Roz Ka Khana

A blog about everyday food. Mostly Indian. All vegetarian.

Archive for the category “Festival Samaiyal”

Ginger and palm sugar punch (Panakam), Spiced Buttermilk (Neer Mor) and Lentil green mango salad (Kosumalli)

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This is a bit late for posting a Rama Navami recipe but as with all festival recipes, I record them here for posterity. I’m sure this will come handy in the years to come to me or to another reader so it’s better late than never. As always with all the festival recipes here, these are Amma’s recipes.

Panakam, Neer Mor are not just Rama Navami recipes by the way. While legend goes that this was served during Sita and Rama’s (Hindu mythological God and Goddess for the uninitiated) wedding and during Rama’s birth, the tradition seems to have stuck as these are the post celebration drinks served to this day during most traditional South Indian Hindu weddings and birthdays.

The best part – they are probably some of the easiest festival recipes to make. And they are all raw which means no stove top needed and no messy clean ups so as you can guess this is my favorite festival recipe as well:) (Not counting the tadka/seasoning to the buttermilk of course where there is some stove top heating involved, but that step can be skipped if you’d like it to be completely raw. I recommend adding the seasoning as that adds the real traditional South Indian taste)

The panakam can easily pass off as a summer cooler punch the next time you have a summer lunch  get together. Its sweet but the ginger and lemon give it the apple lemon tea kind of zing and tart taste, perfect for a hot day.

And the neer mor (moar) or light buttermilk spiced with ginger and curry leaves is the perfect coolant for a hot summer outing in the sun. “Buttermilk cools the system” as my Appa (dad) says- this is still his go to drink when he returns home from his trips to the vegetable market. And according to him the secret to his “zen”:)

Recipe for Panakam:

  • 1/2 cup palm sugar or jaggery
  • 1 tsp dry ginger pd
  • 2 cardamom crushed (you may add the skin as well for flavor but we used only the crushed seeds)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
Method: Powder the jaggery in a bowl, add about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water. You can add or reduce the water depending on how sweet you like the punch. Strain the water to remove any sediments from the jaggery mixture.
Add dry ginger pd, and cardamom pd .Mix well. Add lemon juice. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Recipe for Neer Mor :
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  • Yogurt -1/2 cup.
  • Water 1 1/2 cups 
  • Asafoetida -1/4 tsp
  • 1-green chili crushed,
  • few curry leaves
  • salt to taste
  • seasoning -1 tsp mustard seeds , 1/2 chopped green chilli.
Beat the yogurt in a bowl and mix with water. Mix the asafoetida & salt with little water separately. Add this to the beaten yoghurt. Crush the curry leaves and add.
For seasoning the buttermilk, heat 1/2 tsp oil in a small kadhai or heavy bottomed vessel, When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Wait till it splutters then add the crushed green chili (optional). Pour this onto the buttermilk. Mix well.
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Recipe for Kosumalli or Kosambri (Raw moong dal, green mango salad)
  • 1/2 cup Indian yellow moong dal (skinned and split green gram)
  • 2 green chillies
  • 3 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1/2 raw mango grated
  • /1/2 cucumber cut in to very small pieces
  • salt to taste
For seasoning – 1/2 tsp mustard; 1 green chili crushed (optional)1 tsp oil, asfoetida – a pinch, a handful chopped cilantro
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Wash & soak the moong dal for about 1/2 hr till it gets a bit soft. Drain the water, add salt, add the chopped cucumber and grated mango and coconut.
For seasoning, heat the oil, add mustard seeds. When they splutter add the crushed green chili, asafoetida. Add this to the moong dal salad. Garnish with cilantro. You may also add 1 tsp of lemon juice if needed.
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Navaratri Recipes – Cous Cous Payasam, Easy Sundals, and Quick Ladoos

This is exactly a week late so let’s say this is more of a post Navarathri round up. But you could use these recipes for most festivals so I am classifying these as  Tambrahm (Tamil Brahmin) festival recipes:).

Between the green smoothie frenzy, golu (dolls) exhibits and a real Navarathri schedule, things weren’t just busy – they were chaotic. This was my first year actually celebrating Navarathri traditionally and to be perfectly honest I didn’t know where to begin.

For the uninitiated, Navaratri literally means nine nights and represents a celebration of the Goddess Amba, (the Power). Over the nine days and nights, nine forms of Shakti (the sublime, ultimate, absolute creative energy) are worshipped.

In South India, prayers are offered for the 10 days in honor of the Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. There is also the tradition of keeping a “golu”  – an exhibition of various dolls and figurines predominantly of Gods and Goddesses in Indian mythology, placed on odd (usually 3,5, 7, 9, or 11) steps (padis). Girls and married women are usually invited to homes to view the exhibits, and are given vermillion and gifts and a token of the offerings made during the 10 days. This festival symbolizes what I would call a true expression of “girl/woman” power in the Hindu tradition.

