Mahanandi

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

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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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)
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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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Cookery, Indic ~ “Salads For All Occasions” by Vijaya Hiremath

Recipe: Sprouted Wheat and Spinach Salad

Salads for all Occasions by Vijaya Hiremath
Published in December 2005 by Jaico Publishing House

Traditionally, salad or koshimbir has formed a small part of main meals in India, taking its place alongside pickles and chutneys. This probably explains why preparing salads has always flummoxed me. Grains, vegetables, and lentils formed a complete meal, and salads were the step-children on my thali. I managed with the usual suspects - chopped tomatoes and onions with a splash of lemon juice and salt; grated cabbage and crushed peanuts with a splash of lemon juice and salt; steamed beetroot and grated carrot with a splash of lemon juice and salt; *yawn* and so on. I did not fare any better at the elaborate salad bars in U.S. restaurants and cafetarias. With the seemingly endless choices, one never quite knows when and where to stop piling one’s bowl. The end result was always a mishmash of ingredients, all of which I savour individually, but were disastrous together. I also have a distaste for the usual dressings, based as they are in oil and vinegar.

I was not interested in the plethora of salad books found in the American bookstores. Since our main meals at home are always Indian, I needed a book that used Indian ingredients, and produced flavours that would not clash with the other parts of our meal. I had purchased Varsha Dandekar’s Salads of India many years ago, and while it is an excellent cookbook in other respects, it is not about salads. Most of the dishes were really sukhi bhaji (dry vegetable preparations without gravy). There are other books on salads published in India, but they usually just reproduced Western salads. Vijaya Hiremath’s book, which I almost ignored at the bookstore due to the rather bland title, has ended my days of salad ennui.

The book is completely vegetarian, with over 50 salad recipes using a wide variety of easily-available ingredients. Sprouts prepared from whole grains and beans play a prominent role in many recipes, a feature which raised the book several notches in my estimation. Hiremath presents several fresh and innovative combinations of vegetables, fruit, greens, nuts, and sprouts. For example, Country Garden Salad, a jaded menu item that evokes images of limp lettuce and cottony tomatoes, appears in an elegant and attractive avtaar in this book. It is made with tender fenugreek leaves, white radish, carrot, cucumber, tomato, onion, and roasted sesame seeds and dressed with lemon juice, minced garlic, fresh grated coconut, cumin powder, and salt. The dressings are sauces prepared from fruit, vegetables, or dahi; chutneys or dry masala powders. The layout of the book is user-friendly: one recipe per page with the nutritive value for each recipe provided at the bottom. There are plenty of photos, which are mercifully devoid of Indian artifacts and fabrics cluttered around the food.

The recipes use a combination of weight and volumetric measurements, which might pose a problem for those readers used to measuring in cups and do not own a kitchen scale. The instructions are terse and lacking in nuances. For example, greens and vegetables being used in salads must be properly rid of excess water after washing them; otherwise, it dilutes the dressing. Novice cooks might not realise this and the recipes do not include such instructions. The book also suffers another deficiency that is common to some cookbooks produced in India: absence of an index, which forces you to scan the entire table of contents if you are pondering over what to prepare with a particular ingredient. Each recipe, with calories ranging from 250 to 350, is supposed to provide one meal for a single person; but, small eaters might find the quantity too large to be consumed in one sitting. All these drawbacks, however, are minor irritations and easily overlooked once you taste the delicious and nutritious salads made from this book.

Veena Parrikar


Sprouted Wheat and Spinach Salad

From: Salads for All Occasions by Vijaya Hiremath

Ingredients
100 gms wheat sprouts
100 gms carrot
100 gms tomato
100 gms cabbage
1 cup spinach leaves

Seasoning
2 flakes minced garlic
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
150 gms thick curds (dahi)
Salt to taste

Sprouted Wheat
To prepare sprouted wheat, soak them overnight in plenty of water. Next morning, drain the wheat, and place the grains in a clean muslin cloth. Hang the muslin around your kitchen sink tap, and sprinkle the cloth with water. The wheat should sprout in two to three days in mild to warm weather. During this period, sprinkle water occasionaly if the muslin looks dry.

Centre: Spinach and sprouted wheat. Clockwise from left: carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, dahi with minced garlic and salt, roasted sesame seeds.

Method
1. Shred cabbage finely. If spinach is tender, use whole leaves; otherwise chop roughly or break into pieces with your hands.
2. Cut carrot into small pieces.
3. Quarter tomato.
4. Beat curds. Add garlic and salt and mix well.
5. Combine vegetables with sprouts.
6. Arrange spinach leaves on a flat dish.
7. Spread vegetable mixture over the spinach.
8. Pour curd mixture over the vegetables.
9. Sprinke sesame seeds before serving.

Sprouted Wheat and Spinach Salad
Sprouted Wheat and Spinach Salad

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Goduma (Wheat), Spinach, Yogurt, Reviews: Cookbooks, Sprouts (Molakalu), Veena Parrikar (Monday January 7, 2008 at 12:24 am- permalink)
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Cookery, Indic ~ A Series by Veena Parrikar

Cookbook Collection

Last year, in anticipation of a long stay in India, I began organizing my collection of food-related books into a catalogue. As far as collections go, my cooking library is fairly modest with around 200 books. The catalogue, however, reveals a pattern that is, by and large, a reflection of my culinary inclinations.

