The next time you move from sugar to honey ostensibly to cut your calorie intake, you might as well be getting a bottle of sugar syrup, which is what the commercially produced honey in the country have been proved to have in abundance by the investigations carried out by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
For a country famous for centuries as the land of milk and honey, this is a disconcerting truth. A busy, productive population of bees is a sign of a healthy ecosystem. These are the busybodies who cross-pollinate both agricultural and flowering plants, enabling them to multiply, and provide real honey to tribal communities. The worrying part is that their natural population is declining steeply because of the rampant use of chemical pesticides and weed killers in our agricultural communities.
“It raises questions on the health of our ecosystem and on food security,” Sunita Narain, CSE’s Director-General, said at a relevant recent webinar on the subject. “Bees are harbinger species—they indicate the health of our ecosystem. A loss of bees can lead to a collapse of our food system—bees are critical for pollination, and if they die, so will the productivity of our agriculture.” Organised bee-keeping for honey collection is one way to stabilise (and maybe even increase) the population of bees, besides providing a means of employment to the tribal communities that engage in such activities.
The cruel irony is that these communities may be producing uncontaminated honey, but they get neither the right price, nor the marketing support to counter the mega ad budgets of the big honey producers. It is not enough anymore to be a well-wisher of these backward yet knowledge-rich communities, but civil society, research institutions and media organisations must work together to create a national market for these ‘pure’ products.
It was gratifying therefore to see on the webinar panel three people who have been working with communities engaged in bee keeping and honey making. They were Mathew John of the Keystone Foundation and Stan Thekaekara of Just Change India (both from Tamil Nadu) and Tapas Mondal of the Sundarban Jana Sramajibi Mancha (West Bengal). And they exposed the curious standards set for honey in India.
Mathew John said Indian standards have not been devised keeping in mind our indigenous species of bees—we have four of them—but are based on standards that exist in the West for a species that is not indigenous to our country.
“Our standards are not applicable in our own country! Take the case of moisture content in honey: the standard is 20 per cent, but in a country like India, it can range between 23-24 per cent in honey produced by indigenous species,” John said. “The standards for pollen count have been diluted from 50,000 to 5,000, making it easy for sugar syrups to make an entry into this trade,” Stan Thekaekara pointed out. In other words, big business has been given the licence to play with our lives.
Narain also emphasised that Indian standards needed a drastic rethink. “Standard setting for honey must differentiate between processed and community honey—so, perhaps India needs two sets of standards for honey. At the same time, the standards must be strict and closely enforced to dissuade the big companies from playing with our lives,” she said.
Thekaekara said that though the growth of the honey segment had been significant, there is no diversity in the product being sold in the market. “All of them taste and look the same, as opposed to the honey gathered by communities. There is honey and there is real honey—what most people are buying is not real honey. Honey harvested by tribals—the real honey—is expensive because people risk their lives to get it,” Thekaekara added with a lot of feeling.
The market is moving favourably in the direction of such uncontaminated artisanal products. It is in our interest to work towards the creation of many more market outlets for this amazing biodiversity.
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IMMUNITY BOOSTING RAGI PANCAKES FOR COVID TIMES
Name of the dish: Ragi Pancakes (235 calories approx)
Description: It is a low calorie recipe. Ragi, also known as finger millet, is an excelled source of protein and fibre amongst other goodness. Especially in these pandemic times, it can help in boosting body immunity. Try this simple & healthy recipe, I am sure you will love it.
• 3/4th Cup (125g) Ragi flour
• 1/2 Cup (90g) Blended Oats
• 01 number Egg (Medium)
• 1/2 Tsp Baking powder
• 1 Tsp Honey
• 1 Pc Ripe Banana
• 1 Pc Diced Mango
• 2 Tbsp Skimmed Milk
• 1 Tbsp Yoghurt( for garnish)
• 1 Pinch (2 g) Baking Powder
• 1 Tsp Oil
• In a bowl mash the ripe banana completely till soft.
