Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog


Chari Phutana and Dried Red Chillies
Chillies and Chari Phutana (Cumin, Fennel, Fenugreek and Mustard Seeds)

Dalma is a popular Oriya comfort food, and prepared with dal-vegetable combination. In dalma, the demure dal becomes dashing, due to a special spice-mix called chari phutana. You know how sunshine can cure winter blues? The chari phutana is the sunshine for this dal-dalma. While preparing Dalma, I realized the reason for the recent negative outburst on my website. Winter blues! No wonder people are cranky. I can’t wait for the spring and sunshine to get here.

Dalma recipe is courtesy of doctor, food writer and nutritional expert, the lovely Nandita of Saffron Trial. You can find her recipe and my photos in January edition of Men’s Health India magazine. I would like to thank Nandita, and Tithi Sarkar, the sub-editor of Men’s Health India for contacting and giving me this photo opportunity.

Dalma with Ruby Red Grapefruits
Dalma with Rice, and Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice ~ to Ease the Winter Blues

~ Indira

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Arati Kaaya (Plantain),Chana Dal,Potato,Toor Dal,Vankaya (Brinjal) (Friday February 8, 2008 at 4:44 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Flavors of Life ~ Banana Vendor

Banana Vendor by Sree of Sree's Canvas
Flavors of Life ~ Banana Vendor
Painting by Sree (Colored Pencils on Paper)

Many like her were selling bananas in front of the Virupaksha Temple at Hampi. The fruits were not offerings to God, but to the large number of cows in front of the temple! I don’t know whether you would agree; to me the banana is the most humble of all fruits. It’s available through the year and affordable to all. The banana selflessly offers itself to mankind. We eat both raw and ripe fruit, the stem of the plant and the banana flower. We use the banana leaves for religious offerings and cooking. I recently read somewhere that the nutrients lie in the ripe skin of the fruit. Any takers?:)

by – Sree

(Flavors of Life by Sree: Introduction)

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Arati Kaaya (Plantain),Bananas,Sree (Saturday January 19, 2008 at 12:26 am- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Cooking at home with Pedatha ~ Cookbook Review, Interview and Recipe

Recently I have received a cookbook to review. The title of the book is “Cooking at home with Pedatha”.

Atha (or attha) means father’s sister in Telugu. Pedatha means eldest Atha. After grandparents, Pedatha, an authority motherly figure is the most important person and pedatha’s advice and asheerwad (blessings), are always sought in our homes during difficult times and for celebrations. We respect pedatha. After reading and trying a couple of recipes from Pedatha’s cookbook, I felt like I’ve found an emerald gem that would bring good health and good luck to my cooking.

Here in this cookbook, the authors Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain captured their Pedatha’s 85-years kitchen experience and wisdom. A blend of hot, sweet, sour and aromatic flavors, often all in one dish – the genius and simplicity of Andhra cooking, are laid out in endearing detail. Rice preparations, simple stir-fry curries, spicy powders, savory rasams and traditional sweets are all explained in Pedatha’s words. The result is like a marriage of perfect flavorings with natural goodness of fresh ingredients.

What I particularly liked about this cookbook is how it speaks to us, the Indians. It has an authentic voice which is compelling. I am from Nandyala, Andhra Pradesh and almost all of the recipes are just the way my mother would prepare. There are no shortcuts and there is no compromise in authenticity to please the western audience taste. Accompanied by breathtaking images, the recipes are easy to follow and most of them can be cooked in a short 30-minute time.

The only drawback I can think of is, when compared to ‘Hummer’ size cookbooks in vogue now, this book with 61 recipes in 87 pages may look like ‘Toyota Prius’. On the other hand, this may not be a drawback at all. I think even a newbie will easily get an idea and can cook a decent full fledged Andhra feast called “vindu bhojanam”, following the recipes, images and the menu ideas.

If you are like me, uninspired by cookbooks that devoid of originality and authenticity, often poor victims of meddling editing and mega publishers pressuring tactics, and hungry for a true Indian cookbook, then this book is for you. You may be a novice or an experienced cook, “Cooking at home with Pedatha” with its clutterfree instructions and clean, pleasant images will definitely assist and delight you just like Pedatha in our lives. Check it out!

