Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Baking breads : oatmeal and whole wheat bread with green olives and rucola

Oatmeal bread

This is a maida (all purpose flour) free, oatmeal and whole wheat bread, suitable for breakfast as well as for soups and dips.

I have not been baking bread for sometime as we eat very little bread and I keep making millet roti, buckwheat English muffins or kulcha in between. These roti, kulcha, English muffins etc are easy to bake freshly in limited numbers or as much as required. With breads I feel like baking a loaf and then it doesn't get used up most often, low consumption of breads to blame. But then I saw this olives and rucola bread shared by Nandita and got tempted to bake one myself. Oatmeal bread was on my mind.

Rucola has been growing well in the garden and I love the aroma every time I pluck the leaves. Not to mention the way it tastes in our salads and pesto. I thought it would taste good in a bread and I will get one more way to use the rucola that we are growing. And there it went into my bread.  Only this time I decided to bake my favourite oatmeal bread. I had started experimenting with oatmeal bread years ago when I had bought my microwave. Yes I used to bake the breads in the microwave initially and it was my breads that made me get an oven for myself.

This oatmeal bread uses cooked oatmeal to make the dough. This way the bread is really soft and rises as good as whole wheat bread, though the texture and crust gets a little different. This kind of artisan breads are great in a way that these are made to suit our own taste and nutritional expectations. We are using almost 50:50 ratio of oatmeal and whole wheat so you can imagine the 5% oats breads from the store will be different, not necessarily better tasting. I find this one better. You would know if you bake.

Oatmeal bread

quick cooking oats 1 cup
water 1 cup (to cook oatmeal)
whole wheat flour or atta (I used stone ground) 1 cup + 1/4 cup if required
active dry yeast 2 tsp
sugar 1 tsp
salt 1/4 tsp
oil 2 tbsp (I used olive oil, butter or ghee is okay)
green olives chopped 1/4 cup or as desired
chopped rucola or any greens you wish 3/4 cup


Cook the oats with the water till just cooked. I did it in microwave for 3 minutes. Let it cool, keep covered. It looks really thick and gloppy at this stage, not like breakfast oatmeal.

In the meanwhile dissolve sugar and salt in 1/4 cup of warm water and add the active dry yeast to it. Watch the yeast bloom (yes the yeast granules start getting bigger as they liven up) and add 1/4 cup atta. Whisk this mixture till the atta and yeast 'biga' gets sticky and strong. It starts resisting the whisking movements.

This 'biga' can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated. In north Indian summers it gets ready and tripled in just 30 minutes.

Mix this biga with the lukewarm cooked oatmeal and the remaining atta and knead using your hands (or machine) for a couple of minutes. The dough looks really sticky and tacky at this stage.

Scrape the sticky dough from your hands, apply oil and keep kneading for about 10 minutes. The dough will eventually get smooth.

Wrap with cling film or cover with a plastic lid. Let it rest for about 2-3 hours in Indian summers or in a warm place till the dough doubles in volume.

Now empty the dough on a working surface, flatten it using the palms into a rectangle and spread the olives and rucola. You might add some walnuts too. Roll the dough encasing the olives etc and flatten once again. Roll it up finally to make a loaf, pinching the ends and then place the loaf on the baking sheet, seam side down.

Sprinkle dry flour over the loaf and cover with a cloth napkin.  Let the loaf rise again till it almost doubles. I often wait for just 30 minutes, the loaf rising only about 10 % but it just results into a denser bread, softness and taste is not compromised.

Bake in preheated oven at 210 C for 30-35 minutes. Brush the bread with oil and invert it on a wire rack to cool. Slice when completely cold.

oatmeal bread
Serve as desired. I recommend warming up the whole wheat and oatmeal breads (especially my recipes that use only whole grain flours with bran) in microwave to make them soft when serving. These were great with extra virgin olive oil, the arugula pesto and good old plain salted butter.

Olives tasted great in this bread. Rucola could have been more but more leaves would have altered the texture of the bread as this bread is already dense and moist. I could have added some rosemary for a change but we loved the bread as it is. Let me know when you try baking this bread.

You can always skip adding the olives and rucola and bake the bread in a loaf tin. That is how I used to do earlier. Add any herbs if you wish or keep it plain. Earlier I used to bake only plain breads as eating the same flavour everyday was too monotonous for me. Now I make smaller loaves normally or share half of a loaf with someone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

arugula pesto recipe and ways to make everyday meals interesting with pesto

This Arugula pesto is one of the best anti inflammatory foods, consume everyday along with some pineapple, ginger, turmeric etc in your meals of the day and let minor inflammations take care of themselves. Who says tasty foods are not healthy?

