Saturday, October 31, 2015

recipe of Thai peanut sauce and some delectable Thai food by Chef Tam at Threesixty degrees, The Oberoi Delhi

Yes I have been meeting a lot of nice people lately, people who cook good food, talk about old fashioned real food and serve lovingly prepared delicious food. Last couple of weeks were like that and it feels very comforting that I can recount those moments by putting my experience into words here.

Getting reminded of good food enjoyed in good company comes as a relief trust me, especially when you have been swamped with work that starts feeling overwhelming sometimes. Sometimes I quickly recreate a recipe that I ate and feel even more pleased with myself.

This Thai peanut sauce was one such recipe I whipped up in just about a couple of minutes.

Thai peanut sauce

Recipe of Thai peanut sauce

1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts
1 tbsp soy sauce (Kikkoman light)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or use peanut or sesame oil)
1 tbsp honey or palm sugar
1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
5 cloves of garlic
5 dry red chillies
2 dry bird chillies
shrimp paste or fish sauce (optional) as per taste, I added home made shrimp paste


Blend everything together till creamy and smooth. Store in a sterile glass jar for a week or at room temperature.

Serve with appetisers or dilute with more olive oil and vinegar to use as salad dressing.

Now let me tell you how I was reminded of this Thai peanut sauce.

Last week we had the pleasure of enjoying Thai food cooked by Chef Tam who has come from The Oberoi Bengaluru's Rim Naam Thai restaurant and is serving her signature dishes at Threesixty degrees restaurant, at The Oberoi Delhi. She is here till 31st Oct but the good thing is that her signature dishes will be included on the regular menu too.

Thai cuisine

Her favourite ingredients are fish sauce, lemongrass and palm sugar and interestingly the first thing she asked me if I like spicy food and of course if I have some allergies. Spicy in Thai food means Thai bird chillies and I experienced that she balances these really well in her food.

I am always happy to announce I have no reservations regarding food and I can eat everything, too hot or too bland foods come with their own pleasures and I am open to it. I am always rewarded with good experiences I must add.

If we consider traditional food, every bland traditional recipe has evolved for a reason and every extra hot recipe also has a reason in the bigger scheme of a particular cuisine. We just have to take care of planning the meal to keep it balanced. And what a balanced meal we were served by the Chef, both in terms of flavours and nourishment. She had already selected the menu for us and we just followed suit.

Among the appetisers we were served Chicken Satay (Satay Kai) with Thai peanut sauce. While chicken satay was good the Thai peanut sauce that came with it was addictive.

The Som tum was extra hot as warned beforehand, we just loved it. I make this salad at home and wondered why I don't make it this hot. I took a second helping in fact, mentally noting down to make extra hot Som tum next time I do.

Thai cuisine

The Pandan wrapped chicken (Kai hor Bai toey) was very flavourful, juicy and tender. This is something you shouldn't miss when you go to Threesixty degree. The deep fried Prawn cakes were good too, just like any deep fried appetiser.

The Thai green curry (Kaeng kiew wan) was comforting and homely. I mean the use of fresh ingredients when I say homely here, it is easier for me as I grow these herbs and have been cooking Thai green and red curries for decades now. I wish I had discovered this stir fried rice with Tom yam paste (Khao phad tom yam) too. It came wrapped in a cone of banana leaf and blew my mind away.

Phad Thai came loaded with chicken, prawns and loads of sprouts too and became one of the best I have tasted till now.

The steamed fish (Pla Neung Prik Manao) is a Rim Naam signature fish and we loved it too. It had good amount of chilli heat as we had nodded for high heat levels when Chef had asked, but the Thai herbs were not masked by the chilli. Fresh lemongrass, bird chilli, galangal, turmeric and coriander greens making the fish what it was, with a lemony zest.

Chef served the dessert herself, mixing it gently and explaining. This jellied water chestnuts in coconut milk (Tab Tim Krob) is a favourite already, this one came with Lychee halves making it more rich textured and flavourful.

Thai dessert

A little too sweet for my taste but so good that I actually finished it. I rarely finish my desserts and don't take second bites if the dessert is too sweet normally.

And I asked some tips from Chef to make Tab Tim Krob with natural colour (using beets) as I have failed in doing so earlier. She sweetly told me how to do it and I came back happy.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

experiencing Bhutanese cuisine with Chef Kesang Choedon at Le Belvedere, Le Meridien Hotel

There is no menu at our restaurant and many people are taken aback when they come to know about it. Many of them have to wait for an hour or so while we cook the food and serve in the morning hours. But then we wait for the villagers to come everyday in the market, buy whatever they bring and cook the same in the restaurant, so we really can't have a fixed menu. This is so heart warming when a restaurateur says that they cook whatever they get in the market.

