Mole Poblano

January 6, 2008 at 8:19 AM (animals, aromatic mixtures, birds, chicken, chiles and other capsicums, chocolate, dishes by main ingredient, Jihva entries, Mexico, Puebla, seeds, turkey/ turkish fowl, vegetables/ fruits)

sister-cacheta-helped-me-make-the-mole.jpg 

A few months ago I held a quiz, and the grand winner of that rather tricky quiz was a very dear blogging-friend of mine who somehow managed to choose her own prize! Luckily, the poor thing seldom has visitors to her blog and, thus, has no need to run and hide in shame.  😀  Nevertheless, fair is fair and the agreed-upon prize (did I say that?) was that I would cook and post any dish of her choosing. Sounds easy eh? Not! She chose a dish that I have made but once before, and in that a most time-consuming, complicated, and basically the greatest pain-in-the-ass recipe I’ve ever cooked in my life… mole poblano… There might be people out there who could attest, in queso blanco-like modesty, that, in the end, it is worth all of the effort.

The word mole is used in Mexico to denote a complicated sauce, and is decended from the Aztec word molli which means a sauce or mixture containing chiles. Mole poblano is the most well-known of them, and is the basis of the holiday dish, mole poblano de guajolote (Pueblan mole of turkey), but it is just as often, if not moreso, used to cook chicken (mole poblano de pollo), and sometimes pork or other meats. There is a fanciful legend in Mexico about the dish’s origin, and it goes something like this:

“…in the 16th century the nuns of the convent of Santa Rosa in the city of Puebla heard that the archbishop was coming to visit them. They went into a panic because the convent had nothing suitable to offer such a distinguished visitor, but after a while they rallied, prayed and- with heavenly guidance- began to grind and chop everything edible that they had in the kitchen. Into the mix went (among other things) many kinds of chile, almonds, tomatoes, onions, garlic, bread, tortillas, bananas, sesame seeds, sugar, raisins, lard, toasted avocado leaves and innumerable herbs and spices. All were finely ground and cooked for hours. The final touch was a small quantity of chocolate, which gave the mole its subtle flavour. While the sauce was simmering in a great pot the nuns killed their one and only turkey (which was intended for the local bishop), cut it up and cooked the meat. When the archbishop arrived, they served the turkey with the miraculous mole poured over it. The noble guest was, of course, delighted. The angels who guided the hands of the nuns had created the most delicious dish that he had ever tasted.” *

In truth, mole poblano is a very Aztec dish, with a few Spanish ingredients whirled into the mix. While quite likely that the nuns in the convents of post-conquest Mexico did indeed improve upon the dish, it almost certainly was in existence long before that time (there are, besides the Pueblan-style, many other types of moleguaca-mole, for example, being quite familiar to many- all considered classics of Mexico’s various cuisines and definitely worth furthur investigation). I have tasted mole poblano many times, in various Mexican restaurants, as it has long been a favorite: I fell in love with its intoxicating, nearly-indescribable, subdued chocolate-laden bouquet from the first bite! As other afficionados will attest, nothing else in the world is quite like it…

Here is my quite-recent rendition of mole poblano, which I have based upon several recipes that I had gathered, the most-admired from The Taste of Mexico by Patricia Quintana. I ended up with 27 ingredients for the sauce alone (33 after I cooked chicken in it), but the resulting tasks are quite easily accomplished in parts. I’d recommend taking three days. I divided the ingredients into categories with similar treatments, with my own steps explained afterward. You may choose a different order entirely, of course. This recipe makes enough sauce for 20 lbs. of turkey or chicken. Obviously this is enough for a banquet, but since it is almost as easy(?!) to make a large amount (and freeze what is unused for later meals) as it is a small one, I chose to go ahead with it, but you can divide it for smaller portions if you wish. I chose to thin the sauce as it simmers with just water, leaving the sauce neutral to re-thin and simmer again later with various meat stocks, or to keep as is for vegetarian meals. Lard is the traditional fat used for frying the various ingredients (and it does lend a unique flavour to foods cooked with it), but I chose to use peanut oil, again for neutrality and also to reduce the saturated fat content. Use as much as you feel necessary, keeping in mind that 2-3 cups is traditional for this quantity. I managed to use around 1 cup.

Mole Poblano

Chiles:

30 dried mulato chiles

16 dried ancho chiles

6 dried pasilla or pasilla negra chiles

2 dried chipotle chiles

1)Remove the seeds and membranes of the mulato, ancho and pasilla chiles; tear into small pieces. Take these pieces and roast lightly- in batches of three large handfuls or so- until they blister and turn a shade darker- in a pan set over med-low heat, pressing with a spatula, turning, pressing…about 10 turns. I will warn you that the chile-fumes can be quite irritating to the mucous-membrane; open windows if possible.

2)Transfer to a large bowl along with the chipotle chiles and pour boiling water over them to cover, plus an inch or two; set a plate or bowl atop the surface to keep the chiles immersed; soak 30 minutes.

