Thursday, October 31, 2013

buckwheat flour English muffins for a gluten free breakfast for bread eaters | a pan baked bread

English muffins are easy breads that you can make fresh or make in a large batch and refrigerate for the week. And if you are in a habit of eating breads every day for breakfast, this gluten free buckwheat English muffins make more sense. I have been baking gluten free multi-grain English muffins and whole wheat English muffins in the past years and this buckwheat English muffin evolved from the fasting foods we used to eat during Navratris and buckwheat pancakes my husband loves to have any day.

The other day a friend was asking about how to make the breakfast gluten free as her whole family is used to having toast with butter or jam along with eggs, fruit, milk etc. That toast or bread butter can be hard to get rid of if you have been on it for decades if not your whole life. Minimal gluten ragi breads work if you can bake for the week, dosas work well if you can manage and pancakes also work if you like sweet breakfast like my husband. Oatmeal is boring if you ask me. Savory Indian breakfasts like poha or upma are more my type but most people don't like them and even I can't have them every day. This buckwheat English muffin can be one of those variations you can try.

The best thing about this buckwheat English muffin is that, it gets ready in about 20 minutes from scratch. You don't need any yeast or time to rise the yeast, just make a batter and use the largest widest pan you have and make the English muffins for the whole family in one batch. I use my dosa tawa that can accommodate about 6-7 such muffins in one batch, more than enough for the two of us.

(makes about 10 English muffins)

buckwheat flour 1.5 cup ( I used with partial husk)
soda bi carb 1/4 tsp
salt and pepper to taste
home made or cultured yogurt 1 cup
little water to adjust consistency

ghee or butter or oil to shallow fry the English muffins


Mix the buckwheat flour with salt and pepper, soda bicarb well. Add the yogurt and whisk, add some water to make it a consistency like this. It will get a bit thick and slimy.

Heat a wide frying pan and grease with ghee or butter. Drop spoonfuls (the size of ice cream scoop) of batter carefully to keep it round on the pan. and let it cook for a couple of minutes. These muffins swell up in size as they cook.

Turn them with the help of a wide spatula and cook on the other side too. You would see a furrow in the middle of the muffins where you can split the muffins in two later.

It takes about 3-4 minutes to cook. Take them off the pan, let them cool a bit before you can handle and then split them with the help of fork or slice with the help of a sharp knife. I always split them using a fork so the open surface is more uneven and porous.

I fried a few eggs on the same pan and served ourselves a quick breakfast with hot milk on the side. Arvind loves sweet breakfasts so I added some poaches peaches with balsamic on his English muffins. So it is Peach melba on English muffins. The poached peaches were refrigerated after adding some balsamic so we can use it any time. It has about 1 tsp sugar per large peach, microwaved till cooked with a pinch of cinnamon. Such preserves are useful in making quick desserts sometimes.

No butter is required on the English muffins as the taste is really good, a bit nutty and very soft and pillowy. Or you can go ahead and butter them and have warm. You might like it for a quick snack with your evening tea as well.

Now go get some buckwheat for yourself. You can always powder whole buckwheat or buckwheat groats in your coffee grinder or mixie as it powders really fast, being a soft grain.

There are a lot many recipes I have posted with buckwheat. Have a look if you want more buckwheat recipes.
Buckwheat pancakes with red amaranth leaves
Buckwheat pancake with caramelized banana and date syrup
Buckwheat and spinach soup
Buckwheat and chickpea flour savory pancakes 
Buckwheat tomato red bell peppers soup 
Buckwheat khichdi with tomatoes
Buckwheat savory pancakes with zucchini

Add buckwheat groats to any soups you cook for dinners and see how the soups become more filling and tasty, the body of the soup enhances too.

The buckwheat English muffins can be served with any cheese, salsa salads, tapenade sauce with olives or pickled peppers, or cold cuts and onions-tomato-salad greens if you want to make it quicker.

Monday, October 28, 2013

ginger honey cake with ragi flour | a breakfast cake for winters

Ginger honey cake would not make a birthday cake ever probably. For most people I mean. May be I meet someone who likes these flavors as much as we do but I am not quite sure if they would bake this ginger honey cake with ragi flour and not all purpose flour.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

Everyone wants more beautiful looking lighter cakes on birthdays but here we enjoy flavors more. I mostly go by my instinct about flavors and this time it was ginger honey cake for the husband's birthday, that too a loaf cake as we both don't care about looks that way. He had got a throat infection after the last trip to the Himalayas we did and as I was making him a ginger and honey tea and planned to bake his favorite dark chocolate lava cake, I changed my mind for a ginger and honey cake. I am glad I did as the cake was truly out of this world with ginger warmth and honey sweetness.  .

We were climbing down from Agoda village in Uttarkashi on our last day of the trek we did last week as we quietly celebrated Arvind's birthday. We got a pleasant surprise at breakfast time when one of the fellow trekkers broke into a birthday song for Arvind and hugged him, it's always heart warming to see strangers being so warm. I baked this cake the very day we arrived home and wished that I could pass on the cake to all of them trekkers.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

The world is a small place and we shall meet again. Every journey culminates into sweet memories that we cherish for life. The cake was a good way to veer off the tiredness after the trek as well as take care of the mild throat infection.

Ginger honey cakes age really well. It always tastes better after each passing day so make enough for the family so it lasts for a week at least.

ragi flour 180 gm
chopped fresh ginger root 100 gm
raw brown sugar 1 tbsp
dry ginger powder 2 tsp
honey 140 gm ( I used unpasteurized honey which is a bit less sweet)
butter 60 gm *(you can add about 20 gm more to get a softer cake)
3 eggs
baking powder 1 tsp
baking soda 1/2 tsp
pinch of clove powder
pinch of nutmeg powder

Soak the chopped ginger in the brown raw sugar for about an hour. You can soak it in honey as well or use the ginger directly. You might like to use a little candied ginger (later in the batter) to get a richer flavor of ginger in the cake. My home made stock of candied ginger was over as I had gifted it to a couple of friends.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

Break the eggs in a mixing bowl, melt the butter (bring to room temperature) and pour it over the eggs. Whisk lightly.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

Add the soaked chopped ginger in the mixture and mix lightly.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

Mix the dry ingredients and tip them all in this mixing bowl.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

And whisk to make a batter. It wouldn't be a free flowing batter, almost like a muffin batter as ragi doesn't have the tendency to bind well.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

Pour into a greased loaf tin. To fill a loaf tin of ...... you need to double this recipe. I made a small cake as I already had a few leftover pieces of a chocolate cake to finish and knowing that only one person eats cake I like baking a different cake every week in small amount so there will be variety.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

Bake at 180 C for 40 minutes or till a skewer comes out clean. The cake has a tendency to get brown, ragi is already brown but a rich crust will be visible after baking. Few cracks are normal and you can arrange a thin line of butter strips to get a single median furrow in the loaf. I didn't do it this time.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

Cut slices and serve with either a drizzle of more honey or a dollop of whipped cream if you wish. Arvind loved it with his breakfast along with warm milk. I liked small half slices with hot milk.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

The slices would be a little crumbly but they hold well while you eat. Ragi behaves a little too differently than all purpose flour so the shape may not look perfect. But rest assured the taste will be way more rich than a wheat cake, whole wheat or refined. I feel the all purpose flour (maida) somehow kills warm flavors in a cake, although I would agree that the fruit based cakes come out better with all purpose white flour or maida. But then you have choices always.

ginger honey cake with ragi flour

Gluten free cakes have a richer taste if you are using spices and natural sweeteners. I find more depth of flavor in such cakes as plain white sugar and white flour taste just plain boring. I found hints of the pound cake we used to bake in out childhood. The eggs and the butter make sure the cake has all the good old taste of home baked cakes and the ginger, honey and ragi add value taste and health wise both.

Tell me you too like cakes made with gluten free flours. Please do.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

murgh kaali mirch or a black pepper chicken with lemon-pepper-parsley stir fried pearl barley : week day meals can be special

Murgh kaali mirch is a popular restaurant chicken dish of Indian origin, I find the flavors suitable to everyone who loves a flavorful balance of peppery heat, a little sourness from the yogurt and onion sweetness. I have posted a recipe of murgh kaali mirch earlier and have cooked it along with spinach leaves or spring onions added mostly, but I make the plain recipe without the greens as well. This time I baked it and found it to be even more easy to make.

I used two whole legs of chicken as it was being baked and was easier to handle. The marinade was applied overnight in the fridge and the chicken was baked in a dish covered with aluminium foil to retain moisture and keep the sauce saucy.

ingredients for the murgh kaali mirch
(serves 2)
2 fat chicken legs with thighs attached
3/4 cup of thick full fat yogurt
1 tbsp of freshly milled black pepper
1/4 cup onion paste
1 tsp each of ginger and garlic paste (you can use 1/2 tsp powders of each)
a small piece of cinnamon, 2 green cardamoms, 4-5 cloves pounded together to powder
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt to taste


Mix everything together to make a marinade and smear the chicken thighs with it. Refrigerate overnight or at least for 3-4 hours before cooking.

This mixture can be simmered in a shallow pan for about 40 minutes, keeping the pan covered all the time, adding a few tbsp of water if required. But I decided to bake it this time so I would be free to do a few other things on the sly. Cover the baking dish with aluminium foil and bake for 30 minutes first, at 200 C, check the chicken if done or bake again covered or open depending upon how thick you want the sauce. The marinade becomes a nice sauce to coat the chicken.

Serve hot with your choice of accompaniments. We had it with a few batons of carrots and a lightly stir fried side of pearl barley.

Stir fried pearl barley with lemon pepper and parsley

(serves 2)

a cup of boiled pearl barley (boil it like brown rice and refrigerate for a week if you use it frequently)
4-5 thin slices of lime
2 slit fresh red chilies
a handful of fresh parsley chopped roughly
butter 2 tsp or olive oil
2 cloves of garlic chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste


Heat the butter and add the lemon slices and salt before it start melting. The lime slices will sizzle lightly and that is the time to add the chopped garlic, slit red chilly and parsley, quickly followed by the boiled pearl barley. Increase the heat, stir fry for a minute or two and serve immediately.

You would repeat this stir fried pearl barley with lime, pepper parsley and butter many times I am sure. Try replacing it with the pasta you serve to your kids and see how they gobble it up.

It makes a nice lunch box meal with shredded chicken or boiled eggs packed with it. Who doesn't love good flavors? Just replace the refined foods with whole and keep the flavors real, not chemical and see how the food is loved and cherished.
Watch this recipe being cooked on TV. The very talented Chef Vikas Khanna and yours truly share screen space and cook this wonderful chicken kali mirch recipe.

Mediterranean food at Le Meridien : one of the healthiest cuisines, wonderful flavors and a passionate Chef

 A Mediterranean food fest is going on at The one, Le Meridien, New Delhi and I decided to go there after a tough trek in the Garhwal range of Himalayas last week. We were exhausted and deprived of good food during the trek and a healthy rejuvenating kind of eating out sounded just right. Le Meridien has invited Chef David Zelnick to bring the varied cuisine from Greece, Turkey, Southern Italy and Spain and he did a wonderful job of bringing the cuisine to it's pristine best. I find the cuisine generally refreshing in flavors and it was a good decision to go for it as I found many favorites at the festival.

The One at Le Meridien is a pleasant lobby level restaurant (operating 24*7) that overlooks the beautifully lit up entrance alley at night and greenery and tall towers and buildings on the Ashoka road in the day time. The plush interiors felt cozy even if the place was buzzing with guests. The Mediterranean menu keeps changing everyday at the buffet, Chef David  introduced us to some of the interesting salads and stews that he had brought to the festival. I loved the 'Recovery Chicken' that his mother used to make and I requested the recipe to which he obliged. I am sharing the Recovery Chicken recipe with you later in this post.

I found most of the food healthy and nourishing, the salads and stews were great and the risotto and spinach lasagna were absolutely flavorful. Some of those starters were interesting too. The Chicken tenders with a horse radish mayo dip was being prepared on the live counter and it was great when served hot. A bit dry when cold so have it hot with the yummy dip. The sesame crunch and sharp horseradish mayo make a great pairing.

I loved the deep fried feta cubes with water melon slices topped with coriander salsa, it felt like a flavor bomb, sweet and salty, soft and crunchy all together. Arvind loved the Spanish deviled eggs while I told him to try those Italian meatballs with coriander and olive oil salsa. I could make a meal of these meatballs and the coriander greens salsa, I know it will be made in my kitchen very soon.

