How to make Egg Hoppers/Appam

How do you breakfast? On the go, sitting down at your kitchen table or perhaps at your office? With good intentions we try at least to have a ‘proper’ breakfast as a family before we  go our separate ways. My eldest daughter catches a coach to school and is out the house like a whirlwind by 7.20am and my youngest needs to at school by 8am and invariably I drive/scoot with her. As we approach Autumn and the darkness intrudes further into our mornings, I think it is important to fill your belly with some satisfying food before embarking on the challenges of the day ahead.

I always try to think of something new and exciting to feed my crew for breakfast and we often talk about it the night before. I thought it might be interesting and helpful if I create a ‘breakfast’ section under my recipe library and over the coming months I will put new ideas up here on my blog. I would love to hear what you think.

First up are my hoppers (Sri Lankan term) or appam (Keralan term). They are a typical breakfast in Sri Lankan and south India and are often eaten with a sambar or dal and a chutney. They have a coconut flavour and are made of rice flour. You do need to invest in a hoppers pan – something like this would be perfect, but my family are such fans of them that the investment made sense. I went and stayed with pals in the Cotswolds this summer and made a batch (15) for lunch one day for everyone to have with meat and vegetable curries and dal. All the kids – ranging from 4 to 14 gave them a thumbs up and for most it was the first time they had tried them.  I’m sure if you give them a try you (and your kids) will be pleasantly surprised. If you are going to make them for breakfast before school/work I would advise activating the yeast (the first part in the instructions below) before you jump in the shower. Then when you are out you can then add it to the rice flour and coconut milk, whisk and then leave to rest whilst you get changed. It’s a multi-tasking kind of breakfast. Equally it is great to have at lunch or supper, so don’t feel limited to cooking these at breakfast time.

Next week I am going to post a sambar recipe for you (which you will be able to prepare in advance) but today I simply ate them with a bowl of my marrow dal (see below) – but any of my dals would work equally well accompanying the hopper/appam.

 

Hoppers/Appam

Makes around 7-8

4g dried yeast

1 tsp white/brown sugar

35ml lukewarm water (warm to the touch but not hot!)

200g rice flour

1x400ml tin of coconut milk

pinch of salt

  1. First you need to place the yeast, sugar and water into a bowl and give a good stir. Leave the mixture for 15-20 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add the rice flour, coconut milk and salt and once the yeast mixture has frothed and therefore activated add it to the mixture and whisk so that the batter is smooth and thick.
  3. Leave to rest at room temperature for half an hour.
  4. Warm your pan and put one ladle full of the mixture into the pan. Slowly swirl the mixture around the edge of the pan so that the mixture has reached almost up to the top of the pan. I usually swirl it around a couple of times so that all the sides are coated. Place the pan on a low heat (the reason my edges look a little bronzed is that I had the heat too high ;o) and place the lid on top of the pan.
  5. If you are going to make an egg hopper crack an egg into the centre of the pan and place the lid on top. Leave for around 3-4 minutes so that the sides are a little crispy and the egg is cooked sufficiently but is still soft in the centre. If you would rather not have an egg simply place the lid on the pan and leave for 3-3.5 mins
  6. If you are using a non-stick pan the hopper will easily slide onto a plate and serve immediately with sambar/dal and some chutney.

Dal ideas to accompany the hoppers

Bengali Dal recipe

Sri Lankan Dal recipe

Red Onion Dal recipe

Toor Dal recipe  

Marrow Dal recipe


Vietnamese Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich

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I have a love affair going on when it comes to the ubiquitous Vietnamese sandwich known as banh mi. If the truth be told I love them in every form: pork, chicken, fish, beef, tofu – you name it and I pretty much love all the varieties that you can have. I love the cruchiness and sweet and sour piquant from the pickle, combined with the freshness of the coriander, the spices from the marinaded tofu/meat/fish, the chilli and the freshness from the baguette. Every bite has so much action going on for the palate – sweet, sour, umami chilli notes.

