Did you know that the botanical name of the Ridge Gourd/ Peerkangai/ Beera Kaya is actually Luffa Acutangula??? Awesome, coz I did`nt! And that the vegetable is the unripe form of the fruit itself? And the mature ripe fruits are used to make natural cleaning sponges??? That’s how the Loofah was born I guess. The Ridge Gourd was never used in my maternal home as a vagetable and I never even knew its existence. I have seen a couple of my friends use it in chutneys, thogayals, kootu and even pickles. I loved this version by Kaveri and adapted it to my own recipe for a regular thogayal.
A normal boring everyday meal can get totally zinged up by just adding a Thogayal/ Pachadi. Every time I make Keerai Molagootal or Pumpkin Molagootal , I love to spice things up with a Vendakkai Thayir Pachadi or a Sweet and Tangy Kathirikkai Pachadi. On lazy summer afternoons, just adding a couple tender mangoes or Maavadu to left overs, makes a comforting meal in itself! I always try to use vegetables in these thogayals as they add to the nutritive quotient at the same time almost rendering an effect equal to having Spicy Lemon Pickle etc. This is one of my husband`s absolute favorite and in recent days mine too. It`s the same formula just as in the Onion Thokku – saute the vegetable, slow roast dry ingredients in oil, throw in some tamarind for some zing, pulse, season!
1 Big Long Peerkangai / Ridge Gourd.
2 1/2 Tbsp Urad Dhal.
2 Red Chillies.
A small ball of tamarind.
1/3 Cup Coconut.
1/4 Tsp Hing.
1 handful Corriander Leaves.
Salt to taste.
1 Tsp Gingely Oil.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
- Wash, peel and chop the ridgegourd in to cubes. Set aside.
- In a kadai add about 2 tsp oil and slow roast the urad dhal and red chillies until the dal turns a dull brown colour. Transfer to a mixer jar after it cools.
- In the same kadai, add the chopped ridge gourd and the tamarind and saute until cooked.
- Once the ridge gourd is cooked, add the salt else it will release water and reduce in volume.
- Pulse the dry roasted ingredients in the mixer for a couple turns.
- Add the cooked ridgegourd, tamarind, salt, coconut, corriander leaves and a little hing and pulse until smooth. You will not require water as the ridge gourd would be soft, but add a few drops if too dry.
- Transfer to a serving dish.
- Season in gingely oil with mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing and pour over the thogayal.
- Excellent accompaniment with Idlis or Dosa.
- Mix with hot rice with a dollop of gingely oil and enjoy Peerkangai Thogayal Sadam.
I remember the very first time I had Rava Idlis at a small Idli Kadai in Madurai, during my post graduation days. Those were the days of terrible hostel food, no canteen in the college and crazy study schedules. After a tiring day at business school, we would come back home to a terrible canteen that seemed to be suspiciopusly out of vegetarian food at all times. We were forced to look outside for better food, and Madurai, being the best place in the whole world to find all kinds of south indian food at any time of the day ( or night)! On one such occasion, a group of us had gone for getting dinner and the joint was out of Idlis. He asked us to come back in twenty minutes and had steaming hot Rava Idlis ready for us! Served piping hot with spicy coconut chutney, it seemed Godsent! With time, I learnt the art of making fluffy soft Rava Idlis at home and add vegetables for added nutrition. This is an easy way to whip up dinner for times when your refrigerator is near empty, and you need to make a wholesome breakfast or dinner. The best thing I love about these Idlis are they are super easy to make and they use the ingredients that are almost readily available in your pantry. Pop in the vegetables you have – Peas, Grated Carrots, chopped beans etc and the kids will actually love it.
2 Cups Roasted Rava.
1 Medium Onion Chopped fine.
1/2 Cup Finely Grated Carrots.( I have not added this time)
1/2 Cup Peas.
1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro.
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda or Eno.
2 Tsp Salt.
2 Cup Curd/ Thick Buttermilk.
2-3 Tsp Oil.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
1 Tsp Urad Dhal.
1/2 Tsp Channa Dhal.
