Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous new year.
May the year ahead tickle your tastebuds.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Recipe: Carrot halwa

It has been our practice for long to prepare carrot halwa, especially during the winter as we get the red variety of carrot (which is known as delhi carrot in Bangalore) then. Otherwise, what we get is the orange variety. So during my Bangalore visit, we bought the red carrot and prepared the halwa. The most difficult part of carrot halwa is grating the carrot, which our handsome and charming younger son happily did. I started part of the preparation immediately (read at 10 pm) and completed the process early next morning, so that when my good friend Veena came to say “hello” to me at 7 am the carrot halwa was ready and she was surprised that I had finished the preparation so early in the morning, whereas she had just woken up and come to wish me.

I used full cream milk and the halwa turned out creamy and rich and of course, yummy. Here is the recipe then.


Grated carrot: 4 cups
Full cream milk: 3 cup
Sugar: 2 cups
Ghee 4 tbsp.
Cashew nuts: 1 tbsp.
Kismiss(raisins): 1 tbsp.
Slivered almonds : 1 tbsp.
Cardamom powder: 1 tsp.
Saffron : few strands


Boil the milk in the pressure cooker and add the grated carrots. Close the pressure cooker and reduce the heat to the minimum . When there is a steady stream of steam through the weight valve, place the weight and cook for one whistle or 15 mnts in reduced heat. Turn off the heat. (This is the first stage of preparation ). Open the cooker after ½ hour. Meanwhile, soak the saffron strands in 2 tbsp. of milk. Add the saffron to the cooked carrot. Boil the carrot once again on full heat. Add the sugar and stir constantly until all the milk evaporates. Add spoonsful of ghee in between whenever the halwa starts sticking to the vessel. When all the ghee (Reserve 1 tbsp of ghee for frying the dry fruits) has been added and all the moisture evaporated, the halwa should leave the sides of the vessel. Turn off heat. Add cardamom powder. Heat the reserved ghee in a small kadai, add the cashew nuts and kismiss. When the cashew nuts turn pink in color and kismiss swells add to the halwa as garnish. Decorate with slivered almonds.
The full cream milk gives that extra richness and taste to the halwa (you get the twin taste of halwa and thirattupal).


Merry Christmas

During the Christmas weekend I paid a flying visit to Bangalore and back which was eventful and hectic to say the least. Well, we had Thiruvathira, Christmas, visitors for lunch and brunch, personal work to attend to and generally oiling up for the smooth functioning when I am away. Before I left I made sure that our elder son would not have any difficulty during my absence by cooking and freezing a few things and before I left Bangalore I had to once again see that my husband and our younger son would have a few things for their immediate use after I left.

For Thiruvathira I made Kali and kari the usual thiruvathira goodies, exactly the same way as I had explained earlier and it turned out just right. This time, we used, Kavathu, red pumpkin, avaraikkai, sweet potatoes and fresh thuvar peas.Our younger son, who is back home for Thiruvathira after a long time, enjoyed the kali and kari.

Immediately after reaching Bangalore, the first thing we (my husband and I) did was to chop and soak the dry fruits for the Christmas cake. This time, we used, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cherries, dates, cashew nuts, raisins, pineapple, figs, prunes and ginger. We baked a cake with 1 kg of dry fruits, 6 eggs, 225gms each of flour and butter and sugar. Our younger son who is always ready to do the beating and mixing of the cake took over the responsibilities and I just had to oversee the process and the actual baking. The cake was fluffy and spongy and melted in our mouths.

During my visit, we also entertained my son’s friends. For one couple we prepared vangi bath, puttu and kadala kari, masala dosa and rava kesari. For another friend’s visit, we prepared, bisibele bath, curds rice and neypayasam.

In between we also prepared carrot halwa, porivilangai and pori undais, peas pulao, Aloo ki tehni and Rice ada.

I shall soon start posting the recipes of all the goodies for which recipes have not been posted.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Recipe: Muthucharam

Isn’t it a beautiful word? Muthucharam in tamil means string of pearls. Why this name was given to this crispy savory I cannot understand, as it definitely doesn’t resemble a string of pearls. Actually it is not called Muthucharam but called Muthuswaram which again doesn’t make any sense, so I thought Muthucharam atleast makes sense. Its common name, Mullumurukku is the apt word to describe this crispy as it has an exterior resembling thorns(Mullu). As I always say, a rose by any other name ……. And yet when we start analyzing the meaning of some of the words in common use, we start doing research.

The recipe here is very simple.

Raw rice: 3 cups
Chana dal: 2/3 cup
Whole moong : 1/3 cup
Urad dal: 1 tbsp.
Gingelly seeds: 1 tsp.
Butter: 50 gms.
Hing: slightly larger than a pea
Salt to taste
Oil to fry


Wash and dry the rice. Dry roast the chana, moong and urad dal until nice fragrance emanates (the dals turn a light pink in color). Grind them all together to a fine powder. Grind the rice also to a very fine powder. I still have the privilege of getting it powdered in a flour mill. In many places I am told that flour mills have become a thing of past. Sieve the powders with a fine mesh to remove any coarse particles. Mix both powders thoroughly.

Soak the hing in little warm water atleast 1 hr before the actual preparation. Beat the butter and salt vigorously in a large kadai or thali. Dissolve the hing thoroughly in water. Add the prepared powder to the butter mixture and add the hing solution and make a soft and smooth dough by adding more water if necessary. This takes some effort. Usually I get it done by hubby dear who is only too willing to oblige. He likes to be part of everything that happens at home. If I make murukkus, he will knead the dough for me. If I make halwa he will stir the mixture for me. Anyway, today I am in Hyderabad and he is in Bangalore and my shoulder muscles get sore if I put a little strain on them like kneading murukku mavu or stirring the halwa. That’s when I remembered about the atta kneader attachment that comes with the table top wet grinder. If it can knead atta, why not murukku mavu, I thought. I gave it a try and was rewarded with a smooth and soft dough without any pain.

When the dough is done, heat oil in a kadai. When the oil comes to smoking point, press the dough through using the star shaped plate. Fry on both sides until done. Remove from oil and allow to drain, spread on a paper towel to remove all the extra oil.

NJOY your mullu murukku.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Recipe: Wheat halwa

When I posted the recipe for Kashi Halwa one of the readers had asked for the recipe for Wheat Halwa and I had promised to post it when I got a chance. Unfortunately, it took me longer than I expected! Wheat Halwa is prepared using a special type of long bodied wheat called Chamba wheat in Tamil. It is not available in all shops. I checked many shops in Hyderabad and was not successful. Though hubby dear located a shop in Bangalore and brought the wheat for me, it took me another 3 months to actually prepare the halwa. I finally used the excuse of my handsome and charming son’s visit to Hyderabad to make some wheat halwa for him. Therefore, recipe time!

Preparation of wheat halwa is a laborious and time consuming process, but the final result is worth the effort. You also need an additional pair of strong hands to stir the halwa non-stop, so don’t start preparing the halwa all alone.

Chamba wheat : 1 cup
Sugar : 3 cups
Ghee: 2 cups
Cashew nuts : 1 tbsp.
Raisins : 1 tbsp.
Cardomom powder : 1 tsp.
Red food color : a pinch
Saffron: few strands
Boiling water: 4 cups (keep this boiling hot in a stove near by)

Wash and soak the wheat for 4 hours. Grind the soaked wheat with just enough water initially and when the wheat is well ground, add more water and grind to a smooth batter. Strain the batter through a muslin cloth or a fine strainer to another container. When all the milk is drained, grind the residue with some more water to extract any left over milk from the wheat. Strain again. Allow the wheat milk to stand for 2 hours and decant the water on the top. The wheat milk will have settled down at the bottom. This is the base for wheat halwa.

Fry the cashew nuts and raisins in ghee to a golden brown and keep aside.

Boil the sugar with 2 cups of water in a thick bottomed kadai (a non-stick would be the best choice). When the sugar dissolves and starts to boil, add a tbsp. of milk or lemon juice to remove the impurities of the sugar, which will float as scum. Boil the sugar syrup to one string consistency and add the wheat milk and keep stirring (non-stop).

Dissolve the saffron and food color in a little milk and add to the boiling halwa. When the contents start leaving the sides of the kadai add 1 cup of boiling water, stirring all the while. As and when this water gets absorbed add one ladle full of ghee and stir some more. Add 1 more cup of boiling water and ghee and repeat this process until all the water has been added and absorbed. Add the remaining ghee and keep stirring until the halwa leaves the sides of the kadai. Add cardomom powder ,stir and pour onto a greased tray. Allow to cool for some time. Cut into desired shape.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Kunjappa: Moving On

We are back from Chennai after the rituals connected with Kunjappa’s passing. In our society whenever somebody passes away after living their life to the full, it is called a Kalyana Chavu in other words, though there is an all pervading grief over the passing away of a dear one, the ambience is that of feasting. In our village, there are big lunches with payasam and pappadam for 10 days after the funeral to which all the people in the village are invited, and sweets and snacks are prepared in the memory of the departed soul. There are sponsored lunches by the daughters and daughters-in-law and sambandhis. By the end of the 13th day, one is overstuffed with food. On the 13th day again Murukku and laddu, and appam and pori are distributed to one and all.

It took a couple of days to sleep off the early hours and late nights that we had had at Chennai and then the daily grind has started again.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Usually when the phone rings so early in the morning, these are the two questions that pop up in our minds, "who," and "when." Recently we have acquired a caller identity phone and so the only question I should have asked was, "when." However, I said the usual "hello" and my brother-in-law said, "Chithappa passed away at 2.30am."

Chithappa was the youngest brother of my father-in-law and the last surviving member of that generation. My first reaction was along the lines of my mother-in-law’s "He escaped"(pozhachukindar), meaning, "he escaped further suffering." These are the words used whenever people pass away after prolonged suffering. He was 92 and had been confined to the four walls of his room for the past 4-5 years and would move with difficulty only to go the bathroom. He had had a fall 6 months ago and ever since he had been immobile and in great pain.He was fortunate to have a caring son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren who took care of his every need, his own wife having passed away 15 years ago. So "Pozhachukindar," was the right word to use.

After the initial enquiries about the funeral and other things, the impact of the early morning call started to sink in. Here we were all ready to leave for Delhi the next morning and from there to Hyderabad and thence to Bangalore, all tickets booked and ready in hand. So the first task was to cancel these tickets and book tickets to Chennai and back to attend the rites in connection with Kunjappa’s (that’s what we called him) passing.

All this rescheduling meant I had one week for myself, which I needed very badly. I thanked Kunjappa for his perfect timing and relaxed for a couple of days before I started doing my unfinished work.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Busy times

It has been more than a month since I sat to write a new blog post and what a busy and exhausting time it has been! I was actually all ready to post my Navarathri thoughts when I came down with a nasty viral fever that sapped the juice out of me. Even before I could recoup from the after effects of the fever, I came to Bangalore on a short visit, my itinerary all planned and I did not have a single moment’s free time. I had been away from Bangalore for 4 months and putting the house back in working condition takes days in ordinary circumstances. And here I had 50% of the household packed and 50% of the packed items shifted to another house. When we had planned our move to a newer place and packed our items and shifted half the things, our younger (need I say, h&c) son, called and put a stop to all the proceedings. “Give me some time, he said, before you take any decision about the move.” So we froze all our plans. And so when we returned from Hyderbad, also to receive our younger son back to India for good, our rooms still were packed with cartons. I was reminded of the story of Kanyakumari. Legend has it that, Adishakthi as a young girl (Kannika) was doing penance at the southernmost tip of India to win the affection of Lord Siva. As the incarnation of Adishakthi as Kannika was to slay the demon king Baanasura, the devas were not in favour of the marriage between devi and Lord Siva. Hence the muhurtham for the marriage was fixed before the daybreak. As the procession of the Bridegroom with his entourage was on way, one of the devas (I don’t remember if it was Lord Indra or Mahavishnu) in the guise of a rooster crowed heralding the day break. The bridegroom and party had to return as the muhurtham had lapsed. A disappointed Devi decided to remain a virgin and hence the name of the Goddess as Kanyakumari (virgin Goddess) As all the preparations for the marriage were already underway, all the vegetables and other things turned into stone and hence even today one can see stones in different shapes and multicolored sand on the Kanyakumari coast. Similarly, when our son asked us to stop our move, everything froze and the packed cartons remained where they were.The first job for us, then was to make room for our son and the baggage he was bringing. We had to once again fill the cupboards and lofts with the things we had emptied from them.
We were having heavy rains in Bangalore and the weather was chill. I started looking for blankets inside the cartons and after searching for few hours, realized that they have been shifted to the new premises. This meant a trip to the new place to bring the blankets and bedsheets back.

Our son returned home after spending 11 years in the US. We are feeling great. All our friends are saying, “how lucky you are, your son has decided to come back and spend time with you.” Until now, every time he came home on vacations, I would plan all the programs during his stay not to mention, the menu for each meal. This time around, I don’t get to see him at all as he is busy running around to get set up to start work as soon as possible. He continued to work from where he left at his office in US, from the moment he reached home. Getting a mobile and broadband connection took almost 3 to 4 days.

Our elder (also very h&c) son was also coming to meet his brother and this meant preparing another room. Diwali was around the corner. For the past 19 years, Diwali has meant “anniversary” of my father-in-law and preparations for the Sradham. I started looking for the special utensils meant for the sradham and of course they were all in the new flat.The incessant rain crimped our ability to move around at our will. Somehow we made the trip to the new place and brought back all the necessary things. The sradham was conducted to everyones satisfaction. Now we had to start taking stock of the inventory in the kitchen to the minimal required for our son to manage comfortably when he stayed here by himself. (We were going to Delhi to attend the seemaaantham of my sister-in-law’s daughter-in-law in another 4 days). Again hectic repacking and reorganizing. It was Saturday evening and my mind boggled with the list of things to do on Sunday, before we caught the flight on Monday early morning. I was not able to sleep and decided to get out of bed and start doing my chores at least. Then the phone rang.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Long timeout

Sorry for the long gap between posts. Between the festival season and my handsome and charming sons at home, I haven't had any time at all to post. I will soon have a couple Diwali posts up.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sumangali Prarthana

The Poonool lunch was also a grand affair; only we were so overstuffed with good things, we just couldn’t do justice to the lunch. Post lunch, most of the invitees outside the immediate family circle left. The rest of us were in a relaxed mood and spent some time catching up with the others.

We couldn’t fully relax yet as there was another function, Sumangali Prarthana, slated for the next day. This is a ritual seeking the blessings of women of the family who are no more; something akin to the nandi sradham, only there are no vedic rituals or mantras in this ritual. It is purely a ladies’ function. In most families this function is performed during important events like marriage, upanayanam etc, while in some families it is performed every year. It is believed that performing this puja will satisfy the unfulfilled yearnings of all the girls and ladies who have passed away at young age and they would in turn bless the family. It is common practice to conduct the Sumangali Prarthana before the marriage if the daughter is getting married and after the new daughter-in-law comes home if the son is getting married. This function is not performed on Tuesdays or Saturdays.

Usually, 7 ladies and 2 young girls (preferably below the age of 10) are invited to participate in the function, partake the feast and receive thamboolam. There is no objection for near relatives of the hostess to participate. Now a days many people do with 7 (6+1) or (5+2) ladies as it has become difficult to get together the 9 ladies to sit for the function. Usually only sumangalis are only invited for the purpose though I have heard that there are exceptions to this rule. Different families follow different customs. The ladies who sit for the puja represent all the women of the family who are no more alive. Since there is no explicit avahanam through manthrams of any pithrus, ladies generally accept the invitation. This function is very akin to the nandisradham performed prior to the upanayanam in many respects. While nandisradham is presided over and conducted by the purohitha of the family and the kartha is a gent; this function is presided over by the elderly lady members of the family. Usually the kartha is a sumangali from the family. The gifts to the ladies vary among families and also depend on the financial status of the kartha, very similar to the nandi sradham. The menu for the feast is also very similar. Though no vedic rituals are performed, Sumangali Prarthana is considered to be a very important and sacred function and all the preparations are done with a great deal of Shradha and Bhakthi. This is one function where the gents of the family are excluded from the rituals. They are asked to enter the hall only after initial puja is offered to do namaskarams and seek the blessings. Otherwise, they can stick around to offer any help around or in the kitchen and then await call for lunch, when the ladies have been fed and seen off.

The consent and convenience of all the prospective participants would have been obtained in advance and there would always be a few standbys for any unexpected dropouts. In the olden days, the preparations for the function had to start the previous evening. Armed with a bucket of oil and packets of turmeric powder, kumkum, flowers, betel leaves and nuts, and shikakai powder, we would go to all the invitees’ houses and invite them giving a measure of oil and the other things we carried. The items were for the lady’s bath and adornment the next day. I am not sure if the custom is being followed anywhere today. Perhaps, these days one would have to carry, shampoo sachets, moisturizing cream, lipstick and the like. We did not have that invitation round this time at our home as most of the participants were from the family and immediate family.

All the participants are supposed to take an oil bath in the morning and come dressed in 9 yards saree only. There is no match to the beauty of the ladies all dressed in nine yards sarees and with no make up other than turmeric powder in their face and flowers in their hair, fresh from an oilbath.

In memory of those souls who are no more with us, a new 9 yards saree and pavadai as offering (these two would be used by some members of the family after the puja) are kept in wooden trays, along with oil, betel leaves, flowers, turmeric, kumkum and neem leaves early in the morning and the blessings are sought. This has to be done by a member of the family before taking bath! In all our rituals, I have not some across another ritual which is done before taking bath. As I was staying at a neighboring house (not enough space for all invitees at home), my mother sent word for me at 5.30am. I sent back the messenger as I was yet to bathe. My mother sent the messenger back saying, “I want her to come here before taking bath”. It has been a long time since I myself conducted this ritual. When my astute and blessed mother-in-law was alive, she used to take care of these little things and I used to be busy in the kitchen.

My mother made me offer the saree and pavadai with oil and other items to the elders (who are in heaven) and asked me to pray for their blessings for the family. This done, the saree had to be washed and dried before the actual function.
In some families new dresses for all the girls and ladies of the family are bought and kept at the puja and later on used by the family members. Anyway, not all the dresses are washed prior to the function.

Though the cooking for this function is usually done by the women in the family, the hired cook prepared the feast as all of us were quite tired after the poonool. An elaborate lunch (again samaradhanai vattam) was prepared including

Parikkai pitla,
Vazhakkai kari
Chakka kari,
Pudalangai thoran,
Payar thoran,

The menu also included three types of fruits, mango, jackfruit and banana. Vadai and Neiyappam were also prepared. It is a practice at home to make polis which was discontinued this time as no one was in a mood to have more sweets.

When all the invited ladies arrive, they are received with kumkum, haldi, flowers and pachai (rouge!). This pachai is a paste made of kumkum and water and is applied on both sides of the cheek outside the earlobes.

They are then taken to the function hall where a place has been marked for each one with two places for the deceased seniors at the head of the hall. The saree and pavadai meant for the deceased seniors are kept in the palakai along with some gold chain and flowers and betel leaves, neemleaves, turmeric and kumkum. Banana leaves are laid out for serving food at the place where the saree and pavadai are kept (this place is called pudavai kalam – meaning where pudavai or saree is kept) meant for the departed souls and also for all the invited participants, after having invoked the departed seniors. After all the items are served on the leaves, puja is done offering flowers, turmeric powder, kumkum betel leaves, neem leaves and water to the departed souls and all the invitees, by the eldest lady of the family .The other members of the family including male members offer puja and namaskarms at the pudavai kalam site only. Doopam and Deepam are offered at the place where elders are invoked, i.e., at the pudavai kalam and also to all the participating ladies by the eldest lady of the family.

This is one of the functions where ladies are served first. After lunch, the ladies are given a special mixture called Chukkumanam (mixture of dried ginger and jaggery) as a digestive aid after the heavy meal. They are also given paanakam to drink. They are offered thamboolam, dakshina and mehendi. These days, people give more expensive gifts like sarees, bangles, and the like to the invited ladies. After the invited ladies are seen off, the other members of the family have their lunch. The food served at pudavai kalam ( the two places earmarked for the departed ) is partaken of by two ladies of the family.

