Friday, January 30, 2015

Thai sesame garlic dressing with calamondin juice | a red cabbage salad and a ripe papaya salad with Thai sesame garlic dressing

A cabbage salad sounds unimpressive unless you have a killer dressing. This red cabbage salad with Thai sesame and garlic dressing blew my mind away. This salad is so good there is always a competition while eating from the same bowl. You must know it has been repeated a few times already.

Inspired by the Thai masterclass I made another Thai salad even though I have been having hot soups more in this season. A cold salad doesn't always feel right in winters but I experimented with a Thai dressing one day that turned out to be so good I used it up immediately with some red cabbages that I had in the fridge at that time. The Thai sesame and garlic dressing was supposed to be used for a salad for lunch the next day and I had kept a jar to fill and refrigerate but I took out cabbages and coriander greens instead, chopped them patiently and tossed the salad with the dressing being poured right out of the mixie jar. Some meal plans change like that. For the good.

My tiny Calamondin tree is giving me some fruits but Deeba had given me a bagful when we met last time. My tiny tree is loaded with small unripe calamondins but since I allow some Citrus Butterflies to breed on this tree, many fruits don't get to ripen and then the Bulbuls and Barbets come and pick them up, the ripe ones. Thank God I can get calamondins from friends.

The calamondin chilly marmalade that I had planned was not happening and I made the calamondin infused tea a few times and then I thought of using it's juice for a nutty salad dressing. This is one of the best salad dressings I have experimented with.

ingredients for the dressing 
Recipe inspired by this one
(makes about one cup, enough for 2-3 large servings)

sesame seeds (raw) 2 tbsp
calamondin juice 3 tbsp (from about 10 calamondins)
honey 1 tbsp
fresh red chillies chopped (preferably thai bird chillies) 2
garlic cloves 5
sesame oil (cold pressed) 1 tbsp
salt 3/4 tsp
light soy sauce 1 tsp
chopped lemongrass (white bulbous part) 1 tbsp

Blend everything smooth in mixie except the red chillies. Pulse once after adding the chillies so they just get macerated in the dressing and not completely blended. Add water and dilute to make it flowing consistency. Taste and adjust sweet-salt balance.

ingredients for the salad
(2 large servings)
finely chopped red cabbage 2 cups
finely chopped green cabbage 1 cup
chopped white parts of spring onions 1/3 cup
chopped coriander greens 1/2 cup
roasted chopped cashew nuts 2-3 tbsp


Mix all the chopped vegetables first. Pour the thick dressing paste over it and mix well again. Let it stand for about 15 minutes before serving.

Sprinkle with chopped roasted cashew and serve. This salad stays good for about 2 hours even after mixing so you can take it in lunch box or make it well ahead for a party too.

This salad is so good I finished half of it while just tossing it. And then felt guilty to finish a good thing all by myself and not sharing with the husband. But the good sense prevailed and I saved for him too. He loved it too, even suggested this could be a lunch box regular. I made a large batch of the dressing the next day and refrigerated to toss quick salads for his lunch box in the morning.

With some tender baby spinach plucked fresh from the garden, I can toss a salad with just anything if there is a good dressing on hand. Else I would admit I eat salads even without dressing if there are citrus fruits that lend their own zing to the salad once the salt is added.

The coriander greens are flowering now and packed with more aromatic oils. The flowering stalks of coriander make nice aromatic addition to any salad. I chopped some along with spinach and added to a papaya salad.

Ripe papaya salad with baby spinach, coriander greens and a couple of strawberries.

I made this ripe papaya salad with the same dressing and loved it so much I might eat papaya like this whenever they are not sweet enough. This was a papaya that turned out to be less sweet than we like and I was thinking of making a smoothie and gulp it down in one go. But now papayas will be consumed in a fancier way thanks the calamondins and the love for sesame. I added some mixed seeds to this papaya salad and loved it. Use any nuts or seeds you fancy.

Another salad I make with not so sweet papayas is here with pickled beet roots and that is another favourite. You know I would eat a large bowl of salad anytime.

You might like to add some arugula or lettuce instead of spinach and orange segments instead of strawberries, may be some pickled beets too but try and not let this salad stay for very long time as the enzymes of papaya start working on the sesame dressing and it looks curdled. Though the taste doesn't change much.

This sesame and garlic Thai salad dressing with calamondin juice and lemon grass definitely has strong citrus notes, but you do get the kick of the fresh red chillies, the sweetness of honey, nuttiness of sesame and the umami lend by the soy sauce. Imagine the flavours.

There is still a jar of this Thai sesame garlic dressing in the fridge, I might toss some sprouts and roasted peanuts in it next. A good thing must be used in a good way right?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

a Thai masterclass at Neung Roi, learning some extremely healthy delicious recipes from Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja

 I love Thai food so much that I grow lemon grass, galangal and turmeric in my garden and there is a grapefruit tree whose leaves I use instead of kafir lime leaves whenever I cook Thai soups or salads.

