Sunday, September 27, 2015

egg scramble with garlic chives and sorghum flour pita bread recipe | desi super foods for everyday



A simple regular egg scramble takes about 5 minutes to make and a millet based pita bread can take another 10-15 minutes depending on your roti making skill. Blending pomelo segments to make a smoothie-juice takes another 5 minutes, including cleaning your blender. In about 20 minutes a super food breakfast can be whipped up and this platter of egg scramble with loads of chives and rucola, sorghum pita bread and pomelo (grapefruit) smoothie was our weekend late breakfast last week.

Wondering why I am talking about super foods so often these days?

I know you have questioned the relevance of super foods and have wondered about what foods are super foods and which ones are 'just regular food'. High time we analysed our 'just regular foods' and took a hard look on super foods. Don't you think we need the so called super foods more because we have fallen for junk foods? The more we eat junk foods the more we feel like compensating with some super power..err..super foods.

And lo and behold, the same markets that trapped us into the 'junk food' addiction, are shoving super foods down our throats. And we end up eating the extra large sized junk burgers, gripped by guilt later we buy a pack of some newly introduced (to our part of the world) berries and seeds and try and undo the burger guilt. Oh and we overlook everything else that might have been on our table in a normal way. The 'just regular food' that may be equivalent to the newly crowned super food is often ignored as there are stronger market forces pushing us towards a certain new product.

But the good thing is, we can decide better.

It will help to know that using herbs and some spices can boost up the super food quotient of any 'just regular meal' by several notches.


Here are a few ways you can make a regular meal antioxidant rich, and get it qualify as super food.
  • a pinch of clove powder has enough antioxidants as a handful of berries. Add it to your regular banana smoothie if you don't have blueberries. See this to believe.
  • adding some basil or tulsi leaves to the smoothie or salad would be even better than blueberries. 
  • a generous dash of black pepper would help absorb nutrients better and make a regular bowl of vegetable or fruit salad much more nutrition efficient.
  • amla or Indian gooseberry blended with ginger and curry leaves in a glass of buttermilk is packed with super foods of different categories. 
  • Think of turmeric, ginger, fenugreek, regular curry powder and even green chutneys and how these have been making Indian meals healthier for centuries. 
  • some very easily available leaves like curry leaves, drumstick leaves, purslane, sweet potato leaves, beet leaves and even turnip and radish leaves are full of antioxidants and minerals that one finds in expensive imported berries and exotic leafy greens. 
See how easily drumstick leaves combine with scrambled eggs to make a delicious meal in a hurry.


The egg scramble I am sharing today is made using garlic chives and rucola greens from my garden. It could be simple coriander greens or spring onions or even a generous amount of ginger and garlic, some freshly milled pepper to make the mundane egg scramble more nutrition efficient.

And once you pair this breakfast with a millet bread it become better, a glass of grapefruit or citrus juice makes it even better. If not juice it could be this amla infused buttermilk.


Recipe of the creamy and herb loaded egg scramble..

ingredients 
(2 servings)

4 eggs
1/2 cup chopped garlic chives
1/4 cup rucola leaves  (or use coriander greens or spring onions)
1 tbsp or a bit more roughly chopped mature cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp milk (you can use butter too)

procedure..

Pour the milk in the pan first, break the eggs directly in the pan and dump in all the ingredients together. Whisk a little, lower the heat to minimum and cover for a minute or so.

Uncover, scramble the soft set eggs till it reaches the desired consistency. Serve immediately.

I used to cook my egg scramble in milk during my research days when I would teach in the early morning hours and then would reach the lab around 9 AM. I would buy milk, eggs, bread and fruits for on the way and cook a quick egg scramble with bread as soon as I reached my lab. Since this was cooked over a simple heater with minimal ingredients and utensils I used to add milk to eggs and quickly stir to scramble them. That became my favourite method to scramble eggs later. My sandwiches were famous among my lab mates by the way.

Recipe of the jowar (sorghum pita)..

ingredients..
(makes 2 large round pita breads, enough for 2-3 servings)

a cup of jowar flour
1/2 cup of yogurt
pinch of soda bicarb
pinch of salt
a cup of hot water

procedure

Add salt and soda bi carb to the flour and whisk to mix. Pour the yogurt and whisk again as it becomes a crumbly dough.

Now add hot water slowly and knead a soft dough while massaging the dough in quick movements.

Heat a griddle, divide the dough into two parts, roll out a flat bread between 2 sheets of cling film or pat a thick roti using your palms. I do just that.

Slap the roti on hot griddle and let it cook both sides. The roti (flat bread) would come off the hot griddle as soon as it cooks, if it keeps sticking to the pan it means it is yet to cook. Give it come more time and it comes off.

Bake it some more over open flame and cut into wedges of halves as per convenience.

Alternatively, the rolled out roti can be baked in the oven till done. On the griddle it takes hardly 5 minutes but in the oven it will take about 25 minutes to bake.

