Tag Archives: pongal and kootanchoru

Pongal In Cambodia – 2014!

Pongal – The Harvest Festival of the Tamils was celebrated on the 14th of January. The four day festivity- Bhogi Pongal, Thai Pongal, Maatu Pongal and Kaanum Pongal has been discussed in https://dosaikal.com/thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival.

This Year Pongal was a simple affair as usual, but just tried showcasing a few traditional things to my daughter.

Concentrated on a basic menu, not indulging into a feast meal (that tuesday being a working day for the father-daughter duo) with –

 

vaazhai ilai saappaadu – the banana leaf platter

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sarkkarai pongal -sweet jaggery rice (dosaikal.thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival) – the special delicacy of the day
maangai sambaar – lentils and vegetables in tamarind, spice gravy (dosaikal.sambar)
avial – mixed vegetables in coconut, yoghurt curry (dosaikal.pongal-in-cambodia)
beans thuvaran – beans dry vegetable curry (dosaikal.beans-poriyal)
maangai pachadi (raw mango and jaggery chutney)
maangai thokku (grated raw mango pickle)
vadai (dehusked black gram fritters)
yoghurt to end the meal
mor milagai for the yoghurt rice (dosaikal.curd-rice-sun-dried-chillies)

and the Cambodian Brown Rice to go with the curries.

 

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We had our meal on the banana leaf (dosaikal.thamizhar-virundhu-feast-of-the-tamils). The different dishes kept on the disposable leaf bowls are only for display. (Special Thanks to friend ‘R’ for letting us cut banana leaves from their trees.)
Dhonnai – disposable eco-friendly bowls

The leaf bowls are called ‘Dhonnai’ – a typical temple meal server. The prasadhams or the food provided to the worshippers in the temples are served in dhonnais – made of different kinds of leaves stitched to form cups (palm leaf, banana leaf, lotus leaf are a few leaves used to make dhonnais). I’d like to highlight here that these are eco-friendly, bio-degradable bowls.

 

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Any festival comes with a package of preparatory processes. Those vary from family to family. A person not familiar with all, but a keen learner that I would like myself to be – I thought of doing some minimal preparations to showcase the festive spirit.

So now to those few things I could make my daughter know that excites us during festivals – in the preparation of the special day –
1. Maavilai Thoranam

 

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Maa is the short form of maangai/mango and ilai means leaf.  Thoranam is a festoon which would be hanged at entrances of homes. During festivals, the thoranam/festoon made with mango leaves would adorn every house.  Any family occasion, thoranams are an important part of home decoration – to tell the clan, community and the village/town that there is an auspicious occasion at their home. Inauspicious occasions call for different thoranams, differently hanged.

I do not know when the earliest reference of thoranam is found in Tamil Literature. But,  ‘Naachiyaar Thirumozhi’ written by Andal, one of the Alvars (Vaishnavite Saints) of the Bhakti movement has these verses (dosaikal.com/maargazhi-maadhathil-ven-pongalven-pongal-in-the-month-of-maargazhi). Andal, the only female Alvar …in the 8th Century AD, mentions the Thoranams/festoons in her poetry!

 

vaaraNam aayiram suuzha valam seidhu
naaraNa nambi nadakinraan enredhir
pooraNa porkudam vaithu puramengum
thoraNam naatta kana kanden thozhi naan

Here, Andal talks about her dream of getting married to Lord Vishnu. She elaborates the festive occasion in her dream –

Her beloved Lord walks gloriously amidst thousands of elephants; For his majestic arrival,  golden pots (again a symbol of auspicious occasion) are arranged everywhere and the whole of Srivilliputhur – her town is completely decorated with thoranams/festoons.

 

Maavilai Thoranams are available in the market in Tamilnadu for Pongal celebrations. With numerous mango trees around, I got a few mango leaves from friend ‘P’ (with mangoes too). Made the thoranam with tooth pick and hanged it in the entrance.
2. Karumbu – Sugarcane

After a long search, we could get the whole sugarcane. Pongal would have been incomplete without the true bite of sugarcane.

 

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3. Kolam – traditional drawings with rice flour.

 

A Kolam is a geometrical line drawing composed of curved loops, drawn around a grid pattern of dots. The patterns range between geometric and mathematical line drawings around a matrix of dots to free form art work and closed shapes.

Though not as flamboyant as its other Indian contemporary, Rangoli, which is extremely colourful, a South Indian Kolam is all about symmetry, precision, and complexity. Due to their complexity, trying to figure out how, exactly, these designs were drawn can be a challenge that some viewers find enjoyable. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolam)

 

I am not a good artist – in terms of drawings or paintings. But watching amma and aachi draw kolams everyday in front of the house and special kolams in the poojai arai (worship room), my work was to do some kolams for Pongal and Deepavali. During Maargazhi Maadham, the month of Maargazhi (Dec-Jan), when the women display their drawing skills in front of their houses, mine would be a genuine attempt but not certainly one of the best or wouldn’t even be categorised ‘better’. Still the event wouldn’t stop.

Aachi (grandma) who would draw wonderful elephants and birds when we were small as she was a great artist. With such patience and dedication, her kolams were picture perfect  – no compromise. She had her ‘Kola nottu’ – the note for kolams (now with cousin ‘A’, who is again very good at it – so in right hands), with her precious kolams drawn to perfection.

This year, Kolam was there in my agenda of traditions during Pongal. So, I requested my friend ‘L’ in Chennai who was sending me pictures of her beautiful Kolams, to send me some simple ones with procedures too. With improved technology, the step by step procedure reached in seconds and we drew our own kolams with chalk. My little enthusiast colored them!

 

my version… great artists over there – forgive me please…

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and the original by ‘L’

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my pongal paanai – pongal pot

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Here are a few beautiful kolams done for Maargazhi and Pongal by ‘L’ –

 

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Thanks ‘L’ for sharing these with me and letting me share with all!

One more important thing in Pongal is the turmeric plant tied to the pot in which Pongal would be cooked. Not available here. Hope to find it for my next Pongal.  There is a saying in Tamil – ‘Thai pirandhal vazhi pirakkum’ which means  – with the start of the new month of ‘Thai’ – mid January to mid February (after maargazhi), good things would fall in place.

 

Wish everyone a happy, healthy and success filled Year 2014!

My 100th Post! Kootanchoru – Typical Home Town One Pot Meal.

Is Knocking Century a great mile stone? Cricketers and Bloggers would agree unanimously. When my paternal die hard cricket fan thaatha (grand father) would take me to Chennai M.A. Chidambaram Stadium to watch cricket matches, as a ten year old I would jump screaming high to sixes and fours of Ravi Shastris and Kapil Devs alike. Till today I no nothing much about the game but what I liked the most was getting ready early in the morning with packed lunch and snacks and more snacks and ice-cream to be bought at the stadium and a whole day of watching different kinds of people enjoying their day. That was a perfect outing of a grandpa-grand daughter duo – chatting, munching, screaming, clapping and jumping through out – more work-out than those cricketers on the field.

Today, I feel the same excitement when I jot down my 100th post. A big THANKS to all of you who’ve kept my pen writing.

I wanted to present one of the most fabulous One Pot Meals of my home town – Thirunelveli and the nearby districts my maternal Thoothukudi. It is called KOOTANCHORU – literally translates as might be – ‘combined rice’. (Kootu means combination/combine and Choru means Rice)

 

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Kootanchoru is –
1. a combination of rice and lentil – thuvaram paruppu or split pigeon peas;
2. with as many country vegetables and one green leafy vegetable preferably Arai Keerai (Amaranth Greens), salt and turmeric powder;
3. cooked in a kuzhambu/curry of tamarind and ground coconut-spice paste
and
4. seasoned with mustard, dehusked black gram, curry leaves and vadagam (sun-dried onion seasoning).

 

One-Pot Meal
With the culinary world turning its eye towards One-Pot Meals,  Kootanchoru is a healthy whole meal with high nutrient value; though with a long list of ingredients, it involves less time and work in cooking. While the rice, lentils and vegetables are cooked in the ground spice paste, the house would be filled with a unique aroma – I call it the true flavor of THE TAMIL  cuisine, common to every down south –  Indian household.

As I have mentioned, the ingredient list is elaborate, the initial preparation involves slightly more work, but the cooking proccedure is quite simple. The aroma and flavor of the meal is worth the effort of initial tasks!!

PONGAL – the harvest festival of the Tamils (refer – https://dosaikal.com/thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival and https://dosaikal.com/pongal-in-cambodia/), is just five days away. Kootanchoru is also a special meal during Kaanum Pongal or the fourth day of the harvest festival where people visit their friends and family and also spend the time on a Picnic. Kootanchoru can also be a picnic meal!

While the joy of a 100 posts rekindles memories of my paternal grandfather who has also been a wonderful friend till he left us a year and a half ago, the word Kootanchoru reminds me of my maternal grandfather who would take us all grandchildren on different picnics and shower us with the delicacies of Thoothukudi.

Coming from a family where the huge extended family, with maternal and paternal aunts (athais, chithis and periyammas) and those special aunts wedded to uncles (athais and chithis), I think each one in the clan are excellent cooks and my kootanchoru can never match their flavor of their hands; Or now in the next generation, the tasteful endeavors of my cousins – experts in variety of cuisines!
The Making –
Kootanchoru

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

1. main ingredients

  • puzhungal arisi/par boiled rice – 1 heaped cup
  • thuvaram paruppu/split pigeon pea – 1/2 cup
  • oil preferably gingelly oil – 1 tsp for the base of the cooker
  • puli/tamarind – lemon sized soaked in 1/2 cup water
  • manjal podi/turmeric powder – 1/2 -3/4 tsp
  • uppu/salt – to taste

 

rice and lentil

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2. mixed vegetables cut to medium size pieces – 5-6 cups of the same measuring cup of rice

  • kathirikkai/egg plant
  • vaazhaikkai/raw banana
  • carrot
  • beans
  • chenai/yam
  • urulai/potato
  • kothavaarangai/cluster beans
  • avaraikkai/broad beans
  • chinna vengayam/shallots – 10 no.s uncut for frying
  • oil for frying shallots – 3 tbsp

 

vegetables and shallots

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3. greens – 1 cup

agathi keerai/amaranth greens or any other greens, the second preference would be murungai keerai/drum stick leaves

greens and tamarind water

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4. to grind – garlic is a key ingredient!

  • grated coconut – 1/2 cup
  • seeragam/cumin seeds – 2 tsp
  • milagai vatral/red chillies – 3 no.s
  • pachai milagai/green chilli – 1 no.
  • poondu/garlic cloves – 10 no.
  • chinna vengayam/shallots – 5 no.s or 1/2 of normal big onion

 

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5. seasoning

  • oil – 3 tbsp
  • kadugu/mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • ulundham paruppu/dehusked black gram – 1 tsp
  • chinna vengayam/shallots -6 no.s or periya vengayam/onion – 1/2 – cut long and thin strips
  • karivepilai/curry leaves – 15 leaves
  • vadagam/sun dried onion balls – 1 or 2 no.s

 

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Method of Preparation
Initial Preparation

  1. Wash rice and lentil; keep aside
  2. Grind the grated coconut with the above mentioned spices into a smooth pastewith little water
  3. Wash and soak tamarind in water
  4. Cut all the vegetables and amaranth greens or any spinach of your spinach and keep ready
  5. While using eggplant, potato and raw banana, keep them in a bowl of water to avoid discoloration
  6. Peel the skin and wash the shallots and keep aside

