Thursday, December 27, 2012

spaghetti with chicken meatballs | pasta made healthy...




Meat balls have won me tremendous complements each time I have cooked them. They are so consistent in bringing me instant gratification, the kind that comes when you see people enjoying their food. The kind when you see a kid eating slowly relishing the food on her plate. That is a precious feeling and I keep repeating such nutritious tasty foods that are loved by all. Failure proof I call them.

I don't cook with beef mince (though I have no reservations in eating it) so the meat balls are either cooked with mutton mince or chicken mince. Chicken mince is easier as it cooks faster and makes your job convenient by saving you time while deep/shallow frying. No points for guessing that I use chicken mince most of the times when I do meat balls. To tell you the truth I like it more with chicken mince as I don't like my meat balls to be too meaty in flavor. Please feel free to use any kind of mince you like, you just have to add a little more seasoning to it as the red meat requires a bit heavy seasoning in them. Also, the cooking time will increase and you would like to fry them on a low heat to allow even cooking. You wont mind this little hassle if you like you meatballs meaty. Other procedures are just the same.

However deep fried, the meatballs don't absorb oil while frying since no flour or breadcrumbs have been used in the mixture. Read the recipe.

These meatballs are gluten free, that is if you pair them with rice or soba noodles, the meal would be absolutely gluten free. Here I served them with whole wheat spaghetti and the leftovers with whole wheat penne. I like adding some vegetables to my spaghetti and meatball platter, you see a bed of quickly stir fried spinach on these plates. It was an awesome combination and healthy to boot.


recipe and ingredients for meat balls...
(2-4 servings)
chicken mince 250 gm
chopped white parts of spring onions 1/4 cup
grated carrot 2 tbsp
finely minced ginger and garlic 2 tsp each
finely chopped sweet basil 2 tbsp
torn fresh oregano leaves 1 tbsp (or 1/2 tsp of dried oregano)
red chilly flakes 1 tsp or to taste
salt to taste

procedure...
Mix everything in the list together, it looks like this.


Pinch out small portions, the size of small Indian limes and deep fry in hot olive oil or sunflower oil. You might like to shallow fry if you have a greater control on turning the meatballs swiftly so they don't break or become loose during shallow frying. I have no picture of a shallow frying stage as it was made for guests and there were too many things to handle within a short time span.

Drain the meatballs on a kitchen tissue towel. Use as desired or refrigerate.

The meat balls keep well in the fridge if you wish and can be reheated with a prepared sauce.

My sauce for meatballs this time was a simple tomato concasse that I make for my pasta dishes. Here is another recipe for a pasta sauce or tomato concasse that uses red bell peppers. The simplest of pasta sauces these are. Use any of these to serve with these meat balls.

ingredients and recipe of meat ball sauce...
chopped tomatoes (I Used a mix of Roma and heirloom) 300 gm
(you might like to blanch and peel the skin and then chop them for a smoother texture of sauce)
grated carrot 3/4 cup
finely chopped garlic 1 tbsp
shredded sweet basil 3 tbsp
fresh oregano leaves 4-5 (or a pinch of dry oregano)
chilly flakes 1-2 tsp
salt to taste
olive oil 2 tbsp
tomato ketchup 3-4 tbsp (optional)

procedure...
Heat olive oil in a pan and tip in the garlic. Tip in the grated carrots as soon as the garlic starts sizzling. Stir fry till the carrot is limp and dehydrated. Add salt and red chilly flakes and then the chopped tomatoes and cook till soft and mushy. Keep stirring in between and reduce the sauce til thick and creamy. Add the tomato ketchup is using and mix well (add 1 tsp sugar to balance the taste if not using ketchup), add the herbs, mix and use as desired.

Mix the fried meat balls with this sauce and heat together till it starts sizzling. serve hot over freshly boiled spaghetti or any pasta of your choice.

Ingredients and procedure for the spinach stir fry....
spinach 400 gm
minced garlic 1 tsp
olive oil 1 tsp
salt to taste

procedure..
Heat the oil in a shallow pan and tip in the garlic immediately. Cover it all with roughly chopped spinach as son as the garlic starts sizzling. Sprinkle salt, mix lightly and cook covered for abut 5-7 minutes on low flame. Serve as a base for spaghetti with meat balls or as you desire.

My plate had a lot of spinach for the base..I love it this way.You can see the other plate has lesser spinach and more spaghetti..for obvious reasons :-)


I stir fried some diced zucchini and mushrooms the other day and had the meat balls mixed with penne and this vegetable mix.



 Succulent and richly flavored meatballs without nay bread crumbs or flour to bind. And these bind very well to be fried and later are very soft and crumbly rather than firm and rubbery. Now you know how to make the meatballs really decadent.

