Sunday, May 31, 2015

Paneer Tikka Masala - Vegetarian favorite from restaurants reconstructed at home

Disclaimer: Long chitchat and longer recipe :-), read at your convenience risk:-)
Claimer(Is that a word?): You really don't want to miss this recipe if you are a fan of paneer dishes :-))

I blink, it is the beginning of a new week, next time I blink I am already into the weekend, or so it seems. Memorial day came and went, the long weekend was filled with a flurry of activities. With 2 little girls grown up(almost) and heading out to a new phase of life at colleges of their choice, a little kid who has turned into a dashing young man on the threshold of entering married life, as a family we couldn't ask for more. Exciting, happy and busy times all around. I am looking forward to finishing up next work week and heading out for the short vacation to celebrate our nephew's wedding. India, here we come :-).

I don't know about you but I block all craving for home until I know for sure there is a trip close by but as I near the timeline, it gets tougher and tougher not to think, dream about home, family and everything else :-(. I am right now in that phase where every waking moment (and ofcourse the sleepy moments) is flooded with thoughts about meeting everyone back home in a week. Keeping in tune with the thoughts, I am feverishly cooking loads of Indian food, more than my usual and being light headed as I am now, all my caution for health(ier) food goes out the window :-). Indulgence is the mantra for now. Here is one such recipe, rich in flavor, taste, colors..
I have a friend at work who bakes delicious food and is a foodie like me. We sometimes bring dishes to work, exchange recipes and all that. She loves Indian food and recently went to a restaurant in town and was raving about the chicken tikka masala she had and wanted the recipe to try at home. Being a vegetarian, I told her that I would get her a good tikka masala recipe soon and she could replace the veggies with her choice of meat. Indian cuisine has crossed borders, broken barriers and reached remotest parts of the globe that would have been unimaginable a generation or so back. While major credit goes to enterprising Gujjus, Panjabis, Udupi chefs, there is something unmistakable in the cuisine itself that seems to give it the sustainability to stand unbroken in unfamiliar settings and the adaptability to morph while retaining its heart & soul.
Recently I read an article of a study by chemists from IIT, Jodhpur that put a mathematical formula on why Indian food is so delicious. Apparently Indian cuisine in stark contrast to most other cuisines in the world, combines ingredients that do not have any overlapping flavors. The recipes mix these ingredients, retain their individuality and hence produce a burst of flavor when tasted. You can read the article here if you are interested. Today's recipe is a proof of coming together of complex flavors, coexisting to make a tasty dish. There is the tang of yogurt, bitterness of roasted fenugreek leaves, smokeyness of the hot mustard oil - seemingly incompatible but work their magic in the pot.

When my search for a good great tikka masala recipe began I literally found thousands of them all over the blogosphere. Some looked authentic, some claimed authenticity. I was looking to get a delicious taste without the dish being laden with butter. I use my oven generously for many of the Indian dishes but I also completely understand it is not a replacement for a tandoor so most dishes cook to perfection sans the smokey flavor that the tandoor imparts. Though many of the recipes online looked appetizing I finally zeroed in on this from celebrity chef Harpal Singh Sokhi. This one is for you M and thank you for nudging me towards trying this recipe, it is a keeper.
The truth of it all is there is no one dish or recipe that can be termed 'Indian' and expect to see it being eaten all over India. The flavors, preparation, ingredients keep varying as you move from region to region within India. Granted there are similarities and the underlying principles (Ex: eat khichdi/pongal in the winter because it has black pepper that keeps the body warm) are same because of the age old wisdom, but you will not find an authentic paneer masala in a South Indian home as you will not find the variety of dosas in a Punjabi home. For me, this variety is what makes life and Indian food interesting :-). I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this recipe, I will leave it to my good Punjabi friends but I can definitely vouch for the 'can't have enough' taste of this dish.

