Category Archives: Food experiences

Tea for two?

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Afternoon Tea is all about indulgence. Sipping fine tea from a bone china cup with delectable treats served on a tiered stand, simply adds to the charm.

It’s not as if, one cannot drink the same cup of tea at home, with some ordinary biscuits or a slice of cake. But there is something glitzy about sipping it in elegant surroundings replete with a piano playing in the background, divinely decadent tea selection and salmon or crust less cucumber finger sandwiches, lemon cake, scones with jam and clotted cream, laid out on a table covered with a crisp white table cloth.

While this may seem straight out of an Enid Blyton storybook, hotels and tea rooms across India, are making Afternoon Tea fashionable all over again, albeit sometimes with a twist, to suit the Indian palate

Tea has always had a lasting place in the British culture. But it was Anna, Duchess of Bedford, who created the tradition of afternoon tea in England, as she would get hungry in the long hours between breakfast and dinner. She began asking her servants to sneak in a pot of tea with some bread stuff, to ward away her hunger. Eventually, this became a daily ritual and she shared this custom with her friends. Afternoon tea soon became popular among the aristocratic class.

In India, while this custom of Afternoon Tea was somewhat retained and followed only in Eastern India, it is now being revived in other cities too. Although people are busy, Hotels and Tea rooms, are encouraging tea lovers to fuss around their evening cup and step out and take a tea break.

Afternoon tea offers guests an opportunity to reconnect over light-hearted conversations and brings respite from an otherwise hectic day at work.

Pure Assam, Darjeeling and Nilgiri, may be the teas of aficionados, but there are Infused Teas, Earl Gray, English Breakfast, Lemon, Indian Masala, Herbal Teas, Chamomile et al, catering to all palates.

Cutting chai, meri apni cutting and kadak masala chai, are offerings that provide the quintessential Indian Chai experience. Right from Sulaimani chai to Mumbai Masala Chai and the classic Portuguese Cha to the Parsi Choi, infused with mint leaves and lemongrass, with fresh ginger and cardamom, everything is served.

Teas maybe the mainstay at an Afternoon Tea, but Hotels encourage guests to embark upon a culinary journey with delicacies, which are served alongside the selection of fine teas. That enhances the tea drinking experience, apart from satiating hunger during early evening.

While some hotels prefer to stick to the quintessential English teatime pastries and savouries, others want to do away with predictable fare and offer creative interpretations. Scones, pastries, Lemon meringue, blueberry cupcakes, sandwiches, apart from local classics like Vad pav, Chaan Jor garam and kanda bhajiya are on offer.

Five star hotels are not the only place, one can relish an elaborate afternoon tea. Tea rooms, both swanky and modest, have sprung up in several cities and are hosting popular Afternoon Teas.

With Afternoon Tea enjoying a resurgence in India, one no longer needs to wait for a visit to the Ritz or Savoy, to recreate the nostalgia of childhood story books.

Cross Country Ingredients

 

 

GOJI BERRY CHICKEN CURRY with black rice pilaf and broccoli-sweet potato sabzi 0

 

Ingredients may be abundant in a region, but are often used in cuisines across several countries

Lemon grass chicken, Steamed fish with tamarind sauce and Thai basil eggplant, are the quintessential Thai dishes we are familiar with. Thai cuisine is synonymous with strong spicy and aromatic components. Yet, while one may associate basil, tamarind, lemon grass and coconut only with this cuisine, interestingly, these versatile ingredients lend themselves effortlessly to several other cuisines across the globe.

The French call it, basil herbe royal. Basil, a fragrant herb finds itself in every chef’s kitchen as it enhances a multitude of cuisines. The flavours range from mild and floral to spicy and complex from different varieties and are used across cuisines.

The aromatic Thai Basil, part of the mint family with the distinguishing flavours of licorice, anise and clove, is fairly commonplace. The herb is popular in South East Asian cuisines and is generally incorporated fresh, in dishes. Thai basil is equally flavourful when eaten raw and added to salads.

Vegetarian pot stickers are dumplings with tofu and shiitake mushrooms, tossed with galangal, coriander root, green curry, coconut milk, then steamed and pan-seared, boast of the subtle flavours of Thai basil.

