Nov 25, 2014

Cabbage and Carrot Thoran

Cabbage does grow all year round, but acquires its best flavours only in winter. Since cabbage is quite sweet and less pungent in these months, it is easy to include it in several dishes. I often make a cabbage soup in this chilly weather too. It actually tastes much better than we would imagine. None of the bitter, sulphurous, menacing notes to it – just some crisp sweetness and heart warming honesty. Well about the soup, later. About cabbage first.

Cabbage has most of the vitamins and minerals we need daily. It has a high content of vitamin B and C. Besides, it is also high in fibre, potassium as well as low in sodium. It is also a fair source of Omega 6 fatty acids. These point to it being an excellent vegetable for people with high blood pressure, or are pregnant, or suffering from constipation too. Cabbage has small amounts of an ‘anti nutrient’ called as ‘protease inhibitor’. This prevents proteins from being digested well in the body. Hence it is better to cook cabbage lightly and then eat. Cooking deactivates the inhibitors and improves digestion of the vegetable and the entire meal.

Stir frying cabbage is the best way to cook it. The vegetable is stripped of its anti nutrients through minimal cooking, yet, the vitamins lost by heating are reduced too. Adding carrots to this recipe is optional. I’ve just added them for extra colour.

Select cabbage that has a compact oblong head vs a flat-ish round shape. Also, if a smaller cabbage weighs more than a larger one, then you can be sure the smaller dense cabbage will taste better.

 

Cabbage Thoran

 

Now I’ll walk you through one traditional Kerala recipe. It is as simple as it gets. Thinly shredded cabbage is tossed in a seasoning of oil, mustard and curry leaves. It is salted, stir fried and finished off with fragrant coconut and green chillies. A worthy accompaniment to tangy spicy sambar or kadhi/ moar kuzhambu and steamed rice. Can be tweaked a little to work as side dish to bhakri or phulkas too.

 

Dal and Cabbage stir fry vying for attention

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Does not contain egg, gluten, soya, corn, nuts, lactose or dairy.
  • Suitable for people with lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity, or nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 15 minutes, Cooking Time – 15 minutes, Serves – 4.

You Need

Cookware – Knife, Cutting Board, Wok/Fry pan of about 4 litre capacity, metal spatula, mixer grinder,

Ingredients

  1. 1 whole cabbage weighing 800-1000gms
  2. 1/4 kg Orange/Red Carrots (optional)
  3. 2 tsp cooking oil
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  6. 1/2 tsp urad dal
  7. 10-12 curry leaves torn up
  8. 1/4 cup grated fresh coconut
  9. 2-4 green chillies depending on heat preference
  10. 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  11. 1-2 cloves garlic(optional)

To Assemble

  1. Remove outer bruised leaves of cabbage, if any, and shred/chop finely.
  2. Peel carrots and grate on the large hole of grater.
  3. Heat up oil in a wok. Season oil with mustard seeds and urad dal. Add curry leaves when the mustard crackles, and tip in the chopped vegetables.
  4. Stir fry over high heat for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of water, cover and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Open lid and mix well a couple of times in between for uniform cooking.
  5. Meanwhile, whizz the grated coconut with chillies, cumin, and garlic (if using) in a mixer to a coarse mixture. Do not add any water while grinding this.
  6. After 3-4 minutes, when the cabbage feels cooked through, yet retaining some crispness, add salt and then add the coconut mixture and fold through the stir fry well. Keep stirring over high heat, especially if using garlic, to eliminate raw odour. Remove from flame. Cover and let flavours mingle for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with steamed rice, and tomato dal, or sambar, or kadhi. I served it with a ‘Basella greens’ and tomato dal and steamed rice.

The red chilli in the dal does not taste as sinister as it looks!

A complete meal

Nov 17, 2014

Roasted Brinjal Raita / Eggplant Raita / Roasted Eggplant Dip

The best meals are often the simplest ones. Those which can be rustled up with really few ingredients, in minimum time, and deliver high on nutrition, as well as satisfaction. Quick cooking=happy eating=content tummies.

