Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Whole grains : Blender Barley Oat pancakes

Clockwise : pearled barley, steel cut oat groats, hulless barley, rolled oats

In this post I would like to share my favorite 'heart healthy' pancakes.The recipe doesn't use the conventional flours of these grains, but a blender method is used to get the goodness and full benefits of whole grains. I came across this recipe from a cookbook from our local library long time ago and it has been our family favorite since. Using barley makes you full quickly, so it is a good diet food.

Barley is one of the oldest cereal grains, used traditionally for making beer and also made into
bread and gruels. It was the main food of the Greeks, who valued barley's ability to give physical strength and mental alertness. Barley water, is said to be easy to digest and a tonic to the liver. Pearled barley lacks most of nutrients, because the thick outer layer is removed. Look for Hulless barley.And it is important to soak them.

While Oats are first discovered growing wildly in barley fields in Russia, northern Africa and the near East. Oats are rich in B vitamins and in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. They contain more oil than any other grain. Oats are low in gluten but contain more phytates than almost any other grain. Thus, it is very important to soak oats before preparation.

Barley & oats both contain beta-glucans and other viscous soluble fiber components which reduce absorption of fats and cholesterol. Also, the fiber tends to bind to bile acids, which are removed from the body rather than recycled, thus requiring the conversion of more cholesterol to bile acids. Thus both grains are very good in lowering blood cholesterol.Also barley helps reduce the blood glucose levels, thus it is good for diabetic people.

Blender Barley oat pancakes:

Oat groats - 1/3 cup (3/4cup if rolled oats)
Hulless Barley - 1/3 cup
Water - 1/2 cup( for soaking)
Whole eggs - 2
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Honey - 1tbsp
Whole milk - 1/2 cup
Baking powder - 1 1/2 tsp
Butter for greasing.

Pancakes stacked on the plate

Method :

Soak the oat groats and barley overnight. In the morning add eggs, salt, honey. Blend till smooth. Add gradually - milk, baking powder and blend. Let the batter stand for 20 to 30 min. Heat a cast iron pan and grease with butter. Pour a small laddleful of batter and when bubbles start forming on the cake and edges start getting hard, flip it to the other side. Finally flip them to a plate when done and stack them to keep warm. I usually make a few extra and freeze them for a quick snack to my tot. The frozen pancake can be popped into a toaster to reheat and it comes out nice and crispy.

Be Nourished!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The less celebrated : Amaranth or Rajgara paratha

Amaranth or Rajgara

With my constant desire to do a unique post which is healthy and yet different, I stumbled on amaranth. Amaranth is not a true cereal grain. The plant is an annual herb.It is a multi-purpose crop. The tender leaves of the amaranth plant are relished as a green leafy vegetables.And the grain is used to make parathas, poori's, pakoras, cutlets , kadhi etc.There are approximately 60 species of amaranth and there is no definite distinction between amaranth grown for the leaf (vegetable), and the seed (grain).Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-18 percent) and lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids that are not commonly found in grains.It is high in fibre and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous and vitamins A and C.Amaranth also contains tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) which have cholesterol-lowering activity in humans. Amaranth consists of 6-10% oil, mostly in the germ. The oil is predominantly unsaturated and
high in linoleic acid important in human nutrition. The amaranth leaf is equally nutritous as well. Containing higher calcium, iron and phosphorous levels.

Western science considers amaranth as a Nu-world grain from Mexico and other parts of South America. But amaranth has been an ancient grain in India. Nobody knows, how it came to India or may be it was taken to South America. But our ancestors were nourished by this wonderful grain. Rajgara meaning 'royal grain'.I came across an article which said, it is possible to sprout amaranth. So, I might try sowing amaranth seeds next spring to see if I can get amaranth plants for the leaves.

Amaranth or Rajgara parathas:

Rajgara flour or freshly ground grain - 2 cups
salt according to taste.
Ginger, grated - 1 inch piece
Sesame seeds (til) - 1 tsp
Green chillies, - 2 ,finely chopped
Potatoes - 2 , boiled and mashed
Yogurt - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp + for applying on parathas
Fresh coriander leaves -2 tbsp ,chopped

Amaranth or Rajgara parathas


Place ragjara flour in a bowl, I was not sure about the freshness of store bought flour, so made my own flour in a blender. The grain looks like a poppy seed. flour smelled like amaranth leaves. Mix in salt, ginger, sesame seeds and green chillies. Add mashed potatoes, yogurt, one tablespoon of ghee and coriander leaves. Knead into a semi-soft dough using water. Cover and keep the dough aside for an hour. Divide into small portions. Roll into balls. Dust with flour and pat into a round diskette on a dusted surface. Heat a tawa. Shallow fry the parathas on both sides applying ghee as required. Serve hot with yogurt. Amaranth or rajgara parathas with yogurt was our lunch today.It was a tastey and wholesome lunch :).You can also substitue yams
for potatoes in this recipe.

