Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sliced & Diced in AKs Kitchen: A Lesson in Indian Spices

Turmeric is one of those what-do-you-do-with-it spices. I have a shaker of the yellow powder sitting in my pantry, untouched for almost three years.
I now have a new appreciation for turmeric, thanks to a lesson from Chef Tara Rajan.

The ancient Indian spice is used as a colouring for food and clothing. The precious powder is also used in religious rituals to give blessings of life, purity and prosperity.

A west Indian friend recently told me about a pre-wedding ritual in his native Guyana. The bride and groom-to-be have their skinned covered with a turmeric paste a few days before the wedding ceremony. The morning of the wedding, the spice is washed off, leaving their skin smooth and purified for their new life together.

So many interesting uses, both culinary and otherwise, for this ancient powder. Take a look at my tutorial in turmeric and other Essential Indian Spices in the second instalment of Sliced & Diced in AKs Kitchen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Food Mecca in Ottawa?

I stepped out of AK's Kitchen today to indulge my sweet tooth. I paid a visit to my favourite bakery in Ottawa. It's a textbook case of build it and they will come. Or more aptly, bake it and they will flock!

From the basement of the Bagelshop in ├╝ber-trendy Wellington Village, Art-is-In Bakery moved into its new digs in an old warehouse in City Centre, one of Ottawa's architectural eyesores. The wizards at Art-Is-In managed to transform a grungy, pimple of a location into an inviting, tasteful and trendy hotspot.

This Spanish tourist joined the pastry-loving crowd one Sunday morning.    
And the customers keep coming. I am one of the faithful. As an aside, I ignore my gluten sensitivities once a month because some sins are worth the punishment. Art-Is-In's fare is oh so worth the penance.

Anyway, with the steady traffic that Art-Is-In attracts, how wonderful would it be for other food-related businesses to set up shop in the other nearby warehouses? Why not capitalize on the steady traffic and eager buyers? Why not offer them more food choices? Perhaps a decent GF establishment? An Indian take-out counter?  A cheese and deli emporium? A local produce and meat supplier?

I'm thinking something along the lines of a miniature Atwater Market in Montreal or St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Food for thought as I inhale my chocolate almond croissant.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Brunch

We all slept in on a glorious Sunday morning. This is a rare occurence with three children who rise and shine as early as 6:30 A.M. on weekends.

To ease into the day, I turned on some Motown tunes and prepared our favourite pancakes.

This recipe is free of gluten and processed sugar. I use dates to add sweetness. A store-bought GF flour works fine. This morning, I used a combination of buckwheat, coconut and sorghum flours. This combo results in a heavy, hearty pancake.

I've also used rice and tapioca flours in place of buckwheat and sorghum. They work well too, if you prefer a lighter, thinner pancake. I try to incorporate coconut flour whenever I can because I love the taste, as well as the protein and fibre content.

I served my pancakes with diced Ontario peaches,  local honey AND blueberry goat cheese. I was happily stuffed for hours!

AK's GF Pancakes

1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
2 eggs
5 pitted dates (or more for more sweetness) 
2 TBSP melted coconut oil/ butter
1/4 cup water
rind from 1/2 a lemon  
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup gluten free flour (1/2 c buckwheat + 1/4 sorghum + 1/4 coconut flour)

Mix the baking powder and GF flour in a small bowl, and set aside. 
With a hand blender, combine the remaining ingredients until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients until well mixed.
Let the batter sit for 10 minutes.
Cook in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.
Feeds a family of five with about 1 dozen pancakes.

I usually double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. The batter does NOT keep well, so make sure to use it up entirely.

To reheat the pancakes, sprinkle a few drops of water onto the pancake before microwaving at 20-second intervals. It's best to microwave one pancake at a time to avoid uneven heating. You may need to repeat the microwaving until you get the desired warmth.  The reason I add a little water is to keep the pancake moist and avoid the cardboard consistency you often get from GF baked goods.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cumin & Carrots

The oils were sizzling. The spices were blooming. My kitchen is still filled with the aromas of India, after a weekend of furious frying. My friend, Chef Tara Rajan and I hosted Indian Night to raise funds for an orphanage in Tamil Nadu (

Tara gave a lesson in spices and rices. More on the various rices in another post.  
Basmati rice

First, a spice or two...
Essential Indian spices. 
One of the key ingredients in Indian cooking (as well as in Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisine) is cumin. Cumin comes from the same plant family as dill and parsley. The pale brown spice has a distinctive aroma. It also has numerous health benefits.

It contains vitamin C. It's a very good source of iron. As well, cumin stimulates digestion. The mere aroma of cumin is enough to stimulate the salivary glands, activating the first phase of digestion. A spoonful of cumin seeds in hot water helps relieve gas and bloating.

Cumin is one of the spices in Tara's carrot salad. The carrots are slightly cooked and dressed with a fragrant lime vinaigrette. The carrots taste bright and bold the next day after bathing in the seasonings.

Tara's Carrots in Coriander-Lime Vinaigrette 
Carrots in coriander-lime vinaigrette 

1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup lime juice
zest of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of coriander, cinnamon, salt, sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons minced coriander leaves

Simmer carrots for about 5 minutes and drain.
Mix remaining ingredients.
Add to warm carrots.
Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Serve at room temperature.
Serves 4.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lemon Wafers

The kids are back at school, and AK's Kitchen is in high gear, cranking out lunches and snacks. On the assembly line, a batch of lemon wafers to fill the lunch boxes.

This recipe calls for coconut flour -- which is a high-fiber, high-flavour alternative to wheat flour -- plus four other common ingredients. The end product is a cookie that delivers a jolt of tartness and sweetness, an ideal snack to revive a drowsy brain.

Juice and rind of 1 large lemon
4 eggs
1 cup sugar/ agave/ maple syrup
1/2 cup canola/ vegetable oil
3/4 cup coconut flour, sifted

Mix all the wet ingredients.
Stir in the coconut flour.
Let the batter sit for 10 minutes while the oven heats to 375 degrees.
Using a tablespoon, drop the batter onto a greased cookie sheet.    
Bake for 15 minutes.
Yields about 2 dozen wafers.

AK's Lemon Wafers