Tag Archives: festive sweets

Happy Deepavali 2016 with Thiripagam – an easy variant of Badam Halwa

 

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pre-diwali and diwali delicacies

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Deepavali falls on the 29th of October, 2016 in Tamilnadu. If Deepavali means lots of happiness and loads of sweets and snacks- the festivity arrived a week earlier at home.

In the earlier decades of joint families or extended families close by, or at least a few siblings to share and pick up the last bits of sweets and snacks from the thooku chatti, festivals meant making of sweets and savories literally in several kilograms if not tonnes.

Presently, with nuclear families, especially with single children or children in different destinations, the sweet and savories story isn’t a kilogram affair, but has become a ‘grammy’ indulgence. Additionally, there is no aachi-amma duo to occupy the kitchen for consecutive hours, patiently filling the big chattis with goodies. Making so many delicacies in a couple of days fit for consumption for diwali and a few days beyond has become too strenuous now, atleast for me.

But, when the most important ingredient of a good festival – the energy to make and share traditional sweets and savories was still bright and shining as the lights of Diwali, there arose a patient plan. The patience behind making several goodies gave rise to a Pre-Diwali weekend.Instead of slogging in kitchen with so many things in mind, I started off with a few last weekend. Festivity started a week earlier, yes- for the sheer temptation of making more and introducing more traditional sweets and snacks.

Cooking is a bliss when you have people around to gobble it in a jiffy. Now, I really miss the ever hungry tummy of my little brother, who let amma and aachi feel delighted to make more and more ‘norukku theeni’ aka nibblers with the same enthusiasm for years together.

Yet, I have a little nibble hunter, who is as enthusiastic to taste new palagaram/snacks as to cook a few.

These are a few of my little one’s contributions for this Diwali…

 

magizhampoo murukku by her

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And also, a few kiliyanchatti/diyas hand painted for several occasions

painted lamps in gorgeous colors

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and this one’s already lit with imagination

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For the Pre-Diwali weekend, I made

  1. Gulab Jamun
  2. murukku in two different shapes

and  3. dragonny jilebis (those first attempt jilebis which turned out off-shape)

Mid way in the week, started off with the true notion of cooking traditional sweets from the place I hail from – Tirunelveli.
Thiripagam, Manoharam and Kara Sevu passed to the top of the list. If the first two resemble names of mythical characters beyond seas, that’s merely co-incidental. Not to worry, they are sweets and the third one is a popular spicy savory, available throughout South India.

 

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First, to the most uncommon among the three – Thiripagam.
When Amma had already started with Thiripagam – a long forgotten sweet, I just grabbed the opportunity of introducing the same here. Thanks to her, took step by step instructions to make.

I was introduced to this elegantly presented sweet in my uncle’s marriage. The feast had this different sweet, but with a very familiar taste. Was it Mysore Pak or Badam Halwa ? The former is the ghee oozing/melting in the mouth sweet with bengal gram flour and the latter is the wonder pudding with the goodness of almonds. Now, Thiripagam is somewhere between both. Kadalai Maavu or Bengal Gram Flour is the base ingredient with equal proportion of nei/clarified butter. Add the sugar and it would very well become mysore pak. This sweet has an additional inclusion of milk to the gram flour, that acts as an alternate to the almond milky flavor. These might be reasons for the resemblance of Badam Halwa and familiarity of Mysore Pak.

The pudding is shaped in rectangles or squares and wrapped in cookie sheet/butter paper. This is what aids in its elegant presentation with the distinct taste.

If made in a micro wave, this is certainly a 10 minute sweet to prepare. But since I don’t prefer micro wave cooking, I’ve done in the pan, which took about 30 minutes of stirring to reach the adequate kali/halwa consistency.

Thiripagam

 

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Thiripagam, – which means three parts, where the name must have come from the three core ingredients – bengal gram flour, clarified butter and milk.

 

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Ingredients (makes 16 pieces)

 

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  • kadalai maavu/bengal gram flour (besan) – 1 cup
  • nei/clarified butter (ghee) – 1 cup
  • paal/milk – 1 cup
  • cheeni/sugar – 3/4 cup
  • kungumapoo/saffron – generous strands

 

Though Amma mentioned the quantity of sugar could vary between 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups, I added only 3/4th of a cup. One can alter as per their sweet preference. Another alteration I made was the deduction of pachai karpooram/edible camphor. The flavor of the sweet comes from edible camphor, but I thought saffron could be a flavorful component to this exceptional sweet.

