December 6, 2008

Treasured Cookware From My Kitchen

The Kitchen Treasure Hunt, an event announced by Dibs of Chitra Amma’s Kitchen, hopes to have food bloggers share with others, all those unusual or indispensable treasures they have in their kitchens.
I have a few accessories/ gadgets in my kitchen that I truly treasure. Two examples are my lemon squeezer (I hate squeezing lemons) and my kitchen tongs which I use to handle hot utensils without handles.

I would like to share here six of them which are very valuable to me for various reasons. They are not unusual as you can probably find them in many south Indian kitchens.
If I had been back at Cochin, I would have a treasure chest full of stuff to share, many of them used by my mother-in-law in a time where food was cooked, in large quantities, on a traditional firewood burning stove and when refrigerators and other modern appliances (which we take for granted now) were unheard of.

This one is called an “Appakaaral” and similar to the aebleskiver pan.
We use the Appakaaral to make “Neiyappam” which are sweet small fried dumplings.

To make them, the appakaaral is placed on medium heat, and each hollow is half filled with ghee (or a mixture of ghee and sesame seed oil). Once the ghee is hot, a jaggery sweetened rice batter is poured into each hollow to till three quarter full and fried till dark brown.
This is pan is also used to make savoury dumplings called “Paniyaram/ Uppappam”.

This particular Appakaaral was given to me by my mother-in-law and belonged to her mother-in-law (my husband’s paternal grandmother). In fact, you can see his grandfather’s initials (in Malayalam – A.G. Ra) etched into the side, even though the pan belonged to his grandmother! Not surprising in a male dominated society of the early 1900s.

Made of bell metal, it weighs a ton (I’m exaggerating but it does weigh 2 kg). This ensures that my Neiyappam never sticks to the pan and always turns out well. There are lighter and even non-stick versions available today. But I will never exchange this one for one of them.

This wooden implement is a “Mathu” or a butter churner. I inherited this from my mother and though I very rarely use it, I wouldn’t part with it.
Traditionally, this mathu would be a part of an assembly of two pieces of thick cord, a foot apart one above the other, which were hooked to the wall close to the floor. The pot/ vessel (bell metal/ ceramic) of yogurt (thayir/ curd) would be placed on the floor with the churner head in the yogurt and the handle through both loops. A second piece of cord would be wound around the churner handle a few times, such that the wound part is between the two loops.

The free ends of the wound cord would be pulled taut to ensure that the churner is upright and doesn’t fall. The ends would then be pulled towards oneself alternately causing the churner to move in a clockwise and then anti-clockwise motion continuously, till the butter rises up to the top.

The butter would be stored in a bowl of water. This butter would keep for 2 to 3 days provided the water in which it is stored is changed everyday. Remember, this was before refrigeration existed. Excess butter would be converted to ghee (clarified/ browned butter).
Do check out this link to see a visual representation of what I have just described. This picture also is a slightly different version of churning butter based on the same principle.

This is my brass mortar and pestle and I have had it since I got married. This is what I use to crush my spices especially cardamom.

Here is my brass dough press which we call a “Nazhi”, that my mother gave me. We use this to press out dough to make deep-fried savoury crunchies like thenkozhal, muthusaram, pokkuvadam, omappodi, etc and also to make certain sun-dried spiced rice munchies (which are deep-fried like pappads and very tasty) called “Karuvadam”.

It comes with different plates which are used depending on which dough is being pressed out. The required plate is placed at the bottom of the cylinder, the dough put into it, and the lid is screwed on. Then the lever on the top is turned clockwise, pushing the dough out into the hot oil.

And this beautiful brass vessel is an “Uruli”. Today, Urulis are very much in demand to lend living rooms or hotel foyers an ethnic feel with flowers or candles floating in them.

However, they are cooking utensils. They are perfect for those Indian recipes that call for thick heavy bottomed vessels to make sweets involving slow cooking of sugar/ jaggery syrups over medium heat, like neipayasam, mysorepak and burfi.

Urulis are also great for everyday cooking, except they’re heavy and difficult to cook with on the modern gas stove. A lot of the cooking for traditional wedding feasts is still done in Urulis.

Update (8th December, 2008):
I just realised after the reading the comments, that I should point out that the Uruli in this picture is is too small to cook in. It just looks big in my picture.
The bigger Urulis, which I have cooked in, were just too heavy for us to bring with us to Goa. We were also worried that they would get damaged during the move.

