Sepu vadi, ie split Urad dal Vadi in Spinach Gravy, is a traditional recipe from the hilly Northern Indian State of Himachal Pradesh. A very tasty curry, I found it interesting to make.
Sepu vadi, ie split Urad dal Vadi in Spinach Gravy, is a traditional recipe from the hilly Northern Indian State of Himachal Pradesh. A very tasty curry, I found it interesting to make.
The Bajra Khichdi from Haryana is traditionally rustic and simple – no frills – no onion, garlic, potato, tomatoes etc. No spices, just some cumin seeds, ginger, hing and turmeric powders. The ghee used to make the ‘tadka’ (and the garnish, if you opt for it) gives just that touch which takes the dish from tasty to uber delicious. I used freshly homemade ghee (ahem!) and the aroma just filled the house.
Memories of growing up, in Kharagpur in West Bengal are filled with images of festivals and celebrations and more importantly, the food that (to us at least) was the highlight of each such day. Every festival meant a traditional meal prepared by my mother with devotion and culinary expertise, and very often, new clothes as well as the freedom to run around the house with friends, playing and getting in everyone’s way. The Tamil New Year’s day or Puthandu, was no exception. Apart from the Neer mor and panakam which we drank by the gallon, one of the special dishes for the banana leaf meal at mid day was the Raw Mango pachadi.
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This Gujarati Kachumber Salad is a no-brainer, and goes with almost any type of meal. Or have it for lunch with a bowl of chilled soup on the side. You need basic vegetables – onion, tomato and cucumber as well as lemon juice. The other ingredients are optional and can be mixed and matched with whatever veggie is on hand. The salad doesn’t really need a recipe. I used one as I wanted it to be authentic Gujarati. There are similar versions of the salad found in various Indian cuisines, with variations on the way the vegetables are sliced/grated, and which combination is used. Quantities are flexible and can be adjusted to your taste.
My version of the Gujarati Kachumber Salad (or Kachoomer Salad) is from the well written cookbook, Gujarati Kitchen, by Bhanu Hajratwala. I have followed the recipe, except for the presentation – with a mixed rather than a layered salad as advised in the book. I have used the same ingredients as in the recipe by including raw mango, fresh radish and carrots apart from the standard onion, tomato and cucumber. The pomegranates added to the medley of flavours and textures.
This month, on our Facebook Group, Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, the theme was Gujarati Cuisine. I paired up with the lively Sasmita Sahoo Samanta, and we exchanged ‘secret ingredients’ that we each used in our Gujarati recipes. We posted the image of the dish and the other members of the group had to guess which were the 2 secret ingredients. As you can imagine, its a lot of fun and lively interaction as each member tries to quickly guess the specified ingredients which are often not the main ingredients in the recipe.
Sasmita blogs on First Timer Cook, and the secret ingredients for her were lilva (fresh tuvar or green pea beans) and wheat flour, not an usual combination! Using these 2 plus other ingredients as required, she made this delicious lip smacking Lilva Kachori chaat. Do visit her blog, it has recipes ranging from Baking to Beverages as well as No cooking ones, Gluten free, No Onion – No Garlic and Healthy recipes, among many others.
I made Kachumber Salad using the ingredients Sasmita gave me, viz Radish and Lemon. The salad is a basic and simple one, but the taste is really good, specially as the days are becoming hotter, and anything which does not require cooking, gets my vote!
While making the Kachumber Salad, I had the advantage of fresh, zero pesticide vegetables supplied by First Agro Farms : crisp sharp tasting radish, ripe red tomatoes, cucumbers bursting with cooling juices, hot green chilies and the lovely yellow carrots.
Here are some more recipes on the blog, to beat the heat this summer:
Panakam – A Jaggery and Dry Ginger drink
Ajo Blanco – A Chilled soup of Grapes and Almonds
Pink Gazpacho – Chilled Watermelon and Cucumber Soup
A few days ago I had re-posted my recipe for Panakam (the delicious jaggery and dry ginger drink for hot humid days) on my social media pages. Among the many ‘likes’ and responses to the recipe for this cooling drink, I was surprised to see how many of my readers asked about the recipe for Neer Mor. Surprised, because Neer Mor is so easy to make that it doesn’t really need a recipe. I then realised that just because something is simple doesn’t mean one automatically knows what goes into it and in what proportions. Hence this easy recipe for a mildly spiced buttermilk summer cooler. With a special ingredient!