I believe in cooking whatever is in season and whatever the villagers brings to the market after foraging and from their small patches. Most of our guests love this, says Kesang Choedon who runs the Folk Heritage Restaurant at the Folk Heritage Museum at Thimphu, Bhutan. We were dreaming of this Folk Heritage Museum while making plans to visit Bhutan while we absorbed what she said.

I was reminded of the Kunga restaurant in Darjjeeling where we climbed the steps one morning and found the women cleaning local greens and one helper chopping meat behind the counter. We requested for food and were asked to wait for an hour before they cleaned the greens and cooked it for us. That was one of the best meals we still remember. And now we are already planning to go to Bhutan just to meet this soft spoken lady again.

She is so soft spoken it is impossible to believe that Kesang Choedon was in Bhutan Police for 20 years and decided to switch over to folk heritage food of Bhutan. She says she learnt about the regional and forest foods and culinary traditions while traveling during her police days. The way the women would sun dry vegetables and collect wild ferns, use them fresh and sun dry any extra to be cooked later.

Kesang learnt cottage cheese making too and told us that Bhutanese cottage cheese is different from what we know as cottage cheese. Raw milk is collected and kept for a couple of days till it curdles, then it is churned to collect butter and the remaining whey is cooked and curdled cheese is collected and made into round blocks to use or to barter or sell. The remaining warm whey is considered and tasty drink and Kesang told they exchange their vegetable peels with the villagers to get the warm whey. How fascinating is that?

We were getting hungry while she told stories about Bhutanese food at the top floor Le Belvedere at Le Meridien Hotel. She vanished to cook a sampler meal for us and we waited eagerly, sipping some Jasmine tea.

There is no concept of courses on Bhutanese cuisine but there are various condiments served with the meal that can leave you asking for more. Just do not go by how the food looks, as looks can be deceptive.  And one lesson you learn after eating food from the mountains is, that the limitation of ingredients doesn't limit the taste of the food. This Bhutanese spread was a testimony to that.

A very interesting cucumber and cottage cheese salad, Geon Hogey was quite refreshing. The cheese was brought from Bhutan and I found this crumbly cheese very different from any cheese I know. But since it is a buttermilk cheese, the taste was slightly tart that complements the salad along with chilli flakes.

The famous Aema datsi, blanched chillies with cheese is the national dish of Bhutan. We tasted the potato version called Kewa datchi and it was creamy soft and mild hot with a few bits of red onion. This is essentially a cheese potato chilly stew is something very few people can resist.

I liked the dried mushroom relish (Chantrell mushrooms with cheese) and Jasha Bayzum (boneless chicken in tomato and spring onion stew), the chillies being subtle and flavourful in each of these dishes. The real flavour comes form the use of various types of chillies and some or the other dried ingredients that brings a new taste magically.

Talking of sun dried ingredients, we tasted a dried fern (Fiddle head fern) cooked with cheese, onions and chillies called Nakey Kamtshu, and though the texture was leathery the overall taste was very interesting. I loved it and asked Kesang about it. She told these ferns are cooked fresh when in season and are sun dried and stored for later use. The sun dried version has a different flavour and people use this version when they miss eating fish in winters. This Nakey Kamtshu has a potent umami flavour that they relish when they crave for fish quite understandably.

Another very interesting relish was a mash of Avocado and raw banana flowers wit dallae chillies that Chef Kesang whipped for us. I would have never imagined combining these ingredients but now I know I will be trying it some day.

She also made a hot chilli chutney for us that was very familiar. This tree tomato and dallae (Sikkimese/Bhutanese round chilli) chutney with shezuan peppers and torn spring onions was hot but oh so delicious.

And now I will tell you about this pork called Shakam pa, cooked with radish slices, spring onion and and a sweet red chilli variety. Very unusual for us but very flavourful and delicious, the pork was a bit chewy but the flavours so well balanced and unique.

Here is how my plate looked. I took second helpings of the Nakey kamtshu, hot dallae chutney and Avocado mash.

The Hoentey or the buckwheat momo shaped dumpling too was very interesting. It was stuffed with dried turnip greens, radish, cheese and mustard mix and inspired me to cook more with buckwheat flour.

The rice was cooked with corn grits but Bhutanese kitchens use corn grits instead of rice as the main course staple mostly.

You see I can go on and on about how I love this cuisine and most importantly talking to Chef Kesang who feel shy being called as Chef. She runs the Folk Heritage restaurant efficiently and passionately, we could sense that while talking to her.

