Coffee-Just Brew It


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It is hard to believe that the comforting aroma of coffee which rejuvenates nearly half the population of our globe was not even known to our country half a millennium ago. When Baba Budan brought a handful of coffee seeds to India on his way back from Mecca in 1670 AD, little did he realise that he would be altering the lifestyle of Indians, the southerners, in particular, in more ways than one. The aromatic beans that were first grown in the hills of Chikkamagaluru district grew ever so well as if it were their native land.

The Arabica and Robusta beans were roasted and enterprising connoisseurs of this exotic aromatic seeds experimented enthusiastically with the ratio of the beans with or without the catalyst chicory, temperature of water, various varieties of filter etc, to arrive at the perfect cuppa. Huge companies and multinational franchisees of coffee houses stand testimony to the wonderfully adaptable form of this wonder drink. Drinking coffee in the perfect ambience has taken unbelievable dimensions quite on the lines of Japanese tea ceremonies. This global drink can be consumed in a plethora of forms with or without milk in increasing and decreasing quotients of the strength of the brew.

The discerning taste buds can be suitably satiated in more areas if the aroma, flavour and the natural rich brown colour is put to good use. Coffee can be best used in the decoction form while using it to flavour. The secret of getting the perfect decoction not only lies in the ratio of coffee powder and the temperature of the boiling water but also the temperature of the coffee filter. If you are in a hurry, you cannot go wrong if you add a couple of spoonfuls of instant coffee powder to piping hot water. The decoction thus prepared can be used to flavour cakes, ice creams, chocolates, burfis, cold coffee shakes, etc.

Hing _ The Adopted Child of Spices


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know your ingredient

 

The asafetida or the Hing as it is known in most of India happens to be a happy by product of the silk route. Long, long ago when Arab merchants traded with our continent, they enslaved our olfactory senses and taste buds to the gummy resin. Ever since we adopted this alien spice as our own and incorporated it into our choicest dishes to make them more eclectic.

Given its numerous therapeutic and curative powers, this spice is also referred to as the ‘Food of the Gods’.  Or it is known as  devil’s dung avoided by people who adhere to satvik food.

You can buy this resin these days off the shelf in three different forms. Though it is essentially the same ingredient and is used in more or less the same way for the same purposes, if you pay attention to the way it should be used, it can give optimal results.

The solid form is the best for it retains the flavour intact. There are two ways to use it. You can soak it in hot water and use the syrup to knead it into the dough.

One of the ground rules of using Hing is to strictly avoid using the ingredient if the dish uses onion or garlic mandatorily.

The granulated form of Hing can bestow its best  on liquid foods like buttermilk, rasams etc or semi solid foods like Sambhar, gravy, vegetable kootu etc taste best when granulated Hing is added to the seasoning of the recipe at the very end.

The powdered form of Hing can give optimal results when added as additional flavoring in salads, kosambari , raitha, pachadi etc. Heat a little oil or ghee and toss powdered hing into it before adding it to the dish.

Of Mint Condition


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Our very own Pudina or Mint probably has the distinction of being the ubiquitous herb in Afro Asian, European and Australian cuisine alike. The gaily green leaves which lend a sense of freshness, besides lending its unique smell and taste have made it a universal favourite.

If you follow certain thumb rules while using mint leaves, you can extract the best out of it. Did you know that cutting the leaves is a complete no-no for it can destroy its intrinsic goodness? You can crush the leaves with your fingers while garnishing juices, smoothies, salads and raithas to get the best effect. If you are planning to use the greens to flavour chutneys, gravies or curries make sure that you sauté the whole leaves before adding it to the main dish. If your recipe expects you to grind mint leaves along, remember that fresh leaves can alter the taste just heat the leaves on a tawa or in a pan so that it loses its moisture content and then grind the same.

Though many people add mint leaves to fried snacks like pakodas or sundried Pappads and Khakras, your discerning taste buds must have realized that the Pudina neither smells nor tastes as you expect it to. That is because; the herb loses its flavour when exposed to extreme heat. If you really care for mint then avoid using the leaves to flavour the mentioned dishes, instead you can eat them with Pudina chutney.

