Manga Pachadi| Tamilnadu Style Raw Mango Relish

Manga Pachadi is a thing of real beauty and a source of joy, a big favourite in our family. For the uninitiated, this is a relish made using raw mango, a heritage recipe from Tamilnadu. Similar to but different from the Aam Ki Launji from up North.

Sweet and sour, with just a hint of spice, Manga Pachadi makes for a lovely accompaniment to meals. We don’t miss making this at least once every summer, and I highly recommend you try this too before green mango stocks run out. 🙂

The six flavours (arusuvai) of Manga Pachadi

To balance the sourness of raw mango, jaggery is added to Manga Pachadi. I prefer using unadulterated country jaggery (‘naatu vellam‘), which gives the relish its deep brown colour.

Some people add a bit of red chilli powder to Manga Pachadi, but we don’t. The only heat in the dish we make comes from the tempering of dry red chillies we add in.

This Manga Pachadi falls under the category of ‘Arusuvai‘, or ‘food that includes six flavours’ in Tamil. Experts of Tamil cuisine believe that there are six flavours in all – sweet, salty, spicy, sour, astringent and bitter. It is believed that when you eat foods that contain all six flavours, the brain gets signals of calm and satiety, and that you avoid over-eating and excessive food cravings. We have talked about the ‘sweet’, ‘spicy’ and ‘sour’ aspects of the Manga Pachadi already. The ‘saltiness’ comes from the bit of salt added to the dish, while the ‘astringent’ flavour comes from the turmeric. Wondering where the ‘bitterness’ figures in? It comes from neem flowers, fresh or dried, which are usually fried in ghee and added to the Manga Pachadi!

Manga Pachadi is customarily prepared in Tamilian households on Tamil New Year’s day, which falls in the month of April. The ‘ArusuvaiManga Pachadi reinforces that life is a mix of varied experiences – it is never all sweet or bitter or sour, but that there are several things in between. Just how beautiful is that, right?

In our family, we add in dried neem flowers to the Manga Pachadi only on Tamil New Year’s day, avoiding it at other times.

How to make Manga Pachadi

Here’s our family recipe. Check it out – it’s super easy to make, yet super delicious!

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

1. 1 medium-sized raw mango, a little over 1 cup when chopped

2. 2 pinches of salt

3. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

4. About 3/4 cup jaggery powder

5. 1/2 tablespoon oil

6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

7. 2 pinches of asafoetida

8. 2 dry red chillies

Method:

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

1. Peel the raw mango.

2. Chop the flesh into slices. Scrape off all the flesh from the seed, and slice it up too.

3. Measure out the slices. I had about 1-1/4 cup raw mango slices which weren’t very sour, so I used 3/4 cup jaggery. You need to adjust the amount of jaggery you use as per the quantity and sourness of the raw mango.

Top left and right: Steps 4 and 5, Bottom left: Steps 6, Bottom right: The mango pieces have turned soft

4. Take the mango slices in a heavy-bottomed pan, along with about 1/4 cup water, the salt and turmeric powder. Mix well. Keep on high flame.

5. When the pan gets heated up, reduce flame to medium.

6. Cook covered on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or till the mango slices turn soft. Open the lid in between to check on the mango slices, and add in a little more water if it has dried up.

Top left and right: Steps 7 and 8, Bottom-most left: Step 9, Above bottom-most left: The mixture has thickened, Right: Step 10

7. Add the jaggery to the pan, along with about 1/2 cup more water. Mix well.

8. Continue to cook on medium flame, uncovered, till the mixture starts to thicken. This can take 2-4 minutes. The mango slices will further soften. Stir intermittently.

9. In the meantime, prepare the tempering. Heat the oil in a small pan. Add in the mustard seeds and allow to sputter. Reduce flame, and add in the asafoetida and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds. Switch off gas.

10. When the mango mixture has thickened but is still quite runny, switch off gas. It will thicken a bit more upon cooling. Add the tempering we prepared earlier, to the pan. Mix well. Your Manga Pachadi is ready. It can be served hot, warm or at room temperature.

