Chocolate Strawberry rolls



What would be the best possible match in the culinary marriage of chocolate? If I were to match the horoscope, I would conclude that it is orange that is the best match closely followed by strawberry. Somehow, a hint of orange in an otherwise ordinary brownie takes my taste buds several steps closer to nirvana. However in puff pastries and rolls it is strawberry that is a match made in heaven. It is not just Valentine ’s Day that Chocolate and strawberries make a great couple, they sure are any morning when I am craving for these rolls.

Speaking of match made in heaven reminds of weddings.  I love weddings, though I don’t get to go to weddings since I live so far away from family these past several years.  Back then it used to be joyous occasion with extended families, food , celebrations and new clothes, something we looked forward to.  Earliest of memories of a wedding stretch back to eighties, from the cinema wedding to a muslim one to family, several of them. The cinema wedding was indeed dramatic. A wedding sequence for the classic Kannada movie Bandana was being filmed in my neighborhood. The movie makers requested women in our neighborhood to go over to the shoot dressed for the occasion. Hoping to catch a glimpse or their favorite stars (Suhasini Maniratnam and Jai Jagadeesh) my neighbor took me along. Once the shoot was over we were to return back home but I would not budge without the traditional meals served over banana leaf. I threw a big tantrum over food. Poor my neighbor could not convince me that it was just a shoot and there would be no food. Instead she just scooped me up and hurried me back home to my mother. Then there was my teacher’s wedding -a muslim one that I distinctly remember. It was the first time I saw her in make-up and bridal finery, but that did not strike me. What struck me was that my teacher who would otherwise be chatty, pacing up and down the classroom sat amidst bunch of women with her head covered, eyes closed in stoic silence.

The best were the weddings in my own families, when my uncles or cousins got married. Each one of those marriages is unforgettable. Preparations would start months earlier once the match was finalized. There would be several trips to shop for clothing, jewelry etc. Strangely it is just not the bride and the groom that got to wear new clothes. The whole family shopped for new clothes, we end up buying clothes (mostly Saris) for members of distant branches of the family even those that we met only during weddings and have trouble remembering names and how they are related to us. These shopping trips spearheaded by the senior most women folk is a family is like Ekta Kapoor soaps- never ending. Every other day someone pops up on their radar that they had omitted from the Sari list.  This loot goes on till the last day. Men folk typically accompany the shopping party the first few times and then they throw in the towel. The very political process of distributing the loot continues parallel with shopping. There always are folks who think the other cousin scored a better or more expensive Sari. It is impossible to make everyone happy even those who were allowed to shop their own stuff will end up no-so-happy after they see the other cousin’s choice. And then there is the dangerous game of recycling Saris. The sari scored in one the weddings in the family of the third cousin twice removed will duly be stored in the closet to be presented to someone else. Some how these senior women in the family like matriarchs in an elephant herd remember everything. I wonder how, I cannot as much remember the matching blouses to my sari. Sometimes even elephantine memory does not help and these recycled stuff short circuit. As with every short circuit these situations are also associated with explosive fireworks of different intensities and some waterworks which if harvested will keep Tamil Nadu happy during the Kuruvai season. Then there will be efforts to please the aggrieved party in form of bribes, praises, more water works from the accused party and they all kiss and make up. This is just the story of Clothes (Saris). There is still jewelry, decorations, food and most important navigating the quagmire of inquisitive relatives who think they have the right to talk to you about everything in your life from bedroom to bathroom to your office desk, nothing is out of bound here.
All these for another day, for now let me focus on chocolate strawberry rolls. These chocolate strawberry rolls turned out to be soft, sweet and chocolaty. It said Sunday like nothing else. So here it is.
We will need,

For the rolls:
Maida 1 Cup
Whole Wheat flour (Chapati flour) 1 Cup
Yeast 1.5 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Sugar 3 tbsp (add more if sweeter rolls are preferred, these are barely sweet, just the way my family likes)
Butter 3 tbsp plus 1 tsp or so to grease
Milk  lukewarm Shy of 1 Cup

Filling:
Strawberry jam 
Chocolate Chips /chunks of choice (I love mini bitter sweet chunks) as desired

Method:

    • Dissolve the yeast in milk + 1 tsp sugar and set it aside. If the mixture turns frothy in the next 15 minutes or so. If it is not frothy they discard and repeat using fresh package of yeast.
    • Mix in all the dry ingredients. Melt the butter and stir it into the milk mixture. 
    • Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture. Mix it well and knead it into a soft ball. Add more milk if the mixture is too stiff.  
    • Grease a bowl with a little butter and place the dough. Cover it with a kitchen towel and place it in a warm spot till it doubles. It took me about 40 minutes. 
    • Punch the dough down and roll it out into a rectangle about 1/4" thick. Spread the strawberry jam all over the dough excluding the the area along 1/2" from the edges. 
    • Scatter the chocolate chips/chunks. Starting from the wider side, gather the edges and start rolling it tightly into a log.Keep the chocolate chips in place while rolling so that they don't bunch.
    • Cut the log into six pieces and transfer it into a greased baking dish one inch apart from each other. Cover with a kitchen towel and keep it in a warm place to double. 
    • Pre heat oven to 375F.  Once the dough had doubled in size, brush some butter over the dough and pop it in the oven. They are done when they are fragrant and golden on top.Serve immediately.






    Ricotta and Panner Peda


    After several years I have started watching a Hindi soap rifling off the internet. I would have loved to watch it legit but for three reason. I am a streamer and I don’t even own a TV, though technically Honey has one in the basement it is far too complicated. That damn thing comes with four remote controls. Turning it on is a nightmare, let alone surf for the right input and subsequently the channel. I did rather solve some trigonometry sums than try to venture into the realm of TV. Miss you KEONICS on/off TV. Two, Hotstar does not stream in USA. I wrote them several times but they would not listen. They don’t even have it on amazon prime channels or Netflix. I almost fell of the chair thinking of Desi soaps on Netflix/Amazon prime. They can fit in tens and thousands of content in the space needed to fit in just Kyun Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Imagine Game of Thrones versus Kum Kum Bhagya, economics of cloud bytes!!

    Post justification for rifling, let us get to the soap. Boy! It is hard to wait. I mean being a streamer and oldest of millennials I loose out on waiting game even before it starts. Hello! how can you go on for days without watching how it ends. Not that I did not watch soaps before. I do remember watching several of them on Doordarshan including Shanti and Swabhiman but those were the times we had only them to watch and nothing else. If there was a power cut during the air time we lost those episodes forever. Also I remember watching a weepy called  Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zaroorath Hai. This one was probably a weekly. Not sure though, it is been a long time and as can be expected I abandoned it midway after it got too tedious. I did watch the Kyon Ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi initially when Tulasi was a Physics MSc topper (anyone remember?) and abandoned it once she because bahu wearing ridiculous jewelry/sari. I should mention a disclaimer here. I did watch Iss Pyar Ka Kya Naam Doon the original one. It so happened that when the male lead quit the show there was a great hubbub, it was in the newspapers, internet everywhere. I was the proverbial cat that got curious and rifled though the internet and saw one of the episode. The male lead was super attractive, female lead good, story intriguing and it got me hooked. The soap was by then off air and here I was trying to catch up from episode 1. I did manage to watch the whole thing in about a week, of course forward tab helped. Since I started with last episode, there was no waiting to know the end and it suited me perfectly.

    Now for the current soap, how is that the hero and heroine always manage to tangle their dupatta/watch, bracelet /watch. God knows, it is like they wear their accessories with single intention of getting tangled with the other person. It has never once happened to me in real life and I am a rather clumsy person, yeah I have stumbled awkwardly in platform heals, tumbled down wearing PJs but never got tangled in another person’s accessories, not even in my sisters long hair back when we used to share the same bed, not even when sleeping like a logs. I always wonder how the writers came up with this kind of situations. And then hero and heroine manage to get locked in store rooms/ horse stables/lifts/jungle lodges, their own homes and what not. And the viewers are supposed to interpret it as a romantic getaway! Wonder if the writers have any clue how it might pan out in real life? If I ever get locked in a store room or lift with Honey, it would scare the living daylights out of me. What are we to eat? what about coffee? Honey would turn into a vampire without periodic ingestion of caffeine.(Periodic I mean once every 60-75 minutes) Even if single but people with mutual interest were locked in I seriously doubt if they think of a song and a dance instead of figuring out a rational way to get out. So much for willful suspension of disbelief, but hell I am hooked now and I cannot stop watching. Time to check into soap rehab -now called 'netflix'.
      
    How the hell did I end up writing about soaps when I should have been writing about Peda? There is a connection. Yesterday was Sri Krishna Janmashtami and I made some Pedas. Every time I think of Krishna, I do think of Nitish Bharadwaj –remember the guy who played Krishna in the original BR Chopra Mahabaharata? There is goes, even gods are not free from the clutches of soaps, I am a mere mortal. After all this I did not even realize my pedas were out of focus. But it is too late, Pedas are gone. I will go ahead anyway.

