Monday, February 25, 2013

a Knodel recipe and some glimpses of north Italian cuisine...



I never knew that all the Italian stuff we like is mostly from south of Italy and northern Italian food is more rustic and used unsalted butter and cream in their food. Much of a revelation it was for me when I interacted with Chef Gaurav Anand at The Park. He told me how Italians are so proud of their cheeses that there is a ban on moving cows and buffaloes of one region to another as the variety of cow determines the flavor of the cheese of the region. All the cheeses of Italy are cow milk cheeses apart from the mozzarella and they keep their cows well tagged with metal plates on their chest, with strict quarantine measure for moving them. He told us about graded tomatoes to get different flavors of sauces and top chefs carrying their own cream and butter to get the flavors right. Yes, any local cuisine tastes best with it's local ingredients, be it butter or cream of fresh green produce. Growing a few greens and herbs in my garden has made me learn this much.

The best thing I like when we go out eating in known places, that I can interact with the Chefs and talk about food and intricacies of cooking good food. Chef Gaurav told me about the cheeses used in north of Italy. The Bitto cheese, Gorgonzola, Asiago, Montassio and of course Grana padano, mascarpone and ricotta. How they use wild mushrooms a lot, Chef Gaurav has lived in North Italy to train and has seen families cooking, using fresh produce form their own garden, even wild mushrooms grow in some gardens. How they cook Polenta in wooden vessels for hours and serve themselves with a large wooden ladle. Nourishing food is always fresh and simple. He admitted it tastes different from the food if you eat in north Italy, just because of the ingredients used, but he has created the flavors quite well.

I never knew a Knodel like pasta dumpling existed in Italy too. Wiki says it is called Canederli in Italy but is a central element of central European cuisine. I couldn't stop myself form trying the dish and asking the recipe from Chef. He got the dish made for us and I loved how the three varieties of mushrooms brought magic to the sauce. Portobello, Oyster and black fungus and loads of cream, some Cheri tomatoes, herbs and this sauce brings alive a complex yet simple bouquet of flavors.


I will tell you the recipe of the Knodel and it's three mushrooms sauce before writing more about the north Italian meal that we had.

ingredients..

Bread freshly crumbed 200 gm
onion chopped 30 gm
white butter 80 gm
egg yolks 2
herbs (oregano, parsley and thyme) 5 gm
Parmesan cheese 100 gm
portobello 20 gm
Oyster mushrooms 20 gm
button mushrooms 20 gm
Ricotta cheese 5 gm
white wine 100 ml

procedure for the dumpling..

  1. Saute half of the onion in 20 gm butter till soft, add breadcrumbs and saute for a couple of minutes. Keep aside for a while.
  2. Mix this mixture with Parmesan and egg yolks and half of the herbs, knead into a dough with a sprinkle of water.
  3. Cook the dumplings in to boiling water till they come to surface, fish them out and let them cool or till required.


Procedure for the sauce...

Saute the remaining onions along with mushrooms and butter til a little soft. Add white wine and reduce till half. Add the Cheri tomatoes, cooked dumplings, herbs and cream or remaining white butter. Simmer with the dumplings for a couple of minutes and serve with a topping of ricotta cheese.

You can get this made at the live counter if you go to the ongoing north Italian fest at The Park.


There are more pastas and pizzas to be enjoyed. Fresh Zucchini flowers to be tossed up for you, made to suit your taste.


 We already had had a nice chicken soup with broccoli and Brussels sprouts that was so light and yummy we sipped it slowly, anticipating good things to come. But that was not before we rejected the insipid Asparagus soup. There are a variety of soups being served everyday, so have a taste and then decide which one you like.

Don't forget to pick up the fresh salads and cheeses form the beautiful display. Crisp Brussels sprouts, fresh Asparagus, pickled onion with raisins and various leafy greens. The way I like to load up my plate. I liked the Caponata as well, it tasted great with a few raisins into it. The presentation of Caponata could have been better as I didn't see many people picking up Caponata, I did because I love it. And didn't regret.


The Crap insalata (crab salad) was dull and insipid though I had high expectations form it. It was not fresh crabs just that. All vegetables were superbly crisp and fresh though I haven't taken many pictures of them. Stuffed artichokes, cheesy mushrooms, beets salad and many more choices are there if you want to explore. Lamb Carpaccio was a good salad tossed up with greens and peppers etc. Chicken on sticks was something mothers cook as an evening snack for kids with leftovers Chef Gaurav told us. It was good with the olive oil drizzle and fresh salad on the side.

A salmon (Atlantic salmon) stuffed with creamy risotto was my favorite on the list too. Isn't it great when you find a few great tasting dishes on a buffet. You can always discard the ones you don't like and have second and third helpings of the ones you are enjoying. A good selection of cured meats like Portadella, Prosciutto, Tuscan salami, Brisaola and salami milano are there to choose from. I don't fancy cured meat much so I skipped.

In the mains there were a few comforting flavors for me. Like this Polenta e fungi all griglia, salsa al Gorgonzola  Basically a polenta with a white creamy mushroom sauce with Gorgonzola cheese flavors. Do not miss it if you love polenta and mushrooms both. I relished it.

The Cappelotti de porcini, a stuffed pasta with porcini mushrooms was great. Freshly made pasta has it's charm and that shows here.

An unusual risotto served with shank of Veal was interesting. Much like an Italian biryani that the sticky risotto I have had till now. Chef Gaurav told me how this risotto was different as it was not cooked after adding butter, no cream used in it.


Parmigiana de melanzane, the aubergine slices baked with layers of provolone and Parmesan was great tasting. Melt in the mouth and cheesy.

This was so much food to be devoured, though both myself and Arvind just had a tasting bites of everything we tried. A baked fish with stewed potatoes is worth mentioning. It was river sole cooked to perfection. I am so going to cook it at home very soon.

The meal over, Chef Gaurav brought a Tiramisu for us. There are all the desserts on display in small portions but the Tiramisu on display is kid friendly as Chef told us. So he decided to treat us with the real thing and claimed that he does the best Tiramisu in town. We dug our spoons into it and it really was the best we have tasted till date.

