Friday, May 31, 2013

Sesame & Jaggery Juice ~ A Healthy Summer Drink

We've all heard the story of Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves, haven't we? The most famous code word or magical phrase being 'Open Sesame' uttered by the thieves who want to enter the cave full of hidden riches. When I was little I hardly knew what sesame was as it was rarely stocked in our kitchen. It was probably purchased during Christmas time so that it could be used in the various sweets prepared as part of the kuswar (traditional platter of sweets and savouries). My fondest memories also revolve round the 'tilache ladoo' (sesame & jaggery balls) that I used to love eating - I still do - I used to grab (and still do!) 5-6 in one go and stuff as many as I possibly could into my mouth and munch them, taking in the sweetness of the sticky jaggery and the nutty flavour of the roasted sesame. 

Although I have not tried my hand at making these lovely laddoos, I was rather surprised when I came across a recipe to put the same ingredients together to make a refreshing drink - so healthy and enjoyable especially during summer to beat the sweltering heat. Those who are lactose intolerant can prepare it and enjoy it with or without the jaggery and its a great way to get fussy/picky eaters to get their dose of goodness. Not only is it rich in magnesium and copper but is also a fabulous source of calcium and hence sesame is known to provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis, prevent colon cancer, osteoporosis, migraine & PMS and is beneficial to vascular & respiratory health. 


Now lets come to the next important (and my most favourite) ingredient in this drink. Jaggery!! Yes! This complex sugar is by far the healthiest 'sweet dish' I have ever eaten - yes, I call it a 'sweet dish' because it has satiated my craving for something sweet when there was nothing worthwhile at home. It is my most favourite, guilt free go-to sweet. Maybe that's one reason why you will find a lot of recipes on my blog that make use of jaggery. Traditional Indian sweets are mostly made with jaggery as the sweetener and

Besides just helping to sweeten your sweet dishes in a healthy manner, jaggery also has minerals that provide a host of health benefits. It is a rich source of iron and is beneficial to get rid of aches and pains and acts as a cleansing agent to clean the respiratory tracts, lungs, food pipe, stomach & intestines. It is an antioxidant and helps balance the acid in the body.

Now that you are convinced that this drink is nothing but pure health in a cup, won't you just go make some? And hey! If you like, you can make popsicles out of it. It will taste great I promise! Pretty much like the jaggery popsicles (bella candy) that we used to get in Mangalore a couple of decades ago. Not sure if they are still found now


About this drink
This is an easy to prepare drink that doesn't require any pre-preparation time. The colour however is dull and may not be very eye pleasing as it is a combination of jaggery and sesame seeds and water, however, the taste can be altered by increasing or decreasing amount of water used (if you prefer it in a more diluted form). Enjoy it chilled on a hot summer day

Sesame & Jaggery Juice
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: Nil | Serves 4-5

You Need
  • 100 grams white sesame (til)
  • 225 grams powdered jaggery (increase it upto 250 grams)
  • 2 cardamom pods powdered
  • 5 cups water
  • pinch of salt
Method
1. Wash and rinse the sesame until the water runs clear (about a couple of times will suffice). Place it on a sieve or a clean kitchen cloth to drain off excess water or pat it dry.
2. When it is still a bit damp, transfer it onto a tawa and dry roast it on a slow flame. Ensure that the flame is low or else the seeds will begin to pop/splutter which should be avoided. Dry roast for about a couple of minutes and then transfer into a grinder and powder it coarsely. Add half the powdered jaggery, 1 cup of water and grind it to a smooth paste (as fine as possible)
3. Transfer the paste into a large pan, add the remaining jaggery and water and stir until the jaggery dissolves completely. Add powdered cardamom and mix.
4. Serve chilled - you may strain the mixture or leave it as it is.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sabudana Khichdi (Savoury Tapioca Pearls) ~ Maharashtrian Style Breakfast

The best breakfasts in my opinion are those that are hearty, spicy and complete (read BIG). I am a complete breakfast person and knowing that it is one thing that greatly determines my mood for the rest of the day, I make every effort to ensure that my family & I enjoy a good breakfast. 

While I stick to Indian breakfasts, I do enjoy continental spreads and try to replicate them partially at home whenever time permits. Breakfasts don't need to be complex for me in terms of the process - they just need to be hearty and delicious. 


Today's recipe is a very popular Maharashtrian breakfast recipe that doubles up as a recipe for fasting (vrat). Hindus who maintain religious fasts especially once a week or during special festive seasons tend to prepare Sabudana/Sago/Tapioca pearls in this form. Not only is it devoid of grains which is avoided during fasts, it is a great source of carbohydrates to keep the body functional even when the main grain sources of carb (rice & wheat) is missing. Sago is essentially the pith of the Sago palm, a powdery starch that is processed into globules or pearls. In India Sago is used in the preparation of sweet & savoury dishes, the most famous being the Sago kheer (thin pudding), Sabudana vada (fritters) and Sabudana Khichdi (savoury upma)


I prepared this dish for breakfast when my mum was with me and she thoroughly enjoyed it. She had never tasted it before and really liked the blend of flavours. 


About the dish
A classic balance of salty-spicy-sweet & tangy made interesting with a bit of crunch brought in by roasted peanuts (optional) and yummy potatoes. Some recipes use turmeric that gives this dish a beautiful yellow hue, but I skipped it. You may add finely chopped coriander if you wish (which I ran out of when I prepared this). I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Sabudana Khichdi
Prep time: 15mins + overnight (soaking time) + Cook time: 10mins | Serves 2-3 

You need 
  • 1 cup sabudana / sago / tapioca pearls
  • 1/2 cup unsalted raw peanuts 
  • 1 medium sized potato boiled, skinned & cubed (approx 3/4th cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 sprig (7-8) curry leaves / kadipatta
  • 1 small green chilly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • juice of 1/2 a small lime (adjust to taste)
  • salt to taste
Method
1. Wash the sago in 2-3 changes of water and soak it overnight. Next morning, discard the water and place the sago on a sieve or fine slotted colander so that the excess water drains away. Keep aside till required.
2. Roast the peanuts on a non stick tawa/pan for a minute or two until the skins have slightly browned - do not burn it. Remove onto a plate and once cooled, rub them between the palm of your hands to remove the skin. (You may keep the skin on if you like). Lightly crush the peanuts using a mortar or pestle or if you desire pulse them 2-3 times in a dry grinding jar of a mixer so you get the texture of broken rice. Do not over blend as they will turn into a sticky paste.
3. Heat the oil in a wide based non stick pan/kadhai and add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they stop spluttering, reduce the flame add the curry leaves, green chilly and fry lightly for a few seconds. Add the sugar, salt and stir until the sugar granules have dissolved.
4. Add the boiled and cubed potato and mix well, add in the sago and cook on a low flame for 4-5 minutes stirring every now & then. The colour of the sago will change from white to translucent. Do a quick taste check and extra add salt or sugar if required.
5. Sprinkle the lime juice and mix once. Turn off the flame and serve hot garnished with lime wedges.

Notes:
Always use freshly packaged sago. Usually two varieties of sago are available, you may use either of them although the smaller variety requires lesser amount of soaking time.
There needs to be a fine balance between the salt & sugar so please adjust both according to your taste.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Peshawar Style Chicken Curry

Today is one of those Sundays that hasn't been particularly fantastic. Or relaxing. Or interesting. Or worthwhile. Apart from some great news that came in the morning - my nephew and his wife welcomed their first baby into the world today (which now officially makes me a grandma), nothing much happened. So I won't bore you with mundane stories of how my day rolled by. I greatly believe in jinxes - this recipe may well be shelved if I don't post it right away. Not only has it been sitting in my drafts for ages, the editing of the second picture has happened 5 times over a period of 1 week and each time my work didn't get saved for some reason or the other. So before I ruin it one more time - here's today's recipe.


