Drinks, Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, South Indian, Vegan

Panakam

panakamPanakam is a simple sweet drink prepared during festivals like Rama Navami. In my village, Thekkegramam, this drink is served to people pulling the temple chariot on Rama Navami day. Some households would keep a huge vessel full of Panakam and serve it to every thirsty passerby. It is a good thirst quencher and natural body coolant. It is healthy since jaggery is used instead of sugar. Dry ginger powder and cardamom powder used for flavoring gives it special aroma and taste. There is no specific recipe for this drink as it is very simple and can be made as per personal preference.

Ingredients:
Jaggery – 1/2 cup
Water – 2 cups
Cardamom powder – a pinch
Dry ginger powder/chukku, soonth – 1/2 tsp
Lemon juice (optional) – 2 tsps or to taste

Preparation Time: 5 mins
Makes 2 glasses

Method: Add water to the jaggery and let it melt. Add cardamom, dry ginger powder, and lemon juice. Mix well. Use a strainer to filter it out. Chill and serve.

Tips: You may add few Tulasi (basil) leaves for garnish. You can also add a pinch of pepper powder to jazz it up.
You may omit lemon juice. Just the cardamom and dry ginger gives a wonderful flavor and taste.
This is a default item that we make at home after we have finished making jaggery coated banana chips. A lot of jaggery, dry ginger powder, and elaichi remains in the vessel in which the chips are made. So just add water to the vessel and make a drink.

Reviews

Growing Plants

Growing plants seem overwhelming to most people. They make up all sorts of excuses. “Oh, there is no space in the house. I don’t have time. I don’t have a green thumb.” But it is actually very simple. You don’t need to have a green thumb to grow in a small scale. When you are tired and your eyes are aching, just observe your plants. Just watch them being there doing their thing in their own quiet way, makes you feel so good! I tell you it’s completely worthwhile.

I still remember each and every plant in our house in the village. During summer, my mother would draw water from the well and fill buckets and pots, and we would water all the plants. When my young cousins came to visit us on month-long summer vacation, they would also give a helping hand. The cool shade of the backyard was my favorite place to be. They knew my joys and sorrows. Every friend/relative who came home was proudly shown around. Even strangers who walked past our compound would stop and admire the rare fruits like Sitaphal, Anar, Bablimos (grapefruit), and of course Jackfruit. Some of them even rang the bell and requested for a fruit, and if it is ripe enough, we would gladly give it away.

My father has a good green thumb. He grows banana, lady’s-finger, chillies, amaranth, drumstick, and he takes care of them so well. Green thumb or not, I try to plant too in my own little way in the little space I have.

Coming back to my little garden here. Living in the city, you don’t have the luxury of planting on the ground. But even planting on pots can be joyful, like I discovered a few years back. Introducing plants from my tiny garden:

I started off with flowering plants.

This is a desert rose bonsai. Low maintenance and flowers throughout the year. My neighbor (a widower who had been living alone for many years) could see this plant from his window. He used to say that although the plant didn’t belong to him, he felt so happy whenever there was a new flower.

These are called Nityakalyani in my native. These are also low maintenance and flowers daily. These two plants could survive up to a week without water.

When I moved houses, the plants too moved with me. But when I moved out of the city, I had to give them away to a nursery to ensure that they are looked after well.

Now I don’t grow any flowering plants. I feel that it is better to grow plants that can be used in daily cooking. Even if it is just a sprig of curry leaf, it feels good to be self-reliant. Once after having pasta that had fresh basil on it, it occurred to me why not grow my own basil?

I bought basil seeds from the geekgardener’s store. Each seed I planted sprouted within 3-4 days. The leaves smell amazing. If you just touch the leaf, the smell lingers on your finger for a good five minutes.

See how healthy my spinach plant looks! Can you believe, it just came up from the leftover roots of the palak that I bought for cooking?

If the spinach that you bought from the market has its roots intact, instead of throwing it in the bin, just stick them into a pot of soil and water daily. You can grow coriander also in the same way using leftover roots.

Don’t tell me you don’t have space to keep a money plant in a corner! All you need is to immerse the plant in a jar of water. Once a week or so, check the water levels and add water as and when necessary. Seeing new tendrils sprout is sheer joy! Indoor plants have many benefits. Not only do they purify the air, they also reduce your fatigue and stress. Fill up small pockets of your house with indoor plants. Take them out to meet the sun over weekends.

These are jackfruit saplings. I am really proud of these! After consuming ripe jackfruit, I covered the seeds in a piece of cotton cloth, and put them away near the kitchen sink where moisture was guaranteed. In 8-10 days, most of them sprouted. Then I planted them in a pot. Very soon, I plan to plant them in the garden nearby. This is the second batch of jackfruit saplings. I have not had much luck with the tomato plant that you see (extreme left). That one has been in the same state for 3-4 months now. But I haven’t given up as yet. 🙂

It is simple to grow methi (uluva) also at home. Soak the methi seeds (that you use for cooking) in water overnight. Sow them in a pot and in 3-4 days you will notice sprouts.

