Posted in food as therapy..., Welcome to my blog!

Mixed Millet Idli & Dosa

Mixed Millet Idli & Dosa

Ingredients for batter :

Varagu (Kodo Millet) (Kodra) – 1 cup

Kudiraivali (Barnyard Millet) (Jhangora) – 1 cup

Saamai (Little Millet) (Kutki) – 1 cup

Quinoa (Seemai Thinai) – 1/4 cup

Thinai (Foxtail Millet) (Kangni) – 1/2 cup

Kambu (Pearl Millet) (Bajra) -1/2 cup

Cholam (Sorghum) (Jowar) – 1/4 cup

Urad Dal – 1 and 1/4 cups to be soaked with 1 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) (Vendhayam) seeds.

Salt to taste (Pink Himalayan Rock/Crystal salt used)

Water for grinding

All millets used in this recipe are organic. Only Urad dal is not certified organic. All these listed millets are also native to India except for Quinoa. Before rice and wheat consumption became fashionable this century, our forefathers mostly ate millet three times a day. Even now, villagers in India have millets for main course. Ragi Mudde is popular in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu peasants have Kezhvaragu koozh for breakfast.

I left out Ragi/Kezhvaragu (Finger Millet) (Mandua in Hindi) because, mostly in roti flour I mix Ragi flour 1 tsp and flax seed powder 1/2 tsp. Moreover, Ragi will make Idli appear very darker. Consistency also may not be upto mark on grinding the batter. May be a handful can be added.

How to grind the batter?

Mix all millets together and rinse clean. Leave standing water for soaking overnight. (Eight hour soaking recommended)

Soak urad dal and methi seeds together.

Grind to buttery consistency the urad dal first.

Grind to coarse consistence, the mixed millets. Little millets may remain unground, but it is fine.

Pour the mixed millet batter on top of ground urad dal and stir well. You can salt at this stage.

Keep aside. No need to add baking or cooking soda or yeast.

Batter will ferment and raise well on its own just like regular Idli/dosa batter in a couple of hours (or more).

Refrigerate and make Idli/Dosa like regular Idli/Dosa.

Millets are rich in vitamins and minerals. Totally gluten-free and are slow to digest. Therefore ideal for the diabetic or pre-diabetic. However, Millets may be consumed with caution in case of thyroid malfunction. Perfect weight-loss diet.

Power breakfast to kickstart your day with! Sumptuous, nutritious, filling, lighter at the same time. Soft, fluffy, melting in mouth. Best served with Mint-Coriander (Pudina-Dhaniya) Coconut Chutney and Lentil Sambhar and Urad Dal Vada.

Posted in food as therapy...

Murungai Keerai Pirattal (Moringa Leaf Curry)

This is very basic, still I thought this must have a spot in my blog.

Murungai or Moringa is poor man’s vegetable in south India. Moringa is our native tree. Lower middle class homes have the tree almost always in their backyard or frontyard. Hence there is an abundance of murungakai (Moringa veg) and murungai keerai (moringa leaf) supply anyday in local markets.

In my case, my street has many homes with Mururgai tree so i get both Murungai keerai and Murungai kai free most of the times.

Moringa is also considered auspicious vegetable! No wedding feast without Murungaikai sambar.

Murungai health properties are well documented. Besides being a terrific immunity booster, the murungai family is rich in essential nutrition that keeps cancer away. Cheap and best, Murungai is naturally an integral part of south Indian cooking. Kirumi nashini (germ killer).

My interest in Moringa grew manifold when I started noticing Moringa based beauty products in Bodyshop in Doha. Ever since, of course, I started including Moringa more into my food routine. (As we Indians continue to sleep, many of our traditional medicinal recipes are being patented for profit in the west).

Although many of us have Murungai sambhar and Murungai poriyal pretty often, not everyone has an appetite for Murungai Keerai. However, it is mainstay of my kitchen always.

For Murungai Keerai Pirattal, I took a big bunch of Murungai branch leaves that my housemaid plucked for free (!) from a neighbour’s tree!!!

Here are the ingredients:

Murungai Keerai bunch

Onion medium -1

Garlic – a few pods

Dry Red chili – 2 or 3

Coconut scraped – 1 or 2 tbsp (optional)

Peppercorn – 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste (used Himalayan Pink Rock/Crystal salt)

Water a little (optional)

Oil for tempering: I use either Gingely oil or Coconut oil both coldpressed 2 tsp

For tempering: 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp broken or whole urad dal

Method:

Pluck the Murungai or Moringa leaves carefully from the stems. Rinse in running water and keep aside.

