Category Archives: Jaggery Based Sweets

Mundhiri Kothu – the traditional and exceptional sweet!

 

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I have always been fascinated by the name of this sweet. Whoever named it Mundhiri Kothu – which translates as ‘Bunch of Cashews’- has been a keen observer of the making of this sweet. This deep fried snack/sweet comes out like a bunch when taken out of oil.

Mundhiri Kothu is a popular sweet from the Kanyakumari region of Tamilnadu.It can be called the healthier cousin of Susiyam which is also known by the names Soyyam/Sugiyan. For recipe refer- (https://dosaikal.com/2011/10/18/susiyam-deep-fried-lentil-jaggery-sweet-balls/).

Susiyam is made with kadalai paruppu/bengal gram; and the outer dip is prepared with maida/all purpose flour. Whereas, Mundhiri Kothu is made with paasi payaru/green gram and the outer dip is with rice flour. This is a sweet with the best choice of ingredients, except that it is a deep fried snack. The pleasing aroma of roasted green gram combined with other ingredients would surely make one’s kitchen a favorite place to work more!

Mundhiri Kothu is a popular sweet in the Yaazhpanam or Jaffna Area of Srilanka too. With slight variations, people call this as ‘Payatham Paniyaram’. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munthiri_Kothu
Now to the making of Mundhiri Kothu –

Mundhiri Kothu

 

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Ingredients (makes approx. 30 mundhiri kothu)

  • paasi payaru/whole green gram – 1 cup/150 gms
  • grated coconut – 1 cup – 75-80gms
  • ellu/sesame seeds (i used white) – 3 tblsp
  • elakkai/cardamom pods – 20
  • chukku/dry ginger – 3 gms
  • vellam/jaggery – 250 gms
  • rice flour – 2 cups
  • salt – 1/4 tsp
  • water – to mix rice flour and to dissolve jaggery
  • oil – for frying

 

Method of Preparation

1. In a pan, dry roast whole green gram till nice aroma comes out of the grain, along with cardomom pods

 

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2. Dry grind green gram and cardamom, with dry ginger into a coarse powder (not too coarse)

3. Dry roast grated coconut and sesame seeds

4. Mix green gram powder, roasted coconut and sesame seeds

 

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5. In a separate pan, dissolve jaggery in water and strain well

6. Boil jaggery in water to make a syrup – little sticky consistency, to make a tight ball with the powdered ingredients; Be careful not to make it stringy consistency

 

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7. Mix jaggery to the powdered ingredients and make marble sized urundai/ball

 

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8. Make a not too thin-not too thick batter with rice flour, salt and water; The batter should be thick enough to coat the jaggery balls before deep frying

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9. Dip each urundai/ball in rice batter and deep fry till well cooked

10. As the cooked mundhiri kothu would be in a bunch, separate each ball after it cools a bit.

 

Note:

  1. Cardamom is added for flavor and I have added dry ginger for easier digestion; for me – addition of dry ginger makes any jaggery based sweet taste divine.
  2. The above can be omitted too.
  3. The quantity of grated coconut and sesame seeds can be altered/reduced according to taste preferences.

Few Other Variations of Mundhiri Kothu

  1. Traditionally, the batter is made by soaking raw rice and grinding it wet into a dosai consistency; But, I have used rice powder.
  2. In the above mentioned, soak and grind method, dehusked black gram is also soaked and ground together with rice (50 gms ulundham paruppu/dehusked black gram for 200 gms pachia arisi/raw rice).
  3. Turmeric powder is mixed to the batter and hence mundhiri kothu looks yellow.

 

Happy Diwali!

 

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Ukkarai/Okkarai – Lentil Halwa for Diwali

 

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The festival of lights is back again! No need for long paragraphs saying Diwali brings in joy and happiness and teaches the traditional values to the younger generation….. Whatever said and done, not said and not done – Diwali or Deepavali in Tamil, brings in loads of sweets and tonnes of savouries – to relish and eat and ofcourse over eat!

So, let’s plunge into some special sweets and savouries one after the other in the coming week. Today it is Okkarai or Ukkarai – a Halwa with two/three lentils and jaggery.

Some make it with all the three basic lentils of an Indian kitchen – red lentil, dehusked green gram and bengal gram or a combination of two of these or just bengal gram. Though amma does not make okkarai, I was re-introduced to this exquisite sweet by my friend Lakshmi in Chennai. When my daughter was very small and we lived in the same locality as theirs, we used to be treated with Okkarai very often and it became one of my daughter’s favourites. The beautiful brown colour, the aroma of clarified butter with the fried nuts added and the flavour of lentils mixed jaggery is just exotic with no words to explain.

