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, 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).
It is the peak of 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.
Basil seeds (sabja seeds) are one of the most sought-after summer ingredients in Asia. According to Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), basil seeds are useful to lower the heat of our body. So it is a good idea to add basil seeds into our diet during summer to keep us cool & hydrated. This summer I have baked a loaf of egg-free banana bread using soaked basil seeds as a substitute for the egg.
Women of all virtues are regarded as goddesses in our society even today, we could find 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 Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. Our prime minister, a devotee of goddess Durga, inducted a righteous woman into his cabinet of ministers as the national defence minister. We could also find several references in our ancient literature that stress the need for the respect of women in unequivocal terms.
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.
It is quite hard to find someone who finds samosa unappetizing. Samosa is a scrumptious tea-time snack with chewy flavorful filling enclosed by crispy thin layers of pastry. Typically samosa is prepared by deep frying pastry sheets stuffed with spicy vegetables or minced meat. Lately, I switch to baked vegetable samosa as deep fried ones have always been my guilt pleasures.
There were plenty of healthy snacks like boiled peanuts & Palmyra sprouts, roasted corncobs, and locally grown fresh berries & fruits sold in our school canteen. We relished them as much as the deep-fried snacks like puffs, samosa, chips, or sugary snacks like candies, chocolates, ice cream, ice pops, etc. during intervals or at the time of dispersal.
I am grateful to the creator of the well renowned TV series, The Popeye show, for motivating my son, a picky eater, to have a liking for an insipid spinach even at his tender age. Though he did not like to take spinach with rice, he enjoyed taking plain spinach just like his hero, the great Popeye, gobbled it up! This cartoon show successfully conveyed a profound theory, “we are what we eat”, even to the kids. Thus it made my job easier to convey the importance of taking wholesome food.
Actually, I am not a soup enthusiast as I remember taking soups when I fell sick during my childhood days. Besides, it is a hot & humid climate almost 75% of the days here, so I would like to take hot vegetable soup only during winter or monsoon. 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 and healthy meal that can be prepared with little efforts.
We grew up relishing sweet fruity beetroot pachadi served in every wedding feast, it was an unforgettable experience for us to relish the beautiful reddish-purple puree infused with the flavors of native fruits. Nowadays, this traditional fruit dessert has not been included in the menu prepared for the feasts, and beetroot jam is replaced by vanilla ice cream with fruit salad.
Generally I prefer to bake moist spongy cakes and drizzle them with honey, fruit juice, or chocolate syrup before serving, and they are healthier guilt-free cakes than the ones served with buttery sugary frosting available in the bakery or restaurants. Now I have baked a spongy cake using cornmeal & wholewheat flour glazed with jackfruit pulp dotted with cucumber seeds.
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 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.
It is a bizarre phenomenon that some of the vegetarians here, particularly elders, avoid taking the foods spiced with fennel seeds. They do not like to use them in their recipes as they feel these spices are meant to go with meat based recipes only. Nevertheless we all like its sweet flavor and I like to add it into spicy vegetable kurma & paruppu vadai (lentil patties) for the strong flavor. I like to relish hot masala vadai & creamy coconut chutney along with a cup of cardamom tea on a rainy day.
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 a bottle of left-over Nutella kept unused for some days, I badly wanted to use it up in one shot and hence I decided to bake an eggless Nutella cake. Although the idea of combining chocolate & banana together is not liked by some, it worked wonders for me, and I was extremely delighted with the outcome of luscious cake with moist texture & tender crumbs.
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.
Porivilangai is a South Indian laddu made using pan-roasted rice & palm jaggery. Our grandmother never missed to prepare these traditional laddus every year for the Deepavali festival that falls in October or November. My aunts used to store those delightful laddus for about 6 months till our visit during summer. In those days these flavorful porivilangai were made into hard orange-sized balls but now I have made small soft laddus that can be stored only for few days. You can also check out the recipe for a similar laddu called Neivilangai made using lentil flour.
Aloo paratha, an Indian bread stuffed with spicy potato, is a hearty meal that can be packed for children’s lunch box. We can serve hot aloo paratha for breakfast or dinner along with spicy garlic-tomato dip (instead of pickle) & refreshing onion raita.
Panna Cotta is a creamy Italian dessert similar to custard generally 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.
I have been planning to bake a mango cake in this summer, but I could not keep a few separately for baking as they were usually devoured in a couple of days. Now my mother sent me the last batch of organic mangoes that were plucked from the trees grown in her backyard when the fruit bearing season of mango is almost nearing an end.
Being a vegetarian I like to use walnuts as much as possible as these are quite a few of plant based sources of omega-3 fatty acid. It has always been challenging to prepare a recipe using these slightly bitter nuts, now I have baked an eggless walnut Bundt cake using banana & toasted walnuts as they compliment each other, sweet bananas suppress the bitterness of walnuts and also they both add a delicious flavor & texture to the cake.
Nei kadalai is one of my favorite childhood snacks that I relished along with wheat halwa. It brings me back fond memories associated with this delicious savory as our family get-togethers were incomplete without spicy crunchy flavorful nei kadalai and soft gelatinous wheat halwa. I still cherish all those happy moments with my father when he brought me nei kadalai and Tirunelveli halwa.
Hot sunny days always remind me the summer vacations spent during my childhood days indulging in ice pops (Popsicle) like paal-ice, semiya ice, javvarisi ice, thengai ice, pazha ice, panchamirtha ice, etc. Indian popsicles are so flavourful that we could find delicious chunks of native fruits like mango, grated coconut, chopped nuts, slimy tapioca pearls or smooth vermicelli while relishing chilled pops. Nowadays it is hard to find ice pops with Indian flavours, those milky ice pops are replaced by creamy ice cream, chocolate sticks, etc.