Pongal

Happy Thai Pongal! இனிய தைப்பொங்கல் நல்வாழ்த்துகள்!

Tomorrow is Pongal for Tamils around the world. Pongal is a celebration that occurs annually on the first day of the month of ‘Thai’ (Tamil month equivalent to January) and is a harvest festival, traditionally meant to honour the sun. It is also the name of the key rice dish that is made to celebrate most Tamil festivals, but particularly its namesake festival.

I shared a simple recipe of the home-cooking version of Pongal in this post last August. Today, I also wanted to share some of the photos from one of our Pongal celebrations with the families in our apartment building a couple of years back as it is more of a community festival where people get together in the temple or courtyard, or as in this case – the car parking area. I was going to post this tomorrow on the festival day but as one of my friends has sent me a recipe of one of the snacks she makes for Pongal, I decided to post her recipe tomorrow. So, here’s the photo-story of Pongal making.

The kolam (designs made of rice flour paste) is first drawn. Within its boundaries, the traditional Tamil welcome is set up facing north, with the kuthuvillaku/lamps and the coconut with mango leaves placed in the kudam/pot

The kolam (designs made of rice flour paste) is first drawn. Within its boundaries, the traditional Tamil welcome is set up facing north, with the kuthuvillaku/lamps and the coconut with mango leaves placed in the kudam/pot

Water for Pongal

Setting up the Pongal pot facing the rising sun in the east

Milk boiling for pongal

Milk (usually dairy milk but at home, my mother uses coconut milk) is added to the water in the pot

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Everyone waits for the milk to boil over – this symbolically means prosperity for all for the coming year (‘Ponguthal’ means boiling over and is the word that festival name and dish derived its name from)

Adding rice to the pot

The rice is then added to the pot – a handful at a time by some of the elders, women and men, present.

Pongal

After the rice is cooked, jaggery, nuts, raisins are added to the pot and stirred well. Finally, the pongal is ready to be blessed and served.

While Thai Pongal is an important Tamil festival for Tamils living around the world, it is celebrated differently in different countries. In Sri Lanka, Pongal is mostly celebrated as described above whereas in India, it is a three-day festival with a day dedicated for cows. A harvest day festival around this day is also celebrated across India and Nepal but called different names (Makara Sankranti, Lohri, Uttarayana, Magh Bihu etc.) in different regions and has different rituals.

Wish you a Happy Pongal!

Kurakkan Pittu

Kurakkan, also known as ragi, is a type of millet that is gluten-free and diabetic friendly. At home, the most common and popular form of pittu is the rice flour pittu. Occasionally, my mother makes the atta flour pittu or the kurakkan flour pittu.

Below is the simple recipe for making kurakkan flour pittu. The rice flour pittu and atta flour pittu easily blend with any curries and is a convenient meal to prepare. Kurakkan, however, has a distinctive taste that I find does not easily merge with just any curry. As such, I prefer to eat kurakkan pittu simply sprinkled with coconut and jaggery.

Kurakkan Pittu

Time taken: 25 mins

Serves 2

Kurakkan pittuIngredients:

  • Kurakkan flour/ ragi – 1 cup
  • Coconut – ¼ cup, freshly scraped
  • Jaggery – 2 or 3 tbsp, finely chopped
  • Salt – pinch

Method:

  1. Add a pinch or two of salt to the kurakkan flour.
  2. Stir in boiled and slightly cooled water until the flour mixtures becomes coarse and grainy.
  3. Steam the kurakkan pittu for 10 mins.
  4. Mix the freshly scraped coconut and chopped jaggery into the steamed pittu and serve hot.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Atta Flour Pittu

Pittu is a dish that my mother often makes for dinner. She generally makes rice flour pittu. One of the varieties that she occasionally makes is the atta flour pittu, the recipe of which is given below.

Atta flour pittu

Time taken: 25 mins

Serves 2

Atta flour pittuIngredients:

  • Atta flour – 1 ½ cups
  • Coconut – 3 tbsp, freshly scraped
  • Salt – pinch

Method:

  1. Roast the atta flour over low heat for 5 mins.
  2. Remove from stove and add the salt.
  3. While still hot, stir in water at room temperature until the mixture becomes coarse, small particles.
  4. Add the freshly scraped coconut and mix well.
  5. Steam the pittu for 10 mins.
  6. Serve warm with any curry.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Odiyal Kool

Decided to take a break this week and re-post a few recipes from the initial days of this blog.

This is a traditional recipe from the North of Sri Lanka made from a palmyrah product. My mother tells me her grandmother used to make this for them on special occasions. While this is typically a spicy sea-food dish, it can be a vegan dish if one omits the seafood.

So, I am sharing my great-grandmother’s odiyal kool recipe, as remembered by my mother.