What stands out in this recipe is the usage of mustard oil which really brings in the smokey flavor in this recipe. I did a major cut on the heavy ingredients (butter & cream) and a few other tweaks to suit our palates yet the dish turns out super mouth watering. I used the left over marinade in the sauce which made it more delicious and also added a little bit of roasted gram flour to the marinade which I think added to the nutty flavor overall. Mustard oil is not something I use regularly but had a little bit left over from the avakkaya amma made earlier in Spring. If you do not have mustard oil in your pantry, please head out to your nearest store that has mustard oil and buy a bottle of it. It is totally worth the effort and you will be glad you took the extra effort. Go ahead and use butter & cream if you'd like, this is a really yummy dish as is and doesn't need (according to me :-)) any further enhancements.
While paneer is the most favorite of things for DD & BH, I don't personally enjoy it so much, just a personal peeve with the texture. I know lot of my Indian and non Indian friends will look at me as if I was a weird species but when it comes to food, each to her (or his) own. Enjoy what you like.  I added whole lot of paneer in the recipe for the rest of the family at the same time added a bunch of veggies too so I could enjoy the flavors. The only problem with this deliciousness is that the family wasn't very thrilled to wait until the masala was done and we added the grilled veggies in it as they were eager to eat the paneer tikka (without the masala) as it was like appetizers. The marinated veggies and paneer taste absolutely yummy without the gravy too. So if you are looking for popular finger food for a party, here you go..
This recipe is a little time consuming unless you follow the pattern, get things ready in advance and cook simultaneously. I have tried to separate ingredients and the method so it is easier to consume and execute. Hope this helps.

What do you need to make Paneer Tikka Masala? 
For the Tikka: 
3 cups cubed fresh paneer (I used a 12oz packet)
1 cup cubed onions (I prefer red onions)
1 large tomato (use a fleshy variety)
1 green bell pepper (or use other colors if you like)
2-3 Tbsp oil to shallow fry
1 cup yogurt
1/2 Tsp lemon/lime juice
2 Tbsp besan/gram flour
1 Tbsp oil (use butter for a heavier/calorie dense version)
1/4 Tsp ajwain
1 Tsp kasoori methi (dry fenigreek leaves)
1 Tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp garam masala powder
1 inch piece ginger
2-3 garlic cloves
3/4 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbsp mustard oil ***
Tikka Masala: 
1 large onion
2 large tomatoes
1 inch piece ginger
2-3 garlic cloves
1-2 green chilies
8-10 cashews
1 Tsp kasoori methi
1 Tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp garam masala powder
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp milk (use cream for a heavier/calorie dense version)
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1 Tsp salt

