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.
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.
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.
If I feel exuberant and joyful I would like to please my palate with a delectable meal, and on the other hand when I feel anxious and stressed I would like to cook an elaborate meal as it succors to shift my focus of attention in a positive manner. In either case, my family gets benefited by enjoying a palatable meal meticulously prepared by me. 🙂 Here I have prepared cauliflower peas masala, rajma curry, mushroom pulao, chapathi, and gulab jamun for dinner.
Born into a family of vegetarians I am totally clueless about the flavors of meat of any kind and hence I used to wonder what makes people to have cravings for meat. So I have been looking for vegetable substitutes for meat, and then started trying out the most popular meat-based recipes like biryani, kebab, kurma, etc. using those vegetable substitutes. Earlier I used fleshy soy meat for making biryani. Lately, I came to know that raw jackfruit is a better substitute than textured soya for its fibrous meat-like texture and mildly sweet flavour, and I have tried jackfruit biryani.
Spiritual leaders in India used to stress the importance of including white pumpkin into our diet regularly as it is considered Saatvik (meaning ethical, pure & vital) conducive for practicing yoga & meditation. Food plays an important role in achieving deep meditation because each food generates different effects on different parts of our brain. Saatvik food, esp. white pumpkin juice, is recommended to calm the mind and to experience meditation.
Pazhaya sadam (fermented rice) is a classic version of overnight oats popular in the west. It has been the staple food for working class here in India, but this humble meal is in vogue even among elites in the recent times. This is mainly because people prefer to take simple nourishing meal over a lavish meal followed by a number of pills of different shapes & colors.
My father never missed to treat me with a glass of delicious mixed fruit juice whenever he took me out for shopping during my childhood days. I still remember how I relished this refreshing drink particularly during hot sunny days. This fruit juice can be enjoyed by chewing but not by sipping through a straw as it was served neither diluted like juice nor concentrated as smoothie. My father always preferred to take fresh mixed fruit juice without ice & sugar, hence I got motivated to prepare fruit juice without ice (or ice cream) and to use unprocessed sugar in place of refined sugar. My father also made us to realize that taking the food made of assorted fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, or lentils is essential for children’s growth as it prevents vitamin deficiency.
Generally I prefer to bake moist spongy cakes and drizzle them with honey, fruit juice, or chocolate syrup before serving, and they are healthier guilt-free cakes than the ones served with buttery sugary frosting available in the bakery or restaurants. Now I have baked a spongy cake using cornmeal & wholewheat flour glazed with jackfruit pulp dotted with cucumber seeds.
Cottonseed milk is the traditional vegan milk used by the people in the villages near Madurai, my home town, for making nutritious desserts. As a part of my college education, I served as an NSS (National Service Scheme) volunteer. We used to camp in the surrounding villages during summer vacation to understand the living conditions of the people and also help them improve their standard of living. We were always greeted with a glass of delicious cottonseed milk dessert in almost every household in those villages. Normally they used to grind large quantity of cottonseeds everyday and used as a fodder feed particularly to milking cows. Apparently cottonseed milk is beneficial to lactating mothers as well. Besides it is useful to everyone during summer to keep the body cool.
Few years ago I had a serendipitous encounter with an amazing fruit kudampuli while I was looking for a gut-friendly substitute for tamarind used in south Indian cuisine. Kudampuli (Garcinia Cambogia or malabar tamarind) is a rich source of an interesting chemical compound hydroxycitric acid (HCA). HCA is well known to the western medicine for its astounding property to convert food into energy and also hinder the accumulation of fat in our body. Thus HCA extracted from Garcinia Cambogia is mostly used in the manufacture of weight loss supplements. They are recommended to treat obese particularly diabetics.
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.
Generally, we prefer to welcome every new beginning with sweets, but we follow a unique tradition of preparing an elaborate meal of different flavours (arusuvai virudhu) on the occasion of Chithirai Vishu (New Year) celebrated on the 14th or 15th of April every year. It is actually an Ayurvedic tradition to stimulate all the parts of our palate by taking a nourishing meal of six flavours like sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, salt & pungent. This also encourages us to embrace each season, or every change in our life gracefully. So we never miss to include the bitter ingredient, neem flower that blooms plentifully in this season, into our New Year feast (Vishu sadhya). We prepare the traditional veppampoo pachadi, a confluence of all the six tastes, using neem flowers and many other ingredients.
