I had had the good fortune of talking to her around 6 months ago, as part of an interview for a feature and I found her thoughts utterly simple yet completely inspiring. Just last week, it came to my knowing that even Bee had used Ms. Venkat's tiffin service when she was working in Mumbai.
I was thrilled to bits when the Times of India's Mumbai supplement Mumbai Mirror carried Vijaya Venkat's recipes for lunch boxes for the whole week. I cannot help but share with you.
She believes that we must eat food as closest to its natural form as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouts, spices are all considered first grade food and you'll find steaming as the commonest cooking technique in all her recipes.
Day 1 and 2 - Cutlets, Veg salad with tadka, Three bean salad, Potato soup
Day 3, 4 & 5 - Tricoloured vegetable salad, Chilla, Bean sprout, Alu chat, Corn salad, Stuffed vegetables
So that takes care of Monday to Friday. Do make your substitutions to make many more such healthy meals.
I have a question for you. In most of the recipes like cutlets etc, she asks us to steam the potatoes and other starchy vegetables in recipes. How do we go about steaming a potato? I have never done it before, whole or sliced or is there any other tried method?
Also, I must share with you that I made my first cheesecake today using all Indian ingredients. No cream cheese and no springform pan and no baking either! In this weather, baking would kill! That's besides the point though.
I have tasted it (read as eaten a large slice) and it tastes fantastic. The Swadeshi Strawberry Cheesecake will be up soon, may be tomorrow itself, so do keep a watch on this space!
Since my mom is here to stay with us for a few days, it is my pleasure to present / record some really simple traditional recipes like Keerai Masiyal.
According to my knowledge, there are three common dishes made with Spinach in Tambram cuisine. The first one being the simple mashed spinach or Masiyal ( Masikka means 'to mash' in Tamil) , the second one being Keerai Kootan / Keerai Milagootal which is a delicately spiced spinach - lentil preparation had with rice and the third (and my not-so-favourite) Pulikkeerai or spinach soured with tamarind. There is also a fourth variety in which cooked udad dal is added to mashed spinach. The recipe I'm sharing today is Keerai Masiyal or very simple mashed spinach that can be served as a side when you are just in the mood for some steamed rice and dal. This one also goes fantastic when mixed with some sambar and had along with yogurt rice (tairsaadam).
This is a fine example of typical Tamil Brahmin cuisine, where less is always more and the flavours of the main ingredient are relied upon to the maximum without adding strong flavours like onion or garlic.
Category - Greens, Tambram recipes, Side, low-carb
Time taken - Under 30 minutes
Recipe source- Traditional tamil brahmin recipe
Makes - 2 cups of mash, serves 4 as a side along with rice
2 fat bunches of spinach (7-8 cups of finely chopped spinach and thin stems - excluding the thick stems)
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste
1 tsp oil
1 tbsp udad dal
2 dried red chillies, broken into pieces
1 heaped tsp rice flour dissolved in 2 tbsp water (You can use wheat flour alternatively)
a stone-pot or kal-chatti is the best option, followed by a heavy cast iron pot.
a rounded heavy wooden / iron spoon for mashing
In a very heavy bottom pan (traditionally a kal-chatti /heavy stone pot) place the chopped spinach leaves with half cup water. Keep the flame on medium high. It will take 6-7 minutes for spinach to completely wilt and release the water content.
Keep mashing the spinach in the pot with the heavy iron /wooden spoon. Once thoroughly cooked, remove the pot from flame. Keep it on the counter top and mash well for 3-4 minutes, until the spinach is creamy. Add salt to taste.
In a small skillet, place 1 tsp of oil and put in the udad dal. Fry until light golden, and then add the red chillies. Saute for a few seconds until crisp and slide the tempering onto the mashed spinach. Add the rice flour-water mix into the pot as well, place it back on the flame, let the whole mix come to a simmer. The rice flour will get cooked and flavours of the tempering will merge into the mash.