Tips & Tricks

1. If you plan to store the Manga Pachadi, let it cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle.

2. Totapuri or Kilimooku Manga, which are a good mix of sweet and sour, work best in the making of this dish.

3. Adjust the quantity of jaggery you use, depending upon the quantity and sourness of the raw mango.

4. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Manga Pachadi you require. Ideally it should be a bit runny, but thick and not watery.

5. Whole jaggery can also be used in place of the powder I have used here. In that case, you could make a syrup of the jaggery and water, then add it to the cooked raw mango slices. You should filter the jaggery syrup before adding, in case it has impurities.

6. You can also add a bit of red chilli powder to the Manga Pachadi. Some families do that, but we don’t.

7. Don’t overcook the Manga Pachadi. Stop cooking it when it reaches that thickened, but runny stage. It thickens a little more upon cooling.

8. The colour of the Manga Pachadi will depend upon the type of jaggery you use. I have used organic country jaggery here, hence the deep brown colour.

9. Sometimes, curry leaves are added in the tempering too. We usually don’t use them.

10. On Tamil New Year day, about a teaspoon of dried neem flowers are fried in some ghee, then added to the Manga Pachadi, along with the other tempering. Some families use fresh neem flowers too. Except for Tamil New Year, the adding of neem flowers to Manga Pachadi is not usually followed.

11. Ghee can be used for the tempering, instead of the oil I have used here. Avoid ghee and stick to oil for the tempering, for a vegan version.

12. The above recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suitable for those following a plant-based diet. You can make it gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent, and are best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely use that.

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

Pani Poori Recipe| How To Make Gol Gappa

Best wishes to everyone on the occasion of Holi, the festival of colours, which falls tomorrow! This Holi, how about treating your friends and family to a flavourful platter of Pani Poori?

There aren’t many people I know who can resist a plate of delicious pani poori. Call it paani poori, golgappa, lap chup, poori pakodi or puchka, it is the heart-throb of many. Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for Pani Poori, made the way I saw it being made on the streets of Ahmedabad, growing up, the way I still love it.

 

What is Pani Poori?


Pani Poori refers to a popular Indian street food, made with slight variations in different parts of the country. Small, hollow, deep-fried crisp pooris are first filled with a stuffing made using potatoes and black chickpeas (chana). In my version, the pooris are then topped up with two different types of pani or flavoured water – a sweet one made using tamarind and jaggery, the other one spicy, made from fresh mint, coriander, lemon and green chillies. The result is a burst of flavours, an absolute treat to the tastebuds.

The husband and I are huge chaat fans, and Pani Poori is one of our all-time favourites. I can make a meal out of it, any day, any time, while the husband loves it as an evening snack. I often make it at home, making a little extra so it doubles up as evening snack cum dinner.

A bit about Holi


Holi is a Hindu festival signifying the end of winter and the arrival of spring. It also signifies the victory of good over evil, the start of a happy period after a lean one. In most parts of India, Holi is celebrated by the lighting of a bonfire, song and dance, preparing various delicacies, meeting one’s loved ones, and throwing colours or coloured water on each other.

Thandai, gujiya, kanji vada, laddoo, halwa, kheer, dahi vada, mathri, gulab jamun, jalebi, imarti and nimki are some examples of foods traditionally prepared on the occasion of Holi. Modern-day Holi parties see several finger foods being served, along with these traditional delicacies.

This year, Holi celebrations have been dimmed on account of the Corona virus threat. However, I would like to suggest making something special at home to celebrate the day, and not letting fear dim the festival’s sparkle.

Pani Poori for #HoliOnMyPlate


I’m part of this group called Foodie Monday Blog Hop, where the members showcase recipes based on a predetermined theme every Monday. The theme this week is #HoliOnMyPlate, and all of us are sharing exciting dishes for you to make for the occasion!


If I were throwing a Holi bash, this delectable Pani Poori is something I would definitely include in the menu. Let me tell you how to go about making them!