A flavorful sauce, soft and succulent meatballs and a little bot of pasta. Some more greens of vegetables if you are like me and you never would feel pasta is not a healthy meal.

Do you?


Monday, December 24, 2012

apple-ginger-honey spiced cake | a whole wheat cake that is nutty without nuts...


Baking cakes with whole wheat flour has it's own advantages. You get nutty flavors even without using any nuts so it can be great for someone with nut allergies. Also, I have always been endorsing recipes that are affordable for all, that is when they don't use too expensive ingredients and are easy to cook or bake. Cost of the ingredients is a relative factor as we all find our spending limits variable, like I would spend on nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables more than my own limits sometimes but wont ever buy a jar of blueberry jam that costs me 250 bucks. The reason is, I look for value for money when it comes to nutrient availability, taste and texture if I am shopping for food ingredients. I also care to reduce my carbon footprint so rarely use any imported stuff.

But honestly, when I bake something in my kitchen, only two factors are on my mind. The final taste of the bake and how uncomplicated it would be to whip up. Time management is a major issue with me and I know it is for many of you as well, so the affordability of a recipe has more concern towards time taken and expertise required. I am sharing an easy recipe yet again.


This cake would use apples from Himachal or Kashmir or any apples you find locally. We all stock spices and honey so there will be no exotic ingredients to be sourced. I keep getting complements on how I post recipes with readily available ingredients but I would tell you honestly, this happens because I believe in using local ingredients more and more.

ingredients...
( for 2 loaves)

chopped apples 3 cups (2 large apples, I used one golden delicious one kashmir red)
grated carrot 1 cup
grated ginger 2 tbsp
whole wheat flour 3 cups
sugar 3/4 cup
honey 3/4 cup
olive oil 1 cup
cloves 8
dry ginger 1 inch piece or dry ginger powder 2 tsp
cinnamon 1 inch piece
baking soda 1/4 tsp
baking powder 2 tsp
eggs 4
pinch of salt

procedure...

First powder the sugar with the spices so it makes spiced sugar. Keep aside.

Mix the whole wheat flour with salt, baking soda and baking powder and keep aside.

In a deep mixing bowl, whip the eggs with the oil and honey first. Add the grated carrots and then the sugar and whip.


Add the flour mix and fold gently. Add the chopped apple bits and fold them all in the thick batter.

The batter is quite thick like muffin batter, so you can bake muffins with this as well. Scoop the batter into greased and dusted loaf tins and bake in preheated oven at 160-180 C for 45-50 minutes.

I baked one regular loaf and two small loaves (in the foil trays) and noticed that the foil ones baked earlier than the aluminium loaf tin, so took out the foil trays first and baked the loaf tin for further 10 minutes.Watch the baking after 40 minutes and decide accordingly.


This cake tastes great while still warm, but since it is a spiced cake, it certainly ages well. Tastes much better after 2-3 days and even after a eek of baking. If it lasts that long.


As I discussed in the beginning of this post, whole wheat imparts a rich nutty flavor to a cake, especially if you allow the crust to brown a little. But take care not to brown the crust too much as it gets light brown to dark brown very quickly. I have burnt many of my crackers when a call came when I was baking or when I got stuck to my monitor for a minute. A burnt aroma you wont enjoy in a whole wheat cake as you do in a smoky barbecued meat. So take care not to let the crust get too brown.

This cake is nutty without the nuts as I said, rich and dense being whole wheat but very soft and redolent with flavors of ginger and honey. Apple flavors are not that apparent on the palate, just a fruity hint but it imparts the much needed softness to the cake. Grated carrots are used to make the cake moist, you can use another grated apple if you don't want carrots in it.

The small loaves that I gave away. Got huge complements about the taste and how the cake tastes so rich. I gifted these ones after a day of baking it so it tastes better, I knew it wont last till the next day once cut. This cake is better after a bit of ageing.


Spices and ginger make this cake really Christmas flavor. Winters are anyways spice and ginger flavored for me, so this cake is rich with all one needs in this season. In small doses though.

How healthy is your Christmas cake?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday brunch at ITC Maurya | when eating out has to be an experience to cherish...


 Winters in Delhi are a fleeting one month affair. Well, there is some time around this one month that we include in winters as we like staying safe from the scorching sun this country brings in for the most part of the year. That short period of winters is enjoyed basking in the sun as much as possible. Going out on Sundays for heritage walks around the city is my favorite winter activity during weekends. Sometimes we go for brunches that are ever so popular in this city, if we are not heading towards purani dilli to enjoy our Al Jawahar Ishtoo....

Last Sunday it was at ITC Maurya, a posh hotel with splendid offerings for a Sunday brunch. You get to enjoy three restaurants within one brunch package. The Pavillion, The West View and My Humble House. Or any one of these if you choose so.