As you can tell, a celebration for 9 days and nights needs quite a bit of organization and planning to make it a stress free festival. This year, I was also starting a new job the same week so you can see why I was beginning to obsess about it weeks before it began:)

One phone call to my mother-in law was the antidote. She is by far the most resourceful person I know when it comes to planning for festivals and events. She has always been the  “cook it and leave (the kitchen)” type of person and her secret has been her inimitable way of organizing and planning her schedule. I say “inimitable” as there is no exact science to it – it’s all in her head and still quite well planned:)  She has a simple rule –

  • Start the day before – make a few easy desserts that will last you the 10 days.
  • Keep these desserts for those rushed mornings when you don’t have the time to make neivedyam (offering) from scratch
  • Create a schedule of payasams and quick desserts for the slightly relaxed mornings.

I felt so much better when I spoke to her. But I realized this was going to be an annual routine and I needed to record these somewhere to actually remember the tips. So I created a time table or menu of sorts for Navarathri.  Again, this is probably too late but am sharing it for posterity and for referring back to this next year. Plus these recipes are pretty standard Tamil festival fare, use them for Diwali, Varalakshmi puja,you get the gist:)

Day before Navarathri :

I made these simple rava and Maa laddos. Recipe courtesy – Indra V, my mother-in-law:).

Simple, ghee laden delicacies.The best part, they don’t need any cooking really and last through the 10 days, well refrigerated of course.

Rava and Maa Ladoos:

For Rava Laadoos:

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  • 1 cup semolina or rava
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I used raw sugar which may make the laadoos light brownish)
  • 1/4 cup ghee or clarified butter
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/4 cup broken cashews

Method:

  • In a pan add 1 tsp ghee and roast the cashews till golden brown.
  • Remove the cashews and in the same pan, add the rava and roast till you get a nice aroma. Do not let it change color so ensure you keep stirring for about 5 minutes or so.
  • Let this cool completely.
  • Grind the rava to a fine powder.
  • Grind the sugar to a fine powder.
  • Mix the two in a bowl and add the cardamom powder. Mix well.
  • Transfer this mixture to a wide bowl. Add the remaining melted ghee slowly to this and mix well.
  • The mixture will begin to get a bit sticky like when you add water to sand. Take fistfuls of this mixture and make round balls. If there is enough ghee you will find it easy to make the balls. If not you may add a bit of milk to the mixture to ensure the balls hold together.
  • Allow the ladoos to cool and store in air tight containers.

For Maa Ladoos: (the exact same procedure only the ingredients are slightly different)

Ingredients:

  • Roasted gram dal or pottu kadalai – 1 cup
  • Raw sugar – 1 cup
  • Ghee – 1/4 cup to 1 cup
  • Cardamom powder – 1.2 tsp
  • Cashews, broken – 1/4 cup

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You can also make Date Almond Pooran Polis and/or Carrot Coconut Squares the day before.

Day 2 and Day 5:

Cous Cous Payasam

I had never made payasam with cous cous before though the method was the same as any other jaggery based payasam recipes. This one is adapted from Biny’s recipes. Result was a creamy payasam with the right texture and just the right amount of sweetness. You may substitute the cous cous with broken wheat as well to make on another of the days.

Ingredients:

  • Couscous-1cup
  • Jaggery-1cup
  • Coconut milk-1cup
  • Hot boiling water11/2cup
  • Cumin seeds1/2tsp,roasted and crushed
  • Cardamom pods-3,crushed
  • Nuts and raisins-3tbsps
  • Ghee/Butter-2tbsp

Method:

  • 1. Heat about 1 tbsp ghee in a small kadai and when hot add the broken nuts and raisins. Fry till golden brown and keep aside.
  • 2. Take the cous cous in a bowl. Pour some boiling water (1- 1 1/2 cup) on the couscous and close the lid.
  • 3. Take the jaggery in another bowl, add some boiling water (2 tbsp) and heat it on a low flame till the jaggery melts,

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  • 4. Add the jaggery to the cous cous. Also add the cardamom powder.
  • 5. Heat this mixture on a medium flame. until the cous cous and the jaggery are well mixed and the mixture becomes thick.
  • 6. Turn off the heat. Slowly mix in the coconut milk and mix well.
  • 7. Add the nuts and raisins.

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You can serve warm or chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Sundal Varieties: 

Sweet Corn Sundal Recipe

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Ingredients :

  • Sweet corn kernels- 1 cup
  • Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste

For the seasoning

  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Urad dal  -1/2 tsp
  • Red chilli – 2-3
  • Hing – a pinch
  • Green chilli – 3
  • Curry leaves – a sprig

Method:

  • 1. Microwave or steam the corn with some salt till it is cooked.
  • 2. Heat some oil in a heavy bottom vessel, add mustard seeds. When it begins to splutter, add the urad dal, red chili and asafetida.
  • 3. Now add slit or crushed green chilies and curry leaves.
  • 4. Add the corn and season with salt. Mix well. Garnish with grated coconut, cilantro chopped and some lemon juice if needed.