After lunch the saree and pavadai are given to some family members who have to wear them and replace them at the same place. In the night a pot of water is also kept near the pudavai kalam to quench the thirst of the heavenly visitors.
In the olden days (during the time of my grandmother), the saree kept at the pudavai kalam was kept inside a trunk after the function and worn only after the next Sumangali Prarthana. The saree inside the box, kept after the previous Sumangali Prarthana was taken out on this occasion and worn by a member of the family. It so happened that sometimes the interval between two Sumangali Prarthanas was too long and by the time the saree was taken out it would have started wearing out. Hence after my grandmother passed away, the elders in the family decided to discontinue this practice of keeping the saree inside a box.

Thus ended the grand finale to our big get together. All the guests started taking leave one by one from that evening with loads and loads of happy memories of the past few days.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Recipe: Puzhukku

Raw Banana: 1 no.
Vellapayar (Cow peas, lobia, Chowli): 2 tbsps.
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp.
Black pepper powder: 1 tsp.
Salt to taste.
Jaggery: a small piece
Grated coconut: 1tbsp
Curry leaves: a few
Coconut oil 2 tsp for garnishing.


Presoak the cow peas overnight. Slit the banana lengthwise and cut into 1 cm thick pieces. Pressure cook the cowpeas and banana pieces along with turmeric powder and pepper powder with just enough water. Remove and boil. Add the jaggery and salt. Boil for a few more minutes until all the ingredients are well blended. Remove and add curry leaves and coconut gratings. Pour the coconut oil on top.

Delicious Puzhukku is ready. ENJOY.

Along with my recipe for Puliyekuthi Poduthuval this is my entry for JFI Banana.

Recipe: Puliyekuthi Poduthuval

Puliyekuthi Poduthuval is a family favourite, especially that of my beloved father. He just loved it. It has a delicious taste, with the combined flavours of the different vegetables that go into it and the tangy taste of the tamarind, all of it enhanced by the aroma of the special powder, freshly ground. The banana used in this recipe is called Mondan or Pondan or Vannan differently in different parts of Kerala.

Raw banana: 1
Fully ripe Red Pumpkin: 250 gms
Brinjal : 200gms
Ladies finger (Okra): 200gms
Yam (Arvi, Chembu): 200gms
(Some people put arvi leaves folded into small bundles. We don’t use this at home.)
Turmeric powder: 1tsp
Tamarind: lemon sized ball
Jaggery: a small piece
Salt to taste
Curry leaves: 1 sprig

Roast and powder-
Boiled rice (Not cooked but the boiled rice used for idlis): 1 tbsp.
Toor dal: 1tsp.
Methi seeds: ½ tsp.
Hing: size of a pea
Red chillies: 2 or more as per taste
Curry leaves: a few

For garnishing-
Oil: 1 tbsp.
Mustard seeds: 2 tsp.
Urad dal: 2 tsp.
Red chilies: 1 (broken into small pieces)
Curry leaves: a few

Soak tamarind in little warm water and squeeze out the pulp. Keep it aside.

Dry roast all the ingredients for the powder, in the following order. Heat the pan and add the hing. When it starts getting fried, add the rice (washed). When the rice starts popping, add the rest of the ingredients and fry until they are all a nice pink color with a nice aroma. Cool and grind to a fine powder. Keep aside.

Cut the banana and pumpkin into 2” cubes. Wash and cut the brinjal and ladies finger to 2” pieces. Peel and cut the arvi. Boil the tamarind pulp with 3 cups of water and add the arvi. When arvi is half cooked add the banana and pumpkin pieces. Add the brinjal and ladyfingers when banana and pumpkin are half cooked. Add the turmeric powder, salt and jaggery. Add half cup of water to the prepared powder and make a paste. When the vegetables are fully cooked, add this paste and boil. If the consistency is too thick add a little more water and boil. It should be thicker than sambar in consistency, almost to the consistency of kootu. Even if the consistency is little watery, it will thicken as the curry cools. When the curry has boiled for 5 minutes remove it from the stove. Add a few curry leaves.

Heat another pan. Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds crackle, add the urad dal and red chilli pieces.. When the urad dal is pink in color and the red chillies get fried, add the curry leaves and pour this tadka into the curry.

Enjoy with rice. This curry is mixed with rice using what we at home call fried oil. This is the oil left over from frying papads etc. This gives a delicious taste to the food. The right accompaniment for Puliyekuthi Poduthuval is Papads. The menu at home on Puliyekuthi Poduthuval day is Puliyekuthi Poduthuval, Rasam and papad.

P.S. Arvi is best peeled after boiling them first. The skin comes off easily. What I do is to wash and put the arvi at the bottom of the pressure cooker with enough water and keep the other vegetables, excepting brinjal and ladyfingers, on top of it in a separate container. I add the tamarind juice, turmeric powder and salt also into the vegetables. Brinjal and ladies fingers are cooked separately. When the pressure cooker is ready, I remove the arvi, peel and cut them, mix all the vegetables and boil for 5 minutes and add the rest of the ingredients.

This along with the Puzhukku recipe is my entry for JFI Banana.

JFI Banana

As with JFI rice, with Banana as the theme of this JFI, I was perplexed not knowing what recipe to post. Not because I did not have any original recipes, just that growing up in a Kerala village wholly dependent on the vegetables grown in our backyards (the most common being banana), we had a regular supply of bananas all through the year. And we had varieties and varieties of bananas and then some. Some were meant to be used only as vegetable, some as fruit and others as both vegetable and fruit. There would always be one or two full bunches of banana hanging from the hook in the ceiling in all households. Raw banana went into every preparation, be it molakootal, mezhukkupuratti , kalan or avial and just about everything else. Hence the dilemma.

And what was the first solid diet of infants? It was again our good old nutritious bananas, sun dried and powdered. This powder was mixed with buttermilk and cooked over a slow fire to get a jam-like consistency. We called it koozhu. Children grew healthy and strong eating this home made baby food. There was no fear of adulteration, non-availability or having the need to carry boxes and boxes of baby food while travelling. In the event of the powder not available readily on any particular day, the bananas were cut into small bits, ground and cooked. A special type of banana called kunnan was used for baby food. Nendran banana was the next alternative.

What part of the banana tree is not used? The stem, the flowers and the raw fruit are used as vegetables. Ripe fruit is of course an all time favourite. The leaves are our age-old disposable plates and don’t forget our yummy elai adais. Banana as a fruit or vegetable has many medicinal properties. The other parts of the banana tree, like the stem and flowers are also used as medicine. The juice of the banana stem is especially recommended for diabetics.

