Friday, January 30, 2009

Recipe: Keera Masiyal

As promised, I am starting my Kanu spread with the recipe for Keerai Masiyal. Sometime back, Jennifer had asked what the difference was between Keerai molakoottal and Keerai Masiyal. Basically, Keerai molakoottal and Keerai Masiyal both are prepared with pureed Spinach or Amaranth. Whereas Keerai molakoottal is a richer curry with dal and coconut in it, Keerai masiyal is just pureed spinach with minimum spices and garnishing. Also Keerai molakoottal is used as a gravy curry to mix with rice with a side dish like Pachadi or thogayal. Keerai Masiyal is used as a side dish for sambar or morukoottan etc.

At home, we are especially partial to greens and would like to have a green in our menu as often as can be managed. The flip side is the time taken to clean and wash the greens. Now that I have a small patch of kitchen garden in Hyderabad, I manage to have greens more often.

Sometime back we had an arrangement with a hawker to supply one type of greens daily at our doorsteps. It so happened that my beloved parents spent couple of weeks with us at that time and my father enjoyed the daily greens. So when he was leaving, he told my husband,"my special thanks for the daily keerai". The next time my parents were expected, my husband said, "so, I will stop the greens from tomorrow". I asked, "but why?". He said, "your father apparently did not like the daily keerai, that's why he made a dig at me jokingly." I blurted out laughing and said, "Actually he loves Keerai and as it is difficult to get keerai everyday at home in Kerala, he really enjoyed the keerai and he was complimenting you!"

Now for the recipe.

I like to use either amaranth or spinach for keerai masiyal. Thandu keerai is for poriyal only. I like to use coconut oil for garnish as it imparts a special flavour.


Spinach: 1 bunch
turmeric powder: 1 tsp.
Salt to taste.

For garnish

Coconut oil: 2 tsp.
mustard: 1tsp
urad dal: 1 tsp.
Rice: 1 tsp. (uncooked)
Red chillies: 2 nos.
Curry leaves: few


Clean and wash the spinach to remove all the dirt and soil. Boil in minimum water with salt and turmeric powder for 5-10 mnts. Cool and blend in a blender.

Heat a pan and add the coconut oil. When the oil is hot add, the mustard, urad dal, rice, broken red chillies and curry leaves, in that order. When the urad dal and rice turn pinkish red in color add the blended spinach and saute for 5 mnts. Your tasty keerai masiyal is ready. Quite quick, isn't it?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Kanum Pongal 2009

I was all ready to post my Kanu spread, when I came down with severe bronchitis which had me out of action for a good many days. I had travelled from Hyderabad to Bangalore during Pongal and the change in the weather was perceptible. From a minimum temperature of 20deg. C., I was exposed to a maximum of 20 deg. with the night temperatures dipping to 12 deg. and 14 deg. I have never liked wearing a sweater so I braved it for the first 2 days, and then I had no other go but to wear real thick sweaters as I was shivering with cold. Well the worst is over and I am left with a hoarse throat and a generally rundown feeling. I hope I will be alright in a couple of days, in time to travel to Hyderabad.

This is the Kanu podi I offered for the crows.

The Kakkai Chatham or offering for the crow is done in different styles in different families. We make curds rice the previous evening by mixing the rice offered to Surya Bhagawan in the morning and curds. On Kanu day, we make 9 or 11 small balls of the rice and keep them on a piece of banana leaf and top them with a piece of raw turmeric, jaggery and coconut and offer to the crows with the verses, Kakkai podi vechen. Some people make few balls of curds rice, few balls of the previous day's Sarkkarai pongal and few balls of rice mixed with turmeric powder.

Later for the Lunch, we had Tomato rice, Pineapple rice, Thayir sadam, Thayir Pachadi, Vazhakkai Mezhukkuvaratti, Keerai Masiyal, Ambode, Sugiyan and Vadam and Karuvadam. I don't usually prepare such an elaborate spread.

I usually don't prepare such an elaborate spread. This time around, our handsome and charming son was with us on Kanu day after many many years and was leaving on tour on the very same day so I crowded the plate (leaf) with all the goodies I wanted to prepare during my Bangalore visit.

I did not make the ellupodi, however. I was too exhausted.

I shall post the recipes for all the above in due course.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thiruvathira 2009

We are already at Pongal, having gone past Thiruvathira in a jiffy. Let me write about Thiruvathira first. For Thiruvathira this year, we had all home grown vegetables, Red pumpkin, Kavathu, Avarakkai and Toovar pods. I had planted a piece of Kavathu left over from last year's Thiruvathira hoping to get a good big Kavathu. It did sprout and the veins spread well, giving me hopes of a good harvest. The day before Thiruvathira, when I dug the earth, all I got were a few beetroot sized Kavathu. Well that would suffice for my requirements, I told myself. So I prepared Thiruvathira Kali and Kari and offered it to Lord Uma Maheshwara.

