Monthly Archives: October 2011

Paanakam – The Energy Drink of South India

The word Paanakam always reminds me of Sashti. Sashti is the sixth day of new moon and the sixth day of the full moon. Lord Murugan, the God of the Tamils is worshipped specially on Sashti day. Every month has its Sashti days. Lord Murugan is worshipped with special poojais in temples and people fast on those days. Skandha Sashti is the one of the biggest worship days of Lord Murugan, which falls in the month of Aippasi (October-November). It is Murugan defeating the demon Surapadhman or in simple terms – victory of good over evil. Murugan is also called Skandan, so this is skanda sashti!

The defeat of Suran by Lord Murugan is commonly known as Surasamharam – ofcourse a Sanskrit word. In Tamil, we call it Suran Thalai Vettu – colloquially. It actually means Chopping Suran’s Head.

The war is re-enacted in all six major Murugan temples – arupadai veedu- in tamil. Tiruchendhur, near my home towns Tirunelveli and Thoothukkudi is the shore temple where the battle is believed to have happened in pre-historic times. This temple and sashti are therefore very close to my heart. It is in Tiruchendhur that the fierce battle of the demon in various forms and Lord Murugan is re-enacted in a very big scale. http://murugan.org/temples/tiruchendur2.htm

Skanda Sashti Day falls on 31st October 2011.

Not getting into too many religious notes, Skanda Sashti Viradham or Fast always ends with Paanakam – the Lemon and Jaggery energy drink. The fast lasts for six days, starting from the first day of the new moon in the tamil month of Aippasi – starting mostly on the day after Deepavali. Having just one meal of rice and coconut chutney and fruits as breakfast and banana and milk for dinner, I used to very religiously observe viradham/fast when in school. The elders would have a stricter fasting rule. Paanakam also used to be my thirst quencher at school. The sixth day would go without any meal and just fruits and liquids with jaggery – coffee with jaggery and no sugar allowed.  At night, the time when ‘surasamharan – the defeat’ is completed at Tiruchendhur temple, we would do special poojai for Murugan at home in Chennai, and have a cold shower – a compulsory hair wash – then open the fast with Paanakam. The hair wash symbolises getting rid of all evil physically and mentally – with the defeat of the demon. The Paanakam specially at that moment, would taste like real amutham – the nectar of the Gods – running down cool into the starving tummy! This is supposed to be an instant energy drink specially after a fast.

It doesn’t mean we start having our meal after Paanakam. It is only Paanakam and fruits for the night. 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. Some also call it Chitrannam. Lemon Rice, Tamarind Rice, Coconut Rice, Ven Pongal (salted rice and lentil), Sarkkarai Pongal (sweetened jaggery rice) and seasoned yoghurt rice are the six varieties – some might also substitute with other mixed rice varieties (would be posted shortly). We wait for the morning to come, have a hair wash – the auspicious day being the wedding day – stand in for the poojai – and just get ready to have the special wedding feast meal on Banana leaf! (For more on Banana Leaf Meal read – https://dosaikal.com/2011/10/14/thamizhar-virundhu-feast-of-the-tamils/)

Belief in God or No belief in God – doesn’t matter..   The culture of accepting Gods to be one in the family and feeling oneself part of HIS family just fascinates me!

Now to Paanakam! Not only on special occasions, this drink can be had anytime, anywhere.

Paanakam

 

the south indian lemonade!

 

Ingredients (makes 2 glasses) 

  • vellam- powdered/grated jaggery – 1/2 cup
  • elumicham pazham/juice of one lemon
  • Elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • salt – a pinch
  • water – as required

 

 

Method of Preparation

  1. Dissolve jaggery in water
  2. Strain the liquid for mud in jaggery
  3. Mix cardamom powder and dry ginger powder
  4. Add the lemon juice
  5. Add a pinch of salt
  6. Check for taste and add water if required
  7. Add more jaggery or lemon juice as preferred
  8. Paanakam is ready.

Note:

  1. Jaggery provides glucose and therefore the body gets instant energy
  2. Cardamom powder re-vitalises the taste buds
  3. Dry ginger induces hunger; It also helps in digestion, especially after a fast
  4. I have used palm jaggery instead of sugarcane jaggery
  5. More on sugarcane jaggery and palm jaggery – read https://dosaikal.com/2011/08/26/aval-sarkkarai-pongal-rice-flakes-jaggery-pongal/.

