The problem with dietary restrictions is that one's options in cooking and eating are rather limited.Being a vegetarian restricts choices to the vegetable kingdom. Being diabetic restricts the carbohydrate portion of the vegetarian diet. If there are problems with cholesterol, an ailment often seen in conjunction with long-term diabetes due to impaired metabolism, options are further narrowed down to low-fat diets. In a world where there are sugared and fried and buttered foods in abundance, and alas! they taste so good, one's self control is tested severely. Being a diabetic in this world can be really really hard.
I make the best effort that I can to bring out as much variety in the meals I cook but my creativity can be sorely challenged sometimes. My recent venture has been into soups and sandwiches with a variety of vegetables. One of my favorites is cauliflower, a good source of fiber and folate and also a veggie with low glycemic load. Most of my recipes in this category are spontaneous and made from ingredients at hand.
The spice I used this time around was carom seeds or ajwain. I love the smell of ajwain and usually add it to chappatis or to tomato sauces. I used to add them to deep-fried snacks such as samosas and chaklis and besan fries but I've had to limit my oil use. My in-laws add it to the dough of homemade papads, which they spread out and allow to dry under the sun.
Ajwain can be used as a substitute to oregano in Italian dishes as it is more abundant than the latter in the Indian kitchen. Cooking mellows down its flavor. Its strong flavor is due to the thymol content and it is said that before synthetic thymol came into the picture, ajwain was the chief source for it. It is said to be helpful for indigestion when chewed and also reduces the flatulence caused by consuming legumes.
This is my sandwich recipe:
I soaked about 200 gms of fresh cauliflower in warm salt water for about half an hour to rid it of tiny green worms that love to inhabit its nook and cranny. After washing this thoroughly and draining it well, I roughly grated it.
Meanwhile, I heated a teaspoon of oil in my pan and sprinkled a teaspoon of ajwain or carom seeds. I usually rub the seeds a bit with my thumb in the palm of my hand before using them as this releases the aroma of the seeds. Though deceptively tiny, the seeds can be quite strong so be judicious when using them.
I then added the grated cauliflower and stir-fried it on low heat for several minutes. I did sprinkle some water at intervals to keep it from burning at the bottom, but for people who don't need to restrict their oil use, increasing the amount of oil used is an option.
Once cooked, I added a pinch of turmeric powder, a pinch of pepper powder and requisite salt and stirred until well absorbed. I sprinkled some chopped coriander leaves and stirred some more. I then turned off the stove and kept the cauliflower aside.
I finely grated some homemade low-fat paneer (cottage cheese) and mixed it into the cauliflower for some binding. Cheddar or mozzarella cheese is a more tastier option but for now I opted for the healthier version.
I sliced a couple of tomatoes evenly. I also finely sliced a couple of onions too.Laying out the whole-wheat bread slices on a tray, I placed slices of onion first, then spooned out the cauliflower-paneer mixture and spread it out evenly. I then placed a slice of tomato and then some more slices of onion. I covered this with another bread slice and toasted the sandwich on my iron griddle. I did not smear butter on the bread. Instead, I smeared just a drop of oil on the hot pan surface and spread it evenly, just enough to keep the bread from sticking to the pan.
I served this hot with a chunky vegetable soup.If this seems rather dry, it can be varied with the use of tomato sauce or chutneys or any other kind of bread-spread to give more spice to the meal.