What are probiotic foods?

yogurtBy definition, probiotics in their simplest form, are microorganisms that are believed to provide a number of health benefits upon consumption. A vast array of debates counter this view but the general view has continued to be that probiotic foods improve the health and functioning of the digestive system and enhance longevity.

This idea was first suggested by a the Nobel laureate, Elie Metchnikoff, who found that certain microorganisms replaced the harmful bacteria in the gut and therefore, contributed to overall improvement in heath. He found that the local Bulgarian peasants enjoyed a healthier and longer life and this had a direct connection to their regular consumption of yogurt.

In the Indian context, the most common example of probiotic foods is Dahi or yogurt. Ancient Indian wisdom and Ayurveda both seem to suggest that regular consumption of Dahiaids digestion and is especially useful when one is suffering from an upset stomach or when under medication. Even today, several medical practitioners prescribe a course of Lactobacillus to help the body cope with the digestive sluggishness that antibiotics may cause.

A few common benefits of probiotics are as follows:

Improvement of digestive system

Regulation of blood pressure

Reduction of inflammation

Increased efficiency of Central Nervous System

Increased tolerance of lactose products

Here are a few tips on incorporating probiotics regularly in one’s diet:

Include yogurt in at least one meal everyday—eat it with fruits for breakfast or make Frozen Yogurt (provide link to the recipe below). Or simply dilute with a little water and add mint and salt for a tasty mid morning drink. The butter milk left after extracting homemade butter is also an excellent source of probiotics. (Provide link to the first article on this page.)

Increase your intake of naturally fermented foods such as Kimchi and Sauerkraut. These make excellent sides or sandwich fillings, too.

Eat (or better still, make your own!) Sourdough bread. This kind of bread is made from naturally occurring yeasts rather than from commercial yeast and this helps to break down the proteins in the wheat better, making the bread easier to digest for people suffering from gluten sensitivity.

In the winters, make yourself a batch of Kaanji—a fermented drink made from carrots (usually seasonal black carrots, but red will also work well in combination with a few beets) and mustard. This is easy to do and makes for a delicious and refreshing drink.

Make idli and dosa the traditional way—by allowing the batter to ferment slowly overnight as opposed to adding fruit salt or soda bicarbonate to hasten the process.

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All you need to know about Chestnut Honey

 

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How much do we think about honey apart from knowing that it is made by honeybees and has some health benefits? Here are a few things that work in favour of the Olea Europaea Chestnut Honey:

Chestnut honey is exceptionally high in antioxidants and has distinct anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties that help battle infections.

Apart from being a great choice of sweetener for baked desserts, chestnut honey also works well in savory food. Try using it in a marinade for roasts with warm spices such as dried ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and chili—potato wedges baked in this marinade are absolutely irresistible!

High fructose content in chestnut honey implies a very slow crystallization as compared to other honeys.

While we look for a golden-amber colour when buying most honeys, in the case of chestnut honey, the darker the better it is. The OleaEuropaea Chestnut Honey is a rich dark brown with caramel tones, making it a carefully curated product, one that we are very proud to share!

Chestnut honey also contains trace minerals and iron and Vitamins B and C. These help regulate respiration and strengthen the gastro-intestinal tract. This, in turn, strengthens the immune system and promotes overall health.

Honey must, ideally, be kept away from pasteurization and heat as this destroys its natural nutritive properties. Chestnut honey is raw, unpasteurized and untouched by heat thereby retaining its healing properties and its distinctive aromatic flavour profile.

Chestnut honey pairs very well with ricotta, gorgonzola and other mature cheeses. Simply drizzle some on top of the cheese and arrange on a cheese platter surrounded by fresh figs, red grapes, pears or apples. Candied oranges make a great addition to the platter as do toasted nuts such as pecans, walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts.

Use chestnut honey in deep flavoured desserts such as a chocolate cake or mousse, coffee-flavoured desserts, or in plum tarts. A hint of fresh thyme or rosemary will accentuate the floral notes of the honey in fruity desserts.

Simply drizzle some chestnut honey over toast slathered with salted butter or even nut butter, and you are in for an indulgent tasting yet perfectly healthy breakfast!

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How NOT to store Extra Virgin Olive Oil

extra virgin olive oil

Olive Tree – Extra virgin olive oil

As gourmands, most of us now gravitate to the use of Extra Virgin Olive Oil for most of our cooking. It is a flavour profile that we have grown fond of and accustomed to either for reasons pertaining to an evolved palate or for health benefits. But, are we storing our premium extra virgin olive oil correctly? Let’s find out.

Extra virgin olive oil has three primary enemies—heat, light, and oxygen. If a bottle of olive oil is exposed to either or all of these, the product runs the risk of oxidation and eventually, turns rancid. The moment you find that your extra virgin olive oil does not slide smoothly down the back of your throat with a fresh, citrus hint and a light peppery heat but creates a scratchy irritation, you can be sure that the oil is no longer fit for use. Extra virgin olive oil, depending on the manner of its extraction, bottling and storage, can last in good condition for anything from two months to two years. However, once it comes into your kitchen, storage becomes the key determining factor.

