I was so thrilled when my good friend Usha invited me over to her beautiful home to meet Madhur Jaffrey. Usha was going to showcase some Palakkad dishes to Madhur, and I was a part of the small group of friends who had the privilege of meeting and eating with the famous actress and celebrity chef, Madhur Jaffrey. What followed was a lively demonstration of the dishes by Usha, with the rest of us learning, mingling and chatting. We were treated to a delicious, fresh, home-cooked, comforting meal which all of us slurped our way through.
I’m sharing one of the recipes that Usha made –
Pulikatchal (tamarind pachadi)
Tamarind – size of a golf ball
Green chillies – 5 or 6, chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Sesame (til) oil – 3 tsp
Ginger – 1 inch piece, chopped fine
Sesame seeds – 1 tbsp
Jaggery powder – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Orange peel – 1/2 cup, chopped
Raw rice – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Method of preparation –
Soak the tamarind in hot water and extract the pulp. Roast the rice and sesame seeds till it lets out an aroma, and powder the mixture. Heat oil, add mustard seeds, green chillies, turmeric and chopped ginger. Sauté and add the orange peel. Add the tamarind pulp, cook till the pulp thickens a bit. Add salt to taste. Add the sesame and rice powder, jaggery and allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes.
During a recent visit to Coimbatore for a lecture, I met 2 students who belong to a tribe in Manipur. An interesting discussion on their food habits followed. Their staple is rice. They also eat fish everyday. Their diet includes lots of greens which are not commonly grown in other parts of India. Other vegetables, fruits and meat form a part of their regular meals. They do not take much dairy foods, but eat fermented fish, soy and bamboo shoots. The students said that although they enjoy the south Indian meals, on weekends they prepare some of their traditional dishes. Here’s the best part – they eat rice regularly but they are not fat! My cliched statement – Rice is not fattening!
A few weeks ago, during my consulting session, I came across a person who ate aloo (potato) as a vegetable accompaniment almost everyday in his meal. When asked why, he said that he had no idea what other vegetables he could eat and his cook didn’t know to prepare any other vegetable dish. It seemed to me that he had never seen a vegetable market in his life! When I mentioned about the need for using other vegetables in his daily diet, he said “But I’m not fat, so why can’t I eat aloo everyday? I love it.”
Hmmm. After some explanation, he agreed to try out other vegetables. But the idea that aloo needs to be eaten only if you’re slim is so not true. Aloo has gained a bad name because potato chips, French fries, aloo bonda and aloo bhajia are deep fried and are loaded with fat & calories. But the humble aloo when eaten boiled, steamed or in the form of a sabji, sambar, raita, contains very little fat unless you douse it with butter / oil. Aloo can be eaten by slim as well as not so slim people provided it’s cooked in a healthy manner.
We went for a delicious Parsi lunch at a friend’s house yesterday. Lunch included brown basmati rice, cooked so right and tasting so nice. Brown basmati rice is as aromatic as the white variety. Nutritionally, it’s as good as the other varieties of brown rice. More nutritious than the white rice varieties, though. With its bran and germ layer intact, brown rice adds more nutrients to your plate than white rice. Try brown rice at least once….and you might change over from the white variety permanently.
A friend once remarked “I don’t buy this brand of bread because mold doesn’t grow on it if its kept aside for a few days”. Interesting observation. Recently I attended a talk on organic foods and sustainable agriculture at the Navadarshanam farm. The speaker highlighted on additives being used in foods to increase shelf life. This got me thinking of my friend’s remark. Perhaps we should look for foods that attract insects, pests, mold and other types of fungi. If they can eat it, the food is probably safe for our consumption too! But if the food is covered with pesticides and other chemicals, perhaps we need to stay away just like the insects do!! I think the solution lies in eating organic foods or pesticide-free foods, well before the mold or insects start attacking it.