herbed lime chickpea vol au vent

herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table

There were two articles recently in the Washington Post that echoed some of my thoughts I have about Indian food. One discussed why people find Indian food to be delicious while the other touched on the low popularity of Indian food in the US. Two interesting yet contrasting topics well worth the read if you have a few minutes to spare. 

In my opinion, I think Indian food has reached an interesting stage in the food scene, traditional and well-known dishes remain popular but there still remains plenty of room to grow. And though, it's true that Asian and Mexican cuisines tend to dominate the Western food scene, I don't think there's any cause for alarm, in fact I think it's the perfect opportunity and time to explore the variety in Indian food. There's so much to share and learn from Indian food. Within India, itself you will notice a huge variation in culture, language and diet. However, I also think it is important to break away from tradition and create your own traditions when it comes to food. Here on my blog, I humbly try to make an attempt to mix Indian cuisine into Western culture. It is important for me on a personal level to share food that I enjoy to prepare and in a way that represents the elements that influence me and my thoughts on food, on a daily basis. So here's to the future of Indian food and all the wonderful and tasty possibilities it has to offer!

This is an easy yet flavorful Indian-inspired savory pastry appetizer that can be served at gatherings of any type. Remember that little mint-cilantro chutney I made for the chickpea battered sandwich? Well here's another use for it and yet, again with chickpeas. This time, they flavor whole chickpeas which  get stuffed into little puff pastry nests. The ginger strips and fresh herbed chutney are what gives these chickpeas a flavorful and tasty punch!

The folks at Yahoo Food have me up as their Food Blogger of the Week and it's definitely been an honor and wonderful experience. Here's the link to the interview I did with them.

herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table
herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table
herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Tableherbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Tableherbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these vols au vent;

  • Make the chutney fresh. It will taste better the day it is made. 
  • I remove the seeds from the center of the tomatoes as they contain a lot of liquid trapped in the surrounding gel. 
  • I use store bought puff pastry. These days you can be puff pastry sheets or precut puff pastry shells which eliminate the need to cut the sheets. Go with you can find and what is easiest for you. To cut the smaller pastry circle within the large precut circle of puff pastry, I use the wider end of my large pastry tip. If you own a smaller circular pastry cutter, use that instead. 
  • Always keep the pastry cold when working with it. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to bake the pastry. In general puff pastry bakes and rises well at high temperatures which allow the trapped steam and butter within the dough to expand and create multiple layers. 
  • You will probably end up with way more chickpea filling than you need. I save the extra unused filling for lunch or as a side to add onto my dinner plate. 
  • You can play around with the heat level of the filling by adding more chili or leaving the seeds in. 
herbed lime chickpea vol au vent | A Brown Table

herbed lime chickpea vol au vent

yields: enough filling for 24 vol au vents

ingredients 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup red onion, chopped fine

1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and julienned

1/2 cup tomatoes, seeds removed

2 X 15ounces cans chickpea, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

1/2 serrano or 1 thai chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup mint-cilantro chutney (recipe here - skip the chickpea batter part of the recipe)

2 puff pastry sheets or precut (store bought)

a little cilantro leaves, fresh to garnish

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the onions until they turn light pink. Add the ginger and cook for another minute with constant stirring. Then toss in the tomatoes, chickpeas, salt, pepper and chili pepper. Stir for one minute, then fold in the mint-cilantro chutney and cover the saucepan with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The chickpeas should be tender when done. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to evaporate any liquid that might be left behind. Remove from stove and keep warm until ready to use. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

2. To prepare the pastry for the vol au vent. Option 1: Precut vol au vents; Bake the precut shells as instructed by the manufacturer. Option 2: Pastry sheets: Place the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface and cut out 3 inch circles using a biscuit cutter. Transfer the pastry to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone sheet. Using a sharp paring knife make indentations around the outer edge of the pastry. Then using a 1 inch diameter pastry cutter carefully cut a circle halfway through the center of each of the cut pastry circles. Bake the pastry as per the manufacturer's instructions. (In general for puff pastry, I bake the pastry in a preheated oven at 425F for about 18-20 minutes until the pastry rises completely and turns golden brown). Remove the baked pastry from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before handling.

3. To stuff the pastry, pop out the center from the cooked pastry and remove and discard and excess pastry from the center. Stuff the center with a generous tablespoon of the warm chickpea filling and garnish with a few leaves of cilantro. Serve immediately. 

chickpea battered green chutney and mozarella sandwiches

chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

Sometimes, it's good to take a break even a short one if you can. I normally work on Saturdays and at the bakery, that's an extra busy day for me! Fortunately, last Saturday I was able to "wrap my pastries up" a little earlier than usual and we decided to be spontaneous and drive out to Monterey Bay. We sat on the sand, soaked in the sun for a little bit and then walked around the pier after grabbing a couple of crab and shrimp sandwiches. We got to watch the seals as they lay out sprawled in the sun on the decks at the pier doing nothing but sleeping and the occasional loud growl. A rather uneventful time at the beach except for the seals but still nonetheless every bit relaxing and fun. I realized that I need to do this more often whenever possible take a break and recharge. 

