Monday, April 16, 2012

Poori payasam

Tamilians around the world welcomed a new year on the the 13th of April this year. The Hindu calender ushers the new year with the Sun entering Aries in the Zodiac. This is called the sowramana yugadi while some other set of Hindus mark the calender with the lunar movement which is called the chaandramana yugadi. The thamizh month of Chita starts from sometime mid April and most times will fall on the same day as the Malayalam festival of Vishu.
To mark the advent of the new year a feast spread is usually cooked at home. A full course lunch with a sweet dish and some fried stuff features in the menu on this occasion.
In recent times I have cut short the quantity; neither do I cook as many items. However, the sweet dish and the vadai have not gone off the list yet. I made the poori payasam to mark the new year and the mandatory maanga and veppampoo pachchidi. Dishes those are cooked specially on this occasion are to bring out the six forms of taste and this practice symbolically indicates that life is a mix of good and not so good, but we have to accept that as it is and learn to live through the same.

1/4 cup semolina
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Ghee for deep frying the pooris

1 litre whole milk
100 grams sugar

few strands of saffron dissolved in one table spoon milk
1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom
One tine pinch of crushed nutmeg

Mix the semolina with one tablespoon sugar and salt with just enough water to form a slightly stiff dough.
Cover the same with a damp cloth and leave aside for about 20 minutes.
Knead again for a few minutes to make the dough elastic.
Pinch out small size balls and roll out thin discs. Or opt to roll a big circular disc very thin and cut out strips.
 Heat the ghee to almost smoking. Deep fry the rolled out dough until very crisp.

Meanwhile boil the milk in a heavy bottom utensil and simmer on low fire to reduce it to about 3/4ths of the initial volume. Keep the fire low and let the milk be simmering. Add the sugar and allow it to dissolve completely. Finally add the saffron and the powdered condiments to the milk.
As you take the fried poori off the ghee, Drain and quickly dunk it in the simmering milk.

Allow the pooris to soak in the milk for an hour.
Serve at room temperature or chilled or if you desire so, warm the payasam to just above room temperature.
Usually no other garnishing is required.

The texture and taste of this payasam is most certainly worth the effort.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kashi Halwa

Irrespective of the fact that I go off blogging for long intervals, April marks the anniversary month for Flavours and Tastes. I created the blog on a whim when Laavanya sent the link to her blog. Initially I wanted to follow and try recipes from bloggers. Then as I wanted to record a few recipes for my daughter and few of her friends, I made posts and from thereon it has been a very happy blogging experience. Today i count myself blessed that I have many friends through this tiny space that I interact virtually.
And this would also be the 300th post, however neglected this space would feel. Thus I had wanted to post a sweet dish which I would have not dared  try  without prior knowledge my husband relished it on the occasion of our friend's sixtieth birthday last year!
Many of the readers may by now heard about a score of times that my husband is not fond of many vegetables. What might surprise you is that he dislikes them at sight...he has never tried them at all.
Few years ago, while we were purchasing a box of sweets from a popular restaurant chain, the representative there offered my husband a tiny ball of a pink coloured sweet. He ate it and said it was good, but once he knew it was ash gourd cooked and soaked in sugar syrup, did not buy the same!
He has lately started tasting many other vegetables, thanks again to the blog!
On this above mentioned occasion, the caterers served the Kashi halwa and to my surprise, my husband tried more than two helpings! That very instant I decided to hunt for Ash gourd / white pumpkin and make this at home. My idea was to purchase one big enough to try the sweet and keep aside a good portion to make my favourite kootu.
Recently in a vegetable shop the man was willing to sell cut portions and I mentioned the Kashi halwa to my husband and hoped he would let me buy the vegetable. And guess what!!!! he willingly agreed.
Thus kashi halwa was tried and tasted at home for the Ugadi festival a fortnight ago.

The recipe works just as the carrot halwa, with slightly reduced quantities of sugar and ghee.

