Radha Eswar Photos by Janani Eswar Recipes I Never

Recipes I Never
Used, Using Herbs I
Never Knew About
Radha Eswar
Photos by Janani Eswar
How things rushed by in the rush of things
How things rushed by in the rush of things
What I saw when I paused
- The importance of stopping to pause, to check, if we are on the right
- A whole new world of various herbs, plants and trees that could offer
innumerable recipes...
I was turning 35. Mother to three kids and busy with businesses
that made me feel like I was some kind of pro. I built a house
that my children like to call the chocolate house. We started
with a small garden around it. All the fun I had as a kid while in
gardens tended by my parents and grandparents came back to
me and I started showing my children the pleasures of gardening. Somewhere between being the great kid of the gardens and
becoming the dud of an adult, I had lost touch with keeping tab
on my connection with nature. I had missed exploring the wonders of using natural, wild edibles in recipes that I knew my
mom and grans were experts at. My engagement with becoming
a professional made me become a toddler-adult who had to once
again get connected to some of the most beautiful creations in
the world… namely plants and trees. Fortunately, like a toddler, I
was curious, passionately interested and ready to learn, explore
and discover. Better late than never, I thought.
Once I got smitten, there was no looking back. I grew younger
in my mind with the wonder of what I experienced. The usual
urud-dhal-with-rice dosas, wheat atta rotis, white rice and sabjis
from the market soon got replaced with exotic dishes of various
combinations and permutations. I started looking up to older
women who loved cooking, with reverence, and pried their
memories for recipes they knew as those of their great grand
mom’s. The internet has been a boon to late toddlers like me and
I rediscovered my innate connection to nature once again by
looking up heroes and heroines who worked magical recipes with
oh-so-many different plants. Imagine my surprise when I learnt
that Portulaca oleracea or pigweed is edible raw if you like. It
loves to grow even on pavements! So many plants that I thought
as weeds, suddenly sprang up clamouring for my attention, saying, “Hey, I have this power, I can make for a great dish. Don’t
just pass me by!” All of a sudden one lifetime seemed very inadequate.
Chapter 1
Tea was no longer just dried leaves of Camellia assamica
- It could be concocted with so many other herbs as well...
Tea, for me, the adult toddler, was just the brew of Camellia assamica, made to dust or leaf powder and stashed in
tetrapacks. Imagine my thrill on realising that Tulsi, lemon grass, henna fruits, dalimbe leaves, hibiscus, chamomile, Cassia
angustifolia bark, rose, pudina, parijata flowers, flax seed, Cassia tora leaves and many other leaves and flowers also made
for great teas without the side effect of “cooked tea”. A dash of honey and a little bit of cardamom or cinnamon made
these hot “teas” taste exotic. I soon became a fan of Aparna Sirur, a great Amchi expert who has so much to say about the
use of herbs in Amchi cooking.
Section 1
Herbal Tea
Using Dalimbe, Goranti and Mysore Mallige leaves...
Here is Aparnaji’s recipe for a herbal tea:
Aparnaji says, 10 leaves of dalimbe leaves and
goranti leaves with two jointed leaves from
the Jasminum grandiflora plant should be
boiled in one cup of water, with ¼ teaspoon of
jeera powder and ½ spoon of dhania powder.
Wait till the water starts to boil and then add
half a cup of milk and jaggery or honey to
taste. Makes for some healthy chai that can
warm you nicely inside.
Chapter 2
My tryst with millets
- Cereals other than sona masuri and refined atta
Every day we should eat cereals, and those essentially would just be rice or wheat, right? Wrong! I
have stopped ordering for 15 kg of rice I was getting into the routine of, like most South Indian
families. I don’t order organic rice even of that quantity any more. Instead I buy fox tail millet, ragi,
jowar, bajra flour and have fun making rice-like preparation out of saamai arisi. Navdarshanam, in
Bangalore, sells multi grain flour, which can make for some good hot porridge or dosa. Jowar rava
from Parisara, Bangalore, can substitute sooji rava any time. Amongst rice, I learnt that I could
make some yummy sweet with black rice and jaggery like my granny used to make. I don’t know if
you, reader, are as much as a toddler as I am in these things, but the truth is that we were once a
millet-eating community, not the rice or wheat eating community we have now turned into!
Section 1
Using millets in the place of rice and wheat
- The way to eat without the fear of eating in an unhealthy manner
I won’t forget the surprise I felt when I
cooked navanne, like rice in my cooker! It
came out fluffy and nice. Had my fears though
when I wondered how my rice eating family
would welcome this “experimentio” as they
were fond of calling all my cooking. But what
do you know! When the family gathered
around it for lunch, it went down quite
quickly amidst approving sounds. From then
on, my experiments with millets have travelled a long distance. I can now make rotis, uppitu, kadubus or kozhakattais, simply porridge, payasam, rice-like preparation all with
millets. The smaller millets make good equivalents for rice. The bigger ones could be
ground, coarsely or fine and used either as
rava or flour.
You could even try and boil them and mix
with an experimental vegetable salad to impress the more fussy eaters who like to have
their dish looking exotic. :)
Chapter 3
Thumping on with Tamblis
- The smart way to beat any heat
I felt like a child of eight, when I first heard about tamblis. Imagine… so many different ways of having
buttermilk! You could have just a glass of cooling drink, or a tambli for general immunity using amrithaballi
leaves, another one for mental tonic using brahmi leaves, still another using nugge leaves, one of everyone’s
favourite using lemon grass, well how about one with garike hullu, not to forget the ones with doddapatre,
dasavale, mango, jackfruit, dalimbe leaves, palak leaves, so many different soppus, tulsi, tondekai leaves,
rampatre, majge hullu and so many more. You could even find this roadside plant Euphorbia pillulifera and
make tamblis out of it, says Aparnaji for better functioning of kidneys and lungs! Don’t crush this so called
weed next time you see it by the roadside! Pay attention and act with care and respect!
Section 1
The way to tambli
- Simple logic to become a great tamblier
Tamblis, you would be aware could be made from leaves, flowers,
seeds, fruits or other plant parts. All you need to understand is that
to an ogranne of mustard, you could add sometimes jeera, fenugreek,
dhals or red chilli. To this you could add turmeric, powders of dhania,
pepper, khas-khas, thil, garlic or ginger. Add chopped onions in combination with relevant companion ingredients. Add handful of veggies, soppus, fruit pulps, peels, leaves or flowers. Saute only those
that need sauteing and not the ones that can be ground raw. Blend
the mix with coconut and green chillies and add it to cooled buttermilk. Add hing where relevant and voila! I last heard you could prepare over 1,000 different types of tamblis! Flowers include those of
dasavale, banana, ixora, dalimbe, too. Leaves are a plenty that you
could use. Pickles too have found their way into tamblis, especially
cut mango or amla pickle.
Chapter 4
Chatpata chutneys and power-packed podis
- Galaxies of side dishes...
I’m sure just reading the title made your mouth water! :). Mine did just writing about this! Well, to cut the chase, I thought that grannies
were super heroines as they could conjure up so many chutneys and podis, that tasted oh-so awesome! When I learnt that these could be
made from wild edibles from forest floors or road side dumps, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of possibilities! Imagine my awe at those
many people who wandered around forests, much before times of technology, learning what herb cured which disease…mind boggling, isn’t
it? Well, these days, I do not fret much about what sambhar or rasam I need to come up with. I can conjure up many interesting chutneys
and podis myself… with the most bizarre herbs a city-bred, buying-veggies-from-market person could ever think of. Here goes and believe
you me, this is just the tip of the iceberg! I will not mention here the more unusual ones of doddapatre, amla and brahmi here or about
surli kodi or honaganne soppu. Let me get a little more adventurous and talk to you about making chutneys from say, hulichikki, or takrike
leaves, chakremuni, raw attikudi, and… that is just the beginning of it all… sigh… there are just too many options…
Section 1
Tangy takrike chutney
- When chutneys become medicinal but taste yum
Making chutneys from leaves follows simple
Leaves that can be ground directly, mostly thin Kothamari soppu
Leaves that need to be blanched - Surli kodi
Leaves that need to be sauted as they are hard
and thick but not succulent - Brahmi
Now you are ready to make any kind of chutney!
Takrike is like brahmi and needs to be sauted. So
saute it with jeera, chilli, turmeric and some coconut. Add vaate hulli or tamarind, hing and salt
and blend everything. Yummy chutney is now
Podis simply have roasted dhals like urud and bengal gram with roasted thil and red chillies. Saute
slightly almost dried leaves or roasted leaves. Add
hing and salt and grind everything to a coarse
powder. Podis are great to mix with boiled
millets...yes, I did not say boiled rice! :)
Chapter 5
Soppus galore!
- Don’t be fooled... there are more soppus than meets the eye!
They say there are tribes that use 92 soppus in their diet. You and I are used to, say, up to 10 that we
sometimes see in the market? Please stand by. So many innocuous looking plants are potential
soppus that many like us are ignorant about. Most times a foraging spree in the wild would be
enough to give us a portion of our vegetable intake. I have learnt from a woman from the hills,
special soppus I never used before like the surli kodi. The art of removing the tender rolled shoots of
this soppu is something that engages my senses quite handsomely. Garagada soppu makes for a great
liver tonic, I’m told. Chakota soppu, kasi soppu, Gongura soppu, brahmi, nugge, kare soppu,
thudube soppu, thupekeere soppu, chitige soppu are again, just, some of the soppus you can have, if
you can identify them amongst the forest ground covers, like a native can.
Section 1
Making soppu from a weed
- Did you know, most soppus are weeds that grow back easily... maybe that’s why they became food for humans and animals!
Water spinach or Ipmoea aquatica is a weed
looked down by most. Well, it can become
wild, but if it does we could harvest and use
it’s leaves for making delicious soppu. For this,
roasted dhania seeds need to be added to
leaves boiling in a little water till cooked well.
Blend this into paste and add ogranne to it.
Curry could be made from neer brahmi, an
otherwise bitter soppu. Just add the chopped
leaves to ogranne and garnish with coconut
and some jaggery if you wish.
Try soppus in not just saarus, but also in tambulis, kadubus, dosas, rotis, curries, kootus, pulaos and maybe boiled or raw in salads depending on leaf in question. But include them everyday in your food.
With no carbohydrates and being rich in fibre,
vitamins, beta carotene and sometimes medicinal ingredients, they make for best foods you
need to eat.
Chapter 6
Rousing rasams
- The hot health lean soup to wake you out of stupor
Have you ever had rasam made with hippali? Well, you can never forget it if you have. Try it some time.
How about neem flower rasam? If you wish to help someone cure their arthritis, do give them rasam
made with agniballi. I read somewhere that some tribals use arrowroot for making rasam. Now that
however, does not sound too appetizing, but I may be wrong!
Section 1
Reasoning behind rasam recipes
- Your cup of hot medicinal salt water... spiced up to serve different needs
Try your hand at amla rasam, just 10 amlas to 1/2 a
litre of water.
Or some healthy rasam with tulsi and tailed pepper.
For this grind a handful of tulsi with five tailed pepper pods, tie this paste into a bundle to a boiling
tamarind juice extract.
If you can get hold of ambusondeballi, that can make
a medicinal rasam, too. Just take a cup of its leaves,
make a paste along with some tamarind and tomato
(optional). Add water and nicely filter this paste into
thin juice. Make ogranne, add to the watery juice to
make rasam. Very good for cough, cold and for keeping your stomach in order.
A rasam made out of leaves of wild snake gourd or
musumuskai protects you from allergens and colds
from irritants.
So go ahead and try pudina rasam, nugge leaves or
flower rasam or methi leaves rasam. Basically any medicinal part used appropriately with hot sour water
and relevant additives to balance doshas makes for
good rasam. :)
Chapter 7
Avatars of dosa, idli and roti
- Making tiffins that intrigue
Are you a parent whose kids complain, “Oh no! Not dosa again!”? Well, you need not worry any more. You can dress your dosas and rotis in
different ways by including varying ingredients in them. Try for example, dasavale leaf dosa, nugge leaf roti or agniballi leaf dosa. Have you tried
making dosas using different millets? No one will then complain of boredom with so much variety, I’m sure.
Section 1
Keep your family guessing :)
- You may never have to repeat a dish if you were smart
Make dosas, kadubus, idlis or rotis with any of the
following leaves. Try and use green gram dhal instead
of urud dhal.
Brahmi, Neeru sabbasege for memory power
Nugge to remove constripation and better eye sight
Dante for eye problems
Basale and doddagoni soppu for ulcers
Hullichikki soppu for any bleeding disorder, diabetes
Gongura leaves, and chicory leaves as liver tonics.
Chakremuni, agase leaves for enrichment
Leaves of dasavale and other herbs could also be
Try and make kadubus in turmeric leaves, or leaves
of chanda kala. The taste is different and adds to
your health.
Try all edible flowers, too. Enjoy maadi!
Chapter 8
Snacks to vie with fast foods
- For that intermediate snack that would outshine fast foods
Who says that you cannot beat fast foods? You can with delicious pakodas, pattis and bajjis made from
different millets and leaves like dasavale, basale, doddapatre and now I bet you will be bold enough to go
out and learn t identify more wild edibles and use them to cook up some awesome dishes yourself! Have
Chapter 9
Radha Eswar
Passionate about plants & trees.
Child of nature.
Mother of three lovely children.
Social entrepreneur at heart.
Wife to an innovator.
Daughter, daughter-in-law; and
relative to many, friends to more.
People say they like having me in
their team.
Trained to be an architect.
Self-trained to be a green architect.
Love to remain a student of life.
Wish to stay eight years old at heart.
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