Banana Stem Fritters

In India, the entire banana tree is used – the leaves are used to wrap food and to eat from, food is cooked in banana leaves, the flowers and stem are used in cooking. In the recent Masterchef Australia, Gary used banana flower in one of the Masterclasses.

Cutting the banana stem is a fine art in itself, but the effort is really worth it. Only the core of the banana stem is used and it has a mild sweet flavour. It is full of fibre and is highly beneficial for treating ulcers and acidity. The raw juice is combined with buttermilk, salt and lime and is a natural diuretic. It is rich in potassium and vitamin B6.

These fritters are the only way I can get my daughters to eat banana stems. They are extremely delicious. This recipe makes around 20 fritters.

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PREP: 30 minutes COOK TIME: 30 minutes

Ingredients

11/2 cups banana stem, chopped

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 large onion, chopped

2 green chillis, chopped finely

1 tbsp ginger, chopped finely

2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped finely

1 cup roasted chana gram

2 pieces of cinnamon

3 cloves

2 cardamoms

Salt to taste

Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

Place the banana stem with turmeric and a little salt in a large pan and add ¼ cup of water. Cook on medium heat until they become tender and the water is completely evaporated. The stems cook fast and the mixture should be completely dry. Set aside to cool. Dry grind in a blender to a coarse paste (do not make it into a smooth paste).

Powder the roasted gram dal in a blender and set aside.

Roast the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom in a small pan and powder it.

Add the chopped onions, green chillis, ginger and coriander to the stem paste. Add the powdered spices, enough salt and half of the gram powder and mix well. The mixture should be firm enough to be shaped into small fritters. If it is too wet, add more of the powdered gram dal. Shape into small fritters and deep fry.

Rice Cakes with Chutney and Sambar

Rice cakes known as idli are the most popular Indian breakfast. Though idli is traditionally a South Indian dish, it’s the most popular breakfast eaten by millions of Indians everyday. The combination of rice with dehusked black gram dal (urad dal) makes it a complete protein.

The ground rice and dal is fermented overnight which breaks down the starch and is easily metabolized by the body. There’s no oil and they are steamed, which makes it easily digestible. Each idli contains 39 calories only. It contains no fat, no saturated fat and no cholesterol. Each idli contains 1 milligram of iron and trace amounts of calcium, folate, potassium and vitamin A besides the protein content.

It’s usually served with a variety of chutneys and Sambar, which is spiced cooked split pigeon peas and vegetables. Sambar is high on proteins, rich in antioxidants and contains fibre. It’s an ideal combination for weight loss. Tamarind is usually used in sambar but I usually prepare it without tamarind for idlis. You can use any vegetable in the sambar. Traditionally, drumstick is used in South India. 

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Every home would have it’s own way of preparing idlis and sambar. The rice used for idlis are par-boiled. Special rice known as idli rice is available. It’s small and round. Ready to use idli batter is also available. However, I prefer to make my own batter. There are special moulds available for steaming idlis on Amazon.

The same batter is used to make crisp pancakes called dosas. It can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Soft, fluffy, spongy idlis dunked in sambar and chutney – what could be a better breakfast?

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PREP: 40 minutes COOK TIME: 45 minutes (not including time required to soak the dal and prepare the idli batter)

Ingredients

For the idlis

3 cups par-boiled rice

1 cup dehusked black gram dal (urad dal)

2 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)

11/2 tbsp salt

Instructions

Soak the rice and dal separately in plenty of water for 3-4 hours. Add the methi seeds to the dal while soaking. Drain the water and set it aside to use while grinding the batter. Grind the rice with a little of the reserved water until it is the consistency of semolina. Transfer the batter to a large bowl. Grind the urad dal with a little water until it becomes soft and fluffy. Add this to the rice batter and add the salt. Mix well. The batter should be thick but should be of pouring consistency. If it’s too thick, the idlis will be hard and if there’s too much water the idlis will be flat. Cover the bowl and leave to ferment overnight.

The following day, mix the batter well. Use a little oil to grease the idli moulds and spoon the batter into it. Steam the idlis for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes before removing from the moulds.

For the chutney

1/2 cup roasted channa dal

1 cup fresh coconut, grated

½ tsp tamarind paste

3-4 dry red chillis

!/2 tsp asafoetida powder

A few curry leaves

Salt to taste

Vegetable oil

To temper

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp split black gram dal

A few curry leaves

Instructions

Heat about 3-4 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a small pan. Add the red chillis and the channa dal. Saute until the dal changes to a golden brown colour. Add the tamarind paste, asafoetida, curry leaves and salt. Add the coconut and mix well. Remove from heat. Grind the ingredients with a little water into a paste.

To temper the chutney, heat a teaspoon of oil and add the mustard seeds. When they stop popping, add the dal. When the dal becomes golden brown, add the curry leaves and transfer the contents to the chutney. Mix well and serve with the idlis.

For the sambar

½ cup split pigeon peas (tuvar dal)

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp ghee

½ tsp asafoetida powder

1 cup potatoes, cubed

2 carrots, sliced thinly

½ cup shallots, sliced (sambar onions)

2 tomatoes, chopped

4 green chillies, slit lengthwise

Salt to taste

Vegetable oil

To temper

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp split black gram dal

A few curry leaves

Soak the dal in plenty of water for about 30 minutes or up to an hour. Soaking it longer will ensure that it cooks faster. Transfer it to a large pan and add the turmeric powder, ghee and asafoetida powder. Bring it to a boil and cook until the dal softens and is completely cooked. Remove from heat and mash well. Set aside.

Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the onions and saute until they are cooked. Add the green chillis and tomatoes. Saute until the tomatoes are cooked. Add the vegetables and enough salt. Mix well and add about a cup of water. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the mashed dal and mix well. Add more water if necessary and adjust the salt accordingly. Simmer gently for a few minutes. Remove from heat and temper the sambar in the same manner as the chutney. Serve hot.Rice Cakes with