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
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
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.