Tag Archives: healthy recipes

Freekeh Chicken Pilaf

Ancient grains, lentils, pulses have all gone through a revival of sorts in the recent years with a large section of the world waking up to its benefits, not only to preserve these ancient ingredients but also sick and tired of what the processed food culture is doing to our health and well-being.

As I mentioned in my post on French Green Lentils, I had been pretty one-dimensional in my knowledge or use of grains, lentils and pulses. India has always had a rich agricultural heritage when it came to this food category but many of our households have not embraced it well in the modern times. And while my mom did try to introduce us to a large variety of these, I was quite the difficult to please kid who loved food but had very strong likes and dislikes.

While I was easy with vegetables and fruits, I always found it hard to embrace different types of grains or lentils. As my food knowledge grew over the years, especially after getting exposed to different cuisines, I realized that it was the taste of the dish that was putting me off a particular ingredient than the taste or texture of the ingredient itself. For eg: I would love a particular type of lentil in a salad but not in a traditional Indian style lentil curry.

Thus began the quest to discover and experiment with different cuisines, recipes etc… that will help me not just to embrace these ingredients again but genuinely enjoy the experience too.

And that’s how a packet of freekeh ended up in my pantry….

Freekeh Chicken Pilaf - thespiceadventuress.com

Freekeh is an ancient grain that is made from green durum wheat. It is highly nutritious and a great source of protein apart from being rich in dietary fiber, B vitamins and minerals like manganese. Freekeh is often referred to as green wheat as the grains are harvested when young and green which makes it higher in nutrients when compared to mature wheat grains.

Freekeh is extremely popular in North African, Meditteranean and Middle Eastern cuisines often used in salads and stews. But these days, freekeh has become more versatile in its use including the use of freekeh flour to make breads, pasta etc…

I decided to keep it simple and use it in a pilaf which makes it an excellent replacement for rice. The idea for a pilaf came about since I had a similar dish in a restaurant before. And a bit of research later, I found an Ottolenghi recipe for a freekeh pilaf which seemed to fit the bill. But of course I had to tweak it to suit my tastebuds and also included chicken to make it a one pot, wholesome dish. Feel free to omit the chicken if you want to keep it vegetarian.

Freekeh Chicken Pilaf - thespiceadventuress.com

Freekeh is available as whole and cracked grains; I have used the cracked variety as I preferred the texture better. These grains are easy to cook and require very less time.

Note – The colour of my pilaf is slightly darker due to the meat stock used; but if you use a chicken or vegetarian stock, then the final colour of the dish will be much lighter.

So let’s get cooking this delicious Freekeh Pilaf, with caramelized onions, garlic, diced chicken and flavoured with paprika, cumin, all spice and cinnamon. Drizzled with a garlicky lemony yoghurt dressing, this is a delicious one pot meal under 30 minutes.

Freekeh Chicken Pilaf

Freekeh Chicken Pilaf - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup cracked freekeh
  2. 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  3. 2 tbsp olive oil
  4. 2 medium brown onion; finely sliced
  5. 2 garlic cloves; finely chopped
  6. 250gms boneless chicken thigh; diced
  7. ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
  8. ½ tsp all spice powder
  9. ½ tsp smoked paprika
  10. 1 tsp crushed cumin
  11. Salt, to season
  12. Freshly milled black pepper; to season
  13. 3 cups stock
  14. A handful of dried barberries
  15. 2 tbsp fresh parsley leaves
  16. 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  17. Olive oil; to drizzle while serving

Yoghurt sauce:

  1. 1 cup plain yoghurt
  2. 1 small garlic clove; grated
  3. 1 tsp lemon juice
  4. Salt, to season

Method:

  1. Soak the cracked freekeh for 5 minutes and then wash thoroughly under running cold water. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Soak the dried barberries and toast the pine nuts. Keep aside for serving.
  3. In a large pan, heat butter and olive oil. Add the onions and garlic; sauté till the onions are softened and light brown.
  4. Add the diced chicken pieces and cook on medium heat till almost done.
  5. Then add all the spices and the drained freekeh; mix well to combine.
  6. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper. (If using store bought stock, make sure you taste and add salt as the stock often contains salt).
  7. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to lowest and cook covered for 15 minutes or till all the stock has been absorbed.
  8. Remove from heat and keep covered for another 5 minutes.
  9. To prepare the yoghurt sauce, add the plain yoghurt to a bowl along with grated garlic and lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice if necessary and season with salt. Keep aside.
  10. Remove the lid and allow the pilaf to cool for another 3-5 minutes.
  11. To serve, garnish with barberries, parsley, pine nuts. Drizzle the yoghurt sauce on top followed by the olive oil.
  12. Tuck in!

Freekeh Chicken Pilaf

 

 

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Byron Bay Guacamole – A Guest Post for Simplify.Create.Inspire

The modern Australian cuisine is a true representation of the multicultural camaraderie of this country. The culinary influences of other cultures are a marked feature of the food here and when combined with the beautiful produce of this country puts Australia at the top of the gourmet world map.

The same goes for today’s recipe too. In his book Mercurio’s Menu, Paul Mercurio writes about his visits to Byron Bay where he was introduced to Russian garlic. This experience inspired him to come up with the ‘Byron bay guacamole’ in which he used jalapenos and Russian garlic to spice up this much loved Mexican dip.

Now, I couldn’t find Russian garlic in the area where I live but came across some beautiful ‘single clove garlic’ at the farmer’s market in Dandenong plaza. Also known as solo garlic or pearl garlic, this is my first experience with this type of garlic. Smaller in size with purple striations, I found it has a milder ‘garlicky’ taste and has a beautiful smell especially when roasted.

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I would strongly recommend using a mortar and pestle to make this guacamole. I prepared mine using this beauty from Kitchenware Direct.

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And this dish is a guest post I did for Holly of Simplify.Create.Inspire. To describe her in a nutshell, a mother, a blogger, and an ex-prison officer now studying to be a psychologist (wow!), Holly’s blog is all about her journey through life staying in touch with her creative self. So hop over not just for this amazing recipe but also to get creatively inspired.

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So, here’s the recipe for Byron bay guacamole – creamy avocado chunks infused with the sweetness of roasted pearl garlic and spiced with rustic smoky jalapenos.

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Celebrating Summer with Mango Salsa

Recently, I came across this online article by Marissa Jayne and this got me thinking about the ways in which I can be a better woman and not just a better person. We often get to read about women being the weaker sex, being exploited etc… But very few talk about the other side of the coin – women who are their own enemies!

Marissa talks about nine different ways in which you can better yourself as a woman and I so totally agree with each one of these. But the most meaningful one for me, especially in today’s times, is the first point – ‘stop the shit talking!’

We are quick to judge, especially other women. All of us have done it at some point, including me. Every time we see another woman, we want to comment about her looks, her clothes, hair, the way she talks, the way she brings up her kids etc…., not once thinking that she too is just another woman like you with strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, likes, dislikes, trying so hard to be the best that she can in her own way. But by being aware of this tendency to judge and consciously refraining from it as much as possible has definitely helped me become a better woman. I believe it has helped me become a happier and more content woman, strengthened me and earned me immense respect from others of the tribe.

Marissa has not really written anything new; but she has definitely helped to remind us once again why and how we can be better women.

Coming to today’s recipe, it is an easy and very common one that you would have come across many times. I want to put it up on the blog because I simply love it and I am always making variations of this salsa with whichever fruit is in season. You should try it with peaches and pineapple too.

Mango Salsa - thespiceadventuress.com

I like to add a slight Indian-ness to my salsa with black salt and chaat masala. Both are easily available at all Indian grocers these days. It adds a slight tang to the whole salad lifting up the sweet and spicy tones to a whole new level. I know I have added chillies; yes, two whole ones but you can either skip it or add less.

And I love to serve this salsa with wheat wafers or roasted Indian pappads.

Ingredients:

1. Ripe mango – 1, finely diced
2. Red onion – 1 medium, finely diced
3. Ripe, red tomato – 1 medium, deseeded and finely diced
4. Lebanese cucumber – 1 medium, finely chopped
5. Green chilli (I like it hot!) – 2, finely chopped
6. Lemon juice – to taste
7. Coriander leaves – ½ cup, finely chopped
8. Black salt/kala namak – a pinch
9. Sea salt – to season
10. Chaat masala – ¼ tsp

Method:

This one should be the easiest salad to make.

1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl with a tight lid and season with black salt, sea salt and chat masala.
2. Close the lid and shake vigorously to combine.
3. Keep refrigerated till serving time.

Hope all of you have noticed my new blog name; more on it later as I am still working on the URL. But do let me know your frank opinions and comments.

Hummus Bi Tahina (Middle Eastern Chickpeas Dip)

This is the Holy Week and for every Christian including me, this is the time for silent reflection, a time for praise and thanksgiving. A time to reflect on your inner self, your spiritual self. I am not a regular church-goer but I am deeply religious though my idea of religion does not always conform to today’s society and its perceptions of Christianity.

For me, religion is not something to be practiced on a weekend – it is a way of life. It is who I am….my identity, my character, my personality…..

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My religious non-conformity has always made it difficult for me to find the right place of worship/church. I feel lost in the big ones which are run more like corporate organizations than places of worship. I prefer going to a church where I can sense and feel the presence of God even if I am sitting amidst many others, a place which allows me to pray from deep within, a place I feel happy in and a place with a strong sense of community. After coming to Melbourne, we were in search of such a church and have finally found one – a 150 year old church which has stood strong and proud, celebrating the life and passion of Christ. Feeling blessed!

Well, let’s get back to today’s recipe which is a world away (or is it?) from Christianity and the Holy Week. A Middle Eastern staple – hummus bi tahina or hummus is perhaps the most famous Arabian dish that is made and relished around the globe.

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There is no dearth of recipes for hummus and though my mum has been making this one for years, I decided to follow the recipe outlined in the cookbook, ‘Traditional Arabic Cooking’.

The literal translation of hummus bi tahina is chickpeas with sesame seed paste and so the base for a hummus is chickpeas/garbanzo beans and tahina (or tahini/sesame seed paste). Chickpeas is the native or indigenous food of the Levants (Levant is the Eastern Meditteranean region comprising of Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and parts of Turkey). It is believed that this protein rich beans was used to feed the Arab armies sent out to conquer North Africa.

Hummus is served as a dip and as part of the mezze platter and it is best eaten with pita bread. But these days, it has become a healthy dip that can be paired with vegetable sticks, bread sticks, crackers, meat skewers and even as a spread in sandwiches.

An extremely healthy dish, hummus is also very simple to prepare and can be stored for upto 2 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container.

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Ingredients:

1. Dried chickpeas – 225 gm; soaked, drained and boiled (you can use canned chickpeas also)
2. Tahina (sesame seed paste) – 5 tbsp
3. Garlic – 2 cloves
4. Lemon juice – 3-4 tbsp
5. Salt – to season
6. Olive oil – ½ cup
7. Black olives – to garnish
8. Paprika – to garnish

Note – Tahina is available commercially and is easily found at Middle Eastern food stores.

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Method:

• If using dry chickpeas, soak for at least 4 hours or overnight, rinse and cook till soft and mushy. Drain and reserve some liquid.
• Puree the chickpeas along with garlic.
• Cool and add tahini and lemon juice. Taste and adjust sourness with lemon juice and season with salt. Add the reserved liquid to loosen up consistency if necessary.
• Garnish with olive oil and black olives.

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Roasted Bell Pepper Soup

I have always been a ‘soup lover’ as long as I can remember. But for a major chunk of my life, satisfied this craving through supermarket-bought instant soups, especially those made by Knorr. Recently, I have started making soups at home and I must say, homemade soups are much more delicious than the store-bought ones. Let’s not even start talking of how nutritious the home made ones are!

And the one person whose recipes and posts have inspired and encouraged me to make soups is Nanditha, the health foodie who runs an awesome Facebook page, Kitchening About.

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This roasted bell pepper soup is nothing like I have had before. Using roasted veggies for making a soup is new for me and I must say, I have fallen in love with it. Instead of using just one type of bell pepper/capsicum, I used three different varieties/colours to up the nutrition quotient. The earthy, rustic flavour that roasting lends to the sweet bell peppers makes this dish super yummy. I prepared a huge bowl wanting to freeze some for the week but it was so delish that the three of us finished it in one sitting.

This soup can be prepared ahead of time and is a perfect party soup. Add a dollop of fresh cream just before serving and start off your dinner party in style!

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Roasted bell pepper soup – bursting with earthy, rustic sweet flavours.

Ingredients:

1. Green bell pepper – 1, cubed
2. Red bell pepper – 1, cubed
3. Yellow bell pepper – 1, cubed
4. Red onion – 1, cubed
5. Garlic – 3 cloves, unpeeled
6. Salt – to season
7. black pepper powder – to season
8. dried oregano – ½ tsp
9. extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp
10. fresh cream – to garnish

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Method:

• Set the oven to 220°C.
• Place all the vegetables along with the garlic cloves in a baking tray. Season with salt, pepper and dried oregano. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and toss the vegetables to evenly coat with the seasoning.
• Roast the veggies in the oven for 30 minutes. Take out the tray and turn the vegetables halfway through the roasting time.
• Place 3 cups of water in a pan and bring to boil.
• In the meantime, peel the skin off the capsicum while still warm and add to the water along with the onions. Squeeze out the garlic from the outer covering into the water.
• Cook for 3-5 minutes and then turn the stove off. Blend using a hand blender or mixie to get a smooth consistency.
• Taste the soup and season if necessary. Serve hot with a dollop of fresh cream.

Note – You may use vegetable stock instead of plain water as the base.

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Do I need to say more? The proof is always in the pudding…..

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And also because this recipe is fab, I decided to enter it to the giveaway hosted by Simply Tadka as part of the blog’s 2nd anniversary. Congrats and hope you love this recipe as much as I do.

Simply Tadka’s 2nd Blog-iversary Celebration with Giveaway

simplytadka giveaway (400x269)

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