Categories
Chocolate Cooking General Recipes

Buttermilk Waffles for Brunch!

My favourite type of waffles are Belgian Liège style waffles (names after Liège, a city in Belgium). There is a little shop in Kenginston Market in Toronto that serves up some pretty delicious ones! It’s called “Wafles & More“. They also serve a a pretty good hot chocolate, should you feel like a rich, warm drink to accompany your already decadent breakfast 🙂

Wafles & More
Belgian Waffles

I woke up this morning craving some waffles and since it is New Year’s Day (and most places are closed), I knew I would have to cook some up myself. Given that Liège style waffles are made with a yeast-based dough and therefore, cannot be made on a whim, within the hour, I decided upon buttermilk waffles instead. They turned out pretty great!

Should you want waffles that are not too sweet, with just a hint of warm molasses and sourness, slightly crisp on the top, fluffy in the middle, and glowing with a caramel-coloured hue, then try this recipe!

Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

1/4 cup turbinado, light brown, or dark brown sugar (packed)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

114 g (8 tablespoons) cultured, unsalted butter (if you can’t find cultured butter, any unsalted butter will do)

2 cups whole buttermilk

3 eggs (separated)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Toppings (you could use any or all of these, or throw on any toppings that appeal to you):

Whipped Cream (Ideally, flavour it with some liqueur)

Berries

Bananas

Melted Chocolate

Maple Syrup

Chocolate Hazelnut butter (go here for a recipe)

Nutella

Peanut Butter

Jam

Method:

1. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix and then sift them all into a large bowl.

2. Warm the butter and buttermilk to just slightly warmer than room temperature.

3. Mix the butter, buttermilk, egg yolks, and vanilla essence together in a bowl. Then add this mixture to the dry ingredients and gently mix them all together with a whisk.

4. Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

5. Turn on your waffle maker.

6. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture from step 3.

7. The batter is now ready! Spoon some into the waffle maker and let it cook for about 3 minutes. You will have to figure out how much batter to add into the waffle maker, as well as precisely how much time to let the waffles cook, after a few tries (both these variables will be influenced by the type of waffle maker you have).

8. Your waffles are good to go! Throw on some toppings and enjoy!

9. Just a note, I think whipped cream is an absolutely essential topping for waffles. I recommend whipping some up right before you start making the waffles. I also suggest adding some liqueur to the cream before you start whipping it up. I used cherry liqueur!

10. Also, if you’d like, you can make a few extra and store them in the fridge. I have found that when you’re ready to eat them, it’s best to heat them up in the oven at 350 degrees Celsius, for 2 mins on either side, after basting them with some butter.

Neatly plated waffles 😊
Simple buttermilk waffles
Messy waffles 😝
Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Low FODMAPS Recipes vegan

Andhra-Inspired Mango Dal (Mango Lentils)

In my view, most fruit are pretty gross. This surprises people. The nicest honest description of my eating habits I have heard is from a friend of mine who called me “delightfully weird”. What really shocks people though, is the fact that I hate mangoes, despite the fact that every summer of my childhood, our house was almost literally inundated with hundreds of mangoes (this was because one of my uncles has a large mango orchard and also, because our house had one very prolific mango tree that I was very attached to)! Nearly, everyone in my family absolutely adores mangoes, and yet, I find these fruit almost inedible.

But now, I have found a way to enjoy them: by cooking them up in a dal! I used to eat mango pappu (the telugu word for dal) as a child and I’ve recently rediscovered how harmonious the combination of these two ingredients can be. It all happened almost by accident. My niece (who is vegan) was staying with us and I was running out of ideas in terms of what to cook for her. I’d already made three different types of dal that week! Then, I spied a mango in our fruit bowl. “Ah ha!”, I thought, “this could end up being a fun challenge in the kitchen: trying to make mangoes enjoyable!”

It turned out to be absolutely delicious and it is now my favourite dish! SO much so, that I’ve bought a tonne of mangoes, chopped them up, and flash frozen them, so that I can make myself some mango dal through the fall and winter, whenever I have a hankering for it 🙂

Indian cooking with Mango

If you think you’d like to try and sacrifice one or two of summer’s last few mangoes to an experiment, give it a go! I promise you it will turn out well, if you follow my instructions!

