Monthly Archives: September 2011

Navaratri and the Sundal Connection (Kadalai Paruppu Sundal/Channa Dal Sundal/Bengal Gram Salad)

Navaratri is a Hindu festival of worship of Shakti or Parvathi or Durga. These are nine nights of festivities. The word Navaratri means nine nights in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning night. During these nine nights, Goddess Parvathi is worshipped in nine forms. The tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadhasami.

If it is Shivaratri for her husband Shiva, Navaratri is exclusively for Shakti. The difference is that, Mahashivaratri is celebrated on one particular night in the month of march, but navaratri for shakti is celebrated for nine days. Ofcourse, there are the monthly sivaratris. In most states of India, Durga Puja is celebrated in different names.

Navaratri is also celebrated four times a year in some parts of the country. In Tamilnadu, as far as I know, the most popular celebration of navaratri is in the month of Purattasi (September-October). One can find more details on navaratri on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navratri.

The first three days are devoted to Parvathi as she is popularly known in Tamilnadu – goddess of power, the next three days are devoted to Lakshmi – goddess of wealth, and the last three days are devoted to Saraswathi – goddess of wisdom. The tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadasami – the day goddess durga defeated the demon mahishasur and she is worshipped as Mahishasuramardhini.

Beyond these religious aspects, worship techniques or maintenance of rituals and customs, which might differ with every household, I have always been more concerned and attracted to the cultural and traditional aspects of any festival.

In Tamilnadu, the ninth day is celebrated as Saraswati Poojai and Ayudha Poojai and tenth day as Vijayadasami.

For Saraswathi Poojai, all our books would go to the Poojai Arai or Puja Room and appa would make a beautiful seating arrangement covering all the books with special new silk dhoti, on top of which the usual framed photo of goddess saraswathi with the veena on her hands would graciously sit. Sometimes we would give our gold chains to adorn saraswathi.

That day, used to be the happiest.. More because we would be instructed not to study or even read any book. Suddenly by noon, I would feel so bad not studying or reading my favourite magazines! I wouldn’t have missed my books so badly any other day!!

Ayudha Poojai would be marked by cleaning all instruments, equipments, metallic substances of day-to-day use – cycles, bikes, cars, all musical instruments at home.  Everything associated with the household or work places would be cleaned, decorated and worshipped. Agricultural equipments for a farmer, type writer in a typing class, sewing machines, an aruval (sharp big knife specially for coconuts) for a coconut vender and so on..

All new ventures would begin from Vijayadasami. Even today, some schools take in children for kindergarten sessions starting from vijayadasami day. It is believed anything started on this particular day would be successful. All forms of art classes are started from vijayadasami. Every year, on that day, we show our special gratitude to our art teachers – whom we regard as goddess saraswathi herself.

When I was very young, navaratri meant sundal everyday (can I call it cooked lentil salad?), a different one every day.. After a few years, it used to be wearing the best of pattu pavadai (traditional long skirt and top in silk) and go to other houses in the neighbourhood, sing Carnatic music in front of goddesses and not to forget – collect the day’s sundal from their house. After a while, it was more of performing at home and neighbourhood (irrespective of what the neighbours or relatives feel – we are singing for the goddesses!).

But still, more memories are stuck with the different kinds of sundals prepared and the golu decorations in some households. Navaratri in tamilnadu is very much marked with golu or kolu. Apart from the traditional kolams or colored rangolis, golu is a kind of a decoration of dolls and other beautiful innovative things. Some arrangements might have five steps, seven steps or nine steps generally or always in odd numbers. Golu would be arranged with traditional dolls collected for generations, some of the gods and goddesses, some depicting epic scenes, also some new dolls – all displayed with a sense of ethnicity and beauty. It can be called a household exhibition of innovative artistic skills.

For more details on golu, I found this website with a native touch – http://cvrajan.hubpages.com/hub/Navratri-Golu-The-Hindu-festival-of-dolls

I find this golu decoration similar to the Durga Puja Pandals in West Bengal. If those pandals are a community event and done on a large-scale through committees or organisations, the one in Tamilnadu is a household affair – innovative, ethnic, traditional and religious involvement and excitement intact.

Now, to Sundals or lentil salads!

