Friday, February 24, 2012

Broccoli and cheese in a creamy soup...



I have been feeling lucky this winter. Not just because I get this luscious green thing called broccoli in this season, someone has turned a broccoli friend this particular season. Earlier the husband was a reluctant broccoli eater but I am so glad to see him grabbing the salads or soups I make with a happy face. And polishes off the bowl earlier than me. Much to my delight, I can indulge in this kind of therapeutic cooking more and more. Green is a master healer as far as color therapy goes and cooking with greens has always been a therapy for me.

Cheese happens to be one instrument for an interesting change of mind. When I say 'Broccoli and cheese something' , it's an instant yes. May be it works for more broccoli haters. Just a broccoli soup will be turned down immediately but a cheesy broccoli soup would receive a bright nod when asked.

The recipe is simple, a little stir frying then liquidising the cooked vegetables and then thinning with milk and melting some cheese into it. ready to be enjoyed with a hearty bread. we had it with a freshly baked whole wheat bread with lots of flax seeds in it. A simple meal with great taste.

Interestingly, I cooked this meal after a heavy dose of cooking the previous day for about 20 people.Wanted to indulge in some therapeutic cooking and this bread was baked just for the fun of it. The soup was another potion of indulgence.


ingredients...
(for 2 servings)

broccoli with all the stems 300 gm ( I used 5 baby broccoli with lots of stems and much less florets)
red onion 100 gm (one medium large onion)
garlic 5 cloves (fat ones)
milk 300 ml approximately (skimmed will do)
salt n pepper to taste
dried rosemary 2 pinches
grated nutmeg just a pinch
processed cheese about 50 gm or more
butter and extra virgin olive oil 2 tsp each


procedure...

Dice the onion and chop the broccoli stems and florets in small bits. Chop the garlic too.

Heat the butter and EVOO together and chuck in the diced onions. Sprinkle some salt and let the onions caramelised till brownish.

Add the garlic and broccoli , salt n pepper to taste, and cook covered till almost done but not too mushy.

Transfer the ingredients to a blender and liquidise, saving a few florets of broccoli and a few pieces of caramelised onions for garnish. This garnish is to complement the real taste.

Pour the liquidised vegetables into the same pan, add milk to thin the soup. Add grated nutmeg and the rosemary and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the grated cheese and put off the flame, cover the pan for a minute to allow the cheese to melt , pour in mugs or bowls and garnish with the saved broccoli and caramelised onion.

Serve hot as desired.


How many broccoli haters you have seen around you? Do you see a ray of hope?

There is a news for all my reader friends here. I have made a facebook page for all of you who want to have discussions with me regarding healthy living and wellness. I get many queries regarding convenient ways of healthy cooking and the page will be a right place to discuss all that. Please like the page if you want to be a part of the discussions. The picture of this very Broccoli soup has been used as a profile picture of the page so it was mandatory to announce it on this post.

 Thank you all.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hungarian Chicken goulash...



Sometimes we just see the ingredient list of a recipe and immediately know we would love the outcome. This recipe of Hungarian chicken goulash was one such experience when Michaela S. Samant shared this on Fb group Chef at large. I instantly knew this was a keeper recipe. Just for the bell pepper bit. The husband is allergic to capsicums/bell peppers and I find myself looking for other varieties of peppers which are milder or sweeter to be used in such stews so the Capsaicin flavor is there to enjoy without the use of bell peppers.

BTW, the group Chef at large is a happening place to be in. Go there and like the group as a few members had a nice discussion on authenticity of goulash and it's accompaniments. Bread is a normal accompaniment and we had it with home baked whole wheat bread.

The recipe is a minimal ingredients wonder. Very few ingredients are stewed in such a manner that it develops a complex flavor as a finished dish. To be mopped off with hearty pieces of bread. Chapatis will be great with  it too.

I did one more change in the recipe to challenge the authenticity, I didn't use any potatoes as I didn't have any potatoes at home. I rarely use them anyways. The authentic recipe of Goulash uses potatoes as a gravy thickener. To thicken the gravy I just liquidised one of the blanched tomatoes being used with the garlic and the red peppers being used. The end product was something which has to be a regular on my table now on. Even with mutton or if I start cooking with beef.

A hot and flavorful stew cooked on low heat while you bake your bread fresh to go with it. A complex sounding recipe even the beginners can handle.

ingredients....

chicken 600 gms ( I used with skin, cut in large pieces: legs and breasts)
onion thinly sliced 150 gm ( I used one large)
tomatoes 220 gms ( I used 3 large red heirloom tomatoes)
bay leaves 3
fleshy mild variety of red peppers 3 (equivalent to one large bell pepper, as used originally)
garlic 5 pods
caraway seeds/syah jeera/shahi jeera 1.5 tsp
hot red chilly powder 1/2 tsp
paprika powder 1 tsp
marjoram to taste ( I used 3 fresh springs)
salt to taste
oil 2 tbsp (any flavorless oil)

procedure...

Blanch the tomatoes with a cross on the tip and peel them. Chop them into cubes.

Chop the sweet peppers in thin strips. I pulsed the red peppers and garlic cloves together with one of the blanched tomatoes to make the gravy thicker. You can add the strips of peppers and grated garlic when required.

Heat the oil and tip in the sliced onions. Fry them on low heat till they caremalise lightly. Add the caraway seeds and bay leaves, mix well and then add the salt and chilly powders.

Mix them all and immediately and  add the chicken pieces to prevent the chilly and paprika from getting charred and bitter. Keep frying the chicken on medium flame turning frequently. Some of the onion slices would turn quite brown and the chicken should get 3/4th done.

Add the chopped tomatoes, mix well and cook for about 10 minutes more.

Add the paste of red peppers and garlic, and one of the blanched tomatoes if you want a thicker gravy without using potatoes. If using cubes or grated potatoes add them at the right time so they get cooked and mushed up.

Mix well, add marjoram and let it cook for about 10 minutes more, covered on low flame.


Serve hot.

I am sure you would like to repeat this recipe the very next week if not after two days.

Such simple recipe, scant ingredients and so hugely satiating flavors. The heat of the dish would suddenly be enjoyable to even those whose threshold to the Scoville scale ends quite low. I saw one red and watery nose and a pair flaming ears failing to deter the taste buds a couple of days back for dinner...

A hot goulash is normal !!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Idli is a quick bread : gluten free and savory breakfast....



And it can be lower on carbs too...

I have always thought of Idli as a bread. The same puffy pillowy texture and the same mild yeasty smell. Oh wait the yeasty smell is a little different but is definitely yeasty. The capacity to mop a wet gooey chutney is just like a fluffy bread .

Only healthier.

A fermented batter with some rice or other gluten free flours and a nourishing lentil, this bread is not all carbs, a good amount of protein is there. The fermented batter helps the digestive enzymes and the gut flora to work better.

If served with a vegetable, lentil of nuts based chutney, this South Indian bread could be an ideal breakfast or a meal for someone who wants a meal involving minimal cooking.

Yes, if you have the batter ready, which keeps well in the fridge for about a week, you can steam a fresh n warm bread ( Idli that is) within 5 minutes and the chutney takes another 10 minutes maximum. I often use the sourdough method in making my idlies too. The leftover batter is used as a starter and some more lentil powder and millet flours or rice semolina (coarse rice powder) is added and is allowed to ferment.

Steamed fresh whenever required.


Do you think this Idli is not a regular shape? 


This makes it easier. One serving is steamed in a porridge bowl and the chutney is served on top of it. Isn't it so convenient. Less utensils used and you eat hot Idlies right after steaming them. Mine is steamed in Microwave and it's a 3 minute affair for single serving.




It's a luxury if you can make two chutneys with it. I will post the recipes of the chutneys too in this post, steaming the Idli is more interesting for now.

So the Idli batter should be a non recipe for Indians but for those who are making it for the first time, I am giving the instructions to make the basic rice n lentil batter. 
  • Skinned black lentil and brown rice is soaked separately in water overnight. I use equal quantities of both but normally a a ratio of 2 parts lentil and 3 parts rice is used or even more rice. More lentil to rice ensures lesser carbs in this idli. The soaked lentil is made into a smooth paste in whatever grinding machine you have. The rice is blended to a coarser paste, some semolina sized grains should be there in the paste, no bigger than that. Both the pastes are mixed together with salt to taste and are allowed to ferment naturally for 12-24 hours, depending on room temperature.
  • Some times, I add a little yeast to this batter and find great results. Some other times I use a leftover batter as a starter for the next batch and that works really well too. Something like sourdough Idli.
  • I also use rice and black lentil powders to make the Idli batter. A rice rawa or rice semolina(coarse rice powder) is available in South Indian markets and I get it whenever I visit those places. Rice rawa works better for a grainier texture of steamed Idli. Both the powders are mixed with water n salt to taste and are allowed to ferment naturally, with yeast or with a starter. 
  • For Millet or multi grain Idlies I mix the lentil flour with equal amount of either Ragi flour or Bajra or jowar flours, or a mix of all these flours and ferment the batter as above.
Here is a picture of Ragi Idli for you.