3)Mexican chiles sometimes tend to have traces of dirt still clinging to them (especially ancho chiles), so when removing these pieces from their soaking-liquid, I grab a few at a time and swish them a bit in the water to reduce this to a minimum; transfer to the container of a food processor and puree until very smooth, decanting some of the soaking-water off the top (the dirt settles at the bottom) to add to the container to facilitate easy movement of the mixture. Pass this puree through a metal sieve using a wooden spoon (or use a food-mill/Foley) to attain a smooth sauce, free of annoying bits of chile-skin.

the-birth-of-venus.jpg

Nuts:

3/4 C raw almonds

1/2 C raw peanuts

1/2 C raw pepitas (pumpkin seed kernels)

1)Take 3 T of oil and fry the nuts separately, in the order given, over med-low heat until fragrant and golden; drain together on paper or in a metal sieve.

2)When cool, grind very well into as smooth a paste as possible. (I used a mortar-and-pestle for the initial grind, then pureed it furthur with later ingredients)

Dried fruit:

1 C pitted prunes

3/4 C raisins/sultanas

1)Using about 2 T of oil, fry the prunes over med-low heat for a few minutes to carmelize; remove and drain.

2)Fry the raisins in the same oil until they swell like little balloons; remove to drain with the prunes; pour boiling/hot water over them to cover and allow to soak for, well…awhile

Fresh fruits:

1 1/2 ripe plantains

3 ripe tomatoes

10 tomatillos, husks removed

1)Peel and slice the plantain into 1/4″ slices. Fry in a tablespoon or two of oil over med-high heat until lightly browned; remove and set aside.

2)If you have a gas range, line a burner with foil to catch drips and with it set on high, fire-roast the tomatoes and tomatillos directly on the grate, using a pair of tongs to turn occasionally and char to black as much of the skin as possible on each (I used a wok-ring to contain mine). Traditionally, this is done over an open fire, so if you have one, then by all means…this can also be done in a very hot oven by placing the fruits on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet to roast until the skin is charred.  In any case, immediately remove to a covered container- the steam helps to soften the skin. When cool, rub off as much of the charred skin as possible under gently-running water; remove the stems and cores of the tomatillos; add to the bowl containing the fried plantains.

merry-go-round.jpg

Breads:

1 stale croissant or 2 slices of bread or equivalent (a roti or parantha would be fine), broken into pieces

2 corn tortillas, broken into pieces

1)Fry these separately in the oil left over from the previous fryings until crispy-toasted. Remove to the bowl of fruit.

Spices:

3/4 C white sesame seeds

5″ of true cinnamon, broken into pieces

1 t coriander seeds

1 t anise seeds

1/2 t whole cloves

1/2 t black peppercorns

dried avocado leaves (I could find no reference for how much to use and therefore didn’t include)

1)Wipe the pan of excess oil and roast the sesame seeds, stirring constantly, over a med-low flame until a deeper golden hue is attained. Remove to a bowl to cool.

2)Roast the remaining spices together over a med-low flame, again stirring constantly, until the coriander seeds turn just a shade darker and the mixture is quite fragrant. Remove to a separate bowl to cool.

3)Grind the sesame seeds to a fine paste; grind the other spices to a fine powder.

Alliums:

2 heads(entire bulbs) of garlic

4 onions

1)Separate the cloves of garlic but leave the peels intact. Set them in one layer in the pan over med heat and roast until black and charred in spots, turning every few minutes. Remove and cool, then peel carefully.

2)Cut the onions in half, and then into 1/8″ slices; fry in 4-5 T oil over high flame, stirring constantly, until they begin to brown. Reduce heat and continue browning, never letting the utensil rest, until dark brown (not black) and crispy. Remove to cool.

The end is near with that final touch:

1)Place the chile-puree in a large stock-kettle.

2)Puree the nut-paste with the dried fruits and their soaking-liquid until smooth, adding more water if necessary; add to the kettle.

3)Puree the fresh fruits and the breads, adding water if necessary, until smooth; add to the kettle.

4)Add the ground spices to the kettle.

5)Puree the garlic and onions with a bit of water until smooth; add to the kettle.

6)Mix together well, adding some water if too thick to stir easily; bring gently to a boil over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, and then add:

3/4 C piloncillo, grated (Mexican raw sugar), or other sugar

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, grated

salt to taste

Continue to boil gently, stirring occasionally, and season sparingly with:

1/4- 1/2 t Mexican oregano (not the same as European/Greek oregano)

Rub the dried herb between your fingers to crush before adding; it has a flavour not unlike ajwain, but with a strange, round, vanilla-like undertone which complements the chocolate note well. Be careful not to overdo it though…keep it subtle.

At this point, after perhaps 20-30 minutes, I decided to turn off the heat, let it cool and divided it into 8 portions (1 quart each). I froze 6 of them with labels stating the following: enough for 2.5 lbs. of meat, thin with stock, simmer 3-4 hours.

enough-mole-poblano-to-take-a-bath-in.jpg

The remaining two portions- enough for 5 lbs. of meat- went thus:

5 lbs. (bone-in) chicken

1/2 onion, roughly chopped

5 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 small carrot

1/4 of a celery stalk

2 bay leaves

3 black peppercorns

salt

1)Place all ingredients in a stock-pot and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer 30 minutes; allow chicken to cool in the stock, then remove.

