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

Advertisements

Kanchipuram Idly

Idly is a universally accepted and sought after dish for its simplicity in terms of preparation, adaptability, digestion and taste. There are innumerable varieties already but you find a new variant coming up everyday. So much for its adaptability to any ingredient added to it.

Indian Steamed Cake

Ingredients:

Urad Dal – 1 cup

Raw Rice – 1 cup

Par Boiled Rice – 1 cup

Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp

Pepper – 1 tsp [coarsely powdered]

Salt to taste

Ghee – 1 tsp

Cashewnuts – a few

Oil – 1 tlbsp

Ginger – 1 tsp [ finely grated, optional]

Mustard Seeds – ½ tsp [optional]

Method:

Wash & soak urad dal and rice separately at least for 4 to 6 hours.

Grind them separately in a grinder to a thick batter. The rice can be ground a bit coarsely.

Add salt as required and mix together.

Let is ferment for 6 to 8 hours.

Add ghee to a pan and fry the Cashew nuts till brown. Add to the batter.

Pour oil in the pan and add mustard seeds. When it splutters add cumin, pepper and ginger and fry for a few seconds. Add to batter and mix well.

Pour the idly batter in idly plates after greasing them with oil and steam till it is done.

Serve hot with appropriate chutneys or sambar.

Tips: Thick Sour curds can also be added to the batter if it has not fermented well. However ensure the batter does not become watery.

Instead of Idly plates this batter can also be poured in long tubular cylinder like vessels [puttu Koralle] or even in your normal tumblers after greasing them well. Alternatively they can also be poured in shallow plates with at least 2 inches depth and then steamed. This can be cut into squares and served.

Rava Idly

Ingredients

Rava – I cup

Thick Curds – 2 ½ cups

Mustard Seeds – ½ tsp

Channa Dal –  ½ tsp

Green Chillies – 2

Chopped Cashew – 1 tlbsp

Fruit Salt – 1 tsp

Salt

Curry Leaves

Oil

 Variation [Optional]

Finely chopped onions – 1 small

Grated Carrot – 2 tlbsp heaped

Finely chopped tomato – 1 tbsp

Finely chopped ginger – 1tsp

Fry onions till golden brown. Add the rest of the ingredients and sauté for a minute. Add to batter and mix well.

Method

Pour 2tlbsp oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. When it splutters add Channa Dal and green chilies.

When Channa dal is golden brown add Rava and fry in low flame till well roasted. Switch off stove and cool.

Add half the curds and salt and mix well. Let is rest for 10 minutes.

Add rest of the curds and the vegetable mix [Given above as ;Variation’. This is optional] to the batter and mix well. Add fruit salt and mix. Check for salt.

Grease Idly plates and pour the batter and steam for 5 to 7 mins or till it is done.

Serve hot with chutney of your choice.

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.

Tanjavur Mess, West Mambalam, Chennai, India – Review by Archana Srinivasan

Although a very famous eatout situated at a very good place in West-mambalam, we had quite a bit of a difficulty finding it out. Its quite close to the Mambalam Railway station and is put up at Subbu street (Subba Rao Street), off Lake view road. Only when we were quite close to the place, we stopped to take directions and everyone in that area knew about it.

My husband enlightens me a bit about west mambalam being one of the hot-spots for mansions hosting a lot of bachelors. I found the same crowd in the mess when I entered. No family crowd at all.

There were only benches and stools laid out with the quintessential banana leaf or vazha elai. I feel this is the best way to serve customers in hotel. One neednt waste water to clean plates or waste electricity to sterilize spoons. Only leaves have to be chopped off the banana tree and is biodegradable too. Ambiance was also typical like a mess, where you sit, eat and get going.

We did not want a heavy breakfast, so ordered 2 idlys + 1 vadai each. Items are served by hand, which I found quite normal in such places. One just has to ignore such trivialities in life. Immediately we were served with the items together with unlimited chutney (coconut & tomato-onion) and hot sambar. It was pure yumminess. They keep refilling the chutney and sambar till you finish. Still not satiated, we ordered 1 saadha dosa and 1 kal-dosa. Both were really good, again served with unlimited sambar n chutney.

We returned home with our stomachs full & smiling and wallet happy (cos the same items at HSB would have costed us double the bill). And we are definitely going to come back with better planning for a heavy breakfast may be on a sunday and skip lunch that day

The Madaras Kafe

Think Madras and you can’t help but think of Carnatic music and Kanjivaram sarees; Temples and Malli poo; hot Idlis and Filter Kaapi. The city that has transformed over the years – right from its name, now Chennai – to keep up with its more ‘Modern & Hep’ counterparts across the country, still retains its affiliation to tradition and culture. This is why it is still considered to be safe, cautious & balanced in its approach to and acceptance of western influences.

In terms of cuisine The Madaras Kafe, a new restaurant, is a perfect reflection of this mixed culture the city sports. Situated in the basement of the plush up market mall, Ispahani center, Idli Sambar gives way to newer versions – Fried Podi Idli [ mini idlis fried in oil and tossed in ‘Molaga Podi’ ] Gummang kuthu Idli [ mini idlis mixed in a spicy paste of tomato and onions] and more such remixed versions.

The menu has something for all. The ‘Urulai kucchi chips’ [French fries] for the light snacker; a smattering of milk shakes and sandwiches for a casual snack; the desi version of pizzas with Manchurian and pannier fillings for a feel good lunch.

For those with a sweet tooth you can choose between brownies with sauces or the traditional sweets like boli that are imaginatively and cleverly named to tempt you to try them.

The highlight perhaps is the filter Kaapi and the variety of ‘Chai’s they serve in traditional ‘dabara tumblers’. Be it the Masala Chai or the Inji Chai or the Masala milk the taste is excellent.

If you want to meet a friend and chit chat for a bit while you snack away in a quiet and nice ambiance The Madaras Kafe is the place for you.