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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pongala Payasam

Google introduced me recently to the 'Ponkala' or 'Pongala' festival when I was trying to compile a list of Indian festivals celebrated during this month. It turns out that it has nothing to do with the 'Pongal' festival of Tamil nadu though it sounds similar. The Pongala festival happens to be an important religious celebration at the Bhagavathy temple in Attukal, Trivandrum in the south Indian state of Kerala. It is celebrated for 10 days during the months of February - March to pray the presiding deity of the temple, Attukal Devi. The temple is renowned for this annual celebration where a large section of women participate to pray goddess Attukul Devi, who they believe would fulfill all their wishes. In fact, 3.5 million women participated in 2009 in the celebration, thereby setting a Guinness Book of World Record for being the single largest gathering of women for a religious activity. 

Millions of women gather around the temple and prepare 'Pongala' in the open in new earthen pots to please the Goddess. Pongala (literally means to boil over) is a ritualistic offering of the sweet rice pudding prepared in the temple premises to the Goddess. This payasam doesn't use milk or moong dal as the standard sweet pongal versions do. Wiki mentions that the pongala payasam is prepared with a special payasam rice called as puzhungalari, jaggery, coconuts, raisins, nuts and other ingredients. We prepare the standard version pongal at home using those ingredients and I got curious about 'the other ingredients' there until I came across this interesting pongla payasam version. It had bananas and bay leaves in it and I therefore decided to give it a try. I am already a fan of sweet pongal but I must say that I am sold out to this version of sweet pongal. It is hard to notice the banana flavor individually in the recipe but it lends an extra layer of sweetness to the dish. If you are looking for a new version of sweet pongal, try it out. You would be glad that you did.
It is made in earthen pots on open fire at the festival though at home, a gas stove and pressure cooker would make it a quick and fuss free preparation. In lieu of a pressure cooker, it can be cooked in a sturdy or a nonstick pot, with frequent stirring. I have given the pressure cooker method below but if using a pot to cook, the amount of water need to be adjusted accordingly. It would be more than a cup. The payasam should be on a thicker side according to the original recipe. And the color of the payasam depends upon the jaggery that have been used.

Source: Here
Ingredients: (Yield 3 - 4 servings)
1/2 cup payasam rice / regular rice (I used extra large grain.)
1/2 cup powdered jaggery
1/2 cup shredded fresh coconut
1 tbsp. raisins
1 tbsp. cashew nuts
1 sweet variety small banana, cut into pieces
2 cardamom, crushed
1 bay leaf 
1 tbsp. ghee or as per taste

* Rinse the rice in two exchanges of water and drain the water. Pressure cook the rice adding a cup of water. 
* Transfer the cooked rice to a nonstick pot. Add jaggery, coconut,  ghee, and cardamom to the pot. Cook the mixture on low flame until the jaggery melts, stirring frequently.
* Tear the bay leaves into pieces and add to the mixture. Next add the banana pieces, raisins and cashews and stir well. Turn off the stove.
* It can be covered with a banana leaf, if you have access to it.
This goes to Blogging marathon #74, under the theme 'Festival recipes'. Check out the page to read what other marathoners are cooking.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Beerakaaya Bajji / Ridgegourd Fritters

Bajji / Bhujiya are the spicy, Indian chickpea flour based vegetable fritters and today's version uses ridge gourd slices. This mouthwatering treat sans onion can be a part of either a festival platter or an accompaniment to evening tea / coffee.

Ingredients: (Yield about 16 bajjis)
1/2 cup heaped chickpea flour / besan
1 tbsp. rice flour
1 tsp. cumin seeds
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. chili powder or to taste
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
2 pinches of asafoetida powder (optional)
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/2 ridge gourd
Oil to deep fry (I used canola oil.) 