Lakshmi, I never knew the effort that was involved in Okkarai until I made it now. So, it is a rekindled, more respectful thanks for the strain you put yourself to!
Recipe adopted from-

In Rajasthani cuisine, Moong Dhal Halwa occupies a special place. To me, it is one of best desserts of Indian Cuisine. I should confess, anyone can swap their home made moong dhal halwa/dehusked green gram halwa – rajasthani style – with the best of my pattu/silk sarees (or my husband’s favourite suits)!!
Okkarai/Ukkarai – Lentil Halwa

 

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Ingredients (serves 4)

  • kadalai paruppu/bengal gram – 1/2 cup
  • paasi paruppu/dehusked green gram – 1/2 cup
  • thuruviya thengai/grated coconut – 1/2 cup
  • vellam/jaggery – 3/4 cup
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • nei/clarified butter – 1/2 cup
  • mundhiri paruppu/cashew nuts – 4tsp
  • ular thiratchai/raisins – 4tsp

 

Method of Preparation

  1. Dry roast kadalai paruppu and paasi paruppu till golden brown
  2. Wash and soak for two hours
  3. Grind into a coarse paste with no water – the same as dry grinding but the lentils are wet as they were soaked – but no water please
  4. Make small balls and flat discs and steam in a greased tray/mould for about 15 minutes
  5. Dry grind the balls again for an even end product of halwa without lumps
  6. Keep aside the lentil powder
  7. Grate the coconut and keep aside
  8. Heat a little clarified butter in a pan and fry the cut cashewnuts and raisins and keep aside
  9. In a pan slightly heat jaggery in little water until jaggery dissolves completely
  10. Strain it well and place in low heat for a thick syrup  – Even if the syrup is not too sticky like a single string consistence, do not bother. There is enough time while the jaggery gets mixed with lentil powder- but just be careful not to get it burnt
  11. In the same pan, when the jaggery is ready, add the lentil powder to it and start stirring well
  12. Heat the clarified butter into a pourable consistency and add to the jaggery, lentil mixture while getting cooked. This helps the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan
  13. Add the fried cashews and raisins
  14. Stir well till jaggery is completely absorbed by the lentils and a smooth halwa consistency is arrived
  15. In the end add the grated coconut and mix well till the raw smell and juiciness of coconut is gone
  16. Tastes best when served hot.

 

roast the lentils together

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after soaking, grind and steam the mixture

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then, dry blend to avoid lumps

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mix well with fried nuts and grated coconut

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Notes:

  1. Quantity of jaggery depends on each family
  2. As mentioned above, addition of red lentils is another option
  3. I used banana leaves to steam the lentil mixture for some extra aroma
  4. Add the lentil powder to syrup jaggery or pour in the jaggery syrup into the pan of lentil powder – either way the halwa would come out the same
  5. Quantity of nei/clarified butter can be altered. I love nei in my sweets – hence this quantity. If one prefers lesser clarified butter  -feel free to reduce it. The texture of ukkarai would be slightly powdery – like Puttu (steamed rice cylinders) and hence, okkarai is also called ‘Paruppu Puttu’, I learnt it now.

 

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Inippu/Vella-k-kozhukkattai/Jaggery Rice Dumplings – Steamed

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Pillayar Chathurthi/Ganesh Chathurthi/Vinayaka Chathurthi falls on September 9 this year. It is Poorana Kozhukkattai – Stuffed rice dumplings or Modhakam the favourite of most of the households. (For Modhakam – see modhakam-pillayar-chaturthi-special.) There can be variations in the stuffing too – coconut-jaggery filling or sesame-jaggery. I hear some make kadalai paruppu/Channa Dhal – jaggery filling in their Poorana Kozhukkattai! Uppu Kozhukkattai (pidi-kozhukkattai-karamsalted-rice-dumplings) and Vella-k-kozhukkattai are the dumplings which have no stuffing but a mixture of few ingredients to make the kozhukkattai sweet or spicy.

Vella-k-kozhukkattai is the sweet rice dumpling. Vellam means Jaggery in Tamil language and Kozhukkattai is Rice Dumpling. The taste of coconut and jaggery blended with cardamom powder tastes heavenly and is versatile in south indian cooking.  It can be made as Poorana Kozhukkattai/Modhakam, Poli – sweet stuffed chappathis (poli-a-different-story/) or non-stuffed plain-mixed rice dumpling, which is what I am writing about today – Vella-k-Kozhukkattai!

This steamed rice dumpling has the simple mix of grated coconut, jaggery and cardamom powder with the core ingredient – rice flour. This is yet another version of ‘Pidi Kozhukkattai’ – Given the shape by pressing with hands! This can be a healthy snack for children any time – and what more those little hands can make their own shapes and munch them too!!