The multi cuisine restaurant Pavillion is on the ground floor with a wide variety of continental, mediterranian, Italian and Chinese as well. What got my fancy was this corner where they have set up a Biranj, the way an old Delhi chap would say brunch. It is Dumpukht Biranj.


I liked the Biryani and the Haleem very much. Biryani perfectly done, succulent meat and rice redolent with juices of the meat. Haleem was creamy white and I couldn't taste any lentils in it, it felt to have nut paste and quite rich. Loved it however rich it was. Chicken dopyaza was really good too, succulent and flavorful, mildly spicy.


 The antipasti platter and fruit platters are really rich. All good quality fresh product to choose from. We nibbled a few things before we decided to taste the Haleem and Biryani.


Look at the salads on offer..something for every taste....


And they have great desserts for you as well. Ranging from sugar free to heavy Indian mithais, the selection of desserts is vast to choose from.


 But this is not it. The West view- the western grill is even more exotic in it's offerings. With a live band you feel like hanging around sitting quietly, humming with them.


Look at the cheeses, cold cuts and salads..


All laid out on this huge table propped up with antique utensils, food platters all modern, a very interesting contrast styling.


 In the grill room they have a huge variety of meats, seafood and vegetables on display. You choose from it and then get it grilled there, get the meats dressed up as you wish and enjoy the warmth.


We chose a few steaks, tail of lobster and some salad. Everything fresh and as it should be, succulent and flavorful. I liked a marinated slice of pineapple grilled quite a lot.

On the pasta counter I tried an aubergine and mushroom lasagna, it was nice but the paneer and cheese quiche was awesome. A crisp, very thin puff pastry crust and a crumbly soft baked paneer base was nicely done. The chef made me taste the spinach and ricotta ravioli and artichoke ravioli in cheese sauce. I liked the spinach and ricotta but artichoke is too acidic for my taste as it comes from a can.


We didn't have any space or inclination for a dessert after all these stuff we tried. We were full and couldn't sample any of the food on offer at The Humble house. Their dessert display is beautiful with a view of the roads in the background. The way you would like to see Delhi in winters..


With this much variety on offer, it becomes a meal that is an experience to cherish. I would say many healthy options to choose from if you can decide what suits you.

All this is on offer for INR 2499+taxes inclusive of soft beverages for two.
INR 2999+taxes for the Grande` Brunch, inclusive of sparkling wine.
INR 3499+taxes for the luxury Brunch that includes selections form all these three restaurants, inclusive of Champagne.

This is the kind of place I would like to go again and again. I strongly recommend West view Grill if you like your meats and seafood grilled and some good freshly made pasta. For the North Indian food I would recommend The Pavillion as I liked everything I tasted there. A thumbs up from me on the taste and ambiance front. The cost is a bit high but they have set their standards high so you would expect that.

PS : This was an invited brunch for the two of us, myself and Arvind. The opinions are all my own and honest.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

knol khol, kohlrabi or ganth gobi...two soupy Kashmiri style curry with it..


Winters in Delhi are just a fleeting cold season. We love to take out our jackets and quilts for about a month or so but keep enjoying the winter vegetables for a little longer. Richer meat stews are enjoyed more during winters but I am partial to me vegetables and keep having my soup meals no matter what. So we had a pizza and spaghetti with meat balls dinner one day and then I felt like a light warming hearty soup for lunch the next day. This is what I made as I love the Monji nadru (recipe later in the post) or Gogji nadru, the Kashmiri curries with knol khol and turnips respectively. While I cook this curry traditionally with lotus stem as well, but I love it even without that. And this time I even converted it to a rice and knol khol soup. These vegetables in season are so tasty that you need minimal spicing or seasoning with them, the natural flavors of the veggie keep lingering on your mind for long. Just like some hard core non vegetarians rave about pork belly or a beef steak.

ingredients..
(makes one large meal serving)
knol knol (gaanth gobi) 250 gm including the leaves
basmati rice 1 tbsp (you can use brown rice)
mustard oil 1 tbsp
2 broken green chillies
asafoetida powder 1 pinch
salt to taste

procedure...

Wash, clean and chop the leaves of the knol khol separately. The bulbs need to be chopped in asymmetrical slices. Just halve the bulb and then slice it roughly.

Heat oil in a pressure cooker and coat the interiors of the pressure cooker pan well with the oil. Tip in the asafoetida and then the knol khol slices and toss to cook them. keep stirring or tossing till the edges become pinkish.