Peanut sundal:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup 
Grated Coconut
  • 3-4 thai green chilies
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves.
  • 1 inch ginger

For seasoning

  • 1 tsp 
Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp
 Urad Dhal
  • 2 Dry Red Chilly
  • Curry Leaves – a sprig
  • Asafetida – a pinch
  • Oil – 1 tsp

Method:

  • Pressure cook the nuts with some salt.
  • Grind the coconut, green chili, cilantro, ginger and curry leaves in a blender to a coarse powder.
  • Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, urad dhal and asafetida.
  • Add the curry leaves, red chili and stir for a minute.
  • Mix in the boiled peanuts and salt and stir well for a few minutes.
  • Add the ground chili coconut powder/paste and mix well. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

You can also make black bean sundal the same way as above (use either the corn recipe or the peanut sundal recipe, just substitute the corn with the black beans.

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In honor of Krishna’s Birthday – Nei Appam – An Indian Ebleskiver

20130829-131921.jpgYes I’m talking about the lovable lotus eyed little Krishna or Kutti Krishna, (the Hindu God-child, prankster, divine hero and various other roles he adorns in Indian mythology) whose birthday was celebrated yesterday/today around the world. As I said earlier in this post, I haven’t been one to make elaborate dishes for festivals. Festivals were almost always synonymous to good food, new clothes and most importantly a day off from school. This was when I was growing up, a child, a teenager, a college-goer. While I associated festivals with food it wasn’t about making the dishes- I was always at the receiving end – Amma would make the amazing dishes, arrange for the puja (worship) and I almost always behaved like a guest – in my own home – helping out a bit here and there. Amma would ensure that everything was perfect while I would enjoy the fruits of the perfection. Was something wrong with this picture? Everything possibly.

So for the past year I have been getting more conscious about trying to get a bit more “independent” with festivals and festival creations – more to relive what Amma would typically do or make and to get Nikhil to experience and taste dishes that he wouldn’t get to try on other days of the year.

There is this other deeper probably more meaningful reason that I have begun to explore which is which is the whys of celebrating a Krishna Janmashtami or a Ganesh Chaturthi or a Varalakshmi Vratham (or any religious festival for that matter). I won’t get into each one of them but I do believe that the ultimate goal of all the festivals is the same – they are all reminders to awaken and celebrate the divinity within each one of us. I suppose we all need dedicated days of the year as reminders to look inward and recognize the Krishnas, the Ganesha, the Buddha, Jesus, Allah and (insert religious figure)/the Higher Power in all of us. The ultimate goal is to make everyday a festival – and hopefully by the time we are done celebrating all the festivals over the years, the concept of knowing and celebrating our own divinity will become second nature to all of us.

This does raise other questions about festival food however – why don’t we make these dishes on other days? And why do we only make certain dishes for certain festivals? What is the story behind festival food and prasadams (offerings)? I’m still figuring this out but enjoy eating them whenever they are made, nevertheless:)

Below is the recipe for Nei Appam, a dish made with ghee (Nei) or clarified butter, rice flour and jaggery. This is typically made for Janmashtami (Krishna’s birthday – Janma- on the eighth day of the dark fortnight – ashtami) along with an Aval Payasam (milk dessert made with flattened rice flakes).

I have used an easier method and Amma usually makes this with raw rice instead of rice flour. You can go either route but I liked the way these turned out – crispy on the outside and very soft on the inside. I call these an Indian version of the Danish Ebelskivers as the method is similar and I used the Ebelskiver pan, also called the Paniaram pan in India.

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice flour ( see picture below). You may alternatively soak some brown rice in water for a half hour then grind to a smooth paste in a blender.

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1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup jaggery powder (see picture below. You may also grate jaggery if you don’t find jaggery powder but I find this product to be super convenient to dissolve jaggery quickly for dishes)

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1 ripe banana mashed

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

1/4 cup water

Method:

1. Mix all the flours in a mixing bowl. Add the cardamom powder

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2. Mash the banana and add to the flours.

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3. Boil the water in a kettle or in a saucepan. Take about 1/4 cup water and add the jaggery powder in it till it dissolves.

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4. Add this jaggery water mixture to the flour banana mixture. Mix the batter well till lumps dissolve and you get a smooth yet thick and pourable consistency.

5. Set this aside for an hour or so till the batter slightly ferments. You can leave it for 1-2 hours if needed.

6. Add about 1 tsp ghee to each paniaram/ebelskiver mould well and heat it on a low flame.

7. Once the ghee is heated completely and begins to froth a bit, add a tbsp each of the batter in each of the wells. Let it cook for about 3-4 minutes till it begins to rise to the top.