Don't miss to enjoy this Tiramisu if you are at the Cafetaria insideThe Park. Ask for the real Tiramisu and not the kid friendly alcohol deprived tiramisu on display and you will be treated with aromatic Kahlua and dark rum flavors in the creamy layers of the real Tiramisu.

Very lightly sweetened as I like it.


Go for some more great desserts if you like. A good variety is on display. I liked a soft Ricotta tart with blueberry topping (see bottom left in the collage below).

Arvind liked the Mascarpone stuffed eclairs.


A hearty meal, new flavors discovered as it was the first time I tasted Veal. Distinctly different for beef and very flavorful, nicely cooked too. Pickled onions with raisins was a discovery too, something I will be recreating and the Knodel recipe off course. Do let me know if you try this Knodel recipe with mixed mushrooms sauce. Chef Gaurav wanted to acquaint us with North Italian cuisine as he wanted to share what he has learned there. It was an enriching experience for sure.

We had a cup of espresso before we left for home. I work late in the night most of the days, so this was required after a heavy meal.


I would recommend this place if you want to taste some more Italian flavors in the city. The fest is on for a week but you can always order a la carte at the Cafetaria.

I will be trying a few of these foods and would definitely share it here on Healthfood desivideshi. After all we run after the flavors so the food is satiating and refreshing both at the same time. Creating good food is simpler when you know what flavors to go for.

What say?


Friday, February 22, 2013

a quick rajma recipe : red kidney beans chilly/stew...


I realised I don't have a rajma recipe on my blog though I cook it almost every fortnight or so. I cook so many versions of this bean that it's difficult to tell a recipe when someone asks. I will tell 5 versions in a single breath. Both red kidney beans and chickpeas are so versatile if you want to combine them with vegetables and want to have them as your stand alone meals.

I had posted a Maah-rajma and a Kashmiri rajma long ago, both absolute favorites. I had intended to update the other variants as well, but somehow they felt too 'run of the mill' recipes and other better sounding recipes were posted delightfully. I know I am guilty, I realised when I casually posted a rajma chawal picture, the way I love to eat, on my facebook page Healthy Living with Sangeeta Khanna. Apart from the likes and comments, many of friends inboxed me regarding the instant feeling of hunger that picture initiated. Some wanted to know how to make a creamy type rajma, the way it looked in the picture.

I know many people who have not grown up eating rajma, struggle to find the most accurate recipe that gives them the taste they get in Punjabi families. Having said that, every Punjabi family has it's own version as well, all tasting awesome.

Coming to this recipe, it was a chance trial I did to cook quick rajma for Arvind's lunch box. It was loved so much that I started cooking it quite often. It was so light and mild on spice that I could have it as a lunch all by itself. With a generous topping of butter as you see in the picture. Now the quick recipe. It actually takes 20 minutes to get ready, and you can do a few things on the sly.

I like it with just 2 tbsp of rice or just as it is. This time there was a lot of fresh radishes from the garden, very well enjoyed with a bowl of this comforting rajma meal.

ingredients...

3 cups soaked (overnight) rajma (red kidney beans) ...you need to soak about 1.5 cup beans for this
2 large red onions (about 150 gm, roughly sliced)
3 large red ripe tomatoes (about 300 gm)
2 tsp kashmiri red chilly powder
1 tsp black pepper powder
1/2 tsp strong garam masala
salt to taste
butter as required

* The red kidney beans used here are the Badarwahi rajma, grown in Jammu and Kashmir.

procedure...

Discard the soaking water and pressure cook the beans with 2 cups of fresh water,salt and the powder spices for 10-12 minutes after the first whistle.

In the meanwhile chop the onions and tomatoes and microwave them in a covered glass bowl for about 5 minutes. Puree them using a stick blender or in your mixie/food processor.

As soon as the rajma is boiled well, it should look cracked and soft, add the tomato onion puree to it, add a Tejpatta or Bay leaf into it and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Adjust seasoning and consistency of gravy by adding water if required.

Serve hot with a generous topping of butter.

As there is no oil/ghee used for cooking the masala separately, the butter is a nice addition. And gives this rajma a very tasty twist, almost like a makhni rajma.

There can't be a simpler recipe than this of a great tasting rajma. Do let me know when you try this.

baked fish fillet with a lemon-garlic-parsley-rosemary butter....


 Baked or grilled fish has always been a favorite way to have fish but I always love my fish on bone and with skin. I feel there is just no taste when the fish is cooked without the skin and bone. Nutrition wise too, you don't get much from a fish when you remove the skin, most of the omg3 is found in the skin and bones release some calcium when cooked in curries. Although fish is seen as a potential source of chemical contaminants like mercury, we have little choice even with vegetables.

Anyways, I cook fish fillet for guests as I don't want them to struggle with fish bones on the table. Fish pieces in soups or light curries is loved more by some and grilled or baked fish is liked by some others. I baked this fish for a potluck we Delhi bloggers had at Deeba's place a couple of week's ago. It was liked by all of us. So much so that it vanished quickly and I felt terrible for not having baked more amount. The recipe was requested and I promised to upload on the blog.

And to tell you the truth, it is a simple recipe, but needs precision while baking. I say so because I have burnt my hands with this. A little bit of delay and the fish gets scalded and dry textured. I baked it once for my brother and sat with him doing some chitchat while the fish was in the oven. A little miscalculation of time and the fish got dry, though it didn't look burnt. The real pleasure of this fish is when it is baked just till the surface starts getting firm and dry. Read on.

The real taste maker in this fish recipe is this butter-lemon-herb mix.


Ingredients for the butter mix...

100 gm of butter cut into cubes, 50 ml extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp of finely chopped garlic, 1 tsp lemon zest, some rosemary and a lot of chopped parsley. Mix everything together and keep in a warm place till the butter gets soft. Then give it a good stir and let it rest for about 2 hours. This butter mix keeps well in the fridge for about a week.

