September 27, 2013

When It Comes To The Crunch, And I get Crack-ering! – Crunchy Savoury Seed Crackers

N
n some things my husband and I are quite opposite when it comes to our tastes in food. When he gets hungry or the craving for a snack strikes, he will reach out for something sweet nine times out of ten. I, on the other hand, stretch out for something savoury and preferably a little spicy.
It’s rarely that I see a real good recipe for crackers and I’m not tempted to make them. They’re great to munch on but they’re also usually very easy to make. Knead some dough,  season them with whatever takes your fancy at the given time, roll them out real thin, mark/ cut them out and bake them till done. That’s really all the effort it takes.
 
 
 
So when the Bread Baking Babes decided to bake some Seed Crackers this month, I knew I was with them on this one. Tanna (the Babe for the month) picked these Seed Crackers for them and some of us to bake. I liked that the recipe uses whole wheat flour also and a selection of seeds to top them.



I did adapt the recipe to suit my tastes a bit. The original recipe seemed a little on the blander side for my taste buds which have been subjected to the variety of Indian spices so I added some toasted and crushed cumin seeds as well as a bit of crushed black pepper.
I used only powdered flax seed in the dough and left out the whole seeds because I felt the seeds would prevent me from being able to roll out the dough as thin as I wanted it. From my past experience with making crackers, I know that dough that’s not rolled out thin enough gives you chewy crackers! And crackers are meant be crisp, that’s why they are called crackers!!



 
Use the measurement of the various seeds for the toppings as a guideline rather than an absolute measurement. I used a lot less of flax seed and sunflower seeds (which I think of as parrot food!), and more of sesame seeds and melon seeds.





You might find that these crackers will not be good on the shelf for too long because of the seeds, as the oil in them will give off a rancid taste after about 4 to 5 days (at least in my kind of hot tropical weather).
Crunchy Savoury Seed Crackers
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)
 
Ingredients:
 
For the dough:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp roasted and crushed cumin seeds
1 to 1 1/2 tsp freshly crushed pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tbsp powdered flax seed (golden or brown)
1/8 cup oil
1 cup (approx.) lukewarm water 
For the topping:
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1/4 cup whole flax seeds, brown or golden
1/4 cup melon or pumpkin seeds
 
Method:
Put all the ingredients for  the dough into the processor bowl and knead until you have a reasonably stiff dough. If the dough feels dry, then add a couple of tbsp. of water (one at a time) till you get the desired texture of dough.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise for about an hour and a half until it has risen quite a bit.  
Divide the dough into three (or two depending on the size of your baking sheets) portions. Working with one portion at a time, roll out each into a rectangle about 12” by 8”. The dough should be quite thin. If you find the dough shrinking back as you roll it tout, let it rest for 10 minutes. Then roll it out again.
The best way is to roll the dough out on parchment paper of a size that will fit your baking sheet. Spritz or generously brush the top of the rectangle with water (it should be damp but not soggy) and sprinkle the seeds uniformly over it. Use your rolling pin to press the seeds down into the dough.


 
Slowly lift the parchment with the seeded dough and place it on your baking sheet. Dock the dough rectangle with the tines of a fork so that it doesn’t bubble up while baking. Using a pizza/ pie wheel cut the rectangle into squares, rectangles or triangles. You don’t have to cut right through, but deep enough that you can break them once they’re baked.
Repeat with the other two portions. Let the dough rectangles rise for about 30 to 45 minutes. They will look a bit puffy.
Bake them at 170C (340F) for about 20 to 30 minutes till they’re done and golden brown in colour. Turn off the oven, open the door a little and let them cool down in the oven.


 
Once they have cooled, break them and store in an airtight tin. This recipe makes three 12” by 8”.  sheets of crackers. The number of crackers would depend on how you cut them. I cut mine into long rectangles (about 3” by 1 1/2" approx.) and got 18 crackers from each sheet.

These Crackers are going off to be YeastSpotted!
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September 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #9 : Khaliat Nahal (Honeycomb Buns or Bee’s Hive Buns)

T
his moth we’re baking a bread that can be made sweet or savoury. Kahliat Nahal (also known as Khaliat al Nahal) translates as Bees’ Hive in Arabic taking its name from its appearance. The buns are baked close to each other in a round pan where they form a honeycomb like pattern. These buns are easy enough to make and traditionally they’re made sweet using slightly sweetened dough filled with cream cheese. After the buns are baked, they’re covered with sugar syrup/ glaze which is typical of many Middle Eastern confectionery.




