Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipe: Chakka varatti (Jackfruit Jam)

I made elai adai today.

Having given the recipe for making elai adai long ago and having been requested by many friends to post the recipe for chakka varatti (jackfruit jam), the main ingredient in elai adai, I thought of writing it now, years after posting the elai adai recipe.

Preparing jackfruit jam is a laborious process. However, I prefer to prepare it at home as the store-bought jackfruit jam does not taste as good and also does not keep for long. When we were children many many tins of jackfruit jam were prepared at home and stored for the whole year and also for distributing to the extended family members who were living in far off places. We had jack fruit trees in our farm and huge jackfruits, some weighing up to 20kgs would get unloaded every day during the season. That was also the time when all the family members would get together for the summer vacations. It used to be great fun. With the jack fruit cut open and made into small pieces, all the children would sit around and remove the fruit-lets from the thick skin. The jam used to be prepared in huge urulis and the process took 2 or 3 days. It would get cooked on fire wood stoves and after it was boiled for 1 or 2 hours and the fire wood burnt out, it would be allowed to simmer in the heat of the stove.

These days I prepare in smaller quantities in 2 or 3 installments as stirring the thickening jam needs great arm strength.

While getting the jack fruit ready, one needs to oil one's palms before cutting the jack fruit otherwise the sticky resin in the fruit gets stuck in the palm. The fuit lets have to be removed and the white thick bracts on them also need to be removed and so also the seeds. The seeds can be used in many delicious curries.

On to the preparation:

We will go in 2 steps. First step is making jack fruit pulp.


Jackfruit:  1

Clean the jack fruit as said above. Cut the fruit lets into small pieces. Pressure cook the jack fruit pieces with enough water to submerge the cut fruit.

Drain the water, cool and run the cooked fruit in the mixie or food processor to get a smooth pulp. Reserve the water for making jaggery syrup.The jaggery for the jam is measured in proportion to the pulp obtained.

On to the 2nd step:-

Fruit pulp as per method above : 1 measure
Jaggery: 1 measure
Ghee : 3 - 4 tbsp.for about three cups.


Melt the jaggery in the water reserved as in the step 1. Strain and heat in a heavy bottomed pan. Use a thick spatula to mix the jam.Add the fruit pulp and keep stirring until the whole mass thickens. This would take about 3-4 hours. This can be done in various stages also. Once the jaggery and the fuit pulp starts thickening, the preparation can be stopped and continued next day. The end point is when the jam leaves the sides of the pan rolls around the spatula. Add 3 tbsp. ghee and mix well. Allow to cool. Store in a clean,air tight plastic/stainless steel container and pour 1 tbsp of ghee on top.It can also be stored in zip lock bags. It keeps good in room temperature if prepared strictly according to procedure. It can safely be refrigerated for  up to 2 years.

Enjoy preparing Elai Adai, Chakka Pradhman, Elai Kozhukkattai or have with Adai or Dosa.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chando Chandanamo

Following up on my last post on rhymes for children, I have posted the Chando Chandanamo (as much as I remember of it) on my Kathai Kathaiyam blog. Please do send me your variations or even if you know the whole song, I'm sure I have many readers with better memories than I.

Kai veesamma

My handsome and charming son, who is the proud father of my adorable and perfect grandchild, who is just 4 months old, asks me, "Amma, how did you teach Anna to speak before he was 1 yr old?". While our elder son started speaking even before he was 1 year old and started speaking fluently by the time he was 18 months of age, our younger son started speaking only after he was 2 years of age (My parents have told me that I started speaking before I was 1 year old while my astute and blessed m-i-l has told me that my husband started speaking only after he was 3 years of age). Our elder son even started reciting stories when he was just 2 years old and he could read before he was 3 (How this put us into a big predicament, I shall get to at the end of this post).

I told my son, "we speak to children from the day they are born." But it beats logic that one child in the family starts speaking before 1 year of age and another sibling starts only after 2 years. Anyway, as I have often said, there were so many visitors at home on a day to day basis and when there was a small baby, they spent some time talking to the baby. And there were always people surrounding the baby. They found a meaning in what ever the baby did and responded with, "Oh, where are you looking?", "what is it that you want?", "why are you crying?", "are you looking for amma?", and on and on. And then as the baby grew up they made him wave his hands and sang to him,

Kai Veesamma, Kai veesu (wave your hands, baby wave)
Kadaikku pokalam kaiveesu (we will go shopping, wave your hands)
Mittai vangalam kai veesu (we will buy toffees, wave your hands)

I forget the rest of the song.

