Yoghurt Recipe Corner: Raita
Raita is a yoghurt-based side dish usually made to accompany biryani, pulao or kebabs. Raita is mostly made with fresh raw vegetables like onions, tomatoes, cucumber and mint leaves with an addition of mild spice powders and herbs.
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
(For Tomato, Onion, Cucumber Raita)
- Yoghurt, beaten – ½ kg
- Tomato, in 1 cm dice – 1
- Onion, finely chopped – 1
- Cucumber, finely chopped – 1
- Coriander, chopped – ½ cup
- Cumin seeds – 1 tsp, (toasted and coarsely ground)
- Sugar – to taste
- Kashmiri mirch powder – for garnishing
- Zeera, roasted and ground – for garnishing
- Combine yoghurt, tomato, onion, cucumber, coriander, cumin seeds and a pinch of sugar in a serving bowl.
- Add season to taste and add more sugar if the Raita is sour.
- Garnish with Kashmiri mirch powder and zeera.
Yoghurt Recipe Corner: Dahi Vada
In North India, they are known as Dahi Vadas or Dahi Bhallas and in the South as Thayir Vadai. A very popular street food, it is part of the spicy and very tasty chaat family.
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
(For Dahi Vada)
- Urad dal – ¼ cup
- Yoghurt – 1 cup
- Green chilli – 1
- Ginger – small piece
- Green chutney – to taste
- Sweet chutney – to taste
- Chaat masala – ¼ tsp
- Red chilli powder – ¼ tsp
- Zeera powder – ¼ tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Coriander leaves – 1 tbsp
- Oil – as required
- To prepare, ground urad dal batter and soak the dal in water for 1 hour. Grind into a smooth batter along with green chilli and ginger.
- Transfer batter to a bowl and add salt. Mix well. The batter is ready.
- Heat oil in a pan for deep frying.
- Pour dollops of the thick batter in pan and fry bhallas until they are golden brown. Drain excess oil in a kitchen towel.
- Soak bhallas in an open bowl filled with water for about 30 minutes, or till they soften.
- This makes the bhallas soft and they will absorb the yoghurt mixture easily.
- To prepare yoghurt mixture beat the yoghurt well, add red chilli powder, chaat masala and jeera powder. Add salt on top of this. Keep the yoghurt mixture chilled.
- Take bhallas out from water, gently squeeze extra water and arrange them in a serving bowl.
- Pour the yoghurt mixture to the bhallas and add green and sweet chutneys according to taste.
- Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves and a dash of zeera powder just before serving to enhance the flavour.
- Dahi Bhallas are ready to serve.
Yoghurt Recipe Corner: Gatte ki Sabzi
One of the popular and traditional curries of Rajasthan, Gatta ki Sabzi is gram flour dumplings in a delicious gravy of yoghurt curry. Easy to cook, it tastes better when cooked in pure ghee.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Ingredients (For Gattas)
- Bengal gram flour – ¾ cup
- Chilli powder – 1 tsp
- Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
- Carom seeds (ajwain) – 1/8 tsp
- Yoghurt – 1 tbsp
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Bengal gram flour – 1 tbsp
- Yoghurt , beaten – 2 cups
- Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
- Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
- Coriander powder – 2 tsp
- Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
- Asafetida – ¼ tsp
- Cinnamon – 1 inch
- Cardamom – 1
- Curry leaves – 4-6
- Bay leaf – 1
- Cloves – 1
- Oil – 4 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Fresh coriander – 1 tsp
(To make gattas)
- In a bowl, mix Bengal gram flour, chilli powder, salt, fennel seeds, carom seeds, yoghurt and oil.
- Knead into a firm dough using 1-2 tbsp of water.
- Roll small portions of the dough on a roller board with your palms into long strips. Remove the thin strips onto a plate.
- In a pan, boil plenty of water. When water starts boiling, add the dough strips and cook for 10-15 minutes on medium flame.
- Remove strips from water with a strainer and keep them on a plate.
- Cut strips into small cubes and keep aside.
(To make curry)
- Mix beaten yoghurt, Bengal gram flour, curry leaves with ½ cup water. Stir well so that no lumps remain. Keep the yoghurt mixture aside.
- Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, asafetida, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom and cook for 2 minutes.
- When the seeds start to crackle, add turmeric powder, coriander powder and chilli powder and sauté for about a minute.
- Immediately pour the yoghurt mixture with 1 cup water into the pan and stir continuously for about 3-4 minutes.
- When the curry starts boiling, add salt to the curry and simmer for about 10 more minutes.
- Add the prepared gatta cubes and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the gatta in a serving bowl and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
- Serve Gatte ki Sabzi hot with rotis.
Yoghurt Recipe Corner: Curd Rice
Curd rice is also known as Dahi Chawal in Hindi, Thayir Sadam in Tamil, Mosaranna in Kannada, and Dahi Bhat in Marathi. Generally served at the end of a meal in South India, it cools down the stomach after consuming a hot curry. It is a must in the hot summer season.
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
- Cooked rice – 1 cup
- Milk – ½ cup
- Yoghurt – 2 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Oil – 1 tsp
- Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
- Split Urad dal – 1 tsp
- Green chillies – 2 no.
- Curry leaves – 4 sprigs
- Ginger, chopped – 1 tsp
- Asafetida (Hing) – a pinch
- Heat oil in the pan and add mustard seeds. When mustard seeds begin sputtering, add spilt Urad dal and fry till it becomes golden brown in colour.
- Add asafetida, chopped ginger and green chillies, and fry for a while.
- To this, add chopped curry leaves and fry for some more time.
- Remove pan from heat. Add cooked rice and pour milk and yoghurt. Mix rice thoroughly.
- Add salt.
- Curd Rice is ready to serve.
Yoghurt the Superfood
Yoghurt, also called yogurt, curd or dahi, is one of the healthiest foods in the world. Prepared by bacterial fermentation of milk during the fermentation process, the bacteria produce lactic acid from the lactose of milk and gives the milk a thick texture.
There are three types of yoghurt: regular (whole milk), low-fat and skimmed. Low-fat and skimmed yoghurt are good for those on a cholesterol-lowering diet or weight reduction programmes. The body can digest yoghurt in about one hour as compared to the three hours it takes to digest milk.
Yoghurt is consumed in various forms in households all over India. It is used in its original form, as part of a preparation’s cooking ingredient, as an accompaniment, eaten or drunk with sugar or salt and can be part of the breakfast, lunch or dinner.
It has many health benefits. Here is a list of health benefits of yoghurt:
Stronger Teeth and Bones
Being rich in calcium, phosphorous and Vitamin D, yoghurt strengthens the teeth and bones, that is, the skeletal system, and helps in prevention of arthritis.
Yoghurt boosts the body’s immune system and prevents various infections by stimulating the white blood cells which fight infection. Probiotics boost the count of infection fighting white blood cells and improve overall immunity. Look for “live active culture” on the label, as all yoghurt available in the market is not probiotic.
Good for Heart
Eating yoghurt daily helps in the reduction of cholesterol levels thus lowering the risk of high blood pressure and hypertension.
Controls Blood Sugar Level
The live yoghurt culture and easily digestible protein in yoghurt help control the blood sugar level. Greek yoghurt has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and controls blood sugar in people with diabetes. Flavoured or a sweetened variety of yoghurt must be avoided by diabetics.
Probiotic yoghurt helps proper functioning of the digestive system. Easily digestible, it can be consumed by lactose intolerant people. It helps resolve diarrhoea, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer and gastrointestinal infections. It also prevents the formation of ulcers in the stomach and small intestines and decreases the risk of stomach cancer.
Rich in vitamins and minerals, yoghurt is an excellent energy booster. Working as an antioxidant, it helps faster recovery after intense workouts.
Excellent Skin Remedy
Using a mix of besan (gram flour), lime juice and yoghurt as a face mask makes the skin fair, soft and glowing. Wash mixture off after 15 minutes using lukewarm water.
For radiant skin, apply a mixture of yoghurt, almond and honey to the face for 20-30 minutes.
Sour yoghurt applied on the face and neck for 15 minutes removes acne and dead skin cells.
A mixture of orange peel powder with yoghurt lightens skin tone.
For fair soft skin, apply a mix of rosewater, turmeric and yoghurt to face 15 minutes. Then wash with lukewarm water.
Exfoliate skin by mixing egg, oats and yoghurt and apply to the face.
Its anti-fungal property makes yoghurt the best home remedy to fight dandruff. Apply a mixture of yoghurt and henna on the scalp and wash it after 30 minutes. This helps get rid of dandruff and makes the hair shiny and soft.
Daals and Their Health Benefits
Daals, pulses or lentils, are a must in Indian cuisine. Prepared on a daily basis in most homes, the varieties of daals are a lot. The word daal is used for split lentils, dhuli daal is used for split and husked/skinned lentils and sabot daal is used for lentils which are whole.
A large number of Indians are vegetarians or cannot afford to eat non-vegetarian food regularly. These different types of daals provide them with primary sources of vegan proteins. So consumption of different types of daals is important for the population.
In many parts of India such as the North, East and South, daals are commonly eaten with rice. It could be Daal Bukhara which is slow-cooked overnight, the rich daal makhaani with white butter afloat, or pachphoron-flavoured masoor daal or spicy sambar.
Proteins are made up of 20 different amino acids, most of which the body can manufacture for itself. But there are nine that can’t. Those nine, called the “essential” amino acids, are distributed unevenly in plant foods. Lentils are high in lysine, an amino acid that is missing in rice while rice and other grains are high in the sulphur-based amino acids missing from lentils. A combination of about 20% lentils to 80% rice has all the necessary acids, making a complete protein.
Apart from the general health benefits of daals, each type of daal has its own set of nutritional values. So it is good to have a mix of all these daals on a regular basis. Some types of daals are healthier when compared to others. For example, black gram daal and moong daal are considered the healthiest among all daals. Others, like masoor daal, have health benefits too but they also have side effects.
Here are some types of daals and their exclusive health benefits.
Green Moong Daal
It is basically a green-coloured daal that is not as common as the split variety. They are available whole, split, with skin on, and removed. The green moong is one of the most flexible pulses available. Not only can you make it into a simple dal, it is used to make snacks and sweets as well. Plus green moong sprouts are a rich source of proteins.
Health Benefits: This type of daal has ample reserves of calcium and very little calories. It is good for the bones. As a source of manganese, potassium, folate, magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamin B, it is also high in dietary fibre.
Chana daal, Bengal gram daal or Garbanzo beans, comes in two forms: a smaller one with a dark skin which is called kala chana and the larger white ones that are also known as kabuli chana. It is highly nutritious even when roasted or powdered to make besan (chickpea flour or Bengal gram flour).
Gujarati snacks like dhokla or handwa use coarsely crushed chana daal to provide a crunchy texture and to increase the nutritional value. Cooked in different ways, it can be sprouted to add to a salad. Most housewives soak chana daal overnight or at least for a few hours so that it can be cooked faster.
Before soaps and face washes reached India, besan was used to wash the face and keep it clean. Besan has been used for ages in India as a skin cleanser and it is still used by brides-to-be and as an ingredient to treat skin ailments.
Health Benefits: One of the richest vegan source of dietary proteins. It is also rich in trace minerals like copper, manganese etc. Having this daal helps keep diabetes at bay. It has anti-inflammatory qualities, is high on folate, molybdenum, manganese, copper, fibre, protein, iron and zinc.
Masoor daal is one of the most common pulses in the Indian kitchen. The Bengali bori/bodi made with masoor dal is an excellent addition to vegetables and even fish curries. In North India, it is also used to prepare halwa, especially in the winters.
Health Benefits: Very good for people suffering from bile reflux and also improves blood circulation. Good source of protein, essential amino acids, potassium, iron, fibre and vitamin B1. It also helps lower cholesterol and control sugar levels.
Urad daal is usually called black dal when whole, and white when skinned and split. The star ingredient in Dal Makhani, urad is also used to make bondas, papads, medu vada, a version of payasam and even dosas. It has a very earthy taste and is often slimy on the tongue. In Bengal, the white urad is also used to make Biulir Daal, a simple but delicious dish with fennel enhancing the flavour.
Health Benefits: Richest sources of proteins and Vitamin B. Improves digestion, good for control of cholesterol, an energy booster, anti-ageing and improves the cardiovascular system.
Toor/Arhar daal is one of the most popular daals eaten in India. Also called Pigeon Pea, each region has its favourite selection of daal even though most common ones are used pretty much everywhere. Each daal is prepared in a different way. For example, arhar daal is used to make sambar in South India, amti daal in Maharashtra, and Gujarat’s famous khatti meethi daal as well. All three have distinct flavours and cannot be compared in any way.
Health Benefits: This daal has immense amounts of complex dietary fibres that help regularise bowel movements. It also contains iron, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin B and potassium.
Lobhia is also known as cowpea or black-eyed pea because of the little black spot on the otherwise white dal. The lobhia is known to have originated from West Africa but is widely cultivated in Asia and the USA. In India, it is prepared similarly like other daal preparations. But in other countries, it is cooked in different ways. The Vietnamese make a dessert called Che Dau Trang where the peas are cooked with coconut milk and sticky rice. Trinidadians prepare a mix of beans and rice.
Health Benefits: This daal has immense amounts of complex dietary fibres. Lobhia is packed with protein and is good if on a weight-loss programme. It also controls fluctuation of cholesterol levels and keeps them lowered.
Matar daal or dried peas recipes are the simplest. Kolkata’s ghugni is one of the most popular street foods and is also made at home as an evening snack. Use the yellow or the green variety.
Health Benefits: An excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fibre. Also help in managing blood-sugar disorders as the high fibre content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. High in protein, it is also a good source of manganese, copper, folate, Vitamin B1 and B5, and potassium.
Red Kidney Beans
Red kidney beans popularly known as rajma are known for their great taste and nutritious benefits. At any North Indian restaurant, “Rajmah” will be listed on top of the “Daal” section in the menu. Cooked in tomato puree or by itself, it is advisable to soak the beans in water overnight.
Health Benefits: Provides proteins, boosts immunity and rich in soluble fibre content which helps in controlling blood sugar levels, hence preventing diabetes. It also helps lower cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. Containing the vitamin thiamine, important for the cognitive functions of the brain, it helps prevent age-related impairment in mental function (senility) and Alzheimer’s disease.
Soyabean daal is a latecomer but scores high in the long list of daals. Benefits of soya are its high protein content, vitamins, minerals and insoluble fibre. Popular soya-based foods include Miso, a fermented soya bean paste that is used as a flavouring, popular in Asian cuisine; Tempeh, an Indonesian specialty typically made by cooking and de-hulling soya beans and forming a textured, solid cake and; Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made from soya milk by coagulating the soya proteins with calcium or magnesium salts. The whey is discarded and the curds are processed.
Health Benefits: This bean is packed with protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats, providing protective properties for cardiovascular health, cancer, osteoporosis and menopause. It contains high amounts of protein and essential Vitamin D for the well-being of the bones.
Crispy masala puri, also known as teekhi puri, is a delicious Gujarati snack that can be prepared and stored in airtight containers. Widely prepared in Gujarati homes, this is a good option while travelling.
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes for 80 puris
- Atta (whole wheat flour) – 2 cups
- Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
- Dhaniya (coriander) powder – 1 tsp
- Haldi (turmeric) – ¼ tsp
- Jeera (cumin seeds) powder – 1 tsp
- Ajwain – ¼ tsp
- Oil – 1 tbsp
- Salt as per taste
- Water as required
- Oil for deep frying
- Take whole wheat flour in a deep bowl and add all the dry spices and salt.
- Coarsely grind cumin seeds, carom seeds and add to flour.
- Add oil and mix well. Add water and knead hard Keep aside for 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough and roll into a big chapatti. Do not roll too thin or too thick.
- Use a round shape bowl or cookie cutter to cut small puris. Poke them with a knife.
- Heat the oil in a deep pan. Fry 5-7 puris at a time on medium slow
- While adding puris, keep the flame on high and after adding the puris, flip them over on the other side and turn the flame slow.
- When the bubbles disappear and the puris turn hard, remove them from the pan.
- Prepare all the masala puris in the same way.
- Store the puris in an airtight container.
Khandvi, also known as patuli or dahivadi, is a savoury snack comprising of yellowish tightly rolled bite-sized pieces. Made of gram flour and yoghurt, it is considered an appetizer as well.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
- Besan (chickpea flour) – ½ cup
- Sour butter milk – 1¼ cup
- Hing (asafetida) – two pinch
- Haldi (turmeric) – one pinch
- Salt – to taste
- Oil – 1 tbsp
- Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
- Green chillies, chopped – 1 no.
- Coconut, shredded – 1 tsp
- Curry leaves – 1 sprig
- Coriander leaves, chopped – 1 tsp
- Mix water, flour, salt and turmeric to form a batter.
- Heat oil in a heavy pan and add batter.
- Stir batter well and evenly to avoid lump formation.
- Cook till batter does not taste raw, stirring continuously.
- When done in about 7-8 minutes, pour a in a large flat tray.
- Spread batter as thin as possible using a spatula or the back of a large flat spoon.
- Use circular outward movements as done for flattening dosas.
- When cool, cut into 2-inch wide strips. Carefully roll each strip, repeat for all strips.
- Place rolls in a serving dish and season by sprinkling coconut, curry leaves and coriander over rolls.
- Heat oil in a small pan for tempering and add cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves and chillies.
- Add sesame seeds and immediately pour over khandvi rolls.
- Serve rolls with garlic chutney.
This is a traditional spicy snack recipe which can be stored for weeks and enjoyed with evening tea. The flour-based round discs are stuffed with roasted Khus Khus (poppyseeds), steamed and then deep fried to a crispy finish.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
- Besan (chickpea flour) – 2/3 cup
- Maida (plain flour) – 1½ cup
- Chilli powder – 1 tsp
- Hing (asafoetida) – ¼ tsp
- Salt to taste
Mixture For Stuffing
- Jeera (cumin seeds) powder – ½ tbsp
- Dhania (coriander) powder – ½ tbsp
- Khuskhus, roasted – 100 gm
- Coconut, grated – 200 gm
- Green chillies – 3 no.
- Adrak (ginger), chopped – 2 tsp
- Dhania (coriander), chopped – ¼ cup
- Chilli powder – 2 tsp
- Haldi (turmeric powder) – ½ tsp
- Hing (asafoetida) – ¼ tsp
- Salt to taste
- Oil for deep frying
- Sieve the besan, refined flour, chilli powder, asafoetida and salt together and transfer in a bowl.
- Knead into a stiff dough along with 2 tsp oil and using little water. Keep aside.
- Divide the stuffing into equal portions and keep aside.
- Divide the dough into equal portions as the stuffing and roll out each portion into a small circle for 2″ diameter.
- Place a portion of the stuffing and roll out like a cylinder.
- Make more such vadis using all the stuffing and dough.
- Arrange all the flutes in a plate and steam for 20 minutes.
- Cool and cut them into 2 cm round discs.
- Heat the oil in a kadhai and deep fry these vadis till they turn golden brown and crisp.
- Serve hot or store in an air-tight container.
A crunchy snack made from chickpea flour and served with hot fried chillies or chutney. Fafda stalls sell freshly-made snacks every morning to customers waiting to be served. Fafda with jalebi is considered to be a great combination.
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
- Besan (chickpea flour) – 1 cup
- Baking soda – ¼ tsp
- Salt to taste
- Ajwain (carom seeds) – ¼ tsp
- Haldi (turmeric) – 1/8 tsp
- Water – ¼ cup water
- Oil – 1 tbsp
- Oil to deep fry
- Mix baking soda and salt into water.
- Mix the besan, ajwain, haldi and 1 tbsp oil together.
- Add water and knead into a soft dough.
- Take a portion of the dough and place it on a greased surface.
- With the base of the palm, drag the dough in a straight line, holding the dough at the starting point with the other hand. This will form a strip.
- (The alternative is to roll the dough into thin rounds between two sheets of greased polythene.)
- Fry these strips over medium heat until
Prepared with a fermented batter of rice and split chickpeas, dhoklas can be eaten for breakfast, as a main course, as a side dish, or as a snack.
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
- Besan (chickpea flour) – 1 cup
- Curd – ½ cup
- Water – ½ cup
- Green chillies – 2
- Adrak (ginger) – 1-inch piece
- Sugar – 1 tsp
- Lemon juice – 1 tsp
- Eno fruit salt – 1½ tsp (or cooking soda ½ tsp)
- Salt – as required
- Haldi (turmeric) – 1 pinch
- Dhaniya (coriander leaves) – 2 tbsp
- Coconut, grated – 3 tbsp
- Oil – 1 tsp
- Mustard – ¾ tsp
- Hing (asafetida) – 1/8 tsp
- Grind ginger and green chillies with not more than ½ cup water.
- Put besan in a bowl, add ground ginger-green chillies, water, curd, lemon juice, turmeric, sugar and salt to it.
- Mix well and keep aside.
- Add Eno fruit salt to besan mixture and mix well.
- Grease a wide flat-bottomed vessel with oil.
- Steam this mixture for 10-12 minutes in the vessel.
- Insert a knife in the freshly-prepared dhokla and if it comes out clean, it is ready.
- Let it cool down for 5 minutes and then invert the dhokla on to a plate.
- Cut them into squares or as desired.
- Heat the oil, mustard seeds and asafetida for tempering.
- Spread tempering over the dhokla pieces and garnish with coriander leaves and grated coconut.
- Serve with green chutney.
Snacks of Gujarat
Gujarati snacks are called farsāṇ in the West Indian State. Snacks are a very important part of their cuisine as farsāṇ has an extended shelf life, are easily prepared in a mostly parched state, and can be conveniently carried for consumption by Indian travellers to foreign lands.
A variety of farsāṇ is prepared on special occasions to entertain guests and is otherwise simply enjoyed with tea. Farsāṇ is popular all over India especially in Maharashtra due to the presence of a large number of Gujaratis.
Farsāṇ is prepared in a number of ways. There are steamed ones, deep-fried ones, tava-cooked ones, freshly-prepared spicy ones, or simply those that are dried for storage. The list is endless.
Some of them are:
Chivda: A mixture of spicy dried ingredients, such as fried lentils, peanuts, chickpea flour noodles (sev), corn, vegetable oil, chickpeas, flaked rice, fried onion and curry leaves. This mix is flavoured with salt and a blend of spices that include coriander and mustard seed. It is a standalone snack as well as part of a meal.
Bhajiya: Bhaji, bhajji or bajji is a spicy snack or entree dish similar to a fritter with several variants. Outside the Indian states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, such preparations are called pakoras. It is usually served as a topping with various Indian meals and is also popular as a tea-time snack.
Ganthiya: Also known as gathiya, these are deep-fried snacks made from chickpea flour. They are a popular tea time snack that is soft but not crunchy like many other snacks.
Mathri: A flaky biscuit made from flour, water, and cumin seeds. It is a preserved food as it can stay edible for days. Mathri is served with mango, chilly or lemon pickle along with tea and is also served at marriages and pujas.
Besan Sev: Small pieces of crunchy noodles made from chickpea flour paste, seasoned with turmeric, cayenne, and ajwain before being deep-fried in oil. These noodles vary in thickness. Sev is eaten as a standalone snack as well as a topping on dishes like Bhelpuri and Sevpuri.
Ah! Cinnamon – Part II
The Cornucopia of Health Benefits
Having learnt, in Part-I of the write-up, about the one downside to using cinnamon in excess….
The question naturally arises as to what constitutes ‘excess’ in terms of consuming cinnamon? Well, if you are primarily considering using cinnamon sticks for culinary purpose, a stick or two of any type of cinnamon cooked in a family’s meal will certainly do no harm. You may even go ahead and use a cinnamon stick to stir your favourite hot beverage, in place of a spoon, to lend the drink that distinct divine aroma.
But, when it comes to consuming the stuff for its medicinal benefits, it becomes slightly complicated. Given the very high concentration level of coumarin in most widely marketed cinnamon (cassia, actually), the tolerable daily intake for an average adult would be a meagre 0.5 gm. (conservatively calculated, assuming that the stuff you have been saddled with is the worst kind of coumarin-loaded cassia). Sadly, this measly quantity seems too insufficient for your body to fully imbibe the health benefits of the cinnamon to a meaningful degree. Moreover, the scientific community has typically administered powdered cinnamon ranging from 2 to ten grams a day, in single or divided doses, in order to study the impact of cinnamon’s overall health benefits on subjects.
That leaves one with the difficult, but only, option of choosing the much costlier, but the ‘true’ cinnamon. In other words, the ‘authentic’ Sri Lanka cinnamon is the only guarantee that you stay safe from the harms of the dreaded toxin, coumarin. Technically, you can enjoy consuming almost ‘unlimited’ amounts of it; illustratively speaking, up to 300 gm. of the stuff on daily basis, calculated on the exact same model discussed above for cassia. However, nobody in their sane mind will, or should, go over the board like that (remember the old adage: Excess of anything is bad!). But, isn’t that such a relief to know that you can continue to have your daily 2 cups of tea/coffee infused with some choicest cinnamon, and an occasional French toast or freshly baked pies and cookies all dusted with cinnamon powder, to enjoy that blissful aroma! It sure is.
Lastly, and most importantly, where to source the ‘real’ Sri Lanka cinnamon from, when it is such a rare commodity? The best course, of course, is to look for genuine cinnamon in good gourmet stores. The cinnamon quills (of the Sri Lankan pedigree) are easily distinguished from sticks of the cassia cinnamon. ‘Ceylon’ (there is romance to using the old name of the island country!) cinnamon sticks are soft and crumbly and rolled much like cigars with a multitude of thin bark layers; as opposed to cassia sticks that are hard, woody in texture with just one thick curled layer.
Further, the colour of the real cinnamon may be a mid-brown to light red-brown, whereas that of cassia is dark reddish brown. And while the taste of Ceylon cinnamon is distinctly mild sweet, and the aroma a light delicate one, the cassia exhibits notes of bitter spiciness and peppery pungency with a stronger, harsher aroma.
Once you’ve learnt to tell one from the other, things will get easier. And when you chance to lay your hands on the real cinnamon, grind the darned thing in your home grinder to turn it into powder and use it as your taste-buds, please!
As for store-shelf cinnamon powder, most, if not all, of it comes from fake cinnamon (or cassia), and therefore, must be avoided. Maybe, there are a handful of ethical companies that claim to market the real cinnamon and then deliver also on the claim. I myself know of one such exception since I have been using that brand’s stuff for quite some time, and have come to regard the company as ethical and trustworthy since they also proclaim right across the product’s label the legend ‘Sri Lankan’. Alas, this may not be proper to divulge more on it at this platform for propriety reasons. The product is, however, available to the discerning on the shelves of some high-end gourmet stores.
Happy Hunting! 🙂
The Cornucopia of Health Benefits
Cinnamon is a spice we all use in our daily cooking, derived from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Its other popular use is in the hospitality/bakery industry all over the world, for its delicate sweet aroma imparted to savoury dishes like pickles and soups apart from breads, cakes, cookies and pies of various kinds.
Thankfully, this is not all there is to cinnamon. Cinnamon has since long been a highly prized spice for its wide uses in the traditional healing systems like ayurveda, unani and even the medication system of the Oriental. The first and foremost, cinnamon is claimed to possess glucose-lowering antioxidant properties that are known to inhibit risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease.
The modern science as it is famously known to be, however, solely relies on empirical evidence before proclaiming a theory as being irrefutably established. So, medical researchers the world-over have undertaken any number of studies and tests involving overweight and obese people, those most prone to cardiovascular risk factors including Type-2 diabetes, and monitored and analysed the deduced findings. They have been able to unequivocally establish a strong link between controlled consumption of cinnamon and a vastly improved health profile of the subjects after a sustained course ranging from 6 to twelve weeks. Not only has the cinnamon found to promote better glucose management, most studies have revealed, it has helped patients with reduced levels of unhealthy cholesterol and triglycerides.
In addition, cinnamon is shown to reduce muscle soreness and other bodily pains, as after a strenuous workout or physical activity. It may also be effective in combating the growth of certain tumours, as a recent study carried out on rats and mice shows. Such studies on human subjects are underway at the world’s largest sophisticated labs, and initial findings are said to be promising.
Now, one may well ask, “What is cinnamon?”
Cinnamon is the bark of a tree called Cinnamomun verum, found mainly in Sri Lanka, and, to a lesser extent, in India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean. There are other numerous species of cinnamon trees belonging to genus Cinnamomun, bearing different botanical names. This other type of cinnamon is, in fact, cassia and due to its many properties and the aroma closely resembling with those of the real thing, it has come to be flatteringly called cassia cinnamon or even, just ‘cinnamon’. Not bothering much with the scientific jargon here, though, there are only a few types of cassia grown commercially and are known by the regions they are cultivated, namely, Chinese cinnamon, Indonesian cinnamon, Padang cassia, Saigon cinnamon (or Vietnamese cassia) and so on.
