Onions & bitter gourds (bitter melons/ Balsam pears) share a similarity. They both have strong flavors when taken raw, but they lose their flavors when cooked. Onions have strong pungency but they turn mildly sweet when stir fried. Likewise, bitter gourds are bitter when taken raw, its bitterness is reduced by half when cooked, it is mildly bitter when deep fried in hot oil, and the bitterness can be totally eliminated when stir fried at low temperature for a long time. It is actually a myth that bitter gourds are always bitter. So we can prepare delicious dishes using these nutritious melons. Here I have prepared stir-fried balsam pear liked even by the kids.
It is really challenging to prepare piquant poriyal using mildly sweet earthy-flavored beetroots. I tried various beetroot poriyal recipes by adding different ingredients to mask the sweet flavor and make it more palatable. Incidentally, I found that we can add a burst of flavor by sauteing beetroot along with garlic in coconut oil and spicing it up by adding pepper. I have also added nicely fluffed up yellow lentils along with deep red beetroot chunks for adding beautiful color and delicious texture.
It is really challenging for every mother to cook vegetables that don’t have distinct flavor. Yard long beans (karamani) is one such insipid vegetable full of nourishments compared to the commonly used green beans. So it is hard to ignore the properties of these native beans and include tender green beans often instead of fibrous long beans. Now I have prepared a delicious poriyal using native beans commonly known as yard long beans or pachai karamani.
Indian medicine systems recommend all the ingredients that have an astringent flavor such as banana blossoms (vazhaipoo), pomegranate, red gram (toor dal), Indian blackberry (naval pazham), etc. for women’s health as they keep our uterus strong & healthy. Consuming cooked banana blossom with curd or yoghurt is believed to be one of the most efficient ways of treating excessive bleeding during menstruation as it increases the level of progesterone. So it a good practice to serve vazhaipoo paruppu usili (lentil crumble) with yoghurt curry (mor-kuzhambu).
Since moringa trees (murungai maram) are primarily grown for their seed pods (drumsticks), moringa flowers (murungai poo) are hardly available in the market. So we prepare murungai poo poriyal in small quantity exclusively for a lactating mother in our family. We need to cook the buds & young white blossoms gently, so we can use them in salad, soup, or use them as garnishes for a curry. Nevertheless, we don’t recommend women to take these nourishing flowers during pregnancy as it may lead to miscarriage.
Cassava (yucca/ manioc) plants are widely grown in India. The roots (tapioca root) are used for culinary purposes & the leaves for medicinal properties. These roots are known as maravalli kizhangu in the northern districts of Tamilnadu & yezhilai kizhangu (meaning seven leaves) in southern districts. We prepare cassava root poriyal and serve this either as a salad or as a side dish for rice.
Since bland white cabbage has always been my family’s bête noire, I find vibrant purple cabbage/ red cabbage the best alternate. So I have prepared cabbage poriyal using purple cabbage and served with radish sambar as below.
Mushroom pepper fry is a simple recipe with quite a few ingredients. So I prefer to prepare this dish than any other mushroom recipes as I can serve these stir fried mushrooms with rice or with roti. We can also stuff this inside dosa or between sandwiches. It goes well with sambar, rasam, or particularly with mor-kuzhambu for lunch.