Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Almonds and Almond milk

Most of us grew up with our moms feeding us almonds / badaam during are growing years. They were said to be good for our brains and of course as children we needed all the help to tackle loads of school work. Mothers were advised to give their daughters a few almonds from the age of 5, it supposedly helped them during their menstruation years. Almonds are rich in Vitamin E and Folate, as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They are an excellent source of phytosterols, which reduces the level of harmful cholesterol. Traditionally, it is considered the best to eat almonds raw even roasting it kills some of its nutrients. In fact, most times the almonds we get in stores are pasteurized and the processing has already killed some nutrients. But even after that it is still rich in vitamins and minerals. Soaking is considered good since it helps in activating enzymes aiding better digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Adding almonds into the daily diet is very easy - have a handful of soaked almonds in the morning or add them chopped into cereal, smoothie,  or fruit salad or just keep a boxful in the office to munch on sometime during the day. I have found eating them raw as a snack along with some walnuts and raisins helps in keeping hunger at bay. And lately, I have also added natural homemade almond milk to my diet. Almond milk is very easy to make, take a bowl of almonds and soak it for 1 to 2 days. Change the water twice during this time and then grind it well in a grinder. Soaking helps the almonds soften and it gets ground better. Add a little water when grinding. Strain the mix and keep aside. Grind the strained mix with some more water and strain once again. Water can be added according to how thick you want the milk.

Almond milk has a natural sweetness and can be had straight with no additions. Or blend a fruit or 2 in to make a very healthy smoothie. In fact if using the almond milk for a smoothie, don't strain after grinding it. The leftover strained mush can be added to cereal, smoothies, parathas, etc. Almond milk is a great option for the lactose intolerant and vegans.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Banana Apple Smoothie

Or should I coin the term Banapple for this Smoothie! I am taking small baby steps to lose some weight and I started with lessening my intake during lunch. Somehow, reducing my food during the day was always easy for me but come evening and I really wanted to eat. So today, I tried to completely cut my carb intake during lunch and thought of this smoothie. Like I wrote previously, I am more inclined to fruits in smoothies and would need time to graduate to vege smoothies. My stock of fruits included apple, banana and safarjal (yet to search the English name for it). There were some almonds as well which I planned to grind into the smoothie, it added to the consistency and to the health benefits.
Long back, I ground up some almonds rather than slicing them into my drink. And from then on I got hooked on to the taste of almond milk although I did not know then it was used widely in place of regular milk by vegans and people with lactose intolerance.
Banana Apple Smoothie now officially Banapple Smoothie at home!
Banana - 1
Apple - 1
Almonds - 15 to 20
Milk - 1/2 cup
This makes exactly 1 glass of smoothie. For this recipe you need to soak the almonds for at least 4 hours, the best is if you manage to soak them for 10 - 12 hours. Grinding almonds is easy once it is soaked for a long time. You can peel the almonds and use if you like, I preferred mine with skin. A lot of recipes suggest freezing the banana for a chilled smoothie plus it gives a shaved ice effect. Grind the soaked almonds with 1 or 2 tbsp. milk. Then add the sliced apple and banana give it a run again. At this time if you think you need to add milk to get the consistency right add milk 1 spoon at a time. The smoothie is ready.
Optional: You can add a drop of natural vanilla essence or a couple of vanilla bean seeds if you like.
I popped my Banana Apple Smoothie into the freezer for a nice cold drink and topped it with a spoonful of soaked sago or sabudana which I had handy.
Replace the regular milk with a few more almonds and a little water and you have a Vegan Smoothie recipe!

This smoothie's Awesomeness table:
Banana - contains Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Manganese, Potassium and of course fiber. It may be the best source of potassium which helps in lowering blood pressure. Bananas are also known for its antacid effects which helps in keeping stomach ulcers at bay. It also contains pectin a fiber which helps in easing bowel movement alleviating constipation.
Apple - contains Vitamin C and lots of fiber. Apples also contain phytonutrients which help in regulate blood sugars and an unusual mix of polyphenols which help lower the total cholesterol and the LDL cholesterol. The apple is also purportedly said to lower the risk of asthma and certain kinds of cancer. It also has anti-oxidant and anti inflammatory properties.
Almonds - now this one is a long list - Vitamin E, Manganese, Magnesium, Vitamin B2, Phosphorous, Calcium, Potassium, Tryptophan and copper. It helps lower LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Almonds contain nutrients that help boost brain activity and lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease. And something we all love it for - skin and hair!

