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8 Indian Summer Drinks & Recipes to Beat the Heat

31 Mar

As the mercury rose in an unprecedented fashion as early as in February this year, I have been busy researching on ways to keep my family in good hydrated condition. Apart from drinking plenty of water, what is of importance in summer, is to have a lot of vegetables/salads, fruits and the right amount of salts/minerals added to fluids. Unfortunately, feeding kids with vegetables and fruits is not exactly a successful mission from my experience and hence I thought of trying various juices, shakes and smoothies this time around.

What is given below is not entirely my inventions but mostly influenced by recipes of summer drinks available on the web. However, since I have been making one different drink per day, I got to experiment a lot with various combinations. The theme is broadly around plenty of citrus juices, seasonal fruits and at times with milk products. My favorite flavors like fresh mint leaves and ginger adding that extra punch.

Before heading on to the recipes, please note that, for the sake of brevity, I am not writing these recipes in professional style. Also, unless specifically mentioned all recipes are to serve two people.

So, here you go.

1. Aloe Vera Lime Juice

Last week, we did a round of pruning of our plants (whatever was left there, that is) in the balcony and got plenty of Aloe Vera rinds. While I was wondering what to do with it, I stumbled upon a recipe on the web which I modified a bit to make this refreshing juice.

aloe vera lime juice - summer drinks images

Ingredients: Aloe Vera gel – 2 tablespoons, Juice of two Limes, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Water – 1½ cups, Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Pour Aloe Vera gel, Lime juice, Sugar, Salt and about 50 ml of water into the blender jar and blend well for about 20-30 seconds. Add the remaining water and ice cubes and blend further for about 10 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Tip: Aloe Vera can be mildly toxic if you do not extract the gel carefully. The yellow part or latex between the skin and the gel contains ‘Aloin’ which shouldn’t be consumed at all. If the gel extract is transparent without any traces of yellow (as shown in the picture below), then it’s very safe to consume it. In either case, do not add more than a tablespoon of aloe vera per glass of juice.

aloe vera gel

2. Double Citrus Juice

double citrous juice - juice drink image

Ingredients: Freshly squeezed orange juice of 2-3 navel oranges, Juice of two limes, Water – 1 cup, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 3 to 4 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 4 to 5

Method of Preparation: Just blend everything together in a shaker or blender and enjoy!

3. Spicy Buttermilk

This is something that we used to make back home in Kerala. I just modified it a bit to suit my current taste (medium spicy and mildly sweetened)

spicy buttermilk - indian spicy buttermilk recipe

Ingredients: Refrigerated curd – 250ml, Water – 150ml, Salt – ½ teaspoon or as per taste, Sugar – ½ teaspoon, Shallots / Sambar onions – 2 to 3, Green Chilli – 1 (small), Ginger – ½ inch, Curry leaves – 7 to 8

Method of Preparation: Blend curd, water, salt and sugar well for about 20 to 30 seconds in a blender / mixer. Coarsely crush pealed shallots, green chilli, ginger and curry leaves in a mortar. Add it to the blender along with the rest and blend for another 3-4 seconds. Refreshing spicy buttermilk is ready!

The color of the buttermilk may vary (light green or mild pink) based on the leading ingredient.

4. Kiwi Smoothie

Kiwi fruits seem to be suddenly cheaper in the Indian markets (due to excess import?). I saw them in the More Supermarket for as low as 14 rupees apiece last week and decided to experiment with the same in multiple ways.

kiwi smoothie recipe

Ingredients: Kiwi fruits – 1 (Pealed and chopped), Chilled milk – 1½ cups, Water – ½ cup, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6

Method of Preparation: Blend kiwi fruit pieces, Sugar and water in a mixer or blender for about 30 seconds (or until no small pieces of kiwi fruits are seen). Now, add milk and ice cubes and blend for another 15-20 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy the smoothie!

Tip: You can add half a banana, while blending the kiwi, to make it an even richer smoothie with a better flavor. Yes, Kiwi and Banana can go well. In fact, I had made that once but forgot to click a picture

5. Minty Watermelon – Lime Juice

Water melons are indeed the fruit of the season. But did you know that some lime juice and ground mint leaves can turn your humble watermelon juice into an exotic Mocktail?

minty watermelon lime juice recipe

Ingredients: Cut Watermelon pieces with seeds – 5 to 6 cups, Juice of 1 lime, Fresh Mint leaves – 8 to 10, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 3 to 4 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6

Method of Preparation: Blend everything together (including the seeds in the watermelon) for about 20 seconds. Pour into a glass and garnish with 2-3 fresh mint leaves and enjoy!

Tip: Try another variant by replacing mint leaves with ¼ green chilli while blending! This has more punch in it.