• To it add Ragi flour, Oat flour, egg, honey & baking powder.
• Add milk as per required consistency of the batter. (it should coat the back of a spoon.)
• Now lightly fold in the diced mango (1/2 quantity & reserve half.)
• Pour oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Pour a ladle of the batter & cook on one side till bubbles start appearing & sides are cooked.
• Flip the pancake & cook the other side in the same way. The pancake should have a nice golden-brown colour on both sides.
• Garnish with a dollop of yoghurt, mango & a sprig of mint
Tip: Drizzle more honey on the pancake if required.
The writer is founder, Shiifu & Chef Shan Cakes.
Why honey is the ‘elixir of life’
A lot of people I know have what we call a ‘sweet tooth’. It has been a difficult time for many with outside food being a big ‘no no’ and the worrying thing about immunity too, considering how unhealthy white sugar can be. Even though this pandemic has seen a major lifestyle change across all age groups, there is no real replacement for sugar. While brown sugar, gur or honey have been used to replace the white stuff, there’s still no real substitute since most of these are commercially produced that have either been diluted or have substances added to get the right consistency and colour, which takes away the honey’s natural healing properties. Most of the honey we find in grocery stores is pasteurised. The high heat may kill unwanted yeast, can improve the colour and texture, removes any crystallisation, and makes each batch look, taste and feel exactly the same. However, this cannot be achieved without additives due to which many of the beneficial nutrients are destroyed.
Called as the “elixir of life” by some, raw honey is that miracle product which never spoils. Literally. Never. So many health benefits, but we never really get our hands on the original stuff easily. The cost to begin with plays crazily on one’s mind, assuming how unaffordable it could be! Then, the worry about getting the genuine stuff remains questionable till it is certified. Despite the odds, the good news is that some good Samaritans have taken it upon themselves to bring the world of this beautiful liquid gold into our homes with due certification of being raw and without any additives.
Vipin Pachauri and Nisha Sodhi brought in Organic Potli at a time when we were drowning in Kadha—the peak of Covid—and it was such a relief to get these raw honeys from different orchards (too), each with a different colour and taste. “We realised that it was high time that we take nature’s bounty to people because a lifestyle change is the need of the hour. Honey is extracted by the honey collectors who have permits issued by the forest department for limited areas. The wild honey in Uttrakhand is collected from ranges of forest from Tanakpur to Dehradun,” says Vipin. “When we say a ber honey or a wild-flower honey, it is actually an orchard from where the hive is. Since the bees are from that orchard, there is a slight tinge of that taste in the honey; it’s not an added flavour that is being referred to.”
Honeylicious is the brainchild of Abhigyan and Anshuman Bali, a company they formed some time ago again with the motive of taking pure, raw, unpasteurised honey to the world; their original business having been the supply of honey to big organisations for bottled honey. Honeylicious boasts of a wide range of honeys, starting from the fruitier variety like litchi, ber, multiflora and jamun to the more spicy, robust ones like eucalyptus, saunf and ajwain. The best part: All their honey are harvested by the people behind Honeylicious themselves—in short, they are beekeepers!
“This is our passion; we have other businesses, but this is the best thing we have done for the people of India. It would be a great thing if the people of this country are able to make a lifestyle change for a healthier tomorrow. Our model is simple: we take our boxes to the farms with the right flora; the bees produce honey, most of which we take out easily and leave some back so that the process can go on; the honey is strained using a cloth; and, the honey is ready! Extreme care is taken to ensure that bees are not harmed in any way,” says Anshuman Bali.
On the same note, Vipin adds, “We have been working professionals. However, as a habit, we have been sourcing fresh and pure food items and ingredients directly from the farmers thereby giving them a chance at better livelihood opportunities. Hence, we wanted to bring this experience of wellness to as many people as possible. Hence, every time you order from us, you act as a catalyst of change empowering and supporting the local communities in a big way. All our products are prepared fresh and are hygienically packed in small batches without the use of chemicals, preservatives, enhancers.”
If we take, for example jamun honey, it has a slight aftertaste and the aroma of the fruit, while ber honey is lighter in colour with a nuttier taste and the wildflower honey is goldenish in colour and very sweet. My personal favourites are the eucalyptus (which is also their signature honey), jamun and ajwain honeys: while the former is very dark in colour with a strong taste and smell, which is very extremely therapeutic, the latter is so flavourful that it can be consumed as it is.
With the kind of lifestyle changes we see today, honey seems to be playing a bigger role than jaggery because unlike the latter, which is seasonal, honey can be extracted and consumed all year. While city folk are getting extremely conscious about what they consume nowadays, the first big change that is prescribed by health consultants (could be doctors, yoga teachers, dieticians or nutritionists), is to avoid sugar. Sunita Mehra, a publishing professional, says: “I stopped having sugar in my tea years ago, but I have a sweet tooth and I become weak when it comes to desserts. However, if there are some sweets that are made with gur or raw honey, I will be able to have my desserts guilt free.”
12 SUPERFOODS THAT MUST BE A PART OF OUR DAILY RECIPES
Nowadays, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, people are asking about immunity-boosting recipes and tips like never before.
Health and its importance has been a cause of concern like never before since the past many months now for all of us and we all have realised that the prime importance of what we eat is what directly affects our mind and body as well. I have come across people with queries on immunity boosting recipes and tips like never before in so many years and the interest of people in taking their diets and components of their foods so seriously is a really good revolution in the well-being of the world trying to prevent rather than end up with cure.
The essence of nutrition and healthy eating has been around us since ages now and be it consulting an expert, following prescribed lifestyle patterns, having to stick to a fitness regime etc, they have all been somewhere overtaken by how the overall system can be stable in order to follow other suggestions and add to the experience.
“Superfoods” is one term we have been hearing since the last few years and this new term has kind of generated interest in many of us to explore and try and imbibe their qualities into our daily intakes as well. This term simply refers to the foods which have been found to be full of high content of nutrition density and composition like vitamins, minerals, fiber, Omega 3 fatty acids and not to forget the anti-oxidants which are so very important for our body.
The concept of “superfoods” is also so titled to gain attention and quick response from those who wish to live a super lifestyle and always believe in elevating the journey to the next level. There are some very simple and daily ingredients too from our kitchen which have been shelved on that showcase of being “superfoods” and I’m sure we know most of them already.
This article is focused on giving us an overview of which of these “superfoods” should be on our shopping list and be a part of our recipes in daily cooking as well.
TOP 12 SUPERFOODS
1. Avocado: also called as alligator pair, it is a fruit which is full of goodness and positivity to add into dips, salads, shakes, health shots, dressings and also salsa.
2. Broccoli: has been known to us much before cauliflower and its power packed fiber content helps us to stay fit, use it in soups, stir fries, salads, baked dishes and also a broccoli basil pesto is a good substitute.
3. Berries: while some of us stick to the colour of the berries, to me overall they all fall in a great must have category. Be they be being black, blue, strawberries, cranberries etc, all of them come handy in our fruit salads; have them just like that, add them in between meal munchies and to breakfast bowls!
4. Eggs: while some of us are for the egg whites, few of us consume it on the whole; the difference is just an option, but overall, eggs are full of essential nutrients with quality proteins and unique anti-oxidants. From boiled, scrambled, poached, sunny side up, double fried to curried forms, it works well.
5. Turmeric: from the fresh one being the best, to the dry and to the powdered form in our masala box, all forms have been found beneficial in many ways in our diets, from having turmeric water, detox versions, adding to curries, subzis, marination, pulao’s and other preparations. Of late, we have heard of turmeric latte!
6. Olive oil: people still have a few doubts on how to adapt to olive oil, especially when it comes to Indian cooking and recipes. I believe it’s an easy to adapt commodity, start with a light olive oil, mix it in a ratio of 60% percent regular oil with 40 % percent in cooking dishes to slowly accommodate its taste into our system and gradually modify it to your tastes.
7. Nuts: the crunch factor in our meals has always been welcome in various ways, from a health bar to having them slivered or sliced into our muesli or cornflakes/porridge, to being used in vegan cooking etc to start the day, some of us also soak nuts overnight and have it in the morning with breakfast for best benefits. Walnuts, almonds, raisins, apricots, peanuts, pine nuts, cashewnuts and the like must be included in our diets.
8. Seeds: the beneficial uses of variety of seeds available to us from chia, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds etc have a great role to play nutritionally from sprinkling it into our health shakes, smoothies, raitas, breakfast choice of cereals and our choice of freshly tossed salads too.
9. Salmon: one of the best rated “superfood” when it comes to seafood for its omega 3 fatty acids and being dense on its high quality nutrition, salmon fish is easy to use, simple to handle and tasty in varied preparations like simply marinate and grill, a nice crusty outing and bake, an interesting citric flavoured sauce to a poached version and to be converted to salmon cakes with dill cream dip.
10. Legumes: these are a part of our home kitchen shelf contents and we must ensure noting it in our reminder list during our month start grocery shopping. Involve them simply cooked with mild spices, add them to lunch menus, brunch menus, salads, soups, fillings for parathas, side dishes. Variate them to suit your taste; do not over spice or over cook them.
11. Ginger: is one of those root wonders we have in our kitchens which must be a part of our day and routines. From adding it to chai, a fresh squeeze of it to a detox water or a kadha as we make for cold coughs, I prefer adding them grated into my subzis, curries, rice, paratha stuffing, ginger has loads of medicinal properties and can help us self-cure ourselves and boost our immunity as well.
12. Green Tea: to some people, the concept somehow still isn’t too clear on how to consume, how much to consume, when to consume and what to add into green tea? Firstly, we need to understand on making a good cuppa of green tea, no sugar, no spices, no acids, no milk as such to add into it, avoid honey, jaggery as well. Have it first thing in the morning after a glass of simple lukewarm water. Have a cup a little after meals during and at the end of the day.
While there are many more ingredients like sweet potatoes, oat meal, yogurt etc which have also been included in the list of “superfoods” the idea is to be a bit aware, conscious and wise in our eating styles and work on making it better each day and stay safe and stay fit!
Chef Kaviraj Khialani is a Mumbai-based author, writer, academician, and food, health and lifestyle consultant. He has worked with some esteemed brands like the Taj group of Hotels, and Kuwait Airways as a sky chef, to name a few.
Simple ways to include turmeric in your diet
Turmeric is known as the wonder spice because of its magical properties which benefit us in different ways. It is used as a medicinal herb from old times. Dry turmeric is rich in vitamin A, Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), vitamin C also contains a good amount of calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium and potassium. Recently science has started doing research with clinical proven studies, saying it contains compounds known as “curcuminoids” used as a medicinal spice to treat different associated diseases and illness.
Anil Khandelwal, Health and Wellness Expert, YOGIC SECRETS shares science-backed benefits of turmeric: Turmeric has curcumin in it which is a natural anti-inflammatory that helps to fight against inflammation caused by any disease or illness. Turmeric boosts the antioxidant capacity of the body as it neutralises free radicals on its own but also stimulates your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
Curcumin in turmeric may improve cognitive function and also helps to protect brain functions by boosting the level of BDNF in the brain. Turmeric is a wonderful magical spice for joint health as it helps to treat symptoms of joint-related problems and reduce inflammation.
To check gastric problems: helps to relieve gas formation in stomach and indigestion discomforts.
Very powerful to treat Bronchitis: Take 1 tsp of turmeric powder with warm water 3 times a day it will make phlegm melt.
To give protection against Cancer: Add 2 tsp of turmeric powder in a cup of water stir and take it regularly twice a day. It has active compounds (curcumol and curdione), which have strong cytotoxic effects against certain forms of cancer.
To relieve pain and itching of skin: Mix turmeric powder with lime juice and little water to make a smooth paste. Put it directly on to herpes lesions, eczema, psoriasis, pimples, and even leprosy sores.
To relieve sprains and internal injuries: With just 1 spoonful of turmeric powder in 2 cups of milk simmer it, let it cool and drink it daily in the morning and evening for best results.
FARRO AND MUSHROOM BURGERS
• 3/4 cup/125 g Farro
• 1/2 kg. /1 lb Red Potatoes (about 3 large)
• 1 sprig fresh Rosemary
• 1 sprig fresh Thyme
• 6 tbsp/85 g Unsalted Butter
• 1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
• 1/2 kg/1 lb Button Mushrooms, finely chopped
• 1 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
• 5 to 8 tbsp/75 to 120 ml extra-virgin Olive Oil
• 3 small Onions, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp dry White Wine, dry Vermouth or water
• 1/2 cup/50 g finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
• 1 cup/50 g Panko Bread Crumbs
• Makes 10 patties
NOTE: If you can’t find Farro, you can make the burgers with quinoa or millet instead.
Bring 2 1/4 cups/540 ml water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the Farro, return to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the farro is tender, for about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, fluff the Farro with a fork, cover, and set it aside.
While the Farro cooks, boil the Potatoes. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, add the Potatoes, return the water to a boil, and cook until a paring knife easily slips into the centre of the largest Potato, for about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Once the Potatoes are cool, peel them and place them in a large bowl.
Remove the needles and leaves from the Rosemary and Thyme branches, and place them in a large frying pan along with the Butter and Black Pepper over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Once the herbs start cracking, after about 1 1/2 minutes, add the Mushrooms, and Salt. Cook the Mushrooms until they release their liquid and the pan is dry again, 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the potatoes and set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp of the Olive Oil over medium-high heat in the frying pan. Add the Shallots and cook until they are soft and just starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the Wine (or Vermouth or Water) and stir to work in any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and scrape the Shallots into the bowl with the Mushrooms, and Potatoes. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese along with the Farro. Use a potato masher or fork to mash the ingredients together.
Form the mixture into 10 patties. Place the Panko in a shallow dish and press the top and bottom of each patty into the panko to evenly coat. Heat 1/4 cup/60 ml olive oil in a clean large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 5 patties and cook on each side until nicely browned and crusty, 8 to 10 minutes total. Remove the patties from the frying pan and place them on a plate. Repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil between batches if necessary. Serve hot.
-By Chef Suvir Saran
SOYA MUSHROOM KEEMA
• 1/2 cup Soya Keema
• 5-6 Button Mushrooms
• 2 tbs Peas
• 1 medium-size Onion
• 3 medium-size Tomato Puree
• 2-3 Garlic Cloves
• A small piece of ginger
• 1/2 cup Curd
• Fresh Coriander
• 1.5 tsp Ghee
• 1.5 tsp Oil
• 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
• 1 piece of Cinamon Stick
• A small piece of Mace
• Black Cardamom and Green Cardamom
• 1 Bay leaf
• 1 tsp Red Chilli powder
• 1.5 tsp Coriander powder
• 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
• 1 tsp Garam Masala
• Salt per taste
Boil 1 cup water & cook 1/2 cup Soya Keema for 5-7 minutes. Drain water and wash Soya Keema with clean water. Squeeze out all the water (Keema should not be too watery)
In a pan, heat Oil and Ghee. Add Bay Leaves, Cinnamon Stick, Mace, Both Cardamoms, Cumin Seeds for few seconds and then add Garlic Cloves. Cook Garlic for one minute. Add finely chopped Mushroom and Onion. Add salt per taste
Cook for 10 minutes till you get a golden colour. This step is very important, don’t miss it. Now add Coriander Powder, Garam Masala, Turmeric powder, and Red Chilli powder. Mix and cook for few seconds. Now add Tomato Puree and fresh Peas. Cook Tomatoes for few minutes.
Add pre-cooked Soya Keema. If required, add some water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on a medium flame. Add Curd and fresh Coriander. Serve with Masala Bread
-By Meghna Kamdar, Chef & Food Blogger, Supporter of the Right To Protein initiative
• 1 glass Buttermilk
• Chopped Ginger
• Chopped Green Chillies
• 1 spoon Indian gooseberry (Amla) powder
• Curry Leaves
• Take a mixer jar and add a glass full of Buttermilk to it
• Add some chopped Ginger and a Green Chilly
• Add a spoon of Indian gooseberry powder to this mix
• Churn the ingredients well
• Make a tadka of Curry Leaves, and Mustard Seeds and pour it on the Buttermilk mix
• Serve chilled
-By Chef Jatin Mallick, Chef & Co-owner, TRES
DISCOVER A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF CHOCOLATES
The various types of chocolates in the market are made by adjusting the ratios of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and other ingredients.
The quality of chocolate we use in baking is all-important in determining the quality of the end product. The proportion of high-quality beans in the blend is very important. The cacao tree’s seeds, or nibs, are used to make chocolates. They’re roasted and ground to make chocolate liquor, a liquid or paste that can be divided into cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The various types of chocolates in the market are made by adjusting the ratios of cocoa butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and other ingredients. The FDA maintains industry guidelines for chocolate labelling to keep it legal.
The different types of Chocolates used for baking cakes are:
BAKING CHOCOLATE – This chocolate is used in baking. Often known as dark chocolate or unsweetened chocolate. There is no added sugar to this strong chocolate liquor, which contains 50% to 58% cocoa butter. Cooking and baking are the best uses for this product.
BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE – This chocolate has a bitter aftertaste. It’s the darkest of all chocolates for eating. It has the most intense chocolate taste and at least 35% chocolate liquor. Some luxury labels produce 70% cocoa butter and cocoa solids or more. It›s ideal for baking, cooking, and eating.
SWEET CHOCOLATE – It has more added sugar than semi-sweet, and contains at least 15% chocolate liquor. It’s best for cooking, baking, and eating.
COMPOUND CHOCOLATE – Compound or coating chocolate is a product made from a combination of cocoa, vegetable fat and sweeteners. It is used as a lower-cost alternative to true chocolate, as it uses less-expensive hard vegetable fats such as coconut oil or palm kernel oil in place of the more expensive cocoa butter. This also comes in dark, milk and white variants and is used in making confections, cakes, piñata, and garnishes.
COUVERTURE CHOCOLATES – The technical name for the type of chocolate used to make cakes, candies, bars is “couverture” and is made with cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, vanilla & lecithin. Dark, milk and white couverture are used to make a vast majority of cakes, gateaux and desserts. Favoured by candy-making pros. Contains at least 32% cocoa butter, which makes it very glossy and allows it to flow more easily when it›s melted and tempered. It comes in bars or coins called pistoles. It’s best for melting and baking.
MILK CHOCOLATE – To offer it a sweet and creamy flavour, it contains at least 10% chocolate liquor and at least 12% milk solids. This is the best for eating.
WHITE CHOCOLATE – Since it lacks chocolate solids, it is not considered “full” chocolate. At least 20% cocoa butter is present. Foodie Fact: White chocolate can no longer be branded as such when the cocoa butter is substituted with other, less costly fats; instead, it’s marketed as almond bark or confectioners’ coating. It’s ideal for baking, cooking, and eating.
COCOA POWDER – Can be sweet or bitter. Made by drying and grinding chocolate liquor and removing most of the cocoa butter, but must still retain 10% to 22% cocoa butter. «Dutched» or Dutch-process cocoa is treated with an alkalising agent to make it darker, less bitter, and more soluble in liquids. It’s best for baking and drinking.
COCOA NIBS – Cocoa beans are roasted and broken up to make this drink. Gives cookies and cake garnishes a crunch. It’s ideal for baking.
The writer is Chef and Founder of Star Anise Patisserie, Lokhandwala and Colaba.
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