(Benefits information from : &

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rose Green Tea

There are tea loyalists and then there are coffee loyalists and each guard their bastions with complete conviction. I am very much a tea drinker. Though I have to admit I stick to coffee when I travel because experience has taught me that vendors can mess a tea whereas not so much an instant coffee. After all for a coffee, all they do is add a little instant coffee to the hot water-milk-sugar mix. If it is light for your taste a little more coffee powder can be added but not so with tea! As for me, a hot cuppa strong tea in the morning coaxes me awake and helps me acknowledge the world around me. A Taiwanese ex-colleague of mine was a green tea loyalist and she had 2 cups a day at work - in mid-morning and evening. She had never had any other tea and it was the same with her family. And that's the first green tea loyalist I met.
That reminded me of my trip to Goa with my friend and her sister. We were still in school then and felt very important that we were making that trip alone. It did not matter that her cousin and uncle and aunt would be waiting at the bus stand for us and would escort us every minute from there on! We were staying at her cousin's place and every morning we would have Rose Tea and biscuits while sitting in the verandah  overlooking the greenery around. That was the first time I had a flavored tea and I loved it, though I am not sure if it was green!
Years later, when my friend visited Goa I asked her to pick a box of Rose Tea and she got me this :
The Green element to this Rose Green Tea was a bonus. I boiled a cup of water, took it off the heat and added the tea leaves. Then let it steep for 2 to 3 minutes and it was ready to be poured into a mug. Have it steaming hot especially on a cold day. I learnt from practice that a hot mugful of green tea was really good at keeping the cold away during the winters. It's beneficial in a couple of ways - keeps me warm and increases my liquid intake! As for the benefits of green tea, the internet lists quite a few: reduces the risk of heart attacks and cancer, lowers bad cholesterol, controls diabetes and some more. It is the most sought after for its anti-aging and weight loss properties. Both of which I could do with! Cheers!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ulli Chammanthi / Onion Chutney

The chutney or chammanthi elevates the taste of food, just like that spicy achaar with a bowl of dal chawal. In Kerala, we have a variety of chammanthis made to complement different dishes. I remember as children when we vacationed with my grandparents in Kerala, the day would start with two items for breakfast. My grandparents needed their fix of kanji (rice gruel) and the rest of the family wanted some palaharam that was either idli or dosa or rawa / godambu upma or godambu or aree podi puttu or appam. We children were encouraged to eat both by our grandparents. They would offer all the accompaniments as enticement - the regular fixture - chammanthi, next papadam, add to that thoren and not to miss the kadumaangaa or any uppilittathu. Actually, I did not need much coaxing - I loved it, but it was nice to have muthachan and ammumma encouraging us. For me, the best combination was hot kanji with a bit of ghee and salt and lots of chammanthi in the side plate. The chammanthi was especially yum if made by my P ammayi. It was a simple coconut-green chilli-curry leaves ground on the ammikalu (grinding stone) with mango when in season. The slightly ripe mango elevated the chammanthi to ambrosial heights. Just thinking of that chammanthi makes my mouth water.
Today, I bring you a simple Ulli chammanthi that goes very well with idli and complements the coconut chutney. Ulli chammanthi is made in a lot of ways in Kerala, one version uses the cheriya ulli / sambhar onions / shallots simply crushed with green chillies to go with boiled kappa (tapioca). The one I am making today has savaalla ulli (onions / pyaz) and dry red chillies as the main ingredients. Without much ado, lets go to the recipe.
Onions - 2 medium
Kashmiri dry red chillies - 7-8 or Red chilli powder - 1 tbsp.
Coconut Oil - 1 tbsp
Curry leaves - about 8-10 crushed and torn to pieces by hand
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Chop the onions roughly. Grind the red chillies and the onions to a fine paste with a little salt and keep aside. Heat a kadai, add the coconut oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds. Once the mustard has spluttered add the curry leaves and stir with spoon. Add the ground onion - red chilli paste and mix it well. Keep the heat on low to medium and stir it on and off so that it doesn't stick to the bottom. Taste it for salt at this stage and add some if required. When the oil starts leaving the sides and the mix starts coming together take it off the gas and serve it!

