November 30, 2007

Mixed Lentil Chutney Powder (Milagaipodi/ Mulagapodi)

This is a coarse chutney powder made of dals (lentils), dried red chillies and asafetida, and to be found in most Palakkad Iyer and Tamil kitchens. Also pronounced as molagapodi by us, it is popularly known among the rest of the non-Tamil Indians as “gun powder” because of its level of spice from red chillies (milagai/ molagai) in it. Home-made versions are usually less spicier and when it is mixed with oil the spice levels are less discernible to the tongue. Milagipodi/ molagapodi is best eaten with idlis though it is excellent with dosas as well.

Usually, Milagapodi is made with urad dal and chana dal in a 2 or 3: 1 ratio.
In the version I make at home, I have incorporated a wider variety of dals. This gives a different but nice and nutty taste to the powder. I would like to believe this is healthier (though adding oil ensures health goes out of the window and calories come in)!

 Mixed Lentil Chutney Powder (Milagaipodi/ Mulagapodi)


1 cup urad dal (use 1/2 white and 1/2 black skinned varieties if possible)

1/4 cup chana dal

1/4 cup whole moong (dal is also ok)

1/4 cup whole masoor (dal is ok)

2tbsp white sesame seed

8 -10 red chillies or according to taste

1/2 tsp asafetida powder

salt to taste


Dry roast the sesame seeds till they start popping. Keep aside. Similarly, dry roast all the dals, separately, till light brown. While the last dal to be roasted is almost done add the chillies and asafetida. Allow to cool.
Dry grind all the ingredients together with salt to a somewhat coarse powder. Store in airtight glass or steel containers.

(Clockwise from the left side of the red chillies: Skinned whole urad dal, whole urad dal, split moong dal, whole moong dal, whole masoor dal, split chana dal, split tuvar dal and the powder is asafetida)

To serve, take a large spoon of the chutney powder and add spoonfuls of oil, as required. Mix to a thickish flowing consistency.
The ultimate combination would be idlis with milagaipodi. For me personally, if milagaipodi is available (and it always is in my home), then I would definitely give sambhar and chutneys a miss. My daughter totally agrees with me here.
In fact, she almost always adds a bit of sugar to the milagaipodi and oil which my husband refers to as Akshaya’s “concrete”!!! He prefers his idlis and dosas with chutney or sambhar, though.

Traditionally, we use either sesame seed (gingelly) oil or “varutha ennai” (fried oil - direct translation) for Milagapodi. Varutha ennai is oil left over from frying pappads or other food and is never reused for frying. It has an interesting flavour. Regular cooking oil is just fine, too.
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November 27, 2007

Cardamom Bread

love baking bread, even though I am only just beginning to get the hang of it. I have tried making some different kinds with reasonable success (I think). I was looking for something new to try out when I came across an announcement on Sticky Date for baking a bread with a spice (Bread and Spices). This seemed a good idea and I searched the net for some ideas. I wanted to see if I could find something different.

I finally decided on was Cardamom Bread. Cardamom is a spice that is almost always found in Indian kitchens. We use it in a lot of sweets and desserts and some regular cooking too. But cardamom in bread seemed unusual.
Cardamom bread is a sweet yeast bread of Scandinavian origin which is good served at breakfast, with coffee, or as a light dessert, according to Wikibooks. The Swedish Cardamom Bread, Finnish Pulla or Nisu and the Pakistani Taftan are some examples. Today, cardamom bread is baked in various parts of the world and is part of Christmas baking in many of them.
More information on cardamom can be found here.

I decided to work with Mike Swanson’s recipe. I made some changes. I had run out of butter so I used oil instead. I also couldn’t resist substituting some of the flour with whole wheat flour. Here is the recipe.

Cardamom Bread
3/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup oil (I used sunflower + rice bran)
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar + 2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp cardamom powder

Mix the warm milk and oil and add the yeast. Mix and keep for 10 minutes to prove. Add all the other ingredients and knead well into a dough by hand or with a hand mixer. The dough can be a bit sticky so lightly oil your hands. Cover and keep aside to double in volume.
Then push the dough back and divide into 3 long strips and rest the dough for 10 minutes. Pinch together the strips at one end and braid, folding both ends under neatly. Place on a greased sheet, cover to prevent drying out and allow to rise (takes about an hour).
Brush with water and sprinkle the 2 tsp sugar over the top evenly. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes till the top is nicely brown.

