Monday, July 18, 2016

why sourdough is healthier? recipe of whole grain millet sourdough bread baked on stovetop, in a clay pot

Sourdough bread made with non conventional flours is nutritionally superior. The wild yeast strains that make the sourdough, ferment the dough to release nutrients that are otherwise difficult to get from our food and we often have to resort to supplements. Sourdough breads could be that supplement if we bake the sourdough breads with millets of different types. I have always been saying on this blog that we must include several types of millets in our diet for better reasons and not just to stay away from excessive gluten.

sourdough ragi bread

An experiment done on sourdough fermented bread made with buckwheat, amaranth, chickpea and quinoa flours had higher concentration of free amino acids and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), the concentration of phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity was also higher (source).

It is good indeed to know that sourdough fermentation of pseudo millets and lentil flours results into formation of GABA which is a 'well being chemical' speaking in layman terms.

Note that GABA is synthesized in human brain normally but supplements are also available and effective.

I always end up chatting with old people whenever I visit to remote places where people have retained some of their old eating habits, for ritualistic value if not everyday sometimes but the oral history of the ancient foods is alive in many such places. I hear stories of how everyday bread dough was always mixed with the sourdough saved from earlier days. Sourdough was a norm in north India, khameeri roti and kulcha was always made with sourdough.

People had one simple explanation for this tradition of sourdough, that it makes the bread digest easily. And digestion was seen as the foundation of good health, rightly so.

sourdough ragi bread baked in a claypot

I had almost stopped baking breads for a couple of years, a few kulchas and English muffins in between as we have started eating more salads and rice, pearl barley and quinoa etc and some ragi roti for wraps etc. Leavened breads have become rarer as baking a whole loaf means a lot of bread to consume for the two of us.

When I revived my sourdough for baking bread this time I thought of baking it o stove top as many of my readers keep requesting for stove top bread recipes. And I like experimenting. I have posted more stove top breads or skillet breads in the past but doing something new makes it exiting every time.

The earthen pot was on my mind and the bread came out really nice.

sourdough ragi bread baked in a claypot

(small loaf, free form)

1/2 cup sourdough starter activated (read the instructions here)
1/2 cup ragi (finger millet) flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp amaranth flour
1 tbsp besan or chickpea flour
1 tbsp flax seeds meal
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
some rolled oats to dust the clay pot and coat the bread


After reviving the sourdough starter, add the whole wheat flour first and with some added water make a batter along with salt and olive oil. Whisk this batter till it becomes a little stringy.

Now add the ragi and other flours, make a loose sticky dough by kneading the mix softly. Add a little more ragi flour if required.

Let the dough rise in a warm place till it doubles. It took me an hour during monsoon season in north India. Knead the dough again and now make a smooth ball, roll it in the oats and keep in the suitably sized clay pot.

There should be room for expansion in the pot and the pot should be thick walled. Sprinkle some rolled oats into the clay pot before placing the dough for final rise, covered with the lid.

Once the dough rises again after a period of fermentation now it is time for baking the bread. Note that slow fermentation gives better taste of sourdough so you might like to keep it in a cooler place if you want more sourdough flavour.

Heat a lat iron griddle over gas flame and let it get hot. Now place the clay pot over the griddle and lower down the flame to medium. Let the bread bake for 40 minutes.

A slight push with a flat knife will release the bread from the clay pot. Invert the bread and cover for 10 minutes so the top also gets browned and crusty. Remove from clay pot and cool on wire rack before slicing.

The crust on the base is quite chewy like a baguette and the top crust is soft like a multi grain bread. Remember that breads baked with different techniques and different flours will have different characteristics and each one can be great.

