Friday, August 27, 2010


Two months prior to the arrival of a new born baby, our ancestral home always transformed into a mini factory which produced various baby products. Great grand mother, grand mother and mother were buzzing like busy bees, preparing coconut oil and herbal baby bath powder for the baby's massage, kan mai ( kajal, eye liner ) to keep the baby's eyes cool and protect them from infection , legiyam (a tonic made out of 72 select ingredients) and fresh ghee for the new mother. Roots and fruits were collected, sterilized, dried and stored for administering 'urai marundu' to the new born after theoil massage. Old dothies were laundered and cut out and stitched into soft and comfortable nappies. Old cotton sarees were converted into small quilts for swaddling the new baby. Garments worn by the previously born babies which was considered auspicious for a new born's first use, were brought down the attic for repair and wash. Aunts were busy knitting sweaters and booties.
My mother was overwhelmed with a flood of old memories when she visited us to see her Sydney born great grand daughter. She felt immensely sorry for the baby who did not have the opportunity to enjoy the luxury of all the traditional pampering. To satisfy my mother, and out of my own curiosity I decided to make coconut oil at home for the baby's massage as directed by my mother.
Firstly, the selection of coconut is very important for extracting a thick and rich milk, which in turn would yield pure coconut oil. Big and ripe coconuts with thick kernels are favourable. Coconuts with dark coloured shells indicate that they are ripe.


Ripe coconuts - 6

1. Break the coconuts into neat halves and grate them on a clean surface.

1. Using a sharp knife disengage the coconut kernel from the shell and cut into small pieces.

2. Grind the coconut gratings or the pieces using a mixer grinder into a smooth paste, adding little water if required.

3. Pass the ground coconut paste through a sieve which has a fine mesh, and squeeze out the coconut milk by pressing with the back of a ladle. Squeezing with a clean hand will give the best results.
3. Filter the paste using a clean cloth , wringing it to express the coconut milk.
4. After extracting the milk, add a little more water to the coconut gratings to extract as much as milk as possible.

5. Pour the coconut milk into a heavy bottomed vessel and start heating.
6. As the coconut milk boils, the oil will start separating from the milk solids and form into small globules. Keep stirring so that the coconut milk solids do not settle down at the bottom of the vessel and get burnt.

7. After almost an hour the white colour of the milk solids will change into a chocolate brown colour and the pleasant aroma of fresh coconut oil will start filling the air. This is the stage where children like to hover around to taste the flavoursome brown solids which tastes sweet like coconut toffees.

8. Keep cooking for a few more minutes till the milk solids crumble and acquire the colour of dark chocolate which will settle down at the bottom of the vessel. Pure coconut oil will be clearly visible on top of the residue.

9. Decant or filter the honey coloured pure home made coconut oil and store in a dry and clean bottle. If the selected coconuts are ripe enough, 6 of them will yield about 200ml of pure coconut oil.
This oil is very good for a baby's body massage.
Dishes like Avial, Mor Kuzhambu or Koottu taste heavenly when garnished with 1/2 tsp of home made coconut oil.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Monsoon Munches - Dhool Pakodas - Spicy Savoury Fragments prepared with Instant Semolina Idly Mix


I saw my sister prepare Dhool Pakodas ( literally meaning fragments or particles of pakodas) in a jiffy using instant MTR Rava Idly Mix. I thought this would fit in appropriately in the Monsoon Munches series. I tried out the recipe which my sister willingly shared with me and the end product was ' DHOOL!', meaning ' awesome' in this context!
The instant rava idly mix already contains the required amount of seasoning and spice, including bits of cashew nuts ready for making Dhool Pakodas. If more spice is needed, chopped green chillies, green coriander leaves and more cashew bits can be added while preparing the pakoda dough. A little more of salt may also be added in this case.

Instant Rava Idly Mix - 2 cups
Finely chopped onions - 1 cup
Chopped green chillies - 1 tbsp
Chopped coriander leaves - 2 tbsps
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Oil - for frying
1. Mix all ingredients with a few sprinkles of water into a stiff dough.
2. Heat oil in a kadai.
3. Pinch very small fragments ( Dhool) from the prepared dough and fry them on medium flame. Since the pakodas are very small fragments - the size of peanuts - they cook very fast.
4. Carefully remove when the Dhool Pakodas turn golden brown in colour and drain them on a paper towel.

Enjoy the flavoursome, crispy Dhool Pakodas in between sips of hot coffee. .

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Monsoon Munches- Hituku Belae Kunukku - Field beans,rice and lentil savoury

Kunukku is a savoury dish prepared with ADAI ( a rice and lentil pancake) dough, rather with the left over Adai dough. This dish can be prepared even otherwise for it has a delicious and crunchy outer coat and the inside has the texture of Uppma. A handful of Hitukubelae ( this lentil is obtained by soaking the fresh field beans and then pinching them out of their husks) added to the dough makes the Kunukku a real delicacy.

Rice - 1 cup
Tur dal- 1/2 cup
Bengal gram dal - 1/2 cup
Split black gram dal - 1 tbsp
Red chillies - 4
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Curry leaves - a few
Coconut pieces/ gratings - 2 tbsps
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Hituku belae - 1/2 cup
Oil - for frying

1. Wash and soak all the dals with rice and red chillies for one hour.
2. Grind the soaked ingredients coarsely without adding water. The thick batter will have the texture of soaked semolina.
3. Mix in salt, curry leaves, asafoetida, field beans and the coconut gratings. If coconut pieces are used, they can be added to the dough in the last stage of grinding.
4. Heat oil in a kadai and drop the batter with the help of a tea spoon to make eight to ten Kunukkus at a time.
5. Fry the Kunukkus to a golden brown colour and drain them on a paper towel.

Enjoy the Hituku Belae Kunukku with coconut chutney or tomato ketchup.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Monsoon Munches - Kondai Kadalai Sundal - Spicy chick peas salad


Kondai kadalai sundal is a festival dish and is distributed and savoured as 'prasadam' after offering it to the deity. Usually black chick peas is used for the purpose. It is a very healthy and wholesome snack which can be comfortably munched away any time. With the addition of a little extra spice and onions, this dish peps up your mood on a cold and gloomy day.
My sister serves salads in papad cones as evening snacks. Here I have served the Sundal in papad cones to add a crunch to the monsoon munch.

Black chick peas - 200 gms

Finely chopped onions - 4tbsps
Fresh coconut gratings - 4 tbsps
Chopped coriander leaves - 1/2 cup
Green chillies - 4
Fresh ginger - 2" piece
Salt - 3/4 tsp
Cooking oil - 2 tbsps
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Split black gram dal - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Lime - 1 small
1. Soak black chick peas over night.
2. Wash and drain the soaked chick peas and pressure cook till soft, until three whistles.
3.Grind green chillies, half of the coriander leaves and ginger into a smooth paste.
4. Heat oil in a kadai and add mustard seeds.
5. When the mustard seeds splutter add black gram dal and roast until golden in colour.
5. Add the ground paste, asafoetida and turmeric powder and saute until you get a pleasant aroma.
6. Blend in cooked chick peas and salt, stir and cook till dry.
7. Squeeze in the juice of lime and switch off flame.
8. Mix in the chopped onion, grated coconut and the remaining coriander leves.
Relish the hot and spicy Kondai kadalai Sundal as it is, or served in papad cones.

To make the cones, cut the papad into two and roast in a microwave oven.It takes about a minute or so for the papad to become crisp after roasting. Roll the just roasted papad immediately into cones before they become brittle.