TENDER COCONUT WATER – NATURAL NECTAR

Anything that is natural is far superior to something that is man made. Tender Coconut water is nature’s gift to us. It is pure, infection free, nutritious and a wonderful coolant in reducing body temperature and fighting heat related ailments.The health benefits it offers are amazing since it is rich in vitamins and minerals.

On the health front tender coconut water is good for :
Keeping the body cool
Getting rid of intestinal worms
Keeping urinary infections at bay
Refreshing tonic for the aged [ under doctor’s advice]
Electrolyte content aids in quick absorption of drugs by the body
Treatment of Cholera & Diarrhea
Helps pregnant women in finding relief from constipation and heart burn
Excellent for the skin – for intake as well as external application.
Helps malnourished children regain health.
Recommended by doctors for feeding infants to cure them of intestinal disturbances.

On the culinary front tender coconut water can be :

Best had in its original form.
Can be mixed with other fruit drinks like pineapple & orange
Can be had topped with scoops of ice cream.
The pulp of the tender coconut can be used in various recipes like puddings, salads, rice preparations, sauces & sweet dishes.

WHITE BEAN DIP

Ingredients:
Curry Powder – 0.5 teaspoon
Olive Oil – 1 Tablespoon
Sesame oil – 1 teaspoon
Red Chilly Pepper Sause – 2 TableSpoon
Lime Juice – 1 cup
Garlic – 1 Clove
Water 0.25 cup
White Beans – 400 grams
Soya Sauce – 2 tablespoon

Method of Making
Mix all ingredients and blend until smooth
Serve with crackers or fried bread

AKSHAYA TRITIYA – An auspicious day lost to commercial activity

Today Akshaya Tritiya is celebrated all over India. Akshaya Tritiya, an auspicious day in the Hindu and Jain calendar, has assumed importance of unimaginable proportions in recent times for all the wrong reasons. Akshaya in Sanskrit means that which is ‘ endless’ or ‘ does not recede’ It falls on the ” third Tithi (Lunar day) of Bright Half (Shukla Paksha) of the pan-Indian month of Vaishakha”. Jains consider it very important as the day of offering of food to Jain Monks who live a selfless life as ascetics, keeping nothing for themselves, not even cooking their food and consume it only when offered by others.

For the Hindus this day has a lot of religious connotations attached to it:

Said to be the birthday of Sage Parashurama, the 6th avatar of Lord Vishnu.
It is said that Lord Ganesha began writing the Mahabharata dictated by Sage Veda Vyas on this day.
It is said that the Treta Yuga began on this day.
River Ganges, considered to be the holiest of all the rivers, is said to have descended down to the earth on this day.
Goddess Annapoorna is said to have been born on this day.
Dharma Raja’s son Yudhistra is said to have received the Akshaya Patra on this auspicious day.
Kuchela is said to have visited Lord Krishna with just a handful of ‘ Aval’ on Akshaya Tritiya day.
It was on Akshaya Tritiya day that Lord Krishna saved Draupadi’s honor by granting unending yards of fabric.
Adi Sankara is believed to have recited the Kanaka Dhara Stotra on this auspicious day to bless a poor couple who had offered him the lone gooseberry that they had when he went to seek Bikshai. At the end of the recital it is said that the poor couple were showered with golden gooseberries.

In earlier times this day was generally observed by fasting , offering poojas and giving away food and other offerings to the needy. Since it falls during the hot summer months it is considered very auspicious to offer curd rice or buttermilk to give relief to people from the harsh heat.Anything started on this day was said to prosper and grow. Many farmers still have the habit of beginning to plough the fields on this day, praying for a good harvest.

However in recent times this concept of growth and infinite theory has been used as a marketing gimmick by merchants to sell their wares and gullible people have been made to believe that any purchase done on this day is likely to multiply. Gold and silver jewelers ably supported by half baked astrologers have brain washed people into believing that buying gold on this day will ensure prosperity. Thus what was celebrated as an auspicious day of ‘doing good ‘ has now turned into one of commercial value and activity.