Procedure – I

Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pressure cooker on lighted stove and start adding all ingredients one after the other in order–

  1. rice and lentil without water
  2. ground coconut and spice paste
  3. cut vegetables
  4. chopped greens
  5. turmeric powder and salt
  6. tamarind water

Procedure – II

  1. Add 4 cups of water for every cup of rice-lentil mix. I have used total 1 1/2 cups both combined – so I added almost 6 cups. This is not inclusive of the tamarind juice of 1/2 cup and the water content in the spice paste.
  2. A total of 4 cups for 1 cup is ideal. Parboiled Rice needs more water for a well cooked – semi mashed consistency and that is what is needed for Kootanchoru.
  3. Do not close the cooker; let the mixture boil in medium heat. Keep stirring as the mixture might stick to the bottom of the cooker, as there is less oil. Generally no oil is added to the cooker but I added to be on the safer side
  4. In a separate pan, heat 3 tbsp of oil and fry the whole shallots reserved for frying
  5. Add the fried shallots and also the oil to the rice-water-spice mixture
  6. When the mixture starts boiling, close the cooker with lid and wait for the first whisle
  7. Keep the stove in full position; After the first whistle, reduce and cook for 5 mins. Switch off gas
  8. Open the cooker after 20 minutes; Kootanchoru is almost ready.

 

fry shallots separately

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add fried shallots to the ready to be cooked kootanchoru

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Procedure – III
Seasoning:

  1. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a pan
  2. Add mustard seeds and dehusked black gram
  3. When mustard seeds splutter and the gram turns brown, add the long stripped onions, curry leaves and vadagam
  4. Pour this on top of the cooked Kootanchoru and mix well
  5. If one doesn’t have vadagam, more onions can be cut into strips and fried brown and added
  6. Kootanchoru is ready and tastes best with Thayir Pachadi  and Appalam.

 

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fried seasoning ingredients on top of the cooked rice

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The Exclusives –
1. Vadagam
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a. Vadagams are sun-dried seasoning ingredients, stored for months at homes. They may contain mustard seeds, dehusked black gram, curry leaves and onion. Variations depend on the family.

b. In Thirunelveli, we have a different vadagam made of onions, not only used for seasoning but mainly had as accompaniment to thayir saadham/yoghurt rice as fritters (like the sun dried chillies). See – https://dosaikal.com/thayir-saadham-mor-milagaicurd-rice-sun-dried-chillies/. Since I did not have the original fritter vadagam, I have used the seasoning vadagam.
2. Thayir Pachadi

 

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a. Pachadi can be a yoghurt based salad or raita in Hindi. There are various kinds of pachadis – specially yoghurt with onions for Biriyanis, yoghurt with cucumber for combination rices like lemon rice or tamarind rice or mint rice, or just a soothing pachadi of yoghurt, onions and tomatoes for any meal. Carrot, Beetroot, Pineapple, mango… anything can go in as Pachadi,

b. Typical/Original Pachadis have a coconut-green chilli paste added to the yoghurt base. What we have done is a simple one with yoghurt and salt alone as base.

c. Since my daughter doesn’t prefer tomatoes, I used onions, cucumber and green chillies mixed in yoghurt and salt.
3. Appalam

 

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a. Appalam is exclusively South Indian. In the North, they are called Pappads – made spicy too. Pappadams in south are another variety of discs which puffs up when deep fried.

b. They are thin disc shaped fritters,  made of dehusked black gram flour. There are also other varieties like rice flour appalams, jack fruit appalams and so on.

c. They are deep fried or roasted on stove, nowadays microwaved and are had generally with a rice based meal.

d. They can also be substitutes to vegetables on a lazy day.

 

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Kootanchoru is not only a humble and simple symphony of various ingredients, but one of the best aromatic and flavorful meals from the southern part of Tamilnadu.
NOTE:
Do not miss the garlic to be ground with other spices. The flavor of garlic is one of the key essences to the flavour of this rice.