Friday, December 21, 2012

Stuffed with Goodness – Vegetarian Calzone

I love everything Italian and of course their food is near the top of that list almost at par with their gorgeous men! Ahhh….amore……..

Pizza, the first thing one thinks of in Italian cuisine has been made world famous thanks to the Italian immigrants that brought it when they came over to the new world. A Calzone is the cousin to the pizza - basically one can describe it as a pizza turnover. The same goodness as in a pizza, just a bit more moist, and a crispier exterior making eating it even more delectable! A crunchy shell with the warm gooey cheesy interior makes this dish a winner all the way! 

You will find a million websites with an equal number of pizza dough recipes that do not really help; as most of them have copy/pasted someone else’s recipe and so most don’t work! After many years of trying the endless quest to find the best dough in my opinion, I found using bread flour makes the best dough (who would have thought)! My recipe calls for ¾ - 1tsp of yeast for every cup of flour. The reason why the amount of yeast is not exact is because if you make this recipe in winter, then you need more yeast and if you live in a warm place like Singapore (1° north of the equator) you need less. I use Prima bread flour, it’s not exactly King Arthur brand of flours, but a pretty good substitute.

Like any homemade pizza maker will tell you, cheese blends are a personal choice. While I was in the US I loved quarto formaggio from Traders Joes, now I use mozzarella, cheddar and add some parmesan for some extra sharpness. The stuffing is also variable, sometimes I like to add ricotta cheese and sometimes I just roast a whole bunch of vegetables on the stove top and add tomato sauce, and cheese. Since we are close to the weekend and I’m running out of vegetables options, I have decided to use eggplant, onion and bell peppers to make todays stuffing.


Eggplant Calzone 

makes 5-6 very healthy sized portions


5 cups bread flour
2 ½ cups water (keep an additional ½ cup, in case dough is ydry)
3 ½ - 5 tsp dry active yeast (about 1 ½ packets of yeast)
2 tsp fresh herb of your choice or 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
2 tsp sugar
1 + 1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper powder
¼ cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup prepared tomato sauce
2 cups chopped vegetables
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
2-3 cups grated cheese
2 tbsp hot sauce


Proof the yeast by allowing it to rise in ½ cup warm water and sugar, it will foam up when ready. Mix flour, salt, herbs and oil and make a sticky dough. Keep aside in a warm place and let it double, punch down and allow to rise again.
Heat oven to the hottest setting, mine is a convection oven and the max is 220 (450). Cube eggplant, salt it lightly and allow it to drain in a colander. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan, add garlic, onion and  cubed eggplant and allow to cook for about 3-5 mins on a low flame. Remove and set aside to cool. Add prepared red sauce, hot sauce, salt, pepper and mix.
In the meanwhile, after the second rise, divide dough to make into 5-6 equal sized balls. Roll balls into 8-10 inch disks. Spoon in 2-4 tbsp of stuffing mix, add 2-4 tbsp shredded cheese onto one half of the rolled base, fold to create a semicircle. Using the fork tines, press down on the edges of the calzone to seal. Make sure the edges are well sealed otherwise the cheese will leak out. On the top of the calzone make a ½ inch slit with a knife to prevent the calzone from ballooning in the oven.
Cook for 12-15 mins until the outer shell is golden brown. Remove and allow the calzone to cool for about 10-15 mins before serving, so the insides have a chance to cool down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chilli Forecast- Green chili thokku / relish

With the weather cooling down, I thought it would be a good idea to post a much loved recipe for a HOT chilli spread/relish.

I use the recipe for Green ChilliesThokku from the book titled Cook & See by S.Meenakshi Ammal. This book is an important part of the "dowry" that a South Indian Iyer bride takes with her to her new home. My mother still has her dogeared copy and I too have one.

The beauty of this preserve or relish is you can choose how hot you want it depending on the pepper you choose! Sometimes I like using Anaheims and sometimes JalapeƱ it is up to you. Bell peppers also are a good choice if you want it to be very mild, just cook the peppers a bit longer to make it as dry as possible.

Uses of the relish are so many, I spread it with cream cheese on my panini sandwich or on my bagel! I heat a slab of Haloumi cheese and spread some on top and have it with a salad...yumyum! I eat it along with roti or nan, or the traditional way of yoghurt rice and thokku.

