colorful, spicy and healthful indian cooking

Over the years I have prepared Indian (or Indian-style) dishes, even developed a few of my own when I used to cook a lot. The past few years, I’ve been very reluctant and usually leave the Indian meals for Hubby to prepare. He does an admirable job, too, but I still have this innate desire to be able to whip up a fantastic Indian meal myself. I have a few good Indian cookbooks, and I’ve turned out some decent meals with the help of some of them, but what I’m missing in (most of) them, is technique. I didn’t grow up in India learning to cook at the knee of an Indian mother, so I’m short on technique as well as imagination.

So whenever a Wintersong reader (and blogger friend) left a comment suggesting some Indian recipes, I remembered a discovery I made months ago that renewed my hope in learning how to cook Indian dishes seat of the pants style, i.e., without recipes. I’m still working on it, and want to share my discovery with my readers. The video below is one of six of a series called Healthful Indian Cooking by Alamelu Vairavan of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In it, Alamelu will show you how to prepare a typical Indian vegetarian meal of Lemon Rice, Eggplant Masala, and Lima Bean Poriyal. She also takes you shopping in an Indian grocery store to explain how different rices taste.

Here’s my tip of the day for you: don’t worry about trying to jot down the ingredients while you watch. At the end of each dish preparation, the ingredients are listed. Just pause the video and copy them down so you’ll be able to actually read it when you’re ready to try them yourself. Also, I’ve made a list of the other five episodes that I consider eye candy for foodies. If you enjoy #101, you’ll probably want to see the others as well. They’re all on YouTube, and each contains nutritional information and tips in choosing ingredients, and runs about 27 minutes.

#102: features a Raita (Cucumber/Tomato/Yogurt Salad), Garlic & Pepper Chicken, a colorful rice dish featuring vegetables.
#103: featuring Cauliflower Masala, Green Beans Poriyal, Black-eyed Peas Kulambu, plus a visit to a farmer’s market to choose vegetables.
#104: featuring Brussels Sprouts Kulambu, Roasted Potatoes, Turkey Podimas cooked with split peas and coconut, plus a tour of an Indian grocery to learn about spices used in Indian cooking.
#105: features Tuna Masala, a Carrot Sambhar, Chickpea & Mango Soondal, and tips of how to select the right kind of lentils at an Indian grocery.

Finally, I thought you might find this little-known fact–about me–a little interesting. It’s my Indian name. An Indian friend of ours since more than 40 years ago, Gangs, an Indian friend of ours at the time, decided I should have an Indian name. Since my real name was and is considered “old-fashioned” in the U.S., Gangs reasoned that I needed an “old-fashioned Indian” and came up with Alamelu. He claimed it was very old-fashioned. Years later, when Hubby and his three brothers were performing a ceremony of homage at the one-year anniversary of their father’s death, the Brahman priest asked for the names of the son’s wives. When it came time to provide mine, they were at a loss as how to translate Alice into Tamil, so Alamelu was substituted. Thus, my (unofficial) Indian name has been Alamelu for about 45 years. Now you understand how I was attracted to this video when it first came to my attention. Since the video Alamelu is actually younger than me, I surmise the name has enjoyed a resurgence as India, just as mine has (in various spellings) in this country.

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11 thoughts on “colorful, spicy and healthful indian cooking

  1. Interesting about your Indian name. Isn’t it funny how old names come back around … although there are a few of them that haven’t seemed to make it, like Gertrude, Bertha … Edna.

    The cooking looks enticing but I think if Lynn and I get Indian food it will be at an Indian restaurant, if we ever hear of a good one where we are traveling. Lynn does all of our cooking now and I get to enjoy the delicious things he prepares. He’s a top notch cook.

    • There’s something to be said about reserving some kinds of food as eat out only foods. Pizza is another example for myself. I can make much better pizza at home than the ordinary chains, but the minute I find some really classy pizza place, I’d prefer going out for it! (I never thought of Edna as old-fashioned, but it’s true you don’t hear it anymore. I knew a woman whose name was Bertha and she changed it because of the prefix tendency associated with it–BIG Bertha. Can’t say I blamed her.

  2. And now you know the real reason behind my obsession with India besides the clothes, the people, the language, THE FOOD! Thanks Alice, or rather Alamelu – I look forward to first finding time to watch the videos and then watching them and maybe thereafter cooking them.

    • I think you’ll be surprised how easy it can be, plus Alamelu cooks a lot of south Indian style which you don’t find as often in the restaurants who prepare mostly north Indian curries.

  3. I have to put in a plug for Alamelu’s cookbook – the one i stole from my mother the first time i saw it (I ordered my own copy mom, so you can get yours back soon!). we’ve enjoyed a sour-salty tamarind-based potato-eggplant curry (THOMAS ate eggplant!!!! and liked it!!), cauliflower podimas, and a potato curry this week.

    Plus the whole house smells absolutely great.

    • I hope you realize our meals this week have been boring because I didn’t have my cookbook to get started with! Hope yours come soon, as I’m out of printer ink and I hate handwriting the recipes I want to try first! Glad you like the book though.

  4. Love cooking videos, but they are escapist viewing for me. Hubby cooks. Indian will be eat out. Loved the story of your Indian name.

  5. Simply grand stuff. Thank you so much. We had a truly wonderful veggie curry in a small place just off Russell Square in London. Mild. Delightful. I’ve always loved curries, but I too have no imagination and use a commercial powder. Delightful….thank you. I’ll try some of these and report back.

    • It really doesn’t make sense to invest in all those separate spices required to do your own blend on a cook Indian once in awhile basis. The blend is the best way to go, just don’t overdo it. Whenever I see a yellow dish called “curry” I cringe! There are also many choices of mixes available in any Indian market. I can even get a masala powder blended mix in the bulk food aisle of my local grocery store. Even if you don’t ever want to cook like her, I think you–as a cookbook collector–will enjoy her videos. Great to hear from you.

  6. I really enjoy Indian food and have tried making a couple of very simple dishes. Simple is the operative word for any cooking I do. Alamelu and her video are delightful as are you!

    By the way, as we live in the same area – relatively speaking – could you suggest a good Indian restaurant? I have tried India House in Sandy and Indian Fusion in West Jordan. The first was very good; the second was okay.

    As always, thanks for sharing such fun stuff! =)

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