Uthappam Cheese Flatbread

May 12th, 2007 yum Posted in Indian, Indian Flatbread, Vegetarian 2 Comments »

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Sometimes a recipe is something that evolves as you make it. The other night, as I opened a container of ready made Uthappam batter from my local indian market, I started out with one idea and ended up with something quite different. Generally, I am not that wild about Uthappam, which is a batter made from ground rice and lentils that has been fermented, almost exactly like dosa batter. The difference is that Uthappam is generally made into a slightly thick pancake that contains various ingredients, rather than being made into a crisp dosa which is then (sometimes) filled with ingredients. It’s often a bit bland for my taste, and the texture is slightly gummy. But, for some reason, the last time I went to the Indian market, I couldn’t resist adding some Uthappam batter to my cart. I searched online for various recipes to enliven the Uthappam- and found one involving chopped cabbage, onions, and cilantro that somehow appealed to me. I was reminded of the Japanese food, Okonomiyaki, which is a pancake like thing with cabbage and other ingredients mixed into the batter. So, I added chopped cabbage, onions, and cilantro to the batter and made my first Uthappam. It wasn’t bad- but somehow, the flavor just didn’t thrill me. DH shrugged indifferently, and ate it, but somehow neither of us was particularly satisfied. There was still a lot of batter left after two Uthappam had been made, so I reconsidered. I decided to add some cumin seeds, nigella seeds, and on of my favorites, brown/black mustard seeds to the batter. That would make it taste more interesting- but what about the gummy, potato rosti like texture? I added water and decided to pretend it was a crepe rather than a pancake batter. I lightly oiled a cast iron pan and heated it in the oven on 400 degrees. When it was hot, I poured some batter into the pan, and swirled it so it evenly covered the bottom. uppadamflatbbread.jpgThere was still a little cabbage and onion left in the batter, so it was slightly lumpy, but really, quite reasonably thin. After baking it for about ten minutes, I took it out and sprinkled cotija cheese on top and put it back in to melt. I served it like pizza slices, with a side serving of tomato chutney, and watched it disappear. This Cheese flatbread version had considerably nicer texture, the seasonings added flavor, and the cheese made it a much more satisfying main dish. I don’t know if my version can reasonably be called Uthappam any more, but we enjoyed it, and were able to use up the remaining batter. If I were to make it again, I would probably leave out the cabbage for my “flatbread,” but it did add extra nutritional value to the dish.

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Carol Fenster’s Herbed Flatbread

February 12th, 2007 yum Posted in Carol Fenster, Indian Flatbread, Recipe Review No Comments »

Herbed Flatbread

In the gluten free world, two authors have emerged as the undisputed masters of gluten free baking- Carol Fenster and Bette Hagman. I love Bette Hagman’s breads based on her four flour blend, which incorporates bean flour and sorghum for amazingly light and elastic gluten free breads. But I’ve also owned Carol Fenster’s cookbooks for years- and while many of her books have been quite successful, her recent book “Cooking Free” has caused a great deal of buzz on gluten free message boards and web sites. Part of the appeal is that she has developed a very flexible flour blend which you can adapt to your personal taste (and allergies). After first ordering this book, I tried a bread with her blend using sorghum, potato starch, tapioca and corn flour, which she said she used most often at home. I felt that the bread was heavier than Bette Hagman’s recipes using bean flour, so decided that the next time I made a recipe I would definitely use bean flour.

Last night I started some Vindaloo Vegetable Stew from my “Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker” cookbook, and had some for breakfast and lunch with basmati rice. Noticing that we didn’t have much rice left for dinner, I decided to spice up the meal by following the Northern Indian tradition of serving flatbread with meals- so I dipped into Carol Fenster’s “Cooking Free” and decided to try the recipe for Herbed Flatbread on page 26. I’ve been a longtime fan of her pizza crust, which is earthy and nutty and uses italian seasonings to flavor the dough. I was attracted to her flatbread recipe because instead of Italian spices it used an intriguing blend of caraway seeds, fennel seeds, dill weed, ground cumin, dry mustard and minced dehydrated onion. The recipe sounded both savory and like it would complement my tomato based spicy vindaloo nicely.

It found it quite easy to make. I spun the ingredients in the mixer and then patted it out in a jelly pan, flouring the dough and then patting it down with a freezer type ziploc bag that had been sprayed with cooking spray. This method ensured my hands didn’t get all gummy and also that I didn’t have to drown the poor defenseless dough in flour. Then I brushed some locally produced olive oil (bought at the wonderful European dairy and produce shop The Milk Pail in Mountain View) onto the dough, and sprinkled some course kosher salt on top, baking the bread for 15 minutes.

The smell of delightful seasoned bread filled the house and I couldn’t wait to take it out of the oven. It was beautifully browned and was flaky when I tore off a piece to enjoy. The recipe said it served 12, but in my opinion only if those 12 were the “nibble on a raw spinach leaf and call themselves full” type. For my, um, healthy appetite, it could serve three. This time when I made her flour blend, I used Sorghum, potato starch, tapioca starch, and garfave bean flour- and it was just perfect, adding elasticity and lightness to the finished product. I think I’ve found MY favorite blend- and this recipes is a real keeper- I’d give it 9/10, but you should try it yourself and see what you think!

Flatbread and Vindaloo

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