Deepavali Kashayam-Magic Drink for Indigestion

After so much of sweets and oily savouries for deepavali, there has to be some kind of a repair mechanism or de-stressing of the digestive system. There is need for some destressing technique for minds too! Just think back the number of somasis, murukkus or polis and bowls of payasams or halwas that would have gone in during the celebrations and that alone is sufficient enough to be stressed about the calories and fat that has gone into the system. But, not to worry! There is always a way to come out of it. Though burning those calories is not  my arena, de-stressing and cleaning the system by home remedies can fit in here.

After Deepavali and the sweets and snacks along with it, Deepavali Legiyam is something to end the jaw breaking culinary experience and to set right the stomach abuse  in these days of celebration. It is a semi-thick paste made of various herbs – mostly simple home medicines. Usually, this legiyam is made along with the sweets and savouries and in the morning of Deepavali, a gooseberry sized ball of legiyam is forcefully given to everyone, to keep the system clean. In north India, Chawanprash is more popular – this is a kind of legiyam.

It is amazing and even astonishing to know the knowledge our ancestors possessed on the usage of herbs, to take care of simple as well as major ailments.  Especially siddha maruthuvam – Siddha Medicine – where the Siddhars have documented the ailments and remedies in the form of tamil poems on palm leaf. Wikipedia says, ‘The Siddha medicine is one of the oldest medical systems known to mankind . This system of medicine originated from South Indian Tamil traditional medicine’.  For more details on Siddha Medicine – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddha_medicine.

Now, ‘Naatu Marundhu’ or the traditional tamil medicine is not Siddha Medicine. It might be a simplified version of home remedies, transferred through generations by the elder members of the household. Hence, it is also called Paatti Vaithiyam or grandma’s home remedies.  There are Naattu Marundhu or traditional medicine shops which sell these home remedy herbs – the simplest of them are mostly available at home.. manjal-turmeric, milagu-pepper, chukku-dry ginger, omam-carom seeds and so on. Whenever there is cough or running nose, indigestion or acidity – these handy helpers help in getting relief from such minor problems. Getting relief by taking precautionary home remedies could save a lot of pain and time. These herbs also boost immunity in children.

As I have always respected the wisdom of our siddhars, I adore the warmth and affection of the grand old grannies who have been passing on the traditional tamil home remedies without demanding any appreciation! If our grannies passed their experienced wisdom mostly unknowingly and as part of the day-to-day routine, there is pressure on the present middle ager to compulsorily impart granny’s knowledge to the younger ones. Or else, like other ancient richness, this paatti vaithiyam would also have to be popularised by the west to be aped by our own people. Regarding this, I came across an excellent piece of work,  while I was searching for an english word for Legiyam – http://sundar72.blogspot.com/2010/04/thanga-bhaspam-velli-bhaspam-legiyams.html.

Now, Legiyams are time-consuming, kashayams or kada in hindi, are easier. Legiyams are pastes and kashayams are medicinal drinks – magical drinks even.  They are concentrated syrups made of a combination of herbs and household spices. Though, I am not used to preparing a deepavali legiyam, I always make different kinds of kashayams to treat minor ailments of the whole family.  This trust worthy kashayam is very useful in cleaning the bowel and helps in better digestion. Because of the ingredients, this might also help in treating simple cold and cough. (The kashayam for cough and cold is a little different.)

Kashayam for better digestion

 

 

 

Ingredients (sufficient for one person)

  • milagu podi/black pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • manjal podi/turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • athimadhuram (available in tamil -naatu marundhu kadai) – 1/2 tsp
  • omam/carom seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • seeragam/cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • perunjeeragam/fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • kothumalli vidhai/coriander seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • vellam/jaggery – 1 tsp (or acc. to taste)
  • water – one glass

Method of Preparation

  1. Take one glass of water (nearly 250 ml) in a vessel and turn on the stove
  2. Add all the powders – pepper, dry ginger, turmeric, athimathuram
  3. Crush or dry grind all seeds – carom, cumin, fennel and coriander – and add to water
  4. Dissolve jaggery in 1 tsp water and strain jaggery water into the kashayam vessel
  5. Boil till the while liquid reduces to half the quantity
  6. Strain it and it is ready to drink.

 

 

Note:

  1. If dry ginger is not available, one can use mashed fresh ginger
  2. Crushed black pepper is preferrable than the pepper powder from market
  3. Instead of jaggery, honey can be added after straining hot kashayam
  4. Some might also add spices like jathikkai/nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. I make it with the above things
  5. If athimathuram is not available, one can skip it.

Important Note:

  1. Do not drink kashayam too hot – it might cause hiccups
  2. Do not drink water for atleast 1/2 an hour after any spicy kashayam – it might lead to loose stools
  3. I have just followed aachi’s (grandma) instructions on the above two important points!

