I draw a lot of inspiration from Indian cooking. I love the bright flavors and the slow simmered sauces. I love the way the spices come together in a magical synchronicity that is so much greater than the sum of its parts. I love a lot of Indian food, but because we avoid dairy and gluten for my son, a lot of it is off-limits when we eat out. If you’ve read this blog for any time, you’ll already know that my common solution to that problem is to make it myself. (I do have to add here that I have a new favorite vegetarian Indian restaurant. Madras Mantra in Decatur. Ram and Mahi are the nicest people and this restaurant is the hands-down best vegetarian Indian I have eaten in Atlanta. We know which items are safe for my kiddo, but they are very helpful if you have questions and have extensive gluten free options like papadam/papad, idli, dosa, white rice and pulaos, medu vada, and uthappam. They do use ghee in most dishes.) For that reason, I have spent  a lot of time reading Indian recipes. On my Roku box, there is an Indian food channel that is the bees-knees. Really. It’s real people in their own kitchens cooking Indian food. I don’t like all of them, but there are a few standouts. One of these standouts is Manjula of Manjula’s Kitchen. She has her own website where you can also view her videos and obtain her recipes. I have never made a Manjula recipe that hasn’t been well received by my family or utterly delicious. Her spices are always right on and because you’re seeing it on video, you learn the important tricks like frying the spices in hot oil and cooking tomato puree down. I mention her here because the original recipe for “Besan Puda” or “Gram Flour Dosa” comes from her website. You may notice that I have included three links to the original recipe. That is because it is important to give credit where credit is due. I did not think of this on my own, but I have made changes (as always) and I am using it in some unique ways, so I will post the recipe that I use here. **I do always omit the hot chilis from my Indian cooking. Too hot.

Another thing I often look for when reading recipes are those recipes that are not common, but are naturally gluten free or perhaps made of a more nutritionally dense ingredient than we would normally use. Since I work around food restrictions as well as preferences, this really helps. For example, I use a lot of almond flour in my baking – both “regular” gluten free and grain free baking because it greatly increases its nutritional value. In this case, “besan” or “gram” flour is a flour made from finely ground chickpeas. Some people do not like bean flours because they give them tummy upset. If that is the case, I will be sad that you do not get to make this awesome recipe. If you think you might want to try it, you could try adding a pinch of hing or asafetida to the batter to help with digestibility. I have used the finely ground besan flour from the Indian markets and I have also used the chickpea flour from DeKalb Farmer’s Market. The gram flour from the Indian market is superior because it is more finely ground.  I think you could use a garfava flour mix here just as well. In contrast to wheat flour, this recipe contains no gluten. In contrast to commercial gluten free flours, it contains no rice flours, corn products or xanthan gum. I also use chickpea flour to make homemade falafel, pakora (fritters) and ladoo (kind of like a fudge).

Besan Puda
First, put a medium sized frying pan on medium heat to get hot. I use an approximately 8 inch pan. You want a pan that you could make crepes in, not a tiny omelet pan and not a huge pan either. I use stainless steel and cast iron pans, so they take a little bit to heat. It will be just right by the time you make the batter.

Put the following ingredients into a 4-cup measuring cup or medium sized bowl:
2 cups chickpea flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch (this is optional, but it makes a crispier outside)
1 tsp salt
Whisk these ingredients together to mix them.
Additionally, you can add 1/2-1 tsp of granulated or powdered garlic or onion for more flavor.

Measure out a total of 1 1/2 cups of water into a separate bowl or measuring cup. Pour in about 1/2 cup of water and start to whisk it into the flour. Add the water in 1/2 cup or so increments, whisking well after each addition, until all the water is added. Avoid the temptation to dump all the water in. This will ensure a lumpy batter that will then require you to dirty the immersion blender to rescue it, and that’s just one more thing to wash! Your batter should be completely smooth. If there are any small lumps, mash them against the side with the whisk so that the batter is smooth. The batter should be like pancake batter; fairly thick, but able to run off the spoon. It should not be thin and drippy and it should not be thick and gloppy. We’re talking baby bear’s porridge here people.

