30 March 2007

Summer Food series # 1 - Herby Tomato salad with pine nuts and cheese


Tomatoes, pine nuts and soft cheese


We are still in March and its scorchingly hot in Bombay. Just the day before, the temperature touched a record 41 C (almost 106 F). I was blaming global warming, just to be informed that the reason was not global but very much local . The Summer Food Series that I announced a couple of days ago has been my natural reaction to this unnatural heat in the city. These days, we are automatically inclined to eat raw, juicy fruits and vegetables. My fridge is full of oranges, limes, apples and my counters are strewn with tomatoes, a large watermelon and a couple of cantaloupes. But some of the tomatoes are sunning it out as per Anjali's instructions.

Standing in front of the gas stove is becoming quite a task and with super simple salads and raw foods, we intend to beat the heat to some extent.

Our nearly raw diet this week resulted in the discovery of some amazing salad combinations. Fruit-vegetable-spice, vegetable-nut-herb, and not try substituting your choice of fruits, veggies, nuts and herbs in those spaces and you will realise there are some million combinations if not more.

This is was super discovery which we loved so much that I made on two consecutive days. Besides, it is so simple that even your kid can assemble it.



Tomato salad with pine nuts and cheese
Category - Salads
Time taken - Under 10 minutes
Serves - 2



ingredients
4 medium tomatoes - halved and each half cut into thirds
2 trianges of cheese - roughly pinched off ( I used Laughing Cow, Feta would be nice too)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt to taste ( If using feta, go easy on the salt)
2 tbsp pine nuts- lightly roasted
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil ( optional)

directions
In a bowl, mix in all the ingredients except nuts. Chill for an hour or so. Garnish with toasted nuts just before serving.

serving suggestion
Spoon this salad between two slices of bread for a light, cold sandwich. I eat it just by itself.

BTW, today is STOP CYBERBULLYING DAY! So, I am not going to bully anyone to leave comments, its not like I have done it before....Hahaha


28 March 2007

Potato in Tamil Brahmin Cuisine

Potato wedges - a global favourite | Recipe coming up soon


Regulars on Saffron Trail would have realised that I have been unfair to the global favourite - the potato by never having openly expressed my love for this humble vegetable. To clear a few things, I too like all others, love this vegetable dearly. My all time favourite home food is Urulaikizhangu Curry and Vengaaya saambaar with rice, which is potato roast and onion sambhar. This is my soul food. If I could choose my last supper, this would be it.

Potatoes are made in several ways in our Tamil brahmin household and none of them that I know use garlic as a spice. I am happy to share with you some simple authentic Tambram potato recipes.

The recipe source is my mom (Amma), who cooks mostly traditional food with the exception of a pav bhaji or pulao etc. to meet my sister's demands.

Recipe 1
Urulaikizhangu Roast - This is had with a traditional Sambhar, rice, salad and fried appalam & vettal (rice flour crackers) whichforms the menu of a typical Sunday lunch in most of our households.

Amma says "Boil the potatoes. Peel, cube and dry marinate them for 10 minutes in turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt and rice flour (for crispiness). Splutter mustard seeds in oil, and then roast the marinated potato cubes until roasted and crisp. A variation of this recipe is one in which sliced onions are stir fried in the oil before the potato cubes go in.

Among all traditional recipes, most tambrams would rate this as numero uno, including yours truly. By using a little more oil, this can be roasted to a golden brown perfection, but while making on a regular basis, not more than a tbsp of oil would be used for two servings.

Recipe 2
Urulaikizhangu Podimaas - This is the other end of the spectrum of potato dishes. Neither crispy nor very spicy, this is a very flavourful recipe that used crumbled potatoes.

Podimaas

Amma says, "Boil the potatoes. Peel, crumble and salt them. Heat oil and pop some mustard seeds. Put chopped green chillies, ginger pieces, curry leaves, chana dal and udad dal into the oil and fry until the lentils are golden brown. Add the crumbled potatoes to the above, bring it all together by stirring well and in the end garnish with freshly grated coconut. "

No turmeric used in this dish, neither red chilli powder - the potatoes have their pale yellow colour and the aromatics turn this dish in another simple marvel. The fried lentils go ka-tak, ka-tak in your mouth like firecrackers and it is fun. May not be so much fun if they get stuck inside one of your cavities :) This dish goes well with yogurt based curries like Mor Kozhambu and rice.

Recipe 3
Smashed potatoes in gravy as in Puri-Kizhangu - This is usually made as a tiffin ( a 4 o' clock meal) item. However, being a fried dish and quite heavy, my granny used to make this just 5-6 times a year. And needless to say, I have NEVER made puris in my life. Not because of the fried bit, but because I have never learnt the technique. Here, the potatoes are in a spiced gravy base thickened by chick pea flour and this is what the crispy Indian fried breads (puris) are dipped into. The flavour is mellow and the gravy is creamy.

Amma says - "Boil, peel and roughly crumble the potatoes into medium pieces. In oil, splutter mustard seeds, and then fry chopped ginger, green chillies, curry leaves, chana dal, udad dal with a pinch of asafoetida and some sliced onions. Once onions are done, add the crumbled potatoes, with enough water to make a gravy. When this comes to a boil, add the salt, turmeric powder and some chick pea flour dissolved in water to thicken the gravy slightly. Garnish with chopped coriander."

As I am talking to my mom, getting the exact method for this dish, my dad is asking me when I am going to make this for him. I am trying to evade this by saying ' It's only for my blog readers that I'm noting all this down' and he's trying to threaten me that he'll complain about this in the comments section :P, to which my answer is comment moderation

Recipe 4
Potato slices roast with skins
- My mom usually makes this for dinner, when she is not in a mood to pressure cook and boil potatoes, or if she has forgotten to boil them in the morning pressure cooking session, along with rice and dal.

Amma says "Scrub and wash the potatoes. Halve them and slice into semicircles. Splutter some cumin seeds in hot oil, and then put in the sliced potatoes with some salt, turmeric and chilli powder. Srit everything together and sprinkle water to aid fast cooking. Cover the wok with a lid and stir the slices occasionally with a sprinkle of water and remove when done.

This one tastes best with rasam saadam (rasam-rice) dotted with some home-made ghee and a roasted appalam (papad). I'd call this perfect food while recuperating from an illness.

Some common tips while cooking with potato:
  • Asafoetida (perungaayam) or hing is used in most potato dishes in our cuisine. Potato is known to cause bloating and hing is the best gas-buster there is. There are two ways to add hing to the recipe. Hing powder is either added to oil along with the tadka keeping a low flame so as not to burn this powder. Alternatively, a small piece of asafoetida is broken off the block and dissolved in some hot water and a few drops of this infused water in sprinkled in the dish while cooking.
  • Most of our recipes call for boiled potatoes except for some like No.4 and potatoes are usually pressure cooked with their peels on, which are peeled off after the potatoes cool. Medium sized potatoes cook to perfection when pressure cooked for 3 whistles and then flame kept on sim for another 5 minutes. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you could boil them with their peels on for 10 minutes or so, a tester poked through them suggests that they are done.

That's a record for me, four recipes in one post. Finally this post was to be all about this fantastic, finger licking potato wedges I made today. But my love for our traditional cuisine and the guilt of not writing enough about it, completely overtook my mind and fingers and what you see is this. The potato wedges recipe will come by soon, now that my guilt pangs have been appeased.

Some interesting reads


I am glad that I have managed a worthwhile post for Lakshmi's event on Regional Cuisine of India, which starts with Tamil Cuisine this April.

26 March 2007

Hip-notized by Shakira - Live in Mumbai on 25 March, 2007

Scene in my balcony on Sunday morning
I am sitting with DH and our friend, L sipping on some lovely masala chaas made by DH and my friend N calls. "Hey - I have an extra pass for the Shakira's performance this evening! Are you coming?" And I was thinking - "Am I dreaming"??

I didn't do anything stupid like refusing her and there we were at the MMRDA grounds at 5.30 pm waiting for the gates to open while being awed by the serpentine queues. I have attended quite some concerts in Bombay and this was the biggest crowd I had seen.

We were in the ground by 6 PM and people were cramming in, slowly and steadily. Women (young and younger) and kids were a majority of the crowd. By 7.30 PM people were getting restless, with the long wait and the crowds. After a bit of booing and shouting to pass the time, we finally got a glimpse of her sillhoute behind the drapes. I wasn't much of a Shakira fan until I saw her live. She has this magnetic effect that grabs your attention. How else can we explain the fact that this woman single-handedly kept 20000 odd people glued to her for over 90 minutes?