Any leftover jowar roti or pita bread can be crumbled with ghee and jaggery to make instant dessert, the peasant way.

High time we started eating the peasant way.



a menu with soybeans at eau de Monsoon, Le Meridien New Delhi


I was skeptical when I got an invite to review a menu with soybeans as the theme. Honestly speaking I do eat soybeans (only native varieties, not the GM soy) for the convenience of getting good quality protein in a convenient way at home but I wouldn't care for soybeans when eating out.

And then I know many vegetarians who suffer when eating out as there is no protein rich balanced food available for them on the menu mostly. What I found in this menu was encouraging to say the least.

Soybeans as a theme of a 5 star hotel promotion sounds a bit odd but it was good to see what Chef Davinder Kumar created with soybeans and Tofu at eau de Monsoon at Le Meridien.


Here are some of the things I tried from the Soya@eau de Monsoon menu.


*Soya and bell pepper seekh kabab served with orange and fennel marmalade salsa/salad was a healthy and tasty kabab. I liked the salad served with it more than the kabab though.

*Five spiced Tofu served over wilted spinach and bell pepper makhni sauce was my favourite. I love wilted spinach and the silken tofu took to the makhni really well.

*Soya Shami kabab with pineapple carpaccio and mint mayonnaise was a great vegetarian kabab, the side relish could have been better.

*Soya and pine nuts stuffed chicken which is char grilled to give a perfect juicy bite, served with cucumber raita jelly and masala foccacia tasted great.

*Soya keema matar was impressive in bringing the true flavours of the curry without taking my mind to whether it is meat or soya. This is a compliment :-)

*Soya biryani was well done but I am partial to biryanis so I wont say much.

I was apprehensive of soya overload but I am glad the soybeans were complimented well with suitable flavorings and textures and each dish had it's on identity. Soybeans were used cleverly to create good flavours in traditional recipes.  

We tried Lamb Jaisalmeri and Daal makhni from their regular menu too and both were excellent. Daal makhni is my favourite and I can make a meal out of it and this one made me happy. Lamb was also perfectly done, well spiced and balanced.

For desserts we ordered Sandalwood ice cream from their Ice Cream Parlour and this turned out to be one of the best ice creams I have ever had.


The cooling aromatic ice cream gently sliding down your throat is something you wouldn't want to miss ever. The perfectly toasted nuts provide a perfect foil to this aromatic ethereal scoop of goodness.

I shared a picture of this Ice cream on social media and many friends requested a recipe of this ice cream. I will try and make the ice cream soon and may be share it too.

Stay tuned :-)


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

pomelo salad with cucumber, beets and roasted peanuts and discovering more exotic salads at Pan Asian



There is nothing better than garden salads. Just pluck a few things bursting with natural flavours, chop them up into desired forms and toss with whatever dressing you like. Or just skip the salad dressing if you wish, trust me you can make great salads without any dressing added. Some salad ingredients complement each other so well you don't need a dressing poured over them.

This Pomelo-beets-cucumber salad is a fusion between the Thai pomelo salad and a khamang kakdi which is a much loved salad from Maharashtra. Use of roasted and pounded peanuts is very common in Maharashtrian food as well as Thai food, I took advantage of the fresh produce from garden and tossed up this gorgeous salad for myself.

This is one of those salads where you don't whisk a dressing and just mix all the ingredients and toss up really well. The fats in the peanuts, the acid in the citrus juices and the slight sharpness in raw beets and mustard greens balance the flavours as well as make the nutrient availability better.

ingredients 
(2 large servings)

2 cups separated pomelo segments
1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers, cut the cucumber in 4 parts lengthwise and then slice
1/2 cup thin julienne of beetroot
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions, preferably shallots
handful of mustard micro greens or any sharp greens or herbs you like
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
generous pinch of pepper powder
chopped green chillies to taste (optional, I use the less hot variety of green chillies)
2-3 tbsp of crushed roasted peanuts

procedure 

Mix everything up and give it all a good toss. You want the juices to mix up and the salt and sugar to get dissolved and soaked up by the vegetables and pomelo segments.

If you don't find mustard microgreens you can use tender radish leaves or radish julienne cut just like the beets.


If you have a pot you can sow some mustard seeds and get the microgreens in just 3-4 days. Keep using them till the first cotyledonary leaves give way to proper mustard leaves, the bigger leaves can also be used though.

Last weekend we enjoyed one of the best salads outside our home. This was at Pan Asian, Welcome Hotel, Saket where Chef Vaibhav Bhargava has created a new menu that boasts of fresh produce and great taste at affordable prices. Pan Asian used to be exorbitantly priced but now the a la carte menu looks much more extensive and pocket friendly.

The microgreens salad we had was a delightful mix of flavours and textures, with edemame and Japanese Bayberries, sesame etc. This was an absolute favourite.

We also taste pomelo salad but I was not impressed because I get to eat garden fresh pomelo anyway.


