Friday, 31 March 2017

Banana Puri With A Twist...

Banana Puri... Have you ever wondered how that name came about? I mean, considering that they have no bananas in them, nor do they even faintly resemble a banana!

These fragile  fried beauties are made of hundreds of layers of light as air pastry. Made, by layering thinly rolled out dough with ghee in between. After frying, they are left on a thick wad of paper for a day or two, until every last drop of oil has drained out. Once drained, they become beautifully crisp and feather light. They are then drizzled with some sugar syrup and decorated with pistachios or almond slivers.

When I made these last week, I knew that I that I wanted to do something a little bit different with them. Going through my note book, I came across an old Indian chaat recipe of my Mom's, that I hadn't made in a while, and I thought, why not? Since this chaat is usually served with some crisp puris anyway, I decided to experiment...Aaaaand I loved it!

For the pastry, you will need:

2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons cornflour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon solid ghee
1/2 cup cold milk
1/2 cup cold water

For layering, you will need:
1/2 - 3/4 cup melted ghee
1/2 cup cornflour

You will also need:
Flavorless vegetable oils for deep frying

Sift all the dry ingredients together. Rub in the ghee until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.combine the milk and water in a jug. Gradually add the milk/water until a stiff dough is formed. Knead lightly until the dough is smooth.  Cover with some plastic wrap and set aside for half an hour. Unwrap the dough and knead again. Divide into 6 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface, until it is really thin. (about 1mm)  Generously brush 1 round with some ghee, ensuring that no part of the dough has not been covered with the ghee. Sprinkle with some cornflour, and place another round of dough on top. Brush this layer with ghee, dust with cornflour, and continue to layer until all 6 layers are piled up. Do not brush any ghee on this layer. Roll out the layered dough into a large, thin rectangle. Ensure that the bottom of the dough is well floured, to prevent sticking. Now spread the top with some ghee, again be generous and ensure that the entire surface is covered. Sprinkle with some cornflour, and starting at the bottom short end, roll up into a
swissroll. Do not roll too tightly, as the layers will not puff up. Wrap the entire roll in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an hour.

Place a thick layer of newspaper on a large baking sheet. Cover with several sheets of paper towel.

Heat the oil in a deep pot. I don't use a very large pot, since I prefer to fry the puris one at a time, but ensure  that your pot is large enough to allow the pastry to puff up.

Slice the swissroll into 2cm thick slices. Press down gently on each slice. The layers should be visible on the sides. Then, using a rolling pin,lightly roll out into long fingers. (To about 3mm thick). Heat the oil over a medium heat. Place the banana puri in the oil, and using a fork, gently prise the layers open. Fry until it is a very pale gold on one side, then carefully flip over and fry the other side.Drain in a colander for a few minutes, before transferring to the paper towel lined tray. Continue until all the pastries have been fried. Cover the banana puris with a few sheets of paper towel, and leave to drain for a few days. I leave mine for two days. You may need to replace the oil soaked paper with some fresh paper after a day.


For the Syrup, you will need:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place all the ingredients into a saucepan, and bring to a boil over low heat. Do not stir! Simmer for about 15 -20 minutes, until the syrup has thickened slightly. set aside to cool.

Place the pastries on a serving plate, and drizzle each one with a tablespoon or two of syrup. Sprinkle with pistachios, or almonds. Serve...


3 medium potatoes
1/2 cup frozen corn
salt to taste
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 green chillies, thinly sliced
6-8 curry leaves
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

Boil the potatoes in their jackets,until tender. Steam the corn. When potatoes are done, remove the skins and cut up into 1cm cubes. Place in a large bowl. add the steamed corn. Season with salt. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the remaining ingredients. Fry until the mustard seed stop spluttering. Pour over the potato and corn mixture. Stir gently to coat. Set aside.

You will also need:
A handful of baby tomatoes, halved
A handful of chopped coriander leaves
A handful mint leaves
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
4 tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup sev
1 tablespoon chaat masala (I used the Shan brand)
Tamarind sauce (see below)
Green chutney

For the Tamarind sauce, you will need:
1/2 cup store bought tamarind paste
2 teaspoons sugar
A pinch of salt
A squeeze of lemon juice

Stir everything together.

For the coriander chutney, you will need:
1 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup white vinegar
5 green chillies
1 tablespoon dessicated coconut
salt to taste

In a blender, liquidise everything together.

To Assemble:

Place the Banana puri on a plate. (You will need 1 per person) Top with the potato mixture. Layer with the tomatoes, coriander, mint leaves and pomegranate seeds. Place a dollop of yoghurt over each puri. Sprinkle with the sev and the chaat masala. Serve with the tamarind sauce and the coriander chutney. Serve at once.

NOTE: Sev is a vermicelli-like crisp fried chickpea flour (gram flour) snack.  You can buy this at specialist Indian grocers or sweet shops.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A Bunny Chow To Remember...

