No Worries Curries Blog: Ayurveda

Indian Festivals: Navratri or Durga Puja

By Conchita de Souza

Indian Festivals: Navratri or Durga Puja
Navratri in Sanskrit, means ‘nine nights’ (‘nava’ is ‘nine’ and ‘ratri’ is ‘nights’) and the festival goes exactly for that duration. It is dedicated to the Goddess Durga (also known as Maa Durga)and the nine avatars (forms) which she manifests herself. Each night celebrates one of her forms. During this time, devotees come together to fast, worship and celebrate the different forms of the devi (female god) and her victory over the demon Mahishasur.

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Kerala - A Journey Through God's Own Country (Part 1)

By Conchita de Souza

Kerala - A Journey Through God's Own Country (Part 1)
A friend and I were backpacking across the south of Kerala. He had come from Sydney to tour India, and I told him we’d do the south together. Our plan was to visit four different towns/regions in nine days, using local transport as our means for moving. I was excited for this trip, because I knew that Kerala was much like my home state Goa - filled with friendly fisherfolk, delicious seafood and cuisines rich in one of my favourite ingredients - coconut!  Yet the differences were also apparent between these coconut-ty dwellings, especially when looking at language, dress styles and traditions. A familiar flavour, but an entirely different dish - this is how I would explore and experience Kerala.

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All That Glitters is Gold - India's Use of Turmeric, the Golden Spice

By Conchita de Souza

All That Glitters is Gold - India's Use of Turmeric, the Golden Spice
Along with yoga, ayurveda, chai and namastes, turmeric (known as haldi in Hindi) is another heritage  of Indian culture and tradition which has been recently embraced by the western world. In India, the status of turmeric is far greater than just that of a spice (though if anyone classified me as a spice, I’d be chuffed as anything). This humble root is from the ginger family and its properties have been recognised, revered and used for over four thousand years. It is known as the ‘spice of life’ because of its golden hue, which is associated with the life-giving star - our sun.

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5 Natural Beauty & Hair Hacks Using Spices & Indian Ingredients

By Conchita de Souza

5 Natural Beauty & Hair Hacks Using Spices & Indian Ingredients

There is no hiding just how much we love spices here at No Worries Curries. But what you may not know is that some of the key spices which we add to our authentic, preservative-free and vegan spice blends, we also use on our hair and bodies to make us feel and look fabulous. It seems to follow that the good stuff we put into our bodies will also be good on our bodies and that is definitely the case with certain spices and other key ingredients found in almost every Indian pantry.  

Some of these hacks have been passed down through the generations and are worth giving a shot because they are low-cost, natural and involve travelling no further than your kitchen pantry. I am not skin or hair specialist, so I do advise that you run these by your dermatologist, especially if you are prone to skin/scalp irritations.


Skin, Face and Complexion


Besan Haldi and Dahi Face Mask (Chickpea flour Turmeric and Yoghurt)


I must share with you my annoyance towards beauty ads or beauty bloggers who apply face masks and make it look like icing a cake; so damn perfect that their lips and eyes are symmetrically left untouched by the mask and the application is so smooth it may as well be painted on by Monet. Whenever I apply face masks, I manage to get that ish inside my nostrils, all through my baby hairs and even on my toenails (you read it right). I took photos of this one just to prove to you that face masks, especially homemade ones, are messy, un-sexy (is that even a word?) and far from glamorous but the results outweigh all that.


‘Besan’ is a common cooking ingredient in Indian cuisine and is chickpea flour. Any girl hailing from the Indian subcontinent would have at least once in their lifetime applied besan on their skin to remove tans and give the skin a natural glow. It has alkalising properties which makes it a great cleanser that maintains the pH of the skin. It is great for those who have oily skin because it absorbs the oil without leaving the skin dry. I naturally have dry skin, but using besan has never dried it out anymore so it is safe for those with dry skin too. Couple besan with the ever-powerful turmeric and you’re set for a healthy party all over your pores. Turmeric is known for its antiseptic and anti-ageing properties, and has been used in Indian cuisine for millenias before the western world ‘discovered’ turmeric latte. And yoghurt is full of probiotics so add that in the mix too and it will help you fight acne (and is also very cooling).

I made this mask myself and I kid you not, my skin felt softer, looked brighter but smelt a little funny because the yoghurt I used was a little sour (or maybe just off completely). Maybe next time I might try mixing it with just water.

How to use: Mix 1 tbs besan, ½ tbs of turmeric and 2 tbs of yoghurt (or water) until it forms a thick paste. Apply and leave for 15-20 minutes before washing off.


