Tuesday, May 3, 2016

101 gluten free brakfasts | basics of besan ka cheela | how to make quick breakfasts

Besan ka cheela is such a simple recipe why should I be writing about it?

I have already shared numerous recipes of lentil fritters or cakes, a cauliflower roesti almost like a cheela, and even buckwheat savoury pancakes and besan ka cheela should be common sense. This is what I thought and never posted a basic besan ka cheela recipe because it was too mundane.

But recently when I mentioned besan ka cheela to someone she thought it is an elaborate recipe and she can't manage with her work routine. She was smiling wide when I told her how simple it is and she can do it almost in the same time it takes to toast her breads slices.

Sometimes we don't realise how simpler recipes are being forgotten just because there are so many convenient choices in the modern world. Bread and cereal has become the homogeneous breakfast all over the world almost and we miss a chance to eat seasonal produce. Some people include fruits or fruit juices but no one thinks about vegetables being part of the breakfast. There are few traditional home kitchens where mooli ka paratha or gobhi ka paratha is made but working couples or nuclear families hardly get to make parathas for breakfast.

I know I get repetitive but I still find people who just cannot cook a breakfast not because they can't spare 10 minutes extra but they just don't know what to do. There has been a generation that has lost touch with cooking food at home. The simpler recipes here are for them.

Besan ka cheela is an everyday savoury pancake or crepe from north India, mostly made for breakfast. But a cheela is so versatile that it is used in many many ways. It can be rolled inside a thin roti to make a nice vegetarian kathi roll, smaller besan ka cheela can be served with Chai and rolled up besan ka cheela can even be curried. There are so many traditional variations of this recipe that it is a testimony in it's own about how people loved it and that it has nourished many generations.

The recipe I am sharing is basic, the tricks I am going to tell will make it a quick breakfast for you.

You must make some kanji and keep the pickled beets or carrots from it in the fridge so you can keep using it for quick meals like this yogurt dip that I made with pickled beets. Making kanji with grated beets makes it so much better.

ingredients for besan ka cheela 
(2 servings)

3/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
2 cups chopped greens of the season (spinach, fenugreek greens, amaranth greens, purslane, coriander greens or just about any greens you like)
salt and pepper to taste
grated ginger or ginger powder to taste (using ginger powder saves time)
ajwain seeds (omum) 1/4 tsp
turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
buttermilk 1/2 cup
1 tsp ghee for each cheela, this recipe makes 2 large cheelas


Mix everything together the previous night and refrigerate.

Heat a frying pan and grease it with 1/2 tsp ghee about 10 minutes before your breakfast time. It is okay if you have to go for a morning chore in between. Watering the garden, preparing for your bath or organising fruits for the day can be done while the cheela cooks.

Pour half the batter into the pan, lower the flame to minimum and cover it. After about 6-8 minutes you have to flip the cheela and cook on the other side for 2 more minutes, drizzling some ghee on the other side too.

For making 2 cheelas in the same time you can use 2 frying pans simultaneously on two burners. Isn't that quick and easy to do?

To make the yogurt and pickled beets dip just fish out a heaped spoon of the pickled beets from the kanji and mix with half a cup of thick yogurt, adjust seasoning and enjoy.

If you have some extra time in the previous evening you can soak some lentils for 2 hours, blend to make paste and make the batter using that lentils paste, those lentil cheelas are tastier and have more nutrient efficiency because you remove phytates when you soak lentils.

Note that besan ka cheela is a far better breakfast than toast, cereal or oatmeal porridge and you can have the besan ka cheela along with eggs too if you wish. And that can also be made easy, just break an egg over the cheela before you cover it and find it cooked when you return to claim it for your breakfast.

Isn't that a workhorse of a breakfast? Or a breakfast of a workhorse? Do let me know if you find this recipe post useful. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Thai green papaya salad (Som Tam) made 2 ways

Green papaya is one of the most useful ingredients when you think about cleansing your system. Some people swear by the efficacy of green papaya so much that they eat boiled and mashed green papaya for it's cleansing properties.

