Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Cowpea/Black Eyed Beans

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Lobia

  • The Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), also known as 'black eyed bean', is one of several species of the widely cultivated genus Vigna.
  • This is one of the most important food legume crops in the semi-arid tropics covering Asia, Africa, southern Europe and Central and South America.
  • The value of cowpea lies in its high protein content, and ability to tolerate drought.
  • As a legume, cowpea also fixes atmospheric nitrogen, allowing it to grow on, and improve poor soils.
  • All the parts of cowpea that are used for food are nutritious, providing protein, vitamins, and minerals.
  • The protein in cowpea seed is rich in the amino acids, lysine and tryptophan, compared to cereal grains; however, it is deficient in methionine and cystine when compared to animal proteins. Therefore, cowpea seed is valued as a nutritional supplement to cereals and an extender of animal proteins.

Fried Onions

Method to prepare crispy brown onion slices:

  • Cut 2 medium sized onions in half, lengthwise and then crosswise into very thin slices.
  • Heat the oil in a large, wide, and preferably non stick pan over medium high flame.
  • When hot put in the onion slices.
  • Stir and fry for about 8-10 minutes or until the onions are reddish brown color.
  • Remove the onions with slotted spoon, squeezing out and leaving behind as much oil as you can. Spread the onions out on a paper towel to soak up excess oil. Use the remaining oil for making curries.
  • Garnish Meat, Chicken, Curries, Dals, Pulao/Biryani etc with the crispy fried onions.
  • You can store fried onions in a closed container for later use.

Monday, 19 October 2009


  • Boondi or Boondhi is an Indian Snack. There are two varieties of Boondis – one is plain (without salt) and other is salted (Khara).
  • Plain Boondis are used to make Indian sweets like ‘Boondi Ke Laddu’ (Motichoor Ke Laddu) and the salted one is used to make Namkin Mixtures, Raita and other varieties ( like Kadhi or Curry).
  • To prepare Boondi, Gram flour batter is made into small balls using a ladle with holes. These balls are then deep fried in vegetable oil.
  • To make ‘Boondi Ke Laddu’ fried Boondi is then dipped in sugar syrup.
  • To prepare Namkeen Boondi (Khara Boondi), the batter is mixed with spices and salt before frying.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Roasted Chana Dal

  • Roasted Chana Dal is also called as Daria Dal, Roasted Split gram, Phutana, Pappulu or Puttanalu pappulu (Hyderabad).
  • It is roasted, husked and split Desi of variety Chickpea (Bengal Gram).
  • It is tiny, tough, creamy white, crispy with rich and nutty taste.
  • It is available here in USA, in Indian Grocery Stores, as Daria Dal.
  • It is commonly used as a thickener with chutneys such as coriander chutney, Coconut Chutney etc.
  • Daria Dal is rich in manganese, folate, and protein, dietary fiber, copper, phosphorous and iron.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Black Mustard Seeds

English Name: Black Mustard Seeds

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Rai

  • Mustard is a member of the Brassica family of plants which bears tiny round edible seeds as well as tasty leaves.
  • Mustard is one of the most ancient spices. It has 3 varieties namely black, brown and white. All mustard seeds are used as a spice in the food. The three most popular varieties of mustard plants for culinary use are:

1. The Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) plant normally grows to a height of 10 feet. This is very popular in the Middle East and Asia Minor where they originated.

2. The Brown Mustard ( Brassica juncea) is largely cultivated. Brown mustard plant produces tiny yellow colored flowers, which almost cover the plant. The brown originated in the Himalayans and has virtually replaced the black in American and British kitchens, particularly North American Chinese restaurants.

3. White Mustard (Sinapis alba), originated in the Mediterranean area, bears the light tan seeds which end up as the bright yellow (with the help of a little dye) mustard we apply generously to our hot dogs. White mustard is the most mild among all the varieties of mustard.

  • Mustard is used in Indian, French, German and Irish cuisines. Mustard is used in salad dressings, egg dishes, cheese dishes, pickles and vegetables. Mustard is rubbed over meat before roasting. It is also added to butter to give butter a pleasant flavor.
  • Dijon mustard is made from the husked black seeds blended with wine, salt and spices. It is pale yellow and varies from mild to very hot. This is the mustard generally used in classic French mustard sauces, salad dressings and mayonnaise.
  • Over the years mustard has been prescribed for scorpion stings and snake bites, epilepsy, toothache, bruises, stiff neck, rheumatism, colic and respiratory troubles.
  • In India, whole seeds are fried in ghee/oil until the seeds pop, producing a milder nutty flavor that is useful as a garnish or seasoning for Indian dishes.