Jeera Kashaayam – Traditional, Magical Cure

Kashaayams are medicinal drinks that are simple to make and sensational in providing relief to minor ailments without any side effects. All that it requires is a few simple ingredients available in the kitchen. At times extra ingredients will have to be procured. But these are available in plenty in the local ‘Naattu Marundhu Kadai’ [ strores selling herbs ]

Anything from a common cold to nausea to indigestion can be cured easily by these kashaayams. These recipes are passed down in each family from one generation to another, to cure common ailments and avoid visiting the doctor unless when required.Since no sweet or additives are generally added there is a misconception that Kashaayams are always bitter and difficult to consume.

Jeera

Cumin or Jeera or jeeragam is said to be excellent for digestion and helps to flush out toxins in the body.

It is rich in iron and highly beneficial for pregnant and lactating mothers. It offers an ideal cure for morning sickness.

Jeera’s antiseptic properties helps in combatting cold and fever.

Jeera bolied in water is called Jeera water and when consumed not only refreshes the body but also helps you retain excellent skin tone since it is rich in Vitamin – E.

A mix of Jeera & and Ginger powder can cure sore throat.

A ripened banana + a teaspoon of jeera + followed by a cup of jeera water is said to help people suffering from insomnia.

Ingredients:

Jeera – 2 tsps

Water – 2 cups

Jaggery or palm sugar [ optional] – as per taste

Ginger powder [ optional] – as per taste

Method:

In a kadai dry roast jeera in medium flame. It should not get blackened. So take care to see that it is evenly roasted. A nice aroma and spluttering of the jeera are indicative of this. Add water to this and let it boil for a few minutes till the liquid reduces to half a cup.

Strain and consume it when it is lukewarm.

Tips:
For those who don’t find this palatable add a little bit of jaggery or panangkalkandu or any other sweetening agent while you boil the water.
On a daily basis you can boil water with a little bit of jeera and drink this in lieu of ordinary water. This has tremendous health benefits.

Tips to Tackle Tight Spots

Simple ingredients in your kitchen that can be used to make life easy.

Having ants all over your kitchen? Keep the peel of cucumbers wherever you see them. Ants do not like them and will disappear.

To get clean and clear ice boil the water before freezing.

To make your mirrors shine clean them with spirit or wipe them clean with tea decoction.

Sat on a chewing gum by mistake and stuck with it? Keep the fabric inside the freezer for a few minutes and pull it out.

Soaking white clothes in a bucket of hot water with a some lime slices for about half an hour will help in making them sparkling white.

Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the last rinse to make hair shiny.

Chew gum while chopping onions to avoid tears.

While cooking cabbage the smell that emanates puts off a lot of people. Drop a piece of bread into the pan and the smell will disappear.

Sprinkle black pepper in places frequented by rats and you will see the last of them.

To remove ink stains rub the affected part with a generous dose of toothpaste and let it dry fully. Then wash thoroughly.

To peal the skin off sweet potatoes in a jiffy soak in cold water after boiling.

Eeya Sombu Rasam

One of the famous dishes in Tamil Brahmin’s home of yesteryears was the ‘Eeya Sombu Rasam’. Sombu means vessel and Eeyam is a metal coating. So it is essentially a cooking vessel with a special metal coating.

I say yesteryears because the practice of making rasam in an Eeya Sombu is no longer prevalent in most households, thanks to the biased approach of questioning anything ancient that has no proper explanation available! Sad indeed! Because this is one dish that is so tasty that it is to be devoured to be believed.

Perhaps this is one of the few dishes where the vessel used in cooking lends its name to the dish. There is nothing special about the making of this rasam – ingredient or method wise. In fact any type of rasam can be made in an Eeya Sombu. It is the metal components of the vessel itself that enhances the taste and attributes a unique flavor to this dish.