Nice fluffy, soft and warm. What else a comforting bread would be. A gluten free bread at that. Serve it with your choice of chutney or even butter or eggs if you feel like.
  • The fermented batter is ladled into a ceramic bowl , preferably a porridge serving bowl so it makes one serving only. The single serving of this batter is Microwaved for 3 minutes, covered with a suitable lid. 
If you steam a bigger Idli than this in the MW, it gets dry on the margins and stays uncooked in the middle so it's better to cook them individually.
  • Check with a pointed knife in the center of the Idli, like you check cakes, if the knife comes out clean the Idli is ready. 
With my green coconut-spinach chutney and a bright red tomato-garlic chutney, this ragi Idli becomes a three minute breakfast if the chutneys are refrigerated for the week...oh.am I repeating this three minutes thingy too often?

Pardon me. I just want you to have a taste of a quick procedure.


The chutneys are next. I am sharing three wonderful chutneys today. All of them are healthy, very very flavorful and help you eat your one generous portion of vegetables in the beginning of the day.

Tomato garlic chutney...

This chutney I fell in love with when I was in Chennai last year. It was served daily in the breakfast buffet and I used to mop away almost the whole serving bowl. There is a rich taste of Sesame oil and the garlic accentuates the red juicy tomatoes well.

ingredients...
Tomatoes cubed in large chunks 500 gms (Use the best heirloom tomatoes you get)
Garlic peeled and chopped roughly 2 tbsp
Red chilly powder 2 tsp or more to taste
salt to taste
Sesame oil 2-3 tbsp

procedure...
  • Heat sesame oil in a pan and tip in the chopped garlic. Let it fry till aromatic but not brown. 
  • Add the red chilly powder and mix , then immediately tip in the chopped tomatoes and salt. 
  • Mix well and cook covered for 5 minutes on high flame.
  • Thrash the tomatoes when they start getting mushy. Keep stirring and cook without lid for another 5 minutes.
  • The finished chutney is thick and a nice sesame oil n garlic aroma is evident.

Coconut and spinach chutney..

This chutney is an experimental chutney, a nice change from the usual coriander greens and mint flavors in the coconut chutney. I used my garden greens so the chutney is really flavorful. use the freshest greens you can find for this.

ingredients...
chopped bits of fresh coconut 1 cup
baby spinach 400 gm (I used fresh baby spinach)
curry patta about 6 springs
2 garlic cloves
green chillies to taste
salt to taste
lime juice to taste
I used a salt preserved raw mango slices for this chutney and skipped salt, you can use fresh raw mango slivers to taste.

procedure...
  • Steam the baby spinach till the leaves wilt, I microwaved them for 2 minutes.
  • Grind with all the other ingredients till smooth. 
  • Serve as desired.

I like my coconut chutneys a bit coarse so here is how it looks like...

A breakfast with bright colors could be a nice start of the day for you. I am all for this.



spring onion and fenugreek chutney...

This a spring onion and coconut-sesame chutney basically , accentuated with some fenugreek seeds. Keep the fenugreek seeds minimal if you do not like the bitterness they have. I used a dry chutney powder I make and have posted in the past to make it fortified with some greens.

ingredients...
spring onions chopped 2 cups(lower parts only)
fenugreek seeds 1 tsp ( optional, or use less)
broken dry red chillies 2
curry patta 2 springs
sesame oil 2 tbsp
sesame,peanut chutney powder 3-4 tbsp
salt to taste

procedure...


  • Heat the oil and tip in the fenugreek seeds and broken red chillies. Let them get pink and aromatic. Taking care not to char them.
  • Tip in the curry patta and chopped spring onions and saute till they get a bit softer.
  • Blend then to a paste with a little water and the sesame-peanut chutney powder.

Serve immediately with Idli or with anything else you like. It makes a nice side dish anyways. The ready chutney powder is a very convenient add on to fresh ingredients while making chutneys...


The fenugreek seeds taste best when blended freshly in this chutney, the more the chutney rests the more they get butter when they soak up the juices. If you love the bitterness, you can let the chutney stand for some time. Otherwise the roasted earthy flavor of the fenugreek is all you get in the freshly blended concoction.




Served with Ragi Idli for myself one morning. It can be any meal of the day for me.

Is your bread this tasty?


The purists might be cringing at the thought of making the Idlis so convenient with yeast or a sourdough starter , and with millet flours. It works for me as I go for the soft textures and the yeasty aroma.

Not forgetting healthy ingredients made accessible and workable.

I never understood how the stone ground batter would result in better Idlies, simply because I never got the chance to try them :-) The batter made with powders works well for me as I want my Idlies on a whim sometimes and a two day long preparation time is just too long for me.

What about you?

Quicker practical solutions for everyday meals or the occasional treats of the traditional methods?

And do you think Idlis are breads essentially?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

two salads with Radish...



Radishes are not every one's favorites. The sharp pungent taste might not go well with many but if seasoned well or dressed well, I have seen known radish haters going for second and third helpings too.