And finally, here is my “Kalchatti”. This translates as stone (kal) cooking pot (chatti). I was lucky to find this particular one at the local market on a visit to Palakkad, two years ago. A Kalchatti is carved out of a single piece of soapstone which is a softer variety of stone. This type of stone pot has to be initially seasoned repeatedly, by pouring warm “kanji” (starchy water from cooking rice) in to it. If the pot is used to cook without the seasoning process, it is very likely break on the stove.
New Kalchattis are light grey in colour but become darker and smoother with use.

Traditonal south Indian preparations of vegetables in gravy known as “Kootan” like sambhar, rasam, avial, etc taste extra special (I would say heavenly) when cooked in a Kalchatti. I do not know why or the chemistry behind this, but I can assure it is true. In fact, it was memories of eating food cooked by my grandmother in similar stone pots that had me searching for and buying this one!

So this post goes to Dibs' Kitchen Treasure Hunt.


Curry Leaf said...

When r u going to send us paniyarams made in paniyarakkal along with sambar made in kalchatti.Do not forget neiyappams and also thenkuzhal?
B4 u take the mathu to give me whack,let me say- lovely treasures and very valuable.If permitted I would also like to add your baking oven to this list as well - it is also a treasure that allowed you to bake wonderful variety of dishes.

Lovely Aparna,explanatory post and wonderful pics.Thanks and cheers

Susan from Food Blogga said...

You have so many unique treasures, Aparna. It's like I could go shopping in your kitchen. ;)

Sunshinemom said...

Mannchatti, kalchatti I still need to get. I too have a huge uruli. Wanted to take a pic but it is rather difficult to roll out - my grandma used it to cook for 15 people! I love your appakaaral - will have to get one from Palakkad when someone goes there! I just love the glint of brass. Beauties all, Aparna!

Happy cook said...

WOw aparna these are really wonderful.
I love the one which you got from your MIL with the name written in malayalam. It sure is antic.
I have the same pestle and mortar, which i bought when we were married too ;-)
I love Neiyappoms.
Mom used to make a lot when we were still home.
Now a days when i am back home i just buy from Varkey's supermarket as i dodn't want that mom is doing to much just for me to have them.

indosungod said...

Fantastic collection! Aparna. The fact that you keep them looking sparkling is proof of your love for them.
Only 3 holes in the appam pan! Makes sense I guess those days when it was used on a wood burning stove.

PG said...

I would love to own each and every of your treasures. a wonderfu and informative post. Kalchatti, wow! I'm imüpressed!

Pearlsofeast said...

Awesome collections and I loved your uruli.It is gorgeous.

Bharti said...

Really cool stuff Aparna. I mean, I literally have nothing that interesting in my kitchen. I think I should go hunting for some heirloom cookware in my dadi's kitchen the next time I visit her in Bombay.
That Nazhi looks so different. I've never seen anything like it.
Good post.

Annarasa said...

Love the soapstone vessel!! I have to get one for my kitchen. Congrats on 1 year of blogging!! Looking forward to a great entry for BBD!! Apu:)

Arundathi said...

lovely post. y'know my mom has dozens of kalchattis and she serves food in them when she has people over. didn't know that you could cook with them on a stove. i've just gotta get me one of those - maybe when i'm in palakkad, i'll look more closely next time.
lovely collection of stuff.

Cham said...

Seeing ur neiyappam chatti i felt gosh that should feel a ton and should take a while to heat up right? All those treasures are really valuable, it has been years i ve seen the "Kalchatti" very unusual shape also! Cool collections

PG said...

I forgot to mention yesterday that there is something for you to collect at my blog. please come and collect it!

arundati said...

wow!! the appakaaral is a precious one!! i can imagine how good it must be with the decades of seasoning!! what a precious precious kitchen treasure!! i enjoyed your post aparna... lovely peak into your treasures!!

anudivya said...

These are amazing treasures... I remember the utensils etched with my grandmother's name too... now I am curious, why did they do it back then?

Passionate About Baking said...

Real treasures Aparna...with so much character to each one of them!

Sig said...

Wow, what a collection of treasures... I love how sparkling that Uruli looks... do you actually cook in that?

Soma said...

How beautiful aparna!!

