Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vicky Goes Veg ; a vegetarian cookbook by Vicky Ratnani and some recipes inspired by this celebration of local vegetables

You see more and more vegetables on my blog and some of you even think that the blog is about vegetarian food. And then some of my vegetarian readers complain that I rarely post vegetarian recipes. See, I do post a lot of recipes using vegetables, many of those recipes have some eggs, meat or seafood in them but one can always replace those non vegetarian proteins with convenient vegetarian proteins like paneer, tofu, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils etc. 

I have always loved vegetables and believed that we should enjoy more and more seasonal vegetables irrespective of belonging to the vegetarian or non vegetarian tribes. For people like me, there are no such tribes and all food is sacred, unless it has been reared unethically or has traveled around the globe and has made your carbon footprint heavier. Locally grown seasonal foods are the best choices for our own health, even if we forget about the health of the planet.

And eating loads of vegetables is not being a vegetarian as the impression goes.

Vegetarian food has always been popular in India even with hardcore non vegetarians. We include ghee, milk and lot of other animal products into our vegetarian foods so the prevalent vegetarian food is not vegan in India. This convenient comfortable vegetarian food defines many of our regional cuisines and still there is scope for contemporary fusion recipes so the average person is inspired to cook at home. The key to good health. Home. Cooked. Food.

I attended the book launch of Vicky Ratnani's Vicky Goes Veg at The Palms Club, Gurgaon, and this vegetarian cookbook felt like any other vegetarian cookbook at the first glance, though I loved the green hued cover. But as soon as I started flipping through the pages I was pleased to see the celebration of local vegetable markets, the vegetable and fruit vendors around our Indian cities and loads of desi (native) Indian vegetables being used in the recipes. The book has a 4 page section on 'Merchants of Veggies' as the vegetable vendors are called in the book. Beautiful pictures. How thoughtful of Vicky to have given the vegetable vendors an identity and all the credit for getting fresh produce on our tables every single day. Kudos to Vicky Ratnani and Harper Collins for such a thoughtful cookbook.

At the book launch event, Vicky cooked a nice raw plantain curry with Thai flavours and an eggplant dish with crunchy peanuts and a tangy sauce that even kids loved digging into. The most common vegetables can be cooked in the most exotic ways and to suit your taste buds as well. The cookbook actually inspires one to cook with each mundane vegetable we find with our street side subziwala as well. A nice radish and tendli (ivy gourd or kundru) carpaccio salad is impressive and on my list to be tried next.

I cooked a roasted bell peppers and broccoli salad from the book, this was quite like the salads I make myself, I made the dressing to my taste and added some paneer strips to add protein to make a salad meal for myself. It was one filling yummy salad.

The recipe in the book uses a different dressing and the vegetables are char grilled in the oven. I grilled them (broccoli, red and yellow bell peppers) a little lightly with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and made a dressing while the vegetables were grilling on 250 C (just for 10 minutes). Some strips of fresh paneer were also thrown into the oven for light grilling.

For the dressing I mixed 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar with salt and pepper, pinch of garlic powder, pinch of yellow chilli powder and mixed it all with sliced red onions and chopped dehydrated red grapes (from FabIndia). 

Everything is mixed up once the vegetables are grilled to your choice. You can let them sizzle lightly or get them charred on the edges. Sprinkle broken walnuts and serve right away.

These chickpea and almond croquettes are so easy to make. I have been making chickpea burgers but adding some almonds adds to the nutritive value for a vegetarian. The recipe in the book uses a lot of almonds and breadcrumbs and some bread as well in the recipe, but I made this recipe gluten free by adding popped amaranth to the mixture.

Since boiled chickpeas are almost always there in my fridge and fresh parsley in my garden, this croquette recipe is real quick for a starter. 

To make about 12 small croquettes, a cup of boiled chickpeas is mashed with a fork, 1/4 cup chopped almonds added along with 1/4 cup finely diced onions and 1/3 cup chopped parsley. The mixture is seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika or chilly powder and a hint of anardana (dry pomegranate) powder. I added 1/2 cup of popped amaranth and mixed the dough like mixture well, shaped small patties and shallow fried on a skillet.

These croquettes can be served with any dip or chutney you like. I loved the way chopped almonds taste in this chickpeas croquettes, I had used sesame seeds with chickpeas earlier and had loved but almonds make a lovely crunchy addition to these flaky croquettes. 

