Not so magical

Monsoon comes with a surge in incidences of illness, with cold and fever being common. Here are the go-to comfort foods that people lean on during sick days
Representative image
Representative image

KOCHI: Who doesn’t love the monsoon? Coming after months of scorching summer, this spell of rain is a perfect time to sink into your favourite couch and nurse a cup of warm tea. Some do it out of a fascination for the weather and the lush greenery outside. Others, however, retreat to it as a means to get ‘over the weather’. You see, monsoon is also a season of sickness, with colds, coughs and digestive issues becoming quite common.

“The increased humidity and moisture can promote the growth of bacteria and viruses, making us prone to infections and seasonal ailments,” warns Dr Nydin Poulin, the chief dietitian at Medical Trust Hospital, Kochi. That’s why it’s essential to be mindful of our diet during this time.

“Eating fresh, hot, home-cooked meals helps prevent infections. Avoiding street food and easily contaminated foods like leafy vegetables and seafood further protect our health,” Nydin adds.

Dr Manju P George, the chief dietitian of VPS Lakeshore Hospital in Kochi, while seconding this, also suggests including herbs and spices, nuts and sprouts and fish/chicken dishes prepared in less oil in the diet to maintain fitness during the rains.

“Drinks or dishes with ginger, garlic, turmeric, pepper, lemon, tulsi, mint, cinnamon, cumin and coriander are instrumental in beating illnesses. It can be incorporated in the form of different types of flavoured tea (without milk), as soups, and as salad ingredients,” she says.

We can all agree that hot soups are refreshing during the monsoon. We’ve all had a bowl or two when we suffered nose congestion or cough. Manju says warm turmeric milk is also an alternative to combat the same. Lekshmy Manish, a practising nutritionist from Thiruvananthapuram, seconds this. “Include spices like turmeric and ginger in your meals for their anti-inflammatory properties. Drink herbal teas and soups to stay hydrated,” she says, adding, “It is best to reduce street food and stick to home-cooked meals.”

Another common ailment during the monsoon period is digestive issues. Deep-fried foods are the main villains here. Dr Surej Subhash, a senior medical consultant at Ayurbethaniya Hospital, Thrissur, says a robust immune system depends on a healthy gut flora, which is maintained by probiotics. “It helps prevent infections during the monsoon season,” he says. As a remedy, he suggests buttermilk for people with sensitive stomachs. “It is easier to digest than ordinary milk. Also, add a pinch of turmeric or a teaspoon of crushed cumin seeds or ginger,” he adds. Manju also shares curds, boiled bananas, sprouts, plain nuts and berries as good prebiotic foods.

Whatever you do, drink lots of water, Nydin urges. “Whatever the form — i.e. soups, tea, etc, staying hydrated is key,” she adds. The others echo this. Now, having learned all this, one thing is very clear, during these damp, chilly days, the comforting warmth of traditional home-cooked foods becomes very important. Not only do they soothe the body, but also uplift the spirit. Here, TNIE shares some comfort foods from across India.The diversity of Indian cuisine also means there’s always a dish that can bring solace, no matter where you are from. So, the next time you’re feeling under the weather, reach out for these comforting foods and let the magic of culinary traditions work their healing charm.

Kerala and Elsewhere across India

Sarson ka saag and makki ki roti

This nutritious dish from Punjab is made from mustard greens. Paired with makki ki roti, a type of cornbread, this dish, which boasts earthy flavours and mild sweetness, is at once hearty and comforting.

Kanji and payar

This is the first dish that comes to mind when one falls sick in Kerala. This simple rice porridge paired with green gram curry is light and easy on the stomach. Gulping down a bowl or two provides a comforting hug to the body, helping in quick recovery.

Inji curry

Inji or ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory and digestive properties. This forms the base of this tangy and spicy curry. Though it is usually a part of a larger meal, a spoonful can do wonders to soothe a sore throat.

Rasam and rice

This tangy, spicy soup made with tamarind, tomatoes and a mix of spices helps clear up nasal congestion and aid digestion. Paired with rice, it makes for a light yet satisfying meal. The peppery warmth of rasam is especially comforting on a cold day or when you have a cold.