For cooking you will need oil to spray or brush into the pan (I use grapeseed, coconut, or avocado) as well as a spatula that can release the crepe/tortilla/thing you are cooking from the pan. I use a metal one because that’s what I use on my pans. You will also need a ladle.

Spray the pan generously with your oil. Fill your ladle about half full. You’re aiming for about 1/4 Cup of batter. Pour the batter into the center of the pan. Wait about 3 seconds. Use the bottom of the ladle to gently move the batter out from the center of the pan, using concentric circles. As in, move the ladle in small circles around the pan that gradually become bigger, pushing the wet batter with the ladle as you go. This sounds complicated, but it’s easy to feel when you are doing it. Stop when you get to the edge or when you run out of batter, whichever comes first. Your first ones will be thicker than your later ones and that won’t matter, because they will all be delicious!

Cook on this side until the top starts to look dry. At some point, use your spatula to gently pry up the edges to get it ready to be flipped. You can peek at the bottom. Little brown spots are tasty. When you have little brown spots, when it smells toasty, when the top is dry or some combination of those indicators, lightly spray the top with oil and then flip it over.

Press it down firmly in the pan. Cook for another few minutes on this side and then remove to a plate. Eat. Repeat.

Variations:

We really miss something I used to make with shredded cheese from a bag, marinara sauce and flour tortillas that I called “pizzadillas”. Now, I make these and when I flip it over to the second side, I put in grated raw goat cheese, about a cup of very finely chopped raw spinach and about one teaspoon of marinara sauce, dolloped all around. After the cheese starts to melt, I flip it closed like a quesadilla and let it cook for a few minutes to wilt the spinach. Nom. Nom. Nom.

I did try Manjula’s original version with zucchini and I thought it was tasty. However, my kids HATE zucchini, so they weren’t huge fans.

Besan Puda or The Best Chickpea Crepe/Wrap/Tortilla Ever
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Cuisine: Indian transformed
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 2 Cups besan, chickpea or gram flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ Cup tapioca starch
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic or onion (optional)
  • 1½ Cups water
Instructions
  1. Whisk the salt and tapioca starch into the chickpea flour (along with optional flavoring) in a 4 Cup measuring cup or medium bowl.
  2. Adding ½ Cup at a time, start to add the water, patiently beating out the lumps with each addition.
  3. Continue until all the water has been added and the batter is smooth.
  4. If the batter did not end up smooth, whiz it in a blender and return it to the measuring cup.
  5. Heat a medium (8") pan over medium high heat. Oil the pan.
  6. When the pan is hot, add ¼ Cup or ½ ladle full of batter to the pan.
  7. Wait about 3 seconds and then place the ladle down into the center of the pan.
  8. Start to move the batter out, using the weight of the ladle while moving it in circles.
  9. Continue until you reach the edge of the pan or run out of batter.
  10. Cook until the top starts to look dry, it smells toasty or there are dark brown spots on the underside (or all three).
  11. Spray with a drizzle of oil.
  12. Gently loosen the edges and flip over. Cook for a few minutes on the second side, pressing down firmly with the spatula.
  13. Remove to a plate.
  14. Optional step: Once the puda is flipped, fill with raw chopped spinach, cheese and a teaspoon of marinara sauce. Once the cheese begins to melt, fold it in half and press down to seal. Cook for a few minutes and then flip.

These are also a quite passable wrap if you have a hankering for a sandwich. In that case, I would cook them slightly less so that they were not quite as dry, fold or roll them and wrap them in foil as I finished them so that they stay warm and somewhat pliable.

