For those on the go, a sandwich and cup of coffee probably appear to be the most convenient food. But there are better options that you can carry in your travel bag like Yerba Mate Argentina and gluten-free cookies, courtesy The Imperial, New Delhi.
Words & photographs: Ambica Gulati
Among my favourite snacks on the go are chai and biscuits. But more recently I discovered Yerba Mate from Argentina and some gluten-free cookies at The Imperial, New Delhi. And Yerba Mate is not a travelling human companion! It’s a box laden with herbs and all you need is some water. While I would have liked to have the traditional cup to drink it from, that one is not available in India and I haven’t travelled to Argentina as yet.
What is Yerba Mate?
It is a plant in Argentina and the drink is prepared by drying the leaves. The staple drink is brewed in boiling water. It is drunk from ‘Calabaza Gourd’ which has a silver metal straw called Bombilla. This filters out the leaves and the taste is slightly strong and bitter. But for the Indian market, special teas have been prepared by Anandini Himalaya Tea, headed by tea sommelier Anamika Singh. While the company has two to three more blends in the offing, Rise & Shine is best for winter and can be carried around. All you need to do is infuse it for five minutes in hot water. “With herbs, the tea becomes more suited to the Indian palate,” says the sommelier.
Hear this video to know what Anamika says:
Benefits and consumption
- Yerba Mate has antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and an overall energizing effect.
- It can be consumed with cold or normal water too. But hot water works best.
(Yerba Mate will be available in select hotels and outlets. It has been brought to India by Karavan Advisory, headed by Ashish Narang, in collobration with the Instituto Nacional De La Yerba Mate)
Gluten-free cookies by Executive Sous Chef Alok Verma and Sangeeta Khanna
Like many, I have developed gluten allergy. How did I discover it? I would feel my stomach bloating and body became heavy whenever I ate the wheat flour roti. Considering in northern India we have been brought up on wheat products, not eating the roti is akin to being starved. But when the body demands something different, you have to listen to it. All purpose flours and wheat weren’t helping me, especially when I was on the go. Then came the call to attend the 38th session of the Imperial Culinary Club (initiative of The Imperial, New Delhi) which was about gluten-free food. And I picked up my notepad and pencil to jot down something healthy. The session was curated by nutritionist Sangeeta Khanna and her talk was just confirmation that the chemicals in the processed wheat flour weren’t helping me and many others. To the rescue were alternative grains like buckwheat flour, ragi flour, amaranth flour, white chestnut and quinoa.
Blending their knowledge, the chef and nutritionist gave a live demo of preparing a hi-tea menu. This comprised Buckwheat Blinis Sandwich With Beetroot And Feta, Ragi Samosa Filled Cucumber, Peas And Cashewnut, Quinoa Cumin And Sesame Crackers With Orange Hummus, Amaranth Flour, Carrot And Raisin Cookies and Fresh Water Chestnut Panacotta With Pecan Nut And Honeycomb.
Benefits of alternative grains: Laden with proteins, micro-nutrients, amino acids.
Keep in mind: Have smaller quantities and drink a lot of water, for the alternative grains when consumed in large quantities can have a dehydrating effect. They are also calorie-rich.
For some dishes I needed to have the luxury of a kitchen while travelling, but Amaranth Flour, Carrot And Raisin Cookies I could carry around on my travels. I was assured that they would last for two weeks and can be reheated at any time, should they become soggy. Sharing the recipe (5 portions):
2 cups Amaranth flour
1 tsp Baking powder
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Ginger
½ tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Cardamom
120 gm Sugar
¼ cup Melted butter
¼ cup Maple syrup
1 Grated carrot
½ cup Chopped walnuts
¼ cup Raisins
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine amaranth flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom in a large bowl and mix well.
- In a medium bowl, combine sugar, melted butter and maple syrup. Whisk together until smooth and then stir in carrots.
- Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients using a spatula until just combined.
- Gently stir in the walnuts and raisins.
- Using the palm of your hand, flatten the cookies to ½ inch thickness. Place them relatively close to one another over the silpat and bake for 12-15 mnt.
- Remove from the oven and allow it to cool.
(Maple syrup can be replaced with honey/jaggery/brown sugar, depending on taste. Instead of carrot, one can add pumpkin or apples too. Gluten-free dishes are available in the hotel. They can also be made on request. Guests can attend the Imperial Culinary Club sessions on a chargeable basis. Some can be organised for larger groups too on request.)