Sunday, July 28, 2013

health benefits of sprouts: few recipes with sprouts and how to sprout lentils at home...

Sprouts of mung bean or green gram, Turkish gram and brown lentil are made frequently at my home. Sprouted lentils are considered super foods owing to ready bio availability of minerals and vitamins from them. Although you can't eat enough sprouts in a day to fulfill all your mineral and vitamin requirements. But yes, sprouts are good addition to regular nutritious food always. Pair the sprouts with some nuts and greens and they make nice salads or stir fries. Apart from being fairly rich in calcium, iron, selenium and some vitamins, sprouts are a good way to minimize the phytic acids found in all legumes and grains. Lesser phytic acid means more absorption of nutrients from vegetarian meals.

Vegetarian meals have to be very carefully chosen to not load your plate with carbohydrates all the time. Most Indian vegetarians are so used to almost all carb meals that it doesn't even get noticed. Aloo paratha, poori aloo, roti subzi (with very little subzi and more roti), lemon/tomato/tamarind rice or curd etc are mostly carb meals although these are any day better than a chemical laced burger from a fast food chain. But with a dessert after such a meal on a regular basis causes problems sooner or later even if you have a good metabolic rate and lead an active life. It looks a little difficult for vegetarians to include more proteins in their everyday meals, but it's actually pretty simple. We get such huge variety of lentils and beans and we can cook them, sprouts them, roast them in many many ways.

Here are a few ways with sprouts. I have sprouted moth (Matki or Turkish gram/lentil), masoor (whole red lentil) and mung here and have let them grow a bit for texture. Note that all these lentils also are quite rich in carbs (6 gm of carbs and 3 gm of proteins in about 100 gm of fresh sprouts) and fiber.

How to sprout mung beans and other lentils...

Some people find it tough to sprout beans but it is an easy process. I have written about making sprouts at home earlier too and would add one more thing here, that the sprouts keep well if refrigerated after sprouting as much as you wish. Just take care to rinse well before refrigeration, they stay more crisp in the fridge.

Also, if you want longer sprouts (the tails or the radical), just keep them longer at room temperature. If you want thicker and whiter sprouts keep them in a closed opaque container so light is not available during sprouting. It takes about 48-50 hours to make nice long and white sprouts in summer temperatures in India. If you partially expose the sprouting lentils to light, they look greener and thinner (as seen above) and have more nutrient value.

I usually make some stir fry with any fresh greens available and add the long sprouts to it in the last step, just before taking the pan off the stove. And this is what the result looks like...

Here I used red amaranth leaves fresh from the garden and made it into a complete meal for myself. Along with a nice creamy buttermilk on the side.

Recipe of the red amaranth (laal math or laal chaulai) and mixed sprouts stir fry...


a cup of sprouts
2 cups of chopped red amaranth
1/2 cup of sliced onion
2 broken dry red chilies
2 tsp chopped ginger
salt and pepper to taste
lime juice to taste
mustard oil or any oil 2 tsp


Heat the oil and tip in the dry red chilies and chopped ginger. Let them fry for 30 seconds and then add the sliced onions. Add salt and fry the onions till soft.

Add the chopped amaranth greens, add the pepper and cook for about 5 minutes or till it gets completely limp and looks glazed.

Take off the flame, add the sprouts, mix well and adjust seasoning. Add lime juice to taste and serve warm as a meal or as a side dish.

I like the fresh crisp of the sprouts and a lightly criminalized sweetness of onions along with the greens. Lime juice will not be required if the amaranth greens are fresh so have it as you like it. You can even use spinach or fenugreek greens for this stir fry.

I make another soupy type meal for myself in a hurry sometimes, using sprouts. I like kadhi a lot, especially when I want a warm liquid type meal for dinner. This one cooks in about ten minutes and tastes way better than instant noodles. Healthier definitely as you see..

 I just whip 2 tbsp of besan (chickpea flour) in a cup of buttermilk or thinned yogurt, along with 2 pinches of turmeric powder and salt to taste. Add a cup of water more to it and cook this liquid in a sauce pan or kadhai for about 10 minutes. Stirring initially once or twice till it starts simmering on it's own. It has a tendency to boil over, so be careful in the beginning.

The kadhi is cooked once it is saucy, add the sprouts and take it off the stove. Make a tempering with 1 tsp ghee, hing and red chilly powder to taste, a bit of garam masala can be added too. Add the hot tempering into the cooked kadhi. mix well and enjoy a hot meal.

