Tag Archives: Food stories

Here are some stories of food traditions and modern day food habits.

How to prepare Unniyappam for Nercha (religious food offering)

St Gregorios is a Kerala saint. His death anniversary, on November 2nd, is celebrated by devotees who are settled in different parts of the world. There are Churches with St. Gregorios as a patron saint in many places in India and abroad.
During the festival, the devotees bring unniyappam as offering to the Church. And the unniyappam is distributed to all who come to the Church.
Unniyappam is a fried rice snack with jaggery and sugar, prepared in a special mould. My mother’s generation were experts in preparing Kerala dishes. So they prepare hundreds of unniyappam as offering to the Church.
I learned unniyappam by trial and error method. Searching for recipes on the internet and taking tips from mother and aunties.
This year two weeks before the festival, I made a trial version of unniyappam, so as to get myself prepared for the main day when I have to fry more than a hundred unniyappams.
My friend Manju visited me just a few minutes after I finished preparing the unniyappams. She liked it so much so that she asked me to share the recipe on youtube.
I am sharing the trial version itself.  Newly married girls who are preparing unniyappams on a large scale for the first time, will find the video useful.

The video is shaky and not of high quality since this video was not initially taken for publishing. I hope the video gives some helps you prepare the large number of unniyappams.

In cities like Delhi, where the devotees lack time, they have found some tricks to prepare large quantity unniyappams quickly. I will share the recipe here.

Ingredients

Rice flour – 2 Glass (All purpose rice flours available at Kerala Stores)

Jaggery – 250g (I used a dark brown, chocolaty taste version. Hence the colour and taste were good)

Coconut – 1 full (cut into small pieces)

Sesame Seeds (Til) – 2 tblsp

Ghee – 5 tblsp

Robusta Banana – 4 Nos

Oil – 1 litre

Baking Soda – 1/2 tsp

Method

Melt the jaggery in 1 glass of water. Mash the bananas in a blender. Mix the jaggery and mashed banana.

Roast the coconut in 2 tablespoon ghee, until golden brown.

Mix the coconut, sesame seeds and baking soda in the batter.

Keep aside for 45 minutes.

Keep the unniyappam mould on one gas stove burner. On another keep a frying pan with 2 glass oil.

When the mould is hot add 1/2 teaspoon ghee in each mould. Now fill the moulds with oil. Let it get very hot.

Now pour the batter. If the batter is thick, add warm water or melted jaggery.

When the unniyappam turns brown at the bottoms turn them using a fork or a thin skewer. When both sides are a bit brown, transfer them to the frying pan.  Fry until the unniyappam is Crisp and brown. Remove on a plate spread with tissue paper.

With 2 glass of rice flour, I prepared 50 unniyappams.

 

Indian diet 50% short of high-quality Protein

After food shortage in India was resolved by the green revolution, nutrition experts in India found that the Indian diet was inadequate in the intake of good quality protein. According to experts, the diet should be balanced including carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Protein is an essential component for every stage of life.

During pregnancy, the vegetarian mother should take milk for high-quality protein. After birth, the requirement of protein is very high in 0-2 age group and Adolescence. In the old age, people consume less food and proportionately the consumption of protein is also reduced. During the old age, the amount of protein should not be lowered.

There is a misconception in India that protein is for body building only. Protein is required in every stage of human life. On the other hand, if you have a protein only diet and do not exercise then the protein will go out of the body with urine. You must have a balanced diet of high-quality protein, carbohydrates and fats.

For instance, you can have idli with sambar, rice with rajma and a glass of milk. All the three meals in a day and the two snack must include a high-quality protein food. Milk, poultry and meat are sources of high-quality protein which is digestible. Vegetables are less digestible compared to the nonvegetarian sources.

Nutrition experts say that cereals are a good source of protein, and the ideal ratio of consumption of cereals and proteins is 60:40. Too much or too little protein is not good for health. During the healing process of some diseases, protein is essential.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle we must follow the right ratio of protein, energy and exercise.high-quality protein

In order to increase the awareness of protein among the Indians and to clarify the misconceptions, Indian DIetetic Association (IDA), Delhi Chapter on 18th July declared 24th-30th July 2017 as ‘The Protein Week’. Dr B Sesikeran, renowned nutritional pathologist said,  “In India, there are many myths around the sources of protein, people are confused about their dietary protein intake and often assume that it is for body builders only, however, protein is a fundamental nutrient across life stages that helps in maintaining good health and active ageing.”

