Secret Ingredients Archives | Happy Bellyfish

Category: Secret Ingredients

Traditional Immune Boosting Foods from 10 Countries

Immune boosting foods are a part of  traditional knowledge which is passed down from generation to generation in every culture. Everyone’s grandmother seems to know a few recipes that can boost our immune system naturally. We might feel a bit sceptical about preventing health problems with simple garlic and cabbage, but nowadays the effectiveness of many home remedies is backed by science. 

We asked top culinary experts from 10 countries around the world to share their traditional wisdom. Some of them will surprise you: 

 

 

1. Iran: root vegetables, turnip

 

“The root vegetables are the natural source of many vital nutrients including vitamins C and A, which boost the immune system by lowering inflammation. Root vegetables such as turnips are loaded with antioxidants, fiber and complex carbohydrates and promote satiety with low levels of sugar. Persian cuisine is famous for a variety of wholesome thick soups that are called ‘aash’ and are traditionally cooked during cold months in Iran; one in particular is called, ‘aash e shalgham,’ or turnip soup. This soup is made with turnips, carrots, beetroot greens and herbs and it’s the go-to recipe in most Iranian households as a home remedy for colds and coughs.”

Turnip Soup Recipe (‘aash e shalgham’)

Homa, Persian Mama (follow Homa on Instagram and Facebook)

 

2. Spain: gazpacho 

 

“The ultimate Spanish immune booster is called gazpacho. It’s a delicious (and nutrient packed) cold vegetable soup, that we usually drink out of a glass. A traditional glass of gazpacho contains tomato, pepper, onion, garlic, cucumber, extra virgin olive oil, and sherry vinegar. Not only is this combination delicious, it’s filled with numerous heath benefits, and is said to help cure everything from hangovers to the common cold!”

Traditional Spanish Gazpacho Recipe

Lauren Aloise, Spanish Sabores (follow Lauren on Instagram and Facebook)

 

3. Lebanon: garlic, fresh mint, chickpeas, olive oil

 

“The Lebanese diet is considered among the best you can eat for its health benefits and, of course, its incredible flavor. Our recipes are jam-packed with superfoods and immunity-boosting ingredients. Garlic plays a powerful role with its antioxidant properties . . . we can’t eat our shawarma without the Lebanese vegan aoli toum (which means “garlic” in Arabic). We use tons of fresh mint and other herbs to boost flavor and immunity nutrients in many recipes, and herbs like mint and parsley are the star of the show in Lebanese tabbouleh salad. It may be surprising to learn that chickpeas, loaded with natural zinc and copper, play a great role in the development and function of immune cells. And you know what that means: hummus galore! Hummus is the ubiquitous puree of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic. Extra virgin olive oil is also an essential component to Lebanese cuisine and the Mediterranean diet, a healthy fat with anti-inflammatory qualities. Oh, and it’s so delicious!”

How to Make the Best Hummus

Tabbouleh Salad Recipe

Maureen Abood, Maureen Abood Market (follow Maureen on Instagram and Facebook)

 

4. Russia, Ukraine: Sauerkraut

“One of the best immune boosting foods in the Slavik cuisine is sauerkraut. The probiotic qualities of sauerkraut are fantastic for gut health which leads to stronger immunity. There are many recipes in the Slavik cuisine that utilize sauerkraut. It was an inexpensive dish to make, so much of the lower class enjoyed sauerkraut frequently, while improving their gut Flora.”

Classic Recipe of Sauerkraut (Kvashenaya Kapusta)

Recipe of Sauerkraut Without Salt

Natasha Kravchuk, Natasha’s Kitchen (follow Natasha on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube)

 

5. Italy: cherry pits and liquorice

Image credit: Ken Owen

“Cherries, are packed with unique anthocyanin, an anti inflammatory compound similar to Ibuprofen. My mom and grandmother used to collect all the pits from the cherries, wash them and let them dry in the sun. Then they store them in jars and use them to make herbal teas that are good to relieve inflammation due to arthritis and gout.