Yellow Mustard Seeds

English Name: Yellow Mustard Seeds ( Brassica juncea)

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Peeli Sarson

  • Mustard is a member of the Brassica family of plants which bears tiny round edible seeds as well as tasty leaves.
  • All mustard seeds are used as a spice in the food. The three most popular varieties of mustard plants for culinary use are:
    • Black Mustard (Brassica nigra), which bears black seeds. This is very popular in the Middle East and Asia Minor where they originated.
    • Brown Mustard ( Brassica juncea). The brown originated in the Himalayans and has virtually replaced the black in American and British kitchens, particularly North American Chinese restaurants.
    • White Mustard ( Brassica alba), originated in the Mediterranean area and bears the light tan seeds which end up as the bright yellow (with the help of a little dye) mustard we apply generously to our hot dogs.
  • Yellow Mustard seeds are not so pungent and sharp and are used more often in cooking as a pickling spice.
  • Mustard not only stimulates the appetite by increasing salivation by up to eight times, it also has digestive, laxative, antiseptic, and circulative stimulant properties.
  • They are strongly preservative and discourage molds and bacteria.
  • Mustard oil is made from B. juncea, providing an oil widely used in India in the same way as ghee.
  • Yellow mustard is beneficial in relieving an aching back or arthritis pain.
  • It is also helpful in Relieving congestion.
  • It is also useful for various applications like meat processing, mustard paste etc.
  • Mustard also contains sulphur, which has been used as a treatment for skin diseases.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Red Pepper Flakes

Crushed red pepper or red pepper flakes is a condiment consisting of dried and crushed red chili peppers.

Crushed red pepper flakes are made from hot dried red peppers, which have been crushed.

Red pepper flakes are not made of one type of chile, but from various combinations of ancho, bell, cayenne and more.

Frequently there are a high percentage of seeds in it which make it a hot addition to foods.

Dried and crushed red chile peppers are often hot with a pungent and smoky flavor.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Tinda / Apple Gourd

English Name: Indian Baby Pumpkin

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Tinda

  • The Tinda (Citrullus vulgaris) also called Indian round gourd or apple gourd or Indian Baby Pumpkin.
  • It is a squash like cucurbit grown for its immature fruit, (culinary vegetable) especially popular in South Asia.
  • Green colored, apple sized fruit is flattish round in shape, 5-8 centimeter in diameter and about 50-60 grams in weight.
  • It is native to India and very popular in Indian and Pakistani cooking with curry and many gourmet dishes.
  • It is a good source of Vitamin A.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Makhana/ Euryale ferox

  • Makhana (Euryale ferox ) also called as fox nut or gorgon nut is an annual plant, grown throughout the ponds and low-lying lakes of China, Japan and India as well as parts of eastern Russia.
  • It belongs to Family Nymphaeaceae (Water Lily Family).
  • The seeds of the plant are starchy, white, small and round, with a brown outer covering. In India, particularly in the northern and western parts of the country, Makhana seeds are often roasted or fried, which causes them to pop like popcorn. They can be consumed either raw or after being stir-baked, often with a sprinkling of oil and spices.
  • In India Makhana has been widely used in traditional oriental medicine to cure a variety of diseases including kidney problems, chronic diarrhea, excessive leucorrhea and hypo function of the spleen. Recent studies show its antioxidant activities.
  • Euryale (Makhana) seed is considered sweet, astringent and neutral, according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, and is associated with the Spleen and Kidney meridians.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Shahi Jeera

English Name: Black Cumin

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Kala Jeera / Shahi Jeera

  • Black Cumin (Bunium persicum) is a plant in the family Apiaceae (parsley family). Known as black cumin because of the shape of the seed.
  • Seeds are used as a culinary spice in Northern India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Iran.
  • The seed’s aroma is earthy and heavy, not pleasant at all. On frying or cooking, the taste changes to nutty. Kala jeera is used in small amounts because of its exotic, flowery flavor. It is often confused with jeera (regular cumin) and kalonji (Nigella). It's darker and sweeter than ordinary cumin. To bring out its nutty flavor, it helps to toast the seeds briefly before using them.
  • Local names for the spice are Kala Jeera (meaning ‘black cumin’) or shahi jeera (meaning imperial cumin’) in Hindi. It is called as zireh kuhi, meaning wild cumin in Persian and as siyoh dona meaning black seed in Tajiki. It is practically unknown outside these areas. Kashmiris call it asKashmir zireh’ or ‘Koshur zur’.
  • Black Cumin Seed help in Digestion, Psoriasis, Eczema, Diarrhea, Colic, Asthma, Allergies, Cough, and Flu.
  • They are used as a spice in breads especially rye bread, which is denser because of the yeast-killing properties of the essential oil, limonene.