8. Now with the help of a skewer or knitting needle, gently turn the appams over to cook on the other side. (It’s not as oily as it seems in the picture below so let it not scare you:). You don’t need to use that much ghee at all for frying. The ghee tends to froth up as you pour the dough in the wells)

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9. Cook until both sides are evenly browned. Remove from the ghee and place on a paper towel to drain any excess oil/ghee.

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Raw Almond Milk and Almond Meal recipe — Date Almond Pooran Poli

I did tell you about my fetish for all things juicing didn’t I? It’s become a habit now, starting every single morning breakfast with a fresh squeezed fruit and veggie juice followed by a late morning smoothie. And I pack a mason jar of juice to work as well for that 3pm “juice in leiu of tea” break. It’s working! I don’t feel the need for that cup of chai or joe anymore and the green juice or pomegranate juice does the trick. Fact is, I cannot think of a store bought carton of juice these days…and buying a smoothie at a cafe feels like sacrilege:) The Vitamix and Hurom now occupy a very prime position on my counter in the kitchen. I’m not sure if I can do a 100% raw and vegan diet but I am convinced that eating more raw veggies and fruits gives me that energy boost and keeps me going. So I guess I’m a 50-50 raw vegetarian:)

And so I have tried several juice and smoothie combinations that I hope to post on a more regular basis but something I have been meaning to try with my new juicer was making raw almond milk. Again, thanks to The Rawsome Life, and her inspiring Facebook posts, I finally got around to remembering to soak 1 cup of almonds last week to make fresh almond milk for the next day.

The method was so easy and the Hurom juicer makes it even more effortless. No need to peel the almonds and no need to filter. What you get is creamy, fresh, raw almond milk with powdery, dry almond meal. No mess, no fuss:)

And the best part, it yields almost 3-4 cups of almond milk, not bad for just 1 cup of almonds. And over 1 1/2 cups of almond meal.

As I mentioned earlier I’m also always looking for ideas to deal with juicer pulp. Amma made an amazing carrot, beetroot pulp halwa/barfi dessert the recipe of which I will post soon. With the almond milk, Amma had another brilliant idea. She used some of the almond meal with some dates to make Date Almond Puran Poli (stuffed wheat tortillas or parathas).

Here are the recipes for the above.

Raw Almond Milk:

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Ingredients for almond milk:

1 cup raw almonds (with skin intact)

2-3 cups water.

1 tsp vanilla essence (raw vanilla bean is preferable but I didn’t have that in stock)

1 tsp agave syrup (or any sweetener of your choice. This is optional)

Method:

1. Soak 1 cup of almonds in about 2 cups water overnight.

2. The next morning, discard the water and add another 2 cups of fresh water.

3. Turn the juicer on and pour a ladle of almonds and water into it. Continue till all the almonds are ground.

4. Add the vanilla essence and any sweetener of your choice and stir well. Fresh almond milk is ready to serve!

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Note – You can choose to peel the almonds as well. The skin will peel right off when you soak the almonds overnight. If not, you can also add some warm water in the morning and this will help peel the skin off.

You may also use the Vitamix blender to make fresh almond milk. Again peeling the almonds is preferable here.

You may also choose to filter the almond milk using a cheese cloth or milk strainer. I liked mine just the way it was as it gave a thicker creamier consistency.

Almond Meal Recipe – Date Almond Pooran Poli

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1 cup almond meal

1/2 cup dates

1 tbsp ghee or clarified butter

1/4 cup wheat flour

1/4 cup all purpose flour

Salt to taste

Water 1/2 cup

Oil – 2 tsp

Method:

1. Take the almond meal and dates in a Vitamix jar and blend with Variable speed. use the tamper to mix the ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Set this aside.

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2. Now take a heavy bottom vessel and add 1 tbsp ghee to coat the sides of the pan.

2. Add the almond date mixture and heat for a few minutes, keep stirring in the pan until the mixture starts to concentrate in the center, and doesn’t stick much to the sides or the ladle.

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3. Meanwhile, mix the wheat and all purpose flour in a mixing bowl, add salt and then add water and oil little by little until it forms a dough much like chapathi dough. Doesn’t stick to your fingers and is easy to pinch and form round balls.

4. Pinch of a piece of dough and make round balls about an inch to 1 1/2″ in diameter. This mixture should make about 6-8 pooran polis.

5. If the almond date mixture is cool enough, make small round balls (about 1/2-1″ in diameter depending on how big you want your polis) and keep aside.

6. Take a rolling pin and roll the balls into small flat tortilla shapes or rotis.

7. Place one small round of the almond date ball in the center of the small chapati and close the dough around it to form a roundish shape. Seal the edges.