They made the baby clap hands, chanting

Krishna Rama Govinda
Rama Krishna Govinda
Venkata Krishna Govinda
Kalla Krishna Govinda
Govinda Govinda

And when the baby started making fists, the song went like this,

Kuppi, Kuppi,
Chandukuppi, Chandanakuppi,
Tharumayya, Tharum

(Chandu was the paste used to adorn the forehead of children. When we were young, there were no sticker bindis, we used home made bindi paste, known as chandu, only black. Later we started getting chandu  in black and red colors in bottles (kuppis). The chandu pottu was applied on the forehead of the baby to ward off the evil eye)

Listening to continuous blabbering made them pick up words early, perhaps. It also was an exercise for the baby to move his hands and legs.

My Kalathappa (paternal grandfather) had his own gibberish vocabulary to play with his grandchildren and he enjoyed every minute he could get to spent with the babies. He would ask the baby to be put near him when he had breakfast or lunch. When he was relaxing in his easy chair, he would have the baby on his lap. One could hear his gibberish from half a kilometer away. He would come all the way from our farm, about 3 kilometers away in the hot sun so that he could spend some time with his grandchildren.

I spent all my time in my maternal home or my in-laws' until our older son was 1 year old. This meant he was always surrounded by a host of uncles and aunts and cousins all the time. In my husband's home, our child was the first son after my husband and my in-laws and other aunts (my small mothers-in-law, as one of my friends used to say) would not move away from the baby even for a second. They were always talking to him. Perhaps that was the reason why he started speaking before he was 1 year old.  When our younger son was born, I came to Bangalore even when he was just 3 months old and he was not lucky to have so many people pampering him all the time.

As I said earlier in the post, our elder son started reading even before he was 3 years of age. So, when he was 3 years old we put him in a kindergarten school. They taught the kids to write the English alphabet and numbers 1-10 in the first 6 months. They had also issued a Hindi book with the alphabet. So when he came home, I started teaching him the Hindi alphabet and numbers 1 - 100 and some simple addition. At the end of 6 months, his teacher said she could not keep him in the class as he had learnt everything that was to be taught for the next 6 months also, and he was promoted to what then was known as Upper KG. Having finished his lower and upper KG in one year, there was no class he could go to the next year. As he was only 4, they would not give him admission in 1st standard. We had to run around many schools, before we could get him admitted to a pre- primary class, the next year. So, my advice,"take it easy!"

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Holi is a big festival in North India since it marks the beginning of spring after the long dreary winter months.The festival is celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun month, which this year falls on the 19th March. It once again is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil . The most important ritual of Holi is Holika dahan.The story behind this ritual is on my Kathai Kathaiyam blog.

Having spent a good number of years in South India, I was always eager to know how exactly holi was celebrated. We have only seen the holi celebrations on TV and movies and mostly the pictures showed more of hooliganism than any celebration (if you want to call drenching unsuspecting people with any liquid, a celebration, that is a different matter). Being in Jalandhar, I did not want to miss the opportunity of knowing how holi was celebrated by the people here. I approached a neighbour, who is a Haryanvi and who has spent all her life in Punjab and Haryana .

As usual she said the holi has lost all the charm in the cities with only hooliganism riding the roof. "In my mother's village, she said, there was  a holika dahan at a central place. People arranged twigs and dungcakes and other combustible materials at this place. An effigy of Holika and an image of child in her lap was also kept along with the other things. All the households made a garland with replica of little stars and moon made out of cowdung. They also made some sweets for prasad. All the villagers assembled at the place where holika dahan was arranged, along with their garlands and prasad and other pooja materials. They did pooja and aarti and offered prasad and the cowdung garlands to the accumulated twigs and cowdung cake. A bonfire was lit.They sang and danced around the bonfire. The day after this was playing with colors. Originally they were playing with cowdung mixed in water and other vegetable colors made by squeezing some herbs and flowers in water. There was also this ritual by name, "laat mar". Young girls used to make a rope by twisting their duppattas and would beat young boys, who in turn would tease the girls and try to shield themselves with the help of a stick. After this they all had a sumptuous feast.

It is not a big festival for South India traditionally, however due to the cosmopolitan nature of the cities all over India, this is being celebrated in the South also these days. The day after holika dahan is the  dhuli  when people apply colored powder on each other as a mark of festivities and merriment. In the olden days herbal powders were used. However now a days, this has taken the form of a free   for all with youngsters throwing colored water prepared with synthetic colors which lead to skin allergies. This hooligan element of this festival has taken the festival to down south also where it was not a practice to celebrate this festival earlier.

Happy Holi everyone. Play with Organic colors. Make merry!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Karadayan Nonbu

Tomorrow is Karadayan nonbu. This nonbu (vrat) is observed for the long life of the husbands, hence the main ritual for this nonbu is tying of the nonbu charadu (yellow thread, similar to the one the bridegroom ties around the neck of the bride) at the time of the Meena Shankranti. This year the time given for this ritual is between 8.15 and 9.00pm IST.
Many readers have been asking me for the Nonbu adai recipe. I have already given the recipe for sweet as well as savoury adais.
I wish every one a happy nonbu.  Offer Nonbu adais as neivedyam for  Parvathi Devi Sametha Uma Maheshwara and pray for a long and happy married life with good health and cheer.

