Festival Recipes, Indian, Snacks, Sweets, Tiffin

Shakkar Para (Sweet Diamond Cuts)

Mildly sweet and crunchy deep fried bits. A snack for evening or to munch for no reason at all. Has a good shelf life. So you can make it and store it for Diwali or before guests are expected. This sweet is usually made of maida but I made this with whole wheat.

Ingredients:
Wheat Flour – 2 cups
Jaggery – 3/4 cup
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Roasted Fennel seeds/saunf (optional)- 1 teaspoon
Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
Water – 1/3 cup
Oil for deep frying

Preparation Time: 10 mins + 30 mins (Resting time for dough)
Cooking Time: 30 – 40 mins
Makes: 1 liter jar full of Sharkara para

Method:
Heat a pan and add water and jaggery. Heat until the jaggery dissolves completely. No need to bring to boil or thicken into a syrup. Filter the diluted jaggery to remove any impurities.
Take 2 cups of wheat flour, cardamom powder, roasted fennel seeds, and mix well. If you are adding baking soda, you may add now. This will make the shakkar para crispy.
Heat ghee to melt it. Add ghee to the flour mixture. Mix well. Add the jaggery syrup in small quantities, mixing it into the flour. Knead the flour to make a smooth dough. If the dough is dry, you may added small quantities of water. Keep aside to rest for for an half hour.
Take small portions of the dough and shape into lemon-sized balls.
Use a rolling pin and a smooth surface to roll them into thick chapathis. You can use dry wheat flour to dust the surface. Can be a little tricky as the dough is very dense and a little sticky because of the jaggery.
Use a dull-edged knife to cut the chapathis horizontally and vertically to cut them into diamond shapes.
Place a thick iron wok on fire and pour oil into it. When the oil is adequately heated, drop the diamond shapes into the oil gently taking care not to splash oil. Keep the flame low. Due to the presence of jaggery, the shakkar paras could get really dark. When they start turning darker and gets roasted, remove from oil and place on an absorbing paper to drain oil. Fry the remaining diamond cuts in batches.
Cool and transfer into an airtight container.

Note: You can make salty and spicy variations by substituting jaggery with salt, chilly powder, and asafetida.

Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Sweets

Navara Nei Payasam – Kerala Temple Prasadam-Style Rice Kheer with Jaggery

Navara (Njavara in Malayalam) is a unique nutritional rice variety indigenous to Kerala. Like how mango is the king of fruits and almond the king of nuts, Navara is considered top class among the rice varieties for its rich aroma and medicinal properties. For centuries, Ayurvedic healers have been using Navara for its miraculous healing properties. It aids in treating skin ailments and even helps heal internal wounds. It helps build immunity against common ailments, especially during the monsoon season. Rice gruel / kanji made from Navara is safe food for diabetes and can even prevent cancer. Navara is suited for people of all ages and is a source of general wellness.

The cultivation of Navara has become rare now due to non-availability of pure seeds, low yield, and high production cost. But, a handful of farmers who have realized the value of this grain are trying to revive this precious crop. Growing Navara itself is challenging and to grow it organically, even more so. Mr. Narayana Unni of Navara Eco Farm is an award winning third generation farmer who almost single-handedly revived the organic cultivation of the medicinal Navara rice over the period of a decade. His farm, Karukamani Kalam, is spread over 12 acres and is located near the banks of Shokanashini river and Chittur college. What makes Unni ettan’s Navara unique is the purity of the seed variety as well as the organic and USDA certifications.

You can buy this special medicinal rice at ShopSwasthi, the online Indian ethnic store. ShopSwasthi is a treasure house of such precious items. What makes this online store extraordinary is their collection of rare traditional and contemporary items. For instance, one of their products bamboo wind chimes are labors of love crafted by artist Rajiv using handpicked bamboos from the Idukki rain forests and chiseled and tuned to reproduce sounds from Nature. Sitting in your drawing room, you could enjoy the calming sounds of the rain forest, woods, rains, and gentle forest streams. Unbelievable, right? Listen to it here and you will believe. Read Rajiv’s story here. The Shop Swasthi team focuses and features passionate farmers and artists such as Mr. Unni and Mr. Rajiv who are dedicated to their crafts. In this heritage and ethnic store, you can also find cereals, everyday spices, food supplements, along with traditional Indian handicrafts and artifacts. Okay, I got carried away. But, blame it on the charming sounds of the bamboo wind chimes and Mr. Unni’s story. These are not like the mass-produced items that you find at a curio store, but individually and carefully crafted pieces of art that help you re-connect to Nature.

