Idli

Idli, an ancient South Indian delicacy, is now gaining popularity all over the world as a gut-friendly breakfast. Various studies conducted by renowned institutions across the globe state in unison that idli is one of the best breakfasts. Idli is a soft spongy steamed cake made using naturally fermented rice & lentil batter, and it is the most common breakfast in South India.

Idli-dosa batter

At the mere sight of a canister filled with idli-dosa batter inside my refrigerator I feel totally relaxed as it helps my meal planning easier. With this multi-purpose batter I can make simple podi dosa when I feel lazy, or treat ourselves with a sumptuous feast, or give a traditional twist to overcome our meal monotony. It is needless to say that this batter is the quintessential stock inside the refrigerator in every South Indian’s home across the globe.

Pongal in pot

Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated in Tamilnadu by worshiping Sun & earth to express our gratitude for the entire year’s harvests. On this day we still follow the traditional method of cooking rice in brass, stainless steel or earthen pots. We decorate the Pongal Paanai (pot) with kolam drawn using rice flour & turmeric powder and tie the ginger or turmeric sprouts around its neck. Pongal means boiling over, it signifies prosperity & abundance, and hence it is considered auspicious to have boiled over while cooking pongal. We use Pongal paanai rather than electric cooker or pressure cooker as spilling over happens only when cooking pongal in pot.

Kadamba Sambar

Kadamba sambar is a traditional flavorful South Indian curry prepared with assorted (kadambam) vegetables & tubers usually served with rice. It is popularly known as idi sambar (meaning pounded sambar) in Tirunelveli & Kanyakumari regions, as the spice powder was earlier prepared by pounding in a large stone mortar (ural) using a 3-feet long metal-tipped wooden pestle (ulakkai).

Tapioca Pearls Payasam

Indians usually celebrate every new beginning by distributing sweet boondi laddu. We follow a tradition of serving sweet boondi to our guests to celebrate the arrival of a new born in our family.  I usually make a payasam during every festival and special occasions. On this New Year I follow the same tradition of serving tapioca pearls payasam garnished with sweet boondhi (chickpea flour pearls) to my family.

Vazhaipoo paruppu usili

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).

Murungai poo poriyal

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.

Ketti Chutney

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) every day. It tastes delicious when served with spongy idli/ dosa. Nowadays we don’t prepare this chutney often, and we prefer to make a simple coconut chutney that does not require any tempering.

Dal Tadka

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.

Masal vadai

Masala Vadai

It is a bizarre phenomenon that some of the vegetarians here, particularly elders, avoid taking the foods spiced with fennel seeds. They do not like to use them in their recipes as they feel these spices are meant to go with meat based recipes only. Nevertheless we all like its sweet flavor and I like to add it into spicy vegetable kurma & paruppu vadai (lentil patties) for the strong flavor. I like to relish hot masala vadai & creamy coconut chutney along with a cup of cardamom tea on a rainy day.

Yellow Curry

It was quite captivating to see an array of flavorful creamy curries in green, red, orange & yellow colors when we dined at a restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. Hence I brought back Thai herbs & spices used for making those curries and prepared vegetable curries. I was extremely delighted that I could manage to bring out the similar flavor, texture and also the perfect color. But now I have prepared an yellow curry with Indian flavor using the locally available ingredients.

Classic Elixir – Chukku malli kaapi

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.

Cassava root Poriyal

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.

Thoothuvalai Chutney

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.

Eggless Nutella Cake

When I noticed a bottle of left-over Nutella kept unused for some days, I badly wanted to use it up in one shot and hence I decided to bake an eggless Nutella cake. Although the idea of combining chocolate & banana together is not liked by some, it worked wonders for me, and I was extremely delighted with the outcome of luscious cake with moist texture & tender crumbs.

Sodhi with Inji Pachadi

Sodhi is an exotic Sri Lankan curry prepared with lentils and vegetables stewed in coconut milk. Although sodhi is not a spicy curry, it has grown popular among the people living in & around Tirunelveli who usually enjoy spicy curries. The banana leaf platter served at our family wedding feasts is a lavish spread of creamy sodhi, pungent inji pachadi, spicy potato fries, crunchy appalam, scrumptious coconut milk dessert (payasam), sweet boondhi and fresh curd  as shown below. Wedding in our family is usually hosted by bride’s family. However bride’s family is treated with a sumptuous meal (maruveetu sappadu) with sodhi the day after marriage, and it is a unique custom prevalent here to signify the confluence of both the families.

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