Baked Falafel Pita Sandwiches (Pita wraps)

Baked FalafelsThe week before last week, our kitchen truly had the ‘international’ theme going on the entire week! Started with the Japanese meal on Monday which I posted last week and then mid week we had falafels and then ending with thai noodles on Friday. The days in between we had Indian and Mexican.!  How wonderful isn’t it?

For the falafels I added lots of mint too in addition to the usual cilantro/parsley. So these were really herbed falafels plus I additionally tried baking them instead of deep frying them. Came out super. Not only is baking an healthy option but it also takes less work. Just stick them in the oven in a large tray!  Also made a quick hummus to go with the sandwiches.

Bringing these healthy falafel pita wraps to Throwback Thursdays and Fiesta Friday this week where Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen and Zeba @ Food For The Soul are co-hosts this week.

Baked Falafels

Baked Falafels (Pita wraps)

  • Servings: Makes about 16-18 falafels
  • Time: about 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried Chick peas (Garbanzo beans) soaked overnight or for 6-8 hours(or you can use canned chickpeas drained completely)
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, cut into large pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cilantro/parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (use 1/4 tsp for mild)
  • 1 tsp salt or per taste
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour(besan)

Method:

Pre heat oven to 400 deg F.

In a food processor place all the ingredients and grind to a coarse paste (Do not add any water while grinding)

Make small cutlet/pattie shaped falafels and place on a tray lined with Al foil and brushed lightly with oil.

Bake at 400 deg F (about 200 deg C) for 10-12 minutes on one side. Flip and then bake again for another 10-12 minutes until both sides are golden brownish and /crispy.

Serve the falafels in whole wheat pita bread with cucumber slices/lettuce/grated carrots and with home made hummus!

For step wise instructions for making the falafel sandwiches, check my recipe from before.

For recipe of hummus, see the recipe of roasted red pepper hummus that I posted before. You can just omit the red pepper if you want to keep it simple.

Baked Falafels Baked Falafels

 

Easy Chicken Mince Kababs (Shaami kababs)

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Chicken Mince Kababs

I love Middle Eastern food and think their kabobs are the best! When I was pregnant with my son, I had developed an aversion to chicken and even the smell of it made me want to throw up. Hence cooking chicken at home was a definite No No. Then one day we came across this Pakistani restaurant close to the apartment where we lived at that time and the lovely aroma coming out of that small place made me stop there and so we packed Dal, rice and a platter of seekh kababs! Oh boy  was that one lovely dinner or what? …I ate like a pig in a long time!  (Btw I started just writing this post without meaning it to be a Mother’s day post and then realized that this could be actually a good Mother’s day post after all since it has my pregnancy reference ! – So Happy Mother’s day to all of you ! 🙂 So over the years I have tried to make  kababs but I found making them in that seekh kabob shape to be challenging as they would invariably fall apart.  I have also seen recipes where the ground chicken (keema) is first cooked with the spices and then further minced a second time through a food processor to get a really fine paste. then egg or cooked lentils can be used to bind the paste together . But you know me, right? Although I don’t always shy away from a difficult recipe, whenever possible I am also looking to make things easier for myself.! So I came up with this small rounded patty version and later on learnt that these rounded version of kabobs are called ‘shaami kababs'(although traditionally they are also first cooked and then made into rounded shapes and grilled further). So Shaami or Seekh kabobs, whatever..what’s in a name! These are so delectable that I don’t care what anyone calls them. They are perfect as an appetizer especially when you have a large gathering (always a huge crowd pleaser! ) or for a simple home meal accompanied with rice and dal, which is how we like to eat it most of the times!  Since this is a crowd pleaser, I will be bringing these to Fiesta Friday too! 🙂

Now, before reading the recipe , here’s a warning :  I put green chillies in these because my husband and I both like the kick that it gives when you bite into one of those. Indians love heat in their food! However for those with a ‘not so adventurous’ palate, I recommend that you skip these or you will be cursing me non stop (and for several hours that too! 🙂 )

Chicken Mince Kababs (Shaami kababs)

  • Servings: makes about 30-35 patties
  • Time: About 45 mins
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

