In today’s day and age, we have access to huge streams of knowledge that pours in from all social media pages, mobile apps and informative websites. Still, it remains a challenge when it comes to eating healthy. Let’s accept it, implementing a nourishing diet on a daily basis can be daunting, and one might feel the urge to remove the packet of noodles or ready-to-eat food item so that you can bring some kind of food to the table on time. Distraction is easy, but remaining attentive can be tough. Have a mother at home who likes to feed you good food? In that case, I envy you. As I and my husband have to depend on each other for this.
So, recently, I have begun keeping my breakfast the healthiest meal of the day. It’s usually multigrain rotis (I mix around five to six flours like jowar, bajra, chana, makki and wheat flour) that we have with curd and pickle. Multigrain rotis are filled with fibre and can also help those who have constipation.
During our breakfast time, we also like to have a fruit or two like banana, kiwi, pomegranate or chikoo (in season now), and a handful of soaked nuts like walnuts, raisins, almonds and figs. We finish off our breakfast with a glass of milk.
When I’m too lazy to cook, we like to have a banana with milk as our mini morning meal. During summers, it can be a filling smoothie comprising soaked nuts, seeds, banana, peanut butter and cocoa powder.
Also, before stepping out for work, my husband grabs a spoonful of pumpkin or flax seeds. I keep munching on them and on some salted watermelon seeds (we call it coolie in our language) that my mum keeps sending me.
Some days, I like to make stuffed Parathas (options like grated cottage cheese with onions, boiled potato masala, cooked radish or cauliflower, or some boiled and mashed green peas) and serve it with fresh curd and a tsp of lemon pickle. On other days, it’s Poha, Upma or even Dalia.
Also, a bowl of fresh, homemade curd is a must for me! I like to have it plain. Curd has good bacteria, and it is good for your gut health as well. Also, if you’re recovering from an illness or feel low in energy, a glass of coconut water can help too. I had it this morning myself. Usually, I struggle to finish off my fruits in the morning, but then, I have them during the day.
Today, I had a few veggies in the fridge, like half tomato, a small piece of beetroot and carrot, and a bowl of frozen green peas. So, I thought, why not make some vegetable Dalia and use the leftover veggies that can go ignored soon? Frankly, it’s rarely that I make Dalia, but I keep reminding myself of the resolution I took up this year: finishing off what I have in my kitchen pantry. And a jar of Dalia was stuck in one of the shelves since ages. So, it will be best if I finish it soon.
My recipe of vegetable Dalia is inspired by Pramila’s Cook Book, a YouTube channel that I follow for Rajasthani recipes. Pramila, who seems to be based in Jodhpur, is too good, and she deserves more followers than she already has. Do check out her channel if you like Rajasthani cuisine. This is my version of the vegetable Dalia and you can give it a twist with whatever is available on hand.
Having said all this, there are days when we go off track and end up forgetting the nuts or a fruit. But we should keep striving for a healthy diet, as much as we can, right? What did you have for breakfast today?
Recipe: Vegetable Dalia
¾ cup – Dalia or broken wheat (Pramila suggested toasting dalia before soaking it for an hour)
veggies of your choice – I used chopped onions, finely chopped carrots, a handful of frozen peas, half a tomato and half beetroot.
curry leaves (optional)
salt to taste
spices (½ tsp each – turmeric, coriander powder, red chilli powder)
2 tbsp – split green mung dal (soaked for an hour)
a pinch of asafoetida
¼ tsp – cumin seeds
coriander leaves – for ganish
½ tsp – ginger (crushed)
1 green chilli (chopped)
1. In a cooker, heat some ghee. Add the asafoetida and cumin seeds. Let this crackle and give it a quick stir.
2. Next, add in the curry leaves, ginger, green chilli and onion. Give it a mix. After about a minute, add in the other veggies as well. Now, keep tossing it or stirring it every 20 seconds or so.
3. After about 2-3 minutes, add in the soaked Dalia (make sure you wash it thrice), split green dal, salt and spices. Give it a mix and keep roasting it for another minute.
4. Now, add in some water. I like to cover the Dalia so much so that I can see one and a half inch of water. Now, give it five to six whistles.
