Ezhu Thaan Kootu| Pongal Kootu| Thiruvathirai Kootu

Pongal is just around the corner!

I’m here with a Pongal-special recipe today – one for Ezhu Thaan Kootu or Pongal Kootu, a traditional recipe from Tamilnadu.

About the festival of Pongal

For the uninitiated, Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated in South India, particularly in Tamilnadu. The festival falls in the Tamil month of Thai (typically in January as per the English calendar), which is why it is sometimes referred to as Thai Pongal. Pongal is celebrated on the day the sun enters the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn), which usually happens between January 13 and 15. January 15 has been declared as Pongal day, in 2019.

The tradition of celebrating Pongal is believed to be over 1000 years old. The festival corresponds to harvest festivals celebrated in different parts of the country – Lohri in Punjab, Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan in Gujarat, and Magh Bihu in Assam. In Tamilnadu, Pongal is a major affair, with the celebrations continuing for 3-4 days. Thanks are offered to the sun for a bountiful harvest, old belongings are disposed of and new ones are bought, and a variety of sweet and savoury dishes are prepared. (Check out this very informative blog post for details on the way Pongal is celebrated in Tamilnadu.)

The term ‘Pongal‘ also refers to ‘Sakkarai Pongal‘ or a rice dish cooked with milk and jaggery to celebrate this festival. Traditionally, the sakkarai pongal is cooked outside, on a wood fire, in a new earthenware pot. A piece of turmeric root is tied around the pot, which is decorated with turmeric (haldi) and vermilion (kumkum) paste. The rice cooking in the pot is allowed to overflow, indicating prosperity and abundance. Venn Pongal (a savoury version of the above rice dish), vada, payasam (kheer), and Pongal Kootu are some other dishes commonly prepared for the celebratory festival feast.

Ezhu Thaan Kootu or Pongal Kootu

Considering that Pongal is a celebration of bountiful harvest, Ezhu Thaan Kootu is an apt thing to prepare for the festival. Ezhu Thaan Kootu is Tamil for ‘a curry with seven vegetables’. This traditional Tamilnadu preparation uses at least seven local, seasonal vegetables – largely raw banana (vazhakkai), pumpkin (pushnikkai), cluster beans (kotthavarangai), potatoes (urulaikizhangu), elephant yam (senaikizhangu), sweet potato (sakkaravelikizhangu), broad beans (avarekkai) and the like. One can add in more than seven vegetables too, but using them in odd numbers (seven, nine or eleven vegetables) is the norm. In today’s times, people make this kootu using a mix of native vegetables and ‘English’ ones (carrots, green peas, French beans and the like).

The seven major elements of the Ezhu Thaan Kootu I made, a while ago

In Tamilnadu, this Ezhu Thaan Kootu is typically served on the day of Pongal, as an accompaniment to Sakkarai Pongal. The savoury Ezhu Thaan Kootu and the sweet Sakkarai Pongal are perfect complements to each other. For this reason, the kootu is often also referred to as Pongal Kootu. Since this vegetable dish is also prepared on another Tamilian festival, Thiruvathirai, it is also called Thiruvathirai Kootu.

This Ezhu Thaan Kootu is a thing of beauty. It is a blend of sweet, salty, tangy and spicy flavours, a great thing to prepare on festive occasions and ordinary days alike. It is a lovely way to clear up your refrigerator of all those bits and pieces of vegetables that have been lounging around. With sweet pongal or plain steamed rice, this kootu pairs up very well. I have it with rotis as well.

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Pongal Kootu aka Thiruvathirai Kootu or Ezhu Thaan Kootu

The Ezhu Thaan Kootu is traditionally prepared in a pan, which takes a bit of time to cook. My mother, however, uses a sort of short-cut method, doing some of the steps in a pressure cooker. I follow in my Amma‘s footsteps, in this regard. 🙂

Now, without further ado, let’s check out the my family recipe for Pongal Kootu aka Ezhu Thaan Kootu, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

  1. About 4-1/2 cups of mixed vegetables, chopped (I used red pumpkin, raw banana, cluster beans, carrot, broad beans, elephant yam, sweet potato, potato, French beans, fresh green chana and green peas)
  2. Salt to taste
  3. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  4. 1/4 cup toor daal
  5. A small gooseberry-sized ball of tamarind
  6. 2 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste

For the spice mix:

  1. 1 teaspoon oil
  2. 1-1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  3. 1-1/2 tablespoon chana daal
  4. 1/2 tablespoon urad daal
  5. 1/2 tablespoon raw rice
  6. 4 dry red chillies or as per taste
  7. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut

For the tempering:

  1. 1 tablespoon oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 2-3 dry red chillies
  4. 2 generous pinches of asafoetida
  5. 1 sprig curry leaves

Method:

First up, we will make the necessary preparations to make the Ezhu Thaan Kootu.

  1. Make sure all the vegetables are chopped into bite-sized pieces. Remove strings from vegetables like French beans and cluster beans, and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Peel veggies like potato, sweet potato, raw banana, yam and red pumpkin and chop into cubes.
  2. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water for at least 10 minutes. Extract a thick paste out of it. Keep aside.
  3. Wash the toor daal in running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water. Now, add in just enough fresh water to cover the toor daal, and pressure cook it for 4 whistles on high flame. Let the pressure release naturally.
  4. When the pressure comes down entirely, get the cooked toor daal out. Mash it well, using a masher. Keep aside.

Now, we will pressure cook the vegetables and simultaneously get the spice mix for the kootu ready.

  1. Take the chopped vegetables in a pressure cooker bottom. I have used a 5-litre pressure cooker here. Add in a little water, salt to taste and turmeric powder. Close the cooker and put the weight on. Pressure cook for 3 whistles on high flame or till the vegetables are cooked, but not overly mushy. Let the pressure come down naturally.
  2. Now, we will prepare the spice mix. Heat the oil for the spice mix in a pan. Turn heat to medium, and add in the coriander seeds, chana daal, urad daal, raw rice, coconut and dry red chillies. Fry on medium heat till the daals start turning brown. Make sure the ingredients do not burn. Switch off gas, transfer the fried ingredients to a plate and let them cool down fully.
  3. When the fried ingredients for the spice mix have cooled down completely, grind them together to a powder in a mixer. Keep aside.

Now, we will prepare the Ezhu Thaan Kootu.

  1. When the pressure has gone down completely, open the cooker with the cooked vegetables in it. Place it back on medium flame. Add the cooked and mashed toor daal to it, the jaggery powder, tamarind paste and the spice mix powder we prepared earlier. Mix well. Check and adjust seasonings as needed.
  2. Cook on medium heat till the mixture thickens, 2-3 minutes. Add a little water if needed. Ideally, this kootu should have a slightly runny consistency, slightly thicker than sambar. Switch off gas at this stage.

And now, we will do the final process – prepare the tempering for the kootu.

Lastly, we will prepare the tempering for the Ezhu Thaan Kootu. Heat the oil for the tempering, in a pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Now, add the curry leaves, dried red chillies and the asafoetida. Let them stay in for a couple of minutes. Switch off the gas, and add this tempering to the kootu. Mix well. Your Ezhu Thaan Kootu is ready to serve!