My first foray into Goan Cuisine, and it turned out so well! I found a large variety of vegetarian recipes to try out, and wanted to use ingredients specific to the Goan and Konkani cuisines. The Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal that I finally came up with, tick marked all the boxes I set for the post: Tasty, nutritious, easy, authentic and it incorporated the two ingredients I had been set for this month’s Goan Theme challenge from the FB group I belong to, Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge. More about this group, later on.
First, a little about some of the ingredients I used to make the Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal. The recipe I finally firmed up after browsing the internet and the few cookbooks I could find, needed kokum as well as terphal, a species related to the Himalayan Sichuan Pepper (which seems to be variously known as teppal, tefla etc). I consulted my daughter Mridula as to what the ‘tefla’ in the recipe was (I thought it was a kind of fish!) I could have tried sourcing the kokum and terphal in one of the many Mangalorean stores dotted around Bangalore, but then opted to buy them online from amazon as I was not sure I would be able to get the terphal spice elsewhere. The rest of the ingredients were ones I already had at home. Bitter gourd or karela is a favourite on my dining table. If you hesitate to take karela because of the bitterness, then do try it in this dish – the jaggery, the kokum and the spice all go to reduce the bitterness and in fact enhance the taste of the bitter gourd. And you know it is chock full of nutrition and health benefits, right?
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. 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.
It is customary to offer Navaratri Naivedyam to the Mother Goddess on each of the 9 days of Navaratri, and for the Pooja to be carried out twice a day, i.e. in the morning and evening. This post brings you Navaratri Naivedyam and Sundal Recipes that you can easily make. The rice based dishes or variety rice can do double duty as both naiveydam and as lunch or for tiffin boxes, after you have first lit the lamp and offered it to the Goddess. Sundal Naivedyam is usually prepared in the evenings and is the prasadam for visitors for the kolu. …
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. However the success story of the Uppu Seedai for Gokulashtami has now made me venture out to try sweets and savouries for festivals.
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. …
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.
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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 used to make for this festival. The 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 on the menu is cooling and refreshing. Panakam or Panagam is a traditional item in the food prepared by Tamilians on this day, and is easy to make.
A glass (or two, or three!) 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.
I have prepared the Panakam just according to my mother’s recipe, however as an option, lemon juice could be added – about 1 to 2 tablespoons for 3 cups of panakam. Pepper corns may be freshly powdered and added too, to give its distinctive flavours – about ½ teaspoon of pepper for 3 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. All these are optional, as the basic panagam made the traditional way had only jaggery in water, with tulsi leaves and dry ginger.
Rama Navami is a Hindu festival, celebrating the birth of Sri Ram, the 7th avatar of the God Vishnu, as per Hindu mythology. According to the Hindu calendar, Sri Ram was born on the ninth day of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra month. When we were growing up, at Kharagpur in West Bengal, this was an occasion for my parents’ friends to gather together and cook and enjoy a grand lunch. The thirst quenchers were the panakam and the neer mor (spiced buttermilk), along with a cooling salad of cucumber and moong dhal, 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 Manian Uncle (my dear friend Ravikumar’s father), 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 allover 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 (rangoli) with rice powder. I would do my small bit, adding dots to the kolam 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!
Health & medicinal benefits:
The cancer and disease fighting properties of ginger and of tulsi (holy basil) leaves are being researched internationally and there are several articles accessible online explaining the possible benefits and the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger on health, such as this one from the International Journal of Preventive Medicine and the many possible medicinal properties of tulsi, as discussed in ‘A Herb for all Reasons‘.
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
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.