This is what Vicky said while cooking from his book at The Palms Club, the recipes should be used to suit your taste, make some changes according to your taste and see how the recipes love you back. Vicky Goes Veg really inspires one to cook with fresh vegetables and get maximum taste from them.

What else a cookbook should be aimed at?

Monday, March 24, 2014

popped amaranth potato walnut savoury cakes or ramdane alu ki tikki | more ways to include amaranth for everyday meals

Here is a savoury snack with popped amaranth. Potato walnut cakes made crumbly with popped amaranth and zesty flavors of coriander greens. This amaranth and potato tikki is great for fasting days too, served with a hung yogurt dip and a pineapple chutney with white pepper and ginger. This is one yummy snack or weekend breakfast that you will look forward to. One more yummy way to include amaranth in your everyday meals.

Now you know that popped amaranth grains are a versatile ingredients to stock. You can add them to your yogurt to make parfaits or milk with fruits for a healthy breakfast, make amaranth muesli, add them to pancake batter to make the pancakes fluffy, mix them with roasted nuts and some herbs to make a nice tea time namkeen. I have added them to my smoothies and egg scrambles as well.  

Amaranth is a high protein, high fiber and low calorie ingredient that adds a lovely taste and texture to anything you decide cook with them. One can pop them at home very easily if getting popped amaranth is difficult. 

How to pop amaranth grains or rajgira? This is an oft repeated question that I get and wanted to share a step wise procedure. Not that it is a tedious process, but taking the camera with a tripod in the kitchen and positioning it over the gas felt too much of work for a while. Finally I decided to pop some amaranth seeds just to take pictures today. It is a quick process if you need just one serving of popped amaranth for you parfait or breakfast cereal, 3 tbsp of raw amaranth yields about a cup of popped amaranth and takes just about 3 minutes including the heating of the pan, measuring the grains etc etc.

To pop the amaranth grains, heat a shallow pan over medium flame, tip in a tbsp of amaranth (rajgira or ramdana) grains into it and swirl them in the pan. They start popping around within seconds. You can cover the pan with a lid while stirring the pan in swirling movements while the amaranth pops.It takes about 30-40 seconds for a tbsp of grains to pop. Pour them in a plate and repeat with next batch of grains to pop. That's it. Store it in an airtight container if it is not going to be used instantly. 

These potato walnuts savoury cakes are just like alu tikki made healthier and sassier. Serve them with whatever dips and chutneys you can make fresh or some preserved chutney like I did. This pineapple chutney with ginger and white pepper is a great accompaniment to such light savoury snacks.

  1. boiled mashed potatoes 1 cup
  2. popped amaranth 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
  3. chopped coriander greens 2-3 tbsp
  4. minced green chillies 1/2 tsp or to taste
  5. salt and pepper to taste
  6. amchoor powder 1/4 tsp
  7. chopped walnuts 2 tbsp
  8. ghee or oil to shallow fry

  1. mix all the ingredients except ghee or oil nicely to make a dough.
  2. shape small cutlets and refrigerate for an hour or so.
  3. shallow fry in ghee or oil on a medium flame.
  4. serve with hung curd dip and a sweet and sour chutney/sauce or a green chutney.
To make the hung curd dip, just chop a handful of fresh parsley (or coriander greens or mint) and mix with a cup of hung yogurt, pinch or garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.

To make the pineapple ginger and white pepper chutney, cook a cup of cubed pineapples and a tbsp of grated ginger with 3 tbsp sugar and half a cup of water till soft and pulpy. Add a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp of white pepper powder, mix well and cook for a minute before filling the chutney in a sterilised jar. The chutney stays well for a week in refrigerator.

You can always serve the savoury potato walnuts cakes with a green chutney made with coriander and mint greens. The tamarind chutney will be great with it too.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

salad with a yogurt dressing | seasonal fruits, garden vegetables and nuts salad that carries well in a lunch box

Yogurt dressing in salads is a great way to make the salads healthy, enhance citrus and fruity flavours, preserve the salad well for a few hours and supplement it with calcium and probiotic flora at the same time. I have been having fruit and raw vegetables salads with yogurt dressing a lot these days.

