Dussera got over last week after a glorious Navaratri celebration all over the country. Navaratri in Tamil households involves lots of preparation from arranging and decorating the Golu to making prasadams (bhog) every single day – twice daily.
We make lots of Sundals (which is a dry salted salad-type preparation with different lentils) as prasadam. People also make different sweets to induce some variety to the prasadams. This time I tried Sitaphal (Custard Apple) Kheer as part of my prasadam. This is the season for custard apples and I got quite tempted to try out this recipe. It turned out to be pretty good and I am sure people who relish kheer would love this one.
1.5 lts whole milk
18 tsps sugar
pulp of 5 custard apples
Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews, Raisins for garnishing
Boil milk in a large pan/bowl. After the first boil, add sugar and stir it occasionally till the milk starts reducing. Extract the pulp from all the custard apples by removing the seeds-its quite a task..:). Grind the pulp to a smooth paste and keep it aside.
Once the milk reduces to half its quantity, it will turn light pink in colour. Turn off the gas, add the fruit pulp and stir well. Finally you can garnish it with almonds, pistachios, cashews and raisins, roasted in ghee. This kheer tastes great when served chilled.
Now that fresh custard apples are available in abundance during this season, this recipe is definitely worth a try!!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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):
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
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.
It is school reopening time and most mothers are busy wondering which new nutritious snack would be a good choice to add to their lunch box menu. To get children to eat all veggies and healthy food is a huge challenge. One way is to get all the nutrition into a roll with some yummy sauce/chutney. Let us try this one which has 3 types of dals and loads of veggies.
1/2 cup Toor Dal
1/2 cup Moong Dal
2 tsps Chana Dal
1/2 cup Cauliflower florets
1/2 cup capsicum finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots finely chopped
1/4 cup tomatoes finely chopped
1/2 cup onions finely chopped
few pitted olives
1 tbsp Sunflower oil
Italian Seasoning (Basil,Oregano,Chilli flakes)
Salt to taste
Wheat Flour for the rotis
Boil the dals together with enough water to cook them. Once cooked, drain the extra water and keep it aside. Make a dough out of the wheat flour, knead it well and let it sit for 15 mins. Meanwhile we can prepare the filling. Boil carrots and cauliflower separately. Saute all the other vegetables in sunflower oil. Once they are cooked, add the cooked dal, carrots and cauliflower and mix. Add the seasoning along with required salt and let the vegetables cook till the filling is thick. Now our filling is ready.
Roll the dough into lemon sized balls and make rotis out of them. Take each roti, place the filling along the centre, add grated cheese on top and roll the sides onto each other to close the roll. You can use a little water to close the roll so that it does not open. You can cut the roll into three pieces, so it is easier to eat.
You can pack this as lunch for your kids along with their favourite sauce!
Our favourite fruit, Mango, will fast dwindle away in the next 2 weeks with the summer passing and the arrival of Monsoon. Many sweets, salads and dals are made out of different varieties of Mangoes. The Mango Kheer is a unique dish which tastes excellent, especially when served chilled. Let’s take a look at this easy recipe.
Pulp of 2 ripe Mangoes (preferably Alphonso)
1 ltr whole milk
11 teaspoons of sugar
1 tbsp rice
1 tsp ghee
Boil the milk on medium flame. Add sugar. After adding sugar when the milk starts boiling, add the raw rice. Let the rice cook in the milk. Keep stirring till the milk starts reducing. It will turn to a very light pink colour. Turn off the gas and cool it to room temperature. Blend the mango pulp into a smooth puree. Add this to the cooled milk and mix well. This recipe turns out to be mildly sweet. You can adjust sugar according to your taste even at the end. Garnish with a few almonds, cashews and raisins roasted in ghee. Serve this kheer chilled.
Enjoy the Mango Kheer before the season of Mangoes end!
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.
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.
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.
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…
3 Raw Mangoes
4 tbsps Jaggery
3 cups Water
1/2 tsp Roasted Cumin seeds powder
Few Mint leaves
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..:)
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 🙂
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
Salt acc to taste
Oil for frying
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
“Rural Sustainability is a Prerequisite for Urban Sustainability,” 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.