A spice treatment for this pandemic
From time unknown, humans have relied on spices for their various benefits. There are numerous anecdotes on the origin of uses of spices for food and medicinal preparations. Many ancient folklores tell us how our ancestors were having a thorough understanding of many of the spices that we know of. Spices grow in many forms. They can be woody shrubs, herbs, lichens, vines, trees, flowers, nuts, barks, leaves, roots! They have amazing beneficial effects mainly reducing foodborne diseases and food poisoning.
In modern India, people still find pride in knowing the art of blending spices to make their authentic masalas. Garam masala, chole masala, biryani masala, gun powder masala, sambhar masala, dhansak masala, chat masala and many more such mixes are widely used for preparing warm and aromatic dishes, a characteristic of Indian cuisine. Typically, this culinary knowledge of blending a perfect mix of masala along with their heritage is passed on from generations after generations.
That sublime aromatic effect on the taste of the food, what more to ask!
Some of the essential Indian spices:
My nanny wouldn’t even share her special Pudina chutney (mint leaves chutney) recipe to her daughter in law! She’d say eventually she would reveal it to her granddaughter. Rude but effective way of keeping the hype up I’d Say :p
Today ultimately the spice industry is a billion dollar industry. By 2020, the world spice industry is expected to hit 20 billion US Dollars worth. India’s export alone stands at 3.5 billion US Dollars. This only goes on to prove how spices are so integral in our lives and almost an essential in many of the world’s cuisines and medicines.
We, as a human collective, are experiencing a pandemic hit world! Most of us are homebound now and have changed how we live in a way unimagined. It is indeed a special quality on how we are getting used to an all new dystopian-world. I feel like we have entered a black mirror era 😛
Now with lockdown restrictions, we have adopted a more do-it-yourself attitude to meet our daily wants.
We changed the way we shop for our daily needs. Among all our core activities, food is one of the main pleasures that we indulge everyday. We know that the food we consume affects our health physically and mentally. For those of us fortunate enough to make use of this universal break, let’s take a step back to start slowly again with a foot forward but this time, as more conscious and aware people.
Those who can afford time to be creative in the kitchen during quarantine period, have you considered making your own masalas with some fresh organic spices and storing it for the time of need? We can store these masalas in an airtight container for future use. Though they have longer shelf life, beyond two months, they may start losing the flavour and texture.
Let’s start with the most basic and an essential mix; Garam Masala
A typical desi garam masala contains Fennel, Black and white peppercorns, Cloves, Cinnamon or cassia bark, Mace (outer covering of nutmeg) (javitri), Black and green cardamom pods (elaichi) Cumin (jeera), Coriander.
Garam means warm and masala means a mix of spices. This mixture brings warmth to our body and has good digestive and medicinal properties. Hence is widely used in all Indian cuisines though variations in ingredients and proportions are practiced in different regions of the sub continent. Tbh, there are countless variations of garam masala as every home may differ with their taste, so there is nothing like a standard mix. One can make them from raw or dry roasted ingredients.
We all know how irresistible is the aroma that arises while roasting spices; Heavenly! Roast ’em and grind ‘em 😀
Though garam masala is readily available in stores, many still prefer them homemade. Usually ordered from our mom’s and granny’s house! So we also make sure what goes in: good quality, natural or organic spices. Also, making them in advance and storing for future use will make you efficient in your kitchen space.
Here’s a traditional Indian garam masala recipe.
During this pandemic, it is advised that we eat food with turmeric, garlic, ginger and other spices to help strengthen immunity. Generally in the southern states, a curry like Milagu(peppercorn) Rasam is consumed for its amazing healing effects on flu and cold symptoms.
Click here for an awesome repper rasam recipe.
We also consume water extract or decoctions of infused spices and herbs called Kashayam.
Kashayam brewing is an ancient art practiced under Ayurveda.
It is consumed for ailments like cough, flu symptoms and indigestion. A glass of this home-brewed natural detox drink will cleanse our bodies and boost our immunity. Even in the twenty-first century, this practice is a common ritual in South Indian and Bengali cultures.
You should also explore and learn how to brew your own Kashayams. It’s as simple as brewing tea. In my household when someone has a common cold or flu, before considering a paracetamol, we drink this herbal tea. Post COVID, we drink kashayam everyday. My aunt, who grew up in rural Tamil Nadu, is adept with the ayurvedic home based medicinal recipes and her kashayam comes with the right mix of healing herbs and spices enhanced with her spiritual energy. Good kashayam powders and mixes can be purchased online.
Here I want to share some simple ones with common household ingredients for daily consumption that can be easily prepared in a few minutes.
Kashayam with spices:
In 1 glass of water add turmeric powder ½ tsp, 1 lime cut into 4 pieces (with the peel), 1 tsp ground pepper
Let the water boil thoroughly with all the above ingredients.
Stain the brew and add honey
Kashayam with herbs:
In a glass of water, add 5 tulasi leaves(holy basil), 2 leaves of karpuravalli, 5 leaves of manathakkali(black nightshade) 1 strand of Keezhanelli plant (stonebreaker)
1 tsp ground pepper
Let the water boil thoroughly with all the above.
Stain the brew and add honey
Milk based Kashayam:
In a glass of milk, add brown sugar or honey, ½ tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of ground pepper and boil it.
Drinking a glass of this milk kashayam every night is suggested for people suffering from insomnia, restlessness and for good immunity.
So go ahead and start mixing your masalas and brewing your kashayams. Treat yourself with good natural food. Do share your thoughts below in the comments.
If you have your own masala variant or a Kashayam recipe, do share for all our readers. Let’s build immunity in our homes and help avoid the spread of this global sickness in our society.
Stay safe, stay indoors, be brave, share good food, good energy and good vibes:)