During winter season in India we get the red longer variety of carrots as opposed to the orange smaller thicker variety that is available all through the year. The red variety is sweeter, juicier, and more tasty. The red carrot variety is the most ideal to make this simple and yummy kheer/payasam made with minimal ingredients.
Red Carrots (diced) – 2 cups
Milk – 1/2 liter
Sugar – 3/4 cup – 1 cup
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Pista flakes – 1 tbsp
Boil the milk in a sauce pan.
Wash the carrots thoroughly, scrape the carrot skin to remove any impurities, and then dice them into small chunky pieces.
Place the diced carrots in half a cup of milk in a pressure cook and cook to one whistle. Let it rest until the pressure releases completely.
Open the pressure cooker, take out the cooked carrot pieces and after they cool down, puree into a smooth paste using a mixer.
Transfer the carrot puree to the rest of the milk and bring to boil. When the milk and carrot mixture starts boiling, add the sugar. Stir well. Taste and adjust as desired.
Add cardamom powder and garnish with pista flakes.
Notes: You can make this kheer with orange carrots also but since they have more pulp and are less juicy and not sweet like the red carrots, the taste will be very different. Red carrots give the ideal taste.
It is recommended that we use greens daily in our diet. Indians have various recipes to use locally available greens. One of the local recipe around the regions in Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala mainly dominated by the Tamil community is a preparation called mashiyal, which literally means mashed. Keerai mashiyal is nothing but mashed greens. You may puree the greens or decide to just cook them, add lentils along with them mashed greens, and choose your own favorite kind of seasoning for the mashed greens. The mashiyals that traditional Tamil Iyer community makes does not use shallots/onions. You may use your discretion to add or skip shallots. Lentils is a good way to add volume as well as protein in your mashiyal but this is optional too.
Spinach/amaranth leaves/cheera/keerai/palak – 3 tightly packed cups
Tur dal/split yellow mung dal – 1/2 cup
Water – 2 cups
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Green chilies – 1 or 2
Pearl onions/Shallots – 7-8
Dried red chilies – 2
Urad Dal – 1 tsp (optional)
Preparation Time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 30 mins (20 mins pressure cooking time) Makes 4 cups
If you are adding lentils, rinse the dal thoroughly, add a cup of water, and cook it well. Mash and keep aside.
Wash, clean, and chop the spinach. Keep aside.
Peel the pearl onions/shallots and chop them finely. Chop green chilies finely. Keep aside.
In a wok, add oil and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the urad dal. Roast the dal until they turn red and add the dry red chilies.
Add the finely chopped shallots and green chilies. Saute until shallots turn pink.
Add the finely chopped spinach, along with quarter cup of water, and a pinch of turmeric powder. Cover and let this cook until the greens get cooked, stirring occasionally. Add the required amount of salt.
When the greens are cooked well, add the mashed dal. Taste and adjust the salt.
Turn off the fire.
Serve with rice or roti.
Notes: If you do not have shallots, you may use red onions but the taste does vary slightly. Red onions are slightly sweet whereas shallots are spicy.
You may avoid onions/shallots and choose to add just a seasoning of oil, mustard seeds, urad dal, and dry red chilies.
Fruit salads are my favorites more than vegetable salads – Not the ones with a dollop of ice cream but the kinds that have just real fruits with some lemon juice dressing. Eating fruits as-is is good enough but a pinch of black salt, a dash of lemon, and a few mint leaves lends them an exotic flavor. Chill them a little in the refrigerator and it turns delectable. Late October and November is the season for both persimmons and pomegranates. This is the best time to make this salad with these seasonal fruits. I first ate persimmon two years ago during a visit to Bhutan and had never seen them in India. Couple of days ago I was surprised to come across these in the local market. Glad to see that Persimmon is cultivated even in India. Even if you do not have persimmon, you may substitute it with the crunchy variety of pear to make this salad. But it is important that you use the crunchy variety of pear and apple to make this salad. A crunchy and sweet apple gives this salad the right texture. A sloppy squishy sour apple is a bad choice and can ruin the salad.
