Cooking Class: A passage to India

Make exotic delights using a common Israeli ingredient – ptitim.

Michael Giladi (photo credit: Indian cuisine)
Michael Giladi
(photo credit: Indian cuisine)
Ptitim, the tiny rice-like pasta Israeli kids love so much, have recently begun to star at some of the more upscale restaurants in fancy dishes such as risotto. We challenged Tom Franz, the recent winner of TV’s MasterChef, to find new uses for the ingredient most of us have in our pantry. The result is an Indian meal made from ptitim. The recipes and photos are courtesy of Franz and Sugat.
Chicken and ptitim curryServes 6
This dish is not only full of flavor but is also very filling and nutritious. It is fun to prepare and is really a whole meal in one.
Originally, the curry was cooked with a lot of sauce and served over white rice. Here, Franz cooks the curry with the ptitim and coconut milk, so the pasta soaks up all the flavors. If you prefer your food less spicy, omit the chili flakes and hot pepper.
✔ 2 cups “rice” ptitim by Sugat ✔ 1 kg. chicken thighs (pargiot) or chicken breast, sliced into strips ✔ 1⁄3 cup canola oil ✔ 2 large onions, sliced ✔ 2 green onions, chopped ✔ 2 garlic cloves, minced ✔ 1 chili pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional) ✔ 1 Tbsp. brown sugar ✔ 1 each sweet potato, carrot, red pepper and zucchini, cubed ✔ Salt and pepper ✔ 2 cups (400 ml.) coconut milk ✔ 3 Tbsp. quality curry paste ✔ ¼ tsp. each cinnamon, ground cardamom, chili flakes
For garnish ✔ A handful chopped cilantro ✔ ½ cup roasted shelled peanuts
Heat half the oil in a large deep skillet or a wide pot. Add chicken, season with salt and pepper and cook on all sides. Remove and keep covered. Add the rest of the oil to the skillet and fry the onions until golden. Add the garlic, chili and sugar and sauté. Add the vegetables and sauté for 20 minutes over low heat. Stir from time to time. Add the ptitim and mix well.
In separate bowl, mix together ½ cup warm water with the seasoning, and add to the vegetables. Pour the coconut milk into the pot and stir. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and cook for 7 minutes or until the pasta is ready. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes.
Just before serving, add the chicken and warm the dish together.
Garnish with cilantro and peanuts before serving.
Note: For a meatless meal, use tofu instead of chicken.Malai kofta
This is the Indian vegetarian version of meatballs, served on special occasions. In India it is served on a bed of rice, but ptitim go very well with it, too.
To make this dish, you will have to prepare paneer, the Indian homemade cheese (see recipe below). But don’t get discouraged – it’s easy. This cheese is the base of many dishes in Indian cuisine. It is similar to mozzarella, does not melt in cooking and keeps well in the refrigerator.
For the kofta (balls) ✔ 2 cups boiled potato cubes, drained ✔ 1 cup cooked and drained vegetable mix (use carrots, peas, corn and green beans) ✔ 1 cup paneer cheese cubes ✔ 2 Tbsp. cream  ✔ 1 tsp. cumin ✔ 1 tsp. ground coriander ✔ ½ tsp. ground chili ✔ Salt ✔ ½ cup shelled nuts (almonds, walnuts or cashews) ✔ ¼ cup raisins, chopped ✔ Canola oil for frying For the sauce ✔ 3 Tbsp. canola oil ✔ 2 onions, quartered ✔ 2 tomatoes, quartered ✔ 4 garlic cloves, minced ✔ 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger ✔ 2 tsp. ground coriander ✔ 1 Tbsp. cumin ✔ ½ tsp. dry chili ✔ 3 Tbsp. ground cashew nuts or ground almonds ✔ Salt ✔ 2 tsp. garam masala seasoning mix
To serve ✔ 1½ cups Sugat “rice” ptitim, prepared according to instructions on the package
To prepare the kofta: Mash together the cooked vegetables, potatoes, paneer cheese and cream. Add the seasoning and mix well. The mixture should resemble hard dough. If it is too soft, add more potatoes.
Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, mix together the nuts and raisins. Using your hands, make balls from the potato mixture. Make a small well in each ball and insert ½ tsp. of the nut and raisin mixture and close.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry the kofta on all sides until golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
To prepare sauce: Heat oil in a large pan.
Fry the onions until golden. Transfer to a food processor, add tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cumin, cilantro and chili and grind together until a smooth paste forms.
Return the paste to the pan, mix and heat. Add the ground nuts and mix well. After 2-3 minutes, add 1 glass of hot water. Season with salt and stir until sauce is thick and smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add water. Before serving, place the prepared kofta in the sauce and cook together uncovered for a few minutes. Sprinkle the garam masala on top and place the lid on the pan. Cook over very low heat for 5 minutes.
Serve over the prepared ptitim.
Paneer cheese ✔ 1 liter 3% milk ✔ Salt to taste ✔ Juice of 1 lemon ✔ Cloth for making cheese
Boil together milk and salt, stirring constantly.
Let it boil 2-3 minutes after the boiling point. Add the lemon juice and stir very quickly until the milk curdles. Remove from heat, transfer to the cloth, squeeze a little to let as much liquid out as you can. Wrap all the cheese in cloth and try to shape into a cube. Place in a bowl and put a heavy weight on top, such as a heavy cutting board or some similar item. After 2 hours, the paneer should be ready to use.
KHEER Serves 6
Kheer is a rich Indian dessert made from rice, milk and exotic seasoning. It is usually made for special occasions such as weddings.
In the summer, prepare it ahead of time and serve cold in glasses. But it is very nice as a warm dessert on a chilly evening.
✔ 2 cups “star” ptitim by Sugat ✔ 50 gr. butter ✔ 6 cups 3% milk ✔ 4 cardamom pods ✔ 1 vanilla stick or 1 tsp. cinnamon ✔ 1 clove ✔ 2 anise stars ✔ ½ tsp. nutmeg ✔ ¼ tsp. chili ✔ 1 tsp. vanilla extract ✔ Pinch salt ✔ ½ cup sugar ✔ ½ cup light-colored raisins ✔ ½ cup sliced almonds, lightly roasted on a dry skillet ✔ Rose water (optional)
For garnish ✔ Pistachio flakes, sliced almond, rose petals, roasted coconut flakes – or whatever takes your fancy
Melt butter in a pot, add the ptitim and mix together for 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of milk, seasoning, vanilla extract and raisins and stir well. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer while stirring. Add the almonds and rose water and continue cooking until the pasta is cooked and the mixture thickens. Add the rest of the milk to achieve the right thickness. Taste and add sugar if necessary. Using a spoon, remove the cardamom pods, vanilla stick and anise stars. Divide among the serving bowls or glasses and garnish with your choice of nuts. Serve hot or cold.