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They are not as much of a chore as you’d expect if you make them at home. I tend to buy the baguette, but if you have time on your hands, then I can totally recommend The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen to show you how to make the traditional baguette as well. Father Christmas kindly popped it in my stocking a few years back – such a thoughtful fella!

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I’ll talk your through it step by step, but once you’ve made the pickle – this takes no time at all – you’re pretty much all set. The pickle also lasts up to a month in the fridge so there is no need to use it all in a couple of days.  I am going to show you how to do the tofu version, but if you prefer to make it with chicken or pork then the same marinade can apply.

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I used the silken firm tofu, which you need to handle with care. Some brands are firmer than others, but ultimately if it falls apart a little it doesn’t really matter once it is in the baguette.

There are a few ingredients that you really need to get hold of before making a banh mi:

  • daikon (also known as mooli or white radish) – it looks similar to horseradish but has a lot milder flavour. I pick mine up from my local Indian grocer.
  • carrots
  • rice wine vinegar
  • a crunchy baguette
  • maggi seasoning sauce – according to Andrea Nguyen for a ‘first class banh mi, drizzle on some maggi sauce; it will boost each bite with an umami hit’ – she goes on to explain that ‘it is practically synonymous with banh mi’. I picked mine up from my local Asian supermarket but you can also order it from Ocado here
  • chillies to give the heat injection
  • fresh coriander
  • cucumber to add texture and crunch
  • mayonnaise (vegan if you want to keep the whole meal vegan)
  • sriracha sauce
  • 1 litre jar for the pickle

 

So to begin with you need to prepare the pickle. Trust me it is quick and easy to make.

 

Carrot and Daikon Pickle

500g daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks *

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (as above)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp caster sugar

100g caster sugar

300ml rice wine vinegar

250ml warm water

1 litre storage jar (can be slightly bigger but no smaller)

  1. After peeling, cut the carrot and daikon up into equal size matches and place them in a bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the salt and the teaspoons of sugar over the carrots and daikon and gently massage them gently for a few minutes using your hands. This will make them become softer and more bendy.
  3. Wash and drain them thoroughly under some cold water before placing them into your jar.
  4. In a separate jug mix the rice wine vinegar, caster sugar and warm water so that the sugar dissolves and then pour into the jar with the carrots and daikon. Discard any left over brine. If you need a little extra brine to cover the carrots and daikon simply add a little more warm water.
  5. Refrigerate for up to a month.

*the exact size of the matchsticks is irrelevant, obviously not too big, but do make sure that the carrot and daikon matchsticks are of similar size if possible.  I have seen them super skinny and slightly wider like mine below. Both ways taste delicious. 

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Matchstick daikon and carrots above and with salt and sugar ready to be massaged below.

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Once your carrot and daikon pickle is resting it’s now time to make the marinade for your tofu. I slice my block of tofu gently into about about 9slices. You don’t want to cut them too thin or they will easily break.

Place them gently in a bowl and add the marinade, which consists of: tamari (or soy sauce), 1/2 lime and zest, 1 tsp of minced garlic, 1 tsp minced ginger and cracked pepper. Coat evenly and then leave to marinade for around 20 minutes. Heat some groundnut (or sunflower) oil in a pan and then let the tofu  cook gently on each side for around 3-5 minutes before turning over. It wants to be nicely bronzed.

Tofu Marinade

349g firm tofu (or similar size pack), sliced

2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)

1/2 lime, juice and zest

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

liberal amount of cracked pepper

1 tsp groundnut/sunflower oil

  1. Slice the tofu gently into approximately 9 pieces and then place in a bowl and cover with the marinade ingredients.
  2. Leave to marinade for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat  the pan with oil and gently space out the marinated sliced tofu. On a medium low heat, leave the tofu for around 3 minutes to see if it is nicely bronzing. If it is then carefully turn it over for a further 3 minutes. Leave a little longer if it requires more time to bronze.
  4. Remove from pan and leave to cool whilst you prepare the rest of the sandwich.

If you are using pork or chicken make sure to slice the the meat thinly and leave to cook for longer on both sides. 

