Monday, October 29, 2012

A relaxed breakfast at Olive beach and a few words with George Colambaris...

And some thoughts on real food and simple pleasures of home cooking. Being a true foodie, discussing techniques of playing with the ingredients. Respecting food.

Master-chef Australia has been a phenomenal food show that has captured imaginations of millions across the globe. The imaginations and aspirations of the foodie kind. We have all seen the finest of gadgets, the widest range of ingredients and the most passionate people cooking on our TV screens. We have prayed for them with bated breath so they win a particular challenge. And then there were those affable judges who would encourage the participants and often help them to get across a particular challenge. The show has been something that would make you go straight to the kitchen after your eyes peel off from the TV screen. A show that inspires people to cook their own food, as I wrote in the post sometime ago when I was invited to write an article for Masterchef Australia. I was amazed, wide eyed and glad in my heart that the food philosophy that we follow at healthfood desivideshi is the mantra of the people who influence millions of viewers around the world. We want more and more people going for real food isn't it?

I had little idea that was to witness how the philosophy of growing food in your backyard and real home cooked food is actually being propagated through the makers of the show when Astha Mittal called me one day asking if I can come to a relaxed breakfast with George Colambaris and Gary Mihigan at Olive Beach. It is a breakfast starting sharp and 9 AM and the venue is Olive beach and not Olive Bar and Kitchen she repeated. I took some time to register as my mind was being clouded with the thoughts of a relaxed breakfast with the MCA judges. Was it for real? A relaxed breakfast sounded too dreamy considering the ambiance of Olive. I sad yes and then realised the duo had already taken India by storm. They were in all major newspapers and our countrymen were going all mad about an English language food show. Such is the magic of a show that connects people.

Unfortunately, Gary couldn't make it to the breakfast at Olive beach but George didn't let it dampen the spirits of all of us present there. He talked about how creating food is an act of instant gratification, how it makes happiness tangible when you see the person eating the food burst into a happy smile. We found everyone nodding. All the Chefs of Delhi were there listening to him keenly, including Kunal Kapoor of Masterchef India who had come with his wife. It is wonderful to see people who have become icons and still are so grounded in reality.

George answered one of the questions on how he handles the celebrity status by saying he wants to break this celebrity mold as cooking food is a real passion and it should not be diluted by a larger than life image. So true. He talked about his family, how he grew up and how we should show our kids that food comes from the Earth and not from cartons and packets. I know you all are not listening it for the first time over here :-)

He accepted a few small gifts that people had brought for him. Kept us all in splits by telling funny stories about Matt and others. How being a Chef and  food critique is different. And how food is a personal choice. How Matt loves his mashed potatoes with Duck fat while others might like it with cream or butter. It was nice to hear him say that he loved the Indian breakfast dish Jalebi and was amazed to know that Lacto fermentation was a traditional technique in India which the west is recognizing and adapting now as a source of probiotic food. He said he is keen to create something similar to Jalebi when back to his own kitchen. I got thinking of a Jalebi pancake myself. Arvind will get a surprise very soon.

 But all this happened later in the morning, I am too impressed with George to tell you all this first. The first thing to happen that morning was falling in love with a green islet called Olive beach. Thanks to Chef Saby (one of the best Chefs of India) for having us over for this wonderful experience.

It was a pleasant Delhi morning  when I walked into the grounds of Olive beach at Hotel Diplomat, Chankyapuri. Hot masala chai was being served in terracotta kulhads that Chef Saby procures from Bishnupur, West Bengal. The kulhads (terracotta teacups) stole my heart and I wanted to steal a few of them honestly...

And then there was the orthodox tea as well served in china. I could see and taste Tea blends from Manjhi valley there. Though I caught the orthodox tea girl sipping the masala tea as well. The charm of a terracotta kulhad I would say.

 I fell in love with this tea stall arrangement at Olive beach. Can you see that steaming kettle in the picture? Perfection personified.

And then there was this Chef Sumit Jasuja who kept on frying Churros lovingly till the very end. The yummiest of them, coated with cinnamon sugar and dipped in dark chocolate sauce.

Olive has a signature coziness, be it the historical villa at Qutub or this beach style restaurant in the heart of Delhi, the ambiance at Olive is unmistakably cozy and serene. I love everything about this place. Aesthetically done and passionately run.

The food as usual is always great at Olive. See the beautiful desserts. A chocolate fudge cake topped with a paan candy crown, a mixed nut tart, Almond financiers  and Baklava apart form the unending supply of Churros and an exotic fruits platter. The desserts are visual treat, I can'r have much of these but the sweetest or Mangosteens and Rambutans were enjoyed to the fullest.

There was more food which I didn't photograph as I was eating that. Elaborate cheese platters, Bruchettas of different types, spinach and ricotta puffs and many more. The desserts were clicked when I was finished with my breakfast.

The day started well, some food for thought, some thoughts on food and all things good. Meeting blogger friends, talking about the things that are most fascinating for us and then saying good bye to meet again..

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Red wine sangria dark chocolate mousse...

Yes you read it right. It is one single recipe for a luscious silky smooth chocolate mousse replete with flavors of citrus fruit and red wine. Now imagine what flavors abound this dark fantasy of a mousse? The recipe is as simple as a child's play. Cooking is limited to heating the dark chocolate on a double boiler or a couple of minutes in the microwave. Then there is mixing, whipping and seeing dark ribbons unfold around the wire whisk. A visual treat and redolent wait and then slurp the fruity treat.

