The best bread, ever.
Also known as Ajwain Patta (‘carom-leaf’) because it’s succulent leaves have the distinct aroma of carom seeds, or ajwain, though this is not the ajwain plant.
It is often used as a herbal home remedy for coughs and cold, or used as a culinary herb (as in this recipe), in dishes like thambli and the like. It is conveniently easy to grow from cuttings and low maintenance. At least it is in most parts of India.
Though it is looks and tastes like a regular wholewheat bread, this one also has some whole red rice flour and ground flax seeds in it. Both the texture and flavour of this bread are excellent.
Doddapatre leaves– 2 cups, chopped (or any greens of your choice, like spinach)
Seeds for topping, – 2 Tablespoons (or as required). Optional
Dissolve the jaggery in another quarter cup of warm water, and strain.
Add the chopped doddapatre (or any other herb/greens), and knead it again lightly, and place into a well-greased loaf pan.
Lightly brush the top with oil or water. Top the loaf with seeds, if using. I used watermelon seeds (charmagaz) as topping.
Note: I used a pan that was a bit too large, the only one free at the time, so the loaf, though well risen, was rectangular rather than square! So it appears brick-like, but it is not a brick by any means.
See the crumb up close, to get an idea!
|The rich colours of the red rice flour and flax meal add further depth to the wholewheat flour, flecked generously with the herb.|
Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Centigrade for 45 minutes to one hour, or till done.
The crust should be firm.
Even the plain bread tastes delicious. Makes for great toast.
Simply savoury and delicious.
Although tomatoes are most commonly used in their bright red, ripe form, there are many delicious things to do with them when they’re still green and unripe.
This green tomato chutney is one such. A great way to use up some from an excess harvest if you have garden tomatoes, or if not, then worthy enough to warrant going out to buy some green tomatoes just to make it.
This version, from Tayamma, my kitchen help-mate, uses peanuts instead of sesame seeds, and an interesting combination of flavours.
The tomatoes need to be pretty unripe and sour. If they’re not, then a small addition of tamarind will increase the tartness to the desired limit.I’ve used the ‘nati’ (desi/local) variety which are fairly tart.
Green Tomatoes: 4, medium sized, sliced
Onion: – 2, small, sliced
Roasted Peanuts: 1/3 cup
For the tempering (Completely flexible as per taste):-
Fresh Pudina (Mint) leaves: – 2-3 sprigs (optional)
Hara Dhaniya (Fresh Coriander leaves): – 1/3 cup
Dried Red Chilly: – 1 (optional)
Imli (Tamarind) piece: – 1/4 teaspoon (only as required, for tartness)
Heat the oil in a wok or pan and add the tempering ingredients
My peanuts were not roasted, so I added them along with the dry tempering ingredients to roast.
Once the dry spices are spluttered and well-roasted, add the rest (Corinader, Mint, Garlic, Onions, Tamarind, if using) along with the powders, so that the powders don’t burn.
My spices were starting to burn because I added the peanuts a bit too late, so I removed them from the flame, before this step. Usually, removing would not be required.
When the Onions are cooked (ie, no ‘raw’ smell remains; it doesn’t have to get brown), add the chopped green tomatoes and cook through,
Grind it all together in a chutney jar.
And it’s ready!
Additionally, an optional second tempering can be added with mustard and curry leaves.
Serve at once.
Great with idlis, dosas, chapathis, ragi roti, jolada rotti, just about anything in fact!
No special equipment required.
This post shows how to make methi sprouts. The same technique can be used to make just about any kind of sprouts like moong dal, moth dal, kali masoor dal, chana, dal, alfalfa ,ragi, urad dal, chick peas etc.
Sprouts, as we all know, are just seeds starting to germinate.
One of the reasons why seeds/grains are healthier after soaking and sprouting, is because germination transforms the seed, not only making the nutritional value shoot up, but also making the nutrition far more assimilable. The enzymes start to pre-digest, the starch is broken down into more easily digestible, simpler compounds and the level of vitamins goes up. Even the vitamins and minerals become more bio-available.
