Category Archives: Breakfast

Chapatti, or Versatile Indian Flatbreads

Before embarking on this flatbread adventure I had never tasted chapatti or even seen them in “real” life. I had read about them, seen on blogs and in cookery books, but had no idea (and still don’t have!) what texture and taste I should obtain. These chapatti are soft, taste slightly nutty and are absolutely delicious, in spite of their weird forms and scary look (normally chapatti are of course perfectly round, but I have never managed to roll them out properly…). They are quick to prepare, easy to reheat or defrost and so surprisingly versatile, I now treat them as international wraps (these above were perfect with feta and bacon for my office lunch) and wonder how I could eat the store-bought tortillas all these years…

Chapatti/chapati are, after naans, the second Indian flatbread recipe I learnt. (Maybe one day I’ll show you my naans… but they look even worse than my chapatti). Indian cuisine has a big array of breads, but I chose chapatti because I read somewhere they were to Indians what tortillas were to Mexicans. I also liked the fact that they are made simply in a pan (not in a super hot tandoori!) and are relatively quick to prepare. As I browsed through recipes, I found they were all similar (i.e. called for water and flour), but I also realised that many Indian home cooks obtain dry tough chapatti and seek for advice. I stumbled upon a chapatti thread on Indus Ladies where some advised to add curd and oil. I added yogurt instead of the curd, played a bit with the amounts and the resulting flatbreads proved soft, easy to cook and addictive. I am too scared to try and compare the traditional flour and water recipe, so I’ll stick to this one. Following Meera Sodha’s advice in Made in India. Cooked in Britain, I used half wholemeal and half white flour, the mixture which is apparently closest to the Indian chapatti flour (I think this adds slightly nutty flavours, keeping the dough acceptable for those who hate wholemeal products).

TIPS:

Even if you don’t cook Indian, I strongly advise testing chapatti as an alternative to store-bought tortillas (I plan to make those too one day, inspired by MJ’s beautiful perfectly round corn tortillas). I use them to wrap everything I find in the fridge: raw cucumbers, peppers, chillies, fresh herbs, chicken, ham, feta, tofu… and add Greek yogurt, sriracha (it’s perfect!) and pickles. They are of course delicious with Indian curries…

It’s difficult to say exactly how thick chapatti should be. I roll out mine about 1 mm – 1.5 mm thick. (If they are very too thin, slightly transparent, they will become crisp, not soft!).

Once prepared, chapatti will keep for two-three days in the fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic. They can also be frozen, but make sure you divide them, otherwise you’ll have to defrost the whole batch. I heat the refrigerated chapatti for 10 seconds in the microwave and defrost those from the freezer for about 20 seconds.

When frying the second side of chapatti you should press it and the best tool I found for that is a potato press.

Many sources advise leaving dough for 30 minutes (or even more) before rolling out, so that it becomes softer. I try to do it, but when I am in a hurry, I start grilling chapatti straight away and they are soft anyway (maybe not as soft as with the 30 minutes waiting, but the difference is small).

Preparation: about 30 minutes (+30 min for the dough to become softer, but it’s not absolutely necessary)

Ingredients (makes about 10-12 chapatti):

125 g white flour

125 wholemeal flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 heaped tablespoons yogurt

3 tablespoons neutrally-tasting oil or coconut oil (I prefer coconut oil)

75 ml water (or a bit more, see below)

In a bowl combine all the ingredients and start kneading them.

If the mixture is too dry, add water by spoonfuls. If you add too much water chapatti will be drier, so don’t exaggerate.

Knead the mixture about 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft. Cover with plastic film and leave for 30 minutes (this is not necessary, but if you have time, do it because it makes the dough softer).

Divide the dough into big apricot-sized balls and cover them so that they don’t dry out.

In the meantime heat a big frying pan brushed with some oil (again, I use here coconut oil).

Roll out the dough into 1 mm thickness and grill at medium heat until bubbles show up (start rolling out another chapatti while the previous one fries).

At this point turn the chapatti over and fry for about 10 seconds, pressing it (a potato masher is perfect for that).

Place on a plate and proceed in the same way with other balls, brushing the pan with oil every second chapatti.

Cover the plate with plastic film and keep at room temperature until they cool down.

Then you can keep them for several days in the fridge or freeze them.

 

Fresh Goat Cheese Spread/Dip with Chives

I’ve always loved fresh goat cheese, but it has really become my daily fare since I met a lovely young woman selling her organic goat cheese at my French farmers market. The taste has nothing to do with any shop-bought version (organic or not), the cheese freshest possible (produced the same morning) and the price is so low, I let her fill up a big tupperware and enjoy it almost every single day during the goat milking season, i.e. all year round apart from most of the winter (they became all pregnant – I know there must be a proper word for that in English too… – hence the halt in cheese production until baby goats are born).

Even though I had frozen big amounts of this cheese (the texture changes a bit but they still beat whatever one can find in shops), I ran out of them quite a long time ago and was very impatient to start buying it again. Coming back home the very first thing I did was devouring a whole one with a spoon, but just after that I made this delicious spread that makes me feel springtime is already here and reminds me of my childhood.