For the initial procedures of grinding rice flour and roasting it to be ready to make dumplings – please see https://dosaikal.com/2013/07/29/pidi-kozhukkattai-karamsalted-rice-dumplings. We directly move on to make the dough ready for kozhukkattai.
Vella-k-Kozhukkattai/Steamed Sweet Rice Dumplings(with Jaggery)

Ingredients

  • arisi maavu/rice powder – 1 cup
  • vellam/jaggery – 1/2 cup (for the sweet toothed can make 3/4)
  • thengai thuruval/grated coconut – 1/2 cup or more as per taste
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • thanneer/water – 3/4 cup
  • nallennai/gingelly oil – 1 tsp to grease hands and 1 tsp to grease vessel/idli plate

 

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Method of Preparation
  1. Dry roast the ground rice flour to take away the raw smell out of it
  2. Sieve the flour, remove granules away and take the required quantity of smooth flour in a wide bowl to mix all the ingredients in
  3. Mix grated coconut and cardamom powder to rice flour
  4. Dissolve jaggery in water and strain for impurities
  5. Boil jaggery-water in sim position for 3 minutes – this would not make a thick syrup but yet a thin syrup which will blend well with rice flour
  6. Pour the hot syrup on rice flour and mix well into a soft dough
  7. Add jaggery syrup carefully because more water might make the dough sticky.  Stop when you feel water is enough to make a soft dough
  8. Half teaspoon of nei/clarified butter can be melted and pour in the dough for some festive aroma, which is purely optional
  9. The dough should be neither sticky nor dry
  10. Slightly grease hands with gingelly oil/clarified butter, so that dough doesn’t stick to hands
  11. Take small portions in hand and press slightly with fingers, to get the beautiful impression of fingers in the rice dough
  12. Steam for 8 to 10 minutes.
  13. Always grease the bowl/idli vessel before placing kozhukkattais to steam. This helps dumplings from not sticking to the vessel
  14. Inippu Vella-k-Kozhukkattai/Sweet Jaggery Dumpling is ready.

 

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Notes:
  1. Since the rice flour is dry roasted, cooking time is less.
  2. Always sieve the ground flour after roasting. Granules tend to form while roasting.
  3. Always make thin jaggery syrup first and filter as jaggery of any kind would have mud/sand particles in it.
  4. Too thick a syrup would make dumplings harder – Be careful not to make a thick syrup .
  5. I somehow feel comfortable with the syrup if boiled a little while. So, I let the jaggery water boil a bit but yet not loose its thin consistency. Then add to rice flour-coconut-cardamom powder mixture.
  6. Thin jaggery syrup should be boiling hot. By this, the rice flour becomes cooked a bit.
  7. If one is using rice flour from shops, use the flour meant for Idiyappam-string hoppers and do not forget to roast it a bit.
  8. Thick dough might make dumplings hard and sticky dough might not result in dumplings at all. A slightly soft yet tight dough is needed for soft kozhukkattais.
  9. Any problem with the shape, just make small balls and steam.
  10. Both Kaara-k-Kozhukkattai and Vella-k-kozhukkattai would become dry too quick. For immediate consumption, keep in a hot case. Or else, cover it well and lightly steam before serving. Never leave it open.

 

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Entering Year 3! Paasi Paruppu Payasam/Dehusked Green Gram Pudding/Kheer

 

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The second year of blogging has not been a continuous writing affair… though there was no end to cooking affair! Too much into packing, shifting places, entering new places and faces, unpacking and settling has been quite tedious. When I look back, the previous year has been a slow-paced one… sometimes out of sight for a couple of months too. But I feel overwhelmed by the support I have received in spite of those long intervals.

NANRI – Thanks a ton – for understanding my absence for short periods!

During this period of settling down, the new subscribers that joined hands with me and my old friends who have been continuously keeping pace with my posts, have made me feel more guilty of not having settled sooner and not having posted more. I shall surely try to compensate on that this year.

As usual, let’s enter another year with a sweet dish. This is one of my favourite payasams, of course next to Adai Pradhaman (https://dosaikal.com/adai-pradhaman-ada-pradhaman).J aggery and coconut milk make a sweet dish heavenly! This is one such payasam/pudding/kheer, with dehusked green gram. Generally, in payasams or any sweet dish, nuts are roasted or fried in nei/ghee to add richness and flavour. Here, traditionally, thinly cubed coconut pieces are fried in nei/clarified butter and added to the completed payasam. The coconut pieces can be added with fried cashewnuts. But, they can taste good all alone without the nuts too! Here, I have avoided the nuts and added fried coconut pieces alone.

I have seen aachi and amma always use chukku podi – dry ginger powder when jaggery is used in sweets. Adding dry ginger to jaggery helps in avoiding acidity and gastric problems. When the dish has coconut milk to make it a heavy intake, chukku podi/dry ginger powder would aid in easy digestion too!
 