Ingredients:

(A quick note: You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide for yourself how much you’d like to use :))

1 cup lentils (I find that a mix of lentils is great for this recipe. I use Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi); Toor Dal, and/or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned

1-2 medium mangoes (The number of mangoes you should use will depend on your preference as well as the flavour and size of the mangoes you’re cooking with: if you like a more intense mango-flavour, use two mangoes, otherwise, use less. Similarly, if the mangoes you have are small and/or not particularly tangy, you should use 2 mangoes. Also note that adding more mangoes changes the texture of the dal: it will become more pulpy with the addition of each mango)

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped (I prefer red onions, they seem to have a nice balance of pungency and sweetness)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

3-6 fresh chilies, chopped or cut length-wise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

1 – 3 teaspoons red chilli powder

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the popu/tadka/baghar:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

3-12 dried red chilies, torn in half (depending on how hot you’d like the dal to be)

2-4 peeled garlic cloves, halved

A handful of curry leaves

2 pinches of asafoetida (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of oil or ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. However, I would recommend making your own, if you have the time. Here is my recipe, if you’re interested. If you don’t have ghee, or want to make your dal vegan, you can use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). Even if you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for about 30 minutes, drain the water out, and add fresh water in, before I cook the lentils (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas: I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step.

2. Next, cube and skin the mango:

Cutting a mango

3. I tend to cook my dal in an instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can use a normal pressure cooker or boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of salt, 3-4 cloves of skinned garlic, and the mango cubes to the dal before you cook it.

IMG_9516

4. I like to purée the cooked dal-mango mixture in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

Making dal at home

5. Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned.

Cooking onions in Indian food
Cooking onions for Indian food Sautéing onions
Cooking onions for Indian food
Sautéing onions

6. Now add the ginger and fresh chillies to the onions and sauté everything again until the ginger is cooked (it should no longer smell raw). Then, add the red chilli powder, the remaining turmeric, and half a teaspoon of salt to the sautéed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sauté all of this for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

Onion-masala for dal

7. Add the dal-mango puree to the pan along with a cup or two of water, and bring it all to a boil. Let everything cook for about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring the pot intermittently to prevent the contents at the bottom from burning. You will see a foamy layer rise to the top of the dal.

IMG_0210

8. I like to scoop this out into a bowl and throw it out.

Reducing FODMAPS in dal; how to decrease bloating from dal

I have heard from some people who regularly cook with lentils in India that this helps reduce bloating and gas.

A note on FODMAPS for the lay person: FODMAPS can cause gastric discomfort in some of us. One may be sensitive to some or all FODMAPS to varying degrees. Symptoms can range from gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, to, in my case, at least, acid reflux. For more general reading on this topic, this article is a great starting point.

The main FODMAPs that dal contains are oligosaccharides. Take a peek at this post about FODMAPS and how cooking legumes may help to reduce the FODMAP content in the food we eat. Of course, more research is needed to confirm this theory, but also, to determine the most effective/efficient ways of extracting FODMAPS from dal through cooking. I am not sure that my method of skimming the foamy parts off the top of the dal is effective in removing/reducing dissolved oligosaccharides from it. Anecdotally, though, I have found it helps. Therefore, I do it every time I cook dal.

In addition, onions and garlic contain fructans, which are also a type of oligosaccharide (see this article for more on this). If you are particularly sensitive to onions and/or garlic, you could sauté them in oil (in step 5 of the recipe, above) and then, remove the onions and garlic pieces, leaving just the oil in the pan. Subsequently, continue with step 6. Frying the onions and/or garlic in oil results in some of their flavour infusing into the oil. Since fructans are water-soluble not fat-soluble, by removing the onions and/or garlic, you are able to reduce the amount of fructans that end up in the dal (see this article for more on this). Also, remember not to add any garlic to the lentils whilst cooking them in step 3, above. In step 9 (below), you can add garlic to the tadka, but remember to remove it before pouring the tadka into the dal.

9. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan on high heat. Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the mustard seeds and the rest of the cumin seeds and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida and red chilies, followed by the curry leaves and garlic cloves about 30 seconds later. Once the red chillies darken, add the baghar to the lentils. Immediately cover the pot.

IMG_9800

10. The dal is now ready! Taste it and add some salt to it if you like. Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre) and some dahi (Indian yogurt).

IMG_9523
Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Low FODMAPS Recipes vegan

Garden Fresh Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

We’ve had a very cool August this year, which has been disappointing. This has meant less paddle-boarding and fewer beach days. Moreover, our bougainvillea plants haven’t flowered quite as prolifically as they usually do.

Tropical flowers in Canada: bougainvillea

On the upside, however, this has meant that the second box of spinach we planted late this summer has been doing really well!

Growing your own food: spinach

I haven’t been cooking at all this week because on Tuesday, I had a fun adventure: I flew through an open door, towards a glass wall (I tripped on a sign right outside the door); my knee is what prevented me from crashing through the wall; as a result, it has been swollen and bruised. I am better today, though, so I thought that I’d cook up something delicious, using the “harvest” from our little urban deck “farm” and my partner as a sous chef.

Here is today’s produce:

Cooking with food from your garden

Given my life-long love affair with chillies, new found appreciation for home-grown cherry tomatoes, and inexplicable tolerance for spinach (despite my general dislike for vegetables), this was a truly exciting collection of delights! “Palak dal!!!”, I thought to myself, excitedly. And so, I cooked us up a big pot of the stuff:

Homemade Palak dal

If you’d like to give it a go, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients:

(A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide for yourself how much you’d like to use 🙂)

1 cup lentils (I find that a mix of lentils is great for this recipe. I use Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi); Toor Dal, and/or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped (I prefer red onions, they seem to be more pungent)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

3-6 fresh chilies, chopped or cut length-wise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

1.5 – 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved (you can also use two medium sized tomatoes)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seed powder

1 – 3 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/2-1 teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

2 cups of baby spinach (250 g)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the popu/tadka/baghar:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-12 dried red chilies, torn in half (depending on how hot you’d like the dal to be)

2-4 peeled garlic cloves, halved

2 pinches of asafoetida (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of oil or ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. However, I would recommend making your own, if you have the time. Here is my recipe, if you’re interested. If you don’t have ghee, or want to make your dal vegan, you can use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). Even if you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for about 30 minutes, drain the water out, and add fresh water in, before I cook the lentils (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas: I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step.

2. I tend to cook my dal in an instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add half a teaspoon each of turmeric and salt, as well as 3-4 cloves of skinned garlic to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this:

Cooked moong dal

3. I like to purée the cooked dal in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

Making dal at home

4. Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned.

Cooking onions in Indian foodCooking onions for Indian food Sautéing onionsCooking onions for Indian food

Sautéing onions

5. Now add the ginger and fresh chillies to the onions and sauté everything again until the ginger is cooked (it should no longer smell raw). Then, add the cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala (if you are using it), and half a teaspoon of salt to the sautéed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sauté all of this for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

Onion-masala for dal

Onion-masala for dal

6. Then, add in the tomatoes, cover the pan, and let it all cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the oil starts to separate out from the rest of the stuff.

Onion-tomato masala for Indian cooking

7. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach. I like to use kitchen shears or a normal pair of scissors and cut up the spinach in the bowl into slightly smaller bits. If you don’t like this method, you can, of course, chop the spinach on a cutting board with a knife.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce pan, then add the lentils.

How to make dal

9. Pour in a cup or two of water, and let everything cook for about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring the pot intermittently to prevent the contents at the bottom from burning. You will see a foamy layer rise to the top of the dal. I like to scoop this out into a bowl and throw it out.

Reducing FODMAPS in dal; how to decrease bloating from dal

I have heard from some people who regularly cook with lentils in India that this helps reduce bloating and gas.

A note on FODMAPS for the lay person: FODMAPS can cause gastric discomfort in some of us. One may be sensitive to some or all FODMAPS to varying degrees. Symptoms can range from gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, to, in my case, at least, acid reflux. For more general reading on this topic, this article is a great starting point.