The initiative is supported by Protein Foods Nutrition Development Association of India (PFNDAI). Protein intake impacts every life stage. “Our vegetarian diets are already deficient in protein both in quantity and quality, so we need to supplement with protein which not only fills up the gap but is high quality enough to ensure our cereal and pulse-based protein quality would be elevated,” said Dr J S Pai, Executive Director, PFNDAI.

Speaking at first such initiative in the country, to spread awareness and discuss myths and realities of protein, Ms Anuj Agarwala, Nutritionist, Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS and Former President, IDA Delhi Chapter, said “It is important to begin early and focus on a protein rich diet right from the start, which should be continued through all the life stages of development and growth. Children particularly have high protein demand to propel their growth during growing years, as they grow in spurts. Demands for protein among children is particularly high during preteen and teen phases of growth spurts.”

During The Protein Week, IDA with PFNDAI, will hold educational seminars across the country to spread awareness and discuss myths and realities of protein.

4 Lent food of Kerala Christians

Yesterday, was Easter and the 40 days of fasting and 10 days of the passion week has come to end. This year many people said that they never knew that christian fasted and abstained from non-vegetarian food, including milk and alcohol, for 50 days in a year.

Fasting, abstaining from certain food, penance and praying has relevance in the Christian religion, from the time of Christ itself. Christ went on a 40 days fast in the wilderness, before beginning  his 3 years ministry leading to his Crucifixion and Resurrection. 40  days lent is one of the basic foundation the Orthodox and the Catholic churches, founded by the Apostles. Believers get purified, detoxified and they get the energy to survive spiritually for the next one year.

Christianity came to Kerala in the early days itself, when St. Thomas (who is know as Apostle of India), came to India in AD 52. In the past 2000 years, Kerala Christian’s tradition of prayer, food, and culture is a blend of the Bible, the life of Jesus, the association with other Apostolic Churches in the world and Kerala tradition.

The first forty days of fasting is purely full of prayers, fasting even without drinking water upto 12:00 pm; and having lunch after the Mid day prayer and kneeling 40 times. The simplest form of fasting is abstaining from meat, fish and egg for 50 day. The toughest form of fasting depends on the one who fasts. Some of the Ashram priests, it is said, have light lunch including kanji (water rice or gruel) and stir fried moong (green gram). And they have even lighter supper — Such men do not live by bread alone but by the word of God.

There are a lot of symbolism connected with the lent season, which raises nostalgia. Certain lent food prepared during the last 10 days of the passion week have lot of symbolic value. The 40 days of fasting ends on the Friday before Good Friday, and the next 10 days are dedicated for more prayers and more spiritual activities.

Here are some the food items which are symbolic of certain holy days of the Lenten period:

Lent Food
Kozukattai

Kozhukattai Saturday

The family of Lazarus, and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, was Jesus’s favourite. Lazarus died and was buried. On the third day Jesus came and rose Lazarus from the dead. It is said that Kozukattai was one of the favourite food of Jesus. He had kozukattai with Lazarus family. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is remembered on this Saturday.

People make kozukattai at home and share it with friends, relatives and neighbours. Kozuattai are steamed rice dumplings with a stuffing of cocounut gratings, jaggery and a pinch of cardamom.

 

Lent Food
Pesaha Appam

Vattayappam/Pesaha Appam

The tradition of Pesaha Appam dates back in the Jewish tradition 2000 years before the birth of Jesus. The Jews remember the Passover day when the Israelite’s left the Egyptian slavery and started their Exodus to Israel. During the preparation to leave Egypt, the Israelite’s were asked by Moses to prepare unleavened bread. On the day before his Crucifixion on Good Friday, Jesus observed the Jewish Passover festival with his 12 disciples, at the house of Mark. The ‘Last Supper’ painting of Michelangelo depicting the event is very popular.

Kerala Christian prepare unleavened bread or Pesaha appam (Pesaha mean Maundy Thursday) with rice flour and urad dal as the main ingredients. There are a number of different variation of preparing pesaha appam. And an accompaniment called Pesaha pal is also prepared. In traditional homes all the members of the family gather round the table, with the head of the family at the main chair. The youngest member of the family will ask the head of the family about the relevance of the festival. He will explain and distribute the appam to the family members.

Good Friday Kanji

Lent food
Good Friday Kanji

Rice Gruel (kanji) at the end of the long Good Friday service is a nostalgia for Kerala Christians. After fasting for the whole day, and having Chorukka (bitter drink) at the end of the service, the Rice Gruel, with stir fried green moong (green gram) and kadu manga(a special mango pickle) is an incomparable delicacy blended with spiritual and traditional values. In olden day the Kanji was served in earthen place with jack fruit leaves shaped as spoons.

Lent Food
Wherever Kerala Christians go they carry their tradition – Courtesy Roshini and Manu Stephen, ScotlandVellayappam

Vellayappam

Vellayappam is kind of dosa prepared from rice flour, crated coconut and; fresh coconut toddy or yeast used as leavening agent. On the two main festivals of Kerala Christians, Christmas and Easter, vellayappam is prepared in large numbers for the relatives, neighbours and helpers. For a Kerala Christian Christmas cake is exotic. For them vellayappam with chicken or mutton stew symbolises the celebrations of Christmas and Easter.

Christmas Rum Plum Cake

The specific demand for Christmas Rum Plum Cake caught in the heads of the Indian population possibly in the last two decades. During School days friends used to ask just for Christmas Cakes. And mothers used to painstakingly prepare a variety of rum-less cakes without using any electronic kitchen gadgets. The eggs were whipped manually. The eggs were whipped directly out of the refrigerator, because eggs froth better when cold. The batter was mixed with hand and the mixing went on for hours. Sometimes Dads offered a helping hand. The most common cakes were the plain cakes with vanilla flavour, and cardamom.  Then there were marble cakes with vanilla and chocolate flavoured layers. There were rainbow and tri-coloured cakes. In those days the importance was given for the softness of the cake. The mother who baked the softest cakes was the best cake baker in the town and she was approached for tips: Does she cook at midnight, or before dawn; How does she whip the eggs; What was the order of adding the ingredients; the egg white was added first, or the yolk;….

Now when cakes can be baked in less than an hours time, with whippers, ovens and YouTube videos, the importance has shifted to the unique taste and flavour of the cakes. No matter how many flavours or icings you do throughout the year, as Christmas approach friends specifically demand for Rum cake.

Due to popular demand I decided to bake Rum Cakes this year.  I soaked fruits and nuts in rum, a month before the Christmas baking began. Experts say that longer the nuts and fruits are soaked in rum, the tastier the cakes will be. Rums softens the fruits and nuts which makes the texture of the cake softer than plain cakes. I just added enough rum which could be absorbed by the fruits and nuts, so after a month the fruits and nuts look a little shinier, but the liquid just disappeared.  Some say that Christmas Rum Plum Cakes cannot be called Rum cakes, because, while baking the rum evaporates in the oven heat. Some experts rate rum cakes based on the measure of rum — little rum, enough rum and lots of rum cake. My cake was rated as ‘little rum cake’.

After experimenting with rum cake I understand that rum is just another ingredients in cakes. Normally, Rum is used very judiciously (1 tablespoon for baking 250 gram flour Cake). But as we Indian, always Indianize a foreign dish, some add too much rum that the fruits and nuts float in the liquid.  Last year I heard a youth telling his friend that he was disappointed after having rum cake at his friends home. He though that rum will drip with every bite. This is over expectation. Rum is just a marinating ingredient. As long as the rum is added judiciously there is no chance of felling intoxicated.

