Unakkallari/Ricebran rich rice Dosa with Chutneys and Podi

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Life is getting fast and frenetic for everyone. Anyone I see is either rushing out with not a moment to spare apart from a quick hello or is so engrossed in their phones that it becomes a lot painful to just look up and take stock of the world around. For those like me who have all the time in the world, life in this small town opens up lots of avenues for entertainment. Temples, markets, libraries and movie theatres are all a stone’s throw away and on the days you prefer to stay put at home there are portals like the Netflix and Amazon Prime to offer maximum entertainment.  But amidst the madness and frenzy of it all there are times when everything comes to a pause….when you become a bit philosophical and would rather reflect and ponder over the meaning of it all. The passing of our elderly neighbor, all of 100 years, was one such occasion. From the time we moved to Thrissur, we were used to the sight from our 7th floor window of the elderly couple relaxing and reading their morning newspaper in the spacious portico of their sprawling house opposite. Our only encounter with them was when we were invited for their 75th wedding anniversary. Their house itself is a sight for sore eyes with its front garden always in bloom with seasonal flowers and fruits. Letting ourselves into the compound to pay our last respects, we saw the entire family collected around the floral decorated coffin. A steady stream of visitors, mostly octogenarians filed past silently. The entire setting was of grace and poise and also of celebration of the life of a man who had lived a full and meaningful life raising a family and establishing himself as a man of importance in the society.

I look at all this with a sense of wonder and awe. For us Kerala had always been that safe sanctuary, that Shangrila that you would longingly come to spend vacations and short holidays. We never ever had that chance to be a proper Keralite in all those years we were away in different states of the country. But now when we are here for good to spend the evening-years of life, we realize that so much has changed. The simple joys of just being together, sharing and caring for each other, which were the hallmarks of our families have all vanished. This is the times of formal visiting and forced conversations. But then there are a few specks of sunshine too. A hearty meal is still enjoyed and that is the way to revive the long lost happy moments of togetherness and fun. I cook to my heart’s content when I call my family over….the exercise can leave me tired and exhausted but the joy I get when I share a lovingly cooked meal with everyone is enough to get me past my blues.

There cannot be more indigenous a Kerala preparation than the Unakkalleri Dosa. The Unakkaleri is made from  paddy that is  dried in the shade and pounded to remove the husk. Much of the bran is left intact which gives the rice its characteristic reddish brown colour. Highly nutritious and with disease fighting capabilities, the Unakkaleri is often used to prepare gruel/kanji to the sick. The ground rice paste for the dosa has the distinct smell of the soft wet earth of Kerala and add a generous amount of coconut and you get a batter that gives off the the rich and delicate aroma of coconuts and jeera/cumin. If ever I craved for Kerala food in the North it was for these soft and delicate dosas, because those days it was quite difficult to get some Unakkaleri outside of the state. Now with a click of a button you have your Unakkaleri delivered home. The dosa goes well with the coconut onion chutney and the dosapodi. But then who can wait for your chutney to be ready when that hot and fragrant dosa is calling you to just tuck in!

Ingredients for the Dosa

Unakkaleri : 2 cups.

Grated coconut : 1 and 1/2 cup.

Jeera/cumin: 1 tblesp.

Salt to taste

For the coconut-onion chutney

Method

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  • Soak the rice in water for about 2-3 hrs.
  • In a blender/mixie grind the rice to a smooth paste and transfer to a bowl.
  • Now grind the coconut and jeera to a coarse paste and mix in with the rice to a watery free flowing batter.
  • On a medium hot tawa make your dosa by quickly spreading a ladle of batter from the outer edges to the inside and paouing a tsp of gingely oil on top. Once one side is done which takes a minute flip it to the other side and give it another minute or more to slowly crisp up. Remove to a plate.

Ingredients for the chutneys

Grated coconut : 2 cups.

Green chillies : 2 ( remove seeds if needed).

Onion : 1 small.

Red chilli pdr : 1 tsp. ( use kashmiri chilli for colour).

Salt to taste

Oil for tempering

Mustard seeds : 1/2 tsp.

Red chilli whole : 1

Curry leaves : 2-3.

Method

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  • In a blender add 1 cup of grated coconut , onion sliced, salt and the redchilli pdr. Add just enough water to make into a coaresly ground chutney. Transfer to bowl.
  • For the green coconut chutney coarsely grind 1 cup grated coconut with the green chillies and salt. Transfer to bowl. Now in a kadhai pour 1 tsp of oil and on medioum heat temper mustard seeds, redchilli brokren up and curry leaves and add to the chutney.

Ingredients for thr Dosa Podi

Urad/ black gram dal : 1 cup.

Arhar/ Pigeon pea dal : 1 cup.

Whole kashmiri chillies : 15 no;s.

Black til/ sesame seeds : 1 tsp full.

Asafoetida pdr : 1/2 tsp full.

Salt to taste

Method

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  • Keep a kadhai on medium heat and start dry roasting the udad dal till it becomes golden light brown in colour.Keep aside.
  • In the same kadhai roast the arhar Dal till it becomes almost the colour of red ants. At this stage add the chillies and the sesame and roast for another 4 minutes.
  • Grind the dals and chillies and pass the powder through a sieve . Add the Asafoetida pdr and salt. Once cool transfer the podi to an airtight jar wher it can stay fresh for a couple of months.
  • To eat with dosa take some podi in a bowl and mix it with some coconut oil till it becomes a thick paste.

                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vattayappam with Varutharacha Meen curry

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Weddings in Kerala these days are getting more and more big and lavish. The vibrant colours of the flower bedecked mandap, the high octane beats of the traditional drums, the glittering jewellery flashing on heavy silk clad bodies, photographers busy catching candid shots of the macho groom and the coy bride…all these are becoming common at any wedding these days. But amidst the pomp and fervor of big budget weddings, there happen a few which stand out in their refreshing simplicity and old world charm. I was lucky to catch one such last weekend. Tucked away in a corner of the temple town, Guruvayur, the venue was a small sized hall….just enough to hold a group not more than a hundred and odd. Outsiders were few and it was the perfect setting for the entire family converging from far and near to bond and connect. Gay laughter and chatter filled the hall. Cousins who at one time went to school together, now in all shapes and sizes excitedly talking about good old times, their daughters in pretty gaghras and lehengas flitting about like bright butterflies, little naughty kids streaking about and playing hide and seek behind the lace curtains and decorative flower garlands…from my comfy seat in the corner I watched it all. A group of pretty girls were already getting ready to take the Thalam to escort the groom and the bride to the mandap. A close scrutiny of their attire ….and I understood…the days of heavy silk sarees are over. The girls were all in soft silks of pastel colours with contrasting heavily embroidered silk blouses. The ornate patterns in gold and silver zardosi shone in the golden light of the lamps accentuating the beauty of their youthful faces….these moments are the bonuses of attending weddings. The Muhurtam was nearing and as the pretty lasses trooped out to the entrance in a rustle of silks and hushed giggles, I saw the last one shrugging her hair to let those lustrous locks fall into place and I as if on cue couldn’t help patting my own mouse tail of hair. The pretty little mandap aglow with the lighted lamps, the Nadaswaram music that set the mood to the ceremony, the elegant groom and the glowing bride….everything was there to see and enjoy…no photographers thronged in front to block the view, no big grouping of family on the mandap creating confusion…just a simple ceremony in all its sanctity and convention.

Varutharacha meen curry is an authentic central kerala fish preparation. Unlike people in the south of the state we rarely use the kudampuli to give the needed sourness to the curry. Here tamarind, green mango or the irimbanpuli (a sour fruit) are the souring agents in fish curry. But the fresh kudampuli has a flavour and taste of its own ….much milder and bordering on sweetness it has none of the pungent kick of the dried version. Put it in the curry and the soft and deep sour taste blends so well with the oil roasted coconut masala and the unique flavour of ‘Naadan Ayala’(Indian mackerel). There are some scents of food that brings to mind visions of ‘Kettuvalloms’, swaying coconut palms and bright green paddy fields…..this is one such.

To go with the ‘Idivettu’(thunder)curry what better than the spongy, puffy white vattayappam. This one is a kottayam native …but like successful marriages where opposites attract, the fermented sweetness of the Vattayappam perfectly complements the spicy, tangy curry.

The Malayali, wherever he goes, would not trade the tastes of home for anything else. How wonderful it is to recreate that magic of home food in your little kitchen. Start with the easy steps of the vattayappam to slowly pick up pace with the coconut frying …no worries if you don’t get fresh kudampuli (you can always substitute with the dried ones or plain tamarind)…relish the sight of the fish curry bubbling on your stove top and wait for the steamy vattayappam to flop down on your plate. Dig in and let your mind take that solo trip in the tranquil backwaters and you can almost hear the distant strain of a boat song.

Ingredients

For the Ayala(indian Mackerel) curry

Fish: 500 gms. I have used the Ayala. You may use any fleshy fish instead.

Coconut grated : 5 tblesp full.

Shallots : 10-15 or 1/2 cup. Use half for frying with coconut and the other half for sauteing in curry.

Tomatoes : 2 medium, chopped.

Coriander whole : 2 tblesp.

Methi/fenugreek seeds : 1/2 tsp.

Curry leaves : 5-6.

Red chilli pdr : 2 tblesp. You may use kashmiori chilli pdr which is milder.

Fresh kudampuli : 1/2 a fruit. Instead you may use tamarind the size of a small lemon soaked in water and pulp extracted or 4-5 pieces of dried kudampuli soaked in water and torn up to pieces.

Coconut oil : 3 tblesp and another tblesp to pour over the cooked curry.

Turmeric pdr : 1/4 tsp.

Salt to taste 

A few sprigs of curry leaves as garnish.

For the Vattayappam

Raw rice : 1 and 1/2 cups. soak in water for more than 2 hrs.

Grated coconut : 1 and 1/2 cup.

Quick yeast : 1/2 tsp. 

Cooked rice : 1/2 cup.

Salt : 1/2 tsp.

Sugar : 3-4 tsps.

Method

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  • Marinate the washed and cut fish in a tsp of chilli pdr, 1/4 tsp of turmeric pdr and 1/2 tsp of salt and keep aside for 15 mins.
  • Take coconut grated, coriander, methi, half the shallots and curry leaves on a plate. Keep the chilli pdr aside.
  • In a kadhai add 3 tblesp coconut oil and add all the frying ingredients together except for the chilli pdr.
  • Start frying on medium heat stirring all the time till you see the coconut getting roasted and turn brown.
  • Add the chilli pdr and mix in for just a minute more. Your masala mix is ready. Grind it in a blender to a smooth paste.

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  • In a broad based vessel (In kerala we use the manchatti/ earthen pot for cooking fish) on medium heat add 2 tblesp of coconut oil and saute chopped shallots. After 3-4 minutes add the chopped tomatoes and saute for another 3-4 minutes till the tomatoes have somewhat broken down and softened.
  • Now add the ground masala along with a cup and 1/2 of water . Add the kudampuli, salt, turmeric pdr and the marinated fish. 
  • Cook covered till the fish is done and the gravy looks rich and not watery.
  • Take off gas and add another tablesp pf coconut oil on top and garnish with fresh curry leaves.

To make the Vattayappam

Grind in a blender the rice, cooked rice, 1 cup of coconut grated, the yeast to a fine paste.

Pour into a big vessel. 

Grind 1/2 cup of coconut with the cardamom seeds coarsely.

Mix everything together. Add salt and sugar and mix well. Keep to ferment for about 2 hrs in a warm place. The batter would rise up to double in size.

Graese a cake tin with oil and pour the batter in to about 3/4 th ht. Steam in an idli vessel for 15-20 mts till done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decadently Delish Mud Cake

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The monsoons arrive in Kerala once again…and the entire landscape changes as if by magic. The plants in my little garden almost withered and dying in the scorching and unrelenting heat of the summer sun suddenly break into this shivery ridiculous dance as the welcome droplets fall on them. The sky overhead already dark with dense rain-laden clouds gets active with flashes of silver lightning and rumbling thunder. Swinging lazily in the hanging basket in my patio I look outside….the heady scent of rain-soaked earth is intoxicating, the sudden spray of droplets let in by a flutter of wind so invigorating. I feel my gathered age just getting washed away leaving me once again a little child awestruck by the unfolding drama of the heavens before me. How many times have I celebrated this season…as a child making endless numbers of paper boats and letting them sail in the turbulent gush of muddy waters that flow out through the front yard in little choppy rivulets. Or stand under the shady boughs of the jasmine vines as the powerful sheets of rain curtains me on both sides allowing only a stray drop trickle down my upturned face. I step out into the rain and feel the cool wetness of grass for a second and  I venture further allowing the squishy enveloping mud tingle my toes.

Monsoons bring a change to one’s eating preferences too. The Kanji (rice porridge) takes centrestage and comes to the table with accompaniments of a horde of satellite dishes in the form of variety chammanthi (spicy coconut chutney), pieces of fried fish, kondattam (sundried rice/veg crackers) and pickles. The steaming kanji and the spicy condiments bring about a shiny sweat on faces and is said to guard one from sniffles and fevers that attack during the rainy months. With the advent of modernity the kanji is seen making way for hot soups and bowls of saucy pasta. And who wouldn’t love a cup of hot chocolate on a rainy rainy day?

Coming to chocolate indulgence this mud cake recipe is a keeper. Loaded with a good measure of chocolate and cocoa, it has just the right amount of coffee to give the cake its character. The oil and the buttermilk added to the batter gives the cake velvety smoothness and a refreshing moistness. The easy to make cake is a sure hit at parties…pair it with a couple of scoops of ice-cream of your choice and this becomes an after dinner dessert that seems to have come straight from a 5 star restaurant.

With the rains lashing and the winds howling it is understandable if one feels tad lazy to enter the kitchen and cook an elaborate meal. You would rather curl up on the couch with your coffee mug and a book. So why not try the old time Kanji which would bubble away on its own without one giving much attention. The worst part can be how to make your toddler eat it.The ultimate trick of making your youngster down his bowl of Kanji without zipping shut his mouth would be to lure him/her with this dark and handsome piece of chocolaty mudcake. Take it from me… the taste is so addictive that once you get yourself to bake it, it’s going to be a regular in your kitchen.

Ingredients

Dark chocolate ( Compound) : 125gms

Eggs : 2 no;s.

Powdered sugar : 250gms.

Butter : 125gms.

Coffee pdr (instant) : 3/4 tsp.

Vanilla Essence : 1/2 tsp.

Maida/Plain flour : 165 gms.

Baking soda : 1/4 tsp.

Baking pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Cocoa : 15 gms.

Water : 100ml.

Oil : 20ml.

Buttermilk : 60ml ( You can prepare your own buttermilk by adding 1 tblesp vinegar in 1 cup milk)

Salt : 1/8th tsp.

Method

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  • In a saucepan over low flame melt butter, chocolate,coffee, salt and water. Once the chocolate has melted and the mixture has come together, take off gas and cool.
  • Sieve plain flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking pdr. Mix the powdered sugar and keep aside.

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  • Beat eggs, vanilla,buttermilk and oil really well in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the flour mixture in 2-3 batches and mix in well after each addition.
  • Add the chocolate mixture slowly and beat everytime 2-3 spoonfuls are added till everything is mixed in.

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  • Pour the cakke mixture into a butter paper lined tin of 8″ diametre.
  • Bake the cake at 160deg C for 1hr and15 mts.
  • Take out of the oven and let cool. Delicious choc mud cake is ready. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Nostalgic Panjasara/Sugar Dosas and Meetha/Sweet Parathas

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Flipping through the pages of an age old colourful foreign magazine that I had picked up from a street vendor in Delhi, my eyes are transfixed on the image of super-soft, melt in the mouth looking crepes tidily stacked on a plate. I had always wanted to taste a crepe and my wish was at last granted on a trip to the French speaking territory of Belgium …Spa, famous for its mineral springs. Our dear Belgian family friends wanted us to see the beautiful autumn colours, had organized a weekend trip and how spectacular it was! The walks through the golden moorlands, our shoes clattering on the narrow wooden pathways, the biting cold winds lashing making even our brown cheeks turn blushing pink and our hair do a wild dance were times to cherish. The sight of the spectacular golden grassland that stretched right into the horizon and the carefree chatter with our adorable long distance friends, not to mention the umpteen pics we clicked together made the day at the moors truly memorable.

All that exercise of walking miles in the biting cold made us all work up a ravenous apetite. Driving through the maze of roads canopied by chestnut tree branches all afire with flame coloured leaves, we arrived at a quaint town dotted with pretty houses and little eating joints. The restaurant we went into had a beaming waitress in a happy polka dot frock and a matching bow neatly pinned to her made up hair and she quickly showed us to our table right in front of the warm old fashioned fireplace. Francoise, my friend, suggested we go for French Croquettes and there were all variants to suit everyone’s tastes and soon they came…crisp and golden fried and just right for the rainy cold weather outside. The meal was so  very satisfying and as a fitting culmination to the hearty meal came the French Crepes.

For me, those crepes were indeed a revelation…I have had this taste before. Flashes of the little house nestled between the sprawling rice fields in Chelakkara, Thrissur and a vivid picture of my own Ammamma/ grandmom, her ivory complexioned face bright in the dim light of the distant bulb feeding me jaggery sweetened Gothumbu/wheat Dosa from a cracked and lined pewter dish ran through me. Those Dosas were exceptional in taste…maybe because of their mild sweetness, or the pure cow’s ghee that was splattered on them liberally or just because they were so lovingly made by her and fed in the most doting way.

It is magical how food can connect across continents and seas. Crepes in their true form may be French with the batter made rich with milk and eggs, but we Indians too have our own frugal versions. The Panjasara Dosa is the Pahalwan (body builder) version of the soft and delicate crepes. The rice flour batter gives it an attitude of standup stiffness and strength. Allow it to crisp up on the Tawa a little and with each mouthful you feel the crack of the crisp dosa and the ooze of the just melted sugar in your mouth which is hugely satisfying. The Sugar Parathas too are evergreen favourites of kids and the hidden surprise of the melted sugar in the folds would make them finish their parathas at top speed.

Try these easy and fun throwback snack ideas with modern time kids already saturated with store bought sweets and treats. It’s guaranteed that they would wipe their plates in a jiffy and gift you, moms,  a sugary peck on the cheek.

Ingredients

For the dosas                             You can make 20 dosas from this batter.

Idly Rice ; 2 cups.

Urad/Black gram whole : 1/2 cup.

Methi/ fenugreek seeds : 1 tsp.

Sugar : 1 tblesp for each dosa.

Salt to taste.

Gingely Oil/ groundnut oil : a tsp full for each dosa.

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  • Soak the rice and lentils together in water for 3-4 hrs.
  • Grind to an almost smooth paste in mixi/blender. The batter should be of thick pouring consistency. Add salt and keep to ferment in a warm area overnight/ 8-10 hrs.
  • Keep a dosa tawa on heat and once hot, spread a ladle of batter in a round disc. Pour a tsp of oil all over and wait for the wet batter to cook . Once done add the sugar evenly all over the dosa. You would see the sugar starting to melt and slowly mixing with the bubbling oil on the surface.Carefully lift one side of dosa and flip over to the other side and again fold to a triangle and remove from the pan. Serve hot.

Ingredients

For the Meetha Paratha                       makes 8 parathas

Wheat flour : 1 cup.

Salt : 1/4 tsp.

Water to form a dough.

Sugar 1 Tblesp for each Paratha.

Ghee : 1 tsp for each paratha.

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  • Mix the flour and salt and adding water little by little make a dough like a proper roti dough… not too tight or too sticky.
  • Leave to rest for 15-20 mts.
  • Take a lime sized ball of dough in your hand and roll into a ball. Flatten to make a disc and keep in your cupped hands and put 1 tblesp of sugar in the centre.
  • Bring the edges together and shape the dough into a ball again. With a rolling pin, softly roll the dough into a paratha taking care not to press too hard.
  • Cook your parathas on a hot tawa adding the ghee on both sides as you flip over. Meetha Paratha is ready. Serve hot.

 

 

Meen Peera Pattichathu/ Anchovies in Crushed Coconut Mixture

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Anchovies are astonishingly healthy for our system, if incorporated in our daily diet. Packed with nutrients and Omega 3 fatty acids they gift you a healthy heart, strong bones and a clean and clear skin. So when you chance upon that finger-licking good recipe to cook your anchovies…..and better still a recipe which makes you go in and come from the kitchen at super speed with that winning anchovy dish, there is no turning back!

The Meen Peera Pattichathu is a typical Kottayam (south Kerala) dish and so not much familiar in our part of Central Kerala. The mild flavour of fresh anchovies take in the combined flavours of the sweetness of fresh grated coconut, the tartness of kokum, the sharp acidic hit of crushed shallots and ginger, the heat of the red and green chillies, all mellowed by the generous addition of coconut oil.

I still remember the first time I got to taste this delicacy. The house at the far end of our street had new tenants from Kottayam…The Koshy family. As was the custom those days all of us in the neighbourhood dropped in on them. They were a sweet couple from Kottayam and what stood out for us, kids, was that the lady of the house was a passionate cook and would eagerly welcome us and treat us to homemade snacks and sweets. Our mothers too, charged by her passion in cooking plunged headlong into long jam and squash making sessions and we kids thanked our stars for the lucky spell that hit us in the form of tasty eats and drinks. Among kids I was the chubbiest, but fully fed on the funny adventures of little Lotta, the naughty girl of comic strips, I didn’t mind it the least and happily put up with the irritating pulling and patting of my chubby cheeks. So it was on a blissfully bright Sunday morning that I was asked to run an errand for my mom and bring her a much wanted mango jam recipe from Koshy Aunty. Humming a tune I breezed into the cool portico of their house and was startled by the raucous cry from the corner…’What do you want?’ There she was… a wizened old lady with a horribly crooked nose and piercing eyes, just like the old witches in the umpteen fairytales I had been reading. I’ve come to see Koshy’s mom…I blurted out and that unleashed the most horrendous wicked cackle from her and a curt reply…’Koshy’s mom? Look up…she’s there, pointing to the skies. I stood squirming, but soon from the interiors of the house came Koshy Aunty with a broad smile. As she was rummaging through her recipe collection for the mango jam recipe I heard the witch calling out to her…aa undapenninu ichiri peerra pattichathu koduthe (give that chubby girl some Peera Pattichathu). The dish she gave me to taste was indeed tasty, but then tears welling up because of her calling me ‘undappennu’ did not allow me to relish it. Back home Amma was the person to vent my pent up anger and frustration on and I vowed that I woiuld not eat anything the whole day. Stomping upstairs to my room I spent long hours licking my wounded soul alone and no amount of goading by my little cousins could make me come to the dining table. By late evening my legs were weak with hunger and my stomach rumbling was getting louder and louder. Just then I heard Amma loudly telling Omana that she is going outside to spend some time with the next door neighbours. This was the chance…quietly on tiptoe I descended the stairs and an unseen force steered me straight into the kitchen. As if she was totally unaware of the events, Omana beckons me to the stove…The puttu was steaming away and the dark kadalacurry was bubbling away in the adjacent pot. A quick nod of my head and with lightning speed dropped the puttu onto the plate. I think I heard an escaped giggle from her as she ladled the curry, but then thought better to ignore it.

Ingredients

Serves 4

Kozhuva/ Indian Anchovies : 250 gms.

Crushed red Kashmiri chillies : 2 Tsps.

Grated coconut : 1 cup.

Kudampuli/ kokum : 3 pieces.

Grenn chillies : 2.

Shallots : 6-7 ( Madras onions are small. In case you are using bigger shallots chop them big and take 3-4 tblesp.)

Ginger : 2 “inch pc.

Turmeric pdr: 1/4 tsp.

Methi/ fenugreek pdr : 1/4 tsp.

Salt : 1 tsp.

Coconut oil : 1 tsp for mixture and 2 tsps full for the garnish.

Curry leaves : a few.

Method

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  • Wash the Kudampuli and soak in water for 15-20 mts.
  • Meanwhile prepare all other ingredients.
  • In a blender crush the red chillies and keep.
  • Roughly chop the shallots, ginger, green chillies and pulse in blender for just 1 sec so that they come out a bit crushed and not ground.

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  • In a large bowl take the crushed, onion mixture, grated coconut, the crushed chillies, salt, turmeric, fenugreek pdr, curry leaves and with fingers rub everything together to bring everything together. The bruised onions, ginger and chillies and the coconut will all come together to become a crumbly mixture.
  • Gently add the fish and mix in with extreme care not to break the tender fish. At this point add the 1 tsp of coconut oil.
  • Transfer into a wide and shallow pot ( the mud pot is ideal to cook kerala fish dishes).
  • Add 1/4 cup of water and cover and cook for 5 mts till the tender fish is cooked through.
  • Remove the lid and cook till the mixture i dry and all the water has evaporated. You may shake the pot to allow an even cooking. Resist the urge to shake the contents with a spoon as this would easily break the delicate fish. Finish off by splattering 2 tsps of coconut oil on top. Once the dish is ready allow to cool a bit before transferring to the serving bowl. Delicious Meen Peera is ready. 
  • Enjoy the dish with steamed rice or even malabar parathas.

 

 

 

 

Sev Puri/ Dahi Puri made from scratch

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Irresistible, tantalizing, enticing….one can have as many adjectives to every Indian’s favourite street food, the Chaat. Anywhere you go in the country, you encounter the nukkad Chaat-wala doing brisk business serving his brood of loyal customers. One can try as many varieties as you want…push in a big liquid filled pani puri into your mouth and feel the explosion of flavours with the crack of the crisp puri, the tang of tamarind liquid that pour out, the heat of the redchilli chutney and the soft bite of the potato filling hidden somewhere in the recesses. Then comes the Sev Puri platter..crisp papdis topped with soft cooked potato bits, fresh tomatoes, onions and dunked in scoops of different chutneys, all almost camouflaged in a mound of nylon sev. Bhel puri, Aloo Tikki, Ragda Patties ….on and on goes the list of mouthwatering Chaats and everybody has his/her own favourite.

The Dahi puri/ Sev puri that I have made at home from scratch is easily doable. The papdis and sev can be made a day in advance or even a week before. The processes are quite simple and you need just a bit of patience for frying your Papadis in batches… after all, to eat something special a bit of sweating it out is alright. The chutneys are fairly simple to make and once you have all your ingredients ready, you can breeze through, blending them one by one like a pro. The assembling is the most fun part and you are allowed to sneak into your mouth one or two papdis as you go about it. I’m sure any kid around would be tugging at your saree pallu by the time you finish assembling…and the way your homemade chaats fly off from the table would indeed make it worth all the trouble of making them.

To my crazy mind The Chaat with its mouthwatering flavours and colours is so alike the grand old annual festival in my city….The Thrissur Pooram. With the long line of golden Nettipattom adorned elephants standing in a row and an entire sea of humanity moving and waving to the intoxicating crescendo of drums and Kuzhal, to the magnificent display of fireworks in the night, Pooram is a treat for the eyes and ears. Right from the 3 majestic Pandals erected in the heart of the town, the temples and buildings all around taking a fairytale look with the little decorative lights, to the vacant school grounds suddenly filling up with elephants happily chomping away whole jackfruits and banana bunches…Thrissur becomes the place to be in and people throng from far and near to take it all in and enjoy. As children we used to stay right in the heart of town and Pooram meant hordes of friends and relatives descending on us…filling to the maximum all rooms of the house. Achan would ask all of us kids to hop into our Ambassador and we would drive around to see the pandals. It would be late in the night and we would be in our nighties, cuddling each other and squealing as we see the magical changing colours of the pandals. I distinctly remember one such journey when the car broke down midway and we were forced to step out among the well dressed crowd of people squirming in our nightwear, giggling hysterically and hoping no one is taking notice.

With the years falling away like the leaves of a withered rose I am once again here in my city to merge with the crowd and experience this festival of festivals. Quietly I stand in a corner in the temple as the elephants arrive and take positions, ready to mount the idol of the deity high up on their heads. The Melam is quickening and I watch mesmerized as the rounded adorable bottoms of the elephants sway left and right, in tune with the beat. It is a magical setting….my mind swells with emotion…a little bit of pride for being part of this ancient and sublime culture, and a bit of fond memories of long gone Pooram outings with family. The sudden bout of fireworks snap me out of my reverie, with folded hands I welcome the Swarna Kolam of Krishna sitting majestically on the Gajaveeran (elephant), lift my face up to receive the shower of rose petals showered around. Reluctantly I walk away from the crowds and the centre of the town to the waiting vehicle which would take me home….far away from the fun and the pomp which would last a whole day and night!

Ingredients

For the Papdi

Plain flour/maida : 1/2 cup.

Wheat flour/ Atta : 1/2 cup.

Oil : 2 tblesp.

 Jeera/Cumin : 1/2 tsp.

Ajwain/ caraway seeds : 1/2 tsp.

Salt : 1/2 tsp.

Oil for frying.

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  • Mix together the flours, salt, jeera and ajwain.
  • Heat 2 tblesp oil and pour into the flour. Rub in with fingers to make the flour like bread crumbs.
  • Add water little by little and make a stiff dough. Keep aside for 10 mts.
  • Make thin rotis out of lime sized balls. Prick all over with fork. With a biscuit cutter, make little rounds.
  • Fry the papdis in medium heat oil and keep.

For the Sev

Besan/ chickpea flour : 1 cup.

Turmeric pdr : 1/4 tsp.

Salt : 1/2 tsp.

Oil : 2 tblesp. 

 

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  • Mix the besan, turmeric and salt together.
  • Heat 2 tblesp oil and rub into the flour to make it resemble bread crumbs.
  • Mix enough water to make a dough. While making the dough becomes very sticky. You may apply oil to your hands ands and also on the surface of the dough to make it easy to handle.
  • Take a press with little holes and apply oil on the inside.
  • Press straight into medium hot oil in a kadhai on fire. Turn to the other side after a minute. Take out not allowing the colour to become brown.

For the green chutney and the red chutney

Green coriander : 1 cup, chopped.

Ginger : 1 inch pc.

Green chillies : 2 .

Cumin pdr: 1/2 tsp.

Chat masala : 1/2 tsp.

Salt : 1/2 tsp.

Juice of a lemon.

Red chillies : 10, remove seeds.

Garlic cloves : 4-5.

Salt  : 1/2 tsp.

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  • Grind the coriander, ginger, green chillies, cumin pdr, chaat masala and sat with just enough water to a smooth paste. Add lemon juice and mix.
  • Soak redchillies in some warm water for 1/2 an hr. Strain and blend with garlic to a smooth paste.

For the sweet tamarind chutney

Tamarind : 1/4 cup.

Dates, seeded : 1/4 cup.

Jggery: 50 gms.

Red chilli pdr : 1 tblesp.

Cumi pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Dry ginger pdr : 1/2 tsp.

Salt : 1/2 tsp.

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  • Soak the tamarind and the dates together in half a cup of water for an hr.
  • Add the jaggery, redchilli, dry ginger pdr, cumin pdr, salt and keep to boil.
  • Once the mixture boils and everything is nicely mixed, take off gas. Let cool. Blend in a blender and strain into a bowl and keep.
  • Keep ready all your chutneys, some chopped onion, some curd beaten with a dash of salt and some sugar, some chopped tomatoes and some chopped coriander leaves. Also keep some chopped boiled potatoes.

Assemble your Sev/ Dahi puris

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  • Take a fancy plate and arrange your papdis. Top with pieces of chopped boiled potatoes,onions, tomatoes. At this point you can sprinkle some chaat masala on top.
  • Dot with your favourite chutneys,green, red and sweet chutney.
  • Leave out the curds for Sev puri. Just sprinkle sev on top and some green coruander and delicious sev puri is ready.
  • For Dahi puri, on top of chutneys spoon in the curd mixture, add a dash of sweet chutney on top, sprinkle sev liberally and also garnish with green coriander. Your mouthwatering Dahi puri is ready. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

Tender coconut pudding

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Catch that little drifting puffy white cloud idly lilting away in the soft breeze, pin it down in your dainty pudding bowl….that is the exact feeling one gets looking down at the delicate tender coconut dessert. A  trickle of the rosy red, tangy pomegranate syrup and some stiff golden, glassy shards of toffeed nuts artistically stuck on top…..and Viola!!! With the slightest of effort you have created a dessert masterpiece which is guaranteed to set the dinner party on fire.

Strange that the making of this pudding reminds me of my long lost Grandfather. To me he stood out as the true connoisseur of taste, a passionate food lover and an elegant eater. His elaborate descriptions of exotic dishes he had tasted in faraway Burma(the present day Myanmar) would be lapped up eagerly by all of us kids squatting in circles around him. Not for him a plate of food roughly and crudely put together. He would rather wait till the table is properly set and the food is neatly arranged and his man….errr! Woman Friday , Omana, would do full justice in that front. From his morning mug of coffee and biscuits to the frequent tidbits and little bites that she would lovingly prepare, everything would come to his easychair located in his favourite corner in the living room, enticingly and beautifully arranged in trays. The cutlery and bowls would be fancy but the contents peculiarly local… just when you expect to find a little piece of fancy cake or cookie in the bowl in his hand, you would see him lift a tiny Unakkamullan (small dried fish) fried golden and give a crunchy bite. If the Kadachakka Bhajji (jackfruit fritters) turn out delicious and crispy, he would drum a happy tune on the teapoy next to him with his long fingers.

Those were the hey days when the adults were out shopping in Cochin and we kids would spend the whole day with Muthachan. Off would go the driver to the market to get back with the choicest meat while all of us together would prepare the ingredients that go into it. Out would come the Uruli and soon the meat would start cooking in the freshly ground masala and coconut bits. Even the little ones amongst us would eat happily listening to the stories told by Muthachan and in the end we knew that he too was happy when we see him light his beedi and slip back into his easy chair.

This tender coconut pudding had been playing hard to get everytime I tried making it. I must have made it half a dozen times…just to nail that refreshing freshness, the gentle sweetness and the light texture that is the very essence of it. I tried recipe after recipe and in the end I think I have tamed that ever dodging flavour. My tender coconut  pudding has turned out just right…light as air and with a fragrance that unleashes so many happy memories of times spent at the beach sipping sweet coconut water and slipping the velvety soft tender coconut cream straight down our open mouths. From high up in the clouds I can almost catch that wink and thumbsup from Muthachan ( grandfather) and all that sweat and grind in the kitchen and an entire fridge shelf stacked with tender coconut puddings, dense, runny, grainy or bland….is worth it.

Ingredients                     serves 5

Tender coconut water : 1 cup.

China grass : 1/2 pk or 5 gms. Usually a pk available in the market is 10gms.

Milk : 3/4 cup.

Coconut milk : 1/4 cup.

You can avoid using coconut milk and substitute with milk. In that case you take a total of 1 cup milk.

Evaporated sweetened milk/ Milk maid : 1/2 cup.

Coconut pulp : 1/4 cup.This you would find in the tender coconut. Scrape this out and pulse in a blender.

Method

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  • Crush the pulp of the tender coconut in blender and keep.
  • Wash the chinagrass and tear it into bits.
  • Take the coconut water in a sauce pan and put in the china grass. Gently heat this mixture till the china grass dissolves fully. Keep to cool.

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  • In another saucepan heat the milk and coconut milk gently.
  • When it is almost boiling add the evaporated milk/milkmaid and mix well. Turn off gas.
  • Add the coconut water, chinagrass mixture and mix well. Strain the mixture into a jug. Wait till the mixture has cooled down. Add the coconut pulp and mix well.
  • Pour into pudding bowls and cover and keep in fridge to set.

For the toffeed nuts

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  • Dry roast some white sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, broken cashews in a fry pan till a nutty flavour comes.
  • In a pan put 3 tblesp sugar and caramaelise to a golden syrup.
  • Pour this onto a baking sheet and spread well. Sprinkle the toasted seeds on the surface.

For the pomegranate syrup

  • Pulse the pomegranate seeds for a second in the blender and strain the syrup.
  • For 1/4 cup of juice add 2 tsp sugar and juicew of 1/2 a lemon.
  • Bring to gentle simmer and turn off when a syrupy consistency is reached.

To assemble the pudding

Gently unmould the set pudding onto a plate. 

Drizzle the pomegranate syrup over it.

Stick pieces of the toffed nuts on top and serve.