A Tangy Treat -Lemon


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Lemon, which originated in the Himalayan valleys, has now travelled across the world. Today, it takes the most coveted spot in the shopping lists of conscientious cooks across the globe. Itssour taste and distinct smell can infuse a freshflavour toany dish.

Though every part of the lemon can be used for cooking, it is the juice of the fruit that makes it so special. There are severaldelectable delicacies that demand a dash of fresh lime juice.

However, lime juice can turn bitter and spoil adish when boiled or cooked. Hence, it is always best to add the juice right at the end, after the dish is completely cooked and taken off the heat. Avoid reheating food thatcontains lime juice.

You can makepaneeror cottage cheese by adding a few drops of lime juice to boiling milk for it tocurdle evenly. You can lace salads, pies, soufflés and ice creams with a hint of lemonif you enjoy itstangy taste.

Apart frommaking aclassic lemon pickle with raw green lime, you can preserve lemon too. Marinate deseeded and quartered lemons in salt, and leave them in an airtight container for a couple of days. You can then dry them in sunlight. Once the rinds dry completely, they can be used as a side dish or you can pickle themin a conventional way.

You can even make home-made lozenges bymarinatinglemons in a combination of salt and sugar, and drying them in the sun.

Lemon seeds have medicinal properties and can be used for stomach ailments.

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Colour me Yellow


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Image for representation.Image for representation.

It is interesting to note that every household in our country uses haldi or turmeric powder in their food. This wonder rhizome has been used in vegetarian, non-vegetarian and vegan cooking in the powdered form for centuries now.

The condiment is an integral part of our culture, a mandatory ingredient in our cuisine, an effective curative, and is also used as a cosmetic. Its subtle spiciness can add a zing to just about any curry, pulses, rice, and even baked goodies like buns and breads. The secret of getting the colour and flavour of turmeric right is simple. The haldi powder should be tossed in just before the oil or ghee, which is used for seasoning, starts smoking. If you add it too soon, the turmeric will leave its raw smell behind, and later than the precise moment will lend shades of brown instead of the desired yellow, and will give out a burnt smell.

Turmeric is usually avoided in sweets. The exception to the rule being that a pinch of haldi added to boiling milk, while making milk sweets to lend it a pale creamy colour. If you are planning to add the herb in milk for therapeutic purposes, it is best that you put it right at the end, just before serving.

It is advisable to add sundried rhizomes instead of the powdered form while making masalas for rasam, sambhar, bisibele bath or vangibath at home. It will make a tangible difference to the taste, colour and potency of homemade masalas.

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Amazing Curry Leaves


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Know your ingredient

The number of tales and proverbs revolving around the humble curry leaf can make an interesting volume. No cook worth his or her salt can ever claim to have completed cooking unless the spicy delicacies are garnished or seasoned with a spray of curry leaves.

The unique flavour and colour of the leaf which seemed to deliver the nourishment, taste and aesthetic appeal of gourmet were certainly not missed by our ancestors.

The leaves were incorporated into the daily menu as the quintessential seasoning and sometimes as the main ingredient in chutneys and exclusive kozhambus. The fact that the curry leaves have traveled halfway across the world for more or less similar uses gives little room for speculation about its necessity to make dishes exclusive.

A good cook will optimize the use of these leaves by judging their freshness. The young sprays of a lighter green taste best when added to salads or garnished freshly on food and in buttermilk. The
mature leaves have the ability to release their essence entirely when boiled along, fried, ground or used when seasoning is the first step of the chosen recipe.

Drying or dried leaves can be allowed to dry completely in the shade and powdered and can be tossed into curries, gravies, sambar and rasam among other such foods when you run out of fresh leaves or happen to live in places that cannot grow this herb.

Spicy Healthy Delicacies from Curry Leaves


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The ubiquitous curry leaf in Indian cuisine simply cannot be ignored. Every delectable savory and salted item is invariably seasoned with curry leaves to improve its colour and flavour.

Those of you who have green fingers will vouch for the fact that, growing a curry leaf shrub can be a very demanding task, especially in the sapling stages. Besides turning the soil gently and watering it in a limited way, traditionalists have found that diluted sour buttermilk poured at the roots of the plant can improve its colour and flavor.

These leaves which are repertoires of iron supplements have therapeutic   values. Research has proved that these leaves influence lush growth of human hair and also plays a role in keeping its sheen and turning it jet black.

If one consumes eight to ten curry leaves very morning, it can control obesity and sugar levels. Yet most adults and children make it a point to identify these leaves and keep them aside thereby throwing a wealth of goodness away without a second thought. It will prove to be a good idea to grind these leaves and add it to the masala or gravy so that its intrinsic goodness is not entirely lost.

