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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Sitaphal Basundi| Custard Apple Rabdi

Do you like custard apples aka sitaphal? We love them to bits!

Custard apples are in season, this time of the year. They are all over the markets in Bangalore right about now, absolutely gorgeous fruits that fill the air with their unique perfume. While the hubby and I love eating these fruits as is, I also use them in a basundi (rabdi) when in season – one mind-blowing thing it is, let me tell you! Try it out this Navratri, and I’m sure you will love it too!

You may use condensed milk or cream to thicken the Sitaphal Basundi, but I prefer to do it the old-fashioned way – allowing full-fat milk to cook slowly on the gas, till it thickens and gets rich and creamy. I add a lot of custard apple pulp to the basundi, which has a natural sweetness of its own, thus cutting down the amount of sugar you need to a great extent.

I recently made this Sitaphal Basundi on the occasion of my dad’s birthday. He absolutely adored it, with the huge sweet tooth that he has (which he has passed on to me too!).

Want to try out this finger-lickingly delish Sitaphal Basundi? Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients (serves 6):

  1. 1 litre full-fat milk
  2. 4 big ripe custard apples
  3. 4-5 tablespoons of sugar, or as per taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon rose essence
  5. 8-10 whole almonds
  6. 3-4 threads of saffron

Method:

1. Open up the custard apples and scoop out the flesh. Discard all the seeds and retain the flesh. Keep aside.

2. Take the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place on high flame, and allow it to come to a boil.

3. Now, reduce the flame to medium. Let the milk cook on medium flame till it reduces to half its original volume and gets thicker. You will need to stir intermittently. There will be cream forming on the sides of the pan, which you should scrape back down into the pan.

4. In the meanwhile, chop the almonds into slivers. Keep them ready.

5. When the milk has reduced to half and become creamy, add in the sugar, rose essence, the saffron strands and almond slivers. Mix well and cook for a minute more.

6. Now, switch off the gas. Mix in the de-seeded custard apple pulp.

7. Allow the Sitaphal Basundi to cool down completely before placing it, in a covered container, in the refrigerator. Let it chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Notes:

  1. Using full-fat milk is a must for this recipe. Here, I have used full-cream milk from Nandini.
  2. A couple of pinches of cardamom powder can be used in place of the rose essence. You can use vanilla essence too, alternatively. Personally, though, I prefer rose essence.
  3. It is important to let the milk cook on medium flame, stirring intermittently, scraping down the cream that forms on the sides of the pan, adding it back to the pan. This helps the basundi get nice and thick and creamy.
  4. Use custard apples that are ripe and sweet, but not overly ripe either. You may use more or less custard apples as per personal taste preferences.
  5. Adjust the quantity of sugar you use, depending upon personal taste preferences. You will need to add only a limited amount of sugar because the custard apple will have a natural sweetness to it too.
  6. Cashews, chironji aka charoli, dried rose petals, etc can be added to the Sitaphal Basundi as well. Here, I have used only almond slivers.
  7. You may dry roast the almonds slightly before chopping them into slivers and adding them to the Sitaphal Basundi. I have skipped the roasting part.
  8. Use good-quality saffron in the Custard Apple Rabdi, for best results.
  9. You may use condensed milk or fresh cream to thicken the Custard Apple Rabdi, but I haven’t here. I have let the natural sweetness of the custard apple preside, and let only whole milk add thickness to the dish.
  10. Do not cook the rabdi further after adding the de-seeded custard apple pulp to it.
  11. This Custard Apple Rabdi tastes best when chilled. However, you may even serve it warm or at room temperature.

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

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’.

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.

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.

Nei Payasam| Kerala Rice Kheer

This year, the festival of Onam falls on August 27. I am eagerly waiting for the day to arrive, so I can lay my hands on a typical Onam sadya (a traditional plantain-leaf feast served on the occasion of Onam). 😉 Till then, I plan to herald the festival on my blog through a series of Onam-special recipes, courtesy of my mother-in-law who hails from Palakkad.

Today, I present to you the recipe for Nei Payasam, a Kerala-style kheer made with matta rice. This payasam is typically served in the course of an Onam sadya. It is also commonly prepared during weddings and other festive occasions, and as an offering to God in the temples of Kerala.

Nei payasam‘ literally translates into ‘kheer with ghee‘, and, true to its name, this kheer is redolent of the goodness of ghee. All of us at home are big fans of this nei payasam, with its coconut-ghee flavour, and slurp it up by the bowlfuls. Yes, the bub included! 🙂

This kheer is traditionally made with jaggery, and is really sweet and rich and heavenly, especially to those with a huge sweet tooth like us. In fact, this dish is often referred to as ‘Kadu Madhura Payasam‘ or ‘kheer that is very sweet’ in Kerala households. I have slightly reduced the quantity of jaggery, ghee and coconut than what is usually used, but the payasam still tasted absolutely beautiful.

Now, without further ado, let’s get to the recipe for this Kerala nei payasam aka kadu madhura payasam, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

  1. 1/2 cup broken matta rice
  2. 1 cup jaggery
  3. 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
  4. 2 pinches of dry ginger powder (optional)
  5. 2 pinches of cardamom (elaichi) powder
  6. 4 tablespoons ghee (divided)
  7. 8-10 cashewnuts
  8. 1 tablespoon raisins

Method:

1. Wash the broken matta rice thoroughly under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water.

2. Pressure cook the washed and drained rice with 1 cup water for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the jaggery together with 2 cups of water. Keep on high flame till the jaggery melts completely. Let the jaggery syrup come to a boil.

4. Now, turn the flame to medium. Add the cooked broken matta rice to the melted jaggery in the pan, along with the fresh grated coconut.

5. Cook on medium flame, stirring intermittently, till the mixture begins to thicken.

6. When the mixture starts thickening add in 2 tablespoons of ghee. Cook for a minute or so more, or till the mixture is thick, yet slightly runny.

7. Add in the dry ginger powder and cardamom powder. Mix well. Cook for a few seconds, then switch off the flame.

8. In another pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee. Add in the cashewnuts (broken) and the raisins. Once the raisins plump up, switch off the gas. Ensure the cashewnuts and raisins do not burn.

9. Add the plumped raisins and cashewnuts to the rice-jaggery mixture in the other pan. Mix well.

10. Serve the nei payasam hot, at room temperature or chilled.

Notes:

1. I have used broken matta rice here, which is also called Palakkadan rosematta rice or Kerala red rice. You can use any variety of Kerala rice to make this nei payasam.

2. You can even add slivered almonds to the nei payasam. I haven’t.

3. I have used yellowish-coloured jaggery to make this payasam, which has contributed to its light colour. Traditionally, in Kerala homes, reddish jaggery is used, which gives the payasam a deep reddish-brown hue.

4. Some people add in slices of banana to the payasam, after it is cooked. I have skipped that.

5. The quantities of rice, jaggery, water and ghee above were just perfect for us. You may increase or decrease the quantities of these ingredients, as per personal taste preferences.

6. Make sure the cashewnuts and raisins do not get burnt.

7. For best results, use good-quality grainy ghee and jaggery. Also, ensure that you use freshly grated coconut.

8. You can add in a few slivers of coconut while frying the raisins and cashewnuts. I haven’t.

9. Do not overcook the payasam, as that will lead to the rice getting overly hard. Also, add in the rice when the jaggery has fully melted and the syrup is beginning to boil.

10. Remember that the rice needs to be pressure cooked well, but should not be overlooked. A slightly grainy texture works best for this nei payasam.

11. Switch off the gas when the payasam has thickened considerably, but is still quite runny. It thickens quite a bit more on cooling.

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

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Foodie Monday Blog HopThis post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme this week is ‘Onam Recipes’.

I’m also sharing this with Fiesta Friday #236, whose co-hosts this week are Julianna @ Foodie on Board and Debanita @ Canvassed Recipes.

Fresh Fruit Platter| How To Make A Fresh Fruit Tray For A Party

Holi is just around the corner! Just a few more days to go before the festival of colours arrives!

If you are looking for an easy-peasy recipe that you can present at your Holi party, your search ends here. This fresh fruit platter is so very simple to prepare, yet so delish that it will surely win you accolades. The platter is as healthy as it gets, so you need not worry about calories either. Present the varied colours of Holi to your guests on a platter, all natural of course!

You can get as creative as you want with the arrangement of this fresh fruit platter or keep it really simple, as I have done here.

Here is how to make a fresh fruit tray for a party.

Ingredients for 1 fresh fruit platter (serves 2):

  1. 4-5 slices of pineapple, core and thorns removed
  2. 1 small Robusta banana, chopped into rounds
  3. 4-5 segments of orange, seeds and strings removed
  4. A handful of seedless green grapes
  5. 1/2 of an apple, chopped into thin slices
  6. A handful of pomegranate arils
  7. 4-5 medium-sized strawberries, cut into halves
  8. A few almonds
  9. Chaat masala, as required
  10. A dash of lemon juice
  11. Honey, as required

Method:

  1. On a wide platter, arrange all the fruits artistically.
  2. Drizzle some honey evenly over the fruits.
  3. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruits.
  4. Drizzle chaat masala evenly over it all.
  5. Arrange the almonds here and there, on the platter.
  6. Serve the fresh fruit platter platter immediately, with toothpicks on the side.

Notes:

  1. There are several ways to make a fresh fruit tray for a party, to present the cut fruits on the platter. I have kept it really simple here. You can go as creative with the arrangement as you want to.
  2. I haven’t peeled the apples here (I never do!), so I get the benefit of the beautiful red colour of the skin showing through.
  3. You can add in other fruits of your choice, mixed nuts, cheese, et al, to the fresh fruit platter. I have restricted myself to just a few Indian fruits here, and some almonds to add a crunchy effect.
  4. We like the lemon-honey-chaat masala dressing on fruits, so I have used the same in this fruit platter. You can choose any other dressing you want to.
  5. You may use slightly chilled fruits to make the platter. I have used all the fruits at room temperature here.
  6. I have used MDH chaat masala and honey from Bee Bliss to make this fresh fruit platter.
  7. You can use roasted peanuts (skins removed) for the crunch factor, instead of almonds, too.
  8. You can prepare the dressing by combining honey, lemon juice and chaat masala well together, and then drizzling it over the fresh fruit platter. I just used each of these ingredients separately.

How did you like the recipe? Do let me know 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 ‘Holi On My Platter’.