From the Old Country… Green Chicken ‘Pitiya’ Curry

This is one of those timeless recipes from my home state of Goa in India. A lesser known one, I’ve only eaten this curry in the part of Goa from where my family originates. It’s not one of the more popular restaurant kind of dishes that have gained in popularity because of their fiery colour or temper, but a rather delicately flavoured one, and one that is prepared without the addition of coconut in any form. So no coconut, no vinegar and no fiery red chillies.

But what this curry does, is remind me of home, of my grandparents on my mother’s side, and of good home food. It’s one of those dishes from the old country with its Indo-Portuguese influence, a curry that comforts, which is what food should do, and this beautiful Green Chicken ‘Pitiya’ Curry does just that.

A beautiful place on India’s western coastline, Goa is a beach paradise, though tourism, rampant corruption and erosion of natural resources have denuded what could have been and once was ‘heaven on earth’. The place holds a lot of happy memories for me, memories that centre around food, and good times… beaches, clear skies and piglets with curly tails running around and grunting in the pig-pen. I tried not to make friends with them. After all it can be pretty heartbreaking when one of your friends lands up on the dining table, feet up, all deep gold and glistening, even if they do taste darn good.

This is basically a recipe that I tweaked from my mother’s repertoire. Known in local parlance as a ‘Pitiya Curry’, this is traditionally made with chicken, and is a green curry with poppy seeds and coriander, with a bunch of other aromatics.

I used about 300gms of boneless chicken for this recipe, though it does taste a lot better if you use chicken on the bone.

The original recipe calls for one small onion, 4 medium sized cloves of garlic and a 1/2″ piece of ginger, but I had just come home after a couple of days of travelling and like Old Mother Hubbard the cupboard was quite bare. I was craving a good home cooked meal and didn’t quite feel like calling in for take out, so I substituted the fresh ingredients for packaged ones and the end result was quite delicious.

Here are the ingredients –

300gms chicken (boneless or on the bone)

juice of 1 small lime

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 tablespoons fried onions (I used a packaged variety)

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

4 pods green cardamom

8 peppercorns

3 cloves

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder (or a 1/2″ piece of cinnamon… try and get hold of Sri Lankan cinnamon. I believe it’s the best)

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 green chillies (de-seed if you don’t want it too hot)

1 teaspoon each of ginger and garlic paste

a small handful of fresh coriander

8 curry leaves

1 medium potato, peeled, chopped into quarters or more and partially shallow fried to golden brown in 2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 – 4 cups of light chicken stock or warm water

4 – 5 tablespoons water (at room temperature)

There are a couple of steps to this recipe the first of which entails marinading the chicken in the lime juice.

Grind all the dry spices, add in the coriander, chillies, ginger-garlic paste, fried onions and about 4 – 5 tablespoons of room temperature water.

Meanwhile lightly fry your cut potatoes in hot oil, enough to brown them, without cooking them completely or burning them. Remove them from the heat and reserve for later use.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan, adding the curry leaves and the chicken, about 30 seconds later so that the curry leaves release their flavour but don’t burn. Lightly fry the chicken in the oil for a couple of minutes on each side till they get a faint golden tinge. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan, and add in another tablespoon of oil, before adding in the masala that you ground earlier. Fry the masala on medium heat for about 3 minutes or so until the oil separates.

Add the chicken back into the pan, and fry it with the masala before adding the potatoes and salt. Top with warm chicken stock (or water), stir, cover and cook for about 25 minutes on a low to medium flame until the chicken is tender.

This curry is best eaten with a local Goan bread like Poee or Pao (Pav), or  even with a crusty Brun Pao or you can enjoy it over steaming hot white rice, accompanied with some sliced red onions, red radish and chillies pickled in the local goan vinegar and a rice Papad (Papadum) or two.

The Ultimate Brunch Bread

What do you call bread that’s packed with veggies, cheese and ham?

And no the answer I’m looking for isn’t… ‘A Sandwich’ 😉

It’s the ‘Ultimate Brunch Bread’

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but unless I’m at a meditation centre on one of those silent meditation courses where you get breakfast at 6, lunch at 11am and lemon water at 5 in the evening, I’m not too much of a breakfast person. For me, that distinction goes to brunch especially on days when I’m at home and can pace my mornings out the way I’d like them to be. Breakfast is then just a mugful of coffee or perhaps two, and on occasion a fruit or some muesli with yoghurt. Just a little… But come 11am and I’m seriously hungry. It’s become such a pattern now that even when I do eat a proper breakfast, I start craving brunch at 11 and end up overeating.

So I’ve been dreaming up this loaf, bread rolls really, that would give me that feeling of a complete meal in a couple of bites. The Ultimate Brunch Bread which is what I decided to name it, with everything in it. What’s amazing about this bread is that it doesn’t just taste delicious, it’s such a feast for the eyes and the aroma is so intoxicating while it bakes and especially once it’s out of the oven, that you really don’t need an alarm clock or a gong to announce that it’s brunch time. With all those assorted vegetables, the Gouda and the smoked ham doing its thing, I was dancing around my kitchen in such glee you’d think I won the grand lottery. 

I went two ways with the ingredients, making two kinds of bread. A stuffed ‘Daisy Pull-apart Loaf‘ and ‘Mini Muffins Bread Rolls‘ with all those veggies and ham mixed in with the dough and baked in muffin trays.

Daisy Pull-apart Loaf

Mini Muffin Bread Rolls

It’s also a great way to get kids to eat their veggies. Do eliminate the lone chilli that I’ve used if you’re baking this for the kids, or simply remove the seeds and membranes so that the chilli loses its punch but retains all its flavour and goodness.

Here are the ingredients –

(This is for the dough)

3 cups A.P. flour

11gms fresh yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 to a cup of warm water

1/3 cup grated Gouda

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1/4 cup EVOO (extra to oil bowl etc)

 (For the filling)

1/2 red onion (minced)

 10 curry leaves (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 green chilli (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Large pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon EVOO

1 cup carrots (blanched and diced)

3/4 cup corn niblets (canned)

1/2 cup red bell peppers (diced)

1/2 cup french beans (parboiled for 30 – 40 seconds and dice)

3/4 cup smoked ham (chopped – reserve the fat of the ham separately – you’ll need about 2 tablespoons)

(And finally the toppings)  –

I egg + 1 tablespoon milk for the eggwash

1 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds (for the pull-apart loaf)

1 tablespoon each of white and black sesame seeds for the mini muffins

And now we come to the two-pronged method for two deliciously similar and yet different shapes of bread –

Prepare the dough the usual way, activating the yeast, then adding the flour and salt, before sprinkling over the dried parsley and the cheese and kneading it well. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and leave to prove for a minimum of 2 hours.

In the meantime prepare the filling, by melting the fat from the ham in a tablespoon of EVOO on medium heat till the fat rends and crisps up (but does not burn). Sauté the garlic, onions, chilli and curry leaves in the fat and EVOO, then add in the pepper and the salt and immediately add in the ham and the veggies, tossing them on high for 15 – 20 seconds. Keep the filling aside to cool (Do not cover the pan or the veggies will overcook and lose their crispness and colour).

Once the dough has risen, knock it back and give it a good, quick knead before dividing it into two halves. Prepare the loaf tin (I used a round sandwich tin) and the muffin tray.

For the mini muffin rolls –

Mix in about 1 1/4 cup of the filling to one half of the dough, adding it a little at a time until it’s evenly distributed throughout the dough.Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and shape them. Place them into the muffin trays, cover and leave the dough to prove.

For the Daisy pull-apart bread –

Meanwhile divide the other half of the dough into 9 equal portions. Roll them into spheres before flattening them out with your fingertips. You can use a rolling pin if you like. Fill each disc with about 1 heaped tablespoon of the filling and pinch the dough shut. Shape it and place it into the round loaf pan so that it looks like a daisy. Leave the dough to prove once the entire pan is filled.

Brush the tops with an egg-wash and sprinkle on any seeds of your choice. I used toasted poppy seeds for the daisy pull-apart bread and white and black sesame seeds for the mini muffins.

Bake the Daisy Pull-apart Bread for 35 minutes @ 210° C and the Mini Muffin Rolls @ 220° C for about 25 minutes.

The ‘Daisy pull-apart bread’ looked so pretty I almost didn’t want to take it apart, but then the aroma of the bread was so intoxicating I just had to try it out. And it was delicious. Just that perfect amount of bread to encase the colourful and tasty filling inside. It needs nothing more than your appetite.

I honestly thought the filling would be too much when I saw it in the pan, but in the end there was just a ½ cup left over.

As for the Mini Muffin Rolls, all you need is to slice them down the middle and slather on some butter.

I poured myself a mugful of coffee, sliced into one of those muffins while it was still warm, added a pat of butter, watched it melt into the bread… and took a bite.

Heavenly!

I think I should call them the Meal-in-a-bite Daisy and Mini Muffin Bread Rolls but it’s quite a mouthful, so I’ll stay with the Ultimate Brunch Bread and send it off to Susan at YeastSpotting.

I had the mini muffins with my coffee, and with some fried chicken at dinner. And I had some of the Pull apart stuffed bread at brunch this morning. And I’m Content 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Mocha Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Candied Ginger…. and a Blog Award

I made it! 

Day 3 of my Cookie Weekend and I’m happy to be actually posting three recipes on the trot.

I love oatmeal, and I love chocolate… chunks, and then I went shopping and saw a bag of candied ginger, and my final cookie for this weekend took shape.

I’m also a huge coffee drinker, and no I don’t do decaf. Thankfully my coffee intake has reduced drastically from the time when I was in my 20s and used to average between 6 to 8 cups on any given day, most of it instant. And then I quit that line of work and hit the meditation trail for a while and my coffee drinking went down to nothing, though I did occasionally have a nice mugful every now and then. I’m up to around 2 to 3 cups a day now, at times grinding my own coffee, at times sampling blends I pick up and at times good old Nescafé for that instant buzz. A combination of instant and freshly ground coffee.

So coffee it was going to be. A nice mocha-chocolata melange. Nothing brings chocolate to life more than coffee does, more so when it’s spiked with a bit of rum.

Good stuff eh?

So here it is –

The Mocha Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie with Candied Ginger

1 1/4 cups instant oats

1/3 cup A.P. Flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 medium sized egg

1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)

1/2 cup packed demerara sugar (+ extra for sprinkling on cookies b4 baking)

3/4 cup chocolate chunks (I used a little more)

3 heaped tablespoons candied ginger (julienned)

Juice of 1/2 an orange

2 heaped teaspoons instant coffee

2 tablespoons dark rum

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Pinch of clove powder

Start by creaming the butter and sugar, then add the egg and mix well. Meanwhile mix the coffee with the rum, the orange juice and the spices and let it sit covered for a while. Sieve the flour with the baking soda, add the oats and the salt and fold it all in till well mixed. Add the oat and flour mix to the butter-sugar-egg mix.

Now mix in the coffee-rum-orange juice to the batter, and finally fold in the chocolate chunks (be careful to separate them so they don’t clump together) and the candied ginger.

Refrigerate the mix till you are ready to use. It’s rather hot and humid now so I kept popping the bowl back into the fridge after every batch went into the oven. I used a large ice-cream scoop so the cookies turned out quite large. Sprinkle the cookies with some extra sugar before baking and bake them in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees C for 20 minutes, turning the tray at least once during the process, till the bottom of the cookies turns brown.

Let them cool completely on the trays before transferring them to your cooling racks.

Decadent!

And on to the Part 2 of this post…

And the Fabulous Blogger Award that was passed on to me by the incredibly talented Ramona from http://curryandcomfort.blogspot.in/ way back in February.

 

Somehow the bit on news either got into the spam dock or went awry in the midst of house-painting and those internet problems I’ve been yammerin’ on about for the last three months. Ramona’s blog is a real treasure trove and you’ve simply got to pay it a visit, if you haven’t already. 

And in the tradition of passing on Awards, I would like to nominate –

Jenn and Sethhttp://hskillet.blogspot.in/

Joshi Daniel … http://joshidaniel.com/

Vered Simonshttp://eatnowtalklater.wordpress.com/

Jen Duncanhttp://lovefoodcookfood.com/ 

and…

http://bellacorea.wordpress.com/

Do check out their blogs because they are all so incredible. An extremely gifted photographer, and five passionate cooks.

Once again a huge ‘Thank You’ to Ramona :-).

I hope you enjoyed my trio of Cookies and here’s to a great new week!

🙂

Cookies, Crackers and Conundrums – The Cookie Weekend (Day 2)

Is a Cracker a Cookie?

I would like to think so, though purists might argue vociferously against the notion, and many others may dither. I too, for the sake of clarity have often classified them as distinctly varied from the cookie, even though I subscribe to both the sweet and savoury versions of the latter.

Why, for that matter aren’t Animal Crackers actually cookies? I suppose I should rest my case here without much ado. It is the weekend after all, and though many of my friends agree that I can argue a point till the cows come home, I happen to live in an apartment building that discriminates against bovine animals on four legs moving in.

So it’s Day 2 of my Cookie Weekend and I decided to go Crackers… 😛

Olive and Sweetcorn Crackers with Red Chilli Flakes.

I used canned sweetcorn niblets and green pimento olives, giving them a rough chop.

Here’s a list of the ingredients –

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons A.P. Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 small egg (whipped)

1/4 cup butter + 2 tablespoons EVOO (microwave for 10 seconds)

2 heaped tablespoons sweetcorn niblets (canned)

10 green olives with pimentos

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 heaped teaspoon demerara sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 heaped tablespoons rice flour

Melt the olive oil and butter and let it cool before adding in the sugar. Mix it well and add the whipped egg. Beat the mixture, before incorporating the orange zest, red chilli flakes, pepper, chopped olives and corn.

In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour (3/4 cup) and the baking powder. Add the salt and fold in the buttery corn and olive mix into the dough. You will need to add the extra 2 tablespoons of flour  (perhaps a little more) at this stage. The dough will be quite soft. Refrigerate it covered for an hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and mix in the rice flour before rolling out the dough to a thickness of about 1 – 2mm. I used a pizza cutter to cut out squares 2″ x 2″. Placing them onto parchment lined trays. Using a fork, crimp the edges and prick holes into the centre of each cookie, before baking them in a 200°C preheated oven for 25 minutes.

You may need to turn the trays halfway during the baking process to ensure that the crackers get evenly baked and crisp. Allow the crackers to cool completely on the trays before transferring them to the cooling trays for them to crisp up further.

This is the first time I used this sweet and salty flavour combination of sweetcorn and pimento olives in crackers and I must say I was quite pleased with the result. The red chilli flakes give it just that extra bit of zing.

So… if crackers are cookies, are cookies crackers? ;-D

The Cookie Weekend… Fig and Pistachio Cookies

I decided to dedicate this weekend (Friday through to Sunday) to… Cookies! And hopefully I’ll make it through all three days. Speaking of cookies, I’m a bit of a finicky cookie eater. I don’t like them too sugary, and I often prefer savoury to sweet. So lets see how the weekend pans out.

I decided to start with one of my favourite combinations. Fig and Pistachio.

You can never really go wrong with Fig and Pistachio, especially when you combine them with paprika, cinnamon and a bit of powdered ginger. The perfect spice combination, offset with just the right amount of demerara sugar, the spices, all powdered, bring out the natural sweetness and all the flavour of the dried figs and lightly toasted pistachios.

Here are the ingredients –

3/4 cup A.P. Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup butter (cold – cut into cubes)

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1 – 2 tablespoons ice water

2 tablespoons toasted, chopped pistachios

2 tablespoons chopped, dried figs

1 small whipped egg

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/4 teaspoon ginger powder

It’s quite a simple method to making these cookies –

Crumble the cold butter into the flour which has been sieved with baking powder till it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, chopped figs and pistachios and crumble them all together.  Finally add in the spices, the whipped egg and the ice water to form a dough. Cover the dough with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour (I had a couple of things to attend to so I kept the dough in the fridge for almost 2 1/2 hours).

Take the dough ball out at least 10 minutes before you roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to a 2 – 3mm thickness and use whatever cookie cutter shape you like. This is what I chose :-).

Place the cookies on a parchment lined tray an inch or so apart, prick them with a fork (this will prevent them from puffing up) and bake them in a preheated oven @ 190°C for 20 minutes.

The aroma of the figs and the pistachios, with all those spices filled my kitchen as the cookies baked. What a truly amazing start to the cookie weekend, with the green of the pistachios and the brown of the figs coming up nicely against the pale blondness of the cookies. 

Cool the cookies on the baking trays before transferring them to the cooling racks.

They tasted wonderful with my cup of coffee this evening and would be sensational with a cold glass of milk.

Have a great weekend 🙂

 

Sunshine…Versatile… and a Plateful of Pakoras

I love deep-fried food. My weighing scale hates me for it, and as for my hips, I… (No, I won’t say it, coz then they’ll hang around like those uninvited relatives who come to visit bag-n-baggage in tow sans any return ticket), I’ve only just learned to adapt to their constant morphing instead of driving myself crazy when my body decides to get into the stockpiling business and add on the kilos.

Oh there were times I would weep and gnash my teeth and rend my clothes when the needle on the scale went south, but given that most of those clothes were in pretty good wear, I just decided to give them away instead of hoarding them in the hope that I would get back into them. I even have a dress I wore when I was a year old.

I still have this dress. And it’s in way better shape than this photo 🙂

I eventually gave up on the teeth gnashing when the enamel on my teeth started wearing off and I saw my dentist at the Porche showroom when it opened for advance bookings.

I dislike most dentists by-the-way. I kicked one in the jaw when he tried to gas me to knock off a tooth when I was four, and I’m still getting over the fact that the one next door to my parents’ house knocked out a few of my perfectly good molars to put in braces I didn’t need when I was twelve. He charged my parents a pretty packet and when the braces came off, my teeth decided to do their own thing and went right back to where they were. I had to endure a second round of orthodontic appliances attached to my teeth as an adult to fix the problem caused by the first set.

And now on to the fun part…

In early March I received a pleasant surprise from Donna @ The Sugared Pecan when she nominated me for the Sunshine Award.

Now February was a crazy month for me with house painting and setting up and work and internet woes which continued to plague me through March and into this month as well. Which meant that my internet time was interrupted and short, and I’ve had to juggle between trying to put up a post and follow up on my fellow bloggers. Sadly, I’ve fallen behind on both. I must try and remedy the situation soon… I must! I must!

As per the rules of the Sunshine Award, I should

– Include the award logo in a post or on my blog (Done)

– Answer 10 questions about myself (hmmmm… :-I… okay… rules are rules)

– Nominate 10-12 other bloggers I think merit a mention (I’ll try my best)

– Link the nominees to the post and let them know that they have been nominated (Sure… once I’m done nominating them)

– Link back to the person who nominated me (Doesn’t that go without saying :-))

And later that month, Susan from susartandfood nominated me for my second Versatile Blogger Award.

The rules of which are –

-Thank the person who gave me this award and provide a link to their blog (of course :-))

-Nominate 15 blogs/bloggers that I have recently discovered or that I follow regularly.

-Tell the person who nominated me 7 things about myself (hmmm…???)

-Include this set of rules.

-Inform the nominees by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Let me start off by linking back and thanking Donna who has a delightful blog @ The Sugared Pecan and comes across as a wonderful person, warm and effusive and always a pleasure to read, with interesting recipes and lovely anecdotes that accompany them.

And…

Thank Susan at susartandfood who as an artist, graphic illustrator, cook and writer seems to have a life that’s full of creativity and her cat 😉 among other things.

