Monday, July 27, 2015

quick recipe of tomato ketchup | why packaged tomato ketchup never spoils and how it is so red?

Do you eat tomato ketchup with every meal?

Please say NO. And please ask questions about tomato ketchup.

homemade tomato ketchup

But you know why I am asking. My heart sinks when I see huge sack like 1 kilo packs of tomato ketchup with a plastic pout on the supermarket shelves. There used to be small glass bottles of tomato ketchup when we were growing up, though we used to call it 'sauce'. And this 'sauce bottle' was taken out when there was some samosa or pakoda being fried and there was no Imli sonth ki chutney on the table. The samosas and pakodas were always served with a green chutney and a Imli sonth ki chutney, the 'sauce' came to the rescue when we ran out of Imli sonth ki chutney. Those were the days when the little dot of 'sauce' on the plate was more of a garnish and was often left untouched.

Leaving the tomato ketchup untouched was helpful once in finding out a startling fact about commercial tomato ketchup. Last year we visited Mysore and were staying at CFTRI (a CSIR unit) guest house. Arvind was on a work tour and I used to wander around town the whole day to come back in the evening and have tea with him. The guest house staff would bring some snacks with tea always and one of those days it was some pakoda with 'ketchup'. We finished chai and pakoda and the ketchup bowl kept lying on the work table in the room where I had kept some fresh fruits too. I noticed the ants kept attacking the fruits and left the ketchup untouched. See the picture I shared on my fb page back then.This piqued my interest and I told the room service guy to leave the ketchup bowl there. it kept lying there for 4 days and no ants came near it, nor the ketchup dried up. What was it made of?

Not only the ketchup is made of more synthetic ingredients than real, it has way more sugar that we perceive and eat it with all savoury foods. It causes us to eat more sugar unknowingly and also makes us eat more salt in the savoury stuff to balance out the sweetness of the ketchup. Unseen culprits these. We need to know more about why the consumption of ketchup in each family has increased manifolds.

Sometime in last 2 decades the glass bottle of ketchup started growing in size and I saw ketchup bottles that the kids couldn't handle any more. It got worse in the last few years when a large plastic pouch that looks like a sack replaced the glass bottles and people started pouring ketchup onto their plates with every single meal. Yes, unfortunately I know a few people who have it with every meal. I was horrified when my dad asked for ketchup with his paratha breakfast when he visited me few weeks back. He was never the one who ate ketchup but somehow he also got the bug. HOW?

We all know the truth. Processed food is designed to be addictive and the addiction grows. With so much sugar per serving one gets used to the sugar rush with every meal and the MSG makes everything tastier of course. Along with these we end up eating a few preservatives, emulsifiers and artificial colours too. Wouldn't we like to stop it?

Say yes please.

I got alarmed after my dad asked for ketchup honestly speaking. He is a diabetic and still thinks it is okay to have a bit of ketchup on the side. Many kids pour about 1/4 cup of ketchup with paratha or even bread, they eat everything with ketchup. Someone asked me how do you eat omelettes without ketchup?

Well, I never knew you needed ketchup for omelettes.

I only knew potato fries were dipped in ketchup just like churros were dipped in a chocolate sauce. Both were rare foods for me. Still are. Closer home it was the tip of samosa that was trickled with ketchup, the TV adverts showed us. Later the TV adverts squirted ketchup on paratha too unfortunately.

Could we choose any better?

My parents used to make their own ketchup long back but we stopped eating ketchup, most probably got bored of it. I wouldn't have posted any ketchup recipe because we simply don't eat ketchup.

Recently I was experimenting with some natural sauces and dips I was developing for a new snacks brand and just thought of mixing a few leftovers to make a ketchup of sorts. And the quick method worked wonderfully.

This ketchup needs refrigeration and stays well for 2-3 weeks easily. It can be made as sweet as the store bought ketchup but I recommend you lower the amount of honey each time you make it, just to make sure you don't end up eating too much sugar in a day.

This ketchup recipe would not make you strain tomatoes or reduce them over gas flame for hours. Just make small amounts enough for 2 weeks in about 10 minutes work and make way for healthier eating. 

Do not go by the looks, the taste is pretty close to the bottled tomato ketchup and you have the flexibility to adjust the taste as well.

home made tomato ketchup

(makes about 300 ml of ketchup, takes about 10 minutes to make and stays well for 2-3 weeks)

red ripe tomatoes 300 gm
red bell pepper 50 gm or 1/3 of one bell pepper (you can use pickling red peppers too)
carrot (orange summer carrots) 1 or 100 gm or similar amount of ripe pumpkin
kashmiri chilli powder or deghi mirch powder 1.5 tbsp
garlic powder 1 tsp
ginger powder 1 tsp
onion powder 1 tbsp
dry thyme 1 tbsp
clove powder 1/4 tsp
nutmeg powder 1/8 tsp
cinnamon powder 1 tsp
salt 1 tsp or 6 gm or to taste
olive oil 2-3 tbsp (this is to emulsify the sauce)
vinegar 3 tbsp
honey 4-5 tbsp or as sweet as you want


Chop the tomatoes, bell pepper and carrot in small bits and pressure cook with salt. Do not add water as tomatoes have enough water. Cool down the mix.