Pratibha Jain and Jigyasa Giri with Pedatha (Sreemati Subhadra Krishna Rau Parigi)


Interview with Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain

Cookbooks are dime a dozen here in USA, but they are rare in India. There is no cottage cookbook industry and publishing a cookbook particularly one that focuses on regional cooking is still a big deal. Most of the times it’s truly a labor of love.

I wanted to know who inspired and what motivated the authors, and how they survived the brutal publishing phase to bring the book into market. Pratibha and Jigyasa responded immediately to my questions and were kind to this newbie. Thanks Pratibha and Jigyasa!

Here is my interview with the authors.

Pratibha and Jigyasa ~ Authors of the Cookbook

You have made an excellent book with uncompromising authentic recipes. What motivated you to write and publish this book? Who is your intended audience?

Thank you for the compliments. Frankly, the main motivating factor was pure love. When you meet Pedatha, you will realize how true this answer is. You know Indira, most of the things we have done in life have always been planned. Strangely, this book was never an agenda. Both of us like interacting with elders very much and we just used to visit Pedatha and chat – invariably about food, for such is her passion for cooking. When that personal collection became a book…. it was destiny’s hand and we just went along with the force of it.

Regarding the audience, we thought it was a niche product. Therefore, the only way to appeal to a wider audience was the idea of a coffee table book. Honestly, we never ever expected to go into second print, and so soon.

Our elders, who are greatly experienced in our cooking styles are exceptional assets for us. “Peddatha” is one such great asset. What did she think about publishing her recipes in the form of a book?

She would be very excited about teaching us whenever we visited her. But later, when the idea of a book emerged (initially from Jigyasa’s husband who said this is not a personal collection, this is a book in the making), she was very apologetic and shy. She kept saying it was home food and that there was nothing to it. In fact, she also once said that she feared people would say that she had misled us ‘little girls’ into thinking that her food was exceptional.

We remember one day when she said the same thing again. And we told her, “Pedatha, does a pearl know its worth? Only a jeweler knows that. So you Pedatha, are our precious pearl and we are your jewelers. Oh how she laughed and said – Now I understand. Ok ok.”

After all the fame and interviews, she is still as simple as always. We can’t stop marveling at that. But she thanks us a hundred times and laughs – “Without walking the ramp, you naughty girls have made me a model”. She calls us – The three Musketeers. She calls our laptop a lapdog because she says it has been so faithful to her. She thinks the recipes are just as she cooks them.

The beauty of the book you made truly portrays the essence of the recipes you put in the book. Cooking is intensively skilled process. Recording and reproducing these processes in the form of a book requires another level of skills too. What was your approach and method to create such wonderful design, photographs and narration? Who was your inspiration?

The first step of inspiration was Pedatha’s photographs – we were

stunned when we saw the results of the camera. I guess from there, we just had to make a book that blended with her pictures.

Regarding the layout and graphics, all credits to our team – Prabodh Jain (every adjective mentioned in the thanks note in the book is just apt – creativity and sustained vision) – he nudged us along every step of the way, challenging us not to compromise; Kavitha Shivan, our young layout designer, is a dream to work with (if u put aside her moods:) and spells of inactivity), guess that’s what creativity is about. In fact, Kavitha played a vital role in food presentation. Srivatsa, our photographer, simple, genuine and hard working – ever willing.

Pratibha’s mom once asked her brother Prabodh what made him so passionate about this project. He said, “Mom! These girls will kill themselves for that right word, the right phrase (he had seen our endless editing and the dozens of times we tried each recipe). How can any of us not respond likewise!” This was a compliment indeed.

I can understand that publishing a book is not as simple a process as preparing a dish. You might have gone through a great deal of work to get the book in to the market. How did you survive through tedious process?

Once the book was ready, quite a few friends and relatives came forward to launch the books. You can see that in the calendar page of our site. Pedatha’s son Mr. A.P.Parigi, an encouraging, positive, friendly person, came forward to launch the book in a big way in Mumbai. That evening was a phenomenal success.

Apart from that, Westland immediately agreed to distribute in India. We are still far behind in distribution though. As single book authors, it is not easy to get a shelf place in stores. However, since we are primarily ambitious as writers, it gives us that space within ourselves not to get obsessed with sales and marketing beyond a point.

What do you think about food blogs and would you like to share anything else with the readers of food blogs?

Food blogs are a reaching-out point for most net savvy cooks. It is almost like a huge wave out there. So easy to find recipes now, just a click away. And in blogs, the responses from other readers to the recipes make it interesting, as well as help decision-making. The best thing is the photographs on food blogs – they are honest, the food looks as it cooks. We wish every food blog would have a grandma’s corner – recipes, health tips, and anecdotes. Grandmas and granddads are such an awesome phenomenon.

What a wonderful thing that blogs are free! Anywhere, anyone who has something to say or share has a forum to do so. Thanks to food bloggers, our kitchens are constant discovery zones now.


Arati ~ Ava Pettina Kura (Raw Banana with a Twang of Mustard)
Recipe from “Cooking at home with Pedatha”

I have been cooking several recipes from the cookbook for the last few days. Traditional recipes that I totally forgot until now. One such recipe is plantain curry with mustard seeds paste. Known as arati ava pettina kura, this special, seasonal dish of Andhra is often prepared for festivals.

I’ve followed Pedatha’s words and instructions mostly, and added salt and chillies to suit my taste. The result was a spectacular, simple dish, which brought me incredible joy. The kind of joy and happiness one would feel when remembering a cherished memory or taste from the past. Thank you Pedatha!

Plantain cubes and Mustard Seed- Coconut Paste


2 plantains
peeled & cut into cubes – boiled in water just until tender & drained.

For Mustard Seed ~ Coconut Paste:
2 teaspoons mustard seeds and 1 tablespoon of raw rice
(soaked in warm water for 10 minutes – to soften, so that they can grind well)
¼ cup of fresh grated coconut
8 green chillies – small, Indian variety
1 inch piece of ginger – peeled and cut to tiny pieces
¼ cup of fresh cilantro leaves and pinch of salt
grind them to smooth paste without adding any water – in a mortar or in a blender

For popu or tadka:
1 tsp each – urad dal, cumin, mustard seeds
6 each- curry leaves and red chilli pieces
A pinch of asafetida powder

Salt and turmeric to taste

In a wide skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add and toast popu or tadka ingredients listed to gold color. Add the grinded paste. Saute until it leaves the raw smell for few minutes on medium heat. Add in boiled plantain cubes, turmeric and salt. Mix thoroughly. Sprinkle two tablespoons of water and cook covered for about 10 minutes stirring in-between.

Serve warm with chapati or rice.

Arati Ava Pettina Kura with Chapati (Plantain – Mustard Curry with Chapatis)

Cooking at home with Pedatha:
Recommend this cookbook to your local libraries
Jigyasa and Pratibha’s Website:
Cookbook cover and authors photo credit : Jigyasa and Pratibha


Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra,Arati Kaaya (Plantain),Biyyamu (Rice),Coconut (Fresh),Reviews: Cookbooks,Zen (Personal) (Tuesday December 12, 2006 at 8:48 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Ripe Plantain Dessert (Pazham Puzhungiyathu)

Steam-Cooked Ripe Plantain
Steam-Cooking the Ripe Plantain

Vijay loves all things plantain; so much so, he even wrote a guest post on homemade plantain chips on my blog few months ago. When I saw the recipe for sweet plantain dessert, at LG’s Ginger and Mango, I knew Vijay is going to like it.

Dessert with sweet plantains usually involves deep-frying, but this traditional Kerala recipe was different and healthy because it was steam cooked. I tried it with one ripe plantain and we both liked the end result. Easy dessert and they were like small venna(butter) biscuits, the kind that would melt in mouth but with gooey, banana sweetness.

Steam Cooked Ripe Plantain Piece ~ Removing the Skin

I ripe plantain
Ghee and sugar – half tablespoon each or to taste.

Wash and cut plantains into 4 or 5 pieces crosswise. Steam-cook them for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they soften. The outer skin will turn black and insides will turn soft. Remove the steam basket from steamer and let them cool. Peel the skin, cut each piece into 3 or 4 thin rounds.