How do you make Paneer Tikka Masala? 
Preparing veggies & paneer for the Tikka: 
  • Cut paneer into 1X1 inch pieces, keep aside
  • Chop onion into cubes, separate the layers
  • Cut tomato in quarters, reserve the seeds & pulp, cut into pieces.
  • Deseed & cut green bell pepper into cubes
  • Note: Keep the size of all the vegetables roughly the same and a tiny bit bigger than paneer. 
Preparing marinade: 
  • Wash, peel and crush ginger & garlic into a coarse paste using a mortar & pestle or a blender. 
  • Take a large bowl, add yogurt, salt, red chili powder, garam masala powder, kasoori methi crushed, lemon/lime juice, ginger & garlic paste 
  • Whisk it with a spoon or fork until homogeneous. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, add besan & crushed ajwain into it. Roast on medium heat until you get the nutty aroma of besan. DO NOT LET THIS BURN. 
  • Add this to the yogurt mixture. 
  • Heat mustard oil in a pan until it starts to smoke, switch off & add turmeric powder. 
  • Pour this over the yogurt mixture and give a good mix until everything blends together. 
  • Important: Taste the marinade at this stage and adjust any spices, salt etc. 
  • First add the bell pepper pieces, and coat them with marinade. Add onions followed by tomatoes and give a swirl so everything is coated. 
  • Finally add paneer pieces and gently mix into the marinade. 
  • Make sure all the pieces have a chance to absorb the flavors from marinade. 
  • Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and let it rest for atleast an hour. 
  • Either shake the bowl or using a spoon, gently mix the ingredients a couple of times to ensure infusion of flavors. 
Grilling vegetables: 
  • After an hour or so of marinade, veggies will be ready to be grilled. There are a couple of ways to grill them - you can do the stove top pan or a grill pan, use the oven or if you have a tandoor, go for it. 
  • Pick a piece of paneer, push the center through a skewer, add a layer of onion, bell pepper and tomato. Keep alternating until the end of the skewer. 
  • Heat your pan or grill pan until the surface is very hot, add a few drops of oil and place the skewer on top. (You should hear a sizzling sound as you place the wet vegetables, don't start with a cold griddle or pan)
  • After a min, rotate the skewers and let the other side get a nice brown coating, repeat on all 4 sides. 
  • If you do not have skewers, just lay the marinated veggies and paneer pieces on the surface of the hot tava and using a gentle hand, keep turning them over until they develop the grill marks and soften up a bit. 
  • Remove skewers from the pan and keep aside. 
  • If you are impatient (like my family was) or are looking for a snack/appetizer, you can start munching on the grilled paneer & veggies at this stage, they taste heavenly delicious.
Preparing Tikka Masala: 
  • Soak cashews in water for 30-45 mins. 
  • Blend cashews into a fine paste with 2 Tbsp milk. Reserve this paste until ready to use. 
  • Finely chop onion and keep aside. 
  • Roughly chop tomatoes and puree them, keep aside. 
  • Crush & make a paste of ginger & garlic. 
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan. 
  • Add cumin and let it sizzle. 
  • Add chopped onion and salt. Let onions brown on medium heat. 
  • Add ginger-garlic paste at this stage and let it cook for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add pureed tomatoes and let it cook for 10-12 minutes on medium-low heat. This is an important step and take it patiently for the best flavor. 
  • Once almost all the liquid has gone and tomatoes & onions look like a paste with oil glistening on the sides, add the cashew paste, increase heat and continuously stir until it gets absorbed into the paste (1-2 mins)
  • Add the dry powders - red chili powder, crushed kasoori methi, garam masala. Mix them in, taste and adjust if needed. 
  • Add any remaining marinade along with 1/2 cup of water to, let it come to a boil. 
  • Add the grilled paneer and vegetables into the gravy, give a gentle stir. 
  • Switch off, serve hot or warm with rotis or naan.
  • Go slow with the onions & tomato cooking for the sauce. This needs to be done in medium heat and until the raw smell and flavors turn into delicious cooked taste. 
  • Be liberal with the use of kasoori methi in the sauce. 
  • Do not discard remaining marinade, its addition in sauce just takes the dish to the next level :-)
  • Add all little charred bits of bell pepper, onion etc scraped off the pan and do not discard. 
  • For the Tikka masala, the vegetables should be cooked just enough so they retain their crunch and not become mushy. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Stuffed Baalekayi (Green plantain) - nutty, fragrant and addictive

Hope you all had a good Memorial day weekend here in the US and a good weekend elsewhere in the world. Been reading a lot about the memorial services and remembrances (some good, some not so respectful) in the news. I am in principle not for wars, I do believe that no provocation is big enough for the menace and havoc of wars. We have enough destruction by natural calamities now a days, my opinion is that we don't need any man made wars to add to the share of grief and loss in this world. But I respect people that go off at different stages in life to fight wars, leave their families behind, believe in the cause and give their everything. I do not have any service men (or women) in my immediate family and always have wondered about lives of people that is dedicated for the protection and safety of the rest of us. I am grateful for all those people.

Memorial day also officially starts the summer here for us, lot of backyard barbecuing and lemonades, biking on the trails and boats in water :-), kids are going to be out of school in a couple of weeks. Mine is going to be done with high school in a few weeks, pushing the final weeks with loads of projects and exams.
Switching topics, I recently read an article here and it made smile. When I moved to US a decade and half ago, the two things that I missed most was my family and food. Thinking about the loved ones and memories around home food made me ache so much that I would burst out crying at the drop of a pin. Years have passed, I have grown to love this home of mine and the aches are not as intense as they used to be. One thing I missed a lot was going to the vegetable markets in the evenings and bringing home bags full of fresh vegetables. I have always loved veggie shopping, my dad used to take me on his scooter to the markets in Mysore for special occasions and we would come home with vegetables peeping out from every side of the scooter :-). He had this way with vegetables and I believed that he talked to the veggies and picked the freshest and tastiest of them all. When I was studying engineering, vegetable shopping was my chore in the evening. I would take my 2 wheeler and a few cloth bags every couple of days and bring back all kinds of seasonal fruits and veggies home. Nammamma sat in the huge living room, sorting, cleaning and prepping those in the night as we worked on our studies and other things.