Sundals can be associated with mainly two things – one navaratri and the other – Beach! The beaches in Chennai and other places in Tamilnadu are always remembered with the sale of different kinds of spicy, tangy sundals. On beach sundal we shall talk in another post.. Now on navaratri sundal.

There used to be no golu decoration in our house. But worship of goddesses on all days with different sundals and distribution in the neighborhood was always there. In this session, let me share making a few varieties of sundal.

Kadalai Paruppu Sundal/ Channa Dal Sundal/ Bengal Gram Salad

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • kadalai Paruppu/channa dal – 1 cup
  • onions (optional) – 1 medium
  • green chillies/red chillies or both – 2 nos
  • salt – as needed
  • oil to temper – 2 tsp
  • mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • urad dal – 1 tsp
  • curry leaves – a few
  • asafoetida – ½ spoon
  • grated coconut – 1/2 cup

Method of Preparation

  1. Soak kadalai paruppu for ½ an hour
  2. Pressure cook till just done – careful it shouldn’t be over cooked
  3. Strain the water and keep the dal separately
  4. Chop the onions fine (onions are optional – some wouldn’t prefer onions when prepared for puja)
  5. Chop green chillies or slit into two halves
  6. Heat oil in a kadai, let mustard seeds splutter
  7. Add urad dal, when it turns golden brown add curry leaves, onions and green chillies
  8. Red chillies can also be added if preferred
  9. Add the cooked kadalai paruppu and sprinkle salt
  10. Mix well and let it cook for approximately 5 minutes
  11. Be careful not to stir too much or else the dal might get mashed
  12. Sprinkle asafoetida
  13. When done sprinkle grated coconut and serve hot
  14. This can also be served as a healthy starter for dinners.

Spongy Kuzhi Paniyarams

Now, what else can be made with the wonder batter called ‘idli/dosa batter’? Idli on the first day, dosa when it becomes more sour, uthappam of different varieties (recipes shortly) and this time it is Kuzhi Paniyaram.

Although there is a separate combination and ratio for exclusive kuzhi paniyaram.. kuzhi paniyaram can be made from the same idli batter. This works out to be an excellent starter with very little oil if made from non-stick paniyaram mould. They can also be a breakfast snack or a light dinner snack. These are no-risk options during travel – would remain soft and don’t need refrigeration to keep them fresh.

Kuzhi Paniyaram belongs to Chettinad cuisine – a very popular cuisine belonging to the chettinad area of tamilnadu and hugely popular around the world for its spicy, aromatic flavour . The traditional kuzhi paniyara chatti or kuzhi paniyarakkal or the kuzhi paniyaram mould is made of cast iron and gives the exotic taste of grandma’s kitchen.. but with more concern on oil intake, the non-stick ones are a better option.

Paniyaram means a snack and kuzhi means hole or pit. The snack is made from a mould with holes and the final product is in the shape of a soft small ball – depending upon the depth of the kuzhi. The common kuzhi paniyaram mould has seven holes.

Kuzhi Paniyaram is popular in all the southern states of india in various names. In the Netherlands, the Poffertjes resemble kuzhi paniyarams. Poffertjes are soft, fluffy pancakes made of buck wheat flour and yeast. They are served with powdered sugar and butter. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poffertjes). I tried the sweet version of south indian kuzhi paniyaram in the dutch poffertjes mould and found the difference is only in the depth of the mould.

There can be sweet or salted spicy paniyarams. Now we make spiced kuzhi paniyaram or the kara paniyaram.

dutch poffertjes mould and kuzhi paniyara chatti

 

Kuzhi Paniyaram

Ingredients

paniyaram batter

 

Method of Preparation

  1. Take the required quantity of idli batter in a vessel
  2. Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan
  3. Add mustard seeds and when it splutters add urad dal
  4. When urad dal is golden brown, add finely chopped onions and green chillies
  5. Fry for a while and add curry leaves
  6. Add this tempering to the idli batter
  7. Chopped coriander leaves can also be added
  8. Kuzhi Paniyaram batter is ready

pour batter in oiled mould

 

turn it with the sharp tip wooden ladle

 

done on the other side too

 

Making Paniyaram

  1. Heat the paniyara chatti/kal with little oil in each mould
  2. When the oil is medium hot, pour the batter till 3/4th level of the mould
  3. When it is cooked on one side, turn it to cook on the other side
  4. When done take it out
  5. Paniyaram is ready and serve it with choice of chutney
  6. This goes well with coconut chutney or coriander chutney.

the delicious duo!