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

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #258. The co-host this week is Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

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Panel Discussion: Resurgence Of Millets In My Plate

Last week, I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to be part of a panel discussion, titled ‘Resurgence Of Millets In My Plate’, by eminent personalities from the state of Karnataka. This discussion, organised by the Government of Karnataka’s Department of Agriculture in co-ordination with the Department of Home Science of the Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, was held at The Capitol on Raj Bhavan Road on December 7, 2018 .

The panel discussion was a lead-up to the next Organics & Millets International Trade Fair, which is scheduled between January 18 and 20, 2019, at the Bengaluru Palace. As always, the discussion opened up to me the immense world of millets, all that one can do with these wonder grains, in one’s own kitchen and at the country level.

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The event started with a welcome speech by Dr. K.G. Jagadeesha, IAS, Commissioner – Department of Agriculture. He spoke about the mammoth scale of the Organics & Millets International Trade Fair 2019, and of how the fair has already proved to be a great success in the past years.

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Dr. A. Sundaravalli, introducing the agenda of the panel discussion

Post this, Dr. A. Sundaravalli, Head of the Department of Home Science, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, spoke about the panelists and the agenda of the discussion, i.e. how to enable millets to make a come-back on the plates of the common man, after the ancient grains having been considered as ‘poor man’s food’ for so long. She spoke of how, considering the immense health benefits of millets, it is critical for them to start gaining a wider acceptance than they already are.

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The panel discussion started, moderated by Dr. Santha Maria, Dean, Faculty of Home Science, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

Dr. Santha Maria, introducing the esteemed panelists to the audience

The esteemed panelists included:

  • Dr. Manjunath C.N., Director, Jayadeva Hospital
  • Dr. Mahesh D.M., Consultant Endocrinologist, Aster CMI and Medpoint Diabetes & Thyroid Clinic
  • Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy, President, Indian Dietictic Association
  • Mr. Sihikahi Chandru, Actor, Producer & Director
  • Mr. Prashant Parameshwaran, Managing Director, Soulfull
  • Mr. Vilasbhargav, Managing Director, South Ruchis Square
  • Mr. Suresh Hinduja, CEO, Gourmet India.com
  • Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal, Former Indian goalkeeper of Indian Hockey
  • Dr. Swarnalatha Chandran, Swarayu Wellness Clinic
The panelists, in the course of the discussion. From left to right: Ms. Swarnalatha Chandran, Dr. Mahesh D.M., Mr. Vilasbhargav, Mr. Suresh Hinduja, Dr. Santha Maria, Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal, Mr. Prashant Parameswaran, Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy, and Mr. Sihikahi Chandru

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Putting forth his views about the importance of using millets in today’s world, Dr. Manjunath stated that there has been a stark increase in the incidence of lifestyle diseases in India, in the last couple of decades, both among males and females. What is even more alarming is the age group among which the incidence of these diseases is on the rise – more and more people in their 20s and 30s are being affected by rising blood pressure and cholesterol as well as heart problems, which is something very serious. At this rate, the day is not far when India will be the ‘disease capital of the world’. There are several factors which are leading to this negative development, as per Dr. Manjunath – including improper food habits, sedentary lifestyles, improper work situations, high stress levels and rising air pollution. Millets can go a long way towards bringing this alarm-inducing situation under control, he strongly opined.

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Dr. Manjunath putting forth his views at the panel discussion

The primary prevention of most lifestyle disorders starts with food, Dr. Manjunath stated. A lot of these diseases that are prevalent among today’s Indian youth can be controlled by increasing the consumption of millets, as well as consuming more vegetables and fruits (at least the minimum recommended dietary requirement for an adult). Dr. Manjunath stated that awareness among people about the various health benefits of millets needs to increase further, which will in turn bring about a better acceptance of them.

He went on to appeal to the audience not to think that the consumption of millets will automatically resolve all of one’s health issues. Millets are not a panacea. They should be used in combination with other components in one’s diet, like fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fats, wheat and rice. Every food group is important, he said. A 60:40 combination of millets:other ingredients will go a long way towards making them more palatable to the general public, he stated.

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Dr. Mahesh then went on to further elaborate on the various benefits that the consumption of millets offers. He stated that millets are the only food that offer everything to the human body, from fat, protein and antioxidants to vitamins and minerals. They are of great help in exercising the gut, and ensure the slow release of sugars into one’s blood stream. Considering this, it is very important for millets to start gaining wider acceptance among the general public, he stated.

The panelists, engrossed in the discussion

Prevention is better than cure. To cut short lifestyle diseases before they occur, it is high time we start paying close attention to what kinds of foods we are putting into our systems, Dr. Mahesh stated. It is high time we started recognising the importance of these wonder grains called millets, and gave them pride of place on our dining tables, he added.

Dr. Mahesh also spoke about the criticality of inculcating good eating habits, millets included, among children and youth, which will go on to ensure that we grow up into healthier adults and a healthier nation. Educating them about healthy eating will go a long way towards increasing acceptance, he stated.

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Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy went on to bust some common myths about the consumption of millets in India:

  • There seems to be a misconception among some Indians that eating a dark-coloured millet like ragi or finger millet will cause one’s skin to become dark. That is so not the case! Millets do not affect the colour of your skin, or that of your unborn child during pregnancy!
  • Millets are not a panacea for all diseases. Increasing the consumption of millets in one’s diet does not mean that all one’s ills will be cured.
  • Millets cannot replace everything else in your lunch or dinner plate. Your meals every day cannot be all-millet. A balanced diet, including good portion of all food groups, is more important. Moreover, millets might not be suitable in large proportions for certain people, such as those with digestive ailments.
  • Using millets in any proportion and in any way does not help. Using a small portion of millets in a dish, while the rest is made up of sugar or fat is not a healthy way to consume them. You don’t get the health benefits of the millet in your system, that way.
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Ms. Sheela Krishnaswamy putting forth her views about millets at the panel discussion

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Mr. Sihikahi Chandru spoke about how he started reading up about millets a while ago, when he heard about the numerous health benefits they possess. He was surprised to discover that millets are not some new-fangled marketing drama, but an age-old grain that has been in use in India since centuries. He spoke of how his grandparents and ancestors grew up regularly consuming millets, and lifestyle disorders never seemed to affect them. Further, he went on to speak about how, when he himself tried to inculcate millets in his daily diet, it took a while for his system to adjust to them. He urged the audience to give millets a chance, to give their bodies enough time to get used to them, to not give up on them too soon. Mr. Chandru also spoke about the need to cook millets in a way that is palatable to the general public, so as to improve their acceptance.

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Mr. Sihikahi Chandru, speaking at the panel discussion

In conclusion, Mr. Chandru stated that millets need to be made more affordable, so as to enable common men and women to consume more of them. The production, distribution and affordability of millets needs to be worked upon.

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Mr. Prashant Parameshwaran spoke about how his firm, Soulfull, is working towards making millets more palatable and acceptable to the kids of today and the younger generation. He went on to speak about how Soulfull is making millets easier to use, so that they can get wider acceptance by the general public.

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Mr. Parameshwaran also talked about how the onus of change (from a largely wheat- and rice-dominant diet to a millet-inclusive one) lies on several people, including doctors, media, teachers, bloggers, food critics and housewives. All of these stakeholders need to work towards this goal, for it to be successfully achieved.

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Mr. Vilasbhargav talked about increased awareness among his customers at South Ruchis Square, a fine-dining restaurant located in Bangalore, about the health benefits of millets. He spoke about how customers today are more willing to try out various dishes made using millets, and of how such dishes are getting a good response in his restaurant. There is scope to do a lot more using millets in the culinary world, he added.

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Mr. Suresh Hinduja spoke about the need to tackle the non-acceptance of millets among children and adults alike. It is critical to introduce millets to children early on, so they are more receptive of them at later stages in life, he rightly stated. Also, there is a need to educate adults about the many ways in which millets can help them lead a healthier life, he said, which enable them to accept the grains more readily.

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Mr. Suresh Hinduja, speaking at the panel discussion

Mr. Hinduja also re-emphasised the need to serve millets in a way that is more acceptable to the children and youth of today. Millet-based drinks, energy bars, chocolates, pancakes and snacks are good ways to introduce the younger generation to the wonder grain, he stated.

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Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal talked about how the inclusion of millets is important for sportspeople and those are conscious about their health. Millets are a gluten-free food filled with nutrients, thus making for the perfect pre-game food. He spoke about how he began including millets like ragi and jowar in his own daily diet and that of his team, at the recommendation of doctors, and how that benefited them hugely.

Mr. Ashish Kumar Ballal addressing the audience at the panel discussion

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Dr. Swarnalatha spoke about how millets are loaded with health benefits, but might not be suitable for all types of personalities, all age groups, and all times of the day. For instance, she stated, the system of someone with a kapha-dominant personality would be more acceptable to millets rather than someone with a vata– or pitta-dominant personality. Millets take time to digest, which is why they should preferably be consumed earlier in the day, between 6 AM to 2 PM, she said. She also spoke of how what you consume the millets with affect what nutrients you absorb from them – for instance, cooking them with an acidic substance like lemon or tamarind helps in better absorption of the iron in them.

Dr. Swarnalatha addressing the audience, at the panel discussion

Dr. Swarnalatha went on to state that it would be wrong to say that millets cannot be consumed by goiterous people or those with thyroid issues. The consumption of millets only has a very small bearing on goiter and thyroid problems, she stated. It would be best to consult a qualified dietician or doctor for better clarity on these aspects, she added.

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The event concluded with the answering of audience questions by the panelists. This was followed by a vote of thanks to the panelists on behalf of the Department of Home Sciences, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore.

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As always, there are several events planned to the run-up of the Organics & Millets Trade Fair 2019, including cooking contests, millet fairs, runs and more. Stay tuned! Also, don’t miss marking your calendars for the gala fair that is slated to happen in January 2019!

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I’m sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #254. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai| Spiced Broken Corn Dumplings

A traditional steamed snack from Tamilnadu and a popular offering to Lord Ganesha on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, pidi kozhukattai is typically made using broken rice and toor daal. That is how it was always done in our family as well. However, in recent years, I began substituting the rice for different things like broken wheat, corn dalia, millets and so on, and have been really happy with the results.

Pidi kozhukattai by themselves are quite a healthy snack. There’s minimal oil used, as these dumplings are steam-cooked. They do not require soaking or any kind of pre-preparation, and can be put together easily. They are extremely filling, making them great for weekday breakfast or dinner and lovely options for school and office lunchboxes. The substitution of rice with millets or dalia makes the pidi kozhukattai all the more healthier, and enables me to create a different-tasting dumplings each time I make these. This Ganesh Chaturthi, I tried my hands at Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai, and all of us at home utterly loved them!

Corn dalia aka broken corn or corn rava is easily available in several departmental stores and health shops. It adds a nice, different-from-the-usual taste to the pidi kozhukattai, and offers them a lovely texture as well. I made these slightly differently from the way I usually make pidi kozhukattai, also adding in some veggies that were languishing in my refrigerator. I must say these changes took the taste to a whole new level.

Here is how I made the Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai.

Ingredients (makes 25-30 pieces):

  1. 2 cups corn dalia
  2. 4 tablespoons chana daal
  3. 6-7 dry red chillies
  4. Salt, to taste
  5. 1 medium-sized carrot
  6. A small piece of cabbage
  7. 6-7 beans
  8. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
  9. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
  10. 1 tablespoon oil + a little more for greasing the steaming colander
  11. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  12. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)

Method:

1. Grind the chana daal and dry red chillies to a coarse powder, using a small mixer jar. Keep aside.

2. Peel the carrot and grate medium-fine. Chop the cabbage finely. Remove strings from the beans and chop finely. Keep aside.

3. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add the asafoetida and let it stay in for a couple of seconds.

4. Add the grated carrot and chopped beans and cabbage to the pan. Saute on high flame till the vegetables are half cooked.

5. Add 4 cups of water to the pan, along with salt to taste. Tear the curry leaves roughly with your hands and add them to the pan too. Keep on high flame till the water begins to come to a boil.

6. Now, reduce the flame to medium. Stirring constantly, add the corn dalia, fresh grated coconut, and the chana daal-dry red chillies powder to the water. Ensure that no lumps are formed.

7. Keep cooking on medium flame, stirring constantly, till all the water is absorbed and the corn dalia mixture becomes a bit dry, resembling upma. Use your ladle to break any lumps that might have formed. Remember not to overcook the mixture – it should be cooked just to the point where it gets dry, but not overly so. Switch off the gas and allow the mixture to cool down.

8. When the corn dalia mixture has cooled down enough to handle, make medium-sized dumplings from it. Keep covered.

9. Grease a colander with a little oil. Place 8-10 of the prepared dumplings in the colander, or as many as you can fit in without overcrowding. Keep ready.

10. Take about 1-1/2 cup of water in a pressure cooker base. Place on high flame and allow it to come to a boil. Now, place a stand inside the pressure cooker, and place the colander above it. Ensure that no water enters the colander. Close the pressure cooker and steam the dumplings for exactly 10 minutes on high flame, without putting the weight on. Switch off the gas and allow the dumplings to cool down slightly, before transferring them to a serving plate.

11. Steam all the dumplings in the same manner.

12. Serve hot or at room temperature, with chutney of your choice. Here, I have served them with a yummylicious red chutney.

Notes:

  1. I used medium-fine corn dalia aka corn rava or broken corn, to make these pidi kozhukattai. If the dalia is too large, you might want to run it through a mixer once before beginning to make the pidi kozhukattai.
  2. Adjust the quantity of coconut and dry red chillies you use, as per personal taste preferences.
  3. Gingelly oil or coconut oil works best in the making of these Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai.
  4. Wheat dalia aka broken wheat can be used in place of corn dalia, as well.
  5. You can add in other veggies like broccoli, onions, cauliflower, green peas, etc. to the Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai.
  6. These pidi kozhukattai are best steamed in a greased colander, which ensures even cooking.
  7. I have ground the chana daal and red chillies dry, without washing them. You could even wash the chana daal, drain out the excess water, and then soak the chana daal and red chillies together for 20-30 minutes before grinding them into a paste. Use this paste while making the pidi kozhukattai.
  8. Remember not to over-cook the corn dalia mixture – it should be cooked till all the water has been absorbed, but not overly dry. Also, steam the Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai for exactly 10 minutes, without putting the pressure cooker weight on. Over-cooking will make the kozhukattai hard.
  9. I used a 5-litre pressure cooker to make these Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai.
  10. Please remember to place a tall stand inside the pressure cooker base, to ensure that no water enters the colander while steaming.
  11. These Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai can be prepared in advance and lightly steamed just before you want to serve them.
  12. Let the steamed Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai cool down slightly before transferring them to a serving plate. Handling them immediately after steaming might cause them to break.
  13. If you are making these Corn Dalia Pidi Kozhukattai for Ganesh Chaturthi or any other festive occasion, you might want to skip adding onion to it. Also, in that case, traditionally, the dish is made without tasting. The food is partaken of only after offering it to God.

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

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I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #247. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Edible Rice Flour Lamp Or Maa Vilakku Recipe| Making Adhirasam From The Leftovers

The tradition of Maa Vilakku for Purattasi Sani

Purattasi, the sixth month as per the Tamil calendar, is considered highly sacred. The entire month of Purattasi is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara aka God Vishnu, and is considered highly auspicious. The month of Purattasi more or less coincides with the Navratri celebrations in India every year and, hence, the two are indistinguishable in my mind. This year, Purattasi falls between September 17 and October 17.

Saturdays during this month (known as ‘Purattasi Sani‘ in Tamil) are considered all the more important, a day on which several Tamilians observe a fast. Many Tamilian households have the custom of lighting Maa Vilakku or lamps made from rice flour on the occasion of Purattasi Sani.

Maa Vilakku or edible rice flour lamps from Tamilnadu

The significance of Maa Vilakku in Tamilnadu

Maa Vilakku‘ in Tamil literally translates to ‘lamps made from flour’. Lamps or diyas made from rice flour, sweetened with jaggery, are considered hugely auspicious in Tamilnadu. They are prepared on special occasions like Purattasi Sani, Thai Velli (Fridays in the sacred Tamil month of Thai), and Karthigai Deepam (a Tamil festival that is celebrated after Diwali). These Maa Vilakku or rice flour lamps are also believed to be a favourite of Mariamman, the very powerful Goddess. When diseases like chicken pox occur in a family, these lamps are prepared with great sanctity and offered to the Goddess, as a means to appease her.

In the olden days, these lamps were made from freshly hand-pounded rice flour, using a mortar and pestle. If you visit the ancient temples of Tamilnadu, you will still come across women pounding rice in huge mortars with huge pestles, to prepare Maa Vilakku. This is a charming sight, indeed, something from a bygone era. Click here to see an example.

In today’s times, though, many households use a mixer to grind soaked rice and then proceed to use the same in making the lamps. Some even use store-bought rice flour to make these lamps.

Different families have different ways of offering these rice flour lamps to God. Some offer a single lamp, while some make two big ones. Some place the lamps on a banana leaf, some place them on a silver plate or tray. Some place flowers around the lamps, and some deck them up with kumkum (vermilion) and manjal (turmeric). The basic ingredients used in the preparation of these lamps and the method, more or less, remain the same. Traditionally, a cotton wick is placed inside these lamps, which are lit using ghee and not oil.

Since Maa Vilakku or rice flour lamps are typically prepared as an offering to God, they are prepared without tasting. Once the lamps are done burning and are cool enough to handle, the residual rice flour is consumed.

Edible rice flour lamps or Maa Vilakku recipe

Let’s see how to make Maa Vilakku or edible rice flour lamps, the traditional way.

Ingredients (makes 2 big lamps or several small ones):

To make the lamps:

  1. 1 cup raw rice
  2. 3/4 cup powdered jaggery

Other ingredients you will need:

  1. Cotton wicks, as needed
  2. Ghee, as needed to light the lamps

Method:

  1. Soak the raw rice in just enough water to cover it, for about 30 minutes.
  2. When the rice is done soaking, transfer to a colander. Drain out all the water from it.
  3. Spread out the soaked and drained rice well on a cotton towel/napkin, and place it in direct sunlight or under the fan for a while. Pat dry using another cotton towel/napkin. In 15-20 minutes, the rice should be damp but not soaking wet – that is when it is ready to use in making the lamps.
  4. Now, take the damp rice in a mixer jar. Pulse a couple of times, for a couple of seconds each, stopping in between to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar with a spoon.
  5. Now, add the jaggery powder to the mixer jar. Again, pulse 3-4 times, for a couple of seconds each, stopping in between to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar with a spoon. At the end of this process, you should get a slightly coarse powder resembling rava, a good mix of the rice and jaggery. Transfer this to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Knead the rice-jaggery powder gently with your hands. This will make the jaggery melt slightly, and the powder will come together to form a sort of dough. If you think the dough is too dry, you may add a bit of water/milk at this stage.
  7. Shape the dough into two large lamps (diyas). If you want, you can make several small diyas out of the dough. Place the prepared lamps on a tray/plate/banana leaf.
  8. Fill each lamp with ghee, as required. Place a cotton wick in each lamp, and light them.
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Pictorial representation of the making of edible rice flour lamps or Maa Vilakku recipe. Move from left to right, first the top row, then centre and then the bottom row.

Notes:

  1. I use regular Sona Masoori or Wada Kollam rice to make these Maa Vilakku.
  2. Once the lamps stop burning, the wicks are removed, the residual ghee in the lamps (if any) is mixed into them, and the dough is consumed as prasadam. However, consuming too much of it can lead to a stomach ache, as it is raw rice flour anyway.
  3. The quantity of jaggery you will need depends upon the type and quality of jaggery you use. I use store-bought jaggery powder and the above measurements work out perfectly for me.
  4. After lighting, the Maa Vilakku dough can be kept at room temperature and consumed little by little. It stays well at room temperature for 3-4 days. Refrigeration will prolong the life of the dough further, but might make it slightly hard.
  5. Make sure all the kumkum (vermilion) and flower petals are scraped off the lamps, before you store the residual dough or consume them.
  6. Edible camphor (pacchai karpooram), dry ginger powder (sukku podi) or cardamom (elaichi) powder can be added to the dough, for extra taste. We usually skip these.

Making adhirasam from leftover Maa Vilakku dough

Don’t want to consume the leftover dough after lighting the Maa Vilakku, as is? You can use the residual dough to prepare Adhirasam, a beautiful, beautiful sweet dish!

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Adhirasam made from leftover Maa Vilakku dough

Adhirasam or athirasam is an old-time sweet dish from South India. In Tamilnadu, this is commonly made for weddings and poojas and on festive occasions like Navratri and Diwali. Traditionally, to make the adhirasam, a syrup is made with jaggery and water, to which coarse rice flour is mixed to form a dough, which is then formed into discs and deep-fried. Adhirasams are a delicacy, beautiful things that aren’t easy to get right. It is tricky to get the jaggery syrup right, and making discs that don’t disintegrate while frying is a huge task. Using leftover Maa Vilakku dough is an easier, short-cut method to make adhirasam, which more often than not yields great results, even for a beginner to Indian sweets like me.

Here’s how you can make Adhirasam from leftover Maa Vilakku dough.

Ingredients (yields 8-10 small adhirasam for the above Maa Vilakku measurements):

  1. Leftover sweet maa vilakku dough, wick removed, flower petals and kumkum scraped off
  2. Oil, as needed for deep-frying
  3. Ghee, as needed to grease palms

Method:

  1. Heat oil for deep frying in a thick-bottomed pan, till it reaches smoking point.
  2. In the meanwhile, grease your hands with a little ghee. Use your hands to make small discs of about 1/4-inch thickness from the leftover dough. If you have been refrigerating the leftover dough, bring it to room temperature first before proceeding to make the discs from it. Keep aside.
  3. When the oil is nice and hot, reduce the flame to medium. Drop in a couple of the discs into the hot oil and fry evenly, till they get brown on the outside. Drain out the oil and transfer to a plate. Take care to ensure that the discs do not get burnt. If the oil is too hot and the discs are rapidly frying up, you might want to reduce the flame further to ensure even frying.
  4. Deep fry all the discs in the same manner. The adhirasams are ready! They can be consumed straight off the stove or at room temperature. At room temperature, they stay well for 4-5 days.

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

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Navratri Special’.

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #247. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Upma Kozhukattai| Kara Pidi Kozhukattai

A popular offering to the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha on Ganesh Chaturthi, the Pidi Kozhukattai is also a very healthy snack. With the goodness of rice and toor daal, it is a steamed snack made with minimal oil. It is a simple thing to make, but quite delicious and filling, which makes it great as a lunchbox filler.

Pidi Kozhukattai is a traditional Tamilnadu preparation, wherein rice flour or broken rice is first cooked in boiling water along with a few other ingredients, then allowed to cool and shaped into dumplings with the hands, after which they are steamed. Fingerprint marks on the Pidi Kozhukattai are its distinguishing feature, which lend the dish a certain rustic charm. This is how the dish gets its name too – ‘pidi‘ in Tamil roughly translates into ‘hand-held’. These steamed dumplings are often also called ‘Upma Kozhukattai‘, referring to the coarse grinding of rice in the mixer that the recipe calls for, similar to the making of Rice Upma, another common Tamil Nadu snack.

These dumplings can be either sweet or savoury, with different families making big and little variations of their own. Today, I present to you the savoury version, called Kara Pidi Kozhukattai, the way my family makes it. I made these for the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in our apartment this year, and they were a huge hit.

Here is the recipe for these Kara Pidi Kozhukattai, on popular demand. 🙂

Ingredients (makes 25-28 pieces):

  1. 2 cups raw rice
  2. 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  3. 4 tablespoons toor daal
  4. 4 cups water
  5. 2 tablespoons oil + a little more for greasing the steaming plate
  6. 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  7. 3-4 pinches of asafoetida
  8. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  9. 2 green chillies, chopped into large-ish pieces
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut

Method:

  1. Take the raw rice and toor daal together in a large mixer jar. Add in the black peppercorns. Pulse a few times, for a couple of seconds each, stopping in between to mix up the ingredients in the jar with a spoon. Stop when the ingredients are ground to a well-crushed, slightly coarse texture like rava. Keep aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan. Add in the mustard seeds and let them pop. Tear the curry leaves roughly with your hands and add them in. Add in the asafoetida. Let them stay in for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add 4 cups of water to the pan, along with salt to taste. Keep on high flame and bring to a rolling boil.
  4. Now, add the chopped green chillies and fresh grated coconut to the boiling water in the pan. Mix well.
  5. Keeping the flame on medium, slowly add the ground rice-black pepper-toor daal mixture to the boiling water in the pan. Stir constantly to avoid lumps forming.
  6. Keep cooking on medium flame, stirring constantly, till all the water is absorbed. Switch off the flame when the mixture comes together, and starts getting dry.
  7. Let the cooked mixture cool down considerably, covered.
  8. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, we will begin shaping pidi kozhukattai out of it. For this, make medium-sized oval dumplings out of the mixture, as shown in the picture above. Keep aside, covered.
  9. Use a little oil to grease a colander to steam the pidi kozhukattai in. Arrange as many pidi kozhukattai in the greased colander as you can, in a single line, keeping a little space between them. Keep them ready.
  10. Take about 1 cup of water in a pressure cooker base. Place a stand over the water. Place the cooker on high flame. Let the water in the base start boiling. Now, place the colander with the pidi kozhukattai over the stand, cover the cooker, and steam for 10 minutes without putting the weight on.
  11. Allow the cooked pidi kozhukattai to cool down slightly, and then gently transfer to a vessel/serving plate using a spoon. Handling them straight out of the cooker might cause them to break.
  12. Cook all the pidi kozhukattai in a similar manner. Serve hot or at room temperature, with some simple coconut chutney.

Notes:

  1. Adjust the quantity of black peppercorns you use, depending upon how spicy you want the pidi kozhukattai to be. You can even skip the green chillies altogether, and use only black peppercorns to add spiciness. If using green chillies, make sure you use slightly big pieces that can be easily spotted and not bit into accidentally.
  2. The rice and toor daal mixture can be ground as coarsely or as finely as you desire. I prefer not grinding them finely, but to a well-crushed, coarse texture that is akin to rava.
  3. Chana daal can be used in place of toor daal. Both versions are equally tasty.
  4. I use Sona Masoori raw rice to make these pidi kozhukattai. 4 cups of water for 2 cups of Sona Masoori raw rice is the rice:water ratio that works perfectly for us.
  5. Adjust the quantity of grated coconut you use in the kara upma kozhukattai, depending upon personal preferences.
  6. Here, I have ground the raw rice and toor daal without washing them. If you want to wash them, drain out all the excess water after you do so, then sun-dry them for about 10 minutes on a cotton cloth. Proceed with making the pidi kozhukattai the same way as above, once the washed rice and toor daal are completely dry.
  7. A colander works best for steaming the upma kozhukattai. This ensures even cooking.
  8. Stop cooking the rice-toor daal-black pepper mixture when it starts to come together and lose moisture. Do not overcook it, as this will cause the pidi kozhukattai to get quite dry. Keep the cooked mixture covered till you use it.
  9. Gingelly oil or coconut oil works best in the making of these upma kozhukattai.
  10. These upma kozhukattai can be made ahead and refrigerated. You can remove them from the refrigerator an hour or so before serving, then steam them well in a pressure cooker.
  11. Traditionally, when these upma kozhukattai are made for the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, they are made without tasting. They are first offered to Lord Ganesha and then partaken of.

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

I hope you will try out these Kara Pidi Kozhukattai too, and that you will love them as much as we do!

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I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #243. The co-hosts this week are Catherine @ Kunstkitchen’s Blog and Becky @ Bubbly Bee.

Postcards From Ganesh Chaturthi 2018

Spirituality. Peace. Introspection. Good food. Community. Pandal hopping. Activities with the bub. Play time. Busy-ness. Making memories. Family. Traditions.

That was how Ganesh Chaturthi this year looked like, to us.

Here are some pictures from Ganesh Chaturthi 2018, for your viewing pleasure. I’ll let the pictures do the talking now on.

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Like every year, this year too, we installed a Ganesha in our apartment. Everyone got together to do the decorations, the aarti, make the prasadam for 3 mornings and 3 nights, after which the festivities ended. We did our bit too. This has now become an important tradition to us, one we don’t want to miss.
Spotted these Ganeshas in the market these year, and loved them. A closer look will reveal that they are decorated with grains like ragi and rice, then painted all over. Even the Ganesha idol we set up in our apartment was similar.
It was nice to see these eco-friendly Ganeshas, with a little pop of colour.
Dark and light. Light and dark. That’s what we are made up of too, right?
Pandal decorations, anyone?
I absolutely loved these traditional Ganeshas, with their broad trunks!
More decorations for Ganesha pandals
Meanwhile, this cute little ‘sweet’ Ganesha was spotted at Adayar Ananda Bhavan!
A pretty Ganesha pandal set up near HSR Layout. I loved how this one was done up just like a temple!
A medley of Ganeshas and Gowris in the pandal
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The Ganesha pandal set up by the HSR Layout Youth Association
Colourful, pretty umbrellas that made up part of the decorations at the HSR Layout Youth Association pandal
More Ganeshas and Gowris. Check out that cute turban!
A close-up of the Ganesha idol
More Ganesha and Gowri idols inside the pandal
A small fair set up near the HSR Layout BDA Complex, on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi
People having fun at the fair. Kids and adults alike.
We were passing by a temple in HSR Layout, and spotted Ganesh Visarjan happening. We decided to stay on for the festivities, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Here’s Ganesha bidding adieu.
Artistes performing a traditional Karnataka folk dance form, during the visarjan
The excitement in the atmosphere was palpable. Can you feel it in the picture, too?
Ganesha all set to say farewell
Artistes performing Veeragaase, a traditional Karnataka folk dance, on the streets. I loved capturing them on camera!
This guy was all too happy to pose for my camera!
Poser!
Artistes performing Dollu Kunitha, a traditional drum dance practised in Karnataka

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How was Ganesh Chaturthi for you, folks?

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

Kara Ammini Kozhukattai| Spiced Mini Kozhukattai

Today, I present to you another traditional recipe for Ganesh Chaturthi – Kara Ammini Kozhukattai or Spiced Mini Kozhukattai. For the uninitiated, these are little dumplings made out of cooked rice flour, steamed and then tempered. Very little oil is used in the preparation of ammini kozhukattai, making it quite a healthy snacking option. The tempering can be made in different ways, which gives the dish an absolutely different taste every time you make it. At home, this is quite a big favourite, and we make this often, festival times or not. Kara Ammini Kozhukattai makes for a great lunch box filler as well.

This is a popular offering to Ganesha in Tamilnadu, for the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. Different families have different styles of tempering the ammini kozhukattai, but typically, they are made from the leftover cooked rice flour remaining after making the traditional stuffed modaks. Even if you don’t have any cooked rice flour left over, these little ones are an absolute breeze to make.

The Kara Ammini Kozhukattai recipe I am sharing with you today is my mother’s. This is the way Amma makes them, the way she taught me to. Now. let’s check out the recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

For making the ammini kozhukattai:

  1. 1 cup rice flour
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 1 teaspoon oil + more for greasing hands and steaming vessel
  4. Salt, to taste
  5. Red chilli powder, to taste
  6. 2 pinches asafoetida powder
  7. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

For the tempering:

  1. 1 teaspoon oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 2 pinches asafoetida powder
  4. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  5. 2-3 dry red chillies
  6. 2 green chillies, slit length-wise
  7. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut

Method:

We will begin with making the dough for the ammini kozhukattai.

  1. Take 2 cups of water in a pan, and add 1 teaspoon oil to it. Place on high flame and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Now, lower flame to medium. Add the rice flour to the boiling water little by little, stirring constantly to ensure that no lumps are formed.
  3. In about a minute, all the water will get absorbed into the rice flour. Now, keeping the flame on medium, stir the dough for a minute more, trying to break any lumps that might have formed.
  4. Now, turn the flame to the lowest possible. Cover the pan with a lid. Let the rice flour cook for a minute, covered. Switch off gas. Allow the cooked rice flour to cool down completely.

We will now prepare the ammini kozhukattai for steaming.

  1. Ensure that the cooked rice flour we prepared earlier has entirely cooled down. Now, add salt to taste, red chilli powder and 2 pinches of asafoetida powder to it.
  2. Use your hands to mix well. Knead into a soft dough, ensuring the the salt, red chilli powder and asafoetida are evenly distributed throughout. Knead for a couple of minutes.
  3. If the dough is too sticky, you can mix in a teaspoon of oil at this stage. If not, skip this step and proceed to the next one.
  4. Grease your palms with a little oil. Shape small balls out of the rice flour dough. Keep aside, covered.
  5. Grease a wide vessel with a little oil. Keep it ready for steaming.

Now, we will steam the ammini kozhukattai.

  1. Take about 1/2 cup water in a pressure cooker base.
  2. Place a stand over it.
  3. Arrange the little balls we prepared earlier into the greased vessel you prepped for steaming. Place this over the stand.
  4. Close the pressure cooker. Steam on high flame, without placing the weight on, for 10 minutes. Switch off gas, and allow the cooker to cool down a bit.
  5. Now, remove the steamed ammini kozhukattai from the cooker and allow to cool down completely.

Lastly, we will temper the kara ammini kozhukattai.

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a pan.
  2. Add in the mustard. Allow it to pop.
  3. Add in the asafoetida, curry leaves, dry red chillies and slit green chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
  4. Now, add the steamed and cooled ammini kozhukattai to the pan.
  5. Turn flame to medium. Stir gently, mixing the tempering with the ammini kozhukattai. Take care to ensure that the ammini kozhukattai do not break.
  6. Add in the fresh grated coconut. Mix well, but gently.
  7. Cook for a minute, stirring gently. Switch off gas. The ammini kozhukattai is ready – serve hot or at room temperature!
A pictorial representation of the various steps involved in the making of Kara Ammini Kozhukattai

Notes:

  1. Coconut oil or gingelly oil works best in the making of Kara Ammini Kozhukattai. If you don’t have these, however, any other variety of odourless oil would do.
  2. You can skip adding the red chilli powder in the Kara Ammini Kozhukattai, if you plan to make these for kids, or add it a very minimal amount.
  3. I use store-bought fine rice flour to make these Kara Ammini Kozhukattai.
  4. While steaming the ammini kozhukattai, make sure you place a stand in the pressure cooker base. This will ensure that no water enters the steaming vessel.
  5. It is important to let the steamed ammini kozhukattai cool down completely, before you proceed to do the tempering. Otherwise, there are chances that the kozhukattai will become mushy and tasteless.
  6. It is important to ensure that there are no lumps in the rice flour dough that you prepare, for the best-tasting ammini kozhukattai.
  7. Ensure that you steam the ammini kozhukattai for just 10 minutes, without the weight on. Over-steaming will make them dry out and get hard.
  8. Traditionally, when these ammini kozhukattai are prepared for the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, they are cooked without tasting. They are first offered to Lord Ganesha, and then partaken of.

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Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is ‘Ganesh Chaturthi Recipes’.

I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #240. The co-hosts this week are Deb @ The Pantry Portfolio and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

No-Cook Fruit & Nut Modak

Right about now is a beautiful time of the year to be in India. The air is so festive right now, and you cannot help but get into the spirit yourself. This is the time for a whole lot of minor and major festivals to be celebrated across various Indian communities. Janmashtami just came to an end, and Ganesh Chaturthi is around the corner. For those looking for a quick dish to make for Ganesh Chaturthi, I present to you today a super-simple recipe for Fruit & Nut Modak.

One of my most favourite festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi, is celebrated to commemorate the birth of the elephant-headed God, Ganesha. I love the fervour with which this festival is celebrated throughout India and, of course, the various foods associated with it. I love how Ganesha is such a flexible God, his idols getting more and more creative every year, sporting the avatars of everything from a software engineer to a motorcycle rider, sometimes depicting the current affairs too.

Modaks are one of the foods most commonly associated with Ganesh Chaturthi, believed to be one of Ganesha’s favourites. Traditionally, modaks are made with a rice flour shell, with a sweet jaggery-coconut stuffing inside. Over time, many different versions of the modak have come into existence, as creative and versatile as the idols of Ganesha himself.

Getting the rice flour covering and the sweet stuffing for the traditional modak right needs quite a bit of practice. For people who fear trying their hands out at them, these Fruit & Nut Modaks can be a saviour. This is a highly simple recipe, one that doesn’t need much time or effort or practice. These Fruit & Nut Modaks do not require any hard-core cooking, but they turn out wonderfully well, absolutely lovely in taste and pleasing to the eyes. They are healthy too – all the sweetness in these modaks comes from the raisins and dates added to them, with no refined sugar going in.

Intrigued?

Let’s check out the recipe for these lovely No-Cook Fruit & Nut Modak.

Ingredients (makes about 8 pieces):

  1. 15 whole cashewnuts
  2. 15-20 almonds
  3. 10 dates
  4. 1/4 cup raisins
  5. 1/4 teaspoon rose essence
  6. About 1/4 cup dry grated coconut
  7. A little milk, ghee or fresh cream, as needed, optional

Method:

  1. Remove seeds from the dates, and chop them up. Keep them ready.
  2. Heat up a pan on high flame. Lower the flame to medium, and add in the cashewnuts and almonds. Dry roast on medium flame till the cashewnuts and almonds are crisp. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. Switch off gas, and allow to cool down completely.
  3. When entirely cooled down, take the roasted cashewnuts and almonds in a small mixer jar. Pulse a couple of times, for a couple of seconds each. This will break down the cashewnuts and almonds slightly.
  4. Now, add in the chopped dates, raisins, dry grated coconut and rose essence. Pulse a couple of times for a couple of seconds. Stop in between to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar. The ingredients will all come together to form a sort of pliable mixture.
  5. If the mixture feels too dry, add in a bit of milk, fresh cream or ghee. If too sticky, you can add in a bit more dry coconut. Mix well.
  6. Shape modaks out of the mixture and place in a clean, dry, air-tight box. Let chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. This will help to set them. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Notes:

  1. I have used only cashewnuts, almonds, raisins and dates as the base ingredients here, along with the dry grated coconut. You may even add in other fruits and nuts of your choice. Dry figs, pistachios, pine nuts would make some great additions.
  2. After pulsing, if the mixture feels right, you can skip adding the extra dry grated coconut or milk/ghee/fresh cream at the end. In that case, just shape the mixture into modaks as is. I did not need to add anything – I was able to shape the Fruit & Nut Modaks as is.
  3. You can use a mould to shape these Fruit & Nut Modaks. I haven’t.
  4. Make sure the dates are all pitted, and no seeds remain.
  5. While dry roasting the cashewnuts and almonds, ensure that you do so on a low-medium flame. The ingredients should not burn.
  6. Traditionally, when modaks are made on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, they are prepared without tasting them. They are offered to Lord Ganesha first, and then partaken of.

I hope you liked this recipe! Do try out these easy Fruit & Nut Modak this Ganesh Chaturthi, and share your feedback with me!

I’m sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #240. The co-hosts this week are Deb @ The Pantry Portfolio and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

Dal Moradabadi| Moradabadi Moong Dal Chaat

This post has been a long time coming.

The Dal Moradabadi at Punjab Bistro has been on my mind ever since I tried it out, a couple of months ago. I fell in love with this dish at first bite, and have wanted to try making it at home ever since. Somehow, I never got around to doing that. When ‘Tradtional Dals of India’ was chosen as the theme for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop this week, it gave me the perfect foil to try my hands at making Dal Moradabadi, Punjab Bistro-style, at home. I was thrilled by just how beautiful in taste it turned out. It was a huge hit at home, with the family loving it to bits, and every bit of it getting polished off. It is such a simple dal, but one that is bursting with flavour, something that would make a beautiful addition to any meal.

For the uninitiated, the Dal Moradabadi is a very famous street food in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, popularly called ‘the city of brass’. The dal itself is very simple – plain split moong dal cooked soft and salted. It is the way this dal is served, with an assortment of toppings, that makes it so special. Commonly served with sweet and spicy chutneys, chopped onions and tomatoes, fresh coriander, fragrant cumin and black pepper powder, and some gorgeous black salt, the Dal Moradabadi is more of a chaat than a dal per se. It is typically had as an appetiser, on its own, even in weddings in Uttar Pradesh, but I love having it with rotis too.

There is a fascinating history behind the origin of Dal Moradabadi, too. Apparently, Prince Murad, son of Mughal ruler Shah Jahan and the founder of Moradabad, was very fond of light, simple meals that were very flavourful. One day, his cooks rustled up this Dal Moradabadi, and the prince loved it to bits. At every meal, the prince would be served this dal, with a different set of toppings – it would taste different every time, and Murad was thrilled. Head over to this Instagram post of mine for a detailed account of the history of the Dal Moradabadi.

Now, let us check out the simple recipe for this beautiful Dal Moradabadi, shall we?

Recipe adapted from: Charming Chef.

Idea Courtesy: Punjab Bistro, Bangalore

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

Basic ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup split yellow moong dal
  2. 1/4 cup split orange masoor dal
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

To serve:

  1. Roasted cumin (jeera) powder, as needed
  2. Black pepper powder, as needed
  3. Red chilli powder, as needed
  4. Black salt (kala namak), as needed
  5. Finely chopped fresh coriander leaves, as needed
  6. Ginger juliennes, as needed
  7. Lemon juice, as needed
  8. Finely chopped tomatoes, as needed
  9. Finely chopped onions, as needed
  10. Fried moong dal namkeen, as needed
  11. Spicy green chutney, as needed
  12. Sweet and sour tamarind chutney, as needed
  13. Butter, as needed

Method:

  1. Wash the split moong dal and masoor dal together under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water.
  2. Add a bit of salt and turmeric powder to the washed and drained moong dal and masoor dal. Pressure cook the moong dal and masoor dal together, with just enough water to cover them, for 4-5 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
  3. When the pressure has gone down completely, mash the cooked dals well. The mashed dal should lose its grainy consistency and become soft and mushy.
  4. Now, take the mashed dal in a pan. Add in salt to taste and water as needed to bring it to a soupy but not too runny consistency, roughly about 1-1/2 cups. Heat till warm.
  5. Ladle the cooked dal into serving cups. Top each cup of dal with a dash of lemon juice, tamarind chutney, green chutney, black salt, red chilli powder, roasted cumin powder, and black pepper powder. Garnish with some fried moong dal namkeen, finely chopped coriander, tomatoes and onions, and some ginger juliennes. Add a dollop of butter. That’s it – Dal Moradabadi is ready! Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. Click here for a step-by-step recipe to make the sweet and sour tamarind chutney.
  2. Click here for the recipe for the spicy green chutney.
  3. You can use salted or unsalted butter as needed to serve the Dal Moradabadi. Desi ghee can also be used instead. This is an absolute must.
  4. I have used store-bought moong dal namkeen to serve the Dal Moradabadi.
  5. Roasted cumin powder is nothing but cumin (jeera) dry roasted till fragrant, allowed to cool down completely, and then powdered. The dry roasting adds a whole lot of fragrance to the dish.
  6. The kala namak aka black salt is an absolute must, in the serving of Dal Moradabadi.
  7. A dash of finely chopped green chillies can also be added to the Dal Moradabadi, while serving it. I have skipped them.
  8. Traditionally, only split moong daal is used to make Dal Moradabadi. I have used a mix of split moong daal and masoor daal, for the sake of better texture.
  9. Different street vendors in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, use different toppings on the Dal Moradabadi. Some serve it with papdi, some with fried green or dry red chillies, some with paneer. Some serve it with jalebi or imarti – dunk the sweet in the Dal Moradabadi and eat! The black salt, roasted cumin powder, red chilli powder, butter or desi ghee, onions, tomatoes and coriander, the sweet and sour tamarind chutney and the spicy green chutney are almost always there, though. I made and served the Dal Moradabadi the way it was at Punjab Bistro, where I absolutely loved it.
  10. In Uttar Pradesh, Dal Moradabadi is served as an appetiser or a snack, not as a main course dish. It even occupies pride of place in weddings, where it is served as a sort of palate-cleanser chaat. At Punjab Bistro, however, Dal Moradabadi is very much a main course dish, and is served with roti. I love having it both ways – on its own as well as with flatbread. Take your pick! It tastes awesome any way!
  11. You can pressure cook the dal in advance and keep it ready, well in advance. Just heat up the dal when you are ready to serve it, and add the toppings to it.

Do try this recipe out! I’m sure you will love it as much as we do! 🙂

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Foodie Monday Blog HopThis post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is ‘Traditional Dals of India’.

I’m sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #239. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Lathi @ From Lathi’s Kitchen.

Pineapple Pulissery| Kerala-Style Pineapple In Yogurt Gravy

Kerala has been on my mind a lot lately. This beautiful land has had to face the wrath of nature in the past two weeks, with lashing rains flooding the state. There has been so much devastation – so many people losing their lives, so many losing their homes, so many losing their near and dear ones. Watching the news about the Kerala floods has been heartbreaking.

Onam this year is going to be a lacklustre affair, in Kerala and elsewhere, if it is celebrated at all that is. In fact, it even feels weird to be talking about Onam when the state of Kerala is reeling from the floods. I pray for Kerala to rise above the waters that now flood it, to get back to being the beautiful, happy, healthy place it earlier was. Today, I share with you a beautiful Kerala-special recipe, my way of sending good wishes and positive vibes Kerala’s way.

The recipe I present to you today is that for Pineapple Pulissery, a delicacy from Kerala that is often part of the Onasadya (the full-fledged plantain-leaf meal that is served on the occasion of Onam). Pieces of ripe, juicy pineapple are cooked with a fragrant, flavourful, freshly ground paste, and then mixed with curd. Sweet and salty and tangy and sour all at once, Pineapple Pulissery makes for a wonderful accompaniment to a meal.

At home, we are all ardent lovers of pineapple. So, naturally, this Pineapple pulissery is a huge hit with us. This is such a simple thing to make, and I suggest you try it out too, if you haven’t ever. I am sure you will be charmed by it too.

Here is how I make Pineapple Pulissery, the way I learnt it from my mother-in-law.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

To grind:

  1. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
  2. 1 green chilly, chopped
  3. 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds (rai)
  4. 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  5. A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

For the tempering:

  1. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds (rai)
  3. A pinch of fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
  4. 2 pinches of asfoetida (hing)
  5. 1 sprig curry leaves
  6. 3-4 dried red chillies

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 cup pineapple, chopped into medium-sized cubes
  2. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. 2 tablespoons jaggery powder, or to taste
  5. 1 cup thick curd

Method:

1. In a small mixer jar, grind together all the ingredients listed under ‘To Grind’ to a fine paste. Use a little water to grind. Keep aside.

2. Take the pineapple pieces in a pan, along with some salt and turmeric. Add in about 1-1/2 cups water. Place on high flame.

3. Cook on high flame till the pineapple pieces start getting tender. Stir intermittently.

4. Now, add the paste we prepared earlier to the pan. Add the jaggery powder. Mix well, and turn the flame to medium.

5. Cook on medium flame till the raw smell of the paste goes away, a couple of minutes. Switch off gas. Let it cool down completely.

6. When the pineapple mixture has cooled down entirely, add in the thick curd. Mix well.

7. Taste and adjust salt if needed. You can add a little red chilly powder and water in too, if needed.

8. Now, we will prepare the tempering for the Pineapple Pulissery. Heat the coconut oil in a small pan, and add in the mustard. Let it pop. Now, add the fenugreek, asafoetida, curry leaves and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of minutes, taking care to ensure that the tempering does not burn. Switch off the gas, and add this tempering to the pineapple-curd mix in the other pan. Mix well. Done! Your Pineapple Pulissery is ready to serve.

Notes:

  1. You may increase the quantity of coconut you use, if you would so like. Similarly, you may increase the quantity of mustard and cumin you use to grind into a paste. The above quantities were just perfect for us
  2. Use fresh, slightly sour curd for best results. You may increase or decrease the quantity of curd you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.
  3. Make sure all the cores and thorns are removed from the pineapple, before using them in this dish.
  4. Do not overcook the pineapple. They should be just cooked, but still retain some crunch.
  5. Pumpkin, ripe mango, raw mango are some other fruits and vegetables you can use in place of pineapple.
  6. You can even add in some garlic cloves and shallots while grinding the paste. I did not use them.
  7. For best results, use a pineapple that is fresh, nicely ripe, sweet and juicy. Do not use over-ripe pineapple. You may even use canned pineapple.
  8. Coconut oil is ideal for the tempering here.
  9. Do not heat the Pineapple Pulissery after adding in the curd, as that might cause curdling. This dish is meant to be served at room temperature.
  10. The Pineapple Pulissery can be served with rasam or sambar rice or with any other rice preparation. It can also be served as an accompaniment for a full-fledged plantain-leaf spread such as that for Onam sadya.

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

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I’m sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #239. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Lathi @ From Lathi’s Kitchen.