Grate onion fine

Crush the garlic. I use a stone pound (what we call ‘ammi’ in Tamil)

Break the dry red chili and de-seed.

Crush the pepper corn. You can do this while crushing the garlic.

Heat the oil in a kadai (I use either cast iron kadai or clay kadai only)

When the oil is about to smoke, temper with mustard seeds and urad dal and dry red chili.

When the seeds splutter, add the onion and saute to golden brown.

Add next the crushed garlic-pepper corn.

Finally add the rinsed moringa leaves.

Add little water but mostly not needed.

Cover and cook to a crispy tender. Won’t take more than a few minutes. Under 10 min precisely.

When the murunga keerai has no more water retention, add the grated coconut.

Salt to taste.

Stir well and switch off fire.

Result: the Murugai Kai Keerai Pirattal (pic) which can be had as a subji or be mixed with rice for main course. Serve with a tsp on ghee with rice.

A must for teenage children. Moringa is a staple vegetable in our families always. But of late, our traditional vegetables and greens are hardly appreciated by the younger generation. Today we see many women in twenties with ovarian cysts etc. Infertility is on rise. Moringa is one tree that is truly organic because, it grows right in your backyard. It is pesticide and chemical fertilizer free. One good reason to make Murugai keerai and Murungai Kai poriyal/sambar a compulsory part of your weekly diet. Moringa or the Murungai family is credited with natural fertility properties and other medicinal values as per Ayurveda. It is not without a reason that our families have traditionally made Murungai a vital part of our everyday menu.

So is Murungai Keerai yummy? Not sure about that! Mostly it is acquired taste for us hahaha! But today’s Murungai Keerai Poriyal was too good which is the reason I am posting it here in my blog.

PS: Btw I just loved the subtle fragrance of Moringa moisturizer in Bodyshop !!! Was like none other! So original! I can’t believe the MNCs took the Moringa out of India to make cosmetics from face creams to perfumes!

Posted in food as therapy..., Food Porn

what’s cookin’ : straight from my tawa and kadai

I stopped posting recipes long back because, (1) am not a foodie (2) not a gourmet cook (3) just a regular everyday housewife left with no option than cooking (4) mine is literally hole-in-the-wall 9×6 tiniest minutest kitchen (5) don’t find cooking captivating though cathartic at times like writing this blog (6) prefer eating out during weekends (7) jelebis and halwas and laddoos and murukkus are best at Grand Sweets and Shree Mithai hahaha !!! so why give them competition !!!

Even so, decided to add one or two authentic recipes here that i have perfected on improvisations over traditional methods …. No new found passion for cooking. There are many many more with such a crushing devotion and interest in cooking. Mine is average/normal fare as i said sans any frill – just the mundane run-of-the-mill stuff minus the paraphernalia such as window dressings like presentation while serving, topping etc., etc., displaying your cutlery and table/dining ware that you hardly use otherwise (only guests are lucky in our homes to sample our precious dinnerware!!!)

Food for me must be sumptuous, nutritious and delicious at the same time. I don’t believe in dieting. Eat heartily until you burp. Then work out. That’s my fitness mantra.

Will try to pull up a few old ones too from a previous blog.

Posted in Food Porn

The Storm In Your Tea Cup: Calm it with Karuppatti

Karupatti Vellam (aka Pana Vellam in Tamil) (Palm Jaggery) (Palm Gur) – the world’s best and finest natural sweetener

Note: This is not the ‘Brown Sugar’ you may find in Departmental Stores. Brown sugar is also essentially cane sugar, only raw with a hint of caramel.

Palm Jaggery is used in lieu of Sugar in southern districts of Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari of Tamil Nad, as a tradition. This is Jaggery from Palm trees that grow in abundance in south India. Karuppatti/Palm jaggery is not from sugarcane like the regular white sugar we use in our coffee/tea/sweets or even the regular organic jaggery we derive from sugarcane.

Once upon a time in India, before the British arrived, most Indians especially Hindus used only the Karuppatti (Palm) jaggery or regular jaggery from sugarcane produced by organic process, never the poisonous and caloried white sugar. With the commercial interest high in sugar from sugarcane that was processed mechanically in tonnes, we slowly switched over to white sugar in our morning coffee and toffee and mithais moving away from jaggery/palm jaggery. One more thing, the finely refined white sugar was also easy to use. I got a taste for the palm jaggery as a pre-teen at a neighbour’s place which is an interesting story. My granny continued to make sweets at home mostly using cane jaggery as much as possible. However the laddus and halwas and other sweets were loaded with plain sugar only. The sweets that were using jaggery as base/binding agent/sweetener were fast disappearing. But it is heartening to know that, the jaggery or gur based natural sweets are once again back at least in south India in a big way, as health awareness kicks in.

