Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Ugadi with Bevu Bella (Neem Jaggery) and Mangai Pachadi(Mango Jam)

Happy Ugadi with Bevu Bella (Neem Jaggery) and Mangai Pachadi(Mango Jam)

It was long long ago. So long ago when the whole of south India was known as The Deccan or The Carnatik. Many families from the Tamizh speaking areas moved on foot in quest of their fortune to the Mysore Samasthanam –the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom. With its patronage the families were firmly rooted, and spread their branches far and wide, thus giving rise to a new clan which can be named as the Tamizh Kannadigas.
My siblings and me, were born in the seventh generation of one such family and grew up on the waters of the Cauvery and moulded in the Kannada soil. Though our family retains Tamizh and its culture, it has also imbibed the culture and traditions of the Kannadigas, and I am proud of our hybrid culture.
Today is UGADI – the Kannada New Year’s Day. We celebrate it with great festivity with the Mavu (mango) and Bevu (Neem garlands) thoranas, Bevu Bella (Neem and Jaggery preparation), Mavinakai Chitranna (manga sadam), Obattu, and Mangai Pachadi (Mango Relish).

Bevu Bella 

Tender neem leaves, neem flowers and jaggery are pounded together in a pestle and made into tiny balls which are swallowed as the first thing in the morning on the Ugadi day. 

This is to remind us that life has to be taken easy, though it is a mixture of sweet and bitter experiences. 

Neem cools down the system and helps in healing it. It also destroys worms.
Mangai Pachadi
Raw Mango – 1
Jaggery – 1 cup
Salt – ¼ tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
Cooking oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Red chillies – 2
Neem flowers ( dried or fresh ) – 1 tsp
1. Peel the mango and dice it into pieces. (Save the peel which can be used in chutneys or in mango rice).
2. Boil one cup of water in a pan and add the mango pieces.
3. Add salt and turmeric powder and cover with a lid.
4. Cook till the mango pieces are tender.
5. Add jaggery and cook till it becomes like jelly.
6. To seasons, heat oil and add mustard seeds.
7. When it splutters add the neem flowers.
8. Add the broken red chillies and add this seasoning to the Mangai Pachadi.

Savour the Pachadi which is sweet , sour, salty, spicy and bitter- all at the same time. It can be relished with rice, dosas and chapattis.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Milagu Jeeram Podi & Milagu Rasam - Black Pepper Powder and Soup

MILAGU JEERAM PODI (Black Pepper & Cumin Powder) and MILAGU RASAM (Black Pepper Soup)
We loved to visit my uncles place which was nestled amongst the ancient temples of Tanjore and its green paddy fields and lush lily ponds. Mama (maternal uncle) was ever ready with an agenda to guide us through the various temples, forts and the river and sea sides around his small village which housed a mammoth temple for Lord Mahalinga Swami. Mami (aunty) was eager to welcome us with a well stocked kitchen and she treated us to her yummy native dishes. We drooled over her delicious pitlays, rasavangis, tanjavoor kadambam rice, cashew uthappams and the special tanjavoor milagai vattal.
On one such pleasant visit Mama took us to the temple town of Thirukkadaiur. Every town, village or even a small settlement in Tanjore district turned out to be a temple town and we had to get down from the car at the drop of the hat to view the great architectural wonders of yore.
The presiding deity at Thirukkadaiur is Lord Amruthaghateswarar and His consort is Goddess Abhirami. Markendeya was Lord Shiva’s ardent devotee and was blessed with only 16 years of life in this world. At the appointed time the Pasa (Noose) of Yama Dharma ( God of death) which was meant for Markandeya who was clutching the Lingam, fell over the Lingam as well. Enraged at this, the Lord exterminated Yama. Later Yama was revived and Markandeya was blessed to stay 16 all his life and justice prevailed.
After offering our prayers for a long life for each and every member in the family we went round the expansive temple appreciating each and every piece of sculpture without heeding the heat of the blazing sun. The broad and lengthy paved path ways around the temple and the kalyani ( Pond) had become so hot that even chapattis would have puffed up just at the touch of the stone. Unable to bear the heat and hunger any longer we ran out of the temple to wear our foot ware. This was a long time ago- almost 35 years- when there were no hotels or restaurants in the small place. The benevolent temple priest offered to feed us for which he would not quote any price. His house was next to the temple and his wife cooked for us. We were amazed when she served us hot rice, hot (spicy) milagu jeeram podi (black pepper and cumin) and hot (spicy and hot temperature wise!) milagu rasam (black pepper soup) within such a short notice. We were more wonder struck when she served roasted papads which had imprints of advertisements on them! We were all sweating and red in the face due to the heat of the sun and the excellent meal. Never did we taste such a lip smacking meal in all our lives.
MILAGU JEERAM PODI (Black Pepper and Cumin Powder)

Pepper – 4 tbsps
Cumin seeds – 4 tbsps
Salt – ½ tsp
1.Dry roast pepper until it starts cracking
2.Add cumin seeds and roast till it gives out a pleasant aroma.
3.Powder it coarsely with salt when it cools down.
4.Store it in a dry container.
TO SERVE - take some hot rice in a plate. Add the powder and salt to taste on top of the rice. Heat ghee until the ghee has melted and is hot. Pour the hot ghee over the powder. Enjoy the sizzling noise as the powder gets instantly fried. Now mix thoroughly with the rice. This is very good for digestion and also alleviates flatulence, and tastes excellent as well!

MILAGU RASAM (Black Pepper Soup)
Tamarind – 1 small lemon size
Salt – 2 tsps
Asafoetida – ¼ tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Coarsely grind the following into a powder. No roasting is required.
Pepper – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Bengal gram dal – 1 tbsp
Ghee – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
1. Soak tamarind in warm water and extract the juice.
2. Add salt, asafoetida and curry leaves.
3. Boil until the raw smell disappears.
4. Grind the four ingredients into a slightly coarse powder.
5. Add the powder and add water immediately to make one litre of rasam.
6. Let the rasam be on low flame.
7. Cover it with a lid to preserve flavour.
8. Keep watch by sliding the lid now and then.
9. Switch off flame when the rasam is just about to boil.
10.Heat ghee and add mustard seeds, and add the seasoning when the mustard splutters.

Drink the hot rasam as an appetizer before a meal. Or enjoy with hot rice with a spoon of ghee. You can even chill it and have it just like that as a beverage – like jal jeera.
Both these dishes go to Think Spice -Think Pepper Event at Divya's Dil Se blog. Here are more details about Think Spice event, in Sunita's site.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jolada Rotti & Pulikachal - Jowar Bread and Tamarind Spread

Jowar Bread & Tamarind Spread
It was getting dark. We were all weary after traveling such a long distance. We felt insecure after the previous night’s nightmare, when a thief had broken into our hotel room. The thief was almost caught by my brother. However, he had come prepared with a well oiled body, and slipped out of my brother’s clutches and scrambled down the coconut tree outside the window and escaped, even as my sister and I watched paralyzed at the sight, and my young son slept blissfully unaware of happenings! Our Goa trip which was planned for a week, culminated after a mere two days of fun and frolic at the beaches. After losing our house keys and some cash in the mid night encounter none of us wanted to stick to our original plans. We could leave the tourist’s paradise only well after noon, after completing all the police formalities.
My husband and brother-in-law decided to break our journey at Hubli since we did not want to drive all night. My sister, myself and the kids strongly protested against staying at a hotel AGAIN! Finally we decided to land on my father’s cousin who happened to live in Dharvad.
Our hostess welcomed us - the shocked lot - with a warm smile, extending to us the much needed refuge and security. At that unearthly hour, she prepared jolada rottis which were so soft, warm and comforting and served them with pulikachal.

Jolada roti (Jowar flat bread) and pulikachal (tamarind ground nut relish) – an unconventional combination was ambrosia to us at that hour. Later when I learnt to make jolada rottis myself, my family still preferred to eat it with pulikachal, in spite of the badanekai playa (brinjal curry) and the kadalekai chutney pudi (spicy peanut chutney powder), which is typically had with this dish.
Jola flour (Jowar or Sorghum Flour) – 1 cup 
1. Boil 1 ½ cups of water in a heavy bottomed pan.
2. Add the flour to the boiling water, stirring vigorously at the same time.
3. When the flour is cooked and gathers into a mass, switch off the flame and cover with a lid.
4. After a few minutes remove the lid and knead the mass into a smooth dough.
5. Divide it into medium size balls and roll them out with a rolling pin.
6. Heat a tava and place a roti on the hot tava.
7. When the roti starts to puff up here and there, turn it over to the other side.
8. Press the roti with a wet cloth so that the whole rotti puffs up.
9. Roll all the rottis and cook them side by side, to avoid drying up of the rottis.
Enjoy the soft and warm rottis with a blob of butter, badanekai palya and chutney pudi.
If you want to pack these rotis for a travel , carry a bottle of pulikachal along, for a lip smacking meal.
This is a simple version of the same pulikachal which is used in the preparation of puliogre or tamarind rice.
Tamarind – the size of a tennis ball
Jaggery - measuring up to the same volume as tamarind
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Salt – 3 tsps
Sesme oil – 5 tbsps
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Black gram dal – 1 tsp
Bengal gram dal – 1 tsp
Ground nuts – 4 tbsps
Red chillies – 20
Curry leaves – a few
Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – ½ tsp

1. Soak tamarind in warm water and extract a thick juice from it. (avoid adding too much water as it will take a long time to cook)
2. Dissolve jaggery in a little warm water, filter it into the tamarind juice.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add the mustard seeds.
4. When it splutters add the dals and fry till they become golden in colour.
5. Add the ground nuts and fry till they crack.
6. Add the red chillies broken into small pieces.
7. When they become crisp add curry leaves and fry.
8. Add turmeric powder.
9. Now add the tamarind and jaggery juice to the seasoning.
10. Add salt and cook till it thickens stirring now and then.
11. When the pulikachal is thick like jelly and the oil separates, switch off the flame and blend in the roasted and ground fenugreek and asafoetida powder.
This makes a very good spread for bread. It goes well with almost any and every dish. It has a long shelf life if stored in a dry air tight jar. My pulikachal never lasts more than two days because of my family’s attacks on the dish at every meal time !

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Karadai - Sweet and Savoury Lentil & Rice Dumpling

The name of this dish is intriguing because it is neither a spicy (kharam) dish nor has any semblance to the dish called adai. It is a very simple dish prepared with rice and karamani (black eyed beans) on a special festival called Karadaian Nombu. Women perform this vratham (a vow including fasting, praying and then breaking the fast with the offering prepared to the Almighty) for the well being and long life of their respective husbands. Unmarried girls perform the rituals aspiring to get good husbands.
The story of this festival, as per the Puranas, (Hindu religious texts) goes like this. Goddess Parvati covered Lord Shiva’s eyes in a playful mood, thus causing the entire universe to come to a stand still. For this shortcoming, Shiva bid her to live on the Earth (Bhooloka) until he decided to take her back.
Goddess Parvati was then born on earth as Kamakshi. She formed a Lingam (symbol of Shiva) with sand, and started her severe penance under a mango tree located at Kanchipuram for her reunion with Lord Shiva. When the spate in the Kamba river threatened to wash away the Sand Lingam, Kamakshi prayed to Parashakti (Supreme Goddess) that the flood should not destroy her penance for her Lord. Lord Shiva then appeared and took her back with him.
Women pray to Kamakshi on Karadian Nombu, and offer the karadai, just as she had offered a dish prepared out of the wild grains to Parashakti .
The legend of Savithri and Sathyavan also mentions about this nombu. Here Savithri performs this penance for the Sathyavan’s long life. Although his death was preordained, Savithri  is able to save his life from Lord Yama, through her stringent penance. Hence Karadian Nombu is known as Kamakshi Nombu and Savithri Nombu as well.
A sweet karadai can be prepared using jaggery and is known as vella adai. The version prepared with salt and seasoning is called as uppadai. The basic ingredients and the initial preparations are the same for both.
Rice – 250 gms
Black eyed beans or Karamani (Dried) – 50 gms
1. Dry roast karamani till it starts cracking and keep it aside.
2. Dry roast rice till it turns pinkish in colour.
3. When both the ingredients have cooled down, dry grind them together to a coarse powder resembling semolina.


The prepared karadai flour - 1 cup
Jaggery (powdered) – 1 cup
Cardamom (powdered) – 2 

1. Dissolve jaggery in warm water and strain.
2. Add water to make 3 cups of jaggery water.
3. Bring this to boil and add the flour stirring to avoid lumps.
4. Cook stirring all the time until it becomes a thick mass.
5. Add cardamom powder and blend well.
6. Take out a ladleful of the sweetened mass and pat it into a round plump roundel or adai and make a shallow depression in the middle.
7. Shape all the adais similarly and place them on greased idli plates.
8. Steam in the pressure cooker (without the weight) for 15 minutes.
This is offered to the Almighty along with butter while chanting a prayer which means:
“ I offer an unbroken adai and butter which has not melted,
May I not be separated from my dear husband for ever.”
Prayer or no prayer enjoy the Vella Adai with a blob of fresh butter!!
The prepared karadai flour – 1 cup
Mustard seeds - ¼ tsp
Black gram dal (urad dal) – 1tsp
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Red chillies – 2
Curry leaves – a few
Fresh coconut gratings – 2 tbsps
Salt – ½ tsp
Cooking oil – 1 tsp 
1. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.

