Friday, 20 September 2013

Cooking... a connection with what we eat

Cooking is a personal connection, satisfaction and the most important health factor with what we are eating

Over the past couple of decades, in our otherwise agricultural country with year round supply of a huge variety fresh produce and grains, there is a phenomenal revolution in what, how and where we eat. A country where eating simple home cooked meals together with family, and 'Nashtadaans' (lunch boxes) being taken to schools and offices were significant part of tradition, are now fast disapperaring, specifically from the urban homes.

The massive invasion of fast food industry, mushrooming of restaurants, dhabas, cafes all over the country, and import of machinries like massive friers, grillers, freezers  are among some major factors that have redefined our food choices, and eating habits.   In the name of convenience and for the sake of saving time, we are consuming an aweful range of food that are downright hazardous to health. These eateries, machinries,  packaged, bottled, and refrigerated products, topped with the convenience of home delivery service have changed the family dynamics of cooking and eating every meal at home as a family activity.

“We are busy”, “both spouses working”, “no time in the morning for breakfast and pack lunches for school and office” , ‘hey which is the best restaurant, I am getting a bunch of people coming over tonight”, conversation like this have become common in everyday life of our families. We are relying heavily on packaged, processed and restaurant bought foods.  At a different level eating out is also becoming a part of the social life for people of all ages, and where and what they eat is more of a status symbol and people are fast falling into this rat race.

Unfortunately in doing so, we are completely forgetting that we are fast loosing the personal connection, satisfaction and the most important health factor associated with home cooked meals. This is of course not a 100% generalised situation but we cannot deny the fact that a good number of urban families and individual are cooking less and eating out more.  I am qualified as a health supportive cook and being a food photographer post my culinary creations online on social media, unfortunately a lot of people insist, push and request me to start a business sell the food I cook. These emails, posts and inboxed messages leave me wondering, why don’t people get inspired and begin exploring their own pots and pans and kitchen life again. Cooking is not a space science, it is a fun, creative, collaborative and family activity.

Don’t get me wrong I am not against eating out, it is fun and we enjoy some of the food which we cannot prepare at home and often times a good way to socialize. There was a time when eating out used to be occasional activity rather then what it is now, almost on everyday basis, resulting in blocked arteries, obesity and loads of other ailments, hard on health and pockets both.

Cooking for family and friends beside being a healthy practice, is also creative, satisfying  and cost effective. “My mom works and is very busy, still she makes lunch for me’, responded  a 17 year old one, when her classmates commented “your mom has lots of time to cook fresh Italian pasta for you to bring to school”, the other nine teens sitting in that group together eating fries during a lunch time from the school tuck shop. There is a growing trend among teenagers to feel ashamed of taking homemade lunches, schools hardly take responsibility for providing healthy and hygienic meals.

 The school tuck shops are the most unhealthy and unhygienic food production places. Involving children in grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking together is an excellent activity to inculcate a sense of healthy food, and good eating habits ensuring lesser visits to pediatricians.

Cooking meals at home, helps us choose ingredients as per our health requirements, we can control portions and can enjoy prime quality of meals more frequently within budget. A simple example is the price we pay for one three course meal at an elite restaurant, similar meals can be cooked at home in the same cost for at least 4 people, that too with better quality ingredients, and hygienically prepared right there with us in command.

No matter how busy we are, eating is a basic and most important activity of everyday life. We need healthy and good food to function efficiently in all aspects of life.

Just pause and think, why we tend to compromise on eating and food choices? Every little morsel of food that gets into our bodies becomes a part of our system. Think twice before picking your phone to order a home delivery, and stopping your car for a takeaway or piling the grocery carts and bags with packaged, bottled, frozen and imported food. For every food choice learn to find a home cooked, whole and natural real food.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Diary of a Turophile

Pink basil and olive flavored cottage cheese

\High protein and low fat makes cottage cheese a great choice for weight watchers 

Turophile is someone who loves cheese, and I am one, and my recent passion is making Cottage Cheese at home. Following a website step by step recipe, I have created a range of  herbed and spiced cottage cheese using cow and buffalo milk both. The results were totally amazing and given the fact it it is a high protein and low fat food makes it a great choice for weight watchers

Cottage cheese is low in carbohydrates and full of healthy vitamins and minerals. A half cup serving of plain cottage cheese contains about 120 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbohydrates, and 14 grams of protein.

The history of Cottage Cheese goes way back to early Greeks and Egyptians and of course in the villages of Indian subcontinent where it is used in a range of curries, kebabs and stir fries.  It was named "Cottage Cheese" because traditionally they made in cottages, which are small country and village houses.


The basic processing instruction will remain same, with the variation of different herbs and spices for creating flavors.


1 Litre Cow or Buffalo milk preferably organic

Juice of 1 Lemon

1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tsp Salt
Herbs and spices combination of your choice

Cooking Instructions


-       Boil the milk in a pan 

-       Just when it starts boiling add the lemon juice/vinegar, salt and spices/herb

    Slow the flame, and let the milk simmer and curdle, add a bit of more acid (lemon juice and or vinegar) if it is not curdling

-When you see that all curd is separated from the whey, the curdled milk should be floating above the yellowish almost transparent water like whey. Take off the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes

 Line a strainer with cheesecloth or plain white muslin, and set it inside a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the cloth and stir it gently to drain off the whey. 

 Let all the whey drain and the soft cheese remains on the cloth

- I sprinkle a bit of salt on the curd at this stage since I like my cheese salty

-       Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over in a form of a little bag, then put a weight over it. I use a huge clean and washed pebble or sometime my marble pestel and mortan. Let it drain and stand like this for about 1 hour.

-   Slowly open the cheese cloth and lift the slab of your beautiful cottage cheese.

Flavouring with Herb and Spice:

Use any one of the following to flavour, dont be shy experimenting with your 

1-   ½ tsp Minced fresh red chillies and toasted garlic flakes

2-   1 tsp fine chopped coriander  and red chillies flakes

3-   freshly cracked black peppers

4-  1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano and 2 tbsp finely chopped walnuts

5-  1 tsp finely chopped basil/mint
6-  1-1/2 tsp chopped olives/capers or both
7- Toasted zeera
8- Chopped dry fruits like raisins/apricots these taste great on its own or with sweet muffins or crackers, not for curries or savoury dishes. 

Serving Ideas:

Malai Kofta
Palak Paneer
Paneer Kebabs

Olive and basil cheese sandwich on rocket and sundried tomatoes garnished with capers

Chillie garlic flavoured cottage cheese and rocket sandwich

Basil Flavoured Cottage Cheese with Crackers
Spinach and cottage cheese filled omelette