Quick and Easy Lunch with Millets and Veggies

This light, filling and nutritious meal comes together quickly and easily. I didn’t measure anything, but it’s a pretty adaptable recipe and you can play around with the quantities. I used the vegetables I had and you can do the same. I would’ve liked to throw in some cooked beans, like chickpeas, but didn’t have any on hand. I’m sure other herbs, like oregano and thyme, would taste great too. This dish can be made milder or more strongly flavoured by using less or more herbs.

quick and easy lunch with millets and veggies

You need:

  • Foxtail millet (You can use another small millet, such as finger millet, or grain alternatives like amaranth. You could, of course, use rice.)
  • Vegetable broth (I used homemade, which I keep unseasoned and unsalted.)
  • Dried sage
  • Dried marjoram
  • Dried rosemary
  • Black pepper (I used a combination of pre-packaged powder and fresh ground.)
  • Garlic, chopped finely (Use lots for a more garlicky taste.)
  • Broccoli florets
  • Cabbage, chopped (You can use green or red, or both.)
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Spring onions, chopped
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Rinse the millets, and cook them with vegetable broth, sage, marjoram and rosemary, a dash of salt, and water as needed, until soft but not mushy. I did this in the microwave oven.

While the millets are cooking, heat a large frying pan or wok (I used a kadhai) and pour a teeny bit of olive oil in to it. When the oil is hot, add chopped garlic and let it cook on low heat for a minute. Now turn up the heat and add broccoli florets. From this point on, be sure to toss frequently to avoid burning and to cook the vegetables evenly. Cook the broccoli for about 2-3 minutes, then add cabbage and pepper. Stir-fry till a few of the cabbage bits start to look brown and crunchy, then add pineapple chunks. I added fresh ground pepper too. After about 2 minutes, add the white bits of the spring onions, and after another minute, add the green bits. Don’t forget to keep tossing/ stirring the whole time! Mix in the green bits of the spring onions quickly, add salt and mix in. Right away, add the cooked millets – I used a fork to get them from their cooking pot to the kadhai to minimise lumps. Toss well for about a minute, then turn off heat.

If you use a small grain or grain alternative, your meal will be ready in about 20 minutes, and that includes preparation and cooking time!

Chutney Hummus

Is it still hummus if it’s got no garlic, no lemon juice and no sesame seeds in it? Or is it just a chickpea dip? Does it matter when it tastes as good as this does?

chutney hummus

Today, I cooked up an enormous amount of chickpeas and built up quite a craving for hummus and veggies – only to discover the calamitous absence of fresh garlic in my kitchen. What’s one to do? Improvise, of course! And what an improvisation this turned out to be – a sweet and sour and hot hummus with Indian spices that I’m definitely making again.

Now, one drawback of improvised recipes is that you don’t know how good they are until you’ve finished making them, so sometimes you can’t be as definite about quantities as you’d like to be. So do feel free to fiddle around with the quantities a bit to get just the right taste for you.

Here’s a trick that I think helps my hummus get all smooth and creamy – I soak dried chickpeas overnight, rinse and pressure cook them in a moderate quantity of water until they’re very soft, almost falling apart. And I turn them into hummus while they’re still warm, using the cooking liquid as well. If using chickpeas I cooked earlier, I warm them before processing into hummus.

You will need:

  • Chickpeas, cooked – 400 gms (Keep the cooking liquid as well.)
  • Seedless dates, chopped – 1 tbsp
  • Tamarind – 2″ piece or 1 tbsp paste
  • Coriander seeds – 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Hot red chilli pepper – to taste (I used 3/4 of a mundu chilli.)
  • Salt – to taste

Soak the chopped dates in hot water for at least half an hour. If you’re using tamarind pieces, soak these in a separate bowl. Dry roast coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a tiny hot skillet or frying pan, adding the red chilli pepper right at the end. You want the spices to get just a shade or two darker, and aromatic.

Add the chopped dates, soaking liquid and all, to your mixing contraption. I use the wet grinder jar of mine. Mash the tamarind pieces a tad and pour them through a strainer. You might want to rub the the bits against the strainer to get all the pulp out. Pour this in as well. Add chickpeas, salt and toasted spices. Process until smooth, adding water as needed.

