Roti/Chapati – Everyday Indian Flatbread



Sinfully Spicy - Roti/Chapati, Everyday Indian FlatbreadI can’t remember a single meal in my home when there weren’t homemade flatbreads to eat.Except a few days when khichdi( gooey lentils & rice) formed dinner, soft and steam filled rotis smothered with homemade ghee or  with grainy white butter were brought fresh off the tawa (griddle) to everyone’s plate.You would hardly count how many you to eat,the ladies of the house took rounds to roll, puff and help each other on occasions like Sunday lunch when the whole family was eating together.Always; there were always plenty for everybody.

My badi mummy made the best rotis and parathas that I have ever tasted.She rolled perfect rounds,as if  a compass or a cutter has been used with the dough, rotis so soft that you could use just thumb and index fingers to break a bite, perfectly charred with black spots from the high flame on both sides. My mother makes the second best to her, paper-thin and larger rounds but still delicate and slightly chewy.I might already be sounding obsessive with these sorts of descriptions but trust me in indian homes, especially in norther parts,roti making is a serious business.A deft technique which is taught to daughters when their  wedding day approaches. It is the bread of life, something you start and end your day with. Giving away a roti to a needy & poor is symbolic of highest level of ‘punye‘ or good deed in Hindu vedas, it is a thing which subsides the hunger of animals, birds or humans equally. The daily bread is revered.

Roti is a everyday unleavened flatbread in our homes,cooked on stove, chapati is similar to roti just rolled out much thinner, phulka is another name used in India for rotis, a Hindi word denoting the puffy look of it.Parathas(skillet-fried dough) or Pooris (deep fried dough) are also made from the same dough, layered or unlayered, stuffed with fillings, rolled in all different shapes.You could see my triangle paratha as an example. But, necessarily, the dough remains the same. It is only the handling and shaping that differs Hoping I have not confused you too much!

It would be really surprising but as compared to the naan, which got more popular in the west, in indian homes, you will found rotis and parathas cooked on a daily basis. Naan, fine all purpose flour (maida) flatbread is a once in a while thing, something you order when eating at restaurants or like in my home,when mom made really special exotic curries or we had family gatherings with lots of guests, she would send us with home-made yeasty dough to the street side guy with the tandoor and we came back with stacks of naan for supper.

Let’s get to making some rotis.Shall we? I have invariably used the word ‘atta’ in my post and recipe. Atta is nothing but Hindi for whole wheat flour (loosely used for both dry, wet flour as well as the dough)

Measure the atta (durum wheat flour) and slowly, start adding (warm) water to it.In India, we use a paraat (a utensil made of brass/copper/stainless less specifically for kneading roti dough). The one you see in pictures, is some 40 year old treasure from my grandmother, still going strong.

Incorporate water in a circular motion into the atta with your fingers.Start kneading gently.

As the atta absorbs water,it will start clumping up. Continue to add water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour starts to come together.

At this point,ensure that the atta is not very dry,try to squeeze it between your palms as if making a fist and it should be soft and sticky (and messy!). Start using your knuckles to knead the atta next.

Use your knuckles to flatten it out and then pull it all together towards yourself using your palm & fingers,then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 5-7 minutes. At any point you feel that the dough is tight or drying out, add a light splash of warm water.

Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast).You could add a bit to oil while kneading to make it smoother.

Time to rest those gluten.Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 15-18 minutes.You could smear a layer of melted ghee or oil on top but you really do not need it if the proportion of water is correct and you made sure that the dough didn’t feel or look dry when kneading dough will stay moist during rest time but starts losing moisture after 20 minutes. So if you are not planning to make rotis right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.

When ready to make rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions. Approximately.If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter.

Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make rotis!

Roll each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly from edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.

Dust the board or the roti as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.

It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, doesnt affect the taste.The trick to roll perfect rotis is that when you are rolling the dough it should also be moving in circular direction by itself. If not, you can move it yourself and flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.

Another tip (from my grandmother) to get thin edges of rotis is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of the roti.

Meanwhile, place a tawa (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on high to heat up. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to store rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift the roti.

Place the roti on the hot tawa.  Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too) on first side,just so you see the surface changing color or trying slightly. I would say about 25% cooked.

Flip using kitchen tongs and let cook for another 30-40 seconds on the other side. You might or might not get charred dots but do not cook on griddle for too long else the rotis will dry out.

Lift the roti with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to help it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storing rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewy rotis, so you can char them to liking.