I have never been to Peshawar nor have I tasted this dish anywhere, so I cannot vouch for its authenticity. 

A simple and yummy curry to accompany your rotis - I am sure you will enjoy it as it is pretty simple to make. Found the recipe on a little book with easy Indian recipes - unfortunately I can't recollect the name of the book. The original recipe calls for mutton, I simply tried my luck with chicken and it was great. I'll provide the credits asap. Till then, go make it & tell me how you liked it!


Peshawar Style Chicken Curry
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: 25 mins | Servings 4

You Need
  • 1 kg chicken
  • 4 cardamom pods bruised
  • 4 cloves
  • 1" stick of cassia bark or cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree *see notes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste) * see notes
  • 1/2 cup thick curds (yogurt)
  • 2 teaspoons gram flour /chickpea flour (besan) (substitute with cornflour/cornstarch)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves chopped
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or oil
  • salt to taste
Method
1. Cut the chicken into medium sized pieces, wash and allow to drain on a colander.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a large heavy based or wide non stick pan and toss in the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves and let them sizzle over a low heat. Add in the chicken and let it fry for about 2-3 minutes or until both the sides are lightly browned. Take care to see that the pieces don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the chopped onions, ginger & garlic paste, salt to taste, mix well and allow to cook on a medium flame for about 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato puree, turmeric, coriander & cumin powders and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
4. In a small bowl whisk together the curds, chilli powder and gram flour into a lump free smooth mixture and add this to the chicken. Add the water, cover the pan and simmer for about 10-12 minutes, stirring in between. Check salt and adjust if required and cook till the chicken is done.
5. Garnish with chopped mint & coriander leaves (add this to the chicken half a minute before you remove it from the fire). Serve hot with rice or chapathis or any Indian bread.

Notes:
1. If you are using very sour curds, skip the tomato puree. You may use store bought tomato puree which is thicker than fresh homemade puree.
2. For a less spicy curry you may use 1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder - if you are using the spicy variety, otherwise 1 teaspoon of kashmiri chilli powder is good to go.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Easy Cheesy Macaroni ~ Kiddie Meal - Treats for Tiny Tots


They say that being a parent is ridden with challenges. I guess the worst challenge in that case is to feed a fussy child. I cannot even begin to describe how painful mealtimes are at my place. My son who ate just about anything till he cut his 3rd birthday cake has now transformed himself into someone who can raise anyone's blood pressure. The term 'picky eater' in reality has a million different meanings. From eating like a bird (picking (not eating) just 4 grains per hour) to complete refusal to eat - I have dealt with a child who displays a range of excuses of how not to eat & drive mommy crazy!


My mum says that feeding me when I was his age was hardly an issue. It was a piece of cake (I wonder if she fed me just that - haha!). But then I tell her that God stopped making people like me long ago! Jokes apart, my son's pediatrician says that today's kids are not without a mind of their own. They want to eat what they want to eat! I was asked not to force him to eat what I cooked especially when he was ill and asked me to prepare whatever he liked the best. Woe is me! I have been reduced to doing just that - every single day! Ill or not, I find myself making what I think he will finish in less than an hour and I don't have to suffer through the trauma of coaxing, cajoling & yelling during mealtime. 

My aunt assured me that by the time my son turns 7 he would be a changed boy. She better be right! Or else!! 

Sigh! Anyways, here's one of those recipes which saves my sanity when I want to bang my head against the wall. Thanks to my friend Veda for brainstorming the idea/ingredients with me. Hope this recipe helps all you moms out there who are in the same boat as I am.


About the dish
Pasta with white sauce is preferred by most kids. Make it in a jiffy and watch your lil one devour it in one go (hopefully!). The goodness of cheese makes for a filling, nutritious & lip smacking meal

Easy Cheesy Macaroni
Prep time: 8-10 mins | Cook time: 5 mins | Serves 1

You Need:
  • 1/2 cup dried macaroni (or any pasta of your choice)
  • 1/2 a small onion finely chopped
  • 1 big clove of garlic finely chopped or grated
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pre boiled, shredded chicken or 4-5 mushrooms quartered
  • 1/3 cup warm milk
  • 1 teaspoon all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/8th cup (or 2 triangles) cheddar cheese (I used Kraft cheese) (use as much as you wish)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste (1/4 teaspoon or just a sprinkling will do for kids aged 3 and above)
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 slivers of sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano or thyme (or any dried herbs)
  • No salt required as the cheese has plenty of it!
Method
Boil 2-1/2 cups of water and add the macaroni to it. Add a pinch of salt and 2-3 drops of oil and cook for about 7 minutes or as per the instructions on the packet. The pasta should be al dente (90% cooked or else it will break). Strain & gently refresh with cold water and allow to drain. Add a couple of drops of oil so that the pasta doesn't stick to each other.

In a small bowl make a smooth lump free paste of the flour and warm milk.

Heat butter or oil in a non stick pan and fry the chopped onions till pale. Toss in the chopped garlic and fry for a couple of seconds. Add the shredded chicken & sun dried tomatoes and fry for half a minute. Add the grated cheese and stir until melted.

Add the flour and milk paste, reduce the flame and quickly stir to avoid lumps. Toss in the ground pepper, oregano and mix well. Do not overcook - the sauce should have a creamy consistency.
Add the pasta and mix gently. Serve immediately

Notes:
If you are making this for toddlers under 3 years, use onions, garlic & pepper as per the level of spice tolerance. Skip any one or all the aforesaid ingredients and replace with extra cheese.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lime & Poppy Seed Muffins

For all my readers who love baking as much as I do, here's a lovely lovely recipe for you. 

Lime & poppy seeds are omnipresent in every Indian kitchen and I totally love baking with readily available ingredients. Usually when I am in the mood to bake I am always looking for instant gratification. I am talking about times when I just get this sudden urge to bake and I just want to leave whatever I am doing and find myself in the kitchen pulling out all my baking gadgets. 


During such times I prefer digging out recipes that either make no use of eggs (although I prefer eating cakes with eggs than without) and those that don't need butter - its not very easy finding unsalted butter in Bombay. It's almost always Amul salted butter that gets shoved in your face or a poor quality baking butter (actually margarine) that is offered by the grocery-wala. 



Anyway, this was one of my de-stressing activity that I indulged in recently and totally loved the outcome the next day - yes, I hid away a few for the sake of the photoshoot which usually never happens in the evenings. The flavour and aroma of these muffins had matured overnight and they tasted so wonderful. There is so much that lime can do to uplift your mood isn't it? It was my first time that I was using lime as the main flavour of a cake and I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle notes it lent to the muffin.

The zesty limes just about balance the sweetness of these muffins and the poppy seeds impart a great texture that makes you want bite after bite of this simple cake. The cupcakes may seem slightly hard on the surface but they will taste awesome anyways.


These muffins are so cheerful in terms of appearance & taste that you will want to bake them over & over again. They make perfect tea time accompaniments. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. If you can help it, hide some for the next day and notice how the taste has gone up a whole new level!


