Saturday, March 28, 2015

101 gluten free breakfasts : lentil fritters with home grown greens #calorieefficientmeals

There has been a deluge of seasonal greens on #healthfooddesivideshi as my garden is flooded with spinach and fenugreek greens. Although I have been traveling almost back to back since the first week of February, I found comfort in the greens that the garden treated me with whenever I was back home.There is some baby bok choy and some kale too but these remained stunted during the harsh winter and then they suddenly started bolting. So the best use was to chop them up and stir fry or mix with lentils and make fritters. But to be honest I was using them in everything possible, the everyday dal or khichdi, the quick soups and even in flat breads like this thalipeeth. You wouldn't want to waste any home grown organic produce once you know how difficult it is grow food.

This mixed lentil spinach soup topped with sour cream is one of my favourite meal these days. Now you see I cannot get bored with spinach. Cooking with home grown spinach is always fun.

It helps that I love green vegetables and I assure you even you would love them if you find the best quality available in your part of the world. Cooking them well is also important but that is a skill everyone must have if one wants to know what one is eating. Right?

Including the greens is not as difficult as it sounds to many. I know many who dread cleaning and rinsing the greens to get rid of the dirt and then chopping them for hours. The easy way is to buy in bulk when you have time, clean them well and steam to compress and then freeze in portions. The frozen greens are very easy to chop. I do the same with all the garden produce and now I have frozen greens for a couple of months.

Using the fresh or frozen greens for breakfast wouldn't be a very common thing to many, including my husband who loves his pancakes or porridge for breakfast but one can make healthy breakfast with them in a jiffy. Being prepared is the key, I prefer soaking the lentils overnight and it takes about 15 minutes to cook breakfast for 2 including the chopping and blending time.

This is red lentil and spring onions from the garden, both make a wonderful spongy pancake that can be enjoyed with herbed yogurt of any other dip you wish. Note the ratio of greens to lentil paste and how the mix looks more green and less pink.

Spinach and split chickpea fritters recipe
(2 breakfast servings)
split chickpeas 1/3 cup or about 100 gm (soaked overnight)
ginger root grated 1 tbsp
peppercorns 1/2 tsp
cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
chilli as per taste
salt as per taste
turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
finely chopped spinach 3 cups or about 350 gm
ghee 2-3 tsp to shallow fry on a cast iron pan


Grind the soaked lentil along with everything except the ghee and spinach. Do not add water.
Mix all the spinach in the lentil paste, massaging it softly so the spinach gets almost blended with the paste. You would need to quickly shallow fry the fritters after mixing as it releases water after mixing.

Make small portions of the mixture, spread on the pan and shallow fry on both sides as you would do with small pancakes. I prefer cooking these on low flame, often covered with a dome lid to make them cook faster but you can drizzle a bit more ghee or oil to cook them faster. If you want lesser amount of ghee being used you have to cook them on low flame.

Serve hot with any mild chutney, salsa or dip that you like.

For these spinach fritters I made the most common and quick chutney that I make. A cup of red ripe tomatoes, 1 clove of garlic, 2 dry red chillies and salt blended together to make a chutney. Sometimes I add coriander greens or mint in the same.

A similar kind fritters I made with a mix of kale and some baby bok choy mixed with red lentil paste. The procedure is similar, you can adjust seasoning and make small or big fritters. Making them thinner would help in faster cooking but they taste good any which way.

The anardana dip..

The above bowl of dip is very interesting. It is a sweet and sour dip with a kick of roasted red chilly flakes (or just lightly roast a couple of dry red chillies over gas flame). This is actually made of sun dried pomegranate seeds.

Blend together 2 tbsp of good quality sun dried pomegranate seeds, 2 tbsp of roasted sesame seeds, 2 large ripe char grilled ( on gas flame) tomatoes, roasted chilly or chilli flakes to taste and salt to taste. Serve as desired.

Another such pancake is made with green peas included in the lentil paste. The one below is made with home grown fenugreek leaves, some green peas and chopped onions. The dip with it is the most convenient tomato-garlic-red chilly blended together with a dash of mustard oil.

The leftover paste was made into smaller fritters with tea the other day. Always shallow fried for convenience as well as health.

These lentil fritters made with a truckload of fresh greens is a really healthy breakfast or even dinner if you want something quick and healthy. Truckload of greens wouldn't sound like a hyperbole once you would mix the greens with the lentil paste as lentil paste is just used to bind the greens here.

This fluffy pancake is made with red lentil paste and rocket leaves that my garden was flooded with last year. Those yellow cherry tomatoes were from the garden to. The dip served with it is a mushroom and caramelized onion dip that I use as a sauce over my steak sometimes too.

If not using soaked lentils you can always use besan (chickpeas flour) and sprinkle over chopped greens while massaging them to bind well. This one with spring onions is a favourite as breakfast or an evening tea snack that becomes our dinner sometimes.

With cabbage it makes easier fritters as cleaning and chopping the cabbage is always easier than other greens.

These lentil fritters can be served as starters for an elaborate meal, make them smaller in that case and serve with 2-3 types of chutneys and dips for variety. I sometimes have these fritters along with my dinner soups as well.

You see how 100 gm of dry lentils can bind about 300-350 or even 400 gm greens when soaked and blended. More nourishment, lesser dense calories, real fresh food that satiates the taste buds as well as the tummy.

Calorie efficient meals to sum up. Each calorie consumed brings in great nourishment with it. What is not there to like. I love it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

101 gluten free breakfasts : sabudana khichdi or a pilaf made with sago pearls : fasting recipe

Sabudana khichdi is a popular snack, breakfast dish and one pot fasting meal for some Indian festivals. Many of us believe the fasting foods are the tastiest even though they are made with restricted ingredients, although we all know it is not the meager ingredients that make the food tasteful it is the way the ingredients are cooked and seasoned that matters most in this regard. And sabudana or sago pearls is one ingredient that is tasteless. odourless and sticky when cooked. Not an easy ingredient too cook if you are a new experimental cook but responds well if you know it well.

No I am not scaring you from cooking sago pearls, sabudana or tapioca pearls. But it will be good to know that once soaked in water they cook evenly and become soft and gelatinous. While making this sabudana khichdi we need to soak them well to get the best texture and to coat them with a seeds or nut powder so they don't stick together and get clumped. Read on the recipe to know better, not too complex I promise.

Sabudana is also accused of being a high calorie food but it is not the whole truth. The calories are almost as much as buckwheat, rice, barley or wheat by weight but sago pearls (or Tapioca) doesn't have any other nutrients than starch and almost no fiber. But the good thing is that the Glycemic index of Tapioca is 85, a little lower than potatoes, cooked rice etc. So not such a bad food choice if the serving size is moderate and there is enough inclusion of proteins, good fats and some greens in the same dish. It helps that it is a gluten free ingredient too and can be used to make an energy packed gluten free meal. 

This recipe of sabudana khichdi uses peanut (roasted) powder traditionally, but after a talk with a friend who is allergic to peanuts and wanted sabudana khichdi for herself, I told her to use seeds and nuts instead. She reported that she loved the khichdi and then I was tempted to cook it for myself too. I would say I liked it better than the peanut version as I like sesame and flax powder more for the rich flavours and keep using them to make chutneys and pestos too. You can use any seeds and nuts of your choice.

(2 breakfast servings)
sago pearls 75 gm (soaked overnight, the volume becomes more than double)
one medium potato about 80-100 gm
sesame seeds 1 tbsp (30 gm)
flax seeds 1 tbsp (30 gm)
chopped almonds 5-6
chopped coriander greens 1 cup
ghee 1 tsp
cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
chopped/minced ginger 1/2 tsp
chopped green chilly 1/2 tsp
salt and pepper powder to taste (use pink salt if fasting)
lime juice to taste


Soak the sago pearls overnight in about 120 ml of water. The sago looks dry and swollen after the soaking, fluff up the pearls and proceed for the next steps. It looks like the left picture in the collage below.