How to make Pani Poori


Ingredients (for about 100 pieces, serves roughly 4-5 people):

1. About 100 store-bought pooris

For the spicy green paani:

  1. A big fistful of fresh mint leaves
  2. A big fistful of fresh coriander
  3. 4 green chillies or as per taste
  4. Juice of 1 lemon or as needed
  5. 3/4 teaspoon black salt
  6. Pani poori masala or chaat masala to taste

For the sweet tamarind paani:

  1. A big lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  2. 6-8 tablespoons of jaggery powder or as per taste
  3. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

For the aloo stuffing:

  1. 6 medium-sized potatoes
  2. 1 cup black chana, soaked overnight
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
  5. Pani poori masala or chaat masala to taste
  6. 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

We will first make preparations for the aloo stuffing.

1. Wash the potatoes thoroughly, removing any traces of mud from them.
2. Cut each potato into half, and transfer to a wide vessel. Add in enough fresh water to cover the potatoes fully.
3. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 4 whistles or till the potatoes are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.
4. Drain out all the water from the soaked black chana. Transfer them to a wide vessel, and add about 1/2 cup water.
5. Place the vessel with the black chana in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 4 whistles or till the chana are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

Next, we will do the prep for the sweet tamarind water.

1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for 15-20 minutes, for it to soften.
2. Let the tamarind cool down fully.

In the meantime, we will prepare the spicy green paani.

1. Add the mint leaves to a large mixer jar.
2. Chop the green chillies and coriander roughly. Add to the mixer jar as well.
3. Add a little water to the mixer jar. Grind the mint, chillies and coriander together to a fine paste. Transfer this to a large bowl.
4. To the bowl, add black salt, pani poori masala or chaat masala, lemon juice and 2 cups of water or as needed. Mix well.
5. Your spicy green paani is ready. You can chill it in the refrigerator till you are ready to serve the pani poori, or keep it at room temperature.

Next, we will start cooking the sweet tamarind paani.

1. When the soaked tamarind has fully cooled down, extract all the juice from it. You may add a little more water, bit by bit, to help in the process of extraction. Roughly, you should get about 1 cup of tamarind extract.
2. Take the tamarind extract in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place on high flame.
3. Cook for 3-4 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away. Stir intermittently.
4. Add in the jaggery powder. Mix well. Turn the flame down to medium.
5. Cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes or till the mixture starts to thicken. Switch off gas at this stage.
6. Mix in the roasted cumin powder. Allow the mixture to cool down fully.

Now, we will start preparing the aloo stuffing.

1. Get the pressure-cooked potatoes out. Discard the water they were cooked in. Allow them to cool down fully.
2. Get the black chana out of the cooker. Allow them to cool down fully. Do not discard the water they were cooked in.

We will now add the final touches to the sweet tamarind paani.

1. When the potatoes are cool, remove their skins. Take the peeled, cooked potatoes in a large bowl. Mash them roughly.
2. Add the cooked black chana to the bowl, along with the water the chana was cooked in.
3. Add salt to taste, pani poori masala or chaat masala, roasted cumin powder and finely chopped coriander.
4. Mix all the ingredients in the bowl well together, using your hands. Your aloo stuffing is ready. Allow it to rest at room temperature till you are ready to serve the Pani Poori.

Lastly, we will add the finishing touches to the sweet tamarind paani.

1. When the sweet tamarind mixture we prepared earlier has fully cooled down, add in 1-1/2 to 2 cups of water to dilute it, or as needed. Mix well.
2. Your sweet tamarind paani is ready. Keep it chilling in the refrigerator or at room temperature till you are ready to serve the pani poori.


How to serve the pani poori:

You can choose to allow your guests to assemble their own pani pooris or make them yourself, handing them over to the guests one by one.


In case of the former,
Give your guests the pooris, some of the aloo stuffing, some spicy green paani and sweet tamarind paani separately. Ask them to make their own pani pooris.


In case of the latter,
To make the pani pooris, make a small hole in one of the pooris and place some of the aloo stuffing inside it. Spoon some of the spicy green paani and sweet tamarind paani into the poori too. Place the prepared poori fully in your mouth, bite, chew and enjoy the explosion of flavours in your mouth! Prepare all the pani pooris the same way.

