A Cook to Jhoom! Recipe published in The Guardian as the winning recipe!

On Saturday 13th April, a very popular Cook to Jhoom! recipe, the Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with a Yogurt Tahini Herb dressing won the reader’s recipe swap in none other than THE Guardian newspaper. The theme was ROAST. Here is the link to the article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/apr/13/readers-recipe-swap-roast

and here is a photo of the article in the Guardian’s COOK supplement. We are thrilled and proud!

13042013412

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Spicy roasted chickpeas and baked matoke (plantain) chips

I remember going to an elegant champagne and dessert party one evening when I was living in Miami. I hadn’t had dinner. It was an incredible spread of desserts including the most beautiful cakes, tarts, combinations of chocolate and fruit, and even mille feuille. After my 3rd bite of dessert, I found myself sneaking back into the hostess’s kitchen, peeking into her fridge and cupboards for a jar of olives or a piece of cheese…anything piquant or salty to balance, no, eliminate, the sweetness. Not very elegant but very necessary and totally worth it when I found some spicy bagel bites. If I had to choose, I would take savoury over sweet, every time. A packet of crisps over chocolate cake, I used to be fond of saying. I need to find more wholesome examples of sweet and savoury snacks to make my point!

For many people, like myself, keeping healthy and fit is a serious commitment – I have to watch what I eat very carefully and I have to exercise pretty vigorously at least 4-5 times a week. My weakness is salty crispy snacks like crisps, pretzels, salted roasted nuts and a whole range of Indian snacks including mathis, chevda and chakris which are…eek…deep fried. It isn’t just the savoury taste but also the satisfying crunch they offer – texture is incredibly important when it comes to food! Naturally, I’ve been experimenting with healthier but almost-equally satisfying versions of my favourite crispy snacks. Here are two of them.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas (Channa)

This recipe is so easy, so tasty, and I couldn’t believe how crispy the chickpeas turned out.

Serves 4 as a nibble

Active time: 5 minutes + 35 minutes roasting time

Ingredients

1 can organic chickpeas, 250g drained weight (rinsed and dried with a kitchen towel)

1  tablespoon sunflower oil

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder

1 teaspoon amchur (dried mango) powder (if you can’t get this, you can use sumac)

Salt to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7

Toss the rinsed & dried chickpeas in the oil, spices and salt. I encourage you to experiment with different types and quantities of spices to suit your palate.

All tossed and coated in those wonderful spices!

All tossed and coated in those wonderful spices!

Lay out the chickpeas on a baking tray lined with grease-proof paper. Put in the middle rack of the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Open the oven door, toss the chickpeas and roast again for another 20 minutes, you may need longer. They should be deep golden brown and hard to the touch – they will crisp up more as they cool.

Let them cool and enjoy with an ice cold beverage of your choice!

Per serving: Calories 136, Protein 6g, Carbohydrate 18g, Sugars 3g, Fat 5g, Saturates 0g, Fibre 5g. Dietary Fiber and Folate, and a very good source of Manganese.

Crispy, Spicy, Roasted Chickpeas!

Crispy, Spicy, Roasted Chickpeas!

Baked Matoke (Plantain) Chips

Serves 4 as a nibble

Active time 10 minutes + 25-35minutes baking time

Ingredients

3 small green bananas or 1 large plantain (after peeling, I had about 200g of banana)

1-2 tablespoons of sunflower oil or oil spray

Salt, chilli powder and lime to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

Line 2 baking sheets with grease-proof paper and spray with oil or brush lightly with oil.

Green bananas and raw plantains can be hard to peel – you will need a sharp knife and some patience.

Green banana or matoke

Green banana or matoke

After peeling, slice thinly, about 2mm thick slices. Lay them out flat on the baking sheets and sprinkle with salt and chilli powder, make sure they don’t overlap.

The slices are overlapping slightly in this photo, they shouldn't be- I spread them out more so they weren't touching just before baking.

The slices are overlapping slightly in this photo, they shouldn’t be – I spread them out more so they weren’t touching just before baking.

Bake both trays for 25-35 minutes, until you see that the chips are starting to brown slightly and curl up on the sides.

Let them cool completely before eating. As with the chickpeas, they will crispen as they cool.

Store in an air-tight container if you can resist eating them all right away. Right before serving, squeeze some fresh lime juice on, that way they won’t get soggy – awesome!

Per serving: Calories 107, Protein 1g, Carbohydrate 16g, Sugars 8g, Fat 5g, Saturates 1g, Fibre 1g. A good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol).

These baked banana chips were delicious!

These baked banana chips were delicious!

Posted in Recipe, Snack | 3 Comments

Alternatives to sugar…and are they really healthier?