Lime & Poppy Seed Muffins
Prep time: 10 mins | Baking time: 25 mins | Makes 12-15 medium sized muffins

You Need
  • 175 grams  (3/4th cup) sunflower oil (or any odourless vegetable oil)
  • 225 grams (1-3/4th cup) plain flour (maida)
  • 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar, powdered * see notes
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest (grated)
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds (khus khus)
Topping
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest (grated rind)
  • 1-2 teaspoons poppy seeds (preferably black coloured ones for a more dramatic look)
Method:
1. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C/375 degrees F.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt a couple of times into a mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar and stir.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, egg white, sunflower oil, milk, lime juice and grated lime rind (zest) and mix well. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and tip in the poppy seeds. Stir gently to incorporate. The mixture will be a little lumpy which is fine.
4. Spoon in the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Each cupcake liner should be filled 2/3rds full. Sprinkle the grated lime zest and poppy seeds to decorate and pop the pan into the preheated oven. Bake for 25 minutes or till the toothpick inserted comes out clean.
5. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve the muffins warm if desired. For best results, serve them after they have completely cooled down or after a few hours (or overnight) - the flavours would have set in beautifully.

Notes:
1. The recipe asked for 225 grams caster sugar, since I didn't have any, I measured 200 grams of regular granulated sugar (instead of 225 grams as I prefer cakes that are less sweet) and powdered it in the dry grinder.
2. You may use white or black poppy seeds - both are suitable, but the black one will add more beauty to the muffins.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kaljiryaso Kasai (Herbal Kashayam / Decoction of Ironweed Seeds) ~ Mangalorea Post Natal Recipe # 1

Today's recipe is the first among the Mangalorean post natal recipe series and is probably the most unpleasant recipe on my blog. Unpleasant only in taste because it is a very bitter potion - a medicinal decoction (reduced tea) made with an unfamous herb. However the health benefits and goodness of nature is anything but unpleasant.

(Click to read introductory post!)


Kaljiryaso Kasai is a deadly black & bitter decoction. The first medicine that is served to the new mother after she arrives home from the hospital. It is usually drunk on an empty stomach, served early in the morning. The ritual consists of the decoction freshly brewed, cooled and served with a piece of palm jaggery (pele god / ole bella). The taste is so bitter that it can knock you off your senses if you let the brew linger in your mouth for too long. This is one reason why you are advised to gulp it in one go and quickly pop the jaggery into your mouth in order to negate the bitter taste. Not more than a quarter cup of this decoction is served on three consecutive days as it is believed to remove 'nanji' (a very versatile Mangalorean word that roughly sums up to 'allergy') and other post delivery related ailments that get nipped in the bud on consuming this medicine. 

While I totally detested this drink during my first delivery, this time around I was curious - so I did taste the brew a bit, made a face, drank some more and then when I felt that my brains would pop out I bit into the palm jaggery - thankfully at first and greedily after that (asking for seconds!)


Since neither my balnti posteli (live in ayah/nurse) nor my mum, MIL or close relatives knew the botanical name of Kaljire I had a tough job ahead of me. After hours (spread across days) of searching on the net I finally found a few pictures that told me that I was on the right path. Do note that Kalijiri is NOT to be confused with Kala-Jeera (black cumin which belongs to the cumin family)


Kaljire is also known as Kadu Jirigay in Kannada, Kattu Jirakam in Malayalam and Kali Jiri (KALI not KALA and JIRI not JEERA) in Hindi. In English it is known as Ironweed and looks a lot like cloves without the heads.
The botanical names and gyan is as below:

Some excerpts from the net:  
Centratherum anthelminticum (L.) KUNTZE (family: Asteraceae) is an erect, pubescent annual herb found widely in the Indian subcontinent which is locally known as “Somraj,” and its seeds are known as “Kalijiri” in Hindi [56]; scientific synonyms for this plant include Vernonia anthelmintica and Conyza anthelmintica, among others. This plant is used extensively in Ayurveda for the treatment of cough and diarrhoea, as well as an anthelmintic, stomachic, diuretic, and anti phlegmatic agent. (Read more). Click here to see how the plant looks like


I also requested my very good friend Anjum who is a certified nutritionist freelancing in Mumbai to help provide the nutritional benefits of this herb and here's what she has to say. Thanks Anjum for all your help! 

Nutritional Benefits of Kalijiri/Iron Weed 
By Anjum Shaikh,  Nutritionist, Andheri W, Mumbai

It is used as diet therapy for a series of medical issues like diabetes, renal problems as well as in treatment of cancer in some cases. Its also used for medicinal property in Ayurveda, Unani , Homeopathy and Sidha.
It is spermicidal, antiviral and antibacterial and hence useful in treating skin infections. Its also been found effective in treating thread worm infections in hospitals.

There are researches being carried on its health benefits even in USA and other parts of the world and has been found to be good in healing purpose. However, little is known about the calorific value contained in it. But it does contain some oils that have a range of health benefits mentioned above.

Nutritional Content of Kalijiri decoction:
Since its only 1 tablespoon of kalijiri, which is boiled and strained, this decoction has 0 calories and 0 proteins. This decoction had antiseptic and healing properties and no calories.


About & Disclaimer: 
The above mentioned information about Ironweed/ Kalijiri has been found after a lot of research on the internet done out of personal interest - I am not a medical practitioner. Use of one's own judgement before purchasing & preparing this decoction is advised. The nutritional information provided is to be used only as a reference and is not medical advice and hence this ayurvedic preparation should not be used as a substitute to prescribed medication.

Important:
  1. Purchase this ingredient only from renowned ayurvedic shops that have the license to sell medicinal herbs and ingredients. Ensure that packaging contains name of ingredients printed on it. When in doubt, do not purchase.
  2. If you have any medical condition/are undergoing treatment avoid having it or consult your doctor prior to consuming it.
Kaljiryaso Kasai / Kalijiri (Ironweed) Decoction
Prep time: Nil | Brewing time: 10-12 mins | Serves 1

You Need
  • 1 tablespoons of kaljeera / Ironweed
  • 2 cups of water
Method
1. In a pan bring two cups of water to a boil. Coarsely powder or pound the iron weed and add it to the boiling water and simmer until the liquid reduces to approximately one cup.
2. Remove from flame. Cool and consume - preferably on an empty stomach (early morning). Munch on a piece of palm jaggery to help negate the bitter taste. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Introduction ~ Mangalorean Post Natal Recipes (Balntiche Randhap)

Pregnancy & post natal care are treated with equal importance in our country. Especially because it involves two lives - that of the mother and the child. The health & well being of the mother is largely responsible for that of the newborn and hence special attention to diet & exercise is essential.

Every Indian community has its own practices to assist a new mother regain her health & vitality after the delivery. These practices include preparation of special health foods, herbal/medicinal concoctions and postpartum care to the mother & baby by way of oil massages followed by hot baths. Traditional Mangalorean customs are also similar whereby a mother is given the best postpartum care during the confinement period so that she regains her health and is back on her feet in no time.

The confinement period lasts for 40 days starting from the birth of the baby, so technically it is approximately 6 weeks of pampering and care. It is called the 'confinement period' because traditionally the new mother is confined to her home and is not allowed to leave the house until the 40 days are up. In the olden days these rules were rigid and a new mom would not dare to break them lest she face the wrath of the elders, especially the grand old ladies of the house and the 'balnti posteli', the ayah/live-in confinement nurse. The new mother ironically also liked being 'grounded' as it gave her respite from the rigorous and gruelling hours in the paddy fields or household chores. Some elderly women tell me that in those days the confinement period was secretly welcomed as if it was an all expense paid vacation!! One would get so pampered & fed well and was not expected to step out of her living quarters.



The term 'balnti posteli' literally means one who looks after the balanth (new mother). A caregiver.
Her tasks include massaging and bathing the mother & the newborn baby, washing the baby's clothes, preparing traditional homemade medicines which include the 'randho' (a kind of a thick 'lehya' or herbally infused jam made out of herbs, dry fruits, nuts and spices), 'thiklem'  also known as 'suko randho' (a dryish & more coarse version of the randho but with almost the same ingredients) and 'kasai' (herbal teas or reduced water, bitter potions) and other regular & special foods that were considered most safe & suitable for the well being of the new mother during her confinement.

A good & nutritious diet is provided to the mother to nurture her back to health as the whole process of delivery weakens the body and mind. This diet is also believed to aid good lactation in nursing mothers and in turn benefits the baby. Some medicines help purge a gassy tummy for the mother & child while the others help cleanse the internal system and help the mother regain her strength and vitality quickly.

Today not everyone hires this caregiver as close family members (usually the mother or the mother in law) of the mother-to-be usually help out by arriving with bag & baggage a few months in advance or just in time of the birth so that they can help nurture the new mother, cook for the rest of the family & attend to the household chores. But in my case I hired the 'balnti posteli' although the charges were quite high. I was also lucky to find good ones both the times - those who spent time & effort to ensure that I was comfortable & doing well.



For those of you who are new here, I recently delivered a baby girl, my second child. I must say that it has been an exhilarating experience - going through the whole experience all over again is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. But this time around I decided to make the most of my experience. I collected almost all the recipes of foods that were prepared in my honour. Haha!

Having been there, done that I knew what to expect this time around and decided to record all of my food and non food related experiences on the blog so that it helps those young women who are on the threshold of motherhood for the first time. However do note that some recipes require time & effort. They are tedious, like the randho which takes upto 8 hours to prepare from start to finish and hence I was not able to see how it was prepared. I have however made the effort to plate, present & click pictures of these dishes despite the fact that I was unable to actually make them (as a rule I don't post recipes that my husband or I have not personally tried in our kitchen). I realised that it was the least I could do to ensure that they get recorded on my blog.

So do stay tuned for the recipes that I will post as frequently as possible. I hope they help all those who are keen to prepare the post natal dishes at home.


P.S: 

For those of you looking for the recipe of the above pictured 'Randho' - I am sorry to disappoint you. It is the only recipe that my 'balnti posteli' refused to part with.

"If I give you the recipe and you make it at home, who will hire me?"  She exclaimed! Well she did have a point, especially because women like her - from the weaker strata of the society and/or school dropouts are now practicing this skill to support their families. Publishing such prized recipes may render them jobless.

If you still wish to eat this preparation or have it made there are several women in Mangalore with whom you can place an order and purchase it by the kilo. It will save you the hard work & time of hunting for the herbs (at ayurvedic shops) and going through the tedious method. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bibbe Sagle (Konkani Style Tender Cashew Nut Curry) ~ Summer Recipe!

One of the many things that coastal Karnataka especially Mangalore is famous for is cashew. The tropical climate suits this plant well. However since many farms and lands have now vanished to make way for residential and commercial buildings many cashew factories have shut shop or been let out for the manufacture of other things. While the cashew apple (the fruit) is in demand for the manufacture of feni (liquor) the nut is shelled and sold. The empty nut shells are also processed to extract oil that is used in developing drugs, antioxidants , tropical medicine and for anti termite treatment of timber. So many uses from one plant, isn't it?


The most precious of all the uses, from a culinary perspective then would be that of the cashew nut - cooked when it is still tender. The Mangalorean Konkani (GSB & Non GSB) community particularly enjoys this preparation - of cooking pre maturely plucked cashew nuts in a mildly spiced coarse gravy made of ground coconut. With just a few ingredients on hand a beautiful curry is prepared and enjoyed with every bite! I am sure that my Konkani friends are actually salivating at the thought of even tasting this amazing dish :)


To be honest I had never paid much attention to the bibbo (tender cashew nut) during my growing up years in Mangalore. It is just recently that I was fascinated with this dish after my dear childhood friend Veda Pai mentioned it to me. I was having a casual chat with her about summer foods - delicacies & favourites and she asked me if I had ever tried this dish. Since I knew that my mother was going to come from Mangalore, I quickly phoned her and asked her to bring me some tender cashew nuts if they were available. Mum went straight to the Flower Market on Car Street, Mangalore and found just one vendor selling a couple of batches of it - "they are expensive ma'am" he said, "One reason why we don't keep too many packs and plus they spoil fast" he added. True that. Mum bought two packs of 100 cashew nuts each. Each pack costing Rs 110 (gasp!). Well yes, I know what you are thinking. I didn't waste even a drop of curry, not because I am stingy, but because such delicacies are hard to come by. 

(Peeling process done by Mum)

Bibbe Sagle (pronounced Bibbay Saglay)

The best part about this dish is the way I prepared it. Without having tasted it, I got a full lesson in how it was to be prepared. Virtually! Thank God for Whatsapp, a mobile application that lets you chat with your phone contacts, Veda and I were found discussing everything from where the cashew nuts need to be purchased from to the way they need to be peeled. From how the texture of the ground masala should be to how a minor error in the consistency of the gravy could mess it up. Every minute detail was sought and given. Pictures clicked, shared, approved. Instructions, tips, suggestions followed by congratulatory messages and a virtual standing ovation (that both of us gave for this beautiful creation)


I am glad that I had so much help from her otherwise I may have never attempted it. Especially because cooking tender cashew nuts can be tricky. If you under cook them, they can taste a bit raw and over cooking them will ruin them beyond repair - they will simply dissolve into the curry. 

So a BIG THANK YOU to you my dear Veda, for your patience and all the fine details. And by the way, if I haven't mentioned it yet, Veda happens to be one of the oldest (not by age!) friends I have. I have known her since I was 5 - so my next recipe will be to toast this great bond of friendship that has lasted over 3 decades! For now, hope you are able to find some of these tender cashew nuts! Celebrate summer with this dish, but remember not to eat too much. Cashew nuts are 'heaty' and can upset your tummy if you eat too much!


About the dish
A seasonal and much loved curry made of tender cashew nuts stewed in a very basic coconut gravy - made with very few spices. The trademark of Konkani cuisine is the red chilli lightly fried in coconut oil before being ground along with the coconut. This imparts a unique taste to the gravy. Simple, delicious and so very satisfying. Savour every drop of this curry with some freshly steamed and piping hot rice! 

Bibble Sagle - Konkani Style Tender Cashew Nut Curry
Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 20 mins | Serves 2

You Need:
  • 2/3 cup (or a pack of 100) tender cashew nuts
  • 3 long dry red chillies (preferably Bedgi/Byadge)
  • 3/4th cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • a marble sized ball of tamarind
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
For seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves (kadipatta)
Method:
1. Heat 2 teaspoons coconut oil in a small pan & roast the chillies, fenugreek  and coriander. Remove and grind them along with the coconut and tamarind to a coarse paste of chutney-like texture. Do not grind too much or make a fine masala. Retain the masala water from the mixie.

2. Cook the tender cashew nuts in 2 cups water for about 5-8 mins or till tender. Ensure that they are not overcooked or they will break and dissolve in the curry. Drain off the water and keep the tender cashew nuts aside
3. In a separate pan add the ground masala and the water from the mixie and bring it to a boil. Add salt to taste and adjust the consistency of the gravy to medium thickness. Add the precooked cashew nuts and bring it to a boil. Turn off flame and cover the pan.
4. To season, heat coconut oil in a small pan and toss in the mustard, when they stop spluttering add the curry leaves, reduce the flame and add this seasoning to the gravy. Cover the pan immediately to retain the aroma of the seasoning.
5. Serve hot with piping hot rice.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sesame & Jaggery Juice ~ A Healthy Summer Drink

We've all heard the story of Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves, haven't we? The most famous code word or magical phrase being 'Open Sesame' uttered by the thieves who want to enter the cave full of hidden riches. When I was little I hardly knew what sesame was as it was rarely stocked in our kitchen. It was probably purchased during Christmas time so that it could be used in the various sweets prepared as part of the kuswar (traditional platter of sweets and savouries). My fondest memories also revolve round the 'tilache ladoo' (sesame & jaggery balls) that I used to love eating - I still do - I used to grab (and still do!) 5-6 in one go and stuff as many as I possibly could into my mouth and munch them, taking in the sweetness of the sticky jaggery and the nutty flavour of the roasted sesame. 

Although I have not tried my hand at making these lovely laddoos, I was rather surprised when I came across a recipe to put the same ingredients together to make a refreshing drink - so healthy and enjoyable especially during summer to beat the sweltering heat. Those who are lactose intolerant can prepare it and enjoy it with or without the jaggery and its a great way to get fussy/picky eaters to get their dose of goodness. Not only is it rich in magnesium and copper but is also a fabulous source of calcium and hence sesame is known to provide relief from rheumatoid arthritis, prevent colon cancer, osteoporosis, migraine & PMS and is beneficial to vascular & respiratory health. 


Now lets come to the next important (and my most favourite) ingredient in this drink. Jaggery!! Yes! This complex sugar is by far the healthiest 'sweet dish' I have ever eaten - yes, I call it a 'sweet dish' because it has satiated my craving for something sweet when there was nothing worthwhile at home. It is my most favourite, guilt free go-to sweet. Maybe that's one reason why you will find a lot of recipes on my blog that make use of jaggery. Traditional Indian sweets are mostly made with jaggery as the sweetener and

Besides just helping to sweeten your sweet dishes in a healthy manner, jaggery also has minerals that provide a host of health benefits. It is a rich source of iron and is beneficial to get rid of aches and pains and acts as a cleansing agent to clean the respiratory tracts, lungs, food pipe, stomach & intestines. It is an antioxidant and helps balance the acid in the body.

Now that you are convinced that this drink is nothing but pure health in a cup, won't you just go make some? And hey! If you like, you can make popsicles out of it. It will taste great I promise! Pretty much like the jaggery popsicles (bella candy) that we used to get in Mangalore a couple of decades ago. Not sure if they are still found now


About this drink
This is an easy to prepare drink that doesn't require any pre-preparation time. The colour however is dull and may not be very eye pleasing as it is a combination of jaggery and sesame seeds and water, however, the taste can be altered by increasing or decreasing amount of water used (if you prefer it in a more diluted form). Enjoy it chilled on a hot summer day

Sesame & Jaggery Juice
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: Nil | Serves 4-5

You Need
  • 100 grams white sesame (til)
  • 225 grams powdered jaggery (increase it upto 250 grams)
  • 2 cardamom pods powdered
  • 5 cups water
  • pinch of salt
Method
1. Wash and rinse the sesame until the water runs clear (about a couple of times will suffice). Place it on a sieve or a clean kitchen cloth to drain off excess water or pat it dry.
2. When it is still a bit damp, transfer it onto a tawa and dry roast it on a slow flame. Ensure that the flame is low or else the seeds will begin to pop/splutter which should be avoided. Dry roast for about a couple of minutes and then transfer into a grinder and powder it coarsely. Add half the powdered jaggery, 1 cup of water and grind it to a smooth paste (as fine as possible)
3. Transfer the paste into a large pan, add the remaining jaggery and water and stir until the jaggery dissolves completely. Add powdered cardamom and mix.
4. Serve chilled - you may strain the mixture or leave it as it is.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sabudana Khichdi (Savoury Tapioca Pearls) ~ Maharashtrian Style Breakfast

The best breakfasts in my opinion are those that are hearty, spicy and complete (read BIG). I am a complete breakfast person and knowing that it is one thing that greatly determines my mood for the rest of the day, I make every effort to ensure that my family & I enjoy a good breakfast. 

While I stick to Indian breakfasts, I do enjoy continental spreads and try to replicate them partially at home whenever time permits. Breakfasts don't need to be complex for me in terms of the process - they just need to be hearty and delicious. 


Today's recipe is a very popular Maharashtrian breakfast recipe that doubles up as a recipe for fasting (vrat). Hindus who maintain religious fasts especially once a week or during special festive seasons tend to prepare Sabudana/Sago/Tapioca pearls in this form. Not only is it devoid of grains which is avoided during fasts, it is a great source of carbohydrates to keep the body functional even when the main grain sources of carb (rice & wheat) is missing. Sago is essentially the pith of the Sago palm, a powdery starch that is processed into globules or pearls. In India Sago is used in the preparation of sweet & savoury dishes, the most famous being the Sago kheer (thin pudding), Sabudana vada (fritters) and Sabudana Khichdi (savoury upma)


I prepared this dish for breakfast when my mum was with me and she thoroughly enjoyed it. She had never tasted it before and really liked the blend of flavours. 


About the dish
A classic balance of salty-spicy-sweet & tangy made interesting with a bit of crunch brought in by roasted peanuts (optional) and yummy potatoes. Some recipes use turmeric that gives this dish a beautiful yellow hue, but I skipped it. You may add finely chopped coriander if you wish (which I ran out of when I prepared this). I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Sabudana Khichdi
Prep time: 15mins + overnight (soaking time) + Cook time: 10mins | Serves 2-3 

You need 
  • 1 cup sabudana / sago / tapioca pearls
  • 1/2 cup unsalted raw peanuts 
  • 1 medium sized potato boiled, skinned & cubed (approx 3/4th cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 sprig (7-8) curry leaves / kadipatta
  • 1 small green chilly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • juice of 1/2 a small lime (adjust to taste)
  • salt to taste
Method
1. Wash the sago in 2-3 changes of water and soak it overnight. Next morning, discard the water and place the sago on a sieve or fine slotted colander so that the excess water drains away. Keep aside till required.
2. Roast the peanuts on a non stick tawa/pan for a minute or two until the skins have slightly browned - do not burn it. Remove onto a plate and once cooled, rub them between the palm of your hands to remove the skin. (You may keep the skin on if you like). Lightly crush the peanuts using a mortar or pestle or if you desire pulse them 2-3 times in a dry grinding jar of a mixer so you get the texture of broken rice. Do not over blend as they will turn into a sticky paste.
3. Heat the oil in a wide based non stick pan/kadhai and add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they stop spluttering, reduce the flame add the curry leaves, green chilly and fry lightly for a few seconds. Add the sugar, salt and stir until the sugar granules have dissolved.
4. Add the boiled and cubed potato and mix well, add in the sago and cook on a low flame for 4-5 minutes stirring every now & then. The colour of the sago will change from white to translucent. Do a quick taste check and extra add salt or sugar if required.
5. Sprinkle the lime juice and mix once. Turn off the flame and serve hot garnished with lime wedges.

Notes:
Always use freshly packaged sago. Usually two varieties of sago are available, you may use either of them although the smaller variety requires lesser amount of soaking time.
There needs to be a fine balance between the salt & sugar so please adjust both according to your taste.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Peshawar Style Chicken Curry

Today is one of those Sundays that hasn't been particularly fantastic. Or relaxing. Or interesting. Or worthwhile. Apart from some great news that came in the morning - my nephew and his wife welcomed their first baby into the world today (which now officially makes me a grandma), nothing much happened. So I won't bore you with mundane stories of how my day rolled by. I greatly believe in jinxes - this recipe may well be shelved if I don't post it right away. Not only has it been sitting in my drafts for ages, the editing of the second picture has happened 5 times over a period of 1 week and each time my work didn't get saved for some reason or the other. So before I ruin it one more time - here's today's recipe.


I have never been to Peshawar nor have I tasted this dish anywhere, so I cannot vouch for its authenticity. 

A simple and yummy curry to accompany your rotis - I am sure you will enjoy it as it is pretty simple to make. Found the recipe on a little book with easy Indian recipes - unfortunately I can't recollect the name of the book. The original recipe calls for mutton, I simply tried my luck with chicken and it was great. I'll provide the credits asap. Till then, go make it & tell me how you liked it!


Peshawar Style Chicken Curry
Prep time: 15mins | Cook time: 25 mins | Servings 4

You Need
  • 1 kg chicken
  • 4 cardamom pods bruised
  • 4 cloves
  • 1" stick of cassia bark or cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste
  • 2 teaspoons garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree *see notes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste) * see notes
  • 1/2 cup thick curds (yogurt)
  • 2 teaspoons gram flour /chickpea flour (besan) (substitute with cornflour/cornstarch)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves chopped
  • 3 tablespoons ghee or oil
  • salt to taste
Method
1. Cut the chicken into medium sized pieces, wash and allow to drain on a colander.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a large heavy based or wide non stick pan and toss in the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves and let them sizzle over a low heat. Add in the chicken and let it fry for about 2-3 minutes or until both the sides are lightly browned. Take care to see that the pieces don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the chopped onions, ginger & garlic paste, salt to taste, mix well and allow to cook on a medium flame for about 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato puree, turmeric, coriander & cumin powders and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
4. In a small bowl whisk together the curds, chilli powder and gram flour into a lump free smooth mixture and add this to the chicken. Add the water, cover the pan and simmer for about 10-12 minutes, stirring in between. Check salt and adjust if required and cook till the chicken is done.
5. Garnish with chopped mint & coriander leaves (add this to the chicken half a minute before you remove it from the fire). Serve hot with rice or chapathis or any Indian bread.

Notes:
1. If you are using very sour curds, skip the tomato puree. You may use store bought tomato puree which is thicker than fresh homemade puree.
2. For a less spicy curry you may use 1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder - if you are using the spicy variety, otherwise 1 teaspoon of kashmiri chilli powder is good to go.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Easy Cheesy Macaroni ~ Kiddie Meal - Treats for Tiny Tots


They say that being a parent is ridden with challenges. I guess the worst challenge in that case is to feed a fussy child. I cannot even begin to describe how painful mealtimes are at my place. My son who ate just about anything till he cut his 3rd birthday cake has now transformed himself into someone who can raise anyone's blood pressure. The term 'picky eater' in reality has a million different meanings. From eating like a bird (picking (not eating) just 4 grains per hour) to complete refusal to eat - I have dealt with a child who displays a range of excuses of how not to eat & drive mommy crazy!


My mum says that feeding me when I was his age was hardly an issue. It was a piece of cake (I wonder if she fed me just that - haha!). But then I tell her that God stopped making people like me long ago! Jokes apart, my son's pediatrician says that today's kids are not without a mind of their own. They want to eat what they want to eat! I was asked not to force him to eat what I cooked especially when he was ill and asked me to prepare whatever he liked the best. Woe is me! I have been reduced to doing just that - every single day! Ill or not, I find myself making what I think he will finish in less than an hour and I don't have to suffer through the trauma of coaxing, cajoling & yelling during mealtime. 

My aunt assured me that by the time my son turns 7 he would be a changed boy. She better be right! Or else!! 

Sigh! Anyways, here's one of those recipes which saves my sanity when I want to bang my head against the wall. Thanks to my friend Veda for brainstorming the idea/ingredients with me. Hope this recipe helps all you moms out there who are in the same boat as I am.


About the dish
Pasta with white sauce is preferred by most kids. Make it in a jiffy and watch your lil one devour it in one go (hopefully!). The goodness of cheese makes for a filling, nutritious & lip smacking meal

Easy Cheesy Macaroni
Prep time: 8-10 mins | Cook time: 5 mins | Serves 1

You Need:
  • 1/2 cup dried macaroni (or any pasta of your choice)
  • 1/2 a small onion finely chopped
  • 1 big clove of garlic finely chopped or grated
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pre boiled, shredded chicken or 4-5 mushrooms quartered
  • 1/3 cup warm milk
  • 1 teaspoon all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/8th cup (or 2 triangles) cheddar cheese (I used Kraft cheese) (use as much as you wish)
  • freshly ground pepper to taste (1/4 teaspoon or just a sprinkling will do for kids aged 3 and above)
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 slivers of sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano or thyme (or any dried herbs)
  • No salt required as the cheese has plenty of it!
Method
Boil 2-1/2 cups of water and add the macaroni to it. Add a pinch of salt and 2-3 drops of oil and cook for about 7 minutes or as per the instructions on the packet. The pasta should be al dente (90% cooked or else it will break). Strain & gently refresh with cold water and allow to drain. Add a couple of drops of oil so that the pasta doesn't stick to each other.

In a small bowl make a smooth lump free paste of the flour and warm milk.

Heat butter or oil in a non stick pan and fry the chopped onions till pale. Toss in the chopped garlic and fry for a couple of seconds. Add the shredded chicken & sun dried tomatoes and fry for half a minute. Add the grated cheese and stir until melted.

Add the flour and milk paste, reduce the flame and quickly stir to avoid lumps. Toss in the ground pepper, oregano and mix well. Do not overcook - the sauce should have a creamy consistency.
Add the pasta and mix gently. Serve immediately

Notes:
If you are making this for toddlers under 3 years, use onions, garlic & pepper as per the level of spice tolerance. Skip any one or all the aforesaid ingredients and replace with extra cheese.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lime & Poppy Seed Muffins

For all my readers who love baking as much as I do, here's a lovely lovely recipe for you. 

Lime & poppy seeds are omnipresent in every Indian kitchen and I totally love baking with readily available ingredients. Usually when I am in the mood to bake I am always looking for instant gratification. I am talking about times when I just get this sudden urge to bake and I just want to leave whatever I am doing and find myself in the kitchen pulling out all my baking gadgets. 


During such times I prefer digging out recipes that either make no use of eggs (although I prefer eating cakes with eggs than without) and those that don't need butter - its not very easy finding unsalted butter in Bombay. It's almost always Amul salted butter that gets shoved in your face or a poor quality baking butter (actually margarine) that is offered by the grocery-wala. 



Anyway, this was one of my de-stressing activity that I indulged in recently and totally loved the outcome the next day - yes, I hid away a few for the sake of the photoshoot which usually never happens in the evenings. The flavour and aroma of these muffins had matured overnight and they tasted so wonderful. There is so much that lime can do to uplift your mood isn't it? It was my first time that I was using lime as the main flavour of a cake and I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle notes it lent to the muffin.

The zesty limes just about balance the sweetness of these muffins and the poppy seeds impart a great texture that makes you want bite after bite of this simple cake. The cupcakes may seem slightly hard on the surface but they will taste awesome anyways.


These muffins are so cheerful in terms of appearance & taste that you will want to bake them over & over again. They make perfect tea time accompaniments. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. If you can help it, hide some for the next day and notice how the taste has gone up a whole new level!