I make Thai pomelo salad with the grapefruit my garden treats me with. This salad was made last season but now I realise I never shared the recipe on the blog. I will share the recipe next for sure as it is really a simple procedure but one needs to take care of a few minor things while making this salad.

I have a better thing to share today, way more exciting than the Thai pomelo salad. And that is a masterclass with Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja, the culinary Goddess who teaches recipes and cooking with a childlike excitement. This masterclass was held at Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza and Ruchira, The Cookaroo invited a few of us food bloggers to learn the simple tricks and tips of Thai cooking from Chef Suthiwaja. I just loved the way she enjoys handling the ingredients and assembling them to make soulful food to say the least.

Before I share all the food that we learnt and ate there at Neung Roi I must tell that we had a very very good Thai pomelo salad there as well. We learnt Pla Yang Kamin ((grilled sea bass with fresh turmeric and herbs, served with tamarind chili dip), Yam Tuea Plu (winged beans salad with roasted coconut and tamarind dressing), Tom Kha Gai (chicken and coconut milk soup with Thai herbs), Gai Kaprow (stir fried minced chicken with chili and hot basil) and the famous Thai dessert Tub Tim Krob (water chestnut in coconut jasmine syrup). And then we tasted these and more for lunch that day.

We started our meal with the Pla Yang Kamin, the delicately grilled fish bursting with flavours of galangal and lemongrass and yet very light. The dipping sauce that came with it was so good I couldn't stop licking that sauce. It was a very flavourful hot-sweet-tart tamarind chili dip sprinkled with sliced shallots.

Deep fried corn fritters were served with sweet chili sauce and this was the only dish that I found useless for myself. The other vegetarian starter with mushrooms on a stick was appreciated by everyone, I should have tasted that one too. But no regret, I had so much of flavourful and healthy food to eat.

The Thai pomelo salad (Yam Som O) was recommended by Ruchira and we all just loved this light citrus salad sprinkled with fried onions and roasted coconut. This salad is the best example of how fresh ingredients need very simple recipes to make great tasting food.

Then we had another salad that confirmed the same 'law of simplicity in making the best recipes'. It was the Yam Tuea Plu, winged beans salad and this was the first time I tasted winged beans. The salad was just so good I prayed for the winged bean sapling I have planted, so it grows well and gives me loads of winged beans. Crunchy slices of the beans were coated lightly with roasted peanut powder and coconut, shallot slices, kafir lime and coriander leaves complementing the tamarind dressing so well. I had another large helping of this salad.

Tom Kha Gai, the soup came and I was expecting great flavours as I had seen Chef  Suthiwaja creating this soup with oyster and enoki mushrooms along with chicken breast and herbs. The soup was able to cast a spell on every one as there was pin drop silence as we all sipped on the goodness of this white pristine soup drizzled with chili oil.

Pad See Eeu (pad Thai noodles), plain boiled rice and Gai Kaprow (stir fried minced chicken) were served for mains and were all nice. Chicken mince was cooked with some long beans (lobiya) bits and I like this kind of food for my everyday meals too. But I must add that this Gai Kaprow was not as flavourful as the salads and the soup.

Tub Tim Krob, the cubed water chestnuts in sweetened coconut milk was out of this world. Mildly sweet, just as I like it and great texture of water chestnut that we always love. I have tried making this dessert at home but have not been able to make it perfectly as yet. Now after this masterclass I am going to make it next season for sure. This is one of those delicious and healthy desserts that we love.

Roasted coconut ice cream was served on the side and was really good. It was hard to find roasted coconut taste but it was rich in coconut flavours and texture.

Fugtong Chum (candied pumpkin in coconut milk) was too sweet for my taste although I like pumpkin in desserts. But I liked the idea and might make it with adjusted sweetness for my taste buds.

It was one gloomy looking winter day when I headed for this masterclass but the happy chatter of friends and good food made the day. It was a big gathering after a long long time as Ruchira, Parul, Himanshu and Deeba were there and I met Om Rautray and Maneesh too.

Happy meals end with a craving for some more chitchat, some more nostalgia and a bit of overeating sometimes. With this kind of healthy Thai food where you can go gluten free if you wish and make a meal out of those yummy salads, the overeating is well worth it. I was wondering why I haven't been to Neung Roi already with Arvind, will be correcting that soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

broccoli, green garlic shoots and quark cheese dip, making snacking healthier

Cheesy-creamy dips never fail to impress. Making them with homemade fresh cheese and enriching it with flavours of the season is a great way to eat for nourishment. There is a misconception that taste is inversely proportional to nourishment and this blog is here to correct that notion. You know your food well if you are reading this right now and I want you to learn some simpler ways to cook delicious food from scratch because learning how to cook will ensure great quality of ingredients and nourishing food on the table every single day. The feedback that I get from all of you reading this blog encourages me to try and bring more simple, seasonal, affordable, doable recipes that go a long way for a healthy lifestyle.

