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There are as many cliches on the subject of breakfast as breakfast recipes, but this meal still gets less attention than it deserves.
So, what did you eat for breakfast today? Idli-chutney? Crisp dosa with sambhar? Poori masala? Parathas and chole? Or, like more and more harried families, sugary cereals and milk? At the start of a busy day, one is so focussed on dealing with the lunch boxes, freshly pressed clothes and getting out of the door on time that a healthy breakfast, more often than not, is treated as an afterthought.
In many South Indian households, the question of ‘what to make for breakfast’ is resolved by means of the ubiquitous idli-dosa batter. Grind it on Sunday and you never have to battle with the ‘What the hell am I going to make now’ question at 7.00 a.m. weekday, again. Simpler still is to break open a box of branded cereal, microwave a bowl of milk and be done with it. In fact, as it helps getting down a glass of milk down your child’s throat with minimum fuss, you can even chalk it up as a win!
I have been in both these situations for years – especially when I was working / studying, I had no mental bandwidth left to contemplate the idea of breakfast, much less do something about it! I ‘solved’ the matter by simply buying 3-4 different varieties of cereals and patted myself on my back for my ingenuity! When that got boring, I used to move to the idli-dosa camp. With a limitless number of options for accompaniments available, no two recipes for breakfast can be the same – right?
So, what is my beef with this wondrous state of affairs, you ask.
Well, nothing big – except for the wee thing called nutrition. As I paused to consider exactly what my lovely family is starting their day with, I started feeling twinges of guilt. Here I am, getting us all geared up to a brand new day with nothing but carbohydrates and sugar (the macro nutrient in all of our breakfast staples idli, dosa, roti, poori, paratha, breakfast cereals etc as well as in veg like potatoes is carbohydrates) in their tummy and considering it a job well done? But – and here’s a big but – hasn’t the idli-dosa-roti-paratha formula worked just fine for us Indians for more years than we can possibly count?
You know the answer to that question better than I do. How many of us have felt sluggish at 10.00 a.m., when our blood sugar levels bottom out? Haven’t we felt our eyes close and unable to concentrate on what the boss in banging on about in the team meeting when the dosa dissipates into nothing, two hours after consumption? For years, I have tried to combat this scenario by any means possible – I even tried not eating breakfast for a while, to see if that stopped the drowsy mid-morning feeling. And I have to say, in my pre-mum days, it actually made me feel pretty good and I was at my healthiest (and slimmest) best then.
But the post-children me can no more stay away from food than a housefly from a ripe mango. So, other avenues had to be explored. After many hit/miss attempts, some of which never saw the light of day thanks to being labour-intensive and needing 26 hours in a day, here are my top three breakfast suggestions for you to start the day with a bang AND keep the momentum going till lunch and beyond.
Breakfast smoothie – This is the simplest of my options. You basically need a good blender and a bunch of fruits – if you get fresh berries, such as strawberries or blueberries, your smoothie is as good as gold. Add some good quality yogurt and blend till it is a smooth mixture. Drink a tall glass of this and be assured that you will not feel peckish till lunch-time. If berries are not available, then go with what you get locally, such as bananas, team it with something like walnuts and whizz together with some whole milk (none of the low-fat / no fat nonsense please). Or, how about some oranges, milk and honey? Lychees and milk? Papayas? Just go with what you can lay your hands on and start experimenting.
Other added trappings like flaxseed powder and hemp seeds (for added protein) are entirely optional and based totally on availability.
Eggs, glorious eggs – Regular readers of this column know I have sung paeans to that wondrous thing that egg is. Boil it, scramble it, load it up with vegetables and bake it – whichever way you eat it, eggs are simply the best thing to start the day with. On hot days, team it with a cold glass of milk or lassi and you are good to go.
Sundal, the healthy Indian breakfast – If you simply cannot face the day without eating something solid and/or you shun eggs, here is what you can do. Have some sundal – seriously! For the benefit of non-Tamilians, ‘sundal’ is a yummy and quick dish made entirely of dried beans, often served in homes during the Navaratri festival. Any bean can be made into sundal – you are limited only by your imagination. If you can remember to soak some beans (dried peas/chickpea) the previous night, pressure cook it the next morning. Top with some mustard and chillies spluttered in a teaspoon of coconut oil, garnish with some fresh grated coconut and sit back and enjoy! Team it with a bowl full of fresh curd and I can guarantee you will be surprised when it is lunch o’clock.
My Mum’s Ultimate Sundal Recipe
Soak the chickpeas overnight. Pressure cook them with a smidgeon of salt.
On a low flame, warm the coconut oil in a kadai/ wok. Add the curry leaves and dry chillies. When the chillies darken slightly, add the mustard and urad dal, and finally, the asafoetida.
Gently add the cooked chickpeas to the wok and mix well. Add salt to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Garnish with freshly grated ginger and coconut. Enjoy!
Mother, writer, foodie, margarita lover, Lavanya is the exception to the rule that women are
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