This savoury wholewheat Herbed Patty Pan Squash Tomato Tart was made almost by chance. The secret ingredients from my partner Shobha Keshwani for the Facebook group Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge for the August ‘baked dish’ theme were flour and pumpkin or squash and I had planned to bake pumpkin muffins with chocolate chips. (more…)
I fell in foodie love with these pretty pale green Patty Pan Squash when I visited the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City last week. I paired them with green capsicum in a Patty Pan Squash Mint Soup, and added mint and fresh orange juice for flavour and cumin and pepper powder for a touch of spice. Lovely purple edible hyacinth flowers again from the Greenmarket made a colourful garnish. (more…)
This recipe has appeared first on the blog Tangy Tales when fellow Food Blogger Aparna Parinam asked if I would do a Guest Post on her blog. I had been experimenting with different rasams, all using my homemade rasam powder, and looking at the fresh sliced pineapples on sale at my local grocers, I thought it high time I made the Festive Pineapple Rasam. (more…)
Cooking with cherries is fun. They look gorgeous, taste delicious (you can’t help popping a few into the mouth as you make the preparations, can you?) and manage to appear exotic all while being easy to work with. Except of course for pitting the cherries, which is not a happy task, though I can think of worse things to do (like prepping banana flowers for a traditional South Indian curry). The Fresh Cherry Mint Chutney was worth the little effort needed to pit the cherries, with its sweet and tangy taste and the light flavour of the orange coming through. (more…)
A foodie’s happiest times are when the berries are all around in abundance, gorgeously coloured: sapphire blueberries, startling pink strawberries, ruby red cherries, like jewels waiting to be snatched off the shelves in the grocery store or the farmers market. Deep red cherries are the hero of this so easy to make Cherry Compote Yogurt Parfait with Granola. It won me lots of brownie points at home. (more…)
I have been admiring these lovely fresh cherries that I don’t readily get in India (and when I do, only at astronomical prices) and trying to think of a suitable recipe to showcase their sweetness. This easy homemade cherry compote was just asking to be made, and it is so versatile, I’m going to be using it everywhere. Drizzle it on a pancake, slather it onto bread for a sandwich, spread it on a fruit pizza, spoon it on to ice-cream, have it with yogurt – or just eat it straight from the bowl, the possibilities are many. (more…)
Though the heat of the summer has been blistering, making it difficult to enter the kitchen, yet the season has its compensations. Bright green raw mangoes can be turned into so many tasty recipes, each being quick and easy to make. Raw Mango Rice or Mangai Sadam is a favourite with its sharp and tangy flavours. (more…)
It is Sri Rama Navami today and as I sat with my mother yesterday, I asked her for the recipes for the traditional dishes she always made for this festival. The Hindu festival of Rama Navami is in April when summer is just beginning (though this year summer has shown its force since February) and the festive feast seems to be tailor made for the hot weather. Every item is cooling and refreshing. Panakam or Panagam is a traditional item in the food prepared on this day, and is easy to make.
A glass (or two) of chilled panakam is great for quenching thirst. With the flavours of cardamom, dry ginger (sukku) in the jaggery water, it is tempting to drink this throughout the day, and then to make it again and again on these hot and humid days. You might like to read this interesting article I came across, in The Hindu on the health benefits of this ‘cool energy drink’.
I have made the Panakam just according to my mother’s recipe, however as an option, lemon juice could be added – about 1 tablespoon for 1.5 cups of panakam. Pepper corns may be powdered and added to, to give its distinctive flavours – about 1/4 teaspoon of pepper for 1.5 cups of the panakam. A pinch of edible camphor would enhance the flavours, but take care to use just a little as the taste can be overpowering.
Rama Navami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of Sri Ram, the 7th avatar of the God Vishnu. When we were growing up, at Kharagpur in West Bengal, it was an occasion for all of my parents friends to gather together and cook and enjoy the grand lunch. The thirst quenchers were the panakam and the neer mor (spiced buttermilk), and another cooling salad was the one with cucumber and moong dhal, with green chilli and coriander leaves. There would be a kheer or payasam, a sambar and tasty vegetables, rasam of course, by the gallon, and fried papads. My father and Ravikumar’s father, Manian uncle would make their famous Badam Kheer instead of a standard payasam. All in all the food that day was a feast for the Gods, though it was we mortals who tucked into it with gusto.
The house would have been scrubbed and cleaned all over the previous day. Mango leaves would be strung across the main entrance, and early in the morning, my mother would wash the area outside the front door and lay out wonderful designs called kolam or moggu with rice powder. I would do my small bit, adding dots wherever they were required. The house would be fragrant with the scent of flowers and incense and all the aromas from the kitchen.