6-8 cashews broken.
- Pour out the oil for seasoning and allow a couple minutes before adding mustard seeds. urad dhal. channa dhal, cashew, curry leaves and hing.
- When its well roasted, add the chopped onions and allow to saute until light pinkish brown.
- Now add the measured 2 cups of rava and stir it in for a couple minutes.
- Switch off the flame and transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Add chopped beans, peas, grated carrots , cilantro, and salt, using a ladle incoporate them well.
- Add the curd/ buttermilk to the rava mixture little by little until you get a thick batter consistency.
- Dust in the baking soda and mix. The rava mixture would rapidly start using the moiusture in the curd and thicken.
- Add a little more of the curd to enable the batter to loosen up a bit.
- Allow to sit on the counter top for about 10 minutes.
- Grease the idli plates and fill the depressions with the rava idli batter.
- Cook for about ten minutes and when there is a strong steam, simmer and switch off in ten minutes.
- Else cook like how you would with regular Idlis.
- Serve HOT with Andhra Style Tomato Till Chutney.
“Cooking is like Love; It should be entered in to with abandon, or not at all”
Cooking has always been a wonderful way for me to express my ramblings, except otherwise when I do it on paper! Many days when I feel upset or a little down, cooking has always been therapy. It`s also the thought that there are people I love, who enjoy eating what I cook! Festivals always always make me extremely chirpy and happy as I love succumbing in to the rituals of a tradition hundreds of years old, including my kids in to explaining the reasons behind such time tested traditions, dressing up in traditional attires and jewellery, and of course the food…The Food!!! Every religious celebration has very different offerings, with its own significances. Chakkara Pongal and Venn Pongal for Pongal, Nombu Adai for Karadaiyar Nombu, Kozhukattais for Lord Ganesha, Cheedai and Murukku for Lord Krishna on the celebration of his birthday, different Sundal Varieties for Navarathri and so on and so forth. Nei Appam is one such traditional preparation that we make for Karthigai Deepam, Deepavali, Avani Avittam, Aadi Perukku etc. This is a quick fix version when you dont have the time to soak raw rice and grind. I still prefer the traditional method, but this was something that my MIL taught me to do whenever I have not planned it in advance.
1 Cup Rice Flour.
1 Cup Wheat Flour.
11/4 Cup Grated Jaggery/ 11/2 Brown Sugar.
1/4 Cup Finely chopped coconut slivers. (Optional)
1 1/2 Tsp Powdered Cardamom.
2-3 Pinches Baking Soda. ( 1 Ripe Banana Mashed)
1 1/4 – 11/2 Cups Milk.
- Quickly measure out the dry ingredients – Rice Flour, Wheat Flour, Jaggery/ Brown Sugar, Cardamom, Baking Soda and pop them all in to a open mouthed bowl.
- Whisk it and mix all the ingredients with a spoon.
- If you want to use a mashed banana instead of the baking soda, add the mashed pulp to the bowl.
- Now warm up the milk and slowly pour in to the bowl.
- Using a whisk, mox it all in little by little. Start by pouring 1 cup and add more as you need little by little.
- The consistency of the batter should resemble a thick idli batter. Not too runny.
- Allow it to sit on your counter for about ten to twenty minutes.
- Take the tradional Appam Pan with the hemispherical indeentations or use the Ebelskiver pan available in the specialty kitchen stores like Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table and even Amazon.
- Fill up the depressions with oil/ ghee and set on the stove on medium heat.
- Once then oil/ghee is hot enough, pour out the batter with a ladle slowly to fill about 75% of the depression.
- This should take about 2-3 minutes to cook on one side. Using a knife, or a skewer, tip it over to get the other side cooked.
- When the oil stops bubbling, carefully drain the appams on to a clean dry container lined with a napkin to drain out the excess oil.
- Continue until all the batter is complete.
- Easy Nei Appam is ready with just about ten mins of prep work!