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Aam Panna

Aam Panna

 

 

Summer is here in full swing and you can see people gathering at Lemon Juice stalls, Coconut water and Cucumber stalls to quench their thirst and also cool their bodies. It is very important to keep ourselves hydrated in order to avoid heat strokes. Aam Panna is one such cooler which helps in hydrating and also cooling our body.

Here is a recipe worth trying…

Ingredients:

3 Raw Mangoes

Rock salt

4 tbsps Jaggery

3 cups Water

1/2 tsp Roasted Cumin seeds powder

Few Mint leaves

Method:

Peel the raw mangoes and slice them into small pieces. Cook the slices in 3 cups of water. When the mango slices become soft, add the jaggery and switch off the flame after 2 minutes. The jaggery will dissolve in the hot mango solution. Now add rock salt, roasted cumin seeds powder and the mint leaves. Cool it by refrigeration. Add water and ice before serving. You can also add cardamom for flavour.

Enjoy this delicious drink  and cool off the summer..:)

Cheers!!!

– Bhuvana

 

 

 

Mix Dal Vada

Mix Dal Vada

 

What do you make when you invite people for tea at your place? Thinking of making a snack for tea time always gets you into a chagrin – should it be a lavish tiffin or just namkeen ? Well, stop thinking and try this Mix Dal Vada which is a crispy protein rich snack, a big hit with the kids and am sure the guests too 🙂

Ingredients

Note: Please use a small cup, or you can even measure with a big serving spoon

1 cup Boiled Rice

1 cup Toor Dal

1 cup Moong Dal

1 cup Urad Dal

1 cup Chana Dal

1 tbsp chopped coconut

2 tsp whole pepper

4 -5 Red chillies

Curry leaves

Asafoetida

Salt acc to taste

Oil for frying

Method

Soak the boiled rice and all the dals together for an hour along with the red chillies. Drain the water and grind them into a coarse batter while adding salt. Now that the batter is ready, add freshly chopped coconut pieces, curry leaves,whole pepper and asafoetida to this. Mix well. Fry the vadas in oil and serve with any chutney or sauce of your choice.

The crunchy vadas with whole pieces of coconut and pepper make a good evening snack. I tried coriander chutney with this and it tasted great. You can add a twist to this recipe by giving a tadka (seasoning) of mustard seeds and hing(asafoetida) to the batter before frying.

Use Organic Dals and Cold Pressed Groundnut/Sunflower Oil for the best taste. You can find these ingredients on Amazon here

Cheers!!!

-Bhuvana

 

Rural Sustainability is a Prerequisite for Urban Sustainability

“Rural Sustainability is a Prerequisite for Urban Sustainability,” Dr Rajendra Singh 

Dr Rajendra Singh
Dr Rajendra Singh

Dr. Rajendra Singh -the Water Man of India needs no introduction. Honoured with the Stockholm Prize in 2015, for reviving the ancient dam technology in the Alwar district of Rajasthan in the 1980s to bring water to 1200 parched villages, Dr. Rajendra Singh has dedicated his entire life to water conservation. Relying on traditional knowledge, local material and the science of common sense, he leveraged community help to rejuvenate nine rivers and restore groundwater levels in Rajasthan.

The Ramon Magsaysay award winner in Hyderabad for a conference, spoke to Sujata C for Daana on the topic of urban-rural linkages, rural reform, permaculture and threats to agriculture.  The conversation got off with a few comments on negotiating the long, winding concrete vines of flyovers, metro lines and the chaotic Hyderabad traffic leading to the obvious question of urban sustainability. Here is the edited interview:

On urban sustainability:

“When the villagers are forced to migrate to cities due to helplessness and hopelessness then cities cannot be healthy. Cities depend on agriculture for their food. Their food comes from the villages. If our rural areas are not healthy, the city can’t be healthy. If the rural areas are not sustainable the Indian city can’t be sustainable. If we want our villages to be self reliant, we have to make them sustainable, the water in the village, the soil, the seeds, the hard work of the farmers, everything is included in this. Without the sustainability of our villages, urban sustainability is not possible.