Here’s the next … the 10 questions (for the Sunshine Award)

My Favourite Colour – Sunshine Yellow

My Favourite Animal – Dogs (though I’d love to say Meerkat)

My Favourite Number – 1

My Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink (why???) – Cranberry Juice

Prefer Facebook or Twitter – I don’t have a preference here. They both have their uses.

My Passion – Baking and Making my little Clay Men (though I haven’t had the time to do that in a while)

Prefer Getting or Giving Presents – Both… definitely

My Favourite Pattern – Really?… Footprints on wet sand

My Favourite Day of the Week – Saturday

My Favourite Flower – Narcissus

Now to the Seven things about Myself (as required by the Versatile Blogger Award)

I’ll be lazy here and just link back to the last one, since I they haven’t really changed.

And now on to the Nominations and to linking up to them

This is going to be a bit of a toughie since there are so many fantastic bloggers out there, but here goes, and as a Easter treat I’ll be clubbing them together which means all those mentioned here get a 2-in-1 Easter treat with both the Sunshine and the Versatile Blogger Awards coming their way.

And the awards go to –

1. http://subhorup.blogspot.in/

2. http://zestybeandog.wordpress.com/

3. http://anunrefinedvegan.com/

4. http://delicio8.wordpress.com/

5. http://curryandcomfort.blogspot.in/

6. http://kofegeek.wordpress.com/

7. http://confederacyofspinsters.com/

8. http://authenticfooddelights.blogspot.in/

9. http://myyatradiary.blogspot.in/ 

10. http://365daysofbaking.blogspot.in/

Nominating your fellow bloggers for awards is such hard work because they are all so unique in terms of content, style and versatility, it’s really difficult to pick one over the other. So do go and check out these blogs. They are all incredible.

And now on to the treat after the awards are handed out and what better than a tasty snack that goes as well with a cup of chai, as it does with a cold beer.

Fritters are really quite popular around the world and here in India we’re no different. And because we’re such a vast country with so many different regions all different from each other in terms of language, culture and cuisine, every part of India throws up its own variation of some of the more popular foods on offer. The one dish that really bridges the gap between most cultures however is the Pakora. Known as Bhajjias [pronounced bha-gee(as in gee wiz)-yaas] in and around Mumbai where I live, this crunchy snack is a popular street food served piping hot straight off the deep fryer, and accompanied by both dry and wet chutneys.

The pakora or bhajjia can also take different forms and can be made from different vegetables or lentils, or combinations of the same. I prefer to make mine more in a tempura style, with cut slices or strips of assorted vegetables. Paired with a chutney or a spicy tomato or tamarind sauce they are the perfect any-time comfort food, especially when the weather turns cold or wet.

I used an assortment of veggies – Potatoes, Aubergines, Fat Green Chillies, Onions and Cauliflower.

Usually dipped in a batter made of chickpea flour, I used a combination of chickpea and rice flour (1:1/4 cup) to give them that extra crunch. And an assortment of spices, caraway seeds (1/2 teaspoon), cumin powder (1/2 teaspoon), red chilli powder (1/4 teaspoon), a pinch of turmeric powder, minced garlic (I crushed and minced @ large cloves to a paste like consistency), salt to taste, and a pinch of baking powder. Use about 1/3 cup of ice-cold water and a few ice cubes to make the batter.

Heat a large wok or deep-fryer with oil. I’ve never used a thermometer to test the temperature of the oil relying more on instinct, but you could drop a tiny blob of batter into the oil to test its readiness. If it rises up instantly and crisps up within seconds your oil is ready. Dip the sliced/cut veggies into the batter before lowering them into the oil. Do not overcrowd the wok/fryer, this will ensure that all the bhajjias/pakoras all cook evenly and crisp up nicely without getting soggy in the middle.

Drain them on a paper towel and sprinkle some extra cumin, salt and add a squeeze of lime or a drop of vinegar, and serve them with spicy chutney.

The chutney I made here is similar to the one I made for the Corn, Ricotta and Fenugreek Samosas, only this time I used very little peanuts and a lot more mint and coriander for that lighter more minty taste.