This bread is mildly sweet, very soft and flaky with a light crust. When the bread is almost done, the lovely smell of cardamom takes over the entire house. There were only a few crumbs left a couple of hours after I baked the bread!! Need I say anything more?

This bread goes to be part of Bread Baking Day # 04 hosted by Baking History
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November 25, 2007

Eggless Cornflakes Cookies

Our daughter, then somewhere in between 11 and 12, was one of the reasons I started my blog. She was convinced that my cooking needed to be out there and shared with others. She therefore used to have this feeling that she was an important part of my blogging effort and would often find the time to come sit with me to see what I was blogging about.

When she saw me wondering if I should post something for Nandita's Weekend Breakfast Blogging , and that the ingredient this month was cornflakes, she wanted to make some cookies and have me send them in. I bake cookies quite often and Akshaya usually helps make them (she also tests the dough/ batter and the finished cookies, of course).

These Cornflakes Cookies are pretty uncomplicated and easy enough to make, so easy that my daughter often makes them by herself.  These are free of eggs but quite buttery with the cornflakes adding a nice crunch to the cookies. This cookie is one of those that I often make when I suddenly need to bake up a batch and have saved me on many an occasion. They're also extremely popular with children and adults alike. 
Eggless Cornflakes Cookies

(Slightly adapted from Tarla Dala's recipe)



100 gm butter, softened

1/2 cup castor sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup crushed cornflakes, not powdered


Beat the sugar and butter till quite smooth. If the sugar stays granular it contributes to the texture of the cookies. Add all the other ingredients and blend well into a dough.

Pinch off pieces, roll and slightly flatten. Place on greased or non-stick tray and bake at 180 C for about 20-25 minutes till golden brown. Cool on a rack and store (if they last).

Akshaya forgot to put in the baking powder but they still turned out good, perhaps a bit flatter than usual.
This recipe makes about 12 cookies.

This goes to Weekend Breakfast Blogging # 17 being hosted by Nags this month.
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November 23, 2007

Chickpea (Garbanzo bean) and Cabbage Curry

cousin of mine came over to lunch yesterday. She and husband are moving to Kochi next month and she was in town to see apartments and such stuff.
We had rice, ladiesfinger (okra) sambar, a carrot and tomato salad, chickpea and cabbage curry with yogurt, of course!
Here is how to put together the curry. It is healthy (very little oil, so low on calories), tasty and very easy to make. The only thing is you need to have cooked chickpeas on hand.

I usually soak larger quantities of chickpeas, cook and drain them well. Then I divide them into convenient portions and freeze them. This way, whenever I need chickpeas for some cooking, I can defrost/ thaw them.

Chickpea (Garbanzo bean) and Cabbage Curry


1 1/2 cups cooked (firm and not mushy) chickpeas
1 1/2 cups chopped cabbage
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsps urad dal
1/4 tsp asafetida powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 -3 green chillies, slit lengthwise
1 sprig curry leaves
salt to taste
1 tsp oil


Cook the cabbage in the microwave at 100% for 7 minutes.
Heat the oil, add the mustard seeds and allow to splutter. Add the urad dal and allow to brown slightly. Now add the asafetida powder, chillies and curry leaves. Stir once, then add the cabbage, chickpeas, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well and cook for about 2 -3 minutes. Take off heat. Serve warm.
If you don’t use a microwave, after adding the curry leaves add the cabbage and ½ a cup of water. Allow to cook till dry then add the chickpeas, etc and proceed. It will taste as good, only take slightly longer to make.

This goes to Anjali’s Chole Mela at Anna Parabrahma.
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November 22, 2007

Dinner Rolls

As I have mentioned somewhere on my blog (my first post, I think), I love baking. The first thing I made in the kitchen (apart from helping my mother when I was younger) was chappathis. The next was a simple cake. This was when I was in high school. I still remember we had one of those ovens where the gas flames were lit at the bottom and if you weren’t careful, your cake would be beautifully burnt on one side!!!
Thank God for advances in technology. Now, I just need to pre-set the oven and it beeps when the baking is done.
While I managed cakes ok, my dream was to bake good bread. To me, the aroma of fresh bread baking in my oven is one of those fulfilling experiences. I have finally through a lot of trial and error (more errors than I care to mention), got around to making passable bread.
I make dinner rolls often and I assume that bakers would probably not consider this worth a post. But I have to do this post because I’m just happy that I can bake a decent lot of rolls!!!