Serve hot with rice.
Since there are very few ingredients, it is best to use the freshest possible spinach for this dish. Frozen spinach could work well too. We always use regular spinach, but I guess baby spinach would work as well.
Finally I get to send something for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables - M for Masiyal
I would also like to submit this in addition to this for RCI - Tamil Cuisine
Dosais in a Tamil Brahmin household
As good Tambram kids, we have eaten an abundance of Idlis and Dosas well into our adult life. My granny would make the batter once a week in the large wet grinder machine that occupied place of pride in the balcony. (I hear it is used by a local Udipi restaurant to whom it was sold. Gran has moved on to the small table-top version) I remember that my grandpa has bought this in Saravana stores in Madras way back in 1984 and got it to Bombay. How does my memory go so far, you may wonder. But I tie this to the fact that he had bought me one of my favourite purple pavadai with a pink border in that same Madras trip, so it is not very difficult to remember :)
If the batter was ground on Day 1, tiffin on Day 2 and 3 would be Idlis, Day 4 and 5 would be Dosai. The logic of this being, a less fermented batter works better to give fluffy, tasty idlis and a more fermented batter could yield crispy, 'holey' dosais. If the batter still hung around on Day 5, Ammama would put a pinch of soda in the batter to reduce its sourness and make Ilippuchatti dosai, what you would know as the thicker set dosa. Ilippuchatti is nothing but the tradional iron wok. A ladle of batter would be poured into a well oiled wok, not spread, but covered and allowed to bubble and cook thoroughly. This one would be the size of the palm and about 4 times thicker than a regular dosai.
Oothapams were rarely made, because cutting all those vegetables for a tiffin-meal was quite a
Rava dosai, Onion rava dosai, Neer dosai and the other variants were all discovered only when I was old enough to eat in Udupi restaurants. It was then I discovered there was a whole world of dosais other than the ones I had eaten at home. A Rava masala onion dosa soon became my favourite on the menu. Today, the page long Udupi dosai menus don't excite me anymore. I like the simple idlis with molagapodi or the simple not-so-crisp dosai made with gingelly oil and served with a simple coconut chutney with homemade batter, for that is the true, non-commercial, authentic version of dosai, after all.
Inspiration for the Rava Dosai
Just yesterday, I had chanced upon a delightful food blog, Delectable Victuals where Sheela chronicles her kitchen experiences. I have already bookmarked several recipes, especially the vegetarian Ethiopian menu to try out soon. But what caught my eye was the simple onion rava dosai which I had never made successfully. This morning, I was craving for a sumptous breakfast but was in no mood to go out searching for a GOOD Udupi restaurant (there are 2-3 very mediocre ones near our place, but the good ones are in Matunga) or to go to Crepe Station for eggs, waffles and pancakes.
The only good option at hand was to click on the bookmarked items, and get started on the Onion Rava Dosai. The mixture of Rava (semolina) , Maida and Rice flour seemed a perfect match for great consistency of batter. The only thing I found missing was any souring agents, which I compensated by adding sour buttermilk and a bit of baking soda.
*I omitted the garlic from Sailu's recipe
Onion Rava Dosai
Category - Breakfast, Tiffin, Tamil Brahmin cooking, Brunch
Time taken - Under an hour from preparation to making all the dosais
Makes about 10 dosais
Recipe source - Sheela of Delectable Victuals
1 cup rava, roasted till light golden (3-4 minutes on low flame)
1/2 cup maida or all purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
2 sprigs curry leaves
3 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup thick, sour buttermilk, leave it out overnight to sour it if necessary
Upto 2 cups water (to adjust the consistency)
For tempering: 1 tsp oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 2 sprigs curry leaves
Oil to cook
Once the roasted rava cools, take all 3 flours in a large bowl. Add all other dry ingredients. Stir well.
Add in the sour buttermilk and add the water carefully to make a thin batter. This will be much thinner than the regular dosai batter.