This raita is one such recipe. Besides, the dish is versatile in that it can be used in many ways. The day I made it at home, we used it as raita, dip, as well as a substitute for mayo in sandwiches! So does it taste like baba ghanoush? Well, not quite. Tzatziki? well, maybe. Punjabi Baingan Bharta? mmm, not that either.

Why don’t we  just delve in and find out? Shall we?

Chilled bowl of smoky raita

The secret to an amazing brinjal raita lies in how it is smoked. While purists will tell you to rub some oil on the skin and roast on all sides over an open flame patiently turning it over and watching lest it char beyond recognition, i am going to let you in on a secret!

Just rinse the brinjal, wipe dry, slit into four long pieces, place in a microwave safe glass bowl and cook on the highest power for 6-7 minutes. Now take each piece and roast them individually over an open flame for just a minute per piece.  Dunk them in a bowl of cold water, peel the charred skin and reserve the pulp. This whole process takes less than 15 minutes. This gives the right amount of smokiness to the pulp without being overpowering. It also frees you up to attend to the rest of the meal while it cooks in the microwave. No need to tend to it constantly. Plus a total reduction in cooking time.

Now that I have simplified it for you, go ahead and make yourself some fragrant raita/dip/sandwich filling/meal by itself.

Come and eat me!

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Does NOT contain gluten, nuts, corn, soya, eggs.
  • Has dairy in the form of skim milk curd (yoghurt). Usually tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.

Preparation Time – 15 minutes, Cooking time – 15 minutes, Serves – 4

You Need

Cookware – Knife, Cutting Board, Small Sauce pan / Tadka pan,  Bowl of 1 litre capacity.

Ingredients

  1. 1 Big Violet Brinjal/Eggplant weighing approximately 500gms
  2. 1 cup Fresh curd
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. A pinch sugar
  5. 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  6. 1 small green chilli
  7. 1/4 tsp cooking oil
  8. a pinch of asafoetida powder
  9. a few curry leaves and coriander leaves for garnish – optional

To Assemble

  1. Prepare the brinjal/ aubergine/eggplant as described earlier. To repeat – wash, wipe dry, slit along length of brinjal into 3 pieces. cook for 6-7 minutes in microwave safe glass bowl at highest power. You may add 2-3 tbsp water to the bowl to help cook without shrinking. I find this method works best for me.
  2. After this, place each piece individually over an open small flame and char the skin. Dunk all of them into a bowl of cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin off and reserve the pulp.
  3. Mash the pulp with potato masher/fork.
  4. Whip curd with sugar and salt. Add the mashed brinjal, and stir in well to combine. Raita just needs seasoning now.
  5. Prepare the seasoning by heating oil in a small sauce pan/tadka pan. Add mustard seeds, when they crackle, add slit green chilli, asafoetida powder. Switch off flame. Pour over the raita. Add the curry leaves and coriander leaves, if using, stir in and let it rest for few minutes.

Your delicious fragrant raita is ready! Serve with hot phulkas, paratha, bisi bele bhath, biryani, filling for sandwich, dip for crudites, wraps. Don’t want to make anything else? Just have it chilled. A bowlful. As it is.

Get me a bowl of this,quick!

Notes -

  • This method of cooking first and smoking next allows for a good desirable smokiness. Even agnostics of smoky flavours will find it appealing.
  • Do not omit the seasoning. It is crucial in bringing all the flavours together.
  • Some chilling will really help in elevating this simple creation. However, if you are in a hurry, don’t worry. Just dig in.

Nov 9, 2014

Chole Kachumber Salad

Hearty, nourishing, vibrant, colourful. These are the descriptions that come to my mind as I think of the salads we make often at our home. And I am talking about vegetarian salads here. No, we do not miss the meat in salads or in anything else for that matter. Actually nobody would.

If we know how to bring together a medley of textures, colours, aromas and flavours, we can create amazing fresh, healthy salads for ourselves with just about as few or as many ingredients.

Salads such as these can be rustled up and forked down with guilt-less relish. At any time of the day. As part of a meal. As a meal in itself. As a filler between meal times. As a post workout snack. As an after school snack. …

Which is why I stock some soaked and cooked beans such as mung, brown or green chana (varieties of chickpeas), rajma (red kidney beans) or lobia (black eyed beans) in my freezer. They come in handy to spruce up a salad like this one.

I am calling this as chole – kachumber salad. It also closely resembles ‘Balilah’, a salad from Middle Eastern or Moroccan cuisine which is centred around chickpeas too. Here is the recipe for my chole – kachumber  salad.

Luscious colourful salad

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Does NOT contain lactose, soya, gluten, nuts.

Preparation Time* – 15-20 minutes + 30 minutes chilling, Cooking Time – nil, Serves – 4-6.

You Need

Cookware – Steel/glass mixing bowl, Knife, Grater

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup of cooked chickpeas/kabuli chana
  2. 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  3. 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  4. 1/2 cup diced/grated cucumber**
  5. 1/2 cup grated  carrots
  6. 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  7. A few lettuce leaves torn by hand (optional)
  8. 1 tbsp chopped parsley OR 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  9. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  10. 1 tsp sesame oil
  11. Salt and pepper to season

To Assemble

  1. To make the dressing, mix salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice. Whisk well and set aside.
  2. Prepare all the vegetables as mentioned for the salad.
  3. **Peel and core the cucumber if you find it has big seeds. Then chop or grate as preferred.
  4. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, drizzle the seasoning. Add salt and pepper. Toss well.
  5. Chill for half an hour before serving.

* The preparation time is lesser only if you have cooked chana ready. Else, you may have to soak and cook ahead to use for the salad.  In that case, allow for 8 hours Soaking Time + 1 hour Cooking Time.

Single serve bowls of salad

High protein snack - chole kachumber salad

Nov 4, 2014

Mung Dal with Ash gourd

Often the food we crave for is simple, nourishing, soul satisfying food which we grew up with. Steamed rice and tempered dal is high on most people’s comfort food list. Especially when we are far away from home. Or returning to normal life after an illness. Or trying to renew the jaded palette. Or seeking a respite from a frenzied social life. Or even if we have no energy to cook and much less to venture out to eat!

Whatever may be your reason, there can be nothing easier to rustle up than a typical dal-chawal meal.(Steamed Rice+ seasoned Lentils) A meal that can be put together in as less than 30 minutes with just a handful of ingredients. If this meal also nourishes, is curative, soothing to the tummy, and alleviates gastric discomfort as well, then we do have a winner at hand, right?

Bowl of wholesome comfort

Allow me to introduce you to the humble Ash Gourd. Also known as Winter Melon, White Gourd, Wax Gourd. Quite underestimated, un-glamorous, under used vegetable in most cuisines. It is a creeper, grows easily, available at low cost through the year, cooks quickly, has a bunch of health benefits, and yet not included enough in daily meals.

In clinical studies, Ash Gourd is proven to soothe hyper acidity, heal stomach ulcers. It is used as a diuretic as well. Besides, this humble vegetable contributes plenty of easily digestible fibre, moisture. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, so useful in treatment of diabetes and obesity. It packs less than 20 calories per 100gms. So it is a weight watcher’s delight. Do we really need any more reasons to add more of this unpretentious vegetable in our meal?

If you are a single person, cook this in bulk and freeze in single use portions for simple weeknight dinners. Or halve to serve 2-3 people. Works well with phulkas, brown rice or use some pita bread to mop it up too.

Simple meal in 30 minutes

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Does NOT contain gluten, soya, egg, corn, lactose, nuts.
  • Suitable for gluten intolerance or lactose intolerant people or for people with nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 5 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 4

You Need

Cookware – Pressure Cooker of minimum 3 litre capacity, Small Saucepan, Knife, cutting board

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup diced ash gourd
  2. 3/4 cup Mung Dal
  3. Pinch of turmeric powder
  4. 1 tsp Cooking Oil
  5. 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
  6. 1/4 cup finely diced Onions
  7. 1 Green chilli (optional)
  8. 1/2 tsp Salt

To Assemble

  1. Rinse the ash gourd, peel skin, remove seeds, dice into even sized pieces. 
  2. Rinse the Mung dal in 3-4 changes of water, place the dal and ash gourd  in a suitable container, add the pinch of turmeric, fill water up to cover contents. Pressure cook on high flame until first whistle, and for 5 minutes after that over a small flame. Switch off and let cool. Open the pressure cooker only after all the pressure has released. This should take about10 minutes. (In this interim, you could rinse your rice for the meal, and set it to cook over another burner. The rice will be done by the time you have tempered the dal.)
  3. Peel onion and dice them really fine. Slit the green chilli lengthwise.
  4. Add salt to dal and set to simmer.
  5. Add oil to a small saucepan, heat it, add cumin seeds. When they crackle, add slit chilli, onions and fry over high flame until just beginning to brown.
  6. Pour the fragrant seasonings over the dal. Switch off, cover and let flavours blend for a few minutes. You may remove the green chilli and then serve too. Or omit the chilli entirely.
  7. Serve with hot steamed rice and a salad.

Enjoy your comfort food

Mung dal with steamed rice and salad

Oct 21, 2014

Ragi Chocolate Laddu

Deepawali, the festival of lights, eagerly anticipated and celebrated throughout India, is here. There is so much excitement, happiness, festivities in the air. It is also fun to run around shopping for new clothes, gifts, fire crackers.

As with most festivals, the stories behind celebrating this festival too are several. Sri Krishna killed Narakasura on this Chaturdashi day. Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after His exile after killing Ravana and freeing Sita from his evil clutch.

Whatever be the legend, the common theme is the victory of good over evil. The assurance from Divinity that evil, cruelty, jealousy and hatred do not last long. That truth, goodness and virtuous living always triumphs. A very heartening reminder in a world where the opposite seems to be true. An assurance for those who believe. A great reason to celebrate. To meet up with family, close or extended. To renew friendships, to form new ones, to look forward with hope.

So here is wishing you happiness, good health, joy in your lives!

In continuation with my efforts at finding and documenting healthy recipes, I am very happy to share with you this new attempt of mine. The nutty aroma of roasted ragi combined with seductive cocoa, taken a notch festive with fragrant ghee all come together delightfully in this healthy dessert.

Rich, fragrant Ragi Laddus

Millets are quite the rage in the diet of every health conscious person and rightly so. They are packed with several nutrients, richer in calcium, fibre and other vitamins than grains like rice or wheat. Ragi, or Finger Millet forms the staple grain of a large part of rural India. Here is my shot at making a festive dish with this humble grain. A successful undertaking, even if I say so myself. This Diwali, when you dig into this dark, mysterious confection, you can feel a tad less guilty at indulging knowing that there is this super healthy millet at its base.

Dark, handsome laddus ready!

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Does NOT contain gluten, lactose, egg, soya, peanuts, any nuts.
  • Suitable for people with gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, nut allergy.

EDITED – A reader expressed concern about using butter or ghee in this recipe for lactose intolerance. Usually ghee is digested even by people with lactose intolerance, since it is ‘fully clarified butter’, but if you are intolerant to ghee as well, do use margarine warmed in the same proportions. I have not used margarine myself, and am only suggesting it as an alternative.

Preparation time – 30 minutes, Cooking time – 5 minutes, Makes – 12 laddus

YOU NEED

Cookware – Thick bottomed fry pan, Mixer grinder, Metal spatula, Small Saucepan.

Ingredients

  1. 1 heaped cup Ragi flour (I used store bought)
  2. 1 scant cup powdered sugar
  3. 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hersheys)
  4. 1/2 tsp Vanilla essence
  5. 1/4 cup ghee (Can use melted butter too)

Method

  1. Set a thick bottomed fry pan/ skillet on fire. Dry roast the ragi flour on medium heat stirring briskly all the time. This step removes the raw flavour of the flour and gives it a good nutty tone. 2-3 minutes later, you should sense a change in aroma. The flour is then ready.
  2. Switch off flame, add in cocoa powder, mix well with ladle. Also add the powdered sugar,  and vanilla essence, and mix in thoroughly. You could use a wire whisk to mix well too.
  3. Heat up the ghee over a low flame in a different small sauce pan. If using butter, heat a similar quantity of butter for such time until you find the butter slowly changing hue to a pale gold.
  4. Drizzle this hot ghee over the ragi-sugar mixture. Mix again with ladle, and when it is of bearable heat, grab a fistful and compress using fingers to a round ball shape. The laddu can be set aside to rest when it keeps its shape. It will harden on cooling. Finish off making laddus with the rest of the mixture. Halfway through, if you find the mixture cooling and the laddu does not shape well, then warm the flour mixture gently again to help shaping the laddus.
  5. Your delicious, laddu redolent of cocoa with a hint of vanilla is ready!

DSC_3959Happy Deepawali

          HAPPY DEEPAWALI EVERYBODY. STAY HEALTHY, BE HAPPY!

Oct 16, 2014

Awadhi Food Festival @ Feast, Sheraton Bangalore

What’s in an Awadhi food festival for a vegetarian like me? This was my query when I was asked to review the Awadhi Food Festival running currently at Sheraton, Bangalore. After being assured that I would not suffer for lack of choices, I agreed, with residual misgivings though.

I need not have worried. The entire F&B team at Feast along with Visiting Chef M Rehman, had plenty in store for all – vegetarians and the non-vegetarians alike.

The Dal–Dalchini Shorba set a good expectation of what was to come. Delicately flavoured as a good shorba should be, with just that edge of cinnamon to whet the appetite. Starters followed soon enough. One with paneer and another with potato as main ingredients, finished to doneness in the tandoor. Good but not spectacular. However, the Veg Seekh Kabab was extremely well done. Fragrant, flaky, evocative of Nawabi cuisine. The Badam Doodh was refreshing, with ground almonds and notes of honey.

A basket of the amazingly fragrant Sheermal Roti and Awadhi Naan arrived. Hot, flaky, fragrant, they were delicious. It seemed a sacrilege to combine the roti with any other main dish. The Sheermal begged to be enjoyed as is.

Of the mains, I cannot talk enough about the merits of the Nawabi Baingan Bharta. While the greenish golden hue piqued my visual sensors, the sublime flavours had to be savoured to fully appreciate this masterpiece. Are you surprised that I mention elegant, sophisticated and brinjal in the same breath? Then you must try this Nawabi Baingan Bharta and you would not be! The Dal Makhani only shared its name with the famous Punjabi version. The texture, aroma were quite unique. Quite unlike any I’ve tasted so far. Another dal made with whole white urad was creamy and interesting too. The Paneer Begum Bahaar looked elegant but did not appeal to my palate. The Subz Dum Biryani was refined as well. Deft layering ensured it delivered wonderfully on flavours.

Chef RehmanNawabi Baingan Bharta

The Awadhi RepastSweet endings

Shahi Tukda and Anjeer Halwa were among the other Awadhi special desserts of the day. At the risk of sounding redundant, I have to mention that the Shahi Tukda was distinctive.

The Awadhi Food Festival is on till the 19th of October at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore. #sheratonbangalore This food festival runs along with the restaurant’s standard buffet. Coupled with the exemplary hospitality offered by staff of Sheraton, this royal feast will pamper all your senses. Be warned that all your weight loss plans will go for a royal toss. There is nothing in it for the calorie conscious. However, if you are in a mood for celebration or indulgence, would like to feel like a Nawab, do visit for this gustatory experience fit for the kings.

The Awadhi spread

Cheerful Ambience @ Feast

Oct 4, 2014

Sprouted Mung Bean Sagu

A sensible diet does not mean fasting for most part of the day. Rather it means eating smart, deriving maximum nutrition for every bite, making the right food choices. For vegetarians, a healthy diet also means an intelligent blend of cereals and proteins. You may ask why?