But, is all cinnamon equal, and to be treated at par with each other? The answer to that has to be a BIG No! While C. cassia may share same and similar medicinal properties of the real Cinnamon, to its discredit, cassia contains large quantities of a toxic chemical known as coumarin. While the ‘true’ cinnamon contains only negligible amounts of coumarin, levels of the toxin’s concentration in cassia may vary from 20 times to over 600 times (deadly!) depending on the type. The dreadfully lethal toxin has a serious potential to cause irreparable damage to human organs, more notably, kidneys and the liver if consumed regularly in excess over longer periods.
(In the next part, we shall learn what exactly is this ‘excess’, and which and how to choose your cinnamon wisely without falling for the mediocre. And more, hopefully!)
Toasting the Cocktail: A Tradition Shaken, Not Stirred
Myths on the origin of the word ‘cocktails’ are plentiful. One relates to that of a Mexican princess named Coctel who served drinks to American soldiers in the 1800s, another refers to the use of the colourful tail feathers of cocks used as a garnishing in 1799. The more credible version is that cocktails were ‘created’ to dodge the prohibition policy during 1920-1933 in North America by disguising alcoholic drinks with fruit juices.
Lovers of Bacchus have been mixing drinks for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that forerunners of the cocktail, also known as slings, fizzes, toddies and juleps became popular enough to be recorded and mentioned in books.
By the 1950s the cocktail became a fashionable drink even among Europe’s upper class. This heady creation was also glamorised by Hollywood and novelists. To attract clientele, bartenders devised trendy combinations of cocktails, giving them flashy names.
Popular in the 1960s were the vodka-based Moscow Mule, Screwdriver and Gimlet or the rum-with-blue Caracao classic Blue Hawaiian. Then are the evergreens which continue their run of popularity even today, such as Bloody Mary, Manhattan and the many-hued Martini.
There is a choice of Martinis which are made with gin or vodka and a dash of vermouth. A bartender needs to know the imbiber’s liquor preference and if it should be shaken or stirred. Martinis can be served as dry, extra dry, bone dry, perfect, dirty or a Gibson.
Trendy tropical cocktails of today include Daiquiri, Mai Tai, Mojito, Margarita, Pina Colada; and among the tall drinks are the Gin and Tonic, Tom Collins and Long Island Iced Tea which, incidentally, does not have tea as an ingredient. As the fruit juices camouflage the alcoholic content cocktails are a popular choice among ladies today.
The latest trend catching on from New York to New Delhi is mixology, or experimenting with new tastes and preferences. The mixologist focuses on creating newer and more exotic tasting drinks, thereby pushing the limits of classical bartending. Mixology is accepted to be a refined, higher study of mixing cocktails and drinks, the concept being to enhance the flavour of the drink and make the drinker’s experience more intense.
The choice of liquor for preparing a cocktail is whisky, rum, vodka, gin, brandy, tequila and liqueurs. The mixers include the juices of lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples and tomatoes as also ginger ale and lime juice cordial. The flavouring could range from Angostura bitters, grenadine, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, honey, sugar and cream.
Any guide to the preparation of cocktails will tell you that mixed drinks can be garnished in many ways such as by frosting the rim of a glass with salt or floating a slice of lemon in the glass. The addition of fruits, sweet, sour or flavoured, imparts freshness and an exotic taste to a cocktail.
Vodka 50 ml
Tomato juice 200 ml
Garnish: A wedge of lemon. Rim glass with salt.
Pour ingredients into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.
Other things which count: Fancy coloured straws, short ones for martini or lowball glasses, longer ones for highball glasses, the straw’s colour matching the colour of the drink; addition of a spring of mint or a drop of grenadine. Other additions include olives, cocktail onions, lemons, limes, cherries or a dash of bitters.
A bartender always prepares a cocktail in the appropriate glass. So a martini will be served in a martini glass and a Bloody Mary in a highball glass. A general guideline is that the stronger the drink the smaller the glass. There are two categories of glasses, those with stems and those without. Various types of cocktail glasses:
Highball glass: To serve Bloody Mary or a Tom Collins.
Lowball glass: For drinks with a high proportion of mixer to alcohol.
Wine glass: Wine and any cocktail.
Cocktail glass: Many cocktails are served in cocktail glasses.
Champagne flute: Serve anything with champagne and bubbles.
Martini glass: For martinis, also used for margaritas.
Shot glass: Shooters are designed for liquor that is swallowed in a single gulp.
Rules about mixing: Clear cocktails are usually stirred; cloudy cocktails shaken; you can shake a cocktail that calls for a little head on top, such as a margarita; ask guests if they prefer their martinis shaken or stirred; mix frozen cocktails in a blender. Blending is also required when using solid fruits, ice cream, and if a fine consistency is required.
Some terms: Dash is a very small amount; muddle is to mix a drink or stir an ingredient into the drink; float is to pour on top of other liquids without disturbing them; shake is when ingredients are poured into a cocktail shaker with ice and shaken briskly; frosting is moistening the glass rim, usually with a lemon, to allow an ingredient, such as salt, to stick to the rim; on the rocks is when a drink is served undiluted in a glass filled with ice; twist means squeezing a citrus peel over a drink.
Not to be left behind, non-drinkers in the 1930s devised the term mocktails which meant a non-alcoholic drink consisting of a mixture of fruit juices or other soft drinks. Mocktails are popular today among those who prefer not to imbibe alcohol.
Coconut milk 60 ml
Pineapple juice 90 ml
Mango juice 90 ml
Blend peeled banana with other ingredients. Add ice cubes, blend again. Pour into a long glass. Garnish with lemon slice and sprig of mint.
Another novelty practised currently by many bartenders and establishments internationally is Molecular Mixology, the purpose being to create new flavours, textures and visuals. The techniques include the use of foams, liquid nitrogen, gels, mists, heat, solidifying liquids, etc.
After cocktails and mocktails we look forward to the creation of, who knows, maybe mixitail, a next-generation marriage of alcohol with classical techniques and modern science. Considering the growing popularity of cocktails among the younger generation and the novelty of mixing different brews to devise exhilarating new tastes, that era may not take a long time to arrive.
Some Popular Cocktails
Gin 60 ml
Lemon juice 40 ml
Sugar syrup 25 ml
Angostura bitters A dash
Garnish: Slice of lemon and a cherry.
Fill glass with cubed ice, stir in ingredients and top up with soda. Garnish with lemon slice and cherry.
Lemon juice Half a lemon
Mint leaves Six
Sugar syrup 10 ml
Golden rum 40 ml
Soda A dash
Garnish: A sprig of mint
Add lemon juice and spent shell, sugar syrup and mint leaves into the glass and muddle. Fill glass with crushed ice. Add rum, stir until glass frosts. Add soda and garnish with mint.
Vodka 50 ml
Blue curacao 25 ml
Lemonade 100 ml
Garnish: Slice of lime, orange or lemon
Pour vodka and blue curacao into a glass half-filled with ice. Top with lemonade. Garnish with slice.
From Iran to Irani Cafes: Journey of Parsi Cuisine
Parsi food is unique with its Persian characteristics by the creation of new dishes after adopting local ingredients, spices and a blend of sweet-and-sour Gujarati cuisine. Parsis, or Zoroastrian Iranians who fled religious persecution and arrived in India centuries ago, are rice-eaters and most of the food is non-vegetarian. The food has a distinctive flavour with the use of spice combinations different from other Indian regional cuisines.
The arrival of Udipi and Chinese restaurants in the 1960s in Mumbai spelt trouble for the much-frequented Irani cafes where a brun muska (bread and butter), sweet cake and other items on the menu were low priced and one could spend a few hours in the black-and-white tiled cafes and while away one’s time.
Closure of many Irani cafes, however, did not dim the flavours of Parsi cuisine and as artisanal foods are coming in vogue, restaurants serving this unique cuisine are proceeding to establish a foothold in major metros of the country.
A popular Parsi dish, made by cooking mutton with a mixture of dals and vegetables
Servings: 4 Cook Time: 60 minutes
- 1 cup toor dal
- ¼ cup moong dal
- ¼ cup masoor dal
- 2 small onions
- 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp red chilli
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp dhansak masala
- 2 tsp methi seeds
- 1 small slice pumpkin
- 1 small capsicum
- 2 small brinjals
- ½ kg mutton, washed and cleaned
- Salt, to taste.
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Soak the toor, moong and masoor dals in water, marinate meat in salt, ginger-garlic paste overnight or 4-5 hours before cooking.
- Finely chop pumpkin, capsicum and brinjals.
- In a pressure cooker, saute onion with oil and a tsp of ginger-garlic paste until onion turns golden brown. Add the garam masala and dhansak masala and the salt. Stir.
- Add chopped vegetables and stir fry.
- When vegetables are covered in masala and turn semi-soft. add the dals with 3-4 cups of water.
- Close cooker and let it cook for about 3 whistles plus 10 minutes on simmer.
- In another pressure cooker, heat a little oil and add the mutton pieces.
- Add 4 cups of water to the cooker, close lid and let it steam-cook for 15–20 minutes.
- After the dal is ready, mash it to make a smooth paste. Add cooked meat along with its soup.
- Squeeze in juice of one lemon and let the dhansak simmer on the stove for 10-15 minutes.
- Serve with brown rice and bawa kachubar (onion salad).
For Dhansak Masala
Recipe Servings: 4 Cook Time: 10 minutes
- 250 gm coriander seeds (dhania)
- 125 gm cumin (zeera)
- 125 gm red chillies
- 10 gm caraway seeds (shahi jeera)
- 10 gm mustard seeds (rai)
- 10 gm fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
- 10 gm blackstone flower (phool pathar)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (kali mirch)
- 30 gm poppy seeds (khus khus)
- 30 gm cinnamon (dal chini)
- 30 gm cloves (laung)
- 30 gm bay leaves (tej patta)
- 30 gm star anise (chakr phool)
- 1/8 tsp mace (javitri)
- 1 nutmeg (jaiphal)
- Grind all the ingredients together.
- Strain and store in airtight container.
PARSI SALI KEEMA
A Parsi-style lamb mince served with potato straws (sali or aloo lachchas).
Servings: 4 Cook Time: 45 minutes
- 400 gm lamb mince
- 10 gm turmeric
- 50 gm ginger-garlic paste
- Salt, to taste
- 50 ml oil
- 1 gm cardamom
- 1 gm cinnamon
- 1 gm cloves
- 5 gm cumin seeds
- 10 gm garlic
- 100 gm onions
- 100 gm tomatoes
- 5 gm green chillies
- 5 gm turmeric
- 5 gm chilli powder
- 20 gm coriander powder
- 5 gm garam masala powder
- 20 gm coriander leaves
- 75 gm apricot puree
- 20 gm fresh mint leaves
- Potato straws (aloo lachchas), to garnish
- Boil the lamb mince with turmeric, ginger-garlic paste and salt.
- Chop onions, tomatoes, garlic, coriander leaves and mint.
- Slit the green chillies lengthwise.
- Heat oil in a pan and add cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.
- Add cumin seeds and when they crackle add garlic and saute until golden.
- Add onions and brown slightly, add tomatoes and remaining ingredients.
- Saute for 5 minutes on a slow flame and add the boiled lamb mince.
- Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Serve garnished with potato straws.
For Potato Straws
- Cut 6-7 large potatoes into very thin straws.
- Soak them in chilled salty water for a few minutes.
- Drain water and dry the straws.
- Deep fry straws in boiling ghee or oil, until golden brown.
- Remove excess oil from potato straws and serve.
A Parsi steamed fish preparation where fish is coated in a coconut chutney mixture, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed.
Servings: 6 Cook Time: 1 hour
- 4 banana leaves
- 1 kg fish
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Marinate the fish in lime juice and salt for 30 minutes.
- Coat the fish pieces on both sides with the chutney.
- Wrap the fish pieces in banana leaves and secure with string.
- Steam bake for 10-15 minutes.
- Serve hot garnished with lime wedges.
For the Chutney
- 1 grated coconut
- 6 green chillies
- 50 gm coriander leaves with stems
- 1 tbsp mint leaves
- 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt, to taste
Combine all the chutney ingredients and grind until a smooth paste is formed.
PARSI SALI MARGHI
Chicken curry with fried potatoes
Servings: 4 Cook Time: 50 minutes
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger, chopped
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 1½ cup tomato puree
- ½ tbsp red chilli powder (for colour)
- ¼ tbsp turmeric
- 1 green chilli, chopped
- ½ tbsp garam masala
- 7 -8 chicken leg and thigh pieces)
- Salt, to taste
- Water as required
- 1½ tbsp zeera powder
- Deep fried potato lachchas (Sali) to top dish
- In a deep pan heat oil. Add chopped onions, ginger-garlic paste. Saute until onions are golden brown.
- Remove from stove, strain extra oil, add tomato puree and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add chilli powder, turmeric, green chillies and garam masala. Saute till the oil comes on top.
- Add chicken pieces. Coat them with the masala and add salt.
- Add enough water to cover chicken pieces, cover the pan and simmer chicken for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove lid, sprinkle zeera powder. Mix well. Cook till the gravy thickens and the chicken is cooked.
- Before serving top with a handful of fried potato straws. (See Parsi Sali Keema recipe for potato straws).
A mutton preparation with the jaggery added to give it a sweet tinge.
Servings: 6 Cook Time: 60 minutes
- 1 kg mutton, cut into very small cubes
- 4 chopped tomatoes
- 4-5 finely chopped onions
- 3-4 chopped green chillies
- 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1½ tbsp vinegar
- 1½ tbsp Jaggery
- 2-3 tbsp ghee or oil
- 2 cups water
- Coriander leaves, finely chopped
- Salt, to taste
- Heat oil or ghee in a pan.
- Add onions and saute until golden.
- Add chilli powder, turmeric powder, and ginger-garlic paste.
- Stir for about one minute.
- Add mutton cubes and cook until meat turns light brown in colour.
- Add chopped green chillies, tomatoes, water and salt as required, and stir.
- Bring to a boil.
- Let it simmer for 30-40 minutes.
- Add jaggery and vinegar.
- Cook again for about 5-6 minutes.
