Monday, January 23, 2012
We had a quiet Pongal this time, with only the two of us at home. Yet, we like to celebrate all the festivals in the traditional manner. We may not have an elaborate spread of goodies, which is what Indian festivals are all about, but we still observe the festivals. We offered sarkkarai pongal, vella neyvedyam and Manjal Chatham to Lord Suryanarayana and prayed for peace and prosperity for all.
Our usual practice is to prepare venpongal and sarkkarai Pongal on the morning of Pongal and have these for breakfast. This year, we had a little deviation from that practice and decided to have brunch.
When we were growing up, there was no practice of breakfast in most of the houses in our village. The children had their brunch at around 9a.m., before going to school and the elders would eat around 10.30 or 11 am. Actually our house was an exception as we had idlies every morning. Our grandfather used to have idlies for breakfast before he went to visit our farm about 4 kms away. We children also had a mini breakfast along with him and our brunch before going to school.
Coming back to pongal celebrations, for Pongal brunch at Puthucode we had Manjal Chatham, Avarakkai sambar and pumpkin poduthuval, with karuvadam, vadam and payasam. As I had said earlier we did not prepare sarkkarai pongal or venpongal in those days. We used to relish the Manjal chatham also known as Pongal chatham. I particularly remember the color sequence of that brunch. For Makara Sankranthi, we children usually adorned our hands and feet with mehendi. The mehendi colored hands in bright yellow Manjal Chatham in which hot home made ghee and brown sambar was poured, produced a beautiful color combination, which I can recollect even today. I have not been preparing Manjal Chatham for very long now so I decided to prepare it this year. It is a very simple colored rice with nothing to spice it up yet we used to relish it as our taste buds were still very sensitive and not spoilt by harsh spices.
Over to the recipe
Cooking rice 1 cup
Toor dal 1 tbsp.
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Wash and cook the rice with Toor dal, turmeric powder and enough salt. Your Pongal Chatham is ready.
This Pongal chatham is prepared during karkitaka Sankranthi and also during the bridal shower. In our community, the bridal shower is given by the paternal aunt (Athai) or maternal uncle's wife (mami). A couple of days before the wedding the bride is invited to either of the aunts' house with friends and other girls in the family and given a lunch in which Manjal Chatham is served. Mehendi is done to the bride and others after this function. Similar function is held in the groom's aunt's place for the groom.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
One of the problems I faced towards the end of 2011 was my inability to use my computer to my full satisfaction; my Mac Mini crashed. Our elder son, who is a doctor (but knows a lot about computers technically) reported to his younger brother (the software engineer) who is in the USA. In typical NRI style he said, "the computer is very old, throw it and buy a new one". Doctor that he is, whose mission it is to revive everyone or thing, whatever condition they or it may be in, going to any extent, our elder son tried his best to revive the computer in the two days that he had before he went back. He was not able to install all the software, yet he managed to make it functional enough for my basic needs. My younger one gave me an ipad recently, which I use for mail, chatting and browsing the net. Yet I feel comfortable writing my blog on my desktop computer. However, in its revived avatar, it wouldn't perform many of the functions the way it used to; it felt different. We could not install iPhoto, which meant I could not download photos from my camera and upload to my photo album online. Each time I encountered a problem with the computer, our elder son would give me directions as to what to do over long distance phone and I would execute it; but the one thing which never happened was uploading photos from my desktop to the site. I did everything that our son said, but the computer would not obey my command. The never say die attitude in me made me sit at the computer every day, and finally, I was able to upload photo from my computer this morning.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Tomorrow is Makara Sankranthi/ Pongal. The weather in the southern India is slowly warming up leaving the cold winter nights behind, though northern India is still reeling under the cold. It would continue to be cold there till holi which is when they celebrate burning their old things akin to what is done in the south during bhogi. We had a fairly cold winter this year in Bangalore, accompanied by rains at times thanks to Thane and other short fused cyclones in the bay. People in parts of Tamilnadu and Pondicherry were the worst affected because of Thane and when seeing the clips of Thane ravaged beach road of Pondicherry I was reminded of our trip to Pondicherry last January . The beach road in Pondicherry is a lovely walking plaza and I enjoyed walking there on all days of our stay there.
Though winter is fast fading out, the mornings will continue to remain foggy and misty. A rich diet of proteins and carbohydrates is recommended to ward off the colds and coughs caused by the weather. That's is the reason why SarkkaraiPongal and Venpongal with lots of dal and rice and ghee is prepared and distributed during Pongal. In Karnataka a mixture of dried coconut, groundnuts, sesame seeds and jaggery is distributed to friends and neighbours during Makarasankranthi. "Ellu Bella thinni Olle mathannu adi" ( eat sweetened sesame seeds and speak sweet words).
I am giving a recipe for a nutritious laddu( poushtik laddu) which is rich in proteins and carbo and is very good for kids and grown ups alike. This laddu can be prepared with any assorted nuts and is quite easy to prepare. Here I have prepared with the more common sesame seeds and ground nuts.One can use either white or black sesame seeds. I prefer to use black sesame seeds.
Sesame seeds : 1 cup
Groundnuts :1 cup
Fried dal (pottukadalai) :1/2 cup
Jaggery : 21/2 cups
Ghee: 2 tbsp
Cardomom powder / dry ginger powder(chukku) 1 tsp.
Wash and clean the sesame seeds. Drain and spread on a clean towel to dry. Heat a pan and dry roast the sesame seeds, until the seeds start spluttering. Remove. Roast the ground nuts and fried dal separately.Remove and cool. Grind the ground nuts and roasted dal coarsely. Make a 2 string(kallupaku) syrup of jaggery. Add the ground nuts, fried dal and roasted sesame seeds and the ghee. Add the cardomom or chukku powder. Mix well.Remove from heat. Allow to cool a little. Make small balls of the mixture, when it is still warm. While making the balls, smear little ghee in your palms so that the mixture will not stick to your hands.
The hot mixture from the stove can also be poured into a greased plate and cut to shape when a little cool, to get chikkies.
WISHING EVERONE A HAPPY PONGAL AND JOYOUS DAYS AHEAD!