Recipes Beyond Borders- sometimes Exotic, mostly Healthy, always Delicious

Tag: Ancient Grains

Roasted Pumpkin Labneh Buckwheat Salad with Pomegranate and Rocket

Roasted Pumpkin Labneh Buckwheat Salad with Pomegranate and Rocket

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At first glance, Shaheen Peerbhai’s  (who blogs as Purple Foodie) Roasted Pumpkin Labneh Buckwheat Salad with Pomegranate and Rocket leaves sounds like a cosy winter salad. It is however a light and refreshing summer type of salad with some unlikely ingredients coming together with a medley of colours and flavours.  (more…)

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Chia Seeds

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Chia Seeds

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Really easy, delicious and healthy Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Chia Seeds – takes less than 5 minutes to put together and goes with most salads. Specially good with salad greens such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens and other large leaved greens which are slightly bitter to the taste. I like the Strawberry poppyseed dressing best with Dandelion greens, as the sweet and tart taste of the dressing offsets the bitterness of the dandelion leaves. The mustard paste tones down the sweetness of the strawberries and honey.

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Dandelion Leaves
Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Dandelion Leaves Salad

Link to the recipe for a Dandelion Greens, Mango and Couscous Salad on this blog:

Origin and History:

Strawberries have been known since Roman times and are said to have been first cultivated in Brittany, France in the 18th century and then in the later half of the 18th century as a cross breed between a North American and a Chilean variety. They are grown in most parts of the world and numerous varieties of the plant exist. BBC GoodFood says that in 1714, a French engineer commissioned to Chile and Peru, observed that the strawberry native to those regions was much larger than those found in Europe. He decided to bring back a sample of this strawberry to cultivate in France. The end result was a large, juicy, sweet hybrid (the modern garden strawberry) that became extremely popular in Europe. 

Wikipedia says that “The strawberry fruit was mentioned in ancient Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use. The French began taking the strawberry from the forest to their gardens for harvest in the 14th century. Charles V, France’s king from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden. In the early 15th century western European monks were using the wild strawberry in their illuminated manuscripts. The strawberry is found in Italian, Flemish, and German art, and in English miniatures. The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses……The combination of strawberries and cream was created by Thomas Wolsey in the court of King Henry VIII.”

Culinary Uses:

Wikipedia says that Strawberries can be taken fresh, or frozen, made into jams, preserves, or dried and used in prepared foods, such as cereal bars. Strawberries and strawberry flavorings are a popular addition to dairy products, such as strawberry- flavored milk, strawberry ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies and yogurts. Strawberries and cream is a popular dessert during the British summer, famously consumed at the Wimbledon tennis tournament. In Sweden, strawberries are a traditional dessert served on Midsummer Eve. In some countries, strawberry pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, or strawberry shortcake are also popular. In Greece, strawberries are sprinkled with sugar and then dipped in Metaxa, a famous brandy, and served as a dessert. In Italy, strawberries have been used for various desserts and as a popular flavoring for gelato.

One of the best tasting strawberry jams I have had is from a tea plantation in Southern India, where the jam has whole strawberries which melt in your mouth. I have also enjoyed a morning of strawberry picking with my granddaughter Tamma, at Connecticut.

The recipe below for the Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing is an easy one and enhances the flavours of several leafy salads. The dressing should be used when fresh and chilled before serving. Not only does it look and taste good but has several health and nutrient benefits.

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing
Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing

Health and Nutrition:

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K as well as being rich in fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium as well as having lesser quantities of other vitamins. Strawberries are known to have been used throughout history as a medicine for digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations. Their fibre and fructose content may help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion and the fibre is thought to have a satiating effect. Leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea. Certain studies have suggested that strawberry consumption may have beneficial effects in humans such as lowering blood LDL cholesterol levels, total cholesterol, reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and decreasing the spike in blood sugar after high sugar meals and the spike in blood cholesterol seen after high-fat meals

Fresh Strawberries
Fresh Strawberries

Strawberries contain significant amounts of phytonutrients and flavanoids which gives them their bright red colour. The vibrant red is due to large amounts of anthocyanidin, which also means they contain powerful antioxidants and are thought to protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.

Poppy seeds or khus khus as they are known in India, were used as a condiment in cooking, since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Through the Arab traders, opium cultivation spread to Persia, ancient Khorasan, and India. Today, seeds of poppy is a well established commercial crop in many parts of the world including Czech Republic, Germany, Turkey, France, India, and East European region. However, poppy seeds are nutritious oilseeds and though they are obtained from the dry pods of the opium poppy, they are considered very safe to use as food and contain negligible quantities of toxic alkaloids of the opium poppy. In fact, these chemicals have been found to have beneficial effects as they soothe nervous irritability, act as painkillers and in many traditional medicines are used in the preparations of cough mixtures, expectorants, etc.

