Ginger root is a very very tricky spice for me. It is a warm spice, that adds a lot of warmth to many dishes, but one that cannot stand up by itself as its way too over powering. Another such spice is the nutmeg. I love love adding ginger to hot tea, or in piping ginger rasam. Its an important ingredient in indo chinese cooking, specially the Indo CHinese Fried Rice, which is a favourite of mine or the GInger Capsicum Fried Rice. I hate ginger in cakes or icing or even in a warm pumpkin bread. I cannot eat even a pinch of the candied ginger that is supposed to aid in digestion. No thank you. I can have the tums or digene any day!!! The only only dish where ginger is a star ingredient which I love to have is the Inji Puli.
I remember hostel days when my friend Rose, used to bring jars of Inji Puli from her home town of Trichur when she would return from her vacation. After that we would have Inji Puli over bread, along with Maggi, as a side for chappathis, idlis or even dosas. Dinners would be awesome with all of us sitting together, discussing college gossips, eating piping hot dosas with sweet and spicy Inji Puli. At that time, I remember asking Rose how to make this and vaguely remembered the procedure. She kept telling me it was important to fry the ginger for that authentic taste. This was almost 13 years ago but then I decided to try it out from memory and with help from online sources, I perfected the recipe for Inji Puli.
2 Cups Tamarind Water.
4-5 Tsp Brown Sugar.
1 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.
1/4 Cup Finely chopped ginger.
salt to taste.
i Tbsp Coconut oil.
1 Tsp mustard Seeds.
Pinch of Hing
4-5 Fenugreek Seeds.
Chop the ginger after peeling it and set aside.
In a wok add 2 tsp of coconut oil and when its hot, add the chopped ginger. Shallow fry on low flame for abour 2-3 mins until the ginger is light brown. Set aside.
In the tamarind water, add brown sugar, turmeric powder. salt, and red chilli powder, and mix them all in.
Set over medium flame until the raw smell is gone add the fried ginger and allow to simmer.
Place a kadai on the stove and add a spoon of coconut oil. Season with curry leaves, mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds and hing. When they splutter add it to the tamarind gravy.
Set the flame to medium low and allow the gravy to simmer down until its slightly thick. If needed that this point you could add 1 tsp of rice flour dissolved in 2 tbsp of water and add this to the inji puli, as this helps in instantly thickening the gravy.
Remove and store airtight in a glass jar, which will preserve for weeks.
Coconut Oil is a very important and essential ingredient to achieve the authentic taste of the Inji Puli. Please do not substitute with gingely or canola oil.
Frying the ginger on medium low flame until the ginger brown imparts the dish with a unique flavour of the ginger without the sense of overpowering the entire dish. It pllays along nicely with the tamarind and the brown sugar/jaggery.
Using brown sugar was option for me. You could also use about 3 tbsp of jaggery. Please use a little less and depending on the strength of the ginger. tartness of the tamarind, play with the quantoties of the jaggery. There should be a sweetness that is not too sweet nor too less.
The complimenting Neivedhyam for Thiruvadharai Kali would be the Upperi or rather a version of select steamed vegetables, spiced generously with ground coconut and green chillies. The Upperi as I remember is a combination of various tubers and roots that are combined and cooked to get the most delicious preparation. I remember as a child, when Thiruvadharai was around the corner, I knew a trip to the local crowded vegetable market at Ranganathan Street would happen pretty soon. Since the monsoons would have just finished, it would be a herculean task, just to walk in that crowded street. My friend would quip light heartedly that all one needs to do, was to stand at the beginning of Ranganathan street…the crowd would pull you to the very end!!! That said, one would hardly look forward to a weekend trip here, coming back with bagfulls of tubers and vegetables. Nevertheless, it had to be done…every year unfailingly, until, one day Madurai amma was convinced about buying it from the vegetable man, pulling his own cart, quoting his own fancy price.
1/2 cup chopped Raw Banana.
1/2 cup chopped Potatoes.
1/2 cup chopped Kavathu Kazhangu.
1/2 cup Flat Bean/Avaraikka slit in to 1 inch square pieces.