  • 95 percent of the collection relates to the food of India.
  • Of these, only four or five cookbooks are published outside India.
  • Hardly two of the cookbooks describe themselves as Indian cookbooks.
  • There are zero books on fusion food. Before someone reiterates the profundity that all Indian food is ultimately fusion food because chillies and tomatoes were brought to India by foreigners, let me hasten to add that I am referring to fusion as we know it today.
  • None of the books are written by professional chefs or owners of restaurants serving “authentic Indian” cuisine; a miniscule number are written by serial cookbook authors; and none of them promise a meal with three ingredients in less than 20 minutes.

Infer what you will from these facts, but one thing has become amply clear to me over the last fifteen years since I began collecting these books. There is a vast body of English and regional-language cookbooks published in India by small publishers or the authors themselves. Most of these modest cookbooks never make it to the shelves of the large mainstream bookstores even in India. They have to be ferreted out of small local bookshops, from publishers’ offices, or directly from the authors. It is, however, here that the best Indian cookbooks are to be found, for they are authored by individuals who cook for their families, love their subject and are willing and able to communicate their knowledge.

For a number of reasons, these books lie largely below the radar of the traditional media, the internet, and the large chain bookstores. First and foremost, cookbooks in regional languages rarely gain a readership outside the geographical state or community that is literate in those respective languages. Even among the books written in English, which have the potential for wider demand, the authors often lack the means, inclination, or savvy to grease the media and marketing machinery into their service. Therefore, most of these books do not get the benefit of newspaper and magazine reviews or grand releases with a celebrity cutting the ribbon. Last and least, as is true of most things these days, medicrity abounds here too. Some of these books probably deserve their share of oblivion for their poorly written recipes, terrible photos, and quite simply, bad food.

So what makes a good cookbook?

Culinary enthusiasts have long debated this in forums, blogs, conferences, and articles. The answers vary depending on whom you ask. A publisher will tell you that it must reach out to a large readership base. Young men who “also cook” love books with pictures of female chefs bending over the pot and licking the spoon. Twenty-and-thirty-something women want to see, above all, lovely photographs of the food. The inexperienced want clear instructions that leave nothing to culinary imagination or wisdom. The reluctant cooks wait for books that will fire their dormant enthusiasm and catapult them from couch to kitchen. The ignorant want books that “comprehensively” cover the “ethnic” cuisine that catches their latest fancy. The purists look for authenticity; the apologists throw up their hands in the air and ask, “what is authenticity”?

Notwithstanding my somewhat flippant tone above, this is a serious question with no easy answers, which is why I have never understood the rationale behind lists such as “Five Best Indian Cookbooks”. Perhaps they serve a purpose in guiding those who are completely new to Indian cuisines. As someone who has grown up on home-cooked Indian food and now cooks it almost everyday, there really is no one (or even ten) great Indian cookbook. My culinary needs vary at different times: on some days, I want to spend three hours making a biryani in 20 difficult steps; on other days, I want to quickly find a new way to use up the five drumsticks and two brinjals sitting expectantly on the kitchen counter. There are days when I would rather lie on the couch and read about the old days when Indian kitchens did not have pressure cookers and mixer-grinders. I might be curious about how Kolhapuri mutton rassa is made although I am vegetarian and would not eat the dish except under extreme duress. Above all, I need Indian food books to keep feeding my interest in the subject almost daily for the more you explore it, the more acute the realization of how little you actually know. Therefore, I will not attempt to define my criteria for a good Indian cookbook.

In this series, I will highlight some selected books from my personal collection. These books are not likely to win awards or cookbook contests and they are not without their faults, but each one has some trait that I value in a cookery book. The series is also a small way of putting the spotlight on cookbooks that deserve more attention than they have received in the media. Since my literacy is limited to English, Marathi, Konkani, and Hindi, my collection is entirely comprised of books in these languages. I would love to hear from readers about their favourite lesser-known cookbooks in these and other regional languages.

Veena Parrikar

(Mahanandi will feature a column by Sreemathi Veena Parrikar, a culinary enthusiast and an excellent writer, on first Monday of every month. - Indira)

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Reviews: Cookbooks, Veena Parrikar, Zenith(Family&Friends) (Sunday January 6, 2008 at 12:17 am- permalink)
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Saffron (Kesar, Kumkuma Puvvu)

Saffron, Kesar, Kumkuma Puvvu (Copyrighted Image by Indira Singari)

The majestic Saffron is one spice that rightfully deserves our respect. The number of hours spent plucking the saffron flowers and then the stigmas is just mind blowing. Something like 50,000 flowers, a football field-sized patch, must be grown to produce just one pound of saffron.

Saffron is the stigma of crocus flower, so the botanical name Crocus sativus. Harvest season lasts for 2 weeks and the flowers are picked each morning. The 3 stigmas in each blossom are hand-picked. After plucking, the stigmas are light roasted which dries the stigmas and fixes the flavor in the threads. This delicate stage of roasting is done only by the most expert of farmers. Even as little as a minute too long on the fire and the whole batch would be ruined.

The saffron crocus is sterile and the crop is propagated by corm multiplication. Each corm lasts only for one season and then is replaced by up to 10 cormlets. The size of the corm has a very significant effect on the production of daughter corms, and on the production of flowers and the yield of saffron. Saffron flower is amazingly beautiful and fragrant. It has pale lilac petals with dark colored veins. Saffron crop can tolerate frosts and an occasional snow. It grows in a wide range of soils but thrives in clay-calcareous soil.

