Pazham Payasam| Mixed Fruit Kheer

Pazham Payasam is a delightful twist to the regular kheer varieties we make. It is a more decadent version of kheer, with the unique flavour of mixed fruits. You can add whatever fruits are in season to this kheer – every time you make it, it tastes different!

I had been trying out Pazham Payasam for the blog for some time, and recently nailed the recipe after a few trials. It turned out perfectly the last time I made it, and was such a huge hit with the family! In fact, we offered this Pazham Payasam or Mixed Fruit Kheer to our kutti Krishna too, as prasadam, this Janmashtami. In today’s blog post, I am going to share with you all how I made it. Do try it out this recipe this festive season – I would love to hear how you liked it.

Pazham Payasam or Mixed Fruit Kheer

How to make Pazham Payasam

Pazham Payasam is not a very difficult thing to make, but it does need a bit of patience. As in the case of all payasams, milk is cooked till it reduces and thickens. It is sweetened with sugar, and a paste made of soaked and ground cashewnuts is added to make it thicker and richer.

The milk mixture is allowed to cool down completely (or chilled in the refrigerator, if you so prefer). It is served with chopped fruits of your choice mixed in.

I did not use too many ingredients in my Pazham Payasam, preferring to keep it simple. I flavoured it using a wee bit of cardamom powder, and used three basic fruits only. It tasted beautiful as is, but if you want to make it more exotic and rich, I have shared some notes in the ‘Tips & Tricks’ section.

Pazham Payasam or Mixed Fruit Kheer recipe

Here is how I made it.

Ingredients (serves 4 -5):

1. 1 litre full-cream milk

2. 1/4 cup sugar or as per taste

3. 12-15 cashewnuts

4. 2 pinches of cardamom powder

5. 1/2 of a medium-sized apple

6. 1 small banana

7. 1/2 of a medium-sized pomegranate

Method:

Top left: Step 1, Top centre and right: Step 2, Bottom left and centre: Step 3, Bottom right: Step 4

1. Soak the cashewnuts in some boiling hot water for about 2 hours. When they are done soaking, drain out all the water from them.

2. Take the soaked and drained cashewnuts in a small mixer jar. Add in about 1/4 cup milk. Grind together to a smooth paste.

3. Take the rest of the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place on high flame. Allow the milk to get heated up and then come to a boil. Reduce the flame to low-medium at this stage.

4. Add in the sugar. Mix well. Allow the sugar to get completely dissolved in the milk. Keeping the flame at low-medium, cook for 4-5 minutes or till the milk has started to thicken. Stir intermittently. Scrape down the cream that forms on the sides of the pan, back into the milk.

Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom right and left: Steps 7 and 8

5. Add the cashewnut paste to the pan at this stage, constantly stirring.

6. Let the mixture cook on low-medium flame for 4-5 minutes more or till it has thickened nicely. You will need to stir a little more frequently now. Continue to scrape down the cream forming on the sides of the pan back into the milk. Switch off gas when the mixture has thickened up well but not overly so. Remember that it will thicken up more as it cools.

7. Mix in the cardamom powder once the gas is switched off. Allow the mixture to cool down completely. If you want, you can chill the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours (after it has fully cooled down).

8. Mix the fruits into the mixture just before serving. Peel the banana and chop into small cubes. Chop the apple into small cubes too. Separate the pomegranate arils. Add the readied fruit to the milk mixture. Your Chettinad Pazha Payasam or Mixed Fruit Kheer is ready to serve – serve it immediately.

Other Payasam recipes on the blog

I have shared several payasam varieties on the blog so far. You might be interested in checking out the recipes.

Tips & Tricks

1. Make sure you use a heavy-bottomed pan to make this kheer.

2. The kheer needs to be cooked mostly on a low-medium flame, to avoid burning and for a nicer flavour. Stir more frequently after the cashewnut paste is added in, as it tends to settle at the bottom of the pan.

3. Do stir constantly while adding in the cashewnut paste. Otherwise, the paste might not be evenly distributed into the milk.

4. For best results, use only full-fat milk to make the Pazham Payasam. I have used full-cream milk from Nandini here.

5. Adjust the amount of sugar you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

6. I have used only cashewnut paste to thicken the payasam here, and it worked beautifully. You can even use a mix of cashewnuts and almonds. If you are using almonds, make sure you remove the skin after soaking, before grinding them.

