Monday, April 29, 2013

health benefits of mangoes and a mango granola cereal breakfast : an Indian cereal breakfast...

Mangoes are healthy fruits and one must not stop eating them for the fear of gaining weight. This is the most real and healthy dessert nature has gifted us. We grow numerous varieties of mangoes in India and markets are flooded with mangoes and more mangoes all through the summer. Most rural populations have better access to good quality tree ripened mangoes than us city dwellers, but we do get our fair share of the king of fruit from all over the country.

Mangoes are cleansing (detoxing) and anti inflammatory in nature, full of antioxidants, having a high ORAC score. The fruits have a wide range of carotenoids ( alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cyptoxanthin), good amount of Vit-A and C making it great for skin, mucus membranes and eyes. Vit B6 or pyridoxine is also found in good amounts that is required for GABA within the brain (It plays a role in regulating neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. In humans, GABA is also directly responsible for the regulation of muscle tone ~ source wikipedia).

No wonder according to Ayurveda, mango is a tonic food.

Mangoes have good amounts of potassium, magnesium and copper (co-factor for many vital enzymes) too. Tartaric acid, malic acid and traces of citric acid make it a good alkalising food. Presence Polyphenols, pre and probiotic dietary fiber is also what makes mango a fruit fit for all.

I would recommend any amount of mangoes for everyone who leads an active life, but for sedentary people and someone who wants to loos fat quickly, one can contemplate restricting the mangoes only for breakfast as a full meal or in very small amounts for other meals. In India, we love to dig into a bucket of mangoes any time of the day, many people combine with cream and sugar to make generous amounts of desserts which are further had with fried pooris etc (Ammrakhand is a classic combination with poori) so it becomes more of a caution for all those who want to loose weight or control weight. Clever pairing of mangoes can set you free to eat mangoes and stay blessed this season.

I am suggesting one of those clever mango meals. A breakfast with mango which is itself a good pre and probiotic food, combined with another probiotic cereal called poha or pohe or flattened rice flakes.

The rice flakes are dry roasted in a thick base pan or roasted at low temperature in oven till they turn pinkish brown and then stored in airtight container. This roasted flattened rice is used for this breakfast cereal. Here is what all I used to make this yummy breakfast.

For 2 servings, I used 3/4 cup of roasted flattened rice flakes, 2 tbsp of black raisins, 2 chopped prunes, about a dozen chopped almonds and 1.5 cup of yogurt.

No added sugar is required even though the Alphonso mangoes were a little tart. The chewy raisins lend a nice sweetness that pairs well with the tartness of mangoes and yogurt both. I used mint just for garnish but it can be used in good amounts if you like mint.

Give everything a good mix and serve in cereal bowls or mugs or even in dessert glasses. Or even in coffee mugs. Eat immediately as the crunch of the roasted flattened rice flakes is not to be missed. 

I have seen many people in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand eating soaked pohe in the same manner, I tried that too but liked the roasted pohe version better. Mangoes are eaten in the most diverse ways wherever it is grown in abundance. In UP, people eat it with fresh cream (aam malai) and like a thick juice (aamras) as am accompaniment to meals.

This cereal breakfast will be a weight watchers delight. Cooling in summers, and full of mango and yogurt health. Everything probiotic, remember I wrote about how poha is probiotic?

And here is another mango and poha combination in a savory version. Sweet, sour and savory in fact. I know you would love this version as well.

Granola is not an Indian term but we have been eating granolas traditionally in all corners of the country. Malted ragi, poha of different varieties, lapsi and daliya, popped amaranth and many more millets are eaten like this and we need to find out more ways to eat local ingredients rather than going for imported, refined and then fortified cereals.

Simpler foods are mostly whole and real, local foods are the ones you would know more about. Don't you think so?

Talking of simple foods and summer, read my green summer smoothies at Ruchira's blog Cookaroo.

PS : Please do let me know if you are liking my pictures now a days. Yes I have been using a DSLR for about a year now and have been improving slowly, but an online photography workshop by Neel lfp has changed the way I look at the food to photograph. Thanks to Deeba who introduced me to this workshop and to Neel who has been making me feel enthusiastic about photography lately.

Friday, April 26, 2013

how to use soybeans in Indian homes and kitchens : starting with whole soybean, fermenting it and including in some homely Indian recipes...

how to use soybeans in Indian kitchens

Many of my readers and clients have been asking why soybean is not a good choice for vegetarian source of protein. Soybeans have been a traditional food in many countries both in fermented and fresh forms. Raw and green soybeans are called Edamame and can be boiled or roasted to make a nice appetizer. Soy has many health benefits, it is a complete protein with essential amino acids that makes it a valuable protein resource for vegetarians.

