Recipes: Instant Mango Chunda

If it’s summer, then it’s time for pickles. Everyone has their favourite type of pickle and while I enjoy a good lemon or mixed pickle, any mango pickle is by far my favourite. If given a choice, I would pick mango over any other pickle. The Mango Chunda is also one I enjoy, but it is S’ favourite pickle. Every trip from India, whether it is us or my parents, had to involve at least a few bottles of the chunda.

This pickle is from the western state of Gujarat and does not involve any cooking. The pickle is made from shredded mangoes and is sweet and sour, with a hint of spice and is made by keeping all the ingredients in the sun for up to a month until the sun cooks the pickle. But because we had not been to India for a while, one day, I found the instant version of the pickle and decided to make it.  It was an instant hit, so I decided to post it here, so I can reference it later.

Instant Mango Chunda

Ingredients:

  • 2 large green mangoes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp roasted cumin powder

Method:

  • Rinse, dry and peel the mangoes. Grate them and keep them aside.
  • Measure the grated mangoes and put them in a large pan
  • In the same pan, for 2 cups of grated mangoes, add 2 cups of sugar
  • Add the salt and turmeric powder and mix well.
  • Switch on the gas and let the sugar dissolve. Once the sugar dissolves, reduce the flame to low and let the sugar syrup cook to single string consistency. This should usually take about 6-8 minutes and you will know when it reaches one string consistency when you take a drop of the syrup and your index finger and thumb and move the fingers apart and you can see a string forming.
  • At this point, and this is very important, switch off the flame and immediately transfer the mixture to another bowl. Don’t forget to do this step. If you don’t transfer it immediately, the chunda will become hard. I did this the first time I made this recipe and since then have learnt my lesson.
  • Let the mango sugar mixture cool down completely.
  • Once it is cooled down, add the chilli powder and cumin powder and mix thoroughly.
  • Store in a dry glass or ceramic container and it will remain fresh for up to a year. Though if your family is like mine, it won’t last that long.

Notes: I used country sugar instead of white sugar, hence the dark colour. You can also substitute brown sugar or jaggery. Also I used the same quantity of sugar to mangoes, but if your mangoes are especially sour, you may need to increase the sugar to compensate for the sourness. You can also increase the chilli powder according to taste.

Recipes: Badam Doodh or Almond Milk

A very refreshing drink made out of milk and almonds, Badam or Almond Milk. Flavoured with cardamoms, saffron and rose water, this exotic, but simple and easy-to-make drink is the perfect drink when you have a sweet craving. Almond milk is rich in vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant which can help lower the risk of serious health conditions like stroke, heart disease, and even cancer. You can also make this for neividhyam or as an offering to God, which is what I made it for. Tasting great hot and cold, my family prefers this cold as that is when the flavours have had time to meld together, giving you a yummy almondy drink.

Badam Doodh or Almond Milk

Ingredients:

  • litre full cream milk
  • 30-40 almonds
  • 4- 6 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 generous pinches saffron
  • ½ tsp rose water

Method:

  • Soak the almonds in hot water for 20-30 minutes, then drain and remove the skin
  • Blend the almonds with some of the milk until the almonds become a fine paste. Keep aside.
  • Heat the milk in a deep-bottomed pan on medium-high and let the milk come to a boil.
  • Once the milk starts to warm up, take a couple of teaspoons of the milk and add it to the small cup in which the saffron strands are lightly crushed. Mix this a bit and keep aside for later.
  • Once the milk in the pan has come to a boil, add the sugar and stir well until the sugar completely dissolves.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, add in the blended almond paste and stir and mix well.
  • Reduce the flame to a low and stir constantly for about 10 minutes so that the milk and almond paste do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Once the raw smell of the almonds disappears, add in the crushed saffron and the cardamom powder and mix well.
  • Once the saffron and cardamom have mixed well, switch off the gas and add in the rose water. Mix well one last time and keep aside until it is completely cool.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and refrigerate until it is cold. Enjoy your almond or badam milk

Recipes: Gazpacho Inspired Tomato Corn Soup

It had been so hot in Singapore in summer that anything hot was anathema and so I was looking for some cold soups I could make ahead of time. I wanted to make a cold Gazpacho soup, but then realised I didn’t have all the ingredients with me. So I improvised and made this soup. It was well-received, though S didn’t like it. I also realised that BB didn’t like it cold, so I heated it and he liked it then. But this can be made and served both cold and warm.