After much deliberation, I decided on Puliyekuthi Poduthuval and Puzhukku. Puliyekuthi Poduthuval literally means a poduthuval in which puli (tamarind) has been used. Puzhukku means steam-cooked or boiled. It is a very simple but mouth watering preparation. Commonly used as a side dish to Kanji, we also use it as a side dish with rice.
Puliyekuthi Poduthuval is a typical Kerala Iyer speciality whereas Puzhukku is an original Kerala dish.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Those who study the Vedas consider that among all sanskara rituals, the initiation rituals of Upanayanam are the most important.
Upanayanam, also known as the sacred thread ceremony. is usually performed at the age of seven or eight because that is the age when a child stops getting the benefits of the karmas of his parents and will have to learn and perform his own karmas. Upa means near and nayanam means going; that is the act of going to a teacher to learn.
The meaning of the word upanayanam can also be interpreted as nayanam meaning eye prefixed with upa- (auxiliary), making for the interpretative meaning: bringing (the ultimate truth nearer in sight).
There is plenty about Upanayanams on Wikipedia.
According to Aapasthambha Maharshi, a brahmachari should not

  • Sleep during the day

  • Use cosmetics or perfumes

  • Have close contact with girls

  • Engage in gossip

  • Indulge in entertainment

  • Indulge in boasting

He should be disciplined, quiet, self confident, tireless, soft spoken and without ego or jealousy. Chanting of Gayatri Mantra regularly gives him the strength to follow the above rules. This gayatri mantra is taught to the brahmachari by the father taking the position of guru, which is known as Brahmopadesam.
The Upanayanm function starts with Punyahavachanam followed by Yagnopaveethadharanam. The Muhurtham is the time of Brahmopadesam.

After yajnopaveethadhaarnam is Kumarabhojanam. Kumarabhojanam is common both for Upanayanam and choulam. According to the vedic karmas, the vatu (the boy whose upanayanam is being performed is commonly referred to as vatu) should be served with rice, ghee and milk without salt or spices. The vatu (disciple) is supposed to eat bland food throughout his brahmacharya (the period during which he is supposed to do vedadhyana) and taste good food only when he enters Grihasthashrama with the vratha ritual of his marriage. At this time he is blindfolded and when he opens his eyes, he is fed neiyappam (from when he starts eating tasty food) and shown the mirror, from when he starts beautifying himself.
During Kumarabhojanam, another kumara who is not yet a brahmachari is made to sit with the vatu and served food. At some places, another brahmachari is seated along with the vatu and also the food served is rice cooked with turmeric powder and dal, along with fried rice pappads.

After Kumarabhojanam is the vapanam, or shaving of the hair for the vatu. The first locks are cut by the father and then by the barber. Usually, this is a noisy scene during choulam, as this is the first time the boy gets a hair cut.

After the vapanam, the boys are given bath, dressed in new clothes and taken to the temple. In the olden days, this bath was given at the stream and the ladies would all accompany them and dress up the boys at the stream side. From there, they come in a procession to the temple. The maternal uncle of the boy is supposed to carry the vatu during this procession. Aarati is done to the boys in all the houses and also they are given a small gift, usually a piece of jaggery, sugar candy or banana. In return, a packet containing a murukku and laddu is given to all the houses. The aarati water is poured on the dhoti of the uncle. This procession goes upto the temple and returns to complete the rituals.

The rituals of Choula karma is almost over after the boy comes back from the temple and the homa and ashirvadam.

Agnimukham is performed and the boy is given all the symbols of a brahmachari. First the boy made to stand on a stone and the father says, “You should be as strong-willed as this stone”.

Then the father ties a long cloth (known as kuttai) around the brahmachari’s waist and prays, “May the Gods give you long life, strength, health and wealth” (In the olden days, the brahmachari was supposed to wear this cloth for 3 days). A cord made of three strings of Durva (Moujibandhanam) is also tied around the brahmachari’s waist, symbolizing the three sections of Vedas which will protect him from all evils. A piece of deer skin (krishnajinam) is also tied around bramachari’s waist, which will make him bright in intellect as the blazing sun. He will be endowed with health, wealth and prosperity. He will become strong spiritually and intellectually.

Then the brahmachari is taught the most sacred Gayatri mantra by the father. He is taught all the rules of Brahmacharya vratha. He is also given Palasha Danda (a small twig of the peepul tree) as a symbol of brahmachari.

The brahmachari is supposed to live on the food he receives as alms by going from house to house. As a symbolic representation of this now forgotten system, the brahmachari asks for alms from his mother and all the other ladies of the congregation.

Followed by Ashirvadam and aarathi, the upanayana karma comes to a happy end.

The brahmachari is supposed to be in a sort of vrata for the following three days, doing all the nityakarmas of the brahmachari but not going out. On the fourth day, a Pranava Sradha Medha Puja and homa is done, when the kuttai is removed and given to the Acharya and the moujibandanam, krishanjinam and palasha danda are also taken from the bramachari. In the olden days, new palashadanada, moujibanda and krishanajina were given to the brahmachari.
The Upanayanam is the most sacred ritual in the life of a boy as all through the ceremony the Guru (father) appeals to the Supreme beings to take care of the boy and give him long life, health, happiness, intellect and lead him through the right path and give him strength to face all odds in life and also mental strength to lead good life and turn back from all evils. It is an earnest prayer from the father, having brought the child up to his adolescent age, to all powers in this universe, the earth, the water, the sky, the ether, the fire, all the stars, all the deities who are the devatas of all the eight directions (ashtadigpalakas), all the vedic scholars and elders of the community and all the pitrus to take good care of the boy from then onwards. And also by teaching him the Gayatri Mantra he makes the boy responsible for his well being and also advises him on the various dos and don’ts of the life, when he is going to be away in the Gurukula in pursuit of knowledge.
This karma has a very powerful influence on the boy and the family, if the purpose and meaning of each ritual is properly understood and followed.
It is one ritual no one should avoid or postpone as it gives the boy great strength of mind. Practicing the Gayatri mantra everyday makes him strong willed, confident, intelligent and pure in his thoughts and deeds.
Explaining the meaning of all rituals will take lot more space and time; perhaps, I should be able to give the meanings of some of the rituals more elaborately some other time.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Our elders have deemed some vedic functions as very important in our lives. Jatakarmam, Namakaranam, Annaprasanam, Choulam, Upanyanam, marriage, pumsavanam-seemantham, shahtyabdapurthy santhi, satahbhishekam, and kanakabhishekam are part of this list. Such functions are performed elaborately often over two days or more. They are normally preceded by Purvanga rituals. The purvanga rituals are aimed at purifying the person, purifying the puja upakaranas and invoking the blessings of the Gods and forefathers. Accordingly udakasanthi, angurarapanam, pratisarabandhanam and nandisradham are performed either in the morning of the day of the function or on the previous day, depending upon the length and complexity of the main function, the hours of the muhurtam etc. On occasions where Ashtotharam is performed it will have to be done on the previous day as it is quite elaborate and time consuming. Similarly, Nandisradham also will have to be performed the previous day if “feeding of Brahmins” is done as part of it. Sometimes for various reasons it is performed by inviting the Brahmins, invoking the forefathers and then giving them dakshina, rice and vegetables. As this function takes hardly an hour it can be performed on the day of the main function itself. Further, these days as vadhyars are scarce and most of the functions are conducted at mantapams rented at exorbitant costs for this purpose, and also the difficulty in entertaining the guests for more days etc, all the functions are compressed and conducted within a single day. The luxury of performing the functions over two or more days can be had only in villages as in the present case. In the present case we had the added advantage of easy availability of a sufficiently large hall for the purpose. Accordingly the rituals were extended over three days as follows:
Ashtotharam on the first day, nandisradham, angurarapanam and pratisarabandanam on the second day, and the main functions of the upanayanam and choulam on the third day. Being a village taking care of the guests was not a big problem. Space, accommodation and other infrastructure were not major constraints. Being summer holidays many elderly guests who had nostalgic memories of village life in their childhood had converted this occasion into a long cherished holiday in the village; later they went on pilgrimage in Kerala or to visit other relatives and friends in Kerala and adjoining states. I would like to mention here that all villages in Kerala these days are as good as small towns elsewhere in India in respect of communication and transportation facilities, availability of other infrastructure etc. Connectivity by mobile phones, landlines, public transports, availability of taxis, autos on telephone call, internet cafes and departmental stores at street corners, availability of emergency medical attention, provision of safe water in the households are all the hallmarks of most of the villages in Kerala now; while retaining the old rustic charm.
Nandisradham is performed to get the blessings of the forefathers before an important ritual like Upanayanam. Some people perform it before marriages also, in a small way of course. Nandi in Sanskrit means the beginning, so with Nandi begins the actual rituals for the functions. Usually during the Nandisradham before Upanayanam, the Brahmins are fed and various Upacharams are offered to them, whereas during the Nandisradham before the marriage, they are only given rice and vegetables and dakshina. I have not seen an elaborate Nandisradham being performed before marriage.

