Puttu with Cherupayarukari or more commonly, Kadalakari, is a popular breakfast dish in Kerala. Puttu is made by steam cooking moistened rice flour with coconut in a special cylindrical tube. It is usually eaten with a spicy curry on the side, either made with whole moong lentils or dark brown chickpeas. The other accompaniments are small ripe bananas and thin crisp Kerala pappadums.
PUTTU : The rice flour for Puttu is slightly gritty in texture, just short of being fine ground. It is available ready made. Traditionally, raw medium grained rice was soaked in water for about an hour. The water was drained and the rice would be spread out on a cotton towel. After an hour or so, the rice would be dry but slightly damp. This rice would be pounded by hand into a powder and sieved to get the right sized grit. Though tradionally made only with white or red/ brown rice flour, Puttu can also be made with wheat flour, millet flour, corn flour or semolina.
To make puttu, you also need a special steamer called a “Kodam” and “Puttukutti”. A “Kodam” is a flat bottomed, round aluminium or steel vessel in which water is boiled. The “Puttukutti” is a cylindrical aluminium tube placed on top of the Kodam or pot. The boiling water produces steam which goes into through the cylindrical tube into which the Puttu is filled, and cooks it. Traditional Puttukuttis were made out of hollowed bamboo but now it is available in steel. Puttu also used to be cooked in the empty halves of coconut shells. This dome shaped Puttu is called Cheratta Puttu. Cheratta is the Malayalam word for coconut shells.
A variety of steel cylindrical Puttu steamers that can be used with pressure cookers is also available. These sit on the “spout” on the pressure cooker lids where the weight is usually placed.
Kadalakari is usually made with black (smaller dark brown) variety of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Today, I’m sharing my recipe for Cherupayarukari which is is similar but made with whole moong lentils. This is easier to make because whole moong lentils don’t require overnight soaking before cooking. You can make Kadalakari with this recipe by substituting the whole moong beans with cooked dark brown/ black chickpeas.
For rice Puttu, I prefer using Chemba rice flour. Chemba rice is a red/ brown variety of rice that has a sweet and nutty taste. Remember the rice flour used here is not regular fine rice flour, but a flour which feels slightly grainy/ gritty to the fingers.
CHERUPAYARUKARI : Cherupayarukari is a spicy dish of whole moong lentils in a coconut based gravy. There are different versions of this preparation. Traditional Kerala style preparation of this uses onions. My recipe does not use onions. I also add a little cumin and some jaggery, both of which are no traditional. The jaggery does not sweeten the curry but balances out the spice.
Puttu can also be made without the Puttu maker unit of the pot and cylindrical tube. Most Indians have a set of idli steaming trays. You can use these to make Puttu. First put some fresh grated coconut in each depression in the idli tray. Then loosely pack the depressions with the moistened flour and steam till done. Do not press the flour down into either the puttu maker or idli depression. If the steam cannot pass through the flour, the Puttu will not cook properly.
If you would like to use onions in your Cherupayarukari, slice 1 big or 2 small onions thin. Sauté them till light brown and grind to paste with the other ingredients for the curry.
Puttu with Cherupayarukari
For the Puttu :
- 1 1/2 cups Chemba rice flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 to 1 cup warm water
- 1 cup coconut freshly grated
For the Cherupayarukari :
- 1 1/2 tbsps coriander seeds
- 1 1/2 tsps cumin seeds
- 2 or 3 dried red chillies
- 1 1/2 inch cinnamon piece
- 4 cloves
- 3 pods green cardamom
- 2 sprigs curry leaves
- 1 1/2 tsps mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp asafetida
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp powdered jaggery
- to taste salt
- For the Puttu : Put the rice and salt in a deep bowl and mix well with fingers. Sprinkle the warm water, a little at a time, and mix using your fingers till the flour starts looking like crumbs. Add as much water as necessary so that the rice flour is moist but doesn't clump into a dough. When the rice flour has moistened enough it should hold it's shape if you take a little in your fist and scrunch it up. Let the moistened rice powder rest for about 10 minutes.
- If you don't add enough water the Puttu will be dry and uncooked when steamed. If you add too much water, the Puttu will be a lumpy mass after steam cooking. Judging the amount of water required to moisten the flour needs a little practice.
- Fill your steamer pot/ Kodam or pressure cooker with water till two thirds full and let it boil. Take the cylindrical part of the steamer. Put the small plate with holes (this comes with the puttu maker) at the bottom. Put in 2 tbsps of coconut followed by moistened rice flour till 1/4 th is filled. Now put in another 2 tbsps coconut onto it. Fill with some more flour till half filled. Put in 2 tbsp coconut followed by rice flour till 3/4 is filled and then top with 2 more tbsp of coconut. The number of layers will depend on the length of your steaming tube. Cover the cylinder with the lid and place on the cooker spout or Kodam/ pot once the steam starts coming out. The rice flour must be loosely filled and not packed.
- The steam will push its way out through the rice flour and the small holes on top. Steam for about 12 to 15 minutes till cooked. Then remove the cylindrical part from the steamer and push the Puttu onto a plate, slowly from underneath using the steel rod provided for this. Use up the remaining flour and coconut similarly.
- If you would like to use a little less coconut you can add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated coconut directly to the moistened rice flour. Then there is no need to alternate layers before steaming. Just fill the cylinder till about 3/4 full and steam cook.
- For the Cherupayarkari, cook the moong beans till they're soft and done but not mushy. Keep aside.
- In 1/2 tsp oil, lightly fry the coriander and cumin seeds till golden. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and dry red chillies. Keep aside.
- In the same pan, roast the coconut over low heat till it is lightly reddish brown and gives off a lovely aroma. Take off the heat. Now finely grind the roasted spices and the coconut along with 2 tbsps of the cooked moong beans using enough water to get a thick and smooth paste. Keep aside.
- Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tsp oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the curry leaves, the asafetida powder, and stir once. Immediately add the cooked moong beans with the water it has been cooked in. Add the turmeric powder, salt and powdered jaggery. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the coconut-spice paste and mix well. Allow the Cherupayarukari to simmer for a further 5 minutes and then take off the heat.
- Serve with puttu. This Cherupayarukari goes well with chappathis, plain parathas and rice as well.
This is my entry for WBB: Grains in my Breakfast, which is being hosted right here on this blog. This also goes to Suganya of Tasty Palettes who is guest hosting Indira’s JFI with the theme “Wholegrains”. The Cherupayarukari is my submission for Susan’s My Legume Love Affair whose Third Helping is being hosted by Lucinda at Nourish Me.