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The next part is easy. You simply mix a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise (homemade, vegan or shop bought) and add sriracha to taste. I usually find that around 1/2 tbsp works really well.

 

Sriracha Mayo

2 tbsp mayonnaise (homemade, vegan or regular shop bought)

1/2 tbsp sriracha, or to taste

  1. Mix the two ingredients together to form a salmon pink sauce. Taste and add more sriracha if necessary.

The next part is the assembling. First you need to slice the baguette, but not all the way through.  Take out some of the white bread part within – this allows more space for the fillings. Now follow the instructions below.

Assembling the Bahn Mi

few drops of maggi seasoning sauce

1/4 cucumber, thinly sliced

handful of fresh coriander

2 red chillies, chopped – optional

  1. Spread out the sriracha mayo evenly along the baguette followed by a few drops of maggi seasoning sauce.
  2. Next add the cucumber, tofu followed by some of the pickled carrot and daikon. You can also add some thinly spiced fresh red chillies for extra heat if necessary or omit this part and just add the fresh coriander.

It sounds terribly long winded but I assure you that it really doesn’t take that long at all. The pickle will last for ages and is pretty quick to make in the first place. The marinading is straightforward and the sriracha mayo takes seconds. So give it a whirl. Trust me you’ll become as addicted as me about banh mi.

 


Crispy Savoury Donut known as Medu Vada

IMG_2627I want to introduce you to a new kid in town that will seriously impress you.

Step aside donut and cronut (croissant and donut pastry) and make way for the Indian savoury donut known as ‘medu vada’. These savoury delicacies look very similar to their saccharin cousins the donut, but are filled with lots of wonderful spices instead of sugar.

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They are really fun to make and you can add your own twists to make them your own. They are a little bit naughty in that they are fried, but hey a little bit of fried deliciousness now and again is absolutely fine in books. They are made of urad dal – the white dal you can easily find in any Asian grocers-  that is soaked for at least 3 hours and then blended to form a soft fluffy paste.

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My daughters find them equally irresistible so they really are a treat for the whole family. They are typically eaten in southern India and Sri Lanka either at breakfast time or as a snack with a coconut chutney or possibly a dal or sambal. I could quite happily eat them for my breakfast but more often then not I make them for an afternoon snack with a cup of warming tea.

They are crispy on the outside and have a soft texture on the interior.

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My recipe makes around 13 little donuts, but if you want to make more just double up on the ingredients. There are no set rules here other than not making the dough too wet.

Medu Vada – Indian Savoury Donuts

Makes 13

175g white urid dal

1/2 tsp salt

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

 12 fresh curry leaves, chopped (optional)

1 green/red fresh chilli finely chopped (optional)

  1. Soak the white urid dal in a bowl covered with water for at least 3 hours.
  2. Strain the dal and place into a blender. Blend and if needed add literally a tsp at a time of water to loosen it slightly. Do not over water. You want it to have the same consistency as a fluffy light dough.
  3. Place the lentil dough into a large bowl and with your hand lift the dough, folding it over so that it gets air into it about 15 times.
  4. Add all the ingredients and mix well with your hands or a spoon.
  5. Heat a pan with cooking oil and when it is hot wet one of your hands and create a small ball (a little larger than a golf ball) and then place your thumb in the centre to create a hole through the dough. Then gently loosen the dough off your hand and place into the hot oil. Be careful when doing this as the movement from placing the dough into the pan and removing your hand needs to be super quick.
  6. Place a few donuts in the pan at once and leave them to bronze on one side for a couple of minutes, before turning them over with a slotted spoon for another couple of minutes.
  7. You are looking to get a yellowy bronze hue as opposed to brown, so be careful to watch them closely.
  8. Remove them from the pan and place on kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.
  9. Continue to make the rest.
  10. If you are planning to serve them as a snack when friends come over simply place them in a preheated oven that has subsequently been turned off. They should stay warm for a good hour.

They are perfect to eat with a chutney, dal or sambal (see links in the body of my post).

