Saturday, January 16, 2016

winter pickles from north India | pickled seasonal vegetables | pickled salads using mustard as pickling spice


north Indian winter pickles

Pickling is a culinary art that has developed all over the world picking up flavours of the region. I often wonder how man started pickling so many things and so beautifully but being a fermentation enthusiast I know where it all started.

Fresh produce was a luxury and whatever the people grew in one season would not be available in the next. All the surplus fresh produce was always preserved in some way or the other and we have witnessed how sun drying, smoking and pickling has solved food problem across the world. Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Umeboshi, Sakura and all sorts of brined pickles are a testimony of how pickles have been an integral part of life all over the world.

pickles

In India we have so many variants of pickles made using spices and without spices, with oil or without oil and every season has a different produce to be pickled. Some of these pickles are made in such a way that they last several years but since it is a common practice to make pickles every season they are made just enough to last one year. Unless it is a pickle that is considered medicinal in it's aged form.

One of the aged pickles very popular in my region is the nimbu ka achar (called as nibuki in local parlance) which is basically brined limes, whole or quartered. It is given to someone with upset stomach with a thin mung ki khichdi and some fresh homemade (cultured) yogurt.

nimbu ka achar

I have shared some brined pickles like this amla and ginger pickled in brine. Another is this wild fig pickled in brine.

One of the variety of seasonal pickles is mustard fermented pickles, very popular in winters as the seasonal produce responds well to this method of pickling and traditional winter meals also pair well with these mustard fermented pickles. These pickles are also called as pani ka achar (watery pickle) in my part of the world for obvious reasons.

winter pickles

Yes, mustard helps fermentation along with red chilly powder (much like Korean Gochugaru) and we make kanji using the same method in a watery medium. For the seasonal vegetables to be pickled we don't add any water because the vegetables have enough water in themselves to let the flavours soak in.

amla turmeric and ginger pickle

Beautiful play of osmotic pressure in these pickles that is utilised for culinary use since ages.

The mix of mustard, red chillies, turmeric powder and salt is immensely medicinal as well. Mustard is known to improve metabolic rate and as an anti inflammatory agent, it improves blood circulation and is antiseptic too. Turmeric is another antiseptic herb that is antioxidant rich, anti inflammatory, analgesic and antiseptic. Red chillies are known as powerful analgesic and anti inflammatory because the capsaicin improves blood circulation, helping the body to heal naturally. 

With so much goodness these pickles are indeed quite healthy. To add to the health quotient of these pickles the fermentation process makes them probiotic too. What an easy way to get wholesome nutrition and healing benefits from homely pickles.

The good thing is that you can use almost every vegetable to make these pickles. Traditionally the gourd family vegetables are not pickled but once you get the hang of it you might want to try those too. These pickles are made during winters mostly, probably because they aid in digestion and help the gut health too. Traditionally winters means heavier foods and increased consumption of ghee and fried food that tastes really great with these pickles I must add. The traditions develop for a reason of course.

seasonal vegetables

The vegetables that are used for this kind of pickling are mostly root vegetables, ginger, fresh turmeric, some beans specially the flat variety, cauliflowers, some leafy greens like chickpea shoots and even fresh green peas or soaked chickpeas.

This mustard fermented pickle is made in the north India. The vegetables being pickled may differ in different regions. Gajar-Gobhi ka achar (pickled carrots and cauliflowers) and mooli ka achar is staple in Punjab while hari mirch ka achar (pickled green chillies) is from Rajasthan. In Uttar Pradesh we pickle a lot of vegetables this way.

Many families will add some soaked chickpeas to the jar of pickles when it is just about to finish to make it last longer. I like adding some fresh peas too.

How to make the winter vegetable pickles with mustard...

While the pickling spices remain the same in these pickles that is mustard, turmeric, chilli powder and salt, the procedure differs with different vegetables as some of the vegetables have higher water content some are dry. Also because some of the vegetables we like crunchy and some others are preferred a bit softer. I have listed the recipes of some of the pickles I have been making.

Amla Haldi Adrak ka achar (amla, fresh turmeric root and ginger root pickle)...

amla turmeric and ginger pickle

ingredients 
(to fill 2 jars measuring 500 ml)

12 amla cut into wedges
12 large sized green chillies, preferably mild hot (bhajiya mirchi works in India, try Jalapeno or Anaheim or Banana peppers whatever available in your part of the world)
about 150 gms of ginger root cleaned and sliced
about 150 gms of fresh turmeric root cleaned and sliced
3 tbsp mustard powder (yellow or black)
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
salt to taste or about 1 tbsp

procedure 

Slice and chop everything as desired and mix with all the ingredients in a glass bowl. Give a good toss and fill in clean jars.

This pickle is ready to eat in about 3 hours and keeps changing in taste for 2-3 days. In Indian summers we keep it only for 2 days at room temperature and then refrigerate. The pickle keeps maturing slowly and get sharper in taste by time.

If refrigerated it lasts about 4 weeks.

Sem aur hari matar ka achar (flat beans and fresh green peas pickle) ...

Not many people make pickle using flat beans but it tastes really good. I like it with green peas and sometimes with added cauliflowers and broccoli etc.

The reason for pairing these vegetables together is because these vegetables need a parboiling treatment unlike the root vegetables or amla or green chilies etc.

pickled flat beans

ingredients 
(to make a jar full, measuring 1 liter)

500 gm flat beans or mixed vegetables
200 gm green peas or soaked chickpeas
4 tbsp mustard powder (yellow or black)
1.5 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp red chilly powder
1.5 tbsp salt or to taste

procedure 

Prepare the vegetables first. Beans, cauliflowers or broccoli need a little blanching or parboiling depending on what texture you like.

String the flat beans and split them open. Cut them in pieces if you wish. Using tender beans is desirable.

If using cauliflowers or broccoli, separate the florets.

Boil water in a large pan and dunk everything together. Add the peas too along with everything else and wait till the water comes to a rolling boil once again. Drain the water in a colander and empty the vegetables into a mixing bowl.

Add the spice mix and toss. Fill in clean jars. The pickle will be ready after 12-15 hours and will stay good for 2 days at room temperature and should be refrigerated after that. Make small quantity if you want to keep the jars on the dining table.

carrots, knol khol or radish pickle in mustard ...

These vegetables can be pickled together like a mixed pickle or can be pickled separately as I do. I want the vegetables to maintain their own flavours and I love them this way as a salad in generous helping.

See how I eat the knol khol pickle with my meals. You can see laal chowli and rocket stew, black sorghum roti and loads of pickled salad on my plate.

pickled knol khol

The radish pickle has been shared earlier. I like to toss this pickle into my sprouts or boiled chickpeas salads as shown here.

This radish pickle is in fact a great way to use up any mature radishes. The mature radishes soak up the flavours faster and give a good bite to the pickle.

You can make the radish pickle using any kind of radish available.

pickled radish

I often use mixed carrots to make the carrot version of this pickle and have experienced that the mature and large carrots taste better in this pickle.

Here I have used black carrots that are normally used for making kanji along with the red carrots that are normally used for making gajar ka halwa.

mixed carrot pickle

ingredients for making carrot, knol khol or radish pickle in mustard...

500 gm of any of these vegetables cut in batons or cubes
2-3 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder (a little more for carrots)
1 tbsp salt

procedure

Mix everything up and fill in clean jars. These vegetables soak up the flavours faster and get ready to eat in 2-3 hours. You can wait for 2 days to get the sour flavour and then refrigerate for 3-4 weeks.

We even pickle boiled potatoes this way but the pickled (boiled) potatoes do not stay for long. Once made the pickle is ready to eat instantly and can be kept on the dining table (room temperature) for 2 days in winters and for a day in summers.

Luckily I found this boiled potato and chickpea shoots pickled with mustard. In my family the chickpea shoots (chane ka saag) was not pickled but once I was talking to Arvind's aunt and she told me they pickle chane ka saag this way. So next time I found some chane ka saag I wanted to try this.

The chane ke saag ka achar was so good I started combining it with the boiled potato version. It gets over quickly whenever I make it.

I would suggest to make this version just enough for a day's worth.

Chane ke saag aur alu ka achar (chickpea greens and boiled potatoes pickled with mustard)...

alu aur chane ke saag ka achar

ingredients 

250 gm boiled, peeled and cubed potatoes
100 gm washed, drained and finely chopped chickpea greens (chane ka saag) or use baby spinach
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
chilly powder to taste or minced green chillies (I used green)
salt to taste

procedure

Toss everything together and mix well. Keep covered for an hour before serving.

This is actually a wonderful potato salad that I love making whenever I get hold of chane ka saag.

Actually I call all these mustard based pickles as pickled salads as these can be served just like the salads or kachumbers we serve with Indian meals. I make more pickled salads if you want to check out. 

If mixed with some sprouts or boiled chickpeas or even some paneer, these salads can become a salad meal. See how I mix them up to make my meals here.

These salads are generally called as pani ka achar in Uttar Pradesh as I mentioned. The reason being there is no oil used in this pickle while other Indian pickles use oil to preserve the pickle for long.

You see you can pickle almost everything and have a great value out of your pickling efforts. These pickles are easy and cheap, provide great nourishment and also help heal the body, especially the gut. More reasons to make them as soon as possible.

Do let me know whenever you make them.

Monday, January 11, 2016

recipe of beans and mixed greens salad and how to keep leafy greens fresh for longer and ready to use


Convenience is the most critical factor that comes in the way of cooking healthy everyday. We fall back on short cut methods, quick sandwiches, take-aways and home delivered food sometimes when we are occupied with work or just can't handle the housekeeping and kitchen both along with work. If you have young kids the convenience factor counts even more.

Being prepared, shopping for fresh greens weekly and keeping some boiled beans, potatoes, may be some chicken helps a lot when you want to cook or whip up quick meals. Paneer and eggs also help me a lot when I have to cook quick meals. We eat simple meals at home but it has to be tasty and different every time. I just cannot imagine eating the same things everyday, apart from some classics that we cook every season without fail.

I make sure we eat loads of leafy greens everyday but I am not too particular about eating them raw always. I would steam and sautee the greens sometimes, would puree and make dips or cook them into a delicious lentil soup.

How to keep leafy greens ready to use...

Someone on Instagram asked me how to keep the salad greens and other leafy greens fresh for a week in the fridge. I know it is a bit of effort if you want to eat fresh greens regularly. First of all you need to buy them regularly to keep them stocked always. I get to shop for my leafy greens once a week but one can buy 2-3 times a week if possible.

Now a days one can order salad greens online and schedule an alternate delivery to get them fresh always. But what to do when you get to buy them once a week. You have to make sure you process them and store them in such a way that you can use them in salads, stir fries and soups.


Now let's see how we can sort the greens, clean them (or not) and keep them ready to use for quick meals whether those are salads, stir fries or soups.

  1. Sort the greens by type so you can use them accordingly over the week. The lettuces, rocket leaves etc keep well for 4-5 days in the fridge, the spinach, amaranth leaves, Bathua, fenugreek leaves etc keep well for 10 days, the beet, carrot and knol khol leaves stay good for 4-5 days while the most long lasting leafy greens are the cabbages of all sorts. Think about the green or ed cabbages, Chinese cabbage, pok choi and radicchio etc, the ones that form a head. These stay fresh for a month or so if stored well. 
  2. For all salad greens, rinse them well, drain for an hour and pack into cloth or paper bags to refrigerate. For the first 2 days they stay fresh and crunchy so use them directly. If they get softer after a couple of days just tear them first and then dip in chilled water while you prepare the dressing and other ingredients of the salad. And if the salad greens have wilted beyond repair in the fridge blend them into smoothies or just blend and add them to lentil soups in the last minute of simmering.
  3. Spinach stays well for a week if it is kept wrapped in a paper or napkin. Choose freshest spinach possible and do not wash it before refrigerating if you are storing it raw. Spinach  should be chopped and cooked immediately after washing else it starts rotting. Baby spinach stays well even after washing and draining the leaves well. You can chop and steam spinach and freeze it in ziplock bags to be added to stir fries and to be blended into soups or to make palak paneer etc.
  4. Fenugreek (methi) leaves are a little dry and can be washed and chopped before storage. Keep the chopped, ready to use fenugreek greens in a ziplock bag (pierced to allow aeration) or a cloth bag. These will be great even if they dry up a little bit. 
  5. Amaranth greens (both red and green variety) keep well if washed and chopped, stored in a perforated ziplock or cloth bag. If kept unwashed these greens last longer as these are almost drought resistant greens.
  6. Bathua leaves I always wash, chop and steam before storage. Bathua (Chenopodium) doesn't keep well because of higher water content in them. So steam bathua and store, chop or blend when required.
  7. Purslane (kulfa) has high water content but it is a succulent type plant so it keeps well in the fridge for 2 weeks. It stays good even at room temperature for 3-4 days. 
  8. Fennel bulbs, leeks and spring onions keep well if the leaves are trimmed. Keep the leaves separate and use them first, the bulbs stay for longer. Keep them refrigerated in cloth bags or paper bags. Knol khol leaves are better cooked with the bulb like this Monji haak recipe, but keeping the greens separately helps in this case too. 
  9. Cabbages last quite a long time. The tighter the head of cabbage the longer it will last in the fridge. My home grown cabbages last about 6 months in the fridge, the ones from the market are already a couple of months old when they reach you. Do not wash the cabbages before storage. The good thing is that the cabbages do not require cleaning and can be chopped quickly before cooking or tossing into a coleslaw or chopped salad. 
  10. If you are getting mixed salad greens remember to rinse them first and store in a cloth bag or perforated ziplock, but not for more than a couple of days as some of the varieties of salad greens may spoil earlier and cause other to rot too. Dip them all in chilled water before tossing into a salad. I never use a salad spinner to dry the salad greens but I do let them drain in a colander for some time.
Last but not the least, grow some of the herbs and salad greens in whatever space you have. Try and find more leafy greens that grow wild around you and use them. In this salad you can see some Oxalic leaves that impart a tart bite to the salad. 

Coming back to this beans and mixed greens salad, I have used a native variety of cow peas in this salad which is a brown and smaller variety of black eyed peas. The taste is much better than the regular black eyed peas and it cooks faster too. In local parlance it is called as laal chowli or desi chowli or desi lobiya.



I keep using different types of beans for my salads or hummus or even stews. This laal chowli I find suitable for a stew as well. In fact I stir fried the boiled laal chowli with spinach and bathua (separately) and it tasted so good that I thought of making hummus with it too. The beans were boiled and stocked for making quicker salads for my lunch though.

ingredients 
(serves 2 for a full meal)

1 cup boiled laal chowli (lobiya) or black eyed peas (or use any beans you like)
3/4 cup black grapes halved (or use orange segments)
3-4 large cherry belle radishes thinly sliced or beets thinly sliced
300 gm mixed salad greens torn into bite sized pieces
I used a few oxalis leaves (khatti buti) for a tart bite
2-3 tbsp chopped walnuts

Few pieces of thinly sliced toasted bread (preferably multi grain or whole wheat)

Dressing 
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp or more extra virgin olive oil (or use mustard oil)
2 tsp tahini paste (or use sesame powdered fresh)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
2-3 black grapes crushed

preparation 

Make the dressing by whisking everything together.

Add the boiled beans (room temperature) to the dressing and toss with the mixed greens, radish slices and chopped grapes or orange segments.

Sprinkle with chopped walnuts if using.


Fill into a salad bowl and arrange the toasted bread slices to one side. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve immediately.

This salad is a fine balance of flavours and textures. The black grapes give it a sweetish flavour that enriches the dressing so much I felt like making the salad again and again. I used orange segments the next time when I used red cabbage for the salad and it was as good.

Do not skip radish in this salad as it gives a nice crunch, you can add thickly grated or julienne of radish if you want.




Vintage 31 for home style Italian food


Eating out in Delhi can be a tough decision sometimes if you want to have a quite comforting meal in a cozy place. I mean there are so many fine dining and casual places where you get great food and and ambiance but a quite leisurely dinner is a luxury.

And then you find a place that looks too small to be comfortable from outside but once you open the doors you are taken in to a comforting cheerful ambiance. We found Vintage 31 (Cafe and Bistro) in Meherchand market a couple of months ago and have been there a few times since then. We love Meherchand market for being so old world and yet so chic.

In the times when the city roads are chaotic and most restaurants located in busy areas are crowded and loud, Vintage 31 comes as a whiff of fresh air. Calm, quite and cozy, comforting home style food, mostly Italian. A great fit for us even though it is a bit of a drive from home, but anything to find some solace other than home.

I went there with a friend once and we tried a lot of things apart from the decor and the detailing in every nook and corner. The terrace seating is perfect for winter days and has been done very minimally yet tastefully.


We loved the Garlic soup which felt silken smooth and very flavourful and creamy without being heavy. The Almond Coriander soup was earthy, strong and felt little over seasoned, but that day I had a bad throat and it felt really comforting. For starters the stuffed mushroom is very nice.

My friend tried the Meatloaf that is served along with mashed potatoes and stir fried vegetables. The meatloaf was nicely meaty and chunky, the accompanying sauce doing justice to the meat loaf slices. Mashed potato could have been better but their garlic bread is nice and crusty.


I tried the hot pepper prawns which I think should have been a little more balanced in flavours. It was nice and hot but some balance of flavours would have been really nice. I loved the idea of serving it with sweet potato slices baked with cheese, that balances the hot prawns a bit.

The most irresistible main course dish will be the Vintage special stuffed chicken I feel. Creamy cheese stuffed chicken cooked really well may become a comfort meal just like mac and cheese or something as rich and addictive. I am sure this would be hot favourite amongst the youngsters. By the way I see Vintage 31 has become quite popular with youngsters and rightly so.

Another time I went with Arvind and we ordered the garlic soup once again as I had loved it the first time. This time the garlic soup was not as creamy and less garlicky. The server took away my soup when I said it is not like the last time and came back with fresh soup which was better. I appreciate such a gesture, personalised attention is a great service one can get at a cafe.


We both loved the Mushroom (cappuccino style) soup this time. I found it really homely as I make it myself at home.

Homely taste in restaurant food means no nonsense additives, no artificial colours and no fillers to bulk up food. So homely taste is a great test of good food in my humble opinion. 

Arvind was adamant to order fish fingers with tartar sauce and we had that but it was not my kind of food, even Arvind didn't like it much. There is a reason why husbands should listen to their wives, especially when the wife cooks.

We ordered just one main course this time and it was the Pork ribs with honey glaze. The portion sizes are good and after soups and starters one main course is enough for two to share. The honey glazed pork rib was done really well, the sauce quite nice and the meat juicy and nicely fatty. Though I would have preferred a little heat (paprika or chilly) in the sauce, but I was pleased with the overall taste.

Sharing desserts is a great idea and you would love the Tiramisu here if you like your Tiramisu a little boozy.


Dig deeper, go beyond the creamy (Mascarpone) layer and find the treasure of taste.


The food is beautifully presented, home style and delicious. Portion size is good and service excellent. Vintage 31 will be a place we will be definitely going back whenever we need a quite meal outside our home.

No wonder we loved it so much, it is a cafe conceptualized and run by a husband and wife team where the husband loves cooking and the wife looks after the decor and business.

The whole menu is done by K. D. Singh himself whose dream project it is and his wife Vimi Singh has created the beautiful space. Vimi runs Navya, the decor shop next to the cafe which is a treasure trove of all things beautiful for home and gardens. One more reason for me to go there.


Navya is a bit too pricey for me though you will gte something or the other you would love. I did find a few beautiful things that I bought for gifting and for myself too.

Thankfully Vintage 31 is not too pricey, a meal would cost about 2,000 for two.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Eggs for breakfast : 12 ways to have eggs for breakfast and include vegetables too | spinach spring onion and feta cheese frittata recipe



Eggs are convenient, quick and cheap source of protein, we must take advantage of this. I do always. It helps that we can pack in loads of vegetables along with our eggs even for the breakfast.

I know many people who balk at the thought of having vegetables along with breakfast and even if they try they get bored with the vegetables. No one ever gets bored with the breads and the fruit preserves and the nut butters or bacon, vegetables feel too boring to be had everyday.

I love my vegetables and can have them any time of the day but even I get bored with the same ways to cook them. Variation is the key when you resolve to eat more vegetables or anything that is good for you every single day.

Eggs and vegetables to be combined for breakfast is the easiest way to ensure one gets the advantage of starting healthy early in the day, this kind of breakfast prevents from any binge eating before lunch time or even after that. Trust me.

The key is to shop for vegetables mindfully, get them cleaned and chopped in advance and be ready for a quick filling breakfast in the morning.


Here is the recipe of the day.
Spinach spring onion and feta cheese frittata.

ingredients 
(2 large servings)
 9" diameter pie dish or pan for baking the frittata (you can choose any deep dish that suits the purpose)
150 gm finely chopped spinach
200 gm finely chopped spring onion, with the bulbs
some sun dried tomatoes to taste
1 tsp minced garlic (optional)
chilli flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste
fete cheese about 50 gm crumbled
5 eggs

procedure

Whisk the eggs with the minced garlic if using and salt and pepper. Keep aside.

Grease the deep dish, spread the spinach first, press down and then spread the spring onions and the chopped sun dried tomatoes.

Pour the whisked eggs over it and then top it with crumbled feta cheese. You can use any other cheese you like. Toss in some bits of bacon or ham or even boiled and shredded chicken if you like. At this time you would notice the eggs are not visible in the dish.

Bake at 180C in preheated oven, covered with aluminium foil to prevent burning the surface. The frittata should be done in about 20 minutes, check by poking a fork if the eggs are set. You can grate some cheese over it and broil again till it melts.

The eggs will cook and fluff up, you will be able to see the cooked eggs with a rich green mosaic of the vegetables.


 And feta cheese makes plain boiled eggs quite interesting too.

I use feta over some grilled eggplant sliced to make sandwich and supplement the breakfast with boiled eggs. 


Very this sliced of bread, fat slices of eggplants, loads of greens, some feta and boiled eggs. Not much cooking involved to make a filling delicious breakfast.

And then we have boiled eggs topped with loads of this Indian style coleslaw or kachumber.


Plain boiled eggs are halved and then topped with some grated carrot, chopped coriander greens, chopped green chillies or capsicum and some chopped onions. This is drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. A simpler version of this Indian style egg salad is a common street food during north Indian winters, especially in the mountains.

Boiled egg salad with lettuce 

Another egg salad is the one that I make when we have some lettuce growing int he garden.
Some torn lettuce of choice, some thinly sliced onions, and some chopped boiled eggs. Everything is tossed with a light cream based dressing. Mix minced garlic, salt and pepper along with some mustard and whisk, add to the salad and mix lightly.


Serve immediately. This is one versatile egg salad and we keep changing the greens as per season. Some tomatoes and baby spinach also make this salad very nice.

And who doesn't like a nicely scrambled eggs?

This version is a bacon, chives and Parmesan scrambled eggs and is loaded with chopped onions and fat green chillies (mild hot).


1/2 cup minced onions sauteed with butter till brownish, some sliced fat green chillies of cubed capsicum thrown in along with chopped bacon and then some parsley and whisked eggs. Scramble, season and then grate some Parmesan over it and enjoy as it is.

Scrambled eggs with chives

The all season favourite is the chives scrambled egg.  Half a cup of chopped chives for 2-3 eggs and salt and pepper to season. I cook this scramble mostly with a tbsp of light cream or even some milk and not butter.


It turns out great every time. With a multi grain bread and ginger chai this makes a happy breakfast for us.

And talking about the egg scrambles, one of the most popular in my home is the drumstick leaves egg scramble.


We normally make it for a weekend brunch and have it with our multigrain roti. This kind of a brunch takes care of our weekends when we work in the garden or do spring cleaning of the house.

And Spanish omelets need not be too neat and nicely layered.

My Spanish omelets are mostly a mosaic of colours like this.


I saute quartered tomatoes, coloured bell peppers and some chucks of onion with some salt and pepper and then pour whisked eggs. Cover the pan and flip the omelet after a couple of minutes. This Spanish omelet is ready in about 3 minutes and serves one.

Fried eggs demand some bacon or sausages and of course some grilled vegetables. 


I grill the sausages and vegetables in a pan first, empty them all on the plate and then break the eggs in the same pan without adding any more butter to cook them. Wait till the yolk gets ready to your choice and flip them on to the plate. Eat/serve immediately.

Some mushrooms and a mix of peas, carrots and potatoes is a great change to the eggs and vegetable routine too.


This carrot and peas is mostly made pepper hot, the way I like it.

Masala omelet with stir fry vegetables 

The most common thing I do when I make a masala omelet is to throw somee chopped vegetables in the same pan and cover it for a couple of minutes, no extra fat required for this half done stir fry. My vegetables on the side of an omelet is ready to devour.


This way you get some onion, coriander leaves etc in the omelet and some more vegetables on the side.

Stir fry vegetables with soft boiled eggs

I stir fry some vegetables in a pan and boil the eggs on the other stove, quickly soft boiled eggs with warm stir fry with herbs and pepper is very comforting.


I am sure you got an idea how you can eat eggs regularly along with vegetables of your choice and still make it interesting and delicious every single day.

I will keep sharing more ideas because we eat eggs a lot. I keep sharing my meals and breakfasts on my Instagram page too, follow me there if you want more ideas.



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

organic ways of living | experiencing farm to table meals at Tijara Organic Farm

Organic farming is the future. Many of us are now realizing organic ways of living is not an isolated effort to eat clean or just go find healthy foods and ingredients at the super market. Healthy living and well being is the culmination of what all we do everyday, what we eat and from where we bring our food.


It may seem to be an insignificant part of our lives till we keep scurrying for food only when we are hungry and eat whatever we find when hungry. The picture become more clear once we start looking deeper into food and how it comes to our table.

Once we understand how the food on our tables has changed in the last 50 years we will get the answers to all the abnormal health problems our generation is facing. The way food has become a market commodity, the way food needs to be shelf stable, good looking and the exact way food has to feel and smell when the packet opens, is a testimony to what we have done to our food habits and how far we have placed our tables from the real farms.


We often don't realise that we have corrupted our taste buds to recognize fake food as tasty and satisfying, the chemical flavoring agents of packaged food being directly responsible for it. Our insulin response gets confused because of abnormal sugars being bombarded into the system frequently and the entire scenario starts disturbing the hormone cascade.

Body function is holistic, one action leads to another and starts making a chain of events which is disruptive if our lifestyle is inflammatory, it all starts with food for the body, and that leads to the changes we are causing to the planet. We don't realise we are suffocating the planet too because of our food choices, not only our own health.

I often wonder how our own health is directly related to the health of the planet and yet we keep ignoring so many things we could do right.

Time to wake up.


Getting back to the organic ways of living is not as difficult as we think. We need not give up our petrol fueled vehicles and electricity powered homes, we just have to be careful about the wastage of these limited resources and be careful about not to overburden the Earth so much that it suffocates.
One of the most important things we need to be aware of is the usage of unnecessary chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizers. 


I feel fortunate when I come across people who are trying to make a difference at a larger scale, those who are growing organic food and making it possible for people like you and me to have access to organically grown food on our tables.

When I got to know about Sneh and Tara's organic farm at Tijara (Alwar, Rajasthan) I wanted to visit the farm to learn more about the working of a farm that has adopted Biodynamic principles. I have visited the Farm a few times since then and I truly admire the work Tara and Sneh have put in.

The places where I can harvest, can cook and eat with like minded people are the best places in my experience. Sneh and Tara's farm is one such place where I wouldn't mind going back again and again.