1 lbs or 1/2 kg green chilli or peppers of your choice, stalked, rinsed, dried and chopped
1/4 cup skinned black gram/urad dal
2 tsp + 1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp Tamarind paste
1/3 cup sesame oil ( not the dark Chinese variety, but the light colored ones found in Indian stores)
2 tbsp jaggery/brown sugar
1 tsp asafoetida/hing powder
Salt to taste

Heat half the oil, add hing and skinned black gram dal until a pale reddish color, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan add more oil if necessary an add green chillies and cook for a few minutes, until the chillies do not have much moisture.

Grind to a paste the dal, tamarind, salt and jaggery adding a little water, just until a smooth thick paste. Add chillies and grind to a coarse paste. 

Heat remaining oil, add 1 tsp musturd seeds and add the ground paste. Cook until the paste forms a ball or does not stick to the side of the pan.
This recipe has been submitted for the event, Bon Vivant #9  hosted by Sumedha of Sumee's Culinary Bites.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Not just for the birds: Bajre ki roti

They say birds know what's good for them!

I knew Millet (bajra – hindi) to be the main ingredient in birdseed, however I did not know that it is one of the earliest cultivated grains. Millet is widely consumed in the Indian subcontinent and used in African and Eastern European cuisine as well. Millet is one of the least allergenic, non-glutinous grains available that is also very high in protein.

As a member the so-called “pseudograins”, (quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and teff are actually seeds) millet might just be one of the most versatile of those “grains”. Millet has a nutty/earthy taste, and when it is hulled it can be used in making pulao, when pressure cooked or slow cooked one can make a Konji/Kanji/Soup, which would be great for breakfast or stirred raw into baked goods for an extra crunch, sprouted for salads, ground into flour, or popped like popcorn. Thirty five grams of bajra contains approx 4gms of protein, great for the vegan/vegetarian diet.

Better late than never, I‘ve started to consume millet regularly in my diet. I eat it pressure cooked as a substitute for rice (beware - it has a VERY chewy texture), but I like it! I also make roti’s- Indian breads with it, since others in my family are not so gung ho about it I make the rotis with equal portions of Bajra flour and whole wheat flour. I’ve found after many tries that the bread is best consumed fresh and the flavor is enhanced when eaten with raw sliced onions, blistered green chilli/salt or a powder of peanut, coconut, garlic and dry red chillies. Apparently this is how the peasants in India consume the rotis, which also go by the name Bhakri roti and thecha or lahsun chutney.

Millet flour roti
2 cups freshly milled millet flour
2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
3-4 cups warm water
4 tbsp oil
Salt to taste

Mix both the millet and wheat flours. Add salt, onions, chillies, coriander leaves and 1 tbsp of the oil and rub into the flour mixture. Make a well and pour 2-3 cups of water and knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes or until the dough forms a ball and leaves the side of the bowl. Set aside. Meanwhile heat an iron griddle.

Make lemon sized balls of the dough and roll on wooden board with a rolling pin into the size of a quarter plate (6-7 inchs). The roti should be atleast 3-4mm thick, if you roll the roti too thin it will break while cooking. Using a fork make dimpled impressions all over  the roti and on both sides so that it will cook fast and evenly.

Once the griddle is hot slap the roti on and allow it to cook for 45 seconds and flip over and cook another 30 seconds. Apply a little bit of the reserved oil on each side and cook until light brown spots appear. It is important to cook the bread fast or it will become dry.

Serve warm with butter, sliced raw onion and pickle (see recipes below).

Roasted green chilli: Stick a green chilli on a skewer and roast on an open flame until it blisters. Serve it with salt. To eat, mash the chilli and salt together and apply on the roti.

Lahsun chutney 
(dry garlic/coconut/peanut powder)
100 gms dry roasted skinned peanuts
100 gms grated dry coconut
20-30 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Pound all ingredients together in a mortar and pestle or gently blend in a food processor until a coarse powder is formed.   