 

 

Method of Preparation

  1. Sieve kadalai maavu/bengal gram flour and keep ready
  2. Warm milk and mix the saffron strands
  3. In a bowl, mix the sieved flour, sugar, 1/2 cup clarified butter and milk with saffron – without lumps

 

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4. Having the batter without lumps is very important – I used a fork to press the few lumps that was left over in the batter

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5. Keep the other 1/2 cup clarified butter to add in the end when pudding is almost done

6. Mix well till all sugar is dissolved

7. Heat the batter in a non-stick pan and let it boil

8. Keep stirring and when it starts boiling, simmer the burner

 

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9. The batter would reach a thicker consistency in about 30 minutes time in sim position

 

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10. At this stage, pour the reserved 1/2 cup clarified butter and stir well

 

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11. When the kali/halwa has become thick enough to be spread in a plate, switch off stove

12. Spread the halwa in a greased plate and cut into rectangular/square piece when warm

13. Take cookie sheets and cut into squares enough to fold the thiripagam pieces

14. Place the piece inside the cookie sheet and fold into beautiful squares

 

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15. Thiripagam is ready in its perfect presentation.

 

Ellu Kozhukkattai/ Rice Flour Dumplings with Sesame Seed and Jaggery

 

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Pillayar Chathurthi, Ganesh Chathurthi or Vinayaka Chathurthi is being celebrated today. The Gods we worship have different names in different parts of India. Pillayar in Tamilnadu is also called as Ganesha or Vinayaka, followed by a list of many other names. Different names don’t interfere in the festivities on the street and inside homes.  What the elephant-headed God, being Pillayar or Ganesha likes is fixed – Kozhukkattai in Tamil and Modakam in Sanskrit. Different Forms of Modak are the most important preparation of Pillayar Chaturthi.

Added to the well popularised Modakam in the God’s hands, is a long chain of local ingredients – fruits, vegetables and grains that come up during the season.

In Tamilnadu, what Lord Ganesha is simplified in the poetic verses – ‘Appamodu Aval Pori’ – which gives the best three things that he likes to eat –

a. Appam/Deep fried Rice flour-jaggery Dumplings (the altered version being made with wheat flour and sometimes banana too)
b. Aval – Flattened Rice
c. Pori – Puffed Rice.

This also shows the socioeconomic connection behind these religion based celebrations. The major crop of the area – Rice and its different versions, has been adapted as ‘Festive Food Essentials’. I often think, if Ganesh Chathurthi had been celebrated elaborately in the northern parts of India – Wheat based specialities would have been his favorite, wheat being the major crop of that part of the country.

Now, the core ingredient of Kozhukkattai or Modakam is the rice flour. What enters into the beautiful rice cover can be optional. Coconut – Jaggery is the ultimate killer combination of all kozhukkattais according to me. The next classic filling is the Sesame Seed – Jaggery combination. The nutty flavor that the sesame seeds give and the traditional sweetness from jaggery can also be a low-fat version for those who feel coconut or fried coconut is rich in cholesterol (not me). Apart from this stuffed modakams, there are also varieties of non-stuffed stuff – pidi kozhukkattai or plain sweetened or salted steamed dumplings pressed with the impression of fingers – that aid additionally as quick and easy evening snacks.

Coconut-Jaggery Kozhukkattai and Pidi Kozhukkattai – Sweet and Salt and Spicy versions, have already been posted. It’s time for Ellu Kozhukkattai or Sesame Seed-Jaggery filled Dumplings this time.
Ellu Kozhukkattai/Rice Flour Dumplings with Sesame Seed and Jaggery
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a. Ingredients specified below makes 20-25 dumplings

b. The V -Part demonstration is for precise comprehension alone – otherwise these dumplings are quite easy to make

 

Part I – Making Rice Flour at home
The core ingredient Rice Flour can be store-bought which comes out well, but the snow-white colour of home-made rice flour is something beyond comparison. For those who prefer home-made rice flour, please refer https://dosaikal.com/2016/08/29/uppu-seedaisalted-rice-ball-crispies/
Part II – Making the Rice Dough which is the outer covering

Ingredients

 

  • arisi maavu/rice flour – 1 1/2 cup – app. 200 gms
  • thanneer/water – boiling hot to make a stiff yet soft dough
  • uppu/salt – 1/2 tsp
  • nallennai/gingelly oil – 2 tsp

 

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  1. Boil water in a vessel;
  2. In a bowl, mix rice flour and salt;
  3. Pour boiling hot water on it and mix well with a ladle immediately before lumps form;
  4. Add the gingelly oil for smooth consistency.

 

Part III – Making the filling

 

  • ellu/sesame seeds (white or black) – 100 gms – app. 1 cup
  • vellam/jaggery – 200 gms – app. 1 cup
  • thengai thuruval/grated coconut – 1/2 cup – app. 50 gms
  • chukku podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp
  • elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp

 

roasted sesame with jaggery water…

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mixed with coconut, dry ginger powder and cardamom powder..

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and shaped to be filled..

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  1. Dry roast clean/non-muddy sesame seeds till golden.
  2. Separately dry roast coconut – for 10 mins – with the coco-nutty stickiness intact.
  3. Dissolve jaggery in just enough hot water and filter the mud that is present.
  4. In a pan, heat together sesame seeds, grated coconut, jaggery water, dry ginger powder and cardamom powder.
  5. Let the mixture thicken, ready enough to make small stiff balls.
  6. Make equal sized balls for filling.

Part IV – Making Kozhukkattai/Dumplings

(for step-by-step procedure for keeping the filling inside and closing kozhukkattai please refer – https://dosaikal.com/2011/09/14/modhakam-pillayar-chaturthi-special/

 

  1. Make small equal sized balls for the outer covering.
  2. Keep a bowl with 3 tsp gingelly oil for greasing palm – this helps the rice dough not sticking to the palm.
  3. Grease palm with gingelly oil.
  4. Take one rice ball and press it flat in the palm and fill it with one sesame jaggery ball.
  5. Cover it well and make kozhukkattai/dumpling.
  6. Make all dumplings to be steamed.

 

ready to be steamed

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Part V – Steaming Modhakams

 

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  1. Take an Idli Kopparai/Idli Cooker or any Steamer.
  2. Boil water in the base of the steamer.
  3. Oil the moulds and place the kozhukkattai/dumplings.
  4. Place the mould in the steamer and steam for 15 minutes.
  5. Kozhukkattais are ready to be served.

 

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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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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!

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.

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.

 

Deepavali – the sweets and savouries story!

 

 

India and the festive spirit

India is rightly called the land of festivals. Its multi ethnical, multi lingual, multi cultural population and the vast geographical territory are some of the reasons for its festivities and celebrations that knows no boundaries.

All the festivals are celebrated with so much vigor and colour. And the energy with which the people rejoice and glorify each event is a splendid sight. Till today these festivals are celebrated by each household with the same spirit not only because of the sheer joy and happiness involved, but mainly because of those people who want to take forward these unique traditional customs to the next generation.

With each celebration, when it comes to the customs and rituals involved, there are so many questions asked and probed by the younger ones and answers explained by the older ones. But when the younger ones become older, the same spirit of celebration with customs and rituals comes active again with some or many changes in life style. Deepavali is one such celebration. It is celebrated in many parts of India in different ways.

 

Deepam and Tamilnadu

I am unable to track the origin of Deepavali in Tamilnadu. If anyone has any kind of detail regarding this, please do communicate. In Tamilnadu, karthigai deepam is called the festival of lights. Karthigai Deepam is celebrated in the tamil month of karthigai which falls in November-December.

‘Karthigai Deepam’ is one of the oldest festivals celebrated by the Tamil people. One of the earliest references to the festival is found in Ahananuru, which dates back to the Sangam period (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.) The Ahananuru clearly states that Kaarthigai is celebrated on the full moon day of the Tamil month of Karthigai and mentioned that it was the primary festival of the ancient Tamils. Avaiyyar, the renowned poetess of Sangam age portrayed the festival in her songs………… Unlike many other Hindu festivals, Karthigai Deepam is basically a Tamil festival and is virtually not known in other parts of India’(http://tamilnadu.com/tamilnadu/main/common/tamilnadufestival.jsp?festival=Karthigai%20Deepam).

Tolkappiyam, The earliest tamil grammatical treatise, the dating of which has been debated among various scholars also mentions about deepam –

‘Evidence from Tamil literature proves that this festival is one of the oldest in the state. In ancient Tamil literature, the oldest available work Tolkappiyam gives in concise verse form rules for Tamil grammar as well as other topics. Scholars agree that this work dates back to 2,000 or 2,500 BC. In one of the formulae Tolkapiyar in his treatise uses the phrase “like the lamp’s flame pointing upwards.” This phrase, says one of the commentators, refers to the beacon lit on the Annamalai Hill, which burns brightly without flickering in the wind, and flares up towards the sky’ (http://www.kerala-tourism.net/tamilnadu/tamilnadu-fair-festivals.html).

According to Wikipedia, ‘Some scholars prefer to date it not as a single entity but in parts or layers which are estimated as written between the third century BCE and the fifth century CE’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_of_the_Tolkappiyam).

We shall talk about karthikai deepam after Deepavali celebrations.

 

Deepavali and Tamilnadu

Karthigai Deepam can be called the traditional deepam festival of the Tamils. Though Pongal, Tamil Puthaandu (New Year) and Karthigai Deepam are the major tamil festivals, Deepavali has a special place.

In so many years now, Deepavali has also taken its place among the major festivals. Deepavali is a culmination of the two Sanskrit words Deepam and Avali. Deepam means light and avali means a row. The display of the row of lamps at home and crackers throughout the day and few days before and after is a fascinating sight. It is regarded as the celebration of the victory of good over evil.

