Saturday, June 30, 2012

Not just another omelet... a cheese and herbs omelet..

 Omelets are simple quick food most of us like to have any time of the day. It is a complete food if fortified with some vegetables you like or get in the season. I often suggest omelets for breakfast to curb untimely hunger pangs in the mid morning hours.

Many people feel really hungry after 2-3 hours of breakfast and need to have a filling snack once again. While there is nothing wrong in it, one can always have a fruit for snacking but a few people I have been working with have a long standing habit of frequent snacking after breakfast and then having a full lunch.
This kind of eating pattern plays with the hunger satiety signals in your system and can cause serious harm in long term.

The best way to have a satiating breakfast is to have a protein option with some vegetables thrown in.. Some complex carbs can be included if you are going to physically run around. If you have to just sit in your desk, think protein to start the day...

What can be better than eggs that fits the bill for time availability in the rushed morning hours as well as quick ingredients. I have posted many recipes with eggs and vegetables in the past but a few people have been complaining that it's not always practical to get fresh green vegetables so there should be a way to enjoy eggs with some staple veggies.

What better than red onions as a common staple. You always have it and they can be bought in bulk and stored for months. Greens are a luxury if you don't have to shop for grocery twice a week.

So here is an omelet that is filling, tasty and uses just red onions as a vegetable fortification.

Onions are nutrient dense, super rich in minerals and Vitamins, Great source of Vitamin C and many antioxidants. If you have it raw or slightly cooked or sauteed, they act like tonic food according to Ayurveda.

So what do you think when you see this picture?

Ah yes. It's so easy to put together. Whip eggs, sprinkle a few things, cover and cook, flip and cook again and you are good with a yummy breakfast. I used red chilly powder to spice it up , not included in the recipe as most people do not like red chillies that much. 

The Basil comes from my garden but you can always use dry basil crushed or powdered. Sometimes a minced clove of garlic goes in...
And slice the onions roughly to make it quick and also to hold the omelet better...

Three eggs omelet is for the husband at my place, I make mine with two eggs and a bit more of onions than this one.

So a breakfast that is ready under 10 the recipe...

A glass of buttermilk I would say with this omelet. Or some fresh juice if you can.

I never juice my fruits so that is not an option at my place.

Or I can have some tomato juice from carton just for this....

How would you like it?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Chicken and veggies stir fry with Schezuan pepper corns and a wrap...

Many times my vegetarian friends and readers ask me to suggest vegetarian versions of the recipes or a substitute for chicken or meat in a recipe. While it is possible for some recipes where Chicken is not a star ingredient, but often, like with Hungarian chicken goulash and this Hainanese chicken and rice, there is no substitute of chicken in those recipes as the main flavor is chicken. 

Here in this recipe of stir fry, the chicken can be replaced with soy chunks or even texturised (or frozen and then thawed) tofu. I know a few of you would be glad to know this.

This is another of those simple stir fries where everything comes together in just 10-15 minutes.In this case if you have some boiled chicken ready in the fridge, the job becomes easier. I had made the Hainanese chicken a week back and the leftover boiled chicken was there to be used. Hua Jiao or Schezuan pepper corns powder made my job easier. A great blogger friend of mine had come to my place some time back and had gifted me a packet of Schezuan peppercorns and Star anise. After that when we visited Mc Leodgunj (Himachal Pradesh) I picked up a few packets of powdered Schezuan peppercorns and Chinese five spics etc. The road side Tibetans sell these spices and dried mushrooms for people like me....

Good for me :-)


boiled Chicken breast shredded 1 cup
diced Baby corn 1/2 cup
diced carrots 1/2 cup
diced red Onions 1/2 cup
chopped Coriander greens 1/2 cup
broken whole red Chillies 2-3 or to taste
minced Garlic 2 tsp
Cinnamon stick 1/2 inch long
Star anise half a flower, broken
Hua jiao or Schezuan pepper corn powder 1 tsp
salt to taste
oil 1 tbsp  (used Sesame oil)


Heat the oil and throw in the broken red chillies first. Followed by Cinnamon stick and broken Star anise.

Within seconds add in the minced garlic and then the diced onion in quick succession. Toss and mix well.

Add the diced Baby corn and Carrots as well and toss and stir fry for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat.

Add the shredded Chicken too, mix well and then add the Schezuan pepper powder. Mix well and keep covered for a couple of minutes at low flame.

Add the chopped Coriander greens and toss well to mix everything well.

Serve hot. Or as you desire.

It makes a nice stir fry salad for lunch boxes as it tastes great even when cold or at room temperature.

Wrapped in a thin chapati bread or roomali roti it makes a nice meal with a dip or chutney of your choice. I normally smear some hot sauce that I make with Hainanese chicken on the inner layer of roomali roti before stuffing this stir fry in it and rolling up tightly.

Makes a nice fiber filled low fat, low carb meal if the chapati is really thin.

This stir fry makes a meal by itself if you so wish. Replacing chicken with Soy nuggets is very easy here, just soak and cook the nuggets, squeeze the water and rinse under running water. Squeeze again and use replacing the chicken here. It soaks the flavors really well.

Or try tofu in the same stir fry for a dinner some day.

Do you like such Chinese style stir fries where soy sauce is not used and the recipe is completely MSG free?

And it is not Indo Chinese for that matter :-)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Do food shows inspire you to cook? How about Masterchef Australia?

It was a tense moment when Ben's team was on test for an immunity challenge. A school teacher who wants to run a restaurant and a small culinary school attached with it. Can you believe that?

The love for creating food is such that just anyone can start following the passion and make a life out of it. It's a world that allures everyone, through it's different aspects. Some love to eat and do not have a clue if milk comes from cartons or cows and some would go that extra mile to look for the freshest of ingredients and the right percentage of fat in their cream so the mouse turns out to be rightly as it was concieved. Gelatin can be too synthetic for some and some would not even know it has been added in a cheesecake. That makes a foodie stand out and a true love for real food.

Real food winning hearts and not just sympathetic votes. This is what I felt when I saw Ben loosing the challenge. I so wanted him to win and still wasn't feeling bad when he didn't. The deconstructed Lemon tart was so wonderful even to think of and the final presentation made it a deal breaker.

If you don't know what I am talking about, just catch up on Masterchef Australia one day. The excitement would catch hold of you like it does to me. I have been a great fan of the way this show is conducted and how the larger than life pantry and the kitchen euipments make me drool out of bounds.

Today I realised the reason why this show is all about just the food being the protagonist. Unlike the Indian food shows where either the food is cooked and tasted by just one person standing behind a cooking range or it is dramatised so much that a sob story of a participant might make you pray for her as she sheds a tear and the camera zooms in. You are rendered helpless. The drama wins and the food slips into oblivion.

Here on today's episode of Masterchef Australia I was so wanting Ben to win the challenge and still was happy that the opponent challenger masterchef won. Just because of what he cooked. The food. For what I am watching the show. And I ended up thinking about making a deconstructed lemon tart very very soon. A bonus.

This show has always been larger than life, unbelievable in terms of high standards shown by participants. Think of the junior Masterchef that concluded recently. Could you ever imagine such smart kids articulating ingredients and creating such benchmark standrds of good food?

Food is something we all connect to immediately. It can make us learn, be passionate about somehting and create with our own hands. It is therapeutic and cathartic as well to many of us. Ask any of the food bloggers who cook and write about the experiences. The show definitely inspires me to play with the ingredients and evoke the magic. As if creating happiness is in my own hands.

What I see as someone who wants to propagate healthy living as a lifestyle, such intense honest approach to food in a show like this would make a generation to think seriousely about cooking. As a hobby or as a career, but creating food. Knowing food and understanding ingredients. I see a larger good for the society as well. More and more Indian men would be attracted to the kitchen, more kids would experiment with ingredients and a kitchen would not be a responsibility of only the housewife. Cooking would be an enjoyable family time where each member would contribute to it and eating would be more fun as no one would be doing the cooking duty as a boring responsibilty. Even if it is remotely so. I being too dreamy eyed?

I still stick to my hope :-) Thank you.

Does this show inspire you to cook?

I know a few people who get inspired to cook seeing even a few episodes of this show.

I have been working to make people understand that health and nutrition is not an unacheivable goal, it's not something only the rich can afford. Real, whole food can be good, tasty and affordable to follow for life. Affordable to be cooked daily in your kitchen. It can be a routine for you to have good, tasty food on your table that nourishes your body and soul. Once you start appreciating good ingredients, cooking techniques and working with your food, you are in for a surprise. I have seen it happening as I train people to eat healthy for life. To get rid of nasty health conditions. And have seen the profile pictures on social networking sites getting better and better as they enjoy good food on the table. It is life changing.

I hope the show becomes life changing by inspiring more people to cook for themselves. I can see that happening.

Do you?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Okra, Bhindi, Lady's finger | steamed okra recipes

Okra is a versatile vegetable if you like it. If you don't, it is just a slimy green thing.

Many people I have heard do not like Okra just because it is slimy. Would you believe me it can be made in such ways that you wont even notice any slime? That too in a steamed okra.

okra or bhindi

Yes, you heard it right. Steamed Okra gave me a shock as well when I heard it for the first time from a Bong friend. But as she described it, I knew it was something I would love. Subtle flavors of Okra enhanced with sharp mustard oil. Seasoned just with salt and a little mustard oil is the original Bong version.

Soon I started making a few variations of the steamed Okra as the name steamed Okra/Bhindi was not going well with the loved ones. You know what I mean.

Recently when a friend Varsha Tiwary wanted some minimalist recipes with Okra, I suggested this steamed version. She was flabbergasted to hear the name. I promised her the recipes and here these are.

Steamed Okra with English mustard ...

Normally in bengali homes, a plateful of okra is placed over cooking rice, covered with the lid of the bigger pot. Rice is cooked in huge pots in Bengali homes and they prefer to steam some of their vegetables along with it. They call it Sheddho.  I love all those steamed mashed vegetables. You can always season them to your own choice. Something I do myself. Not a purist that way.

This is how I steam my Okra...all arranged in a flat pan in single layer, sprinkled with water, a drizzle of mustard or olive oil and salt, covered with a lid. The okra are partly slit lengthwise, keeping the stalk intact.

steamed okra

Then steaming for about 5 minutes on medium flame and the okra is all medium soft, do not let it get mushy. Actually it wont as you have just sprinkled water over it. If you cook for longer, it would get dry and dehydrated. So check the okra, it should look just done and a little softer.

Arrange them in  a serving plate, drizzle mustard over it, may be some chopped raw onions too.

Your steamed okra is done. It can make a meal trust me.

steamed okra

If not English mustard, you can have some green pepper sauce or pickled green chillies over it. Or just go with your instinct for the day and add just anything that suits your mood....

Serve it as a side dish with chapatis and daal or rice and daal if it has to be part of a meal. It serves the purpose of a salad more than a subzi. I know you would make it quite often.

Those stalks are not edible, you just have to hold the okra by the stalk, eat the Okra and discard the stalk.

Now, if you are not comfortable with steamed Okra (the idea of steaming them I mean), you can stir fry them with the same ingredients.

