The Stuffed Moppet 

Namaskaaram! A warm and sticky welcome from God’s own country-Kerela. An encounter with a doctor at a recent check up had me take notice of what exactly I was fuelling my system with. A whole representation of eating habits, which I’ve mustered along the way, my drastic weight loss due to troubles plaguing the mind and soul initially, a culmination of all of these had me realize over a period of a decade the amount of misguided abuse, I had let my body suffer at my own hands. We all look out for that twelfth hour of immortality when pitted against a wall. Not at the risk of sounding like the harbinger of doom and despair, but its always great to have a reality check every once in a while.

 We really are what we eat. Travel took me far down south; it’s always a pleasure walking into the kitchens of Maggie Q, a Brit living here since 1994 can aptly be described as ‘spontaneous combustion’. Warm, caring, razor sharp wit, unapologetic and carefree would be the best way to describe her. A practitioner of Ayurveda mastering the ancient scrolls in existence since 900 B.C, she is happy to share. Slightly perturbed about my said given condition, I’ve been codenamed ‘Moppet’, a small endearingly sweet child. She aptly describes my current condition as somewhere in between a lopsided Dwarf and a Tooth Fairy. A detox and body prolife was in order not to mention a jolly good ol’ stuffing. Now I know what is running through that mind of yours, however focusing on power health foods ‘stuffed’ with the right healing herbs and spices is what was what the doctor prescribed.

 Stuffed Yellow Chillies- 350 grams of yellow chillies approx. 2 inches, ½ up roasted and grounded peanuts, ½ cup roasted and ground sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut, 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, ¼ cup water, 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ turmeric. Wash and dry the chillies, cut one side of each length wise making a pocket. Scrape out the seeds for a milder dish. Blend the ground peanuts and sesame seeds with the coconut, cilantro and water into a low thick paste. Stuff the chillies with said paste. On a heated pan add oil followed by mustard seeds, cumin seeds, salt and turmeric. Sautee on a medium flame till the seeds pop. Add the stuffed chillies to the pan on medium heat. Gently and frequently turn the chillies on all sides until the skin is evenly brown and chillies are tender. Served hot! Keep in mind, this is a hot and pungent dish, sharp, penetrating and a stimulant. This forms a great digestive apart from being a very scrumptious dish.

While the first dish invigorates and targets certain organs closer to the digestive system the second is the counter balancing effect to a stuffed meal. Light, scrumptious, highly fibrous and a great balancer to the fiery chillies is the ladyfinger.

Stuffed Okra (Ladyfinger) – 350 grams of fresh okra, ½ cup ground roasted sesame seeds, ½ cup ground roasted peanuts, 2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon masala powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro leaves, 1 tablespoon chickpea flour, ¼ cup water, 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ½ cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

Wash, dry and cut of the ends of the Okra. Pocket the same as done with the yellow chillies earlier, Make a mixture of the sesame seeds, peanuts, coconut, turmeric, masala powder, cilantro, salt, chickpea flour, and water into a paste for the filling. Heat the frying pan to medium and add oil, cumin and mustard seeds. Cook till the seeds pop and add the okra and turn for 10-15 minutes till brown and crispy. This forms a great laxative apart from other beneficial healing properties to ones digestive system. Serve with chapati’s (Indian bread)

Stuffed out, the rejuvenation process has begun. 

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Holi Jam 

 

Holi Hai; It is such a vibrant feeling when there is a mix of colour and celebration right in the midst of Lent. A blend of religion and beliefs between different faiths is something to marvel at in a country as diverse as ours. Hope you all had a fun filled wonderful celebration. While Lent has come to be known as more of a ‘detox’ to abstain from sweets by abstaining from the same as something given up in penance, not that I believe that food is the answer, (rather more a societal adherence these days), my first reality check with this deadly substance happened a few years ago when my sugar levels were alarmingly high.

 We, in Goa, love our sweet. Lets face it. Goa poses a high number of diabetic cases due to either hereditary or lifestyle choices and no one is safe from this deadly condition. With many family members and loved ones battling this, I am susceptible to it myself. However, I was given my warning bells that tolled a lot earlier to take drastic steps in regards to monitoring the same. Prevention and observation is the only way one can keep a check. My blood sugar count every month, periodic blood tests every 6 months and trying to maintain a stress free lifestyle by eating healthy are some of the remedies undertaken. It’s a tall order but something’s got to give, right?

 Speaking of which, my routine breakfast habit has a high calorie impact, where I normally splurge on a sweet product. Raw Honey has substituted processed sugars and at times the urge for a bit of Oreo Cadbury diary milk. Tea is boiled with readily available Stevia leaves for that added sweetness, though most folk prefer my lemon cardamom tea sans dairy.

The one thing that posed a challenge with was ‘Jam’ for my poi. I love Jam especially the Mixed fruit ones and they are one of the biggest processed harmful sugar contributors to ones blood count irrespective of what the label tells you. While in a conundrum over this I happened to meet a travelling Yogi from California. She happened to enlighten me on the simple process of making a homemade jam that got me addicted to the point of Dr.Victor Frankenstein where no fruit was spared. Experiment after another with many trials and errors had me select a few favorites and processes, which are rather simple to make. I’m assured of your gratitude a little later.

 The concept is RAW. Raw jams hold all the nutrients intact especially the good sugars and what’s more the process is really simple. To make a raw jam, one simply needs to puree your fresh fruits with ground chia seeds and freeze until ready to use. The chia seeds are what cause the fruity concoction to gel, completely natural. The general recommendation is 1 tablespoon of chia seeds per cup of fruit. I happened to receive this lovely packet of juicy strawberries that deserved some overall share.

 Here’s how I went about making compote in less than 15 minutes for all to savor on the dining table. 8 strawberries, 2 tsp of chia seeds, ½ cup of water. Chop up the strawberries. Add the Chia seeds and blend to a pulp. Do taste to see if the sweet quotient is apt. If not add a bit of raw honey, though try and avoid it. Refrigerate it for 30-40 minutes for the seeds and fruit to work their magic. If the kids wish it sweeter, a great PBJ- Peanut Butter and Jelly combination over toasted bread loaves would hit the spot and add the nutrition calorie count required in the process. It is one of my favourite combinations. Note, the chunky peanut butter jams. For those not convinced there is a cooked version as well. You simply cook the fruit down until it is a thick jam-like consistency. Freeze, and only thaw enough to use within a week or so. Do note that the less sugar there is in your finished product, the shorter your end product’s keeping time. Also since this would be a first time you try it, use common sense when you open up your containers of jam or jelly. If it doesn’t look, smell, or taste right, don’t take your chances!

 May you keep experimenting and whisking up a vibrancy of colours for months on end this year.

Date with a Clause 

If anyone asked me how I envisioned my Christmas at the start of the month, I would have scoffed at the idea and barked of my role as the Grinch this coming season. Flashback to an impromptu meeting at a Saturday night market followed by a late night bike ride with a beautiful stranger had me chimney down a different tune. Whilst many you folk went for midnight mass with refreshments and cake post (yes, I ain’t no heathen, I went for one as well), to the festive Christmas dances around Goa till the wee hours of the morning- I had an agenda in place. For all the single guys reading this, listen up. An invitation to a home cooked meal for a lady is sure brownie points on any given Sunday, and a double whammy at that when it happens to be Christmas. Donning the apron I had a plan in mind. An aperitif, salad and dessert were on the menu. Pre-planned and decided on our first encounter itself.
 For the sake of coveted ambiguity- Annie hails from Norway, is ambidextrous, loves her veggies and on occasion meets Mr. Clause from time to time. Yeah, they are practically neighbors, proximity wise. Cooking up a meal required something quick and easy yet spelt chic and sophisticated. Keeping it traditional had me research and play around with the Eggnog donning the aperitif quadrant. Did you know- culinary historians still debate its exact lineage; most agree eggnog originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. By the 13thcentury, monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs, and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health. The Coconut Eggnog had a local touch of Goa infused. A pack of full fat coconut milk, 2 cups light coconut milk, 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and always some extra nutmeg for service. I just combined all the ingredients in the basin of a blender and blended away till they were well-combined and frothy and chilled it. Why did I do this you asked? Compared to the traditional Eggnog recipe made with milk, cream and eggs, dairy-free nog made from coconut milk has about half the calories and a fraction of the fat. It’s surprisingly creamy, and the coconut flavor may trick you into thinking you’ve already added a shot of rum (saving you about 100 calories.) Yes, I’m considerate like that.

 Ever Dated a Carrot with Feta in a salad? No pun intended, I assure you. All one needs is 3 carrots, 2 tsp chopped coriander, 1.5 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp honey, salt, juice of 1 lime, ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, 2 tsp of chopped toasted almonds, 2 tsp finely chopped dates. A 20-minute parallel process has one thinly slice the carrots into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, including any remaining “stubs” of carrot. Its important to note that you have to soak it in ice water until the ribbons firm up and curl, about 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Whisk together the cilantro, olive oil, honey, half a teaspoon salt and the limejuice in a medium bowl. Add the carrots along with the feta cheese, almonds and dates, and toss until evenly combined

 That didn’t stop there. With Christmas carols for good measure, I topped it off with Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you” and served her the piece-de-resistance- Poached Pears in spiced tea pudding. And people say, I’m not a romantic. Scoff! A 15 minute preparation required 50g golden caster sugar, 1tsp honey, 4 luscious strawberries, 2 spiced tea bags (I infused strawberry cream and peppermint), 2 pears halved and scooped with a spoon, little orange juice zest and yogurt. You start off putting the sugar, honey in a big saucepan with 600 ml water and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pear halves, then cover and simmer until the pears are just tender – do poke them with a skewer to check. Lift out the pears, then turn up the heat, throw in the strawberries and boil for a few minutes until syrupy. Serve them pears, with warm syrup poured over and a spoonful of yogurt. Move over to the simmering bonfire in my backyard on a nippy night with toasted marshmallows and a blanket for company, it definitely began to look a lot like Christmas for sure.