Mahanandi

Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Palak Tofu

Photo Purchase Keywords: Soy, Spinach
(It takes money, time, effort and energy for food photography. Please don’t photosteal. Click on the links and purchase the photos legally to digital download and to print. Thanks.)

It’s appalling to see the cookery programs like ‘America’s Test Kitchen’, and others still touting and using nutrient-nil, all-purpose flour for sauces. There are many natural and quality ingredients readily available at the market place right now for cooking purpose.

Almonds, cashews, coconut, chestnuts, dalia, sunflower seeds, peanuts and poppy seeds, to name a few.

Cost-effective and nutrient rich, just few tablespoons of any of the above in paste form would be enough to thicken the sauce or gravy and turn them to tasty. It’s 21st century, and proven information is out there on how harmful the all-purpose flour diet can be to a human body. Still, these so called chefs posing as cookery educators seem to relish falling back on the faux traditions. They won’t hesitate to leave their spouses and relationships behind when they become unhealthy. It’s puzzling why they continue to enjoy and propagate this dreadful all-purpose flour abuse on humankind.

If you are one of those struggling to break away from all-purpose flour addiction, the following recipe will work wonders to train the taste buds fearlessly boo the bland bechamel.

Palak (Spinach) and Tofu
Spinach and Soy Bean Curd (Palak and Tofu)

Recipe:

For Palak (=Spinach) Puree:
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup, finely chopped onions
4 green chillies, Indian or Thai variety- finely chopped
2 cups, finely chopped tomatoes (2 large tomatoes)
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 bunch, fresh spinach, cut to big pieces, about 6 cups

For Palak Tofu:
1 teaspoon peanut oil
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ cup poppy seeds (or ½ cup cashews), powdered
2 tablespoons kasuri methi (livens up the Palak Tofu)
½ teaspoon each - garam masala, salt and turmeric
15 tofu cubes, about 1 inch sized

Palak Puree Preparation :

Heat oil in a wide skillet to a smoking point. Add onion, green chillies and tomatoes. Cook them to soft brown mush. Remove the contents to a plate.

Add the spinach to the skillet, and saute until the leaves collapse. Remove to a plate and wait for at least 5 to 10 minutes for them to cool down.

Take the cooled onion, chillies, tomatoes and spinach in a blender. Add a pinch of salt. Blend to thick puree. Set it aside.

Palak Tofu Preparation :

Clean or wipe the same skillet and then add and heat oil. Add and toast the cumin. Add the spinach-tomato puree. Sprinkle the powdered poppy seeds, kasuri methi, garam masala, salt and turmeric. Along with about a cup of water. Stir well. Add the tofu cubes. Simmer on low heat for about ten minutes. Serve warm.

Palak Tofu, as you can see is a very easy preparation, takes about 20 to 30 minutes. That’s all, and makes a memorable meal when eaten with chapati, paratha, rice, pasta, or millet.

Palak Tofu (Soy Spinach)
Palak Tofu, to Satiate the Sharp Hunger Pangs ~
Meal Today, and for Rajitha’s WBB: Soy Event

note:
Calorie count - poppy seeds

~ Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Spinach, Soy (Tofu, Yuba), Poppy Seeds (Wednesday January 30, 2008 at 11:56 pm- permalink)
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Green Tomatoes

Photo Purchase Keywords: Tomato, Coconut
(It takes money, time, effort and energy for food photography. Please don’t photosteal. Click on the links and purchase the photos legally to digital download and to print. Thanks.)

During winter time, I tend to look for the greenest, unripe tomatoes at the grocery stores. I keep them in a basket on the kitchen countertop at home. Though it takes two to three days to mellow, the resulting home-ripened tomatoes are worth the wait for their flavor : my solution to poor quality tomatoes of winter season.

Last weekend, I purchased two pounds of “just looking at them will make your mouth pucker” kind of firm-fleshed, unripe tomatoes. I couldn’t resist making an old classic with them for today’s meal. The following recipe is a traditional preparation from Nandyala, India. The intense, tangy ruchi of unripe tomatoes is matched by fresh coconut sweetness and chilli-ginger spiciness. A good meal to have on a mind numbing, cold winter day.

