Madurai – Arguably has the most glorious history of all the Indian cities and conjures up images of so many many things for me – the Meenakshi Amman Temple, crowded roads, my Alma Mater, the station, KPN Bus Stand where I have spent many hours patiently waiting to board the bus which would take me back to Madras, mountains of freshly strung jasmine flowers and hawkers selling them, Dindigul Road where we used to go to buy books etc, and so many many things, As far as being a foodie goes, Madurai was literally food heaven -My favourites here are too many but still I am going to try to put them down as each name brings forth memories that have been buried in the back shelves of my brain! British Bakery, Hotel Guru Prasad, New College House, Hotel Supreme, the Idli Kadai close to my hostel which would dish out steaming hot Idlis in record time accompanied with mint and tomato chutneys, Raja Barley when I would get my favourite macroons and “Kuchi Muttai”, the mess hotel near the station, the bakery near my hostel, and finally the Nagapattinam Nei Mittai Kadai close to the temple.
This store is probably more than 60 years old but have maintained their quality and their demand. Their all time favourites are their Wheat Halwa which is served in dried lotus leaves piping hot, and the “Kizhangu Pottlam”. Literally translated to parcelled potatoes, these are deliriously spicy potato preparation thats only available for an hour in the mornings. People apparently bought them as a substitute when they are unable to cook the vegetable side at home. They simply buy a packet and almost used to function like a packet of chips would do in the present day. My mother used to have it when she was a little girl and her dad bought it for her. I had heard so much about this preparation and on my recent trip to India, I actually got a chance to try it. It was incredibly spicy yet delicious. I did recreate it at home but had to downgrade the spice levels on account of the kids 😦
1 Big Onion chopped.
4-5 Potatoes Boiled with salt.
1/4 Tsp Turmeric Powder.
2.5 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.
2 Tsp Besan/ Kadalai Maavu/ Gram Flour.
Salt to taste if needed.
Oil as needed.
A pinch of Kari Masaal ( Garam Masala)
1 Tsp Mustard.
1 tsp Broken Urad Dhal.
2 Red Chillies broken in to half.
10 Curry Leaves torn.
4-5 Grated Garlic.
1 Tsp Grated Ginger.
3 Tsp Fennel Seeds.
Mash the potatoes after removing the skin from it and patting it dry. Set aside.
In a kadai, add 2-3 tbsp oil and allow it to heat up.
Add the mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the broken urad dhal, fennel seeds, ginger, garlic and curry leaves. Instantly the aroma of fried fennel seeds wafts in the air and that’s the time you tip the diced onions in.
Add turmeric powder, red chili powder and adjust salt if needed.
Sauté until slightly brown and add the besan/ gramflour and allow it to fry in the oil.
Now add the mashed potatoes and mix them all together.
Add a pinch of Garam masala powder and mix them all in.
Garnish with another spoon of oil and chopped cilantro.
Serve hot with Vengaya Sambar, Tomato Rasam and Curd Rice.
Navarathri is a celebration of the Goddesses that protect us and are the very epitome of power and knowledge. I have already a detailed postexplaning the significance of this beautiful festival. Celebrating Navarathri also brings with it beautiful visions about Golu Dolls, celebrations, rustle of silk sarees, little girls decked in beautiful silk pavadais, excitement of visiting friends and families, singing songs in praise of Devi, and of course Sundal! When we were in college, it was even more exciting as we got to visit our friends every evening, for “vethalai paaku”. For the uninitiated, this is the customary practice of calling married women and unmarried girls to their homes for Golu – the festival of dolls. These women are offered the daily “prasadam” , and along with that “thamboolam” consisting of betel leaves, betel nuts, kumkum, sandalwood powder, turmeric, and many times a small gift.
As kids , it was always interesting to get all decked up and visit our friend and families for Golu. One of my aunts always made it a point to gift me glass bangles for Navarathri. She is not with us anymore, but I can never forget the little things that she would do for me on these special days. Of all the sundals that we make at home, TH and my kids love Nilakadalai sundal hands down. I love the fact that its so easy to make with no prior soaking and no fuss at all.
`1 Cup Raw Peanuts.
1 Tsp Salt.
1 1/2 Tsp Idli Molagaipodi.
2 Tsp Coconut Oil.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
1 Tsp Urad Dhal.
Hing as needed.