- Remove pan from stove.
- Serve hot, garnished with fried potato straws. (See Parsi Sali Keema recipe for potato straws).
Gravy with Healthy Paybacks
India is gifted with a rich range of exotic and tongue-tingling cuisines which have developed over the centuries. About 75% of the second most populous country with a population of over 1.3 billion, living in the world’s seventh largest country occupying more than 32 lakh sq km of land area, are inhabitants of rural India.
A majority of this population is dependent on agriculture for its livelihood. The fruits of the farmers’ labours are mostly intended for consumption by residents of urban areas. Common elements in the cuisine of both urban and rural India are the ingredients that go into the preparation of food, which is basically meant to enrich the gravy, enhancing the taste of the dish under preparation.
This gravy, or thickened sauce, be it for a vegetarian or non-vegetarian dish, is a part and parcel of food preparation, and each region in the sub-continent has its own specific concepts of the ingredients that go into the preparation of the gravy.
In other parts of the globe, the base used for making sauces could be a vegetable or meat broth, drippings, flour, cheese, tomato, mustard, soya or any other option available. In Indian cuisine, especially in the northern and central regions, the gravy is prepared using onion, ginger and garlic, chopped, grated or ground, and in some cases tomato or curd to impart a tangy flavour to the dish.
Button onions, also known as pearl onions, and coconut milk are used in south India to give the gravy texture and taste. Mustard seeds or a grounded paste of the seeds is the preferred base in the eastern region’s cuisine while onions or coconut milk, depending on the location, are the choice in the west.
Coconuts are easily available in the coastal regions while onion, ginger and garlic are grown in the hinterlands. That is the basic reason for the usage and popularity of particular gravies in different parts of the country.
India’s food packaging industry has cashed in on the opportunity by marketing gravy in paste or powder form for a variety of dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, belonging to different regions. These ready-to-mix gravies are popular among the urban diaspora looking for shortcuts and time-saving methods applicable in the kitchen.
The onion, a root vegetable, gets the pride of place in Indian cuisine. Apart from the pungency in taste that the bulk that a dish obtains is by the use of onions, not many know of all its benefits to the human body. The onion is the richest dietary source of quercetin, an antioxidant flavonoid which acts as a blood thinner, raises good-type HDL cholesterol, wards off blood clots, fights asthma, chronic bronchitis, hay fever, diabetes, bronchitis and infections. Flavonoids are pigments which give vegetables their colour, act as antioxidants, have antitumour effect and immunity-enhancing properties. The outer layers of an onion’s skin have maximum flavonoid. You don’t need to eat lots of onions to benefit from its effects. Eating one medium-sized onion, raw or cooked, a day is sufficient.
Ayurveda confers on ginger the status of a medicine chest. In India, ginger is liberally used in daily life. Adrak ki chai (ginger-infused tea) is a favourite to fight coughs and colds. For centuries, ginger has been used as an effective cure for sore throats and blocked nasal passages. Chopped fresh ginger soaked in lemon juice is used as an accompaniment to a meal as an aid to digestion. People with stomach ailments or with a feeling of nausea use ginger as a remedy. Ginger helps prevent heart disease as it is a good source of vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium which helps lower blood pressure.
Used in the preparation of curries, vegetables, pickles and chutneys, the garlic bulb has allicin, an oil which gives it its characteristic smell due to which it is avoided by some people. Sweet, salt, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent are the six tastes according to Ayurveda. Garlic is one of those rare herbs with five tastes except sour. The use of garlic renews tissues, enriches the blood, improves digestion, removes parasites from the intestines and provides relief to those suffering from hypertension, asthma, rheumatic pain, constipation, worms and dyspepsia. The antioxidants in garlic are good for the skin and the flavonoids are excellent for a healthy heart and body.
Sweet, tangy and tasty, this bright red vegetable adds a delicious flavour to any cuisine. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant which fights cancer, reduces cholesterol and protects the heart. Consumption of tomatoes reduces urinary tract infections and prevents gallstones. They are good for the skin as they contain vitamin C, A, B6 as well as vitamin K which is good for strengthening and repairing bones. Other benefits of tomatoes include improved eye health, low hypertension, prevention of skin problems and urinary tract infections. They contain a number of antioxidants which can be effective against many forms of cancer. Low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories, tomatoes are fibre-enriched. Tomatoes also have a relatively high water content, which makes them a filling food.
Containing millions of living lactic acid bacteria makes curd the healthiest of all dairy products. Those allergic to the lactose content in milk can tolerate, absorb and assimilate curd better because it is a product of the fermentation of milk, leading to the conversion of lactose into lactic acid bacteria. Its composition is similar to that of milk and is a source of a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein as well as calcium. Curd is recommended in cases of digestive disorders, intestinal infections and malnutrition. It increases resistance against infections of the digestive tract. Studies have shown that curd inhibits the mutation of cancer-causing cells. Called probiotic, a term of Greek origin meaning ‘pro-life,’ it showers benefits during infancy, pregnancy and old age.
The juice squeezed out of the grated kernel of a mature coconut is called coconut milk. This milk has a high content of saturated fatty acids which makes it easily digestible and is recommended for pancreatic and intestinal diseases. A high level of Omega-3, 6 and 9 along with high levels of amino acids makes the milk a complete food in itself. Coconut milk is rich in minerals such as magnesium which helps in the relaxation of nerves and muscles, manganese which maintains balanced blood sugar levels, phosphorus which helps build strong bones, potassium for lowering blood pressure levels and zinc which promotes prostate health and inhibits the growth of cancer cells. The high fibre level of the milk creates fullness in the stomach and helps in weight management. Coconut milk also has Vitamin C which combined with copper promotes the elasticity of blood vessels and skin and Vitamin E’s combination with the high-fat level benefits the hair.
There are three principal types of mustard seeds that are commonly used: white, brown and black. The white variety, actually yellow in colour, is used to make the commonly-used yellow mustard sauce. The brown seeds, dark yellow in colour, are a bit stronger and are used to make Dijon mustard. Black mustard seeds are the most pungent in taste. These tiny little seeds with a punch also have many health benefits. The seeds are like miniature multi-vitamin pills. They contain calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, and dietary fibre. They are full of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease. The seeds also have selenium and magnesium which possess anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis or asthma. Mustard seeds are also known their anticancer effects due to the isothiocyanates in them and are an excellent source of antioxidants.
The Spice Route to Good Health
Indian spices have the power of healing and are recommended for maintaining good health. They provide curative values for human beings. In Ayurvedic cooking, saffron, peppercorns, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, cloves, coriander and cumin seeds are considered warm spices as they have properties which warm up the body quickly and also give a boost to the immune system.
The healing power of spices is well documented by proponents of Ayurvedic medicine who use products from Nature’s garden for imparting many health benefits, regulating vital functions, neutralising and eliminating toxins, countering medical problems such as respiratory ailments, arteriosclerosis and preventing cancer.
Besides possessing medicinal properties, the Spice Garden of Nature is full of aromas, colours and flavours. Be it the flower, fruit, leaves, bark, or seed, it imparts flavour when added to the cooking pot. The origins of the use of spices date back to centuries and the exhaustive research into their medicinal properties explains the usage of spices even today by people of all ages.
On cold winter nights nowadays, nourishing soups, sauces, gravies, warm beverages and steaming desserts like apple compote and glue wine, all with the addition of appropriate spices, warm up the body and the mood. The various benefits that can be derived from the spices are as follows.
A spice used to add exotic flavour to food. The pods of clove are used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat respiratory problems. Chewing two or three cloves or adding a few to hot soup, tea and curries can soothe a cough. Helping in the purification of blood, the pods and the oil extract can be used both internally and externally. As a home remedy clove oil is applied on gums and in dental cavities to help relieve toothaches. The oil is applied externally in rheumatic pains, sciatica, headache and lumbago.
Cinnamon (Dal Chini)
The dried inner bark of the cinnamon plant adds a typical Oriental flavour to food. Cinnamon stimulates blood circulation thereby creating warmth. A pinch of ground cinnamon mixed with a teaspoon of honey in a glassful of warm water consumed every wintry morning will keep the cold at bay. Tackle a chronic cough by sipping a hot cup of tea infused with one-fourth of a spoon of cinnamon powder and half a spoon of ginger paste. The ginger has anti-inflammatory capacities and it helps fight throat and chest infections.
From ancient times the bark has been used to cure anorexia and reduce mucus. Its oil can be used to relieve headaches, tooth aches, and the powder helps remove bad odour and kills bacteria. It also helps preserve the gums and whitens the teeth.
Peppercorn (Kali Mirch)
Peppercorn occupies a prominent place in the kitchen. Used in the form of berries or powder, it adds spice to the food. An aid in the digestion of food, among home remedies it is particularly useful in cases of dyspepsia, kidney problems, colic and chest diseases.
A decoction of peppercorn, dry ginger, clove, cardamom, cinnamon and tea acts as a deterrent against coughs and colds.
Black Cardamom (Badi Ilaichi)
Both black pepper corns or the powdered form helps provide warmth and energy besides giving relief from cough when mixed with soups and curries. Black cardamom also helps in the treatment of dyspepsia, soothes the mucus membranes, heartburn and increases the appetite. It kills H. pylori bacteria which is associated with ulcers. Cardamom also has a calming effect on the digestive tract and is used as a remedy for gastritis and dyspepsia. Cardamom tea is a rejuvenator and helps relieve depression. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it is used for the treatment of colon cancers.
The powder of the turmeric plant’s tubers and rhizomes are used to give a mild aroma and a deep yellow-orange colour to foods. Turmeric is considered a natural antibiotic. Put a little turmeric powder into milk, boil and drink it to keep cough at bay. It acts as a carminative, tonic, appetiser, astringent, decreases aches and pains and is useful in removing blood impurities. It is also used in the treatment of anaemia, swelling, relief from hiccups and ulcers. Turmeric powder paste is used in massages to clean the skin.
Green Cardamom (Chhoti Ilaichi)
Cardamom is a very aromatic spice and in combination with other spices is used in adding aroma and taste to Indian cuisine. Tea infused with cloves and cardamom is helpful in preventing coughs and cold during the cold weather. A common remedy is to boil two to three grounded cardamoms in a cup of water and add a teaspoon of honey and drink it just before going to bed. It also clears stuffed noses and chest congestion. Green cardamom also acts as a stimulant, diuretic agent, counters digestive disorders and gives relief in cases of nausea, vomiting and headache. As a home remedy cardamom is used externally as well as internally. The oil of the seed is applied to relieve joint pains.
A herb which imparts a special taste, fragrance and colour to food and to sweetmeats. Consumed in limited portions, that is, two or three strands, depending on the temperature, saffron gives rapid warmth to the body. It is also a tonic, a stimulant, rejuvenator and appetiser, digestive and antispasmodic in nature. It is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is a vital component of cell and body fluids and helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It is rich in vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. In ancient times saffron was mixed with sandalwood and other aromatic ingredients and applied on the chest or forehead for a cooling, soothing effect, and to invigorate the mind.
A tasty spice, it is used in desserts and in baking. It can help lower blood pressure, calm a stomach ache and help detoxify the body. Nutmeg oil is effective for relieving stress and stimulating mental activity. The oil works well when massaged on the affected area.
An excellent liver tonic as it can help remove toxins from the liver, the oil also helps dissolve kidney stones as well relieve infections of the kidney. The nutmeg can help increase blood circulation and stimulate the cardio-vascular system.
Mace is strongly aromatic, resinous and warm in taste. Mace is actually a part of the nutmeg, the bright red, lacy outer covering or shell of the nutmeg. When the shell is removed and dried the resulting “blades” of mace have a slightly more delicate but pungent flavour. However, it generally has a finer aroma. Mace helps ease gastric problems.
In India, eating a pinch of fennel seeds after a meal is common as it aids digestion. Fennel is used to treat low blood pressure, respiratory congestion and cough. It helps relax the digestive tract muscle lining and is a remedy for acidity, gout, cramps, colic and spasms.
Fennel is also a source of vitamin C and contains the minerals phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper. potassium, manganese, folate and niacin.
Red Chilli Powder (Lal Mirch Powder)
Chilli peppers, the source of red chilli powder, are members of the capsicum family, coming in all shapes, sizes, and colours. The chilli powder varies in taste, from mild to fiery hot, depending on the variety, and enhances the bland flavour of staple foods. Red chilli peppers contain beta-carotene, are a very good source of vitamins A and C, and dietary fibre. They are also a source of iron and potassium, aid in weight loss, fight inflammation and boost the body’s immunity to fight diseases.
Chutneys of India
Chutneys are appetisers or accompaniments that add a zesty flavour to the meal. There are many varieties of chutneys, some of which are partnered with certain food items. Chutneys can be wet, dry, powdered, sweet, sour or hot. Vegetables, leaves, nuts, dal (lentils), herbs, fruit, fish, meat or their combinations are used to prepare the many forms of tasty pasty chutneys.
Traditionally chutneys were ground by housewives using a sil-batta (a flat stone with a stone). In some regions, the chutney pulp is prepared using a pestle or the hollow of a bamboo as a receptacle. Modernity has replaced manual grinding with the use of electric grinders. Commercialization has popularised many varieties of chutneys, reducing the workload of housewives, and making this spicy treat readily available over the counter in India and abroad.
Food from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is known for being high on the spice quotient. Mouth-watering chutneys are a speciality and taste even better when mixed with hot rice and ghee. Here is a selection of chutneys:
Gongura Pachadi – Sorrel Leaves Chutney
A tuneful harmony of sour sorrel leaves and spicy red chillies.
- 2 cups red sorrel leaves
- 3-4 red chillies
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- 4-5 fenugreek seeds
- Salt to taste
- Pluck sorrel (gongura in Telugu) leaves from the stem, wash and dry them on kitchen towel.
- Heat oil in a pan and sauté gongura leaves till they wilt. Remove and keep aside.
- In the same pan, heat oil again and add fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and red chillies. Roast well.
- Remove seasoning and grind to a coarse powder in a blender.
- Add sautéed gongura leaves to the powder with salt and grind again coarsely.
- Serve with hot rice and ghee.
Tomato Pachadi – Tomato Chutney
Tomatoes combined with green coriander leaves is a tasty appetiser.
- 1 tsp urad dal
- 5-6 fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- 3-4 red chillies
- A pinch of asafoetida
- 3-4 green chillies
- 5-6 medium sized tomatoes, roughly diced
- A handful of green coriander leaves
- Salt to taste
- 3-4 tbsp oil
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and add in the first 4 ingredients.
