Lobster Curry- From across the Palk Strait.

There is a certain romance about curries. The joy of breaking a buttered naan into a thick, redolent butter chicken gravy is difficult to put to prose. Down south, you have crisp rice rotis playing a demure foil to the fiery kori ghassi in Mangalore ; while brown rice or appams marry well with the keralan meen moillee. I could go on and on about curries and their pairings with rice or some sort of bread. Point is, across the world, curries form an intrinsic part of the meal; or should i say, they complete the meal.

For us Mangaloreans, fish curry and rice is the raison d’etre. It was in my household too. I didnt like curry so much personally; but, I made and exception for the Kori ghassi (chicken curry). What interested me more was the process by which the curry was made. I would eagerly sit beside my mai (grandmother) as she scraped the coconut, and swiftly grab some and eat it, only to be reprimanded by a stern “Ummm”, not because i took the coconut. but she was scared that I’d hurt myself. Then she’d measure the spices with her fingers and then came the rhythmic grunting of the huge stone (we call it waan in konkani). Then the tempering and an amazing curry was ready. What amazed me though was the consistency with which she got the colour and texture of the curry same, each and everytime. A trait her daughter, my mother has inherited. And I am only smiling 🙂

And if you haven’t guessed as yet, I am going to share with you a recipe for a curry. This is a curry from across the Palk Strait, Sri Lanka to be precise. I went to Sri Lanka on a holiday last year and i was totally enamoured by the scenic beauty and the food. To be fair, the food isn’t much different from the food in south India but the ample and deft use of spices is where the difference lies. SO if you are well versed with South Indian food, Sri Lankan food isnt a difficult nut to crack. This isn’t my recipe but I’ve adapted this one from a recipe by Peter Kuruvita. The original recipe used squid or cuttlefish. Lobsters rendered themselves well to. I loved the addition of coconut milk to the gravy, rich and thick and creamy. We had it with brown rice that suited the spicy curry perfectly well.

I strongly recommend you try this one, you can write and tell me how you liked it.

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Lobster Curry- Sri Lankan Style.

You will need

  • 10-12 Baby Lobsters

For the marination:

  • 2 teaspoons – pepper powder
  • 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind soaked in warm water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 4 teaspoons red chilli powder (tone down or up depending on how much heat you can take)
  • 2 teaspoons Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
  • 3-4 fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon corriander powder

For the curry:

  • 80 ml coconut oil
  • few sprigs of curry leaves
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small piece of ginger, minced
  • 3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon, red chilli powder
  • 1 cup of 2nd extract of coconut
  • 60 ml, 1st extract of coconut
  • salt to taste

Method:

  • Wash, clean and devein the lobsters.
  • In a large vessel combine the ingredients mentioned under marination along with the lobsters and keep aside.
  • In another pot, heat the coconut oil and add the curry leaves.
  • Once the leaves start to splutter, add the onion, garlic, ginger, green chillies and cook till the onions are browned well
  • Now, add the red chilli powder and mix well. If you see the pan getting dry , sprinkle a few drops of water.
  • Now add the 2nd extract of coconut and salt. Cover and cook for 10-12 mins till the lobsters are done.
  • Reduce the flame to to the lowest you can to bring down the temperature and take the vessel of the heat and add in the first extract of coconut. Give it a good mix and take of flame immediately.
  • Serve hot with brown rice.

Pro -tip: Use the first extract of coconut milk ONLY towards the end. And make sure the flame isn’t high cause if you cook the coconut link for too long it will curdle and look terrible.

 

 

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A Twist on toast and the joys of a good breakfast.

A wise person once said, ” The child is the father of man”. I’d like to agree. Most of the things we learn or do as kids tend to stay back with us as adults. At times, even going so far as to shaping us to be the persons we are. For me, one such experience is not skipping breakfast. As far as I can remember even as a kid, I never skipped breakfast. A practice that continues till date. The good thing about breakfast was it had a lot of variety and that made it exciting; so while lunch and dinner were the usual rice, fish curry and stuff, breakfast was more gregarious. So on one day we’d have chapattis, on an other day it would be south Indian like dosas, idlis or upmas, at times even chicken or mutton puffs from the neighbourhood bakery at Bandra.

