Kuzhi Paniyaaram

Kuzhi Paniyaaram is a round, fluffy, extremely tasty South Indian Snack made of idli / dosa batter.It can be made with left over batter or batter that has turned a bit too sour to make idli or dosa.. Loved by people of all ages, it is easy to make and can substitute as a starter or snack any time of the day.

Ingredients:

Dosa / Idli batter – 3 cups
Besan – 2 tlbs
Onions – 1/4 cup finely chopped
Green Chillies – 3 finely chopped
Ginger – 1 tsp finely chopped
Curry leaves – a few
Oil – To fry,
Appa kaaral or Paniyaara pan made of cast iron or non – stick ware


Method:

Mix all ingredients together to form an even batter . Add a little salt if required.
Place the paniyaara pan [ with 5 or 7 holes as the case may be] on the stove and heat it slightly.
Pour enough oil to fill the holes in the pan.
When the oil is hot spoon the batter into each hole.Keep the heat on low flame to allow even cooking.
When it starts browning turn carefully on to the other side and cook.
Remove with skewers when it golden brown on all sides.
Drain on tissue paper.
Serve hot with chutney or sauce.

Tips: ,
Besan is added only to thicken the batter. If the existing batter is of thick consistency besan can be avoided.
If the batter is of very thin consistency then the paniyaarams will absorb too much oil, which is not healthy.
A little bit of grated coconut and a pinch of asfoetida are optional ingredients.
If you are making it for kids and don’t want it to be spicy for them omit green chillies and ginger,

By Mrs. Mira Balachandran; mira.balachandran@gmail.com

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TIPS FOR BETTER COOKING – PART IV

1.Dry roast fenugreek in a pan, powder it finely and store. A couple of spoons added to your dosa batter will make them very tasty

2.When you have indigestion problem and you feel like having dosa, just mix a spoon of ‘Chukku’ powder [dried ginger] to the batter and make dosas. It is tasty and aids in digestion.

3.When big gooseberries are in season supplement them for tamarind in chutneys. It not only adds to the taste but adds to the nutritive value too.

4.Having guests coming over and need to get the chapathi dough [INDIAN BREAD] well kneaded. No worries. Mix the dough by hand to form a lump. If you have a grinder at home, remove the grinder stone and place the dough in the vessel. Place the stone back on the dough and run the grinder for a couple of minutes. Stop the grinder reverse the dough and follow same procedure as before. You will get soft dough from which you can make excellent chapathis.

5.To get crisp pakodas add corn flour and a tsp of oil to the batter along with besan.

6.To make crisp samosas take a thin dry piece of cotton cloth and place the flour in it and tie it. Place this in a pressure cooker and steam for a few minutes. Use this flour to make the dough.

7.Have too much rice left over? Boil a few potatoes and carrots. Add salt, garam masala powder, turmeric powder to it and mash well. Mix this with rice and add salt o taste. Add a little corn flour and make them into nice round balls. Fry it in hot oil to get an instant tasty snack.

8.If coconut is used in ground masala do not fry it for long.

9.Remove the stems of green chilies before storing them. They will last long.

10.Little sugar added to any gravy makes it tasty.

TIPS BY: Mrs. Mira Balachandran; mira.balachandran@gmail.com

TIPS FOR BETTER COOKING – PART – III

1.To get nicely roasted Colocasia or Seppankizhangu mix a little bit of Besan
[Kadalai Maavu] with sour curd and coat the curry to get the crispiness.

2.If you want the ladies finger pieces to be separate in a subji add a table spoon of curd or tamarind water while sautéing.

3.When you realize there is excessive salt in a dish that has to be reduced you can try any of the three following options: Add a tsp of sugar or a few pieces of potatoes or add a few pieces of raw papaya.

4.When you are left with excessive coffee decoction store the same after adding some sugar to it. It will be as good as new the next day.

5.If the holes in the coffee filter are clogged, clean and wipe the filter dry and show the pores over the gas flame for a few seconds. Tap the filter upside down and all the powder stuck in the holes will fall off, clearing the clogs.

6.While melting butter to get ghee add a little bit fenugreek towards the end will add an extra aroma & flavor to the ghee.

7.A piece of jaggery added to ghee will help preserve it longer.

8.While frying chips or other snacks if there is a danger of the oil spilling over it can be prevented by dropping a few curry leaves or a bit of tamarind into the oil.

9.During winter for quick setting of curds, you can add a small ball of tamarind along with a spoon of curd to the milk for speeding up the process.

10.If your idly or dosa batter has turned too sour just pour two or three tumblers of water to it and wait. After a while drain the water that accumulates on top and then use the batter.