Take melted ghee and sugar in a small cup. Stir until sugar melts in ghee. Lightly dip each plantain round in ghee-sugar mix, remove. Or sprinkle some sugar on top of these rounds and serve. Good treat, I think particularly for toddlers.

Semolina Upma with Peanut chutney and Sugar Coated Ripe Plantain Rounds
Sugar Coated Ripe Plantain Rounds and Semolina Upma with Peanut chutney ~ Our Simple Meal Today

Recipe: LG’s Ginger and Mango – Traditional Kerala Recipe

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Arati Kaaya (Plantain),Ghee,Sugar (Monday June 5, 2006 at 2:33 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Moong Bean-Plantain Curry

Did you see Stephen Colbert on C-span’s televised Correspondents’ Dinner, last Sunday night? His comedy skit was breathtaking in its boldness. Charming, clear and ironically straightforward – his comic delivery was a sight to behold. Finally it took a pretend journalist to state the obvious – the little emperor has no clothes and of course that made the ‘real’ journalists and the guest of honor spitting mad. If you enjoy political satire or like Colbert style, don’t miss out his stellar performance and checkout this site for transcript and video link. One has to admire his chutzpah.

Coming back to cooking, here is a traditional recipe where plantain and moong beans are cooked together in water and seasoned with green chilli-coconut paste. Rural in origin and often served with sorghum roti, this favorite curry of mine is a hearty, flavorful and filling meal, also one of the ways that I cook plantains aka green bananas.

Plantain cut into cubes, Moong beans soaked, green chilli-coconut paste
Presoaked Whole Moong Beans, Green Chilli-Coconut Paste and Plantain cubes


1 plantain (green banana), peeled and cubed
2 cups of presoaked whole moong beans (soaked in water overnight)
6-8 green chillies
1 tablespoon of finely sliced fresh coconut
¼ teaspoon of turmeric
½ to 1 teaspoon of salt
For popu
1 tsp of mustard seeds, cumin, few pieces of dried red chilli and curry leaves

Take the presoaked whole moong beans, about 2 cups in a big vessel. Add 4 cups of water, quarter teaspoon of salt and cook them covered on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes undisturbed. Presoaked moong beans cook easily and can be done without using the pressure-cooker. It tastes somuch better cooked in this old style. Meanwhile do the prep work. Peel and cut plantain and make a smooth paste of green chillies-coconut.

After 15 minutes of cooking, check the moong beans. They must be tender by now. Add plantain cubes, turmeric and also water if needed. Cover and cook them on medium heat again for another 10 minutes. Plantains cook fast unlike potatoes and by the end 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, plantain cubes will be tender and the moong beans will be falling apart. That’s what we want. At this stage, stir in green chilli-coconut paste and cook for another 5 minutes.

Just before turning off the heat, heat a teaspoon of peanut oil in small vessel, add and toast the popu or tadka ingredients. Add this to the curry and stir. Turn off the heat. Serve and enjoy the best tasting curry, the kind you’d find in a humble Indian home (never in a restaurant). Usually served with chapati, sorghum roti or with rice.

Moong Bean-Plantain Curry with Chapatis
Moong Bean-Plantain Curry with Chapatis ~ Our Simple Lunch

Kitchen Notes:
Prepare the curry little bit on the watery side.
The gravy of this curry comes from watery, overcooked moong beans and the greenchilli-coconut paste.
I’ve also added one banana pepper to this curry.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Arati Kaaya (Plantain),Moong Dal (whole) (Friday May 5, 2006 at 1:48 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Special Snacks ~ Homemade Plantain Chips

“Okay, it’s my turn now”, I said.

“What is your turn for?” she said with a curious look on her face.

“I want to make chips with the plantains we bought yesterday. You just relax and wait for a tasty snack I’m going to make for you”. I said to her. But it wasn’t just for her. It was for me too. I like plantain chips very much. But, I don’t get very good quality chips here. So, whenever I could find good quality plantains, I prepare the chips myself.

