Monday, November 30, 2009

Uppappam for Karthigai

Today the 30th of November, tomorrow and the day after are the karthigai deepam festival days this year. The Barani deepam is lighted today, tomorrow is the sarvaalaya deepam, when in all Hindu temples numerous lamps will be lit and celebrated.
This day usually conjuncts with the full moon in the star of Krithigai and is believed to be the day that Lord Shiva appeared in the form of light which neither Vishnu nor Brahma could find the beginning or the end of.
At many homes lamps are lit and arranged in beautiful patterns, just as how Deepavali is celebrated in most northern states of India.
As per family traditions the neivedhyams made and offered to the Lord. In my parents home it is Adhirasam, pori urundai, godhumai appam sweet and savoury appam- uppappam. I follow this tradition as my mother-in-law does not cook any of these. She lights lamps and offers fruits.

I had a very hectic week, last week as we hosted the weekly Vishnu sahasranamam chanting at home. I took it a bit easy this morning without realising today is the festival. When I opened my mail box there was a mail to share this recipe. I follow S. Meenakshi ammal recipe but my mother makes it differently. So before sharing the recipe I wanted to confirm with her if store bought rice flour will work well and wanted her recipe too. This is what she gave me and I think the result with store bought flour was equally good.

Traditionally, rice is soaked and pound to a flour or ground to a thick batter with the Urad dhal and the appams are fried in oil like the vadas. For those who want to make it without deep frying, you may use the appam pan and make them. Since I wanted to try with one tweak, I did not venture the other. I have made them fried in oil. These appams will sure ooze oil, so make them and share as many, so you may eat less and be free of guilt.

Now the recipe ( Makes 12 appams):
Rice flour 200 ml
Urad dhal 2 tablespoons
Channa dhal 2 teaspoons
Moong dhal 2 teaspoons
Fresh coconut scrapes 1 table spoon
Green chillies 2 chopped
Ginger 1cm long piece
Slightly sour curd 1/3 volume measure of the rice flour
Curry and coriander leaves few chopped
Salt to taste
Oil for frying ( keep less and fry one at a time)

Wash and soak urad dhal in water. Grind to a smooth paste as for idlis.
Mix the rice flour, salt, urad dhal paste and the curds to a lump-free batter. Add some water to obtain a thick batter.This should be as that of thick idli batter.
Wash and soak the moong and channa dhal in water for a few minutes, drain and add to the above.
Leave this aside for a few hours.
Just before frying add the chopped chillies, curry and coriander leaves and the coconut scrapes.
Mix well adjusting that the batter is of pouring consistency.
Heat oil in a deep pan until it smokes. Reduce heat to medium and pour a ladle full of batter in the hot oil.
The appam will slowly rise to the surface and fry. Using the ladle toss some hot oil on the upper surface as it cooks. Turn once and when the appam is golden on both sides remove with slotted ladle. Drain on absorbent tissue.
This appam can be made using the appam pan. Make the batter as that of idli batter, a tad bit rarer than the above.
If you are not offering as neivedhyam, you may replace the curd and urad dhal by a big ladle full of left over idli batter. This results in very soft appams.
Wish those of you who celebrate, a very happy festival of lights!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Araiththu vitta vengaya sambhar - Tamilian's delight

Of the sambhar varieties I prefer the araiththu vitta sambhar, meaning ground and added type.
The Masala is initially roasted either dry or adding very little oil, ground to a coarse paste and added to the tamarind -dhal mix, that has been cooked along with the vegetables.
The Madras onions (shallots) add somewhat exotic flavour to sambhar and the sweet yet pungent taste of the shallots is by itself delectable. Mostly people cook this sambhar and serve with roasted potato dry curry and hot rice with a small amount of ghee.