I have saved few pieces of Kavathu (they are called mooku (nose)in Malayalam to plant in my garden). Let's hope we get a better crop next year.

Between Thiruvathira and Pongal, I travelled to Bangalore. Bangalore is much colder that Hyderabad and on arriving, within a day I managed to get a chest congestion. On Bhogi day, I once again prepared Kali and Kari for my younger handsome and charming son and husband who were in Bangalore during Thiruvathira.

On Pongal day, as usual we had Sarkkarai Pongal and Venpongal, Sambar and Vazhaipoo kari and Vadams.

Wait until Kanu.

Happy Kanu to all.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Unexpected Guests

Over the weekend, as I was reading Unexpected guests? Just chill... in the newspaper, I was reminded of similar situations in which we were put. Since our Iyer meal is different from north Indian meals, having some extra rotis and preparing a quick subzi with potato is never an option. Extending a meal prepared for 2 to 4 is also a difficult proposition. Yet at various times, we have been faced with the difficult task and have managed to end with satisfied guests.

The best lunch we provided at short notice was to my cousin and her family, who had dropped in unannounced (those were the days when we did not have a telephone at home). They were in Bangalore on a holiday and had decided to visit all their relatives at that time. They reached home around 10.30 am and were being entertained by my in-laws. Hubby, the handsome and charming sons and I were at the construction site where we were constructing our dream home. Having left home after preparing lunch we were in no hurry to return until lunch time. So we all trooped in one by one (we all were independently mobile those days). First to reach as always, yours truly (let amma go first and give lunch to thatha and patti and keep everything ready for us, was the motto).

I was greeted with the unexpected, “Hello Akka” from my younger cousin, and I was pleasantly surprised and simultaneously started planning the next steps for giving them a lunch. We grew up in the same house but had not met for a long time. Though her husband and she had a 3 year old son, I had not met them since her wedding and the occasion demanded a special lunch (Virundu). After a few pleasantries with the new cousin-in-law and entrusting the entertaining to hubby dear who had arrived by then, I rushed to the kitchen to see what I could prepare. We did not have a fridge then so it saved me the trouble of searching the fridge for any leftovers.

Presto! within an hour, we had a lunch of Sambar, Muthirapuzhukku (these two were already done for our lunch), kootu, papad and Semiya Payasam.

After lunch, my sons took them to my brother’s house. When I narrated this incident to my sister she was surprised that I could prepare such a lunch at such short notice. But how did you manage the payasam, she asked.

Well, we always stocked a good quantity of milk at home. So it was never a problem to make milk based sweet at short notice.

Then there was another occasion when we were least prepared and hubby’s cousins (three of them) landed precisely at lunch hour, ready to eat anything as they were famished after a weeklong pilgrimage to various places in the south. That was the time when both of us were working full time. As usual I had prepared the lunch and carried my lunch and kept the lunch for hubby and my astute and blessed m-i-l in the hot case. At 1.30pm, hubby calls from his office and asks, “what have youu prepared for lunch?” “Vatta kozhambu and keerai masiyal,” I reply. I cannot but burst out laughing, even today after so many years, when I recall what he said next. “Ennadithu,” he said. (what a stupid thing to do was what he intended). I said, what happened? Why did you not make “keerai molakootal” , he asked? I was puzzled. I asked him what happened. He said my cousins have landed up and we have to cook up a lunch now. I thought there would be keerai molakoottal and I could ask amma to prepare some rice. Now you have gone and prepared keerai masiyal instead, he said. “Can you come home now,” he asked. I said, “relax, I will talk to amma.”

I talked to my m-i-l and told her to prepare some rice. By now, we had a fridge and we always stocked cooked dal and some vegetables for such occasions. She asked her nephews to prepare rice and fry some papads . She made a simple stir fry curry with vegetables and they all had a nice lunch with pickles and dal and vatta kozhambu and keerai masiyal and curds.

After we got the fridge and since I was also working and did not like surprises, we always stocked cooked dal, cooked vegetables, grated coconut, curds and milk for one extra meal. If no guests came, we used them for our next meal.