In case, you have a electrical stove with no flame, see the recipe on how to puff up the rotis.

Very gently press on when you puff the second side too. Smear with ghee and wrap in a kitchen towel to store.

Typically, you can serve rotis as a side bread with all sorts of things – curries (both dry & wet) to lentils to as a wrap or fried and a chips or any which way you like. One of my personal favorites is warm roti, smothered with ghee and sprinkled with sugar, rolled up. In India, it is normal to consume rotis for all meals, two, sometimes three times a day,sometimes in our house we serve roti alongside spicy egg scramble for breakfast or quick lunch too.

One of my close friend once told me a very interesting way to introduce the correct way of eating rotis to the western world.”Use roti as a spoon to eat the curry and later eat the spoon”, he said.Spot on!

In other news, Sinfully Spicy was featured last week by SBS Australia as a favorite indian food blog in their food section. You could read the feature here.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 15 rotis roughly 6-6.5″ inch )

  • 2.5 cups durum wheat atta (fine ground whole wheat flour made from durum wheat)
  • 1 +1/4 cup warm water or more/less if needed

Also Required

  • 1/2 tbsp – 1 tbsp any neutral oil (to moisten the dough when it rests, optional)
  • Ghee to spread on warm, cooked rotis (optional but recommended)
  • about 3/4 cup dry atta, needed when rolling the rotis

Tools Needed

  • A wide, heavy shallow dish large enough to knead and dough. In India, we use a paraat (a brass or stainless less dish specifically for kneading roti dough). You could use your mixing bowl too but a wide dish will make it a lot easier.
  • A flat, clean, smooth rolling stone or surface
  • Rolling Pin
  • 2-3 kitchen towels (to cover the dough when resting as well as to wrap the cooked rotis)
  • 1-2 sheets of paper towel (I line the kitchen towel with paper towel to absorb the moisture when storing rotis else they turn too soggy)
  • A wide container (8-10 inch in diameter) with lid to store the wrapped rotis. If you do not have, you could use a couple of dinner plates.
  • Tawa or cast iron griddle (I use my 12″) to cook the rotis.
  • A pair of tongs to be used when puffing the rotis on direct flame

Method

There are superior varieties of Indian wheat which are stone ground to make atta (fine whole wheat flour). Largely, you could choose between durum wheat or sharbati wheat. Infact, a lot of leading atta brands in India now have a mix of both. It is important to understand that atta  is different from the pastry whole wheat flour available in baking aisles. It is a much fine ground which make the rotis soft and less chewy.You will need to visit indian/pakistani grocery stores to get it.There are multigrain and high fibre atta varieties also available and all are suitable for making rotis. A 10lb pack will usually cost you $7-$8 and it has a really good shelf life of 3-4 months.

In a wide, shallow dish measure and place the atta. With one hand slowly start adding (warm) water and mixing in circular motion with the fingers of other hand. Incorporate water a little at a time and start to kneading gently.

As the atta absorbs water,it will start clumping up into a ball.Continue to add warm water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour will come together.Remember not to add too much water at a time.

Once a ball is formed, ensure that it is not very dry by trying to squeeze the dough ball between your palms as if making a fist and it should feel soft and sticky. Start using your knuckles to knead the dough next.

Use your knuckles to flatten the dough out and then pull it all together towards yourself, using your palm & fingers, then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 7-8 minutes. At any point you feel that the dough is tight or drying out, add a light splash of warm water.The dough should not feel or look dry at any point.

Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast). Once the dough looks and feels really really smooth, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 20-25 minutes.You could smear a layer of melted ghee or oil on top but you really will not need it if the proportion of water is correct and you made sure that the dough didn’t feel or look dry when kneading. The dough will stay moist during rest time but starts losing moisture after 30 minutes. So if you are not planning to make rotis right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.

When ready to make rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions. Approximately.(Note: If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter)

Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make rotis!

Roll and cover each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly on edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.Dust the board or the roti as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.

It takes practice to get the perfect circle shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, it doesn’t affect the taste. The trick to roll perfect rotis is that when after 1-2 minutes into rolling the dough it should also be moving in circular direction by itself. If its your first time, this might not happen but remember practice will make you better and better each time. If not, you can move the roti yourself to roll and evenly flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.

Another tip to get thin edges of rotis is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of the roti as you roll.

Meanwhile, place a tawa (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on to heat up on high. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to store rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift the roti.