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
It is late January and the weather is shifting from chill to pleasant. Cloudy most days, its just right for hot tasty meals. Time for Nimona or Tehari from my Eastern Uttar Pradesh recipes, both with fresh green peas, or spicy Biriyani, Aloo mutter, Chole or of course, the all time favourite, Rajma. On weekends its nice to make a pot of Rajma Masala Curry and have it with rice maybe for lunch and chapatis at dinner. It is also a perfect dish on festive occasions or when there are guests to cater to, as you can serve a great meal with just rajma and rice or roti with a simple salad of onion and tomato slices with lemon wedges.
My recipe for Rajma Masala Curry recipe is one I have been following for decades, and the taste always comes out exactly the same. There are a few criteria to making a really tasty Rajma:
Just as in making the Hummus of the right flavour and texture, every step in making Rajma Masala is significant – the soaking, the cooking, making the gravy and sautéing the Rajma, the garnish. I have tried to share with you all the little things that go to make this curry flavourful, nutritious and easy on the stomach. As the red kidney bean is hard and difficult to digest, soaking and cooking till the beans are really soft and fall apart at the touch, is essential. It is definitely possible to soak the beans for just a few hours in hot water, instead of soaking them overnight, but this fast track method does not give the total softness that you will find after soaking them overnight. It is interesting to note that even when cooked very well, the bean still gives texture to the curry and you don’t land up with a mushy dish.
Strain and Discard the water in which the Beans are soaked:
Straining and discarding the water in which the bean is soaked is an important step. After straining, throughly rinse the soaked beans in fresh water before cooking them. This is a practice I have always followed (without any logical reasoning) though I have had some doubts as to whether nutrition is lost when the water in which the beans are soaked, is discarded. An item I recently came across in Wikipedia gives insights into why this practice is followed, and validates the cooking process laid down in the recipe below:
“Raw kidney beans contain relatively high amounts of phytohemagglutinin, and thus are more toxic than most other bean varieties if not pre-soaked and subsequently heated to the boiling point for at least 10 minutes. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends boiling for 30 minutes to ensure they reach a sufficient temperature long enough to completely destroy the toxin. Cooking at the lower temperature of 80 °C (176 °F), such as in a slow cooker, can increase this danger and raise the toxin concentration up to fivefold.”
Pramod taught me how to make Rajma Masala Curry, and it is a family favourite. Though some of the steps I have followed in this tested and tried recipe may differ from that of popular recipes online, just try making it this way and see how delicious it is.
Note: Plan sufficient time for making the Rajma Masala Curry, as, apart from soaking the beans overnight, you may need to pressure cook it twice if it doesn’t cook well the first time around. I have observed that rajma from different sources that I purchase from, have different cooking times.
The cooking process below is easy, but it needs patience as there are various steps to be followed.
The quantity of garam masala depends on its potency and freshness. Too much of it can spoil the taste. I use a strong garam masala (bought from a speciality store which has maintained the same standards of taste and quality for the last 15 years), so 1 teaspoon is more than sufficient.
Serve with hot rice and a salad. Goes well with roti and phulka too. Or even with a lightly toasted focaccia or bread. Thick rajma without its liquid is a nice filling for a wrap or quesadilla.
Health and Nutrition:
Kidney Beans are rich in protein. They are also high in fibre including insoluble fibres called alpha-galactosides, which can sometimes cause diarrhoea and flatulence. The fermentation of these fibres also results in the formation of short-chain fatty acids are considered to improve colon health and to reduce the risk of colon cancer
The Beans have a high carbohydrate content, predominantly made up of starch, and are often advised for controlling high sugar in diabetics. This starch is a slow-release carbohydrate, hence it takes longer to be digested than most foods and the resultant rise in blood sugar is gradual and does not cause large blood sugar spikes. Kidney beans have a low glycemic index (the measure of how each food affects the rise in blood sugar after it is consumed).
Kidney beans are a good source of various vitamins and minerals including vitamin K1, iron, molybdenum, folate or B9, copper, manganese, potassium, and phosphorus.
Studies have suggested that bean consumption may give lower risk of overweight and obesity.
Raw or inadequately cooked kidney beans are not advisable as they give risk of toxicity. Use fresh spices to get the best flavours from the Rajma Masala Curry.
