Simple traditional food can be so tasty, and often is comfort food for most of us. This delicious Arbi ki kadhi is one such dish. I made it in the Chhattisgarh style, though there is probably little variation in the method followed in most regions of India. The kadhi takes very little time to make and needs just the basic ingredients you usually have at home. There’s very little prep to be done -boiling and peeling the colocasia/arbi is the main ‘task’, apart from slicing onions. After that it is just whipping the ingredients together and putting the kadhi to cook. Curry leaves and cumin add flavour to the kadhi.
Exploring the cuisine of each State in India by turn, is such an enriching experience. This Baingan Badi Sabzi, a delicious eggplant and lentil fritters curry from the traditional Bhojpuri cuisine prevalent in the Indian states of Bihar and UttarPradesh, is interesting to make and has ingredient options that make it nutritious too. The main ingredient is the brinjal or eggplant/ aubergine. This is accompanied by small sun dried badis which seems to have many names – wadi, wadiyan, mangodi etc. The basic ingredient for making a badi is flour – though the flour and spices, herbs to be added differ across regions. I have made a simple Bihari Urad dhal ki badi, with black gram lentils. The recipe is given in the instructions below.
Venturing further into North Eastern Cuisine, I made Assamese Aloo Pitika, the delicious Aloo Chokha look alike. Simple, very easy and with the mustard oil giving its unmistakable fragrance and its unique character to the dish, I can’t understand why I have not been using mustard oil more often in my kitchen. Its not that I am not used to cooking with mustard oil. In fact we regularly made aloo chokha aka mashed potatoes, with mustard oil and the stuffed red chillies from my husbands village in Eastern UP, and it would taste awesome.
This traditional stew from Arunachal Pradesh cuisine, Oying Vegetable Stew is simple, easy to make and delicious. There are just a handful of ingredients and no oil or spices are used. What makes the dish tasty is the freshness of the boiled vegetables and the flavours of the chilli and ginger. It healthy too, as well as vegan and gluten free.
This post is a detailed guide on how to soak fruits for Christmas Fruit cake. (I had first published it last year and am republishing with updated inputs.) The choice of fruits and the proportions in the recipe below are similar for soaking in alcohol or in an non alcoholic liquid, and I have given the steps for both types (the timelines for a non-alcoholic liquid are given at the end of the write up to the post). The timelines do differ, as well as how to preserve the fruits for the cake till it is baked.
If you do not want to soak the fruits ahead of time, I have given a short-cut method in the recipe for baking a Christmas Fruit cake.
This recipe for Uppu seedai from store bought flour is quite simple, if one follows the instructions meticulously. This is the first Krishna Jayanthi that I am spending with my daughter, son in law and granddaughter whom I am visiting in the USA. I am not good at making sweets, let me confess. Perhaps because I haven’t tried them out much. (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!
One more recipe in my series on Cooking for the New Mom. This one is a simple Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal or chutney, with ingredients suitable for a healthy balanced diet (pathiya samayal) during the 40 days immediately after delivery. In a traditional Tamil style Peerkangai Thogayal or Turai/ Ridge Gourd Peel chutney, red chillies and tuvar dhal would be added. However as both these are not advisable for a new mother, peppercorns and moong dhal (passi paruppu) are substituted. When properly made, the Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal is both tasty and nutritious.
Do check my post for Menu Ideas and for what goes into a Balanced Meal for the first 40 days after child birth, as well as Recipes for this diet in Cooking for the New Mom or Pathiya Samayal, my way. Cooking without adding onions, chillies, coconut etc and from only a small selection of vegetables considered healthy for this diet, is not easy, so I have tried to capture my experience in cooking for my daughters, in that post.
Check here for the recipe for a Peerkangai Thogayal or Thurai Chutney for a normal diet.
In this recipe for Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal, I have included a plant that is not commonly known in modern cooking though it was a traditional staple in many parts of India and has been known for its medicinal properties since ancient times. This is the Bone setter Plant or Pirandai (Tamil), also called the Adamant creeper or Devil’s Back Bone in English, and as Hadjot in Hindi, Mangaravalli in Kannada. From what I can see online, the Bone setter plant is nor generally seen in urban markets, but is found in vegetable shops as well as in kitchen gardens in rural Tamilnadu as well as in some places in Chennai and other cities. It should be available in other parts of the country too, as the plant is very sturdy and tenuous, does not require much maintenance.
I had known about the plant and its properties, specially its use since ancient times for healing fractures and injuries of the bone, much earlier and had forgotten all about it, until my cousin Srimathi (Seetha Anandam Vaidyam) gave me a cutting to plant at home at Hyderabad, saying it would be good to add to my daughter’s diet after her delivery. The simplest use of the plant is to snap off a piece of the tender stem and add it to the Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal that I am describing in this post. Do you see this cactusy looking plant to the right in the pic below? Thats the pirandai, curtsey Seetha, merrily growing in Mridula’s balcony at Hyderabad.