One of the reasons or controversies around soy is the presence of isoflavones in soybeans that are actually phytoestrogens. Now you would get researches both in favor of phytoestrogens and against it. But it is a fact that in estrogen deficient days (PMS) soybeans would help you deal with symptoms. It would also help during menopausal phase of discomforts. However, taking soy isolates and phytoestrogen isolates can interfere with the way estrogen receptors estrogen responsive genes orchestrate the hormone function, if the dosage is not calibrated correctly.

Eating whole soy has not been reported to cause any disturbances in hormone profile. Read here to know more.

Presence of phytates and oxalates in soy can inhibit absorption of minerals by the system, but phytates and oxalates are present in all the grains and lentils and out body is accustomed to overcome it. If your major protein intake is through soybeans only, you might consider having supplements of Iron, Zinc and Calcium or choose foods that are rich in these.

Also, if you are suffering from hypothyroidism, you should take iodine rich foods and keep taking soybean as one of your protein source, especially if you are largely vegetarian. Japanese populations have been taking large amounts of soy products, both fermented and plain cooked soybeans and they also eat a lot of algae that are super rich in Iodine. If there is optimal iodine available to the system, soy products don't affect thyroid function. So if you are concerned whether you should eat soy products if you are a hypothyroid, include seaweeds in your diet once a week or simply a medium sized potato baked or cooked with it's skin. Having natural Himalayan salt or iodine fortified salt is also a good way but we eat too less salt many a times. Read more about Iodine sources.

Another compound is Lectins which is blamed for soy not being suitable for consumption, but all vegetarian sources of proteins (legumes) have it and our system does not get so high amount of lectins to cause any harm. Read more about why soybeans are not to be blamed.

Talking about soybeans, one more thing that is to be taken care of, is that we should never eat raw soybeans as the presence of trypsin and protease inhibitors in it inhibits the activity of protein digesting enzymes. These compounds get deactivated once the soy beans are cooked. Also, take care to soak the soybeans first for at least 14 hours and then discard the soaking water. Now process the soaked soybeans any which way you like. In the next part of this post, I am suggesting a few ways soybeans can be included in our daily diet, especially in Indian homes.

how to use soybeans in Indian kitchens

I prefer soaking the soybeans as mentioned above and then make a paste of it using some fresh water. This paste can be refrigerated for further use for a week or so. The paste also ferments well and very quickly in Indian summers. I have experimented very successfully for making idlis, dumplings and chapatis and breads using this soybeans paste in combination with whole wheat flour or rice flour etc.

Discarding the soaking water helps remove most of the Lectin phytoheamaglutinin so the protein is more digestible, and does not cause flatulence and bloating. I have written about it regarding kidney beans as well. It is worth mentioning here, that the soy flours available in the market have this lectin and is not suitable for consumption. So it's sensible to start from whole soybeans at home. Tofu and soy milk are safer as these are made after soaking the soybeans.

Now let's see how you can use soybeans for your daily foods.

Would you like a dumpling recipe that uses a fermented paste from the fridge, a few more ingredients, a quick whip and steaming for 15 minutes or microwaving for 3 minutes to give you a filling healthy meal? Yes that's how this dumpling recipe works.

how to use soybeans in Indian kitchens

As mentioned above, one cup of dry whole soybeans are soaked for at least 14 hours, the soaking water is discarded and the soybeans are blended to make a paste using fresh water. This paste looks like idli paste but quite milky in color and texture. Keep this paste at room temperature for about 2 hours so the fermentation process starts, then refrigerate for the whole week.

soybean paste

Note that one cup of dry soybeans soak up to become 2.5 cups and then make 3.5 cups of paste. To each cup of this paste add about half a cup of whole heat flour, half a cup of barley flour and 2 tbsp wheat or oats bran. Do not add water and knead a soft pliable dough to make your chapatis. The same dough can be fermented without using any fresh yeast as it makes a nice natural sourdough and can be baked into a free style loaf of bread.

chapati with soybean

The chapatis are softer than normal whole wheat chapatis and keep well even when you eat them after a couple of hours. These chapatis make a great option for lunch boxes as they are soft even after a few hours. However, you cannot make ultra thin chapatis from this dough.