Saffron is used in Ayurveda as a good heart tonic for all three doshas, and is also an important ingredient in many Ayurvedic medicines. For example, “Shatavari Plus” has saffron as one of its main ingredients. Saffron has circulatory stimulant properties, is warming and very rejuvenating. Saffron milk is an excellent remedy for Anemia. It is also known to tonify the female reproductive system. The cosmetics industry uses saffron in lotions and creams for its ability to nourish and lighten the skin.

And, of course, we all are familiar with the bright golden yellow Saffron robes of Buddhist monks. The color of their robes speaks volumes of their renunciation. When a young green leaf turns yellow or orange, it falls off from the tree. The Buddhist monks wear yellow saffron robes to constantly remind them to let go and not cling to the earthly pleasures.

Since Saffron and Kashmir are inseparable and I am such a big tea fan, we have to have a cup of Kahva (Kashmiri chai with saffron). This tea is amazingly aromatic and an experience in itself. Here is a very good post on Kahva. Note that this Kahva is different from Kava, a herbal drink from south Pacific.

A classic and simple dessert with Saffron is Shrikhand.

Classic Shrikhand with Saffron:

1-cup whole milk yogurt
1-cup sugar
Saffron - 1 teaspoon, or to your liking
Charoli (chironji) - 1 tablespoon, or to taste
Crushed cardamom seeds - ¼ teaspoon

Tie yogurt in a clean muslin cloth. Keep in a sieve and place a heavy pan over it. Keep overnight to drain all water. Once all water is drained from the yogurt, add sugar and mix really well. Sugar must be dissolved completely. Add crushed cardamom, saffron. Serve with charoli on top.

Some of you might remember that I mentioned once about growing mustard seeds and enjoying the beauty of Punjab in my own backyard. Now, how about a little Kashmir in your back yard. We can grow our own Saffron!. Looks like some avid gardeners are even growing Saffron in containers. There are a lot of online vendors and nurseries where you can buy the saffron corms. Growing Saffron is time consuming and needs a lot of patience. But I think I am up for this project too.

Now let’s see… I have mustard from Punjab, Saffron from Kashmir… Hmm … what’s next?

by ~ Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice

Notes:
For a fabulous array of saffron recipes: Think Saffron

*************

Play, Learn and Earn Rice to Help
What was the score, and how many grams?:)

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Herbs and Spices, Anjali Damerla, Saffron (Kesar, Kumkum Puvvu) (Thursday November 15, 2007 at 4:07 pm- permalink)
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Of Being and Becoming~ Ragi Idlis

by Janani Srinivasan

Students and Rasikas of Karnatic classical music who fondly (or not :) ) recall their first tentative forays into “Sarali” and “Janta Varisais” might also remember that the credit for a creating a pedagogy of Karnatic classical music goes to Sri. Purandaradasa. And if your mother was a particularly determined woman, you may even have dutifully trotted out works from his corpus to bored admiring relatives come socio-religious occasions like Navarathri and Varamahalakshmi Vratha gatherings.

Whether it is Ratnakara the bandit turned into the Adikavi Sri.Valmiki Muni, or Angulimala the grisly finger-slicing highway terrorist turned Buddhist monk, tales of what can fairly be called instantaneous and extreme spiritual makeovers have captured the imaginations of generations of Indian story tellers and their listeners for centuries. The narrative arc usually progresses along the lines of hopelessly-and-diabolically-evil-person reaches the apogee of his (supported usually by a silently long-suffering her) evilness when a chance encounter; usually in the form of divine grace; completely awakens and transforms said individual. They then attain a sort of mythic stature and are held up as role models for future generations to emulate. Indeed, the story of the rapaciously greedy miser-turned musician-mystic Sri Purandaradasa is a familiar and inspiring one to many of us who grew up listening to these tales. Wiki weighs in with a more complete history of Sri Purandaradasa.

Stamp Commemorating Sri Purandaradasa
Stamp Commemorating Sri Purandaradasa

In our family, one of our all-time personal favourites from his oeuvre remains the haunting “Ragi Tandira”. Kannada speakers will identify with the clever punning on the word “Ragi”. Much like a Zen koan, the lyrics here have layers of meaning couched in seemingly quotidian references.

Indeed it is not hard to surmise that Purandhara dasa, once he became a wandering minstrel after giving up his former materialistic life, must have still been intimately familiar with the kind of people that once made up his close family and friends circle. Hence, his desire to show them the path to a more richer inner life must have been tempered with the practical consideration that they might reject his message if he was too heavy handed or preachy.

This composition opens with the poet singing, “Have you brought Ragi for alms?” He then goes on to describe Ragi in glowing adjectives “Yogyaragi , Bhogyaragi” and so on… While in one sense, it can be read as an extolling of Ragi, the staple local grain, the sustainer of life itself with various adjectives: Yogya (worthy) + Ragi, Bhogya (enjoyable) + Ragi ; on another level, it is a veiled injunction to the householders themselves to become “worthy”, “Yogyaragi” as one word.

Here the notion of “Yogyatha” like many words in the vernacular, defies simplistic translation. It is a conflation of many shades of meaning conveying a sense of worthiness, deservingness, etc. The rest of the song progress in the same vein exhorting us to various acts of goodness like offering food to the needy (anna chatrava nittavarAgi), attaining fame for the right reasons (kyathiyali migilAdavarAgi) and cautioning us to stay away from inethical practices (anya varthegaLa bittavarAgi) and so on.

So as homage to Sri Purandharadasa, his beloved Vittala and the ancient grain sustaining generations of his people; here is my mother’s recipe for Ragi Idlis. What a song and dance over a simple grain you say? Well, just try these. Like a mother’s love, these are earthy and wholesome. In a word, Perfect!

Ragi Grains Ragi Batter for Idlies
Ragi Grains ……………………. Sprouted Ragi and Rice Batter for Idlies

Recipe:
(Makes atleast 2 dozen of the standard sized Idlis- but quantity yielded depends on the Idli mould size.)

Whole Ragi Grain- 1 cup
(I sprouted these for added nutritional benefits. But it’s not strictly necessary)
Idli rice (parboiled) – 1 cup
Whole skinned Urad dal – ¾ cup
Methi seeds -1 tablespoon
Salt to taste
Sesame oil- to grease idli moulds (I used “Idhayam” brand)

After multiple washes, soak the Ragi for a day. Drain and let it rest for another day till you see tiny white sprouts. Alternatively, you can skip the sprouting and just soak the ragi for 3-4 hours longer than you soak the rice. Soak rice, whole urad and methi seeds in separate containers for 4-6 hours or overnight.

In a wet grinder or a mixie /blender, grind the urad dal till light and fluffy. A test for fluffiness is to keep a bowl of water and drop a tiny pinch of batter. If it floats, it is light enough. Then add and grind the Ragi grains and Methi and finally the rice. Take care that the rice should not be ground too smooth. It should be of rice Rava consistency. Alternatively, you can use rice Rava instead. Take the batter in a vessel, fold in some salt to taste and leave it overnight to ferment. I found that the dough fermented really well, doubling up and overflowing the vessel. So take adequate precautions.

Next morning, lightly stir the well fermented batter. Grease Idli moulds and steam in a pressure cooker for 12-15 minutes till done. Ragi idlis can be served with a dollop of butter or ghee on top, along with the usual fixings on the side: sambar, coconut chutney and/or Milagai Podi.

~ Article by Janani Srinivasan


Light and Soft Ragi Idlies

Notes:
Audio of Ragi Tandira sung by the late Sri. Maharajapuram Santhanam in Raga Kalyanavasantham - Link.
Ragi pronounced with “Ra” as “raa”, “G” as in God not as in gentle, “i” pronounced “ee”.
Tandira pronounced Thundheera with the “h” NOT aspirated. “T” and “d” sounds softened not sharp as in the common American/English usage and the “an” is pronounced “un”.
Janani Srinivasan’s articles on Mahanandi: It’s Chakalaka, Baby!, The Arisiupma Trilogy.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Biyyamu (Rice), Ragi, Millet, Sprouts (Molakalu), Janani Srinivasan (Thursday November 1, 2007 at 4:44 pm- permalink)
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It’s Chakalaka, Baby!

Chakalaka ~ South African Vegetarian Dish
Chakalaka

African food, at least here in the west, is usually restricted to East African staples like the delicious Ethiopian dosa, the Injera or entrees such as the equally delectable Moroccan chickpea stew (normally served over couscous) common to North Africa.

But what of the quintessentially South African Chakalaka?

As one examines the recipe, it’s not hard to imagine South African cooks venturing out into their vegetable garden one hot day, picking onions, red peppers, tomatoes and any other readily available seasonal produce. As the vegetables cooked, they probably craved some of the flavors they remember smelling as they walked down a street with Indian houses. Inspired, they might have thrown in a liberal dose of curry powder into the simmering vegetables in the pot. Since many variations also include tinned baked beans, hungry laborers might have adapted it as a quick and satisfying one-pot meal at the end of a hard day of slogging it in the gold mines.

With my well-equipped Indian kitchen, Chakalaka was a breeze to whip up. Indeed, the Indian influences are not surprising. Indians have been in South Africa longer than Caucasians have been in Canada! So at least for 7-8 generations. In fact, our beloved Mahatma Gandhi cut his revolutionary teeth in South Africa.

But back to Chakalaka (don’t you just love the sound of the name?)

While the jury is still out on whether Chakalaka is a chunky ketchup or a sauce or a cooked salsa (could be either); on whether it should be served as a side dish or a condiment (served as both) and if it should be eaten hot or cold (served either way), this spicy and always vegetarian concoction has now come to be identified as the definitive taste of South Africa. There’s even a restaurant in London named for this dish. Featuring a standard base of onions, tomatoes and peppers; this versatile dish is open to endless experimentation.

Other bloggers tell us that traditionally, Chakalaka is often served as a sauce with a maize porridge (Mielie Pap) that is eaten predominantly by the local black population. It’s also served with bread or the ragi-like Samp, made of maize. It can also be spotted as an accompaniment at South African barbecues called Braais (pronounced “bry”, rhyming with the word “cry”)

In the spirit of making a mean Chakalaka that is true to its African roots as well as its spirit of assimilation and innovation, my version is based on a number of recipes found online as well as one that was featured in the Toronto star.


Red, Orange and Yellow ~ Peppers in Autumn Colors

Recipe:
(Makes enough for approx 30 tablespoon servings)

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
4 fresh green chillies, slit
1 big red onion, finely chopped
A pound (4 to 6) juicy tomatoes, finely chopped
3 bell peppers, chopped into 1cm X 1cm pieces
2 carrots and 2 potatoes chopped into 1cm X 1cm pieces
Curry powder - 1 heaped tablespoon.
Red beans - one cup, pre-soaked and pressure-cooked to tender
Salt - one teaspoon, or to taste
Fresh coriander for garnish

In a saucepan, heat up the oil and saute ginger, garlic, chillies and onions to soft. Add the salt and curry powder. Add the tomatoes and cook till mushy and of sauce consistency. Add peppers, carrots and potatoes. Cook till they are of a desired softness. Add the red beans and cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add coriander. Check seasoning levels and serve with rice or breads of your choice.

A small confession. After adding the beans, I tasted it and found the heat was a bit too much. So I caved and added a teaspoon of jaggery at the end. Unsuspecting victims, tasters of the dish said it took them to whole new levels of delayed heat which overwhelmed the palate after the initial deceptive sweetness. But they all agreed they couldn’t get enough of it!

Chakalaka with Chapatis and Pomegranate
Chakalaka with Chapatis and Pomegranate ~ Meal Today

~ Article Contributed by Janani Srinivasan
Photos by Indira Singari.

Kitchen Notes:
Other vegetables can also be added to Chakalaka - cauliflower, zucchini, string beans etc
For curry powder - if you have access to it, I recommend the fiery Sri Lankan Niru brand powder so ubiquitous in Toronto. If not, any other store-bought or homemade will do. The South African recipes recommend a local brand called “leaf masala”.
To be true to the grassroots appeal of this dish, you could use a can of baked beans from the local supermarket. Vegetarians check labels to ensure it’s free of lard or any other animal ingredients. If you can soak your own from scratch, that’s even better.
More on Chakalaka : Chakalaka 101, and Culinary Musings from Cape Town

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Bell Pepper, Red Beans (Chori), Peppers, Janani Srinivasan (Thursday October 11, 2007 at 6:30 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi: www.themahanandi.org

Fenugreek Seeds (Methi, Menthulu)

Fenugreek Seeds (Menthulu, Methi)

The one flavor category that is fading away from our meals today is the “bitter” flavor. The bitter taste category is considered to be one of the most healing and cleansing tastes by Ayurveda. Use of fenugreek seeds in traditional tadka is a good way to incorporate the bitter taste once in a while.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a member of the pea family. Fenugreek plant is an annual with yellowish-white flowers and its pods contain 10-20 seeds. The common method of harvesting is to uproot the whole plant, allow them to dry in the Sun and then remove the seeds by threshing.

Whole fenugreek seeds have no aroma but once ground, they release flavor and sharp, spicy aroma. These seeds are very high in protein. 3.5 ounces (100 gms) of uncooked seeds supply 23 gms of protein. This is almost equivalent to the amount of protein found in a 3 -3.5 ounces serving of meat, fish or poultry.

Fresh Fenugreek, Menthi Kura, Methi
Fresh Fenugreek Leaves (Menthi Kura, Methi)

Methi (Fenugreek) Sprouts
Fenugreek Sprouts (Methi, Menthula Molakalu)

Fenugreek seed sprouts are used in salads. These sprouts are rich in iron and phosphorous. Juice from the sprouts is considered a cleanser of the kidneys and bladder.

In Maharashtra, we make an interesting pickle with methi sprouts, called Methi-Mirchi. This pickle stays good just for one to two days .

¼ cup fenugreek sprouts
1 Green Chilli – slit in middle and then cut into small pieces
2 tsp Mustard seeds
Pinch each - Asafoetida and turmeric
1 Lemon and salt to taste

Heat oil. Add mustards seeds, asafoetida, and turmeric. When mustard seeds start to pop, then add fenugreek sprouts and green Chilli. Mix well. Take off the heat. Add salt to taste and squeeze lemon juice. This pickle has a great combination of bitter, spicy and sour tastes.

Methi-Mirchi Pickle ~ From Anjali's Kitchen
Methi-Mirchi Pickle ~ From Anjali’s Kitchen

Fenugreek seeds are antiseptic and warming. It also has expectorant qualities and is used to ease coughs and sore throat. Fenugreek tea is used as a Blood builder and cleanser.

To make fenugreek tea – bruise 2 tablespoons of seeds. Add four cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for ten minutes. Add honey or lemon to flavor.

One of the five spices in Panch phoran is fenugreek seed. They are also added in curry powder, sambar powder and essential picking spice. It’s a very common practice for most of us to add a few fenugreek seeds to tadka when making everyday dal.

Dal-Methi with fenugreek seeds is a common dal among us Maharashtrians. I make this dal at least 2-3 times a month and it’s a good way to introduce fenugreek seeds to kids.

To one cup toor dal, add two to three teaspoons of fenugreek seeds and two cups of water. Pressure-cook to soft. Heat oil. Add mustard seeds, turmeric, green chilli and asafoetida. Add the toor dal-methi mix. Cook for two minutes. Season with salt and cilantro. Serve with roti.

Ingredients for Dal-Methi ~ from Anjali's Kitchen
Ingredients for Dal-Methi ~ from Anjali’s Kitchen

Ah! And how can we talk about fenugreek seeds and not talk about Fenugreek Seed Laddu (Methi Laddu)? Considered to be good for health and winter warmers, methi laddus are consumed in winter season to ward off cold, cough and fever. Here is a simple methi laddu recipe from Bawarchi.

It’s also a common practice in many parts of India to give methi laddu to the lactating mothers. I had these laddus after my daughters birth and many who have tasted these laddus would agree with me that they do not bring out the “hmm…” feeling. But Lakshmi Ammal of “Cook Food and Serve Love” has come up with an interesting Sweet Fenugreek Pongal. I wish I knew about this pongal eight years back.:) (Since fenugreek seeds are considered a uterine stimulant, they are avoided during pregnancy.)

Packed with protein and punch, and with so many benefits, it’s no wonder that the tiny fenugreek seeds have earned a very respectable place in our Indian spice box.

~ Guest Article by Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice

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If you have questions about fenugreek seeds, please post them in comments section. Anjali would be glad to answer them for you. Thanks.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Indian Ingredients, Menthi Kura(Fenugreek), Anjali Damerla, Methi, Kasuri Methi (Thursday October 4, 2007 at 6:16 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi: www.themahanandi.org

Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa ~ by Veena Parrikar

This year we celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa. Tourists come to Goa in hordes to enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Day, but fortunately, Ganesh Chaturthi here has remained a quiet, joyous festival that graces the home and the temple rather than strut the streets. Having grown up on the very public, loud, and grandiose observances in Mumbai, the Goan experience came to me with all the freshness and fragrance of a monsoon breeze. Here there are no gigantic idols worth crores of rupees, no loudspeakers blaring crude film songs, no vargaNi (monetary donations) demands at your door by Ganeshotsav associations, and none of the other attendant evils of commercialized celebrations. While there are saarvajanik (public) Ganesh utsav celebrations in Goa, the scale and noise is nowhere near that of Mumbai. The spirit of Ganesh Chaturthi - a celebration of the birth of Ganesh through private worship, cooking and eating delicious saatvik meals, visiting your friends’ and neighbours’ and sharing festival snacks, participating in the aarti, community events such as cooking contests, rangoli and maaToLi competitions - is still alive in Goa.

Here are some vignettes from our Ganesh Chaturthi in Goa.


Shri Shrikrishna Dhumal, a murthikaar in the village of DhargaL, Goa.
These artists shape the murthi by hand and do not use molds or templates. Only eco-friendly materials, from the clay to the natural dyes, are used.


Shri Umanath Naik, another murthikaar in Nagueshi village, putting the final touches on his creations.


The day before Ganesh Chaturthi is marked by paying homage to Ganesh’s parents, Shankar and Parvati.


As part of the naivedya for the Shankar-Parvati puja, a special dish is made with five different seasonal greens. These bunches are prepared and sold in the markets by village women. It includes pumpkin leaves, drumstick leaves, red and green amaranth, and chavLi greens. The greens are cooked without salt and offered to Parvati to take care of her pregnancy cravings.


Our Ganesh, resplendent in his birthday finery.


Modak for the birthday boy. Less than perfect in looks, but full of shraddha (and taste).


MaaToLi is a Goan tradition where, fresh fruits, vegetables, berries, etc. are hung on a wooden frame over the murthi, symbolizing Ganesh’s status as a provider. This is crafted with a great deal of care and passion in the villages, and the all-Goa maaToLi competition has many enthusiastic participants. This picture was taken in the remote village of Bambar in a peasant’s cottage. He had 175 unique items in his assemblage, all of them either grown in the farms or foraged from the wild. We later read in the papers that he won the third prize.


On the day of visarjan (immersion) - a quiet moment after the aarti.


Our Ganesh at the Panjim jetty, just before immersion. This is the hardest part of the festival.


The next morning we headed out to Nirankarachi Rai (nirankar = without form, rai = grove). This is a sacred grove in a forest in the village of Bambar. The Ganapati murthi are dipped in the stream and then left in the forest to naturally mingle with the earth. A more fitting farewell for Ganapati Bappa, I simply cannot imagine!

Photo Credits: Rajan Parrikar

Posted by Veena Parrikar©Copyrighted in Bhakthi~Bhukthi, Traditions, Veena Parrikar (Sunday September 23, 2007 at 2:44 pm- permalink)
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Bhakthi ~ Bhukthi : On Vinayaka Chavithi


Bhakthi
Bhagavan Vinayaka at My Friend’s Home (Goa, India)

Ganesh Chaturthi Neivedyam
Bhukthi ( Neivedyam)
(Festival Meal at My Friend’s Home, Goa, India)
(Modak, Pakoda with Green Chillies and Capsicum, Unprocessed Goan Rice, with Varan (Plain Toor Daal simmered with Salt, Hing, and Cumin), Mooga-gaathi (Sprouted and Peeled Moong Cooked in a Thin Coconut Gravy), Pumpkin Sabji, Papad, Pickle, Salt and A Glass of Buttermilk)

Vinayaka Chavithi Subhakankshalu to Family and Friends!

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Veena Parrikar (Saturday September 15, 2007 at 9:21 am- permalink)
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Mustard Seeds (Aavalu, Rai, Sarson)

Brown and Tiny Mustard Seeds from Telengana Region, Andhra Pradesh, India Also Known as Chitti AavaluBlack Mustard Seeds from India
Tiny Brown Mustard Seeds from Andhra Pradesh also Known as “Chitti Aavalu” in Telugu
and Black Mustard Seeds from Bharath

According to old-world tales, there was an interesting exchange of messages between King Darius of Persia and Alexander the Great.

King Darius sent a sack of sesame seeds to Alexander to show the vastness of his army. To this, Alexander responded with a sack of mustard seeds to imply not only the number but also the power, energy and the fiery nature of his men.

Mustard seeds are one of the oldest spices known to mankind and valued for their antiseptic, antibacterial, carminative and warming properties. They are also good source of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium and protein. Mustard greens are an excellent source of Vitamin A, iron, zinc and improve blood circulation.

Mustard is a very economical plant. Its leaves are used as a vegetable, flowers and pods in salads and seeds as a spice. Mustard seeds hardly give away any fragrance when whole. This is because the enzyme that creates the hot, pungent taste of mustard is activated when it comes in contact with liquids. And for this very reason we wait for the mustard seeds to pop in our tadka. The popping of mustard seeds imparts the sharpness and nutty flavor to the dish.

The vibrant yellow flowers of mustard plants shout out the impending arrival of spring to the world. Folks in Punjab celebrate Basant Panchami when spring arrives with amazingly beautiful, bright and cheery rolling fields of mustard. A favorite of Bollywood films, fantastically yellow mustard fields are breathtaking and romantic. When you talk about mustard and Punjab, it is only natural that one thinks of “Sarson Ka Saag”. This one of a kind dish is best enjoyed with Makke de Roti (corn roti).


Sarson Ka Saag with Roti, and
Toasted Mustard Seeds, Part of Traditional Tadka or Popu

There are three types of mustard seeds – white (actually they look more yellow than white), black and brown. Brown mustard looks very identical to black mustard but has only 70% of the pungency. Mustard seeds are harvested when the pods are fully developed but not yet ripe. The mustard hay is then stacked to dry and then threshed to remove the seeds.

Oil of mustard is a rubefacient. It irritates the skin when applied and dilates the small blood vessels underneath the skin. This increases the flow of blood to the skin and makes it feel warm. Mustard plasters are used to relieve chest colds and coughs. To make a mustard plaster, mix some powdered mustard with warm water and spread it as a paste on a doubled piece of soft cloth. Do not apply this plaster directly on the skin. Take care to see that you don’t keep it on for more than 15 minutes.

A mustard foot bath is a traditional remedy for colds and headaches. Add one teaspoon of mustard powder to a bowl of hot water and soak your feet for about 15 min. The warming nature of mustard clears the congestion by drawing it away from the source. These foot baths or mustard plasters should be used carefully since mustard can irritate skin if used for longer durations. Also never use this remedy on small children.

I have read that it is fairly easy to grow mustard. If you plan to try it, make sure you choose a sunny area in your yard. Mustard is an annual plant and germinates easily. It spreads easily too so you just need to make sure that it doesn’t take over your entire yard.

I just loved the idea of harvesting our own mustards seeds, like this gardener had done and I am going to give it a try this year. Only time will tell whether I can actually get substantial amount of mustard seeds from my garden or not, but I will at least get a small piece of Punjab with beautiful and bright yellow flowers.

Guest Article by ~ Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice
Photography by: Indira Singari

******************

If you have questions about Mustard spice, please post them in comments section. Anjali would be glad to answer them for you. Thanks.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen, Sarson (Mustard Greens), Herbs and Spices, Mustard Seeds (Aavalu), Anjali Damerla (Thursday September 13, 2007 at 5:12 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi: www.themahanandi.org

Asafoetida (Asafetida, Hing, Inguva)

Food blogging has opened a new way for me to meeting interesting people who also share my passion and philosophy in cooking. Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice is one such person. She belongs to the spice world and has a great knowledge about our traditional and ancient spices and herbs. I truly believe that we all could benefit from her knowledge. Through her periodical articles on Mahanandi, Anjali will be sharing the benefits and uses of various spices and herbs.
~Indira.

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Asafoetida (Asafetida, Hing, Inguva)

Asafoetida, Powdered Form
Asafoetida ~ Powdered Form

Asafoetida is a resinous gum that is extracted from the root and stem of genus ferula, a type of giant perennial fennels that is at least 4 yrs old. The stem/root of the plant is slashed and kept in shade while the sap seeps out and hardens. This dried, grayish-white gum is then scraped off which turns reddish and finally reddish-brown as it ages. The asafoetida that we buy in stores has only about 30 -40% of pure asafoetida and the rest is edible starch (rice or wheat flour) to make the powder more manageable. Sometimes gum arabic, turmeric and some additional color are also added to it.

In India, we use asafoetida in our pickles, as a substitute for garlic and of course, in our tadka/popu. The traditional popu/tadka process is incomplete without this spice. Asafoetida was introduced to the West by Alexander the Great in 4th century BC and was used in ancient Roman cuisine as a substitute for a North African plant named Silphium.

Ayurveda highly recommends including all six tastes in our meals. The six tastes are – salty, sour, sweet, bitter, pungent and astringent. Asafoetida comes under the pungent category. Foods and spices that are pungent stimulate appetite and improve digestion. Asafoetida is very helpful in alleviating the sensation of heaviness, fullness or bloating after a heavy meal. Asafoetida has extra heating properties and is used in Ayurveda to rekindle digestive fire. It is also supposed to act as a blood purifier.

Many of us know that a pinch of asafoetida with a glass of buttermilk helps reduce indigestion. But not many know that asafoetida is also used to alleviate toothache. Add a little lemon juice to asafoetida powder and warm this mixture a bit. Soak a cotton ball in this warm mixture and place it on the aching tooth. Or another remedy is to mix pure asafoetida powder and salt, place this mixed powder on the aching tooth. Asafoetida is also used by Homeopathy doctors to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

When it comes to cooking, asafoetida is a must for lentil dishes and curries with green leafy vegetables. Asafoetida is also used a lot for flavoring pickles like tomato, mango etc, and in sauces and is one of the main ingredients in Worcestershire sauce. Adding asafoetida to popu/tadka results in a wonderfully complementary flavor. I also believe that this special spice adds relish to food.

An article on asafoetida is incomplete without a mention of Hingashtak, also known as Hingawastaka. It’s a mixture of 8 spices - asafoetida, black pepper, carom seeds (ajwan), cumin, ginger, pipli (Long Pepper), nigella seeds (Kalonji) and rock salt. In olden times, every family had its own variation of Hingashtak. My own version is a simple mixture of asafoetida, black pepper, ginger, cumin, ajwan and salt. Grind all these spices and mix with rice (squeeze a bit of lime juice if you want) and have just 2-3 morsels of this yummy rice. You can make tiny pills of the Hingashtak and have it before meal. Hingashtak is very heating (and hence aids digestion), so eat very little.


Asafoetida, Black Pepper, Ginger, Cumin and Ajwan ~ for Hingashtak

~ Guest Post by ~ Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice
Photo Credit : Indira Singari

If you have questions about asafoetida spice, please post them in comments section. Anjali would be glad to answer them for you. Thanks.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen, Herbs and Spices, Asafoetida (Inguva), Anjali Damerla (Thursday August 30, 2007 at 6:31 pm- permalink)
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Turmeric (Haldi, Pasupu)

Food blogging has opened a new way for me to meeting interesting people who also share my passion and philosophy in cooking. Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice is one such person. She belongs to the spice world and has a great knowledge about our traditional and ancient spices and herbs. I truly believe that we all could benefit from her knowledge. Through her periodical articles on Mahanandi, Anjali will be sharing the benefits and uses of various spices and herbs.
~Indira.

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Pasupu (Turmeric, Haldi)

Turmeric (Pasupu, Haldi)
Fresh and Dried Turmeric Root, Turmeric Powder and Fresh Turmeric Paste

Turmeric is probably the most revered spice in Ayurveda.

One cannot imagine a Hindu festival or wedding without this amazing wonder of nature. The western world has just started to understand turmeric whereas our ancestors knew it properties for centuries and incorporated it in our daily cuisine.

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic properties and is considered a blood purifier. Curcumin, found in turmeric, is an anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidant is a substance that has the ability to stabilize or neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals. An anti-oxidant may be a vitamin or mineral such as vitamin C or zinc. Free radicals are produced when cells convert oxygen to energy. A few free radicals are not dangerous, but too many can damage cell membranes, proteins and DNA. To get more information on free-radicals read this article. There’s a lot of research being done to see whether turmeric can be used to treat arthritis. Studies have also found that India, with its turmeric rich cuisine, has fewer cases of Alzheimer’s.

It’s interesting to see how Indian culture has incorporated turmeric in everyday life. In Andhra, women used to apply turmeric paste to their feet everyday (this custom is still going strong in some interior parts of Andhra). The reason behind this custom is that not many wore sandals/chappals in olden days and by applying turmeric paste they made sure that their feet were healthy. Now that’s smart.

Unfortunately, the turmeric powder that we buy in stores nowadays has some food color added to it. In my experience, pure turmeric has an orangish tinge to it. No wonder turmeric was confused for saffron in olden times and was also known as “Poor man’s saffron”.

Turmeric Milk and Turmeric Tea
Turmeric and Honey ~ for Turmeric Milk and Turmeric Tea

When it comes to turmeric in cooking, I add it to the tadka/popu but also sprinkle some after the vegetables are cooked. The most popular usage is warm milk with some turmeric and honey/sugar. My daughter sometimes complains of body ache after a long day of jumping and running (or after “sports day” in school which is invariably on the hottest day of the month). I give her a glass of warm milk with turmeric and it really helps. Milk with turmeric is also good for preventing and curing pimples. A mixture of honey and turmeric is a time tested remedy for sore throat. Gargling with warm water to which salt and turmeric is added, works well too.

Another interesting way to benefit from turmeric is to take it in the form of tea. Here is a simple recipe for Turmeric Tea: Boil water, add turmeric powder, grated ginger (or cardamom pods work well too), little sugar. Add some milk. Let it simmer for a few more seconds. Enjoy.

Turmeric is getting a lot of attention from researchers around the world. Hopefully this will generate more interest in Ayurveda too.

~ Guest Post by ~ Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice
Photo Credit : Indira Singari

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in The Essentials, Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen, Herbs and Spices, Turmeric (Pasupu), Anjali Damerla (Thursday August 16, 2007 at 7:15 pm- permalink)
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