Monday, May 30, 2016

Spiced Mango Lemonade with Basil seeds ( Vegan Mango Drink )

When it comes to mangoes and mango recipes, a mango milkshake hardly makes it to the list of my favorites. I tend to find it too sweet and heavy to digest. So, I usually stick to my aamras. But lately, the mango lemonade has been a regular on my menu. On most days, I prefer to have a swig in the hours between breakfast and lunch as my energy levels tend to dip after 12. A lemonade with honey as the sweetener is my go-to drink. However with mangoes being very much in season, I do add a bit of the pulp to my lemonade. The result is a yummy cooler with the right balance of sweetness and tang.

To spice up things a bit, I add some powdered dry ginger ( excellent for keeping the digestive system in order ) and some powdered fennel ( an excellent coolant ) to it. For added health benefits and to keep the body cool during summers, throw in about 1 tsp of soaked basil seeds (subza) into each glass and you have the perfect example of 'Health bhi Taste bhi' on your hands. Though it is a bit high on the calories, it is still loaded with nutrients (and free from additives) unlike any of the store bought coolers. Try it and you won't regret it !!

Read on for the recipe of this wonderfully delicious and healthy natural cooler -

















Preparation time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup mango pulp/chunks
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • sugar syrup (as per taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 pinch dry ginger powder (saunth)
  • 1 pinch fennel powder
  • 1 tsp basil seeds ( soaked for 3-4 hours )


Preparation - Take the mango pulp/chunks, sugar syrup, lemon juice , dry ginger powder, fennel powder and blend till smooth. Dilute with as much water as you need.

Place the soaked basil seeds in a glass. Pour the mango lemonade gently over it. Chill for 15-20 mins, Serve.

For sugar syrup - Take 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Place it medium heat. Boil till sugar dissolves. once syrup becomes sticky, remove from flame and cool down.



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Vegan Wood Apple (Bael) Panna Cotta

Mangoes rules the roost when it comes to the plethora of fruits that hit the markets every summer. But when you are in Odisha, you await the arrival of the 'Bael' fruit with as much fervor as the rest of India prays for the king of fruits to put in an appearance. Also known as 'Kaitha' in Hindi, it is an amazing though unsung fruit. Though it lacks the visual appeal of the mangoes, it is loaded with multiple health benefits. It is highly recommended for patients suffering from diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol, apart from benefiting those suffering from ailments of the stomach. But another reason why the Bael is so popular in Odisha is the fact that it is such amazing cooling properties. So, while the Southern states of India swear by their buttermilk and the Northern states place their bet on Shikanji, the Odia folks cant do without their 'Bela Panna' aka 'Bael ka sherbat'.

Just like mangoes, the 'Bael' fruit comes in different varieties. There are the small ones which have a deep orange colored pulp that is ridden with fiber, small seeds and has a hint of astringency, medium sized ones which have a faint mango like flavour and also big ones with a pale yellow pulp that could rival the 'shrikhand' . Luckily, the 'Bael' tree growing in my childhood home belonged to the last group. So apart from relishing the sherbat, I used to break the 'Bael' , sprinkle a bit of sugar over the halves and dig into the pulp straight from the shell. It was a part of my daily routine during the summer vacations. The medicinal properties of the pulp also prevented the stomach cramps that came from biting into too many green mangoes slices loaded with salt and red chili powder.

Since one does not find 'Bael' in Bangalore, I have one of my relatives bring some for me every summer. And given that the pulp keeps really well in the fridge, I get to consume my favorite 'Bela Panna' atleast a dozen times. Even though it turns darker when stored in the fridge, the flavor remains intact for upto a month's duration. Luckily, I had quite a bit of it remaining when I decided to experiment with a vegan version of the 'Panna Cotta'.

I am still hung-ho about the vegan phenomena that has taken social media by storm. And I keep tying out various recipes to find substitutes for my favorites. My first attempts at a Vegan Panna Cotta were not quite upto the mark as I had just replaced milk and cream with almond milk which is somewhat thinner. That is when I got the idea of adding some of the 'Bael' pulp to thicken it and also to give it a nice flavor. The recipe was an instant hit and I could happily dig into some guilt free dessert even if it is for a month or two. So, that was one of my 'foodventures' with 'Uncommon foods'. Yep, they are the ingredients that have not captured mainstream imagination yet. No wonder it came up as this fortnight's theme for a culinary adventured hosted by the Masterchef Vikas Khanna and food cum travel writer Vir Sanghvi !

Read on for the recipe -


















Preparation Time - 30 mins ( plus more for setting the panna cotta )

Ingredients -
  • 1 cup thick almond milk
  • 2/3 cup Bael pulp ( with seeds and fibers removed )
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp agar agar powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar ( substitute with sugarfree powder if daibetic )
  • 2 pinch cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp rose essence

Preparation - Soak the agar agar in water water for 10-15 mins.

Cooking - Take the almond milk and the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to low boil on medium heat.

At the same time, boil the agar agar and water mixture. Keep whisking it till all the agar agar dissolves.

Switch off both the burners and add the agar agar solution into the almond milk. Whisk at a furious pace to bring everything together.

Wait for another 5-10 mins for the mix to cool down slightly before stirring in the 'Bael pulp'. Sprinkle the cardamom powder and rose essence. Whisk it again to mix everything uniformly.

Pour into the molds or bowls and close them. Let them stand till warm. then pop into the fridge for 5-6 hours to set the 'Panna Cotta'.

Once set, remove from the fridge and serve immediately.

















Any guesses what the two maestros are cooking up ?







Wow. Vir's Sushi on Fire sounds almost orgasmic !!







And Vikas has picked up the unheard of 'Shankalu' for his dish !!


Check out these amazing videos and take some inspiration. The Masterchef says that 'the new world belongs to the explorers' ! Already cooked up a storm. Share it HERE.

Will be looking forward to your comments !!







Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Badi Chura ( Revisiting those memories of communal living )

"Living like chickens packed into a coop yet so much disconnected from each other. I miss living in Rourkela", I mentioned to Mom in one of my everyday rants. As most people in Bangalore, I too live in a closed society where I barely get to know the person living next door. One just about manages a shadow of a smile when one bumps into a familiar face in the common areas. Of course there are the occasional 'Hi's' and 'hello's' and the once in a year gathering at the kid's B'day party. But that just about sums up the level of socializing with one's neighbors.

Coming back to the conversation I was having with my Mom, it all started when she mentioned laying a small batch of 'Badi's' or lentil dumplings which are sun dried and stored for usage throughout the year. It kind of took me by surprise as I had always known Mom to make these huge batches that involved soaking and grinding up to 3-4 kg of black lentils or 'biri'. The terrace would be swept/washed clean, a large number of bamboo mats would be spread out over the area and old cotton sarees/ bedsheets ( sanitized ones ofcourse ) would be placed over the mats. Ladies from 3- 4 neighboring houses would pack off the kids and husbands, and then gather at one particular house. They usually made teams of two. Working furiously, they would lay 'badis' of various sizes and seasonings ( rasi, kakharu manjee, badam, khaee ) over the sheets. It usually took 2-3 hours to finish a particularly big lot. Once done, they would sit back and relax over tea and a long conversation. Finally, they would decide the house and the date for laying the next lot before taking leave. 

I happened to remind Mom about this ritual which has remained fresh in my memory despite the intervening years. In response to my query, she sighed sadly and smiled at the same time. If you have grown up looking at someone for the major part of your life, you can instinctively pick up the slightest nuances in their voices. Even when separated by a distance of over a thousand kilometers. "Most of your aunties are in Bangalore or abroad. They have gone there to look after their grandchildren as both the parents happen to be working. And now I am too old to manage a large batch all by myself", she told me. Whether it was my conscience working overtime or did I just pick up a hint of an accusation in her voice ? "Four years of engineering and six years of work experience with one of the top MNC's , and yet she chooses to give it up to look after a kid ? What a waste !", I could almost hear my relatives and neighbors telling her. 

It is no easy job to bring up a kid. And in no way is it any less satisfying. I am proud to be a hands-on Mom but a little bit of encouragement from the family never hurts. It felt bad momentarily but then I chose to focus on the latter part of her statement. If she did not have the energy to manage laying a big batch of 'badis', how could she have managed a toddler with incredibly high energy levels ? I regularly encounter old people picking and dropping off their grand kids at school. I can feel their sadness which comes from missing the easy camaraderie with which they have spent the better part of their lives. I can sense their hunger to strike a conversation with anyone who has the time to spare. Sadly, time is a luxury that most working people cannot afford to spare. And that includes their very own children. But I stopped myself from bringing it up at the last moment. I could not add to the sense of sadness that she already felt.

Today, when I was making some badi chura for lunch, I could not help but recall this bit of conversation. So much has changed over the years. 'Badi' making has moved out of our homes and has now become a small scale industry  as these days most people buy their stock of 'badis' from the markets. And slowly even the 'badi' is being edged out of the regular Odia menu by new and more innovative recipes.

Sharing a simple and very tasty 'Badi Chura' recipe with a view to keep the traditional 'authentic odiya food' alive -



















Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -
  • 1 cup Badi
  • 1/2 of a medium sized onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 2-3 green chilis
  • a sprig of cilantro
  • a dash of mustard oil
  • salt to taste
  • more oil for frying the badis



Preparation - Heat a skillet. Drizzle oil over it and add the badis. Fry on low heat they they turn golden with a few brown spots.

Once done, remove and keep aside to cool down.

Take the crisp badis and crush then lightly using any heavy object. Keep aside.

Chop the onions, garlic and green chilis into small pieces. Crush together. Finally add the crushed badis to it. Sprinkle salt and mustard oil. Crush a little more as you mix everything together.















Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately to prevent it from turning soggy.

Note - One can also use the chutney jar from one's mixer grinder to crush everything together. But that gives a different taste and texture. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Floral Throwback To My Coonoor Vacation !!

Everytime I visit someplace, I love clicking the local flora and fauna apart from doing the landscape shots !! During my last vacation to Coonoor, I visited quite a few tourist spots and random locales. Here are some of my favorite floral clicks -

Pretty Lilies






































The above pics were captured in the botanical garden at Ooty .


Sunflowers
















Dhalias

















Clicked these at Sims park, Coonoor. Looking at these glorious Dhalias, it was tough to believe that it was summer at it's peak.
























These postcard shots were taken at the property in Coonoor where we had put up.

Hope you enjoyed looking at these pics !!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Vegan Mango Mousse

Everytime I visit one of those lavish spreads at any of the popular restaurants, the one regular fixture on the desserts menu is a mousse. But the one thing that stops me from digging into them is the humongous amount of calories contained in a tiny portion. Also, it doesn't help when I think about all the chemicals that go into it. Yes, that pretty looking cup/glass might very well contain gelatin, agar agar, artificial flavoring and a slew of chemicals that might have made their way into the whipping cream/heavy cream.

That's why I choose to go vegan whenever I have the craving for some nice wholesome mousse. Taking avocado as the base ingredient, I can add any fruit plup or cocoa powder for the flavoring . For sweetening the final product, raw honey works just as great. Ta-daaa. My delicious vegan mousse is ready.

Check out the easy-peasy recipe -


















Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -


  • 2 ripe avocados
  • pulp of two ripe mangoes
  • 2-3 tsp honey ( use a bit more if you want )
  • few drops of vanilla extract ( can be substituted with cardamom powder )

Preparation - Halve the avocados. Remove the stone and scoop out the flesh.

Throw into the blender jar. Add the mango pulp, few drops of vanilla extract and the honey. Buzz for a few seconds.

Pour into the serving cups. Pop into the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Garnish with small mango cubes. Serve chilled.


















Note - This mousse stay fresh fresh for upto 24 hours when kept in a airtight container in the fridge .


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Horlicks Immunity Indiblogger's Meet @ Vivanta by Taj - Moments and Memories

" Only a Mother Can Give What She Does Not Have . "

That just about sums up the role of a mother in the lives of her children. To pay tribute to her existence and to reinforce our faith in her, Indiblogger in association with Horlicks, organised a bloggers meet on Mother's day. "An evening with national and international experts on the subject of immunity, and its implications on growth in children" proclaimed the homepage which had the mommy in me going hook, line and sinker. Yes, we mommies are an obsessed and somewhat desperate lot when it comes to the well-being of our children .

While I had marked my calendar for 8th May on the very day I saw the first update, the venue ( which was disclosed later ) had me thrilled. After all, it was going to be my first visit to one of the most prominent landmarks of Bangalore. Dare you miss it on a visit to MG Road ! The wait to the event was the tough part and I actually used this time to reconnect with most of the bloggers whom I had met during the previous IndiMeets. 

On the big day, I shared a cab with few of my blogger friends to travel to the venue ( economical and great for the environment ) and we walked into the lobby a few minutes before showtime. A feeling of happiness washed over me as I spotted quite a few known faces in the crowd. Some of us were catching up after a long time and the 'Hi's and Hello's' were high on drama. Inspite of being digitally well-connected, networking in person still retains that old world charm that makes us go misty eyed.
















The Check-in for the event turned out to be quite smooth thanks to the electronic passes issued by the Indiblogger Team. The seating was comfortable with small tables ( 7 - 8 persons ) spread out over a large area. I am always happy when I get into these kind of settings as opposed to rows and rows of chairs. It allows for much better interaction and I can always get up and walk over to another table whenever I spot a familiar face. There was a fascinating mix of food, travel and lifestyle bloggers for our table. Once the conversation flowed, we had the rare opportunity to catch glimpses of the person/idea behind the blog.







As always, it was the spunky Anoop who got the event rolling. We were introduced to a fellow blogger but one with international acclaim. Jill Castle, America's Childhood Nutrition expert is a woman who wears multiple hats. Mother of 4, author, blogger and a registered dietitian/nutritionist, she calls for a holistic approach towards the subject of nutrition, especially in the age group of 5 to 14 which is the time when children grow to their full potential. For the first time, we were exposed to the issue of 'hidden hunger', which is all about malnutrition that exists at both ends of economic spectrum. The deficiency of micro nutrients hinders growth and affects immunity that leads to a child missing out on school attendance. She reiterated on the age old wisdom of including all the five food groups in one's everyday meal to get balanced nutrition.
























One of the shocking facts that she shared with us the repercussions of adopting the western diet. While the western diets looks seductive when compared to our traditional foods, we tend to ignore the fact that the western diet is rich in fortified foods and nutritional supplements are an integral part of their regimen. Sadly, India lags behind on these two fronts. Another very interesting information shared by her was the fact that pulses and cereals have inhibitors that hinder the absorption of essential micro-nutrients. This can be countered by the use of fermented cereals ( for example substitute rotis with breads or add yeast to the dough ) and by germinating the pulses before cooking them ( overnight soaking for example activates some of the enzymes that counter the effect of such inhibitors ). She detailed out multiple approaches that can be taken to tackle the issue of childhood malnutrition.

Taking the agenda forward, Amaan Khan, head of marketing GSK, outlined the role Horlicks has been playing in ensuring that children turn out 'Taller, Stronger and Smarter'. He pointed out the gaps in nutrition that led to children falling sick ( on an average 4 times a year and for 11 days in total ),  The insightful data also pointed out that Indian mothers end up spending upto 850 rupees a month on children's medication. A steep price if you compare the cost of preventive measures like including a dietary supplement like Horlicks ( which is incidentally available in sachets that cost Rs 6 for 18 gms ) in their everyday routine. As a part of their CSR activities, Horlicks has been active in schools throughout the country for weeding out the primary causes of malnutrition. Combining these figures with their ongoing R&D efforts, they have relaunched Horlicks in a brand new composition that now has 2X the amount of selenium and Vitamin D along with other micro nutrients that are clinically proven to support immunity.

This was followed by a panel discussion that had a team of eminent panelists taking questions from the audience. The need for a balanced diet was reiterated and meal compositions discussed to ensure that kids get enough nutrients. For example, idli by itself may not satisfy all the nutrient requirement but when combined with sambar and a vegetable chutney, it provides all the nutrients required by growing children. The importance of including fruit in one's diet was also explained to the audience.























And then, it was time for a surprise quiz which got the audience thrilled. A few questions to jog our memory and test the listening skills had us going. The winners ended up taking home some cool vouchers whereas the rest of us just had to make do with a sumptuous spread which was a mix of delicious Indian and Lebanese dishes. It was followed by some mind-blowing coffee icecream and mango cheesecake for desserts !
















The food was accompanied with more networking as we quickly exchanged URLs ,social handles and even phone numbers with a select few. Finally, it was time to say goodbyes and call it a day. A hamper was handed over to each one of us as we walked out of the hall. Like all good things, yet another eventful and relevant Indiblogger meet had come to an end.
















Even as I walked out of the venue, the thought that filled my mind was to ensure that the cause did not end with the evening. As bloggers and mothers, we carry a great responsibility on our shoulders. And we must rise to the challenge of building immunity in our children so that they can grow 'Taller, Stronger and Smarter'.







Tangerine Fantasy

Mangalore. My first posting after the initial training period was in this small but lively coastal city. One of the coolest and cleanest cities that I have visited, I found it to be one of the safest cities of women. I remember walking down home from office on late at night when I was working late and could not find buses/autos on the road. And that too without any incident. Wow, sounds amazing, doesn't it ?

But the real reason it finds a mention in this post is because the safe environment coupled with the friendly folks allowed the pub culture to thrive and flourish. Yep, this is one city that could put our metros to shame. Given the wonderful environment, we (aka the girl gang) were not scared of partying late and enjoying a drink or two. And this is where I tried the 'Vodka screwdriver' for the first time. Quite a simple drink, but one that had me hooked. Infact, it is the best way to savor vodka as which gives a characteristic slight burning as it makes its way down the throat and produces warm afterglow once it hits the stomach.

I have memories galore of the Mangalore days, including those of relishing 'Kori Rotti' and Rawa fish fry at the local eateries. At places like this ordering the food was the toughest part as we did not have the benefit of a local guide. But despite the language barrier, the smiles on our faces expressed the sheer pleasure we felt when we tasted the local cuisine. No mention of Mangalore is complete without a brief on Pabba's ice-creams. 'Gadbad' and 'Dilkush', two of the most popular ice-creams were considered epic by my teammates and friends. But my foodie imagination was captured by the yummy 'Banana split'. The memories of those magical days in turn have become a source of inspiration behind this boozy delight 'Tangerine Fantasy'.

The planning and prepping for this post coincided with the Odia/Bengali New Year. With this time of the year being marked with the exchange of sweets, the 'Komola Bhog', an orange flavored rasgulla which is a popular desserts consumed on this day, captured my imagination. I picked it up to go with my Vodka drink and added some orange/lemon jelly with candied fruits to make it stand out. That's my way of having a traditional 'Dessert with a Twist'. Yep, you guessed it right ! It is the theme for this fortnight's 'Foodventures',  a gastronomic venture by renowned Chef Vikas Khanna, and food and travel writer Vir Sanghvi who are all set to take food in a new high ( pun intended ).

Here is the recipe -

















Preparation Time - 1 hour

Ingredients -

For the 'Rasgulla'
  • 1/2 liter full cream milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp maida
  • 1 tsp semolina
  • 5-6 strands saffron

For the syrup -
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • rind of one orange

For the jelly -
  • 1 tsp powdered agaragar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp sugar ( or to taste )
  • candied orange peels ( chopped into small bits )


For the final assembly -
  • 500 ml Vodka


Preparation - Bring the milk to a boil. Add the the diluted lemon juice, stir and switch off the flame. Within 2-3 mins, the solids will separate. Strain immediately and wash under running water.

Gather into a cheese cloth and hang it for 1 hour or so. Squeeze out any remaining water but do not make it chalk dry.

Knead using your palm for 2-3 mins. Then add the semolina, maida and saffron. Knead till the fingers start turning greasy and the chenna retains its shape when squeezed into a ball.

Divide the chenna into 7-8 parts. Roll each one into a smooth and crack free ball.

Around the same time, bring the sugar , orange rind and water to a boil. Add the chenna balls to the syrup and cover with a lid. Cook on medium high.for 30 mins. Switch off the flame and very gently remove the rasgullas and add it to hot water. Let it soak for 5 mins and then transfer it back to the original sugar syrup. Allow to cool down completely.

For making the jelly, add the agar agar to the water and allow it to dissolve completely. Once done, divide into two equal parts. Add the orange juice and a bit of sugar to one portion. Stir to dissolve.

To the other portion, add the lemon juice and remaining sugar.

Pour the a layer of the orange flavored syrup into the serving glasses, sprinkle some candied orange and pop into the freezer chamber for setting it quickly. ( Keep the lemon flavored syrup from solidifying by immersing the bowl into hot water. )

Once the first layer is done, remove the glasses from the freezer. Pour the lemon jelly layer along with some more candied fruit. One can stick to candied orange peel or opt for another fruit. Pop it into the fridge to set it.

Once the layers are done, pour some chilled vodka into the glasses. Put in the rasgulla and finally top it with more vodka / orange flavored sugar syrup as per taste.


















Serve immediately.

















That was my idea of 'Desserts with a twist' . Check out these two fabulous videos which feature Vikas Khanna and Vir Sanghvi with their inimitable versions - 

Vikas's Persimmon Chili Cobbler



and Vir's Mochi Ice cream









Want to share your foodventurous recipes ?? Do it HERE.

Do not forget to drop a comment or two on the blog. I love to read them all.