Sunday, November 27, 2016

sesame almond laddu | mixed seeds and nuts protein snack


Sesame laddu or til ka laddu is a traditional snack that we have grown up eating every winter. Sesame is great for winters and it is considered warming for the body. This calcium, iron and potassium rich seed is a convenient and cheap way to supplement these minerals.

sesame almond laddu

During the last few months I have been having sesame laddus regularly to heal my bones and joints. Initially my finger and wrist joints were so bad I could not even think of making these laddus because working with a ladle and shaping the laddus by using hands was not possible at all. Those early days I depended on the sesame chutney that my house help used to make for us.

We consumed insane amount of coconut water to hydrate ourselves during the first month. There was lot of haldi doodh and healing rasam made and consumed that helped me manage the pain better.

My doctor advised that the pain and stiffness will stay for the duration it is meant to be but it can be made manageable by healing foods and some physiotherapy. This approach worked actually, even though I was baffled with all the disability it brought along.

So as soon as I was able to handle a ladle and a hot kadhai (wok), I made the sesame laddu. This time it was supplemented with a few more seeds and even some grated turmeric along with ginger, some nutmeg and some pepper powder was added to make the healing process faster.  It definitely gave me energy as I was feeling completely sapped of all energy for the longest time.

ingredients 

500 gm sesame seeds
250 gm flax seeds meal (powdered coarsely)
250 gm chopped almonds raw (add some walnuts too if you like, I added to the first batch I made)
200 gm chia seeds
50 gm dry ginger powder or 200 gm grated fresh ginger
5 gm pepper powder
2 tbsp grated fresh turmeric 
little bit of nutmeg powder
600 gm jaggery (use a little more if you feel it wont bind well)
150 ml water

sesame almond laddu

procedure 

To make the process a bit easy on my hands I baked the chopped almonds and sesame seeds in the oven. Spread on a baking tray it took 20 minutes at 180 C. The flax seeds were roasted lightly in a pan before being powdered.

Mix all dry ingredients and keep aside.

Mix the jaggery and water in a pan and heat till the jaggery melts. Strain the melted jaggery in a large kadhai and place it on the gas stove. Start simmering the jaggery syrup with the grated turmeric and grated ginger if using and keep cooking till it starts frothing and there is a shine in the syrup.

You can test it by dropping a little syrup in a bowl full of cold water. If the syrup makes a ball it is ready, if it dissolves it needs some more cooking.

Now dunk the dry ingredients together in the kadhai and mix quickly and thoroughly. Let it cool till you can handle the mix. Shape into laddus once cool enough. Grease you hands with ghee to prevent the mix sticking to your palms.

If you are in a hurry you can spread the mix on a greased baking tray and press down completely. Let it set and then cut into desired shapes.

sesame almond laddu

I realised while shaping the laddus using hot mixture my finger joints relieved a bit as it worked similar to fomentation.Small joints were the worst affected and it was good to see some improvement happening just by making these laddus. I made really large laddus this time to ensure there is lesser work to do and we eat enough seeds mix this way everyday.

We have been having the laddu everyday and I have already made 2 large batches since then. I will make a few more batches this winter as I know we can't ignore our health at all.

This sesame and mixed nut and seeds laddu actually is a nice protein dense supplement of minerals and omega3s. Make it this winter if you are into heavy workouts or there is some joint discomfort.

Consult your doctor to diagnose your condition first, ask if these ingredients are safe and then you can get it made and consume regularly. Prevention is better than cure, but correct diagnosis is a prerequisite to cure and healing.

Cheers.



Monday, November 21, 2016

wholewheat date walnut tray bake (no sugar added), a rich mildly spiced cake sweetened with dates


I rarely bake cakes but winters come with the excuse of keeping the kitchen warm. Also, who doesn't like nice and warm aromas of  something being baked in the kitchen? This is the time I keep looking for opportunities to bake some cake to be shared with someone or to be taken somewhere as we don't eat much cake at home.

wholewheat date walnut tray bake

So this time when we visited our friends at Tijara farm I thought of baking a dates and walnut cake without added sugar as one of our hosts is diabetic and everyone else likes lightly sweetened desserts. The liberal use of nuts and whole wheat makes this cake low glycemic too.

It happens quite often that I end up adding some flavours to the cake just for the sake of making my kitchen smell warm and cozy. This lightly spiced dates and walnut cake made using whole wheat flour was a result of one such impulsive moment when I added garam masala along with rum to the cake batter, the result was so good I wanted to bring back a few slices for ourselves, to be enjoyed later.

Usually I bake such cakes in a loaf tin but I realised I need to bake a larger cake so I decided to make it a tray bake. Baking it in a tray helps get a wider crust in each piece of cake, a very important feature in whole grain cakes with chopped nuts as the crumb can be really crumbly sometimes when sliced out of a loaf cake.So even if you decide to bake this cake in a loaf tin, keep the height of the cake less.

ingredients 
(makes a large cake that serves 12-15 people)

good quality soft dates, seeds removed 350 gm
rum 50 ml (optional)
whole wheat flour (atta) 320 gm (2 cups +3 tbsp)
baking powder 1 tbsp
baking soda (soda bi carb or meetha soda) 1 tsp
butter 250 gm (melted at room temperature) oil can also be used
eggs 6
vanilla extract 1 tbsp
walnuts 200 gm (I used a mix of almonds and walnuts)
special garam masala 1/2 tsp (optional, note that this is not a regular garam masala, check link)

baking tray (9"x12" size) 

wholewheat date walnut tray bake

procedure

Chop the dates so they distribute well in the batter. If the dates are hard ones you can soak and make a paste. It shouldn't get too loose as it affects the consistency of the cake batter. It should be a thick jam like consistency.You can use ready made date paste if you wish.

Mix the rum with date paste if using. Keep aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and garam masala to the flour and use a whisk to mix well. You can sieve the whole mix to ensure better mixing. Keep aside.

wholewheat date walnut tray bake

Mix the eggs with melted butter (room temperature or 25-30 C) and whisk till it becomes creamy smooth. Add vanilla extract and the date paste and whisk again and let the date paste loosen to make the mix smooth.

Now add 1/3 the flour mix and whisk to mix, fold in the remaining flour mix in two parts till the mix becomes a thick batter with a consistency of muffin batter.

Fold in 2/3 of the chopped nuts and spread the batter in a baking tray (9"X12"). Pat down to smooth the surface, sprinkle remaining nuts and press a little.

Bake in a preheated oven at 170C for 40 minutes.

wholewheat date walnut tray bake

Let the tray bake cool down completely before cutting squares. Use a sharp knife pressing down (not sliding across) to cut pieces as the crumb of this cake is quite delicate and the pieces of nuts cause some breakage if you are not careful.

You can store the cake in an airtight cake box and refrigerate for 2 weeks or so. At room temperature it stays for 3 days.

Serve at room temperature or warm as per choice.

wholewheat date walnut tray bake

You might like it warm with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup if serving for dessert and plain with hot milk if it is a part of breakfast. But the cake tastes great even at room temperature in this season.

I had baked this cake for a gathering where most people like lightly sweetened desserts and everyone had it without any sweet additives apart from a child who didn't take second helping.

With any such lightly sweetened dessert, I would recommend taking at least 2 bites before deciding to top it with honey, or syrup, as once the palate starts recognizing the natural sweetness the added sweetener will not be required.

PS : Since I mentioned that this cake recipe is suitable for diabetics too, I must clear the fact that the use of eggs and nuts makes this recipe low on Glycemic Index. Else dates are not suitable for all diabetics even in a cake like this. So if you are tweaking this recipe and substituting eggs with a replacement or if you use lesser amount of nuts, please do not consider it suitable for diabetics.


Friday, November 18, 2016

black sesame pudding made from scratch | how to make heavy cream from Mother Dairy Premium milk


Black sesame is one of my favourite flavours and there are a few dessert recipes that I have been planning to make for ages. One is a sticky laddu that my mother makes and another is an ice cream that we love at The metropolitan Hotel, this black sesame pudding was made a few times but in slightly different ways.

You would know what I mean by calling black sesame as a flavour when you eat this. Promise.

homemade black sesame pudding

I think I have found my perfect recipe of black sesame pudding and even the perfect way to serve it. The pudding is lightly sweetened, is topped with whipped cream (made from scratch) and a sprinkling of chopped candied cranberries and candied ginger. All winter flavours.

