LOAFING AROUND…FOCACCIA with garlic, onion & fresh basil

“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.”
Aesop
VICTORY LOAF….FOCACCIA!
Come spring & you find breads being baked with renewed fervour. Easter holiday breads are popping up all over the blogosphere…from hot cross buns to sweet braided loaves! I too have abandoned with glee my yeastophobia & jumped into the fray… though not with a sweet bread. I decided to make focaccia the other day. For me this finally symbolises victory over my fear of yeast! I’m ready to conquer the world of breads!! What better time but with the advent of Spring…
Fun with dough… mastering the plait!
This flat bread topped with olive oil, spices and other products is an early prototype of modern pizza. The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks.
Focaccia, known and loved in Italy and abroad, is a yeasted bread dough, often mixed or spread with oil, herbs, or onion, and ancient way of cooking bread dough quickly, possibly connected with offerings made by the Romans to the gods, liba… Early versions were cooked on the hearth of a hot fire, or on a heated tile or earthenware disk, like the related flatbreads. Many have an inventive range of flavourings, the olive oil, rosemary, garlic or onion of the schiacciata alla fiorentina of Tuscany, or the herbs, sage, rosemary, oregaon, onion, and ciccioli of the foccia genovese of Liguria.

Loafing around…

Focaccia is a versatile bread indeed. Full of flavour & full of options. I used a highly rated ‘Rosemary Garlic Focaccia recipe from Recipezaar; substituted the rosemary with fresh garlic & sliced onions, & added a portion of wholewheat flour too. The whole house smelt divine while the loaves were baking…absolute nirvana! We ate 2 loaves the first day with a chicken casserole, baked garlic potatoes, crumb fried fish & salad. The next day I made sandwiches with the 3rd loaf! I believe you can even top it & make it into a pizza! It’s got a lovely light & fresh crumb & keeps for 2-3 days at cool temperatures.

Redolent…in the rays of the setting sun

I saved some dough & plaited it into a braid… it’s been my dream for many years to plait a loaf of bread! Strange but true!! I used to drift through baking books wondering how such beautiful braided breads were possible. My first attempt wasn’t too bad as I made the plait from my mind; have since found out that I needed 4 strands & not 3 as I used! Until next time then…

The recipe as adapted from Recipezaar

Ingredients
Yeast – 1 tbsp
Sugar – 1 1/2 tsps
Flour – 4 cups
Wholewheat flour – 1/2 – 1 cup ( I substituted a bit of the flour with this)
Salt – 1 tsp
Olive oil – 3 tbsps
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Onion – 1 sliced
Garlic – 4-5 cloves / sliced
Roasted sesame seeds & poppy seeds
Sea salt – 1 1/2 tsp

Method:

  • In a bowl, stir together yeast, sugar and 1 ¾ cups lukewarm water and proof yeast for 10-15 minutes, or until foamy.
  • Stir in 3 cups of flour + 1 cup of wheat flour, 1 tablespoons of the olive oil and the salt, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary to form a soft and slightly sticky dough.
  • Transfer to a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, and let rise, covered, in a warm place for 1 hour, or until double in size.
  • Knead dough down and press with lightly-oiled hands into 2 well-oiled 8″ round sandwich loaf pans, saving some for a braided bread.
  • Make a braid with the remaining dough, tuck in the ends underneath & let them rise, covered loosely, for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Set rack in center of oven.
  • Dimple dough with your fingers in places, drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over and spread over dough; sprinkle with onions, basil, garlic and sea salt. I drizzled oil over the braided loaf & sprinkled sesame & poppy seeds all over it.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes or until pale golden.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

A loaf I’m quite proud of…

Breadbakingday the monthly event was started by Zorra for passionate and to-be bread bakers, who bake bread and share recipes and experiences on the first day of every month. This month’s Breadbakingday’ is hosted by someone who I’ve been in awe of for LONGSusan @ Wild Yeast. She says…”As one of the oldest and most universal of foods, bread is associated with celebrations in every part of the world. For this month’s BreadBakingDay, you are invited to share your own spring holiday bread tradition, explore one you’re not yet familiar with, or start a new one. Choose any seasonal holiday or event you’d like to honor with a special bread.”

My new found freedom from yeastophobia is event enough to announce the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I’m gonna celebrate it with this braided loaf & am sending it off to Susan’s. I recommend you check out her blog & marvel at her ease with yeast…especially if you are yeastophobic like I was.

PITAS FULL OF POCKETS…with FALAFEL, KABOBS OR COTTAGE CHEESE!