Many of you all already know I am not too fond of chocolate. And whenever I do chocolate it has to be a hot chocolate made with real dark chocolate , pinch of cinnamon and hot milk. Brownies are very rare for me(though I make frequently for the husband and others) and there used to be a chocolate mousse that I made using raw eggs at one point of time, but that was the time I just started cooking in my own kitchen and I thought it would be impossible to make a chocolate mousse without eggs. I used to make the chocolate mousse nervously in those days and whipping the egg whites and folding it into the melted chocolate and cream mix was my jittery moment. Almost a decade and a half has passed since then. The connection of eggs and a chocolate mousse broken.

And I stand corrected after all these years. I tried a few recipes with ripe Avocado and Bananas too, but felt that the dark chocolate gets diluted that way. Graduated to experiment some more, pleasing the husband with some more chocolate treats, and then realised that simplifying the mousse is much more flavorful. A silky smooth, 'set' mousse can be done even with just fresh cream and fruit juice..or wine if you please.

(2-4 servings)
dark chocolate 100 gm (70% or at least 55%)
fresh cream 1/3 cup
cocoa powder 1 tbsp
cinnamon powder 2 pinches
powdered sugar 4 tsp or more to taste
fresh orange juice 1/4 cup
*red wine 1/4 cup { Shiraz 2011 by Four seasons}
(mixed with few slivers of orange peel and a stick of cinnamon, rested for a day in fridge)
cut orange segments to garnish
candied orange peel to garnish and to mix in the mousse if you wish
Microwaved with 2 tsp of sugar and a tsp of water in two spurts of 30 seconds)


Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl kept on top of a pan with boiling water. The heat from the steam melts the dark chocolate melt in about 5 minutes. Add powdered sugar into it and whisk well to mix.

Mix the cocoa powder and cinnamon powder to the fresh cream and whisk till the mixture thickens. You can avoid adding the cocoa powder in the cream if you are not looking for a deep dark chocolate mousse. The cream makes it lighter so I decide to make up the chocolate content by adding cocoa.

Mix the cream mixture with the melted chocolate and whisk well. Let it cool a bit so it doesn't get split when you add the orange juice and the wine. When the temperature of the chocolate and cream mix is just a lil more than your palm, add the juice and the strained wine into it.

Fold in everything and pour into serving goblets or bowls. I used small goblets that hold 100 ml mouse.

Garnish with a segment of orange cut to retain only the juicy arils. Garnish the rim of the goblet with a sliver of candied orange peel. The freshly candied peel is sticky and holds where you stick it. Very convenient.

The mouse starts getting thick very soon. Refrigerate it for about 4-5 hours before serving. Look at the mousse after an hour of refrigeration. You know how some folks do not have patience. The mouse doesn't flow but is not too set. Yummy as heaven...

 Now see how it sets after 4 hours...

 The red wine sangria coming through each lick of the mousse. I wont go into the details of the taste but I am glad it is one of those desserts so rich in taste that a small portion is enough to give a satiating experience. This small goblet of red wine sangria dark chocolate mousse was enough for my three desserts. The husband had this amount in one go. So you have as much as you feel like, the flavors are all yours. Small portions for those who are watching weight or sugar intake.

 Did I tell you even a child can whip up this chocolate mousse?

Thank you Four seasons for the wines. Indian wines are as good as the exotic sounding foreign wines I believe and Four Seasons have proved it right. Red wines pair really well with dark chocolate and this red wine sangria dark chocolate mousse would make you want to make it frequently. Very frequently if you are a chocolate lover.

Make your red wine sangria more fruity if you wish for this dark chocolate mousse. I like more of orange in this mousse so went only with orange. Some apple butter would do a great job here as well.

Many of my friends wanted a recipe as soon as I posted a cell phone picture of this mousse on facebook. So here it is. Would love to know if you all try this recipe.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cauliflowers and potatoes for a quick stir fry, or make it a warm salad...

Vegetables are a great help when you intend to balance your food. Packed with vitamins and minerals, some complex carbohydrates and loads of soluble fiber. I am someone who can have a nicely seasoned stir fry for a meal. Give me any vegetables, cooked to a good texture suitable to it's nature and I am a happy diner. Winter vegetables are my favorite as a meal, cauliflowers, Broccoli, all kinds of beans and the red carrots and Turnips are my winter staples. Not to forget the yummy fresh greens we get around this time of the year. Seasonal food is my mantra, you get them bursting with flavor and nutrients both. Seasonal is one step ahead into making the healthy food bursting with flavors.

Another step is making the food unpretentious if it is meant to be consumed daily. Here is one unpretentious stir fry that can be a warm salad for you or a lunch box meal if you are like me. I would need a large cup of yogurt or spiced buttermilk with it.

This is a 15 minute recipe, starting from scratch.

new potatoes unpeeled, cleaned and cubed 1 cup
fresh cauliflower, florets separated 3-4 cups (depending on the size of florets)
finely chopped ginger, and green chilies to taste (more ginger the better)
turmeric powder 1 tsp
cumin powder 1 tsp
amchoor powder(dry mango powder) 1/2 tsp to to taste
chopped coriander greens 1 cup (stems and leaves separated while chopping)
salt to taste
freshly crushed peppercorns used profusely
mustard oil or ghee 1 tbsp


Heat ghee/oil in a deep pan (kadhai) and tip in the chopped ginger, green chilies and potatoes in this order. Stir and mix well. Add the cumin powder, turmeric powder and the cauliflower florets just after a couple of minutes. I usually keep chopping them and adding while stirring the cooking mixture.

Add salt and the coriander stems, mix well and cook covered on low flame for 5 minutes, you might need to stir in between. Add 2 tbsp of water if required , cover and cook till done, not mushy but the cauliflower should retain a bite.

Add the amchoor powder, the freshly milled peppercorns the coriander leaves and stir well. Serve as required.

Can be a side dish or a complete meal if you want something light yet tasty, adding some green peas will be a good idea in that case.

Makes a nice stuffing to grilled sandwiches too. Simple seasonal flavors are the best.

While I post this, I am reminded of the cauliflower seedlings I planted today morning and within 4-5 hours we had a hailstorm here in Delhi. That is how difficult it is to grow fresh produce and I witnessed it fourth time this season. The earlier three plantings failed due to either heavy rains or some other reasons, including dogs digging up the plants or other silly reason. Some tough learning to respect fresh seasonal produce.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Some photography talk with fujifilm ...

Today I would talk about how the food reaches the audience through a blog like this one. Of course the written word but the visual appeal comes through the pictures and that is the reason I decided to attend this bloggers meet hosted by fujifilm.

Honestly speaking, I started writing this blog and the others that I do, without thinking of pictures. I have no pictures in my initial posts and then I graduated to cellphone pictures. But that was the time I never thought of having an audience like you all. I was just sharing my recipes with friends and family on something called a blog and never imagined at that time that a blog can have a wider reach.

I lot has changed since then. I found all of you who read my blog, communicate with me, and find my food doable. My pictures definitely communicate as much as my words here, more in the recent times. And if someone is talking about cameras and photography, I must lend my ear to it. And that's what I did last Wednesday. I want my food pictures to be unpretentious and yet communicative. Any help with improving on this aspect will be taken up with gratitude. And yes, I got to hear an Ace photographer who reassured my thoughts on this.

The meet was to start from 3 PM but somehow, fujifilm and their team looked a tad laid back.  An announcement was done around 3.30 to start the meet but it actually started at 4 PM. The introduction to the brand, the X series of cameras, the fujinano lenses and how fujifilm has been in the market since very long ago was not boring as I learned a lot of trivia. Like the world's first digital camera was launched by fujifilm way back in 1988 and was called Fujix DS1-P. The camera was a hefty one, almost like a desktop computer, no wonder.

And yes, I remembered a lot of this trivia and when they quizzed us about all this, I answered a won a couple of T shirts. Winning something is always a nice feeling.

Rajneesh Kapoor, the stand up comedian was invited to entertain bloggers and I liked the idea as he kept us in splits as long as he performed. He aptly chose to poke fun on how people comment of Twitter and how they change topic to something else and finally someone comes with a spam message leading you to a porn site. Bloggers so relate to it, spam mails and messages were no more annoying that day. I know I will remember his performance when ever I clean my spam folder.

The real attraction for me, in this meet was the talk by celebrity photographer Hemant Sud. I loved it when he told us to master all manual modes of your camera and then forget it, come back to auto, as the cameras of today make you hassle free. There would be a few situations where you need to operate your camera in manual mode but most of the daylight conditions are quite good for using auto mode as well.

Hemant Sud reviewed one of the fujifilm point and shoot camera (fujifilm X-10) with all of us, showed us the results and talked about how the equipment is important, and so is light. While most photographers are pretentious about the 'eye' and the 'viewpoint', he nonchalantly said the camera, the lenses and the 'eye' behind the lens are all equally important.

He talked about aesthetics and requested us bloggers to communicate it to the world that aesthetics in photography is above all. The technical stuff can be taken care of when the aesthetics are in place. The picture would draw your attention only when it is aesthetically appealing. So right. Then he said there are no rules in photography, you can always experiment with new things, a creative freedom can be enjoyed while sticking to aesthetics. I was reminded of an article by Amitav Ghosh when he talks of aesthetics in literature. One should definitely be drawn towards a creation, as visually obvious as a photograph to understand what it communicates.

Did I forget to tell you all a film actress was invited to add glamour to the meet? Minisha Lamba, who is the face of fujifilm, arrived and talked (read blabbered) about forgettable things.

Fujifilm had displayed the X range of cameras there, these were all open to be tried. A photography zone was set up with props and lighting and a few people tried their mirror less cameras and the others. They have a good range of DSLR cameras with fixed lenses (up to 600 mm) and that is interesting with it's portability.

So hopefully my pictures will be more communicative and aesthetically appealing for you all. My aim always is to make the healthy eating look doable and pleasurable. I am glad you all try my recipes and find them good, my faith in healthy food being tasty traverses to you through this blog. May be my pictures in future would do it more efficiently.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Carrots and sweet potatoes soup | Fasting or feasting recipes..