Unripe Tomato and Fresh Coconut
Unripe Tomato and Fresh Coconut ~ Ingredients for Kura

Recipe:

1 teaspoon peanut oil
Pinch each - cumin and mustard seeds
4 - green, unripe tomatoes (Round, Big variety)
4 - green chillies (Indian or Thai variety)
2 tablespoons - grated coconut, fresh
1 tablespoon - grated ginger
Salt and turmeric to taste

Wash green tomatoes and then cut them to bite-sized pieces - about four cups.

Place a wide skillet on stove-top. Add and heat peanut oil. Add and toast cumin and mustard seeds. When seeds start to pop, add the tomatoes. On medium-high heat, cook the tomatoes to tender-soft (but not too mushy or paste like).

Meanwhile, take the coconut, green chillies and ginger in a blender or Sumeet style mixer. Add a pinch of salt. Blend to fine paste.

Add this coconut-chilli paste to the simmering tomatoes. Also stir in the turmeric and salt. Mix. Cook, covered for another five minutes.

Serve the tomato kura hot with chapati or parathas for a light meal.

Unripe Tomato Kura
Kura with Unripe Tomatoes ~ Meal Today

Recipe Source: Amma, Nandyala

- Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Tomato, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Coconut (Fresh), Ginger & Sonti (Tuesday January 29, 2008 at 6:36 pm- permalink)
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Chickpea ~ Chestnut Chili (Chole)

Due to severe winter storm and repair works, internet service at our place got disconnected last Thursday. Four days of no Net, and I survived. Sincere thanks to my dear friend Anjali for keeping the Mahanandi alive with her gorgeous Kokum and Sol Kadhi photo-article, and to my dear husband Vijay for taking time from his busy schedule to check on the website during my absence.

Instead of worrying about IS/ISO certification for Mahanandi to appease the latest blight - the “quality concerned” visitors, I simply spent time on things that really matter, which of course invariably led to food. One of the recipes that I prepared last weekend was very unusual and rather substantial meal with chickpeas and chestnuts.

Chickpea chili with chestnuts happened due to my desire to experiment with chestnuts. I like chestnuts, and I can get quality chestnuts, already roasted, shelled and packed at low prices here in Seattle. The local Vietnamese and Chinese grocery shops offer a delightful variety of packed chestnut goodies ready for consumption. I was little bit anxious during the chili preparation, being the first time and all. But the sweet tasting, starchy chestnuts simmered happily in tomato-onion sauce, and made good companion to chickpeas. I am glad I tried this Indian inspired chickpea-chestnut chili or chole.

Chestnuts and Chickpeas

Recipe:

1 tablespoon peanut oil
Pinch each - cumin and mustard seeds
1 cup diced onion
3 cups finely chopped juicy tomatoes
2 cups chickpeas, cooked to tender
1 cup roasted or boiled chestnuts, cut to bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon CCCC powder (aka garam masala)
½ teaspoon each - red chilli powder and salt
¼ teaspoon - turmeric
Lemon juice or amchur to taste (for tangy flavor)
Chopped herbs to taste - cilantro or dried fenugreek

Heat oil in a deep skillet or saucepan. Add cumin and mustard seeds. When seeds start to pop, add the onion. Saute to gold. Stir in the juicy tomatoes. Cook them on high heat to mush.

Add chickpeas, and chestnuts. Also stir in the seasoning, the CCCC powder, chilli, salt, turmeric, and lemon juice or amchur. Add about one to two cups of water. Mix. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Garnish with herbs and serve the chickpea-chestnut chili or chole hot, with a dollop of yogurt or raita on the side with chapati or paratha.

Chickpea-Chestnut Chili with Chapati
Chickpea-Chestnut Chili (Chole) with Chapati and an Orange

Note:
CCCC Powder - Cumin, Coriander, Clove and Cinnamon Powder
Chili with one ‘L’ is American version of our kurma. Chili contains tomatoes, beans, meat and/or vegetables with spices, and sometimes rice is also added.

- Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Chickpeas, Chestnuts (Marrons) (Monday January 28, 2008 at 8:36 pm- permalink)
Comments (21)

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Kokum (Garcinia Indica, Amsool)

Kokum (Amsul, Amsool, Sol)
Kokum (Amsool, Amsul, Sol)

The kokum tree is a graceful tropical tree and grows in the Konkan, Malabar and Kanara regions of Western India that are gifted with rich soil, adequate rainfall and very good sunshine. Kokum tree reaches a height of 10-15 meters, has dark green foliage and a pyramidal shape. The tree blooms from November to February and the fruits ripen in April-May. The kokum fruit ratamba looks similar to small variety plum, and has dark purple color when ripe. Fruits are harvested when ripe and only the rind is preserved by drying in the Sun. That is Kokum. Sometimes salt is rubbed onto the rind to speed up the drying process.

Just like tamarind, kokum is mainly used as a souring agent. Kokum has a fruity and tangy flavor. Kokum fruit is considered to act as a Cholagogue, and is also used in treatment of skin rashes caused by allergies. Kokum fruit is steeped in sugar syrup to make Amrut-Kokum, and is used to avoid sunstroke.

When buying kokum, look for soft, pliable rinds. Good quality kokum is dark purple in color. I have seen Kokum with white crystals on it and it just means that too much salt was used in the drying process. No worry. Just wash the kokum rinds in cold water before using.

Another avatar of kokum is Kokum Butter, an excellent emollient, and is now used by the cosmetics industry for lotions, creams, lip balms and soaps. Kokum butter has a relatively high meting point, considered one of the most stable exotic butters (Shea butter, cocoa butter, etc) and hence doesn’t need refrigeration. It is extracted from the kokum seed and is supposed to reduce degeneration of skin cells and restore elasticity.

Ayurvedic medicine considers Vrikshamla, Sanskrit name for kokum, to be pitta pacifying and uses the fruit, root, bark of Kokum tree to treat acidity, pitta related allergies and some abdominal ailments.

Konkani cuisine has given the world an amazing gift of Sol Kadhi, an appetite arousing drink prepared with kokum and coconut milk. Sol kadhi involves almost no cooking. Some enjoy Sol Kadhi with rice and roti, but I love to drink it just by itself.

Sol Kadhi Ingredients
Coconut Milk, Green Chilli, Kokum, Cilantro, Cumin and Jaggery

Sol Kadhi

5 or 6 Kokum
1 cup coconut milk (Homemade, or Canned unsweetened type)
1 green chilli
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
Sugar or jaggery, and salt - to taste
2 fresh sprigs of fresh cilantro

Soak Kokum in a cup of warm water for half an hour, to soften and to release juice.

Grind green chilli and cumin to fine paste.

Once the kokum water turns pink, take it in a big cup or glass. Add coconut milk. Stir in sugar or jaggery and salt to taste. Also the cumin-chill paste. Mix. Garnish with cilantro leaves and drink immediately. Do not leave kokum soaked in as it will make the sol kadhi sourer than normal. (Some also like to add a pinch of grated ginger and garlic.)

During winter, I warm up the sol kadhi for few minutes and enjoy it as a soup. During hot summer months, I prefer to take it at cold or at room temperature.

If you have never tried Kokum before, then Sol Kadhi would be a good start. The agreeable flavor and sweet, acidic taste will get you hooked on this amazing Kokum drink.

Sol Kadhi
Soul’s Awakening in Baby Pink ~ Sol Kadhi

By Anjali Damerla

Previously on Anjali’s Supreme Spice Series: Herbs and Spices

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Coconut (Fresh), Herbs and Spices, Anjali Damerla, Kokum (Amsool) (Thursday January 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm- permalink)
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Chutney with Fuzzy Melon (Mo Qua)

Fuzzy Melon (Mo Qua, Mo Gwa)
Fuzzy Melon (Mo Qua)

If you come across a fuzzy melon, also sold as “Mo Qua” at Asian grocery shops please don’t hesitate to pick it up. This fuzzy looking vegetable with green mottled skin has sweet tasting white flesh, and cream colored seeds that are typical of gourds and squashes. It has almost ridge gourd like flavor, and a pleasant, thirst-quenching type of taste. Delicious raw and assimilates enthusiastically with other ingredients when cooked, it’s my kind of vegetable.

