Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Turmeric Milk - Truly A Golden Beverage

Much has been said about the benefits of drinking turmeric milk - or 'Golden Milk' as it is fondly called by the Orientals. It has been advocated by several schools of native medicine, including Ayurveda. A simple Web search on 'turmeric milk' will tell you about benefits ranging from decongestion to weight loss, so I am not going to delve into that much in this post.

Instead, I want to share with you an authentic method of preparing it, which I zeroed in on after trying several recipes advised by Ayurvedic doctors, and found in many books.

1. Take an inch-long stick of turmeric. Remember that turmeric powder is never as effective as crushed turmeric sticks, because the chances of contamination in the powder are high, plus its efficacy is also bound to reduce during the heat-generating grinding process. So, take a stick of turmeric (the variety used in cooking; varali manjal in Thamizh) and crush it coarsely using a mortar and pestle.

2. Crush a few peppercorns too. The white variety is better.

3. Mix a cup of water with a cup of milk, add the crushed turmeric and pepper and bring to a boil.

4. Simmer for 20 minutes. By this time, the milk will reduce to a cup. This is the reason why I suggest you begin with a mixture of milk and water; else you will end up with a very thick, kheer-like drink that won't be as soothing.

5. Remove from the stove, filter, add a spoonful of honey or palm sugar, and enjoy the drink warm.

6. If you are taking this to relieve a sore throat, add 1/2 teaspoon of ghee to the hot turmeric milk before drinking it. The ghee will melt and coat your throat, relieving you of cough as well.

Note: The most important part is to sit and relax with this cuppa for a few minutes, relishing its soothing flavour and rustic aroma! This will enhance the feel-good factor.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fresh homemade herbal teas beat costly 'dip' bags handsdown!

If you like black, green or basically no-milk teas, then you will like herbal decoctions as well. I have experimented with a lot of spices and herbs, ranging from cinnamon and fenugreek to tulsi and oregano and realized that all of them taste fab. On days when you are free, you can try mixing and matching the ingredients, else make these 'teas' with just one or two herbs or spices.

  1. Take a teaspoon of whatever spice reflects your mood on that day, say fenugreek, cumin, pepper, coriander seeds, dried chamomile flowers or liquorice (adhimadhuram), fresh mint, tulsi or oregano, crushed turmeric or ginger.
  2. Add it to a cup of water, bring to a boil, switch off the stove.
  3. Close the vessel and let it infuse for a few minutes.
  4. Filter the tea, dilute it if you like it light, or have it as such with a spoonful of honey, palm sugar or palm jaggery (karupatti).
Honey combines beautifully with most herbs and spices. A dash of lemon also goes well with most of these teas, so feel free to add half a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice per cup of tea.

I would suggest you keep changing the spice or herb everyday so that you get the balanced benefits of all these. Each of these ingredients has some medicinal value, which is good in moderation. But, as we know, too much of even a good thing might be harmful.

However, if you keep changing your herbal teas everyday, then you are sure to enjoy the variety not just in the flavour and aroma, but in the health benefits too!


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Millet(s) Idli

Millets are getting their much deserved attention - at last. Everybody is talking about them. Honestly, we have been using millets for a long time now, and I personally find a significant difference in energy levels, resistance and general well-being. Anyway, I realised that idlis and dosas are a great way to sneak these super grains into our diet - especially in a form acceptable to kids.

Basically, you make the batter much the same way as for normal idlis but use the following proportions:

1 cup urad (ulundu/ black gram)
4 cups millets (any of them - pearl millet, little millet, kodo millet, foxtail millets, or a mix of these)
1/4 cup poha (aval/ beaten rice flakes)
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds

1. Clean all the ingredients separately. Soak the urad and fenugreek together in a vessel. Soak the millets and poha together in another. Let them soak for at least four hours.

2. Drain the urad and retain the water for grinding.

3. Grind the urad adding water little by little till it is soft and fluffy. (Use the soaking water.) To check if the urad batter is done, drop a blob in a cup of water. If it floats up, the batter is ready.

4. Grind the millets and poha adding water slowly. You will find that this does not take as much water as rice would, when making traditional rice-based batter. So, be careful when adding water. Add little at a time.

5.  Mix the two batters well, adding a little salt too.

6. Allow to ferment till the batter rises well.

You will see that millet-based batters rise faster than the traditional batter. Mine usually rises within four hours. Use it as soon as it is done rising, or stow it into the fridge. Don't let it sit outside for too long, as it might get sour. Perhaps because millets are less processed than rice, and are therefore richer in nutrients and enzymes, the fermentation activity is very fast in them. If the batter gets sour, your idlis won't turn out well, but your dosas will be crispy and great. But, if you use the batter at just the right time, you will end up with amazing idlis that are even softer than the traditional ones. Don't mind the colour though - they won't be as white as traditional idlis.