8. Now take the almond date stuffed dough rounds and using wheat flour to dust the surface and a rolling pin, roll out the dough into circles about 3-4″ in diameter. The chapathis or polis should be thin enough but ensure that the stuffing doesn’t start to seep out too much.

10. Preheat a frying pan, place the poli on it, switch to low heat and cook on one side for 1 -2 minutes. Flip over and cook the other side till lightly browned. Apply a little ghee (optional) on both sides and remove immediately.

Note: If you’d like you may also add about a tbsp of Demerara or brown sugar to the date mixture, if you like your polis sweeter. We opted not to just to keep sugar out of this recipe:)

In preparation for the Festival of Lights

After an amazing landslide victory for America, it seems befitting this year that Diwali, the festival of lights follows soon after. Apt for a resounding celebration with lights and fireworks, don’t you think?  It just seemed quite the coincidence that we will soon be celebrating a victory with this special festival which symbolizes “the return of king Rama” – one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India and many of its neighboring countries.

Being in Singapore this year for Diwali is a new experience. With its diverse population and a relatively large number of Indians, it isn’t surprising that Singapore gets an official holiday, the streets are lit up (well, Little India is) and little shops are bedecked with lights, lamps, firecrackers (sparklers only) and decorations. (Little India Picture Courtesy: Vaishali Shah)

 

And so when my friends and I got together to explore the city and lunch (as you can see there are enough options here for that) we were in for quite a colorful treat. Some of us have already begun to prep for Diwali and it’s quite inspiring to see ideas for Diwali snacks and decorations. I’ve usually been remiss in making snacks or sweets ahead of time, and usually cobble things together last  minute, some home made and some store brought. This year, my good friend Preethi was my source of inspiration. I could gather from our conversations that she is quite the foodie and an expert at Diwali snacks. Ribbon Pakoda, the traditional Diwali savory, was her forte, or so I overheard as she reeled off the proportion of the flour and the recipe.

So it seemed timely (for me:) when she casually mentioned she was going to start making her batch of Diwali snacks yesterday and I asked if I could be her assistant in her kitchen and watch her make it. Turns out I was also the official taster – I sampled the first batch of hot, crisp ribbon pakodas with a cup of hot Preethi’s ginger tea. The highlight of this recipe – she doesn’t use a lot of butter and the pakodas don’t seem to soak up much oil either. The result – non-greasy, crisp pakodas of perfection.

Ingredients: (for 2 cups of pakodas)

1 tbsp butter (you can add more unto 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. The more the butter the crisper, but it will also soak up more oil)

1 cup rice flour

1/2 cup gram flour or besan

1 1/2 -2 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp asafetida

salt to taste

Water as needed for the dough

1 1/2 cups oil for frying

Method:

1. Mix the rice flour, besan, salt, red chili powder and asafetida in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and mix well.

2. Slowly add water to make a smooth and soft dough.

3. Heat the oil in  a kadai or a round bottomed vessel till the oil is hot. Drop a small piece of the dough in the oil and if it sizzles and immediately rises to the top, the oil is piping hot and ready to use for frying.

4. Take an iron press (this is a traditional press that comes with several variable plates of different shapes. Kinda like a cookie cutter press but more robust. I wonder if anyone has tried these with a cookie cutter?), drop a round ball of dough into the press, put the top of the press together.

5. Now squeeze the ribbons into the hot oil while moving your hand in a circular motionso the ribbons take shape of a circular almost floral design. Cook for about 5 minutes turning it once until golden brown.


6. Serve with a hot cup of chai.

Preethi’s tip – When you finish using the ladle to fry a batch of the the pakodas, keep the ladle in the mixing bowl that holds the dough. Drops of the hot oil from the ladle mixed in the dough helps add to the crispness. You can alternatively sprinkle a few drop of the hot oil and mix the dough well before frying the next batch.

Have a joyous and wonderful Diwali!!

Ode to Ganesha


I marvel at the patience and forbearance our parents have had in many aspects of raising us. No, I’m not continuing on with my introspection here, though it’s incredible that it’s taken so many years for this to finally sink in:) I say this as I try to vaguely recreate what my mom (Amma) would have done on this special day for the special and very endearing elephant headed diety – Ganesha.

Growing up Amma was always big on marking every special traditional festival day with just the perfect altar, the best mouth watering delicacies, the finest clothes and the traditional lunch or dinner. I would, of course, enjoy the delicacies and the fineries, but I never really attempted to learn or emulate anything she was doing. I’m not sure if this was part ignorance, rebellion (in my own subtle ways:) or just nonchalance on my part. And the fact that my parents continue to live with us has probably only spoiled me further in that I continue to depend on Amma for marking such special occasions in her own inimitable ways.