Clearly then, the shelf right next to the stove where pretty glass bottles catch the sunlight in a picture perfect frame is not the perfect spot to store your olive oil in. Then, what is?

  • Extra virgin olive oil should be stored in a dark bottle (solid, ceramic bottles are best although dark glass bottles work just as well, too) to prevent light from passing through. The Olive Tree Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a first press olive oil and comes in a dark green bottle to help contain its freshness.
  • Store your bottle of olive oil in a cool, dry, and dark cupboard away from your stove and away from direct sunlight where it runs the risk of heating up.
  • Refrigeration of olive oil is not mandatory nor does it improve the quality of the oil but it does not hamper it either. So, if you live in a climate that is particularly hot for most of the year or if your kitchen is bright and sunny for most of the day, it might be best to store the large bottle of cooking olive oil in the refrigerator and bring out small amounts for everyday use.
  • Avoid transferring your olive oil into a plastic container as odors from previously stored food can seep into the olive oil. It is also important to avoid reactive metals such as copper and iron for the storage of olive oil.
  • Finally, NEVER re-use olive oil if it has been used for frying as it is not just unhealthy but will also ruin the flavor.

Extra Virgin olive oil benefits from early use. While it is true that it can last up to two years if stored correctly, the fact is that olive oil tastes best if used within a year of its pressing and is at its freshest peak if used within the first few months.

Bon appetit!

 

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Top 5 tips to identify good Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive tree extra virgin olive oil

 

With more olive oil brands screaming their benefits from the aisles than you can count, it is becoming imperative to identify the factors that make good olive oil and understanding how to choose the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil for your kitchen. Olive Tree gives you the top tips to identify good olive oil from the bad.

  1. When buying Extra Virgin Olive Oil, look for the words “first pressed” or “cold pressed”. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is extracted without the use of heat or humidity thereby retaining the healthy antioxidants from the olives themselves and without destroying the nutritive value of the oil.
  2. Treat extra virgin olive oil more like a fresh fruit juice than a bottle of wine when considering its bottling date. Unfiltered extra virgin olive oil is not meant to age like wine but should instead be consumed as close to the date of bottling as possible.
  3. Good extra virgin olive oil will taste grassy with hints of citrus, a little pungency or  bitterness from the presence of antioxidants, and you feel a little heat at the back of your throat as the oil slides down. If you find that the olive oil tastes rancid, mouldy, meaty, or a little like used oil, it means that the olive oil is past its prime.
  4. While a lot of articles recommend looking for a vibrant green when purchasing extra virgin olive oil that could be slightly misleading. Several top quality extra virgin olive oils range in the green-yellow spectrum from a vibrant grassy green to a straw yellow but rate equally in terms of their flavour profile. In fact, professional olive oil tasters use dark blue colored glasses for tasting so as not to be influenced by the colour of the oil.
  5. Look for the region of origin. If the packaging suggests that the oil was “packaged in Italy,” it does not necessarily mean that the oil was pressed in Italy, too. Read the label or talk to the store about the origin of the oil. Olive Tree Extra Virgin olive oil comes from the Tuscan seaside, which allows for optimal maturity of flavour at the time of the pressing, making it one of the freshest and most flavourful first pressed, unrefined extra virgin olive oils available in the country.

 

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Bread Baking is an art…

Molino Farina di grano tenero “00”

Freshly baked bread from Molino Farina di grano tipo “00”

Bread baking is an art. Good quality flour with medium-high gluten content, warm water & fresh yeast yields superior quality bread. The base recipe stays almost the same, though a number of toppings, flavoured oils and other ingredients can be added to give the bread character and taste.

Creating artisan breads using quality flour and ingredients with the right processes results in exceptional products. A combination of both, Farina di grano tenero “00” and Semola Rimacinata or on their own, can be used for making breads and desserts. Both the flours are superior in quality, taste and texture. Farina di grano tenero “00”has a fine grind and is a soft-textured flour while Semola Rimacinata is grainy & slightly yellow in colour. Recipes for breads often vary according to chefs, the type of raw materials and atmospheric conditions. Irrespective of the type of bread, the primary ingredients- flour, sugar, salt, yeast and oil play crucial roles. The process begins by sieving the flour to eliminate foreign material, if any. Next, the sugar and yeast are combined and left to activate, by a process known as proofing. Proofing is a natural reaction that occurs due to the process of combining sugar and yeast with water, which results in the production of carbon dioxide and causes the bread to rise or ‘proof’. Proofing however, requires the right temperature i.e. about 22-25 degree Celsius and the bread should be left undisturbed during this process. Next, add the salt and flavouring ingredients like rosemary, sundried tomatoes, olives etc., then knead. Shaping the bread is the next part- a good baker will never over- work the dough so keep the folding process simple. Make sure to eliminate any air by flattening the dough before folding it. This will knock off the extra air and the resultant bread will have no air-holes or spaces after baking. A good bread is always kneaded a little under, so the final rolling happens while finishing the bread, which avoids over-kneading.