2)Strain this stock, combine this with enough mole poblano for 5 lbs.(see note below), bring to boil, and lower heat to maintain a gentle boil for 3-4 hours and reduce until thick, stirring frequently, moreso as it thickens.

3)If you wish, remove the skin from the chicken pieces, and, again if you wish, shallow-fry to brown in hot oil (it is likely traditional to brown leaving the skin intact). Place the chicken pieces in the mole and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.

4)Remove to a serving platter and sprinkle with:

A few tablespoons of sesame seeds, toasted as above

Serve with hot tortillas, arroz rojo(red rice pilaf), frijoles(refried beans), salsa picante(hot sauce), and, as I have often been served, pico de gallo (a fresh relish made of tomatoes, onions, green chiles, cilantro, lime juice and salt..maybe some roasted cumin- I forget).

Note (as if there weren’t enough): The mole is usually thinned with a richer stock (ie: return the bones and scraps to the stock and simmer at least 3 hours longer) when cooking meats; I was tired, but I actually liked the diminished chicken taste to better enjoy the other flavours. 

danny-y-el-mole-poblano-de-pollo-dazul.jpg

“I’m not really interested in how it’s made; just let me eat it, eh?” -Danny

 

Anita– I seriously loved working on this recipe- great fun with a dish people seldom attempt at home anymore- even amongst Mexicans. Congratulations! and enjoy…

Special bonus! The halved recipe (for 10 lbs. of turkey or chicken):

15 mulato chiles, 8 ancho chiles, 3 pasilla negra chiles, 1 chipotle chile, 3/8 C almonds (1/4 C + 2 T), 1/4 C peanuts, 1/4 C pepitas, 1/2 C prunes, 3/8 C raisins, 3/4 of a ripe plantain, 1 1/2 ripe tomatos, 5 tomatillos, 1/2 of a croissant (or 1 slice of bread or half of a roti, etc), 3/8 C sesame seeds, 2 1/2″ of cinnamon, 1/2 t coriander seeds, 1/2 t anise seeds, 1/4 t whole cloves, 1/4 t black peppercorns, 1 head of garlic, 2 onions, 3/8 C piloncillo, 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, salt, a pinch of Mexican oregano, oil or fat, and water as required…note that the quantity of chicken used above is for a quartered amount (5 lbs.)- use half of this quantity of sauce and freeze the other.

mole-poblano-de-pollo-and-side-dishes-plated.jpg

This is my entry for Jihva for Ingredients- chocolate, hosted this month by Deepz of Letz Cook. JFI is a monthly tradition, created by Indira of Mahanandi

jfi_chocolate.jpg

*Excerpt taken from Latin American Cooking, Jonathon Norton, co. 1968.

Permalink 23 Comments

Puneri Aamti

December 8, 2007 at 3:15 AM (dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, India, Jihva entries, legumes/pulses- whole or split, Maharashtra, Pune, toor/toovar/arhar)

puneri-aamti.jpg 

I think this dish is usually called kataachi aamti, and I would assume that this version hails from the city of Pune in the state of Maharashtra. This heavenly, thin dhal- at once extremely aromatic, sweet-sour, and spicy-hot- is sipped from small bowls or cups, and appears to be very closely tied to the enjoyment of a sweetly-stuffed roti known as puran poLi, which is more-often made with chana dhal or moong dhal. When preparing the sweet dhal stuffing for puranpoLi, the thin liquid from cooking the dhal is reserved for making this aamti, as well as a little of the sweet, coconut-infused stuffing for added body. This version is, instead, made of toor dhal, and enjoyed on its own, though recipes for puranpoLi also made of toor dhal do indeed exist!

I am sending this over to Linda of Out of the Garden, for her parade of toor dhal dishes for this months’s JFI. Or, is it a tour of toor?

Puneri Aamti

1 C toor dhal
1/2 t turmeric
1 t ground red chiles
2 t goda masala
1/3 C tamarind extract
1/3 C gur
2 T finely-grated coconut
salt to taste
2-3 t oil (recipe originally calls for 4 T)
1/4 t whole cumin
1/4 t mustard seeds
a pinch of hing
10 karipatta
1/2 C chopped coriander leaves

1)Rinse toor dhal well (soak for an hour or more if desired- decreases cooking time), add turmeric and boil in enough water until quite soft; add ground chiles, goda masala, tamarind extract, gur, coconut, and salt to taste; simmer for 10 minutes or so, adding water as needed to make a thin preparation.

2)Heat oil, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves; when the mustard seeds start popping, pour over hot dhal; simmer a bit longer, then add coriander leaves, remove from heat and cover for a few minutes; stir well and serve in small bowls for sipping, with puranpoLi, or ladled over plain rice.