Add slat and green chillies, 1/2 cup of water and pressure cook till the whistle blows. You have to add the brown rice and 1/4 cup of water extra if using brown rice before pressure cooking. Otherwise add white rice and a little water after pressure cooking the curry, and then cook till the rice is done, adding more water of required. I like this soupy curry to be a bit watery.


The flavors are out of this word and I can even use slightly mature knol khol too for this curry-soup, as in this case. The leaves were lesser and the bulbs were mature and fibrous. But I had to have it like this.

The same curry can be made using only the leaves of knol khol or even Turnips.

Since I introduced the quick soup first, I owe you the traditional recipe of Monji nadru as well... here it is...Knol khol with more fresh green leaves and a fat lotus stem...



First you chop the Knol khol and the lotus stem in slanted slices...


 Heat mustard oil in  pressure cooker pan, tip in the asafoetida and then add the chopped knol khol and lotus stems. Toss and fry till both become a bit pinkish on corners.

Add salt and broken green or red chillies. Add a cup of water and pressure cook just till the whistle blows. If the knol khol is tough you might need more cooking time.



This is my meal sometimes on it's own..but I eat 2 large bowls of it. So warming comforting during this time of the year. Don't worry I keep eating my proteins well.

Sometimes I cook this same curry with small cut pieces of chicken too..a complete meal in that case.


Monday, December 17, 2012

English muffins made easy | one more griddle baked bread...



English muffins are the easiest breads to bake. And they are baked without an oven. So all you friends and readers who have been suggesting me to posts a bread that can be baked without an oven, here is another for you. The first one I posted for you was the griddle Focaccia that had become very popular. Interestingly, that was also made using sourdough starter. It's not my fault, sourdough proliferates fast when you revive it and then pushes you to experiment more. So I make pancakes and griddle Focaccia and sometimes these English muffins. These are so easy to make, to refrigerate and even to serve that you would feel like making them every week. And see how versatile these are. They taste yummy with jams and marmalade, with runny or firm egg scramble, with any stir fry saucy veggie, all as toppings. I even make quick pizzas with them when required.

For those who avoid wheat and gluten, these English muffins can be made using a mix of Soy flour and millet flours as well. See how I did a multi grain English muffin long back..


I know you are wondering why these English muffins are square. I don't make the dough runny and do not use a ring to bake these. A soft dough rolled up and then cut with the help of a square cutter is much more easier and cleaner to work with. See how...


The dough is rolled out into a 1 cm thick sheet, then cut out into squares, I used a cracker cutter. Then I arranged the cut breads onto a hot cast iron griddle. Use any flat base heavy griddle you have.

Cover the griddle and wait till the upper surface changes color, you would see the breads have fluffed up. Flip and cover the griddle again and let the other side brown lightly. Remove from the griddle and keep them wrapped in a cloth napkin. Repeat making more English muffins till you finish the dough.

To open these English muffins you have to slit the bread from one side and open it using your thumb  For the square ones you might need to slit them from all four sides, especially when the bread is 100%wholewheat. Once slit, they just open freely and you can see a spongy interior.


And you can always make the round ones..


Just keep them wrapped with a cloth napkin in a closed lid container and refrigerate for a week or so. And now see how versatile they are...

I even made pizzas with them...

Just spread thin slices of tomatoes, some chopped garlic, mozzarella cheese chopped into bits and some fresh herbs. I used Basil and Oregano. Drizzled Extra virgin olive oil and microwaved. Yes it's quick and an easy snack or meal whatever way you want it.


You can drizzle some garlic infused Olive oil if you have that. Or just butter. Or garlic butter. Freedom is yours :-)

And now how to make the dough for this wonderful griddle baked English muffin recipe. I use sourdough starter so I just add equal amounts of starter (poolish) and dry whole wheat flour, 2-3 tbsp of milk powder or some fresh cream, salt to taste and knead a loos soft dough. Let it rest till doubled and then make a ball and roll out on a flat, dusted with flour, surface. Cover the rolled out sheet with a cloth napkin rinsed with warm water and rest the sheet till it has risen a bit. Proceed with cutting and baking on the griddle.

In case you are using dry yeast (instant or active) , a 25 gm sachet would be good enough for 4 cups of flour. Just salt to taste and knead with warm milk or soy milk. Knead till the dough is smooth, cover and let the dough rise, knead once more and roll out, rest the rolled out sheet for a while till it rises a bit, cut the shapes you want and bake on the griddle.

You can always make the English muffins using a tacky wet flowing dough, using ring moulds on the griddle, like Alton Brown does it.


Here are the round ones with fried eggs and square ones with marmalade.

The English muffins freeze well and you can thaw and reheat them whenever required. Freezers are wonderful to own if we have a hectic schedule. Read more.

Now don't complaint that you can't enjoy home bakes breads without having an oven.

