Tuesday, December 29, 2015

kachri (Cucumis callosus), the wild melon that packs antioxidants and boosts immunity : kachri ki chutney recipe


There are very few foraged foods that find their way into the urban markets sometimes and one of those is Kachri or Kaachri (Cucumis callosus or Cucumis melo sp agrestis) that looks like miniature watermelons. The similarity to watermelons ends here and once you cut these tiny melons you see numerous seeds and very little flesh inside. The seeds impart excellent protein content to this melon along with potent antioxidants and immunity boosting properties. See this study to know more.

Kachri is definitely a super food that can be found growing wild even on Delhi roadsides sometimes, but getting it from where it grows in the jungles and around the agricultural fields on it's own is a better option. Kachri vines are hardy and once planted the plant grows by self seeding every year.

kachri (Cucumis callosus)

The size of this kachri fruit varies so much that it can easily be named as a Chameleon melon too, the colour of the skin can vary from green, grey. brown. whitish to all the shades in between. The size also can vary so much that once can sometimes get confused about the identity. You would know it if you have tasted it, the aromatic tart flavour is so unique to this melon.

I buy a big batch whenever I spot kachri in the market and love cooking stir fries with them or make chutney. If you are traveling to Rajasthan and you happen to walk around any of the local markets you would see thick slices of kachri being sold in almost every spice and grocery shop.

Kachri powder is a great meat tenderiser too and is used generously in Rajasthan. The sun dried kachri slices are mostly used to make chutney along with loads of chillies, garlic and may be some herbs and seeds of the season.

The chutney I made a couple of months ago was so good we ended up using it with almost every meal. That simpler kachri ki chutney can be seen served with this Kachhe kele ke kabab here.

kachri ki chutney

The brownish kachri ki chutney is made with just about a dozen fresh kachri sliced, about a dozen hot dry red chillies and 2 dozen fat garlic pods along with some salt. The chutney is so good it become addictive even though it is quite hot. But the balance of tangy, hot and pungent is the unique property of this chutney. 

I even use this chutney to make a quick stir fry with guwar (cluster beans) beans. This recipe of guwar beans is a variation of the guwar (guar) peanut subzi that we love, another variation of guwar and kachri is shared by Deepika on my Instagram page.

kachri guwar ki subzi

To make the kachri guwar stir fry, steam the guwar beans lightly, then stir fry lightly with mustard oil and hing (asafoetida) tempering for a couple of minutes. Add a generous dollop of the kachri ki chutney and cook for a couple more minutes. Your delicious stir fry is ready to eat. The same procedure can be used to make stir fry with okra and bitter gourds too. 

Another delicious chutney with sun dried kachri is made along with coriander greens, mint, green chillies and some sesame seeds. Recently we were at the Tijara Organic Farms at Alwar (Rajasthan) for work and this chutney was served with almost every meal. We loved it so much I brought some sun dried kachri with me.

kachri (Cucumis callosus)  ki chutney

To make the chutney with sun dried kachri follow the recipe below. The recipe is by Sneh Yadav, the owner of the Tijara Organic Farm.

ingredients 
(to make a 500 ml jar full)

1 cup of sun dried kachri
2 cups of fresh chopped coriander greens
1/2 cup of mint leaves
2 dozen green chillies or as per taste
2 dozen fat garlic cloves peeled or just rinsed well
1/4 cup sesame and flax seeds mix
salt to taste

procedure 

Blend everything in the blender till a smooth paste is formed.

Add a little water or buttermilk if required. Empty the chutney into a clean (sterile) glass jar and serve as desired. The chutney keeps well for a day at room temperature and for a week or longer if refrigerated.

kachri (Cucumis callosus) ki chutney

This chutney has all the ingredients that make it a super food. Those who want to supplement iron and calcium in their diet can add some more sesame and may be a few springs of curry leaves too.

This kachri chutney also helps lower cholesterol, boost immunity and gut health (the phytochemical analysis proves here). The seeds of the kachri as well as the flax and sesame used in the chutney make it a fairly high protein food too, so if you are using this chutney as a dip like hummus be assured you are eating a lot better for health.

The kachri chutney made this way is quite versatile as well. Spread it on toasted bread along with some salad greens and make an instant healthy sandwich or just spread on a multi grain gluten free roti and see how you love a quick meal.


This kachri chutney is like a good pesto. I like pesto on my multi grain rotis a lot. See how I eat boiled eggs wrapped in pesto smeared roti here on my Instagram post.

With crackers this chutney makes a great snack or starter. Or top it over bruschetta along with some fresh crunchy raw salad.  This kachri ki chutney wouldn't disappoint you any which way.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

good quality fresh milk makes great adrak wali chai | how to make adrak wali chai and importance of fresh milk



recipe of ginger chai

I have been having a lot of adrak wali chai lately. So much so that this will be a phase of chai drinking that has easily made me a good chai maker. I loved a well made adrak wali chai always but I was not the best chai maker to tell you the truth.

I craved for someone who makes a good cup of adrak wali chai and treat me with a hot cuppa. But as I got busier and busier working over the computer (read constant sitting) I did feel like a relaxing energising drink in between and tulsi adrak wali chai filled that gap. 


recipe of ginger chai

Coffee needs more patience with the percolator filter or I need to make space for a good coffee maker, till then I settled for adrak wali chai.  It was last month when my brother and his lovely wife visited us for a couple of days and both of them have been hesitant chai drinkers. When I offered my adrak wali chai they agreed to have gingerly. Pun intended.