Now transfer the boiled vegetables mix to a blender and add all the other ingredients and blend till an emulsified smooth ketchup is ready.

Fill in a clean glass bottle or squeezy bottle and refrigerate. Use as required.

If you want a more vibrant colour in your 'sauce', make this sweet chilly-ginger-tamarind sauce and see how it feels so close to the tomato ketchup you are used to. These sauces could be useful in making meals quicker sometimes, use them to make curries in a jiffy.

This homemade ketchup makes great butter chicken when converted into a gravy base. Try that.

Check out the ongoing lunch box series and give me your suggestions about making lunch boxes practical and enter a chance to win a few cute useful things for yourself.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

home made yogurt | making 'cultured' yogurt at home and assembling 'real' fresh fruit yogurt | fruit yogurt for lunch box


Yogurt is my everyday snack in whatever form, buttermilk is the favourite drink that I keep making with several herbs or just with a hint of salt when in a hurry. I like it chilled, at room temperature or cooked in curries too. Yogurt in an Indian home never goes waste even if it becomes too sour. We have a recipe for all kind of yogurt and we like making our own yogurt at home.

For a couple of years in between, I had started buying yogurt from the neighborhood booth of Mother Dairy. Despite the fact that I know packaged yogurt is not the same as home cultured ones, I fell prey to the convenience factor. And then I realised I was not eating yogurt everyday anymore. Yogurt was just a bowl of a good thing I had to tell myself to eat, there was no pleasure in doing so. 

And then while shifting some kitchen utensils to another cupboard I found this pretty earthen pot that I used to set my yogurt in. I held it in my hands for a while, sniffed the insides and it still smelt of yogurt. The porous material holds the yogurt within. 

I washed it, filled it with warm milk and kept it covered on the kitchen platform to find perfectly set yogurt in about 4 hours. Indian summers are great for yogurt making. 

home made yogurt

Exactly the way it used to set earlier, the familiar aroma, the familiar layer of watery whey and some floating mass of live culture. Lactic acid bacteria can remain dormant for long time and revive as soon as they find milk. And they did well in this case too.

And then it became a daily routine and I started looking forward to my yogurt once again, sometimes having another bowl just because I loved the taste so much.

I even started reducing the milk to thicken it and setting yogurt in the earthen pot just like my grandmother used to do. The yogurt made with reduced milk tastes more rich and a bit smoky.

home made yogurt

But that phase got over because reducing milk is no fun. I resorted back to just heating milk to about 45 C and setting yogurt every single day. 

Here is a quick DIY check list if you are making yogurt at home...
  1. Use unpasteurized milk if possible, but pasteurized milk also makes good yogurt, the 'yogurt culture' has to be good quality and that is the deciding factor in how your yogurt turns out to be. 
  2. Get your yogurt starter from a home where yogurt is made regularly. Beg, borrow, steal, trust me a good yogurt is worth all the effort. If you live in a part of the world where no one makes their yogurt at home, you could look for cultured yogurt or cultured buttermilk on the supermarket shelves or at health food stores. Use 1/4 cup of cultured buttermilk as a yogurt starter for the first batch of yogurt and then use a tbsp from the fresh yogurt you made.
  3. To make yogurt just heat the milk to 40-45 C or lukewarm to touch, mix 1 tbsp of good yogurt (or 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk) to it, whisk well and cover. Keep it in a warm place till the yogurt sets. It takes about 4 hours in Indian summers, in winters we keep it either in water bath or inside warm oven. Don't forget to save a tbsp of starter from each batch to set the next batch of yogurt.
  4. If for any reason you cannot find any yogurt starter or cultured buttermilk, use dry whole red chillies with their stems to set yogurt. They have lactic acid bacteria on the surface and they help set perfect yogurt. Just warm milk, pour in the pot to set yogurt and drop in a couple of dry red chillies on it. The chillies don't submerge. Remove them as soon as the yogurt is set. The chilies don't impart their heat to the yogurt. 
  5. If you want to carry your family yogurt culture abroad there are a few easy ways to do so. Carry an earthen pot like above which was used to set yogurt a couple of times and has been dried after a rinse. This pot will automatically help set yogurt once you fill it up with warm milk. Or you can soak a small piece of clean muslin in fresh home made yogurt and dry it under sun. Fold the piece of yogurt laced muslin and pack it in ziplock bag and carry. Dip this muslin in warm milk and let the yogurt set, remover the muslin once the first batch of yogurt is ready. In older times yogurt culture in this form was given to daughters when they got married as part of the dowry (source~ First Food

I hope I keep being regular with my yogurt making now, as there is no match to the taste of real buttermilk that I make after churning the butter for making ghee. 


Yes I started making ghee too again. That we will discuss some other time. The homemade yogurt brought back the habit of tossing fruits in yogurt too to make a filling snack or a cooling light lunch. You want to eat more yogurt in many different ways when you have good delicious yogurt at hand. 

The fruit yogurts are perfect snack for office too, you can always carry an extra jar of fruit yogurt or an appropriate glass container that doesn't leak.

We like any fresh fruit in yogurt. It is always much better than the 'flavoured' fruit yogurts. Here is a musk melon, sticky dates, chopped almonds and chia seeds yogurt. It doesn't need any sweetener.

fresh fruit yogurt

The real taste of a fruit cannot be achieved by chemical flavorings, though chemical flavorings and sweeteners together may make the fruit yogurt comforting in nature IF you haven't ever tasted the real thing. Try making the real fruit yogurt and compare the two. You will find all your answers.

fresh fruit yogurt

Here is another version that I make using apricots, plums, some chopped figs (dried), chopped almonds and chia seeds.

fresh fruit yogurt

After about 4-5 hours the flavours mingle so well it looks like this. Absolutely yummy.

fresh fruit yogurt

You can play with seasonal fruits or use dried fruits if you could shop for grocery lately and there is no fresh fruit left. Yogurt will make the dried fruits better. Add chopped nuts and seeds as you like.

fresh fruit yogurt

These fruit yogurts can be a meal in itself if you wish, have it in a huge bowl and stop worrying about calories in it. Fresh fruit yogurt can't have more calories than you can handle.

Or have a fruit yogurt as a generous dessert after a meal. For lunch boxes too yogurt can make a plain packed meal interesting and nourishing at the same time.

fresh fruit yogurt

Those who don' like yogurt or avoid milk products can always make a nuts and seeds salad with some sauerkraut or pickled salad thrown in for the daily dose of probiotics.

Few guidelines for packing yogurt for lunch boxes...

  1. Get a leak proof tumbler or a nice bottle for flavoured or herbed buttermilk. Buttermilk is a great way to hydrate during summers and can be a good substitute for coffee and milky chai if you have fallen pray to work time coffee habit. Try some intense mint or curry patta spiced up buttermilk and see how it brings back the energy level. Electrolytes, much needed water and probiotic all at the same time brought to you by buttermilk. Dilute the buttermilk if you plan to have it frequently and use fresh herbs or dry mint, curry patta or moringa powders.
  2. A suitably sized glass jar or Tupperware container is also good for yogurt. You can have a few of these and set your yogurt directly in these jars and refrigerate. Fruits, nuts and seeds etc can be added and the jars can be carries as is. 
  3. You can try freezing the buttermilk or fruit yogurt containers and packing them in padded bag to carry if your office doesn't have a refrigerator to store. This way the yogurt or buttermilk comes to right temperature at the time of consumption. There are some ice packs in the market that can be packed along with yogurt in a bag so keep it chilled. In air conditioned offices the yogurt and buttermilk doesn't spoil normally, the above suggestions are good if you like your yogurt chilled.  
  4. Keep some herbs ready to flavour the yogurt and buttermilk everyday, fresh fruits or dehydrated fruits are a personal choice but make arrangements of the ingredients before had so you keep up the habit of carrying your own yogurt. 
  5. A very dear friend who is single and male and cooks his own lunch boxes, told me recently that he started carrying buttermilk with his lunch box after seeing my buttermilk pictures. But his office friends started asking him why does he carry so many things to eat like kids, not that my friend cares. Let me tell you one thing, the same friends will come to have a sip after a few days and then some of them will start bringing their own too. Make it fashionable in your office I say. 

There is nothing more refreshing than a fresh mint buttermilk. Loads of mint, hint of green chilly or black pepper and salt makes me refreshed always without a fail.


And it is not just about the momentary refreshing feeling. It is also about how your gut feels after a few shot of 'work stress induced coffee' and how this coffee induced freshness lasts only an hour and after so many shots of coffee you still feel dull in the evening.

Start having these variations of buttermilk or Iced teas and see how the 'real' herbs and electrolytes boost your spirits and keep your gut also healthy. You will feel the difference every evening trust me.


Note that you can win a few useful pretty things useful for your lunch boxes in the ongoing lunch box series. A couple of these pretty bottles for buttermilk and Iced teas are also being given away to one of the comments that I like.

Please comment below and tell me if you carry yogurt to office and what way you like it. There is a Tupperware steamer and a hand painted lunch box by Trove as give away too, check out the lunch box series for more useful information and participate by commenting on any of the posts you like..