The Pirandai plant has numerous health benefits, however it is a medicinal plant and hence its consumption should be in moderation and should and with due information as to the effects of adding this plant to the diet.
The recipe below also explains how the stem is to be prepared for the thogayal. It is well worth the extra efforts to add the bone setter or pirandai stem to the recipe, because of its great medicinal benefits. I came across some a lot of information on this plant that you could check if interested, on the website called Wild Turmeric
Kitchen Hints for preparing Pirandai in Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal:
- Select only the new tender growth of stem. The stem grows at nodes, and the first two such digits are the most tender. The rest of the stem is more mature and can cause itchiness during handling. Sesame oil applied to the hands before plucking and while preparing it for the Pathiya Peerkangai Thogayal, would help avoid any itching. I have not personally faced this problem but as several articles online mention this, it is best to take this precaution.
- If using some of the older and tougher parts of the stem, wash the stems and peel away the sharp edges from top down.
- Add curry leaves and turmeric to the stem slices while sautéing, as in the recipe below, to get the best out of the stem and to avoid any possible itching.
As the Perandai plant is not readily accessible in most places, the addition of the stem to this recipe is optional. The proportions of the remaining ingredients need not change if you are omitting the bonesetter from the recipe. As I could not lay hands on it in Bangalore, I have made the version in the pictures below, without the perandai stem.
A childhood favourite, I loved the Paruppu Usili made by my Mom – she would make it with banana flower (vazhaipoo) or guar / cluster beans (kothavarangai). I had attempted to make the this curry once or twice but was not happy with the results. Now that my daughter Mridula wanted a recipe for an authentic paruppu usili, I decided to make it once more. This time I researched the various steps for making the curry. Meenakshi Ammal’s Samaithu Par or Cook and See cookbook, Vol 1, has the recipe for the Plantain Flower Dhal Paste Curry, and for the Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry. I have modified the recipe quite a bit, following what I recollected of the process my mother used.
The Paruppu Usili is a simple dry curry which goes well with a kuzhambu such as a vathal kuzhambu (which I prepared today for lunch) or with sambar, milagu kozhambu or mor kuzhambu. It tastes good with rasam too. In fact you can have this curry with just about any South Indian style gravy (kuzhambu or rasam) or with chappaties and dhal.
The Cook and See book suggests that the vegetable be cooked with water on the stove top. I prefer to steam the sliced vegetables. All you need is for the vegetables to be cooked well with a bite still remaining and not overcooked and soggy, and for the dhal paste to have the right consistency. Again, the cookbook does not suggest steaming the dhal paste, but I have seen my mother steaming it, and I preferred the dhal to be well cooked, so I have also steamed the dhal after grinding it to a paste.
Kitchen Tips for making Cluster beans Paruppu Usili:
- I saved time by steaming the cluster bean slices and the dhal paste in the steamer container in my pasta cooker. Both need about the same amount of time so this was convenient. You will need 10 minutes after the water begins to boil, for the vegetables to cook.
- An idli plate kept in the idli cooker/ pressure cooker, with adequate water for 10 minutes of steaming, and without the weight on the cooker lid, could be used. Alternatively, steam the paste and the vegetables on a plate fitted into a kadai or frying pan, again with sufficient water for steaming for about 10 minutes(from the time the water begins to boil).
- After steaming the dhal paste, allow it to cool and then crumble it with your hand, as it would have caked after steaming. Crumbling will help stir it nicely into the cooked vegetables and the tempering.
- This is a dry curry and moisture would impact the consistency and taste. Squeeze out any excess water from the cooked beans. Also, grind the dhal -chilli paste without adding water to it.
- Select young tender cluster beans as more mature ones tend to be stringy, fibrous and bitter.
Health & Nutrition benefits of Cluster Beans:
- The Cluster beans or Guar Beans are known to have various nutritional benefits: They contain potassium and folate and are said to be heart -healthy and improves cardio health; they are rich in water soluble dietary fibre which helps reduce blood cholesterol as well as improves digestion and reduces bowel complaints. They have a low glycemic index and hence are good to include in a diabetic diet.
- Cluster Beans are rich in vitamins such a Vitamin K, minerals such as calcium and phosphorous and hence can help strengthen bone health and teeth, as well as a soluble form of iron which is easy for the body to absorb. They are said to help maintain blood pressure. Low in calorific content carbohydrates, the cluster beans are a good source of folic acid for pregnant women.