Place the rolled roti on the hot tawa.  Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too) on first side,just so you see the surface changing color or trying slightly. I would say about 25% cooked.

Flip using kitchen tongs and let cook on the griddle on the second side for another 30-40 seconds. You might or might not get charred dots but do not cook on griddle for too long else the rotis will dry out.When you cook on the second side, you will see that little puffs coming up on the surface.

Lift the roti with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to help it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.

Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storing rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewy rotis, so you can char a little longer to liking.

In case you do not have electrical stove, you can puff up the rotis on the griddle itself. Once the second side is cooked, reduce the heat to medium and gently start pressing the roti with a soft kitchen towel on all side. It will puff up.

Smear ghee on the hot rotis and server right away or store then wrapped in a kitchen towel. I line the kitchen towel with a small piece of paper towel, this helps in preventing them from getting soggy.

In case you want to freeze the rotis (yes it can be done), make all the rotis and let them cool down to room temperature wrapped inside the towel. Then stack them on top of each other with a large piece of wax or parchment paper in between.

When wanting to use the frozen rotis, thaw them in the fridge and warm up on high for 8-10 seconds in the microwave.

Notes

  1. Roll the dough very well and as evenly thin as possible.This helps in puffing up the rotis.
  2. Store the leftover dough in the refrigerator for not more than 1-2 days in an air tight container.
  3. If you are wanting to serve rotis later in the day, you can make ahead them. In this case, add 2 tbsp of melted ghee while making the dough.They will remain soft.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

 

Kaju Katli – Fudgy Cashew Thins


A Happy and Prosperous Diwali to all of you!

As I sit down with a cup of chai after having washed a truck load of dishes and mopping the floors spot free, all I can think of is how back home,my mum would barely have a luxury of five minutes to relax,drink tea and breathe today. It is the largest of Hindu festivals –Diwali in India – a celebration that lasts for at least five days.

Early in the morning she would have soaked rice to make rangolis(decorations)on the floor of the puja (prayer room).The flowers would have been plucked from the garden and tucked inside moistened cloth to keep them fresh till evening.The water soaked diyas(earthern lamps)would be sun bathing by now and she would be busy taking out fancy serve ware and cutlery for evening dinner from the boxes stacked below the bed.By noon, aromas of cardamom and ghee from the kitchen would be permeating the air of our house.There would be some kind of tangy chaat,stuffed dahi vadas resting inside the fridge and spicy jal jeera to greet the guests.

Diwali or Deepawali,the festival of lights is celebrated by most indians as an autumn festival signifying the victory of good over evil.According to legend,Lord Rama returned home after fourteen years of exile and defeating the demon kind Ravana on this day. People lit their homes with diyas to celebrate his homecoming and from then the day became a reason for celebration each year for the Hindus. Typically, the goddess of wealth & prosperity, Lakshmi is worshipped on this day, gifts are exchanged with friends and family, there are get togethers, much pomp and show, food, fun and fireworks.

I would lie if I told you that mum made Kaju katli at home. She didn’t. Never. She didn’t need to because the streets of Delhi are dotted with amazing halwaiwallas (sweet vendors) making and selling this best tasting confection with cashews.Instead she would be making besan ladoos, warm, nutty chickpea flour balls with ghee and sugar.

I have always been intimidated by mithai making at home. They are an art. The ingredients are few and most of them look plain but taste so heavenly if you get the texture right. It took me a lot of pushing by the husband to take up making this fudge treat this year. I was most certain that I would end up messing it up. You could perceive my confidence from the fact that I had planned a few things with the cashew sugar paste if everything did not come out the way it should. But, trust me I was in disbelief of how perfect katli came out.My daugheter, who would not eat any other indian mithai ate these little diamonds like candy,one after the other.

To me kaju katli has always been something really exotic. Fudgy,nutty thins of ground cashews sweetened plainly with sugar, its one melt-in-the-mouth confection. It is one of the most popular mithai in northern india. I always thought that it was a difficult thing to make but no, I was wrong. It is so easy, there are so less ingredients and few things to be kept in mind while you do it. Hopefully you get to make these delicious, gluten free & vegan treats for your family this year. Wishing all a Happy & Safe Diwali again!!

