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Makhana is Foxnuts or Gorgon nuts, the seeds of Euryale ferox, an aquatic plant that bears spiny fruits with black seeds. The seeds are popped to make makhana or foxnuts. Note that makhana or phool makhana as they are called colloquially in India, is not the same as lotus seeds. Lotus seeds are used for making a delicious halwa that I shared earlier.

Makhana makes wonderful raita, curries and even halwa but the most common usage is to make dry snacks with it. The caramelised makhana is quite a favourite in my home and we use it in our parfaits too but the salted snacks with makhana is more of an everyday chai time munchy.


Earlier we used to make roasted makhana in a thick base Kadhai by slow roasting it with a little ghee and then adding salt, pepper and other flavouring of choice. But now that I have been using my air fryer for roasting nuts and many other foods, this method has become the most favoured as one doesn’t need to monitor it closely while it roasts.

Roasted mint and lemon pepper makhana is so delicious that has been an instant hit with kids and adults alike in my home. Only one little girl said that she doesn’t like makhana because it tastes like Styrofoam balls and that made me think it really does if it has got some moisture in it and that was the little girl’s first impression of makhana possibly.

Anyway, when I suggested she can lick it and then decide whether she likes it, she did just that. She would lick it, suck it for sometime and then spit it off once it lost all the flavour. And then she would pick up some more, it took a few repeats to make her curious enough to eat the whole thing and she learnt by the time all makhana were polished off.

Yes, the lemon pepper and mint makes a wonderful coating for makhana and some other snacks too. One just needs to be cautious about not burning the seasoning while roasting such nuts, so here is the foolproof process of roasting makhana in an air fryer.

Ingredients
100 GM makhana (the quantity depends on the size of the air fryer basket)
3 tsp ghee
Salt to taste
1 tbsp mint powder
2 tsp lemon pepper (add lemon zest and pepper powder if you don't have this)

Procedure

Pour the makhana in the air fryer basket and add 1 tsp ghee (not melted) on top. Now massage the makhanas with your hands to get a thin coating of ghee all over the makhanas. You can use ghee liberally if you want. I add more ghee mostly.

Push the air fryer basket in, roast it at 200 C for 5 minutes. Check the makhanas once by pulling the basket out, they should be lightly pinkish in colour but it will depend on how dry your makhanas were to start with. Is the makahanas you used were a bit moist you may need to roast for a couple of minutes more. They will make sounds like popping popcorns but that’s okay.

Take the makhanas out in a large bowl. Pour the remaining ghee and all the seasoning and mix with the help of a ladle. The ghee will help the powder seasoning to coat the makhanas well and the seasoning wouldn’t burn. The colour of mint will remain green if done so, else it turns black and looses all flavour.

Perfectly crunchy flavourful lemon pepper mint flavoured roasted makhana is ready to eat. You should keep it in an air tight jar once it cools down else it picks up moisture and becomes chewy.

Serve with tea or coffee, your weekend drinks or use them as a topping in salads if you wish. They are great munches for kids too.

Please let me know whenever you try the recipe. It takes very little time, just 5-8 minutes to prepare a huge bowl of roasted makhanas and is so healthy too.
Cheers.
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Gum Tragacanth (Gond Katira or Badam Pissin) is a useful ingredient to stock up during this intense summer heat when your appetite for cold and chilled foods wakes up. Overnight soaked gum tragacanth makes a cooling addition to many sharbats and falooda type drinks and desserts, some of the suggestions with this gum have been shared on this blog earlier.

I am not too fond of frozen desserts like ice creams, gelatos and sorbets as I like a gentle chill in my foods, drinks and desserts so a sharbat chilled with a few crushed ice cubes or made with chilled plain water works for me wonderfully. All my sharbats, lassi, ice teas are mostly minimally sweetened or naturally sweetened with fruits, juices or natural preserves. Rooh afza is one of those medicinal syrups made using a plethora of medicinal herbs and flowers, a Unani medicine formula that we have been consuming since childhood during summers.