I am the one who can chomp on a raw radish just as it is. Even the leaves. Try the finely chopped leaves on top of some steamed lentil dumplings , ala Delhi's famous Ram laddoo, you would be a convert.

There are a few flavors that work really well with radish. One of them is a winner, with yogurt and walnuts, made with Radish pods.

This recipe with Tricolor radish can be made with any variety of radish.

Others make this post. And I am sure there are many more. These are just the flavors I love and keep repeating.

Radishes love lemon juice. And I love some ginger with it too. This particular salad with long julienne of ginger  is a favorite because of the lemon soaked ginger too.

ingredients for the ginger lemon radish salad...

lemon juice 1 tbsp
ginger julienne 2-3 tbsp or to taste ( if you don't like large pieces of ginger, grate it)
slices of a sweet variety of green chillies 2-3 tbsp (I used a variety called Bangalore torpedo or Bajji chilly)
roughly chopped coriander leaves 1/4 cup
salt to taste
slices of red or white radishes 2 cups

procedure to toss up...

soak everything except radish slices in the lemon juice for a while. An hour minimum. Then toss the radish slices in it , rest for 10 minutes and the salad is ready.

If you want to make the salad instant, grate everything from ginger to radishes and toss up to serve immediately.


I have used the red round radishes called Cherry belle here, but any variety can be used for these salads too. You may find some varieties sharp and some mild, sharp varieties go well with a lemon or yogurt dressing while the mild varieties work well with English mustard.

The salad makes a nice accompaniment to a heavy meal. But it can be a great detox meal after a heavy meal day. What about having a large bowl of this salad for lunch? With a few walnuts thrown in.

The other salad is devoid of ginger but another pungent condiment is thrown in to make the salad pack a punch. Seriously.

English mustard.



ingredients for the radish salad with mustard dressing...

English mustard 2 tsp
sliced green chillies of a sweet variety 2 tbsp
roughly chopped green coriander 1 cup
salt to taste
lemon juice 2 tsp
radish slices 2 cups

procedure to toss it up...

Mix the English mustard with lemon juice, salt and chopped green chillies. Let it rest for about 15 minutes or so. More the better.

Toss in the chopped coriander leaves and the sliced radishes.

Let the salad rest for about ten minutes after tossing it. Serve with a meal as this one packs a real punch. A pungent one. If you want to eat it as it is you can add some sliced carrots and cubed tomatoes to it .

Then it becomes a great stand alone lunch salad. For detox.


Both these salads keep well for the day, even in lunch boxes, even after mixing all up. It gets a bit watery but the taste becomes more intense in both the salads. Keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

There are more radish salad in my repertoire. Will be shared soon.

How do you like to eat your radish? Or you are a hater?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

home made granola or choorma ke laddoo ?


Granola bars are easy convenient snacks and may become a breakfast when you can't cook something fresh and warm. I love baking these bars with assorted fruits, nuts and seeds. This one is an unconventional granola bar as it uses sweet potatoes and carrots instead of my regular apples and raisins. I never use any honey or brown sugar for my granola bars and the natural sweetness of the ingredients tastes great.

But I am not sharing the recipe yet. I wanted to introduce a more unusual granola treat, something made with leftovers.

I bake a lot of millet flour chapatis and serve them with curries , salads and lentil soups too. Sometimes I just mix the crumbled chapatis with some ghee and jaggery for a sweet treat called Bajre ka maleeda. And most of the times I make some extra chapatis so I would make the granola balls with it the next day. Or would make a crumbly nutty breakfast in a bowl.


You get the picture.

The Pearl millet or Finger millet flours are used to make these flat breads as shown here . The leftovers next morning or a couple of days later (refrigerated) become quite brittle. Break the bread in pieces and run them in a grinder for a few seconds. This makes a bread crumb like texture , and this will be used for the granola balls or crumble.

Heat the millet bread crumbs in the microwave for a couple of minutes so it gets freshened up. 


Alternatively, you can roast the crumbs with 2 tbsp of butter or ghee on low flame.

Mix a cup of the crumbs with 1/4 cup of flax seeds powder, 1/4 cup of natural brown sugar or grated jaggery and 1/4 cup of copped almonds and some raisins. Pour  2 tbsp of melted ghee or 1/4 cup of fresh cream ( I use fresh malai) on top of it. No need to add ghee or cream if the crumbs have been roasted with ghee.  Mix all of these together.



The mixture makes a warm comforting breakfast with some hot milk on the side, not poured into it...but hey, you can even pour hot milk over it I just realized....

In the form of a crumble it can be eaten as it is.


Or can be made into balls. These balls keep well for the day and can be packed in lunch boxes to be carried to the office or school.

One of these could satiate a snack hunger any time of the day in a healthy way.


Do you think the baked granola bars look more fancy? Which ones would you chose if having a choice?