- Sauté till mustard seeds start spluttering and urad dal turns brown, making sure not to burn it.
- Once done, switch off the heat and add in red chillies and asafoetida.
- After this mixture cools, transfer it to the chutney jar of a mixer grinder and grind to a coarse powder.
- In the same pan, heat 2 tbsp oil, add in tomatoes and green chillies.
- Sauté till tomatoes are thoroughly cooked and soft.
- Let it cool.
- Add tomatoes and salt to the ground powder with coriander leaves.
- Blend till it becomes coarse.
Vankaya Pachadi – Brinjal Chutney
A chutney similar to the North Indian bharta.
- 1 large brinjal or 5 small purple ones
- 1 tsp chana dal
- ½ tsp urad dal
- ½ tbsp coriander seeds
- 2-3 red chillies, depending on preference
- 1 tsp tamarind pulp or lemon juice
- 1 tbsp oil
- Salt to taste
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp urad dal
- Curry leaves
- 1 tsp oil
- Roast brinjal on stove till it softens.
- Let it cool, peel the skin and keep aside.
- Heat oil in a pan and sauté chana dal, urad dal, coriander seeds and red chillies till the dals turn pinkish-brown.
- Let it cool and grind to a powder. This is for tempering.
- Blend roasted brinjal, salt and tamarind pulp/lemon juice.
- Grind to a coarse paste.
- Put chutney in serving bowl and season with the tempering.
Allam Pachadi – Ginger Chutney
Pesarattu, dosas made from moong dal, is never served without allam pachadi in Andhra Pradesh.
- ¼ cup ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2-3 red chillies
- 1 ½ tbsp chana dal
- 1 tbsp urad dal
- 5-6 fenugreek seeds
- ½ tsp tamarind pulp
- 1 tsp jaggery, grated or powdered
- Salt to taste
- Curry leaves, as desired
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- Heat oil in a pan and roast chana dal, urad dal, fenugreek seeds till they change colour.
- Switch off heat and add red chillies.
- Grind mixture in a blender and let it cool.
- In the same pan, sauté ginger chunks in a little oil till they turn brown. Once done, let them cool down.
- Add sauted ginger, tamarind pulp, jaggery and salt in blended dal mixture and grind to a fine paste.
- Remove in a serving bowl.
- For tempering, heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. Let them splutter before adding curry leaves. Spread tempering over the chutney.
- Serve with pesarattu, dosa, or idli.
Dosakaya Pachadi – Lemon Cucumber Chutney
Lemon cucumber is a type of cucumber used in Andhra cuisine for chutneys, pickles and dals. Ordinary cucumbers can also be used.
- 1-½ cup cucumber peeled, chopped
- 1 tbsp urad dal
- 1 tbsp chana dal
- 5-6 fenugreek seeds
- 2 red chillies
- 2 green chillies
- 1 tbsp tamarind pulp
- Salt to taste
- ½ tsp urad dal
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- Curry leaves, as desired
- Heat oil in a pan, add urad dal, chana dal, fenugreek seeds and sauté till they change colour.
- Add chillies and turn off heat.
- Let it cool and grind to a coarse powder.
- Add tamarind pulp and blend again.
- Add cucumber chunks and salt and grind again.
- Chutney should be coarse, not a fine paste.
- Remove in a bowl.
- Heat oil in a pan, add urad dal. As soon as the dal changes colour, add mustard seeds.
- Switch off heat as the mustard seeds start spluttering.
- Add curry leaves and temper the chutney with this mixture.
Sorakaya Tokka Pachadi – Bottle Gourd Peel Chutney
Made from peels of the bottle gourd.
- 1 cup washed bottle gourd peels
- ½ tbsp coriander seeds
- 5-6 fenugreek seeds
- ¼ tsp mustard seeds
- ½ tsp chana dal
- ¼ tsp urad dal
- 2-3 red chillies, depending on preference
- Tamarind pulp, as per choice
- Curry leaves for tempering
- Salt to taste
- Heat oil in a pan, add coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and red chillies.
- Roast them well. Once done, keep aside to cool.
- Grind into a fine powder.
- Heat oil in the same pan and sauté bottle gourd peels with salt till they turn tender and are cooked.
- Add tamarind pulp, let it cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Switch off heat. Let this mixture cool.
- Add peel mixture to ground powder and blend.
- Remove in a bowl. Temper with chana dal, urad dal, and curry leaves.
Velagapandu Pachadi – Wood Apple Chutney
The pulp of the wood apple or bel in Hindi is sweet so the chutney uses a lot of chillies.
- 1-2 wood apples, pulp scooped out
- 3-4 green chillies
- 2-3 red chillies
- 5-6 fenugreek seeds
- ½ tbsp urad dal
- ½ tbsp chana dal
- ½ tbsp mustard seeds
- Salt to taste
- A pinch of turmeric
- A pinch of asafoetida
- Handful of chopped coriander leaves
- Heat oil in a pan and add fenugreek seeds, urad dal, chana dal. When they change colour slightly, add mustard seeds and let them splutter.
- Add green and red chillies, asafoetida and saute till chillies are fried well.
- Switch off heat and add turmeric powder. Let mixture cool.
- Grind to a coarse powder.
- Add pulp of wood apple, salt and grind till coarse.
- Remove in a bowl and mix chutney with coriander leaves.
- Serve with hot rice and ghee.
Sprouts for All Seasons
Sprouts are budding plants that are big on nutrition. They are the cheapest and most convenient source of complete nourishment. These germinating plants play important roles in promoting good health, encouraging healthy eating habits and are popular if you are into weight reduction. They are known as super foods as they are essentially pre-digested foods. Sprouts are high in highly digestible nutrients, vitamins and minerals that they can be considered true multi-ingredient natural supplements.
The nutrients, being in a pre-digested form, are easily absorbed into the bloodstream, giving the digestive system a rest. Eaten regularly, raw or cooked, sprouts reduce high blood pressure, help in weight loss, lower cardiovascular risks and help fight against diabetes and liver problems. They are best when eaten fresh.
Health Benefits: Alfalfa is called the ‘father of all foods’ or the ‘king of sprouts.’ Its sprouts, and to a lesser degree, the leaves, are an excellent source of proteins for vegetarians and rich in antioxidants. Possessing minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins such as A, B complex, C, E and K, alfalfa is anti-hemorrhagic, anti-anaemic, aids digestion, helps in reduction of cholesterol, is highly recommended in cases of rickets, osteoporosis because of its beneficial effect on bone metabolism and acts as a general tonic for the body. In Ayurvedic medicine, alfalfa is used as a cure for poor digestion, as a diuretic and to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Alfalfa, or rajka in Hindi, plants are fed to cattle as hay or forage, known as chara in Hindi.
Preparation: Sprouting the tiny alfalfa seeds at home is easy. The seeds, available at organic seed stores, sprout in 3 days in the summers and 5 days in the winters. The sprouts, kept in an airtight box in the fridge, are good for 4-5 days.
Sterilise a jar, pick alfalfa seeds for foreign particles. Put 1/4 cup alfalfa seeds in the jar. Rinse seeds a few times. After throwing away the water, fill half the jar with water. Cover jar and let seeds soak in water overnight. Next day, tightly cover the top of the jar with a muslin cloth and drain the water from the jar. Rinse seeds a few times with clean water. Rinsing helps remove toxic substances or harmful microorganisms that might grow in the jar. Keep jar inverted to expel leftover water. The seeds will mould if any water remains.
On day two, tiny white sprouts will appear. Rinse again and drain water completely. Rinsing ensures that the seeds retain moisture otherwise they will dry up. On day three, the green leaves appear. Rinse and refrigerate.
Usage: Add the sprouts to salads, sandwiches, vegetables or dal dishes. Consult your doctor before following a regular course of having alfalfa on a daily basis.
Moong Bean Sprouts
Health Benefits: Moong bean sprouts are rich in iron and high in Vitamin C, both of which help in prevention/treatment of anaemia. An excellent source of lecithin aids in liver fat reduction. Regular consumption can help reduce blood levels of LDL cholesterol, beneficial to the heart and vessels since it helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis, a common cause of cardiovascular disease.
The sprouts contain high amounts of proteins, vitamins and zinc and are helpful in preventing/treating hair and nail problems. Sprouts can help prevent many age-related skin changes, including elasticity and moisture loss. It is a source of readily available energy and other nutrients helpful in fighting signs and symptoms of stress and tiredness.
Preparation: Take a cupful of green grammes (sabut moong ki dal), easily available at your local grocery. Pick, clean and wash in water 3-4 times. Place green grammes in a bowl, add water and cover up to 1 inch above the dal. Cover the bowl with a lid and leave the dal to soak overnight. By the next day, the dal will swell. Discard any water remaining in the bowl. Cover and keep the bowl for 2 days, checking each day. After 2 days, the white sprouts will appear from the green dal.
Usage: The sprouts can be eaten raw, lightly sautéd, blanched or steamed. Overcooking will reduce their properties. Raw or cooked, bean sprouts can be used in appetisers, salads, side dishes and snacks. A few drops of lemon juice can be squeezed over a cupful of sprouts added to their flavour.
Health Benefits: The fresh juice of wheatgrass has a high concentration of vitamins B complex, C and E, minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium, as well as protein, chlorophyll, 17 forms of amino acids and antioxidants. In its sprouted form, a large portion of starch is converted to simple sugars, making it a wholesome food. It takes only a few minutes to digest wheatgrass juice using very little of the body’s energy.
It has “live enzymes” with each enzyme performing a specific function within the body in conjunction with other enzymes and they control all the bodily functions. Enzymes also have a deterrent ability against cancerous cells.
Wheatgrass therapy, a home remedy, is known to help even severe and chronic cases of constipation.
Preparation: Grow your own wheatgrass in earthen pots. Sow wheat grains in seven or eight pots. Sowing one pot of wheat grains every day for 7-8 days gives a harvest, when the wheat grass is 7-8 days old, provides enough grass for a week-long therapy session. Only the leaves of the wheatgrass are to be used to extract the juice.
Usage: The daily dosage of the wheatgrass juice ranges from 20-50 ml. Have wheat grass juice on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.
Health benefits: Tulsi or basil has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda for its diverse healing properties. The tulsi plant has many medicinal properties. The leaves strengthen the stomach and help in respiratory diseases. It has a strengthening effect on the kidney. In the case of stone, regularly taking a mixture of basil leaves juice and honey for 6 months helps expel the stones via the urinary tract.
Stress: Basil leaves are regarded as anti-stress agents. Recent studies have shown that the leaves afford significant protection against stress. Even healthy persons can chew 12 leaves of basil, twice a day, to prevent stress. It purifies blood and helps prevent several common elements.
Headaches: Basil makes a good medicine for headaches.
Aids in digestion: It works as an appetiser and promotes digestion by helping in the secretion of digestive enzymes.
For curing diabetes: Keep tulsi root powder in water overnight and take it early morning. The medicinal property of the plant helps maintain insulin level in the body and is a natural cure for diabetes.
Tulsi is considered as a tonic to retain youth and avoid ageing.
- reduces total cholesterol levels, useful for heart disease patients.
- also, reduces blood pressure.
- helps build up stamina.
- useful in the treatment of respiratory system disorders.
- used as a mouth wash for reducing tooth ache.
- good for maintaining dental health.
- useful in pyorrhea and other teeth disorders.
- cures ulcer in the mouth.
A delicious dessert of paneer (cottage cheese), dry fruits and coconut.
- 1/2 cup almond
- 1/2 cup cashew nut
- 1/2 cup big raisins/ munakka
- 1/2 cup pistachio
- 1/2 cup walnut
- 8-10 dry dates / khajur
- 1/2 cup dry coconut
- 1/2 cup paneer, cubed
- 1/2 cup desi ghee
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp
- Black pepper powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp dry ginger powder/ saunth
- 1 tsp elaichi
- A pinch of Saffron
- 2 tsp dried rose petals
Soak almonds, cashew nuts, big raisins, pistachios and walnuts in enough water for 30 minutes. Soak dry dates in another bowl. Cut soaked dates into small pieces and remove seeds. Heat ghee in a pan.
Fry the coconut till slightly browned. Remove in a plate. Fry paneer pieces in the same ghee till slightly browned. Drain water from dry fruits and add them to the pan. Add the fried coconut. Add sugar, black pepper powder, cinnamon powder, dry ginger powder, cardamom powder, saffron and rose petals in the pan.
Cook till sugar is dissolved. Serve immediately or if for later use, reheat before serving.
The Kashmiri dum aloo is a spicy vegetarian treat. The dish is available in restaurants all over the country in different forms and flavours, a mark of its popularity.
- 500 gm Small Potatoes
- ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
- ½ tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
- ½ tsp Asafetida
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Pinch of Caraway Seeds
- 6-8 Grains Black Pepper
- Ghee, as required
- ½ Cup Grated Onions
- 2 Cardamoms
- 2 Cups Yoghurt
- 3-5 Cloves
- 1 Stick Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
- ½ Cup Milk
- 1 tsp Coriander Seeds
- Salt for Taste
Blend cardamoms, coriander seeds, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon and caraway seeds. Keep aside. Wash and peel potatoes. Heat ghee in frying pan over medium heat. Add potatoes in frying pan. Saute them till the colour changes to golden brown. Remove potatoes and keep aside.
In the remaining ghee in the pan, add grated onions, bay leaves, asafetida, ginger-garlic paste and saute till the mixture turns dark brown colour. Add blended masala and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes in the same pan till it mixes with the paste. Add turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Add milk and yoghurt.
Add sauted potatoes, lower heat to medium and cover pan. After about 8-10 minutes check with a fork if potatoes have softened. Adjust thickness of gravy by adding water. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice or roti (bread).
KASHMIRI ROGAN JOSH
- 1 kilo mutton
- 250 gm onion
- 75 gm ginger-garlic paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 20 gm turmeric
- 10 gm cardamom
- 100 gm yoghurt
- 100 gm ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
- 75 gm fennel seed
- 25 gm ginger powder (methi)
- 50 gm green cardamom powder
- Mawal flower (dried cockscomb flower) or Tabasco sauce
Clean and chop onions. Heat ghee in pan and sauté chopped onions. When the onions turn golden brown in colour, take pan off stove and cool. Grind the onions to a paste. Add mutton in a pot of boiling water along with turmeric, cardamom, bay leaves and ginger-garlic paste. When the mutton softens remove it from the broth. Keep broth for later use.
