Way back in April 2014, I had started a series on ‘Power Packed Pancakes’. The introduction post focussed on how having Dosai/Dosa batter at home can be a stress free affair, and the importance of including whole grains and millets for a Healthy Lifestyle.
How far the post was successful with regards to a stress free read …. not for me to decide.
From Power Packed Pancakes, now, its time to move on to Power Packed Idlis or Steamed Cakes. What the Tamils call Idli is generally described in English as Rice Cakes. Specifically, these are Steamed Rice Cakes. This time, the steamed cakes are with Millets and no Rice included. Hence, they are truly Power Packed and Healthy.
I don’t prefer to mix Rice in the Millet Idli batter, especially if the purpose is to cut down the Rice intake. A pack that reads ‘Whole Wheat Bread’ or ‘Brown Bread’ in the shelves of supermarkets, tricks the consumer to believe it is 100% original Whole Wheat bread. The soft and tasty bread is certainly a combination of White flour and Whole Wheat, or many a times 70-80% whiteflour with the inclusion of Wheat Bran.
Rice is a wonderful Grain, in comparison to the empty caloried White Flour. But, I’d like to keep my Millet Dosai or Idli, without the inclusion of Rice.
Hence, I use the best suited Millets for Idlis, as simple as that. Other Millets which don’t turn out soft and fluffy (that’s expected from a Steamed Cake), can be made as Dosai. The batter is rigidly the same, devoid of Rice.
Why are we talking about Rice here?
Well, there a two basic ways of making Idlis with millets. One – making the Idli batter with Millet and Black gram and NO Rice at all; the other is to substitute one portion of rice with millet. Certain Millets like Thinai (Foxtail Millet – one of the oldest millets of the Tamils), Samai (Little Millet), Varagu (Kodo Millet) or Kuthiraivali (Barnyard Millet) are best suited to make fluffy soft Idlis, with NO Rice at all. A few others like Kezhvaragu (Ragi/Finger Millet) or Kambu (Bajra/Pearl Millet) don’t create the best steamed cakes with millets alone, they need the addition of Rice.
But, Horse gram, which is a lentil and not a Millet, should be treated like the black gram in Rice Idlis. That’s why, Rice and Horse gram are blended to make Steamed Cakes.
This series aims at providing an alternative way to incorporate millets in our diet. Having included them in our daily life style for several years now, I strongly feel this has been one of the healthiest changes I’ve adapted. Also, one that makes me stay very close to a few of the countless traditional foods of my soil. Especially, when there is written literary document that proves these were consumed by my ancestors several thousands of years ago.
It has been a slow and steady journey for me and a patient journey for my readers. Thanks a ton, for travelling at my pace, encouraging me to do what I’ve been doing.
When I sit back and think, the commitment of not endorsing junk foods and not blogging on unhealthy stuff has never faded. That I wouldn’t post a recipe, which I feel is unhealthy for my family; and wouldn’t cook any junk, that I wouldn’t prescribe to my readers, has been a norm that I set for myself.
In my quest to explore various versions of traditional foods, I felt THINAI / Foxtail Millet would be an apt food to post for my 200th.
Thinai is among the oldest millets consumed by Tamils. Sangam Literature, which dates from 300 BCE to 300 ACE, mentions Thinai, alongwith a few other millets and rice varieties, used by the ancient community.
Bamboo rice, Red rice, Foxtail, Kodo, Finger Millets, Black gram, Horse gram are a few rice, millets and lentils mentioned in Tholkappiyam (the most ancient Grammar Text of Tamil Language) and Sangam Literature.
With my quest to cook more, and write more and more on the traditional foods of the Land I belong to, I chose to do a post on one of the ancient millets of Tamilnadu.
It is the outcome of an urge to cling on tightly to my roots (quite strong with at least 2500 year old heritage), and transferring the wealth and knowledge my ancestors passed on to me through generations, to my offspring and others.
Thinai – Two Ways for the Sweet Tooth
Including Millets in our everyday diet is one of the most recommended health formulas of the 21st century, and hence, the internet overflows with the health benefits of all. Name it and you get it. Benefits of Thinai/ Foxtail Millet can also be found very easily in the net.
Any happy occasion demands a dessert. Why not 2 sweets for 200? That’s why I thought of making a Payasam and Sarkkarai Pongal with Thinai.
The basic ingredients are almost the same – Thinai and Jaggery; Payasam has the inclusion of coconut milk and Pongal doesn’t have the milk to bring it to thinner consistency.
Thinai Payasam and Thinai Pongal
As mentioned above, the Ingredients for Payasam and Pongal are almost the same, with the addition of coconut milk in Payasam.
The basic steps in making Payasam and Pongal are again, almost the same. In simple terms, a thinner mixture and addition of coconut milk makes it Payasam; a thicker version with the glow of more clarified butter, makes it Pongal.