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

Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni| Bengali Tomato, Dates And Mango Leather Chutney

Today, let me introduce you to a long-time favourite condiment of mine – Tomato Khejur Amshotter Chaatni. This is a Bengali chutney – chaatni in the local language – made using tomatoes, dates (khejur) and aam papad or mango leather (aamshotto). Like Bengali chaatnis are, this one too is a riot of flavours, sweet and sour and salty and spicy. Beauty!

Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni

My tryst with Bengali cuisine

I was introduced to proper Bengali food, including some amazing chutneys, on a holiday in Calcutta, a few years ago. Life hasn’t been the same ever since. The trip expanded my knowledge of Bengali cuisine, much beyond what I had tasted in Durga Pooja pandals in Bangalore. It was in the course of this holiday that I started loving the versatile spicy-sweet-tangy chutneys that the Bengalis prepare, and even learnt how to make some of them myself. It was my initiation into Bengali vegetarian cooking. Now, Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni, Anarosher Chaatni, Bhoger Khichuri, Aloor Dom and Bhapa Doi are as much a part of our meals at home as sambar, rasam, dosa, idli, phulkas, undhiyu, Gujarati dal and kadhi are. 🙂

West Bengal cuisine for Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

The Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a group of food bloggers, who cook dishes from a particular region of India, every month. All the participanting members are paired up, and every pair exchanges two ingredients which they will go on to use to cook a dish belonging to that month’s region. Interesting, right?

This month, the members of the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge are showcasing dishes from the state of West Bengal, a state known for delectable things like Rosogulla, Sondesh, Chhanar Dalna, Shukto, Dhokar Dalna, Puchka, Mochar Ghonto and Chorchori. I was paired with the talented blogger Seema of Mildly Indian this month, who assigned me the two ingredients of ‘tomatoes’ and ‘salt’. The ingredients were just right to prepare my favourite Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni, and so that’s what I decided to put up.

Seema’s blog, BTW, is a treasure trove of beautiful recipes from around the world, including some really unique dishes. Her Nadru Palak Sabzi, Bhindi Pulao and Jackfruit Rind Curry have been playing on my mind – can’t wait to try them out! Her blog is something you must definitely check out. While you are at it, do visit the lovely West Bengal dish that she prepared using the two ingredients I assigned her.

How to make Tomato Khejur Aamshotter Chaatni

Here’s how I prepare the chaatni, based on what I learnt from the kind staff at the hotel we stayed at in Kolkata, all those years ago.

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those on a plant-based diet. It is a gluten-free dish too.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):

  1. 6 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
  2. 10-12 dates
  3. 1 tablespoon raisins
  4. 2 big pieces of dried mango (aam papad or mango leather)
  5. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  6. 1/2 tablespoon mustard oil
  7. 1 teaspoon panch phoron
  8. 2 small bay leaves
  9. 4-5 dry red chillies
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  12. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
  13. 6-7 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
  14. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
  15. 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder or to taste

Method:

Top left: The ingredients needed for the chaatni, Top right: Step 1, Bottom left and right: Steps 2 and 3

1. Chop the tomatoes finely. Keep aside.

2. Remove seeds from the dates and chop them into large pieces. Also, chop the mango leather into large pieces too. Keep aside.

3. Peel the ginger. Grate finely or cut into thin slivers. Keep aside.

Top left and right: Steps 4 and 5, Centre: Step 6, Bottom left and right: Steps 7 and 8

4. Heat the mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the panch phoron, and allow it to sputter. Now, add in the bay leaves and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

5. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, along with a bit of salt. Reduce heat to medium. Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes or till the tomatoes start turning mushy. Stir intermittently.

6. Now, add in the chopped dates and mango leather, the grated/slivered ginger, raisins, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and jaggery powder. Mix well.

7. Continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes on medium flame, or till the chutney starts thickening and getting glossy. Switch off gas when it is thick, but still a bit on the runny side.

8. Mix in the lemon juice and roasted cumin powder. Your Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni is ready.