400 grams white pumpkin/ ash gourd / winter melon

250 grams / 300 ml sugar
200 grams / 200 ml milk
100 grams / 80 ml ghee
15 pieces cashew nuts
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
Few strands saffron dissolved in milk

Peel skin from the ash gourd. Remove the seeds and the very soft inner parts.
Grate the ash gourd in fine shreds.
The ash gourd will ooze juice as you grate the vegetable.
Once done, thoroughly squeeze the juice out. reserve this juice as we are about to use it in the process of cooking.
Now the almost dry grated ash gourd will weigh around 200 grams and will measure about 1/4 of an inch below the level of a 200 ml cup.
Meanwhile dissolve the saffron in few teaspoons of milk and keep aside.
Take a heavy bottom pan and mix the sugar with the extracted vegetable juice. Add some more water if required.
Pressure cook the grated ash gourd with the remaining milk until the vegetable is just about tender, the shreds still defined and the milk is well combined. This may take about two whistles or four minutes pressure cooking after the optimum pressure has been achieved.
Heat the dissolved sugar to achieve a syrup of one thread consistency.
Add the vegetable mix and cook, stirring at regular intervals.
The mixture will thicken and from this point add the ghee gradually in small quantities. Stir well.
Add the dissolved saffron and the cardamom powder towards the end of the process.
When the halwa has come together and thickened enough, continuous bubbles will arise around the edges and the ghee will coat the surface like a film.
Remove from the fire.
Warm few teaspoons of ghee and fry the cashews. Garnish the halwa with the cashews.
A delicious dessert is ready to serve.

You may choose not to use the juice and dissolve the sugar in water to form a syrup. The squeezed out juice can be used in other curries or soups.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Traditionally for the thiruvaadhirai festival kali, powdered rice cooked in boiled jaggery and coconut is prepared and consumed paired with the aezhu kari kootu. I love most of the special dishes that are prepared on each such occasion. One may wonder how a sweet dish will taste paired with a spiced vegetable preparation. It tastes extremely good possibly because that is not a regular dish cooked often.
My mother usually prepares the kali a little extra because I relish it. My sister's mother-in-law  prepares the pulikkali also on this occasion. However, this is a very delicious dish that I prepare it not just for a special occasion, but whenever I want a variety for tiffin / light dinner. It is so easy to put together and tastes so good that you will also try it and like it too.
For this you need to prepare the rice flour first as you would for the thiruvadhirai kali.
For the flour:
1 cup raw rice
2 tablespoons channa dhal
2 tablespoons mung dhal

For the Pulikkali:
1/2 cup prepared rice flour
1 big lime size ball of tamarind
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons gingely oil (or any cooking oil)
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons channa dhal
1 teaspoon urad dhal
4 fresh green chillis
1/8th teaspoon asafoetida powder
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated coconut

Method of preparation:
For the rice powder:
In a heavy pan, dry roast the rice and the dhals separately on a low flame until well roasted but golden.
Mix them, cool and powder to a semolina consistency. Sieve and remove the finely powdered rice powder. That can be used in some other preparation.

The semolina like powder is what we use in the kali and also in this preparation.

For the pulikkali:
Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup warm water for fifteen minutes. Extract the pulp thoroughly by adding another 1/2 cup water. Boil the tamarind extract with the turmeric powder and simmer until it reduces to 3/4 ths cup.

Heat one tablespoon oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow to crackle. Then add the channa dhal and when it is slightly golden the urad dhal. Slit the chillis and add it along with the curry leaves to the above.
Add one cup of water to this and bring to a boil. Now add the tamarind extract and the salt.
When the mixture boils, reduce the heat to the lowest, add the rest of the oil and gently drop the rice powder mix into this stirring constantly. Break any lumps that form.

Cover and cook until the rice is cooked soft.
You can transfer the cooked kali in a container that will fit in your pressure cooker or steamer and steam cook further for a few minutes.

Transfer to serving dish. Enjoy a very delicious pulikkali.