Christmas Rum Plum Cake

How to prepare a Christmas Rum Plum Cake

Ingredients

All purpose Flour: 250g

Sugar: 250g

Salted Butter: 250g

Egg: 5

Tutti Frutti

Raisin

Cashewnut

Dried Ginger

Vanilla essence

Sugar syrup: 2 tbsp

Garama Masala powder(a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, 1 nutmeg and clove)

Method

Sift the flour and baking powder. Whip the butter for sometime; add the finely powdered sugar. add the whipped egg. Then add the Garam Masala, vanilla and sugar syrup. Now add the maid and mix for some time. Finally add the fruits and nuts.

(Tip: Buy Cashew, Dates, Raisins, Dry Ginger(different for cakes), Tutti Frutti and any other nuts a month in advance of preparation of cake. Cut them into small pieces. Add some Rum and keep aside. The longer the fruits and nuts remain in rum the softer they become. Soak a large amount of fruits and nuts, so that the ingredients are easily available whenever you feel like baking a cake during the festival season. Also the cakes with rum have a longer shelf life of one month, six month and sometimes even one year.)

 

 

Food Stories of Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Yesterday during Mother Teresa’s canonisation there were two trending topics – ‘SaintTeresa’ and ‘FraudTeresa’. Many considered here a Saint, other’s viewed her sainthood with doubt “how can this be”.

Two thousand years back a 12 year old girl asked the same question to an angel that appeared to her and told her that she will bear a son. She said to the angel, “How can this be, when I haven’t known a man”. From that moment, Mary the mother of Jesus underwent many pains and sufferings. Now she is the most revered, after Jesus Christ, and the foremost among the Saints of Jesus.

Man is fallible, and so there will always be doubts about how human beings with all their inherent faults can be declared saints. A saint is one who is in heaven with God because of their holiness and virtue.

We only have third party knowledge of saints, mostly through verbal stories passed on from generation to generation, because holy people are declared as saints years after the death of their contemporaries.  I couldn’t meet Mother Teresa, so all the  that I know about mother is third party information –  through books; and the experience of others. Stories about her inspired me all through out my  life. Many prominent people have shared their rendezvous with mother, which changed their life forever; and listening to their experience changed my perception of life.

Saint Teresa took care of the sick people, infected and dying on the street in a way which is unimaginable to replicate for an ordinary human. There was a story, in a newspaper, of a woman who was a strong anti-campaigner for Mother Teresa, but when she saw the missionaries of charity helping a sick man lying on the street, she changed her opinion. Because, the Sisters were doing a service which she couldn’t imagine herself doing.

Mother Teresa inspired people to share food, and to give the left over food to the needy. Giving away food is the simplest act of charity which any human can do. The inspiring food stories , share in this post, resonates Saint Teresa’s famous quote; “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Here are some of St. Teresa’s food stories that inspired many to do charity:

The story of the broken biscuits

In Khushwant Singh’s book ‘Unforgettable Women’, he says that once he went with Mother Teresa to a biscuit factory where the Manager was ready with excuses like there was a Union Strike, they were already doing charity, and so on.  She thanked the Manager for all the broken biscuits they had given in the previous years and continued **”You must have lots of problems. Everything is in short supply— flour, butter, sugar.’ It was evident that Mr Mukherjee’s speech had been taken out of his mouth………….** When Mother continued with stories of the hungry destitute, Mukherjee finally delivered forty large boxes of broken biscuits to Mother Teresa.

Picking up waste food at parties

Usha Uthup the popular singer, has 47 years of association with Mother. She says mother had tremendous influence on her and St. Teresa never talked about religion though she was from a different religion. Once Mother told Uthup that when she goes to parties, she should pick up the left over food and give to the needy. Though her assignment was embarrassing Usha Uthup did her job dutifully.

Charity in the air

Jiji Thomson, former Chief Secretary of Kerala, said that once when he boarded a flight there was an announcement that Mother was also on board. Everyone clapped their hands. When the food was being served there was another announcement that if there is any leftover food, the passengers were requested to hand it over to Mother. Every single passenger gave their food packet to Mother.

The flight story shows the universal impact of Mother. Imagine who all might have been on board- atheists, youths enjoying life, Kids waiting for the tasty  meal, etc. All of them forsook their meal to be part of a great service to humanity.

