3 March 2015

The best use of overripe bananas: Recipe for Banana Raita

I doubt there was a single day in my childhood when there were no bananas at home. Probably because my grandfather did an elaborate pooja each day which ended with offering a banana, freshly cooked rice and dal as 'naivedhya' - they ensured that the old plastic fruit basket was never empty. Tambrahms of the older generations (my parents and above) were mostly thrifty people. I remember questioning my grandmom and also my amma, why those fruit baskets were older than me, but never replaced. Now, I feel quite proud that my family has (unconsciously) prevented so much plastic from going into landfills. They were never the use and throw types. Each little thing had its use and they used it carefully, never finding a chance to throw it away or replace it. "The plastics of these days don't even last a few months, ours have been going on since 40 years," they would say, and I must say, I find that to be true now. That plastic wire fruit basket is actually etched in my memory. 

Even something like a completely overripe mushy banana would have some use. And no, not banana bread. The rare cake would be baked by my cooking enthusiast Chithi, in a pressure cooker. Nothing justified the presence of ovens in our homes those days. 
"என்ன தினமும் கேக் ஆ பண்ண போறோம்??" (are we going to make cakes everyday??)
Overripe bananas went into a pachidi, or a raita. I used to love this raita so much as a kid, as I do even now. Called 'Pazham Pachidi' in Tamil, served along with a peppery poricha kootu or with a pulao, it is my favourite raita ever. As it is probably rarely made outside of thrifty tambrahm homes, it is quite unheard of, especially in North Indian cuisine. Correct me if I am wrong though :) When I called our bunch of #thekitchendivas foodbloggers home for lunch, they were pleasantly surprised to find overripe bananas in a raita.

The best thing about this raita is the crunch offered by the generous quantity of udad dal used in the tempering, so make sure you don't skimp on that! The udad dal powder is great when you use somewhat runny homemade yogurt, it thickens up the raita. It also adds to the flavour. You may however omit it, if you are using thick yogurt and you think it is too much of a chore to roast and powder the udad dal. This flour is available readymade in some stores, or you can prepare a small quantity and store it in an airtight bottle.

While I love banana bread and I make it quite regularly in various permutations combinations, this is the best healthy way to use overripe mushy bananas without adding tons of sugar, flour and fat. Since we are in #getFitMarch, I'd like to stick to the healthier option ;)

Pair it with a spicy rice dish or a spicy curry and rotis, don't believe me when I say it is nirvana, try it for yourself :)

Recipe for Banana Raita | Pazham Pachidi 
Serves 3-4
Prep time: Under 5 mins | Cooking time: Under 5 minutes

4 medium sized overripe bananas
400-500 ml fresh yogurt
2 tsp udad dal flour*
1/2 tsp salt
For tempering:
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp udad dal (whole or split, either is fine)
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
2 dried red chillies
Optional garnish: 2 tsp pomegranate, 1 tsp fresh coconut

Kitchen equipment 
Tadka / Tempering ladle (useful for all Indian cuisines)


  1. Peel and roughly mash the bananas with a fork in a large bowl. Whisk the yogurt with the udad dal lentil flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add it to the mashed bananas. Remove into a serving bowl.
  2. Heat the oil in a small pan or a tempering ladle, add the udad dal. On medium flame, allow it to turn golden brown (will take a minute or so), add the asafoetida, curry leaves, red chillies, mustard seeds. The seeds will crackle and the red chillies will turn crisp. Transfer this over the raita.
  3. Garnish with few pomegranate pearls and a tsp of fresh grated coconut.

*To make udad dal flour, roast 4 tbsp of udad dal (either split or whole) on a low flame, until aromatic, for roughly 5 minutes. Allow to cool and dry grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or the small jar of a mixer.

2 March 2015

#GetFitMarch - Yogurt, Half Full Meals and Bhel

It's all about choosing the lesser evil
First thing in the morning, I had to make a choice - between 1 tsp sugar in my tea OR eating 2 biscuits with a sugarless tea. Biscuits are my weakness. Ginger biscuits are my HUGE weakness. I never go as ballistic as eating the whole pack in one go, but even eating 2-3 with my tea puts me on a trip to Guiltsville. I like my morning cup of tea or coffee with 1 sugar and the rest of the day, in case I have more, I'm okay with no sugar. So I had to decide if I would give up on the sugar or the biscuits, and I took a decision that I will skip the biscuits. Hopefully, I will stick to it for March. 