Whenever I heard the word payasam, I was visualizing jaggery payasam (made using rice & lentil) aka anna payasam during my childhood days. It was a delicious staple dessert prepared in our family whether to treat our guests, or ourselves on our birthdays/ festivals, or simply to offer to deities at home on Fridays. However we gradually switched to other payasam made of rice adai, vermicelli (semiya), tapioca pearls (javvarisi), jackfruits, etc. Nevertheless we still follow the tradition of feeding the traditional anna payasam to babies in front of the deities at home or in a temple when solid foods are introduced to them for the first time.
As a child I hated few things imposed by my grandparents during our visit every summer. It was disgusting to find all our clothes reeked of bitter neem oil as they were washed using neem detergents. We also disliked to gobble up extremely bitter balls made of neem leaves paste forcibly given by our grandmother. But now I have been yearning for such eco-friendly chemical-free detergents suitable for my washing machine, and also I feel guilty to give de-worming tablet to my son as I am unable to persuade him to take the home-made herbal substitute available plentiful around us. Nevertheless I feel contented that I can prepare delicious soup using neem flowers that possess almost same properties as that of neem leaves.
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.
Generally, we prepare refreshing musk melon juice or milkshake by adding milk & sugar (or condensed milk). Ever since I realized the weight loss properties of musk melons I started including them in my diet as much as possible during the entire summer. Needless to say that calorie conscious people would prefer to take fresh musk melon salad than creamy milkshakes during this summer to enjoy its health benefits completely. So lets make melon ball fruit salad that will satiate our hunger as well.
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.
I have been receiving complimentary reviews from unexpected people who are away from homeland for their studies or jobs preparing their meal themselves by looking at videos or by reading recipes and I thank all those visitors for their support & feedback. Now I am posting a multi-purpose one-pot recipe ideally suitable for such busy bees who are unable to spend much time for cooking.
Nowadays drumstick (moringa) pods are grown abundantly in my mother’s garden, and she used to keep sending me a batch of these pods every now & then. But it has been boring to see these drumsticks (murungakkai) in our sambar, kuzhambu, kootu & poriyal on our plates every day. Nevertheless I don’t have the heart to waste these amazing fruits of a “miracle” tree considering their nutritive values and health benefits.
Turmeric rhizomes are inextricably intertwined with our culture & traditions. We perform all our religious rituals only in the presence of turmeric in the form of turmeric powder, kumkum, turmeric pillaiyar, or turmeric thread. We regard turmeric smeared thread as the sacred thread as our family ties are religiously acknowledged only by tying a sacred thread. Turmeric thread is usually tied around the wrist or neck (only for the wife) as a wedding ritual in the presence of priests, other elders and also in front of the deities. Women observe fasting on the day they get married until the sacred thread is tied around her neck. They also observe fasting on the day of Karadaiyan nombu, perform pooja after tying turmeric thread and end their fasting by taking karadaiyan nombu adai.
It is needless to say that the stuffed bell peppers laid into spicy creamy sauce is an absolute crowd-pleaser at every family gatherings or children’s birthday parties. So we can impress our guests or kids by serving delicious curry with colorful stuffed capsicum garnished with grated cottage cheese along with rice/ pulao, and any Indian bread like roti, naan, etc.
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.
Generally truffles are made of nuts, dry fruits and dark chocolate that are rich sources of vitamins, minerals & anti-oxidants; dark chocolate is good for healthy heart & brain. So truffles are not only delicious but nutritious treats that can be ideally prepared to gift our loved ones on any special occasion. These chocolate coated truffles act like protein-rich energy balls and may be packed as a mid-morning snack for school-going children.
Appalam making is a leading cottage industry prevalent in my maternal grandfather’s village. As a kid I was completely awestruck watching women & girls in our neighbourhood kneading mountainous dough, rolling appalam at lightning speed, and stacking dried appalam like a tower. Whenever I felt bored I used to run to one of those houses. I spent endless hours there watching them making appalam and enjoying their warmth & their food. During my mother’s recent visit there, they fondly remembered my childhood favorite appala-poo and prepared them along with appalam specially for me, even though they are not into this business currently.
Crispy Masala Dosa was the only Indian food appeared in the list of World’s Best 50 foods compiled based on the online poll conducted worldwide by CNN Travel in 2017. Dosa is a savory south Indian crepe generally prepared for breakfast or dinner. It can be prepared thin & crispy (paper roast) or soft & spongy (uttapam). Although there are numerous varieties of dosa prepared in South India, masala dosa is the most popular dosa as savory potato filling is stuffed inside the crispy dosa.