Whip the yoghurt and keep aside. Soak mawal flowers in water for a few minutes. Heat ghee in pan, add the onion paste, broth and remaining ingredients. When broth has boiled for about 15 minutes, add the mutton and soaked mawal flower into pan. Cook for another 4-5 minutes and remove from stove. Serve hot with boiled rice of roti.
Culture and Identity of Kashmiri Cuisine
The history of modern Kashmiri cuisine can be traced back to the invasion of India by Timur in the 15th century. This resulted in the migration to the Kashmir Valley from Samarkand of about 2,000 persons some of whom were skilled woodcarvers, weavers, architects, calligraphers and cooks. Descendants of those cooks, the Wazas, are the master chefs of Kashmir.
The Wazwan is a formal banquet in Kashmir, generally prepared at marriages and other special functions. This culinary art is well-guarded and is kept within the family. Of its 36 courses, between 15 and 30 are non-vegetarian preparations, cooked overnight by the master chef or the Vasta Waza, and his retinue of wazas. Guests are seated in groups of four and share the meal out of a large metal plate called the trami.
The meal begins with a ritual washing of guests’ hands in a basin called the tash-t-nari, which is taken around by attendants. Then the tramis arrive, heaped with rice, quartered by four Seekh Kababs and containing four pieces of Methi Korma, one Tabak Maaz, one Safed Murg, one Zafrani Murg, and the first few courses. Curd and chutney are served separately in small earthen pots.
As each trami is completed, it is removed, and a new one brought in until the dinner has run its course. Seven dishes are a must for these occasions — Rista, Rogan Josh, Tabak Maaz, Daniwal Korma, Aab Gosht, Marchwangan Korma and Gushtaba. The meal ends with the Gushtaba.
Kashmir’s cuisine is as distinct as its unique blend of people and culture. It has been influenced by the cultural practices of several generations of Kashmiri Pandits who lived here since thousands of years. It was also influenced by the unique style of cooking introduced by the Muslim settlers from Persia and Afghanistan.
The traditional cooking style of Kashmiri Pandits has some differences when compared with the Kashmiri Muslim style. The Pandits prefer to use turmeric, curd, asafoetida and mustard oil giving a cold shoulder to garlic, onions and tomatoes.
Kashmir is naturally gifted with the most fragrant, colourful and flavoring spices like saffron, Kashmiri red chillies, cockscomb, etc. The Mughal legacy introduced saffron, dry fruits, Kashmiri red chillies, butter and clarified butter, and garlic and tomatoes to Kashmiri cuisine.
Like Turkish, Persian and Afghani cuisine, lamb meat preparations became a relished food in Kashmiri cuisine. Some mutton dishes are cooked in curd and milk with very limited and special spices added to it. The dishes are tongue tickling, less spicy and with very less oil. Yakhni and Rogan Josh are primarily Hindu-originated dishes.
Vegetarian cuisines are equally delicious and tasty such as Dum aloo, Chaman (paneer cooked in milk), Haakh (spinach), Nadroo yakhni (lotus stems in milk) and many others.
The staple diet in Kashmir is rice. Aside from mutton, chicken and fish, vegetables also play an important in the cuisine. Some combinations are fish-lotus root, mutton-turnips and chicken-spinach.
INDIAN CUISINE BY STATE
The 29 states of India have their individual distinctive cuisines. For example, by state, like Goan; regionally, like Chettinad; by traditional style of preparation such as Dum Pukht; as a description, like Wazwan; by caste, such as Kayastha; or simply named after the community, like Parsi or Jain cuisine. Highlighting characteristics of cuisines of some states, the following is a thumbprint impression of their distinctiveness:
Uttar Pradesh – Dum Pukht cooking such as dum biryani owes its origins to Awadh’s nawabs similar to Mughlai food which took Indian cuisine to new heights. Community wise in Kayastha cuisine, every meat and vegetable dish has specific spice blending. Jains are vegetarians and avoid the use of even root vegetables.
Jammu & Kashmir – Use of spices, dry fruits and saffron add flavour to preparations such as rogan josh and yakhni (soup), all non-vegetarian delicacies. Meat is a vital part of Kashmiri identity. Vegetarian delights are the green-leafed haaq (spinach) and rajmah (red kidney beans). Wazwan is a traditional feast and its preparation is considered an art in which non-vegetarian dishes dominate.
West Bengal – In spite of Mughal, Portuguese, French, Jewish, Chinese and British culinary influences, the local maach-bhaat (rice with fish) did not lose its hold over Bengali taste buds. Accompaniments include vegetables and lentils. Ilish maach (hilsa fish) is a delicacy. Sweets like sondesh, rasgulla and much more are given a special place.
Gujarat – Emphasis is on the sweetness factor. Food of the central region balances the sweet-salt-sour-spicy mix. Saurashtra cuisine is strong on garlic, onions and chillies. Food of Surat and parts of South Gujarat includes a larger variety of vegetables. The state is famous for farsan (snacks) such as khandvi (rolls of gram flour).
Maharashtra – The coastal cuisine is fish-coconut based. Konkani cuisine is a blend of Maharashtrian and Goan cuisines. In the interiors, Varadi cuisine uses spices with coconut powder and gram flour. Parsi cuisine is distinctive and dhansak (lentils, vegetables and mutton) is popular. Mumbai’s street food is vada pao, a mix of boiled, mashed potatoes, peas, tomatoes, onions and green chillies sautéed with spices and butter between pao (soft buns).
Goa – The Portuguese introduced potatoes, tomatoes and chillies to India, giving Goan Christian cuisine a unique character. Along with Goan chillies, other must-use ingredients are tamarind and kokum (red-coloured sour plum). Use of spices creates fiery coconut-based curries like crab and chicken xacuti and prawn balchao.
Andhra Pradesh – Traditional Andhra cuisine is spicier and mostly vegetarian. Rice is eaten with pickles and spicy broth, sambar (lentil-based vegetable stew) and vegetable curries. Mughlai-influenced Hyderabadi biryani differs from its Mughlai and Awadhi varieties. Hyderabadi haleem (thick stew made of pounded wheat, lentils and mutton) is the first non-vegetarian dish in India to get Geographical Indication status.
Kerala –The State’s version of the dosa is the paper-thin appam, a pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk. Appam is eaten with vegetarian/non-vegetarian stew. A favourite dish of South Kerala-based Syrian-Christians, ishtew is a derivation of the European stew, flavoured with black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green chillies, lime juice, shallots and coconut milk.
Tamil Nadu – Chettinad cuisine stands out with its Chettinad Chicken, famed for its “heat” factor, accentuated by the use of freshly roasted, ground spices. Unlike Chettinad cuisine where the food is of only Karaikudi district, Kongunadu region’s cuisine is a collection of recipes from more than 50 cities. Nanjilnadu cuisine is a mix of Kerala and Tamil Nadu culinary traditions.
Sikkim – A popular item is thukpa, noodles in vegetable or meat soup. A well-known item is momos, steamed or fried dumplings with a choice of minced meat, vegetables or cheese filling in flour dough, served with chilli chutney and hot soup. Fermented vegetables are used when fresh vegetables are no longer in season.
North-East – Rice, green vegetables, chicken, duck, geese, beef, pork and fish, and minimal use of spices define the cuisine of the seven North-Eastern States. Chilli, ginger, garlic, sesame and some local herbs give it a distinctive flavour. Maasor tenga is an Assamese sour fish curry slow-cooked in a tangy broth made with tomato, lemon and outenga (sweet-and-sour paste) made of ouu (elephant apple) in jaggery (cane sugar).
Classic Russian Delicacy
- 500 gm, chicken thighs b/less
- 1 heaped Tbsp, all-purpose flour
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp, paprika (or deghi mirch powder)
- Salt to taste
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp light oil (olive/canola or like)
- 1 liberal Tbsp of butter (unsalted to be preferred)
- 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2-3 tomatoes, crushed or blended
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Chopped chives/green onion (or, substitute with parsley), for garnish
Combine together the flour, salt, paprika and minced garlic. Sprinkle the mix evenly over the chicken cubes and make sure the chicken is coated on all sides.
In a heavy bottom pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the butter to hot oil lowering the flame to low. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent.
Stir in the chicken and sauté on medium to mid-hi flame, turning over the contents regularly, until the chicken is lightly browned as well as the fat surfaces.
Now add the Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar, and cook briefly.
Next, add the yellow mustard sauce and tomato ketchup, and let it simmer on the low for a couple minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes and stir-cook on medium flame until everything is well incorporated, about 3-4 minutes.
Now check for the doneness of the chicken. If it is cooked through and tender, proceed with the next step. However, if it is undercooked, add a tablespoon or two of pre-cooked water and let it simmer covered on low heat until chicken is well cooked.
Once the chicken is tender and cooked through, remove the lid and stir the contents well. Check and adjust the seasoning.
Finally mix in the heavy cream, folding it in nicely from all sides, and let the mixture simmer on low fire for 5 minutes.
Finish up with a sparse garnish of chopped chives/green onion.
It’s best relished over a bed of boiled rice (any long grain of aromatic variety). Even a bowl of cooked penne pasta or wide noodles goes well with Stroganoff.
A Rustic Spicy Delicacy of Yore
- ½ kg Mutton On Bone (Small Cuts)
- 100 ml Mustard Oil
- 2 tbsp Ginger/Garlic Paste
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 6 Cloves
- 1, 1” Cinnamon
- 1 Pod Fat Cardamom (Shell Cracked)
- 3 Medium Onions, Thinly Sliced
- 8 Kashmiri Whole Red Chillies (Soaked in Warm Water for 10 Minutes)
- 6 Guntur Whole Red Chillies (Or Any Other ‘Hot’ Chilli Variety) (Soaked in Warm Water for 10 Minutes)
- (You May Use Less of the Latter Chilli for A Milder Flavour. Or, More for Extra Heat! J)
- 1 Tsp Salt, or to Taste
- 200 gm Thick Yogurt, Beaten Smooth
- 4 Fat Cloves of Garlic, Finely Chopped
Wash and pat dry the mutton pieces. Smear the mutton with ginger/garlic paste, set aside for 30 minutes. Heat the mustard oil in a heavy bottom pan until it smokes. Put off the flame.
In the meantime, using a blender, make a paste of the two red chillies together, not necessarily smooth. You may need to add a spoon or two of water and a few drops of vegetable oil for a better result.
Remove a tablespoon of oil and reserve for the tempering later on. Switch the gas back on and wait till oil in the pan is hot again. Throw in the bay leaf, cinnamon, black cardamom and the cloves, and sauté them on medium flame. Once they crackle, add the sliced onion, and sauté them on medium-low flame until lightly browned about 7-8 minutes.
Now tip in the mutton, and increase flame to high. Fry the mutton pieces well, stirring and turning them over often, until mutton is well browned and firm in texture. Keep alternating the flame between medium and high, along with sprinkling a few drops of water intermittently to prevent contents from burning and sticking to the bottom. The process should take about 5-7 minutes.
Stir in the red chilli paste and the salt to the simmering mutton. Mix everything well and let the spices cook along with the mutton for a couple minutes, until the oil separates.
Switch flame to low, and start adding the beaten curd into the simmering mixture, in spaced batches. Keep stirring vigorously so the yoghurt will not curdle or split. Increase flame to mid-hi, and bring mixture to a boil.
Once boiling, lower flame to mid and let yoghurt to cook as well while stirring it often. When most of the moisture has evaporated and the gravy thickens, add a cup (250 ml) of water to the simmering contents, and bring it to a boil again. Place a fitting lid on the pan, switch flame to the lowest, and let the dish simmer away for an hour or so.
Remove lid and check for doneness of the meat. Allow more time to cook covered, if desired tenderness has not been achieved. Add a couple spoonfuls of water if required, and mix well before replacing lid.
Once the mutton is cooked fully, it’s time to give it the “lasooni tadka” (tempering with garlic). For this, heat the reserved oil in a small frying pan and sauté the chopped garlic in it, until golden brown. Put the fried garlic along with the hot oil in the centre of the pan with meat in it. Nicely fold in from the sides to enable the tempering to infuse and incorporate well with the whole dish.
Re-cover with the lid, switch off the flame. Let the pan stand for 5 minutes before serving the Laal Maas with steamed rice or ‘Bajre ki roti’. BON APPETITE!
Searching for Truth at the Embassy Hotel, Shimla
Besides the great weather, beautiful mountains, temples and monkeys, the other thing great about Shimla is the food. I have been feasting on non-veg here for the past few days. My two favourite places being the Shere Punjab Hotel and the Embassy Hotel with a Cake and Icecream Shop. These are situated on the Mall Road just after you pass Christ Church.
I walked into Shere Punjab for lunch and ordered a plate of brain curry and naan. It is a basic place with typical dhaba style tables and seats. The menu is handed to you as soon as you arrive. Meat and chicken are the delicacies of the day, butter chicken and keema being the speciality. The place is run by a Sardar, so it’s a bit laid back. The windows in the seating face the mountains and give you a clear view of Shimla Hills. The brain curry is typically spicy Punjabi style with thick yellow tomato and chilli gravy. It is very filling with plain naan. A fresh lime soda to digest the meal and you are ready to go on ahead and explore this jewel of a hill station.
My next food stop was the Embassy Hotel which is also on the mall road. The hotel has an ice cream, sweets and pastry shop at the front and a restaurant as you enter through the pastry shop gates inside the hotel. The whole place is wacky as on the walls are pasted quotes from great philosophers and books like the Upanishads and Life Story of J. Krishnamurti. Wisdom from philosophy and motivational words are pasted on the wall. I was amazed and realised the owner must be a very learned and wise man, someone who is interested in the true meaning of life and is in search for the truth just like me. He too is on a journey to discover himself.
