fenugreek chapati

poof!

Speaking of 660 Curries (I never seem to shut up about it, do I), I recently tried a recipe from the back of the book, where he puts the curry accompaniments. It was a basic chapati, or roti, recipe, but with the addition of fenugreek leaves. These are one of those specialty items that we bought some time ago but then seldom used, so I was thrilled to find something new to do with them. And I was startled at how good it was – the leaves perfume the chapatis with a fresh green scent, and also seem to make the dough softer and better to eat. Amazing. I make chapatis all the time, but this variation is going to become part of the regular rotation.

chapati dough

I don’t measure too carefully when I make chapati. To make breads for the two of us (about 6 small chapati) I generally use about a half cup of whole wheat flour, a half cup of all-purpose, a pinch of salt, and maybe half a cup of warm water, then adjust with more flour or water as necessary to make a smooth dough. For the fenugreek breads, I added 1/4 cup of dried fenugreek leaves, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes then drained before mixing into the dough. If I had fresh or frozen leaves (which I’ve never seen anywhere), then it would have been half a cup of chopped leaves. I kneaded the dough for a bit, rolled it into a ball and let it rest about half an hour under its mixing bowl.

rolled out

When the rest of the dinner was ready, I cut the dough into six pieces, rolled them out into thin circles, plopped them onto a hot griddle, turning once, then put them directly onto a gas flame to poof them up. We usually just cook them entirely on the griddle, but since I had a spare burner available I thought I’d try the direct-on-flame approach, and it worked really well. So often when we cook Indian food, though, every burner is in use, so this may not happen again soon.

The breads rested in a basket lined with a clean dishtowel while we set the table, and were perfectly soft and chewy. It was difficult not to overeat. Plus the house smelled wonderfully of fenugreek all evening.

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matzoh brei

not kosher, but tasty

I first heard of matzoh brei a few years ago, while reading something by Ruth Reichl – I don’t remember what it was any more, but it made an impression on me. A sort of Jewish French toast, a simple mixture of matzoh and egg, fried in butter and topped with syrup, it sounded just like something I would like – but I had never had it or seen it anywhere. My husband, who grew up eating vast quantities of matzoh, didn’t remember ever having it either. And for some reason we never seem to have matzoh on hand.

Then last week I saw the Passover clearance display at the co-op and, on the spur of the moment, decided to grab a cheap box of matzoh. We ate half of it straight with Saint Nectaire cheese (yum), but set aside several pieces for a weekend breakfast. I went looking for recipes and actually had some trouble finding any – none of my Jewish cookbooks included it, but I did find a version in a book called The Good Egg, so I used that – although I upped the egg quantity so there would be a one-to-one egg/matzoh ratio.

Later, I checked online and found Ruth Reichl’s version here. It’s just a bit different from the one I used – in hers you run water over broken matzohs, then scramble them with the egg in the pan, whereas in mine you soak the entire matzoh and then break it up, then fry as a solid cake. When Jon asked his mother, it turned out that she did used to make this occasionally, but her version apparently involves milk. Obviously there’s a certain amount of permitted variation. I think it would also be good as a savory, with herbs and hot sauce. We may need to experiment further.

If you grew up with matzoh brei, how did your family make it?

soggy matzoh

Matzoh Brei

Adapted from The Good Egg by Marie Simmons. Serves two.

  • 3 sheets matzoh
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Place the matzoh in a pan, pour cold water over to cover and let sit 5 minutes. Lift the matzoh out and lay on a clean towel to drain, then carefully transfer to a mixing bowl and break it up loosely. Beat together the eggs and salt and pour them over the matzoh. Stir together.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium low heat, melt the butter. When it bubbles, scrape in the matzoh and egg and flatten into a pancake. Allow to cook several minutes, until the bottom becomes golden and a bit crusty. Break the pancake into sections with a spatula and flip the sections. When cooked on the second side, put the pieces on plates and top with maple syrup.

If you’re not worried about keeping kosher, I recommend pork sausage with this. Or bacon.

mixing matzoh brei

matzoh brei

sausages

almost injera

injera

Every year or two we try making injera bread, and are usually crushed by disappointment when it sticks to the pan, tastes weird and is just generally unsuccessful. This time it actually sort of worked.

Ethiopian lunch

Injera is a traditional Ethiopian flatbread made by souring a batter made of teff flour for several days, then cooking it like a large pancake to produce a stretchy, spongy sour bread which is perfect for mopping up spicy stews and is also used as a plate. Many cookbooks assume that you can’t get teff flour in the United States, and so suggest a blend of wheat flours. However, that adds gluten, and doesn’t really have the right flavor – teff is easier to find now that gluten-free baking is more popular, so I strongly suggest seeking it out. I also don’t recommend “quick” injera recipes that use baking soda instead of a slow yeast rise or sourdough starter. It’s not just supposed to be bubbly, you want it sour. Plan ahead!

injera batter

After trying various recipes over the years, I decided to go back to the one really traditional version that I’ve found, from Flatbreads & Flavors. When I first made it years ago, we had so much trouble cooking it there was barely any worth eating. But I had no complaints about the batter this time, it behaved perfectly and tasted just right. The cooking…was a learning experience.

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red bean khachapuri

red bean khachapuri

Like the regular, cheese-filled khachapuri that I usually make, this bean-filled variation is from the book Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (I’ve only recently discovered Naomi’s evocative personal blog – check it out, it’s wonderful).

well loved cookbook

I’ve raved about this cookbook repeatedly on this blog (do you have a copy yet? If not, why not?) The only thing I wish is that the first edition had been bound more effectively, because my copy is completely shot. You can tell it’s been well-loved. It’s the only place I’ve found recipes for Georgian food, which is a wonderful savory cuisine full of walnuts, cheese, pomegranates and herbs.

well loved cookbook

I love cheese-filled khachapuri so much that it was hard to make myself try something new, but I’m glad I made the effort. What I really like about the bean filling is that it really highlights the flavor of the bread, which is very tender and tart. Full of protein from both beans and yogurt, it makes a great vegetarian meal. I made a quick pureed spinach soup to dip the breads in, but a sharp green salad would also be good alongside.

red bean khachapuri

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scallion-chive breads

chives

The chives in my garden aren’t quite in bloom yet, but they’ve become tall and lush and have been begging to be made into Chinese scallion-chive flatbreads. I felt it was only fair to oblige.

scallion chive bread

These breads are so delicious, I can’t begin to tell you. Sometimes you can get them in Chinese restaurants, but I’ve never had one to compare with homemade, fresh out of the pan. They are addictive: crunchy on the outside, soft, salty and fragrant on the inside.

scallion chive breads Continue reading

khachapuri again

khachapuri

A while back I mentioned a batch of khachapuri that I had made, but I didn’t go into detail about them because I was seriously distracted by the gougères I was making at the same time. Last week I made them again, though, so I thought I’d do some fuller coverage.

Khachapuri are cheese-and-egg filled flatbreads from the Republic of Georgia. The bread itself is a yogurt and white flour dough which is very simple to make and very tasty as well. The variety I always make are the “emeruli khachapuri” out of Flatbreads and Flavors; the book has some variations stuffed with red beans or potatoes, but I haven’t really branched out yet – these are too good.

emeruli khachapuri

from Flatbreads and Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

The full recipe makes 8 flatbreads. The breads are very filling, so I usually just make a half batch, which works fine. Leftovers are tasty for breakfast, too.

for the dough:

  • 3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups plain yogurt

for the filling:

  • 4 oz cheddar or mozzarella cheese, finely grated
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 450°. Continue reading