This is the time of Navratri in Hindu Calender, most Hindus observe fasting and the fasting rituals are different in different parts for India. I have been reading a lot of Navratri recipes recently, all of them coked with different ingredients, different seasonings and tempering  but most of them I see are sattvic recipes. Sattvic food is believed to bring love, peace and harmony in one's life, Navratri being the time when all Hindus invoke the power within, by observing a toxin free fasting diet, unprocessed, old fashioned and derived from wild growing grains, vegetables and fruits. All the wild grains of the past like Amaranth, Barnyard millet, Buckwheat etc are now grown commercially too, thankfully the initiative taken up by most Organic farmers that these grains (pseudo grains) are available to us. So fasting or no fasting, I love including all these grains in my diet as much as possible. I am not a religious person but sattvic eating for a while comes as a breather from the stress of modern life. It really does.

I recently developed a few fasting recipes for Leonardo Olive oils, cooked with pure Olive oil and dressed or seasoned with Extra virgin olive oil. One of them is a Amaranth savory porridge tempered with curry patta and cashew nuts.

This is such a creamy yummy recipe you wont believe it is made using restricted ingredients. Restrictions of ingredients is just a mindset BTW, we always cook with restricted ingredients if you think about the world wide variety of ingredients used in cooking.

This Amaranth grain savory porridge is completely sattvic, a detox recipe and a very nourishing one. Go find the recipe here at Leonardo facebook page, the recipe is very simple and quick but looks gorgeous.

This Carrots and sweet potatoes soup is also a very quick soup I made yesterday. I pureed and sieved a soup after a long time and remembered how I used to blend and sieve Mithi's food all the time. I realise that is the reason why I like chunkier soups for myself and never bother to blend them smooth, it reminds me of all those years when I used to blend her food smooth. But then time is a great healer, we overcome all our tugging emotions. This time a very nice carrot soup that Ruchira made (not on her blog) helped me to try blending the soup smooth. Her soup was an inspiration.

The recipe takes about 20 minutes to be ready ...

(2-4 servings)

carrots diced 1.5 cup
sweet potatoes diced with skin 1/2 cup
tomatoes diced 1 cup
sesame oil or butter 2 tbsp
salt n pepper to taste (use rock salt)
paprika powder (or regular chilly powder) 1/2 tsp or to taste


Heat the oil or butter in a pan and tip in the diced carrots and sweet potatoes. Stir fry till soft.

Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and the red chilly or paprika too, stir and cook till tomatoes soften and the vegetables look glazed.

Cool the mix and then blitz in your mixie till smooth, adding a bit of water after the first blitz.You may want to sieve the mixture to remove any lumps as a few bits of sweet potatoes might stay lumpy.

Pour the mixture back to pan and let it come to a soft boil again. Pour in serving bowls and serve hot.

No butter or cream is required as the soup is very very flavorful on it's own and the sesame oil enhances the taste.

If you want a heavier soup for a meal during fasting, you can always add a few cubes of paneer to it. Or have a crisp baked Singhade ke atte ki roti with it. This is a slightly spicy soup, inherently flavorful due to the three yummy veggies used. I would like to add some garlic to this soup or may be some chopped garlic chives as a garnish.

To tell you the truth, the soup was so tasty on it;s own that I din't even bother to go out in the garden and pluck any of the herbs.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

spinach and buckwheat soup | fasting recipe for navratri...

Spinach and buckwheat soup that is creamy and filling. Here is a winery green soup that promises the warmth in every sip. Spinach loves butter and cream and this soup makes use of both the elements to enhance the flavor and nutritive value of this green spinach soup. Wait, there is buckwheat too and that makes the soup creamier.Buckwheat is a grain that becomes mushy when pressure cooked and can be creamed with the spinach easily. Use whole buckwheat or groats or the porridge variety.

If you are doubtful about he grain how it looks like, Buckwheat comes in three forms, as available in markets. The one with it's shell is dark brown almost black in color, the whole buckwheat (shelled) is a pretty shade of light olive green and the groats or broken buckwheat is like a semolina or couscous broken to uniform or irregular coarse powder. A large picture would make the difference clear..

I buy whole buckwheat from Down to Earth, an organic brand or shelled groats from Navdanya or other places that sell organic stuff. The whole buckwheat can be briefly whizzed in the mixie so the shell breaks, then it is cleaned by sieving the stuff, the coarse powder is the result which is used in this soup. This coarse powder is often available in the stores by the name of buckwheat porridge.

I had some buckwheat groats and added them after pressure cooking the spinach. The result was quite good regarding the creaminess of this soup. Adding some full fat milk helps in that regard. This is a truly fasting recipe, that helps in detox, the real reason of fasting.

( 2 servings as a soup, one as a meal)
spinach 250 gm cleaned and chopped roughly
buckwheat groats 3-4 tbsp or whole buckwheat
full fat milk 1 cup
butter 1 tsp per serving
salt n pepper to taste (use rock salt)


Pressure cook the spinach with 1/2 cup of water till the first whistle blows. I find it easier as I use a stick blender to liquidise the soup and the pressure cooker pan is the right depth for it. If you are comfortable with pan boiling go ahead. Spinach doesn't take much time to cook. Boil along the buckwheat too if using the whole buckwheat.

Add the groats if using, salt and pepper to the boiled spinach and boil it for 10 minutes till the buckwheat groats get cooked and disappear in the cooking liquid. Add water during cooking if required.

