Neem flowers are edible and superbly delicious if you are not averse to a hint of bitterness in your food. In combination with some foods that are traditionally cooked with tender neem leaves and fresh flowers, the flavour is surprisingly good even if you are uninitiated regarding the use of neem in foods. You will start looking at tender neem leaves and blossoms differently once you taste them trust me.
I have been using tender neem leaves in the traditional Bengali neem begun (tender neem leaves cooked quickly with fleshy egg plants) ever since I tasted it about two decades ago cooked by my kitchen help and this neem flower infused buttermilk ever since a dear friend Nirupama introduced me to this Tamil delicacy. I end up plucking tender neem leaves and blossoms from my neighbor's tree every season and my sister has started drying them too seeing my interest in neem.
The dry neem flowers are an essential ingredient in Tamil homes as my friend Nirupama says. It was about 3 years ago when she welcomed me at her home with neem flower tempered buttermilk, knowing my interest in all things traditional and medicinal and I have been chasing the neem blossom season every year since then.
I know you would do the same once you try this recipe of neem flower buttermilk called veppampoo moar kuzhambu in Tamil. This refreshing drink is considered to be blood purifying and immunity boosting for the new season's ailments.
Recipe of neem flower infused buttermilk
3-4 tbsp cleaned fresh neem flowers or 2 tsp dry neem flowers
1 tbsp ghee
Pinch of asafoetida (heeng)
2 dry red chilies
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 cup yogurt
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the ghee and add asafoetida, dry red chilies, cumin seeds and neem flowers one by one and wait till they get aromatic. Remove from the stove and let it cool.
Blend the yogurt with water, salt and pepper using a wire whisk. Add the neem flower infused ghee into this and blend again.
You may want to remove the dry red chilies from the infused ghee if you don't like the chili heat, I remove the chilies as the ghee has already got a pleasant whiff of chilies.
Serve at room temperature.
This traditional veppampoo moar kuzhambu or neem flower infused buttermilk willmake you crave for the flavours and cooling effect of this drink every summer trust me. Since Neem leaves have started sprouting here in Delhi and I know the blossoms have also started coming in some regions of the country, this buttermilk recipe will come handy if you find some neem flowers around your area.
Do try this recipe and let me know how you liked it. Your feedback is important to keep me motivated to write more on this blog, I have been guilty of not updating recipes and nutrition information here regularly but I plan to correct that now. Please write in and stay tuned.
I have been making rocket pesto every season for a few years since I have been growing rocket. Pesto made with rocket leaves, especially the arugula variety is quite flavourful and I prefer it over basil pesto any day.
The arugula variety of rocket grows really well and we keep using the tender leaves for our salads and in omelets but once the plants prepares for flowering the leaves start getting more peppery and one can’t use them as liberally as one would want. The pesto is the solution for the overly peppery mature leaves of arugula as the nuts and oil tone down the sharpness.
In recent years I have started making my pesto with locally available cold pressed oils and the result has been quite encouraging. I love using sesame oil in my pesto, especially when it is made of peppery arugula leaves. Also I have started making all my pesto without cheese as it makes better sense to add the cheese when finishing the dish rather than adding it to the pesto which is made in bulk and is stored for at least a month. Making the pesto without cheese makes it more versatile too, sometimes I use Parmesan shavings over pasta dishes, sometimes cheddar cheese when I smear the pesto over my sourdough pita breads, sometimes a vegan cheese when using the pesto over pizza. You get the drift.
This rocket pesto recipe is actually more of a garden pesto recipe that uses whatever leafy greens are growing in the garden in the particular season. I had some nice baby spinach leaves and used them as I wanted to tone down the peppery taste of mature rocket leaves further, the spinach worked really well. And to my surprise a friend messaged me after I shared the rocket pesto pasta on Instagram that she made spinach and basil pesto inspired by this recipe using sesame oil as I did. Needless to say the use of home grown herbs and leafy greens and locally available oils in a pesto recipe is an idea that goes a long way in making it flavourful and healthier. We are never sure of the quality of olive oil we get in India so using more of the local oils is a better idea.
100+100 ml or more cold pressed sesame oil (I used Organic India sesame oil)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop all the greens roughly.
