Thandai Panna Cotta

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Panna cotta is an Italian dessert which literally means cooked cream. It is a mildly flavoured combination of sweetened milk and cream set with an agent like gelatin. I’m vegetarian and hence, I used Agar Agar (china grass) instead of gelatin. Even a simple payasam can be set into a panna cotta. I know it sounds weird. But, you should try it to believe me. Add some soaked Agar Agar to hot payasam. Mix well. Pour into individual cups and set in the refrigerator for 4 – 5 hours. Your payasam panna cotta is ready!

Taking this concept forward, I tried the holi ka thandai and made panna cotta out of it. The result was mind blowing. The creaminess of thandai set into tiny glasses and chilled is a match truly made in heaven. Try it and experience the awesomeness.

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Ingredients 

Milk – 500 ml

Cashew – 1 tablespoon

Melon seeds – 1 tablespoon

Almonds – 1 tablespoon

Pepper – 1 teaspoon

Fennel – 1 teaspoon

Saffron – 1 pinch

Cinnamon – 1 tiny piece

Cardamom – 5 numbers

Rose petals – 1 tablespoon (dried)

Sugar – 4-5 tablespoons

Agar Agar – 4 -5 grams (soaked for minimum 10 minutes)

*Agar Agar is commonly available in a 10 gram pack. So, half of the pack would be perfect for this recipe

Method

Add all the ingredients except Agar Agar to milk and boil on low flame for around 20 minutes. Strain the milk and grind the well-cooked nuts and spices to a smooth paste. Meanwhile, soak Agar Agar in a few spoons of water. Add the nuts and spices paste back into milk along with soaked Agar Agar and give the mixture a boil by stirring constantly. Pour into individual portions (or shot glasses) and refrigerate for atleast 4 hours. Serve chilled.

*Adding the whole nuts and spices to milk helps in reducing constant stirring. It also helps in grinding the nuts and spices to a smooth paste.

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Know Your Ingredient

Agar Agar

agaragar

Agar Agar, also called china grass, is a gelatinous substance made from red algae. It is a vegetarian substitute for gelatin. It is used to set foods like puddings and jelly. It is tasteless and takes on the taste of whatever it is mixed with, thus, giving you many possibilities.

Agar Agar is a good source of iron and helps in fighting anaemia. It is rich in many important micro-nutrients and also an excellent source of fiber. It is also rich in calcium and manganese.

Agar Agar is free from sugar, carbohydrates and fat and it provides a lot more vitamins and minerals than gelatin.

So, who knew Agar Agar is so healthy. Come on! This one reason is enough to use it in our desserts and make mind blowing flavours look and feel as yummy as they get!

Type Gelatinous substance used to set puddings
Form Comes in three forms – bar, flakes or powder. Bar and flakes are more common in India.
How to Buy Check the date of manufacture for the freshest pack.
Storage Stays well for months in room temperature.

 

You can find more useful information about Agar Agar on https://draxe.com/Agar-Agar/

 

Paan Burfi

 

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Would you like something refreshing after a meal which can also be a dessert? Sounds fun isn’t it? Here I am, with another recipe that uses paan (betel) leaves and the delicate fragrance of rose petals in a burfi. I tried this combination when I got bored of paan shot (my go-to recipe for leftover paan leaves on festival days) and wanted to try something new with paan leaves. Try it out and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Ingredients

Paan leaves – 6-8

Gulkand – 2 tablespoons

Instant BadamMix – 1 ¼ cup (mine has sugar; if your mix doesn’t have any, make sure to adjust the quantity of sugar)

Sugar – ½ cup

Water – 1/3 cup

Ghee – ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon for greasing

Dried rose petals – for garnish

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Ghee – a few teaspoons

Method

Clean and grind paan leaves along with gulkand into a smooth paste.

Mix sugar and water and boil till the mixture is at a one-string consistency*. Add ghee, paan mixture and badam mix to the sugar syrup and mix till it all comes together and leaves the sides of the pan. Switch off and pour immediately onto a greased plate. Garnish with powdered dried rose petals. Wait till it cools downs and cut into desired shape.

*One-string consistency is the perfect sugar syrup consistency to make burfis. To check for this consistency, allow the sugar-water mixture to boil for around 3-4 minutes.Then take a quarter teaspoon out of the syrup, cool it a bit and check by pinching and pulling apart the syrup in-between your thumb and fore-finger. If you see a stretching thread which does not break at least for an inch,your syrup is at the one-string consistency and ready to go!

Know Your Ingredient

red rose flower

Photo by Cindy Gustafson on Pexels.com

Gulkand is a sweet preserve made of rose petals. It is a good ayurvedic medicine which is loaded with healing properties (not to mention delicious!). The traditional way of preparing gulkand involves layering rose petals and sugar in a glass jar and keeping in sunlight for about 3-4 weeks until the rose petals get integrated into the sugar. But, here’s an easy way to make instant gulkand in roughly 10 minutes.

Take the petals of 25-30 fragrant roses. Wash and chop them roughly. Heat about 200 grams of cane sugar along with a few teaspoons of water. Once the sugar melts, add in the rose petals and stir for roughly 10 minutes. By this time, the sugar-rose mixture would come together. Add a bit of honey at this stage if you prefer the jam to be sweet. If not, you can skip the honey.

Type Preserve
How to Buy If you are buying, look for an organic one.
Storage When used with a dry spoon, It can be stored in normal room temperature for more than a year.

According to ayurveda, Gulkand is beneficial in many ways. Here are a few listed for you:

It reduces stress, improves digestion and helps alleviate problems such as tiredness and lethargy.

It helps in treating mouth ulcers and makes teeth and gums strong.

Eating 2 teaspoons of gulkand before going out in the sun might protect us from sunstroke and nose bleed during summer.

It is a mild laxative and helps in reducing acidity in the stomach.

It helps in removing toxins from the body and thus promotes skin health by preventing acne,blackheads and rashes.

Bruschetta

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Bruschetta can be had as a starter or a snack. It is usually made with French baguette bread. Baguette literally means long, narrow bread. It is preferred in bruschetta as it is crusty, chewy and porous and soaks up the flavours well.

But you can make Bruschetta with any locally available bread (as I have done)…just remember to toast it until it is crisp. The crispy bread with the fresh juicy tomatoes and basil is a combo made in heaven. Other ingredients are up to each one’s personal choice. Here’s my choice. Have a look.

Ingredients

Bread – 4 (thick slices of any crusty bread)

Tomatoes – 2 medium sized (deseeded and chopped)

Basil leaves – 15 numbers (roughly torn)

Garlic – 2 cloves (minced and roasted)

Olive oil – to drizzle

Butter – for toasting bread

Salt – to taste

Pepper – for sprinkle (fresh ground)

Cheese – for topping (any cheese spread)

Method

Toast the bread till crisp with butter or olive oil. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic, a bit of olive oil and a bit of salt. Arrange the mixture on top of toasted bread, sprinkle a pinch of pepper powder and top it with a bit of cheese. It is ready to serve. Easy? Do let me know how you like it.

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Know Your Ingredients

Basil is an herb. There are more than 40 varieties of basil. Each variety is no less than the other for its health benefits. I have used a Thai basil variety which grows in my apartment complex for this recipe. Even though it is not perfect for Italian dishes, it lends a nice flavor and aroma to this dish.

Our Indian tulsi is called the holy basil. Some varieties of basil like our tulsi are used to make medicine. It contains disease fighting anti-oxidants. It is anti-inflammatory and prevents cancer. It has anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. It also promotes cardiovascular health. It has ‘adaptogens’ which helps combat stress and avoids related illnesses.

Type Leaves
Form Fresh
How to Buy If you have access to fresh basil from a garden. Nothing like it. But if you don’t have, most of the big grocers have it in their shelves. Go for ones which are green and fresh. Wilted and dark spots are big no-no.
Storage It can be stored within layers of paper towel for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.  If you have to store in bulk, freezing it in ice trays with oil or water is a good option.

 

 

Flaxseed Chutney Powder with Garlic

flaxseed with garlic chutney powder

Chutney powders are meant to save you on a lazy day when you run out of sambar, rasam or whatever you are ‘supposed’ to prepare. Even with all the extensive dishes, a little bit of chutney powder on the corner of your plate with ghee can add so much character to your meal. I think south Indians can truly identify with the feeling.

This coarse chutney powder tastes heavenly when mixed with rice and hot ghee. It is also a healthy combination of flaxseed and garlic. This powder with gingelly(sesame) oil also goes well as an accompaniment for idlis and dosas. Try this simple chutney powder and enjoy its health benefits as well.

Ingredients

Flax seeds – 200 grams

Garlic – 10-15 pods

Urad dal – 50 grams

Tamarind – 1 marble sized piece

Red chillies – 10-15 numbers

Jaggery – a small bit

Salt – as required

Oil – to roast

Procedure

Heat a pan. Add the flax seeds and roast till they pop. Switch off the flame when the popping slows down. Add garlic. The retained heat is enough for the garlic to be lightly roasted. Transfer the roasted flax seeds and garlic to a plate and cool.

Heat half a teaspoon of oil and roast urad dal till it turns golden brown. Add in the red chillies and tamarind. Give a stir and switch off the flame. Transfer to a plate and add jaggery and required salt. Blend these ingredients along with roasted flax seeds and garlic in a mixer jar. You can choose to grind it into a fine or coarse powder. If you like coarse powder like me, save a tablespoon of roasted urad dal and grind the rest of the ingredients into fine powder. Now add the saved urad dal and grind it for a few seconds. The crunch from roasted urad dal will add an interesting texture to this chutney powder. Enjoy your health booster chutney powder with hot rice and ghee.

Know Your Ingredient

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Garlic, the most versatile spice in many global cuisines, helps make your dishes taste delicious. A compound called allicin present in garlic gives it its distinct smell. It has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, which makes it a favourite spice for home-made remedies in treating various ailments. Garlic is rich in iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin B6.

The spice can be called a miracle spice because right from treating common cold to helping lower cholesterol, it has innumerable health benefits. Eating garlic regularly can help detoxify heavy metals in our body. It is also a cancer fighter as it blocks the formation of cancer-causing substances and improves cell repair.

Personally, I prefer to use garlic regularly in the dishes I prepare. When the kids are down with a cold, I boil garlic with peppercorns and cumin seeds in water for about 15-20 minutes. Then I strain the drink and give it to them to reduce symptoms.

When my kiddo complainsof an earache, the first thing I do is crush a pod of garlic with one peppercorn, roll it into a piece of cotton and stuff it in their earlobe. This helps in easing out the pain before I get to the doctor.

Type Root Vegetable
Form Fresh
How to Buy Look for plump and unbroken skin. Gently squeeze the whole bulb between your fingers to check if they are firm.
Storage Store in an uncovered/loosely covered container in a cool, dark place away from moisture to avoid sprouting.  Do not refrigerate. Whole garlic bulbs can be stored for more than a month.

 

Sweet Potato Paratha

Flat bread stuffed with spiced, sweet potato mash. Though it is a fancy explanation, this dish is just a healthy cousin of the well-loved aloo paratha. Most people wouldn’t even find the difference this paratha and its potato version. It’s yummy and nutritious. Give it a try!

Ingredients

For the filling

Sweet potato – 1 medium(boiled and mashed)

Horse gram sprouts – 2 spoons (steamed)

Onions – 1 medium (finely chopped)

Green chillies – 1-2 small (finely minced)

Red chilli powder – ¼ teaspoon

Garam masala – ½ teaspoon

Jeera powder – ½ teaspoon

Coriander powder – ½ teaspoon

Amchoor(dry mango) powder – ¼ teaspoon

Salt – as needed

Fresh coriander – 1 teaspoon (finely chopped)

For the dough

Whole wheat flour – 2 cups

Salt – as needed

Water – to knead into smooth, firm dough

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Method

Mix flour, salt and water to make a firm, smooth dough.  Keep aside for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, to make the filling, mash or grate the boiled sweet potatoes. Add steamed sprouts and mash again. Add the other ingredients mentioned for filling in the ingredients list, making sure that items like onion and green chillies are free from extra moisture. Mix well. Your filling is ready.

Take a lemon sized ball of the whole wheat dough and shape it into a large cup using your fingers. Take an almost equal quantity of filling. Place it in the dough cup and bring the edges together so that the dough completely covers the filling. Roll this filled cup in your hands to form a ball, dust the filled ball with flour and roll it into parathas using light strokes (without exerting pressure). Heat a pan and cook the parathas on both sides with oil or ghee.

Notes:

* The sweet potatoes have to be mashed well. Otherwise, you will find it difficult to roll out the parathas. I find that grating the boiled potatoes makes the filling finer, thereby the rolling out easier.

* I have added steamed horse gram sprouts for extra nutrition. You can replace that with other small sized sprouts or omit adding sprouts. It will not hamper the taste of parathas.

* Onions, green chillies and coriander should be chopped finely. This, again, ensures easy rolling of parathas.

* Ensure the ingredients are free of any extra moisture. Otherwise the parathas will turn out soggy.

* The spices mentioned in this recipe are basically of my choice. You can adjust according to your taste and preferences.

Know Your Ingredient

sweet-potato

pic courtesy: mayakitchenette.com

 

Sweet potato is an underground tuber and grows on the root of the plant. It is rich in fiber and highly nutritious. It’s also rich in beta carotene, which gets transformed to vitamin A in the body.

It is an excellent food for people looking to gain healthy weight and hence a great option for kids (well, my kids 😉).

Sweet potatoes are rich in zinc, magnesium and vitamin B complex making it an excellent food for managing arthritis.

They also have high levels of potassium, which helps in maintaining a healthy blood pressure level.

Choline, a nutrient present in sweet potatoes, is a water soluble, vitamin-like nutrient which is important for liver function, brain development, muscle movement and nerve function.

Now, you know why sweet potatoes can be considered a super health food.Feel free to add it in large quantities to your daily diet. Check out the table below on how to buy and store sweet potatoes.

Type Vegetable
Form Fresh
How to Buy Look for firm, heavy (for their size) potatoes which are free from bruises, soft spots or sprouts.
Storage Store in a cool, dry place away from moisture. Stays good for up to two weeks. Do not refrigerate.

 

Pumpkin and Flax Seed Thuvayal (Chutney)

pumpkin, flaxseed thogayal1It is a challenge for me to include seeds such as flax seeds in everyday diet. So it feels good when I stumble upon a new idea to include something as nutritious as flax seed in as simple dish as thuvayal / chutney. Combined with pumpkin, this creates a super tasty and nutritious dish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Thuvayal is a vegetable mash; kind of a thick chutney normally made from vegetables and(or) coconut, and eaten with rice. Thuvayals are wonderful in that they make it super easy to include any veggie in your meal. And flax seeds add a wonderful texture to the thuvayal. You should try it to feel the richness of the texture.

Ingredients

Pumpkin – 250 grams (de-skinned and chopped)

Flax seed – 50 grams (roasted)

Urad Dal – 1 tablespoon

Curry Leaves – 20 numbers

Tamarind – a tiny bit

Dry Red Chillies – 3 or 4 (according to desired level of spiciness)

Oil – as needed

Salt – to taste

Procedure

Dry roast the flax seeds and keep aside. Cook the chopped pumpkin without water either by flashcooking* or in an open pan. Heat enough oil in a pan. Add urad dal, chillies, tamarind and curry leaves. Once urad dal turns golden brown, take the urad dal, curry leaves out and keep aside.

In a blender/mixer jar, add the cooked pumpkin, roasted flax seeds, tamarind and chillies. Blend to a smooth paste. Now add the urad dal and just whirr for a few seconds. This adds crunch to the thuvayal. Finally, add the roasted curry leaves for garnish.

pumpkin, flaxseed thogayal-collage

*Flash cooking is an OPOS® technique of cooking food at the highest possible heat for the lowest possible time. This produces dramatic results. It heightens the flavour, colour, and texture of the food, and promises greater nutrition.

pumpkin, flaxseed thogayal

Know Your Ingredient

Flax seed,also called linseed, comes from a crop which is also grown for its fiber, linen. Linen is the oldest plant fiber grown by mankind. Flax seed is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. It is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for weight watchers. This also helps in lowering LDL cholesterol and supports heart health.

Flax seeds are high in antioxidants. A component called lignan in flax seed supports the growth of probiotics (good bacteria) in your gut, thus making your digestion better and immunity stronger. Flax seeds are the richest source of lignan. Sesame seeds come second only with about 1/7th of the lignans present in flax seeds. Lignans also help in treating hormonal imbalance. So, include flaxseeds in your everyday meal and reap its numerous benefits while enjoying its nutty flavor.

Type Seed
Form Whole, Dried
How to Buy Always check ‘best to use by’ date to ensure freshness. Prefer opaque packaging as light promotes spoilage in flax seeds.
Storage The whole seeds can be stored in a cool, dark place for a year. The ground / powdered flax seeds that are available in the market have to be refrigerated. When stored at room temperature, they go rancid within a few weeks.

 

Hot and Sweet Tomato Ketchup

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What do you do when your kids become ketchup guzzling monsters? I worry about their health because the ketchup is store bought and it invariably has added flavour enhancers, colours, acidity regulator, preservatives and loads of other unknown substances. So, here I am, presenting my store-bought-like ketchup made in a pressure cooker. I’m using the ‘flash cooking’ technique of OPOS® by Mr.Ramakrishnan. This technique uses layering of ingredients in a pressure cooker and cooking it on high heat for the shortest time with minimum or no water.

The consistency of this ketchup is so thick and perfect that my kids haven’t found any reason to crib. For me, since I am making this in a pressure cooker, no splashes, no monitoring and no sautéing. Happy me, happy kids.

Ingredients

Tomato – 1 kilogram (halved and deseeded)

Dry Red Chillies – 5-6 numbers (deseeded)

Sugar – 7 tablespoons (I have used cane sugar)

Salt – 1 teaspoon

Vinegar – 1-2 teaspoons

Ginger-Garlic Paste – 2 teaspoons

Procedure

Place the halved and deseeded tomatoes in the base of the cooker. Add sugar, salt and deseeded chillies. Ensure sugar does not touch the bottom of the cooker. Add ginger-garlic paste, vinegar and fire it on high for about 6 whistles. Switch off. Cool the mixture and blend it to a smooth paste. Run the mixture through a wide eyed sieve. Pour it into the cooker again and cook for 6-8 more whistles depending on the thickness you need. You might also cook it on an open flame. But I personally like to keep it covered while cooking, as it prevents splashes and mess. Enjoy a super thick, store-bought-like ketchup made nutritiously at home.

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Pour it into a clean, dry bottle. Ensure you use a clean, dry spoon. This way, you can store ketchup in the fridge for around one month.

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Know Your Ingredient

Tomato is one of the most frequently consumed vegetables in Indian cuisines. (Although widely used as a vegetable, botanically, tomato is a fruit.)

It is also one of the most nutrient rich. It contains 95% water and is one of the richest sources of lycopene. Lycopene is the red pigment present in tomatoes. It is an antioxidant, which has been extensively studied for its health benefits.The more tomatoes you eat, the better will be your body’s lycopene levels. One of the major health benefits of lycopene is to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol, and thus reduce cardiovascular diseases. If you think this is not reason enough, read on, we have more health benefits from the humble tomato.

A high lycopene level in your body prevents you from getting sunburn and alsokeeps your skin glowing. So, all you beauty conscious people out there can grab a tomato right away for radiant skin.

Tomatoes also have cancer preventing properties. Again, the high lycopene content in tomatoes is the reason behind this property.

Tomatoes also contain high levels of potassium which helps in reducing hypertension and in controlling blood pressure.

Study* suggests that lycopene content is the highest in recipes like ketchup which have lots of cooked tomatoes. So, what are you waiting for, raise your lycopene levels with this homemade, preservative free tomato ketchup.

Type Fruit
Form Fresh
How to Buy Go for the ones which are smooth, well-shaped. Avoid ones with bruises, cracks,wrinkles or soft spots.
Storage The best way to preserve the natural flavor is to keep it in a cool place away from direct sunlight. If you want an unripe tomato to ripen quickly, keep it near a banana. If the tomatoes are overripe and you are not ready to use them, then refrigerate for no longer than 2 days. Keep them out from the refrigerator for around 30 minutes before using to bring back the flavor and juiciness.

*https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266466884_Lycopene_content_of_tomatoes_and_tomato_products

Home made Peanut Butter

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Imagine a morning, you snoozed your alarm couple of times and for some odd reason it failed to go off again. You wake up well past your usual time and have nothing ready to prepare breakfast. The kids are also in a sleepy mode and whine at the idea of plain bread toast for breakfast. I’m sure most of you can relate to this.

Being the super health conscious mom, I try to keep homemade peanut butter in the pantry. It comes in handy in these situations and gives a perfect kick start to a busy day.

Once you try it at home, I am sure you will never go back to the store bought version for three reasons. 1. It is extremely easy and 2. It is super tasty and 3. It has absolutely zero preservatives, additives or added flavours.

Ingredients

Peanuts – 1 ½ cups (roasted and peeled)

Salt – ½ teaspoon (or more to taste)

Sugar – 2 tablespoons (adjust according to your preference)

Oil – 2 tablespoons (I used peanut oil)

Procedure

Blend everything in a mixer or blender until smooth. If you like your peanut butter chunky, keep aside half a cup of peanuts before blending. You can add this at the end and blend for just a few seconds.

If you don’t get roasted peanuts in a store near you, you can roast them yourself by spreading on a plate and microwaving on high for approximately 5 minutes.

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Know Your Ingredient

Peanut, also known as groundnut, is one of the healthiest foods.  Peanuts are a good source of vitamin E, manganese, niacin and folate. They are also rich in protein and monounsaturated fats. This kind of fat makes it a great food for heart health. Among a host of other health benefits, peanuts offer an excellent source of resveratrol, a polyphenolic antioxidant which helps in cancer prevention, reduced risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.  So, what’s stopping you? Go indulge yourself with a handful of peanuts.

Type Technically legume; a nut for common culinary purposes
Form Dried
How to Buy Look for a fresh pack which has been stored in clean, moisture free environment. Check if the nuts are whole and are not cracked.
Storage Store in a cool, airtight container. Peanuts can be refrigerated for longer shelf life.

Fried Dumpling with Dates and Nuts

Hi friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart as you have come all the way to see the awesome, home style recipes on my wonderful space here. On this particular day that I first tried this recipe, the master home chef that I am 😉 was in an excited, elated mood. Do you know that makes all the difference to food being prepared? Exactly! The food turned naturally awesome and delicious. I took inspiration from a very old, traditional sweet recipe called suryakala. It is a very beautiful blend of crispiness and sweet awesomeness. So, here goes my version. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

For the syrup

Sugar – 1 cup

Water – ¼ cup

Lemon – 1 teaspoon

Oil – for deep frying

For the dough

All purpose flour (Maida) – 1 cup

Ghee – 2 tablespoons

Salt – a pinch

Water – as required to form tight dough

For the filling

Dates – 30 -35 numbers (deseeded and finely chopped)

Nuts – a handful (toasted and roughly chopped)

Procedure

Take ghee and flour in a bowl. Rub the ghee well into the flour till it looks like bread crumbs. Add a pinch of salt. Add water little by little and form a smooth, tight dough. Rest it for at least 30 minutes.

Take the dates and toasted nuts on a pan and heat this mixture on low flame till it comes together. This will take not more than 8 – 10 minutes. Mash well. Your filling is ready!

Combine sugar and quarter cup of water and heat till it becomes a sticky syrup (or half-thread consistency – to check, pinch the sugar syrup between your thumb and index finger, if it forms a thread and breaks immediately, your syrup is good to go. Add a spoon of lemon juice to avoid crystallization.

Roll the dough into a big disc of medium thickness. Cut out small circles with the help of a cookie cutter or lid. Take each circle, fill with the date-nut mixture and bring the opposite ends together and shape the dumplings.

Heat oil on a pan, deep fry the dumplings on medium heat till it turns golden brown. Remove from oil and steep it in the pan of sugar syrup for 5 – 10 minutes. Arrange it on a plate and enjoy!

Note: if the syrup crystallizes and hardens, add a teaspoon of water and heat it on low flame for a minute or less till it liquidizes.

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Know Your Ingredients

Dates are the nutritious, sweet fruit of the date palm. Dates are an excellent source of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. This makes it an ideal food for bone health. Anaemic people can benefit a lot by including dates in their regular diet. Dates are rich in fiber making it one of the most effective remedies for constipation. Dates, being rich in natural sugar, are a perfect quick snack for the odd hour hunger. To know more about the various health benefits of dates, follow the link: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-dates.html

Type Fruit
Form Fresh / dried
How to Buy In India, dates are mostly available in sealed packs. Look for the date of packaging. If the pack is transparent, check if the fruits are plump and have an even colour.
Storage Store dates by keeping in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six months. Freezing prolongs shelf life up to a year.

Dried dates can be stored in normal room temperature for up to a year or more.

 

Roasted Peanuts and Pumpkin Soup

I first tasted this soup in an Italian restaurant and the flavour was just mind blowing. I had to come back home and search all of Google to get the various versions. Finally, I came up with my own version which is not just awesome but is also healthy and made from scratch. Okay, I know I am praising myself here. But, try for yourself and do let me know. I’m sure, just like me, you too would love this soup.

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Soup topped with crushed peanuts. Can you see charred bits?

 

Ingredients you would need:

Pumpkin – 250 grams

Roasted and de-skinned peanuts – 30 grams (or just a handful)

Garlic – 2 pods

Butter – 1 tablespoon

Onions – ¼ cup (sliced)

Oregano (or any Italian seasoning) – 2 teaspoons

Cream – 2 tablespoons

Milk – ¼ cup or as desired to bring the soup to the required consistency

Salt – to taste

Pepper – to taste

Bread croutons – for garnishing

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Main ingredients at a glance

Procedure

Chop the pumpkins into medium sized squares. If you like the smoked flavour (I love it!), char a couple of pieces on an open flame after brushing with oil. Keep aside.

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Char your way to glory!

 

Add some butter to a small 2 or 3 litre pressure cooker. Lightly roast the garlic and onions. Add in the pumpkin pieces. Top up with ¼ cup of water. Close the lid and set the pressure valve. Cook for 3 whistles on high flame. Turn off the flame and let the pressure settle.

Add the peanuts to a blender or mixer jar. Blend till the peanuts are powdered fine. Add in the cooked pieces of pumpkin (including the charred pieces) along with the onion and garlic. Blend till everything comes together. Add milk and cream to bring the soup to the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper.  Serve with bread croutons.

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Roasted Peanut with Pumpkin Soup. just the golden beauty without char!

 

Know Your Ingredient

Pumpkin is a highly versatile vegetable. Just cook pumpkin pieces and blend till smooth. Your pumpkin puree is ready to go into a whole lot of dishes. Pumpkin is used right from our South Indian sambar and kootu through many global cuisines (it goes into the making of pies, breads, soups and even desserts). Pumpkin is one of the most nutrient-rich easily homemade baby foods in the world.

Pumpkin is super rich in vitamin A (which aids in better vision and eyesight). The vegetable, being rich in potassium, is a great source of energy. It is also rich in Vitamin C, which greatly helps with immunity.  Eating this vegetable is a great way to lose weight as it is rich in fiber and low in calories.

Type Vegetable
Form Fresh
How to Buy Check for firmness of skin and flesh. If you are looking to buy just a piece cut out of the whole pumpkin, ensure that it was cut not more than a few hours earlier.
Storage Store the cut pumpkin without covering/cling wrap in the refrigerator. This way, it will not rot. While using, just cut the outer dried out layer and use the rest. It will be as good as fresh. Pumpkin puree can be frozen for almost a month. If you have lots of pumpkin, puree might be a good way to store it.