Blend the cooked mixture using a hand blender or whatever way you like. Add the milk and give it a light boil. Adjust seasoning, pour into soup bowls or mugs, top with butter and serve hot.

This is a filling soup I love for my dinners. Actually any meal can be a soup meal for me. This one is a perfectly aromatic warming soup I can have in the nippy evenings of Delhi right now. Then sometimes I get the second helping of the soup late in the night with a pinch of cinnamon added.

I do such split dinners sometimes when I have to work late in the night. The soup in the mug reheats well in the microwave. Good for me :-)


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Buckwheat and chickpea flour savoury pancakes for breakfast...

Yes, savoury pancakes that we have with a nice chutney. Buckwheat and chickpea flour make a nice base for such pancakes. Those hurried mornings when you woke up late, have just half an hour and still need to have a heavy breakfast because you are going to skip a proper lunch. It was one of those late morning on weekends when we found ourselves too hungry to wait for an elaborate breakfast but wanted something tasty. Chatpata breakfast in my words. A savory pancake that has a lot of onion and green chillies (of the sweeter variety) and a yummy coconut chutney that we had like a porridge. Yes, in that amount. Coconut is so healthy to start your day with, especially if it is a chutney. I could drown a couple of  idlies into it for my meal.

ingredients for the savory pancake..

one large red onion (about 150 gm)
2 large green chillies, the sweeter variety / you can use a medium sized capsicum
stems of coriander greens, about half a bunch
besan (chickpea flour) 3/4 cup
Buckwheat flour 1/4 cup
soy yogurt (homemade) 1/2 cup
water about 1/2 cup to make the batter loose ans suitable for pancake
salt and pepper to taste
ghee bout 1 tbsp to grease the pan and drizzle during coking


Quarter the onion and chop in the food processor along with the green chilly or capsicum and the green coriander stems. I used my chopper and processed till it was all minced.

Add the Soy yogurt, salt n pepper, chickpea flour and buckwheat flour and blend once again so a batter is formed. Add water as required.

Heat a flat base pan, grease with ghee or oil of your choice, pour the batter with a ladle in small circles. On a wide dosa pan you can make about 6-7 small pancakes at a time.

Let the pancakes brown on one side and flip. Drizzle more ghee to let it brown and cook on the other side too. Covering the pancakes while cooking and keeping the flame level low allows you make the chutney on the side.

 ingredients and procedure for the chutney...

half a coconut scraped or the flesh separated and the black skin peeled with a potato peeler
2 green chillies, the less hot ones or use to taste, using a green capsicum is better for those who don't eat too hot, in my case the husband is intolerant to all bell peppers.
curry patta 1/2 cup
salt to taste
lime juice to taste

Blend in the chutney jar of your trusted mixie to make a smooth chutney. No need to add water in the beginning, once the mixtures become coarse you can add water in small amount and bland again. Adjust consistency as desired. Adjust seasoning too.

Keeping this chutney not too hot makes it easy to have it in large amounts. It is the best antioxidant and healthy fats combination to start your day with. Skip adding chillies if your savory pancake is well seasoned.

 Two small kitchen gadgets help you to make your breakfast convenient and tasty too. This breakfast was ready within 25 minutes flat. Yes the coconut was there in the fridge, halved but not peeled.

** The soy yogurt was made to be used in such recipes of Ragi uttapam and broken wheat idli. I make my own Soy milk and Tofu from scratch. The soy milk can be set into yogurt easily using the same starter we use to set dairy curd. Even a green chilly placed in the bowl of warm soy milk helps it to set in a yogurt in about 10 hours. Try sometime and let me know if you could do it.Check out the step wise procedure to make soy milk at home. And hen try making soy yogurt for week. You would be surprised to know how useful it is when you want easy probiotic protein food for you.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Sama ke chawal for fasting | a Tabbouleh like salad...

Sama ke chawal or Barnyard millet is vastly used during Navratri fasting. It is a wildly growing grain which is actually a seed not grain, a pseudo grain. Complex carbohydrates and some protein makes it an ideal food for fasting days in North India where all grains and pulses are restricted during fasting. This grain (pseudo grain) behaves like short grain rice when cooked and has a taste almost similar to broken brown rice. I Have made a Sama ki Idli, Sama ki kheer, Sama ki khichdi and a few more recipes like Sama ka dhokla in the past. This salad recipe is easy to assemble if you have some cooked Sama ka chawal as you keep cooked rice some times. All healthy ingredients in this salad. After all fasting during Navratri is meant to detox and rejuvenate basically.

Just chop a few vegetables that you like eating raw and toss up a salad with an interesting dressing that goes with your fasting rules. Extra virgin Olive oil and lime juice make a basic dressing, I added chopped green chillies and Coriander greens for more freshness and this salad was tasting almost like a broken wheat tabbouleh I have posted..

(2 servings)

boiled sama ke chawal (cooked just like rice) 1 cup
Cucumber chopped in small bits 1 cup
Carrots chopped in small bits 1/2 cup
Other vegetables you like raw or steamed, cut similarly
Coriander green chopped 1/2 cup
Mint chopped 2 tbsp
green chillies chopped to taste
extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp
lime juice 2 tsp
sendha namak (rock salt) to taste
roasted peanuts 1/2 cup
pepper to taste


Boil the millet in double the quantity of water just like rice. I pressure cooked the millet with a pinch of salt. Cool it or refrigerate till you chop the vegetables.

