Saturday, 25 February 2017

Mayonnaise 101 - the What, How & Why

Clean & Delicious Part 5 - Why you should never buy mayonnaise from markets. 

What do you mean by eating clean? ‘Clean’ and ‘calories’ are 2 different words with different meanings. Eating clean doesn’t mean cutting calories out of your daily food intake. Eating clean is trying to put in as much of raw nutrients in your meals, as you could afford to. Obviously a home grown salad with a hung curd dressing is an epitome of eating clean. But I am being ‘me’ in accepting that I can’t eat salad regularly as a meal. I love my roti and daliya far too much to let go completely. Even rice for that matter. I need it just once or twice a week, but I do need it.. So as I look at it- eating clean is an ambition that everyone needs to put forth for themselves, understanding their bodies and mind correctly.

I will take me as a case study; and write about the changes I have done in my life to achieve the clean eating goal. I am not saying that I am any expert in this field. But friends in general have always marvelled at the fact that you make ‘healthy’ so easy to understand that you should educate others on the same. I am just following that line of thought, hoping someone else gets benefitted from my blogging. After all, what use is knowledge if you can’t pass it on to others?
Rule 1- understand your body.
The first important task is to understand your own body. It’s a bit of a difficult process, but can be easily achieved by some thorough observation. How often do u get unwell? What is the most common problem? Ask a few of these relevant questions, and think about the answers. My biggest health problem has undoubtedly being BP related. Contrary to all my family members who have a problem of high Blood Pressure, I have extreme low BP, which at times effects my body a bit too much and leaves me weak and energy less. My shift from a seas side of Mumbai to the barren lands of Gurgaon hasn’t helped the situation at all. As my atmospheric salt levels have dropped, my body faces a salt imbalance which triggers such low blood pressure very often. So salt, sugar and caffeine are extremely important for my consumption. That’s why I cook with sugar, though low in quantity, but I don’t treat it as an enemy at all.

Rule 2 – making an accurate lifestyle assessment.
Understand your weaknesses. And make it a part of your lifestyle. These 2 statements are the most important things to remember. Don’t try to cut out something from your diet, it doesn’t help at all. Alternatively, try and find a balance with that ingredient in your diet. Negotiate with your taste buds. And keep that negotiation alive. If you like to indulge in sweets, then don’t restrain. Eat it right in the morning as your breakfast. And have nothing along with it. Find the balance where your body in itself rejects that ingredient of your choice. And trust me, it does take practice, but it isn’t impossible at all.

Rule 3 – restrict grocery shopping.
I am a spendthrift in a supermarket. Come with me to one of these places and you will see me going nuts at the jarred sauces, condiments, fresh fruits, vegetables, meats etc etc etc. I love to splurge every week on grocery. And with the advent of the more recent mobile apps, grocery shopping/browsing is the perfect time pass. I think mostly I was browsing the Big Basket app on my mobile, when the team called me to write about my experience on the site. Obviously I have been using the app for more than a few years, and I love it. The convenience of getting my grocery delivered at doorstep with trained professionals handling and portioning it, I ask what is there not to like? But while shopping for groceries, you as a consumer need to be careful. Read the ingredient list of any of those jarred or packaged products you are buying. A bottle of mayonnaise should contain just three pasteurized ingredients, as opposed to so many on the list below. All the words that sound a bit unknown to you, are bad for you. And going clean, would be to eliminate these chemical stabilizers and preservatives from your diet wholly and fully. I have done it. Even with a family and a start up to look after. I think you can too…

So empowered with the insights I got from my strawberry Jam ‘making and using’ recipes, I bring to you another breakfast staple of our homes, Mayonnaise. I am making the actual mayo from scratch. I did it 2 ways, one in a tiny food processor and the other in a bowl with a simple balloon whisk. Both results were remarkably similar but intrinsically different from that jarred stuff we buy from the markets. I have tweaked a classic recipe to suit my requirements better. When the French made mayonnaise, that time they didn’t know of any viral problems affecting poultry. Today we do, so completely uncooked and raw could pose some problems. So in my home I pasteurised the egg yolks, by using oil which was heated to the right temperature, and eggs that were bought really the day I made this sauce.

2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
3 egg yolks
A few drops of vinegar
A heaped tbsp. of mustard sauce, I added the Indian variety- ‘Kashundi’

In a small food processor, or a clean steel whisking bowl, add in the yolks, mustard sauce, and a pinch of salt, sugar and pepper. Blend it well to combine.

