Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recipe: Hashbrowns with Garlic Mushrooms

Who doesn't like hash browns? They are a perfect breakfast fried potato treat. They are incredibly simple and quick to make. Have I mentioned they are absolutely yummy? I've seen a lot of recipes for them with some interesting variations that I think I will try at some point of time or the other. However I did have half a box of button mushrooms in the fridge and hence decided to make hash browns with a topping of garlic mushrooms.

Requirements for a serving of about 5 pieces:

Hash Browns:

5-6 Potatos. (about 750 gms I think)
1 small onion finely chopped (optional)
3-4 table spoons of flour. (You can also use an egg).
2 tablespoons of butter
Olive oil (1/4 cup)
Salt-pepper to taste

Garlic Mushrooms

8-10 Button mushrooms. (depends on the size)
1/2 table spoon of garlic paste.
1/2 Jalapeno (3-4 slices of a picked Jalapeno)
1 tablespoon of lime juice.
1 tablespoon of butter
2-3 fresh basil leaves
Oregano (fresh leaves preferred)
2 table spoons of Olive Oil.

Lets COOK!!!!!

Skin the potatos out first.

Grate them out. You can decide if you want small or long pieces depending on what final shape you choose for your hashbrowns.

Put the potatos in water for a good 10 minutes. They should be completely submerged. Cover the bowl and set away to the side. By the time they finish soaking, we can make our mushrooms.

Cut up the button mushrooms into flat thin slices. Lightly sprinkle some olive oil on them and mix them together.

To add a little spice, i'm adding my favourite peppers. Jalapenos. Unluckily I did not have fresh Jalapenos with me. However we always keep a jar of sliced pickled jalapenos, so I made do with those.

Grate the Jalapenos into a fine near-paste consistency.

Now heat the olive oil in a pan. Mix in the butter. When it heats up you can add in the Garlic paste, Mushrooms and grated Jalapenos.

Stir and flip over the mushrooms consistently.Pour in the Lime juice. Add in some diced basil, Oregano, salt, and black pepper for taste. You can take it off heat in about 4-5 minutes.

Take the grated potatos out of the bowl of water. Now, the drier you can get these potatos, and the more water you can get out of them, the crisper the hashbrowns will be. I first squeezed them over a perforated plate, and to get the final moister out, squeezed them between paper towels.
Mix in the diced onions and the flour. The flour is used to hold the potatos together whilst they are frying. Add in some salt and pepper to taste.
You want to now make a patty that is about 6-12 mm thick. I decided to try and see how it went when they were left under 6 mm thick, since I wanted them really crisp. A simple steel bowl was used to mould them into the required shape.

Heat up the oil and butter in a saucepan. When they start to heat up, you can add the patties gently into the pan. Fry each side for a good 3-4 minutes till they are a nice golden brown.

Im not the biggest fan of overly oily food. So the minute these were done, I popped them onto a set of paper towels. This drains away a lot of the oil leaving just a crisp patty.

And we are ready. Spoon on the garlic mushrooms. I grated a little cheddar cheese on top just as a garnish. They turned out beautifully crisp and the garlic buttery mushrooms add a savoury flavour that makes a perfect start to the day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to make Okonomiyaki, Hiroshima style

I dont think any visit to Japan is complete without a visit to the following city:

Thats right. Hiroshima. It was a last second decision by me, at 2 am in the morning and I was on the 8 am bullet train out of Osaka, but it was worth it.

Thats the atomic bomb dome. A memorial to what most people remember Hiroshima for. I might put up a long post on the same on my other blogs. However the one thing I remember the city for most, is a forward looking attitude where they have maintained memories of the past, but are now growing like any other city in Japan. They have a warm and vibrant people, a beautiful city and lots of good food.

These maple leaf shaped cakes are absolutely delicious. You can find them stuffed with chocolate, cream, strawberry, and many other flavours. I personally like the plain cream filled ones. The chocolate ones tasted a little dry for me.

Oysters are popular at nearby Miyajima. A tiny little island less than an hour away, that boasts the world's largest spoon.

Which now brings us to the subject of this post. The Okonomiyaki. It's a japanese lettuce pancake that is also called the Japanese pizza. If you have difficulty in remembering the name, a friend told me that it was also christened the "Econo-miyaki", as it is a tasty budget dish.

Are any of you thinking the words "lettuce pancake" and are a bit turned off? I request you to gather courage and read on.

The Hiroshima style okonomiyaki is different from how they make it in Osaka. Osaka tends to mix the ingredients together, while in Hiroshima they are layered. Usually it contains lettuce, pork, optional meats like octopus, squid, cheese, with a fried egg layered on top, and covered with okonomiyaki sauce. So lets see how its made.

I had the luck of finding an absolutely fantastic Okonomiyaki place on the 4th floor of the Hiroshima bullet train station. I dont remember the name (it was in japanese). But the fact that it was being made right in front of us won me over when compared to the conveyor belt sushi restaurant next door.

I picked a basic Okonomiyaki with Pork, Cheese and Udon Noodles. The waiter offered for me to sit on a table somewhere, but I decided to wait extra to see it being made. About halfway through the process I realized that I needed to document the process. Hence these pictures jump all over the huge stove that they have, but you guys get the drift.
Anyway, so lets get started. You start with the basic batter, and make 2 thin pancakes out of it.

Heap on the lettuce on one of the pancakes. When I say heap, I mean really heap it on.

Now you might want to add some other sprouts and similar leafy vegetables for taste.

You want to heat up your meats on the side. Here they are preparing octopus.

Get your udon noodles ready on the side as well. Just looking at those noodles cooking makes me hungry.

Get the meats on your sprouts. Its always good to have balance in your diet.

Now you want to add the udon noodles ontop of your second pancake. They add a variety of sauces and seasonings to it. Now lift up the pancake + noodle carefully.

Now just invert the pancake + noodle over the other half which holds the sprouts.

Now take those big spatulas and compress it down as much as you can. That looks like so much fun. You are concentrating all those flavours into a thin flat pancake.

On the side, whilst its cooking, you want to set your egg down to fry. Just break it over the stove. You also want to break the yolk with your spatula.

Now carefully invert the whole compressed pancake onto the egg.

Let it cook for a while. Flip it over again so the egg is on top. Add on the cheese slice and then brush it liberally with Okonomiyaki sauce.

Sprinkle on some oils, yakisoba sauce, salts, crushed nori (sea weed) to taste.

Serve yourself some nice hot Okonomiyaki made Hiroshima style!!!!!

Okonomiyaki is probably my favourite Japanese food so far. The Hiroshima style beats the Osaka style by a thin margin. As I said before, the trick is to compress all those flavours into a single thin bite. You can taste the tang of the okonomiyaki sauce, the juice of the meats, everything in each small bite. It is a delicacy that no one visiting Japan should leave without trying.

How to eat Daal Baati Churma

Daal Baati Churma. Sometimes it's just called "Daal Baati". Its a staple dish from my home state of Rajasthan. A state which is mostly desert, a lot of its dishes are made from hardy lentils with very few vegetables. Wikipedia puts it eloquently when they say that "(Daal Baati Churma ) is prized there for its long shelf life and high nutritional content, as well as the minimal quantity of water required for its preparation."
So why have I picked this for the first post of my blog? I remembered a discussion I once had with a friend (fantastic blogger and co-marwari) who reminded me that what Daal Baati brings to us is not just taste and nostalgia for our roots. Every Marwari of our generation, who hasn't truly lived in Rajasthan has a story about this dish. It usually involved family get togethers, lots of cousins, picking the Baati out of the ghee and lots of finger licking.
I wasn't personally a big fan of it in my early years. But I remember going for a family function. I remember complaining about how I do not want to eat Daal Baati and stamping my feet. My Mother was just about to give me a verbal lashing about being a brat, when a kindly Uncle took my shoulder and told me he would teach me the right way of eating it.

As the name suggests, the dish consists of :

1) The Daal

2) The Baati

3) The Churma

There are a number of ways that people eat it. Most people do a dipping thing where they dip a piece of the Baati in the daal and then maybe dip it in the churma and then munch away. Thats boring. When you are 7, sitting on the floor in a room full of 15 kids you learn to eat daal baati the right way.

1) Smash open the Baatis with your hands. Break them into pieces on your plate.

(Caution: Baati is normally served hot and dipped in Ghee. The Uncle who fed me this dish had to put burn ointment on his fingers for the next few days. A shout out to him!!!!!)

2) Heap on the Churma. Be liberal.

3) Pour in the Daal.

(It absorbs a lot of the liquid, so you might want to get a little extra poured in.)

4) Mix it all together. (This is especially fun when done by hand)

5) A lot of people add powdered sugar, and (sinful considering how much ghee its made in) spoonfulls of ghee on top of this. For the sake of my heart I shall refrain (since its made often enough in my house) But if its your first time trying this, I recommend you add them. It adds to the richness of the flavours.


(P.S. This was not going to be my first post. Credit goes to The Purple Foodie for reminding me about Marwari Cuisine )

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