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.
The search for perfect curry powder began in my family when we caught the whiff of mouth-watering parotta salna (flaky flat breads with spicy curry) emanating from the “parotta shop” on our way back home from school. 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. It came handy to elevate my mother’s biryani, vegetable kurma, etc. to a whole new level. I still remember the aroma of this curry powder in her kitchen while preparing savoury dishes.
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.
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.
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.
Idli milagai podi is an indispensable condiment in every south Indian’s pantry. I find idli podi satisfying only when I feel the coarse grits inside my mouth, hence I prefer to use the gritty home-made podi over the powder-like store-bought idli podi. We use roasted rice for its sandy texture, roasted asafoetida & raw garlic for the wonderful aroma that brings everyone to the kitchen while grinding idli podi.
Indian gooseberries (amla) were mentioned in Sangam Tamil literature 2000 years ago for their anti-aging properties. The king Adhiyamaan of Chera dynasty was famous for his munificence and he was regarded as one of the kadaiyezhu vallal (meaning last seven patrons) in the history of Tamil monarchy. In those days amla was a scarcely available fruit and it was believed to have anti-aging properties to prolong one’s life. The king as a patron of literature offered such a rarest & precious nellikani (amla) to an old poetess Avvaiyar rather than partaking it by himself. Avvaiyar rendered beautiful verses after receiving amla praising the magnanimity of king Adhiyamaan (you may click here to read those lines).
We can prepare restaurant-style Green Chutney easily at home using mint leaves or coriander leaves. A pleasant green chutney with a burst of flavors will surely make anyone salivate. Hence we can also serve this as an appetizer for kids or sick people who refuse to take food. It is heavenly to take soft idli or crispy dosa along with green chutney, red chutney (tomato chutney), hkjhkhd white chutney (coconut chutney) & sambar for breakfast.
Horsegram or kollu is a humble yet power-packed bean with amazing health benefits. Generally horsegram is recommended by Ayurvedic practitioners for weight loss, to control cholesterol, treat jaundice & menstrual problems and also to keep us warm during winter. The best way to include horsegram into our diet is by adding a teaspoon of horse gram idli powder (kollu podi) into a cup of buttermilk as it helps to reduce the body heat generated by horse gram.
We take inji legiyam, a digestive jam, the day after Deepavali as we all enjoy a sumptuous feast consisting of sweets & savories during this festival. It is also known as Deepavali legiyam or Deepavali marundhu. A teaspoon of legiyam taken in the morning on an empty stomach helps improve the digestion. So we can take this legiyam after the feasts enjoyed during festivals or weddings. It is also beneficial to children or sick people to increase their appetite.
Vallarai keerai (Centella Asiatica) is an amazing herb used by Indian pharmacologists to prepare a food supplement to improve the memory beneficial to children who are preparing for competitive exams and also to old people suffering from diminished memory. Nevertheless it is better to include such fresh herbs into our diet rather than taking them in capsule form. So we can make vallarai thuvaiyal at home to enjoy its benefits naturally. I personally found a significance difference when vallarai keerai thuvaiyal was served frequently to my father and also to my son.
Every South Indian’s culinary journey begins with making simple coconut chutney because we all take this dish every day. Our breakfast platter is incomplete without the addition of creamy white chutney. We simply prepare coconut chutney by grinding fresh coconut meat & chillies and serve with most of the South Indian breakfast dishes.