August Newsletter

August Newsletter: Daana Farmers Network

Nilgiri Mountains, India

When you are heads down doing the work you love, time flies in a jiffy. It felt like it was last week that I wrote the July newsletter !!

We did a fair bit of process revamping at the Daana office in July. For a good 2 weeks we looked at every product, every process and worked hard at getting better with our cleaning, packing, stock taking, and delivery. We re-did the way we laid things out, shuffled responsibilities around, and consolidated a bunch of tasks. The team is under double load when I’m around, as they have to get their regular work done, and work on fixing issues and address improvements as well 🙂

The month of July was also spent visiting farmers and partners. A fair bit of travel ensued. The first one was to Mysore, to meet Anand and Priya. They have been supplying us with cold-pressed organic oils. I spent the whole day with them, and their little girl Chavi accompanied me everywhere. We spent a fair bit of time discussing our mutual challenges around logistics, the truck strike, and how we can streamline things better. Anand also took me to meet Vasanthkumar, and Ravi, two of the farmers who supply coconuts from their farm, from which our cold pressed coconut oil is extracted. I got to see Anand’s rotary press unit, that crushes the coconuts to extract oil.

Vasanthkumar, at his coconut farm in Mysore.

A separate trip report on Mysore will follow subsequently.

I then went and visited the folks at Keystone foundation, Aadhimalai Procured co-op, and our coffee farmers in the Nilgiris. You can find out all about how the region, and the coffee here: Nilgiri Trip Report

With Krishna and Jestin, in the Nilgiris.

And, in case you missed our original article on coffee, here it is: Coffee, the Elixir of Life.

At the end of each newsletter, we try to bring attention to some interesting event happening in the country. Do tune in, to Madras Day celebrations. Aug 22, 1639 is celebrated as Madras day. It was that day that the land for Fort St. George was acquired by the British from the Nayak of the Vijayanagara empire, Damerla Venkatadri. The month long events are an entirely volunteer driven effort showcasing the city’s rich history and culture.

Have a great month, hope you enjoyed the articles.

– Sujatha

July Newsletter

 

Greetings from Daana !!

We apologise for not having been able to bring you a newsletter in June (you will soon know why). We hope with the searing summer behind us, and with kids beginning school, a new academic year and routine has begun. My older son and a niece have both begun internships, another niece graduated from college this summer and is entering the workforce. It is indeed bittersweet to see our children get to the next set of milestones in life.

At Daana, it was a very busy May and June (the team can vouch for that more than me 🙂 ). All of that has culminated in us adding more amazing products to our catalogue. Not 1, not 2, but 4 new products. Two healthy oils, and two staple beverages. All Organic and Single Origin.

We will be posting individual posts on each of them in the days to come, so do check our website, or like our facebook page, so you will get updates on your news feed.

You can also order them from below:


Organic Cold Pressed Coconut Oil: Coconuts from Usha and Ravi’s farm in Krishnarajanagara, Karnataka. Oil extracted using the cold pressed method at Anand’s mill in Mysore, Karnataka.

1 Litre
Rs.399
Add to Cart
399 1859 Organic Coconut Oil Cold Pressed 1 Litre
 
500 ml
Rs.239
Add to Cart
239 1860 Organic Coconut Oil Cold Pressed 500 ml


Organic Cold Pressed Mustard Oil: Mustard seeds from Annaveerappa’s farm in Korwar, Karnataka. Oil extracted using the cold pressed method at the Oil Collective in Bengaluru.

1 Litre
Rs.299
Add to Cart
299 1861 Organic Mustard Oil 1 Litre


Organic Ground Coffee: From Selvaraj’s farm in Samaigudal, in the Nilgiri bio-reserve in Tamil Nadu. Roasted and ground to perfection at Uday and Sujatha’s roasting unit in Secunderabad.

250 gms
Rs.260
Add to Cart
260 1857 Organic Filter Coffee 250 gms


Organic Tea: From Ramakrishnan’s single-estate, high mountain (2,000m/6,800ft) tea farm located in the Nilgiri Mountains of Tamil Nadu. The tea is a dark, intensely aromatic, and flavourful variety.

250 gms
Rs.199
Add to Cart
199 1858 Organic Tea 250 gms


Other things to look forward to, this July:

I present to you two very crowded, intense and energetic celebrations this month. Watch them on TV, if you cannot visit.

Jagannath Rath Yatra: Head to Puri to witness the Rath Yatra (Chariot Procession) that carries idols of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra. This year it is on the 14th of July.

Champakulam Moolam Boat Race: Kerala’s oldest boat race is on the 28th of July. Read more about the history of this race and how it commemorates the installation of the idol of lord Krishna at the temple of Ambalappuzha.


Do try out our products, visit our weekly posts on the website, or keep in touch with us via facebook/whatsapp. We look forward to hearing from you.

– Sujatha

 

 

Beerakaaya Pappu: Ridgegourd with Lentils

Beerakaya Pappu: Dakhani daily

The people of Telangana and Andhra are similar and different in many ways. Like the British and Americans, they are two people divided by a common language 🙂

One of the things they both excel at is the amazing array of “pappu” they whip up. Pappu means dal in Telugu. I present a recipe for the “Beerakaya pappu”, ridge-gourd with lentils. It is an absolute massage to the soul. Typically spooned on top of  rice, can be had with roti, or if you’re like me, I simply pour it into a bowl and eat it (call it a soup if you are really compelled to call it something).

Here is a OPOS (One Pot One Shot) method I used to make it yesterday (I have added Instant Pot directions alongside as well):

Ingredients:

  • Half cup finely chopped onions
  • One cup coarsely chopped tomatoes
  • A few cloves of garlic (no need to chop them)
  • One cup of chopped ridge gourd (scrape the outer skin. if you like the rough texture of it, keep it, the skin is perfectly edible and yummy. Slit open the ridge gourd, remove the goop and seeds)
  • 1 cup dal (I mixed Toor Dal, Moong Dal and Urad Dal)
  • 2-3 green chillies slit length wise (you can vary this based on the type of chilli and based on your spice tolerance)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp safflower oil or groundnut oil (remember to only use cold pressed oil)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Slice of lemon, some chopped curry leaves and coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish

Method:

  • In a small pressure cooker (you can use the Instant Pot too) pour the oil, when it warms up, add the cumin seeds and the onions and sauté just until the onions turn translucent. (this is because they will cook further with the rest of the ingredients)
  • Add the rest of the ingredients (dal, tomato, ridge gourd, salt,  turmeric, chillies and garlic)
  • Add one cup of water (this may seem on the lower side, but the tomatoes and ridge gourd will let out water while cooking)
  • Close the pressure cooker and let it cook for 3 whistles (in the Instant Pot, pressure cook on medium for 6-7 min). Turn it off and let it sit until the pressure fully subsides. This extra soaking in the steam lets the ingredients cook in their own juices.
  • Open up, give everything a little bit of a stir, scoop into a bowl, garnish with a slice of lemon and chopped curry leaves and coriander leaves, and serve.

I have been experimenting with various oils of late. If you want a Telangana twist to it, use Safflower Oil (also called Kusuma Noone). For the Andhra tinge, use Groundnut Oil (also called Palli Noone). These oils really bring out the regional flavours.

This dish is as soulful as it is versatile. You can substitute the ridge gourd with any soft squash of your choice (you will need to vary the size of the pieces based on their softness), you can also substitute with any green of your choice. My mom makes a heavenly version of this with spinach. My other favourite version is with Gangavaila koora (purslane leaves) which grows like a weed in Hyderabad.

– Sujatha

Summer is here: May Newsletter

Greetings from Daana!

May is here…. here are some ideas to embrace the searing temperatures, and stuff to look forward to.

