Every year Vinayaka Chathurthi is celebrated all over the world as the day on which Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi bestows his presence on this earth. Vinayaka Chathurthi in my home essentially marks the beginning of good times and of course all other festivals. In Madras, the entire shopping streets are filled with colourful umbrellas and lovely colourful statues of Ganeshas in all sizes and colours. Many people also prefer to buy the plain Ganeshas made of clay and decorate it with flower garlands. Amma and me used to go to PondyBazzar and she would let us choose the idol and the accompanying umbrella to go with it. One time I had a foldable umbrella that I had got during the chathurthi celebrations and refused to part with it for months!!! We would also get as assortment of fruits like wood apple, jamun fruit, apples etc and the signature pooja element which was a lovely green banana leaf, filled with “Arugampullu” and pink flowers. Laden with all this, we would come home excited to set up the mandal for the Lord.
Amma would have already cleaned and decorated the spot with lovely “maakolams“. Maakolam is different from the regular kolams that we use everyday outside out homes. Its simply rice soaked and ground to a fine paste and used to decorate the floors during weddings and festive seasons. The Kolam would be dry and Madurai amma would first place a wooden platform and cover it with silk. She would then gingerly place the Lord on the platform, decorate his neck with little garlands made of flowers and then place a dhoti around him. We would then finally position the colorful umbrella and the stage would be resplendent with his form. The naivedhyam would be Vella Kozhakattais, Uppu Kozhakattais and of course Ammini Kozhakattais. The fruits would be offered to him and Madurai amma would then start the pooja.
In the evenings, we would some times watch the procession of the Ganesha moving towards the beach. Many times, we would visit the nearby temples and get his blessings. Last year I made my own umbrella for the Lord, using sticks and colorful yarn. I also decorated my little silver Ganesha, in my pooja room with a cocktail umbrella!!!
There are essentially two ways of making the dough…One is by soaking the rice and grinding it, which is pretty elaborate but very tasty, and the other is using rice flour. I shall explain both the procedures below.
KOZHAKATTAI DOUGH BY SOAKING RICE:
1 cup of raw rice.
A pinch of salt.
Water as required.
- Soak the raw rice for 2-3 hours and grind in the mixer or grinder to a smooth batter. It does not matter how much water you use as it gets cooked in it finally.
- Pour the batter in to a kadai. Make sure that there are no clots and add 1/2 -3/4 spoon of salt and a spoon of coconut oil.
- Switch on the stove setting it on medium low and keep stirring to avoid clots.
- After a few minutes, you will find that the water content is rapidly used up to cook the rice batter, and it slowly thickens.
- After a few more minutes, it will thicken and be cooked. The signs for that is you will find that when you stir, it comes together as a ball.
- Also the whiteness of the raw rice will give way to a very slightly off white cooked rice ball.
- Immediately transfer to a bowl and add a spoon of coconut oil.
- With your hands, knead the ball inside the bowl by smoothing it and bring it together. This step is very integral as this is what binds the dough and takes away the stickiness.
- This is a VERY IMPORTANT step and many people fail at this point not doing this. Please use gloves if needed and keep kneading the dough until you feel its a pliable dough that can be shaped easily with no dryness and no cracks.
- At this point, the dough should be able to seamlessly shape in to a ball.
- Set aside in the bowl and cover with a lid.
KOZHAKATTAI DOUGH USING RICE FLOUR:
1 cup Rice Flour.
2 cups of water.
A pinch of salt.
2 -3 Tsp Coconut Oil.
Gloves if required to knead slightly hot/warm dough.
Bowl to knead the dough.
Ktchen Towel/ Damp Paper Towel.
- Please measure all ingredients ahead and keep everything required close at hand.
- In a kadai, pour the water, add coconut oil and salt and allow to boil.
- On spotting the first boil, immediately, simmer the stove and add the measured 1 cup of rice flour in to the water.
- Use a whisk and remove all the clots quickly. This step is very helpful to act quickly so you have no clots.
- With a spatula, rapidly stir in the mixture as if will thicken using the water to cook the rice.
- As before, keep stirring until you see that the water is all gone and the entire batter scoops up in your ladle as a single mass.
- Stir for a few more minutes until you are satisfied and the batter does not stick. This would happen ONLY if the water is not used up so do not fret.
- Transfer to a bowl, add 1-2 Tsp of coconut oil and knead well to form a homogeneous ball.
- This is a VERY IMPORTANT step and many people fail at this point not doing this. Please use gloves if needed and keep kneading the dough until you feel its a pliable dough that can be shaped easily with no dryness and no cracks. Add 1-2 Tsp oil if you require.
- Keep this dough covered with a damp kitchen towel and cover the bowl with a lid. This is required to keep the dough moist and not dry out.
- Now you are ready with the outer dough to start making Sweet and Salty Kozhukattais.