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Traditional Indian cuisine with a healthy twist


With more people turning to healthy home-cooking, Mira Manek’s debut cookbook couldn’t come at a better time.

Manek is a British-born food expert of Indian heritage, and her desire to combine healthy cooking with her love of traditional Indian cuisine led her to tweaking her mother’s and grandmother’s recipes to create lighter, healthier dishes.

Her new cookbook, Saffron Soul, features recipes that are a mixture of traditional dishes with some personalized tweaks, lots of flavour, and nutritional goodness. You can find three of them below.

 

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Spinach Pancakes with Chilli Yoghurt
Makes 6 pancakes

These traditional savoury pancakes, usually containing just chickpea flour, yoghurt and spices, make for a perfectly simple, healthy and versatile meal, although here I’ve added a nutritious handful of spinach and finely chopped onions to the mix. They are best served thin and hot off the stove, although they can also be eaten cold.

WHAT YOU NEED:
For the pancakes

  • 100g chickpea flour
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt*
  • ½ tsp Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • pinch of ground turmeric
  • 80-100ml water
  • 1 tbsp garlic, ginger, and chilli paste
  • 20g spinach leaves, very finely chopped
  • ½ onion, very finely chopped
  • a few tbsp coconut oil or other oil, for frying

For the chilli yoghurt

  • 5 tbsp yoghurt
  • pinch of red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp Himalayan salt or sea salt

To serve

  • Whole and thinly sliced radishes

*If the yoghurt you’re using is the thick yoghurt and is not naturally slightly sour, then squeeze in a little lime or lemon juice

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Place the chickpea flour, yoghurt, salt and turmeric in a large mixing bowl and pour half the measured water into the mixture, mixing quickly using a spoon or fork or with your hand, then gradually pour in the rest of the water until the batter is smooth, the consistency of a pancake batter or thin cream.
  2. Add the rest of the pancake ingredients except for the oil. Whisk the batter thoroughly and taste, adding more garlic, ginger, chilli or salt if needed.
  3. Make the chilli yoghurt by mixing together all the ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. To make the pancakes, heat a non-stick panake or frying pan until very hot, then turn the heat down to medium. Pour around 1-1 ½ tbsp of the batter into the pan and immediately spread out in a circular motion using the back of the spoon, but do not press too hard.
  5. Lightly pour half a tsp of oil (a few drops on all sides) on the edges of the pancake so that the underside of the pancake becomes lightly brown. After about a minute the underside should be cooked and tinged golden brown, then flip the pancake. Leave the other side to cook for another minute, adding another few drops of oil on the edges of the pancake if you wish. If both sides are not golden brown, flip one more time on both sides.
  6. Place the cooked pancake onto a plate lined with a sheet of kitchen towel. Repeat with the rest of the pancakes, stacking them on the plate until they’re all cooked.
  7. Serve the pancakes hot (or they can be eaten cold), with a generous spoonful of chilli yoghurt and radishes.

 

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Onion and Cumin Raita
Serves 4 as part of a thali

Yoghurt mellows spices, adds coolness to the palate and lends freshness. A raita is a mix of yoghurt and varying ingredients, from onions to pomegranates or bananas, and works well with any thali. This particular raita, made with onion and cumin, is my mother’s favourite.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 200g natural yoghurt
  • 1 small onion or ½ large onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp roasted cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cumin, plus extra to sprinkle
  • ½ tsp Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • Handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and mix well. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
  2. Pour into a serving bowl, garnish with a sprinkle of ground cumin if you wish, and serve.

 

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Cardamom and Date Mohanthal
I was so fascinated when I realized you can make a dessert with chickpea flour that I decided to experiment with dates and coconut oil instead of butter or ghee. I came up with this delicious confection, also known as Coco Fudge – and it really does taste like fudge.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 80g coconut oil
  • 100g chickpea flour
  • 100g pitted dates, preferably Medjool
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom

Optional toppings

  • 1 tbsp goji berries
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • 1 tbsp chopped pistachios

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan, then pour in the chickpea flour and cook, stirring on a low heat. At the same time, warm the dates in a separate saucepan on a low heat so they melt easily when added to the flour and coconut oil mixture.
  2. You will need to continuously stir the flour and oil mixture for around 15 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken and you notice the colour change very slightly from yellow to orange/light brown. Remove from the heat immediately, add the warmed dates and stir until they melt. The mixture need not be entirely smooth. Finally, mix in the ground cardamom.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a 20x20 centimetre (8”x8”) baking tray (sheet). Add any of the optional toppings that you wish to include, then flatten using a palette knife or spatula so the toppings are set into the mohanthal. Leave to cool.
  4. Transfer the tray to the fridge for an hour, then cut into 25 pieces, each 4 cm square. You can leave the tray in the fridge for longer than hour, but you will need to remove it from the fridge 30 minutes before you wish to cut it into pieces so that it softens and is easier to cut.
  5. Keep in an airtight container in a cool place, or in the fridge if it’s warm outside. This will keep for 2-3 weeks.

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