Navara can be used to make rice gruel / kanji or to make jaggery payasam. The traditional sweet offering / prasadam / neivedyam, especially at Devi temples, are made from raw rice, jaggery, and ghee. The payasam is prepared on firewood and cooked in an uruli, a heavy brass vessel. This payasam is thicker in consistency and is a little too sweet compared to other payasams. It has lots of ghee and is supposed to be eaten only in small portions. This payasam is also called kadu madhura payasam, i.e. very sweet payasam. I have not used as much jaggery or ghee as they would ideally in a temple prasadam. You could add more, if you prefer so.

Ingredients:
Navara rice – 100gm
Jaggery – 250gm
Water – as needed
Cardamom powder- 1/2 tsp
Ghee – 3 tbsp
Chopped coconut pieces – 3 tbsp

Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves 7-10

Method:
Wash rice in water, add it to a cylindrical vessel. Add 3 times water to the rice. Ensure there is enough space in the vessel for rice to get cooked. Place this vessel in a pressure pan and cook 4-5 whistles. Turn off the fire after 4-5 whistles and wait for the pressure to release naturally. Rice should be cooked soft but not mushy. Since the Navara rice variety is a little hard, it would take some time to cook it to the soft consistency.
Meanwhile, as the rice gets cooked, soak jaggery in warm water (1 cup – do not make it too dilute). Heat this solution until all the jaggery pieces dissolve completely. Pass this solution through a strainer to remove impurities if any, and keep the solution aside.
Heat a heavy bottomed vessel and add the jaggery solution to this vessel. Cook in a low flame until the jaggery syrup starts bubbling and thickening. When the bubbles start reducing (a sign that the syrup is thickening), add the cooked rice.
When you add the cooked rice, the jaggery syrup gets diluted again. Mix well and cook until the rice and jaggery syrup blends together and starts to thicken. Add ghee in small quantities. Stir well.
Stir occasionally until the payasam thickens comes to a saucy consistency. Add cardamom powder and switch off.
In a small frying pan, heat a spoon of ghee and add coconut pieces chopped into small rectangular pieces. Roast the coconut pieces in ghee until they turn golden. Turn off and add the roasted coconut pieces along with the ghee into the payasam. Stir well. Delicious sharkara payasam is ready to eat.

Notes:
The sweetness of the payasam will vary based on the jaggery variety you use and the amount of molasses in that jaggery. If your jaggery variety is very sweet, you could reduce the amount of jaggery by 50 gm.
You can even add / substitute coconut pieces with cashew nut pieces roasted in ghee.
The payasam thickens when it cools down. Hence, stop cooking it when the consistency is a little dilute.
Use only raw rice (unpolished red variety is ideal) to cook the payasam.
Add the cooked rice to the jaggery syrup when the consistency of the syrup is thick. If the syrup is too dilute and then you add the cooked rice, it can take a long time to get thicker and this can harden the rice.

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Dosas, Everyday Simple Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Millet Recipes, Snacks, Sweets, Tiffin, Vegan

Sweet Multigrain Dosa

This multigrain sweet dosa is similar to my previous sweet dosa post. I found a packet of wheat bran at the health store and was thinking of ways of adding this fiber to my diet. Tried mixing it with the chappathi dough. That resulted in slightly stiff rotis because of the fiber content. Maybe if you add lesser quantities of bran, rotis might turn out to be softer. But when I can use the bran to make a sweet item, why not?

Making sweet dosa is very easy and I do not stick to fixed proportions. The quantity of jaggery can be the same as the amount of flour you take. Add little portions of wheat flour, wheat bran, rice flour, and ragi flour to melted jaggery and the batter is ready. I also added some jackfruit jam. This is an optional ingredient. You can throw in anything that you think will enhance the taste of this dosa.

Ingredients:
Wheat flour – 1 cup
Ragi flour – 1/2 cup
Rice flour – 1/2 cup
Wheat flour – 1/2 cup
Jaggery – 1-1/2 cup
Water – 3 cups
Elaichi powder – 1 tsp
Ghee/cooking oil – 1 tbsp

spread batter on tawaMelt jaggery in water and strain it. Add all the flour, elaichi powder, and mix well. Wheat bran tends to thicken your batter. If the batter is very watery, the dosa may stick to the pan and you may have difficulty removing the dosa from the pan. This batter is better suited to make pancake-style dosas.

Heat a tawa on medium flame. Spread small portions of the sweet dosa batter to make slightly thick and small dosas. Drizzle ghee/cooking oil around the dosa. Let it cook for a minute. Flip using a spatula and cook the other side for around a minute. Sweet fibrous multigrain dosa is ready. If you want a pancake style dosa, you could drizzle honey on the dosa while serving although this is really not required.