6. Lime – Ginger Juice

This is one of my all-time favorites and this is what we usually offer to our guests in the summer.

Ginger Lime Juice image

Ingredients: Juice of 2 limes, Extract of 1” ginger piece, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Sugar – 4 to 6 teaspoons, Ice cubes – 5 to 6, Fresh mint leaves to garnish

Method of Preparation: Blend everything (except mint leaves) together for about 10-15 seconds or until the sugar completely dissolves. Pour into a glass and top with mint leaves. You can try garnishing with crushed mint leaves as well. I usually, chew the leaves after I finish the juice ?

Tip: In order to extract the ginger juice, first crush it in a mortar without any water and squeeze out the juice. Then crush it again with a teaspoon of water to get some more of it squeezed. Filter this extract before adding to the blender.

7. Lazy Lassi

This is our good old Lassi that doesn’t need any introduction.

simple lassi recipe

Ingredients: Curd – 400 ml, Sugar – 5 to 6 teaspoons, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Edible Rose Water – ½ teaspoon (OR Cardamom powder ¼ teaspoon), Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Blend everything together for about 20 seconds, pour into tall glasses and enjoy!

Tip: Many Rose water brands (including Dabur) that you see in the market are good for cosmetic purposes alone and hence not edible grade. Hence, double check before buying the same

8. Kiwi – Lime Juice

This is another super-refreshing drink for the summer!

kiwi lime juice

Ingredients: Kiwi fruit – 1 (Pealed and chopped), Juice of 1 lime, Sugar – 4 to 5 teaspoons, Salt – ¼ teaspoon, Water – 1 ½ cups, Ice cubes – ½ cup

Method of Preparation: Blend kiwi fruit pieces, Lime juice, Sugar and Salt along with some 50 ml of for about 30 seconds so that a neat pulp is formed. Add the rest of the water and ice cubes and blend well. Pour into a glass of water and consume immediately (If you are storing in the fridge, mix well before drinking as kiwi juice – just like freshly made pineapple juice – will have the fruit parts floating after a few minutes)

Bonus Tip

Convert it into something exciting: Barring the ones featuring milk products, any of the above drinks can be quickly converted into a summer cocktail by adding 30 to 45 ml of your favorite spirit while blending ?

Make these summer coolers at home and let me know how they turned out to be.

How Restaurant Bill is Calculated in India? VAT, Service Tax, Service Charge Calculation Explained

14 Jun

How many times hasn’t your bloated restaurant bill left you clueless as to how components like VAT (Value Added Tax), ST (Service Tax), SC (Service Charge) etc are being calculated?

Worry no more…

Without complicating the matter much, let me explain how a typical restaurant bill break up is arrived at as per the prevailing taxing norms as of June 1, 2015.

VAT, ST and SC

The following are the rules for calculating VAT, ST and SC.

VAT is typically charged at 14.5% on all food items and non-alcoholic beverages (includes, packaged water, juices, mocktail etc).

VAT for alcoholic beverages and cocktails is 5.5%.

SC is charged at restaurant owner’s will. This can vary from 0% to 20%. This is like an in-built tip and if Service charge is levied, it has to be clearly mentioned in the menu.

ST is calculated at 5.6%. Service Tax is actually 14% and it is applicable on 40% of the total bill (Including food total + Service charge).

ST* = 5.6%, i.e. 14% of 40

Notes:
(i). As per the government rule, the Service Tax is applicable only to those restaurants and food joints having the air-conditioning or central air-heating facility
(ii). VAT should not be levied on the Service Charge part. There are some restaurants who do such wrong calculation practices (See comments section)
(iii). ST* has been hiked to 5.8% (Including Swachh Bharat Cess or SBC) after this article was written
(iv). ST* has been hiked further to a total of 6% (Including SBC and KKC – Krishi Kalyan Cess) in 2016

A Sample Restaurant Bill Calculation

Attached here is a sample restaurant bill that I recently (after June 1st, 2015) got from our family dine out.

indian restaurant bill with VAT, ST and SC
(Click on the image to Enlarge)

The table below explains how the above bill amount is calculated.

Please note that some restaurants may provide separate bills for alcoholic beverages and the food. In such cases the applicable VAT is different for both the bills.

Particulars Amount
A. Alcoholic Beverages
(330+680)
1010.00
B. Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages
(170+160+260+320+300+360)
1570.00
C. Service Charge @ 10% for this place
(10% of A+B)
258.00
D. VAT for Alcoholic Beverages @ 5.5%
(5.5% of A)
55.55
E. VAT for Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages @ 14.5%
(14.5% of B)
227.65
F. Service Tax @ 5.6%, rounded
(5.6% of A+B+C or 1010+1570+258)
158.93
Total Net
(A+B+C+D+E+F)
3280.13


Hope that explains how the final rounded bill amount of Rs.3280/- is arrived at. Next time, please pay attention to your bill details because many restaurants may not have changed their billing system yet.