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's all Maya

More than a decade ago we lived in Singapore and our wonderful neighbor, Mrs Khera had a very talented Nepalese cook – Maya. She let me in on a few cooking tricks to some wonderful Nepalese dishes, the most important being the Momo. Maya also introduced me to vegetarian Nepalese cuisine which is unusually very simple and subtle in flavor. The dishes are prepared using common flavoring ingredients and spices - like garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fresh red chilies, onions, cilantro and scallions.

I often make a nepali Kali maa ki dal / urad dal that Maya taught me which is always a hit and a recipe that is most often requested from dinner guests, as this dal does not use cream but still has a creamy texture and tons of flavor. For people who do not care for kali maa ki dal, this is a good variation.

Kali ma ki dal Nepali style

¼ cup split urad dal with skin
¼ cup skinless urad dal
½ cup channa dal, mix and wash all dals and pre-soak for ½ an hour
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 + 2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ghee
½ tsp jeera/cumin
4-6 fresh curry leaves (optional)
8-10 cloves garlic – approx ¼ cup, grated
1 large very ripe tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, grated
¼ cup fresh coriander, chopped
1 -2 fresh red chillies split down the center, salt to taste


Pressure cook the dals along with a tbsp oil and turmeric for 20 minutes or on a medium flame in a heavy bottom pan until the dals are well cooked – whisk dals with an egg beater when still hot and keep aside (very important step).
One can also cook the dals in a crock pot for 2-4 hours until the dals disintegrate (well cooked) and has an almost gelatinous texture.

Heat remaining oil and ghee in a pan, add the cumin and allow it to sputter. Throw in the grated garlic and curry leaves and cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook on low flame until pulpy. Add the cooked and whisked dal, salt and some water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, add the ginger, red chillies and coriander leaves.

Serve hot with whole grain bread, nan/chapati or steamed basmati rice.

This recipe has been submitted for the event, Flavors of: Nepal created by Nayna of Simply food and hosted by Nupur of UK Rasoi.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Open Sesame - A master key

In my kitchen I tend to keep certain spice blends and pastes which work as building blocks to a variety of dishes, one such paste is a blend of fresh red chillies, shallots, garlic and sesame.

The beauty of this paste is that it can stand alone as a chutney/spread for breads, diluted with a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil or sour cream it can be used as dipping sauce for vegetables or pita wedges. I also use it a base flavouring for making Indian Chinese dishes like Manchurian or Szechuan / Sichuan sauce or Hot and sour soup. It works exceptionally well to flavour a Laksa soup or Mee Goreng. I add it to the potato stuffing for making Aloo or mixed vegetable parathas or throw in a spoon or two of the paste to fresh yoghurt to make a raita. I add the paste to zing up my fajitas or as a base for Indian style paneer pizza………….as you can see this paste is like a chameleon – it blends in well with many a dish!

I tend to make double batches and freeze the paste in multiple little baby food size jars so that I can thaw out a jar or two as and when I need it. The paste does not use oil or have chemical preservatives, so it may not last more than a week in the refridgerator (but a mini jar has never lasted that long). However, if you want to extend the life of the paste add oil that has been heated to a smoking point and cooled to the paste, additionally you may add citric acid crystals to increase its life, but it adds to much of a sour taste to the paste which can leave a bitter after taste when heated.

This paste is fiery, so use it judiciously.

Red Chilli Sesame Paste

Ingredients3-4 oz/100 gms fresh red chillies, chopped
½ cup shallots, roughly chopped
¼ cup peeled garlic, chopped
2 tbsp white sesame seeds, lightly toasted
Juice of 1-2 limes/lemons
Salt to taste

MethodLightly toast sesame seeds and allow to cool (sesame will sputter out of the pan if the flame is high). Chop red chillies, de-seed if you want the paste to be milder (wear a glove while doing this) and roughly chop shallots and garlic. Blend together chillies, garlic, shallots and sesame to a smooth paste using little water. Add the lime juice and salt.
If you want to prolong the life of the paste add 4 oz of heated and cooled oil (any oil – vegetable, peanut or sesame).


This recipe has been submitted for the event, Cooking with Whole Foods [CWF] : Sesame seeds created by Kiran of Sumadhura and hosted by Revathi of Kaarasaaram.