January, the month of new hopes and aspirations for everyone especially the backbone sector of a growing economy like India - Our Farmers. This is the celebrated month of "Pongal", other wise known as "Thai Thirunal - தை திருநாள் ".
So let us stick to some of the traditional humble recipes for this month, so it is goodbye to chocolates, cakes and cookies for now.
India is the second largest producer of medicinal herbs next to China. Don't be intimidated by the whole idea of using herbs in your daily routine. It is a very simple concept of understanding what our cuisine is about and moreover vital herbs are included in our food even without us knowing it. After all "Ayurveda" and "Siddha" has India as their birth place.
To know more about Herbalism, visit this link
To know more about Ayurveda and Siddha, visit this here and here
Tumeric was used as medicine and condiment as early as 10,000 BC and extensive research is conducted on its properties today to validate its use. This makes us wonder how did our ancestors find out about its immense use without all the modern technology, laboratory or equipment..??
OK, lets get to the subject. The use of greens in our daily menu is an age old practice. I loved them mainly because of the "Keerakaara Amma - கீரைக்கார அம்மா " who used to come everyday balancing her basket of fresh greens on her head. She had a special tone and rhyme to call out to all the potential buyers as she walked down the street.
She would persuade the womenfolk of the household to buys some fresh greens and have a small chat with them as well. Bundles of Drumstick leaves [முருங்கை இலை], Indian Pennyworth [வல்லாரை], Coriander [கொத்தமல்லி], Mint [புதினா], Curry leaves [கறிவேப்பில்லை], Spinach [பசலை], Balloon vine [முடகத்தான்], Karpooravalli [கற்பூரவள்ளி], Ponnanganni [பொன்னாங்கண்ணி], Agathi [அகத்தி] etc overflowed her basket. On special requests she used to bring Karisalankanni [கரிசலாங்கண்ணி] and Thoothuvalai [தூதுவளை] also.
Coming to think of it, we are blessed to have fresh produce brought to our doorstep and the small chat which built the platonic relationship despite the social class differences and on the whole it was an immense energy booster...:))
I surely miss the whole experience. When I found my most favourite greens in the Asian store, I was super excited. I brought 6 large bundles without any second thoughts. Only after coming home, the realisation dawned on me that all the six bundles have to be cooked. But how much thuvaiyal can you make..????
Making a podi [spicy powder] out of the leaves is the best way to keep the herb in a edible form for a long time. Here I have adapted the "Spicy Curry leaf Podi" preparation which my mom used to make and made a few changes.
Indian Penny Worth, otherwise known as Vallarai in Tamil is one such awesome herb which makes its way to our dining table ever so often. Its botanical name is Centella asiatica and the common targets are growing school going kids who are expected to fare well in exams.
It improves vigour and strength of the body, increases the receptive capacity of the brain and heightens memory power. It contains abundant vitamin B and K, calcium, zinc and magnesium
To know more about the nutritional value of this herb, please visit this here and here
Coming to the recipe, it is very simple and easy to make. This "Green Magic" is packed with iron, protein, vitamins and minerals and suitable for all age groups to enjoy. It has a slight bitter after-taste to it, so have small amounts everyday with hot rice.
Dried vallarai leaves: 2 cups [tightly packed]
Dried curry leaves : 2 cups [tightly packed]
Horsegram/Kollu: 4 tbsps.
Channa dhal: 3 tbsps.
Whole urad dhal: 3 tbsps.
Cumin:1 1/2 tbsp
Whole pepper corns: 1 tbsp.
Dried red chillies: 3-4.
Oil: 1 tbsp.
Asafoetida powder: 1/2 tsp.
Salt: to taste.
To dry the fresh leaves:
1.Wash the curry leaves and vallarai leaves thoroughly. Drain all the water and lay them in an almost single layer on a couple of newspaper sheets.
2.Let the moisture dry out. Set the oven to the lowest heat setting.
3.Transfer the leaves onto two large baking trays and place the trays in the oven.
4.Stir the leaves around every 15 minutes to make them completely dry. Depending on the amount of leaves, it will take 2-3 hours for the leaves to become crispy dry.
If you are blessed with abundant sunshine where you reside, dry the leaves on clean cloth in shade until bone dry.
For the podi:
1.In the pan, fry the pepper corns and horsegram until reddish brown.Transfer onto a plate and keep aside.
2. In the same pan, heat one tbsp of oil in a pan and fry the cumin, channa dhal, urad dhal and red chillies.
3.Once the dhal is reddish brown in colour, transfer onto a plate and keep aside.
4.Let everything cool to room temperature.
5.Grind the roasted cumin, channa dhal, urad dhal, red chillies, pepper corns and horsegram together to a fine powder. Keep aside.
6. Whiz the dried greens in the same mixer until you get a very fine powder.
7. Mix the powdered dhal, powdered dried greens, salt and asafoetida until everything is well blended.
The idea is to consume small amounts of this nourishing podi everyday to ensure that the body is supplied with the nutrients constantly. The ratio is 1 tbsp of hot rice to 1 tsp of podi with a few drops of gingelly oil for one person before lunch or dinner.
This powder should be stored in an air tight container and used when needed. It can be kept for atleast six months.
Friends, a gentle reminder... do send in your entries for "CWF-Sesame Seeds" guest hosted by me until Feb '10.
Sending this to Walk Through Memory Lane by Gayathri, Cooking Challenge - Flavors of Tamilnadu by Vidhya, New U by Vardhini, SYF&HWS - Cumin Seeds , an event by Anu guest hosted by Anusha.
Scribbled by Reva