The fish (I used a kilo of Basa fillet, each fillet about 350 gm) is rubbed with salt and pepper and kept aside for just 10-15 minutes.

procedure for baking the fish...

Grease a shallow baking tray that can accommodate all the fish fillet. Arrange the fish on it, preheat the oven at 180 C, sprinkle freshly milled pepper on top of the fish fillet and slip the baking tray inside the oven. Middle rack preferably. It will take about 25-30 minutes but be watchful.

after about ten minutes in the oven, the fillet releases a lot of water and looks like floating in water again. Let the water be soaked into the cooking fish again, it will be done in the next 10 minutes or so.

The fish will be cooked as soon as a the water is reabsorbed, how ever time it takes. Take out the tray and smear the fish liberally with the parsley-garlic butter mix. Slip back the tray into the oven and wait for a couple of minutes or till the surface of the fish starts bubbling with the added butter mix.

Take out the tray immediately and serve hot, sauteed Broccoli and baby potatoes arranged on the sides.

Procedure for Broccoli and baby potatoes...

500 gm both potatoes and broccoli florets were used.

Parboil the potatoes in salted water, preferably with skin (nicely scrubbed clean), but peel off the skin if it is not too clean. Keep aside.
Blanch the broccoli florets in the same salted water in which the potatoes were parboiled, quickly transfer them to ice cold water to retain the crunch and the colour. Strain and keep aside till required.

As soon as the fish is getting ready, saute the potatoes first with about 1 tbsp butter mix and then the broccoli with as much butter. Drain and arrange on the sides of the fish platter.


This is one of those recipes which will help you making a meal memorable, gatherings warmer and laughter more abundant.

You can always bake chicken too in this butter mix, or paneer or tofu if you are a vegetarian, but fish absorbs this butter-lemon-herb mix like a parched soul and gets drunk on taste.

When are you trying this baked fish?


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

red lentil and broccoli soup | soup dinners..




Lentil soups are my comfort food. Even the regular daals made the north Indian way are something I crave for every once in a while. The good thing is, the lentils are like good old friends, who will be there in all your moods. Yes, all seasons and all moods. You can spice them differently, veggie them up differently and you can have a refreshing meal every time. Like a good old comforting chat you had sitting on the sofa by the window. My friends would know what I am talking about.

I had bought 2 kilos of broccoli last week, one kilo being my regular stock for the week and another kilo got added because an old lady in the weekly vegetable market urged to me get all her stuff. I just couldn't say no to her. She had all baby broccoli with slender fresh stems and small florets on top. So there was more stems than broccoli florets. I thought of making this soup. In a pressure cooker of course.

I have posted another lentil and broccoli soup earlier, this one a different version of the same, ingredients mostly the same, procedure much simplified. Tastes as good, but quite different.

ingredients...
(3- 5 servings)

red lentils (massor daal) 3/4 cup
chopped stems of broccoli 3 cups
broccoli florets 2 cups
roughly chopped tomatoes 1 cup
roughly chopped red onion 1/2 cup
garlic cloves 12
turmeric powder 1 tsp
cumin powder 1 tsp
pepper powder 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1/4 tsp or to taste
ghee or butter 1 tsp per serving served on top

procedure..

Save the broccoli florets and ghee for later use and mix everything else in a pressure cooker pan along with 2 cups of water and pressure cook till the first whistle. Lower the flame after this and cook for 5 minutes more.

Let the pressure release by it's own and puree the contents of the pressure cooker with the help of a stick blender (hand held), or just transfer to a blender and puree.

Add a cup of water, more if required to the lentil and vegetables puree and start to simmer on low flame. Add the broccoli florets and cook just till they turn a deeper green and half cooked. You can stir fry the broccoli florets with butter and garlic before adding them to the simmering soup.

Pour the soup into serving cups or soup bowls and top with a tsp of ghee or butter.



You would be surprised to get such good taste in a soup cooked with such minimal effort. You can always have some chapati or garlic bread with this soup to make it a meal.

Or just add a few chicken pieces on bone to the boiling lentil mix, fish them out before blending the mixture and add them back once pureed. A wholesome meal in a soup bowl will be a convenience for you if you have just enough time to pressure cook a quick meal. Make it nutritious and tasty both.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

yellow bell peppers soup | soup for two in ten minutes..


Bell peppers are not very welcome in my home. The husband is intolerant to them if not allergic and can smell it in many nondescript curries and tikkas when eating out. He wouldn't feel like eating any food after that most of the times. The green capsicum, tomatoes and cashew paste is so much abused in the north Indian curries and stir fries that it becomes difficult for him to enjoy food outside. Not that he chooses to eat out, but he has to eat outside food sometimes in conferences and his official meets nevertheless.

I get bell peppers for myself many a times and cook something just for my own sake during the day time. One of the many benefits of working form home. This way I can eat bell peppers and not make him nauseous as cooking the bell peppers can be a torture for him owing to the strong aromas of bell peppers. Truth to be told, even I like those aromas subdued as I find it too overpowering for me as well. Anyways, I get to cook them so rarely that you wont see many recipes with bell peppers on Healthfood desivideshi.


I do love the burst of colour they have. Bought some fresh bell peppers the other day with an intent to cook a nice soup with them. I live on vegetable based soups in winters, for the warmth and comfort they bring. We eat a lot of meat and fish as well but soups are almost twice a day sometimes. You would know if you are a regular reader here, I can have soups even for my breakfast.

Although I am a soup personality throughout, I rarely make any vegetable stock for my soups. I like only the main ingredients to shine as it's always thick creamy type soups that I cook with vegetables. Bone broths I do with some spring onion, garlic ginger and a few herbs added and then convert it to a soup with dumplings or just egg drop, sometimes just a lot of chopped spinach if it is growing fresh in the garden. Basically no stocks in my soups. Whole vegetable to be used and some spice or herbs to enhance the flavors. Just that. And going by the way my soups are liked by all, I see no problem with it.

ingredients....
(1-2 servings depending on how big a serving you want)

one large yellow bell pepper 150 gm
two large fleshy type desi tomatoes 200 gm
garlic cloves 3-4
paprika powder 1/2 tsp or to taste
or red chilly powder to taste
salt to taste
oil 2 tsp (olive, sesame or cold pressed sunflower oil)
crushed walnuts 1 tbsp or more

procedure...