Life is different post winters though the warmth in the air is still pleasant. Spring brought a riot of colours to my garden and then the trees started shedding copious numbers of leaves with every blow of wind. The flower beds get flooded with dry leaves and that somehow feels unsettling in this weather. May be it's just me but this weather always brings mixed feelings. Even the food choices keep changing from warm to cold within a day sometimes. Some days I just want a cold comforting salad and that is how I assemble such meals with seasonal fruits and a few bits from the garden, freshly plucked.

To make this yogurt dressing, just drain the home made yogurt through a muslin lined sieve for a couple of hours till most of the whey is drained and use the thick consistency hung yogurt to make the dressing. You can add any seasoning to make the dressing but if the salad includes some fresh fruits and raw vegetables I like the dressing to have refreshing flavours.

My yogurt dressing for this salad includes a cup of hung yogurt, 1 tsp each of mint powder and orange marmalade, 1/2 tsp each of Himalayan pink salt (sendha namak) and white pepper powder. Whip them all together and the dressing is ready.

To make this salad I used a cup of halved cape gooseberries, a cup of halved green and black grapes mix, one large apple diced, a cup of raw broccoli florets, few radish pods (optional) and 1/4 cup of broken walnuts.

Just mix all these in the yogurt dressing, fold everything together and serve as required. The salad can be chilled before serving in summers. I have been packing this salad for Arvind's lunch box almost 3-4 times a week now a days and he loves it.

The salad is filling, refreshing and yummy. You can adjust the seasoning according to taste, add a little mustard or a bit of paprika, even chilly powder if required and see how it changes your mood. I always choose my seasonings and dressings according to my mood to be honest, it helps a lot in my ways of instinctive eating.

The amount of food required to fill me up would remain the same, it is the flavours that bring satiety. If I don't like the flavours, I would never feel sated with my food however large servings I help myself with.

What works for you?

Dimsum brunch at Shangri-La's - Eros Hotel, New Delhi | spent a weekend eating flavorful and healthy dimsums and more

No prizes for knowing that all steamed foods are healthy in some way or the other, the reason I love steamed foods is, that I find them packed with flavors. The natural flavours of ingredients stay intact when they are steamed as they cook in their own juices, a dash of a cold pressed oil, some freshly made sauce or a dip or a dressing and the meal looks great. Even if the steamed ingredient is just some seasonal vegetable. It is a delight when the steamed meal is something like a delicately crafted array of dumplings served piping hot in bamboo steaming baskets.

Devouring a complete meal that includes only steamed foods, may be a few raw foods as well, may not intrigue many of you but it can be a wholesome enjoyable meal believe me. We experienced a nice brunch of a good variety of dumplings at 19 Oriental Avenue, Shangri-La's- Eros Hotel at Ashoka Road. This lovely Oriental restaurant is a cheerful place in winters and spring time as it overlooks the hotel gardens and one can see a riot of colours these days.

The dimsum brunch has been designed by the restaurant's Chinese culinary master Chef David Leung and the variety of dimsums on the menu is quite impressive. Simple ingredients combined with a few herbs or greens in such a way that the dimsums are succulent, melt in the mouth and so flavourful.

I recommend the River sole with Bonito flakes dimsum and the Traditional Har Gow (shrimp dimsums) and loved both for the texture as well as flavour combinations. Very thin and light dimsum wrappers and perfect stuffing. Chicken Shitake and Chives, Traditional Sui Mai with Pork, Pounded Chicken with Red curry paste are great too. Just ask for flavours you like, the dimsums are done perfectly so you would always be impressed with whatever you order I am sure.

I was surprised to taste the vegetarian dimsums as the Assorted vegetables with Sichuan chilli, Water chest nut and Lotus stem stuffing was wonderful. We tried Baby corn with Asparagus Thai chilli paste and Spinach Mushroom corn as well and loved all of these. I strongly recommend trying the vegetarian dimsums too even if you are a hard core meat eater.

The dimsums are served on the table while the brunch buffet is open to choose from a wide array of Japanese, Chinese and Korean style soups, stir fries, noodles, sushi and sashimi etc. We sampled a few sushi and California rolls too and loved them all.

The miso soups can be ordered with whatever seafood you like in them, I had mine with octopus and loved it. Miso soup is already one of my favourite soups and this one warmed me up nicely. Sushi. miso soup and dumplings make a great oriental meal on a weekend.