They bought the land 6-7 years ago and started working on it to develop it into a productive Biodynamic farm. They installed solar panels, built biogas plant and built underground water channels and storage wells to equip the farm to be energy and water efficient. Rajasthan climate and soil is mostly arid and the water channels have proved their worth and more in the good and bad weather.


Sneh tells me about the time when an unusually high overnight rainfall flooded the neighboring fields for a week and destroyed their crops, while the underground water channels and wells at her farm channeled and stored all the water efficiently and prevented any loss of crop. She informs the water requirement of her farm has reduced a lot in the past years as the water channels are enriching the soil strata from within. We spotted about a dozen Kingfishers who have made nests in the walls of these wells.


They have built green houses too and grow a lot of leafy greens, herbs and exotic salad greens in it. Sneh has built a solar dehydration unit to dehydrate herbs and chillies etc. The farm has a few cows, an adorable dog named Bijli and a number of birds. Many small birds keep hiding inside the carrot beds and Bougainvillea shrubs but the Hoopoe and Kingfishers have become used to humans working on the farm.


Why I connected more with the work Sneh and Tara are doing because this is one place where one can stay for a few days, learn about how food is grown, how it is harvested and how simple yet delicious meals are prepared using fresh produce without using any packaged ingredients. Trust me it will be a good initiation into 'healthy' eating, the way one is supposed to eat naturally.


The good thing is that the couple believes in farm to table meals and promoting local Rajasthani cuisine along with some healthy contemporary options. Tara is a passionate cook who loves to make traditional Indian meals with the help of the cook. This Rajasthani style saag cooked with some sour buttermilk was made by Tara and I kept asking for leftovers later, it was so good.


On the other hand Sneh loves to experiment and makes a variety of pesto, dips and even cheeses and kefir. They make fresh juices for breakfast, fresh fruits have started appearing from the nascent fruit trees and you get something or the other freshly plucked on the breakfast table. Oh and sometimes they bring fresh pakodas from the nearby Jain temple.


They have employed a sweet lady Anita who cooks hot millet rotis on wood fired chulhas and serves them hot with butter. She is the one who milks the cows and feeds them too. There is so much variety of food you never realise it is all vegetarian food, most of the food is traditional but it will feel like a new discovery because Rajasthani food was never known beyond laal maas, kair sangri and gatte ki subzi.


At the farm stay one is always treated with something fresh and unique. The uniqueness comes with the fresh harvest that is never the same, one combines the ingredients in new ways always. Even I made a salad with whatever was available and everyone polished off even the shreds.


The salad was made with freshly harvested carrots, fresh tender knol khol, radishes, green coriander leaves and a small half ripe papaya. I made the dressing with honey, tahini, calamondin juice, garlic, bird chillies and salt n pepper.

I also cooked my favourite wilted spinach with toasted sesame for lunch one day.


The first time I went there for a photo shoot of their property, I got to know it was Tara's birthday. I baked this Ragi cake with minimal jaggery in it and the cake was baked in a ceramic pot over gas flame. These are the things you do impromptu on a farm stay.


You walk around the farms, pluck something if you like, cook by yourself or ask the cook to make something that he suggests, make some tea and relax by the green lawns. Thee guest rooms are a delight to stay in, equipped with modern facilities and pleasant interiors you get to rest well after a tiring day if you decide to volunteer at the farm.


Such places help one connect not only with nature but with oneself too. In the most unpredictable ways trust me, but the realization that simpler food habits are a key to better health. Simple food doesn't mean lesser variety of food but fresh food that is minimally processed and cooked in the most healthy ways.

Once you get the taste of such fresh food you would start thinking more about the origin of food ingredients and how it is cooked in your kitchens. Sneh and Tara's farm achieves this motive for anyone who goes there to have an experience.

Sneh brings her seasonal fresh produce, sun dried herbs and some of her pesto and cheeses to Delhi Organic Farmers Market every Sunday (at Malcha Marg community center). You can connect with her to pre-order fresh produce and herbs etc or just drop in at the farmers market and get your stuff. Go early else her stuff flies off the shelf really fast. She does CSA boxes for select customers in Gurgaon too, I like the way she uses canvas bags to send out stuff for her customers.