The more I dig into our traditional foods, I'm amazed at how intelligently and seasonally our ancestors ate. Panakam and Cucumber Kosumalli that are offered as Neiveidyam on the occasion of Sri Rama Navami which falls in the summer season.
As a kid, I would happily glug the Panakam prepared by my granny on these occasions, but today I like it more as I drink it mindfully, realizing how good it is for us. This ayurvedic drink is naturally sweetened using jaggery, spiced with ginger, cardamom and black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice for that balance in taste. This sweet-spicy-tangy drink can be had all around summer. It's nice if kids develop a taste for these kind of natural drinks instead of reaching out for the fizzy drinks. Having a sip of this after quite some years, I realised how much I have missed this taste!
Kosumalli is another very simple, cooling, no-cook dish except for the tempering of mustard seeds and asafoetida for a delicate yet distinct flavour. While it is a neiveidyam dish, it can be easily had on a regular basis in summers as a salad with a bowl of yogurt for a light lunch. In the salad version, you can toss finely chopped onions, peppers, carrots and tomatoes along with the soaked moong dal. However, the dish in it's simplest version here is also a masterpiece and a great example as to how delicious, simple food can be.
How to make Panakam
For 4 cups or 6 small glasses
In a large vessel or bowl, take 4- 5 tbsp of crushed or grated jaggery. This will vary depending on the sweetness of your jaggery. Stir in 3-4 cups of drinking water until completely dissolved. Filter through a muslin cloth or a fine mesh in case you see any impurities in the liquid.
To this, add -
1/4 tsp dried ginger powder (sonth powder)
1/4 tsp black pepper powder
1/4 tsp salt
Juice of one large lemon (2 tbsp or so)
Seeds from 2 cardamom pods shelled and pounded or one fat pinch cardamom powder
Stir well and serve chilled.
for 4 servings
1/2 cup moong dal
1 large or 2 medium cucumbers, peeled, finely diced*
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
Few sprigs of coriander leaves, washed and finely chopped
1 tsp oil or ghee
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida granules
1-2 tbsp of fresh coconut scrapings for garnishing
Wash and soak 1/2 cup yellow moong dal (husked and split moong) in 2-3 cups of water for 1 hour. Drain in a mesh strainer for 15 minutes or so.
In a medium bowl, mix the chopped cucumber, lemon juice, salt, coriander leaves and toss well.
In a small tempering ladle, heat 1 tsp ghee or oil - splutter the mustard seeds, add the asafoetida, stir for a few seconds and toss this on the kosumalli.
Garnish with fresh coconut scrapings.
*Do check for bitterness in the cucumber before mixing with the other ingredients.
The same recipe can be used to prepare Carrot kosumalli by substituting two grated carrots instead of chopped cucumber.