I understand that in many Muslim communities, this bread is made during the fasting period of Ramadan. It is served as sweet dish during “Iftar”, the evening meal that follows breaking the day long fast that is observed during Ramadan. This bread is perfect to serve then because Iftars are community events, and the shape of the bread lends itself to being torn/ pulled apart easily to serve oneself.
Though one finds Honeycomb Buns are usually sweet, they’re also made with a variety of savoury fillings and without the syrup/ glaze naturally.
This recipe makes 18 smallish buns, and if you want fewer you can halve the recipe to make about 9 or 10 buns and bake them in a 6” or 7” round cake tin. You can also bake them individually in muffin tins if you prefer, except they would not have their characteristic “honeycomb” pattern.






Savoury version with spiced paneer and spring onion filling and sesame seeds on top

Traditionally, the filling used in this bread is a small piece of plain cream cheese but here choice of filling is entirely up to you. You can make it sweet or savoury. I used a mixture of sliced spring onions and paneer spiced with mixed dried herbs and red chilli flakes.

I also made a half recipe of the sweet ones filled with semi-sweet chocolate. I was expecting the buns to be very sweet so I only brushed the buns with two coats of the sugar syrup/ glaze but I can see how they would be really good if you poured the syrup over the baked buns.
 
 
Sweet version with semi-sweet chocolate filling and sugar syrup/ glaze
 
Remember that the buns should be hot out of the oven and the syrup at room temperature for the best results. Here’s a good video to watch in case you think you need it, to make these buns.  
Khaliat Nahal (Honeycomb Buns or Bee’s Hive Buns)
 

Ingredients:

For the dough:

1 cup lukewarm milk
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar (for sweet bread)
3/4 to 1 tsp salt (for savoury bread) OR 1/4 tsp salt (for sweet bread)
40gm butter, melted
2 tbsp milk for brushing the dough
2 tbsp white sesame seeds for sprinkling on top (optional; only for savoury bread) 

For the filling:

1 cup of filling (approximately) of your choice, either sweet or savoury
Savoury - cream cheese OR crumbled feta cheese OR crumbled paneer/ cottage cheese, flavoured according to your choice. You can also use any other savoury filling that you want. I used a combination of crumbled paneer, herbs, chilli flakes, a little garlic and chopped spring onion.
Sweet - cream cheese (traditional filling), or any other filing of your choice like chocolate,   dried fruit like dates, apricots or raisins, chopped nuts, chopped fruit , sweetened coconut filling, etc. 

Sugar Syrup/ Glaze:

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
A pinch of saffron
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp lime/ lemon juice
 

Method:

Make sure your melted butter has cooled down a bit before using it. Put 2 cups of the flour, salt, sugar (if making the sweet bread only) and melted butter in the bowl of your processor. Run a couple of times to mix well.
Combine the milk, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and keep for 5 minutes. Add this to the processor bowl and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough which is not sticky. Add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as you need to get this consistency of bread dough. I used all of 2 1/2 cups of flour for mine.
 

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl, turning it to coat completely with the oil. Cover and let it rise till double in volume, for about an hour.
Turn the dough out onto your work surface. You won’t really need to flour it as the dough is quite manageable as it is. Cut it into 2 halves. With your palms, roll out each half a “rope” about 9” long. Cut each rope into 1” pieces so you have a total of 18 pieces.

 
Take each piece and flatten it out a little and place half a teaspoon of filling in the centre. Pull up the sides and wrap the dough around the filling, pinching it closed at the top. Smoothen it into a round ball. Place this in a well-greased round 9” cake tin. Repeat with the remaining 17 pieces and the filling. Arrange the filled balls of dough in concentric circles, filling the base of the cake tin.
Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for about 30 to 40 minutes. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle the sesame seeds over this. Don’t use the sesame seeds for sweet bread, only for the savoury one. Bake the buns at 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes, until they’re done and a nice golden brown on top.


 Let them cool in the tin for about 5 minutes and then on a wire rack.
If you’re making the sweet version, make the sugar syrup/ glaze during the first rise of the dough. For this put the sugar, water and saffron in a small pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes until it starts thickening a bit. Take it off the heat and add the honey and the lime/ lemon juice. Mix well and let it cool. Keep aside till needed.