Tips By: Mrs. Mira Balachandran; mira.balachandran@gmail.com

TIPS FOR BETTER COOKING – PART – II

1.To make dosas easily rub the tawa with an onion cut into two.

2.If the dosa batter gets stuck on to the tawa add salt to a little bit of oil and rub the surface with this mix. You can make the next dosa easily.

3.Immerse lime in hot water for a few minutes before extracting juice to get the maximum juice.

4.For making crisp potato chips, slice and place the potatoes in a white cloth, tie it and drop it in boiling water and immerse for five mins. Remove slices and put them in cold water to which salt has been added. Your chips will be extremely crisp.

5.Want to make crisp Pakodas? Add a bit of ghee and curds seasoned with salt and mix the batter.

6.You can also add powdered ground nuts to the besan batter to make them extra crispy.

7.Adding a pinch of salt to turmeric powder or Chilli powder will help in preserving them longer

8.If you have run short of curds to make curds, you can make use of lime juice.

9.While storing coconuts ensure the ‘kudumi’ portion is upright. It will stay good for a long time.

10.Branches of Goose Berry trees can be cut into 3 – 4 pieces and dropped inside a well with salt water. These branches remove the salt from the well water.

TIPS BY: MRS MIRA BALACHANDRAN; mira.balachandran@gmail.com

TIPS FOR BETTER COOKING – PART – I

1.Add salt to water while cooking greens [Keerai] to help retain the color.

2.A few drops of lime added to rice while cooking helps in making it look brighter and White.

4.Having problems in cooking Tur Dal? At times we will find certain varieties of Tur dal requiring longer time to cook and we would discover this only after a couple of days of trial by which time it will be too late to return the dal to the store. Add a small piece of coconut to the dal and cook to see the difference.

5.Add a piece of ginger while cooking cabbage or cauliflower to avoid the strong aroma that it emanates normally.

6.While mixing dough for Pooris add sugar to get puffed Pooris that stay crisp for a while.

7.Adding a few pepper corns to oil will help in keeping it fresh for a longer duration.

8.Soaking / immersing Cauliflower in salt water half an hour before cooking [after removing the leaves and stem] will help in getting rid of small germs or worms.

9.Wash onions after peeling the skin off to avoid eye irritation and watering.

10.Idli or Dosa batter will not go sour if you add a few dry chillies to it.

Tips by Mrs. Mira Balachandran; mira.balachandran@gmail.com

Kanchi Paramacharya on South Indian Food – -Extracted From Ra.Ganapathi’s Book

To the awe and amazement of his devotees, Paramacharya often discussed about down-to-earth laukika matters with keen interest, deep understanding and knowledge. In this lecture, he explains the origin and meaning of the names of common Indian dishes and their connection to spirituality.

In these explanations, I have mostly used the translated words of what Paramacharya actually spoke, extracted from the Tamil publication titled Sollin Selvar (The Expert of Words), Sri Kanchi Munivar by Sri Ra. Ganapathy.

A South Indian Meal

A typical South Indian meal is served in three main courses: sambar sAdam, rasam sAdam and more (buttermilk) sAdam.

Sambar is also known as kuzhambu in Tamil, a term that literally translates to ‘get confused’. Paramacharya explains how these three courses are related to the three gunas of spirituality: the confusion of sambar is tamo guna, the clarified and rarified flow of rasam is rajo guna and the all-white buttermilk is satva guna. Our meal reminds us of our spiritual path from confused inaction to a clear flow of action and finally to the realized bliss of unity.

sAdam

Cooked rice, the main dish of a South Indian meal is called sAdam. That which has sat is sAdam, in the same way we call those who are full of sat, sadhus. We can give another explanation for the term: that which is born out of prasannam is prasAdam. What we offer to Swami (God) as nivedanam is given back to us as parasAdam. Since we should not add the root ‘pra’ to the rice we cook for ourselves, we call it sAdam.

Rasam

Rasam means juice, which is also the name of filtered ruchi. We say ‘it was full of rasa’ when a speech or song was tasteful. Vaishnavas, because of their Tamil abhimAnam, refer to rasam as saatthamudhu. It does not mean the amudhu (amrita) mixed with sAdam. It was actually saatramudhu (saaru or rasam + amudhu), which became saatthamudhu.

Vaishnavas also have a term thirukkann amudhu that refers to our pAyasam. What is that thirukkann? If rudrAksham means Rudra’s eye, does ‘thirukkann’ mean Lakshmi’s eye? Or does the term refer to some vastu (article) added to pAyasam? No such things. Thiru kannal amudhu has become thirukkann amudhu. Kannal means sugercane, the base crop of suger and jaggery used in pAyasam.