Fill everything in the blender jar, saving 100 ml of the oil, and blend using the pulsing action of your blender because you want a coarse paste and not a very smooth mix. Keeping the pesto coarse is the key, it is better done in a traditional mortar and pestle but convenience takes over and I end up using the blender all the time. Make sure the pulsing mode of the blender is used to make pesto always.
Empty the pesto in a sterilised glass jar, press it down with a spoon and pour the remaining oil over the surface so it keeps fresh in the refrigerator. I pour a lot more oil because the oil comes handy when making pasta or other dishes using the pesto.
Refrigerate the pesto immediately, it keeps well for a months. Take care to use dry spoons when taking out required amount of pesto from the jar and maintain a layer of oil over the surface always, pour a bit more oil if needed. The oil gets infused with the pesto and can be used for salad dressings if you like. I take out some oil every time I scoop out the pesto to make a pasta dish like this.
To make the penne and peas pasta with rocket pesto, boil penne (or any other pasta) in salted water. Add peas half way through the boiling pasta and strain them together once both are cooked, the pasta needs to be al dente when you drain it, as it keeps cooking in its own heat even after you strain it.
Add a generous dollop of pesto along with some of its oil to the cooked mix of pasta and peas, toss well to coat and serve as desired. We love this as a cold pasta dish and it is often packed in Arvind’s lunch box, I pack for myself too and keep it on the dining table so I don’t forget in between my writing work. We always have it with soft boiled eggs but feel free to serve some chicken nuggets or sautéed shrimps with it. Sometimes I add cubes of paneer to the pasta dish and it becomes a complete one pot meal.
Coconut oil is one of the healthiest dietary fats that has been used for skin care, hair care and for making many types of medicated salves, creams and lotions apart from cooking. All over in the coastal India and other south-east Asian countries, coconut has been the preferred cooking medium for everyday food. Other parts of India rarely used coconut oil as a cooking medium but it was used extensively for the everyday skin and hair care regime, the rich content of Lauric acid in coconut oil helps fight infections and inflammations.
Unfortunately, coconut oil has been demonized for being harmful for heart health along with all the other saturated fats which is absolutely wrong, the fact well supported by modern research. All the natural saturated fats including ghee and butter are good for the body in many ways.
Coconut oil is different from other saturated fats in a way that is composed of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are metabolized differently compared to ghee or other saturated fats. MCTs readily diffuse through the intestinal membrane, reach the bloodstream and then are processed by the liver to convert into energy almost instantly, resulting into ketones rather than converting to storage fats.
Ketones are used for energy by brain, heart and muscles improving alertness and cognitive function. Ketones also help suppress the hunger hormone (ghrelin) and enhance the satiety hormone (leptin), managing your hunger patterns better in a natural way.
Coconut oil is not stored in the body as fatty tissuesbut helps burn fats better due to the way it is metabolized, making one feel more energetic along with boosting immunity, joint lubrication and limiting sugar cravings.
Coconut oil does not require bile or pancreatic enzymes for its digestion because of its unique composition, that is MCTs. Also, MCTs can pass the blood brain barrier easily and supply instant energy to the brain without being dependent on glucose, the reason why coconut oil is considered good for Alzheimer's disease and control of sugar cravings as mentioned above.
There are four types of MCTs in coconut oil, namely Caproic acid, Caprylic acid, Capric acid and Lauric acid. Together, these MCTs help increase the desired HDL cholesterol and boost immunity along with providing energy via ketones. Lauric acid, which makes up over 40% of the coconut oil fat is antibacterial, antiviral and works against many other microbial pathogens and improves gut flora as well.
Clearly, there are enough reasons to start using coconut oil in everyday foods even if you are not used to coconut oil as a cooking medium. Using it as a skin moisturizer will give you an idea of its potency, try applying a thin coat just after bath on wet skin and see how wonderfully it works. Ensure you get very good quality organic virgin coconut oil to get the benefits though.
I used to make my own coconut oil till a decade ago when my daughter had skin problems due to prolonged confinement to bed. The homemade coconut oil did wonders to her dry flaky skin and Blepharitis of the eye lashes, the reason I would make a batch of coconut oil almost every month.