Or just add some pickle like this karonde ka achar to the steaming okra and a pickled steamed okra is ready for paratha kind of meals. You can use any pickle for that matter.

steamed okra

Okra steamed with ginger soy sauce

Just slit the okra lengthwise halfway. Toss with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some soy sauce and ginger powder (or juice), very little salt to adjust, some garlic pods sliced and cook covered for about 5 minutes on low flame.

Empty in a serving plate and serve hot.

steamed okra

I love it. I can actually have it like a standalone meal. These recipe can be packed in lunch boxes if you carry to your office.Okra steamed this way tastes good even at room temperature.

Now there is another stir fry with the same cut of the vegetable. Minimalist ways I told you.

Schezuan pepper Okra stir fry....

Here I just heat some Sesame oil  in a pan and keep slitting the Okra and tossing in the pan. Tossing the contents of the pan on heat a few times. Sprinkled with salt to taste, a little red chilly powder, a little Schezuan pepper powder and a light sprinkling of Besan (Chickpea flour).

This Chickpea flour is dusted only if the Okra is not patted dry after washing them. A trick to prevent it from getting soggy and slimy in the pan. 

steamed okra

I have added a little Anaardaana (tart Pomegranate seeds powder) powder to this stir fry as well and it was outstanding in it's taste. You can always substitute it with Amchoor (dry mango powder) or even some lemon juice if there is Besan going in it.

 These steamed preparations and the stir fried Okra too, take just under ten minutes to cook. Ready as a side dish in a jiffy. Minimal chopping and minimal spicing if you wish.

What other vegetables you would like to cook as quickly?

 May be I have a recipe and share it. Let me know and stay tuned....

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wines: health benefits, myths, health risks and food pairings.....

 Wines are interesting topic for everyone for the exotic appeal they bring with them. The happy times are associated with good food and good wines to go with it. Everyone gets a high just with a thought of good wines, the hype around wines being healthy for you makes the picture even more rosy.

Are they really healthy for us or they are just like other alcoholic beverages? There have been many researches to prove they are heart healthy, anti aging and even good for diabetics. How much truth is there in the literature the wine manufacturers provide us with? Is there any real research ever done on the benefits of wines?

And most importantly, are wines good for everyone?

Or they have potential harmful effects like other distilled varieties of alcohol? You must know if you are a wine drinker or if you are thinking to start on wines as our country is slowly catching up on them. There is good variety to choose now. There are good grapes and good vineyards and manufacturers are bringing France into the picture as well. As close to the real French wines as it can be.

More about the wines and appreciating wines later, let's see what is the hype around the health benefits of wine.

Are they all true or just promotion tactics by wine manufacturers?
How much truth and how many pinches of salt to be taken it with?

The most common term we hear is Resveratrol. It is a natural polyphenol found in some plants and it's concentration enhances in living plants when they are attacked by pathogens like fungi and Bacteria. Since grapes are infested by mould even when they are on the vines, a practice that is encouraged in vineyards, the Resveratrol might get more concentrated in those grapes.

But the final product has very little(0.1-14.3 mg/L) Resveratrol in it. Only the red wine has it, as it is found only in the skin of the red grapes. This compound can be manufactured chemically too and most of the studies done on animals uses the synthetic Resveratrol.

I have a suggestion for the manufacturers to indicate the percentage of natural Resveratrol on the bottles as there is a significant variation in different wines.

Don't get disheartened to know the low percentage of a good compound, as these phytochemicals are quite potent in their effects. And even in minuscule amounts, they can bring positive health benefits. Resveratrol is a potent antiinflammatory in it's effect and it can be a great thing for heart health as it keeps the arteries healthy. It prevents plaque formation in arteries, and blood clots from forming through altering plasma viscosity and lipid profile. The health of the arteries is  benefited by the presence of the tannins and other antioxidants found in red wine as well.

Resveratrol has been connected with curing cancer too, there have been trials with higher concentrations on animals where it shows reduction of tumors. On humans it is yet to be established. You definitely do not consume wine in large amounts as a cure to cancer. But having a glass now and then could scavenge any carcinogenic cells in normal healthy humans. Especially if you eat sensibly too.

Apart from Resveratrol, there are flavonoids and procyanidins . These are the pigments which are found in the red grapes and are quite potent anitioxidants. They scavenge the free radical from the tissues and make your body younger at the cellular level. The concoction of all these beneficial compounds makes wine a good drink to have.

At the same time, the alcohol content of any fermented drink makes it a potential candidate for abuse. If you do not abuse the wine, have just a glass or two, it's fine. Excess alcohol consumption is definitely taxing on the Liver, arteries and heart muscle. Triglycerides get higher too. If you have week heart muscles, wine or any alcoholic beverage is not for you as it can lead to heart failure. The harms would outweigh the benefits in such cases.

What about the calorie count?

Just remember, alcohol has more calories than most macronutrients we ingest. While carbs have 4 calories/gm, proteins have 4/gm, fats 9/gm the alcohol has 7 calories/gm. And not only calories, alcohol does not release glucose in the blood (which is the simplest compound that reaches the blood when you eat something), it releases an even simpler compound (Ethyl alcohol converts to Acetaldehyde, an intermediate compound to enter the Kreb's cycle) in the blood that burns faster than glucose to give calories. Good thing is, wines are low on alcohol content at 12.5% v/v. Still it is not a slimming agent as touted by marketers of wine. I would say, almost neutral.

Interestingly, wines have been known to prevent type 2 diabetes. It results in improved insulin sensitivity, probably because it enters the blood as Ethyl alcohol and not as glucose. I would like to see more studies on this though.

No medical practitioner would prescribe wines as potential cure to diseases for sure. As an additional antioxidant - anti inflammatory agent it is good enough. Moderate amount of wine would make your good cholesterol higher, bad cholesterol lower and arteries healthier by a small extent. Small extent is good enough when required.