But there is more to basil. The slightly sweetish basil is a part of Italian cuisine. Whether it is pesto from the Ligurian region or a Pizza from Naples, or a Tomato and basil soup, the addition of the basil leaf is a must.

Again, the bold and balanced flavours of Mediterranean cuisines are characterised by herbs such as basil. The understated, fresh aroma of basil with its intense, but light taste, is the perfect ingredient for a Tomato Dandelion Salad.

Tamarind is a popular fruit which is used in cuisines all over the world. The fruit pulp is used in drinks, snacks, sorbets and most notably, Worcestershire sauce. In Thai cooking, tamarind is used in a variety of dishes including Pad Thai.

No Indian snacks are complete without the sweet and tangy tamarind or imli chutney. Used a souring agent in Indian cuisine, tamarind is extensively a part of dals, sambhar, curries too. Some chefs even use tamarind as a marinade, as besides adding flavour, tamarind helps to tenderize the meat.

And of course tamarind is a popular choice, as a base for many a tangy-sweet refreshing drink, apart from the Thai Nam Makham.

Globally, tamarind is often made use of as an ingredient in a salad dressing. With a dash of lemon juice, brown sugar and olive oil, this can prove to be a great dressing for strongly flavoured greens with apples and cashews. Chicken wings with tamarind mango glaze is another favourite.  And of course no one goes through summer in Mexico, without sipping the refreshing Aguas Frescas.

The coastal cities in India may be using coconut in various forms daily in their cooking in curries, chutney and desserts, but certain global cuisines make use of it also.

Thai food, Sri Lankan and Caribbean cuisine, are replete with coconut. Scraped coconut makes its way into several Sri Lankan curries amidst an array of flavours that the cuisine boasts of. Mallum is made from shredded leaves (kale, mustard greens, cabbage, or others) with scraped coconut, lime juice, onion, chili, and fish. Apart from that, a coconut roti with sauce is a popular dish in Sri Lanka. And of course several Sri Lankan sweets are made with desiccated coconut.

Coconut milk is widely used in Caribbean cuisine to add volume, creamy texture and flavour to a dish. Coconut is often married with curry and such a coconut curry, served with lobster, fish or chicken are spicy and sweet is common.  From rice or Johnny cakes subtly laced with coconut milk to super sweet coco brut candy, Belizean, Creole and Garifuna cuisine often incorporates this tropical mainstay. Muffin sized coconut tarts, empanada style ‘crusts’ stuffed with shredded coconut and creamy pies, are other typical desserts made with coconut.

Coconut milk is used as a base for many Thai curries as the rich flavour cuts through the spices.  No Thai meal is complete without the classic Thai soup with coconut milk, galangal and kaffir lime. Equally important in this cuisine is the Green, red or yellow curry, abounding in coconut milk and served with steamed rice.

Bird’s eye chilli and ginger are other such ingredients which foray into kitchens across the world, to enhance the flavours of food.

A Mouthful of Southern Flavours

 

Jamavar

Kozhambus (curries), poriyals, kootus (vegetable dishes) and rice, may be the mainstay of meals in South India, but flavourful podis and chutneys, are equally an intrinsic part

A soft, fluffy idli is almost always, dipped into piping hot sambhar, but sometimes it is simply enjoyed, coated with the reddish dry gunpowder or milaga podi, to set one’s taste buds on fire. Gunpowder, is one of the most popular and commonly eaten podis in Southern India.

Bursting with varied flavours, podis and chutneys are multipurpose spice mixes that can enhance any meal. A unique culinary delight of South Indian cuisine, the Podi, a dry spice-mix, is made from a combination of lentils like chana dal, urad dal, tuvar dal, along with spices and condiments, such as sesame seed, chilies, fenugreek, curry leaves, coriander leaves, asafoetida and sometimes garlic, which are roasted and ground to make a coarse textured powder

These are usually an accompaniment to adais, idlis and dosas and often mixed with hot steamed rice and ghee or sesame oil drizzled on top. Apart from adding zest to a meal, the podis, at times, are also used as ready-to-use premixes for preparing dishes like sambhar, rasam, bisibele in households.