Cooking for my daughter after the birth of my little granddaughter, has taxed my culinary ingenuity to the core. The cooking is not the problem, each dish I make is easy and takes very little time, as I use vegetables and lentils which cook fast. The condiments I can use are limited too so the recipes are straightforward. The challenge is to make nutritious food that will perk up the appetite, and at the same time not contain chillies or anything hot, spices, coconut, onion or any vegetables that can form gas affecting the mother and the baby, and anything difficult to digest. And of course vary the tastes and flavours so that it is not repetitive. Add to this the fact that my daughter does not like milk or curd, and you will see why this milagu kuzhambu is such a life saver.
The milagu kuzhambu that I have described here, is from the traditional recipes for making the kuzhambu, tweaked to suit the pathiya samayal or balanced diet given to new mothers after delivery. milagu kuzhambu or pepper sambar (if I can call it sambar when there are no lentils, tamarind extract or sambar powder) is basically a paste of sautéed pepper and curry leaves as well as fenugreek seeds, cooked in water and tempered with mustard seeds in ghee (clarified butter). Taken with rice, it is high on flavour and taste.
Every ingredient in this milagu kuzhambu contributes to the new mothers well being. Pepper, turmeric, curry leaves, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and ghee – the whole forming a nutrition power house just right at this stage. The milagu kuzhambu I made two days after the delivery did not have tamarind, but after that I added a small piece of tamarind while grinding the paste for the milagu kuzhambu.
The flavour of the pepper comes through strongly in the milagu Kuzhambu, though the potency and freshness of the pepper used would determine the strength of the flavour.
I enjoy making recipes like this one which follow traditional practices that contribute to the health and well being of the new mother, and at the same time are both easy to make, quick to prepare, and oh so delicious!
As the milagu kuzhambu is for the new mother, the ingredients do not include red chillies, tamarind extract, chilli powder or towar dhal (pigeon pea lentils). Garlic may be added to the paste if desired. Or as this is given frequently during the 40 days after delivery, you could vary the recipe by adding garlic or not. Initially I sautéed the ingredients for the paste with ghee, and then after a few days switched over to sesame (gingelly oil) and continued to temper the mustard seeds in ghee.
Sesame oil suits these traditional Tamil recipes the best. However if you don’t have or don’t use sesame oil, use sunflower oil instead.
Check my post on ‘Cooking for the New Mom’ for Diet Plan/Menu for the period immediately after Delivery, and for recipes to various items in the menus. Post partum food can be very tasty and need not be bland!
Link to the Post: https://www.pepperonpizza.com/cooking-new-mom
The challenge in cooking for the New Mom (specially the Indian Mom with a taste for spices and chillies) is making food that is not only appropriately healthy and nutritious, helps in lactation and /or in healing the exhausted body, but is delicious and tempts the appetite too.
Its surprising however how much flavour a little ghee and fresh ground pepper can add to even unlikely vegetables such as the various gourds, never a favourite in my family in the best of times.
The first 40 days following delivery being critical to the wellbeing of the new mom, the food has to be appetising and well balanced to give the overall health benefits and to lead the body back to good health.
This is the first of the set of easy recipes I am writing from the food I actually make for my daughter now that she has delivered her second baby, a few days ago. I will be making Khichidi for the New mom, most days for dinner, using of course different vegetables and some changes in flavours to keep it interesting at each meal.
My post on cooking for the new mom, elsewhere on this blog, gives an outline of the diet and a broad list of what foods are good or not to be served post delivery. These are of course, from my experience and based on traditions that I have learnt from my Tamil Brahmin background, interspersed with North Indian food and with Western food to suit the tastes of my daughters. The recipes are largely Indian, but you will shortly find recipes for hummus of chickpeas, and home made pita bread on the menu for one of these 40 days post delivery.
This recipe of Khichidi for the New mom is however very Indian and traditional. It is nutritious and if made without adding chillies or spices, is just right for her. The addition of garlic, mustard and cumin seeds, pepper and plenty of ghee (clarified butter) to well cooked rice and easily digestible moong dhal lentils makes for a balanced meal or pathiya samayal as it is called in Tamil.