“If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.”
Fernand Point

Getting into the FALAFEL of things…

Quite a few blogs are buzzing with Middle Eastern food these days & I’m trying hard to catch up. By the time I get to making falafel & pita bread after getting pockets-full of inspiration from Val @ More Than Burnt Toast, she’s already hitting a new trail…’Zataar‘! O Boy… so much to do as usual, & so little time! I must admit I’ve been living under a rock. For some insane reason, each time I heard of falafel I assumed it was a sort of bread. Having had donna kebabs several times in the UK & in Canada, it never crossed my mind that there might be a vegetarian option. I always associated the Middle East with kebabs served on a bed of rice or in pita pockets!!! Can you imagine my surprise when I read at Val’s that it was chickpeas they were talking about! How embarrassing After reading such rave reviews, I set off to try making falafel…albeit skeptically! With recipes galore, tossed a coin between cooked or uncooked chick-peas…uncooked was the call! Very simple & straightforward recipe, must admit I was sure it would fall to pieces in hot oil! Lo & behold…perfect falafel balls! Even better was the taste…crisp from the outside; bursting with flavour within & a great veggie option! YUM…the recipe for falafel came from Epicurious.

Pita bread is another story altogether, associated in my past with beastly yeastly tales. But thanks to the Daring Bakers daring french loaf challenge & the success with Susan @ Food Blogga’s pizza dough, rising with the yeast is now the norm, rather than an exception! No problem at all…sailed through the recipe! Got the recipe from Kamini’s @ Bubbling Cauldron that took me to Jai & Bee’s @ Jugalbandi…NO FAIL pita recipe, with a 70% puff rate as they said! Mine behaved very well for a change…must have been the new electric tandoor my parents gifted us on our anniversary! It’s an interesting little box which goes up to sudden high temperatures & cooks 2-3 pitas at a time in a matter of 4-5 minutes! COOL!!

I made the cardinal error of trying to do too many new things on one single day & almost died of tension! I was sure the falafel would fail-a-fail me; the pitas would be pocketless & the meal a disaster. The verdict was a great THUMBS UP! The high point being that the son who dislikes lentils of any sort, took to the falafel beautifully. He ate a few as a snack, & for dinner had some more in his pita pocket! The only thing I didn’t achieve was the tahini sauce because I ran out of time & energy! I did however serve them with a coriander yogurt sauce from 28 Cooks blogspot, & my all time favourite yogurt/sour cream dip which is a hit with anything & everything!
This is a post longer than I intended it to be….but, the fact is that the entire meal was a collaboration of sorts. Who ever said ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth“? Amazingly, I put this together with too many cooks, & pulled it off! The chicken kebabs were a Lebanese kabob recipe from no other than my sister, our family’s acclaimed Chicken Queen! Simple & finger-licking good! The salad was a simple one with iceberg lettuce, red,yellow & green bell peppers, spring onions with greens, & tomatoes sans seeds…all tossed together in a light olive oil & lime juice dressing.
To recap then:
  • FALAFELS…the recipe can be found at Epicurious .
  • WHOLE-WHEAT PITA BREAD…recipe at Jugalbandi .
  • CORIANDER YOGURT SAUCE…can be found at 28 Cooks.
  • TAHINI FROM SCRATCH … head for the Bubbling Cauldron .
  • YOGURT SOUR CREAM DIP…right here at my blog.
  • LEBANESE CHICKEN KABOBS & COTTAGE CHEESE FILLING RECIPE FOLLOWS…
PITAs WITH FALAFEL

FILL HER UP…CHICKEN THIS TIME!

Lebanese Chicken Kabobs…the Chicken Queen’s adaptation from her new North African and Middle Eastern Cookbook.
  • Make a marinade out of grated onions, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red chili pwdr, paprika and a saffron soaked in hot water.
  • Marinate chicken pieces in this for as long as you like (overnight is fine) and then grill them for approx 30 mins; turning once at about 15-20minutes.
  • Make sure to put them on a grill tray to drain off excess juices and put something beneath to collect the juices .
  • Rest the kebabs for 10 minutes & use as fillers with a base of salad. Top with coriander sauce, yogurt sauce, tahini> sauce &/or a hot harissa> sauce if you like!

& MAKE IT COTTAGE-CHEESE NEXT TIME!!

  • Make a marinade with olive oil, grated garlic, juice of 1 lime, red chili flakes, grill seasoning & salt.
  • Cut cottage cheese into thin fingers, about 1 1/2 inches long, & toss gently in marinade. Leave for about 30 minutes to whenever you are ready to eat the meal.
  • Turn the whole thing into a pan, & saute on high heat till dry. That’s option #3 for you!
  • Layer with a salad, followed by cottage cheese & topped with sauces of your choice.

PITAS FULL OF POCKETS…WONDERFUL OPTIONS INDEED!

WRAPPING IT UP… Indian Flatbread / Chapati Wraps with Turkish kebabs

“Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread. Without it, it’s flat.”
Carmen McRae, Jazz vocalist and pianist
Indian Flatbread … Chapati / Roti

Wrapping it up…fresh,healthy & fun!

