Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

A belated merry christmas and a very happy and prosperous new year to all my beloved readers.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Recipe: Pori


As I have mentioned, the neyvedyam for Karthikai are Pori, Neyyappam and Adai. Pori is puffed rice and there are 2 kinds of pori: nelpori (made by frying paddy seeds) and avil pori (made by frying flattened rice or avil). The preparation of both these poris for neyvedyam is similar. Here is the recipe.

I am mentioning the ratio of ingredients for 5 measures since that is the easiest way to measure out the required quantity of jaggery. You can use any container to measure the pori.

Ingredients:

Pori : 5 measures
Jaggery: 1 measure
Coconut pieces: 2 tbsps.
Cardamom powder: 1 tsp.

The pori needs to be cleaned first. It will have husks sticking to it and also some stones at times.
Melt the jaggery in just enough water to cover the jaggery. Strain to remove sand and other impurities. Boil the jaggery syrup to get a thick consistency. This is very important as otherwise the pori would sink in the syrup and become soggy. When the jaggery syrup is of right consistency the pori will get coated with the syrup and will remain crisp.


Here is how to get the right consistency. As you are boiling the jaggery syrup, keep a bowl of water near your working surface. As the jaggery thickens drop a few drops into the water. Remove the jaggery drops from the water with your fingers. Initially it will form a soft ball. This is known as jelly consistency or more commonly as tomato consistency(as it would be soft as tomato). This is the consistency for Neyyappam.

Boil the syrup some more and drop a few drops into the water. Collect the dropped jaggery with finger tips. It would form into a hard ball. If you throw the ball on a hard surface it should make a "thud". This is the right consistency for Pori and is known as "Kallu pakam" or stone consistency. Now you need to be very quick. Remove the syrup from the stove.

Add the coconut pieces and cardamom powder and the pori and mix continuously so that the pori gets coated with the jaggery evenly. Allow to cool a little and make small balls of pori.

video



Avil Pori is prepared the same way. Avil pori will have fine sand particles so it needs to be sieved to remove the sand. Follow the same method as for nelpori.

Recipe: Neyappam


Neyyappam literally means "ghee cake."

Neyyappam is a unique sweet of Kerala and is made in a special utensil known as Appakaral which is a pan with bowl-shaped depressions carved in to it. In the olden days appakarals were made of bronze. Now a days appakarals made of iron and other metals and even non-stick karals are available. The traditional appakarals had 3 depressions and these days karals with 7 and 9 depressions are available

"Neyyappam thinnal rendundu karyam," is a famous malayalam saying which means that you gain twin benefits when you eat neyyappam. What are they? "Appavum thinnam, meniyum minukkam" which means you can enjoy the appam and also shine your body. This is because as neyyappams are fried in ghee the appam is dripping with ghee and after you eat a neyyappam there is so much grease in your hands that your can apply it on your body.

Now for the recipe. Though different people make the dough for neyyappams differently, below is the recipe followed by our family and it gives the softest neyyappams.

Ingredients:

Raw rice: 1 cup
Jaggery: 1cup
Coconut pieces: 1 tbsp.
Cardamom powder: 1tsp.
Ghee for frying the neyyappams
Gingelly (sesame) oil: 3 tsp.

Soak the rice for 2—3 hours and strain through a colander to remove all the water. Grind to a fine powder in a mixer. Sieve to remove any larger particles. Grind once again until all the rice is ground to a fine powder.

Make a syrup of jaggery to jelly consistency. Switch off the stove. Add cardamom powder and coconut pieces and add the ground rice flour while mixing the dough continuously. Keep the dough covered for a day. (This dough will keep good for upto a week).

video


The next day mix the dough well adding a little water to get a pouring consistency (as thick as idly dough). Heat the appakaral and add a tsp of gingelly oil (ghee tends to stick to the bottom of the karal) and top with ghee. When the ghee is very hot ladle out spoonfuls of dough into each depression. When the neyyappams are cooked on one side (appams will start turning on its own) turn them with a skewer. When they are done (the skewer should come clean when inserted) remove them using the skewer. Repeat.


Offer neyvedyams to Lord Shiva and enjoy the prasadams with family and friends.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Important festivals in December 2009


1st December 2009 - Karthikai Deepam

Karthikai Deepam is an important festival in the Tamil calendar. From the 1st day of the Karthikai (Vrichikam) month small terracotta lamps are lit in the front of the house and on Karthikai day many lamps are lit. In the evening, pooja is offered to Lord Shiva after lighting the lamp in the pooja room. The neyvedyam includes sweet pori, Neyyappam, Adai and fruits.

31st December 2009 - Thiruvathira

There are two views about the exact date of the festival. Some calendars say it is on the 31st December 2009 and yet others say it is on the 1st of January 2010. Well, I am going to decide when to celebrate only closer to the festival.

The neyvedyam for Thiruvathira is of course, Kali and Kari.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Comments Roundup

As I had mentioned earlier I had not been giving much attention to my blog in the past couple of months due to personal work pressure. I have always been responding to all the comments that appeared from my beloved readers. For the past months I had not been able to do so. I thought it would be appropriate if I wrote my responses in a separate post so that all those who had sent comments could see them .

Anonymous said...
It would have been wonderful to give birth in these condition. In today's world, where I live, I have no family support and no question of a maid. I have to go back to work in 6 weeks and need to find somebody to take care of my baby. Nobody is there to massage and I have to cook my own food. No wonder the child falls sick because the mother is in constant stress. I have to do this to support my family back home but nobody there wants to come and lend a hand because they get bored in US of A. They don't know what to do here, and so they don't really care.

Hi Anonymous

It is really sad that you are so stressed out at a time when you must be relaxed to take care of the growing baby. I do wish you will be able to get some help locally and or take some time off to take care of yourself and your baby. Best wishes.

Kaiser Soze said...
It came out really well. I added a pinch of turmeric, it tasted great. Thanks for the recipe!

Thaen said...
Today I made your recepie.. it came out really well. Since we have sugar, i added sugar free tablets instead of sugar. Thanks for the recepie...!!!

Hi Kaiser and Thaen

I am glad your kesari came out well. Have a nice Diwali.

Gayathri said...
Dear Ammupatti,
Thanks for a wonderful and easy recipe. I made Paal Payasam for neivedhyam yesterday and it turned out great. I loved the pink color of the payasam especially.

Hi Gayathri

I am glad your payasam turned out great. Best wishes.

Think Shink said...
Dear Maami,
(if I may call you so), I love your blog although I have read only a couple of pages. It brings abck my childhood and all the relatives I know. Today I have just married a bengali guy and feel a little well . . out of touch with my childhood tambram traditions. Your blog will help me a lot in not feeling like that part of my life is far far away. Do keep writing

Hi Think Shink

I am glad that you feel my blog will help you to keep rooted with your traditions. Wherever you go, one can never forget one’s roots or traditions or childhood. It will always be within and give the much needed moral support at the hour of need. I wish you a happy married life. By the way, how did you celebrate Durga Pooja? Happy Diwali( or Kali Pooja)


Jennifer said...
Thanks for sharing this. I was really confused about this as the Malayalam calendar did not list Krishna Jayanthi in August...

How is the household celebrations of Krishna Jayanthi in Kerala on Sept 11 similar or different than how it is celebrated in other parts of India?

Hi Jennifer

The house hold celebrations of Krishan Jayanthi differs at different parts of Kerala. Most people have a pooja at home but the main pooja is usually in the local temple. People take out procession of little children dressed as Krishna accompanied by an orchestra of drums, flutes, etc.In the famous Guruvayoor temple of Kerala, there are elaborate celebrations on Krishna Jayanthi.

Happy Diwali

By the way, how was your India trip?

Manju said...
Congratulations on you completing 200 posts. i adore your writing style and your recipes. keep up the good work and continue to be inspiration to all of us.

Thanks Manju. Happy Diwali

Anonymous said...
well, been doing my research on sambar podis... tamils sometimes use toor dhal and pepper also in sambar podi. and the keralites have no concept called sambar podi - just their style of cooking :-) and boy does their sambar taste lovely...

Hi Anonymous

It is true that Keralites had no concept of Sambar Podi until a few years ago. They made all their curries with fresh ground masalas and the taste as you said was simply superb. With the busy life catching up with them, Kerala also has a good market for ready made powders now.

Roops said...
made kozhukattais using your recipe. Thanks! By the way, which city are you from? My dad's name is Puthucode Rama Iyer Kasi Vishwanathan but he grew up in Chelakkara. He is now in Mumbai. What about you?

Hi Roops

Nice to know about your Puthucode connections. I grew up in Puthucode and have made Bangalore my home for the past 35 years. Are you Mr.Ramchander’s niece?
Happy Diwai

Sujie said...
Hi,

Thanks for posting this great recipe. I have tried semiya payasam so many times before but got it right and this time it was perfect. Keep up the great work!!. The best thing about your recipes are you tell us how to check the consistency, and at what stage you add - so it is all step by step which is excellent..i never found a better recipe online ..thanks :)

Thanks Sujie and Happy Diwali

Sandi said...
Hi Ammu patti,

This recipe is excellent!I have made semiya payasam couple of times before, but has never been so good. Thanks once again!
Keep posting such great recipes.

Hi Sandi

Thanks and Happy Diwali

Vinitha said...
This is one is Mangalorean? Cool I must really try this sometime and you have recipes for most of my favorite dishes like Kashi halwa etc..loved your blog :)

Hi Vinitha

Hope your cucumber dosa came right. Incidentally we had cucumber dosa for breakfast again today.

Happy Diwali

Parvathy said...
Hi Ammu.. Today i did kalan for onam.. Man.. came out just like my mother used to make.. Cheers.. Looking forward for more of ur recipes :)

Hi Parvathy

I am glad you got your Kalan right. Will certainly post more. Happy Diwali

Nisha said...
How to make curd sour, as here in US, I get curd or buttermilk which is not as sour as we get in India..I made kaalan twice, and both the times, the curd got seperated...pls help me..

Hi Nisha

It is true that your curd or buttermilk doesn’t turn sour in the US. because of the weather. While I was there, I used to make sour buttermilk by keeping the pot at a warmer place like a heated room or in the sun for a day or two. Try it out and I am sure you will get good results. Best wishes


radha said...
Can you give the recipe of the sweet tomato pachadi made at tamilian weddings? Thank you

Hi radha

I shall soon

Lakshmi -Celebrations said...
Dear,
i liked the simplicity of the blog.lovely.Theres one more thing dear friend,can i use ur images in my decor blog,where i am going to write an article about athapookalam designs.i shall give alink to ur blog too.if u can give ur consent ,it would be fine.thanks you.
loved the simplicity of ur designs.some traditional and not the ones used for competitions.very grounded ones with kolams too...pl do write to em and visit my blogs too

Hi Lakshmi

You can certainly use my images giving due credit. You may also give a link to my blog.

Best wishes

geevi said...
Can you give us some good recipes for chundal?

Thank u


Hi geevi

I know that a response delayed is a response denied. Sorry, I could not post any chundal recipes in time. Perhaps before next Navarathri.

Best wishes

Parvathy said...
Hi
This recipe is very good, I knew how to make it, my mother-in-law makes it. I had a confusion in the consistency of the rice paste and whether we have to smear oil on the elai. Have some elais which we bought for onam lying, so thought of making elaiadai. Just checked in the net, your recipe was very useful.Thank you!
Hope you will post authentic and traditional kerala iyer recipes in the net again...

Parvathy

Hi Parvathy

I hope your elai adais came good. Shall try my level best to post more recipes.

Best wishes

Janaki Gopikrishna said...
can u kindly post prasadams for the nine days of navaratri. fast and easy ways to make it for Devi..

Hi Janaki

I am sure you made different kinds of neyvedyams for devi on all the 9 days.
Best wishes

Malathy Nair said...

I love Puthukode because my childhood was there. My mind is till there now the time of Navaratri.

Hi Malathy

Hope you could visit Puthucode during Navarathri.

Best wishes

Thanu said...
Hi, My MIL was fretting about some leftover ashgourd and when i googled for the halwa recipe, yours was the first in the search results. I followed your recipe except i didnt use the exact measurements.The taste was really good. Everyone including my MIL loved it. Thanks for a foolproof recipe [:D]

Hi Thanu

I am glad your halwa tasted good. Best wishes

Sandi said...
Hi Ammu patti,

This recipe is excellent!I have made semiya payasam couple of times before, but has never been so good. Thanks once again!
Keep posting such great recipes.

Hi Sandi

I am glad your semiya payasam turned out well.

Best wishes

Life Lessons from a Late Bloomer said...
I am lost for words and all that I can say is I am blessed to get into your web page on this Saraswathy Pooja/Vijayadasami day and get into know about Puthucode Bhagavathy, Sri Annapoorneswari. I really enjoy reciting, and I feel like talking to The Mother, whenever I recite Adi Shankaracharya's Annapoorna Ashtotram. I pray that She will one day take me to Puthucode. I can't wait to offer my prayers to Her.

Thank You, and very nice blog!
Hi

I am sure with Bhagavathy’s Blessings you will be able to visit and offer prayers at Puthucode Annapoorneswari temple soon.

Best wishes

ANANTHA said...
My self belongs to Puthucode South Village. I am very much proud to be a Puthucodian.

Hi Anantha

I am glad to get in touch with another Puthucodian. Which house do you belong to?

Best wishes

Rajashri said...
Hi Ammu patti,
Can you share the exact quantity of water and sugar needed to make 2 thread consistency?

Hi Rajashri
There is no exact measurement of water and sugar. The consistency is got as the sugar solution thickens. My thumb rule is to add just enough water to dissolve the sugar.

Best wishes

Lux said...
Thank you for the post!

Glad to know that you are hale and hearty :)

Hi Lux

Thanks for your concern.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...
very nice pictures of the temple. In my childhood years, I use to spend my school holidays with my grandparents in the South Village every year and loved the time I spent there. I haven't been to Puthucode for years, but will be going in couple of weeks.

Hi Anonymous

I hope you were able to go to Puthucode . Out of curiosity, who are your grandparents?

Best wishes

Rama said...
How to make the dry fruit powder? Just grind it in mixie or some processing is required before grinding?

Hi Rama
Just grind it in mixie.

Best wishes

Harini said...
Hi bhagavathy, ur halwa looks bright and yummy , had this halwa only in marriages (incluiding mine :-))I'm gonna try this as an extra sweet for diwali... i believe it should come out awesome...
Even i've started blogging last week.. check out and share your comments

harinitalks.blogspot.com

Keep posting !!!

Cheers,
Harini

Hi Harini

Deepavalikku Halwa panninaya, supera vanduda? Un bloge pathen. Just Superb.

Best wishes

Janaki Gopikrishna said...
my mom was here this week and we made all the palaharams

Hi Janaki

You did not tell us what all palaharams you and your mom made.

Best wishes

Viji said...
Hello

I am a silent follwer of your blog for (more than) a while now and wanted to wish you and your family a very happy Deepavali.

I very much enjoy reading your blog - your recipes, your opinions and comments.

I am sorry to read that your spirits are a bit low at this point in time but anything that goes down has to come up.

Cheers
Viji

(I know there are so many Vijis in the blogsphere and this Viji happens to live at Pittsburgh USA - at least for the time being :-))

Hi Viji

Thanks for being a regular reader of my blog and also for your concern.

Best wishes

DeEpAk said...
Hi Paati,

Thanks for the recipe. But, ravai lumps prevent panrathukku, fry panna ravaiku boiling water add pannen, my mom's suggestion. I had tried rava uppma earlier and ravai lumps form aachi.

Deepak.

Hi Deepak
I am glad you got good results following your mom’s suggestion.
Best wishes

Lux said...
yummilicious picture....especially those mysore pak ....can row a boat in my mouth now...Lookin' fwd for the recipes ammupatti.

Hi Lux

Very soon.
Best wishes

Deepa said...
WOW.... what an amazing Blog... I love the piece on festivals and Iyer traditions... when my north indian friends tell me that after Diwali, the only festival they have is Holi, I happily reel off Karthigai, Thiruvathurai, Sankranthi, Thai Poosam, Nombu, Ram Navami etc... such wonderful traditions.. thank you, Ammu Patti.

Loots of Love & a BIG HUG to you ( I miss my patti so much)

Deepa

Hi Deepa
Thanks much. Lots of love

Anonymous said...
mami, we make these too, but spiced with chilli pd. for the strangest reason( both my sisters-in-law find this hilarious) it is called "mannangatti Kozhukattai" ( mud / dirt ball in tamil!) maybe the colur is a brick red... i dont know.... but we love the spicy kick and the yummy taste!

Hi Anonymous

Wonderful name – Mannangatti kozhukattai. I am reminded of my grandmom who used to say,”mannu mathiri erukku” if she did not like the taste of some dish. My uncle used to tease her asking, “Mannu thinnurikkiya”

Anonymous said...
YUMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! looks like your mil is like my mum! my mum makes it for every reason - may my kids do well in their exams, may we get so and so, thank you for so and so, during aadi vellikazhamai's, during sankatahara chaturthi etc! not that we complain - we gobble it up before you can write K... and mami, my mothers kozhukattai's can create a world record - tiny, bursting with filling, a skin softer and thinner than a baby's skin... awesome... am hungry! Wish I were as good as her though....

Hi anonymous

I am sure with practice you will become as good as her in all fields.

Best wishes

Sumi said...
hmmm, tad same but very different from how we Thanjavur folks celebrate Diwali. we wake up at 3 am, but instead of ukkarai or any other sweet, the first thing they give us after ''ganga snanam'' is ''deppavali marundhu, aka legiyam''. nice post...now i crave for ukkarai. amma makes the best ukkarai, am sure u do too.

Sumi
Hi Sumi

Since we do not have varieties of sweets we do not have marundu. Yes my ukkarai came out very well. I shall post the recipe soon.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...
hello aunty,
i'm anand's batchmate in rec calicut, also frm blore....its nice reading ur blog
-karthik M

Hi Karthik
Nice to receive a comment from Anand’s batch mate. Where are you now?

Best wishes

Name said...
Hmm, I am not sure in which part of kerala is puthukotta, but my parents(both based on trivandrum) had stories of bursting crackers on diwali. I even remember my grandma telling me abt bursting crackers during deepavali. So i guess that was there from ages...We used to do enna thechu kuli in mornin and ate lots of sweets and savouries . Parippu vada and kaliodakka(kalivadakka) were must_made_items on the eve of diwali


Hi Name
Trivandrum being the capital of Kerala and also because of the proximity to Tamil Nadu always had great Tamil influence in its culture. And also I have heard that there are many 1st generation tamils in Trivandrum. So they follow the tamil tradition of bursting crackers for Deepavali. Towards Northern Kerala, there is no bursting of crackers for Deepavali to this day.
Best wishes

Oops. Big job. Must never postpone responding.

Best wishes to all

Important festivals in November 2009

This year, the month of November does not have any important festival that we observe. Usually, we have either Deepavali or Karthikai in the month of November. This year, however, Deepavali was celebrated in October and Karthikai falls in December. The people of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have already celebrated Karthik Poornima on the 2nd November. This is again because, as I had said earlier, the Tamils and the Keralaites observe Souramana Ugadi or Solar year and people in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh observe Chandramana Ugadi or the Lunar year. According to lunar year the month of Karthik begins on the new moon day, which happened to be the day of Deepavali this year, where as for people observing Solar year the month of Karthikai or Vrichikam begins on the 16th November. The full moon day following 16th November is celebrated as Karthikai in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. More about Karthikai later.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The story of Narakasura

Following up on my Deepavali post, I decided to post the story of Narakasura. I have posted it on Kathai Kathaiyam. Please read and enjoy.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Deepavali

Deepavali represents the victory of light over darkness, goodness over wickedness.

Hope every one had a nice Deepavali (yes, that's how it is known in the southern states of India). As is my practice I go back to my childhood days on each festival day and the things I remember are being woken up very early in the morning and given an oil bath and given pakoda and ukkarai to eat at that unearthly hour. Deepavali was not a big festival in rural Kerala in those days. Only the Tamil speaking Iyers or Iyengars celebrated Deepavali in Kerala in those days. They also did not have a big celebration unlike people from other states. Especially for Puthucodians, coming as it does after the greatest festival of the year, Navarathri, Deepavali was a low key affair.There were no fire crackers or new clothes. We also did not light diyas for Deepavali, we would do that for Karthikai. Kerala had fire crackers for Vishu and new dresses for Onam. So what did we have for Deepavali?

There of course was a special snack preparation for Deepavali in all the houses and invariably all the houses had Pakoda and Ukkarai for Deepavali. Then on the eve of Deepavali, all the households stored water in big utensils called Anda and Arkkinchatti, emptying the water from the wells. The firewood stove in the bathroom was also kept ready for heating up the bath water early next morning. Though usually we all went to the nearby stream for our bath, on Deepavali day everyone took bath in hot water at home.There would invariably be the story telling session by our Echiyamma and on the eve of Deepavali it was the story of Narakasura vadha. (I narrate the story as told by our echiyamma). Our echiyamma would wake us all up at 3 am. While our mother got busy with lighting the big stove in the bathroom for heating the water, our athai would make a small kolam and place a wooden palakai (a small stool) on the kolam. We all would sit on the palakai one by one and our echiyamma would pour one spoon of oil on top of our head symbolically. Our athai would take over from there and oil our hair and body thoroughly and get us all ready for our bath. Our athai and mother would give us all a hot water bath rubbing our hair with soapnut powder and body with greengram dal powder. Our athanga (athai's eldest daughter) would dry our hair and comb and plait them. Then came the most important ritual. We all would put on our best dress (not brand new) and say our prayers in the pooja room. Then we were given the ribbon pakoda and ukkarai to eat. Sankaran, the man who milked our cows and buffaloes would not have come at that early hour and hence we would have to wait for our coffee until he came. We would all crib for coffee. When we had had our snacks and our mother, athai and echiyamma had gone for their bath (they went to the stream for their bath), we all would fall asleep one by one where we sat (We were not allowed to sleep in bed after the bath). When Sankaran finally came and milked the cows and coffee was made, we would all be woken up for the second time. By now the sun would have risen and we would go out and meet our friends and eat some pakoda or ukkarai from their homes as well, come back home and have a breakfast of Idli and Chutney.

In the evening the children (under 20) of all villages took out a procession of a decorated chariot or car (ther in tamil) to the accompaniment of Nadaswaram. The children made their own collection of funds for this and this was a good entertainment for all of us.

After a few years, some households started making sugar based sweets, like Thengaiburfi and diamond biscuits and it is only recently that people have started making mysore pak and laddus for Deepavali in Kerala.

So after my marriage when I came to live in Bangalore, we always made sugar based sweets like Badusha, rava laddu, Mysore-pak, Boondi laddu, Gulab jamun etc., and never tried Ukkarai. So this Deepavali I prepared Ukkarai. I also prepared Methi Para, thenkuzhal and Mysore-pak for Deepavali.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Important festivals in October 2009

Thanks everybody for your kind messages during my long sabbatical. We are all doing very fine, thanks to the Blessings of Bhagavathy and the best wishes of all of you. As I had mentioned earlier we had got into some minor renovation of our home, which per the contractor was supposed to take 3 weeks and at most 4 weeks. And it took, hold your breath, exactly 7 weeks, at the end of which we just sent them away as we already had planned on going to Hyderabad the next day. We also had to celebrate Onam, Ganesh Chaturthi and Navarathri as well as my mother-in-law's anniversary during this time. All these activities had me on my toes all my waking hours and I had no energy left even to check my email. We just reached Hyderabad and what torrential rains we had! Non-stop for 5 days. And to think that the roads we had travelled on just the previous day had all been washed away gave me the jitters. My heart goes out to all those who lost their everything in the floods of last week. Generally I was at my lowest ebb.

The show must go on. Here then is the list of festivals for October 2009. The only festival in October 2009 is Deepavali.

17th October 2009 - Deepavali.
Deepavali or Diwali as it is known in the North India is the biggest festival of the year. People across the country celebrate Deepavali differently. The common celebration being the lighting of diyas and bursting of crackers and consumption of mounds and mounds of sweets. The festival itself is celebrated on different days in different parts of the country. Whereas in Tamil Nadu Naraka Chathurdashi is celebrated as Diwali, most other people celebrate Amavasya as Diwali. Many people observe a vrath for Diwali and in north India Laxmi Pooja is done on Diwali day.

The most important part of Diwali being preparation of sweets. I have given many recipes for sweets and savouries. Have your pick and enjoy!

Happy Diwali to one and all!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Important festivals in September 2009

2 Sep - Onam
I have posted about Onam many times in the past of course. This year I am preparing a grand lunch at home since both my handsome and charming sons are at home.
11 Sep - Ashtami Rohini
As I explained in an earlier post about Janmashtami, this year Ashtami Rohini is being celebrated at a different time in Kerala than other states in India.
19 Sep - Start of Navaratri Pooja
Sharath Navaratri as it is known in the south, Durga Pooja as it is known in the east, Ram Lila in the north is an important festival in the hindu calendar extending for nine days starting on the Prathama after the Mahalaya Amavasya. Though the last three days Durgashtami, ahanavami and Vijayadashami are the more important days of the festival, south Indians start the navaratri pooja starting from Prathama. A display of dolls known as bomma kolu is kept in a specially decorated presentation and all neighbourhood ladies are invited to participate in the daily poojas. All the invitees are given tambulam (betel leaves, nuts, turmeric, kumkum) along with coconut and a small packet of the day's neivedyam.
26 Sep - Durgashtami
On the evening of Durgashtami, after the usual pooja, all the books are kept in preparation for the next day's Saraswati pooja. They are covered with a silk cloth where they will remain for two days. This is known as adachu pooja (close pooja). During this time, nobody reads any books.
27 Sep - Saraswathi Puja
Special pooja is done to the book pile kept and the neivedyam is palpayasam and parippu vada.
28 Sep - Vijaya Dasami / Vidyarambham
Vijaya Dasami or Vidyarambham (as it is known in Kerala)
is the day when the books are taken out after ofering the pooja. This is also the day when many children are initiated to writing and reading by making them writing the alphabet in a plate of rice. The neivedyam usually is vella payar (sweet cow peas), neyappam, vadai and payasam.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy Gowri Ganesha


Our house is being renovated and so I cannot find enough time to sit at the computer to write about Ganesh Chathurthi which falls on Sunday. So, here's wishing you all a Happy Ganesh Chathurthi, or as they say here in Karnataka, Happy Gowri Ganesha!

The picture above is from one of the street celebrations in our neighbourhood last year.

Don't forget to make kozhukkattais!

The story of Lord Sree Krishna's birth

To commemorate Janmashtami, I have posted the story of Lord Sree Krishna's birth on the Kathai Kathaiyam blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Janmashtami

In my previous post on the important festivals for August 2009, I had mentioned 13th August as Janmashtami day. Like so many other customs and rituals, people from different parts of India celebrate Janmashtami on different days. This year too, while most people celebrated Janmashtami on 13th August, some people celebrated Janmashtami on the 14th. Even in south India it is usual that the Vaishnavites and Saivites celebrate the festival on consecutive days.

At the famous Sree Krishna temple at Guruvayoor in Kerala, the festival is being celebrated on the 11th September, one month from now. The reason for this being that the birth of Lord Krishna is celebrated on the Ashtami Rohini day in the month of Chingam in Kerala. As I have explained before, some festivals are celebrated when a particular star (nakshathra) and thithi (the lunar calendar day) fall on the same day like Thiruvathira, Thrikarthika, ChitraPournami, etc. In the malayalam month of Dhanu, the Thiruvathira star falls on the full moon day and Thiruvathira festival is celebrated on that day. Similarly in the malayalam month of Vrischikam, the Karthika star falls on a full moon day and Thrikarthika festival is celebrated on that day. Likewise, legend has it that Lord Sree Krishna was born in the month of Chingam (Shravana) on Rohini Nakshthram and Ashtami thithi (the eighth day in the lunar calendar after the full moon day). The Malayalam era follows the Solar calendar and month of Chingam begins this year only on the 17th August. In the month of Chingam, Ashtami and Rohini fall on the same day on September 11th and hence the festival of Lord Krishna's birth will be celebrated on this day in Guruvayoor temple and elsewhere in Kerala.

However for people observing the Lunar calendar, the month of Shravana began on the 22nd July, 2009, the new moon day, and hence Janmashtami was celebrated on the Ashtami after the full moon day of Shravana month.

As Krishna was born on Rohini nakshathra and killed his maternal uncle Kamsa, there is a belief in Kerala that birth of a boy baby on Rohini nakshathra is not a good omen for the maternal uncle.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Important festivals in August 2009

It has been some time since I posted. During this time, I went on a very satisfying pilgrimage to Sabarimala and have been busy since my return. Before I realised it, we were on the threshold of August, which is a month full of festivals after a lean period of a couple months. Since details of the Sabarimala trip will take longer to post, here are the important dates for the month of August 2009.

5th August 2009 - Aavani Avittam or Yajur Upakarma
Yajur Upakarma is a very important festival in the Hindu calendar. Though only the menfolk observe the rituals, it is equally important for the whole family. Tradtionally the rituals start early in the morning with recital of Kamokarshit japa followed by Yagnopaveetha dharanam and Kandarishi tharpanam. After this is the Vedarambham.

The rituals are as always followed by a sumptuous lunch with payasam and vadai. Many dishes like Morkoottan or Parikkai pitla or Aviyal, thoran, pachadi, erissery are prepared for the lunch.

6th August 2009 - Gayathri japam

Again the rituals are only for the menfolk. The men have to recite the gayatri mantra 1008 times in the morning.

13th August 2009 - Gokulashtami or Ashtami Rohini or Janmashtami

Gokulashtami is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna. There are many people who observe a fast on this day until midnight, which is supposed to be the time of Krishna’s birth.

The main neyvedyams for Gokulashtami are Cheedais, Neyyappam, Sweet Avil, Palpayasam and Butter.

23rd August 2009 - Ganesh Chaturthi and Sama Upakarma

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. The festival is celebrated differently in different parts of India. Among the Tamil Iyers it is celebrated by offering pooja to Lord Ganesha and offering Kozhukkattai, Neyyappam and Payasam as neyvedyams. Though it is not a custom among Kerala Iyers, many families install an idol of Lord Ganesha and do pooja and immerse the idol in a lake or river or sea on the 3rd or 5th day after Chathurthi.

The Upakarma or Avani Avittam for Samavedis is also celebrated on this day, though the Gayathri Japam is done along with Yajurvedis on the 6th August.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Ode to Puthucode (Now With Pictures)


Unfortunately I didn't have all my pictures ready when I posted about Puthucode Bhagavathy. Now I have them ready and here they are. The picture at the top is of course the Bhagavathy Herself.
First the Temple Entrance:

Next the Outer Prakaaram

Third, the Mahaganapathy Sannidhi

Next, the Namaskara Mandapam

Finally, the Naga Prathishta

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Ode to Puthucode

I realize that I have just completed 200 posts. I am dedicating this 201st at the lotus feet of Puthucode Bhagavathy, Sri Annapoorneswari, whose blessings have guided me in all my endeavours and who showers Her blessings to one and all by her enchanting smile. A while ago, at the request of a fellow Puthucodean, I had written up a piece about our Bhagavathy. Parts of this have been published earlier at Hindupedia as well as here. I am now republishing it here.

Puthucode is a small picturesque village lying at the westernmost border of Palghat Dt and bordering Trichur Dt. It is approximately 40kms away from both Palghat and Trichur towns. The nearest railway stations are Palghat and Trichur. The nearest airports are Coimbatore and Cochin. The village is located 6 km west of Vadakkencherry on the Palakkad-Thrissur stretch of National Highway 47. There are regular bus services from Trichur and Palghat to Puthucode.

Puthucode agraharam has four streets with row houses and was exclusively inhabited by Brahmins until a few decades ago. Where the four streets meet is the famous Annapoorneswari temple. It would be apt to say the four agraharams radiate from the central Annapoorneswari temple. The temple occupies a vast ground with a large outer prakaaram and an inner prakaaram. The main entrance to the temple faces the east and as you enter the temple there is a deepastambham beyond which is the entrance to the inner prakaaram of the temple. The inner prakaaram is also very large with wide halls known as vathil madams on the four sides where discourses and concerts used to take place. The madapalli or the cook house is also situated here. As you go inside is the Mahaganapathy Sannidhi facing east. Going around Mahaganapathy Sannidhi you reach the main temple of Annapoorneswari. The Deity faces west. The Deity is also known as Santha Durga and is a very powerful Devi bestowing her benevolent blessings to all her devotees. The idol of Devi is almost 4 feet tall with four hands. She is always dressed in a pattu pavadai. To see the Devi in her full chandanakappu after the deeparadhana in the evening is at once electrifying. It gives one such joy, peace and real happiness. One just cannot take the eyes off Devi when she is adorned in full chandanakappu.
It is said that Sage Parasurama installed 108 Durga temples in many parts of Kerala and this is one among them. Currently it comes under Naduvil madom Devaswam. The daily poojas are performed by Tamil Brahmins except during Navarathri festival when they are performed by thantris affiliated to Naduvil Madom Devaswam.

In front of the garba griham or sanctum is the namaskara mandapam, where veda parayanams and other daily recitals of Devi Mahatmyam and Shyamala Danadakam are done by devotees.
When you come around the namaskara mandapam, there is the prathishta for Naga devata, Dharmasastha and Palliyarkkal Bhagavathy on the north west corner of the main temple. A unique offering (vazhipadu) of azhil is conducted in front of this sannidhi. A new cloth (a set of four thorthus) dipped in gingelly oil is hung on the pole in between the two stone pillars. After doing a special pooja the archaka lights the cloth dipped in oil and allows it to burn down to ashes. This ash is used as prasadam and smeared on the forehead. It is believed that this offering will relieve one of all types of obstacles and misfortunes in life.

The other important offerings (vazhipadu) in the temple are kalabhabhishekam, niramala, chuttuvilakku, archanas, etc.

On the outer prakaaram, is the west nada, which is also known as aanapandhi which has the gold plated dwajasthambam. This is where the thayambaka and keli take place during navarathri celebrations.

Along the northern compound wall of the temple is the agrisala, where cooking and dining take place during the annadhanam of navarathri.

The sarat navarathri during the months of September and October is the biggest festival in the temple. All the Devi’s devotees who are far from home assemble at Puthucode for these nine days. The dwajarohanam for the festival is on the prathama after Mahalaya Amavasya and the aarattu on vijayadashami day or the tenth day from the dwajarohanam. There are processions with caparisoned elephants twice a day for the first four days inside the temple around the outer praakaram and on the following four days the procession of caparisoned elephants with accompanying panchavadyam and chendamelam is taken to the four villages on successive days, starting with the South Village on the sixth day. The utsavamoorthy of the deity is taken atop the caparisoned elephant to all the villages for Her to see Her subjects. There is a pallivetta on the ninth night followed by aarattu on the tenth day. During navarathri the utsavamoorthy is taken atop the elephant to the nearby stream every morning where the deity is given a bath and after due alankarams taken back to the temple.

Offerings of measures of paddy and rice, puffed rice, flowers, etc known as parayeduppu are made to Bhagavathy during the procession of elephants to the respective villages. The parayeduppu for the south village is on the aarattu day when the deity returns to the temple after her holy bath in the stream.

After aarattu the elephant has to touch the dwajasthambham which marks the end of the festival for that year.
In 2003, a tusker pushed the kodimaram instead of touching and it came off at the root. Devotees took this as a signal from the Goddess and installed a new one covered with full gold at an expense of over Rs. 50 lakhs.

True to Her name there is annadhanam on all the nine days of navarathri for all devotees. Puthucode pulinkari which is served with rice and olan is unique to this navarathri sadhya. (There is a famous saying among the Palghat Brahmins which goes like this – Puthocode vitta gramamum illai, pulinkariye vitta koottanum illai – which can be translated to “Puthucode is the ultimate in agraharams and pulinkari is the ultimate in vegetable curry") The sadasadaya payasam (Idichu pizhinja payasam) offered to Bhagavathy during these days is also very famous.

In the past the Navarathri Sadhya was conducted from the annuities offered by various people to the temple. However with the enactment of land reform bills in the early 70s all the annuities to the temple were stopped and for sometime there was not enough funds even to conduct the daily poojas of the temple. With the cooperation and effort of the villagers a trust called SAPCO (Sri Annapoorneswari Pooja Coordinators) was formed and the poojas and other daily rituals have been reinstated with increased vigour. The Devi has blessed all Her children with wealth, health and great careers and they in turn pay their respects to Her by donating to the temple funds.

The temple is open from 5.30am to 10.00am and 4.30pm to 9.00pm daily for worship. The deeparadhana in the evening is at 6.30 pm.

At the end of North Village is a Siva temple. The temple is situated at a lower level than the surrounding village. There is a large tank known as ayyankulam in front of the Siva temple. The presiding deity faces east. There are also sannidhis of Mahaganapathy and Dharmasastha inside the temple. The annual festival in the Siva temple starts on the Thiruvathira day of the Malayalam month of Dhanu and the aarattu is on the eighth day. Mahasivarathri is also celebrated in a grand manner with Maharudram, Abhishekam etc. Annabhishekam on the Pournami day of the Malayalam month of Thulam is very famous.

The temple is open for worship at 5.30am to 10.30 am and again at 4.30pm to 9.00pm.

Just outside the Siva temple there is a newly constructed SivaMahal in North Village, which can be used for functions like weddings, upanayanams etc.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Important festivals in July 2009

The month being Aani and Aadi, the monsoon months in India in general and in Southern India in particular, there are not many important festivals in July. The festival season begins with the advent of Shravana in the month of August. However there are some important days observed in the month of Karkitakam/Aadi.

17th July 2009 - Karkitaka Sankranthi
Devi Bhagavathi is worshipped specially in the month of Karkitakam and the pooja starts on this day. The house and surroundings are given a good cleaning and Devi is installed in a special peetham in the pooja room

21st July 2009
This is considered a special day to propitiate the pitrus and pitru tarpana is given to the deceased especially by the side of holy rivers.

31st July 2009 - Varamahalakshmi Pooja
This is a special pooja performed by women to propitiate Devi Bhagavathi for the well being of the family and a long and happy married life. This the pooja is not performed in our family and hence I am not aware of all the rituals connected with the pooja.

Have a healthy Karkitakam!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Recipe: Pacha Kadugumanga


Pacha Kadugumanga is also a unique dish of Kerala and goes well with rice, idli, dosa, kozhukkattai or chapathi. This is a good combination to go with any type of molakoottal. As the name suggests, this dish is made with pachamanga (raw mango). Mixed with cool curds and seasoned with green chillies and mustard, this dish tastes simply superb on hot summer days. Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

Raw mango (big) : 1
Grated Coconut: 1 cup
Green chillies : 3 or 4
Mustard : 2 tsp.

Fresh beaten curds: 1 cup
Oil: 2 tsp.
Urad dal: 1 tsp.
Curry leaves: few
Salt to taste
Sugar : 1tsp (Optional)

Method:
Wash and cut the mango into small pieces as in manga curry. Grind the grated coconut with the green chillies and 1 tsp mustard and salt to a smooth paste. Instead of water, add a little beaten curds for easy grinding. Mix the mango pieces and ground coconut paste and sugar to the curds and mix well.

Heat the oil. Add the remaining mustard. When the mustard splutters add the urad dal. When the urad dal turns pinkish, add the curry leaves and pour the tempering to the prepared dish.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Recipe: Manga Kootan


Raw mangoes are used for preparing tasty gravy dishes to be mixed with rice. The raw mangoes provide the tanginess which is a must for any south Indian gravy dish. The Malayalam saying goes, ”Aaru maasam marapuli, aaru maasam manga puli,” which means for 6 months in a year one uses tamarind and the remaining 6 months one uses the tangy mangoes. This dish can be prepared with tangy raw mangoes and also with just ripening (a little sweetish) mangoes. This is an important dish on Vishu day as the Vellarikkaya from the Vishukani is used in making this dish. Though I have mentioned this dish many times in my blog I have not given the recipe yet. Here we go.

Ingredients:
Raw Mango: 1 (Big)
Drum sticks: 2
Kani Vellarikaya or Ash gourd : 200gms.
Sour curds: ½ cup
Coconut: 1 cup
Green chillies: 3
Red chillies: 3
Methi seeds 1 tsp.
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp.
Jaggery: a small piece
Salt to taste
Oil 2 tsp.
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp.
Curry leaves: a few sprigs.

Method
Heat ½ tsp of oil. Add ½ tsp of methi seeds and 2 red chillies cut into pieces. When the methi seeds turn reddish, remove from heat. Cool and grind with coconut and green chillies. Use beaten curds to grind the coconut to a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Cut the mango into big chunks. Cut the ash gourd into 1” squares. Cut the drum stick into 2” pieces. Cook the vegetables in enough water with turmeric powder and salt. When the vegetables are cooked add a small piece of jaggery (This will balance the tanginess of the mangoes). Mix the ground paste in the remaining curds and add to the cooked vegetables and boil. Remove from heat. Add a few curry leaves.

Heat the remaining oil in a kadhai. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, remaining methi seeds and 1 red chilli cut into small bits. When the mustard crackles, add the curry leaves and pour the tempering into the manga koottan.

nJoy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Recipe: Manga Curry


This is a pickle which is made in small quantities more often during the mango season as this pickle does not keep well for long. Whenever a fresh lot of mangoes is brought home, one bottle of manga curry is made which will soon disappear.

Ingredients:
Big raw mango cut into tiny pieces: 5 measures
Salt powder: 1 measure
Chilli powder: 1 measure
Hing: a small piece
Methi seeds: 1 tsp.
Gingelly oil: 1 tbsp.
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp.

Method:
Heat ½ tsp of oil and fry the hing and methi seeds. Cool and powder.
Wash and dry the mangoes and cut into small pieces. Add the salt, chilli powder, and the methi and hing powder. Mix well. Heat the remaining oil and add the mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add to the pickle. This will be ready to use in 2 hours. This pickle will keep fresh longer under refrigeration.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Recipe: Manga Chammandi/Mango Chutney


Chammandi is Malayalam for chutney. Once the mango season arrives, every other day we have manga chammandi. As I mentioned earlier it was either mango koottan or chakka kari or chakka molakoottal and manga chammandi. This is a delicious chutney and goes well with plain rice, idli, dosa, or chapatti. It is the best side dish for any type of molakoottal.

Ingredients:

Raw mango: 1 no.
Grated Coconut: 1 cup
Urad dal: 1 tsp.
Red chillies: 2 or 3 nos.
Hing powder: ¼ tsp.
Jaggery: a small piece
Salt to taste.
Curry leaves: few
Coconut oil for seasoning.

Preparation:
Cut the mangoes into small pieces. Heat ½ tsp of oil in a pan and add the hing and urad dal and red chillies and fry till the urad dal turns pink in color. Cool. Grind the mangoes, coconut, fried spices, curry leaves, salt and jaggery to chutney consistency. The moisture for grinding will come from the raw mangoes. This is thick chutney and hence, add only very little water during grinding if required. Serve seasoned with 1 tsp of coconut oil.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Recipe: Kadugumanga, Kannimanga

I hope to give all the recipes of the mango preparations listed in my previous post. We shall start with Kadugumanga and Kannimanga. Kadugumanga is the favorite pickle of all Keralites. It is also healthy as it is an oil free pickle which keeps well for up to 2 years.

While we were strolling inside the colony where we live, I noticed that the mango tree in the next compound had lots of small mangoes. Now this house had been lying vacant for more than a year and nobody ever goes near this house. That is when I remembered the mangoes my son’s assistant had brought for Aavakkaya last year. I called him and asked him to get me some small mangoes from the same tree. He came back and said, “mummyji, they are too tiny.” I asked him to bring them all the same. He just could not understand what I would do with such tiny mangoes. He brought a handful of small mangoes and said apologetically, “they are too small, mummyji.” I jumped at the correct size of mangoes for kadugumanga, which I have not prepared for quite sometime now and asked him to bring more. The next day he brought more of them and I got into kadugumanga preparation. Though it is a strenuous job, years of watching my mother and grandma preparing kadugumanga at home in huge quantities helped. When the mango season arrived there was a festival atmosphere at home, especially for children. Since these would be the season’s earliest mangoes, we would go on eating although they were very acidic and our teeth would become so sensitive we were unable to eat anything else for a few days afterwards. These fresh mangoes also secrete a resin where it is attached to the stalk and this burns the corners of the mouth if the mangoes are not washed properly before eating and many children would sport this scar at the corners of their mouth. Since there was no powdered salt available those days, salt for the pickle was prepared by boiling crystallized salt in large quantities of water and straining the solution to remove the impurities and then evaporating the solution to get salt grains. Chilli powder was prepared at home. The maid pounded them in the stone mortar in a separate building in our yard called Rendankattu or second part of the house which was a little away from the main house and also housed the cattle. We children were not allowed to go there when chilli was pounded as the pungent chilli dust would burn the skin. Still we managed to peep in to see the blood red chilli powder. “Get away children,” the maid would shout at us. The maid would get one cup full of gingelly oil for an oil bath after this task to remove the effects of all the chilli dust she had to suffer.

Kadugumanga and Kannimanga are the earliest preparations one can make at the start of the season. The mangoes should have just come out of the blossoms and started taking shape. They could be as tiny as one can possibly get. Kadugumanga and Kannimanga are listed together because the initial process for both preparations is done together. To make it easy, I am giving below the measurements by volume. Once the ingredients are assembled the process itself is very easy. At home kadugumanga was prepared in large porcelain jars as the quantity of kadugumanaga prepared was some 20kgs or more. While preparing smaller quantities any glass jar would do.

Ingredients:

Tiny mangoes: 6 measures
Salt: One measure
Good quality chilli powder: 1 measure
Mustard powder: 1/8 measure

Wash the mangoes thoroughly and spread on a clean cloth to remove all the moisture. Put the mangoes and salt in layers in a jar and keep aside. Keep stirring the mangoes every day. By the second day, water would have started oozing out of the mangoes. Keep stirring daily until the water level reaches above the mangoes. Take this water and mix in the chilli powder and mustard powder in clean bowl and add to the salted mangoes. Keep the jar covered air tight and keep in a cool dark place. Keep stirring every day for another week. The pickle will be ready to use in a week.

Kannimanga Or Uppumanga


As the name suggests this are just tiny mangoes in brine solution without chilli powder or any other spices. The brined mangoes are used to make chutney called arachukalakki and are also used as a side dish for curds rice during the lean months of monsoon. The brined mangoes are especially good for the intestine and believed to heal ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract.

The process for preparing Kannimanga is similar to Kadugumanga and you stop at the stage of adding salt to the mangoes. The mangoes will remain in the salty water.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mango Mania

This is the first time I spent all the summer months in Hyderabad and what an experience it has been. For a person who has lived in Bangalore for 35 years where the maximum temperature never exceeded 34 deg C, the day temperatures of 45 deg C for a continuous period of almost 3 months is an experience. We just got roasted. Not used to this high temperature and losing essential minerals and salts by perspiration one always felt exhausted and tired with muscle cramps and summer boils. However, I learnt to beat the heat by drinking juices with added salt, and having kanji with added salt for dinner. At last the monsoon rain reached Hyderabad yesterday evening. We had a heavy down pour for about 20 minutes yesterday and we have been having sustained showers since the afternoon. I hope the temperatures come down.

The best thing about summer is the surfeit of mangoes. We had plenty of mangoes this year and we really enjoyed them. For a true Keralite no amount of mangoes is too much. There is a saying in malayalam, “Aaru maasam chakkayum mangayum, Aaru maasam anganeyum inganeyum,” which means Keralites live by jackfruits and mangoes for 6 months in a year and somehow manage the remaining 6 months. The saying was of course true only in the olden days when, as I have always said, people lived by the seasonal fruits and vegetables of that particular region. Especially in remote places like my maternal grandparents’ home, where we used to spend all our summer holidays during our childhood, we actually had only mangoes and jackfruits curries and preparations on all days. It was either manga koottan or chakka kari or chakka kootan and manga pachadi. Did we ever get tired of eating so many mangoes and jackfruits? Never. These days with all types of vegetables and fruits available all through the year, people don’t have to depend on chakkayum, mangayum. And yet, give me a manga pulissery or chakka kari any day and I would enjoy it immensely. Even the younger kids of our family, though they don’t like most of the traditional dishes prepared at home, devour manga kootans.

When we were growing up we had large mango orchards both at our paternal and maternal grandparents’ homes. In our maternal grandparents’ home where the house stood amidst acres and acres of greenery, wherever you turned you could see mango trees and jack fruits trees laden with fruit. Just one breeze and the court yard would be full of mangoes. When you stepped out of the house you could collect any number of mangoes. Any one who came home, from guests to beggars would be sent back with a big bag of mangoes. In our paternal grandparents’ home where we grew up, the orchards were far from home and only baskets and baskets of mangoes arrived as headloads. The mangoes were spread on hay in a room upstairs and we ate mangoes as and when we pleased. That was also the time all the cousins who were living outside the state would come home for summer holidays and our Kalathappa (our grandfather was called Kalathappa by all) was beside himself with joy seeing all his grandchildren enjoying the fruits of his labour. “Thinuungo, Thinnungo, Thinnin, Thinnin” (eat as much as you want), he would say.

Mangoes and Jackfruits in all forms are used by Keralites . From this size for kadugumanga

to this size for manga koottans, pachadis, aavakaya, manga curry, manga chammandi, pachakadugumanga.

And fruits as well. We also make special dishes with the mango fruit.

Similarly with jackfruit.
Idichakka

Big jackfruits.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Important festivals in June 2009

There are no important festivals that are celebrated at home in June. However, the full moon day in the month of Vaikasi (May-June) is celebrated as Vaikasi Vishakham in all the Subramania temples in the south. As we have seen, all full moon days are celebrated as special days in the Hindu calendar. Vaikasi Vishakham is considered as the day Lord Subramania was born. The purpose of his birth was to kill demons like Tharakasura, Soorapadma etc. It is considered good to donate fruits and grains to the needy on this day. Since this is the season of mangoes and jack fruits these fruits along with banana, called muppazham (three fruits) are given to Brahmins as a good karma.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Amman Amman Ooracha

Sometime back my younger sister-in-law asked me, "Akka what is this kakkai kalile letter your brother has been saying?" When I asked my brother what it was, he said “I was telling her even if akka sends a letter tied to the leg of a crow, anna would visit her”. He was referring to my immediate younger brother who lives in the same city as I do and whenever I need him I just have to call him and he will come immediately. This is in reference to a story we were told as children.

However, whenever this kakkai kal (crow's leg) letter is referred to, I am always reminded of the close relationship shared by my grandmother (Echiyamma) and her brother (whom we used to affectionately address as Amman). My grandmother had three brothers, of whom two lived in the same village as she (Puthucode). Amman was the eldest of the three and my Echiyamma and Amman shared a special bond. She just had to think of him and he would be there. He was a great Yajurveda scholar (His name was Anantharaman but was more popularly known as Chami Vadhyar) and as such was always busy with various poojas and yagnas and often was outside Puthucode. Whenever he was in Puthucode he would definitely visit her at least once a day. Echiyamma never took a big decision until she had consulted with Amman.

I can, to this day, visualize him sitting opposite our Echiyamma in the tharamelthara (this is a raised platform in the living room where people would sit) or on the floor next to her easy chair where she would be reclining. The children would be gathered around listening to them as they had some interesting tales to share. He would narrate all that happened on his tours and she would bring him up to date with all that happened at home.

Our Amman had a great sense of humor and was very affectionate towards all of us. He would enthrall us with all the stories he had heard. He would bring back whatever was special from the places he visited. I remember once he brought a few carrots and a lemon and gave to my Athai (my paternal aunt) and told her, “grate the carrot and cut a green chilly into small bits. Mix them, sprinkle some salt and squeeze the lemon over it. It will taste delicious.” This was one of the dishes served to him at the function that he had last attended. We had not heard of carrots in Puthucode those days. Such was his affection towards his sister and her children.

As usual, I started with the story but wandered into rambling about our Amman. I will continue with more rambling about Amman at a later date perhaps. I am also reminded of this story when someone wants to say, "Chumma irukkayo, swarupathe kattattumo" (Will you shut up or do you want to see my true form?). The full story is posted on Kathai Kathaiyam Karanamam.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Important festivals in May 2009

Someone rightly pointed out there aren't any important festivals that we celebrate in the month of May. That is if you do not count Chithra Pournami as a festival celebrated at home. Chithra Pournami is the full moon day in the month of Chithirai (April-May) and is celebrated as the birthday of Chitragupta. This year Chithra Pournami is on the 9th May.

Chitragupta is the accounts keeper of Lord Yama. He keeps the accounts of the good and bad deeds committed by the humans and advises Lord Yama of the appropriate place for them in heaven or hell at the end of their lives. There are various stories about the birth of Chitragupta. Yama found it very difficult to keep track of the good and bad deeds committed by the humans and pleads with Lord Brahma to give him an assistant who can keep track of this. Lord Brahma goes into deep meditation and at the end of his meditation finds a young man in front of him with a pen in his hand and names him as Chitragupta and assigns him as the deputy of Yama.

In another story Chitragupta is depicted as being given life by Lord Shiva to a portrait drawn by Devi Parvathi. Since he emerged from a Chithiram (portrait) he was named Chitragupta.

It is also said that Indrani, Lord Indra's consort, wanted to have a child and prayed to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva asks Chitragupta to be born as the son of Indrani. So meticulous is he in keeping the accounts of everybody's destiny that Chitragupta refuses to be born from the womb of Indrani as Indrani is not destined to have children. Lord Shiva then sends Kamadhenu, the celestial cow, to Indra's abode and asks Chitragupta to be born from the womb of Kamadhenu.

Chitrapournami is celebrated as a big festival in many temples. The Chitrapournami festival in Madurai is especaially famous.

Our Echiyamma (my beloved grandmother) used to celebrate (or perhaps appease Chitragupa) Chitrapournami by gifting a bamboo tray (Muram in tamil and malayalam) filled with fruits, idli, payasam and an iron ezhuthani (a metallic scriber with which inscriptions were made on palm leaves in the olden days) to a brahmachari (bachelor). She would tell the brahmachari to return the ezhuthani later and would pay him four annas in lieu. The ezhuthani would be kept safe for use for the coming year. So for us Chitrapournami was also a festival at home since we got a feast on that day.

Though there are not any festivals during this month, in Tamil Nadu and Kerala this is the time for the festivals in various temples. In Kerala, the festival season starts by February at the end of the harvest season and goes on till the end of May or upto mid June. Of these the Thrissur Pooram festival is the biggest event of all and is a treat to eyes and ears.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vishu Ramblings

I had a whirlwind trip to Bangalore over Vishu and as has been happening ever since I started spending more time in Hyderabad, this trip was also very hectic with too much fitted into each day. At the end I was able to finish most of the errands, chores and visits on my schedule and shelved the rest for the next time. More importantly, I was able to meet some old friends (literally) who were living alone and who were really pleased to meet me. I cannot forget what Mrs. Thomas told me when she saw me at her door.”Nobody visits me anymore and hence I was surprised to hear the door bell ringing. I just spend my days all alone moving from one room to another. I am not able to do any cooking also. I get everything from outside” she said. I was glad I made it to meet her.

What was special for Vishu? Well, we had the Kani. For the first time in all these years, I did not cook a Vishu lunch. My brother had invited us for lunch at his place along with my other siblings as he was turning 50 on that day. So I prepared Paladai Pradhaman (Recipe soon) and took it along. We had a sumptuous lunch of Manga Koottan, Erissery, Thoran, Koottu, Pappadam and a simply yummy Palpayasam. I enjoy these rare occasions when I get to eat a lunch I have not cooked. The reason – very simple - As I have not been inhaling the flavor of the various dishes being prepared at the preparation stage, my palate is still fresh to devour the dishes being served and believe me, they taste superb. Especially so when the food is cooked by my mother. In my brother’s house, the lunch was prepared by my mother and my sisters-in-law, who all follow my mother’s method of preparation.

On my return to Hyderabad I had to attend the engagement ceremony of my nephew where I got to meet many of my cousins whom I had not met for a long time. The engagement ceremony or Nischayathamboolam in tambram lingua was a small affair in the olden days. It was only a small function attended by the elders from the bride’s and groom’s family in the presence of village elders. The function was usually conducted in the groom’s house and the bride did not attend this function. The bride went to the groom’s house only after the marriage. The bride and groom had no part to play in the function. This was called vangnischayam or oral commitment by exchanging thamboolam (fruits, mostly the yellow plantain fruit, coconuts, betel leaves and nuts) and was like an assurance by both the families to go on with the other preparations for the marriage. The actual Nischayathamboolam (vedic ritual) is performed on the eve of marriage. These days of course the nischayathamboolam itself is performed in a grand manner with both the bride and groom present in the function with exchange of rings and gifts and followed by a grand dinner or lunch.

In the olden days, once the vangnischayam was over there was no deviation from the promises made by both the parents unless there was a major problem. These days cancellation of engagements is very common. While we were at the function there were stories of cancelled engagements which could have been avoided and the innocent party spared the pain of ignominy associated with it. It would be better for the youngsters to come clean with their parents at the time of agreeing for marriages (even today most marriages are arranged by parents) and to keep up their promise after giving their consent. How does one explain the incidence when the groom withdraws his consent for the marriage the morning after engagement or the bride calling up the groom and saying “I have no intention of living with you after marriage and have agreed with my parents only because of their threat,” and so on? The parents as well as the groom and bride should be very frank when it comes to marriage as it involves another family and set of people who are no party to the other people’s hang-ups and reservations. The parents would do well to have a one to one talk with their children and get their whole hearted consent before agreeing to a marriage with a person of their parents’ choice. The youngsters also should be able to convince their parents of their approval or disapproval of the bride or groom of their parents’ choice and should be bold enough to stand up to their decision so that nobody would get hurt. I really wish parents and children do not put any pressure on each other when it comes to marriage. We'll all be better for it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Vishu 2009


A very happy vishu to all my readers. I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year. May the new year bring much joy to all of you.

Recipe: Vazhathandu Karuvadam


Vazhathandu or banana stem is extensively used in cooking in Kerala and Tamil nadu. It has many medicinal properties. It contains potassium, minerals and other vitamins. It is a good diuretic and a good antihypertensive. Since it contains a lot of fibre it also constitutes a bulk food with low calorie content. Consuming banana stem atleast once a week will ensure a clean stomach. We prepare Molagoottal, pachadi, poduthuval and thoran with the stem. However, be warned preparing the stem for cooking is time consuming and hard.

We have never prepared vazhathandu karuvadam at home. The only times I have seen this being made is when Kanakam mami made them at my friend's house. It is called killu karuvadam, as the dough has to be pinched into small bits and dried. My astute and blessed mother-in-law used to say, "It is a time consuming process ... only Parukutty manni has the patience to do that," referring to her neighbour. I had also never thought of making vazhathandu karuvadam all these days because we had to buy vazhathandu from the market. This year though, I have a good garden with plenty of banana trees which have started giving fruit. Banana plants only last until they fruit once, so after it has given of its fruit, the plant has to be cut and the stem may now be used for cooking. Since I had so much vazhathandu (our neighbours do not know how to prepare vazhathandu), I decided to prepare vazhathandu karuvadam this year. And it was a good decision. The karuvadams are so cruncy and yummy that I ended up making quite a few lots.

Since I did not know the process, I called my athanga (cousin) and asked her how to prepare Vazhathandu karuvadam and followed her recipe. Here we go.

Ingredients:

Vazhathandu(banana stem): 1' long
Raw rice: 2 cups
hing: pea size
green chillies : 4
salt to taste.

Method:

Wash and soak the rice with hing for 3 hours. Grind with salt and green chillies to a smooth paste. Let the batter sit overnight.

The next day:
Cut the vazhathandu into thin discs. As you cut it you will get fibres which need to be wound around the fingers and then removed. The small discs then have to be cut lenghtwise and across to make them into tiny pieces. This is the method to cut vazhathandu for any preparation. This process will blacken the fingers and hence it is advised to smear the hands with a little cooking oil or butter milk or salt.

Boil 10 cups of water in a wide mouthed pan and add the cut vazhathandu pieces and salt. Allow to boil for 10 minutes. Add the ground batter and keep stirring until the batter is cooked well and it forms a nice soft dough. Allow to cool. When cool, pinch small pieces of dough and drop in a sheet and allow to dry in the sun for 2 days. Your vazhathandu karuvadam is ready to fry. njoy!

Tip: instead of pinching the dough, I dropped spoonfuls of dough in the sheet and then pinched off bits from these drop. I thought it was much easier. Follow whichever you find easier.