Friday, April 15, 2016

Thai green papaya salad (Som Tam) made 2 ways


Green papaya is one of the most useful ingredients when you think about cleansing your system. Some people swear by the efficacy of green papaya so much that they eat boiled and mashed green papaya for it's cleansing properties.

The enzyme found in green papaya is called Papain and is a powerful exfoliating agent for skin. I used to make body scrubs using raw papaya when I was younger and have found it really good for the purpose. I will share the recipe sometime soon.


We love green papaya and make parathas with it. The raw papaya and carrot raita is a recipe I keep repeating every season. I have been making Som Tam every season too and have been loving it but when I saw Chef Yenjai of Neung Roi making green papaya salad using a large wooden mortar and pestle I realized what was missing from my recipe. This papaya salad (Som Tam) needs to be muddled a little with the dressing to get the best taste. Earlier I used to fuss about getting Thai bird chillies and fish sauce and what not, now I just muddle and let the everyday ingredients turn into a delicious salad.

For authentic recipe of Som Tam you can refer to this page. 

But honestly speaking I have one exotic ingredient that proves really useful when making this salad and that is dry shrimps. I had brought very good quality dry shrimp from Goa a few years ago and that is still keeping well. It is used in such minimal quantity that it lasts forever. But if you don't have that or if you want a vegetarian version of this salad you can brown some onions and use them instead. I can't think of a better substitute for dry shrimps.

Thai green papaya salad (Som Tam)

green papaya and carrot salad
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ingredients (for 2 large servings) 

2 cups grated green papaya (after peeling and removing seeds)
1 cup grated summer carrots
handful of chopped green onions leaves, chopped into long shreds
1/2 cup sprouted mung beans or moth (adzuki beans)
6-8 cherry tomatoes halved (optional, I rarely use them now) 
3-4 tbsp of chopped roasted cashews (or peanuts)

to make the dressing 
a generous pinch of dry shrimps (to your taste)
2 fat cloves of garlic
3-4 leaves of Thai basil (or some fresh dhaniya patta or even mint)
1-2 dry red chillies (depending on how hot you like the salad)
1 tbsp powder jaggery or whatever type you have (palm jaggery or molasses is the best)
1/4 tsp salt
dash of soy sauce
2 tsp apple cider vinegar or brown natural vinegar or lime juice
1 tsp oil (I have used mustard, olive and sesame and find them all good)

procedure 

Heat the oil and add the red chillies and dry shrimps to it. Cook for a couple of seconds till the chillies and dry shrimps sizzle and emanate the shrimp aroma. This aroma may not feel good but trust me it translates to great taste in the final salad. Take care not to burn the ingredients.

Transfer this fried dry shrimp and red chilies to a mortar and pestle add all the other dressing ingredients and muddle lightly. Add half of the grated papaya to the pestle and thrash some more to muddle the salad. It will be better if your instrument is bigger so you can muddle all the grated salad ingredients together. I generally pour the contents of the mortar and pestle into the salad bowl and muddle again for a while so the grated papaya and carrots get macerated a little.

Thai green papaya salad (Som Tam)

Sprinkle with chopped nuts and serve right away.

I make it a little hot and both of us eat this salad from the same bowl mostly, always fighting for the last few shreds. The salad is that good. Sometimes I pack it for Arvind's lunch box and I feel grateful that he started liking salads.

green papaya salad with Sauerkraut 
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Adding Sauerkraut to this green papaya salad was the most amazing ideas that came to me. Trust me this version is so good you will start making Sauerkraut just for this salad of nothing else.

Just replace the summer carrots with sauerkraut, chopped finely if you wish for better distribution through the salad. 

Thai green papaya salad (Som Tam) with sauerkraut

The dressing remains the same for this version too. In fact this dressing is so good you could make the same salad with shredded cabbage too.

You could add steamed beans to this salad if you wish. I generally chop the green beans or yard long beans (lobiya) into very thin shreds (slanted cuts) and add it to this salad. Using a little more sprouts is also good if you wish.

Hope you will try these salads with green (raw) papaya and share your feedback with me.

Making salads without the salad green is so much easier if you ask me. You don;t have to worry about how crisp or fresh the lettuce is. Making summer salads is fun if you find out what you like and play with textures and flavours a bit..




Sunday, April 10, 2016

a healthy parfait made from scratch | caramelisd Fox nuts and Mango yogurt parfait


Parfaits are easiest to assemble and so versatile. You can fill up a huge goblet and call it breakfast or serve in small glasses and pretend it is dessert. Fruit and yogurt based desserts are our favourite anyways. Some light ingredient like popped Amaranth or Fox nut makes parfait so much better if you ask me.

That popped Amaranth and Mulberry jam yogurt parfait is a keeper and works well with any fruit preserve but using fresh fruit is always a great idea. Mango and Banana being the best suited for fresh fruit parfaits if you are not using imported berries in India, the season of Mangoes makes things easier for me. 

Caramelised Fox nut and Mango yogurt parfait

I make this parfait with lightly roasted Poha too, this recipe of Mango granola parfait is another favourite. If you love using poha in a bit innovative way you would love this Mango and poha salad that works really well as a breakfast or snack depending or serving size. Mango couscous salad makes a meal if you like mango like we do.

The Mango Feta insalata is our recipe when we want to make the meal glamorous.

mango dishes

Dahi chooda and aam (Mango) is a favorite summer breakfast of many people back home. We make it with bananas too but whenever I tried Fox nuts (makhana) to replace Chiwda (poha) in the recipe I was very happy with the result. We get nicely roasted Foxnuts made into sattu (instant cereal) in Banaras and when I tried the recipe first with store bought popped Fox nuts I broke them into bits to get the same effect and it tasted great.

Recently I tried the parfait with caramelized fox nuts or meethey makhane and this was the best version. The caramelized makhanas soak up the yogurt so nicely you feel like eating a soft light miniature dumpling in the parfait. The result was so good I decided to share it here.

ingredients
(serves 2 for breakfast)

2 mangoes peeled and cubed (the best mangoes you can find)
500 ml cultured yogurt (frozen if you wish, I like chilled)
1 tbsp honey or 1/4 cup fresh mango pureed
about a cup of caramelized makhana

Tall glasses or goblets to serve

Procedure

You can make the caramelized makhana instantly as this recipe takes about 4-5 minutes.

Whip the yogurt with honey or fresh mango puree and keep chilled. Using chilled yogurt makes it instant to eat.

Layer the caramelized makhana, mango cubes and yogurt in layers and serve immediately.

caramelisd Fox nuts and Mango yogurt parfait

This parfait will leaves people wanting for more trust me. Fruit based yogurt desserts are the healthiest if you are not drowning them in sugar. You can use a little bit of sugar to sweeten the yogurt if you don't like honey.

Note that this mango fox nut parfait is suitable for Navratri fasting too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Taste of Korea


It is always great to try out new cuisines and new flavours. Oriental cuisines have been of particular interest for me because of the interesting uses of Soybeans, Mung starch, Sea weeds and their fermented foods. And if such a cuisine is being showcased somewhere close by I am always game for it.

Latest Recipe, the all day dining restaurant at Le Meridien Gurgaon is hosting a Taste of Korea festival from 1st to 17th April and it is a great opportunity to go experience the real flavours. In fact it is quite far for me and yet I made an effort to go and interact with Chef Wang who has put together the menu. Chef Wang is Korean and has come especially to curate this festival at the hotel and this is his first India visit. It was a bit difficult to communicate with him because he doesn't know much English but he is quite a sweet person and kept answering all my queries about the food and the cuisine.

The first thing that caught my fancy was a thick slurry like black sesame soup and Chef explained that it was made with sesame and sticky rice. A bit sweet and a bit salty, this sticky porridge like soup became one of the best finds for me. I tried and liked the kimchi stew too.


I was interested in knowing more about kimchi and how he has made it. Chef informed me that since the aged Kimchi is a cultivated taste and it takes long time to make it, he has made water kimchi (Nabak kimchi) with radish, carrots and green onions etc. Napa kimchi was also there with visible red chilli paste but it wasn't hot for Indian palate. I loved both types of Kimchi and it was really good to see real kimchi being served even if it was a quick version.


The Korean menu is being served as a buffet and there are cold and hot stations along with a live Bibimbap station, a live grill and Shaved ice station that is quite interesting. Some street foods are also showcased and that is where you will get everything that tickles your taste buds and makes you happy. I quite liked the Seafood stir fried rice cake, the kimchi pancakes and the Stuffed peppers from the street food station.


My favourite was the spicy marinated crab which was actually hot and sweet and jelly like in texture. Spicy fried chicken was also almost same flavours and must have been a popular dish.

Bibimbap was recommended by Chef Wang and we liked it, though it was not our favourite from the menu. I loved the steamed Dumplings with pork and kimchi more.

From the cold station I loved the variety of Gimbap and Mung bean jelly salad. Interesting use of ingredients and wonderful flavours though a little bland but I like tasting the elemental flavours.


The pork belly and Lamb chops from the grill station were both very well done.

The dessert station had some drinks that I loved. A cinnamon punch and a sweet rice punch both were really interesting. The sweet rice dumpling with nuts and jujubes was like a miniature modak but different in taste. The Fried cake was like our sugar coated fried pastry, Sesame puff was actually like sesame brittle that we already love.

The most interesting dessert was shaved ice with a sweet bean jelly served with bits of assorted fruits. It was the most interesting use of soybeans and something that I would like to experiment sometime soon. Although I am not sure this kind of a dessert will be accepted by Indian palate but I love it when hotels have the conviction to serve something so authentic in it's real form.

If you love Korean food you must go and experience it and find a way to talk to Chef Wang before 17th of April.




Saturday, April 2, 2016

2 recipes of carrots and peas salad | making summer salads without salad greens


Seasons change and we get beautiful new produce to eat. Nature has provided us with plenty of fresh produce to choose from every season. How boring life would be if we keep eating similar produce all year round and there is nothing new to eat in the new season? Sometimes we feel bad when we don't get our favourite produce like strawberries have stopped coming now and all types of Lettuce has stopped coming in the local markets.

Here is how the last of strawberries looked from my garden this year.


Now that winter retreated rather unceremoniously and spring has been unruly hot, summer is already in my backyard.Thankfully I have some of my other favourites in season now and the vegetable markets are still looking great.


The summer carrots are here, some beets with their beautiful greens can be seen almost always and the last green peas of the season are still around the corner. Beets and their greens are available all year round because beets are biennial plants and survive the seasons well. There is a barrage of gourd family vegetables that I love eating all through summer.

 My Rucola plants are giving me some greens for my salads.

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So when I heard a farmer friend lamenting about how some of her regular patrons want her to keep growing salad greens all year round, I was aghast how some people are unaware of the season's wealth that they can get all year round. Why we don't want to embrace new flavours in new season?

The salads can be different and yet delicious. Here I am sharing two salads with summer carrots and peas with some added seasonal greens or herbs. There is always a way to make salads with anything you have in season. 

Warm Carrot and Peas salad with Garden cress and Peanuts 
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This is a salad that can be eaten warm or at room temperature. I often make it in the morning to pack for Arvind's lunch box and my own bowl of lunch that I end up eating without reheating most of the times. The salad is quick to make, takes about 15 minutes as chopping the carrots doesn'ttake much time really.

ingredients 
(2 large servings)

400 gm summer carrots, sliced thinly
100-10 gm green peas
2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
2 tsp butter or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic
a good sprinkling of red pepper flakes
dash of balsamic vinegar or any vinegar you like
1 tsp honey if the carrots are not naturally sweet
salt and pepper to taste
handfull of chopped garden cress leaves (or good old dhaniya patta or any herb you like)

procedure 

Heat the butter and minced garlic together and wait till it start bubbling up. No need to cook the garlic.

Tip in the peas and carrot slices together, add salt, mix well and cover to cook on low flame for 5 minutes. If the peas are not tender you should boil them in advance. You can also use boiled chickpeas or green mung sprouts into this salad instead of peas.

Do not cook for more than 5 minutes, the carrots shouldn't get mushy and should retain a bite. 

Take it off the stove, add the vinegar and honey, adjust seasoning and transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle crushed peanuts and chopped herb and serve as desired.

Carrot Peas and Feta cheese salad with pomegranate seeds 
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This is a fresh salad and tastes really good at room temperature or even chilled. It is truly a summer salad as mint and pomegranate give it a very refreshing feel.

ingredients 
(2 large servings)

400 gm fresh summer carrots sliced thinly
100 gm fresh tender steamed peas
pomegranate seeds from one large pomegranate
80-100 gm Feta cheese chopped in small bits
handful of fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp crushed lemon grass bulb or a little zest of lime
2 tsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

procedure 

Mix everything together except feta and give it a good toss. Sprinkle feta over it and lightly mix.

Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

This salad is quite a surprise in its flavours when chilled. The citrus flavours with mint and pomegranate seeds is a great combination and the salty smooth bits of feta give it a nice texture.

You can use thickly grated carrots for this salad too. Adding some crushed walnuts also makes this salad really good and filling. 

I normally use home made Feta cheese for my salads but this time it was sent by Sneh Yadav who runs Tijara Farm. The Feta was quite nice and not too salty as I see many Feta cheeses from the market are. She makes organic cheeses and this Feta costs 250 Rs for 200 gm pack.

The Garden cress leaves were also sent by Tijara Farm. Garden cress has a peppery taste similar to mustard micro greens and I liked it a lot. I should start making some Garden cress micro greens too.  


There are many more salads on this blog that can be made during summer.
Here is a list of some of the summer salads on this blog.

Pomelo and beets salad,
Mango and feta insalata,
Pumpkin warm salad,
Apple peach walnuts salad with feta, Green mango salad,
Red cabbage and Ripe Papaya salad with Thai sesame dressing,
warm salad with carrots and sweet potatoes,
Lotus stem and red peppers warm salad
several Beetroot salads
Carrot beets pomegranate salad
Poriyal style warm salads
Warm Oriental salad with lotus stem
Pear Rucola walnuts salad 
Salad and salsa with peaches 
Raw mango and carrots slaw
Tomato paneer and garlic chives salad
Green beans and potato salad
sprouts salad with Amaranth greens and raw mango  

Do let me know if you try any of these summer salads. We rally don't have to depend on lettuce and other salad greens to make salads in summer months.