Ingredients (Makes 20-22 diamonds)

  • 1.5 cups broken raw cashew pieces (Yield 1 cup +3/4 cup cashew powder)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp water
  • 1-2 drops rose essence
  • 1 tbsp ghee (Optional, required during kneading, use any vegan substitute)

Method

Use cashews at room temperature. If you store your nuts in the fridge, take them out a night before and spread on the kitchen towel to air dry. The cashews should be at room temperature and completely dry before you start powdering them. Transfer the cashew pieces to a dry blender jar and in one go powder them as fine as you can. We need a loose, smooth powder. Take care that the cashews do not become pasty or release their oils and clump up or become sticky (this is very important). If you feel that there are few big pieces in the cashew powder, pick them out or sift the powder using a sieve, but do not overwork the blender to grind the cashews.

In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 10″ skillet) or a kadhai, mix up the sugar and water. Set the pan on low flame and let the sugar dissolve. Stir (I use my rubber spatula) the solution once or twice while the sugar dissolves so that the sugar does not stick to bottom of the pan. While the sugar is dissolving, rub about 1/2 tbsp of ghee on a kitchen board (or the surface where you will knead) and set aside.

Once the sugar has dissolved, add the powdered cashews to the pan. Mix everything and brace yourself for some hard work. Keep on stirring and stirring as the mix cooks on low flame. The process will be slow in the beginning and you will feel that it will take forever but do not worry. Keep on stirring, scraping the mixture on low flame, do not let the mixture stick to the sides of the skillet.

After about 18 minutes, you will see that the mixture starts thickening and coming together.Add the rose essence (or any other flavorings) now if using and incorporate. We will shortly be getting there, once the mixture is thick, do not bother much about scraping the sides as they will be really dry. Around 22 minutes, the mixture will start resembling a soft, sticky dough and will clump up around the spatula. If you try to bring the mixture together in one place on the skillet, it will try to slowly spread (similar to how a glug of cold honey spreads on a surface). It took me exactly 24 minutes to reach that stage. Depending on the flame settings and water content of the sugar, you can approximately look at 22-28 minutes to reach that stage.

Immediately transfer to the greased surface and leave to cool a bit until its safe to handle.Once the cashew dough has cooled slightly, rub a teaspoon of ghee on your hands and very gently knead the dough for 5-7 minutes to form a ball. Remember that the dough needs to be warm when you knead so just wait till its safe to touch, do not let it cool down completely, else it will not knead and remain grainy.Do not press very hard as you knead else the cashews will start oozing their oil but there should be enough pressure so that a small ball is formed. You can grease you hands or the dough with ghee in between if it starts feeling sticky.

One you get a smooth ball, flatten it out slightly. Place a  large and wide sheet of wax or butter paper on the dough and using a rolling-pin, roll it out to a 1/3″ thickness, or you can roll out as thin or thick as you like. Using a sharp knife  (or a ravioli cutter, like I did), cut into diamonds or squares or any shape you like.

Serve or store in an air tight container at room temperature for 5-6 days.

Notes 

  1. The time of cooking noted in this recipe will vary if you are using any other kind of sugar than granulated, since the water content of different varieties of sugar is different.
  2. You can use any kind of flavorings – cardamom, saffron or kewra (screw pine water) instead of rose essence .
  3. This recipe can be use for almond powder too.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Egg Curry

The thought of eating steaming rice mixed with thick, chili hued masala from the curry fills me with as much joy as that of a kid waiting upon a bowl of macaroni & cheese. In our house, a weekday suddenly turns exciting when its egg curry for dinner. It is not an immensely difficult meal to prepare and trust me it spoils your taste buds given how quick it is ready to serve. I use my basic masala recipe with a few whole spices added in.

The husband can live on eggs and for me, particularly at this time of the year when the evenings are colder, diving into a thick tomato gravy with redolent of kasuri methi and warm tones of ginger is enough to drive me hungry out of turn.

In India, egg curry is an immensely popular dish. Usually, hard-boiled eggs are thrown in the home specific curry recipe and served as a protein side to the meals. The recipe varies from home to home as well as region to region. The north indians mostly prepare it in a tomato – onion base while the south indian version is done with coconut & curry leaves.Few regions use a mustard paste base and fry up the lightly hard-boiled eggs before dunking them in the sauce.It is commonly served as a side to flatbreads or plain rice.

