Kerala is much loved by Indians and foreigners alike for its spiritual retreats, gorgeous beaches and sanctuaries and ancient tradition of Ayurvedic healing. Mekosha, a newly opened Ayurvedic spa retreat on the banks of the Attigal River in Trivandrum, specialises in Ayurvedic massages and cuisine that adheres to Ayurvedic principles.
Healthy but tasty upma for breakfast
A typical day at the retreat begins with a warm glass of cumin water and soaked almonds and cashews. According to Anoob, the F&B manager, this provides a boost of energy for the entire day and aids in good digestion. One can then enjoy an individual yoga session or a dip in the pool, and then proceed for a nutritious and tasty breakfast that combines South Indian cuisine with world favourites like juice and flavoured yoghurt.
A view of Mekosha and beyond
You could treat yourself to a rejuvenating abhyangam (full body massage), kizhi (massage with bundles of healing herbs) and steam routine post-breakfast, followed by a shower with all-natural gram flour. Then, a stroll around the verdant property would be well-advised, while allowing time to gaze at the birds swooping over the river.
Lunch at Mekosha is usually a thali served on a banana leaf, consisting of fibre-rich red rice and assorted South Indian dishes. In the evening, they will organise a leisurely motor boat ride down the river if you desire. Along the way, you can wave at locals, see them navigate the round kutta boats, and marvel at coconut trees that grow horizontally.
Coursing down the river in a motorboat
Before dinner, you could enjoy an aromatherapy massage in the comfort of your room, or perhaps a head and shoulder massage by the riverside if there's still time for sundown. Unlimited Ayurvedic treatments are a part of the deal at Mekosha - so you don't have to worry about keeping count.
The retreat is close to the spectacular Varkala Beach. Once a secret haven, it has now become fairly crowded. But the splendour of the waves and views of the sunset from the cliff above remain undiluted. Mekosha is an hour's drive away from Trivandrum airport. Before returning home, make a pit stop at Shankumugham Beach, home to a life-sized sculpture of a mermaid.
Sunset at Varkala Beach
Incidentally, the F&B manager Anoob, wasn't always a part of the food industry. Yet at Mekosha, he designs Ayurvedic meals with the flair of a seasoned chef. "Ayurveda uses food as medicine and even goes to prescribe various ways for preparing and consuming food," he explains. Presenting his best recipes:
1. Oats Roti
Oats are a rich source of soluble fibre 'beta-glucan', which is a potent cholesterol-lowering agent. Please serve the rotis hot with fresh low-fat yogurt (dahi) or a cholesterol-friendly subzi for a really healthy meal.
Oats roti with payasam, raita and dal
1 cup oats flour
3 tsp wheat flour
1/2 tsp finely chopped green chillies
2 tsp chopped onions
1/2 tsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1. Grind oats to a fine powder. Then mix oats powder with wheat flour and add oil.
2. Add red chilli powder, onions, coriander leaves, salt and mix well. Add water and start kneading.
3. Using a chapathi roller, roll out to a slightly thin circle; dust flour while rolling. Do it gently as it tends to tear easily.
4. Heat a non-stick tava (griddle) and cook each roti, using ¼ tsp of oil, from both the sides.
2. Tomato Chutney
Tomato chutney , a finger licking tangy and spicy chutney made with tomato and other basic Indian spices can also be had as a dip for South Indian breakfast dishes like idli, dosas, uttappams etc.
Tomato chutney (right corner) goes well with uttapam
1 medium size onion
1 red chilli
Small pinch of coriander leaves
1 tsp black beluga lentils
Pinch of asafoetida
Salt to taste
Turmeric and chilli powder
1. Heat some oil, add onions and ginger-garlic paste to it and cook till they brown.
2. Add tomatoes, lentils, salt and spices and cook to a thick consistency.
3. Apple Yogurt
The apple yogurt bowl provides healthy fats, protein and fibre. Having a variety of different fibres in your diet is highly beneficial.
One big, peeled and pureed apple
1 tsp honey
½ bowl of yogurt
1. Peel and puree the apple. Mix with honey and yogurt.
4. Beetroot, Tomato & Orange Juice
The best detox!
1/2 medium sized beetroot
1 medium sized carrot
1 medium sized tomato
Peel and roughly chop the beetroot, tomatoes and blend them in a blender using 1 cup of water or use a juicer.
Grind them into a fine paste, add more water if required while blending. Bring the juice to your desired consistency by adding more water if required.
Add lemon juice, rock salt and mix well, Drink the juice without straining or you'll lose all the good fibres.
5. Red Rice Appam
This variety beats the nutritional benefits of white and brown rice combined. Rich in fibre, it comes loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, photochemical, vitamin E, protein, iron, and other nutrients.
1 cup raw rice (Can use sona masoori)
1/4th cup urad dal
1 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
1 cup cooked red rice
1/4th cup coconut flakes
Salt to taste.
1. Mix all the ingredients well and grind in mixer grinder.
2. Let the batter ferment overnight.
3. Heat an appan pan and apply a little oil.
4. Pour one ladle of batter into a circular manner. Close it with a lid and allow to cook.
6. Rice idli
Idli is a round-shaped steamed rice lentil cake. It is one of the favourite breakfasts in South India. It's protein-rich and specifically loved because of its milky white colour and soft spongy texture.
Try it with the molaga pudi on the right!
1 cup of parboiled rice (idli rice or short grain rice)
1 cup of Basmati rice (or any rice)
½ cup whole urad dal (skinned or split urad dal)
½ tea spoon of fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste, oil for greasing
1. Gently mix the batter once. Don’t mix it vigorously or too often as it would remove all the air in the batter. Rub a little oil on each of the idli moulds.
2. Drop spoonfuls of batter in each mould. Add about 1 inch deep water in your idli steamer. Place the idli stand in the steamer and close. Steam on high flame for five minutes.
3. Reduce heat and steam on low flame for ten minutes. Open the steamer carefully and check the idli by inserting a clean knife. If the knife comes out clean, idli is done. Else steam for another couple of minutes.
4. Remove the steamer from heat and let it stand for five minutes. Open and remove the idlis from the mould with a knife. Serve warm with chutneys or sambar.
7. Rava Idli
Rava items are very popular for breakfast in south India and also as a snack. Many feel that it is a wheat item so it's a better choice than rice items like rice idli or dosa. But it is very heavy in terms of calories once cooked. 100gms of raw rava is 350 calories.
1 glass semolina
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup water
1 green chilli
Pinch of coriander leaves
1/2 spoon finely chopped ginger
1 tsp grated carrot
1/2 cup urad dal
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
Oil and salt to taste
1. Heat a pan and add ghee. When the ghee is hot, add rava. Fry until the rava emits a nice aroma and take it out on a plate.
2. Add the tempering to the rava. Add curd. Mix well and ensure no lumps are formed.
3. Add water and coriander and make a batter.
4. Add salt and keep it aside for 30 minutes
6. Grease the idli moulds with oil and pour in the batter.
8. Dragon Fruit Bowl
Dragon fruit is jam-packed with flavonoids and flu-fighting vitamin C, which is great for the immune system. In fact, it contains more vitamin C than a carrot, making the dragon fruit one of the top vitamin C sources. It also ranks high on the antioxidant list, which helps kick those free radicals to the curb. And even more support steps up from vitamins B1, B2, B3, as well as calcium, phosphorous, iron, protein, niacin and fibre teaming up to keep that immune system in tip-top shape.
Tastes as good as it looks
1 dragon fruit, scooped and chopped
1. Scoop out the flesh of a dragon fruit and chop. Drop them back into the scooped out bowl.
2. Mix with pomagranate seeds and garnish with mint leaves.
Pachadi refers to a traditional South Indian raita. Raita is used as side dish. Broadly translated, it refers to food which has been pounded. In Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, pachadi is a side dish curry similar to the North Indian raita, and is made with vegetables, yoghurt, coconut, ginger and curry leaves.
2. When seeds begin to splutter, remove from heat. Leave to cool completely.
3. Squeeze out liquid from cucumber and add it (the grated cucumber) with the other ingredients to the cooled mixture.
10. Parippu Dal
Parippu (lentil) or Dal Curry has been an integral part of our nation's diet for eons. The rich flavour and innumerable health benefits of Parippu have made it among the most consumed vegetarian delicacies of God's Own Country. Kerala's unique version of Dal Curry is elevated with the addition of coconut.
Parippu dal is best with red rice
1 cup cheruparippu/moong dal
½ cup grated coconut
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 small red or pearl onions
Few green chillies
¼ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp ghee/coconut oil
¼ tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red chillies
Few curry leaves
Water as required, Salt to taste
1. Cook moong dal-parippu in a pressure cooker by adding enough water and salt into it. (Note : Mash it well by adding more water if necessary)
2. Grind grated coconut, green chilles and cumins seeds with turmeric powder.
3. Add ground coconut paste and salt to the mashed dal (add water if necessary) and let it boil and remove from heat.
4. Heat oil/ghee in another pan and splutter mustard seeds, add small onion, curry leaves and red chilli.
5. Saute till the onion becomes golden brown and translucent. Pour over cooked dal-parippu.
6. Serve with rice and papad. Drizzle some ghee on the curry before serving and enjoy!
11. Poha Payasam
Since poha is gluten free, it can be consumed by those allergic to wheat products. You get iron, vitamin B, carbohydrates and proteins from this mix. You get carbs from poha and jaggery is loaded with antioxidants and minerals like zinc and selenium, which help prevent free-radicals. It acts as a detox, as it helps to cleanse the liver by flushing out nasty toxins from the body.
Flattered rice (poha)
Strained jaggery syrup
Ghee and cashew nuts
1. Take a pan and heat ghee. Add poha (flatter rice) into the pan and stir well with jaggery syrup for 20 min.
2. Garnish with roasted cashew nuts and serve.
Apart from this, Mekosha also serves great upma, beetroot curry, raw mango salad, sprout salad, cucumber pineapple juice, cashew yoghurt, uttapam and cabbage poriyal. But for all that and more, you'll have to go there yourself. Isn't great food as good an excuse as any, for a much-needed break from your routine life?