When I make this sambhar, I grind along with the usual ingredients, a small piece of ginger and few raw shallots, a tip from a magazine. That enhances the flavours.
A lemon size ball of tamarind
1/4th of a cup thuvar dhal
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
100 grams shallots
Oil to saute the shallots
Salt to taste

For tempering:
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 red chilli
Few fresh curry leaves
Dry roast the following:
1 table spoon coriander seeds
6 pieces medium hot dry red chillis
1 teaspoon channa dhal
3 table spoons coconut scrapped
Roast these until the coconut is golden brown and aromatic and the dhal looks oil coated and shining.
Add few raw shallots and 1/2'' piece of fresh ginger and grind to a paste adding little water.

Soak tamarind in water for some time and extract the pulp thoroughly.
Pressure cook thuvar dhal with the turmeric powder added to it until soft.
Peel shallots and retain whole. Heat oil in a pan and add the shallots. Saute them until they are brown on all sides, add some water, cover and cook till they are tender.
To this add the salt and tamarind extract and simmer on medium flame until all raw taste of tamarind subsides.
Add the cooked dhal coarsely mashed, allow to blend and add the masala that has been ground.
Bring to a boil. Allow to boil for further two minutes. Remove pan from fire.
Temper with the mustard seeds and fresh curry leaves.
Cook the sambhar a bit ahead of serving, this enhances flavours.
My aunt used to cook her sambhar about an hour before serving, but she will keep the rasam on the coal stove (kumutti aduppu), until the coals might be dying out until about to be served. You may serve lukewarm sambhar with hot rice and re-heat the rasam just before consumption.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bhel puri

Having been advised, and sometimes disciplined about eating anything selling at street stalls, we were in for our biggest treat while visiting our uncle in Bombay. Most likely, he decided that at 17 and 15 we would be manageable even if we fell ill. He bought us pani puris and bhel puris selling @ Chowpati beach :)

That was the first time I ever tasted something khatta-meeta-thikka all in one dish. But that was only once. Back home we were to forget even looking at street vendors. We were allowed generously, to purchase any item that sold in the college canteen. So we indulged ourselves in the puffs and cream rolls that were prepared at the college's very own bakery under strictly hygiene conditions.

Later with a group of boys and girls who were friends of a nephew, I treated myself to a Kaiyendhi bhavan style bhel puri in the X-cut road - Ghandhipuram market corner while working in Coimbatore. Then it was a Thursday evening treat from my husband to drive to Bur-Dubai from Khor Fakkan before exploring the many shopping options that Dubai has to offer.

The time I purchased a few cookbooks, my sister's neighbour had taught her to make the puris. That is all we needed. Now it is a regular chat affair at home. Two days ago we met with a friend to celebrate her daughter's birthday. It was meant to be a Pani puri and junk food party but the junk part was a whole lot of health ones.

That reminded me of the fact that I have in pictures the Bhel puri I made for my husband's birthday in July, yet in my picassa album. So, I put aside all procrastination this afternoon and am typing.

Bhel puri my style:
For puris: (Source: Mallika Badrinath's 100 snacks special)
3/4th of a cup Fine variety semolina
1/2 cup All purpose flour
2 teaspoons roasted and powdered urad dhal
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tiny pinches baking powder
Ice cold water or sparkling soda water to knead a stiff dough
Oil for deep frying
Mix all the dry ingredients, salt and the baking powder well. Using the ice cold water or the soda water, make a stiff dough. Knead repeatedly yet stiff.
Cover with a damp cloth and keep aside for 10 minutes.
Knead again until dough is elastic.
Make small puris and deep fry on low fire as and when you have rolled them. Let them not dry in the air. This may result in the puris not puffing enough.
The puris should be rolled neither too thick nor too thin. The fire also has to be medium to low. The puris have to be fried very crisp.
These can be made ahead and stored upto a fortnight.

Ompodi or sev for the bhel puri:
1 cup Gram flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying
Mix the flours with water and salt to make a smooth dough that can be pressed over hot oil using a very fine perforated fitted plate in a murukku press.
Heat oil and deep fry the pressed sev.
Keep reserve.