For the dumplings, I add a little coarse barley flour or any millet flour and some grated vegetables, salt and pepper and steam it in separate bowls (I microwave it in greased and covered bowls). 

soybean idli

You can see the dumplings are served with a chutney made of generous amounts curry patta, roasted bengal gram, coconut bits, dry red chilly and some ginger. Everything blended smooth in the blender with some water and salt to taste. These dumplings taste great with any spicy Indian daal made a little thinner.

how to use soybeans in Indian kitchens

And there is this soybeans idli that tastes great even when you replace urad dal with soybean paste. I just add a cup of the said soybeans paste to a cup of idli rawa (coarse rice semolina) and let it ferment. Then steam idli with it. the resultant idlies are softer, spongier but a little crumbly as soy paste is not as binding as black gram (urad dal). The taste is great.

how to use soybeans in Indian kitchens

The chutney served with this idli is a very flavorful creamy chutney that used cashewnuts along with a generous amount of curry patta and coconut.

Blend all these ingredients till smooth in a blender...
1/3 of a fresh coconut scraped or 1/2 cup frozen coconut bits
broken cashew nuts 1/4 cup
ginger roughly chopped 1 tbsp
curry patta 1 cup or about 20 mature springs
whole dry red chilies 3-4 or to taste
salt to taste
water as required

See how this idli is steamed in microwave using opal bowls. The boals are greased and covered during cooking time, each idli takes 2.5 minutes to cook and is sufficient for one breakfast serving along with a generous amount of the above chutney.

how to use soybeans in Indian kitchens

Buttermilk suits well with this breakfast. See how fluffy and spongy this soybeans idli is.

soybean supplemented idli

Do let me know if these recipes help you to incorporate soybeans in an economical way for daily home cooking. The way soybean paste is used, is the best way to process soybeans for frequent consumption.

I have posted home made soy milk and tofu and also soy yogurt if you want to experiment more with soybeans at home.

I would love to hear from you if this article is useful for you.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sushi by Masahiko Saito at The One, Le Meridien...

Sushi platters are a work of art, a tradition breathing through the best food ingredients and a delicate combination of flavors. Talking of ingredients, it is the freshest of fish imparting the best flavors, though I am yet to have an absolutely fresh slice of tuna or Salmon in my sushi. For Japanese, sushi was a way to use up the fish in plenty, fresh or otherwise. Yes, they even fermented the fish to be used in sushi and other dishes, Japanese have always been pescatarians (fish eaters) and like all meat and fish dependent populations, they have been preserving, pickling, curing and fermenting their produce for ever. Sushi was and still is to an extent, made with fermented fish and that I know is a great food tradition. Fermentation of a few foods is great help for meat and fish eaters. But what we are exposed to in our world, is actually fresh fish sushi, if frozen in considered fresh for places like Delhi.

Fresh fish should smell like sea they say, a fish shouldn't smell fishy. The freshest of sea fish go into Sushi and Sashimi and you can taste the sea in it. And not only the fish, I find the accompaniments of Sushi as refreshing and recharging as the subtle flavors and the burst of wasabi on the palate is something that wakes up the senses. The umami flavors lingers on.

I was at The One, Le Meridien yesterday for lunch. where Japanese master chef Masahiko Saito is currently displaying his Sushi art and skills. He works at The Westin Tokyo.

I joined Anasuya Basu, Director of Marketing and Communications, Le Meridien and Pushpesh Pant, the noted food critic and historian and another blogger Alok Wadhwa for this sushi demonstration. Our translator interpreter was Vedangi Ambekar who duly communicated our numerous queries to Chef Saito and brought the answers back.

Meeting Mr. Pushpesh Pant was a delight as I have admired his work and knowledge for long. He was disappointed when Sake was served chilled in wine glasses. Chef Saito was glad to see someone wanting warm Sake served in cups. He did get up and went to bring warm Sake in a slim carafe and served it warm, it was a whole different world from the chilled, temperature arrested aroma of Sake in wine glass.

Our beginning was perfect, by then we had already asked Chef Saito everything we wanted. Chef Saito is a very pleasing personality, smiling a lot, nodding a lot and even clicking a picture of us.

You can see how he transforms into a different avatar once he is with his craft. Focusing almost like a magician, as if he is about to cast a spell.

He prepared different types of Sushi for us, demonstrated how it is done in steps, I was mesmerized by the deft fingers. See how he takes a thin fillet of fish, cuts neat pieces for making Nigiri-zushi of salmon and tuna and then rolls up an oval ball of sticky rice (called Shari), dots the fish with wasabi and then places the ball of sticky rice over it. And then a few deft movements of fingers shape the Nigiri perfectly.