My flashback about palm jaggery is interesting.

I had my first exposure to karuppatti or palm jaggery when I was a 7 or 8 year old kid. One of our neighbours used to be a ‘Naadaar’ family from the southernmost parts of the state – from Ramanathapuram district. Business-minded, they got all their workers from their hometown/native villages for least wages in the stainless steel & copper utensil shop they owned. (As a matter of fact, they still own this family business and stay put in the same old now-remodeled house). For this ‘Nadar’ community, respect and honour are the most cherished values. Today Nadars are very successful entrepreneurs not only in Tamil Nad but have spread their wings around the world. They are into everything you can think of: steelware/kitchenware (primarily), silk garments/textiles/electronics/restaurant business. Of course Shiv Nadar of HCL, who can forget.

What is charming about them is, this one community never lets go of their precious ancient customs and traditions. Karupatti was one such a dear thing to them.

In my neighbour/friend’s house, there would be this huge copper pot perpetually warming up on the coals. (The family did use LPG fuel in the kitchen but when it came to workers who were limited to the ‘thaazhvaaram’ (outer courtyard) of their house, it was simmering coals. A series of copper tumblers would lie in a plate besides the pot. The pot held the ‘karupatti vellam’ coffee – fresh coffee brewed (mine is a coffee growing state as well as tea so we get it all extremely fresh than other importing nations) with milk sweetened with ‘Karupatti Vellam’ or the Palm Jaggery.

Whenever we kids went to their place to play, we were offered drinks but I always opted for this karupatti vella coffee. It could be sometimes over-sweet but it tasted so different from what we brewed at home. So very refreshingly different.

In the evenings likewise, there would sit a pot of ‘karupatti vella tea’ in the coals in their small yard.

Coffee and Tea were in unlimited supply.  The workers could have their fill as much as they wanted. And we friends too.

Even today if and whenever I visit them (when I go to Mylapore) I ask them for ‘karupatti vella coffee’ and they exclaim, ‘you remember, you haven’t changed!’ The truth is, neither have they!

Some health benefits of Palm Jaggery/Karuppatti/Palm gur:

  • rich in minerals like iron
  • energy booster
  • relieves constipation
  • heals migraine
  • good for digestion
  • relieves common ailments such as dry cough and cold
  • active cleanser of intestines
  • helps in weightloss as it scores low on calorie county
  • suitable for all seasons winter or sommer
  • ideal and in fact best  and natural sugar substitute for diabetics

Sugar substitutes such as the Aspartame and Saccharine available countertop in the market are nothing but synthetic chemicals with adverse side effects. Direct sugar is a lot better as you know at least what you are dealing with.

So what should be our order of preference when it comes to choosing the sweetener for our cup of chai.

 

 

Posted in Food Porn

Say ‘No’ To NonStick CookWare: Cooking In Cast Iron

UPDATED: SEP 26, 2019

Most Tamils or South Indians may be aware of Kal Chatti (Soapstone ware) and Man Chatti (Clay pots). The Kal chattis were widely in use until our grandparents time. This stone cookware literally may weigh a ton. Me rediscovered very recently through Gita’s kitchen more info on this and Smt. Gita actually breezes us through her yum recipes cooked up in Kal chattis or Soap stone ware. Here is the link for any order as copied from her You Tube channel:

Link to kalchatti/Soapstone cookware @t Message/call Meera 6360966871 email: enquiry@zishta.com Avail discount Use code GITA05
For traditional Indian cookware like Soapstone ware aka Kal Chatti and also Ironware, Copperware, etc., here is one more link:

https://www.tredyfoods.com/?fbclid=IwAR2ePqBWRD_iPaQkV-VdCsiNXfFKtVffuM6IvZXLuApBXwA1lh_ghB8gPhk

More dealer shops now in Chennai as the city and perhaps the entire nations seems to return to the roots! Still, these links must help.

Back to Original blog post now:

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Referring to the ‘Vaarpatta Kadai’ (Tamil) in this post as Cast Iron which is very brittle. Regular Iron Kadai which is ‘Irumbu Kadai’ is Wrought Iron which is not as brittle. Both are good but Vaarpatta kadai or Cast Iron kadai/wok/tawa is better with enhanced taste and less rusting quality as it is heavy and denser and involves slow cooking.

In this post, we deal with only Cast Iron and not Regular/Wrought Iron cookware.

