Foodmantra for Beauty – 3 Ways to Use Apple & Walnuts for Glowing Skin

 

I remember watching an episode of Oprah once, very long ago. I was a teenager back then, fighting acne and insecurities related to it. I remember how inspired I was, I wanted to be as confident and as beautiful as the women on that show. I never thought that it would be easy, especially for a girl like me! Even in my growing years I was plump with wavy dark hair and a face dotted with old and new acne marks.

Even so, one little line from that show always stuck with me. It was, ‘Happiness makes you look good’. Even to this day, I believe that happiness truly makes a woman look the best she can look. Well, happiness and a little care will make you feel good about yourself.

To make myself look and feel beautiful, I follow a three-step mantra every single day. ‘Eat well, sleep well and cleanup well’. Trust me, you can follow these simple rules too. Here’s how I do it.

 

FoodMantra for Better Sleep

I really believe in getting my beauty sleep. Eight hours of stress free sleep. Not only does this avoid puffy eyes, your face looks hydrated and cared for. I’m serious! Stress and lack of sleep speeds up the onset of wrinkles. That means sleeping well prevents your skin from ageing quickly. I know getting that simple beauty sleep can be hard. It is easy to get preoccupied with work, errands and random thoughts. One thing that has worked for me is eating natural foods that have nutrients that help you sleep better.

Walnuts for instance, have melatonin, which is associated with better sleep patterns, and its Omega-3 fatty acids help in relieving stress. Not just that walnuts are loaded with Vitamin B that is also known to be an excellent stress and mood manager. Better sleep and low stress levels are going to make your skin look healthy, hydrated and beautiful everyday.

Walnuts are full of Vitamin E and the antioxidants remove toxins and fight free radicals that also delay the aging process. Walnut oil helps in hydrating and moisturizing the skin. It also reduces puffiness, soothes and relaxes the eyes and lightens dark circles.

Not only are walnuts great for your sleep and skin but also they make your hair better. They are full of useful nutrients like Omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and potassium that strengthen hair follicles and prevent hair loss. The natural oil in walnut moisturizes hair and gives them a natural glow. It is also a natural anti-dandruff and anti-fungal agent to prevent scalp infections. The walnut husk is a natural coloring agent that naturally highlights the hair. So in every way possible, walnuts make you look good!

 

Foodmantra for Eating Well

When was the last time you treated your own self to a delicious breakfast and felt really good about it? I’m tired of people associating anything tasty or sweet with negative emotions like, ‘I shouldn’t’ or ‘this is bad for me’. Eating well makes me really happy. Good food makes you feel energetic, light and happy all day. It carries us through our day. I don’t mean we load up on sugar every morning, but incorporating nuts and fruits in our breakfast can do wonders to the way we look and feel.

Including apples for instance, brightens, tightens and lightens the skin – also know as BLT. The antioxidants in apple prevent tissue damage, potassium is required for the skin, Vitamin A for new skin development and Vitamin C protects the skin. The collagen in apple helps the skin remain youthful and flawless. During the summer it can do wonders for your health and even for your skin! Here’s my recipe that combines the goodness of apple with the richness of walnuts to make a great breakfast.

No-Mayo Healthy Waldorf Salad

Serves 1

Ingredients

Apples, cut into bite size pieces; 1 cup

Walnuts, chopped; 2 tablespoons

Celery, Chopped; 2 tablespoons

Raw Honey; 1 tablespoon

Cinnamon powder; 1 teaspoon

Yogurt; 2 tablespoons

Iceberg Lettuce, ice- cold cups; 2 leaves

Method:

In a large cold bowl, add yogurt, cinnamon and honey and whisk into a smooth dressing.

Add in the chopped celery and walnuts and fold it with the yogurt.

Fold in apples and the chill the salad for 20 minutes.

Place ice-cold cups of Iceberg lettuce on a plate and add spoonful of salad into the lettuce cups.

Serve right away!

This recipe makes a great healthy, wholesome and nutritious mini-meal. Perfect to start the day and stay energized. Apple walnuts crepes protect you and make you more beautiful with every passing day. These ingredients are great to ingest and also to apply for a great looking face.

 

Mantra for Better CleanUp

As I have mentioned above, using walnut and apple together is not only nourishing when eaten, it can also be applied on the skin. It helps in cleaning dead skin, energizing and brightening the face with useful nutrients. A mix of these two ingredients to scrub the face helps get rid of blackheads and makes the skin glow. I find it increasingly difficult and expensive though, to prepare this mixture at home everyday. For regular and frequent exfoliation, moisturizing and nourishment, I have to rely on something that is easier to do.

I found that Himalaya’s  #GentleExfoliatingWalnutScrub turned out to be much cheaper than using actual walnuts and apple. It is great in the summer because the skin tends to darken and my skin is oily, so it attracts dirt and then I get pimples. The Walnut scrub helps me clean, remove blackheads and scrub out dirt from the pores. It also gives that suppleness from the moisture in walnut and that thin glow from the nut oils. When it comes to brightening, lightening and tightening – Himalaya #GentleExfoliatingWalnutScrub uses the same nourishing ingredients but it is applied on the skin and not eaten for breakfast!

I feel really good about the fact that I’m using such rich ingredients that nourish my skin with their nutrients for 130 bucks. It is literally like using the healthiest breakfast of fruits and nuts to clean and nurture my skin. Most importantly, I can use it frequently and regularly to clean my face. I know the scrub boasts its natural ingredients, so I find it way safer than using complex sounding chemical compounds that I don’t understand.
You’ll be surprised to see how hard it is to clean your face properly. Ever so often, we assume that we have washed off the dirt and pollution we attract to our exposed faces everyday. When you look closely, that same dirt clings on to the oil on the face and forms acne, blackheads and makes the face look dotted and patchy. We even wonder why our face isn’t glowing even though we think that we are eating right.

Sometimes we miss including the yummiest and the most important nutrients in our daily diet. We also unknowingly ignore the importance of our sleep and daily hydration; not realizing that what makes us beautiful is the mantra to happiness itself! If you want to look beautiful, don’t forget to sleep well, eat well and cleanup well everyday. Happy Smiling!

Know about more ingredients that benefit your skin, hair and beauty, here.

walnut scrubF

 

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Foodmantra for Great Skin, Hair & Beauty – 9 Ways to Use Neem — FoodMantra

Foodmantra for Great Skin, Hair & Beauty – 9 Ways to Use Neem

 

Have you noticed that the best things in nature are concealed in an unpleasant mask? Like the sparkle of a diamond for instance, is hidden in the darkness of coal, and it takes great effort to reap that sparkle. In many ways, Neem is the diamond of the plant family. It may be bitter in taste, yet it is so beneficial for health that in my opinion, it is more precious than diamonds.

 

Neem leaves, though bitter as hell, are known for the prevention and cure of over hundred diseases. Neem is known to be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and even anti-cancerous as per some studies. Although the consumption of neem is frowned upon because of the unpleasant taste, it has been used for cooking, bathing and chewing for centuries in India owing to its powerful medicinal properties. The ancient science of cooking in India incorporates bitter flavours in recipes, it includes such herbs and ingredients to enhance therapeutic properties in food.

 

Below are some effective ways in which neem can be incorporated into our daily regime so we can obtain the benefits of its powerful healing and protective qualities.

 

 

Foodmantra for Neem Leaves & Neem flower

 

Disclaimer: Pregnant and women who are breast-feeding should avoid ingesting neem because its safety at such times has not been established. It increases the heat and energy in the body and can be spermicidal in large quantities. Drinking lots of water or ash gourd juice brings down the body heat.

 

#1 Neem leaves in Tea

 

Tender, young neem leaves can be added to boiling water till the water turns slightly greenish and sipped on its own. It can also be added to your choice of tea. I personally prefer to go for neutral tea like regular green, white or black tea rather than their flavored counterparts. Neem leaves are known to have a calming effect, have anti viral properties and strengthen the immune system.

 

 

#2 Neem flower in Thandai

 

Thandai is a special drink prepared and served during Holi that marks the change of season. Neem is rich in anti-oxidants and prevents viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Neem flowers used in the preparation of Thandai prevents us from catching cold or viral infections.

 

 

#3 Neem leaves for Tempering in Curries & Dal

 

Tender, young neem leaves are less bitter and can be used like curry leaves are used in tempering curries and dals. The small quantity prevents the curry from getting bitter while adding the therapeutic qualities of the wonder leaf to your food.

 

 

#4 Neem Leaves in Curry

 

Blanched neem leaves are used in some South East Asian and Thai seafood curries, such as shrimp curry. Neem leaves are blanched two to three times in hot water to get rid of the bitterness, and then added to shrimp curry with palm sugar and tamarind paste.

 

 

#5 Neem flower in Rasam & Rice preparations

 

Neem flower is less bitter than neem leaves. These flowers are used as a vegetable called Veppam poo in South Indian vegetable curry preparations such as rasam and rice preaprations like Neem Flower tempered rice which uses roasted neem flower powder.

 

 

#6 Neem in Bengali Vegetable Curries & Stir Fry

 

Several Bengali dishes use bitter flavours in the cuisine beautifully incorporated in stir fries and curries. Other than the use of Karela, neem is cleverly used in preparations such as neem begun, which is, eggplants simply tempered with neem leaves, turmeric and some other spices. Neem is known to help control diabetes and purify blood.

 

 

Neem for Teeth, Skin & Hair

 

#7 Neem for Teeth

 

You may have seen your grandmother or many people in villages chewing the bark of a neem tree. Many toothpaste brands also boast about carrying the properties of neem for healthier gums. Not only does the neem bark strengthen the gums, it also makes your teeth pearly white! It prevents ulcers, infections and bad breath. So next time you see a neem tree, do break a twig and chew it.

 

 

#8 Neem for Hair

 

I remember taking a neem water bath as child when I had chicken pox, to prevent the itching and scars from the pox. Neem leaves boiled in water can be used to rinse and wash hair. Neem water prevents dandruff and other infections on the scalp.

 

#9 Neem for Skin & Beauty

 

I’ve had an oily skin and acne issues ever since I was a teenager. Not just that, I tend to get redness on my cheeks as well. Each time people looked at my face, they would start with a chapter on skin care advice. Why don’t you try haldi? Do you go for clean-ups regularly? I think you should use our special 1000-rupee mudpack that will clear up your skin right away!

 

I’m a real believer in natural remedies; I avoid applying chemicals or never-heard-of fancy sounding compounds on my face, it makes me nervous. I’d much rather try the haldi and neem remedies. Bathing with boiled neem leaves or applying neem seed paste on the skin can help in clearing skin and reducing acne, even so it is really inconvenient to use neem in this way. The problem is, I could never make or apply these natural pastes regularly.

 

It is tough to include this ritual with a hectic work schedule. Incidentally, I found something that I can fit in my daily routine. The Himalaya Neem pack is easy to use, and can be applied and cleaned in a matter of minutes. The best part is that I don’t need to find and grind the neem seeds, and go through all that pain. I can actually get the goodness of neem without all that hard work. The Himalaya Neem pack has the neem and haldi both. Neem helps disinfect the skin and the haldi also works as an antiseptic to keep germs away. I try to apply it every other day to keep my skin clear and healthy.

 

I’ve recently started using the Himalaya Neem pack around a week ago. I bought a bottle for 130 bucks last week. It has really helped in clearing my skin and the redness I had on my cheeks has reduced. It has also made my skin softer, cleaner and it looks hydrated. I have an oily skin, so in case you have dry skin and you want to try this pack, do read the label on the back. I had the habit of raiding the kitchen every weekend to make my own face pack, but this one really has helped me. I would use dried neem, haldi powder with some besan. This pack is a lot like that home pack, very natural and safe to use. It is a great idea to incorporate neem in your daily routine, just make sure you don’t have any allergies to any of the ingredients.

 

6 Tips to Grow-Your-Own Food

Garlic Nation

There’s a certain romance in enjoying a rustic meal in a humble rural home in India. Whether it is a simple zunka bhakar on a damp, monsoon morning near Sinhgad fort in Pune or enjoying sarson ka saag – makke ki roti topped with homemade butter on a chilly February afternoon in Ajnala, in the suburbs of Amritsar.

No matter how hard we try, we are hardly able to achieve those smoky flavours of a bhatti or the pungency of the mustard in a similar meal which is cooked in the city. No matter how perfect the recipe was, and no matter how many times I tried to improve it with fancy techniques, I was almost never able to achieve the pure flavours of these classic dishes in the city.

Then one day, I stumbled upon the reason for my not-so-perfect cooking. I was in Ajnala, in the suburbs of Amritsar for some research for Masterchef India a few years ago. While chatting with the lady of the house, I just picked up some wild mustard leaves, growing near the hinge where the cows were tied, and chewed them just like that. To my surprise those leaves were tastier than any salad or sarson ka saag that I had every tasted. Fresh, flavourful, pungent and perfect!

This was a eureka moment for me. I had always wondered why mom’s aloo-gobhi so proudly exhibited the fragrance of cauliflower while my aloo gobhi tasted like masala on a bland floret. I only realised after this incident that my mother buys cauliflower from a local, farmer’s market that sells organic or “gawthi” produce, while I buy large, beautiful looking vegetables from the supermarket.

This made me wonder whether the next generation will recognise any flavours other than garlic! We are so used to masking the blandness of our vegetables with garlic, that garlic is all we know, garlic is all we can taste. If you don’t believe me, try making a clear vegetable soup or vegetable puree and you will realise that it tastes like nothing. No distinct smell of vegetables, no pungency and no fresh flavours.

When vegetables are genetically modified or injected with growth boosters for speedy growth and bigger size they don’t always develop the flavours completely. In rural areas on the other hand, people have the space and luxury of growing their own vegetables. They also have easy access to “gawthi” or organic produce growing nearby, which is also cheaper than GMO (genetically modified) vegetables due to lower investment on growth and size boosters. Hence, when you eat a meal in a rural home or a dhaba, they taste distinctly different, fresh and pronounced in flavours other than garlic.

In a city like Mumbai, it is a challenge to buy “gawthi” produce at affordable prices, let alone grow your own vegetables. There are a few tricks and tips however, that can help grow a few vegetables at your window.

6 Ways you can Grow-Your-Own Food

  1. You can easily grow smaller plants like chillies, tomatoes and even bell peppers at your window garden. You can simply dry and use the leftover seeds of these vegetables before they are refrigerated. These vegetables grow easily, and also fruit quickly.
  2. It is a good idea to plant any type of beans in the soil before planting any other kind of vegetable. Beans make the soil fertile and nitrogen-rich, which will aid in growing other vegetables better.
  3. Coriander, methi and mustard among other herbs are easy to plant. The fresh herbs are ready to use in just a couple of weeks. What’s more? Most Indian households store coriander seeds, methi seeds and mustard seeds in their spice box. As long as they are not roasted, they can simply be planted on damp cotton.
  4. When planting beans, it is good idea to soak them overnight, then tie the soaked beans in a damp cloth until they sprout. Once they sprout, they can be planted in damp cotton or directly in soil.
  5. Keep a larger pot with some soil aside at your window. Throw in fruit or vegetable peels, even egg shells in this pot. The soil should remain damp. In four to six weeks, this soil and other contents can be used as manure for your vegetable plants.
  6. I simply bury leftover fruit and vegetable peels in my full-grown vegetable plants. This nourishes the plant with no extra effort.

There is a strange sense of satisfaction in plucking a few fresh coriander leaves and tearing them into a freshly made, piping hot bowl of dal and teaming it up with a side salad of freshly picked homegrown heirloom tomatoes. It is a feeling that can hardly be described but only experienced. If you too feel that vegetables don’t taste the same any more and have ideas to make a difference in home cooking. Do share your views in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How This Pasta Sauce Will Become Your Genie-in-a-Bottle?

 

Have you ever seen the spaghetti scene in Eat Pray Love? A woman, jilted in love gives up her job and goes to Italy to simply eat! In a way, I can completely understand the simple classic love affair. In the scene, when she dips her fork into the mountain of spaghetti coated in a rich flavorful sauce that clings on to the strands and paints them into their lovely red, it makes you fall in love, a little bit at a time. I can still picture every bite of spaghetti as Julia Roberts eats it and I can almost taste the spaghetti myself. When you watch that scene, what you need is a genie in a bottle to make tomato-coated spaghetti appear in front of you that very second.

 

A tomato sauce in Italy is slow cooked for 4 to 6 hours, traditionally over fire, to get the correct consistency and flavor. Although we love food nearly the same, none of us have the time, patience or inclination to stand in front of a pot, stirring it and watching it for hours. We believe in instant satisfaction for such cravings, we are used to being provided for and having things done. So it isn’t a surprise that we like our tomato sauce in a bottle too.

 

Here’s the problem, most of the tomato sauces that are on shelves in the Indian market, aren’t really up to the mark. Oftentimes they taste bad, too acidic, too spicy, and too oily, at times it just tastes like off-season bad tasting tomatoes have been masked in excess dried herbs. They are not all bad, you might say. There are some good “imported” tomato sauces for pastas available. Of course, there but I could only afford them if I had diamond shoes and a gold collar for my pony! Pardon my exaggeration but some of these sauces are painfully expensive.

I don’t mind investing in authentic Parmesan cheese, but we get good enough tomatoes in India, why should a burn a hole in my pocket for tomato sauce?

 

Luckily, I did find a Pasta Sauce that succeeded in coming somewhat close to my genie-in-a-bottle tomato sauce expectation. Soul Food (http://bit.ly/bigbasket_soul OR http://bit.ly//greencart_soul ) , yes that same Olive Oil pickle brand, they have also recently introduced a range of other products including a tomato based Pasta sauce. I have enjoyed the flavor of their pickles before, and to be honest they sell a product that preserves Indian flavours and adds the health benefits of Olive Oil to it, something about that thought resonates with my theory of cooking. Aside from the theory, that is, we need to keep things quick and simple in the kitchen. Hoping for a better result, and noticing that my experiment wasn’t going to cost me a bomb, I picked up a bottle of Soul Food Pasta Sauce one day.

IMG_20150824_142107

I tried it out on the same day; at first I only boiled 10 or 12 strands of spaghetti and heated it up the sauce, mixed it up and tried a bite. You see I didn’t want to risk too much spaghetti over it, if this was going to be another disaster [and believe me, I have seen a lot of disastrous spaghettis]. There was no oil floating on top of the bottle, the sauce was not bright red, it looked naturally red. As I nervously took a bite, I was pleasantly surprised with the flavours. Pulpy pieces of cooked tomatoes, some down to mush and some added a fresh texture of slow cooked sauce, there was a mild flavor of dried herbs and seasoning in the sauce. There was no red chilly powder and not too much garlic that would mask the taste of the tomatoes. It was just a rich, thick and well-cooked tomato sauce, very easy to enjoy with some more spaghetti. And this time I emptied the whole packet into the salted boiling water, just one bite of that spaghetti wasn’t going to be enough.

 

When you really love a dish, like I love spaghetti, you tend to try new things and experiment with it. While Spaghetti in tomato sauce with some fresh basil and Parmesan cheese is a classic that no one can beat. I decided this time to give it a break and try something new with simple spaghetti in tomato sauce.

 

I had recently found out that Broccoli makes you beautiful! It is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. Tomatoes too are packed with ant-oxidants too. So I decided to make a dish that is as soulful as its ingredients are. Roasted Broccoli and toasted almonds go wonderfully well with tomato sauce, what’s more, they add a deeper flavor and crunch to the dish. Almonds are good for you eyes and rich in essential oils, so all in all you are literally becoming more youthful and beautiful as you eat this dish.

 

Roasted Broccoli & Toasted Almond Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce

 

Serves 2

 

You Will Need

 

Broccoli, florets; 1 cup

Broccoli stems; ¼ cup

Almonds; 5 to 6

Olive Oil; ½ cup

Salt; to taste

Pepper; a pinch

Spaghetti; 100g

Soul Food Pasta Sauce; 1, 400g bottle

(http://bit.ly/bigbasket_soul OR http://bit.ly//greencart_soul )

Garlic, peeled; 4 to 6 cloves

Sweet Basil; 10 leaves

Parmesan Cheese; ¼ cup

Chilled Butter; 1 cube (optional)

 

 

Method:

 

  • In a bowl, toss the broccoli pieces and almonds with a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 300 degree Celsius. Place the Broccoli and almonds over aluminum foil on an oven tray. Allow them to roasted for 15 minutes.

IMG_20150824_141731

  • Meanwhile, heat up salted water in a stockpot or pan. Add the spaghetti to boiling water and allow it to cook for 7 to 10 minutes until it is firm to bite. Drain the spaghetti but save the water.

IMG_20150824_141702

  • Take the broccoli and almonds out of the oven and allow them to cool on the side.

IMG_20150824_143619

  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan, crush and roasted and piece of garlic in it, till you get the smoky flavor. Add in half a bottle of Soul Food Pasta sauce (http://bit.ly/bigbasket_soul OR http://bit.ly//greencart_soul ) to the pan, add 2 spoonful of salted pasta water and allow the sauce to cook for a minute.

IMG_20150824_144528

  • Add in the cooked spaghetti, broccoli florets and one sliced almond to the spaghetti. Keep it aside.
  • For the Broccoli & Almond Pesto, add broccoli stems, almonds, garlic, basil, parmesan cheese and remaining olive oil to a grinder. Blitz it till the paste is smooth but thick.

IMG_20150824_143741IMG_20150824_144118

  • Blitz some chilled butter with the remaining tomato sauce and keep it aside.
  • To plate, make a thick disc with the broccoli almond pesto on the plate, twirl the spaghetti in tomato sauce over it. Pour the remaining chilled butter with tomato sauce mixture around the spaghetti in an outer red ring. Place a few broccoli florets and sliced almond on top as garnish. Serve!

 

Honestly speaking, I have always read so many articles about the health benefits of Broccoli and heard my nutritionist ask me to add it in my diet over and over again, yet I always found it hard to pair. I usually ended up pairing it with oodles of cheese, which not only masked its crunch and flavor but also compromised the health quotient of the recipe. I’m so glad that I finally cracked the perfect recipe with this ADF Soul Foods Pasta Sauce (http://bit.ly/bigbasket_soul OR http://bit.ly//greencart_soul )

This pasta sauce is low sodium and filled with freshness and goodness of tomatoes, and its herb flavor goes perfectly well with roasted Broccoli. The best part is that the recipe with all the antioxidants and essential oils will give you a glowing skin, a healthy body and keep you young! I hope that you enjoy cooking this recipe as much as I enjoyed eating it. Do try it out and let me know what you thought of this recipe.

 

Buy ADF Soul Products here and here.

How to Cook Aloo-Gobhi the Ayurvedic Way?

Please Note: This Article was published earlier this month on India Food Network Blog, August 2015 issue.

I vividly remember my after-school meals. I would knock off my shoes, throw away my massive bag, run to the kitchen in my parrot green uniform and plant my chin to lean over the kitchen counter. My mom would be busy making hot rotis by the stove, and I could smell the aloo-gobhi topped with fresh coriander as I waited for my roti while holding a steel plate. Not much has changed, even today when I get the whiff of my mom’s aloo-gobhi, the child in me runs to the kitchen and waits in anticipation for my hot roti.

When I was growing up, my mom would always tell me her little tricks and tips of cooking this vegetable or that as I stood in the kitchen with my plate. “Always cook cauliflower with adrak (ginger)” she would say. “Gobhi and adrak are perfect partners, aloo-gobhi can never be made without it”. It was my mom who taught me never to add water while making dry preparations, but to cook vegetables slowly in their own steam. This allows the vegetables to release their own flavor. She taught me about the “perfect partner” of every vegetable that she cooked.

At that time it never made any sense to me. I never really understood why pumpkin is cooked with methi seeds or why bhindi was always cooked in panchphoran, or why it’s necessary to add hing in cabbage sabji. While it’s easy to assume that one flavor compliments the other, the science behind my mother’s cooking was far deeper.

You see my mother grew up at a time when onion, garlic and tomatoes were not that common in Indian cooking. Her grandfather, an Ayurveda doctor had told the women of the house that each vegetable must be cooked keeping mind its digestive properties, and based on which herb or spice would compliment flavor as well as help in digesting the food better. Every vegetable is cooked with a specific type of spice in order to aid its proper digestion and assimilation in the body.

The reason why cauliflower must be cooked with ginger, or a cabbage sabji must include hing, is that both vegetables cause flatulence meaning a bloated stomach. To prevent this bloating we add ginger to cauliflower because the digestive properties of ginger aid in the proper digestion of cauliflower and prevent you from feeling bloated.

Indian cooking is based on such simple principles that revolve around the nature of ingredients, understanding of digestion and assimilation as well as on geography and climate. Every recipe has a science behind it, and every household carries a legacy of cooking styles that maximize flavour and health benefits from an ingredient.

Cauliflower for instance, is a winter vegetable in India and ideally should be eaten in the winter season. It can be paired with ginger, hing (asafetida) or cloves for better digestion. The best way to cook cauliflower is to allow it to cook in its own steam. After sendha namak, or pure Himalayan pink salt is added to the tempered cauliflower, cover the vessel with a fitted lid. The moisture released by the cauliflower is trapped in the vessel as steam, which cooks the cauliflower while keeping the entire flavor from escaping. You need to have patience, keep the heat as low as possible, do not uncover and do not add water in a hurry. Check the cauliflower after about ten minutes, once it is soft turn off the heat.

Here’s my version of mom’s classic Aloo-Gobhi. I hope that you will try it, do let me know if you enjoyed it.

Adraki Ghhuti Gobhi aur Lachha Aloo Recipe

This recipe is loaded with herbs, green chillies full of antioxidants and ginger, cumin, bay leaf that aid in better digestion. Grated cauliflower reduces the time of cooking while preserving the taste and nutrition in the vegetable.

Serves 2

You will need

Cauliflower, grated; 2 cups

Ginger, grated; 1 tablespoon

Sendha Namak (pink salt); 1 teaspoon

Ghee; 1 tablespoon

Cumin; ½ teaspoon

Bay leaf; 1 no.

Turmeric powder; 1 teaspoon

Coriander powder; 1 teaspoon

Chilli powder (optional); ½ teaspoon

Coriander Leaves, chopped; ¼ cup

Green Chilli, chopped; 1 teaspoon

Potato, cut into thin strips; ½ cup

Amchur (dried mango powder); ½ teaspoon

Method:

  1. Mix the grated cauliflower and ginger in a bowl with ½ teaspoon sendha namak. Allow them to release their juices.
  2. Lightly apply a thin film of ghee on an iron pan and allow it to heat.
  3. Roast cumin and bay leaf lightly on the pan until they turn a shade darker.
  4. Add in the mixture of cauliflower and ginger along with the moisture in the bowl.
  5. Add in turmeric and coriander powder and mix well.
  6. Turn the heat as low as possible (keep a heavy bottom pan under the vessel if necessary). Cover the cauliflower vessel with a fitted lid. Allow it to cook for 5 to 7 minutes without opening the lid.
  7. After 5 minutes, open the lid and stir. Check if the cauliflower is soft and mushy, entirely cooked through. Add chilli powder if you wish to.
  8. Mix in chopped coriander leaves and green chillies into the cauliflower.
  9. In the end, mix ½ teaspoon of ghee in the cauliflower.
  10. For the Potato lachha, heat up a tava and line it with a thin film of ghee.
  11. Add the thin strips of potato to the pan and roast them until they are crispy.
  12. Lightly toss them in sendha namak and amchur.
  13. Top the cauliflower with the lachha potato and serve hot with rotis.

The Dum Pukht Biryani: How to Achieve Spiritual Awakening through Food?

Dum Pukht Biryani

Dum Pukht Biryani

It is the most gratifying aroma, and also the most painful craving that comes with the scent of a steaming-hot Dum Biryani. That aroma of basmati rice & robust spices flirting with my nose is divine, so comforting in the midst of a winter evening just setting in.

As the waiter sets it onto the next table, I can’t help but look lustfully at the golden yellow grains of long, unbroken basmati rice studded with the large chunks of moist, browned meat. I must look like a hungry tigress I thought, almost ready to jump shamelessly to the next table and attack that gorgeous biryani. But as I saw the proud glare on the face of the woman who was just about to eat it all by herself I quickly turned my head and shied away, as though I had been caught.

Although I hadn’t completely ditched the thought of attacking her biryani, I was now stealing a glance or two, pretending like I was searching for the waiter at Dum Pukht. There are few things in the world that can make you feel as good and satisfied as a Dum Pukht Biryani. After all, it is hardly ever that I feel envious and make eyes at another woman’s dinner!

It was a sticky situation but as I waited for my own Dum Pukht Biryani I managed to steal a few glances at that rich, regal-looking dish and my heart was pounding, as she was about to slice into that chunk of meat. The moment she touched the meat with her fork, the meat just slipped off the bone. “Ah!” I said, as the lady closed her eyes and enjoyed that first bite of her Dum Pukht biryani. Lovely.

As I looked eagerly at her face, searching for an expression of indulgence and gratification, she slowly opened her eyes and looked at me, almost dizzily in love. There it was an instant love-for-food connection, and we both burst into a chuckle. “I’m sorry I can’t share this Biryani”, she said with a funny face. “Neither can I”, I said as my Dum Pukht Biryani arrived at the table.

Suddenly, I felt like a five year old child, my eyes twinkling as I was being handed the lollypop. I had been good this year and my reward was finally here. Sometimes in life, it is best to enjoy a meal all by yourself, just drown in the dream, close your eyes, inhale the aromas, slice it softly, chew slowly and just let every sense of your being enjoy that bite of biryani, as if it were your last. That’s what I did.

As I slowly worked my way through every bite, each one was a medley of flavours & textures, and each awoke a separate sense of my being, I don’t mock spirituality, but for me this was like enlightenment. This meal, suddenly made me feel alive. I was there, in that moment with every bite that I ate. Call me crazy but I think that food like this is answer to real spiritual awakening, Haaahaa..

In the end, I felt sad that it was over but I was enchanted by the experience, and perhaps addicted to the biryani. As the lady from the next table left, we exchanged a pleasant, “I know how you feel” look. It is amazing how people and how many people connect over food.

There was something about this Dum Pukht Biryani that kept making me want to come back. Frankly, I could not afford to come every now and then for this special treat, and certainly could not afford to bring a dozen of my loved ones here to try it out, so I took the other road. The other road being, learning how to make this brilliant, regal-looking Dum Pukht Biryani from the man himself, Chef Mohammed Shareef the Dum Pukht Masterchef at ITC Maratha Mumbai.

It was a pleasant evening, we shared a laugh over food talk and he gave me so many little tips about making this biryani right. Apparently, there are some people in the world who still take their art very seriously, and it is not just about the recipe, it is everything from the perfect quality of Basmati rice, cut of meat to the choicest of spices and the order in which they should be added!

With the Chef’s guidance, I successfully recorded the step-by-step recipe of “How to Make the perfect Dum Biryani?”

Here’s the video of the Dum Pukht Biryani recipe for you.

This is the authentic recipe of the Avadhi aka Lucknowi Pakki Biryani as seen or eaten at Dum Pukht, ITC Hotels. Do try this recipe and whichever part of the world you come from, do tell me how it turned out because I am really curious to know. .

Are Gourmet Stores Your Disneyland? 10 Tips for Smart Foodie Shopping & Recipe for Cauliflower Mac n Cheese

Gourmet stores are my Disneyland. Studded with valuable blueberry and cranberry, Mascaporne cheese or fancy appliances, Gourmet food shops are no less than jewellery stores when it comes to making a woman feel dreamy. With skyrocketing prices it is no surprise that imported kitchenware is effectively competing with diamonds. A pink, red or blue kitchen-aid is an asset every woman wants to flaunt, irrespective of the number of times that she is likely to use it.

 

Some might call this trend of buying and cooking with imported ingredients peer pressure but I like to look at it as a by-product of globalization. It is a smaller world, we know more, we see more so we want more, and it is only fair.

 

The word “Gourmet” itself implies a status symbol. Do we choose Gourmet ingredients to convey our social standing? Is it cool to cook with parsley and thyme instead of dhaniya and ajwain? These are questions best answered by Society Gurus! As a consumer I think it is variety that attracts me the most. I can experiment with flavours I had never known before.

 

I visit Foodhall or a Godrej Nature’s Basket in search of rare, often imported and more expensive ingredients that are not available at the local kirana shop. These brightly lit temples of food worship have the appeal of that tempting Masterchef Australia pantry. They stock everything from Gourmet Teas, Herbs, variety of cheeses to exotic spices, health food and the king of them all Kitchen Aid! It is the extravagance of the place that seduces me and I usually end up buying more stuff than I need. (Insiders’ Tip: Carrying limited amount of cash and no card will help in avoiding that big jolt to the bank balance in an impulse buy.)

 

All through my training in the Hotel kitchens and all of my academic research drilled one thing in my head – Buy Local, Buy Seasonal. This is the Rule of Thumb in any restaurant kitchen. Smart buying – it simply cut costs, ensures freshness and guarantees health.

 

Before we evolved to all-year-round supplies and transporting food across continents we ate local and we ate seasonal. Nourishment and recipes were adapted to what grows locally in the area you live in. Our ancestors believed, what grows naturally in a particular area is the best form of nourishment suited for the people living there. For instance, chillies eaten in Rajasthan are believed to be purifying the bacteria laden water that the population had to drink. Drumsticks that grow in South and West India are loaded with proteins, carbs, vitamins and minerals, hold the promise to improve nutrition of impoverished communities.

 

Even today Masterchefs around the world recommend the use of local grown, seasonal ingredients. In fact there are world-class restaurants that alter their menu by the season and take pride in serving the best of locally grown produce.

 

There is lot of substance in this theory, although what we buy at local vegetable markets isn’t exactly world-class produce it is certainly a choice worth considering instead of over spending for a special weekend meal. We all go for exotic veggies and imported sauces but here are few tips that will keep a good balance so that your Gourmet Meals don’t pinch your pocket or your health.

 

  • Grow Your Own Herbs – I know that fresh basil, oregano and parsley can be tempting as heaven, plus it makes the kitchen smell so good. Pick two or three herbs that you often use and grow them on your window. It cuts the hassle of storage and wastage. You have fresh herbs all the time!

 

  • Try the Local Indian brands for Cheeses and Sauces – It is not always easy to rely on local brands when it comes to that perfect flavour of cheese or rice vinegar. It is easier to pick well-known International brands but do yourself a favour and try out the sauces and cheese from Indian brands. Some of that Parmesan from Pondicherry or cacao nibs from Karnataka are surprisingly delicious. Many restaurant Chefs use these cost cutting secrets, use it right and your dish will still taste fabulous. Similarly you can now buy Indian manufactured Olive oil as well, which is much cheaper than its imported counterpart.

 

  • Buy Seasonal – Indian produce or International, buy it when it is in season in the country it grows. For instance, blueberry in harvested in August, red currants around June-July and plums from August to October. All these fruits are fresh and the cheapest in August.

 

 

  • Your Sabziwala Offers Locally grown exotic fruits and vegetables – Many vegetable market vendors and local sabziwalas in metros order exotic vegetables and herbs on a regular basis. These exotic vegetables fruits are locally grown and cheaper choices than gourmet stores for such produce. They may not keep exotic ingredients in store but if you plan ahead and place an order you will get your ingredients for a lower price. Knowing local names also helps. Don’t buy lemongrass from stores when the local vendor will sell it dirt cheap if you call it “gautie chai”.

 

  • Make Your Own – Do you really need to buy that garlic salt or Thai Curry Paste. Making your own pastes and spice blends on weekends ensures that it suits your taste and is a cheaper option. These pastes can be frozen in ice cube trays or batches. Besides how long does it take to microwave garlic and make garlic salt? (Just peel, dehydrate in the microwave and crush, mix with salt)

 

 

  • Opt for Imported products with Longer Shelf Life – There are those sauces that you love, flavours that you use frequently. Then look for bigger bottles with recent packaging. Always check the expiry date on canned and bottled products. This will give you enough time to experiment with and use up the ingredient, and avoids wastage. Also go for more ingredients that keep for longer instead of too many perishable items at once.

 

  • Pick ONLY frequently used Sauces & flavourings – It is easy to get carried away and assume that you will be using all those sauces lined up in the racks. You don’t necessarily need Dark Soy and Light Soy in your kitchen, along with chilli garlic, siracha and hot garlic sauce. However tempting it might be choose wisely and pick only what you will use frequently. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is used in salads, in dressing, pasta sauces, pickles and simply spread on bread, but will you really use it in your kitchen? That’s the real question.

 

  • Buy Small Quantities – We have all learnt this from our mistakes. When you are buying a new ingredient or new brand for the first time buy the smallest quantity possible. That ridiculously expensive bottle of Habanero Sauce that tasted like acid is still lying in my kitchen shelf and it mocks me each time I see it.

 

  • Try First – Most Gourmet stores have tasting counters for cheeses, dips and cold cuts. They are not just there for impulse buys and hunger pangs but avoid buying before trying. It may look awesome on television and I’m sure Nigella loves it but she doesn’t have your taste buds so think again.

 

  • Go For Quality, Don’t Compromise on Taste – When you must go for that spectacularly fresh box of assorted mushrooms there is no way out. You may not have the recipe yet but with that freshness you know just some butter will do the trick. Then just go for it! But never fall into the trap of stale or poor quality ingredients with slashed prices, or those bottles that are just going to cross the expiry threshold.

 

 

According to consultancy technopak, the Indian Gourmet food industry is worth 1.3bn USD and is growing 20 percent annually and it could double by 2015. E-Gourmet Stores like Gourmet It Up, Gourmet Box, Gourmet Co. and as such, offer fine teas, sauces, cheeses and cold cuts along with egg separators and zesters. So we will be able to venture into more fine food even in Tier II cities. While the sale of more imported ingredients in such stores jolts the Indian economy, these products sold by Indian companies like Tea Trunk, Kodai Cheese and ABC Farms with competitive prices are a breath of fresh air.

 

 

Be smart about your cooking. Pick only what you must from Gourmet stores, buy the rest locally and see what you can substitute with local ingredients without altering the character of the dish. Who knows, you might like your experimental version of Global recipes better. Here’s a little local Gourmet recipe to get you started.

 

Baked Macaroni n Cheese with Cauliflower & Peas

 

Serves 2

 

Ingredients

 

Elbow Macaroni (Pick up pasta made with Durum Wheat not Flour)

  • Go for Barilla or Del Monte instead of Blue Bird Pasta; 1 ½ cup

 

Salt; a pinch

 

Butter; 2 tablespoons

 

Garlic, peeled and grated; 1 teaspoon

 

Cauliflower, florets (You can use Brocolli if you like); 1 cup

 

Green Peas, shelled; ½ cup

 

Cream Cheese (Go for Philadelphia)

  • In this recipe you can substitute cream cheese for Cream

Or mix half cream and half cream cheese; 1 cup

 

Breadcrumbs (Planko); ½ cup

 

Paprika (use crushed red chilli) ; 1 teaspoon

 

Parmesan Cheese, grated

  • Use Kodai Cheese or ABC Farms; ½ cup

 

Method:

 

  • In a deep pan, bring water with a pinch of salt to a boil add in the macaroni. Cook for 10 minutes until the pasta is firm to bite. Strain the pasta and toss with some butter. Save the water.
  • Boil the pasta water and blanch the cauliflower and peas in it for 2 minutes. Then wash them under cold water.
  • In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, paprika and grated parmesan cheese.
  • Grease a baking dish with butter. Freeze the dish.
  • In a bowl, whip the cream cheese, garlic and add cauliflower, peas to it.
  • Add in the macaroni and fold the mixture lightly into the cream.
  • Put this mixture into a baking dish and dust the breadcrumbs mixture on top.
  • Bake at 180 degree celcius for 20 minutes. Serve Hot.