Kadalebele Payasa with condensed milk

Of late food scene in India has exploded. We see so many restaurants, cuisines of all kinds in tier two cities as well. Super market shelves are exploding with new ingredients, sometimes for better and some times for worse. In these times, how do we cope up with such drastic infusion of new knowledge? For instance Australia is dumping oats in the Indian market. Internet and pop scientists are singing the praise of Oats so much so that it is now very difficult to separate the fact from noise. Bloggers have caught up too. Makes Oats Idli, Oats Poha and what not. I see my family members, educated and professional falling prey to the 'Miracle Oats' machine. They say they are eating healthy and that they are eating Oats for dinner. Really?

Oats like any other grain is a rich source of carbohydrate. Well it might be marginally better than rice, or just as good as Ragi, it still remains a grain and carbohydrate. The problem with our generation is that we are eating like our ancestors did plate full of starch while living a sedentary life. So we are consuming more calories than we can actually burn.  But the solution is not just reducing the number of calories consumed, in which case we will have to eliminate fat which happens to be the most calorie dense food group. Not all calorie is created equal. We need to keep in mind that all nutrient groups are vital to our body including fats and protein. Remember high school biology? Vitamin A is fat soluble! Eliminating fat is not a convincing solution. Nor is eliminating Protein. But reducing starch makes more sense. But again, very low starch diet like the Atkins diet might not be for every one. Definitely not me. Being Indian, I am genetically predisposed to like and thrive on carbohydrates.  But given the modern conveniences and my desk- life, I try to cut back on carbohydrates and sweets while generally consuming fats(one of ghee, coconut oil, filtered peanut oil) and lots of vegetables and fruits. My protein includes legumes of different kinds, eggs, occasional fish or chicken. But if I am asked to eat oats Idli, oats Pongal or Oats Poha? No thank you very much. Oats is probably as calorie dense as rice while not giving me the comfort that rice gives me. I did rather eat half a cup of rice and feel contended than eat one bowl of oats. Eating oats does nothing to my soul or for that matter not much better for my body either.

The same philosophy when indulging in treats like sweets. I see fat-free sweets and snacks in the super market all the time. They mostly taste bad, either loaded with sugar or sugar substitute and assorted ingredient that I cannot even pronounce. There are many such crappy food sold as 'organic' as well. Just because they used Organic sugar does not make a product better. I would rather eat a few spoons of real sweets that would make my soul happy than eat bowls of stuff that does not make my soul happy while being just as bad. The saying in Kannada goes (Vrata kettaru sukha padabeku: meaning If at all your penance is disturbed, make sure to have fun).

So here is one such recipe, that to me is soul satisfying, so rich that just a few spoonfuls will make your stomach and soul happy. Kadalebele Payasa comes in two different varieties. One where the dal is cooked till it falls apart, the other where the dal is still al-dente and is cooked in coconut milk like this .

We will need,

Split chickpeas /Kadalebele/ Channa dal 1/2 cup
Sweetened condensed milk   about 1/2 a cup
Milk as required
Cardamon powder a pinch
Ghee 1 tbsp

  • Wash the dal in several changes of water and place it in a pressure cooker. Pour 1 +1/4 c of water along with a drop of ghee and cook till the dal is soft, my cooker does it in 2 whistles. Remove from heat
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool enough to handle, open the lid and stir in the condensed milk and ghee. Place it on low heat.
  • If the mixture is very dry, add milk by the tablespoon at a time to thin the Payasa to a desired consistency. 
  • Once the mixture starts gently bubbling again, stir in the cardamon powder. Remove from heat. 
  • Serve Warm, room temperature.

Quinoa and Strawberry Kheer

Fashion has not spared food. We come across some fad, some really 'cool' ingredient to work with often. Then comes a deluge of good things about the ingredient. Once people start consuming it in a big way, the bad news starts popping up here and there. But by then who ever had to make money on that particular ingredient would have made money and moved on to the next big thing. Can we insulate ourselves from the deluge of information, marketing tactics? Let us examine the case of coconut oil. Coconut oil was a widely consumed product on the west coast of India. We people from the coconut belt consumed one coconut/meal/family. Back then our people were strong, healthy and enjoyed a good life. However during my teen years, we were told the coconut is very high in cholesterol and we should avoid it. Obviously it was not  true, it is high in saturated fats which is a good thing! I used to fight with my mom when she used a lot of coconut in her Palyas/Huli etc. Mom would defend her action saying coconut was good for hair and complexion. But as a head strong teenager, I thought I 'knew' better than her. Poor Mom, that was the only way she knew to cook but she adapted to using lesser coconut over the years. We started eating refined sun flower oil which had no smell, which stayed good indefinitely and which looked thinner therefore 'felt' much healthier than either coconut oil or our own filtered groundnut oil.
Then I moved to the States and found canola oil was the oil in 'fashion' and started eating it, though I never liked the weird taste and flavor it had.

Now life has come a full circle. Coconut oil lobbies took a decade to realize that if they did not  fight back the battle of information with more information, people would stop eating coconut oil all together and their business would be shut down. So then came the wave to information and research on coconut oil. They some how proved that coconut oil was good for you and eating a teaspoon was heart healthy. The proof of a successful counter attack by the coconut oil lobby? Big cans of organic virgin cold pressed coconut oil on Costco shelves. That is good news for me though. I have gone over several cans of it and absolutely love it. But this was a story of 'good food'-'called bad'-'then back to being good'. But then there are so many bad foods in the disguise of good foods too. It has become so hard for a well informed person to judge what is good and what is not, let alone lay people like us.

I have been one of those people who gets carried away by such fads. Though these days I am a lot of cynical about such researches and do not experiment as much as I used to before. From my experimenting days I had a bag of Quinoa lying in my pantry for ages now.  I have been thinking of using it more often but then buying fad foods is one thing eating it is yet another. We actually did not like it much and I am happy with my Rice-Ragi-Wheat diet. But then I had to use up this bag of Quinoa. So here is something I did with it, Kheer!
I would not recommend people to buy bags of Quinoa to make this Kheer, but if you happened to have some in your pantry and struggling to get over with it, here is a recipe to try.

We will need,

Quinoa 1 cup
Sugar 1/2 cup
Evaporated milk 1 cup
Salt a pinch
Strawberries washed and chopped

  • Wash the Quinoa with a little water rubbing between your palm very well. I was told that it could get bitter if we did not wash it this way. Cannot comment much on it given my limited experience.
  • Once rubbing is done, wash it well with several changes of water.
  • Place the Quinoa in a pot and cover it with 1 and 3/4 cups of water. Cover and bring it to a boil. reduce heat and simmer till the Quinoa is soft. 
  • Throw in the evaporated milk and sugar and stir. Cook on low heat till the mixture comes together. Remove from heat.
  • Once the Kheer is cool enough to handle, fold in the the strawberries. Cover and stand the Kheer for a few hours for the Strawberry flavor to seep into the Kheer. Serve cold or at room temperature.