Monday, November 27, 2006

Recipe: Kozhukattai

Kozhukkattais are steamed rice balls with sweet coconut stuffing. No South Indian needs introduction to kozhukkattai or an translation for it. The translation is for the unfortunate ones who have not tasted this yummy, delicious and melt in the mouth delicacy, one with very little oil in it to boot.

Kozhukkattai is a most favoured sweet in our family, my late astute and blessed mother in-law simply loved it. Though usually it is prepared only during Ganesh Chaturthi or as naivedyam for performing Ganapathi Homam, she would invent some excuse to make me prepare this as often as possible. When the children were in college, she got a good excuse to prepare kozhukkattai every time they visited home. She would say "children were not here during Ganesh Chaturthi, so when are you going to prepare kozhukkattai for them?" Or she would say, there are so many black ants around, when are you going to offer kozhukkattais for Ganapathi? (there is a belief that black ants will disappear if one appeased Lord Ganesha). Our younger (handsome and charming) son’s sweet tooth was also a blessing for her.

Having said so much about sweet kozhukkattai, I would not be doing justice to other equally yummy savory kozhukkattais, of which there are many varieties, if I did not mention them. Ulundu kozhukkattai (made of refined black gram and coconut filling), vegetable kozhukkattai (my invention), ammini kozhukkattai (both sweet and savory), Uppuma kozhukkattai, are some of the more popular ones.

Now for our King of Kozhukkattais:

Ingredients (yields 20 – 25 kozhukkattais)

For the stuffing:

fresh grated coconut: 1 cup
grated jaggery: ¾ cup
cardamom powder: a pinch

For the outer shell:

Rice flour: 1½ cups
Coconut oil or any other cooking oil: 2tsp.
Salt: a pinch


The stuffing:

Melt the jaggery and strain to remove any impurities. Reheat and make a slightly thick syrup. To test, just remove the spoon with a little syrup from the boiling syrup and drop into a cup of cold water. If the syrup forms a smooth ball, soft to touch, it is ready. Add the coconut gratings to the molten jaggery. Keep stirring until all the water is absorbed and the contents leave the side of the pan. Remove from fire and add cardamom powder.

This stuffing can be prepared in advance and refrigerated up to 1 month. This keeps good in room temperature for up to 1 week.

The rice flour coating:

Heat a pan and add 2 tsp of oil. Add 1½ cups of water and pinch of salt and boil. Meanwhile mix the rice flour in1½cups of water into a smooth batter without lumps. When the water starts boiling add this batter and keep stirring until the rice flour becomes a smooth shiny ball. Remove from fire and cool.

To prepare kozhukkattais:

Knead the rice flour dough well. Take a lime sized portion and form into a cup. Smear little oil on your finger tips to make it easier to handle the dough. Put a smaller size ball of the coconut stuffing inside and close from all sides and pinch the ends together. Repeat till all the dough and stuffing is used up. Steam the kozhukkattais in a steamer or a idli steamer for 15 minutes.


Tips: If banana leaves are available place the kozhukkattais on the banana leaf and steam.The kozhukkattais will not stick to the plate.

If any of the rice dough is left over, make marble sized balls of the dough and steam. Heat a tsp. of oil, add 1 tsp of mustard and 1 tsp of urad dal, bits of red chilli, add the steamed rice balls. This in itself will make a nice snack.

If the stuffing is left over, enjoy it as thengai thirattu pal.