I didn’t have rock salt on hand, but I bet it would make this dip taste even more like a chutney! Next, time, I’m substituting half of the regular salt for some rock salt.

Papaya ginger lemon smoothie

A quick morning post for a quick morning smoothie!

This one isn’t for parties. It’s not a dessert smoothie. It’s a simple, nutritious, refreshing breakfast.

papaya ginger lemon smoothie

To make a bit over double the amount of smoothie in the picture, I used:

  • Papaya, ripe – 1 small
  • Bananas, ripe – 2 medium
  • Ginger – 1 cm piece
  • Lemon juice – 2 tsp

Peel and chop papaya into big chunks. Peel and break banana into bits. Peel and chop ginger coarsely. Blend everything together, adding a splash of water as needed. This makes a very thick smoothie.

Roasted eggplant mint masala spread

Or dip. Or salad dressing. Chutney, even! Pesto, maybe?

roasted eggplant mint masala spread

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant – 1 large
  • Fresh mint leaves – 1 cup loosely packed
  • Roasted peanuts – 2 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds – 2/3 tsp
  • Ajwain (carom seeds) – 1/2 tsp
  • Kashmiri red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp, or more to taste (You can use another moderate red chilli powder.)
  • Dry mango powder – 1 tsp, scant (If you don’t have this, replace with 1 to 2 tsp lemon juice.)
  • Jaggery powder – 1 tsp
  • Rock salt – 1/4 tsp (I used pink.)
  • Salt – to taste

Roast the eggplant – I always do this over a direct flame, but I think you could do it in an oven too. If you do it over a flame, be sure to keep turning the eggplant every few minutes. Let cool, and peel off the charred skin.

In a hot pan, dry roast the cumin seeds and and ajwain until slightly darker and aromatic. Let cool.

Blend eggplant pulp and all other ingredients together. You can make it very smooth or leave it slightly coarse, like I did.

Easy Avocado Pasta Sauce

What do you do when all the fresh produce in the house amounts to
a gnarly knob of ginger,
a couple bananas,
a fat head of garlic,
a sad old lemon,
and
a single avocado?

easy avocado pasta sauce

You make an easy avocado pasta sauce, of course! (No, it doesn’t have banana in it. Or ginger.)

You need:

  • Avocado, pulp scooped out – 1 medium
  • Garlic – 4 to 10 cloves (This depends on your taste. I like my pasta super garlicky, so I used 4 humongous cloves of garlic. Seriously, they were the size of my thumb. The front bit, anyway.)
  • Lemon, juiced – 1
  • Balsamic vinegar – 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Red chilli flakes – 1/2 to 1 tsp
  • Oregano, dried – 1 tsp, scant
  • Basil, dried – 1 tsp, scant
  • Thyme, dried – 1 tsp, scant
  • Jaggery powder – 1 tsp, heaped
  • Salt – to taste

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Add a splash of water if needed. Let the sauce sit while you cook pasta – this allows the flavours to mingle better.

I find avocado-based sauces very filling, so I’d say this is enough to toss with enough pasta for three to four people, depending on how hungry said people are and what else there is to eat.

Clear-The-Fridge Stew, Three Ways

It’s 33 degrees Celsius, and feels a lot hotter. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be swimming in salads. But today, I had to clear space in the fridge for fresh arrivals. Here is the odd assortment that needed using up:

  • An eggplant
  • 5 or 6 medium carrots
  • 2 beets
  • 3 sad looking tomatoes
  • A small chunk of red cabbage
  • Spring onions, with the green bits all wilted

I also had a few cloves of garlic, some ginger, a pumpkin and a few onions. My idea was to roast the eggplant over a flame, cook the rest of the veggies in a pressure cooker as for a soup, blend everything together, and stew the blend with cooked whole red lentils and seasonings.