Doctors, dentists, and nutritionists have been warning us of the adverse effects of sugar for a while now. Too much sugar causes obesity (it is calorie dense), dental problems, mood swings and fluctuations in energy levels. It is also thought to be responsible for causing liver disease which is linked to insulin resistance, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The culprit, it seems, is fructose which is present in most sweeteners. Table sugar (sucrose) is 50 percent fructose; corn syrup contains a similar amount, but even supposedly ‘healthy’ sweeteners like agave, honey, and maple syrup contain fructose. Our bodies cannot digest fructose and it is only metabolised by the liver. When too much fructose enters the liver, the liver can’t metabolise it fast enough for the body to use as sugar. Instead, it starts making fats from the fructose and pushes them into the bloodstream as triglycerides which could lead to the aforementioned health problems.

Eons ago, fruit was the only source of fructose for human beings. The fructose contained in fruit is considerably less than most sweeteners and fruit has the added benefits of fibre, vitamins, minerals and being all natural! Fruit juices, even all natural ones, contain more concentrated amounts of fructose and virtually no fibre. Still – far better to drink a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice than a glass of coke or artificially flavoured fruit juices, which are full of processed white sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. White sugar and corn syrup (contained in so many food products) are highly processed and devoid of nutrients…they’re often referred to as empty calories. Furthermore, they do not fill you up, so you tend to consume far more than you should. It is a popular misconception that brown sugars are healthier. Most brown sugars are just white sugar with molasses added back in. The darker the sugar, the more molasses has been added back in. Raw cane or Turbinado sugar and evaporated cane juice are the healthiest options when it comes to cane sugar, in that they are least refined, however, as far as fructose and calories are concerned, they are right up there with processed white sugar. In short, try to eat the less processed stuff, and even then, in moderation. According to current guidelines in the UK, you should try to consume no more than 90 grams of sugars a day, and that includes sucrose and natural sugars found in fruit, dairy, and vegetables. 1 level teaspoon of table sugar contains about 16 calories and 4-5 grams.

There are a growing number of natural sweeteners that claim to be healthier than sugar. I have used a few of them in my cooking so I thought I would research and do a concise review of these sugar alternatives, and share my findings with you so that we can all be better informed!

Honey

Honey has been around for centuries. Raw honey is completely natural. It is also rich in antioxidants and contains more nutrients than cane sugar, albeit too small an amount to be considered a good source of these nutrients. Honey has about 21 calories per teaspoon, more than sugar, but we tend to use less, because it is sweeter. In addition to being high in calories, it is also high in fructose, about 55%! However, there are people who swear by the medicinal properties of raw honey and have reported improved health after consuming it regularly. Furthermore, there are some brands of honey, particularly the floral ones, that have a low glycemic index, or GI, in that they release their sugars slowly and therefore do not cause rapid spikes in your blood sugar levels. Most commercial honeys have a GI of about 58 or more, while that of cane sugar is 65. If you want to use it in baking instead of sugar: for 1 cup sugar use 3/4 cup honey and reduce other liquid by 2 tablespoons for each cup replaced, and lower oven temperature by 5C or 25F to prevent over browning.

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar had been touted as an all natural healthier alternative to sugar but recent evidence proves otherwise. It is a product of the agave plant (like sugar is a product of the cane or beet plant) but most of the agave nectar available in stores is highly processed and refined, the lighter coloured it is, the more so. Furthermore, most brands of agave nectar, contain more than 70% fructose (compared with 50% in table sugar)! The main benefit of agave nectar appears to be its low GI of about 30, which means that it is much less likely to cause your blood sugar levels to spike rapidly. Calorie and sweetness wise, it is similar to honey. If you want to use it in baking instead of sugar: for 1 cup sugar use 3/4 cup agave syrup and reduce other liquid by 2 tablespoons for each cup replaced, and lower oven temperature by 5C or 25F to prevent over browning.

Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup is the boiled sap of sugar maple trees. Grade A is light and comes from early sap runs while Grade B is from later runs and has a stronger flavor. Try to buy the organic variety. It contains small amounts of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help quell inflammation and is high in manganese and zinc. Like honey, it has more calories than cane sugar per teaspoon. The GI for maple syrup is about 54, which is considered moderate. Very popular for pancakes, but also very good to use in your drinks, cereal, cooking and baking. For 1 cup sugar use 3/4 cup maple syrup, reduce liquid by 2 tablespoons for each cup replaced, and lower oven temperature by 5C or 25F to prevent over browning.

Molasses

Molasses is a thick dark brown or black syrup, much like treacle, that is a by-product of sugar cane or sugar beet processing. There are 3 main kinds: sulphured, unsulphured and blackstrap. Unsulphured black strap is the most nutritious. Unlike refined sugars, it contains significant amounts of vitamin B6 and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese; one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses provides up to 20% of the recommended daily value of each of those nutrients. It also contains zinc and copper. It has a strong, toasty flavour so use it with caution the first time to gauge how much you need for your taste. It has a lower GI than sugar (55), but is similar in calories. When baking with it, for every cup of sugar removed, use 1¼ cups molasses, cut the liquid by up to ⅓ cup and add 1 teaspoon baking soda per cup of molasses. Also, lower oven temperature by 5C or 25F to prevent over browning.

Date Sugar and Date Syrup

Date sugar is dried dates reduced to powdered form. The syrup is pure dates in liquid form. They are both all-natural, unrefined wholefoods that have all the nutritional benefits of dates: high fibre, vitamins and minerals. While they are wholefoods, they are still predominantly sugar, so are high in calories and carbohydrates. I could not find any consensus about the GI count of date sugar/syrup but I will keep checking. Bear in mind that date sugar does not dissolve in drinks or when cooking and tends to clump up. Date syrup is more versatile and much better suited to cooking and baking. The same baking rules that apply to honey, maple syrup and molasses apply to date syrup.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is an all natural sweetener produced from flower buds of the palm tree. It is available in paste and powdered form. It is not processed, has a low GI of 35, tastes like caramelised brown sugar, and has far more minerals than cane sugar. It is also suitable for diabetics. Calorie wise, it is on par with cane sugar. Coconut sugar works very well in baking and works 1:1 as a substitute for white or brown sugar. I made these delicious banana cardamom oat muffins with coconut sugar and they came out beautifully.

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is made when cooked rice is cultured with enzymes which break down the starch in the rice. The resulting liquid is then cooked down to a thick syrup, which is about half as sweet as white sugar and has a mild butterscotch flavor.  Brown rice syrup has a relatively low GI of 25. However, while it is natural, brown rice syrup is highly refined, concentrated and similar to honey and maple syrup in calories. To replace one cup of sugar, use 1 1/3 cups brown rice syrup, and for each cup of rice syrup added, reduce liquid by 1/4 cup and add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Brown rice syrup tends to make baked goods very crispy so keep this in mind if you prefer a softer, chewy texture in your baking.

Stevia

Stevia is an all natural sweetener from a plant native to South America.  It is available in various forms. You can chew the leaves and use them to sweeten drinks and food, and it is also available in powdered and liquid form. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar in powder and liquid form, so a tiny bit goes a really long way. I’ve never tried it but I’ve read many reviews saying that it can have a liquorice after taste. There are also several different brands available so you will have to do your research and find one that you like – the Sweet Leaf and NuNaturals brands seem to be the more popular ones. The major benefit of stevia is that it is calorie and carbohydrate free! Some studies have shown that it has a GI of 0, so is safe for diabetics to use because it doesn’t cause a rise in blood sugar levels. It has been used in Japan for the past 40 years.  It was first introduced in the US in the mid 1990s as an herbal supplement but was finally approved as a food additive by the FDA in 2008. The EU approved it in 2011. When baking, replace all but ¼ cup sugar in the recipe; for each ½ cup sugar removed, use 3½ tablespoons powdered stevia.

Summary

Sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, molasses, date syrup, and coconut sugar are all-natural alternatives to sugar that contain more vitamins, minerals and, in the case of date syrup, more fibre than cane sugar. However, with the exception of molasses, they don’t contain enough of those nutrients to make a significant impact. Agave, brown rice syrup, and coconut sugar also have significantly lower glycemic index counts than cane sugar, causing lower spikes in blood sugar levels, but agave has much more fructose which, as we saw earlier, can be harmful when consumed in large quantities. Molasses, maple syrup and some brands of honey have moderate GI counts while stevia has a count of 0! As far as calories and carbohydrate content go, with the exception of stevia, all the sweeteners above contain high numbers. You have to watch your calorie and carbohydrate intake as part of a balanced diet. Therefore, if you’re going to use a sweetener regularly, use one that is natural, unprocessed and richer in nutrients; make your calories count, but watch your calories all the same.

Sources

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/added-sugar/MY00845

http://www.gdalabel.org.uk/gda/gdalabel/nutrients.aspx

http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/nutrition/a/fructosedangers.htm

http://lifehacker.com/5809331/what-sugar-actually-does-to-your-brain-and-body

http://www.oprah.com/health/Sugar-Substitutes-Healthy-Natural-Sweeteners/1

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20424821,00.html

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/top-5-healthiest-natural-sweeteners.html#b

http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_techniques/buyers_guide_to_natural_sweeteners?page=4

http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_techniques/kitchen_tips_techniques/the_best_sweeteners_for_baking?page=5

http://www.motherearthliving.com/cooking-methods/natural-sweeteners-baking-with-honey-stevia-and-other-sugar-alternatives.aspx?newsletter=1&utm_content=12.13.12+MEL&utm_campaign=2012+ENEWS&utm_source=iPost&utm_medium=email

http://www.livestrong.com/article/542500-is-honey-nutritionally-better-than-sugar/

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/food-myths-debunked-honey-is-better-than-white-sugar-because-it-is-natural.html#b

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-truth-about-agave

http://www.foodrenegade.com/agave-nectar-good-or-bad/

http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/stevia-plant.html

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-682-STEVIA.aspx?activeIngredientId=682&activeIngredientName=STEVIA

http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2008/11/in-my-kitchen-coconut-sugar.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackstrap_molasses

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Almond Chai Latte

I love Indian masala tea. I prefer my masala to be sweetly perfumed and warm, heavy on the cardamom, very light on the cinnamon, fennel seed and ginger, and preferably no cloves. Certainly no black pepper!

Chai means tea in Hindi, not necessarily masala tea, even the tea leaves are referred to as ‘chai ki patti’. Initially I found it funny when I saw ‘Chai Tea Latte’ advertised at various coffee shops, because it was redundant to me  – Tea Tea Latte –  but I soon caught on that they were referring to chai as the Indian style of making tea by boiling tea leaves, milk, sugar and spices. In Swahili, tea is also called chai, it comes from the Hindi word. I don’t believe there is any relation to the Jewish symbol Chai, meaning life.

Spiced milky drinks are delicious, comforting and indulgent. I made some masala tea with almond milk the other day. I thought it would be perfect because almonds are so ubiquitous in Indian desserts and go so well with gentle spices.  Almond milk is made by soaking almonds and then grinding them with water. And you don’t need that many almonds. Almond milk is now very widely available, many supermarkets even make their own brands. Try to get the most wholesome one you can or you can make your own almond milk by following this link. I so love the rich and creamy taste of almond milk that I’ve taken to replacing  cow’s milk with it in my tea, cereal, and baking.  It is lower in calories and fat than cow’s milk, and it is high in vitamins and calcium, though not as high in protein.

In this recipe, I was heavy on the Almond Milk – it is a Latte after all.There was a lot of cardamon and just a hint of ginger, fennel seed, and cinnamon. You can add a few cloves /allspice/nutmeg if you wish. Do take the recipe below as a guide and tweak the proportions of the main ingredients to your liking. Can you believe this is only 49 calories per latte, unsweetened? I usually use 1 tsp of honey or coconut sugar to sweeten this latte.

Almond Chai Latte

Almond Chai Latte

Almond Chai Latte

Serves 2 mugs

Active time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

2 cups almond milk

1 cup water

1 teaspoon tea leaves

4 plump green cardamoms, seeds crushed to a coarse powder

1 2″ cinnamon stick or a pinch of ground cinnamon

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped or 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed coarsely

Method

Put all the ingredients together into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.

Once boiling, reduce to a medium simmer, and let it brew for 7-10 minutes.

If it gets too dark for you, you can add some more almond milk or use less tea leaves next time.

Strain the tea into a tea pot or mugs. Sweeten to your liking.

And don’t forget the milk foam. If you don’t have a frother or a fancy coffee machine you can make your own foam in the microwave by following this link.

Per Latte: Calories 49, Protein 1g, Carbohydrate 4g, Sugars og, Fat 4g, Saturates og, Fibre 2g. A good source of Phosphorus and a very good source of Manganese.

 

 

 

Posted in Drinks, Recipe, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Banana Cardamom Oat Muffins

Banana Cardamom Oat Muffins

Banana Cardamom Oat Muffins

In my recently published cookbook, Cook to Jhoom!, there are a mere three recipes in the ‘Sweet’ section. It has been challenging to come up with a varied selection of healthy and tasty Indian or Indian inspired sweets. Indian sweets are famous for being milky, creamy and very very sweet, almost always scented with cardamom, sometimes with saffron and garnished with nuts like almonds and pistachios. I belong to the 80/20 school of thought when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, i.e., eat healthy and clean 80% of the time and indulge a little 20% of the time. By indulge a little, I mean have 1 or 2 (depending on the size) full fat and real sugar gulab jamuns, not 4! Moderation really is the key – it’s a cliche because it’s good.

Be that as it may, I could not justify having a gulab jamun recipe in the cookbook because the book and the blog are, after all, about healthier ways of enjoying delicious Indian food. I could have tried it with semi-skimmed milk or a non-dairy milk and a healthier sweetener like coconut sugar/date syrup/agave syrup – but I can’t bring myself to do it (it sounds wrong even as I am typing it).  I’ll let gulab jamuns be, and enjoy them in their authentic form, very occasionally, with gusto. Muffins, however, have long been touted as a more nutritious alternative to cupcakes; a breakfast cake, if you will. They are not Indian, but you can give them an Indian twist by spicing them with cardamom, cloves and saffron and adding nuts like almonds and pistachios to them, to give just a few examples. I have been working on an oat muffin recipe for a while now, after a friend asked me whether it was possible to make muffins purely with oats and without any kind of wheat flour. Oats are packed with fibre and healthy carbohydrates, they are helpful in reducing high cholesterol levels and contain powerful antioxidants that can help prevent colon cancer. Furthermore, they are a healthy whole grain that keep you full for longer.

These Banana Cardamom Oat Muffins are so good.  They’re a very healthy on-the-go breakfast option, and also perfect for a 4pm chai time snack – or any time you like really! At under 200 calories per muffin, these are nutritious, wholesome and filling calories. To sweeten them, I used coconut sugar which is an all natural sweetener produced from flower buds of the palm tree. It is not processed, has a low glycemic index of 35, tastes like caramelised brown sugar, and has far more minerals than cane sugar. It is also suitable for diabetics. Calorie wise, it is on par with cane sugar. And that is the case with most sweeteners including honey, agave syrup, date syrup, brown rice syrup and molasses. If you’re going to use a sweetener regularly, use one that is natural, unprocessed and full of nutrients. Make your calories count! I’m aware that coconut sugar is not available everywhere, certainly not in Kenya where I am currently living. It has caught on quite fast in the West and is available online if not in health food stores. Use soft brown sugar if you have no choice.

Banana Cardamom Oat Muffins

Makes 10 muffins

Active time: 10-15 minutes + 22 minutes baking time

Ingredients

190g rolled oats (I whizzed these up in the food processor for 15 seconds to make them a little finer)

1 small ripe banana, 65g net weight (without skin), lightly mashed

160ml semi-skimmed milk (non-dairy milks should also work well)

100g coconut sugar (use soft brown sugar if you can’t get coconut sugar)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 Tbsps vegetable oil/melted butter/unsweetened apple sauce ( I usually use butter or oil)

50g walnuts (or almonds), roughly chopped

6 plump green cardamoms, seeds crushed to a coarse powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

2 tsps baking powder

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a muffin tray with 10 muffin cases.

In a bowl stir the oats, milk, banana, sugar, eggs, oil/butter/applesauce, cardamom and sea salt together, Add the nuts and baking powder and stir gently.

Spoon the mixture into 10 muffin cases. Bake in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes.

Enjoy warm or cool. Lovely.

Per Muffin: Calories 194, Protein 6g, Carbohydrate 25g, Sugars 9g, Fat 8g, Saturates 1g, Fibre 3g. A good source of Phosphorus and a very good source of Manganese.

Chai time!

Chai time!

Posted in Breakfast/Brunch, Recipe | 3 Comments

The Cook to Jhoom book has arrived!

The Cook to Jhoom! book has arrived and is beautiful! It can be purchased from the Just Jhoom! website http://www.justjhoom.co.uk/products/Dance%20Fitness%20DVD. Please use this method in the first instance in order to support the wonderful Just Jhoom! that made my cookbook dream a reality. If you experience any issues during the ordering process, please email info@justjhoom.co.uk. Alternatively, it can be purchased at any Amazon website. There are only 4 recipes from this blog and 26 brand new recipes that feature exclusively in the book.

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Potato and Pear Salad with a Curry Honey Mustard Dressing

My favourite potato salad to date – creamy, sharp, a little sweet, spicy, and crunchy.

Before I get to the recipe for the potato salad I must tell you that I have seen the cover of the new Cook to Jhoom! book and it is gorgeous! Colourful and striking yet tasteful and modern. Definitely inspired by the glitz and glamour of contemporary Bollywood. We will release it in the coming days and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think!

I love salads and I especially love salads that include a range of tastes like salty, sharp, sweet and tangy, and a balance of soft, creamy and crunchy textures. For the cookbook and for this blog I have very happily had to hone my creative instincts in coming up with a number of salads that emobdy all the aforementioned qualities, that also incorporate or are inspired by Indian flavours, and, importantly, are healthy for you. If you douse a salad in an oily vinaigrette or heavy mayonnaise/cream/cheese based dressing, as far as fat content and health benefits are concerned, you might as well be eating a cheese burger. There are 2 very flavourful couscous and lentil salads in the Cook to Jhoom! book and I posted a scrumptious butternut squash salad with a tahini dressing on the blog a few weeks ago.

I have had my mind on a potato salad for a while now. I don’t care for the more common mayonnaise based potato salad because I don’t care for mayonnaise – it always tastes far too eggy for me. Since childhood, I have had an aversion to anything that tastes eggy – so all forms of cooked eggs, quiches, meringues, and anything with raw egg in it like a mousse, mayonnaise or tiramisu is a no-no for me. I cannot keep it down and lord knows I have tried because eggs make for a nutritious, tasty and quick meal that I would love to be able to enjoy. If the taste is completely disguised, like in a cake, then I’m fine.  I have the same aversion to anything that tastes fishy/seafoody – but that’s for another time, when I blog my mustard fish recipe. And no, it’s not ‘all in the mind’. My brother, sister and I were all brought up on the same diet and they don’t have this idiosyncrasy.

Back to the potato salad. They do make some very nice vegan mayonnaise now, but it’s also very high in fat so not a healthy option. The German style potato salads with a vinaigrette style dressing are much nicer. However, I imagined a creamy curry spiced dressing for a potato salad and so I came up with something very nice indeed yesterday. Greek Yogurt is a really good substitute for mayonnaise when you want creaminess with considerably less fat and fruit is a good way to add natural sweetness and cut down on added sugars. I have used honey in the dressing, and even though it is a more natural sweetener, it is still full of sugar and calories so I use less of it than I used to. I planned to have the left overs with some cold chicken tikka (very yummy) for lunch today but my parents beat me to it. All gone!

Potato and Pear Salad with a Curry Honey Mustard Dressing

Serves 6 as a side

Active time: 20 minutes+ time to let the potatoes cool

Ingredients

700g baby new potatoes, washed well and left whole

2 medium pears (120g each), quartered, cored and diced

2-3 spring onions, sliced into 1cm pieces

30g (about 2 tablespoons) pumpkin seeds (nuts like pecans/walnuts/pistachios are also fine)

3 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander (you can also add in some dill and mint)

1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika, as a garnish (sumac would also work)

For the dressing

150g Greek Yogurt or coconut yogurt for vegans

45g or 1 1/2 tablespoons light mayonnaise/vegan mayonnaise

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons (14g) honey or maple syrup for vegans

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 teaspoons regular or madras curry powder (buy a good brand)

2 garlic cloves, minced

Sea salt to taste

Method

Cover the potatoes with water (should be at least an inch higher than the potatoes), add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. When it starts to boil, reduce to a medium simmer, partially covered. This should take 12-15 minutes; a knife should pierce the potatoes easily.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing by blending all the ingredients. Have a taste and adjust the salt/sweet/tangy balance to your liking. Remember there are pears to add more natural sweetness to the salad.

Prepare the other salad ingredients as suggested. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and wash under cool water for a minute to help them cool down. Dry them well and then slice in half and allow them another 15-20 minutes to cool.

Finally, mix everything together. Sprinkle the paprika on as a garnish. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the flavours come together and then enjoy! If you prefer it colder, place it in the fridge for a little while. This keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Per serving: 186 calories, Carbs 32g, Protein 4g, Fat 4g, Saturated Fat 1g, Fibre 1g.

Related Recipes:

http://rosemarried.com/2012/05/24/curried-potato-salad/

http://www.thetiffinbox.ca/2011/06/potato-salad-with-curried-mayonnaise.html

http://eatingininstead.com/2012/06/13/curried-potato-salad-no-mayo/

This is off to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, July 5-9th 2012.

Potato and Pear Salad with a Curry Honey Mustard Dressing

Posted in Recipe, Snack | Leave a comment

Yogurt Rice or Thayir Choru

Following on from my previous post on South Indian food and Beetroot Thoran, I present Yogurt Rice or Thayir Choru which is the perfect accompaniment to the thoran and really delicious just on its own with a little pickle. Ammini Ramachandran, author of Grains Greens and Grated Coconuts, a fabulous book on the vegetarian food of Kerala, describes it as a taste of heaven and I’m inclined to agree. In another post, I had shared the recipe for my favourite comfort food, vegetable pillao, which I almost always eat with yogurt and pickle.

This dish is a great way to use leftover plain rice, even the one from the Chinese takeaway which is probably Jasmine Rice. Though Basmati would work best, do give it a try with whatever plain cooked rice you have to hand. I made it with cooked brown Basmati rice. This dish is traditionally served at room temperature or cold. I enjoyed it slightly warmer than room temperature. This recipe is slightly adapted from Ramachandran’s with peanuts instead of cashews.

Yogurt Rice – I could eat this everyday!

Yogurt Rice or Thayir Choru

Serves 6

Preparation Time (with cooked rice): 5 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cooked rice

1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt or plain coconut milk yogurt with a a few squeezes of lemon for vegans

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons split urad dal (black gram)

1 1/2 teaspoons chana dal (bengal gram)

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

15-20 fresh curry leaves (dried will have to do if you can’t find fresh)

2 fresh green chillies, finely sliced

2 tablespoons coarsely crushed peanuts

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

Method

In a large bowl, mix the cooked rice (at room temperature or briefly warmed in the microwave) with the yogurt and salt and put aside.

In a small pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the urad and chana dals, and the peanuts. When the dals and peanuts start colouring, add the curry leaves, ginger and green chillies and stir for a minute or two.

Finally pour this mixture/tempering over the yogurt and rice, blend well and serve with some thoran, dal or simply some pickle.

Per Serving: Calories 243, Carbs 38g, Protein 8g, Fat 6g, Saturated Fat 1g, Fibre 1g

Related Recipes:

http://www.rakskitchen.net/2012/06/curd-rice-thayir-sadam-recipe.html

http://great-secret-of-life.blogspot.com/2012/08/curd-rice.html

http://www.cookingandme.com/2009/09/fortified-curd-rice-recipe.html

It makes a tasty bed for the beetroot thoran or accompaniment of your choice

Posted in Accompaniments, Main Course, Recipe | 3 Comments

Beetroot Thoran

Beetroot Thoran

This is my first foray into South Indian food on the blog, Kerala to be more specific. My first introduction to South Indian food was the marvelous masala dosa while on holiday in Delhi as a child. There was a travelling dosa-walla who would wheel his cart down the street behind my maasi’s house most evenings, calling out to us and tempting us all with the wonderful smells wafting off his cart (so much more exciting than an ice-cream van, even on a hot day), resistance was futile. While the sambar was simmering gently and the potato masala was kept warm on little gas stoves on the cart, he would make the thinnest and crispest dosas on a large cast iron tava with such speed and dexterity that we enjoyed watching the process almost as much as we did eating the dosas. I have tried making dosas with little success and I have much admiration for those who get it right, it takes a lot of practice to spread out the lentil and rice batter in quick  and accurate  enough circular motions to get a very large, thin and crispy pancake that holds together. I lived in Delhi between 2005 and 2006 while carrying out the fieldwork for my PhD, and I visited this excellent South Indian restaurant called Sarvana Bhavan in Connought Place, recommended by my South Indian brother-in-law, at least once a week at lunch time. The place was always so busy and you didn’t see many women dining on their own, especially Indian girls; I was often the only one. The slight awkwardness passed after the first couple of visits; nothing was going to keep me from their delicious thalis, idlis, dosas and gulab jamuns.  Since then, I’ve had all sorts of South Indian food in most of the places I’ve lived in, but nowhere more than London. I lived 10 minutes away from the Tooting Broadway and there were at least 10 South Indian restaurants on a 1km stretch of high street. They even have dosas at the food court in Selfridges in Central London, possibly the most expensive and least impressive ones I’ve tried. In Mombasa, where I live now, we have the excellent Bollywood Bites, offering both South and North Indian fare under one roof as well as near life size murals of Bollywood actors on the walls. I have never been to South India but I look forward to it very much.

There is so much more to South Indian food than dosas, idli, coconut chutney and potato bondas. I became more interested in how they prepared other vegetables and someone recommended Ammini Ramachandran’s Grains Greens and Grated Coconuts, a vegetarian cookbook specialising in the food of Kerala. It’s a wonderfully intense read in which the author educates us about the history and culinary traditions of Kerala, much of it through personal memoir. I have tried her dosa, idli and oothapam recipes with much success (notwithstanding my own lack of skill in making the dosa) but my favourite recipes so far are the yogurt or curd rice and the thorans, or stir fried vegetables. Curry leaves, split lentils, mustard seeds, and dried chillies are key ingredients in the tempering of most vegetable, lentil and rice dishes in Keralan food. Fresh grated coconut is also often added. Powdered spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala are rarely if ever used. The result is more subtle and gentle flavours and varying textures, like the crispness of the curry leaves and the satisfying crunch provided by the split lentils alongside the relative softness of the rice or vegetables. It’s light, fresh and tasty. I adapted the green beans thoran recipe from the book for a delicious beetroot version and added a twist or two of my own to add a little more punch. I did not precook the beetroot as I wanted a crisper texture, but you may prefer to, in which case boil the whole unpeeled beetroot for 35-40 minutes or pressure cook for 10-15 minutes. You can also buy precooked versions in most supermarkets.

Beetroot Thoran (stir fried Beetroot, Kerala style) (Serves 4 as a light main or side dish)

Preparation Time: 10 Minutes, Cooking Time: 10-12 minutes

Ingredients

3 medium size beetroots, peeled and coarsely grated (200g after peeling and grating)

2 small green chillies, seeds removed if you prefer less heat, thinly sliced

2 medium dried red chillies, left whole or sliced in half

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon split urad dal (black gram)

1 teaspoon chana dal (bengal gram)

6-8 fresh curry leaves (dried will have to do if you can’t get them fresh)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (my own addition – it takes the flavours up a notch) or lemon juice

4 tablespoons fresh or frozen grated coconut, or 3 tablespoons desiccated coconut (try to get the more coarsely grated version if you can)

2 teaspoons olive or sunflower oil

From left to right: fresh curry leaves, split urad dal, chana dal, and mustard seeds

Method

Combine the grated beetroot, salt and turmeric well and put it aside.

Grated beetroot, turmeric and sea salt

Heat the oil on medium heat in a non-stick wok or heavy skillet. Add the mustard seeds.

When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the urad dal, chana dal, curry leaves, and red chilli. Fry until the dals start to turn golden brown (this way they will be crisp and easier to eat).

Awaiting the gloriously purple beetroot.

Add the beetroot, turn the heat down slightly and let the beetroot cook, covered, for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, grated coconut and green chillies. Give it a final taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with either plain rice, a pilaf or with this delicious yogurt rice.

Per Serving: Calories 114, Carbs 10g, Protein 2g, Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 5g, Fibre 3g

This recipe is off to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend May 24th-28th.

Related Recipes:

http://www.kothiyavunu.com/2011/09/beetroot-thoran-upperi-beetroot-stir.html

http://itsmyspice.blogspot.com/2012/07/beetroot-thoran.html

http://lizzieeatslondon.blogspot.com/2012/01/beetroot-thoran.html

Beetroot thoran and yogurt rice

Posted in Main Course, Recipe | 7 Comments

Desi Spinach Pancakes

Can you count 7 pancakes?

A few weeks ago I made fluffy American pancakes for Sunday brunch. They got me thinking about savoury pancakes, which then got me thinking about Indian spiced pancakes for the blog…and here we are. It’s a wonderful thing when an idea materialises into something delicious on your plate…and on your Facebook wall with your friends telling you how hungry you are making them! I love the whole process: the research for the recipe and the drafting of it, the shopping for the ingredients, the initial testing, the tweaking, the retesting, the styling of the photo shoot, the shoot itself (yesterday I spent most of it shooing the cats away as they kept trying to leap onto my lovely green pancakes), being able to call it a photo shoot :),  finally eating it, writing about it all and then sharing it with you. It’s a joy!

When I discussed the idea of Indian pancakes with my mum, she immediately suggested Pudas, also known as Pudlas or Chillas. The French also have a version called Socca crepes. These are all made with chickpea flour/gram flour/Besan. Indians sometimes call them eggless omelettes. The French Socca crepes are usually not spiced and are larger and crispier. My dad also chimed in and said that his mum used to make the best Pudas, with chopped onions, tomatoes, green chillies and coriander which he enjoyed with pickle, yogurt and garam garam (hot hot) masala chai! They have all the flavour of pakodas or bhajis but over 95% less fat! I just had to make them! Wanting to put my own twist on them and because I love spinach pakodas, I made them very green! These are vegan and gluten-free. Feel free to experiment with your favourite vegetables, but make sure they are finely chopped/thinly sliced. The next time I make these I will make them with caramelised onions!

Desi Spinach Pancakes.

Desi Spinach Pancakes

Makes 12 5″ Pancakes, enough for 6 people

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 15-20 minutes (depends on how many you’re making)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (190g) Besan/gram flour/chickpea flour

250g fresh spinach (this yielded 170g or 1 cup of spinach after wilting, squeezing most of the water out and chopping)

1 medium red onion (110g), finely chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

2 fat garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder

1 1/2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup for vegans

1 teaspoon fine sea salt or to taste

2 cups water/buttermilk/thin yogurt – I used water

Sunflower/olive oil for brushing the pan, I used about 2 teaspoons, or an oil spray would be perfect here.

Method

Start by wilting the spinach. Wash the spinach. Put a large pot on medium heat. Add the spinach to the pot and move it around a bit as it wilts. The water that clings to the spinach from the washing should be enough to wilt it.

The spinach, just before wilting

The spinach, wilted into submission!

When the spinach is wilted, drain it, let it cool, squeeze most of the water out and then finely chop it and put it aside.

Drained, squeezed and finely chopped spinach

Sift the Besan/gram flour into a large bowl and add the spinach and all the remaining ingredients, except the water and oil. Mix all the ingredients together and gradually add the water (or buttermilk/thin yogurt) until it is slightly runnier than a pancake batter. If you would like your pancakes thicker than mine then add a little less. My dad found my pancakes too thin, but they were fine for me. Taste the batter or make a small test pancake and adjust seasoning to your liking.

The pancake/Puda batter

Heat a small non-stick frying pan on low-medium heat. Brush it/spray it with oil. Add 1/4 cup full of batter and spread it out with a ladle until it is about 5″ in diameter and 5mm thick. It should take about 2 minutes for the bottom to get golden brown, then flip it over and let it get the same colour on the other side.

I flipped this pancake over a little too soon, it should be a dark golden brown colour around the edges, as in the pictures of the ready pancakes. No harm done, I just flipped it back!

You can also use a larger frying pan and do a few pancakes at a time. If not eating immediately, keep them wrapped in foil in a 120C/250F/Gas Mark 1/2 oven.

There are so many ways to serve these pancakes. I dipped mine in this chilli tomato chutney. My mum had them with a dollop of low-fat Greek Yogurt and mango pickle. My dad had them with a little ketchup! Our house help Julie had them with dall instead of chapatis and the cats gobbled them up just as they were. I think some low-fat sour cream/cream cheese would also go really well with these. Washing them down with masala tea/chai tea is a must!

Per Pancake (if you make 12): Calories 82, Protein 4g, Carbohydrate 12g, Sugars 3g, Fat 2g, Saturates 0g, Fibre 2g. A good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium and Copper, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Folate and Manganese.

This recipe is being submitted to Wellness Weekend, April 26-30th, 2012

Related Recipes:

http://www.inerikaskitchen.com/2010/05/spinach-pancakes-recipe.html

http://fiveandspice.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/spinach-pancakes-with-mint-lime-yogurt-sauce/

http://veganepicurean.blogspot.com/2009/10/spinach-pancakes-with-salsa-fresca-and.html

Posted in Accompaniments, Breakfast/Brunch, Main Course, Recipe | 9 Comments