Well, this year has been different. Not only have we moved a gazillion miles from the US to Singapore but my parents are making more frequent trips back home to India which only means that I finally have to survive on my own:). I have never been one to do anything elaborate on festival days and a special festival would mean a special song sung to the particular diety or an occasional visit to the temple, if at all. That is, if Amma or my mother-in-law reminded me gently that it was coming up, the week before or many times, the evening before the festival day:).

This year, that’s been different too. It must be the fact (or the perception) that I am still “settling in” and not working (yet:), and that “I have a lot more time on hand to finally make an attempt” – in Amma’s words:). I could go on and on on why I don’t feel that I need to “celebrate festivals” or “why every day is the same and question “why should we pray more on certain days and not others”, blah, blah. See, it is at these times that I shouldn’t try to be too introspective or philosophical any more. Because the truth of the matter is, when I did go the extra mile as I did this year, when I did try to recreate what little Amma used to do to mark this occasion, when I did try to make some of the mouth watering “prasadam” for Ganesha and when I did say that extra prayer this morning, it felt different – in a nice way. There is a vague sense of fulfillment and what’s that elusive word – as Nikhil puts it – “it feels peaceful in my brain”:). There, I said it.

But it is hard work. I made Kozhakattai or Modak (steamed jaggery and savory dumplings) for the first time successfully (the last time I tried, the kozhakattai crumbled and looked like amoeba). I can only say I only scratched the surface of how Amma would have made this day special, and boy, I am beat:) Which brings me to the point about patience and forbearance that our parents had. Here’s the recipe…(adapted from Festival Samaiyal by Viji Varadarajan)

Ingredients: For the dough/dumpling base

Rice – 2 cups ( I used Basmati)

Water – 4 cups

Milk, lukewarm – 1 cup

Salt – a pinch

Sesame Oil – 2 tbsp

Method:

1. Soak the rice in 2 cups hot water for about 20 minutes.

2. Blend the rice to a fine paste while adding little water.

3. Add the milk, salt and oil to this to make a very thin batter.

4. Heat a heavy bottom pan or vessel, add or spray a little oil, and then add this batter to the pan. While keeping the flame on medium, stir continuously for about 5-7 minutes. The batter will start to get thick and then begin to stick to the ladle and roll around it. Remove from fire and empty into a wide dish.

5. Rub your hands with some oil and knead the dough well to make sure there are no lumps and it is smooth to touch. Keep this dough aside covered with a wet cloth or towel.

Sweet jaggery Filling (Thengai Poornam)

Grated coconut – 2 cups

Jaggery or palm sugar – 1 cup

Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp

Water – 3/4 cup

Method:

1. Melt the jaggery in a heavy saucepan. You may add water in this step to help the melting process but this is optional.

2. Add the grated coconut to the jaggery and begin to stir while keeping the flame at low/medium.

3. Once the water evaporates, lower the heat and add the cardamom powder.

4. Continue stirring until the the mixture becomes sticky and fudge like.

5. Once cooled, make small lime sized balls and keep aside.

Savoury Filling (Uppu Kozhakkattai)

Ingredients:

Urad dal (Black gram) – 3/4 cup

Green chilies – 4

Asafetida – 1/3 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp

Salt – 1/2 tsp

Chopped curry leaves and cilantro (optional) – 1 tsp

Oil – 1 tsp

Method:

1. Soak the urad dal in 2 cups hot water for 20 minutes. Drain the water and blend to a very coarse batter with chilies, asafetida powder and salt.

2. Steam the paste in a dish in the pressure cooker for about 7-10 minutes.

3. Cool and crumble the mixture with your hands or a fork so that it resembles a coarse powder or usuli.

4. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds when hot and when the seeds splutter, add the usuli. and mix. You can also add some finely chopped curry leaves and or cilantro here.

5. Use this filling in the kozhakkattai base for making the savory kozhakkattai.

Assembling the kozhakkattai –

1. Grease your hands with a drop of oil and make lemon sized form balls of the dough. Mould the dough into a boat shape with a little cup in the center. For the savory kozhakkattai you can just make a flat circle with the dough.

2. Add in the sweet filling in the center of the cup and press the edges together until a round cup forms with a little peak.

 

3. For the savory ones, add the usuli in the flat circle dough and then press the edges together to form an oval shaped crescent.

4. Steam the sweet and savory kozhakkattais in a pressure cooker or an idli cooker or steamer for about 7-10 minutes. You should see tiny beads of water around the kozhakkattais. If they are undercooked, they will be sticky to touch.

Pongalo Pongal!

Growing up, Pongal was one of my favorite festivals. As with the many festivals we celebrate in India, I loved the fact that we got to stay home and eat amazing food, and binge on Sakkarai Pongal:).

