Payatham Paniyaram

With Theepawali coming up this weekend, it’s time for some traditional snacks at home. My mother made a few quintessential Jaffna festival snacks so I will be sharing their recipes here.

Today’s recipe is my great grandmother’s recipe for ‘payatham paniyaram’ (a spiced green gram snack) which is a traditional Jaffna specialty made at all the festivals and celebrations in the peninsula. Plus, people tend to make this and send out to relatives in other cities or abroad as it keeps for a relatively long time.

Payatham Paniyaram

Time taken: 35 mins

Makes 20

Payatham paniyaaramIngredients:

  • Green gram – 1 cup, roasted flour
  • Red rice flour – 2 tbsp, roasted
  • Sugar – ½ cup
  • Cardamom – 6, crushed
  • White raw rice flour or wheat flour – ½ cup
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cumin powder, pepper powder, toasted coconut flakes – optional

Method:

  1. Combine the roasted green gram flour and the roasted red rice flour and keep aside.
  2. Melt ½ cup sugar in ¼ cup of water in a saucepan over low heat.
  3. When the syrup starts bubbling in a couple of mins, add the crushed cardamoms.  The optional cumin, pepper and toasted coconut flakes can be added now, if required. I prefer not to have the cumin or pepper added.
  4. Quickly add in the roasted green gram and red rice flour mix into the sauce pan, continuously stirring for a few mins, until the mixture is well-combined and easy to form into balls.
  5. Remove from stove and make about 20 balls of the spiced mixture.
  6. Make the dipping batter by combining the white raw rice flour (the preferred flour) or wheat flour with a little salt and water. Coat the balls in the batter.
  7. Heat the oil for deep-frying. Fry the balls until golden-brown on all sides. Transfer the ‘payitram paniyaram’ to a tray lined with grease absorbing paper.
  8. Serve when cooled. If coconut flakes are not added, the ‘paniyaram’ can be stored for many days.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Kolukkattai

With the start of Navarathri today, I thought of posting nine of my mother’s recipes of some food that she typically makes during this nine-day festival. I have always been fond of Navarathri, since my childhood, and I think of all the religious festivals that my family has observed, this has been the favourite and better observed.

The nine days of the festival are dedicated to Goddesses starting with the first three days for Goddess Durga, symbolizing courage and strength, the next three days for Goddess Lakshmi, symbolizing wealth and beauty, the last three days for Goddess Saraswathi, symbolizing knowledge and wisdom. The last three days are the most special of the nine days.

To start off the Navarathri food fest, I will first share one of my favourites – Kolukkattai. This is a steamed half-moon shaped dumpling made especially during the Aadi pirappu (July 15th, which is the first of the month of Aadi in the Tamil calendar) and during the ceremony that marks the arrival of a baby’s first teeth. It is actually ‘Mothaham’, a round shaped version of the kolukkattai, that is made during Navarathri but at my home, my mother prefers to make kolukkattai generally.

Mothaham

Mothaham

Kolukkattai

Time taken: 40 – 45 mins

Makes 10

Kolukkattai

Kolukkattai

Ingredients:

  • Green gram – ½ cup, roasted and split
  • Water
  • Wheat flour – ¾ cup
  • Rice flour – ¼ cup
  • Salt – pinch
  • Low fat oil, as required
  • Coconut –½ cup, freshly scraped
  • Jaggery – ¼ cup
  • Cardamom – 4, crushed

Method

  1. Boil the green gram in about 1 ½ cups of water, for about 20 mins, until it is well-cooked. Add water if the liquid dries up before the gram is cooked. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the wheat flour, rice flour and a pinch of salt. Add hot water slowly while stirring the flour mix with a spoon.
  3. Add a little oil and bring together the mixture into a ball of dough.
  4. Divide the dough into 10 small balls, adding a little oil, to have a smooth dough mix.
  5. In a pan, cook the jaggery on low heat and stir as it melts.
  6. Add the scraped coconut and quickly stir for a couple of minutes, not allowing the coconut-jaggery mixture to burn.
  7. Add the boiled and drained green gram and the crushed cardamom to the coconut-jaggery mixture. Mix and remove from heat. Let the mixture cool.
  8. Roll out each of the ten small balls of dough and spoon 1 tbsp filling in the center of the rolled out dough. Close the dough wrap over the filling in a half-moon shape, by hand or using a pre-fabricated mold shell, or into a round dumpling shape. For the ceremony that marks the arrival of the baby’s first teeth, tiny coconut chips are embedded into the dents pressed by the mold or finger along one half of the half-moon shaped dumpling.
  9. Steam the ‘kolukattai’ (the half-moon shaped) or ‘mothaham’ (the round shaped dumpling) for about 10 mins.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Pongal

My mother often recounts a story from her childhood years, particularly ones that include her grandmother. One story she is fond of narrating is about how her grandmother used to undertake her own farming and not use machines or chemicals. My great-grandmother, who was the last farmer in our family lost her husband at a young age and raised her three children on her own. She had some paddy land and a small vegetable farm, which she managed to buy with her own earning. While she did hire farm labourers when needed, she did a lot of work on her field herself. Also, she raised cows and goats and undertook organic farming. Compost was made on her farm and used in her field. She had her land ploughed with a hand-plough and planted the paddy seeds. When the seeds started growing, just like any other small time farmer, she undertook the weeding together with the help of some hired hands.

The harvesting season was a special process and the cut grain stalks would be loaded onto bullock carts and brought home for the grains to be separated from the husks. By the time they were brought home, it would be night. As there was no electricity in their home at that time, three or four petromax lamps were lighted. My mother remembers that she was very much excited during those days and didn’t want to go to sleep but stay up and watch. It seemed like a carnival at her grandmother’s home, with the place lighted up and movement of people throughout the night.