Idiyappam with coconut milk

This is a savoury option that one can lean on when sick. The rice dish served with coconut milk and sugar is easy on the stomach and provides a sweet comfort.

Khichdi

Khichdi reigns supreme as the ultimate comfort food in much of north India. This simple dish made from rice and lentils is easy on the stomach and incredibly nourishing.

Ukadiche modak

Ukadiche Modak, steamed rice flour dumplings filled with coconut and jaggery, provides a sweet treat that is gentle on the stomach. This is a go-to for Maharashtrians during times of sickness.

Chingri Macher Paturi

Prawns marinated in mustard paste and steamed in banana leaves make for a light and flavourful dish. Chingri Macher Paturi is a unique comfort food from West Bengal.

Payesh

A rice pudding made with milk and sugar and flavoured with cardamom. Popular in the Northeastern states, it is quickly catching on as a go-to comfort food in the rest of the country.

Chicken lentil soup

Recipes by Sheeba La Fleur, Thiruvananthapuram

Ingredients

  • Olive oil: 1 tbsp

  • Bay leaves: 2

  • Garlic cloves: 3 (minced)

  • Onion: 1 (thinly sliced)

  • Celery stalk: 1 (thinly sliced)

  • Carrot: 1 (thinly sliced)

  • Masoor dal: 4 tbsp

  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp

  • Chicken thighs: 2

  • Chicken legs: 2

  • Salt: to taste

  • Black pepper powder: 1 tsp

  • Water: 4 cups

  • Thyme: 2 tbsp

  • Coriander leaves: 2 tbsp (chopped)

Method

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a cooker. Add minced garlic and bay leaves and saute for 30 seconds. Add sliced onion, celery, and carrot, and saute for 2 minutes. Add the lentils, chicken thighs and legs, turmeric powder, thyme, and black pepper powder. Again saute for another 2 minutes, then add the water and salt. Pressure cook until two whistles. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate, shred them, and discard the bones. Return the shredded chicken to the pot and remove the bay leaves. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes. Serve hot with bread toast, garnished with chopped coriander leaves.

Besan sheera

Ingredients

  • Ghee: 2 tbsp

  • Jaggery powder: 2 tsp

  • Almonds: 1 tbsp (chopped)

  • White pepper powder: 1/2 tsp

  • Dry ginger powder: 1/2 tsp

  • Cardamom powder: 1/2 tsp

  • Besan: 2 tbsp

  • Water: 1 cup

Method

Melt ghee in a pan. Add besan and fry on a slow flame until golden brown while stirring continuously. Add finely chopped almonds and white pepper powder. Mix well. Add water, boil on a high flame, and stir continuously. Add the jaggery powder and let it cook for 5 minutes. Finally, add the dry ginger and cardamom powder. Mix well and serve hot.

Paal kappa with roasted corn

By chef Arun Vijayan

Ingredients

  • Tapioca: 500 gm

  • Shallots: 20 gm

  • Green chilli: 5 gm

  • Coconut oil: 80 ml

  • Coconut milk: 200 ml

  • Salt: To taste

  • Corn: 1

  • Mustard seeds: 2 gm

  • Whole red chilli: 3

  • Curry leaves: 1 sprig

Method

Crush green chillies and shallots together and keep them aside. Cut tapioca into cubes, boil it until it is tender and mash it well. Heat coconut oil in a pan and temper with mustard seeds. Add red chilli and curry leaves. Add the mashed tapioca, crushed shallots and green chilli. Season with salt and add the coconut milk. Cook for a few minutes in slow heat. Turn off the flame and enjoy the dish.

Kozhi karuveppilai soup

Ingredients

  • Chicken with born: 500 gm

  • Curry leaves with stem: 50 gm

  • Ginger: 10 gm Garlic: 10 gm

  • Black peppercorn: 10 gm

  • Salt: To taste

  • Turmeric powder: A pinch

  • Whole shallots: 20gm

  • Green chili: 2

  • Whole coriander seeds: 10gm

  • Water: 3 liter

  • Coriander sprigs: For garnish

Method

Boil all ingredients in a medium to slow heat until the 3-liter water reduces to 1 litre. Drain and serve in a soup bowl after adding boiled chicken pieces and garnishing with coriander sprigs.

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