Arugula or Rocket or Roquette is one of the tastiest greens in my opinion. Though I know people who don't like it. I love the way Arugula leaves taste when they are tender and how intensely peppery they become when they are mature. A salad green originating from mediterranian regions, Arugula is a rich source of antioxidants and flavonoids, Vitamin A and K, minerals and most of all it is one of those raw greens that add zing to everyday salads. Worth taking the effort to grow Arugula in pots or in open beds. I have the Rucola variety of rocket leaves as well in the garden and keep alternating them in my salads and pesto. Sometimes I add them to my raita and dips as well. This gluten free buckwheat pizza was made using rucola from the garden.

I keep baking a few pan breads in between and this pesto is a great accompaniment with those too. This one was a sourdough gluten free pan bread, complex sourdough flavours that complemented well with hot peppery arugula pesto. Note that if you find your Arugula too peppery you can always add some coriander greens or baby spinach to the pesto. I always prefer using cashew nuts for the sweetness they have, to balance the peppery taste of Arugula in this pesto.

I used this pesto with cooked buckwheat groats to make a one pot meal and it was great too. It's not just pasta and pizza you can have pesto with, there can be many more healthy ways to enjoy such a nourishing pesto.

Much to my frustration, the Arugula and Rucola plants got infested with 'leaf miners' this season and I had to discard many leaves. Still it was good enough for everyday salads and pesto for the two of us. I use up even the most mature leaves.

Honey bees have been thronging the Arugula flowers and I was wondering how would be the taste of rocket honey.

 The leaves are considered yummy even by the bees you see...

 Recipe of the pesto is simple, the pesto keeps well in the fridge and makes a nice smearing on anything you wish. I have tried it with buckwheat groats stir fry salad, crackers, with ragi dosa and even with bajra flour roti. Believe me it paired well with all these.

Arugula leaves chopped roughly 2 cups packed (replace 1 cup with baby spinach if arugula is too peppery)
cashew nuts 1/4 cup
Parmesan cheese chopped in bits 1/4 cup
garlic cloves 3-5 as per taste
salt 1/4 tsp or to taste
extra virgin olive oil 1/3 cup


Make a coarse paste of everything except olive oil in a blender or in a mortar and pestle if you have the time. Empty in a sterilised jar and pour the olive oil on top.

Use as required.

Pesto and raw green chutneys are great with every meal. They provide the micro nutrients, antioxidants and good amount of fiber to your meals. You incorporate a larger amount of green in pesto compared to salads. Most importantly, such fresh green pesto and chutneys perk up any simple meal into a relishing experience. Use any greens that are available to you, add seasonings to your choice and pair with whatever food you feel like.

Try and grow a few herbs and greens in your balcony or garden, it is worth all the effort. Don't sweat if you can't, find any locally grown herb and bring it to your table everyday. Any which way.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

101 alternative flours : gluten free multigrain tart shells filled with broccoli coconut salad ; a recipe inspired by Ritu Dalmia

gluten free tart shells with broccoli coconut salad

Small sized snacks or appetisers can be tricky if you are minding your calories or your overall nutrients. Fried or even baked appetisers come loaded with refined flour and butter mostly, so decadent that you never stop at one. Imagine conserving that decadence in such recipes even when using healthy alternatives and making the appetisers worth each calorie they have. These multigrain tart shells filled with a broccoli and coconut raw salad are one such example of great looking tasty food that doesn't pinch on your calorie wallet. These gluten free multigrain tart shells filled with broccoli coconut salad with bits of cashew nuts is one such decadence I am talking about. Read on where I got the idea.

Ritu Dalmia recently held a masterclass at her swanky restaurant Diva Kitsch and shared some of her signature recipes from the restaurant menu. These sesame crusted tart shells were easy breezy small bites that she shared with us. I loved the idea of a south Indian poriyal style salad filling for the tart shells. She had used zucchini and coconut milk among other things for the salad. I was invited to her first masterclass of Italian Khana and had cooked her pumpkin pancakes at home. Her recipes include a lot of seasonal vegetables without much processing and I love this fact.

This time the focus was on Asian recipes and I loved each one of them. This coconut based salad was a natural choice for me being the coconut lover that I am.

gluten free tart shells with broccoli coconut salad

I keep baking crackers using alternative gluten free flours and decided to bake some tart shells this time. The salad was made using broccoli and some broken cashew nuts and this salad made us crave for more. I made it again and used as a ragi dosa filling within a week and now I know this salad would be a regular at our place. Easy raw salad recipes that keep well in the fridge are my best friends.

