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What to eat this summer: From home made achaar to South Indian tiffin, the Great Indian kitchen has it all!

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In southern India, for instance, when scorching summers set in, people prepare curd rice, lemon rice and tamarind rice in their homes. Representative Image

With the surge in the coronavirus second wave across the country, eating responsibly and opting for immunity boosting foods has become as necessary as observing safety protocols such as masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, among others. With summer setting in and high temperatures soaring, it’s also important to be more mindful of what you park on your plate.

Of course, your kitchen, your rules, but how about using the power of the Indian kitchen’s unspoken secrets for preparing good food? More importantly, what are the mistakes to avoid so that we don’t mess up! Ayurveda, it seems, has plenty of tips when it comes to preparation of good food especially for scorching summers.

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In southern India, for instance, when scorching summers set in, people prepare curd rice, lemon rice and tamarind rice in their homes. Breakfast is always prepared early and served light. Grandmothers would generously use coconut oil, curry leaves, mustard seeds, fresh coriander leaves and spices while preparing dishes. Buttermilk laced with ginger and green chillies is traditionally served to guests, and rasam is essential along with meals. At every meal, jeera-roasted water is served along with food or kept in a jug to aid digestion. In their own way, grandmothers had a rare sense of ‘food wisdom’ ingrained without the help of any culinary cookbooks or Google.

Summer food preparation: How about South Indian ‘Tiffin’?

Rukmini Srinivas, in her bestselling cookbook ‘Tiffin’ evokes nostalgia of a bygone era, as she expertly delves into the memories of South Indian ‘tiffin’ that is ideal for summer. A variety of lip smacking dishes are listed but one that stands tall and traditional is the mango seekarane, which involves an elaborate process of peeling, slicing, crushing before it becomes a juicy pulp and then it is prepared with saffron and cardamom flavoured milk, then garnished with raisins and toasted cashew nuts fried in ghee.

Another interesting item Rukmini Srinivas refers to is ‘Pidi kozhukattai’, a Tamil dish , which involves a complex portion of ground rice and lentils that are flavoured with spices and fresh herbs. The flavour of this traditional Tamil dumplings is enhanced by the freshness of home grown herbs.

While each locality has its own unique preparations, there are some food items that are loved by all Indians. Pickles, for instance, are a part of all meals and even the traditional feasts for festivals, marriages etc.

Summer Special: Preparing Pickles

Dr. Manjari Chandra shares her insights with Financial Express Online, “Preparing pickles is one of the most ancient applications of fermentation and has been a part of indigenous cultures across the globe. A couple of small to moderate slices of pickle every day would not harm anyone. They are a rich source of vitamins, serve as probiotics, improve digestive health, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. What we need to avoid is having excess pickles or consuming bottled pickles with every meal. It is because pickles contain concentrated sodium that can elevate your blood pressure, make your kidneys and liver work harder, and cause digestive discomfort, working exactly opposite to what it is intended to.”

The biggest mistake many of us tend to make pertains to mixing up food combinations that clash or don’t work well together. So, what do you do when you are not sure of the correct food combination?

Beware of mixing up wrong food combinations

The well-known author of ‘Eat up, Clean up’ recommends,”I would suggest that people, in general, must be mindful of the combinations of food that do not work for them. It is something that’s very personal. And most people can figure out if they pay just a little attention to how their body responds immediately or an hour after they have had specific food. Ayurveda, in particular, does not address food combinations that can be harmful or beneficial in the context of weight loss. But eating starchy vegetables with foods containing high-protein content can cause some metabolic disturbance and digestive issues, leading to weight gain. For instance, one should AVOID eating vegetables like corn, potatoes, and red beans with guava, spinach, and broccoli. On the other hand, eating unpolished rice with ghee can prove to be beneficial. Ayurveda simply focuses on eating wholesome food in balanced amounts with mindfulness rituals. All the benefits automatically follow.”

Undoubtedly, our taste buds tell us when food is not tasting right and a bit of smart tweaking can fix many of these unintended errors in the kitchen. No doubt, the ordinary Indian kitchen has more treasures in various forms – spices, herbs, etc, which we can bank on for immunity boosting and safe eating.

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