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Chickpea “Fries”

by Chance on January 4, 2016

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So, you may have noticed that I believe in the liberal use of quotes. I’ve noticed that pops up a lot on this blog. I think it’s because between food sensitivities and allergies and people wanting to be healthier, there are a lot of things to substitute and swap out. I came across chickpea fries on a menu about a year ago. If you live in a family with food sensitivities and/or allergies, you do one of two things. Either you never eat out or you religiously read restaurant menus. I like to read cookbooks and I like to read restaurant menus also. You never know what you’ll find! I am also a huge fan of naturally gluten free recipes and nutritionally dense food. Anyway, I don’t remember what restaurant it was, but it piqued my interest. So then I did what anyone in 2015 would do: I googled it. It turns out that chickpea fries are enjoyed in many locales around the world. Call them panisse, panelle, or chickpea fries. It’s similar to polenta in the sense that you cook chickpea flour (instead of ground corn) with hot water and salt and when it cools, it sets up into a firm custard texture. When you slice that cooled mixture and pan fry it, you get a delicious crunchy outside and a smooth velvety inside. I love a good French fry, so I’m not going to compare them to French fries. There is nothing like a perfect french fry. However, for eating regularly, they beat fried potatoes hands down because they are made from more nutrient rich chickpeas. They are crunchy and soft, filling yet light and in my house, they make a great main dish or side with other veggies.

Now, I want to come clean with this recipe. This is the recipe that made me realize that I was hung up on perfectionism and that was why I didn’t post more often. The first time I made these, the mixture didn’t set up “correctly” even though I felt I had followed the directions carefully. I usually do that the first time, if I can make myself, but after that, all bets are off! Of course I fried them and we ate them anyway but they reminded me more of chicken nuggets because they refused to slice. Little patties solved that problem. The second time I made them, they set up like I had expected them to. However, when I fried them, they kind of hollowed out. That was delicious, but couldn’t have been more different that people’s descriptions online. I mean, it was a hollow fry. We liked those better, but of course I had to try again. The third time I made them, I became obsessed with beating out all the lumps. There were recipes that said to carefully add the flour and quickly mix to get all the lumps out. As if it was important to the outcome. LIARS. I’m telling you that I got all my crazy out on these chickpea fries so that you don’t have to. There was a blender involved. The fourth time I made them, I was determined to make it lump free, so I did it all in a food processor. It was beautiful. UNTIL I COOKED IT. Folks, I’m just telling you that it absolutely doesn’t matter whether your batter is lumpy. They taste great. It not only does not affect the taste, but once they’re fried, you can’t tell the batter used to be lumpy. So, allow my waste of kitchen time to save you from wasting your kitchen time. Follow the directions and you too will have delicious crunchy fries. Oh yeah, one more thing: it makes no difference if you whisk the flour either. Don’t do it.
If you are worried about the fact that these are fried, let me share some more of my crazy. I’ve tested this in my kitchen so I feel comfortable sharing it. If you fry foods at the correct temperature (which is when the oil is shimmery, but not smoking), the food will absorb minimal oil. Drain them on paper towels (the only thing I use paper towels for) and you have a properly fried whatever you’re frying. Unless it’s eggplant in which case disregard what I just said.
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See that up there? That’s how bad it can look and still taste good.

Heat 4 cups of water to boiling in a kettle or pot.
Add 1 teaspoon+ of salt.
Off the heat, whisk in 3 Cups of chickpea flour (this is labeled chickpea flour, besan flour, gram flour or garbanzo flour depending on where you shop). Whisk thoroughly to mix well, but don’t make yourself crazy.
Put the mixture back on med-low heat and stir it around until it’s well thickened, about 5 minutes.
Pour the mixture into an oiled pan and refrigerate at least 1 hour. I’ve kept the mixture for up to a week in the fridge.
When you’re ready to cook heat a heavy bottomed fry pan over med-high heat. Add the oil of your choice (I sometimes use coconut, sometimes sunflower). Heat until the oil is shimmery, but before it smokes.
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Slice the mixture into fry shapes. If that doesn’t work, slice them into cubes. If that doesn’t work either, scoop a teaspoon out. Once your pan is heated, add your fries to the pan. Cook on one side until they are golden, 5-7 minutes.
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Resist the urge to touch them, turn them or move them. That will give you the best crust. Once they are golden on one side, flip them over and cook until golden on the opposite side. Remove to paper towels to drain. Add salt or spices to the top. Enjoy!
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See that? That’s what it looks like when you get distracted. Guess what? Still delicious.

Chickpea "Fries"
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Crispy, light chickpea fries
Author:
Recipe type: Main dish or side
Serves: 40+ pieces
Ingredients
  • 4 Cups boiling water
  • 1+ teaspoon salt
  • optional herbs of your choosing
  • 3 Cups chickpea flour
  • Oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Add the salt to the water.
  2. Whisk the chickpea flour into the boiling water off of the heat.
  3. Cook over medium low heat about 5 minutes or until the mixture is very thick.
  4. Pour into an oiled dish. The depth of your dish will determine how you cut the fries. A thinner dish will be less cutting, a thicker dish you might have to cut them in half.
  5. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan until the oil is shimmering but not smoking.
  6. Add fries and fry 5-7 minutes or until golden on the bottom.
  7. Flip the fries and cook until the other side is golden.
  8. Remove to paper towels.
  9. Sprinkle with salt or spices.

 

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Beans & Greens Step Two: Make the Greens

December 16, 2015

Cheating a little here by using the same picture, but I think you’ll understand. All of us know we should eat greens. They’re good for us and if prepared well, very tasty. I’ve been a big spinach eater for years: spinach salad, sautéed spinach, spinach smoothies, spanakopita… I haven’t met much spinach I haven’t liked. […]

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Beans & Greens: Step One, Cook the Beans!

December 5, 2015

I like the combination of beans and greens. One is slowly cooked over time and the other is quickly cooked before you’re ready to eat. This will be part one for making this dish: how to cook dried beans. I always cook my own beans (pinto, black, navy beans and chickpeas). There’s a few reasons […]

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“Butter” “Chicken”

December 1, 2015

I recently had an epiphany. You know what keeps me from posting more? Perfectionism. I like to type it, add photos, re-read it, re-read it again, preview it… you get the picture. It’s really all part of trying to be perfect though. That’s what has kept me from posting for MORE THAN A YEAR. I don’t […]

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Rose Petal Smoothie – Or, More Eating From the Yard

June 19, 2014

I know you probably think it’s weird, and I’m OK with that. The thing is, there are lots of edible plants all around us, but we have been convinced that it’s better to buy food than to grow food or eat what is available. Think about it for a moment. Who benefits from this? Food […]

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Signs of Spring or Eating from Your Yard

April 4, 2014

Here in Atlanta, spring has sprung! Some of the earliest signs of spring here are… allergies. Actually, we start to notice tiny flowers first. Violets are in abundance in my yard and my neighbor’s yard this year. I had read about and mentioned candying violets to my daughter in the last few weeks and at her insistence, we […]

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Pot of Vegetable Happiness

November 10, 2013

**No, that’s not a picture of soup! Just wanted to show you the view of the sky in the mountains of Hiawassee where I’ve spent the last few lovely days. The credit for this soup goes mostly to my mom. She always made vegetable soup, but it was never really my favorite thing. Dear partner […]

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The Tasty Horrors of Halloween

October 27, 2013

I really love Halloween. It is, hands down, one of my favorite holidays. As a teenager, I defied labels like punk or goth, but I loved black lipstick, black nail polish and snake jewelry that other people only wore on Halloween. I revel in the fact that my daughter spent her own money recently to […]

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Simplest Summer Sorbet

September 23, 2013

At my house, we like our cold, creamy desserts. However, store bought ice cream is out of the question since we don’t “do” cow’s dairy. I know there are goat milk ice creams out there, but really, I am not willing to pay the price. We lived in Florida when the first goat milk ice cream […]

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