Monday, July 24, 2006

Flour Power!

It is almost time for yet another edition of the foodie event Jihva for ingredients, an original concept of Indira from Mahanandi and hosted this month by Santhi of Santhi's kitchen. Following closely on the heels of last month's theme of lentils or dals, this time Santhi has chosen the ingredient Flour!

I took a peek into my kitchen cupboards and counted the flours I have on hand; here is what I found...
It turns out, that like most Indian kitchens, I keep a variety of flours on hand, and they can be basically divided into wheat flours (the four in the middle, listed below from the finest to the coarsest) and flours from other grains or pulses (the four on the outside). Here is what I generally use them for...

The wheat flours:
1. All-purpose flour or maida: I use this for baked goods like cakes or muffins, pizza dough and for making bechamel (white) sauce. Some Indian flatbreads such as bhaturas also call for all-purpose flour. This ultra-refined flour, however, is not the healthiest option (it has most of the nutrients and fiber milled out of it), and I try and keep my use of it to a minimum.
2. Atta: This is the Indian-style whole-wheat flour. It is a finer texture compared to the whole-wheat flour found in American supermarkets. I use this for Indian breads like stuffed parathas and regular rotis or chapatis.
3. Whole-wheat flour: This is something I keep on hand for making whole-wheat pizza dough, which calls for a mixture of all-purpose and whole-wheat flour. Pizza made with whole-wheat dough looks and tastes delicious, in addition to being better for you.
4. Semolina or sooji or rava: This is the coarsest wheat flour, sold most often in American supermarkets under the brand "cream of wheat". I use it for making upma, a delicious risotto-like Indian breakfast, and also use it in smaller quantities as (a) an addition to some batters for a crispier result and (b) as a substitute for breadcrumbs for dipping patties in, prior to shallow-frying them.

Other flours:
5. Millet or ragi flour: This makes delicious and nutritious pancakes.
6. Rice flour: Also kept on hand for making quick breakfast pancakes.
7. Cornmeal: I use this for a delicious zucchini cornbread that pairs beautifully with some spicy chili.
8. Chickpea flour or besan: My favorite flour! I use it to make batter for fritters (bhajiyas and pakodas), and to make my beloved stew, pithale. This flour also makes delicious vegan "omelets" for breakfast.

For my entry today, I was faced with too many choices! After much agonised and back-and-forth-ing, I decided to go back to basics and make a traditional feast of puri with aamras and batata bhaji where puri= fried bread, aamras= mango puree and batata bhaji= a dry spicy potato dish. This combination is often served at special occasions in Marathi homes, and it was a natural choice for me because (a) I had never made puris before, and wanted to try my hand at this classic "special" bread and (b) I had a tin of canned mango puree from my parents' backyard (all-natural, with no added sweeteners) and puris are just special enough for this precious mango to be eaten with. The puri recipe was really simple, pieced together from a few recipes I found on the internet. The dough contains atta, a dab of oil and a sprinkle of salt. I did add some semolina (rava) to make the puris crisper. The result was wonderful: the puris were exactly as I hoped for (even with my imperfectly shaped circles). The meal consisted of alternate dips of the hot puffy puris into chilled mango and spicy potato...absolutely heavenly!

(serves 2-3)
2 cups atta (Indian-style whole-wheat flour)
1 heaped tbsp semolina (rava)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oil
oil for deep frying
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Add warm water little by little to make a smooth but *firm* dough (firmer than regular roti dough). Let the dough relax for 30 minutes under a barely-damp towel in the covered bowl. Then take about a tablespoon of dough at a time, roll it into a thin circle (using some more atta to help in the rolling process), and deep fry for a few seconds on each side until the puri is puffed and golden. Drain well on some paper towels and serve hot.

Someone requested the recipe for the potato, so here it is:

Batata Bhaji
(serves 2-3)
3 large or 4 medium potatoes
1 onion, sliced
2 chillies, chopped fine
5-6 curry leaves
pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
1 tsp oil
1 wedge of lemon
2 tbsp cilantro, minced
1. Boil the potatoes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them and chop into cubes.
2. Heat oil in a pan. Temper with cumin and mustard seeds.
3. Add the onion, chillies, asafoetida and curry leaves and saute till onions are lightly browned.
4. Add the salt and turmeric powder and stir to mix.
5. Add the potato cubes and stir well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle with lemon juice and cilantro. Serve with puris.


  1. They came out beautifully Nupur! The combination sounds really delicious too. I'm going to miss you while you're away from your blog!

  2. what a lovely entry for JFI Nupur..
    I love this combination..
    Thank you so very much..

  3. Hi Nupur,
    You will be surely missed..But all the best for your work and come back as soon as possible.


  4. Nupur:

    The pics of flour are amazing. Good luck on your dissertaion and the defense!

  5. I love puri (our Indian restaurant spells it "poori", I assume that's the same) so thank you for this post! I never knew there were so many flours. I shall have to run right out and get some atta.

    Best wishes on your dissertation and thesis defense!

  6. Wishing you the very best with your thesis and defence Nupur! You'll be missed :-( Promise to come back soon?

  7. Eight flours in that little kitchen! You've been holding out on us: there must be a big pantry somewhere under the bed. Or SOMEwhere!

  8. Thanks Cathy! I was surprised and delighted that they came out so well!

    Thanks for hosting, Santhi! I look forward to seeing all the entries.

    Thanks Eve!

    Luv2cook, thanks!

    PatL, yes, poori and puri are the very same thing. It is suprisingly easy to make at home!

    I promise to try, Shvetha :)

    AK, actually most of the flours are stored in the fridge to help them last longer :)

  9. Hey Nupur,

    Great blog, Keep up the good work and hoping that you will return to your blog soon.

    Wishing you luck

  10. hey nupur can we get the recipe for batata bhaji too?

  11. good luck with ur dissertation.....

  12. Hi Nupur, thats a neat way of showing the flours in your kitchen.
    Around May when mangoes are flowing in the markets my mom and her sisters plan a get together "aamrascha bet kevha karooya"?. Its great fun!
    Good luck with your dissertation. And I read in your last post that you are moving? So good luck with that too.

  13. Good luck for your defense Noopur! I can feel your excitement/anxiety..being a PhD student myself!
    BTW, eating in steel plate and 'Vatis' has its own charm;)

  14. Hi Nupur,

    Good luck for your dissertation & to defend thesis.
    I hope you will come back with some amazing recipes in the future.
    Take care.

  15. Everything looks beautiful! Great idea of adding semolina for crispier bread, too.

    Best of luck as you approach this exciting time :)

  16. wow! aamras-puri-potato sabzi. Great combination. Good luck for your thesis defence.

  17. I'm going to miss reading new posts from you - but all the best of luck for your dissertation. Hoping to see you back as soon as you possibly can, soon-to-be DR Nupur! :)

  18. What a cute display of flours. Loved the arrangement and thanks for taking time to participate in JFI event.
    Potato curry with puris looks delicious.

    I am going to miss reading your posts Nupur. Best wishes for your studies!

  19. Your entry and the photo is simply divine . Thats all i can say. I could almost taste the puris just by looking at them

  20. Nupur,
    Good luck with your dissertation and come back soon :)

  21. hey great blog! :D

  22. Hey N congrats on the Hindu article. I am so glad you were mentioned in there.
    Btw I tried your paneer pulav for a party over the weekend and it was a big hit. Thanks

  23. Wishing you all the luck for your dissertation, Nupur. Come back soon..:)

    A simple yet authentic entry for JFI.For someone who has trying puris for the first time, its an excellent job!

    Btw, that flour pic is awesome!!

  24. What a wonderful post. Thanks for explaining the flours and sharing the recipes. My husband loves puri and the bhaji looks awesome.

    Good luck with the dissertation!

  25. I just came across your blog & I have to compliment you!! Its fantastic..
    The last time I have puri was when I was 12 years old. I have it in my Indian friend's house during the Deepavali in Malaysia. Now that I live in UK and will definitely try this. I am so happy to find your blog. I wish I have time to do the same and introduce to you the Malay food.
    Wish you all the best.


  26. Hi Nupur,
    I happened to visit this site, when i was googling for 'Pav Bhaji' recipe! Wow... all ur recipes are great and are indeed mouth-watering. Cant wait to try them all!

    Good job.. :)

  27. Hi Nupur,
    For the batata bhaaji, if you mildly crush chillies and ginger and add, it gives the bhaaji even more flavor.

  28. Hi Nupur,

    For batata bhaji, in the ingredients u have mentioned cumin pwdr and corainder pwdr.....but I don't see that being used in the recipe. Could u pls check it out and correct it?

    Keep up the good work!


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