Not only the sushi with fish and shrimps, I loved the vegetarian sushi more I would say. This pickled aubergine and pickled mooli was a huge surprise. Pickled mooli was a very known flavor and I am going to try pickled aubergine really soon. I am smitten but he good thing is, those long green aubergines are growing in the garden right now.

The Shiitake mushroom nigiri-zushi was a delight as expected. Pickled or vinegar cured shiitake is a delight to have.

Those delicate petals of ginger slices pickled pink are such an addiction. And I loved Wakame, the seaweed which was rehydrated, I can imagine how it would taste fresh.

Lots of wakame and some silken tofu in the miso soup was perfection. You would know why Umami is such an addictive flavor. And you should know why it should come from natural whole foods rather than chemicals. What better than fish and seaweed?

A generous helping of wasabi in between will help you enjoy the other flavors well. By generous I mean a lentil sized dot if it is wasabi for me. Though I can have several helpings repeatedly, but very little at a time.

Warm sake was served again, I saw Chef Saito was heating sake in double boiler.

 The Chirashizushi is the scattered sushi that is the easiest to make and serve at home.

Chef Saito gestured (he does not speak English) that Chirashizushi can be eaten with a spoon as well. I was already doing that, can't eat my rice with chopsticks. Fresh vegetables, pickled ginger, bits of pickled mooli, aubergine and shiitake, a very interesting trail of flavors, it needs a dash of soy sauce and a peck of wasabi too. Partners in sushi sin.

The fish chirashizushi had a sprinkling of salmon roe and that lends it a different burst of textures and flavors.

I just had one query I wish I had asked Chef Saito, it slipped off my mind when we started talking about our own regional foods with Pushpesh Pant. One of the chirashizushi had a garnish of a tiny basil leaf and it spoiled the sushi for me though I love my basil. I would have asked him if sweet basil goes well with umami.

Uramaki or the California roll, an inverted sushi where the nori sheet is inside and the rice on the outside was an absolute delight as well. Sesame is my love and it goes so well with leathery nori inside and that small piece of avocado in the center.

This was the best educative sushi meal ever. I asked a lot of questions about how soybeans are a pat of Japanese home cooking and chef answered everything patiently, even if it was not about sushi as I wanted to know about home cooking in Japan too.

We indulged in some salads from the buffet spread after the sushi. I liked the pineapple salad the most with herb dressing. Good fresh ingredients are a key to great taste and I experienced it at The one. Sushi is a part of the buffet at The one and can be ordered a la carte at Nero.

Assorted platter with 10 sushi costs from 1000 to 1200 INR at Nero and the other sushi are priced from 650 to 795 for a platter of six. The One sushi menu has the assorted sushi platter and it is also a part of the buffet menu along with the flavorful miso soup.

Don't miss the miso soup with a generous helping of wakame. The sushi festival is on till 21st of April, I hope Le Meridien includes these sushi in their regular menu as well. Such a centrally located hotel should have everything the people are looking for. And I feel people of Delhi are going Gung ho about sushi now more than ever.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

popped amaranth seeds, fruit and nut parfait : a perfect recipe for fasting days...

 Amaranth seeds are called Ramdaana in Hindi, we used to have Ramdaana laddoo in our childhood so I was in an impression that it is an Indian grain (pseudo grain). It was later that I found out that the grain was a traditional food for the ancient Aztecs of Mexico and is still a traditional food crop in Africa. This grain has been considered kosher by Hindus as it is used for religious fasting and also as an offering to God (prashad).

Amaranth can be the future food crop owing to the rich nutrients it has and the ability to withstand arid conditions. Don't you think the farming lands will be more and more arid in the coming years? It is a gluten free grain that cooks quickly.

You would be glad to know that Amaranth seeds have more protein content than quinoa, the much touted healthy grain that is helping people make huge carbon footprints. While quinoa has 8.1 gm protein per cup, Amaranth seeds provide 9.3 gm protein per cup. The essential amino acid Lysine which is missing in other grains, is found in Amaranth in good amounts. Rich in Magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc etc, low on sodium so it makes a good grain substitute. I would rather say a good cereal substitute if you are dependent on cereals for your breakfast. The popped amaranth seeds are very interesting as it can be used in a versatile way.

The raw grain can be coked like rice using 3 parts water to one part amaranth and used to mix with milk or coconut milk to make your daily porridge. It can also be popped at home to make tasty no cook cereal. Here is a how to pop amaranth at home tutorial. We get popped Amaranth in markets during fasting season, I buy it in bulk in such times. We love it with milk or with coconut milk.

