Thursday, November 24, 2011

Chana Masala with zero oil - High on Flavor

I dare you to step out of your comfort zone and try this. Not only is this high on flavor, but is also low in calories. Directly minus the calories from the oil you would use otherwise for a chana masala. The trick to this is not harping on the fact that there is no oil here. It takes some time getting used to this type of cooking, but patience and good thick utensils are the trick. A good quality non-stick pan is recommended, but I prefer going with steel. Non-stick is a bit more forgiving, and does not burn your food too soon if you happen to get caught in something else. With the steel, you have to be more vigilant.

I am using a conventional spice combination with a few different ingredients. I am adding some mushrooms here. They are entirely optional but they gave a very strong heady flavour to the dish. I am also using some finely chopped apple as a sweetener, instead of straight sugar or substitutes. Using chopped onions and tomatoes instead of a masala paste makes this chunky and rustic. The recipe is as follows -

Ingredients -

2 cups boiled chickpeas

2 medium onions chopped

2 tomatoes chopped

3-4 cloves garlic crushed

4-5 mushrooms chopped

1/4 cup or quarter apple chopped

cilantro for garnish

salt to taste

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander or dhania powder
1 -2 tsp Amchur or Dry mango powder

1 Tbsp garam masala OR

( a powder of

1 inch stick cinnamon

1 Tbsp black pepper corns

3-4 green or black cardamoms

5-6 cloves)

Method -

1) Soak chickpeas overnight, pressure cook and set aside, or used canned ones. This recipe will use 1.5 to 2 cans.

2) Finely chop the onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and the apple and set aside.

3) Lightly roast the whole spices and powder. This can be done beforehand and stored in an airtight jar.

4) Take a thick bottomed stock pot, pan or wok. Place on burner and add the onion. Saute a bit and add a splash of water or vegetable broth as onion begins to stick. I generally use a vessel with a lid. This also enables steam cooking.

5) Keep an eye on the onion and cook until it softens and the raw smell goes off. Add more water if needed, and keep stirring.

6) Add the chopped garlic and mushrooms and cover. Add splashes of liquid so that the mixture does not dry out and stick. This is the one step which is very important here, and needs patience.

7) Once the mushrooms reduce a bit, add the tomatoes, stir and cover. Cook until tomatoes soften, adding a little water as needed.

8) Add the boiled chickpeas now with the apple and all the spices. Stir, add more water, about a cup and cover.

9) Bring to a boil and simmer until the gravy thickens and everything comes together.

10) Add salt at the end according to taste and garnish with cilantro. The apple will have dissolved by this time and its flavor is not even noticed.

11) Serve hot with rotis or rice. I served this with some nutty red rice and it made a sumptuous lunch.

This is a great meal idea for those on the McDougall or Eat to Live plans, provided you follow general guidelines regarding salt intake, or how much rice or beans to eat etc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Churmura Laddu - Low calorie treat

I have always wanted to make these and always thought it must be complicated. Making the right type of syrup that would hold the scores of churmura or murmura together to actually form a laddu - it seemed impossible. But it has turned out to be deceptively simple.

This is one low calorie treat that you can indulge in without any guilt. Just a cup or so of Gur or jaggery, lots of murmura, maybe some dalia or chana and you have these. The Gur or jaggery gives it a rich flavor thats quite different from white sugar.

The recipe is as follows -

Ingredients -

1 -1.5 cups jaggery or Gur or brown sugar

4 cups CHurmura

1/2 cup Dalia ( the flat roasted chana dal)

1 tsp cardamom powder

1 cup water

Method -
1) Take a thick bottomed pan or wok. Add the gur/jaggery and the water. Stir on a low flame until the sugar dissolves and becomes syrupy. Keep heating until a 'goli band' syrup is formed. This means that a drop of the syrup added to a cup of water should solidify immediately.

2) Switch off heat and add the chana/dalia and the churmura. Stir to mix well until the syrup evenly coats the churmura.

3) Place a dollop on your palm and roll to form laddus or balls, slightly larger than a ping pong ball. The laddus will harden right away as the syrup hardens.

4) This should make about 40 laddus.

This is not only low calorie but also economical, and a quick snack on the go for kids and adults both. A great way to satisfy that sweet tooth!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tofu Kebabs or Tofu Paneer Tikka - Pan grilled perfection

Its been a long time since I have had time to blog about something. This is something I make often and is a favourite but seems so commonplace to us that it does not feel like something you would blog about. I make this with tofu, but the same technique can be applied to paneer. This is essentially like the paneer tikka you would get at restaurants. I stumbled onto a technique where i grill it in a pan for some time, and then just hold it over the gas flame at the end. This chars it a bit at the edges and gives a slight smoky flavor like you would get on a tandoor or grill.

The absolute main ingredient here according to me is Shan masala - either for tandoori chicken or tikka. Yes, it has some color, probably, and also has some raw papaya which acts as a tenderizer. Although that's not needed for tofu, it does change the texture a bit. I am using some yogurt in the marinade, but it can easily be replaced by vinegar or fresh lime juice to completely veganize this. The recipe is as follows -

Ingredients -

1-2 packets tofu

2 large onions

2 large peppers any color

2-3 tomatoes

2-3 Tbsp Shan chicken tikka masala or more

1/2 cup low fat yogurt

Chat masala to sprinkle

wooden skewers

Method -

1) Prep all the vegetables and the tofu. Drain the tofu and cut in medium sized chunks and set aside in a bowl. Cut the vegetables in medium squares similar to the tofu. Place them in a seperate bowl. The onion should be in thick chunks. Deseed the tomato and cut it similarly.

2) Add the shan masala and half yogurt to the tofu. This is quite spicy so use it sparingly. You will know how much to use per your taste once you use it a few times. Toss lightly and set aside.

3) Marinate the vegetables similarly using the yogurt and some of the shan masala.

4) Marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour and even overnight if you are prepping in advance.

5) Alternately thread the tofu and the veggies into the skewers. e.g onion, tomato, pepper, tofu and alternate.

6) Place on a hot non stick pan and keep turning delicately. Once the liquid evaporates and the veggies shrink a bit or look done, hold these skewers over a gas flame one at a time. This can be done by using some type of pliers or tongs. Hold the skewers over the flame for a minute or two until there are one or two char spots.

7) Serve these hot, sprinkled with chat masala ( optional). This tikka is a great appetizer or entree. It can be served over a bed of rice, over some salad or just on its own with some pudina chutney.