I will also be making the avocado soup with hints of wasabi that Ritu demonstrated. Here she is adding fresh avocado to the blender along with a wasabi mayonnaise (vegetarian). This soup is one of the bestsellers at the restaurant.

Ritu Dalmia

The Vietnamese rice paper rolls with assorted vegetables has always been a favourite, I loved Ritu's twist on it. She made us participate in her own kitchen and someone made a burnt garlic soya prawns with a generous sprinkling of sesame.

Ritu Dalmia

Lovely flavours were created within about half an hours time and Ritu Dalmia kept everyone superbly entertained by her spontaneous humour.

Later a few cocktails were mixed at the cheery bar at Diva Kitsch that overlooks the bustling market below in the upmarket Defense Colony. Modern Asian cuisine is the forte of Diva Kitsch and the cocktails reflect a few innovative Asian flavours as well.

Ritu Dalmia says that the menu at Diva Kitsch is inspired by all her travels across Asia. From the streets of Vietnam to Burma, food markets of Thailand and many more such experiences. Her work is inspiring for me as I love the way she plays with fresh ingredients and flavours with so much ease.

She actually made it easy for me to create this raw broccoli salad with coconut. Quick to make, versatile and oh so yummy. I used shredded dehydrated coconut and coconut milk powder in this recipe for my own convenience, and for enhanced flavours too. You can always use fresh grated coconut instead of these two.

gluten free tart shells with broccoli coconut salad

ingredients for the multigrain tart shells
(makes about 30 tart shells)
multigrain mixed flour ( I used Bahkhri flour from the state of Maharashtra) 250 gm
butter (salted) 75 gm
salt 1/2 tsp
black pepper powder 1 tsp
sesame seeds 40 gm
yogurt 50 gm or a bit more


Cut cold butter in small cubes and mix well with everything else apart from yogurt and mix well. I did this step in the food processor. Add yogurt in the last to knead a stiff dough.

Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out using tart shell moulds, press each individual tart shell into the mould well and arrange them all on a baking tray.

Bake at 170 C for 25-30 minutes in a preheated oven. The time will depend on how thin you have rolled the dough. This dough will be a bit tricky but not difficult if you use a sharp knife to lift the cut outs. Don't worry if it breaks, it can be pressed down in each tart case.

I made some crackers with half the dough. You can also try that.

ingredients and procedure for the broccoli and coconut raw salad...
(makes enough salad for 15-20 tart shells, 30 if you fill them lightly)
broccoli florets minced or chopped into small bits 2 cups
shredded dehydrated coconut 1/2 cup
coconut milk powder 1/2 cup
(use a cup of freshly grated coconut to replace the above 2 ingredients)
broken cashew nuts 1/4 cup
finely diced red onions 1/3 cup
chopped tender curry patta 1/3 cup
salt and pepper to taste
lime juice 1 tbsp or to taste

Mix everything together and let it rest for half an hour before serving. The salad keeps well in the fridge for a day.

gluten free tart shells with broccoli coconut salad

You would like to use it for many other things for breakfast, snacks or meals. Add some grated cucumber or zucchini, may be some toasted sesame if you like, or keep it simple like this. Have it filled in tart shells or topped on crackers.

I know this will be a favourite salad for you if you love coconut. Flavours of broccoli are not much prominent in this salad but it gives it a nice body and texture.

Friday, April 4, 2014

101 alternative flours : gluten free ginger and jaggery flavoured energy bars, the inspiration comes from an evening of coffee and eclairs at Le Meridien

Ginger and jaggery has been a favourite combination of flavours, as Indian as it can be. We like it in our masala chai in winters, we love ginger and jaggery in the rich gond ke laddu we make in winters and I remember we used to have gud ke cheeley (whole wheat jaggery pancakes) with a generous lashing of ginger in it. I have made ginger and jaggery cookies with whole wheat for a healthy snacks brand I used to consult but that had some more spicy flavours to it. Using ginger and jaggery in a gluten free energy bar without the usual ginger-bread cookie spices wouldn't have come to my mind until I tasted some yummy dainty eclairs at Le Meridien. Yes one of the local flavours infused in the Parisian classic eclairs was ginger and jaggery and how we loved it to bits. The ginger and jaggery flavoured energy bars were baked using alternative flours (oat flour and amaranth flour) and is completely gluten free.