My utmost favorite will be the polenta squares topped with a ratatouille and melted parmesan. Very soft yet grainy polenta shallow fried just right so it's not too greasy, topped with a flavorful mix of vegetables. Polenta and vegetables often make my meal at home as well. Garlic bread was really good though bread and crostini are not my things. There were better things to enjoy than just bread.

I had a long and relaxed chat with Chef David and was delighted to know that he considers India as his home though he has traveled, trained and worked all across the world. He was born in Pondicherry and still works there, he loves Basmati rice and loves all coconut based curries be it south Indian curries or Thai curries. Much like my own favorite flavors I would say.

 He introduced me to this wonderful salad that he had prepared. Barley groats (almost like couscous) salad with roasted vegetables like aubergine, bell peppers and tomatoes. The salad is really good with a flavorful dressing, rich with herbs.

I found this Zucchini and chicken fritters really good too. I might make my own version of the fritters soon, the buckwheat and zucchini savory pancakes that I make were remembered.

 This cauliflowers and sesame salad was good. Nothing extraordinary though, a bit deficient on flavors..

This Chicken and seasonal fruits and vegetables salad with white wine dressing was quite succulent and flavorful. We both loved it.

I don't like tuna salads much so this green beans and Tuna salad (Salade de Provencal) was just okay for me. I like this salad to be a bit more moist but Arvind loved it.

This lightly dressed Shrimp salad (in white wine vinegar and herbs etc) was a delight to have. Plump flavorful shrimps we both loved.

In the main course, we started with this slow cooked stew of lamb and sun dried tomatoes, baby potatoes and carrots in red wine. Looks like an Indian curry but mild flavors. I liked.

This shrimp stew with basil cream and white wine is just perfect. Each element wonderfully refreshing.

This wild rice and arborio risotto was a bit more congealed than my liking but the flavors were spot on. The rice definitely suffers in a buffet as it has to stand for some time but good that the flavors were perfect in this case.

The spinach and mixed cheese lasagna was also good. Arvind was skeptical of the lasagna so he served himself some spaghetti Carbonara and loved it. Done really well I must say.

I would have liked these winter vegetables in cream sauce more if the vegetables were a bit more crisp and firm. May be this dish also suffered a long wait at the table, freshly prepared would be a lot more sense in this case. But I am not complaining, I already found a few favorites there..

The absolute favorite was this Recovery Chicken which Chef David told is served when you are recovering form an illness. His mother's recipe and it won me over. A lightly flavored stew with succulent chicken pieces and mushrooms, some carrots peeping in between. Chef David loves mushrooms too and told me he would add the mushrooms to everything if he is left on his own. I love it, may be a few more varieties of mushrooms in the same stew would make it even more my kinda stew.

I am sharing the recipe with you, as told by Chef David. You would notice he recommends Basmati rice as the accompaniment to this stew, I told you he is an Indian at heart :-)

Recovery Chicken (serves 4)

400g chicken breast cut into thick strips
200g button mushrooms in slices
1 medium carrot cut into large dice
1 red onion diced
1 l chicken or veg stock
1 1/2 tbsp white flour
1 tbsp celery fine diced
1 tsp crushed garlic
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
 a large pinch of crushed thyme
salt and black pepper
butter or olive oil for sauteing


Saute onion and celery in butter or oil until translucent, then add flour and continue to saute until golden.
add garlic and saute until aromatic.

Add stock a little at a time while stirring to prevent flour from lumping.

Add carrots, mushrooms, thyme, lemon zest and pepper and simmer until carrots are cooked through.

Add chicken and simmer until cooked. .3 to 6 min depending on size of strips.

Remove from heat and add lemon juice and salt to taste.
The sauce should have some texture but not be very thick.

The key is having a flavourful stock. I usually make my own.

For more variation one can add another vegetable like broccoli florets or asparagus tips.

Serve with mashed potatoes or fluffy basmati.

Desserts were displayed on the buffet, many of them as usual but the mediterranian specials of the day were the Hazelnut meringue cake (Bolo de Avenga Merengue) and Melba Peach.