These days it’s often that a YouTube chef inspires me to cook a new dish. And today, I’d like to talk about that one time when a YouTuber almost changed my life with her recipe upload. Sadia of Pick Up Limes inspires me to live healthy with her tips on minimalism, leading a stress-free life, and cooking healthy. It was one of her uploads that I couldn’t stop watching again and again.
Now, here was a dish, I never tasted before! I haven’t been to Vancouver, the place Sadia was talking about nor to any Vietnamese restaurant. But her video, which has a beautiful background song (Limes by Navina), inspired me to make Pho, a Vietnamese-style noodle soup. It almost touched my heart when she said, “I miss my Pho,” in the video. So, that’s how it all began.
Like most of the times, I showed the video to my husband, and asked his thoughts. He, like always, saw the video with a straight face and nodded his head. I asked him, “How would you like it if I make Pho for you?” to which he replied, “Let me watch some TV.” Does he even care? He only wants a plate of food on time. Seriously. Whether it is Khichdi or Pho. At least that much I could understand.
We have a gourmet store right opposite our society. So, one day, I said enough is enough to myself, made a list of its ingredients, and went there to shop. And I came back. The hoisin sauce, rice noodles, bouillon cubes, etc. are things that have never made to my kitchen before. So much for a bowl of noodle soup? I had to cancel my plan.
But it didn’t stop there. This time, I was on a plane, when I saw the already downloaded videos on YouTube. I saw the video over and over. The soup looks so beautiful, I muttered in my head. Forget it, I said to myself in the next minute.
After a few days, I saw the video again. This time, I only cared for the song. And kept repeating it. I did fall in love with the song. That’s about it.
Finally, after a month or two, I filled my wallet with enough cash and headed straight to the gourmet store with my jute bag. Picked up the rice noodles, the Sriracha sauce and all the exotic veggies and herbs. Didn’t buy the Tofu for I had cottage cheese at home. Overlooked my food bill. This much for a single meal? No, I didn’t let anything discourage me.
Well, the shopping itself made me hungry, but I ignored it.
I barged into the kitchen and collected different vessels. There were many steps involved! Made the base with roasting the onions and spices. Boiled the rice noodles way too much (we couldn’t even finish them; I could use less). Chopped the veggies and seasoned my soup. Boy! I was starving already!
I had already drained myself. Cooking something that’s out of my league does take time. What might be simple for you, might be difficult for me. I didn’t have the sprouts or the bouillon cubes but I managed somehow. And till the time I brought the noodle soup to the table, it was cold. Who likes cold soups?
When I tasted it, I realised there was hardly any salt in it. Rushed back to the kitchen. I couldn’t understand how to have the noodle soup with ease. It involved slurping, and a lot of it! I can’t tell you if I was comfortable eating it (or slurping it?). But, after having two bowls of it, and adding a bit of more chilli sauce every time, I was fine.
So, here are my lessons.
Never cook a new dish when you’re hungry. Taste the dish first at a restaurant to know the actual flavours (if you can). And give yourself time to adjust to the new taste when trying something for the first time. And, yes, don’t be afraid if you don’t have all the ingredients. You’re not going to cheat with the cuisine but giving it your own touch! Finally, practice can only make you perfect. Remember that.
From my experience, I can say that I’m going to make noodle soups more often. For next time, I have got some Japanese-style Soba noodles that are made with organic buckwheat flour. Again, Sadia inspired me for this one, too. Pho her, I will.
At this point in life, I want to do everything that can help me keep wise. You know, when you see that there’s a clash of thoughts; and notice that you’ve grown up with a few vices that you will not change in life, whatsoever. And the actual fight will be to stick with your beliefs, let go of any kind of stupidity/negativity around you and still breathe.
I want to let go of the small failures. Want to let go of all the negativity that kills the peace of my mind and keep breathing. You know, when your hands are empty, no success that you can measure and celebrate, just a human being who loves you to death, you really shouldn’t beat yourself up. Easier said than done? Well, here I am in front of you, trying to look up to the shining stars, the blooming flower, the chirping bird on the naked tree, and the laughing street kid–just to keep my hopes safe in my pocket.
Anyhow. For now, just eat Rasam. I make it once in every 10 days or so. For me, a hot bowl of Rasam is a powerful superfood in itself. The citric and warm taste of Rasam hits all the right notes in my mind, and I love how it heals my dull mood.
Jyoti, a cousin of mine, makes a simple tomato Rasam that I absolutely love! Shamelessly, I have asked Jyoti its recipe quite a few times as I tend to lose it again and again. Some time back, though, after searching almost all my digital files, I found an old note of (a screenshot, basically) Jyoti’s recipe of Rasam.
I put on the heat of my stove with a shy smile ’cause I found the recipe. Took out all the ingredients with utter joy–tamarind, black pepper, tomato–because I found the recipe. Made my Rasam boil nicely and saw the dried red chillies dancing on its surface; yes, I found the recipe. Served a big bowl with my ever so humble Rasam. Oh, boy! I found the recipe!
Ajju, my husband, loves Rasam too. We were surprised to see its benefits on Google, thanks to tamarind water, garlic, black pepper and tomato juice. Have it after a tiring day, and see how it heals you. And, here’s what I learnt after having my bowl of Rasam the other day.
Look at the bigger picture. Avoid stressing your mind with repeated thoughts. Create something with your hands. Seek life with a burning, curious mind. Wasting your precious moments with wasted thoughts is ultimately a waste. Go, take a walk, free away those shackles of your heart and think about good food. What’s the next dish would you like to create to please your soul? What about me? I might try some Vietnamese noodle soup!
Roasting the three ingredients
Giving a quick boil to my dried tamarind
2 tsp each: black pepper, cumin seeds, Tuvar dal
Curry and coriander leaves
Dried red chilli – 2 to 4 (round ones, preferably)
½ tsp – turmeric powder
Salt to taste
½ tsp – coriander powder
½ tsp – red chilli powder
A pinch of asafoetida
6 to 9 cloves of garlic, roughly halved
2 large tomatoes
A pinch of black sesame seeds
All right. So, don’t be intimidated by this recipe. It’s fairly simple; only needs practice.
1. Take a medium-sized piece of dry tamarind into a small vessel of hot water. Soak it for 15 minutes. Or you can also give this one boil. Keep aside.
2. Chop two large tomatoes and grind it into a paste. Not a fine paste, though. Strain this mixture, so that you get a fine texture and no seeds.
3. Strain the soaked tamarind into a bowl, and add in the tomato juice to it as well.
4. Heat a pan, and in it, roast the cumin seeds, black pepper and Tuvar dal. Lightly roast it and remove it into a plate to cool it down. Grind it into a powder.
5. Take a kadai, and add a tbsp of oil. I use peanut or coconut oil. Once hot, add in the curry leaves, asafoetida, turmeric, sesame seeds, whole garlic or roughly crushed garlic and dried red chilli. Give this a stir, and add in the liquid (tamarind water and tomato juice).
6. Add in the spices, the powder you made with the three ingredients, and salt to taste. Next up, add in 4 cups of water. And let this boil for some time.
7. Throw in some fresh coriander leaves and serve it with hot rice.
Note: There are many versions of Rasam; and some like to throw in a small piece of jaggery into it for some sweetness. According to my notes, Jyoti didn’t talk about it. And now I’m too embarrassed to confirm it with her over the phone. Happy cooking!
With every season, you see different seasonal greens, fruits and veggies in the food market. You are supposed to change your kitchen ingredients, and eat local produce because they help you stay healthy by providing that nutrition punch that you need in that particular season. Talk about winter, and one of the things that was cooked in my mum’s kitchen was Hoole (होले). Called as Cholia in Delhi NCR area, or green chickpeas or green garbanzo beans worldwide.
Now, my issue was with its availability. I don’t buy pre-cut veggies from the market. So, when I saw these cleaned green chickpeas, packed in a plastic wrap, I totally refrained it. Cleaning these chickpeas is a process that makes sure that you’re having fresh green beans. And most vegetable vendors or grocery stores don’t keep the green bunches or half-cleaned Hoole. So, the other day, I was searching for them on my way, when we went to visit a local temple. The temple was closed before we reached there, but I was happy to see a man with a tiny cart, sprinkling water on these green bunches of Hoole. Both I and my husband smiled at each other, and bought 1.5 kg of it.
It’s a process, you see. It takes time and patience. So, we started cleaning these bunches and when we saved a cup of these green beans, we stopped and kept the bunch back in the kitchen balcony. For about three days, I did so, and ended up making three variants. That’s how I attained my wishes, as I knew, its season is going to end anyway.
So, the first batch went like this: my husband sat in front of the TV, and sweetly cleaned a cup of beans for me. I made green chickpeas pulav with this batch. The next day, early morning, I sat on the kitchen floor and cleaned a cup of Hoole. It took me more than 20 minutes. And I made some yum Parathas with it (stuffed thick rotis), and served it with fresh yogurt.
Yesterday, late morning, I cleaned one more cup of these green chickpeas but ended up eating most of it. And today, again, I sat on the kitchen floor (this time I spread a tiny mat or aasan) and cleaned another cup full of these young garbanzo beans and made some delicious Kadi (a buttermilk dish).
You know, I have always noticed my elders at home doing these kitchen chores in the calm morning hours. So, it isn’t a strange thing for me. Also, when you prep for a simple dish, you also kind slow down and learn to have patience in the process. On my recent trip to Indore, I noticed my uncle (JP Kaka; my father’s younger brother) do the same thing. And it inspired me.
So, dear readers, here goes the three dishes that I made with Green Chickpeas or Hoole (so called in Rajasthan).
Recipe # 1: Green Chickpea Pulav
All right, so first, soak 1 cup of rice in water for 15 minutes. Make sure you clean the rice with water three times before soaking it. Now, take a kadai, add 2 tbsp oil in it and let it heat up a bit. Once hot, add in a bay leaf, ½ tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp or a few pinches of turmeric powder, and stir. Now, add in 1 cup of the cleaned green chickpeas. Stir for 30 seconds.
Next, add ½ tsp red chilli powder, ½ tsp coriander powder and sauté the chickpeas so that the spices coat it well. Add salt and ½ tsp garam masala. Now, strain the water from the rice bowl and add in the soaked rice in the kadai.
Here’s a thing. You need to roast this mixture for a minute or two, before adding water. After roasting the rice, green chickpeas and spice mixture, add in some water. I usually go with 5 to 6 cups of water. Will measure it next time. Close the lid and let it cook. After a few minutes, check if the water has boiled and if the rice is cooked or not. If needed, add in some more water.
Once you run a ladle or flat rice spoon in the bottom of the vessel to check if there’s no water, you can switch off the flame. Serve this pulav with hot Kadi or chilled Raita.
Recipe # 2: Green Chickpea Paratha
Take 1 cup of clean green chickpeas in a plate and mash it. Alternatively, you can also churn these green beans once, in the grinding jar. Or, steam these beans so that you can easily mash them.
After this, take a kadai, add in 1 tsp of ghee. Once it’s hot, add in cumin seeds, turmeric powder, cumin powder and coriander powder (all ½ tsp). Stir it for a few seconds. Now, add in the mashed chickpeas, and some salt. Cook it for a bit, and remove it into a plate to cool down.
Next up, take some whole wheat dough (salt and wheat flour), roll it into a round shape and add in some of this green filling. Cook this on a tava/griddle and roast it with 1 tsp of ghee. Serve with a cup of fresh yogurt.
Recipe # 3: Green Chickpea Kadi (buttermilk dish)
Take 2 cups of fresh, homemade yogurt in a large vessel. Mix 4 cups of water in it and blend it for about 30 seconds with the help of a hand blender. Now, we want an even/nice-textured Kadi. So, for that, you need to strain this liquid into another vessel. After this, add in 2 tbsp gram flour (besan) and whisk it lightly till you see no lumps. Add ½ tsp red chilli powder and ½ tsp of coriander powder, and keep it aside.
Take a Kadai (I use a steel one for this; gave up aluminium ones long back), and add in 2 tsp of ghee/clarified butter. Once hot, add in ½ tsp cumin seeds, ¼ tsp black sesame seeds, ½ tsp turmeric powder and sauté for a few seconds. Now, add in 1 cup of green chickpeas or you could also add ½ cup. Really doesn’t matter. Next, add the liquid gram flour mixture. Now, stir it quickly and continuously. Don’t leave the ladle whatsoever!
The key to a well-made Kadi is stirring it well. My mum used to temper the Kadi and give me the ladle to stir it for about 15 minutes or so, while she did other kitchen work. So, if you really want to make some good Kadi, with the perfect texture, you need to stir it. You can’t be restless and think of other things in hand. You just can’t. Forget every kitchen chore (I know it’s morning time, and you’re getting late to pack that lunch box) and stir the Kadi well.
After about 10 minutes or so, you can smell the aroma of the cooked buttermilk when you closely sniff it. Now is the time to switch the flame from low or medium-high so that the buttermilk can boil well. Stir it every 30 seconds now, and let it boil. After about 5 to 8 minutes, switch off the flame. Add in some chopped coriander leaves, and transfer the Kadi into a different vessel. This will avoid spoiling its texture. My green chickpeas cooked perfectly, thanks to the boiling process. Serve it with hot rotis/chapatis. PS. Have you ever sipped onto to hot Kadi? Once you make some Kadi, reward yourself like this: Take a bowl of Kadi, sit on the sofa, and sip it (with all the noises). You will truly love it!
I’m in absolute love the way my plants are coming back to life and blooming; especially the bougainvillea and lemon balm. And, this week, I went to art class without any sweater! It was such a great feeling to drive my two-wheeler without any jacket or muffler. Winters are almost gone. And I’m so happy the summer wave will hit us soon.
I have been listening to a lot of spiritual chanting tracks of late. Singing makes my heart weep, and I get really emotional when I sing these classic spiritual numbers, like the Ram Stuti written by Tulsidas, I believe. There is a nine-year-old girl called Sooryagayathri who sang a few lines from this Stuti and I downloaded it on YouTube to hear it again and again. Solace, I must say.
This year, I wanted to use more of pulses and lentils in my kitchen, and not stress only on vegetables. And this Monday, I happened to see this jar of coarsely pound split green mung dal. It then struck me that mum must have sent me this for Korme ki Roti. So I called her to know the recipe, and had it for breakfast. She always used to make Korme ki Roti for our travels and even for those hectic or slow holiday mornings.
Korma soaked in water
Korma is nothing but slightly ground split green mung dal. Take a few cups of it in a jar, and grind it once or twice to get a coarse and slightly powdered texture. It’s made in Rajasthan, and is a common kitchen ingredient. You need to soak it for an hour before making this Roti. Also, I love the texture that coriander seeds in my Korme ki Roti. I’m used to eating the dry and slightly grainy Korme ki Roti since childhood, and it’s really filling.
So, if you’re looking for healthy breakfast recipes, you know what to try next. My mum used to make lots of Korme ki Roti and keep it wrapped in a muslin cloth in a Roti box for later. Perfect for those 4PM hunger pangs! I have to have something at 4PM; it’s dreadful for me when I find nothing to eat in the kitchen. So, a Roti box is a no else blessing.
Recipe: Korme ki Roti
wheat flour – 2 cups
spices (coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder) – as your preference
coriander seeds – 2 to 3 tbsp (coarsely ground)
Korma – 3 to 4 fists (soak it clean water before an hour; strain the mung flakes and water and then add it to the flour)
salt to taste
oil – 1 tsp (optional; we use it to make a tight dough)
bajra flour – 1 tbsp (optional; this makes the Rotis softer)
1. Make a dough with all ingredients. But, be extra careful when you add water. Somehow, it’s extremely easy to bind these ingredients together and this dough takes less water. So, you can add ¼ cup of water, or may be less, initially. And then add more water, if required. After about five to 10 minutes, knead it for 30 seconds with a hint of oil to make it easy for you to roll the balls.
2. Now, just as we make rotis, you need to make one with a small ball of this dough. Roast it with a hint of oil or ghee on the griddle.
3. Serve your Korme ki Roti with mango pickle or garlic chutney. I love it with plain curd. And make sure you make some extra rotis for later.
At home, back in Surat, we never had pumpkin in our household. As I have mentioned several times in my earlier posts as well, my parents grew up in the deserts of Jaiselmer (Rajasthan) and they never had loads of vegetables in their kitchens anyway. Those were barren lands then unlike the present times. My aunt (my masi/mum’s elder sister) actually once told me, how they almost always had Kadi (a spiced buttermilk dish) in the kitchen. Even green chillies (leeli mirchi in our language) were special back then, she added. “So, when it was leeli mirchi with kadi, it was special!” she said, with an innocent smile.
And, it continued almost in the similar way in Surat (Gujarat) as well. Things like paneer (cottage cheese), pumpkin and colocasia root (arbi) have never been part of my childhood. Slowly, we did start including local ingredients in our dishes, but it’s still not too much.
So, when I taste the different yet local vegetables here in Delhi NCR, it takes me some time to get used to it. But, there have been a couple of instances, when I tried something in the office, and it totally blew my mind. And one of the instances has been the combination of Pethe ki sabzi (pumpkin) and Pooris.
In my last workplace, it was in that congested room where we all colleagues used to sit down and eat our lunch, happily. A workmate, who originally belonged to Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh), asked me to taste his lunch. As usual, it was overloaded with stuff; his mother always gave him extra portions for us all. And I asked him what it was, but he asked me to taste it anyway. It was the first time I tasted pumpkin. And it blew my mind!
The sweetness of the whole-wheat Pooris with the sweet and tangy pumpkin sabzi was a mouth-watering combination. It just melted in my mouth, and I couldn’t believe the heavenly taste of it. I could recognize the taste of fenugreek in it, with a bit of mango powder and sugar. Every element of the dish, in fact, stood out. I couldn’t help but wonder, how can such a simple combination as this one be so delicious. After a few bites, we exchanged our lunch boxes. I had to.
You know, it takes time for someone in her 30s to appreciate something she hasn’t tasted before. At least when it comes to the veggies. And I truly loved the pumpkin curry that my workmate’s aunt made for him. I could sense his background, and suddenly, I was also curious to explore the food of Uttar Pradesh. I’ve certainly missed out, I thought to myself.
So, dear reader, go ahead and try this combination at home. That is, if you’re like me, someone who’s obsessed with simple, regional food. Don’t be ashamed of something you haven’t had till now. Most pumpkins available in the market are too big, but I always end up finding a small one with which I can make this sabzi at least twice a month. And, guess what, I made this for my husband’s lunch box this Valentine’s Day. Not a fancy dish, eh? Too rustic? Well, wish I cared.
Recipe: Pethe ki khatti meethi sabzi (pumpkin/yellow squash)
I would like to thank one of my favourite YouTubers, Nisha Madhulika for this recipe. It’s always a delight to watch her videos. This dish turned out to be just what I tasted in my office cubical. Words fall short when one has to describe Nisha ji’s cooking skills.
Yellow pumpkin – 1½ cup (chopped; also, remove the seeds and soft pulp)
oil – 1 tbsp
turmeric powder – 1 tsp
coriander powder – 2 tsp
red chilli powder – ½ tsp
ginger paste – ½ tsp
green chilli – 1 (chopped)
salt to taste
juice of half a lemon (you could use mango powder if you want)
fenugreek seeds – 2 pinches
sugar – 1 tbsp
coriander leaves (chopped)
garam masala – ½ tsp
cumin seeds – ½ tsp
asafoetida – 1 pinch
Pumpkin is almost like potato, but I believe it takes a little less time to cook. If not paid attention, it can go utterly soft.
1. Peel and chop the pumpkin. Make sure you remove the seeds and the soft part that’s there in the middle.
2. Take a kadai or wok, heat some oil in it. Once hot, add the asafoetida, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds. After a few seconds, add the ginger and the green chilli, followed by the turmeric powder and red chilli powder.
3. Next, add in the coriander powder and salt. Now is the time to soften the pumpkin. So, add in about a cup of water, and close the vessel with a lid.
4. Keep checking, and once the veggie has turned soft, add garam masala, sugar and the lemon juice. Finish it with a good sprinkle of chopped coriander leaves.
I always serve it with fried whole-wheat pooris, exactly what I tasted for the first time. I really don’t want to change my memory of it.