Mud Pot Cooking- Forefathers’ Style

Mud Pot Cooking- Forefathers’ Style

The pot we cook our food in affects the quality of the food both taste and nutrition. Mud pots were used for storing water and cooking food since the dawn of civilization. They were an integral part of traditional cooking and one of the secrets to the delicious taste of dishes.

It appears that mud pot cooking is now on a comeback trail and many people are already bringing it into practice. You can spot these traditionally attired Rajasthani women selling clay tavas these days in Hyderabad at every traffic signal.There are many online shops selling  them as well and many exhibitions also display these trending cookware.

Rasams and sambars simmered in an earthen pot taste much better than when they are cooked in  metal vessels. They get an earthy flavor which every foodie will die for. Some of the best biryanis are made in mud pots, any Hyderabadi will tell you that. Matka biryani is a chef’s special in many restaurants. Punjabis love to slow cook their sarson da saag in a clay pot to get the authentic taste.

Why mud pots:

  • Clay is porous in nature and this permits air and moisture to circulate from the food into the pot.
  • The minerals present in the clay get a chance to permeate the food, thus improving the nutrient quality. Doctors say mud pots add calcium, phosphorous and magnesium to the food.
  • Clay is alkaline and it neutralizes the acidity of the food, making it more balanced for the body.
  • Clay takes longer to heat hence food is slow cooked. This retains the nutrients and natural  flavours in the food.
  • Cooking in clay pots takes medium heat which makes the micronutrients in the food available.
  • It requires less fat/oil to cook food in a clay pot making the food healthier.
  • The food stays warm for a long time as the clay pot retains heat for longer.
  • The flavour and taste of the food gets enhanced.
  • Clay pots are inexpensive and easily available.

After cooking, hand wash the clay pot. Soak it in water to loosen food particles. Scrub with a scouring pad. Don’t use any detergents. Use baking soda or salt if at all you want to get rid of any lingering smells.

Before you try your hand at cooking the way our forefathers did, make sure you do not buy glazed pots as they may be coated with lead or mercury making it a hazardous proposition. Go for the simple unglazed red or black coloured mud pots that are available in the street market. Soak a new pot in water for a few hours to cure it and then start using it. Treat your family to food with the flavor of earth and pat yourself on the back for adding a touch of green to your cooking.

Sujata C

Celebrate the Harvest

Celebrate the Harvest

Makar Sankranti, the four day harvest festival of India is here and we are ready to express our gratitude to the life giving Sun, the life bearing Earth and the bounty that we have received through them, through the year. Known by different names across the country Pongal, Lohri, Bhogali Bihu, the celebrations are diverse and specific to each region. The Sun moves into the Makar rasi or Capricorn constellation marking the end of winter and Dakshinayana and the start of spring and Uttarayana, the auspicious period.  Devotees take a dip in the holy rivers. Homes are stocked with newly reaped harvest and hearts are overflowing with thanks, joy and gratitude.

With more than half the population of the country engaged in agriculture and allied activities, the mood of celebration grips the entire nation. Preparations begin weeks in advance. City dwellers book their tickets in advance for a trip to the hometown because they know the last minute surge pricing will burn a hole in their pockets. Those who haven’t been able to go back hometowns take to rooftops and playgrounds armed with colourful kites because the breeze is inviting and the sun is nice and warm.

In every village, farmers clean and paint their homes. Old stuff is taken out and made a bonfire of, on Bhogi the first day of the festival. People dance and sing around the bonfire to keep the last of the biting cold away.  In a run up to the festival the front yard is given a cow dung water wash every morning. Rice flour kolams and colourful rangavallis decorate every threshold in the South.

Haridasu’ sing out their stories. ‘Gangireddu, the decorated bull who is seen as ‘Nandishwara’ dances to drum beats and music in every street. This is an ancient art form of entertainment that brings the community together. Recreational animal sports like cock fighting, jallikattu, kambala are looked forward to. On the third day of Kanumu, the ancestors are remembered and blessings sought from elders.

Women get busy making snacks like palli laddu, sakkinalu and muruku in the SouthIn the North they make gajak, a popular snackIn the South, cooking Pongal in a mudpot with milk and new rice is an age old tradition. As the milk boils over, everyone calls out ‘Pongalo pongal’ to usher in prosperity into their homes.


Try out these traditional recipes and relish during Sankranti. In keeping with the spirit of gratitude to mother earth, we recommend that you choose organic and locally sourced ingredients, pour out all your love and gratitude in the making of these dishes. Nothing describes celebration more than a delicious and nourishing meal.

Ven Pongal (Also called the Savory Pongal):


  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup split moong dal
  • Salt to taste

For Seasoning:

  • 2 tbsps ghee
  •  1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp black pepper, coarsely pounded
  • 2 tsps cashew nuts pieces
  • 1 sprig curry leaves


Wash the moong dal and rice and keep aside. In a pot, add a little ghee and roast the dal till the raw flavour disappears. Add five cups of water and some salt. Cook till soft. Mash the dal rice mix well with a ladle. The consistency should be somewhat loose. In a seasoning ladle, take some ghee, add cashew nut and fry till golden brown. Remove and keep aside. In the same ladle, add cumin seeds, grated ginger and curry leaves. When it is spluttering, add to the pongal and stir well. Garnish with fried cashew nuts and serve hot with coconut chutney.

Sweet Pongal:


  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/4 cup chana dal
  • 1-1/2 cup jaggery
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water

For Seasoning:

  • 2 tbsps ghee
  • Raisins, cashews, almonds, cardamom


Roast the rice and chana dal separately just till they are hot, not brown. Now boil the milk and water. Once the milk starts bubbling, add the roasted rice and dal and let them cook. In a separate pan, melt the jaggery in half a cup of water till it reaches one string consistency. When the rice and dal are cooked to a porridge like consistency, add this jaggery mixture and switch off the stove. Do not light the stove and cook once you add the jaggery mixture, as the pongal will curdle. (Jaggery and milk when cooked, curdle). Mix all the contents in your vessel, till they blend. In a seasoning spoon, add ghee. Once it melts, add the cashews,almonds, raisins and elaichi. Add this seasoning to the prepared Pongal and serve hot.

You can buy organic ingredients listed in the above recipes from Amazon or BigBasket

Sujata C

Recipes by Bhuvana

Know your Organic Labels

Know your Organic Labels

Love has no labels but bottles, jars and grocery packets do. Labels make promises and raise expectations. Words like “Natural”, “Pure” and “100%” are used loosely and liberally on packets of food items. When you are out shopping for organic food you must look for authentic labels. Here are a few labels to keep an eye out for:

Indian Organic is a mark of assurance for organically grown food and processed food made in India. The certifying agency and regulatory authority is APEDA (Agriculture and Processed food products Export Development Authority). This is an accredited certification and legally valid for importing food products. APEDA runs under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP).  All Indian organic products must display the India Organic logo for customers to easily identify certified products.

Indian Organic label is recognised by the US and the European Union.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) launched a new logo for organic products in Decemeber last year.

Indian Organic Standards:

Decoded further, the Indian Organic label means:

  • The land from where the produce is obtained, has been upgraded for organic farming and no chemicals are used in the farm practices.
  • All inputs like fertilisers and pesticides are and must be natural.
  • No genetically modified inputs or Irradiation technology should be used.
  • All the farming practices and food processing techniques – physical, biological and mechanical must be verifiable.
  • No contamination from neighbouring farms must be present.
  • The farm must follow sustainable practices.

The organic certification is not easily obtained and is quite an intimidating exercise.  The farmer has to approach agencies that give the certification. The NPOP has a list of third party accredited bodies like INDOCERT, ECOCERT etc who carry out the certification procedure. A farm is given certification after two years of organic farm practices. A fruit orchard is given certification after three years of organic farm practices. A dairy unit on certified land can get it in 90 days, whereas a food processing unit can get it in one day provided all the biological, physical and mechanical inputs are convincing.

The organic certification for any produce is also valid for three years and must be renewed after that.

An individual farmer spends anywhere between Rs 25,000/- to Rs 40,000/- for organic certification. A group of farmers who pool their land holdings for certification may spend between Rs 40,000/- to Rs 1,00,000/-.

On some products you may also find the label of PGS India Green and PGS India Organic. PGS India Green indicates that the fields from where the produce is sourced are in the process of conversion to organic and PGS India Organic means that the produce is obtained from fields are completely organic. PGS stands for Participatory Gaurantee System for India. It is a decentralised organic farming certification system run by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India. 

International labels:

Some of the other international organic labels are the USDA and Organic EU.