How would you like your English muffins?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

buckwheat pancake with caramelised banana and date syrup...


These are gluten free pancakes that provide complex carbs and some protein for a healthy breakfast. Breakfast pancakes of the fluffy type are more of an American way of making them, Europeans love their crepes, the thin and crisp ones. We Indians make a few thin and crisp crepes in savory and sweet variety as well, but there are a few hearty pancakes made with whole wheat too. Those thicker Indian pancakes are not fluffy types, more on the soft inside-crisp outside variety. One Gud wale cheeley (jaggery-wholewheat pancakes)I have posted in the past and another desi wholewheat pancakes with molasses I posted as a guest post sometime ago. I think I have posted quite a lot of pancakes on my other blog as well, the reason being the husband who can have pancakes even for dinner. I am not a pancake person at all, a sweet meal can make me sick of sugar for a whole week. I make my savory pancakes for myself.

Talking of savory pancakes, I have posted one with Buckwheat as well, Zucchini pancakes with buckwheat that is a favorite way of having our meals during fasting days of Navratri. This fruity sweet buckwheat pancake is also suitable of fasting days, makes a nice vrat ka khana recipe.

Nothing fancy, a batter made with buttermilk and made into pancakes that takes just about 20 minutes if you are making them for one or two people. Using a dosa griddle helps as you can make about 4-5 pancakes at a time.

ingredients...
(2 breakfast servings)

buckwheat flour 1 cup (scant)
buttermilk a scant cup or as required
pinch of soda bi carb
pinch of salt
ghee or butter to shallow fry about 2 tbsp

banana, butter and date syrup of maple syrup or honey to serve, as much as you want...

procedure...

Add the buttermilk to the buckwheat flour in a deep bowl and keep whisking all this while. The batter should make a flowing thick consistency. Add the soda bi carb and salt to it and then heat a griddle or flat base frying pan to make the pancakes.

Drop a small ladle-full on the hot and greased griddle and let it spread by it's own. Repeat the process to make more pancakes in the empty space on the griddle. Within a couple of minutes you would see air bubbles appearing on top and then the base of the pancake becomes firm.

This is the time to turn the pancakes with the help of a spatula. See collage to get the exact idea...


It takes about 2-3 minutes to cook on the other side as well. Remove all the pancakes from the griddle and repeat making more pancakes till the batter is over.

Chop the peeled banana over the same hot griddle which is greased after shallow frying the pancakes and let the slices get caramelised, turn them to get brownish both sides and serve it on the sides or on top of the pancakes, drizzled with date syrup, honey or maple syrup.


Arvind likes his pancakes very lightly sweetened and I always add a pinch of salt to the pancake batter so the sweetness of the syrup is more enhanced. These are perfectly crisp outside and firm soft inside, the soft mushy banana slices make a nice accompaniment to this hearty buckwheat pancake.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How to make marmalade in a pan | mixed citrus fruits marmalade...


We rarely eat marmalade and jams but I love making them. Have already made and posted a recipe of microwave cooked orange, lime and grapefruit marmalade before. This time I made it in a pan so the recipe is clear to a few friends who requested. The right consistency when the marmalade is ready to be bottled and the extraction of pectin from the seeds and white pith is something that can intimidate someone who is making marmalade for the first time. I hope all those fears will be overcome after this post and a jar will be made in your kitchen as well.

 Marmalade and jams are much loved all around the world as the fruit flavor gets intensified in a preserve that can be used to glaze cakes and muffins or for an occasional fruit sandwich that we enjoy. Sometimes I add my citrus fruit marmalade to the cake batter after mixing so the marmalade stays in lumps mimicking fruit. Also a little orange marmalade over fried chicken breasts with soy and a few Chinese spice powders is a great way to enjoy the fruity preserve.

This season I made marmalade in two batches. One was made at a friend's place and another batch at home, as usual a night time cooking spree for me. A pan full of marmalade was cooked and bottled. The next day our home was to be whitewashed so a small jar of this was used to make fruit sandwiches too. Peanut butter, orange marmalade and banana sandwiches to be precise.


 I made this collage (below) so the cooking procedure is clear in one go.

First we separate the fruit parts. The seeds and the white pith and parchment like skin of each segment is saved as you see in the first picture. Seeds of grapefruit have a lot of pectin so it's always a good idea to use them while making marmalade or jamming any fruit that does not have it's own pectin.


To a packed cup of skin and seeds add 2 cups of water and cook either in a pan (gently simmered for about 15 minutes) or in pressure cooker (till the first whistle) or in microwave for about 10 minutes with a few 2 minute breaks. The water appears clear but gummy after cooking as the pectin gets extracted from the seeds and skin. This water (the liquid filtrate) is to be used and the solids discarded. You would like to press the solids hard against a sieve so the thick jelly like solution gets extracted in the last.