My mum always used to add fresh peas to the gravy but the husband prefers potatoes so I started making it that way. If you get a chance, fresh peas, sweet and tender beautifully balance the heat of the spices but potatoes taste quite delicious and comforting too.You can use just eggs too depending on how you like it. The gravy is very flavorful with normal day-to-day spices used in and comes together quickly while the eggs boil.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 5-6 eggs
  • 1 generous pinch turmeric powder
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3-4 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with canola/grapeseed oil)
  • 1 green cardamom, cracked open
  • 1/4″ cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 small garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger (adjust quantity to taste)
  • 1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped (slight sour variety)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/8 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1/2 cup water (or more depending on desired consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, skip if you do not have)
  • salt
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish – as much as you want

Method

Hard Boil the eggs. I use this recipe to get perfectly hard -boiled eggs.

Peel the eggs, slit (but not all the way through) them using a sharp knife  and rub them with a generous pinch of turmeric powder and let sit.

In a heavy bottomed pot, add the oil and heat on medium – high till you see faint ripples on the oil surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat it a little longer till to do away the raw smell.Reduce heat to medium. Add the cardamom and cinnamon stick and let crackle for 10-120 seconds. Add the finely chopped onions next and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes.

Next, add the garlic & ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling a nice aroma.Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with coriander,turmeric,chilli,garam masala & amchoor powder. Start to cook this masala on low heat. After about 3-4 minutes add the potatoes, cover and cook the masala till you see the oil separating on the sides of the pan. About 8-10 minutes. In between, if you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some water. .This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, do not rush.Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color and the potatoes are 90% done.

Add the turmeric rubbed eggs to the pot, sprinkle the kasuri methi, add more water (if you want a thinner gravy),cover and let cook for another 5-7 minutes. Put off the stove and let sit at least 2 hours before serving.

Warm up, garnish with cilantro and serve!

Methi Aloo – Fenugreek Leaves With Potatoes

Aloo Methi is a classic loved dish in the northern regions of india during the winter months. As soon as the winter knocks in, a lot of leafy greens could be spotted on the cart of our sabziwala, the vegetable vendor who used to bring us fresh produce everyday. A regular for more than a decade at my grandma’s house, he would bring in a mix of fresh coriander, petite  cauliflowers, slender radishes and baby  potatoes also making sure to stop by the mandi (wholesale market) to stock up his cart with a few pounds of tomatoes, onions and other seasonal produce.Then all day long, he went knocking door to door selling his stash to old and new customers. We did not go to grocery stores then, in those days and even now, such vegetable, fish and poultry vendors bring groceries for fresh meals served on our tables.

Every now and then if not daily, my grandma and him would have funny altercations, her complaining of the vegetables not being ‘that’ fresh and costly, him arguing that his wife cooked a delicious sabzi last night with the same thing. A lot of time my grandma would haggle for that extra bunch of cilantro or few limes for it was deemed totally legit to get free herbs after a hefty purchase. On most days, he gave in to the sweet old lady, packing in a few ounces of green chillies and fragrant mint.As the winters ripened, the leafy produce- spinach, methi, beet & turnip greens, radish, mustard became cheaper and cheaper. Needless to say, it would be a green meals fiesta on our dinner table on most of the days, a garlicky methi aloo to spinach dal to palak paneer or sarson ka saag (mustard curry).

Methi (fenugreek leaves) are used a lot in north indian cooking.Here in the States, you can easily find them fresh in the indian/pakistani stores once the autumn starts to knocks. Avoid using frozen. Broadly, there are two varieties of methi– the small one, with round, dark green and extremely fragrant & delicate leaves called the kasuri methi that you would have noticed me using a lot in my recipes. It has a short season and even during winters it is available only for a couple of weeks. The other variety, the larger one is less fragrant in comparison but has a longer season and can be homegrown easily from methi dana (fenugreek seeds). In indian cooking, seeds as well as leaves, both are used their piquant, bitter flavor. Methi has a unique, tangy bitter flavor which is definitely an acquired taste but trust me it is so addictive.My grandma always used to mix fresh dill (sooaa) leaves whenever cooking methi aloo. Even though I never liked the addition of dill then but now in all these years, I like to add a few tablespoons so that mine comes out tasting like hers. However, do not use a lot of dill as it is a strong herb and can overpower the methi taste. Potatoes lend the dish a nice, comforting earthy flavor as well as balance the bitterness of the greens. Do not be tempted to reduce potato quantity coz then the stir fry will come out quite bitter. The dish is generously flavored with garlic and dried chillies and is a perfect accompaniment to steamed basmati rice dal and a side of mango pickle. The dish keeps very well for hours so you could also wrap up the stir fry in triangle paratha (flatbread) for a hearty lunch at work or school. The dish gets better the next day so plan a few leftovers if you like.