USDA stands for United States Department of Agriculture and USDA Organic seal means that the product has been certified organic and contains 95% or more organic ingredients.

Presence of Organic EU logo means Eurpoean Union certification standards were followed while growing or making the product.

This is the new logo of Organic EU.

Logos give a visual identity to the organic farm sector and differentiate them from the conventional farm products, apart from making it easy for you and me to pick the food of our choice.

Sujata C

FYI: All of Daana’s products are certified organic. Order them from Amazon by clicking here


Good Health is Cold Pressed

Good Health is Cold Pressed

Ola acquired Foodpanda two days back. So now not only will they drive you home, they will also deliver hot food at your doorstep. Away from the hustle and bustle of the food delivery apps world, there is a quiet revival of the traditional oil mill all over the country – not in remote villages , but in the heart of happening cities. It appears to have made a silent comeback after seven to eight decades much to the delight of discerning consumers like Uma who lives in Yapral, Hyderabad. Since the past six months, she has been making a monthly trip to the traditional oil mill (ghani in hindi, ganuga in telugu) near her house to get fresh cold pressed oil.

Good old ‘ganuga’

Prabhakar is the lone ‘ganuga’ operator in the region who uses two bullocks to run his mill and prepare oil for select customers. He is from the oil crushers’ community, who took to selling garments when his livelihood of traditional oil milling was no longer profitable. Couple of years back, he chanced upon a meeting of Subhas Palekar,  the ‘rishi of  krishi’ in his village, advocating traditional food and farm practices. This proved to be a turning point in his life. Everything that Palekar said about chemical farming resonated with him. He had heard about the ill health caused by adulteration and chemicals in food. Prabhakar decided to revive his ancestral occupation and set up his ganuga in Balaji Nagar at Yapral, Hyderabad. Prabhakar says oil from a traditional mill is especially good for diabetics and heart patients.

Prabhakar at work
Photo courtesy: Telengana Today

Time for mindful eating

You can imagine what wonderful meals Uma must be cooking for her family, if she takes so much care about the cooking oil. While many of us may not have access to a ghani near our house, we can make the switch to mindful eating by including cold pressed oils in the shopping list.

The fast pace of our lives has taken its toll on our health. We tend to be mindless when it comes to something as basic as food. We just need to slow down and bring our awareness to things around us and the food on our plates. You can make mealtimes more interesting by talking to your children about the food they are eating. Even the most ordinary everyday meal has something extraordinary about it, if we chose to think about it. This way we can help one another become more mindful and thus make wiser choices about our health, our food, our farmers and the environment.

If you know of any traditional oil mill becoming operational in your locality, do drop a line in the comments section. We would love to spread the word.

Sujata C sells cold pressed oils that you can order conveniently from

The Unrefined Truth About Refined Oils

The Unrefined Truth About Refined Oils

There is an open secret about refined oils that many of us still don’t know. It is the  process oilseeds undergo to acquire the state of odourless, colourless ‘refinedom’. To begin with, all sorts of seeds are used in refined oils – good, bad and even spoilt. When you do a quick internet search of the refining process of cooking oil the results throw up words like extraction, neutralizing, bleaching, deodorising etc. Intuitively, you know there is something wrong when they are neutralising, bleaching and deodourising your cooking oil. Dig a little deeper and your doubts are confirmed.

Bathed in petroleum solvent

While the term extraction seems harmless, seed pulp is bathed in a petroleum based solvent called hexane, to pull out the maximum amount of oil possible. (Is that a safe thing to do, is a logical question that comes into our minds.) Okay, so they use food grade hexane, but traces of it are likely to remain in the oil. Many studies including one conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry of UK have confirmed this. Nausea, headache, blurred vision, muscle weakness and numbness of the extremities are some of the side effects of ingesting even trace amounts of hexane.

Sizzling temperatures

Very high temperatures (upto 180 degree C) are used in the refining process to remove colour, odour and bitterness, causing the molecules to become unstable, more prone to oxidation and creation of free radicals – the root cause of a host of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer and Parkinson. Along the way the oilseeds are stripped of all the natural fatty goodness – vitamin E and minerals and antioxidants.