And after having his first sip my brother announced you have started making chai just like the good chai walas. 

Now that was a complement I would cherish. Especially because I make my chai in the healthiest way possible so the tannin of the tea doesn’t hamper nutrient absorption in the gut. Of course I love the taste of my own chai too, someone non-chai drinker approving of it is an achievement.

Fresh milk makes a lot of difference in how the chai tastes finally

Day old milk even if refrigerated well, will give you inferior flavour compared to what you get with fresh milk.

fresh milk

Yes the final taste of the chai has a lot to do with the actual chai making procedure and of course the quality of milk used. We normally chose our tea leaves carefully, make our special blends, add spices and herbs but rarely give any thought to the quality of milk used.

recipe and right procedure for making adrak wali chai

Boil water with loads of crushed or grated fresh ginger root. Add unrefined sugar if required, as much as you need in your chai. I add 1 tsp for my big mug, 1/2 tsp if I am having chai in a small teacup. Add tulsi leaves if you like.


Once the ginger has simmered for about 4-5 minutes, add the black tea, 2 tsp per cup and switch off the stove, cover the lid to let the tea brew for at least 4 minutes. 

We add more black tea (CTC tea) per cup in this method when we don't boil the tea leaves along with water and milk. The resulting tea is strong and yet with minimal tannin.
  
Mind it here you are not boiling the residual tea leaves repeatedly in an aluminium pot to get that taste, we always attributed the chai wala’s good chai to the way he boils the chai almost infinitely. It is very little to do with the chaipatti (CTC tea) used but how you treat the base of the brewed black tea to make your chai. 

Heat full fat fresh milk, strain the tea and add as much milk as you want. I keep it half half, you can also add some malai if you like. I love my chai malai maar ke sometimes. The chai will be strong, aromatic and rich with the fresh milk taste just like the special chai of of those small town chai walas. Trust me.

So you know you don't have to boil the tea leaves to keep the tannin minimal and you have to use fresh full fat milk to get that rich chai wala style chai. 

You see how fresh milk makes a difference even in the humble chai. 

fresh milk

Getting fresh milk in cities like Delhi is a dream and we do rely on one or the other brand to get the best possible milk in our own understanding. But honestly speaking we don’t have any idea how fresh the milk is by the time it reaches our table. With dairy facilities located hundreds of miles away, the milk comes to the capital from faraway places. Of course it is pasteurised for good but still maintaining the ph of the milk to keep it from curdling for longer time is an open secret. 

I wish I had a source of good fresh milk. Preferably raw milk, as I have consumed fresh raw milk in smaller towns and can vouch for its goodness.



fresh milk from cows


Milk consumption in our country has been everyday staple since time immemorial. Lord Krishna loved milk and butter and his descendants were known as Yaduvanshis who made rearing cows and selling milk products as their livelihood.

Association of milk with religious rituals indicates milk has been a kosher ingredient. I remember there used to be a separate suitable place to keep milk in pre refrigeration times, it was usually a wooden cupboard with mesh door where milk and yogurt, butter etc was stocked for the day. 

No wonder the health benefits of milk were known since time immemorial.

Here are the five ways how milk helps the body get stronger and healthier.

Bone health:
The minerals Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium, abundant in milk help calcification of bones. Milk proteins also help building up of the bones and Vit D found in milk helps the body absorb Calcium. Low consumption of milk has been associated with osteoporosis even at younger age.

Dental health:
The Calcium and Phosphorus in milk are known to keep the teeth healthy. Milk proteins (mainly casein) have been shown to help remineralization of tooth enamel.

Blood pressure management: Some studies have shown a link between milk consumption and lowered blood pressure. The Calcium, Magnesium and Phosphorus help the body to regulate the blood pressure while the Tryptophan in milk helps one stay calm and happy. These working together help manage hypertension. 

Better sleep:
The same Tryptophan in milk helps sleep better especially if the milk is consumed warm or hot at bedtime. Add some chocolate to the milk and get added benefits of Tryptophan and some flavonoids that help heal the body better.

Weight management: Milk is considered to be a complete meal and since it has enough proteins, good fats, Vit D, Tryptophan and bone strengthening minerals, the cumulative effect helps the body get into better eating habits. Full fat milk is more satiating and helps metabolize the Vit D better and Vit D deficiency is known to cause weight gain. Better get full fat milk if you want to stay fit.

Now the only concern is to get the best milk possible for our chai, coffee and the breakfast cereal.



milk and cereal

In modern times the quality of milk is getting more and more critical to overall health as we see cows being manipulated hormonally to produce more milk and to increase their milking period. Also, the kind of feed is given to cows and buffaloes is getting murkier everyday.

No wonder I keep hearing from my readers about lactose intolerance. Some of my friends have been diagnosed as lactose intolerant and they had to give up milk completely. The reality is, that some of the additives in the milk like pesticide residues and high hormone percentage in the milk sometimes causes IBS symptoms and even allergies and people attribute those symptoms to Lactose intolerance.

Also, traces of antibiotics present in the milk can retard one’s Lactase (enzyme that digests Lactose, the milk sugar) secretion just like long courses of antibiotic also retard Lactase secretion and people can’t digest milk after prolonged illness.

Now that’s scary. Right?  

I didn’t even talk about the milk coming from unorganised sector that can be adulterated with urea and detergents just to imitate the appearance of milk as these two can emulsify if whipped together and imitate the looks of milk. Not the taste thankfully. 

But then the criminal milkmen mix half of this white emulsion to half real milk and pass it off as pure fresh milk. It does get scary when we think about the kind of forgeries are done with milk.

Tell me how do you find good, fresh milk around your place? What are the criteria you look for when deciding on what milk brand is good or bad? 

List of references...

How antibiotics come in milk, including penicillin

FDA reports reveal antibiotics in milk 

How hormones in milk can be dangerous , how it affects 

How milk can be a cocktail of chemicals 

Causes of Lactose intolerance 

How to cure lactose intolerance  

Monday, December 14, 2015

how to cook goat (mutton) liver | recipe of goat liver fry and fried rice with mutton liver


salt n pepper mutton liver fry

Goat or mutton liver is not one of my favourite foods. I started eating it when I realised this is the easiest way to get a booster dose of Vit B12 which we tend to be loosing too fast in our stressful life. Stress and Vit B12 (cobalamine) deficiency feed each other and we just can't afford to be deficient in this Vitamin which is not found in any vegetarian source.

The only vegetarian source of Vit B12 is fermented foods, but I am not sure how many people consider fermented foods as vegetarian or if it is considered vegan, going by the way these trends are gaining statures like one of the manic religions. And for some reason many people think I am a vegetarian knowing I write a healthfood blog. I mean they consider vegetarian eating healthy and anyone who is writing about health must be vegetarian. This kind of logic is beyond my understanding, especially when vegetarians eat loads of processed foods and consider it healthy.

But anyway, even mutton liver was beyond my imagination and I could never eat it initially when I started eating meats. I hated the texture and even the smell. Then I started experimenting with the recipes and found a few ways even I like my mutton liver. One of those recipes is a curry patta spiced mutton liver and another mutton liver with coriander greens.

Sometimes the most basic recipes end up being quite nice and this ghee fried mutton liver with just salt and loads of pepper is one of the ways I like it. Just remember to use freshly crushed pepper corns and cook the liver just for about 10-12 minutes or till it is succulent when you cut one of the pieces.

It is very important to know how to cook mutton liver, as wrongly cooked mutton liver may make you hate it for ever. Over cooked mutton liver is chewy and rubbery and under-cooked liver oozes blood. The piece of liver should stop bleeding when cooked, and it is done as soon as it stops oozing. If cooked more it starts getting chewy and you may not like it.

Ingredients

250 gm mutton liver
salt and pepper to taste (freshly crushed pepper, more the better)
1 tbsp ghee

procedure 

Heat the ghee and dump the liver pieces into it. Fry for about 2 minutes and then sprinkle the salt and freshly crushed pepper. Stir fry till the liver pieces start changing colour and stop oozing blood when cut through.

Once done this kind f mutton liver is loved by most people, especially with drinks.

Making the mutton liver fried rice

I sometimes make it in large amount and reserve some of the pieces in the pan to make a fried rice with it, using leftover refrigerated rice.

Just chop the mutton liver pieces into really small bits using a sharp knife or spatula within the pan, sprinkle loads of chopped spring onions and a dash of soy sauce, stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Now add some cooked plain rice, adjust seasoning and mix well while stirring it to cook well too.

mutton liver and spring onion fried rice

Serve hot with some radish slices or any green salad.

In fact this fried rice has also become my way or eating mutton liver. I cut the pieces so small that I don't even realise the texture (that I am not too fond of) but the flavour is great along with spring onions and a dash of soy sauce.

Do let me know if you try this. Adding leftover refrigerated rice is a good way to make such fried rice for two reasons. One, the rice mixes up really well with the vegetables and whatever meat or eggs you are adding. Secondly, the rice starch become resistant and hence the glycemic index drops. So this mutton liver fried rice recipe is a very low glycemic meal. Safe even for diabetics.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

recipe of coffee orange body scrub and getting rejuvenated at R The Spa, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi


recipe of coffee orange Epsom salt body scrub

Few weeks ago I went for a spa treatment at R The Spa, the huge spa facility at Radisson Blu Plaza and got myself pampered with one of their winter package. They have new comforting winter packages suited for everyone and their Hammam bed with Vichy shower is a superb way to ease out the sore muscles and relax the body.

I got myself a rich chocolate massage and scrub on the hammam bed, soothing sounds of water bodies feel very comforting while your body is being slathered and massaged with smooth and gentle chocolate scrub. The Vichy shower is a device where multiple warm showers are directed towards the spinal column and limbs to ease out the stressed muscles and joints. The masseur chooses the pressure and temperature suited for you and you come out completely rejuvenated. However cliche it sounds.

Coffee and chocolate are two pick me ups that work instantly when you are bored, tired or just want a break from stressful work. I like my hot chocolate with cinnamon and sometimes nutmeg or even a hint of hot chilly in it but otherwise chocolate remains just another thing for me. Chocolate is known for being a mood enhancer thanks to serotonin and serotonin precursors found in it, good quality chocolate is a great skin food too and when applied directly on skin. The flavonoids and cocoa butter nourish the skin and make it supple.