We made a promise to visit her when we go to Bhutan.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

S.A.A.G, the South Asian Association for Gastronomy conclave and tasting Afghan cuisine at Eau de Monsoon, Le Meridien

Last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of sorts, the reason why the blog was not getting updated as regularly as I want. The good thing is that I got to meet many people from various places, discuss and learn a lot from them and of course taste some great food from diverse geographical destinations.

Two weeks ago I was invited to be a panelist for a session on 'Healing Foods' at the S.A.A.G. (South Asian Association of Gastronomy) conclave which brought the first Food for Thought Fest to Delhi, bringing culinary diversity of the SAARC nations to the grounds of India Habitat Center. The conclave had a Thought Fest that went on for two days (17-18th Oct) at the lower level of Stein Auditorium, there were sessions, presentations and discussions about food and gastronomy culture from all SAARC countries.

The other part of the conclave was a Food Fest that was held at the Silver Oak grounds, stalls of all these countries were put up with lip smacking food being served for all at very reasonable price and there were cooking demonstrations too. The conclave was actually managed really well and all the sessions were well thought out and planned. The line of speakers was impressive, we got to learn so much about the culinary traditions of our neighboring countries which have had influenced each other since time immemorial.

Imagine food stalls form Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Srilanka and India being served at the same venue, being cooked in the most authentic manner. We had a wonderful time tasting almost everything through the day. Chapli kabab from Afghanistan, Garlic mutton and mustard chicken from Bangladesh, Bhutanese rice and chicken served in an earthen plate and a buckwheat bread with mushroom curry and cottage cheese dumplings made of buckwheat from Bhutan were the highlights for us.

foods from SAARC nations

This was the very first SAAG conclave and I am hoping I will be able to attend and participate in it every year. The founders Maneesh Baheti, Sonali Anand and Adwaita Kala made a wonderful effort, it was a great learning experience for all of us.

The first session was about the origin of Biryani and we got to listen to Chef Manjit Gill, Ramika Ahmad from Afghanistan, Saman Nayanananda from Srilanka, Alpana Habib from Bangladesh, Kesang Cheodon from Butan and Bharat Basnet from Nepal. Moderated by Gautam Anand, this session was quite interesting and we got to know how a meat based dish is made in Nepal that stays well for 2 weeks and how Biryani is called pullaow in Afghanistan and Srilankans have a biryani which is close to Tamil biryani.

My session on the first day (Soul Food: Food that Heals Emotionally and Physically) was with Vinita Dawra Nangia, Karen Anand, Chef Manisha Bhasin and Rubina Khan from Bangladesh, moderated really well by our own Ruchira Hoon. It was a great experience exchanging notes on what we find healing on an emotional level too apart from the food ingredients that help us heal.

panel discussion at SAAG

panel discussion at SAAG

panel discussion at SAAG

The second day too I was invited to be a speaker in a session on Edible insects (Biting into Bugs :Eating as an Adventure Sport) and as you can understand it was a fun session with Asma Said Khan, Sujan Sarkar and Sneha Lata Saikia. Asma is very scared of insects and can't think of eating them, I have myself not tried many but I don't find them repulsive. Sneha Saikiya who was moderating the session comes from Assam where silk worm pupae and honey bees are normal protein rich foods.

panel discussion at SAAG

We talked about how insects and bugs may ensure food security for so many populations across the world and how eating only local sources of food was life saving for so many tribes around the world. I also learnt that the body fat of Cockroaches is used to treat asthma in Bangladesh and in north eastern states of India too. This could save lives however gross it may sound.

Imagine what an invigorating discussion we had over this topic.

Interestingly, Sri Lankan Chef Saman Nayanananda works at Serena Hotel in Kabul and he held an Afghan food festival at Hotel Le Meridien and we got to taste some of the authentic Afghan dishes cooked by an Afghan Chef who was specially flown in. Eau de Monsoon did a wonderful job in presenting the Afghan Menu.

We tasted a nice noodle soup with vegetables, Badanjan Burhani, Lamb kababs, Qabooli, Afghan fish fry and a vegetable curry that tasted exactly like our Indian home style curries.

Afghan food

We loved the fish fry, the lamb stew cooked with potatoes and Badanajan burhani a lot but the show stopper was this Naraji pullaow that was essentially a chicken biryani with bitter orange peel. I had never had a Biryani like this, the bitter orange peels were treated so well that the bitterness enhanced the rice grains and made it very aromatic. This biryani will be remembered for a very long time, thanks to the Afghan chef who is such a gentle soul.

