Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kvass-Okroshka Update

The Wasa kvass I blogged about turned out alright. When I shook my Snapware container, there was a little, well, not explosion, but leakage. Violent leakage, I guess you could call it. It wasn't unpleasant to drink, but it wasn't something I'd elect to drink if I had other options. It was more like beer than kvass, actually. Homemade kvass isn't as sweet as the store bought stuff, but this was not sweet at all. I think I added too much yeast, and that they ate all the sugar.

However, the kvass was perfectly fine for making Okroshka, which I did do.

And then I made kvass again, using Vollkornbrot, a dense German rye bread that is (very important) sold presliced. Remember, I'm lazy. Oh, and I also bought a 1.5 L glass jar with a screw-top lid to avoid leakage.

I baked the slices of bread, and this time followed directions a bit more closely. I still think there was too much yeast though, because even though this one was better, it still wasn't quite sweet enough. Oh, and I left out the mint, I prefer the taste without it.

So then, I made Okroshka again, using the new kvass. VERY DELICIOUS. We also drank the new kvass, but I dissolved a little sugar in a little water first and we sweetened it with that before drinking.

I also have made Okroshka several times using elben, which is the closest we have here to kefir. It's kind of like a thin kefir. Very similar to ayran, but no salt added. That was very good too.

So, why no Okroshka recipe?

I've been waiting till I take a picture of the stuff, but I just keep eating it as soon as it's served. Seriously, I haven't remembered till after the fact!

Ok, next time, I WILL take a picture. Next time meaning, the next heat wave we get around here (probably around July).


I wanted to make Massur Palao, which is an Indian dish with rice, ground meat, and massur lentils. Sometimes potatoes can be added. It is similar to Biriyani, which more people have heard of, except Biriyani is made usually with chunks of meat and saffron is added. My grandmother was fantastic at making Massur Palao, and she used to make it every week for my sister. Seriously, it was for my sister, the rest of us were told, "You can't eat any ... well, maybe just a little, but only if she says you can!" My sister was her favorite and my grandmother was an interesting woman. :-)

It was never my favorite dish, but we had some ground beef and suddenly I wanted to make it. But alas, no lentils. So, here you have a Massur Palao-Biriyani hybrid. But I forgot to add potatoes (sad).

Big, heavy bottomed pot (I think mine was like 5 quart size) with lid
Wooden spoon
Cutting board

1/2 c oil
2 small onions, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 bird's eye chilis (or whatever small hot chilis you have), minced
2 T minced ginger (fresh)
3 T gharam masala
375 g ground beef
3 c raw basmati rice
2 pods black cardamom
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
pinch of saffron


First, wash the rice very well, and then leave it in fresh water to soak for 30 minutes.

Warm the oil in the pot. When it's hot (shimmery) add the onion, let it saute until soft, then add the carrot, sautee a couple of minutes. Now, add the chilis, garlic and ginger, let them sautee a couple minutes till nice and fragrant. Push all this stuff to one side, pooling the oil on the other side of the pot. Dump the gharam masala into the oil and make sure it is all touching the oil. Let it fry for a minute, but you don't want it to burn. I have my electric stove on "7" (out of 9) during this process, if that helps. Stir everything together, and add the ground meat, stirring well, making sure that no large lumps form and making sure that no spices are burning. Add some salt. You may need to add a cup of water (deduct it from your 5 cups) to facilitate non-burning.

When meat is reasonably browned (so it is out of the "danger zone" as far as clumping goes) Add the rice and 4 cups of water (3 cups, if you have already added one cup). Salt. Don't stir. You want the meat to stay on the bottom, rice on the top. Once the liquid starts to bubble slightly (NOT a rolling boil), put the lid on and turn the stove as low as it will go. The remaining cup of water should be a warm one. The warmest that comes out of your tap is fine. Put this cup of water in a glass, or your cup measurer, and place the saffron in it. It will start to slowly color the water yellow.

Go do something else for like 10 minutes.

Check to see how the rice is doing. Poke your spoon in along the side of the pot, not disturbing the layers, but enough to check if the liquid is just about all gone. If it isn't, replace the lid and wait a bit longer. If it is, add the saffron water but again, don't stir.

Go do something else for like 10 minutes.

Again, check the rice. If the liquid has all been absorbed, remove the pot from the heat, leaving the lid on, and let it sit that way for you guessed it, 10 minutes. If the liquid HASN'T been absorbed, then let it stay on the heat until that happens, but keep an eye on it. A little moisture is ok, but it should NOT be liquidy.

Now it's done. The top rice should be light and fluffy, the rice that's touching the meat is more moist. Scoop it onto a plate and eat it, adding salt to your taste. You can eat it with yogurt (especially good on the meat part).

Notes and Serving Suggestions: You could add some dried fruit (raisins, sour cherries) when you add the rice, or some chopped herbs of your choice. I think that whole cumin seeds (add them when you fry the gharam masala) would also be good.

About the gharam masala: traditionally, this is not fried. That's because traditionally it contains things like cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, clove need to be "warmed" (hence the name), but that aren't oil soluble so they don't need to be fried. However, most commercially prepared gharam masala contains cumin and coriander, which DOES need to be fried. My homemade gharam masala also contains cumin and coriander because I'm lazy and so that's two less jars I have to fish around for in the cupboard. The point is, for most people, fry it. But, if you have a gharam masala that doesn't contain cumin and coriander, then: instead of frying 3 T gharam masala, fry 1 T ground cumin, 1 T ground coriander. When you add the liquid, add 1 T gharam masala.

This is REALLY UNHEALTHY. It's fat and carb city. 1/4 of the pot, which you can easily eat, believe me, has like 1/2 a day's calories. The whole recipe is 3687 calories.