Now this solution is to be added to the cleaned segments of fruit. I used a mix of Sweet lime, Grapefruit and Oranges(see pictures above). About 1/4 cup of orange peel chopped into thin strips is added to this mixture. And then the mixture is heated to boil. Once boiling, keep a stirring spatula in the pan all the time and simmer on low flame. The mixture bubbles, froths a little and thickens a little. It needs cooking for about 40 minutes to an hour on low flame (depending on the water content of fruit, added water etc etc).

To test if the cooking mixture is ready to be bottled...


  • Just when you see the mixture turning shiny and translucent and the syrup does not spread and dissolve when dropped into a bowl of water, it is ready to be bottled. 
  • Or if you drop the cooked mixture from the spatula, it leaves a trail of two strings in the last. 
  • Another way to test a cooked marmalade is to take out 2 spoonfuls into a flat bowl and cool it slightly, a thin translucent film will start forming on the surface indicating the marmalade is done.


Keep sterilised bottles handy and pour the cooked liquid in them, it sets into gorgeous marmalade as it cools down.


Are you a marmalade lover as well? How do you like your marmalade?

Here is the ingredient list for making this marmalade...
just three ingredients, some time a lot of patience...

separated flesh of oranges, sweet limes and grapefruit (or any one fruit) 6 cups
sugar 4 cups
water 2 cups or a bit more to extract pectin

It's fun to make such preserves when you are accompanied with a friend or family members, you keep chatting and soaking in the wafting citrus aromas and a couple of jars of marmalade are ready in a jiffy.


And later you enjoy the fruit of hard work. Any which way you like...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stir fry salads simply made to suit your mood | Do you listen to your body?



This salad was made in 10 minutes flat one day for lunch and I had the leftovers as an evening snack too. It was this kind of flavors I wanted that day and didn't get bored eating it twice in a row. Do you cook according to your moods too?

The most simple recipes are repeated more frequently in my kitchen and all greens make an appearance here and there as a rule. Unfortunately we have to refrain from leafy green sometimes in tropical counties like ours. We normally avoid leafy greens during rainy season in India as there is a lot of bacterial/fungal contamination, the weather being very conducive for their growth. So the raw food is given a break for a while during this time of the year and my salads turn to the wok. We also avoid any leafy greens during stomach upsets, until the gut flora is restored.

In those times My solution is other green veggies.  A few vegetables are stir fried quickly so the crunch is not lost and yet they are cooked enough on the surface so any contamination is killed. Green beans are my favorite for such crunch. We get very good tender green beans here in Delhi and very fresh sweet corn on the cob. I always get the whole cobs and get it shelled by hands. No grating or using a knife to shell them as the germ of the corn is left behind in that case. So shell out the whole kernel of corn if you can. To tell you the truth, I find a few such activities meditative. Like shelling green peas or Corn kernels. You sit in a comfortable couch by the window and keep an old newspaper in you lap, and just go on with your work. Try that sometime.

ingredients...

green beans chopped in whatever way you like 2 cups
shelled corn kernels 1 cup
boiled, rinsed and squeezed soy chunks 1 cup or more if you like
or add some grilled/boiled and shredded chicken pieces
garlic powder 1/4 tsp or to taste (replace with fresh garlic if you wish)
freshly milled black peppercorns 2 tsp or to taste (I like it hot)
dark soy sauce and very little salt to taste
sesame oil 2 tsp

procedure...

Chop the soy chunks to small pieces if you are using the large variety. Mine was a smaller variety which is suited for this kind of cooked salads.

Heat the oil in a wok/pan and tip in the green beans first, followed by soy chunks and then the sweet corn kernels. Season with the the listed ingredients and toss well for about 4-5 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature. this salad suits very well for lunch boxes. The crunch of the beans and sweet corn and a springy bite due to soy chunks or chicken (if you are using) provides a nice textural richness. You might like to add some roasted peanuts to it if you wish to make it protein dense.

It can be a complete meal in that case. A kind of meal you have when you are not fussing about a well laid out table or the gourmet experience. Eating healthy is not rocket science.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The recipe is done, any available vegetables can be tossed up to make a salad and just any seasoning can perk up the salad for you, depending on what mood you are in that day. It works this way for me. Well, almost always. Prefixed menus never worked for me as my spices and flavors are decided right at the time of cooking most of the times. Of course everything is worked up according to seasonal produce and climate. When someone asks me how I manage to cook healthy in every season I don't have a clear answer honestly. I just follow my instincts to choose my spices and condiments, listen to my body and try and incorporate all seasonal produce. Never fuss about what is available and what is not. The same applies for many other truths and facts about life.

We have seen people who would hoard mangoes in the fridge for winters. Or freeze berries to last the whole year. When would we enjoy the seasonal fruits and veggies? Every season has something new. Why fussing about a cauliflower in the peak of summers? We ignore something really simple and easily available when we fuss for such things..

 I was wondering about why some people stay obsessed about a particular type of exercise or fitness regime. Or a specific muscle or body part in question.You would see them discussing about a particular lift or a particular push up that has made them look like a Greek God or so they think. I think they have never seen Tribals and villagers who never have imagined a gym and still manage to have perfectly chiseled bodies. No one has taught them how to lift weight and how to squat but they do it in perfect 'technique and form'. If you are wondering how, just think they do it naturally and are not ashamed of their body. They would never think how they are looking when they squat down to do a chore or lift a heavy weight from ground. So they just follow a perfect body posture out of instinctive reflex. The uninhibited attitude works wonders for their body and fitness.

Listening to the body works wonderfully. Making it an instinctive reflex works for life. If you have been spoiled by an urban couch potato life, start doing some body weight exercises or go lift some weights minding your 'form' first. It will become an instinctive reflex after some time. That would be a learned skill but would make your shape better and better. Or the potato in you keep becoming better and better :-)

Being comfortable in my skin and body type works well for me. Worrying about a specific body part is so misleading. Moving the body in the most natural way has more rewards.So let's get going :-)

Friday, December 7, 2012

mushrooms and cashew nuts stir fry | a yummy finger food or a side dish...


Everyone loves butter fried Mushrooms it's no secret. Some like to add more flavors to butter fried Mushrooms and add garlic to it. Some others like to add even more flavors and some texture too and make it into a lip smacking stir fry that will tempt you to have it as a finger food. And may be it becomes a favorite finger food at your place, like it is at mine. We often call it Kaju-kishmish mushroom.

The flavors are hot and sweet and peppery, the textures are most amazing, soft and plump mushrooms, chewy sweet raisins and a bite in the cashew that is not crunchy as it soaks the liquids while cooking. Imagine fried cashews soaked in mushroom flavors, slightly wilted mushrooms and freshly cracked peppercorns and a few chewy sweet golden raisins. Intrigued? You better be.

You would find yourself making it quite a lot. Even as a snack for your weekend drink may be. Yes, it is that good. Just keep the mushrooms in large pieces (may be halves) and cashews whole if you are planning to turn this dish into finger food.

ingredients...
button mushrooms cut into desirable sized pieces 200 gm
cashews chopped, halved or whole as you wish 100 gm
golden raisins 20-25 gm or to taste
dry red chilies broken 2-3 or to taste
freshly crushed/milled peppercorns 1 tbsp or to taste
anardaana (coarse powder or dried pomegranate seeds) 1/2 tsp or amchoor powder 1/4 tsp
salt to taste
butter 1 tbsp
fresh cream 2 tbsp

procedure...
Heat the butter briefly in a pan and tip in the cashews and broken red chilies in it. Let the cashews fry in the butter while the butter gets lightly browned during this, the chilly infuses with the butter as well. Cashews also turn pinkish. This has to be done on a medium-low flame as there is minimal butter to fry.

Add the fresh cream and chopped mushrooms to this frying mix, add salt and start stirring till the mushrooms release water, the mixtures gets a bit watery with the cream and the liquid oozing out from mushrooms. Slowly the mushrooms get dry and wilted in 5 minutes or so

Add the freshly crushed peppercorns, golden raisins and anardana powder and stir fry for a minute. Take off heat and serve hot or at room temperature.


This is an often repeated recipe at my place and I always forget to take pictures as it has now become more of a finger food and gets over within minutes of stir frying. Not to mention it just takes 10 minutes to prepare. This old picture taken by my point and shoot camera is here for you all, as a friend of mine wanted a written recipe for it when I was telling her over the phone. Now you know how simple it is to turn mushrooms into finger food...

Otherwise it makes a nice stuffing for grilled sandwiches if minced nicely while stir frying, or a side dish with any meal you plan.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Stewed fish in coconut milk and peppers....