This broccoli and quark dip is very quick once you have some quark ready in the fridge. Making quark cheese at home is not at all difficult as it is a simple curd cheese with a little higher fat content for creamy texture. Just whip a kilo of plain yogurt with 100 ml single cream (25% fat), let it sit for an hour and then strain it through muslin lined sieve propped on to a large bowl to collect the whey that can be used to knead bread dough later. Keep the sieve along with the bowl refrigerated overnight and collect the thick creamy quark in the morning. Keeps well for a week in non reactive containers once refrigerated. Use as required.

You can whip this quark cheese to make fruit based desserts like strawberry-quark mousse as well as dips using various base ingredients. Quark provides richness in texture and taste and is a healthy ingredients rich in calcium and good fats.

Since I had loads of farm fresh broccoli someone had sent 2 weeks ago, I used that to make this dip to take to our family potluck one day. Everyone loved it and I was regretting why I did not make more. This dip also keeps well for 3-4 days in the fridge.


quark cheese 1 cup or about 300 gm
nuts soaked for 2 hours about 30 gm ( I used cashews and walnuts)
broccoli florets chopped in small pieces 3 cups (about 500 gm)
fresh green garlic shoots with white bulbs chopped 1 cup (about 150 gm)
salt to taste
pepper powder 1 tsp
olive oil 1 tbsp


Heat a pan and drizzle olive oil to coat. Add the chopped broccoli and salt and stir well to coat lightly with oil and sweat the broccoli. Add the chopped green garlic and mix, cook covered for 5 minutes or till everything is wilted. Cool to room temperature.

Now mix everything else and make a smooth paste in your trusted food processor or mixie.

Serve as desired, drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil.

I served this dip with home made whole wheat crackers. You can serve this with any kind of whole wheat or ragi or millet crackers you like. You can make a variety of dips with many lentils and vegetables with added yogurt, quark or nuts paste and add zing to everyday meals.

This broccoli and quark dip had a mild sharpness provided by fresh green garlic that we get in abundance all through winters. If you don't have access to it you can use garlic cloves but in smaller quantity. Roasted garlic would also taste really good in this dip.

This dip makes a great bread spread as well.

review : Quote Bar, not just a watering hole

Winter evenings have been dull and boring and we need to perk up the spirits after slogging on the desk the whole day. Weekday evening outings are rare for us but we do indulge ourselves sometimes. This time it was well worth accepting an invite from Quote Bar.

When on a chilly winter evening you are served a shot of flaming Absinthe made right at your table, the dinner looks really promising. We were not disappointed a bit.

This drink is labeled TNT on the menu of Quote Bar (Connaught Place) but it is neat Absinthe served flaming with sugar on the table, adding a lot of drama to the dining experience. It was really good, both of us loved it. But I strongly felt this flaming drink should be served with a good quality glass straw as the plastic straw was utterly useless dipped in flaming alcohol. Hope the establishment gets my feedback o this wonderful drink.

The food is delicious and very creative, covering a vast array of popular cuisines. And does justice to it fairly. We loved the crispy fried fish with spring onions, the fish was a bit firm, not 'melt in the mouth kinda fresh' but the crisp crust doused with oriental sauce was quite good. The lemon teriyaki chicken and bacon roll was really nice too, here also the chicken was a bit hard to bite but well balanced flavours and a really nice way to serve it like lollipops.

We ordered an Indonesian citrus salad and this was really really good. Crunchy crushed peanuts, sweet sour and hot sambal ulek dressing, thinly sliced apples, fresh lettuce and citrus bites make this salad really enjoyable.

We ordered two platters from Quote Bar specials. A platter of chicken with shitake and asparagus with oyster sauce was really good. It is served with pineapple rice and a side of green salad that makes it a complete balanced meal. The other platter was a grilled fish in banana leaf wrap, served with nasi goreng topped with fried egg and shrimp crackers. We loved the nasi goreng and the shrimp crackers but the fish was not fresh and lacked the taste although the Malay style masala paste was really good. I wish the fish was fresh and soft and had taken the flavours of the masala. Else this platter is a must try.

The decor has a youthful spirit and quirky walls, a great place to visit when one needs to perk up or party with friends.

The flaming shooters are presented well. My only suggestion is to please bring some glass straws for these shots as plastic is injurious to health when dipped in flaming alcohol.

It is a spectacle for sure.

Monday, January 26, 2015

olive oil revolution | is olive oil suitable for Indian cooking? | which grade of olive oil is best?

I get a lot of queries about usage of olive oil for Indian kitchens. There are so many brands available and so many variants of olive oil that one gets confused about which one is right for cooking what? And if it is worth the money even if one takes the plunge. I know many people who actually cook all their meals in olive oil exclusively (*olive pomace oil actually) now and many more who have been planning to move to olive oils for everyday cooking but the cost is the inhibitory factor.

Else all the TV commercials are here to announce that you can fry your jalebis and pooris in pomace and that it is still healthy. How much more contorted it could get.

