Saturday, 6 January 2018

Quesadilla- in an Indian style

Quesadilla originated in Mexico during its colonial era and over the years has spread over the world with many wonderful variations. The original Quesadilla had a soft corn tortilla, which was folded and stuffed with stringy Mexican cheese.

A very similar dish is the ‘sincronizada’ ('synchronised' in Spanish) which has meat and cheese sandwiched between two tortillas and cut into wedges, when serving. Sincronizada and Quesadilla are two different dishes, but most Mexican restaurants today serve sincronizada as a quesadilla and so do we. :)

Quesadilla has undergone various metamorphosis, as it spread from Mexico- wheat tortillas in the United States and potato pancake (lefse) in Scandinavia are quite common variations.

Like all other dishes in our menu- we too have given the humble tortilla an Indian twist. The gluten-free tortilla is made of nine whole grains and millets, namely Foxtail Millet, Proso Millet, Finger Millet, Pearl Millet, Amaranth, Yellow Sorghum, Barnyard millet, Little Millet and Red Sorghum. While the filling is a spiced up mixture of five sprouted pulses: Bengal gram, cowpea, black pea, yellow pea and green gram.

This one quesadilla provides a wholesome, gluten-free, vegan meal and will make any quesadilla proud.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Are you a Canape?

Couch potato is a term used to refer to someone who spends a lot of time on the couch, perhaps watching television or immersed in the virtual world. One of the dishes we feature on the menu of our Deli is a Multigrain Canape- the couch potato of the food world!

Canape comes from the French word for Sofa, perhaps some French chef felt that the garnish that sits on top of the bread is like a person couched on top of a sofa!

We have taken some inspiration from the couch potato and given it a zing. Our canape is made from an organic nine-grain slow baked sofa, Er! Bread, made of Yellow Sorghum, Red Sorghum, Red Rice, Buckwheat, Yellow Pea, Amaranth, Pearl Millet, Finger Millet. The garnish is made from sprouted pulses: Cowpea, Bengal gram, Green gram, Black pea and Yellow pea and flavoured with a date-raisin spread.

Just one bite- and the couch potato looks very interesting.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Baking slow for good health.

A couple of posts ago, we gave a gist about how our breads are made and why it takes 48 hours to make and bake them. As promised earlier, here is the reason why we bake at low temperatures – something, we all must know if we would like to bake and eat healthy food.

Most baked products and bakers suggest that they make healthy food, simply on the basis of having used whole grains while making them. While the intentions are good, they don’t go the whole way in making it truly healthy to stake such a claim. The major reason being – the baking temperature, while most breads are baked at 180c and above, some are baked at temperatures as high as 220c- a temperature that turns a lot of healthy food into harmful ones! Here’s how…

In 2002, Swedish scientists discovered acrylamide in certain kinds of cooked food- this rang alarm bells because acrylamide is a known carcinogen. It was discovered, that cooking at high temperatures, caused a chemical reaction between certain sugars and an amino acid called asparagine, which is present in food, to form acrylamide. So what kinds of food are likely to form acrylamide- Foods that have starches, like those made from grains, vegetables and fruits. Acrylamide formation begins when food is cooked above 120 c and rapidly increases with increasing temperature. At 200c and above, the acrylamide formation reaches very high proportions, and it is the temperature at which most baking occurs.

So what do we do to make our breads safe? We use a four-pronged technique to reduce acrylamide formation.

1. The most effective method is to bake at a lower temperature- although it takes a longer time, we bake our breads at 140C/150C which is slightly above the temperature at which Acrylamide is formed- albeit at lower quantities.

2. Yeast fermentation: Studies have shown that the process of yeast fermentation degrades asparagine, a lower level of asparagine means lower levels of acrylamide.

3. High humidity during baking: High humidity during baking also retards the formation of acrylamides - we keep a water bath in our oven, to provide the necessary humidity.

4. Soaking of grains: As mentioned earlier, we soak our grains for at least twenty four hours. Soaking leeches asparagine and, lesser asparagine means reduced acrylamides.

Industry standards require that a maker disclose all ingredients in their product. However, it’s not just the ingredients, but the baking temperature too that plays a vital role in how healthy a food really is! So, the next time you eat a so-called healthy baked product, try and find out at what temperature it was baked! And if you are a home baker, bake at lower temperatures, preferably below 180c.


Saturday, 30 December 2017

Bean there eaten that...

In 2012, when we eliminated gluten from our home- we were also left pondering on what food we could eat, given that rice and wheat formed a substantial part of what we ate. Out of necessity, we began experimenting with various grains, many of which we never had even heard of. Subsequently, we also felt that we should try and grow our own food- Organically.

On our rocky piece of plot, with a couple of inches of soil and lots of books on how to grow food, we began our journey of growing our food. Durig this journey one such seed we sowed was this ‘broad bean’, and when in six months, it did not yield any legumes we had all but three creepers removed.

Two years later, the three remaining creepers finally flowered and have given a bounty of ‘broad beans’. The creeper is doing extremely well and in its long life has never been infested with any pest or disease. Not just that, we have been negligent in maintaining our plot- for months we have not watered it or mulched it and many of our crops and plants died during these periods of neglect. However, many did survive and one such survivor was this ‘broad Bean’. The plant grows in perhaps less than a few inches of soil in our plot and is thriving. It has seen sporadic periods of care and neglect and we find it hard to believe that it is so full of flowers. The reason why we put this post is, it conveys a powerful message.

