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.

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SEMIYA PAYASAM

The term SEMOLINA or SEMIYA [ in Tamil Language] is derived from the Italian word ‘semola’ meaning ‘flour’. It is obtained by milling wheat – in the process when the bran and the germ are removed and the starch is broken into coarse pieces. Semiya made from Durum wheat is usually yellow in color where as it is white when derived from softer varieties of wheat. It is used to make a variety of dishes including puddings the world over and can also be used as coating for dishes to give a crispy flavor.

The beauty of this ingredient is its adaptability. Any kind of dish can be made from this – sweet or savory dish with any spice, in liquid, semi solid or solid form. In India Semolina is used to make a variety of dishes – both sweet & savory like Halwas, Payasams, Puddings, Upma, Falooda and Bath varieties.

Ingredients:
Semiya – ½ cup
Sugar – ½ cup
Thick Milk – 1 cup
Cashew & Kissmiss – As Required
Cardamom Powder – ¼ tsp
Ghee – 2 tlbsp
Water – as required

Method:
In a heavy bottomed pan put 1tlbs of ghee and fry Semiya till light brown. Add enough water to cook the Semiya. Take care not to over cook.
When soft add thick milk and let it boil on low flame till it reduces to half the quantity.
Add sugar and stir till it dissolves. Add Cardamom powder and remove from gas.
Heat rest of the ghee and fry cashew and kissmiss till golden brown.
Add to the Payasam. A strand of saffron soaked in warm milk for ½ an hour can also be added for flavor.

Can be served hot or cold.

Tips:
For a different flavor and when in season you can add mango pulp to this mix while adding sugar to get a nice mango Semiya payasam. But please ensure that the heat is switched off the moment the mango pulp is added to avoid curdling.

Nendran Pazha Pradaman (Banana Payasam)

Bananas in general are a good source of Potassium and dietary fiber. There are many varieties found in India, the most famous one in Kerala being the Nendran Pazham. Chips made from these unripened bananas are famous the world over and popularly known as ‘Nendran kai chips’. When ripe they are known as Nendran Pazham and are longer than the normal varieties and have thick skin. They are very delicious to eat as it is. Several delicious recipes can be made from them including Payasam, Halwa, and Desserts & Sweets.

Ingredients:
Nendran Pazham – 1 Big
Thick Jaggery Syrup – ½ cup
Coconut Milk – 1 Cup Thick
Coconut Milk – 1 Cup Thin
Ghee – 3 tlbs
Cashewnuts – Few
Water – if required

Method:
Remove skin and pressure cook banana till it is soft.
Split it into two and deseed removing the black center portion. Mash well with a ladle
In a heavy bottomed pan pour 2 tlbsp of ghee, add the mashed paste and fry in low flame for a couple of minutes.
Add the thick jaggery syrup and mix well. Add a little water if you feel the mix sticking to the bottom of the pan. Let it boil for 5 minutes in low flame.
Add thin coconut milk first and boil till the mix is slightly thick
Add the thick coconut milk now and mix well. Let it boil for a couple of minutes and switch off the stove.
Fry Cashewnuts in remaining ghee and add to payasam.

Tips:
For those who find the taste of coconut milk overpowering, plain thick milk mixed with 2 tlbsp of Condensed Milk can also be used.
Ready made coconut milk or coconut powder mixed with water can also be used in this preparation.

Paal Ada Pradhaman [Rice Flake Milk Payasam]

Another delicacy from God’s own country – Kerala. This payasam is made using rice flakes which are specially made at home for this purpose. But now a days good quality ready – to – use rice flakes are available in all departmental stores. Extremely delicious, this payasam is part of any big celebration or feast in a Kerala household.

Ingredients:
Rice Adai – 1/4th cup
Thick Milk – 2 ½ cups
Sugar – 1/4th cup
Ghee – 2 tsp
Cardamom Powder – ¼ tsp
Fried Cashewnuts – optional
Condensed milk – 1/3 rd cup

Method:
Soak Rice adai in boiling hot water for 15 mins.
Drain and rinse in cold water.
In a pressure cooker add adai + milk and pressure cook till you get one whistle.
Switch off the stove. Heat a heavy bottomed pan [or retain the cooker itself] and transfer contents to it and place it on medium flame to thicken and reduce further.
Keep it on the stove till the milk is reduced considerably and the payasam takes on a pinkish tinge.
Add Condensed milk and stir well for 5 mins.
Add sugar and cardamom powder, stir till sugar dissolves completely and switch off the heat. Roast the cashew in ghee and add if required.