I was greeted by an elderly man who was sitting in the kitchen. I told him that I was a travel blogger and wanted to review the hotel and the feature it on my blog. The gentlemen agreed and served me a chocolate cake with vanilla and hot chocolate sauce. “This is all homemade recipes, sir. The chocolate sauce and the cake are all made and baked at home, no stuff from the store or the bazaars.” I was pleased and I dipped into the full plate of dessert. “You are a big fan of J. Krishnamurti Sir. He is all over your wall. Was he as good as they say? I personally am fond of OSHO, I have been heavily influenced by him.” I said with the sauce dripping from my spoon. “Oh OSHO, he was just a wild vagabond, he is still attached to things like his Rolls Royce. He made an organisation around the truth, like all of them, he made a business out of the search for truth. No No, Mr. J was the real thing, he never made any organisation and made it clear that you cannot seek truth in groups, you need to find it on your own. You have to go alone and drop the false. When the false is dropped, the truth will emerge and that is different for different people. Listen son, I have made lamb and potatoes for you. You will love it.” Having said that, he served the dish to me. Funny, I had never asked for it nonetheless it was tasty. The lamb was cooked well and had a thick coating of gravy, not too spicy but very juicy and chunky. The flavours mingled in the mouth as soon as I took a few bites of it. The potatoes were roasted and well done and complemented the lamb adding to the flavour.
I thanked the old man and took some photos of the hotel with his son too. I told him about my trip to Tibet to see Mansarovar. “You should read that Vikram Seth book. He has spoken about his journey to Tibet in that. Maybe when you come tomorrow, I will give it to you.” He waved to me and I wished him luck. Embassy hotel indeed a must go for everyone who comes to Shimla!
The Delhi Golf Club: Great Heritage, Beautiful People and Single Malt
Janak and I had walked on the lawns of the Delhi Golf Club seeing peacocks in all their bloom. The peacocks were walking past us as if we were strolling in an old Mughal palace. The gold course all lit up in the evening as vanilla white light falls on the green shiny grass. The lawn reflects light back forming a misty hue above the golf course.
I got down to some serious photography here the other day. Taking shots of the members in the bar sipping away at their whiskey and cognacs as they puffed away at their fatty cigars discussing the politics and news of the day. There were young golfers polishing their sticks and getting ready to take another crack on the course as caddies sat on the lawn waiting for instructions from their lords.
The lawns are super maintained and look like velvet. There are side walk lamps that lit up the club premises in the evening. They had a very old Delhi look but a lot more class and the best pedigree of members in India. The club consisted of the old, rich and powerful of Delhi, maharajas and civil servants, old and new age business men. The who is who of Delhi frequents this club, celebrity and golfers all walk up to the bar in the evening to share a drink and a chin wag as the TV plays in the corner of what reminds me of a British-style bar complete with green leather chairs and sofas.
The club has two bars, one on the balcony facing the golf course and the other one after the entrance. The one I entered is for slightly older generation and ply the fifty plus are seen here with huge chandeliers representing Elizabethan times. This bar has large chunky green leather seats and sofas too to host its guests.
One has to wear a collared shirt or t-shirt here all the time and I preferred to keep my jacket on. There is a dress code guys but the best thing was all these beautiful and successful women that sat in their little groups on the balcony chatting away and drinking to their hearts content. The banter and chatting did get loud as everyone started to get drunk by dinner time. There is a separate dining hall for dinner but you can order at the bar itself. I preferred the dining hall and just consumed my snacks at the bar. The bathroom and steam baths are well-maintained. There is even a gym fully operational for the members. It is luxurious with heritage and pedigree.
The balcony is the best place to be as one can wander around sipping a drink or even smoke at the corner. It’s great to eavesdrop into peoples conversations and overhear snippets from the neighbouring table. Women with black skirts or tight denim jeans smelling and looking their best with dark lipsticks and glittering eye-liners. Man, those nails were finely manicured just to tear out your flesh in heats of passion.
The food subsisted and Janak busted his lint of Rs. 50,000 as his father ranted from the other side of the phone. It took much explaining that we were enjoying ourselves for five straight days on the golf club binging on alcohol and non-vegetarian food.
The keema, the butter chicken and the prawns are a must-try. The mutton cutlets and bacon rolls should be tried for snails with a tall glass with gin and tonic. We polished off all this with a glass of brandy and cigars.
The alcohol gave the surroundings a flavour and a texture. It made the noises vivid and the light brighter. All in all, it was a very satisfying experience. Not to mention the single malt that I gulped away with soda and ice. Cheers to all!
Karim’s Jama Masjid – A Mughal Delight
Both I and Janak are fond of non-vegetarian food. Whether it was at the Delhi Golf Club or at Barqat, we indulge in chicken curries and mutton dishes with gusto. So it was not long since we decided to savour the delicacies of Mughlai food with typical old Delhi style. We decided to hit Karim’s, a very famous restaurant, situated in front of the Jama Masjid gate just near the steps of the mosque.
After dropping us at the road, we meandered into the busy bustling streets of Chandni Chowk right into where the mosque is situated across Mina Bazaar. The place is chalked with a block of bicycles, rickshaws and road-side non-vegetarian eateries serving roast lamb and chicken. Delicacies included mutton korma and chicken stew with the famous seekh kebab being roasted on iron rods sending smoke billowing up into the sky. We turned into a smaller gali and moved into an alley leading us down to Karim’s Restaurant itself.
It is a neat and clean place with enough space for the crowd it caters to. You have to share your seats, of course, and at times one has to even wait for their turn. There is a huge oven where large hot khamiri rotis are made. I took a few photos of that and also shaped a man making kebabs and gravies in metallic pots and pans. The restaurant is properly lit up and the service is prompt.
Red and cream coloured boards announce the word Karim’s as if to reassure the customer that he has finally landed at the right place to have a meal. The din of churning meat and the smell of seekh kebab greet people when they arrive here. The shouting waiters, the clinking of crockery and the falling of spoons are regular sounds as one waits impatiently to be seated.
I tucked into mutton korma with seekh kebab and polished it off with a fat khameri roti while Janak had a chicken stew. A phirni was just the right dish to finish our meals with succulent flavours and masala still fizzing in my mouth. I realised how popular this outlet was with foreign travellers and local families alike. It has a heritage, this Karim’s, and it was started by chefs who worked in the kitchens of Bahadur Shah Zafar. The chief cook, after having hawked his skills, started Karim’s restaurant and it is now being run by his grandchildren. So you see how famous the lineage of this merry restaurant is. Nihari and payaa are also served here though only in the morning. The entire meal for the two of us with cold drinks cost us only Rs. 800 and we were burping after the meal.
We had a quick stop at the pan shop to have the local pan and to keep the digestion going. Janak chose to share his rajanigandha pan masala along with the pan. Man, he is a much-shaken guy who enjoys the finer things in life. We were back from a fulfilling dinner after having a few drinks at the Delhi Golf Club which has become our regular watering hole for the time being. All in all, a pure Mughal day for the two of us.
Going Italian for Lunch at il Ristorante Chalet Des Roses
Travelling is all about new sights and sounds and tastes. It makes you hungry and all food is just not for the soul alone and one needs nourishment for the sensory and a good meal is always a delight. Looking around for something exotic – I found my best meal at the Chalet Des Roses at 13, Rue de l’Auximad, Antsahavola, Antananarivo, Madagascar.
It is part of a hotel and on the first floor with wooden flooring and a large balcony area for the guests to sit and enjoy the view outside, a fully stocked bar with the finest wines, liqueur and other drinks.
Their are two more sitting and dinning areas one just in front of the bar and one right at the back.The decor is tastefully done in red , olive green and yellow the colors , which are favored.
The aroma is of a wood fired oven and baked bread and it fills the air as one enters with the musical clatter of wine glasses and people soak in the afternoon sun and chit chat about their day and times.
It seems to be a hit with teh expat crown and I noted several foreigners, some possibly tourists but quit ea few that looked like regulars here and I heard French, Germans and even some Hindi. It is an an exotic place beyond doubt probably deserves a Michelin or two not that I could be sure but the food was indeed good. I was hungry and could have eaten a horse if it came to that but ordered a Tuna, Egg and Tomato Salad for starters.
I also took in a Limoncello for my drink and a ham, cheese, tomato and egg Bruschetta with goat’s cheese and minced meat followed by a Tiramisu for dessert and a coke to keep me going.
The tuna salad was a plate full and a large portion which I duly shared with Londry. The tuna was soft and not runny in the least with green lettuce pieces of cheese and slices of boiled eggs and fresh tomatoes, this was one healthy treat. I topped my salad with vinegar sauce and olive oil seasoning to taste.
The crisp crackling of the lettuce in the mouth with the flavor of tomatoes and tuna made this dish a special delight. With sips of limoncello I dived into the goat cheese brochette and the bread was crispand the cheese was smooth, delicate with a pungent flavor of milk and cheese.
The Dessert was of course classic Tiramisu in a round glass which I devoured in minutes. It was a brilliant mousse like with a bit of cake in the middle.
I loved it all through and right at the finish ordered a Cointreau to clean my palate and digest my food. All this for 89,000 Ariary, $28 or about 1900 Indian Rupees with some packed pizza to go in a nice neat carton totally made my day!
Flavours of Le Buffet de Jardin and Flaveya
The Madagascar leg of my African sojourn was coming to an end and I had my travel itinerary into Africa ready. My last dinner in town was scheduled across the city Le Buffet de Jardin a french themed local diner that had been in the city center for 40 years.
It has a live band and a crooner singing to the guests.
The lighting was loud and bright with pink, green, purple and a few I couldn’t place. Yeah it did give a certain psychedelic feel to the place .The seats and table were cheap made of plastic or weak wood.
As one entered one got to see a giant T.V Screen with people watching the Tennis at Wimbledon , the next room had the Band and the Bar. Londry, my new African aide de corps and I sat outside in the lawns under the shed taking in the air and some of the music.
We were meeting Flaveya that evening and a close friend of Londry. The big boned young lady in her mid 30’s was all energy and bright smiles and bubbly to the core. We had ourselves some liqueurs and whose names nor taste I recall well and we dived into the food. The was soup had hooves of cattle in them and I was not sure till dug in deeper that it was an edible thing. There was a delectable pork shashlik, well done skewers with an accompaniment of bread and mousse.
The soup was served in a large bowl and into were dipped the hooves , I enjoyed it’s rich but raw flavor and garnished it with some green chili paste. The pork skewers were tender and juicy with vegetable and fries to go with them.
Their was enough mayonnaise and tomato sauce to go around . Flaveya had ordered pork chops with rice and Londry enjoyed a beef steak with salad. All of us were high in the spirit of the evening intoxicated with the live music that churned out old pop hit’s and other local chart buster and truly music has no language.
It was good to note though that through my travel through two African Island countries – Indian music had definitely left a mark here, touched and made it better! The night wasn’t getting any younger but I was feeling energetic. Meeting a new nice lady was a definite high point though and Flaveya looked like a treat for the weary traveller.
We go talking and it was nice to meet an African woman and I admit I’d never known one before. We got talking and a few tings led to each other and after a hearty meal, some heady wine and a little cognac and a whole lot of flirty conversations and eye contact and several acknowledged smiles later I asked her up for a night cap at my hotel room. Things moved fast after that and it was a tryst for the body and soul – more for the body of course. In her short denim skirt and black stockings she looked a modern African Princess. We ended up spending the night together and with a kiss and a smile and with those large droopy eyes bid me adieu as she left my room. Flaveya was a great taste of real Africa and it was indeed a taste to remember.
A Restaurant Review Hong Kong
23.10.2015 – 23.08.2015 28 °C
Explored two mouth watering eateries near my hotel Holiday Inn . Both are on Mercer Street in Shung Wah . One is a Turkish food joint with a chef named Jahid from India . It is a a small shop , no a/c and only five or six chair’s for people to sit on and eat . The Menu was mostly Non- Veg Kebab’s , falafel , curries , chip’s and Doner Kebab. Most item’s where between 55 Hk TO 65 HK . I asked for a beef diner kebab and a lamb curry with french fries . This i thought would be an adequate meal , as it is it was my first of the day .The Lamb Curry was juicy and more like a Korma with tomato gravy and hot red chiles .The meat was soft and boneless , it lost melted in my mouth .I dipped the fries in the gravy and munched them as starters . This I washed down with a can of Fanta . Then came the beef Doner kebab .This reminded me of my day’s in Manchester and the kebab’s i use to enjoy during my college day’s . The meat was strung up in heated oven’s , only to be shredded later . The shop was small and Bollywood music was blaring from one of the tapes . Small but a tasty Kebab Joint not to forget good vale for money . So do visit this joint when you are next in Hong Kong .
Kebab House Turkish Restaurant
G/F 25 Mercer Road , Sheung Wan
Just in front of the Kebab Joint is Masala The Indian Restaurant .This serves modern Indian cuisine but only Halal Meat . You can have your dish little , medium or very spicy .The Rogan Josh , Fish Madras and Chicken Vindaloo are a must try .The gravies are rich and the quantity of oil is also to a reasonable level .The Nan’s and kulcha’s are a delight and go ver well with the gravies . Potato Chat , Samosa , Bhajia and Raita make a great appetizer . Once you have got your taste bud’s and gastric juices going try the Mango Lassi . This cool drink will blow you away and refresh you for the whole day . The restaurant is of an adequate size with room for almost 30 guests at a time . Their is a small bar too selling beer , whiskey and burbon. Run by an Indian Muslim family .I seriously recommend this eatery for those who wish to enjoy authentic Indian food in Hong Kong . This is as close as we get to home .The flavors and spices have all been hand picked and remix one of the Indian Mughal Period I t is more expensive then the Turkish Joint but the variety of food and the nice seating arrangement make up for that.
Masala Modern Indian Cusine
10 Mercer Street, Sheung Wan
Kake Da Hotel – Thoda Murga Shurga Ho Jaye!
It was evening and Janak was getting restless as we had been at home all day trying to fly my new drone. He was itching to get out of the house and today, we felt that a place should be our best bet and what better place than Kake Da Hotel in the outer circle.
This is the most thrilling address of Delhi if you want to taste mouth jingling butter chicken full of Delhi dhaba style. This restaurant has been running for the last 86 years and was started by an immigrant family from Punjab in Pakistan. The current owner is the son who is fondly called as the Captain, a gentleman who loves his chicken.
Of course, the chickens are mind blowing but do taste the keema matar, the seekh kebab, the dahi meat and the brain masala. This served with dal makhni and tandoori rotis or naan is just the dinner anyone can hope to get in the wintery evenings of Delhi.
The ovens are burning and baking the rotis as the dishes of mutton and chicken simmer in brass pots with large amounts of amul butter being poured into the chick gravy. Two plates and you are fully ready to polish it off with a Pepsi, “Yeh Dil Maange More!”. You can also have leftovers packed to take a bit home for a midnight snack.
The dhaba has a bright red neon sign with a red and white canopy. It is a clean and well-maintained place but with the basic amenities to give it the dhaba look.
All transactions are in cash and no credit cards or other modes of payment are allowed. At least not yet but with demonetisation on the go, the owners will have to think about this policy.
The succulent seekh kababs are a must try in winters and Captain treated me to a full plate especially when he heard that I was doing a feature on my blog about his restaurant. He was so happy that he let me and Janak feast at the dhaba for free.
There are many restaurants, dhabas and eateries on that lane of the outer circle but it is only Kake that is full all the time with waiting time of hours on the weekend. We were lucky it was a Tuesday as the rush was minimal.
I managed to get some more time to take shots of this magnificent eatery which has given me so much joy over the years. My gastric juices start flowing instantly when I see its red signboards. Kake has won many awards and certificates of appreciation. Sites like Mouthshut, Tripadvisor and Burpp have praised its efficient services and succulent butter chicken.
With a thick tomato gravy, the soft white chicken can taste like seven heavens. The crisp roti wrapped around soft pieces of brain masala can be very mouth-watering. Man, I just kept burping after I finished my chicken and was through with naan.
So if it’s chicken you are looking for in Delhi, “array bhai rhoda muga shurga ho jaey”. Just hop onto an OLA and land up at the Kake Da Hotel where lineage, heritage and class meet the rustic dhaba meat and chicken delicacies of real Punjab.
Dining with Janak at the Doon Darbar
The founders’ day of Welham Boys’ was over and I found myself spending winters in Dehradun with my grandmother. I needed a friend in the city so that I could pass my evenings. Janak was the perfect foil for my loneliness. In Janak, I found a long lost brother who would navigate me through the trials and tribulations of my life at this point. Janak was a junior of mine from Welham Boys’. A Raja’s son like me, he was also born into privilege. After Welham, he went to The Doon School and then did his university at McGill in Canada. So like me, he was also foreign educated and was old money.
We started hanging around and I shared with him some interesting nuggets from my past. My stint in Bollywood, the corporate world and the unfortunate death of my mother and father were our main points of discussion as we reacquainted ourselves.
“You see Janak, it was after the unfortunate death of my father that I started to travel in search of peace and forgiveness. I wanted to rediscover myself after an incident which had shaken me to the core.” Said I while I was drooling on the shami kabab that was served to us with onion rings and chutney.
I nibbled at the khamiri roti and took a bite of the mutton korma with white gravy. Janak played around with his tablet for a while and said “You have to let go of the past and build your travel blog. It’s your passion. I will help you buy a good camera and video recorder so that you can get the best pictures and capture all the beauty that surrounds you as you travel the world.”
Doon Darbar is an all-out Mughlai joint that is very similar to Karim’s in the Jama Masjid area of New Delhi. There were chicken peaches being roasted on flames and gravies being churned in pots resulting in mouth-watering gravies and biryanis. Not to mention an entire array of bread and other delicacies like phirni which one can enjoy as desserts. The prices are reasonable and the place is clean but the seating is basic. They have AC rooms if the heat gets a bit too much for the customers.
“It’s time for you to rebuild Anuj. Go out running, loose some flab and follow your passion. What’s done cannot be undone.” he said as he continued to play around with his tablet. These were the days after demonetisation and to my surprise, the joint had a card swipe machine and also a facility to pay via Paytm. I took a large swig of my thumbs up. Our entire bill was Rs. 600 and we had enjoyed a hearty meal at this star eatery. A must-visit for every traveller and food buff when in the city of Dehradun.
Making a Case for Humble Hummus
“YOU DON’T NEED FORK FOR GOOD FOOD”
Can it be truer for the humble hummus, one wonders!
Hummus is a creamy thick spread made with chickpeas and just a handful of other simple yet healthy ingredients.
Hummus is believed to have been first consumed by the Egyptians as early as 1300 B.C., using nuts instead of the tahini. But then, the issue of hummus’ origin has always been a subject of controversy within the Arab world, with Lebanon emerging as the prime contender to claiming the crown to the popular dish. Hummus is prepared and served in many variations across most of the Middle East and North Africa (including Morocco). It can be found in most grocery stores in North America and Europe.
Hummus plays a major role in the Middle East. So much so, there is intense competition between, chiefly, Israel and Lebanon as to which country can hold the world record in preparing the largest batch of hummus. In May 2010, the Guinness World Record for the largest dish of hummus returned to Lebanon, dethroning Israel. This hummus weighing in at a staggering 23000 lb, made by 300 cooks in the al-Fanar village of Lebanon included eight tons of cooked chickpeas, two tons of tahini, two tons of lemon juice, and as much as 154 lb of olive oil.
Basic hummus contains 5 healthy ingredients: chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and tahini, besides a hint of salt for taste.
1. Chickpeas being the main ingredient provide quality protein and fibre.
2. Olive oil, a great source of healthy fats and fatty acids.
3. Garlic for its strong pungent flavour, besides its many health benefits. Garlic is known to fight bad cholesterol, is anti-inflammatory, and promotes overall wellbeing.
4. Lemon juice, helps to increase immunity, improves digestion, helps to keep blood sugar level stable, and is a great source of vitamin C.
5. Tahini, made with sesame seeds having beneficial properties that reduce risks associated with insulin resistance, heart disease and cancer.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food”
The saying applies only too well for hummus. Scientific studies have shown that the ingredients of hummus combined together produce a well-balanced and rich amalgam of healthy fats, carbohydrates and the daily proteins, having a low glycemic index which when consumed gives a feeling of satiety for a long duration, thus effectively eliminating the need to resort to gorging on junk food.
Hummus is so very versatile also in its uses. It can be relished as is for its rustic base flavours or had as a part of the mezza (a traditional Lebanese platter of mini meals consisting of a variety of lip smacking finger foods and a hearty artisanal salad along with some kind of pickled veggies thrown in for good measure). It is also a great dip to dunk in your choice of crackers, or morsel sized wedges of toasted pita bread (Heavenly!). The possibilities are endless.
How to make your own hummus, you ask! It’s ridiculously simple and straightforward. Just Google search for hummus recipe, use your intuitive sense and pick one of the results from the page, and just follow the instructions to make your own hummus from scratch. Any home cook worth their salt will soon find ways to tweak the recipe and experiment with different ingredients and spices to come up with their own masterwork to flaunt.
Before I bid goodbye, here’s a shot of the hummus I cooked a week back (it turned out so delicious that it was gobbled up the same evening between the four of us family, the entire batch that I had intended to savour over the full week!).
Parsley – Nature’s Powerhouse of Nutrients
Like a great poet, nature is capable of producing the most stunning effects with the smallest means. Parsley is a good example here. Though mainly used as a herb, other parts from its plant are used as spice and vegetable. The terms spices and herbs are commonly used in our daily life and both are used as vital ingredients in the many dishes that we make, but do we ever stop to think the essential difference between the two? They add flavour, aroma, colour, texture and even nutrients.
Although both are food flavour enhancers adding a distinct aroma and colour to the dish, the herbs come from the leafy and green part of the plant while the spices are parts of the plant other than the leafy bit, such as the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds. The focus here is the herb bit of garden parsley or, simply, the parsley. It is the one ingredient that every cook should learn to use and every kitchen must have a ready stock of it at all times. Fresh parsley can be stored up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, that is, if it has had a thorough cold water soak/wash before putting it loosely in a clean zip bag.
Parsley comes from Greek words meaning rock and celery. It is mainly a biennial Mediterranean crop which has been cultivated for more than 2000 years. Though it was valued for its medicinal uses in the early days, the culinary importance of the plant was discovered only later. Parsley is now an important part of the world’s top healthy cuisines such as the Mediterranean, European and the Middle Eastern. For example, parsley is a key ingredient in several Middle Eastern salads such as Lebanese tabbouleh and artisanal fattoush salad.
Due to its wide recognition as a natural powerhouse of a variety of potent vitamins and age-defying antioxidants, it is now gaining acceptance in even traditional Indian kitchens and other parts of the world. A small quantity of parsley is packed with vitamins like vitamin K that aids in bone health and vitamin C that makes for a quality immune booster. Parsley is also packed with countless other curative properties.
While consuming parsley on daily basis, one may find lasting relief in joint pains due to the anti-inflammatory properties present in the herb. Parsley tea is very popular nowadays for its prowess in relaxing the tired muscles besides aiding the digestive system. Parsley, when consumed with lukewarm water early in the morning, helps in draining the toxins out of the body.
High in iron, parsley is recommended for patients suffering anaemic conditions. A daily regimen of just a couple tablespoons of parsley will help persons with iron deficiency. Lastly, before I sign off, please don’t wait for someone else to plant parsley for you. Grow your own parsley and enjoy the bliss of using it in your everyday salads and soups, and benefit from its many health properties.
All that a man needs for health, healing and the general wellbeing has been provided by God in mother nature itself. It is for man to discover them and unveil the incredible beauty about them to the world at large. Finally, time to offer our gratitude to the divine and bountiful nature for providing us with everything that we need!
Prasadams of India
Mahadeva Temple, Thrissur: This is a Shiva temple where, instead of an edible prasadam, books, CDs, tapes and content to increase spiritual knowledge is handed out. This, according to the temple, is the highest form of Prasadam.
The Laddoo of Badrinath: In Badrinath, one is given a huge laddu as big as a cricket ball to eat and enjoy. Sometimes, one can also get dry fruits in them. Jaggery, Boondi, Dates and Rice are some of the typical prasadams offered at most temples in India. Boondi from Hanuman mandir is a must.
Dhandhayuthpani Swami Temple: Here, a unique prasadam is made out of five fruits, jaggery and sugar candy. The preparation is a kind of a jam called panchamitram and is very sweet and famous for its taste.
Shri Krishna Temple, Ambalapuzha: Near Thiruvananthapuram, a special prasadam called payasam is offered to the devotees. This is a prasadam made out of milk, rice and sugar, and is made in the most traditional way as passed down by generations.
Azhagar Kovil, Madurai: This is a Vishnu temple where devotees offer grain to the board which is collected and distributed back to the devotees as crispy dosa. Yes, dosa is the prasadam offered in this temple.
Kamakhya Devi Temple: The temple, situated in Assam, offers a unique prasadam to its devotees. During the festival of Ambubachi, the temple is closed for three days and on the fourth day, the devotees are given a moist cloth as prasadam. This is the menstrual fluid of the goddess.
Khabees Baba Temple, Sitapur: This temple, situated 80 km away from Lucknow, has no deity or priest but is there to hound a baba who lived 150 years ago. Here, alcohol is offered by the devotees to the dead baba.
Karni Mata Mandir, Bikaner: This temple is famous for its rats. Rats run riot inside the temple complex and they are offered milk. After the rats have had some of the milk, it is given to devotees as prasadam. The belief is that rat saliva brings good luck.
Jagannath Temple, Puri: Most popular for its ‘rath yatra’, this is the most frequented temple in India. It serves 56 types of cooked and uncooked food dishes stored in large earthen pots which the devotees can purchase from a stall.
Srivenkateshwara Mandir, Tirupathi: The laddus of this temple are very famous and enjoyed immensely by the devotees.
Vaishno Devi Mandir, Katra: Here, devotees are offered sugar balls, puffed rice and coconut as prasadam. A thriving market of rudraksha sellers is also prevalent near the mandir.
What is Food Blogging?
This is a focused kind of blog which has food as its central theme. Here, food recipes, pictures and videos related to food are shared on social media. Recipes from various corners of the world, street food especially restaurants, canteens, hawkers, tribal food and much more are talked about and discovered. Herbs and spices used, cooking time, the type of utensils and appliances used to make these mouth-watering delights are shown and various different techniques are highlighted. You can cook, boil, bake, broth, freeze, grind, mix, steam and even smash your food, like we do with potatoes. A whole new universe of colourful spicy flavours opens up to us through the eyes and palate of the food bloggers.
Cakes, bakes, cookies, biscuits, desserts, smoothies, savouries, soups, shakes, broth and what not, the list is just endless. One can use videos to enact the drama in the kitchen in order to woo a larger audience.
Food Blogging Tips
Be Authentic: You have to be true to yourself and your passion. What you write about and photograph should be authentic and real. It should have come out of your direct experience which is the most important. You should have made your recipes and perfected them in your own kitchen. Your photographs should also show the dishes the way the look when it’s all set and ready to eat.
Engage Your Audience: Chat about your recipes, discuss the history and heritage of the food you blog about. Answer queries from your followers and always have something new to deliver them.
Videos and Photos: Food blogging is 70% visual. If you take attractive and high-quality photos and videos of your stuff, people will love it. They would want to eat the dish you have just shared. So, visual appeal of your blog recipes is a must.
Food Heritage: It is important to give the background of the places where your dish has come from. Why are certain spices put in it? What effect they have on the body? What was the gharana of the cuisines you are talking about? Is it Chettinad or Awadhi cuisine or something that you get in the north east? It is important to talk about the history of the food.
Be Creative: You can name your recipes and give them a brand new identity like your own personal trademark. Change flavours and spices to give the recipes a new twist. Explore different garnishes and ways to present the food in a dish so that it looks appetising.
Seasons: People in different parts of the hemisphere, due to their climate, land and water conditions, take different kinds of food to keep them healthy. The food from a hilly region will be different from the food in the coastal region. Add these titbits of trivia and information when you talk about a new food recipe.
Inputs for Other Food Bloggers: One should be in touch with other food bloggers so that one can share recipes and insights from them and get better at the blogging activity.
Welcome to a new channel of Tikku’s Travelthon. This one is called Travel Bawarchi! It is, yes you guessed it, a channel related to food and recipes. Here, you will get all the amazing recipes of foods from places that I sample as I go along my travelthon. From Punjab to Delhi and to the south, you will be showcased with mouth-watering delicacies and their ingredients.
A 2-minute YouTube channel will play one recipe at a time with photographs and full display. These recipes have been perfected over time by Chef Sunil Kwatra whose passion for food and cooking is well known in circles around the city. He has previously successfully managed a Lebanese restaurant and also, a few other eateries around the area. His zeal for picking the best ingredients and a heightened sense of hygiene makes sure that the food served is not only tasty and healthy but also presentable.
He has been serving me his tasty delights over the years and now, it is my opportunity to highlight his talent on my blog. So watch out folks for some serious gastronomical delights.
We value your feedback and suggestions.
Contact Sunil Kwatra at +91-9953937117 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Murg Makhani Butter Chicken
Methi Malai Murgh
Kashmiri Dum Aloo
Methi Malai Paneer