Monday, 27 March 2017

Barnyard Millet Cake.

Although, the title of this post calls this a cake- it is nothing but an oversized Idli steamed in a cake mould.
The giant Idli was made of Barnyard millet and was fermented overnight. The orange colour was because of mashed carrots and the green hue came from ground coriander leaves. I added the carrot and coriander leaves to the batter and layered it just before steaming. The white portion, of course, is the uncoloured Barnyard millet batter.
This idli, that does look like a cake- is however very nutritious. Barnyard millet, from which it is made has a good amount of macronutrients and dietary fibre.  12% of barnyard millet is fibres. 4% of which are soluble ones.  Barnyard millets, in addition, also have a low glycemic index (41 - 45) since they are low in carbohydrates.  In a study (1) published in 2014, it was noticed that people who consumed barnyard millets for 28 days showed a significant reduction in blood- glucose. cholesterol and triglyceride levels making it an ideal grain for people with type II diabetes. Despite being nutritionally one of the most superior cereals, its use in everyday cooking remains abysmally poor, just because of the lack of awareness.
 Barnyard millet is also a hardy crop and grows on hilly slopes where nothing else grows and needs very little water too . 
The idli additionally had whole carrots and coriander which gave it a lovely subtle taste and a fascinating colour. 


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Organic Chunna Idli's !

On a rocky patch in our backyard, a thorny bush, disguised as a creeper comes to life every summer. Under the scorching heat of the India summer, it produces an abundant of berries. In Goa, they are called 'Chunna', and they have different names in different parts of the world. 'Ziziphus rugosa' is a hardy plant, that loves a tough life. In Africa, there is a saying, which roughly translates to; 'when there is nothing to eat- there is always these berries'. They are green when raw and slowly turn translucent as they ripen, they are not very sweet and neither very flavorful, but studies indicate an abundance of nutrients.

Our breakfast today were Idli's ( fermented- steamed millet cakes) laced with a generous quantity of 'Chunna pulp'. The Idli's were not made from rice, but from 'pearl millet' (Bajra) fermented overnight. I used the previous day's left-over batter as a starter (about 3 tablespoons of fermented finger millet) and in the morning, added a generous serving of 'Chunna'. It so happens, using Chunna in breakfast is not new- traditionally it has been used in dosa's in certain area's of southern India- I, however, used them in the idli's and this is where an amazing transformation happens. The slightly sweet berries actually become much sweeter and when we ate the idli- it felt as if raisins were added to the idlis. Chunna had acquired a new flavour- Eureka ! what an amazing discovery!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Stuffed Proso Millet Idli's (steamed breads)

Today idli's are generally made from rice. However, that was not the case a hundred years ago. Depending on the region, idli's were made not just of rice, but also from millets. This is a tradition that is getting lost today. Polished rice, devoid of nearly most nutrition is the staple in today's idlis.
We can easily change our eating habits and get back to eating nutritious food again- for our own well-being. Our breakfast was an attempt in that direction and was made of whole proso millet, which was fermented with a little of the previous day's leftover batter. ( That batter was made of finger millet and black gram). The overnight fermentation also changed the colour of the batter from yellow to white.
The twist, however, was when we stuffed the idlis with a mixture of vegetables and fresh herbs. An enjoyable start to a lovely day. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

It's Water day- Multi Millet Flatbreads

Today is World water day, The UN decided March 22, 1993, would be the first World Water Day, and it has been held annually since. This year's theme is 'Wastewater'.
In India, 90% of the water used goes towards farming and most of it is used inefficiently. Over and above this- crops that are water guzzlers have the greatest demand. It takes 2100 litres of water to make a kilo of sugar (something that we can live without) and about 4000 litres to make a kilo of wheat.
Compare this to millets India traditionally grew- it takes just 300 litres of water for a kilogram of millets.
Now imagine if we as consumers try and make a dietary change by increasing our consumption of water efficient crops (which by the way are more healthy), won't that be a huge reduction in water that is used for the purpose of irrigation?
Could we as a society give this a thought?
Our breakfast, these millet flatbreads were made from a mixture of millets- they required less than 1/10th of the water their wheat counterparts require.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Proso Millet - Cone Dosa.

'Proso millet Cone Dosa' - Woke up to an amazing sight today- the vessel in which this proso millet batter was fermenting had overflown and messed up the kitchen platform! But I was delighted, the batter had fermented so well- I was fermenting proso millet for the first time and I was left wondering whether it was the millet or the warm night, that helped the fermentation. The dosa had a lovely flavour and was so crisp that I could actually make a cone out of it.

After food some gyan: Here is a question for you.

Will gymming or even strenuous exercising undo these effects of sugar?

Have you ever undergone a HbA1C (Haemoglobin A1C) test in order to monitor your blood sugar levels? Well, if you have heard about this test, then most likely, you were told that it measures the average three-month blood glucose level. What very few people realise about this test is that other than revealing your three-month average blood glucose level, the test also reveals something more sinister - that something, is what we would like to share with you today.