This is a perfect salad to be served BEFORE a meal. Most people in India serve fruit salad with custard or ice cream AFTER a meal. But this is a wrong combination as per Ayurveda and wrong timing that can cause acidity and indigestion. The digestion time for fruits and uncooked vegetables is lesser than that of cooked meals and hence they should be consumed first. Vice versa could result in bloating.
Persimmon – 1 (cubed 1/2 inch pieces)
Apple (preferably Fuji. I used green apple) – 1 (cubed 1/2 inch pieces)
Pomegranate seeds – 1/4 cup
Lemon juice – 1/2 tbsp – 1 tbsp
Jaggery powder – 1/4 tsp (you may substitute this with honey)
Black salt – 1/4 tsp
Olive oil – 1/2 tsp
Mint leaves – 8-10
Preparation Time: 10 mins Cooking Time: None Serves: 3
Add salt and lemon juice to the cut fruits. This retards oxidization and arrests the loss of nutrients. Toss the rest of the ingredients together. Refrigerate for half an hour before serving.
Notes: You may replace Persimmon with a crunchy variety of pear.
You need to use only crunchy vegetables for this salad.
Spinach/Palak leaves are healthy, rich in iron and nutrition. This super simple palak recipe is made with limited ingredients and goes well with rice as well as roti. In this recipe, I have steamed and pureed the spinach leaves. You may choose to just use chopped spinach leaves. I prefer the pureed spinach. You may also add cooked tur dal/split pigeon peas or split mung dal to this curry to increase volume and nutrition.
Preparation Time: 10 mins Cooking Time: 10 mins to steam and 7 mins to cook
Clean and wash the spinach leaves well in water.
Drain and place in a double boiler or pressure cooker to steam the leaves. You will notice that the leaves have wilted, turned dark green, and reduced significantly.
Peel the garlic and onion. Chop finely and keep aside.
When the steamed spinach leaves cool down a bit, puree it using a mixer. Keep aside.
In a wok, add oil and jeera, slit green chilies and garlic. Saute.
Add finely chopped onion and tomato. Saute for 2-3 mins.
Add the pureed spinach into this. Bring to boil. Add salt.
Add lime juice just before serving.
Every region has a few dishes that involves just rustling up some basic stuff together to get by on a lazy or difficult day. These dishes are never made for guests as they are considered too simple, minimalistic, and not grand enough to be served to guests. Palakkad has it’s own set of such dishes – Chembu thandu curry, moloshyam / molagoottal, vattikkal, pachadis, and the list goes on. Mulaku varutha puli is one such and a family favorite. On days when amma makes this, we run out of steamed rice because everyone tends to overeat. It is nothing but some chilies and shallots cooked in diluted tamarind water. The title sounds very grand like the accented Mulligatawny soup coined by Britishers. It is actually quite similar to a clear sour soup. So here is how.
Green chilies – 2-3
Shallots – 4-5
Tamarind – a lemon sized ball
Jaggery – 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Oil – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Water as needed
Salt as needed
Preparation Time: 5 mins Cooking Time: 7 mins
Soak the tamarind in warm water and extract the juice. Discard the pulp. Keep the tamarind water aside.
Slit the green chilies. Peel the shallots and chop finely. Keep aside.
In a wok, add oil and mustard seeds. When mustard seeds splutter, add slit green chilies, finely chopped shallots, and curry leaves.
Saute the chilies and shallots in oil for about 2 mins.
Add the diluted tamarind water into the fried green chilies and shallots.
Add salt as needed and bring to boil.
Add jaggery and stir.
Taste and adjust the amount of water and salt.
Sour and tasty mulaku varutha puli is ready to be served with steamed hot rice.
Notes: It is important to add jaggery as it balances the tart of the tamarind and gives it a wonderful taste without making the dish sweet.
Pazhanganji / pazhaya soru / cooked rice soaked overnight in water is one of the most unlikely food item to be discussed at a buffet lunch. Yet, I found myself discussing this bland, old, but nutritionally rich food while surrounded by a variety of high-calorie food that are not necessarily healthy for the body. Pazhanganji – an item that is considered poor man’s food, unfit to be offered to guests, and reserved to be given off to the house maid. At a time when refrigerators were uncommon, pazhanganji was an inevitable item. Every night, some water would be poured over leftover rice and would be kept aside. This would get slightly fermented overnight and nutritionally rich with gut-friendly bacteria. Nowadays because every house is equipped with a refrigerator, this practice is nonexistent.
It takes foreigners (especially Americans) to research our old practices and publish papers on their benefits for us to realize the wisdom of our ancestors. Now that the American Nutrition Association says that the previous day’s soaked rice is the best for breakfast as it gets enriched with iron, potassium and calcium by several hundred percentage points, we get convinced and can get back our eating habits. What surprised me was that such rice (unpolished) soaked overnight is a source for the rare B6 and B12 vitamins. Amazing! These are not easily available, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Apart from the internal benefits, this diet also helps maintain a youthful and radiant look! Internal as well as external benefits. What more does one want?
There is no recipe for pazhanganji. Just add cooked rice to a vessel, ideally an earthenware pot. Add water to this just enough to soak the rice. Keep it closed overnight in the corner of your kitchen.
In the morning, you can add sliced shallots/onion, green chilies, or tiny pieces of ginger to this along with salt, mix well and have it. If you are using an earthenware for your pazhankanji, it would be cool to touch and taste. After you consume it, your stomach would feel cool from inside. (Unlike ice cream that is cool to touch but induces heat inside your body) You may have pazhanganji along with a pickle, thick chutney/chammanthi/thogayal, or with papad or vathal/kondattams. The right way to have pazhanganji is to use your right hand to mix the rice and water well, tilt the pot to drink the water first and then have the rice with chammanthi. Enjoy the immense health benefits of going back to the roots.
Karnataka cuisine has many varieties of Baths and Chitranna. One is, Mavinkai Chitranna, a tangy and spicy rice made with mature raw mango. I had this first at my friend’s place last week and it has become my favorite since then. I have already made it thrice in 10 days or so. It is a must try if you like tangy food and love easy-to-cook meals. It is a one-pot meal and ideal for lunch dabba and for short journeys. I will share two different versions of making this. Both are unique and tasty.
Cooked rice (raw rice of any variety)- 3 cups
Grated raw mango (Totapuri is ideal) – 1 cup
For Grinding (version 2):
Chana dal – 1 tbsp
Urad dal – 2 tbsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
Green chilies/Red chilies – 2 (adjust to taste)
Cooking oil (Sesame oil/groundnut oil are preferred) – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Asafetida – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Jaggery powder – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – a sprig
Whole dry red chilies – 1-2
Grated coconut – 3/4 cup
Salt as needed
Cook the rice, transfer to a plate, and let it cool. Keep aside.
If you are following version 1, in a mixer, grind the sesame seeds and roasted peanuts. If you are following version 2, dry roast the ingredients (urad dal, chana dal, fenugreek seeds) separately. Grind together in a mixer to make a powder. Wash, peel, and grate the raw mango after removing the tough outer skin and the seed. Instead of grating, you can cut mango into small cubes and grind this coarsely. If you choose to grind the mango pieces instead of grating it, then after the dry ingredients are powdered in the mixer, add the mango pieces along with chilies and grind coarsely. Do not make a paste. Grind coarsely ensuring that no more big mango chunks remain. Do not add water.
Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and let them crackle.
Add turmeric powder, asafetida powder, curry leaves, and whole dry red chilies.
Stir for about half a minute and then add the coarsely ground paste into this. Add jaggery powder. Stir and cook for about 3 minutes until the raw mango smell goes away and mango gets cooked.
Add the cooked rice (this should be in room temperature) little by little, mix well. Taste and adjust the quantity adding salt as required.
Add grated coconut as well. Mix well and serve hot along with papad pickle.
Since the mango rice is tangy by itself, I do not prefer any pickle along with it and love eating it as is.
1. The roasted peanuts and sesame seeds are optional but they add to the taste.
2. Jaggery helps balance the mango tart and helps enhance the taste.
3. I roasted the grated coconut separately and added to the rice. This enhances the taste but is optional.
4. Instead of grating the raw mango and coconut, you can peel and cut them into chunky pieces and use the mixer to a coarse mixture.