Liquorice is another powerful immune booster. Some of the best licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) in the world is grown in Calabria, along the Ionian coast, where the mild climate enhances the content in glycyrrhizin, the substance that gives licorice its delectable flavor. The roots of licorice plants that are three or four years old are harvested during the fall, washed and dried, and, after removing the fibers, they are ground, pressed and placed in contact with boiling hot water in order to extract the juice.This juice is then clarified and boiled to obtain a concentrated, black paste that’s dense, fragrant and slightly sweet, and that, once solidified, is sold broken down in small pieces called “licorice drops”. The most important active ingredient of pure licorice is glycyrrhizin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, and for its aid in preventing autoimmune issues.

*It’s better to consume pure licorice from time to time, making sure not to exceed the dosage of half a gram of glycyrrhizin a day. Glycyrrhizin, in fact, could have side effects on the balance of minerals in the body; and people predisposed to hypertension (high blood pressure), edema, diabetes and pregnant women or nursing, should avoid prolonged use of licorice extracts.

Ambra, Little Bites of Beauty (follow Ambra on Instagram and Facebook)

 

 

6. South Africa: rooibos, sutherlandia, moringa, buchu

 

“I come from a family of strong believers of natural herbs. My mom and aunts have always used the following herbs and they continue doing so as they get older. I would recommend them to anyone and that people should not wait until they are sick to use them. Make them part of your daily routine. The herbs are as follows: (*) Rooibos – I have a friend who uses it religiously on a daily basis 2 to 3 times a day. She looks absolutely amazing, her skin is flawless with a magnificent glow. Other than that, rooibos tea is great for lowering blood pressure and controlling diabetes. (*) Sutherlandia – it is used for the treatment of many ailments including fever, poor appetite, indigestion, ulcers, dysentery, cancer, diabetes, colds and flu, coughs, asthma, urinary tract infections, anxiety, the list is endless. (*) Moringa Leaves – it helps with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, it helps improve healing of sores etc. (*) Buchu – my mom loves drinking buchu water every morning, I kid you not, after all it is known as the elixir of youth so go figure.”

Thuli Gogela, Mzansi Style Cuisine (Follow Thuli on Instagram and Facebook)

 

7. Switzerland: sea buckthorn juice, elderberries syrup, raw garlic, probiotic foods

 

“In Switzerland, most seasonal illnesses occur during the cold winter months. To keep these illnesses at bay, some people eat raw garlic. Foods containing beneficial probiotics are popular too, such as Bifidus joghurt or Sauerkraut, a kind of fermented white cabbage prevalent in Switzerland and Germany. Seatbuckthorn juice is used to increase one’s vitamin C intake as seatbuckthorn berries contain ten times as much vitamin C as lemons. Adding fresh herbs such as parsley to meals is also being used for a vitamin boost. Last but not least, a syrup made of elderberries has been used to fight bacteria and viruses for generations.”

Franziska Wick from Little Zurich Kitchen (follow Franziska on Instagram and Facebook)

 

8. Bosnia: fermented vegetables

 

“As it relates to healthy foods made in Bosnia, fermented delicacies are attributed with all kinds of healing properties. During fall almost every family ferments a batch of (at the very least) cabbage in preparation for the winter. Cabbage in particular is said to have great amounts of Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur and iron. It’s used to prevent and help heal colds and the flu. It’s also believed to aid digestion and help with anemia. Cabbage leaves are often used as compresses to pull out inflammations. Some also drink the water it’s fermented in, called rasol as it’s believed to be a body cleansing agent and cough. Not bad for one very simple vegetable!!”

A Guide to Fermented Salad Veggies

Balkan Fermented Cabbage Recipe

Aida Ibišević, Balkan Lunch Box (follow Aida on Instagram and Facebook)

 

 

9. Portugal: olive oil, fish

 

“The Portuguese diet is basically the same as the Mediterranean Diet consisting of fresh farm to table ingredients. Fish, seafood, grains, cheeses, fruits and vegetables and of course wines are all produced in the various regions of the country. The most used ingredient in the diet for health, is heart healthy olive oil grown in the north and in the southern Alentejo regions. The country also ranks in the top 3 countries of having the most consumption of fish and seafood around the world. So olive oil and fish is the healthy way in the Portuguese diets. “

Salt Cod and Chickpea Salad Recipe

Tia Maria, Tia Maria’s Blog (follow Maria on Instagram and Facebook)

 

 

10. India, Malaysia: turmeric

 

“I’m from India and turmeric is extensively used to boost immunity in our country and culture. It has many uses and is consumed as a drink with milk or warm water to help beat a cold for example; and is also applied externally to heal wounds. It’s used extensive in India cuisine because of its immune boosting properties.”