The way our cities are growing with metros, high-rise buildings and heavy traffic, it is not at all sustainable. The basic necessities of a city come from villages and the cost of transporting to the cities these add to the burden of public health. And the pollution that we create in the process, these put a question mark on the way our cities are growing. The public health of the cities is linked to rural health. To correct all these we have to take the route of sustainable development.

On the link between rural reform and permaculture

The meaning of permaculture is to give respect and love for everything that exists in nature. Our love and respect for agriculture will come when we stop using chemical fertilisers, herbicides to cultivate our food. The name permaculture itself means giving respect to nature as it is while growing our food. The viability of permaculture depends on the fact that there is no contract farming done in our country. It should be a contract farming free country. The biggest threat to permaculture comes from contract farming. The trend of corporate farming will not allow permaculture to grow. They will use any term for their farming – chemical free farming, natural farming, zero budget farming, they will come up with a thousand names, but in reality they will be doing business. This will be very dangerous for our agriculture.

Agriculture is the foundation of Indian life. It is not a business. It is our cultural heritage, our ‘sanskriti’, it is not our business. Agriculture is the bridge between nature and the needs of human lives. Contract farming and corporate farming is going to break this bridge, because the stakeholders will only be interested in profits. They will not be interested in the culture that envelops agriculture. There will be no love for agriculture in contract farming. Those involved will want to grow stuff that brings in more money.

On the culture of agriculture:

It is my belief that if we are talking about agriculture, we have to examine its foundational principle. We have to examine our soil, our ‘bhoo sanskriti,’ its diversity and its potential to grow food that is good for us, good for the soil and the earth. When my soil health, my water health and the health of my land is good, then I will be good. To keep this chain of good health active, permaculture is the entry point, he concludes.

Viewed in the context of the farmers’ march, the intuitive advice from Dr. Rajendra Singh can tackle present day farmers’ woes and will continue to remain relevant in the times to come.

Daana supports the cause of sustainable development by supporting small and marginal farmers who grow food without pesticides. 

 

Ramanavami Special

Ramanavami Special

Lord Rama’s birthday is celebrated all over India on the 9th day, Navami of the Chaitra month. It also signifies the end of Vasant Navaratri. Lord Rama, the seventh Avatar of Lord Vishnu, was born to King Dasaratha and Queen Kaushalya, in order to slay the dangerous demon king Ravana. To celebrate his birth, devotees all over the country perform pujas, sing bhajans and offer a variety of  prasad as holy offerings to the Lord. Here are a few of them.

1.Panakam – Jaggery Water

A very easy drink to make, this dish is a coolant in these hot summer times.

You need –

1 cup Water

1/4  cup Jaggery

1/2 tsp crushed cardamom

1/4tsp dry ginger powder

Method:

Soak the jaggery in water for about 15 mins. Once it melts mix it well to make sure there are no lumps left. Strain it to remove impurities. Now add the cardamom and dry ginger and stir. It can be served as it is or chilled.

2. Neer Mor – Buttermilk

Add water to curd and churn it to get diluted buttermilk. Add salt, hing, chopped green chillies, grated ginger,curry leaves and coriander leaves. Serve chilled.

3. Kosambari – Moong Salad

Soak the Moong Dal for an hour. Drain the water. Heat a little oil and add mustard seeds to it. When it crackles add it to the Moong Salad. Add salt, chopped green chillies, grated coconut and coriander leaves.  This is served as it is to the God.

Hope you all enjoy preparing these simple prasadams.

Cheers!!!

-Bhuvana

Why are the farmers marching? Part 2- Soil

Why were farmers marching? Part 2- Soil

Did you wonder why the farmers’ feet bled so much during their march to the Assembly building in Mumbai?

I did too.  The one word explanation is – Soil. The soil in our farms is teeming with chemicals and it is bleeding the farmers’ feet…. it will get to us as well.

A longer explanation took a better part of my day with Dr. Sultan Ismail who is a rock-star soil scientist of India. An expert who can still breakdown the complex challenges of farming into kidsplaining. I took the liberty of recording some of that conversation with him and in this post, is a gist of what he had to say. (We will carry his interview in a separate post)


The Farmer is the Indian

If you thought that farming is what gets us food…. that’s just a very small part of the story. Farming is what we do as a nation. It is India’s largest economic activity. It is our national occupation.

