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.
Paruthi paal is a cottonseed milk dessert popular in the villages near Madurai, my home town. People, esp. the villagers, prepare a nutritious dessert using cottonseed milk, a traditional vegan milk. 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 paruthi paal in almost every household in those villages. Normally they used to grind a 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. Others consume this dessert during summer to keep them cool.
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.
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.
Kofta is a soft potato dumpling, and we serve these golden koftas soaked in delectable curry greatly enjoyed by the children and also others who are not accustomed to the heat of red chilli. In this recipe I have used ginger to make the gravy spicy and used red chilli powder mainly for the color & flavor. However you can add more red chilli powder to suit your palate.
Bajji are nothing but the fritters common in every cuisine. Generally crispy fritters are prepared using the batter made of corn starch & all purpose flour. But we, South Indians, prepare fluffy fritters by deep frying the slices of locally grown vegetables dipped into the batter using Bengal gram (chickpea). Nevertheless people with sensitive stomach prefer to avoid taking these fritters as gram flour causes flatulence & indigestion. So I have added powdered ajwain (omam seeds) that are commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat stomach ache, indigestion, gastritis & flatulence. Besides, I have replaced baking soda with dosa batter that aids in digestion of gram flour and is useful to make the fritters fluffy. I have also added little ghee into the batter for the delicious aroma.
Porivilangai is a South Indian laddu made using pan-roasted rice & palm jaggery. Our grandmother never missed to prepare these traditional laddus every year for the Deepavali festival that falls in October or November. My aunts used to store those delightful laddus for about 6 months till our visit during summer. In those days these flavorful porivilangai were made into hard orange-sized balls but now I have made small soft laddus that can be stored only for few days. You can also check out the recipe for a similar laddu called Neivilangai made using lentil flour.
Nei kadalai is one of my favorite childhood snacks that I relished along with wheat halwa. It brings me back fond memories associated with this delicious savory as our family get-togethers were incomplete without spicy crunchy flavorful nei kadalai and soft gelatinous wheat halwa. I still cherish all those happy moments with my father when he brought me nei kadalai and Tirunelveli halwa.
Ulundham Paruppu Sadham (Blackgram rice) is a unique rice dish popular in Tirunelveli and surrounding regions and this rice is typically served with ellu thuvaiyal for lunch. We usually serve this nutritious meal to young girls during their cycle every month and also to pregnant women as blackgram is beneficial to strengthen their hip bones. Nevertheless it can be served to kids, men & old people alike.
Panang kizhangu (Palmyra sprout) is popular among south Indians & Sri Lankans. We usually steam the palmyra sprouts, pound them when dried, and relish the pounded palmyra sprout as a savory snack. Sri Lankans boil these sprouts, dry them, make into a flour and use the flour to make sweet puttu, koozh or add into some non-veg curries as a thickening agent.
Generally children prefer to take stir-fried vegetables like poriyal or varuval, and they give least importance to the steamed or boiled vegetables like kootu. So we can encourage them to take kootu by making it spicy and flavourful. Here I have shared chettinad style masala kootu liked even by the kids who refuse to take vegetables. This is one of our favorite kootu recipes, so I would like to prepare masala kootu with the vegetables like cabbages, native melons & gourds that are not liked by my family.
Thuvaram paruppu sadam (rice with split pigeon peas) is a traditional flavorful one-pot meal popular in Tirunelveli. I like to prepare our favorite thuvaram paruppu sadam for lunch on a lazy weekend as it does not require much of a planning. It is so delightful when we pour coconut oil lavishly over the rice and relish with crunchy appalam & vadagam.
According to people living in Tirunelveli kichadi is a side dish for idli or dosa prepared with vegetables, but for others kichadi is a main dish using whole grains and/or lentils. Kathirikai kichadi (brinjal/ eggplant gothsu) is one of our favourite accompaniments for idli & dosa. It is a very unique gothsu with spicy and tangy flavors. We usually prepare this delicious side dish for breakfast on Sundays.
Adai (mixed lentils crepe) is a traditional protein-rich dosa prepared using rice and assorted lentils. Kara adai is a complete meal when served with aviyal as adai is made of assorted lentils & aviyal with medley of vegetables. Hence we can serve adai aviyal frequently to kids & old people to prevent the vitamin & mineral deficiency.
I prefer to make my dinner light, so I try to reduce oil as much as possible while cooking as it helps to reduce the load on liver. I also prefer to make foods that are rich in protein using beans or lentils for dinner. Hence I find my chickpeas gravy (chana masala) ideal as it is prepared with boiled chickpeas, that are easily digestible and also rich in protein, using little or no oil.
Mushroom pepper fry is a simple recipe with quite a few ingredients. So I prefer to prepare this dish than any other mushroom recipes as I can serve these stir fried mushrooms with rice or with roti. We can also stuff this inside dosa or between sandwiches. It goes well with sambar, rasam, or particularly with mor-kuzhambu for lunch.