I treat my plants like members living in my house. I give them their water soon after I wake up. I check how they are doing. Each new sign of life is newfound joy. I feel sad when a leaf turns yellow. Before I pluck a leaf (for cooking), I “take the plant’s permission” and pluck the leaf gently without hurting the plant. I am aware it does not “hurt” them. (Plants are not sentient. They do not have a central nervous system.) Yet this is my way of showing respect to the plant. They are our only source to anything that we consume.

I do not water my plants after sunset and never before sunrise as I feel plants sleep during this time should not be disturbed. If you have taken a walk at a park during sunset, you might have noticed that the leaves of some plants fold together in a touch-me-not leaf kind of fashion. Not all plants display a visible sign of “sleep” but some do. There is scientific proof that at night plants shut down their system by closing their stomata and stopping food production. If you have more information on this, please do share with me.

Growing plants is a beautiful experience. It enriches your person. Do give it a try.

Chutneys/Thogayals/Dips/Podis, Everyday Simple Recipes, Kerala Recipes, South Indian, Tiffin, Vegan

Navaratna Chutney

Breakfast options for most South Indian households are usually standard – dosa or idli. A chutney or a gravy accompaniment can turn the standard breakfast into an exotic one. Here is Navaratna chutney that is made from raw ingredients. This chutney is a great way of including the goodness of raw greens in your diet.

 

 

Ingredients:
Coconut – 1 cup
Shallots – 6-7
Coriander – 2 cups (tightly packed)
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Green chillies – 2 big or 3 medium sized
Ginger – 1/2 inch size
Garlic – 2-3 cloves
Tamarind – marble sized
Salt as needed

Method:
All you need to do is to blend the ingredients together to get a smooth but slightly coarse paste.

After you spread your dosa and drizzle oil, sprinkle some chutney podi on the surface and spread it using the spatula. Flip the dosa and cook. Serve this podi dosa along with chutney. Tastes awesome to all those who crave for that extra punch!

Notes: 1. You can add mint leaves also if you like the taste and flavor.
2. You may add the tender stems of the coriander leaves also in this chutney.
3. If you do not have tamarind at home, you can replace it with lemon juice although there will be a very subtle variation in taste. Both are tasty in their own unique way.

Recipe courtesy: Rajuchechi and Indrachechi

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Breakfast, Dosas, Snacks, South Indian, Tiffin, Vegan

Uthappam, The South Indian Rice Pizza

Uthappam, for most people, is thick dosa made from dosa/idli batter. But at home uthappam is made from special uthappam batter and is eaten with fiery shallot and red chilly chutney. Fenugreek seeds up the health quotient of uthappam.
Restaurant uthappams are topped with chopped onions, green chillies, tomatoes, curry leaves, and coriander leaves but plain uthappams are very tasty too. I prefer plain uthappams because I relish the flavor of fenugreek. Uthappams are an any-time-of-the-day meal and make a complete meal in itself when served with sambar.

Ingredients:
For grinding:ingredients
Parboiled rice (ukhda chawal/puzhukkal ari) – 3 cups
Fenugreek seeds (methi seeds/uluva) – 1/3 cup (6 tsps)
Raw rice – 2 tablespoons
Black gram dehusked (Urad dal/uzhunnu parippu) – 2 tablespoons
Salt – as needed

For cooking:
Oil – 1 tbsp per uthappam

Method:
Wash all the ingredients together in water and soak for about 8 hours/overnight. Grind to make a coarse paste. Uthappam batter should not be finely ground. Allow the batter to ferment (by keeping in a warm place) for about 10-12 hours. Uthappam batter does not “rise” like the dosa/idli batter because it contains very little lentil.

Heat a griddle. Pour half a tablespoon of oil. Pour a ladleful of uthappam batter on to this oil. Spread lightly to make a thick small round. Sprinkle half tablespoon oil on the spread batter.
If you prefer to add a topping to your uthappam, you can do that at this stage. Toppings can be finely chopped onions, tomatoes, curry leaves, and coriander leaves.

Allow to cook in medium heat for a minute. When the sides turn golden brown and crisp, flip it over.Let it cook for a minute. Remove the uthappam from the griddle and serve with sambar, chutney, or milaga podi (dry chutney powder).

Ideal combination for uthappam is the fiery shallot chutney. Soak 4-5 dry red chillies in water for half an hour and grind these along with 10-12 peeled shallots. Add salt and a teaspoon of coconut oil. This chutney should ideally be ground using a stone grinder to get the authentic taste. The combination of the fenugreek-flavor-dominant uthappam and the fiery shallot chutney is irresistible! Guaranteed that you will not stop short of gobbling up at least 5 of these!