Finally, finishing with good quality olive oil and leaving covered in a warm place to rise are vital steps. After the initial proofing (or two), knock back and shape as desired. The next proofing (final proofing) is followed by dusting flour on the surface, making slits (for baguettes) and other final touches to the bread before baking. Lastly, steam baking or dry baking takes place and it is cooled completely before slicing the fresh, light and crisp loaves of artisanal breads. Sourdough bagels and baguettes are rustic crusty breads with large pores, while brioche, challah and Kaiser Rolls have a rich texture due to the addition of butter and eggs. Others like pita bread, breadsticks and straws have a crisp exterior & doughnuts and pretzels are sweet confectionery bread stopped with flavoured syrups, chocolate or marzipan after being baked/fried.Country breads like tartine, Pugliese and Pain de genzanoare some well-known artisan breads enjoyed all over the world.

 

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Spinach, Tofu and Sesame Stir-Fry

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil

250 gms silken tofu, cut in small squares

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tsp grated or minced fresh ginger

Soy sauce to taste

180 gms baby spinach, rinsed

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 tsp sesame oil

Mori-nu Silken tofu

Mori-nu silken tofu stir-fried with spinach and sesame

Method

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet or wok and add the tofu. Stir-fry until the tofu is lightly coloured, three to five minutes and add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute and add soy sauce, to taste. Add the spinach and stir-fry until the spinach wilts. Stir in the sesame seeds. Remove from heat.

Using tongs, transfer the spinach and tofu mixture to a serving bowl, leaving the liquid behind in the pan or wok. Drizzle with the sesame oil and add more soy sauce, if desired. Serve with rice, other grains or noodles.

Visit olivetreetrading.com to purchase / for more information on our products.

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Italian saying- Rice is born in water, but dies in wine.

 

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Known as the ‘rice bowl’ of the world, Italy offers some of the most premiumvarieties of rice. Oleo Europaea Italian rice is sourced from the Pavia region of Italy, the best produce of flawless quality. Owing to the mineral-rich soil, good weather conditions and environment-friendly agricultural practices adopted in Italy, Italian rice is unique, has an earthy aroma and is versatileand truly delicious. Rice forms an important part of the health-friendly Mediterranean diet, too. The rice fields in the Pavia region extend over vast areas, since rice is the king of Pavese gastronomy. The lush rice fields, spread over acres of land,superior quality rice growing in one of the most picturesque landscapes in the world, is truly a sight to behold. Pavia is situated higher than the surrounding regions, thus it is protected against floods, owing to superior quality rice all along. The result is a perfect wetland area, which is well-irrigated and blessed with suitable climate & fertile soil.

Italian rice, available in a number of variants is used for different preparations, using local ingredients to enhance its taste. Grown in mineral-rich Pavean soil, Oleo Europaea Italian rice has a higher nutritional value as compared to regular rice- high in antioxidants, packed with Vitamins A and C and is easy to digest. This rice is also an excellent source of fiber.

Oleo Europaea brings to you 4 different types of classic Italian rice- Riso Arborio, Riso Carnaroli, Vialone Nano Riso and Riso Venere (Italian black rice). While Arborio is a short, fragrant, pearly grain variety, used traditionally for risotto, Carnaroli and Vialone Nano have their own specialties. Carnaroli is termed as the “king” of Italian ricefor its capability of producing the creamiest risottowhile Vialone Nano is best paired with earthy, robust flavours. Italian black rice or Riso Venere, known for its blackish-purple hue with a sweet, nutty flavourand works brilliantly in cold salads, risotto and other Mediterranean preparations.

Apart from risotto, there are several other variations you can do with Italian rice-

  1. Add a handful of Carnaroli while starting a batch of minestrone and continue cooking. The rice will cook with it, lending its starch and thickening the soup alongside.
  2. Arborio cooked al-dante will result in a rich final product- buttery & delicious. Add it to stir-fried veggies along with cubes of silken tofu. A wonderful, creamy side dish!
  3. Italian black rice works great in salads. Add it to any cold salad, with a flavour-packed dressing of your choice, to make it a gourmet wonder; or simply drizzle with white truffle oil.
  4. Vialone Nano is delicious in a rice pudding. Our pick? Cook it in creamy coconut or nutty almond milk with a hint of cinnamon to take the dessert up a notch!

Olive Tree Trading’s selection of Italian rice varieties are sourced from Pavia, ensuring that only the best of Italy reaches your kitchens. We also ensure that all our products are studied, checked and understood to the minutest detail to bring you only the best, from across the globe. Here’s hoping our ingredients sprawl their way into your kitchen & soon turn into your preferred pantry essentials!

Visit olivetreetrading.com to purchase / for more information on our products.

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