I have been trying out different recipes with fuzzy melon since last December. Here is a recipe I liked very much. It’s chutney, made in a classic south-Indian style.

Fuzzy melon, onion, green chillies are skillet-roasted first and then together with tamarind and salt are blended into chutney. Just another ordinary preparation, but together with the other four ingredients, fuzzy melon delivers an applause-worthy performance on taste buds.

Fuzzy Melon, Red Onion, Green Chillies and Tamarind
Red Onion, Mo Qua, Green Chillies and Tamarind

Recipe:

  • Fuzzy melon: Firm, fresh looking vegetable, about 4 to 6 inches in size. Wash, peel the skin and cut into big chunks. about 2 cups.
  • Red onion or shallots - cut to big chunks, about a cup
  • 4 to 6 - Indian or Thai styled green chillies
  • Marble ball sized tamarind - soak in quarter cup of water.
    (To soften, so that it can blend well.)
  • ¼ teaspoon - salt
  • 1 tablespoon - peanut oil

In an iron skillet, add and heat peanut oil to smoking point. Add the onion, green chillies and fuzzy melon. Keep the heat on medium-high, and saute the vegetables to tender brown. Turn off the heat, and wait for the skillet contents to cool down to room temperature. (This waiting process is essential, makes a difference in how the chutney tastes.)

Add the skillet contents to a blender or in mortar. Add tamarind and the water it soaked in, also salt. Blend to fine. Remove to a cup and serve fresh. Makes a great side dish for any kind of grain based meal.

Chutney Ingredients
Chutney Ingredients ~ Skillet Roasted

Mo Qua Chutney with Couscous-Vegetable Upma
Mo Qua Chutney with Couscous-Vegetable Upma, and an Orange ~ Meal Today

-Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Fuzzy Melon (Wednesday January 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm- permalink)
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Sorakaya Pappu (Dudhi Dal)

Photo Purchase Keywords: Dal, Bottle Gourd
(It takes money, time, effort and energy for food photography. Please don’t photosteal. Click on the links and purchase the photos legally to digital download and to print. Thanks.)

A good many people seem to have a mental block against bottle gourd (= Sorakaya, Dudhi, Lauki). I too did have some time ago, but lately the availability of fresh looking and young vegetables at nominal price made me revisit the old classics as well as do little experimentation with bottle gourd.

The following recipe is one of many pappu (dal) arrows from my mother’s recipe quiver. If you do not like eating raw vegetables, then cook them with toor dal. That’s the common practice at my home, and also in many homes in Andhra Pradesh. It works perfectly. See, now I’m addicted to vegetable-dal combinations.

In this dal recipe, the slightly sweet bottle gourd is protein powered with toor dal, flavored with tamarind and chilli, and seasoned with tadka. Definitely, this will ease your way in any bottle gourd battle.

Bottle Gourd (Sorakaya, Dudhi, Lauki, Opo Squash) and Toor Dal
Bottle Gourd (Sorakaya, Dudhi, Lauki) and Toor Dal

Recipe:

¾ cup - toor dal (kandi pappu)
1½ to 2 cups - finely cubed bottle gourd (Sorakaya, Dudhi)
¼ cup - coarsely chopped onion
½ teaspoon each (or to taste)- red chilli powder and turmeric
Marble ball sized tamarind

For popu or tadka:
1 tablespoon ghee or peanut oil
6 each - curry leaves, crushed garlic
Pinch each - cumin, mustard seeds and hing (asafoetida)

Take toor dal in a pressure cooker. Rinse the dal with water. Add the bottle gourd cubes, onion, chilli powder, turmeric and tamarind. Add about one to two cups of water. Mix. Close the lid and steam-cook until toor dal reaches the fall-apart stage. Then add salt, and coarsely mash the ingredients together.

The dal benefits greatly from my daily vitamin dose, I call popu or tadka. Let’s heat ghee or oil in a vessel. Add the curry leaves and garlic. Toast them to pale brown, and then add the cumin, mustard seeds and hing. When the seeds start to pop, add the mashed dal to the vessel. Mix and serve the dal with rice or with chapati.

For a true Andhra experience, mix the dal with rice and ghee. Shape into small rounds like shown below. Dip them in pickle or podi. Enjoy.

Sorakaya Pappannam Mudda (Bottle Gourd Dal mixed with Rice and Shaped to a Round)
Sona Masuri Rice mixed with Sorakaya Pappu, and Shaped to a Round ~ A Bharath Experience

- Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Toor Dal, Sorakaya(Dudhi,Lauki), Amma & Authentic Andhra (Monday January 21, 2008 at 7:14 pm- permalink)
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Bottle Gourd, Fuzzy Melon and Silk Squash

Photo Purchase Keyword: Squash
(It takes money, time, effort and energy for food photography. Please don’t photosteal. Click on the links and purchase the photos legally to digital download and to print. Thanks.)

Bottle Gourd, Silk Squash
Bottle Gourd, Fuzzy Melon & Silk Squash ~ Pitta Pacifying Vegetables
for This Week’s Indian Kitchen

Bottle Gourd is also known as Sorakaya (Telugu), Anapakaya (Telugu), Dudhi (Hindi), Lauki (Hindi), calabash (Italian?), Opo squash.

Fuzzy Melon is sold as Foo Gwa and Mooqua at local Vietnamese grocery.

Silk Squash, other names are Neti Beerakaya (Telugu), Silk Melon and Chinese Okra (Chinese grocery shops).

- Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Indian Vegetables, Sorakaya(Dudhi,Lauki), Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen, Beerakaya-Neti(Silk Squash) (Sunday January 20, 2008 at 7:03 pm- permalink)
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Flavors of Life ~ Banana Vendor

Banana Vendor by Sree of Sree's Canvas
Flavors of Life ~ Banana Vendor
Painting by Sree (Colored Pencils on Paper)

Many like her were selling bananas in front of the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi. The fruits were not offerings to God, but to the large number of cows in front of the temple! I don’t know whether you would agree; to me the banana is the most humble of all fruits. It’s available through the year and affordable to all. The banana selflessly offers itself to mankind. We eat both raw and ripe fruit, the stem of the plant and the banana flower. We use the banana leaves for religious offerings and cooking. I recently read somewhere that the nutrients lie in the ripe skin of the fruit. Any takers?:)

by - Sree

(Flavors of Life by Sree: Introduction)

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Arati Kaaya (Plantain), Bananas, Sree (Saturday January 19, 2008 at 12:26 am- permalink)
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Flavors of Life by Sree

It’s always more fun when food is shared with family and friends. As much as I like to live in my own world at Mahanandi, I feel happy when friends drop by to share their goodies. Today is one such day and the friend is talented artist Sree. Sree is from Kerala, now lives in Bangalore and writes at “Sree’s Canvas“. Sree is an excellent painter and I especially love the way she uses colors to bring life into a subject. She will be starting a new series of sketches called “Flavors of Life” at Mahanandi from today, and the series will be on Saturday’s fortnightly.

Here is more about “Flavors of Life” by Sree:

I enjoy food! I love cooking, shopping for ingredients, researching recipes or simply strolling through a vegetable market as much as I love drawing and painting. I hope through “flavors of life” to publish sketches, paintings and doodles of things that add to the joy of life, which to me is synonymous with the pleasure of good food.

A little about myself, I draw for myself, topics that touch me. I don’t dare call myself an artist (that’s an honor bestowed upon those great souls who carved out our ancient temples and monuments with every ounce of their sweat and blood. In comparison I’m just a lazy doodler humbled by all that I see around me). I work mostly with graphite, colored pencils and oils, sometimes ink and watercolor as well. I hope to stick around in this virtual culinary world for a while.:)

Cheers,
Sree

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Sree (Saturday January 19, 2008 at 12:06 am- permalink)
Comments (3)

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Food Blog Desam Update

Mathy and I had great time supporting the food blog community by providing traffic and increasing the readership to both old and new blogs through Food Blog Desam. It took lot of time and energy to maintain the Food Blog Desam, but it was an effort from the heart to see the food blogging community to flourish. So we both enjoyed the work tremendously. Unfortunately in the last few weeks, Food Blog Desam has been going through some problems due to some server and tech issues. We don’t know when we are able to diagnose, let alone fix things, as we both are currently engaged to real life and the craziness that comes with it. With great sadness, we have decided to stop updating the site. But Food Blog Desam will be online few more weeks, until we decide what to do with it. If there is any change in the situation, you will be the first to know.

Thanks for your support.

Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Friday January 18, 2008 at 10:32 pm- permalink)
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Lauki Chole

Photo Purchase Keywords: Chickpeas, Bottle Gourd
(It takes money, time, effort and energy for food photography. Please don’t photosteal. Click on the links and purchase the photos legally to digital download and to print. Thanks.)

I am sure you must have come across people who constantly fish for opinions. “Should I do this?”, “What do you think about this?”, “Do you think this suits me?” The first few times it’s endearing, and then it starts to get annoying. “I see a head on your neck, don’t you have a functioning brain?” You want to hurl back the questions. Whenever I see such fishing activity in virtual world, I wonder whether this coquettish routine is a clever manipulation for comments or a confused cry for help. Whatever the reason might be, it is always better to avoid such people who act like they need to conduct focus groups for everything.

When it comes to cooking, here is a recipe that doesn’t need a focus group to know it tastes good. Well, the recipe is lauki-chole, and it has silk like lauki also known as bottle gourd and smooth tasting chickpeas. Chickpeas are one legume that can stand on their own in taste department. They can pamper other ingredients without pandering to them. That’s a good company to have.

Bottle Gourd, Sorakaya, Lauki, Dudhi
Bottle Gourd (Lauki, Sorakaya, Dudhi), Chickpeas and Tomato

Recipe:
(for two, for two meals)

1 tablespoon - ghee
1 onion- finely chopped
4 tomatoes - finely chopped
1 small bottle gourd (lauki, Dudhi, Sorakaya), about 6-8″
3 cups chickpeas, pre-soaked in water
1 tablespoon chana masala powder (homemade or store-bought)
Chilli powder, turmeric, salt, and lemon juice - to taste
1 tablespoon - kasuri methi

Cook chickpeas to tender in salted water. Drain. Separate about half cup and puree to fine, for a low-calorie chole thickener.

Lightly scrape the bottle gourd’s (lauki) skin, cut to middle lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out and then cut the white part to bite-sized cubes.

Heat ghee in a big pot. Add onions and tomatoes. Saute to soft mush. Add the cubed bottle gourd. Saute to tender. Add the chickpeas and the chickpea paste. Also stir in the spices - chana masala powder, chilli, turmeric powders, and salt. Add about a cup of water. Mix well. Simmer, covered for about 15 to 20 min. At the end, sprinkle the kasuri methi and lemon juice. Mix and serve right away.

I like chole. The chickpeas in chole are good with vegetable combination, and they make filling meal with minimum effort. This type of vegetable chole satisfies any grain - rice, chapati, pasta, millet and even the toasted bread.

Lauki Chole
Lauki-chole with Rice, Lemon and Pickled Pepper ~ Meal Today

Lauki in Ayurveda, Lauki at backyard garden
Bindiya’s Kashmiri recipe with lauki

Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Chickpeas, Sorakaya(Dudhi,Lauki) (Thursday January 17, 2008 at 9:09 pm- permalink)
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Sonti Tea (Tea with Dried Ginger or Chukku)

“Not feeling hungry today?
I will make a cup of sonti tea for the appetite.”

“Ate too much food at the party?
Would you want me to prepare sonti kashayam for better digestion?”

“Food was not good yesterday at the restaurant. My stomach is upset
Have a cup of sonti tea to calm the over working stomach.”

“I am tired and feeling little bit nauseous after the long day of shopping.
You sit there and rest. I will bring a hot cup of sonti coffee for you.”

“My head is hurting with this cold and cough.
There, there, have this cup of hot sonti tea. By tomorrow, you will be like a daisy.”

Sonti Powder and Sonti
Sonti Powder, Dried Ginger (Sonti), and Fresh Ginger

For everything and anything, sonti is the treatment at my home. Sonti tea, Sonti coffee and Sonti kashayam are prescribed to cure and to relieve almost all types small ailments from stomach upsets to cold and cough. Most of the time, they work fine.

Sonti, the dried form of ginger root is equally given importance along with fresh ginger in Ayurveda for its healing properties. Though sonti looks mild and all dried out, it has all the fresh ginger potency and some. When added in small doses, the strong sonti flavor and aroma makes the food energizing and interesting. At our home, if you go back to one generation before us, they’ would start and end their day with a cup of sonti drink. For small ailments, whether one believes in capsules pushed on by multimillion dollar ad blitzes or in ancient medicine, what matters is the trust that the stuff we would put in our bodies could comfort and relieve the symptoms. For us, the magic cure-all potion still hasn’t lost its magic.

Recipe :

From just a pinch to a tablespoon of sonti powder is added to a cup of tea. The amount varies on individual preference and tolerance. We like to add a teaspoon of sonti powder to a cup. Not too much, not too little, you would definitely notice the sonti taste.

To powder sonti, take sonti pieces in a mortar and pound them to smooth powder. We usually prepare powder for one month’s worth and store it in a tight lid box.

To prepare sonti tea and coffee: start the coffee/tea preparation like you normally do. And at the end, add the sonti powder. Simmer or heat few seconds. Pour to a cup and enjoy the tea enriched with sonti powder.

Sonti Tea with Puri and Potato Curry


Sonti is available at Indian grocery shops.
Sonti Recipes: Sonti Coffee, Sonti Kashayam and Chukkuvellam

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Tea, Revisiting Old Recipes (Wednesday January 16, 2008 at 11:00 pm- permalink)
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Semiya Payasam

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From hearing the Purandaradasa’s spiritual keerthana “Rama nama payasakke“, we will know that the semiya payasam we prepare at home has at least 500+ years of history. The recipe ingredients and the method have remained unchanged all these years. That is the greatness and as well as the simplicity of this recipe. What has changed is our attitude and regard towards such honest and soulful food. But that is a topic for another time. For now, continuing the 500 plus year old tradition, here is how I prepared the semiya payasam at my home for Neivedyam.


Semiya, Sugar, Ghee, Milk, Cashews and Draksha ~ Ingredients for Payasam

Recipe:

4 cups whole milk
½ cup cane sugar, ( or to taste)
Fine semiya, one bunch, about the size that fits baby’s fist (10″ long)
2 tablespoon of ghee, melted
16 cashews and 16 golden raisins
4 cardamom pods, seeds powdered

Heat ghee in a wide pot. Add and toast golden raisins to pink balloons first, and then cashews to pale gold color. Remove them in to a plate.

In the same pot, add and toast the semiya for one to two minutes. (This is to remove the raw wheat smell of semiya and I usually do it, but this is optional.) Take the toasted semiya to a plate and keep aside.

In the same pot, add the milk and stir in sugar. Bring the milk to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and add the semiya. Also the cashews, golden raisins and cardamom powder. Simmer on slow heat for ten minutes. The fine semiya floats like water lily stems in a pond of sweetened milk. That is the consistency we want in semiya payasam.

Serve warm or cold, and enjoy this fine, honest dessert in the name of tradition.


A Sweet 500+ year old tradition ~ Semiya Payasam

Note:
Semiya, the fine wheat noodles are a speciality of India. They are prepared with durum wheat flour and water. Semiya is egg free, and that is the major difference between western egg-laden vermicelli and Indian semiya. (Semiya is available at Indian grocery shops).

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Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets), Sugar, Milk, Indian Sweets 101, Traditions, Semiya (Tuesday January 15, 2008 at 7:13 pm- permalink)
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A special Recipe for the Ultimate Bliss ~ Semiya Payasam

Bhukthi means nourishment. While nutritious food is needed to sustain us for everyday activities and the maintenance of this physical body, a different kind of Bhukthi is necessary to satisfy our cravings to realize the true happiness in ourselves. Constant indulgence in the name of God (Bhakthi) provides the nourishment to realize the bliss of boundless divinity in the ego-limited humans.

This relation between Bhakthi and Bhukthi thus goes deep and this concept is brought to the people in beautiful poetry and song by many saint musicians of India.