This gond katira sharbat with rooh afza makes an ultimate cooling sharbat and you don't need any added sugar to this.

If you haven't seen Gum Tragacanth which is also known as gond katira in north India and badam pissin in south India, it looks like this.


I felt like adding these pictures because many of my instagram friends kept getting confused between gond katira and babool ka gond.

Please don't confuse it with Gum Arabic or Babool ki gond which is used for making laddus and panjeeris during winters (warming food) after frying the gum crystals in ghee. The next picture shows how different are both types of gum.

The large dull opaque crystals are of Gum Tragacanth and the smaller shiny, brownish yellow crystals are Gum Arabic.


Now that you know how the gum tragacanth looks like, you can easily get it in the old fashioned grocery stores or buy online.  

The gum crystals need to be soaked overnight. 

About 3-4 crystals of gond katira bloom so much that they fill up a 300 ml jar. Soak them in a large glass jar with plenty of water to allow proper soaking to get the cooling benefits of this gum.


Adding a little milk to this sharbat makes it a delicious summer drink that keeps you full till you feel thirsty again. Hydration is the key to survive the Indian summer.

You can add milk or buttermilk or even some fresh home cultured yogurt into this sharbat.

In fact adding milk makes this sharbat unique because this is possibly the original pyar mohabbat sharbat or love potion that has become so popular in recent times. A version of sharbat made with milk, sugar syrup, Rooh Afza or any other syrup is sold in the streets around Jama Masjid in Old delhi during the month of Ramzan. They add cut fruits like watermelon or grated apples to the sharbatand call it pyar mohabbat sharbat. Since fresh fruits apart from bananas and mangoes are never added to milk according to the Ayurveda or Unani system of medicine, I feel the addition of watermelon or apples is a recent innovation.

That's the reason I think the gond katira might have been the original ingredient of pyar mohabbat sharbat. But whatever the name, this sharbat is a pleasing welcome drink for your guests or for your afternoon snack during long summer days.


Ingredients 
(for 2 large servings)

3 large crystals of gum tragacanth soaked overnight in 250 ml water
1 tbsp rooh Afza syrup (or use natural rose syrup or gulkand or honey)
150 ml chilled milk
400 ml chilled water (add crushed ice cubes if you wish)
sugar to taste (optional, I don't use any sugar)

Preparation 

Mix everything together, stir well.

Pour  into large mugs or glasses and serve immediately.

I know this gond katira sharbat will become one of your favourite summer coolers.
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Pressure cooker pasta makes life so easy sometimes. I have shared a basic recipes of pressure cooker pasta with seasonal and local vegetables that includes ivy gourd and this time I decided to use just the ivy gourds for a change.


With the herbed tomato sauce the pasta turned out to be so wonderful I tried the same method with cooked chickpeas instead of pasta and loved the result.

In fact the flavour comes from the tomato sauce used here, ivy gourds (we call them kundru or tendli) retain their texture and subtle flavour resulting in a deeply satisfying meal.



ingredients 
(for 2 lunch servings)
100 gm penne pasta
300 gm ivy gourd
3-5 cloves of garlic slit lengthwise (optional but recommended)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste (remember that the tomato sauce also has some salt)
3 tbsp herbed tomato sauce (you can blitz 2 fresh ripe tomatoes with herbs for this recipe and balance seasoning)
fresh basil or rosemary if you feel like

procedure 

Soak the pasta in 100 ml hot water (or stock if you wish) and few drops of olive oil in a bowl. Keep aside. You need about 10 minutes to chop the ivy gourds so the soaking time is just 10 minutes.

Slit the ivy gourds lengthwise into two halves and then slit each half in 4 thin strips. If you are using macaroni you can cut round slices of ivy gourd.

Pour the olive oil in a pressure cooker pan (for this quantity using a 2-3 liter capacity pressure cooker is better), add slit garlic, rosemary leaves and cover with the ivy gourd slices. Add salt and toss to mix. Note that the pressure cooker pan is not to be placed on burner before this. 

Using extra virgin olive oil ensures to benefit from the good flavour of oil and and mixing the ingredients while they are cold is a way to ensure the oil retains its nutritional benefits too.

Now place the pressure cooker pan on stove top, keeping the flame medium, and let the ivy gourd slices be cooked while tossing and turning them every couple of minutes.

Once the ivy gourd slices start turning pinkish brown you can add the soaked pasta at once, pour the tomato sauce or fresh blended tomatoes with herbs, toss to mix and place the lid on the pressure cooker.

Cook till the first whistle blows, switch off the gas stove and let the pressure release on its own.

Open the cooker, toss lightly to mix and serve hot or cold. This recipe is great for lunch boxes too as it tastes great even when cold. You can add some feta cheese or parmesan to top the pasta.

We often enjoy our pasta without cheese, especially when we have good quality olive oil. This time I brought a few tins of very good extra virgin olive oil from Cyprus, where I had gone for a product development assignment.
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Tomato ketchup has corrupted the palate of a whole lot of people. It has become the taste enhancer for everything they eat and the taste of real food gets masked with tomato ketchup.

Ironically, people seem to avoid sugar in their beverages and rightly in most cases, but they slather most of their food with ketchup on the other hand, not realising they are eating a lot of sugar along with a fair range of chemicals in the ketchup. I would prefer to have a bit of sugar in my tea and coffee instead and of course a better tasting tomato sauce as a condiment if I need some.


I have shared a home made tomato ketchup recipe earlier and have got really good feedback for that. Another tomato, tamarind and red chili chutney has earned many fans over the years. Many other homemade dips make even better condiments than ketchup and not too time consuming. It is actually not too difficult to keep making such condiments at home and keep ketchup away from our lives.

The tomato sauce that I am sharing today is great for pastas, for pizza, for potato wedges and fries and even when smeared on omelets, parathas or sandwiches, wraps etc.

It needs dry powdered ingredients apart from tomatoes and red bell pepper for the ease of making it but you can use fresh garlic and onions if you wish. The taste will be slightly different in that case but still great if you balance the chili heat to your preference. 

ingredients
(makes about 300 ml thick sauce)

400 gm ripe tomatoes, better if you use mixed varieties (chopped, white parts removed if any) 
200 gm red bell pepper (chopped, white parts removed)
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry oregano 
1 tsp dry parsley 
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika 
1 tsp hot chili powder if you like (I do) 
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or any vinegar you like
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

procedure 
 
Pressure cook the tomatoes and bell pepper pieces together with salt and 1/4 cup water.

Cool the cooked mixture. 
 
Liquidize the tomato and bell pepper mix when cold. Add all the powders and blend well.
 
Transfer to a pan. Heat in a pan till the sauce comes to a simmer. 

Add 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar. 

Now add 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, mix well, cool down.
 
Transfer to a sterilized bottle and refrigerate. You can add lesser olive oil if you have to use this sauce in a generic way. I add the sauce directly to boiled pasta mostly and no additional oil is required, even as a spread on any kind of bread the sauce works better if the oil content is good.
 
Use this tomato sauce in whatever way you like.
 
I have been using it mostly for pasta but as a spread on my multigrain chapati wraps too. 

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Using fresh coconut and coconut oil everyday has not been part of my growing up. We had loads of coconut during festivals because it was part of the Puja rituals and fresh coconut cake home for the chutneys when we made idli and dosa. Coconut oil was used only for skin and hair and we never imagined eating food cooked in coconut oil at home even though we loved the food cooked by our Kerala and Tamil friends. I became more adventurous in using ingredients once I started my own kitchen and there was no looking back, thankfully.

But dry coconut or kopra was used in my parental home more frequently. There was always some dry coconut in the pantry which was added to desserts like halwa, kheer and to panjeeris, laddus, malpuas and even dry namkeen mixtures.



I realised dry coconut is a much more convenient ingredient to use because fresh coconut looses its freshness within a couple of days and we don’t consume more than one coconut per week between the two of us. To be honest I used to freeze the fresh coconut but I would always forget about it and get a new one every time I needed coconut. 
Then I started getting the dry coconut grated and stored in an airtight container and use it wherever required. It became a life saver and a regular ingredient in my kitchen I must add.

Sprouts salad with dry grated coconut 



Ingredients 
(3 large servings) 
1 cup mixed lentil sprouts (I used a mix of mung, moth and masoor sprouts mostly) 
¼ cup peanut sprouts or 2 heaped tbsp of roasted crushed peanuts 
2 tbsp of dry grated coconut 
1 cup grated carrots 
¼ cup chopped red onions 
1 tsp chopped green chilies 
Salt and pepper to taste 
1 tsp mustard or sesame oil 
1 tsp lime juice 

Preparation 

Toss everything together to mix well. 

Let the salad rest for an hour before consumption, the dry coconut shreds plump up after the soaking time and get really fresh and nice. I make it for lunch box of the husband and my own lunch so it works well. If you are making the salad for immediate consumption you can soak the dry coconut shreds in a mix of water and lime juice for a while and then mix the rest of the ingredients at the time of serving.

For the lunch box I don’t add salt in the salad as it may get soggy by lunch time. Do take care of this when making this salad for lunch box. Without adding salt and onions this salad stays good for 2 days in the fridge so great for advance planning.

This salad makes a great filler for tart shells or golgappa shells if you are planning to serve it for a get together. Or just place a huge bowl of this salad in the middle of a table with many spoons and see how it vanishes fast. 

I will keep posting more uses of shredded or grated dry coconut as it gives way to many kitchen hacks that you may find useful too. 

Why not use a healthy ingredient regularly and make it convenient too for ourselves? Dry coconut grated this way will come handy almost everyday.
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Roasted cashew is the most favourite snack in my home and I must admit it is quite addictive too. If the jar of roasted cashews is in sight you just end up going to it even if you are not feeling hungry. 


Else I believe both of us have a very good hunger and satiety discipline. I must add that even if roasted cashews seem to tempt us to eat more, we can’t really over eat as it makes you feel too full to skip your next meal if you have been close to a roasted cashew jar frequently in a day, that’s how real whole foods work. 

By the way I didn’t buy my air fryer to fry food or to roast nuts for that matter, it was because I wanted to dehydrate some ingredients for a product development assignment I was doing couple of years ago. I believe some foods taste better deep fried if they are meant to. Like we love our parathas and pakodas and I would never try and cook them without oil or ghee. I wouldn’t ever want to deprive myself from the goodness of good fats so fried and fatty foods will always be part of our diet, it is the good fats and right way of frying that matters more. Sometime I will write about how to deep fry foods in the best possible way so it is healthy and doesn’t waste the leftover oil. 

Air fryer comes handy for a few specific ingredients like potatoes and a few other vegetables,  marinated chicken and fish (which have natural fat in them) and paneer etc apart from roasting nuts and even reheating foods so it should just be called hot air oven or something and not an air fryer. In fact I have been getting lot of requests about usage off air fryer after I shared a few pictures of food cooked in air fryer on Instagram, including these roasted cashew nuts.

How to roast nuts in air fryer
  1. Rinse 200-250 gm nuts with plain water, drain excess water and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  2. Sprinkle the required seasoning. Mix well using a fork so the seasoning coats there nuts well.
  3. Transfer the seasoned nuts to the basket of air fryer and spread evenly.
  4. Insert these basket in thee base of the air fryer and lock it.
  5. Switch on the air fryer, set the temperature to 160 C and timer to 4 minutes (for 200-250 gm) and let the nuts roast on their own. 
  6. Check the nuts after 4 minutes and transfer them to a dry plate if they are roasted enough for your liking, else push the air fryer basket back and let it brown a little more in its own heat. The air fryer remains quite hot for a few minutes so the nuts keep cooking for some more time to get you nicely browned nuts.

Precautions for roasting nuts in air fryer 
  1. Rinse the nuts before roasting. I used to do that even when I roasted nuts in microwave oven and in pan or other methods. It helps even roasting and the flavour of roasted nuts is much better. 
  2. Add a little extra (about 20% more than you want) seasoning to the wet nuts after rinsing. The seasoning sticks to the nuts well but a little bit of seasoning comes off while roasting.
  3. If adding lime juice along with seasoning, it is better to let the nuts rest for 5 minutes before roasting. The resting time helps to absorb the extra moisture and flavour of lemon juice.
  4. Take care to not overload the basket with too much nuts. There should be enough small gaps to circulate hot air. If you dump too many nuts at once it may lead to a mix of raw nuts and over browned nuts in the end. 
  5. Check the nuts after 2 minutes if you are roasting nuts in the air fryer for the first time. You may want to turn them with a fork for even roasting but it is not needed if the nuts are not overcrowded. 
  6. Check the nuts after the air fryer turns off after the set time. Push the basked back along with the nuts ONLY if you want to brown the nuts a bit more. Note that the air fryer cavity remains hot for a few more minutes and the contents keep cooking even if it has turned off automatically. 

To make roasted cashew in air fryer (lime and chili flavour) 

  1. Rinse 200 GM cashews with plain water. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  2. Add 1 tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp red chili powder or more to taste, 1 tsp pepper powder, 1 tsp salt and toss well. 
  3. Rest the seasoned cashew nuts for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the seasoned cashews to the air fryer basket, and bake at 160 C for 4 minutes. Leave the basket inside to brown on its own.
Store the roasted cashew nuts in an airtight container. Serve as desired. 


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Making pickles is an interesting way to eat small portions of some of the desi superfoods you want to include in your everyday meals but they are not as tasty as you would like them to be. You would remember the Amla pickle, Amla chutney, Amla chokha, Amla in brine and the Amla and raw turmeric pickle that I make, but one needs some thrill of eating a new pickle made of the same old ingredients. You agree? 

So I am not a pickle eater normally, the Aam ka achar and mirch ka achar are consumed very rarely and that too when we have guests over but the quick pickles made in small batches are my favourites. I often add them over my salads and even make some nifty salad dressings with them too sometimes. You just can’t let that zesty tangy goodness not be a part of at least one meal a day.
I thought of this kuchla style pickle when I was shopping for my weekly vegetables. The fresh shiny amlas and plump fresh turmeric reminded me of the Amla Haldi Adrak ka achar I make but this time I wanted something different. I wanted the pickle to be so simple that one can use it in many other ways too. 
Once the kuchla style (made with grated ingredients) amla turmeric pickle was ready, I made a tangy vegan mayonnaise with it and a salad dressing too. Then I added this to a raita and applied it on my sourdough roti wraps that become a quick working lunch. You get the idea why keeping the pickle simple goes a long way in its utility.


Ingredients 
(to fill a 200 ml jar)
One small carrot (about 60 gm) 
5 large amlas (200 gm)
3 inch piece of ginger (50-60 gm)
5 inch piece of fresh turmeric (80 gm approx) 
25-30 gm salt (or to taste, it needs 15% salt by weight in a pickle to preserve so calculate the quantity if you want to keep the pickle on your dining table for longer)
2 tsp red chilli powder or more if you like the chilli kick 
¼ cup cold pressed mustard oil (replace with your choice of cold pressed oil but mustard oil works wonderfully) 

Preparation 

Using the finer side of a box grater, grate (shred) the carrot, amlas, turmeric and ginger. You may want to scrape the skin of carrot, turmeric and ginger but I just remove the deep eyes from the surface and wash them clean. Removing the deep crevices from the root vegetables ensures there are no pathogens stuck in it. 

Transfer the shredded mix to a deep bowl, add salt and chilli powder, pour the oil and mix thoroughly using a spoon or fork. 

Transfer to a sterilised glass jar and press down the pickle so the water released by the action of salt bathes the pickle completely. This prevents any fungal contamination. 

The pickle keeps well for months at room temperature if you use a dry spoon to scoop out the required quantity and make sure you press down the remaining pickle every time.

You can make this pickle without the carrots too, but carrots help balance the flavours I felt. The second batch I made without the carrots was a bit too sharp for my liking. Replace the carrot with similar amount of amla if needed.

If you are concerned about the excess salt, you can keep the salt lesser but make smaller batches of the pickle as it will stay for about a week or so. Making smaller but frequent batches works best as this pickle tastes the best for a couple of weeks. It tastes good all through the year if you maintain a layer of oil over the surface so do that if making a big batch or you want to gift it to someone. 


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Neem flowers are edible and superbly delicious if you are not averse to a hint of bitterness in your food. In combination with some foods that are traditionally cooked with tender neem leaves and fresh flowers, the flavour is surprisingly good even if you are uninitiated regarding the use of neem in foods. You will start looking at tender neem leaves and blossoms differently once you taste them trust me.


I have been using tender neem leaves in the traditional Bengali neem begun (tender neem leaves cooked quickly with fleshy egg plants) ever since I tasted it about two decades ago cooked by my kitchen help and this neem flower infused buttermilk ever since a dear friend Nirupama introduced me to this Tamil delicacy. I end up plucking tender neem leaves and blossoms from my neighbor's tree every season and my sister has started drying them too seeing my interest in neem.


The dry neem flowers are an essential ingredient in Tamil homes as my friend Nirupama says. It was about 3 years ago when she welcomed me at her home with neem flower tempered buttermilk, knowing my interest in all things traditional and medicinal and I have been chasing the neem blossom season every year since then.

I know you would do the same once you try this recipe of neem flower buttermilk called veppampoo moar kuzhambu in Tamil. This refreshing drink is considered to be blood purifying and immunity boosting for the new season's ailments.




Recipe of neem flower infused buttermilk

Ingredients
(4-6 servings)

3-4 tbsp cleaned fresh neem flowers or 2 tsp dry neem flowers
1 tbsp ghee
Pinch of asafoetida (heeng)
2 dry red chilies 
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 cup yogurt
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure
Heat the ghee and add asafoetida, dry red chilies, cumin seeds and neem flowers one by one and wait till they get aromatic. Remove from the stove and let it cool.

Blend the yogurt with water, salt and pepper using a wire whisk. Add the neem flower infused ghee into this and blend again.  

You may want to remove the dry red chilies from the infused ghee if you don't like the chili heat, I remove the chilies as the ghee has already got a pleasant whiff of chilies.

Serve at room temperature.



This traditional veppampoo moar kuzhambu or neem flower infused buttermilk will make you crave for the flavours and cooling effect of this drink every summer trust me. Since Neem leaves have started sprouting here in Delhi and I know the blossoms have also started coming in some regions of the country, this buttermilk recipe will come handy if you find some neem flowers around your area.

Do try this recipe and let me know how you liked it. Your feedback is important to keep me motivated to write more on this blog, I have been guilty of not updating recipes and nutrition information here regularly but I plan to correct that now.
Please write in and stay tuned.
 
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I have been making rocket pesto every season for a few years since I have been growing rocket. Pesto made with rocket leaves, especially the arugula variety is quite flavourful and I prefer it over basil pesto any day.
 
 
The arugula variety of rocket grows really well and we keep using the tender leaves for our salads and in omelets but once the plants prepares for flowering the leaves start getting more peppery and one can’t use them as liberally as one would want. The pesto is the solution for the overly peppery mature leaves of arugula as the nuts and oil tone down the sharpness. 
 

In recent years I have started making my pesto with locally available cold pressed oils and the result has been quite encouraging. I love using sesame oil in my pesto, especially when it is made of peppery arugula leaves. Also I have started making all my pesto without cheese as it makes better sense to add the cheese when finishing the dish rather than adding it to the pesto which is made in bulk and is stored for at least a month. Making the pesto without cheese makes it more versatile too, sometimes I use Parmesan shavings over pasta dishes, sometimes cheddar cheese when I smear the pesto over my sourdough pita breads, sometimes a vegan cheese when using the pesto over pizza. You get the drift. 

This rocket pesto recipe is actually more of a garden pesto recipe that uses whatever leafy greens are growing in the garden in the particular season. I had some nice baby spinach leaves and used them as I wanted to tone down the peppery taste of mature rocket leaves further, the spinach worked really well. And to my surprise a friend messaged me after I shared the rocket pesto pasta on Instagram that she made spinach and basil pesto inspired by this recipe using sesame oil as I did. Needless to say the use of home grown herbs and leafy greens and locally available oils in a pesto recipe is an idea that goes a long way in making it flavourful and healthier. We are never sure of the quality of olive oil we get in India so using more of the local oils is a better idea. 
 
The more conventional recipe of rocket pesto with olive oil and parmesan is here.

Ingredients 
(To make about 800 gm of pesto) 

300 gm arugula leaves 
100 gm baby spinach 
100 gm green garlic leaves and bulbs 
100 gm walnuts 
100 gm cashews 
100+100 ml or more cold pressed sesame oil (I used Organic India sesame oil) 
Salt and pepper to taste 

Procedure 
Chop all the greens roughly. 
Fill everything in the blender jar, saving 100 ml of the oil, and blend using the pulsing action of your blender because you want a coarse paste and not a very smooth mix. Keeping the pesto coarse is the key, it is better done in a traditional mortar and pestle but convenience takes over and I end up using the blender all the time. Make sure the pulsing mode of the blender is used to make pesto always.

Empty the pesto in a sterilised glass jar, press it down with a spoon and pour the remaining oil over the surface so it keeps fresh in the refrigerator. I pour a lot more oil because the oil comes handy when making pasta or other dishes using the pesto. 

Refrigerate the pesto immediately, it keeps well for a months. Take care to use dry spoons when taking out required amount of pesto from the jar and maintain a layer of oil over the surface always, pour a bit more oil if needed. The oil gets infused with the pesto and can be used for salad dressings if you like. I take out some oil every time I scoop out the pesto to make a pasta dish like this.

 
To make the penne and peas pasta with rocket pesto, boil penne (or any other pasta) in salted water. Add peas half way through the boiling pasta and strain them together once both are cooked, the pasta needs to be al dente when you drain it, as it keeps cooking in its own heat even after you strain it. 

Add a generous dollop of pesto along with some of its oil to the cooked mix of pasta and peas, toss well to coat and serve as desired. We love this as a cold pasta dish and it is often packed in Arvind’s lunch box, I pack for myself too and keep it on the dining table so I don’t forget in between my writing work. We always have it with soft boiled eggs but feel free to serve some chicken nuggets or sautéed shrimps with it. Sometimes I add cubes of paneer to the pasta dish and it becomes a complete one pot meal.

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Coconut oil is one of the healthiest dietary fats that has been used for skin care, hair care and for making many types of medicated salves, creams and lotions apart from cooking. All over in the coastal India and other south-east Asian countries, coconut has been the preferred cooking medium for everyday food. Other parts of India rarely used coconut oil as a cooking medium but it was used extensively for the everyday skin and hair care regime, the rich content of Lauric acid in coconut oil helps fight infections and inflammations.


Unfortunately, coconut oil has been demonized for being harmful for heart health along with all the other saturated fats which is absolutely wrong, the fact well supported by modern research. All the natural saturated fats including ghee and butter are good for the body in many ways.

Coconut oil is different from other saturated fats in a way that is composed of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are metabolized differently compared to ghee or other saturated fats. MCTs readily diffuse through the intestinal membrane, reach the bloodstream and then are processed by the liver to convert into energy almost instantly, resulting into ketones rather than converting to storage fats.

Ketones are used for energy by brain, heart and muscles improving alertness and cognitive function.  Ketones also help suppress the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and enhance the satiety hormone (leptin), managing your hunger patterns better in a natural way.

Coconut oil is not stored in the body as fatty tissues but helps burn fats better due to the way it is metabolized, making one feel more energetic along with boosting immunity, joint lubrication and limiting sugar cravings.

Coconut oil does not require bile or pancreatic enzymes for its digestion because of its unique composition, that is MCTs. Also, MCTs can pass the blood brain barrier easily and supply instant energy to the brain without being dependent on glucose, the reason why coconut oil is considered good for Alzheimer's disease and control of sugar cravings as mentioned above.

There are four types of MCTs in coconut oil, namely Caproic acid, Caprylic acid, Capric acid and Lauric acid. Together, these MCTs help increase the desired HDL cholesterol and boost immunity along with providing energy via ketones. Lauric acid, which makes up over 40% of the coconut oil fat is antibacterial, antiviral and works against many other microbial pathogens and improves gut flora as well.

Clearly, there are enough reasons to start using coconut oil in everyday foods even if you are not used to coconut oil as a cooking medium. Using it as a skin moisturizer will give you an idea of its potency, try applying a thin coat just after bath on wet skin and see how wonderfully it works. Ensure you get very good quality organic virgin coconut oil to get the benefits though.

I used to make my own coconut oil till a decade ago when my daughter had skin problems due to prolonged confinement to bed. The homemade coconut oil did wonders to her dry flaky skin and Blepharitis of the eye lashes, the reason I would make a batch of coconut oil almost every month.

Recently I had to create a few recipes using coconut oil for a high tea menu I was curating for the launch of Organic India products and I was reminded of a coconut oil chocolate ganache that I had made once with my home made coconut oil. The coconut oil recently introduced by Organic India was so good that I could use it just like my home made version.


The chocolate ganache with coconut oil was used to coat amaranth laddus, a mildly sweetened snack that everyone loved at the launch event. In fact when we made the warm dark chocolate and coconut oil ganache in the back kitchen it made a sensational round of tasting for many of us, licking the spoons and fingers even before it was coated over the amaranth laddus.

I am sharing the recipe here so that you can also recreate at home and indulge yourself. I tried it with organic cocoa powder and organic dark chocolate (52%) both so I am giving both recipes.

Ingredients 
100 ml coconut oil ( I used Organic India coconut oil)
100 ml honey (I use honey from Organic India but you can use any good honey)
50 gm or 3 tbsp organic unsweetened cocoa powder

OR
100 ml coconut oil
150 gm dark chocolate (52% or around 60%)

Procedure 

Put all the ingredients in a glass mixing bowl and heat it over a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler you can boil water in a saucepan and use a mixing bowl large enough to sit snugly over the sauce pan so the ingredients of ganache melt slowly over the regulated heat.

Start whipping the ingredients as soon as you see the coconut oil melting, the unsweetened cocoa powder takes a little vigorous whipping to get assimilated into the ganache but once incorporated it tastes really good. It will be easier to mix if you are using dark chocolate chips or a bar broken into shards.


The ganache is ready once it looks creamy and luscious. Now coat the amaranth laddus or your favourite biscotti with this and let them cool. The rich taste of coconut enriches the dark chocolate in a very intriguing way. If you don't like coconut oil chocolate ganache it means the coconut oil you used in not good quality.

This coconut oil by Organic India is so good that I feel like going to the kitchen and eat a spoonful of pure solid coconut oil on its own right now as I type this blogpost. I never imagined I will be able to eat coconut oil like this but it has happened due the good quality coconut oil I could get.
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