It is a new year and a new decade, and I begin to ponder about the ancient Indian philosophy that advocates the exemplary qualities for individuals that are still relevant even in this decade. Our ancient scriptures proposed a rajasic way of life for kings (as the protector of people) and a sattvic way of life for commoners. It may lead to an undesired outcome if a king adopts sattvic methods or the commoners follow rajasic practices. The rajasic qualities are tenacious, self-driven, energetic & trendy, whereas the sattvic qualities are natural, pure, calm, creative & virtuous.
We celebrate a plethora of festivals 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 within our country. 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.
Ever since the humble beetroot juice emerged as an indispensable dietary supplement for the elite Olympic medalists and accordingly attained the special status of a superfood, the benefits of taking this juice became more evident to the general public. Nowadays, beauticians recommend taking a glass of beetroot juice daily in the morning for glowing skin. Dietitians consider this juice as an excellent liver detox, and fitness trainers suggest it for endurance. Cardiologists & pulmonologists prescribe plain beetroot juice for building a healthy heart & lungs. It is all due to a magic ingredient, nitrate, found plentifully in beetroots.
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.
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.
The stuffed capsicum (bell peppers) laid into spicy creamy gravy (curry sauce) has always been a crowd-pleaser at every family gatherings or children’s birthday parties. So we can impress our guests or kids by serving delicious curry with stuffed capsicum garnished with grated cottage cheese (or Mozzarella cheese) along with pulao (mildly spiced rice dish) and Indian breads like roti, naan, etc.
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.
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.
Biryani is a medley of rice, vegetables (or meat) & spices popular in India, Srilanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries in south Asia & central Asia. Traditionally biryani is cooked over hot coal in a sealed cooking pot allowing the aroma of spices permeated into both the vegetables (or meat) & rice. This method of cooking in low heat is known as “Dum” process. Now I have prepared Paneer Dum biryani over stove top, but we can also cook dum biryani using slow cooker, or bake it in the oven.
Paruppu usili (vegetable lentil crumble) is one of the most popular south Indian side dishes served along with rice & kuzhambu. We can also serve this dish as a mid-morning snack to weight watchers, or pack it for school children. It makes them feel full and it contains protein, fiber, vitamins & minerals required for an active mind & body.