Making of plantain chips in-house started few years ago, when we were in Houston. We have a good friend, Sunil Sukumaran, who is a Keralite. I knew that plantain chips were popular snack food in Kerala and I always wondered how they were made. I thought that there would be some special process to make them, because they were different, tasted good and had a special flavor. During one of our visits to their house, I asked my friend Sunil.

“Sunil, do you know how these plantain chips are made? I like them a lot, they are really tasty.” I expected a very long answer. I will tell you the truth. I was getting ready to note down the details on a sheet of paper. But his answer surprised me. Just one sentence!

“Pick unripe plantains. Slice them into thin rounds and deep fry them in oil.”

“That’s all?!” I didn’t believe it.

“That’s all there to it, man. What more you want to do? That’s how we make them back home in Kerala. We use coconut oil to fry them, but you can also use peanut oil.”

You don’t know how much relieved I was. Oh, I can make my favorite snack food right in my home. That’s fantastic.

Houston is a very lively city with all kinds of people from all over the world. Also a great place to get all kinds of food and vegetables. Most importantly (for me), I could get four fresh plantains for a dollar! How nice! Bought four of them and brought them home. Washed them thoroughly and scraped the outer skin lightly. I didn’t remove the skin completely. Cut them into circular chips. In the meantime, I had a big cast iron frying pan with peanut oil heating on the stove. When the oil reached proper temperature for frying, I dropped the chips in oil. One after the other, I filled the pan until the whole oil surface was covered by the chips. Reduced the heat to medium-high, and fried them for about three or four minutes. I turned the chips in the pan occasionally to make sure that both sides are properly fried.

I was very happy. Why? I just made the first batch of plantain chips myself. They looked just like the chips I was used to buy in Kerala bakeries. I sprinkled little bit of salt and they were ready to eat. I thanked my friend in my heart for sharing the great secret with me.

Now, coming back to Boardman, Ohio, there I was making the chips again, for Indira (and myself too). A full bowl of chips were ready in just few minutes and they also disappeared in just few minutes. But, I was quick enough to take some pictures to share with you. Here they are, tasty and crunchy, homemade plantain chips.

Plantain with outer skin peeled and sliced into thin round chips and whole Plantain
Plantain with outer skin scraped and sliced into thin round chips

Deep Frying plantain chips in Peanut oil
Deep-frying Plantain Chips in Peanut Oil

 Homemade Plantain chips (banana chips)
Homemade Plantain Chips

Guest post by Vijay Singari

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Arati Kaaya (Plantain),Vijay Singari (Thursday February 23, 2006 at 3:43 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Plantain Curry (Arati Kaya kura)

Unripe plantain, the vegetable that belongs to banana family is a acquired taste. Like potato, plaintain cubes fried or boiled to soft taste super good. Why not, plantain is nothing but pure startch. There are several different versions of curries with plantain, as it is quite popular vegetable, particularly in South India. This curry with fresh coconut and chana dal is one of them.


2 raw plantains, peeled, sliced into small cubes
Fistful of Chana dal, soaked in water for about 30 mts
Half cup of fresh coconut pieces
5 to 8 green chillies
Pinch of Turmeric and 1/2tsp of salt

Plantains in Different stages of Preparation (Arati Kayalu)


Fresh Coconut, Green Chilli, Paste of them and In the Background Soaked Chana dalFirst soak chana dal in water for about 30 mts. Meanwhile make a paste of fresh coconut and green chillies by adding a pinch of salt.
Place of a pot of water on stovetop on medium heat, wait for it to boil. Meanwhile prepare the plantains (wash, pee l& cut). When water starts to boil, add these cut plantain cubes to water. Cook them for about 5 minutes on high heat, then pour them into a colander and discard the water.

Now in a big sautepan, add one tablespoon of oil, do the popu i.e (fry one tsp of mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves), then add the soaked chana dal. Fry them in oil for few minutes. Now add the plantain cubes, turmeric, salt, coconut-greenchilli paste. Mix them thoroughly and cook them covered for about 10 to 15 minutes.

This curry tastes great with rice and Sambhar or dal. But today I prepared chapatis instead of rice. So here it is plantain curry chapatis.

Plantain Curry with Chapati (Arati Kaya Kura)

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Arati Kaaya (Plantain) (Friday September 9, 2005 at 4:59 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi: