Tag Archives: Pongal Paanai

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.

Pongal in Cambodia with AVIAL!

 

my pongal platter

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  • In the plate: Cooked Rice, left bowl – Mangai Sambar (Raw Mango Sambar) , next bowl – Thoothuvalai Rasam (SOLANYMTRILOBATUM Soup) , right corner – Sarkkarai Pongal (Jaggery Rice) ;
  • three of the side dishes – up left corner – Pappalikkai Poriyal (Raw Papaya Dry Vegetable Curry), middle – Keerai Kootu (Spinach Stew) and next – Avial (Mixed Vegetables in coconut and curd gravy)


Wishing you all a very happy and success filled NEW YEAR 2013! Thankyou for being such wonderful readers. For me.. each one of you have made this world a delightful arena to share my thoughts.

For those who would have wondered why there has been no news for quite some time.. I was busy planning, listing, shopping and packing my groceries, clothes and other necessary and unnecessary stuff to carry to my next destination!

Leaving some beautiful memories behind in Thoothukudi and Chennai (apart from those special moments I’ve brought with me..), here i am, in my new place, slowly trying to settle down.  New house, New school for my daughter, New shopping area, New vegetable market,  everything new, except for the same old cooking….. idlies, dosais, chutney, sambar, rice, kuzhambu and the normal list of courses that follow in line! But a new kitchen.. with bare minimal utensils, those of mine yet to arrive from the Netherlands.. I have managed a few clicks this time!!


It is was Pongal time! Sankaranthi to other states and Thai Pongal to Tamilnadu!! (https://dosaikal.com/2012/01/13/thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival/)

In this new new new life, number one – I mis-calculated the date of Pongal and thought it was on the 15th of January. When I called home to ask for the vegetables for AVIAL – a special down south vegetable dish to make on Pongal day, I had a shock that it was actually the festival Pongal the same day!! Number two – With some other programmes to attend, I decided I would celebrate Pongal on 15th… not to stop the rice boiling ritual that is exclusive part of Pongal celebration. The word ‘Pongal’ itself means ‘to boil’. Paal Pongiyaacha? means has the milk boiled? Here, the sweet jaggery rice made on the day of the festival Pongal is called Sarkkarai Pongal meaning sweet 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. https://dosaikal.com/2012/01/13/thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival/

This time, instead of the pressure cooker pongal, I had brought a steel Paanai to make my Pongal celebration.

steel paanai and jaggery in the adjacent bowl

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15th of January is the third day of the four day Pongal celebration. First day being Bhogi – cleaning of house and shedding away old unwanted things; the second day is the harvest festival or the thanksgiving to farmers – this Pongal day is the first day of the month of Thai; the third day is Maatu Pongal – thanksgiving to cattle that help in harvest; the fourth day is Kaanum Pongal – the Picnic Pongal!!

As such, when we were young, my mama (maternal uncle) would always ring us up early in the morning on Maatu Pongal day, to wish us Happy Maatu Pongal – a teaser for kids. So Mama, this time I go by your words… I truly celebrate Pongal on Maatu Pongal Day!

So now, in the capital of Cambodia – Phnom Penh, when I saw those sugarcane juice shops which extract fresh juice like those in chennai, I felt delighted… Now, i was in a country where I could buy sugarcane, which is an inseparable ingredient for the true taste of pongal festival. I bought two to keep on either sides of my house entrance.


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and later, the transformation till it reached everyone’s taste buds…..


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the way aachi cuts

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Next, I had to hunt for those harvest vegetables … The traditional, indigenous ones grown inland! My grand plan was to make AVIAL – the humble yet classy dish of Tamilnadu and Kerala.

Avial is a sumptuous combination of all indigenous (ofcourse carrots and beans have become part of it) non-watery vegetables, harvested during the season… made to a semi gravy consistency with the addition of curds and coconut-chilli-cumin paste. Vegetables like ash guard, bottle guard are not used as they shed water while cooking and would hinder the consistency of the dish.

I went to the big kaaikari chandhai – vegetable market in Tamil.. which we had explored couple of days ago and got lost while searching a way to come out. Where all vegetables, fruits, unknown varieties of meat and fish (remember I am still a beginner especially a recently converted non-vegetarian!), freshly grated coconut and many small eateries serving various other unknown food varieties, which I need to explore in the near future!

the ones I could get

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I found a few of those I needed … I could not get yam … wasn’t available. Even if they were, I have not yet learnt the differentiation! Others that I missed but can be added in Avial are Avarakkai – Hyacinth Beans, Murungaikkai-Drum sticks, Pudalangai-Snake Guard.

I was so happy to also find more and more of the tropical fruits that I used to love in Tamilnadu…

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(bananas, guavas, sugarcane, papaya, tender coconut and jackfruit…  and Oh!! I missed those beautiful yellow mangoes kept in the fridge).


Now, before coming to the recipe of Avial… festive sweet of the day – my Sarkkarai Pongal- this time the authentic pacharisi (raw rice) and vellam (jaggery) in the pongal paanai, without the addition of split green gram. https://dosaikal.com/2012/01/13/thai-pongal-the-harvest-festival/

on the way

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the special festive food –  mangai sambar and thoothuvalai rasam

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Though delayed by a day, I tried making a simple feast meal with mangai -raw mango sambar (https://dosaikal.com/sambar/) and thoothuvalai rasam ( SOLANYMTRILOBATUM) a herb found in many kitchen gardens.. I got the dry powder from my naatu marundhu kadai- traditional tamil medicine shop.  (Rasam is a thin soup not used as an appetiser as popularized outside the south of India and abroad, but is a digestive soup. https://dosaikal.com/2011/10/14/thamizhar-virundhu-feast-of-the-tamils/). For the side dishes, Keerai/Spinach Kootu  (a stew of vegetables) and pappali kai/raw papaya poriyal (dry vegetable curry) and AVIAL.


AVIAL


Ingredients

  • mixed vegetables – carrots, beans, egg plant, chow chow\chayote squash, pumpkin, raw banana and potato – 2 to 2 1/2 cups – cut into long pieces
  • shallots – 6 no.s
  • yoghurt – 1 cup
  • grated coconut – 1 cup
  • green chillies – 3 no.s
  • cumin seeds – 2 tsp
  • oil (preferably gingelly oil) – 2 tsp
  • mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • dehusked black gram – 1 tsp
  • curry leaves – a few
  • turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • salt – to taste

vegetables cut long

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coconut paste and yoghurt

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Method of Preparation

  1. Wash and cut the vegetables into long pieces
  2. Steam the vegetables till done. I do it in a microwave steamer for about 8 minutes. Vegetables should not be mushy, but just right to stir well with the gravy
  3. Make a paste of grated coconut, cumin seeds and green chillies and keep aside
  4. Heat oil in a wide bottomed vessel; Let mustard seeds splutter, then add dehusked black gram and curry leaves
  5. Add the shallots and stir fry for a minute till they become opaque
  6. Now add the steamed vegetables and turmeric powder
  7. Usually turmeric powder can be added while the vegetables are cooked in pressure cooker. This helps the raw smell of turmeric powder go away faster. Since I steamed in microwave, I added the turmeric powder while stirring in the vegetables
  8. Stir for a while and add yoghurt and stir
  9. When yoghurt has blended well with the vegetable, add the ground paste and salt
  10. Let this cook till the vegetables are cooked well and absorbed  in the coconut and yoghurt gravy
  11. When a semi thick consistency is reached and the raw smell of turmeric and coconut has gone off, Avial is ready.

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Note:

  1. Vegetables like egg plant or pumpkin might become mushy very quickly. It is better to cook them just right. When they cook again in the gravy, soft texture would arrive.
  2. Cooking the vegetables in coconut paste and yoghurt gravy and adding thaalippu/thadka/seasoning in the end can also be done. By this method, mustard seeds and oil would glow on top of Avial and the dish is better presented.
  3. Vadagam – sun dried onion balls (which contain mustard seeds, curry leaves and other seasoning imgredients) is added in the end instead of seasoning which gives Avial a remarkable flavour.  In the absence of vadagam, coarsely chopped shallots are fried dark brown in oil and added for nearly the same flavour.