Friday, 30 August 2013

Pizza !!!

Nothing spells celebration or fun, like Pizza does! If I want to get my daughter all excited and make her weekend fun, its pizza time at our house! It is the best accompaniment to a movie, a cricket match, a beautiful sunday afternoon, a fun night out and pretty much every thing in between!

I do think, both the crust and toppings+sauce are equally important. And, I realise how strongly people feel about the crust! Some like a deep dish, some like it stuffed, for me, its the really thin and crispy crust that does the trick.

Today I am going to share a rather fun and easy way to make the perfect pizza. It ensures a crunchy and light crust, without any of the kneading, rising and waiting! The flavours are balanced and the pizza, perfection itself. The sauce keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, so if you have it on hand, it can all be put together pretty quickly. You can go ahead and use your preferred vegan cheese, I haven't, because I like my pizza without cheese. Another great addition is a bit of arugula or fresh basil on top after baking, they add a bit of fresh nuttiness and a healthy dose of greens. Unfortunately I didn't think of it while taking the picture, only while greedily gobbling it down :)

Ingredients (makes 6 pizzas)

Crust -
Get a pack of tortillas. Yes, you read it right, tortillas. This will be the base of the thin crust pizza. It will ensure the right crunchiness and lightness and won't be doughy and heavy. They also bake and crunch up  real quickly.

Sauce -
6 medium sized tomatoes
5-6 cloves of garlic chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp basil
7-8 peppercorns freshly ground
sea salt to taste
1 tsp date palm sugar

Topping -
1 small red pepper diced
1 yellow pepper diced
1 small zucchini diced
1/2 cup steamed pumpkin
12 plum tomatoes (cut or pierced)
4-5 basil leaves
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a pinch of salt


For the sauce, puree 5 tomatoes and chop 1. Heat the oil and sauté the garlic. Add the puree and cook for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomato herbs, spices, sugar and salt. Simmer and cook till the sauce thickens. You know the sauce is done, when you move the spatula in the pan and the watery bits don't separate from the chunky ones. Turn off the heat.

For the topping, heat the oil and sauté the vegetables for a minute. Add the pepper, salt and balsamic vinegar. Cook for another minute or two and turn off the heat.

Preheat the oven to 250*C. Now, lightly brush some olive oil on the tortilla (on the side that will go on the pizza stone or oven rack), this will make the crust brown evenly and be crunchy. Spread a bit of sauce (not too much, otherwise it could become soggy), leaving the edges. Now add the toppings.
Bake till the sides are brown and serve hot. Celebrate :)

Friday, 23 August 2013

Traditional Wisdom - grandma, auntie, mama and Ayurveda!

I was speaking to my mama this morning, and we were discussing traditional post natal diets and how they not only help the new mother heal her own body but also helps the baby avoid colic. When I had my baby, my mother painstakingly prepared special hot meals for me, lightly cooked green leafy vegetables, gourds and squashes of different kinds, lightly spiced with peppercorns and garlic; calcium rich sesame chikki and gaund or edible plant resin laddus for strengthening bones and increasing lactation.
Our conversation got me thinking, growing up, there was a home remedy for almost every minor ailment or condition - sore throat, cold, pimples, flatulence, migraines, motion sickness... Most families have a similar arsenal of traditional wisdom passed on over generations and some acquired over the years!

Although modern medicine is certainly a boon and the advancements made in science and medicine in the last 100 years have been phenomenal. The focus has not been on preventing disease, just managing it. We have increased our life expectancy but not the quality of our lives. I believe the secret to good health, lies in clean, plant based foods. Ayurveda is based on similar principles and has an extensive wealth of food based wisdom, to prevent and cure disease.

Today I wanted to share some traditional recipes and ingredients, which have its roots in Ayurveda, that can help cure and relieve minor ailments and conditions.

1. Ginger tea - fresh ginger root, grated or pounded and boiled with water. This is great for digestion and that is the reason it features in so many Indian recipes that have beans, lentils, cruciferous vegetables or heavier to digest ingredients.
It is also helps relieve migraines and other headaches. It is believed that ginger may block prostiglandins, which stimulate some muscle contractions, control inflammation and impact some hormones. Therefore migraines may be prevented and stopped by ginger stifling the action of prostiglandins.
Nausea due to morning sickness, headaches or motion sickness gets relieved with ginger tea or chewing on a piece of candied ginger!

2. Cucumber - grated and used as as face mask, relieves the skin after a day in the sun. You could also use the juice as a cleanser and toner regularly for good skin! 
Of course its wonderful to eat cucumber or juice and drink it. It is a valuable source of antioxidants like Vitamin C, betacarotene and manganese and a host of other flavanoids.

3. Ajwain or carom seeds - These seeds are just magical. Its great for lactating mothers, as this helps with digestion and wards off constipation and the infant doesn't get colicky. It is also believed to heal the muscles of the floor of the uterus and help recovery after the delivery.
It is anti bacterial and anti fungal and helps relieve congestion from phlegm. Just roast some ajwain seeds and make a few small poultices and keep it near the pillows while sleeping.

4. Black Peppercorns - It is one of the most popular spice and is a part of so many cuisines around the world. It is also a carminitive, a substance that helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas, as it helps stimulate hydrochloric acid production.
In addition it also helps relieve fever by promoting sweating. Traditionally, a pepper rasam (which is like a watery tomato soup), is the tasty and comforting way to relieve the flu.

Tomato Rasam  
Ingredients - 3-4 tomatoes, a handful of tur dal (split pigeon pea), 4-5 curry leaves, mustard seeds -1 tsp, pepper powder -  tsp, red chilly powder-1/2 tsp, jeera powder- 1/2 tsp, coriander powder-1/2 tsp, salt to taste, a tsp of coconut oil.
Process - In a pressure cooker, cook the dal and tomatoes with water. Whisk the cooked dal and tomatoes well, you can also strain it, if you prefer it smoother in texture. Heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and spices, let it crackle and add it to the dal mix. Add the salt and boil. Taste and you can add more pepper or other spices if you prefer. You could drink it or mix with some red rice and eat it.
Pepper also has remarkable antioxidant and antibacterial effects too. The outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, helping weight loss, while providing energy to burn.

5. Turmeric - It is a potent spice that dominates Indian cooking and Ayurveda for very obvious reasons.  It is anti-inflammatory, and helps in the treatment of Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis. 
It is wonderful for immunity and for a boost of antioxidants. It can be consumed in the powder form or the fresh root. A pinch of turmeric in a glass of water every day is a great idea for all of us!
Turmeric also has preventative benefits against neuro degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
There are so many other preventative and curative benefits of turmeric like - cardiovascular protection, improved liver function, reduced risk of childhood leukaemia, inhibiting cancer cell growth and metastases, cancer prevention, cholesterol lowering, relieves rheumatoid arthritis and helps fight cystic fibrosis.

As a parent, I do worry about the kind of side-effects some of the prescribed medication have on my child and my family. And while some things do require medical attention, a minor cold, cough, congestion or headache can be managed in the kitchen.:)