Announcing JFI – Oct ’08 – Whole Grains

Foxtail Millet

The definition of whole grains according to The Whole Grains Council is as follows:
Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.

Whole grains are the seeds of certain plants that retain all the three parts of the kernel viz., bran, germ and endosperm. These fiber rich grains are also good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, making them an integral part of a healthy, low-fat diet. We all know that a high-fiber diet is not only filling, but also keeps one full for a long time. Also, eating whole grains significantly lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes. These are only a few of many rewards a wholesome diet offers. With such unrivaled health benefits, there is no better time than now to include more whole grains in our diet.

Whole grains have been a part of older civilizations. They have been a reliable source of food, in addition to being nutrient rich. Our knowledgeable ancestors included them in their everyday diets. Though this practice has been lost over time and has been replaced with refined grains and flours, people are now becoming aware of the importance of a nutrient dense diet.

'Whole Grains' is my choice of ingredient for Jihva for Ingredients. It would only sound silly if I introduce this admired, popular event to my fellow bloggers. Indira who authors the famed and celebrated blog Mahanandi, is the creator of this event. Each month the hosts choose a natural ingredient and bloggers enthusiastically respond to it. What better natural ingredient can there be than whole grains?

Taking this event as an opportunity, I invite you all to join me in rediscovering the value of whole grains. Here is a list of whole grains that I know of. I am sure this list is partial. Please let me know if there are others.

  • Amaranth

  • Barley

  • Buckwheat

  • Bulgur (cracked wheat)

  • Brown rice

  • Corn

  • Millet (Foxtail, pearl and finger millet)

  • Oats

  • Quinoa

  • Rye

  • Teff

  • Triticale

  • Wheat (bulgur, farro, spelt, kamut, cracked wheat)

  • Wild rice

Here are the guidelines for your participation:

  1. Prepare a vegetarian/vegan recipe featuring one or more whole grains. Any cuisine, any course is accepted. Eggs are allowed too. If you would like to share information about whole grain, I would gladly include the article in the roundup.
  2. Post the recipe/article in your blog between now and 30th Sep ’08. Provide a link back to this announcement.
  3. Send a mail with JFI – Whole Grains in the subject line to with the following details.
    • Your name
    • Your blog name
    • Name of the entry
    • URL of your post
    • An optional photo that is 800 pixels wide or 800 pixels long (not both)
  4. If you don’t have a blog but would like to participate, send an email with your name, recipe and an optional photo. I will include in the roundup.
  5. Older posts are accepted if they are re-posted with a link to this announcement.
  6. Feel free to use the logo in your post.

I have been looking forward to host this event for a long time now. Indira, thank you for giving me the opportunity. Sia at Monsoon Spice hosted the previous edition of JFI - Soy.

On a separate note, I will be on vacation for the next 6 weeks. I will respond to your emails when I get time. Please bear with me while I have some fun :).

Updated on Oct 27 '08: Event roundup can be found here.

Spiced Cherry Sauce

Spiced cherry sauce has been in my bookmarks ever since I saw it at Bloodsugar, Graeme’s gorgeous blog. Captured beautifully through his lens, the recipe is quite tempting, that I tried it first thing this Summer, with two variations.

Recently, I have been hooked on to Grains of paradise, a West African spice that has a mild peppery flavour. To me it tastes toasty with ginger and cardamom undertones. I grind some on top of pulao, raita, fruits and even ice cream. And my fondness towards it only seems to grow. In this recipe, I substituted black pepper with grains of paradise.

I also made the sauce in microwave oven in under 4 minutes. For a quick sauce like this, it was very tasty. Thank you Graeme, we really liked it.

Spiced Cherry Sauce
(serves 2)


Cherries – 1 cup, pitted and halved
White wine (I used Pinot Grigio) – ¼ cup
Sugar – 1 tbsp
Lime zest – ¼ tsp
Grains of paradise or black pepper – ¼ tsp, cracked
Corn flour – 1 tbsp
Water – ¼ cup


Note: Microwave times may vary depending on the appliance.

