Thursday, 18 December 2014

Amaranth and oats mince pie

It's less than a week away from Christmas day, it's hard to believe.  As much as we all are doing lots of planning and preparing for Christmas day, I bet Santa Claus is planning for his mission too, to spread happiness to all the children out there!

Santa and his reindeers, both will be very busy on Christmas eve, Santa has to put everyone's postcodes in his SANTANAV. There are billions of presents to deliver to young and grown up kids, and I am one of them ;) Obviously Santa will check first if I have been in naughty or nice !

Santa and his reindeers have to travel all around the globe, lots of landing on dingy rooftops and travelling through harsh and cold night, Santa you will be tired, sorry, but still I want my presents :)  Let's make a deal, I leave out for you Amaranth and Oats mince pie and glass of hot milk to fly across fields and oceans , because all that brandy and sherry makes driving the sleigh a bit tricky ;)

Santa has to eat lots of mince pies. In UK as every house will leave a one or two mince pies for him, there is no surprise why he is getting bigger and bigger. Here, during Stuart and Georgian times, mince pies were the status symbol at Christmas. Wealthy families liked to show off at their parties having pies made with different shapes which contain  shredded meat addition to the mixture of dried fruits rather than just dried fruit mix as they are today. Also there are few superstitions that you will get all the luck if you eat one mince pie twelve days of Christmas. ( very lucky ) !
The mincemeat mixture should be stirred only in a clockwise direction.

Mince pies can be consumed cold or warm with custard and cream. Classic mince pie filling mixture contains of dried fruits like raisins, sultanas, apricots, glace cherries, candid citrus peels , various nuts and spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. Also there is  luxury mince meat  available with brandy and port.Traditional mince pie pastry is made with plain flour and butter, but today I prepared mine on a little healthier side as I have used oats and Amaranth flour, partially plain flour and coconut oil for pastry and used a sugar free mincemeat, it turned out yummy and delicious.There was hardly any taste difference, lightness was as it's made with plain flour and everyone enjoyed as much as we normally enjoy shop bought ones.

Made one batch with classic mincemeat for us and for husband,( our Santa ) prepared with luxury mincemeat which he enjoys a lot !
"Dear Santa" if I leave you luxury mince pie and custard this year, will you leave me better presents ? ;)

yaaaaaaaaaaaaa !

You will need :-
  • 1 jar of sugar free mincemeat
  • 125 g amaranth flour
  • 125 g rolled oats
  • 75-80 g self raising flour
  • 125 g castor sugar
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 150 g coconut oil or butter or any baking spread
  • Icing sugar to sprinkle
Method :-
Dry roast oats and amaranth flour separately in a pan, grind oats till you get coarse  flour.
Heat up the coconut oil and add honey, switch off the heat.
Add all the flours and sugar and knead a dough and divide the dough into 1/4 and 3/4 part.
Preheat the oven to gas mark to 4 or 180C and grease a pie tin.
Roll or press out the 3/4 dough mixture in the pie tin and pour mincemeat on it, roll out other 1/4 dough mixture and cover the mincemeat.
Press lightly to seal.
Bake in the oven for first 40 minutes then check and bake further 10-15 minutes or till light golden.
 Keep checking in between the baking the pie.
Let it cool for 4-5 hours, I left it to cool for whole night.
Slice it and serve with custard or cream.
Enjoy !

Thank you for stopping by :)

Frosty the Snowman ! White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Treat

Keep your kids occupied over this fun holiday season with these adorable Christmas treats ! It will bring smiles and to sure to elicit oohs, ahhs and plenty of giggles. I don't know any kid that wouldn't be thrilled to make these cute Frosty the Snowman. My daughter prepared them last Christmas for herself and her brother and friends to enjoy the festive season.