As I have been making khichidi for my daughter almost every evening for dinner, I have been adding different suitable vegetables each evening. Carrots (peeled and diced small), methi (fenugreek leaves)- washed, drained and minced, spinach leaves, or a plain gourd such as snake gourd or chow chow (marrow gourd) would be best. I have added a little tomato occasionally, after the 4th day from delivery.
The important thing in this recipe is to add plenty of water so that the khichidi is quite fluid, be liberal with the ghee and flavour with powdered pepper and cumin. Serve with roasted or microwaved pappad.
This is a step by step guide to making a rich Christmas Fruit cake. Do read the Steps as well as the tips given just below the history of Christmas Cakes here, before you move to the recipe. This will help you plan for soaking fruits as well as for baking the cake.
For a recipe on making an Eggless Christmas Fruit cake, click here.
After posting my guide on how to soak fruits for a Christmas Cake I have followed up with this recipe for baking the rich Christmas fruit cake. Last year I had soaked the fruits in the 3rd week of November, and by the first week week of December it was time to bake the cake, giving a little time for the cake to mature. This year I will try to soak the fruits earlier, in September or October.
This recipe is for a rich Christmas Fruit cake, though it tastes so good, I might just make it several times a year. No more buying dry plum cakes from the local bakery! If you are going to try this recipe, the first thing you have to remember is that you either soak the dry fruits ahead of time (here’s the link to my recipe for soaking the fruits) or at least start the preparation for making the cake a day before you plan to bake it – check in Step 1 below.
The quantities here are for one rich Christmas Fruit cake though I have actually made 3 small cakes – 2 with fruits soaked in rum and one little round one with fruits soaked in orange juice, for my little granddaughter Natasha. I made the batter for the cake and then separated a small quantity for Natasha’s orange flavoured cake.
For a little bit of Fruit cake history – Wikipedia says that some of the earliest known recipes from ancient Rome had pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins all mixed into barley mash! Later on, in what are called the Middle Ages, honey, preserved fruit and spices were added. The recipes varied from one country or region to another, down the ages depending on availability of ingredients locally as well as local customs, church regulations not permitting the use of butter during fasts, etc.
Wikipedia goes on to say that Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492) finally granted the use of butter, in a written permission known as the ‘Butter Letter’ or Butterbrief in 1490, giving permission to Saxony to use milk and butter in the North German Stollen fruit cakes. It was only in the 16th Century, that the awareness (and availability of sugar from the Colonies) that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created candied fruit, thus making fruit cakes more affordable and popular.
Now lets go on to our rich Christmas Fruit cake!
There are some preparations to be made before you can actually get to baking the cake, if you want to bring out the best flavours and rich moist softness of the cake without having it brown and burn on one side and remain sticky on the other.
Step 1: Preparing the Dry Fruits : I have given the steps for soaking the fruits well ahead of the baking, in my recipe on this blog, as well as my thoughts on what fruits to select, quantities, etc. Please refer the same for the mix and quantities of dry fruits for the cake. Link to the recipe on this blog: How to Soak Fruits for a Christmas Cake
This recipe is for a traditional rich Christmas Fruit cake, but if you have not soaked the fruits ahead of time, there is a short short cut which you could try – the intense flavour of well soaked dry fruits would not be there, but you would get a nice Christmas fruit cake anyway.
How to bake the rich Christmas Fruit cake without soaking the fruits:
The day before you are going to bake the cake, set the soaking liquid in a saucepan on the stove on low flame. Add the dried fruits and bring the mixture gently to a simmer, keeping the heat low so that the liquid does not boil away. Turn the fruits with the liquid into a bowl, stir it well, and once it cools, cover and keep in a dark cool place. For quantities of fruit and soaking liquid, check my recipe on this blog for soaking fruits for the Christmas Cake.