**Excerpts from ‘Unforgettable Women’ by Khushwant Singh

3 Recipe with Milk Powder – Nido

While rearranging old books, I discovered Mother’s recipe book in which she noted down recipes she prepared 30 years back. I remember mother trying out all the recipes and I had also helped in the experiments. Sometimes the recipes came out well in the first trial and sometimes we had to retry and tweak to get the recipe perfectly made.

Since it is Raksha Bandhan I thought why not try out few desserts in the book. I decided to try Gulab Jamun, Milk Chocolates and Rasagulla recipe with milk powder. There was also a Rasgulla recipe with milk, but to add a new twist to the old recipes I thought why not try to make Rasagulla recipe with milk powder instead. Mother used to prepare all the milk powder recipes with Nido, so I too used the same Milk Powder.

Before sharing the recipes I would like to apologise that I am not a cooking expert. I try out new recipes so as to give a creative twist to the daily routine diet, hence there will be a lack of perfection and professionalism in the presentation of the desserts. However, believe me, they are tasty, healthy and nutritious.

Do try out these recipes and post pictures of the desserts in the comment section of this post. I am sure, your preparations will be much presentable than the pictures used in this post. Also, tell us what changes you made to the ingredients, and methods, mentioned in this recipe. The best recipes will receive attractive Gifts.

 Rasgulla

Just discovered mother's book of recipe with milk powder like Rasgulla, gulab jamun and milk chocolate. Mother used Nido in those day, so did I.

Ingredients

Milk Powder      10 tbsp

Water                        1litre

Essence                    1tsp

Vinegar                 1/4Cup

For Syrup

Sugar                  11/2Cup

Water                 3 Cup

Preparation

Boil the water, add the milk powder and stir well. When the milk boils, lower the flame and pour the vinegar. When the milk curdles strain into a cloth. Tie the cloth and hold under a running tap for two minutes. Hang the cloth for three hours. After three hours, squeeze the cloth well to remove any excess water. Transfer the coagulated milk or Chenna from the cloth to a plate. Knead the Chenna well with the palm of your hands till they are soft and make small balls.

Mix the sugar and water in a big vessel. After the sugar boils and becomes a bit sticky, add the chenna balls. Cover and cook on medium heat, turning the vessel around slowly after every 10 minutes. Remove from stove after 35 minutes and add rose essence.

Milk Chocolates

Just discovered mother's book of recipe with milk powder like Rasgulla, gulab jamun and milk chocolate. Mother used Nido in those day, so did I.

Ingredients

Icing Sugar or Sugar       200g

Milk Powder                          50g

Cocoa Powder                      50g

Vanaspati Ghee                 175g

Preparation

Mix the powders and sift three times. Double boil* the mixture in a steel bowl. Add the ghee and stir in one direction until the mixture becomes soft and smooth. Pour the mix into a chocolate mould and refrigerate for an hour. To make chocolate cookies, dip the cookies in the chocolate mix and refrigerate.

Gulab Jamun

Just discovered mother's book of recipe with milk powder like Rasgulla, gulab jamun and milk chocolate. Mother used Nido in those day, so did I.

Ingredients

Milk Powder                             18tbsp (tablespoon)

Maida (All purpose Flour)    4tbsp

Oil                                                      3tbsp

Milk Cream                                200ml

Baking Powder                            1tsp

For Syrup

Sugar                                        3 Cups

Water                                   6-7Cups

Preparation

Mix all the ingredients with milk cream and make a soft dough. Make small balls and deep fry them on a low heat. While frying, let the dough balls remain in oil for a while before turning them slightly.

Mix the water and sugar and boil till the syrup become a bit sticky. Remove from the stove and add the fried balls. Close with a lid and let the jamun’s soak in the syrup for an hour.

*Double Boil: Boil some water in a vessel, and when the water boils remove from the stove. Now place the chocolate mix, in a smaller vessel, in the boiled water and stir.

Follow traditional diets to reduce obesity

While being interviewed for the post of a dietitian , a candidate was asked if she were a poor housewife and she wanted to cook a nutritional meal for her husband what would she cook. She said she would prepare drumstick leaf curry and sardine curry. Two items very cheaply available in Kerala two decades ago.