30 minutes++
May be it is a sign of the universe acting to help me with my goals, a slot of 30 minutes freed up in my mornings beginning today and I grabbed those 30 minutes to do a walk-run, actually it was 35 minutes in all. I ran more than walked, compared to yesterday. *happy sweats*

Food diary
For breakfast, I had a bowl of fresh homemade yogurt, which for some strange reason, had given up on me in the last 3 months or so. I added a teaspoon of liquid nolen gur* for a bit of sweetness, so delicious! Next time, I shall reduce it to 1/2 tsp as it was quite sweet this time.
Read my tips on how to make yogurt at home

Usually, Mondays are supposed to be my fast days, which means I (try to) stick to 500 cals or less for the whole day, as a part of the 5-2 lifestyle I follow. Today I had to attend a family function where it would not augur well to leave without eating lunch, so I postponed my fast day to tomorrow and decided to have a normal eating day today. That's the beauty of the 5-2 and the flexibility it offers. Okay, a lot of questions may be popping in your head now or you may be even get very 'judgey' thoughts  like "HAW! She follows a fad diet!". Deep breaths. Tomorrow being my fast day, I shall write a bit on this way of life and I'm open to your questions too - leave me a comment.

So that's the 'half full meals' part of the post title. However, I am proud that I did not belt 4 courses of rice, triple helpings of chips and double portions of akkaravadisal (a kickass dessert). I took small portions of everything and ensured I didn't come away feeling like a beached whale. Trust me, this requires a lot of special skills. And restraint. Especially when everything that wants to take a place on your banana leaf is more delicious than the previous item.

To balance out the somewhat heavy lunch, I had a Bhel and another cup of yogurt for dinner. 

This bhel recipe totally stuck to my rules of #getfitMarch :-)

How to make a Healthy Bhel:
1 cup green moong sprouts - blanched
Handful of puffed rice
Finely chopped onions, tomato, coriander
Lemon juice
Coriander mint chutney
Tamarind date chutney (optional)
1 tbsp roasted peanuts
Lemon juice

Here, most of the puffed rice is replaced by moong/mung sprouts. 
Mung sprouts are very low in calories at just 31 calories per 1 cup (104 grams), while being an excellent source of vitamin C, K and fiber. 
Trust me, it take a long while to chomp down one cup of blanched sprouts with other raw veggies. By the time you reach the end, you're almost tired of chewing. And hey, in case you were wondering if I missed including the sev and the puris to top the bhel, I didn't call it 'healthy' for nothing :P

Yogurt, Dahi, Curds, Thayir
Trust me, if you want to get on a healthy eating spree, yogurt is your best friend. And I don't mean FroYo or gelato or some fancy-schmancy brand, but plain, simple, unflavoured, unsweetened, homemade yogurt. Eat a cup of it anytime you crave for something unhealthy, and the cravings will eventually vanish, and yogurt wins. 'Curd rice' is not a 'worldfamous' food in South India for nothing. It's also a superfood blessed with many nutritional qualities that I don't have to enumerate. You can google that :)

My biggest downside today is I did not reach my goal of 2 Litres water, I guess I would have had 1 Litre max, that too because I started my day with 250 ml water. Must work on this tomorrow.

Nolen gur is available in Bangalore on towness.com

1 March 2015

#GetFitMarch - Recipe for Green Goddess Smoothie

The rays of the morning sun find their way through the gaps in the curtains as if to say, "Wake up".
I instinctively reach for my phone. Don't judge me.
Date reads 1st March.
Yeah, in such shocking situations, I do swear (under my breath).
Don't judge me :P
Two months down in 2015 already? How, where, when??
The fitness promises I made to myself and the threats I made to my fast increasing fat percentage have stayed forgotten in the last two months.
 I want to recommit to those promises before it is too late in the year and I feel like time has (once again) slipped through my hands.

Due to changes in my family circumstances, the husband working in a different city, my driver bidding us adieu and more parenting responsibilities, I lay slacking. 
"I have all the valid reasons," I have been telling myself.
But it's time to break through the shackles of stupid excuses. Because that's what all the above valid reasons are, excuses, to not go after your goals with a vengeance. 

That's why this #getFitMarch goal for myself. And that's why I'm going to sharing my struggles and my progress over here, Twitter and Instagram. 

My goals are very simple. (ahem)
  • Minimum 30 minutes of focussed physical activity a day - running/ Jillian Michaels / dance workout etc.
  • 2 Litres of water a day
  • Stick to my 5:2 diet which worked beautifully for me and then I started taking it too lightly
  • Eat sensibly, refined foods off the list except once a week
I'm not going to obsess over weight and body measurements and what have you. 

Just two indicators-
Body fat %

#getFitMarch is just to get back on track, and not just a do-it-for-a-month-and-forget-about-it program. Research says that anything you do consistently for a reasonable length of time becomes second nature. And that's what is my aim here. I want March to be the kickstarter for healthy habits for the rest of the year.

If you'd like to join me on this journey, tag me on Insta / Twitter (@saffrontrail) and use the hashtag #getFitMarch. After all, we could all do with some push, support and motivation.

And hey, don't judge me for checking my phone first thing in the morning :P

Did 4 km walk-run in the morning. This was after ages, so yes, was panting like a dog who has been made to run for its bone. And hey, I also broke a sweat after ages, that felt good.

On another day, I would have felt that this 4km run justified a solid vada-sambar breakfast from the local Darshini. Thanks to the #getFitMarch resolve, it was a green smoothie.

A good smoothie recipe has some protein, some veggies, healthy fats and herbs for flavour. You can omit the honey, but I personally believe in the healthy properties of a pure forest honey. The yogurt provides protein, spinach and mint give the chlorophyll, flaxseeds provide omega-3-the healthy fats and ginger gives it a punch. Cucumber gives it a body and makes it more filling.

green smoothie
Add caption

Prep time~5 minutes
Makes 1 glass

2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 cup yogurt
1 tbsp good honey
1/2 inch ginger, grated
1 medium cucumber, peeled, sliced
1 tbsp flaxseed meal
4 ice cubes

Wash spinach leaves in 2-3 changes of water. Shake off excess water and place on a towel while you get the other ingredients ready.
In a blender / mixer, whiz everything together.
Sip or slurp. 

Go around all day adjusting the green goddess halo over your head. 

28 February 2015

How to make egg fried rice - Recipe for Egg Fried rice | Indochinese recipes

Egg fried rice is one recipe for which you can actually ensure that there's a box full of leftover rice sitting in the refrigerator. Finely chop a bunch of vegetables, scramble a few eggs and you have a wholesome meal ready in minutes. A couple of days ago, I read about Amanda Cohen's Secret Weapon Stir Fry sauce, and the next time I make fried rice, I am going to make sure that I try it out with this green flavour bomb. These cubes comprise of ginger, garlic, spinach, Thai basil, coriander and parsley all blended up and frozen in ice-trays. I love freezing pesto, pasta sauce, veggie mixes and even Kootu masala in the shape of ice cubes, store away in ziploc bags and preparing weeknight meals is just so simple.

Try my kitchen hacks using the ice-tray, to make your life simpler in the kitchen. 

Egg fried rice is also a super quick lunchbox recipe. The protein from the eggs balance out the carbs in the rice, and there's always the scope of adding lots of veggies into the box via this dish. When I'm in a rush, I usually use the chopper that helps me finely chop the carrots, onions, cabbage and any other vegetables to a fine dice in just a couple of minutes, which makes this a super quick dish.

Indo-Chinese Menu


Recipe for Basic Egg Fried Rice
Prep time: 15 mins | Cooking time: under 30 minutes | Serves 2-4

Equipment Required
Pressure cooker or Rice cooker to cook rice
Vegetable chopper
Cast Iron / Stainless steel and Non-stick pan

1.5 cups short grained rice
5 large eggs + salt+ pepper + 1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp cooking oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp grated ginger
3-4 green or red chillies
1 cup finely chopped cabbage
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar 

Leftover rice works best for fried rice. You can cook rice the previous day, refrigerate and prepare fried rice the next day.
To cook rice fresh, wash the rice well and pressure cook with scant 3 cups water for two whistles. Switch off the flame and allow cooker to cool. Remove the rice from the vessel onto a wide plate or bowl and cool well, fluff with a fork and keep aside.

Break the eggs in a bowl and beat to combine whites and yolks. Season with salt and pepper. Grease a large non stick skillet with oil and place on medium heat. Once pan is hot, add the beaten eggs and scramble. Don't make this too try. Break into fork sized chunks and keep aside.

In a large wok, heat the oil. Add the ginger, garlic, chillies. Saute on high heat for few seconds. Add the finely chopped vegetables and keep stirring on high heat for 2-3 minutes. You don't want them to lose their crunch. To this add the cooked and cooled rice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and toss well with a sharp steel spatula so that the rice is not mushed up. Add the scrambled eggs, toss well, remove from flame and garnish with finely chopped coriander. 

You can even use brown rice for this to make it somewhat healthier. Cook and cool the brown rice well before proceeding with the recipe.
You can also add finely chopped mushrooms, corn, capsicum to the veggie mix.

This recipe is part of the endeavor to create a collection of recipes of Indian Chinese Recipes in collaboration with a few bloggers who share the same passion of cooking. All the recipes from #thekitchendivas are pinned on this Pinterest board. 

Other Indo-Chinese recipes this week from #thekitchendivas

Chilli Garlic Chicken from WhiskAffair
Chicken Momos from Sinamon Tales
Potato and red kidney beans stir fry from FunFoodFrolic
Wonton Soup from Archana's Kitchen