I could actually feel my skin getting supple and all tiredness gone after this treatment called Cosy Cashmere at R The Spa. The treatment involves a warm shower or a sauna first to make the blood circulation more receptive for the massage and scrub, sauna is known to lower blood pressure. That is followed by a chosen body scrub on the hammam bed, the Vichy shower follows and then an hour long massage leaves you with a spring in your steps. Literally.

R The Spa at Radisson Blue Plaza Delhi

Coffee is one comforting drink that we associate with waking up, getting refreshed and alert. A freshly brewed cup of coffee is a delight when enjoyed with friends and the same cuppa becomes a savior when one needs to concentrate on work. There is a reason why a coffee machine is a must have fixture in offices.

Aroma of the freshly brewed coffee is quite an inviting prospect and one feels comforted almost immediately. It is another matter that coffee must not become a habit to fuel everyday work and a double espresso not a way to wake up. While caffeine is the most widely use psychoactive drug, it also works as a vaso-constrictive agent, a property quite useful when coffee is applied topically.

recipe of coffee orange Epsom salt body scrub


Yes, coffee makes a great body scrub and make skin smoother and supple. The coffee grounds used in a scrub polish the skin lightly while the caffeine tightens the skin temporarily. When used as a scrub, coffee smoothens the cellulite and reduces any puffiness. When applied as an eye mask it also smoothens puffy eyes.

I make this scrub with coffee and orange rind which is really good even if used at home. I add Epsom salt to it so it relaxes sore muscles too, even without a Vichy shower facility at home.

Recipe of coffee orange Epsom salt scrub

Ingredients
(one application for the whole body, to be made fresh)

60 gm coffee powder (not instant coffee)
fresh peel of one large orange
50 gm Epsom salt
30-40 ml coconut oil or olive oil
60-80 ml orange juice (from one orange)

procedure 

Grind the orange peel along with Epsom salt and coconut oil to make a smooth paste.
Transfer to a jar, add coffee powder and orange juice to make a paste that can be applied on skin.
Use fresh or refrigerate for a couple of days.

To use, apply all over wet skin and massage lightly all over using circular movements.
Let the scrub be on the skin for at least 30 minutes to ease out muscle fatigue.
Massage over cellulite areas well to smoothen the skin.

Wash off with warm shower. Do not use bath soap after this, wipe dry with towel.

recipe of coffee orange Epsom salt body scrub

The good thing is that this coffee orange Epsom salt scrub will now be available at R The Spa as well. You can choose to get this scrub along with any of the winter packages available at the spa.

Isn't it great to get a personalised treatment at a spa with such great facilities. I am planning to have this coffee orange Epsom salt scrub along with Vichy shower when I go there next.

The chocolate indulgence was great, next is coffee.




Monday, December 7, 2015

101 alternative flours | gluten free cake | ragi cake with carrot and orange

Recently I baked a cake for the birthday of a very sweet gentleman I had just met. It was really funny the way I got to know that it was his birthday that day, but once the birthday was revealed we had to do something. And what better to do than baking a cake?

ragi cake with carrot and orange

It was last weekend when we were at Tijara Organic Farm, among fresh produce and lovely birds. We spent the weekend eating local cuisine cooked with the farm fresh organic ingredients while shooting pictures of the beautiful property lovingly constructed by Sneh Yadav and Tara Rao.

And it was Tara's birthday that day. I decided to bake a cake that resonated with the principles Tijara Organic Farm lives by.

We went through what was there in the pantry and decided to do a ragi cake with orange and carrots, everything fresh from the farm, ragi flour had come from the organic farmers in Rajasthan. Then I realised I had to work without an oven to bake the cake.

I used to bake a cake in pressure cooker long back, but the pressure cooker available there was too small. We did a lot of improvisations and decided to bake the cake in a ceramic pot with lid. For such baking one has to fill up the base pot with sand and then heat it up on gas stove, then the cake tin is kept over the sand and covered. In case of pressure cooker the lid is fixed without the pressure vent.

Here is how we placed the cake (in a borosil dish) inside the ceramic dish for baking.

baking cake in a pan

Also, while mixing the cake batter that day I kept adding the ingredients by approximate spoonfuls and Sneh asked me whether I do this way always. I actually used to bake so much cakes earlier that the eyeballing method never failed me. I started weighing the ingredients only after I started writing the recipes for you all to follow. My instagram and facebook shares of the birthday cake brought in some requests for the recipe of this gluten free ragi cake.

So after coming back home, I made the cake again, weighing everything so the recipe can be shared. This time I topped the cake with loads of chopped walnuts, the way we like it.

ragi cake with carrot and orange

ingredients
(makes 16 squares)

220 gm ragi flour (finger millet flour)
110 gm ghee (melted, at room temperature, or use soft white butter)
100 gm unrefined sugar
220 gm grated carrots
3 large eggs
1.5 tsp baking powder
zest of 2 oranges (I used local kinnows)
juice of one orange
pinch of salt
80-100 gm walnuts or a handful

procedure 

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. The ragi flour, the baking powder and the salt and sieve together or just whisk to mix well.

Grind the unrefined sugar with orange zest in coffee grinder or mixie jar. Now mix the wet ingredients. Add the eggs, ghee and sugar orange zest mix together and whisk till creamy and smooth.

Pour the wet mix to the dry ingredients bowl. Mix lightly while adding the grated carrots. The mixture will be quite thick and resist mixing. Add orange juice to ease out the batter but do not make it flowing consistency. It should be barely flowing.

Now grease a 7"X7" baking pan and pour the batter into it. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts and press using your fingers lightly to make them embed nicely.

Bake at preheated oven at 180C for 40 minutes or till the center becomes firm, check with a skewer if in doubt.

Cool and cut the cake in squares.

This ragi orange and carrot cake fills your home with a pleasant aroma while it is baking. It is difficult to resist but the wait to cool down the cake will be well worth.

ragi cake with carrot and orange

This cake has a delicate crumb just like the ragi ginger honey cake I have shared few years ago. If you cut the cake when still warm it crumbs a lot but when you cut in after cooling down it behaves well.

Ragi orange carrot cake makes nice breakfast cake with milk and may be a banana or eggs. If you are baking it for a birthday you can dress it up with some orange chocolate ganache. Or may be some orange buttercream.

The birthday boy (Tara Rao) for whom I baked the cake that day is diabetic and I had baked the cake with lesser sugar. The ragi, ghee and carrots in the cake ensure the cake remains low glycemic even if it is lightly sweetened with sugar. So diabetics can have a decent sized serving of this cake too. 

I know many diabetics who wouldn't eat any desserts because they are denied and whenever they find a change they binge upon mithais and unhealthy cakes from the market. Baking such cakes for them more sense than making them crave for sugary stuff and giving in to temptations.

ragi cake with carrot and orange

Tara messaged me that he loved the cake and finished the leftovers with his coffee the next day. Sneh said this was the best cake she has had. I know it was a sweet complement from a friend but Arvind loves it too.

I myself liked it when I tasted a small piece but personally I wouldn't be able to have it for breakfast like Arvind. I like my savoury breakfasts better.

This ragi orange carrot cake will be useful for those who want gluten free options and of course for those who want to watch their weight while enjoying a few pieces of cake sometimes. Do let me know if you try this cake recipe. It always feels great to hear feedback from you all.

I will share a pressure cooker cake soon. I know some of you were waiting for that too but I couldn't manage to do that. A pressure cooker cake needs either a short video or a step by step pictures to understand the process better.

Please not this cake doesn't behave like any white flour cakes but the taste is great. The texture is also very different from regular flour cakes but great nonetheless. Take care of reheating the cake slices before serving (in microwave, or any other method that you may apply) as the cake tastes best when warm. The cakes slices better when cold but tastes good when warm. Small inconveniences that can be overcome when you bake gluten free cakes. This ragi orange carrot cake won't disappoint you trust me. 


brunch at Tamra, Shangri La : a deluge of delicious options

The season for Sunday brunches is back in the city. Normally we spend our Sundays either in the garden with pots of tea and some peanuts to munch on while we read newspapers and do some gardening, sometimes we even finish our pending work sitting with the plants.

And when there are a few great options for Sunday brunch closer home we feel like going for the experience sometimes.

So a couple of weekends back we headed for a Sunday brunch at Tamra, the expansive first floor restaurant at Shangri La Hotel that serves fantastic Oriental, Mediterranean, European and several types of Indian foods. Our plan was to do a quick lunch and be back to finish a few more chores that we had scheduled for the day. It turned out to be an affair that lasted for three hours, and not for a fraction of second we felt we are eating something too heavy. Though this became the only meal of the day for us as we ended up skipping dinner, but I am glad one can choose a big healthy meal out of a brunch buffet.

We love seafood and Tamra has a great seafood counter where you get one of the best sushi and miso soup and we never miss that whenever we are dining there. For the ongoing brunch at Tamra the sea food display is impressive and they now have a make your own sushi counter too.

Brunch at Tamra

It is an absolute luxury to choose from the seafood you like and dress it up with your choice of dressing or get it flambeed or stewed the way you like it.

Brunch at Tamra

Fresh lobsters, oysters, calamari rings and baby octopuses made our starters with Miso soup that is my favorite.

Brunch at Tamra

The cheese and salad counters are another indulgence that you feel like exploring slowly. And that is what we did. I avoided cheeses because I did not want to stuff myself with them, the display called for a picture of course.

Brunch at Tamra

The salads looked more promising by the way they were arranged in individual servings as well as platters of tossed salads. I tried almost each salad and loved all of them. My favourites were the pearl barley asparagus salad served in shot glasses and the coloured bell pepper crudites served with a blue cheese dip.

Brunch at Tamra

The pesto smeared bocconcini, the three beans salad and water chestnuts in oriental dressing were all really good. Six different types of mustard dressings and several other dressing oils and vinegars lined up to choose from is worth mentioning.

And a cold tomato soup in miniature bottles was a lovely idea for such an expansive brunch where we want to taste everything but avoid getting stuffed with just one type of food.

Brunch at Tamra

Chef Gagandeep Singh advised us to taste the Thai grilled chicken with som tam salad, the special of the day at the Thai counter. I tried it thinking why I have to eat chicken when there are so many great options available, but I was wrong in my perception. The chicken was grilled with basil sauce and was pleasantly charred and succulent, som tam was nice.

Brunch at Tamra

The other recommendation of Chef Gagandeep was the makki ki roti and sarson ka saag. Again my perception is that five star hotels don't do good regional food. I thought of giving it a try although I was planning to avoid any main course dishes.

makki ki roti sarson ka saag

Honestly, I was planning to have just one or two bites of this makki ki roti dipped in sarson ka saag but ended up finishing the whole damn thing. It was done really well, perfect sarson ka saag with melting white butter and makki ki roti done in tandoor. The Indian section started sounding really promising and I made a note to visit the India section in my next visit.

There should always be a reason to go back to a place like Tamra. A weekend indulgence that I can't refuse and I always find the kind of food I need from the elaborate spread. One can eat healthy and light if one chooses so and can indulge and go bonkers too. Every Sunday they have a new menu and I can imagine how they charm the diners totally. Although I am not too sure about the desserts as I rarely try them but the ice lollies made of fruit pulp I tried were really good.

ice lollies

The new brunch is much more fun. They have a few special things for kids too including an exclusive play zone for them.

Tamra is getting better and better I think.


Friday, December 4, 2015

healing guava soup with ginger, lemongrass and a hint of tulsi | a soup to treat dry cough


Guava soup

Guava is in season now and we have been eating them quite a lot. The other day my house help was complaining how her kids love guava and she doesn't let them eat because it makes them cough. I told her Guavas are not responsible for coughing but she wont listen.

Guavas

In fact many of us believe that Guavas cause cold and cough and do not eat them after sunset. Guavas being linked with cold and cough is absolutely a myth. In fact guavas are one of the most nourishing fruits of the season. With rich Calcium, Magnesium and Vit C, these are one of the best food to boost immunity. Guavas are known for the rich pectin content too that helps in cleansing the gut and regulating the cholesterol too.

But why Guavas are linked with coughing? I have no idea honestly speaking but then most fruits are considered as 'cold' in Indian context. Even Bananas and Oranges are considered 'cold' so the logic could be absolutely nonexistent in this case.

I have grown up around Guava trees and the areas where cart loads of fresh Guavas would appear every morning in season and people would quarter them, sprinkle a mix of spiced salt over them and eat them till they felt stuffed. No one I know ever caught cold by eating Guavas.

Guavas

The fact that many people don't know about Guavas is that they can be cooked too. Guava subzi (curry) is well known in north India but very few people know that fire roasted ripe guava is an ancient remedy to treat cough. Once a fully ripe guava is grilled over gas flame or in an oven, the fruit can be halved and the flesh can be scooped out to eat it warm. It is known to treat the most persistent cough. 

As a short cut method, I have often asked people to microwave a ripe Guava till it gets warm and eat it to treat cough and it has helped. Personally I don't appreciate the taste of fire roasted guava much but eat it as a medicine. Now thankfully I found a better way to treat a cough or a throat irritation caused by pollutants (dust or particulate matter).

It so happened that I was feeling really irritated by the way my throat was itching and paining slightly and I knew it was because of a long walk I did the previous evening. Delhi pollution levels have been alarming this season and evening walks can be potentially dangerous. But what to do?

Normally I make a herb tea infusion of lemongrass and ginger with some added black pepper or Tulsi (Holy Basil) leaves and keep sipping on it till I find relief. This time when I was proceeding to make this infusion for myself I got reminded of a couple of very ripe Guavas that had become too soft to be any good. The result was phenomenal in taste and of course the after effect of this soothing soup.

ingredients
(serves 2, large servings)

2 large ripe soft Guavas (200-250 gm), quartered or cut in chunks
1 liter water
one stalk and leaves of lemongrass crushed and tied up together
2 inch piece of tender ginger root
6 peppercorns
2 inflorescence of tulsi (Holy basil) or use 2 springs of leaves
2 pinches of salt or to taste
2 tsp sugar ( I used jaggery)


procedure

Pressure cook everything together till the whistle blows. Or cook in open pan till Guavas turn mushy.

Blend using a stick blender and sieve through a soup colander. Adjust seasoning.

Serve hot or warm.

Guava soup

This Guava soup is quite aromatic and tasty. You can adjust the balance of flavours according to taste but there is no need to add any butter or cream to this soup.

I liked it so much that I keep looking for more serving even when I get a large serving for myself each time. The cup in the picture above is a 700 ml breakfast cup that I use for some of my soups and smoothies. Good things are needed in large doses I believe.

The itchy throat was not even remembered till I saw the pictures of this soup and was reminded to post the recipe here. Natural remedies are the best.

Make this Guava soup sometime soon and let me know if you like it.



Friday, November 20, 2015

fruit juice Rasgulla and fruit cocktail Rasgulla | Indian desserts made healthy | no added sugar Rasgulla recipe


Rasgulla or Roshogolla is a cottage cheese dumpling soaked in light sugar syrup. It is one of the healthiest Indian desserts and the good thing with this dessert is that the spongy spherical balls of cottage cheese can be squeezed to remove most of the sugar from it and it becomes a low sugar dessert. I have never seen anyone who doesn't like Rasgulla, some people like it lightly sweetened and some like it in thick sugar syrup, I prefer fruity flavour in Rasgulla.

The making of Rasgulla is a little tricky but very simple once you understand how it works. Freshly made cottage cheese is blended very smooth till it becomes cohesive and makes smooth balls when rolled in one's palms. These smooth cottage cheese balls are then poached in a very light sugar syrup till they fluff up and get almost tripled in size. Normally these Rasgullas are served chilled along with some of the poaching syrup without any other flavouring added. But some add a hint of Cardamom or Saffron to the syrup to make it mildly flavoured.

The most favourite way that I like Rasgulla is either the Orange juice rasgulla or on Pomegranate juice. This Anar (pomegranate) Rasgulla makes everyone happy.


The fruity version called Komola bhog or Orange Rasgulla is also made by commercial sweet makers but that is mostly a synthetically flavoured version, although I have made and shared a naturally Orange flavoured Rasgulla earlier. I keep making Rasgullas with fruit flavours and in a few more ways and have always got very good feedback from whoever eats them. One of the most stunning recipe is this fruit cocktail Rasgulla that makes a very nice healthy dessert for family get-togethers.


One thing to note when making Rasgulla with fruit juices is that the Rasgulla which is basically spongy cheese balls, take on the colour of the fruit juice and most fruit juices are a mix of different types of plant pigments. So the colour the Rasgulla soaks may not be the same colour of the juice. It works like Chromatography, only specific coloured pigments are absorbed by different proteins and starches, so don't be bothered if your Rasgulla in pomegranate juice looks brown after an hour of soaking in it. It is perfectly fine. Make a point to use the fruit juice rasgullas within a couple of hours of making and keep them chilled.

Now let's see what is the procedure.

The detailed procedure of making paneer is here, the loose version of the same cheese is called Chhena which is basically cottage cheese. I have shared a basic rasgulla recipe here and have discussed in detail how to make chhenna (cottage cheese) for rasgulla.

To repeat, I must say the raw (I use pasteurized) milk is heated till 90 degree C, then lime juice is added slowly till you see curdled milk solids and clear whey. Strain the cottage cheese, rinse it under cold water, squeeze it and then knead to make a smooth dough. Then make small balls for rasgulla, keeping in mind they double in size and get even bigger depending on milk and cheese quality.


Now make a weak sugar syrup (50-100 gm sugar on 700 ml water) or plain water (as I do), sufficient enough to let the Rasgullas poach freely, boil it in a pressure cooker or a deep pan or stock pot, tip in all the Rasgulla balls one by one and simmer them till you see them doubled.

I generally cover the cooker with lid and pressure cook them shortly (till the first whistle) to ensure the Rasgullas fluff up to maximum.


You can see the Rasgullas have become big and the poaching liquid gets cloudy. This is because of the Casein (milk protein) which leaks into the poaching liquid. If the poaching liquid has enough sugar for your liking you can chill it along with it, else add some sugar or date syrup or even honey and dissolve, then chill to serve as desired.

But if you are like me, you would squeeze the ready Rasgullas lightly and dunk them directly in fruit juice of your choice.

Like in this fruit cocktail Rasgulla I used pomegranate juice infused with a little Thai basil and some cut fruits. The result was spectacular and very mildly sweet that we love. You can add additional sweetener of your choice at any point after this.


For this Anar Rasgulla I sometimes use plum juice along with pomegranate arils to make it look ruby red. This one had wooed many people trust me.


The fruit cocktail gets mixed reviews because some people do not like one of the fruits or some people get suspicious of the Rasgulla getting a tad bit darker when served. Kids get a lesson on Chromatography if they are in doubt.

Wouldn't it be a good way to teach them some science? And about natural plant pigments and how they behave, how beneficial they are for our body as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents too.


One can always replace cakes when a dessert like this is served for birthdays. Both of us hate the sickening dressed up birthday cakes and will grab any opportunity to make such display of desserts replace birthday cakes.


I know many people, mostly adults who love this idea of birthday special desserts. We can always make our kids learn better and condition them from the beginning. Or one can always have a conventional cake and then a few of these healthy desserts too. At least they start appreciating what is eventually good for them.


Kids make good choices if we provide them with options. If they grow up eating fondant covered neon coloured cakes they would never know there are better options.

Brings the best options home. Let you body and mind have the best of treats for celebrations as well as everyday treats.



Sunday, November 8, 2015

how to choose gifts for Diwali and other festivals | 10 healthy gifting choices to pamper your loved ones


There is a tradition of distributing gifts during festivals as it is supposed to strengthen social bonding and bring cheer to our lives. Who doesn't feel happy to receive a box of chocolates or besan ke laddu  when it is festive time or even otherwise. To make the gifting worth we must think for a moment about the ingredients being used to make those cakes, brownies, mithais and other edible products that we buy during these times.

diwali gift ideas

I always wonder where from so much milk products come (mostly khoya, reduced dehydrated milk) in the market during major festivals and how do the shops manage to increase the shelf life of mithais and cupcakes being packaged and transported on an industrial scale. Everyone who has seen the production and supply chain of such products will be aware what all goes into those glittery garnishes and even the piece of cake or mithai you buy. Being careful about the quality of the products you decide to gift is a great idea if you care for your friends and family.

In older days we used to gift a platter of Besan ka laddu and Shakkarparas to friends and relatives but now a days I see many of us gifting ready made hampers. W don't have enough time to make time consuming mithais or cakes and cookies for gifting but we do want to gift nice good quality things to our loved ones.

It is all the more important to know where these products come from.

diwali gift ideas

Here are a few ideas of gifts that you would love receiving. The biggest reason to choose the same kind of products and homemade eatables for your friends as well. After all eatable gifts are the best way to spread cheer, food connects us in ways we can't imagine sometimes. Of course there are the good quality real cakes, cookies, mithais and nuts and fruits to choose from, a few other options might be more exciting.

1. Tea and coffee hampers : we usually know what teas and coffees our friends and family like. Or we can gift them something new to discover. You can include pretty kettles and coffee press to the hamper if you are feeling generous. Add some artisan cookies or trail mixes to the hamper or dried herbs so someone can make their own blends.

tea hampers

Mittal Teas and Anandini Himalaya Tea do nice tea hampers.  

2. Roasted nuts or trail mixes : You can make them in bulk by yourself of get them made on order by some local bakery. These are the products least likely to be adulterated so you can buy them packaged too, just read the labels whether you are buying for yourself or for gifting. 

trail mix

Avanti Mathur of Sweet Nothings makes wonderful cakes but her Diwali hampers are great too. These can be customized according to taste. 

diwali gift ideas

3. Homemade jams and preserves : You would love making them yourself even if you try for the very first time. Get nice glass jars, buy fruits in bulk and have a day full of fruity aromas and sticky fingers. Making marmalade and jams is easy although it is time consuming, your friends will remember you every time they open the jar. The industrially produced jams can never come close to homemade artisan jams and preserves. Buy from someone who is making at home if you can't make yourself, you will find many around your area. 

home made jams

Apeksha Jain makes very good jams in Delhi. 

 4. Nut Butters and home made chocolate nut spreads: When you gift these home made goodies to your friends they really feel pampered because they see the attention to quality and the loving care you fill these jars with.

Try this chocolate spread recipe and this chocolate ganache recipe if you want to make these.

nut butters

Megha Deokule of i2cook makes some nice nut butters and sauces if you like ordering. 

5. Homemade chocolates : These are the easiest to make if you are planning to make by yourself. You just need to order the raw materials in advance and plan ahead of time for attractive packaging etc, but thankfully there are many home cooks too who are taking orders for home made chocolates. Find someone in your area and get them made with the best quality chocolate available.

chocolates

Radisson blu Delhi Pastry Shop did a nice home made chocolate hamper this year. 

6. Fruit juices, preserves and honey made and marketed by rural women and NGOs : We see many such groups who are making fruit preserves, fruit juices and honey when we travel to hills and these products could be a great gifting option during festivals too. Of course these products are so good these should be part of our regular shopping list too.

I saw this apple juice by Mountain Love (no preservatives, pasteurized juice) recently, it comes in 5 liter packs (for 700 Rs) and they home deliver anywhere in NCR.

Mountain love apple juice

I love Litchi honey and wild flower honey by Kilmora and a few other brands located in the hills of Uttarakhand and Himachal. There are many such produce from Coorg hills too.

honey

7. Assortment of all products you love : some good quality sauces, jams, pasta and cakes etc is also a great way to pamper your friends and family. This huge hamper from The Oberoi Gurgaon is a fine example.

diwali gift ideas

How wonderful it is to get good quality products to cook with. A few ready to eat treats makes the hamper feel like an instant treat too.

This assortment of nuts, chocolate, cakes and brownies from The Oberoi Delhi also makes one feel pampered.  


8. Home made granola bars, muesli, panjeeri etc. : Nothing like good quality home made muesli, Panjeeri or granola bars. These can also be made at home or can be ordered from home bakers from your area. This buckwheat granola bar, gluten free amaranth energy bar, sesame ginger honey bars, Flax seed coconut granola bars etc are easy recipes to follow.

diwali gift ideas

Le Meridien Gurgaon sent a box of delicious gluten free granola bars and I am inspired to bake some next time I have to gift. 

9. Mithais from Mother Dairy or any other reputed dairy from your area : The packaged mithais and other dairy products are standardized and good quality always. You have to read the labels in this case too if you have allergies or intolerance to certain ingredients, but you can trust the purity and quality.

diwali gift ideas

Even the powder milk and khoya from these dairies and brands is way better than the packaged ready to eat mithais, so try and get these to make mithais and desserts at home. Cooking from scratch is always the best option.

10. Real Vanilla beans or extract or homemade vanilla extract : I used to make Vanilla extract by slitting Vanilla beans and seeping them into Vodka for about 4-6 months earlier. I kept making my own vanilla extract this way for many years, and since it takes time I would make a large batch and share with friends too.

But now I have found Goodness Vanilla and their Vanilla beans and extract is so good I don't buy any other Vanilla anymore.

vanilla extract

These tube packs of Vanilla beans and bottles of extract are great gifting ideas for all your friends who love baking. The Vanilla beans and extracts can be ordered from their website.

These kind of gifts stay with us for a long time and we remember the treats for a lifetime for sure. When you add a special touch by cooking things at home or taking care to select the pure natural ingredients, the gifts are much more valuable than it is meant to be.

diwali gift ideas

Hoping these ideas will help you decide when you are planning to gift. I would have included homemade sauces and pickles too but I know many of you don't cook so much. But as I mentioned, it is easier to find someone who bakes from home or can make anything you want for commercial scale, now that people are getting conscious of the quality of produce.

Please share your ideas too. Gifting is always so personal we all have different ideas and sentiments attached with it.

Sometimes a box of fruits or a basket full of seeds and seasonal nursery makes wonderful gift too. Diwali is the time when we are planting flowers for spring.

Please don't gift firecrackers if you want the flowers to be happy next spring.