I was familiar with just 3 of her songs, which happened to the crowd favourites too - Underneath my clothes, Whenever-wherever and (but ofcourse) Hips don't lie. Most of the other songs were in Spanish, as a part of promotion of her latest album Oral Fixation. The crowds (especially the women) went Ooooh and Aaaaaah when her second costume, a red flowing gown spread around like a huge tent and the frills were long enough to fly high in the sky. Her other costumes were gorgeous too, each designed to suit the kind of performance. She sang a couple of soulful numbers, including Illegal, for which she just sat on a stool in the center of the stage. No hip shaking, no fancy costumes there, just her powerful, gutsy voice that reverberated in the open air.

(Photo courtesy Times of India)

My other favourite part of her performance was the belly dance done to an Arabic tune, mainly the drums and her hips moving with precision to each drumbeat. Her Arabic costume just added that extra bit of sensuality to this super sensous number.

The highlight of the evening was ofcourse the grand finale - Hips don't lie which went on for a good seven minutes. In the end, a troup of Indian dancers joined her with some Indianised steps, which gave that special Indian tadka to the whole performance. The show ended with a million bits of coloured paper being shot into the air, lending the atmosphere a magical effect.

I only wish she was made to perform on a higher stage because we were on our toes for almost an hour trying to get a glimpse of her, even though we were in one of the front-most rows. I'm sure the back rows couldn't even see her flaming curls, not to mention those hips. Overall show was stunning and magical, the crowds enjoyed every bit of what they saw and heard. I heard women leave the grounds saying - "How did she get those abs?", "Where can we learn this kinda dance in Mumbai?" to each other! And ofcourse also overheard were comparisons in 'performance' between Shakira and the Indian cricket team!

Check this coverage by CNN-IBN on what people had to say about her performance.



25 March 2007

Eggplant dip and Red Bean dip - Party starters

Dip, dip, dip!

Sometimes, you just want something light to nibble for dinner. While I've labelled this recipe under Party Starters, you need not necessarily have a party to enjoy this kind of finger food. This is perfect stuff to share with your partner while watching your favourite movie on a Friday evening.

My evening menu this Friday was oven baked roti chips, plenty of them to dip into an oven roasted eggplant dip called the Badenjan dip and a red kidney bean dip. The Badenjan dip is quite different in preparation and taste, from the Baba Gannouj which I've shared earlier with you. While it may sound light, it is quite filling as the components are the same as any other Indian meal - Chips (roti), Eggplant dip (Vegetable) and Kidney bean dip (Dal / Lentils). This can be served with a salad like Fattoush and you have a complete meal.

For a party, I'd highly recommend Nigella's own spread for exotic evenings from her book Feast - Pita chips with Eggplant dip, Red bean dip, Fattoush, a Bulghur salad and the tiny lamb meatballs. You can get recipes for the entire exotic menu from her Nigella Feats show.

Eggplant goes exotic!

Badenjan Dip / Roasted eggplant dip with pine-nuts and mint


Category - Dip for toasted pita chips or pita bread, Party starter
Serves - 4
Time taken - 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on how you roast the eggplant
Source - Nigella Feasts



ingredients
1 large roasting eggplant to make about 1 1/4 cups when roasted, pulped and sieved
2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1 large onion, finely diced
3 fat cloves garlic, minced or grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup homemade / Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, to garnish
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, to garnish

directions
Roasting the eggplant - You could do this in a broiler or direct on the flame.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Dribble extra-virgin olive oil, to garnish. Prick the eggplants with a fork and put them on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until soft to the touch. Allow to cool before peeling and mashing them, then leave the pulp in a sieve to drain.

Alternately prick the eggplant and keep it on a medium flame. Rotate at intervals so that the whole exterior is charred and interior is pulpy. This will take roughly 10-15 minutes.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook until golden and then add the drained eggplant mush, cooking it with the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes over a gentle heat, stirring frequently. Take off the heat and turn into a bowl to cool and season with salt and pepper. Add the yogurt to the cooled eggplant mixture together with the saffron in the now golden water, stirring together well. Turn into a bowl and sprinkle over the mint, toasted pine nuts, and a dribble of oil.

Note
I served this with oven-baked roti-chips. Make regular thin rotis from whole wheat flour. Cook them very lightly on both sides and keep aside. Don't put them directly on flame to puff them etc. Cut the rotis into triangles and spread in a single layer. Bake them in a 250C oven for around 5-7 minutes till they are light brown and crisp. Store in airtight container.

Don't miss out on the saffron and the mint. These two spices lend the touch of exotica that you'd never find in a Baba Gannouj or any other roasted eggplant dip recipe.



This is my entry for Meeta's Monthly Mingle - Arabian Nights





23 March 2007

Poro - the jewelled Parsi Omelette

Parsis love their eggs. Well, that is an understatement. Their Akuris are made with a dozen eggs into a tall frittata stuffed with onions, coriander and chillies that suffices the entire family at breakfast. Poro is an omelette that is as beautiful as the Parsi women. I'd like to christen it the Jewelled Omelette.

24.03.07 Update -
While browsing in the Crossword bookstore this afternoon, I flipped through Katy Dalal's Jamva Chaloji - A Parsi cuisine cook book and she recommends that you have the Poro with chips, buttered bread and sour limes. This is one dish that Parsis make when the whole family is together for breakfast or also for a dinner when they are too lazy or tired to cook anything elaborate. Poro is also made on days when they must abstain from meat or fish.




Poro
Category - Eggs , breakfast
Time taken - Under 30 minutes
Serves 4
Recipe source - Best ever curry cookbook by Manjula Baljekar


ingredients

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 fresh green chillies, finely chopped
a few sprigs coriander, chopped, plus some more for garnish
1 firm tomato, chopped
1 small boiled potato, cubed
1/4 cup boiled green peas or frozen green peas, thawed
1/4 cup sweet corn, cooked / microwaved
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup grated cheese (optional)
salt and ground black pepper

directions

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large pan. Fry the next nine ingredients until well blended but the potato and tomato are firm. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

Turn up the heat and pour the beaten eggs. Reduce heat, cover and cook till the bottom layer is golden. *Turn the omelette and let turn the heat to low. Let this cook for some 5 minutes.

*If you have a grill or broiler, you could turn the omelette to the other side, sprinkle cheese and place under a hot broiler until eggs are set and cheese is melted.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve it for breakfast in true Parsi tradition. Along with a salad, this would serve good for lunch too.

This is my entry for WBB # 9 - Eggstraordinary breakfast at Live to Eat

Not forgetting about my Friday Food Video for you, its more eggs coming your way.

How to make the perfect Egg Bhurjee - Indian style scrambled eggs brought to you by Alfred Prasad, Head chef at London's Michelin-starred Tamarind restaurant.




If you cannot view the video, click here to see it.


21 March 2007

Quick and easy Bhindi Masala - Spicy stir fried okra

Bhindi masala - Up, close and personal

Bhindi / Okra / Lady's finger or Vendakkai is one of the favourite vegetables of my adulthood. When I was a kid, it was a different story. Like how it happens in many a Tambram family, my folks used to lure me with tales of how eating vendakkai ( the tamil word for Okra) can help me score full marks in Maths! I could never figure out the connection between eating bhindi and maths, unless ofcourse I was doing calculations on the huge number of seeds that came along with it, but hey we didn't argue much as kids did we?

When I read Manisha's post on Okra Kichadi, I realised that this vegetable has surprisingly never starred in any recipe in a lead role in the last one year.

Last evening, I had to catch up with some friends over dinner. So I decided to leave some delicious hot dinner for DH at home. Bhindi masala, rotis and a black grape raita were what made the impromptu menu, made with things that were outermost in my refrigerator.

I was inspired by Inji Pennu's wise words on sharing simple homely recipes for those who would benefit from it.

While this Bhindi masala is simple enough for beginners, the spices give it a Punjabi dhaba- kinda rich taste. Though I like my plain and simple okra stir fried Tamil brahmin style, sans any garlic or onions, this one is a crowd pleaser and most importantly - there is no grinding involved here!

I shall not duplicate Manisha's clear cut instructions on how to avoid the slime while cooking with okra. It's pretty much what I do and if you haven't handled this vegetable before, I suggest that you give it a reading to avoid any slimy disasters in the kitchen.

"I'm cooling off before she puts the lid on me"

Bhindi Masala ( Spicy okra stir fry )
Category - Vegetable , accompaniment to rice or rotis
Time taken - Under 30 minutes
Makes 2 large servings
Source - Own recipe



ingredients
250 gms okra / bhindi / lady's finger
2 medium onions - halved and sliced thin
1 large tomato - halved and sliced thin

spices
4 cloves garlic
1/2 inch fresh ginger root
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder / cayenne pepper
1 green chilli slit and chopped fine
1 सब्जी masala ( I use Everest brand SabjiMasala ) or garam masala
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 -2 tbsp oil

prep work

4 peeled cloves of garlic and 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger - ground in mortar and pestle with a sprinkling of coarse salt

Wash and wipe dry young okras. Slice of tops and tails. Cut into half length wise and then chop in half or thirds as per length of okra. Make 2 cups of sliced okra, keep aside.

directions

In a heavy bottomed or a non-stick pan, heat the oil. Put in the coarse ginger-garlic paste and stir for around a minute until there is no raw smell. Splutter the cumin seeds in oil next and then add the onions.

Stir the onions for a minute along with split green chilli. The okra slices go in next. Keep the flame on HIGH while stirring the whole mix together for 2-3 minutes. Take care that the contents are not allowed to stick to bottom of pan. Going generous with the oil will make sure that the okra is well coated and doesn't stick to the pan.

Once the okra are dark green and shiny, add the tomatoes with all the remaining spice powders with salt.

Keep the flame on medium-low and saute for about 5 minutes until the okra is done. Take care not to overcook okra and you'll have a vibrant green, high-flavour curry, where the taste of okra will still manage to stand out of all the dry spices used.

Okra overload
  • Ode to Okra in The Hindu
  • Tons of Okra info here along with gardening tips and recipes

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Kathleen at Thyme for cooking.




16 March 2007

How to make a Mojito and New Year's Eve in Goa

Warning -
This is a weekend fun post - or rather a slight diversion from our weekday healthy and weighty matters!


Candolim beach

I'm not a sucker for cocktails. Too much sugar syrup and the weird colours are enough to put me off. But Mojito (pronounced MOHITO) is different from your regular cocktail. We were ushering in 2007 in Goa, the hip and happening Baga and Candolim beaches in North Goa. The last I'd been there was for my office picnic in the summer of 2004 which was to the Ramada resort in South Goa. We had pretty much the whole beach to our crazy bunch, the DJ playing music all night and free booze flowing. All this in an office picnic and more...I used to work one cool ad agency, before you all start imagining about where I used to work - haha!


New Year's Eve in Goa
More about our New year's Eve visit - Candolim is a beach where most of the charters from UK and Scotland land. Pretty much every local speaks English with a Brit accent - because that's the only English they hear and learn and that's what matters to their business.

View from Chiplun enroute to Goa

We drove down from Bombay to Goa. It was almost a 12 hour drive, and we reached there by nightfall on the 29th. The whole of 30th was spent lolling around on the beach chairs and the warm beach waters. The who's who were there trying to chill out and yet be seen! The time we weren't in the water, we were on the beach chairs reading a book, trying to protect ourself from the fury of the sun, while the 'solarically' deprived people were trying to expose every inch of their skin to get that fashionable tan which we Indians are inherently born with. Well, atleast I am!

( On the mention of tan - I always recollect that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer goes off to sleep in a tanning salone and comes home all browned up like a chocolate cookie! )

As much as I'd like to, I can't share with you my beach pics (except for a sneak peek) as those were the days before I had shed off my excesses!


Sky, Water and Earth


Britto's at Baga Beach, Bardez, North Goa
On the 31st afternoon, we landed at Britto's - a restaurant & bar on Baga beach. This is 'the place' everyone is Goa wants to see and be seen at. The place was throbbing with life, style, food and ofcourse mojito ! Landing up there at 2 pm for lunch wasn't a great idea after all, we were some 203 on the waiting list and people inside wanted to hang out for some more (and some more) time. So the best option was to start guzzling on the most popular drink in the house, from the bar counter at the entrance. Boy! They do know how to make their business roll.

This is a beautiful looking drink in a broad pint glass with a bunch of mint leaves stuck in and some wedges of lemon. If you just saw it, you'd think it's flavoured water - the way they serve it in US with a huge slice of lime. But one sip, and you'll realise that it's a different story altogether. If you gulp it down, you'll forget what the story was!!

I hadn't heard of Mojito until that day and got hooked to it instantly. The fresh flavours, the warm sea breeze, the ambience, the ubercool people - plus the drink had that kind of effect on me!

Now, whenever I recreate it at home, I just have to close my eyes and I'm in Goa on New year's Eve. If you are too far away from Goa, trying making a Mojito at home and I promise you'll feel much closer to the sea!

This week's Friday Food Video - How to make a Mojito Cocktail
If you cannot see the video below, click here to view.



More on Mojito here

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14 March 2007

Tomato salsa - Instant tomato chutney


Tomato salsas are gorgeous looking things and only 5 minutes get in-between seeing this picture and tasting it in your mouth. Believe me when I say that because I've just made it to go with my lunch of chapati ( fluffed Indian bread ) and cabbage curry. This one is going to add some fun and zing to my otherwise boring lunch.

The one thing that'll be nice to have is a mortar and pestle to have that rough ground texture. A single pulse of 3-4 seconds in your food processor will substitute though.

Tomato Salsa | Instant tomato chutney
Category - Chutneys / Salad / Fat free / Weight loss recipes
Time taken - Under 5 minutes
Makes 1 cup
Source - My own


ingredients
2 tomatoes medium sized - roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic peeled
4-5 black pepper corns
Pinch of coarse salt
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Spring of coriander leaves - chopped

directions
In a mortar, pound the pepper corns with garlic pearls and coarse salt till roughly ground. Add the chopped tomatoes (in batches if your mortar is smaller), crush them with a firm hand on the pestle. Don't attempt to squish them completely. Remove the crushed contents into a bowl, squeeze lemon juice, cayenne pepper (red chilli powder) and coriander leaves. Toss and check for salt.
Serve chilled as a dip for your chips or toasted pita bread. You could also use this as a side to any regular Indian meal of roti and subzi.

note
You could drizzle extra virgin olive oil to increase the flavour quotient & the (good) fat quotient ofcourse!

This is my fast, flavourful and fat-free submission to Jihva for Tomato hosted by RP of My workshop.



13 March 2007

How to snack and lose weight

I was exercising like a maniac, eating the right foods, no in between grazing and yet my weight refused to budge. Since I did not have too much to lose in the first place, it was all the more difficult. While I'd like to believe that I'm just a little short of a health freak, I didn't have a figure to match. When I went to a nutritionist with my concerns, the diet plan they drew out for me was so much more than what I was eating already. At least 4 meals a day, and the Ms. Cynical in me said - "Wow! That's generous! But will it work?"

Work it did and I am now almost close to the number I desire. And I not obsessed with it either. As a part of the weight loss tips that I plan to include here, snacking is one of them.



How snacking helps weight loss

A little something inbetween meals helps in two ways.

  1. Prevents your metabolism from dipping. A good BMR (basal metabolic rate) is very important to make sure your body keeps burning calories at its resting state. Prolonged periods for fasting (like skipping breakfast) will convince your body that something is wrong and it has to conserve as much as possible.
  2. Keeps your blood sugar at stable levels, hence prevents cravings.
  3. You are better prepared for dinner time. The 200 calorie odd snack will make sure you don't feel terribly hungry and ready to jump on everything on the table at dinner.

How snacking helps diabetics

Most busy executives start their day with hardly any breakfast, have a greasy office canteen lunch ( especially in India) at around 2 PM, some rounds of tea / coffee to sustain till they manage to get out and then prowl for some fried chips / munchies at around 9 PM with a heavy dinner at around 10.30 PM. The gap between 2 PM and 9 PM is the critical time where blood sugar takes a dive. Maintenance of sugar levels through out the day is essential to management of diabetes. Here's where snacking comes to the rescue. A fruit or a trail mix would be ideal to break the 2pm - 9 PM fast and stabilize sugar levels.

The snacker's grocery list

That's my secret list for you. Not too many exotic ingredients, nothing that you wouldn't find in your supermarket. If I get them in Mumbai, then you can find them in pretty much any other city.

Buy a pound of unroasted, unsalted peanuts. Roast them either in your microwave or stove top, cool and store in an airtight container. To snack on them, don't grab a bowlful. Take a handful, mix it with one each of finely chopped cucumber, tomato and onion (small sized). Squeeze half a lemon, sprinkle salt, cayenne pepper, coriander leaves and you have a crunchy, yummy peanut snack ready.

Do the same with the soy nuts and almonds, puffed rice or other soy products.

Any of the nuts can be bulked up by adding raw grated veggies and flavourings so that you don't eat too much of the high calorie nuts.

Snacking tips

The super-size culture is fast catching on in India too, and it started with the 2 Litre 2.5 Litre pet bottles of colas, never mind that the 500 ml is free! The Lays and the Kurkures followed suit and we are not surprised to see supersized people too.

No snacking from the bag

I'm sure if you are snacking for weight loss, you wouldn't even pass by the 'Chips' or 'Crisps' aisles. But this is true even for the healthy stuff like nuts or puffed soy snacks. Don't eat from the bag. Have the patience to remove it into a small bowl, mix it with the veggies & flavourings, keep it aside, lock /seal the bag, put it away, take your bowl to the living room and munch on it as if you would eat a gourmet meal. Savour, chew and eat. If quality of food matters, quantity matters even more. I was earlier of the opinion that if something is low-cal, healthy and good for me, quantities don't matter. I have been proved wrong entirely.

Don't get addicted to any one snack

Keep changing routines. Find newer healthy alternatives to add to your list of healthy munchies. And in my personal experience, munch on stuff you don't like too much. This might sound silly, but I recently read in a daily's Page 3 that a famous Bollywood star known for her fab figure, never hires good cooks. If the food is VERY GOOD, you automatically eat more. My best snack is roasted chana because I don't relish it too much. I'll lazily munch on a handful and say -Oh! I feel full! Or the ones that require a little more effort like grating or chopping veggies, because who'll want to do that all over for a second serving?

Take your own snack bag to the movie-hall

Any guesses why movie hall popcorns entice you? The smells beckon you as soon as you enter and the allurement wont stop until you rush to the counter, get your fill and finish the last morsel even before the trailers at the beginning of the movie are over. Why don't you feel the same about home-made popcorn from corn-kernels? Simple! You wouldn't dream to add that much butter. A large size popcorn probably has at least half a stick of butter and a bucket - well, I don't think you even want to imagine. So you can take your own little baggies filled with some nuts, dried fruits, something like a trail mix, that you'd chew and eat slowly. Focus on the movie so that you don't dip around into your partner's or your friend's goodies.

Like all good habits, this one takes a while to form. Whether you are a busy working person or a stay at home mom, you can make this work for you. Combine it with your tea-time ritual and watch your body thank you for it!

I'd love it if you shared your similar experiences with us. What is your idea of a healthy yet satisfying snack? Add to the list please!

If you live in India, I can share with you some of the real low-cal and healthy products available in most supermarkets here। Leave a comment or mail me and I shall be glad to help!

11 March 2007

Savoury pancakes with mushrooms and onions


Who doesn't like mildly sweet spongy pancakes all dripping with maple syrup? There weren't many pancake-serving places in Mumbai earlier so my first brunch with a stack o' pancakes was in at the IHOP in Rochester, NY. My favourite being the multigrain pancakes, which had the grainy bits within and a choice of syrups with a bit of sweetened cream on the side...US is a place of indulgences, including pancakes. Crepe Station at Bandra in Bombay is one of our favourite breakfast destinations for the weekends. They serve wonderful omelettes, pancakes, waffles and nowadays its raining strawberries in their menu. But unfortunately they don't serve stacks of pancakes :)

When I do them at home, I like to keep them light, texture-wise as well as calorie-wise. I had shared with you my eggless version of sweet pancakes a while ago. But not everyone like sweet stuff for breakfast. These low fat, high fibre pancakes are the best for such people. No eggs, no butter, these pancakes can be a dieter's delight. The buttermilk makes them fluffy and the finely chopped mushrooms & onions give them a great texture, adding to the nutritional value as well.

Savoury pancakes with mushrooms and onions
Category: Breakfast, low-fat, diabetic recipes
Time taken: Under 30 minutes
Makes around 8 pancakes of 3" diameter
Source: My own recipe



ingredients
1 cup gram flour
2 tbsp chick pea flour or soy flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp finely chopped button mushrooms
3 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

3/4 cup yogurt / thick buttermilk
water to get desired consistency
1 tbsp light cooking oil

Oil to cook pancakes

special equipment
a pancake griddle with spatula or a large non stick pan

directions

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well and add the wet ingredients with the tbsp of oil. Stir to blend well. Add a little more water if necessary to get a thick pouring consistency.
Cover this batter and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

Grease a pancake griddle / non-stick pan. Pour a ladleful of batter very slowly onto the medium hot griddle. (If the batter spreads out very quickly into a thin layer, that means the consistency of the batter needs to made thicker with some more flour.)

Make as many pancakes as your pan will accomodate. Drizzle a spoonful of cooking oil around the edges of the pan.

As you start seeing bubbles on the sides of each pancake, give them 30 more seconds and they are ready to be turned over. Do not press them down, let them fluff up as they cook. Give the second side under a minute over a medium flame, drizzling some oil if necessary. The pancakes must be fluffy and golden brown on both sides when done.

Serve hot with coriander chutney mixed in a cupful of yogurt. These also taste great with orange marmalade.

Note

I used a high protein gram flour provided by my nutritionist, this is a mixture of gram flour and black chick pea flour. This is rich is proteins and has a low glycemic index that keeps you filled up for longer. This flour is also excellent for diabetics.

You can also try using grated carrots and zucchini in these pancakes but take care to adjust the water added to keep the consistency of batter right.

Why these pancakes are healthy

U
ses a high fibre flour as against all purpose flour
No sugar
Low fat as there is no butter or egg in the batter
These pancakes can be had with a variety of chutneys as against maple syrup or honey

This is my submission to Meeta's Monthly Mingle - Savoury cakes
Pancakes are 'cakes' after all! Trust she'll like them!


Other pancakes served at Saffron Trail

Eggless breakfast pancakes
4 lentil pancakes
Healthy date pancakes
Mango pancakes

This is one pancake I want to indulge in soon. One of the best I have come across - Ginger bread pancakes at Home Sick Texan.



10 March 2007

WBB# 8 - Rounded up finally

WBB goes blog-hopping from March onwards. Our first guest host is Sigma of Live to Eat. She is eggstremely happy to be hosting this event and she looks forward to all your eggsotic recipes for WBB # 9...You get the drift? Check out the event details at her space.



This was meant to be a Christmas event, but then I'm sure you know how sometimes we end up procrastinating things and then we become to embarassed to do it 'this' late...Anyway I shall stick to the old adage Better Late Than Never and get cracking with the round up, before our hostess Sigma of WBB # 9 beats me to it.


The theme was Christmas and the category was pretty open. We have no rules on what to serve at Festival times. Each family has it's favourite and thats what the food bloggers here have shared with you. From an exotic cornmeal veggie dosa to a traditional Aapam with mutton kurma and some homely pancakes to the super creative chocolate samosa with cappuccino cream - we have it all covered. When you want to make something special for breakfast, you will sure find something here.


Pancakes
Manasi of A cook at heart - Pancakes


cornmeal veggie dosa

Suma Gundlur of Veggie Platter - Cornmeal Veggie Dosa

sausage and egg casserole

Kathy Maister of Start cooking - Sausage and egg casserole

Kalyn's greek frittata

Anh of Food lover's journey - Kalyn's Greek Frittata


Aapam-kurma
Maheshwari of Beyond the Usual - Aappam with Mutton kuruma and Thengai pal

Spicy carrot muffins
Anupama of Food-n-more -
Spicy Christmassy Carrot Muffins


Almond raspberry tea cakes

Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes -
Almond Raspberry tea cakes


Cinnamon rolls

Dhivya Ravi of That's Y Food - Cinnamon rolls



Chocolate samosa
Madhuli of Food Court -
Chocolate samosas with cappucino cream


strawberry scones

Vanessa of What geeks eat - Strawberry scones

cranberry muffins

Cheerful Tulips of Life, or something like it! - Sweet cranberry muffins

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9 March 2007

Friday Food Video - How to make naan bread

A Holi video at the end of this post specially for you to enjoy!



I felt so proud when I saw the Indian naan occupying place of pride in the supermarket shelves in London on my last visit and they were selling like hot cakes, or breads rather. When I bought a pack from the local Sainsburys and tried one piece, it tasted more like regular white bread with just a flatter, oval shape and some coriander sprinkled on the top. I was pretty disappointed.

The perfect naan is a kind of elusive delight.

Top 5 excuses for resorting to store bought naan bread are:

Oh! I don't have a tandoor!
It turns out too rubbery!
It came out like a crisp!
Too time consuming!
It's not meant to be made at home!

Many bloggers have demonstrated their beautiful naan making skills which inspired me to try them at home and boy, they were delicious. Just today, I came across this hugely popular video of making naan bread at home and Friday Food Videos is born.

For those who can't view the video below, click here.





So throw away the excuses and watch this beautiful video. You'll be the naan - queen (or king! ) in no time!

You could try our Egg curry or the Kaala Chana curry (North Indian black chick peas curry) along with the naan breads.

I want to share this soul-stirring video on Holi, do see it till the very end....and tell me what you thought of it!

Technorati tags: naan bread, Indian bread

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