Take cherries, wine, sugar and zest in a glass bowl, and microwave for 2 minutes, stirring after every 30 seconds. Add grains of paradise or black pepper, mix. Whisk corn flour in water and add to the cherry mixture. Microwave for 2 minutes, stirring after every 30 seconds. Let rest for a minute and serve warm over ice cream. We had ours topped with crushed amaretti cookies (Italian almond cookies).

This is my entry to Monthly Blog Patrol, an event started by Coffee. This month, Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen is guest hosting the event themed on fruits. This is also my entry to Think Spice, conceived and hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s World. This popular event has turned one this month.

Horiatiki – Greek Summer Salad

Horiatiki, a rustic, Greek country salad, is light, refreshing and easy to make. All cuisines have such dishes, incredibly easy, but remarkably tasty. This perfect summer salad from Greece is no exception. I don’t even bother to make the dressing separately. Assemble all the ingredients on the serving bowl and scatter the seasonings on top. There are only a few ingredients, so use the best you can lay your hands on.

Horiatiki Salad
(Serves 2)


Romaine lettuce – 1 small head, chopped
Red or green bell pepper – 1, thinly sliced
Red or yellow tomatoes – 5, quartered or Cherry tomatoes – 2 cups
Red onion – 1, small, thinly sliced
Cucumber – 1, small, thinly sliced
Feta cheese – 2 oz
Black olives – a handful
Fresh mint – 2 tbsp, chopped
Dried oregano – 1 tsp
Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp
Juice of a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil – 1 tbsp
Salt - if needed


Take all the chopped vegetables in the serving bowl, along with feta and black olives. Sprinkle red pepper flakes, mint and oregano over the salad. Finish off with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Feta and olives are salty enough, so season with salt only if needed.

This is my entry to Root Source Challenge - Cherry Tomatoes and Eating With The Seasons hosted by Maninas of Maninas: Food Matters.

Oatmeal Seeded Rolls

If these rolls sound familiar, yes, you have seen it at Jugalbandi. These rolls are mouthful of delights. The various seeds give out flavours that are unique, but harmonious. Made with whole wheat flour and oats, I didn’t have to think twice before trying ‘em. Or so I can say about all their recipes. I would owe to this inspirational post, if ever I start baking sourdough breads at home (which I hope to, some day). This duo is not only health conscious, but environmentally responsible too. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say that they truly enrich our blogging community. Bee and Jai, it’s a pleasure knowing you guys (even though its teeny weensy). Looking forward to many informative and enjoyable blogging years from you both.

Sliced, toasted and buttered, with Indian chai.

This is my entry to Zlamushka’s Tried and Tested. This is an event that puts spotlight on one blog each month. This month showcases Jugalbandi.

Ven Pongal And Gosthu

The month of ‘Maargazhi’ occurs between 15 Dec-14 January, according to the Tamil Lunar calendar. Next to summer, this is the best time to be in Southern India. Why? Apart from being the coldest month, it’s the religious fervor that prevails throughout. Temple worship start as early as 4:30 in the morning. The streets are adorned with big, bright kolams(drawings made with rice flour), decorated with squash blossoms; groups of devotees rally through the streets singing hymns; Carnatic musicians treat our ears and souls with music that has lived through centuries. The air is cool, crisp and fresh.

Kolam - drawn using rice flour, adorning the entrance of our house, back at the village

I vividly remember my early morning walks to the temple, while I was a teenager. I would walk slowly taking all this in, as much as I can. Getting up early never seemed dreary, as there was enough motivation. The hymns that are sung by all of us in the temple, still seem to reverberate in my ears. My friends and I, used to giggle and sing as loud as we can. More than devotion, it was the energy that attracted me toward this practice, in that age.