The only thing I would normally avoid when eating out is breads and yet I tasted the Baos on the menu. The Barbeque Pork Bao, Enoki with Spinach Bao and Pan fried Vegetable Bao are all well made but they don't fit into my scheme. You might like them if you are having multiple servings of Miso soup may be.

We tried a few desserts from the buffet and loved the Lemongrass flavoured Cream Brulee. The Dragon fruit Mousse was good too. A Sago and Coconut milk Pudding looked promising but couldn't impress. The Wasabi Cheesecake is worth trying, a faint hint of wasabi in a well made cheesecake was really nice.

Light refreshing kind of desserts are better to choose and you get good options here that are not too heavy to conclude a pleasant meal. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

101 alternative flours : a gluten free, 3 cheese pizza with garden fresh toppings....

 A gluten free pizza with 3 cheeses and loads of rucola leaves fresh from the garden. I have been making this easy gluten free pizza for some time now but it so happens that it always makes a quick dinner and the dark pizza base look horrible in artificial light. Also, this time around I had the gorgeous rucola from my garden and it deserved some show off.

Buckwheat flour makes wonderful pizza base, the flour binds well, develops nice porous texture when combined with leavening agents and responds well to yeast as well. I love the way it can be made into an instant pizza base with minimal ingredients. Just some yogurt, some soda bicarb, salt and a little whipping done, the thick sticky batter is ready for pizza bases.

And the important information is, that this pizza is cooked in a pan and not baked in an oven. Many of my readers keep writing to me to post recipes that can be done without an oven. I know most Indian families don't use oven much even if they have one in the kitchen. Pan cooking feels more comfortable as our everyday food is mostly done on the stove. This pizza can be done in a pan as well as in an oven. The blind baking of the base is very important if you do it in the oven. A nicely baked based behaves well when the sauce is spread, and then the topping are sprinkled. For this gluten free pizza I just sprinkled the toppings liberally and served the pizza right away. No baking after the toppings have been spread on it. Of course the vegetables were seasoned and grilled on the pan in advance.

So if baking in the oven, make sure to bake the pancake like pizza base completely before spreading the tomato sauce so you can spread fresh ingredients like this pizza. If you want to bake the pizza with mozzarella cheese on top, you can go ahead and bake or grill it on the top shelf for a couple of minutes till the cheese melts. I have not use mozzarella here. A deep yellow cheddar cheese, a home made feta cheese and some parmesan in the home made tomato based pizza sauce.

Slice broccoli and zucchini if you want a pizza like this, or use any vegetables sliced or julienne or even chopped in small bits. whatever way you like. Aubergine slices work really really well. Use just tomatoes and onion rings if you have only the staples. Just use any vegetables you like. Or add some cooked shredded chicken breast, dressed like a salad or seasoned the way you like. I wont mind some cooked flakes of fish or well seasoned and blanched shrimps as well.

You just have to pan grill the vegetables or meats or seafood for a couple of minutes, on a greased pan of course. Use olive oil or butter or ghee to grease the pan. Season them with salt and pepper, some garlic powder and may be some chilly flakes if you like.

The base of the pizza is buckwheat flour as I said. If you make it using the instant way to make a pizza base with yogurt and soda bi carb, the pizza is a matter of 30 minutes. If you want to make the yeasted dough, you would need a few hours preparation time. This recipe is the instant buckwheat pizza.

To make the buckwheat pizza base...

Make a thick sticky batter by mixing a cup of buckwheat flour with 1/2 tsp soda bicarb, 1/2 tsp salt first and then with a cup of thick yogurt. Whisk till a smooth but sticky thick batter if formed. Let it rest for 15 minutes, this batter can be refrigerated overnight too. This recipe yields about 4-5 large pizza bases.

Grease a frying pan with olive oil. Pour a ladle full of batter onto it and spread it lightly in a 1/2 cm thick pancake, as big or small as you want. Let it cook till the top gets firm, flip and cook it on the other side. Spread the tomato sauce, grilled vegetables and the cheeses over the pizza while it is still on the pan. The cheese starts melting. Use a wide spatula to transfer the pizza to a serving plate and spread fresh rucola or any leafy greens if you like.

To make the homemade tomato sauce for pizza use this recipe of tomato concasse and mix 1 tbsp parmesan cheese to a cup of tomato concasse and use to spread liberally over the pizza.

To prepare the vegetables season them well and grill the way you like, the procedure is mentioned above. Spread the vegetables liberally over the cooked pizza base. Top with more cheeses of your choice, bake again or keep it as it is, sprinkle fresh basil of rucola and enjoy.

