Sunday, September 8, 2013
Being a teetotaller is quite a boon! Every time I go out to the pub/club/lounge/bar I always scrutinise the drinks menu for their mocktails and fresh juices and often come across some of the best drinks in the house! Not to forget the surprised faces of the bartender when you order the least-ordered drink in their drinks menu! Well, to be fair in one of the world's most drunk nations you don't often see the odd nutter coming up to the bar and requesting for hot chocolate or juice! Unless it is me visiting a pub once in a blue moon!
One of the best mocktails I have had so far is the Green Machine at The Swan at the Globe on the Southbank. The pub is in the same complex as Shakespeare's Globe!
When I arrived with my glass-jar (see picture below) full of garden-green drink, all of my fellow friends who were sipping on their Rose-wine could not resist but ask what I had ordered! And most of them instantly accepted my offer and took a sip of my stunning mocktail. These signs told me this was no ordinary drink! It had an aura if it's own and it had charmed me and my alcohol-friendly friends!
I thoroughly enjoyed drinking it! A fresh dash of crushed mint and apple and lime and ice all at once, topped with the spright-fulness of cucumber! And the best bit, it was served in a jar! Yes, in a glass jar with a handle - one of the quirkiest things I have come across so far in any pub!
Here is the recipe crudely put together from the quick glance I had at the menu before ordering.
- Put some cucumber, mint and bananas in a juice mixer
- Add fresh apple juice and lime juice
- Add crushed ice
- Start the mixer
- Pour into a jar
Voila! Your green machine is ready to drink! And it's vegan!
Friday, September 6, 2013
One of India's most loved street food items is Bhel! If you look closely at a menu of Indian street food, you will find it is anything but junk food! It consists of lots of healthy snacks and salads that one can enjoy for a few rupees.
One of my favourites is this Indian salad made with rice flakes.
The main salad consists of:
Boiled and diced potatoes
Rice flakes (mum-raa)
Boiled black peas
There are four main salad dressings you need:
1. Sweet red chutney made from tamarinds, dates and jaggery
- Boil some deseeded tamarinds and dates
- Make a paste using a food processor
- Sieve this paste into a bowl
- Add jaggery to the bowl and mix till it dissolves
- Add cumin powder, red chilli powder, little turmeric and salt
2. Spicy green chutney made from mint, coriander and green chillies
- Wash a bouquet of coriander and mint thoroughly
- Remove the main stalks and discard them
- Chop off the leaves
- Put them in a mixer with chopped green chillies, salt, lemon juice and some pieces of ginger
- Add a little water and make a paste in the mixer
3. Garlic chutney made from garlic, red chillies and sesame seeds
- Take a mortar and a pestle
- Put cloves of garlic, red chilli powder, dollop of oil and a handful of sesame seeds in the mortar
- Use the pestle to crush and mix all the ingredients to make a thick paste
- Take small portions of the paste and mix with water to create a sauce and use as and when you are making the salad
You could make all the chutney's in the mortar and pestle for a more refreshing taste but this can be time consuming. Alternatively you can also make the garlic chutney by mixing all the ingredients in the mixer.
4. Lemon juice
- Take a lemon, wash it and roll it on a flat surface, apply pressure as you do this
- Chop it into half
- Deseed it carefully
- Squeeze it and collect the juice in a small glass bowl
Finely chopped coriander
Bombay mix (available in packets at most Indian food stores)
Sev (available in packets at most Indian food stores)
- If not available in the market, make a dough of gram flour, salt, oil, red chilli powder and turmeric
- Get a sev-making machine which could resemble a noodle/ spaghetti making machine and use it to produce thin fine noodles and fry them in vegetable oil
- Strain all the oil and place them on tissue papers
- Crush them and use for garnishing
You can also make a dry salad by mixing a pinch of the following instead of the chutneys above. Squeeze in a lemon to your dry salad and top it with sev and chopped coriander.
Dry salad powders:
Chaat masala (or Jalani Jal Jeera)
Indian olive powder (amchur)
Take a big bowl and toss all the ingredients and dressings in it as per your taste. I always try different combinations and rarely do I have the same-tasting bhel on my plate! That's the best part of this beautiful snack and makes 'cooking' it all the more fun!
Voila, your healthy Indian rice flake salad is ready to tingle your tastebuds! And yes, it's vegan!
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
So when I moved to London three years ago I realised how much I would miss eating home made Indian food. One of them was this Indian sweet and sour sponge cake made from gram flour. It never occurred to me all these years that Khaman, as it is called in India was in fact a cake! It was only after I started baking in London that I made the connection in my head and decided to treat Khaman-making akin to cake-baking and I was surprised with the results! It is amazing how a little bit of garnishing and change in perspective can change one's outlook and existing notions. Not to mention my Khaman-Cake tasted so much better too!
Khaman is a Gujarati dish, best enjoyed with coriander and mint chutney, a tarka (oil seasoning with mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves) and generous sprinkling of grated coconut. The best Khaman is light as a Victoria Sponge and it is an art to master the recipe at home with freshly ground gram flour. Well at home my mother used to make Khaman from an instant mix that was available at the shops. The best and most easiest of these instant mixes was from a brand called Talod.
Follow the recipe below which is available on Talod's website and also on their instant mix packets.
You can order your packet of Talod mix here http://www.talodinstantmix.com/ShowProducts.aspx
Original Khaman looks like this when served.
In my cake version I did not cut the steamed cake into cubes but carefully upturned the steamed cake from the thali (plate)
I made four such round sponges of Khaman and used two 200gm packets of Talod's mix to make them. Make sure the sponges have completely cooled down before manhandling them to arrange your layered cake.
The second layer went on top of the first.
The third on top of the second and finally the fourth layer went right on top. You could add a thin layer of grated coconut and/or coriander chutney in between the layers if you wanted to. Finally decorate it chopped coriander leaves and glaze it with the tarka. Serve with a few raw green chillies!
Voila, you're triple layered Indian-gram-flour-sweet-and-sour steamed Victoria sponge is ready to eat! Oh and yes, it is vegan!
Sunday, September 1, 2013
It is that time of the year again. It is Pajushan (Paryushan or Das Lakshana). An annual Jain festival. In fact the biggest most auspicious festival for Jains. But it is unlike any other auspicious festival celebrated in our times.
There are no firecrackers. No elaborate meals. No new clothes. No gifts. No loud music. No dancing on the streets. It stands out like a black sheep in the family of world festivals.
Just like all Jain core beliefs that are different and out of the ordinary, so is this festival. It is probably the only festival that celebrates the simplicity of life by keeping things extremely ordinary during the eight to ten days it lasts for.
Here is why I love this time of the year:
It is time to renew ourselves. Forget the past. Clean the slate. And revive our spirit. After the brunt of worldly pleasures it bears over the year, it needs a break!
Walking barefoot gives us a sense of belonging and oneness with nature and surroundings. We feel a sense of responsibility for the earth we live on and it is a great reminder of one life's truths - that small things in life make a big difference! And that we should be thankful for all life has to offer us.
No television. No music. No unwanted entertainment. We've got the rest of the year for all that and all other material pleasures. For these eight days are all about the simple life. This gives us ample time to reflect on everything around us. Reflect about us. Rethink where life is heading. What our purpose is. What went ahead as planned and what didn't. What mistakes were committed and what great deeds achieved. It is a whole lot of me-time and I love it!
Fasting and eating before sunset has such a profound effect on the body it gives us a new lease of life! Our body is a machine and it needs a break from all the wear and tear it goes through on a daily basis. There is a more profound reason for fasting and giving up material pleasures, which is experiencing self restrain and being aware, more aware, by depriving yourself of life's pleasures. But for me the best part about giving up late night snacks and junk food and maintaining a strict Jain diet is that the body feels fresh and light! Lots of water, lentils, grains and pulses and sleeping early works like magic for our mind, body and soul.
The last day culminates with a three hour prayer session and is a great way to experience the joys of meditating. Helps us take more control of our thoughts and channelise our energy in the right direction. The peace and calm accompanied by chants that are hundreds of thousands of years old are a firebrand combination and the best routine for mind-gymming.
The mystical rituals, decorating idols with flowers and saffron, bathing them in milk, to the gong of bells, and songs of yore, at the break of dawn, with stories from the past, and powerful characters - these are the kind of things most wonderful fairytales are made of! The best part is, this festival allows us to be a part of them.
It is time to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Time to crush that ego-mountain that has built up over the year and act selfless. To realise that life is equal for all, single celled organisms to multicellular humans like us. To accept that over the course of our life we have caused some harm, unknowingly and knowingly, by our actions and thought, and that we must take a moment to remember all that we can and ask for forgiveness. This act of asking for forgiveness keeps me grounded and when forgiven it rids you of all the baggage one's carried along. So here I say it...