Thursday, 4 September 2014

Potato-Free Pav Bhaji

Good food, like good music, is nourishing and cleansing for the body and soul.

Nothing quite makes a cold weeknight better than a hot, home-cooked, flavourful pot of goodness, warming up your insides as you gobble it up without a second thought. The enlightening music and gas heater add considerable value, no doubt.

During such considerably cold nights feeling a little lazy; a little calm; a little content under a warm blanket, my heart inevitably steers towards the likes of Carnatic and Hindustani based tunes. A few months ago, I saw the movie Ram Leela and fell in love. Not with the movie, but with the song Laal Ishq; with Arjit Singh. Honestly, his voice is not powerful; powerful is his voice! The song contains great depth, particularly in the chorus and the second verse. A depth that is often poorly attempted in most compositions. That depth is only understood when it sparks something in you that you don't expect. It's a beautiful feeling. The raag really consumes me. Mera naam ishq hits the high notes beautifully, and it's even more beautiful when he graually descends to mera naam, tera naam, mera naam ishq.... Magnificent and addictive composition.

"Bas ek rahe mera kaam ishq,
Mera kaam ishq, mera kaam ishq,
Mera naam ishq, tera naam ishq,
Mera naam, tera naam, mera naam ishq.."

"Yeh kaali raat jhakad loon,,
Yeh thanda chaand pakad loon.
Din-raat ke bairi bhed ka
Rukh mod ke main rakh dun"

I don't like Pav Bhaji - SAID NO ONE EVER. It's a smell on the streets of Mumbai that will force you to succumb at any time, any day; although any dish laden with ghee smells amazing. Traditionally a street fast food served with a soft toasted pav bun, it is a spicy onion and mashed vegetable curry infused with tangy spices and liberally complimented with ghee. In it's best form, it probably isn't the healthiest meal you could eat. Carby buns and starchy potatoes don't exactly spell healthy for dinner, but alas! The taste can still be achieved without all that. I subbed the potatoes with mashed cauliflower, and used multigrain buns instead. Believe me, even your picky 'yeh kya khilaa rahi hai?' friends won't know the difference.

Total time required: 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4

1 large onion diced
1 large tomato diced
1/2 a cauliflower
2 strands of curry leaves

3 green chillies finely chopped
3 tablespoons of ghee

1 teaspoon jeera
1 teaspoon of Pav Bhaji masala
1 pinch of turmeric
2 tablespoons milk
1 garlic clove minced (optional)
Salt to taste

Extra ghee, chopped coriander and freshly squeezed lemon/lime to garnish.

Cut your cauliflower up into bite size florets and boil in hot water till completely cooked. This will take at least 20 minutes on high heat with a closed lid.
Whilst the cauliflower is boiling, in another hot pan/kadai, add 2 tablespoons of ghee and once hot, add jeera, turmeric, curry leaves, pav bhaji masala, green chillies and onion. If you take garlic, add this now too. Saute on medium heat for a few minutes till golden and fragrant, then add the tomatoes. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Add a little water if it starts to dry up.
Once the cauliflower is cooked, run under cold water. Once cool, throw into a blender/food processor, add the 2 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of ghee and blend till you have a thick and creamy mashed-potato-like consistency.
Add this to the hot kadai and mix well. Add salt to taste. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

Garnish generously with lemon and coriander leaves. Serve each bowl with a dollop of ghee in the middle and a some hot toasted buns.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Simple Vegan (Potato-free) Quinoa Patties

I used to be a skeptic. I still am to an extent. I inherently question things far beyond what is usually questioned. One of the primary things I questioned until recently were the concepts behind nutrition and health. I've learnt over some time that there are very few foods in this day and age that are completely healthy. Everything else either has too many preservatives, is highly genetically modified, is sprayed with an exorbitant amount of pesticides, or is high in carb/fat. It doesn't help when every time you try and read something written by someone who seems to be an expert in the field, you get information that somehow contradicts with everything you've come to know thus far. Sound familiar?

My way out: eat simple. With the stress of work, long commuting hours, social obligations, and endless housework, it's often hard to eat simple and healthy. You will inevitably grab that sugar-filled muesli bar or packet of "wholegrain" chips, thinking it's healthy. They have the potential to be healthy, but they're not. Why? Additives, sugars, pesticides and genetic modification. What's the problem with eating genetically modified and pesticide-filled food? Simple. It's unnatural. It's unhealthy for our bodies - our 120 pound bodies that crave goodness against all odds.

Eat simple. Simple is what our ancestors ate. Simple is the way it was always supposed to be. My friend always says to me - if the ingredients on the box contain something you can't even pronounce, put it back. I've always only eaten home-cooked meals, but I also now only eat home-made snacks. These include my daily protein shake (natural protein powder, soy milk, berries and water), raw nuts and seeds, yoghurt, 100% rye crackers, baked zucchini/sweet potato/plantain chips, home-made granola, and the occasional fruit or piece of dark chocolate. All this with a generous skull of water per day, of course.

I follow Vardhini's blog religiously. She's brilliant. Inspired by her quinoa bites recipe, I created these healthy Vegan Potato-free Quinoa Patties:
These delicate rounds of simple, healthy and flavourful ingredients are completely sinless. Most patties contain potato, and whilst I'd stuff my face with potato for eternity if I had the choice, potatoes are on my no-no list. These patties are far healthier, substituting potato for besan (chickpea flour), and adding spinach and cabbage for a fiber and vegetable component. You could even call them savoury pancakes for the addition of flour in them. They make for an excellent lunch with salad, patty for a sandwich, appetizer on a stick in smaller sizes, or snack for that midnight hunger we're all guilty of experiencing.
Total time required: 40 minutes 
Yield: 12 patties

1.5 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups chickpea flour/besan (or blended/mashed up canned chickpeas if you don't have the flour)
1 cup spinach
1 small bunch of coriander
4 green chillies or 1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 cup shredded cabbage or any other shredded vegetable
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
A pinch of Himalayan Salt / Black Salt (or chaat masala)
Salt to taste
Oil to grill

Combine cooked quinoa, chickpea flour, shredded cabbage, cumin seeds, himalayan salt and cooking salt in a bowl.

Grind up the spinach, coriander and green chillies. Add to bowl. Mix. Add water little by little and mix through until you have a very thick and viscous consistency.

On a hot griddle/tava, pour in a ladle of this mix. It should stay together. If it spreads like dosa or pancake batter would, your batter is too runny. Add some chickpea flour to make it thicker.

Apply a few drops of oil, keep it on the lowest heat, and allow it to cook for at least 5 minutes with a lid on the pan. It will puff up beautifully - don't ask me why. Flip it over. Cook for another 5 minutes, still maintaining low heat with lid.

Alternatively, you can add 2 tablespoons of oil into the batter, pour ladles on a non-stick baking tray and bake them in the oven.

Serve hot with some spicy tomato chutney and a generous dollop of yoghurt.
Enjoy these patties with this beautiful melody from a recent film Maryaan. "Innum Konjam Neram" is sung by Shweta Mohan and Vijay Prakash, composed by the Mozart of India, A. R. Rahman. The specialty in this song is Vijay and Shweta's lint. Their voices melt into the notes. The sangadhis in which Vijay sings "yen avarasam, enna avarasam, nillu ponney" are simply magnificent. Likewise, the sweetness and mother-like voice in which Shweta sings the line "yen avasaram, enna avasaram, chollu kanne" is unmatched. Simplicity prevails in this hearty village song. It is etched into my heart -

Sri Om