Oct 21, 2014

Ragi Chocolate Laddu

Deepawali, the festival of lights, eagerly anticipated and celebrated throughout India, is here. There is so much excitement, happiness, festivities in the air. It is also fun to run around shopping for new clothes, gifts, fire crackers.

As with most festivals, the stories behind celebrating this festival too are several. Sri Krishna killed Narakasura on this Chaturdashi day. Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after His exile after killing Ravana and freeing Sita from his evil clutch.

Whatever be the legend, the common theme is the victory of good over evil. The assurance from Divinity that evil, cruelty, jealousy and hatred do not last long. That truth, goodness and virtuous living always triumphs. A very heartening reminder in a world where the opposite seems to be true. An assurance for those who believe. A great reason to celebrate. To meet up with family, close or extended. To renew friendships, to form new ones, to look forward with hope.

So here is wishing you happiness, good health, joy in your lives!

In continuation with my efforts at finding and documenting healthy recipes, I am very happy to share with you this new attempt of mine. The nutty aroma of roasted ragi combined with seductive cocoa, taken a notch festive with fragrant ghee all come together delightfully in this healthy dessert.

Rich, fragrant Ragi Laddus

Millets are quite the rage in the diet of every health conscious person and rightly so. They are packed with several nutrients, richer in calcium, fibre and other vitamins than grains like rice or wheat. Ragi, or Finger Millet forms the staple grain of a large part of rural India. Here is my shot at making a festive dish with this humble grain. A successful undertaking, even if I say so myself. This Diwali, when you dig into this dark, mysterious confection, you can feel a tad less guilty at indulging knowing that there is this super healthy millet at its base.

Dark, handsome laddus ready!


  • Does NOT contain gluten, lactose, egg, soya, peanuts, any nuts.
  • Suitable for people with gluten sensitivity, lactose intolerance, nut allergy.

EDITED – A reader expressed concern about using butter or ghee in this recipe for lactose intolerance. Usually ghee is digested even by people with lactose intolerance, since it is ‘fully clarified butter’, but if you are intolerant to ghee as well, do use margarine warmed in the same proportions. I have not used margarine myself, and am only suggesting it as an alternative.

Preparation time – 30 minutes, Cooking time – 5 minutes, Makes – 12 laddus


Cookware – Thick bottomed fry pan, Mixer grinder, Metal spatula, Small Saucepan.


  1. 1 heaped cup Ragi flour (I used store bought)
  2. 1 scant cup powdered sugar
  3. 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Hersheys)
  4. 1/2 tsp Vanilla essence
  5. 1/4 cup ghee (Can use melted butter too)


  1. Set a thick bottomed fry pan/ skillet on fire. Dry roast the ragi flour on medium heat stirring briskly all the time. This step removes the raw flavour of the flour and gives it a good nutty tone. 2-3 minutes later, you should sense a change in aroma. The flour is then ready.
  2. Switch off flame, add in cocoa powder, mix well with ladle. Also add the powdered sugar,  and vanilla essence, and mix in thoroughly. You could use a wire whisk to mix well too.
  3. Heat up the ghee over a low flame in a different small sauce pan. If using butter, heat a similar quantity of butter for such time until you find the butter slowly changing hue to a pale gold.
  4. Drizzle this hot ghee over the ragi-sugar mixture. Mix again with ladle, and when it is of bearable heat, grab a fistful and compress using fingers to a round ball shape. The laddu can be set aside to rest when it keeps its shape. It will harden on cooling. Finish off making laddus with the rest of the mixture. Halfway through, if you find the mixture cooling and the laddu does not shape well, then warm the flour mixture gently again to help shaping the laddus.
  5. Your delicious, laddu redolent of cocoa with a hint of vanilla is ready!

DSC_3959Happy Deepawali


Oct 16, 2014

Awadhi Food Festival @ Feast, Sheraton Bangalore

What’s in an Awadhi food festival for a vegetarian like me? This was my query when I was asked to review the Awadhi Food Festival running currently at Sheraton, Bangalore. After being assured that I would not suffer for lack of choices, I agreed, with residual misgivings though.
I need not have worried. The entire F&B team at Feast along with Visiting Chef M Rehman, had plenty in store for all – vegetarians and the non-vegetarians alike.
The Dal–Dalchini Shorba set a good expectation of what was to come. Delicately flavoured as a good shorba should be, with just that edge of cinnamon to whet the appetite. Starters followed soon enough. One with paneer and another with potato as main ingredients, finished to doneness in the tandoor. Good but not spectacular. However, the Veg Seekh Kabab was extremely well done. Fragrant, flaky, evocative of Nawabi cuisine. The Badam Doodh was refreshing, with ground almonds and notes of honey.
A basket of the amazingly fragrant Sheermal Roti and Awadhi Naan arrived. Hot, flaky, fragrant, they were delicious. It seemed a sacrilege to combine the roti with any other main dish. The Sheermal begged to be enjoyed as is.
Of the mains, I cannot talk enough about the merits of the Nawabi Baingan Bharta. While the greenish golden hue piqued my visual sensors, the sublime flavours had to be savoured to fully appreciate this masterpiece. Are you surprised that I mention elegant, sophisticated and brinjal in the same breath? Then you must try this Nawabi Baingan Bharta and you would not be! The Dal Makhani only shared its name with the famous Punjabi version. The texture, aroma were quite unique. Quite unlike any I’ve tasted so far. Another dal made with whole white urad was creamy and interesting too. The Paneer Begum Bahaar looked elegant but did not appeal to my palate. The Subz Dum Biryani was refined as well. Deft layering ensured it delivered wonderfully on flavours.
Chef RehmanNawabi Baingan Bharta
The Awadhi RepastSweet endings
Shahi Tukda and Anjeer Halwa were among the other Awadhi special desserts of the day. At the risk of sounding redundant, I have to mention that the Shahi Tukda was distinctive.
The Awadhi Food Festival is on till the 19th of October at Feast, Sheraton Bangalore. #sheratonbangalore This food festival runs along with the restaurant’s standard buffet. Coupled with the exemplary hospitality offered by staff of Sheraton, this royal feast will pamper all your senses. Be warned that all your weight loss plans will go for a royal toss. There is nothing in it for the calorie conscious. However, if you are in a mood for celebration or indulgence, would like to feel like a Nawab, do visit for this gustatory experience fit for the kings.
The Awadhi spread
Cheerful Ambience @ Feast

Oct 4, 2014

Sprouted Mung Bean Sagu

A sensible diet does not mean fasting for most part of the day. Rather it means eating smart, deriving maximum nutrition for every bite, making the right food choices. For vegetarians, a healthy diet also means an intelligent blend of cereals and proteins. You may ask why?

Egg is called a complete protein source because it contains all the 20 amino acids needed by the body.

Does that mean you lose out on the proteins if you follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet? NO!!

Nature has provided so much variety that we can easily make every meal a complete protein meal simply by smart pairing of a cereal and a legume. This is because, cereals and legumes have complementary amino acid profiles. In simple speak, cereals will supply the amino acids found missing in legumes and vice versa. By consuming both at the same meal, every time, we can compensate for the amino acids missing in each of these grains and make the meal a nourishing and strengthening one.

Power Breakfast - Idlis and Sprouts Sagu

Enter - a favourite South Indian breakfast. Rava Idlis are made with wheat semolina unlike usual idlis which are made from a rice based batter. Rava Idlis are always paired with Potato Sagu in homes and restaurants in Bangalore. In Tamil Nadu or other Southern states, the dish is usually paired with a mixed vegetable ‘kurma’, or chutney. All these dishes are great spicy accompaniments to the bland, soft rava idli.

However, I wanted to take this meal a notch up in the nutrition ladder. Looking for a protein ingredient to accompany the ‘rava’, I felt the best one would be mung bean sprouts. Several reasons for this – mung beans are a pantry staple in most homes, they sprout with little effort, are quick cooking, and lend character to any meal. Still, with great trepidation, I waited to see the reaction on my family’s faces when I served this up for breakfast. One look at them all, and I was satisfied we have a winner at hand.

I urge all of you to try this out too. Enjoy it for breakfast, brunch or even dinner. And let me know your thoughts. Here is how I made our weekend breakfast.


  • Contains gluten from rava. NOT suitable for celiacs, or people with gluten sensitivity.
  • Contains buttermilk. Usually suitable for people with lactose intolerance.
  • Does NOT contain egg, corn, soya, nuts. Suitable for people with nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 30 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Serves – 4-6.


Cookware – Idli steamer, Pressure Cooker, Mixer Grinder, Sauce Pan


For the Rava Idlis – I used an Instant Mix of Soulfull Rava Idli Mix. This was part of the goodies we received at the IFBM. Quite fresh and convenient. Mix the contents of the packet with enough sour buttermilk to make a thick pouring batter. Grease idli moulds, pour in batter and steam in a pressure cooker/idli steamer for 10-12 minutes until done.

Spongy soft Rava Idlis

For the Mung Bean Sprout Sagu

  1. 1 heaped cup Mung Bean Sprouts
  2. 1/2 cup finely chopped Onions
  3. 1/2 cup diced Tomatoes
  4. 1 tsp Ginger garlic Paste OR make a paste of a thumb size ginger piece and 2 cloves garlic
  5. 2-4 green chillies depending on your heat preference
  6. 1 tbsp khus khus (poppy seeds) soaked in hot water for half an hour
  7. 2 tbsp fresh grated coconut
  8. 1/4 cup roughly chopped green coriander leaves with stem
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1 tsp Cooking Oil
  11. 1/4 tsp Mustard seeds
  12. 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds

To Assemble

  1. Set the khus khus to soak in 1/4 cup very hot water.
  2. Rinse the sprouts, place in bowl, add 1/2 cup water and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
  3. Rinse, dice, prepare all vegetables as mentioned in ingredient list.
  4. Grind these ingredients into a smooth paste – khus, fresh coconut, green chillies, fresh coriander leaves, ginger and garlic. You can add some water to help grind too.
  5. Set a sauce pan over heat, add oil, tip in mustard and cumin to season.
  6. When they crackle, add the onions, fry till soft, then add tomatoes. Add salt, fry till tomatoes are pulpy.
  7. Pour in the cooked sprouts, add the ground paste, mix well, and simmer for 5 minutes. Do not boil on high heat. Add 1/2cup water to thin down if needed. We want a liquid dipping consistency. Check for salt. When the sagu is well blended, remove to serving bowl and enjoy with hot steaming rava idlis.

Enjoy hot breakfast with a view

Bowl of fragrant sagu