Our trip to the bay reminded me of lazy Sundays with the occasional breakfast that would satisfy my fried food cravings and this sandwich satisfies that moment. It starts with a golden crispy exterior that encases a tender soft layer of bread that encapsulates a savory spicy herbed chutney and a layer of cheese. That's essentially what this chickpea battered sandwich/bread "pakoda" is all about! 

chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Tablechickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips when preparing this sandwich that you might find useful,

  • Use thick slices of good bread, it doesn't collapse as easily when dipped into the batter. Don't leave the sandwiches in the batter for too long. As soon as you dip and coat them, add them to the hot oil. 
  • I prefer savory fillings to this sandwich like this fresh herb chutney and layer of cheese I use in my recipe. 
  • I recommend using as little water as possible when making this chutney. Start with half the amount of water listed in the recipe and then slowly add more. If it is too watery you will end up with a soggy sandwich. However, if you can't get the purée to form with less water, you can drain the liquid out a little before you spread it over the bread.
  • Remove the seeds from the chili pepper if you want the chutney less hot otherwise leave them in.
  • Eat the sandwiches as soon as they come out of the frying oil as they will get soft and soggy over time. 
chickpea battered green chutney and mozzarella sandwiches | A Brown Table

chickpea battered green chutney and mozarella sandwiches

yields: 4 half sandwiches

ingredients 

2 bunches cilantro leaves, fresh

1 bunch mint leaves, fresh

1 serrano or thai chili pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon ginger root, peeled and chopped

4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

3/4 cup water, you may need less than this amount

4 thick slices of plain sandwich bread

2 fresh mozzarella cheese slices

for the batter

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour 

1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup water

enough vegetable oil for frying

1. Place the fresh cilantro, mint, chili, ginger, lime juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Then add half of the water and pulse until puréed. Add more water if needed but use water sparingly (see notes on tips). Taste the chutney and adjust salt if necessary. Keep the chutney aside until ready to use.

2. Take one slice of bread and spread a generous tablespoon of the chutney after draining any excess liquid if necessary. Place a slice of the mozzarella cheese and then top with a slice of a bread to form the sandwich. Slice the sandwich in half with a sharp serrated knife.  Prepare the second sandwich in the same manner. 

3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk the chickpea flour, salt, baking soda and water to form a thick slurry. 

4. Heat enough oil in a deep frying pan to around 350F. You can test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a half a teaspoon of the batter, if the oil is hot enough and ready, the batter will immediately bubble and rise up to the surface of the oil. Dip one halved sandwich in the chickpea batter and coat evenly. Immediately and carefully drop the sandwich into the hot oil and use a slotted spoon or spider move the sandwich in the hot oil to fry. Flip the sandwich over after about 1 or 2 minutes or until the surface is golden brown. Cook on both sides, remove and drain any excess oil by placing the fried sandwich on a plate lined with a sheet of absorbent kitchen towel paper or cloth. Serve immediately and hot with a side of the remaining chutney or ketchup.

chickpea parathas/an indian flatbread

chickpea besan parathas/ an indian flatbread | A Brown Table

Making bread at home, be it leavened or unleavened is a rather rewarding experience. The process is no doubt messy with flour splattered all over the kitchen and your clothes (and sometimes on your face) but I find it calming and in a way relaxing. You get to knead your energy into the dough, sometimes you get to punch it to release the trapped air from fermentation, you might get to massage out your thoughts with a rolling pin and at times you even get to slap it. In short, bread making is therapeutic and fun!

This bread is all about flatbread and one of my favorites because you it's pretty much a whole meal in itself, served with a little plain unsweetened yogurt on the side and you're good to go. I think of chickpea flour or "besan" (in Hindi) as the other flour, the one that comes after wheat and rice in Indian cooking. I strayed away from the traditional method of preparing these as a roti (another type of flatbread) and instead made it flakier by trapping fat between layers of the dough. If you're looking to venture out and try a new type of flatbread, this is a great one to begin with. 

.......And I like to drizzle this bread with a little melted ghee or butter.

chickpea besan parathas/ an indian flatbread | A Brown Table
chickpea besan parathas/ an indian flatbread | A Brown Tablechickpea besan parathas/ an indian flatbread | A Brown Table
chickpea besanparatha/an Indian flatbread |A Brown Tablechickpea besan parathas/ an indian flatbread | A Brown Table
chickpea besan parathas/ an indian flatbread | A Brown Tablechickpea besan paratha/an Indian flatbread |A Brown Table
chickpea besan parathas/ an indian flatbread | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these parathas,

  • This is not a gluten-free bread. The gluten from the wheat helps to create a softer bread. The dairy ingredients help to provide fat and protein to make the bread even softer. 
  • Sift your chickpea flour, I've found some brands to be grainier than others. 
  • Avoid rolling out the bread too thin or it will be come very crispy. 
  • If you can't find durum wheat flour, try the 50-50 mix of whole wheat to all purpose flour option I've listed in the ingredients below. It mimics the durum flour softness rather well.
chickpea besan parathas/ an indian flatbread | A Brown Table

chickpea/ besan parathas

yields: 10 parathas

ingredients 

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup durum wheat flour or (1/2 cup all-purpose flour + 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour) + a little extra for dusting