Note: 

  • I often don’t add chilli so that all my family can comfortably eat them. For those who like the chilli kick, you can serve them with a hotter chutney, which keeps all parties happy.

 

 

 

 

 


A tasty breakfast treat – spiced semolina (Upma)

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Semolina and I did not start out on a good footing.

For a few years when I was young I attended a convent – not as a nun, but as a pupil, and the nuns had a habit of being very strict. You had to eat every morsel on your plate and were not allowed to leave the table until your plate was clean.

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The food in the early 80’s was not something you would particularly blog about and the puddings that were dished up to us were well, how can I put this politely, not that appetising. The gruel that I particularly disliked was sloppy semolina with a dollop of sweet jam. I found it so hard to eat that on one occasion after the dining hall had emptied and I was sitting all alone and the minutes were ticking by I decided that when Sister was not looking I would deposit the contents of my bowl into my pocket. I did it like a stealth ninja and no one found out, other than my mother, who is such a sweetie she didn’t seem to make much of a fuss.

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Fast forward 34 years and I now love semolina – but only if I eat it the savoury way. In India a hugely popular breakfast snack is spiced semolina known as ‘Upma’. It is so quick and easy to put together it takes minutes to create a really warming bowl of goodness. I eat it at any time of day in all honesty – breakfast, snack, lunch, supper – you name it, it is super versatile. You can also add whatever vegetables need to be used up in the fridge, so it’s a win win in my book.

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Spiced Savoury Semolina – Upma

Serves 2-3 (or for 4 if eating as a snack)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

12 fresh curry leaves

1 fresh green chilli finely chopped

1 banana shallot or small onion, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

20g fresh ginger, finely grated

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 carrot, finely cubed

60g green beans chopped in half

40g red peanuts

150g course semolina (sooji)

275ml water

  1. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and fresh chilli. The mustard seeds will begin to splatter after 20-30 seconds so then add the shallot/onion and salt and lower the heat. Allow the shallot to soften for around 5 minutes.
  2. Add the fresh ginger and turmeric and stir gently.
  3. Now add the carrot and beans or another vegetable that needs using up along with the red peanuts.  After 1 minute add the water and leave to simmer for up to 5 minutes or when the vegetables have softened.
  4. Add the semolina gradually and stir constantly so that it does not clump together too much. Once it has soaked up the water – you can add a little more water if needed at this stage – place a lid on the pan and switch off the heat so that it can steam for a few minutes before serving.

 

 


Indian Eggy Toast

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If you ever feel a little lethargic/hungover/sleepy (delete as appropriate), in the mornings, my Indian take on French toast will sharpen up your senses and give you that necessary skip in your step to take on the day ahead. Drinking coffee has never rocked my boat, although I do love the smell of freshly ground coffee and would so love to love drinking it, however, I find that a burst of chilli for breakfast – yes for breakfast – does awaken the endorphins rather well.

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I also thought that it may give you some ideas on what to feed the masses if you have a number of guests staying over for Christmas. We often decamp down to my parents for part of the Christmas break and as there is ten of us we all help with the share of the cooking. This recipe is so quick that by the time someone else has laid the table you have already made a pile of these delicious beauties ready for the taking. It’s quick to rustle up more should they be a hit so its a win win – stress free and super quick.

I have added two chillies below, but by all means add only one if you want a more subtle approach

Indian Eggy Toast

produces 6/7 toasts

2 tbsp of vegetable oil

sourdough bread, sliced

4 eggs

2 chillies, finely chopped (1 if you prefer it less hot)

a small handful of fresh coriander, chopped

1 tomato, finely chopped

pinch of rock salt

optional: 1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

1. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and then add the chilli, fresh coriander, tomato, rock salt and fresh ginger (if using).

2. Slice the sourdough bread and then soak the bread in the egg mixture on both sides.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and when it is hot place the soaked sourdough into the pan. Leave to bronze on one side for a couple of minutes before turning for a further couple of minutes on the other side.

4. Serve immediately with some Sriracha chilli sauce or my chipotle sauce if you have some already made up. Both work a treat.