Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kombucha - Miracle Tea?

I just heard about this tea because an acquaintance was looking for the starter culture, so then I looked it up and researched it. It looks quite interesting and amazing if it helps half the ailments that it is supposed to.

wikipedia says Kombucha is the Western name for sweetened tea or tisane that has been fermented using a macroscopic solid mass of microorganisms called a "kombucha colony," usually consisting principally of Acetobacter-species and yeast cultures. It has gained much popular support within many communities, mentioned by talk show hosts and celebrities. The increase in popularity can be seen by the many commercial brands coming onto the retail market.

The recorded history of this drink dates back to the Qin Dynasty in China (around 250 BC). The Chinese called it the "Immortal Health Elixir," because they believed Kombucha balanced the Middle Qi (Spleen and Stomach) and aided in digestion, allowing the body to focus on healing. Knowledge of kombucha eventually reached Russia and then Eastern Europe around the Early Modern Age, when tea first became affordable by the populace.

This is a 3 year old article on Kombucha in Egypt

The Kombucha culture looks like a white rubbery pancake. It is a symbiotic culture of yeast and other microorganisms. The culture is placed in sweetened black or green tea and turns the tea into a sea of health giving acids and nutrients. The Kombucha culture feeds on the sugar and, in exchange, produces other valuable substances which change into the drink: glucuronic acid, glucon acid, lactic acid, vitamins, amino acids, antibiotic substances, and other products. The Kombucha culture is, therefore, a real tiny biochemical factory.

This Web Site contains information on Kombucha's health benefits and tells you how to make it for free.

Looks like an interesting health drink to consider.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Recipe : Pepper Crusted Lamb Chops

This is a recipe you can make as spicy or as mild as you like.

Its very simple to make and just needs advance marination.

You can try this with other meats too and make it with bone-in or bone-less meat

Pepper is supposed to be a good spice to be eaten during the hot months in humid climates and is consumed in large quantities in Kerala and the Konkan coast to some extent.

1 kilo lamb/mutton/beef/pork chops
little less than half a liter of yoghurt/curd
salt to taste
as much whole black pepper as you can handle. I used a handful and a half

Run the whole black pepper in a coffee grinder or the powdering attachment of your food procesor/mixi
You don't want to powder the pepper. You just want it cracked, so it can release its flavour.
Mix this cracked pepper into the yoghurt and add salt to the mix.
If the yoghurt isn't sour at all, then add the juice of half a lemon to the marinade mix.

Tenderise the meat, using a meat mallet. Be careful not to splinter the bone.
Apply the marinade on the meat. Mix well, while keeping the meat chops intact.
Keep in the fridge for at least 8 hours. 24 hours or longer, gives a more robust flavour.

Pan grill the chops or barbeque them. If barbequeing them, be careful the peppers dont shoot up your nose :)

To pan grill them, put just a few drops of oil in the pan (lamb/mutton/pork chops will release a lot of fat)
When the oil is hot, you can (optionally) add a few strands of rosemary for a hint of a mixed flavour.
Immediately drop the chops into the pan and sear both sides before the meat starts releasing liquids. Then continue to cook till done to desired levels.

You can cook it closed, if you like your meat well done (it will cook faster closed) or open. Keep adding more marinade as it dries up.

Serve with pasta or garlic bread and veggies.

Tip: After taking out the meat from the pan, drain the oil as much as you can. There will be a lot of good tasty stuff (bits of marinade and pepper) stuck to the pan. Fry some cooked and dry rice(should not be freshly made rice that is sticky or moist)in these bits for a fantastic pilaf/pulao side dish. Or store the fried rice for another meal.

Option: You can use less salt in the marinade and dredge the marinated chops in a bit of sea salt (rock) before frying for salt and pepper crusted chops.
I wouldn't do this because my salt tolerance is low and I hate an explosion of salt in my mouth, but I know it tastes good.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Recipe : Raita - Yoghurt Salad

Raita is served at a lot of Indian meals. Especially during the summer when the yoghurt helps lower body temperature and is supposed to be cooling for the human body.

Raita is much thicker than Lassi. A Lassi is drunk whereas a Raita is eaten with a spoon.

In some parts of India, you will be served a raita that is as thick as a custard, in some parts it may be more watery in nature.

There are as many methods of making raita as there are of making Biriyani :)

A simplest raita is just curd/yoghurt mixed with salt.

A slightly more flavorful raita is got by mixing yoghurt with salt and powder of roasted cumin or whole roasted cumin.
The roasted cumin is extremely good for digestion.