In a recent marriage we attended I talked to the vadhyar about the nandi sradham being performed during the marriage rituals. He mentioned that the rituals are performed in a very simple way by chanting the mantras and the dakshina is kept aside to be given away to the brahmins later. He also said that the sight of rice and raw banana during the marriage functions was simply not acceptable in many homes, thereby rendering the performance explicitly impossible. Some families rule out the performance simply stating that it was not done in their families. However, in the present case it was done elaborately by drawing nine kolams on the mantapam immediately after the vratham, placing a plantain leaf on each kolam conaining rice, vazhakkai, thamboolam, dals, pazham etc and nine brahmins were seated , one each against each leaf. The groom’s father then invoked the deavas and the forefathers two at a time and mahavishnu at the end in the following order:
Sathyavasusamyak visvedaeva (2), Prapitamahi and Pithamahi (2), Prapitamaha and pitamaha (2), Sapatnika matuhprapitamaha and sapatnika matuhpitamaha (2) and Mahavishnu (1), thus making a total of nine. Each Brahmin was then offered the contents of the leaf along with dakshina; again invocaion was done two at time as described above. It may be noted that in case the nandisradham is performed on a day prior to the main function the brahmnins are given more upacharams like vastram, jalapatram, umbrella, footwear, fan, stick etc and are also fed sumptuously as explained elsewhere ( feeding being done in place of rice, dal and vazhakkai, as in the present case).

The Nandisradham differs from the regular Sradham (anniversary) though both are meant to get the blessings of the forefathers. Nandisradham is known as Shobanasradham and no homam is done. The happy mood of the function going to be performed next day prevails during the Nandisradham also. There is festivity in the air. As no homam is performed in which havis is offered to the Agni and then offered to the pitruswarupa Brahmins, there is no pitrusesham and all can partake of the food after the Brahmins are fed, whereas during the Pratyabdikasradham, the pitrusesham can be partaken only by the immediate blood relatives. Further, for the pratyabdikasradham the month, paksham and thithi are fixed as on the day of the death of the parent, no particular thithi needs to be chosen for the performance of the nandisradham. Normally it is performed on the day previous to the main muhurtham.
During Nandisradham, Kolam is drawn and the rituals are performed on that. Usually there are 9 Brahmins on whom the father, paternal grandfather (or paternal grandfather and his father, if father is alive) mother and paternal grandmother (or paternal grandmother and her mother-in-law if mother is alive), maternal grandfather and grandmother, 2 vishwedevas and one Mahavishnuswarupa are invoked. In some places, there are 2 mahavishnuswarupas, thus taking the number to 10.
Before the Nandisradham, Udakasanthi, Angurarpanam and Kanganadharanam is performed. As we were having the choulam and upanayanam for two of my nephews on the same day, all the above rituals, except Nandisradham, were done for both the boys simultaneously.

Choulam is the first mundan ceremony for boys and is usually conducted between the age of 2 and 3. According to Sastras, this should be the first occasion when a razor is used on the child’s head. Due to various reasons, we could not perform the choulam for our handsome and charming younger son till the age of 5. So he had long hair when he went to kindergarten causing his teacher to send a note saying, “Please cut your daughter’s hair.” Eventually, we took him to Palani and offered his hair to the God there.

These days, it is only in very few families the choulam ceremony is conducted; if not, just the vedic rituals are conducted along with Upanayanam. Last year when we wanted to conduct the choulam for a nephew in Bangalore, our vadhyar said that there was no vadhyar who knows to conduct the choulam in Bangalore and we had to get our family vadhyar from Puthucode.
Udakasanthi involves invoking the presence of Varuna, the God of rain and water, and the other devatas and the holy rivers like Ganga, Jamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu, Cauvery, in the water kept in the kumbham(pot) through the chanting of mantras from the Vedas and doing abhisheka (pouring over the head) with that water to the boy whose upanayanam or choulam is to be performed. This is the ritualistic bath given in functions like upanayanam, choulam, seemantham (it is done for the wife), shastiabdapoorthy, shathabhishekam etc., seeking the blessings of the Gods and the holy rivers to protect the ward and praying for long life, health and happiness.

After Udakasanthi is Angurarpanam or Paalikai, in which navadhanyas (seeds of nine cereals and pulses) soaked in milk are purified by mantras and sown into 5 pre-prepared pots or paalikai kinnams by 5 sumangalis. Colloqially it is called paalikai thalikal. The privilege for sowing the seeds into paalikai goes to the boy’s mother, followed by grandmothers, athai, mami etc. These days, to accommodate very important invitees, the list gets longer and longer and instead of 5 sumangalis, there are at times, 11 or more. In a recent marriage I had seen a similar function being performed by quite a few ladies. The list went on and on until the vadhyar put a stop to it, to continue with other functions. The ladies are then given thamboolam and dakshina.