While podis are always dry, chutneys can be either dry or wet. Chutney is also called Thogayal or Thuvayal, in some parts of the South. There are many varieties of chutneys, some cooked and others made with vegetables. The primary ingredients remain the same, but vegetables vary depending upon the season and taste buds.

Fresh South Indian chutneys are smooth, uncooked purees, tempered with fried mustard seeds, dal, and curry leaves, that attributes a distinct flavour to a chutney. Cooked chutneys are soft and pulpy mixtures of cooked ingredients, again seasoned with fried mustard seeds, dal, and curry leaves. Chutneys in South India are usually made using the mortar pestle or Ammi Kallu, for the right texture and flavour.”

Kandi podi and Beerakaya Pachadi in Andhra Pradesh, Milaga podi and Kollu Kadyal or horsegram chutney in Tamil Nadu, Chamannthi podi in Kerala.  While these may be characteristic of each Southern State, the ingredients of these chutneys and podis, are largely common, with minor variations.

Primarily, it is only the spice quotient and perhaps the combination and proportion of dals and lentils, that differs in podis, thus introducing a variety in different parts of South India.

Podi and pachchidi (chutney) is the first course of any traditional Andhra meal unlike other regions, where it is usually sambar and rice. Podis from Andhra Pradesh tend to be more fiery.

The flaming hot kandi podi or gunpowder made from equal portions of tuvar, chana and moong dal with red chilies and cumin (jeera), is perhaps the most famous podi here, even though it is consumed elsewhere too. A must in every household, it sets the taste buds tingling. Gunpowder is typically eaten with rice and ghee. If it is paired with dosas and idlis, or even the green gram pesarattu, it is usually mixed with oil to temper the spice.

Nalla Karam Podi, another typical Andhra-style podi, similar to gun powder, is made with tamarind, garlic, red chilies and urad dal. Roasted groundnuts or peanuts, dry red chilies, garlic and salt, with a distinctive smoky flavour make the Chennakai podi, while Nuvvulu podi is made with sesame seeds and dried red chilies.

If podis are palate-tickling, the chutneys of Andhra are equally legendary. Korivikaram Chutney with Curry Leaf, tamarind, chilies is famous, as is the crunchy peanut chutney.

 

And, while a typical podi in Tamil Nadu is made from the combination of the various dals, peanuts, kopra (dried coconut), sugar, curry leaves, tamarind, dried red chilies and a pinch of asafetida, other specialties of this state are; Kollu or Kaanam podi, made with horse gram, a staple of Tamil Nadu, Flaxseed or Paruppu podi, made with toor dal and flaxseeds and Karivepillai podi made with curry leaves, tamarind, urad dal and chilies. Of course, here too gunpowder or milaga podi, remains popular, served with idlis and ghee.

Coconut, a key ingredient here, is used to make a podi, to which only a few chilies are added. Endu Kobbari Podi or dry coconut spice mix powder, is another versatile coconut-based powder stocked in every kitchen. This podi has a strong nutty flavor with a subtle spice taste and a hint of sweetness, owing to the combination of lentils, dry red chilis, garlic and dry coconut, which are roasted in oil, till the aromas are released and ground to make a fine powder.

Who can eat a Tamil Brahmin meal and not savour the ubiquitous coconut chutney? Apart from a basic chutney with coconut, chana dal and a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves, other variants include coriander, tomatoes and even onions. Sometimes curd is added to a coconut chutney, to impart sourness and the right consistency.

Equally popular here are; the tasty Parangi kai or yellow pumpkin chutney which is commonly paired with Ragi Adai for breakfast, the unique gooseberry chutney called Nellikkai, which is relished with curd rice and the tomato chutney with Kanchipuram idli.

In Karnataka, the standard podi also called, chutney pudi, requires urad dal, chana dal, toor dal, grated coconut, dried red chilies (Guntur and Byadgi), curry leaves, tamarind, jaggery, and salt. It is seasoned with mustard seeds and turmeric.

Here, tamarind and jaggery are added to podis, instead of garlic and roasted peanuts, which are common in Tamil Nadu, informs Chef Jacob. Again, instead of hing, cinnamon powder and coconut, form the combination for podis with lentils and other spices.