 

The Tricky Athirasam!

***Updated on 03rd November 2016
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Deepavali as we know is marked by the sweets and savouries made for the occasion. The day of Deepavali starts with the early morning oil bath, new dresses, poojai with the – ever tricky athirasams. Athirasams are fried delicacies made of rice flour and jaggery. The texture of athirasams depend on the jaggery syrup and quality of rice flour. Generally, raw rice is soaked and dried at home and powdered, then used with jaggery syrup to make this exotic sweet. But rice flour from the store (fine quality) can also be substituted. The result might not be the best. I have used rice flour from shop – the shop did not have raw rice but had rice flour – hence I opted to settle with that.

Athirasam as the name suggests means very tasty or might be ‘x’ factor in taste! It certainly has it. All other sweets and savouries are prepared the day before Deepavali and Athirasams are a morning poojai affair. At my parent’s home on the Deepavali morning, as children we would be busy trying the new outfit/outfits and enjoying sparklers and crackers. So, I did not really have the experience in helping or making athirasams  – it was restricted to tasting alone.

After marriage, specially at my husband’s granny’s (paatti) home, I could be part of the athirasam making team of youngsters! The chief cook is always the octogenarian or nonagenarian granny – she doesn’t know her age – but calculating through her first son’s age, she could be in her nineties, but by her active cooking abilities – this is difficult to admit.  She makes flat athirasams on banana leaf, and guides her helpful daughter-in-laws to fry them to perfection, and other grand-children would be pressing excess oil out of the hot athirasams… This was thoroughly a watcher’s delight! First time, I joined the children’s gang to press out oil (atleast a hundred athirasams would be fried); Next deepavali, I graduated or got a double promotion sitting near paatti (grandma) to make flat athirasams on banana leaf. She wouldn’t allow me in front of the oil stove to fry!

img_7799

Making athirasam was so easy this way…but to make it alone for the first time is quite a difficult one. Making the dough for athirasam is a very delicate work which has to be done with caution. If the consistency of the jaggery syrup is not right, the athirasams  might break inside oil or turn out strong enough to break your enemys’ teeth! Being a high level optimist, I felt I was quite lucky this time – (oh, I don’t mean breaking anyone’s teeth but talking about athirasams) though not perfect as amma’s or picture perfect as paati’s athirasams – they tasted good enough though didn’t look the most perfect!

They were not hard but surely lacked the oily glow, one of the special features of athirasams. I didn’t know whether I should be happy about the less oil texture or worry about the missing originality… Then, I decided I would worry about the latter. The reason behind the not-so-good outcome might be the quality of rice flour or the more likely culprit – consistency of jaggery. I am going to try and rectify these known mistakes. Suggestions regarding this are always welcome. But since this is the proven right recipe by amma and paatti for making athirasams…might be you get it better than mine! Next time, I am going to try with raw rice from scratch…ofcourse when it is available in the Indian grocery shop  (better athirasams in the near future).

***Updated on 03rd November 2016
***The next time of good Athirasams arrived recently, from Athai/Aunt, who gave me a perfectly done dough to be stored for months. This has been a loving way of making Athirasam available all the time,  when you are out of your home town. The prepared dough has been stored in the refrigerator. I follow these simple steps for the true joy of Athirasam.

a. I take the required dough out

b. place it in a warm place to bring it to normal temperature

c. Mix very little warm milk to make a smoother dough

d. Fry in hot oil

e. Squeeze the oil out

f. Serve and enjoy tasting every bit of it.

I have certainly graduated with my paagu – syrup in making perfect groundnut or sesame or dry fruit brittles. Athirasam shouldn’t be very far off. But, when I had the opportunity of relishing Athirasam through the caring hands of Athai, didn’t miss the chance.

Nanri Athai.***

Athirasam

img_7783

Ingredients (makes approximately 10 athirasams)

  • arisi maavu/rice flour – 1 cup
  • thuruviya vellam/grated jaggery – 1 cup
  • Elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • yennai/oil – for frying

Method of Preparation

  1. Heat jaggery with 1/4 cup water in a vessel to dissolve
  2. Filter when jaggery is dissolved and make a syrup
  3. The syrup should be single string consistency – When the jaggery is boiling well in the vessel – keep a bowl of water and add a few drops of the syrup. The drop should settle in water and one should be able to make a soft ball out of it – it should not be too sticky. This is the right consistency of syrup.
  4. Turn off the stove.

Making dough

  1. Add rice flour to jaggery syrup and mix with a ladle. There should be no lumps
  2. Do not wait for the dough to become stiff. One can stop adding rice flour if the dough becomes pasty
  3. Jaggery stiffens the dough after a while and hence the dough should be a little sticky
  4. Keep the dough closed overnight.

 Frying Athirasams

  1. Next morning, heat oil in an iruppu chatti/kadai
  2. Apply little oil on an aluminium foil, take a small ball and press it even into flat discs with greased fingers

  1. Deep fry one by one till golden brown
  2. Depending upon the colour of jaggery, athirasams can also be dark brown – mine was done from the darker variety of jaggery
  3. Soon after athirasam is removed from oil, place it on a dabara/kattori and press it with another dabara/kattori to squeeze out excess oil. This helps  in flattening the athirasams

Store in containers. Athirasams become softer after a while.

img_7800

Tip:

  1. If the dough thickens or is stiff after 12 hours – add 1 or 2 tsp of curds/yoghurt and knead well to bring it a soft dough consistency.
  2. Some might also add milk instead of curds.
  3. If one finds the sweetness of athirasams less or more, texture of athirasams soft or hard, can be altered in the next attempt! There is always another chance!!

I wish everyone a very HAPPY DEEPAVALI!

Sweet and Special Somasi!

 

 

Somasi is certainly a special traditional sweet – Why special? Because it is also international in the making process. These may very easily be mistaken for puff pastries – deep-fried but just a little different in shape. Whenever I try baking ‘dutch apple flappen’ with pastry sheets – I am reminded of somasis. The filling, (of course with different ingredients) – which goes into all-purpose flour rotis instead of the pastry sheet, sealed – then deep-fried for somasis and baked for apple flappen!

Somasi is usually cut with a special somasi cutter. At present, I do not possess one… It is a spoon with a wheel like cutter at the other end – somewhat like a pizza cutter with a spoon at the handle position –  (another proof of its international appeal!) I used a knife to cut the extra dough and my daughter helped in making the edges intact with a fork. By the time I made nearly 20 somasis, I felt quite tired.. Might be because this was the first time I made it all by myself! I know the next time it is going to be easier.. After completion, it seemed to resemble another all time favourite ‘f’rench pastry – the croissant’ (especially in the photo down below)!

I once again remembered and missed the joy of making sweets and savouries together with two generation of experienced hands as a kid. One to roll the dough and keep the filling, we the kids to cut it to proper shape and the other elder member to deep fry in oil – with filter coffee by our sides to keep the energy intact… But thambi (brother) would only need those somasis or already made murkkus to keep up his energy!

Somasis

Ingredients (makes approximately 15-18 somasis)

  • freshly grated coconut/desiccated coconut – 1/2 cup
  • ghee – 2 tsp to roast coconut
  • pottukadalai/roasted split chick peas – 1/2 cup
  • white sesame seeds – 3 tsp
  •  sugar – 1/2 cup
  • cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • all-purpose flour – 2 cups
  • salt – a pinch
  • water – just enough to make a dough
  • oil – for deep-frying

 Method of Preparation

The filling

  1. Roast grated coconut with 2 tsp ghee. I used the desiccated coconut from the super market – the dryness in it helped roasting easier and quicker
  2. Dry roast sesame seeds till golden brown
  3. Powder pottukadalai and sugar separately
  4. Mix roasted coconut, powdered pottukadalai, roasted sesame seeds cardamom powder and sugar and keep aside

The dough

Mix all-purpose flour and a pinch of salt with enough water to make a smooth dough to be rolled into rotis

Making somasis

1. Make small balls out of the dough and roll them to round medium shaped rotis or puris

2. Keep 1 tbsp of the filling on the rolled rotis

3. Fold the roti into a semi-circle

4. Cut the folded semi-circle clean in the edges, with a knife or a pizza cutter or with a somasi cutter if one has it

5. Mix the removed excess dough with the basic dough

6. If cut with a knife or pizza cutter, seal the edges with a fork

7. If done with a somasi cutter, the cutter would take care of the edge design

8. Heat oil in a chatti/kadai

9. Gently drop the raw somasis into oil

10. Fry till golden brown and take them out in a kitchen tissue to absorb excess oil

11. Let them cool and store in an air-tight container.

 

Note:

  1. Sugar can be increased if needed
  2. If there is left-over filling, it can be stored and used within a week to make somasis again or any other sweet.

The All time Favourite Murukku!

Murukku in tamil and chakli in kannada and marathi and chakri in gujarati is very popular for its different shapes and crisp fried taste. It is also handy due to its storable convenience. Nowadays, even in india, families prefer to get them from savoury shops to distribute for deepavali and even to send abroad to their children.

Murukku – as a verb in tamil means ‘to twist’. The dough made of rice flour and urad dal flour(dehusked black gram) is twisted and swirled to be made into round shapes, and hence the name! There are also different kinds of murukkus –

  • thenkuzhal – plain murukku
  • magizhambu or mullu murukku – murukku with a thorny sharp texture
  • kai murukku – hand twisted murukku
  • vennai murukku – butter murukku

and many more with a little variation like ribbon pakoda, kara sev and so on.

Murukkus can be magical for first timers – especially first time makers. Be it the ones made by the murukku maker, or the hand-made kai-murukkus, making murukku is an art by itself. Tasting, without knowing when to stop can be another art worth mentioning! Not getting into any gender bias, boys seem to fare better in this art! Sitting with aachi and amma to see the murukkus being made by hand on plastic sheets or the murukku maker ones directly into oil with elegant expertise, I have experienced the joy of viewing, tasting and once in a while trying to make some too.

They are quite easy to make – with the murukku maker and some patience – you can surprise your family and yourself too with these excellent crispies.  The rice flour used to be prepared by a long process of soaking raw rice, then drying them in a clean white cloth in a shady place at home, and later milled. With easily available rice flour in the indian markets abroad, this has become easier, though nothing to match the home-made rice flour. Of course, the urad flour is not available so easily in the markets – that has to be done at home. I have always used the flours sent by amma, this time I thought I would try making urad flour at home but had the milled rice flour from chennai!  Making urad flour was not at all a tedious one!

Deepavali snacks are incomplete without these different kinds of murukkus.

 

Making Murukku

 

 

Ingredients (makes approximately 15 murukkus)

  • rice flour – 2 cups
  • urad flour – 1/2 cup
  • white/black sesame seeds – 1 tsp (cumin seeds can be used instead of sesame seeds)
  • salt – as needed
  • oil – for frying

Method of Preparation

Making Urad flour

  1. Heat a hard bottomed vessel or kadai
  2. Dry roast ulundham paruppu/urad dal – dehusked black gram till golden brown
  3. Grind to a fine powder in a blender
  4. Sieve it and keep aside.

Note: 100 gms urad dal gives 100 gms urad flour

Making dough

  1. Sieve rice flour and urad flour
  2. Soak salt in very little and let it dissolve. This helps in even distribution of salt
  3. Add dissolved salt, sesame or cumin seeds and enough water to flour mixture and make a smooth dough
  4. The dough should neither be too tight nor too loose. 

Making murkku

1. Take one portion of dough and fill it inside the cylindrical container of the murukku maker

2. Close it with the single holed disc

 

3. Press into medium size murukkus on an aluminium foil sheet or any oiled plate

 

4. I used a greased plate and used a dosai thiruppi – ladle used to turn the dosais, to take it out and drop in the oil

 

5. Take care to drop the murukkus gently in the oil

6. Fry till golden brown

7. Remove in kitchen tissues to absorb excess oil

8. Let them cool and store in an air-tight container.

 

Susiyam – Deep fried lentil-jaggery sweet balls!

Susiyam – (nothing to do with yummy sushi) is a festival sweet – especially made for deepavali. It is popular by the name susiyam in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi. In Chennai and nearby areas it is called sooyan. In Kerala, it is known as sugiyan with slightly different combination of dal or the outer batter.  These are bengal gram and jaggery balls, dipped in all-purpose flour and deep-fried. One can also store them for a couple of days.

Susiyam

Ingredients (makes approximately 30 susiyams)

  • kadalai paruppu/channa dal/bengal gram – 1 cup
  • jaggery – 3/4 cup
  • cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • all-purpose flour – 1 cup
  • salt – a pinch
  • vegetable oil – for deep-frying

 

flour, lentil and jaggery syrup

 

cook lentil and jaggery into a thick paste

 

make small balls

 

Method of Preparation

  1. Cook kadalai paruppu till just done with little water. It should not be overcooked
  2. Mash well with a ladle
  3. Boil jaggery with very little water in a vessel. Let jaggery dissolve well (to strain mud in the jaggery)
  4. In a hard bottomed vessel, take mashed paruppu and strain the jaggery into it
  5. Add cardamom powder and dry ginger powder
  6. Cook well till it becomes a thick paste
  7. Make small balls and keep them aside
  8. Mix all-purpose flour with salt and water to make a thick batter
  9. Heat oil in an iruppu chatti/kadai
  10. Dip each ball in the flour batter and fry them till golden brown
  11. Take them out in a tissue to absorb excess oil.

 

the fabulous five!

 

Note:

  1. 1 tsp rice flour can be added to all-purpose flour to make susiyams crisper.
  2. The balls should be coated well with the batter, or else the paruppu mixture might spread in the oil. Hence, batter should be a little thicker.
  3. When the oil is hot, the susiyams would turn golden brown very soon. Be careful to take them out of the oil in right time.

 

Omapodi/Ajwain Sev

Now, to one of Deepavali savouries – Omapodi or Sev in hindi. Before coming to omapodi, about the savoury maker – achu kuzhal. The traditional achu kuzhal or the mould for making different kinds of deep-fried snacks used to be a wooden one or a metal one. I am yet to find mine as I kept it safely in the shaft but couldn’t locate the safe place. It has thin round plates/discs with different shapes and holes to make different kinds of savouries. In the picture is a modern murukku/sev maker – but the different discs and tubular press do the same as the traditional achu kuzhal. The tight dough of the savoury is put in the tubular container and the lid is fit with the required disc and closed. Then the dough is pressed out into hot oil and fried.

the murukku maker with discs

 

tubular container with small-holed disc

 

Omapodi or Sev

Omam is tamil means Carom seeds or ajwain in hindi. This sev is made with ajwain or carom seeds which helps in digestion and also relieves cold and chest congestion. Among the moulds, the thinnest is used to make omapodi. If preferred the next size mould can also be used. Rice flour is added to gram flour to make this savoury crispy.

Ingredients

  • kadalai maavu/gram flour – 3 cups
  • arisi maavu/rice flour – 1/4 cup
  • omam/carom seeds – 3 tsp
  • salt – 2 tsp
  • hot oil/ghee – 2 tsp
  • oil – for frying

Method of Preparation

Making dough

  1. Sieve kadalai maavu and arisi maavu (both flours)
  2. Soak omam in water for 2 hours and grind to a smooth paste with salt
  3. Strain the omam paste and add this syrup to the sieved flour
  4. Add hot oil or ghee too to the sieved flour
  5. Make a stiff dough by sprinkling water little by little

ready to store omapodi 

 

Making Omapodi

  1. Heat oil in a kadai
  2. Apply oil inside the tubular container so that the dough does not stick to it
  3. Keep one portion of dough and close the lid with the very small holed disc
  4. Squeeze omapodi/sev into hot oil
  5. Turn it gently and cook
  6. When the spluttering ends, omapodi is ready
  7. Remove and place on tissue to absorb excess oil
  8. After it cools, crumble and store in an air-tight container.

Note: (I read from Mrs. Mallika Badrinath’s cook book)

  1. Red chillies can be added to omam while grinding for extra flavour.
  2. After adding omam syrup, the coarse flour can be divided into three portions. Sprinkle water to each portion just before frying.
  3. This keeps the total dough fresh from becoming dry and each portion of dough is freshly made for more perfect omapodi.

Quick and Easy Thaalicha Paruppu/Seasoned Lentil!

The first of the main courses is the paruppu sadham. Sadham is cooked rice and paruppu means lentils. This is especially Thuvaram Paruppu – Arhar dal in hindi. The red gram/pigeon pea is cooked well and seasoned with mustards, urad dal and green chillies. This is a light meal in itself. A lazy day’s meal can always be rice and thaalicha paruppu with a kootu (stew of vegetables) or poriyal (dry vegetable curry). Lazy to make vegetables…  then just paruppu sadham and appalam/pappad and curd rice to finish the day’s meal would do!

But, in the vaazhai ilai sappadu – banana leaf meal, be prepared for sambar, rasam and curds to follow. For an infant or a toddler or a growing child, paruppu sadham and nei/ghee is the one of the preferred preparations for lunch followed by curds and rice – not to mention the compulsory vegetables.

 

Thaalicha Paruppu

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • thuvaram paruppu/red lentils – 1/2 cup
  • turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • salt – as needed
  • asafoetida – 1/4 tsp

Thaalippu – Thadka – Seasoning

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

Method of Preparation

  1. Wash and cook dal with turmeric powder and salt
  2. Mash it a bit and make it slightly pourable consistency
  3. Heat oil in a kadai, add mustard seeds
  4. After the mustard seeds splutter, add urad dal
  5. When dal is golden brown, add green chillies and curry leaves
  6. Pour the mashed paruppu and bring it to boil
  7. Sprinkle asafoetida and serve hot with rice with a tsp of ghee.

Note

  1. This is the plain simple paruppu of the vaazhai ilai sappadu/banana leaf meal.
  2. For more flavour, chopped onions and tomatoes can be added after curry leaves, cooked for a while and then dal can be added and mixed well.
  3. Red chillies can be substituted or added along with green chillies.
  4. The consistency of paruppu can be altered according individual preference.

Thamizhar Virundhu/ Feast of the Tamils

Rice being the staple food of the southern part of India, is consumed with various gravies or kuzhambus to go with it. Idlis, dosais, uppumas, idiyappam, aappam, pongal are some of the breakfast and dinner preparations. But, lunch is always rice. Some or many households might have rice for dinner too.

The traditional tamil meal is called ‘Sappadu’. Sappadu means a complete minimim three course meal with rice and curries. ‘Virundhu’ is a feast on special occasions laid for guests, many years ago on the floor but nowadays on tables and chairs but always on Vaazhai Ilai/banana leaf. Vaazhai is Banana. Ilai means leaf in tamil and hence the virundhu sappadu or the feast meal is also called ‘ilai sappadu’. Most of the houses in villages and towns and some in the city would have banana plant in the garden. Before every meal, the suitable leaves are cut, washed and laid for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Steel plates are also commonly used.

Vaazhai Maram/Banana Tree

A lavish feast would have the five main courses below in part I, accompanied by one or more of the part II varieties.

Part I

  1. Rice with Thaalicha Paruppu or Seasoned lentil with ghee
  2. Rice with Sambar with ghee
  3. Rice with Kuzhambu with ghee
  4. Rice with Rasam
  5. Rice with Thayir/yoghurt or an option of more/buttermilk

Part II

  1. Kootu – a stew of vegetables
  2. Poriyal/Thuvaran – dry vegetable curry
  3. Pachadi – combination of yogurt and vegetables or raita in hindi
  4. Fruit Pachadi – generally fruit salad with honey or a fresh fruit jam
  5. Appalam – Pappad
  6. Pickles
  7. More milagai

When the banana leaf is laid, the first item to go on it after wash is salt. Salt symbolises gratitude. ‘uppittavarai ullalavum ninai’ is a very old tamil saying- which means – always remember the person who offered you food.

The order at which each of the vegetable items are placed on the leaf after salt is a ritual in itself – mostly unfamiliar to the younger generation.

After salt and vegetables, Paruppu or Dal is already served on the leaf before rice arrives.

Rice is first had with Thaalicha Paruppu which is seasoned lentil – generally thuvar dal/red gram/pigeon pea seasoned with mustard seeds, urad dal, cumin seeds and green chillies.

Sambar – is a combination of lentil and vegetables prepared with a special curry powder prepared traditionally by evey household.

Kuzhambu – can be any gravy. Even sambar is a kuzhambu. But on a feast platter – generally a spicy, tangy tamarind based curry with specially ground spices called puli kuzhambu, vatral kuzhambu or kara kuzhambu is served.

Rasam is a thin soup not used as an appetiser as popularized outside the south of India and abroad, but is a digestive soup.

After Rasam comes the dessert. There is already a sweet – for example poli, laddu or badushah kept initially on the banana leaf; payasam or the sweet pudding/kheer comes after rasam and before curds/yoghurt. Nowadays, payasams are often kept in a small pudding bowl, so that one can have it anytime inbetween the meal to counter the spices or generally at the end.

Traditionally, payasam is poured on the banana leaf.. In tirunelveli feasts, I have enjoyed payasam with a sprinkle of sweet boondhi and appalam. This is a rare but different combination, stimulating the taste buds with mildly sweet payasam, very sweet boondhi and salted appalam! Rolling your hands in the banana leaf to pick up enough payasam to send inside the mouth is an intricate, complicated task but a very interesting one. One would have already had this practice with rice and rasam – which comes before payasam – trying to hold the edge of the banana leaf so that the liquidy rasam doesn’t flow on the lap!!

Last comes rice and thayir – curds or buttermilk. Curds or yoghurt rice is had with pickle and another exclusive combination for curd rice – more milagai. ‘More’ in tamil means buttermilk. Green chillies soaked in buttermilk, then dried in the sun and stored in bottles. More milagai is prepared by a long process, but available in super markets easily.  To serve more milagai, it is fried in oil and made crisp and these are had with curd rice.

In a normal household, every lunch meal would constitute rice with sambar, rasam and curds with a minimum of one kootu and one poriyal, appalam to go with sambar and rasam, oorukai/pickle mostly a must for curd rice. Appalam and oorukai have become restricted due to health factors. But due to dietary and practical reasons – lesser intake of food, lesser intake of rice products and lesser time to spend in kitchen – the spread varies with each family.

I read an interesting article of a banana leaf meal or ilai sappadu experience in http://agelessbonding.blogspot.com/2010/06/elai-saapadu-experience.html.

Poli – a different story!

Poli can be called a roti with a sweet filling inside. It is popularly called Puran poli in Maharashtra. The filling inside is called puran and in tamil, puranam. It can be made in various combinations – paasi paruppu/split green gram and white sugar stuffed poli, kadalai paruppu/Bengal gram and white sugar poli or coconut-jaggery stuffed poli are a few.

My grandma – aachi is an expert in making polis. Since the time I understood the speciality of grandma’s cooking, quite young though, I have seen aachi prepare poli with the same passion and energy, as I saw her prepare for me and my husband a couple of months ago. It was never prepared in small quantities.. Only in fifties or hundreds and stored or specially made for other close relatives.

This aachi is my father’s mother and my mother’s father used to like poli a lot. (Her nei urundais are even more popular https://dosaikal.com/2011/08/02/paasi-paruppu-nei-urundai-yellow-lentil-sweet-balls/). So, she used to make it for him whenever we were traveling to see my maternal grandparents. This act of a sambandhi to another sambandhi was really touching for me as a youngster. This was only a relationship by marriage but the affection between both the parents is something that I cherish even today, and always feel lucky to be born in such a loving and caring family. (Sambandhi – sambdhan in hindi – is one’s son-in-law/daughter-in-law’s father/mother. I am not skillful enough to explain in English.)

Annaachi (brother) and Madhini (sis-in-law) as she would address them (Sambandhi) and other chithis and mamas (aunts and uncles) living in the big family of my mother would just love it (of course polis and the affection behind it)! Such was the warmth and love exchanged between those relatives by marriage…

Now, moving on to Poli..

When one wants to share many things and many more exotic things with friends around the world, surely there tends to be some over- enthusiasm and quite often over confidence too. That is the story of this Poli. I made this Poli with such enthusiasm and confidence, mind and heart filled with many old memories of aachi and poli. I completed it noting down details of the recipe with some photos too and felt quite happy of the result though not as perfect as aachi’s.

I spoke to amma, proudly told about the polis that I had made by myself and that the aroma was the same as those had in Chennai. She was happy too – just that she informed me aachi’s polis were made of kadalai paruppu/Bengal gram. I wouldn’t say I felt bad, I felt really very bad….that particular feeling is unexplainable – it was something more than embarassement and disappointment – my husband with a broad smile and daughter inquisitive to know what my reaction meant. But amma said, paasi paruppu poli would also be good – it is also healthy! I felt better.

I also read in Wikipedia that ‘Sometimes toor dal is used in Gujarat. In other places, even moong dal is used, even a mix of different lentils is used in some recipes’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puran_Poli). I felt even better.

Then that’s okay.. some blunders can also be wonders. The poli actually came out well – kind of flawless – just different in the lentil stuffed inside. Poli has all purpose flour as roti base. I thought I could substitute maida with atta/wheat flour. It didn’t make much difference – rather, without any guilt of having an empty calorie base, I was satisfied in the fibre rich base.

Paasi Paruppu Poli/Split green gram Poli

Ingredients (makes approximately 15 polis – might differ with the size of poli and quantity of pooranam)

  • paasi paruppu/split green gram/moong dal – 1 cup
  • sugar – 1 cup
  • cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • dry ginger powder – ¼ tsp
  • wheat flour – 2 cups
  • ghee – as needed
  • rice flour – 1 tsp

 

Method of Preparation

Pooranam/filling

  1. Wash and pressure cook paasi paruppu/dal with just enough water till done
  2. In a heavy bottomed vessel, take cooked dal and sugar with cardamom powder and dry ginger powder
  3. Cook well till the mixture thickens and can be made into a ball
  4. Keep aside.

 

Roti base

Knead wheat flour with water and little oil into a fine dough to make rotis

 

Making Poli

1. Take a small portion of kneaded flour and roll it to a thin flat bread

2. Place a small portion of pooranam/filling

3. Fold in two positions as in picture

4. Fold the other two corners as in picture

5. Make a ball carefully and take out the extra flour – this helps in even distribution of filling

6. Roll into even flat breads by sprinkling rice flour

 

7. Heat a tawa/griddle and place the rolled poli

8. Let it cook on one side and then turn it to the other side

9. Apply generous amount of ghee for better polis or just as needed

10. Always apply ghee to the cooked side

11. Turn it again. Apply ghee on the other side too

12. Do not turn poli many times or else it might get burnt or become extra crispy

13. Serve hot and store the rest after cooling them well

14. Serve it hot with a spread of ghee every time.

 

Note:

  1. Generally polis made with the filling of lentil and white sugar can be stored even for 10 days.
  2. Original channa dal poli will be posted shortly.