Mix the Olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and the chopped green chillies, give it a good stir and let it rest.

Chop all the vegetables being used, and toss with the dressing. Now fluff up the cooked millet and mix with the dressing and vegetables. Toss the roasted peanuts too.Adjust seasoning and serve cold.

The salad keeps well for a few hours, so it can be a nice lunch box idea during your fasting days. To make it more interesting you can add some cubed paneer.

Very refreshing, bursting with flavors of coriander greens and mint, crunch by the vegetables and a nutty bite here and there. The salad is quite rich in textural experience.

Healthy fasting recipe for all those who don't want to eat the pakodis and halwas during Navratri. This is a meal in itself, you might like a glass of thin buttermilk or orange juice with it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A herbed fish fry served with a citrus mix ..

I like my fish with skin and bone always, so no fillets for my home cooking though we get the Basa fillets very conveniently at a walking distance from our place. The Basa fillets I like only in Chinese style poached or steamed fish recipes, for more robust flavors it has to be a large Rohu or Bhetki cut into bony steaks.

This time I wanted a nice aromatic herb flavor in a shallow fried fish, the large steaks of the tummy side were just perfect for it. I had collected a few Coriander roots and stems, very aromatic to complement it.

It ended up bursting with flavors. You can use a fillet of any soft fish too for this.

Rohu fish steaks 2 (weighing 200 m each, preferably ventral side steaks)
finely chopped ginger tsp
finely chopped garlic 1 tsp
finely chopped stem and a some roots of coriander greens 2-3 tbsp
chopped green chilly (the sweeter variety) 1 tbsp, green bell pepper the same amount
scissor cut dry red chilly as per taste, little more than you think you would like
powdered anardana (dry pomegranate seeds) 1scant tsp
salt to taste
Olive or sesame oil 1 tbsp for shallow frying

Cucumber slices and mixed citrus fruits for serving...


Rub the anardana powder and salt over fish steaks and refrigerate for about 6 hours or overnight.

Do the other preps which takes just 5 minutes, chopping the green chilly, garlic, ginger and coriander greens that is, and mix everything together, the herb mix. The scissor cut red chilly will also be mixed into it. Sprnkle a pinch of salt to it too.

Heat oil in a flat base pan.sprinkle half of the herb mix and immediately place the fish steak over it. Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium flame. Cooking time would depend on how thick is the steak.

Sprinkle the other half of the herb mix on top and flip the fish steak to brown and cook on the other side, covered for about 2-3 minutes again.

meanwhile, cut and arrange the cucumber, orange, sweet lime and grapefruit (if available) segments on the plate. Some Rocket or lettuce will be added benefit.

Serve the fish hot on this plate. The remaining herb mix on the pan not to be wasted, serve it along. You would pick every little bit off the plate.

Very refreshing. The Coriander greens have the best aromas in the base parts, the thick stems and the root. Use them for any meats that absorb flavors.

Here with a citrus fruit spread, this was a yummy dinner day before yesterday. I ate some of the orange while clicking the pictures :-)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Know more about nourishing your skin and scalp | an interview with Dr. Rushika Gadani...

I am here with an exciting interview for my readers. HFDV has been getting a lot of queries regarding what food is good for skin and hair. I have posted a few general skin and hair nourishing foods in the past but I thought it will be great to bring a dermatologist to talk on the subject.

 Dr. Rushika Gadani is a Dermatologist based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. A post-graduate in Dermatology (MD) from Government Medical College, Rajkot, Gujarat, she has been further trained in the fields of clinical and cosmetic dermatology at the B.Y.L. Nair Hospital, Mumbai. Her special area of interest is Pediatric Dermatology in which she has received training at AIIMS, New Delhi.
She is currently practicing as a consultant adult and pediatric dermatologist at her own clinic, ‘Mohana Skin Clinic’ at Ahmedabad. She has a keen interest in spreading awareness regarding her chosen field and frequently conducts lectures to pediatricians as well as the general public.

I asked her a few queries for all of you. Read on...

Me : What is your experience with your patients. What kind of food habits result in skin and hair problems. Is there a connection between skewed levels of cholesterol and skin ailments? What about other deficiencies like Iron, Calcium and protein and a few other micro nutrients ?

Dr. Rushika : One’s skin, hair and nails surely reflect whether everything is ship-shape within one’s body as almost all nutrient deficiencies do have cutaneous manifestations. You see, skin and its appendages - i.e. hair and nails - are rapidly dividing tissues, so they depend on an optimum level of nutrition... An individual’s diet may be determined by so many factors - his/her socioeconomic status, likes and dislikes, religious beliefs, ethical stand, and most importantly, the attitude towards food in general. Just to cite a single example, hair fall is extremely common in Indian ladies. Almost always, a deeper probing in the dietary habits of the patient shows us the reason. Strict vegetarians/vegans may require supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12; Vegans require additional supplementation with calcium.
Coming to proteins, here to vegetarians and vegans need to stay conscious about meeting at least the recommended daily allowances. Supplements may be required, but should be taken only in consultation with a qualified person.

