18 December 2016

Good fat is good

          I am a believer of balanced diet in every way. I aim to take the goodness of the foods we have and eat everything in balanced proportions. A common habit of most people I have seen is to completely avoid a certain food just because of their perception that it's bad.
          Take cholesterol for eg, the minute the fear of blood cholesterol is instilled in one's mind, the first thing they do is turn away from ghee, butter and oil, especially the former. Likewise with sugar. Sadly though, the same elements make way into their diet through other foods they consume!! The trick is to not avoid but to balance, to work out the ideal proportions to have a bit of everything.
          Any machinery to work well and last long needs proper lubrication. Then why must the most complex machinery of all, the human body be devoid of the same? We all need energy, starch in itself is not bad, the source needs to be good.
          The case of Palm Oil has been similar. Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) arranged a meet to help us understand the mixed perceptions around Palm Oil; facts that our sub-conscious may have heard and registered at some point but faded with time.
           We were given some exhaustive insights into the benefits of Palm Oil by Ms Bhavna Shah, Country Head, MPOC India and Dr. Meena Mehta, well-known nutritionist. Quite a few myths were broken during the session and Q&A that followed.
 Ms. Bhavna Shah
Dr. Meena Mehta
          The usage of Palm oil in cooking has faded in most households in time, what many have not realised is that the same oil makes way into our every day life in one form or the other. Consider this....Palm oil and/or Palm Kernel Oil is/are used in the making of Margarine, vanaspati ghee, soaps, and some personal care products too; Sodium Laureth Sulfate or SLES which is the detergent or surfactant element in most soaps, shampoos and other foaming products is derived from Palm Kernel oil.
Here are a few lesser known facts about Palm Oil :

- Palm Oil is the world's first certified sustainable vegetable oil.
- The Oil Palm tree has a life of nearly 25 years and has one of the highest yields compared to other crops considered for oil production such as, Sunflower, safflower and so on.
- The Oil Palm is known to have comparatively lower water footprint than the Olive trees for eg.
- It is odourless and flavourless, and has a comparatively longer shelf life.
- Palm oil also contributes to the Green revolution by playing its part in bio diesel production
- It has higher content of Vit A &  Vit E tocotrienols (which are also powerful anti-oxidants) than any other plant-based oil.
- Palm oil is resistant to spoilage, are stable at high heat and also trans-fat free.
- Above all, this oil is found to have balanced effects on blood cholesterol levels.

           Now that we see people questioning food practices, aiming to debunk myths and eat what's best, the myths surrounding palm oil need demystifying too. As for availability in India, well known group Adani-Wilmar is rated the largest manufacturer of palm oil in India. At the end of the day, it isnt about which oil is the best. The point is to do away with misconceptions. With Palm oil being a part of our life in so many other invisible ways, it needs to find its way back into our kitchens too!

Note : MPOC is a Malaysia-based organisation that aims to improve understanding of Palm oil, encourage the product diversification and most importantly, seek to clarify the myths and misconceptions surrounding Palm Oil.
You can read more about them at http://www.mpoc.org.in/ and also follow their social media updates at : @thinkpalmoil (Twitter) and MPOC (Facebook)
Last but not the least, there was a sumptuous lunch spread courtesy Vivanta by Taj that marked a perfect end to the session. It was an enjoyable afternoon as much for the enlightenment as for time spent with fellow foodies!

13 December 2016

Pumpkin stew

A simple pumpkin stew for the days when you want to ..well, just keep it simple!

Ingredients :
White Pumpkin/Petha - 250 gms
Red Pumpkin/Kaddu - 250 gms
Coconut bits - 1/2 cup
Green chili - 1 large or 2 medium
Cumin seeds/Jeera - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

For tempering :
Coconut oil - 2 tsps
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Black gram/ Urad dal - 1/2 tsp

Method :
1. Wash and dice the pumpkins separately.
2. Add the white pumpkin to a saucepan with 1-2 cups water and turmeric powder and let cook till 3/4th tender.
3. Meanwhile grind the coconut bits, green chili(s) and cumin seeds to a fine paste.
4. Now add the red pumpkin to the saucepan and let cook till it's done as well.
5. Stir in the ground paste and add salt to taste. Let simmer for about 7-8 minutes. Remove.
6. Prepare tempering by heating coconut oil, adding mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves. Add to the stew and stir once.
Serve with rice, rotis or even Aappams.