Be Nourished!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Fats and Oils : Almost pure desi ghee!?

My attempt to this post is not to do the same monotonous 'making of ghee', But I would like to bring to your attention a different dimension of that aspect. In India, two types of butter are commonly known : 'sweet cream butter' made from cream in the milk, the regular butter we get in the stores and 'Makkhan' or 'vennapusa' made from churning the yogurt where regional/local favored cultures of lactobacillus, streptococcus etc are inoculated.You realize that sweet cream butter extracted from fresh cream would have fewer of these compounds.So here makkhan is nothing but 'cultured cream'.The yogurt is churned with much effort ,so much so that the sweet cream butter is called 'anaayaasa' in classical Sanskrit, meaning 'without effort'. To make ghee, the butter is melted down and heated to a point where the moisture evaporates and the milk solids get caramelized. Ghee made from cultured butter is far more superior in taste and health to ghee made from sweet cream butter.For us who live out of India, pure desi ghee can be approximated, not replicated, with European-style cultured butter.

I had used different methods to make ghee after coming to US, I tried the store bought type which I can tell is adulterated. Having access to fresh raw cream, I made ghee the way we do it in India. The results are very satisfying but its hard to keep up with that. I had used organic sweet cream butter, but i was not satisfied with the result until I found a better alternative. I have been using Organic Valley Cultured Butter to make ghee at home. I am very satisfied by the result and highly recommend using cultured butter instead of sweet cream butter. It is a few bucks more than regular butter but far less than store bought ghee and far more superior in quality.

I just want to add a few points on my research regarding ghee to convince you to use ghee liberally.Ghee contains butyric acid, a fatty acid with antiviral and anti-cancer properties. It also is said to aid digestion and nutrient assimilation. Daily intake of ghee sharpens the intellect, and promotes a clear complexion and voice. It is also said to have anti-aging properties and most of all it doesn't have the free radicals like other hydrogenated oils, which cause heart diseases.People allergic to milk protein can safely cook with pure ghee as the offending proteins are removed during the clarifying process.

Making ghee:

organic valley cultured butter

Organic Cultured Butter - 1 pound

Heat the butter quarts in a steel vessel at low. Initially the butter melts.Initially there is a first
effervescence along with a crackling sound but the intensity of effervescence decreases with decrease in moisture content in the liquid medium.Color changes from a cloudy yellow to clear golden color.The final stage of ghee preparation is indicated by the appearance of second effervescence, which is less pronounced than the first one along with browning of curd particles. This stage is further confirmed by appearance of characteristic ghee flavor. Pour through a fine sieve or through several layers of cheesecloth into a clean, dry glass storage jar.In ancient days, betel leaves and curry leaves were usually added to the butter during the clarification process. But it is now recognized that these substances indeed possess antioxidant properties, which will not only improve the shelf life and taste of the product but also they are safe to consume. The resultant ghee has a wonderful aroma and grainy texture. Ghee implies a certain flavor profile, that continues to develop as it is stored for more than a year. So do not refrigerate ghee.

Almost pure desi ghee

Be Nourished!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Whole Grains : Bajra Khichidi


Bajra - Pearl millet, bajri, sajje,cumbu(Tamil),Sajjalu(Telugu)

Bajra is grown in India since prehistoric times. It is the basic staple for households among the poorest people. Bajra is comparatively high in protein and has a good amino acid balance. Bajra is a reasonably good source of thiamine (Vitamin B1). It is also a better source of iron than other grains.Bajra Khichidi is a traditional Rajasthani recipe. With wholesome bajra, whole moong dal and ghee in it, it becomes a meal by itself. Comfort food yet nourishing.

Bajra Kichidi :

Bajra Kichidi with a dollop of ghee

Whole bajra - 2 cups soaked over night
Green moong dal - 1/2 cup soaked over night
Peppercorns - 5
Cloves (laung) - 3 to 4
Cumin seeds (jeera) - 1 teaspoon
Asafoetida (hing) - a pinch
Turmeric powder (haldi) - 1/4 teaspoon
Pure ghee - 1 teaspoon ( I mean it when I say pure. check out my next post on pure ghee)
Salt to taste
Water - 5 cups

Grind the bajra into a coarse mixure. Wash the dal thoroughly. Heat the ghee in a vessel and add the peppercorns, cloves and cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds crackle, add the asafoetida, add the turmeric powder, salt and water . Add dal & bajra. Cook it on a medium flame. When the mixture begins to boil start stirring so that the khichdi does not stick to the bottom of the vessel. Cook until the bajra is soft. You may add more water if you feel that the consistency of the khichdi is not right. Serve hot with ghee or yogurt or pickles and papad. Bajra Kichidi with ghee was our breakfast today.

Be Nourished!!!