This is one pizza we eat in the kitchen itself. It never comes to the table. Only gobi parantha and momos  are the other few foods that have this proud privilege of being devoured as soon as it is cooked. Gets over within minutes, resulting into happy smiles.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Turkish food festival at Shangri-La, some refreshing flavours, some known comforts, healthy options galore...

It is a well known fact that mediterranian cuisine is healthy and well balanced. Good quality olive oil, fresh vegetable salads and stews, my favourite eggplant treated well in so many yummy ways and the fresh cheeses to choose from. Loads of olives, tomatoes, squashes and herbs as I like. I have always loved the Tzaziki and Antep Azme and fresh vegetables and crackers on a mezze platter can be so healthy and yet festive and yummy both.

I have to tell you all how healthy I found the food served here at the Turkish food festival at Cafe Uno, Shangri-La Hotel. The salads were so good one can make a meal of more than a dozen variety of salads and skip the mains. But that would be a mistake as the mains are great too.

The most loved salad was the Apple and couscous salad with herbs and pine nuts. Fresh ingredients, great medley of flavours.

The various cheeses dipped in olive oil and herbs were great with steamed broccoli and baby corns etc. I am so glad to find such options in a buffet.The Watermelon and Mozzarella salad was a nice twist on the usual feta thing we do. I loved the freshness and the simplicity to be honest.

The yogurt based salad like Tzaziki (yogurt, cucumber and herbs) and Ispanak Tarator (yogurt, spinach, herbsand olives) were really really good. Coban Salatani (the shepherd salad) was just like our tomato and onion kachumber but the Antep Azme (spicy tomato marmalade) is a salad with minced onion, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, pom molasses and herbs and nuts and it is something I would love to have with my meals every single day.

Among the cooked salads, I found the Taze Fusulye (Beans in olive oil) good to my taste, but some people might find it a bit bland and too mushy may be. The Zeytini Agliprasa (Leeks in olive oil) was such a great tasting mash kinda salad. It reminded me of our chokhas and pitikas. The flavours were lovely, I had 2 servings.

A similar Potato salad with steamed carrots was not that good, you might ignore that one as there are so many better options to choose from.

Another Barley salad with mixed seafood was such a delight. These are the things I will be cooking really soon. Couldn't have enough of these salads actually. A Roasted chicken salad was more like a continental salad but good. Another Smoked duck salad with spicy Chinese cabbage was tried and loved though it was not a part of the Turkish spread. But that is the good thing about buffets, you can choose whatever you like.

And I must tell you about the vegetarian soup that I tried. It is called Ezo Gelin Corba (classic soup with burgul, lentil and rice) and tasted much like our thin khichdi. My comfort food you would know if you are a regular reader here. A bit thinner than most khichdis but yummy. The seafood soup was great too I must add, but Ezo Gelin Corba stole the show.

I found the Damatesli Hellimi (grilled halloumi cubes stewed on tomato halves with roasted bell peppers) good too. The flavours worked for me, Arvind loved it too. I found the stews with chicken and meats great in taste and health quotient but they lacked the looks of a good spread. Well, most Indian curries look utterly ugly and deliver well. The stews did the same, these were absolutely my kind of stews. The best was the Fish stewed with slivers of vegetables and a hint of white sauce to make a white saucy gravy.  Sea bass cooked to perfection, good flavors but few people might find it too mild to taste. I could appreciate the freshness of ingredients I would say.

I didn't find the use of Basmati rice agreeable with the cuisine though. The pulav was dry, the stuffing in the zucchini was dry and crumbly, a sticky rice would have been so good. But I wont complaint as I had so many options to choose from.

Chef Gazi Ciftci has been flown in from Sahngri-La Hotel Istanbul and he was delighted to share the recipes of the fish stew and the various salads. I will be more informed about the local ways with Turkish food thanks to him.

Skip the desserts in the Turkish section I would add. A badly executed Baklava would disappoint you and an equally sorry semolina halwa would scare you in the form of a huge bomb (Irmik Helva). I found the Cevizli Bal Kabak (stewed pumpkin with walnuts) interesting. It is a good dessrt for pumpkin lovers who happen to love walnuts too. Go to the fresh fruit display and choose the freshest of them, I helped myself with Cape gooseberries, pineapple slices and a few Longan fruits.

