Cooking with Hemp: The new superfood that has made inroads in our kitchens

04:21 PM Jul 11, 2020 |
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Quarantine cooking has transcended beyond the ubiquitous — much to the delight of culinary enthusiasts and seasoned home chefs alike — pushing the boundaries of everyday cooking to an impressively great deal.

So, move over the sourdough, banana bread and Dalgona coffee, and make way for the real superstar of all superfoods—hemp! Given how mindful eating has garnered widespread importance, it comes as little surprise to note how young adults are exploring new, healthier ways to tweak their daily diets.

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“Consuming Hemp seeds not only looks after the protein factor but has a whole lot of other vitamins and minerals. Toss them over a salad how you would with Flax seeds or blend it into a smoothie. It is nutrition derived from a plant born in the Himalayas. It is also a very versatile ingredient, we can make it into a powder, use the oil, toast the seeds. It is vegan and gluten-free,” begins Pallavi Gupta, Partner at Santé Spa Cuisine, Bangalore, citing how hemp seeds are your best bet for that protein fix from a plant-based diet.

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The restaurant serves up some of its superstar dishes—Spinach Mungo and Hemp Chowder, Zucchini Zoodles, Hemp Pesto, Fresh Fruit and Nut Bhel (served with Toasted Hemp Hearts) and Melong and Ayurvedic herbs Salad (served with Toasted Hemp). Busting a popular myth surrounding the consumption of Hemp, Pallavi says, “Even if someone consumes five kg of hemp they wouldn't get high as the THC, the psychoactive component that is responsible for the effect is hardly in any detectable levels. The Hemp we use is under the 0.3% THC which makes it completely healthy and safe, even for children and pregnant women.”

Contrary to the repute that the seeds enjoy, Sreya Vittaldev, a home chef and part-time food blogger, gleans a rather interesting piece of advice — milk on the versatility of the seeds. “There’s so much to do with hemp seeds, you can make hemp milk and that’s great for folks who have lactose intolerance or are vegan, she says adding, “The hemp seeds can be lightly roasted and used over salads, smoothie bowls as toppings. I sometimes like to put them over pizza too. With hemp oil — you can use them regularly as you would with olive oil or any other cooking oil. I personally like to use it in vinaigrettes.”

Those on vegan diets can now make their own protein shakes. “To add nutrition to your smoothies or salad, just powder the hemp seeds and use it in as they make a great vegan protein powder,” suggests Chef Durbar Basu Ray, Novotel and IBIS Bengaluru.

For those wanting to experiment with hemp while baking, Chef Durbar Basu Ray has a tip. “While using hemp oil for baking or cooking, the temperature should not be very high. To maintain the taste and nutritional value, it should always be used at a warm lukewarm temperature,” he says.

Sahana Dasharathi, a nutritionist, avers that hemp seeds can be a great accompaniment to the typical south Indian breakfast. “One can use a spoon of hemp seeds into the chutneys we make for dosas or chila, or even smattering of hemp seeds in the atta while kneading it. Add a handful of hemp seeds in our dosa/idli batters to improve the overall nutrition quality.”

Thinking along similar lines, food consultant and blogger Monika Manchanda believes it’s best had as a raw yet soulful topping. “It’s fairly easy to cook with hemp hearts. They are perfect raw in salads or raitas or smoothies. Hemp oil makes for a great fat for salad dressing or topping of soups.”

While hemp seeds are popular, hemp oil is an equally stellar an option to get started with — if you’re planning to jump on the hemp-lovers bandwagon. Culinary Expert & Food Consultant Reetu Uday Kugaji opines, “Rich in Omega 3 & 6 Fatty acids, hemp oil contains Vitamin A & E and is made by cold-pressing the seeds. What needs to be noted is that hemp oil cannot withstand heat due to its naturally low smoke-point. Therefore, the oil is largely used as a flavourful finishing oil owing to its wonderful nutty flavour. Store it in a cool, dry and dark place away from direct light, and always shake up the bottle a bit before using.”

Newbie to Hemp-cooking? Some points to keep in mind:

1) Do not cook hemp oil on high flame and use in moderation.

2) Hemp seeds eaten in huge amounts can cause mild diarrhoea.

3) You can make Hemp milk at home using whole hemp seeds.

4) Refrigerating hemp seeds increases their shelf life and prevents them from going rancid.

5) Don’t be scared to be creative, use them in savoury as well as sweet dishes.

6) Hemp seeds contain no trans-fat, no sodium and no cholesterol.

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