Gluten-Free & High-Fiber Millet Upma

Millet Upma

Farmed thousands of years ago & revered in ancient texts, Millet is an ancient grain tracing it’s roots to the Far East. According to Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, ‘Unlike most other grains, this versatile, gluten free grain is alkaline, which makes it easy to digest and helps balance the body’s natural tendency towards acidity.’

  • Millet is also gluten free, protein rich & is an excellent source of dietary fiber.
  • It is anti-oxidant rich & provides a significant source of necessary minerals:
    • phosphorous
    • potassium
    • magnesium which reduce effects of migraines & heart attacks
    • Niacin (vit B3) which helps lower cholesterol & triglycerides
  • While comparable to semolina in calories & carb count, millet has a lower glycemic load meaning that its high fiber & low simple sugar composition produces lower blood sugar levels than rice.
  • Millet helps foster healthy gut bacteria, and the serotonin is calming to the mood.  (all info from www.Care2.com).

Millet looks like large quinoa, and is sometimes mistaken for it. This whole grain can be used as a healthier alternative to rice and can be cooked both savory or sweet. My friend Uma gave me this idea and given the health benefits and easy of preparation, it will definitely be a staple in my pantry.

Millet Upma

Gluten-Free & High-Fiber Millet Upma

(Makes about 6 cups; serves 4-5)

  • 2 cups hulled millet (not pearled)*****
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 big onion (chopped fine)
  • 8-10 green chillies
  • 1 inch ginger (grated) [or] 1 1/2 Tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 medium tomato (chopped fine)
  • 1 medium potato (diced into small pieces)
  • 1 large carrot (diced)
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp lemon / lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  1. Heat a large heavy bottom pan on medium flame, and add oil.
  2. When oil heats up, add the onions, chillies and the ginger and fry till the onions start to slightly brown, stirring frequently.
  3. Add tomatoes and saute till they are soft, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, potatoes, peas, salt & turmeric and stir fry for 3-5 minutes on medium-high flame.
  5. Add the water and bring to a boil.
  6. Immediately add the millet, stir everything well and return to boil.
  7. Reduce flame, cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes on low flame. Do not lift lid midway to check.
  8. Remove from heat, stir and recover; allow the millet to sit for about 10 minutes.
  9. Add the lemon juice & cilantro and stir before serving.

EASY method: Season directly in a pressure cooker pan, roast the vegetables for only 2 minutes, add water and millet, and cover. Cook on medium flame for 2 whistles. Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before opening and adding cilantro & lime juice.

***** Hulled millet is still a whole grain which is ‘shelled’ / just the bran removed – a realistic way of humans being able to consume it. Pearled millet is more processed and polished to make cooking times lower.

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi (Shallow-Fried Fish)

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi

After a long break and a crazy-busy summer with family visiting from India, I’m back again with a quick and easy recipe that will wow your eyes & taste-buds. This shallow-fried whole fish fry cooks in minutes and can be customized to suit your tastes – the possibilities are endless. The recipe below is more of a guide – feel free to use masalas / seasoning of your choice, making it as spicy or as mild as you like.

I used a homemade tandoori masala mix that I wrote down in my recipe book about two decades ago when Indian stores were not so common in America. The recipe is from Martha Stewart (can’t remember the actual source as it’s been so long).

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi

Tandoori Masala

  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 – 1 tbsp red-chilli powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves powder
  • 1 tsp cumin (jeera) powder
  • 1 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (to taste)
  • red tandoori food color – optional

1) Mix all ingredients together and adjust taste to preference. (I like to keep it spicier and a little saltier at this point as it mellows when used with the meat.)

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi

(I also fried a couple of silver pomfret fish but forgot to take photos. This was shot on my phone while my family waited at the table for dinner. So please excuse the bad photography.)