Permalink 19 Comments

Madhur Jaffrey’s Green-chile Pickle

August 2, 2007 at 12:03 PM (chiles and other capsicums, Delhi, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, India, Jihva entries, vegetables/ fruits)

green-chile-pickle-one.jpg

This recipe was one of the first that I attempted from Madhur’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking, and I’ve been making it once a year since. As she states in the recipe’s introduction, this pickle- traditional to her Delhi-centered family- is hot! And also very good…very good for perking up other dishes, very good on sandwiches (even mixed into mayonaise or cream/Philly cheese/ yoghurt cheese to make spreads), very good with yoghurt-rice, and also great with Mexican food!

This is a salt-cured pickle, so be sure to use thin-walled chiles (similar to the ones pictured); the chiles soften fastest when set in warm sunlight during the day, but it does just as well if left on the counter-top at room temperature- it’ll just take longer. In the hot and sunny days of summer, this pickle will be ready in about a week or so; either way, just keep checking and stirring it daily until it’s ready.  If you enjoy spicy relishes, this pickle is a must, and worth the daily ritual!

green-chile-pickle-two.jpg

Madhur Jaffrey’s Green-chile Pickle

1/2 lb. fresh hot green chiles (about 2 C shaken to settle in the cup)

4 T whole black mustard seeds

4 t salt

1 t ground red chiles (or more or less to taste- honestly, I stick with 1 t!)

1″ of fresh ginger, peeled and minced finely (I used home-made ginger paste)

2 T mustard oil

A pinch of hing/asafoetida (optional- my addition)

3 T lemon (or lime) juice

1)Wash and dry the whole green chiles thoroughly, then trim the stems off each and slice into thin rounds. Place in a bowl.

2)Grind the mustard seeds to a powder, then add this to the bowl along with the salt, ground red chiles, and ginger. Mix thoroughly.

3)Heat the oil in a small pan to smoking; add the hing (if using), turn off heat and let cool completely. Pour this over the mixture in the bowl and mix well.

4)Place this mixture into a small crock or jar (a crock works better as direct sunlight will leech the colour from the pickle), cover with a non-metal lid (I use a small piece of cotton muslin- keeps bugs out- and a ceramic plate), and place in a sunny spot for a day. Stir the container at least twice for this first day.

5)The next day, take off the lid and mix in the lemon/lime juice…

green-chile-pickle-three.jpg

6)For the next few days, either keep the container near a sunny window or set it outside in a sunny spot (bringing it indoors at night), and stir the pickle once daily. (I have even made this pickle in winter-time by keeping it near a heating register!) The pickle is ready to eat when the chiles soften and turn a bit pale.

7) Spoon it into a clean jar and cover.

Here’s a photo of the finished pickle…

claireau-one-paw-up-july-07.jpg

Ooops! Nope, it’s my cat Claireau. Nice kitty. I doubt if he’d want to try some, but if he does he’ll have to make do until the pickle is done- a week or so; then I’ll post the pic here! -D

This is my entry for JFI August 2007: Chillies, hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail, continuing the tradition set forth by Indira of Mahanandi.

Permalink 31 Comments

Kaeng khiew wan gai (sweet green stew of chicken)

May 31, 2007 at 2:46 AM (animals, birds, chicken, chiles and other capsicums, coconut, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, jackfruit, Jihva entries, Thailand/ Issarn/ Laos, various nuts like me, vegetables/ fruits)

    Oft referred to as the queen of Thai c-c-c…(must I say it? Nope!!) stews, kaeng khiew wan is lushly herbal and fragrant, and most provocatively pale-green from its infusion of krung kaeng khiew wan

kaeng-khiew-wan-gai-2.jpg

    In honor of Jihva for Ingredients: June of 2007: Jackfruit, hosted by Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi, I have constructed a special kaeng khiew wan: I have paired green jackfruit with breast of chicken and added pieces of red capsicum, as well as shelled green peas and sliced mushrooms, to complement the colour scheme. It is finished with a handful each of torn kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil.

    I must be honest with you: this is the first time I have cooked with young, green jackfruit. I have tasted the ripe fruit, but it is a very different thing in vegetable form. Everything I had seen in the mature fruit is here miniaturized, with a unique texture, and a delicate flavour perhaps somewhere between green bean-pods and lychee nuts, or thereabouts! I have seen the swooning of other food-bloggers, but now I understand why; I was forced to purchase another can as I had nibbled my way through an entire one that was reserved for this dish! Thanks to all you swooners out there for introducing me to a new, and very likeable, vegetable.

can-of-green-jackfruit.jpg

    Somehow, the pallid-green pieces of jackfruit turned to an interesting shade of lavender while cooking, but it’s all in the fun…and while making the krung (masala paste) for this stew might be a bit arduous, the actual preparation of a Thai stew is as easy as breathing- honestly! I put the whole thing together while chatting with my mother and her long-time friend and never missed a beat! They even had fun sniffing and tasting some of the ingredients before they were tossed in. The end result, simmering away in my wok, reminds me a bit of a quiet lake with fallen leaves floating on the surface- nothing could be calmer or more relaxing.