We didn't go looking for 'phoren(foreign)' vegetables during those days. Most everything was locally grown and sourced and hence retained their freshness. I try to do that even today, not buying something exotic but get stuff that haven't traveled across the globe to fill my plate. I have had to go without some of my favorite Indian vegetables for days and I would rather do that than picking up a stale looking or artificially cheery vegetable. Same applies to other groceries too. I try to find alternatives where needed and not harp on the unavailability of some items.
Back to the above linked article, I find it amusing to see people back home paying premium to buy things like avacado or quinoa. The article nails it when it talks about millets being the home grown alternative to importing quinoa all the way across the world. Sometimes the health fads are totally over rated and misleading. I sit here away from home missing nammamma made ragi hurittu while my friends in Bengaluru/Mysore fill their pantry with quinoa and oats from the super markets. A song I have sung many times over comes to mind.. ..Iruvudellava bittu iradudaredege tudivude jeevana .. yaava mohana murali kareyito doora teerake ninnanu..Extremely rough translation with my apologies to Dr. G.K. Adiga, the lines mean, "life is all about wanting things that are not here.. ", See the bee in the flowers below, it keeps hopping from one flower to the other in search of the elusive 'Best'
Back to the recipe, I love green plantains, one of my favorite vegetables. When I think about it, I actually love all veggies, really no exception. When cooked to retain their individuality, every vegetable is delicious in its own way. This is not something I find easily in grocery stores here. They are available most days but I don't feel like picking them up once I see their limp skins and lackluster appearance. Once in a while, they are really green and fresh and inviting. I got 3 of them last week. Recently, a friend mentioned a cookbook to me, knowing my love for cooking, somehow all conversations ultimately lead to food. I was introduced to 'Prashad', an Indian Vegetarian cookbook authored by Kaushy Patel who runs a family owned restaurant in England and has won Gordon Ramsey's "Best restaurant 2010 award". I haven't held this book in my hands yet, looking for it still but found a website that the restaurant owners run and found a couple of recipes they have shared on their blog. I can think of so many ways to consume the raw plantains but wanted to give a try to this new recipe (new to me). This raw plantain recipe called Kehra Na Revaya captured my attention for 2 reasons - ofcourse it uses one of my favorite veggies and it is a very typical gujju masala that is used in the stuffing, yum!!.

I have stayed very close to the original recipe except to skip the gram flour since we had a lot of other lentils and dals in the mix that particular day and I didn't want to over do the lentil intake :-). Instead of the gram flour and to make up for the volume, I used 2 Tbsp fresh coconut. Slightly sweet and yet tongue tickling with the spiciness from green chilies & ginger, this is my new favorite way of cooking raw plantains, it tastes delicious with plain rice and a rasam.
What do you need to make stuffed raw plantains? 
3 medium sized green bananas or plantains
1 cup peanuts
1 Tsp sugar
2 Tsp coriander powder
1/2 Tsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen) or 2 Tsp gram flour or besan
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 Tsp turmeric powder
1-11/2 inch piece ginger (more if you like the flavor)
4-6 green chilies (adjust to taste)
2 cloves garlic (skip if you don't like garlic)
1/4 Tsp asafoetida
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
3 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1/2 Tsp cumin
6-8 curry leaves

How do you make stuffed raw plantains? 
  • Wash and wipe the green bananas. Remove the ends. 
  • Cut the bananas into 11/2 inch pieces and slit then vertically from one side and stop 1/4 inch or so before you reach the other end. It should not get sliced in the middle but hold the piece together. 
  • Dunk them in a pan of water to avoid discoloration. 
  • Roast the peanuts on medium flame for 5-7 minutes until they develop light brown spots on the skin. Let cool. 
  • Using a mortar & pestle or an electric blender, pulse green chilies, ginger, coconut and garlic (if using) into a coarse paste. 
  • Make a coarse powder of roasted and cooled peanuts. 
  • In a bowl, mix together chili-coconut paste, peanut powder, cilantro, coriander powder, turmeric powder, salt, asafoetida, sugar and 1 Tbsp of oil. 
  • Using your fingers bring them together and let it rest for 10-15 minutes so the flavors infuse well. 
  • Gently handling the plantain pieces to open them, stuff as much of the masala as possible without breaking them. 
  • Prepare all the plantain pieces and reserve remaining masala for use later. 
  • Heat the remaining oil in a wide pan on medium heat, add mustard, cumin and curry leaves. 
  • When mustard pops, place the masala stuffed plantain pieces in the pan in a single layer. 
  • Cook on medium high for 2-3 minutes until the bottom sides of the pieces develop a golden brown, flip each piece over to the other side. 
  • Add all the remaining masala in between the pieces along with a cup of water and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes. 
  • Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until the pieces are cooked and reach a softness you desire. Keep flipping the pieces over to different sides every 5 or so minutes. 
  • Remove the lid and cook uncovered for a few minutes until any remaining liquid evaporates. 
  • Enjoy with steaming hot rice or rotis. 
  • This recipe used plantains along with the skin, so make sure to wash them thoroughly. 
  • Cooking time varies depending on the quality of the plantains and also size of the pieces you have cut, mine took 20 minutes to soften and yet hold their shape. 
  • Be gentle when you flip the pieces over so as to not break them. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Kugelhopf (Gugelhupf) - eggless but deliciously flaky bread

