well for some minutes and then add the mushrooms and tomatoes (and peas if using). Cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add the rice and stir until the rice looks like glass. Add 2 1/2 or 3 cups of water (the same cup used for measuring rice), reduce the flame, partially cover the pot and cook until the rice is done.

Chicken pasanda

Ingredients for 2 portions:

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 medium onion, grated

small stick of cinnamon

2 cardamom pods

1/2 inch of ginger, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon chilli powder

2 tablespoons of butter

1 heaped tablespoon of sugar

1 tablespoon tomato puree

about 100 ml water

1 tablespoons flaked almonds

Fresh coriander, chopped

250 grams of chicken breast trimmed and cubed into 3 centimetre squares

1 tablespoons sultanas

1 tablespoons of coconut flakes

100ml fresh cream

Salt – to add to taste as you go along

First heat some oil in a frying pan and add the chicken. Cook until has become white, but do not let it brown. Set aside.

Heat the oil to start making the sauce. Add the onion and fry on a medium heat until the consistency is on the dry side. Add the cinnamon and the cardamom seeds. Cook on a low heat for ten minutes.

Add the ginger and garlic and cook them for another ten minutes on the same low heat. Add the salt.

Then add the chilli, turmeric and coriander seeds. Cook for one minute.

Add some freshly boiled water [this is really important as it stops the onions from separating and floating] until you have an amalgamated sauce.

Add a tablespoon of butter and when this dries out, add the next one. Continue to mix in butter until the consistency is dried. Add the sugar.

Add the tomato puree and some salt.

You should now have a very thick sauce to which you add the water. Amalgamate well.

Add the cubed chicken. Cook on extremely low heat.

In a separate pan, toast, on a low heat, the flaked almonds and coconut flakes until they are brown. Cool them and crush them in your hands into smaller pieces. Add some fresh coriander.

To bring it all together:

Add the almonds and chopped coriander, the sultanas and coconut flakes. Add fresh cream until you have a thick, pale sauce.

This recipe for chicken pasanda has been modified from its original version to suit my personal taste.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lebanese fatayer bil-sbanegh (Small savoury spinach pies)

I really like Lebanese food. Although I'm not very keen on meat, sometimes I eat even meat from the Lebanese restaurant nearby. All the spices and seasoning are just so wonderful.
On the other hand, I really enjoy the vegetarian part of the cuisine. So, after figuring out that 1 Euro is too much to pay for a teeny tiny (minuscule) pie, I decided to make my own. I found the original recipe somewhere on the net, but I 'improved' to suit my taste :)
So, for 20 of these delicious mini pies you will need:


250 grams all purpose flour, sifted
160 ml lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1 level teaspoon salt
Olive oil for brushing


500 grams fresh spinach leaves
1 small ripe tomato, finely diced
1 medium onion, very finely diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of grated nutmeg
pinch of ground black pepper
juice of half lemon
1 tablespoon sumac* (*see note)


In a bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt and gradually add the water. Stir and mix well to make the dough. On a floured surface knead the dough adding more flour if it's sticky. Knead for 5 minutes. Lightly oil a bowl with some olive oil and place the dough. Cover with cling film and let it prove for about 1 and a half to 2 hours.
In meantime, shred the spinach into very thin ribbons, sprinkle with the salt and squeeze as much moisture as you can with your hands. (The spinach has to look dry). Discard the liquid. Put the spinach into a bowl with the diced onion and tomato and add the sumac, pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice. Stir well to combine.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line baking sheet with baking parchment. Divide the dough in 20 small balls and cover them with tea towel to prevent drying out. Roll each bowl on lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin into circle about 8 centimetres in diameter. Brush the edges with little water and place tablespoon of the filling into the centre of the circle. Fold the dough from 3 sides and pinch the edges to form triangular shapes. Arrange on baking tray and brush lightly with olive oil on all 3 sides. Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the oven) or until lightly golden. Take out from the oven and brush again lightly with olive oil. Let them cool and serve at room temperature with some strained yogurt sprinkled with sumac.