Chemical wash

Neutralising is done to remove any impurities in the oil by adding caustic soda and soda ash (Don’t we shun the cooking soda to soften the dal because it will kill all the nutrients).It is then purified and bleached to improve the colour. (The only thing we associated bleach with was sanitation and laundry.) The oil is also deodourised to get rid of ‘unusual’ or chemical smells. (I thought only bathrooms need deodourising.) At the end, they add some preservatives to improve shelf life.

That’s a complete cocktail of chemicals that the oilseeds have been processed with. The refining process leaves behind a trail of chemicals which get into our body and cause untold damage to the internal organs.

A dash of GMO

It is also a common practice among oil manufacturers to add cottonseed oilseed in most vegetable oils for volume. These seeds come from BT cotton which is a GMO seed (and the consumers will never know). Recent research reports in respected medical journals in the Indian Heart Journal (IHJ), the official peer reviewed open access journal of Cardiological Society of India (CSI) and the Journal for Preventive Cardiology have carried reports on cooking oils and recommend unrefined oils for the presence of bioactive compounds flavours and Vit E content.

This only adds momentum to the ‘ditch-the-processed-food movement’ and substantiates the fact that our ancestors knew better and enjoyed better health as they were consuming oil extracted by the bullock driven mill.

Keep watching this space for more on topics like this and others.

Sujata C

Daana supports the trend against refined oils and urges you to switch to organically grown and cold pressed oils. Order them from or today.

13th Edition of International Permaculture Conference gets off to a Colourful Start

International Permaculture Conference gets off to a Colourful Start

The 13th International Permaculture Conference commenced on a vibrant note at the auditorium of Prof Jayashankar State Telengana Agriculture University in Hyderabad on November 25, 2017. The verdant greenery of the university campus provided a perfect setting for the prestigious event that is being held in India for the first time with the support of International Permaculture Convergence(IPCC) and Friends of IPC (FIPC).


There were more than 1000 participants including permaculture practitioners, advocates, activitsts and supporters from 63 countries at the venue on the cool November morning to celebrate this back to nature movement. They were accorded a very traditional welcome with drum beatings, dancing farmers and music. The seed rangoli that adorned the floor of the reception hall was captivating. The celebratory mood was contagious and one traditional farmer from Australia broke into an impromptu jig, setting the tone for the day.

Prominent and well known activists who graced the occasion included seed sovereignty advocate Dr Vandana Shiva, water conservationist Dr Rajendra Singh, founder of the Permaculture College Robyn Francis, soil specialists Prof Sultan Ismail, and Andy Goldring, Chief Executive of the Permaculture Association UK.

The Telengana  government sponsored 100 farmers to attend the knowledge sharing event. It was interesting to see how eager and curious they were to hear the delegates on the dias with their headphones in place and making themselves comfortable in the aisle of a packed auditorium.

Farmers from other parts of India were also present to share their experiences with other farmers of the world. Permaculture practitioners from different parts of the world were dressed in their traditional costumes adding to the vibrancy of the place.

In the keynote address, Dr Vandana Shiva in her typical firebrand style, bemoaned how growing city had made a burial ground of farmland. She stated convincingly that industrial farming was cause for all the woes of the world. Lambasting the mindless technological advances being made in the world she said, “Just sometime back they gave citizenship to a robot. The next level of insanity is farming without farmers. Algorithms have no life, it is the seed that has life and we have to save our seeds from the onslaughts of the MNCs.” She condemned the hegemony of the handful of men who control half the wealth of the world and warned of the dangers that can stem from such a situation. Hitting out at rogue leaders and rogue corporations that dominate the world, she observed that most of them including Bill Gates were in need of a lot of ecological literacy.

Robyn Francis spoke on the importance of regenerating community resilience in a changing world.  She expressed her gratitude to women supporters of permaculture and said that women are the agents of change and capable of creating a safe, healthy and happy world with good food and self sufficiency.

The Convergence plans to provide hands-on learning experience to the participants through farm tours on wide ranging topics including local farm practices, traditional village living skills, pitcher irrigation, traditional oil milling technologies, local plant remedies and so on.

Exhibition stalls displayed seeds and plant produce of diverse varieties.  There were other stalls conducting demonstrations of sustainable agricultural practices and workshops on building communities. Famous balladeer Gaddar entertained the guests in the evening with songs that had a flavour of the soil. Traditional martial arts of India like karre samu and kalairipattu were performed by experts to regale the guests.

The Conference and Convergence is being hosted by Narsanna and Padma Koppula of Aranya Agricultural Alternatives a Hyderabad based environmental and developmental NGO who hope that a this conference will give a strategic direction to the permaculture movement in the world.

Growing up in an organic world

Growing up in an organic world

By Sujata C

The November sunlight feels so good. It has the right amount of warmth to counter the hint of cold that lingers in the air. It’s a great time to spend outdoors with your family and you are tempted to spend hours just lazing and soaking in the sun. It’s Children’s day, and instead of rushing off to the mall or catching the new movie at the multiplex, try something that’s real quality time. How about familiarising your children with the organic way of life?

You can begin right in the garden or your balcony. Get your children some basic gardening tools like a hand rake or a trowel to turn the soil over and gardening gloves if they are prone to skin allergies. This will build up the excitement. Being outside, they will get a healthy dose of sunlight and some physical exercise as well.

Since organic way of life is too large a universe to get all at once, you can introduce it in small but specific topics like pest control, for instance. Where there is a garden there are pests, we know that too well. So how about getting rid of garden pests in an eco friendly way without upsetting the delicate living system of soil?

As you work you can explain a bit about the soil system and its nature and take the children’s help in gathering ingredients. Climbing tree to pluck leaves off a neem tree would be a real fun thing to do for children. For children such activities help build a connect with nature and they will grow up with a higher environment quotient. Keep the conversation going and tell them why you are not opting for chemical sprays and liquids, explain how they harm the soil and leave residues.

Experts at Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad suggest many simple ways to make home based natural pesticides. Here are some natural remedies they advocate:

For insects in soil:

Two tbsp of red chilli powder, two tbsp of garlic paste. Mix it in one litre of water. Add a little of the mixture to the soil in each pot. The severe burning sensation caused by the chilli kills the pests.

For leaf spray:


  • Black tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) leaves: 50gms
  • Two glasses of water
  • Half tsp of detergent powder


Boil tulsi leaves in water for 30 minutes

Let it cool. Add detergent powder to it. Stir well. Let the kids fill a spray can or bottle with the mixture and spray on plants.

Well known agricultural expert Hari Shankar Panwar known for chronicling the traditional farm practices of farmers recommends this neem leaf decoction for pests like aphids, grasshoppers, white fly and caterpillars.


  • 1 kg leaves of neem (Azadirachta indica) 
  • 1 litre water
  • ½ tsp of detergent powder


Grind the neem leaves to a smooth paste. Mix it in water along with the detergent powder. Stir the mixture well. Spray it on plants.

Researchers are also recommending pomegranate peel decoction as an effective way to keep bugs off the plants.

Try out these eco friendly ideas in your garden. Not only will your garden be pest free, you would have instilled an appreciation for the organic way of life in your children.

Where did the plant come from?

Where did the plant come from?

If you pushed some seeds from a tomato pulp into a pot of soil; kept it in the Sun and lightly watered it everyday; soon enough, a tomato plant would start growing.

Where did the plant come from? How did the stem, branches, leaves, fruits get build? To build anything, you need raw material. Where does the plant get its raw material?

First Guess: The soil became the plant.
You can see if this is true. Keep weighing the pot everyday. If the soil is becoming the plant, then the weight of the potted plant should remain the same. However, the potted plant keeps getting heavier as the plant keeps getting bigger, it must be sucking the mass from somewhere else. Besides, farms never lose soil after repeated harvests. Wrong Answer.

Second Guess: The water became the plant.
Two problems with this. First, the plant, like all life forms, is carbon based. There is no carbon in the water. Second, it doesn’t absorb as much water as the plant weights. You can confirm this if you are carefully measure the amount of water you give to the plant. Wrong answer.

Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
– Sherlock Holmes

The Correct Answer : The air became the plant. The air has carbon dioxide. The plant absorbs carbon dioxide, uses the energy from the Sun to release oxygen back into the atmosphere and builds itself up into a larger plant.

Let that sink in, it is really a fascinating phenomenon. A seed, sown in the soil, starts sucking carbon from the air and using the sunlight, starts to build itself into any and every tasty fruit and vegetable that you have ever eaten. Your Alphonso mango, the french grapes, the avocado from Chile. They were all built from thin air.

– Farhan

Daana Blog is produced by Daana Network to promote understanding about Naturally grown, organic food. Support us by buying your grains, oils and staples from our farmers through Amazon, Bigbasket or directly from