Add the vegetable oil to a small saucepan and heat it till the first little fumes permeate out of the surface of the oil. It should be just over the body temperature, but not so much that you can’t stick your finger into it without burning yourself. Pull it off the heat just then and there.

Once off the heat, whisk in the cool EVO to temper the oil and slightly cool it too.

Now slowly drip in the oil on your yolk mix, and whisk vigorously. You need to whisk nice and strong, without letting the hot oil sit on the yolk for over a second. If you do, then you may end up with scrambled eggs- tasty but not mayonnaise. So try to do this in a mixer which would help in emulsification better.

After the first 3 drips of hot oil, now pour in a tsp of white distilled vinegar and whizz away. You will see the emulsification happening instantly. Now you can pour in a bit more oil, without any fear of cooking at all.

Keep a few tasting spoons handy as you would mostly be required to taste as you go. Adjust salt sugar and vinegar upon your taste and keep whizzing till you get a gloopy mayonnaise.

This is my version of a classic French sauce. I made the French visit Kolkata and back. Kashundi is such a refreshing taste in this mayonnaise and adds lots of flavour. If you do another spin on this recipe, let me know in a comment below.

More than a recipe, it’s the technique which is important. We pasteurised our fresh egg yolks to eliminate possibility of any unwanted guests in our finished product. In the process, we actually make sure of giving our bodies the vegetable fat in a form which can be easily digested, rather than trying to digest a genetically modified oil in raw. Though I am not saying it is a healthy or clean habit to consume vegetable oil, but traditionally mayonnaise is made with vegetable oil only. Olive oil may become a bit too strong in flavour. And if you notice, it is 1/3 cup oil to 1 yolk ratio. It’s the emulsification which renders a creamy after product called mayonnaise. Try it once with EVO oil or coconut oil if you may and let me know how that turned out to you. If nothing, then just add a crushed garlic in to your olive oil mayonnaise and it should work as a flavour profile.

This can be refrigerated till 2 weeks in a clean glass jar. So make a batch as and when you need it by simply adding a few ingredients in a blender and whisking it all up together. The vinegar will help retain the freshness for a fortnight.

All of these items can be ordered fresh from Big Basket app. They deliver almost everywhere in India. If you are still not a big basketeer, then become one ASAP.


This post is brought to you in association with Big Basket. The recipe and picture are IP of the author herself. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Sambhar in a Chutney!!

Clean and Delicious Part 4 -  healthy breakfast which is clean, delicious and savoury to our Indian liking!!

Homemade is Clean and Delicious to the infinity and back. And India has a host of cuisines which gets classified under clean and delicious easily. The king of it is the south Indian veg cuisine with its scientifically baffling ingredients, which makes me proud to be an Indian. Idlies are nothing but fermented dough steamed to perfection. It is served with a sambhar which is lovingly simmered with all sorts of vegetables (necessary fibres and nutrients), strong whole spices (essential anti-oxidants and nutrients) and lentils (plant protein). The white coconut chutney adds the essential fats in the form of cold-pressed raw coconut oil that extracts itself and emulsifies with coconut fibres, thanks to the steady friction of a stone mortar and pestle. We actually give very less credit to our ancestors. They were nothing short of geniuses to have made this cuisine so easily available to the world.

My week started with this little packet coming in. It contained a lot of new age healthy choices to pick from. I checked the ingredient list too, and found it was pretty clean with no preservatives and/or stabilizers. Citric acid and sodium bi carbonate are simple everyday ingredients that we use in our day to day life anyways. So I was eager to try their range the very next day. And I loved what I ate. Undoubtedly they had everything that they promised to provide. I dunked my idly in a sambhar flavoured chutney which was easy to put together on a busy workday morning, and yet gave the satisfaction of a proper South Indian breakfast. The ingredients are simple and are always available in my pantry. And this recipe literally takes less than 10 minutes to put together. So, there is no more reasons available to anyone for not having a proper breakfast in the morning.

3 large tomatoes, pureed
1 medium onion, pureed
2-3 cloves of garlic, pureed
½ inch of peeled ginger, grated
1 heaped tsp or more of Home-made or store bought Sambhar masala. I used homemade.
Salt, sugar, turmeric and red chilly powder to taste
2 tbsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds or rai
1 sprig of curry leaves, washed and dried

In a pan, add a tbsp. of oil, and fry the onion and garlic paste till the raw smell disappears. Add in the tomato puree and ginger and let it simmer till the oil separates out of the mix. I do this step while making and drinking my morning coffee, the mix sizzles while I get ready for the busy work day morning.