7. You can use any fruit of your choice in the payasam. Seedless grapes, orange segments and mango make for wonderful additions. I prefer using crisp Fuji apples and Robusta bananas in the payasam. Glace cherries would also go very well in this dessert.

8. Make sure you add the fruit only after the milk mixture has cooled down completely.

9. This Pazham Payasam tastes best when chilled. Place it in the refrigerator to chill only after it has completely cooled down. Get it out of the fridge a little while before you serve it, and add in the fruits.

10. You may add a few strands of saffron to the milk while it is cooking. Here, I haven’t.

11. If the milk gets too thick, adjust the consistency using a little boiled and cooled milk. If you feel the payasam is lacking in sweetness at a later stage, add in some sugar dissolved completely in warm milk.

12. Do not let the payasam sit for too long after adding the fruits. The fruits should be added just before serving. In case you are using citrus fruits, it can cause the payasam to become bitter if left in for too long.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Paal Payasam| Rice Kheer Recipe

Paal Payasam is Tamil for Chawal Ki Kheer, a dessert made using milk and rice. ‘Paal’ means ‘milk’ in Tamil, while ‘payasam‘ means ‘kheer‘.

This dessert is served on auspicious occasions like weddings and poojas, as well as on festivals like Pongal and Janmashtami. The process of making Paal Payasam is slightly tedious, but the end result – creamy, rich and delicious – is so much worth all the effort!

Delectable Paal Payasam or Rice Kheer

Let me show you how we prepare Paal Payasam in our family, in today’s blog post. Do try out this Rice Kheer recipe this Janmashtami and share your feedback – I would love to hear how you and your family liked it!

Other Payasam recipes on the blog

I have quite a few other recipes for Payasam on the blog. You might also want to take a look at them.

The making of Paal Payasam

The traditional way of making Paal Payasam is by adding milk to rice, letting the rice cook in the milk in a heavy pan, reducing it till it is nice and thick and creamy. It is a slightly tedious process, as I was saying earlier, taking up over 30 minutes at the least. There are shortcuts to this, but there is a definite charm to Paal Payasam that is slow-cooked, in the long-winded old-fashioned way.

Some people soak the rice before adding it to the milk, for it to cook faster. We don’t do this – we wash and dry the rice first, then saute it in some ghee before cooking it with the milk. We also keep the grains of rice whole, while some pulse them into grits to make the payasam.

Some pressure-cook the rice before it goes into the milk, to be cooked further in a pan. I have also seen friends make Paal Payasam from beginning to end in a pressure cooker. I have stuck to the traditional way of making this, as passed on from my grandmother to my mother and from her to me, somehow hesitant to take shortcuts as far as this beautiful dessert is concerned.

We keep our Paal Payasam really simple, with minimal embellishments, as you will see in the recipe below.

Ingredients used in Paal Payasam

Paal Payasam is a five-ingredient recipe. It needs simply five basic ingredients – milk, sugar, ghee, rice, and cardamom powder for flavouring.

It is best to use full-fat milk, in order to get a lusciously creamy payasam. Regular granulated sugar is added in, to lend a lovely cream-white colour to the dessert.

You can use any variety of rice you prefer. In Kerala, this kheer is made using matta red rice. The fragrant Basmati or Gobindobhog rice also go very well in this recipe. We prefer using an everyday rice variety like Sona Masoori or Kollam.

There is very little ghee that goes into this payasam, only for sauteeing the rice. We keep our Paal Payasam really simple, with no dried fruit or nuts added to it. If you so prefer, you may fry some cashewnuts and raisins in a little ghee and add it to the payasam too.

We typically use only powdered green cardamom to flavour this kheer. Of course, you may add in a few strands of saffron and/or other flavouring agents if you so prefer.

How to make Paal Payasam, the traditional way

Here is how we make it.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

1. 2 tablespoons of rice

2. 1/2 tablespoon ghee

3. 1 litre of full-cream milk

4. 1/4 cup sugar

5. 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder

Method:

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Bottom left and right: Steps 3 and 4

1. Wash the rice thoroughly. Drain out all the water from it.

2. Spread the washed and drained rice out on a clean kitchen cloth. Rub it gently with the cloth to remove as much of the moisture as is possible.

3. Now, heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the washed and drained rice and reduce the flame down to medium.

4. Saute the rice for 1-2 minutes, or till they puff up slightly as shown in the picture above.

Top left: Step 5, Top centre and right: Step 6, Bottom left, centre and right: Steps 7, 8 and 9

5. At this stage, add the milk to the pan. Continue to keep the flame at medium. Mix well.

6. Let the milk come to a boil, then reduce the flame to low-medium. Allow the milk to cook on low-medium flame till the grains of rice are cooked and break easily as shown in the picture above. This might take 30-45 minutes. You will need to keep stirring intermittently to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan, and scraping the cream that forms on the sides of the pan back into the milk. Do keep checking the grains of rice intermittently too, so you know when they get cooked. By this time, the milk would have reduced to about half of its original volume and thickened quite a bit.

7. When the grains of rice have cooked and easily break between your fingers, add the sugar to the pan. Mix well. Continue to keep the flame at low-medium. Add a little more milk if the mixture has gotten too thick – you might have to adjust the sugar in this case too.

8. Let the sugar get completely dissolved in the milk. Simmer on low-medium flame for 2-3 minutes, then switch off the gas.

9. Mix in the cardamom powder. Your Paal Payasam is ready. Serve it hot, warm, at room temperature or chilled, as per personal preferences.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used Nandini full-cream milk here.

2. Adjust the quantity of sugar as per personal taste preferences. The above quantities work perfectly for us.

3. Remember to add the sugar only after the rice has been cooked. The rice will not cook well if the sugar has been added beforehand.

4. I have used Sona Masoori rice here.

5. A few saffron strands can be added to the Paal Payasam too. We usually don’t.

6. You can fry a few cashewnuts and raisins in some ghee and add them to the Paal Payasam, once it is ready. We usually don’t do this.

7. For best results, the Paal Payasam should be cooked on low-medium flame only. Remember to stir intermittently to prevent sticking. You don’t have to keep standing near the gas constantly – just monitoring the milk mixture as it cooks and stirring it at intervals is good enough.

8. The Paal Payasam thickens up further upon cooling. If it becomes too thick, you can dilute it a little using a bit of boiled and cooled milk, before serving.

9. Use a heavy-bottomed pan to cook the Paal Payasam.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

Dates Puli Inji| Perichampazham Thokku

Dates Puli Inji is a beautiful condiment you can serve to your family and guests this Onam. It is a spin on the regular Puli Inji, which is a quintessential part of an Onam sadya. This version is made using soft dates instead of the jaggery that is usually used, imparting a unique flavour and aroma to it. Try it out, and I’m sure you will fall in love with it too, the way my family did.

Perichampazham Thokku or Instant Dates Pickle

I developed this recipe for a contest on Goya Journal (a wonderful, wonderful online magazine for food lovers – check it out if you haven’t already!) some time ago. The recipe didn’t make the cut, but we all surely loved the Dates Inji Puli! I have made it quite a few times since, and it has always been slurped up to the last bit. 🙂

What goes into this Dates Puli Inji

Like I was saying earlier, this recipe is a spin on the traditional recipe for Puli Inji. It has ginger, green chillies, tamarind and curry leaves – the same as the heritage recipe. However, I have ground the green chillies and ginger into a paste here, instead of keeping them finely chopped. Also, dates have been used here instead of the jaggery that is typically traditionally used. We all know the health benefits of dates, and this is a delicious way of adding them to one’s diet – I’m not sure whether it is a healthy way of doing it, but it sure tastes awesome!

This Dates Puli Inji (it wouldn’t be wrong to call it Perichampazham Thokku in Tamil) is a gorgeously aromatic and flavourful thing. It goes so well with tiffin items like dosa, pongal and upma, and even makes for a lovely spread for rotis and parathas. You can make it part of your Onam sadya, or have it with plain ol’ curd rice too.

Perichampazham Thokku/Dates Puli Inji recipe

Here is how to go about making it.

Ingredients (makes about 1-1/2 cup):

1. 1 heaped cup of soft dates

2. A large piece of fresh ginger, 1/3 cup when peeled and chopped

3. About 5 green chillies or to taste

4. A large lemon-sized ball of tamarind

5. 3 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons of sesame oil

6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

7. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida

8. 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

9. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves

10. Salt to taste

11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

12. Jaggery powder to adjust taste (optional)

13. Red chilli powder to adjust taste (optional)

Method:

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Below top right: Step 3, Bottom left and right: Steps 4 and 5

1. Soak the tamarind in boiling water for at least 15 minutes, for it to become soft.

2. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Chop the green chillies roughly too. Remove seeds from the dates and separate each one into two. Keep these ingredients ready.

3. Grind the ginger and green chillies together, slightly coarsely. There’s no need to add any water while grinding. Keep ready.

4. When the tamarind has cooled down enough, extract all the juice from it. Use water as needed to help with the extraction process. Do not make the extract too watery; keep it thick. I had about 1-1/4 cups of tamarind extract. Remove seeds, fibres and impurities, if any. Keep ready.

5. Grind the dates coarsely without adding any water. Keep ready.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 6, 7 and 8, Below top right: Step 9, Bottom right, centre and left: Steps 10

6. Now, we will start preparing the pickle. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Next, add in the asafoetida, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.

7. Add the ground ginger-green chilli to the pan. Reduce the flame down to medium. Cook for about 2 minutes on medium flame.

8. Add the ground dates to the pan. Cook on medium flame for 2 minutes, stirring intermittently.

9. Now, add the tamarind extract to the pan, along with salt to taste and the turmeric powder. Mix well.

10. Continue to cook on medium flame for about 10 minutes or till the mixture thickens. It will first start thickening then change colour to a darker brown and get glossy. Switch off gas when it reaches a jam-like consistency that isn’t too thick. The Perichampazham Thokku is ready. At this stage, drizzle 2 tablespoons of sesame oil over the thokku and mix well.

10. Let the thokku cool down completely, then transfer to a clean, air-tight, dry bottle. Refrigerate and use a clean, dry, spoon to remove.

Vegan, can be made gluten-free

The above recipe for Perichampazham Thokku is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

It is not vegan because of the use of asafoetida. Most commercially available Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour, to some extent, and are therefore best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can get your hands on 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you can definitely use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. Use a soft variety of dates, for best results. I have used Kimia dates here.

2. Adjust the quantity of green chillies, salt and ginger as per personal taste preferences.

3. If you feel the heat or sweetness in the thokku is less, you may add in some red chilli powder and/or jaggery powder. I didn’t need to.

4. Use a heavy-bottomed pan only for preparing this Perichampazham Thokku.

5. The thokku needs to be cooked to a jam-like consistency. Remember not to make it too thick.

6. Remember to keep the tamarind extract on the thicker side and not too watery.

7. Some people dry roast some mustard and fenugreek, grind together and add this to the thokku at the end, just before the gas is switched off. We usually add them in as part of the tempering.

8. Use tender, fresh ginger for best results.

9. Sesame oil goes best in the making of pickles like this one.

10. This Perichampazham Thokku stays well for 10-15 days when refrigerated. However, it is best used sooner rather than later.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

Chettinad Thakkali Soup| South Indian Tomato Soup

Chettinad Thakkali Soup is a tomato soup made in the South Indian style, a light but flavourful concoction that is just the right thing for cold, rainy weather. This soup recipe hails from Chettinad in South Indian and, like many recipes from the region go, is flavoured using spices like coriander seeds, pepper and fennel. This South Indian Tomato Soup is mostly had with rice in Chettinad, as I recently learnt, but it is beautiful to sip on on its own too.

While I was researching Chettinad cuisine for the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge recently, I remembered this tomato soup recipe that Chef Damodaran had once shared on one of his TV shows. I recreated it at home, and it was so well loved by everyone that I went on to make it a few more times since then. The incessant rains and chilly weather in Bangalore provided just the right setting for it. 🙂 Let me share with you all how to make this delicious Chettinad Thakkali Soup.

Chettinad Thakkali Soup or South Indian Tomato Soup

Head to this post of mine for a detailed write-up about Chettinad cuisine and the recipe for Vengaya Kose, a lovely onion and potato gravy for dosas and idlis. This Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu is another recipe from Chettinad, for chickpeas cooked in a tamarind gravy, to be had with rice.

What goes into Chettinad Thakkali Soup

This Chettinad Thakkali Soup might look similar to Tomato Rasam, but it tastes quite different. For starters, there is no tamarind used here, and the spices used are quite different from those typically used in rasam. Like I was saying earlier, this soup is flavoured in the South Indian style, with spices like black pepper, fennel, coriander seeds, cumin and cinnamon. It has a unique flavour profile of its own, and is vastly different from the regular tomato soup we usually get in restaurants.

Tomatoes are the main ingredient in this soup, of course. Onion, green chillies and garlic are added in to make it all the more tasteful. Sometimes, it is even tempered with curry leaves, though I do not prefer doing so.

This Chettinad Thakkali Soup is thickened using cooked toor dal – there is no corn flour or other thickening agent involved, which makes this a very wholesome drink. A dollop of ghee also goes into it, adding a very unique, lovely fragrance to the soup.

How to make Chettinad Thakkali Soup

Here is how to go about it.

Ingredients (serves 4):

1. 2 tablespoons toor dal

2. 4 medium-sized tomatoes

3. 1 green chilli

4. 1 small onion

5. 2 teaspoons ghee

6. 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

7. Salt as needed

8. 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander

To roast and grind:

1. 2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3. 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

4. A 1/2-inch piece of cinnamon

5. 5-6 cloves of garlic

Method:

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Centre left and right: Step 3, Bottom left and right: Steps 4 and 5

1. Wash the toor dal well and drain out the water.

2. Take the washed and drained toor dal in a vessel. Add enough fresh water to cover the lentils completely. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 7-8 whistles or till the toor dal is soft and mushy. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Next, we will prepare the spice mix that goes into the soup. First, peel the garlic cloves and keep them ready. Then, dry roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and cinnamon in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium flame, for about a minute. Add in the garlic cloves at this stage. Continue to dry roast the ingredients for 2 minutes or so, or till they become aromatic. Ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate and allow them to cool down completely.

4. In the meantime, peel the onion and chop roughly. Chop up the green chilli into pieces. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep ready.

5. When the roasted ingredients have entirely cooled down, transfer them to a small mixer jar. Grind to a coarse powder, without adding any water. Keep aside.

Top left: Step 6, Top right: Step 7, Below top right and bottom right: Step 8, Bottom left: Step 9

6. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash well. Keep aside.

7. Now, take the oil in the same heavy-bottomed pan we used earlier. Add in the chopped onions. Saute on medium flame till they are cooked.

8. Add the chopped tomatoes and green chilli to the pan, along with a little salt. Saute on medium flame till the raw smell of the tomatoes is gone and they have turned soft and mushy. Switch off gas and allow this mixture to cool down fully.

9. When completely cool, transfer the tomato mixture to a mixer jar. Grind everything together to a smooth paste.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 10, 11 and 12, Bottom left, centre and right: Steps 13, 14 and 15

10. Now, we will start preparing the soup. Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the fennel seeds, and allow them to stay in for a few seconds without burning.

11. Add the ground tomato mixture to the pan, as well as the cooked and mashed toor dal. Add about 1-1/2 cups of water or as needed to adjust the consistency of the soup. Mix well.

12. Taste and adjust salt to taste. Cook the mixture on medium flame for about 2 minutes.

13. Add the coarsely ground spice powder we prepared earlier. Mix well.

14. Cook on medium flame till the soup comes to a boil, then reduce the flame a bit more. Allow to simmer for about 2 minutes, then switch off the gas.

15. Garnish with finely chopped coriander. Your South Indian Tomato Soup is ready. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve hot.

Is this Chettinad Thakkali Soup vegan and gluten-free?

This soup recipe is completely vegetarian and gluten-free.

It is not vegan because of the use of ghee, which is a milk-based product. If you want to make this soup vegan (plant-based), skip the ghee and use oil for the tempering instead. Personally, I prefer ghee in this soup, though – that is what is traditionally used, and it does add a lovely aroma to it.

Tips & Tricks

1. This is supposed to be a watery but flavourful soup. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the soup you require.

2. Adjust the quantity of black pepper and green chillies as per personal taste preferences. If you want a milder-tasting soup, skip the green chilli altogether – using black pepper is a must, though.

3. Take care to ensure that the spices do not burn while roasting. This might alter the taste of the soup.

4. You can temper the soup at the end, just before serving – with ghee and fennel seeds – instead of at the beginning, as I have done here. The fennel and ghee will be more fragrant this way.

5. Make sure you use only a small piece of cinnamon. Using too much can overpower the soup.

6. A sprig of curry leaves can be used, along with the fennel seeds, to temper the soup. I have avoided this, since we don’t like whole curry leaves in our soup.

7. This soup does not use any tamarind – there’s only the sourness of the tomatoes. Use country aka ‘Nati’tomatoes, as opposed to the ‘farmed’ ones for a nice tangy flavour.

8. A splash of coconut milk can be added to the soup, when it is almost done. This adds a unique flavour and some sweetness to the soup. I usually do not do so.

9. If you feel the need, a dash of lemon juice can be added to the soup. So can a bit of jaggery. It’s all up to your personal taste preferences, though the traditional Chettinad version of the soup does not use these two ingredients.

10. Small onions, popularly called ‘sambar onions’ in South India, are traditionally used in the soup. However, if you do not have them, regular red onions can be used too.

11. Do not use more than the specified amount of toor dal, as that might make the soup too thick.

12. Moong dal can also be used in place of the toor dal I have used here. You may also use a tablespoon each of moong dal and toor dal.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

Vengaya Kose| Chettinad Onion & Potato Gravy

Vengaya Kose is a popular accompaniment for ‘tiffin’ items like idlis, dosas, pooris and khara pongal in Chettiar households. It refers to a delicious gravy made using onions and potatoes, tempered with whole spices like fennel and cinnamon in the typical Chettinad style. In today’s post, I am going to share with you all how to prepare the delightful Vengaya Kose, also referred to sometimes as Vengaya Kosu.

Vengaya Kose, served with dosas

The wonders of Chettinad cuisine

Chettinad refers to a cluster of over 70 villages and two towns in the Sivaganga district of Tamilnadu, with a small part extending into Pudukottai. Karaikudi and Devakottai are the major towns of this cluster, which is majorly inhabited by the Chettiar community, most of whom happen to be bankers and businesspeople. Trading took the Chettiars to foreign shores like Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma, the influence of which can be seen in the magnificent architecture and cuisine of this region.

The food of Chettinad is one of the best known among South Indian cuisine. This region boasts of several hearty and flavourful dishes, with the generous use of spices like fennel, cinnamon, pepper, stone flower, cumin, chillies and cardamom. The use of sun-dried vegetables and freshly ground spice mixes is common to Chettinad cuisine. The cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian, but there are many beautiful vegetarian dishes on offer too.

Vellai Appam, Paal Paniyaram, Seeyam, Urulai Roast, Kola Urundai, Mandi, Kandarappam, Palkatti Chettinadu, Therakkal, Karupatti Paniyaram and Kavuni Arisi Sweet are some examples of vegetarian dishes from Chettinad cuisine. Vengaya Kose is yet another vegetarian Chettinad dish, albeit a lesser known one that is not commonly found on restaurant menus.

It is impossible to talk about Chettinad cuisine and not mention Mrs. Meenakshi Meyyappan. A Chettinad matriarch, Mrs. Meyyappan or ‘Aachi‘ as she is fondly referred to, is the proprietor of The Bangala, a well-known boutique hotel in Karaikudi. She is extremely passionate about preserving her roots and chronicling her heritage, which is how she happened to pen the cookbook The Bangala Table. I have had the pleasure of speaking to Mrs. Meyyappan regarding a trip to Chettinad that we were planning a few years earlier – the visit did not materialise, unfortunately, but the lady’s immense knowledge and direct speech has stayed with me. Some day, I do want to get my hands on the cookbook – I’m sure it is a beauty.

A closer look at Vengaya Kose

On a holiday in Madurai a few years ago, I was able to get a glimpse of the robust flavours of Chettinad cuisine. There is a considerable influence of Chettinad cuisine on the foods of bordering Madurai, which spills over into the latter’s street food, local messes and hotels. We tried out the famous Chettinad Vellai Appam, Tomato Bath and Kara Kozhambu in Madurai. Over the years, I have dabbled in cooking from Chettinad cuisine at home, but Vengaya Kose is something I tried out recently. It turned out fragrant and very delicious, an instant hit with everyone at home.

Like I was saying earlier, Venkaya Kose refers to a gravy served with idlis, dosas and the likes. Onions and thin slivers of potato are cooked along with a freshly ground fragrant spice paste. It is tempered with whole spices, which makes it all the more aromatic. The reddish gravy tastes absolutely delicious, and makes for a nice change from the usual chutney, sambar and gotsu we usually serve with our tiffin dishes. It is a very easy dish to put together too!

I followed this authentic recipe for Vengaya Kose from the blog Chettinad Fiesta. Meena, the author of the blog, is a passionate chef who believes in showcasing the vast range of Chettinad cuisine to the world. She has written about several traditional Chettinad recipes on her blog, including some that are not very well known. I chose to make the Vengaya Kose recipe as jotted down by her, with a couple of minor changes.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

I am sharing this post as part of the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, a foodie group that I am part of.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is run by a group of enthusiastic food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every month. The theme for July 2022 was ‘Recipes from Chettinad’, for which I zeroed in on this Vengaya Kose recipe.

The group members are divided into pairs, for the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge. Each pair exchanges two ingredients secretly, unknown to the rest of the group. The pairs then use these secret ingredients to create a recipe that fits into the theme for the month. The other group members have to look at a picture of the prepared dish, and try to guess what the two secret ingredients were. 🙂

Kalyani, the versatile blogger at Sizzling Tastebuds, was the one who suggested the theme last month. Her Chettinad Vellai Kurma looks so good, I could eat it straight off the screen! Do check out her recipe.

I was paired with Seema, another talented blogger at Mildly Indian, for the challenge. I gave Seema ‘rice’ and ‘coconut’ as the secret ingredients, and she made the classic Kavuni Arisi Sweet or Chettinad Black Rice Pudding. She suggested I make something using ‘potato’ and ‘coconut’, and they fit right into this Vengaya Kose recipe.

How to make Vengaya Kose?

Here’s how to go about it.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

To grind:

1. 4-5 dry red chillies

2. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)

3. 3/4 tablespoon fried gram (daliya)

4. 3/4 tablespoon poppy seeds (khus khus)

5. 4-5 cashewnuts

6. 1/4 cup fresh coconut

Other ingredients:

1. 1 medium-sized onion

2. 2 medium-sized tomatoes

3. 2 medium-sized potatoes

4. 1/2 tablespoon oil

5. 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)

6. A small piece of cinnamon

7. 2 sprigs of curry leaves

8. 2 pinches of asafoetida

9. Salt to taste

10. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

11. 2 teaspoons of tamarind extract or to taste (optional)

12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

Top left and right: Step 1, Below top right and bottom right: Step 2, Bottom left: Step 3

1. Take all the ingredients listed under ‘To grind’ in a mixer jar. Grind to a smooth paste along with about 1/4 cup of water. Keep aside.

2. Chop the tomatoes roughly. Grind them to a smooth paste without adding any water. Keep aside.

3. Chop the onion finely. Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices, dropping them in water to prevent them from getting discoloured. Keep ready.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 4, 5 and 6, Below top right: Step 7, Bottom right, centre and left: Steps 8, 9 and 10

4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida. Let them stay in for a few seconds.

5. Now, add in the finely chopped onions. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the onions are done.

6. Drain out all the water from the sliced potatoes and add them to the pan. Add about 1/2 cup water, along with the turmeric powder and a little salt. Mix well.

7. Cover and cook on medium flame for 6-7 minutes or till the potatoes are about 90% cooked.

8. At this stage, add in the tomato puree and the spice paste we ground earlier.

9. Adjust salt to taste. Add 1/2 cup more water or as needed to adjust consistency. Mix well.

10. Cook on medium flame for 7-10 minutes or till the raw smell of the ingredients has completely gone. Switch off gas when the mixture is still on the runnier side – it thickens up quite a bit with time.

11. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Your Vengaya Kose is ready. Serve warm with pooris, rotis, idli, dosa, khara pongal or upma.

Is this recipe vegan and gluten-free?

This Vengaya Kose recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

It is not gluten-free because of the use of asafoetida. Most Indian brands of asafoetida commercially available these days do contain wheat flour, to a lesser or greater extent, and are best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. If you wish to make this dish gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you can definitely go ahead and use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used a mix of the hot Salem Gundu dry and the not-so-spicy Bydagi dry red chillies. You can use any variety you prefer. Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies depending upon your personal taste preferences. The colour of the gravy will depend upon the variety of dry red chillies used.

2. Adjust the quantity of water you use depending upon the consistency of Vengaya Kose that you require.

3. Use country (aka ‘Nati’) tomatoes, as opposed to the regular ‘farmed’ ones, for the beautiful sour flavour they add to the dish.

4. Adding the tamarind extract is purely optional – skip it if you feel the sourness from the tomatoes is enough. Tamarind is not used in Vengaya Kose traditionally, but I do prefer using it.

5. Remember that the Vengaya Kose thickens up upon cooling. It is, therefore, best to keep it on the runnier side.

6. Other whole spices like bay leaves, cloves and star anise can also be added to the tempering. Some families keep the tempering ingredients to a minimum, and that is what I have done too.

7. The potatoes are typically chopped into thin slices, for this recipe, so that they cook well and evenly. The slices should not be very thin, otherwise they tend to disintegrate in the gravy and become very mushy.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!