Slice the peppers and tomatoes roughly. Chop the garlic cloves roughly too.


Heat the oil in a wide pan, ad garlic and wait till they start turning pink. Add the chopped bell peppers and tomatoes, salt to taste and fry for about a minute with paprika added. Cover and cook on low flame for a couple of minutes or till they become mushy. No need to add water if you want it creamy. I did not add any.


Transfer the contents to a blender and puree nicely. Transfer again to the pan and let it simmer for a minute. Transfer to serving bowls and top with crushed walnuts.


Walnuts add an interesting touch of nuttiness to bell peppers and tomatoes make the soup a little tangy in a very nice way. Since I had made the soup for myself only, the leftover was refrigerated. It tasted as yummy the next day too even when the walnuts had gotten soaked.

The soup does not need any herbs added if you want the bell peppers to shine. You can add some thyme in browned butter on top if not using walnuts. Or just a crisp intense garlic bread would be good for you. I rarely eat my soups with bread so this one was enjoyed as it is.


This is a cheerful bowl of sunshine. A soup that would make you hungry for the main course, it is thick and creamy but not at all heavy.

Add some fresh cream and a few pieces of cubed paneer to it and make it your meal. That will make it a 10 minute meal. Okay 15 minutes if you chop slowly, just halve the bell peppers and tomatoes and cook if you are lazy, it has to be blended eventually.

How are you going to have it ?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Green garlic shoots pesto and paneer salad..


Green garlic shoots pesto and paneer salad.  Green garlic shoots are seasonal greens and I like to use them more and more till they last. I make a few small batches of this green garlic pickle every season, the lehsunsagga as my grandmother used to call it. I like it so much that I make a few variations of it too. Sometimes I would add dill greens as in the original recipe and sometimes I would add coriander greens (cilantro) or mixed herbs. It is easier for me since I have sweet basil and thai basil growing in my home garden too.

This mixed greens and green garlic shoots pesto is something everyone loves. I add green chilies for the Indian twist, may be you would like to add fewer green chilies or just omit it. It definitely is a forgiving recipe, adjusted to personal reference.

The paneer salad with it just a breeze once you have the pesto with you. Just mix with the paneer cubes, smearing every cube of paneer liberally and let it stand for at least 15 minutes before serving. It tastes best when wrapped in fresh crunchy lettuce leaves. I took this salad to a picnic sometime ago so made a large quantity of it.

ingredients for the pesto...

green garlic shoots 100 gm
coriander greens and stems 50 gm
thai basil leaves 10 gm (about 25 full grown leaves)
green chilies 2 or to taste
ginger root chopped 1 tbsp
salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil 1/2 cup

paneer
800 gm (it serves more than a dozen people as a salad or a side dish)
lettuce leaves 2 bunches

procedure..

Clean all the greens and chop them all roughly.

Blend everything together except the extra virgin olive oil. Empty into a salad mixing bowl, add the EV olive oil and then add the cubed paneer pieces. Mix well but take care not to smash the paneer pieces.

This salad keep well in the fridge for a couple of days. The pesto keeps well for a week or so. If submerged in EVOO, it keeps well for about a month or more. If it lasts that long.

I sometimes wrap this salad in large spinach leaves form my garden and it becomes a green garden salad for me.

The leftover paneer pesto salad can be mashed and stuffed into parathas or swirl breads too.


The best and freshest food that doesn't require cooking. If you are not making your paneer at home.

I highly recommend freshly made paneer for this pesto and paneer salad.

I often use this leftover salad for making stuffed parathas. Just crumble this salad and use it to stuff whole wheat parathas for a wholesome meal. The paneer gets pickled in this marinade and tastes great as a paratha stuffing.




Sunday, February 17, 2013

a hot hot chocolate to keep me warm and a wellness giveaway to be won for you all...

Yes, a comforting mug or glass of hot chocolate made hotter by supplementing it with a hint of red chilly. I have it sometimes when I feel bogged down by my work stress, when it feels like all my time just passes off without any meaningful things done for myself. These are the times when I feel like there is no time at all, when all my workout routine goes for a toss. Am I alone in experiencing this feeling?

Many of us complaint about the lack of time in our lives. The time to cook a healthy nourishing meal for ourselves or the time to start working out everyday in some way or the other seems so difficult even when we are just a step away from it. The stresses of modern life make us feel like we are too busy all the time while in reality we are not. Stress makes our mind get halted repeatedly and slows down the efficiency, hence taking much more time to do the same things we might have finished like a breeze. Stress also sends our hormones in a tizzy, sapping up all the restorative activities of our immune system and regenerative hormones, we slip into a condition called Adrenalin fatigue. That is when our system does not support us to be naturally cheerful, also affecting the physical health negatively.

We stay deprived of the high that a good workout brings to us. The satiety level that a well cooked meal brings us. The connect with food that cooking induces. Just because we feign we don't have the time. There is always a way if we will.

Wellness of the body, mind and heart (if not soul) is a holistic goal, as we cannot possibly work for the well being of an isolated system in our body. So if we need a healthy, heart we have to work towards a healthy body in totality. And since our mind also plays a role in wellness, a lot too may diseases have been attributed to be psychosomatic, we need to take care of our peace of mind as well. So if staying away form sugar is easier on normal days for me and on a difficult day I am stranded somewhere when I have no options, I would have anything on offer and save myself from unnecessary stress of finding out my kind of food that fits my bill on strict terms. 

I suggest we should stick to a strict discipline on a daily basis and allow ourselves to relax in social situations and while travelling and entertaining ourselves so we don't have to stress too much regarding the practicality of healthy living. After all, clean and real whole food isn't available so easily everywhere.