Nowadays our concern is about obesity. How to prepare food that is nutritional and reduces obesity. The answer is there in our traditional diet, the ingredients are available in the market. We can also grow a few vegetables in our little balconies.

I feel that ‘elaborate daily meals’ is the fad of the 21st. Having tasty food three times a day and ensuring right combination of food is as a result of the consumerist culture of today.  In my childhood days, on a normal day, I don’t remember having the right kind of accompaniment for a breakfast dish: Instead of chutney or sambar there will be sugar with idli, and instead of puri with chole there will be puri with mango pickle. The right combinations were available only on special occasions. Most children in my native village use to have pazhamkanji (old rice) for breakfast.

There were many reasons for the mismatch in food combination:

  • Shops were few and far between
  • Very few cooking gadgets
  • Unavailability of ready-made ingredients
  • Less income
  • Taste was of least priority
  • No choice: we ate what was put before us
  • Very little exposure to restaurant food

Nowadays we give the highest priority to taste, whereby nutrition comes second in importance. We ensure to have apt combinations for the meals and also taste should be as good as the restaurant one. So we add a lot of masalas and sometimes cook the food for a long time so as to get a particular tasty texture. Since tickling the taste palate in of utmost importance, we prepare different types of food every day. If yesterday we had roti, today we have puri and tomorrow idli. According to experts if we have the same kind of food every day we consume less, on the other hand, if different kinds of food are cooked then we have more food since we relish a new variety of food. For instance, the cooked rice left overnight soaked in water (pazhamkanji) and consumed for breakfast, was a tradition in Kerala. There are many nutritional benefits of pazhamkanji. Why not follow traditional diets to reduce obesity.

Go back to traditional diet………..

Nowadays we revive our tradition in our dressing, family values and ceremonies. When it comes to food, we take the tastier options of different cultures and from a tradition of our own. Why not instead of just adopting the tastier, easier, convenient and happier traditions, let us also adopt some of the tougher and bitter traditions which gave our ancestors a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tough dietary tradition followed by our ancestors and may help to reduce obesity:

Same diet every day

We know very well the staple diet of our ancestors. My ancestors used to have rice;  they had rice for lunch and dinner and sometimes even for breakfast, which is known as pazhamkanji (old rice), considered as one of the most nutritional breakfasts in the world. According to some medical experts, if we stick to our childhood diet in adulthood, then we remain healthy lifelong.

prominence for nutrition

Our ancestors never added flavour to make the food tastier. Every ingredient had some kind of nutritional content. My ancestors used jaggery, (containing antioxidants and mineral) in coffee, tea, sweets, etc. They had green leafy vegetables with rice for lunch. And the labours had pazhamkanji for breakfast which gave them stamina for their hard labour.

Add some bitter in platter

Post delivery diet in my village includes a jaggery sweet mixed with equal amount of fenugreek powder. This bittersweet combination is said to be the secret of the stamina of the elderly women in their 70’s even after giving birth to 7 to 8 children. Many good medicinal food items are bitter, so we must make it a habit of giving bitter food to kids. I know a mother who never gave sugar products to her daughter till she was 5 years old. She was given only naturally sweetened products like fruits and vegetables. And in the meantime, the girl became more interested only in naturally sweet products.

Seasonal diet

When I visit my mother’s village home there are no rewards for guessing what my mother will prepare for me. During the mango season, there will be mango thoran (Thoran is shallow frying of any minced vegetable, mixed with grated coconut and spices), mango curry, mango pickle etc. During Jackfruit season there will be jackfruit chips, mashed jackfruit, jackfruit seed fry, jackfruit halwa etc. And if there is a bunch of banana: first there will be banana flower thoran; then a few raw bananas will be fried or made to thoran; then the rest of the bananas will be kept aside to ripen. Now the inner portion of the banana stem will be made into thoran ( very rich source of fibre and good for the kidney stone).

Strict meal timing

In my village, if someone asks you at 1:30 PM that if you had lunch and you answer is in the negative, then the villagers will rate you as an undisciplined person. In my village, people follow an unwritten schedule for food: Breakfast at 7:00; Lunch at 1:00; Tea at 3:30 and Dinner at 7:00.  In our busy office schedule, we might say maintaining a strict timing is impossible. I know a number of people in various kinds of occupation who stick to their traditional diets and habits, no matter which part of the world they are, or how much work pressure they have.

