Monday, September 22, 2008

Onam 2008 Recap

Well, we have bid farewell to Mahabali (Onam primer) for 2008 and all Keralites must be taking a breather after the month long feasts for eyes, ears and most of all the taste buds. It took me almost one week to emerge from the hangover. I am reminded of the verses learnt during school days, which goes to say that even during those days, people got exhausted after the visit of Mahabali. I don’t remember all the verses, it went something as follows:

Maveli ninte varavu moolam,
Paavangal kashtathilaayi nanagal
Varnapookaadukal kandu kandu
Kannile kazcha maranju poyi
Kannezhuthennu vannu
Vinnilalakkunna pooviliyaal
Annakku mannattayayi mari
Nendrapazhathodu malladichu
Konthranpallokke thakarnnu poyi
Upperi pappadam thinnu thinnittulla
Ruchiyum paraparnnu
Maaveli ninte varavu moolam
paavangal Kashtathilaayi nangal

Oh Mahabali, we poor people are put to a lot of hardship because of your arrival
Our vision has started blurring seeing the vast expanse of blooming gardens
We are unable to remove the kaajal applied to our eyes, despite rubbing with sand paper
Our vocal chords have gone hoarse after repeatedly hailing you
Our teeth are broken eating nendrapazhams
We have lost all our appetite after eating loads and loads of chips and papads

So went the verses. So I am justified in taking this week long off before concluding my series on Onam. Here then is my grand finale for Onam 2008.

We had a fantastic Onam, again with both our kids at home after a long time. We had Pazhapulissery, Kootukari, Pachadi, Puliinji, Varuthupperi, Sarkkara Upperi, Papadam, Pazha nurukku and a grand Ada Pradhaman. I shall post the recipes in due course. These days, I stagger making of the dishes across multiple days as no one is able to do justice if all the dishes are made on the same day. Hence the whole range of Sambar, Kalan, Olan, Aviyal, Erissery, Pachadi, Kichadi, Kari, Kootu, Thoran, Puliinji, etc., get spread over the season and not on Thiruvonam day. So also with Payasams. We had Semiya Payasam on Uthradam day, Ada Pradhaman on Thiruvonam and Paal Payasam on Avittam day.

Onam is celebrated differently in different parts of Kerala. Whereas in the Kerala Iyer community of Palghat, Onam is only feasting and making pookalams, the other communities make pyramid shapes with a flat top, with clay called Madevar and invoke Mahavishnu and Mahabali in them and offer poojas to Neyvedyam for Madevar is Elayadai or Valsan or Poovadai as it is called by different people. Many people offer Unniyappam also to Madevar.
My sister-in-law, hailing from South Kerala, tells me about the practice of pinning flower buds on to banana stems (a la Mr Sivamony in comments here) and decorating the pookalam. She says that in their village they make the pookalams the previous evening so that they are free on Thiruvonam morning. Also the practice of making an angular pookalam on Moolam day (moola means corner in Malayalam) is unheard of in our part.
Similarly the entertainments of Thiruvonam season also differ. Whereas the boat race is the main attraction in the backwater ridden southern districts, it is Pulikali (tiger dance) in the central and northern districts. In the interior rural villages like Puthucode, it is villupattu and Kaikottikali.

The main attraction everywhere though is the Onam feast and the camaraderie .

Happy times until the next Onam!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Recipe: Ammini Kozhukkattai

Ammini Kozhukkattai means small kozhukkattais. We make both sweet and salty ammini kozhukkattais. The salty ones are also known as Porichukottina Kozhukkattai as they are stir fried in hot oil tempered with mustard and other seasonings, a process known known as Porichukottal in Kerala Tamil and Porithukottal or Thalithu kottal in Pure Tamil. They are very tasty and are good for breakfast or evening snack. I had been wanting to make ammini kozhukkattai for a long time, but as usual it kept getting postponed. So when I was making the rice dough for sweet kozhukkattai for Ganesh Chaturthi, I made a little extra dough, so I could schedule amminis for the evening. Here is the recipe.


Rice flour : 1 cup
Water : 2 cups
Salt to taste
Coconut oil : 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Mustard : 1 tsp
Split urad dal : 1tsp
Chana dal : 1tsp
Red chillies: 1or 2
Curry leaves : few
Hing : ¼ tsp
Coconut gratings: 1 tbsp.(optional)
Turmeric powder : 1tsp(optional)


Heat a thick bottomed pan and add 1 tsp of coconut oil to it. Add one cup of water and salt and allow to boil. Mix the rice flour with 1 cup of water and add to the boiling water and stir continuously. When the dough leaves the sides of the pan in a ball, remove from the stove. Keep covered for 10 minutes. When cool, smear a little oil in your palms and knead the dough well . Make small marble sized balls out of the dough and steam in a steamer or idli cooker for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Heat the remaining oil in a pan and when the oil starts smoking, add the hing, mustard, urad dal, chana dal and broken red chillies. When the dals starts turning pink add the curry leaves and turmeric powder. Add the steamed kozhukkattais and grated coconut and stir fry for 5 minutes. If the kozhukkattais are steamed properly, they will not break while stir frying. Remove from stove and enjoy yummy ammini kozhukkattais!

I had not been using turmeric powder, all these days while making ammini kozhukkattais. This time, however, hubby dear asked me add turmeric powder, as he had seen someone using turmeric powder for ammini kozhukkattai on one of the cookery shows on the TV. Hence the addition of turmeric powder (optional).

Ponnin Chingam

Kalla Karkitakam left long ago and Ponnin Chingam (Golden Chingam) arrived with a bang. Festival followed festival leaving me no time to sit and write. I wanted to write a welcoming blog post for Chingam, which started with Aavini Avittam. Before I knew it was Gokulashtami or Janmashtami. I thought let me catch up before Ganesh Chaturthi. I decided to write before Onam, atleast.

Meanwhile, my handsome, charming and apparently enterprising son posted the pictures of my simple Pookalams on a day to day basis (this is an additional chore now). “The same flowers, the same combinations,” I commented. “Still, they are different,” he says. So there they are. Hope you all are enjoying.

Aavini Avittam has always been a big festival in our house, done in the proper prescribed norms, followed by Gayathri japam the next day. This aavini avittam was special as this is the first time both our sons are with us celebrating Aavini avittam, after twelve years. Our younger son had never been home for Aavini avittam after he left for the US in 1996 on an aavini avittam day. Our elder son of course, used to come home occasionally for the festival. We had a grand lunch with Rasakalan, vendakkai pachadi (lady’sfinger), beans thoran, Vella payar and Kadalaparippu Pradhaman.

For Gokulashtami, we had sweet and salty cheedais, Vella Avil and Payasam.

We offered Sweet Kozhukattai, Chundal and Payasam to Ganesha on Ganesh Chaturthi. In the evening I made Ammini Kozhukkattai, the recipe for which will follow.My son was asking me why I did not make Ulundu Kozhukattai. Well I did not have time and also I thought it would be too many things on a single day. I shall be making them soon.

We are already on the threshold of Onam. Happy Onam to all my friends!

Sixth Day of Onam

UPDATE: A couple hours and a mild drizzle later: