Feb 17, 2015

Korean Food festival @ Sheraton Bangalore

Korean cuisine has to be one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. An approach where food is considered as medicine, where medicine is administered only when food does not heal enough. Korean food borrows from Japanese and Chinese cuisines, more from the former, I feel. For the curious, Korean food has a refreshing flavour profile. No single dominant note, rather a judicious blend of several tastes and textures. This healthful cuisine employs ingredients such as fermented soya paste, red chilli paste, garlic, sesame oil, and the now-world-famous kimchi (fermented cabbage). Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and has more than a hundred varieties.

When invited to the preview of the Korean Food Festival currently running at Sheraton, Bangalore, I was curious to know what it holds for a vegetarian. This is what I experienced there.

The Chefs decided to do away with the familiar Korean barbeque. Instead, they showcased a whole gamut of unique dishes from the country.  The menu is cyclic for the duration of the festival, so you could go several times and still have different offerings on the menu.

We began the evening with dainty morsels of Gimbap. Gim – seaweed sheets, Bap – steamed rice. Gimbap is Korean sushi. It tastes different from Japanese sushi though, because sesame oil is used to flavour the rice. Other fillings include mushrooms, fresh carrot juliennes, greens, meats and seafood. While the menu for the evening featured exotic Korean Spicy Squid Soup and Kimchi Soup (both non-vegetarian), the visiting chefs under the expert guidance of the Executive Chef, Martin Kindleysides, took care of the vegetarians by rustling up a soothing warm soup for us too.

Is that Sushi or Gimbap? Colourful Array of GimbapThe seafood station

The visiting Chef from Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel, Mr. Link Chung, made us all a bowl of Bibimbap. Another gastronomic gift to the world from the Korean Cuisine, Bibimbap is a bowl of rice with fermented chilli paste, fermented soya paste, kimchi, sesame oil, fresh vegetables, oyster mushrooms and more.

Chef Chung with the Bibimbap he assembled for me! A view of the Korean Buffet Live Stations

We then went on to savour several other distinguishing dishes of this cuisine. Some of the unique dishes I sampled were -

Water kimchi – a winter kimchi made with fermented radishes, apples, rather like a tart-sweet vinegar, potent, cough inducing stuff. Worked well between slurps of the chilled Kong guk su which, by the way, is a bowl of boiled soy noodles topped with creamy soy broth, served chilled. Delicious!

Japchae - Sweet potato noodles stir fried with sesame oil and tossed with black fungus and fresh crunchy veggies. I could have gladly just had several bowls of this faintly sweet noodles, but then, I had the onerous job of tasting all that was on offer. So I pulled myself reluctantly away and moved on. This was my most preferred dish of the evening.

Kimchi fried rice – The vegetarian version of Kimchi fried rice tasted like Pad Thai meets Ellu Saadam/ Ellu Chitranna. good, but not out-of-the world.

Clockwise - Cold Noodles, water kimchi, japchae, Gimbap, and some salad Mouth watering Japchae Song guk su - cold noodles

Mandu – steamed dumplings. Could not sample them as they had meat fillings that day. The festival has a cyclic menu through the duration, so if you were to go, I am sure you would find vegan/vegetarian Mandu too.

We were served this hot balmy Korean Tea at the end of the dinner. Said to aid digestion, the tea was fragrant with cinnamon, and a whiff of cardamom!

Apparently, the Koreans do not have much of a sweet tooth. The desserts were very mildly sweet, if so. All save one, were rice-based. While the South Indian in me liked that, I could relish only the Songpyeon –a half moon shaped rice cake with a filling of fermented soya paste. Does this remind you of the Ganesh Chaturthi modaks?

Dessert counter song pyon - Korean Modak! The filling inside the Korean modak!

It is noteworthy that barring the seafood and meat dishes, Korean food is vegan!  It is easy to alter the mostly carnivorous cuisine to vegan requirements.