Nigella / Kalonji

English Name: Black Cumin / Black Caraway / Wild Onion Seeds

Common Indian Name (Hindi) : Kalonji / kalaunji

  • Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant, native to Southwest Asia.
  • There is a lot of confusion about the names of this spice. It is referred by a multitude of names which, in other sources, might mean something else entirely. In some English sources it is called as Black Caraway, Black Cumin, Black Seed, Melanthion, Roman Coriander, Wild Onion Seed, or Black Onion Seed. But there is no botanical relation between Nigella and any of the spices like black cumin or caraway or onion seeds.
  • Nigella seeds are small, matte-black grains with rough surface and an oily interior. They are roughly triangular. They are slightly bitter with a crunchy texture.
  • Seeds may be used whole or ground and are usually fried and roasted before use.
  • They are similar to onion seeds.
  • The seeds are sprinkled on to Naan (leavened, oven baked flatbread) before baking. Nigella is an ingredient of some garam masala and is one of the five spices in panch phoran. In the Middle East Nigella is added to bread dough.
  • Nigella is used in Indian medicine as a carminative and stimulant and is used against indigestion and bowel complaints. In India it is used to induce post-natal uterine contraction and promote lactation. The seed yields a volatile oil containing melanthin, nigilline, damascene and tannin. Melanthin is toxic in large dosages and Niugelline is paralytic, so this spice must be used in moderation.

Monday, 5 October 2009

White radish/ Winter radish

English Name: White Radish

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Mooli

  • Radishes are a member of the Brassicaceae family thus related to broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts.
  • White radishes, also called as winter radishes, are long and white in color. They need cool temperatures and shorts day-lengths to flourish.
  • This root vegetable is extremely crisp when fresh, with high water content, giving it a juicy, refreshing flesh.
  • The tangy flavor of all types of radishes is due to the mustard oil found in cruciferous plants.
  • Radish varieties come in an array of colors and sizes. They can be red, pink, black, purple, or white; the size of a dime, or profoundly large.
  • Radishes are a very good source of fiber, vitamin C, folic acid and potassium, and a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese. Other nutrients, including iron, are also found, but in lesser quantities.
  • Radishes are also mildly anti-inflammatory. A diet containing anti-inflammatory foods can help to control inflammation in the body, which is an underlying factor of so many allergies and illnesses
  • These radishes are eaten throughout Asia. In India, they are enjoyed cooked, pickled, and raw, as they are in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and other countries.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Bitter Melon / Karela

English Name: Bitter Melon

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Karela

  • Bitter Melon, (Momordica charantia) is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown for edible fruit, which is among the most bitter of all vegetables.
  • Bitter melon comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • The typical Chinese phenotype is 20–30 cm long, oblong with bluntly tapering ends and pale green in color, with a gently undulating, warty surface.
  • The typical Indian phenotype bitter melon has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface covered with jagged, triangular ‘teeth’ and ridges. Coloration is green or white. Between these two extremes is any number of intermediate forms. Some bear miniature fruit of only 6–10 cm in length, which are popular in Southeast Asia as well as India.
  • The fruits have long been used in India as a folk remedy for diabetes mellitus. At least three different groups of constituents in bitter melon have been reported to have hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) or other actions of potential benefit in diabetes mellitus. These are - a mixture of steroidal saponins known as charantin ( which is sometimes used in the treatment of diabetes to lower the blood sugar levels), Isulin-like peptides known as lectins ( which lowers blood glucose concentrations by acting on peripheral tissues and, similar to insulin's effects in the brain, suppressing appetite) and alkaloids e.g. momordicine (which is most bitter compound) . It is still unclear which of these is most effective or if all three work together.
  • It is suggested by scientists that the extract of fruits and leaves is useful as an emetic, purgative, burning soles of the feet, in piles, leprosy, jaundice, as a vermifuge, astringent in hemorrhoids, as a stomachic, antispasmodic, antioxytocic, hypoglycemic and antipyretic.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Beetroot / Chukandar

