Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Vearkadalai - the indulgent peanuts

For the past few days now in order too follow the world Twenty20 matches live, I have scheduled  some of my easy errands around the telecast time. That makes me think up some light snacks for the evening because if the match is played the full scheduled time then I can offer those to my husband with tea and still get back to watching.

I had bought some freshly harvested groundnuts in the vegetable shop. They were selling them whole and shelled. I purchased the shelled ones that looked very good. I love them roasted while my husband would opt for the boiled and salted ones. Of course there is yet another option of making sundal with them which I am making for navrathri this time.

My easiest option to roast them is to place them spread on a microwave safe flat dish and microwave for just about three minutes or slightly longer, depending on the quantity. Cool and remove the peel.
But this post is not just that! It is the conventional way of roasting them in hot sand and sprinkling salted water as you work them.
My home town and the villages nearby depend on the well irrigation for agriculture and hence such crops are grown through the year. Millet, tapioca, groundnuts and onions grow abundantly. My father's clients always brought us bags full of fresh from the soil ground nuts and we boiled them with the shell and then extract the peas inside. That was a fun task as the tender shells would have absorbed the salted water and the water would sprout as you break them.
Often we were given the task of separating the peas from the shell for storing or sun drying them. These will be used as and when needed.
There were strict instructions not to buy anything sold on streets with few or rare exceptions. I remember having enjoyed the kuchchi ice, the modern days popsicle which was top of the list of non-consumables. But the roasted vearkadalai was allowed, for the push cart man never added more than about 30 peanuts in his paper cone and offered for just 10 paise. Such small quantity will not harm your health, would it?
More than the kadalai, I was fascinated with the whole set up of the cart and the man's roasting operation which he would perform with the precision of  a seasoned juggler.

The wooden platform of the four wheel push - cart was his ground. A thick sack will cover the wood, also protecting it from fire mishaps. There will be a wicker basket holding the raw ground nuts, a tin container to store the roasted ones and a row of neatly rolled cones stacked up. also there used to be a wide mouth (Horlicks) bottle that contained salted and boiled water. His equipment were a portable gas stove, a cast iron wok, a slotted ladle of the same iron and a small measuring cup, was it only 50 ml in size, I wonder. To protect the fire, the burner was covered by the iron stove that was usually used at homes with the fire wood. The wok will sit rested on the frame and the sand inside will be kept roasting hot with the temperature adjusted accordingly. As he walks the street he will be roasting the nuts. How he would push the cart, turn the sand over and sprinkle the salt on the nuts all in some uniform and precise action was a wonder to watch. To announce the arrival on the street he would tap his ladle loudly on the rim of the wok and all the children will run out at the invitation. We hardly bought, but still would run to watch. Likewise, I can recall the soan papdi man who would make his turn slightly after dark with a big Petromax lamp and his glass jar. Those were fancies for a child's mind.
Now having narrated this, the recipe I am sharing only calls for to be worthy of sharing the experience. Yes, I sand roasted my peanuts and savoured the crunch and salted goodness. The other day I had boiled them too and there is not much of a recipe to follow, I wanted to share nonetheless.

The very popular My Legume Love Affair, the brainchild of The Well Seasoned Cook is running the Edition 51 at Desi Soccer Mom's Space and since she would accept entries until the 5th of October, I would join the event with my all time favourite snack.

Ingredients: For the roasted version
2 cups shelled peanuts
2 tablespoons salt dissolved in water and boiled, then cooled

A heavy cast iron or aluminium pan / kadai/ wok.
A big slotted ladle
Sand to fill half the volume of the pan.

In India most of us who do not have ovens to bake use sand for baking. Sand is used for other purposes like to spread on the floor while performing some rituals where fire is lit and kept burning through the ritual.So it is more likely there is a small bag of sand stored somewhere.
I had scooped a bagful from the Aswan bed for setting up the 'PARK' for the navrathri. I have been packing the same through all the moves and it came handy now.
Place the sand in the pan and set the pan on the stove. Allow the sand to warm up moderately.
Drop two or three fists full of the fresh groundnuts in the hot sand. Turn it around repeatedly. At intervals, sprinkle the salted water and keep turning.
The groundnuts will roast and the immediate skin will crack. Check if they have been roasted by rubbing one nut between the index finger and thumb. The skin will just come off the nut and the inside will have a slight tinge of brown.
Scoop the nuts with the sand and sieve the sand back into the pan.
Transfer the roasted nuts to a dish and dust them using a cloth.
Repeat the process with the rest of the ground nuts.
If you need to reassure, you may use a finer sieve and sift the roasted nuts to remove any trace of sand.

For the boiled version:
Pressure cook 1 cup of fresh, shelled ground nuts with some water and salt until they are soft. Drain the water and consume.

I am sure most of you would enjoy the simple snack whether boiled or roasted.


  1. this is an all time hit with anyone :) reminds me how in India we have vendors doing music with their iron pan... what lovely clicks Lata too good

    Cook like Priya

  2. Just two weeks ago I was telling Hans I should go and grab some sand from the beachto make peanuts like they make in India :-) and here you are making them.
    Even back home we used to do this, but mostly bought them from bus stands while we were waiting for the bus to come .

  3. My dad loves it a lot! The kaal padi, paper cones, make it feel like home :) Wonderful!

  4. i really dono how to do this. now i have ur post. will b helpful.thnx mam :)

  5. The sound of the laddle and the wok, really nostalgic lataji!!!! All time favorite peanuts!!!though tried the boiled version, never this sand roasted!! Looks super yum!!

  6. The son papdi cart would have a bell too!

    I never seem to get the true flavour roasting them in the MW.

  7. hmmmmmmmmmm sand roasted peanuts, got a glimpse of the vendors doing it and it sure tastes yum and crispy than just roasting it in our ilpa chatti.I am a great fan of peanuts too and would finish off in a jiffy the entired roasted ones in my cup watching T.V and would crave for more.

  8. Wow!!! Brought back memories. Can you please also post the sundal receipe when you make it for Navarthri. Thanks

  9. Ah, the memories of salted peanuts. Thank you for clarifying how they are roasted. I always thought the peanuts were boiled in their shells in salted water and then roasted in the sand. I tried doing that once at home and it took forever to roast. Granted I didn't use sand to roast them and didn't use enough salt in the water when boiling. But I am a peanutholic and can eat them any which way. Will try your method next time. Thank you for the lovely entry.

  10. I can eat them in any form, but the boiled peanuts is a sure winner. In their whole form. And the slight salty taste as you bite into the shell is lovely... I go back a long way to my childhood.

  11. nice memories, as a kid,we used to have a playgroung in front of our house, and in winters this cheeniyabadam wala (yes we call peanuts badam in jamshedpur :D ) .. used to take 2 rounds of the ground, callnig out for takers, and we had to convince amma while he takes d rounds, i still go get some wherever i get it. :) love d pics.. and yes that sound of d wok :)
    oh sorry for spamming , but i wonder how did u get that verka ghee ka dibba! any punjab connection ?

    1. I must have bought the ghee in some Indian store here.....mmmmm...possibly EMJAYS in Lagos run by a punjabi....that is all the punjab ka connection...sorry to burst the bubble :)


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