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Our home has expanded by two feet….

IMG_1914Of our darling princess, our second daughter….A baby does bring with it tremendous responsibilities and pressures, albeit very sweet and fulfilling. I will be on a short blogging break of course, nevertheless, less the good times flow.Thank you for all the wonderful words of encouragement and understanding.

See you all very soon.

Shoba

Naivedhyams/ Festival Offerings.

Thattai – Diwali Festive Treat Series – (Spiced rice balls flattened and deep fried).

Thattai.
Thattai.

Deepavali always brings in festivities and goodness to an already vibrant occassion. Preparations for Deepavali would start at least a week ahead of the festival with all of us pitching in for the making of the various sweets and savories all overseen briskly by Maduraiamma. She would keep ready large aluminum tins, washed and dried in the sun, for storing the various savories and sweets that we make for this yearly festival.

On the other hand, sweet shops like Surya Sweets, Sri Krishna Sweets. The Grand Sweets and Snacks, Suswaad,  etc have brisk business during this festive season stocking up on specialty items for people to buy and enjoy. One such store that makes amazing “Thattai” has been Surya Sweets in Abhiramapuram, Chennai. Their Thattais are amazingly big, thin and crisp and just right to munch with a glass of tea as an evening snack. This was taught to me by a dear aunt!!!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of Rice Flour.

1/8 cup of Urad Flour.

(This is obtained by slow roasting Urad Dhal in a dry kadai until it turns light brown and emits an aroma. Cool and grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or mixer).

1 tsp salt.

1 Tbsp Butter.

A handful of Chutney Dhal/Pottu Kadalai/ Daliya.

Hing.

3/4 spoon Red Chilli Powder (or as per taste).

10 curry leaves torn.

Water to bind the ingredients.

PREPARATION:

  • In a mixing bowl add butter, salt, hing, red chilli powder, curry leaves, pottu kadalai, rice flour and the roasted and ground urad dhal powder.
  • Mix it well dry and make sure all the ingredients are incorporated well.
  • Now gingerly pour the water so that the powders mix in well to become a homogenous mixture. There should not be any excess water.
  • The urad dhal powder acts as a binding agent for the various powders.
  • Make in to small 1 inch balls and set aside.
  • At this point, pour oil in to a kadai and place on medium heat on the stove.
  • Flatten the balls on a ziploc cover to make thin rounds.
  • Gently slip this in to the hot oil. Allow to cook well on one side and then flip over in the oil on the other.
  • When the bubbles subside, remove the “thattais” from the oil and allow to drain on a collander lined with tissue.
  • Continue and finish all the balls and store in an air tight container.
Festivals & Significance · Naivedhyams/ Festival Offerings.

Deepavali – Significance and Melee – Deepavali Sweets & Savouries.

Deepavali

Deepavali – The name itself conjures up memories of early morning oil baths, new clothes, sweets and savouries, families getting together to celebrate the occasion of the vanquishing of good over evil.Deepavali as a festival signifies, the conquest of light over darkness.To Hindus, darkness represents ignorance, and light is a metaphor for knowledge. Therefore, lighting a lamp symbolizes the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering.

Festival of Lights.
Festival of Lights.

Most of the best clothes that I have had all through my childhood would be bought for Deepavali. Many times, we would buy this over the Navarathri holidays and get it stiched and it would be most exciting to feel the fabric of silk through my fingers and wait for the big day with anticipation and longing!!! My grandmother would get up very early and have her oil bath and apply oil for all of us grandkids.  This practise signifies “Ganga Snan” or a holy dip in the Ganges. She would then give us the new clothes which we would gleefully adorn after getting her blessings. The kids would run outside to burst crackers. New clothes would be worn and Deepavali Sweets would be eaten by one and all.Some of the sweets and savouries that we make at home for Deepavali are listed here.

Diwali Bhakshanam
Diwali Bhakshanam

Deepavali Sweets & Savouries:

Special Madras Mixture.
Special Madras Mixture.

 

Rice Varieties.

Quick Fix Paneer Capsicum Rice. (For those instant night dinners and easy fix lunches!)

Quick Fix Paneer Capsicum Rice.
Quick Fix Paneer Capsicum Rice.

Many times, the menu for dinner or lunch is completely directed by the ingredients in the pantry. Most vegetables are bought from the store, with a particular preparation in mind, and most of the times, never really gets in to the Most Wanted Dish!!!  I would have selected fresh spring onions to make spring rolls or chinese noodles, but end up using them in soup instead, or even a kootu!!! Pudina would have been carefully selected, wrapped and stored to make spicy pudina rice, but could conveniently end up becoming a side dish in the form of Pudina Chutney for Dosa or Idlis!!! Last week I had got fresh capsicums to make Capsicum Subji that my husband loves, but ended up in a one pot dish for this Quick Fix Paneer Capsicum Rice!!!

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 Cups of Fragrant Basmati Rice cooked with 3 cups of water.

2 Fresh Capsicums sliced thin.

1/3 cup of Panner Cubes .

1 spoon of Ghee.

A Pinch of Garam Masala.

Seasoning:

1 spoon of Somph/ Shahi Jeera.

8 Green Chillies slit vertically.

1/2 Spoon of Jeera

1 0r 2 Bay Leaves.

4 Cloves.

A few Broken Cashew Halves.

Curry Leaves.