The enzyme found in green papaya is called Papain and is a powerful exfoliating agent for skin. I used to make body scrubs using raw papaya when I was younger and have found it really good for the purpose. I will share the recipe sometime soon.

We love green papaya and make parathas with it. The raw papaya and carrot raita is a recipe I keep repeating every season. I have been making Som Tam every season too and have been loving it but when I saw Chef Yenjai of Neung Roi making green papaya salad using a large wooden mortar and pestle I realized what was missing from my recipe. This papaya salad (Som Tam) needs to be muddled a little with the dressing to get the best taste. Earlier I used to fuss about getting Thai bird chillies and fish sauce and what not, now I just muddle and let the everyday ingredients turn into a delicious salad.

For authentic recipe of Som Tam you can refer to this page. 

But honestly speaking I have one exotic ingredient that proves really useful when making this salad and that is dry shrimps. I had brought very good quality dry shrimp from Goa a few years ago and that is still keeping well. It is used in such minimal quantity that it lasts forever. But if you don't have that or if you want a vegetarian version of this salad you can brown some onions and use them instead. I can't think of a better substitute for dry shrimps.

Thai green papaya salad (Som Tam)

green papaya and carrot salad

ingredients (for 2 large servings) 

2 cups grated green papaya (after peeling and removing seeds)
1 cup grated summer carrots
handful of chopped green onions leaves, chopped into long shreds
1/2 cup sprouted mung beans or moth (adzuki beans)
6-8 cherry tomatoes halved (optional, I rarely use them now) 
3-4 tbsp of chopped roasted cashews (or peanuts)

to make the dressing 
a generous pinch of dry shrimps (to your taste)
2 fat cloves of garlic
3-4 leaves of Thai basil (or some fresh dhaniya patta or even mint)
1-2 dry red chillies (depending on how hot you like the salad)
1 tbsp powder jaggery or whatever type you have (palm jaggery or molasses is the best)
1/4 tsp salt
dash of soy sauce
2 tsp apple cider vinegar or brown natural vinegar or lime juice
1 tsp oil (I have used mustard, olive and sesame and find them all good)


Heat the oil and add the red chillies and dry shrimps to it. Cook for a couple of seconds till the chillies and dry shrimps sizzle and emanate the shrimp aroma. This aroma may not feel good but trust me it translates to great taste in the final salad. Take care not to burn the ingredients.

Transfer this fried dry shrimp and red chilies to a mortar and pestle add all the other dressing ingredients and muddle lightly. Add half of the grated papaya to the pestle and thrash some more to muddle the salad. It will be better if your instrument is bigger so you can muddle all the grated salad ingredients together. I generally pour the contents of the mortar and pestle into the salad bowl and muddle again for a while so the grated papaya and carrots get macerated a little.

Thai green papaya salad (Som Tam)

Sprinkle with chopped nuts and serve right away.

I make it a little hot and both of us eat this salad from the same bowl mostly, always fighting for the last few shreds. The salad is that good. Sometimes I pack it for Arvind's lunch box and I feel grateful that he started liking salads.

green papaya salad with Sauerkraut 

Adding Sauerkraut to this green papaya salad was the most amazing ideas that came to me. Trust me this version is so good you will start making Sauerkraut just for this salad of nothing else.

Just replace the summer carrots with sauerkraut, chopped finely if you wish for better distribution through the salad. 

Thai green papaya salad (Som Tam) with sauerkraut

The dressing remains the same for this version too. In fact this dressing is so good you could make the same salad with shredded cabbage too.

You could add steamed beans to this salad if you wish. I generally chop the green beans or yard long beans (lobiya) into very thin shreds (slanted cuts) and add it to this salad. Using a little more sprouts is also good if you wish.

Hope you will try these salads with green (raw) papaya and share your feedback with me.

Making salads without the salad green is so much easier if you ask me. You don;t have to worry about how crisp or fresh the lettuce is. Making summer salads is fun if you find out what you like and play with textures and flavours a bit..