A pole was planted in the middle of the yard and large woven mats placed around the pole. The cut stalks were spread on the mat. The buffaloes were tied to the pole and two or three hired help would walk the buffaloes around the pole. This was the old process to separate the grains from the husks. My mother remembers watching the men walk the buffaloes calling out, “poli.” The stalks were then picked up and thrashed onto the mat and the grains would separate out and fall. These were then packed up in sacks.

Local rice varieties

The first handfuls of grain were beaten in a stone or wood “ural” to separate the raw rice from the grain. This was made into the first pongal of the harvest. Everyone who helped would be invited for a meal and given bags of grains.

Family members who had died were also remembered on that day and a large variety of food was made. My mother mentions that a special offering was made that day, as part of the remembrance ritual, called the “puthir.” Her grandmother used to take some of the pongal made from the first rice from the harvest and spread it out on a large tray. Then, all types of available fruits were cut up and layered on top of the pongal. Honey was poured over the fruits. A sampling of all the vegetable curries that were made were also layered on top of the pongal-fruit-honey mix. Finally, ghee was poured over the tray of food and everything was mixed together. After the prayers were made, a little “puthir” was handed as “prasadham” (blessed offering) to everyone present.

Today, I will share the recipe of pongal that is made with the first harvest of the season by farmers and by non-farmers on festival days such as the Pongal festival in January, New Year in April and other celebrations.

Pongal

Cooking time: 30 to 40 mins

Serves 4 or 5

Pongal

Ingredients:

  • Rice – 1 cup
  • Roasted split gram (without skin) – ¼ cup
  • Jaggery – 1 cup (grated)
  • Coconut – ½
  • Cardamom – 4 or 5, crushed
  • Cashew nuts – few, chopped
  • Raisins – 1 tbsp
  • Water

Method:

  1. Wash the rice and gram and cook them in a pot with 2 ½ cups of water. Cook for around 15 to 20 mins, till the water dries up.
  2. Grind and extract coconut milk by blending the freshly scraped half of a coconut with 1 cup of water.
  3. Once the rice and gram is cooked, add the grated jaggery and mix.
  4. Then, add the coconut milk and crushed cardamoms. Bring to a boil on high heat and cook for a few more minutes before reducing the heat.
  5. Add the chopped cashew nuts. Cook until the pongal mixture starts coming together and starts to thicken.
  6. Just before removing from heat, add the raisins and mix.
  7. Remove from heat and cover.
  8. Serve pongal with bananas.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Payaru Soosiam

Green gram (Payaru/ Moongkatta) is used a lot in Sri Lanka as a nutritious food. It is generally cultivated in between paddy cultivation seasons.

Green gram and Black gram, with skin peeled off

Green gram and Black gram, with skin peeled off

At home, my mother used to occasionally make us the ‘kadalaiparuppu soosiam’ (chickpea soosiam) more than ‘payaru soosiam’. During my undergraduate years at Peradeniya, I became fond of something that was called ‘moongkatta bole’ which was quite similar to ‘payaru soosiam’. It was one of the few things that I liked from what the university canteens offered. During my visits home, I mentioned this to my mother and since then, my mother makes ‘payaru soosiam’ more often than she does the chickpea soosiam.

So today, besides the ulunthu vadai recipe, I will also share my mother’s recipe for payaru soosiam/ moongkatta bole.

Payaru soosiam/ Moongkatta bole

Cooking time: 30 mins + 4 hours (soaking time)

Makes 10 soosiam

Payaru soosiam

Ingredients

  • Green gram – 1 cup
  • Freshly scraped coconut – ½ cup
  • Sugar – ¼ cup
  • Cardamom – 4 or 5
  • Wheat flour – ½ cup
  • Salt, to taste
  • Vanilla – few drops
  • Yellow food colouring – few drops (optional)
  • Water, as required
  • Low fat oil, for deep frying

Method

  1. Soak the green gram for about 3 – 4 hours.
  2. Cook the green gram with water for about 10 to 15 mins, until the gram is cooked. Drain off the water.
  3. Mix the boiled gram with scraped coconut, sugar and cardamom and grind.
  4. Make 10 balls out of the ground mixture and keep aside.
  5. Mix the wheat flour with salt.
  6. Add water little by little till a pancake batter consistency is reached.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and optional food colouring to the batter and mix well.
  8. Dip each ball in the batter, coat it thorougly and deep fry.
  9. Serve immediately with a hot cup of tea.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Aadi Kool

The first day of July in the Tamil calendar is called ‘Aadi’. It roughly corresponds to July 15 on the global calendar.

On this day called ‘Aadi pirappu’ or the birth of the month of Aadi, my mother makes a special dish usually for breakfast called the ‘Aadi Kool’.

Here’s my mother’s recipe for Aadi Kool:

Time taken: 45 minutes

Serves: 5 – 6

Ingredients

  • Dry roasted rice flour – 1 cup
  • Dry roasted green gram – ½ cup
  • Jaggery or brown sugar – ½ cup (can be adjusted as per your taste)
  • Chips of coconut – ½ cup
  • Coconut milk – 1 ½ cup
  • Water

Method

  1. Boil the green gram, which has been previously dry roasted, in one litre of water in a pot.
  2. Midway during the boiling, add the coconut chips (not grated but little pieces chipped off from a fresh coconut).
  3. Take 2 or 3 tbsp of the roasted rice flour and add a little hot water to make a paste. Make tiny balls from this rice flour mixture and add it to the boiling pot.
  4. After a few minutes of boiling, add the rest of the cup of rice flour into the boiling pot, slowly stirring it in.
  5. When the mixture starts boiling, add the coconut milk and the grated jaggery and leave it to simmer for another 10 minutes.
  6. Take the pot off the heat and serve the Kool in little bowls.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.