The goodness of cooking oils is only measured on the scale of how much high temperature it can withstand because all Indian homes deep fry all their food everyday. Right?

I say wrong. We don't deep fry all our foods and we do need other qualities in a cooking oil too. A cooking oil should be rich in omg3 and NOT have a higher omg6 ratio to omg3 as it becomes inflammatory in nature. But that is not the concern with olive oil because it has all the goodness of omega 3s and good amount of polyphenols if it is good quality.

Good quality olive oil is a genuine concern in our country because olive oil is labeled WRONGLY here. While extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is great if the brand is good and trusted but there is no virgin olive oil. All the oils labeled as 'virgin olive oils' are a mix of extra virgin olive oil and 'refined olive oil' and that is an absolute sham.

Normally virgin or pure olive oil should be olive oil that is not cold pressed but thermal process has been used to extract oil but that is not as bad. The oil still has it's goodness. Read the label carefully before buying this category of oil and see whether 'refined olive oil' is added to it.

Now one needs to know what is 'refined olive oil'. Refined olive oil is nothing but *olive pomace oil and we need to read the label carefully to ensure before buying. Olive pomace is the oil cake leftover after the cold pressing process and the olive pomace oil cannot be called as olive oil as per law of many countries that produce olive oil. The process of extracting oil from pomace involves the use of chemical solvents and the resultant oil is industrial quality fit only to be used as a lubricant or saponifying agent at the most. Marketing olive pomace oil as a healthy product in India is WRONG and is misleading people. Jalebi fried in pomace oil CANNOT BE HEALTHY.

I attended a masterclass with Chef Kunal Kapoor recently at Le Meridien hotel where he cooked a few recipes with Olive oil and a nutritionist Dr. Seema Singh spoke about the health benefits of it. As I mentioned, cooking with even extra virgin olive oil is okay if one is cooking a pasta sauce or is quickly stir frying vegetables as the temperature in the pan doesn't go beyond 110 C in that case. Chef cooked a chicken kabab with avocado in olive oil and made everyone taste it too. A pineapple chutney was also cooked and served to all.

Extra virgin olive oil is great as a source of antioxidants and omega3s but we must include many more types of antioxidants and omega3s in our diet so we are not dependent on oils for them. We must remember that cold pressed mustard oil is as healthy as cold pressed extra virgin olive oil if we use it sensibly. Remember not to smoke any oil during cooking.

Using only olive oils is no guarantee that you will lower your cholesterol level if you have switched to it for this reason. If you keep eating refined foods, refined ingredients (like white flour, white sugar, HFCS or corn syrup) and less fresh produce you may get prone to high levels of inflammation, metabolic disorders, high cholesterol and related symptoms. Fixing the lifestyle is the solution, none of the healthy ingredients can fix it in isolation.

I love using extra virgin olive oils myself a lot and many of my salads and ALL pasta dishes use EVOO freely. But I would never switch to EVOO for my Indian food.I cook my north Indian food in mustard oil or ghee, south Indian in sesame and coconut oil, pakodas are fried in mustard oil, poori and parathas are fried in ghee.

I would be really glad if Olives are grown in India and we get access to good quality cold pressed EVOO closer home and can enjoy the best flavours in Mediterranian and Italian foods that we love. Till then I would look for my EVOO and would not bother about pure virgin olive oil even if comes without a mix of refined olive pomace oil.

To supplement my food I have my extra virgin cold pressed mustard oil and extra virgin cold processed sesame and coconut oil along with ghee and butter to use every day. It is not saturated fats that increase cholesterol in the blood, it is high degree of inflammation caused by processed foods and faulty lifestyle that leads to increased levels of cholesterol.

To manage cholesterol one needs to minimise inflammatory load on the system. The best way to do so is to live an active life, exercise regularly, switch to cold pressed natural oils (not refined processed oils and margarine) and ghee, use them judiciousely (not fry everyday food) include more and more fresh produce, fruits, seasonal greens and vegetables in everyday diet.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

a warm salad with caramelised sweet potatoes and carrots | a stir fry salad with flavours of lime, ginger and chilly heat

It has been sometime when I had mentioned the 'Farm to Table' meal that we had at Aiyor Bai (close to Hyderabad) and how we dug out baby carrots and sweet potatoes to make a caramelised salad with them. Simple fresh produce was the inspiration for this salad that day and I am amazed at how many people have loved it already. While my friend Bhavana keeps hunting for sweet potatoes in Hyderabad markets, Madhu (the chief farmer at Aiyor Bai) experimented with it too. I myself made this caramelised sweet potato and carrots salad several times after that and took it to potluck lunches twice during the last month and everyone just loved it.

The recipe quickly stir fried at the farm was simpler as we did not have more ingredients but the freshness of the vegetables made up for it. Later when I made this salad at home I added a bit of ginger and crushed lime leaves for more aromatic flavours in the salad.