Recently I had to create a few recipes using coconut oil for a high tea menu I was curating for the launch of Organic India products and I was reminded of a coconut oil chocolate ganache that I had made once with my home made coconut oil. The coconut oil recently introduced by Organic India was so good that I could use it just like my home made version.
The chocolate ganache with coconut oil was used to coat amaranth laddus, a mildly sweetened snack that everyone loved at the launch event. In fact when we made the warm dark chocolate and coconut oil ganache in the back kitchen it made a sensational round of tasting for many of us, licking the spoons and fingers even before it was coated over the amaranth laddus.
I am sharing the recipe here so that you can also recreate at home and indulge yourself. I tried it with organic cocoa powder and organic dark chocolate (52%) both so I am giving both recipes.
Ingredients 100 ml coconut oil ( I used Organic India coconut oil) 100 ml honey (I use honey from Organic India but you can use any good honey) 50 gm or 3 tbsp organic unsweetened cocoa powder
OR 100 ml coconut oil 150 gm dark chocolate (52% or around 60%)
Put all the ingredients in a glass mixing bowl and heat it over a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler you can boil water in a saucepan and use a mixing bowl large enough to sit snugly over the sauce pan so the ingredients of ganache melt slowly over the regulated heat.
Start whipping the ingredients as soon as you see the coconut oil melting, the unsweetened cocoa powder takes a little vigorous whipping to get assimilated into the ganache but once incorporated it tastes really good. It will be easier to mix if you are using dark chocolate chips or a bar broken into shards.
The ganache is ready once it looks creamy and luscious. Now coat the amaranth laddus or your favourite biscotti with this and let them cool. The rich taste of coconut enriches the dark chocolate in a very intriguing way. If you don't like coconut oil chocolate ganache it means the coconut oil you used in not good quality.
This coconut oil by Organic India is so good that I feel like going to the kitchen and eat a spoonful of pure solid coconut oil on its own right now as I type this blogpost. I never imagined I will be able to eat coconut oil like this but it has happened due the good quality coconut oil I could get.
Potato and dill salad with sesame oil and garlic can become your favourite if you like the flavour of dill. The potatoes get infused with the aroma of dill and garlic with the oil or your choice. I make this salad with sesame oil or mustard oil when we are planning to eat it cold and in butter when we have to have it hot or warm. Dill and garlic both combine really well despite seemingly opposite set of tasting notes, potatoes actually help to bring together the sharpness of raw garlic and the sweetness of dill.
Very few people don't like dill but when mixed with fenugreek leaves it gets a more complex flavour and it becomes acceptable even for the dill haters. Do try dill and fenugreek leaves together sometime, it is a popular combination of herbs in UP.
Potatoes are considered bad for the weight watchers due to the carbohydrates they pack in but many of us forget that potatoes have resistant starch and quite low glycemic too. Apart from this, potatoes pack in a helpful amount of potasium, helpful for hypertensive folks.
I avoid potatoes during summer months because they taste horribly sweet and have no texture but the winter potatoes (new potatoes) are a delight to cook with. Since the husband loves potatoes I make it a point to get a big sack of potatoes from our weekly vegetable market. These days I have been making a lot of potato salads for his lunch box as there are other winter vegetables to add to the potato salad. His most favourite is Italian potato and beans salad that I now cook a bit differently and the potato and dill salad comes quite close.
Since I have to cook for the lunch box in the morning and I am not a morning person, I have found really quick ways to fix these salads for him, often using pressure cooker.
ingredients (2-4 salad portions) 2 large new potatoes (about 400 gm), use baby potatoes if you like 1 bunch of dill leaves (1.5 cup chopped) 1 tbsp chopped garlic salt to taste pepper to taste 2 tbsp sesame oil (cold pressed, unrefined) I used sesame oil from Organic India
Scrape the potatoes if needed, I like keeping the skin on if the skin is unblemished.
Cut the potatoes in bite size cubes. halve the baby potatoes if using those. Rinse and transfer to a pressure cooker pan, add salt to taste and 1/4 cup of water.
Close the lid and pressure cook till the first whistle blows. Lower the heat, wait for 2-3 minutes and switch off the gas. let it cool so it can open on it's own.
