Author: deebarajpal

Happy New Year to the Nirlep family … Eat healthy, be happy and stay inspired!

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“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
Alfred Tennyson
Bittersweet Chocolate Marquise with Crème Chantilly & Balsamic Cherry Sauce

It’s quite customary for most of us to welcome the new year with resolutions galore, some with promise and many that don’t last long.  Some will barely see the first 2 weeks of January, and others maybe March if we really try.

Then again there are a few like me {and as I hear a growing band of numbers} that like to take the middle path. Stress free, everyday achievable, intelligent realistic aspirations that give us happiness through the year. Since we are this huge food passionate family at Nirlep, I will stay focussed around food ideas here.

My first shout to foodies is to be a locavore like me. Try and eat locally produced and seasonal food. I  subscribe to a 100 mile radius theory. Basically it allows a farmer to get his produce to the market and go back home in that distance. As distances grow, this theory loses meaning gradually. I like the theory because it also leads to community building, support for the local producer, and fresh, healthy, nutritional food on your table. Celebrate cuisine, culture and above all, native ingredients.

Amul 4

This in turn also means that I do not reach out for imported, gourmet produce that are falling off supermarket shelves these days. I make my own mascarpone, ricotta, quark etc. That said, I would still buy local pineapples, bananas, strawberries that grow out of the radius, but within the country. A personal choice but a happier one. Keeps my carbon footprint under check, and my family healthy!


My other gentle advise to you is to use quality ingredients. You are what you eat, they say! You might as well make sure you cook with the best. Not necessarily the best looking shiny red bell peppers and the glossy spinach leaves. Beware … they could be riddled with pesticides. Be smart. Find out where your produce comes from, make friends with the sabziwala. I do!

Better still, cultivate a kitchen garden. Just the first leaves breaking from the ground will give you pure joy money can’t buy. Look at these cherry tomatoes I grew last year in my tiny patch … infinite pleasure, unbridled joy, a celebration of the colours of nature!

Or them tangerines or kumquats as these ornamental chinese oranges are called. I find them truly inspiring and have found a number of uses for them. I began with a bitter kumquat marmalade … and then just carried on experimenting!

Talking of ingredients, try to think out of the box. Experiment. Lots. turn to the Google gods for help. The internet is a huge resource. I experiment loads, fail at times too. A confession. For the first many years of my baking and blogging life, I used only all purpose flour {or maida} for everything.

Just a few years ago, interacting with a lager hearted foodie community, I had an awakening, a rethink of ‘the food on my table’. From that day, I stopped using maida. I bake almost only with whole grains now {the all purpose flour only kept for very special occasions like the odd birthday cake, maybe a bit in home baked bread}.

Bittersweet Fallen Chocolate Gateau

Whole grains also meant whole wheat to me for quite a while, maybe oats too. Building a community is a life saver, an inspiration, a way to think differently. Now I have begun using barley flour, buckwheat {kuttu ka aata}, oats and oat flour, finger millet {ragi}, amaranth flour, almond meal etc. Life is a lot more fun now, a lot healthier too. The possibilities are immense.

Fermented foods are also brilliant. Who doesn’t love a beetroot kanji? The colours and pickled flavours just blow me away. But I learnt something new last year. Pineapple kanji! Who would have thought. The idea came from a friend who I owe a lot too. You can find her recipe here. It’s the one I use. Fermented foods also include idli dosa batter, pickled cucumbers etc. All these have healthy bacteria that are gut friendly.

Chicken korma

Do you associate with flavours and dishes from your childhood? Who doesn’t get overcome with nostalgia? My heart still skips a beat whenever the sweet aromas of pure ghee and caramelised onions in a tadka warm my kitchen. Pure nostalgia, a deep connect with my past! I also love it when the kids follow their nose to the kitchen when the onions are ‘browning’ or caramelising. I know that I am building food memories, a connect they can cherish long after!

More things I love – whole grain baking, gluten free options, salads, colourful food, pumpkin, kormas, kebabs, kadhi, low fat cooking, quick stir fries, nuts in my meals, fruit in my dessert. I could go on forever as the ideas are a plenty.

Dark Chocolate & Persimmon Mousse

However, I would love to hear from you. Have you changed something about how you ‘do food’ recently? Would you like to see something new, something different? It’s always nice to build a community as together we can grow. Eat healthy, be happy and stay inspired!

Eat with your eyes

Oh yes, and the last but not the least. Take pride in what you serve up. We eat with our eyes first. Make it look good, garnish it, enjoy it … maybe take pictures and send them in! Get inspired, stay inspired, dream lots!



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Find me on Passionate About Baking
Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India