Gazpacho Inspired Tomato Corn Soup

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 medium-sized red tomatoes
  • 1 small cup of frozen sweet corn
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • inch piece ginger
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 2 tbsp (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Method:

  • Defrost the corn and cook it in the microwave for about 6-8 minutes, or until it becomes tender
  • Chop the tomatoes and keep them aside
  • Peel the garlic and the ginger and keep aside. Chop the green chillies and keep them aside.
  • Peel and chop the onions and keep them aside.
  • Drain the sweet corn and in a blender, blend the tomatoes, sweet corn, onion, green chillies, ginger, and garlic. Blend first into a chunky paste and then add in the olive oil and blend to a fine paste. You may add some water if you need it while blending.
  • Using a strainer, strain the soup into a pan and reblend till everything is a fine paste.
  • Add salt and pepper and if you want, you can pop this in the fridge and have it as a cold soup.
  • If you like BB didn’t like the raw taste, add some water and boil the soup till it starts to come to a nice rolling boil and let it boil for about 5-8 minutes or until the raw taste goes away.
  • Drink it hot or cold, either way, it is delicious!

Recipe: Green Moong Sundal

Continuing on my Navaratri Sundal recipes, this is a super easy recipe that barely took any time to make. And because there is no soaking involved, this is perfect for those times when we need to make something quickly. It is also a good evening snack.

Green Moong Sundal

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup green moong dal
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida
  • Lemon juice to drizzle to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Finely chopped coriander leaves to garnish

Method:

  • Soak the green moong dal for about an hour in warm water.
  • After an hour, wash the dal well and keep aside. Heat water in a pan and add a tsp of oil and a bit of salt and add the moong dal. When the water starts to boil, reduce the flame to a low medium and keep stirring in between so that water does not overflow the pan.
  • Keep checking the consistency of the dal being cooked. The dal should be al-dente and neither under not overcooked. To know when the dal is perfectly cooked, take one small piece of the dal and press it with your fingers, if it’s able to be mashed, it’s cooked just right. Once the dal is cooked just right, remove it from the gas and strain it, removing all excess water.
  • Heat another pan and add the balance oil. When the oil heats up, add in the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds pop, add in the asafoetida. After a couple of seconds, add in the finely chopped green chilli and stir.
  • Add in the drained dal and stir. Add salt and the grated coconut and stir well. Drizzle with lemon juice and garnish with coriander leaves and serve warm or cold.

For more sundal recipes:

World Vegetarian Day

Anyone with a cursory glance at my blog will know that I am a vegetarian. I was raised as one and continue to remain one. My children are also raised as vegetarians and though I would not comment if they ate meat outside the house and in their own homes, when they have one, I will put my foot down about consuming meat in my home and will not allow anyone to cook or eat non-vegetarian food in my kitchen and home. This is, in large part, due to my religious beliefs and is something I will not budge from. I have no issues with people around me eating any kind of food and have on many occasions, in school, at work or even in social situations been with friends and colleagues who have eaten meat at the same table as me. All I ask of them is not to use their spoons to dig into my dish and if they want to taste what I am eating, to use the serving spoon in my dish to take some into their plates and eat, so my food does not get contaminated. And in any case, this is a healthy sharing practice, I believe.

What we eat impacts the well being of ourselves, animals and the planet. Vegetarianism was frequently referred to as a Pythagorean Diet, named after the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras who was an early advocate for the diet before the popularisation of the term vegetarian in the mid-1800s. Vegetarianism has been present in India since the 5th century BC, though the concept is also clearly present in Buddhism, which originated between the fifth and sixth centuries, in plant-based staples such as tofu which have been consumed in China for more than 2,000 years, in Indonesian, Japanese and Thai cuisines and also on the African continent before European colonisation. It became more mainstream in the US and UK in the 1960s and gathered additional momentum in the 1970s which led the North American Vegetarian Society to establish October 1 as World Vegetarian Day in 1977 to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.