While this Hazelnut meringue cake was nice, it couldn't hold my interest much. But my opinion on desserts would not be considered right as I rarely like any dessert. Or does it make my opinion more revered? ha decide I say.

Peach Melba was good, light citrus flavors with hints of clove and cinnamon. Some caramelised walnuts and a hint of cream. It was my kind of dessert as poached fruits I like with fresh cream mostly.

Actually even today I had some peach melba (stewed with a hint of balsamic) with an English muffin (Buckwheat) for breakfast. You know it was totally my kinda dinner and I would want to go for it again.

The Mediterranean festival is on till the end of this month so you can go and enjoy all these and more at The One, Le Meridien. Or feel free to be motivated to cook some Mediterranean food for dinner tonight.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

chicken salad with grilled zucchini, raw sweet potato and onions in a coconut cream dressing | Thai flavors in a salad meal

A chicken salad with a few of my favorite vegetables and the flavors of coconut, lemon grass and galangal. Grilled slices of zucchini and slices of raw sweet potato make this salad absolutely adorable for me as I love multiple textures and flavors in a single bowl. The creamy coconut dressing is almost like a silken foil to the main ingredients, highlights of lemony flavors make sure you keep digging in till the salad lasts. I used fresh hot red chilies form the garden to give this salad a hot kick it required, balancing the sweetness of coconut milk and sweet potatoes and complementing the triple lime. Thai flavors in a refreshing salad.

Triple lime? That is my way of overcoming the lack of fresh greens in my salads. Lemon grass is abundant in my garden and now I have galangal as well. Lemon flavors come from the lime zest and a few chopped tender grapefruit leaves. My secret ingredients.

And then there is one more ingredient that is the star here. Ruchira Hoon of Coockaroo is someone who is a walking food encyclopedia, loves all sorts of exotic food and ingredients she sources from all over the places. It has been some time when she relocated to Islamabad and that is when she showered all of us blogger friends with surprises. Among the many surprises I got, was this lovely jar of Himalayan pink salt. Interestingly, I remember my grandmother calling this salt as Pakistani namak (Pakistani salt) or Sindhi namak (Sindh is also a state in Pakistan) and now Ruchira will be reading this post from Pakistan, a few coincidences keep happening in life. This jar of salt is manufactured in Pakistan.

A memory is revived and another created alright Ruchira? Maine tumhara namak khaya hai ;-)
You are special even if there was no salt involved darling :-)

I know you love these flavors and would recreate this recipe in your isloo kitchen for sure.

Himalayan pink salt is considered to be rich in minerals and hence it has a natural pink colour. I find it more flavorful and we use it for fasting recipes as well. We have been using this salt for my salads and raitas using this salt mostly, wherever the food is being eaten raw, this salt is great to use.

We use this salt for a few home remedies as well. Here are a few things I have myself tried with Himalayan pink salt.

  • Sipping about a quarter cup of hot water with 1/2 tsp of Himalayan pink salt helps in loosening cough and phlegm from the sinus and throat. I have personal experience of this remedy and it works every single time, just take care to keep sipping the salt water really slowly over 5-7 minutes.
  • Having a warm bath with a handful of this salt dissolved in bath water. Or just soak up in tub with a generous handful of this salt. Some essential minerals found in trace amounts are absorbed directly by skin and give you a relaxing bath. It is known to ease out muscle stiffness and pain. Almost as good as Epsom salt bath or soak. Magnesium is the mineral that work mostly but more minerals in trace amount also help. See how many minerals are found in pink salt.
  • Mixing this salt with pure extra virgin coconut oil and some lime zest to make a body scrub is a great way to have a nice soothing and cleansing spa experience. I use this scrub in winters more, followed by a warm bath.
Presence of 82 minerals in trace amounts is supposed to be a healthy supplement for an optimal metabolism in traditional medicine disciplines. Balancing the doshas, keeping the electrolyte balance right and everything related to it. The salt is also used for cleansing the digestive tract by using warm water solution but those methods are highly specialised and need to be done in supervision.

Replacing regular table salt with pink salt for daily consumption is a good idea, or at least having it in everything raw we eat.

This salad makes a meal with this salt as a supplement. Let's talk about the flavors that are still lingering in my memory. I am craving this bowl of salad now after a long arduous trek in Himalayas that we did last week. It would be a truly rejuvenating kinda meal for us.

(2 servings)

chicken breast poached* and shredded 1 cup
half a large zucchini sliced thinly
half a large sweet potato sliced thinly with skin (after washing it nicely)
sliced red onions 1/2 cup

For the dressing
2 tender grapefruit leaves thinly chopped (chiffonade)
one fat lemongrass root thrashed in mortar and pestle
2 cm piece of galangal thrashed in mortar and pestle
just a few squiggles of lime zest
one small fresh red chilly finely chopped or to taste
coconut cream 1/2 cup (I used a brand from Kerala called Dinesh Kera milk)
salt and pepper to taste


Mix all the ingredients of the dressing and start preparing for other ingredients. A 20-30 minute soak is good enough to get the flavors shine while you poach and shred the chicken breast, slice and grill the zucchini etc.

*The chicken breast is poached for about 15 minutes in lightly salted water and a large handful of lemongrass leaves, 2 grapefruit leaves and a small piece of galangal. The stock can be used to make a soup so save it and freeze if required. Shred the chicken breast when cold and use as per the recipe.

Grill the sliced zucchini in oven or on gas flame over a steel grid. No need to season them. It tales just a few minutes to grill them once placed over the grid.

Mix everything together and serve right away. There will be a competition to have more helpings of this salad by everyone who is on the table trust me. Both of us have those moments with such salad meals as we dig from the bowl right away, not serving ourselves in proper plates. Fun meals I would say.

You might be reluctant to use raw slices of sweet potatoes but try it once and see how it adds another sweet dimension to such a salad and an extra crunch as well. Grilled zucchini is a smoky soft goodness with nothing gourd like about it. I would like a few slices of grilled aubergine slices as well in this salad next time.

Tell me if you try this salad. Such meals are cherished by the family, the aromatic herbs make sure everyone feels connected at meal time. There is something magical about aromatic herbs I tell you. Use them more.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

sweet potatoes and water chestnut salad with honey balsamic dressing and feta..

Sweet potatoes and water chestnuts both are in season and we are loving it. Interestingly, I love sweet potatoes more and Arvind loves water chestnuts more, so much so that he sits with a bag full of water chestnuts watching TV and peels a couple of kilos late in the night so he can have it for breakfast the next day and some salad during the coming week. He loves it most the way I stir fry it with just salt and pepper in ghee. But then he loves water chestnuts so much he can have it in other preparations as well. Sweet potatoes he normally doesn't eat unless I toss up an interesting salad with it.

This salad with sweet potatoes and water chestnuts was quite interesting with a balsamic and honey dressing. We have already repeated four times with minor variations in the dressing since I made it the first time. I love the way boiled water chestnuts taste in a salad with varied textures and how well boiled sweet potatoes soak up flavors from whatever dressing you use. Water chestnuts do not soak up much flavors, but provide a good crunch and a nice dimension to overall flavors.

(2 servings as a salad meal and 4-5 servings as a salad with meal)

one large sweet potato boiled or microwave cooked (about 200 gm)
peeled fresh water chestnuts about 20 (halved)*
sliced red onions 2-3 tbsp or as per taste
torn basil leaves about 6-8 or to taste
feta cheese 50-60 gm or more to taste
chopped almonds about 20 gm
pine nuts about 20
honey 2 tsp or a little more
balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp or a little more
salt and pepper to taste
dash of lime juice (optional)


Peel the cooked sweet potato and cube in bite size pieces. Indian sweet potatoes are pale and don't look as vibrant as in the temperate countries but they are full of flavour.

*Cook (microwave or boil) the water chestnuts if they are tough, use them raw if they are sweet and tender. Keep aside.

Take a large salad bowl and mix the honey, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, lime juice and give it a good stir. Add the onions and basil, mix.

Now add the sweet potato cubes and water chestnut halves along with chopped almonds and pine nuts into this dressing, mix well to coat evenly. Check seasoning and adjust.

Crumble feta cheese over it, mix lightly and serve right away.

The flavors in the salad are so varied with salty feta, sweet potatoes, crunchy sweet water chestnuts and the nuts. Basil and onions add a new dimension. I added sweet lime juice the other day and it was equally yum. I think some orange juice will be great too.