How To Make Turmeric Milk

Health Benefits of Turmeric

Richa Gupta, My Food Story (follow Richa on Instagram and Facebook)

 

“Here is my favourite healthy recipe with turmeric, it’s not really a Malaysian recipe, but we use it a lot in our cooking:

Turmeric and Apple Cider Vinegar Detox Tea:

Ingredients:

2 green tea bags

2 cups boiling water

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric powder

2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

Lemon slices, for garnishing

Method:

Add each green tea bag into a drinking glass. Pour the boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes.

Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder into each glass, follow by 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey. Stir to mix well. Garnish with lemon slices and serve warm.”

Bee, Rasa Malaysia (follow Bee on Instagram and Facebook)

Cherry Pit image credit: Ken Owen

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Best Fermented Foods from Around the World

Fermented foods have become popular again in recent years, largely due to health conscious individuals.

While Kimchi and Kombucha may have developed a new following in the west, fermented foods have been an integral part of communities across the globe.

Archeological evidence points out to fermentation being one of the oldest methods of food preservation. Its history dates back to the beginning of agriculture. From China and Fertile Crescent to Africa and Americas, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, grains and fruits have been fermented into food and beverages.

Fermented processes were likely developed by women through trial and error. Food was not just preserved for winter, droughts or migration, but because these were considered as healing medicine beneficial to the body.

Fermented foods play an important role in gut health and growth of good bacteria. A study in Tanzania showed that gruel made with fermented grains reduced incidence of diarrhoea in children by 33%.

When you ferment grains and certain tubers, you reduce anti-nutrient compounds and increase absorption of vitamins. Active bacteria, yeast and mound cultures turn these foods into rich sources of Vitamin K, A, B12, thiamine, niacin, and protein-building acids like lysine and methionine.

Every region has at least one unique dish as a part of its cultural heritage. This food guide brings you unfamiliar foods other than yoghurts, sauces, pickles and cottage cheese.

Fermented foods from Asia

 

1. Kimchi – Korea

A Korean meal is incomplete without kimchi. Considered a national heritage, this fermented food has been prepared by families from the 7th century. Cabbage and other vegetables are cultured in their own juices/brine along with spices for 4-15 days.

2. Cheonggukjang/Doenjang – Korea

Source: James

Fermented soybean is blended into paste which is used to add flavour to different dishes. Cheonggukjang is a thinner paste that contains whole soybean, while Doenjang is a thicker and smoother paste.

3. Natto – Japan

This popular Japanese fermented dish is made with soybean and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

4. Miso – Japan/Korea

When a fungus (koji) meets soybean, salt and brown rice/barley, you get miso. This is said to have anti-ageing properties. Drink up your miso soup next time you’re at an Asian restaurant.

5. Tempeh – Indonesia

When live mold is added to soybean and left to ferment for 1-2 days, the resultant food is the cake-like tempeh.

 

6. Nem Chua – Vietnam

Source: Ron Diggity

Parts of lean pork are finely ground or boiled. These are mixed with roasted and powdered rice, salt, spices and covered with herbs. The mixture is then tightly wrapped in banana leaves and allowed to ferment.

7. Douchi/ Doubanjiang/Mianchi – China

Source: Food Mayhem

Douchi is a culinary paste made with fermented black beans, while Mianchi is fermented white beans. Doubanjiang is widely used in Sichuan cuisine and is made from fermented broad beans. This spicy paste also contains soybean, rice, salt, spices and sometimes, red chili.

8. Bagoong – Philippines

Source: Helga Webber

The fish sauce is made by fermenting salted fish or shrimp. When salted anchovies are fermented, you get Bagoong monamon.

9. Puto – Philippines

Source: Krista

This is steamed cake is made with fermented glutinous rice. Rice is soaked in water for 1-3 days and blended to a smooth batter. There are many variations of Puto which is usually eaten with coconut and butter.