Another favourite was a Yellow tail carpaccio with ginkgo nuts and more microgreens. We loved the California rolls with a soy based wrap and the variety of seafood dimsums too. I did not like the vegetarian dimsums though.

We tried the signature Miso Black cod for main course. The fish tastes almost caramelized with miso paste, very flaky and succulent and each grain well seasoned and delicious. Chef Vaibhav told the fish is marinated for a couple of days before being grilled to serve. Truly a masterpiece.


This menu is one of those where one doesn't feel overwhelmed with heavy greasy food. I love the way fresh greens and vegetables are treated here and the seafood which is so light and flavourful. This menu does justice to anyone who wants a light yet filling meal or even a low calorie meal. Chef Vaibhav even serves gluten free and organic produce on request.

What is not to like when you are spoiled for choices of healthy and hearty food in a plush restaurant. Family celebrations are the times when one heads towards 5 star hotel restaurants and with this kind of food even the celebrations can get absolutely healthy yet very exotic.



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

use of soybeans in traditional kitchens of India : native Indian varieties of soybeans and uses

I was in for a surprise when Mrs Lata told me she is using soybean paste as a stuffing for the whole wheat bhatooras she was going to fry for breakfast. This was at a popular home stay in Himachal Pradesh, run by family members of Raju Bharti where they use only local ingredients to cook for the guests, not to confirm to the fancy idea of local food movement but because remote areas in mountains get very little supply of foods from outside anyway. As I am always curious about the food, I found myself sitting next to the lady of the house while she cooked. She was generous enough to introduce me to the raw ingredients too whenever I enquired.



And that is how I saw a variety of green soybeans in this kitchen in the lesser Himalayas (village Goshaini, Post Banjar, Himachal Pradesh). Soaked overnight, made into a paste in the morning along with some ginger, cumin, coriander greens and chillies etc, the green soybean paste was stuffed into sourdough fermented whole wheat dough, flattened and deep fried for the pleasure of hungry guests who came back after early morning mountain treks.

Later when I tried to find out more, I discovered that this green soybean is the first ever culinary purpose variety of soybeans and has been grown in the lesser Himalayas for ages. Soybeans originated in the north east China (Manchuria) and might have spread to the Indian part of lesser Himalayas through silk route. The presence of green soybeans indicates this spread of soybeans might have happened quite early in the journey of soybeans.

The green soybean variety is ‘Hara Soy 1563’ and is immune to many plant pathogens like bacterial pustules and brown spot, bacterial blight, frog eye leaf spot and pod blight. This variety is also highly tolerant to pest complex and is resistant to pod shattering while ripening and drying in situ. No wonder this is the first domesticated variety of soybeans and is still being cultivated.


Apparently, soybeans were not popular food ingredients initially but gained popularity in China slowly as people started recognizing its nutritive value and started using different techniques to make soybeans palatable and easily digestible too. Fermenting the soybeans was one method that the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and other South-East Asian countries used and made products like Natto and Miso (japan), Tempeh (Indonesia), Doenjang (Korea), Douchi and Minachi (China) and Tuong (Vietnam). The fermentation process was a result of extensive culinary experimentation in order to use soybeans as a source of good protein and since it is seen mostly in countries where Buddhist monasteries are found, the same link might have brought fermented soybeans to the north east states of India too.

The fermentation of soybeans is a traditional method in Manipur, Nagaland and other north eastern states of India too. In Manipur, the local soybeans which are pale and smaller in comparison to the hybrid varieties are used to make a fermented condiment called Hawaijar. The soybeans are soaked overnight, the soaking water is drained and then the soaked soybeans are boiled in fresh water till soft but not mushy. The soybeans are then strained and wrapped immediately in muslin cloth, trapping the heat to let the fermentation start on its own. Traditionally the hot cooked soybeans were wrapped in leaves, placed in bamboo baskets and then kept wrapped with paddy straw in a warm place, preferably granaries, so the fermentation was facilitated by lactic acid bacteria found on the surface of paddy husk.


To ferment this Hawaijar in a modern kitchen, the muslin wrapped bundle is sunned for 3-4 days, brought back every night and sunned again in the morning. The fermentation process makes sure that the packet of soybeans stays warm even during the night. After about 4 days the fermented soybeans called Hawaijar is ready to be used, characterised by a stringy slimy look that is similar to Japanese natto. It can be refrigerated for longer shelf life or it gets more intense in taste and texture when stored at room temperature.

Hawaijar in Manipur is served as a condiment mixed with bhut jolokia chillies and salt. This is also added to some vegetable stews made with Colocasia leaves or tubers along with smoked dried fish. Interestingly, Japanese also use Natto with bonito flakes (dried tuna fish flakes), a way to get nourishment from cheap sources of food, easily available to everyone.

