Let bio be your sous-chef!
For decades my parents had this daily pre-breakfast ritual of a few activated nuts and a handful of sprouts. Now, I relearn these practices from books on clean, wholesome foods. So, when my mother is visiting me now, I took the opportunity to upgrade my basic tea towel sprouting. I ordered a kit, fancy mixes and converted a small real estate next to the kitchen sink into a sprouting station. You will be astonished how humble seeds, legumes, grains turn impossibly flavorful. And, no cooking required!! Even the pickiest of eaters were impressed.
Persistence is the key. Drain and rinse religiously at intervals of 12 hours. On an average beans and grains take about 2 days, while moong bean takes 3 days and seeds take 5-6 days to be harvest ready. But you can also harvest as you go (after the first soak) which makes it very convenient to sustain. Here is the simple protocol (using 3 days as an example).
Day 0 PM: Soak in plenty of water.
Days 1-3: AM & PM: Rinse and drain.
Day 4 AM : Rinse and drain. Ready to harvest. Refrigerate.
Although I am not fully convinced that you really need different geometries of sprouters, nevertheless the following may be helpful:
- Flat surface sprouter (1/2 – 1 cup moong) helps maintain the lentils in a single layer (you could even place a weight on top to aid in this) [1/2 – 1 cup]
- Mason jar with perforated lid (1 cup rye berries, wheat berries) [1/2 -1 cup]
- Bottom perforated Sprouter kit (Sproutpeople.org.). (1-2 tbsps of seeds, peas, grains)
NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
- The 1-qt sprouter is perfect — you couldn’t possibly improve it anymore. See the description– quite sophisticated for a set that at first glance looks like takeout plastic containers.
- For the rye berries, I was not patient enough to actually see the roots. But the rye berry sprouts are sweet and delicious (you even get asked “wow, is this cooked?”) !! Use in grain salad. The wheat berries, on the other hand, were not shy and merrily displayed their roots.
- My mother was particularly impressed with the sprouting wheat berries and methi (fenugreek seeds).
What’s the big deal with sweet yogurt, you ask. Well, the illusive sweetness and the silky custard consistency comes from reduced milk alone. This one ingredient dessert (other than the essential little yogurt starter) is bound to steal your heart. Enjoy!
A proofer or yogurt maker (or simply the good fortune of living in the tropics/subtropics).
- 3 cups skimplus milk, reduced to 1 cup (see below on how to reduce milk)
- 1 tsp active yogurt (starter)
- (optional) Flavoring agents: a few saffron threads dissolved in 1 tbsp warm water.
Mix in the flavoring agents, if using any, to the reduced milk. Pour into two containers and add 1/2 tsp yogurt to each, loosely cover and let set overnight. If using a proofer, set at 100 F. Next morning transfer the containers to the refrigerator.
NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
- I adamantly reinvented the sweet yogurt (mitha dahi) 😉 with the aid of a Brod and Taylor Proofer. The Proofer helps in making the yogurt in separate little containers (while simultaneously fermenting pancake batter at the same temperature!).
I remain minimalist– in this version (pictured) I add no sugar and no additional flavoring agent. A good way to appreciate the natural sweetness and aroma of “caramelized” milk, which is accentuated by the milk reduction process (see below).
- Reduced milk. Use a very thick bottomed pan (such as a Le Cruset pan) or a milk cooker.
- Heat milk on very low heat. It takes about 2 hrs 40 mins. Every 20 mins— stir well making sure the bottom does not stick or smoke. Simply set your timer on intervals of 20 mins, while you go about your life. After half hour or so the sweet aroma of mawa/khoya takes over but continue to cook the milk till it is reduced to the extent of your choice– I reduced to one-third.
- Strain the milk.
- I use skimplus milk– note that it is not skim milk.
- You can also use canned reduced milk instead of making your own. Also, you can add sweeteners like honey or sugar, if you so choose.
