Get More of Methi

Radha Prathi Feb 23 2018, 22:19 IST

Fenugreek or methi, as we know it, possibly originated in the Mediterranean region. It is interesting to note that the ubiquitous seeds in most Indian cuisine were actually used for embalming by the Egyptians, while the Greeks and Romans used it for cattle fodder.

The tiny bitter seeds can add a rich aroma, colour and flavour when used in various recipes. However, it is best not to use the seeds as they are. Roast them over a slow fire before adding them to any dish. If you want to use it in the powdered form, follow the same procedure. If you want to grind the seeds into the dish, soak it overnight, preferably with a pinch of salt to get a smooth paste. If you want to use methi seeds for seasoning, add them to the oil when it is at maximum heat and take it off immediately. When you grind batter for dosa, make sure that you soak a teaspoon of methi seeds along with urad dal.

For those of you who are hard pressed for time, here are a few tips to keep your methi masala ready:

Roast methi, jeera and dhaniya seeds in one is to two is to four ratio and powder the spices with a half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Toss a teaspoonful of the spice mix in your curries or rice preparations just before you turn off the flame and mix it well. This will lend a tasty and healthy twist to your cooking.

If you have lots of curry leaves at home, wash and dry them. Add a teaspoon of roasted methi seeds to the dried leaves, powder them and use this to season your sambhar or chutneys.

The Ubiquitous Protector

People, especially the city slickers do not have any reasons to exert themselves unless they make a conscious attempt to remove themselves from their comfort zone. All we have to really do is kindly breathe, eat and excrete because most of our needs and jobs are taken care of by machines and the rest by electronics and the help we employ.

Just when we are ushered into that idyllic world of doing nothing, there is an official declaration that most of the health problems of the present age stems from our sedentary lifestyles. So being the quintessential couch potato with matching chips alongside is no longer the most favourable position to be in. Those people who have pledged that they will not budge from their comfort zone for love or money will have to think again.

These days, even momentarily opened doors and windows happen to be ushering in winged creatures which are mostly mosquitoes. They breeze in and hum around our ears, settle on the exposed portions of our bodies and merrily quaff on our life blood.

As a rule, we humans do not resent the resultant itching or the sharing of half a drop of blood if it were not associated with a host of diseases. So we started using sprays, lights, coils and repellants with negligible results. Then, the brainier section of mankind invented the mosquito bat. All we have to do is place our thumbs on the button to activate the electrified battle-ready weapon and brandish it around ourselves and vanquish the bloodsuckers that dare to venture into our orbit. If we are lucky, our success is celebrated with some fireworks and we can slip back into indolence till the next beastly pest flies along.

Initially, the conscientious Samaritans were hesitant to indulge in conscious “himsa.” It took a few gurus and their disciples to use the implement in full public view to put across the message that the insects were probably wretched souls seeking liberation so that they could move on to higher planes. Then on, no one seems to have any compunction about using their bludgeons blissfully. On the contrary, they feel secure when they have one such racquet beside them.

The users of the bats will vouch for the fact that their arms have been strengthened while protecting themselves from some dreadful diseases. More enterprising batsmen and women also manage to burn a few calories when they scout for victims in the vicinity of their homes. In fact, a couple of engineering students have started working on the sports model of the bat which can keep scores of hits and misses quite on the lines of Pokemon Go!

Now that the power and position of the haloed bat has been established, the day is not far when the mosquito will be declared as an endangered species. True blue users of the bludgeon will understand that one of the sovereign duties of a desi is to safeguard the cesspools, potholes, garbage piles so that we have a never ending supply of offerings to the ubiquitous bats that each one of us possesses. After all, is it not our duty to protect our protector?

Curious about Carom?

Carom seeds

Carom seeds

The carom seeds, popularly known as ajwain, have been a part of Indian cuisine from times immemorial. Southeast Asian countries have consciously included these aromatic seeds in some of their common and exclusive dishes. The spice lends a tinge of heat and freshness to any dish to which it is added.