Here are few of my tips and tricks for the best tasting methi aloo that you will make:-

  • When you are cleaning methi, just pick up the leaves and discard the stems. Stems are fibrous and don’t taste that good.
  • Always taste your methi bunch before cooking. Depending on the bitterness, decide whether to use red chili powder or not
  • This sabzi tastes so awesome with baby potatoes or new potatoes. Always semi cook the potatoes first because the methi leaves cook really fast. I usually use par boiled potatoes which finish cooking with the greens.
  • I prefer cooking methi aloo in an iron kadai /cast iron pan, it tastes very good.
  • Don’t skip the amchoor (dry mango powder), its super important and reduces the bitterness of methi. You can also use few teaspoons of lemon juice instead.

Methi Aloo – Fenugreek With Potatoes

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Methi Aloo – Fenugreek With Potatoes

An indian homestyle sabzi of methi (fenugreek greens) and poatoes flavored with hing, cumin, fenugreek seeds and amchoor. Serve with dal rice or flatbreads.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cup methi leaves (from about 4 bunches)
  • 2 large par boiled potatoes, cold, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tbsp pure mustard oil (mustard oil adds a authentic flavor but grapeseed/avocado oil can be used)
  • 1/3 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/3 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 3 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 dried whole chilies
  • scant pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder (skip if the methi is very sharp)
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill leaves, chopped optional
  • 1/3 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Pick up the tender shoots and leaves from the long, fibrous methi stems. This step takes time. Then, soak and wash the leaves under running water 2-3 times to remove all the dirt. On a clean kitchen towel, spread the washed methi to completely air dry for atleast 30 to 45 minutes. If you are in a hurry, use paper towel to press down and absorb all the moisture. Ensure that the leaves are totally dry once you are ready to cook else the sabzi will come out watery.Once the methi leaves are dry, chop them.
  • In an iron karahi or heavy pan, heat up the mustard oil on medium until the raw smell goes away. Once hot, temper the oil with methi dana and cumin seeds. Wait till they crackle. Turn the heat to low and immediately add the chopped garlic hing and dried chillies. Wait till the garlicchanges color to light brown and the dried chillies swell, about 10-12 seconds in hot oil. Take utmost care that the garlic does not burn. You can even put off the stove for few minutes.
  • Reduce the stove to low and next add the potato cubes and sprinkle the turmeric and chili powder. Stir around and get the potatoes started in oil. Cook the potatoes for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the chopped methi leaves. Stir to combine. The methi leaves will wilt down in 1-2 minutes and you will see the water of the methi  separating. Let cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes on medium low heat and then add the dill. Add the salt next. Stir so that everything is combined. Cover for a 3-4 minutes and cook until the potatoes are done.
  • Once done, methi will be a darker shade of green and will stick to potatoes. Put off the heat, sprinkle amchoor, mix gently (so that potatoes dont break) and let sit for at least 1-2 hours before serving (this is important).
  • Warm up and serve.

Jalebi

Jalebi is a popular mithai recipe from the indian cuisine. Its deep fried spiral shaped batter which is dunked in sugar syrup. Usually served with milk or tart yogurt for a flavor contrast this sweet is popular all over the indian subcontinent.

Come end of September and its time for autumn festivities.Hindus all over India celebrate Navratri (nine days of fasting & feasting), worshipping Goddess Durga  in nine pristine forms, each form depicting a virtue. Ramlila  is a traditional, nine to ten-day long drama staged during these days in northern india to portray the life events of Lord Rama and his victory over the demon king Ravana. The last day which is a celebration of this triumph is observed as Dusherra.

Year after year we looked forward to Ramlila days.There would be a nip in the air, schools would be closed for autumn break and bazaars gearing up to witness the hustle and bustle of upcoming festivals. Quite a lot of big and small fairs dotted our town,each locality showcasing its grandeur through decorations, much pomp & show, some having lighted displays, other luring crowds with musicals. Before you go into thinking about a fairyland, the ramlila grounds were dusty and crowded, cramped shoulder to shoulder with people, with flashy neon or fluorescent light banners and the music shows – a cacophony of loudspeakers which were an ear sore but, in those days I LOVED all of that. My enthusiasm could be might low if I visit the fair now but back then, ,every evening, dressed our best, we left the house together to visit a new ramlila ground.