This millet sourdough bread is definitely great for those who love nuttier flavours of whole grains and like the chewy crusts too.

sourdough ragi bread baked in a claypot

The slices toast really well and can hold a heavy topping too. We tried a pickled peppers topping one day and this fresh ricotta scramble the other day.

sourdough ragi bread, toast with fresh ricotta scramble

To make the fresh ricotta scramble you can mix some chopped onions, green chilies, salt and pepper to the freshly made ricotta or loose paneer (chhenna) and spread it on a hot griddle till one side gets browned lightly. You can flip and brown on the other side too but it will become chewy if overdone.

Transfer the scrambled ricotta on your millet sourdough toast and enjoy.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Quinoa salad with carrots, walnuts and raisins

Quinoa has become part of an easy meal for us lately. There was a time when I would never imagine using quinoa as it was imported but now as I get locally grown quinoa I feel like including it more in our everyday meals.

But wait, there are more reasons why we are eating more quinoa these days. One, I order a fairly big bulk of quinoa from the farmer I buy it from and I have to consume it and two, it cooks faster than other millets or grains. Convenience wins.

summer carrots

So this kind of salad meals get ready in about 15 minutes. The carrots are grated while the quinoa cooks and the salad dressing is whipped up while it cools down. I sometimes cook quinoa in a larger batch and refrigerate for more convenience.

Who says convenience and healthy mindful eating cannot function together?

Mixing the salad together is a one step process once the carrots are grated. And once made, the salad stays good for 3-4 hours at room temperature.That is the fun when you don't use leafy greens in a salad, the nuts and raisins help prevent this salad from getting soggy.

It actually improves with time and tastes best after an hour or so.

quinoa carrot salad

(2 servings)

1 cup cooked quinoa (1/4 cup raw, cooked with 1 cup water and a pinch of salt)
2 cups grated carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped ripe pineapple (or grated green apple) optional but adds great taste
2 tbsp raisins
2-3 tbsp chopped walnuts and almonds (I have used mixed seeds too sometimes)

for the dressing

a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (few drops only, be careful while pouring)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar or any good vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves of garlic minced or chopped fine
a little minced green chilies (optional)


Whisk the ingredients for dressing together in a large bowl.

Add the cooked quinoa and grated carrots and pineapple or green apple if using, the nuts and raisins and give it all a good mix.The salad is ready.

The green chilli gives it a nice kick while the raisins and carrots make a great combination along with walnuts. I like when the chopped walnuts and raisins get soaked after a while but don't become soggy.

This salad tastes great as is, but since it is a fine shredded salad it makes a great topping for crackers too. We have been loving these Bajra (millet) crackers from Tasha Artisan Foods with this carrot quinoa salad.

quinoa carrot salad

This salad keeps well in a lunch box as well. Here I made it using a seeds mix (flax seeds, sesame, melon seeds and some sunflower seeds) and raisins.

Please do not skip adding raisins to this salad. I love it the most with raisins and walnuts, may be some almonds too but more of walnuts.

Note that many people do not like walnuts because walnuts get rancid really fast and if you happen to eat rancid walnuts a few times you may be turned off walnuts for life. Find good quality walnuts and keep them refrigerated always to preserve them for longer duration.

quinoa carrot salad in lunch box
This salad with grated carrots, cooked quinoa and seeds, nuts and raisins may look like a mishmash but the flavours and textures are spot on. Just don't make the mistake of adding too much olive oil as it takes away the fresh flavour of summer carrots somehow.

Sometimes I make this salad with thinly sliced carrots too. I have actually made so many simplifications to this salad recipe that I even make the dressing in the previous night. Add the carrot slices or grated carrots to it and just mix cooked quinoa and nuts and raisins along with it at the time of packing the lunch box for the husband. My portion is also packed and kept on the dining table.

Making the lunch simpler has helped me organise my work better. I hope to continue doing it this way. It works even when I am traveling and Arvind has to assemble his lunch box.

And if you are wondering how he manages with such a 'light' lunch I will tell you his breakfast is almost always pancake or paratha made of mixed millet flour. I have trained the maid and she makes nice pancakes and paneer parathas.