I returned with a new appreciation for a relatively unknown cuisine in India. I am certain that Korean Food will entice Bangalore with its huge expat population as well as the adventurous well-travelled Indians who live here.

The Korean Food festival is on at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore Hotel, at Brigade Gateway. Visiting Chefs Link Chan Jae Chung and Shane Yun-Gi Hong, from Sheraton Seoul D Cube City Hotel, have gone to great lengths to bring authentic Korean food to our city. If you needed more reasons apart from the cheerful ambience and the humungous spread at Feast, this food festival should help you make a decision to treat your self and family there!

Dates – 13th February to 25th February, 2015.

Frequency – Daily lunch and dinner.

Price – Lunch @ Rs. 1395+taxes and Dinner @ Rs. 1545 + taxes.

Feb 10, 2015

Nellikkai Thair Pachadi / Amla Raita

Do you know that Amla or the Indian Gooseberry has the highest Vitamin C content among all vegetables and fruits? That it has mention in ancient Sanskrit texts, is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine, and is considered a miracle fruit. Amla can be used to treat eye disorders, increase calcium absorption in the bones, help build strong bones, cure skin ailments, strengthen and nourish hair, promote hair growth, actually just about do anything healthy and nourishing for our bodies.

The Indian Gooseberry (Amla) also has known anti oxidant properties. Amla has been found to offer a full range of benefits from free radical scavenging, anti inflammatory properties, beneficial effect on diabetes.   It is also widely used for its ability to dissolve plaques in arteries, reducing serum cholesterol levels.

Studies have also shown that even preserving in brine or pickling does not reduce the availability of vitamins, especially Vitamin C. Readers may be aware that vitamins B and C are easily destroyed when food is exposed to sunlight or heat, or excess water during cooking. So excessively cooked foods or preserved foods lose their vitamin content over time. Not so with Amla. This miracle fruit continues to dole out its health benefits even when cooked or preserved.

Despite having such a wonder fruit growing in our midst, I feel people in India do not make full use of it. We are in search of that elusive magic potion sourced from deep in the Amazon forests or some wonder drug that is shipped from a Scandinavian country. While those drugs/potions/foods may be good in them selves, I ask myself and everyone reading this – Is it wise to ignore the wealth in your backyard and seek something from far away? Are the money, effort, rising fuel costs, justified?

I, for one, am going to include more of this wonder fruit ‘Amla’ in my family’s meals. I am sure all of you have recipes from different cuisines with Amla as the main ingredient. Do share your favourite recipes with Amla in the comment section below.

Here is one simple, really quick, tongue tickling recipe with Amla. Perks up any meal and loads you up with its nutrients. Go on. Try it out.

Luminous Amla

ALLERGY INFORMATION

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

Preparation Time – 10 minutes, Cooking Time – 5 minutes, Serves – 4-6

You Need -

Cookware – Small wok, Mixer grinder

Ingredients -

  1. 4-5 Amla fruits
  2. 2 tbsp fresh grated coconut
  3. 3-4 green chillies
  4. 1/2 cup skim milk curd
  5. 1/4 tsp salt

For Seasoning -

  1. 1/4 tsp oil
  2. a pinch mustard seeds
  3. a pinch fenugreek seeds
  4. a pinch asafoetida
  5. 3 curry leaves
  6. 1/2 red chilli (optional)

Method -

  1. Rinse the Amla well. Cut incisions along the segments. Pull out the flesh and discard the seeds.
  2. Grind along with coconut, green chilli, and part of the curd to make a paste. Grind more than a coarse paste but stop short of a fine paste.  Add the rest of the measured curd and whip along with the paste.
  3. Heat oil in a small wok/kadai/fry pan.
  4. Add ingredients for seasoning in order. When mustard crackles, pour in the ground mixture, and add salt. Simmer until the liquid foams up.  Do not boil this mixture. Keep stirring over medium heat for it to cook lightly.
  5. Remove to serving bowl and enjoy with hot phulkas,  or steamed rice, a dal and some stir fried vegetables.