Walking through the dimly lit, narrow roads and holding each other’s hand, carrying goodies in the other, we would come back home around midnight from the last day at ramlila, after having witnessed the demon effigies burnt to ashes and the fireworks that followed to cheer the triumph of good over evil.Legs aching due to long waits in the queue for almost everything but our tummies stuffed to content with piping hot jalebis fresh from the halwai stalls and our hands full with knickknacks bought from the toy stalls. All we chatted about were the rides at the fair and how to make next few weeks to Diwali, fun!

What is Jalebi?

Jalebi is a spiral deep fried sweet that is made with a batter of flour, chickpea flour, cornstarch, yogurt and yeast. The batter is deep fried and its soaked in sugar syrup long enough to sweeten it but not let it turn soft. Its crispy and sweet. Jalebi can be compared to a funnel cake but its eggless and fermented. As the fermented batter is piped into the hot oil, it swells and comes sizzling up,changing its color to golden. The crisp concentric fried batter are is served with cold unsweetened milk or rabdi. However, my favorite way to serve hot jalebis is with dahi (plain unsweetened yogurt).

How to make Jalebi?

You would think that jalebi is simply fried batter, what could go wrong! Trust me, a lot. The key to making perfect jalebi is the consistency of batter. The consistency should be velvety- ribbon like, it should be thick but it should flow in a continuous string. It does take practice to understand it fully, however I am writing a lot of tips and tricks that will help you understand the details of jalebi making. Too runny or thin batter, jalebi will be thin and crackly. Too thick batter, they will be thick and doughy and won’t absorb the syrup!

In addition to batter, the temperature of the oil also plays an important roll. Flat jalebi often result from low heat frying, too high- the jalebi will burn.

Few Tips on making perfect jalebi :-

Indian Cooking especially mithai (sweets) making rides on a lot of approximations and tips and tricks learnt through experience. In our homes, rarely gadgets are used to test the oil or sugar syrup temperatures or times. Lets say we trust our sight and smell senses when cooking. Mithai making is an art and gets better with practice. Here are few of the things I have learnt from my jalebi making trials.

  • Sugar Syrup :-Addition of lemon juice to the syrup prevents crystallization of sugar as well as lends it a mild tart flavor which is typical to  jalebis.
  • Food Color :- Adding food coloring to the batter is a choice, if you do not want, skip it. I like to add color because I think it looks nice to the eyes.
  • Batter :- Usually the batter gets a little runny after fermentation, so its better to keep it on the thickish side before you set it out to ferment. You can always add water later to get the right consistency.
  • Batter Consistency :- One of the ways to check the consistency of batter is to try to drop it in the bowl from a height, about 6-7 inches , it should fall is continuously, similar to how a lace or ribbon flows.
  • Piping the Jalebi :- You could use a Ziploc bag with a hole cut up at the end to make the jalebis, but I find using the squeeze bottle much easier since if you keep on pressing the Ziploc bag, after a few batches, the hole becomes large in size and the jalebis become very very thick. I find the ziploc method quite messy too. The squeezable bottles are available in baking aisle for a couple of dollars. But trust me, really easy to work with. Attaching a nozzle to a piping bag works fine too, just keep in mind that the thickness of the jalebis  will depend on the nozzle size. Do not use a very big size nozzle since the jalebis will not cook properly.
  • While frying if the temperature of oil is too hot, the jalebis will come up sizzling, the batter will tear or have bubbles all over, it might every scatter in the oil and jalebis will turn over crisp and not absorb syrup properly. If the oil temperature is too low, then jalebis will remain flat and raw inside. Once you start frying, it will take you 1-2 minutes to know the right temperature of oil, the jalebis should come up within few seconds (2-3secs) of piping into oil and swell as you fry but at the same time do not get too brown. Don’t worry I also had few over brown ones, so you will know when its right.
  • Shape of Jalebi :- Getting the right shape of the jalebis takes time, they do not have to be precise and perfect but as you make more and more, you will get a hang of it. Just keep in mind to squeeze the bottle/piping bag batter with a constant pressure and work in concentric circles, outside towards inside. Again, practice will help.However, whatever shape they come out,they will taste good.
  • Texture of Jalebis :- The right texture of the jalebis is crispy on outside, if you take a bite, you will notice the tubular crossection filled with syrup. Without getting more technical,just know that they are not meant to be soft.
  • You will have leftover syrup after the jalebis are soaked. I usually dunk baked bread croutons/slices in them and serve as a snack. You could refrigerate it and use to make  gulab jamuns if you like. Also, it can be used for making beverages too.
  • Jalebis can be stored for 2-3 days. Do not refrigerate. Just store at room temperature. I however, do not recommend or prefer storing them. Make small batches and serve rightaway.
  • In case you are making the jalebis for vegans, skip the yogurt in the recipe and use a little more water to get the right consistency of the batter.
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Jalebi