Paasi Paruppu Payasam

 

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Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • paasi paruppu/dehusked green gram – 3/4  cup
  • vellam/jaggery – 1/2 cup
  • water – 1/4 cup to dissolve jaggery
  • thengai pal/coconut milk – 1 and 1/2 cup
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1//2 tsp
  • thinly cubed coconut pieces – 3 tblsp or lesser as per preference
  • nei/clarified butter – 2 tblsp

 

Method of Preparation

  1. In a pan, roast dehusked green gram till golden brown, no oil or butter needed
  2. In the same pan, fry coconut pieces in clarified butter till golden brown
  3. Cook the gram in pressure cooker with enough water till done; do not overcook
  4. While the green gram is getting cooked in the pressure cooker, dissolve jaggery in just enough water (1/4 cup). Strain it to avoid impurities
  5. Now on, the preparation is really easy and simple – Strain jaggery into the pressure cooker with cooked lentil
  6. Add dry ginger powder and cardamom powder and bring the mixture to a slightly thick consistency; if the cooked lentil is already thick and with very less water and the addition of jaggery has made it thicker, not to worry – add very little water if needed. This might help blending jaggery well with the lentil
  7. When jaggery is well blended with cooked lentil, add coconut milk. I used canned coconut milk
  8. If the payasam is too thick in consistency, add 1/2 cup water to dilute it.  If one likes the thicker version, can avoid adding more water
  9. After coconut milk is added, too much cooking and boiling might make coconut milk curdle due to the presence of jaggery
  10. Bring to a single boil and switch off the stove
  11. Transfer to a serving bowl and mix the fried coconut pieces with nei/clarified butter
  12. Serve hot.

 


Note:

  1. Do not roast the lentil too dark as the payasam would lose perfect colour.
  2. Coconut pieces should be really thin.
  3. Keep track of the amount of water in cooking the lentil and soaking jaggery… too much water would result in too much cooking time in reducing the lentil-jaggery mixture before adding coconut milk.
  4. The quantity of jaggery here is for a mildly sweetened payasam. Those who prefer more sweetness in their payasam can add a little more jaggery
  5. The most important thing is the coconut milk. Adequate care should be taken not to curdle the milk.
  6. REHEATING: Do not reheat the payasam directly on stove as it may curdle or the lentil would get burnt at the bottom. Heat slightly in microwave or Boil water in a vessel and place a steel bowl of payasam to heat up.

  

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Wait..Wait…

This is not as complicated as the points mentioned above! But actually, just take care of the coconut milk alone.

If one notices, I have emphasised a bit too much on water. It is just to say that one need not panic if lentil has less water or more water. Add more water wherever needed and incase of excess water, boil it to bring to required consistency. Just one thing to remember, all alterations of boiling should be before coconut milk is added.

If lentil is overcooked, not to worry. This payasam tastes good with overcooked lentil too! Personally to me, doesn’t make big difference. The taste of coconut milk with jaggery takes care of everything.

One last thing….
Forgot to reduce water before adding coconut milk…… not to worry again!  Instead of a bowl, serve in a tumbler/glass as we do at home in Tamilnadu!!

Thai Pongal – The Harvest Festival and Sarkkarai Pongal

Pongal is the harvest festival of the Tamils. After the tamil month – Maargazhi, comes Thai (not pronounced as in Thailand. Pronounced as in thigh). It marks the end of the harvest season.  According to the tamil seasons – the month of Thai falls in Mun Pani Kaalam – early winter.

These are the tamil seasons classified in the literary works-

  • Ila Venil Kaalam – Milder Hot Season – The months of Chithirai and Vaigasi (mid april and mid june)
  • Muthu Venil Kaalam – Hot Summer – The months of Aani and Aadi (mid june to mid august)
  • Kaar Kaalam – Cloudy/Rainy Season -The months of Aavani and Purattasi (mid august to mid october)
  • Koothir Kaalam – Cold Season – The months Aippasi and Kaarthigai (mid October to mid December)
  • Mun Pani Kaalam – Early Winter/Dew – The months of Maargazhi and Thai (mid December to mid February)
  • Pin Pani Kaalam – Later Winter/Dew – The months of Maasi and Panguni (mid February to mid april)

(http://sangamtamilforeignscholars.wordpress.com/robert-butler/)

 

Pongal cannot be considered a religious festival, though it is more popularized as a Hindu Festival. It can be called as a thanks giving celebration – the farmers thank the Sun God for a bounty harvest and thank their cows for their milk and the bulls who helped them plough their fields and pull their carts.

People living in cities are not really connected to this professional affair. With much population moving towards towns and cities for non-agriculture based livelihoods, what keeps the tradition still alive?

The quintessential grain of the people of south india – ‘Rice’ is needed for making Idli, Dosai, Cooked Rice, Payasams, Savouries and many more food items. Might be this connection between those farmers and city dwellers keeps everyone celebrate pongal alike. When the farmers thank their cattle and nature for helping in their bountiful harvest, people in other parts celebrate Pongal as a thanks giving festival to  the Farmers who provide them with the incomparable and unsubstitutable RICE, other crops and vegetables.

 

Pongal is a four-day affair.

1. The first day – the last day of the month of Maargazhi – this year (2012) January 14 – is called Bhogi Pongal and is the day of cleaning.  All old unwanted things are shed away. People white wash their houses and new Kolams – traditional drawings on the floor with rice flour and the house gets ready to celebrate Pongal the next day.

 

Kolam  from free pongal wall papers 

 

 

All the houses from the richest to the humblest are thoroughly scrubbed and whitewashed. Homes are cleaned and decorated with “Kolam” – floor designs drawn in the white paste of newly harvested rice with outlines of red mud. Often pumpkin flowers are set into cow-dung balls and placed among the patterns. Fresh harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in from the field as preparation for the following day. http://www.123pongal.com/pongal/festival/bogi-festival.html

 

2. The second day is Thai Pongal. The day of Pongal, which falls on January 15, 2012 is the first day of the month of Thai. The Tamil saying goes –
‘Thai pirandhal vazhi pirakkum’ – meaning when the month of Thai is born,  good things start coming into everyone’s life.

Pongal is also called Thai Thirunal and Thamizhar Thirunal – which means the festival of the Tamils – beyond religions.

Pongal means boiling or spilling over in reference to rice or milk. It is celebrated in cities on the gas stoves in the kitchen. In villages and towns, mud stoves or brick stoves are used to cook the newly harvested rice on man chatti/earthen pots or vengala paanai/brass pot. The stove is kept on the traditional kolams drawn on bogi night and pongal – plain rice and sweet jaggery rice is cooked not in the kitchen but in front of every house – thanking the Sun God.

 

pongal wishes from free pongal wall papers

 

 

The Vengala Paanai used only for Pongal purpose, is also called the ‘Ponga paanai’ is given to every bride by her parents and the first pongal after marriage is called ‘Thalai Pongal’ and the new daughter-in-law celebrates Pongal with her new Ponga paanai. After a few years of usage, unfortunately now, mine lies back home and so I use the normal pressure cooker in kitchen to make Pongal.

There would be two Paanais/vessels. One with plain white rice and water and the other with plain white rice and when it boils, jaggery is added to make Sarkkarai Pongal – the sweet jaggery rice – the delicacy associated with the festival. When the new rice boils and spills over the paanai, women of the house say – ‘Pongalo Pongal’ in chorus.

Maavilai thoranam/decorating houses with fresh mango leaves, Manjal Kizhangu/Fresh turmeric with the fresh leaves tied to the Pongal Paanai, Karumbu/Sugarcane and Panankizhangu/Palm Root are certain things associated with Pongal and those which I miss a lot during these special days, not to mention the fresh Banana leaves.

Not only Sarkkarai Pongal, the whole feast meal consists of those traditional vegetables – the normal four coarse meal – ilai saapadu – is enjoyed by the whole family. Sambar, Rasam and Yoghurt being normal, Avial – a vegetable dish with coconut gravy – using raw banana, egg-plant, pumpkin, drum sticks and many other root vegetables is the highlight of the day. By the end of the day, the tongue would have lost its taste co-ordination due to the unlimited intake of sugarcane!

The strong and courageous use their strong teeth to peel the skin of sugarcane – enjoying the real taste of course. The more pampered ones like appa – my father – would have their share of sugarcane cut to bit size pieces by his mother – aachi . The sight of my then sixty-five to seventy year old aachi sitting down on the floor with her arivalmanai – colloquially aruvamanai – the all in all traditional metal knife with a base – which cuts, chops and grates coconuts, and cutting sugar cane for appa is still framed in my mind. Even now, she is ready for it, but we don’t let her do it!

For photo of Aruvalmanai – see – http://www.flickr.com/photos/techno_freak/512113871/

 

3. The third day is Maatu Pongal – the day to thank the cattle. When in Thoothukudi in my maternal grandparent’s home, since there were cows, maatu pongal would be a colorful affair. Mamas/Uncles would paint the horns of cows and calves in different colours and we youngsters would tie colorful flower garlands to their necks. Thaatha would bring the bullock cart from his farm – and when we were very young, would even taken a ride in the bullock cart. That diminished later, and only painting horns and worshipping them continued till there were cows at home.

This day is also famous for Manju Virattu or Jallikattu – the bull fight – the tradition that is regarded to be more than 2000 years. In ancient days, parents of a girl would give their daughter to a courageous man who tamed the bull.

 

Jallikattu is more than 2,000 years ago old. Good proof for it are cave paintings, showing men chasing bulls, that were found in Karikkiyur village located in the Nilgiris district. Long time ago Jalikattu used to be a way for local women to choose their husbands. http://traditionscustoms.com/strange-traditions/jallikattu

 

4. The fourth day is Kaanum Pongal. It is the day of meet and greet. People visit their relatives and friends on this day. This is also a day of family picnic with ‘kootanchoru’ – the mixed rice packed by aachis and ammas for everyone for lunch. My maternal grandfather – thatha would drive us – the grandchildren – to River Thamiraparani in Vallanadu in Tuticorin district. We would swim in those cold waters – or literally warm water – nearly for three to four hours enjoying kaanum pongal picnic. Thatha made it a thatha and peran/pethigal – Grandfather-grand children day. When we were older, thatha took us again – just to see the water which had turned ankle depth – that made us really sad.

 

 Now for the true essence of Pongal, Sarkkarai Pongal!

 

 

 

 Sarkkarai Pongal

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • pacharisi/raw rice – 1 cup
  • paasi paruppu/split green gram/moong dhal – 1/3 cup
  • grated vellam/jaggery/gud – 1 1/2 cup
  • yela podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • nei/clarified butter/ghee – 4 tbsp
  • mundhiri paruppu/cashew nuts – 3 tbsp

 

 

 

 

Method of Preparation

  1. Cook rice and lentil in enough water in a pressure cooker (I used 5 cups for my rice quality)
  2. Mash well and keep aside
  3. Boil jaggery in 1/4 cup water till it dissolves and filter it straight into cooked rice and lentil
  4. Add cardamom powder and cook till jaggery syrup mixes well in rice and pongal reaches a thick consistency
  5. In a separate pan, heat ghee and fry cashew nuts
  6. Pour into Sarkkarai Pongal and mix well till everything blends well
  7. Sarkkarai Pongal is ready.

 

 

 

 

Note:

  1. The quantity of jaggery can be reduced if preferred
  2. Though amma prepares sarkkarai pongal with only rice as in traditional pongal paanai, this is the standard pongal cooked at all times – with split green gram mixed to it
  3. For an even better traditional taste – a bite of banana and coconut with a spoon of pongal tastes heavenly for some (I am one among those)
  4. For those with no sweet tooth or less sweet preference, but like to taste pongal – might try this one – have the sweet pongal with some sambar or coconut chutney.

 

5. January 16 of every year is also celebrated as Thiruvalluvar Naal/Thiruvalluvar Day. Thiruvalluvar is the author of Thirukkural. This would give a clear picture of the man and his contribution to Tamil Literary Works.

.

Thirukkural is the masterpiece of Tamil literature with the highest and purest expressions of human thought. It is written in the form of couplets (two line poems) expounding various aspects of life. It contains 1330 couplets, divided into 133 chapters of 10 couplets each

Thirukkural was written by Thiruvalluvar, who is believed to have born 30 years before Jesus Christ. The Tamil Calendar is dated from that period and referred as Thiruvalluvar Aandu (Year). We find Thiruvalluvar as a moral philosopher, political scientist and master of public administration in the first two parts of Thirukkural. We find him to be a creative artist in the third part, depicting the fascinating aspects of lovers.

Thirukkural’s immortality and universality are unquestionable. Its ethics and values are applicable to all religions, countries and time. It has been translated in over 60 languages of the world. http://www.tn.gov.in/literature/thiruvalluvar/thiruvalluvar.htm

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!

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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

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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.

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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!

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.

 

Modhakam – pillayar chaturthi special

The celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi or the birthday of the Hindu deity Ganesha is associated more with the state of Maharashtra in India. It is believed that Lord Ganapati was the family deity of the Peshwas. After the end of Peshwa rule, Ganesh Chaturthi remained a family affair in Maharashtra from the period of 1818 to 1892.

In 1893, Indian freedom fighter and social reformer Lokmanya Tilak transformed the annual domestic festival into a large, well-organized public event. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganesh Chaturthi).  

Lord Murugan is the God of the Tamils. He is referred to as ‘Tamil Kadavul’. Archaeological findings of pottery and relics in several places in Tamilnadu, particularly in Adichanallur, had ideographic inscriptions of this name and show signs that Murugan worship was prevalent at least as early as 10th century B.C, if not earlier.

Lord Murugan is also associated with Ahmuvan, an Indus Valley Deity.

According to noted epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan, the ideographs signify a brave warrior capable of killing evil beings to save the devoted. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murugan).

So, when did ganesha/vinayakar or pillayar worship come to Tamilnadu? There are many versions that lead us to historical references.

1. It is popularly said that ganesha was brought into Tamilnadu after the Vatapi War.  

Narasimhavarman I was a Tamil king of the Pallava dynasty who ruled South India from 630–668 CE. He avenged his father’s defeat at the hands of the Chalukya king, Pulakesi II in the year 642 CE.

 Pulakesi II, a renowned early Chalukya king, had previously raided various northern Pallava provinces and forts. However, he was unable to capture the Pallava capital of Kanchipuram. This led to a long conflict between the Chalukyas and the Pallavas.

Narasimhavarman defeated the Chalukyas in several battles, including one at Manimangalam 20 miles to the east of Kanchipuram. Encouraged by this victory, Narasimhavarman led his army along with his general Paranjothi and invaded Vatapi (Vatapi was the name of Badami the chalukya capital situated in present day Karnataka) successfully defeating the Chalukya king Pulakesi II in 642 CE. He returned victorious to Kanchipuram, and was given the title Vatapikondan (one who destroyed Vatapi).

