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Black and bountiful

In the global gourmet industry, ‘black’ is trendy, with black velvet cakes, black coffee jelly, black macarons, black ice cream and black sushi rolls finding pride of place on banquet and dining tables. Some of these new-age black foods contain anthocyanins — pigments that lower the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart ailments. Health experts believe adding some black ingredients to your everyday diet can promote health and well-being. Black sesame, for instance, is rich in lignans that lower cholesterol, while fibre-rich black rice prevents constipation. And pepper and cloves are proven antidotes for colds and toothaches.
Here are some recipes to help you add a little black goodness to your diet.

Sesame seed squares

Ingredients

5 tbsp black sesame seeds (kala til)
5 tbsp white sesame seeds (til)
1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds (badam)
1 tsp ghee
1/2 cup jaggery (gur)

Preparation guide

Roast sesame seeds for a few minutes over a medium flame. Cool and keep aside. Repeat with almonds.
Heat ghee in a pan and add jaggery. Simmer till jaggery melts and caramelises and forms a hard ball when you add a drop of cold water. Remove from heat.

Add the roasted sesame seeds and almonds and mix thoroughly with the melted jaggery. You may need to put off the flame during this process.

Pour the entire mixture over a greased flat pan. Roll the mixture into thin sheets using a greased rolling pin. Let it cool. Then cut it neatly into square pieces. Store in an air-tight container.

You can make 15 pieces.

Health quotient. Black sesame seeds have anti-ageing properties, fight heart disease and cholesterol, and improve digestion. They are rich in vitamin B, zinc, iron, calcium, lignans and phytochemicals.

Black rice and almonds

Ingredients

1 cup black rice
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 3/4 cups water
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube, or fresh stock

Preparation guide

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add black rice, onion, and almonds; cook and stir until lightly toasted, five to ten minutes.

Add water and the cube or stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. It should take 30 minutes. Makes four portions.

Health quotient. Black rice is a gluten-free grain, making it a good choice for those allergic to gluten.
It has more antioxidants than any other type of rice. In the ancient world, it was reserved for royalty. It is a whole grain, and contains dietary fibre and protein, making it far healthier than polished white rice. It slows down the absorption of sugar into blood, helping to prevent diabetes.

Fig and chicken

Ingredients

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp mixed herbs
1/2 cup finely chopped figs

Preparation guide

Sprinkle both sides of chicken evenly with herbs, salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken. Cook for six minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Add butter to the pan, then add onion and sauté for three minutes. Add stock, vinegar, soy sauce, and figs. Simmer until sauce is reduced to 1 cup (about three minutes). Add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cut chicken breast halves lengthwise on the diagonal into slices. Serve sauce over chicken.

Health quotient. Figs are a good source of minerals such as magnesium, manganese, copper, and potassium. They also contain vitamins K and B6. This fibre-rich dish helps to fight constipation, lowers blood pressure and helps regulate the processing of sugar. It also enables weight loss and reproductive health.

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