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Rainy Pains – Snacking through monsoon!

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I’m going to miss my mango season! But not to worry, the rains are just around the corner and so are my garam garam snacks for each rainy evening – out on the porch, drops of rain painting the tiles and fresh greenery insight – the only thing joining me is a platter of monsoon bites. Yes, the pakoras are a tantalizing option, but we all need to watch our weight as well as immunity. For this, I have come up with a couple of exciting and nutritious recipes for an easy-like, healthy monsoon!

Sweet Potato Strips
All you need to do is grab some sweet potatoes (quantity depends on your appetite and number of people that are eating), and slice them into thin strips. Toss them in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil (for measurement, take 2 teaspoons per 1 medium-sized sweet potato). Roast them on an oiled, non-stick baking sheet for about 20 minutes at a sweet 150 degrees-Celsius, and voila! Season them with salt or paprika, per your taste and serve hot on a damp evening!

Cheesy Celery Sticks
For the days that feel incredibly sweaty and less monsoon-like, we’ve got you covered with a bunch of celery sticks and a cheesy dip. Yes, we all do love nachos and chips with our dip (where else did the term chip-and-dip come about from?), but in light of our current situation with Coronavirus, it is essential to watch what we eat. So here goes – all you need to do is mix 1/4th cup of Greek yoghurt or hung curd with 2 tablespoons of crumbled cheese (take your pick depending on the cheese you like). Spread this onto long celery stalks and eat anytime! This measurement works for 1 person at a time, during the day, but make more as you go!

Grilled Fruit Salad on Skewers
You need not necessarily use skewers for this, long toothpicks or just grilled on a perfectly balanced tray (tossed periodically) should be just fine! Take your choice of fruits from plums, peaches, apples, guavas and chop them into cubes. Toss them around in a squeeze of lemon. Insert these pieces in skewers and grill them for about 10 minutes. Serve hot on a rainy afternoon!

PS – Not all treats need to be deep-fried or sugar-coated!

Fresh Corn Bhel
This is a favourite for all of us! Steamy corn chaat is all you need to get through the cool rains! A chunky bowl of chaat with corn, chopped potatoes, sev and onions tossed in a tangy chutney made with coriander, green chillies, tamarind paste and garlic is the perfect snack to relieve your taste buds from the longing for some fried pakoras!

Moong Dal Pakoras
Okay! Yes, we all want to have at least one set of pakoras in our monsoon menu. And selfishly enough, even I do sometimes. This is why I escape to a tempting plate of moong dal pakoras! All you need is:

  • 1 cup split moong dal
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • A pinch of hing
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • Oil, for frying

Method:

  • Wash and soak dal in 3 cups of water for 2-3 hours. Using very little water, grind dal with the green chilli, onion, ginger, cumin, hing, salt, garam masala and red chilli powder
  • Add cilantro to the batter and beat it for 2-3 minutes with a wooden spoon to make the batter light and soft. Add water if necessary. A thick batter will result in hard pakodas
  • Heat oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Place about 1 tbsp of batter into the oil and fry till golden brown. Fry the pakodas in small batches. The pakodas should be crispy from outside and soft inside. Serve hot with the chutney of your choice!

Palak Poha Pakoras
A random craving develops for some fried food – it is only natural for us to want some! So instead of some usual bread pakoras, aloo pakoras or onion bhajiyas, let’s give this nutritious alternative a go! All you need is:

  • 2 ½ bowls of poha
  • 1 bowl of poha, finely chopped
  • ½ bowl of moong dal
  • ½ bowl of coriander (you can upgrade to 1 bowl if your taste prefers it!)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Chilli – either green chopped or red chilli powder to your taste

Method:

  • Wash and soak dal for 5 minutes and then put it in boiling water for 15 minutes. The dal will soak up some water and become tender. Run water through the poha for a minute and then let the water drain completely. Put it in a bowl with the palak and coriander
  • Add the dal, salt and spices to the poha and mix till it forms a dough. Make small balls or cylindrical shapes from the dough. You can also make them into small patties for cutlets
  • If making cutlets, shallow fry the dough shapes. If making pakodas, deep fry insufficient oil and drain on kitchen paper before serving

Oatmeal Jaggery Crepes
For a sweet surprise, and of course, once the savoury has become too much for your taste buds, skip the sugar and traditional dessert options. An oatmeal jaggery crepe is all that you need to sweeten your cold and shivery monsoons! All you need is:

  • 20 grams jaggery
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • A pinch of cinnamon powder
  • 5 cups of powdered oats

Method:

Mix the jaggery, fennel seeds & cinnamon powder in water and let it sit for half an hour until the jaggery dissolves completely. Add powdered oats to this mixture. The batter should reach a thick pouring consistency. Heat oil in a pan and spread a tablespoon of the mixture and cook. Serve these by themselves, or with a dash of honey or a homemade chocolate spread! A warm sweet surprise on your hands!

Cauliflower Fritters

No more gobhi ki sabzi! Skip the usual aloo tikkis and try these fritters for a tasty evening snack! All you need is:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons minced scallions, plus more for garnishing
  • Olive oil
  • Yoghurt or sour cream, for serving

Method:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook it just until fork-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer it to a cutting board and using a sharp knife, cut it into very small pieces. (The cauliflower pieces should be the size of peas or smaller.)
  • Measure out 4 cups of the chopped cauliflower. (Discard the remaining cauliflower or use for cauliflower tots or mashed cauliflower).
  • Combine the cauliflower, flour, eggs, garlic, scallions, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and stir until well combined.
  • Line a plate with paper towels. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and lightly coat it with olive oil. Scoop out 2- to 3-tablespoon mounds of the cauliflower mixture into the pan, flattening the mounds slightly with a spatula and spacing them at least 1 inch apart.
  • Cook the fritters for 2 to 3 minutes, flip them once and cook them an additional 1 to 2 minutes until they're golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the fritters to the paper towel-lined plate. Serve them warm topped with yoghurt or sour cream.

So now that we have a few recipes on hand, let’s begin the monsoon games! But remember, too much of anything is rarely a good thing. In the wise words of Jessica Laar, “only a select few are able to see the true beauty that lies behind what just might seem like a rainy day or a grey sky”. Let’s make the most of this monsoon season with some nutritive goodies on hand! Do not forget to finish your energy bar after making your recipe list out of this one!

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