Oh yes, I said "home made" heavy cream that whips like a dream, that stays stiff for more than 8 hours at room temperature (26-17 C day time temperature right now in Delhi) and tastes pure and delicious, just like real cream should taste.

Did you know the market is replete with non dairy whipping cream loaded with trans fats? Almost all bakers use that cheap whipping cream because dairy based real whipping cream is hard to come by in India. Whipping cream contains 30-35% fat and heavy cream has up to 40% or even more. While whipping cream whips well to be used as a topping or cake frosting, heavy cream sets really well as a frosting and stays as is for longer. 

More reasons to make heavy cream from scratch at home. I know you would be surprised when I tell you how easy it is to make heavy cream at home and that too from whole milk. The newly launched Premium milk from Mother Dairy makes it even more easy even for beginner cooks.

You know how we simmer the milk for a few minutes even if we get pasteurized milk that can be used directly out of its packaging. Yes it is a cultural habit that we don't use and store milk that has not been simmered for a while. This habit of refrigerating milk after simmering for a while can be of help while making whipping cream.

Take a look how I do it.

home made whipping cream

The milk is emptied into a stock pot and simmered, then it is refrigerated overnight. We observe that all the fat content accumulates on top that we call as Malai, see how it looks in the top right picture. The same malai can be used to make whipping cream if you take care of measurements. It takes just 5 minutes once you have the refrigerated premium milk. Any dessert malai maar ke is our way.

ingredients 
 2 Liters of Premium Mother Dairy milk

equipments 
a stockpot or deep pan to simmer the milk
a  glass bowl of 2 liter capacity to whip the cream (keep it chilled into the refrigerator)
a wire whisk

procedure 

Empty the milk into the stockpot and place on gas stove to heat up. Lower the heat once it reaches boiling point and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Cool down the milk and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.

Separate the malai (coagulated cream on top) in a measuring cup along with some thick milk on top, it should be 300 ml total volume so it makes heavy cream of about 46% fat content. If you collect 400 ml from the top layer it will result into whipping cream of 35% fat content. Simple mathematics.

Now transfer the malai into the chilled glass bowl and start whipping. In less than 5 minutes you have the perfectly whipped cream that can be used directly or mixed with icing sugar for any purpose.

Note that you can refrigerate the premium milk even without heating, the resultant whipping or heavy cream will be as good. I am recommending heated milk as we anyway store the milk this way, so the whipping cream recipe becomes simpler to follow any time.

For 2 Liters of Premium milk from Mother Dairy (7% fat) you get enough whipping cream to frost a cake or to top 6-8 portions of this black sesame pudding.

black sesame pudding made from scratch

black sesame pudding recipe 
(minimally adapted from here)

ingredients 
(3-4 servings)

3 tbsp black sesame seeds
300 ml whole milk
2 tbsp sugar or honey
3/4 tsp or 1 tsp gelatin powder, depending on how firm you want the pudding. I used 3/4 tsp
1 tbsp water

candied cranberries and candied ginger
whipped cream (unsweetened)

procedure 
(takes only 10 minutes of active cooking time)


Soak the gelatin in 1 tbsp water. Keep aside.

Rinse the black sesame seeds and drain. Make a paste in blender adding 5 ml milk at a time, helping it make a smooth creamy paste.

Transfer this paste into a pan along with the milk and sugar. Heat till it boils. Take the pan off heat and add the bloomed gelatin. Whisk well to mix.

Pour into serving bowls or glasses. Chill for 2 hours before serving. The pudding keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Top with a quenelle or smooth blob of whipped cream on top. Sprinkle generously with chopped candied cranberries and candied ginger.

black sesame pudding made from scratch

It is a soft set pudding that jiggles when you scoop with a spoon. Keep some extra whipped cream and cranberry ginger topping on the table so one can go bonkers with black sesame pudding.

This black sesame pudding is smooth textured and nutty in flavor with a slight bitter aftertaste that actually works in its favour. The candied tidbits add great texture to the black sesame pudding and act as little bombs of flavour that explode in between.

black sesame pudding made from scratch

Now that we have mastered the whipping cream and heavy cream, why not make some white butter too.

