August 7, 2012

Pita Bread and Falafel

I am lagging quite behind on my blogging and I ain't feeling too good about it either. The weather is dull, cloudy and depressing, making food photography impossible as I always use only natural lighting. So much has happened in our lives the last one month that sometimes I wish I could stop time and enjoy life a little bit more.Time is flying by so quickly that I realize it only when I watch our son grow and amaze us everyday with his non stop imitations of everybody around him. I have made tons of new recipes but have not been able to post any of them due to lack of time. My "to-make" list is growing longer with so many requests to keep up. Time for me to buck up and get those creative juices flowing again. My first recipe after what felt like ages is one of my favourite - Pita Bread and Falafel. We had Falafel recently at a new restaurant in Chennai and it is then that my friend and I decided to make our favourite Middle Eastern cuisine. My menu included Hummus, Falafel, Chicken Kababs and Pita Bread but today I am posting the recipes only for two.

Falafel as you know is a Middle Eastern deep fried balls made out of ground Chick peas or Fava beans and is an excellent vegetarian option for an otherwise meat laden cuisine. It can be had as it is or sandwiched in Pita Bread Pockets with fresh salad and Hummus. The variations are many. Pita Bread is "the bread" of the Middle Eastern countries. The Arabic word for this is Khubz.
For the Pita Bread, you will need:
Quick Rising Yeast - 1 packet of approximately 8 gms
Warm Water - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1 tsp
Salt - 1 1/4 tsp
Plain Flour - 3 cups
Luke Warm water - 1 cup
Extra flour for dusting - as needed
Olive Oil - as needed

Dissolve yeast in half cup of warm water with sugar. Give it a quick stir and leave it to froth for about 10 minutes.
Mix together flour, salt and the yeast mixture in a bowl with a wooden spatula.
Add 1 cup of lukewarm water gradually and stir well until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl.
Grease a deep bowl with the olive oil and transfer the dough into it, turning it over once so that the oil coats the dough too.
Cover and allow it to rise for about 3 hours or until it has doubled in size.
Once risen, gently pull out the dough onto a well floured surface.
Knead it well for about 10 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky but smooth and elastic. Add extra flour as required during the kneading. Kneading allows the gluten to stretch and make the bread crispy on the outside.
Make 12 small balls out of the dough and leave it to rest for another 10 minutes.
Flatten the balls into a 5- 6 diameter circle.
Now the original method asks you to preheat the oven to 250C and bake the rolled out bread for about 5 minutes on one side, flip it over for another 2 and then remove. You may try this if you wish.
I did try the oven method and found that the Pitas turned out quite dry.
So instead, I heated a tava well on the stove.
Put the rolled out Pita on the hot pan. In a few seconds, you will see small bubbles forming on the surface.
Turn it over and slightly press down with a wooden spatula. This allows the Pita to puff up well. (Give yourself a pat on the back when your Pita Bread puffs up completely, because that is how it should turn out.)
Turn over once more and transfer it to a foil to keep it warm. Repeat with the other rolled out Pita Breads in the similar fashion. 
As soon as you take it out of the pan, deflate the bread by making a small incision on it.
Serve it hot.
(It did not taste as good the next day for me though the original recipe says that you can store it in the freezer for a month. Try it and let me know too.)

For the Falafel, you will need: (Adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. I have added the following ingredients to our taste and may differ to the authentic ones)
Chickpeas/ Chenna - 1 cup
Garlic pods - 10
Chopped Chilli - 1
Coriander Powder - 1 tsp
Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
Plain Flour - 2 tbsp
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Parsley or Coriander chopped - a handful ( try equal quantities of both too. Add this generously)
Chopped Onions - 1 Big
Oil for frying

Cover the chickpeas with enough water and soak it over night.
Drain and add the soaked chickpeas to a food processor.
Blend it well to resemble coarse bread crumbs.
Separately blend the onions, cumin powder, coriander powder, coriander leaves, garlic and chili to a fine paste.
Mix together the coriander leaves paste, the ground chickpeas, the plain flour and the seasoning. The result will be a thick paste. Refrigerate it for about 15 minutes.
Make small lime sized balls with the mixture and deep fry them until they turn a lovely golden brown.
Serve hot else they will become soft.

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