Here is one easy parfait with popped Amaranth seeds.

Just layer chopped dry prunes, golden and black raisins, chopped almonds, popped amaranth seeds, hung yogurt and top the parfait glass with a fruit preserve of your choice. 

I used a homemade Mulberry preserve. Use strawberry or raspberry preserve or even fresh cut fruits. We love mangoes with it too.

You notice that there is no sugar added to this recipe. The fruit preserve has minimal sugar in it.

The crisp popped amaranth seeds are a nice contrast to creamy yogurt and chewy raisins, prunes and almonds. I love this combination and the husband also likes having it for breakfast. Mostly we just plonk everything in a cereal bowl and have it after lightly mixing it.

I layered it all into a glass for you all to see. Keeping some extra nuts and dry fruits on the side is useful as you might like to add on something or the other. Don't forget it makes a filling breakfast meal and keeps you full till lunch hours.

a 10 minute recipe of creamy kasoori methi paneer or methi malai paneer ...

How many curries you know cook in 10 minutes? Think about paneer if you don't. Paneer and some sun dried kasoori methi don't need any peeling and cleaning so you save precious time and if you don't use onion and garlic your job is easier.

This kasoori methi paneer or methi malai paneer cooks in just 5 minutes if cooking for 2-3 people and the rest 5 minutes goes into preparations.

10 minute recipe of methi malai paneer

A very rich looking, mildly spiced creamy yummy curry that can make a quick meal with chapatis and a green salad on the side. I had it with a fasting platter of Sama ke chawal ki tehri (fried rice made with Barnyard millet) and zucchini and onion raita.

(2 servings)

paneer 120 gm
dry fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) 2 tbsp

to be made into a paste...
broken cashew nuts 2 tbsp (25 gm)
black peppercorns 2 tsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
2 cloves
half a black cardamom
1 green cardamom
1/4 inch stick of cinnamon
paprika powder 1/4 tsp or to taste
grated ginger 1 tbsp
salt to taste


Make a paste of the above ingredients, adding water to make a creamy batter like paste.

Cube the fresh paneer in required size, mix it with the kasoori methi, the paste and place everything in a thick bottom pan. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring all the while. Adjust consistency by adding water if required.

Check seasoning and serve hot. Tastes great with plain chapatis and some raw green salad on the side.

10 minute recipe of methi malai paneer

That's it. The recipe is a breeze. You can also microwave this mixture for 3-4 minutes with 2-3 breaks to stir the ingredients and the curry will be ready in a jiffy. I cooked the recipe in the same bowl it is served here. In microwave.

You can also cook cauliflowers almost the same way to give a rich and creamy gobi methi malai.

You can always change the spicing a little bit to suit your choice. The curry is incredibly creamy and yet light. Certainly lower on fat than real cream and you see there is no cooking oil or ghee used here as well. I used home made paneer that was made and leftovers refrigerated the previous day.

Friday, April 12, 2013

amaranth leaves and buckwheat flour savory pancakes for navtratri fasting | healthy fasting recipe....

Amaranth leaves and buckwheat flour are a combination made in heaven if you are making a savory pancake. A firm, crisp exterior and soft inside of a pancake that takes very little effort to make. Buckwheat is a pseudo grain, a seed actually, that is eaten during navratri fasting and is a good source of minerals, Vitamin B complex, dietary fiber of the prebiotic type and is low on Glycemic index.

Buckwheat has been popular in India like a fasting pseudo grain or a grain substitute for religious and detox type fasting. Read my post on buckwheat and another about nutritional information in detail.

Amaranth leaves are also Vitamin and mineral rich, if using red amaranth you get good amounts of antioxidant type Vitamins as well (Vit A and C)...

This recipe is quick and filling for fasting days and if you are on a diet. Minimal ingredients are required as buckwheat is a tasty grain and even amaranth imparts good taste. So the pancake is just seasoned with salt and pepper.

(for 2 servings)
chopped red or green amaranth leaves 2 cups packed or 300 gm
a cup of buckwheat groats or flour (I milled the groats freshly to make the flour)
salt and pepper to taste
about 1/3 cup of water


Make a thick batter by mixing everything together. The batter will be barely a batter, just a hardly binding mix of leaves and buckwheat flour. Don't worry about how it will bind as buckwheat flour is quite slimy so it binds the leaves well when spread to make small pancakes.

Divide into 4 portions and spread on a greased flat pan with your fingers. It takes about 1-2 tbsp ghee for four pancakes and gets crisply cooked on one side in just a couple of minutes. Flip it using a slotted spatula and press a little so the other side also gets evenly crisp.