Now once the oil separates out of the wet masala mix, add in the sambhar powder and turmeric powder. Stir vigorously to combine. Let the masala penetrate the vegetables well.

Once the chutney starts smelling aromatic, taste. If its homemade sambhar masala, you would know about the seasoning, but if its store bought, chances are that salt is already present in the spice mix. So taste well before seasoning to your liking. I like to balance the salt, sugar and red chilly well. At times I even add a dash of white vinegar at this stage, but it really depends on how sour my tomatoes are to begin with.

Once you are happy about the seasoning, get ready to temper the chutney.
In a small tadka pan, heat a tbsp. of oil. Pour in ½ tsp of mustard seeds till it splutters and fills the oil with its earthy fragrance. Now let it off the heat and drop in the curry leaves to fry off in the residual heat. As the spluttering sound stops, pour in the hot aromatic oil onto the chutney, mix well and let steep covered for 5 minutes, before serving.

An easy, delicious chutney is ready to be enjoyed with fresh hot steamed idly, or crisp dosa. I have also applied it on a toast and had it with an poached egg. It was beyond beautiful!!


This post is brought to you in association with Gits Food. The recipe and picture are IP of the author herself. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Savoury Whole-Meal Scones with Nando's!!

Clean & Delicious Part 2- I celebrated Valentine's Day with my little family of three, munching on these yummy Whole-Meal Savoury Scones.

The spring garden is one of my most favourite things in the world. The little bees hovering about. The butterflies learning to fly. The leaves beginning to grow back. It's warm, and yet not hot. It is undoubtedly the best time to garden and harvest your fruits of love! And these Wholemeal Scones were conceptualised, sitting right in my terrace, surrounded by my favourite plants.  

Scones are an underrated and hardly ever made variety of flaky morsels of flour, that can be made sweet, savoury; or 'neither-sweet-nor-savoury' kinds. Valentines day being on a busy working day, prompted me to make something easy, yet light and decadent at the same time. My ever busy mister was supposed to return home early today. so i needed to jazz up tuesday tea time to get to a level of Valentine's day worthy. And so upon returning from work, i took a quick stroll in the garden to amass some harvest, and pottered around in the kitchen to make these, timed perfectly so that it bakes just as my boys return home. 
For all of you lovely people tuning in right now, thinking about a special treat for that special someone; make these healthy bites. It's a no egg recipe, perfect for the very commonly practiced meatless Tuesdays of India. It's Easy to put together. Requires just a few ingredients, and they 'should' all be cold. So happy baking !!

Ingredients for 8 Scones:

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Salt and pepper to taste
A small handful of leafy vegetables, I plucked baby spinach from my garden. 
1/2 tsp or to-taste mustard powder
1 tsp sweet chilli powder/Cayenne
2 tbsp chopped green leaves of onion and garlic. These green leaves are packed with nutrients and add great flavour too
1 red banana pepper, deseeded and chopped finely.
1/2 cup of cold butter
1/2 cup swiss cheese- gruyere 
1 cup cold buttermilk/Chaas or simply a cup of milk mixed with a tbsp vinegar.


In a mixer grinder/ food processor put in the butter, cheese, leavening powders and flour, and pulse to dispense them throughout the mixture, in even pea like shape. I have noticed that it's easier to start this process when we cut the butter and cheese into cubes.

Now dump the crumbly mix into a flat mixing bowl, and mix in the spices and green veggies with a spoon or fork. 

In goes the cold buttermilk/chaas into the bowl and mixed to form a dough.
Tip it on a floured work surface, and gently gather it to form a rectangle. Fold it in thirds to amass it to form a square. Roll it gently to be evenly thick, about 1/2 an inch. Cut them into your desired shapes and rest it in the fridge for 15 mins to an hour.

Now preheat the oven to 220 degrees, and let it come to the temperature slowly as the dough rests in the refrigerator.
In the same measuring cup where you measured buttermilk, make a glaze with a generous glug of honey, milk and salt; stirred to combine.
Grate some cheese for the top, I used gruyère once again. I salted and Cayenne-ed it for added flavour.

Now take out the chilled dough, brush it with the milk mix and sprinkle on the cheese. Pop it in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown and crispy on top and bottom.

Easy crumbly tea time snack, which is healthy and fits our lifestyle perfectly! Cheers!! 

This post was brought out in association with Nando's. If you haven't already, do hop into one of their franchise restaurants in a city near you. they are expanding majorly in India. They are famous for their grilled chickens in a variety of sauces, one of them being this delicious lemony garlicky sauce. It also serves to be the perfect dip for my Whole-Meal Scones.  

Monday, 13 February 2017

Perfectly Imperfect- Strawberry Jam filled Cake!!

Clean & Delicious Part 2- How to make an easy Valentine's Day Dessert with Fresh Homemade Jam!

I have baked a fair amount of cakes in years since I am alive. But trust me when I say that I have never ever baked such a cake as this one. This rough looking broke cake, speckled with red blobs is the best example of ‘love’. Just as love refuses to be perfect, this little treat refused to look perfect. But a bite into this, transfers you to a luxurious ride over the mountains. For the day that we celebrate love, I give it thee- My perfectly imperfect cake; My Strawberry-Jam filled cake!

This year, on Valentine’s Day that is coming tomorrow, make these simple treats for your friends and family. A mid-week Valentine’s Day special dinner should be fast yet comforting. And this is the perfect dessert to end the special occasion with. You can involve your kids in the process of making these beauties, which can be enjoyed fresh warm from the oven, or cooled to room temperature. Additionally, bake it separately in tin foil cups which would make it extremely easy to transport it around as I would be tomorrow!
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ Teaspoon salt
1 Cup granulated sugar
½ cup or 100 gms butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 - 14 Tablespoons milk start with 12 and if required, add the next 2 tbsp. I had to add to get the batter to the right consistency.
4 Tablespoons vinegar
1 cup strawberry jam (I used homemade)
½ cup strawberry cut into small pieces
These ingredients would make 2 cakes in standard cake pan, or 8 little cakes in the small aluminium disposable containers.


Start by tumbling in some halved strawberries in a pan over medium heat and stir in a cup of homemade jam. If you are using store bought jam, then skip the step as most often than not, store bought jam contain addition of pectin and other stabilizers to thicken and improve shelf life. But if you made some fresh jam last week using my recipe, then do this step to thicken and intensify the flavour again. Simmer the jam for 10 minutes on medium heat and then check for sweetness. Once you are happy and the sugar or salt is dissolved, set aside to cool to room temperature. Adding cooked halved strawberries add another textural dimension to these cakes.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Oil and flour your cake tins properly and set it aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside.

In a small jug, mix together the milk and vinegar and set aside to marry and become buttermilk.

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine sugar and butter together. Beat it till it’s light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time; and mix thoroughly till it doubles in volume. Now add the butter milk and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.

Add the leavened flour to the sugar mixture, and stir until smooth. It would be a doughy cake batter, but the batter should fall off the spatula upon shaking. If yours doesn’t look as smooth as the pic below, then add in a tbsp. more of milk, till it reaches similar consistency as in the pic.

Spoon half of batter into prepared pans, spreading evenly. Top it with a generous helping of freshly made and cooled strawberry jam. Spoon remaining batter over the strawberry layer, trying your best to cover the jam as much as possible.
Optionally, sprinkle the top of the cake with brown sugar.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes, comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing sides from the pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Jamming the Clean & Delicious!!!

Clean & Delicious Part 1- How to make and store Fresh Homemade Jam!

After the very successful Lets Loose Weight Together series, I am hoping you all are a few kgs lighter, and feeling wonderful about it, as I am. If you are reading me for the very first time, then do check this linkwhere I have mentioned 3 wonderful diets along with many tips and tricks to lose weight organically, while sailing through life as usual. Weight loss done the right way by following a structured meal plan assures of it not coming back anytime. But really, more than the weight, I want to emphasize about eating right and carrying on with that little preface, I present to you my next series of articles on Clean Eating, the delicious way!! In this series I want to touch base upon many simple processes that you and I together can follow to get a cleaner lifestyle which is healthy and delicious all the way. Today I want to talk about a basic breakfast staple which if made right can serve you a full year without any tension. And trust me, it is important to have a stock of emergency food that doesn’t compromise on nutrition, but is a bomb in flavour.

In the morning of a busy week day, what is your most important worry? If you are anything like me, then it must be the decision of what to feed my small family of 3 for breakfast and lunch that day. If you are in India, you would have the luxury of hiring a domestic help to tide you over with most of the chores, but really they too need directions from you. So the decision part stays put. Now imagine if you could easily feed a fussy toddler a nutrition packed breakfast before school without worrying much about a dining table battle. Isn’t it a luxury that we mothers dream the most about- a non-fussy weekday morning? Most of the children I have fed in my house, including my super fussy toddler, loves eating sweet. And a good dose of sugar, right in the morning not only paves the path for a better day ahead which is full of energy, but also satiates them enough to take the day with full vigour and humour. And as parents, our most important job is to ensure nutrition and energy for the little ones. So, I like to give my toddler a simple breakfast each day of homemade bread and homemade jam. He doesn’t complain, and neither do I as I know this is nutrient rich and something he would eat without me fussing over him.

Many people don’t realise that making jam in our homes is actually 10 times cheaper than buying it from outside. Plus the use of chemicals that is available in most of the cheaper or moderate level jams, is a cause of concern. Why stuff in chemicals in the little bodies we made from scratch in our womb? Have we not done enough labour (and quite literally so) to get this little life out in the world? So I think we deserve to enjoy these little human beings and their journey in life till the end of our lives. And we parents can make sure of it by tweaking a bit of our busy lifestyles to ensure nutrition for the little ones better. All it takes is to come back from work and wash the fruits thoroughly and let it drain completely. After dinner, and before bed time you could make jam by following these simple steps. If you are willing to travel that extra mile, why not make a kg of jam and can it so that it stays nice and fresh for all of the year. So mark-up moms, 2017 is going to jam!!

2 cups fruit of your choice- I used strawberry but really any fruit in season which is cheap and accessible to you would work.
Sugar maximum to a cup but it would really depend on how ripe and sweet are the fruits that you are using.
A generous pinch of salt
A tsp. of white distilled vinegar  
Optional is to add a flavouring spice of your choice. For example a pinch of cinnamon powder is great to make pineapple jam with, or some cardamom powder would be great to make jam with golden gooseberries that is available in abundance these days. But for strawberry, I just like it as is.

Wash the fruits thoroughly and let it drain completely on a paper towel. A great tip is to ensure that you have the fruit completely ripe before attempting to make the jam. That way you would spend less time stirring as the atmosphere would have evaporated most of the moisture out of the fruit. And the sugars would have doubled in the fruit, so you will end up adding less sugar than before. I have noticed waiting for a day after getting strawberries from the market, perfectly works out every single time.

Now add all your fruits in a mixer and grind it to a paste. Dump the mix in a pan with high sides, along with ½ a cup of sugar and salt; and bring it to a boil. Once it reaches the boiling point, reduce the flame and simmer the mix for 10 mins, stirring once in a while.

If you want to can the jam in glass jars like I have done here, then simply take clean glass jar and its lid and submerge it in a big pan with cold water. Bring that to a boil separately. 100 degrees of water ensures that all living organisms in the glass jar and its lids are killed. This way the jars will store very well for a year unopened, in a cupboard. You can double this recipe to make as many jars as you would like.

After 10 minutes of steady simmer, check the consistency of the jam. Submerge a wooden ladle in the jam and remove it. Let cool a few seconds and run your index finger through it. If a line stays like in the picture below, then the jam is done. If it merges back then it’s too liquid and you need to simmer it on low for another 10 minutes.

For strawberry jam, I hardly use any flavouring spice. But if you do than the ground spices or liquid flavourings could be added to the jam while it simmers.     

Just before letting it off the flame, add in the vinegar.

Remove the hot glass jar from water carefully and drain by shaking it gently. Add the hot jam in the sterilized hot jar and close the lid. Carefully lower the jars back in the hot water to boil for a couple of minutes again. This would seal the jars completely. Sturdy tongs would be a great tool to use for the caning process.

But if you are making a small batch, then don’t bother caning. Just make sure that you keep moisture away from the cooled jam and store it in the fridge, in an airtight container. Make sure to eat it fast as the fungus would come looking for it soon. The caning process prevents the fungal invasion for a year.

Homemade jam is a classic fast food that is available to you all year around. Living in India, where there are seasonal fruits of all kinds available through winter to summer; spring to autumn is really a wonderful luxury. Use it. Trust me there are many in the world who have not seen a real fruit in years. Kiss you lucky stars that you and I are not amongst them.


P.S. - a wonderful news to share!!! This article and many more in future would be available to you on Health Enabler. We joined hands together to promote healthy and wise living. Hope to see you following the same!! 


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