Hence, the procedure below might be repetitive. Yet, for better comprehension, I chose to make different recipe presentations.
THINAI PAYASAM – Ingredients (serves 3-4)
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
thinai/foxtail millet – 1/2 cup
vellam/jaggery – 3/4 cup
chukku podi/ dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
nei/clarified butter – 2 tbsp
mundhiri paruppu/cashewnut – 10-12 pieces
thengai pal/coconut milk – if freshly squeezed -1/2 cup thin second milk and 1/2 cup thick first milk; if using canned coconut milk – 1 cup thick, add extra water accordingly
Method of Preparation
Wash Thinai and Pressure cook with 1 1/2 cups water.
How I cook – After the first whistle, reduce flame to sim and switch off after 2 whistles
2. Boil jaggery with water to dissolve and remove impurities. Strain and keep aside
3. Squeeze milk from fresh coconut, separate thin second milk and thick first milk
4. Over sim flame, keep the cooked millet in a hard bottomed pan or in the same pressure cooker, in which it was cooked
5. Time to add strained jaggery water- Check if you would need the whole jaggery water. Add 3/4th of it and add more if needed
Extra jaggery water, if retained can be used for various other purposes
Stir well after addition of jaggery water
Add dry ginger and cardamom powders
Let the millet cook in jaggery water and the spices, and thicken
Fry cashew nuts in nei/clarified butter till golden; Add to the cooked thinai-jaggery pongal
When the jaggery is well incorporated in thinai, add coconut milk
Be careful not to boil the Payasam too much after adding coconut milk, as it might curdle
What I’ve been cooking for the past three and a half months, seems like a whirlwind project. I am rest assured, it must be the case of almost everyone, handling a full house, during these testing times.
When I sat back and saw the clicks, my daughter wanted me to write continuous posts, under the title ‘Quarantine Diaries’. NO worries.. No diaries… this post consolidates the several dishes, those were rolled out of that sacred place in my house, called ‘Kitchen’. Later, let’s analyse a few recipes in the coming posts.
I started the month of March, with a Blueberry Jam – just two ingredients, berries and brown sugar, and of course, juice of lemon for longer shelf life.
With a routine of including Millets in the diet, Millet Idlies always occupy a special place on the dining table. Samai (Little Millet) Idlis are true substitutes in colour, to the regular white rice Idlis. But these millet idlis are a healthier version, not to forget.
Like the Samai Idli, Kollu (Horsegram) Idlies, are awesomely light, steamed cakes packed with the lentil flavour.
Don’t forget the different chutneys, that were made for the idlies. A few of those, I have highlighted in the end of this post.
A chocolate cake- with whole wheat, cane sugar, olive oil, dark chocolate and toasted pistachios. The urge to cut and eat, was more compelling than a good click to post.
Next, came 50-50 Whole Wheat Buns, tried from an old book, I had. Though, the recipe demanded eggs, this is an eggless bun.
Black Chick Pea Burger with the Buns
Next, for the benefit of online learners, to munch some traditional sweets, with longer shelf life…
Coconut Burfi with Cane Sugar
and Black Sesame Burfi with Jaggery
April, started with Whole Wheat Raisin Bread – wouldn’t term it the best, but full of flavour.
Time for a spicy powder for the health freak. Sesame and Flax seed chilly powder, to go with rice, idli or dosai.
flax seed podi
April, was also a month to try Pizza, the healthy way. Home-made whole wheat base, tomato spread from scratch and variety of toppings .. Pizza that was dreaded for the white flour, the meagre amount of veggies or meat to be searched for- in store bought frozen ones, or the branded /door delivered ones, used to be a half-yearly affair. Truly, we might have ordered pizzas twice a year.
The ill effect of making fresh pizzas at home, with loaded vegetables and with constraint on cheese, pizzas are almost a weekly bake now.
Till date, I haven’t been quite successful with cookies. They used to be consumable, but not perfect. And I have always baked whole wheat cookies, never with white flour.
But, May started with this exception. A Good Whole Wheat Cookie!! Got the recipe from another blog, but as usual converted all purpose flour to whole wheat. It turned out to be so light and crispy.
whole wheat sesame cookies
When the need for a hot snack, with less work to fry, stir fry or sauté arose, tried baking these yummy potato wedges. Cut the potatoes, sprinkled some oil, baked for 30 mins or so. Took out from oven, sprinkled salt and spices of choice and, the baked wedges were ready.
Potato Wedges baked healthy
Who said Papdi Chaat needs Papdi or the crisps made of white flour. I chose to combine Papdi and Chole into a Chaat, but with a healthy twist. No matter you like it or not, its a whole meal. When I had my Methi (fenugreek leaves) Paratha dough in hand, I rolled a big pizza base out of it, and baked till crisp. That became my Papdi to go with the left over Chole curry. Add ons – home made green chutney, tamarind chutney and yoghurt.