Lime & Poppy Seed Muffins
Prep time: 10 mins | Baking time: 25 mins | Makes 12-15 medium sized muffins

You Need
  • 175 grams  (3/4th cup) sunflower oil (or any odourless vegetable oil)
  • 225 grams (1-3/4th cup) plain flour (maida)
  • 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar, powdered * see notes
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest (grated)
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds (khus khus)
Topping
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest (grated rind)
  • 1-2 teaspoons poppy seeds (preferably black coloured ones for a more dramatic look)
Method:
1. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C/375 degrees F.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt a couple of times into a mixing bowl. Add the caster sugar and stir.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, egg white, sunflower oil, milk, lime juice and grated lime rind (zest) and mix well. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and tip in the poppy seeds. Stir gently to incorporate. The mixture will be a little lumpy which is fine.
4. Spoon in the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Each cupcake liner should be filled 2/3rds full. Sprinkle the grated lime zest and poppy seeds to decorate and pop the pan into the preheated oven. Bake for 25 minutes or till the toothpick inserted comes out clean.
5. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve the muffins warm if desired. For best results, serve them after they have completely cooled down or after a few hours (or overnight) - the flavours would have set in beautifully.

Notes:
1. The recipe asked for 225 grams caster sugar, since I didn't have any, I measured 200 grams of regular granulated sugar (instead of 225 grams as I prefer cakes that are less sweet) and powdered it in the dry grinder.
2. You may use white or black poppy seeds - both are suitable, but the black one will add more beauty to the muffins.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kaljiryaso Kasai (Herbal Kashayam / Decoction of Ironweed Seeds) ~ Mangalorea Post Natal Recipe # 1

Today's recipe is the first among the Mangalorean post natal recipe series and is probably the most unpleasant recipe on my blog. Unpleasant only in taste because it is a very bitter potion - a medicinal decoction (reduced tea) made with an unfamous herb. However the health benefits and goodness of nature is anything but unpleasant.

(Click to read introductory post!)


Kaljiryaso Kasai is a deadly black & bitter decoction. The first medicine that is served to the new mother after she arrives home from the hospital. It is usually drunk on an empty stomach, served early in the morning. The ritual consists of the decoction freshly brewed, cooled and served with a piece of palm jaggery (pele god / ole bella). The taste is so bitter that it can knock you off your senses if you let the brew linger in your mouth for too long. This is one reason why you are advised to gulp it in one go and quickly pop the jaggery into your mouth in order to negate the bitter taste. Not more than a quarter cup of this decoction is served on three consecutive days as it is believed to remove 'nanji' (a very versatile Mangalorean word that roughly sums up to 'allergy') and other post delivery related ailments that get nipped in the bud on consuming this medicine. 

While I totally detested this drink during my first delivery, this time around I was curious - so I did taste the brew a bit, made a face, drank some more and then when I felt that my brains would pop out I bit into the palm jaggery - thankfully at first and greedily after that (asking for seconds!)


Since neither my balnti posteli (live in ayah/nurse) nor my mum, MIL or close relatives knew the botanical name of Kaljire I had a tough job ahead of me. After hours (spread across days) of searching on the net I finally found a few pictures that told me that I was on the right path. Do note that Kalijiri is NOT to be confused with Kala-Jeera (black cumin which belongs to the cumin family)


Kaljire is also known as Kadu Jirigay in Kannada, Kattu Jirakam in Malayalam and Kali Jiri (KALI not KALA and JIRI not JEERA) in Hindi. In English it is known as Ironweed and looks a lot like cloves without the heads.
The botanical names and gyan is as below:

Some excerpts from the net:  
Centratherum anthelminticum (L.) KUNTZE (family: Asteraceae) is an erect, pubescent annual herb found widely in the Indian subcontinent which is locally known as “Somraj,” and its seeds are known as “Kalijiri” in Hindi [56]; scientific synonyms for this plant include Vernonia anthelmintica and Conyza anthelmintica, among others. This plant is used extensively in Ayurveda for the treatment of cough and diarrhoea, as well as an anthelmintic, stomachic, diuretic, and anti phlegmatic agent. (Read more). Click here to see how the plant looks like


I also requested my very good friend Anjum who is a certified nutritionist freelancing in Mumbai to help provide the nutritional benefits of this herb and here's what she has to say. Thanks Anjum for all your help! 

Nutritional Benefits of Kalijiri/Iron Weed 
By Anjum Shaikh,  Nutritionist, Andheri W, Mumbai

It is used as diet therapy for a series of medical issues like diabetes, renal problems as well as in treatment of cancer in some cases. Its also used for medicinal property in Ayurveda, Unani , Homeopathy and Sidha.
It is spermicidal, antiviral and antibacterial and hence useful in treating skin infections. Its also been found effective in treating thread worm infections in hospitals.

There are researches being carried on its health benefits even in USA and other parts of the world and has been found to be good in healing purpose. However, little is known about the calorific value contained in it. But it does contain some oils that have a range of health benefits mentioned above.

Nutritional Content of Kalijiri decoction:
Since its only 1 tablespoon of kalijiri, which is boiled and strained, this decoction has 0 calories and 0 proteins. This decoction had antiseptic and healing properties and no calories.


About & Disclaimer: 
The above mentioned information about Ironweed/ Kalijiri has been found after a lot of research on the internet done out of personal interest - I am not a medical practitioner. Use of one's own judgement before purchasing & preparing this decoction is advised. The nutritional information provided is to be used only as a reference and is not medical advice and hence this ayurvedic preparation should not be used as a substitute to prescribed medication.

Important:
  1. Purchase this ingredient only from renowned ayurvedic shops that have the license to sell medicinal herbs and ingredients. Ensure that packaging contains name of ingredients printed on it. When in doubt, do not purchase.
  2. If you have any medical condition/are undergoing treatment avoid having it or consult your doctor prior to consuming it.
Kaljiryaso Kasai / Kalijiri (Ironweed) Decoction
Prep time: Nil | Brewing time: 10-12 mins | Serves 1

You Need
  • 1 tablespoons of kaljeera / Ironweed
  • 2 cups of water
Method
1. In a pan bring two cups of water to a boil. Coarsely powder or pound the iron weed and add it to the boiling water and simmer until the liquid reduces to approximately one cup.
2. Remove from flame. Cool and consume - preferably on an empty stomach (early morning). Munch on a piece of palm jaggery to help negate the bitter taste. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Introduction ~ Mangalorean Post Natal Recipes (Balntiche Randhap)

Pregnancy & post natal care are treated with equal importance in our country. Especially because it involves two lives - that of the mother and the child. The health & well being of the mother is largely responsible for that of the newborn and hence special attention to diet & exercise is essential.

Every Indian community has its own practices to assist a new mother regain her health & vitality after the delivery. These practices include preparation of special health foods, herbal/medicinal concoctions and postpartum care to the mother & baby by way of oil massages followed by hot baths. Traditional Mangalorean customs are also similar whereby a mother is given the best postpartum care during the confinement period so that she regains her health and is back on her feet in no time.

The confinement period lasts for 40 days starting from the birth of the baby, so technically it is approximately 6 weeks of pampering and care. It is called the 'confinement period' because traditionally the new mother is confined to her home and is not allowed to leave the house until the 40 days are up. In the olden days these rules were rigid and a new mom would not dare to break them lest she face the wrath of the elders, especially the grand old ladies of the house and the 'balnti posteli', the ayah/live-in confinement nurse. The new mother ironically also liked being 'grounded' as it gave her respite from the rigorous and gruelling hours in the paddy fields or household chores. Some elderly women tell me that in those days the confinement period was secretly welcomed as if it was an all expense paid vacation!! One would get so pampered & fed well and was not expected to step out of her living quarters.



The term 'balnti posteli' literally means one who looks after the balanth (new mother). A caregiver.
Her tasks include massaging and bathing the mother & the newborn baby, washing the baby's clothes, preparing traditional homemade medicines which include the 'randho' (a kind of a thick 'lehya' or herbally infused jam made out of herbs, dry fruits, nuts and spices), 'thiklem'  also known as 'suko randho' (a dryish & more coarse version of the randho but with almost the same ingredients) and 'kasai' (herbal teas or reduced water, bitter potions) and other regular & special foods that were considered most safe & suitable for the well being of the new mother during her confinement.

A good & nutritious diet is provided to the mother to nurture her back to health as the whole process of delivery weakens the body and mind. This diet is also believed to aid good lactation in nursing mothers and in turn benefits the baby. Some medicines help purge a gassy tummy for the mother & child while the others help cleanse the internal system and help the mother regain her strength and vitality quickly.

Today not everyone hires this caregiver as close family members (usually the mother or the mother in law) of the mother-to-be usually help out by arriving with bag & baggage a few months in advance or just in time of the birth so that they can help nurture the new mother, cook for the rest of the family & attend to the household chores. But in my case I hired the 'balnti posteli' although the charges were quite high. I was also lucky to find good ones both the times - those who spent time & effort to ensure that I was comfortable & doing well.



For those of you who are new here, I recently delivered a baby girl, my second child. I must say that it has been an exhilarating experience - going through the whole experience all over again is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. But this time around I decided to make the most of my experience. I collected almost all the recipes of foods that were prepared in my honour. Haha!

Having been there, done that I knew what to expect this time around and decided to record all of my food and non food related experiences on the blog so that it helps those young women who are on the threshold of motherhood for the first time. However do note that some recipes require time & effort. They are tedious, like the randho which takes upto 8 hours to prepare from start to finish and hence I was not able to see how it was prepared. I have however made the effort to plate, present & click pictures of these dishes despite the fact that I was unable to actually make them (as a rule I don't post recipes that my husband or I have not personally tried in our kitchen). I realised that it was the least I could do to ensure that they get recorded on my blog.

So do stay tuned for the recipes that I will post as frequently as possible. I hope they help all those who are keen to prepare the post natal dishes at home.


P.S: 

For those of you looking for the recipe of the above pictured 'Randho' - I am sorry to disappoint you. It is the only recipe that my 'balnti posteli' refused to part with.

"If I give you the recipe and you make it at home, who will hire me?"  She exclaimed! Well she did have a point, especially because women like her - from the weaker strata of the society and/or school dropouts are now practicing this skill to support their families. Publishing such prized recipes may render them jobless.

If you still wish to eat this preparation or have it made there are several women in Mangalore with whom you can place an order and purchase it by the kilo. It will save you the hard work & time of hunting for the herbs (at ayurvedic shops) and going through the tedious method. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bibbe Sagle (Konkani Style Tender Cashew Nut Curry) ~ Summer Recipe!

One of the many things that coastal Karnataka especially Mangalore is famous for is cashew. The tropical climate suits this plant well. However since many farms and lands have now vanished to make way for residential and commercial buildings many cashew factories have shut shop or been let out for the manufacture of other things. While the cashew apple (the fruit) is in demand for the manufacture of feni (liquor) the nut is shelled and sold. The empty nut shells are also processed to extract oil that is used in developing drugs, antioxidants , tropical medicine and for anti termite treatment of timber. So many uses from one plant, isn't it?


The most precious of all the uses, from a culinary perspective then would be that of the cashew nut - cooked when it is still tender. The Mangalorean Konkani (GSB & Non GSB) community particularly enjoys this preparation - of cooking pre maturely plucked cashew nuts in a mildly spiced coarse gravy made of ground coconut. With just a few ingredients on hand a beautiful curry is prepared and enjoyed with every bite! I am sure that my Konkani friends are actually salivating at the thought of even tasting this amazing dish :)


To be honest I had never paid much attention to the bibbo (tender cashew nut) during my growing up years in Mangalore. It is just recently that I was fascinated with this dish after my dear childhood friend Veda Pai mentioned it to me. I was having a casual chat with her about summer foods - delicacies & favourites and she asked me if I had ever tried this dish. Since I knew that my mother was going to come from Mangalore, I quickly phoned her and asked her to bring me some tender cashew nuts if they were available. Mum went straight to the Flower Market on Car Street, Mangalore and found just one vendor selling a couple of batches of it - "they are expensive ma'am" he said, "One reason why we don't keep too many packs and plus they spoil fast" he added. True that. Mum bought two packs of 100 cashew nuts each. Each pack costing Rs 110 (gasp!). Well yes, I know what you are thinking. I didn't waste even a drop of curry, not because I am stingy, but because such delicacies are hard to come by. 

(Peeling process done by Mum)

Bibbe Sagle (pronounced Bibbay Saglay)

The best part about this dish is the way I prepared it. Without having tasted it, I got a full lesson in how it was to be prepared. Virtually! Thank God for Whatsapp, a mobile application that lets you chat with your phone contacts, Veda and I were found discussing everything from where the cashew nuts need to be purchased from to the way they need to be peeled. From how the texture of the ground masala should be to how a minor error in the consistency of the gravy could mess it up. Every minute detail was sought and given. Pictures clicked, shared, approved. Instructions, tips, suggestions followed by congratulatory messages and a virtual standing ovation (that both of us gave for this beautiful creation)


I am glad that I had so much help from her otherwise I may have never attempted it. Especially because cooking tender cashew nuts can be tricky. If you under cook them, they can taste a bit raw and over cooking them will ruin them beyond repair - they will simply dissolve into the curry. 

So a BIG THANK YOU to you my dear Veda, for your patience and all the fine details. And by the way, if I haven't mentioned it yet, Veda happens to be one of the oldest (not by age!) friends I have. I have known her since I was 5 - so my next recipe will be to toast this great bond of friendship that has lasted over 3 decades! For now, hope you are able to find some of these tender cashew nuts! Celebrate summer with this dish, but remember not to eat too much. Cashew nuts are 'heaty' and can upset your tummy if you eat too much!


About the dish
A seasonal and much loved curry made of tender cashew nuts stewed in a very basic coconut gravy - made with very few spices. The trademark of Konkani cuisine is the red chilli lightly fried in coconut oil before being ground along with the coconut. This imparts a unique taste to the gravy. Simple, delicious and so very satisfying. Savour every drop of this curry with some freshly steamed and piping hot rice! 

Bibble Sagle - Konkani Style Tender Cashew Nut Curry
Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 20 mins | Serves 2

You Need:
  • 2/3 cup (or a pack of 100) tender cashew nuts
  • 3 long dry red chillies (preferably Bedgi/Byadge)
  • 3/4th cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • a marble sized ball of tamarind
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
For seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves (kadipatta)
Method:
1. Heat 2 teaspoons coconut oil in a small pan & roast the chillies, fenugreek  and coriander. Remove and grind them along with the coconut and tamarind to a coarse paste of chutney-like texture. Do not grind too much or make a fine masala. Retain the masala water from the mixie.

2. Cook the tender cashew nuts in 2 cups water for about 5-8 mins or till tender. Ensure that they are not overcooked or they will break and dissolve in the curry. Drain off the water and keep the tender cashew nuts aside
3. In a separate pan add the ground masala and the water from the mixie and bring it to a boil. Add salt to taste and adjust the consistency of the gravy to medium thickness. Add the precooked cashew nuts and bring it to a boil. Turn off flame and cover the pan.
4. To season, heat coconut oil in a small pan and toss in the mustard, when they stop spluttering add the curry leaves, reduce the flame and add this seasoning to the gravy. Cover the pan immediately to retain the aroma of the seasoning.
5. Serve hot with piping hot rice.