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Why use spices?

Spices offer exotic flavours to food, and flavourful food is divine. But spices are not just used to appease our taste.In fact, some spices can be a real boost to the body, and help rid it of toxins. Here are some benefits of spices used in most of my recipes:

1. Turmeric (haldi): Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Arthritis, joint pains, and Alzheimer are some of the known medical problems that turmeric helps in curing. It has been used in India for ages for cosmetic benefits like bringing radiance to skin, curing acne and skin related medical problems.
2. Cloves (laung): Anti-viral, Anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, source of many minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids
3. Cumin seeds (jeera): helps remove toxins, helps with digestion, lactation, common cold, diabetes, insomnia, prevents memory loss.
4. Bay leaf (tez patta): boosts immunity, improves nervous system function, protects oral health, regulates body metabolism and prevents blood-related conditions like anemia.
5. Star Anise (chakraphool): antioxidant, rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, copper, and manganese. Has stomachic, anti-spasmodic, antiseptic, digestive, expectorant, and stimulant properties. Helps to increase the circulation and oxygenation of body parts.
6. Caraway Seeds (ajwain): improve digestion, reduce constipation, lowers blood cholesterol, reduces bloating, belching, gas and gas pains and improves blood pressure. A source for thiamine, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and niacin, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. This is most commonly used as a safe treatment in India for stomach related medical problems for infants and kids.
7. Cardamom (elaichi): Aids in digestion and increased frequency and volume of urination, reduces spasms, lowers blood pressure and increases metabolism. A source of vitamins and minerals like riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, iron, manganese and potassium.
8. Cinnamon (dal chini): Reduces inflammation, eliminates pain and infections, manages diabetes, reduces bloating, belching, gas and gas pains , increases cognitive function, good for bones, prevents cancer and good for the health of eyes and skin.

These are all mild flavoured spices used commonly in an Indian household. All of these are easily available in asian grocery stores all over the world. It is also good to know that they are quite inexpensive.

Spices should be used according to personal preferences/palates and in moderate quantities.

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While at home..what to do?

So many lives have been lost and disrupted by the deadly corona virus all over the world. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who have lost their loved ones. As the situation continues to escalate, we must try to stay safe and not expose ourselves and others to risk of catching the virus. So stay at home please!
I have been reflecting on the “side effects” of the social distancing being practiced across the world: people are working from home with nowhere to go, no pubs, no bars, no restaurants, no cinema , no theatre and no socializing. WOW ! That is big!
To add to this, fewer flights , fewer cars on the road , less industrial pollution – perhaps Mother Earth is healing.
I wanted to write this post to offer some suggestions to people who are not used to being at home all the time and are in a dilemma about how to stay productive. If you are not used to it, it can be challenging to stay disciplined enough to be productive. However, this situation also could present a great opportunity to do those things that we never otherwise get the time for.
As for us, it is good to see Manoj at home now, though he is working most of the time with his conference calls and desktop big screen installed on the dining table. But it’s good to see him around all day and I try to make the most of the time that we get together at doing things for which Manoj never had the time or gave any attention to, like looking at family videos and pictures.
This is coming from my experience of being at home for the past few years. After you are through with Netflix and other binge watching, you might need something else to do.
Here is what you can try:
1. Dig out old home videos and watch them with the family – they could even be running in the background while you work or take a break from work at home.
2. Cast pictures on your phone on the TV screen. Trust me, you will enjoy it. Your family and any companion at home may have never seen these pictures ever.
3. Find out where all the board games are hiding in the house. I can assure you, this will be the quality time with the family that you have not had in last many months.
4. Think of what you always want to do if you were not working full time or having to go for work each day. Do it now.
5. Try your hands at things you have never done, maybe cooking , some Arts and crafts, abstract painting, gardening at home, growing plants in water or jars or make some lamps out of used wine bottles. Pinterest actually has lots of great ideas. I am sure you will find something very interesting for you to do and you will be proud of yourself when you make something out of nothing.
6. Read the books you never got time to read.
Remember this opportunity of being at home with the family with nowhere to go may not ever come back again (not that it should come back, at least not in this kind of medical scare situation), so make the most of it.
Bonding does need some time and undivided attention for all.
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Photo Culture..3

Continuing from my earlier posts on photo culture, I have to say that recently I have been taken aback by the undying love for perfect pictures at family events and celebrations. You would think that the most important purpose of these events would be to ensure everyone savours the moments, ceremonies and rituals. I have been both amused and annoyed at times when it seems that the primary privilege of doing so has been bestowed on several teams of professional photographers who get the best access and view. Not only this, they often have to push back the invited guests to ensure pictures are perfect.
I wonder what happens with these professional photos taken at private events. And to what end? I have witnessed first-hand that by the time the pictures are printed and ready to be shared, the intended audience is lost. I think the majority of those pictures/recordings are only seen a few times later likely by close family members who are privy to that professionally created memory. At some events like this, it seems like invited distinguished guests and family members are secondary guests and the photographers are the most important and primary ones.

Considering that it is important to create memories of the event in pictures and save them for future.. I feel instead of paying big money to these photographers with big bodies and big equipment blocking our view, there could be a couple of tech savvy family members taking pictures or a drone camera that does the job without making guests feel secondary, even though at the cost of not having some perfect pictures.

What do you think? Have your experienced something like this?

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The Sindhi Karhi

GLUTEN FREE
I usually make this karhi when I have varied veggies in small quantities in my fridge that I want to finish off: and also when I have lots of guests to entertain and I need to make something easy and delicious but in large quantities. A variety of vegetables in this recipe adds to the quantity and also makes it more flavourful.
IMG_6522

SERVES: 6-8

Why this recipe? How is it green? How am I contributing to making this earth green by following four steps or less recipes?

In an effort to continue to promote use of energy and time saving tools and gadgets, using pressure cooker for this recipe will take about 5 minutes to make the vegetables tender whereas it will take 20-30 minutes in a regular pan. The conventional recipe requires vegetables to be fried to make them tender and then put in the karhi. This alternative will have high trans fat content, 

You save: 70% to 80% of fuel energy and 15 to 20 minutes of your precious time that is about 10 to 15% of the total time you spend in the kitchen on an average(assuming you spend a total of 2-3 hours in a day in the kitchen).

COOKING TIME- 20-25 minutes
INGREDIENTS:
2 Tablespoon besan (chickpea flour)
1 Litre water
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
2 Teaspoons fenugreek seeds (Methi seeds)
2 Teaspoons cumin seeds (Jeera)
4 Whole dried red chillies (i like using rounds more than the long ones)
1 Tablespoon turmeric powder (Haldi)
1/2 Tablespoon red chilli powder
50 gms of tamarind pulp (without seeds) after soaking in water
1 Kilo assorted vegetables cut into 2 inch dices (I use all veggies that are available in my fridge like Okra (bhindi), egg plant, zucchini, beans, any kind of guard, cauliflower, lotus stem, potatoes, broccoli, carrots).
Salt to taste ( approximately 4 teaspoons)
STEPS
1. Heat oil in the pressure cooker, add fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and whole red chillies, once flavour is released, add chickpea flour and sauté it for 2-3 minutes
2. Add water, cut vegetables, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and let it get one whistle or 5 minutes until pressure is built in the cooker. (just enough to get the vegetables tender, this is to save time)
3. Open the lid after the pressure is released, add tamarind pulp and let the karhi boil for 10-12 minutes .. And it is ready…
HANDY TIPS:
1. Keep the karhi on low heat even when it is being served.. The more it boils, more flavours are released of different vegetables, it continues to get more delicious.
2. Sindhi Karhi typically is served first as a stew or soup, and in the main meal with rice and sweet boondi (chickpea flour droplets fried and then dipped in sugar syrup, see picture above)
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No hassle-No sugar-Easiest Gajar Halwa

GLUTEN FREE- SUGAR FREE

Why this recipe? How is it green? How am I contributing to making this earth green by following four steps or less recipes?

Easy to make, gluten free and sugar free classic indian dessert made in less than half the time of usual conventional recipe. Saving time and energy thereby reducing the carbon footprint on our precious planet. 

 

gajar halwa 1
SERVES- 6
COOKING TIME- 30-45 minutes
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 kilogram carrots grated
1 litre fresh Milk (full cream optional)
½ tablespoon Ghee
2 green cardamoms
10-15 pitted dates(about 100 grams) cut in small pieces
15-20 almonds cut in slices (about 25 grams) (optional)
15-20 cashews halves (about 25 grans) (optional)
20-25 raisins (about 25 grams) (optional)
10 strands of saffron beaten on a cutting board or pastel (optional)
 
STEPS
1. Put ghee in the pan and add cardamoms after cracking them open so that the flavour is released.
2. After a minute or so add grated carrots and sauté them for 3-5 minutes until the colour changes to little dark (excess moisture will evaporate during this process).
3. Add milk and place the heat on low after the milk starts to boil. Let it simmer for 20-25 minutes. Keep stirring at intervals of 3-4 minutes. You will notice carrots cooking, absorbing milk, becoming more tender and getting cooked in milk.
4. Add cut dates , saffron and nuts and let it cook for another 10-12 minutes until all milk is absorbed and the milk dries out.. surface f the pan will greasy now without traces of water/milk…and it is ready to serve..
 
HANDY TIPS:
1. If you leave the heat on low all through the process you don’t need to stir as often.
2. I usually use low fat milk, you could use full cream milk to make it more creamy and rich.
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Photo Culture..2

As I mentioned in my earlier post, there are many changes happening in the world that I am just not able to fully grasp. Continuing on the trend of talking about photos, I wanted to share some thoughts and see whether my friends can share their experiences to help me learn more on this topic.

In today’s maddening photo culture, life seems to revolve around the camera. If you wear something nice, eat something good, go to a beautiful place, meet friends, celebrate an occasion or simply go to work, the first instinct is often to take a picture.

It commonly seems that if you go somewhere or do something without taking a picture, you have not been there or have not done it.

This and the innumerable selfies that people take worries me that this is a sign that society is moving towards more self-centredness.

I wonder — what are the unintended consequences of this phenomenon?

We have taken many technologies for granted without fully understanding their broader social impacts. In this case too, I fear that the easy access to taking countless photos, and the way this is promoted in the media and popular culture, is leading to society falling prey to the natural human tendency of narcissism, in some cases perhaps even bordering on a diagnosis of NPD (Narcissist Personality Disorder).

What do you think?

Do you think our photo culture enables/promotes narcissism?

Is this a problem? If so, how can we solve it?

 

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Quick and Easy – My Tiramisu

SERVES- 3-4
COOKING TIME- 20 minutes

TiramisuINGREDIENTS
2 eggs
100 grams Mascarpone cheese
50 ml brewed coffee
25 ml Irish cream liqueur (optional)
50 grams sugar powder
20-25 lady finger Italian biscuits (or left over bread or cake)
50 grams whipped cream(optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

PREPERATION
-Brew coffee and put it in the fridge to cool down
-Keep Mascarpone cheese outside the fridge to bring it to room temperature
-Separate egg yolks from whites and keep whites in the fridge until you need them in the recipe

STEPS
STEP 1. Mix egg yolks and sugar and put it on a double boiler pan. Keep stirring it until it gets a little thick and sugar looks cooked (about 4-5 minutes). Put this in fridge to cool down. You will start making Tiramisu once this is cooled down.
STEP 2. Beat egg whites with electric beater to a point where whites are drip free and form soft peaks. Similarly, beat whipped cream to a point where is becomes thick and soft NOT to make butter, stop just before that.
STEP 3. Fold in egg yolks mixture, egg whites mix, cheese and whipped cream softly.
Step 4. Mix coffee and Irish cream liqueur in a shallow dish, dip the biscuits in a quick motion into this mixture (do not dip them in the liquid too long as the biscuits are very light and may melt away) and layer them in the serving dish. Spread the cream mixture as per step 3 over the dipped layered biscuits, place another layer of coffee dipped biscuits and then another layer of the cream mixture. Sprinkle cocoa powder and cinnamon powder over this using a small sieve.

HANDY TIPS:
1. As a substitute to Italian lady finger biscuits you could use left over bread or cake and dip it well in the coffee and liquor mixture before spreading the eggs and cream mixture. It comes out quite close to the original taste.
2. You can avoid putting whipped cream if you are counting on calories. I have skipped it quite a few times and it has come out well.
3. I also use reduced amount of sugar and cheese at times.
4. You could also sprinkle nutmeg powder as per you taste buds.
5. Irish cream liquor can be substituted with any other liqueur like Amarula, Baileys or other cocoa /coffee based liqueurs.

Quick Palak Paneer in less than 10 minutes


SERVES: 4

Why this recipe? How is it green? How am I contributing to making this earth green by following four steps or less recipes?

Using Pressure Cooker will take 8-10 minutes whereas it will take 25-30 minutes in a regular pan. 

You save: 40% of fuel energy and 10 minutes of your precious time that is about 5 to 8% of the total time you spend in kitchen on an average (assuming you spend a total of 2-3 hours in a day in the kitchen)

COOKING TIME: 8-10 Minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 tablespoon oil
1 cinnamon stick (daal chini)
1 star anise (Chakraphool)
1 brown cardamom (elaichi)
2 bay leaf (tez patta)
½ kilo bag of frozen spinach pellets or
1 kg of fresh spinach leaves
1 large onion – chopped any size
1 large tomato -chopped any size
1 fresh green chilli or 1 inch frozen crushed green chilli
4 cloves of garlic or 2 inch frozen garlic
50 grams freshly grated ginger or 2 inch frozen ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons red chilly powder
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoons garam masala (all spice)
1/2 kilo Paneer (cottage cheese)cut to 1 inch pieces
Butter oil for topping (if preferred)

STEP 1. Put all whole spices into heated oil, let them get brown
STEP 2. Add rest of the ingredients and cook for 2 whistles (4-6 minutes) in cooker or in the pan until all tender
STEP 3. Remove whole spices and run the hand grinder for 1-2 minutes right into the cooker/pan to make it smooth. You can then put the whole spices back in if you want to.
STEP 4. Add garam masala and the paneer/tofu pieces and let it simmer for 5 minutes before serving

HANDY TIP:
1. As no oils are needed to prepare the dish, you can add a dollop of butter or butter oil (butter oil) when serving, Spinach is supposed to be dry in nature for body so some healthy grease is advisable.
2. Feel free to replace paneer (cottage cheese) with sautéd Tofu or grilled potatoes.
3. For non vegetarian option replace paneer with boneless chicken tikka.

Deadly Nyama Choma..

This memory ruminated back early this week after I met some of my long lost friends from my time working at the IRC in Kenya, two decades ago. A quickly arranged reunion at our new home in Nairobi turned out to be such a pleasant afternoon catching up with everyone. It was great to see the same old faces with a new look — more mature, yet holding the same expressions, nuances and  innocence of twenty years ago. We talked and chuckled about all the time we spent together as colleagues. One memory from 1998 that we all fondly recalled and could not stop laughing about was when I had suggested hosting a small house warming party at our new home in Nairobi. This was going to be the first get together with just my finance colleagues. Reacting to my proposal, Gabriel instantly came up with the idea that we should have a nyama choma evening — a traditional Kenyan barbeque. It seemed like a good idea to me to do something that would introduce me to the local culture.

I was new to Nairobi so I asked them where to get the meat for nyama choma, Gabriel readily offered to arrange for it. I was relieved that I just had to make some Indian food to compliment the main dish. It was agreed that the meat would be sent to my home and I would marinate it to be roasted in the evening.

On the day of the party, I was busy cleaning and getting the house ready when I saw somebody coming in through the gate. They were accompanied by a hopping, healthy, breathing and very much alive 3-foot-tall goat!

Seeing the live and kicking mammal, it did not occur to me even once that this could be the meat that Gabriel had promised to arrange. I was in a shock. I could not visualize this live goat lying in tiny pieces in the evening on the small outdoor griller we had. I called him and shared my sentiments as best as I could without sounding too distressed or tousled. I asked how he could possibly help in the situation and what to expect next. To my respite he offered to arrange for the meat to be made available in the form that we are used to see it. Soon enough there was somebody who took the live goat behind the house and came back with a torso of the goat without the head. It was again a sight that I had not expected. So I asked for it to be cut into a size and form that could be roasted. It took a couple of hours and the sacrifice of two chopping knives to get the meat to be ready. I once again cringed when I saw the quantity of meat we had on hand, considering that we would have a maximum of ten people that night for the get together. I recall mentioning to Manoj that we needed at least 50 people to tackle this much meat. Nevertheless, we had a great evening and all of the meat was polished off.

We not only created some treasured memories, we got acquainted to the local custom of nyama choma in the best of company we could have had.