Dainty eclairs stuffed with jaggery ginger pastry cream, topped with some more and sprinkled with candied ginger and peppermint confetti. Parisian delights with a local twist. You know when the loveliest of flavours adorn the most sinful food? Thank God the eclairs were really small and we shared each eclairs that we tasted. Anita and me shared three eclairs between the two of us. And yes, this inspired me to combine healthy ingredients with the loveliest of flavours.

Coffee at Le Meridien is always great. I have always loved the Illy coffee there and now one can have eclairs with Illy coffee at Longitude in the Atrium of Le Meridien Hotel. A small group of bloggers met there for coffee with eclairs last week, I met Anita and Mukta after a long time and we wanted to ask a few questions about cooking of the choux pastry and baking the eclairs. I had tried baking eclairs during my initial days of baking once and later I found it is better to make the cheese puffs (gourgeres) if one wants to take the pains to cook choux pastry. More savory than sweet for me :-)

Chef Vikas Srivastava introduced us with the techniques of cooking the choux pastry before piping it and baking it to light fluffy eclairs. A small hole is made at one end so it cool evenly and there is a place to fill the pastry cream. We tried our hands at filling the pastry cream into the eclairs using huge piping bags. And these were the lightest possible eclairs one can imagine.

Rose and cardamom was the other Indian flavour used with the eclairs and that was great as well, even though I am not a fan of either rose or cardamom. I loved the hazelnut praline, vanilla and passion fruit flavours as well.

The two local flavours were a real surprise and ginger and jaggery kept haunting me till I baked the energy bars and my home was filled up with the same aroma that I had experienced there. The husband loved these bars for breakfast with warm milk and an omelet. It had to be hot milk for me, later I added one of these bars to a smoothie with apple and milk and the result was surprisingly good. I made these bars for the next week when we are travelling and trekking in the foothills of Himalayas we would need some home baked energy bars as we never like buying packaged stuff even when travelling. Fruits are the best bet otherwise.

The best thing about this energy bar is, it has just 5 ingredients that can be mixed in a food processor bowl and the dough is ready to be patted onto a baking tray and baked right away. Be ready to have heart warming aromas in your home, ginger was never so delicious.

ingredients for the gluten free ginger and jaggery energy bars
(makes 2 dozen bars)

quick cooking oats (Quaker or Saffola in India) 200 gm
amaranth flour (rajgira flour) 200 gm
butter (salted) 180 gm
jaggery 225 gm (I used unsulphured jaggery powder from Patanjali store)
fresh ginger root 45 gm ( you can throw in a bit more if you are like me)


Mince the ginger finely, keep aside.

Run the oats along with the minced ginger in the food processor or mixie jar so it gets powdered nicely. Cut the cold refrigerated butter in small cubes and tip them all the the food processor and let it all make a dough.

Add the amaranth flour and mix once again. Now add 2 tbsp water (not a single drop more than this) and run the food processor once again to bring the flours together like a dough.

Preheat oven at 170 C, Line a baking tray (12"x10") with silpat or greased parchment paper, dump the dough over it and pat it into a thin sheet of even thickness Use a spatula if required, fill in the corners well and smoothen the surface nicely. Mark the bars using a sharp knife, taking care not to go deep as silpat may be damaged.

Bake for 25 minutes and leave the tray inside the oven for 10 minutes more. Invert it over a large chopping board or a smooth surface. Let it cool for 10 minutes and cut the bars using a sharp knife over the markings. Cool completely over wire rack and store in airtight container.

I am saving these bars for the journey. I had made these oats, coconut, flax seeds granola bars once for another journey to the same place. Those bars were cooked in a pan but these ginger and jaggery energy bars wont be bale to be made without baking. I am saying so because I keep getting requests for pan cooked recipes too. Sadly for these ginger and jaggery bars baking is the only way to make them. But the good thing is, they are the easiest thing to do in an oven.

Do let me know of you liked them. I keep baking such bars often with many gluten free flours, will be sharing them all very soon, sometimes I don't get to click pictures, sometimes I had not taken note of the quantity of ingredients and sometimes recipes just keep waiting endlessly. You will be seeing more of those recipes as part of 101 alternative grains series here. Please leave a word here if you are liking these posts.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Buckwheat groats stir fry salad with vegetables | two ways with buckwheat groats for gluten free meals

Buckwheat is called as the king of healing foods, a gluten free grain that has a fantastic nutrient profile. I use buckwheat a lot for soups, like this tomato buckwheat soup, a spinach buckwheat soup, sweet breakfast pancakes with buckwheat, savoury pancakes with buckwheat and even a buckwheat khichdi. It is such a versatile seed you can use it for almost anything, I made an English muffin with buckwheat and that has been a favorite alternative flours bread till date. A buckwheat base pizza is a recent favourite. Read health benefits of buckwheat in detail here.