Other flavourings that can be used for Raita
-roasted cumin powder
-whole roasted cumin
- black salt
-chaat masala
- red chilli powder
- little fresh ginger root
- sliced green chillies
- tempering of red chillies and/or mustard
- ground mint leaves

for a more wholesome Raita, you can add the following
- fried boondi
- chopped onion
- chopped tomato
- chopped cucumber
- grated cucumber

Shredded corriander always adds an exciting taste to the raita.

My favourite raita is
Chop a small onion
Chop a small cucumber (after peeling, if it has a lot of larger seeds, then deseed it)
1 or 2 green chillies sliced fine
4-5 stalks of fresh corriander
a pinch of grated ginger
salt to taste
a pinch of sugar
2 pinches of roasted cumin powder
pinch of chaat masala powder
Mix 250 ml of yoghurt till smooth.
Then fold in the other ingredients.
Add a little water if it is too thick.

Garnish with some fresh coriander.

Raita is normally served a fridge temperature.
If making it and serving immediately, keep the yoghurt in the fridge till it is to be used.
Else make the raita, cover tightly and refrigerate.
Serve from the fridge.

Picture is of Biriyani and Raita

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Recipe : Chicken / Meat Biriyani

There are more biriyani recipes than there are Indian households. Each family has their own favorite and some, like mine, have more than one. The exact methodology and preparation changes from person to person. I keep changing my recipe depending on what I have at hand on home and what flavours I am in the mood for.

This is a basic recipe that you can experiment with according to the flavours that you enjoy.

Marinate chicken or meat in a yoghurt based marinade.
Add any spice powders that you like to the marinade.
Add salt to taste in the marinade.
You can even add semi fried onions to the marinade for a sharper flavour.
Ginger paste and garlic paste are other options in the marinade.
Marinate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
You can even marinate and refrigerate it upto a week before you use it in a biriyani as long as you haven't added onions in the marinade.

In a large pan, add a teaspoon of ghee. Give a tempering with cinnamon, cloves, biriyani flower and or cardamom.
Then add finely sliced onions to the mix and fry until crisp.
Reserve half the onions for garnishing. You can even lightly toast some nuts for the garnish. Keep this aside.
To the second half of the onions which remain in the pan, add some chopped onions and green chillies and stalks of coriander.
You can also add some ginger paste at this point, if you haven't added any in the marinade.
When the tomato is semi cooked, add the chicken with all the marinade to the pan. (Tip : Make sure the chicken and marinade have reached room temperature before adding it to the mix)
Cook until the meat is almost cooked.
You can add some boiled eggs at this stage.
When the meat has been semi cooked, add rice (washed and soaked for at least 15 minutes) to the pan.
Add enough hot water to cover the rice.
If you want the flavours evenly distributed, then stir well at this point.
If you prefer your biriyani to have chunks of masala mixed with lightly flavored rice, then do not stir the mixture.
Cover and let the rice and meat cook till almost done.
When almost done, open the pan, add the onions/nuts garnish.
If you have made a lightly flavored biriyani, it is a good idea to add saffron as a garnish.
Tip : The right way to add saffron is to warm a teaspoon of milk, drop a few strands of saffron into the milk. Mix well. Once the saffron starts dispersing, pour it over the rice.
Close and give it a final steam.

Serve biryani hot with Cold Raita.

Recipe : Beetroot Halwa

Similar to "Gajar ka Halwa"/Carrot Halwa, this is an easier dessert to prepare with lower added sugar and it cooks faster.

With my shortcuts, here is the general recipe.
Ingredients :
1 kilo beetroots
1 tin condensed milk
1/2 liter milk (full cream better)
Some cashewnuts or almond bits
A pinch of vanilla (optional)
sugar to taste (you can even avoid it all together)

Pressure cook a kilo of beetroots. Don't overcook it, we need the beetroots to retain their crunchiness. Then peel and grate them (not too fine)

In a large pan, saute a tablespoon of butter and roast some nuts.
Then add the grated beetroot, the milk and the vanilla essence.
Cook for a while, as the liquid from the beetroot and the milk start to evaporate, add the condensed milk (you can completely ignore the condensed milk and use more milk and sugar, the condensed milk just speeds up the process a bit)

Keep cooking on low flame with constant stirring until the mixture comes to a halwa like consistency.

Serve hot with vanilla ice cream or cold. You can garnish with more nuts if you like.
Tip : Cashewnuts and almonds go well with this halwa, pistas do not go as well.


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