Mint Chutney and Sweet chutney:
Grind the following:
A fist full of fresh mint leaves
A tiny bunch of coriander leaves
A marble size ball of tamarind soaked in warm water
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons jaggery powder
Black salt to taste
2 or 3 dry red chillies Adjust as per requirement
Juice of 1 lime
Pass this through a strainer and add another cup of water to this juice.
Soak the following in water for 1/2 an hour and grind to a semi thick paste:
A big lemon size ball of tamarind
3 table spoons powdered jaggery
10 numbers dates seeds removed
2 table spoons raisins
4 red chillis
A little amount of salt.

Other Ingredients for Bhel puri:
2 tablespoons grated carrots
2 tablespoons grated cucumber
1/2 of a raw mango grated
1 big potato boiled and mashed
2 tablespoons green peas cooked till tender
1 red onion sliced very finely
2 teaspoons coriander leaves chopped
1 tomato chopped finely
1 cup puffed rice

Keep all the ingredients ready and before seving, mix them well and serve garnished with additional ompodi and grated vegetables and coriander leaves.
This goes to RCI - Event started by Lakshmi of veggiecuisine, currently held @ Lakshmi's Kitchen Chronicles celebrating RCI- Mumbai.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Indo's Gulab Jamuns for Indian Cooking Challenge

Having tried two of the three chosen recipes for the October edition of Indian Cooking Challenge for deepavali, I was planning to try the third given recipe sometime soon. Least did I expect it would be this soon. Srivalli, obliging to requests from members extended the post date to the 16th of November. That gave me a chance to work on this recipe and post it too.

Indo of Daily musings has given a very beautiful pictorial of her grandma making these jamuns for her. Prepare yourself for a tutorial here. I recommend you read her post, I am not copying it here.
With an overdose of yummy gulabjamuns, I did not want to use the whole recipe given by Indo.
I reduced 1 litre of milk and used one fourth of the rest of the ingredients as well. I had 20 gulab jamuns.
Three recipes, varying in quantity of ingredients, yet all three worked well, though I felt that the maida was a bit more in Indo's recipe. The gulab jamuns swelled in the oil while frying, so they absorbed the syrup well too.

This forced me to look up my mother's note book and I found her's almost similar to Indo's recipe! Later during a telephone conversation she told me that in her recipe the quantity of maida was more and she was advised to reduce it to achieve best results. The Baking soda she had mentioned was way less, may have been the reason to reduce the maida. I presume that might be a point of note.
Ironically all these days I never looked up my S.Meenakshi Ammal book. I fancied checking her recipe too. Alas ! What I found was neatly written in my own hand - an update. I have mentioned how much khova I achieved reducing 2 litres of milk and how much maida I had used, the exact measure of bi-carbonate of soda and more! I have written down how well I had to knead the khova initially, almost as you would knead the flour before adding the maida:(
All this dated way back in 2001! Deepavali -Johor!
Grrrr...gritting! Now I have to try my version soon :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Banana Orange smoothie

The host of last Saturday's prayer meeting gave us each a coconut, two musumbi oranges and one really large banana. So Sunday morning we had this refreshing mocktail. The fruits were sufficient to fill two large glasses, and having had that sometime mid-morning, we almost gave up lunch :)
You may need:
1 large banana or two medium bananas that might be good for milkshakes
2 oranges, Naval, Valencia or Indian musumbi
3 table spoons honey
1/4 cup light cream
1/4 cup crushed ice

What you have to do:
Blend the fruits in a blender with the honey.When well blended add the ice and run the blender further for 2 minutes. Finally add the cream and whisk until frothy.
Serve right away!