Afghan food

The desserts were also done really well. The Afghan Maleeda looks like a cake crumble with pistachio and cardamon flavours, the Afghan Baklava is richer and more moist and the Afghan rice pudding is almost like Indian kheer. Any Indian would take to these desserts quite comfortably.

Afghan food

They serve a nice Paan shot at Eau de Monsoon which is quite interesting. I would have liked some Gulkand in it probably but it is a very interesting way to present paan at the end of a meal.

Chef Kesan Choedon from Bhutan also brought Bhutanese food to Le Belvedere at Le Meridien and we went on the taste that too. I am always intrigued about Himalayan foods and Bhutan has been inaccessible for outsiders for a very long time. How could I not go and sample Bhutanese food?

More about that in the next blogpost. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

home made cultured ghee and health benefits of ghee | what Ayurveda and modern research say about ghee

benefits of ghee

Ghee is pure butter fat, also called as butter oil because it is made after clarifying butter. Ghee comes from milk fat (dairy) and can be of 2 types, one is uncultured ghee which is made by skimming all fat from whole milk and clarifying the fat directly to make ghee, but in most Indian homes you will find the cultured ghee.

Cultured ghee is made by skimming all the cream from whole milk, culturing the collected cream with yogurt culture (just like setting yogurt) and when the cream gets sour (cultured sour cream) it is whipped to separate the milk fat which is actually cultured butter. When this cultured butter is clarified by heating, it becomes cultured ghee with the most delicious aroma and taste..

benefits of ghee

We love our homemade ghee and would do anything to ensure we get good quality ghee if we can't make it at home. Mothers and grandmothers make ghee and collect to gift it to their kids who live away from them, to ensure they eat well and stay healthy. It has become a part of our culture to shower love by adding a spoonful of ghee in the curry or daal on the table. A pot of melted ghee on the dining table is a must have condiment or supplement during family dining.

It is notable that ghee is a good mix of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids and the smoking point is 485F (251C), it indicates ghee is the best suited fat for cooking at high temperature and it has stable saturated bonds.

It is not a surprise that this wisdom and culture around ghee goes back to Ayurveda. Ghee is considered cleansing, toning and nourishing for the system. There is a lot of modern evidence to support the truth behind the super food qualities of ghee.

Ghee contains Butyric acid, named so because it was first discovered in butter, Butyric acid helps maintain a healthy intestinal microbiome, it is actually secreted by many probiotic bacteria in the gut if the person has a healthy intestinal microbiome. This is one of the reasons why probiotic bacteria are considered essential for overall health. 

Butyric acid is also found in good amounts in butter and Parmesan cheese, it helps in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and helps in colorectal cancer.

Butyric acid is known to lower blood cholesterol as well as triglycerides, that indicates it is a potent anti inflammatory agent (read more here). Ghee (and butter too) is definitely a heart healthy fat. There is a reason why ghee and butter eating communities stay healthy.

It is difficult to find good sources of ghee now a days so making it at home is the next best thing.

benefits of ghee

The resultant ghee stays solid in Indian winters and starts melting as summer approaches, going through different stages of solid-liquid state, some globules of solid fat always found floating even in summers. Daanedar ghee (ghee with some solid fat globules) is a good test of pure ghee.

homemade ghee

How to make ghee at home...

There are 2-3 ways to make ghee at home. 

  1. You can buy cultured white butter from any organic source and melt it to clarify and make ghee. Strain the ghee to separate the solids before storage.
  2. You can buy heavy dairy cream, add yogurt culture to it and let it get sour by keeping it at room temperature for about 4-8 hours. Then churn or whip to separate the fat that makes the cultured butter. This cultured butter can be melted and clarified to make ghee.
  3. The third method is the way most of us Indian make our ghee. The whole milk is scalded and then cooled (in refrigerator). A layer of malai (clotted cream) gets formed when we rest the scalded milk overnight, this cream is collected and yogurt culture is added to it. One can collect the clotted cream for 3-4 days and then add the cultured yogurt so a good amount of butter can be made. The cultured sour cream is then churned to separate the butter which is then clarified. I am listing the detailed steps of this process.
The cream is cultured (which we call dahi jamana) till it gets slightly sour and smells wonderfully of rich yogurt. Then the yogurt is churned using a hand blender or in a food processor. Chilled water is added to the sour cream (malai ki dahi) to churn so the butter floats when separated.