English Name : Beetroot

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Chukandar

  • The garden beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris var. vulgaris), is also known as the table beet, beetroot, red beet or simply as beet.
  • It is rich in the nutrient betaine, which is important for cardiovascular health.
  • Beetroot contains a mixture of different minerals and phytochemicals, that are thought to help prevent infections, raise cellular intake of oxygen and treat disorders of blood, liver and the immunity system.
  • It is reported that consuming beetroot improves the speed and efficiency at which cells take in oxygen and excrete waste products. The properties contained in beetroot are believed to help in promoting tissue regeneration as well.
  • Beetroot is said to help stabilize the body’s acid and alkaline balance.
  • Beetroot features properties, which reportedly help treat skin problems, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. However, it has been recommended not to eat too much beetroot if one suffers from kidney stones or arthritis, as it is high in oxalates.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Turnip / Shalgam

English Name: Turnip

Common Indian Name (Hindi) : Shalgam

  • The turnip or white turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapa) is a root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide.
  • It is known for its white bulbous taproot. The root has a top-like appearance (Napiform Root). It is very broad at the base and tapers suddenly like a tail at the apex which is trimmed off before marketing. The leaves grow directly from the above-ground shoulder of the root, with little or no visible crown or neck.
  • The interior flesh of turnip is entirely white.
  • Both leaves and root have a pungent flavor similar to raw cabbage or radishes that becomes mild after cooking. Baby turnips are mild in flavor so they can be eaten raw in salads like radishes.
  • Turnip is low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol and high in Vitamin C. It is high in Dietary Fiber, Manganese, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Potassium and Copper
  • The green leaves of the turnip top ("turnip greens") are a good source of Vitamin A, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and calcium.

Green Gram / Moong

Green Gram / Sabut Moong

  • The seed of Green Gram (Vigna radiate) is native to Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.
  • The beans are small, ovoid in shape, and green in color.
  • They contain between 19-25% protein, 60%carbs and 4% fiber.
  • They are also containing lysine, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and traces of thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.
  • Sprouting enhances the digestibility of dried Green Gram via the reduction of indigestible sugars that would otherwise remain in the cooked dried Lentil.

Split Green Gram / Chhilke Wali Moong Dal

  • Whole Green Gram is split but skin is not removed so it is rich in fibre.
  • These are easy to digest then the whole Green Gram and take on seasonings and spices very well.

Split Skinned Green Gram / Dhuli Moong Dal

  • Split moong dal is a skinned and halved version of the whole moong bean. They are yellow/ golden in color.
  • They have a mild taste and are easy to cook. It takes on seasonings and spices very well.
  • In Ayurveda, split moong dal is recommended for children, elderly people and convalescents as it is easily digested. It contains few oligosaccharides which cause flatulence.

Black Gram /Urad Bean

Black Gram/Black Lentil /Sabut Urad

English Name: Black Gram/Black Lentil

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Sabut Urad

  • These lentil-like Urad beans have black skins covering creamy white interiors. Black skin provides them rich earthy flavor. They have an uncanny ability to absorb flavors.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers discovered that the pigment in Black Lentils acts like an antioxidant and helps protect against heart disease, cancer, and the aging process in general.
  • Black Lentil provides protein and cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, as well as about twice as much iron as other legumes. It is recommended for diabetics, as are other pulses.
  • Lentils are higher in most B vitamins and folate, which is especially important for women of childbearing age because folate reduces the risk of birth defects.
  • Urad is very popular in Punjab cuisine of India and Pakistan where it is known as ‘sabit maash’.
  • In Telugu it is called as ‘Minumulu’ and in Kannada ‘Uddina Bele’.

Split Black Lentil/ Split Urad Dal

English Name: Split Black Lentil

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Chhilke Wali Urad Dal

  • Whole Black Lentil is split without removing the coat.
  • These can be used in vegetarian cooking as a meat substitute.
  • These tiny lentils are low in fat and high in protein and fiber.

Ivory White Lentil / Dhuli Urad Dal

English Name: Ivory White Lentil

Common Indian Name (Hindi): Dhuli Urad Dal

  • Ivory White Lentils are split and skinned Black Lentils.
  • These are creamy white tiny, lens shaped seeds of a small shrub with mild, earthy flavor than unskinned lentils.
  • These lentils are low in fat and high in protein and fiber.
  • There is no need to soak lentils. They are quick in cooking and versatile. They are used in soups, stews, baked beans, stir-fry, spreads and dips.
  • Traditionally these are used in South Indian cooking. They are ground with rice to make light and spongy steamed dumplings or cakes called Idli and pancake like Dosa.