A bit of a digression is necessary here. 40% of rural India subsists on agriculture, even now. It was 50% earlier. That’s a substantial chunk. If that many people voted for any party in India, the party would get 2/3rd majority, change the constitution to declare themselves as the rulers for eternity. I am being frivolous. The point is that farming is what we as a nation do. It is often a fact lost to most of us who try to ‘solve the problem’ of farming. Farming is, above all, the only sustained employment this country has seen. Successive governments have almost succeeded in discouraging farming folks to give up farming, sell the farms and move to the city to work as labour. Once they are dispossessed of land, they rapidly descend into even greater precarity in the cities. Homeless, landless, jobless. Next time you are entering your office, stop for a moment and ask the security guard where he came from. I bet you five Facebook likes that he gave up his farm to manage your gate security. With that picture in mind, let’s get back to the question of Soil.


The Soil does it

There is nothing simple about “Soil”. Soil is not just pulverised rock. It teems with life. Each place has a different soil. It changes within yards from soft black clay to being red hard. At times it is just a few inches deep under a sheet rock and at other places it can be as deep as a kilometre. Though we walk on it almost everyday, our understanding of soil as a system is even weaker than our understanding of the galaxies and the stars. Within the first few inches of soil, there are complex and interconnected systems of regeneration, production, consumption and outrageous magic.

If you still can, on your next walk, get down on all fours and examine the soil. Use your fingers to scrape it around. Notice the small insects that scurry away. There is a thin layer at the very top that moves when you scrape it. That’s “top soil”. This is where all life happens.

Not on TV, not in hospitals, not in the battlefields. Within those two inches, Dr. Ismail said, is where more life happens than at all other places combined. There is no way to measure life, but you get the picture. There are microbes, there are insects, there are worms. There are things in-between. They all eat up each other, digest each other, help each other. The cycle of life is just two inches deep here. Get up now, dust your knees.

Into this soil, if you dropped a seed, the soil rallies around and nudges the seed to sprout, push the leaf up, pull the root down. Earthworms have already riddled the soil with holes to make it soft for the sprout to find space, microbes have fixed nitrogen for the sprout to consume, bacteria have mulched the previous generation of plants into food for the new sprout. As the little sprouting pushes itself above the soil, things are getting more interesting under it. One longish root is digging deep into the soil to firmly affix the future plant, the sideways roots are reaching out horizontally to absorb moisture and nutrients. At times, a senior plant’s roots touch those of the young ones, and a bit of elderly help is offered by transferring nutrients between the roots. The soil, it would seem was almost waiting for the seed. On the other hand, if a rodent died, it would be gorged by microbes and composted into becoming one with soil. In reality, soil is just a name for a complex system of millions of different organisms that live there.

The farmer needed the soil. A healthy, rich, happy soil to grow on.


Swaminathan Cometh

In 1961 something happened. We had a famine that shook the young nation to the core. Nehru and his team, swore: Never again. We will never run out of food again, they pledged. Just then, Ford foundation, Rockfeller foundation and the rest suggested that we must adopt the best thing since sliced bread – scientific agriculture. It will produce more wheat and even more sliced bread. It looked too good to be true. With modern science at the farmer’s side, we would be able to keep soil healthy, new breeds of crops would grow faster, with greater yield. Dr. Swaminathan was the hero of that moment. The man of science to help the farmer in distress. Get the picture?

The only way, asserted the Green Revolution, is to get aggressive with soil and the plants.  To increase the yield per acre, you have to make soil “better”, crops “more resilient” and aggressively kill “pests” and “weeds”. This method consisted of injecting “nutrients” into the soil, and force feed plants by flooding fields with water.

To keep weeds and pests away, they introduced a range of chemicals that will wipe out every living thing on the farm. It is like providing your army with gas masks and releasing nerve gas in the city – staple theme of almost every superhero movie. Well, the analogy isn’t very far from the truth. Many of the chemicals were actually chemical weapons used in Vietnam and Korea.


Living in an ICU

Here is an analogy. To be a productive individual, you need to be happy and healthy. How do you do it? You exercise, get clean air, eat in moderation, have a healthy work/life balance and be nice to everybody around. Now, instead, I give you a deal : why bother with all that? Chuck your home life and start living in a Hospital’s ICU. For food, we will feed you a steady diet of vitamins, proteins, carbs and micronutrients, for happiness there will be Prozac. We will inject you continuously with the best antibiotics money can buy, so that no bacteria will ever bother afflicting you. Air is completely filtered and clean, you get to wear a new scrub everyday and someone will give you a sponge bath while you sleep every night with intravenous sedatives.  Deal?

Deal. The Punjab farmers took it. That was the laboratory. The results were mind blowing. The productivity jumped up many times over. India’s days of starvation were over. The grainy film documentaries, the mandatory viewing before a masala movie showed flowing fields with wheat and paddy, set to the fast jhala of Pandit Ravishankar’s sitar. Food?  Done.


The Dying

As the Green revolution spread itself all over the country : from Punjab to Maharashtra to Andhra Pradesh, there was celebration in the air, and problems on the ground. Farmers started to notice that the chemicals that were meant to kill bad things also killed the good things. Killer chemicals don’t distinguish. Termites, microbes were all dead. Soil collapsed. The earth became rock hard. Tractors were brought in to till the hard soil. The tractors killed the earthworms. The plants that took in the fertilizers needed inordinate amounts of water but the water didn’t seep into the hardened earth. So, more water to quench the thirst. Dams had to be built. Water had to be diverted, forests collapsed. To fix one thing, another thing was broken. That broke yet another thing, so on and on it went. The cascading effect was dramatic and catastrophic. The farmer needed money to buy more medicines, I meant the fertilizers and pesticides to keep going. Each year, they needed more of the same. The cycle of debt set in. Chemicals seeped into the soil.

Now, you know why their feet were bleeding. Doesnt stop at the feet. Cancer is rampant among Punjabi farmers. Children are born with gene injuries. Last year Rs.500 crores were paid as compensation to Kerala farmers for suffering from the ill-effects of Endosulfan. The stuff that goes into Indian soil is not even touched by anyone outside India. In many countries, if you were caught with it, you’d be booked for possessing chemical weapons.


Then, what will we eat?

Is there any better way than this? If we do not produce more, how will we eat and what should we eat? Let’s look at the second question first. Over the last century, Indian taste buds have been hugely affected by ads and marketing: Basmati Rice, Sharbati Wheat, etc. These are very water intensive crops that have low yield per acre. So, there will be enough to eat if we begin to relish more millets, and dals in our diet. If we eat more seasonal fruits, if we start discovering the Indian foods from before the 70s. I am not being a luddite, just being practical.

The other question ‘Is there a better way’ is an interesting question that has an interesting answer. In short… YES. There is a better way. To begin with, it was a myth that the chemical way of farming gave magnitude of a larger yield. It is now thoroughly debunked. Over a long term of ten years, a farm will produce not more than 25% more than what it would produce naturally. That is just volume-wise. On the other hand, if you look at the cost of production, naturally grown food wins hands down. Everything from pests to weeds at soil health can be taken care of without needing intensive money and aggressive technology.

It must begin with first, respecting farming traditions: there is an evolving knowledge base that is a result of slow weeding out of bad ideas and assimilation of the good practices through experience, and multiple growing cycles.

In other words, farming is as scientific a pursuit as it gets. So, respect traditional ways. They are not based on mumbo-jumbo of superstition. Don’t assume that a limited test tube hypothesis is automatically superior to what a farmer knows, just because she wears tattered clothes and doesn’t speak English. Seek inspiration from Albert Howard who ironically was hailed in the west as the “father” of modern organic farming, for having learnt and disseminated traditional farming practices of India.

Second, we must disseminate these ideas of natural farming in new ways and make them contemporary. This is the sort of work that people like Masanobu Fukuoka, Bill Mollison have discovered, curated, documented and spread. It is a tough challenge to promote a self sustaining method of feeding the world in the face of some of the most aggressive propaganda by the world’s most aggressive companies. The natural farming community needs all of us to stand by them in solidarity.

We will talk about the ways and means to get back to natural farming in cost-effective and sustainable manner in future posts. This one was just about what I learnt from Dr. Ismail Sultan. Narsanna was not wrong when he called him “Soil-tan” of natural farming. Here is a great TED talk by him. Have a great weekend.

– Farhan

Women Power and the Seeds of Optimism

Women Power and the Seeds of Optimism

A woman is like a tea bag. Put her in hot water and you will see how strong she is. We have all heard this one at some point. Time and again women have shown that they are adept at managing home, hearth and work with equal ease.

This year Nari Shakti Puraskar was given to 38 women. Notable among these are the All India Millet Sisters Network, Deepika Kundaji, Vanastree and Sabarmati Tiki. All of them are working in rural areas, with women in agriculture, promoting neglected grains and traditional seeds.

The Hyderabad based All India Millet Sisters Network (AIMS) is the first of its kind women millet farmers in the country that is dedicated to the cause of the neglected coarse grain. Millets are a traditional crop in the country and this network has brought together women farmers who are cultivating and conserving millets. It was set up eight years ago with 100 women. Today, it is a network of 5000 women across the country.

The  story of Anjamma is an interesting one. She is a poor farmer from Telengana. She preserves seeds in a traditional way without using any chemicals. She stores seeds for next season in a cane basket,  using easily available ash and neem leaves and seals them with cow dung and mud. Despite a drought spell and zero rainfall she reaped eight quintals millet and six quintals of toor dal  from her bio diverse farm. Her work in keeping alive a traditional knowledge system in the preservation of seeds was recognised by Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Authority, India (PPVFRA).

There are many stories like this one and they are getting noticed by none other than the Minister for Women and Child Welfare, Maneka Gandhi who is an environmentalist herself and rooting for women farmers. Read about the rest here in her own words.

Sujata C

Daana salutes all the women engaged in farming and seed preservation.

 

Mango (Mamidikaya) Pulihora

Mamidikaya Pulihora

Ugadi, celebrated all over Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, is festively observed as the first day of the Lunar Calendar.Among the few legends associated with Ugadi, there is one pertaining to Brahma that is widely popular. It is believed that Lord Brahma began creating the world on this day and Ugadi refers specifically to the Yuga in which the current generation lives i.e. the Kalyug. Ugadi also coincides with the onset of spring and the harvest season.

A variety of sweets and savories are prepared as part of a sumptuous feast across all states. In Telangana and Andhra, people love to add the Green Mango or Mamidikaya Pulihora to their delectable menu. This is a dish which requires no preparation and is pretty easy to make.

Here is a simple recipe for the same…

Ingredients:

2 cups Rice

1 cup grated green Mango

2 tsps Sesame Oil

1 tsp Chana dal

1/2 tsp Mustard seeds

1 tsp split Urad dal

1 pinch asafoetida

1 tsp Jeera

2 red chiiles

2 green chillies

curry leaves

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

Salt acc to taste

Roasted Cashews

Roasted peanuts

Preparation:

1.Heat the oil. Add Mustard seeds, Jeera, chana dal, Urad dal, green chillies, red chillies, hing and curry leaves. Roast them for one minute and then add the grated mango.Add a little salt to this.

2. Cook the rice separately in a pressure cooker

3. Once the mango is roasted, add the cooked rice. Mix well, add salt and turmeric to the mixture.

4. When the rice is well mixed with the mango, add the roasted peanuts and cashew.

5. Finally sprinkle fresh coriander leaves before serving

This pulihora takes very little preparation time and is a tangy favourite of many. It can be served with vadiyalu (fryums or papads) and a pachadi or any raita of your choice.

Cheers!!!

-Bhuvana

 

 

Why are the farmers marching? Part 1- Water

Why are the farmers marching? Part 1- Water

Here is a simple question: If farmers produce food and food is a basic necessity, why are they not getting a fair price for their produce?

