Morning mantra

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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

Ingredients

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)
ghee
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)

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Method

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.

The humble pumpkin

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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.

Ingredients

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

Method

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.

Spark joy?

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I was in no mood to cook. It was the weekend, and at least once or twice a week, it’s no big deal to order food from outside. Right? But, we really didn’t want to step out for long, so we took a look at the various restaurants, which could deliver food at our doorstep. And, I liked none of them. Wasn’t up for Biryani, no noodle dish, no pizza, or any other thing. Nothing created a spark in my mind, and I thought, I might as well feed our hungry selves and get over it.

So, the menu was set, as usual a last-minute task that I excel in. Dal Tadka, whole-wheat Tandoori Rotis and Coriander salad. I was excited for the coriander part only. It sparked joy (Marie Kondo style).

As a young girl, I always thought what these coriander leaves were meant for in a salad or side-dish like this? Aren’t these supposed to be meant only for garnish? My aunt, Tamanna Mamiji, who’s my mother’s sister-in-law, made this quick recipe with super fresh coriander leaves. “My mum used to make it and feed us when we were kids,” she once told me.

The truth is, I could eat my Rotis with it, without any other sabzi. It’s tangy, spicy and fresh. Also, this mix of coriander leaves and lemon juice, is loaded with vitamin C. Goes out and shows, how one shouldn’t underestimate small or simple things. And that night, never did I imagine that this tiny side-dish could do the trick for me, and boost my dull mood.

Who likes to step out in winter anyway? Go, try this coriander sabzi, salad or side-dish–whatever you may like to call it–that can be made in less than five minutes.

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Recipe: Coriander salad (serves one or two)

Ingredients

1 cup fresh coriander (roughly chopped)
juice of half a lemon
salt to taste
¼ tsp red chilli powder
a pinch of cumin seeds

Method

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients. Mix well for 30 seconds and you’ll notice that the size of the coriander batch has shrunk a bit. Salt does it, I think. When it does, go ahead and serve it with a hot Roti.

Daily inspiration

IMG_20170904_203540_587 - CopyMonotony. We certainly need to strive hard to break it, constantly. There are so many things that can stress you out. Sometimes, you can’t stop thinking about how things could be better. But, then, you have to let go of your worries, and start breathing; once again.

As a homemaker, and, now, as a freelance writer, I have to find joy in every household chore. Cooking, however, is something that takes a lot of my mental work. ‘What should I cook today?’ is the question that kills my mind every morning. I do enjoy cooking; and when I don’t, I feel that something is missing; but, cooking, as a daily chore can be extremely monotonous. And, many a time, I fail to live up to it.

And, come on, I can’t be making pasta, hot and sour soup, Japanese-style salad or a chia seed drink daily to feel better. I have to face the veggies! Before preparing every meal, I see the veggies in the fridge and find none of which I feel like eating. Creativity and veggies hardly go hand in hand during the week, for me, at least.

Nonetheless, when you play with textures and flavours, you can, I believe, break the monotony. We never got new items to eat every week in my mum’s kitchen. But, still, almost all the dishes that she made, had us kids drool them. Like this Mirchi ki sabzi.

It looks hot, but it isn’t. It is tangy in taste and soft in texture (can be mashed easily) and goes perfectly with my roti or rice. What I really like about it is that it doesn’t go stale easily. So, I always end up enjoying it the following day also. I can imagine, in a climate like that of Jaiselmer’s, this dish fits aptly.

Till date, I haven’t been able to crack my mum’s exact recipe, but, that said, I’m not afraid of trying it again an again. So, the next time you see these green chillies in your vegetable market, add some in your cart/basket as well. I hope you try this recipe, and feel a little better about the ‘daily cooking’ process. Remember, we have to constantly break the monotony, or else. Well, or else, you might end up picking up the phone and making the food orders ever so often. What do you think?