9. Allow the chutney to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container. Use as needed, and keep it refrigerated otherwise. The chaatni can be served with khichuri or as part of a complete Bengali meal. We love having it as an accompaniment with rotis or plain parathas too.

Tips & Tricks

1. Use the more flavourful and tart country or ‘Nati‘ tomatoes, as opposed to the ‘farm’ variety to make this chutney.

2. If the tomatoes are too tart, you can skip using the lemon juice.

3. Sugar can be used instead of jaggery powder. I prefer using jaggery powder.

4. Adjust the quantity of red chilli powder and jaggery as per personal taste preferences. Remember that you are also using raisins, dates and mango leather in the chutney, all of which have sweetness in them already.

5. In a traditional Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni, mustard oil is used, so I went ahead and used it too. You may use any other variety of oil if you so prefer.

6. Switch off the gas when the chutney is still runny. It gets thicker as it cools.

7. Slivers of cashewnuts can be used in the Tamatar Khejurer Chaatni too. Here, I haven’t.

8. Transfer the chutney to a clean, dry, air-tight container only after it has cooled down fully. This chutney is best refrigerated when not in use. Stored in a refrigerator and used hygienically, it stays well for 7-10 days.

9. To make roasted cumin powder – Take a couple of tablespoons of cumin and dry roast them in a heavy-bottomed pan till fragrant, taking care to ensure that it does not burn. Allow it to cool down fully and then coarsely crush in a small mixer jar. Store in a dry, air-tight bottle and use as needed.

10. ‘Panch phoron‘ – a mix of the five spices of mustard, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin and fennel seeds – is used for tempering in this chaatni. I buy the panch phoron ready to use, but you can mix the five ingredients yourself too, if you so prefer.

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

Rava Pongal| Khara Pongal With Semolina

Are you looking for something special to make on the occasion of Pongal? Here’s presenting Rava Pongal or Khara Pongal made using semolina.

Pongal Oh Pongal!

The first major festival of the new year is here! It is time for the harvest festival to be celebrated in different parts of India, time to pray for a bountiful harvest this year and to say thanks to the Universe for last year’s. The festival might be known by different names – Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan in Gujarat, Pongal in Karnataka and Tamilnadu, Magh Bihu in Assam or Lohri in Punjab – but the spirit of gratitude, hope and celebration remains the same.

Huge stalks of sugarcane being sold in the markets of Bangalore, for the Pongal celebrations

Pongal is a major festival in Tamilnadu, one that is celebrated for 2-3 days. Sweet and savoury dishes using rice and lentils – also called Pongal – are prepared on the occasion. Sakkarai Pongal (sweet pongal) and Ven Pongal (savoury pongal) are prepared in earthen pots, and allowed to overflow, signifying abundance and prosperity. Chants of Pongal Oh Pongal! rent the air.

Apart from the classic versions, there are quite a few more modern varieties of both the sweet and savoury pongalProso Millet Sakkarai Pongal, Banana Sweet Pongal and Broken Wheat Sweet Pongal With Coconut Milk, for example. This Rava Pongal is one such modern take on the classic savoury pongal recipe.

Ezhu Thaan Kootu, Vadai and Payasam are some other dishes that are commonly prepared to celebrate the Pongal festival.

More about Rava Pongal

Like I was saying earlier, Rava Pongal is a modern twist on the classic savoury pongal or Ven Pongal. The rice in Ven Pongal is substituted with rava, also called sooji or semolina. Taste-wise, both dishes are almost the same. Rava Pongal, therefore, is a good thing to make for the festival when you are considering avoiding rice.

Rava is a refined form of wheat, and hence not gluten-free. I am not sure of the nutritive benefits of rava, if any. Like many Indian festival offerings, this Rava Pongal is a no-onion, no-garlic preparation, which makes it Sattvik or Jain as well.

This Rava Pongal recipe is completely vegetarian. The ghee used in the tempering is of crucial importance, but you could definitely substitute it with vegan butter in case you are thinking of making a vegan version. Personally, though, I would definitely suggest using the ghee.

Rava Pongal recipe

Now, let’s get to the recipe for Rava Pongal, the way it is made in our family. It’s a rather simple thing to make, taking bare minutes to put together.

I share this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. This Monday, the group is sharing #SankrantiSpecials, showcasing harvest festival foods from across India. I chose to share our Rava Pongal recipe for the theme, and hope you like it! Here it goes.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 3/4 cup Bansi rava
  2. 1/4 cup moong dal
  3. 3-1/2 cup + 1 cup of water
  4. 2 tablespoons ghee
  5. 1 teaspoon cumin
  6. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  7. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  8. 2 dry red chillies
  9. 2-3 green chillies
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns

Method:

1. Coarsely crush the black peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or in a small mixer jar. Keep aside.

2. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

3. Wash the moong dal well under running water. Drain out all the excess water. Transfer the washed and drained moong dal to a wide vessel. Measure out the Bansi rava and add to the same vessel.

4. Add 3-1/2 cups water to the vessel. Mix well using your hands, to ensure there are no lumps.

5. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 5 whistles on high flame or till the rava and moong dal are well cooked and mushy. Let the pressure release naturally.

6. When the pressure from the cooker goes down fully, remove the cooked rava and moong dal mixture. Mash it well, using a potato masher. Keep aside.

7. Heat the ghee in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the cumin, curry leaves, asafoetida, dry red chillies and slit green chillies. Let the ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds.

8. Now, turn the flame down to medium. Add the cooked rava and moong dal mixture to the pan, along with salt to taste, about 1 cup of water and the coarsely crushed black peppercorns. Mix well.

9. Cook on medium flame till the mixture starts thickening, 2-3 minutes. Stir intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Break down lumps, if any, using your ladle. Switch off gas when the mixture is still quite runny, as it thickens further upon cooling. Your Rava Pongal is ready – serve it hot with a simple coconut chutney or raita of your choice.

Tips & Tricks

1. For best results, use the coarser Bansi rava and not the very fine Bombay rava.

2. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and black peppercorns you use, as per personal taste preferences.

3. Adjust the amount of water you use, depending upon how thick or runny you want the pongal to be.

4. Do not skimp on the amount of ghee. A generous quantity of ghee gives a fragrant, beautiful pongal.

5. Make sure the rava and moong dal is well cooked, before adding them in to the pan.

6. I did not roast the rava or the moong dal before pressure cooking them, as I wanted a mushy consistency of pongal. However, you may dry roast these ingredients separately, on a medium flame till fragrant. This makes the pongal more fragrant and a bit grainy.

7. Slivers of coconut and finely chopped ginger can be used in the Rava Pongal too. We typically don’t.

What do you think of this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Aval Mixture| Low-Oil Poha Chivda

I hope you are gearing up to celebrate Diwali. I can’t believe it’s already time for the big festival, but it is! We have been busy cooking up various sweet and savoury dishes in preparation for Diwali, which arrives this weekend. Today, I present to you our family recipe for one of these Diwali-special foods – Aval Mixture aka Poha Chivda, a delicious snack made using beaten rice.

A bit of background about Diwali

Before we get to that, though, let me talk a bit about Diwali, for those readers who aren’t acquainted with it. Popularly called the Festival of Lights, Diwali is a Hindu festival that celebrates the return of Lord Rama with his wife Seeta to Ayodha, having won a hard-earned victory over Ravana. It is one of India’s biggest festivals, signifying the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness.

There are small variations in the way Diwali is celebrated in the various states of India, but the over-arching beliefs are more or less the same. Diwali means shopping, new clothes, dressing up to the hilt, lighting lamps, getting together with friends and family, prayers, gifts, bursting crackers, loads of food, spreading love and good cheer all around.

In Tamilnadu, Diwali day (or Deepavali, as it is called) sees families rising as early as 4 a.m. for a rejuvenating oil massage and bath, which is followed by the wearing of new clothes and jewellery. Then, it is time to head out to burst crackers, closely followed by a special lunch. The evening is spent meeting friends and family, serving and eating the sweets and snacks painstakingly prepared in the few days before Diwali. 7-Cup Cake, Rava Kesari, Omapudi, Aval Mixture, Ribbon Pakoda, Murukku, Kasi Halwa and Payasam are some dishes commonly prepared in our family for Diwali.

