My Aunt and Uncle are visiting their children here, and I had invited the family over to dinner so we could catch up on the some good old times when we cousins used to stay over at one another's place during the hols!! Those were really fun days, lots of play and then tucking in some yummy goodies our moms used to prepare to satisfy our ravenous appetites. I remember Mummy preparing a lot of 'sattu maavu' (A hi-protein blend of many healthy gluten free legume meals with jaggery/sugar). Whenever we screamed 'hungry' in between meals she would mix a fistful of the 'sattu maavu' into a ball with hot ghee and milk, and that would take care of us for the time being. If she was sleeping or resting we would just mix some of the meal with milk in a 'katori', and drink it up! It is one of the best energy giving natural foods I know of, and I have fed my kids with this porridge as a staple food when they were much younger!

This post does not have anything to do with the 'sattu maavu' which was another train of thought that came as a flash! This is about the 'Grissini' I baked for the guests. I have a dangerous habit of trying out new dishes even I am having people over, and thankfully so far I have never had a reason to change myself! This time I had to mull over a lot before making the dishes, as it was a Saturday, and my Aunt and Uncle preferred a light dinner without onions or garlic. I love cooking when there are such restrictions, as this means that the cook has to exercise the grey cells!

I forgot to take pictures, but then, the dinner was quite simple! Tomato soup served with grissini, phulkas with yellow dal tadka(That's right - there was nothing but salt, a pinch of turmeric followed by a traditional seasoning of mustard seeds, red chillies, asfoetida and curry leaves), dry cauliflower peas stir fry, and jeera rice! Just that, nothing as elaborate as I would prepare for other guests! I believe that guests should be fed the kind of food they like, and not what I would like to serve or eat - that would turn out like the story of the fox and the crane!

The only new thing I tried was the grissini or breadsticks.! I made this for a blog event, and missed the deadline:(. This was for Dhivya of Culinary Bazaar's AWED Italiano but I am late!

These make excellent soup sticks and can be served with drinks as a pre-dinner course or as a light evening snack with herbed cheese dip/any dip of your choice. My children loved this, and kept munching on it, and so did the guests! The yield was about 35 sticks, and there were only two left over which we finished as soon the guests left!

I adapted this recipe from my usual 'Classic Essential Bread and Buns', and from 'The Bread Book' by Sara Lewis. Both the books have a lovely collection of breads from all over the world.

The Classic Essential Bread and Buns is a no frills book with some staple bread recipes from all over the world. There are pictures for most steps, but it is not one for those who decide to cook by sight! I have made many breads from this book, and the best was the Rosetta Rolls.

The pictures in The Bread Book will definitely entice you to start making your own breads. The USP of the book is the simplicity with which the author leads into the world of bread baking. This book is for beginners. It uses fast action dried yeast so you don't need to worry about standing or frothing, and there are only a couple of sourdough recipes. Most of the ingredients are easily available in India, so you don't have to go around hunting. The only things that have evaded me so far are buckwheat and rye flour. I substituted the latter with amaranth in the Pretzels, and found them good. I tried substituting them with 'millet flour' like Bee suggested, and loved the result. They will come on soon, as they are meant to be an entry for the BBD#13. Before I proceed I must add that I have absolutely no business relations with Sara Lewis or her publishers. I found the book genuinely informative, and excellent for a start into the heavenly world of flours flying and messy aprons:) So when are you getting your hands messy?? I do not intend to buy a bread machine soon as I love getting my hands soggy and messy. I believe there is something magical about the hand that a ladle or machine can never recreate!

1 and 1/4 tsps. - dried yeast
1/2 cup - warm water
2/3 cups - milk (Used soymilk)
50g - butter spread (I used nutralite)
1 tbsp. - Caster sugar (I used Organic cane sugar)
4 cups - APF (I used whole wheat flour with APF in equal quantities)
1 tsp. - salt
Soy Milk to glaze

For coating
A fistful of sesame seeds/ poppy seeds/coarse rock salt
About 2 to 3 tbsps. of ajwain (This was my idea as I love the flavor)
2 tbsps of mixed fresh herbs like rosemary, basil or parsley. (I used some coriander too)
A tsp. of dry garlic powder (This too was my idea)

1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water and set aside in a warm place to froth.

2. Mix the flours in a bowl. Heat the milk, butter and sugar till just melted and blended. Add these along with the frothed yeast and mix well. Make a well in the flour, add the liquid and mix well to gather into a dough.

3. Tip onto a floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes till smooth and elastic. Place the dough back into the lightly oiled bowl and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour or till doubled.

4. Again tip onto your floured work surface and knead well. Divide into 4 portions. Knead the
5. Pinch out small pieces and roll into thin pencils. I was able to form almost 35 pencils in all.

6. Transfer to greased baking tray. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for 1/2 hr or more till plump.

7. Remove the cling film, and brush the sticks with cold water (I used soymilk liberally) .Drizzle sesame/poppy/salt over the plain sticks formed from the fourth portion.

8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 210 to 220 deg. Cel. for about 20 to 30 minutes, if you want them hard, or less if you would like them a little soft. The books recommend half the time but I have found that most of my bakes take double the recommended time!

9. In my case the ones in the top rack were hard while those in the lower rack were not that hard. The sticks should turn golden brown.

10. They loosen easily with a palette knife. If they break, it means you have to bake them a little more. If they are not brown enough, keep them under a hot grill for about 5 minutes checking in between as I did. This ensures better sticks.

The book tells me that these keep well for upto 1 week in an airtight container, and also freeze well.

From 'The Bread Book'
Herb Sticks

From 'Classic Essential Breads and Buns'
Monkey Bread
Oatmeal Bread
Potato Bread
Herbed Cheese Braided Bread
Rosetta Rolls

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