Clove & Honey Face Mask

PC: www.organicfacts.net

This fragrant spice is used in the festive Indian dish Biryani and produces a beautiful aroma. When used on skin, cloves are said to remove blemishes and fight bacteria, thanks to its antiseptic properties.  

How to use: Crush 3-4 cloves into a powder and mix it along with a tablespoon of honey and a few drops of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Mix the ingredients and apply it to your face for 5 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.


Cinnamon Lip Balm

Cinnamon is said to improve blood circulation

PC: http://sirtfooddiet.net/

Something I only recently found out is that cinnamon is a wonder spice. It improves blood circulation which increases cell turnover and repair, and is antibacterial in nature so can be used to soothe acne/pimples. The heat in cinnamon pushes the blood to your skin and gives you a radiant look. Apply it to your lips and you’ll notice that they become fuller.

I read that applying cinnamon to your lips makes it fuller so I gave it a shot. I think I mixed more cinnamon powder than I did vaseline (my go-to lip balm) which resulted in me looking like I had very messily eaten too many oreo biscuits and all the crumbs had gotten stuck on my lips. I left it on for longer than the time suggested and noticed a slight tingling/burning sensation where I applied it. After washing it off, I did not notice any visible difference to my lips in terms of size or colour, but they felt fuller to me (placebo effect maybe?).

How to use: Add a little to your homemade lip balm, wash off with warm water after 2 minutes and be sure to kiss someone straight after so they get to feel your soft and rosy lips.* You can also make a paste by mixing 2 tsps honey and 1tps cinnamon and then apply it to your face. Rinse with lukewarm water after 10 minutes.


Healthy Hair


Coconut Oil

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For many centuries, Indians have used coconut oil in cooking as well as for their hair and skin. This is particularly so in the southern regions of India, where women are renowned for their long, strong and healthy hair which is both slow to grey and hard to break. As kids, my mother would massage coconut oil in mine and and my brother’s hair once a week. It is a practice I still adhere to today.

Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) - a kind of fatty acid that contains both antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which help to nourish the body and protect it from bacteria.The acids include Lauric acid and Capric acid, both of which aid in dandruff prevention. The Lauric acid also assists with protein development in hair because it is able to penetrate the hair shaft and is therefore a good option to those suffering from hair loss. If you are aiming for hair growth, coconut oil can be paired with rosemary essential oil as an effective elixir for growing you hair, as advised by Dr. Axe.

How to use: Massage into the roots of your hair by heating the oil just a little. The residue oil on your hands can be used to massage your scalp. For best results, let the oil stay in your hair overnight before washing it out in the morning.


Methi Seed Mask (Fenugreek)

PC: www.amazon.co.uk

Fenugreek is an ingredient native to Indian soil and are seeds of the methi plant. The leaves form the base of many popular dishes in India, including Methi Murg (Fenugreek Chicken). Like coconut oil, applying fenugreek to your hair (as well as on your skin) has numerous benefits which I’ve summarised in dot points below because well, there are just so many!

  • Repairs damaged hair - If you are like me and suffer from split ends and frizzy hair, fenugreek is a great option to reverse damage (especially if you’re afraid of evil hairdressers cutting off your long locks). It contains Lecithin which nourishes and strengthens hair follicles and acts as a natural conditioner. To use fenugreek as a conditioner, soak the seeds overnight in water and grind it into a paste. Mix this paste along with aloe vera or coconut milk for extra sheen to your hair. Apply this to your hair and rinse with a light shampoo.
  • Helps prevent hair loss - Fenugreek is high in protein and Amino acids which are key in preventing hair thinning as well as hair loss. Follow the same process above and instead of adding aloe vera, add plain yoghurt. This mixture also aids in treating dandruff or itchy scalp.
  • Promotes faster hair growth - I am forever trying different natural ways to grow my hair faster (can I get a resounding ‘Amen’ if you too are in that boat). Fenugreek contains Nicotinic acid which is nature’s agent in promoting hair growth.
  • Delays greying of hair - Fenugreek is high in potassium which helps to prevent premature greying of hair. Make a mask using fenugreek paste and add the juice of gooseberries (rich in Vitamin A and B as well as minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorus) to prevent your hair from greying earlier than it should.

In addition to these ‘hairy’ benefits, fenugreek paste can be applied to the face to treat acne. Fenugreek is known for stimulating breast milk production, controlling diabetes and even reducing the symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause. Talk about a superfood!

How to use: Fenugreek can be used as a powder, paste or oil. It entirely depends on what you prefer and what is convenient to you. Check out this link for more useful ways to improve your hair’s health with fenugreek.