    This is what I do every festival season, get vats of ricotta cheese and sneak it in as many dishes in every possible combinations.
    Here we go, we will need,

    Fresh Paneer 1 measure
    Ricotta cheese 1 measure
    Jaggery 1/2 to 3/4 measure
    Cardamon 1 pod (seeds crushed. save the skin to make masala chai)
    Ghee a few tsps

    Method.
    • Crumble the Paneer into a thick non stick pan. Scoop the ricotta into it and mix. Place the mixture on low heat. 
    • Crush the jaggery and stir it into the cheese mixture. Keep stirring gently so that the mixture does not burn. The mixture will loosen up but keep stirring till it leaves the edges and comes together into a ball. Remove from heat.
    • Stir in the crushed cardamon. Using the back of a ladle, rub the mixture against the bottom of the pan. 
    • Once the mixture is cool enough to handle (but very warm), remove it onto a greased platter and rub it well using the heal of your hand till the mixture is soft and no longer crumby. Pour in some melted ghee if the mixture is sticky or feels too dry. 
    • Make it into a log and pinch balls the size of a gooseberry and press it into desired shapes. Refrigerate or consume immediately.


    Burfi

    I have an incurable sweet tooth. Somehow I manage to have at least a small piece of sweet every single day. Despite the ill effects of sugar, I am hooked. Sugar like a lot of other stimulants does lead to a sort of addiction much like nicotine. I cannot help myself from that bits of chocolates, Laddoos, Burfis that seem to seek me out. I am thinking of going sugar free for a few weeks to experiment with myself. More on that later. For now it is all about Burfi.

    Burfi is the Indian equivalent of fudge. It is sweet, rich and crumbly, mostly made of fatty milk from native Indian breeds. It has relatively a small list of ingredients but it is the technique that is slightly complicated. Because of the simplicity of the ingredients the quality of the ingredients is what differentiate the end product. Somehow Burfis made from the homogenized milk in the regular American super market can never beat the taste of the ones made from fresh and fatty cow /buffalo milk back home. Again not the homogenized, processed junk that comes in plastic bags in India, they are just as crappy as the ones in the cartons here in America.

    Not that I have the perfect Burfi, But I am on the way.  This particular draft has been lying in my folder for three -four years now but somehow I never posted it. Recently I made a batch as a hostess gift at one of the dinner parties we were invited to. Our hosts loved it, so did other guests. So here we do.

    We will need,

    Milk powder /dry Mawa 2 cups
    Evaporated milk  1 small tin

    Sugar 3/4 cup
    Butter 4 tbsp + extra
    Pista 4-5 chopped or Tooti-fruiti  1 tbsp chopped



    Method:
    • Butter the insides of a baking dish about 8"-10" square. Cover the bottom and  sides with a piece of wax paper. Set it aside.Take a small bowl of water and set it aside.
    • Combine the milk powder, evaporated milk, sugar and the 4 tbsp butter in a sauce pan. Stir using a wire whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Set the pot on medium heat and stir constantly. 
    • The mixture will start boiling and there will be bubbles all around. Reduce heat and cook for five minutes or so. 
    • Now take about half a teaspoon or so of the mixture and pour it into the bowl of water that was set aside earlier. Try to wrap it into a ball in the water. It can be hot, so got to watch out here. If the mixture is in soft ball stage that is, if a ball can be made from the mixture, remove from heat and keep stirring till the mixture hardens slightly. 
    • Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread it around.Garnish it with chopped Pistas/ Tooti-fruti.
    •  Let it sit for a few hours, preferably overnight 
    • Once the Burfis are set cut it into pieces. store it in an air tight jar for a few days.





    Mixed Veg Paddu

    One very critical as aspect of cooking in the ability to innovate. There are times we realize we  have run out of an ingredient mid way through the cooking. Or there are times when we have to accommodate someone with a dietary restriction. Our grandmothers and mothers were exposed to such situations much better than we were. Therefore they are better cooks. My grandmother might not have known Al Dente pasta, but she sure knew how to dish our finger licking food even at the end of the month when most of her pantry would be empty.

    It is one such constraint that lead this dish. Paddu is typically loaded with crunchy onions along with a bunch of other ingredients to make it crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the insides. However one of my family members visiting from India had a dietary restriction that particular morning I was all set to make regular Paddus. As I chopped the onions, I casually asked if they were ok with onions in their food. Reluctantly they answered they would like something without any onions.  I had by then no other option to fall back upon and I chanced upon a hunk of cabbage sitting in the refrigerator. Quickly in went the Cabbage and out went the onions. The results were surprisingly good. Now cabbage stands in for onions in several of my dishes and we love it.