Once browned and crisp, serve immediately with chutney of your choice or as I did with a yogurt based salad. It is a finely chopped carrots, home grown romaine lettuce and mint raita style salad served in a glass like a parfait... You can refer to the carrot and bokchoy raita if you want to make this kind of raita salad. I added mint powder while whipping the yogurt this time.

I had a few halves of tomatoes as well.

The savory pancakes are incredibly crisp and quite nutty in taste owing to buckwheat flour. Very filling and just two of these small pancakes will be a filling meal if served with these kind of sides. You might like some buttermilk too with this meal. I had a large bowl of bottle gourd curry with it too.

See how crisp and lovely it gets with such a minimal effort. It is a 10 minute recipe if you are cooking it for two and have chopped amaranth ready.

How about not complicating the fasting and detoxing? Keep it simple, keep it nutritious as well.

lemongrass and ginger green tea for treating common ailments...

lemongrass and ginger green tea

I am a tea lover, my brews are special to me as I always include some or the other herb to suit the day, the season or just my mood. It helps when I am troubled with work pressure or with a nasty cold or simply a headache. Lemongrass is a particularly favorite herb, may be because I need it more for my constitution and also because I have a lush bush of lemongrass in the garden. So plucking a blade of lemongrass and brewing it fresh with ginger and green tea is as pleasant as actually sipping on it. That is, when I get the time to brew myself a cuppa. But that is another story...

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a nerve soothing herb, the essential oil in this herb has a lemon scented compound called Citral which is a potent cancer fighter. Read here how it is a research proven fact. It is a pain reliever, helps in relieving digestive tract spasms, muscular pains and even joint pains related to rheumatism. It also reduces fever and inflammation, very useful herb to treat seasonal cough and cold. Lemongrass is also found to regularize menstrual flow in cases of amenorrhea as it generally improves blood circulation as well. Imagine something so useful and so tasty and aromatic. The curries and teas can actually heal us if used strategically.

Lemongrass is anti inflammatory, antioxidant and astringent. The good thing is, it can be grown easily in a clay pot if you get good sun in your balcony or have a sunny patch anywhere. Good sun, good drainage and frequent watering is all this grass needs.


Back to the tea, just heat a liter of water (yes it's all for myself), and take a large blade of lemongrass, twist it and tie into a small knot or just scissor cut in small bits and put into the water when it is just about to boil. Take off heat and cover for 3-4 minutes. Grate half an inch blob of fresh root ginger,  and put it in the tea strainer along with 2 tsp of loose green tea or a tea bag. I prefer to tie a knot of the lemongrass blade and put that into the kettle. Now everything is in the kettle, pour hot water over it, cover and let it brew for 4-6 minutes. Serve as and when you wish.

I keep sipping on this tea even when it turns cold. I love it without a sweetener but you can add a hint of honey to it. This is also a great tea for those who want to start on green tea but green tea feels awful to them. These refreshing flavors would make you want to have more of it.

lemongrass and ginger green tea

Serve it with some savories if you are serving it to friends. I was clicking these pictures for an online photography workshop by a wonderful food photography blogger Neel at Lfp. I am learning lots at this workshop and feel enthusiastic about taking pictures most of the times now. Hopefully you will be seeing better pictures on this space in future..

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

sattu or roasted gram flour : a flour that does not need cooking to make a nutritious meal...

sattu or roasted chickpea flour

Sattu must be a new name for most of you but don't just be fooled by it's simplicity, it is one of the wonder foods that I know. I am sure you don't need any introduction to chickpeas but roasted chickpeas flour is not a very common ingredient in other parts of the world. The roasted gram flour originates probably from Bihar, but is equally popular in eastern UP as well. You must be curious about the flour if you haven't already tasted it.

sattu or roasted chickpea flour

We normally get roasted chickpeas coated with salt and pepper or chaat masala in the supermarkets and have it with our evening tea. Yes, teacakes and scones are to English teas what the savories, namkeens and such roasted chana is for Indian masala teas.

sattu or roasted chickpea flour

 So the roasted chickpeas with skin on the extreme right is used as a savory snack, the middle one is plain unsalted and skinned roasted chickpeas which is used mostly for making chutneys mixed with coconut, curry patta and green or red chilies etc. This skinned plain roasted chickpeas can be ground to make sattu or roasted chickpeas flour at home using you trusted mixie or coffee grinder. It is very convenient to do when you don't get the ready sattu in your part of the world. The extreme left in the picture is roasted chickpeas flour that is sattu.