First off, we have edited and compiled our interview with Dr. Sultan Ismail from March. He explains in a simple conversational manner the entire agrarian crisis: what it means to us a consumer, and how it affects our rural economy. Its worth every second of the 25 min video.

Enjoy the ever favourite Aam Panna as it hails summer. Follow Bhuvana’s recipe and let us know what you think. Additionally, post your own version of this national drink !!
While we wait for the mangoes to land, here is an article that talks about the history of mangoes in India. A very worthwhile obsession that dates back 4000 years.
While carbide mangoes have been on the decline, the market has responded to our mango craze with newer ripening techniques, not all of them good. The only way to get great mangoes is to wait for the right time. As they say… Intezaar ka phal meetha hota hai 🙂 Watch as Arifa explains how to spot the artificially ripened fruit versus the natural ones.

With rising temperatures comes rising use of fans, refrigerators and a/c. Of these the A/Cs are the biggest electricity guzzlers. Here are some simple tips to use your A/Cs efficiently, and save money on those power bills.

  1. If you live in a region that has dry hot air in summer, the use of an evaporative cooler is a much more efficient option. Make sure to install it against an external window, and to have a sunshade above the cooler so the sun’s rays do not fall on it directly and heat it up.
  2. If you live in a region that has hot moist air (such as the coastal area with high humidity). turn the a/c on, to no cooler than 27C and turn on a ceiling fan. Movement of cool air against our skin is much more important for comfort, than standing air which could be at a lower temperature.

Watch this video by the green architect Ashok Lall on how to minimise dependency on A/Cs, and how to reduce the use of A/Cs, without giving up on comfort and cooling.

Summer vacations: Here are interesting summer destinations to visit. Remember, any cool weather place in India is bound to be crowded, so don’t be surprised. Try to find real “off the beaten path” locations, they will offer a much better experience.
There are other things you can do, right in your own city, to enjoy the summer holidays. Arrange early morning walking, bicycling tours, late evening concerts, lots of board games with the kids in the neighbourhood, and the best of all, a nice afternoon siesta !!
Here is a morning bicycling city tour of Delhi, offered every weekend in Delhi, starting 6 am 🙂

Keep watching our blog section for articles every week. We cover a wide array of topics on sustainability, including organic farming, women’s empowerment, market news, government policy, and more. We also have simple and fun recipes for food every week. Do check them out in our recipes section. Make sure your grocery list for this month is healthy and wholesome. Place your orders here.

Warm regards,
Daana Team

Vegan Fish Curry at the Natural Food Festival

Vegan Fish Curry at the Natural Food Festival

I kid you not. Before you guffaw or roll your eyes. Here is the video proof. (There is more about betel dosa at the end of this post)

The Natural Food Festival in Hyderabad happened on Feb 17 and 18. I took the tribe along. Humera and Rayyan were motivated by the food, Rajaa was there to get nice pictures and I was curious. I swear that the millet and jaggery chocolate brownies takes the cake. Put it on your bucket list.

So, it turns out (you didn’t watch the video, did you?) the vegan fish curry was a vegan (fish-less) curry made with the same spices, and vegetables. Yes, I tried tasting it and I finished all of it. It was lip-smacking-ly goooood. But on to the main story, after all, isn’t all food natural? Valid point. Chew on a millet cracker while we explore this.

The natural food festival, should have really been called the Slow Food festival. As opposed to fast food…. food that is chemically laced, unhealthy and more often than not, unethically, factory produced. Food that is heavily promoted by multinational food conglomerates. Slow food is nutritiously tasty food cooked from traditional recipes from local, organically grown crops and grains and naturally raised animals.

It was a surprise in many ways. First, it is not very often that a government decides to promote Natural Foods. We sauntered in at the closing bell of the last day. I was fully expecting to see a deserted place. No, I was surprised !!

DDS
There were many familiar faces. Deccan Development Society was there. For those who came in late (and read Phantom comics), a documentary film maker, Sateesh decided to go native and returned to his village in Zaheerabad district a few decades ago. He started to work with the local farmer women and soon developed an amazing society of empowered women who grow, negotiate, think, make movies and generally give everyone a tough time. Here is one of them talking about their exhibits

Litti Choka
There were quite a few participants from really far off places.  There was this young woman from Siliguri (the pitstop for Darjeeling). She gave us a taste of Litti Choka. This is a dough ball made with whole wheat and stuffed with sattu and other spices and herbs. It is normally roasted over wood fire and served with Ghee . It is best eaten with aloo bharta or baingan bharta accompanied with a generous portion of curd.

Millet Snacks
And there was a phenomenal spread of Millet snacks. Remember the jaggery and millet chocolate brownie I mentioned?? This is the video I shot.

I will update this post later with more pictures from the festival.  I hope to return next year with more of the gang and on both days. Don’t miss it the next year.

– Farhan

Gujiyas for Holi

Gujiyas for Holi

Gujiya is a gujarati sweet dish that is synonymous with Holi and Diwali. It is like a sweet samosa. It keeps well, and hence can be made a couple of days ahead of time. We present to you a healthier version of the dish, without stepping too far from tradition. Enjoy, and wish you a very happy and colourful holi.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cup dry fruits(almond,cashew,walnut)
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • ⅓ cup jaggery
  • ⅓ cup dates
  • ½ tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp sooji or semolina
  • 1 tsp elaichi or cardamom
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 cup atta
  • ¼ cup sooji or semolina
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Warm water for kneading
  • 1 tbsp aata with 1 tbsp water, for sealing
  • Oil for frying

Instructions:

  1. Dry roast the dry fruits in a pan for 5-7 minutes.Keep it aside and let it cool.
  2. Grind them into a coarse mixture.
  3. Heat oil in a pan.
  4. Add the shredded coconut.
  5. Saute for 5 minutes on low flame and add the roughly chopped dates, jaggery and dry fruits. (Add some cashewnut paste to this if you want a deep rich taste)
  6. Add semolina with 2 tbsp water.
  7. Cook this mixture for 5 minutes on low flame and allow it to cool.
  8. Knead the dough with flour, 2 tbsp oil ,semolina, water and salt.
  9. Add extra flour as needed to keep from sticking to hands and board.
  10. Place the dough in a greased vessel.
  11. Cover with a cloth/plastic wrap for 15 minutes.
  12. Take a small portion and roll it into small round ball. Roll it out and lay it on the inside of a gujiya mould (Grease the mould to make sure that the rolled dough doesn’t stick to it)
  13. Add filling in the rolled pastry.
  14. Seal the edges with flour and water mix.
  15. Brush the gujiya with oil and bake for 10 minutes@160 degree Centigrade.
  16. Heat oil in a small & deep kadai.
  17. Once the oil is hot, add half-baked gujiya to it.
  18. Cook on low flame for 10 minutes or until golden brown. (or skip #15-17 and deep fry the traditional way)

 

Dwadasi Rasam

Dwadasi Rasam

Today is Ekadasi, the 11th day after the new moon (Amavasya). Traditionally folks used to fast on Ekadasi day. The terms of fasting ranges from full to partial depending on age, and how devout one is.

The following day, Dwadasi, in Tamilian families, they cook a special rasam, called Dwadasi Rasam. The main difference between regular rasam and this rasam is that moong dal is used instead of toor dal. Reason being that coming out of fasting, one should be eating food that is easy to digest. The traditional tamarind and tomatoes are also skipped, and lemon juice is used instead.

I have seen several recipes of dwadasi rasam include toor dal as well. As with the diversity of our country, one can expect many variations in this as well.

Try this dwadasi rasam. Tell us what you think, and please add your variations to the comments section as well.

Ingredients:

  • Moong Dal (Split) – ¼ cup
  • Turmeric Powder ½ tsp.
  • Water 2 cups.
  • Grated Ginger 1 tbsp
  • Chopped curry leaves – a few
  • Lemon Juice 2 tbsp.
  • Salt to taste.