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Everyday Simple Recipes, Indian, Salads

Carrot Salad

rasam and carrot saladStuffed after a big meal? Swearing that you will never hog that much ever again? Most of us do that post indulging! Just yesterday after the grand Vishu feast, I told myself, tomorrow I am gonna eat light. So today was a soup and salad lunch for me. Spicy rasam for soup and crunchy carrot salad. My colleague at work shared this quick fix, yummy carrot salad recipe. Great tasting and easy to make. Hence had to share it with all of you.

Ingredients:
Carrot – 1 medium sized
Lime juice – 1/4-1/2 of a small lime
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Jeera – 1/4 tsp
Honey/Jaggery/Sugar – 1/2 tsp
Almonds/rasins/peanuts – as required
Curry leaves – Leaves from a twig
Cooking oil – 1/2 tsp
Salt – As needed

carrot saladMethod:
Wash, peel, and grate the carrot. Pour honey (If you are using sugar/jaggery, mix those with the grated carrot) and add lime juice. Add salt and mix well. In a small pan, heat the oil and put mustard seeds. When mustard seeds start crackling, add jeera. Add curry leaves to the oil. Add this seasoning to the salad and mix well. You could add almonds, peanuts, cashews, rasins, any of these as per your taste. Personally I prefer adding almonds that are soaked in water, peeled, and cut. Set aside for 5-10 mins to let the flavors blend. Crunchy munchy carrot salad is ready.

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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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Kerala Recipes, South Indian, Sweets, Vegan

Ari Unda (Rice Laddoo)

Kerala’s very own sweet. Quintessential Kerala ingredients; rice, coconut, and jaggery; are used to make this unassuming sweet.

Ari unda

Popping an ari unda into your mouth after a meal can be an utterly satisfying experience and the best part is that you can do so without feeling sinful or guilty. It is a very healthy sweet since it is devoid of oil, ghee, or sugar. It is a very good gifting option also as it has good shelf life and can be enjoyed by all age groups.

Ingredients:
Parboiled rice – 1 cup
Whole wheat grain – 1/2 cup (optional)
Whole green mung beans – 1/2 cup (optional)
Jaggery – 2 cups (Same amount as the grains used)
Grated coconut – ½ cup
Dry ginger – ½ tsp/half inch
Elaichi/cardamom – 2-3 pods

Method:
In a thick iron wok, dry roast the grains (rice, wheat, and mung beans) separately until they change color and start giving out a wonderful aroma. In case of rice and wheat, they will start to pop. Green mung turns brown. Rice and wheat takes roughly 10-15 minutes of roasting time each in medium fire. Remove from fire and allow the rice to cool.

Parboiled rice before and after roasting

Grate coconut and powder the jaggery. In a mixer, grind the rice into a powder, not too fine but not very coarse either. If you are using whole dry ginger, powder it along with the grains. Add the elaichi pods along with the rice while grinding. Keep two tablespoonfuls of powdered rice aside.

Mix well

After you finish powdering the rice, add jaggery, grated coconut and some powdered rice into the mixer jar and blend well. Remove from the mixer jar and mix the powdered rice, jaggery, and grated coconut well. The moisture from jaggery and grated coconut moistens the rice. If you are using dry ginger powder, add it now. Using dry ginger adds a nice flavor and aids digestion.

 

Make balls out of this mixer and use the powdered rice that you kept aside to coat the moist balls.

rice laddooThis stays good (in normal temperature) only for 4-5 days because of the presence of fresh coconut. However, you can refrigerate this for up to 15-20 days. Another version that is made traditionally in my house involves mixing the powdered rice with jaggery syrup. This version uses copra instead of grated coconut and hence has a good shelf life of 2-3 weeks. The only downside to this version is that due to the use of jaggery syrup, depending on the consistency of the syrup the laddus harden and breaking them with your teeth can be quite a task!

Some jaggery varieties are not moist enough to hold together and firm up the laddus. In such cases, you will need to use jaggery syrup instead of powdered jaggery for the laddus. Make jaggery syrup by adding a cup of water to the jaggery and heating it. When the jaggery is diluted, strain it to remove impurities. Then, boil the strained jaggery syrup to a string consistency. Turn off the heat. Add small quantities of this syrup to the mixture of powdered grains and coconut/roasted copra. Add enough to moisten the powder and then use your palm to shape into laddus. You can roll the shaped laddu on some dry powder to firm it up a little bit. Make sure that the jaggery syrup that you add to the powder is warm enough. For this, you may have to reheat the syrup depending on the time you take to shape the laddus. But you cant keep the syrup on flame all the while that you are making the laddu because that will make it too thick and sticky.

 

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.