Wednesday, February 26, 2014

making strawberry preserve and recipe of strawberry and quark mousse

Strawberries are everywhere around the markets here in Delhi and we have been enjoying them mostly by themselves or tossed with salads. The greedy person that I am, I end up buying things in bulk if I see them fresh, more so with strawberries as we never get as fresh strawberries as Pune or Bombay here in Delhi. Finding fresh and succulent strawberries is always a pleasure and making jams or preserves with them is even more so. I am yet to freeze strawberries owing to limited freezer space that I have but preserving them with vanilla, lemon zest or balsamic vinegar seems more convenient as I use the preserves more for the other quick recipes I do.

The husband loves a generous spoonful of vanilla strawberry preserve in his breakfast porridge along with chopped banana sometimes and I love mixing a spoonful in my yogurt if I want a dessert after lunch.

The lemon zest strawberry preserve is used for the smoothies and I have already stashed away a huge jar of this lemony goodness for the summers. The strawberry preserve comes handy in many ways while making beverages and desserts, mix it, whip it, juice it along or blend in.

This strawberry vanilla preserve is easy to make. You can make it with less sugar and keep refrigerated for about 2 months, or preserve using enough sugar if you want to store at room temperature.

To make this preserve, chop 400 gm strawberries in small bits, discarding the green crown and cook with a cup of water and 100 gm sugar. This much sugar is enough to make it sweet enough for desserts and smoothies, if you want to preserve the jam you might want to use 200-250 gm sugar and let the jam cook till it starts getting bubbles and the surface looks shiny. One pod of vanilla is added after splitting it and scraping the seeds while cooking the jam if you want Vanilla strawberry jam. A tsp of fresh lemon zest to be added of you want a lemon and strawberry jam.

Things will be a bit more precise when you want a nicely set jam that stay well at room temperature. Sugar definitely preserves it and strawberries have enough pectin to make a set jam. If you want to be sure you can add seeds of an orange tied in muslin or in a strainer like this to the cooking mixture. You can do a test whether the jam sets nicely by dropping a little jam on a plate and keeping it in freezer for a minute. If the jam sets like jelly, it's ready else it needs a bit more cooking. The jam will be tasty even if it doesn't set so feel free to experiment.

Now about the strawberry vanilla mousse with quark cheese and white chocolate. Quark cheese and Greek yogurt are almost similar in taste, quark cheese can be made low fat if required. Quark cheese is nothing but cultured yogurt which is hung to separate the whey and the yogurt solids make nice and creamy quark cheese. One can use hung curd instead.

(makes 10-12 servings)
quark cheese or fresh home made hung curd 500 gm
low fat fresh cream (Amul 25%) 200 gm
strawberry vanilla preserve 250 ml
chopped strawberries fresh 100 gm
good quality white chocolate chopped or chips 100 gm
mint leaves for garnish
vanilla sugar if required 2-3 tbsp (powder 250 gm granulated sugar with a pod of vanilla to make vanilla sugar)


Whip the quark cheese and fresh cream till smooth. Add the strawberry preserve and whip smooth again. Add vanilla sugar of required.

Add the chopped white chocolate and fold lightly, save some chopped white chocolate for garnish. Fold the chopped strawberries too if you wish. Refrigerate to chill for 3-4 hours.

I prefer layering it while serving in bowls of glasses or glass teacups. I used some more strawberry preserve to layer in this case too.

This dessert is easy to assemble if you have prepared vanilla preserve. The quark cheese need some time too but you can always plan it ahead and make some quark or hung curd a day ahead and assemble this mousse right at the time of serving. This is a much loved mousse at my place and I make many versions of it. One with Kiwi fruit another with Jamun when my backyard is strewn with soft ripe jamuns and one with even ripe cubed mangoes. The fruit needs to be treated differently in each case but you can play around with just any fruit for such luscious easy dessert.

The loving kids of my friend love this mousse so much I try and make it for them whenever possible. I have iced cakes with this mousse for them and they just lap it up every single time. Making everyone happy with a dessert they love is so easy. Especially when the dessert is healthy too.

Homemade desserts from scratch are doable, lovable and gorgeous to look at. I couldn't click pictures of the whole batch this time too as I had to take it to my friend's place. I kept one cup of the mousse back home so I can get a few pictures to share. The rest was polished off almost instantly.