Since I don't have access to such fresh baby carrots here in Delhi, I used a mix of red winter carrots and the orange summer carrots (that are available sometimes in this season too) to bring out a complex sweetness and good colours as well and was not disappointed with the improved recipe.

The only precaution one needs to take while making this salad is to use thinner baby sweet potatoes as they slice well into bite size pieces and the cooking time is similar to the carrots. Although we are not cooking the sweet potatoes and carrots in this salad, the are just half cooked to retain the bite and allow caramelisation. 

I used a huge sweet potato once when I was making the same salad again to take to a family get together and was disappointed with the way the large (mature) sweet potato responded to caramelisation and had a very firm bite when done. Avoid too big and mature sweet potatoes for this salad.

(for 2-3 servings)

2 small sweet potatoes (about 250 gm)
3-4 carrots, preferably baby carrots or mixed variety but use whatever available (about 250 gm)
brown sugar or grated jaggery or unrefined brown sugar 1 tbsp or a bit more
butter 1 tbsp
broken red chillies 2 or roasted chilly flakes 1 tsp or as per taste
salt 1/4 tsp
lime juice 2 tbsp
ginger juice 1 tbsp
lime leaves (or use lime zest) 5-6 broken and crushed
roasted sesame seeds 2 tbsp ( I used mixed seeds for the friends potluck and it was good too)


Scrub and rinse the sweet potatoes, do not peel them but remove any dark spots from the surface.

Scrub and rinse the carrots as well, I prefer peeling them if they have too many crevices on the surface. Sweet potatoes are smoother so no such concern with them.

Now take a thick base pan and melt the butter. Add the broken dry red chillies and brown sugar or jaggery and let it melt a little. No need to caramelise this sugar as the slow *caramelisation happens when the sweet potatoes and carrots are added. The brown sugar is added just to enrich the taste and to balance the lime and ginger juices and the chilly heat.

Now add the sweet potatoes and sliced carrots at once before the sugar starts bubbling. Toss with salt and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. It takes longer if you are cooking more bulk of this salad, I really have cooked huge amounts of this salad by now :-)

Add the ginger juice and lime juice, the torn lime leaves (or a pinch or two of lime zest if using, roasted red chilly flakes too if using)) and toss the salad a bit more. Cook for total 5-7 minutes for this amount if you have sliced the vegetables thin. The slices should be half done and all the juices that release after adding salt should dry up.

Empty into salad bowl, sprinkle toasted sesame seeds or mixed seeds and serve warm.

You can skip ginger juice if you wish but please do not replace any other ingredient in this salad. You might like to make it just with carrots or just with sweet potatoes too, that is great but the caramelisation, the lime sourness and chilly heat combine really well with the inherent sweetness of these vegetables enhanced by the use of brown sugar. Sesame seeds add texture and more nuttiness, look great too. Some praline could be a good replacement for this but the base flavours of this salad are not meant to be disturbed.

I actually went ahead and created a pancake with sweet potatoes having the same flavour mix. I would definitely share the pancake recipe here, enjoy this salad till then.

*And since a friend asked about what caramelisation means in this salad when I posted a picture of it on my fb page, I think explaining it here makes sense. In this salad or any other starchy vegetable or fruit (with natural sugar), slow cooking with a little cooking fat results in the caramelisation (browning) of naturally occurring sugars in the vegetable and leads to a sweeter richer tasting end product. 

While browning of meat involves a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars at high temperature (called Maillard reaction), browning and caramelisation of vegetables is just a case of Pyrolysis (breaking down of sugars at high temperature) resulting in a nuttier and sweeter taste.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

broccoli cornbread | a bread that can be a snack or a dinner bread

broccoli cornbread

I love cornbread a lot. I have made many versions of cornbread since I discovered the recipe few years ago. And I don't even remember where I saw it, probably it was Nigella's show because it was her recipe of cornbread topped chili con carne that I had cooked first and then hooked to the cornbread more than the chili. This was an extension of my love for makki ki roti, more so because cornbread can be served differently every time you bake it. This skillet cornbread is an oft repeated recipe for it's simplicity and small size and I have baked savoury muffins using the basic cornbread recipe with added grated zucchini or spinach and loads of cheese.

A simpler and lighter cornbread with loads of fresh vegetables is what I intended this time and took this cornbread to a family potluck last Sunday. The reason why I have no pictures of how the broccoli cornbread was served :-) But there is one instagram picture that I shared, the cornbread was served with a sharp green garlic chutney and everyone just loved it. The green garlic chutney and the sesame topping over the bread brought the memories of a handvo my mom used to bake in our childhood days. This broccoli cornbread is nowhere close to handvo in taste but the appearance resembles the Gujrati handvo for sure. This reminds me of a packed lunch we had once at a workshop by noted author Cheryl Strayed, and it had a sweet and sour dhokla in the lunch pack. Cheryl inquired about it and compared it to cornbread as it looked like one.