The sown seeds need to be watered for 3 or 5 days by which time they sprout and grow to a good height. This symbolizes long life and prosperity. Actually twice a day, in the morning and the evening, the wife of the Kartha (the mother of the boy whose upanayanam, choulam or wedding is being performed) does a small neivedyam of betel leaves and 2 plantains and sprinkles water and prays for the well being of all. After 5 days, the sprouts are immersed in running water (preferred), or in a tank or well. This immersion of the sprouts is to be done by 2 young girls accompanied with vadyam (a boy accompanies them beating a plate with a stick). On return, aarati is done to the girls and they also get a cash reward (when we were young, we used to get 25 paise).
After angurarpanam, is the kangandharan. A thread sanctified by mantras, is tied to the boy’s right wrist to ward off all obstacles and give him long life and prosperity. It is believed that once the kangandharan is done, the proceedings of the function cannot be stopped.

Only after Kangandharan is Nandisradham performed. As said earlier, 9 Brahmins are invited and the late forefathers are invoked on them and blessings from them are sought for the successful conduct of the functions and the long life and prosperity of the whole family. The Brahmins are given new vastrams, dakshina, jalapatrams and meals. Here again, the menu is satvic or samaradhanai samayal.
The Nandisradham is different from the annual pitrusradhams in many ways. The mood itself is different. Whereas, during the pitrusradhams, the mood is somber during nandisradham there is a festive mood. No kolam is drawn during pitrusradham and kolam is drawn during nandisradham.

The food is offered as neivedyam to Grihadevathas during Nandisradham.

In the case of Shashtyabdapoorthy and Satabhishekam , normally udakasanthi and rudrekadasini are conducted on the previous day.
During the Nandisradham conducted at our house the menu was as follows:

We had Jangiri, Parippu vadai, Rasavadai, Banana and Jackfruit chips, Palpayasam, Chakka ( jackfruit) Pradhaman, Mambazha Pulisserry, Chakka kari, Thoran, Thayir Pachadi, Rasa vadai, Thogayal, Curds. Again, no pappadams for Nandisradham.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Recipe: Idiyappam/Noolpittu

Noolpittu or Idiyappam is also a favorite Kerala breakfast item and Kerala Iyers prepare Sevai a cousin of Noolpittu. This again is a very simple oil free snack.

1. Rice flour: 1cup
2. Salt
3. Hotwater 1 cup

Roast the rice flour very lightly. Cool. Add the hot water and salt and mix with a spatula to firm dough. Fit the Anju thattu nazhi with the plate with tiny holes. Fill with the prepared dough. Press onto perforated plates or idli plates and steam until done.

Remove and serve with sweetened coconut milk.

Needless to say, this is my second post for JFI Rice (first: Aappam).

Recipe: Aappam

When I saw that the topic for the current JFI was “Rice” I was thinking, I have posted all my favorite rice recipes. What can I post when I have already posted Palpayasam, the king of rice recipes and Idichu Pizhinja Payasam which is an all time favorite of all Kerala Iyers and in particular Puthucodians and now of many others . Our elder son suggested Idiyaappam or Noolpittu and Aappam.

Neither of the above is a Kerala Iyer specialty. In fact, I had never heard of these two items until our elder son started going to school. In school he had a close Malayalee friend, Krishnakumar, who used to bring aappam for lunch. Our son used to come home and ask me to give him, white dosa for his lunch. I only knew the conventional dosa and I tried making them white in color, by under cooking them. He used to say, “Amma, this is not the one, make white dosas for me”. This continued and it was not until I took up a full time job and I had malayalee colleagues, that I came to know about this secret of this white dosa. The white dosa he was referring to was Aappam and I got the recipe from the colleagues and started preparing them to my son’s delight. Our younger son never liked it though, as his liking was always roast dosa. Then I realized the reason why this preparation never entered the orthodox kitchens of Kerala Iyers. The main reason is the fermentation agent most commonly used in the preparation of the batter. Usually an alcohol prepared from the coconut palm (fresh toddy, country liquor or kallu ) was used in the fermentation process. Therefore, it is also referred to as Kallappam, Kallu being the name by which such alcoholic preparations are known. Even the mention of the word Kallu was banned in Iyer households in the olden days, let alone bringing it home for fermenting the dough. Now coconut water kept overnight, or yeast is used as the fermenting agent. Use of these items in Iyer households is no longer taboo and therefore this recipe. Partaking of this fresh toddy early in morning is quite common among the non-brahmin communities in the villages even today. Moreover cooked rice kept overnight (which also ferments) is also added during the grinding, which was taboo in the orthodox kitchens (pazhaya satham).

Aappam is a typical Kerala breakfast item and is comparatively oil free and full of vitamin B as it has been fermented. Usually train travelers from other parts of India travelling to Kerala, are greeted by Chaaya Velleppam as the train reaches Palghat, the first railway station in Kerala. As the train always reached Palghat early in the morning and we could reach home by breakfast time, we never even thought of trying this Velleppam. To this day, I have never tasted Velleppam other than what I myself have cooked.

As I have already mentioned, people later on started fermenting the batter with yeast and I ferment my batter with a home made toddy I prepare thus:

Whenever I break a coconut, I preserve the elaneer (coconut water) with a spoonful of sugar added to it. The next day, I make the batter for Aappam by soaking the rice in this home made fermenting solution.

Coconut : 1
(It is better to use a medium ripe coconut, as it will yield more milk. The shell of the medium ripe coconut is white in color, in contrast to the dark brown color of fully ripe coconut).
Coconut milk : 1 cup
Grated coconut : ½ cup
Yeast: 1 tsp.
Raw rice : 1 cup
Cooked rice : ¼ cup
Sugar 1 tbsp.
Salt to taste
Soda-bi carb. ½ tsp.

Method I:
Make the fermenting solution thus:
Break the coconut and reserve the coconut water with a tbsp. of sugar added to it. Keep it overnight. Grate the coconut and preserve. Next day, wash and soak the rice in the reserved coconut water for 4 hours. Grind the rice, cooked rice, grated coconut and salt to a very smooth batter. Leave it overnight.

Method II
If using yeast, soak the yeast in little warm milk with a tsp. of sugar. Soak the rice in water and grind with yeast solution, grated coconut, cooked rice, sugar and salt to a smooth batter. Leave it overnight.
The aappam is prepared in a special earthenware aappa chatty (kadai) with a lid. These days, non-stick aappa chattis are available; yours truly makes it in a regular cheenachatty with satisfactory result.
Add the soda-bi-carb, just before preparing the aappams.
Heat the aappa chatty and smear with a drop of oil. Add a big ladle full of batter and swirl the kadai so that the batter spreads on all the four sides. Keep the kadai closed with a lid and cook on moderate heat. After 2 or 3 minutes open the lid and remove the puffed aappams. Repeat the process.

