Red Poha

Rice flakes is a traditional breakfast cereal consumed in almost every part of India. Earlier my grandmother used to make upma using freshly beaten rice flakes, but we, as children, liked to snack on aval (rice flakes) along with milk & sugar in the same way cornflakes, an American counterpart, is typically devoured. Rice flakes is generally used as the substitute for rice or other grains for making snacks, sweets, desserts, and many other dishes. However I prefer to make delicious potato poha often for breakfast as it is a light but a hearty meal, and poha is a popular Maharashtrian dish prepared with plenty of onion (kande pohe), or with boiled potato (batata pohe), or garnished with grated coconut (dadpe pohe).

Wheat Pongal

Pongal, a harvest festival, is celebrated here to thank the Sun God. Sun is regarded as the creator and sustainer of life on earth, and worshipping the Sun is an age-old practice still followed in India. We could find several hymns praising the Sun god in our scriptures and also several temples enshrining the Sun god (Surya) as the primary deity across India. Suryanaar temple is one of the Sun temples in south India (Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu) where wheat pongal is offered to the deity. So we can also prepare wheat pongal instead of rice pongal on this Pongal festival and offer to the Sun God.

Kesari

It is a new year and a new decade, I begin to ponder about the ancient Indian philosophy that advocates exemplary ways of life for individuals as they are still relevant even in this decade. Our ancient scriptures proposed a rajasik way of life for kings (being the protector of people) and sathvik way of life for commoners, and the rajasik qualities are strong, tenacious, self-driven, egocentric, energetic & trendy, whereas the sathvik qualities are natural, pure, calm, creative & virtuous. Obviously it will lead to an undesired outcome when a protector tries to adopt sathvik methods or vice versa. Now we are all living in a free world, nevertheless it is imperative to follow both rajasik & sathvik ways to protect the interests of individuals. So I feel it is necessary to inculcate the qualities of sathvik & rajasik into each of our thoughts, words and actions and practise them at right proportions in different times. Hence it is useful to include both sathvik & rajasik foods into our diet. Here I have shared the recipe for kesari (sooji pudding) that promotes both the rajasik & sathvik qualities within us.

Bisibele bath

Bisi bele bath was a speciality dish prepared in the kitchen of Mysore palace a few centuries ago, and it is still a popular rice dish in Karnataka. Bisi bele bath is a hearty meal prepared by stewing rice, lentils & vegetables along with a spice powder in tamarind juice just like any other sambar sadam, kootanchoru, or kadamba sadam. But bisi bele bath is made special by adding fresh peanuts and/or fresh beans along with other vegetables, a unique flavorful spice powder made with the distinctly aromatic Marati moggu (kapok bud) as the star ingredient, and also by adding generous amount of ghee. It is divine when spicy bisi bele bath is served viscid & hot (as the name [bisi means hot] suggests) in the cold winter night along with warm curd rice.

Rose cookies

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.

Horsegram Idli

Horsegram crops are usually grown in drought-hit parts of India particularly in South India, and both the beans & hay are used as fodder mainly for horses. Since horse gram is considered a nutritional powerhouse, it is normally recommended for workmen or sportsmen who involve themselves in physically challenging activities, but for others it may be consumed in small quantity. So I used to make horse gram dosa specially when my son participates in sports activities, and I also like to include horse gram into our diet during winter or monsoon as it is useful to keep our body warm in this season.

Spicy Hummus

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 with Cottage Cheese

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.

Coconut Burfi

It is the peak of the festive season here, Diwali is in the air, young girls & boys are on a shopping spree buying clothes, accessories, electronic gadgets, fireworks, etc. to celebrate this Diwali grander than the previous years. Men are looking forward to spend this weekend with his near & dear. Women are toiling away in the kitchen to treat her family & guests with scrumptious goodies. We usually prepare coconut burfi a couple of days before Deepavali as it is made using fresh coconut meat that won’t stay fresh longer.

Ukkarai

Sneha is the Sanskrit word for oils extracted from plants & animals, and it also means “friendly” in Tamil, Hindi, and other Indian languages. Apparently oil is viewed as a friendly substance and it plays a vital role in Ayurveda as it purifies, calms, and nourishes our mind & body. It is no wonder that we follow the tradition of taking oil bath (ennai kuliyal) using sesame oil & heating up an oil pot (ennai chatti kaya vaipathu) with peanut oil for frying sweet/ savory stuffs on the day of Deepavali as it signifies purification, peace & prosperity. My mother usually makes deep-fried mundhri kothu/ suseeyam (sweet) and vadai / bajji (savory) on Deepavali.

Chhena Poda

Prasadham (food offerings) served in Hindu temples are generally prepared to please the palates of devotees. But there are some exceptions, it is also served in sacred temples like Puri Jagannath Temple for the sole purpose of cleansing the souls of pilgrims. It is believed that one can attain moksha (salvation from sins/ rebirth) by partaking the prasadam offered in this temple, hence the offerings in here are known as Mahaprasad (supreme offerings).

Kurunai Dosai

A majority of my ancestors were farmers, they mostly grew rice & lentil crops in their farmland. Unfortunately, my maternal grandfather became the last agriculturist of our family due to several reasons such as scarcity of water, lack of manpower, declined profitability, etc. Earlier there were large amounts of nutrient-rich broken rice and broken lentils kept inside kudhil (a gigantic earthenware used to store foodgrains) in my grandfather’s house. Since those small uneven particles of rice & lentil (kurunai) could not be sold in the market, they were used by our grandmother for making upma, payasam, kanji, dosa, etc. She used to make kurunai dosai often as she found it as one of the fastest ways to use up those leftover kurunai.

Kosambari

It is a festive season here, we celebrate a plethora of festivals continuously between August & November every year, and every festival is celebrated distinctively in different parts of India. It is quite astonishing to find how the cuisine, culture, and customs vary from one region to other even within South India. Kosambari is a traditional lentil salad popular in South Indian states (particularly in Andhra, Karnataka and some parts of Tamilnadu) offered to deities in this festive season and also served to guests at the wedding parties & other functions.

Saffron Latte

Saffron, one of the most expensive spices in the world, was used by Indian queens a few thousand years ago to decorate their forehead with a design such as sun, moon, crescent moon, or star. In those days saffron was ground into a paste along with ghee and used as kumkum, hence the name kumkum flower/ kunguma poo. This tradition of applying kumkum is still practiced by almost every Hindu woman even today, but saffron paste is replaced by kumkum powder made of turmeric.

Bottlegourd Adai

It is a common tendency of people here that they pamper their guests whom they respect the most with sumptuous feasts to express their special affinity towards them. So the way food offered to guests is obviously regarded as a scale to measure their closeness. During my childhood days I often found people getting offended during family functions, particularly weddings, as they felt humiliated at the banquet hall (pandhi) which incidentally became the starting point (place) of most of the family feuds. Nowadays to avoid such unpleasant situations, people hire hosts/ hostesses who give an artificial smile at every guest, treat them all with due respect, and eventually ensure the equality.

Theeyal

It was a myth widely circulated in the 80s that coconuts are the main sources of cholesterol causing artery blocks. Nevetheless my mother started reducing the use of coconut meat greatly, used coconut milk sparingly, and stopped using coconut oil once for all. But my grandmothers continued to use coconuts profusely, and they even found a dish insipid if coconut meat is scantily added into it. In those days coconut meat was used in almost every vegetable preparation, coconut milk used for making scrumptious payasam, and coconut oil for frying crunchy snacks like thattai, murukku, banana chips, etc. We relished theeyal mostly in our grandmother’s house as this recipe calls for good lashings of coconut meat fried in coconut oil.

Cornflakes Chaat

It is really tough for every mother to meet the dietary requirements of highly active & energetic teens today as she needs to serve them 4 meals a day that satiate their hunger, nourish them adequately, and importantly, please their palate. Since it is almost near to impossible to prepare healthy hearty delicious meals four times a day, it is a good idea to prepare a dish that can be reused for the next meal and also made appealing to them.

Black rice pudding

During dynasty rule in China black rice was consumed exclusively by the royals for the tremendous health benefits particularly for greater longevity, and hence it was mentioned in ancient Chinese literature as Emperor’s Rice & Fortune Rice. In those days black rice was forbidden to general public, it was even considered an offence to consume black rice or grow black rice crops without royal permission, so it was widely known as the Forbidden Rice. At the dawn of communism in China people were granted to grow Forbidden Rice crops, soon Emperor’s Rice reached the hands of ordinary people, and in due course black rice cultivation was spread to different places around the world. Initially black rice was brought to south India by the affluent business community in Chettinad. They take pride in including an exotic black rice (kavuni arisi) pudding in their lavish wedding banquets even today.

Dal Raisina

Raisina hills is the prominent landmark in India where our President’s housing estate (Rashtrapathi Bhavan), Parliament house, Prime Minister’s office and other government offices are situated. Dal Raisina is the signature dish prepared in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan kitchen for VIPs & foreign dignitaries. Dal Raisina is a sumptuous lentil curry prepared by brewing assorted lentils & aromatic spices in lavish amounts of butter & heavy cream in slow fire for long hours. Recently it was cooked for unprecedented 48 long hours specially for the guests present during the swearing-in ceremony of our Prime Minster and his cabinet of ministers held at Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

Helbeh

Jerusalem is one of my favorite cookbooks written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi for their traditional recipes (you may download the e-book here). There are a number of vegetarian recipes that Indians could very well try without demur owing to the fact that most of the ingredients are easily available here. Incidentally I found an exceptional cake recipe using fenugreek seeds, the commonly used Indian spices, in this book.

Curry Powder

The search for perfect curry powder began when we caught the whiff of mouth-watering parotta salna (flaky flat breads with curry) emanating from the “parotta shop” on our way back home from school in the evenings. After several trials of various curry powders available in the local market, my brother found Karunanidhi curry masala closely racing behind the one used in parotta shops. In those days curry powders were sold in small packs of 5 or 10 grams and it was recommended to add a pinch of curry powder even for the large quantity of curries. Nowadays curry powders are available in 50 or 100 grams and it recommends to use 2 teaspoonfuls (10 grams) of curry powder.

Neem Balls

It is horrendous to gorge oneself on extremely bitter balls”, this was the thought we all had in unison when we were asked to swallow marble-sized neem balls in an empty stomach early in the morning. Our grandmother tried various methods by sprinkling tiny sugar crystals over these emerald green balls, and promising us a “paal” icecream stick (creamy milky ice cream) in the afternoon or a movie show in the evening, etc. But all her tactics usually went in vain as older children escaped from her clutches easily and young kids just spat them all out.

Green Curry

Although Thai cuisine boasts of a wide range of meatless preparations, every vegetable salad, soup, or curry is tinged with fish sauce/ oyster sauce/ dried shrimps/ shrimp paste. People claiming themselves as vegetarians in Thailand are actually pescatarians, they don’t take any meat but seafood. It may be required for vegetarians/ vegans to order food from live counters (or roadside vendors) rather than buffet restaurants so that we can insist them to avoid using seafood as flavor enhancers while preparing a vegetarian food.

Mukkani Payasam

Reading Panchangam (an almanac prepared based on Indian calendar system) is an age-old custom followed every year on the day of Tamil New Year celebrated in the middle of April. A few centuries ago royal priests were summoned to read a new Panchangam in the king’s court mentioning important dates of the year and also foretelling the calamities like flood, war, etc. Even today every TV channel telecasts the speech rendered by astrologers predicting the next prime minister, rain fall, gold price, etc. that are of great interest to all walks of life .

Classic Blackgram Porridge

Oil bath, almost a forgotten weekly routine followed by every South Indian family until 3 or 4 decades ago, offers pretty much the same benefits of Ayurvedic massage. Nowadays people prefer to visit Ayurvedic clinic for massaging therapy, and spend a few hours & a few bucks there, but they take oil bath at home only on the day of Deepavali festival every year as a religious ritual.

Channa Kulambu

Channa kulambu was one of the few curries I enjoyed during my childhood days. In those days it was prepared using small black chickpeas and white chickpeas were sparingly used for the reasons still unconvincing to me. Eventually I switch to large white chickpeas for their soft, melt-in-mouth texture and prepare even more delicious kulambu (curry), or sundal (salad). Nowadays I like to prepare chettinad style aromatic channa kulambu using white chickpeas, drumstick pods & eggplants to savour the beautiful aroma of drumsticks & delicious flavor of channa.

Carrot Halwa

Generally we carry a box of assorted sweets, chocolates, or dry fruits when we visit our friends or relatives, likewise we also receive such gifts from our guests. We usually finish them in a couple of days except the milk sweets, they remain untouched for few days. Ever since I read a slogan encouraging veganism “cow’s milk is for calves, not for humans”, I began to believe it is our greed that we use cow’s milk and thereafter it makes me feel guilty to waste milk or milk products. So I always look for efficient ways of using left-over milk sweets, and I find carrot halwa as a delectable transformation of milk sweets that I like the most.

Sesame seed squares

Women of all virtues are regarded as goddesses in our society even today, it is a common sight in some families here that men treating his worldly wise mother as Sarasawathi, the goddess of wisdom & knowledge, his caring wife as Durga Devi, the goddess of strength & protection, and his lively daughter as goddess Lakshmi who brings in prosperity. Even our prime minister, a devotee of goddess Durga, inducted a righteous woman into his cabinet of ministers as the national defence minister. Ironically we could find several references in our ancient literature which stress the need for the respect of women in unequivocal terms. Thiruvalluvar, an enlightened sage lived in 300 BC, wrote about the eternity of values to be followed by kings, men & women in all walks of life in Tamil (the oldest language in the world) and compiled Thirukkural, the greatest Tamil literary masterpiece known till today. Interestingly he did not miss to highlight the women power in his classic text 2000 years ago as below:

Coconut milk biryani with Baby potato curry

A long time ago I read through an eye-opening piece of information published in almost all the newspapers & magazines about the special menu meticulously planned by the top chefs to ease the tension during the talks between Indian premier & Pakistan president at Agra summit in 2001. It made me to realize for the first time that the food we ingest not only nourishes our body but also influences our mind, mood, or thoughts as well. It also struck me that it is possible to tame the tantrums played by kids, or to channel the teens’ minds to set their goals by serving mind-calming foods. Apparently every mother could play a crucial role for the physical, mental & emotional well being of her children by serving appropriate food to fulfill their needs.

Peanut Butter Mug Cake

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.

Vegetable Samosa

It is quite hard to find someone who dislikes samosa, a scrumptious tea-time snack, with crispy thin layers of pastry covering chewy flavorful filling. Typically samosa is prepared by deep frying triangle shaped pastry sheets stuffed with vegetables or minced meat. But nowadays I switch to baked samosa as deep fried samosa have always been my guilt pleasures.

Ayur Detox

Ever since I underwent a course of detoxification procedures in an Ayurvedic clinic I realized that detoxification is as important as nourishment of our body. It is essential to keep not only toxins but also toxic thoughts & toxic people at bay for our well being. Since Ayurveda is popular for effective detoxification, I feel it is a good idea to include detoxifying herbs & spices by incorporating ayurvedic concepts into the detox diet. We all know that Ayurveda is pivoting on the principles of three major forces of energy vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (water) and we have a mixture of these energies (dosha) within ourselves and in our environment in different proportions at different times. Ayurveda believes that when any of these forces are out of balance (or exerted excessively on us) it causes disease, so it recommends us to take appropriate dosha-pacifying food (or avoid taking dosha-aggravating food) to reduce the effects of excessive dosha. You may refer the comparison tables below to understand how our body & mind is influenced by these forces.

Anjarisi Pongal

Anjarisi pongal, a rice dish made using 5 varieties of rice, is a traditional pongal served in sumptuous Chettinad wedding feasts. They usually prepare anjarisi pongal or anjarisi payasam using black kavuni arisi, varagu arisi (kodo millet), rava (sooji), javvarisi (sago) and raw rice. But I tried using indigenous rice varieties well known for their nutritive values especially for low-GI property like white kavuni arisi, varagu arisi, moongil arisi (bamboo rice), mappillai samba arisi (red rice), and kaikuthal arisi (hand-pounded rice) for making delicious and nutritious pongal.

Boli

I wish all my readers a blessed New Year full of happiness and health! In this new year I aspire to rise up, glide above my comfort zone and hanker after the recipes I never dared to try before. Now I have tried traditional boli that I enjoyed in my childhood days but I never had the courage to try. There are a number of varieties of boli prepared by South Indians, but the traditional boli is the most delicious boli I ever tasted in my life. Those boli were made thin, flaky, papery & large and stuffed with mashed sweetened lentils. It is really challenging to prepare perfectly shaped boli as it is made thinner than any other boli and hence it turned out to be a larger boli. Nowadays it is hard to find these traditional boli in the sweet shops here, they are usually made thick, chewy, greasy & small which I feel unpalatable.

Tamarind Soup

According to ancient Indian medicine systems Siddha and Ayurveda, tamarind fruit is believed to have numerous healing powers. It is a quintessential ingredient of the commonly prepared south Indian curries like sambar, rasam, or kuzhambu. In a recent study it was found that we can largely reduce the loss of nutrients while cooking vegetables by boiling them in tamarind juice instead of  plain water, which we have been following for generations. Besides we also make pungent tamarind soup (puli thanni) and sweet tamarind juice (panakam) that have been customarily served on the day of fasting for its excellent detoxifying property.  Obviously tamarind juice or tamarind soup can be included into our detox diet which also aids in weight loss.

Dishwasher in India

For centuries Indians have been enjoying the luxury of employing a battery of domestic helps like a cook, house maid, driver, gardener, etc. Nowadays people prefer to avail the services of Uber than appointing a cook or driver, but finding it difficult to manage their daily chores without the support of house maids. On the other hand house maids have been increasingly lackadaisical about their works in recent times. Some, especially the urbanites, may identify their maids in some way or the other with the poster shared in social media.

Edible Lamps

Elders in our families are unable to withstand to watch the children blowing out candles on their birthday as lighting up lamps is considered auspicious here and it symbolizes brightening up the people’s lives. Earlier traditional lamps (kuthu vilakku) were treated as supreme deities at home, but statues & pictures gradually gained the special status rather than those lamps. Nowadays we gift lamps to our friends & relatives for wedding or for house-warming ceremony wishing them happy & prosperous life.

Moringa Mash

Despite the facts that moringa trees are known to attract pests and they are so fragile that they can not withstand strong winds, they are grown in almost every house to enjoy the benefits of nutritious leaves, flowers & pods. Normally we don’t allow children to go near this tree as woolly caterpillars found on it may cause skin hives when contact with their strands. It is a common phenomenon that branches of drumstick trees break apart and fall down during windy or rainy season.

Murukku

“Can you crunch murukku?” is one of the commonly asked questions when oldies meet each other during the festival of Deepavali. It is regarded as a blessing (or as a sign of good health) if one could relish crunchy murukku even at an old age. There is an old saying in Tamil “norunga thindral nooru vayathu vazhalam” (meaning crunching ensures longevity), it is considered healthy to take crunchy snack than soft snack as it takes longer time to chew, makes us feel full, and hence greater satiety.

Diwali Dumplings

Dumplings are not only traditional but also universal preparations, they are ubiquitous in almost every cultural cuisine in various forms be it boiled, baked, steamed or fried. Chinese dim sum, Italian ravioli, Nepalese yomari, Jamaican fried dumplings, Polish potato plum dumplings, British herb dumplings, American apple dumplings, etc. are some of the old-fashioned adorable dumplings that delight the gourmets across the globe.

Saffron Rice

Sweet saffron rice (zarda pulao) is a Persian rice dish, and it was the most sought-after pulao among the royals during the Mughal era dated back to 16th century. Noor Jahan, the multi-talented Mughal empress, devised new techniques to stain rice grains with edible dyes. Zarda pulao was made using such rice grains of various colours and it became so popular that it was served to the guests at the royal weddings & banquets. She brought revolutionary changes in every art form, she designed dresses with silver or gold-threaded brocades, cutlery & crockery engraved with rubies & emeralds, and she also commissioned magnificent buildings including a tomb for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg which is regarded as a draft of Taj Mahal.

Karamani Sundal

Navarathri is a festival of worshiping the goddesses Parvathi (for creative power), Saraswathi (for wisdom) & Lakshmi (for wealth). Navarathri celebrations in Tamilnadu is incomplete without offering sundal (legume salad) to deities. I like to make karamani (black eyed beans) sundal for the soft skin & creamy texture. Today I used karamani of mahogany, peach & white colors and prepared 4 types of sundal.

Amla Relish

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.

Chinese Spinach

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.

Poomparuppu Sundal

Lord Ganesha is worshiped by Hindus in the same manner God Janus is regarded in Greek mythology. It is interesting to find the striking similarities between the two as they both hold the honor of being the first god worshiped in every ritual. I also like to start my day by listening to the hymn, Vinayagar Agaval, written on Him by the 14th century poetess Avvaiyar sung by the late legendary singer M.S.Subbulakshmi.

Pesarat

As a child I used to shy away from talking about food fearing that I might be mistakenly stamped as a gourmand. Nowadays it is a common sight that teens are talking all about food with their peers with no inhibition, and there is also a welcome trend that kids happily wielding small ladles to cook up their favorite meals (thanks to the TV shows like Masterchef Juniors), and above all we could find gourmands proudly call themselves a foodie.

Poppy seeds ayasam

Poppy seeds payasam is a delicious and nutritious dessert popular in Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh. Earlier I had been using poppy seeds scantily as a thickening agent along with coconut, so I could not identify the flavors in these seeds. But when I started to use them in larger quantity while making payasam, the flavor became so conspicuous that I could notice its nutty flavor similar to sesame seeds and also its sweetness as that of peanuts.

Vatha Kulambu

It is a common practice in the most parts of the world that people preserve bountiful seasonal fruits and vegetables by freeze-drying them in a freezer and use them all through the year. But on the contrary we, Indians living in a tropical climate, preserve them by drying under the sun as it shines here almost all the days of a year. Sun-dried (dehydrated) products have been used by us for both culinary and medicinal purposes for over 1000 years. Even the medicines recommended by Ayurveda, Siddha, or other Indian medicine systems have been traditionally formulated by sun-dried herbs or fresh herbs; fresh herbs are mainly used for external applications, or for making decoctions, etc., whereas dried herbs are used for making powders and tablets (chooranam).

Sweet corn soup

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.

Indian Beetroot Relish

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.

Stir-fried Balsam Pear

It is a myth that bitter gourds (Balsam pear) are always bitter. Onions & bitter gourd share a similarity: they both have strong flavors when eaten raw and lose their flavors when cooked. Thus bitter gourds taste bitter when taken raw, when cooked its bitterness reduced by half, when deep fried they are slightly bitter, and when fried in low temperature for a long time bitterness can be totally eliminated.

Piquant Poriyal

It is really challenging to prepare piquant poriyal using mildly-sweet earthy-flavored beetroots. I tried various preparations with different ingredients to make beetroot poriyal more palatable, eventually I found that sauteing beet root along with garlic in coconut oil adds a burst of flavor and also adding pepper & coconut aids to spice up the sweet beetroots. I have also added nicely fluffed up yellow lentils along with deep red beetroot chunks for adding beautiful color and delicious texture.

bpr7 Piquant Poriyal

Cauliflower peas masala

If I feel exuberant and joyful I would like to please my palate with a delectable meal, and on the other hand when I feel anxious and stressed I would like to cook an elaborate meal as it succors to shift my focus of attention in a positive manner. In either case, my family gets benefited by enjoying a palatable meal meticulously prepared by me.

Faux Mutton Biryani

Born into a family of vegetarians I am totally clueless about the flavors of meat of any kind and hence I used to wonder what makes people to have cravings for meat. So I have been looking for vegetable substitutes for meat, and then started trying out the most popular meat-based recipes like biryani, kebab, kurma, etc. using those vegetable substitutes.

White Pumpkin Juice

Spiritual leaders in India used to stress the importance of including white pumpkin in our diet regularly as it is considered Saatvik (meaning ethical, pure & vital) conducive for practicing yoga & meditation. Food plays an important role in achieving deep meditation because each food generates different effects on different parts of our brain. Saatvik food is recommended to calm the mind and to experience meditation.

Fermented rice

Pazhaya sadam (fermented rice) is a classic version of overnight oats popular in the west. It has been the staple food for working class here in India, but this humble meal is in vogue even among elites in the recent times. This is mainly because people prefer to take simple nourishing meal over a lavish meal followed by a number of pills of different shapes & colors.

Mixed Fruit Juice

My father never missed to treat me with a glass of delicious mixed fruit juice whenever he took me out for shopping during my childhood days. I still remember how I relished this refreshing drink particularly during hot sunny days. This fruit juice can be enjoyed by chewing but not by sipping through a straw as it was served neither diluted like juice nor concentrated as smoothie. My father always preferred to take fresh mixed fruit juice without ice & sugar, hence I got motivated to prepare fruit juice without ice (or ice cream) and to use unprocessed sugar in place of refined sugar. My father also made us to realize that taking the food made of assorted fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, or lentils is essential for children’s growth as it prevents vitamin deficiency.

Cottonseed milk dessert

Cottonseed milk is the traditional vegan milk used by the people in the villages near Madurai, my home town, for making nutritious desserts. As a part of my college education, I served as an NSS (National Service Scheme) volunteer. We used to camp in the surrounding villages during summer vacation to understand the living conditions of the people and also help them improve their standard of living. We were always greeted with a glass of delicious cottonseed milk dessert in almost every household in those villages. Normally they used to grind large quantity of cottonseeds everyday and used as a fodder feed particularly to milking cows. Apparently cottonseed milk is beneficial to lactating mothers as well. Besides it is useful to everyone during summer to keep the body cool.

Miraculous Drink

Few years ago I had a serendipitous encounter with an amazing fruit kudampuli while I was looking for a gut-friendly substitute for tamarind used in south Indian cuisine. Kudampuli (Garcinia Cambogia or malabar tamarind) is a rich source of an interesting chemical compound hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA is well known to western medicine for its astounding property to convert food into energy and also hinder the accumulation of fat in our body. Thus HCA extracted from Garcinia Cambogia is mostly used in the manufacture of weight loss supplements and they are recommended to treat obese particularly diabetics.

Veppampoo Pachadi

We normally celebrate every new beginning with sweets, but we follow a tradition of serving sumptuous meal consisting of 6 tastes viz., sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, salt & pungent on our New Year usually celebrated on the 14th of April. This tradition is being followed in our society to encourage us to embrace each season of a year. So we never miss to include bitter neem flower pachadi to our elaborate lunch meal specially prepared on the occasion of Chithirai Vishu every year.

Anna Payasam

Whenever I heard the word payasam, I was visualizing jaggery payasam (made using rice & lentil) aka anna payasam during my childhood days. It was a delicious staple dessert prepared in our family whether to treat our guests, or ourselves on our birthdays/ festivals, or simply to offer to deities at home on Fridays. However we gradually switched to other payasam made of rice adai, vermicelli (semiya), tapioca pearls (javvarisi), jackfruits, etc.  Nevertheless we still follow the tradition of feeding the traditional anna payasam to babies in front of the deities at home or in a temple when solid foods are introduced to them for the first time.

Neem flower rasam

As a child I hated few things imposed by my grandparents during our visit every summer. It was disgusting to find all our clothes reeked of bitter neem oil as they were washed using neem detergents. We also disliked to gobble up extremely bitter balls made of neem leaves paste forcibly given by our grandmother. But now I have been yearning for such eco-friendly chemical-free detergents suitable for my washing machine, and also I feel guilty to give de-worming tablet to my son as I am unable to persuade him to take the home-made herbal substitute available plentiful around us. Nevertheless I feel contented that I can prepare delicious soup using neem flowers that possess almost same properties as that of neem leaves.

Mango Pickle

Our traditional method of making pickles using raw mangoes, amla, lemon, etc. is a time-consuming process as these vegetables are left in the mixture of oil, spices & salt for fermentation for few days and hence a longer shelf life. But I like to make instant pickles that can be consumed immediately and has limited shelf life, besides I like to relish melt-in-mouth mango pickle unlike the conventional one made al dente.