Olan – A Kerala Delicacy

Olan is a much sought after keralite dish that is part of any festive occasion,function or wedding. Except for the strong flavor of coconut oil it does not boast of any distinct or tangy flavors yet its fame has spread far and wide and the dish is part of most Hindu weddings in Tamil Nadu as well now a days. The dried Karamani or Black eyed Peas that is added here is an excellent source of protein making this an extremely healthy dish to eat.

Easy to make and wonderfully delicious to eat!

Ingredients:
White Pumpkin [Poosanikkai] – 1 cup
Yellow Pumpkin [Maththan] – 1 cup
Green Chillies – 4
Salt – To taste
Black eyed Peas [Dried Karamani] – 1/4 cup
Coconut Oil – 2 Tlbs
Coconut Milk – 1/2 cup Optional
Green Karamani- 1/4 cup Optional
Curry Leaves
Method:
Soak the Black eyed peas overnight. In the morning pressure cook it and keep aside.
Peel skin and cut both pumkins into 3 to 4cm cubes of about 1/2cm thickness.
Wash green chillies and make a slit in each.
If using green Karamani wash and cut them into 1 inch long pieces.
In a pan cook the pumpkin + slit chillies + green karamani + salt with enough water till the vegetables are tender.
While it is cooking take a cup of grated coconut and churn it in the mixie with a little bit of water and extract thick coconut milk.
Once the vegetables are soft add the pressure cooked black eyed peas + the coconut milk and cook on very low heat till it is absorbed a bit.
Switch off the heat add coconut oil + curry leaves. Mix well, check on salt and serve.

Tips:
Since pumpkin on its own has water content do not pour too much water to cook the vegetable.
Do not over [ pressure] cook the dried karamani or they will get smashed while mixing
While coconut oil is a must coconut milk is optional.
Always pour the raw coconut oil after you remove the dish from the heat for better flavor.

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Eeya Sombu Rasam

One of the famous dishes in Tamil Brahmin’s home of yesteryears was the ‘Eeya Sombu Rasam’. Sombu means vessel and Eeyam is a metal coating. So it is essentially a cooking vessel with a special metal coating.

I say yesteryears because the practice of making rasam in an Eeya Sombu is no longer prevalent in most households, thanks to the biased approach of questioning anything ancient that has no proper explanation available! Sad indeed! Because this is one dish that is so tasty that it is to be devoured to be believed.

Perhaps this is one of the few dishes where the vessel used in cooking lends its name to the dish. There is nothing special about the making of this rasam – ingredient or method wise. In fact any type of rasam can be made in an Eeya Sombu. It is the metal components of the vessel itself that enhances the taste and attributes a unique flavor to this dish.

‘Eeyam Poosardhu’ in tamil or ‘ Application of Eeyam – a metal Coating’ when literally translated was a well known process in olden days when copper vessels used to be coated with Eeyam. This was done by street vendors who made a living out of this, who used to call out loudly as they passed from one street to another. With the advent of stainless steel vessels and modern cooking applications this tribe slowly disappeared. Every household used to be in possession of at least a couple of Eeya Sombu which was passed down to the next generation almost like a heirloom. And every brahmin household would have a story or two about a Sombu that disappeared after it was left forgotten on the stove and landed up as a molten coating on the burner. Yes….this vessel was notorious for its low melting point and hence was at the receiving end of absent minded homemakers.

Now what exactly is an Eeya Sombu about which so much is spoken about? And what makes the rasam so divine and delicious? This is a raging controversy that has still not been put to rest. The alarm raised by one set of believers that Eeya Sombu was essentially made out of Lead and hence would lead to Led Poisoning raised all hell and made many to discontinue cooking in it. That however is not true.
Eeya Sombu is actually made of an alloy of tin and other metals and NOT Lead as is wont to be believed by a few. Lead is referred to as Kaareeyam and Tin as Velleeyam. Eeya Sombu is made of the latter. This is amply evident by the fact that our older generations had consumed this rasam for several years and remained healthy for long. Had it been a case of Led Poisoning this certainly would not have been possible.So if anything it is only said to provide health benefits, when consumed in the right quantity, that help the neuro responses of the human brain.

Of course one has to guard against spurious manufacturers and buy it from authentic places. Because an Eeya Sombu that weighs approximately 500gms costs close to Rs.1300/- . Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu is said to be famous for these Sombus. For those who have had Eeya Sombu Rasam any other would never be palatable. Even in weddings caterers are known to drop a small Eeya Sombu into the rasam [ since it is not practically possible to get such a huge Sombu ] after it is prepared to lend that extra flavor. If some of you are still in doubt about using a sombu, you can prepare the rasam and then transfer it on to an Eeya Sombu and then serve.

Remember…..
While using Eeya Sombu one has to ensure that there is enough liquid in the vessel.
Always cook in low flame.
Never move too far away from the kitchen when the rasam is being made. For if you do, you may neither find the rasam nor the sombu.

Chakka Varatti or Jack Fruit Jam

Jack fruit is an excellent source of vitamins and potassium and has good health benefits. Each piece of the fruit or ‘cholai’ as it is referred to is of a beautiful yellow color and can be eaten plain or soaked in honey.The fruit gives out a strong aroma which is not liked by a few. On the contrary the very mention of the fruit and the smell can be so intoxicating, as to tempt you to wards non-stop consumption of the fruit. This jam or Chakka Varatti that is made out of ripened jack fruit forms the core ingredient in making delicious jack fruit based dishes like Elai Adai and Chakka Pradaman [ Payasam]. Refer earlier posts for these recipes.

Ingredients
Ripe Jackfruit Cholais [deseeded & cleaned] – 4 cups
Powdered Jaggery – 2 cups
Ghee – 1 cup
Water – as required

Optional
Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
Dried ginger powder a pinch

Method:

Pressure cook the jackfruit with just enough water till they are tender and soft. 3 – 4 whistles should do.

Cool and mash well. Grind to a smooth paste in a blender.

Melt jaggery with just enough water and strain.

Take a heavy bottomed kadai and pour the melted jaggery into it. Let it come to a boil.

Reduce heat completely and slowly add the jack fruit paste, stirring all the time.

Mix thoroughly and add ghee little by little. The mix should come together to form a thick paste, that is dark brown in color.

It is ready when most the moisture is absorbed and it gets a jam like consistency.

Remove and cool. Store in clean dry, air tight containers and refrigerate. Use when required but ensure that you use a dry spoon at all times.

Tips:

Continuous stirring is required during the making of the jam. The mix is likely to splutter out of the container. Hence ensure your hands are protected from getting bunrt by the hot paste.

The jam makes an excellent side dish for Rotis and Bread varieties.

Add dry ginger powder and cardamom only if required. Some prefer to retain the original flavor.

Sandwich – Make over Tips

Sandwiches are easy to make and offer great scope for variety and improvisation in terms of flavor, fillings, taste and cooking methods. Here are a few tips that might come in handy to make better sandwiches.

Always use fresh bread. Never compromise on quality. For fancy sandwiches it is better if the bread is a day old or refrigerated for a few hours. Ensure the slices are thinly cut.
Experiment using variety of breads – Milk / Wheat / Fruit Loaves / Brown & Whole Wheat Bread.
Always ensure that the butter is at room temperature. It helps in spreading evenly. You can also mix it in a small bowl before spreading it on the slice.
If the crusts / edges are too thick or crisp cut them out.
Always cut finished sandwiches with a sharp or serrated knife.
Ensure butter , mayonnaise and other fillings are spread till the edges.
When you are making multi – layered sandwiches hold them in place by means of tooth picks or skewers.
When a variety of sandwiches are being made wrap them separately in aluminium foil to avoid mixing up aromas and flavours.
Fold the foil or wax paper well at the edges to keep them fresh and nice.