Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Tiffin

Sweet Beaten Rice Flakes (Aval Vilayichathu)

Most South Indian households stock up on beaten rice. When an unexpected guest arrives, beaten rice flakes come to your rescue. You can make delicious items out of this inexpensive item, like upma, cutlet, a sweet, or even payasam (kheer). Kanda (onion) poha and batata (potato) poha are favorite Maharashtrian breakfast items made using beaten rice flakes. Kanda poha is moistened poha cooked in a tadka of sauteed onion sprinkled with coriander leaves, some lemon juice, and a few peanuts – definitely a wholesome breakfast.

aval vilayichathu

When my friend came to visit, she brought along with her some organic beaten rice flakes. My mother makes sweet beaten rice flakes often and it is a favorite in our household. It is a common neivedyam (offering to God) and a favorite of Lord Krishna. I suggested to my friend that we use the organic variety to make the sweet beaten rice. I shared with her my mother’s method of making aval nanachathu. Though Kerala is a small state as compared to other states in India, you will find difference in taste of food every 100 kms or so. Right from the chutney, sambar, and the type of rice served, to the kind of items served in a sadya, recipes and tastes differ across the length and breadth of this blessed little state. My friend’s sweetened beaten rice recipe differed from my mother’s. I told her to teach me her version which is called Aval Vilayichathu. Does anyone know the difference between aval vilayichathu and aval nanachathu? Here is the recipe to her version.

Ingredients:

Beaten rice (brown/white) flakes – 3 cups
Jaggery – 1 cup (you can alter this quantity to suit your taste)
Grated coconut – 1 cup
Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
Sesame seeds – 1 tbsp
Chana dal/split chick peas/kadala paruppu – 2 tbsp
Ghee/clarified butter – 2 tsp
Water – 1 cup

Method:

Put the jaggery pieces in water and melt it on low flame. Strain the solution into a wide pan. Keep this pan on medium fire and let the jaggery solution thicken. When the jaggery solution thickens to a syrup. Check for one-thread consistency (take a drop of the jaggery solution in a spoon. Let it cool a bit and then touch it with a clean forefinger and then touch your forefinger and your thumb together and pull them apart gently. If the solution forms a thread between your two fingers, then it has reached thread consistency). Add grated coconut and stir. Add the beaten rice flakes, mix, and cook over a low flame, stirring constantly to coat the beaten rice with jaggery and coconut. Add cardamom powder. When the mixture thickens, turn off the fire.

In a small pan, heat ghee. When it is hot, add chana dal and roast them golden brown. Remove the chana dal from ghee and add to the sweetened beaten rice flakes mixture. Add sesame seeds to the hot ghee and roast lightly. Be careful not to burn the seeds. Pour the ghee and sesame seeds on to the sweetened beaten rice flakes mixture. Mix well.

This can be stored in the refrigerator for a month. You can take out required quantities and steam or warm in a microwave and use.

Below is my mother’s version, which is simpler. This one stays good only for a day.

Ingredients:

Beaten rice (brown/white) flakes – 3 cups
Jaggery – 1 cup
Grated coconut – 1 cup
Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
Ghee (optional) – 1 tsp
Water – 1-1/2 cup

Method:

Sprinkle small quantities of water on the beaten rice and use your hand to mix well and moisten the beaten rice. Close with a lid and keep aside. Put the jaggery pieces in water and melt it on low flame. Strain the solution into a wide pan. Keep this solution in the pan on medium fire and let the jaggery solution thicken. When the jaggery solution thickens to a syrup. Check for one-thread consistency (as mentioned earlier). When the jaggery solution reaches thread consistency, add the moistened beaten rice flakes and stir well to coat the beaten rice flakes with the jaggery syrup. Add grated coconut and cardamom powder and mix well. You can add ghee if you choose to as this tastes good even without the ghee.

Yet another method of making sweet beaten rice is to just scrape/powder the jaggery pieces and mix it well with the poha. Use some amount of warm milk or water to moisten this mixture. Add grated coconut and a quick and yummy snack is ready.

