Sunday, April 22, 2007

Vishu 2007

Another Vishu. What was special about this year’s Vishu was that our son was with us to celebrate Vishu.

Though Vishu is the new year day for Malayalees, Tamilians, people of the North eastern states of India and also the Punjabis, this year (as in many other years), all the other people except Malayalees, celebrated their new year day on the 14th and the Malayalees celebrated it on the 15th April. That was because the Mesha Sanakramam or the time at which the sun entered the Mesha rasi was at 11.40 am on the 14th. The Vishu Kani is seen on the morning after the Mesha Snakramam, Hence, though April 14th was 1st of Mesha masa, This year the Vishu Kani was seen on the 15th morning.

The year that was born on the 14th is named Sarvajith. There are 60 years starting with Prabhava according to Hindu Astrological science.

As usual, we had the Vishukani in the morning. From early morning on Vishu, I had a very bad throat and by breakfast time, it developed into very bad bronchitis and I was feeling so exhausted I had to drop the idea of making a grand feast with Chakka Pradhaman. I had been looking forward to this since our son was with us. But both the son and father insisted that I shouldn’t overstrain myself and we had a simple lunch of Manga Koottan, Kootu and Palpayasam instead.

While almost all the other Indian states celebrate Diwali with crackers, Kerala has crackers during Vishu. Cracker shops would sprout even in the remotest of villages a couple of days before Vishu. Usually schools start their summer vacation from the 1st of April and hence children are at their leisure.

When we were growing up we could buy a big bag of crackers for just Re 1. A day prior to Vishu, Kalathappa (our grandfather) would give us 4 annas (25 paise) each to buy crackers. We would emotionally blackmail Echiyamma (our grandmother) to part with another 4 annas and the three of us (my sister, my cousin and I) would have in total Rs 1.50. This firmly in hand, we would march to the market. Before we left, Kalathappa would say, “don’t forget the “malapadakkam” for the kandam. This meant, ½ anna would go for that. Anyway, we would come back with a bag full of colormatches and sparklers and flowerpots and very few bursting crackers. Back home, we would divide our shopping and dry them in the sun separately. On vishu morning, after seeing the Kani, we would start bursting our crackers. On vishu morning, we would again be richer by Rs0.50, got as Kaineettam from Kalathappa and Echiyamma. So we would do one more round of the market to get some more crackers for the evening.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Recipe: Idichu Pizhinja Payasam

When I had written about the Wedding feast, one of the commenters said that (s)he had never heard of Idichu Pizhinja Payasam and I had promised I would post the recipe soon. I was waiting for a good excuse to prepare this payasam and the golden opportunity dawned today. Today was the “star birthday” of our elder son and as has been our practice for the past 15 years or more, we celebrated his birthday in his absence. Usually, we cook a grand lunch and he eats whatever stuff is available at his work place away from home. Thankfully, this time he went to my cousin’s home and had a grand lunch.

So for the birthday lunch, we prepared Mango kootan, Idichakka poduthuval (tender raw jackfruit curry), idichu pizhinja payasam, vadam and of course rice and curds.

While the recipes for Mango kootan and idichakka poduthuval will come later, today we will have the recipe for idichu pizhinja payasam.

The idichu pizhinja payasam is the most favoured payasam among Keralites and it gets its rather complicated name from the fact that the coconut milk, which is the main ingredient of this payasam, was extracted in the olden days by pounding the grated coconut in a stone mortar (called an “Ural” in malayalam and Tamil and “Okhali” in Hindi). The malayalam term for pounding and extracting is “idichu pizhinju” and hence the name. It is also known by the name Chathachathayam. It is the main neyvedyam in our Annapoorneswari temple during Navarathri, at which time this payasam is made with some 50kgs of rice and milk extracted from some 600 to 700 coconuts. The payasam is made in large urulis or charakkus and is stirred with long handled ladles known as chattukam which measure some 2 mts. long. I will try to get pictures of these during my visit to my native village next month. For the neyvedyam in our temple, a special type of banana known as kadali in malayalam is used. This is not very popular in Bangalore although I did see it in California during our last visit. I have not used this in my recipe. No flavouring agents like cardamom powder or dry ginger powder is used in the payasam and the natural fragrance of the coconut milk and kadali pazham and pure ghee enhance the flavour of this payasam.

It was very difficult for me to scale down the recipe for 4 servings, and I ventured to try it with milk from ½ coconut. I have never made this with less than 2 coconuts.