Oil a non-stick tava / pan. Once hot enough, pour two ladlefuls of batter and hold the pan by its handle and rotate the pan so that batter evenly coats the surface of the pan. The coating must be thin and the buttermilk-baking soda combination will give a net-like appearance on the surface.
Drizzle a bit of cooking oil along the edges of the dosai. On a medium flame, the first side should take 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Carefully flip the dosai over to the other side, keep for a minute of so until it has turned golden brown and crisp and it is ready to eat. Serve hot with molagai podi, nuvvulu podi and tomato chutney.
Tomato Thuvaiyal / Spicy tomato chutney
1 tbsp gingelly oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 sprig curry leaves, 2 tbsp chana dal, 4 dried red chillies, few fenugreek seeds, pinch of asafoetida, 4 tomatoes -quartered, handful of coriander leaves, salt to taste
In moderately hot oil, splutter the mustard seeds. Add all remaining ingredients except tomatoes and coriander and fry till the dal turns golden brown. Put in the chopped tomatoes and saute for 5-7 minutes, until they soften, yet retain their shape.
Slide all the contents of the wok onto a plate and cool for 15 minutes. Once cooled, place the contents into a mixer along with coriander leaves and salt and grind to a smooth paste. Check for salt and adjust.
- Goes very well with all varieties of idlis and dosas
- Can be used on toast with cheese for a grilled tomato sandwich
- Can also be eaten with plain steamed rice
**Now that some food - Our grand dinner menu at the Lemongrass cafe
Starters - Black bean and cream of corn squares, Ginto, Tofu with bell pepper satay and Marinated water chestnuts satay
Soup - Vegetarian Noble House soup made with bamboo shoots, sprouts, mushrooms, ginger and yellow bell peppers
Main course - A bowl of Burmese Khowsuey - Thin delicate rice noodles floating in a Burmese peanut gravy with cauliflowers, carrots and beans served with toppings like coarsely chopped peanuts, scallions, coriander, burnt garlic pods, bean sprouts.
A bowl of Mongolian Stir fry (Peppers, mushrooms, red cabbage, sprouts, onions) with noodles
All this washed off with a glass of lemon grass flavoured iced tea.
Green moong / mung beans are nature's best offering for vegetarians. High in protein and yet easily digestible with the bonus of extra fiber makes this a super food. Some people find the soaking routine a deterrent. Where is time to plan ahead of time, most of the time! As much as I love these wonder beans, I invariably forget to soak them or sprout them. But with a recipe like this on hand, I can have mung as many times in a week as I like. Besides, Ayurveda considers Mung beans as one of the very few foods which balances all three doshas. More on Mung beans and Ayurveda here.
This is a very versatile dish that pairs superbly with rotis / puris / bread or rice. A bowl of yogurt comes handy to cool of the spicy overtones.
Instant Green Moong / Mung Beans
Time taken - Under 30 minutes
Category - Side, Rice / Roti accompaniment, Vegetarian protein, Ayurvedic food
Recipe source - Own
Makes 2 large portions, use 1 cup dry beans to make 4 generous portions
A pressure cooker is an absolute must for this recipe
1/2 cup dry green mung /moong beans
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
Pinch of asafoetida (optional)
1-2 green chillies, chopped fine
1/2 inch piece ginger, pounded or chopped fine
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large juicy tomato, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 tsp subzi powder (I use Everest brand, use any curry powder or cumin-coriander powder)
1 tsp salt or to taste
Slices of lime and chopped coriander leaves for garnish
Place the mung beans in a pressure cooker, smaller the cooker, the better. Wash them thoroughly after checking for stones. Add two cups water to mung, close cooker, fit the whistle and keep the flame on medium-high.
After one whistle, reduce flame to minimum until 3-4 more whistles are let out. Remove cooker from flame and let cool.