1/2 cup Koorkai / Chinese Potatoes
1/2 cup Mochai / Valor Lilva.
1/2 cup Sweet Potatoes.
1/2 cup fresh coconut.
4-5 green chillies.
2 spoons of coconut oil.
Mustard, Curry Leaves, Hing.
Remove the skins from the potatoes, raw banana, sweet potatoe, Koorkai, Kavathu , wash and chop them in to slightly big one inch pieces.
Arrange them in the base of a cooker vessel.
Next arrange the valor lilva/mochai over the root tubers.
Now chop the Avaraikka / flat bean over the valor lilva and add enough water for the vegetables to cook.
We keep the root tubers at the base as they would need to cook more.
Add salt and turmeric and steam in the pressure cooker for 1 whistle.
Remove from cooker and allow to cool.
Grind the coconut and green chillies to a rough paste and set aside.
In a kadai, add coconut oil, mustard, curry leaves and hing and slowly add all the cooked vegetables without breaking them with the spatula.
Mix well for a couple of minutes and then add the ground coconut paste.
Allow a couple minutes for the coconut mix to spread on to the vegetables.
Offer Thiriuvadharai Upperi to the Lord as Neivethyam.
Every year, the month of “Marghazi” is of very special significance as it heralds new beginnings, the new year, the music season in Tamil Nadu made redolent with the myraid performances of senior music stalwarts in the various halls, Vaikunta Ekadasi, and of course Thiruvadharai. When I actually embarked on the significance of this day I found so many different versions, all of them confluencing on the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva.
This festival occurs on the day of the Arudra star in the tamil month of Marghazi, and is of course of special significance to Lord Shiva. This day also marks the auspicious time for Arudra Darisanam – of Lord Nataraja in the Saivite temples all over Tamilnadu. This celebration is marked by abhishekams to Nataraja and his consort Sivakami during the full moon night, and worship services such as the Deepa Aradhanai to Natarajar amidst the chanting of sanskrit and tamil hymns and the waving of lamps, in the pre-dawn hours, when the moon still shines bright, an enactment of the dance of Shiva, and a grand procession through the processional streets.
Although there is a shrine to Natarajar, in virtually all of the Saivite temples in Tamilnadu, five of these are considered to be the Pancha Sabhais or the five cosmic dance halls of Shiva. The five dance halls are:
Coconut is an integral part of my cooking but I have particularly brought down the levels of coconut on account of health concerns. My gradmother on the other had is of the opinion that anything had in small quantities can never be too much. Its only when you consume too much of anything, does it become bad for the health. I remember Madurai amma lavishing fresh coconut in Avail and Sevai and Elissery etc. This instant version of Coconut Sevai is a personal favourite on account of its ease of preparation, nevertheless yielding tasty and wholesome results everytime.This version is slightly different as I have also incorporated Thayir Molagaa as a seasoning ingredient….for additional flavour and taste.
1/2 pack of Rice Noodles or Instant Sevai cooked as per instructions and sprinkled with a spoon of Coconut Oil.
1 Tsp Ginger Chopped fine.
3-4 Fried Thayir Molagaa or Mor Molagaa.
3/4 cup of Fresh Coconut.
2 Tsp of Broken Urad Dhal soaked in some water for ten minutes.
3 Green Chillies chopped fine.
5-7 cashew halves.
Salt to taste.
Prepare the Rice Sevai/Rice Sticks using the instructions provided in the packaging. While allowing it to boil, add 2 drops of coconut oil in the water for added flavour and aroma. Drain in a collander.
In a small cup soak the broken urad dhal in water and set aside for ten minutes., This adds volume and flavour in terms of seasoning to the dish.
Take a non stick kadai and place on the stove. Add 3 spoons of coconut oil (optionally Canola/Refined Oil) and when its beginning to get hot, add the “mormolaga” so it fries in the oil. (This ingredient is completely optional)
Now add chopped ginger, cashews, curry leaves, hing , mustard and when it splutters, add the soaked urad dhal after draining off all the water.
Saute for a couple of seconds and then add the grated coconut to the kadai.
Bring the flame to sim and now saute the coconut along with the spices, for 4-5 minutes.
