I’ve always loved food and find eating such a pleasure.
I recently read a meme online that said, ‘When someone says “I forgot to eat” I think you must be a special kind of stupid. I plan my whole day around eating.’ I thought to myself damn, that’s me. I’m not exactly exaggerating when I say that mostly my days are spent killing time until I can eat again.
But this post is not about my obsession with food, so I’ll get to the point.
I’ve been living in India for the best part of two years now and if there’s one thing I can tell you for certain it’s that when it comes to food, India doesn’t mess around.
India has teased my taste buds with so many distinct flavors and introduced into my diet a variety of new foods. Indian cuisine has incredible diversity and a its country men and women have a real knack for transforming the simplest of ingredients into dishes that are so good they make you want to cry. The choices are endless and as I continue to travel my way around the country’s 29 states I’m constantly discovering new dishes and variations of the dishes I love. India is well and truly a foodies paradise.
I’ve followed a vegetarian and mostly dairy-free diet for just over two years now. Since being in India however I have relaxed that quite a bit and reintroduced certain foods back into my diet that I had previously cut out, for example cow’s milk. I’ve done this primarily because of accessibility, or lack thereof I should say.
When I am traveling, especially in more remote places, I can’t be as selective and restrictive with what I eat as I’d ideally like to be, simply because I am not afforded that luxury. Plant-based dairy products, for example, are virtually non-existent in most places outside of urban India so I have to eat what’s available to me. I do make it a point whenever I have access to kitchen/cooking facilities though to return to my vegetarian and dairy-free diet.
I’d never claim to be a ‘good cook’ and I secretly envy those people who can toss anything they want in a pan and make it taste amazing, for I am not among those skilled individuals. Despite this I still enjoy incorporating new flavors and foods in to my diet and experimenting with dishes I encounter on my travels – my diet is always getting an upgrade!
I’ve picked up a lot of such recipes in the past 2 years, many of which I regularly make daily and are too good to leave in India, so I’m taking them home whenever I visit – Here’s my top 5!
Breakfast is quite literally the greatest source of joy in my day. Okay, not quite, but let’s just say that I often get excited going to bed because it’s like a time machine to breakfast.
Anyway, India introduced me to Ragi, or finger millet as it’s more commonly known as in Western countries. It’s a super grain originating from East Africa that found its way into the Indian diet. It quickly became a staple for many owing to it’s dense nutritional content, an extremely valuable supplement in the diets of the millions of poor families living across India’s plains. It has multiple uses and is very high in calcium, rich in iron and fibre, and has a better energy content than other cereals. It also has a good protein content too (around 7.6g per 100g) which works great for me as I tend to do a lot of weight training.
Recently I’ve been using Ragi to make my breakfast pancakes. I use ground flax seeds as an egg substitute, and I like to add a couple of teaspoons of raw cacao powder for a health boost and to add a slight chocolately/sweet taste (Ragi flour is not naturally sweet in taste). I top my pancakes with fruit, always a banana and sometimes some papaya or fig, and lashing of peanut butter and honey.
The recipe I use to make my pancakes is a combination of a few I found online.
Here it is:
Ingredients (makes 3 pancakes) – 2/3 cup ragi flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 3/4 cup water (pour in a bit at a time and use more/less as required), 1 tablespoon of cacao powder, 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds mixed with equal parts water, a pinch of salt and some coconut oil.
Method – add ragi, baking powder, cacao powder, salt and flaxseeds to a bowl. Keep pouring in the water until you have a slightly thick, smooth batter. Set the batter aside for a few minutes. Heat a pan and add 2 teaspoons of coconut oil. Spoon in the mixture and cook for roughly 1 min and 30 secs on each side. Serve with toppings of your choice and enjoy!
I discovered poha in one of my favourite restaurants in Bangalore, Yogi-sthaan. It is flattened or beaten rice, usually consumed as a light snack, and is prepared in a variety of different ways across India.
My favourite variation of poha is that which is traditionally eaten as breakfast in the Central state of Maharashtra. Here it’s a savoury dish cooked with lightly fried mustard seeds, turmeric, green chilli, finely chopped onions, and most importantly with fried peanuts and steamed for a few minutes.
It really is delicious, and so easy to make. I find it to be a great breakfast after a gym workout or as a tasty snack after a run. On many occasions I’ve eaten it for dinner too.
This simple recipe by Hungry Forever is what I had initially followed. It literally takes about 10 minutes to prepare and the same again to cook. Eat it with a steaming cup of sweet Indian chai (and a banana if you’re really hungry) and you’ve got yourself a breakfast of champions!
Another Ragi addition to the list, this time as a delicious and super healthy porridge breakfast.
I first tried this Ragi variation in one of my favorite restaurants in Arambol, Goa – Magic Park and I had to try my hand at recreating it. Admittedly, Ragi is not widely used as porridge in India and when it is it’s mostly given to children. Still, I love it, and it’s become a regular and much enjoyed breakfast dish of mine.
Ragi porridge is a little tricky to make and it took me a number of attempts to get it right. Once you’ve mixed the right proportions of water and Ragi in a saucepan and applied a medium heat, you have to keep on mixing until it slowly starts to thicken. If you stop, even for a few seconds, the porridge gets really lumpy and there’s not much you can do to save it. I find using a whisk is the best option.
I followed the recipe given by Sharan. The recipe includes a topping of grated coconut which you can replace with whatever you like. I personally love it with some fruit and a handful of chopped nuts and dates and of course, honey!
Bhindi, Okra, Ladies Fingers. Whatever you want to call them, they’re delicious.
I fell in love with Bhindi Masala when I spent Diwali with a family in Delhi and the mother of the household cooked up the tastiest feast. Her Bhindi Masala was to die for and ever since I ate it I’ve been trying to make a good one of my own.
Bhindi is another ingredient that found it’s way out of Africa, Eritrea to be more precise, into the Indian palette. The recipe for making Bhindi differs slightly across the North and South of India, with some regions making a dry-fry style and others making a more saucy, curry based version.
Whilst all delicious, I have been following the curry style recipes and have found this one by Veg Recipes of India. It’s descried as a ‘semi-dry, lightly spiced North Indian dish’.
Bhindi Masala is traditionally eaten with either basmati rice or roti/chapati, but I’ve been eating mine with cauliflower rice. Whichever you choose is a good choice!
Indian Masala Chai
No-one who visits India is exempt from falling for the undeniably sweet seduction of the Indian Chai.
You’ll get it on trains, on buses, in shopping malls, outside railway stations, in homes, in offices – basically everywhere. India runs on Chai.
Some Chai is more cinnamony, some more gingery, some has cardamon. Whichever way it’s made, three things are for sure; it’ll be sickly sweet, it’ll be delicious and you’ll never turn down a cup.
Chai means ‘tea’ in Hindi. Masala Chai is tea with Indian spices, usually a combination of ginger, cardamon, cloves and sometimes a dash of pepper or cinnamon.
There’s an art to making the perfect cup of Chai. Firstly it’s made in a saucepan, no kettle, and cow’s milk is used. I have tried to make it with dairy-free milk alternatives, but due to the more watery consistency they tend to have its never quite turned out the same. I recently tried using Alpro Coconut and Almond milk, which has a thicker consistency then Soy or plain Almond, and it worked pretty well, so if you don’t want to use cow’s milk, I can recommend that as an option.
This recipe from Genius Kitchen works a treat (although I don’t add the pepper as the recipe suggests).