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? 
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? 
How do you solve a problem like Maria? 
How many of you sit up at the sound (or music) of those words and start to hum along, sing along? One of my favorite movies of all time (I can watch it over and over and over again) - Sound of Music, a true life story of WW times made immortal by Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer on the big screen. When a total misfit at the convent but very sincere in her ways, music loving Maria comes in to the house of strict, disciplinarian widower with 7 children as a governess, things cannot go well at the beginning with the children refusing to allow any governess to stick around. It is such a beautiful story of love, laughter and music even in the morbid and fearful times of war and uncertainty.
I first read an abridged version of the book when I was in grade school, it was my older brother's 'non-detail (another term for fiction)' book in high school and had always wanted to watch the movie. When I came to study in a convent for the high school years, if there ever was a movie that the nuns would approve of, it was this one :-), though I didn't get a chance to see the movie then, I watched several runs of the adapted school play during the 3 years. The first Christmas season here, strolling the festive looking aisles of the stores, I saw the VHS (video cassettes) displayed prominently (classics always make a come back during the holiday season here, perfect for a gift :-)). With a 2 year old tugging at my knees, although splurging money on movies was not a common thing at the time, I made an exception and indulged myself to buying the cassette. We enjoyed the movie so much and after years of rewind and reruns, it gave up on us and a couple years back, BH bought me a blue ray version of the same :-). Love lives on..

What has Sound of Music got to do with today's recipe? Does it even have anything to do with it at all? Well, if you give me a chance, I will connect the two together :-). In addition to the story, I also fell in love with the beautiful and seemingly endless, snow clad mountains of the little country Austria. If you look up the history of Kugelhopf, it tells you clearly that it is a bread popular in Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Craotia and Serbia but I chose to conveniently ignore all other countries except for Austria on this recipe :-), sounds totally partial but I am a die hard romantic and also I think Austria clinches ownership of this deliciously buttery, flaky bread because of the following trivia - Gugelhupf was the sweet chosen to represent Austria in the Cafe Europe initiative of the Austrian presidency of the European Union, on Europe Day in 2006. Maybe Maria and the Von Trapp family ate this bread every day with coffee (or was it tea?)..
So now shall we get back to today's recipe? Oh, I guess I was the one running wayward, so let me get myself back here. This recipe came to me as part of the monthly challenges from Eggless baking group. Though I haven't been regular (sorry Gayathri) but trying to bake & post as much as I can given the hectic life right now. As soon as I saw this recipe (I swear that was before I knew the history and its connection to Austria and to Sound of Music :-)), I thought I would make it, for one the amount of butter didn't sound as big as the Austrian mountains and the procedure seemed really simple.

This is an almost 'no-knead' bread, I say almost because you don't plunk the dough on the counter top and start using that familiar back & forth sway motion exercising your biceps. Instead you use a spatula to move the dough around and bring it to a softer, pliable consistency. What I didn't sign up for though was starting off with a hard mass of dough and making it move around in the bowl. It being a Saturday, totally worked in my favor. BH was up after a good night's sleep and was game for helping me out, we took turns turning the dough (he did it for 3 mins and I took the next 30 secs, then back to him and so on.., you get the picture :-)) and as always great team work produces great results.
Bottom line, get the spouse to help you around when making this bread, save yourselves a sore arm later in the day :-).