Powder the sesame and flax seeds together and mix with the soaked sago along with half of the salt required (just enough for sago) and pepper. It looks like the right side picture after mixing the seeds powder.

Wash and chop the potato in very small cubes. Keep the peels on if possible.

Heat the ghee in a pan and tip in the cumin seeds and wait till they crackle. Add the chopped ginger and green chillies followed by the potatoes. Add half of the salt, just enough for the potatoes and fry on low flame till the potatoes start turning pinkish brown. It takes about 5-8 minutes.

Now add the sago and seed powder mix and give it a good stir. Cook covered for a couple of minutes and stir again. Add the chopped coriander greens and stir to cook more for a couple more minutes. The sago pearls start looking translucent and that is a sign of getting cooked.

Adjust seasoning and add lime juice too. Serve hot with chopped almonds over it.

This is one of the most satiating foods you would eat. The taste and texture of the sago pearls transforms in this particular recipe and that is the reason why it is popular all over India not only for fasting meals but for occasional snacking and breakfast too.

This recipe is enough for breakfast for two and I must tell you that I had it for a late breakfast with a nice buttermilk and felt full till the evening when I had a plate of papaya and black grapes.

Some friends were concerned about the calories when I shared this picture on my facebook page so I calculated the calorie count as well. The total calorie count for one serving will be around 350 calories even if you are a bit generous with the chopped almonds. Great for a breakfast in my opinion for a normal active person.

Sabudana khichdi is not a such calorie dense food. You can include a few slices of raw cucumber and tomatoes if you want a bigger meal with almost the same amount of calories. Knowing portion sizes is a key to eat right sometimes. And now that you know about sabudana khichdi you wont be scared to enjoy it occasionally.

Friday, March 20, 2015

stir fried vegetables with chicken mince for a healthy meal

Light vegetable based meals with a little protein thrown in is really easy to whip up. I have numerous recipes of stir fries on this blog and keep trying new things as the season changes. Seasonal vegetables are the best as I always insist, combining them together the way you like it shouldn't be very difficult. Here in this one pot meal of stir fried mixed vegetables with chicken mince, a meal that is very light a fresh and yet very very filling.

A friend was asking me recently about how to cook vegetables with different textures together and yet keep their own individual textures intact. There are a few recipes where I dump everything together and cook them all in one go but some vegetables need extra care when being cooked in a one pot meal. This recipe of stir fried vegetables with chicken mince will be a mush if you cook everything together. And while onion and tomatoes taste great when they get mushy in a recipe where there is a lot of chicken mince, mushy cooked veggies will taste horrible if there is more than 400 gm vegetables and 100 gm chicken mince. You get the drift.

Let's see how to keep the broccoli crisp like a salad, mushrooms soft and Zucchini with a bite in this recipe while the green garlic also remains fresh.

(2 light meal portions)

chicken mince 100-120 gm
broccoli florets 200 gm
zucchini slices (bite sized) 150 gm
mushrooms  chopped into quarters 150 gm
green garlic shoots 30-40 gm or 2-3 tbsp
marjoram dried or fresh to taste (or use any herb you like)
butter 2 tsp
salt and pepper to taste


Heat the butter and add the mushrooms before it melts. Add slat and pepper and stir fry on medium for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken mince and keep stirring till it starts changing colour, the mushrooms will keep cooking along with it and imparting their flavours to the mince.

After about 5-10 minutes depending on how coarse the mince is, the chicken mince will be cooked and yet will remain moist. Add the zucchini, marjoram and chopped green garlic and keep stirring for 4-5 minutes.

Meanwhile boil water in a separate pan, add a little salt and dump the broccoli in it. Dip them for a minute, drain quickly and rinse in running cold water. Drain well and then add to the almost done stir fry. Mix well and serve hot.

While this stir fry is quite filling and satiating, it tastes great too. Each vegetable retains it's texture, mushrooms lend their juices and flavours to the chicken mince and zucchini and broccoli retain the much desired bite in them.

You might like to add some tomatoes or red bell peppers too in this stir fry or may be replace broccoli with cauliflowers and zucchini with turnips of knol khol, just go by the textures of vegetables you like. Some more herbs and may be some chilli heat too might suit the mood some day.This recipe is just a suggestion of how your dinner can be gluten free, light and filling at the same time with controlled calories too.

You know travel food makes me count my calories sometimes. Have been traveling so much in the past 2 months that I now want to stay back for sometime, cook my own food and relish everything in leisure.

Simpler foods rule in such times.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

keema matar recipe with fresh methi (fenugreek) greens

This keema matar with methi (fenugreek) greens was cooked to make a quick meal when I was home between travels sometime last month. Methi wala keema matar as we call it, has been a favourite curry that doesn't compromise on the health quotient. A generous amount of fresh fenugreek greens balances this curry with added nutrients and fiber.

The garden greets me with some or the other fresh produce every time I come back and I don't need to buy vegetables immediately in that situation. The prospect of home cooked food using the garden produce feels comforting after a travel and cooking something simple yet tasty doesn't feel like a chore.

That day I just ordered some mutton mince, took out some peas to thaw and ventured out in the garden to pluck some fresh methi leaves. This ritual of plucking something fresh from the garden is deeply satisfying and gives me a sense of being grounded and of being taken care of by the garden angel. Garden angel. Yes.

As I said the recipe is simple and most essentially quite healthy. We had it with multi grain rotis and plain yogurt on the side. I even used some sour yogurt in the recipe as there is always some leftover yogurt in the fridge that turns slightly sour when you return after a week or so. You can replace the yogurt with fresh tomato puree.

(2-3 servings)

mutton mince 200 gm
green peas 150 gm (or 3/4 cup)
chopped methi leaves 2 cups or about 300 gm
yogurt (slightly tart) 1/3 cup
salt to taste
mustard oil or ghee 2 tsp

To be made into a paste
ginger roughly chopped 1 tbsp
garlic cloves 3-4
whole dry red chillies 3-4
whole coriander seeds 1 tbsp
whole cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
whole peppercorns 1 tsp
cloves 5
black cardamoms 2 small
tejpatta (Indian bay leaves) 2
turmeric powder 1 tsp


Since this recipe was meant to be a minimal effort cooking procedure, it involves making a paste of a few ingredients, frying the paste for a while and then adding 2-3 more ingredients in quick succession. The only chopping done was for methi leaves and it felt great to chop such freshly harvested greens. You can use about 50 gm of dried kasoori methi leaves to make it more convenient.

Make a paste of the listed ingredients.

Heat oil in a thick base pan and tip in the paste, add salt and bhuno (roast in the pan) the masala mix till it turns aromatic and looks glazed. On medium flame it takes about 6-8 minutes. Add the peas and fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the mutton mince and bhuno more for about 8-10 minutes till the keema (mutton mince) changes colour. Takes another 6-8 minutes.

Now add the yogurt and the methi leaves and mix well. Cook covered but keep stirring once in a while. The mixture will sweat first and then all the water will be reabsorbed into the curry. The peas and mutton mince should get cooked within 30 minutes of total cooking time. Or sprinkle some water and cook till done.

Serve hot with your choice of flat breads (like roti, naan, roomali roti or kulcha). Some raita or plain yogurt or buttermilk feels great with this curry. You might want to have some raw salad on the side but we make do with sliced onions or radishes mostly for such meals.

Convenience of quick cooking but not food coming from packets and cartons works best. Make your meals simpler but tasty, choose fresh vegetables and herbs and unleash your creativity while you cook. Cooking is a meditative activity, a stress buster for me and I think it would work for more people too if there is a will to not eat food out of packets.