Let me tell you another traditional trade secret, which most people don't follow these days when making idlis. Whether you make traditional batter or a millet-based one, never mix the fermented batter. Keep using the fluffy portions from the top to make idlis. And once you reach a layer of water, mix well and use the remaining batter to make dosas, uttapams or appam. The idlis made with the light and fluffy top batter will be super-duper soft! Try it to believe it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Read to your kids!

My 3-yr old son, Tejas, is getting more and more fascinated with books - he loves to hear me read out stories from children's magazines and books. He can listen as long as I can read - and it is probably the only activity that can engage him for longer than, ahem, five minutes!

As he listens to more and more stories, it is amazing how his mind starts to bubble - perhaps with imaginary visuals of all that he hears. (I wish there was a monitor that could show how a child pictures the many scenes he listens about.) He asks questions aplenty, and gets into moods suiting the story. Eventually, within hours, the characters in the story come to life!

Tejas often comes and tells me things like:

"Amma, Santa Claus is sitting and playing with my toys in the room; I didn't disturb him as I want him to believe I'm a good boy!"

"Amma, the dog on the streets is troubling people a lot." Then, he picks up the phone and talks, "Little Krishna, please come and help us - a dog is troubling everybody. Dance on his head and throw him out!"

"Amma, I just saw a giant in the terrace; I am going to bundle him in a sack and throw him into the sky!"

While it evokes peals of laughter in me, after a while it registers as to what a great impact these stories are having on the kid - it is such a wonderful medium to teach life lessons - small and large. No wonder the moral tales such as Panchatantra, Jataka Tales and Aesop's Fables have remained popular since time immemorial.

Incidentally, a parent raised this point during the monthly meeting with Tejas' kindergarten teacher who said it is a common characteristic of KG children. She also mentioned that while narrating stories, we should try not to put a full-stop to it. Instead, narrate the story as just one incident in the life of the characters, so that the child is free to imagine what might have happened to them later and build on the plot.

However, she also warned that sometimes this imagination can be hard to swallow. For example, when a child gets hurt and you ask how it happened, she might give a dozen imaginary explanations: "A giant came behind me. I ran, he followed, I tripped on a stone and fell" or "I was climbing a mountain, and I slipped and fell down" or something like that, so much so that it is very difficult to get anywhere close to the real reason!

All said, if we can kindle a child's imagination with stories and other methods, it is probably the best give we can give him/her for the future!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Tam-Brahm Tomato Rice

There is a standard version of tomato rice, with onion, ginger, green chillies, spices, etc., which almost everybody makes. Here is a version followed by some communities in South India. It is delectable and spicy, and lasts much longer--so you can even pack it for a trip. Plus, it is sans onion and garlic, so OK on puja days as well.

Here is how to make it.


For tempering:
Til oil - 3 - 4 tbsp
Mustard - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Red chillies - 2
Asafoetida - 1/2 tsp

Fry in oil and powder coarsely:
Chana dal - 2 tbsp
Dhania (coriander) seeds - 3 tbsp
Red chillies - 4-6, according to taste

Other ingredients: 
Raw rice - 1 cup (clean and pressure cook it with three cups of water)
Curry leaves - a few sprigs, for garnishing
Salt, to taste


1. Clean and cook the rice, allow it to cool.
2. Fry the above-mentioned ingredients and powder coarsely - this is a standard 'masala' in Tamilian cooking, and can be used in curries, for making sambhar, etc.
3. Heat a little oil, add the mustard. Once it splatters, add all the remaining tempering ingredients, and roast till the dals are golden brown in colour.
4. Add the rice, salt and the powdered masala. Mix well with the tempering and remove from fire.
5. Add a little more til oil if the rice appears too dry. Garnish with curry leaves and serve warm.

This goes well with vadam or appalam and raita.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Interesting Electronics Learning Tool


I find this new electronics learning tool called littleBits quite interesting. It is for electronics what Lego is to mechanics... building blocks representing various electronics components that can be put together and pulled apart very easily. The components stick to the circuit board using little magnets, and so there is no pasting or soldering involved. Little kids can use littleBits to add lights and fans to their model houses, older ones can use the kit to understand how various gadgets work, while others can even use it to prototype their ideas.

You can call it a toy, or an innovation tool, depending on how you use it. In either case, it is quite interesting. They're on a small scale now, but hopefully a recent collaboration with a supply chain giant will ensure that it hits the markets in a big way.

I've written more about this at electronicsforu.com

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spintronics: Moving Closer to Reality

I did a story on Spintronics as far back as December 2006… Spintronics: Keeping the Computer’s Tryst with Quantum Physics…at which point of time, it was still a big idea with little implementation! There were some prototypes from IBM and Freescale but no large-scale implementation except for the iPod’s memory.

It was therefore good to see today’s news in EFY Times about the first electronic circuit that merges traditional inorganic semiconductors with organic spintronics.

Now, I really wish to see those dot-sized memory chips and power-saving, instant-boot computers!