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 now available in every supermarket. 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. 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 boast to sell the “original” hummus. Since there is no hummus available with Indian flavors, I have tried spicy green hummus & red hummus that suit our palates.
We celebrate a plethora of festivals continuously between August & November every year. Every festival is celebrated distinctively in various regions across India. It is quite astonishing to find how the cuisine, culture, and customs vary from one region to other. Kosambari is a traditional lentil salad popular in South India (particularly in Andhra, Karnataka and some parts of Tamilnadu) with little variations. This salad is offered to deities in this festive season and also served to guests at the wedding banquets or festive gatherings.
It is a common practice that 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 and we usually finish them all in a couple of days, but the milk sweets 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 feel that it is our greed to use cow’s milk, and hence we have no right to waste milk or milk products. So I always look for efficient ways of using left-over milk, curd or milk sweets, and I find carrot halwa as the most delectable transformation of milk sweets.
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.
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.
When the larger population of the world prefers to preserve their bountiful seasonal fruits, vegetables & other fresh produce by freeze-drying them, Indians prefer to sun-drying their fresh herbs, berries & spices. Indians have been using sun-dried (dehydrated) produce 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 kulambu, a traditional South Indian curry, using sun-dried vegetables, berries, or fruits and serve with rice as shown below.
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.
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.
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.
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 was upset with my cousins or siblings I used to run to one of those houses and spend endless hours there watching them making appalam while enjoying their warmth & the 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.
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) everyday, and they taste delicious when served particularly with spongy idli/ dosa. Nowadays we don’t prepare this chutney often, and we prefer to make a quick watery 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.
It was quite captivating to see an array of flavorful creamy curries in green, red, orange & yellow colors when we dined at a restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. Hence I brought back Thai herbs & spices used for making those curries and prepared vegetable curries. I was extremely delighted that I could manage to bring out the similar flavor, texture and also the perfect color.
Cassava (yucca/ manioc) plants are widely grown in India as their roots are used for culinary purposes & leaves for their medicinal properties. These gluten-free tubers are known as maravalli kizhangu in northern districts of Tamilnadu & yezhilai kizhangu (meaning seven leaves) in southern districts.Since they are available in plenty during Nov-Dec, I have been making cassava poriyal often for lunch and also serve as an evening snack.
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.
Kofta is a soft potato dumpling soaked in mildly spiced delectable curry, and it is greatly enjoyed by children and others who are not accustomed to the heat of red chilli. In this recipe ginger is used to make the gravy spicy and red chilli powder is added mainly for the color & flavor, however red chilli powder may be added little more according to our palate.
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.
As bland white cabbage has always been my family’s bête noire, I find vibrant purple cabbage/ red cabbage the best alternate, and I have prepared cabbage poriyal using purple cabbage and served with radish sambar as below.
Mushroom masala is a healthy and also a hearty dish that can be sandwiched between toasted bread slices or served as a side for rice & roti. Since I have spiced mushroom masala up with pepper & ginger and avoided using chillies, it can be served to people who can not bear the heat of chilli particularly to kids.
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.