2. When it splutters add the black gram dal.
3. When it turns golden in colour add broken red chillies.
4. Add asafoetida powder and curry leaves and fry.
5. Add 3 cups of water, salt and the coconut gratings and bring it to a boil.
6. Now add the prepared flour and stir continuously to avoid lumps.
7. Cook until all the water is absorbed and the flour becomes a thick mass.
8. Shape into roundels or adais with depressions in the middle and steam in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes.
Enjoy the hot adais with butter and chutney or gojju of your choice

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Kummayam - a lentil and jaggery sweet dish

Azhwars (literally meaning immersed in God), are Tamil poet saints and ardent devotees of Lord Vishnu who lived between 6th and 8th centuries. There were 12 such Azhwars who showed their devotion through their emotion filled poems and hymns. All the Vishnu temples, where the azhwars sang their hymns are called the 108 Divya Desams (divine places - 106 in our physical world, and 2 more elsewhere!). These verses were later collected and codified by a Vaishnava scholar, Nadamuni, and are called Naalayira Divya Prabhandam (4000 divine compositions!)
The great azhwar, Vishu Chittar, also known as Periya Azhwar lived in th 6th century in Srivilliputhur. His love for the Lord was such that, in his hymns (known as Thiru Mozhi) he imagined himself to be mother Yashoda, nurturing Baby Krishna as a mother would do, by feeding, bathing, decorating and also reprimanding him for pestering the gopis. In one of his hymns, “Innamudhandri Ammantharen”, the sweet dish Kummayam finds a mention! The beautiful verse roughly translates to “…after having devoured kummayam with butter, and having emptied the curd pot, and also having destroyed the asuras – demons – you pose like an innocent baby in front of me. I doubt if you are my son and I am terrified to even feed you!”

Now coming to the dish, kummayam is a very simple dish prepared with only two ingredients – green gram dal and jaggery. Both are power houses of nutrients even on their own!
Green gram dal is next to soya, in protein content. It is a very easily digestible lentil and does not cause flatulence like other lentils. It is also rich in calcium and Vitamins B and C. Cooking does not destroy its protein content. Convalescents can easily digest and benefit from this dal. Banantis – women who have just given birth to babies – are served with a special diet, which contains green gram dal, for at least 40 days after the delivery.
Jaggery is a natural sweetener prepared from sugar cane without any additives. It contains iron, minerals and some vitamins. It is supposed to be a general health tonic and I have often heard that it purifies blood as well. 
Kummayam, food good enough for even Baby Krishna, is therefore  truely a very healthy dish for a baby above one year,..... and up to hundred years! 


Split green gram dal (mung dal) – 1 cup
Jaggery (powdered) – 1 ½ cups
Method:1. Dry roast green gram dal till it becomes reddish in colour.
2. Allow to cool, and grind it into a very fine powder and set aside.
3. Dissolve jaggery in warm water and strain, to filter out impurities if any.
4. Add more water to the jaggery water to make 4 cups.
5. Mix the prepared flour in the cooled jaggery water in a heavy bottomed pan.
6. Cook on medium flame stirring all the time to prevent lumps.
7. When the cooked flour acquires a glazed look and starts leaving the sides of the pan, remove from fire.

Serve the kummayam with a drop of ghee to your kids as well as adults!
This dish goes to Padmajha’s Tasty Bites for Toddlers event.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Seepla Vegetable Biriani - Entry for BloggerAid

Seepla Vegetable Biriani

14th November Update: Hot off the Press! Yea! The BloggerAid Cookbook is finally out. Here is the link.
Biryani or Biriani, is one of the most popular rice based dishes, popularized by Muslim merchants and travelers across the Middle East and South Asia. There are as many delicious adaptations as there are regions. For example, there are distinct differences between a Sindhi Biryani, a Bengali Biriyani, the Awadhi Biryani of Lucknow, or the famous Hyderabadi Biryani.

Of all the special Birianis, the one made by Rukmini from our native village Seeplaputhur, is the one we cherish most! Her dish is reminiscent of the delicious flavours and aromas of kitchens in deep interior Tamil Nadu. It is made of ingredients that are quite unusual for Biryanis! Suffice to say you would not find this kind of Biriani, anywhere in the world! We are naming this unique recipe ‘Seepla Vegetable Biriani’ after our village Seeplaputhur, and sending it for the BloggerAid Cookbook.
BloggerAid is a committed group of international food bloggers who have joined forces in raising awareness and funds for those suffering from hunger. The BloggerAid Cookbook will host a collection of original recipes by food bloggers, and is slated for release, later this year. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be given to the school-meals program, which is part of the World Food Program. A big thanks to, Ivy of Kopiaste, Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen , and Val of More Than Burnt Toast, who conceived the idea of BloggerAid and driving the initiative with much energy and passion!

Both Chitra Amma, and I tried this recipe at Bangalore and Sydney respectively, with local ingredients to test out proportions and so on. Both birianis turned out delicious – the vegetables and rice were cooked just right, and every grain had absorbed the yummy masalas!
You can see Chitra Amma’s Bangalore trial here.

And here is my Sydney trial ...

A note to Asha - Thanks for asking for this recipe, as it triggered us calling Rukmini and picking her brains on how she makes this dish! It was quite a revelation for us, but we are unable to share the recipe now, just in case it gets selected for the BloggerAid Cookbook! We will publish it once we know whether we made it to the Cookbook or not! :-))))