Let there be happiness all around!

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Heart Bleeds

As I watched the television pictures of the highly devastating Tsunami that hit Japan, my heart bled for the people affected by this natural calamity and my prayers go out to the affected people. May God give them the courage to overcome their huge losses and continue life with renewed enthusiasm.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Long Long Vacation (Hibernation)

Well, it has been a long time since my last post and have I been busy! Nothing special, just the usual - a bit of travel, a lot of knitting and sewing and cooking and visiting, along with my already busy routine work. Many a time I almost started my post and couldn't.

Sometime back my sister-in-law asked me, "Why haven't I seen any new posts, Akka?"  "Ever since R was born I have been busy," I replied. She had a hearty laugh and said, "But they are in the US and you are in India." "I am simulating having a new born baby at home," I said. Jokes apart, until few years ago it indeed was a busy time to have a new born baby at Indian homes. It is not very different in these days except that most women prefer to stay back at their homes and ask their mother or mother-in-law to go ever and help them.

Then, the whole house would be bursting with activity with so many people to help around. Activities begin from the time the news arrives that the daughter is pregnant. Discussions are held as to who should be asked to come and stay for those few months when the baby is born and the new born and mother are confined (the delivery is known as confinement in most places). There are always aunts or grandmothers who are free to come and spend a few months to be of help in the family. When the daughter is brought home during her 6th or 8th month of pregnancy, every care is taken to see that she is comfortable and eats well and exercises lightly. (Expectant mothers of today have no such luxuries, what with having to work almost until the date of delivery so that they could have all the leave available after the baby arrives). The maid is given special instructions to make herself available at all times.

"How will I contact you if my daughter goes into labour late in the night?"  my mother asked our maid  one evening, when I was expecting my baby at my maternal home. I burst out laughing and my mother said, "why are you laughing?" I said, "if I go into labour you should be calling the midwife and not the maid." "Don't worry about what she says Amma, what does she know. You just come to your backyard and shout my name, I will come," said the maid. She lived about a kilometre away and we could see her house from our backyard across paddy fields and a canal. Sure enough the maid was the first one to be informed as the lady went into labour. She is the one who would make all arrangements for the lady's comfortable delivery and keep things ready for the midwife and take over from the midwife after the baby arrives. She would sit with the new mother and baby and give them all the nursing care and also take care of bathing the baby and the mother . The aunt who had arrived for help would be coordinating between the new mother and the main household and taking care of the food and medicines of the new mother and the baby. The house would be in a perpetual state of activity like buying the herbs for the medicines and preparing the medicines as per tradition and boiling the bathing water for the new mother with herbs and preparing the massage oil, etc. And of course there were festivities when the baby arrived. On the 7th day the paternal aunt and grandparents would arrive with bangles and anklets for the newborn baby. This function is known as Kappu. Naming ceremony on the 11th day follows if the father of the baby is present. The baby is put in the cradle for the first time on the 28th day. The festivities would go on and on.

I was reminiscing on all these when my own adorable and perfect grandchild arrived though he was halfway across the globe. And yet my handsome and charming son made sure that we did not miss out on any excitement by calling us each minute and giving us the status report from the very minute the gynecologist advised my daughter-in-law to get admitted in the hospital for delivery. He even made me listen to the  first cry of the baby. Our days were spent here in India wondering if the baby slept well, fed well, how the new mother was, how were they managing, etc. So every evening and morning we would be sitting in front of our PC chatting with our son and asking questions about the happenings there and he in turn would patiently answer all our queries. Though it is not a tradition there, my son's mother-in-law graciously agreed to come and spend one month with them to be of help to them with the new baby.

As I said, the first few months after the baby arrives are very busy and critical especially in the case of the first baby as the mother is not experienced in taking care of the baby. This is especially true in the nuclear family set up, as the children do not get to see other babies growing up. Whereas in the olden days, there were always some little children in all the families and also in the neighborhood. And like I said, there was always help available to take care of all the needs. The first thing my mother asked me after my grandchild was born was, "who is giving bath to the baby?". It was a big question. I asked the same question to my son even before the baby was born. "We will take care ma," he said. Though my mother has 7 children and more than a dozen grandchildren and great grandchildren my mother does not know to give bath to a baby. We always had a maid to do that. My son sent me a movie of him bathing his son.

Today's youngsters are very very accomplished I should say. My daughter-in-law is managing the baby and home all alone and has no complaints. My son is able to manage his busy schedule at workplace and come home and take care of the new born baby and other requirements and also keeps us informed of all the happenings there on a day to day basis.

We all wish them a healthy and happy and long life.