I was talking about rasam. If something is an extraction of juice, then would it not be clear, diluted and free of sediments? Such is the nature of our rasam, which is clear and dilute. The other one, served earlier to rasam in a meal, is the kuzhambu. Kuzhambu contains dissolved tamarind and cut vegetable pieces, so it looks unclear, its ingredients not easily seen.

Buttermilk

A western meal normally ends with a dessert. In a South Indian meal, desserts such as pAyasam are served after the rasam sAdam. Any sweets that were served at the beginning are also taken at this time. After that we take buttermilk rice as our final course. Paramacharya explains that since sweets are harmful to teeth, our sour and salty buttermilk actually strengthens our teeth, and this has been observed and praised by an American dietician. We gargle warm salt water when we get toothache. The buttermilk is the reason for our having strong teeth until the end of our life, unlike the westerners who resort to dentures quite early in their life.

Vegetable curry

Even though cut vegetable pieces are used in sambar, kootoo and pacchadi, in curry they are fried to such an extent that they become dark in color (the term curry also means blackness or darkness in Tamil). May be this is the origin of the name curry.

Uppuma (kitchadi)

If the term uppuma is derived from the fact that we add uppu or salt, then we also add salt to iddly, dosa and pongal! Actually, it is not uppuma but ubbuma! The rava used for this dish expands in size to the full vessel where heated up with water and salt. The action of rava getting expanded is the reason for the term ubbuma.

Iddly

The term iduthal (in Tamil) refers to keeping something set and untouched. We call the cremation ground idukaadu (in Tamil). There we keep the mrita sarira (mortal body) set on the burning pyre and then come away. The term iduthal also refers to refining gold with fire. The (Tamil) term idu marunthu has a similar connotation: a drug given once without any repetition of dosage. In the same way, we keep the iddly wet flour on the oven and do nothing to it until it is cooked by steam.

Idiyaappam

(This is rice noodles cooked in steam). Brahmins call it seva while others call it idiyaappam. But unlike an appam which is a cake, this dish is in strands. The term appam is derived from the Sanskrit ApUpam meaning cake. The flour of that cake is called ApUpayam. This word is the origin of the Tamil word appam.

Appalaam

The grammatical Tamil term is appalam. This dish is also made by kneading (urad dhal) flour, making globules out of it and then flattening them. So it is also a kind of appam. Because of its taste a ‘la’ is added as a particle of endearment!

Laddu
ladanam (in Sanskrit) means to play, to throw. ladakam is the sports goods used to play with. Since the ball games are the most popular, ladakam came to mean a ball. The dish laddu is like a ball, and this term is a shortened form of laddukam, which derived from ladakam.

Laddu is also known as kunjaa laadu. This should actually be gunjaa laadu, because the Sanskrit term gunjA refers to the gunjA-berry, used as a measure of weight, specially for gold. Since a laddu is a packed ball of gunjA like berries cooked out of flour and sugar, it got this name.

The singer of mUka panca sati on Ambal Kamakshi describes her as Matangi and in that description praises her as ‘gunjA bhUsha’, that is, wearing chains and bangles made of gunjA-berries of gold.

Pori vilangaa laddu
Made of jaggery, rice flour and dried ginger without any ghee added to it, this laddu is as hard as a wood apple, though very tasty, and hence got its name from that fruit and the original pori (puffed rice) flour used to make it.

Indian Dishes of Turkish Origin

Our halwa is a dish that came from the Turkish invasion. bahU kalam (long ago) before that we had a dish called paishtikam, made of flour, ghee and sugar. But then the Arabian term halwa has stuck in usage for such preparation.

Sojji

sUji is another name from the Turkish. It has become sojji now. It is mostly referred to these days as kesari. In Sanskrit, kesaram means mane, so kesari is a lion with kesaram. It was a practice to add the title ‘kesari’ to people who are on the top in any field. Thus we have Veera Kesari, Hari Kesari as titles of kings in Tamilnadu. The German Keisar, Roman Caesar and the Russian Czar — all these titles came from only from this term kesari.

What is the color the lion? A sort of brownish red, right? A shade that is not orange nor red. That is the kesar varnam. The powder of that stone is called kesari powder, which became the name of the dish to which it is added for color.

Vada

A Tamil pundit told me that the name vada(i) could have originated from the Sanskrit mAshApUpam, which is an appam made of mAsham or the urad dhal. He also said that in ancient Tamilnadu, vada and appam were prepared like chapati, baking the flour cake using dry heat.

Dadhya Araadhana

Someone asked me about the meaning of this term. He was under the impression that dadhi was curd, so dadhiyaaradhana(i) was the curd rice offered to Perumal. Actually, the correct term is tadeeya AradhanA, meaning the samaaradhana(i) (grand dinner) hosted to the bhagavatas of Perumal. It got shortened in the habitual Vaishnava way.

Vaishnavas offer the nivedanam of pongal with other things to Perumal in their dhanur mAsa ushad kala puja (early morning puja of the Dhanur month). They call it tiruppakshi. The original term was actually tiruppalli ezhuchi, the term used to wake of Perumal. It became ‘tiruppazhuchi’, then ‘tiruppazhachi’ and finally ‘tiruppakshi’ today, using the Sanskrit kshakara akshram, in the habitual Vaishnava way. It is only vegetarian offering, nothing to do with pakshi (bird)!

The term dhanur mAsam automatically brings up thoughts of Andaal and her paavai (friends). In the 27th song (of Tiruppaavai), she describes her wake up puja and nivedanam with milk and sweet pongal to Bhagavan, which culminates in her having a joint dinner with her friends. Vaishnavas celebrate that day as the festival koodaara valli, following the same sampradhAyam (tradition). The name of this festival is from the phrase koodaarai vellum seer Govinda, (Govinda who conquers those who don’t reach Him) which begins the 27th song. It was this ‘koodaarai vellum’ that took on the vichitra vEsham (strange form) of ‘koodaara valli’.

pAyasam

payas (in Sanskrit) means milk. So pAyasam literally means ‘a delicacy made of milk’. This term does not refer to the rice and jaggery used to make pAyasam. They go with the term without saying. Actually pAyasam is to be made by boiling rice in milk (not water) and adding jaggery. These days we have dhal pAyasam, ravA pAyasam, sEmia pAyasam and so on, using other things in the place of rice.

Vaishanavas have a beautiful Tamil term akkaara adisil for pAyasam. The ‘akkaar’ in this term is a corruption of the Sanskrit sharkara. The English term ‘sugar’ is from the Arabian ‘sukkar’, which in turn is from this Sanskrit term. The same term also took the forms ‘saccharine’ and ‘jaggery’. And the name of the dish jangiri is from the term jaggery.

Kanji

Before we become satiated with madhuram (sweetness), let us turn our attention to a food that is sour. As an alternative to sweetness, our Acharyal (Adi Sankara) has spoken about sourness in his Soundarya Lahiri.

Poets describe a bird called cakora pakshi that feeds on moon-beams. Sankara says in Soundarya Lahiri that the cakora pakshi were originally feeding on the kArunya lAvaNyAmruta (the nectar of compassion and beauty) flowing from Ambal’s mukha chanran (moon like face). They got satiated with that nectar and were looking for somthing sour, and spotted the full moon, which being only a reflection, issued only sour beams!

Acharyal has used the term kAnjika diya, which gives an evidence of his origin in the Malayala Desam. He said that since the cakora pakshis were convinced that the nectar from the moon was only sour kanji, they chose to feed on it as an alternative.

The term kAnjika means relating to kanji, but the word kanji is not found in Sanskrit. It is a word current only in the Dakshinam (south). There too, kanji is special in Malayala Desam where even the rich lords used to drink kanji in the morning. This was the variety came to be known as the ‘Mayalayam Kanji’.

Kanji is good for deham as well as chittam. And less expensive. You just add a handful of cooked rice rava (broken rice), add buttermilk, salt and dry ginger, which would be enough for four people.

The buttermilk added must be a bit more sour. The salt too must be a bit more in quantity. With the slight burning taste of dry ginger, the combination would be tasty and healthy.

tAmbUlam

It is customary to have tAmbUlam at the end of a South Indian dinner. In the North, tAambUlam is popularly known as paan, which is usually a wrap of betel nut and other allied items in a calcium-laced pair of betel leaves. In the South, tAmbUlam is usually an elaborate and leisurely after-dinner activity. People sit around a plate of tAmbUlam items, drop a few cut or sliced betel nut pieces in their month, take the betel leaves one by one leisurely, draw a daub of pasty calcium on their back and then stuff them in their month, chatting happily all the while.

The betel leaf is known by the name vetrilai in Tamil, literally an empty leaf. Paramacharya once asked the people sitting around him the reason for calling it an empty leaf. When none could give the answer, he said that the usually edible plants don’t just stop with leaf; they proceed to blossom, and bear fruits or vegetables. Even in the case of spinach or lettuce, we have to cook them before we can take them. Only in the case of the betel leaf, we take it raw, and this plant just stops with its leaves, hence the name vetrilai or empty leaf.