Kaeng Khiew Wan Gai
(with green jackfruit, red capsicums, green peas and mushrooms)
(I don’t know the Thai for all of that! 🙂  )

2/3 C krung kaeng khiew wan (green curry paste)

1/2 C coconut cream, 3 C thin coconut milk, 1 C thick coconut milk (or use 2 tins of coconut milk, let it sit for awhile before opening and divide accordingly)*

4 chicken breasts, skin and bones removed, sliced in 1/4″-1/2″ strips (the bones can also be left in for more flavour, and although I often do this, I was in a filleted-kind-of-mood)

3 C green jackfruit, diced into wedges of about 1/2″ (I used two tins as this is all that is available here)

1 lg. red capsicum, diced into 1/4″ x 1″ pieces or sliced into 1/4″ strips

about 7 button or other mushrooms, sliced 1/8″-1/4″ wide

1/2 C shelled green peas

about 12 or so hot, red Thai chiles, stems intact, split along the length

4 T or so nam pla (fish water/sauce)

1 t sugar, or to taste

a handful of kaffir lime leaves, carefully torn on each half

a handful of Thai basil leaves

1)Heat the coconut cream over low heat in a wok or similar utensil and, stiring frquently, allow the oil to separate from the solids. It will just begin to smell roasted.

2)Add the krung and stir and fry until the raw smell disappears.

3)Add the chicken pieces and continue stirring, raise the heat a bit, until the chicken begins to change colour and is well-mixed with the paste.

4)Add the thin coconut milk and allow to come to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to very low and allow to simmer slowly.

5)When the chicken is just tender, add the mushrooms and continue simmering for about 5 minutes or so. If using fresh jackfruit, this should probably be added now as well.

6)Add the remaining vegetables and simmer, stirring now and then until they are almost cooked, but not soft.

7)Add the nam pla and sugar to taste.

8)Add the torn kaffir lime leaves and stir gently. Simmer for 2-3 more minutes.

9)Remove from heat, ladle into a serving dish, and, with a flourish of elegance, pour the thick coconut milk over the surface; use a spoon to swirl it if desired. Scatter over it the basil leaves as well, and serve with hot, steamed Thai jasmine rice, and accompaniments such as Thai cucumber salad and chiles-in-fish-sauce (these you’ll have to search for recipes yourself to try, for now, as I was too hungry and enraptured by the scent of this dish to bother…) 😀

This would serve at least 6 I think, 8 -10 with other dishes. Enjoy!

jihva-icon.jpg

*When using tinned/canned coconut milk, the cream floats at the very top, the thick milk is just underneath, and the watery, thin milk sinks to the bottom.

Permalink 24 Comments

Patra Bajia (stuffed arbi/colocasia/taro leaves) begins the quadrille

April 30, 2007 at 2:37 PM (dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, fusion, Gujerati, India, Jihva entries, legumes/pulses- whole or split, moong, various greens, various nuts like me, vegetables/ fruits)

    “…the leaves contain needle-shaped oxylate crystals that can cause a stinging sensation in the mouth and throat when not properly prepared… ” How nice….that makes me want to dive right in to a plateful….

    The truth is, I’ve already eaten arbi leaves…

    A few years ago, as I was wandering through the aisles of the nearest Indian grocer, I happened upon a can of them, already seasoned, rolled, cooked and sliced, and, as I had no idea what they were, I naturally placed the can in my basket. Upon arriving home, I tucked it away in a corner of the cabinet. When an inquisitive moment paired with a driving need to exoticly-impress a date finally came, I was pleasantly suprised to see whorls of green layered with gold! I removed them as carefully as I could, but as some of you may already know, it is inevitable that a fair portion of these canned goodies will break. However, whole or broken, the taste was unforgettable: rich, dark greens layered with besan, roasted and infused with an unfamiliar formula of spices, fragrant from re-heating in the microwave oven… for Umrikans this will more-than-suffice for exotic. The date? Well… I could tell by the way his mouth fearfully avoided the morsels as he chewed and swallowed that he was far from feeling fond affection; still, he inspected each piece carefully, turning them this way and that with his fork, his head cocked first one way and then the other in a not-so-subtle attempt to understand and unravel their mysterious aesthetic. I had no explanation to offer, just: “…more chutney?”.

    Sometimes, that’s the only way to taste new things in Umrika-land… I looked for them on my next curry leaf run, but it appeared that there was a greater demand for bags of dry, crunchy chaat mixes as these now hung off the corners on clips, filling the entire section, obviously having overgrown their former territory like potted mint will try to do if left unchecked.  I passed up the frozen parathas, the pathetic kerelas and left the store with my new stash of kari-patta.  Instead of cash, I should have searched my trunk and produced a pair of pruning shears for trade…add another hefty item to my expanding list of “things that I must buy online…” (I grumble much more about the sudden, much-more-local loss of Jyoti karhi and dhal makhani, but I’m keeping my chin up, and mouth open for things to come).