The white fluffy coconut, after sauteing in the oil for a few minutes turns to a dull brown colour and also emits a wonderful aroma. Be very careful to keep the flame only on low as if the heat is more it would burn the delicate grated coconut .
At this point, add the rice noodles/sevai/rice sticks and mix well adding sufficient salt for the sevai.
Vazhakkai as in Raw Bananas already mentioned are a favourite in my family. They are readily available and when properly preserved in the refrigerator, almost stays fresh for a week or more. I never make raw bananas the day I buy them, unless I am tempted to slice them to topple in hot oil to make fresh fresh chips spiced with salt and red chilli powder. This time I was having a very good friend visiting and I made this for dinner. It`s a very healthy preparation as it basically cooks the raw bananas in water until they are half done, grates them and completes spicing it up on the kadai. Easy, healthy and of course quick.
2 Raw Bananas.
5 cups of water.
3 spoons of boiled rice.
1 spoons of toor dhal.
1 spoon of bengal gram.
1 spoon of Dhania.
5 Red Chillies.
Splice the raw banana in to two halves. without peeling the skin off. In other words, keep the skin and stalk on intact.
Put a container with 5-6 cups of water on the stove and allow to heat.
Now drop the raw banana halves in to the water and close with a lid. Allow approximately 6-7 minutes of cooking time.
Switch off the heat and allow a few minutes to cool. Drain off all the water and now you will be able to easily peel the skin off.
The bananas should be half cooked and firm and not mushy as this will render them impossible to be grated.
Grate the half cooked banans and spread them on a plate. Sprinkle salt and hing and allow to settle.
Roast the boiled rice, toor dhal, bengal gram, red chilies and the curry leaves and grind to a coarse powder in the mixer.
In a kadai, add 2 spoons of oil, mustard seeds, urad dhal, curry leaves and hing and then the grated raw banana.
Mix well and then add the roasted ground powder. Add another 2 spoons of oil and switch off when done.
Many days the staple diet at home, when I was growing up, used to be Pumpkin Molagootal. I guess it was cooked so often as it was pretty easy to make, uses less ingredients, and since the main vegetble is Pumpkin, its a very healthy preparation. On a day when you would want to eat healthy and finish cooking without a fuss, Molagootal would be an easy option. Goes very well with some thing tangy like Inji Pulikachal, Brinjal Puli Pachadi, Vendekkai Thayir Pachadi, Maavadu, Maanga Curry or any kind of pickles too specially lemon. Since it can be had with so many sides, every side dish, almost makes you feel like you have made a completly different menu combination.
2 cups of cubed pieces of pumpkin and cucumbers.
A pinch of Turmeric.
1/2 spoon of Red Chilli Powder.
1/2 spoon of Fresh/Dessicated Coconut.
1 spoon of Jeera.
1/2 cup of cooked toor dhal.
Coconut Oil, Mustard Seeds and Curry Leaves.
Place the chopped vegetables in a wide vessel. Add 1/2 cup of water, turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt and cook it in the pressure cooker for just one whistle.
Drain out the water and save in a container. Put the cooked veggies on to a kadai and place on the stove.
Grind fresh coconut with jeera using this water saved from cooking the vegetables , and make a smooth paste. Set aside.
Add ground paste, cooked and mashed toor dhal, a little more salt, hing, curry leaves and allow to boil. Adjust the water a little bit if you feel that the consistency is way too thick.
In a seasoning ladle, add 2 spoons of coconut oil, mustard, curry leaves, broken urad dhal and pour over the Molagootal.
I had already posted Tamarind Sevai or Puli Sevai in my previous post using rice sticks. But having actually made the fresh Sevai, I decided to go all the way and flavour it with tamarind just like I normally do. There are days, when you really go through the pantry, wondering what to cook, and to get it done with. On those days I simply flavour rice sticks with some home made “pulikachal” or even the store bought 777 variety. It does taste great with the baked vegetable chips from Trader Joes my favourite store!!! Today was one of those days when I really enjoyed my cooking and dedicated myself to it. I do really love to cook and put my heart in to making it for my loved ones…Those days there are no shortcuts and mishaps – It`s traditional cooking and the taste is pretty delectable.