Tips:
If you do not have too much time on hand to reduce and thicken the milk, more of condensed milk can be added. If you do so, remember to use less sugar than mentioned otherwise you will land up with a dish that is too sweet to consume.
Always remember to add sugar carefully to boiling milk since it is likely to curdle. So always switch off the stove after sugar is added.
Adding sugar will also dilute the payasam. So thicken it first to the maximum and then add sugar.

Chakka Pradaman – Jack Fruit Payasam

READ THE PREVIOUS POST FOR ELABORATION ON “PAYASAM”

Any preparation from Jack fruit is considered a delicacy in Kerala and especially “Chakka Pradaman”, which is a sweet dish made from jack fruit. The aroma of this dish [ when cooking] will automatically bring visitors to your house.

Ingredients:

Fully Ripe Jack Fruit – 1 cup

Thick jaggery syrup – 1 cup

Thick coconut milk – 1 ½ cups

Thin and finely sliced coconut pieces – 2 tlbsp

Cardamom Powder – ¼ tsp

Ghee [CLARIFIED BUTTER] – as required

Method:

Chop jack fruit very finely and pressure cook the pieces with minimum water. After it cools down grind the pieces in a mixer to form a smooth paste.

Pour jaggery syrup in a heavy bottomed kadai and add the jack fruit paste and stir well to mix.

Continuously stir for about 10 mins or till it thickens and blends well. It should be thick in consistency.

Lower heat and add coconut milk slowly and mix well.

Do not let the mixture boil since the coconut milk may separate.

Add Cardamom powder and switch off stove just before it reaches boiling point.

Fry the coconut pieces in ghee till golden brown and add to the mix.

Serve hot or cold.

Tips:

Ready made “Chakka varatti” [JACK FRUIT PASTE MADE WITH JAGGERY] paste can also be used to make this payasam in case you don’t get jack fruit and you are desperate to have this. . Mix the varatti along with little milk or jaggery syrup to make a thick batter. Place this in the “kadai” [VESSEL] and repeat steps as mentioned above. In case you require more sweet ensure you add extra jaggery syrup to the batter and stir well.  

Payasam

 Payasam in Tamil or Sanskrit and Payesh in Bengali  – this dish is indeed unique for one cannot find an equivalent to this in the English language except for a generic term like ‘Dessert’.

 

Payasam is a South Indian sweet dish made in every household on any occasion that calls for spiritual, religious or any happy occasion / celebrations. The word Payasam immediately conjures up happy moments and sweet memories and is generally associated with a soothing and pleasant emotion. It is also served as a dessert at the end of a sumptuous 4 course meal.

In North India it is popularly known as ‘Kheer’.They can be in liquid or semi solid form. The ingredients that form an integral part of any payasam is – Milk, Sugar, Jaggery, Cardamom, Coconut Milk, Dry Fruits & Ghee.

From the health point of view it has much to offer depending on the ingredients used and when consumed in moderation. Although the general misconception is that it adds calories to your intake, it can be full of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

The varieties are innumerable and the range of ingredients used astounding. Right from rice & spices to fruits and vegetables several elements can be used to make payasam. The sweet element here could be sugar, jaggery, honey or any other sweetening agent.

Tamilnadu is famous for its ‘Paal [MILK] Payasam’ & ‘Akara Vadasal’ while Kerala is renowned for its’ Chakka [JACKFRUIT] Pradaman’, ‘Ada Pradaman’ and ‘Aravana Payasam’ that is offered to Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. Other varieties include Semiya [VERMICELLI] payasam, Javvarisi [SAGO] payasam, Paruppu [LENTIL] Payasam, Carrot Kheer, Nendhra Pazha [ETHNIC VARIETY OF BANANA] Payasam, Coconut Payasam, Badam [ALMONDS] Kheer, Channa Dal [BLACK CHICK PEAS] Kheer…. the list is endless indeed!!!

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.