This year in the April challenge I wanted to promote my food blog (culinarydelites.wordpress.com) and of course my page with the blog (facebook.com/delhiculinarydelites). So my A to Z posts revolved around food, ingredients, dishes and everything else related to food, cooking, and of course eating. Hence here are the links from A2Z posts under one post for anyone and everyone to read and comment. Please do leave your feedbacks. I appreciate and value them as well. Thank you in advance.
Z is for Zucchini! Yes Zucchini or Tori in Hindi. Interestingly like all the other vegetables Tori’s English name Zucchini is relatively unknown to most of us. Even in my son’s chart book of fruits and vegetables this humble vegetable has been mentioned with its Hindi name written in English. Anyway now that we know that Zucchini is our Tori – the most favoured summer vegetable let’s see what exactly it is.
According to Wikipedia, Zucchini or courgette as it is also known in some parts of the world is essentially a summer a is a summer squash, which can reach nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. Zucchini along with some other squashes and pumpkins belong to Cucurbita Pepo species and can either be dark or light green in colour. And a related hybrid, the golden zucchini, is a deep yellow or orange colour.
Did you know?
- Though Zucchini is treated as a vegetable in a culinary context, botanically, zucchini is a fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.
- Like all the other squashes, Zucchini also traces its ancestry to America. However, the varieties of squash typically called “zucchini” were developed in Italy, many generations after their introduction from the Americas.
To read more about Zucchini click here. Some more links for Zucchini recipes.
Y is for Yams. Well originally Y was for Yeast but like I had mentioned earlier as well that while researching for other topics I came across Yams hence Y became Yams. So what is Yam?
Wikipedia defines Yam as a common name for some plant species in the genus Dioscorea (family Dioscoreaceae) that form edible tubers. Yams are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Oceania. There are many cultivars of yam.
Although some varieties of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) are also called yam in parts of the United States and Canada, sweet potato is not part of the family Dioscoreaceae and belongs to altogether a different family Convolvulaceae and is related to morning glory.
Interestingly, both yams and sweet potatoes are angiosperms – flowering plants, botanically they are not related. While Yams are a monocot i.e. plants having one embryonic seed leaf, sweet potatoes, which are often confused with yams, are a dicot – plants with two embryonic seed leaves and belong to the morning glory family.
Apparently there are numerous cultivars of Yams however the white and the yellow yams, which are native to Africa, are the most important cultivated yams. Initially these two yams were considered as two separate species; however after some research experts regard them as the same species. It is believed that there are more than 200 cultivated varieties between both white and yellow yam.
Despite being of the same species, both white and yellow yams are different from each other. As Wikipedia explains the difference – while white yam’s tuber is roughly cylindrical in shape, the skin is smooth and brown and the flesh usually white and firm. Yellow yam is named after its yellow flesh, a colour caused by the presence of carotenoids. It looks similar to the white yam in outer appearance; its tuber skin is usually a bit firmer and less extensively grooved. The yellow yam has a longer period of vegetation and a shorter dormancy than white yam.
When I was deciding on the topics for each letter Q and X were the ones that gave me lots of trouble. While for Q I wrote a post on Quotations of Food, I was in dilemma about the letter X. Letter X – the 24th letter of English alphabet – there must be something starting from Mr/ Ms X that would relate to food. And voila here I am with my discovery! Well the seasoned food writers may know about it – but a novice like me is celebrating My X for it stands for Xerophagy!
Yes Xerophagy! A term that literally means dry eating or eating food that has been cooked without using oil. According to Wikipedia Xerophagy (from Greek) is the practice of eating dry food, especially food cooked without oil. It is believed that in Eastern Christianity, Xerophagy is the form of fasting observed during Great Lent and certain other fasts, in which vegetables cooked with water and salt are eaten, together with such things as fruit, nuts, bread and honey.
Xerophagy may also be used as a disciplinary measure in some historic and modern military organisations. So X is definitely for Xerophagy!
W is for Walnuts! Yes Walnuts simply because there can’t be any other W that I can think of right now other than Water Melon of course. I will soon do that post as well but for now let’s concentrate on WALNUTS – the most important and rich source of nutrients. In fact people often confuse certain nuts with dry fruits (I guess I am also guilty of that one) that they forget the basic difference – nuts are shelled fruits while dry fruits are fruits that have been either sun dried or dried in a machine to retain their natural flavour but to increase their shelf life.
Interestingly when I had started this challenge I had decided on my W and it was Walnuts. And few days into the challenge I got an invite to attend the launch of the book California Walnuts – Nutrition and Health. At the launch the renowned cardiologist Dr HK Chopra dispelled lots of our myths related to walnuts and other nuts and dry fruits as well. However, he emphasised on the numerous health benefits of Walnuts and insisted that if we wish to live a healthy life then we should start incorporating Walnuts in our day-to-day life as Walnut is the best nut for a healthy life.
In fact California Walnut Commission had launched the book, which is essentially a handbook highlighting the benefits of Walnuts in diabetes. Walnuts are a rich source of almost all the nutrients require for a healthy body and a sound mind, said Dr Chopra. He also informed us that Walnut is the only nut that contains highest value of Omega-3 fatty acids and hence is also known as a healthy heart nut.
Walnuts are also a rich source of dietary fibre, proteins, fats, good cholesterol and antioxidants that are vital in enhancing our body’s immunity. Doctor also revealed that a handful of walnuts everyday would meet our body’s requirement of essential nutrients and said, “Walnuts are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acid, with 2.5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) per serving. They reduce total cholesterol and LDL ‘bad cholesterol’. I recommend an ounce (28gms) of walnuts a day to keep the heart attack away”.
Dr Chopra started his presentation with the shocking facts and figures and said that according to staggering figures released by The International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF) fifth diabetes atlas, India’s prevalence of diabetes among 20-79 year olds is 9.2 percent, which constitutes the major share of 1.25 billion people in India. India is only second to China, in prevalence. Rates of diabetes are excessively high in young to middle-aged adults in Asian countries due to poor dietary choices.
In order to address this issue and provide a preventive lifestyle, the California Walnut Commission and Geetu Amarnani, Nutritionist & Lifestyle Management Consultant launched a handbook, ‘California Walnuts Nutrition and Health’. The book which has a Foreword by renowned cardiologist Dr HK Chopra highlights the history of walnuts along with their nutritional and health benefits for people with diabetes. The book has been launched on the eve of DIABCON- one of the largest Diabetes Conventions in India, which brings together specialists in this area from all across the country.
Geetu Amarnani, Nutritionist & Lifestyle Management Consultant and the co-author of the book said, “An ounce of walnuts provides four grams of protein and two grams of fibre. The California Walnut Commission’s two decades of walnut health research has successfully demonstrated the nutritive properties of walnuts. This handbook aims to help a wide audience, from children to adults and people suffering from medical conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity”.
Some interesting things we learned
The interesting session on Walnuts as a healthy heart nut was quite informative as we learned that walnuts are always to be stored in a fridge. (Oh well! It was quite easy to say that but difficult or rather to do it at my place because if we store walnuts in fridge they won’t last even for a day. Hubs would be eating it all away to glory).
We also learned that source is quite important. And by source we mean from where it is bought, and how was it stored before you bought. Of course the quality is important from the beginning like where was it cultivated, how was it cultivated and all that jazz that comes with cultivation.
It is important to know that if walnuts are stored in a rucksack and kept in the open then those walnuts are not worth buying, as they have become rancid and will not give you any health benefits.
Dark Knight Cupcakes. Whole Wheat Eggless Triple Chocolate Walnut Cupcakes up for grabs!
California Walnut Commission
The California Walnut Commission, established in 1987, is funded by mandatory assessments of the growers. The Commission is an agency of the State of California that works in concurrence with the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The CWC is mainly involved in health research and export market development activities.
The SCS Group
The SCS Group is an agribusiness consulting firm based in Gurgaon, specializing in marketing, international trade and communications strategy related to food, beverage and agricultural products. The firm has an intimate understanding of the evolving tastes and purchasing patterns of premium foods by the Indian consumer as their disposable incomes grow and they integrate into the global economy. The SCS Group represents the California Walnut Commission in India.
V is for vegetarian cuisine and the delights of vegetarian cooking. As a food blogger and writer whenever I have visited restaurants for reviews, I have noticed that there is a limited choice for a vegetarian person. And if that person happens to be a vegan diet follower then the restrictions increase and the choice further narrows down to one or two dishes. Hence most of the vegetarians avoid going to the restaurants that offer both cuisines at the same time.
Reason? Who knows which curry is being served as a vegetarian dish? Considering the fact that vegetarians are purists and little bit finicky about their food, it is no surprise that they prefer going to ‘shudh shaakahaari bhojan’ as they put it. And then there are some who are all the more strict about their diet and don’t eat anything that grows underground along with onions and garlic. So there diet is without these two flavour enhancing food.
Then there are vegetarians who believe that anything that is from animals should not touch their lips and hence their diet is devoid of milk, cheese, butter and honey – all of these are derived from animals. Some of the vegetarians also avoid eating vegetables that post cooking taste and look like meat for instance jimikand, when cooked tastes somewhat like meat, same goes for mushrooms.
So does that mean that vegetarians can’t enjoy eating their meal without the additions of food they want to avoid! And here is the link for some interesting ideas for my vegan and vegetarian friends. Enjoy and happy wolfing oops eating.
U is for ‘Underground’ cooking – one of the ancient methods of cooking, baking and steaming and Undhiyu – is a traditional Gujarati dish especially prepared during Uttarayan – the International Kite festival on 14th January.
According to Wikipedia, ‘Underground’ cooking or Earth Oven as it is generally called is one of the simplest and most ancient cooking structures. The underground oven is also known as ground oven or cooking pit, where a pit is dig to trap heat and bake, smoke or steam food. Apparently underground cooking method or Earth oven has been used in numerous places across various cultures in the past and their presence helps archaeologists to determine any human settlement in those areas!
Underground cooking option or Earth ovens were a common tool for cooking huge quantities of food where no equipments were available. In the present scenario, underground cooking is a preferred form during camping and bonfire. Apparently they have been used extensively around various civilisations around the world and are still commonly found in the Pacific region to date.
Baking and steaming in Underground ovens
In order to bake food in an underground oven first the fire is built, and then allowed to burn down to a smoulder. The food is then placed in the oven and covered. This covered area is then used to bake bread or other various items.
Steaming too follows a similar process except for the fact that green vegetation is put in the pit to add moisture. Sometimes steaming requires more water than usual hence water is also kept with the food in the oven. Finally, a covering of earth is added over everything. The food in the pit can take up to several hours to a full day to cook, regardless of the dry or wet method used.
Now coming to Undhiyu. Undhiyu as defined by Wikipedia is a Gujarati mixed vegetable dish that is a regional specialty of Gujarat, India. The name of this dish comes from the Gujarati words “matlu” meaning earthen pot and “undhu” meaning upside down since they have been traditionally cooked upside down underground in earthen pots fired from above.
Undhiyu is a seasonal dish, comprising the vegetables that are available on the South Gujarat coastline during the winter season, including green beans or new peas (typically used along with the tender pod), unripe banana, small eggplants, muthia (dumplings/fritters made with fenugreek leaves and spiced chickpea flour, and either steamed or fried), potatoes, and purple yam, and sometimes plantain. These are spiced with a dry curry paste that typically includes cilantro leaves, ginger, garlic, green chili pepper, sugar and sometimes includes freshly grated coconut. The mixture is slow cooked for a long time, with some vegetable oil and a very small amount of water sufficient to steam the root vegetables.
Undhiyu is generally relished on Uttarayan – the kite festival of Gujarat and on weddings! Though I am leaving you with some traditional Undhiyu recipes, be warned that they might not turn out as good as the original for reasons unknown unless you have a Gujarati friend to help you.
T is for Thailand and its cuisine so T is for Thai Cuisine. We Indians are familiar with Italian cuisine (pasta, pizza and lasagne to name a few Italian dishes), Chinese cuisine (need I say anything further), and cuisines from various other parts of the world. But we still get confused when Thai Cuisine comes to mind. I do get confuse, I don’t know about other foodies (seasonal ones). So what exactly is Thai Cuisine and what is its importance in today’s eating habits.
According to Wikipedia (please correct me if I am wrong anywhere.) Thai cuisine – the national cuisine of Thailand is all about balance, detail and variety, as these three things are of paramount significance to Thai chefs. Renowned celebrity chef McDang, who is also a writer and authority on Thai cuisine, wrote in his book The Principles of Thai Cookery – what is food? He said that every country has its own food profile that reflects its culture, environment, ingenuity and values.
He also wrote that when one thinks of Thai food words that come to any mind are – intricacy, attention to detail, texture, colour, taste and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, as well as good flavour. McDang also talks about how Thai chefs not only pay attention on the taste of the dish but are also concerned about its appearance, smell and how will it fit in with the rest of the meal.
Talking about preparing a wholesome Thai meal, McDang in his book says that Thai chef think of all parts of the meal as a whole – sum rap Thai (the way Thais eat), is the term Thai chefs use for the unique components that make up a characteristically Thai meal.
Apparently cooking in Thailand is more emphasised on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. Thai cuisine is known for its complex interplay of minimum of three and up to four or five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy.
Another chef from another country, who also happens to be an expert on Thai cuisine said, “Thai food is not about simplicity. It’s about the juggling of disparate elements to create a harmonious finish. Like a complex musical chord it’s got to have a smooth surface but it doesn’t matter what’s happening underneath. Simplicity isn’t the dictum here, at all. Some westerners think it’s a jumble of flavours, but to a Thai that’s important, it’s the complexity they delight in”.
But don’t get hassled by what all is written here because another food expert said that there are ten essential ingredients to a Thai cuisine and if we have those ten ingredients then we are all set to begin our Thai cooking classes.
S initially was for Salt and other Spices of India but then I thought of approaching season and realised that S should be of Summer Food to beat the heat. So finally S is for Summer food that helps you keep you hydrated and fighting fit during the hot scorching summer. S for Salt and Spices of India will follow post the A to Z blogging Challenge in which I am taking part.
Summer food are the Seasonal food that have a slightly higher water content so as to meet your daily requirement of water, even if you forgot to drink the traditional 8-10 glasses of water every day to keep you hydrated. So here’s the list of food that you should include in your diet not just in Summer but also in Winter.
It is believed that yoghurt is one of the best choices to beat the summer heat, as it contains 85 percent of water. And since it is infused with live micro-organisms known as pro-biotic, yoghurt is also beneficial for your health and helps you fight numerous summer allergies. Yoghurt is also a good source of protein, Vitamin B and Calcium.
Indians are slowly waking up to not only just the health benefits of this crunchy green vegetable but are also searching on the Internet for the recipes and how to make it. Most of us still call it as green cauliflower, but believe me the similarity ends there. Broccoli is one of the favoured vegetables for all types of crunchy salads and boasts of 89 percent of water content and is full of nutrition. Give it to your kids in any form – stuff it in a parantha, grate it in their vegetable rice. Broccoli also has anti-inflammatory properties that help in fighting summer allergies.
We all have heard the adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well it is the truth. This super fruit has about 86 percent of water, fibre and is rich in iron, and vitamin C. So next time when you are hungry, thirsty or both grab an apple!
Crunchy, juicy and zero fat Lettuce makes for a perfect sandwich accompaniment, as it has 95 percent of water. One of the best sources of Omega-3, proteins, lettuce is your best bet if you want to stay fit and hydrated this summer.
Cooked rice has almost 70 percent of water and is rich in iron and carbohydrates and is light to eat. No wonder we crave for dal and rice in summer because it is quite light on stomach but quite filling too at the same time.
R is for Ratatouille! Yes, Ratatouille – one of the casserole dishes from the Southern Province of France Nice. Pronounced as rat-ə-TOO-ee – Ratatouille is a traditional French Provencal stewed vegetable dish that originated in Nice and the full name of the dish is Ratatouille Niçoise
It’s believed that the word ratatouille came from Occitan ratatolha and the recipe comes from Occitan cuisine. Apparently Ratatouille originated in or around the present day Provence and Nice area. Some other varieties of the dish are the Catalan Samfaina and the Majorcan Tombet. Ciambotta – spring vegetable dish from the Southern Italy is also a similar dish to Ratatouille.
According to Joël Robuchon – the renowned French Chef and restaurateur the secret of a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so each will taste truly of itself. Usually served as a side dish, Ratatouille can also be enjoyed as a meal on its own with various accompaniments including pasta, rice or bread. The key ingredients in a Ratatouille dish are tomatoes, along with garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, marjoram, fennel and basil, or bay leaf and thyme, or a mix of green herbs like herbes de Provence.
Apparently there is a debate on how to make a traditional Ratatouille and one of the methods is to simply sauté all of the vegetables together. Some cooks insist on a layering approach, where the eggplant and the zucchini are sautéed separately, while the tomatoes, onion, garlic and bell peppers are made into a sauce. The ratatouille is then layered in a casserole – eggplant, zucchini, tomato/pepper mixture – then baked in an oven. A third method, favoured by Joël Robuchon, is similar to the previous; however, the ingredients are not baked in an oven but rather recombined in a large pot and simmered.