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

Thiruvathira Kali (Rice Halwa)

Thiruvathira Kali, a festival special, the sweet rice halwa, also a kind of dance that women in Kerala perform during the Thiruvathira festival and during Onam. I still remember the kali that my ashalaathu mami (neighbor) used to make. Mami is a sweet person and a terrific cook! My amma learned the recipe from her. Since amma and I love sweets, specially the ones made with jaggery, this recipe has been a favorite for both of us and we do not wait for Thiruvathira to satisfy craving.

 

 

 

Ingredients:
Raw rice (dry roasted and coarsely powdered) – 3/4 cup
Green mung dal (dry roasted and coarsely powdered) – 1/4 cup (optional)
Jaggery – 1 cup
Water – 3 cups
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Grated coconut – 1/4 cup

 

Method:
Wash, dry, and then dry roast the raw rice and green mung dal separately until golden brown. Cool and grind coarsely using a mixer. Dissolve the jaggery in water. Strain to remove any impurities. The proportion of rice, jaggery, and water are 1:1:3. So if you are taking 1 cup of rice powder (+the optional roasted green mung dal powder), dissolve 1 cup of jaggery in 3 cups of water. An easy way of cooking kali is to mix the rice powder (+the optional roasted green mung dal powder) in the jaggery water, add cardamom powder and then pressure cook to a whistle. Turn off and then wait for the steam pressure to reduce. Open the cooker and you will see that the mixture is well cooked and thick with no trace of water. Add the ghee and grated coconut to the rice powder cooked in jaggery. Mix well.

You can cook this in a kadai also. Place the melted jaggery water on the stove and when it boils, add the powdered rice and mung dal and keep stirring. When the mixture thickens, add the ghee, cardamom powder, and grated coconut and mix well.

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Kerala Recipes, South Indian, Sweets, Vegan

Jackfruit Jam (Chakka Varatti)

A preparation unique to Kerala; it can be used as jam or magically transformed to various sweet delicacies. The king of all jams!

Ingredients:
Ripe jackfruit pieces – 1 kg
Jaggery – ½ kg
Water – 1 glass (medium)

Preparation Time: 1 hr.

Cooking Time: 2 hrs.

Method:

Remove the seeds from the jackfruit and cut the fruit into pieces. Pour 2 glasses of water (enough to build steam to cook the fruit) in the pressure cooker and keep the vessel containing jackfruit in it. Cook the pieces till soft; two or three whistles should be enough. Do not add water to the jackfruit. Cool the jackfruit pieces and grind to a smooth paste in a mixer. Jackfruits vary in texture. Some get easily mashed with cooking but some don’t.

Dissolve the jaggery in warm water. Filter if necessary to remove any dirt or stones. Place a thick-bottomed vessel (preferably uruli) on fire and pour the melted jaggery. Let it come to boil. Add the ground jackfruit paste into the jaggery. Mix thoroughly and remove lumps if any. Keep stirring. Cook this mixture on medium-low heat till the water is reduced.

splash

For longer shelf-life, keep the mixture on fire till the jam is really thick. You can add things such as ghee, grated coconut, dry ginger powder, cardamom powder etc. I prefer not adding anything to the jam. These additions can be done while making different dishes using this jam.

Storage:

Empty into a dry, air-tight container and refrigerate. Take out small portions when needed.

Caution:

This is definitely not for the impatient. The mixture bubbles a lot and splashes before solidifying and this can cause burns on your skin. So be very careful while making this. But trust me the taste is worth the effort.

List of accompaniments:

Tastes great with bread, roti or parathas. You can make a wide variety of absolutely delicious and irresistible dishes using this jam, like elai ada (pan poli), payasam, sweet idli etc and many others. I will be posting some of these very soon.

breadcv

Health Benefits/Alerts:

Jackfruit is a very good source of potassium and good source of vitamin C. Potassium rich in jackfruit helps in regulating blood pressure. The fruit also has anti-cancer, antihypertensive, anti-ageing, antioxidant, and anti-ulcer properties.

Banter:

Summer brings with it loads of ‘sweet’ memories of cuckoos, festivals, temple bells, chenda melam (drums) at distant fields, all laden with the smell of jackfruit. Jackfruit is my favorite fruit and if I had my way, I would have asked God to make them available in plenty all year round. The smell, the juiciness, and the taste of jackfruit is so thoroughly irresistible to me.

When i was 3, my father bought our house in the village named Thekkegramam or The South Village. Next to the bedroom there was a huge jackfruit tree. The tree had not borne any fruit until the time we moved in. That year, the tree produced not less than 50 fruits. My strong craving for jackfruit began there.

Since then it has been a cause of envy of every person who passes through our street. Every jackfruit season, we are thronged by requests for the fruit by neighbors as well as strangers. And the tree bears enough to keep everyone satiated.

I now live in a city where jackfruit is available only in limited places, and yet every summer I venture to far away places hunting for my favorite fruit. Where to find some? Keep roaming in the vegetable markets till the unique smell hits you…

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