Quick Amla Raita

 

Jan 24, 2015

Methi (No)Malai Matar

Some days are different. In a lazy luxurious kind of way. Some days when the routine is banal, when the mundane will just not cut it. Days when we linger just a little longer in bed, luxuriate in the bath, indulge in a hot tea while soaking in the morning sun. I am sure you have these days in your life too.

Such days call for a special meal. A rich, creamy, sinful dish around which a deeply satisfying repast can be planned. Today was such a day. A day to be extravagant, yet sensible. A day to savor. Time to gratify the tongue, body and soul with gastronomic hedonism, yet, not feel the pain of sin later. Time for another recipe to get the Healthy Slurps tweak.

Before you wonder any more, let me share this winner of a recipe with you. Winter is a season of amazing variety of produce in India. Fresh green peas are an irresistible part of this season. Every year, I buy fresh green peas in bulk, shell them, and freeze to use later through the year. After gorging on them in various avatars through the winter, that is. Punjabi and other North Indian cuisines have several dishes with peas as the star ingredient. Of these, I have been wanting to try this Methi Malai Matar for a long time. Translated from Hindi, it means a gravy/curry of fragrant fenugreek leaves and green peas laced generously with fresh cream. I could never bring myself to add cream in the quantities mentioned in most recipes. I just had to find a good healthier substitute.

Today, the idea just presented itself and I went along with the inner flow. The result was a rhapsody of aromas, flavours, an appearance that was alluring and beckoned us to the dining table! Substituting skim milk curd/yoghurt for cream was a fitting idea. The almond meal also added to the richness and added to the good fats in the meal. I prefer almonds over cashews to thicken a gravy as the former has a better fatty acid profile. In plain speak, it means, almonds have more heart-healthy fats than cashew nuts have.

The dish gets done in 4 simple steps. Soak the almonds in warm milk. Fry all ingredients for grinding. Grind along with almonds.  Simmer chopped fenugreek leaves with the gravy. Add boiled peas, season, and the dish is ready!

I am so happy to share this recipe with all of you. So here goes -

Fragrant Fenugreek married to Perky Peas!

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Does NOT contain corn, soya, gluten.
  • Suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
  • Contains lactose from milk. Those with lactose intolerance can substitute milk with same volume of water in the recipe.
  • Contains nuts. Those with nut allergy can substitute almond in the recipe with pureed silken tofu.

Preparation Time – 15-20 minutes, Cooking Time – 20-25 minutes, Serves – 4-6.

You Need -

Cookware – Saute pan, Small saucepan/Glass bowl, Mixer grinder

Ingredients -

  1. 3/4 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  2. 2 cups loosely packed fenugreek leaves ( Methi saag)
  3. 1/4 cup almond meal OR 2 tbsp whole almonds powdered with skin OR 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu
  4. 1/2 cup skim milk OR 1/2 cup water
  5. 1 heaped tsp salt
  6. 1 cup skim milk yoghurt
  7. 1 tbsp grated jaggery Or sugar (optional)

To fry and grind -

  1. 1 heaped cup chopped onions
  2. 3-4 tomatoes
  3. 2 tbsp chopped ginger
  4. 2-3 garlic cloves
  5. 2-3 green chillies depending on heat preference
  6. 1 inch stick of cinnamon
  7. 3 cloves
  8. 2 green cardamom pods
  9. 1/4 cup chopped green coriander leaves
  10. 1 tbsp cooking oil