- Cancer Fighting: Cluster beans have properties that attack and destroy free radicals in the body, and may be helpful in fighting Cancer.
- The plantain flower paruppu usili is very tasty, but the process of removing the stamen from each little flower and then slicing the sticky blossoms is a little time consuming. Making paruppu usili with cluster beans, French beans, snake gourd, raw plantain (raw banana) cabbage or yam, is easier and faster.
Lunch today is something I am looking forward to: kotavarangai paruppu usili, orange peel vathal kuzhambu (again my mother’s recipe) and hot rice with potato chips!
The paruppu usili tastes real good. Im wondering whether I can make a quesadilla with some of it. With a yogurt dip as an accompaniment. Will let you know how that goes!
Continuing the series of Pathiya Samayal Recipes or Recipes for the New Mom, Vegetable Koottu – easy to make, nutritious and very tasty – at least thats what Mridula says, and she should know – I’ve been making a vegetable koottu as part of lunch, several times a week during the Post Partum diet. The traditional koottu generally has coconut paste added to it, however for the Pathiya Samayal or food for the New mother, I don’t add coconut. And of course no chillies – in a regular koottu, fresh chilli would be ground along with the coconut, and a red chilli or two added to the tempering or tadka. Pepper is a good substitute for chilli in cooking for the new Mom.
Check my post for Menu Ideas and for what goes into a Balanced Meal for the first 40 days after child birth: Cooking for the New Mom Cooking without adding onions, chillies, coconut etc and from only a small selection of vegetables considered healthy for this diet, is not easy, so I have tried to capture my experience in cooking for my daughters, in that post.
The vegetable koottu is a South Indian dish, though I don’t know why it is not a Pan Indian one. Perhaps it is because it does not have garam masala and chilli powder s as an ingredient. Or perhaps it is a South Indian derivative of the ubiquitous Dal with vegetables added to the dal. Wikipedia says “Kootu (Tamil:கூட்டு) is a Tamil word means “add” i.e. vegetable added with lentils which form the dish, made of vegetable and lentils and are semi-solid in consistency, i.e., less aqueous than sambhar, but more so than dry curries.
The caregiver for the new mother is usually rushed for time in the mornings. As for me, I would go to bed only after planning the lunch menu for the next day. The maalish lady would come at 10 and the baby would demand my attention during the time her mother had the maalish and bath. It was ‘Me time’ for me and my granddaughter for an hour and a half, and I revelled in it. Lunch had to be ready therefore before 10 – a rasam, dal or kuzhambu, a vegetable koottu or a thogayal (vegetable chutney), a sautéed curry or poriyal.
I would wash rice and keep the cooker ready so that I could set the rice to cook 10 minutes before Mridula came for lunch. I like to serve food hot, so I would heat the rasam or kuzhambu just before serving, and fry the manathangali (manathakkali) or black nightshade berries in ghee. Here is a link to an interesting article I came across, on the health benefits of this ‘wonder berry’.
The vegetable koottu is an integral part of this menu as it is nutritious, adds the protein and vitamin component to the lunch, and tastes so good with either rasam or a kuzhambu/ sambar. The list of ingredients may seem long, but each little condiment or spice adds to the health of the new mother and helps give her a balanced meal or pathiya samayal. The Koottu may be served with chappaties instead of rice.
Vegetable Koottu – Selecting the Ingredients
When making Vegetable koottu, choose vegetables that are soft and quick to cook – snake gourd (podalankai), saag (arai keerai), pumpkin (either red or white) etc. Mridula’s favourite is the drumstick (murungakkai) koottu.
The best dal/ lentils for the new mom, during the 42 days after child birth is the moong dal or pasi paruppu as it is easy to digest and does not cause gas the way thowar or arahar dal would, and adds the protein component to the diet. In fact I observed that even after 42 days when the baby would be better used to mother’s milk, a small quantity of thowar dal in the rasam or sambar would often cause gas for the baby. Red/ Pink masoor dal (Mysore paruppu) may be substituted for the moong dal occasionally, to vary the taste, after the first 2 weeks after child birth.
The process is similar for making the vegetable koottu, irrespective of the vegetable used. Boil the lentils and the sliced vegetables with a little salt, asafoetida (hing) and turmeric, add freshly ground peppercorns, mash lightly and temper / tadka with ghee, mustard, fenugreek, cumin seeds and curry leaves.
Links to Other recipes in this series of Cooking for the New Mom:
Pathiya Milagu Kuzhambu (Pepper Sambar) https://www.pepperonpizza.com/pathiya-milagu-kuzhambu-new-mom-recipe
Khichidi for the New Mom: https://www.pepperonpizza.com/easy-khichidi-for-the-new-mom