Along with my recipe for Idiyappam, this is one of my entries for JFI Rice.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


I took a break from my Puthucode blogging for the JFI entry. But now I can continue with my Puthucode memories. As I mentioned we had got together this time for the Upanayanam and Choulam of my nephews.
Upanayanam has more Vedic rituals than marriage and is usually preceded by a nandi sradham for taking blessings of the forefathers. Very rarely an ashtotharam is conducted before upanayanam. There was an ashtotharam conducted in our family about 30 years ago, during the upanayanam of my cousin and my brother had decided to conduct one now.
Conducting an ashtotharam needs elaborate preparation as the ritual itself consists of invoking the 108 different images of Mahavishnu (The Ashtothara sata-namah) on Saligrama and doing puja to them. Apart from this the Dwadasa or 12 (the Dwadasa Nama puja) images of Mahavishnu are also invoked and puja done to them. After this, the 108 namas and 12 namas of Mahavishnu are invoked on Pratyaksha Brahmins and puja done to them. Therefore, the first and foremost requirement is to assemble 120 Brahmins at the venue. As the invitations to them are extended well in advance, replacements for any sudden dropouts due unexpected circumstances have to be accounted for. These Brahmins are picked from the nearby villages (Palakkad is famous for the 18 gramams surrounding it). Many factors make the task of the organiser very difficult these days. Some of them are:

  1. The financial status of the younger generation today is better. The Brahmin settlements in the gramams have depleted considerably over the past few decades.

  2. Most of the people are educated and have regular employment and are not able to spare time for such activities.

  3. The organising vadhyar and the Brahmins invited have no direct commitment to each other as a vadhyar is required to organise such a puja only on very few occasions in his lifetime. Many of the present day vadhyars are not familiar with such a function.

  4. Call of conscience is the sole motivation for an invitee to attend keeping aside other more lucrative offers on the same day.

However, great strides in communication facilities and transport facilities helped the vadhyar in organising the required number. Special mention should be made of the relentless efforts by Shri Dharmaraja Vadhyar and his two sons in organising the august assembly of 140+ Brahmins for the function and the successful conduct of the Ashtotharam, Nandisradham, Upanayanam and Choulam. Incidentally, he had presided over our marriage as Bride’s family priest more than three decades and a half ago. He had the fortune to have been associated with great vadhyars like Shri Chami vadhyar and Srinivasa Vadhyar of Puthucode, who were my father’s maternal uncles.
The function mainly consists of inviting the 120 brahmins, receiving them by washing their feet, invoking one image of Mahavishnu on each of them, for whom pujas have already been done and performing various Upacharas and Pujas, and gifting them asanam, Vastram and Jalapatram. They are then fed sumptuously and offered thamboolams and dakshina.

As doing all these rituals by a single couple is strenuous and time consuming, it was decided to associate brothers and other elders for the performance of the Puja. We had six couples who readily undertook to perform the Puja. As some of the couples were senior citizens, there were other couples ready to take their place, in case they felt any discomfort during the 4 hrs puja.

There were many behind the scene activities also, in which the whole family had to involve themselves so that the functions would move smoothly. Accordingly, the Brahmins were divided into six groups of 20 each, to be associated with the six couples for puja. One vadhyar each was assigned to each group. After the initial rituals, common for all the groups, were performed by the main priest, the six groups performed the puja simultaneously at six designated sites in the same hall. Sourcing and arranging the items required for danams was the result of the combined effort between my brother and the priest. For the feast they all had to be accommodated in one venue, seated on the ground, served at the same time, as there were some rituals to be performed during this time also.

Since it would have been difficult to entertain so many Brahmins in our house, we decided that the function would be conducted in the newly built halls in the north village (Chami Vadhyar Memorial Trust). My father’s cousins have converted their ancestral house into a large hall, kitchen and some rooms for the conduct of such functions for the family. The house adjacent to it has also been converted into a big function hall on the ground floor and living quarters on the first floor. They insisted that the function be conducted there and my cousin (a big industrialist) took time off from his busy schedule and supervised all the arrangements for the smooth conduct of the functions. Our priest had arranged with 150 Brahmins to be present just in case someone opted out.
As usual my cousin, my beautiful and talented niece, and I did the kolams the previous evening itself. The functions started early in the morning with Ganapathi Homam followed by Ashtotharam. By the Blessings of the Almighty and all the elders, they were all in good spirits and the functions went off smoothly.
Serving food to the 150 Brahmins at the same time was the major problem, but with the collective efforts of everyone, somehow this was also done without much difficulty.
The lunch itself is called Samaradhanai menu as there are some vegetables which are not be included in this type of lunch. Usually carrot, beans, cabbage, (which are known as English vegetables) are not used. Sambar is not made. Pradhaman is not made, only Palpayasam is made. Pappadam is not served, only chips are served. Onion of course is a very big NO NO.

At this event, the menu, consisted of

Kari(Chenai +Elavan)
Pavakkai Pitla
Palpayasam and

After the meals, all the brahmins were seated in a circle, and all the family members did pradikshanam when they were chanting vedic hymns invoking the blessings for one and all.

Thus, concluded the 1st day functions.

It was only after all the Brahmins were seen off that the family and other invitees had their lunch, around 2.30pm.

We had to get ready for the next day’s Nandi Shradham.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Recipe: Stuffed Capsicum

Stuffed capsicums can be prepared in a variety of methods. You can steam, grill or bake them. This time I have steamed them as I am now preparing some bland diets for my son who is recovering from gastritis.


Capsicums: 4 Nos.
Potatoes: 200gms
Green chilies: 2.
Grated ginger: 1 tsp.
Onion: 1 no.
Garam masala: ½ tsp.
Turmeric powder: 1tsp.
Lemon juice: 1tsp.
Salt to taste:
Oil: 1 tbsp or more (depending on the method)
Mustard: 1 tsp.
Jeera: 1 tsp.
Finely cut coriander leaves: 1 tbsp.
Maida: 1 tbsp.


Wash the capsicum and remove the stalk portion, forming a lid. Remove the seeds. Apply salt to the inside and outside of the capsicums and keep them inverted.

Boil, peel and mash the potatoes. Chop the onions and green chillies finely. Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a thick bottomed pan and add the mustard and jeera. When they splutter, add the finely cut onion, green chillies and grated ginger. Saute until the onions are transparent. Add the mashed potatoes, turmeric powder, garam masala, and salt. Saute until all the ingredients are well mixed and dry. Remove from heat; add the lemon juice and half of the coriander leaves. Mix well and cool.

Stuff this mixture into the capsicums.

Make a thick paste of maida and water. Apply to the tops of the cut capsicums and close with the stalk portions. This will prevent the stuffing from coming out.

Now, steam them for 10- 15 mnts or apply a thin coat of oil on the stuffed capsicums and either grill them or bake them until done.

Remove, cut into halves or quarters, garnish with the remaining coriander leaves and serve!

Along with my Thayir Molagai post, this is my entry for JFI August