Actually, it’s an almost identical copy of the simple fresh cow cheese and chives spread I used to eat often as a child and which is very popular in Poland. In countries where goat cheese is expensive, this goat version would be a luxury, but luckily I live close to France where fresh goat cheese is extremely popular and obviously not expensive. The only personal twist I’ve added to my mum’s recipe is garlic, but chives remain the crucial element that makes this spread irresistible.

I usually have this spread on my favourite breakfast bread (this Finnish super thin “diet” one), not only in the morning but also as an afternoon snack. You can also serve it at a party, as a dip with nachos or raw vegetables and it’s delicious on dark/wholemeal bread canapés (if you like pumpernickel, you will love the combination).

If you don’t find fresh goat cheese (or if it’s expensive where you live or if you simply don’t like it), you can use fresh cow or ewe cheese (often called cottage cheese, but make sure it’s all natural).

Here are some other spreads you might like:

Baba Ghanouj/M'tabal (Aubergine Dip)

Baba Ghanouj/M’tabal (Aubergine Dip)

Yogurt/Quark Spread with Caramelised Onion

Yogurt/Quark Spread with Caramelised Onion

Tzatziki with Fennel

Tzatziki with Fennel

Bulgarian Dill Salad/Dip (Dry Tarator)

Bulgarian Dill Salad/Dip (Dry Tarator)

Taramosalata (Fish Roe Dip)

Taramosalata (Fish Roe Dip)

TIPS: While you can perfectly replace goat cheese with cow cheese (the taste is different, of course), I do not advise replacing chives with thick spring onions. They are too aggressive, too “oniony” and at the same time are not as aromatic as chives (I did try once and regretted my experiment). If you have access to the Japanese ao negi (slightly thicker than chives and less pungent), it will be a perfect replacement and you can use more of if, since it’s more delicate.

If you have a source of good quality fresh goat cheese, but it’s far away, buy it in big amounts and freeze it in well wrapped portions. Strangely the texture changes only a bit and the taste is practically the same. It becomes maybe less moist, but I still find it delicious mixed with yogurt and used as a spread. (My experiments in freezing cheese are sometimes surprising: I have always thought hard cheese freezes well, but I recently saw gruyère’s texture become horribly crumbly and dry, while the famous French blue cheese roquefort stayed in perfect shape… though I must say I always vacuum pack my cheese before freezing it, apart from the fresh one which is too soft).

Obviously, if you don’t like garlic, skip it. As I said, fresh cheese and chives are the key to the delightful flavours.

Yogurt is used here only to loosen the texture, so its amount depends on the texture of the cheese.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (makes approximately a 250 ml jar of spread):

300 g of fresh goat cheese

125 ml natural yogurt (cow or goat milk yogurt will be ok), or more/less; see the TIPS above

6 heaped tablespoons chopped chives (or more)

1 big clove garlic

salt (to taste)

Combine the ingredients and refrigerate or eat it straight away.

This spread will keep for several days in the fridge.

Egg Molee (Boiled Eggs in Coconut Masala)

eggmoleepHooray!!!! A new egg dish! If you are an egg addict and love Indian cuisine, you will be as excited as I was to discover this super easy, quick and easy-to-remember recipe. (If you cook Indian at least from time to time, you understand how rarely “easy-to-remember” can by used…). It looks messy and maybe not that appetising (ot looks better in R.Stein’s book), but, believe me, it’s unique.

This recipe is another jewel found in Rick Stein’s India, which, once more, I strongly advise to all the Indian cuisine lovers. Faced with an exceptional number of luscious-looking seafood and fish dishes this wonderful book contains, I simply kept on putting this recipe aside. Moreover, given the big amount of coconut milk and few spices, I expected a rather bland fatty result. Of course,  now I wonder why I have waited so long! Of course, if I decided to share it with you, it means it’s not bland at all and the fat content… well, I simply diluted coconut milk with water, the thing I do quite often. I treated the amounts of every ingredient very liberally and slightly changed the cooking process, so make sure you check the original recipe (and buy Rick Stein’s book!).

TIPS: Don’t use other onions here. Contrary to most Indian dishes I cooked, the onion is only simmered (not fried) and not added at the beginning of the frying process, so very finely sliced red onion is the only option (I have used mandolin).

Some other ideas for egg fans:

Bread Tartlet with Asparagus and Egg

Bread Tartlet with Asparagus and Egg

Chawan Mushi with Grilled Enringi

Chawan Mushi with Grilled Enringi

Omurice (Japanese Omelette and Rice)

Omurice (Japanese Omelette and Rice)

Indian Egg Curry (Ande ki kari)

Indian Egg Curry (Ande ki kari)

Preparation: about 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

two hard-boiled eggs, shelled

1 teaspoon mustard oil (or any cooking oil, if you cannot get it)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 heaped teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder (or other medium hot chilli powder)

50 ml coconut milk+50 ml water (or 100 ml coconut milk)

1 medium red onion, very finely sliced (use a mandolin, if you have it)

1 cm very finely shredded fresh ginger

about two heaped tablespoons sliced fresh green chilli (medium hot; don’t use for ex. bird’s-eye chillies, unless you know what you are doing…)

salt

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

fresh coriander

Heat the oil at medium heat in a small pan. Put the eggs and, off the heat, add the turmeric and the chilli powder.