I add a few chopped bits of carrots or onions in it sometimes, especially if I have some leftover on the kitchen platform. This is comfort food for me.

Another recipe is a salad which can be made with various add-ons. This is made in most Indian homes and yet we find newer and better additions to this salad. I add finely chopped raw mango and peanuts along with green chilly and red onions in it sometimes. Salt and pepper or chaat masala is a standard seasoning for this

Some diced cucumbers, carrots, mint and coriander greens are added as and when suitable. This salad is a great snack when you are enjoying a chitchat sitting with a friend on a couch together. Serve some lime tea or lemongrass green tea with this and you would want the chitchat to go on and on. It beats the chips/wafers and kurkure hands down.

What all do you do with the sprouts? I add them to my tahiris (rice pulav with vegetables) sometimes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

an evening with Anandini tea and poetry recital by Tom Alter...

Tom Alter is the actor we have been mesmerized with since our childhood. It was his perfectly blue eyes and am impeccable Hindi-Urdu accent that made him endearing to us even as kids. He used to be an imposing presence on the television screen in the times when we used to watch a few Doordarshan serials on Sunday, later we saw him in some movies too.

Watching him recite The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T. S. Eliot) in a mellow baritone was like reliving many moments from the past. Teas from Anandini were the perfect foil to such mellifluous poetry. The event was a part of 'A New Perspective' series of events by Le Meridien, New Delhi. At twentieth floor, windows overlooking the best parts of Delhi, every element felt dream like. It happens more when I am with my favorite tea infusions. Yes I get drunk on my teas.

 It happens when the tea shines like gentle rays of rising sun to you..

Having a good cup of tea is like a morning waking up in my eyes. The first cup of tea that I have in the day is an inwards dialogue with myself that preps me up for the day ahead. My morning cuppa is a Darjeeling always as a habit, and then I have a few cups during the day that are basically tea-herb infusions. Different infusions for different moods for me as I really enjoy each cuppa as a way to have a dialogue with myself. As if the elements of nature swirl in the sunshine that a cup holds. A tea-herb infusion is always something that converses with you, soothes you when most needed and heals you when you are tormented by flu or something similar. Yes I make my own infusions mostly using fresh herbs form the garden but Anandini by Anamika Singh has been the best commercially available tea I tasted.

And in this special evening we experienced seven blends of Anandini and Tom Alter also symbolized seven cups of tea during the day to a life full of love and longing..

He started with lighting candles at each table that was laid out for the attendees, bringing everyone into the moment while he recited the lines from The Love Song...

He went on with  more verses from Ghalib in between, some anecdotes from his own life and some snippets from the play on the life of Maulana Azad who loved his tea and divided the world into tea drinkers and non tea drinkers.

Ghalib was remembered and recited with this special black topi. Such a handsome old man he is.

He looked on lovingly when Anamika introduced her teas and told everyone that they can make their own infusions always, but to appreciate loose tea and not the one that comes imprisoned in tea bags. The soul of the tea is lost when enclosed in bags, or they just use inferior quality tea. Or may be both.

The passion is so evident..

Her proud parents watched with a gleam in their eyes..

A tea with fresh rose petals looks so inviting, so refreshing.. Have a sip..

And some more while the poetry takes a break and you are listening to Beatles or Frank Sinatra or even Rajesha Khanna Hindi songs. Tom Alter quoted lines from old forgotten songs as they were played in the background. All of it felt surreal at times, music has a way to make you time travel.

Getting drunk on teas with some nostalgia thrown in, the evening was conceptualized so well.

Dainty tidbits to complement the teas were served while we soaked into Eliot's poetry recited by Tom Alter. Though I would say the snacks with the pastry layer were all a bit weird tasting, the paneer triangles and sandwiches were nice.

Later we had a gala time chitchatting with friends over some more food to eat..

Thanking Anamika and Anasuya for this wonderful experience. This picture is taken by a shaky old hand, but is still precious. Memories were made that evening, more because we friends have so much to share with each other every time we meet.

Remember to appreciate good quality teas, make your own infusions if you get good herbs and flowers around, use your imagination to bring a cuppa to life.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

colocasia tubers stir fry with drumstick leaves and coconut...

I get tempted to cook with drumstick leaves when I see the tree in my garden bearing light colored tender leaves. There is a distinct fragrance in the tender leaves of drumstick that you would get only when you pluck them. These leaves have great nutritive value and can be taken for calcium and iron supplementation in a natural way.