Mooli Parathas

Just like the paneer parathas, the mooli parathas are very delectable. We were at my cousins place one morning for the music lessons. She was making these for her daughter who had been studying late into night and had left instructions not to wake her up until after 9 AM. So my cousin decided to make these parathas that might replace her breakfast and hold until a late lunch. She invited us to have some with some pickle. Both Niki and I loved them.
Few years on we were again invited to my daughter's friend's place in Singapore. Her mother made mooli parathas. She mixed the grated radish to the flour and kneaded witht the flour for the dough unlike making a filling of them. That was good too.
My gardener and house help in Bahrain lived in a farm where they fed goats with carrots and radishes. The boys used to bring me loads of these veggies whenever they could manage. So I made them often. Later they planted radishes in my small garden patch, which grew like wild and I had to distribute to friends. The day my container was being packed the packers pulled out as many as they can to feast on fresh produce :)
Radishes are low in fat and cholestral, high in fibre, riboflavin, vitamins C and B, magnisium, folate etc. They aid weight loss. Eaten raw or cooked in any dish they are beneficial for good health.
Lately, I have started mixing other flours replacing the wheat flour partly. This one here has a mix of bajra flour ( millet flour) with whole wheat flour. The colour may not look great if you add bajra or jowar flour, but the taste is very good.
Ingredients:(8 parathas)
1 &1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup bajra flour
3 fresh and tender radishes grated finely
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
Salt to taste, separate for the flour and for the filling
1 teaspoon oil for the radish
1 tablespoon oil for mixing the dough
ghee as required to spread on the parathas
Grate the radishes. Keep this on a flat plate which rests over another small cup or plate slightly inclined at an angle. In a few minutes the juice of the radish will ooze out and collect on the bottom-side of the tilt. This may be used while kneading the dough.
Heat oil in a kadai, add the salt and redchilli powder to the grated radish. Toss for some time. Remove from fire and keep aside.
Sift both flours together. Add the salt and oil. Mix well and using the radish water and more water, knead to a plaint dough. Rest the dough covered for half an hour.
Divide in 16 portions. Roll out each into a circular disc about 4" diameter. Spoon the filling on the top side of 8 such discs. Spread evenly, leaving out a part of the circumference. Dampen the edges and press the empty rolled discs over the filled ones.Seal well and roll the pin over the prepared chappathis.
Heat the tawa and cook the chappatis until well cooked on both sides. Serve them hot.

Usually, I don't bother making a side dish. My husband makes do with tomato ketchup. But if you desire so, a simple dal-tadka will be an excellent combination.
These parathas make an excellent lunch box/ snack box dish for children.
These parathas are sent to,

and to
Sharmi's Cooking For Kids event, happening this month @ Lakshmi's Kitchen Chronicles inviting Vegetables and Fruits.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mysore Bonda

Mysore bonda is famous in the recipe list of the Karnataka special dishes, especially of Mysore. Some call the Goli Baje of Mangalore as Mysore Bonda. But the traditional recipe uses a blend of split black lentils and spices.
You may relate it to the medhu vada of elsewhere in the South but deep fried in the shape of bondas than typical vadas.
The recipe is simple to make and quick too.
Ingredients:( for 12 bondas)
1/4 cup/ 125 ml Urad dhal whole or split
2 teaspoons thuvar dhal
1 teaspoon rice
2 green chillies chopped
1 tablespoon finely sliced coconut pieces
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, coarsely pounded
Few fresh curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying
Wash and soak the dhals and the rice togther for an hour.
Drain and grind, adding very little water to a smooth but thick batter. The batter has to ground fine but water should be used very sparingly.
Add the salt, chopped chillies, coconut pieces,curry leaves, cumin seeds, asafoetida powder and the pepper. Mix well. Mix in a whisking motion to incorporate air in the batter and make it fluffy. This ensures that the bondas are soft on the inside with pores formed therein.

Heat oil in a heavy pan. Moisten your palm and fingers and roll the batter like balls and deep fry in hot oil.
Turn them in the oil a few times to fry evenly.
Remove with a slotted ladle and place on absorbent tissues.
Serve hot with coconut chutney or tomato ketchup.
Urad dhal is rich in protein and fibre, low in fat. These are recommended for diabetics too. Make a good snack for children.

These bondas are off to be featured in Susan, The Well Seasoned Cook's MLLA,
The 17th Helping of MLLA happening @ Sra's When My Soup Came Alive through November,
and to
Food for seven stages of life - Kids' special (4 years to 14 years of age), co-hosted by Radhika and Sudeshna.

My Happy Day Salad

I love trying combinations for salads. For long I wanted to add beets and radishes, but did not dare to. Radish has this sharp and pungent taste and am sure my husband will happily pass on it. Beets might discolour the whole salad, I had concluded.

On my last visit to the vegetable market, I picked up all these very fresh beets, carrots and radishes. Yesterday I braved myself to make a salad, come what may, if looks fail the salad will be good I told myself.

I had sprouts also. Just by adding a dip made of yoghurt and mints, the salad was a hit. On a whim I spread it as in the picture and was pleased with the results.

What I used:
1 carrot cut in rings and middle portion scooped out
2 white radishes sliced in rings
1/2 of a beet sliced in thin strips
4 tablespoons mixed sprouts
few fresh coriander leaves

What I did with them:
Put each of the vegetables separately in boiling water to which a pinch of salt, thinly sliced ginger strips and turmeric powder is added.
Drain and allow to cool. Boil the sprouts if you want them cooked. ( I have used them raw.)
(The drained water was later added to the process of making dosa batter.)
Fill the salad plate as you like. I filled the carrot cavities with the sprouts, and placed tiny bits of beets on the radish rings.
Serve with a dip of thick hung yoghurt mixed with ground mint leaves and salt.
This salad is off to Lisa's No Croutons Required event showcasing Root Vegetables this month.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Paneer Parathas

Paneer is rich in protein and calcium. It is 100% vegetarian cheese. Paneer can be cooked with dishes or used as toppings, totally making a dish appetizing. For vegetarians, this is a rich source of the nutrients. You can safely add upto 100 grams of paneer in a daily diet for growing children. The exercise they get from work and play will compensate for the fat.
While we lived in Johor and Niki went to school in Singapore, the car would be down the block at 6:30 every morning and the packed lunch she used to carry would be a hurriedly prepared dish.
So every evening when she got back home she needed some filling snack. She would happily eat a whole bowl of kootu or vegetables with pasta. Whenever we shopped in Mustafa, she used to pick few packets of a famous Indian brand ready-to-eat parattas that came in varieties. She used to toss them in the pan or microwave and have them.
Later, I started preparing them and storing in the deep freezer for easy consumption. This practice helped my husband while we moved to Egypt and I travelled to India often.
I make aloo parathas, paneer parathas and mooli parathas this way and they can be stored in freezer bags for upto a month. They never have stayed that long though.
Paneer parathas are easy to make and you may adjust spices as per requirement.
Ingredients: (For 8 parathas)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup crumbled paneer
8 teaspoons any chutney
Salt as required for the flour and the paneer
3 teaspoons cooking oil
Add required salt to the crumbled paneer (I have used the recipe for paneer from A2Z Vegetarian Cuisine).
I made some coriander chutney by grinding fresh coriander leaves, salt, 1 green chilli and 1 tablespoon yoghurt.
Mix the flour with some oil and salt. Adding water knead into a smooth chappathi dough. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for an hour.
Divide in 16 portions and roll in smooth balls.
Roll out chappattis of 5" diameter of each portion. On the top half of each spread the chutney evenly.
On top of eight such rolled parathas, spread the crumbled paneer leaving some space along the edges.
Cover this with another empty rolled paratha. Press both into place at the edges sealing well.
Roll the rolling pin gently over the paratha so they seal tight.

Heat a tawa and cook the prepared paratha adding some oil until done.
Repeat for all the rest of the parathas.
Serve hot with yoghurt and pickle.

If you plan to freeze them, cook until half done turning both the sides. Allow to cool. Place sheets of plastic between two parathas and place the bunch in freezer safe bags.
Take the parathas out of the freezer 15 minutes before serving and cook on hot tawa until done.
Consume hot as re-heated parathas get hard when they cool down.
I'm sending these paneer parathas to JFI event, started by Indira of Mahanandi, currently hosted as JFI Paneer @ The Spice Who Loved Me, through November,
and to
Food For 7 Stages of Life co-hosted by Radhika and Sudeshna, featuring food for ages 4 to 14 until December the 5th.

Minty potato salad

There is no limit to the variety you might cook with potatoes. As the vegetable is most preferred by many people, the options of consuming are numerous. Mint is my favourite herb. I can drink cup after cup of the pani puri's mint water! When I spotted the cute looking baby potatoes, I could not stop myself from purchasing them.
Soon after bought fresh mint and made this Chat variety salad with mint and boiled potatoes with carrots and onions.
Both of us, my husband and myself have started enjoying salads on a regular basis. I keep trying different options, this one was very well enjoyed by both of us.
You might require:
15 baby potatoes
1 carrot sliced in rings and strips
1 red onion chopped or finely sliced
Few strings frensh coriander leaves chopped
2 teaspoons cooking oil
Grind the following to a smooth paste:
A fist full of mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped onions
A pea size ball of tamarind
1/4 teaspoon dry mango powder
1" piece ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt to taste.
How to prepare:
Grind the ingredients for the paste adding water sparingly to a smooth paste.
Prick the potatoes with a fork at few places. Boil them just until you might be able to peel them.
The nutrients in the potatoes lie right beneath the peel. So for optimum nourishment, they have to be boiled just as much to remove the peel.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the paste to it and toss the potatoes gently to coat them with the paste until the essence is absorbed.
If desired and you do not like raw onions, you may toss them in the oil and remove before adding the paste.

The preparations are done.
Proceed to spread your salad as per your liking and serve.

This is just sufficient for two servings. You might increase the ingredients as required and also add many more vegetables as desired.

This salad goes to Meeta's Monthly Mingle collecting dishes fro BRUNCH.

Lonavala Chikki

I had first tasted the Lonavala chikki on Dadar Express to Bombay. We were spending part of our summer vacation with two of our uncles who were living in Bombay. That was when we were introduced to Mumbai's magical street food like the pani puri, pav bhaji, vada pav etc.
On our return journey we purchased these chikkis and enjoyed them.
I have Mallika Badrinath's recipe for various chikkis. Browsing the internet I found some recipes too.
This is my next entry to EC's WYF Speciality Food event.

Chikkis are prepared with any type of nuts, sesame seeds and a mix of different nuts.There are more options too. On a recent trip to Shirdi, I tasted coconut chikkis and sago chikkis too from a highway motel's shop.
I have combined cashew nuts and almonds in this recipe. Have used yellow sugar which is not as refined as white sugar to bring out the brown colour. I found this pack of Hulett's yellow sugar - tartarazine free. Since it is not refined the essence and flavours of the cane are retained bringing out richer colour in baking. I simply tried using it here and the colour was browner than usual with an extra shine!
1 and 1/2 cups mixed nuts, broken coarsely
1 cup yellow sugar (refined sugar is usually used)
1 pinch of bi carbonate of soda
2 table spoons ghee
Smear a heavy, shallow bottomed pan with some ghee and sprinkle the sugar over it. This makes the caramalising even.
Before putting this on fire, prepare the wooden board and the rolling pin. Grease them generously with ghee.
Place the pan on fire on a medium flame allow the sugar to melt and caramelise. When the sugar melts add the bicarbonate of soda.
Take care not to over burn the sugar. This may make the sugar bitter.
As the sugar reaches a golden brown colour switch the fire off. Drop the nuts and quickly give a brisk stir.
Immediately transfer the contents on to the greased board and press down with the rolling pin.
Allow to cool a bit and cut shape while still warm.
Once cooled fully, break the cut chikkis and store them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunshinemom's Aviyal - Tried and Tasted

We have a few families here who meet every Saturday evening to chant few devotional hymns apart from Vedic Rudram, Chamakam, Namakam and the Vishnu Sahasranamam. More slokas and bhajans are recited and sung too. We spend three hours of religious chants followed by good food on most Saturday evenings.
The food has no pre-defined menu. It is potluck party, though each one carries what he or she cooks that evening. Also there is no regulation to the quantity. People just bring some 300 ml casserole to as large as 5 litres of prepared dish. Since most of us are from the South states the menu is widely South Indian with the exception of chappatis and related side dishes.
We have been attending this now for a few weeks. For one such meeting I decided to carry Aviyal. Though I cook aviyal, I was looking for a Palghat recipe. I decided to check Jayasree's and Aparna's. Then I stumbled upon this recipe from TONGUE TICKLERS by Sunshine mom.

I had to use the vegetables that were available in Ghana. Apart from that I've followed her recipe. We do not get elephant yam and ash gourd, so I cannot claim that the aviyal was fully authentic. But it sure tasted good.
I doubled the quantity of vegetables and also used baby potatoes whole. The coconut and the rest of the grinding ingredients, I just increased them, not exactly doubled.
My picture might tell you that it was well liked by the people who tasted it. So, have a look at my pictures and follow Harini's recipe for Aviyal from Palakkad here.

This aviyal goes to Tried and Tasted event initiated by Zlamushka of Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen,

hosted this November by The Singing Chef featuring Sunshinemom of TONGUETICKLERS.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lunch box -pictures only!

Divya of Dil se wants us all to show her what we pack our lunch boxes with. Prior to Ghana, my husband used to carry his lunch which I would have done in a hurry as he leaves as early as 5:30 AM. The dinner was a bit of an elaborate and relaxed meal. Here too he leaves early, but we have been given a driver by the company. He comes home once in the mid morning to collect the lunch for my husband. So I get to cook a proper meal everyday. Here are two pictures of his lunch boxes. Recipes may appear in my posts randomly. For now I'm happy to Show you my husband's Lunch Box.
salad, okra stir fry, madras onion sambhar rice and yoghurt.
Pudina rice, salad and raita.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tirunelveli Halwa

The wheat halwa is my most favoured sweet. As I mentioned once earlier, I learnt this from my grandmother, my dad's mother. She was very good at making mouth-watering sweets. Her mysurpak, halwa and polis used to be delicious. My mother's mom used to make different sweets mostly jaggery based or something like chirotti, manoharam and such. So whenever amma made sweets for occasions, we had many varieties to enjoy.

The halwa making used to be an elaborate affair with hand grinding soaked wheat and extracting the milk thrice, allowing it to stand a few hours and then getting to cook it. Amma would want patti to be around to supervise and patti always wanted someone to assist to constantly stir the halwa while cooking. That is when I would enlist my services!

Every bhogi festival was with halwa as it was my choice sweet. I enjoyed doing it and in the process, have gained a photo memory to making halwa. I have done it many times over the years. It has become my daughter's favourite sweet too. This year around deepavali I had requested the grocer to bring whole wheat for making Halwa. As with delays in shipment and Customs, the man could procure it a bit later only. Nonetheless, I went ahead and stocked my pantry, hoping to make it for Niki when she comes home in December.

When EC of Simple Indian Food announced this month's WYF Speciality Food, this is all I thought of first. Then I recalled my first oppurtunity to taste the famous Iruttukadai halwa years ago. Later, two years ago, I went to Tirunelveli and walked all the way to the shop as the road was one-way to motorised traffic to buy 1/2 kilogram of this. Again last December, we took Niki to enjoy the architectural beauty of the temple standing tall on 14 acres of land and ended up buying more halwa making a huge tick mark against the to-dos.

I googled in to find this blogpost about Tirunelveli and the famous Iruttukkadai. The blogpost says it all!! This post has been put up from the rediff travel post.@
I am not able to credit the original author as the rediff post does not mention one; hence I have mentioned both of where you might get a good read!
You may also please visit Sowmya's post @ Creative saga, step by step presentation of her grandmother's cooking the halwa. Our recipes vary in the sugar quantity only. So go ahead and try which ever suits your tastes!
With the Iruttukkadai recipe on hand along with my very own grandma's, Mallika Badrinath's and my S.Meenakshi ammal book I set out to make halwa!
This recipe is mostly my grandma's which almost matched iruttukadai's in ingredients. But tips on the cooking part were from all of the above four sources. I have managed to click pictures of most of the cooking stages, some with my left hand while the right was vigorously working otherwise :)

I shall give the measurements as per iruttukadai in metric and against that my cups' measurement equivalent to the weights.
I have made with 100 grams of whole wheat. The yield was an astounding 1 kilogram and 150 grams. I can very well relate to the volume of turnover mentioned in the travel post!
100 grams whole wheat (one level measure of 150 ml cup)
450 grams sugar (three heaped measures cup of the above)
225 grams ghee ( a cup and a quarter of the above cup) (I needed few spoonsful more ghee than this quantity)
The following are as desired: ( I always use all of these)
blanched almonds
broken cashews roasted in ghee
cardamom powder
saffron strands immersed in milk
Soak the whole wheat after washing thoroughly overnight. By morning it will look very clumsy with some elastic thread like formation over the wheat.
Grind adding water in a blender. Strain the milk. Return the husk to the blender and grind again with water. Strain and repeat the process.
Having done thrice the husk will be dry and lost all the glutonous feel. Discard that and immediately wash off the strainer and soak the blades and jar of your blender in order to ease the cleaning process. The wheat particles would dry forming a hard crust making it hard to clean later.
Let this milk-like liquid stand for few hours. A thick precipitate will deposit on the lower part and the scum will float over the excess water that was added to aid grinding.

After about five hours, carefully scoop the scum out, filter the excess water and retain the thick milk alone.
To the thick milk add three cups of water and mix. This will be clean and white as milk, but thicker in consistency.
Keep the nuts, cardamom and saffron ready and handy.
Place sugar with some water in a heavy bottomed pan on fire. Boil this down to a thick syrup that forms a very strong thread while pressed and pulled apart between the thumb and forefinger.

Add the blanched almonds and the wheat milk. Stir constantly. The wheat will cook to a very transparent mass, blending with the sugar.
When the mass is thick and you feel pressure while stirring add the saffron, cardamom powder and cashews. Add the ghee in small quantities. The ghee will initially float and then mix well with the cooking mass.
All of these will get thicker and the stirring will get harder. The mass will resemble a sheet of glass falling in a neat ribbon if dropped from a small height. The gloss will be distinct. Add the rest of the ghee and give one last, firm and thorough mixing. Switch the fire off. Leave the utensil on the stove for sometime. The heat of the stove and the thickness of the utensil aid further thickening of the halwa.

Transfer to a bowl when cool and enjoy.

Contrary to popular notion that the Tirunelveli halwa is a thick wheat cake, the iruttukadai halwa is of scoop and eat texture only. While cold it is thick but not cake like. You may re-heat in microwave and have it warm.
The halwa has to be well cooked. The spoon you use will only be coated of ghee and not slightest film of halwa. If it does so, it is underdone and will stick to your palette too. The halwa has to slide down which is why notoriously in Tamil we refer to some act of cheating as 'giving halwa' to someone.
My sister partly does on stove top and transfers to the microwave rice cooker and completes the whole process without much strain to her arms and shoulders. I will check with her the recipe and update at some later date.
The cooking might take around an hour to an hour and a quarter while the preparation of milk is another long drawn process. I use my Indian Philips brand mixer to grind. However, you may grind in the grinder which is used for grinding idli/dosa batter.
There are specially made strainers available in Indian markets. I have used a big size fruit juice strainer.
In general the ratio of the wheat: sugar : ghee can be measured in any cup as 1(level):3 (heaped): 1& 1/4 and cooked to get halwa.
This is my entry to EC's WYF Speciality Food event hosted at Simple Indian Food thro' November
and to
Sanghi's FIL Ghee event which has been extended to the 10th of November @ Sanghi's Food Delights.
My dedication is to Niki, my daughter who loves this and to Raja, my husband who is the one eating all the health food as well as the junk food I cook and blog:)