The main ingredient in this pancake is besan which is the Indian version of garbanzo flour, though not exactly the same. This uses no explicit leavener like most pancakes do, but exploits the fermented batter for the same purpose. Fortified with finely diced veggeis, it makes a wholesome breakfast. Enjoy!
A proofer (or simply the good fortune of living in the tropics/subtropics), a griddle.
- Makes 5 pancakes (1/2 cup each)
- Batter: 5 oz besan + 2.5 tbsp rice flour + 200 ml lukewarm (105 F) water
- Veggies: 1/2 cup finely diced oyster mushrooms + 1/2 cup chiffonaded greens (radish greens) + 2 sliced red shishito peppers
- 2 tbsp EVOO + salt to taste
Batter: Boil the water and then cool to lukewarm. Mix in the flours and let ferment for a few hours (or overnight) in a proofer at 100 F.
Filling: In a non-stick pan dry-roast the veggies. When browned and softened, mix in the EVOO and salt to taste. Let cool and mix in with the fermented batter.
I used the griddle half of a panini maker. No need to grease the griddle. Heat the griddle to 350 F. Pour 1/2 cup of batter (for each pancake) on the griddle. Let cook for 5 mins on one side — you will see the bubbles rise to the top surface. Flip using two spatulas and let cook on the other side for 2 mins.
Serve warm with yogurt.
NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
- The water is boiled first to get rid of any additives in tap water that may get in the way of fermentation. Or, you can use bottled water.
- Feel free to use any other mixture of vegetables of your liking.
- To make a dosa/crepe: you need to dilute the fermented batter with water to get a thinner consistency.
- A bit of knife skill really makes a difference: finely dice the vegetables. It magically makes everything taste good! 🙂
Spiced, minced meat salad, larb, is quintessentially Thai. Years ago, while I was gradually encountering world cuisines in graduate school (ahh, no pun intended), I was struck by larb. Not the red curry, …, nor the masaman, the mainstays of many a Thai menu in the USA. Some food historians/chefs say that the Portuguese brought curry from India to Thailand. But I think the India southeast Asia trades go way back– to the first millennium. In any case, back to larb. It has no signs of any overt Indian influence, but it impressed this Indian enough to make it one of my mainstays of minced meat (in the ranks of keema, seekh/shami kebabs, burger).
Kelp is a seaweed, but not a plant. Considered a superfood, this algae is being sustainably and regeneratively ocean-farmed. Kelp tops the guilt-free list! An intrinsic part of Japanese cooking, kelp is not a complete stranger to the food world.
I bring these two wonders together. I resort to Akua‘s kelp burger “meat” for this equally appealing, delicious larb. Enjoy!
A chop-stir spatula (optional), thick-bottomed pan.
- 1 lb kelp-burger “meat”
- 1 tbsp chili infused EVOO
- 1 tsp dried mint
- Larb sauce: 1/4 cup lime juice + 1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc nam) + 1 tbsp honey/brown sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves + 2 tbsp fresh mint (if not using dried mint)
- 2 scallions fine chopped + 2 shallots thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp rice powder (toast rice grains and grind, don’t substitute with rice flour)
Heat the EVOO on medium in a thick-bottomed pan. Add the kelp burger meat and the dried mint, and chop-stir for five minutes or so until the “meat” is browned and has a coarse breadcrumb texture. Turn off the heat. Immediately, add the larb sauce and mix well. Then add all the garnish ingredients.
NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
- The larb recipe is inspired by the chefs of omsom.com.
- The larb recipe works well with real meat as well- minced turkey, chicken or lamb.
- I use the the chop-stir, bought from a specialty store– but you could use just a wooden spatula. Usually, I am not a fan of hyper-specialized tools, but with this one I must make an exception.
- Serve with lettuce or radicchio leaves.
Delicately pleated, gigantic (rivaling a large cauliflower in size) maitake mushroom is certain to catch your attention. It had to be split in half –alas– to fit into the greengrocer’s brown paper bag. A simple overnight marinade, whole-cooked and voilà!! Enjoy.