Adai Dosai/Dosa

When there is information about sudden guests and you want to give them a quick dosai, this is a perfect recipe. It is also a healthy dosai because of the types of lentils that go into it. This can be spread thin to make it crispy but is generally made thick.  Adais are always consumed immedietely, directly from the dosaikal or tawa to the plate for better or best taste. This is a breakfast as well as a dinner snack.

Adai-chutney, adai-avial (a gravy dish – will be posted in future) or adai-vellam (jaggery) – adai is had most commonly with these combinations.

The batter should always be kept in fridge immedietely after grinding. Otherwise the lentils would become stale very soon. 

Adai Dosai/Dosa (makes approximately 15 dosais)

Ingredients

  • parboiled rice – 1/2 cup
  • raw rice – 1/2 cup
  • thuvaram paruppu/split yellow gram- 1/2 cup
  • kadalai paruppu/split bengal gram – 1/2 cup
  • ulundham paruppu/dehusked black gram – 2 tbsp
  • ginger – 1 inch piece
  • red chillies – 4 no.s
  • salt – 1 tsp

To temper

  • oil – 2 tsp
  • mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • split urad dal – 1 tsp
  • finely chopped onions – 1 cup
  • curry leaves – a few

 

adai maavu/batter

 

folded adai on dosaikal

 

 

Method of Preparation

  1. Wash and soak rice and dals together for 4 hours. In case of sudden guests, soak for an hour
  2. Grind to a coarse batter with ginger and red chillies
  3. Add salt and mix well
  4. In a pan, add oil, fry mustard seeds, when it splutters add urad dal, add chopped onions and curry leaves
  5. Pour this tempering into the batter and mix well
  6. Make crispy or soft adais immedietely
  7. Serve hot with chutney of preference (https://dosaikal.com/category/chutneys/)
  8. Adai is specially had with grated jaggery or avial – a gravy vegetable dish.

Tip

  1. Always try to finish the batter within the same day.. The batter would lose its freshness and goodness very soon.
  2. For preparing batter for  two persons, just reduce the quantity to half or any measurement with the ratio intact.

Idly/Dosa for two!

This batter would be just enough for two persons. I also tried making the batter in a mixer/blender.

These are some details about Parboiled Rice.  Parboiled rice is produced through the process of parboiling or partially boiling. Harvested paddy or rice with husk is hydrated and then steamed, before drying them. Once dried, the husk of the rice is removed. Traditionally, the husk of rice is removed manually and not mechanically. The process of parboiling makes it easier for the husk to be removed by hand. Another advantage of parboiled rice is that, the process of steaming or heating the hydrated paddy, forces the nutrients in the bran (especially, vitamin B1) to get absorbed into the grains, making the rice, nutritious. While, parboiling, the broken kernels inside the husk may get glued together, thereby reducing the number of broken grains. Parboiling process helps in the sterilization of the harvested rice, which may contain impurities and insect eggs. Parboiled rice takes longer to cook and is not sticky. Once cooked, the rice will be firmer and retain its shape too. Apart from being nutritious, parboiled rice tastes delicious. Parboiled rice is said to be more nutritious than white rice and at the same time, easily digestible, as compared to brown rice. ( http://www.buzzle.com/articles/parboiled-rice.html)

Among the parboiled rice varieties, the rice to be cooked and consumed directly is different from parboiled idli rice. The normal cooking rice looks more polished. Parboiled idli rice has more brownish tan on it. To choose the best rice, go to an indian shop – if it is a shop familiar with south indian food items, ask specifically for idli rice, they would mostly have parboiled rice.

parboiled rice

 

Idli/Dosa for two (makes approximately 22 idlis or 15 dosais)

  • parboiled rice – 2 cups
  • urad dal – 1/2 cup
  • fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • salt – 3/4 tsp

 

soaked parboiled rice

 

soaked urad dal 

 

 Method of Preparation

  1. Wash and soak rice and urad dal separately for 6 hours or overnight
  2. Wash fenugreek seeds and add to urad dal before soaking
  3. Grind urad dal and fenugreek seeds first to a smooth paste
  4. Remove from blender
  5. Grind soaked rice to a smooth paste
  6. Mix dal and rice together adding salt
  7. Always mix with hand
  8. Cover and leave this batter for a minimum 12 hours so that it ferments well
  9. During colder temperatures, the batter can be kept in an oven at warm position overnight
  10. Generally if the batter is ground in the evening hours, it is fermented and ready to make dosais or idlis next morning during summers
  11. After each time of using the batter, it should be stored in the refrigerator
  12. For more on basic batter see https://dosaikal.com/2011/09/16/basic-idlidosa-batter/
  13. After the batter is well fermented, make idlis or dosais as preferred
  14. Serve them with chutney of choice (https://dosaikal.com/category/chutneys/).

grinding it in a blender

fermented batter

Baking Cakes Healthy! – Oats and Apple Cake

Passion for traditional food has always been there within me. But, when I was young and started trying my hands in cooking, I would attempt only exotic recipes from cookery books. Biriyanis, Pulavs, North Indian Specialities, and especially Cakes and other baked items used to be favourites. There was always amma and aachi to make the Tamilnadu specialities.

One such item which was always on my list of exotic recipes was cake. Cakes are hugely popular among young and old ones – irrespective of age. The soft, fluffy, sugary, sometimes nutty – vanilla, strawberry, pineapple, caramel and the king of all flavours if I can say – chocolate – cakes and their flavours steal the show in many places.

I remember amma baking cakes on stove – in a cake making vessel with sand as the base inside. First, sand used to be filled in the cake making vessel and preheated on the burner. The cake baking vessel looked like an idli kopparai or traditional idly steaming utensil. The cake batter would be prepared, poured in the metal baking tray, which would be placed on top of preheated sand and the vessel would be closed with lid. After an hour or so, cake would be ready. In the meantime, the exotic smell of cake being baked on top of sand would spread in the house… kids waiting for the minute to open and have the king and queen’s share!

Now, with oven in every household, cookery books, blogs and cookery classes – baking cakes have become a household affair – everything made easy. Though, baking cakes of different varieties has become easier now, I have always not been a great fan of the self-raising flour/all-purpose flour or maida as it is called locally. Maida, a refined product, too fine and sticky is considered as empty calories and quite often a waste material to the system. The usage of maida in my cooking is near to nil. So, I try baking a bit healthier cakes. Sugar is another empty calory intake – I try substituting sugar with other healthier options. Not compromising on the fluffy texture and basic nature of cakes, I have tried some cake varieties. At least, the guilt feeling of having an empty calorie sweet is reduced and the cake is also made fibrous and more nutritious for kids!

I always told my daughter sugar was bad. I substitute jaggery for sweetness in her porridges. Till today, she is not interested in the various sweets made at home or outside. She always says ‘sugar is bad amma’! So, when I started baking cakes with whole wheat flour, she immediately asked me – can we bake cakes without sugar? I seriously took that in mind and tried it. Next time she said – ‘butter is also bad amma’ – so I started baking cakes with whole wheat flour, any natural sugar substitute like raisins or dates with very little unrefined cane sugar and oil instead of butter.

When I plan to bake a cake,I would take out all ingredients and arrange them and just call my daughter to mix. She is the true mixer at home. My work is to give her all the ingredients and after she blends them well, keep the baking tray inside the oven. (I lend a helping hand to bring it to proper consistency). Though she loves to beat the eggs and roll the batter, she doesn’t try tasting any of them. She only bakes for others. Just that the sweet tooth forgot to appear till today!

 

Oats and Apple Cake

 

hands of my little one beating the cake batter

 

arrange apple pieces

 

 

Ingredients

  • whole wheat flour – 50 gms
  • Oats – 50 gms
  • cane sugar – 75 gms
  • eggs – 2 nos
  • refined oil – 50 gms
  • milk – ¼ cup
  • apple – 1 small
  • baking powder – ¼ tsp
  • baking soda – ¼ tsp
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Method of Preparation

  1. Take sugar and oil in a wide bowl and mix well
  2. Beat eggs well
  3. Mix eggs with the sugar – oil mixture
  4. Sieve whole wheat flour, baking powder and baking soda twice
  5. Add oats to the wheat flour and mix well
  6. Slowly fold in the flour with the egg-sugar-oil mixture little by little
  7. Add the vanilla extract for flavour
  8. To bring the batter to better pouring consistency, add milk
  9. Cut apple into long slices
  10. Grease a baking tray and arrange apple slices
  11. Pour the cake batter on top of slices
  12. Preheat oven at 200°C
  13. Place the cake batter in and bake for 30 minutes
  14. Check after 20 minutes with a knife if the cake is done
  15. If the knife comes out without batter sticking to it, cake is done. If batter sticks, take it out at 30 minutes.

