Before the colonial rule our ancestors used to serve classic refreshments like Ayurvedic lemonade (panakam), buttermilk, spiced-milk, elixir, etc. to their guests. Later it became a tradition to serve beverages like tea or coffee to our guests. Nowadays tea breaks have become the order of a day in every institution across India. Every conversation, whether an important official discussion or a trivial gossip, begins with a sip of refreshing cardamom ginger tea or masala chai. Apparently tea shops turn out to be a place for making friends, discussing international, national and local news and also a place for finding solutions for social issues.
Bisi bele bath was a specialty dish prepared in the kitchen of Mysore palace a few centuries ago, and it is still a popular rice dish in Karnataka. It is a hearty meal prepared by stewing rice, lentils & vegetables along with a spice powder in tamarind juice just like sambar sadam, or kadamba sadam or kootanchoru, a counterpart in Tamil cuisine. This Karnataka specialty dish is made flavourful by adding fresh peanuts along with other vegetables, a unique flavorful spice powder made with the distinctly aromatic Marati moggu (kapok bud) as the star ingredient, and also by adding the spices tempered in ghee. It is divine when a spicy Bisi bele bath is served hot (as the name [bisi means hot] suggests) & viscid and hence the perfect meal for cold winter nights.
Horse gram crops are usually grown in drought-hit parts of India particularly in South India, and both the beans & hay are used as fodder mainly for horses. Since horse gram is considered a nutritional powerhouse, it is normally recommended for workmen or sportsmen who involve themselves in physically challenging activities, but for others, it may be consumed in small quantities. So I used to make horse gram idli or dosa when my son actively participates in sports, and I also like to include horse gram into our diet during winter or monsoon as it is useful to keep our body warm in this season.
Spinach curry is one of the most popular Indian curries not only for Indians but also for the people across the globe. It is a traditional winter curry prepared using leafy greens & cottage cheese (paneer). Spinach curry with paneer is commonly prepared using palak (Indian spinach), whereas saag paneer is prepared using mustard leaves. Here I have prepared spinach curry with the South Indian spinach namely Amaranth leaves (mulai keerai). Actually it is as delicious as palak paneer and creamier than palak paneer.
It is a common practice that 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 and we usually finish them all in a couple of days, but the milk sweets 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 feel that it is our greed to use cow’s milk, and hence 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.
According to ancient Indian medicine systems Siddha and Ayurveda, tamarind fruits have numerous healing powers. Nowadays, nutritionists recommend to boil the vegetables in tamarind juice instead of plain water to prevent the loss of nutrients, but we have been practising the same for generations. Tamarind is a quintessential ingredient of the traditional south Indian curries like sambar, rasam, or kuzhambu. Besides, we also make pungent tamarind soup (puli thanni) and sweet tamarind juice (panakam) specially on the day of fasting. Obviously, tamarind juice & tamarind soup have excellent detoxifying property and hence they aid in weight loss also.
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.
Dal is the most popular dish served with Indian breads like roti, naan, or pulav. The simple dal can be devoured as a hot lentil soup on a cold winter night. Nevertheless, we can make this simple dal more flavorful by adding tadka (tempering), more nourishing by adding assorted lentils, or rich & creamy by adding ghee and/or fresh cream. Dal Tadka is a hearty lentil curry flavored with ghee-roasted cumin seeds & red chillies. We can prepare this easily with commonly available ingredients in no time.
Chukku malli kaapi is a classic South Indian digestive elixir prepared using dried ginger & other spices, herbs and palm jaggery. Siddha and Ayurveda recommend to take fresh ginger in an empty stomach in the morning & dried ginger later in the night for the improved digestion. So we usually take fresh ginger juice or ginger jam (lehium) before breakfast & dried ginger classic elixir after dinner. Besides, we can serve the same elixir as a home remedy for common cough, cold & sore throat after infusing it with appropriate medicinal herbs & spices.
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. So we can add these herbs into our diet during winter or monsoon. Here I have prepared thoothuvali chutney that can be used often for breakfast.
Rasam is a traditional South Indian soup served with rice. Earlier rasam was known as milagu thannee (literally meaning pepper water). During the colonial period this recipe was tweaked a little and known as mulligatawny soup. Even today, every south Indian finds this soup as a comfort food, and our lunch is incomplete without taking rasam. We prepare a different varieties of rasam using various spices, fruits, and lentils. Lemon rasam is one of the easiest rasam recipes and also one of the most delicious rasams.
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.