A vegetarian diet focuses on vegetables, seeds, legumes, fruits, nuts and grains and also includes animal products such as eggs, dairy and honey, that are obtained without involving the death of an animal or the consumption of its meat. There are many variations of the vegetarian diet: an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products, an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs. As the strictest of vegetarian diets, a vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs and dairy and even extends to abstain the use of any animal-derived products.

Maintenance of a vegetarian diet can be challenging. While avoidance of animal products may support health and ethical concerns, dietary supplements may be needed to prevent nutritional deficiency if all such products are shunned, particularly for vitamin B12. Packaged and processed foods may contain minor quantities of animal ingredients. While some vegetarians scrutinise product labels for such ingredients, others do not object to consuming them or are unaware of their presence. Labelling is however mandatory in India to distinguish vegetarian products (green) from non-vegetarian products with vegetarian products having a green dot in them and non-vegetarian products having a brown dot which must be visible.

Vegetarianism may be adopted for various reasons. Many people object to eating meat out of respect for sentient animal life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs as well as animal rights advocacy. Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, economic, taste-related, or relate to other personal preferences.

The American Dietetic Association has stated that at all stages of life, a properly planned vegetarian diet can be healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Vegetarian diets offer lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein, and higher levels of carbohydrates, fibre, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamins C and E, and phytochemicals. Studies have shown that a vegetarian diet may increase the risk of calcium deficiency and low bone mineral density. A 2021 review found no differences in growth between vegetarian and meat-eating children. Vegetarian diets are under preliminary research for their potential to help people with type 2 diabetes. A study presented at the European Congress on Obesity found that vegetarians appear to have a healthier biomarker profile than meat-eaters.

Vegetarianism reduces the risk of major killers such as heart disease, stroke and cancer while cutting exposure to foodborne pathogens, provides a viable answer to feeding the world’s hungry through more efficient use of grains and other crops, saves animals from suffering in factory-farm conditions and from the pain and terror of slaughter, conserves vital but limited freshwater, fertile topsoil and other precious resources and preserves irreplaceable ecosystems such as rainforests and other wildlife habitats, decreases greenhouse gases that are accelerating global warming and mitigates the ever-expanding environmental pollution of animal agriculture.

Established by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978, World Vegetarian Day is observed annually around the globe on October 1 to emphasise environmental considerations, animal welfare and rights issues and personal health benefits to encourage people into ditching animal products. It taps into the studies which highlight the proven health benefits of a vegetarian diet. The day is also marked to raise awareness about saving animals‚ lives and helping to preserve the Earth. World Vegetarian Day also initiates the month of October as Vegetarian Awareness Month, which ends on November 1, and is celebrated as World Vegan Day, at the end of that month of celebration. Vegetarian Awareness Month has been known variously as the Reverence for Life month, the Month of Vegetarian Food, and more.

Hinduism does not require a vegetarian diet, but some Hindus avoid eating meat because it minimises hurting other life forms. Vegetarianism is considered satvic, which is purifying the body and mind lifestyle in some Hindu texts. Lacto-vegetarianism is favoured by many Hindus, which includes milk-based foods and all other non-animal derived foods, but it excludes meat and eggs. There are three main reasons for this – the principle of nonviolence or ahimsa applied to animals, the intention to offer only vegetarian food to their preferred deity and then to receive it back as prasad or offerings, and the conviction that non-vegetarian food is detrimental to the mind and for spiritual development. Many Hindus point to scriptural bases, such as the Mahabharata with its maxim that nonviolence is the highest duty and the highest teaching, as advocating a vegetarian diet.

A typical modern urban Hindu Lacto-vegetarian meal is based on a combination of grains such as rice and wheat, legumes, green vegetables, and dairy products. Depending on the geographical region the staples may include millet-based flatbreads and fat derived from slaughtered animals is avoided. Many Hindus, particularly those following the Vaishnav tradition, refrain from eating onions and garlic either totally or during the Chaturmas period which is roughly between July and November in the Gregorian calendar. In Maharashtra, many Hindu families also do not eat any eggplant preparations during this period.

If you are not a vegetarian or are contemplating a change to a more plant-based diet, this is a good opportunity to dip your toes into this diet. Try and see, you may decide you like it after all.