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September 2006

No Fizz in the Cola wars



The cola story has been simmering the last couple of years. Both Pepsi and Coke in India have been accused of containing high levels of toxic chemicals, far above the acceptable global norm. Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment has spent much time and energy on making this known to the public. A fallout of this has been the discovery ( probably well known to scientists and not that obvious to the media) that most water in India is contaminated for a variety of reasons. And I quote , "Contamination can enter the water bodies through one or more of the following ways:

  • Direct point sources: Transfer of pollutants from municipal industrial liquid waste disposal sites and from municipal and household hazardous waste and refuse disposal sites.


  • Diffuse agricultural sources: Wash off and soil erosion from agricultural lands carrying materials applied during agricultural use, mainly fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.


  • Diffuse urban sources: Run off from city streets, from horticultural, gardening and commercial activities in the urban environment and from industrial sites and storage areas.


It is quite likely that any water based drink is going to have an interesting composition. Including your homemade health drinks.

Most of us are not terribly concerned about what we ingest when it comes to fresh foods and water so long as it is cooked or boiled or washed very well. We presume that 'someone ' is looking after the fact that these are not poisonous. Wake up! It may well be lethal the long term, if not immediately.

This media war is one Pepsi and Coca Cola are going to have to join hands to fight together and to tell you the truth I cant be bothered whether they stay or leave, not being a great fan of cola or other fizzy drinks ( bar champagne of course).

What we should be looking at, with a microscope, is the quailty of water in general and what we can do, personally, to improve it. As with all such massive issues we must begin with recognising and acknowledging that we have a problem and it has not been created by Pepsi and Co. Let them go. We must stay and clean up our act.

Butter beans/ Double beans/ Lima beans- Indian style



I have always loved butter beans or double beans as they are generally known here. There are no common names for this pulse besides borboti (Beng) and sem(Hindi), which are generic names for beans and this is because the bean was introduced into India either via the Far East (Burma beans/Java beans) or Africa ( Madagascar beans) from its place of origin ie. from Central and South America
Cultivars of the Phaseolus lunatus L. grow well here, even though they are not indigenous. The most common ones sold are the double white variety, the brown variety called Sultani and the speckled variety. Both the bush and pole type grow here and flourish at heights of 1200M-2200 M. Like the Madagascar bean they are larger than the Lima bean which belongs to the same family.
All types of lima or butter beans should be soaked well before cooking, at least 12 hours, and then washed well after soaking.They must also be cooked well. At least two hours if cooking from the dry state. Wild lima beans can be poisonous because of their high cyanogens which can be reduced only through soaking and cooking for a long time at fairly high temperatures.They should not be eaten raw neither sprouted.
Double beans can lead to a lot of hot air as that folk song from the American South "Butter Beans " proves..and in these days of global warming .... well I won't elaborate. Most Indian cooking calls for the use of ginger when cooking lentils and legumes. And I have done the same with this lima bean recipe.

150 gms butter beans/ double beans
2 "ginger sliced into circles
1/2 tsp turmeric/ haldi
1 walnut sized piece os tamarind soaked in 1/2 cup hot water and then strained

1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp rai / mustard seed
6 cloves of garlic chopped
1 sprig of kari patta /curry leaves
Pinch of salt

Wash and soak the beans for at least 12 hours. If you live in a cold place soak it in hot water. Wash well after soaking and drain off all the water. Add two cups of fresh water to the beans, sliced ginger and the turmeric and pressure cook for 2-3 whistles at high pressure. Take the cooker off the fire and let the heat reduce. Remove the weight.Fish out the ginger slices and discard. Now mash a few of the beans on the sides of the pan or in a blender to make the gravy a bit thicker. Add the tamarind pulp and continue to simmer on low heat.

Heat a teaspoon of oil and add the mustard seed. When they pop add the chopped garlic and fry till golden brown. Now add the curry leaves and saute for ten seconds. Pour the seasoning over the beans and let it cook together for 5-8 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Baharat- North African Spice Mix- Garam Masala



My precious little loomi / has been pounded to smithereens. It is now a part of the baharat I was planning to make for ages. A baharat is a North African Spice mix, almost exactly like a garam masala and in fact this one could very well be, except for the high amount of nutmeg and the loomi. It is used to flavour meat dishes but a sprinkling of it will add taste to a plain pulao or vegetable dish as well. I would even put a pinch of it on a raita. This particular recipe has been given by Shaid who is a student from Bahrain and so it should be pretty authentic.

Ground spices

1 1/2 tsp ground loomi ( dried black lime )
1/2 tsp zafran / saffron
1 1/2 tsp dhania / coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp jeera / cumin powder
1 tsp ground kala miri/ black pepper
1 tbsp lal mirchi / red chillies ground. I used sankeshwar chillies but you can use whatever you like.
1 1/2 tsp dalchini /cinnamon powder
1 tsp powdered lavang / cloves
1 tsp powdered elaichi / green cardamom
1 tsp jaiphal/ powdered nutmeg

I ground each ingredient seperately in the coffee grinder so that they were all about the same size and then mixed the lot together.

When used in Lebanese and Syrian food, the baharat tends to be used a little more generously than we do garam masala- 1 tsp where we would use 1/4 - 1/2 tsp and up to a tablespoon in a lamb and bean dish for 12 people. Recipe  and results for the lamb and bean experimental concoction will be posted soon.