Wash the raw peanuts and transfer to a cooker vessel. Add just enough water to cover the peanuts, add salt and steam cook it for about 2-3 whistles. It should be soft and well cooked, but not mushy.
Drain the excess water but save it as you could use it in rasam, sambar etc.
Take a shallow kadai and add the coconut oil.
Add seasonings when hot and allow to fry in oil.
Once the mustard seeds have crackled. add the cooked peanuts.
Swirl for a couple minutes until the peanuts are coated well with the oil and the seasonings.
Finally add the 1 1/2 – 2 Tsp of Idli Molagappodi and mix well.
Crunchy Peanut Sundal packed with protein and nutrition is a very tasty snack and an easy Neivedhyam for Navarathri as it involves no prior soaking.
On days when your green vegetable is less, add Peanut Sundal as an extra protein source.
Baby Potatoes have always been a favorite at home. Whenever we find them at the local indian store, my older daughter immediately scoopes them in to a bag. She loves the Kashmiri Dum Aloo that I make to pair it with simple Jeera Pulav, or sometimes I settle for this simple Aloo Fry with traditional sambar and rasam. This is the best thing you can have for a sunday lunch.
2 Pounds Baby Potatoes.
1/2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder.
1 Tsp Dhania Powder.
1/4 Tsp Turmeric Powder.
Hing as needed.
Salt as needed.
Oil as needed.
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds.
1 Tsp Urad Dhal.
Baby potatoes are very interesting to make as they are bite sized wonders. Every potatoe thereore has to be filed with the goodness of the flavourings that will ultimately compliment the entire dish.
I always cook my potatoes in my electric rice cooker with water and salt. This is of course, after poking every potato with a fork to enable the salt to reach them.
Once they are cooked, drain all the water and allow to sit on a wide plate. Check to see if the potatoes are well done and if the salt has seeped into the vegetable.
Mix hing, little more salt, red chilli powder and turmeric in to a powder. Add about 3 Tsp of oil and make a paste.
Marinate the spice paste over the cooked potatoes and allow to sit for about 20 minutes.
Heat oil in a wok and add the seasonings – mustard seeds, urad dhal, curry leaves and hing.
Slowly add the marinated spiced potatoes in to the oil and allow to sear on a medium low flame.
Keep moving the potatoes around until they get cooked and seared on all sides.
When well done, remove the flame and garnish with finely chopped cilantro.
Some of our most favourite foods would always be comfort foods made by our mothers or grandmothers that we have grown used to eating over our childhood years. In fact all of the palakkad cuisine cooked at home, translates to comfort food for me many times, being so far away from home. Most of our comfort foods are those that are whipped up with very few ingredients and in a short time. This kootu is something of a comfort food made by my mother in law…Teamed with Jeera Pepper Rasam and Paruppu Urindai Kuzhambu, this is a keeper!!!
2 Zucchinis diced in to small pieces.
Handful of Peas.
1/2 cup Moong Dal.
Salt to taste.
Mustard to Season.
To Roast in Oil and Grind to a smooth paste:
1/2 Spoon Pepper.
3 Red Chillies.
4 Spoons of Split Urad Dal.
Pinch of Hing.
Handful of fresh coconut.
Cook the moong dal in water to a soft consistency. Mash and set aside.
Cook the zucchini in the microwave for 3 minutes. Set aside.
In a kadai, add a spoon of oil and season with mustard,hing and curry leaves.
Now add the cooked zucchini, peas, and the cooked moong dal. Add turmeric, salt and a pinch of hing and a little water if needed. Cook to bring them together for about 3-4 minutes.
Roast the ingredients listed above in a little oil and grind with water to a smooth paste.
Add the ground paste to the zucchini and stir in well.
Ahhh yes, beans has always been an all time favourite. Somehow in the varying order of planning my week`s vegetables, beans would figure more than once. A very versatile vegetables although low in calories are packed with enough nutrients . Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Plus green beans are very good source of vitamin A (notably through their concentration of carotenoids including beta-carotene), dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and iron. And, green beans are a good source of magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and niacin.Well, that was a pretty exhaustive list courtesy the World`s Healthiest Foods Foundation.
Here is a simple Beans Poriyal simplified from the Upperi that we make sloshed with redolent coconut oil. The aroma of clean coconut oil to any cooked food is simply irresistable to me.
