How a Desi Seed Goes Extinct

How a Desi Seed Goes Extinct

Back in the 70s, when the state government introduced new high yielding jowar cultivars developed by International Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics  to farmers in Adilabad district of Telangana, little did they realise that the indigenous variety Persa Jonna would be lost in the process. ICRISAT scientists have once again offered new crop varieties to Adivasi farmers in Novemebr last year. What will the consequences be? Should the farmers hold back on the side of caution? How did the loss of Persa Jonna impact the lives of farmers? Here’s the full story- Read more: 


Beejotsav held in Hyderabad

Beejotsav held in Hyderabad

When farmers take up cudgels for Mother Earth, you know there is something good going. The Desi Seed Festival held at the Ramakrishna Mutt, Domulguda, Hyderabad elicited an enthusiastic response from seed conserving farmers. The event was organised by SAVE ( Society for Awareness and Vision on Environment) in association with independent organisation Bharat Beej Swaraj for three days from Feb 3-5. Thousands of farmers from nearby states Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh thronged the venue to listen to natural farming exponent Subhas Palekar and other practitioners.

Over 5000 varieties of desi seeds were exhibited. Desi seeds were also distributed free of cost to farmers.

Watch this video to know more:

Biryani: The Dish that Devours Boundaries

Biryani: The Dish that Devours Boundaries

There are two must-dos for any visitor who comes to Hyderabad – eat biryani and buy pearls. The funny thing is both these items don’t originate here. Hyderabad is not on the sea coast and pearls are not natively found here and despite a 400 year old association with Hyderabad, biryani did not originate here.

If you were to plot a route for biryani, you will need the map of Asia, for that is what it is – an Asian dish popular in its varied forms. It is probably the only single pot dish that has travelled from region to region devouring boundaries on its way and picking up the flavours of the places it passed.

Biryani is known to have been brought to India by Taimur-e Lang, the lame but fierce Mongol ruler who invaded India towards the end of the Tughlaq dynasty. It is very interesting to track the spread of biryani in India. The dish took on the flavours and and aromas peculiar to each region and evolved into a variety of region specific biryanis – the Kashmiri, the Awadhi or Lucknowi, the Malabari, the Arcot biryani, Calicut biryani and the Hyderabadi biryani, each  unique and delicious in its own way.

Dig into history: People say biryani was the Nizam’s gift of love to Hyderabad, but the history of the Hyderabadi biryani predates the Nizams. Legend has it that Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Shah Jahan and mother of Aurangzeb, cooked up the recipe of this meat and rice dish to quell the hunger pangs of marching soldiers who had to walk long distances.

It is possible that Aurangzeb brought the biryani to Hyderabad along with him when he came down to conquer the Deccan and his army laid siege for nine months camping in the Fateh Maidan to conquer the Golconda Fort.

Yet another piece of history says that the nomads of West Asia came up with this dish. They would mix rice, meat and spices in a pot and bury it in the sand. Cooked by the heat of the sun, the biryani would be ready when the pot was dug up after a few hours. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it!

We talked about pot cooking in our last post. We take it forward here with this recipe for a chicken pot biryani. Try it out one evening and look out for the compliments!

Sujata C

You don’t need basmati rice for this recipe. Use Organic Sona masuri Rice and Cold Pressed Groundnut Oil for the best taste.

You can find these ingredients on Amazon here

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


Sweet and Spice on a Platter – Thiruvadarai Kali and Kozhambu

Sweet and Spice on a Platter – Thiruvadarai Kali and Kozhambu

The cold Marghazi / Dhanur month of our Tamil Calendar brings in a series of early morning pujas and delicious prasadams, Ven Pongal being a standard neivedhyam for every Dhanur masa pujai. On the full moon day of this month, we celebrate Thiruvadarai, which has many a concept attached to it. Some say this is the day Shiva entranced his devotees with his Cosmic Dance, while some believe that Lord Shiva agreed to marry Goddess Parvathy and so, the beliefs go on. This is the day of the Aarudra/Thiruvadarai star which can be spotted shining bright red like a ruby, in the North-West skies.

The unique thing that is common across most tamil households is the Kali, that is made as prasadam on this day along with the Ezhukari kootu/kozhambu. This awesome combination is mouth-watering and irresistible.

KALI Recipe


  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 tablespoon Toor Dal
  • 1 cup Jaggery (adjust acc to taste)
  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 3 cups water

For Seasoning

  • 1tbsp ghee
  • Raisins
  • Almonds
  • Cashew
  • Cardamom


Wash the rice and dry roast till it turns brown. Cool it down and pulse it so the rice is broken. Sieve the broken rice and discard the fine powder. Boil the Toor Dal separately till it is half cooked.

Now boil 3 cups of water. (You can adjust the water according to how your rice cooks). Add the roasted broken rice to the boiling water and cook. In a separate pan, boil water and dissolve the jaggery in it. Add the half cooked toor dal and grated coconut and let it boil for a few minutes. We don’t need a one string consistency for this recipe. Add this jaggery water to the cooked rice and transfer the contents to a pressure cooker. Cook for 2 whistles (adjust according to your cooker). This helps in getting the kali to be soft and fluffy instead of being pasty.

Heat ghee in a pan and roast the almonds, cashews, raisins and cardamom. Add this to the hot kali and enjoy!


Ezhukari kozhambu, as the name suggests has seven vegetables in it. You can use more than seven too. It tastes awesome when taken with the Kali.


  • 4 cups Mixed vegetables (Carrots, Peas, Ash gourd, French Beans, Red Pumpkin, Potatoes, Cucumber, Flat Beans)
  • 1- 1/2 cups toor dal
  • 1/2 cup tamarind soaked in hot water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4th tsp turmeric powder

For Frying and Grinding:

  • 2tbsp chana dal
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 5-6 red chillies
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp raw rice
  • ½ cup grated coconut

For Seasoning:

  • 2 tsps ghee
  • 1tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4th tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 8-10 curry leaves


Pressure cook the Toor Dal and keep it aside. Use the soaked Tamarind to make 5 cups of Tamarind water. Boil the vegetables in Tamarind water along with Turmeric and salt as required. Roast all the ingredients for the masala in very little oil and grind it in a mixer. Once the vegetables are par boiled, add this ground masala to the tamarind water and boil. When the vegetables are cooked, add the boiled Toor Dal along with little water left over from cooking the dal, for getting the consistency of the kozhambu.

Heat ghee in a seasoning spoon and add all the ingredients for seasoning. Once they splutter, add it to the kozhambu. Our Ezhukari Kozhambu is ready to be served with Kali.

Enjoy our traditional Kali and Kozhambu that taste like heaven, on a cold Marghazi Day!

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.

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.


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.