    We will need,

    Left over Idli/Dosa batter
    Cabbage finely chopped
    Carrots grated
    Green Chillies minced
    Coriander fresh chopped
    Jeera
    Curry leaves
    Channa dal soaked in water for 1 hour
    Salt to taste
    Oil to grease the Paddu skillet

    Method:
    • Sprinkle a generous pinch of salt on the chopped cabbage and set it aside for 30 minutes. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible. 
    • Stir in all the ingredients gently into the batter.
    • Preheat the Paddu skillet. Grease some oil into each of the molds. Pour a spoon fulls of batter and cook covered. Add a dab more oil if it looks too dry. Flip and cook on the other side till golden and crispy all over. 
    • Remove and serve with coconut chutney

    Avalakki Spinach Uppittu

    In this age of hyper information, as much as life gets easier, it also gets complicated in other ways.  We are constantly bombarded with 'health' foods and panaceas on all of media. Reader's Digest to The Hindu to 24x7 TV channels, radio. Everyone seem to have an opinion on what constitutes 'health' foods and what will help us as a society to lead a healthy and long life. But how credible are these bits of information. Do these bits reflect current scientific evidence? Going beyond, how solid is the scientific evidence. How much of it is truth and how much of it is paid for by vested interests. It is all questions and more questions.

    It is my pet peeve when people recommend the latest fad. Oats was one a  few years back. Now it is mainstream. Australia Oats lobby successfully marketed their surplus oats to 'health conscious' Indians. Now everyone seem to think Oats is a healthier than say rice/ragi/wheat. The truth is oats is as good or as bad as any other grain. It might have a slight edge over polish rice, but not unpolished rice. And then there was a the 'fat-free' fad. Everything was made fat free. But at what cost?  remove  fats and replace it with salt and sugar. How else can something that is processed to remove all fats stop tasting like cardboard? We now know that it was the sugar industry here in the USA that funded research studies that kept trying make fats look bad even though the earliest of unbiased research did show the problems associated with sugar consumption.

    The fat versus sugar battle was the longest running sham show we have ever seen.
    Now there seems to be a trend somewhat extolling the virtues of our own millet. Millet do not need as much water as say rice or wheat so they are environmentally friendly. They have a slightly better nutrition profile over polished grain. They can be substituted for rice/wheat in a variety of traditional recipes too.But for today we will stick to Avalakki or beaten rice. Not just any Avalakki, it is the red rice avalakki/poha. This variety retains a portion of the barn and has a slightly reddish hue. It is cooked the same way as the regular Poha. In this recipe I have bumped up the veggie quotient by throwing in spinach.


    We will need,

    Red Rice Avallakki/ Poha  1 cup
    Peanut oil   2-3 tbsp
    Mustard seeds 1/8 tsp
    Jeera 1/4 tsp
    Hing  a dash
    Curry Leaves a handful
    Urad dal 1 tsp
    Channa dal 1 tbsp
    Onion chopped 1 large
    Green Chillies slit into two 4-5 (adjust according to taste)
    Turmeric a  generous pinch
    Spinach 1 bunch (washed, patted dry and chopped)
    Salt and lemon juice to taste
    Toasted peanuts to top (optional)

    Method:
    • Wash the Avalakki in several changes of water. Sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of water on the avalakki and set it aside to plump up and soften.
    • Place a Kadai on medium heat. Once it is hot, pour in the oil, quickly followed by mustard, jeera, hing, curry leaves, Urad dal and Channa dal. the spices and dal will pop and sizzle. 
    • Once the dals are golden, throw in the onion and green chillies. Saute till the onions are translucent.
    • Make a spot in the center and place the turmeric and cook it for a few seconds to soften the pungent edge of the turmeric. Stir well.
    • Throw in the spinach and saute for a couple of minutes so the spinach wilts but is not mushy.
    • Fluff up the Avalakki with your fingers /fork. Once the grains are separate, throw it into the Kadai. Add salt, lemon juice and gentle fold it all into the onion/spinach mixture. 
    • Once the Avalakki is completely warm, remove from heat and scatter the peanuts. Or the peanuts can be scattered on individual servings as well.
    Notes: I can easily think of substituting spinach with other greens. Any tender greens will work in this recipe.