But what seasonings? I asked a few friends, and got so many great ideas I ended up making THREE variations of the stew!

clear-the-fridge stew, three ways

First, I soaked whole red lentils in some hot water. Next, I roasted the eggplant over a direct flame till cooked through, and set it aside to cool. I chopped up all the vegetables I listed above, a third of the pumpkin, one large onion, a few cloves of garlic, a one inch piece of ginger, and the bulbs of the spring onion. I cooked these in a pressure cooker for two minutes at full pressure, and let the pressure release naturally. I transferred the mixture to a big plate to cool.

While the veggies were cooling, I cooked the lentils in the pressure cooker till they were soft –  about 7 minutes at full pressure. I peeled the roasted eggplant, and blended the cooked veggies and eggplant until smooth. I then divided the lentils and blended veggies into three portions.

Italian style:
Add dried oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley, along with white pepper powder and salt to blended veggies and lentils, and stew for about 10 minutes on low heat.

Indian style:
Heat up half a tsp of oil in a hot pan. Pop some mustard seeds in the oil, add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, a dried red chilli broken up and fenugreek seeds and cook until light brown and aromatic. Add blended veggies, lentils, turmeric powder and salt, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes on low heat.

Ethiopian style:
I wanted to use the spice blend here: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2006/11/ethiopian-inspired-red-lentil-soup.html. I was missing a few ingredients, though, so I ended up using ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, fenugreek, Kashmiri red chilli, black pepper and turmeric. I added these along with salt to blended vegetables and lentils, and stewed for about 10 minutes on low heat.

Let the three stews sit for a few minutes before eating, to allow flavours to blend better.

All the variations have turned out delicious, and I’m finding it impossible to pick which one I like best!

5-minute Dessert Breakfast

I think I’m overstating it at 5 minutes, but let’s consider that an allowance for morning sleepiness, shall we?

5-minute dessert breakfast

So what you do is slice up two or three ripe, sweet bananas, pour some homemade chocolate sauce over them, sprinkle with nuts and raisins, and eat. No, really, that is all.

Okay, that seems too short so let me tell you what went into the sauce in the picture.

  • Peanut or other nut/ seed butter – 1 to 2 tsp (I use additive-free ones made of organic nuts/ seeds.)
  • Warm water – 2 tbsp or as needed
  • Cocoa powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Carob powder – 1/2 tsp (You may omit and double cocoa powder instead.)
  • Vanilla powder – 1/8 tsp (You can use vanilla in liquid form too.)
  • Jaggery powder – 1 tsp, or to taste (You can use another sweetener, just reduce the amount of water if using a liquid one.)
  • Salt – 1/16 tsp (Only use this if your nut/ seed butter is unsalted.)

In a small bowl, gradually add warm water to nut/ seed butter while stirring to form a paste. Add the rest of the ingredients, more water if needed, and stir (with a spoon or whisk) to form a smooth pour-able sauce. Tada!

I think this is still too short, so let me throw in a quick how-to-make-fresh-almond-milk-in-less-than-10-minutes. Soak a handful of almonds in fresh drinking water overnight. (Refrigerate if you live somewhere very hot.) Almonds should get all plump. Rinse and grind into a smooth paste with a splash of clean water. I use the wet grinding jar of my food processing contraption for this. Then add some more water, blend for a couple minutes and strain through a muslin. Squeeze out as much of the milk as you can, throw the pulp back into the jar and repeat this process twice. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes. The milk stays fresh in the refrigerator for three to four days, and you can use the leftover pulp in oatmeal, cookies or banana bread.

fresh homemmade almond milk

Chaat Salad

Chaat is one the yummiest things to eat ever invented. Different parts of India have different versions of chaat, and each region boasts of many kinds of chaat.

Unfortunately, a fair few chaats centre on deep fried and other unwholesome ingredients that aren’t exactly healthy. Plus, street chaats can often be dicey for people with sensitive tummies.

My cravings for chaat led me to one of my favouritest kitchen experiments. I combined my love for chaat with my love for salads, and out popped chaat salads – all the fun of a chaat, all the nutrition of a salad. (Yes, I know that slogan is rubbish. I think I can afford that, though, since the actual dish is delish!)