A friend once said that the Tamil Brahmin community follows their dietary tradition no matter wherever they are. To make her point more clear she said just watch a Tamil Brahmin at a Buffet in a Five Star Hotel. They will look at all the dishes and finally settle down with idli and sambar, or rice and a veg curry.

I think we all need to follow the dietary tradition of our ancestors and not be carried away by all the tasty, enticing odour and attractively presented food items that will pave way for obesity.

For a healthy adulthood parents must ensure kids get enough Nutrition for growth

Mother has a 75 year old helper called Bhavani Amma. I remember Bhavani Amma for her peculiar diet, or ‘strict diet’, that baffles everyone. Before telling about her diet I would like to explain her background.

Bhavani Amma spent her childhood on the shores of backwaters in Allappuzha which is famous for the paddy fields and fresh fish. She grew up on a diet of nature fresh rice and fresh-caught fish curry. In her twenties she was married off and she came to settle in our part of Allappuzha . Fish caught from the backwaters, rivers and sea reaches our village only after 8 to 10 hour. Bhawani Amma is choosy, she eats only fresh-caught fish with soft bones. Which means most of the days she had frugal diet. Bhawani Amma doesn’t consume chicken and in case non-veg is cooked in her home, she will survive on tea, from a nearby tea-shop, (chaya-vellam as we call in Kerala prepared from 1 portion milk and 2 portion water) for the next two days.

She has a concave stomach hollow like a shallow frying pan. My mother used to worry that Bhawani Ammani will one day starve to death because of her stubborn diet.

Last year Bhawani Amma slipped and fell; and as it is common among elderly we thought she was going to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. To our surprise the doctor said that she had a minor injury and she will recover soon because of all the calcium she had accumulated in her younger days.

Bhawani Amma’s story compels me to believe that whatever we do in growing period keeps us healthy and sharper in our adulthood and old age. A doctor once said that after the age of 40 if you suddenly start having milk that would not benefit you in any form. And all of a sudden if you start jogging after the age of 40 that would not benefit you. Your diet and fitness regimen should be inculcated in the childhood.

Born during the time when the environment was unpolluted, nature provided Bhawani Amma, from a poor family, with all the nutrition for growth. In today’s world even the fish and vegetables are polluted. So we do not have the uncontaminated natural source to accumulate all the healthy nutrients. Hence we need to depend on food supplements to provide necessary vitamins, proteins and minerals during the growing period. One such popular and easy source of nutrient intake is by malt-based milk drinks.

Parents are doubtful whether milk health drinks are good for the children. Nowadays as we do not have the natural sources to provide proteins, vitamins and minerals to our kids, giving them malt-based hot milk drinks helps provide some nutrition for growth. Studies by consumer organizations show that malt-based milk drinks contains vitamins, minerals, calcium and protein; either all or majority of the nutrients. Children grow up within the blink of an eye and they should not be denied the essential nutrition for growth.

A mother of a 20 yr old girl now wonders whether her daughter did not grow taller because she did not give milk drinks. So instead of ruminating over ‘to give or not to give’ malt-based milk drinks to kids, better start giving them a hot glass of milk drink everyday. Since Consumer studies do not show any side effects of having milk drinks let the kids have milk drink and accumulate some nutrients.

3 Kerala Style Apple recipes: When apples are cheaper than onion and vegetables

In a Butter Chicken recipe video, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor says that the style of cooking changes with time. Butter Chicken cooking method he demonstrates in the video is different from traditional methods. What he says in the video is right not only about the method of cooking but also about the basic ingredients used for cooking traditional dishes.

In Kerala during my childhood my mother used to cook those items that were abundantly available in that season. During mango season there were mango thoran*, mango coconut curry, mango chutney, mango pickle and so on. During the season of Jackfruit we had Jackfruit thoran, Jackfruit seed fry,  Jackfruit halwa, and so on. When my mother comes to North India she will make thoran, theeyal* and fry of all the locally available vegetables.