Roast and Powder coarsely

  • Urad dal (Split) ¾ tsp.
  • Chana dal ½ tsp.
  • Black Pepper 1 tbsp.
  • Jeera  1 tsp.
  • Red Chilies  2 no.
  • Curry Leaves

FOR TADKA:

  • Oil 1 tbsp (cold pressed groundnut oil or sesame oil works great. Adds a nice aroma) .
  • Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves a little
  • Crushed red chilies 2 no.
  • Asafoetida (Hing) a pinch
  • Chopped Coriander leaves for garnish

Method:

  • Pressure cook the dal with turmeric powder. Mash the dal and add 2 cup of water and dilute it. Transfer into the big vessel.
  • Add salt, turmeric powder, ginger, curry leaves and Hing and bring to boil on low fire.
  • In mean time, roast above ingredients (except jeera) and powder it coarsely along with jeera.
  • Add ground powder and boil , while rasam froths up, remove from the fire.
  • With one tablespoon oil, fry the mustard seeds ,when they burst add curry leaves crushed red chilies and Hing to it and pour them to the Rasam.
  • Add freshly squeezed lemon juice and mix well.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Note: Lemon juice gives the sourness and pepper gives the taste and strong aroma for the rasam.

 

Cosmetics: Toxic chemicals on your body

Cosmetics: Toxic chemicals on your body

The cosmetics industry is all of a hundred years old, and is worth about 11 Lakh Crore Rupees annually.

People have used things to beautify themselves since ancient times, but not to the extent that we do now, with multiple products being used every day.

Cosmetics are products that are chemical cocktails, with several of them known to be poisonous and harmful.

Watch this video to find out more:

Do leave us comments and tips on how you have moved away from chemical cosmetics, and what replacements you are using. We would love to hear from you. We will do a follow up article on this a month from now, and will include several of the tips we receive from our readers.

Women and the fight against poverty

Women and the fight against poverty

Barefoot College is an organization based in Rajasthan, India whose goal is to empower and equip rural illiterate women so that they may drive change and improvement in their families and societies.

Requirement to join Barefoot college is really simple:

  1. You need to be illiterate
  2. You need to take your learnings and skills back to your village and invest your time and energy there.

The premise is even simpler:

  1. Women are more invested in the long term in their neighborhoods, and are willing to put in work to see results much further down the line
  2. Men on the other hand, when they pick up skills, tend to want to move to better lifestyles which means that they tend to not invest their time and energy in their villages for long periods of time.

We are not being some sort of reverse sexists here. While outliers always exist, both the above statements are corroborated by data gathered from multiple communities in the world.

How does Barefoot achieve this? Watch the trailer of the movie “Solar Mamas”, made by TED prizewinning filmmaker Jehane Noujaim that documents the work and the impact of Barefoot College.

And then go watch the full movie here

Local, Seasonal, Organic: A Must Have for Debt-free and Chemical-free farming

Local, Seasonal, Organic: A Must Have for Debt-free and Chemical-free farming

Climate change is making it difficult to continue farming just a single crop with huge doses of fertilizers, genetically modified seeds and pesticides.

The tribal women in India rediscovering growing multiple crops together such that they need less water, and without and without any dangerous and expensive fertilizers, pesticides. It keeps the soil healthy, keeps them debt free.

tuljamma (1)

What is their secret sauce?

  • Multicropping (growing multiple varieties of plants one after the other),
  • Intercropping (growing multiple varieties of plants together at the same time),
  • Using traditional seeds that have stood the test of time.
  • Growing hardy varieties that are disease and drought resistant.

Here is an article that talks about how tribal women in India are leading the way:

http://www.lifegate.com/people/lifestyle/tribal-women-organic-agriculture-india

**  Daana works with several such farmers and networks to bring their produce directly to online consumers across India. Support theses practices by buying their produce from Daana Network, Amazon or BigBasket.