On a personal front, I always prefer something savory for breakfast, I am not someone with a big sweet tooth. I remember mum making something called French Toast for us. I liked french toast but being sweet, it was slightly off putting to have in the mornings. Now, french toast need no introduction. For the uninitiated, French toast are neither a french invention nor are they toast from the toast’s texture point of view. It is also colloquially called German toast or Bombay toast. Legend has it that cooks in the medieval times were strictly instructed to make sure nothing from the pantry goes waste, and hence came up with this novel way to make use of old, stale bread. I’m not certain how true it is , but I am not complaining for sure.

I had mentioned earlier on that I didn’t really like the sweeter version of the french toast and I had been toying with the idea of a savory french toast for some time. So, on a longish weekend I decided I would give it a try. My notes, read something like this: Eggs, milk, Seasoning, some cheese, ham or salami. Though cheese and Salami arent part of the original recipe, it was my twist so that breakfast could be oomphed up that day. I went ahead and added a side of fries to be a bit more devilish.

Breakfast that day was everything your cardiologist would warn you against. Sinful, if i may add; but you dont get redemption without the sin,right.

Here’s what I made it.

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French Toast with Cheese and Salami

  • 16 slices of bread (preferably, a day old)
  • 8 slices of ham or salami
  • 8 slices of cheese
  • 3 medium sized eggs
  • 250 ml milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 green chillies, finely chopped.
  • Oil/ Ghee/ Butter for frying
  • some milk (for helping the bread stick)

For the side of Potatoes:

  • 2 medium potatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil for frying

To Make the french toast:

  • Trim off the edges of the bread and keep aside.
  • In a bowl, whisk the egg and milk together till they’re combined well. Season with Salt, pepper and chillies and keep aside.
  • Add the oil /ghee/ Butter in a pan and let it heat on a medium flame.
  • Now, take a bread; place the cheese slice on the bread and then the ham or salami and keep it over the cheese slice.
  • Take some of the milk we kept aside and slightly wet the edges of the bread
  • Place another slice of bread on this and gently press the edges so the stick to one another.
  • Gently lift the bread and dip in the eggs and milk mixture. The mixture should coat the bread just enough but should not make the bread soggy.
  • Now, add the soaked bread to the frying pan and fry till golden brown on either side.

For the potatoes:

  • Pressure cook the potatoes for a whistle and half, till they are about 80% done.
  • Peel them and cut them in wedges and season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat oil in a pan and fry till reddish brown and crisp.

 

Chutneywale Aaloo- Baby Potatoes in chutney

I thought I would do a quick post to tell you about a recipe I just created off hand.

Not really a planned recipe neither is it something gourmet; but this one makes it to the blog simply on the fact that when I seen the plate and tasted the food, it made be smile. I smiled because I saw myself on the plate. This is just the way I like my food, clean, simple and something that isn’t too complicated.

The other day,  I decided to do dinner.  It was a long day at work and I really didn’t have the bandwidth to run the entire distance.  So, I decided to make something quick and easy.  I checked to see if what the refrigerator had in store. I saw a few boiled baby potatoes from an earlier cook in the week,  there was some  green coconut chutney and cheese along with some other pantry essentials.  I thought to my self if I could simply fry the potatoes and use the chutney to just coat the potatoes.  This idea came from the chutney and cheese sandwich that is such a famous Street food here in Mumbai.  You have the option of adding in boiled potatoes to the sandwich if you please.  All in all,  like the joke goes this dish is just the good old chutney cheese sandwich that I sent to post graduate school 🙂

I loved the final result and so I’m sharing it here for you to try.. Try getting a little more adventurous and experiment  with some roasted chicken.  It should work. Or may be even boiled eggs. To be frank, I didn’t use a recipe that has actual measurements; like i said earlier, it was created on the fly. I used my eye to guide my hand into what went in the pan.