Aval Mixture or Poha Chivda

Aval Mixture or Poha Chivda is prepared using beaten rice or poha, and we make it with the minimal use of oil. There is no deep-frying involved, which makes this a relatively guilt-free festival snack. The cashewnuts and raisins, groundnuts and jaggery, that are added in make the mixture rich and special.

This Aval Mixture is slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and just the right amount of salty – making it a burst of flavours. It is a completely vegetarian preparation, suitable to those following a vegan or plant-based diet. If you are using gluten-free asafoetida (without any wheat flour added to it), this Aval Mixture recipe is gluten-free as well. In case you aren’t able to get hold of gluten-free asafoetida, you can just skip it altogether too, without any significant change in the taste of the dish.

Our family recipe for Aval Mixture, for #DiwaliDhamaka

Here’s how the Aval Mixture is made in our family. I share this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group, which is showcasing Diwali-special foods this week. Yes, the group theme this week is – #DiwaliDhamaka!

Ingredients (makes 3 cups):

  1. 2 tablespoons oil
  2. 3 cups medium-thick beaten rice (poha or aval)
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 1/2 tablespoon red chilli powder or to taste
  6. 2-3 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste

For the tempering:

  1. 2 tablespoons oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 1 tablespoon raisins
  4. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  5. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
  6. 4-5 dry red chillies
  7. 10-12 cashewnuts, halved
  8. 1-1/2 tablespoons groundnuts

Method:

1. Dry roast the groundnuts on medium flame till crisp. Ensure that they don’t get burnt. Transfer to a plate and keep aside.

2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Turn the flame down to low-medium. Add in the beaten rice.

3. Keep stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes, keeping the flame low-medium, or till the beaten rice gets nice and crisp. Do not overcook the beaten rice, or it will become too hard. Take care to ensure that the beaten rice doesn’t burn.

4. Transfer the fried beaten rice to a large mixing bowl or vessel.

5. Now, we will prepare the tempering. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan. Add in the mustard, and allow them to pop. Turn the flame down to medium. Add in the raisins, curry leaves, asafoetida, dry red chillies, halved cashewnuts and dry-roasted groundnuts. Mix gently. Fry these ingredients on medium flame, till the cashewnuts start browning, the curry leaves get crisp and the raisins puff up. Stir constantly. Take care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Switch off gas.

6. Add salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and jaggery powder to the beaten rice. Mix gently but well, using your hands. Ensure that the seasonings are evenly distributed through the beaten rice.

7. Now, pour the tempering over the beaten rice. Mix it in, using a spatula. Your Poha Chivda is ready to use! Allow it to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container.

Tips and tricks

1. I have used regular refined oil and medium-thick poha (the type we use to make poha upma).

2. Make sure you use a large vessel to fry the poha. The pan should not be overcrowded. The poha should have enough space to move around in the pan. If you have a smaller pan only at hand, you can fry the poha in two or more batches, using a little oil at a time.

3. Some families dry roast the poha, and then proceed to add the seasonings and the tempering. We prefer making it the above way.

4. Slivers of dry coconut, chopped green chillies, fried gram (pottukadalai), chopped almonds are some other things you could add to the tempering. We usually don’t.

5. It is important to make sure that neither the poha nor the tempering gets burnt. Please do ensure this, otherwise the taste of the Poha Chivda might be compromised.

6. Some people deep-fry the poha before proceeding to add the seasonings and the tempering to it. You could do that, too.

7. Let the fried poha cool down slightly before seasoning it. Adding the seasoning and the tempering to very hot poha can cause it to go limp.

8. Powdered sugar can be used in the above Aval Mixture recipe, instead of the jaggery powder. Alternatively, you can omit the sugar or jaggery altogether. I prefer using jaggery powder.

9. Make sure you don’t overcook the poha, which might cause it to become overly hard.

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