Amazing maize

Today these lines are dedicated to one of my favourite foods: golden cobs of maize or corn, call it makai…or call it bhutta….or in typical Punjabi – challi. Corn when properly roasted on live coals and served sprinkled lavishly with lemon juice and salt is a fulfilling mini meal by itself! These days, watching a movie in a multiplex can also be enhanced with a serving of chilli corn served hot. (Gone are the days of only samosas and popcorn being available at cinemas!)

Maize is an important cereal after rice and wheat. The tender ones are chiefly liked for the high sugar content. So the maize is also known as sweet corn. It would also interest you to know that the favourite popcorn, made by heating the small grains, is a wholesome cereal food and is easily digested. It has everything in the original grains of corn content. It is not fattening and practically starch free as in the process of popping, its starch is converted into dextrine and intermediate carbohydrates, a digestive product, which is easily assimilable.

Maize is prepared and consumed in various ways. It is usually ground and pounded and made into flour. Who can deny that sarson-da-saag and makke-di-roti (made from maize flour) is an international best seller!

Maize flour can also be used to add texture and nutritive qualities to bread. It can also be used as a thickening agent in soups and that it adds delicious flavour is an added bonus. One soup, of particular interest to me, is made of cauliflower stock with a bit of onion and thickened with makai flour paste. Throw in a few glowing gems of boiled green peas and the soup is a one-dish meal!

The refined cornflour should also be mentioned. It is used in cakes, biscuits and as a thickening agent in soups in gravies. Made by processing makai flour, cornflour is a lightweight ingredient in many kingly dishes. Another product of corn is the flattened corn grains known as makai poha. Deep fried and mixed with raisins, dried coconut bits, fried peanuts and seasoned with salt, red chilli and sugar, makai chiwda is an instant hit with guests.

To round off, here are some exciting maize recipes which amaze me with their simplicity.
Try them out this weekend…

Boondi aur Makai ki Bhel
Makai Palak
Corn Sevpuri

Till Monday then….happy cooking !

Sanjeev Kapoor.

Beat the rising prices

It’s not that all the vegetables are becoming expensive. Prices of lemons have come down considerably. I also think we should pick up more of beetroot.

In fact, even as I write this, some tips for the best use of lemons come to my mind and let me pen down at least some of them:

1. A lemon at room temperature will yield more juice.
2. Before juicing, press down firmly and roll the lemon on the kitchen counter to break up the pulp before juicing.
3. If the lemon is very cold, you can microwave it for a few seconds before squeezing.
4. Freeze the juice in ice cube trays, when frozen save in a plastic bag.
5. Grate lemon zest; seal tightly in a plastic bag and freeze.
6. Put lemon wedges inside the cavity of a whole chicken.
7. Tenderize meat by marinating it in lemon juice.
8. Squeeze lemon on vegetables while steaming, to keep the colours bright.
9. Add it to rice while cooking to make it fluffier.
10. A few drops of lemon juice improves the taste of other fruits.

I also recommend adding beetroot seriously to your daily diet. Beetroot can be eaten raw. You just need to peel it and it’s ready to use. Beetroot can add a refreshing touch to a salad, a sandwich (try it with cheese!) or as an accompaniment to other vegetables. I prefer having it thinly sliced and mixed with onion rings with a dash of lemon juice and salt. This is a nice, crunchy, pink-hued salad! Otherwise grate it finely to add to other vegetables. Or try adding a teaspoon or so of finely grated beetroot to a chilled glass of fresh orange juice. It’s refreshing! Plain grated beetroot is great on burgers.

Usually when you buy fresh beetroot it will still have the leaves and stalks attached. To cook the beetroot simply cut off the stalks but make sure you leave some of the stalk intact. By doing this it will help to stop the beetroot from losing it’s colour when you cook it and helps to hold in the nutrients. Beetroot can be steamed or cooked in boiling water. Cooking time can be from twenty to thirty minutes depending on the size of the beetroot. Test the beetroot with a skewer: when it’s soft, remove it from the heat and cool it under running water – this will make the skin easier to remove for serving.

You can serve cooked beetroot: as a hot vegetable accompaniment to a meal; or allow it to cool and slice it to put it in a sandwich with cucumber slices and tomato slices. You can also try this: cut beetroot into cubes and stir-fry it with some steamed cubed potatoes and pumpkin. Add a little garlic and some diced onions – this makes a delicious vegetable dish to serve with the rest of your meal.

How about some lemon treats, some beetroot treats, all to get you in the pink of health!
Justify Full
Lemon Rice
Apple Beet and Cucumber Juice
Beetroot Chaas

Sanjeev Kapoor.

Is it safe to reuse cooking oil

There is a lot written in the media about not to save the oil or ghee that has been used for frying for re-use. As it is, frying once changes the composition of the fat/oil so it seems that twice used fat must be horrible. There is an even greater health risk when you cook with pre-cooked oil/ghee.

Actually, reusing cooking oil has been done for ages. There isn’t really is any problem, if done properly. The greatest hazard is allowing the oil or ghee to become spoiled to the point that it produces undesirable flavours and odours. When oil becomes spoiled, it appears dark and thick. Besides ruining what would have been a perfectly good meal, spoilt oils also contain free radicals that are potentially carcinogenic.

To understand how to best re-use oil, it is important to know about smoke points – the temperatures at which oil begins to decompose. If you heat oil to a temperature that is too high, it produces smoke fumes. Acreolin, a substance that makes your eyes burn, is given off as well. To re-use oil safely, use these tips: strain it through a few layers of muslin cloth to catch any food particles. Be careful with hot oil, though, because you can easily get burned. Shake off excess batter from food before frying it. Turn off the heat after you are done cooking. Also exposing oil to prolonged heat accelerates rancidity. Do not ever mix different types of oil. Store all oils, fresh or used in a cool, dark place. Avoid iron kadais for frying oil that is to be reused. The metal also accelerates rancidity.

The optimal temperature to fry foods at is 190°C At higher temperatures, the food will burn on the outside and at lower temperatures, the food absorbs too much oil and tastes greasy. Different oils have different smoking points. Oils with higher smoking points are better for frying. For example, safflower, sunflower, soyabean. The more popular ones like groundnut oil have a lower smoking point. And olive oil has the lowest. This explains the reason why olive oil is never used for deep frying.

But olive oil, thanks to its goodness, adds more to Indian food! How about some daily recipes that can be cooked with olive oil….

Subzi aur tamatar ka pulao

Paneer keema

Batata nu shaak

Happy Cooking!

Sanjeev Kapoor.