I like my fish steamed or stewed for the succulent texture that is preserved. Sometime lightly fired with a crisp crust and moist interiors. Stewing the fish in coconut milk base is the easiest and yummiest way to enjoy fish anytime at my place. You know well I love spending lesser time on the stove, although chopping the greens and vegetables is not a problem for me. You might find it strange but it's true that I am not scared of chopping garlic or onion, provided there is time. For this stewed fish in coconut milk with accentuated peppery flavors too I decided to shop and slice a few ingredients and stir fry them before stewing them with the fish steaks. The picture is from last year and was not posted somehow but now that I made it again using a fillet of sea bass, I was reminded of how so much better it tasted with a  steak of Rohu last time. And I dug out the pictures to share.

ingredients...
(2 servings)
4 large steaks of Rohu or any large fresh water fish (approximately 600-800 gm)
sliced onions 1.5 cup (about 200 gm)
slit green and red chilies, use the sweeter ones for more flavor and lesser heat, 3-4 nos.
(jalapeno is great, use more chilies and remove seeds from most of them)
ginger cut in this strips (julienne) 1-2 tbsp (to taste)
slit garlic cloves 4-5
curry patta springs 6-7 or 1/4 cup leaves
whole black pepper corns 1 tbsp
white pepper powder 1/2 tsp
sesame oil 1 tbsp
coconut milk 200 ml or a little more (thick and creamy is better)
salt to taste

procedure..

Rub a little salt on the fish steaks and rest side for 5-10 minutes till you prepare the other things.

Heat the oil in a wide thick bottom pan and tip in the black pepper corns first and then immediately the ginger and garlic and then the onions and slit green and red chilies in succession. Toss and cook till the onions and ginger-garlic start turning brown on the edges. Lightly caramelising while they cook.

Now add the curry patta too and mix and cook for a couple of minutes, add salt. Slide all the cooked onions and ginger-garlic-chilly mixture on the side of the pan and place the fish steaks in the middle, directly touching the hot greased pan. Place some cooked onion on top of the fish fillet and pour coconut milk gently in the hot pan.

You might like to take the pan off heat while doing it to avoid curdling of coconut milk. Add the white pepper powder, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.


The Jalapeno peppers bring another dimension to this stew so don't miss adding them. If these are not available try using green and red bell peppers. The sweetness of chilly and mild heat of the black pepper corns is the flavors that shines through the coconut milk stew. The caramelised onions provide depth to it. Curry patta is the earthy flavor to sum up.

Some coriander greens will be good if you don't get curry patta, or even some bay leaves for the earthy flavors.


Fish comes out melt in the mouth texture. Soaked up with some appam or hot boiled rice , it makes a lovely meal.

Now that it is winter and hot stews and soups are in much demand. Chicken also cooks well in the stew and sometimes I just make a potatoes stew like this and add halved boiled eggs in the last. Very versatile if you want some add-ons in this stew..

Cheers..

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

unusual greens : Bathua (Chenopodium greens) : a paratha and a raw chutney..



Bathua (Chenopodium greens)is a green leafy vegetable that comes in winters only, seen in North Indian markets more than the other parts of country, much prized for it's unique mild taste. Yes all greens have their own distinct taste although many staunch non vegetarians always complaint they all taste the same. It is loved in my household in the form of Bathua ka raita, Bathua ki kadhi , Bathua ka saag and Bathua ka paratha in a few avatars. This time I made this Bathua ka paratha with Barley flour that makes it largely gluten free (if the Barley is not processed in presence of wheat). We have always like such parathas with a bowl of fresh curds and a raw chutney made using Amla and raw soaked chana daal (split chickpeas). This chutney of daal and Amla is also made in different versions depending on the flavors I want on a particular day.

Here is how Bathua greens look. I clicked this pictures when I spotted a bunch of fresh greens in a street market in Old delhi.


These need to be cleaned, the hard stems removed and washed repeatedly rinsing the greens well, a lot of work to be done but totally worth it. The washed greens are steamed first, I prefer doing it in the microwave, just cooking covered for 2-3 minutes (300 gms or more) covered is enough to make the greens go limp. Then the greens are made into a paste, sometimes with garlic and green chilies but this time it was plain. The green paste is used to knead a dough, this time using Barley flour.


Small portions of this dough is used to roll out chapatis and is roasted over a hot griddle with ghee to make parathas. Nice and deep green parathas that are soft when hot and stay warm even when cold as the green leafy fibers keep it moist.


The chutney is also different this time... 

half a cup of chana daal is soaked for 3-4 hours or overnight..

6 large Amlas (Indian Gooseberries) are first ground into a mixie jar along with green chillies, minced first like this...


 And then the chana daal is also blended in the same jar along with salt to taste...

A tempering of a pinch of asafoetida (hing) curry leaves, mustard seeds and red chilly powder is cooked in sesame oil and is poured over the chutney...


 Now this raw chutney with a hot tempering is ready to be enjoyed with anything you wish. For us it makes an accompaniment to idlis and such green parathas sometimes.


Healthy meals are easier to assemble during winters I always feel. There are so many flavors and fresh greens and vegetables available all around. Easy and affordable nutrition.


Make this paratha using any greens you get in your part of the world. This chutney will be as good with tomatoes or cranberries or even lime juice and some coconut thrown in. Try this and let me know if you like.