One cannot be in Karnataka and not taste Bisibele Bhath, a delicacy of this region, which can be prepared using the podi pre-mix and rice.

Typically, in Kerala, podis are made on the stone mortar and pestle, for the right texture.

While the Chammanthi podi or roasted coconut chutney powder, is synonymous with Kerala, Kothamali podi or coriander leaves podi with urad dal, red chilies, tamarind, is popular too. But it is the Avalos Podi, made from roasted rice flour and grated coconut,  that is unique to this region.

What sets the Coconut chutney from Kerala apart, is the absence of the roasted gram which is used by the other Southern states. Sour green mangoes are another popular ingredient  for chutneys.

Thottu kootan, a simple chutney-like side dish which is a mixture of sour, sweet, and spicy flavours to offset the richness of a meat curry or to enhance the flavours of a lentil, is widely eaten. This can be made with tomatoes or green chilies, or even vegetables like okra and bitter gourd.The delectable, sweet-sour Pulinji or bitter gourd chutney made from bitter gourd, tamarind and ginger, is a delicacy known for its distinct flavour.

It is not only for that extra zing or diverse flavours that podis or chutneys are eaten with a meal. these help in digestion and are quick supplements of protein too, since most of these, use lentils in some form or the other.

A Pot of Convenience

Stout and Lamb stew, Brewbot

When time is premium and people are not in the mood for an elaborate meal, one dish meals come handy. It’s all about appeasing your taste buds and satiating your appetite. Add to that convenience, pleasing flavours and a nutritionally well-balanced meal. What more can busy people living at a frenetic pace ask for? Indeed. One-dish meals or pot foods are the answer.

These are a compromise. A winning combination of taste plus health, these meals can be varied, as well as packed with essential nutrients. What’s more these can be prepared in a jiffy, and also save the bother of clearing a mess and washing endless dishes. Naturally then, more and more people are veering towards these.

Eating habits are also changing drastically today and gen y prefers easy to cook, hassle-free food. More so, as they live away from their families and are working. As eating out daily is not a feasible option, many prefer to cook, albeit, a one-dish meal. Such is the growing popularity of these dishes, that not only single people, but also, housewives or working mothers too opt for such a meal to give themselves a break.

For many, the health quotient is what prompts them to opt for these. Eating a wholesome,  one-dish meal, enables many people to avoid over- eating and enjoying a healthy meal. It is tasty, as well as satisfying and yet, prevents them for eating too many calories in a course by course elaborate meal. The portions, can be controlled.

Echoing this sentiment of these one dish meals being healthier, as the food is cooked from beginning to end in one single pot and no blanching, draining and re-shuffling of ingredients are done. This way, not only, are the nutrients retained, but also, the dish becomes much more exotic with use of several ingredients. French style casserole is a perfect example of such a meal.

Less is more, when it comes to such meals. So clearly, the advantages are multiple, convenience being the driving force. Apart from being easy to prepare and time-saving, these one-dish meals can be made ahead of time and heated for a fast, easy and complete dinner. Pot roast for example, tastes better the day after it is cooked. One can refrigerate cooked pot roast overnight in the sauce it was braised in.

What is interesting is that, these one-dish meals or pot food, do not get monotonous. There are several options across cuisines, to suit each palate. One can have a fresh option each day.

Wholesome Salads with Meat or Chicken and grains, beans, bread croutons and stews, Mexican Fajita or Enchiladas, Indian Kathi kebab rolls, Indonesian Mee Goreng (noodles), Burmese Khowsuey are some of my recommendations.

At times when eating out too, one-dish meals are preferred, as simple menus with few choices make dining straightforward. Also, with paucity of time during lunch hours, busy corporate executives, prefer these. Small wonder then, that restaurants are increasingly realizing this and catering to this growing demand among consumers. There are options where one can make one’s own meal by building a dish from a host of ingredients. One can actually mix the base, sauce, protein and toppings according to one’s palate.

Indian cuisine abounds in these choices. Biryani, is yet another dish which can be a complete meal in itself and is thus the first choice of many. Masala khichdi and Pongal from North and South India are also exciting options. Lasagna is an all time favourite and can be made in a vegetarian version too. Pot noodles or rice, stew, casseroles are other typical preferences.

