Posted in food as therapy...

The International Vegetarian

Go Veggie Internationally!

Loving Mexican – as authentic as it can get… From the Tacos and Tamales to the Chipotle sauce… being vegetarian restricts your food choices but then Mexican has great veggie options for those like me. Fast food joints do a super service. Their tacos are even lighter and can be had on the run – so no wonder a hit with the local Americans. Exotic/ethnic cuisine gets distorted in other parts of the world as we see with even Indian curry masala. After my Pizzas and Risottos and Raviolis in Florence and Rome, never could I bring myself to touch the Spaghetti or Pasta again anywhere else. The US may not be exactly the right place to sample Mexican but this is the best that I could manage. Tamales are my No.1 and somewhat remind me of steamed south Indian rice dishes such as Uppurundai for instance, and Tacos come a close second. What makes Mexican special is that, it is a bit spicy to cater to typical Indian taste buds bred on red hot chili pepper and pickles. Neither did I find the Mexican junk. With rice and bean sauce and elaborate preparations, the cuisine can be a complete meal. A vegetarian connoisseur’s delight lies in discovering regional veggie cuisine. That way the Falafel is my hot favourite Arab signature dish with their dessert ‘Baklava’ now getting popular in India. Of course, the Sharia rice is irresistible to me, so filling and sumptuous tweaked with kismis and pistachios toasted on ghee. A curious twist of long grain rice and vermicelli, the dish is yet to hit the party circles. Egyptian Kushari is a welcome diversion as is their Babaganoush, the eggplant dish. Love equally the Lebanese veggie platter with ‘Labneh.’ Labneh or labaneh which may be the whey is my most preferred bread spread for last fifteen years. We live in the Olive-and-Date heaven so I make most of the flavour of the region. Sehlab the syrian ‘kheer’ and the Turkish ice creams remain my other top favourites. Life in Middle East is a blessing that way that I get to sample the original versions, as gulf countries teem with expats from every corner of the globe. Partial to cheese – and as much as possible I go for vegetarian cheese that is not made with rennet. We have a selection from the Mediterranean to choose from. Vegetarian from birth, I have been aware i can never get to taste most of the food spread the world has to offer and that my choices are enormously limited. But sampling the global vegetarian cuisine seems to somewhat make up for what I stand to lose on food front. Of course, of late I am loving something as staple as Mashed Potatoes and Spinach Potato patties from IKEA, so predictable and boring to most, served with Mushroom sauce. But only a vegetarian will know, what a luxury it is to find something as trivial as smoked potatoes in a world gorging on meat and fish. My exploration of vegetarian world dishes started with our time in Malaysia. The ‘Kuihs’ from ‘kumpungs’ of Malaysia, the rice dumplings steamed in Pandan leaves, were my first ever veggie foreign dish over a quarter century back nearly. Introduced to me by my Malay and Chinese friends, a wave of nostalgia washes over me as I think of kuihs and I can strangely remember the aroma of the pandan even now. May be smell travels fastest over light and sound! I was lucky to get my order of veggie Kway Teao (thick Malay noodles) done to my taste and preference in Malaysia. Come a long way since then. This as much breaks the stereotypes about nations and cultures. There is no doubt that India is the vegetarian capital of the world with infinite and unique recipes from practically every district and state of the country. A lifetime is not enough to experience and savour the phenomenon called India palate. But there is vegetarian aspect to every cultural cuisine as I have seen, that most of us Indians especially vegetarians tend to neglect. It adds a beautiful dimension to food theories. India does not monopolize vegetarian cuisine. Neither can we Indians reduce others to mere meat eating status. I have savoured Poori and Halwa, veggie Samosas and Channa-Dal in Pakistani restaurants and Bindi (okra) and Naan from Afghan. The latter to me offered the bestest bread basket ever, putting five star restaurants to shame. My favourite eating place is Chinese with its simmering Tofu on the grill with mixed vegetables and Jasmine tea. The variety of veggie cuisine the world has to offer with respect to regional and seasonal harvesting/vegetations makes for interesting menu. Survival is possible in any part of the planet provided we nurture an open mind even as a vegetarian. Help yourself to generous servings of global vegetarian. You will want to eat out of humanity’s hands.

Posted in food as therapy...

7 Thaan Koottu (Aarudhra Special)

The 7 vegetable spicy south Indian stew with coconut and lentils

Aarudhra is the day Lord Shiva is in His dancing best. Very special occasion every Margazhi month during which time anyway along with Perumal temples, Shiva Stalas too open by morning 4 am. I used to hear the bell toll before dawn in Mylapore home right from Kapali temple as once upon a time, me too used to draw ‘kolams’ in the street in front of our house.

Aarudhra special neivedyam for puja at home is this 7 thaan koottu (a stew with 7 native vegetables – or more like 9, 11) along with Jaggery Kali. My patti used to make mouthwatering kali and koottu omg! I don’t know whether I can ever match her but i give it my best shot.

I saw some You tube videos on the koottu but i got disappointed because, many of them were using carrots, cabbage, cauli flower etc in preparation. Nothing wrong. But the significance of the recipe lies in using only native vegetables. We in our family with roots in Arni also repeat this recipe for Maattu Pongal (a day after Pongal/Sankranthi which is the harvest festival of India). In certain things I stick with traditional recipes, in some I add variations. However the 7 thaan koottu is something I never would alter from original recipe.


Native vegetables – 7 (I used Raw banana 1, Ash guard, yellow Pumpkin, broad Beans, Mochai (fresh peeled) (this is totally native to India/Tamil Nadu that there is no English equivalent name I guess), Yam and Tapioca (valli kizhangu) and Brinjal (actually ended up using 8)! Total weight of the vegetables was over 1 kg. Variations that can be used are: Drumstick, Colacasia, Mango etc that are also native.

Tomato 3 or 4 big size

Shallots (peeled) (I skipped onion on the day of Thiruvadhirai/Aarudhra but otherwise generally add)

Curry leaves and coriander leaves for seasoning

Tuar dhaal – 1 cup

Tamarind – lemon size (or little less if you want the koottu to be little less tangy)

For spice mix: Dhania seeds 2 tbsp, channa dal 2 tbsp, red chili 6 to 8, cumin seeds – 2 tsp, fenugreek 1/2 tbsp, coconut shelled 2 tbsp, (kopra was in use in place of coconut. we never used fresh coconuts in kootu/kozhambu/curry in my granny’s days. only the dried kopra. the fresh coconut usage is a recent phenomenon. we do get dry kopra scrapes in Pazha Mudhir Nilayam in the nuts section. this dry kopra can also be used for payasams).

For tempering: mustard seeds 1 tsp, cumin seeds 1 tsp, fenugreek seeds 1/4 tsp

Gingely oil 2 tbsp

Turmeric poweder 1/2 tsp





As you peel, wash, cube and boil the 7 vegetables in water in a thick bottomed pan with lid closed, pressure cook tuar dal separately to smooth mashy consistency. Remember to add the peeled fresh green Mochai along with the dal. Add turmeric powder to the dal.

Soak tamarind in warm water before you start so that when you have to squeeze the tamarind you get good tamarind juice. Do not throw the boiled water in which the vegetables are cooked. Do not overcook vegetables to too soft.

Dice the tomatoes.

Roast the spice mix ingredients lightly and grind to smooth paste.

Heat the gingely oil in a thick bottom cast iron kadai and when it starts smoking, temper with mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds. When these splutter add tomatoes that are cubed and rinsed curry leaves. In case you have shallots peeled, first add shallots to the oil and fry to golden brown and then add the tomatoes. When the tomatoes are mushy, add the cooked vegetables along with the water. Squeeze the soaked tamarind and add the juice to the kadai now and stir well. After thorough mixing add the spice blend to the Koottu that is cooking. Add salt. Finally add the cooked dal and season with asafoetida and washed coriander leaves. Do not over cook. I let the Koottu to be in Sambhar consistency. If you want, let it thicken more to actual Koottu padham BEFORE you add the dal.

We have the 7 Thaan Koottu ready, hot and steaming. Best with Arudhra Kali first, but also very good with rice, ven pongal, roti or anything. One of the most yummiest traditional original native recipes. No onion/garlic/ginger but I would love to have the shallots in it. Perhaps, next time on a less auspicious occasion.

Very filling and nutritious vegan/vegetarian stew – the Ezhu Thaan Aarudhra Kootu. My fave since when I was a little girl.

Seriously don’t bother about calorie count or cooking time. So long as food is healthy and hearty, it is good enough for me and family.

Posted in food as therapy...

My kinda Atta Roti

Little twist in whole wheat Atta can make a lot of difference to our health.

I do it this way:

To make 6 regular size rotis:

8 tbsp whole wheat Atta (grind it monthly) (whole wheat flour)

1 tbsp Ragi (finger millet) (pearl millet is another substitute)

1 tsp Flax seed powder

1 tsp crushed Kasuri Methi leaves (dried fenugreek leaves)

1/2 tsp Omam (caraway seeds/Ajwain in Hindi)

2 tbsp curd

Salt to taste


Ajwain aids in digestion and Flax seeds are Plant Omega 3 rich. Ragi is glutten-free. Kasuri methi is rich in iron. I mostly use it for taste though. Curds help in fermentation and digestion. Adding garam masala or ginger-garlic paste is optional. As I go for hot and spicy gravies always with rotis, I prefer simple rotis.

Make a smooth chapathi dough of all the above ingredients and roll into rotis with the rolling pin and toast both sides in tawa, preferably with desi ghee. Little bit softer result because of ragi addition. Not too crispy. Makes for a filling lunch/dinner along with any subji (sidedish). Leave the dough to rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling into rotis for toasting.

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Hot & Spicy Tomato Soya Chunk Thokku

Tomato Soya Chunk Thokku

I guess this is my improvisation. Little original. Most recipes I post are. Never the traditional, but altered and made unique with my signature. This is one such a recipe.

Tomato is selling 3 kgs at Rs. 50/-. An abundance called India! So I am making the best use of the rich, ripe tomatoes pumped with lycopene. Together with cholesterol controller soya, it can make for a yummy recipe.

Soya is believed to be a major GM food so those in fertile years please stay away. But don’t ask me how come Malaysian Chinese harbour no such problems. Soy to be avoided until you are into your 40s and your childbearing years are over.

Minimal consumption like once a month or so fine until one may reach middle-age when it comes to Soy. Or for that matter any food be it fruit or vegetable that you may suspect to be GM.

For this yum tomato gravy, I have used 1 kg tomatoes and a handful of soya chunks readily available in our supermarket shelves.


Tomato 1 kg

Soya chunks – a handful

Onion – 2 middle sized ones

Garlic – one whole

Curry leaves

Coriander leaves

Gingely oil 2 tbsp

Madras sambhar powder – 2 to 3 tsp (this is 50% dry red chili powder and 50% dhania/coriander powder that I grind and keep stock always in my kitchen)

Garam Masala powder -1/2 tsp (optional) (this too I have homemade with roasting and powdering nutmeg-cloves, bayleaf, cinnamon, cardamom, fennel etc). In this recipe I have not added garam masala powder but sauteed with bayleaf and cinnamon stick and cloves instead.

Turmeric powder just a pinch so as to maintain the rich reddish hue of the curry.

Salt to taste

Water (optional)

For tempering: mustard seeds, fennel seeds a tsp each. If you are to temper with bayleaf and cinnamon and fennel seeds, mustard seeds to be avoided as also garam masala powder.


Soak soya chunks in warm water for about 30 min and squeeze out water. Keep aside.

Peel and grate onion and grate tomatoes fine.

Peel and crush garlic.

Heat Oil in a cast iron kadai. When it reaches smoking point, temper with (i) mustard and fennel seeds or (ii) bayleaf, cinnamon stick and fennel seeds). Saute next onion to golden brown. Add crushed garlic and curry leaves next. Finally add the tomatoes. When the gravy is mushy, add the soya chunks whole or cut into half. Add a little water if so desire, I don’t. I let the soya chunks cook in the tomato juice. Add the madras sambhar powder and garam masala powder and turmeric powder(optional) Add salt proportionally keeping in mind the gravy will be thickening in consistency by the time you are done. Turn well and cook covered for about 20 min until the gravy thickens and the soya is well cooked. Season with cut and washed coriander leaves. Serve hot with rotis or rice. One of the yummiest curries especially in cold weather. Easiest to cook.

Posted in food as therapy...

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.

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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


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!