Poppy seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that found to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties. Their unique nutty aromatic flavor is due to  fatty acids and essential volatile oils, which comprise about 50% of their net weight. The seeds are especially rich in oleic and linoleic acids which help lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood. The outer husk of the seed is a good source of dietary fiber. Poppy seeds are an excellent source of B-complex vitamins as well as minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.

Chia seeds belong to the mint family and are native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. Wikipedia says that the 16th century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times and economic historians say it may have been as important as maize as a food crop. It was given as an annual tribute by the people to the Rulers in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. Ground or whole chia seeds are still used in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala for nutritious drinks and food.

Chia seeds are usually added to other foods as a topping or in smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, and bread. Chia seed (tokhm-e-sharbatī, meaning “beverage seed”) is used to prepare a sharbat in Iran. The gel from ground seeds may be used to replace the egg content in cakes while providing other nutrients, and is a common substitute in vegan baking.

Though research is still ongoing, Chia seeds are considered to have several important nutrients. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to raise the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and are a rich source of thiamine and niacin, and a moderate source of riboflavin and folate. They have high amounts of the dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.

Even small quantities of Poppy seeds and chia seeds can give nutritional benefits, and the quantities suggested in this recipe for Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing can contribute to good health.

Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing – Kitchen Tips

1.Use the best quality ingredients when selecting the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey, to get the full flavours of this delicious salad dressing.

2. Check that the poppy seeds are fresh, otherwise they will affect the taste of the dressing.

3. Check the strawberries for bruises or for grey patches in the skin, cut them out before you make the strawberry poppyseed dressing.

For a variation, make the Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with garlic instead of chia seeds (or add garlic as an additional ingredient) and substitute White vinegar for the Balsamic.

Strawberry Poppyseed dressing with Garlic
Strawberry Poppyseed dressing with Garlic


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Black Rice Salad, Cranberry Orange Dressing

Black Rice Salad, Cranberry Orange Dressing

100 Healthy Recipes Challenge: Recipe 1
This Black Rice Salad has to be the most fun salad I’ve made so far. If you’ve been following my blog, you will know that I use several ingredients in each recipe, to bring together a variety of textures, flavours and colours into one (mostly) healthy package. So when I received a sample of Heirloom Black Rice from First Agro Farms, I wanted to showcase this intriguing grain and bring out its goodness,  and at the same time to have the medley of taste and texture that I’m so fond of in all my recipes.

Black Rice

You may ask, what is intriguing about Rice? We in India have rice as a staple and use it in every possible way, so what’s new?  Well, Black Rice is new, at least to me. The colour, the texture, the taste, the aroma when its bubbling on the stove….

A little time spent on the net gives interesting information: that Black Rice was first cultivated in China, some Ten thousand years ago, and for hundreds of years was reserved solely for the culinary pleasure of Chinese Royalty and noblemen: hence the name of Forbidden Rice or Emperors Rice, as its consumption was not permitted for the common people. The Rice was grown in limited quantities and the distribution carefully controlled. And Black rice may not be Black, it could be pinkish, brown, purple, grey, or shades in between. And of course, black! When cooked, some varieties may be glutinous and sticky, due to high levels of amylopectin ( a major component of starch, and made up of glucose units). The black colouring is due the presence of large amounts of anthocyanin, which is what makes for colourful purple grapes, blueberries, aubergine .. You get the picture?
Perhaps these ancient Chinese Emperors knew a thing or two: that this Black rice that they reserved for themselves, was highly nutritious, fabled to increase both health and longevity, and in fact called ‘tribute rice’ or ‘longevity rice’ during the Ming Dynasty. In India this rice is mostly grown in Manipur, and is available in some gourmet stores and on online stores, and if, like me, you are lucky enough to live in Bangalore, then you can get the Zero pesticide, non-GMO variety from First Agro Farms through their e-commerce unit,  Sakura Fresh. I’m planning a number of recipes using Black Rice, it is tasty, healthy and different!
Health & Nutrition for the ingredients in this Black Rice Salad  (sourced from my friend Google): And like I always say, do check with your doctor for the individual suitability or otherwise of consuming any of these items, however healthy they are said to be, specially when being treated for any illness.
Superfood Black Rice is rich in disease fighting antioxidants, contains vitamins like B1, B2, folic acid;  essential amino acids such as lysine, tryptophan; minerals including iron, copper, zinc, calcium and phosphorus; anthocyanin- said to help lower the risk of heart attacks by preventing plaques from building up in the arteries, as well as to fight cancer; research is going on to support the view that consumption of black rice can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes and even Cancer. Low in calories, high in flavonoid phytonutrients, and a rich source of fibre as well as Vitamin E.
And not to forget the Cranberry Orange dressing, which I adapted from ‘Oh She Glows‘ Blog. Cranberries, chock full of antioxidants, and with Vitamin C and Fibre; Apple Cider Vinegar, said to help in weight loss and in stabilizing Blood sugar specially in type 2 Diabetes. Maple sugar, which when compared to cane sugar, has the advantage of having antioxidants, zinc and manganese; Fresh Orange juice with Vitamin C and some Vitamin A as well as Calcium and Iron.