These leaves when cooked exclusively can turn into some very delectable dishes, full of the much requisite nutrients. These dishes when eaten with hot rice and ghee have been time-tested recipes particularly suitable for mothers to be both in the pre- natal and
post -natal period of time.

 

Curry Leaves Chutney
Curry leaves: 1 large bowl,

Urad Dal: 1 cup,

Red Chillies: 6

Hing: 1 Teaspoon

Salt:1 teaspoon

Cooking Oil: 1 Teaspoon
Tamarind syrup: 1 Tablespoon ( Soak a small lump of tamarind in a cup of boiled and cooled water for 10 minutes and extract a thick syrup of the same)

* Wash the curry leaves and allow it to dry completely on a dry towel.
* Heat oil in a pan and fry the urad dal, hing and red chillies till they are roasted completely.
*Run all the ingredients in the mixer till it turns into a coarse paste.
* Do not add water to the Chutney at any point.
*The Curry leaves chutney can be served with hot rice and ghee.A fresh salad or a raitha will complement this dish very well.

If one wants to enhance the shelf-life value of this chutney it can be done so with a little variation. You can substitute 3 of the red chillies with one teaspoon of roasted pepper a tablespoon of roasted jeera. You can follow the same procedure but use dry tamarind instead of the syrup. Make sure to tear the tamarind into little bits lest it gets lumped and interfere in the processing of the mixer.

Milagu Kozhambu/ Curryleaves Gravy

This traditional, and proven gravy not only helps out women during their pregnancy and nursing period but also transforms into a ready remedy for people suffering from constant bouts of cold and indigestion. This gravy can be eaten with hot rice and ghee as an appetizer at the head of a meal to smoothen the process of digestion for a couple of days. This food also can be an appropriate supper dish which relieves one of body aches and congestion of the lungs. Patients recuperating from simple flu, fever and other minor illnesses will find this dish a very  fine appetizer This dish has a long shelf life and can be kept in the open for a week and when refrigerated in air-tight containers can be stored upto six months.   .

Ingredients

Curry leaves: 1 large bowl,

Urad Dal: 1 cup,

Pepper: 1 tablespoon,

Hing: 1 Teaspoon

Salt: 2 teaspoon,

Til Oil: 1 large cup (For best results in terms of taste and effect do not substitute with any other oil)

Tamarind  50 grams,

Mustard:1 teaspoon.

 

* Wash the curry leaves and allow it to dry completely on a dry towel.
* Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the urad dal, Hing and peppers till they are roasted.
*Grind the tamarind along with all the ingredients in the till it turns into a coarse paste.

 

*Add some oil in the pan and allow the mustard and Hing to spatter and pour the ground gravy into the pan. You can add water from time to time in order to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

 

* Once the gravy boils allow it to simmer for 15 minutes on a very slow fire after pouring the rest of the oil into the gravy.

 

* Once the gravy cools transfer it into an air tight container and it can be served with hot rice and ghee from time to time.

 

CURRY LEAVES  RICE

Ingredients

Curry leaves: 1 large bowl,

Peeled garlic cloves: 6

Urad Dal: 1 cup,

Red Chilli  6,

Pepper: 1 tablespoon,

Dhaniya 1 tablespoon

Turmeric:1 teaspoon

Hing: 1 pinch

Salt: 2 teaspoons,

cooking  Oil: 1 large cup

Tamarind  syrup:3tablespoons

Mustard:1 teaspoon.

  • Heat very little oil and roast the garlic, urad dal, dhaniya and pepper together and grind them together.
  • Wash and dry the curry leaves and grind them separately without adding water
  • Add little oil to a pan and toss in the mustard seeds, turmeric powder and hing.
  • Pour the tamarind paste into the pan, add salt and add the ground curryleaves when the gravy starts simmering.
  • Reduce the flame and add the remaining oil little by little and keep stirring the mixture for a while.
  • Just as the oil starts collecting towards the fringes add the powdered spices, bring to a simmer and put off the fire.
  • The Curry leaves gravy can be served with hot rice and ghee. Sautéed or deep fried papad will complement this dish very well.

The gravy can have a shelf life of about three months. The gravy tastes best when mixed with rice and allowed to soak up the gravy for at least two to three hours. If you make the gravy for just one time use, adding cut drumsticks or broad beans along with the curry leaves powder can add to the flavor.

 

 

FLAVOURED BUTTERMILK

If you have drying up or dried up curry leaves on your hands, do not throw them away. Dry them in the shade along with a handful of lemon leaves and couple of green chillies. When the ingredients dry up without retaining an iota of moisture grind them with a little salt and hing and store the powder in an airtight container. The powder can be used to flavor buttermilk instantaneously.

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know?