Happy Dining!

Kerala Style Sardine Curry (Mathi Curry) Recipe

25 Apr

sardine currySardines are one of the cheapest and healthiest fishes available in India. They contain plenty of unsaturated fat, Omega-3 fatty acids and minerals and hence extremely good for your health when consumed in steamed or curried form and not as fried fish – although fried ones taste exceptionally good. In the state of Kerala, the fish curry made out of Sardines (Mathi or Chaala in the native language) is probably the most common lunch dish among non-vegetarians that comprise of some 90% of the Kerala population.

Fish curry in Kerala style comes in three or four close variants and they are fairly easy to make. The secret to making lip-smacking fish curry lies in the quality of ingredients used – primarily the coconut and the fish itself that has to be fresh and cleaned really very well (Read: Not like how your vendor does it).

Let us now head over and see how my variant of Sardine curry recipe looks like.

Ingredients

  1. Indian Sardines (aka Indian Oil Sardines) – 1Kg, cleaned & cut into 2-3 pieces
  2. Mustard Seeds (big) – One pinch
  3. Shallots – 1 cup, finely chopped
  4. Ginger – 1/2 inch, sliced lengthwise into 3-4 pieces
  5. Garlic – 4 to 5 cloves, sliced lengthwise
  6. Green Chillies – 2, split (once lengthwise)
  7. Curry Leaves – 10-12 leaves
  8. Salt – 1 teaspoon
  9. Cambodge (Kokam) – 3-4 pieces (Soaked in water for 15 mins)
  10. Coconut Oil – 2 tablespoons
  11. Kashmiri Chilli Powder – 1 teaspoon
  12. Regular Chilli Powder – ½ teaspoon
  13. Coriander Powder – 1 teaspoon
  14. Turmeric Powder – ½ teaspoon
  15. Fenugreek Powder – One pinch
  16. Fresh Coconut – ½ portion, scraped

Note: Ingredients from 11 to 15 can be replaced with 3-4 teaspoons of Eastern or Nirapara brand of Fish masala powder. I personally use the Eastern brand

For decoration & seasoning:
– Curry leaves – 1 string
– Shallots – 2, vertically sliced to make thin separable rings
– Coconut oil – 1 tablespoon

Preparation

Grind ingredients 11 to 16 (Kashmiri chilli powder to coconut) into a fine paste after adding adequate water.

Heat a seasoned earthen pot (or non-stick pan) and add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to it. When the oil is really hot, add mustard seeds and wait till they crackle.

Add chopped shallots to it and sauté it in high flame till it turns light brown and soft. Add ginger-garlic slices, green chillies and curry leaves and stir fry for about 30 seconds.

Add the ground paste to it, about 1½ cups of water and soaked cambodge (along with the water used for soaking), salt and mix very well.

Add fish pieces and make sure that they are immersed well in the masala. Cook in high heat till it starts boiling and cook in medium flame further for about 8-10 minutes occasionally (every two minutes or so) shaking the content by holding the edges of the earthen pot rather than using a ladle to stir.

Turn of the flame and add the string of curry leaves on top to garnish.

For seasoning, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the seasoning tawa and add the shallot rings to it. Stir fry till they are dark golden brown and add it along with the oil to the fish curry.

Serving Suggestion

Mathi Curry can be served hot with steamed white rice or boiled red rice while another popular combination is Kappa (Steamed Kasava or Tapioca) which is one of the staple foods in Kerala.

Bonus Tips:
Sardines need to be cleaned really well even after your fish vendor has done a decent job. It has to be without any stain or blackspots on the inside part and no scales whatsoever outside. Rub them and wash well with crystal salt for extra cleaning.

Coconut used should be really fresh, slightly sweet and full of milk and that makes all the difference.

Tequila Iced Tea Recipe

6 Jul

It’s FIFA World Cup time and we soccer loving Indians have tough time staying awake for the second match of the day that’s happening post midnight. Some good tea or coffee can help keep your eyes wide open but then they might actually spoil your sleep after the match is over!

Well, I have the right solution which is my latest cocktail experiment – the Tequila Iced Tea!