Pongal, as explained in my earlier post, is akin to Thanksgiving, marking the Harvest festival and obeisance to the Sun God. It is celebrated in South India as Sankranthi and in the North as Lohri. Sakkarai pongal is one of my all time favorite sweet dishes and I’ve been known to indulge in spoonfuls, um cupfuls of this dish laden with rice, sugar and ghee (clarified butter). I’ve tried to make a healthier version of Sakarai pongal with less ghee but the taste isn’t the same. I’ve given in and this is the version I’ve grown up with – it’s Amma’s version, which also happens to be my favorite recipe for Sakkarai Pongal.

We made the traditional venn pongal, Sakkarai pongal, vadai and Poli today to mark the Pongal and the Sun God must have been happy…it was such a bright and sunny day in Texas:).

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Ingredients:

Rice – 1 cup

Moong dal – 1/3 cup

Jaggery – 3 cups

Milk – 1 cup

Water – 3 1/2 cups

Cashews, raisins, for garnish

Cardamom, crushed – 1 tsp

Ghee – 1/4 cup (you can use about 2 tbsp if you need less, but remember that the more ghee the better this tastes:)

Method:

1. Dry roast the moong dal till it is fragrant and turns light brown.

2. Add the rice and mix well.

3. Wash the moong dal and rice with water and drain.

4. Mix the water and milk in a large container and heat on a medium flame. When the mixture begins to boil, add the rice and dal and stir well.

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5. After about 10 minutes, transfer this to a pressure cooker and cook for about 5 whistles. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can keep cooking it on the stove, while stirring. Make sure you keep the stove flame really low so as not to burn the mixture.)

6. Meanwhile, melt the jaggery in 3 1/2 cups of water on low heat. When the jaggery dissolves completely, strain the mixture to remove any impurities in the jaggery.

7. Continue to cook the strained mixture on a low heat until it caramelizes and becomes “stringy”.

8. Take the rice out of the cooker now, mash it well. Add this to the jaggery mixture and mix very well until its blended.

9. Now add some ghee and the crushed cardamom.

10. Lightly fry the cashews and raisins in ghee and add this to the pongal as garnish.

Vadai (fried lentil doughnuts)

Ingredients:

Urad dal, soaked in water for about 1/2 hour – 1 cup

Grated ginger – 2 tbsp

Green chilies – 5

Cilantro, chopped – 1/2 cup

Method:

1. Wash the grad dal well and soak it in water for about half hour.

2. Drain the water and keep it in a separate bowl.

3. Grind the soaked dal with the ginger and green chilies to a fine paste.

4. Make sure to grind the dal little by little with very little water until it resembles a smooth paste.

5. Add chopped cilantro and curry leaves if needed.

6. Heat some oil in a round bottomed vessel, kadai.

7. Take the ground dal paste on your palm, flatten a bit and make a hole in the middle (like a donut hole)

8. Add this to the hot oil and deep fry till golden brown.

9. Enjoy hot with some sambar and chutney!

Venn Pongal – Traditional South Indian Rice Porridge

A very happy Pongal to all!
For those wondering what this means, Thai Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by the people of Tamil Nadu (a South Indian state). Pongal in Tamil means “boiling over or spill over.” The boiling over of milk in the clay pot symbolizes material abundance for the household. Thai Pongal, celebrated at harvest time, is traditionally intended to thank the Sun God that helped create the material abundance.
Rice is added to the milk with some jaggery and this “Sakkarai Pongal” is then allowed to boil over. What you see in the picture below are the traditional dishes made for Pongal. Venn Pongal is the “salty” version of Pongal, simply put. It’s a type of rice porridge or “khichdi” with rice and lentils as the main ingredients.

As with all traditional dishes, there is an art to making this dish just right. I’ve had various types of venn Pongal, too dry, too pasty, too much ghee (clarified butter), not enough ghee:) and so on. I think Anusuya’s recipe of Venn Pongal is what I would classify as the “just right” kind. She makes the Pongal and then transfers it to a crock pot which, I think gives it that perfect consistency.

Ingredients:
2 cups raw rice

3/4 cups moong dal

1 fistful red lentils (masoor)

7-71/2 cups water

Salt to taste

1/2 cup cashews

2 tbsp whole black pepper

1 1/2 inch Ginger crushed or sliced into small pieces

1/4 cup Ghee (clarified butter)

A sprig of curry leaves

1 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)

Method:

Roast the moongdal. Mix all the other grains, add the water and transfer this to a pressure cooker.

Pressure cook the mixture with salt to taste ( for the above amount you can add about 2 tsp salt) for about 5 whistles or about 10-15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking’ heat the ghee in a flat bottom pan. When hot, add the ginger and sauté lightly. Now add the cashews, powdered pepper, and cumin seeds. Fry till cashews are golden brown. Add the curry leaves and turn off the stove.

Open the lid of the pressure cooker after it has cooled a little, mix the rice and lentil mixture well with a ladle.
Now add the pepper, cashew, Ginger and the ghee to the rice. Garnish with the curry leaves. You can now transfer this to a crock pot and switch to “keep warm” mode.