The pictures show the actual quantity of milk obtained from ½ a coconut and the quantity of payasam got from using the ingredients mentioned below.


(4 servings)

Milk from ½ a coconut
Readymade coconut milk ½ tin

Raw rice : ¼ cup
Jaggery : 1 cup
Sugar : 2 tbsp
Pure ghee: 2 tbsp


Extract coconut milk as explained in the recipe for Parippu Pradhaman.

Wash and cook the rice in the third milk (thinnest) . (This can be done in a pressure cooker).

Melt the jaggery in one cup of water and strain it to remove sand particles and other impurities.

Transfer the cooked rice to a thick bottomed wide mouthed vessel. Add the jaggery syrup and boil until the rice and the jaggery syrup are well blended and the raw jaggery smell disappears. Add the ghee and stir well.

(If using the bananas – make small round pieces of the banana and fry them in ghee until well blended and add to the payasam now.)

Add the second milk (thinner variety) and boil for another 5- 6 minutes until the payasam starts thickening. Add the first milk (thickest) and immediately switch off the stove. Keep stirring with a long handled ladle for another 5 minutes to prevent crust formation.


P.S. : As I have said earlier this payasam is made in thick uruli made of an alloy called oodu in malayalam and vengalam in Tamil. This is a very thick alloy and retains heat for 1 – 2 hours. Hence the first milk is added only after removing the uruli from the stove. The payasam is not heated after the addition of first milk as the first milk might separate releasing coconut oil if heated.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Recipe: Tomato rice

This rice preparation is a favourite of the family. It is spicy, tangy and well balanced and is a meal in itself. It can be had with just papads or a raita. I serve it with a bland gourd curry (kootu) as the rice is spicy.

The recipe calls for dhania powder and chilli powder, however I use my sambar powder instead as the sambar powder contains a lot more spices, this enhances the flavour and taste of the rice. Actually, in most dishes I use sambar powder in place of dhania powder, which gives an excellent aroma to the dish.

Coconut milk is an important ingredient in this recipe. I make cooconut milk by blending fresh grated coconut with ½ cup of warm water and straining it through a colander. I repeat the process with some more warm water to extract all the remaining milk from the coconut.(While blending the coconut, I add the garlic and ginger to it, so that the juices are extracted along with the coconut milk). Ready made coconut milk can also be used.

Try this recipe and enjoy.


Tomatoes : 250gms
Basmati rice : 1 cup
Coconut milk : 1 cup
Ginger : 2” piece
Garlic : 6 or more pods (as per taste)
Onion : 100gms.
Green chillies : 2 or 3
Cloves : 2
Cinnamon : 1” stick
Black cardamom : 1 no.
Bay leaves : 1 or 2
Dhania powder : 1 tbsp.
Chilli powder : 1 or 2 tsp (as per taste)
Turmeric powder : 1 tsp.
Salt to taste
Ghee or oil : 2 tbsp.

Cashew nuts : for garnishing.
Curry leaves and coriander leaves for garnishing.


Blanch the tomatoes by dipping in boiling water for 5 minutes and immediately dipping in cold water. Remove the skin (blanching helps in removing the skin easily). Make a puree of the tomatoes. Keep aside.

Pepare coconut milk as explained above or use ready made coconut milk. Extract the juice of ginger and garlic by blending and straining the juice. Keep aside.

Slice the onions and slit the green chillies.

Wash and soak the rice for 10 minutes. Heat ghee in a pressure cooker and fry the cashew nut to a golden brown color. Remove and keep aside for garnishing. Fry the onions to a golden brown. Remove and keep aside for garnishing. Into the same ghee, add the whole garam masalas (cloves, cinnamon and cardamom) and bay leaf. When they stop spluttering, add the slit green chillies and saute for a minute. Add the rice and fry till the rice starts spluttering. Add the tomato puree and coconut milk and juice of ginger and garlic. As the tomato puree is quite thick it provides only half its measure of water for the rice to cook. The ratio of water to rice for cooking the rice varies depending on the rice. Normally basmati rice will need two cups of water to one cup of rice. If quantity of coconut milk used is 1 cup and tomato puree is 1 cup, we need to add an additional half cup of water to the rice for cooking. Add the dhania powder, chilli powder (or the sambar powder), turmeric powder and salt. Close the pressure cooker and cook the rice with the weight valve on. When done, garnish with curry leaves, coriander leaves and cahsew nuts and fried onions.

P.S.: Of course, this is my entry for JFI Tomatoes