So good.

Friday, February 21, 2014

101 alternative flours | sweetcorn oatmeal and spinach savoury muffins with cheddar, served with garlic mascarpone

Sweetcorn oatmeal and spinach savoury muffins loaded with cheddar cheese. This green savoury muffin is something everyone will keep munching the whole day if you don’t restrict them to breakfast only. It is a good ‘make ahead breakfast’ or a lunch box meal that comes handy to every parent, it is so easy it can be made by the kids themselves if they wish to. The use of oats ensures you get loads of added fiber, lowered glycemic index and a filling meal, just add spinach and sweet corn by the cup, blend together and you get the batter to start with. Eggs and cheddar cheese makes it protein and calcium rich and boosts flavours into the muffin, use low fat cheddar if you are concerned about fats but we are not using any fat in the muffin recipe so regular cheddar will be good too. Since this muffin does not use any cooking fat in it, we take the liberty to serve it with a low fat mascarpone frosting and that makes this muffin an instant charmer.

Gluten free snacks and breakfasts are not that difficult to do. Use either barley flour of cornmeal for this recipe and get the same results with the savoury muffins. The texture and flavours will be slightly different but he ease of cooking a gluten free, low glycemic breakfast or lunch box treat was never so easy.


(Makes 9 savoury muffins)
instant cooking oats 1 scant cup (about 80 gm)
fresh sweet corn kernels 3/4 cup
steamed and chopped spinach 3/4 cup
lime juice i tsp
black pepper powder 1 tsp
garlic minced 2 tsp
red chilly flakes 1 tsp
nutmeg powder 1/4 tsp
sun dried tomatoes minced or tomato paste 1 tbsp
grated cheddar cheese 1 cup (about 80 gm)
eggs 2
soda bi carb 1/4 tsp

1.       Line a muffin tray with muffin liners or use ceramic ramekins to bake the muffins. Grease the ramekins if using. Keep aside.
2.       Preheat the oven to 150 C.
3.       Pulse the sweet corn kernels and chopped spinach in the food processor for 30 seconds so they get coarsely ground. Do not add any water while blending.
4.       Add the eggs and pulse once again for a couple of seconds so it gets mixed.
5.       Mix the oats with soda bi carb in a dry bowl first and then add to the food processor bowl and pulse once again till everything is mixed to make a thick batter. Empty the contents in a bowl, it will be a barely flowing batter, more like tacky dough.
6.       Add the grated cheese, fold the mixture lightly and pour 1 heaped tbsp in each of the muffin liners arranged in the muffin tray.
7.       Bake for 20 minutes or till the surface of the muffins feel firm to touch. The muffins get doubled in size so take care to not fill up the muffin slots with too much batter.
8.       Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with dill flavoured mascarpone.

To make garlic flavoured mascarpone, just add ½ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp salt and 2 tsp minced parsley to a cup of mascarpone cheese, whip to mix and serve.

You can make mascarpone cheese at home using low fat fresh cream. Heat 500 ml fresh cream in a thick base pan, add 2 tsp of lemon juice just as the cream is about to simmer. Stir till the cream looks thickened, it won’t curdle and separate in the pan. Now pour this hot cream in a muslin lined sieve propped over a large bowl and keep this set up in the fridge overnight. You will see all the whey drains in the bowl below and the cheesecloth collects creamy mascarpone. Use as required.

If not mascarpone, use hung curd or Greek yogurt or quark cheese, whatever suits you and whatever you get easily. After all such an easy savory muffin needs an easy topping. But then these muffins are tasty even without the topping. Just reheat them in the microwave and have warm. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

making chocolate spreads at home | easy recipes for dark chocolate almond spread and milk chocolate and hazelnut spread

Almonds are my favorite nuts not just for the nutritional value but for the versatility they have in blending in with any kinds of flavours. I usually make almond butter at home sometimes, not to replace the dairy butter but to bring some variety in flavors, to be added to the soups I make sometimes. This time I saved half of the roasted almonds and made this honey sweetened dark chocolate spread for the husband. He is the one who needs some dessert in a small serving and this dark chocolate almonds spread with a slice of frozen banana or as it is. This spread becomes hard  in Indian winters to be moulded like a truffle and I really did that for the husband.

