The wonderful thing about mochi is that you can put anything inside. If you need some inspiration you can go with chocolate ganache, ice cream, fruits, peanut butter, crushed cookies, jam, sweet bean/seed pastes, and even savory things. The only caveat is that you probably want whatever you are making to look good, so I would stick to foods that you know will keep the shape you want.
Red Bean Paste and Black Sesame Paste – you can get right out of a can (or make it yourself)
Sesame Peanut Butter – I didn’t have sesame paste in my house so I crushed sesame by hand with a mortar pestle and mixed it with peanut butter. I used about equal parts of both because I didn’t want a very sweet mochi (with too much peanut butter), and when you use more sesame it keeps it’s shape better.
Chocolate Ganache AKA Chocolate Truffles- It’s pretty straightforward to make a simple chocolate truffle; it is so simple that you’ll possibly not buy one ever again. You have two basic ingredients: chocolate and milk.
After a lot of experimentation, reading, and 10 hours later, I’ve figured out my favorite mochi recipe. I knew from the start I wanted to use the microwave if possible (I had a bad experience with steam) and that I was okay with missing out on all the traditional fun of pounding glutinous rice. What you need for my favorite recipe of (lucky) 8 daifukus: 1 cup glutinous rice flour ¼ c granulated sugar ¼ tsp salt 1.25 cup room temp water (or 1 cup water, 1/4 cup coconut milk) Optional: desiccated coconut, fillings (peanut butter, sesame seeds, red bean paste, sesame paste, whatever your heart desires) Combine your dry ingredients, then add 50% of the water. Stir until you’ve made a consistent dough, then mix in the rest of the water (you do this whenever mixing dry and wet ingredients to prevent lumps of flour in your mixture). The consistency was much more watery than I expected. If you want to add food coloring, I’d also put in two drops into the watery mixture. Prep a surface (counter, cutting board, etc) with a layer of corn starch. Microwave your mixture for two minutes, stir until consistent, then microwave again for 3 minutes. Pour the dough onto parchment paper or surface covered in corn starch. It should look like this (sans food coloring):Divide what you have evenly into 8 pieces, shape into flat disks with thicker middles and thinner edges. Place your filling right into the center (I recommend a disk instead of a ball since because your final shape isn’t going to be perfectly round), then seal by pinching all the edges to the center. Cover your final product with corn starch, and for final presentation brush off the remaining cornstarch. The ones on the left have four drops of food coloring (I recommend only two), and the ones on the left have no food coloring: This is two drops of food coloring:
Recipe adjustments: I add some coconut milk in place of water for a slightly richer flavor. It is pretty subtle, but if you are going to use more coconut milk you need to add more water, unless you want a chewier texture. It also makes the mochi harder to work with when you are shaping. My Dad is a big fan of the super chewy mochi so he doesn’t like my variation, but you can also achieve a chewier texture with lowering water content/upping dry mix and/or steaming your mochi instead. HAVE FUN!
Throwback time! I used to love these afterschool when I was a little kiddie! Nothing fancy here, it’s just spicy tomato sauce, shredded mozz, and Thomas’ English Muffins with a double toasted muffin, first without the toppings, 2nd after throwing them on. It makes for a great quick snack for the lazy young professional and if you want to make it healthier, use whole grain english muffins!
It may not be terribly authentic, but this is how I like to make my saag paneer. I’ve read through a lot of different recipes and have tried many different versions, but after many hours in the kitchen, this is what I ended up with. Obviously if you have different taste buds, you’ll like different things. I know some love adding lots of cloves and our favorite Christmas spices: nutmeg/cinnamon, etc, but I keep it relatively simple. You can get just about everything from your Indian grocer (including fresh spinach that is much cheaper than the supermarket).
Wash and cut the raw spinach to one inch segments and use a deep pan with very little water at the bottom to cook through. I would use minimal water because the spinach will release it’s own water. This part when I first tried it involved some improv where I cooked it first then cut it, which required more energy to squeeze out all the soupy water (otherwise leaving you a big mess). I also had to cool it down before cutting for obvious reasons. I’ve also read a lot of recipes where the spinach is completely puréed but I prefer to have some texture as opposed to soupy sauce.
Cut up the onions and throw it into a pan to cook through. Add the cherry tomatoes when the onions are halfway done. I like my tomatoes not cooked all the way through to get than tangy freshness.
When the spinach is done, drain the excess water and add in the onion and tomato mixture. Add in salt, 2 tablespoons of coriander powder, and let simmer while preparing the paneer.
Sear the paneer cubes in enough ghee to coat the pan. In restaurants you normally don’t find the cubes browned, but that’s how I like mine!
In a side pan heat up some ghee and add a flat teaspoon of cumin seeds to toast. I’ve been told to let it get very dark, so I actually let it get nearly burnt and added it to my spinach mixture.
Add the paneer to the spinach mixture.
From here I put my mixture of three pinches of red chili powder, five ground up cardamom pods (not the shell, just the insides), and three cloves. Finally, I added two pinches of garam masala and folded it in. Let it rest for a few minutes on a low flame then serve. Garam masala has the the delicate AND spicy spices in it, so in order to preserve the delicate quality you add it in the end.
Since I’m a cilantro fanatic, I tend to cut up excessive amounts of it and finely chop the stem and put it into my mixture so as not to let anything go to waste.
Getting Acquainted with Your Spices (if you don’t know the differences already) Indian spices shouldn’t be as intimidating to you as it was to me. I think I now understand why I thought Indian cooking was this foreign realm that I wouldn’t be able to touch: because of the foreign flavors.
A simple solution to understanding cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom is to start adding it to black tea (with milk and sugar). It’s funny, but I had always known about this “spiced” tea and the Chinese in me refused to believe that it would possibly taste good compared to my straight green and black teas without milk or sugar. You can isolate all of them, or you can start with one then keep adding so you understand each one and have a good memory of what is what! (fundamental for figuring out which is which when you are cooking, and what you still need to add into an incomplete dish)
Oh man… “chai” is so delicious and one easy way to acquaint yourself with these spices. Everyday you feel like drinking tea, only use one of the ingredients (a little at first, and more in future batches if you like it). I have it down to a science that I actually prefer mine with only cardamom and a small amount of clove.
As for cumin, tumeric, coriander, and mustard seeds, I recommend trying them with chicken if you are a meat eater one at a time similar to the chai concept. One of my favorite chicken dishes is just the chicken smothered in coriander powder, salt, pepper, and garlic.
Spices Used at the Destination, not in the Journey Something I realized about my approach to these spices is that I don’t expect the flavor to seep in over long cooking times–if anything most everything is ground up so I expect to have a bit of the flavor in every bite, or I use so much of it that I will definitely taste it. It’s not like cooking down chicken to get the chicken flavor in a soup, nor is it using tons of peppercorns or basil to flavor a stew only to take out the peppercorns in the end. This is probably because I am mostly cooking vegetarian dishes with strong vegetable flavors, and not necessarily creating a stew where the chicken needs to absorb the flavors.
It is definitely possible my approach isn’t right, but so far in most of the recipes I’ve read for basic vegetarian dishes, I haven’t been very wrong.