The main FODMAPs that dal contains are oligosaccharides. Take a peek at this post about FODMAPS and how cooking legumes may help to reduce the FODMAP content in the food we eat. Of course, more research is needed to confirm this theory, but also, to determine the most effective/efficient ways of extracting FODMAPS from dal through cooking. I am not sure my method of skimming the foamy parts off the top of the dal is effective in removing/reducing dissolved oligosaccharides from it. Anecdotally, though, I have found it helps. Therefore, I do it every time I cook dal.

In addition, onions and garlic contain fructans, which are also a type of oligosaccharide (see this article for more on this). If you are particularly sensitive to onions and/or garlic, you could sauté them in oil (in step 4 of the recipe, above) and then, remove the onions and garlic pieces, leaving just the oil in the pan. Subsequently, continue with step 5. Frying the onions and/or garlic in oil results in some of their flavour infusing into the oil. Since fructans are water-soluble not fat-soluble, by removing the onions and/or garlic, you are able to reduce the amount of fructans that end up in the dal (see this article for more on this). Also, remember not to add any garlic to the lentils whilst cooking them in step 2, above. Similarly, forego adding garlic to the tadka in the step below (step 10).

10. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan on high heat. Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin seeds in and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida, garlic cloves, and red chilies.

Once the red chillies darken, add the baghar to the lentils.

Popu in pulusu

Immediately cover the pot.

11. The dal is now ready! Taste it and add some salt to it if you like. Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, dahi (yogurt), Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre).

Healthy, vegan spinach lentils

Low fat Indian recipes: spinach lentils

The ratio of dal to rice is up to you. My family jokes that my plate often looks like a swimming pool of dal with a few desperate grains of rice drowning to death in it 😛 Yes, some of my near and dear have a dark sense of humour 😉

Vegan spinach lentils

In the photograph below, it is served with white rice, roti, dahi (yogurt), some pickle (Gongura pacchadi, to be precise, which you can get in most Indian stores if you live in North America) and sautéed dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

Healthy Indian lunch with lentil soup

Categories
Food General Recipes

Creamy and Refreshing Yoghurt Parfait: A Summer Delight!

I wasn’t always a huge parfait fan. If you follow this blog, you know that I mostly only eat chocolatey sweet things. But then, we went away for a weekend this June, and had this delicious parfait every morning at our Bed and Breakfast:

On a side note, we stayed in a boat house on the water in Catalina Bay, in the Kawartha Lakes region and it was absolutely lovely! Here are some photos of the place:

Our hostess was very gracious and kind, and the real bonus was that there was a resident kitty at the B&B!

But I was telling you about the parfait: it’s been a hot summer, and I’ve really been craving some creamy, berry filled parfait ever since our trip. So I went ahead and made some this morning:

If you’d like to give it a shot, here’s how:

Equipment:

A small thick bottomed saucepan

A grater or zester

Two bowls

Spoons, a spatula, and a whisk

Ingredients:

1 cup yoghurt

1/4 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1-3 tsp granola (you can go here, if you want to make your own (you can skip the coconut if you don’t like the idea of blueberries with coconut))

Method:

1. First, we’ve got to make our compote: Bring the sugar and water to boil in the saucepan at medium-high heat. Let it cook for 6-8 mins until the mixture thickens a bit. Add in the blueberries, lower the head to medium, and stir gently. Cook the berries for about 5 minutes. If you’re using frozen berries, cook the berries for a little longer. Take the pan off the heat. Add in the lemon zest and juice and mix well. Let the compote sit for about 15-20 minutes, until it cools.

2. Whisk the yoghurt and vanilla together in a bowl.

5. Serve the compote and yoghurt together in a new bowl. You can do it in whatever way looks nice to you. I did this:

6. Top off with granola and enjoy!

Categories
General Recipes

Drink your Vegetables!!!: A Healthy Carrot Beet Juice Recipe

I’ve started drinking fresh juices! If you’ve been reading other posts of mine, you know that I struggle with eating vegetables. I especially hate how crunchy they are. Which is why, if I ever eat them, I eat them very cooked. I have found, however, that I can “drink my vegetables”,  even raw vegetables, without too much difficulty.  A carrot, beet (beetroot), orange, and ginger concoction I made yesterday for instance, was actually pretty refreshing!

Healthy Carrot Beet Juice

Of course eating whole vegetables is so much better for you. If you’re simply not eating enough vegetables though, for whatever reason,  juicing is a good way to supplement your nutrient intake. Also, when it comes to people like me who dislike vegetables, I see juices as the opposite of a gateway drug, they’re a gateway to healthier eating. At least, I am hoping they are.

Anyway, it’s week 2 and I am still keeping at it. Every day, I make myself some juice, varying the vegetables so that I am getting a range of nutrients. If you’re looking to try your hand at juicing and haven’t done it before, this is a great starter juice. I use a juicer, but I have heard of people using a Vitamix and then straining out the pulp if they don’t like it.

Ingredients:

8 Carrots (with the ends cut off)

2 Beets (peeled, with ends cut off) (you can use just one beet if you don’t like the strong “root” flavour of beets and just use 2 extra carrots instead)

1 Orange (peeled) (you could also use an apple)

2 inch Piece of Ginger

Healthy juice Recipe

 

Method:

  1. Wash the fruit and vegetables well.
  2. Cut them as needed depending on the size of your juicer feeding tube.
  3. Feed the ingredients into the juicer.
  4. Pour the juice into a glass.
  5. Enjoy your juice 🙂

How to make your diet more healthy

P.s. You could use the pulp to bake muffins. I plan on trying this out at some point and will update this post, when I do.

Categories
Chocolate General

Brainy Choconutmeg!!!

 

chocolate and red wine, flavanoids, resveratrol, smarter

I’ve written about the gloriousness of chocolate many, many times, including its health benefits. If there is one belief I have in life, it is this: chocolate is an elixir of happiness. Now, there’s one more study that supports my thesis that chocolate is basically magic.

According to new study, published in the journal Appetite, frequent consumption of chocolate was:

 

“significantly associated with better performance on [cognitive tests including] visual-spatial memory and organisation, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination”.

 

The study’s researchers used data collected from a Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) involving 968 people (between 23 and 98 years old). Cocoa flavanols, a type of flavonoid found in chocolate, are said to be associated with this increased cognitive function.

Oh and studies are beginning to show that red wine (in moderation) is also good for us (see this website for a good summary of the research on flavanoids), so why not couple some handmade delicious truffles with wine 🙂

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Healthy Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

I made chocolates today and I was going to sit down with a cup of Jasmine tea and write about them. When I looked at my blog home page, however, I realized that my last post was also about chocolate (in fact, a LOT of my posts are about chocolate). Also, Easter was just the other day, so it occurred to me that some of you are probably feeling a little stuffed, maybe even a little ill from all the chocolate eating. In thinking about how guilty and sick you might be feeling, I began to feel somewhat stuffed myself. I’ve been eating loads of homemade, cheese covered pizza and of course, tonnes of chocolate. It was time, I decided, to eat something yummy but healthy.

So, I made myself the healthiest lunch that I am capable of enjoying. It included one of my favourite dishes, palak dal (spinach lentils) and was served with rice and baked beets and sweet potatoes.

Palakoora pappu, palak pappu, palak pulusu, palak dal, spinach dal, lentil soup

In general, I hate eating  vegetables. The prospect of having to eat a bowl of crunchy and/or leafy vegetables makes me feel ill, miserable and hopeless. Yet, this lunch included tonnes of spinach and I still loved it! The spinach lentils shown above, are as flavourful, as they are good for you (I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I think you will all agree with me when you see the ingredient list). I think spices make vegetables not only edible, but enjoyable 🙂

Healthy Indian food, low-fat spinach lentils, palak dal

 

You can also include rotis and a light vegetable sauté with the meal. I also like to eat some yoghurt along with my meal, but of course, this isn’t compulsory.

 

Indian healthy spinach lentil soup recipe

A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide whether you want to stay on the lower side of that range or be brave and add in the highest amount that I recommend.

If you would like to try to make the lentils, the recipe is below; I will write later about the sauté.

Ingredients:

1 cup Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi; a type of lentil, native to India; you can also use Toor Dal, or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 large onion or 2 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned (you can also crush them if you don’t like having large pieces of garlic in your dal: I like the chunks :))

3-6 green chilies cut in half lengthwise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seed powder

1 – 2 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

About a medium-sized bunch of spinach (250 g) (I used organic baby spinach)

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (you can use white if you don’t have brown sugar) (optional)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the tadka, baghar, or popu:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-12 dried red chilies

1 or 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves (optional)

2-4 peeled whole garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons of ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. If you want to make your own, here is my recipe. If you don’t have ghee, you can simply use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). I use moong dal for this recipe. If you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for a few hours before I cook them (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas; I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step. This is how the lentils look soaked:

Moong dal (lentils native to the Indian subcontinent)

2. The easiest way to cook dal is to cook it in a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, just boil the dal in water until its cooked. Add half a teaspoon  each of turmeric and salt to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this:

Cooked moong dal

3. I like to purée the dal in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional, however. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

4. In the meantime, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned. Now add the ginger, garlic, and green chillies and sauté again until the ginger and garlic is cooked (their raw smell should vanish).

5. Add the tomatoes, followed by cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala (if you are using it), and half a teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook all of this for about 10 minutes on low-medium heat.

6. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach well.

Spinach for healthy lentil soup

7. Place the spinach in a bowl and microwave for a minute, until tender.  I like to simply use a herb scissors or a normal pair of scissors and cut up the spinach in the bowl (after it has been microwaved) into slightly smaller bits. If you don’t like this method, you can, of course, chop the spinach on a cutting board with a knife (before or after you microwave it.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce pan, then add the lentils and sugar (if you are using it). Let everything cook for about 5 minutes.

9. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan like this:

Hot ghee

Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin and stir the seeds about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the curry leaves, garlic cloves and red chilies.

Baghar
Tadka, popu or baghar

Once the red chillies darken like this:

Baghar, tadka or popu

Add the baghar to the lentils.

Making Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

Immediately cover the pot.

The dal is now ready! Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, dahi (yogurt), Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté.

In the photograph below, it is served with rice , roti, dahi (yogurt), some pickle (Gongura pickle, to be precise, which you can get in most Indian stores if you live in North America) and sautéed Dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

 

Healthy South Indian lunch with lentil soup

 

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Spicy Fish Keema

I spent half of my childhood in a Southern Indian city called Hyderabad. What I love the most about this city is its food. Hyderabadi cuisine is spicy, complex, and flavourful, with a fascinating history. (I’ve already touched upon some of this, including the story of the origins of Hyderabadi food and its evolution (involving the Mughals and the Nizams) in a previous post.) On top of all this, several Hyderabadi dishes play an important role in my own personal history. For instance, I have memories of delicious Biryani lunches with my father at Nizam Club, during which we would have long chats about communism, god, black holes, and the senselessness of vegetarian Biryani (I maintained, and continue to maintain, that Biryani must be made with mutton, or, in an emergency, with chicken; my father, is more flexible in principle, but frankly, seems to agree with me in practice), amongst other things.

Another dish that I love and associate fond memories with is Kheema. Kheema is spicy minced meat, and it’s made in different parts of India in slightly different ways. Kheema reminds me of Hussein, an elderly, gentle, kind, funny, patient man, who was our chauffeur. I used to be driven to and from school by Hussein, whom I was really very fond of. As it turned out, Hussein’s wife made the most delicious kheema, and every time she made some, he would bring me left-overs the next morning, which I would eat for lunch in school. This was a special treat as my parents’ was a vegetarian household, and no meat was ever cooked or served in it. 

Of and on, over the past decade, I’ve craved kheema made just like that. But, I no longer eat meat, and in any case, I have no idea how to make kheema that tastes like Hussein’s wife’s recipe. Today, I decided that I was going to make some kheema, one way or another; I was gripped by a craving so powerful, that I set about crafting a recipe with a kind of single-minded determination that I only wish I could summon when I sit down to write a chapter of my thesis. Although I don’t eat meat, I do eat fish, so awful as this is likely to sound to a Hyderabadi, I decided to make fish kheema. Using a recipe for “Bhuna Kheema” and adapting it quite a bit (for instance, I used tomatoes, which isn’t common in Hyderabadi recipes, and of course, I was using fish instead of mutton/chicken), I arrived at this creation:

image

It was delicious, even if it wasn’t quite authentic, and it still had a distinct flavour profile that resembled the kheema from my child hood! If you’d like to try it, here’s what you will need:

1 pound fish fillets (any white fish should do, used haddock)

2-3 tablespoons oil (the more you use, the better the kheema will taste, up to a point of course)

1/2 stick cinnamon

2 bay leaves

A handful of curry leaves

4 cardamom pods

3-4 cloves

1 large red onion, (dice 3 quarters and slice the remaining quarter)

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger

10 sprigs of coriander, chopped

5-8 mint leaves

6 green chillies, chopped

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons red chilli powder (I used 1 teaspoon Kashmiri mirch powder and 1 teaspoon extra hot red chilli powder that I bought at an Indian store)

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Method:

Boil the fish in a pot of water with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cool the fish and chop it into bite sized pieces.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, curry leaves, and cloves. Once the spices become fragrant, add the onion and fry until golden brown. Now, add the grated ginger and crushed garlic, and fry for a few minutes.

Next, add the chopped chillies, followed by the mint, coriander, salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam a masala. Fry for a bit, and then add the chopped tomatoes. Fry some more.

Finally, add the boiled fish with a little bit of water, and toss. Using a flat ladle, break up the fish into little pieces, whilst stirring everything on medium to high heat. Continue periodically stirring the mixture until the water dries up, and the fish begins to look like mince meat. At this point, take the fish off the heat, squeeze some lime juice on it, stir it, and serve it with some coriander and/or mint leaves garnished on top. You can eat kheema with naan, roti, chapati, parathas, or just by itself. I ate it with chapatis and dahi (Indian-style Yoghurt), and made a cup of lemon tea to wash it all down.

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Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

Easy Chocolate Cupcakes (with Dark Chocolate Centers and Cream Cheese Frosting)

Dearest readers, I must begin by apologizing for my long absence. I’ve had a very busy summer indeed. But, I am back now, and I thought a great way to apologize would be to bake you all some delicious cupcakes.

Yes, yes, I know that some people are saying that cupcakes are ‘dead’ now and all that, but really, that’s all stuff and nonsense. Like chocolate, cupcakes are forever, or at least, chocolate cupcakes are forever. I can’t speak for lemon flavoured ones, or even about Kiwi ones, or really about any fruit flavoured ones, but chocolate ones, mmmmm…. even contemplating a world without chocolate cupcakes is enough to drive me to utter and complete despair.

I mean, just look at this cupcake:

Easy Recipe for chocolate cupcakes

Can you imagine this ever not being delicious?

So you see, I am convinced that cupcakes are here to stay, whatever the naysayers may say (I agree with most things on Jezebel, but on the issue of cupcakes, Jezebel and I disagree, vehemently, see: http://jezebel.com/fuck-cupcakes-475125988.)

So, given their classic status (at least in my home and heart), here is a delicious and easy recipe for chocolate cupcakes, with some optional frills you can add to make them even more yummy!

Ingredients:

(I’ve divided the ingredients into three groups, so it’s easy to refer to them collectively in the recipe.)

Group A:

1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

0.5 teaspoon baking soda

3-4 pinches of salt

Group B:

1 cup sugar

0.75 cups cocoa

0.75 cups sunflower or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs

1 cup 1% milk

Group C (for frosting and chocolate fillings):

Icing sugar (to taste, usually not more than a cup)

8 ounces cream cheese

About 140 g dark chocolate (this amount will vary depending on the darkness of the chocolate you choose and your taste as well).

About 40 g milk chocolate

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees celsius).

2. Whisk all the ingredients in ‘Group A’ together in a bowl.

3. Whisk the sugar and cocoa together in another bowl. Add all the other ingredients in ‘Group B’, except the milk, and beat with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed, until the mixture is smooth.

4. Now beat the ‘Group A’ ingredients into the mixture from step 3, a few spoonfuls at a time, alternating with the milk. Beat until smooth. This is your cupcake batter. You can mix a handful or two of chocolate chips, if you like, at this stage.

5. Ladle or pour the batter into cupcake cups placed in a cupcake or muffin baking tray.

6. Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean. Do not over bake as the cakes will then end up dry.

7. Once the cakes have cooled, take them out of the mold/tray. You can eat them as they are, or you can give them dark chocolate centers and frost them.

8. To give them chocolate centers, melt 6 squares (about 60 g) of your favourite dark chocolate (make sure it’s not too dark, as you want the centre to be soft at room temperature, rather than hard and gritty) with 4 squares (about 40 g) of milk chocolate in a bowl in the microwave on a very low heat setting, or in a double boiler. While the chocolate is melting, use a cupcake corer, or a knife to carefully bore a hole into the cupcakes from the top, to about midway into the cupcake (make sure not to go all the way to the bottom), and take out some of the cake to create space for the chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted, spoon some chocolate into each cupcake. Let the chocolate cool. (Note: don’t wash the bowl you use in this step to melt the chocolate in, just yet.)

9. In the meantime, place an 8 ounce brick of cream cheese in a bowl, and beat it with an electric mixer, until it’s smooth and creamy. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence, and a few tablespoons of icing sugar, then beat the mixture, and taste it. Keep adding sugar by the spoonful until it tastes just right. Now melt about 8 squares of dark chocolate (80 g) (my measurements for the chocolate are approximate because each person will want different amounts of chocolate in the frosting; so go by what tastes right) in the same bowl used in step 8. Pour this chocolate into the cream cheese-sugar mixture. Make sure that the chocolate is only warm, not hot. Now beat it all together until smooth. Your frosting is ready.

10. Spoon the frosting into an icing bag (if you don’t have one, you can spoon the icing into a sandwich bag or other type of plastic bag and cut a whole at one corner of it). Holding up each cupcake, swirl frosting on it.

11. Top off the cupcake with dark chocolate shavings, if you feel like.

12. You can also make cupcakes with mint buttercream frosting, as shown in the photo below. Just beat a cup of unsalted butter with a few drops of mint essence, a few drops of green food colouring, and icing sugar to taste. Then follow the same steps for frosting the cupcakes as described in 10 and 11.

13. Eat the cakes yourself, or throw a cupcake party for your friends 🙂

Cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese icing

Chocolate cupcakes with mint buttercream frosting

Categories
Food General Recipes

Mint-Limeade for a Summer Study Break

My protest against the weather continues, as I explore yet another summery treat at home this morning, pigheadedly refusing to acknowledge that it is cold and frigid outside. Given the huge windows and skylight in my apartment, it isn’t that difficult to pretend that it’s summer; all I have to do is imagine that it’s as warm and sunny outside as it is on my couch. So imagine I did, and made up this pitcher of fresh mint limeade:

Cool fresh, minty limeade/lemonade

Limeade, is of course easy to make, and most people could easily make up a pitcher in minutes, without thinking to look up a recipe for it. So I am not posting a recipe for it here so much as sharing my take on, or version of traditional limeade, which, by the way, I maintain, is useful not only to deluded summer enthusiasts like me, but to everyone really. Every once in a while, even when it’s not summer, we all need a nice refreshing drink to hydrate and cool ourselves. It also makes for a great drink on a morning (or afternoon), following a late night filled with a little too much, ahem, shall we say merriment? Not, of course, that I am ever in need of such a treatment. No one who knows me, or has read this blog, could ever accuse me of excess of any sort 😉

I made the limeade very light, using about 1 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup, the juice of 2 limes, 2 pinches of salt and a handful of torn mint leaves, for a pitcher of limeade. You could of course intensify the flavour by adding more sugar, syrup, or even more lime juice. It’s best to add the sugar and syrup in small increments, tasting as you go, since each person’s preference is likely different.

Mmmm, I think I am going to make up a pitcher of this stuff for all my summer tea parties 🙂