Soaking liquid: You could soak the dry fruits in alcohol (brandy, rum, cognac, etc) or in unsweetened fruit juice. For Natasha’s little cake I used freshly squeezed orange juice. A combination of orange and cranberry juice or apple juice would be good too. Black tea such as a Darjeeling tea, pre-soaked in cup of very hot water, could make an effective non alcoholic substitute. The dry fruits and nuts are the hero in this cake, The flour, butter and eggs are put to use to hold the fruits together and shape the cake.
Step 2: Preparing the Baking Tin : The recipe below is for an 8″ square tin, or a 9″ round one, or you could bake the cake in smaller tins or a round bundt tin. The Christmas cake is to be baked on low heat for a long time, so that it cooks evenly without burning. It is important to line the baking tin with parchment paper or grease proof paper.
I did not have brown parchment paper so I used the white one, but I have heard that brown parchment is of more use in keeping the cake sides and bottom from browning too fast or burning.
Grease the tin all around and use 2-3 layers of the parchment paper, lining the bottom and all sides of the tin, with an inch or two of paper protruding from the top of the tin on all sides. Some bakers suggest wrapping the outside of the cake tin too, with brown paper and tying it in place, so help ensure the cake does not overcook.
Step 3: Preparing the ingredients:
Check the list of ingredients below for the rich Christmas Fruit cake and ensure you have brought them all, specially the eggs and butter, to room temperature. You may even need to keep the butter out overnight for it to come up to room temperature, depending on the climate.
Measure all the ingredients and keep them ready. Mix the spices in the proportion given in the ingredients below.
Grind the almonds in a processor (unless you are using processed almond flour). Measure the flour and then sieve it along with the baking powder so that the baking powder gets dispersed into the flour. Chop the walnuts into small pieces.
Step 4: Bake the cake: When you are ready to go, set the oven to preheat at 160 deg C (320 F). Prepare the batter as per instructions in the recipe below. As the cake bakes, the liquid in the fruits oozes out and givens the Christmas Cake its moist, soft texture.
This is a crumbly cake but if you bake it correctly you can slice it cleanly. Using alcohol to soak the fruits for the cake is of course optional. The alcohol in the cake evaporates during the baking, however it leaves its flavour behind. As there would still be some residue in the cake, it would not be advisable for expectant mothers or children.
Some tips you may find useful in making the rich Christmas Fruit cake:
Molasses or Syrup: I have used dark molasses in the cake. You could substitute with treacle which is traditionally used in Christmas cakes, and if you don’t have either, use maple syrup or dark honey. The flavour would differ for each of these.
Nuts – I readily had available walnuts and almonds, and the almonds make a nice flour when ground which adds to the texture of the cake. Pecan nuts or hazelnuts or a combination of nuts could be substituted for the walnuts, in the same proportion as in the ingredients list below.
Zest: I have put both orange and lemon zest in the ingredients, to give the cake a lovely citrusy flavour. Whether you use only lemon or both is your option to choose.
Be gentle with the Batter Don’t mix or beat the batter more than required for the ingredients to just combine, as the cake would become heavy. Gently fold in the ingredients.
BakingTemperature and Time: Oven temperatures vary, so you need to keep checking your cake after an hour and a half. When a small skewer inserted comes out clean or with a few dry crumbs, your cake is done. I started my oven at 160 C and after an hour when I saw that the top looked set, I brought the temperature down to 150 C. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes for my cake to get done.
Storage: I have given the steps for storing the cake after baking, in the instructions below. Do not wrap the cake directly with foil as the alcohol or juice could react with the foil. Wrap in clingfilm and then in foil.The cake is not be refrigerated as it could harden and the sugar in it crystallize. The alcohol in the cake acts as a preservative.
I have not decorated the top of the rich Christmas Fruit cake, as it looks good as it is. I may do so before Christmas, though – a simple decoration of sliced almonds and sliced candied cherries, maybe. Next year I may cover the cake with icing in Christmassy theme.
I don’t often make sweets and have tried out only a few dessert recipes. However when friend, (fellow CA and fellow food blogger) Paluk Khanna asked for a post as a contribution to the Rakshabandhan round up we were planning, I had to think of an interesting item to make.I finally fixed on making this Saffron Flavoured Badam Halwa.
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