* Peel the ridge gourd and cut into thin slices.
* Heat the oil in a deep frying pan on medium heat. Don't bring it to the point of smoking hot.
* Sieve garbanzo flour into a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except the ridge gourd slices to the bowl and mix to combine. Next add water and make a batter of semi-thick consistency. It should be neither thick nor watery but should be able to coat when the ridge gourd slices are dipped in it. (I used about 1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp. water.)
* Drop a pinch of batter into the oil to test whether the oil is ready for frying. If the batter sizzles and comes immediately to the surface, it's ready to fry. If the batter sinks and doesn't rise, the oil needs some more heating. Dip the ridge gourd slice in the batter so that it is coated well on both sides and drop it into the oil carefully. Repeat this step and drop as many slices as the pan could hold without over crowding.
* Fry until they turn golden brown. Remove them with a spatula and drain on absorbent towels. 
* Repeat the steps with the remaining gourd slices and the batter.
* These bajjis can be served as it is or with chutney on the side.
This goes to Blogging marathon #74, under the theme 'Festival recipes'. Check out the page to read what other marathoners are cooking.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Tamilnadu Thaali

Today's thaali comes from the south Indian state of Tamil nadu which involves around rice. The side dishes, curries and lentil based dishes are eaten along with rice and a dollop of ghee. 

Here's what on this vegetarian menu is:
Mango pickle 
Beans paruppu usili
Cabbage poriyal
Peerkangai kootu
Mor kuzhambu
Steamed rice
Thengai sadam
Paal Payasam
Microwaved Appalam / Papad
Thayir / Yogurt 

Beans paruppu usili (Beans - Chanadal curry) - Soaked Chanadal / Split chickpeas is ground, steamed or sauteed until dry and is added to cooked beans. It can be eaten with rice or as an accompaniment to sambhar rice or rasam rice.  Recipe can be found here.
Cabbage poriyal or Cabbage curry - Cabbage is seasoned and sauteed and rounded off with addition of shredded fresh coconut.
It can also be eaten with rice or as an accompaniment to sambhar rice or rasam rice. Recipe idea can be found here.
Peerkangai kootu - A lightly spiced ridgegourd - bean preparation. It can be prepared using moongdal, lentils or split chickpeas alone or with a combination of them. The recipe idea is here.
Mor kuzhambu - A yogurt based spicy gravy that can be eaten with rice. the recipe can be found here.
Thengai saadam / Coconut rice - A quick and spicy rice preparation with coconut as the star ingredient. The recipe can be found here.
Chakli and Thattai - These spicy crunchy snacks would be great accompaniment to the meal. Chakli recipe can be found here and thattai recipe can be found here.
Paal Payasam - A rich rice and milk pudding or kheer eaten as a dessert.
The meal is rounded off with a serving of thayir saadam / yogurt rice with a pinch of salt added to it.
This goes to Blogging marathon #74, under the theme 'Thaalis/Spreads'. Check out the page to read what other marathoners are cooking.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Simple Gujarati Thaali

Today's spread comes from the western state of India, Gujarat. I have a simple thaali from the region and most of the dishes are simple and quick preparations.

Dishes that are on the menu today:
A simple salad of cucumber and carrot
Kakdi nu shaak
Ringan methi nu shaak
Trevti dal
Vagareli khichdi
Sukhdi / Gud Papdi
Mango Pickle
Sweet Chutney & Green Chutney

Kakdi nu Shaak - A simple and quick cucumber curry lightly spiced, Gujarati style.
Ringan mehi nu shaak - A flavorful curry with eggplants and fenugreek greens. The recipe for this simple preparation can be found here.
Trevti dal - A dal prepared with three different kind of pulses -  pigeon peas, split chickpeas and moong dal with light seasoning.
Vaghareli khichdi - A flavorful, spicy one pot meal with rice, dried and fresh lentils and vegetables. The recipe can be found here.
Gujarati kadhi - A flavorful and really tasty chickpea flour - yogurt gravy.
Khaman - A savory, steamed cake made with ground and fermented batter of split chick peas. The recipe can be found here. It was served with green cilantro chutney and sweet chutney.
Sukhdi / Gud papdi - A sweet prepared using with wheat flour, ghee and jaggery. The recipe can be found here.
The meal was rounded off with chaas - Yogurt and water churned, salted and lightly sprinkled with ground cumin.

This goes to Blogging marathon #74, under the theme 'Thaalis/Spreads'. Check out the page to read what other marathoners are cooking.