1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or any other dried herb you like)

1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup full-fat whole milk

1/4 cup plain full- fat unsweetened yogurt

1/4 cup water, at room temperature (you might need a little more or less)

vegetable oil for brushing the bread and cooking

1. If mixing by hand: Place all the dry ingredients from the chickpea flour to the red chili flakes in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Then pour the oil, milk, yogurt in the center of the well. Begin to mix the ingredients together with your hands to form the dough. Slowly add a little water to the dough to bring the dough together, you may need a little more or a little less depending on the humidity and how dry the flours are. As soon as the dough comes together and there are no visible flecks of flour, form it into one large ball, wrap with cling film and allow to rest for at least 1 hour before using . If using a Food processor: Attach the dough blade in the food processor. Place all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to mix. Then add the all the liquid ingredients from the oil to the yogurt. Begin to pulse the ingredients to mix and slowly trickle the water into the mixture while the processor is running (you might need a little more or a little less). As soon as the dough comes together and no dry flecks of flour are visible. Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor and form it one large ball on a clean lightly floured surface and wrap it with cling film. Allow to rest for at least 1 hour before rolling. 

2. Divide the dough into 10 equal sized balls. Take one ball at a time to prepare the parathas. Dust a ball with a little flour and then roll it out using light pressure into a small circle about 5 inches in diameter with a rolling pin. Spread/brush with a tiny amount of oil on the upper surface of the rolled out dough. Fold it into a semicircle and brush the upper surface with a tiny amount of oil and fold it over itself to form a triangle. Dust each side with very little flour on both sides and roll it out using light pressure out on a clean lightly dusted surface to form a triangle/tear drop shaped bread. It helps to rotate the dough by 90 degrees between every roll. Prepare the rest of the parathas in the same manner and keep the aside until ready to cook.

3. Heat a skillet on medium-low heat. Add one teaspoon of oil, gently dust off any excess flour from one rolled out paratha and place it on the hot pan. Allow to cook until you start to see tiny blisters form on the lower side (about 1 minute). Press the ends of the bread down with a damp clean kitchen towel or a silicone spatula to ensure the bread cooks evenly. Spread a tiny amount of oil on the surface of the bread and flip it over and cook in the same manner. Transfer the hot bread and keep them sandwiched between two clean kitchen towels. Cook the rest of the parathas and serve them hot/warm and drizzle with a little melted ghee or butter.

yeasted chickpea parmesan and herb bread

Chickpea Parmesan Bread |A Brown Table

My favorite part about cooking is the opportunity to experiment in the kitchen, however crazy the idea might sound, it's fun! Things generally never work on the first try when I'm trying out something new, my failed experiments generally involve a lot of scribbled notes on paper stained with food, there'll be asterisks to indicate what I should try to modify the next time round, basically it resembles a college student's chemistry lab notebook. Sometimes, the outcomes even up in trash can, yup it's happened. This recipe was no different but I enjoyed working on it. 

Chickpea Parmesan Bread |A Brown TableChickpea Parmesan Bread |A Brown Table

I've been wanting to try a couple of chickpea flour recipes at home that I could hopefully bake in the oven. I took a bit of help from an Indian chickpea flour steamed savory dish, called dhokla and classic western baking techniques. Dhokla is a spongy bread like dish that uses yogurt for fermentation and sometimes a little bit of baking soda, I skipped the yogurt in favor of buttermilk and yeast. Buttermilk gives a sweeter flavor and the combined action of the yeast and yogurt bacteria helps to create little pockets of air that make the bread spongy. 

Chickpea Parmesan Bread |A Brown TableChickpea Parmesan Bread |A Brown Table

Chickpea flour based breads have a distinct taste and if you like it, then this bread recipe is worth trying out. The crust is golden and soft when warm, the inner texture of the bread has lovely tiny holes that help create the soft texture. Serve it warm with a little salted butter or dice it up and serve it with some olive oil mixed with za'atar. You can store this bread in an airtight container but I recommend reheating it for a few seconds in the microwave and serving it warm.

Chickpea Parmesan Bread |A Brown Table
Chickpea Parmesan Bread |A Brown Table

yeasted chickpea parmesan herb bread

yields : 4-6 servings

ingredients 

2 cups (about 6 1/2 ounces) chickpea flour

1/2 cup parmesan, grated

2 cups whole buttermilk

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder (if you want it slightly hot, replace with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 teaspoon dried herbs (za'atar or oregano or basil or any other dried herb of your choice can be used here)

1 tablespoon melted butter or vegetable oil for greasing the pan

1.  In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients from the chickpea flour to the sea salt. Whisk until completely combined and smooth. 

2. Grease a 9 inch square baking pan with the butter or oil. Pour the batter into the pan and cover loosely with a clean cloth and allow to rest in a warm spot for at 2 hours. 

3. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Remove the cloth and sprinkle the dried herbs over the surface. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown and the center is firm to touch and a skewer when inserted comes out clean from the center. 

4. Allow the baked bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes. Cut into squares or rectangles and serve warm with butter or olive oil mixed with a za'atar.