Jul 17, 2015

Meen Pathiri - steamed Rice Pancakes with a Fish Masala stuffing | a Malabari delight

I love trying varieties of food when cooking for friends or if I have guests over. I know it’s not a good practice to experiment with food for the very first time when you have guests over. But if I’m calling over close friends who share the same passion as me when it comes to trying new food I don’t mind. I know they’ll forgive me if it fails and still eat the dish or else applaud it and want me to immediately share it on the blog ;-) I’m thankful for having such friends.

I wanted to share this post the same week I made this dish but that got delayed by a couple of months now :-D Anyways, few months ago, I had a set of close pals over for lunch and decided we’ll have a Malabari themed lunch. Malabar is the northern region of kerala and their cuisine is quite different from Kottayam (where I’m from) and let me say the food options are really yumm!
Initially I had thought of making the whole lunch myself but then we later decided on a potluck…Don’t blame me if you start drooling all over :-D , but the lunch menu we decided on was:
Chicken Chatti pathiri, Meen Pathiri, Kappa with Fish Curry, Varutharacha Chicken Curry, Spicy Fish fry, Nei Chor, Mixed Veg raita, Rasmalai (for dessert)

Wanting to try something new and different I decided to try my hand at making Chicken Chatti Pathiri and Meen Pathiri. My friends decided to bring the other stuff and for dessert I just bought some Rasmalai from the Indian store, which turned out really good btw.

All the dishes came out so good and we couldn’t stop complimenting each other for our cooking skills…Lol! The Meen Pathiri was a big hit, everyone went for second and third helpings. 
Meen Pathiri is a Malabar treat which is commonly served during special occasions like Weddings, Ramadan feast etc. They are steamed rice pancakes with a Fish Masala filling. The pancakes itself tastes great on their own. The preparation can be a bit time consuming but they were really worth it and if you shallow fry the fish instead of deep frying and use less oil when preparing the masala, these Fish pancakes turn out to be a very healthy snack/appetizer option too. It’s a must try dish!

The Chicken Pathiri came out pretty good for a first try, it held its shape and came out perfectly from the pan but I personally felt the chicken filling needed some more spice or flavor, so I’m not sharing the recipe for that now. I want to give it another try and see if it works next time and then will share my experience in detail. 

But for now let’s enjoy and try this awesome Meen Pathiri recipe. The fish masala filling  is simply awesome and even the Rice Pathiri tastes great on its own. My friends also agreed this was a good recipe to share on the blog, so here it is…

I followed the recipe instructions as given by my favorite Malabari cuisine blogger Shabs from her blog Shab's cuisine and have almost copied the instructions exactly as written by her as it was so well explained. The only changes I made was using Idli rice for the pathiri and using boneless fish whereas she has used fish with bones and de-boned the fish after frying. 

MEEN PATHIRI (Fish masala stuffed Rice Pancakes)
Recipe Source: Shab's Cuisine

You'll Need
For Rice Pathiri
2 cups Parboiled rice (I used IDLI Rice)
1 ½ Tablespoons fennel seeds (Perumjeerakam)
1 ¾ cups grated coconut
1 ½ cups water
1 cup Rice flour
Salt – As required

For Fish fry
3-4 Fillets of boneless Tilapia
2 Tablespoons Red Chilli powder
1 teaspoon Black pepper powder
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
Salt as needed
Water as needed to make a thick paste

For Fish Masala
3 Large onions (approx 4cups chopped)
5 large cloves of garlic (1 heaped Tblsp, grated)
2 medium Tomatoes (approx 1 cup chopped)
2 teaspoon Kashmiri Chilli Powder
3 teaspoon Coriander powder
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1-1 ½ Tablespoon Lime/lemon juice
2 twigs curry leaves, chopped
6-8 Mint leaves, chopped
Tablespoons Coriander leaves
Tablespoons water
½ teaspoon Garam masala
1 teaspoon salt

For Coconut paste:
½ cup grated coconut
½ teaspoon fennel seeds (perumjeerakam)
2 shallots
4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) water

For making the Ari (rice) Pathiri :
1. Soak the rice in water for 3-4 hours or overnight.
2. Grind it with minimal water until you get a coarse yet grainy mixture.
3. Add coconut, fennel seeds, roughly chopped onions and salt to this and grind for few seconds until everything is just crushed and NOT smooth.
4. Tip the whole mixture in to a large bowl, add the rice powder and mix well using hands until you get dough that can be shaped into balls.

For Fish masala
1. Rub the fish with salt and lemon juice to get rid of the raw smell. Wash it thoroughly.
2. Make a thick paste of all the powders with water and marinate fish for about ½ hour -1 hour.
3. Make a smooth coconut paste by grinding the coconut, fennel, 2 shallots and water.
4. Heat a large frying pan and add oil. Fry the fish well. Remove from flame and break each piece into 4-6 portions. Keep them aside.
5. In the same pan, add onions and salt and sauté until it becomes soft and translucent. Add ginger, garlic and sauté for few minutes until the onion is cooked very well. Add chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder and sauté for few seconds.
6. Add in the chopped tomatoes, cover and cook till the tomatoes are soft and cooked. Add the coconut paste and ¼ cup water (less or more as required to get a very thick, neither dry nor watery gravy/masala). 
7. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes until the raw smell of the coconut goes away. Add the chopped coriander-mint leaves, lime/lemon juice and garam masala and stir well, cook for a minute or two. Add the fish pieces, cover and cook on very low flame until all the flavour is infused well for about 8-10 minutes.

For assembling the Meen Pathiri:
1. Take a small portion from the rice dough, make a ball and flatten it on a non-stick sheet (I used my Silpat mat, can also use square cutouts of wax paper or a banana leaf) using the heel of your palm. Add some masala in the centre along with the fish pieces. Leave some space at the ends.
2. Make another pathiri in another sheet the same way, a bit bigger than the previous one and cover the masala filled pathiri, covering the masala completely. Slowly press the edges using the fingers to seal all the fish masala in.

3. For steaming the pathiri, you can either place the pathiri with the wax paper/banana leaf itself into the steamer, or else just place each pathiri into a greased steamer by itself and steam for 10-12 minutes until its fully cooked through and becomes firm to touch.

4. Repeat the same process until all the fish masala and the rice dough are used up. Serve hot!

The entire lunch was a hit with these Meen (fish) Pathiri turning out the best! I'm urging you all to give it a try sometime.


Jul 15, 2015

Pizza Margherita

The first time I read the name Pizza Margherita on a menu card at a restaurant I was quite puzzled...I wondered, do they actually add Margarita in a pizza? Sounds quite dumb but trust me I was quite amused to find that I wasn't the only one who had thought so. Apparently Margarita (the drink) and Margherita (the pizza) are world's apart from each other and even the spellings are different although they are pronounced the same. 

Pizza Margherita or Margherita Pizza is a really simple Pizza yet it's huge on flavor. You just need three main ingredients for this pizza, Mozerella (fresh is best), a flavorful Tomato pizza sauce and fresh Basil leaves. 

Here's what I found when I searched on trusted Google.com for why this pizza is named as such:
  1. An often recounted story holds that on 11 June 1889, to honour the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan pizzamaker Raffaele Esposito created the "Pizza Margherita", a pizza garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, to represent the national colours of Italy as on the Italian flag.

I love baking fresh homemade pizza and trying new toppings each time and this was a flavor I tried when we kept a simple backyard bbq gettogether with friends. These were ideally meant as an appetizer and got over so fast that I only managed to take some quick snaps on my Iphone camera, thank goodness for such smart phone cams. Even my lil'Appu loved this pizza and ate several slices.

The pizza crust recipe makes about 2 medium sized pizzas, I made 4 small pizzas. I just used some store bought Marinara sauce and Grated mozerella cheese for the toppings and used fresh Basil leaves from our garden.  Fresh Basil leaves is quite a must to bring out the flavor in this pizza...


You'll Need
For Pizza Dough
½ cup Warm Water
2 ¼ teaspoon Instant  Yeast
4 cups Bread flour / All-purpose Flour plus more for dusting
1 ½ teaspoon Salt
1 ¼ cup water, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For Margherita Pizza topping
Preferred Pizza sauce (Marinara sauce)
Grated Mozerella as needed or use fresh Mozerella
Fresh Basil leaves, as needed
Salt as needed
Red chilli flakes / Seasoned Pizza flavoring herbs etc for garnish

To make Pizza Dough
1.Take warm water in a small bowl and add the instant yeast and set it aside. (sometimes I add a pinch of sugar to help activate the yeast faster)
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment add the flour and salt and mix well.
3. Add the measured water at room temperature into the yeast mixture.
4. On a slow speed add the yeast-water mixture with olive oil into the flour and combine until a dough starts to form.
5. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic for about 5 minutes and transfer the dough onto a greased/oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap and let it rest and double in size for about 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Once doubled in size, deflate the dough gently and divide into equal parts (I divided the dough into 4 parts) and rolled the dough into balls and cover each ball with a damp cloth and let them rest again for 10minutes. (if not using all the dough balls, you can freeze them by individually wrapping in plastic wrap)

To make Pizza Margherita

1. Make the pizza rounds by dusting the work surface with some flour and rolling out with a rolling pin or dusted hands to desired size keeping the crust a little thick and brushed with some olive oil.  Place the pizza on a baking tray that is lightly sprinkled with some cornmeal or Sooji(rava) to prevent the dough from sticking.

2. Spoon the top of the pizza base with desired pizza sauce, I used marinara sauce bought from our local Kowalski store (it was perfectly seasoned and had a lovely flavor)
3. Tear some fresh Basil leaves and add them over the top of the marinara sauce.
4. Top with generous amounts of grated Mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the top.
5. Pre-heat the oven at 500F and then place the baking tray with the pizza on it and bake for about 10-12 mins or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. You may need to reduce or increase baking times depending on the size of your pizza.
6. If desired garnish the pizza with red chilli flakes or dried pizza seasoning for extra flavor. Cut into slices and serve hot!

Recipe Source:
Pizza Dough: Annies Eats
Pizza Toppings: My own