Stir for about 10-20 seconds (the pan will still be hot, so make sure the spices don’t burn), coating the eggs in spices.

Add the coconut milk, the water (if using), the ginger, the onion, the green chilli and let the whole lot simmer for about ten minutes or more (until the onion softens).

Add salt to taste, slice the eggs in two, sprinkle with garam masala, give it a stir and serve with fresh coriander leaves.

Greek Yogurt (or Quark) Spread with Caramelised Red Onion

onionspreadpI discovered this wonderful spread in an overpriced, but otherwise average restaurant I’d certainly try to forget if it hadn’t been for quark with caramelised red onion, the highlight of their welcome snacks (and of the whole evening really). Visually unappealing, it proved surprisingly complex in taste and absolutely delicious. It has quickly become my staple light snack and favourite winter breakfast. I prepare a batch and, as soon as it’s finished, I prepare a new one. It’s been going on like this for several weeks and I don’t get tired of all these fantastic flavours.

TIPS: The restaurant I’ve mentioned used quark (aka fresh cheese or fromage frais), which is not available everywhere. Greek yogurt has a similar consistency and is also perfect here (I’ve tested both and even made it with normal natural yogurt and all these three options work perfectly). (Though if you have choice, do try it with quark first). You can also try it with thick sour cream; it will no longer be light, but the slight tanginess will be there.

US cream cheese is not an option here:  it doesn’t have the tanginess and freshness yogurts or quark have, so I don’t advise it; moreover the spread would no longer be healthy or light….

The condiments’ amount given below should be treated as a vague proposition. Taste the onion (when cooled) and adjust according to your taste.

If you skip soy sauce, the onions will retain their purple colour. (Soy sauce is my recent improvement idea).

SERVING IDEAS: My absolute number one is a canapé with thin Finnish wholemeal crisp bread, but it goes as spread/dip on any bread, chips, nachos, etc.. You can serve it as a side dish with grilled chicken or as heat taming sauce with Mexican or even Indian dishes. I’m sure it tastes fantastic with baked potatoes.

Preparation: about 30 minutes + at least 2 hours in the fridge.

Ingredients:

200 ml (about 6 oz) Greek yogurt or Quark (see the TIPS above)

1 big red onion (which has a size of a medium white onion)

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons vinegar (the best would be balsamic; if you use a stronger one, put only 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

ground black pepper

(salt, if needed)

Cut the peeled onion in half and slice more or less finely.

Heat the oil in a pan and constantly stirring, fry the onion at medium heat until it loses about half of its volume.

Add the vinegar, the soy sauce and the sugar and continue stir-frying.

After about 5 minutes, put aside, let it chill and taste. Adjust the flavours, adding more salt, sugar or vinegar and fry for a minute to heat once more. (Don’t taste the onion when it’s warm because the taste changes a lot). At the end add ground pepper and give the onions the last stir.

Combine with the yogurt or quark, add more freshly ground black pepper,  and refrigerate for at least two hours. It improves greatly overnight.

 

Tzatziki with Fennel (Greek Yogurt, Cucumber and Fennel Dip)

tzatziki_fennel_I know most of us have been looking for warming, filling autumn dishes, but maybe, just like me, from time to time you need something fresh, something bringing back sunny summer memories… What about a new version of tzatziki? I found it while reading my latest buy: Food of the Greek Islands by Aglaia Kremezi and as a relatively recent fennel convert, I was thrilled to add it to my recipes’ list. It’s light, refreshing, crunchy and if you slice the fennel very finely (with a mandolin for example), I bet your fennel-hating guests will love it and some won’t even guess what they are eating. Serve it with grilled skewers, meats and vegetables, as a party dip or as a healthy bread spread. Most of all, hurry up before the fennel season ends!

As usually, I have modified the ingredients’ amounts and their ratio, so check Aglaia Kremezi’s original recipe. If you are interested in Greek food, I strongly advise her fascinating book, written with passion and deep knowledge of the culinary heritage and traditions of Greek islands, but most of all full of luscious-looking recipes.

TIP: If you use chilli pepper, black pepper is not necessary in my opinion.

Preparation: 10 minutes + cooling time

Ingredients:

250 g (about 1/2 cup) Greek yogurt or any natural yogurt you have

1 small cucumber or 1/3 long cucumber

1 small fennel

salt, (ground black pepper)

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 garlic clove

(1 fresh small chilli pepper)

3 heaped tablespoons fresh chopped dill or fennel fronds

olive oil

Grate the cucumber (you can peel it or not, I prefer it unpeeled) and squash well to remove the juices.

Place in a bowl.

Slice the fennel very finely (the easiest way to obtain it is with a mandolin).

Place the fennel in the same bowl, add the crushed or grated garlic, the salt, the pepper (if using), the finely sliced chilli (if using), the lemon juice, the dill or fennel fronds and mix well. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Sprinkle with olive oil just before serving.