Saturday, March 28, 2015

101 gluten free breakfasts : lentil fritters with home grown greens #calorieefficientmeals

There has been a deluge of seasonal greens on #healthfooddesivideshi as my garden is flooded with spinach and fenugreek greens. Although I have been traveling almost back to back since the first week of February, I found comfort in the greens that the garden treated me with whenever I was back home.There is some baby bok choy and some kale too but these remained stunted during the harsh winter and then they suddenly started bolting. So the best use was to chop them up and stir fry or mix with lentils and make fritters. But to be honest I was using them in everything possible, the everyday dal or khichdi, the quick soups and even in flat breads like this thalipeeth. You wouldn't want to waste any home grown organic produce once you know how difficult it is grow food.

This mixed lentil spinach soup topped with sour cream is one of my favourite meal these days. Now you see I cannot get bored with spinach. Cooking with home grown spinach is always fun.

It helps that I love green vegetables and I assure you even you would love them if you find the best quality available in your part of the world. Cooking them well is also important but that is a skill everyone must have if one wants to know what one is eating. Right?

Including the greens is not as difficult as it sounds to many. I know many who dread cleaning and rinsing the greens to get rid of the dirt and then chopping them for hours. The easy way is to buy in bulk when you have time, clean them well and steam to compress and then freeze in portions. The frozen greens are very easy to chop. I do the same with all the garden produce and now I have frozen greens for a couple of months.

Using the fresh or frozen greens for breakfast wouldn't be a very common thing to many, including my husband who loves his pancakes or porridge for breakfast but one can make healthy breakfast with them in a jiffy. Being prepared is the key, I prefer soaking the lentils overnight and it takes about 15 minutes to cook breakfast for 2 including the chopping and blending time.

This is red lentil and spring onions from the garden, both make a wonderful spongy pancake that can be enjoyed with herbed yogurt of any other dip you wish. Note the ratio of greens to lentil paste and how the mix looks more green and less pink.

Spinach and split chickpea fritters recipe
(2 breakfast servings)
split chickpeas 1/3 cup or about 100 gm (soaked overnight)
ginger root grated 1 tbsp
peppercorns 1/2 tsp
cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
chilli as per taste
salt as per taste
turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
finely chopped spinach 3 cups or about 350 gm
ghee 2-3 tsp to shallow fry on a cast iron pan


Grind the soaked lentil along with everything except the ghee and spinach. Do not add water.
Mix all the spinach in the lentil paste, massaging it softly so the spinach gets almost blended with the paste. You would need to quickly shallow fry the fritters after mixing as it releases water after mixing.

Make small portions of the mixture, spread on the pan and shallow fry on both sides as you would do with small pancakes. I prefer cooking these on low flame, often covered with a dome lid to make them cook faster but you can drizzle a bit more ghee or oil to cook them faster. If you want lesser amount of ghee being used you have to cook them on low flame.

Serve hot with any mild chutney, salsa or dip that you like.

For these spinach fritters I made the most common and quick chutney that I make. A cup of red ripe tomatoes, 1 clove of garlic, 2 dry red chillies and salt blended together to make a chutney. Sometimes I add coriander greens or mint in the same.

A similar kind fritters I made with a mix of kale and some baby bok choy mixed with red lentil paste. The procedure is similar, you can adjust seasoning and make small or big fritters. Making them thinner would help in faster cooking but they taste good any which way.

The anardana dip..

The above bowl of dip is very interesting. It is a sweet and sour dip with a kick of roasted red chilly flakes (or just lightly roast a couple of dry red chillies over gas flame). This is actually made of sun dried pomegranate seeds.

Blend together 2 tbsp of good quality sun dried pomegranate seeds, 2 tbsp of roasted sesame seeds, 2 large ripe char grilled ( on gas flame) tomatoes, roasted chilly or chilli flakes to taste and salt to taste. Serve as desired.

Another such pancake is made with green peas included in the lentil paste. The one below is made with home grown fenugreek leaves, some green peas and chopped onions. The dip with it is the most convenient tomato-garlic-red chilly blended together with a dash of mustard oil.

The leftover paste was made into smaller fritters with tea the other day. Always shallow fried for convenience as well as health.

These lentil fritters made with a truckload of fresh greens is a really healthy breakfast or even dinner if you want something quick and healthy. Truckload of greens wouldn't sound like a hyperbole once you would mix the greens with the lentil paste as lentil paste is just used to bind the greens here.

This fluffy pancake is made with red lentil paste and rocket leaves that my garden was flooded with last year. Those yellow cherry tomatoes were from the garden to. The dip served with it is a mushroom and caramelized onion dip that I use as a sauce over my steak sometimes too.

If not using soaked lentils you can always use besan (chickpeas flour) and sprinkle over chopped greens while massaging them to bind well. This one with spring onions is a favourite as breakfast or an evening tea snack that becomes our dinner sometimes.