And then there is the food. Obviously, why would kids go to temple at such an early hour. Pongal, a soft, smooth and luscious rice-lentil dish, specked with black pepper, cumin and cashews, and a rivulet of ghee is served at temples during this season. Once the worship is done, steaming hot pongal will be served in dried banana leaves that are molded into cups (bio-degradable, ahem). One can barely hold the screaming hot pongal, but it has to be gobbled hurriedly. Because, some one is always eying your pongal, and you may loose it, just like that.

Even though the recipe is simple with only a few ingredients, pongal served at the temples is always special. It may be the mass production, or the ghee that the cook pours with his eyes closed. There is something special about it.

In a humble effort, I make this quite often at home. Next to idly, pongal is the second most consumed breakfast in Tamil Nadu. Add a couple of crispy vadas and coconut chutney to the plate, I am sold. There are two types of pongal, the off-white savoury kind (Ven pongal, meaning white pongal), and the golden sweet kind made with Indian jaggery (Sakkarai pongal, meaning sugar pongal ).

The key to a good pongal is its texture. Smooth like butter, it should reach the stomach directly, without any effort to chew. It should neither be too thick, nor runny. The rice and dal must be cooked until very soft. I use a ratio of 1:6 for rice: water, and it always turns out perfect.

Ven Pongal
(serves 2)


Rice – ½ cup
Moong dal – ½ cup
Peppercorns – 20
Cumin seeds – 1½ tsp
Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Curry leaves – few
Ghee(clarified butter) – 2 tbsp
Salt – ¾ tsp


Pressure cook rice and moong dal with 3 cups of water for 5 whistles. Alternately, rice and dal can be cooked in a pot until soft. After the pressure in the cooker has subsided, heat ghee, and roast pepper, cumin, followed by ginger and curry leaves. Add this seasoning to the rice and dal mixture along with salt. Mix until the salt, seasoning and rice are combined thoroughly. Add hot water if the pongal is too thick. The final consistency should be like a pudding or risotto, soft and velvetty. Serve hot with gosthu, and/or chutney.

There are quite a few variations while making pongal. What you see above is the way I like. You can try these for slightly different versions.
  • Make the rice : dal ratio 2:1
  • Roast dal before cooking
  • Add a pinch of turmeric to rice and dal before cooking
  • Coarsely grind pepper and cumin seeds, instead of using 'em whole
  • Use oil instead of ghee for a vegan version. But let me tell you, the pongal is never the same without ghee.


Gosthu can be roughly translated into ‘spiced lentil-vegetable gravy’. But so is sambar. There are only slight differences between a sambar and gosthu. The type and quantity of dal and the various vegetables used, sets the two apart. Eggplant is a must for making gosthu. Even if you don’t have other vegetables, don’t skip the eggplant. Pongal and gosthu – complementary and comforting, but always winning.


(serves 2)

Moong dal – ¼ cup
Mixed vegetables (eggplant, carrot, potato, chayote squash, peas, etc) – 2 cups, cubed
Onion or shallots – ½ cup, sliced
Tomato – 1, chopped
Tamarind – 1 tbsp
Jaggery – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – few
Cilantro – 2 tbsp, chopped
Oil – 1 tbsp

Spice Mixture

Coriander seeds – ½ tbsp
Chana dal – 1 tbsp
Dried red chillies – 4

Gram flour or rice flour – 1 tsp, if needed

Roast all of the above in a tsp of oil until aromatic and lightly browned. Cool and grind to a paste. Alternately you can also use 1 tbsp of sambar powder.


Pressure cook moong dal until soft. This can be cooked along with rice and dal for the pongal.

In a sauce pan, heat oil, splutter mustard seeds. Add onion and tomato along with curry leaves, and sauté for about 2 minutes. To this, add tamarind paste, turmeric powder, jaggery, salt and 2 cups of water and stir until the tamarind paste is completely dissolved in the water. If you are using sambar powder, now is the time to add it. If you are making fresh spice paste, wait until later. To the tamarind mixture, add the vegetables and allow to cook through. While the vegetables are cooking, tamarind also loses its raw smell.