I had made another milk chocolate and hazelnut spread earlier this month when Ruchira brought some nice hazelnuts from Islamabad. I have never liked hazelnuts much but they pair really well with chocolate. I tried them with dark and milk chocolate both, it was better with milk chocolate, blame it to the sweetness.

 The recipe is simple and takes just about 10 minutes. It can be used as a cake frosting if you wish. Or just have it like a dessert everyday after dinner as Arvind loves. One spoonful of sweetness.

I used good quality Swiss chocolate for this spread so the taste is really good. Use any good quality chocolate you can lay your hands upon.

Look how the chocolate makes this spread so rich.

This spread is better than nutella any day. Make it to know better.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

a stammtisch lunch at Hyatt Regency : Swiss-German food served in a cozy set up and a masterclass by Chef Marin Leuthard

 I have been wanting to cook a nice platter of spaetzli with some alternative flours but that experiment has been held up for some reason. I had loved spaetzli and a few more delicious dishes from Swiss-German regions at the Lounge floor of Hyatt Regency last month. I know I could not share that lovely experience with you all back then, but now let me tell you how delicious simple foods can be with a warm group of people. That spaetzli and the Grison barley soup has been haunting me since then.

Chef Marin Leuthard has been hosting Stammtisch dinner tables there for small gatherings with exclusively cooked food from his part of the world. These stammtisch get-togethers are hosted and served like a family gathering and would be great for small family meals or informal meetings. I had the honour of being a part of the preview table he hosted for a select people and the flavours are still fresh in my mind. I have been cooking a lot of barley soups after that, even though I have loved barley soups always, but after this table I remember Chef Leuthard every time I cook some barley.

He cooked this lovely Grison Barley soup with utmost care and we indulged in the aromas of the soup before digging into it. The soup simmered slowly while Chef made the spaetzli and the apple fritters.

Bikramjit Ray was also there with us, sharing his own kitchen experiences and how he has an impressive array of kitchen gadgets, see what this barley soup does to a foodie like him.

Chef Leuthard cooked the spaetzli as we watched the miniature dumplings boil and then being cooled in iced water. It was then stir fried with some chopped ham and herbs. Loads of cheese too.

I was thinking how I would make it low glycemic. I am definitely doing that and a recipe will be shared very soon.

Later, Chef made a rich Gruyere Fondue with a combination of Emmental and generous spiking of Kirsch. Everyone loved this cheese fondue with fresh pieces of bread while I loved it with slices of granny smith apples. Yes I have that kind of a taste and fruits always will be favourites.

Some glossy granny smith apples on the counter were for another beauty of a dish.

And Chef made a lovely looking a Beignet de pommes, apple fritters with granny smith apples, dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with vanilla custard and strawberry coulis.

We enjoyed a nice espresso with kirsch at the end of this meal. Chef Leuthard had prepared Swiss chocolate bars with roasted almonds and a milk chocolate spread with hazelnuts for us.

The milk chocolate spread was so good I tried making it at home. I usually don't eat much chocolate but a scant teaspoon of this spread goes a long way, the flavours are so rich. This spread will be a regular at my place now, may be with different nuts and sometimes dark chocolate too.

Sharing the recipe of this chocolate spread and one more in the next post. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

cape gooseberries, strawberries and black grapes salad with paneer and a cape gooseberry jam with ginger

Mid way into the winters and we start seeing these gorgeous Cape gooseberries (rasbhari in Hindi) in Delhi and almost all over the north India. One of my favourite fruits since childhood and I remember someone had Cape gooseberries growing in their kitchen garden in our neighborhood when I was just about 3-4 years old. This was in Nainital and I still remember how it smelled around that garden and how I loved it. Even now that memory knocks at the back of my head whenever I get the whiff of this fruit in our markets. So full of flavours and aromatic in it's own way.

I make jams and salads mostly whenever I am not eating the fruit right from it's papery envelop. The high pectin content makes this berry highly suitable for jams and preserves and makes it rich in Calcium as well. 

The fruit contains 1.8 per cent protein, 0.2 per cent fat and 11.5 per cent carbohydrates. It also contains 10 mg of calcium, 60 mg of phosphorus and 18 mg of iron per 100 g of fruit and 2380 I.U. of vitamin A and 50 mg of vitamin C. due to its high pectin content it can be used for table purpose and preparation of jam and jelly which has an export value. (source)

Around the same time strawberries also make a flushing appearance in the markets and black grapes become more and more plump and abundant too. I often mix them all along with pineapple cubes to make my fruit salads, the sole reason being I buy too much of these on my weekly fruits and vegetables shopping day. Thursdays are the days when a nice farmer's market style market is heal here in my locality and I never miss a chance.

I love how the juices of all these fruits make a fresh tangy cocktail and feels tingling even without a dressing.This salad is a real boost of antioxidants and that too in a yummy way. No one can resist this salad even if you add a few bits of raw greens and may be a few cubes of guava as well.

Sometimes I add some paneer cubes to the same, add some dressing and some greens growing in the garden and make a filling and more balanced salad meal for us. This salad was a weekend brunch for us, after a round of Darjeeling tea and another round of milky ginger chai. This salad was a filling and refreshing start of a lazy Friday. Yes we started our weekend a day early this week :-)

Recipe and ingredients
(2 large servings)
1 cup of halved black grapes
1 cup of halved cape gooseberries
1 cup of quartered strawberries
1 cup of torn arugula (rocket) leaves (loosely packed)
few springs of fresh thyme (optional)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a dash of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt (or a mix of black salt and table salt)
250 gm paneer cubes in small bits (makes 1.25 cups)

You can add cubes of pineapple, guava etc too as they belong to the same sweet and tart family of flavours.

Just shake or whisk balsamic vinegar and olive oil together along with the salt and a few thyme leaves if using and pour over the mixed berries and paneer. Toss them together along with the torn rocket leaves and enjoy the salad fresh

Mint leaves work really well with this salad too so use them if you have them at hand. Mix a few leaves of spinach too if you are growing them yourselves.

Replace paneer with fresh mozarella if you feel fancy but I just love the way paneer soaks up the juices in the salad. All the juices of these berries make a really nice cocktail with balsamic vinegar and feel fresh and wholesome.

I make this jam with cape gooseberries and ginger almost every year and this jar of jam is actually from my last year's abundance of rasbhari. I had made some extra to gift someone and probably forgot. Now that half of the jar is over, I have to make it again before the rasbhari vanishes from the markets.

To make this rasbhari or cape gooseberry jam with ginger, clean and chop the berries in quarters and measure them. To each cup of chopped berry, add half a cup of sugar and 1 heaped tbsp of grated ginger (more or less according to taste) and put them all together in a deep pan along with 2-3 tbsp water per cup of berries.

Cook on medium heat till the mixture starts thickening and looks shiny. At this stage you see a very pleasant bubbling that indicates the sugar syrup has now gelled the pectin. You can test the jam by dropping it on a clean plate and keeping it in the freezer for 30 seconds. The gelling indicates the jam is done.

Transfer the ready jam in sterilised jars immediately, let it cool and then cover the jars. This jam keeps well for the whole year at room temperature. I sometimes add a hint of red chilly powder to it and that takes this jam into the chutney territory. Do it the way you like it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

gluten free amaranth foxnut muesli flavoured with fresh strawberries | alternative grains for everyday meals

Muesli is a mixture of cereal grains, dehydrated fruits and nuts and we mostly come across oats based muesli in Indian markets. I find them boring but I am no one to judge as I am not too big on breakfast cereals. But some of the desi versions like ramdana (amaranth) and makhana (foxnuts) are absolute favourites and I make both sweet and savoury kind of breakfast cereals with them. This amaranth, foxnut mixed fruits and nuts muesli is one such lightly sweetened gluten free muesli flavoured with fresh strawberries. The savoury is version is coming soon on the blog.

We don't realise that we have our own native breakfast cereals that are so healthy we need not have corn flakes or oatmeal. There is so much variety of ready made packaged cereals in the markets and we get them in various flavours ranging from fruits to chocolate to nuts or honey. But most of them contain just a little amount of the real fruit or honey, the flavours are added by synthetic flavoring agents. I wouldn't like eating a synthetically flavoured cereal to start my day ever. If one has to get it packaged, better get unflavoured and add fruits, nuts and sweeteners of one's own choice.

But then there are some healthier options too if you know about popped amaranth and foxnuts (makhana). Amaranth is a gluten free high protein grain that has high calcium and other minerals as well. The protein is superior quality and easily digestible too. See more. Fox nuts or gorgon nuts also is a high protein popped nut with loads of vitamins and minerals that are all easily absorbed and metabolized in the body. Both these super foods make the best combination to start the day I say.

These can be had as it is with milk and fresh fruit for breakfast, but a bit of natural flavour addition enhances the value immensely. This strawberry, prune, cranberry, raisin and almond walnut combination of flavours works really well with these healthy cereals. And please get rid of the mindset 'if its healthy its not tasty'. This IS a tastier than your regular packaged cereal.

I used fresh strawberries since it is the season of strawberries here. You can always use any fruit of your choice. Take care that the fruit is the only sweetener in this muesli along with some flavours of prunes, raisins and craisins (dehydrated cranberries). You can add some chopped dates and figs too if you like. Nuts can also be replaced with anything you like.

popped amaranth 200 gm
makhana or foxnuts chopped preferably 100 gm
chopped almonds 100 gm
chopped walnuts 60 gm
cranberries 50 gm chopped
raisins 50 gm chopped
prunes 50 gm chopped
sunflower seeds or melon seeds
dehydrated coconut
fresh strawberries 200 gm sliced


This recipe would require baking in two batches if your oven is a medium or small size. Get a deep baking tray and mix the popped amaranth, chopped makhana, chopped nuts and sliced strawberries together. The fresh strawberry slices will get stuck with amaranth seeds all over. Put this tray in the preheated oven at 150 C for an hour. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes and let the strawberries stay coated with popped amaranth grains.

The fresh strawberries ooze out the juices and make clumps of popped amaranth and makhana and that is actually a good thing. The flavours come out nicely and get infused in the baking muesli. Keep dispersing the clumps everytime you stir the baking mixture.The strawberries will get completely dehydrated at the end of the baking time.

Cool down and then add the dehydrated fruits. Store in airtight jars. Use about 3/4 cup with milk and chopped fruits for breakfast. We love bananas in muesli and milk mostly. Mangoes too when in season.

Don't worry if you don't have an oven or you don't get strawberries in your part of the world. Just mix some popped amaranth, chopped nuts (preferably roasted but raw is fine too), chopped black raisins, golden raisins, prunes, cranberries etc and store in airtight jars. I add some coconut flakes to this mixture too.

Just add to milk along with sliced bananas and enjoy your instant breakfast. Muesli doesn't need to be flavoured with synthetic flavouring agents. You can enjoy it with natural sweetness of dried fruits and fresh banana added or add a little honey if you find it less sweet for your taste.

Enjoy breakfast cereals everyday without worrying about additives and high carb-low carb or protein or fat calculation. This muesli will take care of everything. All gluten free.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

ragi crackers recipe and understanding food better, using millets and alternative flours #healthyeating

No one understands food enough to be benefited by it. Everyone is just after taste and that is the only quality of food that is being 'synthesized' by the food industry. I say synthesized because the food ingredients are first stripped off their natural nutrients so that they look good and do not get rancid on the shelves for months, and then the ingredients are 'conditioned' to behave in a certain manner to make smooth looking cookies or bread loaves or ice cream or yogurt or whatever processed food it makes. Some preservatives and some taste enhancers, some texture conditioners, some anti oxidants and some synthetic nutrients (laboratory made) make the packaged food. The soul of the ingredient is stripped off first, and then it is made to wear fashionable clothes so it can attract you and me on the supermarket shelves. That is how we understand food in modern times. Who is getting benefited by this food, not the ones who eat it definitely.

Home cooked warm food is a comfort one cannot get in packets of convenience. Ingredients should be packaged practically I feel, with recipe suggestions and alternatives too.

cauliflower and cilantro roesti

Add a sprinkle of gluten intensified breads, crackers and decadent cakes to the convenience foods and it makes a disaster story for out GI tract. Why we are so dependent of wheat and just one variety of rice? Why not the grains and lentils we knew as gaon ka khana (rural food) when we were kids? The same has become exotic and highly revered by a few handful lot, it still is not 'convenient' to the common man who works the whole day and has little time to cook a decent meal. Someone was complaining about how she buys all sorts of ragi, amaranth and jowar but it goes rancid somewhere in the back of her kitchen shelf as she can't use in for her everyday meals. Yes I did tell her to read my blog and she mailed me back after a fortnight thanking me profusely.

pearl millet bread and curry

Later, I was talking to someone how we can make a reservoir of simple homely and exotic recipes using unconventional flours and grains so that people are not afraid to use them for everyday meals. The idea came after I heard someone else who felt amaranth flour must be tasting foul so we need to mask it with dark chocolate. I was amazed at the ignorance and resolved to do something about it.

amaranth pancakes with cape gooseberry jam

I keep cooking and baking with all alternative flours, which have become 'unconventional' because no one really wants them in their everyday meals. Or no one is really bothered as 'convenience foods' out of a packet has become a lifestyle. So there is no demand, the farmers find it hard to sustain when they grow millets, buckwheat, and sticky rice and they are tempted to grow the cash crops. Monoculture of wheat and basmati rice is killing the biodiversity, making people sick with gut issues and metabolic syndrome when coupled with other issues of modern lifestyle. Don't get me started on unusual greens that grow wild in our gardens and roadsides, packed with nutrients and are better than the most good looking lettuce that we get from the supermarket.

multigrain handvo

I am already working on making a reservoir of recipes using unconventional and alternative flours and unusual greens, native vegetables and fruits so people know more about them, and try and taste them, creating a demand in the market, making the farmers grow them more. I started asking for chane ka saag from my local subziwala and he really started bringing it, the chain will go back to the farmer definitely.

But here at this point, I feel technology also can help in a way. I was at the indiblogger meet recently where they encouraged bloggers to suggest app ideas. 'Your wish is my app', is a NDTV show by Nokia and the second season is about to start. The hosts of this show were a part of this Indimeet and we were enthralled to see how apps can really change the way we see things, or the way things operate. The charming and ever so funny Chef Vikas Khanna talked about how food connects us and gave a few app ideas about how one can create alternative recipes from the same set of ingredients. Rajiv Makhni, the Gadget guru kept the show a live wire while Vishal Gondal made fun of every app idea. You get the picture? An app can help in preserving the biodiversity and making lives healthier, farmers happier and environment more sustainable.

crackers and dips
But how? I would like to start with the consumer end. Make a reservoir of everyday homely recipes, both simple and exotic foods made using a myriad variety of Indian millets, sticky rice, unusual greens, native vegetables and fruits and make them accessible to each cook who wants to cook something with them. The app would make use of the reservoir or recipes and would suggest easy cooking ideas depending on available time and gadgets using alternative flours and grains, native vegetables and greens etc.

So if someone had some makki ka atta and wants to cook an exotic dinner for the family making use of her oven, the app would suggest a cornmeal based quiche that the family might like. All on the phone that fits the cook's pocket. Or if a parent wants to cook something tasty for the family using buckwheat and doesn't know where to source it, the app would tell her the nearest location or Rupak store or Navdanya store and also a recipe of buckwheat English muffins.

Here is another recipe using ragi crackers with bathua greens and poppy seeds that the app could use in it's data base. Not a recipe that needs much expertise, anyone who can roll out rotis can make these crackers.

whole grain crackers and guacamole

whole wheat flour 1 cup
ragi flour 1/2 cup
steamed bathua puree 1.5 cup without water
salt to taste
ajwain seeds 1 tsp
red chilly powder 1/4 tsp
poppy seeds about 1/2 cup
sesame oil or ghee 1 tbsp to grease the baking sheet


Knead a stiff dough by mixing everything except the ghee.

Make small balls out of the dough and roll out rotis, using poppy seeds as dusting flour.

Cut out triangles of your desired size, lay on a baking sheet greased with ghee or sesame oil and bake at 160C for 20 minutes. Cool down on a wire rack, bake again if you feel they are still not crisp.

Store in airtight containers for a month. The recipe of floral methi crackers will be shared really soon.

Need more recipes? Yes this blog is there and may be the new app makes it easy for you.
Fingers crossed :-)