Recipe: Mirchi ki sabzi (green chilly sabzi)

Ingredients

7 to 10 green chillies (these are thick and long green chillies that are milder than the small ones; don’t mix them with fat green chillies that we use for mirchi pakodas)
1 tsp black sesame seed powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
½ tsp mango powder (optional; I didn’t use it in my recipe)
2 tsp peanut oil or any oil
salt to taste
2 tbsp cream (I used homemade malai); you could use milk if you don’t have fresh cream
½ tsp cumin seeds (optional)
2 pinches of asafoetida
¾ tsp turmeric power
Method

1. When you buy your green chillies, wash them and make sure all the water has dried up before you make this sabzi. Now, chop them and throw them inside a strainer. Make sure there is a plate below. You basically have to remove the white seeds inside the green chillies; so, you can keep moving these chillies lightly in the strainer, so that the seeds separate.
2. Now, heat oil in a small skillet. Add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, turmeric powder; stir for 2 seconds and add the chopped green chillies. Make sure the heat of the stove is not on high. If I don’t pay attention, I end up coughing.
3. Stir it for a few times till you see the chillies more than half cooked. Now, add the spices and salt. The coriander and sesame seed powders are the winners of the dish.
4. Once you stir in the spices and let them cook for about 3 minutes, add a tsp of malai or cream. Now, add as your dish requires. This will soften the texture and reduce the heat of the chillies as well.
5. After about 3 more minutes of stirring, switch off the flame. I usually have this with hot whole wheat or sorghum rotis.

Dear aubergine

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The first time my mum gave you in my school lunchbox, I saw a live worm scrawling towards me just as I opened the box. I ran for my life in the corridor, promising not to touch or even look at you ever again.

It so happened that after my marriage, deciding the daily menu became the hair-pulling chore of my new life. My cook at the time in Mumbai suggested your name, and I shouted a no. She still persisted. I had to try you for her talent’s sake.

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And you were wonderful. Your aroma was rustic and the smokey flavour was different than the usual dishes. Little did I know that I will fall for you at the first bite and you became a weekly thing then onwards.

It was on one Sunday morning, when I and my husband visited the farmer’s organic market here in Gurgaon. Just when we were stepping out of the place, I ended up at this stall that was selling clean potatoes and herbs. You were there, too. A woman picked you and asked the seller to check if there were no worms, and he passed it. I hadn’t tried any of you in the past few months, as the season wasn’t right. But it being spring, I picked you with pleasure and stuffed you inside my jute shopper bag.

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I got you home, after which I roasted, peeled and cooked you with utter joy. Thank god for the spring!

And I was back with a mantra. I will never run away from you, my modest aubergine.

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Recipe: Baigan ka Bharta/Roasted Aubergine

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized aubergine
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, paste
1 green chilli, pound to paste
1 tsp of ginger paste
1 tsp turmeric powder
1½ tsp red chilli powder
1½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
coriander leaves, chopped

Method:

1. After washing the aubergine or eggplant, poke holes on it with a help of a knife. Put it on the stove and keep turning it from side to side, every minute. You want to cook it from inside, and from all sides. You might also have to make it sit for it.
2. After about 15-20 minutes of roasting, remove it onto a plate. After about a minute, start peeling it. Cut the top side and start cutting it length-wise. Here’s when you want to spot any worm, and make sure there isn’t one. If I see one, I don’t touch my kitchen counter for hours.
3. Meanwhile, chop your veggies and make a green paste of green chilli, ginger and garlic.
4. Take a pan, heat some oil in it. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. After a few seconds, add the other spices and quickly stir and add the green paste. Stir.
5. Throw in the onion and keep stirring. Avoid getting the spices stick on the pan.
6. Add the tomato and salt. After a minute of cooking time, start mashing the entire thing.
7. Next is the roasted aubergine’s turn. Mash it all well, and let it cook for about two more minutes. Keep stirring, as the spices tend to stick on the pan. (I hardly use any of your fancy non-stick pans; don’t mind my repeated mentions.)
8. Add the garam masala, and garnish it with coriander leaves. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any garnish that day. But it hardly mattered.