His general Paranjothi was known very well for his devotion to Lord Siva and as one of the 63 Nayanmar saints, is said to have indeed personally destroyed the city of Vatapi under the command of Narasimhavarman I. He is also known as ‘Siruthonttar’. (http://en.wikipedia.org./wiki/NarasimhavarmanI)

It is generally assumed that Ganesha was brought to Tamilnadu by Siruththondar. After the victory over Chalukyas in Vatapi, he brought back a statue of Vinayaka. This statue, he placed in the Siva temple of his home town – Thiruchenggattangudi. In Thiruchengattangudi, even today the vinayakar is called Vatapi Ganapathi.

2. Whether the Thiruchengattangudi Vatapi Vinayakar was the first to have come to Tamilnadu is still controversial. The rock-cut Ganesha- the Karpaga Vinaayagar of Pillaiyaarpatti fame is earlier than the period of Siruththondar. (www.visvacomplex.com/GanesaWorshipInTamilNadu

3. Beyond these facts, there is another instance where the name Ganapati is referred to in literature – in Appar Thevaram.

Among the 63 Nayanmar’s of Saiva Bhakti literature, Appar or Thirunaavukkarasar holds a special place. A Saivite by birth, he embraced Jainism in his early years. Later, after the intervention of his sister Thilakavathiyar, Lord Siva made him realise Saivism and he became an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva.

The Jain leaders did not like the return of Thirunaavukkarasar to Saivism. They approached the then Jain King Mahendra Varma Pallavan to punish him. Appar antagonised the Jains and the Pallava emperor, Mahendra Varman I. The king tried in many ways to punish and kill appar.

After some failed attempts, the king ordered to tramp Thirunaavukkarasar by the Royal elephant. Thirunaavukkarasar with heart filled with devotion for Siva,  sat down and sang the hymn which starts –  

Sunna ven sandhana chchaandhum sudar thingat chuulaa maniyum….

and ends –
Anjuvadhu yaadhondrum illai anja varuvadhum illai

(we are not afraid of anything. There is nothing that can frighten us.)

The elephant instead of tramping on him saluted him with its trunk. In one of these hymns, appar mentions

‘kalamalak kittuth thiriyun ganapathi yennun kalirum’

Here, there is a mention of Ganapati.

This ‘anjuvadhu yadhonrum illai’ hymn predates Siruththondar’s invasion of Vatapi by at least 30 years. (www.visvacomplex.com/GanesaWorshipInTamilNadu). For more details on thevaram and nayanmar saints visit www.shaivam.org./tamil/thiru04.html. This website gives the hymns of all nayanmar saints in detail.

Appar sang these hymns in front of King Mahendra Varman, the father of Narasimhavarman – under whom Siruthondar brought Vatapi Ganapathi to Thiruchengattangudi. King Mahendra Varman too returned back to Saivism.

4. The rock-cut Pillaiyaar of Mahipaalanpatti is also very ancient and is quite unique. There is no other statue like it, in Tamilnadu. Mahipaalanpatti is known by the name Poongunram in Sangam ages. This was the home-town of kaniyan poongunranaar – one of the great poets of sangam literature. (www.visvacomplex.com/GanesaWorshipInTamilNadu).

I could not find more details about the Pillayar in Mahippalanpatti in the net. There are only geographic references to the place and not the temple.

Now, back to cooking! Ganesh Chaturthi or Pillayar Chaturthi – birthday of Lord Ganesha fell on 1st of September this year. It is a late post on that issue – but better late than never!

Pillayar Chaturthi or Ganesh Chaturthi is marked by modhakam – coconut jaggery filled dumplings – lord ganesha’s favourite. Waking up early and making 108 modhakams used to be the duty of children guided by amma. The exotic smell of roasted coconut mixed with jaggery would wake us up. After a quick hair wash, no solid food before puja – only coffee, tea or milk, we would start making modhakams.

When 108 is done and everything else ready for puja – more than ganesha, our tummies would be longing for the steamed white modhakams. Ofcourse, after distribution of modhakams in the neighbourhood, the whole day is there to finish the wonderful, jaggery syrup flowing sweet balls!

 

Modhakam (approximately 20 dumplings)

Ingredients

For the filling

  • coconut – one half portion
  • grated jaggery – 1/2 cup
  • dry ginger powder – 1/2 tsp
  • cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp

For the flour dough

  • rice flour – 200gms
  • hot water – 200ml
  • gingelly oil – 2 tsp

Method of Preparation

Filling

  1. Take grated coconut in a kadai and roast it slightly
  2. Coconut need not be roasted till golden brown
  3. In a pan, melt jaggery with 1/4 cup water
  4. Wait till jaggery melts and the mixture bubbles up
  5. Bubbling up of jaggery and water is the right consistency to be added to roasted coconut
  6. Strain the jaggery syrup to coconut and fry till coconut absorbs most of the water
  7. Add dry ginger powder and cardamom powder
  8. Be careful not to thicken the filling too much as jaggery would tighten further more after it is cooled
  9. For the right consistency – press the mixture with a ladle – there should be a little thick syrup which oozes out
  10. Filling is ready

roasting coconut

coconut jaggery filling

Dough for dumplings

  1. Boil water in a vessel
  2. Add 2 tsp of oil to water
  3. In a bowl, take rice flour and pour boiled water on it
  4. Mix it well initially with a ladle and then make it smooth with hand
  5. Dough is ready

