Simply Superb Sprouts

There is a tradition in our family for the breakfast on January first. We all have to talk about our new year resolutions. This year, one of my resolutions was to include more sprouts in my day-to-day cooking.

Benfits of sprouts are many. They are considered as wonder foods and powerhouse 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 is the only vegetable that will grow in any climate, rival meat in nutritional value, matures 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 property.. Sprouts contain a lot of fiber and water, thus very helpful in overcoming constipation.

All edible grains, seeds and legumes can be sprouted. My favorite sprouts are from Mung beans or Moong, peanuts, brown lentil and chickpeas. 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 off 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 them completely dry out either.

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Helpful Hints to sprouting

  • 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, trust me ! Once you understand the mechanism of sprouting, it is a snap to make. In fact when I sprout 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.

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This is a signature dish from Maharasthra, a western state of India. I remember eating this sweet and sour usal as after school snack

1 cup moong beans
¼ cup raw peanuts
1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chili powder (or as per 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 the chopped onion. Cook the onions for a minute. 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:

You can substitute the sprouts in this recipe with a pack of bean sprouts mix available in the vegetable section.

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Masoorachi Biryani

My friend, has an ingenious way to use 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
1 cup basmati rice
2 tablespoon oil
2-3 cloves
4 one inch cinnamon stick
1 large onion, chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
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. 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.

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Sprouted Garbanzo Curry

Soak garbanzo beans for 12 hours and then sprout them as directed above.
Here the base for sauce is onions and coconut.

4 cups sprouted garbanzo
2 teaspoon salt ( or as per taste)
1/4 cup coconut ( fresh or dried)
1 teaspoon oil
1 white onion
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2-3 red chilies or green chilies
1 tablespoon lime juice

In a thick bottom pan, add garbanzo beans, salt and 6 cups water. Bring it to a boil and let it cook on medium heat for 20 minutes. Add water if needed.

In a small pan add oil and sauté onions for 4-5 minutes. In a small blender add onions, coconut, coriander seeds and chilies to make a puree. Add this blend to the garbanzo beans. Simmer for 5 more minutes and finally add lime juice.

Remove from heat and serve piping hot with rice.

Hema's Hints:

For a heart healthy dish, omit the ¼ cup coconut while cooking the garbanzo, instead add a tablespoon of coconut just before serving

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