Curry leaves have divine connections.  There is an interesting folk tale which speaks about how the king Thondaman lined up a whole range of gifts for his daughter Padmavathi on the occasion of her wedding with lord Srinivasa. The gifts consisted of just about everything that a bride could need. Expensive clothes, jewellery, furniture, make up items, provisions, flowers, fruits, nuts and vegetables among other things. The king and his queen were proud of the rich array of their paraphernalia as they took the grooms mother Bakulamalika on a guided tour around the presents. When the king said that they had not spared a single item that could be possibly be included, Bakula gently pointed out that they had missed out on gifting their daughter something important. The royal couple went through the itinerary but could not zero in on the missing article. Then Bakula gently pointed out that they had forgotten to keep curry leaves which is a mandatory ingredient in most of our traditional cuisine!

 

 

 

To Cook Or Not To Cook Is Her Choice


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NEWER ALTERNATIVES

Hectic lifestyles are the order of the day. Caught up in the day-to-day activities, many women find cooking cumbersome. The stress of work and managing the household doesn’t leave much time to dish out meals three times a day, everyday.

It’s a fact that we are living in an age when women who want to wean away from the kitchen chores, can feel free to do so because the market caters to all their needs, albeit for a price. One only has to step out of their home to relish global cuisines. Or even better, just log on to the Internet and you will have the world at your fingertips.

For working professionals, eating out is a very common scenario. What started as a means of satisfying one’s cravings once in a while slowly metamorphosed into a habit of convenience. Small bistros, mess and shacks sprouted alongside big restaurants to cater to the urgent or specific needs of people. Many families are reliant on their neighbourhood kitchens in times of emergencies. Why slog for hours to prepare sweets and treats for festivals when you can easily order them from outside?   Parties and get-togethers can be enjoyed without the stress of cooking for everybody.

Apart from changing food habits, there is an apparent change in the concept of cooking itself. People who cook from scratch are hard to find these days. Change in lifestyle, time constraints and the strain of multitasking are taking a toll on people who have little or no time to go through the elaborate aspects of cooking. The fact that we have readymade masalas and ready- to-cook foods is well-known.

Stores today also stock and sell idli-dosa batter and semi-cooked foods because they are sure of takers for these products. Many grocery portals and shops are also offering to clean and cut vegetables, grate coconuts, peel onions and garlic for a nominal service charge.

These and other such facilities have made life a lot easier for women. The ones who have the flair for cooking elaborate and exotic dishes no longer have to dread the drudgery in the kitchen. They can get the right ingredients, processed in the manner they like. And for those who don’t have the time or inclination for cooking, there are many avenues today that offer the exotic stuff they want, without them having to worry about soiling their hands. As ordering food online has become a quite a phenomena, it has obliterated the bleakness and blandness of the appetite even when the lady of the house is not up for some cooking.

We can have the best of both worlds, where women can take a call to cook or not to cook without an iota of guilt or self reprisal because we have created a parallel world that can fulfill our needs quite competently. Today, there is a plate to cater to every palate and that too, at very reasonable prices. The boom in the food business is, perhaps, a pointer to the fact that there is a growing demand and hence, the undisturbed, variegated supply. So, when a woman chooses not to cook today, it doesn’t have to mean a hungry household.

Celebrating Its Diversity – Food Fix- Appam


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Radha Prathi, July 11, 2015:

Image for representation

The appam is perhaps one of the oldest dishes of South India, where it is prepared in various forms, especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. When prepared in the sweet form, it is considered to be an ideal offering to the gods. It has a long shelf life and when cooked in pure ghee, it can last for months together without any refrigeration. Ideal for your travel sojourns as it doesn’t cause spill-overs and needs no elaborate packing, appam is also easy to make in its special mould. These moulds can be found in any kitchenware shop and nowadays, leading companies have also introduced non-stick appam moulds for the health-conscious people. Though appams can be cooked with oil, ghee is a better option for it not only enhances the taste, but also acts as a preservative, besides providing healthy nourishment.

Check out some appam recipes:

appamappam
Sweet something
Ingredients: 250 gm rice, 50 gm chana dal (split bengal gram), 100 gm grated coconut, 2 ripe bananas, 250 gm jaggery, 10 gm powdered cardamom, 1 tsp ghee, cooking oil

Method: Soak the rice and the dals for two hours and grind them to a fine paste along with the grated coconut and the peeled bananas. Add the jaggery to the batter along with powdered cardamom and mix it well. Heat the appam mould and grease the mould generously with ghee. Ladle out the batter in the mould and cook till it turns golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

If you want to prepare instant appam with a different taste, you could supplement the rice and dal with an equivalent amount of maida flour. You could grind the grated coconut and bananas separately and cook the appams in a similar way. Baked sweet potato can also be used to substitute the banana.

Potato punch
Ingredients: 2 cups maida, 2 big potatoes, 2 sprigs curry leaves, 1 tsp jeera, 5 green chillies, 1 tsp grated ginger, 2 tsp salt, cooking oil

Method: Grind the jeera, grated coconut, boiled potatoes, green chillies, grated ginger, curry leaves and salt into a fine paste and mix it with the maida flour. Heat the
appam mould and grease the mould generously with oil. Ladle out the batter in the appam mould and cook till it turns a golden brown. Serve hot with chutney or sauce of your choice.

Salt ‘n’ spice
Ingredients: 250 gm rice, 50 gm chana dal, 50 gm urad dal, 100 gm grated coconut, 2 sprigs curry leaves, 1 tsp jeera, 5 green chillies, 1 tsp grated ginger, 2 tsp salt, cooking oil

Method: Soak the rice, dals, and jeera for two hours and grind them to a fine paste along with the grated coconut, green chillies, grated ginger, curry leaves and salt. Heat the mould and grease it generously with oil. Ladle out the batter in the mould and cook till it turns a golden brown. Serve hot with chutney or sauce of your choice.

Calamity Control With Quick Fixes


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Kitchen disasters are common while preparing a meal for a big number.  Radha Prathi provides tips on how to avert a few critical ones

Cooking for a large number of people can be a formidable task, especially if it involves entertaining at home. You may plan ahead and prepare a practical menu and work on it methodically, but then there is always a lurking fear that things could go awry.

Many a time, something may go wrong, leaving you wringing your hands in desperation because you may have salted your dish too much or too little, or may have overcooked or under cooked the food. Here are a few tips that can emerge as saviours and get you through the night without breaking into a sweat!

*Add a small piece of tamarind into the frying pan when you do deep frying in already used oil, for the tamarind will absorb food smells which the oil may have retained.

*Bake two or three large potatoes and keep them aside. If you find that you have salted some dish generously, you could mash these potatoes and mix it with the dish and it will absorb the extra salt without altering the taste of the dish to a large extent.

*You could use tomato puree to balance out the flavour of the dish in terms of salt, sourness or spice.

*Add a tiny pinch of sugar when you cook salted food and a pinch of salt when you cook prepare sweet dishes as this practice will not only retain the natural food colour but will highlight the flavour too.

*Add washed and freshly-cut curry leaves and coriander to the dishes after you put off the flame to retain the smell and flavour.

*Keep a litre of boiling water ready while cooking. If you feel the gravy is getting thick or your vegetables appearing dry in the pan, add small quantities of that boiling water to help it cook in the same pace.

*If you find your gravy getting  very thin, take a tablespoon of rice, wheat or corn flour and mix it with cold water and make it into a thick, fine syrup and add it to the gravy while it is still cooking. Stir the contents till it simmers even as it thickens.

*If you have under salted your dish, you could dissolve the salt in some boiling water and add it to the dish and mix it well to help it blend.

*If you find your dish falling short of some spice, you could add it in the form of powder or paste to help it mix easily. Keep pastes of ginger, garlic; chilli and coriander ready as they mix easily with the cooked food and improve flavour.

*Do not hesitate to throw away seasoning which you may have burnt inadvertently as it could alter the taste of your dish to your disadvantage.

*Make sure you don’t use burnt cashews, raisins, ghee, channa dal, or for that matter any ingredient as it can upset the native flavour of the dish.

*Use natural food colours like turmeric powder, kesar or beetroot juice to highlight your food. Artificial colours may sometimes spoil the food and your digestive system too. For instance, use saffron powder or turmeric for colouring sweets and savouries respectively.

*As far as possible avoid synthetic food flavour and use a pinch of the original spice, fruit or nut to lend flavour.

*If milk curdles accidentally, you could  use it to your advantage. Allow the milk to curdle further on a very slow fire, once the whey separates add a spoonful of corn flour for every half litre of curdled milk, add a lump of jaggery and a pinch of powdered cardamom and turn it into an instant sweet dish.

*If, for some reason, the dish you are preparing gets burnt at the bottom of the vessel during the process of cooking, make sure you put off the fire and transfer the contents to another vessel before continuing with the cooking otherwise the taste of the burnt dish will linger on and spoil the aroma.

*Use saffron powder or turmeric for colouring sweets and savouries respectively.

*If you find out that you have undercooked the rice or vegetable,  sprinkle water and pressure cook the entire contents and season the dish lightly once again.

*If you feel that there is not enough chutney to go around at the last minute, grind some popcorn or salted biscuits along with some chillies and salt and mix them with the chutney before the final seasoning.