Let me know if you did and how you liked it. I’d be glad to hear from you.

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Here is how to go about it.

Method:

  • I used about 8-9 pre-boiled potatoes. If you are beginning from scratch, just pressure cook the potatoes for just one or one and a half whistle. They should be about 80% done.
  • Once done, peel the potatoes and with your thumb, gently press the potatoes so that they crack. Don’t be too hard, you just need to create a crack so that the chutney seeps into the potatoes.
  • Now fry the potatoes in some vegetable oil till they are golden brown all over. Just before the potatoes get done, season them with some salt and pepper.
  • In the same pan, add some butter (please use only butter and not anything else). Add 5-8 curry leaves and once they splutter add half a teaspoon of cumin seeds.
  • Now add the chutney and some salt. Add just a little water to adjust to your desired consistency.
  • Once the chutney reaches a simmer, add the fried potatoes and mix gently so that the chutney coats the potatoes evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Grated some cheese and give it a mix. I used parmesan. You could use cheddar or parmesan or even the Amul cheese block if you please.
  • We had it with Malabar parottas.

Note:

I used chutney that I had available with me. If in case you’re planning to make chutney fresh, here is a quick recipe.

  • Grate together one coconut/ 1 medium onion, chopped/4-6 garlic cloves/ 1 small piece ginger/ 3-4 spicy green chillies./ 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds.
  • Put all together in a blender and grind with a little water till it is a homogenous paste of pouring consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice before serving.

 

 

Kheema Pao- Like the ones at the Irani hotels.

I am a very happy man as i write this post.

That  sort of happiness that you get when you achieved something after multiple attempts. What did I get? Well, I cracked the code for recipe for Kheema Pao or simply mince and bread. I know its not that difficult to make mince and bread. We Mangalorean have a recipe we make all the time and so do the Goans. I like those as well; but honestly, I love eating mince the way it is prepared at the Irani hotels. I first tasted this way back during my college days. I studied at St. Andrews College in BAndra. Now, Bandra is blessed with some lovely options for eating. Right from high end, plush five stars to non-descriptive place that you would enter if you you were to go by the eye. A few furlongs away from college was one such Irani hotel. With the meagre resources at our disposal those days, eating out was a luxury. But this Irani hotel was one place we visited once on a while, to  celebrate a birthday in the group or simply the fact that we had cleared our semester without any backlog. Truth be told, i don’t really remember how, when and why I ordered Kheema Pao the first time (I wasnt a food writer) but i remember falling in love with the way it was made. There was something about it; nothing earth shattering but something warming and comforting. See, that is it about food being simply cooked; it touches your soul.

Post college, life happened. I for quite a while worked at Churchgate, Mumbai’s CBD and home to quite some Irani cafe’s. We would step out for lunch ocassionally and at times a mid morning snack. Quite often, I’d tuck into the kheema pao. Surprisingly, the dish seemed quite similar except for a slight variance in spices. A few attempts to create the similar dish at home failed. I was advised  by folks at home to stick to the mangalorean recipe which was  best. But thats also because we Mangaloreans are a grumpy lot when it comes to recipes. Any other recipe than the one you or your mother has is bound to be an absolute failure.

Now, some days back I happened to be in Bandra and I passed the Irani hotel. I was delighted to see it still there and doing brisk business. I decided to grab a bite more out of nostalgia than hunger. What did I order? Well you could take a guess. Did it taste the same. Of course. Nothing has changed. I tried my luck and called the guy who attended me. I wanted to know the secret of this recipe. “Is mein kyaa masale padte hain?” (what masalas do you put in this) I questioned. He gave a blank look, then looked up to the ceiling fan moving slowly as a protest at being made to work in his old age. Finally, he answered vaguely “Sab masalo ka taste aana maangata hai” (You need to taste every masala). Well, not entirely, but some part of the riddle had been solved. I was competent enough to try it out once again. One thing that I observed, in common is the garnish of fresh ginger and green chillies. I loved the sharpness from the ginger and the heat from the chillies. Its not really a very spicy dish. The spices are more supporting actors to the medley of mince and onions.  Please don’t skimp on the oil, you need to have that circumference of oil around your mince. That is where the real taste lies.

It was a very simple dinner but I went to bed a very happy man. I also kept some aside for the next days breakfast and boy, my day was made.

One more request, please have it with bread and only bread. Anything else, would kill the romance of this dish.

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Kheema Pao

  • 450 grams mince (I used chicken. You could use mutton or lamb)
  • 100 grams green peas (optional, I didnt use)
  • 100 ml unflavored vegetable oil
  • whole masalas ( 4 cloves, 4 cardamom, 3 sticks of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cumin)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Powder Masalas (1 tbsp red chillies, 1/2 tsp turmeric/ 1/2 tsp garam masala/ 1 tbsp corriander [for garnishing])
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Juice of half a lime
  • For Garnish (A Few sprigs of corriander, finely chopped/ 1 1/2 piece of ginger and 2 green chillies, roughly chopped)

Method:

  • Heat oil in a pan. When it is medium hot, add in the spices and let them splutter.
  • Once the spices begin spluttering, add in the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook till fragrant.
  • Add in the onions, and let them sweat till translucent. Dont entirely cook the onions.
  • Once the onions are slightly pinkish, add the tomatoes and cook till soft.
  • Add in the mince and the green peas (if using). Cook for 5-7 minutes.
  • Take some water in a small mixing bowl, add in all the powdered masalas and add it to the mince. Give it a good stir and mix well so that all the masalas and meat integrate well.
  • Add in the salt and pepper. Cover and cook for another 8-12 minutes.
  • Check once if the meat is done. If done, add the corriander powder and give it a good mix.
  • Once meat is cooked. Add the lime juice, and the corriander leaves.
  • Add the chopped ginger and chillies and serve with toasted bread (if you like)
  • Done. 🙂

 

A walk down Mangalore’s Hampankatta market and some good eats.

 

 

For me, one of the most satisfying experiences of a trip are the memories you make. Thats why, whenever I plan a trip, I look to find out somewhere that is not regularly visited, may be mot mentioned on social media, or something that is like a hidden gem locked up somewhere is the deepest corner of a cupboard.

Today, is an era when shopping is done on a click or at your fingertips. Convenience is the name of the game.  In such a time, visiting a market may seem passe; but I believe if you wish to understand the ethos of a place, or its culture, you must visit a market.This post is about my visit to Mangalore’s Hampankatta market. This wasn’t my first visit there, I had been there on my earlier visits but this time I spent enough time there to document it on the blog.  To give you an idea, Hampankatta is to Mangalore, what Pettah is to Colombo or what Crawford is to Mumbai or what souks are to Dubai.

Now Hampankatta is about an hours drive depending on where in Mangalore you are. As  you reach, you can see the imposing Milagres Church (Milagres is Miracles in Konkani and the church in the British era was called ‘The Church of Our Lady of the Miracles’). At certain times, you can hear the rhythmic chiming of the bells to the Angelus prayer. Its almost like the Lord is watching over the happenings there.

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I reached the market and I grinned.  Almost like a kid in a toy store. I could almost feel the vibes and I knew this was going to be a memorable visit.

Milagres stores.

Right opposite Milagres church is the Milagres bypass road. A small shop here is known as the Milagres Stores. But entering the shop you would feel like Ali baba entering the den of the forty thieves. It literally has everything you need. Household items, Groceries, Masala’s, Ready to eat meals and the likes. They have a particularly wonderful range of masala that you can use like the Bafat masala, Chicken sukkha masala and list goes on. Ask the very friendly and cordial owner. He will recommend some to you and my word you wont be dissappointed. Here is my stock of Bafat masala for the next few months.

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The Taj Mahal Sweet Shop

Mangaloreans claim that you cant come to Mangalore and leave without purchasing from Taj Mahal sweets. This place is diagonally opposite to Milagres church.The shop it self is about 90 years old and the star product is the ‘Mysore Pak’ or as the locals call it ‘Mysore Pa’. I was recommended this place by my cousin on my last visit and I had absolutely loved the Mysore pa that time. Again, simple ingredients like ghee, besan and sugar combined to form a delicacy that simply melts in your mouth and may times even in the palm of your hand. That is the true test of a genuine Mysore pa. My request is dont miss out on this.

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Ideals ice cream parlour

I had mentioned Ideals in an earlier post on Mangalore. I have had ice creams, Gelatos and desserts,but  this chilled dessert simply warms the cockles of your heart. The flavours are simple and fresh.What they usually do is to create a particlaur ice cream using a combination of flavours. So simply you would have a vanilla combined with Gajar halva. a  I’d had a late lunch and so i didnt really want to overly stuff myself. But though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. we walked in and settled ourselves. After a discussion, we went in for the parfait. The combination was vanilla, orange and pista ice creams with choppped fruits and nuts. Salivating already? We did too. This is how the icream looked when it was served.

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This is me attempting to finish it off.

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We spent nearly 2-3 hours in the market and we had to rush back. But I guess, I did more in that time than in my earlier visits. However, each time I visit the place there is something new to experience, something new to see. Like they say, a joy of a journey isnt measured by the amount of money you’ve spent on it or in the miles per hour. The joy of a journey is in the experiences you gained in that trip.

 

 

Parle G and why train journeys got a bit longer

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‘When you travel it’s not so much about reaching your destination but enjoying your journey.’

I came across this quote just as I sat to pen this post, and its relevance in the context of today’s post couldn’t be truer. For us in Mumbai, the local trains are more than just a mode of transport. They are a way of life. For all the bad press and media they’ve gathered over the years, there is no truer mirror to the Mumbai life than the train. Inside of it, you will see a number of characters. A motley group discussing how the stock market fell or rose that day, college boys discussing the mushy “you know she smiled at me” stuff, the bespectacled bloke engrossed in sending out his new presentation, and the stories can go on and on. The outside is no less a spectacle either. Just as the train leaves Churchgate, the iconic Wankhede stadium looms up – the venue of many a joyful and dejection-filled cricket matches, then comes the silent and brooding Mahim creek – one look and you can tell she nurses an anger within. And then, you have the distinct aroma of biscuits coming from the Parle G biscuits factory at Vile Parle.

I’ve been traveling to work by train, and over the past month or so, I’ve noticed the aroma missing. Somehow, I couldn’t figure out why. Last week, the newspapers solved the riddle. The iconic Parle G factory had apparently stopped production. Another one of the city’s iconic landmarks had bitten the dust, and I felt a bit of my childhood had been taken away.

I grew up in pre-liberalisation India. The India of Ambassador cars and Bajaj Scooters, the India of HMT watches and of course, the India of Parle G biscuits. Unlike some of the biscuits we get today, there is no ambiguity about Parle G – it is just a simple biscuit, like a biscuit should be. More importantly, they were easier on the pocket.

As a kid, I remember going to the grocer, and there would be the sunlight yellow butter paper covered biscuits peering out at you from the shelves. We’d carry them for the mid-morning lunch at school. My teachers would pull my ears, but I’ve been known to pop a biscuit or two into my mouth when hunger struck before the lunch break. I can’t even remember the number of times mum gave me a pack of Parle G biscuits when going off for a picnic or an outing as Plan B to the lunch she’d packed. That was quite some time ago. Life has rolled on ever since but Parle G remained just what it was; the biscuit of our childhood. In fact, one of the deepest regrets I have is missing out on a school field trip to the iconic Parle G factory due to an illness. Even today, after so many years, the joy of dunking a biscuit into the morning cuppa, to the extent that it softens up and breaks into the same tea cup is akin to winning a gold at the Olympics. Thankfully, the biscuits will continue to roll from other units of the Parle group.