1 cup warm milk
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp dry yeast
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup wheat germ
1 tbsp oil
½ tsp salt

Add the sugar and yeast to the warm milk, mix and allow to prove for about 5 minutes.
To the flours, add all other ingredients and the milk-yeast mixture. Knead well, by hand or with hand mixer, till smooth and elastic. Cover and keep to rise till the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough back and divide into 10 equal portions. Shape each portion as desired, using lightly oiled hands. Place on greased sheet and allow to rise slightly (about 10 minutes). Brush with water.
Bake at 200 C for about 20 minutes till nicely browned. Cool on a rack.
I am actually doing a post I am not sending in for a food event :)
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November 20, 2007

Grated Ginger Pickle (Inji Thokku)

A thokku is a pickle in which the main ingredient being pickled (Indian style), is usually sliced thin or grated and cooked along with spices till thick so the oil floats up. This means that the moisture content is greatly reduced and also contributes to the shelf-life of the pickle.
A ginger pickle is somewhat a contradiction of terms. Ginger is already fiery without pickling it! For this recipe, very tender ginger is used. The addition of a bit of jaggery
balances out the spicyness to make a very nice pickle. Here is how I make it.

2 cups grated ginger, lightly packed (about 200g)
2 tbsps jaggery (could use sugar/ brown sugar)
3-4 tbsps gingelly (sesame seed oil)
3 tsps Kashmiri chilli powder or to taste
(this pickle requires much less as the ginger provides a lot of the spice)
½ tsp fenugreek powder (dry roast fenugreek and powder)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1’4 tsp asafetida powder
1 sprig curry leaves
salt to taste

Heat the oil, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafetida and curry leaves. Stir once, and then add the grated ginger, chilli and fenugreek powders and salt. Mix well, turn down the heat and allow to cook while stirring occasionally. When the ginger is cooked, the oil will be visible at the sides. Add the jaggery and stir to blend well.
Cool and bottle.
This pickle goes well especially with rice and curds (yogurt).

This is my entry for this month’s Think Spice Think Ginger hosted at Sunita’s world.
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November 17, 2007

Date-filled Bars

I really should dedicate this month to Food Blogging Events and all involved in this Community. So here's to you all.
I have been sending off most of my entries to events! When I started my blog, I really did not have much of a plan about the “how, what and when” of my posts. I decided to complete my first month of posting by being a part of food events.
Dates were to be the fruit for the month at AFAM. I had a box of seedless dates in the fridge and decided to try out a recipe from my “Waiting To Be Tried Out” collection.
These bars look a bit complicated to make but really are not. The process can be split up over two or three days, if need be. I made the filling the first day, the dough the next and did the actual putting together and baking on the third day!!
These bars have a soft filling and the real flavour comes through only the day after they are

½ cup butter, softened
A little less than ½ cup each of granulated sugar and
powdered jaggery/ brown sugar
(I prefer jaggery as it is not as sweet)
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup toasted wheat germ
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

For the filling:
2 cups seedless dates, lightly packed
½ cup walnuts
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon peel

Using an electric mixer (or by hand), beat the butter, jaggery and sugar till creamy. In a separate bowl, stir together both the flours, wheat germ, baking soda and salt. Add this to the butter-sugar mixture blending well. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate till next day at least 1 hour).

Chop the dates and walnuts finely in a food processor. It should be crumbly in texture. Put in a pan with the sugar, water, lemon juice and peel and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till thick. This should take about 5 minutes. Allow to cool. Divide into 6 portions.

Putting it all together!
Divide the dough into 2 portions. Work with one and keep the other in the fridge. Roll out the dough, using flour to prevent it from sticking, into a rectangle of about 7 by 12 inches. (This is what my rectangle measured.) Use a ruler to neaten the sides of the rectangle. Cut this rectangle into 3 strips widthwise. In the centre of each strip spread the date filling lengthwise. Using a spatula or knife fold the sides over the filling so they overlap slightly. Press down lightly. Repeat this with the second portion of dough.
Now you would have 6 long tubular rolls with date filling. Cut each roll into 2 halves. Now there would be 12 shorter rolls. Place these, joined sided facing down, on a greased sheet and bake at 190 C/ 375 F for about 20 minutes or till they brown. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Then cut each bar in to 3 or 4 pieces. I cut them into 3. Allow to cool completely and store.
This recipe would give you 36 or 48 bars, depending on how you cut them.

I am sending this over to Chandrika at Akshayapatra for November’s AFAM-Dates
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My Tomato Chutney

When I saw the "VeganVentures” announcement, my first thought was that this shouldn’t be too difficult for a vegetarian Indian. Then I realized that zeroing in on a recipe to send in wasn’t going to be all that easy. Big decisions had to be made. Should it be from my cooking repertoire or should I adapt a non-vegan recipe? And then the big question, which one?
I finally decided on a recipe I had evolved to get my daughter to eat tomatoes. She calls it “Amma’s (mother’s) tomato chutney”. She still doesn’t really like tomatoes, not even ketchup, but this particular chutney is a favourite with us all. It should be easy to make as most kitchens would usually have onions and tomatoes. So here goes.

½ kg tomatoes, chopped
(I liquidize the tomatoes, skin and all, as my daughter doesn’t like tomato pieces!)
2 large/ 3 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp asafetida powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp powdered jaggery/ brown sugar
Salt and chilli powder to taste
(I use Kashmiri chilli powder as it has a rich colour but not as much fire!!)
1-2 sprigs curry leaves
2 tbsp oil

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed or non-stick pan and allow the mustard seeds to splutter. Add the fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and asafetida powder. Stir but do not brown. Add the curry leaves and ginger. Saute for half a minute. Add the onions. Saute till transparent and soft. Now add the tomato. Do this carefully, on low heat, as the mixture will bubble and spit. Stir and add the turmeric, cumin, and chilli powders, salt and jaggery. Stir well till well mixed. Cover and allow to cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, till most of the liquid has evaporated and the chutney is thick.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

This dish is a nice combination of sweet, sour, spice and salt. It can be served, on the side, with rice or chapatis.
The chutney will keep in the fridge for 3 – 4 days, provided the moisture content of the chutney is minimal after cooking. I do not know if it will stay longer, as it has never lasted longer than this in our home!!

This recipe goes to be a part of Vegan Ventures hosted by Tasty Palettes
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November 15, 2007

Carrot Mulagushyam

I came across an announcement for a “power”less cooking event, i.e. cooking without the use/ help of electric gadgets. The idea struck me as a novel one and so this recipe is just right for the event.
Of course, in the old days, no one used electric gadgets! A lot of traditional cooking was labour intensive yet there are quite a few dishes which could be put together with minimum fuss or effort.
Mulagushiyam is one of these and made often in Palakkad Iyer homes (everyone has their own version, of course!). This is a dal (lentil/ parippu) based vegetable gravy which is eaten with rice. Here is the recipe for carrot mulagushyam.

1 cup diced vegetable (I used ¾ carrot and ¼ peas)
¾ cup tuvar dal, cooked
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp coarsely crushed pepper corns
½ tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 sprig curry leaves

Mash the tuvar dal. Cook the vegetables in 1 ½ cups of water with turmeric powder and salt till soft. You could pressure cook them too. Add the mashed dal and mix well. Allow to come to boil, then add the crushed pepper and cumin powder. Mix well and turn off the heat. Crush the curry leaves by hand and add. Now add the coconut oil, stir once and cover. Leave the flavours to steep for half an hour.
Serve with rice, pickles or thogayal (a thick type of chutney) and paapad for a complete meal.

Traditionally, ash gourd (white pumpkin/ elavan) is the vegetable used for Mulagushiyam. Elephant yam (chenai) or raw banana (vazhakkai) or a combination of both can also be used. For a less traditional version (like this one), a combination cabbage and peas also tastes good.
Also, this is a bland dish, in the original version, as no spice is included. I do not like it like that, hence the pepper. If you like it spicier, you may add a green chilli or two but never red chillies or chilli powder!
I am sending this over to Simple Indian Food for the 'Power'less cooking event
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November 13, 2007

Beans Parippu (Lentil) Usili

This is a dry vegetable preparation made from French beans and tuvar dal . This is a Tamil preparation and is a very nutritious combination of vegetable and protein-rich dal (lentils). “Parippu” in Tamil means dal.


1/4 kg french beans

1 cup tuvar dal

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp asafetida powder

2 red chillies or according to taste

1 sprig curry leaves

salt to taste

1 tsp mustard seeds

1- 2 tsps urad dal

2 -3 tbsps oil


Soak the tuvar dal for about an hour and drain well. Grind the dal, turmeric and asafetida powders, red chillies, curry leaves and salt into a pate without adding water.