With cabbage it makes easier fritters as cleaning and chopping the cabbage is always easier than other greens.

These lentil fritters can be served as starters for an elaborate meal, make them smaller in that case and serve with 2-3 types of chutneys and dips for variety. I sometimes have these fritters along with my dinner soups as well.

You see how 100 gm of dry lentils can bind about 300-350 or even 400 gm greens when soaked and blended. More nourishment, lesser dense calories, real fresh food that satiates the taste buds as well as the tummy.

Calorie efficient meals to sum up. Each calorie consumed brings in great nourishment with it. What is not there to like. I love it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

101 gluten free breakfasts : sabudana khichdi or a pilaf made with sago pearls : fasting recipe

Sabudana khichdi is a popular snack, breakfast dish and one pot fasting meal for some Indian festivals. Many of us believe the fasting foods are the tastiest even though they are made with restricted ingredients, although we all know it is not the meager ingredients that make the food tasteful it is the way the ingredients are cooked and seasoned that matters most in this regard. And sabudana or sago pearls is one ingredient that is tasteless. odourless and sticky when cooked. Not an easy ingredient too cook if you are a new experimental cook but responds well if you know it well.

No I am not scaring you from cooking sago pearls, sabudana or tapioca pearls. But it will be good to know that once soaked in water they cook evenly and become soft and gelatinous. While making this sabudana khichdi we need to soak them well to get the best texture and to coat them with a seeds or nut powder so they don't stick together and get clumped. Read on the recipe to know better, not too complex I promise.

Sabudana is also accused of being a high calorie food but it is not the whole truth. The calories are almost as much as buckwheat, rice, barley or wheat by weight but sago pearls (or Tapioca) doesn't have any other nutrients than starch and almost no fiber. But the good thing is that the Glycemic index of Tapioca is 85, a little lower than potatoes, cooked rice etc. So not such a bad food choice if the serving size is moderate and there is enough inclusion of proteins, good fats and some greens in the same dish. It helps that it is a gluten free ingredient too and can be used to make an energy packed gluten free meal. 

This recipe of sabudana khichdi uses peanut (roasted) powder traditionally, but after a talk with a friend who is allergic to peanuts and wanted sabudana khichdi for herself, I told her to use seeds and nuts instead. She reported that she loved the khichdi and then I was tempted to cook it for myself too. I would say I liked it better than the peanut version as I like sesame and flax powder more for the rich flavours and keep using them to make chutneys and pestos too. You can use any seeds and nuts of your choice.

(2 breakfast servings)
sago pearls 75 gm (soaked overnight, the volume becomes more than double)
one medium potato about 80-100 gm
sesame seeds 1 tbsp (30 gm)
flax seeds 1 tbsp (30 gm)
chopped almonds 5-6
chopped coriander greens 1 cup
ghee 1 tsp
cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
chopped/minced ginger 1/2 tsp
chopped green chilly 1/2 tsp
salt and pepper powder to taste (use pink salt if fasting)
lime juice to taste


Soak the sago pearls overnight in about 120 ml of water. The sago looks dry and swollen after the soaking, fluff up the pearls and proceed for the next steps. It looks like the left picture in the collage below.

Powder the sesame and flax seeds together and mix with the soaked sago along with half of the salt required (just enough for sago) and pepper. It looks like the right side picture after mixing the seeds powder.

Wash and chop the potato in very small cubes. Keep the peels on if possible.

Heat the ghee in a pan and tip in the cumin seeds and wait till they crackle. Add the chopped ginger and green chillies followed by the potatoes. Add half of the salt, just enough for the potatoes and fry on low flame till the potatoes start turning pinkish brown. It takes about 5-8 minutes.

Now add the sago and seed powder mix and give it a good stir. Cook covered for a couple of minutes and stir again. Add the chopped coriander greens and stir to cook more for a couple more minutes. The sago pearls start looking translucent and that is a sign of getting cooked.

Adjust seasoning and add lime juice too. Serve hot with chopped almonds over it.

This is one of the most satiating foods you would eat. The taste and texture of the sago pearls transforms in this particular recipe and that is the reason why it is popular all over India not only for fasting meals but for occasional snacking and breakfast too.

This recipe is enough for breakfast for two and I must tell you that I had it for a late breakfast with a nice buttermilk and felt full till the evening when I had a plate of papaya and black grapes.

Some friends were concerned about the calories when I shared this picture on my facebook page so I calculated the calorie count as well. The total calorie count for one serving will be around 350 calories even if you are a bit generous with the chopped almonds. Great for a breakfast in my opinion for a normal active person.

Sabudana khichdi is not a such calorie dense food. You can include a few slices of raw cucumber and tomatoes if you want a bigger meal with almost the same amount of calories. Knowing portion sizes is a key to eat right sometimes. And now that you know about sabudana khichdi you wont be scared to enjoy it occasionally.