A similar fermented soybean condiment is called Akhuni in Nagaland. They also make chutney with cooked soybeans. There might be a link

Interestingly we don’t see the people of Himachal and Uttarakhand processing soybeans too much, absence of Buddhist monasteries in the area may be the reason. They just soak and grind to make a coarse paste and use the paste as stuffing of breads or make wadis with it for curries. Other way to cook soybeans is to soak and slow cook them for long hours to make them palatable and soft and curry them with local spices.



The black soybeans of Uttarakhand and Himachal are called Bhatt and a slow cooked curry is called bhatt ki chudkani. The raw dry beans are dry roasted in an iron kadhai till they crackle and then the beans are slow cooked along with spices and tempering to make a rustic yet delicious curry called Bhatt ki chudkani. Since soybeans are known for high phytic acid content that causes bloating and retarded absorption of nutrients, this method of soaking and dry roasting must have evolved to denature the phytic acid found in soybeans.

Another dish made with a paste of soaked black soybeans is called bhatt ka dubka. These are rustic curries that nourish the mountain people, who may not get other good sources of protein in their diet throughout the year.

The dry roasted black soybeans are also consumed as it is like nuts and make a popular winter snack.
Soybeans have become popular in urban locales too, but the form of soybeans consumed by city folks is much different from the traditional methods. Almost everyone who is consuming multi grain flour to make everyday chapatis, gets soybean flour mixed to the multigrain flour. The high protein content o the soybeans lures all of us to include it in our everyday diet but we need to be careful about the source and variety of soybeans as well as the way we cook it in our kitchens. To get rid of the high phytic acid content of soybeans it needs to be soaked for 12-14 hours so the water soluble phytates are drained away. Then the soybeans can be dried and milled to make flour. The fermentation method takes care of the phytates and enriches the soybeans with more minerals and vitamins while the bacteria work on it.


Unfortunately, most of the new age soybean varieties were bred for high oil content so soybean oil could be manufactured as cheap cooking oil. These hybrid varieties of soybeans are found to be more difficult to digest so using them as flours may not be a good idea for everyday consumption. 

The whole wheat bhatooras made with leavened dough and green soybean paste is very delicious and is easy on digestion too, even though the paste is not fermented. Soaked green soybeans are made into a coarse paste along with ginger, garlic and coriander leaves, some chillies etc too and a stuffing is done inside thick breads before deep frying.

I got to know that this deep fried green soybean stuffed bhatoora is a common breakfast dish or bread for festive meals during religious community meals wedding parties in Himachal (around Kullu). 



The recipe of this stuffed bhatoora can be found here at Down to Earth.

The same green soybean paste is also stuffed inside these steamed breads called Sidu too (in Himachal Pradesh). Normally Sidu has a stuffing of poppy seed paste is a wonderfully flavoured bread. 


This story about native varieties of soybeans was published in Down to Earth magazine

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Amla or Indian gooseberry and using it to make spiced buttermilk | common every day super foods


Amla (Emblica officinalis) is a super food and only one small berry contains as much antioxidants as a basket full of assorted fruits. Amla buttermilk is an instant and delicious way to get a few super foods together in a mug. Affordable, local super foods.

amla buttermilk

Every now and then a new super food floats into the market and everyone jumps to buy it and use it in their smoothies and to top their salads. Yes most of the super foods have great nutritional value but many of them come at a cost that our environment pays, thanks to these super foods being imported from one part of the globe to another in this market oriented food system.

So if you are going to order Goji berries online at a hefty price tag, think twice and take a stroll into your local vegetable market instead. Please make an effort to find the treasures that your grandmother used to relish. You will find at least a few every time you go to your local vegetable market, wherever you are. Supermarkets stock only shelf stable produce, you may be missing a lot of valuable nourishment if you never consider shopping elsewhere.

Indian Gooseberry or Amla or Aonla (Emblica officinalis) as it is called in local dialects, it is the most important Kaya kalpa (rejuvenation) medicines of Ayurveda and makes a lot of medicines in combination with other herbs.

Amla contains all tastes (according to Ayurveda the six tastes are sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent, pungent ) except salt and thus relates to all the three humours (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) and balances them in the body. Amla is a strong antioxidant helping the body and immune system, and helps fight Ama or toxins in the body on all levels (source). Super food indeed, that too with high potency in small amounts.

We make a chutney with boiled amla an another with raw amla and other ingredients, these chutneys are a great way to include the fresh herbs and amla in one's everyday diet.

The buttermilk I am sharing today is a very delicious refreshing drink that packs five super foods not one. Yogurt, curry leaves, green chillies, ginger and amla all are super foods in their own right. Your grandmother knew it all, may be you have forgot what she talked about. May be you overlooked.

amla herb buttermilk

Just use one amla per serving and add as much ginger, curry leaves, chillies and salt n pepper you wish and adjust seasoning as per taste. Have it chilled or at room temperature and see how you love this drink.