Saint Purandara Dasa, the father of Carnatic music has created song and music the way to achieve the happiness which we all seek. He has composed innumerable songs called keerthana’s, full of wisdom and devotion eternalized in the hearts of people. His message of morals is handed out in easily understandable form, woven together with stories from the epics, along with beautiful expressions and analogies. No wonder his songs have pleased, inspired and guided people since more than four hundred years.

Stamp Commemorating Sri Purandara Dasa
Stamp Commemorating Sri Purandara Dasa

God is the source for infinite happiness and he has infinite names, infinite forms and is ubiquitous. For Purandara Dasa, God is Purandara Vittala in whose form he saw all other manifestations or avatars of God like Rama, Krishna, Shiva and Hanuma.

The spiritual song “Rama nama payasakke” is quite popular and sung by many in their own versions. It was written in the beautiful south Indian language of Kannada which is said to be as enchanting as the fragrance of kasturi. Saint Purandara Dasa elicits the great bliss in chanting the name of the God Vittala in “Rama Nama Payasakke“.

The keerthana explains with an easy analogy on how to obtain the spiritual bliss or Ananda with a recipe to make payasam.

The keerthana goes like this:

Pallavi: rAma nAma pAyasakke krSNa nAma sakkare viTTala nAma tuppava kalasi bAya capparisiro
Charana1: ommAna gOdiya tandu vairAgya kallali bIsi summane sajjige tegadu kammana shAvige hosedu
Charana2: hrdayavembo maDikeyalli bhAvavembo esaraniTTu buddhiyinda pAka mADi harivANake baDisikoNDu
Charana3: Ananda Anandavembo tEgu bandidu kaNIrO Ananda mUruti namma purandara viTTalana neneyiro

Purandara Dasa sings, “O people, indulge in the lip-smacking-good payasam called Rama nama, which is made sweet with the sugar called Krishna nama and is richly folded with the ghee called Vittala nama”.

Then he describes the meticulous details needed to make this special payasam from the scratch.

First obtain wheat flour of honor. Grind it in the mill of detachment. Make the dough called simplicity and draw thin semiya noodles from it.

In the pot called your heart, boil the noodles with the milk of feelings. Cook it then with the wisdom of worship.

Add the sweetness of Krishna’s name as sugar, and the nourishing richness of Vittala’s name as the ghee and lo you have your lip-smacking-delicious payasam.

Purandara Dasa even describes the proper method to enjoy the delicious payasam. He beckons us to serve it on a large platter and enjoy it. When burps emanate out of fulfillment, he asks us to remember the name of God Vittala who is the embodiment of immeasurable happiness and ecstasy.

Through this keerthana, purandara dasa gave us a recipe to live an ideal life. To live our life with honor, come through the grinds of materialistic attachments with austerity, and obtain the raw material for happiness using the simple method of devotion. Allow the feelings of joy and love boil in our heart wisely, and celebrate every moment of our life bit by bit contemplating God’s grace with gratitude. That is the ultimate sweet bliss!

Makara Sankranthi Shubhakankshalu!


Semiya, Sugar, Ghee, Milk, Cashews and Draksha ~ Ingredients for Payasam


Rakthi Raga for Bhukthi ~ Semiya Payasam

Article Contributed by Madhuri Akkenepalli (Friend of Mahanandi)
Photos by Indira Singari
Previously on Rakthi Raga for Bhukthi:
Of Being and Becoming ~ Ragi Idlies by Janani Srinivasan

Links:
Saint Purandara Dasa on Wiki.
Audio Links to “Rama Nama Payasakke”:
by Sreemathi Sudha Raghunathan and Vijayalakshmi Subrahmaniam

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets), Sugar, Bhakthi~Bhukthi, Semiya, Madhuri Akkenepalli (Monday January 14, 2008 at 1:11 pm- permalink)
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Weekend Seattle

Seattle Sprawl Taken from Columbia Tower, Photo by Singari Vijay
Seattle Sprawl
(My apartment building, I-5, a running train, football stadium, baseball stadium, Starbucks headquarters and a true symbol of Seattle- crane: Few Seattle Spots.)

Walking partner: I found a buddy. Thanks for responding.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Zen (Personal) (Saturday January 12, 2008 at 7:57 pm- permalink)
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