The switchover of seasons from summer to monsoon and just as quickly to autumn plays tantalising tricks on our taste buds. Chai with pakoras dunked in a bowl of ketchup! It is a blissful world, isn't it? Do not be distraught if your senses seem to want to give in to temptations swinging from spicy to sugary during this period. Recognise this as a natural urge, which is experienced by many. And pull up all your guards. Here are some delightful ways to veer you away from the temptations of fried foods and help you satisfy cravings with food that are not fried.
So how many of you have a kadai in the house? No kitchen in an Indian household is complete without one. Kadai is a wonderful utensil to cook vegetables and prepare tempering. It is also the only convenient vessel that allows deep-frying! Alas, that is the sad part. We cannot seem to do without fried foods. Fried foods satisfy the palate to such an extent that we keep craving for fried foods. Especially when it is raining outside or there is a nip in the air, like in the month of October. Yet, my task is to drag you away from temptations of fried foods and convince you that snacking can be fun without oil too. And you can enjoy it better as you do not feel guilty of letting go of your carefully watched diet, do not put on ounces and enjoy good health. Indeed, we can enjoy food cooked in less oil using herbs and cooking them in the grill or microwave.
So the big question now is - what does one have with the cuppa when the mood is for pakoras and ketchup but the guilt pangs are like a big sword dangling over the head? My new list would include khakhras; these crisp avatars of masala rotis have high visibility these days, But be careful. The ones with layers are cooked using a lot of ghee. Safer to stick to the thin crisp ones made at home, not bought. Try the ones with flavour of your choice - garlic or onion or even palak paneer flavour! There is no dearth of variety.
Another good thing to have is low calorie chiwda. This is the roasted version of the chiwda and tastes good because of the addition of curry leaves and peanuts. It is lesser in calories than the oily version. If you want more from it, mix in some finely chopped onions, a dash of lemon juice and enjoy an instant bhel. Talking of bhel, how about tossing some puffed rice with chopped onions and tomatoes and cucumbers, some coriander leaves, some crushed kakhras and serving it up instantly with a dash of lime. The taste is superb and even with tea it is wonderful.
Another yummy idea is to start baking traditional items like chaklis and puris at home instead of deep-frying. It works and now that it enters the non-fried category, you know you can eat them without guilt. Another good idea is to bake the crisp masala puris that you normally fry and store in snack tins. You could add some chopped spinach and fenugreek to a mixture of flours like jowar and bajra and wheat, some oil, ginger, green chilli paste and salt. Knead dough using a little buttermilk and roll into small two inch diameter puris. Prick with fork and bake in a greased tray for 10 to 12 minutes. These too can be stored in airtight tins, i.e. if there is any left once you finish serving the family!
More lip-smacking snacks would be brown bread toast with hung yogurt topping, or spicy potato topping on canapés or salty biscuits. Remember, having coriander chutney, date and tamarind chutney handy is a saviour sometimes, as these two relishes add tremendous flavour to any snack.Of course, dhoklas and steamed muthias are also good teatime snacks.
For this I have to thank my wife, who being a Gujarati does wonder in churning out non-fried snacks with great élan and ease. Of course the repertoire of fried snacks, farsan, in Gujarati food is mind-boggling but the dhoklas are anytime treats. I sometimes crumble dhokla and serve it with chopped onions, coriander leaves and sev. Tastes scrumptious! Even idlis steamed with some toppings of choice make a healthful and fulfilling snack.I took the following idea from a friend who loves this as a breakfast dish - boiled chickpeas or boiled black gram served with boiled potato cubes, sometimes paneer cubes too, some chopped tomatoes, and sprinkled with chaat masala and lemon juice. It tastes as good as it looks. Besides, it is nutritious and filling. I see no reason why it cannot be included in our non-fried teatime snack list. I urge you to try it.
– Sanjeev Kapoor (Courtesy: Wellbeing, Aramuc)
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