1 pound green beans cut in to small pieces.
Salt to taste.
2 spoons of dried coconut flakes.
One spoon of coconut oil. (Canola could be used instead.)
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.
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.
Colocasia or Arbi or Sepangkizhangu, a starchy root tuber, very much similar to Potatoes, has always been a favourite. It`s slightly different from the potatoes , in that it is irregular shaped and has a slightly scaly skin. When boiled, it also gives out a slightly sticky feeling so its important that the tuber is not ovber cooked. Amma would not make it too often, but when she does D and me woud devour it right away. Many of my friends at school also loved her Arbi Fry. It`s not something that I do very regularly as it does need a little extra oil, more than I would be comfortable with…But when I do make it, I dont scrimp on the oil or the spices.
20 pieces or 1/2 kgs of Colocasia/Arbi/Sepangkizhangu.
1 1/2 spoons of Red Chilli Powder.
1 spoon of Besan and 1 spoon of Rice Flour.
A spoon of tamarind extract.
There are multiple varieties of this tuber available throughout the world and the one that I see in Indian and Chinese stores in the U.S are pretty bigger than their Indian counterparts.
Firstly wash and clean these tubers and put them, along with the skin in to the pressure cooker. Add salt and a little tamarind water and steam for about 7-8 minutes without weight.
When the steamed tubers are cooled, peel away the skin and cut them in to little cross sectional rings and place them to dry on a plate. Set aside for a few minutes.
Sprinkle salt on the arbi rings. In a little cup mix the red chilli powder, turmeric, besan, rice flour, and hing to form a powder. Add a pinch of Sambar Powder for added spice!!
Sprinkle this powder on the colocasia rings and allow a few minutes for it to stick.
Now take a non stick kadai and add 3 spoons of oil. When hot, add mustard seeds, urad dhal, curry leaves and hing and immediately the part steamed pieces of colocasia.
Add some more salt or chilli powder, if you need to at this point. Mix well and cover and cook on a low flame.
Add a little spoon of oil now and then so that the tubers dont burn. Keeo stirring the mixture carefully so all parts of the colocasia get cooked and also take care that they dont break.
In about 20-25 minutes they will be nicely done. Switch off and transfer to a serving bowl.
If you still want the roasted effect, spray a little oil, and pop it in to the oven at BROIL for 2 minutes alone.
Enjoy Delicious and crispy Sepangkizhangu/Arbi Fry with Vendekkai Sambar and Tomato Rasam.
The lowly vazhakkai was always a favourite vegetable for me although my mom was never such a great fan of it. I always saw how versatile this vegetable was….One could make it in to a fry, at home we always make simple “mozhukkuperatti” where its simply cooked, seasoned with mustard and curry leaves and smothered with coconut oil, use vazhakkai to make yummy “Thiruvadharai Upperi”, Vazhakkai Podimas and of course the easy Vazhakkai Chips on the slicer. I love all the forms of making this green plantain. I particularly prefer the malabar variety I guess for reason that I am used to it. I usually do not pick up the elongated variety thats available in the Indian stores.
This Vazhakkai fry is both easy and healthy as I precook it in a little water for a few minutes before actually sauteing it in the kadai to make a fry.This way, I lessen the total cooking time and also save on using a lof of oil, without compromising on taste…which I am sure you will agree once you try it too.
2 Green Raw Bananas or Vazhakkai.
1/2 spoon of tamarind paste (OR) i cup of diluted tamarind water.
1 spoon of Red Chilli Powder.
Salt as required
Peel the raw bananas and slice them vertically so they split in to two long halves. Now slice each half in to thin slices. Thin slices means easy cooking and less oil.
Put the chopped slices of raw bananans in a bowl containing a cup of tamarind water. Sprinkle a little salt and place on the stove for about ten minutes till they are half cooked. The time is only an indication, and might vary according to the vessel, gas/electric stove etc. The sliced pieces need to be a little cooked yet firm.
Drain the water and set aside. Now take the kadai and add 2-3 spoons of oil.
Add mustard, urad dhal and curry leaves and when mustard splutters, add the semi cooked vazhakkai slices.
Add hing, salt, turmeric, red chilli powder and stir well.
Keep the flame on medium and constantly stir so it does not stick to the bottom and blacken.