The best part with drumstick leaves is, they are cheap source of all the nutrients that grow easily. A tree of drumstick sprouts back even after a heavy lopping and is full of beautiful greens every few months. This tree is a blessing and does not need much care, the most naturally organic source of nutrient rich greens. Much more value to food than the over hyped spinach. With a rich supply of calcium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin C and A these greens are great for rheumatism and gout, a food that is considered tonic in nature. The nutrient value is multiplied when it is cooked with fresh coconut using a healthy cooking oil.

I cooked it with Taro roots or colocasia corms this time, which is another tonic food for GI tract conditions. But it will be better to know about taro a little more before you jump to label taro (arbi) as a "healthy" healthy food and suitable to be a daily fix.

I rarely cook arbi or colocasia tubers actually. Also called as taro roots, these corms belong to a huge family of tubers that are a little slimy and and sometimes itchy in the throat owing to the presence of oxalates in them. Yes, taro roots do have some anti nutrients like oxalates, protease inhibitors, lectin, phenolic compounds, alkaloids, phytates, cyanogens and saponins. But the good thing is,these anti nutrients and mild toxins and in very low amounts and can be minimised by cooking and roasting techniques. But do take care that continuous consumption of taro roots in large quantities may lead to toxicity. Read this study. On the other hand , taro is considered great for all conditions of an inflamed mucus membrane so it is good for many GI tract conditions. This study shows how it is used for treating scorpion stings and tuberculous tumors as well. Overall a good source of low GI complex carbs, some protein and a host of minerals in it. Taro adds magnesium to this already mineral rich stir fry.

I wrote a teaser to this wonderful recipe yesterday as I was inspired to cook it seeing the swaying drumstick branches in the pleasant morning breeze. The stir fry had little itchiness when I tasted instantly after cooking it, but after mixing the lime juice and refrigerating the stir fry overnight, it was the most aromatic side dish ever. Redolent with fresh coconut and curry patta, cumin and ginger. The husband loved it but guessed all ingredients wrong. I declare him a glutton, not a foodie.

(3-4 servings as a side dish)

baby arbi (taro roots) peeled, halved or quartered and rinsed nicely under tap water 300 gm
fresh coconut bits or grated 1 cup
tender drumstick leaves , cleaned and finely chopped 4 cups
4 cloves of garlic chopped
3-4 whole dry red chilies broken
an inch long piece of ginger root
2 tsp cumin seeds
10 springs of curry patta
1 tsp of turmeric powder
salt to taste
2 tbsp of sesame oil (or coconut oil or any oil you prefer)
lime juice 1 tbsp or more


Heat sesame oil in a thick base pan (kadhai) and tip in the chopped garlic and broken red chilies. Tip in the sliced Taro roots as well almost immediately. Fry these till you see the taro roots getting a pinkish brown hue. Add salt and turmeric at this pint , keep the flame low and mix everything well.

Add the chopped drumstick leaves, mix well and stir fry till the leaves get limp and cooked. Takes about 2-3 minutes, cook more if the taro needs more time.

In the meanwhile, make a coarse paste of coconut, ginger and cumin seeds, along with the curry patta leaves, without adding any water and add to the stir frying mix..

Cook the mixture more for about 3-4 minutes stirring all the while till the aroma of coconut and curry patta is evident. Take off the heat and add lime juice generously or as much as you like. Lime juice also helps absorption of the minerals better in this stir fry.

Let the stir fry sit for at least 2 hours before serving as lime juice neutralizes the oxalates and the itchy feeling in taro is gone. You can use turmeric pulp for the same purpose or even amchoor powder.

It can be a good side dish for a daal chawal meal for north Indians or some boiled pearl barley or red wild rice can be dded to make it a full meal if you have some protein on the side. I loved it with boiled red rice.

This stir fry can also be made using raw plantains or baby potatoes, may be a few other firm textured vegetables, but taro was a conscious choice as I wanted to convey how important it is to depend on cheaper naturally growing sources of vegetables around us. You can eat your street if you plant well.

In this recipe I used Taro, curry leaves and drumstick leaves, all of these can grow well around urban spaces that are not utilized for any productive purpose. Planting a tree that has shallow root system can be useful at the same time not causing harm to the existing buildings. Drumstick saplings in large pots, curry patta trees in ground as well as large pots and taro roots in empty spaces where nothing normally grows would be a good way to make the surroundings green in a productive way.

Other trees that need minimal maintenance are kachnar (Bauhinia species) and agast or agathi keerai (Sesbania grandiflora). There are varieties of these trees that grow only about 10 feet tall and can easily be used as a good supply of leafy greens. Some creepers like Bitter gourds, flat beans and snake gourds also do well in poorly watered areas. All these grow really well in terrace gardens even when you only have time on weekends to water the plants. Like I suggested in my last post, if you want a drumstick sapling for your terrace or balcony and if you are somewhere in Delhi, do shoot me a mail, I will plant one for you this monsoon and then you can pick it up from my place.

Greenery around your living space is an affirmation of life.

PS : Announcing the winners of the giveaway of Diva Green, the third cookbook by Ritu Dalmia here. And the winner is Madhuli according to Random Result. Congratulations Madhuli. Please email me at and send me your address so I can mail you the book.

when cooking is musical the food will always be healing...

They say not all those who wander are lost. I would add not all those who are lost are wanderers.

I prefer getting lost in the nature around me, to connect with it and to sing with it. Something happened today morning when I sipped my first cup of hot Darjeeling tea. While leaning back on the couch by the window, I got a glimpse of what the front door lead to. The drumstick branches were swaying with the morning breeze while the curtains inside were still.

It was decided instantly what I was cooking today.

Monsoons are the times when we don't consume many greens as they all carry contamination during this hot and humid season. The greens growing fresh on the trees are exempted as they grow much above the soil. I have posted a recipe of easy egg scramble with drumstick/moringa leaves and have emphasized on how healthy these greens are. And how they are available in organic form. The leaves can be sun dried and powdered to be used later in curries and chutneys, I have seen tribes of Jharkhand doing the same. Actually I learned to eat this unusual green seeing my housemaid plucking the leaves from a neighborhood tree. There is so much to learn if you just watch.

A few clicketty-click later, few hot red chilies were cut, put into hot sesame oil to sizzle and sing. Chirpy arbi was peeled and diced, the mixie made some background music as the morning breeze attuned with the washing machine whirring on the sly.

Yes, even these voices become music when you are attuned to nature and a few green branches are peeping in through your windows. It makes great symphony.

The moringa leaves were rinsed and chopped, added to the sizzling hot frying arbi and garlic, some pasted coconut-curry patta went in and here was a yummy gorgeous dish that was dressed with fresh lime juice. Four of these ingredients were from the garden, the sesame oil came traveling from Chennai with a friend and few more ingredients just got together to give them all good company. You know the food will be healing when it is cooked humming along the tunes of morning breeze., swaying branches, fluttering leaves and a symphony of bird calls.

I always suggest learning cooking, enjoying it and making it a pleasure activity. It goes a long way in ensuring how healthy a life you live.
If you are anywhere around Delhi and can come and pick up a drumstick sapling from my garden, do write to me, I will plant one for you this monsoon. You would get good supply of these healthy leaves from a pot around 15' high. Spreading love is easy.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

grilled pineapple and paneer salad with basil and pine nuts ...

I love pineapples and I love paneer. I grow my own fresh basil so this is the most natural salad for me all the time. Yes this is a very frequently repeated salad at my place but when I forget about it I really do. And then I start missing it. And then I make it for a week every single day. Actually I keep looking for fully ripe pineapples just for this salad. The deep yellow, slightly soft and sweet pineapple slices make this salad something else. Grilling does some magic to the sweet supple pineapples slices. And yes, to the paneer cubes as well.

The salad is not much of a recipe in fact. You just have to grill the pineapple slices and paneer cubes over gas flame or barbecue grill if you have set that up (I cannot think of a barbecue in this Indian summer), and toss them up with a mix of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Or just use any dressing you like. I often do it with chaat masala or just salt n pepper. Adding herbs of choice and a few nuts at times is what I do. I have loved fresh rosemary in this salad too and finely chopped coriander greens as well. Mint goes with all fruits if you ask me. So go by what you have around, just the pineapple should be really ripe and the paneer should be fresh, preferably home made paneer.

You just have to place a grid or whatever contraption you use for grilling over gas flame and arrange the pineapple slices over it. Turn them when lightly charred and then do the same with paneer slices or cubes. Take care to place the hot grilled paneer cubes into a bowl that contains a tsp of EVOO and toss it immediately, otherwise they stick together. The milk proteins in paneer have a tendency to stick when hot. When you are done with grilling, just toss everything together with your choice of dressing/seasoning, herbs and nuts.

I used fresh Thai basil here and a mix of EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Salt should be minimal in my opinion, but adjust seasoning after mixing well.