A classic South African fast food dish, said to be created in the 1940's, Bunny chow originated in the Port city on Durban. Created by Indians during the apartheid regime, bunny chow was served to Zulu workers who were not allowed into Indian restaurants, due to racist legislation. They were served a takeaway curry inside a hollowed out  loaf of bread. Although the original curry was vegetable, 'bunnies' are now made with mutton, chicken, vegetable or beans. 
I know that this may be unusual for a South African, but I have never eaten a bunny chow before. Somehow the idea of a curry stuffed into a stodgy loaf of bread has never held any appeal for me. Whilst I enjoy a good curry once in a while, I could not see myself eating it out of a loaf of bread! 
that is until last week, when I decided to make these mini bunnies... My version uses home made buns, filled with a creamy chicken and potato curry, and topped of with a sweet and tangy salad and some minty yogurt.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from a book called To the Banqueting House by Anna Trapido and Fathi Reinarhz

Batter Buns:
500 grams flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup  sugar
1 sachet (10 grams) instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast, in a large bowl.  Whisk the olive oil, egg, milk and water together in a measuring jug. Add this to the flour mixture, whisking until a smooth batter is formed. I use a stand mixer for this job. You may need to add a little more water if necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for half an hour.
Meanwhile, grease ten pastry moulds (7cm in diameter, and about 6-7cm tall) with some oil. Line a baking sheet with some foil, and grease the foil. The pastry rings give a nice toadstool shape to the breads, but you could use some muffin tins if desired. Empty food cans would also work... Place the
rings on the greased foil. If you are using a muffin tin, or any tin with a base, you do not need to grease the foil. Just be sure to grease the tin very well.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Ladle the batter into the moulds, about 2/3 ful. Set aside, uncovered, for about half an hour or until they are puffy and almost reaching the top of the tins. Place the buns in the oven, and bake for about 20- 25 minutes, or until done.
Remove the now golden buns from the oven, and place them, still in their moulds, on a wire rack to cool. Remove from moulds once they are cool.

Creamy Chicken and Potato Curry:
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup crisp fried onions, crushed
1 kg skinless and boneless chicken breast pieces, cut into 1cm cubes
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon red chilli paste
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
A generous pinch of saffron, optional
250 ml  pouring cream
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1cm cubes, and fried until cooked through and golden.

Combine the onions, chicken, lemon juice, garam masala,
Garlic, ginger, chilli,  salt, cumin and saffron, if using, in a large bowl. Refrigerate, and allow to
marinate for a few hours. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the chicken, and allow to simmer over low heat,  for about 45 minutes, or until cooked through. Stir in the cream and potatoes. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.

A handful of baby tomatoes
1 small red onion, sliced into half moons
A handful each of coriander and mint, finely chopped
1 red chilli, sliced at an angle into rings
2 teaspoons caster sugar
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lime

Combine all the ingredients together. Place in a bowl. Chill until ready to serve.

Yoghurt Sauce:
250 ml low fat yogurt
A small handful mint leaves
Salt to taste
1 green chilli, optional

Purée all the above together. Chill until needed.

To Serve:
Slice the cooled buns across the top. Scoop out the insides. Fill with the chicken and potato curry. Top with the salad. Serve with the yogurt on the side.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Mielie Bread...

Made some Mielie (corn) bread today. Back in January, when  I posted a pic of this on Instagram, I received so many messages and emails requesting the recipe! Hope you enjoy...

4 mielies (corn on the cob)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
80 grams butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
4-6 green chillies
2 teaspoons baking powder
Salt to taste
1 x 415 gram tin cream style corn (creamed corn)
50 grams butter, extra

Preheat oven to 180°C. Besides the cream style corn and extra butter, combine all of the above ingredients together. Liquidise in a blender until fairly smooth. I use an immersion blender. Stir in the tin of cream style corn. Pour into a well greased casserole. Dot with little knobs of the extra butter. Bake for about 35-40 minutes.
*This recipe makes a very soft Mielie bread, with an almost pudding-like texture. This is how my Family likes it. If you want a firmer bread, add about 1/2 cup extra flour.
*Whilst this recipe turns out best with white corn , you can also substitute yellow sweet corn if desired. I have had satisfactory results using frozen corn as well. You will need about 5 cups.
*This recipe freezes well. You can either freeze the baked bread, or freeze the batter without adding the baking powder and extra butter. Thaw, add the baking powder, dot with the butter, and bake. This is my preferred method.

Friday, 17 March 2017

If You Make One Thing This Week...Mughlai White Chicken Korma

During the Mughal era, the Emperors, known for their opulent and sybaritic ways, would throw grand all white banquets on full moon nights. The terraces of the Agra Fort were bedecked with white carpets, cushions and flowers. All the guests would be dressed in white and the food served was also all white in colour! Imagine the Nawaabs, Maharajahs, and their entourages, all dressed in white and dripping in jewels, arriving from far and wide, bearing lavish gifts for the Emperor! They would recline on divans bedecked with silk carpets and brocade cushions, whilst turbaned servants served course after course of exquisitely spiced saffron lamb,smothered in a rich buffalo milk yoghurt, rich, nut studded  kormas,  a variety of birds, turnips, giant bunches of white grapes,sweet melons, sweetmeats and fried pastries, dripping with honey and clotted cream, sweet sherbets, perfumed with attar of rose or jasmine.. Each dish would be  lavishly garnished with gold or silver leaf.  What a sumptuous sight it must have been! Oh, I am certain that a heavily adorned elephant or two made an appearance as well!