“Sprouts are said to be rich in digestible energy, bioavailable vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, and phytochemicals, as these are necessary for a germinating plant to grow.”
The general picture is evident – sprouting brings out more of the good stuff, reduces the bad.
Best of all, they are incredibly easy to make (and eat)!
Easy, because nature does all the work.
All we have to do is set in place the right conditions. No rocket science here.
Take a quarter cup of methi seeds. I used organic, from my pantry.
It is important to use only edible seeds, and not garden variety or others which might have fungicide coatings.
Wash well and soak overnight, or 6-8 hours.
By which time there will be visible evidence of changes taking place in the seeds.
Some, like chick peas would take longer, days even, some like alfalfa, mustard might take less time.
Here is a link with a convenient chart on page 2, giving soaking, germinating times of various seeds.
Upon hydration, they will have swelled up in size, the outer seed coat layer will have softened and started to split up.
The next thing to do is rinse the seeds well and place them on a shallow tray or plate.
Add just enough filtered, drinking water to form a half or one millimeter thick film at the base, which will keep all the seeds moist, but not drowned, and they also get light (diffused, not direct) and air.
This can then be left in an undisturbed area of the counter or table.
The main thing at this point is to make sure the germinating seeds don’t dry out, and that they get air.
So every now and then (say two to four times in a day) I rinse them again thoroughly with fresh water and replenish the thin film of water at the bottom of the thali, which tends to disappear with evaporation and absorption.
The frequency of this requirement will vary depending on the heat and humidity levels.
If protection from the environment is needed, cover with a cloth, mesh lid, a sieve or a perforated plate.
Other possible methods include tying them into a cheesecloth bundle which can be hung or placed in a bowl or sieve and periodically rinsed and kept moist.
Similarly a jar, would do, preferably made of glass, with a mesh or cloth lid.
Also available in stores are ‘sproutmakers‘, usually plastic, with tiered compartments that facilitate multiple sprout varieties or staggered germination timings to provide a steady supply of just-ready sprouts with a little planning.
A stainless steel mesh colander is also a suitable option, which makes rinsing easy (though needed more frequently, since it air-dries faster) and was my earlier favorite method.
There are a few reasons why, I favour a stainless steel thali over the others –
1. It is relatively non-reactive, and far easier to keep clean and hygienic than cloth or plastic or anything else. Sprouts leave messy marks, despite all the rinsing and water changing. Stainless steel can be scrubbed or scoured clean. Or, for that matter, even boiled, steamed or baked.
Ceramic is also great.
2. Although rinsing is easier in a sieve or cheesecloth, those are often difficult to clean because many of the sprouting roots grow through the weave of the sieve/cloth and are subsequently broken off resulting in unnecessary wastage and then have to be plucked out while cleaning.
3. The jar, although simpler, and the smaller footprint more convenient, doesn’t have as much air circulation.
Dark, moist conditions are tricky, since bacteria like those, too.
So it seems the safest bet in terms of hygiene to let there be light (heh), though not direct, and plenty of air circulating, with frequent, thorough washing using good quality drinking water, completely draining old rinse water each time.
So, coming back to the story, next, the ‘radicle‘, which is the embryonic root will make an appearance by emerging from the seed. The hitherto “soaks” are now “sprouts”.
The sprouts are ready to be consumed, but typically allowed to grow a bit more.
Continue with the rinsing and draining process maintaining optimum moisture and air conditions till the sprouts are of the length desired.
You can see in the picture below how some of the seeds stuck a little bit higher on the sides have dried out. These will have to be discarded.
Longer and longer they grow.
Until the first leaves start showing through.
On their way to becoming “microgreens”.
If not eaten soon, you might as well let the seed “go to plant” and grow it in a pot instead!
