Tuesday, June 1
A spoonful of sugar
The humble sugar has been abused in the recent past and continues to be downtrodden in the West. A South Asian native, it has been vilified and pilloried as the cause of diabetes, heart disease and obese Americans. Sugar is not to blame, but our self control.
I was brought up adding a spoonful of sugar to most drinks- chocolate milk, coffee, tea. I could never get into artificial sweeteners even in the fattest of times, due to its metallic aftertaste as well as the thought of adding chemicals to my beverage. Having been introduced to brown sugar in its multiple forms, in particular muscovado and demerera, by a Lebanese French friend, I am in the habit of having nothing but brown sugar in my kitchen. I learnt that a spoonful of muscovado can be a delicious topping to a bowl of yogurt and sliced banana. The wonderful thing about these soft brown sugars is that they actually have lower caloric values than an equivalent amount of white sugar due to the higher amounts of minerals, molasses and water content. Molasses, also known as treacle, is what is left when the sugar is removed from sugar cane juice and is quite conveniently high in iron and calcium.
A couple of weeks ago, my Ohioan cousins from my mother's side came to visit. As an expression of my affection for them, I wanted to serve lunch purely from recipes from my mother's side of the family, and so I made the following: spiced meatballs (grandmother/mother's recipe), family-style chicken curry, sauteed potatoes, and my mother's cousin's spinach recipe, all served with rice and pappadoms. This cousin of my mother, a lovely lady who always wears lots of jewelry with her big smile, has actually published a recipe book - in Tamil.
I read the spinach recipe very slowly that day (as I can only read Tamil very slowly) and it seemed to say to boil the following in a small amount of water:
2 packs frozen spinach
10 peeled whole shallots
2 cloves unpeeled garlic
2 green chillies
1 tsp sugar
A pinch of salt
After 10 minutes or so, fish out one or both chillies and blend. Too easy to be true? Well, it really was delicious! The amazing thing about it was that even after a couple of hours, the blended spinach remained as green as a bed of crushed emeralds.
I found out the next day that a spoonful of sugar has traditionally been added in cooking through history to retain the beautiful color of vegetables. This simple ingredient can be a wonderful addition to your life - in moderation of course.