Aug 30, 2010

Shredded Carrot Salad

This is one of my favourite salads. I can eat just this for lunch everyday! It has a wonderful mix of the sourness of lime, spice of chilli and my favourite spice for indian foods - asafoetida.

You need:

2 Shredded carrots- shred/grate them to any size, I prefer the large hole grater for this salad
Juice of 1 lime
1 spicy Green Chilli
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida powder

Mix all the ingredients and chill it in the refrigerator if you like. Eat!

Aug 26, 2010

Sesame-Mustard Stir Fry Vegetables

This looks as good as it tastes!

You need:
2 tsp Sesame Oil (til oil)
1 Onion chopped in fine-long pieces
1 Green or Red Chilli
1/4 inch ginger juliennes (sliced long and thin)
1 Carrot Shredded or grated in a large holed grater
1/2 of a small Cabbage shredded or chopped fine and long
1/4 of a small Raw Papaya juliennes
1/2 Green/Red/Yellow Pepper (Capsicum) (optional)
A handful of Mushrooms chopped (optional)
100gms Tofu diced (optional)
2 tsp Soy Sauce
2 tsp Raw or Roasted Sesame Seeds (Til)
1 tsp freshly ground Mustard seeds (Rai)

Cooked Noodles or Rice (optional)

In a saucepan/wok heat 1 tsp sesame oil and add the tofu. Stir it around till the tofu is light brown, remove and keep it aside. If you are not going to use tofu, omit this step completely.

In the same saucepan/wok add 1 tsp sesame oil and add the onions, green or red chilli and ginger. Stir it around once in a while. When the onions turn translucent, add the other vegetables whatever your using. I always add the cabbage towards the end since it cooks real fast. Add the soy sauce, salt, sesame and ground mustard seeds. After about 4 minutes when everything starts sizzling, add the tofu and give it a quick stir. Take the pan off the stove and cover it and let it sit for about 3 minutes.

Serve it hot over noodles or rice or have it as is.

Aug 23, 2010

Cashew, Coconut, Cows and Cholesterol

Lets get this straight, Cholesterol is only made by animals (including our own livers) and hence found in animal origin products like milk, butter,curds/yogurt, ghee, cheese, eggs and all kinds of meats (fish is also meat).

When I tell people I make/ eat cheese made with cashews or I use Coconut milk, many times they are baffled about how much cholesterol I am putting into my body. A Vegan diet is absolutely free of cholesterol because it omits anything that comes from an animal.

What baffles me even more is that when I look at dairy product labels, they say it's cholesterol free. I once read the nutrient table on a pack of flavoured yogurt (Go Dahi by Gowardhan Dairy) and I was surprised that the cholesterol content was a nice, big zero. I wrote to them asking how is that possible? Are they actually removing the cholesterol out of milk?! I got a reply saying that milk contains 10mg of cholesterol per 100g and since they only have to list the 'nutritional facts' till the first decimal per 10gms of the product, they are not bound by law to mention how much cholesterol is there in 100gms or 200 gms or whatever the weight of their product.

I don't know how much cholesterol is there in milk. The site promoting the Indian dairy industry states that cows milk has 3.14mg of cholesterol per gram. But it could be wrong since there are many conflicting articles about the amount of cholesterol in milk. All I know is that it has cholesterol and I don't need it.

Anything that comes from plants including plant based oils like peanut and coconut oil, all the nuts like cashews, almonds, peanuts - do NOT have any cholesterol, despite what people tell you. Just ask them to do some reading (which they don't do and continue to believe some crazy things). I don't think that most doctors even remember what cholesterol is anymore, so asking doctors might not be a good idea. But you have to know that oils are highly refined foods and devoid of any nutrition. It is much better to eat some peanuts rather than add peanut oil to your food, that way the food is going into your body with the fiber intact. Oils have zero fiber like all animal products (meat, fish, milk and eggs) and when you consume a diet high in non-fibrous food you are asking for trouble. Many people have successfully reversed heart disease, diabetes and obesity just by eating only fibrous food and omitting all animal products, oils and other refined foods.

Besides the questions and worried looks I get about cholesterol, I also get questions about calcium and protein. I found a good article about cows milk and implications of its consumption here:

Cholesterol is essential for our body, but our livers make it for us. Many people have been able to lead healthier lives by totally eliminating the cholesterol and the unnecessary saturated fats that are found in all products of animal origin. Plants do contain minuscule amounts of sterols (28gms in about 565 kgs) which are similar in their structure to that of animal origin cholesterol. But no one will ever tell you that the carrot on your plate is going to give you a heart attack.

Aug 17, 2010

Red Rice Dosai (Savoury Pancakes) & Idlis

We are all so used to seeing golden and white dosais (pancakes) in our South Indian breakfast menus, I think it's high time we make the switch to a healthier dosai.

Dosai is a simple rice pancake made in all south Indian homes served generally with a spicy red paste, coconut chutney and sambaar (any one of them or all of them)

White rice is without the husk and without most of the nutrients and fibre. So this recipe uses red rice, keeping all the nutrients intact, instead of white.

At home we use an electric grinder which uses stones (so that the dough doesnt heat up while grinding) to grind the soaked rice and urad dal (urad bean). I have tried this recipe with an electric blender with metal blades as well and it turned out as good.

You need:

2 cups Red Rice
1 cup Urad Dal
1 teaspoon Fenugreek Seeds (Methi Dana)
Salt to taste (I would say not more than two teaspoons)

2 Bowls to soak the rice and dal
A Flat iron pan (tawa)/ non stick pan
A Ladle
A metal spatula/ a turner to flip the dosai (pancake)
Oil (usually sesame/til oil)

Everything except the salt has to be soaked. The rice and dal must be soaked separately. Wash the rice and dal and soak it in water. The Fenugreek seeds (methi dana) can be soaked with the urad dal. Soak it for 4 to 6 hours. You might have to add water after a while since the grains soak up the water.

I would suggest that the grinding should be done at night because this dough will require fermentation and you can leave it out to ferment all night and have it fresh the next morning.

Start by grinding the urad dal and methi seeds. Drain out the excess water and put it in the blender. Keep it on for a while and in intervals, keep cleaning the sides of the blender so it is a uniform paste. You will notice that the urad doubles in quantity. Keep grinding it till it is a fine, fluffy paste.

Usually, the blender is not big enough to accommodate the red rice once the urad dal is done. So scoop out the urad-methi paste into a big enough vessel, we use steel, so preferably an opaque vessel.

Next comes the rice. Blend it little bit at a time if 2 cups seems like a lot and again make sure it's a fine paste. Mix both the pastes and you're ready to let it ferment. Just stir it enough for it to seem equally blended, cover it and keep it out for the night or for about 8 hours. The salt should only be added the next morning after fermentation, since salt inhibits fermentation.

The next morning it should smell different and should seem like it has risen. You can start using it immediately after adding the salt and mixing it a bit, keeping the rest in the refrigerator for future use.

To make the dosai, heat a flat iron pan. To start with, us South Indians usually make a small dosai using about 2 teaspoons of dough, mainly to test the dough, the pan and to heat it uniformly. You can splash some oil around this tiny one.

Once the dosai can be over turned easily means it has cooked on one side and needs to be flipped over so both sides are cooked.

This takes a bit of practise and getting used to, specially if you don't make dosais often or are doing it for the first time.

Once the testing is done, use a big ladle to scoop out some dough and pour it in the center of the
hot pan. With slow, circular motions in a single direction, spread out the dough into a flat dosai, so it looks something like the picture on the right.

Using a teaspoon spread some oil around the edges of the dosai and let it cook for sometime.

Flip it over to the other side when the edges look cooked and crisp. It's important to keep the flame / temperature low and at a constant.

Once it becomes darker and crisp on both sides it is cooked and ready to be served. Usually it is served with a dry red powder called 'molaga pudi' (I call it gun powder) made with a mix of dals, sesame and red chillies dry roasted and ground coarse. The molaga pudi is served mixed with sesame oil to make it into a wet paste. It can also be served with sambaar and a coconut chutney which uses raw mature coconut scraped out of the shell (1 cup) and ground with green or red chillies (1 or 2 depending on your spice tolerance level) and salt, then garnished with some roasted mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida. A nice addition to the chutney is some raw mango when it is in season.

It's just as easy to make the red rice dosai and its so much more healthier.

I tried steaming the same batter to make mini idlis (steamed rice cakes) and they turned out awesome.

I was recently told that Namdhari Stores in Bangalore stocks RedRice Dosa and Idli Mix under the brand name Navdarshanam. So all the Bangaloreans who think the grinding process is too much, no more excuses! (Thanks for the tip Veena)

The Easiest, Yummiest Banana Sorbet!

This is as easy as can be and it's so good!

You need:
4 ripe Bananas (even if you have over ripe bananas, will do!) - peeled, sliced and frozen over two nights in an airtight container.
Walnuts or whatever nuts you like
A dash of Cinnamon

Take the bananas out of the freezer and thaw them for about 5 minutes. Put them in a blender and blend them till they are creamy. Add the walnuts and cinnamon and serve immediately. This won't keep after you blend it, but I don't think you'll have anything left over!

I have also read variations of this recipe adding peaches and other fruits. I'm yet to try those, mainly because I can't get over how good this one is.

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