    Luckily, recipes for these exquisite, intricate-looking rolls abound in food-blog land. And it isn’t just besan finding its way between the leaves: rice, coconut, and Aunt Karisma’s undies show up in recipes that stretch like crackled elastic from Uttar to Andhra Pradesh. I, however, decided to start my tasting taut and twangy in the sweet-sour state of Gujerat, and collected nine different recipes of similar sort to contrast, compare, calculate and finally arrive at a recipe indicative of the Gujerati opus but without any particular credit in owe.

    Unfortunately I was missing just one, perhaps important, ingredient for my recipe: the arbi leaves. I don’t expect to see them for sale anytime soon, or anywhere nearby. That very nice man from Delhi has a hard-enough time stocking usable tendli, let alone leaves that would never make the menu of the restaurant next door. This summer I’ll grow my own, and post the results if I’m able to speak after the first bite. Collard greens are plentiful here and make a fair substitute.

    Oh, and just for trivial thrills, there are dishes made from the leaves which do not contain a souring agent; apparantly the taro plant(the accepted Umrikani apellation) is crucial to the cuisine of Hawaii, and other Pacific island cultures; for now though, I’d  like to play it safe.* (A tip from Vee of Past, Present and Me: break the stem of an arbi leaf you intend to use, rub the juice on your inner wrist and count to ten; if it stings, the oxylate concentration is too high. Don’t use them. Take it as an omen that you’ve been cooking too much and take the afternoon off from the kitchen. Order out for pizza.)**

Patra Bajia

The multiple steps involved in preparing these may seem daunting, but actually it’s quite easy; you can even do as I did and start a day ahead of serving, casually doing each step when you have time. 

patra-bajia.gif

18 arbi leaves

2 1/2 C besan

2 t ground dry red chiles (more or less to taste; I used more)

1 t turmeric

3 t sugar or gur

salt to taste

3 T oil

1/2 C tamarind paste/extract

3 t ginger paste

water

1 bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped

1)Trim stems from arbi leaves, wash well and pat dry. Carefully slice off the thick center rib of each leaf, taking care that you don’t split them in the process (it happens though- hide these in the middle of the rolls; know one will be the wiser). Place each leaf on a board and gently roll it over with a rolling pin, again being careful not to split the leaves.

2)Divide the leaves by similar size into groups of three.

3)Mix the besan, ground chiles, turmeric, sugar and salt. Add the oil and mix well by hand until the mixture resembles crumbs.

4)Add the tamarind paste, ginger paste and enough water to form a thick, but easily spreadable paste (like peanut butter or yoghurt cheese). Add the coriander leaves and mix well. Check for salt.

5)Taking the groups of leaves in turn, ribbed sides facing up, spread the paste thinly( if you think of it more as an adhesive than a substantial filling, you’ll do fine…in fact, you should be able to adhere them securely to the walls of your kitchen, should you be so moved…) on each of them, placing the next leaf on top of the previous one before spreading the next layer of paste. So, you will have the following configuration: leaf, paste, leaf, paste, leaf, paste. When three have been layered and pasted, and with the tip of the leaves toward you, fold 1-2″ of the  sides toward the center, and then roll firmly starting from the leaf tips to the stem end. Secure the rolls with cotton string (if you wish, or just place it seam-side down) and place in the container of a steaming apparatus. Steam for 40 minutes. Allow the rolls to cool before handling.

6)Now, take each roll, remove the string, and slice crossways carefully, using a sharp knife, into 1/3-1/2″ slices. These may be eaten just as they are with relishes, but most often they are finished with a tempering, such as the following, or deep-fried. I decided to take the middle road:

For the tempering:

3 T oil (if you would like to drizzle or toss them with oil, then use this amount, if you would like to shallow-fry them, use 5-6 T, adding more if necessary)

2 t mustard seeds

2 t cumin seeds

2 t sesame seeds

2 pinches of asafoetida/ hing

1a)Heat oil over med-low heat, add mustard, cumin and sesame seeds; when the mustard seeds splutter, add the hing, swirl and then pour over the sliced rolls. Toss gently to coat if you wish.

1b)If you would like to shallow-fry these, then place a cover on the pan when the seeds begin to splutter and allow them to finish. Remove from heat, and then remove the fried seeds with a spoon. Set these aside. Return the oil to heat and fry the slices on each side until golden brown, adding a little more oil if necessary.

2)In either case, sprinkle them with 3-4 T grated coconut and serve.

If you decided to shallow fry them and still have the reserved fried spices, take them and follow me…

Pel’s Quick-and-easy Pistachio Pilaf

oil 

1/2 C grated coconut, fresh or frozen

the fried spices from the previous recipe

a handful of shelled, roasted pistachios (soaked and skinned as well, if desired)

2 C dry, pilaf-making rice, rinsed well and drained (I tried sona masoori- it worked)

3 1/2 C water

3/8 C coriander-mint chutney (coriander and mint leaves, lime juice, salt, ground roasted cumin)

salt to taste

1)Wipe the inner surface of the pan with oil and roast the coconut until very lightly golden over a low flame, add the fried spices, pistachios and a little oil and fry for about 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid any scorching; add the drained rice and mix very well- about 2 minutes more.