PREPARATION:

  • Take a wide mouthed kadai and add 2 spoons of ghee. Allow to heat.
  • Add the seasonings one by one – Cloves, Shahi Jeera, Jeera, Cashews, slit green chillies and curry leaves. Allow to saute for a few minutes and for the aromas to waft. This is important as at this point the spice of the chillies sink in to the oil.
  • Add the chopped capsicum pieces and mix in well with the seasonings. Add sufficient salt for the capsicum.
  • Keep the cooked rice spread out on a plate so it removes the starchiness from them.
  • In a few minutes the capsicum begins to sweat and reduce in size and quantity.
  • Add the cooked rice, salt for the rice, a pinch of your favourite garam masala and mix in well.
  • Now at this stage, add the chopped paneer and finish up the rice by adding a garnish of chopped cilantro.
  • This rice preparation is very simple and very flavourful as the main aroma comes from the seasonings and the chillies.
  • Serve with simple Onion Raita or Dal Makhani.

HINTS:

  • Peas can be added for more nutrition and taste.
  • Onions can be sauted too for added flavour.
Sambar / Rasam / Kuzhambu Varieties.

Delicious Onion VethalKuzhambu.( Onions sauteed with spices and powders and simmered in tamarind gravy).

Onion Vethakuzhambu.
Onion Vethakuzhambu.

I had been wondering why on earth I had not posted this everyday recipe that my mom used to make. It has been an eternal favourite of mine since the day I have had it with Alu Fry. I remember when we were little, my sister D would want this everyday. Mom would keep it special over the weekend and she would have it with a side, with curd rice and every other dish possible. In my opinion, this gravy gets redolent with flavour and aroma at least a day after it has been prepared. There is no great secret recipe or ingredient….only small little things that have to be kept in mind, added a little ahead or later. Here is my recipe for the same.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 of  a Big Onion or 1 Medium sized red onion.

1 1/2 cups of Tamarind Water extract.

1 1/2 spoons of Sambar Powder.

Salt

Curry Leaves.

Turmeric

1 Spoon of Ghee.

1 Spoon of Rice Flour diluted in 1/3 cup of water.

PREPARATION:

  • Keep all the ingredients ready before preparation. Chop the onions in to fine pieces.
  • Toss a kadai on the stove, and add a spoon of ghee/oil. When hot, add mustard, curry leaves, 2-3 somph, and immediately the chopped onions.
  • Allow to saute well and when beginning to turn light brown, add the sambar powder.
  • Roughly saute for a few minutes and then add  the prepared tamarind water extract.
  • Add salt, turmeric, a little more curry leaves and allow to boil and reduce. Keep it on medium flame.
  • When the water content is reduced to at least half, add the rice flour dissolved in water and mix well.
  • Keep for a couple more minutes and switch off. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

HINT:

Serving Suggestion: Onion Vethakuzhambu & Alu Fry.

Naivedhyams/ Festival Offerings.

Navarathri Pooja Tamboolam Offerings:

Navarathri Tamboolam.
Navarathri Tamboolam.


In the hindu ritualistic vedic poojas, every diety is worshipped by offering 16 services called the “Shodasa Upacharas”. Poojas have basically a two fold purpose. The first is the Baahya Pooja or the rituals we perform outwardly for the Deity, like offering flowers and fruits, incense, neivedhyam etc. It is an expression of our faith and reverence.Perfoming it in a systematic, time tested ritualistic manner is better as it gives better results. It also gives you discipline and better satisfaction & peace of mind.

But apart from that there is a deeper and greater spiritual significance behind the rituals and that is why they were prescribed and practiced by millions of our ancient seers. Understanding this,is known as Antah-Pooja. A vedic ritual is never a meaningless act. They all have deep rooted spiritual, philosophic significance.

Baahya Pooja is the formula. Antah Pooja is understanding and applying the formula  to get better results and achieve greater heights. These are the  steps involved in the Baahya Pooja:

  • Avahana – Welcoming the deity.
  • Asanam – Offering seat
  • Padyam – Washing the feet
  • Aarghyam – Washing the hands
  • Achamanam – Offering water to drink (to wash mouth).
  • Snanam – Bathing
  • Vastram – Offering clothes.
  • Yagnopaveetam – Offering sacred thread.
  • Aabharanam – Offering ornaments
  • Gandham – Offering Sandalwood paste
  • Pushpam – Offering flowers and doing pooja.
  • Dhoopam – Offering perfumed Incense
  • Deepam – Offering a lighted lamp.
  • Naivedyam – Offering food.
  • Taamboolam – Offering beetle leaves with caustic and beetle nut
  • Pradakshina Namaskaram – Circumambulation and salutation of the deity.

Tamboolam consits of beetle leaves, beetle nut and caustic represent the three avasthas or states of the human being – jagrad, swapna and shushupti or waking, dreaming and sleeping states. Offering Tamboolam is the effort to go beyond these states – i.e. to the nirvikalpa state. When we offer Tamboolam to a woman or a kanya girl, we see them as a form of Goddess Durga and thus salute them as such.

The Tamboolam plate typically consists of the following:

Betel Leaves.

Betel Nuts.

Areca Nuts.

Kumkum.

Turmeric.

Small Mirror.

Comb.

Bangles.

Fruits – Bananas, Apples, Oranges etc.

Neivedhyam like Sundal, Chakkara Pongal etc.

Small gifts for kanya girls like Chains, Bracelets, Earrings etc.

Blouse Bits for Married Women.

Many times, we also offer little silver kumkum containers, sarees etc to important women in the family and our elders. It is customary to salute their feet and humbly  offer the Tamboolam, seeking their blessings.