Tag Archives: athirasam

Deepawali – The Victory Story

Deepawali in the south of India or Diwali in the north, the festival signifies victory of good over evil. In the north, it is Lord Rama’s homecoming, after his victory over Ravana; In the south, it is the day of Lord Krishna’s victory over demon Narakasura.

Now, my victory story, doesn’t involve any such philosophy. It is the victory of perseverance, victory of persistence, diligence, commitment and the list is endless. Why have I suddenly drenched myself in a sea of boastfulness? Let me elaborate. Exactly on the victorious day of Deepawali – I was a changed person. I suddenly felt my soul reached an unexplainable ecstatic state – with my victory over two things.

One – victory over the tricky Athirasam and Two – victory over the complicated Boondi Laddu! Doesn’t that sound awesome??

Athirasam

Athirasam has always been a tricky affair, since my first article on Athirasam in November 2011. It seems to have been a long journey, but this time, I am a contended soul.

I prayed very hard to all Gods, not for me, not for Athirasam, and also not for the Gods to whom I devoutly offered…. but extensively for my family. They are super appreciative of my efforts in the kitchen. A few times, I succeeded making replica of flattened pumice stone with the athirasam batter. Though it was capable of breaking any tooth, as strong as diamond, they appreciated the polished texture of the thing I made.

A few other times, the batter disintegrated in oil, they sweetly commented, it looked like blooming flowers in a lake. I was smart enough to stop with the first batch. I converted the batter into Appam with Banana or sweet Paniyaram. I even got hugs and kisses for being so very innovative.

Though, my heart brims with pride, having made them proud, on such countless occasions, I could somehow feel they were worried souls, on the eve of Diwali. They were in fact getting panic attacks, when I was preparing the Athirasam batter. With a true feeling of helping them out of this stressful situation, this time I prayed to all Gods, with utmost Devotion.

Thankfully, the Gods didn’t drop – good looking, perfect athirasams from Heaven. That’s when, I started to think, and hence, got so much stories to share with you guys.

So what made the difference? There were a few things I thought I should re-analyse. All numeric ratios were checked and they seemed just right. The measurements were perfect; the ingredients were exact; the procedure was flawless. I felt like a school going kid, with my math problem gone wrong. All formulas right, done in the exact step by step procedure, rechecked several times….. but the answer went wrong. All my teachers stood in front of me, and seemed to be telling me – Maths is all about Practice. Not only Mathematics, anything in life comes with a price – and the most important of all might be…. Time – Devoted Time to practice and practice again.

I realised, making Athirasam was more than a tough mathematical calculation. Practice was not enough. But, learning new nuances from continuous practice helped. What I learnt from continuous Practice is listed below-

  1. Rice flour used for Athirasam needs to be moist and not too dry. That’s why, raw rice is soaked, dried at home for an hour or so, and powdered in the mixer while slightly wet.
  2. Jaggery used should be the darker variety and also one which is right for syrups – we call it the ‘Paagu Vellam’ in Tamil.
  3. Though the ratio is provided, always keep additional rice flour. Because, some varieties of jaggery might take in more flour. If there isn’t enough flour, the mixture would be watery, a consistency not suitable to make athirasam.
  4. Also, always mix rice flour to syrup and, do not pour the syrup into rice flour. This helps in binding the mixture well, and gives room to add more rice flour if needed. But, while pouring syrup into the flour- one might end up having a very thick batter. And, if there isn’t more syrup in hand, it would be difficult to alter the consistency of batter.
  5. The most important of all – THE SYRUP…. that makes the difference. What we need, is a single-string consistency or soft ball consistency syrup.

Soft Ball consistency – How to make the quintessential syrup?

  • Heat jaggery with 1/4 cup water in a vessel to dissolve
  • Filter when jaggery is dissolved and make a syrup.
  • Check for Soft ball consistency? When the jaggery is boiling well in the vessel – keep a bowl of water and add a few drops of the syrup. The drops should settle in water and one should be able to make a soft ball out of the droplets.
  • Soft ball consistency is same as single string. Take very little syrup in between thumb and index finger (be cautious… the syrup is too hot), now, single string should be formed. This is the right consistency of syrup.

Now, after getting the consistency of syrup right, add the rice flour to the syrup and let the batter ferment overnight.

For recipe and ingredients of Athirasam, and my initial stories on how I learnt athirasam from our family kitchen, visit – https://dosaikal.com/2011/10/25/the-tricky-athirasam/

RICE FLOUR

The next important aspect of this year’s Athirasam making was the rice flour. I had store-bought rice flour, that was Idiyappam maavu. While I was wondering, how to use this flour, as an easy option .. this website came to my rescue. https://www.sailajakitchen.org/2018/10/adhirasam-recipe-using-ready-made-rice.html

It had an answer to keep the store bought dry rice powder in moist condition. The author asked to sprinkle water little by little on the rice flour, and after mixing, powder the bread-crumb-like flour with dry ginger and cardamom in a mixer. The moist rice powder for Athirasam is ready.

Isn’t this super smart! I adapted this method, with a slight correction in the syrup consistency- accurately soft ball.

Thank You Sailaja! you made my Day!!

After allowing the batter to ferment overnight, I made athirasam on the day of Deepawali. Gods had answered the prayers of my family. My Athirasams were just perfect.

I had mixed feelings… Had I scored full marks in mathematics? Or was I an athlete, who has just reached the finish line, faster than ever? I touched my head…. do I feel a chef’s cap? I suddenly realised, my feet didn’t touch the ground, then, I pressed myself down.

It might sound like an exaggerated triumph, but, this is no mean feat either. My mother agrees with me. Since Deepawali until today, she has been the lone soul, to have listened each word of my triumphant story of Athirasam, in complete silence on the other side of the telephone. And just said, ‘I’m proud of you’ with tears in her eyes, that I could visualise through my BOTIM call.

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!