‘Eeyam Poosardhu’ in tamil or ‘ Application of Eeyam – a metal Coating’ when literally translated was a well known process in olden days when copper vessels used to be coated with Eeyam. This was done by street vendors who made a living out of this, who used to call out loudly as they passed from one street to another. With the advent of stainless steel vessels and modern cooking applications this tribe slowly disappeared. Every household used to be in possession of at least a couple of Eeya Sombu which was passed down to the next generation almost like a heirloom. And every brahmin household would have a story or two about a Sombu that disappeared after it was left forgotten on the stove and landed up as a molten coating on the burner. Yes….this vessel was notorious for its low melting point and hence was at the receiving end of absent minded homemakers.

Now what exactly is an Eeya Sombu about which so much is spoken about? And what makes the rasam so divine and delicious? This is a raging controversy that has still not been put to rest. The alarm raised by one set of believers that Eeya Sombu was essentially made out of Lead and hence would lead to Led Poisoning raised all hell and made many to discontinue cooking in it. That however is not true.
Eeya Sombu is actually made of an alloy of tin and other metals and NOT Lead as is wont to be believed by a few. Lead is referred to as Kaareeyam and Tin as Velleeyam. Eeya Sombu is made of the latter. This is amply evident by the fact that our older generations had consumed this rasam for several years and remained healthy for long. Had it been a case of Led Poisoning this certainly would not have been possible.So if anything it is only said to provide health benefits, when consumed in the right quantity, that help the neuro responses of the human brain.

Of course one has to guard against spurious manufacturers and buy it from authentic places. Because an Eeya Sombu that weighs approximately 500gms costs close to Rs.1300/- . Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu is said to be famous for these Sombus. For those who have had Eeya Sombu Rasam any other would never be palatable. Even in weddings caterers are known to drop a small Eeya Sombu into the rasam [ since it is not practically possible to get such a huge Sombu ] after it is prepared to lend that extra flavor. If some of you are still in doubt about using a sombu, you can prepare the rasam and then transfer it on to an Eeya Sombu and then serve.

Remember…..
While using Eeya Sombu one has to ensure that there is enough liquid in the vessel.
Always cook in low flame.
Never move too far away from the kitchen when the rasam is being made. For if you do, you may neither find the rasam nor the sombu.

Chakka Varatti or Jack Fruit Jam

Jack fruit is an excellent source of vitamins and potassium and has good health benefits. Each piece of the fruit or ‘cholai’ as it is referred to is of a beautiful yellow color and can be eaten plain or soaked in honey.The fruit gives out a strong aroma which is not liked by a few. On the contrary the very mention of the fruit and the smell can be so intoxicating, as to tempt you to wards non-stop consumption of the fruit. This jam or Chakka Varatti that is made out of ripened jack fruit forms the core ingredient in making delicious jack fruit based dishes like Elai Adai and Chakka Pradaman [ Payasam]. Refer earlier posts for these recipes.

Ingredients
Ripe Jackfruit Cholais [deseeded & cleaned] – 4 cups
Powdered Jaggery – 2 cups
Ghee – 1 cup
Water – as required

Optional
Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
Dried ginger powder a pinch

Method:

Pressure cook the jackfruit with just enough water till they are tender and soft. 3 – 4 whistles should do.

Cool and mash well. Grind to a smooth paste in a blender.

Melt jaggery with just enough water and strain.

Take a heavy bottomed kadai and pour the melted jaggery into it. Let it come to a boil.

Reduce heat completely and slowly add the jack fruit paste, stirring all the time.

Mix thoroughly and add ghee little by little. The mix should come together to form a thick paste, that is dark brown in color.

It is ready when most the moisture is absorbed and it gets a jam like consistency.

Remove and cool. Store in clean dry, air tight containers and refrigerate. Use when required but ensure that you use a dry spoon at all times.

Tips:

Continuous stirring is required during the making of the jam. The mix is likely to splutter out of the container. Hence ensure your hands are protected from getting bunrt by the hot paste.

The jam makes an excellent side dish for Rotis and Bread varieties.

Add dry ginger powder and cardamom only if required. Some prefer to retain the original flavor.