Hope it's a white Christmas, but meanwhile I am sure this will do :)

You will need:

120g white chocolate plus 100 g for coating
25 g unsalted butter
50 ml double cream
100g semolina
50g sugar
150ml water
50g castor sugar
50g dried cranberries
4tbsp. desiccated coconut plus 100g for coating
To decorate:
cardamom seeds (eyes)
goji berries (nose)
jelly sweets (hats and scarves)
  1. Melt the white chocolate (120g), butter and cream over a bain marie. Allow to cool completely.
  2. Meanwhile, gently roast the semolina in a non stick pan for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and water so that the semolina soaks up all of the water. Allow to cool.
  3. In a bowl, mix the chocolate sauce, semolina, cranberries and the 4tbsp of coconut together. Place in the fridge to chill.
  4. Melt 100 g white chocolate.
  5. Shape the chilled semolina mixture into 3 large balls for the snowman body and 3 small balls for the heads.
  6. Coat these balls individually in the white chocolate and then place into the remaining desiccated coconut.
  7. Assemble the snowmen. You can use a little bit of melted chocolate to stick the head to the body.
  8. Decorate the snowmen.
  9. Chill until serving. 
  10. Enjoy !
Notes :-

Instead of cranberries, you can use any dried fruit.
For nose instead of Goji berries use carrot.

Thank you for stopping by :)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Panforte chocolate - Italian Christmas Honey Fruitcake !

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale

"The Magic of Christmas season" is in full swing, one of the great opportunities we have these days is to savor the Christmas season. Christmas is not a single day; it's a season !

Just everything around Christmas, is wonderful and marvellous, only maybe the weather tries to dampen your mood, but all the joy and excitement never let Christmas season be dulled.  Christmas lights, holly wreaths, carollers, ice skating, festive dining—it’s an exciting time of the year for us. Tens of thousands of coloured lights combine with evergreen swags and wreaths of holly and winter berries to line walkways and festoon lamp posts, these are the scene of the magical Christmas.


Christmas is the busiest and most interesting time for everyone, towns are buzzing with shoppers and most of the places would be teeming with shoppers ceaselessly thronging the passages between the shops. This year we witnessed shopping madness on Black Friday.  The Markets and shopping centres are decked with glittering lights, shiny tinsels and traditional decorations. All add to the Christmas atmosphere. Walk in the store and hear Christmas music playing, buying gifts and presents and wrapping them brings great joy.

The Christmas season is one of sheer bliss, warmth and kindness penetrates. The excited smiles of the children warm the frosty air. The magic of the season brings people together from corners of the globe. Christmas is not only a time for excitement, but also one for serenity. Christmas is like the last crackling embers of a fire as the year draws to a close.
Christmas cooking I think is just as important as spending quality family time together . Baking some festive cookies ,pies and cakes are an important part of the celebration. Also cooking with kids is also enormous fun ,it can be long and messy task but you can't beat 'gastronomic delights' on the Christmas table and a cooking up a memories to last a lifetime !

Both kids are at home for the Christmas holiday and it is a right time to spend some quality time with them, that could be anywhere, watch TV together, play some games or maybe bake few goodies in a kitchen.
So this holiday season we have taken inspiration from Italy and it's Panforte - Italian Christmas Honey Fruitcake ! This confection, which is bursting with dried fruit and nuts has been made in the Tuscan city of Siena since the Middle Ages. Although it does have similarities to the ' British Fruitcake' but this traditional Christmas treat is sticky and chewy and it is served after a meal with coffee or dessert wine.
However I have added few ingredients extra and made a chocolate version of Panforte, which is an irresistible Christmas treat around the world !!

You will need :-
  • 200 g dried figs
  • 50 g pitted dates
  • 150 g blanched almonds
  • 100 g hazelnuts
  • 100 g shelled pistachios
  • 75 g walnuts
  • 200 g mixed peel
  • 2-3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 75 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 225 g clear honey
  • 50 g butter
  • Icing sugar to dust

Method :-
Preheat oven to gas mark 3 or 160c/140 Fan.
Line a baking cake tin with baking paper.
Put the hazelnuts on one tray and all the other nuts on another.
Roast them for 6-8 minutes and let it cool a little.
Rub off the hazelnuts peppery skins off using clean kitchen towel.
Roughly chop all the nuts and leave it aside.
Cut the figs and dates in a very small chunks and mix with the chopped nuts and mixed peel.
Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, ground spices then stir into the fruit and nut mixture.
Put the honey, sugar and butter in a pan and heat slowly, stirring until all the butter melts and the sugar has dissolved.
Simmer the syrup for another 2-3 minutes or if you have sugar thermometer boil to the mark 240 F or 115C.
Pour over the flour mixture and mix fast and well.
Pour the mixture into baking tin and bake for 40 minutes.
Leave it to cool completely.
Dust with the icing sugar and cut into squares.
Enjoy with coffee or dessert wine.

Thank you for stopping by :)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Goji Berries , Mushrooms and Sweet Potato soup !

"Maa, ( my kids prefer to call me Maa , rather than MOM ) whenever you come to visit me , please bring this Goji Berry soup again. It is so delicious and yummy." My daughter rang and told me, while she was enjoying this soup for her lunch in the hospital coffee lounge where she studies medicine. "So you like it ?" I asked and she said "like it? Maa, I love it ..right now I am enjoying my HOT soup with crusty bread!" Those words were music to my ears, I told her no wonder your brother had second helpings too and me and dad finished every bit of it too. We'll definitely bring it along on our next visit Hayley!

Hospitals are supposed to provide their staff and visitors healthy and balanced meal options , but you will only find chips and burgers ! Also there isn't much choice for vegetarians, if you can it will be cold sandwiches stuffed with three type of cheese. By selling unhealthy food in premises like hospitals, how can they offer positive incentives to anyone !!!

Our daughter is doing her medicine degree in university for the past two years and leads a very hectic and busy life. So much to focus on while they want to enjoy themselves too, to do everything in a short time, most of the kids don't give priorities on healthy lifestyle or food, given study timetable is not fixed, every day of the week of every week has its own unique timetable. There is only a 50% chance of getting breakfast unless one has willpower to wake up 15-20 minutes early or on the way to lectures grab something which is unhealthy.

We knew this from the beginning, so when our daughter started university we asked her to organize her time well and requested her not to skip any meals. If she needs help, we are there for her so most of her meals I prepare and she freezes them in her freezer. She loves to take her soup and wholemeal pasta with different homemade pesto. So nowadays my job is look for new and healthy recipes for her and it's my privilege.

When it's time to wrap up, it also time to dig out pots and soup recipes because nothing beats the winter chill like a steaming bowl of soup, it brings you the ultimate in comfort and heart warming food. Especially made with season's bountiful produces and spices adds best flavours and nutritious values to the dish. This one pot wonder of a soup is infinite powerhouse to provide comfort and nutrients when feeling under the weather. Each and every ingredients used in this soup has their own medicinal benefit values, and it provides family a wholesome and hearty meal. 

You will need :-
  • 50 g gojji berries
  • 400 g organic mushrooms sliced
  • 3-4 medium sweet potatoes , diced with skin left on ( lots of goodness is in skin )
  • 1 big onion
  • 2-3 green chillies chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes ( optional )
  • 5-6 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger chopped
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper

Method :-
Heat olive oil in a pressure cooker pan or regular saucepan.
Add onion, garlic, ginger and chillies and sauté for about 4-5 minutes.
Now add sweet potatoes, mushrooms along with goji berries.
Stir once or twice and add vegetable stock and close the pressure cooker pan lid and let it cook till 3 whistle.
Let the pressure cooker cool naturally.
If you are using regular saucepan, simmer well for 20-22 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
Season with salt , pepper and red chilli flakes..
Blend the soup with electric hand blender or carefully add soup in a jug blender and blend into a smooth soup.
Garnish with chopped chilli and goji berries and serve hot with any type of crusty bread or rolls.
This time I served with tiger loaf ( recipe here )
This soup freezes well too.
Enjoy !

Thank you for stopping by :)

Monday, 8 December 2014

Mixed wholegrain Spinach and Broccoli hotchpotch- khichdi - One pot meal - ખીચડી - Kedgree

I always count myself very lucky to have my own family, which has always inspired me to do well in any aspects of my life. From my parents side they were always there for me. With good education, good upbringing and lots of encouragements to maintain healthy good eating habits, they put always an extra effort for us. From the childhood, we have been advised to eat right and healthy balanced food and showed importance of it, I remember there has been conversation about eating wholegrain, fruits and vegetables and to get a nutritious and balanced diet, and that too haven't changed till todays date, my mum is not with us anymore but dad hasn't forgotten his duty to keep those habits alive in my kitchen and consecutively reminds me to use fresh and healthy ingredients.

It always amazes me that, in that era there wasn't any information sources around, yet our parents and grandparents knew about healthy diets and kept holding those values of eating habits without going too much in detail and making a  fuss about it. In my family there is a great example - My Grandmother ( Nan ) who is 95+ living in India and leading good life, her secret of to stay healthy eat everything but moderately and keep walking. My great grand father lived till he was 106 , every morning at 4am, he ate sesame oil Halwa, and kept walking 6-7 miles everyday !

I saw similar situation when I got married and came to live with my in laws. They share same principals and same values on eating healthy and balanced diet, so for me it was very easy to adjust in this routine to carry on.
Me and my family follow the same meticulously in our diet too, every day I cook fresh from scratch, include whole grains,colourful vegetables and fruits. I do not mind for an extra effort in making our meal healthy as much as possible. I always make an effort not to use refined and processed items.

Me and family, we enjoy vast amount of healthy food, our kids eats almost all the vegetables fruits , good fats and dishes which are made of whole grains, nuts and seeds. Either it is Savoury Mixed Wholegrain Porridge, Protein packed Granola, Millet flour Chapatti or Beetroot, carrot, radish salad with seeds and many more. You can check out here for more delicious yet very healthy recipes.

I prepare healthy dishes according to seasons, in warmer days salads, healthy smoothies take places in our kitchen and in winter always comfort food like soups, various type of daals and khichdi are welcomed.

Khichdi, we love it most ! A hotchpotch medley of wholegrain, lentils and vegetables, filling one pot meal , easy and balanced diet for my family. Most of the winter nights khichdi is a solution for me, piping hot bowl of khichdi with natural yogurt, papad and colourful bowl of salad always satisfy our hunger and soul. Recipe which I am going to share today is a variation of my previous recipe Savoury Wholegrain Porridge packed with goodness, in this recipe I added brown basmati rice and red and black quinoa ,some green vegetables and garlic chutney, all these ingredients make this dish extra flavourful and scrumptious and always family comes for seconds :)

You will need :- Mixed Wholegrain Khichdi

  • 1/2 cup Broken wheat or Bulger wheat
  • 1/2 cup Steel cut Oats ( optional ) I order online
  • 1/2 cup Millet ( Bajra )
  • 1/2 cup shorghum ( Jowar )
  • 1/2 cup Pearl Barley
  • 1/2 cup quinoa 
  • 1 cup split green moong daal
  • 1/2 cup moth/muth/matki beans 
  • 1/4 cup brown basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup red and black quinoa
  • 1/2 cup Foxtail millet ( kodri or kodra )
Method :-
Mix everything and store in a air tight container.

You will need :- Spinach and Broccoli Khichdi

  • 1 cup mixed wholegrain khichdi mix
  • 250 g cleaned, washed and roughly chopped spinach or palak
  • 150 g washed Broccoli florets
  •  Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • Pinch of hing ( asafoetida )
  • 3-4 tbsp. raw peanuts
  • 1 big onion finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. garlic chutney
  • 1/2 tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp. sambhar masala powder
  • 1 tsp. crushed ginger and green chillies
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chopped coriander ( optional )

Method :-
Place one cup khichdi mix in a heavy based pan and dry roast for 5-6 minutes or you get slight toasting aroma .
Add 1 cup water and switch off the heat and leave it aside to soak at least 4-5 hours. I leave it overnight.
Place soaked khichdi mix in a pressure cooker and add 1 1/2 cup water and salt, turmeric and cook till 3 whistle goes off.
Let the pressure cooker cool naturally.
Heat oil in a kadai, add cumin seeds and hing.
When cumin splutters add raw peanuts and roast on a very low heat.
Now add crushed ginger chilli , onion and sauté onion for a while.
Add garlic chutney, salt , red chilli powder, sambhar masala powder .
Fry for a few seconds and add just couple of tablespoon water, so masala wont get burn.
Now add chopped spinach and broccoli and sauté for couple of minutes.
Add lemon juice and cooked khichdi and mix well.
Cook for a couple of minutes and serve hot.
I served this time with pomegranate raita. ( dadam raita )

Thank you for stopping by :)