Sattu ka sharbat, both sweet and salty varieties, is sold as a cooling drink during hot summers in some small towns of eastern UP and Bihar, even in Calcutta.

sattu drink

Sattu can be milled using roasted chickpeas with skin as well, enhancing the fiber content in it, but I find it too grainy so sometime I add half skinned and half with skin roasted chickpeas in my sattu

A roasted barley flour is also available in markets and specialty health food stores and that is called Jau ka sattu in Hindi. Both the flours are cooling in nature but chane ka sattu or roasted chickpeas flour is considered to be a tonic food also. Farm laborours were given sattu, raw onion and jaggery as their mid day meal in olden days, they used to do hard work in scorching sun, this food was cooling for the system, hydrating and stamina building. It is absolutely gluten free too.

Sattu is considered strengthening, cooling, light meal that doesn't sit heavy on your system and even helps detox as it is quite rich in soluble fiber. Normally it is consumed with raw onion and chopped coriander greens so the cleansing effect of the meal is even better. The best thing about sattu is, it is a great food for babies, adults and even old people as it is light to the digestive system and yet very nutritive. High on Iron, Magnesium and Manganese, low on Sodium, low on Glycemic index makes sattu a favorable food for diabetics and for weight watchers as well.

Here is a savory drink made using sattu and mint powder along with some finely chopped raw onion...absolutely cooling, cleansing and yet filling.

For 2 servings of this drink, dissolve 2-3 tbsp of sattu in 500 ml of chilled or cold water, add 1 tsp of mint powder (or fresh mint paste as per taste), salt to taste, lime juice to taste and 1 tbsp of finely chopped onion. Mix everything together and a refreshing drink is ready.

sattu drink

You can carry this drink to your office in a jar or sealed tumbler. Mix the dry ingredients and fix the lid. Add chilled water, mix and have it fresh. I sometimes add chopped coriander greens to the drink as well.

how to make sattu drink

And we can have sattu like a solid food as well. The same ingredients are mixed with lesser water to make it in a porridge or upma consistency. Topped with chopped onion, coriander greens, green chilies etc, it makes a yummy filling meal. 

3-4 tbsp sattu can make a filling quick fix meal better tasting than instant noodles. A dollop of laal mirch ka bharva achar (stuffed red chilly pickle) is served with this porridge sattu mostly. Heavenly combination it makes.

sattu savoury porridge

The aroma of sattu is spectacular in it's effect. You would know when you mix all the ingredients as you would immediately feel like having it. Others in the home will also be drawn towards the kitchen believe me. And this when no cooking is being done. Isn't that wonderful?

There is another way to include sattu for convenience and nutrition. This is how my grandmother used to quickly mix up a tasty snack for us after our play time in childhood sometimes.

sattu jaggery laddus

Sattu ke laddoo...

Some desi molasses for sweetening, some ghee for binding and sattu, just three ingredients, no cooking and a tasty quick snack ready. 

Just rub 2 tbsp of molasses or honey if you don't get (desi molasses), 1 tbsp of ghee in a cup of sattu, and bind it to make a few round laddoos (balls).

Isn't it a great ingredient to have in your pantry?

I do a cheat chutney with sattu as well. Mix equal amounts of sattu and dessicated coconut powder, add yogurt and whip to make a thick chutney, season with salt and temper with a littl sesame oil, hing, mustard seeds, red chilly and curry patta and a nice spicy chutney is ready for your idlis or dosa.

And we make a sattu ka paratha as well. Do try that for a nutritious family meal sometime.

Do you use this ingredient? How often?

Use it more if you already do.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

interacting with a foodie dad, a celebrity chef and an actor | David Rocco talks about making family meals fun with kids...

It's always a pleasure to meet celebrated Chefs and foodies so when I was invited for an interactive lunch with David Rocco at ITC Maurya I couldn't resist. After all I am always eager to know what drives people to cooking great food and how they shape up a life around it.

Oh...and also, engage more lives into the business of food.

One very important observation of mine is, that every single foodie derives inspiration from his or her mother's kitchen. A kitchen where a mother or a parent cooks in a warm environment, is a potential breeding ground for some great talent. The warmth and coziness of a mother's kitchen lives through a celebrated life, a kitchen garden or a herb garden stays in the memory as a sacred place and the weekly grocery shopping trips with parents also stays as a fond memory that one always wants to recreate.

