Tag Archives: Food stories

Here are some stories of food traditions and modern day food habits.

Nonstop festivity at Delhi Haat Janakpuri

One of the must-visit tourist spots for all visitors to Delhi is the Dilli Haats. Visiting the Dilli Haat is like seeing the whole of India through a Kaleidoscope. You can experience authentic handicraft, handloom and food from different parts of the country exhibited in a single premise.

In 2014, a third Delhi Haat Janakpuri in West Delhi was opened sprawling over 8 acres of land.  The wide car parking and the huge basket towers with bamboo outer cover catch the attention of the passersby. There are a 100 stall, 46 of them Air Conditioned, which are a shoppers paradise. An array of colourful handicrafts, handlooms, decorative items, perfumes, ethnic ornaments and much more provide a festive look to the shops in the Haat.

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There are a number of outstanding features in Dilli Haat Janakpuri like the amphitheatre which can accommodate around 800 people and an AC hall which can hold 840 people.  “The Haat which was inaugurated in 2014 has culture activities throughout the year,” says Mr Subash, an official at the Dilli Haat Janakpuri who was busy in planning Teej Festival Celebrations to be held from Aug 15-18. He says if anyone wants to open a stall of any kind of consumer goods during such events they can contact him in his Dilli Haat Janakpuri office. There is also a musical library and museum which has a collection of all kinds of musical instruments and song collection.

During holidays and on vacation, Dilli Haat Janakpuri is a perfect hangout for families and couples with kids games, shopping arcade, food, cultural entertainment and wide area to walk around.

An Indian Cultural and Food Festival was held from Aug 7th to Aug 15 by the ITDC. The evenings during the events was a colourful and festive occasion at the haat. At the entrance of Dilli Haat Janakpuri, there were bands playing mellifluous music and you could spot participants dressed in various costumes showcasing the Indian Culture. The beautiful costumes were a feast for the camera and the participants were willing to pose for the camera, As part of the event, there were food stalls from different parts of the country.   The entry ticket is free for the event which is held from 5:00 -10:00 PM until Aug 15th.

One of the basket towers has a big hall where frequent exhibitions and shopping fests are held. In July there was a Mango fest in the spacious hall where Mango Planters from around the country exhibited hundred of varieties of Mangoes.

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On the occasion of the Teej Festival, many events were organized at Dilli Haat Janakpuri. There were many entertainments for family, especially children. And much to the joy of the women to make the This Teej festival and Independence day was truly unforgettable as there were be special stalls for Ladies items: handlooms, ornaments, perfumes, and much more. There was also a gala of events: Teej shopping, cultural food, theme exhibition, rides, kids zone, kite festival and rain dance.

As the festive season is yet to begin you can except more entertaining and creative events at the haat, providing more than a feast for the eyes and palate but also an insight into the variegated culture of India.

Maggi took a break: Now Let us have some ghar ka khana (home made food)

In the hectic lifestyle of the cities, we Aam Admi’s follow a balanced diet – consuming almost equal amount of nutritious food as well as junk food everyday. Everyone knows that junk food and fast food are injurious to health, but due to time constrains we decide that having something – junk or unhealthy – is better than having nothing. At home preparing healthy food, or ghar ka khana, regularly can be stressful so if woman are given a helping hand they can prepare healthy food. It is said that Joseph Maggi invented maggi so that working women can prepare healthy healthy food easily for their kids.

In their busy schedule parent usually prepare lunch box consisting of bread and jam or cooked instant noodles. The lunch box recipes makes no one happy. Neither the children are happy with the  cold snack, nor the parents are happy with the nutritious value of the food packed in the lunch box. If the children are inculcated with the habit of eating home-made food, they never give up that habit. With some quick trick, and 20 minutes to spare, parents can prepare healthy and homely lunch box recipe for kids. Here are a few lunch box recipes, that will bring smile on the face of parent and children.

Tip: To make the cooking easier and happier, both the parents should lend each other a helping hand in preparing the lunchbox. Here are a few recipes to be make the lunchbox of kids tastier, healthier and happier. To know more about lunchbox home delivery system read this post.
  1. Potato tricks: A lunch box recipe that every child will like to pack to school. Boil potato overnight; and in the morning add some spices to make it tastier. Use the potato base as stuffing for roti and sandwich. Add some tomato sauce, kids will love the combination.
  2. Cottage cheese magic: A lunch box recipe with lot of calcium. Crumble the cottage cheese and add spices as per choice. You can also add chopped tomatoes, onion and capsicum. Use the base as stuffing for sandwich and paneer parantha. Or else, cut the paneer into 1”inch cubes; cook the paneer using paneer butter masala. Instant butter panner mix requires less cooking time.
  3. Egg unlimited: Kids love eggs; and its easy to prepare, tasty and nutritious egg snacks. Sandwich or roti rolls can be made by stuffing boiled and crumbled egg; scrambled egg or omelet. Whip an egg and pour it over the roti in the pan, flip the roti over two or three times, until the egg is cooked well – Egg Parantha is ready!
  4. Minced Chicken: Any dish with a hint of chicken in it, is inviting. Minced chicken can be converted into limitless number of dishes. On a busy morning you can go for a minced chicken stuffed sandwich or roti. Or, if time permits, refrigerate, boiled and drained, noodles overnight; in the morning mix it with shallow fried minced chicken and other ingredient to make chicken chow mein.
  5. Vegetables Cutlets: A play-way method lunch box recipe that will inculcate the habit of eating vegetables. At leisure prepare and refrigerate ready-to-fry vegetable cutlets. In the morning fry the cutlets and place it between bread slice along with cucumber and tomato slices. The vegetables can be sliced  and kept beforeitself.