First, a gist about how the HbA1C test works. Sugar molecules have a nasty habit of binding to proteins and fats - This spontaneous binding of sugar to proteins and fats is called ‘glycation’. In fact, we even observe this property of sugar in our very own kitchens while cooking - the browning of French fries, bread etc. When a sugar molecule attaches itself to a protein - it pretty much remains attached to it for the rest of the protein’s life. Haemoglobin, a protein, responsible for transporting oxygen from lungs to the cells of our body, similarly undergoes glycation by the sugar present in our blood. The HbA1C actually measures this ‘’glycated Haemoglobin’’ - and since an increase in blood sugar increases the amount of glycated haemoglobin, it becomes extremely useful as an indicator of the “average” blood sugar over the past ninety days or so (the life span of the Haemoglobin).

Now coming to the sinister part. When proteins become glycated, two important things happen. First, they struggle to carry out their functions as they become damaged by this process. Second, they tend to attach themselves to similarly damaged proteins which only further inhibits their ability to function. Proteins are the most critical component of our body- we are what we are, majorly, because of proteins. Life on earth started because of proteins. Fortunately, proteins like Haemoglobin are replaced by our body regularly, however, there are many proteins that are never replaced or have a very long lifespan. When such proteins like those found in the eye, kidney, heart, nerves, etc are glycated, their functioning is impaired, a major reason why diabetes-related complications are associated with these organs.

What then can glycation do to our body? Well, some of the effects are obvious - like cataract and wrinkles. But, greater damage occurs within our body. High levels of glycation have been associated with cognitive decline, kidney disease, diabetes, vascular disease (blood vessel related) etc. Glycated proteins end up on the walls of our blood vessels, gradually clogging them making sugar one of the leading causes of arteriosclerosis. (1)

One must remember, that any protein in the body is subject to be damaged by glycation. Glycation of proteins is also a normal part of our metabolism and is an unavoidable part of our life. However, what we can do to drastically reduce the level of glycation that occurs in our body is ‘’reduce the availability of sugar’’ in the first place. (2) To do this, we only have to cut down or stop our intake of sugar - as simple as that.

Having said that, one must realise that all sugars do not behave in a similar fashion in our bodies - Fructose has ten times more glycation activity than glucose, which means, it can damage 10 times more proteins than what glucose in the blood can do. The most disturbing fact of table sugar (sucrose) - it is a combination of fructose and glucose. So, each time, we consume this sugar- think of what the fructose can do to your precious proteins. Let’s make our life sweet - not our food 😊

This then is food for thought – most of us gorge on sugary foods, consoling and allowing ourselves the freedom to do so, with the thought - we will just burn it off in the gym or on long walks or simply by using the stairs etc. But what about the damage that is happening on the inside? We as a society being conscious only about our external body image (weight, skin, athletic look) rarely even consider our personal internal health. We are willing to spend endlessly, to maintain an external image but not turn to saving simply by refusing to spend on ‘’Sugar’’.

P.S.: Fructose is also the sugar present in fruits and vegetables- however, the quantity is negligible, unlike the processed sugars that we consume.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Jai Hind Dosa !

Let's begin today's post with a question. Which of the following has a higher Glycemic Index: 1. A slice of whole-wheat bread from a bakery 2. A teaspoon of pure white sugar 3. Jai Hind Dosa (the one featured today and made of Foxtail millet)

Glycemic Index (GI) is a numerical rating that indicates how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular of food- A food with higher GI produces a surge in blood sugar compared to the one with lower blood sugar. Food with 55 or less is classified as Low GI and the ones above 70 are classified as high GI. People with diabetes and those intending to lose weight are recommended to stick to foods that have a lower GI. So what's the answer to our question?

Counter-intuitive as it may sound, the correct answer is whole-wheat bread from a bakery (GI of 71!), sugar stands at 68 and the ground foxtail millet is 47 (The cheese and carrot reduce the GI some more, but let's stick to the higher value).  It has been known for a long time that wheat (and also white rice) produces a faster blood glucose surge than sugar ( that does not mean one can gorge on sugar. Sugar is perhaps the most harmful of the foods that we eat) but somehow very few people realise this! and this is where millets are such a gift from nature.

Today's breakfast was a dosa made of foxtail millet and was fermented overnight. Topped with grated carrots, capsicum and cheese- the moment Aari saw it, she called it 'Jai hind dosa' and the name stuck.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Ragi Masala Dosa (Finger millet)

Although breakfast items like masala dosa are made from gluten free ingredients- eating it in a restaurant always comes with a great concern- that of contamination by products containing gluten. For quite some time we had been wanting to eat this crunchy and delicious item and that day finally arrived. We had Masala dosa for breakfast today- ah! the delight. For a change, however, we replaced the 'dosa rice' with whole 'Finger millet' (Ragi) and it tasted just as good.

This post also gives me an opportunity to share a very interesting article that appeared in this months 'Pediatrics' journal (Published by American Academy of Pediatrics). The article should be of interest not just to paediatricians, but also to parents with young children. Do read the fascinating write-up, however, this is the summary.

 TEDDY,  is an international study investigating the environmental factors associated with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease in Children. Children with genetic risk for diabetes and celiac disease are followed from birth up to 15 years of age with an extensive array of biologic, psychological, and environmental measures. The article shares with us one of the conclusions of the study, which involved more than 8000 children.

When parents are unaware that their children have celiac disease, they report more behavioural problems such as anxiety, depression, aggressive behaviours and sleep problems compared to parents whose children did not have celiac disease. The findings are fascinating since rarely do people consider a child’s anxiety or depression or even sleep disorder could be related to the gut. The study also confirms previous studies that have linked celiac disease to depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Meanwhile, it's dinner time already !