10. Chin Som Mok – Thailand

Source: Takeaway

Pork (with skin) is fermented with glutinous rice. This is then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled.

11. Idli – SriLanka/ India

Source: Sakurako Kista

This south Indian breakfast dish has become popular across India. Rice and black bean are ground into a smooth batter. Batter is fermented overnight, steamed in special plates, and served with chutneys and sambar.

12. Dhokla – India

Source: Deapesh

Another steamed dish made with fermented batter, Dhokla is an essential breakfast food in Gujarat. Fermented batter contains chickpea flour, salt, spices and rock salt. The steamed cakes are served with hot and sweet chutneys,

13. Cahgem Pomba – India

Source: E-Pao

This healthy and delicious curry from Manipur is made with greens like spinach, mustard, dill, fenugreek, herbs like cilantro, and fermented soybean.

14. Jalebi – Pakistan/Nepal/India

Source: Risabh Mathur

This deep-fried dessert is made with fermented wheat batter. The translucent jalebis have a sweet-sour taste thanks to the sugar and bacteria culture.

15. Kombucha – Russia/Ukraine/Vietnam/Korea/Japan

A fermented concoction originated in Russia and Ukraine and is made with black tea, sugar and bacteria and yeast cultures. Sugar sources include honey, cane sugar or fruits. Use the same Kombucha starter to create fresh batches. The longer you ferment, the better the beverage.

 

Fermented foods from Africa

 

16. Injera – Ethiopia/Eritea

Source: Serene Vannoy

This national dish is fermented bread made with an ancient grain and a gluten-free alternative – Teff. The spongy bread with a tangy flavour is dunked into stews and eaten.

17. Togwa/Mahewu/Mabundu – Tanzanian/Zimbbawe/Africa

This fermented beverage or watered-down gruel is made with sorghum (chimera), finger millet, maize and cooked cornmeal (sazda) in a clay pot. The porridge is covered and placed in the sun for 2-3 days to ferment. It is drunk plain or with a little sugar.

18. Furundu/Ogiri– Sudan/Nigeria/West Africa

Source: Chnez blog

Sesame seeds are fermented with salt and water and pressed into cakes with a texture similar to tofu or miso. In Sudan, red sorrel seeds and Kawal leaves are fermented in the same way.

19. Garri/Gari – Nigeria/Ghana/Cameroon/Sierra Leone/West Africa

Source: David Hdez

Peeled and cubed Cassava roots are crushed into a pulp and excess water is drained out. The dried pulp is cooked in a large pot without or without palm oil to become the granular Garri. This is also pounded into a flour

20. Kenkey/Koneke/Dorkinu- Ghana/Guyana/benin/Togo/Jamaica

Source: Juxtapose^esopatxuj

This staple dish is essentially a sourdough dumpling made with corn or maize. Flour is fermented for a few days before the dough is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Other items like plantain, sweet potato, cassava, coconut or pumpkin are added to fermented dough in local variations of the recipe.

21. Dawadawa/Iru -Senegal/Uganda/Nigeria/West Africa

Source: Carsten ten Brink

Locust beans, fruit pulp and seeds, of the native tree, are fermented. These are pressed into balls or cakes (Dawadawa) and add to soups or a condiment. Iru is dried dawadawa flattened into discs.

 

Fermented foods from Americas

 

22. Sourdough Bread – USA

Different flours are mixed with wild yeast and water and baked into spongy breads with a distinct sour taste.

23. Poi – Hawaii/Polynesia

Source: Wikipedia

This fermented food is made from plant stems of taro. This is mashed and steamed or cooked into a thick liquid or dough-like paste.

24. Atole agrio – Mexico

Source: Marden Nolasco

A dough made with black maize is fermented for 4-5 days before becoming a tasty porridge. Bread is made from fermented maize dough in Peru(Tochos) and Brazil (Jamin-bang).

25. Curtido – El Salvador

Source: DLC

This is similar to kimchi and sauerkraut. This is a relish made with fermented cabbage, onions, carrots and, sometimes, lime juice.

Fermented foods from Europe

 

26. Kefir – Eastern Europe

Source: Wikipedia

A healthy beverage is obtained by adding kefir grains to milk and allowing it to ferment for 12 hours. Kefir grains are yeast and bacteria cultures that resemble clumps of cooked rice.

27. Sauerkraut – Germany/Europe

This fermented food, similar to Kimchi, is said to originate in China, but is a part of German and East European cuisine. One of the oldest traditional foods in which fresh cabbage pieces are left to ferment in its own juices or brine (salt water) for 3-4 weeks. The relish is added to many national dishes like Polish Bigos and Croatian Vepřo-knedlo-zel.

28. Crème fraiche – France

Sour cream is obtained by fermenting with lactic acid bacteria. Crème fraiche is used in hot or dessert sauces, as salad and soup toppings, and in desserts.

29. Smetana – Central/Eastern Europe/Russia

Source: Iban

This sour cream is similar to crème fraiche. Milk cream is cultured by naturally occurring or introduced lactic acid bacteria. It is used as garnish in dishes like Borscht, Blini, salad and dumplings.

30. Kisela repa/ Sauer ruben – Croatia/Eastern Europe

Source: Chef Mema

Turnip shreds are fermented in a mixture of salt and water. This is eaten either as a side dish or added to soups and salads.

31. Kiviak – Greenland

Source: Orrazz

This Inuit food is made by fermenting auks (small birds). These birds are preserved in the hollowed out body of a dead seal and buried in the ground.

32. Hakarl – Iceland

Source: Audrey

This is a dish made with shark meat. The meat is fermented, hang up and left to dry. It is cubed and served with other food.

33. Kvass – Russia

Source: Bernt Rostad

This non-alcoholic beverage is made from rye bread that is stale. Loaves are added to a container with salt, water, yeast and sugar and left to ferment for 2-3 weeks. It is popular in Russia as a digestive tonic. In Ukraine this is made with beet and used in soups and vinaigrettes.

Fermented foods from Middle East

 

34. Kushuk/Tarkana/Tarhanas – Iran/America/Greece/Central Asia/Eastern Europe

Source: MRG90

The dried fermented food is made with cracked wheat flour, sour milk or yoghurt, salt, spices, tarhana herb, and groats. After fermentation, the mixture is dried and coarsely ground. Cooked vegetables are added in variations. Kushuk is turned into a nourishing soup with addition of water, stock or milk.

35. Torshi /Tursu – Iran/Turkey/Morrocco/Middle East

Source: Baha’i Views / Flitzy Phoebie

Vegetables are fermented in brine that also contains aromatic herbs, spices and vinegar. The ingredients include celery, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, cabbage, aubergines and green tomatoes. This is then paced in glass jars and stored in a cool place for 2-3 months.

36. Doogh – Iran/Syria/Lebanon

Source: Jason Lam

This cold fermented drink is basically yogurt, salt and water. It is also a national drink of Turkey and called Ayran there. You’ll find variations of this beverage in Armenia, Afghanistan, Balkan regions, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

37. Shanklish/Surke – Syria, Lebanon, Egypt

Source: Charles Haynes

This fermented cheese is made from cow or sheep’s’ milk. It is turned into balls, covered with spices like aniseed, red chilli, Aleppo pepper and za’atar, and then dried and aged. The hardened cheese is eaten as a side dish, added to eggs, or as pita bread topping.

 

How many of these traditional fermented foods have your tried? Do you have a fermented food story to share with us?

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Natural Food Coloring – Healthy Alternatives from Traditional Kitchens

Mother nature, the original painter and chemist, has inspired countless humans with her vibrant coloured plant and animal life.

Our ancestors imbibed these qualities and borrowed from her treasure trove to create their own natural dyes. Their search for colours had a simple goal – to hide food imperfections, and turn plain meals into something attractive and appetising.

While they used safe ingredients like flowers, fruits, spices and vegetables as food colour, some harmful ores and minerals were also added to food in the ancient world.

With the discovery of synthetic dyes, natural ingredients lost their colourful place in the food table for over a century. Health concerns have once again forced people to search for better alternatives to artificial and toxic food dyes. While natural colours aren’t as vibrant as artificial food colours, they are safer.

If you want to imitate traditional food practices and enjoy associated health benefits, you’ll find many natural colouring agents from spices to flowers.

Vegetable Dyes

Carrot

Carrot juice or pulp provides a rich yellow or orange hue to soups, smoothies, desserts, curries and baked food. The sweetish flavour makes it an ideal food colour for pastries and desserts. Are you longing for some carrot cake?

Beet

Another root vegetable with a sweet flavour, beet adds a red tinge to cooked food and a pinkish hue to baked goods, including cupcakes. To add a bluish shade to your dish, mix beet with milk.

Red Cabbage

Red cabbage has been traditionally used by the Chinese to add colour to their dishes. When red cabbage is boiled in water, this juice adds a rich blue colour to your food.

Purple Yam/Ube

Image Courtesy – Adventure girl horizons

This tuber is used in Philippines to colour everything from ice creams to baked goodies in varying shades of purple. The slightly sweetish tasting vegetable makes a good addition to desserts and pastries.

Spinach and parsley

Thanks to their mild flavour, the greens are used as natural colourants in a variety of spicy, tangy or savoury foods. While you can use other leafy greens to get the bright green tint, the strong flavours can be overpowering.

Fruit Dyes

 

Pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate juice provides a vibrant shade of red to dishes ranging from smoothies to salads and soups.

Lemon

This citrus fruit doesn’t impart a colour on its own. When combined with other natural foods, the acidic content in lemon helps preserve the red colour in baked foods.

Orange and Tangerine

The rinds of these citrus fruits are used to give foods a reddish-orange hue.

Purple Grapes

Apart from their use in wines, this grape variety add a rich purple shade to many foods from desserts to jams.

Berries and cherries

With their vibrant colours, berriesin their cooked, blended or baked avatars are perfect natural colourants for different dishes. Use blackberries, mulberries and blueberries to get purple or violet shades, strawberry and cranberries for pink, or raspberries and cherries for red. The berry colours are best represented in juices, smoothies and no-bake desserts.

Chokeberry/Aronia Berry

This North American native fruit provides a pinkish-red or bright red colour to jellies, cookies, candies, and beverages.

Herb Hues

 

Galium Verum/Lady’s Bedstraw

Image Courtesy – Bjorn S

Flowering stems of this perennial plant were traditionally used to make both red and yellow coloured food dyes. Did you know that this plant can be used as rennet to make cheese or its seeds as a coffee substitute?

Bixa Orellana

Image Courtesy – Leonardo Ré-Jorge

Dried seeds of this bush were used by native American from Incas to Aztecs to add a yellow tinge to different foods.

Colourful Spices

 

Turmeric

This root spice has been used for centuries to impart a rich yellow shade to everything from curries and sides to pilafs and beverages. A little goes a long way whether you use turmeric in powder or root form.

Saffron

One of the oldest-in-use and expensive spices in the world, saffron imparts a brilliant yellow-orange tinge to food. Add a few strands to warm milk or water and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Brighten up your rice dishes, creamy gravies, marinades. stews or desserts with saffron.

Paprika

If you’ve wondered how some Indian, Caribbean and Asian curries get their bright red colour, the answer lies with paprika. Depending on the amount used, this chilli colours your food in different shades of red.

Kashmiri chillies

Image Courtesy – aziatische

While the red effect is not as pronounced as with paprika, Kashmiri Chilli powder is natural food dye for sensitive stomachs. You can use a bit more than paprika as the heat content is much lower in this version of chilli.

Cinnamon

This spice has been used from ancient times by various cultures to provide a brownish shade and sweet flavour to plain foods.

Flower Power

 

Marigold/ Calendula

Use Marigold flowers for adding yellow, orange or red shades to continental foods. The petals are used as substitutes for saffron in colouring cheese, risotto and soups.

Safflower

This was often the common man’s alternative for saffron. The dried flowers provide a reddish hue compared to dark yellow-orange colour obtained from fresh ones.

Hibiscus

Another flower used as one of popular natural colourants, hibiscus gives a reddish tinge to beverages and teas.

Red Roses

Crushed red roses provide a vibrant pink-red colour to any dish of choice. This natural agent is mostly used in gourmet food and sweet dishes.

Animal Food Dyes

 

Squid Ink

To add a black colour to pasta and rice, many cooks continue to use squid ink.

Cochineal

Image Courtesy – Frank Vincentz

An ancient food dye used by Native Americans and Egyptians, this is derived from dried female insects – Coccus cacti. You can add red, pink or magenta shades to your food.

Orchella Weeds (Lichen)

This lichen variety provides a violet colour when boiled. Old French cookbooks mention this fungus as a natural dye for adding colour to wine and confectionery. When you combine this with an acid, you get a red shade. For blue hues, add an alkali.

Have you used any of these natural food dyes? Share your favourite recipes with us!

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All About Ghee: Health Benefits and How to Make It

In many of our recipes you can see a special ingredient – ghee. But what is it really? Ghee is pure butterfat or clarified butter from cow or buffalo milk – without impurities, water and milk solids.

Butter may have an accidental origin through nomadic horsemen of Central Asia. Ghee, on the other hand, was a culinary innovation in ancient India to prevent butter from spoiling in hot weather.

The history of ghee dates back at least 4000 years. In Hindu culture, this delicious, yellow-colored liquid is food fit for the gods. Ayurveda, Indian medicinal system, classifies pure ghee from cow butter as sattvic food and uses it in many healing formulations.

Outside southern Asia, versions of ghee are found in Egypt, Fiji, Malaysia, Ethiopia, North Africa, north-east Brazil, Eritrea, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Japan.

Why ghee is better than butter and other oils?

Refined vegetable and seed oils are high in Omega-6 fats and trans-fats, oxidise at room temperatures, and account for a lot of chronic illnesses. Ghee scores over these oils.

Ghee has other benefits that sets it apart from butter or healthy oils like olive, avocado and coconut oils.

Ghee is casein and lactose free – as milk solids are separated in the refining process. While butter is not suitable for the lactose-sensitive or -intolerant, ghee is a safer fat option.

Ghee promotes good gut-bacteria – it contains butyrates which makes it an alkaline food. These short-chained fats prevent acid reflux, aid digestion, and encourage growth of healthy gut bacteria. Ayurveda advocates use of ghee for ulcers and constipation.

Ghee can boost metabolism – it is full of medium-chain fatty acids that boost metabolic rates. These fatty acids don’t raise cholesterol levels, unlike fatty acids in other oils.

Ghee may protect against cancer and help in weight lossConjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a double-bond fatty acid found in beef and dairy products like ghee. Unlike single-chain linoleic acid present in vegetable oils which are harmful, CLA offers protection from cancer, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, food allergies, and asthma.

Studies have shown that CLA can help burn calories, regulate appetite and lose weight.

Ghee is rich in vitamins and minerals – it is rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K.

Ghee produces lower amounts of Acrylamide – When refined oils and animal fats are heated beyond 180°C, they produce more of this toxic compound – a possible carcinogen.

Ghee has a high smoke point – of 250°C (485°F) whereas butter starts breaking down at 175°C (350°F). This makes it suitable for deep frying. Most other oils have a much lower smoke point.

Superior ghee is made from grass-fed cows and buffaloes. Cow butter gives ghee a rich golden colour, while buffalo milk lends a creamy hue.

Ghee in your kitchen

For gastronomic reasons or as a health-conscious decision, Ghee is a ‘must-have’ ingredient in your kitchen. You can easily create it by yourself following our recipe: How to make ghee at home.

Enjoy using ghee for all the healthy recipes you like!

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Lavender in recipes and cosmetics: health benefits

Is it a flower? Is it a herb?

This purple wonder is both of these things, and more importantly, one of the favourite fragrances in the world from the time of ancient Egyptians and Romans. From embalming, anointing, and religious ceremonies to aromatherapy, healing and cooking, lavender had donned multiple roles across the ages. (more…)

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Cardamom: Properties & Health Benefits

Cardamom is a well-known spice in the Middle Eastern and especially Indian cuisine, where it is used in many meat dishes, desserts and drinks. The tingling taste of the spice invites you to experiment – add it to a simple pumpkin soup, your morning smoothie or even a cocktail, and you’ll be blown away. (more…)

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