Clean and rinse the dill leaves in the meanwhile. Chop them fine on a chopping board by holding the bundle tight with one hand. I get the vegetables and greens chopped by my help so it gets easier for me in the morning.
Once the cooker is cool, open the lid and drain the leftover water holding the lid loosely as you tilt the cooker over sink. Making things quicker means you have to let go of the strainer and perfect drainage of water, don't worry if some starchy water is left in the cooker. It helps.
Now pour the sesame oil in the cooker with potatoes which is still hot. Dump the garlic and dill leaves, adjust salt and add pepper too. Toss to mix over high heat, let it sizzle just for two minutes as you feel the aroma filling the entire home. Switch off the gas and keep the lid closed for a while. Pack in lunch box or serve hot or cold as required.
Note that dill leaves are also a good source of potassium apart from other minerals and antioxidants so this salad makes a good meal for those who are trying to lower their blood pressure.
Pasta meals are one of the many ways I like my one pot meals. There is a certain comfort in such warm meals packed with season's bounty, the fresh vegetables. The best thing is that one can add whatever vegetables one likes in a pasta dish, adding chicken shreds, shrimps or even boiled eggs to balance it.
Boiled eggs are the most common accompaniment to our pasta meals these days as elaborate prep work has not been possible for a long time. I have been busy with work and other stupid things that I do and have resorted to quick meals most of the times. Pasta comes handy even for the lunch boxes sometimes.
Let me tell you how to make this pasta with aubergines, mushrooms, tomatoes and kale. You need two pans on the gas stove and it will be ready in about 15-20 minutes. I keep chopping the vegetables as I toss them one by one into the pan to save time.
ingredients (2 servings)
2-3 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp minced garlic 1 tsp red chili flakes 1 tsp dry thyme (and or other herbs you like) 100-120 gms of elbow pasta or penne one large round aubergine or brinjal (about 300 gm) 150 gm button mushrooms one large ripe tomato (juicier the better) 1 cup shredded kale (or any other leafy greens) 1 tbsp chopped garlic chives few basil leaves torn salt to taste (separately for boiling pasta and for sauteing vegetables) Parmesan cheese to taste
Boil one liter of water with salt and dump the pasta in it. Cook till the pasta is done to your liking. Do not overcook pasta as it looses all texture and doesn't pick up the flavours of the vegetables and seasoning.
Quarter the aubergine lengthwise and slice into thick bite size pieces.
Pour half of the oil and add half of the garlic into a wide pan. Place it on the gas stove now and arrange all the aubergine slices in one layer, sprinkle salt. Let it cook till lightly browned on one side and then turn, cook on the other side too, empty into a bowl. It takes about 5 minutes so dice the mushrooms in the meantime.
Pour the remaining oil and and the garlic. Add the diced mushrooms, salt and toss. Add the chili flakes and toss for just two minutes so the mushrooms are just softened and not overcooked. Dice the tomato and add, dump all the cooked aubergine and toss everything together.
The pasta should be done by now, strain it reserving 3-4 tbsp of the boiling water and dump all the pasta into the vegetables mix. add the chopped kale and chives and give it all a good toss.
Serve with shaved Parmesan and an extra drizzle of herb infused olive oil if you like.
The above recipe can be just one serving for some people but it has been quite filling for both of us every time. We do have boiled eggs with it when we are hungry or load it up with some chicken breast too, sauteed separately. Aubergine and mushrooms work really well together so try this combination and do let me know. Use spinach or fenugreek leaves if you don't have kale, rocket works too.
I have not been sharing recipes lately due to sheer laziness or hectic work schedules but I will be back with more recipes that have worked for me in such busy and lazy times. There are a few pressure cooker pasta recipes to be shared as well, been relying on them a lot. Cheers.
I was asked to write a story for a food magazine, sharing my collection of mortars and pestles and as I started bringing them out one by one to style and photograph, I was reminded of this smoked or grilled tomatoes and avocado mash that I make whenever I get a few fully ripe avocados, using a mortar and pestle of course.