Me : Do you think healthy fats are essential for our body? How would you correlate industrially produced refined and hydrogenated oils to skin ailments? Or these affect the system on an internal level only.

Dr. Rushika : By ‘healthy fats’, we generally refer to fats containing an appreciable proportion of unsaturated fatty acids rather than saturated fatty acids. A skewed balance of these may be contributory – if not causative – to inflammation anywhere in the body, including many skin conditions. So it is advisable to include more of mono-unsaturated fats, which means more of nuts, peanuts, olives, avocados, etc. It is best to consume MUFAs from whole foods, as compared to oils or supplements as a source. ALA (alpha lipoic acid) is another substance which is a healthier fat; flaxseeds, hempseeds, walnuts and soy are good sources. Other essential fatty acids are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are found more in fish and eggs.
ALA, DHA and EPA all are integral to maintaining the structural integrity of a skin cell, and are very much essential for a healthy, supple skin. Psoriasis is one skin condition wherein it has been conclusively proven that these healthy fats have an anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effect. There are studies to indicate that ALA, DHA and EPA may have a role in protecting skin from the harmful effect of UV rays, and may even help in preventing skin cancers.
Trans fats have not been conclusively implicated as direct causative agents for any skin condition, but it is best to avoid these in view of their impact on general health.

Me : Junk food and carbonated drinks are seen as a main culprit for skin problems and breakouts. Have you noticed this in your patients? And have you seen your patients recovering when they give up junk from their diet?

Dr. Rushika : You will agree that what we term as ‘junk food’ roughly translates as overly processed or deep-fried food. Though there are no conclusive studies to prove that such food items are implicated in direct causation of pimples or any other specific skin conditions, common wisdom suggests that processed food in excess may be harmful. It is important that one makes a healthy choice, the advertizing blitzkrieg notwithstanding. What I might advise a patient suffering from pimples would be to try and include as much as raw or minimally processed food in his/her diet as is feasible.

Me : One more question. External application of Olive oil , Almond oil and Sesame oil is considered good for skin and hair. Is it practical in modern life to follow application of such natural oils and not the Sunscreens, the Sunblocks, moisturisers and nourishing creams?

Dr. Rushika : All the three oils you mentioned - and coconut oil in addition – fall under the broad gamut of occlusive moisturizers. The word ‘occlusive’ here is important, as they effectively minimize water loss through the skin, which means the skin tends to lose its hydration at a slower pace. Now this is desirable in cold and dry climates, especially for the skin on the body. Our facial skin is equipped to produce a lot more of the natural oily substance called sebum, so much so that massaging oil might be counter-productive in many cases and can lead to break-outs. Also, keep in mind the fact that many commercially available moisturizers to contain some manner of oil in them – may be a natural oil like above, or mineral oil – while making the overall product significantly more user friendly and non-messy to use. So, in conclusion, for someone having no skin related problems, the above oils can be considered as a part of the skin care regime, provided one is not affronted by the sticky feel.
Sunscreens in my opinion are irreplaceable. Considering the amount of solar radiation an average Indian bears in her/his lifetime, the cumulative damage is significant enough to cause early photo-ageing, at the very least. No plain moisturizer or oil can replace a sunscreen. Yes, there are some foods which one can consume as dietary sun protectors – they may or may not avert tanning, but do contribute towards minimizing the deleterious effect of the UV rays. This includes beta carotene (carrots, mango, papaya), lycopene (tomatoes), etc.

Me : For someone who wants to steer clear of cosmetics and relies on natural real, whole food as an overall nourishment for body, mind and soul and of course the skin as well, what do you say about the possibilities?

Dr. Rushika : By all means!!! I would like to broadly divide the available FMCG products in two groups – cosmetics and ‘skin care products’. Now the former class is more of an adornment, and are entirely a matter of personal preference, whereas consuming a healthy, balanced diet is going to enhance the health of one’s skin irrespective of whatever other skin-care regime is the person following.

A few additional points:
Eat right for your skin type:-
  • A person with dry skin can benefit from including more of healthy fats in their diet, in the form of nuts, fish, flaxseed, hemp seed, olive, olive oil, peanuts, etc. Though conclusive proof is lacking, evening primrose oil may also be beneficial.
  • Oily skin benefits from a vitamin A rich diet.
  • Someone with excessive pigmentation, should have a vitamin C rich diet
  • For a youthful skin, as natural anti-ageing compounds, one should have a diet rich in antioxidants like polyphenols (green tea and pomegranates are especially rich sources, among others) as well as omega-3 fatty acids.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Curry patta powder or karuveppilai podi | a multipurpose condiment to have...

Curry patta powder or karuveppilai podi

Curry patta or curry leaves are not something that makes curry powder as a westerner would know. Curry patta or Karipatta is an aromatic herb that grows on a tree, with immense medicinal value apart from a wonderful taste it imparts in curry or daal tempering. This curry patta powder or karuveppilai podi is a condiment that can be used to make lentil soups, as a seasoning to buttermilk or anything you can think of with it.

I have been suggesting this powder to my friends for so long that almost all of them use it now. The most common use being mixed with the daily buttermilk or raita. I use it for my red lentil soups too. Actually made the soup today for dinner in a different way and am going to share that recipe as well in this post.

Recipe alert : you need a lot of curry patta to begin with. Almost a whole branch of a handsome tree.