For the fish-fry

  • 2 lbs bass / pomfret / tilapia fish (about 3-4) – gutted, scaled & scored on the sides
  • tandoori-masala paste (above) or seasoning of choice
  • 1/3 cup fine semolina (sooji) – if all you have is regular, then run it in a small blender jar for a few seconds
  • 1 cup oil for frying
  • chaat masala – optional
  • lemon / lime wedges for topping & garnish

1) Thoroughly wash the fish and drain completely. Pat dry with paper towels and set on a flat plate.

2) Generously apply the tandoori masala paste in the scores on the skin and on the insides.

3) Cover the fish and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours .

4) To fry, remove fish from refrigerator and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes at room temperature.

5) Pour about 1/4 cup oil into a flat, wide, heavy-bottomed pan and heat on medium.

6) Place semolina in a flat shallow plate/container and gently roll the fish to lightly coat.

7) Place the fish in the hot oil on its side and cook – carefully turning midway – about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

8) Drain and remove when the fish is golden and has a crispy coating.

9) Continue cooking the rest of the fish the same way, adding more oil as needed.

10) Sprinkle with chaat masala and a squeeze of lemon juice if desired. Serve with lemon / coconut rice and raita.

Tandoori-Spiced Tawa Macchi

For Lemon Rice

This is a traditional South Indian rice dish (chitranna  in Kannada) that is eaten at room temperature and is served with a side of vegetables. While not traditionally served with meat, I feel it lends itself well to easy, make-ahead summer meals. Plus the zesty lemon taste goes well with the spicy fish and the creamy raita.

  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp channa dal
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 4-6 thai green chillies (slit in half)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled rice
  • 4 tbsp oil

1) In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium flame.

2) Add mustard seeds and partially cover till they pop.

3) Add the chana dal, stir for a few seconds and then add udad dal. Stir till just starting to turn light brown.

4) Add the slit green chillies and cook about 30 seconds, partially covering lid so it doesn’t splatter oil onto your hands or face.

5) Turn off stove, add turmeric and stir. Allow to cool.

[This mix can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored at room temperature in an air tight container. Do not add salt or lemon juice as it will make the dals soft instead of keeping it crunchy and nutty.]

6) To serve, add the seasoning mixture, salt, lemon juice & cilantro to the rice and mix well.

(This is a basic version of lemon rice. Additions include curry leaves, capsicum, peanuts/cashews, peas, etc. My family happens to like the plain version.)

For Raita

  • 1/2 cucumber – peeled & grated / finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream / hung yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro for garnish

1) Mix all ingredients and serve chilled.

********

Homemade Chipotle-style Buffet and Tortilla Salad – Lots of Vegetarian Options

  Taco Salad Bowl

Are you tired of eating the same (or variations of the same) food at almost all social gatherings you go to? For us, it’s usually South Indian food – delicious most of the time – but there are only so many variations I can enjoy before it starts to get monotonous. I wanted a change for when we entertained over the holidays, and decided to do away with Indian food altogether, but we had to have something with similar spices & heat to meet the needs of the Indian palate. Mexican to the rescue!! (Or, at-least, the Americanized version of it :)). I wanted to keep the meal easy and informal, where guests could choose from a variety of items that did not require much attention once laid out. So, Chipotle-style it was.

I apologize for the low quality photos – I forgot to take them before my family arrived, and didn’t realize till I was setting the table. Plus, I had a very hungry mom-to-be hovering by the table, ready to eat and didn’t want to keep her waiting any longer. This will definitely feature again at my house, and I promise to take better photos and update here. In the meantime, you can see the almost-ready table pictures that were clicked by my then-9-year old.

IMG_8291

IMG_8305

IMG_8293

(I fell in love with the Rooster as soon as I saw it at the store. Unfortunately, he had to go back because he was too big for the ledge I had planned on putting him on. At least I have a picture….)

This meal served about 15-20 people. The quantities can be scaled up or down based on the number of people you want to serve. Leftovers freeze well, and can be reheated for a quick meal later.