The train journey to work remains the same. The train still stops for a while near the biscuit factory. Just that the familiar aroma is missing. But it remains in our hearts. Like Amitabh Bachchan said of his friend Rajesh Khanna in the movie Anand.

Anand maraa nahi, Anand maarte nahin

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Challah Bread- And why bread means so much to the world.

 

The genesis of this post lies in a very vociferous, yet intriguing discussion my friends and me had over lunch a few days ago. Here is what happened.

A few of us friends decided to catch up for lunch. After the first round of tipple and starters , we ordered the main course, Now that order was to take a while and so the manager courteously brought us a bread basket and some house dips. The basket had a nice selection; slices of baguettes, a focaccia, a nice spunky garlic bread and some herbed bread. And while I immersed myself in the combination of breads and dips, my friends got into a discussion on the virtues of bread; so everything from the evolution of bread to which (bread)goes well with what sort of curries and so on. The discussion was getting intense just to be interrupted by the arrival of the mains.As I made my way home I couldn’t but help reminiscing the breads discussion and ended up getting a bit philosophical about breads.

I have always been a breads person ever since I remember. Bandra, where I spent some part of my childhood, has plenty of bakeries that churn out bread 24/7. Even today, nothing excites me more than that heady, soul fulfilling aroma of freshly baked bread that permeates from a bakery. Its very difficult not to take notice. Personally, I love white breads, and I think that is how breads should be. Buttery, crumbly, chewy and sometimes enhanced with the goodness of eggs. Bread that draws it self to you, speaks to you. Yes, the virtues of wholewheat, multi grain are well chronicled but it would never match up to how soul satisfying a simple white loaf can be.

I have made breads earlier and I thought I must give it a hit again. The heart yearned for something more than just a simple loaf. I wanted to go through the process again and come up with something fancier. I went back and scoured the archives when I came across this recipe for Jewish Challah Bread by my good friend and food blogger Saee Koranne Khandekar. I knew this was the one. Now, I am told Jewish cuisine is sacrosanct and conforms to very strict laws on what can be done and what cant. However, I decided to play around a bit and add some garlic just to up the glam a bit. Saee cautioned me that it may not be Kosher once i added the garlic. But my heart was on it and I went ahead.

The entire process of kneading, proofing went off smooth and when the oven timer went off I almost had tears of joy.The dark tan telling me that it was done well on the outside and the hollow sound signalling that all was well on the inside. I couldn’t have been happier.

Isnt it true that the simplest thing give you the most joy in life.

 

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Before the second proof

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Challah Bread (This recipe will yield one large and one small loaf)

 

Ingredients:

  • 750 grams flour
  • 15-20 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast.
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 25 grams butter
  • approx 500 mls water for kneading and some more for the yeast.
  • black sesame seeds, for garnishing.
  • Salt – to taste

Method:

  • Activate the yeast, by dissolving it in the warm water  along with the sugar. Leave aside for 5-7 minutes till frothy.
  • In a sufficiently large vessel, combine the flour, salt and butter and combine gently
  • Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture, 1 whole egg and another yolk and knead till you have dough that is pliable and not sticky. You may need to add flour or water in the kneading process so go by the eye
  • Place this dough in a bowl and cover it with a moist cloth to rise. this should take approximately 40 odd minutes.
  • Once the dough has risen, give it a gentle knock. Add the garlic and knead again for 10 minutes.
  • Make 3 equal parts of the dough and braid them to resemble a plait.
  • Once done, leave it again for the second proofing. Approximately 20 odd minutes.
  • Brush with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds on the loaves and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • If you want to indulge, slather a generous amount of butter while the loaf is still warm..

 

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