Friday, May 21, 2010

'Cool' Millet rolls with a curried tofu filling - checking out a new whole grain

Millet is also known as Ragi or as NachNi in Marathi. My introduction to this grain has been limited to nachNi papads which I may have eaten more than 10 years ago. The NachNi bhakri( thick pan bread or roti) is popular in Mahrashtra, but I have never had the opportunity to sample it before. There was a packet of 'NachNi Satva' lying around in my freezer for a very long time. On searching around I found out that this is eaten in an oatmeal kind of fashion, mixed with either hot water or yogurt, fruits etc. But I was craving something savoury and sumptuous, especially after a few hours spent reading food blogs.

Browsing food blogs somehow always leaves me exhausted. I think it may be because I don't know where to stop :). Its like a roller coaster ride where you drool, salivate, feel hunger pangs, energized to get up and make something exotic and then gradually only the hunger pangs remain, and you just feel like taking a nap. I think its the same with Food Network. Watching Food tv for just half an hour can motivate you to cook something nice, but a 3-4 hour marathon takes you through a wide spectrum of cuisines and dishes and leaves you totally muddled. This is something I have done and experienced scores of times. I also came up with another theory which is not substantiated by anyone, and I have no idea if there is any science behind it. I think watching food tv all the time can maybe mess with your digestion, 'coz maybe thinking of food, drooling a lot, generates or stimulates your intestinal juices, enzymes and what not, and could interfere with the normal routine work or background processing that our body needs to do. I know it sounds quite laughworthy, but hey, maybe there Is some mind-stomach connection triggered by this?

So anyhoo, I was determined to capitalize on my burst of energy to use some long standing tofu and make a great afternoon snack. The afternoon or evening snack has revered place in our family. Breakfast can be toast or cereal or smoothies, but the evening snack is what awaits you when you come home from work or school, and its what motivates you to tackle the traffic and fumes on your way home. Most Indians do not eat dinner at 6 or 7 - they generally have some snack after they come home, and dinner time is 8, 9 or even later for some people. There is always great anticipation about what you will get to eat after you come home, and as a child I was fortunate to be always greeted with something hot and fresh and aromatic every evening.

The 'cool' in the title is not self being narcissistic(spelling?), but a hint at another ingredient - cucumber - Summery and cool and fresh! I found some grated cucumber in the fridge that had also let out a lot of juice, and so it made it into the pot. This was my way of bringing the taste of another favourite family recipe ( kakdi che thalipeeth or cucumber pancakes) into these rolls. There are a lot of different spices or herbs used in both the outer crepes or rolls or dosas or dhirdis - whatever you call them, and the tofu filling, but you could just stick to something as simple as salt and pepper. I think I may do that next time if I want any one spice to shine through. I used saunf, ajwain and little curry powder to season the tofu filling, a somewhat odd combination but something 'different'. The cucumber added its own distinctive taste to the batter which was complemented by a dash of cayenne and cumin. You can make the stuffing beforehand, and also the crepes ahead of time and assemble it last minute. These rolls can be eaten at room temperatur, hot or cold, and they will taste just as great. The detailed recipe is as follows -

Ingredients -

For the crepe/dosa batter -
2 cups nachNi/millet/ragi flour
1/2 cup rice flour or all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 cup fresh cucumber juice1/2 cup fresh grated cucumber
2 TBSP sour yogurt or lime/lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
salt to taste

For the tofu filling -

200g or 7-8 oz herbal tofu
1 small onion
1 medium carrot
1/2 cup peas or corn
1/2 cup cilantro
1 tsp Saunf or fennel seeds
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
Hing and turmeric
pinchsalt to taste
oil as needed

Method -
1) Mix the flour, yogurt or lime juice, cucumber juice, cucumber in a bowl. Add all the spices and then slowly add water to form a pan cake like batter. Whisk well to remove any lumps and set aside. This can be done 2-3 hours in advance if desired and it will ferment a little, or you can also use it right away.
2) Chop the onion and carrots in a small dice. You can also use the frozen 'peas and carrots' for a quick fix. I used corn since I did not have any peas on hand. Any combination is ok here.
3) Chop the tofu in small chunks. I used a herbal tofu which contains cilantro etc. as I was using Indian spices. You can either use plain tofu or any other appropriate herbal tofu. e.g you can use the tomato/basil tofu and use Italian seasoning in the filling, or also use the thai style tofu. You can get different types depending on where you are. Whole Foods generally has 2-3 types of herbal tofu available right next to the plain tofu.
4) Heat one tsp oil in a pan or wok. Add the fennel and ajwain seeds and let them splutter. Add hing and a pinch of turmeric if desired. Add onion and saute until it changes color. Add the carrots and the corn and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the tofu pieces and the grated garlic. Adding garlic at this point will avoid burning the garlic. Add cilantro, curry powder, cayenne and salt and cover the pan for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and check that everything comes together. The carrot should be al dente to retain some crunch. Switch off the heat and set aside.
5) Heat a flat dosa tava or a flat griddle. Start making the crepes or dosas. PUt the batter in the middle of the pan and lightly spread it around in a circle with the base of your spoon. Unlike a pancake, you will need to use your hand to do this, since we want a thin roll. Cook on both sides.
6) For assembling - Place a crepe flat on a plate. Spoon some filling in the centre. ROll in burrito fashion, by first tucking in the two ends and then the bottom flap and close it with a rolling motion. You can also keep the ends open and just roll it like a frankie. You can add ketchup or any condiment you like to the roll such as hot sauce or sour cream.

This is a yummy and tasty healthful option for a heavy snack or can even be a good lunch with a cup of soup or a salad. I know I am definitely going to try out more recipes options using millet.

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