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).
It is a new year and a new decade, I begin to ponder about the ancient Indian philosophy that advocates exemplary ways of life for individuals that are still relevant even in this decade. Our ancient scriptures proposed a rajasik way of life for kings (being the protector of people) and sathvik way of life for commoners. The rajasik qualities are strong, tenacious, self-driven, egocentric, energetic & trendy, whereas the sathvik qualities are natural, pure, calm, creative & virtuous.
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.
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.
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.
Reading Panchangam (an almanac prepared based on Indian calendar system) is an age-old custom followed every year on the day of Tamil New Year celebrated in the middle of April. A few centuries ago royal priests were summoned to read a new Panchangam in the king’s court mentioning important dates of the year and also foretelling the calamities like flood, war, etc. Even today every TV channel telecasts the speech rendered by astrologers predicting the next prime minister, rain fall, gold price, etc. that are of great interest to all walks of life .
Generally 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. We usually finish them all in a couple of days except the milk sweets, they 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 believe it is our greed that we use cow’s milk and on top of that 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.
Women of all virtues are regarded as goddesses in our society even today, it is a common sight in some families here that 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 goddess Lakshmi who brings in prosperity. Even our prime minister, a devotee of goddess Durga, inducted a righteous woman into his cabinet of ministers as the national defence minister. Ironically we could find several references in our ancient literature which stress the need for the respect of women in unequivocal terms. Thiruvalluvar, an enlightened sage lived in 300 BC, wrote about the eternity of values to be followed by kings, men & women in all walks of life in Tamil (the oldest language in the world) and compiled Thirukkural, the greatest Tamil literary masterpiece known till today. Interestingly he did not miss to highlight the women power in his classic text 2000 years ago as below:
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.
I am thankful to the creator of The Popeye show for motivating my son, a picky eater, to have a liking for insipid spinach even at his tender age. This cartoon show made my job easier to convey the importance of taking wholesome food and also made a small kid to understand a profound theory, “we are what we eat”. He did not like to take spinach with rice when he was a kid, instead he enjoyed taking plain spinach just like the great Popeye did.
It is a common practice in the most parts of the world that people preserve bountiful seasonal fruits and vegetables by freeze-drying them in a freezer and use them all through the year. But on the contrary we, Indians living in a tropical climate, preserve them by drying under the sun as it shines here almost all the days of a year. Sun-dried (dehydrated) products have been used by us for both culinary and medicinal purposes for over 1000 years. Even the medicines recommended by Ayurveda, Siddha, or other Indian medicine systems have been traditionally formulated by sun-dried herbs or fresh herbs; fresh herbs are mainly used for external applications, or for making decoctions, etc., whereas dried herbs are used for making powders and tablets (chooranam).
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.
I feel sorry for the children today that they are not able to savor our traditional beetroot relish as we did during our childhood days. It was a delightful experience for the kids to relish the beautiful reddish-purple beetroot puree infused with delicious flavors of native fruits served in the wedding feasts. Beetroot sweet pachadi, the most popular fruit dessert, was usually featured in every feast until few years ago. Nowadays vanilla ice cream with fruit salad takes precedence over this traditional fruit dessert.
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.
Since moringa trees are primarily grown for their seed pods (drumsticks), moringa flowers are hardly available in the market. So we prepare poriyal in small quantity exclusively for a lactating mother in our family. It is preferred to cook buds & young white blossoms gently and use them in salad, soup, or curry. Please beware that it is not recommended to take moringa flowers during pregnancy as it may lead to miscarriage.
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.
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.
Hot, sweet & sour pineapple rasam can be reveled as a comforting soup on a rainy day or winter nights. Usually south Indian rasam is prepared with tomato or lemon but pineapple works wonders as it elevates the flavor of rasam to a whole new level. You may also refer the recipes of lemon rasam & rasa vadai posted in here.
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.
Aadi Perukku is a festival of fertility & prosperity celebrated in south India for over 500 years. It was mentioned in Sangam Tamil literature, Paripadal, written in the 14th century about the celebration of this festival.
Chitrannam is a platter of different rice varieties usually prepared on the day of Aadi perukku ie. 18th day of Aadi month in Tamil calendar. It is believed that whatever we do on that day would grow manifold, so farmers used to sow their seeds expecting a good yield, businessmen venture into new business, and people in every walk of life eager to start something new.
Panchamirtham is a sacred fruit salad that we offer to deities at home and is also used for abishegam (bathing deities) in temples. The renowned Palani panchamirtham made using bananas that are exclusively grown near Palani hills is offered to Lord Muruga in Palani temple. You can check this video to see how panchamirtham abishegam is performed to the deity.
I like to take a bowl of fresh fruit salad for my lunch whenever I don’t feel like cooking an elaborate meal. I also don’t feel like missing my meal because of mint leaves & chaat masala, the star ingredients used in here. So anyone who wants to reduce the in-take of carbs can try this salad as it satiates one’s hunger. Besides we can serve this delicious fruit salad to children who refuse to take fruits, as they like the flavor of chaat masala.
Citrus fruits are beneficial to boost our immunity, energy and also our mood and they aid in detoxification & digestion, this was the main reason that lemon rice was earlier prepared & packed for short travels. So even today we can pack this traditional rice dish for children’s lunch box as it helps to keep them active & energetic all through the day.