The entire cooking process will take only 15 to 20 minutes. The cooking process is made simple if the dough for roti is prepared and stored overnight.To cook faster utilize all kinds of kitchen gadgets.
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Ancy Abraham

Where does lead in food come from?

Our body does not require lead, an element found in nature, but because of the presence of lead in many consumer products, and manufacturing process, we get exposed to lead. We have some amount of lead in our body which is not dangerous as long as  it is within permissible limits. The problem with lead is it does not get out as easily from the body, as it gets inside the body. Hence when the lead accumulates in the blood over a period of time it can lead to health issues – damaging the nervous system, causing brain disorders, repeated anemia, a low IQ level, headache, affecting the immune system, impaired fertility, and hypertension. It accumulates in both soft tissues and the bones. The US considers ‘lead’ the number one environmental threat to the health of children.

For the last few month I was trying to convey the above message to the Consumers in India, but with little effect. Along with students of Delhi University, I did a research for Consumers India about Lead Hazards in India. The findings were alarming as lead was found in food, household items, paints, soil and air. Getting the message across to the consumers was difficult because they think there are bigger health hazards in the polluted environs of the city.  We were searching for new methods to educate the public – Seminars in schools, huge billboards in hospitals and messages through media. If there is a suitable substitute for lead then it can be eliminated. Lead Petrol was removed in India after protests from activists and NGOs’.

Thanks to the controversy regarding Lead in Maggi, Consumers are all ears to know about the hazards of Lead. Developed countries have a measurement to find out if a person is within the permissible limit of lead or they need to take medical help. A child in the US is said to be exposed to lead if the Blood lead level is between 4 and 10 mcg/dl(Micrograms Per Decilitre) and precaution are sought from the authorities to find out the source of exposure and precautions to be taken. And if the child has blood lead level of more than 10 mcg they have to undergo  medical treatment.

There are numerous sources of lead exposures – lead batteries, lead paints, pottery with lead paints, newspaper prints, the prints on plastic cover, soil, vegetables that are grown in soil with high concentration of lead, water with lead and air.  We are exposed to lead in all our daily activities and if we check our blood lead level, we might be diagnosed as victims of lead exposure. In our research we found vegetables like spinach contains lead and they are not removed even by thorough washing. Lead is also there in jellies, ice creams and tinned food, as the soldering is of lead.

Food items FDA (The US) checked for high lead c

The United States FDA has stated a number of products that may contain lead more that the permissible level.

  • In 2004, United States Consumer Product Safety Commission found that Candies contained unsafe amount of lead from the wrappers.
  • In 2002, FDA found that Milk Chocolate contained more than permissible limit of lead, which was because of the chocolate liquor used in it. The manufacturers were asked to take precaution while taking raw materials. However the level of lead was found to be high in Dark Chocolates as they contain higher amount of liquor chocolate.
  • FDA also found  lead in candy but within permissible limits. Candies contain sugar (lead in sucrose) which contains ‘average levels of contaminants that are well below the applicable limit’.
  • Mexican candies with chilli as ingredient had detectable level of lead because of the soil they were grown.
  • Candies with tamarind as ingredient was found to have lead because the products were packed in lead glazed bowls.

Where does lead in food come from in Maggi?

In our research we never found any case with noodles having lead. So I asked Vinay Kumar C, Environmental Researcher, National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India, about the possible routes of lead exposure in Maggi, and following are his assumptions:

1. Masala ( Taste Makers): The success of Maggi is in it’s unique taste of added masala packet which comes with it, prepared exclusively comprising various ingredients. Lead may be entered in any of the raw materials procured – research have indicated that Lead Chromate are usually found in healthy haldi ( turmeric ) and mixed species as common adulteration.

Read also: Serve global brands in India with desi tadka – An anecdote on how Maggi made inroads in India 30 years ago.

 2. Water: Even the water employed during the whole process of Maggi preparation may be contaminated with Lead/ toxic chemicals due to the sub-standard/old metal piping in the various manufacturing units. The possible contamination may also be in its source.  Ex : ground water, tankers from unknown source.
3.Packing: The plastic employed to packing Maggi products need to be tested and certified as various plastic (bright solid-coloured plastic packing bags/covers) may contain high concentrations of lead as per the studies & test results  of Northeast Recycling Council,US.
4.Production Machinery:  The old paints on the machinery or the oil agents( containing lead content) used for running the equipment may have come in contact with production.

In an interview to Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Uday Annapure, an associate professor of the department of food engineering and technology at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, said that while none of the many food additives used in making the wheat noodles support lead, some components of the soup-flavoring packet, such as onion powder and wheat flour, “come from agricultural sources, all vulnerable to lead contamination,” (Source WSJ)

During the course of the research I asked an eminent person about who could be given the credit for the elimination of lead from petrol in India. He said in this big country, India, a single person or an organisation cannot bring about a change. I beg to differ from his argument in this case of spreading awareness about lead hazards. Had lead not been detected in Maggi, no one would have bothered to read this article. Maggi did in 2-minutes what Lead activists could not do for decades – spread awareness about lead exposure among consumers in India.

 Also Read:Lead poisoning: How safe are you?

                          Lead hazard in India!!!

Lead in Food

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5 summer drink recipes to beat the heat

On scorching summer afternoons, you see parents giving chilled juice bottles to kids as soon as they alight from the School bus. Only few kids are lucky enough to get such minute parental attention as in most homes both parents are working. After School kids come home and serve the food themselves with the result most kids do not eat and drink on time. Drinking a lot of water in very important in the summer season, but due to tiredness and laziness kids will avoid drinking water.

Many kids suffer from stomachaches and they sometimes faint in the classrooms in summer. There is a general feeling of lethargy and sickness which may be the sign of not taking a lot of water to stay hydrated. A medical professional once told me to take a lot of seasonal fruits during the summer like watermelon, pomegranate and strawberry. Kids do not eat fruits unless given forcefully and parents do not have the time to persuade them. The healthiest and the easiest way to make the kids intake the fruits is to prepare juice and refrigerate them.  When the kids return from school the first thing they will do is to open the refrigerator and have some cool homemade, refreshing summer drinks.

It is not true that kids do not like homemade food.  Parents who cook regularly at home say their kids like homemade food. (Tip: understand your kids taste bud and cook accordingly.) The 5 summer drinks mentioned here are not as sweet and yummy as the packaged drinks, and you won’t find them on menu cards, but once the kids develop a taste for these drinks they will drink it without any compulsion.

The summer drinks mentioned here are for people of all age groups and you can easily prepare them using ingredients that are regularly used at homes. Unlike the aerated, sugary, soda drinks, that just quenches the thirst these healthy summer drinks option also provide necessary vitamins to resist heat and diseases.

Healthy summer drink recipes, easy to prepare and refrigerate. Kids rehydrating drink after school - Juices of Aam Panna, Bael phal , Nellikai arishtam...
Aam Panna – Raw mango juice, a refreshing summer drink

Raw Mango Juice (Aam Panna)

As a child, the only time I loved having aam panna was while travelling by train during summer vacations. My Mother carries the aam panna pulp in a small container and sugar in another. We, siblings, make friend with other kids while travelling together for two days. Mother prepares the juice and serves to all the kids. Aam panna in those moments were rejuvenating, soothing and enjoyable like never before.

Ingredients

Raw Mango – 1 Medium Size

Sugar/jaggery- As required

Cumin Seed – 1/4 tsp

Water – 2 cup

Method of preparation

Steam the mango in a pressure cooker/ steamer. Remove the peel on cooling and extract the pulp. Add the cumin seeds, sugar and two cups of water. Stir well. Pass the concoction through a strainer to remove the pulp. You will get a translucent juice.

Health Benefits

Resists heat; provides Vitamin C and anti-oxidants; prevents Dehydration, diarrhoea, Indigestion and Constipation; an effective solution for Diabetes; checks Anemia and Improves digestion.

Healthy summer drink recipes, easy to prepare and refrigerate. Kids rehydrating drink after school - Juices of Aam Panna, Bael phal , Nellikai arishtam...
Gooseberry extract (Nellikai Arishtam) – a summer drink to resist heat stroke

Gooseberry Extract (Nellikai Aristam)

Gooseberry has many medicinal properties hence the extract is known as aristam (medicinal wine). Gooseberry is prepared with jaggery so as to keep the percentage of alcohol low. Mother used to prepare Gooseberry liquor at home which is similar to the process of wine making except that yeast and sugar is not used. Gooseberry extract is the best resistance against heat and resists many diseases. In Ayurveda gooseberry is an essential ingredient for hair products due to its cooling effect.

Ingredients

Gooseberry – 1 Kg
Jaggery – 1 Kg
Cloves and Cardamom – Powdered

Method of preparation

Select fresh gooseberries, wash and dry them. Make small holes on the gooseberries with a fork. In a porcelain jar, place one layer of gooseberries followed by a layer of powdered jaggery. Finally, add the cinnamon and clove on top. Close the lid tightly, cover the lid with a cloth and keep it undisturbed for 2 months.  By now the Juice is extracted. Squeeze and strain the juice and store it for more than a year in a cool, dry place. For kids, a spoon full of gooseberry extract diluted with water is highly refreshing for the whole body.

Health benefits

Gooseberry extract is rejuvenating and it is used as a remedy for jaundice, dyspepsia and cough.

Healthy summer drink recipes, easy to prepare and refrigerate. Kids rehydrating drink after school - Juices of Aam Panna, Bael phal , Nellikai arishtam...
Bael (Stonne Apple) Juice – A traditional Indian summer drink to beat the heat

 

Stone apple (Bael) Juice

There was a bael tree in front of the temple near my home. In those days Bael was common, large fruits hang on the tree like Christmas hangings. When the fruit falls, the hard shell breaks and the yellow pulpy fruit inside is visible. Some passerby will take the fruit and have it. I did not know the value of the fruit until coming to Delhi, where you have to buy the fruit and juice. In the villages in North India Bael (Stone apple) is a holy fruit and the fruit juice is considered as an excellent heat resistor.

Ingredients
Bael / Wood Apple – 2 medium size
Jaggery – 2 tbsp
Salt –  A pinch
Cumin Seed – 1 tsp
Water – 2 glasses

Method of preparation

Split the fruit using a pestle, and scoop the pulp. In a bowl, mash the pulp so as to soften the pulp and separate the seeds. Now add a glass of water and pass the juice through a strainer. If required add more water and press the pulp so that the juice is separated and only the fibre remains in the strainer. Add the rest of the ingredients – jaggery, salt and cumin seed to the juice. Blend it in a mixer and serve it.

 Health benefits

The ripe fruit keeps the body and mind cool, cures acidity also. It helps to improve the digestive system and controls diabetes.

Healthy summer drink recipes, easy to prepare and refrigerate. Kids rehydrating drink after school - Juices of Aam Panna, Bael phal , Nellikai arishtam...
Watermelon Crush – A summer drink which requires no water to be added

Watermelon Crush

Watermelon is sweet and watery so there is no need to add water. We can add some flavours to make the juice tastier and healthier.

Ingredients

Watermelon – 1 medium size

Sugar – 2 tbsp.

Mint leaf – 3 to 4 Nos.

Lemon juice – 2 tbsp.

Method of Preparation

Peel the watermelon and remove the seeds. Blend the chunks in a blender for a minute. Now add the sugar, mint leaf and lemon juice. Blend it again. Pour it directly into a serving glass and cover with a plastic sheet before refrigerating.

Health benefits

Watermelon consist of 90% water, hence the juice helps to stay hydrated and prevents heat stroke. The fibre in the fruit helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract. According to some studies, a glass of watermelon juice before an intense workout helps to reduce muscle soreness.

Healthy summer drink recipes, easy to prepare and refrigerate. Kids rehydrating drink after school - Juices of Aam Panna, Bael phal , Nellikai arishtam...
Lemon Juice – Easiest and most common healthy summer drink

Lemon Juice

When you want to have some chilled summer drink, the first option that comes to mind is the soda lemon juice. Many small juice sellers become famous due to the twist they provide in the lemon drink. In my hometown, a juice seller got customer queuing up because of his famous lemon juice with ginger extract. Multifarious tweaks can be added to the lemon juice, here is the simple recipe that I prepare almost every day:

Ingredients

Lemon: 1/4 Cup

Sugar: 1/2 Cup

Water: 1 Cup

Salt: 1/4 tsp

Method of preparation

Mix the Lemon juice with sugar, salt and water and keep it in the refrigerator. Lemon juice will remain fresh for two to three days.

Health Benefits

Lemon juice helps you to stay calm and cool. It helps to improve the immune system, cleans the stomach and purifies the blood. Lemon is also useful in treating arthritis, rheumatism, obesity, constipation and dental problems.

Three Generations of Christmas Cakes

A month of joy and merriment is coming to an end  with the New Year celebrations tonight.  A feeling of nostalgia struck me when I thought about making a new year resolution. Every year we make a resolution to bring a change in ourselves that will last for a few weeks and then we are back to the old ways.  On flipping the pages from memory I noticed that changing lifestyle has given a new twist to the Christmas celebrations. Read how to prepare nutritious and healthy honey-oat bread.