 
When the sweet buns come out of the oven, pour the syrup all over the top of the “Honeycomb”.  The bread should be hot and the syrup/ glaze should be cool. If you want your Honeycomb Buns to be less sweet, just brush the syrup/ glaze over the top.
Let it sit for a while for the syrup/ glaze to set a bit. Serve them warm with tea/ coffee.
These Honeycomb Buns are being YeastSpotted!


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September 22, 2013

Apple & Paneer Rabdi/ Rabri/ Payasam/Kheer (A Creamy Indian Milk Pudding/ Dessert)

L
ike I mentioned in my last post, I always try to add a couple of non-traditonal dishes to the traditional festive lunch for Onam. Its just my way of adding some excitement to the otherwise predictable menu. This year I made a Lime Pachadi (Steamed Limes in Seasoned Yogurt) and an Apple & Paneer Rabri/ Rabdi.
I usually make two payasams (sweet dishes/ South Indian style puddings), one with sugar and milk and the other with jaggery and coconut milk. This time, Onam arrived on a working day which meant there was nop one but me at home for lunch. So we decided to have our festive meal for dinner. This practise of having lunch for dinner was unheard of in the old days, but one must change a little with the times in order to preserve certain traditions for fear of losing them altogether.




We are not very used to having very heavy meals at night, so I decided to make just one payasam this year and that too a non-traditional one. My fruit basket was over flowing with apples because I couldn’t resist temptation during my visit to the market and came home with more than we could eat. On my routine weekly trip to the market last week, I saw these beautiful sweet green Indian apples so I bought some. Then I saw some lovely red and yellow ones, so I bought a few of those too. Who can resist locally grown fresh produce? Not me!
My husband took one look at me take the apples out of my shopping bags and remarked, “You’re going to photograph them, aren’t you?” Well, I bought those apples for that too!


 
So I needed to put some of those apples to good use, and turning them into a sweet dish for Onam seemed a good way to go. Rather than cook a typical South Indian style Payasam (called Kheer in North India), I was going to make one with apples in it. You can use green or red apples so long as they are sweet kind. Look for sweet and reasonably firm apples (no tart ones here please) as you don’t want them to disintegrate to mush on the milk while cooking.
One thing to watch out for is the curdling/ splitting of milk when adding acidic fruit to it like apples. I didn't have this experience and it might have been because I had reduced the milk down before adding the grated apple. One way to make sure this doesn't happen is to add the grated apple (grate it a little finer for this) after cooking the Rabdi, and folding it in.

I chose to make a Rabdi (or Rabri as it is sometimes called). Rabdi is a sweet, milk based dish made by boiling the milk on low heat for a long time until it becomes thick and almost pinkish in colour. The sugar, cardamom and a large amount of chopped/ sliced nuts (almonds and pistachios) give the Rabri its distinctive flavour. Rabri can be served warm but is usually served chilled.



 
The trick to a good Rabdi is to slowly reduce the milk to about 1/3rd its original quantity while constantly scraping down the solids that collect on the side of the pan. These bits of rich milk solids add texture to the Rabri giving it a hint of chewiness. One can also add a bit of crumbled paneer (an Indian fresh milk cheese) to the Rabri while its cooks to enhance this texture.
So it is important to use a heavy/ thick walled pot or pan to reduce the milk without having it catch at the bottom and burn. There are short-cut methods to reduce the time involved in cooking down the milk, like using condensed milk to make Rabdi. While this works too, nothing brings out the taste of the Rabdi like the longer way of cooking it. You will also not get the “grainy” texture that is typical of Rabdi.



 
Rabri is a rich pudding and the best way to savour it is in small quantities. While Rabri is served on its own as a sweet or dessert, it is also served as an accompaniment (sometimes unsweetened or mildly sweetened) to other Indian sweets like Malpua, Jalebi or Gulab Jamun much like sauces are served with Western desserts.
Apple & Paneer Rabdi/ Rabri/ Payasam/Kheer
 

Ingredients:

1 litre milk (preferably full fat)
2 medium firm apples, peeled, cored and grated
2/3 cup sugar/ powdered jaggery/ brown sugar
1/2 cup crumbled paneer (optional)
1/4 tsp cardamom (elaichi) powder
A few drops of rose water (optional)
1/8 cup sliced almonds
1/8 cup sliced pistachios
 

Method:

Pour the milk into a thick bottomed pan, preferably non-stick and bring it to boil, stirring frequently. At no point must the milk stick to the bottom and burn since cooking the milk is a slightly lengthy process.
Turn down the heat and let the milk simmer until it is reduced to almost 1/3rd the original quantity and has become thick in consistency. Throughout this time, stir on and off to ensure the milk doesn’t stick to the bottom, and scrape down the milk solids which tend to stick to the sides of the pan.
If you want to make this more like a Payasam/ Kheer, then do not cook the milk until it isalmost reduced to almost 1/3rd. Just cook down the milk until it is a bit thick, somewhat like the consistency of a thick evaporated mik. Rabdi should be thick enough to require a spoon to eat it with, whereas a Payasam/ Kheer should be slighly thinner in consistency.
While the milk is cooking down, peel, core and grate (not too finely, so you can taste it in the cooked Rabdi) the apples into a bowl of water so they do not turn brown. Do not use lemon juice for this as it will curdle the milk when you add the grated apple to it.
When the milk has almost reached the required thick consistency, add the grated apple (after draining the water completely) and let it cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the crumbled paneer and cook for another couple of minutes. Now add the sugar and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and add the cardamom and the rose water and stir well. Let it cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate the Payasam/ Kheer/ Rabdi till ready to serve.
When ready to serve, spoon the Payasam/ Kheer/ Rabdi into individual servng glasses or dishes and garnish generously with sliced almonds and pistachios. You do need to use blanched almonds, but the ones with their skins. If you lightly toast the nuts before slicing them, they lend a lovely taste to the dessert.
This recipe serves 6.
You can take the basic recipe for Rabri and create variations of it. Adding saffron to Rabdi is something that is frequently done. One of course, is to add apples like I did, or even mixed fruit to Rabdi but not cook them in the milk. You can also add thick mango purée to it after the milk has reduced down, for a mango flavoured Rabri. Very small Rasgullas can be added to Rabdi for yet another variation.

 
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September 18, 2013

Cherunaranga Khichadi/ Thayir Pachadi (Steam Cooked Limes in Seasoned Yogurt)

I
have been on a bit of a short break from blogging , one of the many  these past few months, since my last post earlier this month. As usual, I’ve just been busy with lots of small stuff that needed to be done. Add two festivals - Vinayaka Chathurthi and Onam, my daughter’s week long vacation from school and hearty dose of sheer laziness to the mix and you’ll have some idea why I haven’t got around to sitting down and writing a post.
I have been doing a fair amount of cooking and photographing some of it for the blog all through this time, but just haven’t got around to editing the photographs and been able to write up posts to accompany them. I find that I spend a fair amount of time on writing for the blog, and it’s not easy to keep coming up with new material or re-invent myself every time. This is especially true when one does not have a gift for writing.
Right now whatever little talent I have for writing seems to have temporarily deserted me, so I’ll keep the post short. My recipe for today is what we at home call a Thayir Pachadi or a Kichadi. A Thayir Pachadi or Khichadi is a yogurt based side dish made with a variety of chopped vegetables and sometimes fruit.  Please note that a Khichadi (South Indian preparation) is different from the Khichdi (North Indian preparation) that’s usually made of rice/ wheat/ tapioca pearls.



 
This is a dish similar to the North Indian Raita yet different. While both dishes have a healthy amount of thick yogurt in them, the North Indian Raita tends to be lightly spiced while the South Indian version usually tends to be slightly more (but not too much) spicier, usually also has ground chillies and coconuts and is tempered. This South Indian Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi is a bit unusual as it does not have coconut, but uses coconut milk instead.
Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi (or the Raita) is an everyday dish made with vegetables like English cucumber,  Indian yellow cucumber, tomatoes, beetroot, okra, and for festive occasions with fruit like pineapple, grapes, mangoes, etc.
Now the Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi is a very intrinsic part of a festive meal in Kerala, and with Onam around the corner (I’m talking about the situation 2 weeks back) I was trying to plan my festive menu. Cooking up more or less the same dishes every Onam can be boring and predictable so I like to change the menu a bit every year.
This year I decided to experiment with the Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi and the Payasam, which is a sweet preparation (and I will blog about next). Some time back I had come across a recipe for a Khichadi made with steam cooked limes from Lakshmi Nair’s Malayalam cookbook Pachakaruchi.



 
Lakshmi Nair is a popular cookbook author in Kerala and her food show on television is very avidly followed by many, for both her traditional and other recipes. I was a bit hesitant to try out this recipe – I mean doesn’t the combination of sour Indian limes and yogurt sound a bit crazy?

However a couple of reviews of this recipe I found on the net seemed to suggest that this was a much loved preparation that had made it back to their tables more than once. That gave the courage to experiment on my unsuspecting family.

I wasn’t expecting much, but I must say I did like it. The sourness of the limes was quite balanced out by the salt, yogurt, coconut milk and the sugar. The only thing would be to use the thin-skinned ripe yellow coloured limes for this Thayir Pachadi/ Khichadi. The thick-skinned ones would leave an undertone of bitterness in the yogurt which is not very pleasant. Even when you are careful about picking out good limes, you might still end up with the occasional bitter tasting lime. Also make sure when you steam cook your limes, that they are cooked till soft.
Cherunaranga Kichadi (Limes in Seasoned Yogurt)
 

Ingredients: 

4 largish limes (you may use lemons too)
2 green chillies, chopped
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 cup thick plain yogurt
1/2 cup coconut milk*
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red chillies, broken into 2 or 3 bits
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
2 sprigs curry leaves 

*If using fresh coconut milk, use the first pressed thick coconut milk.
 

 Method: 

Wash and pat the limes dry. Steam cook them whole, until they’re soft, a bit opaque and tender to touch. Allow them to cool. Then cut each lemon into half and each half into small pieces (fours or sixes). Sprinkle some salt (about a tsp) over the lime pieces and toss them to coat well. Cover this and let them sit for about 24 to 48 hours.
 
 

Make the Khichadi about a couple of hours before serving. Put the yogurt, coconut milk and sugar in a bowl and lightly whisk till smooth. Add the cooked lime pieces, ginger and green chillies and mix well with a spoon. Taste and add more sal, if necessary.

Refrigerate the Khichadi till ready to serve it. Just before serving, heat the coconut oil in a small pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add red chillies, fenugreek seeds and the asafoetida, stir once or twice and turn off the heat. Add the curry leaves and pour this into the Khichadi.

Serve on the side with rice. This recipe serves 4.
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September 11, 2013

Green Grapes Raita (Green Grapes in Spiced Yogurt)

H
ow many times have you wanted to dish up something that is beyond pedestrian without putting in a lot of effort or time in the kitchen? I have those moments a lot, and I’m not talking about opening the kind of cooking that involves a packet or emptying the contents of a tin into a pot!
I have always said that much as I enjoy cooking and exploring various techniques and cuisines, it definitely does not mean that I enjoy slaving in the kitchen. I don’t mind doing the “nose to the kitchen grind” thing occasionally but I’d prefer those occasions to be rather far apart.



 
So I tend to look for simple, tasty and nutritious options when it comes to cooking by and large and it’s not just for my everyday cooking. This is more especially the case when we’re having company for dinner when I don’t want to spend all my time sweating it over my pots and pans. For me these dinners with friends or family is more about being together and a little less about the food.
For these occasions, my menus tend to be a mix of dishes I can cook ahead or at least do most of the preparation ahead of time and some dishes which are simple enough that I can put together just before I serve them without much effort.
Occasionally, I will cook something which has to be served hot at the table straight from the stove-top but these are usually when my friends are with me in the kitchen, so not only do I have help but it’s also catch-up time without the men folk or kids.



If you are not very familiar with Indian food, a Raita is a North Indian dish yogurt based side dish, something like a Tzatziki, but not as thick in consistency as a dip. It is usually mildly spiced and can be made with chopped raw or cooked vegetables, diced fruit or even gram flour (besan) fritters called “Boondhi” or “Sev”. In my part of the South, we make something similar called “Thayir Pachadi” which sometimes uses grated coconut as well.




Today’s dish, the Green Grape Raita, is one of those dishes which can be put together and served without much preparation, looks good and has nice sweetness from the green grapes in it. The use of green grapes makes it a little unusual from the usual garden variety of Raita, different enough to serve at a special dinner or a party.  Do use a sweet and seedless variety of green grapes for the best results.

You can even run the grapes in a blender to break them down and then fold that into thick Greek style yogurt, along with some crushed mint, to serve as a dip. Whether you would like the tempering with oil and spices for your dip, is entirely up to you.
Green Grapes Raita (Green Grapes in Spiced Yogurt)
 

Ingredients:

3/4 cup seedless green grapes
1 1/2 cup thick yogurt
1 1/2 tsp oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1 tsp split Black gram lentils (urad dal)
1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp red chilli powder (as you prefer)
Salt to taste
 

Method: 

Wash the grapes, pat them dry and cut them into halves, lengthwise. 
Add the sugar, salt and chilli powder to the yogurt and whisk with a fork till it is smooth. Fold the chopped grapes into the yogurt and chill till you’re ready to serve the Raita.
Just before serving, transfer the Raita into a serving bowl. Heat the oil in a small pan, and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the lentils and turn the heat down to low. Stir this until the lentils turn a golden brown. Then add the fenugreek and cumin seeds, and the asafoetida. Stir once or twice and turn off the heat. Add the curry leaves and pour this into the yogurt.
You can serve this Raita on the side with rice, pulao/ biryani or chappathis/ naan. This recipe will serve 3. You can double or triple this recipe to serve more people.
 
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September 1, 2013

Sabudhana Khichdi (Tapioca Pearls Cooked With Potatoes, Peanuts & Coconut)

A
Khichdi is a mildly spiced Indian preparation, usually of rice or sometimes broken wheat and lentils cooked into a thick pudding-like consistency. A Khichdi is usually high in simple carbohydrates, and lower in protein and fats than in other foods making it easily digestible and good for those recovering from illnesses or breaking religious fasts.
Sabudhana, also known as Tapioca pearls in India, is extracted from the root of the Tapioca (or Cassava).  Tapioca Pearls are also referred to as Sago but it is not the same as Sago though it looks like Sabudhana, is extracted from the stem pith of the Sago Palm. This makes Sabudhana/ Tapioca Pearls gluten-free.
In most recipes Sago can be substituted with  Tapioca Pearls and vice versa. Sabudhana comes as smaller sized and bigger sized pearls and both need to be soaked in water ( the time will vary according to size) to re-hydrate and soften them before cooking.



 
Back home, Sabudhana is known as Javvarishi (or Chovvari) and we rarely used in anything except making vadam/ karuvadam (sundried rice fritters similar to pappads). I have seen people make payasam/ kheer (Indian milk based pudding) with Sabudhana but this is not something I like because Sabudhana has a “thickening” property due to its high starch content and I don’t like the texture of this milk based pudding.
Sabudhana is however a very popular ingredient in certain dishes cooked in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. This is especially so in dishes cooked to break religious fasts observed by Hindus here which require abstaining from grain during the periods of these fasts. This also means that these dishes are cooked without onion and garlic. However, the Sabudhana Khichdi is not just a “fasting” day food but is also an extremely popular breakfast dish as well as a street food, especially in Maharashtra.



 
Sabudhana Khichdi, unlike other types of Khichdi is not cooked with lentils. It is instead an Indian style stir-fried dish  which though easy enough to make owes its success (or failure) to how well the Sabudhana is soaked and hydrated, and a lot of people, including myself, have problems with getting this right.
I’m happy tohave conquered that challenge now.  The finicky nature of the Sabudhana itself means that if you soak it for too long, it disintegrates into a mushy starchy mess. Soak it for less time and it remains hard and chewy.

If you get the texture of the soaked Sabudhana right then your Khichdi will be fluffy in texture with each pearl separate when cooked; otherwise it results in ungainly looking clumps!
I cannot think of anything in English that comes close to describing this dish but think of the Sabudhana Khichdi as a sort of pulao/ pilaf, or maybe like couscous in texture but mildly spiced with green chillies, crushed peanuts and coconut. It’s a dish that can be eaten on its own or served with sweetend yogurt or a green or coconut chutney on the side.



 
I discovered and fell in love with Sabudhana Khichdi and Sabudhana Vada/ Fritters a long time ago as a teenager, when visiting my cousin years back in Mumbai when it was still Bombay. His wife would cook up the most awesome food (she was also an accomplished painter, and did some of the most awesome embroidery I’ve seen), and her Sabudhana Khichdi and Vadas are the best I’ve ever eaten to date. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t particularly interested in food in those days beyond eating it, and she is no longer around to give me her recipe.