Imagine how huge potential we have in shaping up our kids' food preferences. We don't need to tell our kids what is good or bad, just feeling good about what we eat, finding joyful moments during cooking and dining is what we need to aim for. Everything else will definitely fall into place. And the kid will grow up and find food, ingredients and flavors in her fond memories, most probably would want to revive them all.

That is what I found really impressive when David talked of involving kids for tossing up a meal in a fun way. They wont pick the green bits of herbs when they have cooked the meals by themselves. Try baking a garden pizza with your kids and see how they would eat every bit of green form it. You would be surprised to hear what he said about not allowing the kids to eat alternative food when a family meal is served on the table, the kid would go to bed hungry, wake up in the morning and eat the same food alright when hungry. All mothers were nodding vehemently.

We talked of Olive oils and cheeses and how the climate and local factors change the taste of the same product and how local produce should be celebrated more for it's flavors and freshness, imported stuff is better to be used occasionally. David talked about paneer and how Indian mozzarella also has a nice firmness due to added cow's milk to the predominantly buffalo milk mozzarella culture.

We were tempted to compare olive oil to mustard oil and then agreed that both the oils are like oranges and apples as Ruchira rightly put it into words. I would love having both of them in my life, in my kitchen  and on my table as well. I love both these oils in my seasonings and in my salad dressings. I would always prefer to have all my food cooked in traditional oils rather than the refined crap marketed as the healthy 'alternative' today.

West View at the top floor of ITC Maurya was quite in the day time, being a weekday and we didn't even realise how much time we spent interacting and talking about foods from our country.

David had liked our daals and mustard oil and chutneys and I hope we will see some interesting Indian flavors in his India series. The Italian menu at West View was done by David Rocco, executed by Chef Manisha Bhasin and her team.

There was Champagne and Prosciutto wrapped melon cubes for starters...

First course was Penne con Pomodori e Melanzane was simple flavors that we cook at home like pasta alla norma , the pasta had minimal aubergine and more tomatoes probably keeping in mind the taste of north Indian palate, I would have loved more aubergine any day. Aubergine is such a flavorful creamy vegetable. The pasta was liked by all nonetheless. It was paired with Fratelli Sauvignon Blanc.

Second course came with a Saltimbocca di pollo, chicken with prosciutto and sage cooked in marsala wine. It was really interesting, every element shining through the delicate balance of flavors. The stock and Marsala wine reduced with sage made a flavorful coating sauce that made the chicken breast quite juicy and well done. This course also included a lovely Beet Risotto. Perfectly creamy, al dante and cheesy flavors. There was not much beets into it but David told he makes it with beets stock and puree back home and is darker in color. I was imagining how that would taste with the cheeses. I might try that myself very soon.

There was fresh and crisp blanched broccoli doused with red chilly flakes and onion on the side and very fresh baby carrots with cilantro. Perfectly the way I love my vegetables.

The second course was paired with Fratelli Sangiovese.

Good food enjoyed over more banter about food. I liked it when David said he trains people from communities for making meals affordable for all. Fresh seasonal and local produce is cheap and can be used effectively to achieve nutrient value at a lower cost. Otherwise too, this meal served at West View was an example of how simplicity of ingredients can be superbly flavorful.

I was disappointed by the desserts though. Don't blame it to my general apathy towards desserts always but I do appreciate great tasting desserts. Torta Caprese, a flour less chocolate cake was eggy and that masked everything in the cake filled with blanched almonds. Zabaglione con Frutti di Bosco (mixed fruit with espresso zabaglione) was better as it had strawberry coulis, a few blueberries and hints of espresso. I might have liked it a little chilled may be. It was a good dessert, probably spoiled by the eggyness of what I tasted first.

In totality it was a nice day out, a weekday well spent, exchanging foodie bits from different cultures. I hope David corrects himself on the impression of Indian curry spices masking all the flavors and freshness in most foods. I told him how our Chokha is such a flavorful simple salad-mash dressed with raw mustard oil and that our daily food is not at all masked by heavy curry gravies.

David was a good sport and posed with blogger friends before leaving.

Anita Tiku , Reeta Skeeter, Deeba Rajpal, Ruchira Hoon, Charis and Parul were the other bloggers present and we all sat for a while for a cup of coffee before dispersing.

I would show you the most beautiful part of West View at ITC Maurya. the terrace herb garden before I sign off.

This place looks beautiful at night but the herbs and fruit trees growing in pots can be seen in full glory only during the day time.

I recommend the Sunday brunch at West View during winters. You would love to sit al-fresco and enjoy the herb garden, the winter sun and the wonderful food they serve. Always a nice pleasant place to visit.