Please try the Turkish tea as well. Full bodied refreshing tea felt good. I was expecting mint tea but the tea served was interesting too, I would like to know more about Turkish teas now.

The decor of Cafe Uno has been jazzed up with Turkish flags and blue evil eyes hanging around and live music gives a lovely feel.

Most importantly, I found many Turkish tourists dining there and having happy conversations and that is a good sign of good authentic food I feel.

Oh and I was asking a group of people about what food they find good enough to be called as good food or to be fit for celebrations, for me it is the food that makes me feel good even after it has satiated the palate. I am glad I could make them understand that. Turkish food I found to be good in that regard as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

how to make sauerkraut : the pickled sour cabbage, a probiotic supplement for everyone...

Someone asked me how to make sauerkraut recently and I started rummaging through my old pictures from the past years. I have been taking pictures every year I make them with my garden cabbages and forget posting them here. Well, I found the pictures and seeing them I seriously craved for some sour pickled sauerkraut once again. Even though I had a jar of this radish pickle which is equally good but a pink hued sauerkraut was on my mind now. And this year I don't have cabbages in the garden. Knol khol and some broccoli and loads of Romaine lettuce, lot of pok choy but no cabbages.

Sauerkraut is a great tasting condiment that resembles Indian kachumber salads but is just sour in taste. Indian kachumbers have sweet-sour-hot elements to make them great fresh salads but sauerkraut has just the sourness with a hint of cabbage flavour. I love sauerkraut not just for the taste but for the excellent probiotic richness it has. The fermentation process that uses natural lactic acid bacteria found on the the surface of cabbages (as most vegetables) helps ferment the cabbage shreds and stabilises it once it has enough acidity in the medium. I call this fermentation process pickling as most seasonal Indian pickles are made using this technique. 

I got some organic red cabbage and green cabbage from market and started the pickling. I have been doing it for a few years following this recipe. I pickle my sauerkraut in simple mason jars though many websites would claim that the crocks are better. I never experienced any contamination doing it in a mason jar. The 2-3 kilo mason jars by Yera were great in the past, this year I made in 1 kilo mason jars as I tried two variations of sauerkraut with different ingredients.

You just need two ingredients for sauerkraut. Cabbage and salt. Use any cabbage you like or mix them. Sterilise the mason jars and spoons, knives well, the chopping board to be cleaned well too, it helps prevent secondary contamination with any other fungi or bacteria that may cause putrefaction of the kraut.

One batch with just the red cabbage, green cabbage and some pok choy including the flowers and buds.

Everything was chopped up roughly, and salt was added into layers. To each kilo of chopped cabbage mix, 15-20 gm salt is good enough.

This is the red and green cabbage mix with pok choy.

And below is the red cabbage and romaine lettuce mix.

This one with romaine lettuce resulted in darker coloured sauerkraut, a little different in taste with the lettuce flavours getting more accentuated.

Mix the chopped cabbage thoroughly in a large bowl first and then stuff it all in the mason jar. Keep pressing it down as you put more cabbage in the jar. Cover the lid once you are done. Placing a flat plate that fits inside the jar will be good to keep the cabbage pressed down but I never needed it.

It looks like this the next day. Press some more and you see the water from chopped cabbage is up to the surface.

The third day you would notice the cabbage shreds look macerated. Like the picture below.

A little pressing down the cabbage shreds almost every other day was enough to keep it submerged in it's own juices. The batch with romaine was a bit dry but it didn't get any contamination as I used sterilised spoons always.

You can refrigerate the sauerkraut once it reaches desired sourness, mine keeps well for a month at room temperature. 

You can add some herbs or spices like ajwain or caraway seeds for added flavours. I sometimes add freshly crushed thyme leaves at the time of serving.

It was ready in 7 days and I had started having it with most of my meals. I had it with a stuffed paratha and raita meal.

 With a brown rice eggs biryani and grapes, carrots and onions raita..

 With a chickpeas tahiri and pineapple, onion and grapes raita..

 Even with plain hard boiled eggs with salt and pepper on a bed of iceberg lettuce. I have many lettuces growing in the garden right now.

Oh I had it with my chickpeas salad too. The sauerkraut can be served on the side of a nice grilled steak, stewed meat, mutton or chicken tikka, grilled fish etc as well. We have been having it almost everyday and these few pictures were taken only during the day time.

This pink hued sauerkraut is a much loved condiment, even though we don't eat pickles much. Sauerkraut is lighter, feels like the kachumber salads and is an excellent probiotic supplement to your system.

Pickle some sauerkraut now.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

gluten free dark chocolate pudding with amaranth, balsamic plums preserve and cherry brandy

Chocolate puddings are made using eggs mostly, the egg less recipes use corn starch and one doesn't think much about using any other thickener for a pudding. Unless you have been experimenting in the kitchen like me. When you cook an ingredients in a 100 different ways you know what kind of cooking will result in what texture and what recipe will be benefited by the properties of the ingredient you discovered. Amaranth grains have been cooked like a porridge traditionally, some villagers in Uttarakhand told me they cook it with lentils too to make a quick meal. Only if they decide to cook their home grown amaranth, now a days they prefer selling it to urban folk for better prices and eat cheap wheat themselves. Sorry state of affairs, the quinoa story being repeated here again. I wrote about the villagers in Down to Earth magazine, read how they succumb to cheap 2 minute noodles.

Amaranth is known as Rajgira, Ramdana or Chaulai in Hindi speaking states of India. The popular Ramdane ke laddu or vrat ke laddu is made with popped Amaranth and minimal amount of jaggery or sugar for binding.

I Have mentioned earlier and am reiterating again, amaranth is the the best vegetarian source of proteins and good quality, easily digestible proteins. Great source of calcium and Iron, magnesium etc etc. The Vit E profile is similar to Olive oil. Impressive.

I made this rich pudding with amaranth grains and it is really really easy to make. In fact a biker friend of mine asked me if he can cook I told him to wait for the recipe. Anyone who can cook rice and daal, can cook this pudding. And it is egg less which is the concern of many people I see.

Of late, I feel I don't like eggs in moist desserts as the hint of eggs in desserts kills it for me. Dark chocolate for me should be enriched with some fruit, some more vanilla or balsamic etc, otherwise I don't care about chocolate. Only hot chocolate really feels like chocolate. But I know you would differ if you are a chocolate lover.

You can use strawberries instead of plum, or may be balsamic preserved cherries, add the cherry brandy if you don't mind, skip it if you do. But remember enriching the dark chocolate with some deep flavour if you are not a chocoholic. Some chocoholics I know want more and more depth in the flavours, so this recipe would work for them too. Just work around with what you like.

Gluten free dark chocolate and amaranth seeds pudding with balsamic plum preserve and cherry brandy...

  1. raw amaranth seeds 1/4 cup (soaked overnight in milk)
  2. milk full fat 4 cups
  3. dark chocolate 70% 100 gm
  4. plum preserve* 1 cup
  5. cherry brandy 1 tbsp
  6. honey roasted almonds sliced 1/4 cup

  • Cook the soaked amaranth seeds with milk on a low flame for about 40 minutes. The milk reduces and the amaranth seeds get cooked nicely, resulting in a thick porridge like consistency. Take it off the stove. The consistency should be like a pudding as the mixture cools down.
  • Add chopped dark chocolate into it and stir to dissolve.
  • Add the plum preserve, taking care to not to include any syrup in the preserve and mix well.
  • Add the sliced honey roasted almonds, saving a few for garnish, and mix well.
  • Pour in shot glasses, garnish with sliced almonds and a few bits of plum preserve and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
  • Serve chilled.
 * For the plum preserve, chop 3 large plums in small bits. Cook with 1/4 cup water, 3 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar till the preserve gets cooked and thick consistency. Cool and use as required. 

The pudding has a light grainy texture, something like salmon roe bursting in your mouth but it feels good. Yes this pudding has a texture, not silken smooth but the texture feels good.

The recipe was tested and tried at The Palms town and country club where I conducted a workshop about amaranth being a super food, how to incorporate it in everyday meals and to buy and consume it responsibly. 

This dark chocolate pudding with amaranth was served to the participants and they all loved it. Proof of the pudding :-)

They were also served the strawberry yogurt parfait with popped amaranth and a savoury snack 'popped amaranth and potato cakes' and everything was much appreciated. The ladies found amaranth to be an easy grain to incorporate, asked questions about nutrition facts, better food choices and general tips and tricks. I am so glad they found the information useful and promised me to make better choices regarding everyday food. I am so glad I could make a small change.