I would admit that I rarely get such nice avocados in Delhi, the last I ate great avocados was when I brought a few from Kodaikanal hills where I had gone for a work assignment with a health resort coming up in a coffee estate. They grow peppers and avocados along with many local fruits as mixed farming practice in their organic coffee estate.
This smoked tomatoes and avocado mash is the best thing you can do to your avocados, I find it better than the guacamole, or may be it is my love for baingan ka chokha speaking. Similar textures, similar seasoning but a very different taste that makes this mash a favourite of mine.
Ingredients (2 servings)
One medium sized ripe avocado 2 large ripe tomatoes 4 cloves of garlic peeled and minced 2 hot green chilies minced ½ inch ginger minced (or 2 tsp ginger juice) 2-3 tbsp finely minced coriander greens Salt to taste 1 tbsp cold pressed mustard oil (use extra virgin olive oil as a substitute) Lime juice to balance if the tomatoes are not tart enough chopped spring onions for garnish
Grill the tomatoes over gas flame or barbecue grill till the skin is charred and pulp soft. Peel the skin off and chop the tomatoes roughly.
Cut into half, remove the pit and empty the pulp of avocado in a mixing bowl or wide mortar. Add the chopped smoked tomatoes and all the other ingredients and blend with a wooden pestle or a sturdy fork.
Serve cold or chilled as a dip or mash. We love this mash as a spread for our multigrain pita sandwich or as a dip for our bajra roti too.
Try this smoked tomato and avocado mash sometime with bajra roti, you can come back and thank me right here. You can serve another dip made of hung yogurt and grated cucumber seasoned with roasted cumin and red chili and see how everyone starts asking for more.
Fresh corn on the cob is a seasonal pleasure that we associate with the monsoons in India, this makai ka kees is made with the tender fresh corn which is in season right now.
If you haven’t had the boiled corn on the cob and grilled corn on the cob in north India you are missing something and you must make amends whenever you get an opportunity. The best street foods are the ones that come fresh off a cart and use fresh produce of the season, fresh corn gives ample variety to street foods in north India during monsoons.
The local varieties of corn are flavourful and can be used in many ways, the tender and the mature corn are used differently for different recipes to make the best of the fresh produce of the season. We make boiled corn on the cob, corn fritters, corn idli, corn dhokla and even corn pancakes and breakfast cereal made with fresh corn. The fresh corn polenta is a quick recipe that I like a lot.
One of the savoury breakfast cereals made with fresh corn is makai ka kees which is like the South Indian upma in consistency, the taste is incredibly refreshing and quite different from any other Indian breakfasts. Makai ka kees is from Madhya Pradesh where it is also called as makai ke kan (fresh corn grits) or makai ka upma by some people. Makai ka kees literally translates to grated fresh corn, which is cooked with a light spicing and some milk to get a creamy yet light texture.
Every family has a slightly different recipe of makai ka kees, this recipe comes from a friend who used to cook at her home whenever she could find fresh corn. Her recipe has been adapted to suit our taste since the last decade I have been making this. You can also make minor changes to suit your taste, I am sure you will be hooked to the recipe if you like fresh corn.
Ingredients (2 servings) 2 fresh corns on the cob (preferably tender but you can use a little mature corn as well) 1 tbsp ghee Pinch of asafoetida (hing) ½ tsp cumin seeds 2 green chilies chopped fine (or to taste) 2 tsp grated ginger ¼ tsp turmeric powder Salt and pepper to taste ¼ cup milk or coconut milk (more if the corn is mature) 2-3 tbsp freshly grated coconut Lime juice to taste Chopped coriander leaves for garnish
Remove the corns from the cob using your fingers of scrape them off using a paring knife. You can use a box grater to scrape the corn from the cob, that is how it is supposed to be done in the traditional recipe. I like to keep the corn kernels separated in my fridge so the breakfast is quick to assemble. The separated corn kernels keep well for 3-4 days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
I keep some fresh coconut wedges in the fridge too mostly, it is easy to take out one wedge and grate over some food whenever needed or make a quick coconut chutney whenever required. You can use coconut flakes or shavings if you wish, after soaking them in warm water for a couple of minutes.
Pulse the corn kernels in mixie or food processor to make a really coarse paste. You don’t need to use the food processor if you scrape the corn using a box grater.
Heat the ghee, tip in the asafoetida, cumin, green chilies and ginger in that order, wait till everything sizzles and gets aromatic. Add the turmeric powder and mix well, then add the corn paste immediately along with salt and pepper and start mixing it quickly.
Once the corn paste gets sticky after partial cooking, you can start adding the milk slowly, 1 tbsp at a time so it soaks up while it cooks for a couple of minutes.
Add half of the coriander leaves and grated coconut to the cooking makai ka kees, pour the remaining milk, mix well, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. The cooking time and the quantity of milk added will depend on how tender or mature the corn is. So watch out this step and adjust seasoning and consistency accordingly.
Once cooked to a thick halwa consistency, the makai ka kees is ready. Serve hot, garnished with the remaining coriander leaves and coconut shavings.
Serve with a slice of lime so one can squeeze if required. I don’t need lime juice mostly but the husband loves a generous dash of lime juice on makai ka kees.
Makai ka kees is actually an Indian version of the fresh corn polenta or fresh corn porridge made in some other countries. Every agrarian society that grows corn has made use of pulverised fresh corn in some way or the other. Makai ka kees or makai ke kan is one of the recipes cooked in central India.
Pasta in pressure cooker and that too using loads of local and seasonal vegetables.
Wouldn’t that taste like a subzi?
This was a question sent to me privately when I posted a picture of my pressure cooker pasta on Instagram. There were concerns of the pasta getting over cooked or being lost in the overload of vegetables etc but the most worrisome thought was whether it will taste like an Indian curry if we use local vegetables.
I started making this one pot pressure cooker pasta just for convenience earlier as I am not a morning person and cooking a proper delicious lunch box felt too much of work in the beginning when he needed to carry a lunch box after his transfer, I noticed the pressure cooker pasta is much more suited for a lunch box meal regarding taste and texture as well.
The pressure cooker pasta absorbs all the flavours of the sauce or seasonings it is cooked in and the texture remains soft and yet retains a bite even when the pasta gets cold. They have reheating facility but he often forgets that, the lunch box contents have to be suited for room temperature consumption I figured.
While I use the herbs growing in my garden mostly for flavour, the vegetables are always seasonal and I never shy away from using the local varieties too. While pumpkin, aubergines, mushrooms and of course tomatoes are used freely along with zucchini, cauliflowers, broccoli etc, I have used kundru (Ivy gourd) too quite often and have loved the result.
But I found the recipes so simple and downmarket (a lazy woman’s short cut) that I never thought of sharing the recipe here on the blog. But when this Instagram post generated so much interest I thought of sharing the recipe of pressure cooker pasta as I understand it is a useful recipe that helps one eat healthy everyday meals.
Eating healthy meals everyday is the motto of this blog as you know.
Ingredients (2 servings) 200 gm ivy gourds (kundru or tendli) 1 summer carrot 100 gm piece of yellow pumpkin 5 cloves of garlic finely chopped ¼ cup of tomato concasse or marinara sauce (homemade) ¼ tsp red chili flakes and little paprika if you wish Salt to taste 100 gm tubular pasta of choice (macaroni works better as it doesn’t break when you stir or scoop the pasta really hot after pressure cooking) 120 ml chicken stock or water 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or a little more if you wish 00 Procedure
Chop all vegetables in small bits. Note that chopping is the key to the saucy pasta dish in case of pressure cooked pasta.
Pour extra virgin olive oil in a 2 or 3 litre pressure cooker pan and add the garlic to it. Now place the pan over gas flame and let the garlic sizzle lightly for a second. Add all the chopped vegetables together and stir to mix. Add salt, chili flakes and paprika if using and keep tossing or stirring for 3-5 minutes till the vegetables look glazed.
Add the tomato concasse, stir to mix. Add the uncooked pasta and the chicken stock (or water), mix well and push all the pasta down to stay partially submerged in the vegetables and stock to allow even cooking of pasta while under pressure.
Cover the lid and cook on high flame till 3 whistles are blown in quick succession. Switch off the gas and let the pressure subside on its own. Once the pressure cooker cools down you can open the lid and serve the pasta right away or pack in lunch boxes.
I prefer serving this pasta with either boiled eggs or shredded boiled chicken or frozen home made meatballs to make this a complete meal. Boiled eggs are much more convenient for lunch boxes though. I wouldn’t mind paneer or textured soy chunks as a vegetarian option.
If you wish to cook the eggs in the same pressure cooker as I shared in the Instagram post, just use the spatula to push aside all the pasta to empty space at the base of the pressure cooker and break eggs in that space. Cover and cook for a a couple of minutes or till you get the desired consistency of yolks.
Do let me know whenever you try the pressure cooker pasta recipe.
Note that the amount of chicken stock or water used here is just right to pressure cook the pasta to the right degree of al dente that we prefer. If you increase the cooking time the pasta can get over cooked and if you increase the water content the pasta will have some liquid at the bottom that you can reduce by cooking it on high flame for a minute. The water content of the vegetables also helps in cooking the pasta while under pressure and if your vegetables are really fresh you might need just a 100 ml water for this recipe.
Don’t worry too much about the water content for this pressure cooker pasta recipe and get cooking in your own kitchen to see how saucy you like your pasta and adjust this recipe accordingly. Cheers.
Ridge gourds are strange vegetable for some. Having a tough skin with hard ridges doesn't get you a good reputation but if you have eaten this summer gourd from Indian subcontinent you would love the subtle taste it has.
I had planted a few sapling this year but couldn't grow them well for some reason.
All fresh produce taste the best when they are harvested fresh. If the produce is grown organically it adds to the nutrient profile as well as the flavour. Simple ingredients can make wonderful meals if the produce is good and the cooking is skillful.
The skill in the cooking process is not to be confused by the intricacy and the complexity of a recipe but the knack of combining flavours, knowing how long an ingredients takes to cook so the flavour is not killed in the process. Those who love good food and great flavours, are generally great cooks themselves as they really understand the end product of the cooking process.
Cooking is a life skill indeed. Simpler recipes are life savers.
This ridge gourd curry I learnt at the Kairali (a healing resort) and found it so flavourful and simple that I decided to share it with all of you.
Cooked in coconut oil, this curry was so light and flavourful one can eat it as is. Here are the few ingredients needed for cooking this curry.
ingredients (for 2 servings) 2 large ridge gourd peeled and diced (about 300 gm) 1 large tomato diced 3 tbsp freshly scraped coconut salt to taste
for tempering 1 tbsp coconut oil pinch of asafoetida 1/4 tsp mustard seeds 1/4 tsp cumin seeds 1/4 tsp dry urad dal 1/4 tsp dry chana dal 2 springs of curry leaves 2 whole dry red chilies 3 cloves of garlic chopped 1 onion diced (about 60-70 gm) 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Heat the oil in a pan and add the tempering ingredients in that order, one after the other, stirring gently. Cook till everything is aromatic and the onions are translucent.
Add the ridge gourds and tomatoes, mix everything and cook covered for 5 minutes. Note that it is not to be cooked till completely mushy.
Add the coconut, mix and it is ready to serve.
Serve it with roti and dal or rice and sambar or dal or whatever way you like.
This ridge gourd curry is rich in flavour and has a prominent coconut taste which feels refreshing.
I made it a few times and found it great even when cooked like a stew with added water. This is one of those traditional recipes that confirm to the principles of Ayurveda.
Food is medicine. To understand this dictum well one needs a better understanding of food, where it comes from and how it is cooked, and why the food is considered as a blessing of God in our cultures as well.
It is a blessing to be able to get one's food growing in the vicinity. Growing even small pots of herbs and greens makes one aware how much more flavour and nourishment we get from organically grown fresh harvest. So if one gets an opportunity to learn more about healing through food it is not to be missed.
Earlier this month I made a trip to Kerala, the most verdant state in south India, to get acquainted with the ways of healing through the ancient science of Ayurveda.
Kairali, the well known Ayurveda wellness group has constructed a healing village and spa resort in Palakkad district of Kerala and I was expecting a good experience through the 3 day Chefs retreat they were hosting.
The Kairali spa and resort is the vision of Mrs. Geetha Ramesh (Joint Managing Director, Kairali Group) who is an Ayurveda doctor, a biochemist and hails from a family of traditional Vaidyas. Along with her husband Mr. K. V. Ramesh and her son Abhilash K. Ramesh, she has created a center of healing that attracts guests from all over the world to get treatments for conditions ranging from obesity to arthritis, skin conditions and migraine etc.
Kairali has 35 centers spread across 10 countries and also has a pharmacy unit, most of the medicines and treated oils they use for the spa and healing centers are manufactured by themselves. We visited the manufacturing unit and saw how they follow the ancient methods along with technology to manufacture the medicines and cosmetics.
The resort is constructed in accordance with nature, the landscaping is fluid with a huge variety of plants and there is a water channel that runs along cobbled paths, the residential cottages located on either side of the wavering water body. There are low bridges in some places and pink water lilies blooming in some other spots, butterflies fluttering everywhere.
In fact I followed the cobbled pathway along the water body as soon as I reached and did a complete round of the property. The birds, butterflies and other insects make for a great company and I can spend a long time in such places, especially if it is equipped with highly efficient ayurvedic treatment center and freshly made vegetarian food to heal the mind, body and soul, however cliche it sounds.
This was my cottage where I went only to sleep because there was so much to experience.
Coming back to the chef's retreat, the line up of masterclasses and experiences over 3 days left me wanting for more trust me. The theme was Healing recipes : Back to roots, and four specialist chefs from different parts of the country had come together to talk about cooking healthy food using local produce of the season, how to keep our food habits and food choices sustainable in the long term and how the traditional wisdom has all the answers.
Chef Manjit Gill talked about Drumsticks and used the drumstick pulp and leaves in his food, Chef Vikas Seth used ragi and local vegetables to create a Mexican meal, Chef Abhijit Saha talked about micro-greens and super foods and Chef Arun T.K. used all parts of a banana plant to cook several dishes ranging from pancakes, spiced buttermilk, curry and chutney. These interactive masterclasses were great opportunities to learn and exchange ideas.
Later Mrs. Geetha Ramesh conducted a masterclass and talked about healing properties of food, how the ingredients should be combined and cooked for optimal nutrition. Later I talked to her about balancing the recipes according to the three doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) and she shared her wisdom generously. I will keep sharing those nuggets with you all here in future too.
Apart from these masterclasses we attended a session on the basic principles of Ayurveda conducted by Dr. Sarvan. I had many questions to ask and I learnt how Kerala has so many local elements of Ayurveda being followed in everyday life. This particular region is a biodiversity hotspot and so many local herbs are employed for treatment of acute and chronic ailments, no wonder the Ramesh's are the 7th generation of Vaidyas in this Ayurveda heaven of sorts.
The treatment area of Kairali is like a sanctuary within a sanctuary and the Abhyangam and Elakizhi treatments I got, felt so good for my body. All the treated oils are made in-house and the masseurs are trained perfectly, one washes off all the oil with lentil powders which leaves the skin feeling supple and energized.
Kairali is almost self sustainable as it has farms and plantations, all organic and natural. I got to know they compost all their kitchen waste and since they don't use refrigeration and all food is cooked freshly, there is minimal plastic usage too. I didn't see any plastic at least and mighty glad about it.
We were served breakfast in the midst of the farm after a leisurely morning walk through the farm and orchard, there is a natural stream that flows along the boundary too by the way, indicating how blessed this property is.
The idiappams and stew, a delicious upma, the juices and fruits served at this breakfast were just a glimpse of what is served at the dining tables for guests as well. Farm to fork is a way of life there.
In fact I need several blogposts to write about the food and recipes I learnt there. We had an elaborate Sadya meal served one afternoon and a homely frugal meal served at the staff canteen another day and each time the taste was reflective of the fresh produce and skillful cooking.
The tea time snacks were always something steamed, light and extremely tasty. Steamed rice cakes and feather light poha one day and steamed rice balls with coconut the other day, the confereence food could be so healthy one has to experience at Kairali indeed.
The food speaks loud about the fact that nothing is refrigerated in Kairali kitchen and everything is cooked fresh. Some unforgettable flavours of avial, mor curry and matta rice will linger on.
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