2)Add the water, chutney and salt to taste (I used 1/2 t, but it depends on the saltiness of the chutney); Bring to boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn heat to low and steam for 20 min. Lift lid and fluff with form, re-cover and let stand for a few minutes.

 I needed a dish made of pulses next, so, going with the green theme and the Gujerati flavour, I took this recipe straight out of Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking:

Moong Dhal Na Poora

1 C moong dhal (I used dhal with skin for extra colour and nutrients)

3/4″ piece of ginger, peeled, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1-2 fresh green chiles, cut into 3 pieces

1 t salt, or to taste

1/4 t baking soda (optional…I didn’t use)

1/4 t turmeric

2 T coriander leaves, minced finely

1 small onion, peeled and minced finely

about 1/2 c oil/ghee (I used peanut oil)

1) Pick over the dhal and rinse well; soak in plenty of water for 5 hours; drain.

2)Make a paste or puree of the ginger, garlic and chiles. Grind it with the dhal, adding 1/2 c of water, the salt, baking soda, and turmeric until you have a thick batter. Stir in the onions and coriander leaves.

3)Heat a tava or griddle over medium-low heat; for each poora: drop a teaspoon of oil on the cooking surface, tilt to spread; place 1/3 c of the batter in the center, count to 4, and then with a small ladle or spoon spread the batter by swirling it outward from the center in a spiral, aiming for a 5-6″ circumference; drizzle 1/2 t of oil over the poora surface, and another 1/2 t at the edges; cover and allow to cook for about 2 minutes, or until the underside has a reddish tinge. Flip the poora to the other side, and allow to cook uncovered for about 1 1/2 minutes, until it develops reddish spots.

4)Make all of them this way, stacking them on top of each other. Be sure to stir the batter in the bowl well before each one is made.

 Then, I really needed something special to moisten all of this dryness. Anita’s very delicious and very versatile Walnut and Mint Chutney(of A Mad Tea Party) seemed like the answer -and it was!…. except I used pistachios… which she said is just fine….

I know that you might have an urge to add a bit of garlic or ginger or temper-of-hing to this, but don’t! The Kashmiri Pandit Chutney Patrol (KPCP)will come after you if you do!!!!

patra-bajia3.gif

If you are feeling really fancy, you can make little spoons of celery-sticks, like I did!! 😀

(Ooops! It looks like a Marathi specialty wanted to sneak into the post too… oh well!)

I had a few of the patra bajia left over a fter a few days, and as I was making sweet-cassava pakoras for some company and had hot oil at the ready, I decided to deep-fry some of them as well…. Although I was at first dismayed watching my hard-earned spirals unravel in the oil, the final effect is astoundingly beautiful: a bit like mini-galaxies….

patra-bajia-4.gif

(that’s a lousy photo… make them and see for yourself! They are very crispy… and remain crispy for a looooong time…)

    This is my entry to Jihva for Ingredients- Greens, May 2007, hosted by Indira of Mahanandi, co-hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail. This month’s JFI marks the one-year anniversary of this Indian food-blogging event. May it continue for a hundred more!

 

Oxalic acid may be present in the corm and especially in the leaf, and these foods should be eaten with milk or other foods rich in calcium so as to remove the risks posed by ingesting the free oxalic radical especially for people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis. Calcium reacts with the oxalate to form calcium oxalate which is very insoluble.” (Wikipedia, the full entry can be read here)

**Pel may have added that last part… 🙂 But in consolation, a concisely-written page about taro may be found here.

Permalink 21 Comments

Pide with a savoury filling of tomatoes, brinjals, and capsicums

March 31, 2007 at 5:35 PM (aubergines/brinjals/eggplant, chiles and other capsicums, dishes by cuisine, fusion, Jihva entries, tomatoes, various ground seeds)

The story goes like this: Three elegantly-dressed ladies: A Marathi, a Malayali, and a Konkani from Karnataka, sashay into a Turkish restaurant together and politely request of the chef to prepare something that all of them would like. After summoning his only waiter to their side, he takes a moment to ponder the task set before him, and then begins to work in his kitchen. Little do they know he isn’t really a Turk…but he has dabbled enough in the cuisine to be open for lunch now and then; today is their lucky day it seems…. a short time later, after they’ve serenely polished off a few cool drinks while waiting, the chef returns, grinning from ear to ear.  With just a hint of smugness, he sets down a platter of steaming and fragrant…………

filled-pide-two.gif

Well, you probably know the rest of the tale. This story is as old as the hills!

One of these and a few small sides can make for a wonderful lunch, or serve with cocktails or at tea-time, cut across into 1″ slices for beautiful dainty finger food. As they are bread-and-side-dish in one, these are excellent to take on picnics or outings of any kind for a convenient meal.