I like using 4 mature curry leaf springs, one green chilli, 2 slices of ginger (as shown in the picture above) and one amla per serving and love what the result is. 

amla herb buttermilk

Let me know when you make this drink. If you don't get fresh amla berries in your part of the world you can use amla powder (1/4 tsp per serving) soaked overnight or at least a couple of hours. Amla powder is as potent as fresh ones but the taste may differ a little bit. Frozen amla is a better option if you have access to that.

amla herb buttermilk

There is bottled amla juice available in the market too these days but using one amla everyday either in chutney form, or in this buttermilk will be much better as consuming amla in real form is the best way to get the benefits. Bottled juices may or may not be packaged rightly and must be consumed as the last resort.

Note that this recipe is devised to supplement iron and calcium in the most absorb-able form apart from being an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant food. Super foods must nourish in multiple ways.

What ways do you consume amla in your home?
Please don't tell me about amle ka murabba.
I want more savoury ways to consume amla every day. Please share your recipes and tips.



Friday, September 11, 2015

mango and feta insalata | everyday exotica


mango feta basil insalata

Pick the sweet a tart variety of mango like Langda and make it into a salad. No not any salad, make it into Insalata Caprese. Not with fresh mozzarella but the salty creamy Feta cheese. Now you know where I am headed. (Insalata=Italian style salad)

Yes this is the first thing that came to my mind when I grew some microgreens of sweet basil sometime back. I wrote an article about mangoes and this recipe in my monthly column at Exotica and this salad was repeated many times. You know the mango phalsa salad has been a perennial favourite and the Thai style mango and sticky rice keeps getting repeated in new forms in my kitchen. The ripe mango and red chilly dip is quick and easy with a dash of balsamic.

mango recipes

We love our mangoes so much we even make mango poha in various ways. Mango granola parfait is another breakfast staple during mango season. You might like the mango couscous salad or a mango red chilly dip that I make and use it like a salad dressing sometimes.

mango recipes

You get the drift. This is how much we love our mangoes. And we eat them for meals on weekends, sometimes for week day dinners too. And no, mangoes are not fattening, just don't make them into a cake or a cheesecake please. But then there will be some better cheesecake recipes too.

Sharing the Exotica article and the recipe with you now, read on...

There are about 1000 varieties of mangoes in India and the total production of mangoes all over the country surpasses any other fruit by its sheer volume. There are many wild varieties of mangoes too but this is one of the first fruits that were grafted and bred for great taste and texture as the Mughal kings would reward anyone who developed a good mango cultivar for them. Mango growing competitions and mango eating competitions were common even in History. No wonder so many mango cultivars came up and have been preserved so well in the country.

The lesser known mango cultivars could not become very popular in urban markets because of small fruiting season and faster rotting once the fruit is ripe. But locals always get the best of mangoes for themselves.

mangoes

Each region has a special variety and people go gaga over their love for their own native variety of mangoes. I have always loved Langda, Dusseri and Kesar but I can understand if someone swears by Benganpalli, Neelam or Alphonso, the mangoes grow over you and if you have been eating a variety since your childhood it becomes an absolute favourite.

There is one more factor that makes us partial to the mangoes native to our own state. The mangoes plucked when ripened on the trees are the most flavourful and we get to devour such mangoes only within a span of 2-3 days as it starts rotting really soon. The tree ripened mangoes do not travel well and that is the reason why the native varieties of mangoes taste the best closer to their place of origin. So if we get Bengunpalli mangoes in the north we must understand that those were plucked from the trees premature and were bereaved of their optimal flavours that develop only when the stone of the mango is fully developed. The ripening hormone (phytohormone Ethylene) in the fruit releases only when the stone is mature in the case of mangoes. No wonder Bengunpalli tastes bland when we get them in Delhi and you never get a good langda in the south, until someone has planted a tree in a private orchard. The mangoes for long distance transportation are plucked early and they never get a chance to get ready for proper ripening.

Eating local mangoes is the best bet when you want the most flavourful fruits, the next best way to savour the juiciest fresh mangoes is travelling to places where your favourite variety of mangoes grow in the season. You rarely get well ripened mangoes far away from their place of origin. I fondly remember the trip we took to Rataul last year with Suhail Hashmi just to eat mangoes from his native village in western UP, some 45 Km away from the capital.

We are never tired of the ways we can eat mangoes. We eat them sliced we eat them juiced and we juice them in their own skin and drink smooth pulpy mango juice right out of the packaging nature decided for this luscious fruit. The juice straw sipped from cartons stands no chance once you have rolled a ripe mango between your palms, punctured the opening on the top and sucked the juice out of it.

For many childhood years I wondered if the origin of the word ambrosia comes from sucking ripe juicy mangoes, somehow ambrosia and mangoes rhymed in my mango smitten mind and it became ‘mangrosia’ for me.

Somehow in the modern sedentary world we started associating mangoes with weight gain unfortunately. While it is outright wrong, the mangoes are packed with nutrients that actually boost health. Rich in various antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, mangoes are the best food one can have during summer months. So much so one can have mangoes for a meal, make salads or even desserts. Imagine a salad that has mango in it wouldn’t need any packaged dressing or mayonnaise to make it tasty, the fruit itself is so delicious the salad would need just a few natural fresh ingredients to make a perfect bite.

mango feta insalata

A mango basil and feta cheese salad mimics Italian Caprese in the choice of ingredients but ends up being far more delicious. Imagine sweet luscious mangoes with a smither of feta cheese and fragrant basil micro greens. You don’t actually need a dressing with this salad but a drizzle of honey and balsamic mix lifts up the caprese to a new level.

Ingredients
(makes about 20 bite sized servings)
Ripe mangos peeled and cubed 2 (40 clean cubes)
Feta cheese 200 gm cubed into 20 pieces
Basil micro greens or regular basil leaves torn, a handful
Honey 1 tbsp
Balsamic vinegar 1 tbsp

Procedure
Chill everything separately so the salad is chilled for serving right after assembling it.
Mix the honey and balsamic vinegar to make the drizzling sauce.
Arrange the mango cubes in a plate.
Place one cube of feta cheese over each mango cube and then cover with another mango cube.
Place a basil micro green over this and insert a cocktail stick to hold the bites together.
Drizzle with the honey balsamic mix and serve right away.

We are still getting some mangoes in our local markets and you might like to try this quick appetiser for a party. Please do let me know whenever you make this mango feta insalata. You can use regular basil leaves if you don't get basil microgreens.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

panjeeri the desi granola mix | recipe of fenugreek turmeric panjeeri | Indian super foods


fenugreek seeds

Every Indian home knows what Fenugreek is and how to use it to get the benefits required. There are hordes of recipes from chutneys to curries to laddus and panjeeris. Fenugreek is stored and consumed even in the plain powder form, a tsp of this bitter powder with warm milk works wonders for skeletal system and joint health.

There are many panjeeri recipes in north India and all of them are made suiting the requirement of the seasons and body. All panjeeris are basically granola mixes, some of them are made with wheat four but most of them are gluten free.

In modern times as we discover new super foods everyday it is better we brush up our own repertoire of easy everyday super foods. The exotic sounding imported super foods like Goji berries, Acai berries, Blueberries and Currants might sound attractive and there is nothing wrong in trying them once in a while but it is better to know that much cheaper Amla, Drumstick leaves, Red Cabbage, Cloves and Fenugreek seeds are much more eligible candidates for super food awards. For everyday dose of antioxidants and anti inflammatory foods I would rather depend on our home grown super foods.

This Methi ki panjeeri recipe is an age old super food made in Indian homes, the  recipe may differ in different homes and different regions but the use of Fenugreek, Turmeric and Ginger powder stays constant. The healing and nourishing methi ki panjeeri is made for new mothers to help lactation, healing, better bone health by supplementing good quality calcium and for boosting immunity.

methi ki panjeeri recipe

For adults suffering from joint pains and general fatigue, this panjeeri works wonders. Trust me if you have been suffering from backaches and knee pains this panjeeri may help you heal really fast. I would suggest you strengthen your muscles by working out to be able to maintain bone and joint health as weaker muscles lead to more pressure on joints and make them wane.

And it is great to know that Fenugreek does help strengthen muscles for weight lifters too. See this article for more information. This panjeeri will strengthen muscles, bones and do more benefits by boosting immunity too. Read on the recipe.

It might feel like an acquired taste when you start eating this, but slowly you would start liking it actually. If you feel it is too bitter for your taste, add some jaggery powder to it. This recipe yields slightly bitter panjeeri.

ingredients 
(makes enough panjeeri to last a month for 2 people, 1-2 tbsp serving size)

fenugreek seeds powdered finely 150 gm
amaranth flour 100 gm
turmeric powder 50 gm
dry ginger powder 15-25 gm (depending on taste and season, you may add more in winters)
fox nuts (makhane) 150 gm
dry dates (chhuhare or khareek) 300 gm
almonds 200 gm
walnuts 100 gm
melon seeds 100 gm
ghee 100 gm
raisins chopped 50 gm or to taste

methi ki panjeeri ingredients

procedure 

Dry roast the amaranth flour in a thick base pan. Cool and keep aside.

Heat 15 gm ghee and dry roast the fenugreek powder in it, do it on medium flame till the powder gets aromatic. Add turmeric powder to it and roast for a couple of minutes more, add dry ginger powder, mix well and remove from the stove. Cool and pour over the already roasted amaranth flour.

Now pour the remaining ghee in the pan (kadhai) and fry or roast the fox nuts in it on low flame. Keep stirring continuously till the fox nuts get crisp. Cool and powder immediately in mixie.

Powder the melon seeds, almonds and walnuts in the same mixie. I prefer grinding them coarse but you can make a fine powder.

Now remove seeds from all the dry dates and make a powder in mixie. You may need to hammer each dry date (khajoor) to remove the seeds as these are quite hard. If the dates are not completely dry you may need to sun dry them for a day or oven dry them at 70 C for an hour or so.

I add finely chopped raisins too sometimes and like it. You may omit if you don't like. Or you can add more if you like them.

Mix all the ingredients nicely and taste, adjust sweetness if required.

I sometimes add spices like clove powder, nutmeg and cardamom powder to make the taste more complex and to enhance the healing property.

Adding some powdered jaggery will be a good idea after tasting the final mixture.

methi ki panjeeri recipe

Have a heaped tablespoon or two of this panjeeri everyday with milk for healthy joints, strong bones and better immunity. I love the slightly bitter taste and have a few people who can vouch for the taste just like me.

But if you want to avoid the bitterness in the methi ki panjeeri, you can make smoothies using this mix and some milk. Here are a few ideas to make smoothies. Make room temperature smoothie with it as I don't think this mix will be suited for a chilled or cold smoothie.

  1.  You can add a heaped tbsp of this mix to milk and banana for a quick smoothie. 
  2. This methi ki panjeeri can also be added to almond milk to make a nice thinner smoothie.
  3. Mix 1 tbsp of this methi ki panjeeri to thin oats porridge and blend. Have it like a warm smoothie in winters and see how you start loving it.

methi ki panjeeri recipe

For me it becomes a snack sometimes with a cup of warm milk in the day time. I crave for chai during my work time and sometimes a hot cup of milk with this methi ki panjeeri is just the right replacement. Not the calorie count but the nutrient count of this methi ki panjeeri makes it super food for everyday.

If you want to make methi ke laddu you will need a bit more ghee to bind them in balls. The powder suits me well I say, I have made three batches of this panjeeri this year after a minor surgery last December. I even carry a small box of it when traveling and it has helped me heal better for sure.


review of new menu at La Piazza, Hyatt Regency New Delhi


Last weekend was quite busy with family get together and a bit heavy on food. I do tend to cook a few family favourites when we are together and this weekend was no exception. Monday and Tuesday saw me with light vegetable meals as there was a review visit to a posh Italian restaurant scheduled ahead.

So when we decided to go to La Piazza at Hyatt Regency Delhi for dinner on a weekday, we were looking for a light Italian meal. Of course we were looking forward to great flavours too as we both love Italian food and the way it plays with aromatic herbs and fresh ingredients.

Chef Luca Digiloramo has interpreted the simplicity and contemporary style of Rome and Milano in the new menu of La Piazza. Chef Marin Leuthard came to our table and explained the menu we were being served and I was still wondering what a mint ravioli will taste like when he talked about tuna smoked on a piece of charcoal. My interest was piqued rightly.

The wine list at La piaza is impressive but we decided for pineapple juice as we saw the preset menu for the day had a lot of seafood and meat. Pineapple juice is my drink when I am expecting a meat and seafood heavy meal. It does help digest heavy meals.

Antipasti was served quickly. First to come was Antipasto di affimicati.

It looked impressive with hot and cold smoked salmon and smoked mackerel served along with minced black olives, minced capers and minced red onions as relish. While both hot and cold smoked Salmon were great, the smoked mackerel felt a bit too leathery although the smoky taste was good. I like the almost creamy soft texture of hot smoked salmon and a bit firm texture of cold smoked salmon, the relishes worked really well with the fish.  

smoked fish platter

The lime and mint sorbet as a palate cleanser was simply delicious.

Next to come was Cento sfoglie alle pere e caprino. It was dehydrated pear slices over goat cheese mille feuille with honey mustard dressing and some greens on top. I loved the goat cheese blended with honey mustard, it was such a pleasant creamy thing to dip the pear slices and the paper thin pastry. Perfectly balanced flavours.

antipasti

Among the main course I was curious about the mint ravioli, Ravioli con taleggio, menta e salsa al pepe mero. While I could not detect any mint in the ravioli or the sauce, the hint of pepper was pleasant to find in a ravioli made with Taleggio cheese sauce. I loved it regardless of mint no-show.

ravioli

Risotto al curry verde e gamberi, a green curry risotto with prawn came with a plump Prawn peppered generously. Black pepper was used quite a lot in the menu and it was actually a revelation regarding how much pepper I can like in Italian food. I did like it.

I found the green curry treating the risotto really well, it was cooked well too, both the rice and prawns right as I like it. Not too al dante but not melting into a sticky mass either.

green curry prawn risotto

The show stopper was Tagliata di tonno ai carboni, the much awaited charcoal flavoured black pepper tuna. Black pepper appears again and I don't mind it.

