Friday, March 16, 2007
This is a pickle, though referred to as pachadi, using oranges or citrons (naarthangai). It can be used as a side dish like vathakkuzhambu, or stored for a couple of weeks or longer in the fridge, and used as a pickle.
1 C diced seville or bitter orange (picture), or regular orange, or citron (naarthangai) pieces (seeds removed)
2" diameter ball of fresh tamarind
1/3 C jaggery, powdered
1.5 Tbsp. salt
10-12 green chillies (the size of hatch chillies)
3 Tbsp virgin sesame oil (substitute with vegetable oil as second preference)
1 tsp. asafoetida powder
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 Tbsp. channa dal (split bengal gram)
1 tsp. urad dal (split black gram)
1 tsp. red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 sprigs curry leaves
1. Soak tamarind in 3 C of hot water. Extract the pulp by kneading and squeezing with your fingers. Filter the liquid out and keep it aside.
2. Slice green chillies into thin strips.
3. Strip curry leaves from their stem, and chop coarsely.
4. Heat oil in a kadai or pan on high heat. When it is hot, add asafoetida, turmeric powder, and mustard seeds. Let the seeds crackle.
5. Lower the heat to less than medium, and add the urad and channa dals. Let them turn golden.
6. Next, add the curry leaves, green chillies, orange or citron pieces, red chilli powder, and salt. Saute briefly, for 2-3 minutes.
7. Raise the heat again to medium high, and add the filtered tamarind water. Bring the mixture to a boil.
8. Cook till the orange pieces are tender, and the liquid is reduced to about half the original amount.
9. Add the powdered jaggery, and keep boiling on low heat for another 3-4 minutes.
10. Remove from heat, cool, and store in a bottle for about 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Serve as a gravy on plain cooked rice; as a pickle with curd rice; as a sandwich spread; as a side for dosai or roti.
Note: Seville oranges are the dry, juice-less, very fragrant oranges used to prepare bitter marmalade. They are tart and bitter, and have not much juice in them. They can be used raw or ripe, as also the other citrus fruits mentioned in this post. The ripe ones that you see in the picture are from my daughter's garden in Arizona.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Wednesday last week, (March 14, 2007), was kaaradaiyaan nonbu. It is a nonbu/feast/festival conducted by women for the well-being and long life of their spouses, as well as by little girls to get good husbands. This is the time when the Tamil month of Maasi ends, and Panguni begins. The mythological Savitri is said to have made these simple steamed adais/cakes/dumplings in gratitude to the Gods when she was able to persuade Yama, the God of death, to return her loving husband's life to him.
Sentiment aside, the nonbu features a very tasty kozhukkattai (or dumpling as you've heard me say in an earlier post), which some refer to as adai. These are simply rice-flour and red-bean treats, whose dough is cooked on stove-top first, made into flat discs with a hole in the center, and steam-cooked again. There are two types of nonbu adais or kozhukkattais -- a sweet one and a savory one. Both of them are made of freshly made rice flour (will describe how in a minute), fresh diced coconut pieces, and karamani or red beans. If you can't find red beans, use black-eyed peas/beans by all means - not the canned ones, but the dry ones that are water-soaked and boiled freshly. After that they assume a life of their own. The sweet one is sweetened with jaggery, and flavored with cardamom and dried ginger. The savory one is flavored with curry leaves, green chillies, and asafoetida. I know of cooks who add red chillies and ginger as well to the savory one. No matter which you prefer, the final flavor and the lush look comes from placing a dab of soft butter on steam-softened kozhukkattai, and as it melts and releases its rich buttery essence, you get to enjoy the slippery dough with surprising crunch where you bite into a coconut, and chewiness where the boiled bean is hidden.
We don't prepare this as an everyday snack typically, but definitely once a year on kaadaraiyaan nonbu. This nonbu also breaks the old tradition of men eating their meal first. The nonbu kozhukkattai is first eaten by the women and girls in the household after the neivedyam or offering.
On to the recipe....
Yield: 20-25 pieces
3 C Home Processed Rice Flour (Recipe follows at the end)
2 Tbsp. dry red beans (Kaaraamani) or black eyed peas
4 small green chillies
2 dry red chillies
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. virgin sesame oil (or peanut or vegetable oil)
2 Sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp. asafoetida (hing/perungaayam) powder
3 Tbsp. fresh coconut pieces (see picture)
3 C Water
1.5 tsp. salt
1. Heat a large kadai or wok (non-stick would be easy) on medium-high heat.
2. Add the dry red beans or black eyed peas and roast for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring gently, until fragrant. Do not let it become brown. Remove from heat.
3. Adding a cup of water, cook it in a pressure cooker (1 whistle) or stove top, till half-cooked.
4. When cool, rinse the beans in cold water and drain.
5. Thinly slice green chillies, and the curry leaves.
6. Heat the oil in a wok/kadai.
7. Add asafoetida, lower the heat, add mustard seeds, and broken red chillies.
8. When the seeds splutter, add the green chillies, curry leaves, and the coconut pieces. Stir briefly.
9. Add water and salt. Raise the heat and bring to a boil.
10. When the water begins to boil, lower the heat to medium, and gradually add rice flour a little at a time, while constantly stirring the mixture. Ensure that there are no lumps.
[Beginners: Here is another way to do this so that the above step is easier. After step 8, remove the kadai from heat and keep aside. Whisk the processed rice flour with the 3 C water (room temperature), in a bowl. Add the chilli/bean mixture to this and stir. Place this in the kadai and back on the stove, and resume cooking].
11. Cook until the mixture becomes a solid dough (see picture). Remove from stove and let it cool.
12. Smearing a little oil in your hands, make 20-25 balls, and press them flat in the palm of your hand like a flat vada or donut, pressing a hole in the middle (see picture).
13. In a wet-cloth or wet towel lined bamboo steamer or idli vessel, place the adais in a single layer (so that they don't stick to one another) and steam for 10-15 minutes until they appear to be coated with steam and look glossy.
14. Serve hot with a dab of softened butter.
Note: The adais can be reheated as needed.
Method to Prepare Processed Raw Rice Flour
1. For 3 cups of flour, soak 2 C of raw rice such as ponni or sona masoori (not parboiled, not jasmine rice, definitely not basmati) in water for an hour.
2. Drain in a colander (see picture). Spread the rice on a clean towel until it is just damp and semi-dry.
3. In a mixie or blender, powder the rice until fine. Using a sieve, sift the rice so that there are no lumps in the flour.
4. Use it as needed.
Variation: The above flour can be dry-roasted very slightly until somewhat aromatic and a little rice held between the fingers falls dryly and does not lump up. You may also try to draw a line with the powder. It should fly like dry sand. Ensure that the color does not change.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
There is a humble snack that is prepared at homes, or is sold in many parts of India, with slight variations in taste. It is nothing but pori (puffed rice/murmura/kurmura) dressed up in different, usually spicy, ways. The pori whose recipe I've written below is typical to parts of Tamilnadu, makes a nice filler snack, is fairly healthy, and if you add a handful of peanuts, sesame seeds, and pottukkadalai (puffed channa dal), it is even better nutritionally, and taste-wise. Most importantly, the taste takes me and my family to early evenings when pori and peanut vendors used to come ringing their presence in push-carts and ladle the hot snack in newspaper cones for as little as 10 paisa, and for as much as 1 rupee. Upon its departure from the threshold of the house, the cart, with its tiny petromax lantern, would leave a trail of smoke from the snacks and the lantern, and the faint tapping and ringing of the iron ladle on the iron kadai/wok could be heard for a long time. We would sit around in the verandah or balcony of the house or on the footsteps, watching people, catching up, teasing each other, and sharing in the crunchy, spicy, delicacy.
Here is a simple way to prepare this snack. Go get together with your family or friends, get yourself a bowl of this, and watch time fly. The masala pori can be prepared in large quantities and stored in an airtight jar. I used the microwave to make this, but you can use a kadai/wok.
3 large cloves of garlic or 1/2 tsp powdered asafoetida (hing/perungayam)
1 tsp salt
1/2 sprig curry leaves
1-2 tsp red chilli powder ( you may use whole red chillies or red chilli flakes and grind them)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp. coconut oil (you may use vegetable oil at some obvious loss of flavor)
4 C or 1 litre plain puffed rice (muttaippori). Do NOT use the rice crispies cereal
1/2 C raw peanuts (with skin) and/or,
1/4 C pottukkadalai (channa dalia or puffed channa dal) and/or,
1 Tbsp black/white/brown sesame seeds
1. Dry roast separately: the peanuts; the sesame seeds.
If using a kadai/wok, simply heat the kadai and add the peanuts and keep stirring it on medium heat until it is fragrant and the color has changed to indicate that it is roasted. Keep aside on a plate to cool. Do the same for sesame seeds. They'll burst and crackle softly when they are done. Keep aside to cool.
If using the microwave, spread the peanuts on a microwave safe plate in a single layer. Microwave on high for 2.5 to 3 minutes, stirring twice in between. Repeat for sesame seeds. Keep aside to cool.
2. In the small mixie/blender jar or using a mortar and pestle as in the picture, grind the following to a paste without adding any water: the peeled garlic (or asafoetida/hing), curry leaves, red chilli powder, turmeric, salt.
3. In a large microwave-safe bowl, mix the puffed rice with the cooled peanuts, sesame seeds, and pottukkadalai.
4. Mix the semi-dry paste with the coconut oil well; using your fingers, mix this thoroughly with the puffed rice blend ensuring that not a single grain of rice remains unspiced/untouched by the spice-oil mixture. [If you are scared of dealing with chilli powder on bare fingers, you may wear those transparent plastic food-service gloves prior to doing this].
5. Microwave this on high, uncovered, for a minute or two, and when done, spread it out so that it doesn't sweat and make itself soggy. If using a kadai, heat the kadai, and simply add the mixture to this. Stir with a large spoon for a minute or two.
Serve right away when still warm. May also be served cold. Great monsoon season snack with a cup of hot chai.
To store: Cool the mixture thoroughly on a shallow tray or plate and store the cooled mixture in an air-tight container. Serve as is, or microwave each serving for a few seconds.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Pidi Kozhukkattai (meaning, fist-shaped dumplings) are a favorite snack in many parts of South India. There are many kinds of dumplings or kozhukkattai with or without filling, savory or sweet, steamed or deep-fried, but this here is an easy one. I shall post recipes for the others later. Pidi-kozhukkattai is a traditional food item that can be made with or without much oil. Either way, it tastes great! Typically, these are served in between big meals, as a tiffin or snack, along with coffee. The dumplings can be had plain, or served with eggplant gotsu, coconut chutney, tomato chutney, saambaar, or mor-kuzhambu. The shape deserves a mention: I used to prepare them in a spherical shape until Marudhambal, who was our domestic help for many years, demonstrated an aesthetic way of shaping the dumplings by closing them in a fist and leaving the imprint of fingers over each of them. Whenever someone gives you a silent treatment, the saying goes, "What, do you have kozhukkattai in your mouth?" the idea being that kozhukkattai is so tasty that people stuff their mouths with it while eating, and hence no talk occurs.
There is an old story for children called "Aithiribaacha." This is about a man who went to visit his in-laws in the neighboring village. His in-laws had made kozhukkattai in honor of his visit. The man, having never seen or tasted these ever before, wanted to know the name of this delicacy because he just loved the taste! The flattered mother-in-law replied, 'Oh! Pidi kozhukkattai! Just simple kozhukkattai!" The man repeated the name to himself, and wanted to go back home and ask his wife to prepare the same. He chanted the name "kozhukkattai, kozhukkattai, kozhukkattai" throughout his way back so as not to forget the strange name. When he was close to his house, he had to cross a puddle. As he leaped across the puddle, he exclaimed "Aithiribaacha," a meaningless sound uttered when doing certain physical activities. Then he forgot the name "kozhukkattai." He began repeating the new word 'Aithiribaacha, aithiribaacha," the rest of the way home. When he reached home, he asked his wife if he could have some aithiribaacha. She was puzzled and amused. "What? What are you talking about?" she asked. "That's what your parents fed me today," he said, "Aithiribaacha." "There is no such thing as aithiribaacha!" she insisted and laughed so hard at him that he got mad, and refused to talk to her for days. Finally, the wife couldn't stand it anymore. She confronted the silence with, "Enough is enough! You haven't spoken to me in days. Say something to me. Or do you have kozhukkattai in your mouth?" The man heard the word he had forgotten and was extremely delighted at the sudden recollection. He jumped with joy, thanked her, apologized for his silence, and begged her to make some kozhukkattai for him!
On to the recipe:
STEP 1: Initial Preparation: This step enables you to prepare the base for the kozhukkattai ahead of time and store it for future use, and use the required amount as and when you prepare the kozhukkattai. The base is prepared using a mixture of raw rice (not parboiled, not cooked, ponni or sona masoori types are good; NO BASMATI PLEASE) and urad dal, in the ratio of 5:1 (rice: urad dal).
Step 1 Ingredients (To prepare about 15 kozhukkattai):
1.25 C Raw Rice
0.25 C Urad Dal
1-2 Tbsp water
1. Take rice in a bowl, and sprinkle a handful (1-2 Tbsp.) water, and mix thoroughly. Keep aside for 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, in a spice grinder or dry blender, dry-grind raw ural dal to the consistency of coarse rava or cornmeal. Keep aside.
3. Next, grind the semi-dry rice to a coarse powder. Mix the two ground powders together.
To store: If you want to prepare a large quantity ahead, just follow the above steps for larger proportions, and ensure that the mixture is spread out to dry on a thali or towel for a day, and then store in an airtight container. Moisture will lead to spoilage and fungal growth.
Step 2: Ingredients
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp virgin sesame oil (if you can't find either oil, you may substitute with equivalent amount of vegetable or refined oil, but the flavor will suffer)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 Tbsp. channal dal
1 Tbsp. urad dal
1 tsp. asafoetida powder (hing)
2-4 thinly sliced green chillies
2 red chillies, broken into bits
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves, stripped
2.5 C water
3/4 to 1 tsp. salt
1/2 C fresh coconut, cut into small pieces (or 1/2 C freshly grated coconut); if this is not available, get the unsweetened, dry, shredded coconut from Indian stores; there will be some loss of texture, taste, and flavor.
1. Heat a wok or pan on high heat, non-stick will be easier
2. Pour the oil, and when it is hot, add asafoetida.
3. Lower the heat, and add the following in the order specified:
a. Mustard Seeds. Let it crackle first.
b. Channa, urad, and red chillies. Wait till they turn golden.
c. Add green chillies, curry leaves, and coconut pieces or grated coconut.
d. Almost immediately, add water and salt. Raise the heat, and bring the mixture to a boil .
4. Lower the heat when it begins to boil, and stir in the rice-dal mixture a little at a time, and keep stirring for 2-3 minutes after, till there are no lumps, and it turns into a solid mass.
5. Remove from heat, place in a bowl, and let it cool.
6. Apply some oil in your hands, and make about 15 even sized balls, or fist-shaped kozhukkattai's.
7. You may use an idli steamer, or a wet-cloth lined bamboo steamer, to cook the kozhukkattais. Heat water in the steamer's base container or wok. Place the dumplings in a single layer on the steamer baskets/plates. Steam covered for 10-12 minutes on high heat.
8. When done, sprinkle some cold water on the dumplings before removing the plates/baskets from the stove.
9. Serve hot with one or more of the chosen side dishes listed earlier.
After removing from steam, heat 2 Tbsp of coconut oil (preferred) in a kadai/wok, non-stick preferred. Add a sprig of fresh curry leaves to the oil. Add all the steamed kozhukkattais to the oil, and toss briefly. Keep over low heat for about 5-10 minutes, with gentle, intermittent tosses. This results in kozhukkattai that have a delicately crunchy, glossy, crust with a soft inside, fragrant with coconut oil and curry leaves. These are bound to make you crave for more.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Monday, March 5, 2007
This post demonstrates how "veppilai katti" is prepared. I still wonder why it was named so! You will be fooled if you think that it is made from "veppilai" or neem leaves. Neem leaves are the bitter, medicinal leaves of the neem tree. While this pickle seems to indicate that it is made of neem leaves, it has no neem leaves in it whatsoever. The leaves used in this pickle are the tender leaves of lime or lemon trees, and citron (naarthangai) trees, along with a few curry leaves (kariveppilai) for added body and flavor. This pickle is more of a mince than a pickle in the traditional Indian sense -- every ingredient in it is raw or uncooked. There is no oil in it either. The end result is a piquant, fragrant, mince that dances in your tastebuds. This mince is also called "Bhojana kasturi" because it enhances the food with an incredible flavor. The pickle is also an excellent digestive-aid.
It is typically served with curd rice or is mixed with neeraahaaram -- which is a cooling mixture of leftover cooked rice kept overnight in water, with some buttermilk and salt to taste. When veppilai katti is added to neeraharam, there is no need to add extra salt. Neeraahaaram is usually had in the summers to cool the body down.
Whenever I prepare this pickle, I am reminded of an incident that took place in my school days. I was probably in 2nd standard, about 7 years old, and really loved this pickle. One day, on my way back home, I found some cut neem branches full of leaves on the road-side. Assuming that these leaves were key to preparing veppilai katti, I gathered as many bunches of leaves as I could muster in my little hands, and huffed and puffed my way back home with the load. I handed them over to my mother with great excitement. She looked at me puzzled. "What's this for?" she asked. When I explained the reason, she burst into laughter. That's when she told me what veppilai katti was made of! My mother never forgot this incident till her last days. She would jokingly ask me to go collect some neem leaves whenever she prepared this pickle.
On to the recipe....
Veppilai-Katti (Spiced Citrus Leaf Mince)
2 C fresh, tender leaves of lemon or lime
2 C Citron (bitter-lemon or naathangai) leaves (OR) 1.5 C Kaffir lime leaves
1 C Curry leaves (kariveppilai), stripped from stem
1/3 C Thymol seeds (Ajwain or Omum)
2 Tbsp. Salt
25-30 Whole, dry, red chillies
1" cube Asafoetida (hing or perungaayam) (OR) 1.5 tsp. asafoetida powder
Juice of 1-2 large limes or lemons, as needed
1. Wash the leaves well, and pat very dry with a kitchen towel.
2. If the citrus leaves are not tender and are a bit tough, remove the hard stalk/vein/petiole in the middle of the leaf as shown in the pictures above.
3. In a dry-spice grinder, grind finely the following together: ajwain, red chillies, salt, and asafoetida.
4. In a blender, dry-grind (no water) all the grind all the leaves till it becomes a moist and crumbly paste. Using a spatula, stir it form time to time in between grinding cycles.
5. Put leaf mixture into a bowl. Add the ground spices, and mix thoroughly.
6. Add enough lime/lemon juice a little at a time so that the mince can be shaped into several walnut sized balls. You may or may not use all the lime juice indicated.
7. Store in a covered container, preferably in the fridge, so that the it remains flavorful and moist.
8. Pinch off required amounts from each ball to serve with your curd rice.
Other uses: You can prepare an unusual raita or a dip with veppilaikkatti. For raita, simply mix desired amount into yogurt, you can blend in a mixie or blender it if you want. No salt is necessary. For a dip, mix some sour-cream and cream cheese with veppilai katti. Serve as a dip for toast points or fresh vegetable pieces.