The menu included:

Baked Tortilla BowlsBaked tortilla bowls

Cilantro Lime RiceCilantro-lime rice (Vegetarian)

Black BeansBlack beans (Vegan)

Pinto BeansPinto beans (Vegan)

Tofu SofritosTofu Sofrito (Vegan)

Taco Chicken in Crock PotShredded Mexican Chicken

Corn & Pepper SaladCorn & Pepper Medley

Homemade SalsaHomemade Salsa

IMG_8301

Shredded Lettuce

IMG_8304

Diced jalapeno peppers, red onions, tomato

IMG_8302

Shredded Mexican-blend cheese & Cilantro

IMG_8303

Guacamole, Cheese & Sour Cream

Dessert was Eggless Arroz Con Leche – Mexican Rice Pudding. Creamy, and fragrant with cinnamon, it was delicious. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures, but will post them next time I make it.

An Indian Holiday Feast

Hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving break. It’s the start of the season of over-indulgence! Thanksgiving weekend was filled with good food, drinks, family, friends, shopping, gossip & spending time with three precious little nieces. While we have the traditional meal with all the accompaniments each year, I’ve never really been a fan of turkey. I had seen recipes for (east)Indian spiced turkey several times, and had also been meaning to try roasting a cornish hen for several years. I decided to try to meld both together and improvised along the way. The results were a delicious & colorful meal that worked for our taste buds :). And it was easy enough to make for a weeknight meal.

Tandoori Cornish Hen

The menu included:

For dessert, we had warm and sweet Gulab Jamoons 🙂

[Scroll down for recipes of items that are not hyperlinked.]

Tandoori Cornish Hen

Masala Corn

  • 1 cup corn kernels (cooked and drained) – I buy frozen roasted corn kernels from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • salt to taste (use black salt / kala namak if available for a better flavor)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • cilantro for garnish

Mix all ingredients well and serve. The measurements are just a guide – adjust as per your taste.

 Peas & Carrot Pulao

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion – sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp green chilli paste (or 1 green chilli – slit)
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1/4 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 tsp salt to taste

1) Heat oil in a medium pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow it to sizzle and pop for a few seconds.

2) Add the onion, ginger and green chilli. Saute on medium-high till translucent, stirring often.

3) Add the carrots and salt, and saute for 2 minutes.

4) Add the peas and cook for another 2 minutes.

5) Add the rice and saute for 1-2 minutes till it changes color.

6) Add 1 1/2 cups (one and a half) water and bring to boil.

7) As soon as the water comes to boil, stir once, reduce heat to LOW, and cook covered for about 12-15 minutes. Do not open the lid during this time. At end of cook time, open lid and gently fluff the rice with a spoon or fork. Check for doneness. Keep covered till ready to serve.

Raita

This recipe was given to me by my friend Sandhya’s mom and it is my most favorite raita recipe.

  • 1/2 medium grated cucumber
  • 1 cup greek yogurt / strained yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 small dry red chilli
  • 2 Tbsp grated coconut
  • salt to taste

1) Wash, peel & grate the cucumber and drain for a few minutes.

2) In a small blender bowl, add half the yogurt, cumin, chilli & coconut and blend till smooth.

3) Mix all ingredients together and salt to taste.

NOTE: If you use regular yogurt, squeeze out the water from the cucumber before mixing in.

Chipotle-style Cilantro Lime Rice (Vegetarian)

Cilantro Lime Rice

This is an easy and mild recipe that you can serve with a Mexican or Tex-Mex style dinner. I made this for my Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options) for an informal gathering at our house a while back. (The photo is pathetic, but the taste was delicious!).

Chipotle-style Cilantro Lime Rice

(Serves 12-15)

This recipe scales well, so feel free to reduce or increase proportions as necessary. I have listed a large quantity as I served a dinner party.

For a family size meal (2 adults + 2 kids), 1 cup of rice might be enough.

  • 3 cups long grain rice (eg: basmati)
  • 5-1/2 cups water
  • 2 – 3 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 2 – 3 medium limes (juiced)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 stick butter (or scant 1/4 cup oil)

1) Rinse the rice with cold water and drain completely.

