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There is a tradition in our family to make New Year’s resolutions on the first of January. This year one of my resolutions was to include more sprouts in my day-to-day cooking.
Sprouts are considered “wonder foods” and powerhouses of nutritional goodness and life energy. In fact, sprouts have been a part of the diet of many ancient races for thousands of years.
Sprouts, which grow in any climate, rival meat in nutritional value, mature in 3 to 5 days, requires neither soil or sunshine, and can be eaten raw!
In the process of sprouting, the proteins, vitamins, and minerals increase dramatically but with a corresponding decrease in calories and carbohydrates. The protein in sprouts is the most easily digestible of all proteins available.
During sprouting, the beans lose their objectionable gas producing quality. Sprouts contain a lot of fiber and water, thus are very helpful in overcoming constipation.
All edible grains, seeds, and legumes can be sprouted. My favorite sprouts are from mung beans or moong, peanuts, moath or matki, brown lentil or masoor and chickpeas or kala chana.
The most important step in sprouting is to buy beans or seeds from a store where they are fresh, unsprayed and packaged as food. Seeds that are packaged for planting purposes may contain mercury compound or other toxic chemicals. Always buy beans from stores that have good turnover, as old beans do not sprout.
The main factors for germination are water, air, heat and darkness.
The beans should be washed thoroughly and soaked overnight in water. For one cup of bean, add 5 cups of warm water. The next day, drain all the water and place the soaked beans in a colander. Place the colander in a big bowl and place a lid over it. This ensures airflow in the soaked beans and prevents the chance of rotting. Rinse the soaked beans with water twice a day for the next two days. The seeds will germinate and sprout in 2-3 days depending on the temperature and humidity.
Care should be taken to ensure that sprouts do not lie in water but on the other hand do not let it completely dry out either.
* Rinsing: Water is the key ingredient in sprouts. Use it liberally.
* Draining: It is essential that sprouts be drained thoroughly after rinsing. Sitting in a puddle is the most common cause of failure.
* Air Circulation: If your sprouts can’t breathe while growing, they can die. Don’t put them in a closed cabinet.
* Storage: Properly stored, fresh sprouts will keep for up to 6 weeks in your refrigerator but fresher is better.
This may seem time consuming and tricky but once you understand the mechanism of sprouting; it is a snap to make. In fact when I sprout the beans, I do so in large quantities and freeze the sprouts in small sandwich bags. So whenever I have the urge of cooking sprouts, I just thaw out a bag and enjoy. Besides salad, frozen sprouts cook well in all recipes. I find it easy to just add a cup of frozen sprouts to any soups, stir-fry, dals, vegetable, or pulao.
This dish is a signature dish from Maharashtra. I remember eating this sweet and sour Usal as an after-school snack.
1 cup moath or matki
¼ cup raw peanuts
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
8-10 curry leaves (kari patta)
1/8 teaspoon of asfoetida (hing)
1 large onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut (optional)
Sprout the beans and peanuts. Rinse and keep aside.
In a pan heat oil and add mustard seeds. Wait till it splutters. Add curry leaves and asafetida. Stir once and add the chopped onion. Cook the onions till they turn transparent. Add turmeric powder, chili powder and the sprouts mix. Mix well. Next add the water, salt, lime juice and sugar. Cover the lid and cook on low heat for 5-7 minutes. Finally add chopped cilantro and coconut and remove from heat.
Serve piping hot with crusty bread.
Hema’s Hints: For a special occasion, garnish with a tablespoon of sev, chivda or farsan in each bowl.
My friend, Rekha Marathe, has an ingenious way of using sprouts. She cooks biryani with lentil sprouts. She claims this biryani tastes best the following day as the spices blend in better with the rice and sprouts.
½ cup brown lentils (masoor)
1 cup basmati rice
2 tablespoon oil
4 1-inch cinnamon sticks
1 large onion, chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon yogurt
salt to taste
4 cup hot water
Cilantro for garnish
Sprout the lentils. Wash and rinse the rice. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan. Add cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Wait till it puffs up and releases aroma.
Add onion and cook till they turn light brown. Throw in the turmeric powder, ginger garlic paste, and cumin-coriander powder. Stir-fry till onion is coated with the spice blend. Add the sprouts, rice, and mix well.
Finally add the water, yogurt, salt and garam masala. Cook on high heat for 5 minutes. Cover with a tight fitting lid and lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, but keep the lid on for five more minutes. The steam finishes the process of cooking. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Hema’s Hints: This is a great dish to take for your office parties.
Hema Kundargi is the producer, editor, and host of a television show “Indian Vegetarian Gourmet.”