Preparation of Modhakam

  1. Grease your palm with very little oil
  2. Take enough dough to make a small ball
  3. Flatten the ball and spread it on the palm
  4. Keep a tsp or just enough filling (easy enough to close the dumpling without the filling peeping out)
  5. Close it (see picture)
  6. Either leave it as a ball or make a sharp tip (picture)
  7. Shape can be as per one’s preference (we even used to make ganesha’s ears by folding the dough in the shape of ‘D’)

spread dough on palm and place filling

close the dumpling

 press and close the tip for a better shape

 nearly perfect

 

Steaming Modhakams

  1. Take an Idli Kopparai/Idli Cooker or any Steamer
  2. Boil water till the required level
  3. Oil the moulds and place the dumplings/modhakams
  4. Place the mould in the steamer and steam for 15 minutes

modhakams in rice kopparai

steamed modhakam

Modhakams are ready to be served!

Aval Sarkkarai Pongal/ Rice Flakes Jaggery Pongal

Aval in tamil, poha in hindi and rice flakes in english is also called flattened rice or beaten rice. This is an easily digestible snack as well as a whole meal. Aval can be soaked in water or milk to make it softer. When soaked it swells to nearly double the quantity. It can be an evening snack with sugar or jaggery or a breakfast dish in the form of uppuma or even aval dosai/dosa.  When I host, I make aval sarkkarai pongal as a dessert served hot.

aval

 

Vellam/Gud or Jaggery is a traditional unrefined whole cane sugar. It is considered healthier than refined sugar since it retains more mineral salts (Wikipedia). It contains various essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins of the sugarcane juice and is also high on calcium which is required for maintenance of bone strength. Being rich in iron, it prevents diseases like anemia and also contains essential nutrients like magnesium and potassium. Magnesium is vital for the proper functioning of the nervous system and potassium regulates blood pressure and heart functions. (www.agriculturalproductsindia.com)

Karuppatti is another form of unrefined sugar made from palm sap. It is darker in colour than vellam and is traditionally considered healthier. I remember when we went to our grandparents’ house for vacation, elders use to have karuppatti kaapi/palm jaggery coffee or kadunkaapi or black coffee with palm jaggery.

In these fast paced modern days, usage of vellam or karuppatti is reduced to desserts. There is a real health need to go back to the old tradition of using jaggery in our day-to-day eating habits.

vellam and karuppatti

 

Aval Sarkkarai Pongal (serves 2)

Aval Sarkkarai Pongal is rice flakes or poha halwa made with jaggery. Palm jaggery or karuppatti can also be used.

Ingredients

  • aval/poha/rice flakes – 1 cup (thicker variety)
  • vellam/gud/jaggery – 3/4 cup (grated)
  • grated ginger – 1/2 tsp
  • ghee/clarified butter –  4 tbsp
  • cashew nuts – 2 tbsp
  • cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
  • freshly grated coconut – 1/2 cup

Method of Preparation

  1. Wash aval two or three times, soak in water for 20 minutes and strain the water away
  2. Heat vellam/jaggery with 1/4 cup water and let jaggery dissolve
  3. Add grated ginger to jaggery and make a medium thick pouring syrup
  4. Strain the syrup
  5. Heat a pan with 2 tbsp ghee and add jaggery syrup and flattened rice
  6. Stir till aval soaks in all water and the syrup is well coated on the aval
  7. Add freshly grated coconut and stir till it mixes well
  8. Add cardamom powder
  9. Fry cashew nuts in 2 tbsp ghee
  10. Pour it over the finished aval pongal and mix well.

aval sarkkarai pongal

Some useful tips

  1. Dissolving jaggery in water and straining helps in removing sand or other impurities from jaggery
  2. Boiling grated ginger helps the juice and spice of ginger to get into the syrup; dry ginger powder can also be added
  3. Straining the jaggery syrup is done after boiling it with ginger so that ginger doesn’t come in the pongal
  4. 250gms jaggery with 2 tsp grated ginger or dry ginger powder and 1/2 cup water, can be boiled, strained and stored in the fridge for even 3 months.
  5. This syrup can be used for other jaggery based desserts and also as a substitute for white sugar in juices or porridges
  6. Thinner variety flattened rice would give halwa consistency easily; the thicker variety is useful to have a coarse texture – One can choose as the family prefers
  7. This pongal I have made is coarse in texture – Hence, a metal ladle is preferred. Wooden spatulas might mash the aval too much
  8. Thinner variety aval need not be soaked for more time
  9. Usage of coconut and ghee can always be altered.