Slow and steady changes in our eating habits, stocking up more and more healthier options and not buying any junk or processed foods when shopping for food, growing some of our herbs or vegetables and learning basic cooking takes us a long way when we want to change our lifestyle to a healthy one. Knowing more about our body as a working system helps a lot as well.

Pure cocoa and red chilies both perk up the metabolism, giving me a gentle push towards my daily goals. Cinnamon induces calmness of the mind.


I have a jar of organic cocoa that I bought from a spice farm in Netravalli, Goa. You can use any good quality cocoa powder that is available to you. 
Two cubes if dark chocolate will be good too instead of cocoa powder for every cup of hot cocoa. 

A generous tbsp of cocoa powder is heated with 2 cups of full fat milk along with a tsp of cinnamon and a pinch of hot red chilly powder. Let the mixture come to boil and then pour into mugs or glasses as required. Add natural brown sugar of you wish to sweeten it. The hot hot chocolate is ready to cozy you up.

And now coming to the giveaway that I am bringing for you all. Recently I visited a wellness center in Delhi and Gurgaon called Perfect Wellness and liked what they are doing to help their clients. They have a few machines to help melt away the fatty reserves with the help of cold laser and subsequent cardio activity but that is not the only thing they are doing. ZERONA and I lipo are the machines they use for fat busting after a body composition analysis done at the center. They have centers in Malviya Nagar (Delhi), in South Point mall Gurgaon and in Noida, so if you live around these areas or can travel to these places easily, this giveaway can be great for you.

The specialist doctors and coaches at Perfect Wellness support their clients by providing them a body composition analysis and detailed report and then suggest and provide a backup of personalised yoga classes, dental care and personalised nutrition management, lifestyle management as well. Apart from this they have life coaches with them too, who counsel the clients as required. I found this concept quite convincing as they have a scientific and expert driven approach.


The specialists at Perfect Wellness say 'Get well sooner', they act on a multifaceted approach. What I liked the most is the Body composition analysis they do which indicates the fat percentage and mineral density in your tissues and bones. That is a good way to start with our workout and nutrition regime, that should be focused on fat loss and lean mass gain, as opposed to just weight loss.

The wonderful people at Perfect Wellness have sponsored a giveaway for Healthfood desivideshi readers living in Delhi and NCR so comment on this post and enter the give away. I know it can be a good start to your journey to wellness. 

Three of Healthfood desivideshi readers will be receiving one free session (worth INR 2000 plus) at any centers of Perfect Wellness. 

To enter the giveaway you have to comment on this post along with your email address so I can mail you back once you win the giveaway. You also have to click your mouse to 'like' and 'follow' a few of these pages to make your chances of winning better.

You can 'like' my facebook page to get health and wellness updates and tips to eat healthy live healthy
Follow me on twitter, my handle is @sangeetakhanna 
Follow Perfect Wellness on twitter @Perfectwelness
Follow my blog by clicking on 'join this site' widget on the left hand bar of this page.

So get set for a free session at Perfect wellness. I shall announce the giveaway on Sunday the 3rd of March. May be you are the one who takes the first step to wellness for life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Godfather's stew from The Dirty Martini | a lamb goulash that makes you forget your drink..


You are startled at the name of this stew I know. What kind of stew would be called Godfather's stew? Look at these cups full of a saucy lamb goulash served with a crisp garlic bread. Something that you can eat to your heart's fill even when you are on the run.

Yes, on the run. I tasted this goulash at The Dirty Martini couple of week's ago and loved it so much. I asked Chef Saby (Sabyasachi Gorai, a much awarded Chef and a wonderful person to be with) about this stew and why it is called Godfather's stew. He told it is supposed to be the favorite of a Godfather in a 'speakeasy bar'. How interesting is that.

I had two helpings of this Lamb goulash as it was so comforting, and not only me, I saw my other friends too digging their spoons into the cups indulgently. What a way to serve a stew. Holding a warm cup in hands feels as comforting as eating it.

I was invited to the party hosted by The Dirty Martini, the new 'speakeasy inspired bar' at Olive Qutub, an almost secret place redolent with old world charm. This bar is designed to recreate the prohibition era of the 1920's when cocktails were served in teacups and all meal portions were served in individual serving cups so that one can carry them along. Bluesy music, some flamboyant entertainment with live performances and a smoky dark ambiance with aromas of nourishing comfort foods wafting from kitchens, I assume the kitchens in the original speakeasy bars were open kitchens although the bars were secret hideouts.

This was a party where I met many bloggers form Delhi and NCR. These were food bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, graphic artists and many other people working around themes of food .


There was enough good food that I would call nourishing. The mini toasts with Goat cheese, chilly jam and berries were interesting and the Batter fried chicken with Chipotle mayo was simply great. The succulent and melt in the mouth type blind pig belly with maple chilly glaze was outstanding.


Tenderloin patty with grilled onion was quite interesting too. There was some more food passing around. Chipotle rubbed Tiger prawns, Calamari with pepper sauce, Cajun spiced Basa fish, all simple flavors nourishing the soul.

I thought of requesting Chef Saby and Chef Astha for the recipe of this Lamb Goulsh for all of you as we have been doing many soups and stews on Healthfood desivideshi. And the recipe is here for you to  try and enjoy a great stew at home.


The dirty martini special Godfather’s stew selection,  lamb goulash for nourishing the body and soul...

ingredients :

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp clarified butter
4 leg of lamb (boneless), each 225g
450 g onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp tomato pomodoro
300 ml lamb  stock
300 ml tomato juice
1 sprig rosemary
450 g baby potatoes
1 pinches salt

Method :

1. Heat the oil and butter in a pan and fry the lamb leg on both sides for about three to four minutes    
to colour them.
2. Remove the meat from pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, until       soft and golden brown.
3. Set the oven to 150C/gas
4. Add the flour and paprika and mix well. Add the tomato puree, and stir thoroughly.
5. Pour in the stock, tomato juice along with the rosemary, bay leaf and the seared lamb leg cubes.
6. Cover well with foil and cook in the oven for about two hours, until the meat is tender.
7. Add the potatoes and place back in oven for a further 30 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. 8. Serve with slice of garlic bread.