I used the measurements Gayathri gave but added a few things to make it bit more livelier. I did the conversions from the gms to cups since I do not own a kitchen scale and was a little apprehensive that my measurements may not have been accurate but they were on the mark. The bread is mildly sweet, deliciously flaky with a super texture. I served it with a spoon of orange marmalade on the side as an after dinner dessert for cousins visiting us yesterday. Our little 1 year old niece seemed to enjoy it as did her parents and brother :-).

What do you need to make Kugelhopf? 
3 & 1/3 cups All purpose flour
2 & 1/4 Tsp instant (rapid rise) yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp milk
2/3 cup butter milk
7 Tbsp butter (softened to room temperature)
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Tbsp raisins
1/4 Tsp cinnamon powder
How do you make Kugelhopf? 
  • Add flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. 
  • With a spoon or fork mix well and make a hole in the center. 
  • Add milk & butter milk into the hole and gently fold in the flour mixture. 
  • You will get a lightly moist, crumbly mixture.
  • Add the softened butter and mix everything together. 
  • The dough will be a stiff lump at this stage. 
  • Keep moving/mixing the dough with a spatula for 5-7 minutes until the texture softens. 
  • Add cinnamon powder and raisins and give a mix. 
  • Smear soft butter to the inner side of a tube or bundt cake pan. 
  • Put the soft dough in it and level gently. 
  • Cover it with a cling wrap and let it rise for 45mins to an hour or until it doubles in volume and looks light and poofy. 
  • Preheat the oven to 375F, bake the bread for 30-35 minutes (mine took 35min to reach the golden brown all around)
  • Take it out and let it stand on a wire rack for 5 mins before removing it from the pan. 
  • Let it cool completely before slicing. 
  • Enjoy it with a drizzle of honey or butter or a jam.  
  • Original recipe didn't have cinnamon or raisins, it is my addition. Feel free to skip, however they enrich the bread
  • I added 1 Tbsp additional milk since the dough seemed very hard when I started to move it with the spatula initially. This could have been due to the consistency of my yogurt as I didn't thin it down rather used the home made yogurt by just whisking it with a fork. 
  • Watch the oven towards the end of the bake time as oven temperatures differ. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Makai (sweet corn) and Bajra (millet flour) rotti - This recipe went through a metamorphasis from ideation to implementation

Before I say anything else, I do want to share the good news - am back in business - with green chilies that is :-). Last weekend, I found one of my grocery stores carrying the coveted Thai green chilies and bought a a whole bunch (ofcourse paying a premium) but they seem to have already gone out of circulation as I haven't seen them since. I am ok for a while atleast with my stash. Seems like a more wide spread problem than just my Seattle area as comments from the readers indicate. Hope we will all start to see them regularly. As a positive side effect, I fell in love with Serrano peppers in the meantime for their sturdiness and 'not-so-hot' spice. As a result, the refrigerator has both kinds of chilies now :-), By the way, bits and bites of serrano peppers in urad dal vada tastes heavenly, they don't dissolve like the thai chilies, get crispier in the hot oil and taste delicious. So if you haven't tried them, go ahead and make them soon. Here is a bouquet of precious green Thai chilies for all those parched hearts :-).
I have a spring in my gait now just like the weather outside after having my favorite chilies back in life. I am thinking of growing some in the backyard this season just to be safe and self sufficient. Oh that reminds me of the disaster in the backyard. We had started our veggie garden a month ago filling the pots with beans and eggplants seeds. While we waited for the ground to warm up a little before transferring them, the beans sprouted and the plants started growing as if they were Jack's very own bean stalks :-). So, yesterday BH put on his gardening gear and went to the backyard to clean up the patch, prepare the soil and transplanted the plants from the pots to the ground. He also put some seeds in the starters and shoved them into the ground. All in a day's work, he came back tired but happy.

Pre attack pictures
Today morning, we get up and visit the backyard just to make sure the plants didn't wilt of shock from the transplant and we had a shock of our lives. Something (I am guessing racoons, BH thinks they are wild rabbits) came in the wee hours and dug up all the little starter, chewed through them, ate the seeds, threw the pots on the grass and left without so much as a 'Thank you' note!! So much for all the labor of sweat. The only consolation is that the seeds became somebody's food, good cause.
Post attack pictures
We are now strategizing our gardening for summer and plotting how to outwit those nocturnal visitors to our backyard while the brave dog takes a deep snooze in her cozy bed :-). If any of you garden enthusiasts have had similar problems and know an environmentally safe way to scare (not hurt or harm) these visitors, I would appreciate the tips.