The base for this kool is ‘Odiyal’, a healthy and nutritious root that is dried before making into a flour. One can purchase the ‘odiyal flour’ from Katpaham marketing outlets around Sri Lanka, run by the Palmyrah Development Board, and might be found at Sri Lankan stores outside of Sri Lanka. However, if ‘odiyal flour’ cannot be obtained, corn flour can be tried out as a substitute.

Odiyal Kool

Cooking time – 45 minutes

Serves: 8 – 10

Ingredients

  • Odiyal or Odiyal Flour – 1 cup
  • Chopped mixed vegetables (brinjal/ katharikkai, jackfruit seeds/ palakottai, yardlong beans/ paithangai, small green leaves/ pasali keerai or murungai ilai, manioc, ash plantain) – 100g each
  • Chopped mixed seafood (prawns, crab meat, squids etc.) – 100g each, omit if vegetarian
  • Boiled rice – ½ cup
  • Dried red chillies – 5- 10, depending on your desired level of hot spicy
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp, can add another tablespoon if you like it really spicy
  • Pepper powder – 1tbsp, can add another tablespoon if you like it really spicy
  • Tamarind extract – ½ cup
  • Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Water – 2 litres

Method:

  1. Grind the odiyal into flour or use the ready-made odiyal flour.
  2. Dry grind the cumin seeds, red chillies and pepper and keep aside.
  3. Boil the vegetables in a pot with half litre water.
  4. Boil the seafood in a separate pot with half litre water.
  5. Then, mix the boiled vegetables and seafood and add another litre of water, along with the tamarind extract.
  6. As the water comes to a boil, slowly stir in the odiyal flour, avoiding lumps.
  7. Add the boiled rice to the pot.
  8. Add the ground spice mixture and the turmeric powder to the pot and salt to taste. Let it come to a boil.
  9. You can add a little water to adjust the consistency to your liking, e.g. if the water has dried up or you prefer a watery Kool.
  10. Serve hot in medium-sized bowls.

Recipe Source: Raji Thillainathan.

Spicy Pumpkin Tart

Today’s recipe is a pumpkin-centric fusion recipe of my mother.

Spicy Pumpkin Tart

Time taken: 1 ¼ hours

Serves 4

Pumpkin tartIngredients:

  • Wheat flour – 1 cup
  • Vegetable margarine – ¼ cup + 2 tbsp (sauce/ cream)
  • Pumpkin – 1 cup, boiled and mashed
  • Carrot – ½ , boiled
  • Beans – 4, chopped
  • Guava – ½ large or 1 medium-sized, chopped
  • Leeks – ¼, chopped
  • Capsicum or malu miris – 1, chopped
  • Green chillies – 2, chopped
  • Onion – 1, chopped
  • Ginger – 1 tsp, chopped
  • Garlic – 1 tsp, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Vegetable stock – ½ tsp (optional)
  • Crushed chillies – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Low fat oil – 1 tbsp
  • Baking soda – ½ tsp
  • Tomatoes – chopped, for topping
  • Onion – chopped, for topping (optional)
  • Rosemary or mixed spice – 1 tsp
  • Water, as required

Method:

  1. Mix the flour, margarine, salt and a little water to make a dough. Knead to make it smooth and let the dough rest while making the tart filling.
  2. Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and fry the ginger and garlic first for a couple of mins.
  3. Then, add the chopped onion followed by the chopped vegetables. Stir fry for a few mins.
  4. Finally, add the boiled pumpkin and carrot as well as the guava. Mix well and continue cooking for about 5 mins.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Remove pan from stove.
  6. Heat 2 tbsp margarine in a saucepan over low heat.
  7. Add 2 tbsp flour and add ½ cup of water to the saucepan. Stir, for about 10 mins, until it thickens to a cream. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and optional ½ tsp vegetable stock and 1 tsp crushed chillies.
  8. Transfer the vegetable mixture from the pan to the saucepan. Stir.
  9. Add ½ tsp baking soda to the saucepan. Mix well before removing sauce pan from stove.
  10. Roll out the dough and line the pie tray with the dough.
  11. Fill the tart base with the vegetable filling.
  12. Top with chopped tomatoes and optional chopped onions. Sprinkle 1 tsp of rosemary or mixed spice.
  13. Bake the tart at 220⁰C/428⁰F for 30 mins.
  14. Slice and serve warm.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Savoury vegan pie

The recipe I would like to share today is the recipe for a pie that my mother made recently. It was delicious and very filling and included lots of vegetables and even passion fruit and peanuts.