There is some red carrots and mushrooms in the soup too, you can add any vegetables you like in the season.


I am yet to try this Lamb goulash recipe at home but going by the Hungarian chicken goulash I do at home, this one would be a much repeated recipe too now.

I recommend strongly.
Please let me know if you try this.

Signing off with a collage of the pictures I clicked at the party at Dirty Martini.


Thanking Chef Saby and Chef Astha for a wonderful evening and soul satisfying food. We enjoyed the warm mulled wine served in terracotta mugs, the smoking gin and tonic (smoked with cherry wood) and the cocktails serves in teacups as well. Interacting with like minded, creative people in such vibrant ambiance is something to cherish. Talking of creativity, the mini crumble like apple tartlets were amazingly flavorful and rich textured, these beauties were named Nutty Aunty. Chef Dhruv Bhatia was the man behind all the wonderful food we enjoyed, all inspired from the food of 1920s around America and Europe.


I would recommend this place for the food more than the drinks for sure...

Cheers...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

lotus stem and chicken sausages stir fry salad in soy honey glaze..


Lotus stem is one of my favorite vegetables, almost always found in my fridge. Lovely texture, good looks and great taste.Takes on any flavors really well. I am hooked to the Chinese style stir fries with lotus stem and soy-honey glaze and toss up a large bowl of it every time I feel like. And if I am cooking for some guests I would add on some precooked chicken breast pieces or cocktail chicken sausages.

It makes a nice finger snack also. Something you would love eating when chatting with friends or with drinks. The kind of finger food you keep reaching for mindlessly while talking and is still a healthy choice. Use boneless chicken with it to make it healthier as the sausages bring in a few undesired chemical load with them. It's okay if it is occasional though.

Last month I made a huge quantity of this stir fry salad for a picnic we had on a sunny Sunday. It was loved by all and the lotus stems were loved more than the sausages. I know most people love sausages more, that too when they are slow cooked with a soy-honey glaze, but they are quite predictable with the uniform texture and taste they have. You know what I mean. The bite in a slice of a vegetable like lotus stem is something else, the way it absorbs the flavors is different from almost impermeable chicken sausages. Having said that, the sausages were also great and were loved by all.
No partiality :-)

ingredients...
(serves more than a dozen people as a salad or finger food)

lotus stem, peeled, cleaned and sliced in a slanted manner 500 gm
cocktail chicken sausages 800 gm (cut into two halves in a slanting manner)
(the ratio of lotus stem and sausages can be as much as you like)
whole dry red chilies broken 4-5 or as much hot you want
ginger thin julienne 2-3 tbsp
chopped garlic 1 tbsp
olive oil or sesame oil 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp
dark soy sauce 1 tbsp or more to taste
honey 1.5 tbsp or to taste
salt to taste (be careful as soy sauce already has salt)
fresh red chilies julienne for garnish (optional)

procedure...

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil and tip in half of the the dry red chilies broken or whole, broken chilies will infuse more heat into the oil so keep that in mind. Tip in half of the ginger julienne and chopped garlic too and then add the sliced lotus stems and a little salt. Stir fry on low flame for about 5 minutes or till cooked well. Empty the contents of the pan into a bowl.

Heat the remaining oil and repeat the same procedure for the sausages as well. Stir frying them for about 2-3 minutes as they do not need cooking but a little searing. Add the cooked lotus stems, the soy sauce and the honey and keep turning the contents of the pan every 30 seconds or so. The resultant sauce will be very thin first, then it will start reducing and coating the lotus stem slices and cut sausages well. Stop cooking once it starts looking nicely glazed.


Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with freshly cut red chilly julienne.

One thing to keep in mind while cooking this, is the quantity you are stir frying. If you are cooking as much as this recipe, you would need to stir fry the lotus stems and sausages separately as it allows them both to soak in the flavors better while they dehydrate and cook slowly. If cooking for 2-4 people you can always cook the lotus stem slices first for a while and then ass the sausages and stir fry on low flame for some more time. Cooking till the sauce forms a glaze.

This picture below is of the same dish I cooked in a smaller quantity, and both the things together. I did not add a fresh red chilly garnish and the glaze was also lesser, you can always adjust the amount of glaze, sweetness of honey etc as per choice.


I like those wiry bits of ginger in the final dish too. Add more if you love the sharp ginger pieces doused with honey and soy.

Another garnish that I love on this stir fry salad is toasted sesame seeds. This dish is actually quite versatile and packed with flavors. The sausages and lotus stem provide a contrast of textures too.



This would be one of those much in demand stir fry salads in your home I am sure. I can tell you because I have fed it to many people and have found them all reaching out for this one many a times during an engaging conversation.

Yes, I watch what you eat when you are with me :-) I really do.

Let me know when you cook this one. I am expecting some happy tunes....

Monday, February 11, 2013

pumpkin and coconut milk soup with lemongrass and kafir lime flavors....


Pumpkin and coconut milk soup which is infused with lemongrass and Kafir lime leaf and then topped with lightly fried pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts. This was a yummy dinner last week when the husband wanted a second helping of soup and there was none left. Why a second helping of this soup is worth mentioning, because these soup bowls hold about 400 ml of liquid, moreover, he is not much of a soup loving person. Although he is converting to the soup dinners as they are quite a comfort food during winters otherwise too. You know once you have them, he was judgmental about soups earlier. More judgmental about pumpkin in a soup I would say.

Many of my friends hate pumpkin and wouldn't ever look at it. I find great pleasure in feeding them such soups where they wouldn't imagine such aromas and flavors can be with the humble much hated pumpkin too. I have converted a couple of my friends to pumpkin by letting them know that pumpkin of the deep yellow/orange variety is as good as a fruit, minus the sugar content.

In soups pumpkin can be amazing. Just try and bring some of your favorite flavors together with pumpkin and see how it becomes one of your favorites. I used a mature, ripe pumpkin with tough skin and orange colored flesh for this soup. Grab a slice when you see such a pumpkin for this soup if not anything else.

ingredients...

(2 large dinner servings)
pumpkin peeled and cut into cubes 300 gm
kafir lime leaves 2
lemon grass leaves 3-4 tied into a bunch
salt to taste
paprika powder 1/2 tsp or to taste (use red chilly powder if you wish)
sesame oil 1 tsp
coconut milk 100 ml
lightly fired cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds to garnish
thinly cut kafir lime leaves to garnish
(I used grapefruit leaves that are very similar in taste to Kafir lime leaves)

procedure..

Heat the sesame oil in a pressure cooker pan or any other pan. Tip in the pumpkin cubes and stir fry till a few pinkish brown specks appear. Add the bunch of lemongrass leaves, kafir lime leaves and paprika , salt to taste and toss them all.

Add a cup pf water and pressure cook till the whistle blows, Turn off the flame and let it cool.

Remove the lemongrass and kafir lime leaves and puree the contents of the pan with the help of a hand blender. Or liquidise using any method preferred.

Add the coconut milk and bring to simmer gently for just a couple of minutes.

Pour into mugs or bowls and garnish.

You can also grill the pumpkin slices after smearing them with oil. Make a stock with the leaves and add to the baked pumpkin slices and liquidise. Then add the coconut milk and simmer.

Simple flavors and a very aromatic comforting soup. Good quality fats, good quality soluble fiber, most coveted vitamins and amazing taste.

A quick dinner with minimal chopping and preparations too. I know the pictures are not as bright as the soup looks in reality, but these are night time pictures so please bear with me and believe me that this is one bright sunny soup to have in winter evenings.


We normally don't have breads with our soup, the husband had wanted a good garlic bread always with his soups, not anymore now. Sometimes I bake a sourdough skillet bread freshly for our dinner soups but mostly they are given a miss when the soup is so filling.

What flavors you like in your pumpkin soups? Don't tell me you are a pumpkin hater.

Friday, February 8, 2013

kumquat and chilly marmalade : a hot and sweet condiment for salads and bakes..



Calamondin oranges or China oranges are also called kumquats and the many names suggest how popular these miniature oranges are. Most people grow it for the ornamental value these brightly coloured fruits bring in the garden but those who love making preserves have better ideas. These calamondins/kumquats/China oranges make really good marmalade. And I love citrus marmalade of all types.

Kumquat chilly marmalade is something I would love adding to my stir fry salads and a few grilled chicken recipes. The lovely sweet tang with a hot kick is just irresistible. Something you would just need a small amount to get a packed punch of flavors.

The fat red chilies in the season are normally valued for the stuffed chilly pickle most people relish and even I used to make long time back. That was not because I liked pickles very much but I wanted to master them all, with an impression that pickling is something only a few can do. How stupid I was later I learned, pickling is easy as a technique, just consumes a lot of time and then I lost interest.

But these fat red chilies kept hogging my attention whenever I saw them in markets. I still buy a few during  my weekly veggie shopping and use them in salads, in omelets and even in soups sometimes. A chilly kick is something that can transform the food. It's no secret that I love garlic and I love chilly.

I love all fruits too, the more the fruit is vibrant the more it makes me go mad about it. That's why when I saw Deeba making a lot of goodies with these Kumquats that grows abundantly in her garden, I couldn't stop asking her to bring me some next time we meet. I had told her already that they will meet my chilies to make a saucy jam.


These Kumquats are actually Calamondins, citrus fruits of the uncommon type are often difficult to identify as there are so many varieties owing to the incestuous breeding of the varieties. Some varieties of this Calamondin are way too bitter than this one and yet make wonderful marmalade. Since I had a stock of marmalade already, and Deeba had gifted me a bottle of this Kumquat/Calamondin marmalade too, I decided to convert them all fruits into this saucy marmalade.


Yes the fruit are miniature in size and there was a lot of chopping to do. The seeds were separated and enclosed in a tea strainer.


And then everything was cooked together in a wide pan.

ingredients...

1 cup of sliced kumquats with skin
1/2 cup of finely chopped red chilies (this is mild hot variety)
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of water

procedure...

Mix everything in a wide pan and suspend the strainer with the seeds into the pan. You can tie the seeds in a muslin cloth and suspend it similarly. The idea is to extract pectin from the seeds while cooking.

The cooking mixture turns a little frothy first and then starts becoming glossy. If you want a marmalade you can always follow the same procedure as this citrus marmalade. This one I made a little saucy so it can make a good accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish. Or just like a sweet chilly sauce.


You see the picture. There is nothing complicated about this recipe. If you make it the consistency of almost jelled it will be well preserved. If you make it a bit saucy, you would need to refrigerate it. Sugar is the preservative so reduce it enough so the sugar concentrates.

See details of a generic marmalade recipe here to understand the procedure better.


We have been using it for many things.
On crackers, with carrot sticks, slathered over baked potatoes and sometimes just a blob of this sauce on the side of whatever is on the plate.
You get the drift.


You can see I went bonkers clicking these pictures. Day time food photography feels great. Many of my dinner pictures are dull so I make up with these. :-)


Don't forget to see those specks of beautiful red in this jiggly marmalade.

Good cheer in the air...

Monday, February 4, 2013

fermented foods and condiments for a healthy gut | kanji : an Indian fermented drink made with black carrots, kale gajar ki kanji..


Kaali gajar ki kanji or a fermented drink made with black carrots. Introducing a fermented drink called Kanji on this page today. Fermented vegetables can be potential healers and alternative medicine for many of your ailments that bother you. Read on if you don't believe it or haven't known it.

Many people have been asking me why they get stomach cramps and IBS when they eat beans, meats and more greens like I always suggest. Everything from beans to peanuts to greens are blamed for a gassey stomach and we start abstaining from eating these nutritious foods for the fear of 'sounding' weird. Who likes a grumbling sound in the vicinity anyways.

But is it just the inconvenience of the IBS or an embarrassing sound that your tummy decides to treat you with? IBS and related symptoms have greater reasons than just a 'bean' and have greater harms than just this petty discomfort. Though IBS can be due to a slight gluten intolerance too, the bigger cause is a poor gut flora.

What is gut flora you would ask. And how does it get poor?

We have a symbiotic relationship with a few microbes that live inside our gut. Those few are actually a few hundred species living inside our colon and a few in the cecum. So there is a living population inside our tummy that needs to keep growing and healthy. These bacteria help us 'digest' the food (talking in layman terms). Breaking down the food aiding the digestive enzymes and also synthesizing a few more nutrients that are not ingested through food. So they digest, they synthesize a few micro nutrients (particularly the Vit-B group and Vit-K*), and they make the nutrients more bio available by breaking them down, assisting our own digestive enzymes.

*Intestinal microflora synthesise large amounts of menaquinones, which are potentially available as a source of vitamin K (source article).

Isn't that impressive?

Read more about how many fermented foods we have been consuming traditionally worldwide. Modern life and processed foods have made them almost extinct. What is worse that all the added chemicals in the processed packaged food kills some of these useful gut flora, making nutrient availability poorer. A course of antibiotics does the same trick on our gut flora.

The good thing is, we can still revive our intestinal flora and make them thriving with health. I am sure you eat home made yogurt regularly (packaged yogurt is made with pasteurized milk and is cultured using a standard monoculture of lactobacillus to maintain consistent taste and texture). You can also fortify the homemade yogurt with more probiotic foods (coming up another article on this page).

Many of us also ferment our dosa/idli batters and bake our breads with sourdough. Instant and industrial fresh yeast is also not a good way to introduce gut flora, sourdough is excellent as it has a good spectrum of microbes. Start baking sourdough breads more and see how good taste helps in healing as well.

Seasonal pickles (like this radish pickle) are one of the tastiest ways to get more varied microbes for the tummy. I am telling you about a fermented drink called Kanji in the north India. This is Kaale gaajar ki kaanji, a fermented drink made by purple/black carrots.


This is an easy process, you just need to have a large glass or ceramic jar with lid. Mason jars are the best but you can do with any nonreactive jars with lids. Traditionally the jars were covered by thin muslin allowing aerobic fermentation so that can be done if you wish.


 ingredients..

purple black carrots/ beets/turnips/ red carrots 500 gm total
yellow mustard powered 4 tbsp
red chilly powder 1 tbsp
pink salt or Himalayan salt (sendha namak) 1/4 cup
black salt or rock salt (kala namak) 1 tbsp
filtered water 5 L

The purple carrots provide a nice color owing to the presence of pigments (read antioxidants) so it is preferred for this drink. Beets work well too with a slightly changed flavor. The desi red winter carrots also work well but the drink has a very dull and boring color. A combination of beets and carorts would work really well if you don't get purple carrots. I add a few slices of turnips too for added flavor. Use more of the purple carrots or beets and about 10% of turnips or red carrots by weight to get a nice color.


procedure...

Sterilize the jars, knives and chopping board to be used for the process.

Wash, clean and chop the carrots in batons. Slice the beets and turnips too if using.

Mix all the other ingredients with water and dissolve. The mustard powder will keep floating on top.

Place all the chopped carrots and turnips in a glass jar or divide into smaller jars if you don't have one big mason jar. Pour the pickling solution into the jar filling it to the brim. The carrots will float initially but will submerge into the colored water by the next day. Do not worry even if they don't submerge just keep pushing them with a clean spoon everyday. These jars will be kept on a sunny windowsill or in a warm place for a week or till you taste the fermented pickling solution to be sour.

Filter the dark pink/purple colored pickling solution that is the tasty drink ready for you. Adjust seasoning, you might like to add some more of black salt to the drink or some more red chilly if you like it a little hot. Fill the drink in glass bottles and refrigerate for up to a month.


The pickled carrot batons can be served on the side of your meals. They make nice addition to salads and can be had independently too. Chopped finely, they can also be added to some creamy type soups or cold dips as well.


 The pickled carrot batons also have the probiotic benefits as these also carry the live culture. So use them freely everyday.

The drink makes a nice welcome drink for your guests as well, traditionally it is served with meals just like buttermilk is served in Gujrat and some southern states and Sol kadi is served in Goa and Maharashtra.


You can also soak lentil fritters (like urad daal vadas) into this fermented drink for a few hours and have it alongside your meals or as a snack. That is called Kanji vada.

Other convenient ways to incorporate friendly bacteria to our foods.

  • Pickled vegetables like cucumbers, cabbage (as in kimchi and saurekraut), Olives, chilies, onions and even garlic. The vegetables can be pickled with just some salt, they get digested by  some airborne bacteria and become good probiotic food for us.
  • Fermenting the dosa and idli batter like it is done traditionally in South India is the great way of having the grains in a more suitable way and introducing our body with some probiotic food as well.
  • Fermented bread dough is also good but it's always better to have sourdough breads than industrial yeast. Sourdough results form natural fermentation that involves the activity of many strains of bacteria.
  • Drinks like Kombucha, toddy, fenni* are all traditional and have been traditionally used.
  • Many cultures use a fermented rice drink or porridge mixed with raw onions and green chilies. This savory porridge is a great way to start the day.
  • Miso, fish/oyester sauce etc also are good prebiotic foods.
  • Yogurt and buttermilk is the most common but pasteurized milk doesn't support many bacteria other than lactobacillus to grow and milk. 
I would like to hear from you if you liked this article and if you try this drink.

Cheers with a healthy drink..

PS: *As pointed out by Anurag Mehrotra in the comment section, Fenni is doubted to have probiotic microbes owing to double distillation, but Urack is a better probiotic drink originating from the same cashew apple juice.