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Not only in Chennai, even in Doha I have moved over to Cast Iron kadais/woks/shallow-to-deep frying pans and Tawas from Teflon-coated Non-stick pans/woks/tawas.  Cast Iron is what my grandma used as I remember from very young years, and my friends in Kerala rebuked me for switching over to the chemical (Teflon) coated cooking pans/woks in last few years.   Could this be a reason for increasing incidences of cancer in India? Because Indian cuisine essentially requires direct cooking over fire to highest temperatures.  We cook for hours this way which may also include pressure cooking.  So in such a scenario, how reliable is even  two or three coats of teflon in the non-stick ware we use in our kitchen? Won’t the teflon melt or smoke?  The manufacturers say ‘no’ but I am a housewife, a full-time cook for my family and challenge me!  Teflon definitely smoulders in a minute of heating, giving out the nastiest chemical/pungent odour, and thinking of that going into our intestines spooks me completely.   Using stainless steel spoons is unavoidable in our cooking – because Indian culinary ways demand so.  Plastic spoons and ladles are not ideal to stir our steaming hotpots.  Usage of steel spoons may also erode the teflon coating in the nonstick pans exposing us to graver health risks.  Teflon nonstick ware now comes with an additional ceramic coating (!) as if enough is not enough. We in India are not the sauce and soup types.  Our cooking blends much of deep frying, shallow frying, wet grinding, dry grinding, roasting, sauteing, seasoning all at nearly 100 degree celsius, a plethora of green vegetables, fresh spices, foodgrains and pulses and meat. What do you think is the best and healthiest choice of kitchenware under the circumstances?

Never discarded cast-iron totally from routine life all these years, was only toying with teflon pans as they come with good finishing and are cook-and-serve line mostly.This is not so possible with cast-iron.  Using the non-stick pan every morning to make omelettes always stayed at the back of my mind and I wanted to put an immediate stop to that – and have almost. Got back to cast-iron so the texture (of cooked food, in this case omelette) is different and better.

Along with cast-iron, I also use regular Iron/Wrought Ironware in my kitchen. This is easily rusty and needs greater maintenance.

CAST IRON WARE – THE TASTE ENHANCER

As for dosas and rotis/chappathis, anyway I was using mostly cast-iron tawas because right from the start, I have had this strongest opinion that the taste changes in non-stick pan and the browning does not happen the way it does with cast-iron. Dosas come out dry in nonstick tawas.

Ofcourse a mild single coat of oil is required for use in cast-ironware from time-to-time which is minimal/negligible.  I use a fresh cut onion instead of tissue paper every time to swipe the cast iron pan/tawa with a tsp of oil which gives it a special aroma especially while making dosas.  (eco-friendly thus, cutting out on tissue use).

 

 

From making daily omelettes in my cute little tiny cast-iron wok to cooking chicken curries and gravies to vegetable stir-frying to bringing stews to a boil and toasting the dosas/chappathis/parathas and even the bakery bread, cast iron it is for us now completely.  Nonstick ware is mostly reserved for use when we have guests as it is quick and easy and user-friendly.  Naturally cast-iron takes time and also a bit of oil – healthy oil.  A minimum of 1-3 tsps of healthy coconut oil/mustard oil/gingely oil/peanut oil is good for our skin in my opinion. Leave out Olive oil which is good only for salads.

Nothing can roast to that adorable golden brown the way Cast Iron can!

WORLD’S MOST ECONOMIC COOKWARE

Cast Iron ware is brittle – in the sense, will break if dropped with purpose. But cast-iron is priced very economically and is available with some old stainless steel utensil sellers in Chennai.  But is limited in edition. A cast iron wok smallest size will not cost over 150-300 bucks and the biggest one, not over 350-850/- bucks depending on the seller.  Whereas one has to shell out 5-10 times these prices for the same size/volume Teflon nonstick ware.

Cast Iron also effectively uses energy even if it cooks slow. The heat spread is even and it is rare for food to get burnt in cast iron. 

I recommend everyone to think of cast-iron in place of teflon coated non-stick ware in order to have a truly healthy kitchen.  I am also using ‘matka’ (clay pots) wherever its possible like when cooking greens/paalak (spinach).  Most in the south do. Thinking of bringing down some copper utensils especially the tumblers from the loft.  I have inherited quite a good collection of brass/copper cookware, my family heirloom from mother’s side.  This includes a 5 box tiffin carrier (lunch box), plates, big pots and pans etc.  Antique, high value today and also healthy choice.  Want to include some of these in everyday cooking from now on.

MAINTENANCE AND USAGE OF CAST IRONWARE

Cast Iron is very heavy for handling.  Needs to be dried completely every time after usage and oiled after scouring clean.  Requires good/adequate space for storing and must not be stacked one over another (to avoid rusting).