Plum Cake
A friend’s Christmas Plum Cake

The arrival of Christmas season is heralded when people busily go shopping for nuts and fruits to be soaked in wine for atleast three weeks in advance before the preparation of the plum cakes.  Few days before Christmas, people go to bakeries with all the ingredients and patiently watch as the batter is mixed and baked in the industrial oven.  Normally every family bake fifty to sixty cakes and wrap with colorful papers to distribute to friends, neighbors, clients, colleagues and helpers. Friends reminds in advance about their share of Christmas cake.

How plum cake became the symbol of Christmas, like Santa Claus, I am sure. But every year, for the last few years during Christmas season, people consider it a ritual to bake plum cakes and, wear Santa caps and masks.

Plain Christmas Cake
Mother’s plain Christmas Cake

Two decade back my mother used to bake the cake at home. And the recipe was quite simple. Equal amount of all purpose flour, butter, sugar, eggs and a few nuts.  Cake was one of the few snacks that mother prepared for Christmas along with Rose cookies, doughnuts, murukku,…..  On Christmas days mummy packed all the delicacies in colourful boxes and we kids distributed the gifts to our neighbors and friends. Somehow all my childhood friends remember only the Christmas cakes.

Christmas Appam
Appam, Granny’s version of Christmas Cake

My mother who made tasty cakes, never made cakes at home during her childhood Christmas. During her childhood the main Christmas delicacy was the appam (kallappam) a flat bread made of rice flour, ground coconut; and yeast (or toddy) for fermenting. Days before Christmas grandma reminded the coconut tree climber for some fresh toddy (yeast was not common in those day). She then soaked the raw rice, drained it. Family members and servants took turn to powder the rice with a mortar and pestle. During the Christmas season all the children and grand children  The coconut is grated and ground and mixed with rice powder and toddy to make a smooth bath. It is left to ferment overnight. On Christmas day the batter is poured on hot tawa to prepare nice round rice cake. The appam was distributed with chicken curry to the neighbours and helpers family. Many guests come home to have appam and curry. All the children and grand children will gather at the ancestral home for Christmas.

Customs have changed in the last four decades. Tough we never took a new year resolution to change the style to celebrating Christmas, we have added many elements to the celebrations. We use yeast instead of toddy for appam. Wine is  used in cakes. We distribute cakes instead of Greeting cards. Instead of inviting relatives home, we go out to celebrate Christmas.  But the spirit of sharing during Christmas is still alive.

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Food Fest Delhi confirms Delhiites love Good Food

If we make a comparison of what the Delhiites love more: food or Music; then Delhi can be officially declared as the city of foodies after 50,000 Delhiites turned up for the Food Festival Delhi in Nehru Park. ‘Palate Fest’ was held at the same venue a week after the ‘World Percussion Festival’, around 10,000 viewers came on the three days music fest. While announcement for the percussion fest was made with much fanfare, many days before the festival; there was only one news report of the food fest, in Times of India, on the second on the day of the event. Read about the unusual calmness on during morning walk, the day after diwali. 

I went late in the evening on the second day of the food fest, and the mood was completely different. Previous week the park was filled with music lovers, men with ponytail, bandanas, beads and earrings; women in gowns and western wear entranced in the scintillating performance by world-class percussionists.

Genuinely Gourmets

This week the park was filled with well-heeled, well-traveled Delhiites who were well aware of the cuisines and wines in a different part of the world. The park was systematically divided into various zones like the green zone (vegetarian food) and the red zone (nonvegetarian), and there was a corner for creative food items. That the visitors were true food lovers was obvious because no one worried about the calorie count; more queue was found in front of heavy calorie food in the Red Alert Zone.

By the time I reached I could hear the same reply from the stalls, which first sounded like marketing gimmick -“over”, “Khatam”, “khalas”, “Our most sought after item is over”. However, someone, all the way, from Turkey would not say “the grilled lamp over” just to advertise his product when over 100 customers still lined up in the queue.

Oriental Cuisines
At the Habibi Lebanese Restaurant; the Lebanese chefs, the Arabic ambiance and the ‘hummus’ made one feel like you are in the Gulf countries.
The endless queue in front of the Turkish stall, displaying juicy meat slowly grilled on a skewer with the enticing smell, proved every gourmet desired to taste the authentic food, made by the originators. Gulf expatriates say shawarma is not marinated and grilled properly in India, so I paid four times more than in the roadside stalls to experience the authentic Shewarma, and the taste was awesome!

‘The Toddy Shop’ which served authentic Kerala cuisine was the only Indian cuisine stall I could locate. Again here, there was a long line of customers waiting to have a taste of Kerala food.

Creative Delights
Some creative gastronomy endeavors like the sweet and savory waffle recipes got a huge fan following. By the time, I reached most of the best of waffle combinations were over.

Bakes on there’s (pushcart)
Cakes and bakes of entrepreneurs (mostly women) from in and around Delhi gave a tough competition to the aroma of the grilled and steamed food that filled the air, . The beautifully iced cakes and colorfully wrapped chocolates on decorated ‘thela’ (vegetable pushcart) was a feast to the eye. Cakes and bakes usually is a home-based business with a loyal customer who vouch by the taste, uniqueness and presentation of the products. One bakers brownies gained so much popularity that people were desperately asking for the delicacy. But the brownies were over in an hour so customers were asked to return the next day.

The Food Fest concluded on a high note with the encore more stalls; more cuisines next time. The Food Fest Delhi was a huge success, and the people were ready to shell out any amount of money for tasty and unique food; unlike the music fest where there was no need to spend money. I returned with a new resolution that I am going to buy a ‘waffles maker’ at the earliest.

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Westerners love spicy Indian food

 

DSC04602

While strolling through the park, I chatted with two beautiful visitors to India, Mohan and Indu from US and UK. They are here for spiritual pursuit.  While we chatted, daily visitors to the park were religiously following their routine like walking, jogging and yoga. We talked for a while about lifestyle in the two parts of the world and about their views about India. Find out why some fans recommended Neymar to opt ayurveda for his back injury.

What do you like about India?

Indu: I like the plentiful variety of sweets available in India. As soon as you enter a sweet shop you are awed by the collection of sweets like Gulab Jamun, and other colorful delicacies. All the ‘sabjis’ (vegetable dishes) here are tasty, and they are not spicy indian food like some people say.

Mohan: Back home I cook Indian food. For instance, I will add lime to milk and curdle the milk, and then squeeze the water out of the curd and prepare with masalas.

You mean Paneer Masala?

Mohan: Yes!

Is it comfortable to be a vegetarian in The US?

Vegetables are costlier than non-vegetarian food items, so being a vegetarian is tough. While shopping for vegetables, you have to read carefully all the labels to make sure there is no animal product.

 Do you walk and exercise?

Mohan: Yes, I walk and exercise back home, but here I do not as I wear this tradition Dhoti and chappal.

Aren’t the American’s more health conscious?

Mohan: They may be more health conscious, but there are many obese people in The US than in India because people eat many burgers and grilled chicken. There are many food shops in The US, so people have food all the time.

How do people manage waste food in The US?

Mohan: There is a food collection system.  One can call the food collectors who will come and collect the extra food, store them, and distribute the food to the poor countries.

The conversation with the two visitors to India gave some ‘food for thought’:

Obesity is on the rise in India

In India, the present teenage generation eat many burgers, pizzas and grilled chicken. When these kids are in their twenties in a decade’s time, will we be also saying, “India has many obese people because of unhealthy eating habits”?

Once, a consumer organization conducted a survey in a school. They kept on one table healthy food as roti’s, sabji, puri, cholae, panner etc. and on the other table junk food like potato chips, instant noodles, pizzas, etc. The children were asked to take whatever food they liked. They went and picked the junk food. According to this study kids daily diet largely consist of junk food.

Buying international brands of  grilled chickens, burgers, and pizza is a luxury in India that a lot of the middle class cannot afford on a daily basis. However, if the day comes when the KFC’s, Macdonald’s and Dominos are cheaper than the samosas and Chola Bhatura’s then middle class will have more burgers than homemade food.

Ask Yourself:

If a shop offers a Veg Samosa for Rs 20 and a Mac Donalds Chicken Burger (normal size) for Rs 10 what will you buy:

  • 2 Samosas
  • 1 Burger

India urgently needs Waste Food Management System:

India culture cannot predict the number of guests who will come for a party, with the result of large food wastage at the end of the day.  A large amount of “curries” are dumped on the road. Usually, people distribute the food among the poor or take the food to some orphanages. However, there are some difficulties:

  • The food spoils as it is prepared many hours in advance.
  • Orphanage inmates need healthy and nutritious food, but the food prepared for parties may be rich in taste and appearance but not exactly healthy.
  • People give leftover food to birds and animals in the park. Animals and birds are not used to having cooked food so the food decays in the park emanating putrid smell.

Therefore, we urgently need an emergency number to call to give away the leftover food. Friends if you have any other solution, please discuss.

My initiative to manage leftover food:

After having food at my home, many people request for the recipe of food I prepared. I wish to utilize my culinary expertise in a different way.  I will make a habit to write one recipe or tip a day, not about exotic recipes but, about how to utilize the leftover food. When I discussed waste food issue with a friend, she said we can make a cake with the sour milk. I will blog the recipe for sour milk cake in a shot while, meanwhile find out how you will manage the waste food and comment in this article.

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Honey Oat Bread

honey oat bread

“Miriam reminds Paul that he is supposed to be watching the bread. He has burned one of the loaves, ……. he walks her home. When he returns, his mother and sister are waiting for him and they have found the burnt loaf of bread.” Read about 7 substitutes that can be used instead of onion in recipes.

In India, where cakes and bread is viewed as  a western delicacy that can be accomplished perfectly only by professionals or Christians, the above line from the famous English Novel ‘Sons and Lovers’ enlightened me that breads can be baked even by a young boy when mother goes out for shopping.

However, I never thought that one day I will break a bread at home in India. I have a fully equipped kitchen with all kinds of gadgets and ingredients for Kerala, Tamilian, Punjabi and Chinese Dishes. And of course I got a small old-fashioned electric oven which is used once in a year to bake Christmas Cakes.

Since I do not trust any processed or packed meals,  I do all the cooking at home from the Scratch.  ‘Ancy’s kitchen’ is always active dishing out breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. Bread was strictly prohibited in the house as it is made of refined flour. Of late, due to time constrain,  I included brown bread for breakfasts and snacks and began researching for substituting bread with a homemade dish. After doing some google search I found recipe for a simple bread, using which I baked a bread without sweating or spending much time, and the kids also approved with the new dish.

Being encouraged by the positive outcome of the first experiment, I decided to try out a healthier version using some other cereals and that is when I chanced upon Maria’s eggless honey oat bread. Believe me the recipe has come out really beautiful, it was tasty, soft, nutritious, and presentable.  I verbatim followed Marias instruction which is as follows:

honey oat bread

Recipe by: Maria Jose Martin
Serves: 4-5
Ingredients
  • All-purpose flour (maida) – 3 cups (381 grams)
  • Oats – ¾ cups (I have used instant and old fashioned, both work great)
  • Instant yeast – 2¼ tspn
  • Salt – 1½ tspn
  • Milk – 1 cup (250 ml) (almond or soy milk for vegan/dairy free)
  • Lukewarm water – ¼ cup (62 ml)
  • Unsalted butter or margarine – 2 tablespoons (28 grams)
  • Honey (agave for vegan) – ¼ cup
  • Honey (or agave), warmed – 1½ to 2 tbspn
  • Oats – 1½ to 2 tbspn
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, oats, yeast, and salt.
  2. In a small bowl, or two cup (450 ml) measuring cup, warm the milk so that it’s hot enough to melt the butter, but not boiling. Add the butter, stirring until melted, then stir in the water and honey.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, mixing with a dough hook until it just comes together to form a dough. Knead in the mixer, with the dough hook attachment, for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic (if you’re making this recipe by hand, the dough will be very sticky at first; flour your hands and work surface generously and be patient). If the dough is still very wet and sticky after 5 minutes of kneading, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is barely tacky. If the dough is too dry, add water, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) at a time, to soften it up.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled, about ½ to 1 hour.
  5. Once doubled, place the dough on a clean, dry work surface. If the dough is too sticky, lightly flour the surface before continuing. With your fingers, flatten the dough into a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Tightly roll the dough, tucking the ends as needed, into a loaf. Place the shaped dough into a 9×5-inch loaf pan, cover with a clean dry towel, and allow to rise until doubled, about ½ to 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C). Place an empty loaf pan on the bottom rack of the oven and bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
  7. When the loaf is doubled again, brush the top with the warmed honey and sprinkle with the oats.
  8. Place the bread in the oven and pour the boiling water into the empty loaf pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the bread is deep golden brown and the internal temperature is about 190 degrees.
  9. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving. 

Note:

  • I used lesser quantity of water and milk. Expert chefs say that the usage of liquid for the knead varies form place to place depending on the climatic condition .
  • Knead the dough thoroughly until it is really soft.
  • Give enough time for the dough to rise and also for the dough to bake till golden brown.

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Vertical Farming for Fresh Vegtables

Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health and microbiology once challenged his student to feed 50,000 manhattans with the farming on 15 acres of roof top gardening. After much of intelligent calculation, the student concluded that they couldn’t feed more than 2,500. The professor suggested them, “why not cultivate indoors, vertically?” The idea got instant response and from then on the theory, has been taken up by many journals and other professionals. Find out the strategies used by foreign brands to woo Indian consumers
 
Vertical farming techniques are quite familiar as we are now aware of the cultivation of tomatoes in hot houses. vertical farming building will be a high-tech building with fully automated systems for watering the farms, providing the lights etc. The existing successfully used technologies like drip irrigation, aeroponics and hydroponics can provide the basis for the vertical farming.
 
vertical farming
The Oasis Tower for Zabeel Park, Dubai is an answer to the rise in population and the dearth in the amount of land available for farming. The tower would provide a solution for urban farming and sustainable housing and may be able to provide food enough to feed 40,000 people each year. For more pictures of vertical farming world over visit the site:  http://www3.jjc.edu/ftp/wdc12/jjurkiewicz/vfconceptualdesign.html
Vertical farming provides a solution for some of the prevailing concerns like pollutions from the traditional farming methods; high cost of food, and doing harm to the nature. Since the farming is done inside a closed environment, there is little threat of pesticides, and, therefore, no pesticides are required. And the food that is produced in the city itself can be availed at cheaper rates, by the city dwellers. Presently in US, it is said that fast and unhealthy food are available at cheap rates, whereby increasing risks of obesity, heart diseases and diabetes.  
 
By the mid of this century, it is predicted that the world population will increase by 3 billion, and 80% of the population will be residing in cities, therefore, farming land area as huge as Brazil will be required to feed the world.  The present availability of land is insufficient, which can lead to an impending food crisis in future.  As the famous American humorist Mark Twain says, “Buy land. They’re not making it any more.”  Despommier estimates that a 30 storey block on a square block of land in a city is sufficient to feed 50,000, and he says that we have the technology to start a farm.
 
Over a period on 10,000 years, man has learned and invented new method of farming, which helps in cultivating high yields of crops and vegetables, on large stretch of horizontal farms. There are many drawbacks in importing or transporting vegetable from farms – many years of farming makes the soil infertile; the yield depends highly on natural elements like sunlight and rain fall, and high expense is incurred for transporting the fresh vegetables to cities. 
 
Though there are some concerns regarding the feasibility of vertical farming, and allegations that the advantages are exaggerated, there is more to gains from developing vertical farming.
 

Ancy Abraham

Seven Onion Substitute For Everyday Cooking

onion substitute

When onions are too costly or unavailable, life comes to a standstill. Onion is the basic ingredient for most of the Indian dishes. An Indian women staying in Africa, who cooks delicious Indian recipes, said that half of the ingredients will not be  locally available so she uses substitutes. Her recipes are as good as the original. If half of the ingredients does not reduce the taste of a recipe, can’t onion substitute be used.

Onion is used mainly for gravy or sliced raw and used in salad. For the latter case, during the costly season, one must refrain from having onion. In Delhi restaurants onion slices are served along with every Indian Dish. As the price goes high the number of onion slices goes down; when too pricey, radish slices is used as onion substitute. (During the last price rise, onions and apples were Rs 80 and Rs 40 respectively). Saturated fat is good for health says a new study, read this post to find more.

Onion is required in large quantity to get a thick gravy, so judicious housewives develop unadulterated techniques to thicken the gravy. For instance saute the onion slices till golden brown, add some tomatoes to it, cook for some time and then grind the mix to a paste. This tomato-onion paste makes a thicker and tastier gravy than plain sauteed onions.

onion substitute

What if there is no onion in the house! Some budget conscious husbands say “no more onions, till the prices get normal, cook without onion”. The wife has to cook tasty food with some kind of onion substitute. Here are a few onion substitute that can thicken the gravy and provide richer taste to the commonly cooked dishes like mixed vegetable curry, aloo-gobi, channa masala, butter paneer and so on.

  • Coconut: Grate the coconut, grind to a paste and add to the sauteed ingredients for the alloo-mutter curry. The vegetables should be boiled separately. After adding the coconut paste the dish should be cooked only on low flame as the gravy should not boil.
  • Coconut milk: Grind the coconut without water, use a strainer to squeeze the first milk; keep the milk aside. Again grind the coconut with some water, squeeze the second milk and keep it aside. Again add some water, grind and squeeze the third milk. After all the masala is sauted and vegetables are added, cook the vegetable in third milk. When the vegetable is cooked add the second milk, cook on low flame for few minutes. Add the first milk and remove from stove as soon as the milk is warm. (Coconut milk powder is also available in the market).
  • Poppy Seed:  Khus-khus is costly, only a spoonful is required for regular cooking. Grate khus kush to a paste with ginger, garlic and chilly. Saute the paste with other ingredients like chili powder, coriander powder and garam masala. Add the vegetables with water and cook for some time. (N.b. Poppy seed is banned in countries like UAE and some Arab countries.)
  • Milk cream: During the days of crisis make the cream at home, why buy the costly creams. When the milk comes to boil, reduce the flame and stir for a while. Remove from stove and refrigerate for a while. You get a thick upper layer of cream. Remove and use in curries. (Milk separators are also available in the market)
  • Corn flour: After cooking the vegetable with the masalas, add a spoonful of corn flour mixed with water. You get a thick gravy.
  • Cashew nuts:  Some shops sell minutely broken cashew nuts at rock bottom prices. Grind the cashews with other ingredients and saute for a while; mix with the vegetables and masalas and cook.
  • Coriander powder: The more coriander powder you add, the thicker the gravy. Coriander has antioxidants and dietary fibres, so they are beneficial for health. If fennel or cumin seed is added while grinding the coriander powder, the dishes will get better flavour.

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