Here is my recipe then for the easy to make panakam. I hope you enjoy making and having it!
Really easy, delicious and healthy Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with Chia Seeds – takes less than 5 minutes to put together and goes with most salads. Specially good with salad greens such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens and other large leaved greens which are slightly bitter to the taste. I like the Strawberry poppyseed dressing best with Dandelion greens, as the sweet and tart taste of the dressing offsets the bitterness of the dandelion leaves. The mustard paste tones down the sweetness of the strawberries and honey.
Link to the recipe for a Dandelion Greens, Mango and Couscous Salad on this blog: https://www.pepperonpizza.com/salad-dandelion-greens-couscous-recipe
Origin and History:
Strawberries have been known since Roman times and are said to have been first cultivated in Brittany, France in the 18th century and then in the later half of the 18th century as a cross breed between a North American and a Chilean variety. They are grown in most parts of the world and numerous varieties of the plant exist. BBC GoodFood says that in 1714, a French engineer commissioned to Chile and Peru, observed that the strawberry native to those regions was much larger than those found in Europe. He decided to bring back a sample of this strawberry to cultivate in France. The end result was a large, juicy, sweet hybrid (the modern garden strawberry) that became extremely popular in Europe.
Wikipedia says that “The strawberry fruit was mentioned in ancient Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use. The French began taking the strawberry from the forest to their gardens for harvest in the 14th century. Charles V, France’s king from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden. In the early 15th century western European monks were using the wild strawberry in their illuminated manuscripts. The strawberry is found in Italian, Flemish, and German art, and in English miniatures. The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses……The combination of strawberries and cream was created by Thomas Wolsey in the court of King Henry VIII.”
Wikipedia says that Strawberries can be taken fresh, or frozen, made into jams, preserves, or dried and used in prepared foods, such as cereal bars. Strawberries and strawberry flavorings are a popular addition to dairy products, such as strawberry- flavored milk, strawberry ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies and yogurts. Strawberries and cream is a popular dessert during the British summer, famously consumed at the Wimbledon tennis tournament. In Sweden, strawberries are a traditional dessert served on Midsummer Eve. In some countries, strawberry pies, strawberry rhubarb pies, or strawberry shortcake are also popular. In Greece, strawberries are sprinkled with sugar and then dipped in Metaxa, a famous brandy, and served as a dessert. In Italy, strawberries have been used for various desserts and as a popular flavoring for gelato.
One of the best tasting strawberry jams I have had is from a tea plantation in Southern India, where the jam has whole strawberries which melt in your mouth. I have also enjoyed a morning of strawberry picking with my granddaughter Tamma, at Connecticut.
The recipe below for the Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing is an easy one and enhances the flavours of several leafy salads. The dressing should be used when fresh and chilled before serving. Not only does it look and taste good but has several health and nutrient benefits.
Health and Nutrition:
Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamins C and K as well as being rich in fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium as well as having lesser quantities of other vitamins. Strawberries are known to have been used throughout history as a medicine for digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations. Their fibre and fructose content may help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion and the fibre is thought to have a satiating effect. Leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea. Certain studies have suggested that strawberry consumption may have beneficial effects in humans such as lowering blood LDL cholesterol levels, total cholesterol, reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and decreasing the spike in blood sugar after high sugar meals and the spike in blood cholesterol seen after high-fat meals
Strawberries contain significant amounts of phytonutrients and flavanoids which gives them their bright red colour. The vibrant red is due to large amounts of anthocyanidin, which also means they contain powerful antioxidants and are thought to protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.
Poppy seeds or khus khus as they are known in India, were used as a condiment in cooking, since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. Through the Arab traders, opium cultivation spread to Persia, ancient Khorasan, and India. Today, seeds of poppy is a well established commercial crop in many parts of the world including Czech Republic, Germany, Turkey, France, India, and East European region. However, poppy seeds are nutritious oilseeds and though they are obtained from the dry pods of the opium poppy, they are considered very safe to use as food and contain negligible quantities of toxic alkaloids of the opium poppy. In fact, these chemicals have been found to have beneficial effects as they soothe nervous irritability, act as painkillers and in many traditional medicines are used in the preparations of cough mixtures, expectorants, etc.
Poppy seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that found to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties. Their unique nutty aromatic flavor is due to fatty acids and essential volatile oils, which comprise about 50% of their net weight. The seeds are especially rich in oleic and linoleic acids which help lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood. The outer husk of the seed is a good source of dietary fiber. Poppy seeds are an excellent source of B-complex vitamins as well as minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.
Chia seeds belong to the mint family and are native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. Wikipedia says that the 16th century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times and economic historians say it may have been as important as maize as a food crop. It was given as an annual tribute by the people to the Rulers in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. Ground or whole chia seeds are still used in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, and Guatemala for nutritious drinks and food.
Chia seeds are usually added to other foods as a topping or in smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, and bread. Chia seed (tokhm-e-sharbatī, meaning “beverage seed”) is used to prepare a sharbat in Iran. The gel from ground seeds may be used to replace the egg content in cakes while providing other nutrients, and is a common substitute in vegan baking.
Though research is still ongoing, Chia seeds are considered to have several important nutrients. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to raise the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and are a rich source of thiamine and niacin, and a moderate source of riboflavin and folate. They have high amounts of the dietary minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
Even small quantities of Poppy seeds and chia seeds can give nutritional benefits, and the quantities suggested in this recipe for Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing can contribute to good health.
Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing – Kitchen Tips
1.Use the best quality ingredients when selecting the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey, to get the full flavours of this delicious salad dressing.
2. Check that the poppy seeds are fresh, otherwise they will affect the taste of the dressing.
3. Check the strawberries for bruises or for grey patches in the skin, cut them out before you make the strawberry poppyseed dressing.
For a variation, make the Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing with garlic instead of chia seeds (or add garlic as an additional ingredient) and substitute White vinegar for the Balsamic.
A recent visit (my first) to First Agro Farms at Talakkad near Mysore, was a day well spent walking through fields of greens and vegetables all grown without the use of pesticides. It was an enriching experience – but more about that, coming up, in My Diary. This post is about the fresh thyme we saw at the farm and the recipe for Lemon Thyme Rasam that I promised to post, for Priya, who was one of the other visitors that day.
Rasam is a regular part of the meal at any South Indian household, served with rice and usually a dry curry and appalams. It is gaining popularity in other parts of India as a form of Soup, rather than with rice and curry. There are many versions/ varieties of Rasam, all of them tasty. The addition of fresh herbs such as coriander and curry leaves to this Lemon Thyme Rasam enhances the taste and adds to the health quotient.
This one though, is a twist on the regular rasam – a LemonThyme Rasam. Purists may find the idea unappealing, so I will just say, don’t knock it till you have tried it! Apart from the flavour added by the thyme, the added nutrients and disease fighting properties are worth looking into. Thyme has many uses in medicine, eg as a diuretic, a stimulant for the appetite, to bring down stress, as a germ killer in mouthwashes, etc.
You may want to reduce the quantity of thyme added to the Lemon Thyme rasam – I have suggested 1 tablespoon for 3 cups of water, however you could first try with half a tablespoon and then add more depending on how strong you want the thyme flavours to be.
Thyme is a herb with several properties which aid in good health. Thyme contains flavonoid phenolic antioxidants like zea-xanthin, lutein, pigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin and the fresh leaves have high antioxidant levels. Packed with minerals and vitamins thyme leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium, as well as a rich source of vitamins such as B-complex, beta carotene, vitamin-A, vitamin-K, vitamin-E, vitamin-C, and folic acid. Thyme also has vitamin B-6 or pyridoxine; pyridoxine keeps up GABA (beneficial neurotransmitter in the brain) levels in the brain which has a role as stress buster.
Thyme, like most herbs, has been in use since ancient times. The Romans treated melancholy with thyme, while it was popular with the Greeks in incense as well as being a symbol of elegance and courage. With origins in the Mediterranean area, the cultivation of thyme has spread across the world and was brought to North America by the first colonists and used both as a food preservative and as a medicinal herb. Thyme was also grown in European monasteries in the Middle Ages, for use in cough medicines and as a digestive aid.
Though the herb is said to have no known side effects, like any other food, thyme should be consumed in moderation, specially during pregnancy. Which means, during pregnancy it is better to use it as as seasoning, sprinkle it in soups and stews and on meat, but not steeped in teas etc.
The Lemon Thyme Rasam from this recipe uses fresh thyme (zero pesticide of course, you all know that I am lucky enough to buy all my fresh produce from First Agro Farms). The thyme leaves should be stripped from the tough stems. They tend to scatter, so I always keep a clean large bowl to catch the leaves as I remove them from the stems. However dry thyme can be substituted if fresh is not available, though the quantity should be reduced to 1/2 a tablespoon instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh leaves.
Thyme has a strong, pleasant aroma. Just making the Lemon Thyme rasam gives me a feeling of euphoria and well being. An unusual ingredient to add in a traditional item such as rasam, but the thyme does take it to another level. Being good for alleviating coughs and sore throats, it may be added to the pepper (millagu) rasam which a favourite when one is feeling under the weather. A dash of lemon juice at the end, and this quick and easy dish is ready!
You may like to try these other Rasam Recipes on the blog:
Festive Pineapple Rasam
Easy Tomato Rasam