Since ajwain has its own distinct flavour, it is best not to combine it with other spices. It is particularly useful in curing digestive disorders. The spice has a magical way of lending diverse genres of flavours when employed differently.

If you are planning to use ajwain as a seasoning, then heat some ghee or any cooking oil of your choice and toss the spice when the fat is hot. When the spice inflates, turn off the heat and toss it into your dish. You can give your dosas, salads and buttermilk a twist by adding a dash of ajwain.

While baking some breads and buns or Indian snacks using besan flour as base, make sure that you add raw ajwain to the dough. If you don’t like biting into the spice unexpectedly, then consider adding a pinch of coarse or fine ajwain powder to the dough.

If you want an uniform and all encompassing flavour then make sure that you use a decoction of the spice. Toss a teaspoonful of the seeds into quarter litre of water and allow it to boil down to about 200 ml, add a pinch of table salt and crystal sugar to the decoction before taking it off the heat. Use this decoction while preparing dough for breads, chapatis or paranthas. This decoction can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator and administered a spoonful or two after every meal to overcome flatulence or indigestion.

Bread Fruit Recipes

Get a taste of the tropics


Breadfruit Podimas

Ingredients: Two raw breadfruits; 1 tsp of turmeric powder; 2 tsps of salt; ½ tsp of hing; 4 red chillies; a sprig of curry leaves; 1 tsp of channa dal; 1 tsp of urad dal and 1 tbsp of cooking oil.
Method: Turn on the stove and place the raw breadfruit on it. Turn it around frequently to cook it evenly on all sides. The skin will carbonise, it but will conduct heat to cook the insides and protect them from getting burnt. Once cooked, wait for it to cool and peel off the burnt skin. Heat oil in a pan and fry the channa dal, urad dal and red chillies with hing. Grind the fried ingredients coarsely, toss the cooked breadfruit with the ground spices and run it for a minute in the food processor. Now crumble the mixture with a blunt ladle. Serve the podimas with hot rice and a raita of your choice.

Breadfruit  & Coconut Curry

Ingredients: Two raw breadfruits; a cup of grated coconut; 1 tbsp of tamarind extract; 1 tsp of turmeric powder; 2 tsps of salt; ½ tsp of hing; 4 red chillies; 4 garlic pods (optional); 1 sprig of curry leaves; 1 tsp of channa dal; 1 tsp of urad dal; 1 tbsp of coriander seeds; 1 tsp of cumin seeds; 1 tsp of mustard seeds and 2 tbsps of cooking oil.
Method: Skin the breadfruit, dice it and pressure cook it using little water. Marinate the cooked breadfruit in tamarind extract mixed with salt, turmeric powder and hing for 10 minutes. Fry the channa dal, urad dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies, garlic and curry leaves in little oil and grind the ingredients finely. Take a heavy-bottomed pan, add a tbsp of oil and add mustard seeds to it. Add the marinated breadfruit to the pan and sauté it for a while. Add the ground ingredients and sauté the same. When the curry appears golden brown, add the grated coconut and mix it well before turning off the heat. Serve as a side dish for rice or roti.

Breadfruit Roast

Ingredients: Two raw breadfruits; 1 tbsp of tamarind extract; 1 tsp of turmeric powder; 2 tsps of salt; ½ tsp of hing; 1 tbsp of red chilli powder; a sprig of curry leaves and half a cup of cooking oil.
Method: Skin the breadfruits and slice them into thin wafers. Marinate the breadfruit slices in tamarind extract mixed with chilli powder, salt, turmeric powder and hing for an hour or so. Take a heavy-bottomed pan, add a tablespoon of oil and heat the same and spatter the mustard in it. Add the marinated breadfruit and curry leaves to the pan and sauté it for a while. Add oil from time to time to the pan and attend to the vegetable till it turns into a fine roast. This roast can be served as a side dish with rice or simply eaten as a snack.
Note: You can even deep fry the marinated the breadfruits and eat them as chips.

A Tangy Treat -Lemon

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

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

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.