So, you may want to spend less time in the kitchen, but that does not mean you cannot eat healthy and tasty food. What you want to put in that one dish is entirely your decision, but clearly, there is a lot to choose from.

A melange of staples

onam-sadya

 

Payasam, in several variants, is a creamy rice pudding with milk, jaggery and lentils, and a delicacy, no meal in South India is complete withou

 

The word payasam, is derived from Peeyusham, meaning nectar or ambrosia. Many also believe it emanates from the Sanskrit word, ‘payas’ or milk. Payasam has several variants across the Southern states, albeit with minor variations and is generally served on festivals, and weddings, as part of the meal. Payasam is usually eaten after the rasam rice course, while rice with buttermilk forms the last item of the meal. Rice, lentils, sugar or jaggery and milk or coconut milk, are the key ingredients.

Rice being the staple in Southern states, is extensively used in payasams too. In fact, payasams with rice are the most popular.

Payasam or Pradhaman forms an integral part of the Kerala feast (sadya), where it is served and relished from the banana leaf directly, instead of cups. Payasam is a popular dessert and an integral part of the Sadhya.  Milk, nuts, fruits and aromatic spices like saffron, kewra, cardamom, tulsi, are combined to prepare different varieties. Payasam is also distributed as Prasadam in many temples.

Ada pradhaman in Kerala, is made of flat ground rice, coconut milk and jaggery. Pradhaman is a more elaborate variant of the payasam with a few more ingredients. Ada pradhaman is usually prepared for the festivals of Vishu and Onam.

Traditionally, for making ada or rice flakes, a dough is made of rice flour and coconut oil, or soaked rice is ground to a paste. This is then flattened on a banana leaf and steamed.  It is then cooled and cut into small pieces. The ada is then cooked with coconut milk and jaggery in an uruli, or copper vessel, till thick.

Palada payasam is another common dessert here, made with milk and rice flakes where the milk is condensed slowly through fire and evaporation. The proportion of rice to milk has to be perfect. There should be enough rice for volume, but it must not overpower the milk.

Red aval or flattened rice is combined with milk and sugar to make the Aval payasam for Krishna Janmasthami and is considered healthier.

Jaggery or molasses is the most common sweetening ingredient, although sugar too is used at times. Nei paysam, or the cloyingly sweet payasam with copious amounts of ghee is also prepared on feasts like Vishu.  But unlike the Ada Payasam, this payasam does not make use of milk at all.

Similarly, in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka too, payasam, is prepared on special occasions, festivals and weddings, but perhaps the varieties are not as many as in Kerala.

In Karnataka, sannakki, a type of tiny rice grains are used for payasam. Sarnyada Adya, is a special payasam made with rice paste pearls or boondi, in North Karnataka.

The Arisi Thengai Payasam is a traditional payasam of Tamil Nadu, served in a Virundhu Sappadu or a festival meal on a banana leaf. Poondu Payasam made with garlic pods, milk, sugar, saffron strands and roasted semolina, is a healthy payasam, generally given to women after delivery to keep them warm and strengthen their immunity.

 

Payasam is mostly served to taste at the beginning of the meal and at the end of the meal poured directly over the banana leaf or in a cup. Crushing the poppadum and mixing the payasam with a ripe banana, is a delicacy being relished for ages in Tamil Nadu.

Annam Payasam or Paramannam, is a legendary offering to the Gods in Andhra Pradesh, prepared in almost every home on festivals. After God partakes of the offering, the naivedyam (offering) becomes prasadam and is distributed

Interestingly, lentils too, form the base of several payasams in South India. Moong dal and Bengal gram or chana dal are the most commonly preferred ones. Only in the Kadala Payasam, the black gram dal is used.

Kadalai parippu or the Bengal gram (chana dal) payasam with jaggery and coconut milk is Kerala’s speciality. Sometimes, instead of rice, sabudana or sago is combined with the chana dal to make a payasam. In Tamil Nadu, Senaga Pappu Gasagasala Payasam is made using chana dal.

Split yellow moong dal,  or cheru parippu in Kerala and Pasi parippu in Tamil Nadu, is one of the most popular lentils used in payasams. Pasi paruppu payasam, the jaggery-based payasam, made with lentils and milk,  is usually prepared as a sweet dish for festivals in Tamil Nadu, especially during the Navratri. Since jaggery is used in this payasam, it is lighter than the ones made with rice and sugar

Different types of starch such as vermicelli, sago or tapioca, often replace the rice in some payasams to lend the requisite thickness and form the base.

There are different ways of making Gasagase Payasa. The rice and poppy seeds can be soaked or can be roasted and powdered.

Goduma Ravva payasam also made with cracked wheat and jaggery is a typical dish eaten when fasting, while Shavige payasa or vermicelli payasam is equally popular in Karnataka on festivals.

In Kerala cuisine, there are several different kinds of payasam, which are prepared from a wide variety of local fruits. Chakka pradhaman  paysam is made of jackfruit pulp, Elaneer payasam, from tender coconut and apart from that, bananas, apples and pineapples are typical choices for payasams.

Mildly flavoured, brimming with fruits and milk Pazhap Payasam, is made on festivals in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, as is the Chettinad Puri Paysam, where puris made with wheat flour and turmeric dough are soaked in a semolina, milk and sugar payasam.

No matter how it is consumed, but a payasam can never be omitted from a meal in South India.

 

Some like ’em stuffed

 

Lazeez bharwan baigan

 

Bharwan or stuffed baigan or Shimla mirch (green peppers) are not all, there is to stuffed vegetables. The vegetables used are many and the fillings, varied, across cuisines, other than Indian.

Bell peppers stuffed with lamb mince, basmati rice, tomatoes and herbs. Sounds exotic? Indeed, stuffed vegetables are a great way of elevating the taste of simple vegetables. What’s more these need not be stuffed with vegetarian fillings only. One can unleash one’s imagination and create exciting fillings to up the flavour quotient of the humble vegetable.

Vegetables once stuffed can become a perfect main course dish rather than being served as a side dish and in this form, with flavourful fillings, vegetables become more palatable. Indian cuisine is replete with stuffed vegetables. The famous stuffed Brinjal Poriya (South), bharwan karela (Punjab), aloo firdousi, louki musallam (Awadh), bharwan shimla mirch (Rajasthan), are part of our Indian cuisine.

Bell peppers stuffed with tomatoes, beans, corn and spring onions, makes for a delicious vegetable, as does a tomato stuffed with paneer and potatoes mixed with spices. Again, bharwan khumb or mushrooms and bitter gourd or karela stuffed with a dry masala are regular features in Indian meals.

There are a myriad ways of making a stuffed vegetable. One need not always fry these. Once filled these can be baked, roasted or chargrilled. All stuffed vegetables should preferably be roasted or fried so that the vegetable can be cooked from outside faster.

One can be equally innovative when it comes to fillings for the stuffing of a vegetable. These can be diverse and one can combine several ingredients to prepare the filling. However, one must ensure that the filling is not too moist. The texture of the main ingredient and stuffing should complement each other.

A global stuffed vegetable need not necessarily mean a Greek preparation only. Gemista or yemista, the traditional Greek dish of stuffed tomatoes and bell peppers that are baked in the oven, may be the most popular stuffed global dish one is familiar with, but there is more to stuffed vegetables nowadays. Verdure Ripieni or stuffed vegetables, are popular in many regions of Italy and chefs here are also making similar preparations. Served with herbed rice or a salad, this can become a complete meal.

A pepper maybe filled with quinoa, cheese and brown rice or a tomato may have a stuffing made of bulgur, kidney beans and spices. Cheese, potatoes, rice and other starchy ingredients are apt for a stuffing when combined with other ingredients as these help to bind the stuffing together.

Rice maybe the easiest and versatile filling when it comes to grains, but couscous proves to be a welcome change from rice.

Interesting fillings in a vegetable not only taste good but also enhance the texture of the dish. Peppers stuffed with kidney beans, rice, cheese and topped with a sauce and sprinkled nuts can be a palate pleaser as there are a mélange of textures in one bite. For a hearty vegetarian stuffing with varied textures, one may opt for quinoa, hazelnuts and spinach, spiced up with cumin.