Here’s what I did with part of the Turkish Adana Kebabs I made a few days ago. I made Indian unleavened flatbreads, chapati or roti, & made wraps using the kebabs as the filling, with bell peppers, onions, a Yogurt dip & a new discovery…Pomegranate Molasses. Served it with a Mexican corn salad on the side. I find unleavened flatbreads very healthy & versatile. They are made out of whole wheat flour dough only, which just has to be kneaded (as the Daring Bakers tag line comes to mind…We need to knead), no question of leavening agents, prior preparation etc, & above all, no preservatives . I usually leave the dough standing for 30 minutes for the gluten strands to develop…& then am ready to roll!!
Turkish Adana Kebabs…you can find the recipe here
A flatbread is a simple bread made from flattened dough. Many flatbreads are unleavened—made without yeast or sourdough culture. They can range from one millimeter to a few centimeters thick. Flatbread was already known in Ancient Egypt and Sumer.
Chapati is a type of Indian bread eaten in South Asia and East Africa. In many areas of South Asia, particularly the north of the subcontinent, and in East Africa, it is the staple food. It is made from a dough of atta flour (whole grain durum wheat), water and salt by rolling the dough out into discs of approximately twelve centimeters in diameter and browning the discs on both sides on a very hot, dry tava or frying pan (preferably not one coated with Teflon or other nonstick material). Ingredients:
Whole wheat flour – 1 1/2 – 2 cups
Water to knead
Sauteed bell peppers with onions (all sliced); saute in a little oil for just 4-5 minutes till crisp tender.
Adana Kebabs ( recipe here)
Yogurt Dip ( recipe here)
Pomegranate molasses (recipe at the bottom)
Mexican Corn Salad
Method:
  • Put the flour in a big bowl, add enough water to make a firm, softish dough.
  • Knead firmly for 5-7 minutes; it should feel pliable & come away cleanly from the edges.
  • If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle on some more flour, 1 tbsp at a time, to get a nice, pliable dough.
  • Leave to stand for 30 minutes if you have time.
  • Heat a flat pan / tava to hot.
  • Make a dough ball about 1 1/2 ” big, dust in flour on both sides, & roll out as thin & as evenly as possible.
  • Put the rolled out flat bread on the tava. Cook for 1 minute till small bubbles form on the surface, flip it over & repeat.
  • Now drizzle a little oil (1/4 tsp) & smear it all over & fry briefly on low heat. Repeat on the other side. Keep warm. Make the rest of the chapatis the same way.
  • Line a chapati with a the sauteed bell peppers & onion. Add some dip, layer it with a kebab or two, drizzle some pomegranate molasses over it…
  • Wrap it up & serve with a corn salad!
  • For the Mexican Corn Salad – Toss sweetcorn with finely chopped coriander leaves, finely chopped green chilies, diced deseeded tomatoes, chopped spring onions with greens, lime juice & salt. Add some roasted cumin powder if you like. Serve chilled!

This is my entry for Bread baking Day 7 hosted by Chili und Ciabatta…she says “think of indian chapati, naan, dosa or paratha, of italian focaccia, ethiopian injeera, swedish knäckebröd, scottish oatcakes, turkish pide, mexican tortilla, jewish matzo, armenian lavash, south tyrolean Vinschger Paarlen… this list could go on and on”… And that’s exactly what I did!

And now for the Pomegranate Molasses

The fruit chosen by Sra @ When My Soup Came Alive for AFAM this month was POMEGRANATE (the red ones are known as Kandhari Anaar’s here). This event was started by Maheswari of Beyond the Usual & has a different host each month. I bought a couple the other day & they have been staring me in the face. Read Rachel’s post of a cake she made with it, & wondered what else could come out of it other than juice, salsa, vinaigrette etc. Arundati knows I’ve been under pomegranate pressure because we spoke while I was staring at the fruit!!Making matters worse is that it’s Feb…fewer days!! To cut a long story short…well, I missed the deadline of Feb 25th! (& to end on a happy note…Sra just mailed to say she hadn’t rounded-up yet…so she accepted my pom molasses!! Thank you Sra… YAY!)

Surfing brought me to many recipes…one which caught my attention was Pomegranate Molasses on a blog called Nami-Nami & also on Simply Recipes. ‘Pomegranate molasses’ is a traditional ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking and can be used in a variety of dishes. Here’s a bit of it that I made…mainly for AFAM, but also because I thought it would taste great with the kebab wraps…& it did! It’s like a piquant plum sauce…tangy & beautiful. My pictures don’t do justice to it…because ‘hurry made curry’ this time!! Also, the quantity is very little because we used up quite a bit…story of my blogging life….PHEW!!

Pomegranate Molasseson the Middle Eastern food trail!

Ingredients:
Pomegranates – 4 medium sized
Juice of 3-4 limes
Sugar – 1/4 – 1/2 cup (as per taste)
Method:

  • Take out the pomegranate seeds ( the red juicy pearls) & blend them in a liquidiser.
  • Pour them through a muslin lined soup strainer to collect the clear liquid..the yummy juice! Squeeze the cloth to catch as much juice. The colour is to die for. It’s very tempting to abandon all plans & take a swig of the delicious juice…O well!
  • Put the juice with the sugar & lime juice in a pan & simmer, for 45-60 minutes till beautiful & thick…like molasses. It will thicken a bit as it sits.
  • Cool & store in a jar in the fridge.
  • Elise at Simply Recipes says…”You can also mix it with a little orange juice and club soda for a refreshing punch”. Sounds great…the daughter also said I can make a Kool-aid like drink with it! I’ll keep it as a sauce though, thank you; its beautiful like this!!

Blended & strained…

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