As we connect to farmers around the country we see a growing number of them cultivating exotic crops that are not endemic to our climate- the major reason being, people are willing to pay a higher price to these products. In turn, we are increasingly consuming pesticide-laced vegetables, facing an acute water crisis and rising food cost- one major reason being we have forgotten the local variety of good food. Their resistance to pest and vagaries of climate, all built over years of evolution is something that is getting lost on us as we are relying more and more on chemicals to do what nature has provided us on a platter.

 At House of Grains, we try our best to use such ethnic ingredients that are local, if not to the Konkan coast, at least to India. We hope, as days go by we can also make these items available to all those who visit us and hopefully restart an interest in local healthy food- they drop out of our memory.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Why do we need two days to make our gluten-free breads?

We always tell our clients, that we need at least two days’ notice to bake our breads. Why do we insist on this time period? It’s simple as this- that is how long it takes to bake our breads! Yes, it’s as slow as that- and today, we will explain our snail pace baking process.
All our breads are made of multiple grains or pulses- The first thing we do when we have to bake our bread is soak them. The grains or pulses, when harvested are dried and go into a dormant state and so do the bacteria and yeast that are naturally found in these grains. We soak these grains for at least 24 hours and by soaking we restart the cycle of life- the dormant seeds and microbes come alive again. We would ideally like to soak it longer than 24 hours and if we have a longer time schedule we indeed do it.
Next, these grains or pulses are strained, milled and begin the process of fermentation. Every grain has its own time period for fermenting- pulses are quick off the block, while millets and buckwheat take their own sweet time. The yeast we add and those present naturally, start breaking down the starch, releasing carbon-di-oxide and produce alcohol. The naturally present bacteria meanwhile breakdown the starch and produce aldehydes, ketones and organic acids albeit in a much smaller quantity.
The breads are then baked for nearly 2 hours at a lower temperature of about 140c - (most bakers bake their breads in 20 to 60 minutes at a high temperature)-the lower temperature degrades the least number of essential nutrients and prevents the natural fats and oil forming carcinogenic by-products (more about this in a later post). The breads then gently cool and are sliced- 48 hours after we started the process. Truly susegad style !
We could have made our breads much faster- but then we would not have been true to our philosophy of providing genuinely wholesome food.

P.S. The pizza base in the photograph, was made from green gram sprouts- the base takes 4 days to make.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Surprising Number of Conditions Linked to Celiac Disease.

We usually associate, only the celiac disease with wheat. In our earlier posts, we have mentioned various studies which show celiac disease to be associated with many other conditions.

Recently, at the World Congress of Gastroenterology 2017, Dr. Daniel Karb, stated, that he and his colleagues searched the Explorys database of electronic health record, an aggregate of about 35 million people and, found a significant association between celiac disease and 13 other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. "Every autoimmune disease we looked at is associated with celiac disease, other than primary biliary cholangitis." Dr Karb reported.

From the image above, you will notice that the rate of celiac disease is almost 5 times higher in those suffering from migraine than in those without and, it is 20 times higher in those with Autism. So what does it indicate? We could certainly conclude - the unknown is more than the known and, a lot of further research is needed in order to identify why such a skewed co-relation exists between wheat and auto-immune diseases.

So, what does it mean for all of us? Does it mean if you have a migraine, you need to go off wheat? Well, most of us work towards identifying the root cause of any ailment that we or our loved one may be ailing from. If during this phase, you haven’t given thought to consuming foods which are free from gluten then perhaps, trying a gluten free diet for three to six months at the least will not be such a bad idea after all.

Original article at 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Grain Vs Human alter Ego.

Ever since we started writing this blog, we have shared many of our successes and all our stories had a happy ending. As we all know, life is not a bed of roses and success rarely comes without failure. So today’s post is about one such baking failure that we had today.

A few days ago, we posted an all pulse bread that we baked and we had made a lovely sandwich out of it. Before introducing it in our menu, we had to try making it again, and again and yes, yet again.  This was one of our repeated attempts and, it definitely hit an iceberg.

It’s not just with this bread, but with nearly every other product that we make- they are extremely demanding and very unforgiving on the baker. Aarina goes to great lengths to maintain the precision with measurements. Perhaps her training, on measuring with burettes and pipettes helps, but despite great precautions, incidents like these happen regularly. Sometimes, it’s more about the consistency than the measurement, given that, different batches of grains behave differently. Worse still, disaster strikes during our orders, however, we are very fortunate to have clients who have been very understanding and forgiving when it was their orders at stake.

We are constantly working on making our products more resilient to such baking idiosyncrasies, and our experiments, are forever on. But the one thing we choose not do- is to use binders, gums or any such additives. More often than not, our products may not seem presentable to the eye - but they will always be wholesome and nutritious.

Working with grains in such a fashion is indeed a tremendously humbling experience! Every kind of grain is different in its own way, making one grain mimic another grains property is an emotional experience. Oftentimes, Aarina breaks down crying during her experiments, “Don’t most of us live our lives doing just this - mimicking, cloning and being something that we are not!”