Sometimes we may end up buying more mint than we need. One of the best ways to preserve Pudina is to wrap the leaves in a newspaper and leave it in the refrigerator. Make sure that you discard the yellowed or blackened leaves for they can play spoilsport to your star dish.

Pudina leaves added to flavour your tea, lime water, rasams and even your water can not only tickle your tastebuds but can comfort your tummy too!

Get More of Methi


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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.

Curious about Carom?


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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.

Raising Our Daughters the Right Way


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Bringing up: In a world full of judgements and suspicions, we have to raise our daughters with the correct set of values.

Under the wings...Under the wings…

Archana insisted on homeschooling her twin daughters as she had nightmares about admitting her children to the kindergarten in the metropolis soon after being bombarded by stories of lurking paedophiles around learning centres. Vandana gave up her lucrative job because she wanted to be at home when her daughter arrived home at noon. She had heard horrific stories of children being administered sleeping pills in their milk at daycare centres. Meera laughingly calls herself the designated chauffeur of her kids because she is always driving them in and out of one class or another.

Lakshmi opted for voluntary retirement just when it was her turn to get promoted, to ensure that she could fund her daughter’s dream to study abroad. Suma, a qualified lawyer, decided to be a stay-at-home mother because she believed in the dictum “Better safe than sorry” (All names have been changed to respect their identities.)

What these young and not-so-young mothers have done for the apples of their eyes, is not unusual. Each of these mothers and several tens and thousands of their kind have been doing more or less the same thing in various capacities. No, they are not cynical or paranoid, they are just being careful. With reason too. We live in a world which is riddled by multiple standards, inequalities in every aspect, uncertainties and incomprehensible expectations. Hence, leading a normal life believing in the intrinsic goodness of fellow human beings is out of the question.

Now is the time for us to rethink our parenting strategies, especially where it concerns the girl child. After all, parenting is called an art and not without reason. We must prepare our daughters to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst right from the moment they arrive in our lives. Here are a few areas that need
serious looking into:

Physical well-being
A taste for a nutritious balanced diet punctuated with some form of exercise should be introduced right from the beginning. When a healthy diet and a physical regime coupled with personal hygiene become a habit, immunity levels will soar, and keeping healthy will not prove to be a challenge. Teaching them martial arts or sports or simply involving them in everyday household chores will help them build stamina and can prove to be a boon in times of need.

Modesty & morality
Modesty and morality should not be mixed up. Remember, being prudish can cost them dearly. They must be taught the difference between good touch and bad touch. Girls should be taught not to be ashamed of their bodies or the changes they undergo. They should be encouraged to spell out their doubts and fears. It will do well to sensitise girls to the fact that the outside world will judge them by the clothes, accessories and the makeup they wear, though character cannot be determined by the length of their sleeves or necklines.

Subjects like virginity, rape, honour, domestic violence, honour killings need not be drawing room conversations, if it feels delicate. All the same, there is no point in sweeping the subjects under the carpet and looking the other way when they do crop up.

Using such topics as a launchpad to clear the cobwebs of a growing mind can go a long way in preventing girls from becoming judgmental. The knowledge will also cushion them to some extent, if they are unfortunate victims of such
circumstances.

Coping with new age trends
Many girls go through a phase in life when they get their facial or body parts pierced or tattooed, when they colour, curl or straighten their hair or undergo cosmetic surgery on a whim and regret it later.

Depriving permission outright may not go well with everyone. So, the stubborn ones can be encouraged to try the temporary option and then if they really care for the fashion, then they can be told to take the plunge.

Being feminine
Girls should be taught to appreciate and enjoy their feminine side. Since we live in a diabolical world, girls can be groomed to be soft-spoken and delicate damsels. So, they should be clearly told that they must not hesitate to protect themselves even if it means biting and kicking the molester on the face, or very simply amplifying their lung power.

Expanding the mind
Encourage your girls to have friends, go out and mingle. While dating or having a relationship is not wrong, they should also be taught when and where to draw the line and how to say no firmly when they feel uncomfortable. Writing a diary or pouring their concerns to an agony aunt can help them ease their tensions. Ask them to be careful about what they post and with whom they share on their social media sites, especially their pictures. With so much cyber crime going on, one can never be too careful.

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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