Vella Adai (Steamed Jaggery Doughnuts)

It’s time to spring forward as daylight savings time begins! Not my favorite time of year especially when it comes to mornings. I feel like I’m always playing catch up until Fall arrives and it’s time to fall back:) I suppose that’s typical for someone like me who is more nocturnal, definitely not who you would call a “morning person”. As I write this, I can hear my 8 year old snoring as he cherishes his first day of Spring Break. Ahh, the joys of sleeping in and the joys of having a “break”.

I can’t complain though…I have had somewhat of a break since Amma and Appa have been here with me. Especially during special festive days like March 14, the day when we are supposed to observe Karadai Nombu, according to the Hindu calendar. Karadai Nombu is for the South Indian Hindus (read Tamil) what you would call “Karvaa Chauth” for North Indian Hindus (not literally, but the intent is similar)- a day when married ladies pray for the well being of their spouses.  I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a similar day for men to honor their wives…Hallmark, are you listening?

If you’re intrigued to know more about the story behind this tradition, go here.

For the first time since I have been married, I ventured to make the “adais”. Amma has been here for the last couple of years and she usually makes it, and then there are some years where I tie the yellow thread that is customary but haven’t really gone the whole nine yards, pun intended:) In case you didn’t get that pun, the traditional way is also to wear a nine yards saree while breaking the fast, which I don’t do as well. So this year I did go all out, sort of, minus the nine yards.

Amma and I also sought the help of Viji Varadarajan, the author of “Festival Samaiyal” who has a book made for the likes of me, a glossary of all the traditional South Indian festivals, with step by step instructions on how to make the required menu for each. The recipe that follows for the Vella Adai and Uppu Adai is adapted from this book.

A quick background on Karadai Nombu (pronounced Kaa-ra-dai NO-m-bu). Also known as Savithri Nombu, this festival is celebrated in the month of Maasi (Feb-March). Sathi Savithri, the courageous woman, argues with the God of death, Yama, to free her husband, Sathyavan from the clutches of death. She eventually wins him over and her husband is brought back to life. On this day, women usually fast until the auspicious time arrives (when the Maasi month begins), and chant prayers for the longevity of their husbands. The Vella Adai (sweet steamed doughnut) and Uppu Adai (salted or savory doughnut) is usually offered with a dollop of butter. A piece of flower is tied to a yellow (sacred) thread and worn around the necks of married women (sumangalis). The area of worship is cleaned, and patterns with rice powder are drawn (kolam). Fresh plantain leaves are placed and the adais are served on these. The women eat first and break their fast followed by the rest of the household.


Ingredients for Vella Adai:

2 cups rice flour

2 tbsp Black eyed peas

2 tbsp coconut, chopped or grated

2 1/4 cups jaggery powdered

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 tbsp ghee or clarified butter

1 banana (optional)

Method:

1. Soak the black eyed peas in hot water for 20 mins. Pressure cook for one whistle or cook in a microwave on high for 2 mins.

2. Dry roast the rice flour for 8-10 minutes on a medium flame till it looks a little golden.

3. Take the powdered jaggery in a saucepan and add the 4 cups water to it. Melt the jaggery over a low flame. Strain if needed. Place it back on the stove and add the cooked beans, coconut, rice flour and cardamom powder.

4. Take off the flame and mix well to avoid lumping.

6. Return the mixture and cook for 8-10 minutes or until it starts sticking to the ladle. Switch off the stove.

7. Take lemon sized balls of this mixture, pat them in your palm to about 1 1/2 inch thick patties. You may grease your hands with a little butter if needed. You may also take a banana leaf, wet it a little and make the patties on the leaf to avoid sticking. make a hole in the center of the patty.

8. Place small pieces of banana leaves in idli moulds or in a steamer and steam for about 10-15 minutes.

9. Serve with a dollop of unsalted butter.

Uppu Adai (Salted or Savory steamed rice doughnuts)

Ingredients:

2 cups rice flour

1 tbsp black eyed peas soaked and boiled as in the step above

2 tbsp chopped coconut

3/4 tsp salt or to taste

1 large banana leaf, cut into 3″ squares

For seasoning:

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

4-5 green chilies, chopped fine

1/2 tsp asafetida powder

a few curry leaves, chopped fine

1 1/2 tsp oil

1. As in step above, soak and boil the black eyed peas.

2. In a heavy bottomed vessel, heat the oil, add mustard seeds until they pop. Saute the chopped green chilies, add the coconut, asafetida, curry leaves, salt and cook for a few minutes.

3. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and add the rice flour, stirring to avoid lumps.

4. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the flour is cooked. Now add the beans and stir until it blends well. Take this off the stove.

5. Make patties as in the step above and steam them in idli moulds or in a steamer.

Diwali wishes…

to you, your friends and family. Wishing you all a bountiful year!

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