Therein lies a conundrum. Those who produce the most basic things needed for our lives: food, shelter and clothing are the ones that have the worst lives in our country. Sure, we can be ashamed, we can beat ourselves up, or we can, as CM Fadnavis did, form a six man committee to ‘study the problem’.  Let’s first understand the extent of the challenges in the a few posts and then bring the possible solutions to these in the following posts. Bear with me when I take no pleasure to say ‘it is complicated’.

It is complicated

If you plan to get onto the farmers’ case saying they cannot be bailed out all the time, I would suggest you get off this blog and read about tax holidays, land and money that our government and financial institutions have poured into the hands of beacons of capitalism. Start from the techies and proceed towards the diamantaires. We will keep those rants and woes for another place and time.

A farmer needs water and seeds to begin with. Push the seed into the soil,  water it and watch it grow. In six months, harvest it and sell it at the market. Go home and have a great holi. Life looks simple from the outside. But we have already dropped too many words. Water, Seeds, Soil, Market. That’s what a farmer needs to grow. We’ll just talk about water in this post.

Water – The demand

There is no water. We are running out of it. Each of us needs 100 litres of water a day.  That is 125 billion litres of water a day for 1.2 billion people in India. To give you  an idea of what that is, a litre is held in a cube of 10 cms to a side.  A billion litres will need a tank that is about five kilometers high, five kilometers wide and five kilometers long.  125 billion litres is just one day’s water. That’s bheja fry for sure.

You protest and say, I barely drink a litre and bathe in another 10 litres, that makes it 11 litres. Did you forget to tinkle after you sprinkle? Each toilet flush releases 20 litres of water, go and calculate. Then add the water that your dishes take to get washed, your laundry, cooking, gardening, car wash.. I suppose you get the picture. Probably, even the 100 litre figure is quite conservative for us, the urban middle class. And remember: electricity needs water, every material we use on a daily basis needs water as a basic commodity in its manufacturing.

What’s worse is that we haven’t yet counted water required for farming and for industry. So, here goes : 1 Kg of rice can and usually does take 1200 litres of water to produce. Meat requires even higher amounts of water.  It would be mind boggling to imagine the shape of a water tank that is needed to grow all the rice that the country needs.

Even worse. Our current ways of chemically dependent farming need far far more water than organic farming needs.

In a nutshell, we are more mouths to feed than before, we are eating more water intensive foods than before and we are growing them in ways that need more water than before. It is a perfect storm.

Water – the Supply

Have you heard of water farmers? No, silly, not the ones who grow food with the help of water. Water farmers are folks who decided that as water is the most precious input into farming, it makes sense to just sell their water off. Tankers come in, fill up water from their bore-wells and head to the cities to fill up the sump tanks of apartments and bungalows. Water is becoming more expensive than grains.

How has that come to pass? We can all hazard a guess. My guess is that many of us are willing to pay the price for more water. We are the most water consuming society that ever lived.. and we live in times of the greatest water scarcity ever.

So, when we need so much water, given that rains are erratic and they are bound to get even more erratic in the future, the only way to get more water is to draw it out from the earth. Dig a well, drain the water out. The well goes dry, dig deeper, keep going. The deeper you go, the older the water. Typically the water in the bore-wells of Hyderabad is 6000 years old. It took 6000 years for that water to accumulate. What happens when we dry them out? Guess!

So, what is happening now?

Urban lakes that served urban water needs have been reclaimed. Cities are drawing water from rivers and irrigation reservoirs.

As water table sinks lower and lower, farmers need more electricity to draw water from their wells because the wells have gotten deeper. The local ponds have dried up. All this while, we want more of rice and meat and other water heavy foods on our tables because we can afford it.

What’s the solution?

Yes there are solutions, they are hard. Water is just one challenge as I had written above: soil, seeds and market are the other challenges. If we take a good long view of these four together, solutions emerge. Many are already working on these solutions, we will explore these in the next few posts.

– Farhan

Read more:

 

Capsicum Rice

Capsicum Rice

Rice, being such a staple Indian diet has so many variations one can think of. Just add a few veggies to it and it becomes a pulao, a biryani, khichdi, etc..the list can go on. A quick preparation is always welcome when we don’t have too many options.