2 lbs ground chicken,thawed completely at room temperature 
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger (Add less if you want less spicy)
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic(about 10-12 cloves)
4-5 green chillies(or 1 halopeno chili)),finely chopped (AVOID if you can’t handle the heat!)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves,finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (red chilli powder)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp kabab masala*(optional) 
2 tsp freshly roasted cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tbsp lime juice

Light olive oil or any other cooking oil for shallow frying

Method:

Take the ground chicken in a large mixing bowl. (Make sure it is completely thawed and make sure to dab dry with paper towel to remove any water)

Next add all the other ingredients into the bowl with the chicken. (Make sure you have chopped everything really really fine!)

Then using a spatula or your hands mix the chicken with all the spices and the other ingredients so that it is uniformly mixed.

Heat a large frying pan with some oil and then make small rounded patties of the ground mixture and cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes on one side and then flipping them to cook on the other side for an additional 2 mins or so. (Make sure you do not overcook them or they will get hard on top!) Remove onto plate with paper towel to drain off excess oil.

You can also cook these in the oven by cooking under Broil setting for about 5-7 minutes total brushing them with oil on top and then flipping them over after 4 minutes or so. You have to be constantly checking these though as they can easily get overcooked.

*Kabab masala: I add this to get an additional burst of flavor – You can get this at Middle Eastern/Pakistani grocers and the ingredients in this are black pepper, cinnamon,clove,dry mango powder,fenugreek leaves.

Tips:

Do not overcook the kabobs or the outer covering will become thick. You should remove them as soon as they are done.

Fresh cilantro,lime and cumin I believe are the three main ingredients in this and so the other spices you can add per your taste. Use freshly roasted cumin powder for the best taste by roasting cumin seeds in a pan for a couple minutes and then grinding them.

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Vegetable and Chick Pea Pulao (Middle Eastern style)

Vegetable pulao (Middle eastern style)

Vegetable Pulao/biryani is a very common rice dish in India and this is something that you are sure to find on the menu of any self-respecting Indian restaurant 🙂 Over the years I have tried and made different versions of it and one of the reasons I like to change it up a little bit every now and then is because – I make it so often!!!.  So this time I decided to give it a ‘Middle eastern’ twist… Of late I had been seeing a lot of pulao(pilaf) recipes with a middle eastern twist.  Some of my blogger friends had posted different versions of vegetable pilaf dishes …I finally decided to make my version which is a combination of the different recipes that I had been seeing.  I should state that this recipe is mainly inspired by the following bloggers’s recipes and I would like to thank them –  Confused Bawarchi’s Moroccan pilaf and Savory and Sweet Food’s Mediterranean Pulao for the inspiration.!  Ultimately whenever I embark on a new recipe, I invariably end up modifying the recipe …not because I simply want to but because of practical reasons ….I always like to work with what I have on hand in my pantry and in my fridge 🙂  Hence this version came about. So what were the main differences from the regular Indian vegetable pulao? Well, I decided to use some different spices (other than the usual garam masala that I use) – mainly ‘Harissa’ and ‘ras-el-hanout‘.  I used store bought Harissa (dry powder) and ras-el-hanout (Did I tell you I got these as dry blends from Whole Foods and have been using them in so many different things? 🙂 ). But you could also make your own Harissa paste or make your own blend for Ras-el-hanout.  ‘Ras-el-hanout’ by the way is quite similar to the Indian ‘garam masala’ with some slightly different proportions of the different spices which gives it a slightly different overall flavor.  Then the other different thing I did was to use dried lime pieces and also added chickpeas to make it really a complete balanced meal.