Method -

  1. If you have whole almonds, soak in measured warm milk OR measured warm water(use warm water if you have lactose intolerance). If you have almond meal, soak those in warm milk too. Set aside. If you have nut allergy, omit the almonds, thaw the silken tofu, puree and set aside.
  2. Heat a fry pan, add oil, toss in the chopped onions, saute for a minute. Then tip in the chopped ginger and peeled garlic. Fry another minute. When the onions take on a light pink tone, add the chopped tomatoes. Also stir in the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Fry over a medium flame. Do not brown the onions. After 3-4 minutes of frying, when the tomatoes look slightly mushy, take off the flame.
  3. Grind this mixture along with chopped coriander leaves, and the soaking almonds+milk/water, or the pureed tofu. Blend to a smooth paste.
  4. Return this blend to the first fry pan, and set to simmer again.
  5. Chop the cleaned fenugreek leaves finely and add to the simmering sauce. Add 1/4 cup water if too thick and let the greens simmer in the sauce for 3-4 minutes. Stir in between to avoid charring at the bottom.
  6. Meanwhile boil the fresh or frozen green peas over stove top or microwave. Cover the peas with 1/2 cup water and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft and cooked. Add this cooked peas along with any remaining cooking water to the simmering sauce too.
  7. Add salt, sugar, curd, and mix in well. Bring to boil over medium heat. Switch off and let the gravy rest for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Serve warm with phulka/kulcha/pita bread/jeera rice/any mild pulao/pilaf. i served it with fragrant jeera rice and a carrot salad.

A satisfying repast

Creamy rich Methi Malai Matar minus the guilt 

Jan 17, 2015

Instant Gojju Avalakki / Beaten Rice with Tamarind Sauce / Aval Puliodharai / Attukulu Pulihora

Gojju Avalakki is a popular breakfast dish in Karnataka. It packs health and flavour in big measure. Each family has their own version of the recipe. Mallika makes a weekend favourite breakfast out of this humble beaten rice at her blog Veg bowl. Sailu’s Kitchen makes it with a different technique at her space.
While I make this breakfast dish similarly at our home too, I find the soaking time a deterrent when I need an instant breakfast on somedays. And then, I discovered an instant method of making the same dish minus the soaking and waiting time. Traditional recipes require a soaking time of at least half an hour prior to seasoning and cooking. In this method, I have eliminated the soaking time completely. Who can say no to 30 whole minutes saved in the morning rush hour, or at any time of the day!
Excited, I felt this new method has to be documented for my own reference as well as for all my dear readers. For, what is a discovery if not shared with all, correct? Well, here goes.
Do you know that the humble beaten rice is a powerhouse of health? Poha or beaten rice has 20 times more Iron than white rice, and double its Calcium, besides having higher Potassium and fibre content too. So if you were to substitute a cup of  raw rice with a cup of poha/beaten rice, you have made a very smart choice in increasing the nutrient density of your meal! Not to mention it is an easy substitute for rice too. With near zero cooking time, beaten rice also has a similar taste profile as rice, making the replacement fuss free. Did I mention it is naturally gluten free as well?
Well, what are we waiting for? Ah yes, the recipe. I forgot that I’ve not shared it with you yet. Here it is.
Notice the texture of the ground poha
ALLERGY INFORMATION
  • Does NOT contain gluten, soya, corn, eggs, lactose.
  • Contains peanuts in this recipe. Not suitable for people with nut allergy.
Cooking time – 15 minutes, Preparation time – 15 minutes, Serves – 4-6.
You Need -
Cookware - Mixer grinder, large wok with fitting lid
Ingredients -
  1. 3 cups ‘medium thick’ poha/ aval/avalakki/beaten rice
  2. 2 tbsp cooking oil
  3. 2-3 tbsp raw peanuts
  4. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  5. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder  
  6. a pinch asafoetida powder
  7. 2 tsp jaggery powder
  8. 1/2 tsp salt
  9. 1 tsp sambhar powder (MTR or any brand or home made)
  10. 2 tbsp MTR Puliotharai Powder ( Puliogare Powder)
  11. 1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh water
  12. fresh coriander leaves to garnish (optional, though highly recommended)
Method -
  1. Powder dry aval/poha in several batches in a mixer grinder. To do this effectively, fill about half cupful of aval in the mixer, pulse for a few times until it resembles coarse rawa.  Remove to a bowl. Repeat until all the aval has been ground in this way. Set aside. Take care so you do not over do it and end up with aval powder. We need some texture to the dish.
  2. Heat cooking oil in a large wok. Add peanuts to it and fry until lightly browned. Do not burn the peanuts, keep stirring. When the peanuts are giving out a fried aroma, add mustard seeds, turmeric, asafoetida, jaggery, salt, sambhar powder and puliotharai powder to the oil. Stir over medium heat. Add 1/2 –3/4 cup water and simmer until the mixture is homogenous.
  3. Now tip in the powdered aval, mix well. Sprinkle the water all around the wok, stir well, cover and simmer on the lowest heat possible for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, taste the mixture, adjust seasonings if needed. You may sprinkle some more water if the aval does not feel soft enough.
  4. Stir in the chopped coriander leaves, cover and switch off flame. Let the contents rest for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, toss and fluff up the aval puliotharai and serve with thick probiotic curd. Serve at breakfast or as an anytime snack.
  5. Only aval/poha with medium thickness can be made in this way. Thick aval needs longer soaking time. Do not use thick aval for this recipe.
Anytime healthy snack

Jan 8, 2015

Mysore Pepper Rasam

The nippy afternoons and cold nights are a great time to warm the innards of body and soul with steaming hot soups. A few days ago, I had two people in the family with a running nose and cough. Just the right time to stir up some peppery, tangy, rasam. Every region has its own signature soup. Rasam is ‘the go-to soup’ of most South Indians when nursing a fever or cold. It features prominently in the menu for convalescents and nursing moms too. Well, even if you do not belong to any of these categories, you can still enjoy a hot mug of this delicious ambrosia.

I learnt this recipe for Mysore Rasam from my sister in law, Geeta. She is as creative in the kitchen as with her poetry. A truly inspiring person. We had this hot rasam at their home paired with steamed rice and a runner beans stir fry. Fond memories of that meal still linger, long after. Special people and some meals have that effect on us, don’t you agree? Well, I just had to recreate this at our home. Here, I have added extra pepper to suit our requirement. Everything else remains the same as Geeta’s rasam. Balmy, soothing, tangy, fragrant, instant comforter of stuffed noses and reliever of misery. Go on, make some for yourself.

Mysore rasam is unique in that it uses dry coconut apart from regular spices. Besides, the spices are always freshly roasted and ground. The effort of roasting fresh spices, grinding them and adding that magical powder to the rasam makes the end result so worth it.

The magic potion that cures all ills!

ALLERGY INFORMATION

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

Preparation time –10 minutes, Cooking time – 35 minutes, Serves - 4-6

You Need -

Cookware - Pressure cooker of 2 or 3 litre capacity, 1 Sauce pan/stew pot/steel pot of at least 5 litre capacity, 1 smaller steel pot, mixer grinder/coffee grinder, colander, Small ‘tadka’ pan or fry pan.

Ingredients -

FOR POWDER  Ingredients for Rasam Powder

  1. 1 tbsp Coriander seeds (Dhania/Sabut dhania/Malli verai/Kothambri beeja)
  2. 1/2 tbsp Cumin seeds (Jeera, Jeerige, Jeeragam, Jeelakara)
  3. 1 tsp heaped Black Pepper
  4. 1/2 tsp heaped Fenugreek seeds (Methi dana/Menthulu/Menthiam/Menthya)
  5. 1/4 tsp heaped dry coconut (copra) grated
  6. 5-6 Curry leaves
  7. 1/4 tsp ghee (clarified butter) OR 1/4 tsp cooking oil for vegan

FOR RASAM

  1. 1/4 cup Tuvar dal (split pigeon peas)
  2. 2 tbsp Tamarind paste OR pulp and juice extracted* from 3 tbsp packed tamarind
  3. 2 medium Roma or Vine tomatoes
  4. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  5. 1 tsp salt (more if needed)
  6. 1 tsp jaggery/sugar/brown sugar (optional)
  7. a pinch of asafoetida
  8. 2 tbsp chopped coriander

FOR SEASONING

  1. 1 tsp ghee (clarified butter) OR 1 tsp cooking oil for vegan
  2. 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  3. 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  5. a few curry leaves
  6. a pinch asafoetida

Method

  1. Rinse the tuvar dal, place in a suitable container that fits inside the pressure cooker. Top the dal with double the volume of water, and pressure cook for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release on its own. If you do not have a pressure cooker, rinse the dal, place in a saucepan with 3 times volume of water. Bring to boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Check if it is cooked. The grains should be mash-able between 2 fingers. Else, top up with more water as needed and cook until done.
  2. * To extract tamarind water, soak 3 tbsp packed tamarind in 1 cup warm water. After 10 minutes, rub the tamarind with fingers to extract juice. Sieve the juice into another container. Repeat once or twice more with half a cup of water each time. Collect this tamarind juice and use in recipe. Discard the pulp and fibre or seeds.
  3. Measure all ingredients for the Powder. Fry with the ghee over a medium to low flame. Keep stirring to avoid burning. Remove to a mixer when they are golden brown in colour and begin to smell fragrant. Powder to a fine texture.
  4. Chop tomatoes. Place all the ingredients (except tuvar dal and chopped coriander) mentioned under ‘Rasam’ in a saucepan, set to boil on stove top. Once it comes to a boil, simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Mash the cooked tuvar dal well. You could use a potato masher, or electric churner for this. Mix this into the simmering rasam. Add water  to thin down if needed. We are looking for a thin soup consistency.
  6. Add ghee to a small saucepan. Heat with the ingredients for ‘Seasoning’. When mustard splutters, pour over the simmering soup. Add the chopped coriander and remove from stove. Cover and set aside for the seasonings to infuse.
  7. Pour into mugs and enjoy warm/hot with a piece of crusty bread. Or ladle onto steamed rice and eat with a crunchy papad or a crispy stir fried vegetable curry.

Piping hot Mysore Pepper Rasam with crunchy papads

,,

Jan 7, 2015

Of New Year Resolutions

Hello and Happy New Year to all! May 2015 bring you closer to your dreams, give you comfort and company of loved ones, fetch greater happiness than ever before.

For several years, I bucked the trend of making New Year resolutions. I felt making resolutions at New Year’s time are a sure way to not follow up on them. How many of us have not gone through the soda water effervescence of well meaning, lofty-intentioned un-attainable goals of New Year resolutions only to break them even before the month ends?

So, this year, instead of setting such impossible goals for this year, I thought of a different approach. Have a few, simple, defined goals and try to meet them, one month at a time. Set goals only for January. Continue with them for the next month if you feel they are relevant, doable. Then move on to the next month and the next goals.

For starters, how about an indulgent, doable goal such as “Enjoy your food daily’'. On the face of it, this sounds like, well, not even a goal. But pause to think, and you will find more meaning to it.

People of my parents’ generation were born either soon after the Second World War or around Indian Independence. (1939 – 45 – 47) Food was scarce, living conditions frugal, people were happy with a couple of simple meals in a day. Such Spartan existence also brought out qualities like gratitude, contentment, sharing whatever we had, setting aside for the tomorrow. Folks of my parents’ generation are usually like this. They enjoy every meal with gusto, relish every mouthful and arise sated fully in body and spirit.

I feel, we should take a lesson from this. Be happy for the hot meal in front of us. Be thankful for the nourishment it gives us. Be grateful to the farmers who toil in the hot sun daily for us.

Enjoy each meal. Eat with all your senses.

Cherish the experience of eating. Create a peaceful ambience at the table.

Be in the present while eating your meal. Do not be distracted by other seemingly pressing tasks.

Smile or talk politely to fellow diners. Be thankful for the meal.

Relish the colour that each ingredient brings to the dish. Savour the texture in every bite, inhale the aromas of the food. Be mindful of each mouthful.  Appreciate whatever you can about the meal.