17 November 2016

The Diabetic Food Trail - 2nd Edition

           The word diet in itself has to be one of the most miscontrued terms in the culinary dictionary. It's broadly defined as a particular selection of food by people based on their eating and health preferences. But the explanation I liked best was in Wikipedia - "use of specific intake of nutrition for health or weight-management reasons..." the key word being nutrition here, not deprivation.
             When invited to be a part of the Britannia Nutri Choice Essentials Diabetic Food Trail on the 13th and 14th Nov in Bengaluru, I instantly made up my mind to attend. It was more the inquisitiveness to learn healthier recipes and food habits than to find out what not to eat. The brain child of Manoj and Seema Pinto, the DFT has tied up with 200+ restaurants in 5 cities and also partnered with Fitternity, Health & Nutrition and Burrp.
             It was the Masterclass at Anjappar's on 14th Nov that I attended, an extra special attraction being Chef Irfan Pabaney of The Sassy Spoon (Bandra) fame!
            There were presentations by representatives from the event sponsors, Britannia and Biocon. It was interesting to learn about the Britannia Nutri Choice Diabetic Friendly biscuits having been launched on World Diabetes Day and how they were designed to be on-the-go snacks for diabetics. 
            There was also a brief session by the well-known nutritionist Geetha, which I especially found interesting. A no-fuss eater like me could easily identify with her nutrition theories. As per Geetha, it is more important to eat a combination of different foods that give us the best of everything. It's a misconception to completely avoid certain types of foods. Carbohydrates for eg, provide the body with energy and we all need that!! So keeping the source of starch healthy is as important as the cooking method too.

              This was followed by the much-awaited master class by Chef Irfan, who with his simple and down-to-earth attitude had us all floored! He prepared 2 dishes - A warm Curried Quinoa salad with vegetables and Roasted Pumpkin and Brown rice risotto with Cherry Tomato seasoning (recipes given below)

           Being pressed for time I unfortunately had to give the subsequent Masterclass sessions a miss. But there was much I took away with me this day. It's all really in the mind isn't it. Being just a little extra mindful of what we eat, how we eat and how often we eat can go a long way in shaping our food-style and eventually our life-style. Way better than over-complicating Dos and Donts and getting into minute never-ending nutrition details.
And most importantly, be on the move, exercise where and when you can and give food a chance to burn out and serve us better!!
And here are the recipes (courtesy Diabetic Food Trail)......

Olive oil                 2 tsp
Cumin, toasted & crushed ½ tsp
Ginger, finely chopped        ½ tsp
Spring onion whites, chopped 2 tbsp
Boiled Quinoa         50 gms
Madras curry powder 1-2 tsps
Salt                 to taste 
Pepper         to taste
Celery, chopped        1 tsp
Chili flakes         a pinch
Zucchini, grilled & cubed         50 gms
Mint, roughly chopped 1 tbsp
Prawns, peeled and deveined 150 gm (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. 
2. Add the ginger, onions, zucchini, chili flakes and sauté. 
3. Add the celery, pawns, curry powder and cumin. Sauté. 
4. Add the cooked quinoa, salt n pepper and toss really well. 
5. Garnish with the mint.

Brown rice, boiled          70 gms
Yellow pepper         60 gms
Pumpkin                 200 gms
Sage - fresh         6-8 leaves
Olive oil                 2 tsps + 2 tsps
Garlic         1 tsp
Cherry tomatoes          6-8 pcs
Curry leaf                 6-8 leaves
Red cabbage - chiffonade 50 gms
Parmesan          10 gms
Salt                 to taste
Pepper          to taste
Vegetable stock

1. Peel the pumpkin, cube and roast with the yellow pepper after drizzling with a little olive oil and sage. Set aside half the roasted pumpkin for use later. Puree the other half with the roasted peppers and set aside. 
2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and sauté. Add the red cabbage and stir well. Add the rice and toss well. 
3. Add salt and pepper followed by a little vegetable stock. Continue cooking. Add the pureed pumpkin and peppers. Mix well, and finally add the parmesan cheese. Mix well and transfer to a serving dish.

4. In a separate pan, heat some olive oil, add the curry leaves and the cherry tomatoes. Make sure the tomatoes blister. Season well and serve on top of the risotto along with the roasted pumpkin chunks we kept aside.