* Note: Sumac is Middle Eastern sour spice with peppery hint. If you can't find sumac, you can use zest from half lemon mixed with pinch of salt.
I'm so glad that nearby there's ethnic shop that sells all kind of spices, but my sumac was bought from the Lebanese restaurant nearby :) The chef/owner was happy to sell me the desired amount for very little money :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

No knead bread

Yeah, I know...I haven't discovered a new continent or re-invented the wheel, however, I did manage to make the famous No knead bread :) Yay for me! Thing is, my husband liked it so much that now he's always asking when I'll have the time to make it again.
It was not hard to make it, pretty much I saw the video on Youtube and that was it. I will just type out the ingredients and for the method it is best to watch the video.


420 grams strong flour
350 ml tepid water
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the method, watch this video:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Apple dessert

Small pleasures make life worth living. Memories of smell, taste, touch, feeling are instant transporter into time and place. In a world where time travel is not yet invented, only memories can take you places.
i like simplicity. I always did. It's not like I won't undertake some serious complicated project, but simple things tend to make me feel better. Smile on a child face, stubborn little flower growing in the cracks between walls, stranger saying 'thank you' when you give way on the pavement...I could go on and on, and at the same time remember how many simple things we take for granted.
Not to digress....this recipe is one of the simplest things that brings happy memories. The very first time I tried it was at my uncle's engagement party, what it seems now like centuries ago.

Pack of 'pettit beurre' biscuits
6-7 large apples, cored, peeled and sliced very finely
1,3 l water
6-7 tablespoons sugar (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
2 sachets chocolate pudding powder


Arrange the biscuits in one layer at the bottom of a deep rectangular dish. Put the apples in the water with the sugar and vanilla sugar and boild them until soft. Remove the apples with slotted spoon and arrange evenly over the biscuits in the tin. Keep the cooking water warm. Dissolve the pudding powder with 5-6 tablespoons of cold water and add a laddle of the warm cooking water into the mixture. Mix to combine and add the mixture into the warm water. Stir until you have thick consistency and when cooked, pour over the apples. Leave to cool and put into the fridge for 5-6 hours before serving.

It can't get simpler than that!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jam Donuts with Lavender Sugar

I realize that I haven't been around for quite some time now. Things have been happening, some good, some not-so-good, but all is good when it ends good.
I have been watching Masterchef Australia (season 2) on TV (yeah...I started watching TV, too), and these donuts were looking so cute and delicious that I had to give them a try.
Chef Gary Mehigan was doing them, and I followed the recipe step by step. The end result?! Delicious donuts that finished in less than 20 minutes (well, we had visitors and didn't munched all of them by ourselves).
Well, here's the recipe:


440ml milk
100g unsalted butter, softened
75g caster sugar
4 eggs
20g fresh yeast
4 cups (600g), plain flour
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
200g raspberry jam
clotted cream, to serve

2 tsp lavender flowers
100g caster sugar


Step 1: Heat milk in a saucepan until tepid (37°C on a thermometer). Whisk in the butter, caster sugar and eggs. Place the yeast into a bowl and about ½ cup of the milk mixture. Break up the yeast with your hands to form a smooth paste. Transfer to the milk mixture, whisking to combine. Combine flour and ½ teaspoon of salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually pour in the milk mixture, whisking until smooth. Cover and set aside in a warm place to prove for 45 minutes - 1 hour.

Step 2: Meanwhile, for the lavender sugar, combine lavender flowers with sugar in a large bowl, rub together with your hands until flowers are bruised. Set aside for 15-20 minutes to infuse.

Step 3: Pour oil into a saucepan until one-third full. Heat over medium-high heat until 165°C. Spoon donut mixture into 4cm round balls into the hot oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove, drain on paper towel, then toss in the lavender sugar.

Step 4: Spoon jam in a small piping bag with a 5mm straight-edged nozzle. Push nozzle into the centre of each donut and pipe enough jam to fill.

Step 5: Serve donuts with clotted cream.

My note: I couldn't find clotted cream in the shops, so I made something very similar. I mixed 250 grams of Mascarpone cheese with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence. The mixture was beaten by electric whisk until very smooth and combined, and kept in the fridge until serving time.
Sorry for the photo, it is not very presentable, but I was feeling uncomfortable taking a photo of the serving plate in front of my guests :)