Recipe highlight : the fact that it uses a lot of curry patta, this condiment is actually a nutrient supplement. Learn more about curry patta nutrients here and here.


A whole branch of curry patta or several small ones washed and rained well (5 cups of leaves)
1/2 cup of chana daal (split chickpeas)
1/2 cup of urad daal (skinned black beans)
1 tbsp each of cumin seeds and black pepper corns
1/2 tsp of powdered asafoetida or a split chickpea sized resin of asafoetida if using
2 tbsp size of dry seeded tamarind, chopped with a sharp knife
12-15 or more red whole chillies, or to taste
salt to taste
sesame oil 2 tbsp

Curry patta powder or karuveppilai podi


Heat the oil in a thick base kadhai, I used my desi Cast iron kadhai. Tip in the asafoetida and chopped tamarind first and fry it for a few seconds to dehydrate it, keeping the flame low. Add the lentils, scissor cut red chillies, cumin and black pepper in that order one by one, stirring the mixture all this while. Let the lentils turn pinkish brown before adding the curry patta, all of them together.

You can add a few more spices like cardamoms and cloves if you wish.

Keep stirring the mixture slowly on low flame till the curry patta look shrunk and a bit crisp.

Curry patta powder or karuveppilai podi

Cool the mixture completely and grind it in the spice grinder of your food processor. A fine or coarse powder as per your liking, adding salt while powdering it.

Curry patta powder or karuveppilai podi

And now using this wonderfully flavorful powder for my lentil soup.

I had seen a recipe of an instant lentil rasam and was intrigued by the ease of making. I am a sucker of ready powders and pastes and  lentil paste looks really easy to do.Two kinds of lentils soaked just before an hour of dinnertime and processed within 10 minutes. And that was all preparation I did for my dinner today.

A cup of Urad daal was soaked, 2 tbsp of masoor daal (red lentil) was soaked, both of them were blended smooth, separately. A coconut chutney was made too.Then both of the lentil pastes were cooked differently to make this...

Curry patta powder or karuveppilai podi

 On the right side bowl is the red lentil soup that was just boiled in a pan for about 10 minutes. No tempering  and no complex procedures, just the red lentil paste (4 tbsp total paste) and 2 tbsp of this curry patta powder was mixed with a liter of water and boiled slowly while stirring it in between. A little salt to taste.

Left side bowl is a coconut and raw curry patta chutney with some garlic and a red chilly.

Those small fritters are the Urad daal paste blended with ginger and cumin seeds, salt to taste and a little black pepper powder. Some chopped curry patta added and fried in hot oil on medium flame. It does not soak much oil and makes very soft fritters.

The trick to make vadas or fritters that does not soak much oil while frying is, keeping the batter thick and making smooth edged vadas or fritters. Keeping the flame medium helps even cooking in the middle. The Vadas do swell up while frying, almost doubling in volume. This is achieved by blending the lentil paste in the food processor till it becomes lighter, incorporating some air.

Just some small tricks, a few easy condiments in the pantry and you can plan such instant yummy meals for your family. Such meals are quicker when there are just two members in the family, a larger family means some more cooking time. But still a few ready powders help a lot...

When are you making this curry patta powder?

Monday, October 1, 2012

date and walnut gelato...or call it ice cream...

Someone very sweet and nice had got me a packet of dates from Muscat. These were the best dates I had tasted till date. Yes, till date :-)

Almost jelly like dates, a nice treat when I felt like having something sweet. Just one date would be enough to make one sated with a complex sweetness. I used them for this Gelato or Ice cream, whatever you choose to call it...

Very easy, using just two ingredients, just two hours of soaking and 5 minutes of grinding it smooth. Not much of a recipe right?

But it is a great dessert for someone who wants to stay away from sugar and still wants to serve a tempting desserts to her/his family and friends.

It helps that the dessert is a 'no cooking' type and uses just two ingredients.

To make 4-5 servings you need...

Walnuts 50 gm
good quality dates 12 (the weight after soaking and removing seeds was 125 gm)

You see I forgot to weight he dates before I soaked them and there were no more dates left after experimenting with this recipe twice. Yes, the first time I used just 25 gms of walnuts and the Gelato was too sweet for my taste. You can always adjust the quantity of both the ingredients to adjust the nuttiness and sweetness quotient. The consistency of the Gelato remains the same creamy thick in both cases.


Grind the walnuts first in the food processor. I used my trusted mixie jar. Blend the walnuts in short spurts till it becomes almost pasty.

Add the dates(seeds removed) and blend till a smooth paste is formed. If required, add the soaking water in small quantity. I added 1 tbsp of the soaking water, the rest was added to my herb tea.

The texture of this Gelato is wonderfully creamy and can be served right away if you don't want it chilled. It doesn't get icy when you freeze it as it has very low water content and the creaminess of the walnuts. So you are not required to blend it again and freeze the second time over.

The Gelato can be served right after an our of freezing. Simply chilling the Date and Walnut Gelato works fine too.

The serving size is quite small as I find it quite rich in flavors.

I would like some whipped fresh cream on it sometimes, my parents loved it with clotted cream (fresh malai) though. Try having this dessert in just a heaped tablespoon serving size. And then see if you need more. I am sure it would make you feel sated in just that much...