I’ll walk an extra hour tomorrow.

Palm Sunday and a Red Chilli and Sweet Caramelised Onion Loaf

My dad’s sitting across from me as I type out this post, fashioning crosses out of the palms he collected at church yesterday. Palm Sunday signals the start of Holy Week and I try and make it to the services at the parish I grew up in. One of the most beautiful churches in the suburb of Bandra in Mumbai, St. Peter’s Church still conducts the best Holy Week services in this part of the city dotted with Catholic Churches in an otherwise predominantly Hindu country with a growing but relatively smaller Muslim population.

Bandra used to be a quaint little suburb when I was growing up, with tiny cottages and a few 3 storey buildings. Where weekends meant friends, games, parties and deserted streets. Where everyone knew everyone, at least on a head-nodding basis, and where it was safe to stay out late. But now the streets are lined with hawkers selling knock-offs of branded goods and imitation jewellery, and cheap Chinese imports, making an evening walk down the street impossible and a drive down to the seafront a nightmare. With the patronage of persons in high political office these hawkers have multiplied over the years and any attempt to relocate them to a designated hawking zone are met with threats. For most of the old timers with their children scattered around the globe this is a terrible situation, and it’s often easier for them to just turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the goings-on.  They prefer to live in peace, or just live, even if it’s no longer that peaceful anymore.

So I’ve come to visit my parents. God and home were how we were raised. Morning prayers and night prayers and grace before and after meals and the rosary prayed together as a family during the months of May and October. And the Lenten Season with the Stations of the Cross leading up to Holy Week with its church services which culminated in Easter with all its glory.

I wanted to bake something for Mum and Dad since I’m visiting, and because breaking bread with the family is specially significant at this time of year, it was my first choice. My dad had just picked up a vibrant lot of red chillies from the market. Available only around this time, these chillies are plump and have a strange combination of sweet and hot spiciness trapped in every fibre. Not wanting to take a chance with the chillies since my mum cannot handle too much heat, I made sure I removed all the seeds and the membranes and sliced them thin, sprinkling over some granulated brown sugar and a good squeeze of lime and refrigerating the lot till it was time to use.

Here are the Ingredients –

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

11 – 12gms fresh yeast (I didn’t measure… just used the good ol’ eye measuring method)

2 teaspoons granulated brown sugar

1/3 cup sliced red chillies

1 large or 2 small onions

3 tablespoons EVOO

3/4 to a cup of warm water

After the chillies have been prepared and are chilling out in the fridge, chop/mince the onions and caramelise them with a tablespoon of olive oil and a heaped teaspoon of granulated brown sugar.

Once the onions have caramelised keep them aside to cool and activate the yeast. Add in the flour which has been mixed with a teaspoonful of salt and extra water as may be required, kneading lightly.

Sprinkle over the onions and the sliced chillies (do not add the water that has leached out of the chillies as it contains all the heat from the chillies) and knead well. Add extra water as required and a tablespoon or so of the oil.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and drizzle over a 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Leave the dough to prove for about 2 hours till it more than doubles in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, punch it back and knead for a couple of minutes before transferring the dough into a loaf pan for its 2nd prove (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours). I worked the loaf with my fingertips after transferring it into the pan to give it that uneven, bumpy, rustic, artisan bread look (which it is!)

Once the loaf has risen, score the loaf with a sharp knife and you can either use an eggwash or brush with olive oil (like I did) and sprinkle on a few poppy seeds.

My parents have a large gas oven so I baked the loaf for about 50 – 55 minutes at 210°C. But if you have an electric oven (like the one I usually use) 40 minutes at 200°C should be good.

The loaf developed a lovely crust with a nice bite to it and the inside remained soft, with the onions melting into the bread, leaving its heady sweetness in every mouthful.

Delicious even on its own, this loaf is best eaten warm with a liberal helping of butter.

Time for a trip to Yeastspotting I suppose.

Wishing you all a reflective and peace-filled Holy Week.