Apr 20, 2010

Besan (Chickpea flour) crackers

Besan (chickpea flour) is the main ingredient in many Indian deep fried snacks. Like tempura batter, besan batter consists of  besan, water, baking soda, salt. Some flavoring spices, little bit of onion and green chilies can also be added to the batter. Then vegetables, chicken or fish are dipped into the batter and the mixture is deep fried. 

Though chickpea flour is very healthy by itself, the deep frying makes it  anything but healthy. The deep fried snacks are yummy though! So I always have besan in hand for those cool rainy days when you crave something hot.

Since I am moving to London in a couple of months, I am trying to use all my flour, grains and lentils before we make the move. So the other day it was the besan's turn and the challenge was to make something healthy and tasty out of it. I decided to make besan crackers with ajwain (carom seed). Ajwain has a strong bitter taste with a hint of freshness. It tastes somewhat similar to thyme and looks like celery seed.

To make the crackers, along with besan I used little semolina to give it some texture. I loved the crispiness of the crackers and the freshness from the ajwain. But it was a little heavy, one can't eat lot of them in one serving. It makes you feel very full after eating ten of them which might be a good thing. Snacks portions shouldn't be like full meals! But if you want to make it little lighter, instead of using besan flour only, you can do 3/4th besan and 1/4th all purpose flour.

Chick Pea Crackers Recipe

1 cup besan (chickpea) flour
1/4 cup semolina
1 TBS sugar
1 tsp backing powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry parsley
2 tsp ajwain
1 tsp cayenne
black pepper
1 TBS of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

Mix all the dry ingredients. Then add oil to the mixture and mix it well to give it a sand texture. Add a small amount of water to it and knead it like dough. Don't put too much water, but put enough to make a soft dough out of it.   Then let the dough sit on the kitchen counter for 5 minutes. Cover the dough with a wet paper towel. It will keep the dough from drying out.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Then put some besan flour on the surface and roll out the dough into a 1/8th inch thick circle. Then with a fork gently mark the circle which will give a nice look to the crackers. Then using a knife draw lines which are 1/2 inch apart from each other, from top to bottom and from left to right. It will result in small square crackers.

Then bake the crackers in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or till they get a little brown.

Apr 10, 2010

My Comfort Food - Chicken Curry

We may explore and experiment in our kitchen with food from different regions, but sometimes we crave for the comfort food that we ate while growing up and the food that our mom made for us for years. What spaghetti with tomato sauce is to an Italian, what a juicy burger is to an American, chicken curry is to me - its the ultimate Indian comfort food. But my version of chicken curry is a simpler version of what my mom used to make. Instead of making ginger/garlic paste I put chopped ginger-garlic. I don't even bother to caramelize onion before adding ginger-garlic paste. Caramelizing a big onion just takes too much time.

This chicken curry calls for a lot of ground spices. But all these spices are very common in Indian cooking. Once you have these ready, you can pull off almost any curry you want. All these spices are available off the shelf in Indian groceries and now a days in many super markets. But just in case you want to make them from scratch, you can easily do so by buying the seeds and using that magic tool - the coffee grinder. If you have leftover seeds then don't despair you can always use them directly in Indian curries.

Turmeric powder - its difficult to buy whole turmeric so you are better of buying this from a store.
Cumin powder - dry roast the cumin seeds and make the powder using a coffee grinder. If you are not scared of chili, you can roast a couple of red chilis with the cumin seed. Red chili adds little spiciness to the smoked cumin powder.
Coriander powder - dry roast the coriander seeds and let them cool for a while. Then grind them using coffee grinder.
Garam masala -  this is a combination of cardamom, cinnamon, clove. Dry roast all of them and grind them to make a coarse powder.

Indian Chicken Curry Recipe

1 TBS oil  (I use olive oil)
1/4 tsp sugar

1 bay leaf
Whole garam masala (cardamoms, cinnamon stick, cloves)

1 TBS finely chopped ginger and garlic
1 medium size onion
1 lb of boneless chicken thigh
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup red or green bell pepper

1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp pepper powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp maggi tomato chili sauce (available in Indian stores, or you can substitute it with chili garlic paste)
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
1 cup of water
1/2 cup chopped cilanto

In a heavy bottom pan, add oil. When oil gets a little hot, add sugar. Wait till the sugar gets caramelized. Be careful at this point, don't let the sugar burn. Otherwise, it will give a bitter taste to the curry. The caramelized sugar gives a nice color to the curry. You can omit this step if you want. Then add the bay leaf and whole garam masala to the pan. Then add onion, chopped ginger garlic and chicken and salt to the pan. Cover the pan with a lid. Salt will bring out water from the chicken and onion. Covering the pan with a lid will help the chicken to cook and get tender.

When the chicken gets a little tender or after 10 minutes remove the lid and cook it for another 10-15 minutes by stirring it once in couple of minutes till the onion and ginger-garlic get cooked and have a thick curry consistency. All the water that came out of the chicken should have been evaporated at this point.

Then add tomatoes, bell pepper, all the remaining spices and sauces to the chicken. Cook it for 5 minutes till the raw smells of the spices are gone and the vegetable becomes tender. Then add a cup of water and cook it on a medium flame for another 5-10 minutes. Cooking time varies depending on how thick/thin you want your curry. Stir it a couple of times so that the thick sauce won't stick to the pan. After the curry is done, stir in 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. If you don't like cilantro, you can substitute cilantro with parsley.