Before the colonial rule our ancestors used to serve classic refreshments like Ayurvedic lemonade (panakam), buttermilk, spiced-milk, elixir, etc. to their guests. Later it became a tradition to serve beverages like tea or coffee to our guests. Nowadays tea breaks have become the order of a day in every institution across India. Every conversation, whether an important official discussion or a trivial gossip, begins with a sip of refreshing cardamom ginger tea or masala chai. Apparently tea shops turn out to be a place for making friends, discussing international, national and local news and also a place for finding solutions for social issues.
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 red 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).
Hummus, an ancient Arabic appetizer, took the western world by storm a few decades ago and is also available in stores across India. Traditional hummus is nothing but the creamy blend of chickpeas & sesame seeds. Now there are different flavors of hummus available in the market to satisfy the ever growing demands of consumers across the world. Nevertheless, it is hard to find the hummus with local flavors, and I have tried spicy hummus with the burst of flavors that suit our palates.
Greens curry is one of the most favorite Indian curries not only for Indians but also for the people across the globe. It is a traditional winter curry prepared using different leafy greens & cottage cheese (paneer). Palak paneer is the most commonly prepared curry using palak (spinach) all over India, and saag paneer is prepared using mustard leaves popular mainly in Odisha, West Bengal, Kashmir & Punjab. Here I have prepared this curry with the locally grown Amaranth leaves (mulai keerai).
Despite the fact that peanuts can cause ama (indigestion), my father, an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, encouraged us to snack on peanuts even at a young age mainly for 3 reasons: Peanuts are the only legumes that 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; it is possible to rid of ama while taking peanuts. Raw peanuts and roasted peanuts cause ama but not the steamed peanuts, so we can avoid taking raw peanuts altogether. Instead, we can take roasted peanuts along with jaggery, some spices, or herbs that aid in getting rid of ama. Here I have prepared a peanut butter using jaggery and added it into my mug cake.
According to ancient Indian medicine systems Siddha and Ayurveda, tamarind fruits have numerous healing powers. Nowadays, nutritionists recommend to boil the vegetables in tamarind juice instead of plain water to prevent the loss of nutrients, but we have been practising the same for generations. Tamarind is a quintessential ingredient of the traditional south Indian curries like sambar, rasam, or kuzhambu. Besides, we also make pungent tamarind soup (puli thanni) and sweet tamarind juice (panakam) specially on the day of fasting. Obviously, tamarind juice & tamarind soup have excellent detoxifying property and hence they aid in weight loss also.
The larger population of the world generally prefers to preserve their bountiful seasonal fruits, vegetables & other fresh produce by freeze-drying them. But we, Indians, prefer to sun-drying our fresh herbs, berries & spices. We have been using sun-dried (dehydrated) ingredients for culinary and medicinal purposes for over 1000 years. Ayurveda, Siddha, and other Indian medicine systems prescribe medicines prepared using sun-dried herbs or fresh herbs. We use dried herbs for making powders & tablets (chooranam) and fresh herbs for external applications, or for making decoctions, etc. We also prepare delicious vatha kuzhambu, a traditional South Indian kuzhambu, using sun-dried vegetables, berries, or fruits and serve with rice.
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. 🙂 Here I have prepared cauliflower peas masala, rajma curry, mushroom pulao, chapathi, and gulab jamun for dinner.
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. Earlier I used fleshy soy meat for making biryani. Lately, I came to know that raw jackfruit is a better substitute than textured soya for its fibrous meat-like texture and mildly sweet flavour, and I have tried jackfruit biryani.
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.
I feel it is more beneficial to take cornmeal than cornflakes for breakfast, so I prefer to make gluten-free cornmeal puttu and protein-rich green gram sundal for breakfast. Puttu is usually prepared using rice flour, but you may refer the table below to find out how cornmeal serves good for making puttu.
I have been receiving complimentary reviews from unexpected people who are away from homeland for their studies or jobs preparing their meal themselves by looking at videos or by reading recipes and I thank all those visitors for their support & feedback. Now I am posting a multi-purpose one-pot recipe ideally suitable for such busy bees who are unable to spend much time for cooking.
Appalam making is a leading cottage industry prevalent in my maternal grandfather’s village. As a kid I was completely awestruck watching women & girls in our neighbourhood kneading mountainous dough, rolling appalam at lightning speed, and stacking dried appalam like a tower. Whenever I felt bored I used to run to one of those houses. I spent endless hours there watching them making appalam and enjoying their warmth & their food. During my mother’s recent visit there, they fondly remembered my childhood favorite appala-poo and prepared them along with appalam specially for me, even though they are not into this business currently.
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 crepe generally prepared for breakfast or dinner. It can be prepared thin & crispy (paper roast) or soft & spongy (uttapam). Although there are numerous varieties of dosa prepared in South India, masala dosa is the most popular dosa as savory potato filling is stuffed inside the crispy dosa.
Idli with ketti chutney is a popular street food among bachelors who miss their home-cooked food for breakfast. Both my grandmothers prepared ketti chutney (meaning thick chutney) every day. It tastes delicious when served with spongy idli/ dosa. Nowadays we don’t prepare this chutney often, and we prefer to make a simple coconut chutney that does not require any tempering.
Dal Tadka is a simple but a hearty lentil curry flavored with fried cumin seeds & red chillies. It is the most popular dish served with roti, naan, or pulav, and it can be prepared easily with commonly available ingredients in no time. Dal can be made spicy by adding the tadka (tempering) or rich by preparing the tadka in ghee. Without tadka this dal can be devoured as a hot lentil soup on a cold winter night.
Biryani is a medley of rice, vegetables (or meat) & spices popular in India, Srilanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries in south Asia & central Asia. Traditionally biryani is cooked over hot coal in a sealed cooking pot allowing the aroma of spices permeated into the vegetables (or meat) & rice. This method of cooking in low heat is known as “Dum” process. Now I have prepared Paneer Dum biryani in this process over stove top, nowadays dum biryani is also prepared using slow cooker, or baked in the oven.
Hot, sweet & sour rasam can be revelled as a comforting soup on a rainy day or winter nights. Usually south Indian rasam is prepared with tomato or lemon and also using dried neem flowers for Tamil New Year. But adding pineapple into rasam makes such a humble dish even more palatable as it lends a pleasant sweet & sour flavour.
Peas pulao is a simple but delicious and aromatic rice dish. It is so captivating to see the rice dish dotted with green peas, and hence it can be served to the guests at the family gatherings.
We serve Chitrannam, a platter of rice dishes, as a lunch meal for the Aadi Perukku festival that we celebrate on the 18th day of the Aadi month of the Tamil calendar. Traditionally, we prepare tamarind rice (puliyodharai), lemon rice (elumichai sadam), coconut rice (thengai sadam), and sweet Pongal (Sarkarai Pongal). You can also check out my traditional chitrannam recipes here. Nevertheless, I prefer my chitrannam platter to be colorful and flavorful. So I have prepared spicy red tomato rice, aromatic green mint rice, nutty brown sesame rice, sweet yellow candied rice, and creamy white curd rice. Besides, they are easy to prepare with commonly available ingredients and we can even pack these rice dishes for children’s lunch boxes.
Thuvaram paruppu sadam (rice with split pigeon peas) is a traditional flavorful one-pot meal popular in Tirunelveli. I like to prepare our favorite thuvaram paruppu sadam for lunch on a lazy weekend as it does not require much of a planning. It is so delightful when we pour coconut oil lavishly over the rice and relish with crunchy appalam & vadagam.
Millet noodles is a delicious gluten-free meal that can be prepared in a jiffy using instant ragi noodles. Finger millets (ragi) can be included into the children, women and also old people’s diet as they are rich in calcium and iron. Iron is fully absorbed by our body only in the presence of Vitamin C. So it is a good practice to add the ingredients rich in Vitamin C like tomatoes, bell peppers (kudamilagai), lemon juice, etc. into a recipe using ragi millets. Here I have used tomatoes & bell peppers into my ragi idiyappam, and we can also add a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.
Citrus fruits are beneficial to boost our immunity, energy and also our mood and they aid in detoxification & digestion, this was the main reason that lemon rice was earlier prepared & packed for short travels. So even today we can pack this traditional rice dish for children’s lunch box as it helps to keep them active & energetic all through the day.
I prefer to make my dinner light, so I try to reduce oil as much as possible while cooking as it helps to reduce the load on liver. I also prefer to make foods that are rich in protein using beans or lentils for dinner. Hence I find my chickpeas gravy (chana masala) ideal as it is prepared with boiled chickpeas, that are easily digestible and also rich in protein, using little or no oil.