Hummus, an ancient Arabic appetizer, is now available in every supermarket as it took the western world by storm a few decades ago. 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. Unfortunately there is no Indian brand for hummus with Indian flavors, so 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ashoka halwa is a protein-rich sweetmeat usually prepared during festivals or special occasions. Ashoka halwa is also offered to deities as neivedyam and served as prasadam particularly for Navarathri. It is one of my favorite sweets for its beautiful silky texture and the sweet aroma, and I find this as the best alternate for kesari. So I like to prepare this often and serve for the breakfast on any special occasion.
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.
It is a bizarre phenomenon that some of the vegetarians here, particularly elders, do not like the strong flavor of fennel seeds and they avoid taking the foods spiced with fennel seeds even in restaurants. But I like its sweet flavor and I usually add them into spicy vegetable kurma & paruppu vadai (lentil patties) for the delicious flavor. Masal vadai are prepared by deep frying lentil dough and served as a snack along with coconut chutney.
Generally vegetable fritters are prepared using the batter made of cornstarch & all purpose flour but we, South Indians, use chickpea (Bengal gram) flour for the batter and prepare fritters using the locally grown vegetables. Nevertheless people with sensitive stomach used to avoid taking these fritters as gram flour causes flatulence & indigestion. So I have added powdered ajwain (omam seeds) that are commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stomach ache, indigestion, gastritis & flatulence. I have replaced baking soda with dosa batter that aids in digestion of gram flour and is useful to make the fritters fluffy. I have also added little ghee into the batter for the delicious aroma.
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 pungent garlic-tomato dip (instead of pickle) & refreshing onion raita.
Panang kizhangu (Palmyra sprout) is popular among south Indians & Sri Lankans. We usually steam the palmyra sprouts, pound them when dried, and relish the pounded palmyra sprout as a savory snack. Sri Lankans boil these sprouts, dry them, make into a flour and use the flour to make sweet puttu, koozh or add into some non-veg curries as a thickening agent.
Medhu vadai or ulundha vadai is a gluten-free savoury doughnut prepared using black lentils (urad dal). Any feast or festival in South India is incomplete without serving soft medhu vadai of crispy golden skin. Nevertheless medhu vadai is a commonly prepared evening snack in our family particularly during monsoon.
Vazhaipoo Vadai or banana flower patties are delectable patties with crispy skin and soft flesh. Banana flowers can be included into our diet in the forms of patties (vadai), stir-fry (poriyal), coconut curry (kootu), lentil crumble (paruppu usili), soup & salad. Banana flower patties are gluten-free snacks prepared using banana flowers & yellow peas.
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.
Aama vadai (deep fried lentil patties) are one of the popular South Indian Deepavali snacks. Traditionally aama vadai is prepared without adding spices like fennel, cumin, garlic, etc. particularly on Deepavali, and they were kept soaked in a bowl of creamy curd (yogurt) and served as Thayir Vadai next day.
Since rava upma is the easiest meal prepared with commonly available ingredients, it is being served often for breakfast or dinner in most of the south Indian families. Hence people especially children get bored of taking rava upma, but we can make this simple meal interesting, healthier & tastier just by adding a handful of fresh green peas. Rava upma with peas can be enjoyed the most when served warm in the evening particularly during monsoon.