Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Kitchen Masterpiece - event round up!

The Kitchen Masterpiece - event round up!
Are those flowers? So many types!
Look at that bird! Where is my pouch?
Grab those balloons, sit on my rug.
Fly away, with my tiny friend mouse

Sheep graze and teddys dance
I drop into a boat; start rolling the dice
Octopus is happy, I am in a trance
What’s that light that’s getting bigger?

Angry faces are angry no more
Heart burst with joy;Roses fill the sky
Om Ganeshaya namaha!
That is my mother land!

VONGONS MAKE WAY – here I come. This is what happens when you get into blogging, watch 6 Disney movies in a week, and run events like the Kitchen Masterpiece!!

Without further ado, here are the amazing Masterpieces!
Carrot couldn't get more appealing! Presenting Carrot Flowers by Sita Kiran of Andhra Flavours ...

Get into a holiday mood! Here is Mangala Bhat’s tropical capsicum and strawberry flower!

Rekha of Plantainleaf sends in these Club Sandwhiches, tranformed with decorative Carrot Flowers!

Valentine day florists have another place to source roses from! Priya Suresh sends in Red Roses made of tomatoes!
Asha sends in Aroma-tic rice cake (tattae idli flower). Anyone game for a flowery breakfast?

If idli is around, can dosa be far behind? Here is Madhu’s Dosa Flower. She sent in a Lentils Rug (is it a magic carpet?) and a cereal heart as well!
Lakshmi sends a flower made of tea spices from her Cooking Station. Her entry from Taste of Mysore, are delicious jackfruit flowers and a traditional betel leaf pouch!

Usha Nandini sends in these lovely Curry Leaves made out of …….Curry Leaf Powder!

Jayasree’s Experiments in Kailas’s Kitchen has got us a microwaved chocolate pudding flower!
Nazarina the Giddy Gastronome, has sent in these fantastic butter scotch almond thumbprints. Big Hugs all around!
Esther J Pragasam shares this pretty ‘gFrame’ or 'Groceries/Greenery Frame' from her handwork blog - My Passion.
Did you know Srivalli - the queen of blog events, has a 7 year old daughter following her footsteps? Talented Anjana sends in her rangolis made of rice flour ! She has also uploaded and posted these herself!

Gayathri Gopinath has sent this colourful and festive Rangoli made out of Raw Rice and Sooji/Rava from her Adigemane.

The Jugalbandits, Bee and Jai have sent in Mooli Mouse, one of the many constructive uses for those who find, radish overpowering their olfactory neurons!
Transformed in Lubna's hands! Lubna from Yummy Food, has sent in these festive grape balloon cluster and the jolly banana octopus.
Row, Row, Row your boat ....Swapna has sent in these boats made of zucchini and cheese.
Ivy of Kopiaste made these amazing fruit faces! One can never look at fruits in the same way again! Hey, in case you don’t already know, Ivy is one of the three bloggers who began BloggerAid, a community of Food Bloggers who have come together to help fight world hunger. A BloggerAid Cookbook is on the cards this year, and you can help in a number of ways. Check this site for more details.

Shoba Shrinivasan from Anubhavati - Tastes from my Kitchen, sends us these colourful appetising sandwhich hearts.

Cham from Spice Club is giving Brittania a run for its money with these savory palmiers!
Priyanka sent in a heart made of fried green peas. We can literally eat out hearts out!

Archy has sent this colourful Elekosu (Cabbage/Pattagobi) Rotti. The art is in patting this rotti!

Want to play your game and eat it too? Ankita has sent in these Kaju Dice!

Sanika from Spicy & Tangy.....Sweet & Yummy blog, sent in the maximum number of entries, with Gem flowers, cauliflower sheep, a happy face, Ganapati Bappa and the Indian Flag!

Om Ganeshay Namah!! Sharmistha from Cooke-a-doodle-do has sent this Ganesha inspired by her 3-year old daugther’s creativity with atta dough!
Mahimaa, has sent this '108 channa dal kuthu vilaku' from Indian Vegetarian Kitchen. Kudos to her patience!
Our entry from Chitra Amma's Kitchen, are these jaggery and flour lamps or maavillakkus or tambitus
Yosee’s heart warming entry from Jalan-Jalan! Jai Hind!

Now for the lucky draw... chits were made, and my husband picked the lots, with sound effects by me. .. PAPARAPPPAA.....dabadabadadaba...phee...pheeee...

....and the Lucky Draw winners are: Sita Kiran, Sanika, Lubna and Anjana! ...clap...clap...Congratulations to you all! You will be contacted on mail for your gifts!

We've included entries which were received by mail, as well as informed through comments. In case any were missed, please let us know, and we will surely update the post.

A BIG THANK YOU to all of you for your Masterpieces! Your wonderful entries are sure a break away from the mundane, and triggered us into a fantasy world!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Prasadams for Mahashivaratri Day: Puli Aval and Payatham Paruppu Payasam

Prasadams for Mahashivaratri Day:
Puli Aval & Payatham Paruppu Payasam(Tamarind Flavoured Beaten Rice & Mung Dal Sweet Dish)

Mahashivaratri is not only a day (and night!) for worshipping Lord Shiva, but it is also the time to cleanse or detoxify our body and mind by fasting, meditating and even keeping vigil at night. It is also a great time to de-stress our bewildered mind and relax in the devotional mood.
While fasting, the digestive system gets the much required rest after continuous loading of food from time to time. While fasting, to meet its needs, the body starts breaking down and utilizing the stored reserves. The customary food offering prepared for the Lord (prasadam) is planned in such a way, that it agrees with the system of the fasting devotee, when the fast is eventually broken. After a long fast, a devoitee can savour the prasadam without fear of any ill effects.
Usually a fast should not be broken by consuming a rich and heavy food, because it takes a little time for the system to get accustomed to food after a long gap. The payasam peps up the devotee with instant positive energy as it has the sweet jaggery in it. The payatham paruppu (mung dal) is easily digestible, and replenishes the body with proteins. Beaten rice is very easily digestible. Puli aval (tamarind flavoured beaten rice), being non greasy, is very light on the stomach.
PULI AVAL - Tamarind Flavored Beaten Rice
Beaten rice (hard variety) – 2 cups

Tamarind – a ball the size of a small lime
Salt – 1 ½ tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
Jaggery – 1 tbsp
Sambar powder – 1 tsp
Cooking oil (Preferably sesame oil) – 2 tbsps
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Spilt Black gram dal (urad dal) – 1 tsp
Bengal gram dal (chana dal) – 1 tsp
Ground nuts - 2 tbsps
Dry Red chillies – 2
Curry leaves – a few
Dry Roast and powder the following ingredients:Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
Pepper – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ¼ tsp
White sesame seeds – 1 tbsp 
1. Soak tamarind in enough warm water and extract the juice to make 1.5 cups.
2. Add salt, turmeric powder, sambar powder and powdered jaggery to the tamarind juice.
3. Wash the beaten rice two times at least.
4. Soak the beaten rice in the prepared tamarind juice for half an hour.
5. When the beaten rice bloats and soft, it is ready to be seasoned.
6. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds.
7. When it splutters add the black gram dal and the bengal gram dal.
8. When the dals become golden in colour, add the ground nuts.
9. When the ground nuts crack, add the broken red chillies and curry leaves.
10. Add the soaked aval and blend well with seasoning.
11. Add the dry roasted and powdered ingredients and blend well.
12. Cover and cook on low flame for a few more minutes.
13. Switch off the flame when the pleasant aroma draws you towards the dish.
Offer it to Lord Siva and relish the prasadam with one and all.
PAYATHAM PARUPPU PAYASAM - Mung Dal Sweet DishINGREDIENTS:Mung dal (Split Green gram dal) – ½ cup
Powdered jaggery - ½ cup
Cardamom powder – 1 pinch
Milk – 4 cups
1. Dry roast mung dal in a pan, till it becomes pinkish and gives out a pleasant aroma.
2. Add 4 cups of water and allow the dal to cook just enough, without becoming mushy. Add more water if required. (Avoid pressure cooking, as the dal tends to become a paste).
3. Add jaggery and cook until it melts and blends giving out a pleasant aroma.
4. Add cardamom powder.
5. Add milk (use previously boiled milkand bring it to a boil and switch off flame.
6. You can vary the quantity of milk as per your preference. Add less milk for a pudding-like consistency, and more milk if you wish to savour the payasam as a beverage.
TIP: Store bought jaggery may at times have some impurities. Dissolve the jaggery in warm water and filter through a fine sieve or cloth, to filter out the impurities, before using in any recipe.
Offer the payasam to Lord Neelakanta ('the blue throated one' – another name for Lord Shiva) so that it can cool down HIS throat, where He benevolently holds the scorching poison, thus saving the universe. Read more about this story here!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mavillaku or Tambittu - Rice Jaggery Lamp

Mavillaku or Tambittu
-A lamp made of Rice and Jaggery
As the distant drum beats got nearer and nearer, we ran out of the house and stood near the compound to witness the procession. When the drum beats neared our house we could feel goose bumps on our selves and many a time we tapped our foot and danced to the rhythm as the colourful procession passed our street. Women clad in bright coloured sarees carried the decorated baskets containing Tambittu on their heads. They walked fast with one hand holding the basket, and the other hand dragging along their offsprings, who ran along to keep pace with their mothers. The men who led the procession were in their own world, as they played on their drums with great frenzy. They were all devotees of Male Mahadeswara who resided atop a hill in the M.M. Hills situated in the Kollegal ranges, and they were carrying the Tambittu for lighting a lamp at the feet of their Lord.

