I love winter.
Sadly, the last 3 winters have been a cross between enjoying the nip in the air and managing my ongoing struggles with viral arthritis. The extremities (the metatarsals and metacarpals) swell up, making not just walking and running but also riding a bike and typing painful. Metallic pain in the joints means I am limping and dropping things I’m holding. I’m like a human barometer, who can literally feel it in their bones when temperature or humidity drops.
Given all this drama, exercise has to be gentle, at best. An almost constant fear is the level of unfitness and inability to, say, open lids of jars and bottles. When I step out, invariably, I end up with unhealthy food, unless I go to Forage. So, when I stay in, I try to make my food work for me.
The silver lining in all this, is that my foodscape has changed:
- Carbs are mostly red/ brown/ black rice or millets. I eat them for 1-2 meals a day.
- No processed sugar/ salt: it’s jaggery, palm or coconut sugar, honey, and sea/ pink salt all the way.
- Very rarely eat wheat. That’s dropped acidity levels.
- All ingredients have become way healthy, sourced so locally it’s literally from down my road from vendors whose families I’ve begun to recognise. Most other supplies are from HappyHealthyMe (or in a pinch, Namdhari’s).
- A lot of my food is eaten raw – salads & nut milks with chia and basil seeds.
- Most of what I cook takes me 20 or fewer minutes. Perfect for a woman focussing energies on her and others fledgling businesses.
I’m going to try and document noteworthy food every month. Last month’s is here.
Here’s what Novemmmmmmmber looked like.
My friend, healthy eater and freshly minted half-marathoner, Nitya Bhasin mentioned something called Kaanji. I’m onto the second batch and it’s already making magic happen.
To make a litre, you need 6 carrots, 1 beet.
Chop them up. Chuck potable water on top. Add salt & mustard seeds, crushed with a mortar & pestle. Cover with muslin. Let it enjoy sunshine daily & mix with a wooden spoon. 4 days later, ta-da!
The leftover carrots & beets made for yum pickles like the one you get in them Arab joints.
Sometimes, minimalism is the order of the day, when freshly cut and delivered greens are the star. No tangy vinaigrette, no bells and whistles. This is just, all the stuff you see in there, plus salt and pepper. And maybe, ACV.
Buckwheat pancakes/ dosas
Buckwheat flour + salt+buttermilk. No soda, no eggs.
The master grumpy cooker arrives, schools you (let’s call it Dosa Camp 101) on batter consistency, the right temperature for the dosa pan, covering it, sprinkling water etc., and elbows you out. You smartly stay out and just extend the plate with a “Please sir, may I have some more” face. And lo… food arrives.
Seen here with peanut chutney (roasted peanuts + a couple of pods of roasted garlic + roasted tomatoes (none of those need any oil). Add salt, whirl in the blender. Eat.
In pancake avatar, enjoyed with some stolen maal – cacao honey. When someone in India makes it, please tell me.
New section: Scenes from a tiffin box
That’s Nikhil’s tiffin box. He says, “I make sure I have 3-4 veggies in my box everyday” That’s nutrition done right. This is what tiffin box of champions looks like. So, how do you make sure your cook is making healthy stuff and doesn’t go mad with oil etc. He says, “We’ve taught her.” Simple.
Soba noodles, spinach and smoked cheddar
Palak paneer meets me.
Soba noodles made by these Tibetan guys go into boiling water till cooked.
Palak paneer like palak, which is, blanche, add tomatoes, garlic, ginger and chillies. Blend. Add smoked cheddar because no paneer in-house.
Pumpkin & tomato soup
This one’s from my mum’s kitchen. Roasted pumpkin, roasted tomatoes, salt, pepper. Blended. Best thing to drink at the end of a long day of work. Soothes the soul. Especially when your mum makes it.
Nut butters lineup
I love it when abundance finds me.
The first two were thanks to Dillo, because I helped her with a Silver Surfers Diwali event at the gorgeous Bungalow 7 (where, memorably, I ended up taking over from her as retro DJ and dancing the twist with a 60 something gent). What’s not to love about all that!
The next two were beautifully light peanut and peanut butter+cocoa yums, thanks to Bob and his various Madras connections. Snack time was “WHEEEEEE” all month long…. and it’ll last well into the next month.
Other people’s kitchens
I don’t often hang out with others as they cook. This month, I got afforded two of those chances. First, Pavan was masterfully executing some fish things which I don’t understand, being the vegetarian type (Mum, if you’re reading, that rider was for you). He then realised it needs to have more masala. I think. He casually says, “beer marinade” and, “I’ve seen my dad do this”, takes some nice beer out, and proceeds to do the needful. All I know is, it smelt amazing. By the time the food was ready, I was home, munching on some fruits. But I’m sure it was yum.
The Colonel returned after his Sikkim adventures and invited the store over for nosh. The lineup went from one lone vegetarian to 4 vegetarians and a meagre 3 meat eaters. His cook magnificently rose to the occasion with approximately 45 vegetarian things. Most amazing was this fried vendekkai in curd.And heavenly momos with this paneer based chutney. Apparently she learnt it from the Colonel’s talented Sikkimese baker friend, Pema. Oh boy, was it stunning!
Hot apple cider
With apologies to old Alfie, in winter, an old woman’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of hot beverages. Heh. Sorry again. No, not really.
All you need is…
1 orange, 6-7 apples, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, saffron. Throw them all in with water, boil. All recipes say 4-8 hours (I know). I just pour hot water. Heat and allow to chill, for a sum total of maybe an hour. But I get the results. Squeeze all juice out, filter through muslin. Drink.
The house smells like Christmas. The spirit lifts. Hope perches the soul.
Tis the season…