2) In a medium saucepan with lid, mix rice, salt and water, and bring to a boil on medium-high.

3) Once it comes to a boil, stir once, cover and reduce heat to minimum.

4) Allow to cook undisturbed for about 15 minutes. Open the lid and fluff the top layer gently with a fork, and cover quickly. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to rest for 5-10 minutes.

5) Add butter, cilantro & lime juice to taste. Adjust salt as needed. Mix well and serve.

I served this with a Homemade Chipotle-Style Tortilla Salad with beans, tofu and chicken options.

Mexican-style Black Beans (Vegan)

Black Beans

I made this super easy and yummy black beans  to go with the Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options). We filled baked tortilla bowls with cilantro-lime rice, black or pinto beans, tofu sofritos or taco chicken, corn salsa, tomato salsa, red onions, cheese, sour cream, cheese and cilantro for a delicious meal. These black beans can be eaten as-is, or topped on rice/quinoa too. To see pictures of the buffet table and the finished salad, click here.

Mexican-Style Black Beans

(Serves 12-15)

  • 1 lb dry black beans*** (picked through, rinsed, & soaked overnight)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 2 large cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 large onion (chopped fine)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

1) In a large stockpot, add the beans, water and salt and bring to a boil.

2) Simmer, partially covered for about 30-40 minutes till bite tender.

3) In another pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.

2) Add the bay leaf and saute for a few seconds.

3) Add the minced garlic and the onion, and saute till it starts to lightly brown.

4) Stir in the cumin and oregano, and saute another 15-20 seconds till fragrant.

5) Add the onion-herb mix to the pot of beans and stir well. Adjust seasoning and simmer for another 30-45 minutes, adjusting liquid as needed. (Mixture should not be dry nor soupy and runny.)

6) Can be served over rice / quinoa, or eaten by itself as a thick, hearty soup.

***NOTE: Substitute 4 (15 oz) cans of black beans for 1 lb dry. Drain 2 cans, but save the liquid separately. Saute all the ingredients above (except beans) in a stockpot. Then, add the 2 drained cans & 2 undrained cans of black beans and mix well. Adjust seasoning and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add the reserved liquid if the mixture seems too dry.

Baked Tortilla Bowls

Baked Tortilla Bowls

I made these Baked Tortilla Bowls for my Homemade Chipotle-style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options) dinner party. Topped (filled?) with cilantro-lime rice, black/pinto beans, tofu sofritos/taco chicken, corn with peppers, tomato salsa, red onions, cheese, sour cream, cheese and cilantro, it was a delicious meal. Guests were able to serve themselves and customize to suit their tastes. Once the table was set, it required very little oversight. Plus, it turned out to be a relatively inexpensive menu. Many of the items can be made ahead of time and heated just before serving.

Taco Salad Bowl

Making these tortilla bowls were a breeze with the Tortilla Bowl Pans which you can buy online or at the drug store for around $10/set of 4. Use 8-inch or 10-inch tortillas in the flavor of your choice. I used Original (plain) and Jalapeno tortillas. Make sure the tortillas are at room temperature, and soft and pliable before molding into the pan. If they were refrigirated, wrap in a damp paper towel and microwave for 15-20 seconds till just soft. Then, press gently and shape into the ungreased, non-stick tortilla bowl pans and bake in a preheated oven till crispy.

 If you do not want to buy the pan set ( I strongly urge you to spring for it if you are making these for a large crowd), you can use these two methods linked below:

-Make tortilla bowls with shaped foil, no Pan

-Make tortilla bowls with an upside-down muffin pan.

I have tried baking at 375* for 12-14 minutes, and 400* for 8-10 minutes. Different brands of tortillas seem to have different baking times and temperatures to crisp up nicely. Watch the first few carefully, making sure they do not burn. Then, you can follow the same time for the rest of your batch.

Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. Store in an air-tight container for about 2 days. Before serving, the bowls can be warmed up in a 350* oven for a few minutes to recrisp.

For recipes for the salad filling and toppings, click here.