Vegetable and Chick Pea Pulao (Middle Eastern style)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 of a dried lime, cut into 4 pieces(or you could also use fresh lime pieces)
1/4 cup sliced green pepper
1 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas(1/4 cup dried chickpeas soaked overnight and then partially cooked)
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp ras-el-hanout (use less for mild)
2 tsp harissa powder or harissa paste (use less for mild)
2 cups Basmati rice,washed and drained(preferably 15 minutes in advance)
1/2 cup tomato sauce/puree
3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated carrots

For garnish:

1 tbsp sliced almonds

1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee

1 tbsp raisins

1/2 tsp rose essence mixed in 1/4 cup milk(or you could also use saffron)

fresh cilantro or parsley chopped (optional)

Method:

1. Take a heavy bottomed large cooking pot with a tight fitting lid (or you could use a pressure cooker without the whistle) and add the oil. When the oil gets hot add the onions and saute for about 2 minutes and then add the green peppers and the dried lime pieces and saute for 1 more minute.

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2. Next add the cauliflower,the chickpeas and the tomatoes. Also add the spices and stir for about 30 seconds. IMG_4729

3. Then add the rice and again stir for about 2 minutes on low to medium heat until the rice is well coated with the spice mixture and the oil.

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4. Now add the water, the tomato sauce , the grated carrots and salt.  Check for seasoning (it should taste more salty than how you would like it since the cooked rice will taste less salty). Bring the water to a boil and immediately turn to low heat and cover and cook for about 10-12 minutes.  (Check after 10 minutes – if all water is drained and the rice is still not perfectly cooked then add about 1/4 cup of hot water and let cook for another couple minutes. If there is already water left then no need to add more water). Once all water has evaporated, turn the heat off and sprinkle one tbsp of water over the rice and remove the pot from the stove. Keep covered for about 15 minutes. then open the pot and lightly fluff with a spoon or fork to separate the cooked grains and let cool uncovered.

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For the final garnish,  toast the almond pieces in the butter in a small pan until golden and toasty. Add this over the rice and also add the raisins on top.  Then mix the rose essence (or the saffron) with the milk and pour it all over the rice.  top with fresh parsley or cilantro.

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Almond and Date Pastries

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Small bites of sweetness is how I will describe these!  Since I began watching calories(about 6 months ago ), I am always looking to make small size desserts – you know, just a little something to satisfy the sweet cravings (which I invariably get after dinner 🙂 ).  OK so ever since I saw the recipe for these delicate pastries with an almond filling in this lovely book called ‘North African Cooking’ by Hilaire Walden, I have been dying to make them. And then La Petite Paniere also posted her beautiful almond cigars recipe and tempted me even further with her lovely pictures :). So finally I made these last week (the book called these as ‘samsas’ ) where I used phyllo pastry sheets for the pastry and decided to add dates to the filling too so I could cut down on the sugar.  And I didn’t have orange flower water so I decided to add cardamom for flavor, which by the way is great in desserts, if you have never tried it before.  Toasted sesame seeds added on top makes this a perfect little crunchy sweet treat with a lot of healthy goodness in it!  So there you go – indulge guilt free!  Have a  Happy Weekend folks and Happy Fiesta Friday to all my blogger friends! 🙂

This recipe will make about 18 pastries
(recipe adapted from the book
'North African cooking' by Hilaire walden)
Time taken: About 1 hour; Preparation time: 40 minutes;
Baking tine: 15-20 minutes
Ingredients:
For the syrup:
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
pinch of powdered cardamom

For the filling:
1 1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/4 tsp Cardamom
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp of above syrup
6 sheets of frozen phyllo pastry (a couple extra
since they are delicate and you could tear them)
butter or olive oil for brushing the sheets

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Method:

Take the frozen phyllo sheets out from the freezer and keep it to thaw at room temperature (according to package directions).

Pre heat oven to 350 F.

Make the syrup by taking all the syrup ingredients (except the cardamom) in a small pot and cooking on medium heat until you get a thick syrup (about 5-7 minutes).  After taking off from the heat and after it cools a bit, add the cardamom and keep aside.

Prepare filling by taking all the filling ingredients (except syrup) in a medium size bowl and then slowly add the syrup until you get a coarse pasty consistency. Keep this aside.

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Once the phyllo sheets are thawed, carefully take about 6 sheets out of the package (these are very delicate so you need to handle very carefully) and place them on a tray/plate covered with a damp paper towel / kitchen towel.  Now take one sheet at a time out and follow the steps below:

1. Take a sheet and place it on a wooden surface or cutting board and brush with olive oil/butter (I used a mixture of olive oil and butter)

2. Cut each sheet into 3 pieces lengthwise using a knife.

3. Place a spoonful of filling at the base of each strip and then carefully fold the sides inside (see pic) and then roll the pastry along the length to form a small roll.

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4. Seal the edges by brushing with olive oil inside.  Also brush outside of the pastry with olive oil.

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Once all the rolls have been formed, arrange them on  a baking tray and bake at 350 f for about 15-20 minutes turning them once midway so that they are browned equally on all sides.

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Place the toasted sesame seeds on  a small plate.  Dip the baked pastries one by one in the remaining syrup (just a little dip) and then roll them on the sesame seeds to coat.

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IMG_4365Almond and date pastry

You can serve these either warm or cold. (I liked them warm!)

Notes:

1.Phyllo dough is an extremely delicate pastry to work with so make sure you keep them covered with a damp cloth so that they don’t dry out (but not too wet otherwise they will stick together!)

2. While dipping the baked pastries in syrup in the end, make sure you dip just a little so that the crispness of the pastry is still retained.

Coconut Cake (Basbousa)

Coconut Cake (Basbousa)
Coconut Cake (Basbousa)

I always wanted to bake a coconut cake. Now that is one thing that our Kerala ancestors never thought of I guess although coconut halwa is a popular sweet in Northern India. While growing up in Mumbai, I had once tasted  a delicious coconut cake at a Goan friend’s house.  The cake was made of semolina instead of the regular flour and over the years I would often be reminded of that beautiful texture and the incredible sweet combination of the coconut, semolina and the sugar. I never got a chance to actually try baking one until very recently.  A dear friend of mine who now lives in the Middle East shared with me the recipe of Basbousa, which is a Middle eastern syrupy cake made of semolina and instantly I was once again reminded of the erstwhile coconut cake that I had years ago!. Well, guess what, she told me that coconut is also added in Basbousa sometimes as a variation of basbousa resulting in a delicious and decadent cake. That was it…I could not wait until the weekend to try the recipe!  It came out great and was incredibly yummy and finger-licking delicious!  I additionally did a frosting with whipped cream and sweetened coconut flakes on top which made it outright irresistible! I also added rose flavor to the syrup instead of the traditional lemon. Oh writing this recipe makes me so sad since I don’t have anymore of it left in the fridge now having devoured the last bite a few days ago.! Got to make another one soon! Here’s the recipe for you:

You will need an 8 inch dia round cake pan for baking.
This recipe will make about 12-14 servings
Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semolina (cream of wheat or rava)
1 cup freshly grated coconut (or unsweetened coconut flakes)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
For sugar syrup 
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp rose essence or rose water

For Frosting:
1 1/2 cup heavy Whipping cream
2 tbsp icing sugar (optional)
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F. Grease the baking pan and place parchment paper over it and grease the parchment paper too. Set aside.

1. Take a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and sugar and cream them together using a hand mixer. Then add the eggs  and vanilla and continue to beat for another 2-3 minutes until creamy.

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2. In a separate plate, combine the semolina (rava), baking powder, baking soda and the salt. Add this slowly to the butter and sugar mixture and also add the milk and the coconut and continue to mix with the hand mixer until well-mixed.(Mixture will be still gritty because of the semolina and the coconut)

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3. Bake in the oven at 350 deg F for  about 35 to 40 mins until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate and taking the parchment paper off. Pour the prepared hot syrup(see recipe below) on top.  Let cool for at least an hour.

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4. Take a medium size bowl and beat the whipped cream and the icing sugar (if adding) until it becomes thickened and fluffy – about 4-5 minutes.  Cover the top and sides of the cake with the frosting. Sprinkle coconut flakes on top of the frosting.

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IMG_3071Coconut Cake

Recipe for syrup:

While the cake is baking, make syrup by boiling the water in a small pot and adding the sugar to it.  Stir well and let boil for about 4-5 minutes on low until all the sugar dissolves and a syrupy consistency is obtained. Let cool for about 15 minutes and then add the rose essence or rose water and mix.