Generously encrusted with black pepper, the tuna fillet was cooked right, juicy and flavourful. Black pepper heat very cleverly balanced with caramelized onion slices, this tuna portion was quite big considering too many courses but both of us just loved it.

smoked tuna

There was no more appetite left after the Tuna, but the meat course was still to come. Polpette di anatra con pepperoni e fagolini was spicy duck meatballs with bell peppers and green beans. I thought I will just take a bite to see how it is but the meatballs were made so perfectly I ended up having two of them. What surprised me in this dish was the slow caramelized bell peppers that tasted almost sweetish with just the right amount of sauce clinging to it. A bit sweet and tart with a slight chilli heat, I finished all the bell peppers in the saucepan dish. Beans were untouched by flavours, not that I mind.

meatballs

Dessert was Sicilian Ice cream Cassata and Classic Tiramisu. We shared the dessert plate and took a bite of each. Both were nice but nothing to write home about.

desserts

With every dish on the antipasti and mains so flavourful and delicious I wouldn't waste my time on mediocre desserts. A great meal doesn't end with a dessert for me. You know well.

The meal was not light as we were expecting but it was not too heavy, flavours were great as I mentioned. Forget the desserts.



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

recipe of date and nut bars with kunafe crust | no added sugar for a scrumptious dessert


dates and nuts bars

Dates are delicious little desserts manufactured and packaged very effectively by mother Nature. That dates are packed with nutrition is no new knowledge. Packed with micro nutrients and minerals, the sweetness of dates is so complex that eating just a couple of dates relishing them slowly gives you much more satisfaction than eating a whole wedge of cake.

Dates are the best example of efficient calories as I say, each calorie carries essential Vitamins and minerals to nourish the body. Read about health benefits of dates here.

I often use dates to sweeten desserts and make a laddu with dates and seeds or nuts, this time I wanted a fancier shape and decided to bake square bars of dates and nuts with a kunafe crust. I used thin vermicelli called sevaiyan instead of kunafe but it works really well as both are the same technically and using local products makes better sense.

I bake another dessert with sevaiyan which is closer to savaiyon ka muzaffar and we love that recipe too. This time we had a family get together for Raksha Bandhan and since my dad is a diabetic I wanted to make something suitable for him. He does eat small servings of such desserts as the glycemic index is lower when table sugar is not used and there are enough nuts in the recipe.

Moreover, serving such desserts to a get together is a great way to know whether everyone likes them or not. I had made 2 more desserts, one was the black sticky rice and mango pudding and the other was a traditional white rice kheer with loads of raisins and shredded coconut. So there was enough variety for everyone.

I am glad everyone just loved these date and nut bars, of course we loved them too and I feel these are tasting better after 3-4 days (stored at room temperature).

dates and nuts bars

The recipe is easy but it takes a bit of time chopping the nuts and dates first (use a cleaver or a food processor) and then the other steps. But the time taken is well worth. You would need about an hour of dedicated time to bake these date and nut bars.

ingredients 
(makes 25 squares)

soft dates seeds removed and chopped 250 gm
mixed nuts (I used almonds, walnuts and cashews) chopped 250 gm
thin vermicelli (sevaiyan) 150 gm
milk powder 80 gm
ghee 15 gm+15 gm
water 60 gm (writing by weight as I weighed everything on the kitchen scale as I kept adding ingredients)
saffron a few strands
8x8 inch baking pan (non stick or lined with silpat, loose bottom works better)

procedure 

I have used raw nuts and I recommend strongly about using raw nuts for this recipe. The taste is just perfect for this kind of recipe which will be baked briefly to get the crust browned a bit.

The nuts must be chopped and 'not powdered coarsely'. Chopping lends a bite to these bars, you can use a food processor with a chopping blade attachment.

Add the 15 gm ghee and saffron to the dates, dump the chopped nuts too in the sticky mass and knead using your hands. The dates are soft enough to make a dough.

Now gather this date and nut dough and roll into a flat square the size of your baking pan. You would need a silpat sheet to roll out this date dough or use a parchment paper as you have to transfer this sheet on the baking tray later.

dates and nuts bars

Now crush the vermicelli. Add the milk powder, 15 gm ghee and water (60 gm or just enough to make the vermicelli moist) and mix with your fingers well.

Spread half of this vermicelli mix on the base of the baking pan, now transfer the rolled out date and nut dough over the base and then cover it with the other half of the vermicelli mix.

Roll out the surface once again to press down the layers using a greased rolling pin.

Now bake at 170C for 20-25 minutes or till the vermicelli layer starts looking golden.

Take it out of the oven and remove the rim of the tray if it is a loose bottom tray or invert the tray over a wooden board quickly. Cut into squares and let the bars cool down.

Store in an airtight container. It stays well for 3-4 weeks at room temperature.

dates and nuts bars

The taste of dates and nuts and the crunchy crust works really well for this dessert that is actually a finger snack too. Most Indian mithais are served like finger snacks and most of them are loaded with sugar. These dates and nuts bars can become one of those Indian yet healthy treats for family and friends, all the better because these can be stored just like our laddus and barfis.

Trust me these bars are filling too, just have one with a glass of full fat milk in the morning and see how full you feel. Overall quite calorie efficient for a dessert.

No I wont do the calorie count for them, but having a rough idea of the calories helps. If the calories consumed pack some nutrition it helps better.

Try these dates and nuts bars with kunafe crust, trust me you will be baking them frequently.