The trick is absurdly simple – dress your salad with a chaat chutney. And choose a combo of mild, sweet and crunchy veggies.

Here is the chaat salad I make most often and love best. It’s dressed with saunth chutney – a sweet and sour chutney starring dried ginger powder.

Chaat Salad

Saunth chutney:

  • Tamarind – 2-inch piece (Or use 1 tbsp thick pulp + 2 tbsp water.)
  • Jaggery powder – 1 tbsp, or more to taste
  • Dried ginger powder – 1 scant tsp
  • Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp (Use less or replace with Kashmiri chilli powder for a less pungent chutney.)
  • Rock salt – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/2 tsp, or more to taste

Soak tamarind in a couple tbsp of hot water for at least 10 minutes. Squeeze to extract pulp and strain. Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to make sure all the powders dissolve. Turn off heat after a couple minutes and let cool.

Salad:

  • Cucumber, chopped small – 1 big
  • Bell peppers, chopped small – 2 small or 1 big
  • Carrots, minced – 2 small or 1 big
  • Sweet corn kernels, lightly steamed – 3 to 4 tbsp
  • Spring onions, whites + greens, chopped small – 3 to 4 tbsp
  • Salad greens, torn into bits – a couple handfuls (I use lettuce for its mild taste.)
  • Chickpeas, soaked, cooked in salted water and drained – 3 to 4 tbsp (I used brown chickpeas for the salad in the photo.)
  • Potatoes, boiled and peeled – 2 small or 1 big

Combine all ingredients except the potatoes in a huge bowl. Crumble the potatoes into the bowl. Add the chutney and toss well. Your salad is ready.

Don’t skip the crumbled potato. It absorbs and holds the chutney. This delivers the chutney’s sweet-sour yumminess to your mouth in every bite, instead of it pooling uselessly at the bottom of the bowl!

If you aren’t going to eat all of the salad right away, I recommend tossing the ingredients without the chutney and then adding chutney to smaller portions before you eat. The salt in the chutney draws water out of the veggies; and while very useful, the fluid-retaining properties of the potato are limited.

Chaat is no longer junk food. You’re welcome :-D

A neat little Ratatouille twist

Everyone loves ratatouille, right? I usually make mine by just stewing all the ingredients in a pot. Garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, herbs and pepper powder – YUM!

Yesterday, I threw in a teeny dash of prepared French-style mustard into the pot after it was done cooking, and let it sit for a few minutes before eating. It was a really interesting and tasty twist on my usual dish and one I’m sure I’ll try again.

french mustard

Vegetable Stew Chinese-style

This is a wholesome Chinese-inspired stew that my mum made quite often for me. It was also one of the first few dishes I learned to cook – and one I’ve eaten lots of over the years!

vegetable stew chinese-style

In the picture here, I’ve used carrots, green peas, red cabbage, cooked chickpeas and cooked red rice – but you can use any vegetables you like. Some of my favourites are sweet or baby corn, mushrooms, broccoli or cauliflower, and green cabbage. You can use tofu or other peas/ beans in place of the chickpeas, and another kind of rice or grain instead of red rice. This stew works well with noodles too. Just make sure to adjust the quantity of the seasonings accordingly.

You need:

  • Onion – 1 large, sliced
  • Garlic, minced – 1 tsp
  • Ginger, minced – 1 tsp
  • Carrots, chopped small – 50 gms
  • Green peas – 50 gms
  • Red cabbage, chopped – 2 tbsp
  • Chickpeas, cooked – 3 tbsp
  • Red rice, cooked – 5 tbsp
  • Black pepper powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Cornflour – 1 to 2 tsp, depending on how thick you want your stew
  • Soy sauce – 1 tsp (optional)

Heat a wok or stewpot and cook onions in it for a couple minutes. Add ginger and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent. Throw in a splash of water and the longer-cooking ingredients – carrots, mushrooms, tofu if using etc. After a couple minutes headstart, add everything else except the cornflour. Mix well and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Dissolve cornflour in a a few spoonfuls of water and stir in to stew. Let bubble till stew turns from milky to translucent. Turn off heat.

Let the stew sit for a few minutes before eating.