Methi Paratha (Papdi) Chole Chaat
Time for a nice cake – Sticky Date and Walnut Cake – obviously with whole wheat flour and cane sugar, and eggless too. This time, I topped the cake with caramel whipped cream. With my home-made caramel, I could limit the sugar in the frosting.
Eggless Sticky Date and Walnut Cake
Next came in, Gooseberries. Lucky me, the super market had some new and fresh stock of gooseberries. The great berry, loaded with good nutrients, rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, is highly popular for its anti-ageing properties. Let’s also do a gooseberry chutney series shortly. Great plans that arise as I write..
Gooseberry Coconut Green Chilly Chutney
Gooseberry Coconut Coriander Chutney
Gooseberry Coconut Mint Chutney
Gooseberry Coconut Red Chilly Chutney
Gooseberry Tomato Red Chilly Chutney
The long list of ingredients, written on the bottle of the world’s most favourite Chocolate spread, or a Peanut Butter Spread, creates a lot of stress and anxiety. But a good chocolate spread, to go with healthy whole wheat or millet pancakes, or home made bread or buns, can be a positive change in routine. So, tried this simple chocolate spread, with a combination of 80% and 72% dark chocolate with very little cane sugar and milk. Stores well in the refrigerator, for at least couple of weeks. Choose your dark chocolate, that has no margarine, but cocoa butter.
Home made Chocolate Spread
Those were a few different, yet healthy stuff that went into the tummy. I am satisfied, I could put in some thoughtful creativity, to indulge in the above stuff.
This year’s Pongal – the Harvest Festival of the Tamils, was a special one for me. After posting my experience of Pongal in Cambodia , way back in 2014, now, I am delighted to post my experience of Pongal in Abu Dhabi, in 2020. Pongal was celebrated on 15th January.
Abu Dhabi, as many of us know, is a place very close to a South Indian’s heart. I recall a few lines I already wrote in one my previous posts – Navaratri in Abu Dhabi–
Living in Abu Dhabi, one doesn’t feel out of homeland, with millions of Indians, especially South Indians quite huge in number. But, it is certainly an amazing place where festivals are celebrated in their best traditional way, with undoubted authenticity.
The same feeling of being at home, was felt during Pongal too. Firstly, there was a Pongal celebration by local Tamil Community, at Khalifa Park, Abu Dhabi on the 10th of January, 2020. That gave a great start to the essence of our own Harvest Festival. There are a few more to join, in the coming days as well.
Apart from the events, that give a welcome feeling of being part of one’s own society, one of the most essential things to celebrate a traditional festival, is the availability of ingredients – exclusive to one’s native soil.
So, first step – I listed down the necessary things I needed to buy, for an authentic, traditional celebration – almost close to home, but away from home.
My list –
Pongal Paanai – a new Mud Pot to make Pongal – The sweet rice pudding
Manjal Kothu – Fresh Turmeric with the root and leaves, to tie around the pot
Inji Kothu – Fresh Ginger with root and leaves
Karumbu – Sugarcane
Panakizhangu – Palmyra Sprout
Maavilai – Fresh Mango leaves to make Thoranam or decoration in the house entrance
Fresh traditional vegetables of Tamilnadu
Now, Rice, Jaggery, Banana, Coconut and vegetables are abundantly available in Abu Dhabi. Hence, the concern of getting those didn’t pop up at all.
My longing to make Pongal, in a new mud pot was fulfilled by Dar Al Meena Food Stuff Trading, located in Sharjah, which delivers organic produces from Tamilnadu, every week, on different days to different parts of the UAE. Click here to know more about the shop.
They deliver required native produces to Abu Dhabi every Sunday. So, my anxiety to get these trademark Pongal Agro products, was sorted out very quickly.
This post is not going to be one, with a recipe. But this one is, to share my happiness and fulfilment that resulted in this year’s Pongal celebration. Happiness, not because I could get those quintessential things – but specially and more specifically because, I could show my daughter, at least a glimpse of Pongal – the festival, so earthy, and so close to our roots.
Pongal is so special to the Tamils because, it is an ancient, non-religious, traditional festival, that is very strongly connected to the earthy aroma of our native soil. It is the Harvest Festival as well as a Thanksgiving Festival. Though, it is a festival in which the farmer is thanking his own eco system of nature, including the Sun, Soil and Cattle, for providing the strength to achieve best yields. In turn, it is our duty to thank the Farmer, who produces the grains and vegetables we consume daily. Then, isn’t it very important to make our next generation value the sheer Hardwork of those humble souls, without whom, our filled plates with nutritious food and satisfied palates after each meal wouldn’t be achievable?
These are the things I procured from the shop, including my first priced possession of the new year – my Pongal Paanai/Mud Pot.
Pongal in Abu Dhabi
The quintessential things –
mud pot, coconut shell ladle, the pirumanai to place the pot, fresh turmeric with root and leaves, fresh ginger with root and leaves.
my priced possessions – mud pot and coconut shell ladle
Seasoning the Man Chatti/Mud Pot
After soaking the mud pot in water overnight, I washed it well with gram flour using coconut scrub. The next step, in the process of seasoning the mudpot, I fried grated coconut and nei/clarified butter. This aids in removing any mud, impurities and also makes the pot stronger. Coconut and nei/clarified butter, would provide a nice aroma to the mud pot, while making sweet dishes in future. This is because, the clay would absorb the flavour and aroma of the things fried or cooked first, for the rest of its life span. I discarded the fried coconut. Then, washed the pot with the coconut scrub and gram flour. Man chatti/mud pot is ready to make Sarkkarai Pongal, in fact every year.
Rest of the products – Karumbu/Sugarcane
Panang kizhangu/Palmyra Sprouts
Maavilai/Fresh mango leaves and Maavilai thoranam
the vegetables and different kinds of rice – mappillai samba, hand pound white, hand pound brown
Making Sarkkarai Pongal
I made Pongal, with 3 cups rice and approximately 4 to 4 1/2 cups jaggery. Too much for a nuclear family. But, the joy of sharing with friends during such festivals is the true spirit of celebration.
To start, I tied the fresh turmeric root with leaves to the neck of the manchatti. Placed the man chatti with water to boil, on the stove. A tip here – Add sufficient water for rice to cook… this is not pressure cooker cooking.. so no water measurements. Add water in between, if water is insufficient to cook rice.
Sufficient water and washed rice immersed in it.
Meantime, I kept the jaggery with water on stove. Once water boils and jaggery is completely dissolved, switch off stove. We shall strain later, directly into the pot.
Checked the rice off and on, until it had become soft
After a few minutes, the rice had become thicker, with most of the water absorbed while cooking;
At this stage, I strained the jaggery liquid into the pot
I added freshly ground cardamom into the rice and jaggery pongee
It was time to mix well and check whether everything was going right.
I used this beautiful coconut shell ladle, to mash the rice well. This dual purpose ladle, also serves as a masher.
I fried cashew nuts in clarified butter/nei and added to the almost done sarkkarai pongal
Sarkkarai Pongal was a thickened pudding now. I closed the lid and got ready to thank the farmers, cattle and nature – all at heart, in front of the worship area, with all family members present.
Symbolising the new Harvest – vegetables and rice
Thanksgiving Time! Pongalo Pongal!!!
After the humble celebration at home, traditional meal with rice, sambar, avial, pachadi, poriyal, vadai and pongal was the treat of the day. It was truly a festival, remembering and thanking the Farmers, and their eco system of Nature, including the Sun, Soil and Cattle, that provide them their basic means of livelihood, besides enabling us to reap the benefits of our primary food grains and vegetables.
Sprouts have become a regular part of our diet, for a few years now. These are the sprouts that I have been using presently. Many whole millets/grams can be sprouted and made into healthy alternatives to snacks and meals.
sprouted green gram
sprouted black chick pea
sprouted fenugreek seeds
Before we move on to the benefits and usages of sprouts, my Sprouts Story is something to be shared.
Initially, the inclusion of sprouts started as a salad for breakfast. It was great, light, refreshing and tasty.. They were accompaniments to a light breakfast. Only on a few weekends, we would start the day with sprouts alone to break the fast. After a few years, there was a change in breakfast. I converted to dosais or idlis with whole grains, millets or unpolished rice varieties. Hence, sprouts were shifted to be part of the lunch platter. Fresh salad with carrots, cucumber or any salad veggies with liberal juice of lemon, went with lunch.
Here, there arose a problem. While packing lunch in the morning, the freshness of the sprouts was lost. I moved it further evening as a replacement for tea/coffee. Now, I couldn’t survive without my coffee. If coffee was consumed with a healthy stuff, I believe the goodness of the healthy food is eaten up by caffeine in coffee and tea. Tell me I’m wrong, and I shall include my lonely coffee with breakfast, lunch and dinner too.
Coming back to sprouts, I switched it over to evening.. as a snack during tea. Then, winter set in. The fresh sprouts wouldn’t go well raw, cold with fresh veggies- I wanted something hot for the chilly weather. Additionally, the sprouted black gram was posing problems to chew . I thought of cooking or braising it to make it softer. While we had elders as guests, it made a lighter healthier snack while cooked… Easy to munch and tastier with South Indian seasoning- mustard seeds, curry leaves and chillies. A great snack for a cold winter evening. I have to mention here, I had my coffee after sufficient time gap.
Beyond the health benefits, sprouts are a beauty to watch grow. They mark the beginning of growth or existence. One can truly see the glow of new life in the sprouted seeds. If you feel I am excessively exaggerating, please try for yourself.
There are different ways to sprout seeds. This is what I do.
Soak seeds overnight. Drain water. Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Place in a clean dry box and close with a damp cheese cloth. Shake every now and then. Be careful, if there is too much water in the seeds, they would attract fungal growth. If they are too dry, they wouldn’t sprout. It might take a few times to understand the process and succeed.
Note: Green gram sprouts quickly. Fenugreek is a bit sticky. Black gram poses greater problems… It attracts fungus very easily. But be patient… Do not lose hope.. Slow comprehension of the process of each seed would help flawless sprouting, even after a few failures.
Health Benefits of Sprouts
Pre-digested foods refer to the foods that have been pre-digested for us either by another animal or machines or equipment. The nutrients are in pre-digested form, so they require very little digestion, and the nutrients are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Thus, an elemental diet provides you nutritional needs while giving your digestive system at rest. Sprouts nutrition reduces high blood pressure, helps in weight loss, lowers cardiovascular risk and helps us to fight against diabetes and fatty liver.
Kariveppilai is the Tamil name for Curry leaves. It roughly translates as neem leaf used in curries – Kari+Veppilai – Veppilai is Neem Leaf. It looks almost like neem leaf, but doesn’t carry the bitterness of neem. The wonderful aroma of the curry leaf when fried, makes it a great agent for seasoning in many dishes. Having known the medicinal effects and health benefits this exceptional tree possesses, the Tamils have been including the curry leaf in varied usages.
They are considered to have anti-diabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and hepatoprotective (capability to protect the liver from damage) properties. The roots are used for treating body aches and the bark is used for snakebite relief.
Apart from these scientific facts, the main benefits that home makers for generations have been telling their off springs are-
kariveppilai/curry leaf is-
good for eyes
good for digestion
important in maintaining darker hair colour
a natural coolant
When we used to leave aside the fried curry leaf from the chutney, from the sambar, from the kuzhambu/curries on our plates, amma would scold us to chew and finish it off. We would reluctantly do it or sometimes quarrel and throw it away. Then she would secretly add the leaves -powdered- in many dishes… we would unknowingly consume it. Now, as a mother, I am scolding my daughter to wipe the plate clean chewing all extra curry leaves, and am also trying to inculcate the valued curry leaves in many dishes, without my child’s attention. No fault here with the curry leaf, but some genetic disorder of setting aside chewable things from blended dips.
Curry leaves are herbs that are known to have essential nutrients that help in conditions like weight loss, blood pressure, indigestion, anaemia, diabetes, acne, hair loss, et al. These aromatic leaves, also known as kadi patta, have nutrients like copper, calcium, phosphorus, fibre, carbohydrates, energy, magnesium and iron. They also possess many types of vitamins like vitamins A, B, C and E and amino acids beneficial for health.
The specific usage of the curry leaf in preparing Hair Oil is the topic of this post. Curry Leaf Oil is a great coolant for the hot climate of the southern part of India, especially Tamilnadu. It also tackles early greying of hair and aids in hair growth – whether applied as oil or consumed in various dishes.
I have used kariveppilai yennai when young and still see appa (father) use it. We also make fun of his moustache having turned grey sooner than his hair, thanks to the kariveppilai yennai/ curry leaf oil. The aroma of curry leaves slowly cooked in coconut oil for the purpose of black, thick hair, takes me to my childhood.
fresh and dried leaves
Original curry leaf oil is made in a more refined/step-by-step process-
Curry leaves are blended with very little water – in those days made into a paste with ammi – roller stone
They are then flattened into thin round cookies – approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches diameter, on a muslin cloth or plastic sheet
These are sun-dried for days until the ground curry leaf sheets come out of the cloth, completely dried
These dried thins are slow cooked in coconut oil, until the colour and aroma of the curry leaf is completely extracted
This is done when the oil stops to splutter or approximately 30 minutes of slow cooking
Extra curry leaf thins/sheets are stored for next oil preparation
The same is done with marudhani/henna while making henna oil.
Here, I have not followed the same procedure. I took the short cut method of sun drying kariveppilai directly and slow cooked in oil. There is no compromise in the quality of oil, in comparison to the previous traditional technique – the aroma and colour seems to be the same. While using the curry leaf thins/sheets, they would settle down in the bottom of the bottle and leave a clear residue on top, but here- the dried curry leaves occupy more space in the bottle and yet, the oil on top is a clear residue. Later, when the oil is mixed too much with the leaves, one can filter and use.
Kariveppilaii Yennai/ Hair Oil with Curry Leaves
good quality pure coconut oil – 1 litre
dried curry leaves – appr. 6 cups
Method of Preparation
Sun dried curry leaves
Pluck curry leaves from tree/plant or buy enough from the vendor
De-stem leaves and wash very well
Spread on a clean cloth and pat dry
4. Place the cloth in a sunny area and dry well in the sun – might take few days to completely dry without moisture
5. Once the leaves are dried, they are ready to be used in the oil.
Making the Oil
In a wide pan, pour pure coconut oil – see label for aromatic ingredients, other oils which might have been mixed with coconut oil. We need only 100% coconut oil – preferably cold-pressed. Most branded coconut oils are refined, can’t help.. proceed.
Measure 6 cups dried curry leaves and mix in the oil, before it turns hot. If dried leaves are added after oil is heated up, the leaves would be fried and would give out a burnt smell. Hence, drop the leaves in, while the temperature of oil is normal.
3. Once the oil starts to heat up, simmer the stove and let the leaves cook in oil for about 30 minutes, till the colour of oil starts to darken.
a little later – darker oil
4. Switch off and let the oil cool.
5. Store oil with curry leaves in a bottle and use everyday.
Firstly, my sincere regrets and apologies for having disappeared for quite a long time.
When other priorities push your zeal to the backseat, the zeal to perform has to wait. I suppose that’s what happened with me. When life suddenly showered upon a new ‘Bucket List’ of various ‘Family Packages’, the writer in me had to wait for a while. But the inquisitive learner in me never stopped working.
A self proclaimed ‘hard core optimist’ that I am, I’ve come back after this break, with wonderful experiences of peeping into Grandma’s kitchen once more, ofcourse which is presently Amma’s kitchen… the speciality being the presence of the nonagenarian aachi (grandmother). I was lucky enough to play the role of the little grand daughter again to my grandmother, getting loads of life tips, family stories and sharing non-stop giggles. Interestingly, I seem to have grown younger with the help of the time machine called aachi.
Sometimes, God showers lifetime experiences that one would seldom expect.
This break showered me with an experience of sharing the same roof with young at heart oldies set apart by three decades. My grandmother who is 90; my father in the 70s club; and my mother – probably one of the most patient and pragmatic ladies, in her sixties…. taking care of everyone. Being spectators to the daily routines of the three were me and my daughter of 11.
Now… I think you would understand my over whelmed joy to just observe and immerse myself in the role of a spectator…. and daily ‘Walk the Talk’ with these interesting personalities.
More than a food enthusiast, I have become a life style enthusiast with age. These special months have enlightened me to accept things in life, and let go many worries that we dump our soul sacks with.
Wouldn’t these elders from 60-90 years have issues related to food, health, fitness, relationships and loneliness? Tackling all these, along with the inability to do things they could do a decade ago…. is truly a catalyst to many agonies. But the time their bodies have taken to age has provided their minds and hearts with the great art of graciously accepting their own old age and its limitations.
One of the many lessons I learnt was to focus on enthusiastic diversions, that would provide the fervour to tackle the fast pace of life, as well as life’s various complications that never cease to diminish with age and with growing children. These elders seemed to have their own interests they were engaged and occupied, throughout the day.
Am I still a Blogger or an amateur Philosopher??? No, No, Not yet. When I analyse in isolation, all through the journey of ‘dosaikal’, I had aimed for a deep rooted cultural transfer from my previous generations to my next. The precious months those passed by, have given me a sense of satisfaction and great joy of having provided some of life’s beautiful lessons to my daughter. Especially, I was witness to the transfer of unconditional Love and Passion for Life from a 90 year old great grandmother to a 11 year old great grand daughter in the most beautiful manner ever possible.
Incidentally, my previous post has also been one inspired by the energetic old lady. This might seem like a repetition post … but the passion and zeal of life that I observed in her tied me up to sit back, relax and relish those special moments… inhaling every micro second of it.
The 90 year old seemed the most energetic among the three. Though Amma (mother), who is the care taker of the household, is the most active, beyond her physical problems, Aachi (grandmother) astonished me with her briskness and memory. This is what made me explore more on the life styles of our elders.
I started thinking about healthy life style that is emphasised by authors, dieticians, diabetologists, food researchers and amateur foodies like me too. Now, what makes our previous generation a healthier community than us. And is that the real truth that they are a healthier lot than us? We might be a medically developed world… but what makes us fall prey to simple and complex diseases that immobilise us from performing our routine chores? With so much knowledge available on various platforms, what makes us scroll for more and more ideas on healthy life style? Why haven’t we been able to find a path… stop the search and proceed?
Have we ignored the wealth of knowledge that our own elders provide, live and exhibit every day…as we spend so much time searching the net for remedies. We have converted our beautiful homes into mechanical dwelling houses .. where machines and gadgets live for more hours than our human hearts. We are driven by advertisements -provided by Retail companies and Spiritual Gurus alike.
Going back to traditional values, observing and absorbing what our previous generations ate, actively did and very actively avoided might provide a satisfactory result. Be mindful, we are intelligent enough to separate those unwanted logics too from the lives and beliefs of our elders. But most importantly, those life style markers that might pull us back from entering into Diabetic/Hyper tension Platforms… leave aside Alzheimer and Amnesia…. could be identified from their life style.
Why I repeatedly go back to my grandmother is for her memory to narrate stories and name members of the unbelievably huge extended family that she hailed from. At ninety, to squat and draw ‘maakkolam’- the intricate drawings on entrances with rice flour paste and chopping vegetables with ease is a sight of astonishment. This is not only a physical ability… but the mental vigor to keep working, help and share the burden of the daughter-in-law. There is an inbuilt mechanism of stress busting, by chatting and diverting her mind into many other simple daily chores… and the remarkable fact is that… this stress busting technique comes unknowingly and is triggered unconsciously… no therapists to guide.
So, the simple moral I learnt is to observe our previous generations, inhale the best techniques that make them live a life with lesser ailments, or live a life that makes them feel there were lesser ailments or no great ailmemnts at all. It is a mind technique that came genetically, that we fail to inherit because of the so-called advancement in science and life style.
After this extensive food for thought, its time for real food for the tummy. With the same passion of zeal, I believe to have inherited from my grandma, I started exploring a few spots in Chennai and here are a few delicacies that I experimented in my kitchen…
Amazingly perfect bread
100% whole wheat Buns
Healthy roasted mixture
Pudhina Panagam (lime and mint -jaggery coolant for summer)
Green Apple Mint Juice
Thanks to my little angel, who brought me back from the awestruck state of mind to reality- to write more for her and for myself.
This post is a tribute to the almost nonagenarian, my 89 year old grandmother-aachi, whose kitchen I peeped into as a kid. It has been a beautiful journey of love, love and love alone – millions of life’s lessons learnt from thousands of chatting sessions. The soft yet strong hands have produced en-numerous delicacies with tonnes of affection. I see those soft hands that have turned wrinkled and bony… and realize life’s harsh truths. The truth of aging, might not be as bad as I sound.. as we learn the art of aging graciously. But seeing our elders age is certainly one among the severest truths.
When I hold those hands now, I feel the same warmth among those pressing bones that protrude. How many nei urundais (lentils sweet) and pathirpeni (sugary crisps) and murukkus (savoury crisps) have these hands made and served, the taste still lingering in our minds…
When I see the glittering child like smile amidst those few clinging teeth and skinny cheeks, I long for the same energetic glee that has welcomed us home from school…
When I now listen to the never ending stories through the tired voice, I hope to hear the tamil songs sung to me and the gossips of the household with the same youthful tone…
When I look into those wrinkled sleepy eyes, I think of those youthful eyes that admired my every move…
But.. the joy of having aachis/grandmothers to tell you stories and admire your children is certainly a boon.
at work – great grandmother and great grand daughter
When I see my little daughter enjoy the company of Pooti Aachi/Great Grandmother and play several games, I am astonished by the connect of an almost ninety year old with a nine year old and also the other way round! The passion to connect can well be understood by today’s generation of social networks. This is a great connect, that needs no wi-fi. This is the generational link that passes through four generations of interdependent relationships. Quite amazing..truly no words to express.
This is yet another trademark Aachi’s recipe. This storable Onion Chutney is simply the best of chutneys and a great preserve. It can be stored for weeks without a refrigerator. But.. brush your teeth before meeting people.. these are onions and garlic.
The name normally associated with the thuvayal/chutney is vengaya thuvayal or onion chutney. But when it became my daughter’s most favorite chutney, she renamed it as ‘Pooti Aachi Vengaya Thuvayal’ – what else could suit the best of dishes – with the four generational connect. So each time we go home, this is packed on demand…
Due to old age, pooti aachi/great grand ma doesn’t make it anymore. It is made by her daugther-in-law – Amma who has been making this for decades now. But, aachi insists to stand behind to guide, so that nothing is missed. Such emphasis on perfection… certain traits of old age one can’t avoid, I suppose. Though Amma makes the same Great Grandmother’s Onion Chutney to perfection, but she needs to wait a few more decades to earn that name- ‘Pooti Aachi’ and the chutney to be named after her.
So, this post is completely in admiration of that Grand Lady of True Affection, whom I always long would stay with me forever.
Pooti Aachi Vengaya Thuvayal
The chutney is a very simple one, that involves patience and care… the same qualities that I respect my Aachi for.
After almost six years of blogging, this is my first layout makeover for dosaikal.com. Hope this new makeover that I’ve tried to give Dosaikal enthuses you all as much as me. This is an attempt to make this blog more colorful and show facets of growing better. Whether I’ve been successful in the latter…. I leave the decision to my readers.
Good practice or bad, I’ve always been in search of logical reasons in whatever I do or whatever happens to me. So, how did I let the ‘Change Bug’ enter my courtyard??
That needs a brief flash back…..
This is how I introduced myself to the wide world of readers when Dosaikal started.
“A simple person who believes strong roots and values build up stronger generations; and good food and good food habits are one of the best gifts that one can give to their off springs.”
Now, I look at my daughter. Those delicate hands that helped me mix eggs, then tried to bake the basic cakes – has started making ably stuffed whole wheat pies, healthy vegetable omelettes, chocolate coated popcorns, and also chopping vegetables and fruits with great accuracy and more. This I think has been the most prominent of all signs of positive growth that has happened through Dosaikal and to Dosaikal, the blog. And not to miss – the additional signs of me growing physically older I suppose. Fact is Fact, accepted.
I am partly happy to have introduced her to the wonderful world of good food and good food habits.
“To Provide is in the nature of the Soil and to Absorb and Bear Fruit is in the Nature of the Seed; I leave it to the child to hold responsible for her understanding of Good Food, from what has been provided through me.”
Thank you very much for having traveled with me in my pursuit towards providing good values through good food, and thereby strong roots to the generations to come.
The traditional harvest festival of the Tamils – ‘Pongal’ is almost here. It falls on the 14th of January, 2017. Wishing everyone ‘Happy Pongal’ is the easiest way to wish on any occasion with a ‘Happy’ prefixed. But Pongal is the Day of the Farmer. It is the festival to respect the Farmer and his Cattle, for the relentless service in providing staple grains and millets to the society. It can also be the ‘Thanks Giving Festival of the Tamils’. We call it ‘UZHAVAR THIRUNAL’ in Tamil or ‘THE SPECIAL DAY OF THE FARMER’.
When one of our friends introduced us to a wide range of traditional rice varieties of Tamilnadu, what more special an occasion could I wait for, than a post on the Harvest Festival. Hence, I reserved it for Uzhavar Thirunal/Pongal. Though I have become a better user of millets of my state, and those special millets have become a regular feature of the breakfast table, these rice varieties were only reading material till date to me. Or more, a topic of discussion in Farmer’s Programmes across national channels.
Unfortunately, not much historical or research information could be found in the net. But fortunately, much has been written recently and much more information could be found through videos of specialized farmers and practitioners of traditional Tamil medicine. I could feel a sudden urge among media enthusiasts, to popularize these traditional grains – in a genuine interest to protect the grains from getting lost in the huge piles of junk/fast and processed foods in the super market and to protect those farmers whose livelihood has never been appreciated as the Farmers of the West.
As two sides of every coin…the ever rising health issues is truly the factor of concern. To protect the elite class and the section of the people who urge to reach the elite class from Obesity, Diabetes, Blood Pressure and a wide range of Life Style oriented diseases, there is this new rise in the introduction of traditional grains and millets. What is sown by the simple farmer is reaped as benefit by the trendy super markets with trendier gunny bags to store tradition at its grandest.
Coming to the grains that I was introduced to – A very special thanks to Mrs. and Mr. T.
Here are a few grains that have been part of the traditional rice eating habit of the Tamils across centuries and more. I have tried to present the nutritional facts of the specific rice variety with the link from which I could gather the information. For any interested reader – Just type the name of the rice, and one would come across the very few websites which explain the benefits.
I wish to post the different foods that can be prepared from these grains in the near future… may be Paniyaram, Pongal, Idly or Dosai.
These are the different varieties of rice presently with me. ARISI is rice in Tamil language.
Karuppu Kavuni Arisi
Sivappu Kavuni Arisi
Karuppu Kavuni Arisi – Black variety
This rice is believed to increase bone strength and prevent bone related ailments. It contains anti-oxidants equivalent to blue berries. It cures the problem of loss of appetite in children and also rectifies nutritional deficiencies.
Different foods that can be made from kavuni arisi are – paniyaram –sweet and spicy, payasam, pongal, dosai, puttu etc
-are video links in Tamil that talk of the benefits of the grain.
4. Moongil Arisi/Bamboo Rice
It is popular among the people of Kerala and is called Mulayari in Malayalam. Bamboo Rice is collected from the seeds of the Bamboo flower. Some species of bamboos only bloom with flowers once in 40-60 years and often die after flowering. They compensate this by releasing huge amounts of flowers and seeds.
This rice possesses antioxidental properties, and has higher zinc and iron content than white rices. They also strengthen, regenerate, and energize the body, regulate blood pressure, and prevent skin diseases and premature aging. Kullakkar rice contains complex carbohydrates that are good for health.
This rice is suitable to make idly, dosai and kanji /porridge.
The link above shows a short interview with Farmer R. Jayaraman, who specializes in indigenous rice varieties of Tamilnadu.
He says this rice plays an important role in the health of pregnant women and aids in easy child birth.
7. Kattuyanam Arisi
The name has two parts – kadu meaning forest and yanai meaning elephant. As Sidha Maruthuvar (Doctor of Traditional Tamil Medicine) Dr. Rajamanickam says, the grain in the field grows more than 7 foot tall and even an elephant can disappear amidst the crop. Hence the name to this indigenous healthy rice variety is Kattuyaanam.
It controls Diabetes, improves over all health of children, boosts immunity and protects against skin problems