Mocha kottai khaara kozhambu: Of protein supplements, ants and the Spanish Inquisition!


The very name makes me turn green… no, not with envy but with the blecch feeling anyone who has ever had to drink this… this... thing… knows!

Who knew at that time – when I was busily pouring Ovaltine down any open orifice of any willing or mute recipient I could find, that there were millions of starving children in Africa? I would have happily sent them my entire childhood supply without a care!

About those willing mouths – it started with the idea that my one and only doll – a Raggedy-Ann-ish kind of thing, was looking a little peaked and could do with some help – in the form of a glass of sweet – very sweet – Ovaltine poured carefully down her throat. She didn’t protest, at least she didn’t scream and kick – she just sadly let the thing pour out of her mouth and all over her dress… not to mention my tropical home being home also to millions of ants which swarmed all over her and which I then had to dunk in boiling water! (In addition to starving the kids in Africa, I now added the murder of zillions of ants to the list of my iniquities – I tell you – the Inquisitors had nothing on little kids where torture was concerned)!

A much battered, washed, faded and raggedier doll later, the same thing was tried on the plants – which had wilted away in the Hyderabadi summer. I don’t know about the roses but the ants thrived!

We didn’t have a dog then so a stray cat was my next… guinea pig. The cat, while initially suspicious of this weird-smelling, brown, sweet, yucky stuff, lapped it up quite happily after a few tentative licks. Best of all, no ants! And so there we were – with a solution which lasted as long as my mom’s Ovaltine phase did. Oh yes, these fads were seasonal – the next time around, it could be Bournvita or Complan or something equally disgusting! And for one particular period in our lives, our mom thought she could add value to our diet by also making us eat something – a round, dog-sick-green coloured disc euphemistically called a biscuit – it’s brand name was Threptin and it was supposed to be a nutritional supplement! Life, for a brief while till I ¬†found a solution – was rather unlivable! Then I figured out that the bottom of the milk glass was exactly the same shape and size as the Threptin biscuit and quietly drowned my daily biscuit quota in the few millilitres of milk left at the bottom after the random cat had been fed!

Well, we grew up and graduated to coffee – which I loved! And I thought my days of being forced to drink medieval torture drinks were over (hmmm… maybe kids are unthinkingly cruel in a reflection of the world which forces things like Ovaltine down thir hapless throats?! – cruelty begetting cruelty, you think?). Then I got married and went through a bad phase of morning sickness with my first pregnancy.

Hubby, a very concerned soul but definitely not a kindred soul in matters gastronomique (he actually loves Complan and Ovaltine!!), decides that I am not keeping down enough food to keep a kitten alive (I am not!) and after consulting with my brother over the phone (I don’t know what my brother had against me!!), decides to give me a protein supplement by name “Spert”. Even now, I shudder at the thought of the drink. Suffice to say, it lived up to it’s name – a veritable spurt of an upchuck happened – staining the wall of my bedroom a permanent green!

Also suffice to say I prefer my protein in the form of beans and stuff – like this very delicious, very simple dish from Tamilnadu…




Dried Mochai(Field Beans) – 1 cup – soak overnight or for 4-6 hours. Pressure cook till tender – 4-5 whistles and simmer for 5 minutes
Tamarind paste – 1.5 tsp
Red chilli Powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Jaggery – 1 tsp




Oil – 1 tsp
Shallots / sambar Onion – 1/4 cup
Tomato – 2 – chopped
Garlic – 5 -6 cloves
Coriander seeds – 1.5 tsp
Coconut – 1/4 cup
Saunf/Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
Methi/Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp




Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
Hing – a generous pinch
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Small onion – 10 – chopped
Tomato – 1/2
Garlic – 2-3 cloves – chopped


Heat the oil in a pan. Add the tempering ingredients. Saute till the tomatoes smell cooked.

Add the tamarind paste, the red chili powder, salt, sugar and coriander powder and saute for a couple of minutes. Add a little water if the mixture is too dry.

Add the paste and saute further for 3-4 minutes, adding a little water as required to stop it from sticking to the bottom.

Add the cooked beans, enough water to make it up to a medium thick gravy and salt.

Simmer, covered for ten  minutes or pressure cook for one more whistle.


Serve with rice and a dry potato curry on the side.

And go easy on the Spert!