Again it is a myth that vegetables must be stuffed with vegetarian fillings only. Meat in various, forms such as sausages, mince, is an ideal choice as is sea food. Savoury meat, brown rice and mozzarella cheese is a simple but tasty filling for bell peppers or tomatoes. Cooked chicken breast, cilantro and parmesan can be a rich and hearty stuffing for grilled mushrooms. The versatile zucchini can be stuffed with a soft cheese like goat cheese or brie mixed with mince lamb which is well-spiced and topped with a herb sauce. Lamb, feta cheese and mint, proves to be a creamy filling which can be used to stuff various vegetables. Fish lovers can enjoy a tuna stuffing in peppers.

So whether it is a simple stuffed bell pepper or an exotic grilled vegetable, make the most of vegetables, getting your dose of fibre, vitamins and more.

The many avatars of Yogurt

Mango Lassi

With the mercury soaring, hydrate yourself this summer with refreshing protein-packed yogurt-based drinks

Once limited to meals in the form of a raita or plain, as it is an integral part of the Indian cuisine, yogurt, is today consumed abundantly, especially in summer, as part of a myriad refreshing drinks. And these can be equally enticing. It is the thick texture, tangy flavour and high protein content, of yogurt, that contributes greatly to its popularity, making it the perfect base for several drinks and dishes.

The world over, yogurt is used to make interesting drinks. There’s Ayran, the salted foaming yogurt brew of Turkey, Borhani, the fragrant herbal drink of Bangladesh; and Doogh, the Persian cooler made with mint, yogurt and club soda.

Closer home, lassi is a drink that is synonymous with both, summer and yogurt, but there is much more to  yogurt offerings than just lassi.

Yogurt lends itself easily to several other ingredients.  It can be combined with maple syrup, rose water, kewra, honey, jam, fresh or dried fruits.

Fruits are the most obvious and healthy combination with lassi. Several fruits can be added to lassi to give it a fruity twist. Good ol’ mango is naturally the first choice, but chiku, apples, bananas, sitaphal, are other fruits that do well in a lassi. Angoori lassi with grapes is unusual, but enjoyable. But what really refreshes the palate in summer, is the gulkand lassi made with rose petals, which makes the drink even richer.

A smoothie with fruits and yogurt can be a healthy drink for summer, filling and refreshing. Smoothies have in fact become a breakfast drink for many who are looking for a power-packed meal. Fruits can be used as pulp, puree or juices, along with yoghurt for making mouth- watering smoothies. After all, a delicious and playful blend of real fruit and creamy yogurt provides a healthy dose of Vitamin C, calcium and protein.

Watermelon, yogurt mint leaves and honey combined, make for a delicious drink. Bananas, Mangoes, blueberries, pineapples and strawberries are other popular choices. Dates could also be added to give a boost. For crunch, nuts, flaxseeds, even butterscotch can be added. For those seeking variety, vegetables like spinach and beetroot can be combined with yogurt for a healthy smoothie, but in a small proportion.

Those adhering to diet goals too may benefit from a yogurt drink. They can opt for a low calorie, low fat yogurt or Greek yogurt, as that has more protein and lesser carbohydrates compared to traditional yogurt, owing to the number of times it is strained.

In India, the term buttermilk refers to the liquid that is left over after extracting butter from churned yogurt. Many prefer this watered down version, as it is comparatively lighter. It is generally had before a meal as an appetizer or along with a meal.

Masala chaas with ground roasted cumin, salt, ground white or black pepper, green chili pepper paste, is the best bet when you’re out in the heat.

Interestingly, this is consumed all over India in different avatars. Known as Moru in Tamil Nadu, mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida or hing are a must in this summer cooler. In Andhra homes, Majjiga, is a must-have after a meal to aid digestion. Fresh home-made yogurt is best used for this. A hand churner made of wood is generally used to churn the drink to impart the right texture.

Buttermilk with slight variations is consumed as Ghol in Bengal, Mattha in North India and Tak in Maharashtra.

It’s a cooling, uplifting drink perfect for a hot, blazing afternoon. Else, use Greek yogurt, which is a lot healthier anyway.

The unique thing about yogurt is that one can sweeten it or spice it up, as per one’s own palate preference, when using it in drinks.