Make small patties and steam cook (in an idli stand) for about 10 minutes. Or pat the paste flat onto a plate and steam cook. Cool slightly and crumble by hand.
If the steam cooked batter is too hard to crumble easily( this happens sometimes if it cools down), use a grater.

String, chop the beans into small pieces and cook with a little salt till well done but firm. I prefer to do this in the microwave.

Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the urad dal. When this browns, add the cooked beans. Stir a couple of times and add the crumbled dal. Mix and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, till the dal starts becoming crisp. The Usili is ready to serve.

Traditionally, this goes well as an accompaniment to rice and a non-dal based gravy like morkootan (a curd/ yoghurt based Palakkad Iyer dish) or even rasam.

This goes to Out Of The Garden as my entry for JFI - December.

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November 11, 2007

Diwali Treat : Pokkuvadam, Thattai, Mysorepak & Carrot-Coconut Burfi

Till we moved to Kochi 3 years back, we lived in Goa. There, we had neighbours from various parts of the country. So Diwali was a whole lot of fun. Many of us would exchange sweets while those among us who did not celebrate Diwali would come by to wish us and sample the fare. After dusk we would light lamps and burst firecrackers. Children would have a wonderful time.

We miss this a bit as Diwali is a not a big affair in Kerala. Only migrant communities here celebrate Diwali.
This year, apart from my regular mysore pak and pokkuvadam (from my palakkad iyer repertoire), I also made thattai and carrot-coconut burfi. Thattai is a snack made from rice flour and urad dal flour and resembles the Gujarathi matri, somewhat.



3 cups fine rice powder, sieved

3/4 cup gram flour (besan), sieved

1/4 cup Bengal gram (dalia/ pottukadalai)

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 tsp asafetida powder

chilli powder and salt to taste ( I prefer a little less of the fire!)

oil for frying


Roast Bengal gram till golden, cool and powder very well. Now mix all the ingredients together. Add enough water to mix into a stiffish dough. Fill into the dough press fitted with the proper plate for the pokkuvadam.

When the oil is hot, press dough into the oil in a circular motion so the pressed dough spreads and cooks well. Fry till golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels, cool and store in airtight containers.



2 cups fine rice flour

1 handful urad dal

1 handful Bengal gram (dalia/ pottukadalai)

1 handful chana dal soaked for an hour

1 tbsp unsalted butter

chilli powder and salt to taste( this snack is meant to be a bit spicy)

oil for frying


Roast Bengal gram till golden, cool and powder very well. Now mix all the ingredients together. Add enough water to make a stiffish dough.
Grease a medium sized plastic sheet and taking a small ball of the dough, press it out into a circle (reasonably thin and about 3 inches in diameter) on the sheet using middle three fingers. Oil your palm lightly so the dough does not stick when being pressed out.

Heat the oil and slowly peel off the circles from the plastic sheet and slide into the oil. Fry on both sides till golden brown. Drain on paper towels, cool and store in an airtight container.

Mysore pak


1 cup gram flour (besan), sieved

1 3/4 cup sugar

1 cup ghee

1/2 tsp cardamom powder


Use a heavy bottom deep pan. This ensures that cooking is at constant heat without the food sticking to the pan. I use the pan of my pressure cooker.
Dissolve the sugar in ½ cup of water and boil to prepare a one-string syrup. Switch off the heat and add the gram flour. Mix well till blended.

Meanwhile melt the ghee and keep warm. Keep the pan back on heat and stir constantly or else the mixture will stick to the pan. Adjust the heat as required. When the mixture starts thickening, pour a ladleful of melted ghee. Keep stirring carefully till ghee is absorbed. Add all the ghee, a ladle at a time, stirring all the while. Once all the ghee is absorbed and the mixture starts leaving the side of the pan to form a mass, pour into a greased thali.

Allow to spread uniformly and use the back of a greased spoon to smoothen the top without pressing down. You have to work quickly or the mysore pak will set and look unattractive. Mark into squares while warm. Cut when cool and store. This recipe makes about 20 small pieces.
Be prepared for quite a bit of stirring and bicep-strengthening exercise!

This recipe (and the ones for mysore pak and pokkuvadam) comes down from my grandmother and mother and uses much less ghee than some recipes. The mysore pak will not be as soft as the SreeKrishna sweets variety (to those familiar with this) because of this.

Carrot-Coconut Burfi

This recipe is adapted from one of my cookbooks – The Vegetarian Menu Book by Vasantha Moorthy. I have made it many times and the burfi combines the taste of coconut burfi with carrot halwa.


1 1/2 cups grated coconut

2 cups grated carrot

2 cups sugar

2 cups milk

2 tbsps ghee

½ tsp cardamom powder

halved cashewnuts, as required


Fry the cashewnuts in 1/2 tbsp ghee till they start to turn golden and keep aside. Cook the grated carrot in the milk till tender and the milk is reduced by half. (This can be done in the microwave too) Add the coconut and cook till a little thicker. Add the sugar and boil till the mixture thickens.

Now add the ghee and keep stirring till the mixture leaves the side of the pan. Allow to cool till it can be handled. Make little balls of the mixture, flatten slightly and press a cashewnut half onto each piece. Allow to cool. This burfi will dry out as it cools and tastes best the next day.

Alternatively, pour the hot mixture into a greased thali, press down and allow to cool. Cut into pieces and store. This recipe makes about 16 – 20 pieces.

P.S. I had wanted to do this post before Diwali but could not quite manage it.
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November 8, 2007

Diwali Breakfast And Ukkarai (A Festive Lentil & Jaggery Crumble)

iwali is a festival we celebrate a bit differently from many other parts of the country. Early on Diwali morning, before sunrise, many of the Iyer families in Kerala start the celebrations but getting up as early as 4am to burst crackers. The left overs are lit and finished off at twilight. As a community, traditionally we also do not light the lamps that are synonymous with Diwlai celebrations across the We probably have the simplest of Diwali celebrations in India.

Once the children of the house (under the strict supervision of either a couple of elders or mucholder and responsible children) have disposed off with the crackers, it is time for the ritual "oil bath" for everyone. This involves a head-to-toe anointing and massage with fresh pressed coconut oil which is washed away with a hot water bath.

First however we receive a set of new clothes bought for the occasion, from the eldest member of the household  (marked inconspicuously with a bit of turmeric). After the bath, everyone, dressed in their new clothes, go and seek the blessings of the elders at home.Those who can, visit the temple in the morning or else in the evening.

Then comes the most important part of the Diwali celebrations - a sumptuous breakfast! breakfast on this day  is usually dosa with sambhar and chutney and whatever sweets and savouries have been made just for the occasion. Once breakfast is done, our Diwali celebrations are done. Traditionally, we don't even have the ritual of sharing sweets with family and neighbours, though that is a tradition I have adopted and created for us.

In some homes, there is a tradition of also making and serving a sweet called Ukkarai for breakfast. Ukkarai is a sort of crumble that is makde from lentils (a mixture of Bengal gram lentils and moong lentils) cooked in cardamom flavoured jaggery syrup and a little ghee, and then garnished with cashewnuts.

Neither my husband's family or mine has a tradition of cooking Ukkarai for Diwali but I have adopted the tradition of doing so. A few years back, my husband was having a conversation with a good friend of his (our families are very close friends actually) on Diwali day, and he invited them to drop by during the day. His friend agreed but very eagerly asked if there would "Ukkarai" as it brought back memories of his childhood eating it at his friends' place.
I decided to make it that day because he had asked, and it has since featured at our Diwali breakfast table and we invariably remember our friends wherever they are that day.

Another Diwali tradition I have adopted, though a non-food one, is lighting earthenware and brass lamps or "diyas" Having spent a large part of my life outside Kerala, I have been used to Diwali with a variety of sweets and the ritual of lighting clay lamps at dusk.

I usually make a different variety of sweets every year, these days largely dictated by my daughter’s demands, but Pokkuvadam (more popularly known as ribbon pakoda) and Mysorepak are musts for our Diwali.
Dosas, sambhar and chutney (with coconut or without coconut) made for Diwali are the kind we usually make as part of everyday cooking, and here's the recipe for Ukkarai.

Ukkarai is traditionally made only with chana dal. I use equal quantities of chana dal and moong dal.