Try this salad while the season lasts and let me know if you liked.

You can always adjust the ingredients of this salad to make it a navratri fasting recipe. Skip onions, use pink salt and paneer cubes instead of feta and your fasting meal is ready.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

fermented foods | panta bhaat or pakhala or poita bhat : a fermented rice meal that can be a healing alternative to OTC probiotics...

Panta bhaat or pakhala bhaat is a fermented rice porridge that is eaten after fermenting the rice for about 8 hours minimum. The farmers find vigour from such foods even if the ingredients are frugal. An occasional fish fry or green vegetables can be added to a poor farmers summer meal of panta bhaat, but the green chilly and onion would be a permanent companion to this meal. Urban folk eat this panta bhaat for a light cooling meal, I say it is therapeutic for the system as well.

Cleansing type, detox food especially when had with raw onion and green chilies and some lime juice along with it.

This past summer I tried a few variations of panta bhaat to improve my gut flora and to keep my self cooler and these meals helped a lot. I found this meal to be a real treat when accompanied with a fired eggs, some cucumber and some light vegetable curry along. Here you see a ridge gourd and poppy seeds curry called jhinge posto, another Bengali specialty.

How to make panta bhaat...

To make panta bhat just cook rice normally as you do. Add water to the cooked (or even leftover) rice, mix well to make all rice grains separated (to allow uniform fermentation) and let it sit for at least 8 hours in Indian summers. You should get a pleasant sourish alcoholic aroma when the mixture ferments nicely. Any foul smell means the rice has putrefied and needs to be trashed.

Once fermented, you can refrigerate the panta bhaat for a couple of days if you made it in excess or let it become a bit more sour as per your liking. Garnish the fermented gruel with some chopped green chilly, raw baby onion and a little raw mustard oil (or extra virgin olive oil or toasted sesame oil), season with salt and have it with whatever accompaniments you like.

You wont find much online information if you search for such forgotten foods. Healing foods were a part of every household and parents and grandparents intuitively knew when to prepare such a meal for an ailing family member or when the season demands such meals for the whole family. Some fun accompaniments were served with such frugal meals so the interest in the healing meal is not lost. Interestingly I found that raw onions of the baby variety were a constant accompaniment with this gruel in all Indian states that I got to know, some green chilly also enhanced the probiotic and cooling property. Some kind of fried fritters and fish is also served to keep the interest in such a simple frugal meal going.

This article by Ena Desai throws some light on the 'culture' of panta bhaat. What flavors are added to this frugal meal and how some folks eat it with added jaggery too. I found a few recipes of Odiya origin called Pakhala and Konkani origin called Tanni anna , so glad a few bloggers are sharing traditional family recipes for the world. Vikram Doctor had done an article in Economic Times long back on this forgotten culture of food. The culture of food involved live cultures that heal the tummy and keep the gut flora healthy, cooling the body all at the same time.

The phytic acid (the anti nutrient responsible for non absorption of minerals present in the food) is denatured during fermentation process , making this fermented rice meal many times more nourishing than plain boiled rice. See the research by the team of Assam Agricultural University regarding panta bhaat being a nourishing food..

I am surprised I have so many Bong friends and no one actually fed me panta bhat ever. They keep raving about it but never ever serve it to guests, the reason being, it is a very frugal meal and is considered lowly for the purpose of entertaining a guest. I wish panta bhat becomes a part of an elaborate menu somewhere. I would love to taste the authentic version some day. Till then I am glad I can ferment at home. Yeast is my best friend.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

picture recipe | aubergine dip with tahini, hung curd and pine nuts..

This aubergine dip with tahini and pine nuts is quite a stunner when served with pomegranate arils on top. It is a a good way to include more vegetables into your diet along with nuts and seeds. You can dilute the dip a little to make a cold soup as well.

The dip is a variation of the Greek baba ghanouj or baba ganoush, you can always tweak it to your taste and availability of herbs and nuts.

This aubergine dip goes well with any crackers, pita chips or fresh pita bread or even crisp parathas. It stays well in the fridge for a week or so.

Try the leftovers on cucumber slices, you will be surprised with the taste.