My first few attempts at cooking this Khichdi weren’t exactly the best. However the discovery that it the secret of this whole Khichdi business was in mastering the soaking and draining technique, got me back on track.
You will find that in most dishes where Sabudhana is used, the nutritional value in increased and balanced out by adding proteins and fats to the extent where they are still light and easily digested, as no matter what, these still remain foods cooked especially for breaking religious fasts.



 
With a little planning ahead (soaking the Sabudhana), it’s a breakfast that’s light, filling and takes very little time to make which is great for busy mornings.  This also makes for a good evening after school snack for children, and for adults too on days when you want something a little substantial with your evening tea/ coffee.
Sabudhana Khichdi
 

Ingredients:

1 cup sabudhana/ tapioca pearls (I used the smaller variety)
1 tbsp oil (or ghee if you prefer)
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida (optional)
1 tsp finely minced ginger (optional)
1 sprig curry leaves
1 or 2 green chillies, chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled (about 1 cup or so)
1/3 cup roasted and coarsely powdered/ broken unsalted peanuts (skinned)
1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
1 to 2 tsp lime juice
2 to 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
Salt to taste
 

Method :

Wash the Sabudhana and then put it in a bowl. Add enough water to just submerge it. Cover and let it soak for about 2 to 3 hours. Remember that Sabudhana can differ in size and batch so the soaking time may differ. And if you get Sago Pearls, then it would take a little longer to hydrate.
Once the Sabudhana is properly hydrated, it should turn from white to translucent, fluff up to almost twice its size, and you should be able to squish it well if you press a pearl between your thumb and forefinger.
Once the Sabudhan is hydrated, wash it once again, to remove small broken bits and then let it drain for about an hour.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan or wok, and add the mustard seeds. When they pop, turn down the heat and add the cumin seeds and asfetida. Stir a couple of times and add the chopped ginger, green chillies and curry leaves. Again stir a couple of times and add the turmeric powder. Stir and add the Sabudhana/ Tapioca Pearls, and keep stirring well so that the Sabudhana doesn’t clump or stick to the bottom or sides of the pan.
Add the potatoes and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the powdered groundnuts/ peanuts and stir so it’s all mixed well together. Take the pan off the heat, and add the coconut. Stir well. Now add the lime juice, mix and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve warm.
This should serve 3. Serve plain as it is, or topped with sev/ bhjia (deep-fried chickpea flour vermicelli) for a crunch. You may also serve it with sweetened yogurt or a green or coconut chutney. 

Notes:

As I mentioned before, if you get the soaking of the Sabudhana/ Tapioca Pearls right, then most of your worries are over with this dish. The trick is to make sure they’re fully hydrated but haven’t turned mushy. They should be almost twice in size if hydrated properly and will turn translucent from white.
The occasional pearl might still stay white and if you can squish it, then its alright.
Every brand of Sabudhana differs from the next unfortunately so the soaking time can vary, so you have go with your intuition, largely.
The best way to proceed is to put the Sabudhana in a flatter bowl rather than a deep one. Then cover it with enough water so that the Sabudhana is just submerged. I personally find overnight soaking tends to turn it too soft/ mushy. So what I do is to soak the Sabudhana for about 2 to 3 hours, turning it well with a spoon in between, so that it hydrates uniformly.
Then I wash out the soaked Sabudhna so that the small broken bits are removed and then keep it to drain for about an hour. Then I make my Khichdi. If you want to make this for breakfast, you can do the soaking and draining the previous evening/ night, and then refrigerate it. Do not let it sit in the fridge for longer than overnight.
Do not powder the groundnuts/ peanuts too fine. The fine particles will make the Khichdi sticky. Coarsely ground (or pounded) groundnuts/ peanuts is the way to go.

Ground nuts/ peanuts are an intrinsic part of this dish. You may leave out the potatoes and coconut, if you wish. I personally prefer the version without potatoes, and like lots of groundnuts/ peanuts in my Sabudhana Khichdi.
Do not re-heat the Khichdi once  you have added the lemon juice.


This Khichdi is my submission to Susan's My Legume Love Affair that is now co-ordinated by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen and is being hosted this month by Swathi of the Zesty South Indian Kitchen.

 
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