When you buy cast iron, it will look mostly very rusty (browning red).  Wash it and scrub it thoroughly a number of times after immersing in water for 1-2 hours. Then wipe dry, coat it in oil and leave for a day.  Again scrub it mildly and wash it and dry it and oil it. Repeat the process for a week for the rust to wear off totally and for the black colour to set in.

Takes time to practice in cast iron.  At first it will be sticky entirely.

For first time use, heat the cast iron kadai/wok/tawa/pan, oil it generously and fry boiled rice to remove the remaining rust off the cast iron.  Repeat the process if necessary.  Cool the pan/tawa, wash it again and dry it. Store it on oiling.

Next, use oil generously and deep-fry papads/potato chips first to get the cast iron kadai into cooking mode once the rust is worn off completely.   Deep fry at least a couple of times. Scrub mild and coat with coat using a small piece of cotton cloth or an onion slice or tissue paper before storing.

Use the cast iron tawas to do chappathis or toast bread first before trying the dosas on.

These are the essential ‘conditioning’ steps to make fit the cast iron ware for our regular kitchen use.

By now, the cast iron kadai/tawa/pan is almost adapted for our regular use.

The final qualifying test is, when you can roast potato/aloo curry comfortably in your cast iron wok/kadai to golden brown without the curry sticking to the sides and coming away comfortably and /or when you make that first thick ‘kal dosa’ nicely without tearing/breaking with the watery rice-urad dal Idli-dosa batter in the cast iron tawa that comes out free with ease.  When your cast iron pan/wok/tawa passes this ultimate test, then both of you are winners and friends for life!!!

For the cast-iron woks/pan/tawas to get completely non-sticky in character except for a minimal use of cooking oil, it will take time.  Atleast a month of regular use for deep-frying and chappathi/roti making is recommended before this non-stick mode sets in.  Once it does, the cast ironware will put all No.1 quality teflon coated branded nonstick ware to shame.  Best Indian kitchenware in my opinion.  Traditionally followed for millenniums.  Why we Indians don’t bother with patenting beats me.

Cast Ironware must not be scrubbed everyday. If you have to, do it mildly.  Otherwise, a mere slapping and rinsing well with running water must be enough – once the cast ironware cools off to room temperature the natural way.  Never attempt cleaning/scrubbing it when it is hot/warm.  This will turn the cast iron to sticky mode once again so that the tedious re-conditioning has to be done with no option.  Always rub in a tsp of oil after use to keep off rust on both sides. Keep over newspaper sheets or other papers on storage shelves/cupboards.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Needless to be told, Cast Iron is an indirect source of iron.  Ancient Indians have included different metals in their eating habits chiefly for their health benefits: Copper for drinking water from, for instance. We source it the way we source vitamin D from direct sunlight.  Nowadays iodine is added to our cooking salt. Iron is likewise best consumed indirectly through our kitchenware for whatever shortfall we may find in our food intake.  Cast Iron is not a chemical like ‘teflon’ in nonstick ware.   We do not know the exact health risks from long term use of nonstick ware but any chemical that goes into our intestines can only harm and not help.  Cast Iron is a healthy choice that way. Prolonged use of Aluminium ware is reported to be responsible for Alzheimer’s.

Wrought Iron (regular iron) kadais/woks/tawas are also easily available in all parts of India along with Cast Iron ware.

Posted in Food Porn

Culinary Porn: Vegetarian

Updated: August 13, 2017. Watch this space.

Hot, hot from my Kitchen, my Tawa, my Kadai: No gourmet cook or foodie, only regular healthy, nutritious and sumptuous home food for me sans window dressing. I am poor in presentation! Food  is spiritual for us, I come from a family that served Gods first (Mother Goddess Annapurna) and crows waiting for the tiny morsels early morning in our terrace, before we touched our breakfast. Food is therapy down south, because Vazhaipoo (the banana flower) benefits the uterus for instance, the banana stem (Vaazhai Thandu) scours clean the most natural way our bladder and kidneys preventing stones. Turmeric (haldi) prevents Alzheimer’s. Neem cures poxes and Keezhanelli greens treat jaundice successfully (stolen and patented by the west for private profit). No way exotic, this is staple everyday South Indian or Thamizh Nadu cuisine. We infuse herbs, fresh leafy veggies everything into our food plus a plethora of natural (masala) spices that make our Desi Curry unique. Home cooking is also cathartic, therapeutic to some like me. Food is not only about catering to one of our five senses, it is also a holistic experience for food lovers like me. I love cooking for family and friends. And last but not the least: food is the shortest way to a man’s heart. The best aphrodisiac if you ask me! Explains ‘Culinary Porn!’ Here is a small serving from my platter: