Oats ‘n Paneer Lollipops is the ultimate culinary celebration of the union of soft, crumbly paneer and hardy, fiber-rich oats, against a colorful backdrop of a medley of vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, bottle gourd and coriander leaves. Delicately spiced to perfection and served to please all the five senses, this dish is a winner all the way!
The quest for nutritious and interesting lunch box foods for kids inadvertently leads me first to the choice of grain, which in Ayurvedic terms is determined largely by the season we are in and of course individual mind-body constitutions (prakritis) of the people the food is being served to. Today, oats was on my mind! The lollipop part of things was just to jazz things up for the kids and perk their interest. You should have seen the look of joy on my daughter’s face when she learned that lunch was going to be “lollipops”. Of course, the smile waned palpably when it slowly dawned on her that, predictably, there was a (healthy) twist to things . But still, I knew I had her attention .
Ingredients (makes around 30 medium sized tikkis/lollipops):
- Quick cooking rolled oats (3/4 cup – I used approximately 1 cup, but on hindsight, I think the tikkis will turn out softer with less oats, 2/3 cup will be even softer!)
- Red Potato (1 large)
- Sweet Potato (1 small)
- Carrot, bottle gourd (grated) (1 cup)
- Paneer (fresh cheese) (grated) (1/3 cup)
- Onion (finely chopped) (1/4 cup)
- Ginger-garlic-green chilly paste (1 tbsp)
- Coriander and mint leaves (finely chopped) (2 tbsp)
- Cumin (jeera) powder (1/2 tsp)
- Coriander (dhaniya) powder (1/2 tsp)
- Red chilly powder (1/2 tsp or as per taste)
- Amchur (dried mango) powder (1/2 tsp)
- Lemon juice (1.5 tbsp)
- Salt (to taste)
- Sesame seeds (optional) (1.5 tbsp)
- Ghee (1.5 tbsp)
- Pressure cook the potato and sweet potato (both cut into pieces) in some water (I do 2 whistles and 5 minutes on simmer). Cool, peel and keep aside.
- Dry roast the oats on medium flame, until the raw smell goes away (should take 4-5 minutes). Switch off flame, cool and coarsely grind the mixture.
- Soak the ground oats mixture in some hot water for a few minutes. Use enough water to form a paste – it definitely shouldn’t be runny. This soaked oats paste will serve as a binder of sorts for making the tikkis. Soaking in hot water has two benefits – it will make the oats more digestible and second, it will give the oats some moisture since dry oats absorb moisture from the GI tract.
- In some ghee on medium heat on a pan, add onions and ginger-garlic-chilly paste. Saute for a minute or so.
- Add the grated vegetables (not leaves) and cook for a minute or so.
- Mash the potatoes and add to the above mixture. Mix and cook for a minute or so.
- Add the paneer, leaves, spice powders and salt. Mix well. Cook till the excess moisture evaporates.
- Reduce the flame to low, add the ground oats and lemon juice and mix well.
- When the mixture is well combined, adjust the tastes and switch off the flame. My mixture was pretty dry and easy to roll. But, on hindsight (again!), I think a little more moisture would have been better. So, feel free to sprinkle some water at this stage, but not too much – or the tikkis will crumble.
- When the mixture cools, make small rounds and flatten them a bit.
- On a flat pan/tava, drizzle some ghee and on medium heat, cook half the tikkis until they are golden brown on both sides.
- If you want to, for the other half of tikkis, roll the uncooked cutlets over some white sesame seeds and cook as mentioned above.
- To add to the fun factor, you can simply insert a toothpick into the cooked tikkis and transform them into lollipops for your kid’s lunch box. The goal is to have the toothpick hold the weight of the tikki, so ensure that you stick it in all the way, without the toothpick showing on the other end. If serving at a party, you can just stick a toothpick on top of each tikki.
- Here’s how I served these oats ‘n paneer lollipops for my kids’ lunch box today. I teamed these with chocolate pinwheels and a salad of cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.
Sweet (paneer, oats, potato, carrots, ghee, sesame seeds), sour (amchur, lemon), salty (salt), bitter (coriander and mint leaves, coriander powder), pungent (cumin, ginger, garlic, onion, red chilly powder), astringent (coriander and mint leaves).
Paneer, like all other milk products is great for vatas and pittas, but maybe kapha aggravating in excess. Oats, with its sticky, heavy properties is also like paneer – good for vatas and pittas, but not great for kaphas. But the very same slimy properties of oats can act as an expectorant for kaphas when combined with appropriate spices. All the vegetables – carrots, potatoes, bottle gourd are also on the heavier side – good for vatas and pittas, may aggravate kapha in excess. Now, to balance all this heaviness, this recipe has some hot, digestive spices like ginger, garlic, chillies, cumin and also some cooling digestives like coriander, mint and lemon juice and tridoshic, nourishing, digestive ghee. Overall, the oats ‘n paneer lollipops are a fairly balanced tridoshic recipe, that can be safely consumed by all. Kaphas can eat this guilt-free in moderation, due to the presence of the heating spices.
Overall, this can be considered a sattvic recipe, due to the balanced combination of tastes and ingredients. Eliminating the onions and garlic might increase the sattva even more since these ingredients contribute to the tamas and rajas respectively.