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.
Saffron, one of the most expensive spices in the world, was used a few thousand years ago by Indian queens to decorate their forehead with motifs such as sun, moon, crescent moon, or star. It was ground into a paste along with ghee and used as kumkum, hence the name kumkum flower/ kunguma poo. This tradition of applying kumkum is still practiced by almost every Hindu woman even today. Nowadays we use turmeric powder instead of saffron for preparing kumkum powder, and we prepare a beverage, Saffron Latte, using saffron.
Sweet saffron rice (zarda pulao) is a Persian rice dish, and it was the most sought-after pulao among the royals during the Mughal era dated back to the 16th century. Noor Jahan, the multi-talented Mughal empress, devised new techniques to stain rice grains with edible dyes. Zarda pulao was made using such rice grains of various colors and it became so popular that it was served to the guests at royal weddings & banquets. The empress brought revolutionary changes in every art form. She designed dresses with silver or gold-threaded brocades, cutlery & crockery engraved with rubies & emeralds. She also commissioned magnificent buildings including a tomb for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg which was actually a draft of Taj Mahal.
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.
Ice apple pudding (nungu payasam) is a delightful dessert nowadays featured in the menu of premier restaurants here to treat the people with impeccable taste. Lately it is also served in the wedding banquets particularly in South India. Ice apple pudding is a creamy dreamy dessert with enticing flavors of saffron, cardamom and ice apple (nungu or palm fruits) considered as a perfect finish to a sumptuous feast. You may click here for my other payasam recipes.
Hot sunny days always remind me the summer vacations spent during my childhood days indulging in ice pops (Popsicle) like paal-ice, semiya ice, javvarisi ice, thengai ice, pazha ice, panchamirtha ice, etc. Indian popsicles are so flavourful that we could find delicious chunks of native fruits like mango, grated coconut, chopped nuts, slimy tapioca pearls or smooth vermicelli while relishing chilled pops. Nowadays it is hard to find ice pops with Indian flavours, those milky ice pops are replaced by creamy ice cream, chocolate sticks, etc.