This simple recipe has the goodness of the tea that can refresh you by right levels and negate a bit of kick that the alcohol adds. And it’s not as bad as a Long Island Tea in terms of the hangover nor it takes away the taste and aroma of tequila – in fact it enhances it, I thought.

tequila iced tea

Ingredients

  • Tequila – 1.5 oz (about 45ml)
  • Lipton Iced Tea Lemon flavoured, chilled – 180ml
  • Lime slices – 2 to 3
  • Fresh mint leaves – 3 to 4
  • Sugar syrup – 1 teaspoon (optional for the calorie concerned)
  • Ice cubes – 5 to 6

(Please note that if the iced tea is not lemon flavoured, you will have to add a tablespoon of lime juice and sugar syrup. The other option is to add half an ounce of sweet and sour mix)

Preparation

As easy as 1-2-3! Shake tequila, sugar syrup and iced tea well. Pour into a 250ml highball glass with lime slices, ice cubes and mint leaves. Stir with a straw and…

…Cheers!

It’s not hard on you and keeps you fresh for the cause.

Oh well, I hope to hold on till the end of Costa Rica – Holland encounter with this one in my hand!

Olive Oil in India : What Type and Which Brand?

8 Apr

With numerous olive oil brands available out there in the Indian urban market, one might wonder which brand is good for specific cooking – salad dressing needs as well as for the use on hair or body. Most importantly, one should know which type shouldn’t be used at all. Well, with this post and my latest 5 minutes video, let me explain what could work for you.

(If you are too lazy to read, please watch the short video below)

If the video doesn’t appear on this page, please click this direct link

Types of Olive Oil

Olive oil is primarily available in the following broad categories:

  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Virgin Olive oil
  • Pure Olive Oil / Refined Olive Oil
  • Blended Olive oil or Olive oil (i.e. the blend of Virgin and Refined)
  • Pomace (Avoid!!!)

The above is an incomplete list with different manufacturing processes changing the final outcome of the oil.

However, our primary interests are around THREE types of olive oils viz Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Pure Olive Oil and Pomace.

Without much delay we will shortlist it further by dropping Pomace from our list. Pomace is the type of oil that you SHOULD NOT BUY because it is one of the lowest grade oil that is treated with solvents and undergoes several stages of changes. AVOID POMACE although they are available at cheaper price tags. Many consider pomace oil worse than even your standard refined oils such as Soy or Sunflower oil.

(Premium) Extra Virgin Olive oil

Cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive oil is what one needs for raw (direct) usage types such as salad dressing or dips for your bread/dinner rolls etc. One should only go for premium extra virgin oil that is available in dark glass bottles. Never ever buy your expensive extra virgin oils that come in plastic bottles because the good traits of the olive oil are easily lost when it is exposed to harsh light and temperature.

By the way, the extra virgin olive oils are the best for your hair massage and body massage purposes as well. Just make sure that, they are slightly warmed (not heated) when used for massaging purposes. What I usually do is to heat an empty steel bowl for five to ten seconds, remove it from the flame and pour oil into it.

Pure Olive oil (Refined oil) and Virgin oil

This is the second grade of oil that’s good enough for cooking purposes. Pure olive oil is considered safe because it doesn’t undergo any treatment with solvents. These are filtered oils and hence good for generic cooking purposes.

Virgin oil is good for cooking as well but sometimes slightly more expensive for no reason.

By the way, when people talk about just ‘Olive oil’ it often means either refined olive oil or a blend of refined and virgin olive oils. i.e. Unless ‘Pomace’ is specifically mentioned in which case you have to stay away from the same.
(Note: Please note that any type of olive oil is NOT meant for deep frying or high-heat cooking purposes. By doing so, the olive oil gives up all its good reasons. For high heat cooking and deep frying, something like virgin coconut oil is the best as it holds well even at high temperatures)

Which Brands of Olive Oil to buy in India?

Disclosure: Please note that I have no association or business interest with any of these brands, their producers or marketers. My suggestions are purely based on my personal use of these brands.

For extra virgin olive oils, the best brands that I have used are Borges and Leonardo Gold. Make sure that you buy the premium variants that come in darkened glass bottles. Monini Classico is a good brand too. Please note that good quality premium extra virgin olive oil will cost you anywhere between 500 to 750 rupees per half litre. Your salads, soups, cooked vegetables and bread are going to be exceptionally tastier and healthier with the above mentioned extra virgin oils. There may be other brands too that I haven’t tried but I have this habit of going with tried and tested ones only.

For general cooking purposes, the extra virgin is expensive and hence not practical. Most of the pure or refined olive oil brands is good enough for generic cooking. What I mostly use is brands like Ibero, Figaro, Nature Fresh etc and these are usually available at a price range of 400 to 600 rupees per litre (Figaro is slightly more expensive and comes in metal cans)

That’s pretty much about olive oils types and brands. I hope this post is useful to the health freaks out there.