Milky Drumstick Curry ~ Reddy Soul Sisters, Hyderabad

by on September 5, 2017

Our mother’s pakodi kurma is an all-time family favourite to date as is her simple milky drumstick curry,” echo the Reddy sisters. Listening to them talk wistfully about their mother’s cooking, it was obvious that the taste of her food continues to linger in their memory and palate. They reeled off one authentic recipe after another with utmost ease, and effortlessly added nuggets of information about its origin and health benefits.


I met the two sisters—Varija, 68, (right) and Sireesha, 70—in Varijaji’s beautiful and impeccably maintained residence in Santosh Nagar, Hyderabad. It was 9 am, undoubtedly a busy time of the day, yet the house exuded serenity. The domestic staff looked efficiently trained and moved about silently, not disturbing us in any way. While the conversation between us flowed from food to meditation and children, the wafting aromas from the kitchen revealed that good food is obviously the fulcrum this home revolves around!


As we continued to converse in a smattering of Hyderabadi Hindi, English and Tamil as I was not familiar with their mother tongue Telugu, it dawned upon me that women don’t always need a common language to communicate. Our common love for food is a sort of mother tongue, a nurturing language in itself! Here are some snippets of the conversation.

Reddy Sisiters


Varija: We both grew up in Nellore, a quaint town in Andhra Pradesh. Our father was an agriculturist and zamindar. We had a large house and plenty of house help; hence, as children, we hardly ever ventured into the kitchen. After my high school, I was married to Subbarami Reddy, an engineer and scientist. We moved to Hyderabad and have been living here ever since. We now live here with our son Kartik and his wife Dr Shilpa.


Sireesha: As my husband Raghava Reddy was in a transferable job, I have lived in several places, including the remote Roop Narayanpur [West Bengal] and Kerala. Now, we are settled in Hyderabad. Ours is a family of engineers. My husband, our son and now our grandson are all engineers. And I am the engineer in the kitchen!



S: I am well-versed with the Art of Living, Reiki, Pranic healing and various forms of meditation. I am not ritualistic, for I firmly believe that it is all about healing your own self and your loved ones. Meditation definitely improves quality of life; it boosts physical health and ensures mental well-being. It has definitely helped bring down my high sugar levels and the swelling in my feet.


V: We both wake up at 4 am in the morning in our respective homes and start our day with meditation. I enjoy praying along with meditation. We also belong to a bhajan group where we regularly sing Sai bhajans. It is this devotion we infuse into our cooking as well. Food cooked with divinity is certainly more nourishing.



V: As a family, we hardly ever eat out. At home, we cook with a lot of joy and love. We are also very particular about hygiene and cleanliness, so home-cooked food becomes an obvious choice as we can supervise it in our own style. Moreover, we both enjoy cooking and feeding the family!


S: I firmly believe that when children and family members eat together and enjoy meals cooked by our own hands, it increases their positive energy. I often tell my grandson Prabhat that I will make whatever he likes, even pasta and pizza, as long as he can avoid eating out. I notice that ever since I have been making his favourite foods at home, he has become more caring and affectionate.



V: Like most South Indian homes, we always have dosa and idli batter at home. Chutneys are also a regular feature. So we can serve idlis and dosas on short notice. It doesn’t take us time to make upma or pongal either. If we have two hours in hand before the guests arrive, we even manage to churn out vadas!



V: While we grind coriander powder at home, we buy whole turmeric and chillies and send them to the grinding mill nearby. In Andhra cooking, chillies are an important ingredient, and can virtually reduce you to tears! We use Nellore chillies that are small and plump. We also like the flavourful Guntur and Warangal variety of chillies.


S: We are particular about the spices we use; it’s these spices that impart flavour and taste to the dishes we cook. Often, we even roast the coriander seeds and grind them for certain dishes like drumstick curry. Roasting whole spices always adds a magical toasty touch to the dish. We grew up seeing our mother never compromise on the taste or health aspect of any dishes.



V: We have lived next to each other for 28 years now. That is a real blessing. We spend quality time with each other. Food dabba are always being exchanged between the two homes. There is warmth, love and bonhomie between us; we are grateful for this and truly count our blessings.


S: Once you start meditating seriously, the quality of life changes. We are blessed to have chanced upon this secret mantra! Our entire day passes smoothly, without room for boredom. Meditation energises us and we feel even 24 hours in a day are not enough!



A family favourite, this is a much-cherished recipe from the childhood days of the Reddy sisters. It’s simple to make, light to digest and quite unusual.



  • Drumstick: 1 large; chopped into finger-sized bits
  • Onion: 1 large; chopped fine
  • Milk: ½ litre; boiled
  • Turmeric powder: a pinch
  • Chilli powder: 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder: 1 heaped tsp
  • Oil: 1 tbsp
  • Coriander leaves: a fistful; chopped fine
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions. Sauté until they turn translucent.
  2. Add the chopped drumsticks, turmeric powder and chilli powder and sauté for a minute.
  3. Add the milk and allow the drumsticks to cook for 10-12 minutes or until they turn tender. Stir occasionally to ensure that the milk does not stick to the bottom.
  4. You can add ½ cup water if needed.
  5. Then add the coriander powder and stir for about 2 minutes.
  6. Switch off the flame and add salt.
  7. The consistency of the drumstick curry should be like thick gravy.
  8. Serve hot with rotis or steamed rice.

Varijaji says that instead of using readymade coriander powder, you can roast coriander seeds and powder them just before adding to the dish. This will enhance the taste further.

Photo Courtesy: Harmony Magazine

First published in ‘Heart to Hearth’ – a column in Harmony Celebrate Age magazine. A series about elders who believe in nurturing the body and mind as the key to joy.


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