 

Beauty products are often filled with chemicals and unknown substances which we cannot even pronounce. If  you can eliminate or at least reduce the ‘unnatural’ products you use on your body in favour of natural products, then it is definitely worth the effort. If you have tried any of these methods before or have your own natural beauty tips, just comment below!


* I unfortunately did not have anyone nearby to kiss and verify the fullness of my lips but will make sure someone is handy next time round.

**Featured image: http://www.discountmantra.in/

By Conchita A. de Souza 

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Atithi Devo Bhava - The Guest is God

By Claudette D'Cruz

Atithi Devo Bhava - The Guest is God

 

A ‘tourist’ is one who travels to or visits another place for their own pleasure or interest. At some point or another in our lives, we have all been tourists, whether it be in our own region or state or in a country completely foreign to our own.  What I gain most from travelling to another place are not the souvenirs I purchase during a last minute dash to the bazaar, nor the memories of a comfy hotel room with amenities as desirable as a jacuzzi.  I remember the people, their hospitality and their willingness to make you feel so at home, that they even give up their meal or their bed for you.  And no sense of hospitality has struck me as deeply as the hospitality of the Indian people. 


It is probably safe to say that Indians have lived, breathed and practised a very genuine sense of tourism long before the term itself was coined and the practice became commercialised.  This tourism holds the guest as the centre of focus. In one of the ancient Hindu Scriptures called Taittiriya Upanishads, the Sanskrit phrase Atithi Devo Bhava holds sacred meaning and translates to ‘The Guest is God’.  Atithi means ‘without a fixed calendrical time’ and is used to describe a ‘guest’;  Devo means ‘God’ and;  Bhava means ‘to be’.  Atithi Devo Bhava is a code of conduct that has made Indian hospitality renowned around the world for its genuine desire to place the guest above all.

The code of conduct manifests itself in a myriad of ways, but I will focus on my preferred expression of Atithi Devo Bhava, which is of course, food.  For me, offering food is the ultimate symbol of welcoming a guest into your home.  Although for my father, the term ‘offering’ may sometimes be replaced with ‘force-feeding’.  This also applies to most of my aunties, who gently place trays of sweets onto my lap and remind me of how thin I look despite being the same size for a good decade now.  Then there is always the ‘take-away’ version of the code of conduct which involves stuffing tupperware containers with sweets, snacks and curries for when the guest is short of time (there really is no escape).   As soon as a guest comes to our home, whether they be expected or not, they will always be served at the minimum, a glass of water and at the most (we are talking only food here), an elaborately prepared meal that is always three times more than what is required.

Having travelled extensively throughout India, I have seen Atithi Devo Bhava being practised in its purest form whenever I have travelled through the villages or the slums. One instance I recall was staying with a farming family whilst on a field visit.  Not only did they insist I eat more rotis but they also proceeded to watch me complete my meal before they began theirs.  When the time came for bed, I was told I would be sharing the bed with the daughter of the house, whom I only met that day itself.  I’ll admit that some of this behaviour was attributable to the fact that I was the first ‘foreigner’ to visit their home, but I was touched nevertheless.  I had a chance to meet some people living in the slums of Mumbai, and there too, I was welcomed with hot chai with each home I stepped in to.  It is easy for us to go to lengthy ends for those whom we know and love, because that love will be returned.  But in India, we also go the extra mile for those whose wandering feet reach our doorsteps.

Have you ever experienced the warmth and genuineness of Indian hospitality?  Tell us so in the comments below.

 

Conchita A. de Souza

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'Curry' - A Diverse Dish with an Ancient History

By Claudette D'Cruz

'Curry' - A Diverse Dish with an Ancient History

I hate to burst your bubble of pride as you tuck into your home-made curry, but your success is old news – ancient to be precise. Curry is believed to be the oldest continuously-prepared food in human history, and early home cooks were whipping up a good spicy stew around 4,000 years ago in the ancient Indus Valley empire of India.

Of course our early ancestor's curries little resemble modern-day curries. Even in the 17th century the Indian 'kari' was merely one of many soupy-spicy dressings served with other dishes and not as the main event. The Europeans, while merrily colonising India, incorrectly assumed all these dressings were 'currys' (as they called them), and scurried back to their home countries with a recipe.

But then everything changed. While the English were making “currey the Indian way” (a rabbit stew with a spoonful of rice and various spices), the chilli journeyed from it's native South America to Asia and the curry became the fiery version we know today.

That said, curry remains one of the most diverse and varied foods on the planet. Eat a curry in Jamaica and it will likely contain goat, while South African's chew on 'bunny chow' and the hawker stalls of Hong Kong sell curry fish balls.

In the Maldives the top curry is made with fresh tuna, Germany's classic currywurst pairs a sausage with curried ketchup to great effect, and the first Australian settlers dined on bandicoot curry in 1864.