Pair this chammanthi with idli, it really complements the blandness of idli. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Smoothie Series - Apple and Pomegranate

For some time now, I have wanted to give smoothies a try. Smoothies are widely known to be healthy but since most health foods don't taste good, I stayed away from it. But growing concerns of health all around prompted me to look up recipes that I would be able to handle. I realized I may not immediately take to smoothies with yogurt or green vegetables. So to start with I did a simple two  fruit smoothie.

Today, when hunger struck in the evening I substituted my favorite sandwich fix with a smoothie made of apple and pomegranate. Both fruits are ones I like and I thought they would combine well too. I did not add any thickening base this time but that is the plan for the next time.
I used Real Fruit Pomegranate Juice in this recipe rather than extract fresh juice. It seemed too tedious especially with pomegranate what with straining the seeds, etc. Health wise it is better to use fresh ingredients which would mean sticking to seasonal fruits and vegetables as much as possible. Again, when making smoothies watch out for the calorie content. It is easy to give in to temptation and add calorie rich ingredients in the smoothie.
 Apple Pomegranate Smoothie
So here goes the recipe:
Apple - 1
Pomegranate Juice - 1.5 cups
Blend the two together and it is ready to pour out in glasses.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Lore & Lure of Khidkiwada

With this post, my husband joins me on this blog.
If you are a Mumbaikar, you would definitely have your trysts with wada-paav. It’s an integral part of the city’s DNA, inseparable from its ethos.

I grew up in a city called Kalyan, about 45 km outside Mumbai. Now a bustling satellite city of Mumbai, Kalyan used to be a sleepy town, cut off from the Mumbai metropolis, socially and culturally. In fact, Kalyan used to be culturally more like Pune than Mumbai, though geographically it was one-thirds the distance from Mumbai to Pune by rail. The Kalyan culture was defined by the middle-class mindset; Maharashtrian ethos; mixed populace of Maharashtrians, South Indians, and few others; and presence of distinctly small-town amenities.

But one thing of repute in Kalyan was a local brand of vada-paav called as Khidkivada (meaning window vada). I am calling it a brand, because it satisfies all the conditions of the definition of a brand, which I learnt much later from business literature. A brand stands for a promise and is played out through its attributes that consistently deliver the promise of the brand.
Undoubtedly, Khidkivada is a shining example of a brand created in 1968, when it opened as a household venture with the wada being sold out of a window. Hence, the name.
I can bet my last shirt and vouch that Khidkivada represents the top benchmark in all vadapaavdom. Its mixture is still a trade secret and is patent-pending and the name is trademarked since 1991. It now has outlets in Kalyan, Dombivli, and Pune. The secret mixture is available for sale and you can attempt a do-it-yourself (DIY) on the vada or make many other things out of it. The unique mixture reportedly lasts for 6 months without a change in flavor.
You will never get a Khidkivada that is cold because it turns around so fast that a lot of 25-30 vadas won’t last longer than 10 minutes. Served in a piece of newspaper with dry garlic chutney, the hallowed combination would give you a gustatory sensation that would transport you to stratospheric heights of gastronomic bliss.
The lore and lure of Khidkivada is reason enough to make a trip alone to Kalyan. You just need to hail an auto outside the station and ask to be taken straight to Khidkivada.
(pictures source:
- ed

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Prawns Masala Curry, Kolambi Masala, Jhinga Masala

I have always loved seafood especially cooked the Goan or Malvani way. After checking a few blogs and trying out a few recipes I still did not get to the taste I wanted. Then recently, I found this recipe here. I did not follow this recipe as is and made a few changes which I was quick to jot down, lest I forget it the next time I want to make it. I added a few ingredients to the marinade and masala powder and left some out later in the recipe. And now, I think I have my perfect Prawn Masala Curry.
So this time when I got tiger prawns at the fish vendor I decided I was going to cook my fave recipe - Kolambi / Prawn Masala. The masalas in this curry tend to dominate the curry so use shrimps or medium sized prawns so that its flavor can compete with the spices.
Tiger Prawns / Kolambi / Jhinga - 15-20 peeled, deveined
Onion / Kaanda / Pyaz - 1
Tomato / Tamatar - 1
Red Chilli / Mirchi powder - 1tsp (optional)
Kokum - 1 petal (optional)
Salt to taste
Oil - 2 tbsp
Coriander / Dhaniya leaves - 1 tbsp.
Red chili / Mirchi powder - 1tsp
Pepper / Kali miri powder - 1/4tsp
Ginger / Adrak - 1inch
Garlic / Lehsun - 4 cloves
Tamarind / Imli - 1/2tsp
Masala powder
Coriander / Dhaniya seeds - 1.5tbsp
Cumin / Jeera - 1tsp
Green Cardamom / Chhoti elaichi - 4
Black Cardamom / Badi elaichi - 2
Cloves / Lavang - 5
Cinnamon / Dalchini - 1inch
Star Anise Chakri - 1.5
Fennel / Saunf - 1/2sp
Grind to paste
Coconut / Nariyal grated - 4 tablespoon
Onion / Pyaaz sliced - 1
Oil / Tel- 1tsp
Wash the prawns, pat dry and keep in a bowl. Grind the ingredients for the marinade - ginger, garlic, tamarind, red chili powder, turmeric powder, pepper powder and salt. Apply the marinade paste to the prawns and keep aside.
Heat a pan and dry roast the whole spices individually. Use only the seeds of the green and black cardamom and discard the peel. Once all spices are roasted, grind them to a powder and keep aside.
Now prepare the paste - Heat 1 teaspoon of oil and sauté the onions till soft and translucent. Then add the grated coconut and fry it till light brown. Take it off the stove and once it is cool grind it to a paste with very little water. 
In the same pan add the prawns with the marinade and sear on both sides. Keep aside.
Then heat the remaining oil and fry the onions till soft and light brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry well till the tomatoes are soft and mushy. Add the coconut-onion paste and fry for few minutes till you see oil leaving the sides and it becomes one mass.

Add the masala powder to this and fry for a minute or two. Then add the seared prawns to this and sauté for a minute to mix it all. Add half a cup of water and let it boil. Check if a petal of kokum is needed, most likely it may not be needed since the marinade has tamarind. Also check for salt and heat and add if needed. Check if the prawns are done. Garnish with coriander leaves and it is ready to be served. It goes well with both chapati and rice.
Prawns Masala
This recipe goes to "Side dish mela", hosted by cooking4allseasons.

Saree exhibition at Orissa Bhawan

A few weeks ago we went to the Orissa Bhawan to an exhibition held by Boyanika, the store front for the Orissa State Handloom Weaver's Cooperative Society. Boyonika has a store in Palika Bazar, New Delhi and additionally holds exhibitions during festivals like Diwali at the Orissa Bhawan here. They carry a wide variety of sarees, stoles, kurtis, salwar suit pieces, kurtas, handloom towels, bedsheets, bedcovers, etc. They normally have a 20% discount on their sale but this time round they had a special 30% discount.

The exhibition was in the Orissa Bhawan basement maybe since the rains had played spoilsport earlier in the day. They had a pandal erected in the grounds with some decorations but not much effort was put into doing up the basement hall. A few sarees and kurtas were displayed on the walls of the hall and the rest of the stuff was piled high on tables behind the counters. So I started pointing out
colors and designs I wanted to see and the salesperson was good enough to open it. They had amazing saris - Tussars, Bomkai, Sambalpuri,  Sonepur, etc. all hand woven by weavers in Orissa. Some sarees he said, took up to a month to weave. I made my selection and continued talking to the salesperson about the different sarees. We saw a few more sarees of which a silk-tissue saree blew us off with its intricate weave and deservedly was the costliest saree there at Rs.25000.00! 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Little Italy, Bund Garden Road, Pune

I went to Little Italy La Pizzeria for lunch on a weekday expecting the restaurant to be near empty, instead there was only one table free. The crowd was a mix of office goers, friends and a group of ladies on a kitty party and no one seemed to be in any hurry to finish and leave!
This restaurant is in the ground floor of Hotel Shriman just at the beginning of a lane, off Bund Garden Road. My rickshaw driver did not know this hotel so you want to keep an eye out for it yourself when you do go there.
On entering Little Italy, the captain was immediately there to seat me and was a tad surprised to learn that I was eating alone. Anyway, I was seated immediately and the menus were brought over. The restaurant interiors were done well although the seating is a little too close to have a private conversation. Since I was alone the conversations around kept me entertained.
The menus brought over quickly, the additional one for their wine selection. I ordered the Cannelloni Florentine and it came piping hot straight from the oven. There were 3 cannelloni pieces with the cheese topping in golden hues. There was a good amount of sauce covering the cannelloni and around it. The spinach and ricotta cheese filling was nice and moist and spoonful of the sauce, cheese and cannelloni was Yum. For dessert, I ordered the Panna cotta and it came topped with a green syrup and a slice of kiwi. It was the first time I had a Panna cotta so I cannot compare it with any place else. The Panna cotta was soft and firm with a pudding like consistency. It was mildly sweet and when combined with a little of the syrup it tasted good. I completed the meal with a black tea although maybe a coffee was the right pairing for an Italian meal!

Overall, a very good lunch.
My only grouse was the proximity of the other tables. I could hear complete conversations and know the per head contribution of that ladies kitty group!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Of a Summer Sunday lunch - Aamras Puri

As children, summers meant enjoying the vacation with cousins and eating a lot of mangoes, jackfruits and banana and tapioca chips! Today, those lazy summers spent with cousins wandering through the grounds, fields and village lanes  exist in memories only. Some cousins are not even in the same country, they are spread across the globe. As for us, we stay in a city where you don't get ripe yum jackfruits easily and the most important thing - summer no longer means vacation. What's available are the mangoes, lots of them. I don't think I know anyone who doesn't love mangoes. And consequently Aamras... katories and katories of aamras till the stomach is close to bursting !!!
So come summertime, we get our old fruit vendor to send petties of mangoes, 2 dozen each at a time. Some are ripe, ready to eat or tayaar as he says and the others ripen in the hay over the next few days. The whole house has an aroma of ripening mangoes and everyday mom goes through a ritual of checking the box for the most ripe mangoes.  This keeps a continuous supply of mangoes on our table served up in different ways. So mangoes are diced and cooled to be eaten after lunch and dinner, some make it to milk shakes and some others to Aamras which is best enjoyed with Puris.
Starting at 12 o'clock: Methi Alu Rassa, Aamras, Puris and Salad
We Bombayites know only one mango, the Aapus aka Alphonso & Haapus,  all others are secondary mangoes to be had only once the King has retired for the season! The Aapus makes its entry after mid-March and continues to come into the market till about mid-June. We normally start buying Aapus in May that's when the price have dipped. And the minute it rains, we stop buying them because the mangoes then somehow taste diluted as if the rain water has seeped in :)  
Making Aamras is the easiest, peel and dice Alphonso mangoes (aka Aapus / Haapus) and puree it in the blender and you are done :) How could something so simple be so tasty, right??
There are some people who like to add a few tablespoons of milk when blending to a more pourable consistency. Still others are known to add a pinch of kaala namak to it and one family I know adds a pinch of pepper powder.
Me, I like mine Unadulterated... as pure as I can get. Fry some puris and enjoy a beautiful meal.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Aloo Pyaaz Pakoda / Kaanda Batata Bhajia / Potato n Onion Fritters

Who doesn't love a plate of pakoda / bhajia / bhajji (a rose by any name would smell .....) with piping hot tea. Yesterday afternoon the clouds started gathering and helped to set the mood for the rains to come. It rained for no more than 20 minutes in all but that was more than enough to set the ball rolling in the kitchen for some pakodas and tea. I decided to try a mixed pakoda we ate once at a small railway station in Rajasthan early in the morning. It was actually quite simple - potato and onion pieces in besan (gram flour) with a few spices/ herbs. So tried to recreate that magic today!  
You can try this pakoda with different vegetable combinations like: onion-potato-capsicum, onion-capsicum-cabbage, onion-spinach, onion-potato-cauliflower, etc. Go ahead create more pairings, use carrots, beans, peas, spinach / palak, methi / fenugreek leaves, zucchini, colorful bell peppers, water chestnuts for crunch.... The combinations are endless, let your taste and imagination lead you on this trip. Chop the veges real fine and the children will also happily gobble them up.
For us, this pakoda made its mark on one of our trips in Rajasthan when we travelled by train in the sleeper class. I mention sleeper class because it was a night journey in the winter and you are exposed to whatever temperature goes outside or maybe colder. Now, we had not realized how cold it gets in a train and had not carried blankets and stuff that we saw with other passengers. So once inside, we piled on as many layers (read 2 t-shirts and a sweater, a jeans and a sweat pant and 2 socks on me!) and lay down to catch a few winks. After tossing and turning the whole night we woke up at 6am hoping to get some hot tea and biscuits to alleviate a little of the teeth chattering cold. We passed through many small sleepy stations but not much stirred that early. At about 7am we stopped at this small station where one sole vendor had started selling pakodas and tea so we quickly got off and bought some. It was a beautiful sight, the sun was not out completely, there was a light fog, the platform was empty other than this vendor with a handful of people hovering around him. Now, fried stuff is not something we have ever had for breakfast but that cold morning it seemed like maana from heaven.

Aloo Pyaaz Pakoda / Kaanda Batata Bhajia / Potato n Onion Fritters
Besan/ Gram flour - 1.5cups
Alu/ Potato - 1 small finely chopped
Pyaaz/ Onion - 2 medium finely chopped
Haldi/ Turmeric pwd - 1/4 tsp
Mirchi/ Red Chili pwd - 1/2 tsp
Dhania/ Coriander seeds crushed/ pwdr - 1/4 tsp
Coriander leaves chopped - 1/2tsp
Green chilli - 1 deseeded and chopped
Soda - 1 pinch (optional)
Salt to taste
Water - little to make batter
Oil for frying
Start by taking a mixing bowl and put in the chopped onions, chopped potatoes, turmeric, chili powder, crushed coriander seeds and salt. Mix this well, slightly crushing the potato and onions with the back of the spoon. This will release some water from them.
I prefer adding very little water because the onion releases water and our mix could become watery. Aim to get a batter that is of dropping consistency with a little coaxing. Add 1tbsp at a time and mix well to form a thick batter of dropping consistency. Now add the chopped coriander leaves and the green chili. I deseeded the chili because it is added more for flavor than heat. You can add a pinch of soda to make the bhajia light and crispy. Heat some oil in a kadai / pan for deep frying the pakodas. Once the oil is hot take a teaspoon of this hot oil and add to the batter and mix well. I have been told that it makes the pakoda crisp and it does not absorb much oil.
You can test if the oil is of right temperature by dropping a bit of the batter into the oil, if it rises to the top then we are ready to start our frying. Now drop spoonful's of the mix into the hot oil. Don't crowd the pakodas in the oil let them be submerged and have space around them. Once you have dropped all the pakodas you can, lower the gas heat to let the pakodas cook, else you will have crisp outside and wet and uncooked inside.
Turn the pakodas / bhajias to cook evenly on all sides. Cook until the pakodas / bhajias are golden in color. Then scoop them with a slotted spoon and hold the spoon above the kadai till as much oil is drained. Drop them onto a tissue lined platter and they are ready to be served.

Serve them with tomato ketchup and tomato chili sauce and a mug of hot chai / chaa / tea.
Most of us have a story around pakodas and chai so go ahead reminisce and have a nice time. Enjoy!!!

My Aloo Pyaaz Pakoda goes to
- C'mon chefs cook up some hosted by cookclickndevour