Lockdown with lentils!
Naini Setalvad urges us to beat the COVID-19 blues with basic food that is highly nutritious and easily available
Life has taken an unprecedented turn for all of us. While some of us were out preparing for a job promotion or a family addition or even a mini-vacation, each and every plan has come to a standstill due to COVID-19. Now, here we are, a few weeks into the lockdown. I am thankful to be home and safe, focussing on the one thing I can control in these times—the food I am using to nourish and nurture my body and my mind.
The food that we eat is not just for sustenance and energy; eating food that is good for the soul also helps in creating a positive mindset and gives an overall sense of peace.
I have figured out the easiest meal to eat, to feel good and healthy—the simple dal chawal (dal and rice) or dal roti (dal and Indian bread) or khichdi (a mix of dal and rice) along with the humble but mighty onion. When suggesting these meals to clients over the past few weeks, they have come to me with feedback saying they do feel better after eating these combinations at mealtimes. I too can attest for it, as my body and soul sing with joy when I eat one of these nutritionally complete, stand-alone meals.
It is a sincere request to all to fear not the holy grain. India has a vast variety of whole grains; even just rice or wheat is good fuel for your body, which will keep you going. These complex carbohydrates are known to satiate you as they are high in fibre and contain powerful antioxidants and Vitamin B which are excellent in boosting your immunity and improving your mood and digestion.
I believe pulses to be the little superfoods of the plant kingdom. I say this because they contain fibre, protein, and magnesium, are high in folate, iron, potassium, and antioxidants, and can reduce inflammation. Be it pigeon pea (tuvar), black gram (urad), chickpeas (kabuli chana), red lentil (masoor), yellow, green, and split moong, kidney beans (rajma), chickpea powder (besan), or moth beans (mutkhi), the list is endless.
One of the main reasons I am focussing on combining grains with any plant-based protein is because this superior combination provides one with all the essential amino acids required by the body, thus making it a balanced meal. We are blessed to have ease of access to these foods. To make it nutritious, healing, and tasty, cook it in cow’s ghee along with onions and Indian spices from the masala box in your kitchen, which I say is the true treasure chest of good health.
Just as the onion has many layers, it reaps many health benefits too. Most importantly, at this time when we have to keep our respiratory tract and mucous linings clean and phlegm-free, the onion helps as it has medicinal properties that prevent colds and coughs, bronchitis and influenza. Belonging to the Allium group of vegetables, it is rich in antioxidants which assist in protecting healthy cells in your body from unstable free radicals that are a by-product of breathing.
So throw out the myth that vegetarians lack protein; it is, actually, quite the opposite! Let me re-emphasise that we are truly blessed to have access to the Indian diet which is filled with complete carbohydrates and protein power when cooked in various forms and combinations. So whether you have roti with dal, rice with dal, bread with dal, or khichdi, they all are excellent combinations. Remember to add the onion.
Believe in the healing and nurturing power of these simple yet delicious meals that you can provide for you and your family. Thank Mother Nature every day for the plant kingdom that has provided us with all the foods necessary to survive.
Join me in thanking God daily that the supply chain is giving us enough vegetarian carbohydrates and proteins that are boosting our immunity to fight this disease. So, feed your family with full confidence that this simple meal meets all your nutritional needs.
1 cup any dal (moong, tuvar, masoor)
1 cup any rice
3 onions, chopped
1 tbsp cow’s ghee or vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
¼ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
¼ tsp red chilli powder
¼ tsp of asafoetida (hing)
3-4 curry leaves
2 cloves of garlic, made into paste
¼ inch ginger, crushed into paste
1 green chilli, chopped
3 cups water
Any salt as per taste
Any vegetables, optional
• Take the dal and rice in a bowl, rinse a couple of times, and soak for half an hour. Remove excess water by draining and keep it aside.
• Chop the onion and other optional vegetables like (tomato, carrots, capsicum, French beans) and keep aside.
• On a low flame in a pressure cooker, add the cow’s ghee or vegetable oil. To this add the spices: cumin seeds, curry leaves, and asafoetida.
• Add the onions in this and sauté till they are transparent.
• Add ginger and garlic paste, turmeric powder, and red chilli powder and stir for a few more minutes.
• Add the optional vegetables and green chillies and sauté for a few more minutes.
• Add the dal and rice mixture to this and mix.
• Add 3 cups of water to this, or more, as per the desired consistency.
• Add any salt to taste.
• Pressure cook for about 8 to 9 whistles.
• Open pressure cooker once pressure falls.
• Serve hot and enjoy!
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