Sunday, 13 April 2014

Fruit Mix Sarbath, Nongu Sarbath - Summer Drinks, Mixed Fruits Sherbet and Palm fruit/ Ice Apple Sherbet

                               It took me some time to decide not to abandon my blog, casting away the frustrations  that was eating me up in the recent months, seeing my recipes repeated elsewhere. I wonder how, even their food experience seems to be same as mine,  May be, if I happened to say, I saw an ant swallow an elephant, I guess even that would be replicated!

 Perhaps everything comes with a price for a reason I suppose! As I sit to compose a post every time, I am thinking I don’t want to share this here, as I know there’s going to be similar version of my recipe elsewhere sooner or later and that has prevented me from posting several recipes, which I guess will be saving them for reasons I don’t know right now. Here I am, staring at my almost abandoned blog, still learning to ignore such annoyance and trying to keep my blog alive.

The following recipes are a summer treat for all genuine readers of my blog. Two beautiful drinks that I have enjoyed always and happy to share.

Fruit Mix Sarbath
It was a sunny April afternoon in the year 2000, when one of my colleague asked me If I wanted a fruit mix, as they were going to send someone to buy. They wouldn’t believe me when I told them I don’t know what a fruit mix was. Soon, the fruit mix came parcelled in several small plastic bags and they all began to gorge on the drink.When I was offered my share, I told them to reserve until I finished my work. Hours passed by and finally when I finished my work and asked for my share of the fruit mix, they happily told me they finished my drink too as it was too tempting! I didn’t complain, but the curious drink just stayed in my head.

A few years later, stepping down from the bus holding my son’s hand, once again on a sunny april afternoon walking towards my parents place, I decided to treat myself and my son with a fruit mix not just to quench our thirst, but also my ever pending thirst for the fruit mix that seemed eternal and so for the first time, both of us had our first fruit mix and do I have to tell that we did have another glass of fruit mix each?

               It became a habit every year to stop by the shop for the fruit mix, until one day when the shop was closed forever and I ended up enquiring another fruit juice shop if he had any, which he didn’t and he told me sheepishly," if only you know how it is made, you wouldn’t be asking for the drink"!
Now, that I know why he said so, I make my own and summer needn’t be that terrible, if you have such delicious drinks around you.

If you wonder how can a fruit mix that sounds and appears like a super healthy drink can possibly go wrong, I suppose fruits that were too ripe or not fit for sale were used up to make this drink ( that usually gets thrown away or goes wasted causing loss for the seller) As a drink it actually benefits them by giving profit and in the disposal of second quality fruits.

Nongu Sarbath
Travel down south of Tamil Nadu, especially towards Nagercoil, you will find men and sometimes women standing by the National Highway Roads, with a big bunch of tender Palm fruits by their side, a sickle in their hand, coloured sarbath bottles, ice box, several glasses, a steel bowl and a steel tumbler, all arranged on a stool, ready to fix the drink when asked. During our road trips, I usually give a heart attack to people who drive, by suddenly shouting to stop the car if I ever spot palm fruit by the road side. Now, people automatically slow down when they spot one and would look at me for confirmation.

Recently, I was more than surprised when I spotted nongu sarbath being sold this past january during our road trip down south, as it wasn’t even summer yet and naturally we gave the woman who fixed our nongu sarbath a good business for the thirty minutes we stayed there. As she was slicing the palm fruit to extract the tender ones, we rummaged her small stall of snacks, murukkus made in coconut oil stacked in glass jars and we tried to knock down tamarind fruit from the trees near by throwing the dried palm fruit fibers and we went for a second drink when we knew just one glass of that delicious drink wasn’t enough.  The palm fruits were really tender with a light skin which she used them all without peeling it and I have shown the exact method she did to fix the drink for us. I still remember my father teasing her saying that, "what an ingenious idea, you don’t even require a mixie"!

You’ll have to watch the video to learn how to fix these drinks, as it will be much easier to understand when seen.
Watch the video for the recipe

All the syrups mentioned in the video can be homemade and the recipes are already given in the blog.
You can always add water if required, if you find the drink too sweet.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Cheeni Mittai, Karupatti Mittai

                                    Now don't get me all wrong and assume I am digging into traditional recipes on purpose. Believe me, it is pure coincidence! What started as a road trip to kancheepuram this past december ended in Alagar koil this january like a pilgrimage and the past few posts and the present one are just reflections of my food experience en route.

                                                                     Cheeni Mittai
                                                                    Karuppatti Mittai

A short break at keezha Eral to shop for cheeni mittai, kadalaimittai, kaarasev, motta sev, karupatti and karupatti mittai proved to be more exciting for the old guys than us, as it kind of ignited their school time memories of savouring cheeni mittai while walking back from school in Madurai. Well, nothing prevented them even now to chew on some cheeni mittai, forgetting they were all diabetic for a moment.

                                                                 Jangiri Cloth
                        As perfect as a name could fit, cheeni mittai is an extremely sweet  and a traditional sweet meat popular down south. I would call it the uncorrupted version of the jangiri as it is made without adding any synthetic food colour or artificial essence. While Jangiri is made entirely of urad dal and a little rice, cheeni mittai and karuppatti mittai are made with more of rice and less urad dal. Cheeni mittai will be crisp soaked in a lovely cardamom scented sugar syrup, while jangiri will be soft with a rose scented sugar syrup coating its orange swirls. Cheeni Mittai and karuppatti mittai are actually broken into weighable pieces before it is sold, as originally it is one large piece of mittai arranged in a wide plate in a circular pattern one over the other.
                                                          Soaking in sugar syrup

                     Using a jangiri cloth of smaller sized hole will give a good texture to the cheeni mittai.  I have shown using an icing nozzle to make cheeni  mittai as well as using a jangiri cloth. Jangiri cloth is nothing but a Gaada cloth with a small cut, which is stitched like a button hole.

Rice                             1 cup
Urad Dal                      1/4 cup
Sugar                          2 cup
Water                         1 cup
Cardamom                   8
Dried ginger powder        1 tsp
Use karuppatti (palm jaggery) to make karuppatti mittai

Rinse and soak rice and urad dal for about 5 - 6 hours.
Grind them to a thick batter.
Using a jangiri cloth, pipe the batter into a pan of hot oil and cook on low heat only till done. Do not let it change colour, it has to be pale in colour, yet cooked. Place the cooked mittai  in the suagr syrup.
Make a sugar syrup by combining sugar or Karupatti and water in a pan, bring to a boil, add the split cardamom and the dried ginger powder and turn off when it comes to a sticky syrup stage.
Immerse the cooked mittai in the hot sugar syrup and leave it soak.
Cheeni mittai has to be crisp yet juicy, when bitten.
Use karupatti to make karupatti mittai. Even though I like cheeni mittai, Karupatti mittai tops in terms of taste and flavour.

Holding a camera in one hand and working with hot oil is not an easy task, so initially I have shown a rough demo on how to make the pattern, which should be enough if you prefer to use less oil. Follow the same procedure to make karuppatti mittai, you will have to use palm jaggery syrup instead of sugar syrup, although it will not be shown in the video.

So many things can go wrong while making cheeni mittai, since it is made with more of rice if you fry it longer you will end up with a hard and crunchy cheeni mittai and if it is under cooked you will end up with a soggy mittai. This can happen even if your batter is not of the right consistency.
Can add pinch of salt to the batter before frying.

The original Cheeni mittai sold in Thangapandian mittai kadai, at Keezha Eral, main road.

Border Kadai 
                 When talking about southern delicacies, It won't be right if I didn't mention the popular food spot a few kilometres from Kutralam, also called as Border kadai, drawing swarms of people, not just tourists, but even people from far off places, who come exclusively for the food and unless you are an early bird, getting a spot to sit inside this busy eatery is not guarantied . For once, if you can stop thinking about hygiene and health issues, it's a perfect place to enjoy some delicious food. It's natural to be surprised at this heavily crowded shop, but there's nothing attractive about the place, except the food, that's delicious in every bit you savour.