Do you think that by doing these, we could enjoy every meal better? Can we, in this manner, enjoy our food daily? Do you think this is a good goal to achieve in January?

What are the goals you have set for yourself? I would like to hear from everyone. Please share in the comments box below.

Dec 29, 2014

Hot Chocolate – the gift of the Gods.

If there is one thing a cold winter evening is synonymous with, it has to be a steaming mug of hot chocolate. All of us have our special ways to enjoy hot chocolate, be it sprinkled with salt, some cinnamon powder, topped with cream, marshmallows, or many, many more combinations.

Or, you can enjoy hot chocolate with minimal ingredients. Let the pure notes of cocoa hit like a wave, wash your palate and soul with its soothing aromas and lull you into soporific contentment. Add to this a heart warming book, and a crackling fireplace, and the picture is complete.

It does help to know that cocoa has been shown to have multiple health benefits. The flavanols present in cocoa are responsible for initiating a complex set of chemical reactions. This lends several protective effects to the body, such as, improvement in endothelial function, (useful in keeping arteries healthy) improvement in platelet health and also exerts beneficial influence on blood pressure, blood lipids as well as insulin resistance. Research findings also point to the type of cocoa that has the maximum benefits. It is the dark chocolate which is most useful followed by cocoa powder.

Any wonder then, that liquid cocoa was called ‘Theo broma’ – the drink of the Gods? So, this winter, let’s raise a toast to this dark, alluring,  liquid which is a gift from the Gods themselves. Who are we to decline their Blessings!

Milk chocolate or white chocolate do not create any of these desired chemical changes in the body. So to derive the best advantage that cocoa has to offer, be sure to indulge in a small piece of the darkest chocolate you can find. Hey wait, does that mean you can eat chocolate daily? Yes and no. Yes to the darkest chocolate bar you can find. Best would be one with 70% or 80% cocoa. Yes to eating a small piece of this daily. How small? Well, about a thumb size piece is fine. No to eating uncontrolled amounts. No to a sugar overload from eating sweet chocolate. Cocoa does not have sugar, but chocolate has.  Remember this, while indulging.

If finding such a chocolate bar is not possible, despair not. Cocoa powder offers some of the advantages of dark chocolate. So go ahead and make yourself a mug of steaming hot cocoa to drink up.

At our home, we like hot chocolate made with just natural unsweetened cocoa powder. Some steamed milk to carry it off and sugar to sweeten the deal for the children. A teeny-weeny drop of vanilla extract to elevate the drink to heavens. Call me a purist, but any cream added seems to take away from delivering that punch. Any other added flavour a deterrent to enjoying pure cocoa bliss. This is how we nurse our favourite winter beverage.

How do you down yours? I would love to hear from all of you. Do write in with your favourite recipes of hot chocolate.

Care to share a mug of hot chocolate with me?

ALLERGY INFORMATION

  • Contains lactose from milk. People with lactose intolerance can substitute almond or soya milk instead of dairy milk in this recipe.
  • Does NOT contain gluten. I used Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa powder. This product does not have gluten. Check labels if you are using any other cocoa powder or drinking chocolate.

Preparation Time – 2 minutes, Cooking Time – 5 minutes, Serves – 2.

You Need

Cookware – 2 Small saucepans, spoon, 2 mugs to serve

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups skim milk
  2. 3-4 tsp Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  3. 1-2 tsp sugar. Use as per taste.
  4. 2 drops vanilla extract

Steamy, foamy hot chocolate

Method

  1. Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. In a different pan, add the cocoa powder and sugar. Stir to remove lumps. Tip in the vanilla extract.
  3. Pour in the boiling milk into the saucepan with cocoa+sugar mixture. Stir well with a spoon. If you want some theatrical action, you can mix the beverage by pouring the milk back and forth between the two saucepans as rapidly as you can. Without spilling, of course.
  4. Pour into 2 mugs, put your feet up and relax. Enjoy the steaming mug of hot ‘Theo-broma’.

Winter evenings and hot chocolate go together..