14 October 2016

Remembering the forgotten food

          In this food-obsessed world, we all need a detox from time to time. Millets, often known as the poor man's rice, is making its presence felt in the mainstream cuisines and how!
I have heard many culinary fables from my mother, who grew up in a village and was fortunate to have experienced, first-hand, not just healthy food, but healthy way of cooking, a healthy way of life...Now that we are rediscovering healthier alternatives to refined stuff, it's indeed a welcome break to have a place like The Green Path Organic Multi-cuisine restaurant in the city.
Located on SC Road, diagonally opposite the Mantri Mall in Malleswaram, the building is quite easy to spot, and has decent car-parking space. (Heads-up, reach there early, for the parking gets filled up pretty quick).
There are 3 levels, ground floor houses the welcome area, a decently-stocked Organic goods shop and a mini cafeteria. The first level has a mini hall and the second floor has the restaurant split into 2 parts - one serves buffet meals, the other catering to a-la carte(or so it seemed).
The lunch buffet that we went to was quite a sumptuous spread. Starting with the millets Pizza and moving on to the buffet offerings with the traditional and healthy Nachinunde, Akki roti, Navane (Foxtail millet)Bisibele Bath, wheat dosa and much much more and last but not the least, the Oh so tempting Dessert platter, one felt like a kid in a toy-shop!!
You are allowed to indulge because it's all healthy!!
Veg Pizza made with millet flour
A humble tomato pizza
Beetroot shorba
Millet breads..
Spicy and delicious Biryani
The grand lunch spread!!

Dessertssssssss. Starting from top left, whole wheat & Jaggery Brownies, Coriander and Jaggery laddoo, Carrot Halwa, Coconut Phirni, Lemongrass Pannacotta, a raw cake, selection of Ice-cream - Jackfruit, Mango and Millet (you heard that right!!)
Pleasant decor and comfortable seating

Roof garden + Nursery

The Green Path - Forgotten Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

15 September 2016

Tomato-Onion Thokku

This is the recipe for a typical Andhra-style tomato thokku. It's optional to add onions, one can also use garlic if they prefer the flavour. For the measures given below, around 7-8 cloves should be good.
TOMATO ONION THOKKU (cooked pickle)
Ingredients : (Makes about 150 gms)
Tomatoes - 4 large or 6 medium (Best to use country tomatoes than the longish ones)
Onion (optional) - 3 medium, sliced
Fenugreek (Methi) seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin (Jeera) seeds - 1 tsp
Sesame oil - 1 tbsp + 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Red Chili powder - 6 tsps
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Tamarind (imli) - 1 large (American) lemon size ball
Salt to taste

1.  Dry roast the fenugreek and cumin seeds separately. Take care to not over-roast the fenugreek as it will become bitter. Let cool, then dry grind to a powder consistency.

2. Roughly chop tomatoes into chunks, keep aside. Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil in a pan and fry the onions till golden brown. Remove and let cool.

3. Heat 1/4 cup sesame oil in a wok and add the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, tip in the tomato chunks. Let cook for about 7-8 minutes on medium heat.

4. Now add the tamarind chunks, chili powder, turmeric powder, salt and finally the ground fenugreek-cumin powder. Mix well and let cook for 6-7 minutes more. Remove and let cool.

5. Grind the above mixture along with the fried onions to a fine paste without adding any water.

6. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup sesame oil in the same wok and add the ground pickle paste. Let cook on medium heat till oil starts to separate. This should take about 7-8 minutes more. Let cool and store in an air-tight jar. 

17 July 2016

Angaya Podi

        An age-old rice mix powder, Angaya powder (literally meaning '5 berries' powder) is most often a hand-me down recipe that grandmothers, and their mothers used to make!! This powder is actually a boon for lactating mothers, but that isn't just it. Angaya Podi is excellent for digestion, and also common colds, especially helps improve the taste in one's mouth, and resultantly, the appetite during such times. Recommended dosage, 1 tsp to a cup of rice with at least 1 spoon ghee..
The ingredients of this powder are quite unique, such as dried neem flower and the Turkey berry, what in Tamil is commonly called 'Sundakkai'. 
In fact, in our home, weekend lunch is usually a detox one, comprising neem flower roasted in ghee or Til oil, and fried Sundakkai. Crushed and mixed with rice with ample ghee, it's a lunch made in heaven!!!
Here's the recipe for.....
Ingredients : (Makes about 250gms of powder)
Coriander seeds - 1/2 cup (100 ml)
Toor Dal / Pigeon peas - 1/2 cup (100 ml)
Chana Dal / Bengal gram - 2 tbsps
Kali mirch / Peppercorns - 2 tbsps
Jeera / cumin seeds - 2 tbsps
Dry red chili - 3
Saunth / Dry ginger powder - 1 tsp
Hing powder - 1/4 tsp
Dry roasted curry leaves - a few
Dried Neem flower - 1 tbsp
Sundakkai Vathal / Dried Turkey berry - about 10 dried berries 
Rock salt - 2 tsps

1. Almost all ingredients need to be seperately dry-roasted. First the coriander seeds, dry roast till you get the aroma, remove and keep aside.
2. Now in the same pan, add the lentils and dry roast till golden brown. Remove and keep aside.
3. Next up, pepper corns and jeera. Dry roast till aroma arises. Remove and keep aside.
4.  Next roast the red chili, dry roast till golden brown. Remove and keep aside.
5. Dry roast the neem flower, take care not to over-roast, just about a 2 min saute should do. Remove and keep aside.
6. Dry roast the Sundakkai till crispy, again, do not over-roast. Sample one and if it crushes quite easily, it is done. Remove and keep aside. 
7. Now turn off flame, and in the residual heat, quickly roast the saunth, hing and rock salt. Remove and let all ingredients cool down to room temperature.
8. Dry grind all the above roasted ingredients along with dried curry leaves to a fine powder. Transfer to a clean glass jar and store in a dry, cool place.

Paruppu Podi

          Paruppu Podi or Dhall powder is a common occurence in most Andhra and Tamil Nadu households and is an excellent rice mix. I have come across several variations of this powder, some with horse gram, with Garlic, some using whole green gram and so on. As with most hand-me down recipe books, my mother follows the one that her mother used to go by...
          A yummy caveat though, the more ghee you add, the tastier it will be. Yes, I hear that "Calories!!!!!" Yep. But the simple concept behind our traditional eating combos is Balance. So here, ghee helps balance out the spice, since the powder is dry, it helps it mix better with the rice and makes it easier to consume. And of course, eaten in moderation Ghee is known to aid digestion!!
So here's the recipe...very simple and makes about 200gms of powder.
Ingredients :
Toor dal / Pigeon peas - 1 cup
Dry red chili - 1
Pepper - 1/2 tsp
Rock salt - 1/2 tsp

1. Heat a pan on medium heat and add the toor dal, dry roast for about 2 minutes.
2. Add the red chili and pepper and continue to roast till the dal is golden brown.
3. Switch off flame and add the rock salt. Give it a quick mix in the residual heat. Remove and let cool to room temperature.
4. Dry grind in a mixer till you get a fine powder. Transfer to a dry glass jar and store in a cool place.

16 June 2016

Oats-Choco Toffee (Chikki)

Another healthy recipe, that's a great snack on the move for young and old alike...
Ingredients :
Melted dark chocolate - 2 tbsps
Jaggery - 1 cup
Clarified butter / ghee - 1 tbsp
Toasted Sesame seeds - 2 tsps
Toasted, crushed Kelloggs Oats - 2 tbsps
Toasted, crushed mixed nuts - 1/4cup
Cinnamon / clove powder - a pinch (optional)

1. Add ghee to a microwave-safe glass bowl and micro on high for 30 seconds or till ghee is melted.

2. Add the jaggery to the bowl and micro on high for 2 mins, remove stir once and micro for a minute more. You should see bubbles forming on the surface. Remove.

3. While the jaggery is still hot, add the mixed nuts, sesame seeds, oats and mix. Quickly add in the chocolate syrup, stirring all the while and finally the cinnamon/clove powder, if desired. If the mix starts to harden, micro for 30 seconds.

4. With the mix still runny, pour it onto a greased baking tray, steel plate or a silicone sheet, let set for a bit, then cut into desired shapes before the toffee or chikki hardens completely. Alternately one can pour the mix into mini chocolate moulds too as I have done. Let cool and harden.
Un-mould and store in air-tight containers in a cool place.

15 June 2016

Oats Lauki Adai (pancake)

              When one starts exploring alternatives to refined ingredients, there are no dearth of options to suit your recipe. For me, it's oats, flaxseed meal and millet flour that I turn to...
This pancake, or Adai as we call it is enriched with the softness of oats. 
Ingredients :
Arahar dal - 1/4 cup
Rice - 1/4 cup
Chana Dal - 1 tbsp
Kelloggs Oats - 1/2 cup (Slightly crushed - pulse once in the mixer)
Urad Dal - 1 tbsp
Whole Green gram - 1 tbsp
Slightly sour curds - 1/4 cup
1 medium lauki, grated (drained) - 1 cup
Ginger-green chili paste - 1 tsp
Red chili powder - 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Baking soda(optional) - 1/4 tsp
Sesame seeds - 1 tsp
Ajwain - 1/2 tsp
Hing to taste
Salt to taste

1. Wash and soak all the lentils along with rice for 4 hours. Drain and grind to a thick, coarse paste using sufficient water (Not too runny)
2. Transfer batter to a bowl and whisk in the curds and oats. 
3. Add grated lauki, ginger-green chili paste, chili powder, salt, hing, sesame, ajwain, haldi and soda and whisk again. Keep aside for about 2 hours.
4. Stir the batter once and check for salt. 
5. Heat a tawa on medium heat, add little oil. Pour a ladle of batter and spread to make a thick pancake. Let it become golden brown on both sides. (Tip : Make small holes in between and drizzle oil in them too so it cooks evenly)
Serve hot with desired accompaniments.

6 June 2016

Mango Phirni

            The ninth and the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan has begun. Here's a sweet treat with Mangoes, an all-time favourite, Mango Phirni. A simple dish that is rich, nourishing and can have many variations too...
Ingredients :
Cooked rice - 1 cup (Make sure to cook the rice with enough water so it can be mashed well)
Milk - 4 cups
Mango puree - 1 cup
Condensed milk - 1/4 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
Chopped nuts (almonds, cashews, raisins) - roasted in ghee
Few Saffron strands, soaked in warm milk

Method :
1. Mash the rice while it's still hot and keep aside.
2. In a thick-bottomed pan, boil the milk till it reduces in quantity.
3. Stir in the mashed rice and whisk well to make sure there are no lumps. 
4. Now add the condensed milk, mango puree, dissolved saffron strands and cardamom powder and stir well, check for sweetness. 
5. Remove from the flame and let cool. Serve chilled or warm garnished with the roasted nuts.

3 June 2016

Thanks for the inspiration...

            In an era where introducing oneself as a blogger, especially a food blogger either causes eyes to brighten or roll and look upwards, I salute all the bloggers out there who put in so much passion, dedication and effort to maintaining their blogs amidst their busy life schedules.
            Be it the design (even those who have little or no coding knowledge), content, and more importantly, marketing, blogs are prized possessions of many. Even more commendable is the sharing of knowledge and expertise among them to help others out in tricky situations too.
            One such inspiring co-blogger, Preethi Prasad who blogs at https://preethicuisine.com nominated me for the 'One Lovely Blog Award'. I would like to thank her and all other bloggers out there who inspire me day in and day out, especially on days when I am almost ready to throw in the proverbial towel!! Preethi, is an all-rounder in my opinion, juggles...no, successfully multi-tasks between her family, career, cooking, blogging and social media as well..
              Now about this award.. though Google doesn't help much with its origin, this award along with the 'Very Inspiring Blogger Award' seem to have been doing the rounds for quite some time now, where bloggers acknowledge inspiring co-bloggers. My theory..why worry about origins when the purpose is mutual appreciation...
So here are the rules, facts & my nominations further down...

1. Thank the Blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2. List the rules.
3. Display the award image on your header/footer/sidebar.
4. List seven facts about yourself.
5. Nominate (up to) 15 bloggers for this award and them know you have nominated them.

1. I am a full-time foodie and part-time blogger, not much of a recipe follower, I usually like to build up on ingredients using recipes as guidelines.
2. I have a soft corner for Indian and Italian cuisines
3. I love photography, the medium doesn't matter as long as I am able to capture the moment!!
4. I also dabble in quilled earrings 
5. Tiramisu is my to-die for dish
6. Learning the ropes and tricks of social media is my passion
7. I am tech-savvy and crazy about mobiles!!

MY NOMINATIONS (in no particular order :) ) :
1. https://madraasi.com/ - By 'Madraasi' Deepa, who is also a co-FBAB member, I have great respect for her passion for food and blogging
2. https://naveensuresh3.wordpress.com/ - By Naveen Suresh, one of the admins of FBAB, a true-blue foodie if ever there was one!
3. http://www.cosmopolitancurrymania.com - By Purabi Naha, award-winning blogger, her photography & simple writing can actually make one smell the aroma of the food she talks about..
4. http://www.binjalsvegkitchen.com - By Binjal Pandya, her food-photography is a source of inspiration for many..
5. http://www.yummytummyaarthi.com - By Aarthi Satheesh, simple to follow recipes, her blog has been a saviour many a times when I have been stuck..
6. http://recipeforperfection.com - By Katie Moseman, an acquaintance via social media, her recipes and posts are eye-catching and she also gives back in that, she happily RTs posts that have her hashtag..
7. https://cookingatmayflower.blogspot.in - By Beena Stephy, I admire her easy to follow writing style, and her dedication to her passion of cooking..
8. http://sandhyahariharan.co.uk/ - By Sandhya Hariharan, another neat blog with a vast recipe repository and amazing photography.
I will be adding more to the list, it's not about whom to add that's the struggle, it's more 'How can I leave anyone out' !! :)