Lighting lamps in the Mavilakku or Tambittu is a devotional exercise carried out by the devotees as a mark of respect and thanks giving to the family deity. The mavu or flour is prepared with rice and jaggery pounded together using a huge stone mortar and pestle. A ball of this mixture is shaped into a lamp, by giving it a depression on top to hold the ghee and the wick. This Mavilakku (maavu-vilakku meaning flour-lamp) is lit and the family deity is installed in the lamp. All the prayers and worship are now offered to the Mavilakku who is now the Lord. The family waits till all the ghee in the mavilakku is exhausted, and will then perform the mangalaarati (a Hindu devotional ritual where camphor is lit, and waved in a cirular motion around the deity. More information in this wiki.) just before the ‘Lord ascends the Hills’ – that is, just before the flame in the Mavilakku goes out. After this the Mavilakku is distributed among all as the prasadam (usually an edible offering made to God, and then distributed amongst devotees)
This is indeed a strange custom where the 'offering becomes the offeree and then the offeree becomes the prasadam'!!
Rice – 1 cup
Jaggery powder - 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder – 1 pinch
Ghee – 1 tsp

1. Wash the rice and spread on a clean towel.
2. When it is nearly dry, powder it in a mixer.
3. Add the jaggery powder and the cardamom powder to the rice powder and mix well using your hand. Do not add water, as the softened jaggery alone is sufficient.
4. When the dough becomes pliable like a chappati dough, shape it into lamps.
5. Make a depression on top and pour in ghee.
5. Place a cotton wick soaked in ghee in the lamp and light it.
6. The ghee will melt and soak into the mavilakku till the flame is on, lending the mavu a unique flavour.
Relish the prasadam with the blessings of the Almighty. 
Note from Dibs: These edible lamps go to the Kitchen Masterpiece event, hosted by our blog! Today is the last day, and we are glad we met our own deadline!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jeera Vepam Poo Rasam - Cumin & Neem Flower Thin Soup


There is a rumbling in the stomach. You are famished. You want to eat but you are not hungry. The best antidote for such a condition is Jeera rasam. A glass of hot Jeera rasam topped with ¼ tsp of fresh ghee will be enough to make you ravenous in no time. My family loves to have this rasam especially when the first course of the meal is a heavy dish, or when lots of dishes are lined up waiting to be savoured. Vepam Poo or neem flowers added to the seasoning is an added benefit, as these flowers have a healing property. They also act as a deworming agent. Regular use of neem flowers is over all good for a healthy digestive system.

Collecting neem flowers during the season was great fun for us siblings. As soon as the neem tree in our garden started to bloom, Lingamma started to prepare the ground under the tree. She removed the weeds and thorns from under the tree and swept the ground well. We took part enthusiastically in the operation cleaning only up to this stage. The next step was not a very pleasant one for us, where Lingamma plastered the ground with a mixture of cow dung and water. I can still recall the characteristic odour when the hot earth greedily absorbed the cow dung and water mixture. (For those who are not aware – this is a common practice still very prevalent in rustic homes in India! Cow dung has insect repellent properties, acts as a thermal insulator and is available easily and cheaply, and therefore quite popular is rural areas!) The ground dried up very quickly and was all set to receive the shower of the fresh neem flowers. As the breeze swept through the neem tree, the pleasant smelling flowers fell to the ground and we competed in collecting them by sweeping the flowers together with a new broom. This exercise lasted till the flowers lasted. Then the flowers were cleaned and sun dried and stored up for future use. Dried neem flowers (see picture above) are also available in the departmental stores in India.

Tamarind – 1 small lemon size ball
Asafoetida – ¼ tsp
Salt – 1½ tsp
Rasam powder – 1tsp (I use my omni potent sambar powder as usual)
Curry leaves – 1 small cup
Red Gram Dal (tur dal) – 2 tbsps
Cumin seeds (jeera) – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Dried neem flowers – 1 tsp
Ghee – 2 tsps


1. Soak tur dal for a few minutes. Then grind it too a coarse paste along with jeera and curry leaves and set aside.
2. Soak tamarind in warm water and extract the juice.
3. Add rasam powder, salt, asafoetida, and a few curry leaves to the tamarind juice.
4. Boil the mixture till the raw smell disappears.
5. Now add the ground tur dal, jeera and curry leaf paste to the rasam, and immediately add 4 cups of water.
6. Let the rasam stay on low flame till it forms a lot of froth on top (see the picture of froth on the rasam, above)
7. Remove from flame when it is just about to boil. (Note: Do not actually boil the rasam, as this spoils the aroma)
8. Heat ghee and add mustard seeds.
9. When it splutters add the dry neem flowers and fry . 
10. Pour the seasoning on the rasam and cover with a lid immediately.

Plain Jeera rasam is very popular as well, and the recipe is the same minus the neem flower seasoning. Relax and relish the rasam sip by sip and get ready to binge on your next meal!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Help Gaurav

Help Gaurav...

Why are medical treatments so expensive? Did you know it costs as much as 1.5 crore (US$ 333,000) to cure AML or Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a type of blood cancer? That, my friends, is the minimum projected cost! I just received this link from my brother-in-law. His colleague Gaurav, is suffering from AML, and time is running out. (The photos are of Gaurav with his family in healthier days, and the recent one in December)
Please visit this link and help if you can... no amount is too small! His flat in Mumbai is up for sale as well.
If you are reading this, please help, and spread the word around. My Food Bloggers friends, we have a great many visitors ... it will be great if all of us can help spread the word through our blogs. Post the link above at your site. Let us pray for Gaurav's speedy recovery, and wish his family all the strength that they need now.