I have been buying buckwheat online from an organic foods brand for some time and the quality is always good. Though they don't stock buckwheat groats but the flour and whole buckwheat with seed coat is good. I made a couple of variations of buckwheat salad like we make pasta salads and they were received well by the salad shy husband. I would admit he likes salad meals more than ever now, but in my head he is still the halwa poori loving person :-)

Buckwheat is a preferred grain for Navratri fasting as well and I thought of sharing these two recipe with you so it would be useful for those who are fasting and looking for variations for fasting food recipes. These recipes are not fasting recipes as I have served one of these with eggs and used onion and garlic, but one can always cook them without any onion garlic and make it suitable for fasting days.

Buckwheat salad with rocket (arugula) pesto and stir fried bell peppers..

This is a quick meal if you have some soaked buckwheat groats in the fridge. Or just soak them for a couple of hours and cook them just like plain rice. I usually microwave them with the soaking water and a few drops of ghee or olive oil for 3-4 minutes (for 1/2 cup raw buckwheat soaked with a cup of water) and it is ready to be used just like any small pasta (like orzo). 

I had made a nice pesto using fresh rocket from the garden and it tasted really good with cooked buckwheat groats. The thinly sliced bell peppers provided a much needed crunch and a peppy twist to it. This salad can be tossed up with green peas, green beans, mushrooms or even some boiled chickpeas.

The pesto recipe is the usual garlic, rocket leaves, parmesan cheese and cahsew nuts along with extra virgin olive oil. I used cashew nuts to cut the sharpness of rocket leaves as they had become quite peppery after flowering. Detailed recipe will be posted soon.

(2 servings with suggested side dishes)
cooked buckwheat 1/2 cup
rocket pesto (or basil pesto) 2 tbsp
finely chopped/sliced bell peppers (coloured or green) 1 cup
chopped garlic 2 tsp (optional)
finely chopped mixed herbs 2 tbsp (I used fresh tarragon, parsley, rosemary and thyme as these are growing in the garden, you can used dry herbs of your choice)
salt and pepper to taste
ghee or olive oil 1 tsp


Add 1 tbsp of pesto to 1/3 cup of cooked buckwheat, mix well and keep aside.

Heat the ghee or oil in a pan and tip in the garlic and chopped bell peppers together along with salt and pepper and flash fry for a few seconds.
Take them off the flame, add the mixed herbs, toss well and add the pesto smeared cooked buckwheat groats. Mix well and serve right away.

I served a plain omelet and some steamed broccoli with this salad meal. We both loved the way it satisfied our taste buds as well as filled our tummy.

The other version of stir fry salad with buckwheat groats is a very different bouquet of flavours. I used a lot of ginger in this cabbage and green peas stir fry with paneer cubes and mixed with cooked buckwheat groats. Then the ingredients were mixed together and tossed with tasted sesame. This was so yummy I had to make the same version again the very next day. We both love toasted sesame and green peas and ginger, the other flavours just came together nicely.

Buckwheat groats stir fry salad with cabbage, green peas, paneer and loads of ginger and toasted sesame...

A nice cabbage stir fry was made first. This is something I love wrapping in a multigrian roti sometimes or stuffing in a whole wheat or ragi bread sandwich. And sometimes I just have this cabbage and peas as a meal either with added potatoes or paneer.

ingredients for the buckwheat groats salad with cabbage stir fry...
(2 servings)
cooked buckwheat groats 3/4 cup
green peas 1 cup
chopped cabbage 2 cups
minced ginger 2 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
ghee 1 tsp
salt and pepper to taste
toasted sesame seeds 1/4 cup


Heat ghee along with 1 tsp cumin seeds and tip in a cup of green peas along with 2 tbsp minced ginger. Add slat and pepper to taste, cover and let the peas cook for 3-4 minutes. Add 2 cups of chopped cabbage, mix well and cover and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Add 1/2 cup of cubed paneer and stir fry the cabbage mix for a couple of minutes. 

Mix the cooked buckwheat groats with the cabbage stir fry while it is still warm.

Serve it in a platter and sprinkle sesame seeds generously over it. Enjoy as it is or with a mint and onion or pineapple raita.