                                                      At least six men working at a mind blowing speed and this is just one  side of the eatery, as there are more men working on the other side as well, catering to a different section of crowd.

 Fat, cholesterol, cleanliness, hygiene, are words not to be spoken here, other wise you might sound like a preacher among non-believers. While some people will be worried about the amount of oil that goes into the making of these food, most of them will be worried if they will ever get enough of their favourite food without running short of it!
Food is fantastic, business is busy, why talk about other things?

Crochet enthusiasts can check out crazy crochet page for latest updates.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Kanchipuram Koil Idly

                      Not every batter that has pepper and cumin makes a "Kanchipuram idly", a false belief that prevails among people, surprisingly spread by people who have never been to kanchipuram or have never tasted the original version, it's sad that they even call it authentic! Kanchipuram happens to be another favourite week end getaway destination for chennaites, not just for the silk, but to visit the numerous temples spread across the town in every other street or so. The third and the most sought after factor in Kanchipuram is the special Idly from Varadharaja Perumal temple madapalli that is equally popular to the town's silk and temples.

Kanchipuram Idly shares a few common features with our regular Idly, like the steaming method and the fermentation of the batter, but neither the shape, method of making nor the texture of the idly is the same as our regular idlies. As a matter of fact, unless and other wise you are fed on kanchipuram idly right from your childhood, you may not even like the taste. I have seen faces frown, after the first slice of the huge, temple idly and happy to stop with that. It is an acquired taste. You'll love it if you are used to it.

 Texture wise kanchipuram idly should appear like arisi rava uppuma which should fall apart( Udhiri, udhiriyaga -  if I should say that in tamil)  and taste wise it should be sour, peppery, with a blend of flavours from the ghee, banana leaf and the mantharai leaves wrapped around the idly, the bamboo basket used to cook them in and off course the smoky smell from the wood used to cook. But when made at home, a banana leaf and a regular steamer plate is good enough to bring a similar taste and flavour. I was told that,  kanchipuram idly can be stored and consumed even after three days, though it does taste good, it becomes hard as it gets cold. Slicing the idlies and steaming them again for 5-10 minutes makes them fresh, but I would suggest to eat them up within a day or two of making.

Follow the method given below and you should be able to make the traditional kanchipuram idly in my style, something similar to the madapalli idlies. Eat them fresh and hot, you will love it. Do not try to substitute ingredients like trying to use oil for ghee, I have done that trying to make it healthy, but it is the ghee that uplifts the taste of the idly. If you are sceptical, you can easily halve the recipe and make small portion to test your taste buds.

All the pictures above feature the original Kanchipuram koil idly from the temple Madapalli, made in a special cylindrical basket steamed in a large cauldron.

Raw rice            1 cup
Urad dal            1/3 cup
Pepper               1 tbsp (  roasted and slightly crushed)
Cumin               1 tbsp (  roasted and slightly crushed)
Ghee                 2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp
Curd                 2 tbsp
Salt  about         1 1/4 -1/2 tsp
Curry leaves       30
Banana Leaf       1

All the pictures below feature my take on kanchipuram idly in my style made from my understanding of the popular idly.

Take raw rice in a mixie jar and grind it to a coarse mixture ( slightly bigger than rava ).
Rinse the rice rava thrice, add water and leave it to soak for 4-5 hours.
Rinse and soak the urad dal separately for the same time.
Drain the water from the soaked rice and keep it aside.
Grind the soaked urad dal to a coarse batter.
Add the urad dal to the rice and mix it well. Add salt and leave it to ferment for at least 15 hours. ( Do not add any water to the batter, it should be thick)
Before making the Idlies, add the crushed pepper and cumin, 2 tbsps of ghee, curd, curry leaves and mix it well.
Line a steamer plate with a banana leaf and grease the banana leaf with a little ghee.
Pour the batter onto the steamer plate, try to cover the batter with the overhanging banana leaf, close with a lid and steam cook on low-med heat for about 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve the aromatic kanchipuram idly with coconut chutney  or idly podi.
( when served hot it doesn't require any accompaniments, it is quite delicious on its own)