Cook even if you are exhausted, choose something simple yet tasty. I assure you will feel relaxed after it.

We have been traveling a lot this year. So much so that it has become a bit too exhausting and disorienting for the system. I feel distraught when I am back home as there is so much to sort out at home front when you come back including laundry and leftovers in the fridge. Housekeeping becomes really difficult when you have to manage it in between travels and the garden gets neglected a lot. I want to spend more time in the garden, cook leisurely meals for ourselves for sometime. I will have that leisurely time after next week I hope not just to cook but share the recipes and stories here as well.

Stay tuned and keep showering your love as always, it fuels this blog :-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

spinach khichdi recipe | detoxing after all the travel food

I have been traveling back to back so much that now I want to be home for some time. It doesn't mean I don't love traveling but the food becomes a bit too overwhelming. Even if I choose the right food I don't find enough fresh greens in my food whenever traveling for some reason. But to tell you the truth, much of it is psychological as I love the simpler home cooked food much more comforting for my system.

Earlier I was in Banaras tasting all the wonderful food both home cooked at our parents' homes as well as the street food. We did a street food trail of Banaras this time to trace the connection between royal cuisine of banaras and the street food. Then I went back to work at Te Aroha, training the chefs, fine tuning the menu and creating recipe cards etc. It was an action packed week there as well. Food in such times become overwhelming when you have to taste 7 types of breakfasts 5 types of lunch and so on. I used to end up having boiled vegetables or khichdi at the end of the day sometimes.

Coming back home I was so glad to see my patch of spinach in the garden greeting me with green abundance. There are a few coriander plants flowering in the patch and Nasturtiums have started making inroads into it too, but spinach is happy with this coexistence. Few Solanum nigrum (black nightshade) plants have come up too and will be used later for cooking.

All I could think of was a plain runny khichdi with spinach once again. Yes this khichdi with spinach is a favourite and I even included this khichdi in the all day menu of Te Aroha. I am revamping the whole menu at Te Aroha, training the chefs and making recipe cards for the kitchen. During trials of the all day menu this spinach khichdi became an instant hit and there were requests to share the recipe. So this post is intended to share it with those who wanted that spinach khichdi recipe too.

Note that this khichdi is made with blanched spinach (dipped in boiling water for a minute and drained immediately to retain colour) which is minced finely after getting cold. I preserve all my surplus spinach this way as it becomes smaller in bulk to be refrigerated or frozen.

Spinach khichdi recipe...

(for 2 servings)

mung daal (split mung skinned) 2 tbsp
masoor daal (skinned red lentils) 2 tbsp
short grained rice 2 tbsp
blanched and minced spinach 1.5 cups
water 3 cups
salt to taste
turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
minced garlic cloves 1 tsp
hing (asafoetida) 1 pinch
dry red chillies 3-4 broken
ghee 1 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
tejpatta 3-4


Cook the washed and rinsed lentils and rice together with 3 cups of water, salt and turmeric till done. I pressure cook this mix till the pressure builds up and the whistle blows. The lentils should get cooked and mushy at the end of this. It will be cooked a little more after spinach being added.

Heat ghee in a pan (iron kadhai in my case) and tip in the hing and cumin seeds followed by the broken red chillies and tejpatta, keeping the pan away for flame for a while to prevent burning of the meager spices. Let these get aromatic before you add the minced spinach and stir fry it for a minute or so.

Pour in the cooked lentil and rice mix and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes or till everything gets homogenized. You may want to add a bit more water to adjust consistency of the khichdi as required. Adjust seasoning and serve hot with your choice of khichdi accompaniments. Be it pickles, bharta, potato fries, papad, dahi or raita.

We enjoyed it with a few fried potato wedges and roasted papad, washed it down with fresh buttermilk.

And there is more spinach in the garden. Will be back with more of the garden gems really soon. There is some more travel, more work to be finished but yes I am cooking my meals and all those recipes will be shared here ultimately. Despite short breaks in between.

Stay tuned.