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Enjoy junk food, the healthy way

india Updated: May 24, 2013 15:10 IST
Serena Menon

City-based nutritionist Suman Agarwal creates healthy variations of fast food in her new book. Here are two recipes you can try at home.

The toughest part about adhering to a healthy diet is fighting the lure of junk food that, in a city like Mumbai, presents itself at every corner. Be it street-side snacks like Sev Puri and Pani Puri or guilty dessert options like Banoffee Pie — it’s tough to say no to these calorie-heavy dishes.

But not if nutritionist Suman Agarwal has her way. Her new book, Unjunked — in which she advises people on healthy-eating and weight loss — promises healthier alternatives to all the junk food out there, without compromising on taste. “When I give people diets, I can’t tell them not to have dessert, pizzas and pastas; I want to give them everything and still make them feel like they are on a diet. The book follows this theory,” Agarwal says.

A self-confessed food lover — “I started taking cooking lessons when I was 13” — Agarwal has created healthy versions of food (like Pav Bhaji, Ragda Pattis, Hakka noodles, Burgers etc) that is considered calorific. She’s achieved this by changing some of the basic ingredients. “For instance, in the burger patty, we’ve reduced the amount of potato, replacing it with cauliflower and bread mash. In the Pav Bhaji, I’ve again reduced potato and added moong and peas. Add a glass of buttermilk and it serves as a proper meal, not a junk-y snack,” she says.

It has taken Agarwal two years to create these recipes, after numerous trials. The idea, she says, was to simplify the steps even for someone who has never cooked before. The book even includes recipes specifically for Jain readers. “I wanted to cut down on the elaborate spread (that Indian meals usually are all about). No one has the time these days, but these dishes are all nutritious. You don’t have to prepare a lavish meal to get all the required nutrition,” she says.

Serves: 8
Makes four pizzas (24 slices)
Pre-preparation time: 6-8 hrs
Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins

4 whole-wheat, thin-crust
Pizza bases or pita breads
1/2 cup uncooked chickpeas (soak for 6-8 hrs)
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped finely
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 medium tomato
5 large fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped finely
3 dry red Kashmiri chillies
3 tbsp readymade hot and sweet sauce
50 gms low-fat cheese, grated
Salt as per taste

Soak the Kashmiri chillies in warm water for 10 minutes.
Blanch the tomato. When cooled, peel and chop into big pieces.
Pressure-cook chickpeas with salt and three cups of water for seven to eight whistles. Drain and cool. Keep aside.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven at 160C for seven to 10 minutes.
For the chilli hummus, grind chickpeas, chopped tomato,
Chillies, basil and garlic to a smooth paste in a blender. Add salt and hot and sweet sauce. Divide into four parts.
Spread one part of the hummus on pizza bread and top with onion, bell peppers and cheese.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Serve hot.

Serves: 12
Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 60 mins

2 litres toned milk (3.5 per cent fat)Juice of two lemons
Six tbsp powdered sugar
12 medium strawberries

Bring two litres of milk to the boil; turn off heat and add lemon juice.
Stir until it curdles. If it does not curdle, add more lemon juice. Cover for two minutes. Strain through a muslin cloth, making sure all the liquid or whey is removed. What remains in the cloth is freshly-made paneer.
Churn the paneer in a blender for three seconds. Transfer to a flat plate and while it is still hot, add powdered sugar.
Mash by hand until soft dough is formed and sugar is completely incorporated (approximately five minutes).
Deep freeze for 20 minutes.
Divide the mixture into 12 equal parts. Wrap each part around one strawberry, such that
it takes the shape of the strawberry.
Refrigerate once again for 30-40 minutes.
Slice each piece length-wise into half with a buttered knife.
Serve chilled.