I believe all these beneficial compounds in the wine are helpful if we keep our eating habits clean and well supplemented. Bio availability of the compounds will be better and it would add to the already good diet you are having. 

Junk food and wines together are a no no.

I'll tell you about a great session of food and wine pairing a group of bloggers attended recently. We were hosted by Four seasons and it was a nice experience to learn about pairings. Venue was the well known Fres Co. at Janpath, New Delhi. Our wine connoisseur of the day was the lovely Shamita Sangha who gave us a few insights into pairing wine with Indian and Continental/mediterranian food. We all were a curious lot and Shamita was quite affable in her demeanor, letting us know how room temperature in tropical countries cannot be suitable for storing or serving wines in summer months. If one wants to store wines at home, a wine fridge is a good idea as we don't have a concept of wine cellars in our country.

Otherwise we should just buy as much is required and consume it quickly. Else it's alcohol content would decline and it would turn to vinegar, causing all the flavors and aromatic notes to disappear.

As for starters, this Blush, still rose and off dry wine,was served with Ceasar salad and we realised how well they complement each other. See what a nice salmon pink color it is.. Slightly sweetish, a little more than the Chenin Blanc(which was served next to it) and the fruity notes are fresh sweet. More strawberry and rose kind. Slightly tangy, creamy dressing and freshness of greens in the salad complement each other, and the sweetish wine too. 

I liked the balance in Ceasar salad by Fres Co. , perfect sun dried tomatoes and crisp fresh lettuce with chicken and bell peppers in a creamy dressing.

Blush will be a nice dessert wine too probably.  I am thinking about some fruity dessert.

Next was the Chenin Blanc (still white and off dry) , with the apetiser. Citrus-fruity notes in the wine and slightly tangy Chaat patatas, a potato based dish was good with it. There was a chicken Shih tauk too. Nicely done well rounded flavors of food. 

Chenin Blanc would go well with our Kosambari type salads and Kachumbers as well, may be some yogurt based salads too. And if the salads include fruits I'd like it more. With tomato based apetisers and light kababs and tikkas too, especially if it is the malai tikka type.

Basically the food should not block the taste and aroma of the wine and vice versa , this is what Shamita said and makes sense too. Simple logic.

Next came Merlot (still red and dry) and the Turkish style spiced chicken kababs with garlic aioli and bread wedges. The wine is more tannic in nature, the way plums and other dark red purple fruits taste. The tannic quality to this wine is quite interesting. Look at the color it is. Deep red and purplish tinge.

Needles to say, a more robust tannic and fruity wine is suitable for heavier meaty dishes and a bit more spicy meals. I would like it with my light chicken curries and mutton stews as well.

This could be a nice winter wine for us.With the heavier meals, heavier spicing and warming tones.

I couldn't stop myself from taking these many pictures of this lovely red wine. Shamita told us how a wine is dry when it is less sweet and more tannic. Earlier I used to think it's the alcohol content that decided dryness in a wine. I stand corrected.

Dry is lack of sweetness in wines. Merlot is dry and pleasantly so.

The next was a Barrique Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon(still red and dry). This is Shamit'a favorite one, she told. And asked which one would be our's.

This one is deeper in color and a little stronger on tannins probably. Mild oaked she introduced. That means kept in Oak barrels for a short while to get the flavors. It was a good wine as well. And was paired quite well with a penne with ragu of lamb, red wine and tomato.

We were not clicking pictures by this time. The talk was interesting and Shamita kept our ears glued to her words. As I sipped this one, I realised my vote would go for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon both. May be in different moods I'll pick up any of these.

Blush and Chenin Blanc would be summer wines I guess. I am sure I would be trying all of these on different occasions and would look out for the others from Four Season's stable. The purist views about wine pairing have given way to a more relaxed fusion friendly approach. Wine is being enjoyed in all parts of the world and our own palate leads us to find the best wine with our food ultimately.

I have tasted few American, Australian and Fench wines, it was good to know that the association of Four Seasons with Bouvet-Ladubay, France, has definitely brought value to the wines. I am a convert, would be enjoying my wines more after knowing the tasting notes. Seriously.

I'd tell you my secret. Till date I thought wines are overrated as I rarely enjoyed having them. I would thank Four seasons for making me a convert. And Yes, as we say the company matters a lot, the blogger friends were the best possible company to be there. Purba of A-musing, Sushmita of My Unfinished Life, Deeba of Passionate About Baking, Rekha kakkar of My Tasty CurryPrateik of Snow Leopard, Rituparna of Chocolates and dreams and Anupama of Anu creations were all a great bunch to be with.

Fres Co is always a great experience, I would have wandered around for shopping if it was not a baking hot summer day .

A day well spent. Some fun education on wine pairing was enjoyed to the hilt.

With the health benefits wine has, one should be motivated to eat good clean food with it. If you think you can have junk and badly prepared food with wine as wine is anyways going to make you healthy, you will be in trouble sooner or later. Make the wine worth, pair it with good food. Not only the balance of flavors and aromas , a balance of nutrients would make a great sense.

What say?

Disclaimer : This group of bloggers was hosted by Four Seasons for a session of  wine and food pairing. We were not paid for writing in favor of the wines. The observation of the wines in this article are my personal views. We were not told about any health benefits of these wines in the session, the health inputs are all mine as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A soft creamy no bake cheesecake: Mango cheesecake with an almond-honey crust...

 I promised you another cheesecake and here I am. The mango cheesecake the husband loves. The sondesh base one is my favorite but this creamy, melting type cheesecake with any fresh fruits is the one Arvind likes more.

Not that I don't like it, It's just that this one takes a day's preparation ahead if I am using homemade hung curd. And some grinding and mixing, whipping etc. You can understand it takes a little more planning and time so I am the one who keeps delaying it till I get the urge to take out my Tart pans. Springform pans are yet to enter my kitchen.

This one I make with a no flour, gluten free crust. Mildly sweetened with honey that gets nicely nutty and sticky when you spoon the cheesecake. Nutty, sticky, gooey and fruity. All things good.

Be ready for a lot of pictures, I took time to make this dessert in phases and clicked pictures. Only the finished product has not been clicked satisfactorily owing to the sin that this cheesecake is. I usually click my pictures of the finished/cooked food when it's time to serve, so the gaze of two hungry souls will be very much visible in the pictures.

You would agree when you see this.... :-)

You would love this cheesecake for it's intense taste and the three layers of sweetness. The mango flavor is not diluted by unnecessary additives to make it firm as a top layer that cuts with sharp edges. This cheesecake makes a wobbly mango layer that flips and spills on the sides when you cut the wedges.

The cheese layer is very creamy and uses homely ingredients we all have. My readers request me to use ingredients that are not hard to find in Indian cities and smaller towns. So you just need to have some plain fresh yogurt (dahi) and homemade malai (clotted cream from full fat milk).

The crust layer is a little sticky due to honey and you might find it a little tricky to dislodge the wedges from the base if using a tart pan like me. If you layer the cheesecake into mugs or stemmed glasses, there will be no such hassle of a sloppy wedge of cheesecake.

(six large servings)
hung curd 3/4 cup (fresh full fat curds placed into a sieve lined with muslin and the sieve placed over a bowl. The whole set up refrigerated overnight, the remaining creamy solid curds in the muslin will be used)
malai (homemade clotted cream)1/2 cup
(use heavy whipping cream if available)
mango puree 1 cup
sugar and green cardamom mixed and powdered like here  to taste, 1 tbsp sugar is good enough
or a pinch of green cardamom powder and a tbsp of castor sugar, check sweetness to your taste
corn flour 1 tbsp
almond powder 3/4 cup or more if you want a thicker base ( I powdered it fresh in my mixie)
honey 2-3 tbsp or just to bind the almond flour
tart pan of 6" diameter (1.5 inch height)


Mix the hung curd and malai together and whip till soft peaks form. Add the sugar and cardamom mix and whip again till well blended. (see top right in the picture).

Mix the cornflour with the mango puree and cook till it bubbles softly. You can use a pan to do this , I did it in my microwave. Took just 3 minutes. No need to add sugar in it if your mangoes are sweet enough for your liking. (the measuring cup in the middle of the picture). Place this mango mixture into the fridge so it gets chilled till you work on other things. If poured warm over the cheesecake it would melt the fats and distort the shape.

Powder the almonds in your trusted food processor, empty the powder in a bowl and pour honey over it (the bottom right in the picture).

Mix the honey and almond powder well so it becomes like a dough.

Now empty the almond-honey paste in the Tart pan and flatten it using your fingers. You might find the dough sticky but keep doing it till it spreads into a uniform layer. Push the almond paste nicely to the edges so it gets shaped like the scalloped edge of the pan.

 Empty the malai and hung curd mix over the almond layer...

And smoothen it in the pan evenly....

You can refrigerate this pan if the mango puree is not chilled until now. So both the ingredients are chilled before they are layered.

Once chilled, pour the mango puree over this cream cheese layer and smoothen the surface. This recipe fills the 6" pan to the brim.

Cover with foil and refrigerate till set and chilled to serve.

To take the cheesecake out of the pan. place your palm below the base and push it above the rim. Then place it over a flat plate.

Cut wedges and serve immediately.

We do not finish this cheesecake in one go ever. The leftover stays well in the fridge for a couple of days. So refrigerate it back after placing it back into the tart pan and covering with foil.

The almond-honey base kinda sticks to the bottom, but a little prodding with the triangular cheesecake spatula or a wide knife easily does the needful.

The texture is melt in the mouth. No bland layer of cream cheese as I have witnessed in commercially made cheesecakes. The commercial ones that I have tasted till date make me want to assemble some cheesecake at home always.

Such scrummy wedge of a cheesecake that has been made with minimal sugar is a great way to enjoy a dessert when you are on a low GI regime. Keeping the portion size smaller would definitely help. Also if you do not want it overly sweetened. And this indulgence would definitely not be frequent.

This recipe makes very delicately sweetened cheesecake but the sweetness is more enjoyable because of three layers of sweetness to it. A honey base goes so well with the complex sweetness of mangoes and a mild cardamom laced sweetness of the creamy middle layer. All three layers have a different kind of sweetness and a complex medley of flavors.

Makes sense for a sated palette after a dessert as the complex sweetness makes even a smaller serving quite enjoyable.

When are you trying this one?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

No bake Mango cheesecake in mugs ...

This is a healthy dessert that can be assembled within 30 minutes. This time includes making of the fresh cottage/ricotta cheese for your dessert. Impressed?

Yes If you are making about 8 servings you have to boil a liter of milk and then curdle it using a mild acidic solution of either lemon juice or synthetic vinegar. The way we make paneer. Only the paneer will not be allowed to set and will be crumbled as soon as the whey drains.


full fat milk 1 L (you can use 200 gm ricotta cheese instead, skip the second ingredient in that case)
lemon juice or white vinegar 2 tbsp or a little more, dissolved in equal amount of water
sugar 2- tbsp (minimal for diabetics, or use sweetener of choice)
green cardamom one (optional)
fresh cream 3/4 cup ( I used fresh malai mixed with a little milk)
mango peeled and cubed 1.5 cups or a little more of you like a thicker mango layer
chopped pistachios for garnish, I use salted roasted pistachios to bring up the sweetness when the dessert is mildly sweetened


Sugar and cardamom can be powdered together in a blender in advance. Or use castor sugar and cardamom powder to your taste.

If using ricotta cheese, skip the next twp steps.

Heat the milk in a pan and wait till it is just about to boil. A thin layer would be formed on top first and then the layer would start having a few fine wrinkles. Wait till the wrinkled layer is just about to fluff up and rise along the margins of pan. Lower the heat and add the lemon juice/vinegar solution to the boiling milk, slowly, a tbsp at a time, and stir the milk. Stop adding the lemon juice solution as soon as the milk curdles and the whey looks clear.

Take the pan off heat and pour it on a fine sieve placed over another empty pan. The solid paneer cheese will be used to make this cheesecake. The whey can be used to make pancake or muffin batters or even to make dough for daily bread.

let the paneer cool down so it is just warm, crumble using a folk or hands and shift it to the blender which you used for powdering the sugar and cardamom. Add sugar-cardamom mix to the mashed paneer, add the fresh cream and blend till it becomes a smooth thick paste.

Now use a spoon to plop the cheese mix into individual serving glasses or glass mugs and keep in the fridge to set. Covered with aluminium foil.

In the meanwhile, blend the mango cubes and cook in the microwave or in a pan till it just bubbles. Add sugar if you feel the mangoes were not sweet enough. I didn't use any.

Spoon this mango pulp over the cheese mixture in each one of those serving glasses. Cover the glasses with aluminium foil like this.

Keep in the fridge to chill. Serve when required.

The cheesecake keeps well for 4-5 days in the fridge surprisingly.

The base cheese layer is just like the Bengali sondesh, a little firm for a cheesecake but I like it in combination with a runny almost jelly like mango layer on top.

The husband likes his mango cheesecake very very soft where the cheese layer is creamy soft and mango layer is a bit firmer than this one. I make that version less frequently as I like this one more.

I am selfish yes :-)

But I am bringing that version too for you, as I made that too recently and took new pictures. Last years pictures have been waiting to see the light of the blog here as well. Next post is the soft gooey mango cheesecake with a grain free base layer.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What is your relationship with food? Know about your hunger and satiety hormones

A very poignant question for foodies..

Have you ever given a thought on the factors that make you eat apart from hunger?

And have you understood your hunger ?

These are two vital questions you need to make to yourself in order to understand whether food is your pet peeve or a nourishing-healing agent. Many of us just keep cribbing about feeling hungry all the time, cursing the food on why it is piling on fat in the subcutaneous layers and hating our own body for not looking the way we want it to.

I am writing about a few observations I have had with the kind of people I see around and work with. All the people whose weight is in 3 digits (yes) feel more and more hungry all the time and need a lot of food to be consumed. When they are advised to eat a measured portion they think it is like a dose of medicine and not food. Yes it's true.

We all have our neurotransmitters and hormones Ghrelin (hunger hormone) and leptin (satiety hormone) who tell our brain (hypothalamus) about satiety when we have had food. It appears that the hunger hormone Ghrelin would be the one that controls eating behavior but it is the other way round. It is the functioning of the satiety hormone (leptin) being lax that caused eating disorders. Even if Leptin is there in enormous amounts, the system stops responding to higher levels of leptin and doesn't feel sated.

Why the satiety signal is not working any more for such people? Has it something to do with fat storage itself? Think about it. The fat cells really have a brain of their own, I mean they are capable to induce the secretion of hormones (Estrogen is well documented) and make the hormone cascade flow in a different way. Estrogen affecting the fat storage and getting affected by the fat cells themselves is another topic by itself, though related to hormone profile as a whole and to fat loss journey too.

The satiety hormone leptin gets confused for fat people that is something we all need to note. As we all are potential costumers to leptin resistance if we are surrounded by visually appealing food and overly yummy recipes all the time. Food industry shouting into our senses. Do we have an escape?

More important is to understand how do we get entangled into this spiderweb?

It starts when someone starts eating good food. As simple as that. We Start really early in life. Don't we?
And when someone starts enjoying good food. As innocent as that.

Being surrounded with good food all the time and no other reason to be happy other than food leads to eating mindlessly. The good taste becomes a drug in the initial stages and we succumb to a dollop of ice cream or a wedge of cheesecake here and there through the day. If not such things which need to be served in a plate or bowl we start eating cookies straight out of the jar. The Indian namkeens are a gigantic culprit too.

Eating sugary food frequently or simple carbs as a staple makes you Insulin resistant and eating just anything all the time without a feeling of hunger makes you Leptin resistant. Leptin is the hormone which gives your brain the satiety signal but when you keep on piling food on your system the brain stops listening to Leptin ultimately and keeps demanding food all the time. See how neurobiology plays a role in eating patterns ...

Note that these hormones that we call Insulin and Leptin have the capability to screw up the rest of your endocrine system and you can end up with Hypothyroid function or PCOD. Even flared symptoms of Choronic pain and Fibromyalgia. All this when there is loads of food that has potentially healing properties.

Have you ever wondered the food can be therapeutic?

Wouldn't it be a free life when you are not thinking about food all the time and still enjoying what you eat when you do? Choosing the food in it's natural form and cooking it to just make the natural elements shine is the best way to prepare meals for yourself. It's not rocket science and this blog has been talking about the same for a very long time.