Ever since I cooked this korma for the first time,way back in the 1990's, I have been intrigued with the idea of an all white party, so, when my Daughter got engaged almost five years ago, my younger Daughter and I decided to do just that! We chose white flowers and decor items, all serve ware was white and the food was all in varying shades of white... Whilst it was not a full on dinner party, more of a finger food and canapés kind of evening, we served white pastries, white sweets, white desserts, white savouries, and even white juices and mocktails! However, we did not demand that the guests all wear white clothing!

Anyway, looking at her engagement pictures a few weeks ago made me want to recreate an all white meal again. This time it was lunch on a rather gloomy Friday afternoon.....the table was decked out in white and gold, and I served a starter sweet dish called Sojee, which is made with semolina. I added an Indian fudge like sweetmeat called Barfee to it to make it even more decadent! The main course was this sumptuous white chicken Korma that I served with plain boiled Basmati rice to mop up that deliciously creamy sauce. For dessert I served milky balls of  Rasgullahs in Ras Malai. Instead of a salad with greens, I chose to serve some rose scented pickled white radish and onion slices. The acidity of the pickle worked really well with the richness of the korma. Even though there were no silken carpets, or jewels in sight, this meal made us feel like royalty!

The Korma recipe has been adapted from a classic book by Camellia Panjabi.

For the Sojee you will need:

1/3 cup ghee
1 cup semolina
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups full fat milk
1/2 cup powdered milk (klim)
1 egg
1 teaspoon rose water
150 grams barfee, crumbled  *optional
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
flaked almonds to garnish

Edible gold leaf, optional

In a heavy based pan, place the ghee over a low heat. Add the semolina and cook, whilst stirring, until a very pale gold in colour. Whisk the cardamom, milk, powdered milk, egg, rose water and barfee together. I place the ingredients in a measuring jug and use a stick blender (immersion blender) for this. Add this mixture to the semolina, stir well, then cover and steam over low heat until most of the moisture has been absorbed. Add the sugar and steam for a further 10 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the ground almonds. Grease a large mould (or some individual ones) with cooking spray. Fill with the sojee, making sure that it is well compacted, and set aside for 5 minutes. Unmould and garnish with flaked almonds and some gold leaf if desired.A silicone mould works best for this. Alternatively, you could simply pile the sojee onto a platter and serve.

* Barfee is available at Indian sweet shops or some restaurants.

For The Chicken Korma You Will Need:

3 teaspoon white poppy seeds*
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of ghee
1 large onion, finely chopped
120 grams raw cashew nut
2 tablespoons char magaz seeds, optional*
3 bay leaves
3 cardamom pods
5 whole green chillies
1 cup thick Greek yoghurt
3 teaspoons minced ginger
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cloves
1 kg boneless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon garam masala powder
salt to taste
125 ml whipping cream
Edible gold leaf to garnish, optional

Soak the poppy seeds in 1/2 cup of water for about 1/2 an hour. Drain off the water and using a pestle and mortar, grind the poppy seeds to a fine paste.

In a large heavy based pan, over low heat, melt the 1/4 cup of ghee. Add the onions, cashews, char magaz, if using, and the bay leaves. Cook until onions are softened, and cashews are very lightly coloured. Add the cardamom pods, three of the chillies,and the poppy seed paste. Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add a cup of water, and cook for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves. Place in a blender,together with the yoghurt and 1/2 cup of water, and whizz to a smooth paste.

Place the remaining tablespoon of ghee into the pan, add the ginger,garlic, whole chillies, and the cloves. stir fry for a few seconds, Then add the chicken breast pieces. Cook over low heat until the chicken is almost cooked through. Add the yoghurt mixture and stir constantly, until mixture come to a boil. To avoid curdling, it is very important to stir continuously.

Add the remaining spices, and salt to taste. add 1 cup of boiling water. Cook, over low heat, until the chicken pieces are tender. Just before serving, add the cream, and heat through. Plate up, garnish with gold leaf, and present to you guests!

NOTE: Known as khus-khus, white poppy seeds are available at  Indian grocery stores. Char magaz seeds are the seeds of (four) different types of melon and squash.(literally translated, char magaz means four seeds) Available at specialist Indian grocers,they are worth seeking out for this recipe.

Serve with some plain boiled Basmati rice, that is garnished with a few fried cashew pieces and some fried poppadoms.

Pickled Onion And Radish:

1 large onion, thinly sliced into rings
4-5 small white radishes, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon rose water

Place onion rings in a sieve. add a teaspoon of salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain the onions and place in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Chill until ready to serve.