It is celebrated as the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon Narakashura. It is marked by new dresses, sweets and savouries distributed to friends and relatives and bursting fire crackers.

After marriage, the first Deepavali of the newly married couple is called ‘Thalai Deepavali’ and is celebrated with extra pomp and pride. If one is married in December, then Deepavali in somewhere October or November the next year is the Thalai Deepavali for the couple though they might not fall under the ‘newly married’ category!

 

The Deepavali Day

The day starts very early with an oil bath – applying gingelly oil on hair and shampooing with shikakai – the traditional shampoo powder made of herbs. Then the new dresses purchased would be kept in front of God and the auspicious turmeric powder would be kept like a dot in an unknown corner and the dresses transferred to each member of the house.

After dresses, comes food – special deepavali pujai snacks are prepared fresh in the morning (athirasam, appam and a few more). Morning pujai with all the sweets and savouries made – kids eyes closed and hands put together in vanakkam position (greeting the tamil way), but mind wandering on which sweet or snack to taste first!

Then comes tasting – that seems to be beyond words.. After tasting and having breakfast, comes distribution of sweets and savouries to neighbourhood and friends and family. This is mainly the task of the girls of the house. Some of the houses we go and some guests come home to deliver. It is basically exchange of goodies and good wishes – and we greet each other – ‘Deepavali Vaazhthukkal!’

Deepavali would be incomplete without crackers.. Irrespective of the age, there is a cracker or firework for all.

 

Deepavali and dosaikal

I thought of starting this as a Deepavali Sweets and Savouries special series! In most of the houses, preparation for Deepavali in terms of sweets and savouries starts about two or three days before. Apart from the fresh sweets made for the pujai or worship on the special day, there are a lot more sweets which have to be made before hand and these can be stored for weeks, and especially savouries for even months. After distributing to friends and relatives, it would be a daily evening snack or throughout the day snack and would be ultimately over within days is another different issue.

My memory goes many years behind, where the grinding of kadalai maavu/bengal gram flour for kara sevu, arisi maavu and ulundha maavu/rice flour and urad flour for murukkus, paasi paruppu maavu/yellow lentil flour for nei urundai, plain arisi maavu for athirasam would start nearly four days before Deepavali. The dining area would be filled with thookuchattis (tall vessel with handle to store flours and snacks later) with different flours in them. The aroma of the snacks would start spreading the house two days before Deepavali. I would be sitting on the floor with aachi and amma, watching them make Pathirpeni (deep fried flat cakes covered in powdered sugar), Poli (channa dal-sugar mixture filled flat cakes), Gulab Jamun (deep fried sweet dumplings in sugar syrup) – to mention a few of the sweets and different kinds of murukkus, thattais and mixtures – some of the savouries. That is how I learnt to make the very special kai-murukku.

When I was thinking of explaining Murukku, I just visited Wikipedia and got a beautiful definition. Murukku is made out of a combination of rice and urad flour. ‘The mixture is made into a batter, mechanically extruded, formed into a spiral or coil, and fried to a crisp. Murukku can also be rolled into a flat ribbon (ribbon murukku) or shaped by hand (kai murukku). Kai suthu murukku (Hand spun) is prepared by getting a string of dough and twisting it while winding it into a ring. This process is very hard, requires patience and is highly technical work.’

This is the speciality of kai murukku. Though I have half forgotten the art of kai murukku, learnt from aachi (my paternal grandmother), the next sentence in Wikipedia definition made me think of practicing it again seriously – ‘This profession is in high demand and is paid very well’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakli)!

Any festival or celebration comes with a teaching note.. Deepavali I think in our households has taught us patience and self resistence. The sweets and savouries prepared and ready but lids closed, would not be allowed to be tasted till pujai on the day of Deepavali. The aroma of the sweets and murukkus spread over the whole house and the whole locality (each house’s speciality), everyone waits eagerly and patiently for the first bite – allowed only after it is displayed in front of the Gods and tasted by them!

Nowadays, with both members of the family working, and less time to spend in kitchen, youngsters becoming more conscious of the fat content, children of many families working or settled abroad and eventually lonely parents, buying sweets and savouries – both traditional and modern(?!) from sweet shops has become common. Distribution among friends is still a living element – thankfully. Though some important sweets for pujai are made at home.

deepams arranged on traditional kolam

 

Why Deepavali series so early?

I know this is going to be a great learning experience for me – trying to make those mouth watering sweets and savouries – some for the first time! That is why I thought, if I could start a little early, might be I could make more goodies in a relaxed way – experimenting stress free.. I would also be happy to learn new recipes from any of you – my friends!

So let us celebrate Deepavali together!! This year Deepavali falls on October 26th (2011).