Future of Food: Fonio

I have not met anyone who does not like couscous (expect my daughter).  I discovered fonio while browsing the shelves at Kalustyan. Move over, couscous. This little-known African grain blows even couscous out of the water.  And wait until you hear more. Popularizing grains such as this actually not just diversifies your diet but that of the world, releasing pressure on the Big 3 (wheat, corn, rice), and ultimately food security for the planet.

Special tools:



  • 1 cup fonio grains
  • allium: 1 scape OR a quarter medium onion, diced
  • spices: 1 tsp jeera + 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns + 10 curry leaves
  • Veggies: 1 pepper, charred and slivered + 1 cup sprouted urad (or moong)
  • 1 tbsp oil; dash of turmeric; salt to taste
  • Topping: 1 tbsp EVOO to moisten


Fonio: Toast fonio lightly and pour 2 cups hot water. Cover and turn off heat. After 10 minutes, fluff with fork.

Heat 1 tbsp oil. Add jeera + whole peppercorns. When the seeds sputter add the curry leaves. Saute for 15-20 seconds. Add the allium, Mix for another 10-15 secs. Mix in the turmeric and then add the veggies. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add salt and then mix in the fonio. Mix well for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 tbsp EVOO and mix well.

Serve warm (with guacamole).

Notes, hints, tips:

  1. Fonio can also be steamed. Although that might take longer, it yields even fluffier fonio.
  2. Use fonio anywhere you would have used couscous. Note that couscous is made from wheat while fonio is a different grain. It is also being touted as a superfood.

Two-Way Gajar Halwa

No added sugar, no ghee!! Then, is it any good ? I have it from my fussiest that indeed it is finger-licking good.

Here is a little, soft primer on “you are what you eat” or what La Nutritionista says. Added sugar –such as cane sugar or honey or maple syrup or agave or any syrup– toys with one of your body organs (say, pancreas via insulin) while sugar, such as in fruits or vegetables, can be viewed as contributing to the total calorie intake . The latter has more leeway than the former in your meal planning. So averting added sugar in favor of natural sugar may be a sound strategy.

Back to the carrot pudding. The sweetness in this halwa comes from the natural sugars in dried apricots. With a tiny dose, the halwa replaces your breakfast cereal, and, with a stronger dose turns into a dessert . Moreover, it is embarrassingly simple to make. Enjoy both-ways!


Microwave; food processor (or grater), coffee/spice grinder.


Serves 4.

  • 2 cups finely grated carrot + 1 cup milk
  • 3 dried apricots finely diced, and nuked in microwave with 1/2 cup water for 2 mins until very soft and fragrant
  • 2 tbsp powdered raw cashews + 2 tbsp whole raw cashews + 2 tbsp raisins
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • Optional topping: 1 tbsp mulberries soaked in 1/4 cup black cherry rum


Place ingredients (except cardamom) in a microwavable bowl. Cover loosely with damp kitchen towel and nuke at 50% power for 20 mins or so (in intervals of 8 mins, say).

When done, mix in the cardamom powder. Serve hot or chilled.


  1. The traditional halwa is slow cooked for hours with generous amount of sweetener and ghee. My daughter is the fussiest eater I know and a fierce critic. She found this lighter version of halwa finger-licking good!
  2. You can powder the raw cashews in a spice/coffee grinder. About 1 1/2 tbsp cashews yield 2 tbsps of powder.
  3. In pressure cooker: Place ingredients (except cardamom) in a pressure-safe bowl and pressure cook for 15 mins.
  4. Recommendation by AHA/CDC is to limit the consumption of added sugars to a few teaspoons a day. Check the different resources in your country for the exact recommended number that best matches your health profile.
  5. For the sweeter version of the halwa use 6 dried apricots in 3/4 cup water. Surprisingly, when the apricot cooks in water it is fragrant like a mithaiwala’s sugar syrup!
  6. The recipe is inspired from Indian Instant Pot Cookbook, by Urvashi Pitre (that used about 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tbsp ghee).

Stuffed Turkish Apricots

I am looking forward to my upcoming Istanbul trip. In anticipation of the exquisite cuisine that awaits me, here is a dirt simple, 2-ingredient, super-quick amuse bouche that is astonishingly mind-blowing as well. Enjoy!




  • 6-8 Turkish dried apricots (without sulphates!)
  • 1/2 cup drained yogurt
  • Topping (optional): crushed walnuts or pistachios


Rehydrate the apricots in a cup of water by microwaving for 2-3 minutes. Let cool. Stuff each apricot with a tsp of drained yogurt. Optionally sprinkle with crushed nuts and lightly pour the apricot syrup (from rehydration).

Serve warm or cold.


  1. DO NOT USE THIS TREATMENT ON DRIED APRICOTS WITH SULFUR DIOXIDES. For these poach in apple juice gently over the stove, till softened.
  2. Note there is no added sugar in the recipe. Just the natural sugars in the apricots. For this minimal treatment, I would avoid the ones that use sulphates.
    Surprisingly, the warming of the apricots in water (albeit in the microwave for a few scant minutes) turns the whole house redolent with the aromas of an Indian mithaiwala‘s ! Many Indian sweets revolve around sugar syrups of various consistencies.
  3. The recipe was inspired by a master class from CIA.

On Memorial Day, these apricots were stuffed with gajar halwa and topped with ground pistachio (from Istanbul) and cashewnuts. The apricot was gently, poached in the microwave, 1 minute at a time, until tender. Was a smashing hit, even with the most pernickety.