 

 

baked well

 

 

 

 

Note:

  1. This is a small cake and might give about 12 small pieces.
  2. If one needs a bigger cake, just double the quantity of all ingredients
  3. Sugar content might be less in this cake – if one feels to add more, sugar quantity can be slightly increased.

Carrot-Muttaikose Thuvayal/Carrot-Cabbage Chutney

This is a non-coconut base chutney. Healthy, vegetable base and a colourful one, suits well with idlis, dosais and sometimes to mix with plain rice too.  I have learnt most of the vegetable chutneys from my mother-in-law (athai as I call her). Thanks to her, she taught me many more healthier ways of cooking apart from more coconut based high calorie foods.

Carrot-muttaikose thuvayal/Carrot-cabbage chutney (serves 2)

 

Ingredients

  • Carrot – medium size – 1 no.
  • Cabbage – 1/4 portion of a medium one
  • onion –  medium – 1 no.
  • garlic – 4 cloves
  • red chillies – 3 no.s
  • kadalai paruppu/channa dal/bengal gram – 3 tblsp
  • tamarind – small piece
  • salt – as needed
  • water to grind
  • oil – 2 tsp for roasting

Thaalippu – Thadka

  • oil  – 2 tsp
  • mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  • curry leaves

Method of Preparation

  1. Grate carrots or chop into small pieces
  2. Chop cabbage and onions  randomly
  3. Peal skin of garlic
  4. Wash all vegetables thoroughly
  5. Take oil in a kadai, roast channa dal till golden brown
  6. Add red chillies, garlic cloves and onion and roast till onion becomes opaque
  7.  Add chopped cabbage and carrots and mix well
  8. Let this get roasted for a while – till cabbage becomes slightly opaque
  9. Turn off the stove and let this cool
  10. In a blender, add the cooled chutney mixture with tamarind and salt and blend it to a smooth paste with just enough water
  11. For tadka, heat oil in a small pan
  12. Add mustard seeds
  13. When they splutter add urad dal
  14. When it becomes golden brown, add curry leaves
  15. Pour this into the thuvayal
  16. Serve with idlis, dosais (https://dosaikal.com/2011/09/16/idli-steamed-rice-cakes/) (https://dosaikal.com/2011/08/14/basic-dosaidosa/) or plain rice.

Muttaikose-Carrot Poriyal/Cabbage-Carrot Dry Vegetable Curry

This is a variation to Cabbage poriyal. This has grated carrots added to finely chopped cabbage. The procedure is the same as cabbage poriyal.

Muttaikose-Carrot poriyal/Cabbage-Carrot dry vegetable curry (serves 4)

 poriyal in kadai

 

Ingredients

  • cabbage – medium size – 1 no.
  • carrots – 2
  • onion – medium – 1 no.
  • green chillies – 2 nos
  • turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • oil – 1 tsp
  • mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • urad dal – 1 tsp
  • curry leaves – a few
  • salt – as needed
  • perungayam/hing/asafoetida – 1/2 tsp

Method of Preparation

  1. Finely chop cabbage, onion and green chillies separately
  2. Grate carrots separately
  3. Take 1 tsp oil in a kadai
  4. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter
  5. Add urad dal and when it turns golden brown add curry leaves
  6. Add chopped onions and green chillies
  7. Fry for a while and add chopped cabbage
  8. While adding cabbage keep flame in full position for a while
  9. After couple of minutes of flame in full position, reduce flame
  10. This is believed to remove the acidic content of cabbage
  11. Add grated carrots and mix well
  12. Add turmeric powder and salt and mix well
  13. Sprinkle water in between, close the kadai with lid and cook till done
  14. Sprinkle perungayam/hing and transfer to a serving bowl
  15. This is usually served with rice and kuzhambu/gravy of the day as a vegetable accompaniment
  16. Can also go well with chappatis and dal in place of a dry vegetable
  17. Cabbage – carrot can be taken out crisp or well cooked as per family’s preference
  18. Onions can be omitted
  19. Garnish with grated coconut (optional)

ready to serve