It all started in India though, so to India we must return. Curries vary by region, tradition and religion in India, but the general rule is that southern Indian curries are the spicier ones, and coastal regions use seafood more than chicken or red meat.

Your average curry contains around 60 ingredients, but before you scream and vow you will never cook one again, remember that many of these contain health benefits, so are worth the effort of adding to your meal.

Key spices like turmeric, cumin, allspice, ginger and garlic have anti-bacterial properties; onions help the body produce cancer-fighting molecules; and the hotter the spice the more calories you burn eating it!

Ultimately, what really matters is the pleasure that a good curry brings: it's both soothing and stimulating, explosively flavoured and endlessly varied. Let that pleasure be heightened by the effort that goes into making it, and the link it creates with our ancestors and the global society of curry eaters. Throw in the fact that you are doing your body some good just by tucking in and there is no reason not to open your next packet of spices and get cooking!

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Eating Food With Your Hands - A Tastier and Healthier Alternative

By Conchita de Souza

Eating Food With Your Hands - A Tastier and Healthier Alternative

In India, scooping up rice and curry with the fingers on your right hand instead of your fork or spoon isn’t any more normal than drinking beer chilled. It is a practice ingrained in children as soon as they start learning to eat on their own (which also happens at a very young age in India). It is also a practice far less messy and a lot more hygienic than that which is perceived by our utensil-loving friends. Why? Well for instance, only the top two rungs of your fingers get food on them, leaving the skins of your palms, wrists and sometimes your knuckles relatively untouched (unless of course you are new to this whole ‘eating with your hands’ experience and make a mess equivalent of a toddler left to eat spaghetti on their own). When you eat with your hands, you pay more attention to hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly with soap. That is why when you go to any restaurant in India (and other countries where eating with hands is a common practice), you will see a small wash basin with a soap. The wash basin may vary according to how remote a location you find yourself in, and may sometimes appear as a jug filled with water. It is the principle that counts though.

Eating is an all-involving sensory experience. Before the food reaches your tongue, you have already processed it using three of your senses; Sight, Smell and Sound. During preparation, you see the food before you and are able to smell its aromas and hear the sounds of it cooking. When you are about to eat, your eyes take in the dish, your nose smells it in its finality and your ears hear the sound of the food - the crack of the papad as it breaks or the sound of the kabab sizzling hot on your plate. As you eat, you engage a new sense - Taste. Your tongue and palate work together to taste the flavours. Yet one sense remains, restless and impatient for her chance to contribute to the sensory experience that is eating - Touch. With the advent of cutlery, the role of Touch has diminished during her favourite activity of eating. She watches sadly on the sidelines as all the other senses experience the delight of good food. She grudgingly holds the cold, metal utensils, her greatest obstacle to experiencing the food as profoundly as her siblings do so. It’s a bit dramatically told, but I believe senses have personalities of their own and certainly contribute to the development of our personas!

 Drama aside, eating with your hands is encouraged in Ayurveda (the Hindu system of medicine which translates to the science/knowledge of life). Traditionally, every finger on your hand (and for that matter, every toe on your foot) is symbolic of earthly elements; your thumb represents fire, your index finger is symbolic of air, your middle finger indicates the heavens, your ring finger - the earth and the little finger is water of course! When you put these five fingers together, they form mudra, a hand position central in meditation, yoga and classical Indian dance forms. The mudra is what you eat with, and therefore all five fingers play a role in purifying and energising what goes into your body. So eating with your hands and fingers is in fact, a much healthier way of eating.

 In the interests of presenting a well-rounded perspective on eating with your hands, there are a couple of downsides to this practice. Sometimes, your fingernails can become stained because of the spices used in Indian cuisines. This however isn’t permanent and will wear away after some days, as does the strong smells produced by the various spices. If you have an event coming up in which the aesthetics of your fingernails play an important role, you can ditch the fingers for cutlery in the days preceding the said event. Another downside is if the food is super hot, your finger might get a bit of a burning. However burning your fingers is far less worse than burning the tastebuds on your tongue and consequently, not being able to enjoy the ensuing flavours of your meal.

Eating with your hands is still practiced in Western cuisine with favourites like bread, tacos, fries, pizza, chocolate and burgers, to name a few, still being enjoyed by the trusty ol’ hands. Maybe that’s why they taste so damn good! If the practice is something that makes you feel uncomfortable, start doing it with Indian food and see just how much fun you can have. Then you can slowly work your way towards eating pasta, steak, and salad with your hands too! I guarantee that your food will also taste even better than it already does.

 By Conchita A. de Souza 

 

 

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