Sourdough Naan with Mutter Paneer

I made this a long time ago but got the motivation to write about it just now. Those rotten lemons I alluded to in my first post, they are back. With full force. And they stink. Making my brain spin. When I close one window in my life so that they cannot enter, they quietly attack from another one. Anyway, the point is that I have been spending my time largely worrying and not enough doing. So here goes. A backlog of my experiments with sourdough. Hoping that some constructive work will take my mind off those lemons.

Once you have sourdough in your kitchen, there is this temptation to add it to anything. I mean really anything. V and T are sometimes alarmed when I eye the bottle of sourdough and some innocent ingredient in the kitchen. I realize one can go overboard but really how else can one be creative and inventive? After the grilled sourdough pizza success I thought, why not sourdough in Indian bread? In roti or naan?

This is by no means a novel idea. There are abundant recipes on the net for sourdough naan. But this time I decided to go my own way by instinct. The result was very very good.

Sourdough Naan with Mutter Paneer

Here is the recipe. I know traditionally naan is made with Maida (refined white flour) but I dislike using just Maida and always mix whole wheat atta in it.

Time: 30 mins to make the atta. 2 hours resting.
Maida (White Flour) – 1 cup
Whole Wheat Atta (Whole Wheat Flour – from Indian store made of Durum wheat) – 2 cups
Sourdough Starter – 1/2 cup (You don’t need much because you don’t want it to rise too much.)
Salt to taste
Jeera powder (cumin) – 1/2 teaspoon
Ajwain – just a pinch (carom seeds – I added this because I did not have kallonji/onion seeds. If you do, use kallonji, it will taste better.)
Olive oil – 1-2 tablespoons (I have almost completely switched to EVOO, save for tadka. Adjust this amount as you need when kneading the dough.)
Chopped onion – 1/2, optional
Chopped garlic – 4-5 cloves, optional
Water – as much as you need

Mix the flours, sourdough starter, olive oil, salt, jeera powder, and ajwain with water to form a soft, pliable dough. The traditional recipe uses dahi (indian yogurt – not the yogurt you get in stores in US, even if plain). I skipped that because of the sourdough starter. Knead it well for at least 15 minutes. Then coat the dough with olive oil and allow it to rest for two hours. It did not rise much because I used only half a cup of starter. But this is fine. Divide the dough into six parts and roll into naans. I used a rolling pin and then pulled the dough from both sides to give the naan shape. Garnish with chopped onions and garlic (optional). Chopped cilantro/coriander and green chillies are some other ideas for garnishing. Bake at 350 deg F. for 10 minutes. This timing is approximate. Depending on your oven, this may take as little as 6-7 minutes. Keep checking it. Add a generous blob of unsalted butter to the naan after you take it out of the oven and serve immediately. I so wished I had the home made white butter that my Mom makes!

I paired it with mutter paneer. I won’t add the recipe here – just use any recipe you get on the net for it. And for once on the T-meter it was “yummy in my tummy.”

V said he would have preferred if they were less crisp and a little softer. I guess 10 minutes may be too much and next time I will have them out in 6-7 minutes.

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Sugar in my milk

It was September 2008 and day one in T’s new preschool. All parents were asked to hang around to help their kids settle in the new place. After about an hour in the yard, all kids were given milk and crackers. T, not finding his favorite bourbon, glucose, or orange cream biscuits (in India all crackers and cookies are called biscuits), turned eagerly to the milk. One sip and a look of disgust spread on his face. Not only was the milk cold it was also sugarless (this would no doubt horrify all grandma’s in India, imagine giving a child COLD milk and without sugar at that). Now T is a bold one, an extrovert, one who speaks his mind. He walked up to this just-met teacher and asked for sugar. This teacher was a green-horn at teaching (read an undergrad doing internship) and immediately walked up to me to tell me that T was asking for sugar in his milk. Now I thought that she was asking me if he could have sugar in his milk. I said yes, and returned to my conversation with another parent. Little did I realize that she wasn’t asking me, she was complaining about T.

She then walked up to N, a seasoned preschool teacher of 20 years. Suddenly there was pin-drop silence in the entire room. Every single parent and teacher was looking at me. N was asking if I had said yes that T could have sugar in his milk. Now honestly puzzled and decidedly nervous I asked if something was wrong. She then pulled me aside and said, we don’t add sugar in kid’s milk. It spoils their teeth. Without thinking I replied, “oh but we do. T has always had warm milk with sugar.” And there we were at two culturally opposing sides, each thinking they were right. I couldn’t but help thinking about the cookies, sugary cereals, donuts, ice creams, and cakes that are a frequent part of a kid’s diet in the US. In contrast, the only sugar T got in a regular Indian diet was in his milk and the occasional dessert. N was not wrong in her stance, kid’s diets in the US can degenerate so quickly! I was not wrong in my view either – how can one spoon of sugar a day spoil teeth? In any case, it was a long time before N changed her opinion about me. In that one day and time she had judged me as a bad mother who gives her child sugar in his milk.

And that brings me to the point of my post. I still maintain that sugar in moderation is fine and add a heaped teaspoonful to his milk every morning. But I also agree with N about limiting the sugar (we eventually broke the ice and are now friends) in T’s diet. One area where sugar can increase exponentially is ice creams. Hence my effort to control the amount by making homemade ice cream. This weekend was strawberry ice cream made the traditional way with 2% milk, cream, sugar, and fresh strawberries. No stabilizers, no dyes, no cellulose, no ethyl acetate, and no HFCS. That has to make my ice cream the better choice and me the better mother? Yes?

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream with Fresh Strawberries

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Can we have pizza tonight?

Oven-baked sourdough pizza with fresh tomatoes, portabella mushrooms, brocoli, and jalapenos.

Once you have the sourdough starter going, it is amazing how easy it is to make sourdough pizza. I have been unhappy with the amount of processed food it is easy to end up eating here in the US. V and I are happy eating regular daal chawal roti everyday but T looks at his friends gorging on pizzas and chicken nuggets and wants those all the time.

He loves pizza with an intensity that is frightening. So I have renewed my attempts to get him to like homemade healthy pizza. Store-bought/frozen pizzas are so high in sodium and some of the additives listed make my stomach churn. Of course a six year old does not share my concern or really care.

A note here about Breadtopia: If you want to try your hand at bread baking, this is the place to go. The videos are excellent and the recipes so simple to follow. The thing about bread baking is that you MUST follow the recipe. Improvisations may lead to disasters, as I discovered when baking the sourdough sun-dried tomato rolls. They were not bad but could have been much better if I had not improvised.

For the sourdough pizza, I followed the recipe exactly except for the grilling bit. We don’t have an outdoor grill and I had to use the oven. I also don’t have a pizza stone but I will buy it now. In spite of this, the pizza turned out finger licking good. For the sauce, I used whatever I had at home: fresh tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, dried oregano, yellow peppers, and added chipotle adobo seasoning for a bit of a kick. For toppings I used portabella mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, and brocoli. I also used reduced fat mozarella to get the fat content down.

T wanted a pepperoni pizza but I don’t stock any meat at home. Next time I’ll make sure I have some to add on his pizza. This could be a reason why this pizza got a not so great rating on the T meter.

T meter: A very okay yummy in my tummy.

S and V meter: Yummmmm… (we obviously have different standards.)

T ism: I think you are the best cooker in the world but next time can I have pepperoni pizza please?

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Lemons and Sourdough

What do lemons have to do with sourdough? Nothing really. Peter Reinhart’s recipe calls for pineapple juice not lemon juice. So when life started throwing lemons at me and rotten ones at that, I decided not to philosophize too much and quietly threw them in the trash. The tart acid has burned though. Irrevocably? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t really know at this point. What I do know is that I had to channel my anger, frustration, and sadness somewhere. Yes, it’s amazing how all three emotions can manifest at the same time. Anyway, before I let this post become morose and macabre, let me say that I found solace in sourdough. Funny how one can be obsessed by it.

V and T have been equal partners in this. T by being the absolute joy that he is. V by remembering to feed the sourdough starter on time. Yes, yes, you have to feed it. Every two days at that. It’s like raising a baby. Keeping it alive has now become a definite purpose.

This week, after making our first batch of sourdough starter (see this excellent video here: Breadtopia), we decided to make sourdough bread with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and rosemary. Followed this excellent recipe from Jugalbandi. Improvised a bit here and there. The rolls turned out okay for a first attempt. Paired them with a potato and leek soup. Stinted on the cream in the soup.

Result: a very mellow yummy in my tummy on the T meter.

T-ism: When I went to wake him up this morning he whispered: Shhh Mama, I am having a very important dream and you are disturbing it.

Sourdough sun-dried tomato rolls with potato and leek soup

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