Large kerai/wok with lid.
- 1 lb Maitake mushroom
- Marinade overnight in ziplock bag: 3 tbsp EVOO + 2 tbsp Sriracha sauce + 3 tbsp garlic-miso spice (optional) + dash of salt
The ziplock bag helps in getting the marinade all into the mushroom which absorbs the marinade line a sponge. Heat a wok to medium-high, place the maitake mushroom delicately and cover the wok. Let brown for 5 min. Flip over and brown other sides for 5 min. When it starts to ooze liquid, turn heat-down to slow-medium and let steam till all the liquid dries up.
Slice and serve.
NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
- Of course, you can pull apart the maitake into smaller parts (the stems are delicious too). But cooking it whole is an interesting treatment. I am not a big fan of whole cooked cauliflower, but the whole maitake blew my mind!
- Note that since the marinade has oil, it does not need more oil and it also browns neatly.
- The miso-garlic spice was again from the farmer’s market, but you could used any other spice mix of your choice– or none at all. The less the distraction with spices, the more you appreciate the fungus!
I was introduced to this amazing Finnish Rye bread, Hapanleipä, by my good friend, Niina. Ever since I was exposed to this, I yearned to try my hands at it. After several failed attempts– it finally came together by using a “proofer” for the starter. I gleefully write this blog as I chomp on the fully homemade ruis bread. Just a word of caution: the process takes more than a week; yet, the only ingredient is rye. This also no doubt appeals to the minimalist in you. Enjoy!!
Scale, processor with dough blade, parchment paper, silicone spatula, Proofer.
- approx 1 kg Rye flour (for the sour culture, sponge and bread)
- salt, water
Rye sour culture (7 days). Start with 30 gm rye flour + 30 ml water at 105 F and proof at 86 F in airtight jar overnight.
Repeat the following for the next six days (or more days):
Take 30 gm of culture the previous day (discard the remainder) + 30 gm rye flour + 30 ml water at 105 F and proof at 86 F overnight.
Rye sponge (proof covered overnight at 86 F): 55gm rye flour + 140 gm lukewarm (105 F) water + 5 gm rye sour culture.
Rye bread dough (proofed for 3 hours at 86 F) : approx 200 gm rye sponge + 450 gm rye flour + 330 gm lukewarm (105 F) water + 1 tsp salt.
Make the dough in processor with bread blade. The dough is very very sticky, but not to be alarmed. It is resilient enough. Divide the dough into two, place them on parchment; flatten roughly and proof at 86F for 3 hrs.
After proofing the dough is a little easier to handle. Using the silicone spatula (you may have to dip it in cold water) shape the tow disks; make a hole in the center, use that dough in the remainder of the disk. Dock (or make holes) with a wooden chopstick. Place the two disks (each about 6 inches in diameter) along with the parchment on a baking tray.
Bake at 425 F for 25 mins. Cool on tray. Rest the bread for 2-3 days to bring out the deep flavor.
NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:
- The recipe was adapted from The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America, by Stanley Ginsberg.
- The proofer is Brod & Taylor’s Folding Proofer.
- Perhaps a stand mixer is more appropriate to make the dough. But I don’t have one –nor do I plan to have one— I use the processor with the dough blade instead. I think I got a “starch attack” with the blade speed, but the dough was tamed by the time it proofed for 3 hours.
- Note that the very first step of making the sour culture consumes a lot of flour. Also, you discard a large portion of the culture everyday as you feed it with fresh rye flour. I worked out various algorithms in my mind, like doubling the feed every day instead of discarding- but if you know your arithmetic, you will realize the volume explodes in seven days (not to speak of the the culture’s natural increase in volume) 🙂 .
- I placed the two disks on a “dhokla” two tiered rack, lined with parchment and placed the rack in the proofer (for 3 hrs).
- In the pictures below, the rye sour culture is in the lidded jar and the sponge in the open-face bowl (that was covered while proofing)