The rest of the Black Rice Salad:
Red veined Sorrel: Vitamins A and C, and potassium which helps in lowering Blood pressure and said to have anti inflammatory properties as well as being a diuretic.
Bok Choy: Said to contain 21 nutrients including antioxidant mineral Zinc and Omega-3s, rich in beta carotene and in Vitamin A.
Now to stop sounding like my Biology text book, let me get back to cooking the Black Rice and dishing up this Black Rice salad.

Black Rice Salad_for
Black Rice Salad

The quantities listed here are indicative, you could adjust the ingredients to your taste while making the Dressing. For the Black Rice Salad, I used gorgeous Black cherry tomatoes (which are green when you slice them), Red tomatoes, Yellow peppers, Bok Choy, Sorrel and a variety of herbs. Any other greens could be substituted. And you could use pine nuts or walnuts instead of the almonds.

I dry the salad greens and herbs in a salad spinner. If you make salads frequently, it would be good to invest in a sturdy salad spinner which lasts for some years. I use an Ikea salad spinner and its been value for money. Its amazing how much water is shaken off the leaves fo lettuces and other greens, and my salads are now not soggy at all when I add the greens.
I’m giving the link to the kind of salad spinner I have. This is an affiliate link, and if you purchase through the link, I earn a small commission. I only recommend products that I trust.

Check out this cookbook from two of our versatile Food Bloggers, Ruchira Ramanujam and Ranjini Rao!


Vanilla Apricot Black Rice Kheer Payasam – a Festive Pudding

Vanilla Apricot Black Rice Kheer Payasam – a Festive Pudding

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Ganesh Chaturthi is around the corner and Onam too, and we are all busy planning special sweets and desserts. Make your festival meals exotic as well as healthy, with this Black Rice Kheer Payasam of Forbidden Black Rice flavoured with vanilla and enriched with apricots and pistachio. The result is a delicious festival treat, truly fit for the Gods! As the rice cooks, the aroma wafting through the house has to be experienced to be described! The kheer (pudding) is cooked on low heat for about 40 minutes after the rice is cooked in the pressure cooker. No ghee is used in this recipe. For a vegan version, substitute almond milk for the  dairy milk in the recipe.



Peruvian Kiwicha Salad – Amaranth and Roasted Figs with Buttermilk Dressing

Peruvian Kiwicha Salad – Amaranth and Roasted Figs with Buttermilk Dressing

Before I take you through this recipe for  Peruvian Kiwicha Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, I must tell you a little about  Kiwicha, a  superfood and a form of Amaranth that went into  this delicious  and healthy salad. Kiwicha is native to Peru and was a staple food for the Incas, Aztecs and other communities more than 4000 years ago. The cultivation of kiwicha had come down drastically since the Spanish conquest and colonisation. Since 1970, the world is rediscovering an interest in this and other elements of Peruvian cuisine, many of which have been now found to be rich in nutrient and disease fighting properties. (more…)

Dandelion Greens, Mango & Couscous Salad

Dandelion Greens, Mango & Couscous Salad

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With the goodness of fresh Dandelion greens, Red and Yellow Swiss Chard, Lettuce, juicy ripe Mangoes, some frozen and some fresh berries, the Couscous plays the perfect foil to this summery deliciousness. The Dandelion Greens Salad is complemented in taste by the honey lemon dressing or strawberry poppyseed dressing, links to both of which are given at the end of the post.

The Dandelion Greens and the Swiss Chard, Lettuce and Tomatoes were from the zero pesticide fresh produce supplied by First Agro Farms through their marketing arm Sakura Fresh. Link to their site is given at the end of the post. (more…)

Herby Roasted Tomato Couscous Salad

Herby Roasted Tomato Couscous Salad

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Recipe 5: 100 Healthy Recipes Challenge:  Yotam Ottolenghi’s Tomato Party, is such an easy recipe to follow. All you need is tomatoes of different colours and sizes, fresh herbs and couscous to make this Roasted Tomato Couscous Salad. A totally healthy and fresh salad, it is filling enough for lunch on a hot summers day.

You may use any variety of tomato and in a proportion that you prefer for the Tomato Couscous Salad. The more the mix of colours, the prettier the salad and the more varied the flavour. I had some Roma tomatoes which are a bright red when cut, heirloom purple black cherry tomatoes which are green on the inside,  a cluster of cherry tomatoes on the vine, ranging from pale pink to peach to yellow, and bright green.


Couscous Salad with Beans, Tomatoes, Figs in a Lemon dressing

Couscous Salad with Beans, Tomatoes, Figs in a Lemon dressing

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Colourful salad bursting with flavours and textures. Roasted tomatoes, Peppers and Figs with a cherry tomato sauce, mint, parsley and purple basil and a dressing of lemon juice and white wine vinegar. (more…)