With that said, let us go back to today's recipe. I didn't say recipe, it will come in due time but not so soon either as I need to tell you the entire story behind it. This is not a recipe I grew up with as you can imagine. I do want to call it an invention but the idea triggered from another recipe I had seen on a show. The chef showed a sweet corn kabab (looked yummy) with similar ingredients and had gram flour (besan) mixed to get the dough consistency. Yesterday being the first Saturday in a long time I felt relaxed, on the whim got up in the morning and soaked a ton (not really a ton but a lot) of urad dal to make the family favorite Dahi vada or peruggarelu. Everyone was surprised but pleasantly so, our family (from the oldest to the youngest) never says no to dahi vada and I also made a vessel full of spicy rasam and kept a couple batches of the fried goodies to dunk in rasam so the family was all happy, happy and were as bloated as the vadas themselves after eating them :-)
Having done a whole lot of deep frying, I was in no mood to entertain another deep fry recipe but had a bag full of sweet corn in the refrigerator. Now with my cooking limited to mainly weekend cooking as amma does take care of the week days, I usually try and finish up the veggies she won't even touch with a pole :-) on weekends and leave the familiar egg plants, bottle gourds etc for her to use from M-F. Sweet corn would fit into that category. Having spent years in the corn country before moving here, I can't resist picking up a bunch of fresh corn during spring & summer and had brought a bag full at 5pieces/$ just a couple of days back. Friday, BH went to Costco on his way home and brought a packet of husked corn too :-). I sometimes wonder if the man ever listens to me at all, I tell him the veggies and groceries I have in excess knowing fully well the way he picks up stuff on his visit to the store but invariably he comes back with atleast a few extras and duplicates.
Since deep frying was out for Sunday, I wanted to convert this recently seen corn kabab into something non deep fried. Given my penchant for rottis, and having seen the chef mix gram flour and make a dough gave me an idea to make rotti with the corn. I just didn't want to use the gram flour and used bajra flour instead. What we had was a very delicious, soft and light rotti with the sweetness of fresh corn and the spices from other ingredients. And ofcourse I used my Thai chilies liberally in the recipe :-)

What do you need to make makai-Bajra roti?
2.5 cups fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup bajra(millet) flour
1 Tsp salt
3-4 green chilies (adjust to taste)
2 Tbsp roughly chopped onion
small piece ginger
4-6 curry leaves
1 Tbsp grated coconut (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped green onion
1 Tbsp oil to roast
How do you make makai-bajra roti? 
  • If using fresh corn cobs, remove the outer cover, the silky husk and chop the corn kernels with a sharp knife. 
  • Reserve 2 Tbsp of corn kernels. 
  • Take remaining corn, chopped onion, green chilies, ginger, coconut and salt and pulse them together without using any water. Onion gives out enough water to grind.
  • Take it into a bowl, mix bajra flour, reserved corn kernels and chopped spring onions and mix it well. 
  • Heat a heavy griddle on medium heat, take a ball of dough and pat it on the griddle into a thick (1/4 inch) rotti. I used my mini cast iron pans which distributes heat evenly. 
  • Add a few drops of oil all around the edge, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the bottom crisps up with brown spots. 
  • Flip it over and cook uncovered for another minute and half. 
  • Take out the hot roti onto a plate, serve it with a dollop of desi home made ghee (clarified butter) and a spicy chutney. 
  • Repeat the process for remaining dough. 
  • You can use rice or ragi (finger millet) flour instead of bajra flour or a combination of any of these flours.
  • Add some roasted fresh fenugreek leaves for a distinct flavor and taste. 
  • Adding some corn without grinding gives a crunch and a burst of sweetness when you bite in. Skip this and grind them all together if you prefer the texture. 
  • Sweet corn I get here are really tender and sweet (especially the fresh ones), so the rotti turned out mildly sweet despite the green chilies but we loved the taste. 
  • You can use frozen corn, bring them to room temperature before making rottis. 
  • If you don't have spring onions on hand, use finely chopped regular onion.
  • Pat this rotti a little thicker than normal rotti and cook it on low heat.