While the beans are cooking, you can prepare the masala. In a kadai / wok, heat the oil. Splutter the cumin and mustard seeds, add a pinch of asafoetida with the flame on medium. Add the ginger, chillies, onions with a pinch of salt, saute for 5 minutes or so, until the onions are soft.
At this point, add the tomatoes with the spices (turmeric, garam masala, subzi masala) with the remaining salt. Stir it well for 3-4 minutes until the masala comes together as a rough paste.
Once the cooker has cooled off, release the pressure and open the lid. The mung beans must have cooked to a soft consistency and not entirely mushy. (If they are not cooked enough, then keep them back with some water for one more whistle on a medium flame) Empty the cooked mung beans into the masala. If very thick, add 1/2 cup water and boil the mung for 2 minutes along with the masalas.
Adjust salt as per taste and remove from flame. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice, rotis or bread, along with slices of lime and a bowl of yogurt.
Most ingredients for this recipe can be found in your pantry, so this recipe is good for a day when there are no veggies at hand.
Since mung is such a healthy food ingredient, would love to hear from you about your favourite recipe using moong. I could do with more ideas for this green wonder!
Other fun reads
Inside the Indian household - Coriander at Daily Tiffin
The Food Times of India | Volume 1:April 2007 at Dining Hall
How to do a weekend Detox Plan
Plenty of water and fruits for the entire day in unlimited quantity. Include all fruits excluding bananas and chickoo.
Breakfast: Water melon.
Mid Morning: Apple
Lunch: Papaya with lemon squeezed on it.
4 PM: Grapes
6 PM: Oranges
Breakfast: Any melon
Lunch: Salads + Vegetables + Pineapple. Use cold pressed organic oils (either sesame or ground nut) No potato should be included.
Mid Evening: Banana
Dinner: Salad + Vegetable + Soup.
Breakfast: Fruits with a herbal tea like peppermint tea
Lunch: Salad + Vegetables + Sprouts + 1 Roti
Mid Evening: Any fruit
Dinner: Salad + vegetable+ soup + brown rice
- This diet MUST NOT be done by sick, convalescing or diabetic people without the approval of their doctor.
- There is no scope for any kind of diet for a pregnant woman.
- Even if you are in the best of health, it is better to take it easy during the detox days, drink plenty of water and take ample rest.
- Eating out and socialising are almost impossible when on this diet, so choose the dates accordingly.
- The problem with detox diets is that the weight loss achieved is usually temporary and is the result of water loss and a minimal fat loss due to severe calorie restriction. The weight comes straight back after the diet is done, which is why Detox diets are not essentially weight loss diets.
- Some people also experience side effects like tiredness, acid regurge and headaches. While many believe that this result of toxins being expelled, it’s usually caused by a low sugar level.
Spring is supposed to be the best time not only for spring cleaning but also for cleaning up the mileu interior of our body. A few pointers on how to get into a detox diet and how it helps are outlined in this article.
Detoxification therefore becomes essential to make our body jumpstart itself out of the rut of toxin build-up towards a life filled with vitality. The complete detox process includes cleansing of the liver, colon, kidneys and the diet is vital to overall cleansing. A high fibre diet helps in eliminating residual waste from your intestines, the vitamins and nutrition made available by eating fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts provides all the vital enzymes for cleansing the liver and kidneys. Taking a steam bath or a sauna and performing exercise, helps sweat out the toxins accumulated in the skin.
Essentials of a Detox diet
In a detox diet, you avoid certain foods that overload the system and eat other nutrition-rich foods that speed up mopping of old toxins and waste.
This diet will exclude allergenic foods, which may cause problems with digestion and elimination. Foods like wheat (glutens) and dairy (milk, cheese) are often the cause of many unknown allergies where the person may just be feeling poorly or a sense of bloating and discomfort. Refined sugar is eliminated because of its zero nutritional value and therefore empty calories. Meats are excluded because they may contain added hormones and/or antibiotics and are very difficult to process, taking a long time to be cleared by the digestive system. Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks are also out because they slow down the process of cleansing. Herbal teas are allowed though. Refined, processed and refined, fried or junk foods are also a no-no for any detox program to work.
Eating grains, vegetables and fruits closest to it's natural form are best while following such a plan. Over cooking destroys the nutritional value of these high nutrition foods. Eating raw, juicing or steaming for 3-4 minutes would be the best options.
The Ayurvedic Angle - According to Ayurveda, the best time to go through a detox routine is the time after winter. A complete ayurvedic cleansing program includes 15 days of preparation and 45 days of actual cleansing.
Ama is the residual matter of incomplete digestion-- sticky toxic substance that clogs the channels that carry nutrients to the cells and waste out of the body. Cleansing is done to eliminate ama out of the body. It is essential for this purpose that a person wanting to clear ama shouldn't eat any ama producing foods during this period and eat more of ama reducing foods.
Ama increasing foods*
Ama reducing foods*
Food grown with high level pesticides, chemicals
Lightly cooked vegetables
Deep fried food
Mung bean soup
Dairy products – Cheese, Yogurt, whole milk
Sweet juicy fruits – apple, pears, prunes
Sugar / fat laden sweets
Cooked leafy greens
Breads and biscuits
Light whole grains such as quinoa, barley, amaranth and small helpings of rice
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Spices like ginger, turmeric, coriander, fennel to be used with all the above
*Source- Maharishi Ayurveda
Along with the above principles, it is recommended to drink warm water throughout the day to help flush out toxins through urine. A herbal tea made by boiling ginger and fennel is also a good detoxifying agent.
Certain rasayanas (Ayurvedic formulations) are prescribed along with the above diet for maximum effect. These should be taken under the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner.
8 detox ideas for life
Water – Keep sipping water throughout the day consuming upto 2 litres. Don't gulp glasses of water hastily as you may swallow a lot of air which in turn causes bloating.
Air – Make sure you take a brisk walk in a natural setting preferably. This revs up your circulation and flushes out toxins to the kidneys and liver.
Go gradual – Reduce the frequency with which you eat refined foods, red meats, sugar. Go for cereals with half the sugar content of your current sugary cereal, or mix a no-sugar cereal with your sugary cereal. Slow changes make it easier for you to stick by them for life and not just be a follower of fads.
Keep up the taste – Good food can be tasty too. Ginger, garlic, lemon rind, freshly sqeezed orange, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fennel are some of the spices and flavourings you can add to food to give it a zing and tantalise your taste buds.
Fibre – For any meal, choose ingredients with high fibre content. Fibre is the best natural detoxifying agent, sweeping down all the collected debris in the intestines. Choose whole wheat bread over white bread. Play with interesting grains like cracked wheat, red unpolished rice, millets for creating a variety in your meals.
Chew – Age-old granny wisdom but completely true. Ever since we started having TV dinners, we have forgotten to chew food. Mixing food well with saliva makes it alkaline and therefore less harmful than unchwed food. Not chewing your food properly also means that it stays longer in your gut, fermenting in your intestine causing indigestion and bloating.
Organic food – Food that has been not been treated with harsh chemicals and has grown naturally will be naturally good for you. If you have access to organically grown produce, by all means go for it or if you have the means to growing it yourself, nothing like it!
Skin brushing - Brushing your body with a soft skin brush rushes blood to the surface capillaries and toxins are eliminated from the pores. Use long sweeps, start at the feet and work up towards the heart. It is a good practice to follow each day for 5 minutes before a shower.
A word of caution
While it is good to follow a detox plan once in a while, or a natural foods diet for life, it is important not to go overboard with fruit juice diets or with fasting diets. They may sound very healthful and a fast-forward way to losing weight, but may do more good than harm by disturbing electrolyte balance and causing loss of muscle. Gettign into a detox regime with the knowledge and approval of your doctor or a qualified nutritionist is the best way to go about it. Moderation is the key to anything and so also to detoxification diets.
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