In these days of easy and fast communication, it is unpardonable for anyone to drop in at lunch hour unannounced. I always make it a point not to drop in unannounced at mealtime at any place. When people tell me their plan of visiting us around lunch time, I on my own tell them in advance to please have lunch/dinner/breakfast with us, thus preempting my dilemma of whether to cook for the guests or not. If they are staying back, they would say “yes” or they have to tell me in advance they have other plans. Have I not got into problems even after this? Yes, especially with my friend, Sunitha. She called me one evening around 8.30pm and said, “We are planning to visit you tomorrow.” The now wiser me asked immediately, “who are all coming and when.” “Only my father and I. We will reach around 11 am,” she said. “Stay back for lunch,” I said. “With pleasure,” she said. It was Onam season, and I had a good stock of vegetables and I had already made pulinji. I decided to have our usual menu plus a Puliyodarai. So by 10.30 am I finished my cooking and was ready to spend some quality time with Sunitha and her father, whose company I enjoy. On the dot, came my friend, accompanied by her father, mother, sister, daughter and nephew. I had to rush to the kitchen to extend the meal for 4 more people. “Don’t worry, we will manage with what you have cooked,” said Sunitha’s mother. I spent all my time until lunch in the kitchen. Ofcourse, Sunitha helped me in preparing those extra dishes.

All said and done, it would be nice to inform our hosts in advance if we intend to stay back for lunch or dinner, so that the hosts need not spend all the time in the kitchen during our visit and a nice time can be had by all.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Important festivals in January 2009

Readers of my blog have been asking me to post about the important events in advance so that they can observe the festivals according to our tradition. I have wanted to do it for a long time but every time I missed it. I am making an effort to post the important events of the current month starting January, 2009. Please wish me success.

Here are the important festivals for January which we are celebrating. Customs and traditions and rituals differ from household to household and hence this by no means is a guide to observe the festival. I am posting what we have been observing in our family for generations. I believe the spirit of festival is in remembering and enjoying it with family and friends in whatever manner and not in sticking to rule books.

10th January 2009 – Thiruvathira (2006 Thiruvathira post, all Thiruvathira related posts)
The important rituals for Thiruvathira are an early morning oil bath followed by a visit to Shiva temple. Preparing Kali and Kari and offering to Lord Shiva. Visiting elders of the family and taking blessings from them. Also take along the Kali and Kari you prepared for their reviews. Have a nice Thiruvathira.

13th January 2009 – Bhogi
We don’t observe any special rituals on Bhogi day. In the evening, the house is cleaned and Rangolis made in front of the house for next days Pongal festival.

14th January 2009 – Pongal (all my pongal related posts)
The important ritual observed on Pongal day is preparing Pongal and offering to Lord Suryanarayana.

Actually at home, the practice was to prepare Pongal with just milk and no sugar or jaggery. Our echiyamma would put one jaggery piece on top of the unsweetened Pongal and offer it to Lord Suryanarayana and we all would fight for that piece of jaggery. A portion of this neyvedyam is kept aside for the next day’s offering to crows.

These days, we prepare Sarkkarai Pongal and offer as neyvedyam.

15th January 2009 – Kanu / Mattupongal
The important rituals on Kanu day are taking blessings from the elders, (The elders in the family used to apply turmeric on the foreheads of younger girls and bless them), offering curd rice topped with coconut pieces and turmeric pieces and jaggery pieces to crows and taking oil bath.

Of course, the most important ritual of Kanu is the variety spread for lunch which includes various types of mixed rice and Keerai masiyal and vadams and karuvadams.

Wishing Happy Thiruvathira and Pongal to all!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Recipe: Beetroot Carrot Halwa

Let us start the New Year with a sweet dish. Carrot and Beetroot Halwa is a colorful and highly nutritious sweet with all the goodness of the vegetables. What’s more, it is so easy and simple to make. You can make the halwa in a jiffy.
Carrots are rich in beta carotenes and Vitamin A, other vitamins and minerals and are a low calorie vegetable. They are good for the eyes and skin and great in improving your immunity. Beetroots are rich in Iron and vitamins B2 and C and Calcium. Beetroot also aids in digestion and in lowering hypertension. Both carrot and beet root contain anti carcinogens which help fight against cancer. Both are also rich in fibers and make for low calorie bulk food.
On to the making of the yummy carrots and beetroot halwa.


Grated Carrots: 1 cup
Grated Beetroot: 1 cup
Milk : 2 cups
Sugar: 1cup
Ghee: 2 tbsp.
Cardamom Powder: 1 tsp.
Blanched and slivered almonds: 1 tbsp.
Broken cashew nuts: 1 tsp.
Raisins: 1 tbsp.


Pressure cook the grated carrots and beetroot in 2 cups of milk. Transfer the cooked carrot and beetroot in to a heavy bottomed wide pan. Add the sugar and boil the mixture until all the moisture evaporates. Add 1 tbsp. of ghee and keep mixing until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from stove. Add cardamom powder and the almonds. Heat the remaining ghee in a small pan and fry the cashew nuts and raisins until they turn a golden color. Decorate the halwa with fried nuts and raisins. Sooo simple isn’t it?