Buckwheat Muffins |Buckwheat Muffins With Muesli

I had been toying with the idea of a healthy breakfast loaf, muffin or pancake for a while now. Something that tastes good, keeps well and doesn’t feel like “cake for breakfast.” Something away from processed carbs and added sugar. Something that’s not a sugar-infused, jam-centred, frosting-topped indulgence. Yes, I love frosting and sweet treats, but when you like them as much as I do, you need to strike a balance and find ways to satisfy the craving without sabotaging the waistline. Enter buckwheat flour and the realm of gluten-free baking.

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I’ve tried vegan bakes before, but gluten-free seemed daunting. I was uneasy- I wondered whether the dough would be temperamental, whether xanthan gum was a must-have, whether I’d be left with a gloopy mess. I’ve baked with almond meal, but always mixed it with regular all-purpose flour. I found buckwheat flour in Dorabjee’s in Pune, and started experimenting. This is one of them.

image courtesy | wisegeek

image courtesy | wisegeek

Most recipes, blogs and articles I’d come across described buckwheat flour as having a “nutty” taste. But the first recipe I tried (for buckwheat pancakes,) didn’t really hint at nutty. Maybe it’s because I was expecting too much. For someone who adds almond meal to practically every cake, nuttiness is de riguer.

The buckwheat and banana pancake recipe  was from  It’s All Good, and to be honest I didn’t find it that good. The recipe calls for baking soda, and I was left with not a nutty but just a baking soda aftertaste. I figured it could have been because I used regular milk instead of almond milk. (The recipe in the book is vegan, and I am not.)

The second time around, I reworked the recipe to include eggs and milk, and left out the baking soda. Omitting the soda was a good move. I liked it much better the second time around. I don’t know if I’d describe the taste as nutty, but there is hint of something- kind of nutty, kind of like cinnamon- and it’s a nice taste.

Anyway. This recipe was created out of a need to bake something healthy and convenient for a family member who loves baked goodies, but needs to stay away from gluten and sugar for a while. I took a basic muffin recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio and replaced regular all-purposed flour with buckwheat flour and folded in some store-bought muesli.

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These muffins last, so re-heating them for breakfast is convenient. These muffins also travel well, so taking them to work is an option, too. Plus, the muesli folded in makes it a decent breakfast. I’ll admit they are not the sweetest things in the world, but they serve as a great vehicle for preserves, jelly, honey, agave and/or butter. The only indulgence is chocolate chips- but because it’s gluten-free and low in sugar, you can feel pretty good about yourself afterwards.

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BUCKWHEAT & MUESLI MUFFINS | GLUTEN-FREE BUCKWHEAT MUFFIN RECIPE (Adapted from Ratio.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 100 g buckwheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons powdered/icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  •  50 g butter, melted
  • 100 ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup store-bought muesli of your choice
  • A handful of chocolate chips (optional.)

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 175 C. Grease a muffin tray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the buckwheat flour, powdered sugar and baking powder.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and butter till well incorporated.
  • Fold in the dry ingredients and gently whisk to combine.
  • Fold in the muesli.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Scoop the batter into muffin moulds and bake at 175 C for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

 

 

 

Diva Green’s Pumpkin & Coconut Soup

I am having a little affair with vegetarian food. Over the last 6 months, I’ve been losing interest in meat and poultry. Seafood I’m still pretty excited by, but for some reason, when there is meat or chicken on the table, I have scant portions or none at all. I’m much happier when a meal is vegetarian. In the kitchen, I’ve been deviating from the standard dal-roti-sabzi and rice+sambar+thoran routine and making stuff that is out of my comfort zone, keeping vegetables at the center of the plate. And I must credit this flurry of vegetarian cooking to Ritu Dalmia’s cookbook, Diva Green.

I know, I know what you are going to tell me- Ottolenghi’s books are a must-have for anyone who is interested in vegetarian cooking. And I’m going to get one soon, I promise. (Ummm…which one first? Ottolenghi, Jerusalem or Plenty?)

image courtesy | thecityguide.in

image courtesy | thecityguide.in

Anyhow, I came across Diva Green while I was rabbit-holing through cookbooks on Amazon. I enjoy Ritu Dalmia’s TV shows and her cooking style, but I was not sure whether to pick it up. Plus, Amazon didn’t have a preview for the book, so I couldn’t even browse inside. I added the book to my wishlist and let it be. Then I found a copy at Landmark bookstore, and I sat down with it. The book opened onto a recipe for Burmese Tomato Salad as I placed it in my lap- and I was hooked. I just fell in love with the diversity- Italian and Vietnamese; dishes from Kerala and Karnataka;  desserts ranging from baked cheesecake to Bavarian knodel.

I’ve cooked many recipes from this book, and each one of them has been a success. I tweaked a little here and there, substituting some ingredients, but overall, this is  a neat cookbook with a wide range of recipes. Familiar dishes like kadi and desi potato fry get a refined flavour-boost thanks to her techniques, and you may discover some dishes you hadn’t heard of before, like Burmese Tomato Salad and Plecing Kankung (spinach with sambal.)

The one I’m sharing today is a Vietnamese soup, made with pumpkin and coconut milk. It’s rich and creamy without being heavy, and pretty healthy too! I’ve tried my hand at pumpkin soup before, and it came out slightly bland and a little too rich, thanks to cream taking the place of coconut milk. In this soup, the seasoning is uncomplicated- just salt and pepper- but the boiled peanuts add a distinct Southeast Asian flavour, and  make it more fun to eat, too. (Plus: protein!)

Ritu Dalmia's pumpkin and coconut soup

Ritu Dalmia’s pumpkin and coconut soup

This is a simple soup recipe that is low on effort and ingredients required, but high on flavour.

PUMPKIN & COCONUT SOUP (From Diva Green)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kilogram pumpkin, de-seeded, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup shelled peanuts
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper to season

METHOD

  • Parboil the pumpkin in salted water till tender. Drain and set aside. Keep the water to be used later in the soup.
  • In another pot, boil the peanuts in salted water till tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add the bay leaf, onions and garlic and sautee for a few minutes.
  • Add the partially cooked pumpkin pieces and cook for a few minutes. Then add half the boiled peanuts.
  • Next, take the bayleaf out of the pan and discard.
  • Puree the pumpkin+onion+garlic+peanut mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
  • Pour this mixture into a large pot, add the coconut milk, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat. Add as much of the pumpkin water as needed to give it a soupy consistency.
  • Add the remaining boiled peanuts.
  • Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve!

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Beet Salad With Mint + Scallion Pesto

Since I have posted wayyy to many sweet treats, I thought I’d take a break from it and serve up something lighter. Both in tone, taste and preparation. This one’s from- hold your breath- Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen’s cookbook It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great.

This cookbook has been quite polarizing on the interwebs, much like Gwyneth herself. (I’ll admit I am not a big fan of her personality, her crusade as a lifestyle guru or her consciousness spiel, but I do like visiting her website Goop.com to browse through recipes- they have some good ones!)

Now the inside flap of the book starts off talking about Gwyneth’s “clear eyes, glowing skin and fit body…,” none of which I care for. I’m quite happy with my eyes (they are neither bloodshot nor cloudy,) and my skin is pretty ok for someone who does not apply much of anything to it, and as for my body, it’s definitely not Tracy Anderson Method-approved, but I manage to get some exercise each day and I am at peace with it. (I’m not walking any red-carpets, so I don’t feel the need to get my body “red-carpet ready!!!”)

Oh yes, back to the book.

image courtesy | eater.com

image courtesy | eater.com

Now, there are some paragraphs that are pretentious, along with some cringe-worthy pictures that don’t really make sense. Like, for instance, GP riding a Vespa, and another one where she is sideward-glancing while wrapped in a blanket. And of course, there is name-dropping: recipes from her ‘besties’ Cameron Diaz and Gavin Rossdale…but she’s a celebrity, and celebrities befriend celebrities, so it is but natural that they swap recipes, no? So yes, there are few portions you’d want to skim over, but once you do, you’ll realize that there are some pretty neat recipes beneath it all.

image courtesy | eater.com

image courtesy | eater.com

The book is based on GP’s elimination diet and many, many everyday products are avoided, like dairy, gluten, sugar, coffee. (I don’t have any issues with dairy or gluten, so I used whole wheat pasta where brown rice pasta is called for, and cow’s milk where a recipe called for almond/rice milk. The flavours are great, and since I’m not planning to get on a diet, I tweaked away.) 

Having said that, the salad, vegetable and grains sections have plenty of wonderful recipes that can be recreated with ingredients that are easily available in India- and many are naturally vegan and gluten-free. Sweet potatoes, corn, eggplant, beets, leeks, carrots, mushrooms, daikon radish (regular desi mooli.) Most of these vegetables can be found in markets in India. There are of course, some veggies and grains (romesco, kale, quinoa) that I don’t have easy access to, but even without those recipes, there is enough variety to choose from.

This beet salad is one of them. Easy, delicious and can be made ahead and assembled before lunch/dinnertime.

Scallion mint pesto from It's All Good

Scallion mint pesto from It’s All Good

The mint+scallion pesto is a keeper- I used it on toast, tossed in pasta, in omelettes, as a topping for crackers- versatile, like pesto should be. The raw garlic gives it a pungent, almost spicy punch, and the toasted almonds add great depth. And nibble!!

 

Drizzle the pesto over the beets, or just gob them on like I did.

Drizzle the pesto over the beets, or just gob it on with a spoon like I did.

BEET SALAD WITH  MINT +SCALLION PESTO (From It’s All Good)

The Beets

500 grams steamed or roasted beetroot, skins removed and cubed/sliced into discs

The Pesto

  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • A dozen scallions (spring onions) white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1/3 cup mint leaves (pudina)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (the book calls for extra-virgin, I used regular)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (I used desi nimbus)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (the cookbook calls for coarse sea salt, which I had, but I think table salt would be just fine

Puree all the ingredients in a powerful blender until smooth.

 

To assemble, arrange the beets on a plate and pour/drizzle/dab the pesto all over it.

Yes, that’s all it takes :D