Ukkarai (A Festive Lentil & Jaggery Crumble)
1/2 cup Black gram lentils
1/2 cup moong lentils
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
3/4 cup to 1 cup powdered jaggery( depending on sweetness of your jaggery)
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp cashewnut
3 to 4 pods cardamom, powdered

Roast both dals separately till light brown. Soak them together in water for about 3 hours. Then allow to drain well for about half an hour. Then grind the dals to a thick and coarse batter without adding water. 
Place batter in idli moulds or the plate of your steamer and steam cook for about 15 minutes. Allow this to cool slightly and then crumble it with your fingers till granular in texture. Once the mixture cools down (especially if the batter was not dry enough in the first place), you can use a grater to create the coarse crumble.
Heat the ghee in a pan and roast cashews till golden. Keep aside. Now toast the grated coconut till golden brown and keep aside. 
Dissolve jaggery in half a cup of water and boil the syrup till it reaches the 1-string stage.  To this syrup, add the dal mixture, coconut and the ghee. Mix well till the dal absorbs all the jaggery to become dry and fluffy. Add the cardamom and cashewnuts and mix well. Serve warm.

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November 2, 2007

Guilt-free Chivda / Puffed Rice Mixture (An Indian Savoury Snack)

ost people in India like snacking as much as they like their sweets. Here, by and large, we tend to eat 4 to 5 times a day just like the doctor ordered. We have breakfast which is mostly savoury, then something light (down South this is usually a glass of spiced buttermilk or fruit) for “elevenses”, a mid-day lunch, tea or coffee in the evening usually accompanied by something crunchy and then dinner.
In the part of the world where I come from, people used to get up very early at about 5am.
My grandparents and the generations before that didn’t really have a concept of breakfast. They had coffee in the morning and then had lunch by about 10 or 11am.
Evening coffee (or tea sometimes) was around 3pm and accompanied by some sort of “tiffin” which was a little heavier than a snack but lighter than a full meal.
They then had dinner by about 7pm. In-between hunger pangs were usually satisfied with spiced buttermilk or bananas.

With a change from an agrarian lifestyle to one that’s a “10 to 5” day at work or more stressful corporate sort of living, all that’s changed. Even as I child I could never get used to my grandparents’ style of meals because I was used to eating breakfast, so we had an almost 5-times-a-day style of eating.
There is a perception outside the country that Indian sweets are very sweet but I feel they’re not all that sweeter than many cakes I see, and that the savoury snacks are heavy because they’re deep-fried.
There is some truth in that, but traditionally Indians ate sweets mostly only on festive days and other special occasions so they were treats mostly. The same went for the heavier or more calorie laden savoury snacks. Everyday snacking used to be healthier.
With a change in eating choices and a desire for different tastes and more variety in our food, it becomes more difficult to keep eating healthy when it comes to tea time snacks, especially with children (and adults) who tend find junk food attractive.
I personally have a love for “crunchy munchies on the whole and a tendency to snack on them which I try to keep in check.  Tea or coffee and something savoury and crunchy to munch are a match made in heaven. And if it can be healthy, one doesn’t have to carry the guilt of the snack around.


This Chivda is something I make at home which satisfies my cravings for crunch without the guilt. Chivda/ Chevdo/ Chiwda (or mixture as it popularly known in South India, and the name is self-explanatory) is an Indian savoury snack that is made all over India.
There are as many recipes as there are makers of Chivda but it is usually includes a mix of spices, deep-fried chickpea flour vermicelli or small fritters, some type of puffed rice or beaten rice flakes, peanuts or cashewnuts and raisins among other ingredients. 
It is made for Diwali, carried in lunch and snacks boxes to work and school and one of those things that’s good to have on hand when unexpected guests drop in for tea.
Think of it as an Indian version of the American Trail mix! This version of mine doesn’t have any deep-fried ingredients and is non-traditional in some sense because there’s cornflakes in it. If you can’t puffed rice (murmura/ motta pori), you can substitute beaten rice flakes (poha/ aval) after roasting it till crisp.
Guilt-free Chivda / Puffed Rice Mixture 


4 cups puffed rice (kurmura/ motta pori)
2 1/2 cups Kellogg’s cornflakes
1/2 cup gram (daria/ pottukadalai)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seed
1/4  tsp asafetida
2-3 sprigs curry leaves
Salt and chilli powder to taste


Lightly roast the cornflakes. Roast the gram separately till golden, do not brown. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a deep pan, brown the raisins and remove.
To the same oil, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, then add peanuts and lightly roast. Add the asafoetida, curry leaves, chilli powder and sugar. Mix once and switch off the heat.
Now add the puffed rice, cornflakes, roasted gram, raisins and salt. Remember that cornflakes and puffed rice contain salt. Store the Chivda in an airtight container.
This makes a largish batch of Chivda. Serve with coffee or tea or when the craving to munch hits!
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