Fermented Teff Crepe

An amazing minimalist one-ingredient crepe! If you don’t count water and the horde of wild yeast (from the natural environment). This is not quite the (white) injera I have had at many Ethiopian restaurants, but a fairly toothsome dark contender. After many laborious experimentation, here is my streamlined version –utilizing a Proofer– for a seven-day version. I.e., one Sunday to the next. Enjoy!


A Proofer.


  1. Sunday 1: Mix 2 cups dark teff flour in about 3 cups warm water in a glass bowl. Mix well with wire whisk and cover. Ferment at 86 F, in Proofer, for 5 days.
  2. Friday 1: – Pour out the entire top liquid (that may even look alarmingly funky).
    – Bring 1 cup water to boil in a small saucepan, add 1/2 cup of the fermented residue (which has the consistency of clay) and thicken while constantly stirring with wire whisk. In a few minutes, it thickens. Add this to the remainder of the fermented residue in the glass bowl. Mix with wire whisk till homogenous.
    – Add 2/3 to 1 cup water and mix well.
    – Cover and continue to ferment at 86 F, in Proofer, for 2 days.
  3. Sunday 2: Pour out some on the top liquid layer.
    – Heat a non-stick crepe pan. You may have to very lightly oil the pan before the very first one.
    – Pour 1/3 cup batter onto the crepe pan and swirl it around.
    – Cover and let cook undisturbed for 5 mins on medium heat.
    – Carefully peel off the pan with the help of a spatula.


  1. This has been inspired from from many sources: https://www.daringgourmet.com/authentic-injera-ethiopian-flatbread/ https://www.preservedgoods.com/post/ethiopian-injera .
  2. I have had tried various fermentation catalysts like yogurt, fenugreek seeds etc, but in this version II don’t use any.
  3. The fermented teff flour has a sweet nutty flavor, almost that of molasses. I was also reminded of a sweet aroma from my grandmother’s village kitchen, but couldn’t place my finger on quite what.

Sprouts & Microgreens

Let bio be your sous-chef!

For decades my parents had this daily pre-breakfast ritual of a few activated nuts and a handful of sprouts. Now, I relearn these practices from books on clean, wholesome foods. So, when my mother is visiting me now, I took the opportunity to upgrade my basic tea towel sprouting. I ordered a kit, fancy mixes and converted a small real estate next to the kitchen sink into a sprouting station. You will be astonished how humble seeds, legumes, grains turn impossibly flavorful. And, no cooking required!! Even the pickiest of eaters were impressed.

Persistence is the key. Drain and rinse religiously at intervals of 12 hours. On an average beans and grains take about 2 days, while moong bean takes 3 days and seeds take 5-6 days to be harvest ready. But you can also harvest as you go (after the first soak) which makes it very convenient to sustain. Here is the simple protocol (using 3 days as an example).

Day 0 PM: Soak in plenty of water.
Days 1-3: AM & PM: Rinse and drain.
Day 4 AM : Rinse and drain. Ready to harvest. Refrigerate.

Although I am not fully convinced that you really need different geometries of sprouters, nevertheless the following may be helpful:

  • Flat surface sprouter (1/2 – 1 cup moong) helps maintain the lentils in a single layer (you could even place a weight on top to aid in this) [1/2 – 1 cup]
  • Mason jar with perforated lid (1 cup rye berries, wheat berries) [1/2 -1 cup]
  • Bottom perforated Sprouter kit (Sproutpeople.org.). (1-2 tbsps of seeds –broccoli, mustard– , or, 1 cup peas, or, 1 cup grains)


  1. The 1-qt sprouter is perfect — you couldn’t possibly improve it anymore. See the description– quite sophisticated for a set that at first glance looks like takeout plastic containers.
  2. For the rye berries, I was not patient enough to actually see the roots. But the rye berry sprouts are sweet and delicious (you even get asked “wow, is this cooked?”) !! Use in grain salad. The wheat berries, on the other hand, were not shy and merrily displayed their roots.
    See picture.
  3. My mother was particularly impressed with the sprouting wheat berries and methi (fenugreek seeds).

Fermented Savory Pancakes

The main ingredient in this pancake is besan which is the Indian version of garbanzo flour, though not exactly the same. This uses no explicit leavener like most pancakes do, but exploits the fermented batter for the same purpose. Fortified with finely diced veggeis, it makes a wholesome breakfast. Enjoy!


A proofer (or simply the good fortune of living in the tropics/subtropics), a griddle.


  • Makes 5 pancakes (1/2 cup each)
  • Batter: 5 oz besan + 2.5 tbsp rice flour + 200 ml lukewarm (105 F) water
  • Filling:
    • Veggies: 1/2 cup finely diced oyster mushrooms + 1/2 cup chiffonaded greens (radish greens) + 2 sliced red shishito peppers
    • 2 tbsp EVOO + salt to taste


Batter: Boil the water and then cool to lukewarm. Mix in the flours and let ferment for a few hours (or overnight) in a proofer at 100 F.

Filling: In a non-stick pan dry-roast the veggies. When browned and softened, mix in the EVOO and salt to taste. Let cool and mix in with the fermented batter.

I used the griddle half of a panini maker. No need to grease the griddle. Heat the griddle to 350 F. Pour 1/2 cup of batter (for each pancake) on the griddle. Let cook for 5 mins on one side — you will see the bubbles rise to the top surface. Flip using two spatulas and let cook on the other side for 2 mins.

Serve warm with yogurt.


  1. The water is boiled first to get rid of any additives in tap water that may get in the way of fermentation. Or, you can use bottled water.
  2. Feel free to use any other mixture of vegetables of your liking.
  3. To make a dosa/crepe: you need to dilute the fermented batter with water to get a thinner consistency.
  4. A bit of knife skill really makes a difference: finely dice the vegetables. It magically makes everything taste good! 🙂