They look so beautiful & antique that i would decorate with them:-)

Dibs said...

Hi Aparna - How have you managed to keep all these things so nice and shiny?! Awesome! I loved the detail of grandfather-inlaw's initials on the appam pan. The photos and write up is superb Aparna . Thanks! Dont worry abt gmail. Will include this in the round up!

Arfi Binsted said...

I always admire and try my best collecting vintage cookware, dish, plates, etc. I haven't had any from Indian...mmm... makes me want to visit India now! What a treasure indeed!

Aparna said...

Thanks everyone. I was more than happy to share my treasures.

:D, :D, :D.......
Thanks Sweatha. I just wanted to highlight some of my "older" treasures and so had to leave the oven out.:(

That's a nice compliment, Susan.

Nowadays, such pans come with even 6 to 8 holes. But the old ones always had only three.

I rarely miss the BBDs, so I shall definitely bake something.

They can be cooked in and add such a dimension to taste in food, Arundathi.

Its a bit heavy, about 1kg, and doesn't take vey long to heat up, Cham. I also found the shape different from what I remember in my Grandmother's kitchen.

Thank you, PG.

In the olden days, most of these utensils were brought to a kitchen by a daughter-in-law from her house on getting married.
Thay lived in extended families, where more than one set of utensils were used in the kitchen. So having the names etchen on important utensils helped in establishing ownership.

Sig, I just saw your comment and updated my post.
The Uruli in the picture is nothing more than a decorative piece. Its too small to cook in.
But I have cooked in Urulis which are still back at Cochin. The were a bit heavy to bring with us to Goa, and we were more worried that they would get damaged.:)

Thanks, Dibs.
I just mailed you the details. :)

Even if not for adding to your collection, you should definitely visit India.

Shama Nagarajan said...

wow...wonderful collection..i too hv posted my treasures

electronic said...

thats an amazing post from India. I just loved their sweet meats.

Ivy said...

Your kitchen treasures are very interesting.

Shaheen said...

Aparna! I love the beautiful treasures in your kitchen! They are so typically Indian. I wish I had a kitchen filled with all these, especially, the stone pot. Do you think I will find it here in Mumbai?

Simran said...

What a lovely collection of vintage treasures. The new ones never match up, do they?

Priya said...

Lovely n rare collections of kitchen treasures...

VnV said...

Lovely unique collection and artistically taken photographs. i never knew many of these things, so thanks for the education.

Smitha said...

Wow, very beautiful pieces indeed, reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen.

Purva Desai said...

Your Kitchen Treasures are authentic, I was glued to the pics..

Enjoy the festivities by participating in Christmas Feast Event.

Vandana Rajesh said...

The unniappam mould looks gr8, the nice and sparkling kitchen treasures does add a gr8 touch to the kitchen.

notyet100 said...

loved all of them,..specially urli,....:-)

Usha said...

Such beautiful and unique treasures,loved them all...none of the newer ones compare to some of those old ones !

HoneyB said...

I love seeing your kitchen tools!

I never had Indian food until a little more than a year ago when one of our students who had completed his degree took us to the Indian restaurant (which has sadly now closed) so we could sample food that he loved from his country. It was a terrific experience and I now crave Indian food. I'm not too learned in this area so I'm hoping to learn somethings from your blog! :)

Aparna said...

I'm not too sure, Shaheen.
They are not too common back home either, these days. Probably because not too many people use them.

Thanks, again.
Old is truly gold.:)

rachel said...

Treasure to be envied of....

YOSEE said...

The Appakaaral with Grandpa's initials is a real treasure ! Loved it.

anubhavati said...

Hello Aparna,

I am a new blogger and a first time visitor to your blogsite and what really captivated me were the beautifully polished heavy brass vessels that you had showcased...I also have roots from palakkad some where and all my grandmother`s brass vessels the appakaral are just like yours...heavy and beautifully curved. There is an equilibrium in the vessels of those days, which is missing now. The beauty of a used vessel, polished by loving hands with "puli" and scrubber, can never equal one that you get in the stores now...I long for those days again!!!

Aparna said...

Welcome here, Shoba and to the world of bloggers.
Yes, many of these do bring back memories of the "good, old days"!

natalia said...

Ciao ! This post had me dreaming ...I hope one day to visit India to see all the wonderful things and costumes you have !!