Healthy, therapeutic food is the way of life. Also, there should be a discipline in eating patterns too. Food should not be a bait to feel cheerful at any given time, rather it should have the capability to keep you cheerful all through the day. Wouldn't it be practical to have something for breakfast that keeps you full of good cheer and energy through the day rather than grabbing a bowl of overly processed breakfast cereal that makes you hungry after a couple of hours and makes you feel like a bundle of nerves soon after.

I was talking about giving hunger a chance too. Your body would know real hunger from the cravings which are a work of the crazy Insulin. And you would get real satiety after eating your yummy meal and the Leptin would send in the real signals. Rewiring the hormones is not that tough if you just discipline your eating patterns.

There is a little magic there which happens when you practice some hunger. Our body is designed to secrete hormones for healing and recuperating when we are in physical stress. As in when we workout, exhaust our muscles and lungs and when we feel hungry. In short, when we challenge our body. These kinds of physical stress make the body secrete the restorative hormones, initiated by Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This restorative, revitalising hormone makes our body full of vitality. Now you know how the people who are into adventure sports feel and look so young.

Practicing real hunger could be your passport to heal your body, rewire your endocrine system and bring some real good cheer in life. Exercising well would be an additional benefit for sure.

Just wait till you feel hungry, and then wait a little more a few times a week may be, so the body knows what it is. It would help you a lot in disciplining your eating patterns. Your relationship with food will be a lot better.

Edited to add : Pleased to inform my readers that this post has been selected by Blogadda for Spicy Saturdays. This is their way to appreciate good posts by Indian bloggers. I am glad this kind of posts are being appreciated. Knowledge and awareness need to spread. Isn't it?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Eggs on curly Lettuce..a hot and tangy filling salad..

The chickpea and lettuce salad was a talking point for many of my friends when I asked them if a picture of such green salads makes them want to try the recipe. Most of them honestly said no. Some said may be sometimes when it has a nice dressing.

But it's the baked muffins and cakes and cheesecakes that attract more foodies and lure them to try the recipes. Those beautiful pictures look irresistible.

Please tell me again. Don't you find pictures with attractively arranged greens tempting?

I always do. My husband doesn't. Although he loves some of the salads I make but if seeing pictures he never would be tempted to a green salad. I find it strange.

Coming to this salad. I know this would be another of those recipes which get repeated again and again and a head of fresh lettuce on the shelves would remind you of this salad. And you would pick up one.

(one meal serving)

a dozen medium sized leaves of curly lettuce (or 6 large ones torn into halves)
3 boiled eggs (soft or hard as you like them)
1/2 cup onion slices pickled in 2 tbsp white vinegar and salt to taste for 10 minutes
spicy cheese spread (recipe below) 1/4 cup or a little more
Tabasco sauce (hot pepper sauce) for drizzling

Spicy cheese spread recipe...
2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese (or processed cheese)
2 tbsp full fat milk
1 tbsp fresh cream ( I used malai)
1 tsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp red chilly powder( or less if you can't stand this hot)
salt a pinch
mustard powder a pinch (optional)
crushed garlic one clove

Mix everything together and microwave for 30 seconds. Mix well and microwave again for 10-15 seconds. Let it cool as you assemble the salad.

Assembling the salad...

Lay out the lettuce leaves on a plate, smaller and medium ones as whole and bigger ones halved.

Place quartered boiled eggs in each of the 'lettuce bowl' and top each quarter of boiled egg with a tsp of the spicy cheese spread. Place a few of those pickled onion slices over them.

Drizzle a little hot pepper sauce in each of the lettuce bowl and serve immediately.

The lettuce bowls are supposed to be wrapped around the egg quarters and popped into the mouth. Be ready for an explosion of flavors and textures.

This is something you can place on the table and your guests or kids can assemble on the spot.

This is a tingling hot salad which is quite filling thanks to the eggs and cheese. Crunchy fresh.

A refreshing summer meal. Mostly taken as a lunch for me....

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chickpeas salad on curly Lettuce...

This salad has undertones of hummus. Seriously.

Not all the ingredients are similar but it somehow reminds me of hummus. More so because I always have my hummus with one or the other crunchy raw vegetables.

See here with green beans and here with Broccoli.

The crunch factor got higher with this salad. Added by pickled red onions, you would see a hummus hater picking up this salad with gusto.

Oh wait , not just the hummus haters, the Lettuce haters as well.

Someones used to shrink his nose whenever I picked up a head of curly lettuce (or any kind) from the shelf of a supermarket. No more. This salad has been one where he would ask me to make it again for dinner if I had grabbed a bigger portion for lunch. Asking me if there is more Lettuce and more boiled chhole (chickpeas) in the fridge.

Guess who is happy when the favorite foods are loved by the loved one as well ?

Just by changing the way it is served or assembled. I am a huge fan of Hummus and make it quite often but the husband pushes the bowl to the other side of the table if it is not accompanied by some kind of chips. And hummus is just used as a dip for the chips and not scooped generously as I would normally do.

This salad brings promise for such eaters. Or hummus/lettuce haters.

The idea is to make wraps of chickpea salad enveloped by lettuce leaves. The wraps can be served enclosed with a cocktail stick or open like these pictures. I like wrapping them with hands before taking a bite. Everything else is yumm after that.

(two servings as salad, one serving as a meal)

Lettuce.. about 20 big leaves
(use green or red cabbage raw or steamed if you don't get fresh lettuce in your part of the world)
boiled chickpeas 1 cup
sliced onions 1 cup
white vinegar 3 tbsp
salt to taste
toasted sesame seeds 2 tbsp (I used both black and white variety for a rich taste)
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle (drizzled straight from the bottle, consumed about 1.5 tbsp)
red chilly powder 1 tsp to sprinkle (optional, I did not require as the red onions were quite sharp)


Boiled chickpeas can be used from a tin if you find that convenient. We in India prefer soaking them overnight and then boiling them with salt to taste and a pinch of soda bi carb. The boiled chickpeas keep well in the fridge for a week.

