Kids Corner

Above: Besan Poorray. Below: Griddlecakes.


Brunch With Bebe Ji




Northern New Jersey is a gateway to the Shore or to the Catskill Mountains.

But for our guests, it was the wonders of New York City that drew them. (Maybe they wanted to see us as well?)

We had a routine in our family. My husband would take first-time visitors on what we called “the tour” through Manhattan - Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Trump Tower in mid-town. He dropped them off as he circled around, so he would not have to park. Gas was cheaper then! He would continue downtown to Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park and Wall Street.

Second-time visitors went to the Statue of Liberty, and the Twin Towers or the United Nations.

My mother-in-law and I occasionally went along but generally stayed home to shop for groceries and cook. We would invite other families to meet our visitors either for dinner, or for our favorite meal - the party brunch, a late breakfast or early lunch.

We had more luck doing this than trying to gather folks on busy weekend evenings. It was especially important for Bebeji to have company, since it was lonely at home during the weekdays. Luckily, we both enjoyed entertaining our guests.

Griddlecakes, aka pancakes, of all kinds were always part of the brunch menu. If the cakes were savory, like besan poorray, we prepared a savory raita with aaloo in the fall and winter or kheera in the summer. A fruit salad, with or without cream, was the usual accompaniment if the cakes were sweet. I usually flavored the fruit with a sprinkle of ground cardamom and sweetened it with a little honey, sugar, or corn syrup.

The fun of making griddlecakes is that older children can join in. But don’t wait for guests to make them - the griddlecakes double as a quick, simple supper.

So gather the family and griddle away! Keep any style pancakes warm in a 200˚F oven for up to 20 minutes by overlapping them slightly and covering them. The besan poorray freeze well.



Besan Poorray

Yield: about 20  

Chickpea flour is gluten free and has a high protein content, important for vegetarians.

4 cups chickpea flour besan                    

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoons baking powder

4 inches green chile, minced              

2 tablespoons dhania/cilantro, sliced               

1 small/medium onion (2/3 cup), minced        

1 teaspoon toasted cumin seed (optional)

2 teaspoons ground, dried pomegranate seed anaardana (optional)

¼ cup canola oil or melted ghee, plus more for griddle

2½ cups cold water

Thoroughly mix the salt and baking powder into the besan. Add the chopped vegetables, spices and ghee, mixing with a fork so that they are evenly distributed. Add the water in half cupfuls, mixing well after each addition. Let the batter rest for five minutes.

Heat a griddle or tavaa to 360 degrees or until a drop of water sizzles. Lightly grease it with ghee, oil or nonstick spray and turn on the exhaust fan. Stir the batter again and pour into a container with a lip for easy pouring. Pour about a third of a cup of batter onto the griddle. Allow the pancake to brown on one side. Bubble holes will open on the surface when it is time to turn it. Turn again and allow to brown. Brush that side with ghee before serving.     



Paneer Poorray

Yield: 15 three-inch pancakes

One surprise ingredient in this recipe is soft-curd paneer or cottage/ricotta cheese. And surprise two - they are much lower-carb than other pancakes, especially if you replace the sugar with Splenda, a sugar substitute. They are delicious with sliced berries or other juicy fruits.

6 large eggs, carefully separated

1½ cups fresh paneer**, cottage cheese or ricotta cheese

¼ cup melted ghee or butter (optional)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1½ tablespoons grated orange or lemon peel

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Set aside. Begin heating a griddle until a drip of water sizzles, or to 375˚ F. In a separate bowl, beat the cottage/ricotta cheese, egg yolks, ghee, and vanilla together.

In the largest, third bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and zest. Stir the cheese mixture into the flour mixture and then gently fold the egg whites into the flour and cheese mixture.

Grease the griddle with cooking spray or oil. Drop 1/3 cup of batter on the griddle and slightly smooth it out. When bubbles form and begin to open, flip gently.

Top with berry sauce or powdered sugar.

Best eaten immediately.             

[**To make fresh paneer: Bring ½ gallon of milk to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice. Continue stirring until the curds separate.  Line a colander with a thin, clean cloth over a bowl (to catch the whey). Drain the curds for 5-10 minutes. (Use the whey to cook daal.)]



Yield: 3-4 cups

2 pints berries, sliced or halved

1 large orange or ripe banana, cut into small pieces

¼ cup sugar or sugar substitute or honey

3 tablespoons orange marmalade

1 pinch ground cardamom

Mix together and let rest until syrup forms.

Refrigerate if not using immediately.


[Veronica Sidhu is the author of Menus and Memories from Punjab: Meals to Nourish Body and Soul.]

July 12, 2011

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