Jalebi is a popular spiral shaped, deep fried indian sweet made with a batter of flour, cornstarch, yogurt and yeast.The batter is deep fried and soaked in sugar syrup long enough to sweeten it but not let it turn soft. Its crispy and sweet.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Indian
Servings 25 jalebi

Ingredients

For the Jalebi

  • 1 tsp active dry yeast (or 1/2 tsp instant yeast)
  • 3 tbsp warm water (only when using regular yeast)
  • 1 cup maida (all purpose flour)
  • 1.5 tbsp  cornstarch
  • 1.5 tbsp besan (fine ground gram flour)
  • 1.5 tbsp melted ghee
  • 2 tbsp whole plain yogurt, at room temperature
  • Pinch ground saffron
  • 2-3 drops orange color
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup luke warm water (or as needed)
  • Oil for frying (You can add 1-2 tbsp ghee for nice aroma) or fry in ghee itself

For the Sugar Syrup

  • 1.5 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • green cardamon pods (or 1/3 tsp green cardamom powder)
  • 7-8 saffron strands
  • Optional Flavorings – rose water,kewra (screwpine water)

Instructions

Prepare the Jalebi Batter

  • In a small bowl, add of scant pinch of sugar and 2-3 tbsp of warm(not hot) water, dissolve active dry yeast and let sit for 5-8 minutes. Let the yeast bloom (you should see froth on top).If the yeast does not bloom, discard and start the batch again. If using instant yeast, no need to dissolve, use as it is.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sift the maida, besan and cornstarch. Add the ghee and yogurt to the flour. If using instant yeast, add right now, else add the bloomed yeast water mix, and slowly add luke warm water to make a smooth,lump free batter. Add the water a little at a time and incorporate.The consistency should be like a thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with a cling film and set aside in a warm place to ferment for 2-3 hours. (The batter will ferment quickly, about 1-2 hours during summer months but could take longer during winters) Do not disturb during fermenting.

Make the Sugar Syrup (10 minutes before you start frying jalebi)

  • In a medium,wide pot, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Once the sugar syrup is boiling, reduce the heat, add the cardamom and let simmer for 6-7 minutes so that the syrup thickens up  a bit. We are not looking for any string consistency here but if you take a tiny drop of syrup in between your thumb and pointer finger, it should feel sticky and not watery. Once the sugar has simmered and thickened, add lemon juice, stir and put off the heat. Wait for 2-3 minutes and then if you are using saffron or any other flavorings, add it to the sugar syrup. Let sit warm near to where you will fry up the jalebis.

Make the Jalebis

  • Use the widest pot or wok or pan that you have in your kitchen to fry the jalebis. I use my 12" skillet.Pour 1-2 inches of oil in it and let heat up on medium heat.
  • At the end of two hours, the fermented batter will not exactly double up in volume but you would see that it is much more light and fluffy than what we started with. Once fermented, do not mix the batter much. We want it to remain airy and fluffy. Just cut and fold once or twice using a spatula (just the way we handle cake batter) and pour it into a squeezable bottle.Try to squeeze the batter out of the nozzle, it should come out like a tooth paste from a tube. If you feel that the batter is thick, add a little water for the right consistency or if the batter is thin, add a couple of tablespoons of flour and mix gently so that there are no lumps.
  • To test the right temperature of oil, drop a small quantity batter in the oil, it should come up sizzling to the top but without changing color (if batter changes color, reduce heat and let the oil temperature reduce a bit). Squeeze the batter out of the nozzle, applying constant pressure and making 3-4 concentric circles in the oil and sealing them in the middle. Work from inside towards outside. It takes time and experience to get proper shape and it gets better and better batch after batch. Do not fry more than 6-7  jalebis in a batch. Once you have piped the jalebis in hot oil, in 2-3 seconds they will come floating up, flip and let turn golden on the other side too. Once golden, take out from the hot oil, tilting the frying spoon so that excess oil is drained.
  • Add the fried jalebis to the warm (not hot)syrup. Let soak for not more than 25-30 seconds and take out again tilting the ladle to drain excess syrup else they will break and turn soggy.
    Fry up all the  jalebis and soak in syrup. Serve warm with cold unsweetened yogurt.