Rice flakes is a traditional breakfast cereal consumed in almost every part of India. Earlier my grandmother used to make upma using freshly beaten rice flakes, but we, as children, liked to snack on aval (rice flakes) along with milk & sugar in the same way cornflakes, an American counterpart, is typically devoured. Rice flakes is generally used as the substitute for rice or other grains for making snacks, sweets, desserts, and many other dishes. However I prefer to make delicious red poha often for breakfast as it is a light but a hearty meal, and poha is a popular Maharashtrian dish prepared with plenty of onion (kande pohe), or with boiled potato (batata pohe), or garnished with grated coconut (dadpe pohe).
A long time ago I read through an eye-opening piece of information published in almost all the newspapers & magazines about the special menu meticulously planned by the top chefs to ease the tension during the talks between Indian premier & Pakistan president at Agra summit in 2001. It made me to realize for the first time that the food we ingest not only nourishes our body but also influences our mind, mood, or thoughts as well. It also struck me that it is possible to tame the tantrums played by kids, or to channel the teens’ minds to set their goals by serving mind-calming foods. Apparently every mother could play a crucial role for the physical, mental & emotional well being of her children by serving appropriate food to fulfill their needs.
Dumplings are not only traditional but also universal, they are ubiquitous in almost every cultural cuisine in various forms be it boiled, baked, steamed or fried. Chinese dim sum, Italian ravioli, Nepalese yomari, Jamaican fried dumplings, Polish potato plum dumplings, British herb dumplings, American apple dumplings, etc. are some of the old-fashioned adorable dumplings that still delight the gourmets across the globe. Susiyam, Munthiri kothu & Bonda are the traditional dumplings prepared in my family for Deepavali festival.
Vada pav is similar to American burger, here we use a pull-apart pav bread stuffed with spicy potato dumpling instead of patties. It is a popular street food in Mumbai, anyone traveling to Mumbai won’t like to return home before relishing the street foods like vada pav, pav bhaji, paani puri, 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 indelibly joyful moments of any mother would be watching her children enjoying 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.
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.
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.
Aloo paratha, an Indian bread stuffed with spicy potato, is a hearty meal that can be packed for children’s lunch box. We can serve hot aloo paratha for breakfast or dinner along with spicy garlic-tomato dip (instead of pickle) & refreshing onion raita.
Aadi Perukku is a festival of fertility & prosperity being celebrated in South India for over 500 years. The 14th century Sangam Tamil literature, Paripadal, described the celebration of this festival elaborately. It gives us a glimpse of how our ancestors celebrated this festival and also how they revered the Mother Nature in those days. It is quite enthralling to read those old verses mentioning about the rivers passing through our neighbourhood. You may read those Sangam Tamil verses here.