Finally, add the cooked dal, ground spice mixture to the vegetables and mix thoroughly. Bring it to a brisk boil and simmer for about 3 minutes. If gosthu is runny, dissolve rice flour or gram flour in ¼ cup of water, add to the gosthu, and boil for additional 2 minutes. This will thicken the gravy. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with pongal, upma or even idli and dosa.

I share this pongal love with Susan, for My Legume Love Affair, round 2.

Cabbage Bhaaji

As I have mentioned a few times before, Samaithu Paar (Cook and See) trilogy is the most treasured in my cookbook collection. For more than 5 decades now, new brides (including me) enter their new homes armed with the knowledge that these books has to offer. Even to this day, I constantly refer to this book for all the traditional recipes, never having to call my mom at odd hours. The accuracy and versatility of the recipes in these books speak for their longevity. I am sure these books will be in many homes for decades to come. Fortunately, they have been translated to English, to benefit the non-Tamil readers.

Between the three books, the assortment of recipes is remarkable. Curries, gravies, condiments, sweet and savoury delights (bhakshanams), even cakes, can be found in these books. All this written 50+years back, when gas stoves were not easy to get. More than recipes, the author teaches how to cook by taste and feel, rather than sticking to tsp measurements. Even if you have goofed up, she offers a few tips to set things right. In short, if you are looking for authentic Tamil recipes, without ridiculous amount of calories, these books are a must. Another review of the books here.

For Srivalli’s Curry Mela, I wanted to showcase a recipe from this book that has become a recent favourite of mine. Simple, healthy and delicious, this bhaaji personifies the book.

Cabbage Bhaaji
(serves 2)


Cabbage – about 4 cups, thinly sliced
Toor dal – ¼ cup
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Green chillies – 6 or 7, slit lengthwise
Cashew nut – about 10
Ginger – 1 inch piece, finely chopped
Curry leaves – few
Cilantro – 2 tbsp, chopped
Juice of a lemon
Asafoetida – a pinch
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – 1 tbsp


Pressure cook toor dal until soft. Boil cabbage until soft with salt, turmeric and ½ cup of water. Heat a tsp of oil and sauté green chillies until lightly charred and add to the cooked cabbage, along with cooked toor dal. Bring it to a boil and remove from heat. Heat the remaining oil, splutter mustard seeds, add cashew, ginger and curry leaves and sauté till cashew turns slightly brown. Add this seasoning to the curry. Finish the dish with asafoetida, lemon juice and cilantro.

Though it has dal, this bhaaji is not to be mixed with rice, but rather to be served as a side with rice and sambar.

What you see in the picture is a real curry leaf. In spite of the ban, I was lucky to get a few sprigs, thanks to a Well Seasoned Cook. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say that I survived my recent bout of flu with curry leaves laden rasams and Vegeyum’s 4C's tea. Thank you very much, Susan.

On a different note, my days are increasingly hectic and my reader shows a few hundreds of unread posts to catch up. Though I am lagging behind on visiting your blogs, I have been catching up on my bookmarks. Below are the recipes that I tried recently and I should say loved ‘em all. I didn't find the time to visit each one of you individually to express my thanks. So please accept it in one shot, dear friends.

  1. Bagels inspired by Meeta
  2. Srivalli's groundnut chutney
  3. Jugalbandit's tomato pulp (made into pickle) and lotus root chips
  4. Lucy's Manchurian style cauliflower
  5. Nupur's cucumber dosa
  6. Sunita's vegetable pot pies
  7. Indira's beans, greens and rice skillet. I have tried numerous combination of the legumes and greens. Tastes great every single time.
  8. Cenk's peach crumble
  9. Bea's beet gnocchi, lemon poppy seed muffin
  10. Lisa's spicy parmesan crackers
  11. Susan's pistachio crusted tofu
  12. Nandita's handwo
  13. Vegeyum's 4-C's golden spiced tea