Bread & Chocolate: India

January 10th: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day

The India I visited is not a walkers’ paradise. The streets of Delhi are extremely polluted, crowded and holds the possibility of being accosted by one of the capital’s many professional beggars. Despite that, I managed to walk a little and find some chocolate.

Photo by Kimberley (c) 2016
Photo by Kimberley (c) 2016

This is, or rather was, the chocolate burfi I indulged in on my last full day in India. Burfi is a sweet typically made with ground nuts, sugar and milk product (condensed, powdered). It is a sort of Indian fudge.

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

This is a ‘chocobite’ which was purchased at a renowned sweet shop in Jaipur, the pink city. Both bits of chocolate I had, bore little resemblance to the rich bites I’m accustomed to eating. Generally, the chocolate I encountered was such in name and appearance only. Apart from local manifestations, you can also get popular Western brands such as the Dairy Milk line.

While one can easily satisfy their sweet tooth in India with an assortment of widely available mithai (sweets), the chocoholic may have a less than stellar experience of chocolate in India.

Are you a chocoholic who’s been to India and has had a memorable chocolate experience? If so, do tell…

 

Atta girl

Bread, on the other hand, is a different and more delightful matter. In India, wheat is one of the staple grains with India in the top ten list of the world’s producers. Different varieties of wheat are primarily cultivated in the northern states.

Map of wheat-producing states, India

Indian bread is typically round flatbread that is often unleavened. It comes in many varieties and can either be plain, stuffed and/or deep-fried. It is a popular accompaniment with every meal.

naan – the white bread of India; made with all-purpose flour and comes plain, buttered, with garlic or cheese.

roti/chapati – the brown bread of India. It is made with atta flour, a softly textured whole wheat. It can be cooked on a tawa (flat cast iron pan) or in a tandoor (clay oven). Variations exist depending on the flour used (eg missi roti is made with chickpea flour).

puri/poori – a puffy fried dough

dosa – an Indian crepe often stuffed with potato and eaten for breakfast in the south, ie masala dosa.

paratha – a fried version of roti. Can be plain or stuffed. (Eg aloo paratha is stuffed with cauliflower.)

papad – akin to a cracker, it is thin, crispy and seasoned.

Indian Food Site: Breads

Veg Recipes of India: Types of Indian breads

When in India, it is possible to take some cooking courses. Here I am making roti in Udaipur.

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

 

 

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

 

 

 

 

Cooking on the tawa. Photo by Kimberley (c)2015
Cooking on the tawa.
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finished product. Photo by Kimberley (c)2015
The finished product.
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chocoholic may not be fully satisfied on a trip to India but the bread lover surely will be.

Meatless Monday in Rajasthan – Oh My Dahling

Happy New Year everyone! After a holiday hiatus I’m back, having just freshly returned a few hours before writing this post! This month’s instalments of Meatless Monday posts will feature foods found in Rajasthan, one of India’s provinces.

dahl = lentil dish

Anyone travelling to this southeastern nation who follows a meatless diet will be delighted to know that India is a vegetarian haven; especially those of the lacto-ovo persuasion. It is easy to find restaurants serving vegetarian food and some of the indigenous religions forbid the eating of certain animal flesh.

Hindus don’t eat beef while those of the Buddhist and Jain faith are vegetarian. It is worth noting that followers of the latter religions may also abstain from eating onions and garlic in their vegetarian diet. Jains are said to avoid root vegetables too.

Those who follow a vegan diet, however, may find it a little more challenging to get meals without dairy as this product figures heavily in many dishes. Look out for ‘pure veg’ options (sometimes it means without garlic/onion but can still contain a milk product) and request meals without dairy. Specify that you don’t want milk, cream, yoghurt ghee and paneer in your dish. Here are some terms that indicate the use of dairy.

Malai, korma and makhani are cream sauces; paneer is unfermented cheese; ghee is clarified butter.

Everyday in Rajasthan is a meatless day and here are some common food items.

plant protein: rice, wheat, peas, lentils, chickpeas, nuts

other protein sources: dairy, eggs

vegetables: potato, cauliflower, okra, eggplant, beans, carrots and leafy greens e.g. mustard, spinach, fenugreek (generically termed ‘saag’)

fruit: banana, oranges, mango, apples, limes

grains: rice, wheat

With the expert use of spices and an attitude of ahimsa or non-violence (not killing animals), vegetarians and vegans can expect to eat flavourful, nutritious and balanced meals in India.

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Meatless Monday – Alchemy to the Rescue!

My own brand of recipe alchemy intervenes in Cuban cuisine. This Meatless Monday post makes over some signature Cuban food into a healthier vegetarian/vegan version.

  • cucuruchoa dessert made with nuts, fruit, coconut and honey.
    Described as ambrosia-like this dessert can be quite cloying and the addition of honey renders it non-vegan. The make-over? Apart from substituting honey with an alternative liquid sweetener and reducing the amount of it not much else needs to be done to make this dessert ‘healthy.’ Try a fruit salad approach by drizzling a minute amount of agave or maple syrup over top of fresh seasonal fruit, freshly grated coconut (store-bought shredded coconut will work too) and sprouted nuts.
  • chorote – a breakfast drink made with chocolate, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla and corn or cassava flour (helps make drink rich and thick)
    Chocolate for breakfast?! Yes please! I can get used to this but the added sugar diminishes the nutritional value of the other ingredients. The make-over? Omit the sugar, substitute the flour with a vanilla flavoured vegan protein powder and make sure to use unsweetened dark chocolate with a minimum 70% cacao content. If you have coconut milk powder, use a few teaspoons and combine with 200 mL of water and the other ingredients over medium heat until the chocolate is melted. No coconut milk powder? No problem. Just use reduced coconut milk instead. Or use half water and half reduced coconut milk to lower the fat content yet maintain a rich creamy taste.
  • Moros y Cristianossimply beans and rice
    Often made with black beans, white rice and some sort of animal stock, this dish is easily made healthier and vegetarian. The make-over? Use vegetable stock (or mushroom for a more ‘meaty’ impersonation) and whole grain rice instead of white. Reduce the amount of oil and salt normally called for in the recipe by at least half to up the health quotient. See ‘authentic’ recipe here.
  • Cuban sandwichham and cheese on white
    Spotted everywhere, this sandwich seemed to be the street food of Cuba. The make-over? Clearly get rid of the ham! Substitute it with baked seitan, tempeh or tofu in a marinade of pineapple juice, sodium-reduced soy sauce, a little liquid smoke, a bit of oil and a pinch of ground cloves. Use a smoked vegetarian or vegan cheese and build your vegetarian/vegan Cuban sandwich on two thinly sliced pieces of whole grain bread. Or use just one slice if you would prefer less bread.

 

See our sister site Weal World Travel for some background info on food in Cuba: Nutrition & Travel: Cuba