In the picture below, the methi plants have been intentionally left to “go to seed” – one seed pod can be spotted already, to harvest for the next crop.
But, of course, I want the sprouts this time. A half to three-quarters of an inch is good enough for me.
The process might take 3-5 days (see chart in the link give above).
A final thorough rinse and drying is necessary before storing it in the fridge.
TIP: To remove any last traces of moisture, drain, pat dry gently, and leave uncovered in the fridge for an hour or two which has a dessicating effect, or use a salad spinner.
Then cover and store for upto 4-5 days in the fridge. The cold slows down the growing process, though doesn’t completely halt it!
The living food that is literally growing on your plate as you eat!
Great in salads, stir-fries, sandwiches.
Lalbagh’s biannual Flower Show is on till the 15th of August, 2013.
You can read about them and how it all started in the garden city in this piece from the Alternative which profiles Dr.Vishwanath Kadur as Bangalore’s First farmer.
Also to keep on your radar, coming up in the last week of August, is the OFYT event, or Oota From Your Thota, meaning “Food From Your Garden” in Kannada.
The flyer below is of the previous one.
Of particular interest, are the various and innovative containers used to grow the plants.
Here you can find a strawberry plant growing in a recycled yogurt tub.
In some enthusiast’s houses, I’ve even seen plants flourishing in used milk-packets, sacks, tubes, pipes, discarded tyres, bottles, packaging etc.! Not all of those might be safe for food, eg. rubber tyres which some believe cause exposure to undesirable leachates or possible allergens.
Some of the recycling is quite creative.
Gardening need not be expensive, either. Seeds can come from your pantry or you can even re-grow from kitchen scraps.
I noticed a ‘double-decker version’ mounted on a slotted angle rack.
There’s plenty of advice, encouragement and support on hand from their vast and varied online group for anyone who wants to have a food garden no matter how small the space, or how urbanised the dwelling. And plenty of appreciation for even the smallest harvest. Join in the fun.
So here it is in pictures –
|Aloe Vera Bloom|
|Aloe Vera Plant|
|Amaranth in container|
|Wax Chillies detail.|
|Might work better with a stronger bottle or lighter potting mix.|
|Cabbage in innovative container|
|Chikoo Tree in a pot (the larger one, at back)|
|Ladies Finger (Bhindi) detail.|
|Ladies Finger with taller Tur Dal plant behind.|
|Tomato Plant in a bucket|
|Drumstick Tree in a pot.|
|Deer Tongue Lettuce|
|Green Chillies Potted|
|Green Chillies Detail.|
|Red Chillies in a pot|
|Red Chillies Detail|
|Self Watering Container|
|Brinjal in a polybag|
|Palak (Spinach) detail.|
|Palak in innovative container.|
|Methi (Fenugreek) detail.|
|Methi (Fenugreek) in innovative trough.|
|Assorted herbs + handmade Ladybird.|
By the time we were done, the last of the sun was caught by this fountain.
And that familiar city lamp. (Where else downtown can you spot it?)
So it was time to leave.
And make more plans for our own garden!
Wait, don’t go away! You’re going to be surprised, I promise.
I never thought I’d ever like a green smoothie. Really, I didn’t.
Until I tasted this one.
The banana (one per serving) can be overripe. This might even be recommended – so a great way to use up old stock. For those in Bangalore or near-about, the regular variety is better than the Yelakki types for this.
As for the spinach, a handful of crisp, young leaves should do it. Freshly picked from your home garden is even better! Imagine the “Prana” potency of that!
Blitz it all in a mixie jar.
And it’s done. That’s it!
The consistency will be naturally like that of a perfect smoothie.
Serve immediately. Watch out for halos.
Did you know pumpkin leaves are edible?
They are, too. And quite delicious and nutritious as well. I always knew that pumpkin flowers are used in cooking, but this was an interesting new discovery for me, and one that I lost no time in trying out!
Recipe Source: The friendly and down-to-earth Priya, whom I met during a homestay holiday last year in Kerala, where this dish was served during one of the meals. She is also, in this case, the supplier of the primary ingredient: tender pumpkin leaves, generously picked from the vine growing in their property and handed over to us as we left, along with last-minute how-to’s and tips on usage. Pictures are above. Can you spot the river flowing by in the bottom-right corner? Amazingly, they survived, wrapped in just a newspaper in a plastic bag, and were duly converted into this dish close to thirty hours later.
Here is Priya, being herself.
(All organic, except the matta rice in this case.)
Tender Pumpkin Leaves (flowers and tender stalks can be included) – A large handful, freshly picked. Choose the youngest, most tender ones.
Grated Fresh Coconut – 3-4 Tablespoons (TIP: Give one quick additional whizz in the mixie jar to further ‘crush’ it)
Oil – 1 teaspoon (I used cold pressed, organic coconut oil)
Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
Raw Rice grains – 1 teaspoon (This can be any variety. I used Matta rice, which is often used in Kerala.)
Jeera (Cumin seeds) – 1/4 teaspoon
Garlic – 2-3 flakes chopped
Haldi (Turmeric) – a pinch
Salt – to taste
1. Wash and clean the pumpkin leaves, removing the larger veins. This is quite a fibrous leaf ( a bit like Amaranth, though even more so.).
If you have the patience, you could probably leave the veins on, and simply remove the thin film that covers the larger veins, and also the tender stems, which are easily peeled off.
I chose the faster option by tearing off the larger veins, resulting in a rather shredded lot! But not to worry, it needs to be chopped fine, anyway. The pile of veins on the left gets discarded. The remaining leaves as on the right, are what we use.
If using any flowers, remove the calyx, etc, keeping just the corolla (petals).
All ‘de-veined’ and finely chopped.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan or kadhai. Add the mustard seeds. When they start spluttering,
add the raw rice, which will also splutter and puff up.
Also add the red chilly here, if using.
3. Add the chopped leaves .
along with some haldi and salt,
cover and cook. Avoid adding water, if possible.
4. When nearly done, uncover,
add the jeera, the garlic and the crushed coconut with a little haldi added in (I blended the last two in the mixie),
Stir it in, and cook some more, cover if required, till done.
Great paired with roti and dal, which is what we did. (This subzi can also be mixed into the cooked dal.)
Or serve it the traditional way, with steaming, hot rice.
Would you have believed it?
Place the seeds in a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai (cast iron would be great),
And roast over a low flame with constant stirring.
Roasting the methi seeds caramelizes some of it’s sugars, rendering it less bitter and altogether more palatable. When nicely browned, remove from heat and allow to cool.
Here is a comparison of unroasted and roasted methi seeds side-by-side.
I use the chutney jar in my mixie to grind the seeds to a powder –
And it’s done. At this stage you are bound to notice that the aroma is remarkable. Strangely reminiscent of coffee (it must be something about both being bitter seeds roasted and ground!) I always have everyone – including children coming up to see “What’s cooking?” because of the awesome aroma!
Allow the powder to cool before bottling in an airtight jar. This can be stored for several weeks (at least I do), though when using in pickles, freshly-prepared is best.
Here’s a comparision for colours of methi seeds roasted and unroasted as well as the powder made from roasted methi seeds – which doesn’t look as brown after processing in the grinder!
|Methi fresh leaves, dried leaves (kasuri methi), seeds, and powdered seeds.|
In our household, Methi (Trigonella foenum-graecum) rules the roost.
Rather pleasantly bitter-tasting and with a distinct flavour, it prevails, not just in the spice rack, but also in the medicine cabinet, in the vegetable platter, home spa-treatment, and in the garden.
Pictured above, clockwise from top are –
1. A bundle of fresh methi leaves (the leaves will be picked and cleaned before being used), very easy to grow at home: just sprinkle some seeds (1/2 cup) in a bed or (2-3 TBS) in large, shallow container; water regularly.
Used in cooking as a delicious vegetable (or leafy green). For a quick and easy recipe, see Aloo-Methi Subzi.
2. Dried methi leaves known as “kasuri methi” used as a spice (often soaked in a little hot water before use),
3. Methi seeds powder (I usually make this at home by first roasting the seeds – to see how, click here), used as a spice in many dishes, and
4. Methi seeds used as a spice in tempering, as an ingredient in idli-dosa batters, as a medicine, consuming the seeds as they are, or soaked (consumed along with the water in which soaked), or sprouted, or as a tea, or as a powder (often roasted) with water or yogurt or buttermilk to tone down the bitter taste. As a hair/skin conditioner. And oh, so many more…
5. Besides these, Methi sprouts, pictured below, (and also very easy to make at home) are a nutritious addition into many healthy recipes.
Each one of these has it’s own distinct flavour, uses and benefits.
Organic, wholewheat pasta. At it’s simplest best.
Dressed in just garlic and olive oil. (Or “aglio e olio” in Italian.)
This is the version of spaghetti that I love the most.
It’s been a few years since this has replaced the original (the earlier favorite!) of white spaghetti tossed in butter and garlic.
But I admit, the search for the “healthier” alternative was not smooth and easy.
And, since pasta is only an occasional dish in our household, the trials, with most of the earliest versions being simply unexciting, took still longer.
Did I say wholewheat pasta was unexciting? No longer true.
These days it is possible to get high quality 100% organic, wholewheat pastas that are pretty much as good as their ‘refined’ counterparts.
With colours ranging from beige to tan, some are nearly identical to the white pasta, while some are “nuttier”, “earthier”, chewier, more grainy, but delicious nonetheless. And lend themselves well to experiments with innovative sauces!
There are even pastas made with many interesting and nutritious combinations like ragi, millet, oats, chickpea and other grains for variety!
1. When in doubt, opt for the “thinner, stringier” types of wholewheat pasta (eg. spaghetti) as opposed to the thicker types (like penne) because they are less likely to spring surprises, texture-wise.
2. Watch out for slightly bitter overtones in some of the mixed-millet varieties.
And why would anyone even want a recipe, let alone a step-by-step for such a simple, uncomplicated dish? Well, it’s a nice “reminder” of how easy too, Italian cooking can be!
And meanwhile, I have enjoyed making, documenting, and subsequently eating it of course.
So here we go.
(All organic ones, if you can manage it.)
1. Wholewheat Pasta: 200 gms
2. Good quality extra virgin olive oil: 1-2 TBS (or, to taste! – I used 1Tbs.)
3. Garlic pods: 5-6 (peeled and finely chopped)
4. Parsley: 1-2 small sprigs finely chopped (optional; I left this out.)
Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
Bring the salted water to boil in a pot.
Holding all the spaghetti from one end, immerse the other end into the pot of boiling water.
As it softens in the water, keep steadily immersing the rest of the length..
Bit by bit…
Turning it around to fit into the pot….
Until it’s all in.
Cook as per the time instructed.
The cooking time on the packaging is a pretty good estimate of the right time it takes to be perfectly “al dente” (chewy to bite) – but pressing a strand (the way you would a grain of rice being cooked) is also a good way to find out, if you forgot to keep track. It should be cooked, but firm.
Drain completely (no need to reserve the cooking liquid this time),
into a colander.
I place the steaming strands back into the empty pot to minimise heat and moisture loss while it waits..
In a wok or pan, heat the oil,
Toss in the cooked spaghetti and mix well.
And that’s it. It’s done.
Add some freshly milled pepper if you wish, and also the Parsley, if using, into the”Carb Heaven”.
If you add some chilly flakes (ideally at the garlic-sauteeing stage), but I add it at the table because of varied preferences, –
– then you have “Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino” (“spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers” in Italian)!
Dig (into) that!