Getafix Cafe | healthy options for everyone


I like it when people start a food business with a certain understanding of the 'food' rather than going for a saleable product that can sell by applying marketing tactics. One can't serve good food without an understanding of the cuisine being served or the specific type of food that becomes the USP of the restaurant. I am a big fan of regional cuisines of India being served by it's own people and cuisines of the world too when the Chef or the restaurant owner has had some experience of the cuisine.

In fact I love the street foods being served the old fashioned way as I find the traditional street foods are way more healthier than the chain restaurants where food is assembled months ahead, comes frozen to the outlet and is fried or cooked mostly in vegetable oils or hydrogenated fats. It is better not to talk about how the multinational chains treat the ingredients to make the texture and colour desirable, the chemicals used for taste enhancing are scary if you dig deeper.

Don't you think it is far better to get Gol gappa from the corner of the street if you really want something of that type? We can always make friends with our neighborhood samosa chap and motivate him to use better cooking oils etc. Many traditional street foods like Shakarkandi ki chaat (sweet potato chaat), boiled corn on the cob, grilled corn on the cob rubbed with lime and rock salt, Jhal mudi and even the current rage Momos etc are actually quite healthy compared to KFC chicken or Burgers, Pizzas and Donuts from multinational chains. I think there is a great potential for the street food to become more organized, more varied, seasonal and hygienic so that people have more choices when eating out.

Some Cafes are filling the gap meanwhile. Recently I discovered Getafix Cafe in GK-1 that is the brainchild of a health conscious brother-sister duo Anandita and Dhruv Chawla, and they have focused on serving chemical free healthy food cooked with minimal oil. You know my ears will be perked up hearing chemical free healthy food and when I went there to see if they rally serve healthy food I was glad to see the commitment they have regarding making everything from scratch.

Yes they make all their dips and sauces from scratch though I felt they need a little bit of fine tuning in that area. Their breads are baked by someone trusted and have a higher percentage of whole grains.

But hey how good is it to know that a restaurant is not relying on industrially manufactured sauces and dips? Anandita told me they are trying to make tomato ketchup now as people ask for tomato ketchup with many dishes they serve. I know how obsessed some people are with tomato ketchup :-)


 I liked the variety of fruit juices (slow pressed, with fiber) and smoothies they have. Names like Cran-Peary, Just Beet it and Yell-O sound really good and the Granny Smith's fix that I tried was really nice.


I tried and loved the Thai salad. It was very close to my favourite version of Thai Pomelo and lettuce salad. Going by this I feel the other salads on the menu would also be really good.

Fish and chips was surprisingly good even though it was air fried. Crisp but a little dry crust and flaky moist interiors of the fish 'fry' was quite interesting.

I tried the quinoa burger and the grilled fish burger and I recommend eating them hot as they start feeling dry after they get cold, air frying to blame but that is a necessary evil when you want to serve healthy food. I liked the grilled fish burger more as it had enough pickled cabbage to keep it moist and juicy. The quinoa burger felt a bit dry but the taste is good.

The dips served with most dishes could have been better and I conveyed my concern about the same to them.


The breakfast platters are worth trying, they serve a few all day breakfast options too. It was interesting to see that they 'air fry' their burger patties and fish and chips as well. Hand cut potato wedges are quite nice when you eat them hot.

With a good mix of sandwiches, pizzas and even hand rolled pastas I think it is a good mix of stuff that people love eating when they go out. The mix mushroom Thai pasta with peanut butter sauce was really good. I had got it packed and it tasted good even when reheated though it got a little clumpy but again the homely wholesome feel of hand rolled pasta was worth it. I would recommend you stick to the wonderful salads they make if you are watching your carb intake or share the pasta with friends or family and get a large salad for yourself.

Desserts are made with minimal butter and sugar as I was informed. A very rustic homemade feel to the desserts is not bad I would say. Arvind liked the desserts but I would prefer skipping desserts if I am trying to eat healthy. They serve some nice teas and coffee too.

Overall I feel there are a few areas where a bit of fine tuning is needed. Like I would have liked a little better dips with the burgers and fish n chips, the pickles with burgers could also be better but the whole idea of making things from scratch is wonderful and I wish them best. Fixing a few minor things no big deal, sticking to the core USP of serving healthy is commendable in such a competitive market. 

I think they should open more cafes like this in other parts of the town too. They are already doing home deliveries and I think more people need such Cafes in the city.