After all the same malai is used a little differently to make cultured white butter that we have loved since our childhood.

Here is how you can make the cultured white butter from scratch.

homemade cultured white butter

Starting from step 3 of the heavy cream procedure, collect the malai from top of the chilled milk, mix with active yogurt culture and let it set overnight at the kitchen counter, at room temperature. In summers it takes only a couple of hours, but you need to chill it again before making white butter.

In winters you can whip the cultured cream (sour cream) with a wire whisk directly for 3-4 minutes (for cultured cream from 2 L milk) and get white butter instantly when needed. Of course Mother Dairy Premium milk yields more white butter for the same effort.

cultured buttermilk and white butter

You get some cultured buttermilk as a byproduct when you collect the white butter from top. Collect the white butter in another bowl and press it down to separate all the buttermilk from it. This buttermilk is so delicious you might want to make white butter for the sake of this flavourful buttermilk too.

Use this white butter to top your parathas, soups or dals or for baking cakes and cookies.  



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

a chutney to supplement Calcium, Iron and antioxidants | drumstick leaves-kachri-sesame chutney or dip for everyday nourishment


Using easily available local produce for making everyday food nourishing and tasty is the greatest favour we do for ourselves and for the planet. Each drive to the market leaves a dent on the carbon footprint and each leaf growing nearby could undo the same.

And no, I am not being a snob locavore here. I do cook a lot of food with things growing around me and I believe in walking to my neighborhood markets to buy the everyday food and grocery. We often don't realise that it is the least significant everyday chores and choices that define our green habits, or otherwise.

Of course we have to travel long distances too for work and even for entertainment but everyday food is managed mostly by a weekly shopping of fruits and vegetables and walking to neighborhood stores for other groceries. Some exotic stuff is bought from faraway corners of the country when we travel.

Like I had bought a large bag of sun dried kachri when I visited Bikaner for work this summer. Kachri is a wonderful resource of nutrients that grows wild in the vast deserts of Rajasthan and like a weed in Punjab. It is foraged and used either fresh or is sun dried to be used in various preparations.

fresh kachri

The other names of this vegetables are Chibad, Sane and Kaachar in various parts of north India. Sun dried kachri is powdered to be used as a souring agent and also as a meat tenderiser especially for game meat which gets cooked in pits.

Chutneys can be made with either fresh or dried kachri. The sun dried kachri chutney has been shared earlier too but this time the recipe serves a bigger purpose. 

sun dried kachri

Yes the purpose this time was to make the chutney suitable as a supplement too that takes care of the healing our bodies need after the Chik-V sickness. I used drumstick (Moringa) and curry leaves from my garden and added sesame seeds for the added calcium boost, kachri itself has good amount of proteins, calcium and even OMG3s in the seeds, the resultant chutney was quite delicious and smooth textured. It was actually smooth enough to be used as a dip for crackers, crudites and even as a sandwich spread.

Drumstick leaves are traditionally used for joint health and curry patta or curry leaves are very rich in Iron and minerals along with enough Vit C to make everything absorbed well. Addition of lime juice or tamarind serves the purpose of making the minerals readily available for the system too.

drumstick leaves-kachri-sesame chutney or dip for everyday nourishment

Make this chutney rich in garlic flavours if you like but keep the chilli heat milder so you can consume more chutney with one meal.

ingredients 
(makes about 500 gm chutney) 

150 gm drumstick (moringa) leaves
50 gm curry leaves (about 15-20 mature strings of leaves)
200 gm sesame seeds
a dozen or more fat garlic cloves
dry red chillies to taste
50 gm sun dried kachri or 100 or more fresh kachri 
a little tamarind extract or lime juice to balance flavours
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp sesame oil or any other oil of choice
salt to taste

procedure 

Steam the drumstick leaves till soft. Keep aside.

Lightly roast the sesame seeds and keep aside

Heat the oil, add hing and peppercorns and wait till they turn aromatic. Add the Garlic followed by clean dry curry leaves and saute till the leaves get aromatic too. Add this to steamed drumstick leaves.

Now mix everything together and make a smooth paste, adding a little water as required. Add the tamarind extract or lime juice slowly to balance the flavours.

Serve the chutney or dip as required. We kept having a small bowl of this chutney with every meal for some time till I was able to make some sesame laddus for ourselves.

Here it is served with red amaranth leaves and red lentil savoury pancake.  

drumstick leaves-kachri-sesame chutney or dip for everyday nourishment drumstick leaves-kachri-sesame chutney or dip for everyday nourishment

Thankfully we had someone who could follow instructions and cook for us.

These healing foods have helped a lot to heal our joints and even muscle and nerve damage. Chik-V took a toll in a way we had never imagined. But we must be grateful for the nourishing plants growing around us so eating healthy was not as difficult as it could get possibly.

Do try this chutney recipe to supplement calcium, iron and even OMG3s in everyday diet. Have it regularly if there has been an acute illness, else it can be included once in a wile. Another such chutney rich in calcium and iron has been shared that serves the same purpose but the recipe is a bit elaborate.

I have shared these recipes with many friends and family members already and have got great feedback. Please share a line or two if you try these chutneys. Use them as dips or sandwich spread as per choice.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

recipe of chickpeas salad in a fresh green pepper salad dressing


Boiled chickpeas in the fridge is a great convenience always. It can be made into a curry with mixing whatever vegetables one finds in the fridge if needed but my motive always is to be able to get a nice filling salad without much effort.

While I do believe in slow cooked warm meals, I feel it is equally important to get filling nourishing meals even if one is strapped for time. Chickpeas make sense on both counts as they are slow cooked from scratch by soaking dry chickpeas and then cooking them till soft. After this the refrigerated cooked chickpeas can make an instant meal by combining a few more ingredients.


Chickpea salads have been my go to meals many times.

This chickpea salad is made with refrigerated boiled potatoes, and some olives along with rucola from the garden. One can add fresh mint or coriander leaves or whatever is available.

The most interesting part of this salad is the green peppercorn salad dressing that can be made and bottled for a couple of weeks together. This dressing can even be made to last a year with minor adjustments in ingredients. This is one salad dressing that packs a hot punch.

Green peppers are not very easy to come by but whenever you get them you can make a batch. If you don't have any chance of getting green peppers you can soak black peppers in water overnight, crush them lightly in the morning and make the dressing using that. The green peppercorns impart a fresh flavour though.

recipe of chickpeas salad in a green pepper salad dressing

green pepper salad dressing
(sufficient for using several times)

4 tbsp green peppercorns (or soaked black peppercorns)
2-3 tbsp minced garlic (more the better)
1 tbsp minced green chillies (hot or mild depending on taste)
1 tsp lime zest (scrape fresh Indian limes to collect the zest)
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or any other vinegar of choice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (Or use cold pressed Indian mustard oil)

Mix everything together and fill into a glass jar. Use as required.

chickpea salad 
(2 servings)

1.5 cup boiled chickpeas
1/2 cup diced boiled potatoes
about a dozen olives of choice (I used pimento stuffed olives)
leafy greens of choice ( I used rucola from my garden)
1 tbsp of the above salad dressing

Toss everything together, adjust seasoning and serve. This salad tastes great at room temperature and stays well for 5-6 hours at room temperature so it is a great choice for lunch boxes too.

You can add some diced cucumbers to the salad to add more texture. I avoid tomatoes with this dressing normally but you can go ahead and add those too if you wish.

Earlier last month we were visiting a coffee estate where I am working on the menu and food for their upcoming resort. I will share more information later but the pepper vines at the estate were a delight to see. We clicked some birds perching on those vines and wondered if they eat the hot peppercorns.

recipe of chickpeas salad in a green pepper salad dressing

I was reminded of this green pepper salad dressing when I saw the pepper vines growing luxuriously at the coffee estate that is located in Palani hills of the southern state Tamilnadu.

Few months ago I had procured green peppers with great difficulty for a photography project and had made the dressing in bulk with the leftover green peppers. I had been using the dressing in so many ways too but never got around to sharing it here. Green peppers are easily available in some places as I have seen them being sold by the kilo in Chennai markets a few years ago.

Make good use of the green peppercorns if you find them easily. I will share an easy pickled green peppers too and that pickle can also be used to make salad dressing and can be added to salads as an ingredient too.

If you sun dry the mature green peppercorns they become black peppercorns.