Pine nuts and chopped almonds is my preferred choice for this salad, but I do add roasted peanuts when I season it with chaat masala. The last week I enjoyed this salad with only this EVOO and balsamic dressing. I had mixed the dressing in a small bottle and kept on the table ready for the week. This is addictive stuff let me tell you.

Use fresh mozzarella if you can get. I add specks of feta cheese when I want to add a little saltiness without the addition of salt in this salad.

I know you are getting my point. The salad is versatile and you can make your own favorite version when you want it. Do let me know if you try this. May be I will come up with a new version of this salad very soon. There are times when I buy 3 pineapples for the week. You see where I am coming from :-)

Monday, July 1, 2013

the ten food products I would love to see in our Indian markets...

I advocate fresh produce, local and seasonal all the time and will keep doing that always. At the same time I have seen apple growers of Himachal struggling to sell the fresh apples at a good price and then trying to salvage the smaller or deformed apples by sun drying to a small extent. Most of their not so good looking apple crop rots in their own backyard. I have often wondered why they don't sundry their apples nicely or use other ways to dehydrate them. I know I am partial to good quality sun dried apples but these small scale apple growers could even make apple butter and sell it to the tourists. I see no reason why tourists wont buy these home made preserves and dried fruits. May be these people need a little push in making them learn natural preservation and market the produce in  better ways. Local and seasonal is great but any extra produce should reach better places rather than rotting in a backyard. We eat a lot of spices and condiments which is not grown in out backyard and a few jars of dehydrated fruits would be great to stock.

I attended an interactive session on Indian culinary ingredients and changing cooking techniques hosted by Dabur India at The Park, New Delhi. Among the speakers were Dr. B.L. Satyanarayana, food and dairy consultant and VP of association of food scientists and technologists, (Pune), Mr. T. Bhaskar Reddy Head of foods R&D, Dabur India Ltd and Mr. Praveen Jaipuriar, Category Head-food, Dabur India Ltd.

I asked the speakers why Himachal apples cannot be sun dried, packaged and marketed by companies like Dabur and why we can't get good quality coconut flour in India. These companies are doing good packaging and the quality of products is great. Although I would like the fruit juices by 'Real' to be sugar free. Some more fruit based beverages can be produced for sure. Why not a fruit smoothie will all the pulp intact. TetraPak can do it easily.

There are many more Indian produce I would like to see in processed form for the convenience in a modern kitchen. Here are a few I would like in my kitchen as well..

Canned tomatoes that are labeled for the variety of tomatoes it has : yes we grow so many varieties of tomatoes and yet we don't get to eat them. Not to mention so much fresh produce is wasted and the farmers don't get a good price.

Sun dried tomatoes : because if I can do that, the industry can do better. Sun dried tomatoes in the country with so much of dry summer sun is the most logical thing.

Tomato paste : how come we don't have it as yet? This should come in a squeeze friendly tube pack.

Apple butter : Just because so much of good quality apples are wasted and people are turning to margarine and such crap. Better to bring apple butter form kinnaur.

Sun dried apples : I told you I love these and in a country where we grow apples in just a few places but plenty of it and a lot of it is wasted. The smaller tart varieties would make such good sun dried apples.

Coconut flour : We grow more coconut than we make coconut oil perhaps or is it vice versa? We can definitely make some simple coconut flour for sure.

Tender coconut chips : Look at that picture above. Some small scale industry has made such sweet and flavorful tender coconut chips and it makes such a nice topping for desserts. Why not a company like Dabur doing it. I depend a lot on the coconut milk they provide us. I want coconut chips from them.

Plain grated coconut or fresh coconut paste : yes, if they can make such good quality coconut milk, and tamarind paste, why not some coconut paste for us. It would fly off the shelves instantly as most of us make chutneys at home almost 3 times a week.

Dehydrated fruits : Dabur is already producing so many fruit juices, why not a single variety of dehydrated fruit? We would love some pineapple, plums and good quality apricots for sure. Some custard apples, mango slices and why not guava or guava cheese of Goa? But I would like it from Indian growers around the country. I have seen very good dried apricot powder in Leh and wonder why it can't be dried hygienically and packaged nicely and come to mainstream market.

Fruit smoothies or purees : Pure fruit puree and no added sugar would be my choice. I know TetraPak can do it easily. Also, it would be great of the Real juices are without added sugar.

And now a request to my readers. Please add your list of whatever you want in your pantry. Made from Indian produce, something that can make your kitchen versatile and convenient both. It will help the farmers of the country as well.