This week when I went to the local market, where we can bargain and get fresh vegetables at lower rates  as compared to regular shops, I got onion at Rs 80/Kg and Apple at 40/Kg. I bought 2 1/2 Kg of apples. It is in human nature that when you see an item is surplus, even if it is your favourite thing, you lose interest in having it. The basket of red apples simply lying around reminded me of basket full of mangoes in my mother’s home during summer season. A friend Sudhir suggested adding apple pieces in Sambar, where from I got the sudden Idea of trying out Kerala recipes with apples, as shallots (not onion) are required for the dishes.  And Kerala recipes are a perfect combination with rotis.

No wastage in apple recipes

Apples are fleshier and hardly very little is lost while cleaning the fruit. However if we clean Okra, french beans or yard-long beans there will be lot of wastage while trimming the stem end.  Besides apples need not be skinned like beetroot or papaya.

Why apple is a perfect substitute for Kerala vegetable curries

Thoran, fry, theeyal, pachadi* and pickle is made literally out of every fruit and vegetable available in Kerala – Pineapple, mango, yam, avacado, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, etc. The tinge of sourness and the texture, makes apple a perfect substitute for chambakka (Rose water apples) and mango  recipes of Kerala.

Apple-Coconut Chutney

apple chutney - apple recipes

Ingredients

Coconut –  1 cup (grated)

Dry Chilli – 2 No.s

Apple – Quarter piece of a small apple

Salt – as required

Curry leaf – 3 Nos.

Method

Put all the ingredients in a mixer-grinder and coarsely grind. Add very little water and maker sure the coconut is not ground to a smooth paste.

Apple Thoran

Apple Thoran - apple recipes

Ingredients

Apple: 2 No.s (Medium Size)

Coconut – 1 Cup (Grated )

Green Chilli – 3 Nos

Shallots – 2 No.s

Garlic – 1/2 tsp

Ginger – 1/2 tsp

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Mustard seed – 1/2 tsp

Oil -1 tbsp

Salt – as required

Cumin Seed powder – a pinch

Method

Cut the apple 1 inch long and 1/2 inch broad slender pieces and keep aside.  Coarsely grind all the ingredients, except salt and apple, for 3 seconds. Add the grounded mixture to the apple and gently mix with a spoon. Heat a wok and pour the oil, when the oil heats, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seed crackle add the apple mix and blend with a spoon. Lower the flame and close the wok with a lid. After  5 minute remove the lid, you can see gentle smoke/vapour which means the dish is nearly cooked. Stir and cook with open lid for a few minute and remove from fire.

Apple Theeyal

Apple Theeyal - apple recipes

Ingredients

Apple – 1/2 of a small apple

Coconut – 1 cup (grated)

Shallots – 7 No.s

Garlic –  3 pod

Ginger –  1 inch piece cut is juveniles

Red Chilli – 3 Nos

Coriander powder – 1 tbsp

Fenugreek powder – 1/2 tsp

Cummin seed Powder 1/2 tsp

Tamarind – Size of half a lemon

Curry leaf – 4 to 5

Salt to taste

Method

Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of water for 1/2 an hour. Boil the apple (cut is 1 inch long and 1/2 inch broad sizes) and 3 shallots in tamarind water with salt and turmeric. Cook until the apple and shallot are tender. In a dry wok heat the coconut, when it turns brown add the rest of the shallots, ginger and garlic (all sliced). Stir for a while and add dry chilly, coriander, fenugreek and cumin seed. When the coconut becomes dark brown, remove from fire. let is cool. Grind the coconut mixture to a smooth paste in a mixer-grinder without adding water. Blend the mixture with the cooked apple. Now heat the mix for a while after adding a little water, do not let it boil. Remove from flame when you see the smoke.

Tip

Apply a little salt on the apple pieces so that they do not change colour.

Malayalam words used

Thoran*:  A dish made of finely chopped vegetables and grated coconut.

Theeyal*: A curry made with roasted and finely ground coconut paste.

Pachadi*: A simple side dish prepared in coconut and yogurt.

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Also read the following post: Seven Onion Substitute For Everyday Cooking