A slice of pieSavoury vegan pie

Time taken:  1 ½ hours

Serves 6 or 8

Ingredients:

Base:

  • Wheat flour – 1 cup
  • Vegetable oil margarine – ¼ cup
  • Salt, to taste

Filling:

  • Green peas – ¾ cup
  • Carrot – ½ cup, chopped and grated
  • Tomatoes – ¾ cup
  • Cabbage – 2 tbsp, shredded
  • Potatoes – 1 or 2
  • Onion – ½
  • Chilli – 1
  • Crushed peanuts – 1 tbsp
  • Ginger – ½ or 1″, as per taste
  • Garlic – 3 or 4 cloves
  • Pepper and salt, to taste
  • Low fat oil (sunflower or canola) – 2 tbsp

Top layer:

  • Soya milk – 1 cup
  • Urad dhal/ Ulunthu flour – 2 tbsp
  • Wheat flour – 1 tbsp
  • Passion fruit – 1
  • Rosemary – 1 tsp
  • Sesame seeds – 1 tsp
  • Chilli or capsicum – 1
  • Onion – ¼
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Make the dough for the pie base by mixing the wheat flour, margarine and salt, to taste and kneading it. Let the dough rest while making the filling for the pie.
  2. Boil the tomatoes and mash them slightly. Boil the potatoes and cabbage.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the ginger and garlic. Then add the onion and crushed peanuts and fry for a few minutes.
  4. Add the slightly mashed, boiled tomatoes to the pan and then add the carrots followed by the green peas and finally the potatoes and cabbage.
  5. Add pepper and salt, to taste. Keep aside the vegetable filling.
  6. In a saucepan, heat the soya milk with 2 tbsp urad dhal and 1 tbsp wheat flour. Bring to a boil, adding salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the pulp of passion fruit to give the mix a tangy and fruity flavour.
  8. Take the pie pan and roll out the pie base, covering the pan.
  9. Spoon the vegetable filling on top of the pie base and level it smoothly across the pan.
  10. Pour the tangy batter-like sauce over the vegetable filling.
  11. Sprinkle chopped onion, capsicum or green chilli and the rosemary and sesame seeds over the sauce covering the pie.
  12. Bake for 30 – 40 mins at 220⁰C/ 428⁰F.
  13. Serve hot with some spicy chutney or sauce.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Puri and Kadalai Curry

Today’s recipes are my childhood favourites and I guess, they still continue to be one of my favourites. Originating from North India, the dishes have become very much part of the cuisine of the sub-continent. In this post, I will focus on the main meal and in my next, the accompanying dessert.

Puri with Kadalai curry

(a) Puri

Time taken: 40 – 45 mins

Makes 6

Puri

Ingredients

  • Wheat flour – 1 cup
  • Salt – ½ tsp
  • Low fat oil – 2 tbsp + for deep-frying
  • Water, as required

Method

  1. Add ½ tsp salt and 2 tbsp oil to the wheat flour. Slowly stir in a little water and knead the flour mix into a ball of dough.
  2. Divide the dough into 6 smaller balls. Let it rest for about 15 to 20 mins.
  3. Heat some oil in a pan on low to medium heat.
  4. Roll out one of the small balls of dough.
  5. Keep a little container with water by your side and brush one side of the rolled out dough with water.
  6. Drop the rolled out dough into the hot oil, with the water side down. This helps the puri to puff up more. Yes, there will be a lot of crackling noise as water and oil react at first.
  7. Once the puri has risen to the surface, flip it to the other side so that the other side can be cooked and can also become puffy. It takes about 2 mins approximately to brown each side.
  8. Remove the puri from the pan and place on a dish covered with a grease absorbing paper.
  9. Serve with kadalai curry.

(b) Kadalai (chickpea) curry

Time taken: 40 mins + overnight soaking

Serves: 3

Kadalai curry

Ingredients:

  • Kadalai/ Chickpea – ½ cup
  • Onion – ½ , chopped
  • Mixed 3C (Cinnamon, cardamom and cloves) powder – 1 tsp
  • Fennel seeds – ½ tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds – ½ tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Rampe/ pandan leaf – small piece
  • Coconut milk or non-fat milk – 1 cup
  • Curry powder – 1 tbsp, or as required
  • Low fat oil, as required

Method:

  1. Soak the kadalai in water for a minimum of 3 hours and better, if soaked overnight.
  2. Rinse the soaked kadalai and boil it for 15 minutes in some fresh water.
  3. Drain and keep aside the kadalai.
  4. In a pan, heat a little oil and fry the chopped onion, fenugreek, mixed 3C powder, curry leaves and rampe for two minutes.
  5. Add the boiled kadalai to the pan and mix well.
  6. Stir in the coconut milk or non-fat milk and 1 tbsp curry powder. Let the kadalai curry simmer on low heat for 10 to 15 mins.
  7. If the curry dries up, add a little more milk and let it simmer a little more. The curry should have a rich consistency and not be watery when you remove from the heat.
  8. Serve hot with the puri.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.