Two capsicums were literally suffering to be let out of my refrigerator for almost a week. I was tired of making capsicum sambar or using capsicum in my North Indian dishes; the idea of making a simple recipe with capsicum took over.

Here is the recipe…

Ingredients:

 2 Capsicums, finely chopped

1 cup Basmati Rice, soaked in water for half an hour

1-1/2 cups water

1 tsp Jeera

1 tsp grated ginger

1 split green chilli (you can add 2 if you want your rice to be spicy)

6-7 curry leaves

1-1/2 tbsp oil

1 tsp ghee

salt according to taste

Optional Seasoning:

2 tsps ghee

Cashews

 Preparation:

1. Heat oil in a kadai, add jeera and let it crackle, now add grated ginger,green chilli and curry leaves.

2. Once these turn a little brown, add the capsicum and saute till the capsicum turns soft. Add little salt so the capsicum does not taste unsalted when the rice is added.

3. Strain water from the rice, and add it to the fried capsicum, add ghee and saute for about 2 minutes.

4. Now add water and required salt, cover the kadai completely and let the rice cook for atleast 10 minutes.

5. Check to see if the rice is cooked and there is no water left in the kadai. If you find the rice still a little uncooked, you can add some more water accordingly and cook.

6. Heat ghee in a seasoning spoon and add cashews. When the cashews turn a little brown, add it to the cooked rice.

The rice is done when you get a very nice aroma of capsicum mixed with ghee!  You can serve this rice with a bowl of Raita and some papads.

This is a very quick recipe and can be made when you are bored and have nothing more interesting to cook at home.

Cheers!!!
– Bhuvana

How to Beat the Exam Blues

How to Beat the Exam Blues

Happiness they say is your last exam paper! March is the month for exams for most students in India. Nearly one and a half crore students are appearing for board exams in India this year after a gap of seven years. It is a highly stressful time. Revisions, portion, tears, meltdowns, night outs, burn outs – conversations revolve words like these in most homes. Parents are busy helping their children stay motivated and confident.

We all know that what you eat can affect your mood, alter stress levels and promote calmness. We tend to go on food binges under pressure and students are no different. Under the influence of examination stress there will be significant increase in food intake, and a tendency for high fat and sugary snacks. This can be counter-productive as unhealthy meals can add to stress levels.

March is the month when the temperatures begin to rise in our country. This is good for bacterial growth and so the chances of getting an infection are very high. It is also the time when measles and chicken pox are rampant. To begin with give only fresh, homemade food to your children. Avoid all food from outside to safeguard them from any stomach bug. Water should be fresh and filtered.  Don’t make any fried food items as these tend to make the stomach heavy. Avoid food that will give a sore throat and goes without saying, no carbonated drinks and ice cream please.

When children are studying food gets digested faster and they tend to feel hungry often. Give smaller meals more frequently rather than three large meals. Make whole grains and pulses a part of every meal.  Add plenty of greens to meals and snacks. (How does palak dosa sound?)

Add a fistful of nuts, plenty of fruits and fruit juices to the diet to provide extra energy and keep them active. Tea and coffee can be had in moderation. A glass of milk in the morning and at bedtime will be good. This will give good sleep at night. This is as far as physical health is concerned.

To make sure that children are mentally composed and not having panic attacks due to exam fears, help them maintain a proper study routine. Give tips on how to revise and write the exam. Keep them off television, Internet and social media as far as possible as they can take the mind away from studies. For rest and relaxation they can play board games or any light sport. Music is also a great stress buster. Yoga helps improve concentration, apart from helping relax the muscles.

If your child is going for tuitions or combined studies along with friends, make sure he/she is not coming under peer pressure as it can be detrimental to his performance or hit his self confidence. Research has shown that 30% students going for board exams get into substance abuse (cigarettes, alcohol and even drugs) due to the stress.

Keep the house well ventilated. Put your essential oil burner to good use now. Lavender, rose, ylang ylang and vetiver oils give out wonderfully soothing aromas to calm the mind. Most important, be there for your child as a friend and guide. This is the time they need you the most to help them do their best.

Sujata C

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