Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Protein snack for humans, from the gods


Roasted Chickpeas
Scroll down for dinner recipe
Recent reports on harmful effects of meat are encouraging many persons around the world to look for protein rich and delicious alternatives to meat. An older note lists ten categories of delightful alternatives full of good health. The present one is confined to just one of them, a healthy snack.

Nuts like coconuts, almonds and walnuts are great snack full of protein and good health but while the former grows near oceans the latter grow in colder parts of out planet. In other parts they are less available or more expensive. However on inland plains with a moderate climate, Mother Earth has provided humans with two other plants that are an excellent replacement with good nutritional and protein value and are like nuts when roasted. These are Peanuts and Bengal Gram. Both can be had alone, mixed, salted or plain. Both have a skin that can be rubbed off or eaten. They have been a common snack in South Asia known as Chana and Mungfali. They have met the nutritional needs of the poor for centuries and added joy to life of rich with a drink or otherwise.

Although both these seeds may lead to flatulence when cooked as food, when roasted they do not do so and are eminently digestible. In the past they were so cheap in South Asia that the financially comfortable who liked them were shy and ate them secretly including this author in his childhood so that other rich friends may not laugh at him The well off were supposed to snack on better stuff like almonds or cashew nuts but it is only the pricing that made this difference not their health value so much. A rich aunt of mine who was fond of roasted chickpeas mixed with puffed rice would visit our home from her small town every three months and ask my father to get her three month supply because she was too shy to purchase them in her own town by herself. She also used this as a dieting aid because they cut down the need for meals, yet kept her healthy.. Whenever she wished to bring her weight down she would just have a bowl of mixed puffed rice and roasted chickpeas with a glass of fruit juice instead of dinner.

They were the essential accompaniment of wandering hermits called Sadhus in South Asia. Once roasted, they store well and are an ideal companion for a traveler. Some also carry puffed rice, biscuits or dried breads and onions that preserve well on journeys and then all they have to do is find some fresh fruit on their way for a journey of even days through a wilderness and survive without any cooking.

This author has called these godly plants because not only are they great food but they do not need fertilizer to grow, rather they add fertilizer to soil by nitrogen fixation. The leaves of Bengal gram (chickpea) plants are edible too when cooked and they can be dried and stored for use throughout the year. The groundnut or peanut leaves on the other hand, are great fodder for cows and goats with protein content. For every hectare of groundnuts planted, there may be three tons of hay. Each ton is enough to keep several animals alive and yielding milk at the end of the dry season.

In a 100 g serving, peanuts provide more than 500 calories, and are an excellent source of several B vitamins, vitamin E, several dietary minerals, They also contain about 25 g protein per 100 g serving, a higher proportion than in many tree nuts. Chickpeas are a nutrient-dense food, providing rich content of protein, dietary fiber, folate, and certain dietary minerals and vitamins. Chickpeas have a protein digestibility corrected amino acid score of about 0.76, which is higher than many other legumes and cereals. (information from Wikipedia that has the references)

As with every good food including bread and milk, the most basic of foods, a few people are allergic to either peanuts or chickpeas, but the number of such is very small. It is for this reason Mother Earth has produced such a vast variety of foods so that there is something for everyone.




  

Dry Salted snacks (Namkeen)




A range of delicious dry salted snacks are prepared in India from the flour of Bengal grams. These go by the generic name of Namkeen. They store well and have a long shelf life except in months of high humidity when they turn soggy. These snacks may be a preparation of just Bengal gram flour or mixed with fried peanuts, fried flaked rice, coconut shaving, fried whole Bengal Grams, raisin, and cashew nuts (for the more expensive varieties). Although not as healthy as the roasted snack, they are tastier. They could be unhealthy if too many spices, red chilies and the wrong oil have been used for deep frying. This blog has a separate note on cooking oils for those who wish to check that out.



The Namkeen snacks can be had all by themselves or mixed with chopped onions, finely chopped cabbage, cilantro leaves, chopped green chilies and lime juice in which case they are more wholesome. These Namkeen snacks are popular with afternoon tea, to serve to an unexpected guest at home or to take along on a journey for the moment when a good fresh meal may not be at hand. Some persons also have them at breakfast with a glass of hot milk or tea.

‘Pleasure of Asia’ Dinner Recipe

 



While this note described the use of Bengal gram and peanuts as roasted nuts for snacking, both of these foods find use in many dinner recipes too. We shall describe just one dinner idea here that is called the Pleasure of Asia dinner because it incorporates side dishes and ideas inspired from different regions of Asia, from West Asia to Japan and primarily makes use of Bengal gram and peanuts

Pakoras 

Pakoras are also spelt pakodas or pakordas. This is because the rd sound is a mixed sound between an r and a d that does not exist in most languages outside of South Asia. Pakoras by themselves are an afternoon tea time snack but with appropriate dishes are the main course of a dinner too as described next. Most often a pakora dinner is a family dinner, not when guests are invited, with some families doing this once a week.



Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup Bengal gram flour (besan) that serves four
  2. Cooking oil for deep frying
  3. Assorted farm fresh crisp vegetables as indicated later
  4. Half tea spoon vinegar or lemon juice
  5. Tea spoon baking powder
  6. Salt and spices to taste


Bengal gram flour or Besan is available in western countries in East Indian stores. However I prefer to make my own from Bengal gram lentil (Chana dal) so as to be sure of its purity and quality. The Bengal gram lentils are the small black chickpea with skin washed off and split in halves. When ground to a fine powder in a blender it produces Besan flour

Take the Besan flour in a bowl and add a little water at a time stirring as a cake mix to turn into a thick paste, not a runny one, something the consistency of a tooth paste. Do not mix in the baking powder and lemon juice yet but keep it for whisking in just before deep frying to preserve the fluffiness it will impart to the paste.

To turn this paste into pakoras there are two styles. For a quick dinner you may use the first easier one but for an elaborate one you might include both the styles of pakoras, the Egyptian falafel style and the more delicate Japanese Tempura style

Falfel style Pakoras

Take some chopped onions, green chilies and spinach leaves and mix in the besan paste, add a pinch of salt to taste, then whisk in the lemon and vinegar and the mixture is likely to froth a bit. Set it aside

Bring oil to very hot in a fryer, now add table spoonfuls of the besan mix ,a few at a time, to deep fry until golden red. Turn down the heat so that pakoras cook well right to the center.  Remove from oil when done. And place on crushed paper napkins for oil to drain. Check out one, it should be cooked till the center, if not fully done perhaps the oil became too hot and these need a second refrying. Uncooked besan will upset a stomach and needs to be cooked well.

Tempura style Pakoras

For this, slightly thin the besan paste without the vegetables with a little more water. Dip in it thin slices of potatoes, onions, cauliflower, whole baby spinach leaves or whole green chilies (pricked and slit slightly so that they do not burst on frying) and fry in the hot oil as before, remove from oil when done and place on crumpled paper napkins to drain.. Some persons dip the vegetable in plain dry refined flour before dipping in the besan paste and you wish to try both versions to see which ones you like better depending on your choice of vegetables, thickness of paste etc.

Paneer (unprocessed cheese) cut in small squares also makes excellent pakoras, as do chicken strips or fish pieces for those who prefer non-vegetarian but the dinner has enough protein in it and does not really need more from animal sources.

These may be served in a flat dish at dinner time or in a bread basket lined with a cloth napkin.  These pakoras are the main course for dinner. It requires three simple side dishes that are very simple to arrange

Bread Plate:  The bread plate contains slices of white bread with sides removed neatly with a sharp knife. Do not cut into triangles. The other more eastern alternative is if you can find Nan bread, then these are cut into bread size pieces and placed similarly in the bread plate

Salad Plate: This is a salad plate where one places different salad vegetables without mixing on different sides of the plate  – iceberg or cos lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber, celery leaves, radish slices. No dressing or salt should be added to these vegetables.

Sauce plate: The sauce plate contains four different sauces in individual bowls, a green sauce, brown sauce, white sauce and red sauce. The red sauce is just ketchup, the white sauce may be any of the Arab hummus tahini, western white mayonnaise, or hung yoghurt with a whiff of garlic; the green sauce is ground mint blended with the hung yoghurt or simply the British mint sauce. 

The brown sauce here is the primary sauce and it is the Malaysian Satay peanut Sauce made with peanuts without the hot chilies. With the hot chilies everyone runs to the toilet four times during the night after dinner except perhaps Malaysians and Sri Lankan who did it enough times in childhood to get immune to it.  Recipes for these sauces are not included here but the interested reader shall find them easily by googling, for example see this, but just cut down the red chilies from six to half or none.

Drink: Wine does not go well with this dinner but another called Kanji in the Pashtun region and by other names in West Asia is the drink of choice with this dinner. It is a healthy drink. It can be made simply at home by adding sliced turnips and slice beat roots to a moderately salted solution. After a week the liquid can be drained out as a dark red drink when it becomes acidic with vegetable component reactions. Sliced dark carrots may be added to the mix too. The drained vegetables can be used separately as a pickle. If one is fond of an alcoholic drink then instead of wine, the western gimlet made with Gin and lime is the best choice to be served with this dinner.

During dinner set the four items on the table. Guests take a few of the pakoras and salad vegetables of their choice, place then on the bread piece, fold it over, dip in the sauce of their choice and enjoy. Do not dip directly in the sauce bowl but spoon some to your plate.  This is a single course dinner, substantial in itself, not requiring any desert or starters. Just serve sweetened black or green tea after dinner.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tempura_seiro_soba_by_kina3.jpg




Check out this older note for ten different healthy and delcious vegetarian alternatives to meat:
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/10/healthy-proteins-for-vegetarians-vegan.html

Images:

Chickpeas


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Peanuts


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