It is almost necessary to have a baking tile or tiles or “pizza stone” set on the middle position rack of your oven for these to be successful. (see note) The filling for this can be made a day or two in advance. In fact it is somewhat better to do so, allowing the complex flavours to blend quite harmoniously.

Pide with a savoury filling of tomatoes, brinjals, and capsicums

For the filling: 

6-8 small brinjals(about 3 cups), tops removed, halved, and sliced to 1/4″

1 1/2 t salt

1 1/2 T oil

1/2 C besan

2-3 t oil

a pinch of asafoetida

3/4 t black mustard seeds

1/2 t cumin seeds

1 t fenugreek seeds

6 curry leaves, chopped

2 t ground red chiles

1/2 t turmeric

1/4 t ground black pepper

2 C mild or sweet capsicums(such as bell, poblanos, new mexico, california), chopped to 1/2″

2 C tomatoes, skinned and chopped fresh or canned

2 fresh green chiles, seeded and sliced thinly

8 cloves of garlic, minced or pasted

1/2 C water

3/4 t salt (or to taste)

2/3 C finely-chopped coriander leaves

1)Sprinkle the brinjal slices with salt in a bowl, mix well, and let stand for an hour. Drain off the liquid that accumulates and rinse three times. Squeeze out as much water as possible with your hands or by using a piece of cheesecloth. Heat 1 1/2 T oil in a pan and fry the slices until nicely browned and somewhat dry. Remove these to a dish lined with cloth or paper to cool and drain the excess oil. Chop roughly and set aside.

2)In a pan set over medium-low heat, roast the besan until fragrant and a shade darker. Set aside.

3)Heat 1 1/2 t oil in a wok or karahi. Add the hing, a second later add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add the curry leaves and ground spices. Stir once or twice and then add the capsicum, tomatoes and chiles. (mind the spluttering)

4)Cook this mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently as the mixture reduces, until the oil appears at the edges and it has formed a paste. Turn heat to low.

5)Add the brinjals and garlic and continue to fry, stirring constantly, for 4 more minutes.

6)Add the water and salt to taste and mix well. Add the roasted besan and mix until well-combined. You should have a thick paste now. Add the coriander leaves and remove from heat.

Making the pide:

1 T active dry yeast

1/2 t sugar

1/2 C warm( not hot) water

1/2 C all-purpose flour

3 1/2 C bread flour

1 t salt

3 T oil

1 C plus 1 T lukewarm water

filling from above 

1 egg, lightly beaten

kalonji seeds

1)Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. It should have bubbles. Stir in the A-P flour, cover with plastic and let rise 30 minutes.

2)Place the bread flour in a large bowl; make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, salt, oil, and lukewarm water. Gradually work the flour into the contents of the well to form a dough. Take this dough and knead it on a floured surface for 15 minutes until it is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticks to your hands. Add more flour if necessary and continue kneading until the dough no longer is sticky.

3)Oil the large bowl and place the dough back into it; cover with plastic and let rise 1 hour.

4)Take the dough out and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, place on a floured sheet or tray and cover with a damp towel. Set aside for 30 minutes.

5)Preheat oven with tiles at 500-550 F for 30 minutes before you bake.

6)Take each ball and roll out roughly to a 6″ X 12″ oval on an oiled board. Divide the filling into 8 parts and place a portion on each oval. Spread the filling, keeping 1/2″ away from the edges. Fold the two long sides of the dough over the filling, the edges overlapping along the center. Press down on the folded edges a bit. At the ends, pinch together 1″ from each side to seal. Brush the tops with beaten egg, sprinkle with kalonji seeds.

7)Place one or two pide on the hot tiles at a time and bake 6 minutes, until golden. Keep the finished pide wrapped in a dry towel to stay warm while you finish baking. While you bake, you can assemble the next in line.

filled-pide-three.gif

This my entry for Jihva for Tomatoes, hosted by RP of My Workshop. As this is my first time participating in a Jihva For Ingredients, begun by Indira of Mahanandi, I hope I did it correctly!

jihva-for-tomatoes.jpg

The structure for these filled pide was taken from Ayla Algar’s beautiful cookbook, Classical Turkish Cooking. The filling, created by me, was not only heavily inspired by one from this book, but by several other recipes, most notably bharleli mirchi from Anita and her mother-in-law, Manisha’s lovely transcription of a recipe for thakkali chutney by Ammini Ramachandran, and Shilpa’s very nourishing tomato saru. My thanks to them and to all of my readers for your support and encouragement in my new blog. I hope to continue posting recipes of interest in the future. Stay tuned!

NOTE: Unglazed quarry tiles, available at home improvement centers or ceramic tile suppliers, can be, and are often used for baking. Before using, rinse them well and allow to dry several days. Season with oil and heat in a hot oven for a few minutes. Thereafter, keep the tiles oiled often until shiny and black. Scrape to clean and, if necessary use water only (no soap of any kind!) and allow to dry thoroughly before using.(they will crack if still damp).

 

Permalink 23 Comments