Step 1 in the collage below shows how the white butter separates from the liquid buttermilk after the churning process. The true buttermilk comes from this process, we call this cultured buttermilk as mattha or kachhi lassi (lassi without fat)

Step 2 shows the white butter which has been spooned out directly into a stainless steel pan (kadhai), some of the liquid buttermilk separated even after skimming the butter. It can be drained before clarifying the butter. 

Step 3 shows how the white cultured butter starts melting when we heat the pan. 

Step 4 we already see the butter getting clarified after heating. 

how to make ghee

This process of clarifying is very crucial for those who are lactose intolerant. The ghee should be cooked till all the solids get nicely browned and settle down. Stirring the mix a few times helps clump the brown solids together and settle down. You can see in the step 4 that there is a white layer on top of the bubbling ghee that is actually whey protein. The other protein called casein settles down from beginning and later when we cook the ghee further to clarify, even the whey protein settles down and browns. All this browned solid should be removed completely by straining if the ghee is being made for a lactose intolerant person. 

Rest of us can enjoy the brown solids by mixing it with sugar and nuts or any other delicious use. I often add it to my daals or rajma.

how to make ghee

The clarified butter gets a golden hue once cooked well. Straining it well and storing in either glass jars or stainless steel jars ensures the ghee stays good for long time.

The ghee starts getting solid after 2-3 days of making it.

how to make ghee

Most of the times I save some of the white butter to have it with our millet rotis and the buttermilk is enjoyed fresh. If the cultured cream gets too sour we use this buttermilk to make kadhi. Many families have a tradition to make kadhi whenever butter is churned and ghee is made.

benefits of ghee

Milk and milk products play a major art in our everyday food in India. Although now many people have started reporting being intolerant to milk, but they still can consume ghee safely.

Immense benefits of ghee suggest we must include it for our everyday meals. Those who don;t consume ghee everyday should try and maintain a healthy gut flora. Infact the countries where ghee is not a traditional cooking fat the populations depend on butter and probiotic foods to maintain healthy gut. Butter has most of the benefits that ghee has but contains lactose and other proteins that may cause health problems to 'some'. See how someone experienced that clarified butter is good for her lactose intolerant kid.

benefits of ghee

I asked Dr. Sangita Borgave from Pune about ghee and she enlightened with many more wonderful qualities of ghee as described in Ayurvedic texts.

Dr. Borgave says Ghee is a highly revered food article in Ayurveda which has many interesting properties. The most superior type of ghee is cow’s ghee but one can find descriptions of ghee made from the milk of many animals like , buffalo, sheep, camel, horse etc.

Qualities of ghee according to Ayurveda 

  1. Rasayana: This term means nourishing all the tissues in the body. In Ayurveda after detoxifying the body with Panchakarma, Rasayana  formulations are given to nourish all the tissues and cells in the body.
  2. Madhur: Ghee is sweet in taste. There are six types of taste in the body and Madhur or sweet is the first of these.
  3. Dipana: Ghee is one of the best natural digestives and appetite stimulants. The concept of Agni is very important in Ayurveda as this science believes that a weak Agni is the cause of all diseases. Ghee strengthens the Agni, improves digestion and appetite and therefore helps nutrients to reach the tissues.
  4. Chakshushya: Ghee is beneficial to the eyes. It strengthens the eyes and eyesight. It is used to treat various eye problems. ( SK: I remember my grandmother making kaajal using ghee).
  5. Sheeta: Despite increasing Agni, ghee is cooling in nature. Most herbs which improve the Agni and digestion are hot but ghee is an exception.
  6. Decreases Vata and Pitta: Of the three Doshas or elements in the body i.e. fire, wind and water, ghee helps control and decrease the former two. So those who suffer from excess body heat should always use ghee in their diet.
  7. Beneficial to the complexion/Enhances beauty: Consuming ghee regularly leads to a healthy glowing complexion.
  8. Ojaskara: Oja is an important but complicated concept in Ayurveda. Basically Oja is a substance found in very minute quantities in the body. It contains the best qualities of all the seven tissues of the body. Depletion of Oja leads to several mental and physical diseases and is difficult to treat. Ghee directly nourishes Oja and so should be a part of daily diet.
  9. Benefits the voice/speech: Ghee helps build a strong and clear voice. Ayurveda uses ghee to treat many speech disorders.
  10. Smritikar/Medhya: Improving memory/increasing intelligence.  Ghee is a very good natural  brain tonic. It should be eaten regularly by children, people in intellectual professions and old people.
  11. Aayushyakara: Ghee actually increases the life span. Many studies have clearly shown that consumption of healthy fats like ghee increase the life span, promote longevity.
  12. Strengthening: Helps in generalized weakness and general debility post illness.
  13. Vrushya: Improving fertility and libido. Ghee is said to be similar in consistency to Shukra or semen. So all Ayurvedic treatments of male infertility, and such problems will include ghee. Ghee also helps women conceive and have a healthy pregnancy and smooth delivery.

Medicated ghees are used to treat a vast number of diseases in Ayurveda but as one can see even simple, plain cow’s ghee is useful in innumerable number of ways

homemade ghee

Ghee should be a part of everyday meals as it has always been in our homes, else we will be forced to take it as a supplement. Yes ghee is so healing and nourishing it helps prevent many diseases if we take it everyday. 

Thankfully ghee suits everyone including the lactose intolerant if clarified well. Make some ghee yourself using either cultured heavy cream or home made cultured butter. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

another detox smoothie with pineapple, pomelo and bhumiamlaki (Phyllanthus niruri), a liver tonic herb

bhumiamlaki (Phylanthus niruri)

This common garden weed called as Bhumiamplaki in Hindi (Phyllanthus niruri) or Chanca piedra has immense medicinal properties and is a very potent liver tonic. It helps prevent stone formation in kidneys too (source) and is actually beneficial in many more conditions (read more).

I have myself seen it being used to heal the liver after jaundice in my family, fresh herb liquidized with water is given to the patient everyday for a week or so and one notices a difference. Since this herb bhumiamlaki grows profusely in the garden I sometimes pluck and add it to my smoothies.

detox smoothie

 It is the most easy thing to do as the herb doesn't need any preparation before being added to smoothies or juices. This is the season of grapefruits (pomelo) too and the generous tree in my garden is weighed down by several of those heavy citrus fruits. See the article I wrote for Down to Earth about pomelo and how it is used across the country.


I use them a lot in my salads and smoothies.

detox smoothie recipe

Some slices of pineapple are always there in my freezer and come handy when making smoothies or the pineapple soup that I love so much.

Recipe of pineapple and pomelo smoothie with bhumiamlaki 

ingredients for one serving... 

one fat slice of pineapple
one cup of pomelo segments cleaned
handful of bhumiamlaki leaves and tender stems (all parts of the plant are edible)

procedure ...

Blend to make a smoothie. There will be a mild bitter aftertaste in this smoothie but this is one of those smoothies that work wonderfully to detoxify the system.

Make this smoothie with orange or sweet lime if you don't get pomelo, some citrus fruit makes this smoothie much more enjoyable.

detox smoothie recipe

And see how just three ingredients make this smoothie a perfect recipe to detox.

You can add a little ginger too if you have been experiencing DOMS after heavy workouts.

Get the fruits prepared and frozen if you want the smoothie ready quickly. Or just enjoy playing with ingredients before you blend your smoothie. It is great any which way.

This smoothie may taste a little bitter if the pomelo has a slight bitterness too, Bhumiamlaki has slight bitterness too so the combined effect may make this smoothie taste slightly bitter. Add more pineapple in such a case and the smoothie will still be great.

Friday, October 16, 2015

sweet potatoes in the season | sweet potato hash browns and apple and sweet potato slaw salad recipes

sweet potatoes

I bought some nice and plump pink skinned sweet potatoes a few weeks ago, first lot of this season as I can't wait for the sweet potatoes from my garden. The leaves are getting lush and spreading like wild fire now, I use the sweet potato leaves to make a stir fry and add them to my besan cheela sometimes, but the tubers have a charm few can resist.

I make many interesting salads using sweet potatoes. This carrots and sweet potato salad has become a favourite since I cooked it on a farm by instinct, and this sweet potato and beets salad is another favourite. Sweet potato and water chestnuts both have the same season so it makes sense to combine them for salads too. You would love this sweet potato pudding we call shakarkand ki rabdi, a dessert made without sugar.

This season I made a shakarakand ka halwa for Diwali special of my Down to Earth column and the rest of the sweet potato was grated to have fun with it. I instantly posted the picture on instagram it looked so pretty. The grated sweet potatoes helped me make a gluten free breakfast on a weekend. It was quick yet delicious sweet potato hash browns made in almost one batch on my dosa griddle.

sweet potato hash browns

Luckily October has finally brought some cheer and we are enjoying our weekend breakfasts in the garden. Some tea was brewed, eggs were fried and jars or peanut butter and Apricot chutney were brought out. The sweet potato hash browns were so delicious we did not need the peanut butter. The Apricot chutney suited really well with the porous hash browns that held together beautifully, thanks to the rice flour I used for binding.

ingredients for sweet potato hash browns 
(2 large breakfast serving along with fried eggs and preserves etc)

scant 2 cups of grated sweet potatoes (washed but not peeled Indian sweet potatoes)
1.5 tbsp rice flour (or use a mix of chickpea flour and oat flour, use buckwheat if fasting)
salt and pepper to taste (keep the salt light if a savoury condiment is being served with it)
ghee or butter or olive oil to shallow fry (1-2 tbsp for a batch of 6-8 hash browns, we had leftovers too)


Mix all the ingredients together and let it rest for 5 minutes till the griddle heats up. I used my cast iron dosa griddle and made all the hash browns in 2 batches.

Using your fingers, lift a handful of the grated sweet potato mix and spread over the greased hot griddle and flatten it using a spatula. Drizzle ghee to let it brown on one side. Flip and let it brown on the other side too, some crispness sis desired here so cook till you feel it is good for you.

Make your tea and fried eggs on the other side and serve immediately.

sweet potato hash browns

Next time I am going to serve these with some sour cream or a quark dip. These sweet potato hash browns were so crisp they can be served as canapes.

Adding buckwheat flour makes these hash browns as crisp as the rice flour version but take care not to add too much flour. The hash browns are crisp on the outside with a soft center though you can bake them to more crisp texture. 

I had some more grated sweet potatoes so I mixed it with some lime juice, dash of balsamic and honey and refrigerated it planning to make a salad next day. I love raw sweet potatoes and this salad was intended to be made along with some mung sprouts.

sweet potato and apple slaw salad

But the next day I felt like a fruity salad for lunch and tossed up this slaw salad along with some finely shopped green apple and a popped amaranth and mixed seeds trail mix. Mung sprouts would have tasted great too but after adding one whole apple it became a good quantity for my lunch, hence the sprouts were dropped.

sweet potato and apple slaw salad

I was not planning to share this salad on the blog but I liked it a lot and clicked pictures. You could add any roasted seeds mix to it and get a good crunch in it too.

This apple and sweet potato slaw is a salad that can be made as a meal, as a sandwich filling or even as a topping for canapes.

Thee is nothing special in this salad but do take care to let the sweet potato seep into the lime-balsamic-honey dressing for a few hours before tossing up the salad. Add the chopped apples, the trail mix and some EVOO, toss and serve immediately. I may not add EVOO next time I make it but you can go with what you like.

Hope seasonal produce inspires you too to cook something new every season and you keep reinventing the same old food in new ways. It does bring some cheer every season trust me.

I hope these recipes will be useful for those who are fasting for Navratri too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

easy to make trail mixes for Navratri fasting and healthy snacking | recipes of 3 trail mixes using popped amaranth, fox nuts and assorted seeds and nuts

trail mix recipes

Nuts and seeds are great nourishing foods but many of us don't use them enough in everyday meals. There are many traditional recipes of pestos, chutneys, curry powders and even snacks made with seeds like sesame, poppy seeds or flax seeds, but since we look for quick recipes we often miss using seeds in our food.

Nuts have a better chance as we all love roasted nuts and they are available comparatively easily too. After all a bowl of roasted cashew or almonds is handy and one finds them easier as finger foods. But then we Indians eat a lot of namkeens (savories) with our tea and coffee are we are slowly becoming a huge consumer of packaged chips, rice or corn based crispies and wafers.

If your family consumes these products you might like to shift to trail mixes with seeds, few nuts and some added puffed rice, popped sorghum or popped amaranth and popped foxnuts (makhana) etc.

trail mix recipes

These trail mixes are a great way to keep away from unhealthy snacks. These are very good for travel also, we always pack some of these for our travels and never ever buy any snacks while traveling. I believe we should be a little more careful while traveling not only to eat healthy foods and snacks but not to buy anything packaged in plastics. When the tourists demand plastic packaged foods the local shopkeepers stock it and it starts a chain reaction of demand and supply, littering all the peaceful places with plastic packets and water bottles. Carrying our own snacks makes much more sense.

We don't have to think much about when and how to include seeds because there are many ways we can easily add some proteins and good fats in everyday meals.

Here are a few ways we can add seeds in our meals.

  1. Sprinkle some roasted seeds on your salads for extra crunch and added dimension to the flavours. Adding seeds (or nuts) to fruit salads lowers down the Glycemic index further and makes it fit for most diabetics and weight watchers.
  2. Make a salad dressing with seeds or herb pesto made of any of your favourite herbs. This sesame seeds salad dressing is a much loved recipe in my home. 
  3. Make a paste of poppy seeds, melon seeds or cashew to thicken Indian curries and gravies. It is a great way to supplement protein in vegetarian diet.
  4. Replace fries, chips and packaged namkeens with roasted nuts and trail mixes. Balance the trail mixes by adding dried fruits like raisins and make them lighter by adding popped amaranth, puffed rice or roasted flattened rice (roasted poha) and season as you like. Keep the trail mixes in air tight jars for the tea time treats. Replace cookies with these trail mixes too.
  5. Use more nuts and seeds to make dips and pesto. Use them to make your regular sandwiches and wraps. Toss salads and pasta using them. 
  6. Make nut and seed butters and use them in various ways. Most people love peanuts butter or cashew butter. I make mixed seeds butter too and we find it really versatile. Will share my recipes soon.

peanut butter

Coming back to the trail mixes, I am sharing 3 recipes of trail mixes today. Each one of them is so good they are almost addictive. But once you eat a little bigger serving of these you would skip the next meal automatically. This is the beauty of low glycemic index snacks, they fill you up for a longer time period.

1. Honey-lime-pepper peanut and seeds mix 

trail mix recipes

I have used a mix of peanuts, chironji and sunflower seeds here. You need an oven to make this one, a microwave can also be used.


100 gm roasted peanuts
200 gm large sizes seeds like sunflower seeds, melon seeds and pumpkin seeds etc
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp white pepper powder


Split the roasted peanuts and remove the skin.

Mix everything together and let it stand for 10 minutes till the lime juice and honey mix soaks the nuts and seeds.

Spread over a baking tray lined with silpat and bake at 170C (preheated) for about 30 minutes. Check once and bake some more, the seeds will be completely dry but not crunchy when baked. They get crunchy once cooled.

If making in microwave, follow the procedure of this roasted cashew.

Store in airtight glass jar when cooled to room temperature.

2. Flax seeds-coconut flakes namkeen trail mix 

trail mix recipes


200 gm flax seeds
100 gm mix of chopped almonds and walnuts
50 gm grated dry coconut
70 gm raisins
1 tsp sea salt or pink salt (sendha namak)
1 tsp pepper powder


I made this in a pan and it took only about 10 minutes.

Dry roast the flax seeds on medium heat till they start crackle and look puffed. Using a thick base pan will be good for this purpose.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except raisins) together and dry roast for another couple of minutes or till the coconut flakes get firm and crisp.

Take the pan off the stove, add the raisins and mix well. Cool down to room temperature.

Cool and store in glass jars.

3. Seeds and popped amaranth trail mix 

trail mix recipes

This trail mix can also be made in a pan. Though roasting the seeds in an oven or microwave is also an option.


200 gm popped amaranth
100 gm sesame
100 gm flax seeds
50 gm melon seeds
25 gm sunflower seeds
25 gm pumpkin seeds
50 gm peanuts +1 tsp ghee
50 gm fox nuts (makhana) optional
70 gm sweet anardana seeds or raisins
sea salt or pink salt (sendha namak) to taste
pepper powder to taste
1 tsp or 4-5 gm amchoor powder


Heat a thick base pan (kadhai) and dry roast all the seeds separately. Collect them all in one large mixing bowl as they are the roasted.

Roast the peanuts with ghee on low flame till done. Now add the anardana seeds and roast for a few seconds before pouring this mix into the bowl with roasted seeds. This allows anaradana seeds to dehydrate a little.

Fox nuts will also be roasted with a little ghee, I used caramelised makhana to make it this time.

Now add the popped amaranth, salt, pepper and amchoor powder to the warm mix of seeds and peanuts and give it a good mix. The salt and pepper adheres to the surface because of the little ghee used for peanuts when we mix it all while still warm.

This trail mix with popped amaranth seeds is the most popular in my home. I make it with some puffed rice added or some more nuts depending on the requirement.

trail mix recipes

Here I have added some puffed rice too and the peanuts are roasted along with a tadka of curry leaves and mustard etc. The recipe and seasoning can be adjusted according to taste and requirement. I love adding curry leaves to such trail mixes and even make it with puffed rice whenever we get it.

trail mix recipes

I use many of these trail mixes to top my salads too. It is very convenient to have a well seasoned and flavourful trail mix that can lift a plain salad made of boring fruits that you may not like eating on their own. Sometimes I just mix some mung sprouts and may be some yogurt and make a quick meal for myself. We do need some of these options sometimes. I am sharing one such recipe next.

Till then, make these trail mixes and stock up the pantry with some nice healthy tea time snacks.

trail mix recipes

 Throw away those plastic packets of chips and kurkure. You and your family deserves better.