Egg is called a complete protein source because it contains all the 20 amino acids needed by the body.

Does that mean you lose out on the proteins if you follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet? NO!!

Nature has provided so much variety that we can easily make every meal a complete protein meal simply by smart pairing of a cereal and a legume. This is because, cereals and legumes have complementary amino acid profiles. In simple speak, cereals will supply the amino acids found missing in legumes and vice versa. By consuming both at the same meal, every time, we can compensate for the amino acids missing in each of these grains and make the meal a nourishing and strengthening one.

Power Breakfast - Idlis and Sprouts Sagu

Enter - a favourite South Indian breakfast. Rava Idlis are made with wheat semolina unlike usual idlis which are made from a rice based batter. Rava Idlis are always paired with Potato Sagu in homes and restaurants in Bangalore. In Tamil Nadu or other Southern states, the dish is usually paired with a mixed vegetable ‘kurma’, or chutney. All these dishes are great spicy accompaniments to the bland, soft rava idli.

However, I wanted to take this meal a notch up in the nutrition ladder. Looking for a protein ingredient to accompany the ‘rava’, I felt the best one would be mung bean sprouts. Several reasons for this – mung beans are a pantry staple in most homes, they sprout with little effort, are quick cooking, and lend character to any meal. Still, with great trepidation, I waited to see the reaction on my family’s faces when I served this up for breakfast. One look at them all, and I was satisfied we have a winner at hand.

I urge all of you to try this out too. Enjoy it for breakfast, brunch or even dinner. And let me know your thoughts. Here is how I made our weekend breakfast.

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Contains gluten from rava. NOT suitable for celiacs, or people with gluten sensitivity.
  • Contains buttermilk. Usually suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
  • Does NOT contain egg, corn, soya, nuts. Suitable for people with nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 30 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 4-6.

YOU NEED

Cookware – Idli steamer, Pressure Cooker, Mixer Grinder, Sauce Pan

Ingredients

For the Rava Idlis – I used an Instant Mix of Soulfull Rava Idli Mix. This was part of the goodies we received at the IFBM. Quite fresh and convenient. Mix the contents of the packet with enough sour buttermilk to make a thick pouring batter. Grease idli moulds, pour in batter and steam in a pressure cooker/idli steamer for 10-12 minutes until done.

Spongy soft Rava Idlis

For the Mung Bean Sprout Sagu

  1. 1 heaped cup Mung Bean Sprouts
  2. 1/2 cup finely chopped Onions
  3. 1/2 cup diced Tomatoes
  4. 1 tsp Ginger garlic Paste OR make a paste of a thumb size ginger piece and 2 cloves garlic
  5. 2-4 green chillies depending on your heat preference
  6. 1 tbsp khus khus (poppy seeds) soaked in hot water for half an hour
  7. 2 tbsp fresh grated coconut
  8. 1/4 cup roughly chopped green coriander leaves with stem
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1 tsp Cooking Oil
  11. 1/4 tsp Mustard seeds
  12. 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds

To Assemble

  1. Set the khus khus to soak in 1/4 cup very hot water.
  2. Rinse the sprouts, place in bowl, add 1/2 cup water and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
  3. Rinse, dice, prepare all vegetables as mentioned in ingredient list.
  4. Grind these ingredients into a smooth paste – khus, fresh coconut, green chillies, fresh coriander leaves, ginger and garlic. You can add some water to help grind too.
  5. Set a sauce pan over heat, add oil, tip in mustard and cumin to season.
  6. When they crackle, add the onions, fry till soft, then add tomatoes. Add salt, fry till tomatoes are pulpy.
  7. Pour in the cooked sprouts, add the ground paste, mix well, and simmer for 5 minutes. Do not boil on high heat. Add 1/2cup water to thin down if needed. We want a liquid dipping consistency. Check for salt. When the sagu is well blended, remove to serving bowl and enjoy with hot steaming rava idlis.

Enjoy hot breakfast with a view

Bowl of fragrant sagu