By Shalan Savur December 2005 A range of oil-free tasty dishes to help the inches dissolve and keep you glowing with health I’m glad I discovered the oil-free route because that’s when I chuckled, “Goodbye lethargy, hello life!” I didn’t meditate on a mountain-top to find it, I browsed in suburbia’s Book Lovers shop. As I deeply inhaled the crisp freshness of brand new tomes, I saw the two magic words, Oilless Cooking, on author Aroona Reejsinghani’s book-jacket. They clicked. The non-stop eater in me had found her path. I think I embraced oil-free cuisine so readily because my mind was not set in any mould about cooking methods. I was willing to try new stuff. Also, I’ve always had this minimalist streak in me. As I could not bear any fancy clothes and jewellery shackling my body without, so I could not bear greasy food sludging me within. Oil-free food was an attractive option. The revelation at our first supper was: Hey! Oilless food is as tasty as food cooked in oil! I sailed through that hour, an Olympian who’d won her first gold medal and saw The Promised Land of Health stretching shiningly before her… Over the weeks, my husband Bharat and I didn’t feel deprived. How could we? We were eating all our favourite dishes – sans oil or ghee. Believe me, it’s like winning a goldmine – you’ve not sacrificed anything major, yet gained loads of benefit from it. Like what? Like higher energy levels, lower cholesterol, triglycerides and sugar levels. Bharat’s blood pressure too is now that of a teenager according to our mentors, Drs. Neeta and Ramesh Kewalramani. Earlier, when Bharat had become dizzy and was diagnosed as having high B.P., I was focused on fear and literally willing it to go down. I also felt a kind of helpless despair that he was going through all this undeserved discomfort and pain himself. Cooking oil-free meals shifted my focus from the anxiety-filled brood to the I’m-doing-something- useful mood. I wasn’t putting oil or butter into our bhindi, but I was putting my heart and hope into it. The dividends rolled in. Gradually, we felt easier, lighter, happier, more nourished and relaxed. A balanced body, a body that is given easy-to-digest food, makes you feel good to be alive. A mind that utilises the present moment to the best of its ability provides the bonus – joy. Didn’t we miss ‘real’ food? somebody asked us. What we eat is real food, we said, rather amused. We had a choice. We could cling to our traditional way of cooking in oil, resist new ideas, get into yo-yo dieting to lose-weight-gain-weight periodically and increase the B.P. pill dosage, or we could choose to appreciate this as a way of life, accept it as our thing, make this our poem and revel in the healing beauty of its new rhythm. We were awarded with rippling waves of well-being. Of course, regular exercise contributed to this positive feeling as much as fat-free food did. There are days when I feel weightless, when my feet fairly fly over the ground as I walk. It’s like the intensity of gravity has reduced! Life becomes truly a beautiful experience. My mother, who was suffering from arthritis, stayed three months with me. A cook par excellence herself, she was surprised that oilless food could be tasty. “Your sambhar is so fragrant!” she exclaimed. Due to her stiff joints, she’d walk into the kitchen with difficulty and smile indulgently at my culinary efforts. Then, one enchanting morning, when I walked out of my bedroom, I beheld the most beautiful sight of my life. Amma was walking briskly, smoothly, across the length of our living room with not a trace of her arthritic limp! Her freshly-washed hair hung on her sides making her look like a glowing angel. “My pain is gone,” she told me wonderingly, her eyes shining. “I feel 20 years younger!” It’s an experience I’ll always cherish. Since then, I’ve had this great loving urge to share what I cook with our family, friends, neighbours, doctors, students. It’s symbolic of offering good health and loving wishes, of saying, “We are all on this healing path together.” Ah, to watch the world grow more robust rather than old, to put sparkle in its sagging spirit, drop a sweet song in its sinew, and swoop it away from all dis-ease to pure, wholesome, painless, liberating, delightful ease… that’s my wish. SINGING SALAD Ingredients:6 tomatoes2 capsicums 2 cucumbers3 carrots 2 beetroots 1 pineapple ring Method: Chop all ingredients fine. Mix with salt, chaat powder, pepper powder. Garnish with sprouts and pineapple bits. Chill before serving. GREEN PUDINA QUEEN Ingredients:1 bunch pudina leaves 2 onions 2 green chillies 5 garlic cloves 1 in. gingersaltJuice of one lemon Method: Grind and serve chilled. BHINDI ROAST Ingredients:1 tbsp mustard seeds1 tsp methi seeds8 crushed garlic cloves1 tsp flaxseeds (alsi)½ kg washed, halved bhindi1 tsp dhania powder½ tsp red chilli powdersalt1 tbsp of tamarind pulp Method : Dry roast mustard, methi seeds, garlic, flaxseeds and bhindi in kadai. When you get an aroma, turn it over gently and roast for another two minutes. Then add dry powders and tamarind pulp. Mix. Turn down flame to minimum. Simmer for eight minutes. FRAGRANT PEA PULAO Ingredients: 1 katori rice 2 katoris peas salt, pepper powder2 bay leaves2 katoris water Method: Pressure-cook all the ingredients for seven minutes. Garnish with basil leaves. DUM CAULIFLOWER-ALU Ingredients:½ kg cauliflower3 potatoes (boiled and peeled)2 onions 4 tomatoes6 red chillies1 in. ginger2 cloves2 cardamoms1 in. cinnamon ½ tsp haldi10 cloves garlic2 tsp raisinssalt Method: Grind all ingredients save cauliflower and potatoes with a little water. Add equal measure of water to paste. Boil until thick. Separate the cauliflower to flowerets, halve the potatoes and add to the masala. When it reaches boiling point, simmer on a low flame for eight minutes. SPICY SOYA Ingredients:2 katoris soya chunks 4 onions 2 in. ginger 10 garlic cloves 6 red chillies 1 tsp haldi 2 tomatoes 10 peppercorns 1 in. cinnamon2 cardamoms 2 cloves 1 tsp flaxseedssalt Method: Soak the soya chunks twice in water for 20 minutes each time and squeeze dry. Grind the rest of the ingredients into a smooth paste. Boil paste with equal measure of water. Add soya chunks. When it reaches boiling point, lower flame and simmer for 10 minutes. 15-MINUTE DAL Ingredients:1 katori masoor dal1 tsp haldi1 tsp hing2 tsp rai1 tsp methi seeds1 in. ginger3 katoris water Method: Pressure cook for 15 minutes after the first whistle. Add salt to cooked dal. Garnish with coriander leaves. OATMEAL APPLE PUDDING Ingredients:1 katori oatmeal4 katoris cow milk3 tbsp sugar6 chopped dates1 chopped apple1 tsp cinnamon powder Method: Pressure cook in deep utensil for 30 minutes on low flame without pressure-gauge (as you would steam idlis). Decorate with cherries. Chill and serve. Shalan Savur is co-author of the book Fitness for Life [Jaico]. The writer also teaches the Fitness for Life programme.
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