This broccoli cornbread was baked as a way to use up too many broccoli someone sent from an organic farm. I made soups, had parboiled broccoli, had them for salads and yet some broccoli was turning pale when I got it grated and chucked it in the cornbread batter.

broccoli cornbread

This cornbread is baked without any eggs or cheese and still the taste was great. I decided to top the bread with roasted sesame seeds and that provided added texture and some nuttiness to the bread.

(makes 24 squares, enough for 6-10 people, depending on how it is served)

2 cups grated broccoli (including the soft green stems)
2 tbsp finely chopped green garlic shoots (or 1 tbsp minced garlic)
1.5 cup corn meal (makki ka atta)
1 cup and some more yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp soda bi carb
2-3 tbsp lightly roasted sesame seeds (optional)


Whisk the yogurt and keep aside.

Mix the salt and pepper and the soda bi carb to the corn meal and give it a good stir so everything mixes well. Now add the grated broccoli and mix well.

Pour the whisked yogurt into the broccoli corn meal mix slowly and whip again to make a thick but loose batter. The batter is not flowing consistency but is loose enough to spread in the baking dish.

Sprinkle half of the sesame seeds (if using) in the base of a baking dish (11X7 inches) and smoothen the batter using a knife or spatula. Sprinkle the remaining sesame on top of the mix and pat to embed them nicely. Grease the baking dish if not using sesame.

Bake in preheated oven at 170 C for 40 minutes or till a knife poked comes out clean. Serve hot with a cheesy dip, with a hot soup or with some rajma or maah ki daal as we do sometimes. Or go the chili con carne way or just serve it as a snack.

broccoli cornbread

We enjoyed it as starters for an elaborate family lunch. A sharp green garlic and coriander greens chutney was served with it and everything was polished off talking about the handvo of our childhood.

broccoli cornbread

Remember that it tastes great when hot but doesn't cut well when hot. Tricky?
The best way is to cool the cornbread a little, cut into pieces  and then reheat before serving. Or just don't bother about sharp edges :-)

This broccoli cornbread is loaded with good fiber and some protein as well. For a quick meal I would probably like it with scrambled eggs and some green pesto. I do mix and match my food this way and never regret it :-)

Review : food at The Hiatus, Clarion Collection-Qutab Hotel

Someone had send about a dozen fresh organic broccoli and I have been cooking with broccoli a lot. Fresh organic vegetables make the best salads, the best grilled vegetables and even soups. Even though a soup is made by liquidizing a perfectly fresh vegetable, the taste tells the story of how much flavours it packs. I am definitely on a broccoli overdrive, not at all bored with this vegetable and was in fact really glad to encounter broccoli even when we went out for dinner the other day. But this broccoli soup that I am referring to, was such a stunner that I have been dreaming of it since then.

This was no ordinary broccoli soup, it was a broccoli cappuccino that piqued my interest instantly and kept the promise too. A green broccoli soup is topped with a dense foam of mushroom- walnut cream and is sprinkled with black olive dust. I polished off a huge mug of this soup and could have had more if I had not reminded myself to taste a few more things on the menu.

This was at The Hiatus, a voguish restaurant at Clarion Collection-Qutab Hotel. This restaurant has a nice patio, a private dine-in-cellar, a Chef's table inside the kitchen and a well stocked bar with a corner for cigar racks and additional seating. Quite a luxurious place with a promise of good food. Of course there were a few misses too but a few good finds in a dining place is good enough to remember the place and contemplate going back.

I liked the assorted herb infused butter that came with the dinner rolls. House baked fresh breads and 4 different kinds of butters to experiment with. I liked the crispy fried prawns for starters but the mixed vegetable cigars were average. The presentation of the vegetable puff cigars was interesting with a huge syringe used to inject tomato sauce in a spongy bread topped with balsamic caviar. This was a case of more pomp less show but I like the idea of balsamic caviar using molecular techniques.
We tried a mediocre tasting chicken tikka too that was pleasantly served with a good portion of green salad. I am not complaining, tikkas are mediocre food mostly.

Amuse bouche was a layered stack of Dragon fruit and sour cream. Tasted more like a mini salad.

What bowled me over again was a water melon salad that came in a natural bowl along with rocket leaves and different dressings, honey, olive oil and feta cheese on the side. One can make a dressing one likes or just keep dipping the watermelon balls in different dressings and enjoying different flavours each time. For the first time I realised that watermelon tastes great with honey mustard dressing. This was another great find of the day.

Among the mains, a slow steamed chicken breast rolled with spinach and herbs disappointed me as it lacked any flavours and the chicken was a bit too firm, although cooked in a Sous-vide machine they have.

 The seafood risotto was quite nice. Full of plump prawns and calamari rings and topped with a green lipped mussel, this risotto was truly a seafood treasure. A combination of mild pomodoro sauce and Parmesan cheese studded with seafood richness and deliciously cooked al dante, this risotto is something I would like to go back and eat again.

I was not looking forward to the desserts but Arvind wanted to try. Nothing to talk about regarding desserts if you ask my opinion but the world going after red velvet cakes and flashy versions of tiramisu might find a few good things there. Most people like desserts just for the sugar rush it brings.