Soak the sliced onions in vinegar and salt to taste for about 15 minutes. Or till you wash the Lettuce and spin dry them. Or drain water in any convenient way you prefer. The onion gets nicely pickled in half an hour. Do not worry if there is lesser time on hand. They would be just fine within 10 minutes as well.

If you do not store toasted sesame seeds you can toast them instantly in a pan. Heat a pan and tip in both the types of sesame seeds in it. Stir well and wait till they start popping. Within 2 minutes they will be ready, take care not to burn them. Empty in a plate and proceed for the salad.

Soaking the lettuce in cold water helps bring back the crunch in them. I just hold the stem parts together in a bunch and give them a nice shake so all the water is jerked away. Tear the lettuce in about 4 inch pieces and layer 2 pieces for each pocket. Arrange them on a wide plate.

Spoon in a tbsp of chickpeas on each of the lettuce pockets. Sprinkle red chilly powder of using. Top it with pickled onions. You would like more pickled onions if you are like me.

Lastly sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and drizzle with EVOO.

Serve right away.

Eat right away :-)

No one would be a slow eater with this salad.

Everyone in the family would ask when you are making it again.

You can ask kids to arrange this salad. It's so easy to assemble. A real no cook meal if you have the boiled chickpeas on you.

Since a few of my friends expressed their reluctance to try leafy greens as salads when I posted this picture on my facebook page I noticed there is a general tendency to try sugary stuff more when you see a picture in a magazine or a blog like this. There should be a way with leafy greens that you enjoy them more.

I hope this is the recipe for you to start trying green recipes now on...

The sharp flavor of pickled onions and the mushy chickpeas are balanced so well with crunchy lettuce and flavorful sesame seeds popping in your mouth. Many different textures and flavors would make you feel refreshed after a meal. Green leafy salads are yummy.

Even when you serve this as a salad on the side, I am sure you would load up your plate with this first and then go for a few more servings.

I am posting another eggs salad with lettuce for the lettuce haters. And for all those who are not tempted to try a green salad seeing pictures. May be I can try my hands tempting a few of you by posting another wonderful green salad. Fingers crossed.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Watermelon and lime spritzer ; a perfect summer cooler

Watermelon is called water-melon for a reason. It is so hydrating and comforting during hot summers that I feel like sitting inside a huge watermelon and talk to the seeds. Really.

You haven't seen Indian summers if you are laughing at me. And you haven't enjoyed watermelons as much as e do, if you have not bitten by Indian summer. Did you know there is a wind named 'Loo' that is a hot (45-50 C) westerly blowing through the Indo-Gangetic plains of North India. The Loo winds are known for causing heat strokes that may be lethal in some cases. There are several traditional drinks in this region known for protecting one from the heat stroke. Aam ka panna, Jaljeera, Pudina sharbat, Sattu ka sharbat, Beal ka sharbat, Shikanji (lemonade), and watermelon juiced or just cut into wedges are some of the ways to prevent the heat stroke. There is a wealth of summer coolers from this region just because this region gets just too hot during summers.

We make more summer coolers in the form of Iced teas, some fermented drinks, some fruit based smoothies etc to keep hydrated.

Delhi doesn't get so much of Loo winds but is hot like a furnace these days. The water from the overhead tank feels like it would cook your fingers within a couple of minutes. Scalding hot. Humidity is so low all the plants get limp by early noon, most of the leaves scalded and a sad look is obvious. More than the heat, I am sad seeing my plants suffer.

No wonder when Ushnish Ghosh visited my place recently he was mighty disappointed to see my garden whose lovely pictures get immense admiration otherwise.

Indoors it is better. We still live without air conditioning and and will keep doing so till we have the patronage of these old trees around my house. Natural ways to keep ourselves cool and hydrated has been a habit. Summers are so blessed with some of the most cooling fruits. Nature is not unfair you know :-)

We love watermelon as it is, in salads and in smoothies too. Many combinations are appreciated by family and guests and people feel great when they are greeted by a homemade drink and not a synthetic colored and sugary sweetened drink.

This one is quite easy and does require just the watermelon, lemon juice and a little soda bi carb. Yes the same inexpensive soda bi carb that you use for baking. Not the baking powder. I am sure you know the difference. Read here to know more...

Normally used as a drink (dissolved in water) to get relief from heart burn and acid reflux, Baking soda can be used for other health benefits too.

This watermelon drink is a great detox drink if you are on a regime. Or even when you want a snack that hydrates you and helps feeling lighter and cooler at the same time.


watermelon slices, seeds removed and cubed 4 cups
lemon juice 2 tbsp or to taste
soda bi carb 1 pinch for every glass of drink, to be added at the time of serving


Blend the water melon cubes in a pitcher using a stick hand blender or a food processor whatever is convenient for you.

Mix the lemon juice and chill.

Add a pinch of baking soda per glass at the time of serving and stir well to serve.

There is no water added to this drink You can always add a bottle of soda if you wish instead of powder soda bi carb. The drink will be thinner in that case.

There is no additional sugar in this drink as watermelon is sweet enough on it's own.

Watermelon has a high Glycemic index due to it's sugar content but it is till great for daily consumption as it's Glycemic load is quite low too. Check this link to see how.

Do you need more reasons to have this drink ?

It's refreshing.

We love it as our evening snack most of the times this season. As a variation, or when we have some leftover, a dash of sharbat Rooh Afza is added to it and some water to dilute, some more lemon juice to balance, and a new drink is ready :-)

What other ways do you have water melon as a drink?