Cheeni Kizhangu/Sarkkarai Valli Kizhangu-Karuppatti/Sweet Potatoes in Palm Sugar Syrup

June 22, 2016 Leave a comment

  

sweet potato soaked in palm jaggery syrup

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I have very less memories of Sarkkarai Valli Kizhangu or Cheeni Kizhangu – Sweet Potato as a vegetable. But I have evergreen memories of sweet potatoes floating in a tub of Palm syrup in Thoothukudi, my maternal grandmother’s house.

The big chatti or hot vessel filled with sweet aromatic Palm jaggery syrup and the  floating sweet potatoes inside was one of my favorites. Of course, still is. Mildly spiced with dry ginger for balance and added digestion, this delicacy can be had hot, warm or cold.

Cubed or Circled Sweet Potato pieces cooked in Palm Jaggery Syrup is a sweet coated with Divinity. No, it isn’t served for the Gods but the Divinity comes from its soaked flavor. The naturally mildly sweet Sweet Potato dipped in the flavorful Palm Jaggery Syrup offers a unique aroma and taste different from the other well-known sweets of Tamilnadu.

This might be termed as a healthy sweet as there is no frying involved.

  

Why should we stick to Traditional Foods?

  

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Do you believe in  –

  

  • the whole wheat breads of market that offer 50 % refined flour and still take the name ‘whole wheat’?
  • the baked chips with loads of sodium that still claim to be 0% cholesterol?
  • the high sugar/banned low sugar or honey filled granular bars that claim to be health snacks to start the day?
  • the mostly refined ready to eat whole grain cereals that are sent through high heat to be moisture free for longer shelf life?
  • and additionally, do you believe in the never-ending list of hazardous goodies that cheat us in the name of health food?

  

If you don’t believe in the above, then I’d suggest you to try out the traditional recipes of each culture.

Believe me!

These Sweet Potatoes –
  

  1. cooked in Palm Jaggery
  2. soaked well in the same syrup
  3. not deep-fried
  4. do not possess the minutest droplet of butter, ghee or oil
  5. no added milk or coconut milk
  6. no added cream or coconut cream

  
– can be claimed fat-free, gluten-free, free from milk and milk products, no allergic nuts involved in making, no soy products and so on.
Fortunately,  there is no claim of traditional sweets to be fat-free – no tagged promises. As there cannot be any food that could be completely fat-free/sugar-free/chemical free/ and to top the list – that is suitable for all. It is for the consumers to identify what suits their family, more importantly what suits their pocket and most importantly what suits their family’s health and well-being. But staying away from products that have higher shelf life and those beautifully arranged in the stores, could definitely be a healthier choice for the family, especially with growing children.

This simple logic has made me believe and rely completely on traditional foods. They don’t stay longer – reason one, we lick the bowls to our heart’s content and then, they have no added preservatives to stay long and tempt us longer. They can be high in calories, high in sugar, high in cholesterol as analyzed by dietitians. But, they are at a comfort kitchen zone where the intolerant levels can be altered.

Hence, while one cannot alter the sugar content of sweet potatoes, feel free to alter the amount of Palm jaggery used in the recipe.

  

Sweet Potatoes and the South East Asian Connection

  

  

I am amazed by the connection of south East Asian cuisine with the cuisine of Tamilnadu. On our visit to Indonesia, I could taste the same Cheeni kizhangu karuppatti in Indonesia, but with the twist of taste with coconut milk. Yummy Treat! The same Sweet Potato in different parts of the world can be used in different ways. But the abundance of Palm and Palm Sugar and Coconut and Coconut Milk has given way to a number of common recipes among the different countries of South-East Asia, Srilanka and Southern India that share sea space. This cuisine connect is also a remarkable proof of the successful maritime trade between Tamilnadu and other South East Asian Countries extending till China, the give and take of several recipes twisted to local tastes.

Here is the name of the delicacies with almost the same preparation. Please correct me for errors.

Indonesian – 

Biji Salak – Sweet Potato Dumplings cooked in Palm Sugar Syrup and flavoured with coconut milk and Pandan (screw pine) leaves and thickened with tapioca flour

Kolak Biji Salak – The above mentioned sweet with the addition of Bananas

Malaysian – 

Bubur Cha Cha – Sweet porridge made with 3 kinds of differently coloured sweet potatoes, yam, tapioca pearls (sago),  bananas and black eyed beans, thickened with tapioca flour and added flavor with coconut milk and Pandan leaves

Singaporean – 

BoBo Cha Cha – Bubur Cha Cha is also called BoBo Cha Cha and made with a mixture of different colored tapioca pearls. http://www.singaporelocalfavourites.com/2010/08/easy-bo-bo-cha-cha-recipe.html

  

Now, to the Tamil Recipe –
  
Cheeni Kizhangu Karuppatti/ Sweet Potatoes in Palm Jaggery Syrup

  

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Ingredients
  

  • cheeni kizhangu/sweet potatoes – 1/2 kg
  • karuppatti/palm jaggery – 1/4 kg
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • water – 250 ml and little more for potatoes to float

  

Method of Preparation

  
1. Wash and peel sweet potatoes

2. Cut them into circles preferably or cubes as per the size of potatoes

  

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3. In a pan, place Palm jaggery and water and heat slightly till jaggery completely dissolves

4. Filter the liquid as Cane or Palm jaggery always consist impurities/mud

5. Take this liquid in a wide and hard bottomed pan and add dry ginger powder and cardamom powder

  

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6. Add the cut sweet potatoes and add little more water if potatoes don’t have enough syrup to float

  

7. Slow cook sweet potatoes in the Palm syrup till done

 
 
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8. Pressure cooking would result in mashed potatoes; Slow cooking the pieces in the syrup not only enhances the flavor but also helps in perfectly soft and spoon-able pieces

9. By the time the potatoes are cooked, the syrup would have thickened a bit

10. Yet there would be enough syrup for the sweet potatoes to float in

11. Enjoy this delicious sweet hot or cold.

  

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Note:
  

  1. If you have access to different colored sweet potatoes, just indulge – do not worry about the color.
  2. If there is no Palm jaggery available, try using powdered Palm sugar available in Thai markets, or use any unrefined cane sugar or jaggery.  No white sugar here please.
  3. If the potatoes are huge in size – slice in halves, if the circles turn out to be too big
  4. If preferred, this sweet can also be converted into a Payasam/Kheer, with the addition of coconut milk (like the Indonesian Biji Sala)

Ulundhankali/Black Gram Pudding – To my daughter with Love

May 11, 2016 Leave a comment

 

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Ulundhankali/Ulundhu kali/Ulundhamkali – these are different ways of spelling out a super healthy sweet. It translates as Black Gram Pudding. It is a black gram-palm jaggery sweet from Tamilnadu, made especially for young girls during those special days of the menstrual cycle.

  
Ulundhu or Uluntham-paruppu means Black Gram

  
Kali is the word for a thick/sticky pudding. Take note not to pronounce it as ‘Kaali’ with a double ‘a’, which denotes the Hindu Goddess or Shakti of India.

Kali is pronounced as –

‘Ka’ as in Kabab or Kanji with ‘a’ as short vowel and

‘Li as in muesli or vermicelli.

As gentle as its name, this pudding is also very soft in consistency. But, the soft yet thick pudding can play different roles in the healthy life of a girl as a tasty sweet as well as a medicine.

Girls grow up to play several roles in the society… Of course that stands good for boys too. No gender bias here. But, as tradition goes and in reality, the healthy balance of the different roles played by women is directly related not only to their own well-being and sound health, but to the well-being of their families too.

When a girl says good-bye to childhood and is ready for the next phase, the organs responsible for her ability to continue the beautiful process of Procreation need additional focus. That responsibility of making her healthy to be part of branching the family tree, lies in the hands of mothers and grand-mothers, who were little girls long long ago.

  

pudding or sweet ball, as preferred

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One of the key elements to sound reproductive health has been transferred from generation to generation through a few kitchen tricks. Ulundhankali or Black gram Pudding is one element of those handing-over strategies. One doesn’t know when this started. Hence, a tiny bit of imagination to understand… When my great grand mother became a big girl, her mother gave her ulundhamkali, taught by her grandmother in order to –

a. keep the hip bones strong,
b. completely cleanse the uterus after every menstrual cycle,
c. thereby develop her uterus without fibroid and cysts.

That is why, when the monthly cycle is done, we are given Black Gram Rice with Sesame Seed Chutney (refer – dosaikal.com/blackgramrice-sesame seed chutney) and this Kali/Black Gram Pudding. These foods are believed to act as uterus cleansers.

No written records here…. Only stories of information passed on by word of mouth from mothers to daughters. The making and consuming of ‘Kali’ starts with early teenage and goes on till menopausal stage of every woman.

The long generational chain hasn’t been cut till now and so the information thread is well intact.  So, this recipe of Ulundhankali is in honour of mothers, grand mothers and great grand mothers who have passed on the torch of good health to the daughters of their home.

So, here it is…. KALI – an exceptional recipe for the most precious princess and angel of my life. A mother’s contribution in making a Princess transform into a Majestic Queen!

  
The goodness of ingredients
  

The goodness of Kali lies in the most important three ingredients that go in the making. Each of the ingredients is rich in nutrient value and what impresses me the most, is the thought process that went into making such a balanced food, that aids in the core well being of the core member of each household. Especially, starting it off at an early age to proceed smoothly into the consecutive phases of adulthood in the journey of life.

  

black gram – whole or split but with skin

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Ulundham Paruppu/Black Gram: The health notes on Black gram, which is the main ingredient of this simple 3 ingredient pudding, has already been discussed in – dosaikal.com/black gram rice with sesame chutney

  

karuppatti/palm jaggery

  

Health benefits of palm jaggery –

  

  1. high in energy and low in calories compared to white sugar
  2. rich in iron and helps fight anemia
  3. regulates liver functions
  4. symptoms of PMS like fatigue, irritability, weakness and muscle spasms can all be regulated with jaggery
  5. can boost the immune system and fight germs and infections. Regular intake can increase the resistance power of the body
  6. the potassium present in jaggery is vital for healthy nervous system functions and helps in smooth functioning http://www.diyhealthremedy.com/14-great-health-benefits-of-palm-jaggery/

  

nallennai/gingelly oil or sesame oil

  
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Wellness aspects of sesame seeds have been posted in dosaikal.com/black gram rice with sesame chutney.

In the making of Kali,  sesame seed oil, which is called Nallennai in Tamil and Gingelly Oil or cold pressed Sesame Seed oil acts as a binding agent of the sticky pudding. The gingelly oil used for cooking and cosmetic purposes in the southern part of India, was cold pressed oil. Not very sure whether today’s store bought, packaged Nallennai/Gingelly oil still uses traditional ways of low heat extraction. But, a satisfying sight is the ‘Chekku’ or traditional oil extracting machines newly cropping up in the cities of Tamilnadu.

  
 Cold Pressed Sesame Oil

Cold-pressed sesame oil is a good source of vitamin E, containing 11.8 mg of the vitamin for every 100 g of the oil. Vitamin E gives sesame oil its antioxidant property. It also has a high concentration of fatty acids, including polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids and monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acids. Other constituents of cold-pressed sesame oil include zinc, copper, magnesium, calcium and iron as well as vitamin B-6. Zinc contributes to healthy bones; copper is good for the management of rheumatoid arthritis; calcium is essential for the prevention of osteoporosis, migraine and colon cancer; and magnesium contributes to respiratory health. http://www.livestrong.com/article/498331-cold-pressed-sesame-oil-benefits/

  

The ‘Chekku Yennai’ or grinding sesame seeds with a pestle and extracting oil with no high temperature setting is the traditional-goodness filled oil extracting method.
  

Alarming fact of present day refined oils –
  

The modern method of oil extraction involves supplying a lot of heat. The oilseed is first crushed, and the pulp is heated under pressure. As a result, almost all the oil is extracted.

The downside is that the oil is heated up to temperatures of 230 degree centigrade. Heating it to such high temperatures alters the properties of the oil molecules in unfavourable ways (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons  are formed at high temperatures which are carcinogenic) – and strips it off of its nutritional value.

For optimum extraction of oil, a solvent is added, in this case, hexane. The hazards of exposure to hexane are many – including dermatitis and CNS depression – depending upon the quantity of hexane inhaled or ingested. http://www.thealternative.in/lifestyle/cold-pressed-oil-switch-refined-oil-much-healthier-alternative/

  

KALI – Research and Development
  

red rice and black gram

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The first step in making Kali is making a powder out of Black Gram. Roasted Black gram is milled to a fine powder.

The traditional method of making Kali is by cooking the powder directly with Palm Jaggery water and Gingelly oil with constant stirring. This might take hours and result in a beautifully darkened, glossy Kali, with the addition of sore fingers and aching elbows and shoulders.

Aachis and Ammas (grandmothers and mothers) never bothered about their aches those days. And after all, making this pudding is all about that – reducing muscular, joint aches and strengthening bones. Might be they had an extra bowl of the strengthening KALI, to treat the after-effects – their aches.

After thorough analysis of the condition of our already very strong bones and muscles (so many stories of chiropractors and physio-therapists that we visit these days before 40), the elders of our households have devised an easier version of the extensive process of Kali Making.

The new found result after research comprises two main changes –

1. Mixing red rice to the black gram while making a powder – to aid in a ‘not so sticky’ paste;
2. Pressure cooking the three main ingredients – which drastically reduces the time involved in the making of kali.

After this simplified process, the Kali mixture (red rice-black gram powder cooked in palm jaggery water) is again cooked well in a pan with oil but with reduced stirring and brought to the right consistency. No complaints of joint aches and muscle pulls while making Kali anymore.

The introduction of red rice has reduced the trouble further. As mentioned previously, Ulundhamkali is usually made with ulundhu/black gram alone. But the sticky texture might be hard to handle sometimes. And might result in a burnt or lumpy semi-solid in the cooker. The addition of red rice (better than processed white rice) blends the mixture into a sticky cake in the cooker. This would be easily removable from the pressure cooker and transferred into the hard bottomed chatti/pan. Lastly, the sticky pudding is cooked well with gingelly oil.

The last ingredient which is the gingelly oil, helps bringing the sticky paste to a beautifully glowing glossy pudding. The end product ‘Kali’ can also be made into ‘urundai’ or sweet balls, easy for children.

  

Ulundhankali/Black Gram Kali – Palm Jaggery Pudding

  

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Step I

  
Making the Kali Powder

  

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  • muzhu ulundhu/black gram (split or whole but with skin intact) – 1 cup – 100gms
  • Sivapparisi/Red rice – 1/2 cup – 50 gms

  

  1. Dry roast black gram and red rice separately till a beautiful roasted aroma comes out
  2. Milling is the best as a fine powder yields better pudding. When there are no chances of milling, powder both together in a mixer and filter to remove coarse lentil-rice particles
  3. Use the fine powder alone for making kali; No compromises here
  4. The left over coarse powder can be used for any other dosais

  

Step II
  
Making Kali
  
Ingredients

  • ulundhu-arisi maavu combo/black gram-red rice powder combo – 1 cup or 100gms
  • karuppatti/palm jaggery – 150 gms
  • thanneer/water – 2 cups
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp (my optional inclusion)
  • nallennai/gingelly oil – 1/2 cup (little more or little less, but more the better)

  

Method of Preparation
  

1. Let 150 gms palm jaggery dissolve in 2 cups of water; Strain it
  

2. Mix 1 cup of Kali powder in strained Palm jaggery water
  

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3. Pour the mixture into a cooking utensil with 2 tsp nallennai/gingelly oil
  

4. Pressure cook in the separate cooking utensil inside the cooker – After the first whistle, reduce flame and let cook for 5 minutes
  

Note: Never cook the mixture in direct pressure cooker as the palm jaggery would burn and kali would stick to the cooker. Pressure cook in a separate utensil inside the cooker base with water to avoid burning. Yet, the mixture would be sticky but no burnt jaggery here

  

5. When done, remove from the cooker and transfer the cooked mixture into a hard bottomed pan with gingelly oil
  

sticky mixture from the cooker

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6. Keep stirring well till the sticky mixture reaches a non-sticky consistency
  

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7. The beauty of the glowing Kali after addition of oil is certainly a remarkable feat
  

oil needs to get incorporated well to lose its sticky texture

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8. It is just right to serve when the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom and scoops out well in a ladle .
  

hurray!

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Enjoy Kali feeding your young ones. Additionally, Kali is also suitable for all, as it aids in keeping our bones stronger.

So, I mention again… this was it…. KALI – an exceptional recipe for the most precious princess and angel of my life. A mother’s contribution in making a Princess transform into a Majestic Queen!

The Macaroons of Thoothukudi – Cashewnut Goodies from Coastal Tamilnadu!

April 17, 2016 1 comment

 

the beautiful macaroon biscuits

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The memory of soft, crunchy, melting macaroons summarizes the good old days of Thaatha Veedu or Grandpa’s house. Those were the days we had little or no concern on the fat intake. Just open the flavorful boxes of Ivory Macaroons of Thoothukudi and gobble five to six at one go…this was a normal event. Macaroons to me are synonymous to many many more childhood memories, richly associated with grandparents and a big gang of an extended family.
 
Nostalgia knows no currency. The simplest kodukkapuli (twisted tamarind) and the arunellikkai (small gooseberries) from the road side vendor outside school, the kuchi ice (stick ice-cream) from the mobile ice-cream man that we got for Rs.1 each and the elite macaroons that thaatha used to send with us after our summer holidays bring in the same ever green memories of the very special home town alike.
 
There is no record of the time of introduction to macaroon biscuits while we belong to the coastal city of Thoothukudi. When our digestive system became strong enough for semi-solid food, a pinch of powdered macaroons must have gone in between our toothless jaws. The rest of the story of consuming several kilogrammes of macaroons before completion of schooling is history.

 

True, we would have had countless macaroons, without knowing how it is made. We might not have known how and with what ingredients half of the snacks or goodies we consumed were made of. But with macaroons the case is different. Especially a vegetarian family, enjoying macaroons which are purely made of egg whites and sugar, could be a trend setting relaxation to conservative ideologies.
 
The good fortune of having made so many lives smile after giving them a packed box of exclusive macaroon biscuits from our home town as gift is enough for our family for many more generations to come. Seems exaggerated?? Could be… But such is the elevated position of ‘The Macaroon Biscuit’ in Thoothukudi.

  

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Ignorance is Bliss
 
On a lighter side, after so many years, what makes me jittery is the thought of giving the same box of beautifully shaped conical goodies to so many hard core vegetarian families –  both the giver and the receiver – unaware of the kilograms of egg whites gone into the box of macaroon biscuits, specially brought as a souvenir from Thoothukudi.  Now, Sharing, Caring and making people Happy are some of the greatest Virtues in life you can provide to the world. By this logic, I think we have done only good to those we delivered the Ivory Macaroon Biscuits. I tell to myself – “It’s something like having cakes, pastries and many more mousses taking no count of the eggs or the gelatin involved in the making.”

This long personal story is just not enough to emphasize the special place of  ‘macaroons of Thoothukudi’ in my life. Macaroons have played different roles in our intake of sweets and snacks. They could be the after school snack, dessert of the day, special goodies for friends and visiting dear ones, comfort snack during hunger pranks, the most elite souvenir and what not?..  Judge it junk or not junk… Macaroons are beyond all those jargons.

If the reader is reminded of advertisements that concentrate on persuading the customers to buy their product on all occasions, this is truly unintentional.

  
Ivory Macaroons

  

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I call them the Ivory Macaroons due to the color. The ivory color of the macaroons, comes from the Cashew nut powder added to the Egg-white and sugar mixture. While French macarons come in varied colors, Thoothukudi macaroons are solely ivory in color and there is no addition to diversify the true cashew nutty flavor.

  

History of Macaroons in the Southern City of Tamilnadu (India)

Before writing on the making of Macaroons, here is a brief note on the history of the very important Pearl Harbour in Thoothukudi, one of the essential gateways of colonial traders into down south Tamilnadu and the connection of Thoothukudi Macaroons to Meringue, Macaron and Macaroons.

If this tests your patience – Feel free to skip please!

Now, how did Macaroons come to the southern tip of India, from the countries it is believed to have originated? The origins of Macaroons in Thoothukudi must be surely the result of the Colonial Connection. Apart from the cane/palm jaggery based traditional sweets exclusive to down south districts of Tamilnadu, Thoothukudi has always been famous for its bakery products – be it the plum cake or the nutty caramel toffee.

  
Thoothukudi Sea port

For more evidences on the colonial connection of the city –

The Thoothukudi sea port is an ancient port, very resourceful due to its Pearl Fishing opportunities. From ancient times and during the 16th to 19th century ACE and still a source of strong economy for Pearl Fishing, the city of Thoothukudi is hence called ‘Pearl City’.
 
As a Pearl Fishing Port,

Thoothukudi was occupied by the Portuguese from 1500 ACE to 1658 ACE –

    

There were several flourishing trading centres and ports along the Pearl Fishery Coast. Thoothukudi was the headquarters and it was given its due political, commercial and cultural importance by the Portuguese. It is situated almost at the centre of the Pearl Fishery Coast. The annual pearl fishing was undertaken from here. All the islands are spread out before Thoothukudi. It (Thoothukudi) was strategically important in the sense, that the Portuguese could control Sri Lanka from here due to its proximity.

  

Occupied by the Dutch from 1658 ACE to 1796 ACE –

    

The Dutch increased their presence on the Fishery Coast, taking possession of towns, forts and ships of the Portuguese. Eventually, the Dutch attacked and captured the Portuguese headquarters at Tuticorin in 1658, bringing to an end the 133-year Portuguese rule over the Fishery Coast. The Dutch East India Company now took control of the entire Fishery Coast, all its seaports, the pearl fisheries.

    

And occupied by the British from 1796 ACE till independence in 1947.

With the Dutch and British Rule extended over centuries, there is little doubt on the import of the sugary macaroons into the Port City. But, for the search of specifics, this topic would need an extensive research. Please do let me know of any books or information on the travel of Meringues or Macaroons to South India.

  

The Origins of the Original Macaroon and its connection with Meringue, Macaron and Macaroon

 
The details learnt from other blogs and websites on the above mentioned trio have been included here purely for the purpose of understanding Macaroons. While trying to know important facts on Macaroons, facts on Meringues become unavoidable. This has helped in better comprehension of the shape of Thoothukudi Macaroons closer to Meringues and the Recipe which belongs to Macarons.

Now, the three words Meringue, Macaron and Macaroon are closely connected and often confused to be the same. Especially for those, who are always elated with their ‘Thoothukudi Mecroon Biscuits’, macaroon or macaron or even a macaroni  could just be spelling errors.

But the western world doesn’t think so and wouldn’t want the world to think that’s a mis-spelt word.  Search the world wide web and all beautiful details unwrap before you.

  
Meringue:

Meringue is the simplest of the three, with egg white and sugar whipped to stiff peaks and baked. Swiss, French and the Italian Meringue have their differences in technique but the basic ingredients remain the same.

The book ‘Meringue’ by Linda K. Jackson and Jennifer Evans Gardner talks elaborately on the the history and science of meringue,

    

Larousse Gastronomique, The New American Edition of the World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia:

“Some historians of cookery believe that the meringue was invented by a Swiss pastry cook called Gasparini, who practiced his art in the small town of Meiringen (now in East Germany). Others maintain that the word comes from the Polish word marzynka and that the preparation was invented by a chef in the service of King Stanislas I Leszcyński, who later became Duke of Lorraine. The king passed on the recipe to his daughter, Marie, who introduced it to the French. Queen Marie Antoinette had a great liking for meringues and court lore has it that she made them with her own hands at the Trianon, where she is also said to have made vacherins, which are prepared from a similar mixture.”

http://boingboing.net/2012/09/04/the-history-and-science-of-mer.html

    
While wikepedia links Douglas Muster’s research on Meringues to a site called http://www.inmamaskitchen.com, I couldn’t get any details on Muster on Meringue from the link.  But in http://www.epicureanpiranha.com/2012/meringue-musings-and-history/, the writer talks of Douglas Muster’s book and states –

‘Muster’s research surprisingly points to England as the country of origin’.

and gives a detailed analysis of Muster’s claim to Meringue as a product of England.

    

Lady Elinor Fettiplace (c. 1570 – c. 1647) provides the earliest written evidence in what was described as a small bound manuscript, dated 1604, with a short recipe for what she called “white bisket bread”, made with a pound & a half of sugar, & an handfull of fine white flower, the whites of twelve eggs beaten verie finelie, proportions which are still in use today! The quantity of flour is so small that it could be compared to the addition of cornstarch in some of today’s recipes.

Lady Rachel Fane (1612/13 – 1680), who lived quite a distance (given the period in question) from Lady Fettiplace, provides a similar recipe for what she called “Pets”, a name still occasionally used to refer to meringues in the Loire region in France.

Despite having been written in the vernacular of the day and being referred to by different names, these two recipes can easily be understood and currently constitute the earliest known, documented proof of meringue being prepared.

http://www.epicureanpiranha.com/2012/meringue-musings-and-history/

    

By this, did the artistically shaped Meringue originate in Britain?? So, the British influence brought the so called Macaroon Biscuits into Thoothukudi?

Now, why write more on the Meringue?? Because Meringues seem to be closest in shape to the Macaroons of Thoothukudi.

  

meringue – closest in shape to our macaroons

basic-meringues-9945_l

image courtesy: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/14029/basic+meringues
  
Macaroons and Macarons

After many blogs specifying the differences between Macaroons and Macarons, http://www.popsugar.com/food/Macarons-vs-Macaroons-8038818  seemed to give a clear description of both.
    
Macaron –
  
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A macaron specifically refers to a meringue-based cookie made with almond flour, egg whites, and granulated and powdered sugar, then filled with buttercream, ganache or fruit curd. The delicate treat has a crunchy exterior and a weightless interior with a soft ending that’s almost nougat like in its chewiness. To add to the confusion, it’s often called a French macaroon.

  
Macaroon –

 

macaroonsimage courtesy: https://lehungryotter.com/2012/09/09/macarons-not-macaroons/

  
In contrast, the word macaroon is a generic phrase that is applied to a number of small, sweet confections. Mostly, the term is equated with the moist and dense coconut macaroon, which is composed of egg whites, sugar, and dried coconut, often piped with a star-shaped tip, and sometimes dipped in chocolate. The coconut macaroon, or congolais, as it’s known in France, is frequently served during Passover because it contains no flour.

Definition Courtesy: http://www.popsugar.com/food/Macarons-vs-Macaroons-8038818
  
In a state of confused conclusion, what could be derived is –

  1. Having seen the shapes of Meringue, Macaron and Macaroons, Thoothukudi Macaroon Biscuits are closer in shape and design to Meringue.
  2. Macarons which are a blend of basic ingredients – egg whites, sugar and almond flour have lended their original recipe in the making of the South Indian Delicacy, with the inclusion of the local cashewnut from down south tamilnadu, instead of almond flour.
  3. Macaroons, as mentioned as a generic phrase to the egg white-sugar confections, have given the name to our beloved macaroon biscuits.

  

Visit to Thoothukudi

During our recent trip to Thoothukudi, I had the opportunity to visit one of the popular bakeries of the city, Ganesh Bakery to see the making of the Elite Macaroons.

 

 

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With new and innovative equipment available, making of Macaroons has become easier in a larger scale. But still, the bakers prefer the old fashioned fire wood ovens for its authentic taste.

  
Making of Macaroons

The Bakery made Macaroon Recipe is for bulk consumption and hence wouldn’t suit a home baker. As for me, I haven’t tried my hands after my first flop.

I found a good and seemingly perfect recipe in http://www.youtoocancook.net/2013/03/thoothukudi-macaroons-south-indian.html, where the pictures show a successful recipe.  This recipe is borrowed from the above mentioned blog.

  
Ingredients (makes 20)

  • egg whites – 2 no.s (at room temperature)
  • sugar – 120 gms powdered
  • cashewnut powder – 100 gms coarsely powdered

  

Method of Preparation

  1. Follow the below described picture wise procedure in making the batter.
  2. Preheat oven at 150 degrees C
  3. Bake the macaroons in 100 degrees C for 10 minutes.

  

This is a step-by-step procedure that the bakery personnel, led by their supervisory head showed us –

  

  1. First step – Beating egg whites

  
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beaten well

  

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to stiff peaks..

  

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2. Sugar is mixed –

  

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the egg white – sugar batter is still foamy-
  
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3.  Then the quintessential cashew nut powder is added. No beater here and notice the color change of batter from white to ivory.

  

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4. Batter is ready and is stuffed into piping cones-

  

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5. These are the strong hands that make the beautiful conical delicacy..
  
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with great speed…

  

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and greater accuracy and consistency….

  

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6. Macaroons are ready to be baked…

  
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7. Finally baked right to be tasted.

  

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The Colonial Remainder in Thotthukudi Macaroon Biscuit is a true delight for the sweet toothed. The beauty of the elegantly shaped Macaroon could easily be one of its kind in the Indian Baker’s Wish List. Not known to many in many other parts of the country, the legacy of the exclusive biscuits is carried forward only through its true connoisseurs. The original recipe still remains unchanged not only due to these connoisseurs but also due to those ignorant citizens who haven’t laid their hands in altering the taste.

I wouldn’t want my Thoothukudi Macaroons to have a twist of taste like the French Macarons, with added fillings and flavors. In this case, truly Ignorance is Bliss!

Home made Healthy Caramel Popcorn (with palm jaggery) – A Promise Kept!

April 9, 2016 2 comments

 
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While on our recent flight, when my daughter asked for a caramel popcorn snack, I obviously restricted her not only due to the white sugar caramel.. but I could imagine a long list of unnecessary components dancing their way into the box. I was and am truly scared of the butter… too much salt… baking soda…. corn syrup… preserving agents and other unknown ingredients in the pack. I know I sound quite obsessed with healthy food. And as always, I promised her to make a healthier version of Caramel Popcorn at home.

 
Though in a while relaxing my obsession, I bought her a pack of caramel popcorn and tasted to find the original taste and texture of it. Crispy, buttery, salty, perfectly sweetened with caramelized sugar –  it definitely tasted good. Reading the ingredients, I couldn’t control the guilt of having those unwanted preservatives and unknown elements included in the pack to increase its shelf life.

 
Now, to keep up the promise..(by the way, I am approximately 75% good at keeping up my healthy promises in the kitchen), I decided to try a healthy caramel popcorn version not altering the taste of the packed junk that we had.

 
Off late, I have been quite successful in making peanut and sesame candies with jaggery syrup. With that confidence of getting the right syrup consistency, I went to fetch cane jaggery from my storage. In a corner, I saw the ‘chukku karuppatti’ specially bought from Thiruchendur Temple.

 

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Chukku Karuppatti is a flavourful/healthy combination of palm jaggery and dry ginger, moulded for storage in a hand-made palm leaf box. It is a household remedy for cold, cough and indigestion. So, you guessed right… caramel would be made from ‘chukku karuppatti’ – ‘dry ginger palm jaggery’ – that would aid in digestion too!

 
Here’s how I made it .. from scratch… with dry corn and no added ingredients. I prefer the taste of popped corn made from the humble pressure cooker than one made in a microwave.
  

Palm Sugar Caramel Popcorn – flavoured with dry ginger

 

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Ingredients
 
for pop-corn

  • dried corn (to pop-up) – 1 cup
  • oil – 1 tsp
  • salt – 1/2 tsp

 

pressure cooker popcorn

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for caramel
 

  • chukku karuppatti/palm jaggery with dry ginger – 1/2 cup

Cane Jaggery can also be substituted for Palm Jaggery
 

healthy brown syrup

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Method of Preparation
 

coating popcorn in palm syrup

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  1. Melt 1/2 cup palm sugar in 1/4 cup water either in minimum heat or by just stirring
  2. Keep the palm sugar aside at this melted level
  3. Before making caramel, it is better to make popcorn as the thickened syrup would harden quickly
  4. In a pressure cooker, take 1 tsp oil and salt; add dry corn and mix well
  5. Close the lid without the whistle and let the corn pop up in a few minutes
  6. Pop corn is ready
  7. Open the lid and keep aside and start making caramel
  8. For caramel, in a wide bottomed pan, take the already melted palm sugar and make a two string consistency syrup
  9. If one feels the quantity of syrup is too much for the quantity of popped corn, take the extra syrup and store for any other candy next time
  10. Immediately add the popcorn in the syrup and mix well
  11. Crispy Caramel Popcorn is ready
  12. Cool and store in an airtight container.

 

 

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It is truly a great feeling of satisfaction and pride to have fulfilled a promise given to your young one!

 

Thirukkaarthigai and Pori Urundai/Festival of Lights and Puffed Rice Sweet Balls

November 26, 2015 Leave a comment

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Thirukkarthigai was celebrated yesterday – 25.11.15. This is one of the ancient festivals of Tamilnadu and originally the Festival of Lights. It calls for decorating the house with lamps. A detail post on thirukkarthigai was written in 2011. Refer – dosaikal.com/thirukkaarthigai

  
There are various sweets prepared for different festive occasions- it can be a mix and match affair as far as the sweets are concerned. But there are certain specific delicacies for specific festivals. ‘Pori’ or Puffed Rice forms a basic part of Thirukkaarthigai. It takes the name of the festival and is called ‘Kaarthigai Pori’.

  

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In the previous post on Thirukkaaarthigai or Kaarthigai Deepam, I had tried Pori Urundai or Puffed Rice Jaggery Balls but had not been successful. Hence, it was converted into uthiri pori or sweetened puffed rice.

This time I was successful and could make Pori Urundais because of the right consistency of jaggery syrup.Graduating from a learner to a better learner, this time ‘Maavilakku’ or the lamp made with rice flour also came out better shaped, certified ‘good’ by my daughter. What else one needs as good marks from your child!
  
To the recipe-
  
Pori Urundai

  

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Ingredients (makes approximately 30 balls)
  

  • pori/puffed rice – 5 cups
  • vellam/jaggery – 1 cup
  • thanneer/water – 1/2 cup
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp
  • nei/ghee – to grease hands

  

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Method of Preparation
  

  1. Keep puffed rice in a wide bottomed bowl, enough to mix jaggery syrup
  2. Take Jaggery in a pan with water and heat till jaggery dissolves
  3. Strain jaggery to remove mud which is generally present
  4. Keep the strained jaggery water on stove and add cardamom powder and dry ginger powder
  5. Boil till it becomes a thick syrup and reaches a consistency where it forms a ball when dropped in water – this is called uruttu padham in tamil

  

  

6. When the syrup reaches proper consistency, pour into puffed rice bowl and mix well with a ladle
  
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7. Adjust the quantity of puffed rice according to the syrup

8. Grease both hands with little clarified butter/ghee and make medium sized balls

9. Pori Urundai is ready.
  
Note:
  

  1. The puffed rice can be moulded into balls only if the consistency of jaggery syrup is right.
  2. If the rice mixture turns hard after a while, keep on stove and reheat till it melts a bit and continue making again.
  3. If the pori has become crispy with syrup and is unable to be moulded, the syrup has crossed the required consistency. In such case, enjoy uthiri pori or fried sweet puffed rice.
  4. Adjust the quantity of pori as per need while mixing the syrup. I needed to mix at least 1/2 cup more to bring it to right ratio.
  5. Pori Urundai cannot be made with sugar; Jaggery is the only sweetener. Or one can try palm sugar.
  6. Dry ginger powder aids in easy digestion and helps especially in case of over-eating.
  7. If the puffed rice is not crispy and is a bit soft, dry roast before making urundais/sweet balls.

  

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Divine Marriage and the Homely Feast! – Ellu Saadham/Sesame Rice

November 19, 2015 Leave a comment

  
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Skanda Sashti Fasting is devoted to Lord Murugan, the Tamil God. After 6 days of fasting, the seventh day is the fast opening day or the Feast Day. The evening of the 6th day, Lord Murugan kills the demon Suran. After the defeat, the seventh day is his day of marriage. For more details on skanda sashti and the drink paanagam read – dosaikal.com/sashti and paanagam

After defeating the demon, Lord Murugan marries Devayanai the next day – it is called the Thirukkalyanam – or the sacred marriage. After six days of fasting, every family has a feast on Lord Murugan’s marriage – with six kinds of mixed rice delicacies – Kalavai Saadham or Viragina Saatham which literally means mixed rice. dosaikal.com/sashti feast

Today (18.11.2015) being the day of marriage, it called for some celebration at home. To start the day, I made Sarkkarai Pongal – Sweet Jaggery Rice (refer – dosaikal.com/sarkkarai pongal)
  
Since it is tradition to make six kinds of rices, I made –

  1. sarkkarai pongal – sweet jaggery rice (dosaikal/sarkkarai pongal)
  2. elumichai saadham – lemon rice (dosaikal/elumichai saadham)
  3. puliyodharai/puli saadham – tamarind rice (yet to post)
  4. ellu saadham – sesame rice
  5. sambaar saadham – mixed sambaar rice (dosaikal/sambaar)
  6. thayir saadham – curd rice (dosaikal/thayir saadham)

and roasted potato dry curry to go with the rice varieties.

So, its time to share Ellu Saadham/Sesame Rice, a very simple and quick meal.
  
Ellu Saadham/Sesame Rice

  

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Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • saadham/cooked rice – 2 cups
  • ellu/sesame seeds (white or black) – 4 tblsp
  • ulundham paruppu/dehusked black gram – 2 tblsp
  • milagai vatral/dry red chillies – 4 no.s
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • perungayam/asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
  • uppu/salt – to taste
  • nallennai/gingelly oil – 4 tsp
  • kariveppilai/curry leaves – few leaves

  

black gram, red chillies and sesame seeds

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sesame rice powder and cooked rice

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Method of Preparation

  1. Cook rice till grains are soft and separate, but not mushy
  2. Spread on a plate and let it cool

  
Sesame Seed Powder

  1. In a pan, take 1 tsp oil and fry black gram and red chillies
  2. Once the black gram turns golden brown, remove from pan
  3. Fry the sesame seeds till they turn golden brown and remove from pan
  4. Cool the fried ingredients and dry grind in a blender with dry ginger powder, salt and asafoetida powder
  5. The mix powder is ready

  
Sesame Rice

  1. Pour 3 tsp gingelly oil preferably, on rice; this helps in even mixing of the dry powder
  2. Mix the powder in rice thoroughly till blended well.
  3. Fry curry leaves in minimum oil and mix in the rice.

  

  

Note:

  1. Black or White Sesame Seeds can be used.
  2. Gingelly Oil which is made from Sesame seeds is preferable. But other oils can also be used.
  3. One or two tsp of grated coconut can also fried and grinded together with the dry ingredients.
  4. Seasoning with mustard seeds can also be done with curry leaves.

Pottukkadalai-Nilakkadalai Urundai/Roasted Channa-Groundnut Laddu

November 10, 2015 Leave a comment

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Happy Diwali!

Any happy festival is made happier when it is made healthy too. With varied sweets and snacks to eat and greet, it is also important to include a few healthy sweets and snacks to reduce the damage already created by fatty intake of delicacies. After all the goodies have been stuffed and the digestive system has had over loaded duty to perform,  there is always the kashayam/poshion for stomach cleaning (dosaikal.com/deepavali kashayam), which is given as a damage control mechanism.

Yet, this is my contribution to a healthy sweet for the festival of lights, especially suitable for kids and due to the Clarified Butter/Ghee content- in limitations for adults too.
  
Pottukkadalai/Nilakkadalai Urundai/Roasted Channa-Groundnut Laddu (Sweet Ball)

  

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These Urundais/sweet balls are made in combination with roasted channa, peanuts and palm sugar all in powder form.  It is an easy to make sweet as well as high in nutritional value due to the protein rich chick pea and peanuts. White refined sugar has been avoided as they have only empty calories. Palm sugar which is rich in iron and other minerals is an added source of nutrition in the recipe. If powdered palm sugar is not available, cane jaggery syrup, palm jaggery syrup or unrefined cane sugar which is ‘Naattu Sarkkarai’ in Tamil can be used.
  
Pottukkadalai/Roasted Channa

  

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Pottukkadalai is Roasted Channa, also called Chutney Dhal in the northern part of India. It gets this name as it is directly used to make chutneys/dips without the burden of frying/roasting the lentil at home. It is had as a simple teatime nibbler too in Tamilnadu. Combined with pieces of coconut and jaggery it can be a healthy munch suitable to curb hunger between meals.

    

  1. They are naturally fat-free, saturated fat-free, and sodium-free. Roasted chana helps lower your risk of heart disease and may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
  2. They help to keep blood sugar low as the carbohydrate present in them takes longer time to digest and hence it has a low GI which makes them a suitable snack for diabetics.
  3. Use them to add a protein boost to meals without introducing meat or unnecessary fat to the dish.
  4. Roasted chana contain 6 grams of dietary fiber, or 22 percent of the recommended daily requirement of 28 grams. Dietary fiber encourages regular bowel movements, prevents constipation and lessens the risk of heart disease.
  5. They are also a good source of calcium, potassium and magnesium.http://www.tarladalal.com/glossary-roasted-chana-1800i

    

Nilakkadalai/Peanuts

  

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Here are a few nutritional facts of groundnuts or peanuts-
    

  1. They are actually legumes but carry almost all the qualities of other popular edible kernels such as pistachio, almonds, etc.
  2. They compose sufficient levels of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), especially oleic acid. MUFA helps lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good cholesterol” level in the blood
  3. The kernels are an excellent source of vitamin E (a-tocopherol);
  4. The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. 100 g of peanuts provide about 85% of RDI of niacin, which contribute to brain health and blood flow to brain.
  5. The nuts are rich source of minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
  6. Just a handful of peanuts per day provides enough recommended levels of phenolic anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins, and protein.
    http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/peanuts.html

    

Pottukkadalai-Nilakkadalai Urundai/Roasted Channa-Peanut Laddu/Sweet Balls

  

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Ingredients (makes appr. 20-22 urundais)

  

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  • pottukkadalai/roasted channa – 1 1/2 cup
  • nilakkadalai/peanut – 1 1/2 cup
  • palm sugar (powder) – 1 1/2 cup
  • elakkai/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp
  • nei/clarified butter – appr. 1/4 cup

  

Method of Preparation

  1. Dry roast- roasted channa and powder it in a blender
  2. Dry roast peanuts, remove skin and powder it in a blender
  3. Take a wide bowl and place all the dry powders – channa powder, peanut powder, palm sugar powder, cardamom powder and dry ginger powder and mix well
  4. Heat clarified butter in a small pan and pour on top of the powder mix.
  5. Make lemon sized balls and they are ready to enjoy.

  

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Note:

  1. Be mindful of the roasted channa. Normal raw bengal gram is not the one to be used here. Go for the roasted gram available in south-indian groceries.
  2. Palm sugar can be substituted with ‘Naatu Sarkkarai’ which is unrefined cane sugar, easily available in local stores in tamilnadu.
  3. Another substitute can be jaggery syrup or palm jaggery syrup. In that case, usage of clarified butter can be reduced as the syrups act as binding agents themselves. A little touch of ghee should be enough.

 

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