I would be recreating the broccoli cappuccino really soon and share it here too. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

salads can save you from eating junk when eating out | a recipe of healthy salad with green garlic shoots, lotus stem and fresh red peppers | salad meals

How to find healthy options when eating out? 

We often stop for coffee when shopping at a mall and want a quick bite with it too. And we often fix meetings at some approachable cafe or tearoom. The most important question that comes to mind in such situations is, how one chooses what to eat? All the popular options seem to be laden with junk, drowned with sugar laden sauces and trans fat based creams and what not.

Although I don't see any harm if one eats such foods once in a while but if you are someone who has to depend on cafe foods in everyday life it is better to look for options that work for everyday eating. I know a few people who have to eat in cafes at least once a day and this bit of my post is intended for them. I would recommend you search for that small section of the menu that lists salads first. I am glad with the increasing trend at most cafes to include a good salad in the menu and they almost always customize the salad as per demand.

Here is what I found at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf recently when we were at Select City Walk, Saket for some gifts shopping. We tried a couple of sandwiches too to see if they are worth, I was glad both sandwiches came with a helping of green salads on the side and the chicken panini sandwich was good for a filling bite. I found the Mushrooms sandwich a bit unbalanced, too little filling in too thick a bread (a challah) and that makes a sandwich insipid for me.

You can always ask for the kind of bread being used for a sandwich if ordering one, opt for the thinner, lighter breads. 

Wraps and Quesadillas are better options if you want a filling snack to share or a meal for yourself. I found the Corn and cheese Quesadilla quite good and tasty and it came with a side of salad too. Good nutrient value for the calories consumed.

The grilled chicken wrap was good in terms of taste and health quotient, but it needs a salad on the side too. In absence of a salad, this grilled chicken wrap feels too dry to eat even with the salsa it comes with. The salsa is avoidable, too sweet for my taste.

The salads on the menu are good. The better thing is that you can always get your salad customized, ask for a particular dressing, more pepper or order some add-ons with it or have them as is. I had finished all the salads that came on the side of sandwiches so I did not order any more, but the options on the menu were all good.

I must add that CBTL is a lively place, a bit slow service probably because it is quite crowded and you can see people waiting outside for a table. I could see people from all age groups, some really old people were chatting up on a corner table, a family with kids grabbing a sandwich on another and even a new mother feeding her baby on a table quite close to entrance. Especially the breastfeeding mother gave me very good feelings about a place as well as the comfort level a new mother has there.

Coffee at CBTL is decent. We tasted a Blueberry-Mascarpone cheesecake that we could not tolerate for another bite. The much acclaimed cake-pops are best avoided.

Never eat cake-pops at cafes, bakeries or any place that displays it. Not worth your money and your tummy.

Now coming to the recipe of salad I am sharing today. This is one salad I repeat quite often when green garlic shoots are in season. I change the other vegetables sometimes and use mushrooms (quartered) or potatoes (boiled, cooled and thickly sliced) but the green garlic shoots are used in abundance. These garlic chives recipes will give you an idea how I use them for stir fry and cold salads. Garlic chives are lighter flavoured than these green garlic shoots. Check the pickled pesto recipe we call lehsunsagga too, you would love it.

We love garlic and green garlic gives the best flavours of garlic with a good bite too. The trick is not to cook the vegetables too much for this salad and use loads of toasted sesame seeds or any other seeds or chopped nuts for added texture and taste.

(2 large meal servings)

lotus stems 1 stick (about 120 gm)
green garlic shoots 3-4 (about 100 gm)
fresh red pepper or bell pepper 1
toasted sesame seeds 1 tbsp
sesame oil 2 tsp
salt and pepper to taste

Note that there are no sauces or vinegar used in this salad, it is the taste of good quality sesame oil and the pungency of green garlic shoots combined with fresh red peppers that gives this salad the much needed flavour. Keep this in mind if you decide to substitute any of the ingredients.


Clean and peel the lotus stem, cut into inch long pieces and then cut each piece longitudinally to make batons. Slit open the red pepper, remove seeds and slice into similar sized batons. Chop the green garlic shoots in similar sized pieces too. You might like to slit the base part if it is thick.

Heat the sesame oil in a pan and toss in the lotus stem batons first. Add salt just enough for the lotus stem and toss to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the red pepper and toss for 30 seconds and then add the green garlic shoots too. Toss for a minute or till the garlic leaves and shoots become limp. Take off the heat, adjust seasoning and empty the salad in a serving platter. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and serve right away.

The salad is very filling and tasty. You may want to use a bit more sesame oil to make the salad more flavourful. I don't mind using such good quality oils liberally for such salad meals.

If you are serving this salad to a crowd, make it in huge amounts because this will be the one salad that everyone will keep taking second and third helpings. The salad pairs really well with noodles, plain boiled rice or on the side of grilled fish or chicken.

Fish or chicken can also be added to the same salad to make it more filling if you wish. Thinly sliced chicken breast or fish fillet works well for this salad.

I make quick dinner with this salad tossed with some leftover rice sometimes.

Many readers tell me that they don't get lotus stem in their part of the world. If you are one of those, try using mushrooms, boiled potatoes, peeled and chopped raw plantains or even yams for this salad and see if you like it. But please don't substitute cold pressed sesame oil with anything else for this recipe. Sesame oil is the soul of this lotus stem and green garlic salad.

And toasted sesame reinforces the sesame flavours even more. You can even serve this lotus stem and green garlic stir fried salad as a subzi with Indian meals too. I have a feeling I would like it with khichdi or daal chawal or even wrapped in a thin whole wheat roti too.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

101 gluten free breakfasts : savoury pancake or rosti with cauliflowers and coriander greens

Savoury pancakes are my way of packing more vegetables into my breakfasts. We call such pancakes cheela if it is made the traditional way using either chickpea flour (besan ka cheela) or split mung beans (mung ka cheela) but when I make them with loads of winter vegetables, the texture is more like a rosti or even better. I like the crunch of fresh vegetables and this savoury pancake with crisp surface and crunchy vegetables inside is a treat if you ask me.

And the catch is, even the husband likes it. He might take some fresh cream or chutney or pesto with it but I have it as it is or with some more salad on the side. Especially if something green is growing in the garden. Else I just use a lot of cauliflowers, broccoli, green peas, minced ginger, green chillies and a handful of chopped coriander greens for winter comfort. In summer I might add some grated gourds, onion or even some amaranth greens to make my savoury pancakes. One with buckwheat flour and amaranth greens is a favourite summer breakfast, or even tea time snack if made into smaller fritters.

Sometimes I use drumstick flowers or leaves in my savoury pancakes. Since both these have a slight bitterness in them, adding loads of chopped onions helps balance it. You would want to get regular access to a drumstick tree when you try these believe me. Another similar cheela (savoury pancake) is made with Bauhinia flowers too.

Coming back to the gluten free breakfast, it's actually not a big deal for those who are not dependent on toast or paratha for breakfast. But those who can't live without their daily toast or paratha, they keep craving for more food even though they eat any other breakfast however calorie dense it be. Porridge, egg scramble or a full English breakfast feel insufficient to them if they don't eat that crip buttered toast, sometimes fruit preserve slapped generously over it. Clearly, this category of people are the ones who need a hearty breakfast to start the day and might survive with very small meals for the rest of the day. This kind of savoury crisp fired (shallow fried) pancakes made using loads of vegetables and some alternative flour provides a sensory satiety as well as quite low Glycemic index to last the meal for a few hours. The calorie count also comes down significantly depending upon the amount of vegetables used.

I mostly use besan (chickpea flour) for such savoury pancakes but I add some quick cooking oats or rice flour sometimes to make the texture better if using soft vegetables like greens. Ragi flour or amaranth flour work well too, but add these in smaller quantity as these flours resist spreading and flipping the pancake. Adding herbs like mint, coriander greens or dill greens adds flavour, sometimes I add cumin seeds or ajwain (carum seeds) to the mix. The mixture of roughly chopped vegetables and besan should not make a flowing consistency batter but a very thick mix that barely spreads on the pan.

(2 servings)

cauliflower florets (or a mix of cauliflower and broccoli) roughly chopped 2 cups
green peas (or sprouts) 1/2 cup
chopped onions 1/ cup
chopped coriander greens 1/2 cup
minced green chillies to taste
minced ginger root 1 tbsp or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
carum (ajwain) seeds 1/4 tsp
besan (chickpea flour) 1/2 cup (just enough to get the mixture barely stick together)
ghee or butter to shallow fry (1 tsp per pancake)


mix everything together and give it a nice massage using your bare hands. This allows some of the water form the vegetables to moisten the besan. Add minimal water to make everything bind together and let it rest till you heat the pan.

Using a cast iron pan will be really good but use whatever flat base pan you have. Grease the pan with a tsp of ghee to season for the first pancake and heat a little. Now pour half of the vegetables mixture over it and drizzle a little ghee to let it cook and get crisp. Wet your fingers and spread the mix evenly over the pan, keeping the flame medium. Let the savoury pancake cook thoroughly on one side and then flip it over to cook and crisp the other side as well. Drizzle a little more ghee if required.

Serve right away with green chutney or fresh cream or tomato chutney whatever suits you.

For this batch of cauliflower pancake I added a little cornmeal and turmeric powder to the mix. This one tasted great with a fresh tomato gazpacho (just 2 large ripe tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, one fresh red chilly and salt to taste).

You can always play around with the ingredients keeping in mind the textures you like and the herbs and seasonings you prefer for a breakfast. It actually makes a filling meal as well. The tomato salsa or chutney or gazpacho suits this savoury pancake or rosti really well. Although you can always have it as it is.