Rose cookies (rosette cookies) are traditional Christmas cookies prepared in Scandinavian & a few European countries and also in most of the Southeast Asian countries. In India rose cookies are prepared for Christmas and also for Diwali, and they are known as achu murukku in Tamilnadu, achappam in Kerala, gulabi puvvulu in Andhra Pradesh, and Rose De Coque in Goa. Traditionally rose cookies are dusted with icing sugar and served with tea or coffee.
Hummus, an ancient Arabic appetizer, is now available in every supermarket around the globe as it took the western world by storm a few decades ago. Traditional hummus is nothing but the creamy blend of chickpeas paste & sesame paste. Now there are different flavors of hummus available in the market to satisfy the ever growing demands of consumers across the world. Sabra is the most popular American brand for dips/ spreads namely Mediterranean hummus & Mexican guacamole. Wingreens is one of the few Indian brands selling hummus and they all like to sell the “original” hummus only.
Greens curry is one of the most favorite curries not only for Indians but also for the foodies around the globe. Greens curry is a traditional winter curry prepared using different leafy greens & paneer (cottage cheese) in India. Palak paneer is the most commonly prepared curry using palak (spinach) whereas saag paneer is prepared using mustard leaves popular mainly in Odisha, West Bengal, Kashmir & Punjab.
Basil seeds (sabja seeds) are one of the most sought-after summer ingredients in Asia as these seeds are believed to lower the body heat according to traditional Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda also. You may check out the other health benefits of these sensational basil seeds here.
Despite the fact that peanuts can cause ama (indigestion), my father, an ardent follower of Mahathma Gandhi, encouraged us to snack on peanuts even at the young age for 3 reasons: Peanuts are the only legumes grow underground, hence the rich sources of micro-nutrients than any other legumes; they are beneficial to vegetarians for being the greatest sources of plant-based protein; and it is possible to rid of ama while taking peanuts. Raw peanuts and roasted peanuts cause ama but not the steamed peanuts, so we avoid taking raw peanuts altogether but we take roasted peanuts along with jaggery, some spices, or herbs that aid in getting rid of ama. Generally we snack on boiled peanuts salad (sundal), a popular street food, specially during monsoon or winter and we also relish peanut candies, fried peanuts, etc. made using roasted peanuts.
Earlier elders in our family were of the opinion that baking cakes is a painstakingly strenuous procedure, and hence nobody dared to bake cakes at home. We usually devour the cakes bought from the reputed bakery in our locality, and we also had an opportunity to relish home-baked cakes on every Christmas shared by our neighbors & friends. Home-baked cakes are undeniably special & precious as it is rare to find such soft scrumptious old-fashioned Christmas cakes like dark brown fruit cake, pale yellow semolina cake, etc. even in the city’s premier bakery.
Besides candies, chocolates, ice cream, ice pops, and other sugary snacks there were also healthy snacks like boiled peanuts & Palmyra sprouts, roasted corncobs, and locally grown fresh berries & fruits sold in our school canteen. All the children relished them as much as any other snacks like puffs, samosa, or chips during intervals or at the time of dispersal.
I am thankful to the creator of The Popeye show for motivating my son, a picky eater, to have a liking for insipid spinach even at his tender age. This cartoon show made my job easier to convey the importance of taking wholesome food and also made a small kid to understand a profound theory, “we are what we eat”. He did not like to take spinach with rice when he was a kid, instead he enjoyed taking plain spinach just like the great Popeye did.
Actually I am not a soup enthusiast and I like to take hot vegetable soup only in the rainy evenings or winter nights. Nevertheless I like the idea of serving simple yet wholesome soup & salad for dinner as it makes us feel absolutely satiated. Sweet corn soup with sprouted moong salad is one such hearty meal that can be prepared with little efforts.
I feel sorry for the children today that they are not able to savor our traditional beetroot relish as we did during our childhood days. It was a delightful experience for the kids to relish the beautiful reddish-purple beetroot puree infused with delicious flavors of native fruits served in the wedding feasts. Beetroot sweet pachadi, the most popular fruit dessert, was usually featured in every feast until few years ago. Nowadays vanilla ice cream with fruit salad takes precedence over this traditional fruit dessert.
Vada pav, a popular street food in Mumbai, is much similar to American burger in which a spicy potato dumpling is kept inside the pav bread. Anyone traveling to Mumbai does not return home before relishing the delicious street foods like vada pav, pav bhaji, etc. It is so fascinating to find people from every walk of life whether a celebrity or a taxi driver dropping in to such eateries to savor these tantalizingly delicious goodies.
One of the most indelible joyful moments of any mother would be seeing her children relish the healthy food prepared by her. Serving home-made whole wheat pav bread with mixed vegetables curry (bhaji) to my family is one such moment that I wish to cherish forever. If we serve oven-fresh flavorful pav breads with delectable bhaji to our children, then there is no need for them to visit an eatery for a plateful of high caloric pav bhaji which is a major cause of juvenile obesity nowadays.
Baking bread at home is not as exhausting as making roti/ chapathi, it is actually a time consuming preparation and hence it just requires a planning well ahead of our meal. It is truly a rewarding experience to bake bread at home with various flours and spices of our choice and also to serve oven-fresh flavorful fluffy bread to our family for dinner.
Generally truffles are made of nuts, dry fruits and dark chocolate that are rich sources of vitamins, minerals & anti-oxidants; dark chocolate is good for healthy heart & brain. So truffles are not only delicious but nutritious treats that can be ideally prepared to gift our loved ones on any special occasion. These chocolate coated truffles act like protein-rich energy balls and may be packed as a mid-morning snack for school-going children.
Crispy Masala Dosa was the only Indian food appeared in the list of World’s Best 50 foods compiled based on the online poll conducted worldwide by CNN Travel in 2017. Dosa is a savory south Indian dish generally prepared for breakfast or dinner and it can be prepared thin paper-like crispy crepe or soft spongy pancake. Although there are numerous varieties of dosa prepared by south Indians, masala dosa is the most popular dosa wherein savory potato is stuffed inside the crispy dosa.
It is a bizarre phenomenon that some of the vegetarians here, particularly elders, do not like the strong flavor of fennel seeds and they avoid taking the foods spiced with fennel seeds even in restaurants. But I like its sweet flavor and use sparingly in vegetable kurma & masal vadai. Masal vadai (lentil patties) are prepared by deep frying lentil dough and served as a snack along with coconut chutney as a dip.
Thoothuvalai (Solanum trilobatum) is a quickly spreading herb usually props up in our surroundings after a good spell of rain. It is a medicinal plant used in Indian medicines Ayurveda & Siddha to treat respiratory problems like asthma, cough, cold & flu.
When I noticed the container of left-over Nutella kept unused for few weeks, I badly wanted to use it up in one shot and hence I decided to bake a chocolate cake using Nutella. Being a vegetarian I prefer to use bananas as the substitute for eggs, and I baked a chocolate cake using Nutella & bananas. Although some do not like the idea of combining chocolate & banana, it worked wonders for me. I was delighted with the beautiful outcome of luscious cake with moist texture & tender crumbs.
Panna Cotta is a creamy Italian dessert similar to custard prepared by cooking sweetened flavored cream, set with gelatin, and served with fruit coulis, caramel sauce, or chocolate sauce. Now I have prepared a vegan panna cotta by replacing cream with coconut milk, gelatin with agar agar, and prepared the fruit coulis using locally grown jackfruit bulbs. Traditionally agar agar is used in Japanese’s Kanten diet (a weight loss diet), they drink a cup of kanten (powdered agar mixed in hot water) before their meal as it aids in reduced in-take of food.
Nei kadalai is one of my favorite snacks popular in Tirunelveli, Madurai and other surrounding places. It brings me back fond memories associated with this delicious savory during my childhood days. I still cherish those happy days with my father who used to bring nei kadalai and Tirunelveli halwa whenever he visited me as our family get-together is incomplete without crunchy spicy nei kadalai and gelatinous sweet halwa.
Panang kizhangu (Palmyra sprout) is popular among south Indians & Sri Lankans. We usually steam the palmyra sprouts, pound them when dried, and relish the pounded palmyra sprout as a savory snack. Sri Lankans boil these sprouts, dry them, make into a flour and use the flour to make sweet puttu, koozh or add into some non-veg curries as a thickening agent.
Interestingly Indian Biryani & Italian Risotto share some similarities: Seeraga samba rice & arborio rice are of same texture and they are cooked al dente in both the recipes. Seeraga samba rice is a quintessential ingredient of biryani in south India for its wonderful flavor, it also absorbs the flavors of all the spices used in it, and it does not gather into thick lumps.
Ulundha vadai (medhu vadai) is a gluten-free South Indian savoury doughnut prepared using black lentils (urad dal). Any feast or festival in our family is incomplete without making soft ulundha vadai with crispy golden skin. Vadai is a commonly prepared evening snacks in our family particularly during monsoon, and it is usually served with hot sambar/ rasam, spicy chutney, or creamy curd.
Vazhaipoo Vadai or banana flower patties are delectable patties with crispy skin and soft flesh. Banana flowers can be included into our diet in the forms of patties (vadai), stir-fry (poriyal), coconut curry (kootu), lentil crumble (paruppu usili), soup & salad. Banana flower patties are gluten-free snacks prepared using banana flowers & yellow peas.
Generally vegetable biryani served in restaurants are greasy, overly spiced, and made of semi-cooked rice tossed with few vegetables. Hence I prefer to make simple flavorful delicious vegetable biryani at home, and I like to add textured soya for making protein-rich delicious biryani. Soy biryani is a wholesome meal and is usually served with refreshing raita.
This is our family’s favorite chocolate cake for being dark, chocolaty, spongy, and most importantly guilt-free. I have used whole wheat flour instead of plain flour (maida), vegetable oil in place of butter, and also used home-made yogurt (curd). I have also used chocolate ganache for frosting and garnished with chopped pista & edible rose petals.
Ginger jam is a digestive jam usually prepared during Deepavali. A teaspoon of ginger jam taken in the morning in an empty stomach helps improve the digestion mainly when we enjoyed a sumptuous feast in the previous day. It is also beneficial to children to increase their appetite.
Vallarai keerai (Centella Asiatica) is an amazing herb used here to improve the memory for children who are preparing for competitive exams and also for old people with decreased memory. It is always better to include such fresh herbs into our diet rather than taking them in capsule form. I also found that when we served a chutney using vallarai keerai to my father everyday, there was a significant improvement in his memory. So we can take vallarai thuvaiyal to improve our memory power naturally. It can be used as a spread for breads, dosa, or wraps and it can also be used as a side for idli, dosa, or any rice varieties.
Millet Kichadi is our family’s favorite breakfast. Generally I prepare this nutritious kichadi when my son preparing for his exams as it helps to keep him fresh & focused during his exam even though he had not slept well the previous night. Since all the ingredients in this kichadi are rich in micro-nutrients, it turns out to be a wholesome food. Hence millet kichadi is the perfect breakfast for active children & busy professionals to keep them energetic all through the day.
Since rava upma is the easiest meal prepared with commonly available ingredients, it is being served often for breakfast or dinner in most of the south Indian families. Hence people especially children get bored of taking rava upma, but we can make this simple meal interesting, healthier & tastier just by adding a handful of fresh green peas. Rava upma with peas can be enjoyed the most when served warm in the evening particularly during monsoon.