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Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Indian, Sweets

Carrot Halwa – a seasonal delight

carrots stacked in the marketIndian cooking highly emphasizes eating right for the season and using seasonal produces. We have festivals based on change of season and harvests; and dishes based on the ingredients available in a season. Winter is the season for undhiyu, thiruvathira puzhukku (similar to undhiyu), gond (gum resin) laddu, carrot halwa, and the likes. It’s the season for red carrots (usually only orange carrots are available during other seasons). The red carrots stacked in the subzi mandi (vegetable market) invariably tempt me to make carrot halwa.

carrot halwa

Ingredients:
Carrots – 250 gms
Milk – 1 cup
Sugar – 100 gms
Ghee – 100 gms
Almonds/raisins/cashewnuts – 8-10 pieces
Elaichi powder – 1/4 tsp

Method:
Soak the almonds in water for half an hour and peel and cut to small pieces. Cut the cashewnuts into smaller pieces. Wash, peel, and grate the carrots. Place a thick wok on fire and pour a teaspoon of ghee. Roast the almonds, cashews and raisins in this ghee. When the nuts and raisins turn golden brown, remove from fire and keep aside.

Pour milk into the thick wok. Empty the grated carrot into milk and cook in medium fire. Stir occasionally. You can use water instead of milk or use a mix of milk and water. The advantage of using milk is that you can cut down on the usage of ghee.

When the milk is fully absorbed and the grated carrot is tender and cooked, lower the flame and add sugar. At this stage, the mixture becomes a little loose. Stir occasionally and cook until all the water is fully absorbed. You can modify the quantity of sugar depending on your taste.
Add ghee in small quantities, mix, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add elaichi powder and the roasted nuts and raisins. Mix well. Remove from fire. You can serve carrot halwa hot or cold. Try it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

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Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Tiffin

Kesari Bath/Sooji Halwa

Kesari bath/sooji halwa is one of my favorite sweets. It is a common neivedyam (food offering made to God) and a sweet served along with breakfast at Palakkad Iyer weddings. It is made even when there is no special occasion but just to satisfy sweet craving or when you have unexpected guests. It can be made easily, does not consume time, and most people love it. The best kesari bath that I have had is at Iyer weddings and at the Juhu ISCKON temple. Mani’s Cafe (next to Palakkad Jn railway station) serves melt in the mouth kesari bath. Palakkad Iyers add a little bit of pacha karpooram (Borneo-Camphor/Kacha Karpoor) and this gives a nice smell and taste to the kesari bath. Yellow or red food color is also added to this recipe but I do not prefer this.

The traditional kesari is warm, greasy, soft, and has a melt in the mouth texture. It has oodles of ghee that adds to its taste yet it doesnt drip ghee. Many a times the amount of ghee is cut down in homemade variations of kesari bath. Water, ghee, and sugar proportions are critical to make the perfect kesari. Too much water, sugar, or ghee can spoil the taste and consistency of the kesari. Although I have seen my mother make this dish very often, I always get confused about the quantity of water to be used for this dish and for upma. I referred to this blog to make this recipe and my kesari came out just right.

Ingredients:
Rava (sooji/semolina) – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cup (depending on your taste)
Ghee – 3/4 cup
Water – 2-1/2 cups (you can opt to add milk to this)
Saffron (Kesar) – 3-4 strands
Cashew/raisins/almond pieces – A few
Cardamom powder (elaichi) – 1/4 tsp
Pacha karpooram (borneo-camphor/kacha karpoor) – very little (optional)
Food color – optional

Method:
Add the saffron strands to a small cup of warm milk/water and keep aside. Add half a cup of ghee to a thick bottomed wok and let it melt in medium heat. Turn down the heat to minimum and add the cashews/raisins/almond pieces and roast until golden brown. Remove them from the ghee and keep it aside.

sooji halwaTo this ghee, add rawa and keep stirring until the rawa turns color to golden brown. This will take about 5-7 minutes. I like to roast the rawa to golden brown although it is sufficient to roast just until the rawa starts to change color. While roasting the rawa, boil water in a pan. If you are adding milk, ensure that you use 1 cup milk and 1-1/2 cups of water. Ensure that that amount of water and milk put together is not more than 3 cups. Turn down the heat and add this boiling water/milk to the rawa cautiously. Make sure that you stand a little away from the stove while doing this as it might splutter. Stir this and make sure there are no lumps. Cook this for about 2-3 minutes. When the rawa is cooked and the water/milk content reduced, add sugar and mix well. The sugar starts to melt and the mixture once again becomes a little watery. Cook until the mixture thickens and water content reduces. Add the remaining ghee and stir. Add cardamom powder, cashew/raisins/almond pieces, and saffron dissolved in milk/water.

I prefer to have kesari bath warm although you can refrigerate this and serve it cold also.

jaggery kesariP.S. (added July 14th) – I tried making kesari bath with jaggery instead of sugar and it turned out to be really nice. So had to share it with all of you. The method remains almost the same. Measuring jaggery can be slightly tricky and if you use blocks of jaggery, you will need to make a wild guess. One thing you can do is pound the jaggery blocks and measure it using the same cup you used to measure the rava. Water should be three times the quantity of rava used.

Ingredients:
Rava – 1 cup
Ghee – 3/4 cup
Jaggery – 1 cup
Water – 3 cups
Saffron (Kesar) – 3-4 strands
Cashew/raisins/almond pieces – A fistful
Cardamom powder (elaichi) – 1/4 tsp

Method:
Soak saffron in a tablespoon of warm water. Keep aside. Dissolve jaggery in three cups of water. Using a strainer, strain this mixture to remove any dirt. Keep this water-jaggery mixture on the stove on low fire. Meanwhile, pour ghee into a thick bottomed pan. Keep fire on low. Put the cashew, rasins and almond pieces into ghee and roast the dry fruits. Remove the dry fruits from ghee when they turn golden brown and keep aside. Note that if you are using almonds, you will need to either soak them in water for 3-4 hours or blanch them and then peel and cut into smaller pieces.

In the same thick bottomed pan, to the melted ghee, add rava and roast on low fire for 4-5 minutes until rava changes color to light brown. When the rava has lost its raw smell and you start getting a finely roasted smell, add the jaggery water mixture which is kept on low fire in the next stove. Stir and add the hot jaggery-water mixture. The mixture starts to bubble and thicken. Add the soaked saffron. Keep stirring until moisture content reduces and the mixture starts to leave the sides. At this stage, you could add one more tablespoon of ghee. This is entirely optional and adds more sin, glaze, and taste to the kesari bath. Add cardamom powder and roasted dry fruits. Mix well. Jaggery kesari bath is ready. This is slightly more healthier as compared to the sugar version.

Breakfast, Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Tiffin

Pazham Nurukku/Jaggery Coated Plantain/Steamed Plantain

Plantains are an integral part of Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala. Malayalis cannot think of an Onam without plantains. Keralites leverage plantain in all its forms and age. Raw plantains are deep fried and salted or jaggery coated to make chips, or used to make mezhukkupuratti (dry vegetable dish), erisseri, kalan etc. The ripe ones are steamed, cooked in jaggery, used to make payasam (kheer/sweet pudding), or eaten as is. The flower and the shoot (after peeling layers) are used to make dry vegetable dish. The peeled layers are used as binding ropes or for stringing garlands. Plantain leaves are used as plate to serve food and to make ela ada. In places with waterways, the shoots of a plantain are tied together to make a platform and used as a country boat.

Semi-ripe nenthra pazham

A very ripe plantain can be eaten as is without cooking. But semi ripe plantains should preferably be steamed or baked. I will share 4 simple recipes of ripe plantain here. One using overripe plantain and the other three using medium ripe plantain. Choose ripe yet firm plantain for steamed plantain. Slightly overripe plantains are best suited to make the jaggery coated plantain. This goes well with items like puttu or upma. It is also a healthy snack by itself.

Sweet banana cooked in jaggeryMethod 1:
Ingredients
Ripe Plantain – 2
Jaggery – 2 pieces
Water – 1/2 cup
Ghee – 1 tsp (optional)
Elaichi/cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp (optional)

Peel the plantain and remove the ends and the peel. Cut into two-inch round pieces. In a pan, pour water and add the jaggery pieces and heat until the jaggery melts. Strain to remove dirt if any. Put the ripe plantain pieces into this melted jaggery, cover with a lid, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in between to ensure that the bananas do not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the water content reduces, the jaggery syrup thickens, and plantain pieces become tender, add ghee and elaichi powder. Turn off the fire and serve hot. You can even serve it cold. If you use firm plantain, they turn hard when cooked in jaggery. So make sure that you use ripe or overripe plantains. Note: I used organic jaggery and hence the dark color. Jaggery available in the market are heavily treated with chemicals which reduces the natural intense color.

Method 2:
Ripe Plantain – 1

Peel the plantain and remove the ends. Do not remove the peel. Cut into two inch round pieces. Steam them in an idli tray for 10 minutes until the plantain becomes tender. This is served with ela ada and fried papad for breakfast on the Thiruvonam day especially in the Malabar region. Plantains are fibrous and have high starch content. Steamed plantain is easily digestible especially for kids and the elderly and instantly boost energy levels.

Method 3:
Ripe Plantain – 1
Sugar – 1 tsp
Ghee (clarified butter) – 1 tbsp

This is a sinfully yummy shallow fried treat. Peel the skin and cut the plantain into thin vertical slices. Smear ghee on the hot griddle and place the plantain slices on ghee.

Frying bananas

Cook for a minute in medium to low fire. Flip when you notice the bottom of the plantain is turning golden brown. Sprinkle sugar.

Flip over

Remove from fire when the other side is sufficiently fried/cooked.

caramelized sugar on banana

Cooked

Method 4:
Ripe Plantain – 1

Another method of cooking plantain is to bake it in charcoal. Traditionally when meals were cooked using firewood, the coal would be hot even a couple of hours after all the cooking is done. Put the ripe plantains (with their skin) in between the hot coal. Make sure the plantains are fully embedded in the coal pieces. Take out after 5 minutes and smoky chargrilled plantains are ready.

I saw yet another interesting variety here. Truly yummy variation. Check it out.

Everyday Simple Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Tiffin

Enna Pothi/Sweet Pouches

A fitting follower to Ela Ada, my previous post. The ingredients are the same as ela ada. Just that the proportions are different and they are mixed differently. These are little steamed pouches of a mixture of rice, jaggery, jackfruit jam, and coconut. Steamed and oil-free, one can truly indulge in them without guilt!

DSC03674

In my household this dish is called Enna Pothi, which literally means Oil Pouches, though I cant figure out why it might be called so since no oil is used in this dish. Enna could also mean Numbered. Any of you can crack the name puzzle, please write to me.

It is intriguing to think how our ancestors came up with different recipes using the same ingredients and how different and unique they taste! Ela ada are very sweet while these sweet pouches are only mildly sweet. Different households have different styles of making it. Some use banana leaves to make the pouch, some use cinammon leaves. Since I could not find a suitable leaf, I chose to steam them in the idli mold. It is a regional variant you see!

Ingredients:

Raw rice (Rice flour) – 1 cup
Jaggery – 50 gm
Jackfruit jam – 5 tbsp
Grated coconut/Coconut cut into 1 cm pieces – 2 tbsp
Ghee – 1 tsp
Elaichi powder – 1/4 tsp
Water – As needed

The amount of jaggery and jackfruit jam are more of personal choices. You can add as much as you like and it would turn out just fine.

Method: Grind the raw rice into a smooth paste. Add the jackfruit jam and jaggery pieces and blend it in the mixer to make a smooth and evenly mixed paste. You could make jaggery syrup and then add it to the rice flour and jackfruit jam and blend it well using a spoon. But using the mixer to blend these three ingredients ensures a smooth consistency and gives good results. Keep the batter aside.

Heat ghee in a pan and add the grated/cut coconut to the ghee and roast till the coconut turns golden brown. Turn off fire and add the roasted coconut to the batter. Add elaichi powder. Mix well.

Note that if you are using an idli mold, the batter needs to be of idli batter consistency. But if you are using a leaf, you will need a thicker consistency for the batter.

If you are using banana leaf, tear out square or rectangle portions of banana leaf. Pour one ladle full of batter into a piece of banana leaf and close it neatly from all sides and tie with a thread. Cinnamon leaves are small and it is a challenge to stuff the batter in them. Hence if you are using cinnamon leaves, the batter consistency should be thick so that it does not ooze out. You need to be able to stuff the batter in between the leaf and pin the ends of the leaf together.

If you choose to use an idli mold, lightly grease the idli molds with ghee. Pour one ladle full batter into each idli mold. Steam in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes. Turn off fire, take out the idli mold from the pressure cooker, and let it cool.

After they cool down a little bit, the sweet pouches start separating from the edge. Use a spoon to lift the pouches off the mold and place on a serving plate.

Soft and spongy sweet pouches (in this case, idlis) are ready!

Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, South Indian, Sweets

Sharkara Payasam (Sweet Pongal)

People in different parts of India celebrate each festival in their own unique ways. In South, Makara Sankranti is a harvest festival. One of the items made with the newly harvested rice is Sharkara Payasam or Sweet Pongal. Back home we do not have any festivities for makara sankranti. My memories of sharkara payasam are associated with the last day of Navaratri (Vijaya Dashami). My cousin, who was the main pujari for this puja, would make sharkara payasam on that day. He did not resort to any measurements, but each time it turned out to be a delicious treat and we were left asking for more!

Ingredients:
Raw rice – 1 cup
Jaggery – 2 cups
Water – 2 cups
Ghee (Clarified butter) – 3-4 tbsp
Coconut pieces – 2 tbsp
Elaichi – 1/2 tsp
Cashew – 1 tbsp
Crystalized sugar – 1 tsbp (optional)

Method:
Clean the rice and cook it well. Make sure that you drain the extra water from the rice. Dissolve the jaggery in water and strain it to remove any impurities. Pour the melted jaggery into a thick bottomed pan (preferably uruli) and bring to boil. Add the cooked rice to the jaggery. The jaggery should not be too watery when adding the cooked rice. If it is, then by the time it thickens, the rice will harden. Stir occasionally. When it thickens and water reduces add elaichi powder. Roast the coconut pieces and cashews in ghee. Add this to the cooked payasam and its ready! My cousin would sprinkle generous amounts of kalkandam (crystalized sugar) to the payasam along with ghee. This makes it a truly heavenly treat.

If you add moong dal to this payasam, it becomes sweet pongal. You can check out the recipe here.

Note: The jaggery should not be too watery when adding the cooked rice. If it is, then by the time it thickens, the rice will harden.

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Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, South Indian, Sweets

Unni Appam

Sweet balls, crisp on the outside and soft inside. The dessert of the Gods!

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Ingredients:
Rice flour* – 1-1/2 cups
Jaggery/molasses – 2 cups
Ripe Banana – 2 (tiny yellow ones, Elaichi Kela in Hindi, Rasa Kadali in Malayalam)
Cardamom – 5 pods
Thinly sliced coconut pieces – 1/4 cup
Ghee (for frying the coconut pieces) – 1 tbsp
Coconut Oil* – 1-1/2 cups
Water – 1 cup

* In case any of these ingredients are unavailable, check the alternate ingredients section for other options.

Alternatives:
Ghee can be used instead of coconut oil to fry the unni appams.
This snack can also be made with wheat flour instead of rice flour using the above-mentioned method with the exception of plantain.

16

Resting Time (for batter): 30 mins.
Cooking Time: 5 min.

Method for batter:
Mix the jaggery in 1/2 cup of water and let it boil. Remove from fire when all the jaggery pieces have melted. Let it cool. Peel banana, mash, and mix it in jaggery syrup. Cut coconut into small pieces, fry in ghee, and add to the jaggery syrup. Add the rice flour into the jaggery syrup. Powder the cardamom and add to this batter. If the batter is too thick, add a little water. The batter should be of the consistency of idli batter.

Method for Unni appam:
Place the appam mould on fire and pour coconut oil enough to fill all the pits with oil. When you get the sweet aroma of boiling coconut oil, pour the batter into the pits in the appam mould.

The fire should be in medium.

When the sides turn golden brown, turn over the appam. You can dip a toothpick into the unni appam to check for stickiness. If the batter sticks to the tooth pick, it is not ready to be turned yet. Remove from oil, drain and set aside. Crispy unni appams are ready to be gobbled.

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Notes:
After removing the unni appam from fire, place them on absorbent paper for 5 mins to remove excess oil.

This sweet is free of processed sugar. Jaggery is a healthy alternative for sugar.

Trivia:
This is a sweet dish that is often offered to the Gods in South Indian temples, especially in Kerala.

Skill Level:
Medium

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