Do not grind the soaked rice rava, just mix with the coarsely ground urad dal batter and again do not add any water to the batter. Fermentation loosens the batter and will make it light and moreover you will be adding curd and ghee.
It's an easy recipe that doesn't require much grinding, ( use a small jar to grind the urad dal to get the right consistency)
I make the idlies, rarely using both banana leaf and mantharai leaf, but mostly using banana leaf alone, but the point is, the batter should be cooked only in banana leaf, the manatharai leaf if used, works only as a wrapper around, infusing a mild flavour to the idly.
The idlies in the picture were made using half the recipe, equivalent to 2 big regular idlies. Generally a slice or two of the kanchipuram koil idly will keep the stomach full for at least six hours. So, the given portion will serve one grown adult.
From looking at the picture you might assume that's a lot of cumin and pepper, but trust me and follow the recipe as given, for a perfect kanchipuram Idly.

                                                         Koil Idly

                                              Home made kanchipuram Idly

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Vendakkai Poriyal - Okra Stir Fry and BLACK STONE POTTERY

                     I have a strange craze for earthen wares and ceramic pottery. Food cooked in earthen wares carry a distinctive taste. I once had a couple of earthen kadais, which gave a beautiful ghee flavour to any food  cooked in it. Many have even refused to eat the stir fries I made in them, as they thought they were made using ghee and they wouldn't believe me even if told them I never used any ghee at all and it's just the kadai that gave that wonderful flavour. Both the earthen wares broke a few years back and although I did invest in a few new pans they do not have that special characteristic feature of the earlier ones. The source of its origin and the nature of the earth used in the making of the earthen wares decides how it behaves when used in cooking.

                         Like all my earthen wares, I adore my current addition, "Black Stone Pottery".  When I bought these a year ago, I had no idea about the pottery, but my weakness for black earthen wares wouldn't stop me from investing in these beautiful products from Manipur and now after using it for over a year, I still would love to add a few more pieces in the future. According to the craftswomen who sold these products, these are hand made by mixing black stone and weathered rock powder with water to form a clay which is then moulded into desired shapes without using any machine and these products have been used since ancient times in their region and still used in their households in a village in Manipur, for their regular cooking, like we use our earthen ware. It's totally a natural, hand made product and the varied designs they come in is really astonishing.

A little about Black stone pottery from my experience:
They need no seasoning like other earthen wares that requires  prior soaking for days, instead they can be used right after a good wash.
All black stone pottery with a flat base can be used for cooking, while the rest are meant for storing and serving purpose, like coffee mugs and Tea pots.
Some of the black stone pots and pans are incredibly light weight like the one I own, which is totally convenient to handle and even cook, while there are pans( kadais) and stew pots ( mainly used for making stews and biriyanies)which are rather heavy.

Like all other earthen wares, food cooked in black stone wares too get better after continuous use. The first food I cooked was an Egg curry and it behaved like any other vessel and did not have any peculiar taste or smell. I cook my veg curries, fish curry, stir fries and after several use for over a year now food cooked in my black stone pan is more delicious and it has become one of my priced possessions along with my other earthen wares.
They are a little expensive than our earthen wares, but, since it is completely handmade by the tribal people, I guess it's all worth it.

Okra                           2 1/4 -1/2 cup ( chopped)
Onion                         1
Ginger garlic paste         1 good tsp
Turmeric powder           1/2 tsp
Green Chilly                  1
Dried Red Chilly            3
Oil                             1 1/2 tbsp
Mustard + Urad Dal      2 tsp
Grated Coconut            1-2 tbsp
Semolina ( Rava)          1 good tbsp (optional)
Curry leaves

Wash and drain the okras well and chop them into half inch pieces.
Chop the onion and green chilli.
Take the chopped okras in a wide plate and sprinkle semolina and mix it well to coat the vegetable with semolina evenly.
Heat oil in a pan, add the mustard + urad dal, dried red chilly and few curry leaves.
Add the chopped onion and green chilly, saute until it is pink.
Add the ginger garlic paste, give it a stir, add turmeric powder stir well and add the chopped okras.
Stir the vegetable to coat the masala and cook on low-med heat.
Stir every 3 minutes or so until cooked.
When half-done sprinkle salt and continue to cook till done.
Sprinkle grated coconut and serve with rice.

There is no need to even pat dry the okras, just follow exactly the instructions and you will get perfectly sautéed okra fry.
Use a pan that is flat and wide to fry the okras.
Use only enough okras, such that almost all the okras are touching the base of the pan.
Cook on low- med heat through out the entire cooking process and don't ever cover the pan with a lid. ( If the pan is closed, the steam will make it soggy and the vegetable will also lose its colour)
Adding a pinch or two of turmeric powder to any green vegetable will help to enhance the green colour of all vegetable stir fries. ( Like, French beans, Cluster beans, green peas and even all types of greens like spinach)
All the above mentioned vegetables can be cooked in the same manner as the okra.

I never wipe them dry. I wash them, drain them well, chop and leave it aside while I prepare the onions and other masala.

                                                   Cooked in a regular frying pan without adding coconut or semolina.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Thennattu Suvai- Padhaneer, Andi paruppu... - Southern Delicacies

                         'Theluvu', that's the other name for padhaneer or atleast that's how I am familiar with this drink right from my childhood. Back in Salem, some three decades ago, a lady carrying this drink in an earthen pot on her head, would visit our home every weekend, measuring out a sombu full of padhneer to each of us and I would be the over excited character asking for more. I still remember the lady and the slight bitter, yet sweet taste of the drink has never left my memory till now. Even after years of moving from Salem, during our road trips, we would stop immediately if we happened to spot someone selling padhaneer. But mostly they were adulterated drinks and never were they as good as the ones sold by the lady who called it 'Theluvu' which I guess is nothing but Thelindha neer, a delicious and a healthy drink, which with a little endorsement would have been popular than the bottled drinks. 

                   Padhaneer with palm fruit is something new to me which I happened to taste in one of the southern districts during my recent road trip. The fruits are eaten with the skin on, apparently the bitter taste from the young palmfruits does more good than just eating the fruits without the skin. Old men in my family would actually devour palmfruit whole with skin and all. With skin or not both the drink and the fruit were such an energising early morning drink, that I drank to my heart's content after a very long time!  

Palm products are not to missed when visiting the southern district. Buying a whole lot of Palm jaggery which tastes like chocolate will not be a bad idea. Buying palm products from the place where it is made makes a lot of difference in taste and quality to the products that we get in our local market. So splurge on them without hesitation.

Halwa is not the only delicacy from the southern district that it is popular for. There are so many other food that many may not know. Andi paruppu or the roasted cashew with the skin is yet another popular snack not to be missed. It tastes a little sweet and delicious with a nutty flavour and not like the regular cashews that you get in the market. It's hard to stop eating once you have started, I used to gorge on them when young and nothing would stop me even now. It was actually sold only in one particular place earlier, the only spot that my father used to buy for a long time which is vadaseri in Nagercoil, but recently I have seen almost all tourist spots in the south selling these cashews which are usually of awful quality. This picture of the lady selling roasted cashews was shot in Nagercoil.

                     Few other foods that you must carry back are Kaimurukku, Mundrikothu, Appam which is actually adhirasam with a hole and off course chips. I don't know if these are available in the markets, because mostly these are made at home by some families and are made only on order( A relative of mine in Nagercoil gets us these everytime they visit and this time I had the chance to meet the charming lady who makes these at her home and happily shared the recipe for the Mundrikothu and Kaimurukku ) and the last not to be missed is the 'Matti pazham' the speciality fruit of Nellai, next to Sevvazhai and Nendrapazham. As I had mentioned earlier in one of my posts, people when visiting from Nellai don't come empty handed, they will at least make sure to bring one of these fruits with them and they will urge the elders to give it to kids. They are such highly nutritious fruits.

  There is so much to eat and so much to cook, which will be shared soon.

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