Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vengaya Thokku / Ground and Spiced Onion Preserve

Thokku is a version of semi-thickened preserve where the vegetable invoved is ground to a coarse or fine paste, sautéd in oil, spiced up and seasoned accordingly.Vegetables with relatively more water content is considered ideal for making thokku.The vegetable when ground brings out the water, the sautéing part reduces the water content and the oil for seasoning enhances the shelf life of the preserve.

Get ready with:

Shallots/Chinna vengayam/Small red onions-1/4 kg or 2 levelled 250ml cups
Tamarind-a medium lime sized ball
Red chilly powder-1/3 cup
Fenugreek or methi seeds/venthayam-1 tsp
Jaggery-1 tsp(optional)
Turmeric powder-1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds-1/2 tsp
Hing/Perungayam-1/4 tsp
Sesame seed oil/nallennai-1/2 +1/4 cup
Salt-A tbsp-more or less

To carry on:

1. Soak tamarind in just enough warm water for half an hour.Extract pulp as thick as possible.Keep this aside.

2. Heat a non-stick wok and dry fry the fenugreek/methi seeds till brown and aroma spreads, without adding oil.Powder and keep aside.

3. Peel the small onions.Grind to a coarse paste without adding water.

4. Heat ½ cup oil in the above non stick wok.Splutter the mustard seeds.Add hing and the onion paste, sauté till the water content is absorbed, the colour changes to darker brown and the oil separates.Add the chilly powder and mix well.Pour in the tamarind pulp, mix in jaggery, turmeric powder and salt.

5. Sauté again till the water content evaporates slowly, the gravy thickens and the oil separates again.Never close the wok or the pan during the preparation so as to facilitate the evaporation of the water content of the thokku as far as possible.

6. Sprinkle the methi powder and mix well.Remove from fire when the semi thick consistency is reached and add the extra ¼ cup if you need more oil to float.

7. Cool and transfer thokku in clean and dry bottles.The oil, should float at least a centimeter length, as the upper layer. Store in a cool and dry place. Refrigerate for a longer shelf life.

This goes to Radhika of Radhis Kitchen who hosts JFI-Onions for the month.

Small onions are highly suggested to make this preserve. Big onions may also be substituted, so as to avoid the hazzles of peeling and poor availability, but the taste does alter, and may have comparitively a lesser shelf life.
This is an excellent dip for Dosas and Idlies.A good accompaniment for plain rice too.
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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kappa Puzhukku / Mashed Tapioca with Coconut and Spices.

Kappa or Tapioca is a staple food, any Keralite would reach for.Grown easily in his soil, a Keralite never feels tired of trying out the various authentic dishes.
Kappa puzhukku is one among them, where coconut and other spices blend along with the cooked tuber in a balanced way.

Wiki says, “Tapioca is a word derived from the Tupi language of Brazil (from tipi'óka).Cassava is native to South America.Cassava, often referred to as tapioca in English, and kappa or kolly or maracheeni in Malayalam, is a staple food. In Tamil, the roots of tapioca is called Maravallikezhangu.
In other parts of the world, the bitter-cassava plant may be called "mandioca", "aipim", "macaxeira", "manioca", "boba", or "yuca".

Kappa puzhukku goes well with Spiced up Meen curry without coconut.Vegetarians may have a variety of mulagu chammanthis, preferably coconut-less of their choice.The puzhukku as such has all the necessary flavours in it and can be had, as such too.

Cleaning and Cooking the Tuber.

Chop the tuber across to 2 or 3 chunks.Discard the outer brown skin.Remove the adjacent pinkish layer as well.Wash well.Boil in a large pot with excess water and drain away now and then.(Tapioca is said to contain a toxin which might be harmful and this process of draining becomes necessary for the safer side)Refresh with more water until it cooks soft.(I usually avoid the pressure cooker method which is simpler and resort to the direct cooking and draining method to avoid the presence of toxins as mentioned above.)

Cooked Tapioca(after the above steps)-mashed to large lumps-2 large cups

To grind coarsely,

Coconut gratings-1/3 cup
Green chillies-4
Shallots/Ulli-3 nos
Garlic-1 clove
Cumin seeds/Jeerakam-1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder-1/4 tsp

To season,

Coconut oil-A tbsp
Mustard seeds-1/2 tsp
Red chillies-2 nos, broken to 3 pieces each
Curry leaves-A stalk

Preparation of Puzhukku.

Transfer the Tapioca lumps to a large pot.Add about 3/4 cup of water.Now add the coarsely ground ingredients to the pot along with.Stir well and bring to a boil.Keep the flame medium and then simmer till the semi thick consistency is reached.This will take not more than 20 minutes on the whole.(Add more or less water to adjust to the consistency of the dish.)When the dish cools down it tends to become thicker.

Heat coconut oil in a small pan,splutter mustard seeds and turn off the fire.The heat will be enough to lightly toast the red chilly pieces and wilt the curry leaves.Pour this over immediately to the Puzhukku and serve hot.If you are looking out for the recipe of the Meen Curry in the picture it is here. :)

In some parts of Kerala, Kappa Puzhukku is served “un seasoned”.The tempering part is skipped and a tbsp or two of Coconut oil or pacha velichenna is directly added to the hot puzhukku and combined before serving.

The Backwater here is located just 2 kms away from Kottayam, Kerala.
The River is roughly a five minute walk, away from my parents' house.

This post, is again for Jyothsna who hosts RCI-Kerala for the month.
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Friday, January 18, 2008

Kapplanga Thoran/Stir fried Green Papaya with Coconut.

Papaya is one among the vegetable/fruit category known in different names all throughout the state of Kerala; Kapplanga or Papparakka in Central Kerala, Koppakka in and around Thrissur and Karamoos in Northern Kerala.

Papaya is rich in Vit A,Vit C, calcium,iron and protective antioxidant carotenoids.Rich in Fibre and low in sodium, papaya contains papain, a natural and unique enzyme.

The Papain in the mature green papaya works to break down various protein, in the foods we consume.The proteolytic action of the papain break downs the protein into carbohydrates and fats thus reducing the lymphatic congestion.

This post goes to Nags,(who nagged me a little :) to send over the recipes,without delay :) for AFAM-Papaya, she hosts.(Yes, the papaya tree is from our front yard, of our house in Kerala, as you can see).

Also, my third entry to RCI-Kerala hosted by dear Jyothsna.:)

Coming back to the recipe,Thoran is a dry side dish of Kerala, prepared with thinly sliced, grated or cubed vegetables mixed with grated coconut and spices, tempered with that touch of coconut oil.

You need:

Green/Raw papaya, peeled,de seeded and cut to small cubes- 2 cups
Turmeric powder-2 pinches
Salt-to taste

To grind coarse;

Grated coconut-1/2 cup
Cumin seeds-1/4 tsp
Garlic cloves-1 or 2 nos
Red chillies-2-3 nos
Shallots/ulli-4 nos
Turmeric powder-1 pinch

To season;

Coconut oil-A tbsp
Mustard seeds-1/4 tsp
Urad dal-1/4 tsp
Curry leaves-A sprig


I. Cook the papaya pieces in just enough water(say,in ½ or ¾ cup) in a closed pan till they are just half cooked and firm,adding salt and turmeric powder along with.Toss the pieces now and then while cooking to ensure even doneness.

II. Heat coconut oil in a thick bottomed kadai, splutter mustard seeds and brown the urad dal.Throw in the curry leaves.
Add the coarsely ground paste,which had been pulsed using minimum water, next, keeping the flame low.
Sauté for half a minute so as to get rid of any raw smell.
Dump in the half cooked papaya pieces and blend in carefully with the seasonings in the kadai.
Sprinkle water is necessary and keep the pan closed, with the flame; minimum.

III. Open the lid once in every 2 minutes to ensure the pieces are cooked soft and blended well enough, giving the wonderful aroma and the consistency of the Thoran!.
This whole slot should take not more than 7-10 minutes, in all.
If you feel any sticking or charring in the bottom sprinkle more water and keep the flame low again,very low, till done.
Enjoy with hot boiled rice and any curry!.

Other 'Papaya' recipes, posted..
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Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Simple Kerala Lunch with Fish Fry.

A Simple meal a Keralite, who loves fish, would prefer.Rice with pulisseri, a couple or fried fish pieces and a pappadam to compliment.Mostly this would be his comfort food too.
Pulisseri, a yogurt based curry with ground coconut and spices prepared in a milder way contains fruits like a Kerala ripe banana, mango or pine apple or veggies like ash gourd etc.

Aethapazham /Ripe Banana Pulisseri


Ripe Bananas -1
Green Chillies-2, slit lengthwise once and cut cross to make 4 pieces each
Turmeric powder -1\2 tsp
Thick sour curd-whipped -1 cup
Salt - to taste

To Grind to a fine paste:

Grated coconut -1\2 cup
Green chillies -2
Cumin seeds -1\4 tsp

To season:
Coconut Oil-1 tbsp
Mustard seeds -1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds/uluva-1/4 tsp
Shallots/Ulli-5-6-sliced to thin rounds
Curry leaves -1 sprig
Dry red chillies -2, each broken to 3 bits


Peel and Slice round the bananas to a thickness of 2 cms each.Cook them till just soft adding about 1 -11/2 cups of water adding the slit green chilly bits,turmeric and salt.Grind coconut,chillies and cumin to a smooth paste.Add this to the cooking banana pieces.Simmer for a few minutes.Add whipped curd next and mix along adding salt.Remove from fire when it ‘just” boils to avoid any curdling.

Heat oil in a small pan, splutter mustard seeds, lightly brown the fenugreek seeds and shallots,throw in the red chilly bits and the curry leaves.Pour over the hot curry, making sure the consistency as semi-thick.If the curry is too thick do not add water directly and boil again as it might curdle up due to the presence of curd in it; instead, boil water separately and add to the curry.

Fish Fry /Meen Varuthathu.

Fish slices-1/2 kg(the fish used here is Kanambu or Mullet)
Red Chilly Powder-2 tbsp-more or less as you prefer
Ginger-1” piece
Turmeric powder-3/4 tsp
Pepper powder-1 tsp
Curry leaves-A small sprig-(optional)
Salt-to taste
Oil-1/2 cup more or less-for deep frying

Clean the fish,wash and slice.Keep aside.
Grind ginger, red chilly powder, turmeric powder and salt altogether, with just enough water to a smooth paste.Pulse the curry leaves last.This is the marinade which is applied on the slices(let the pieces be not wet after cleaning).Apply marinade on the slices making sure it is coated all over the surface liberally.Arrange flat on a plate and let it stay for at least 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a shallow pan with high edges,Slide in the pieces,2-3 at a time, carefully.Close it with a lid to avoid any spluttering out due to the moisture content on the fish and the marinade.Check after 3-5 minutes whether done, esp the under side of the pieces which is in contact with the pan.Turn over carefully so as to let the other side to get fried as well.Keep the flame medium to facilitate a balanced sort of frying and avoid the marinade seeping into the oil or the slices getting burnt on surface and uncooked, inside.

While the just brown pieces are cooked and soft, a little more time makes the pieces crisper. The deepness of frying is purely according to ones own preference.A tsp of vinegar or lime-juice added to the marinade is to contribute a touch of tanginess and is optional.

Ayala Varuthathu or Fried Mackerel

Are you looking for Ayala Varuthathu or Fried Mackerel? Click here for the recipe!
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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Papaya-Cashew Muffins

Little Mister-busy with his usual online multiplayer game.

Mom approaches and informs-"Hey, chithi is hosting Papaya for AFAM!."(chithi=mom’s younger sister).

Little Mister-without taking off his eyes from the monitor,"ahem, she knows I am not a fan of that fruit".

Mom-"She doesn’t have to consider you. All she has is to think of a fruit which is not yet announced for the event and this is one among them.Next, she has to consider her readers and the availablility of the fruit."

Little Mister-Sighs deeply, seeming disappointed.

Mom-"Now tell me what I can make with the fruit and contribute to her."

Little Mister -"Like what?", in a low voice, still reluctant to take his eyes off from the screen.

Mom-"… hmm… sort of salad or a salsa?…smoothie? milk shake?..may me muffins?…or..

Little Mister-“that sounds better…muffins..bake them, ma.”

Little Mister gets over with his game, mom googles for a long while and book marks the following recipe, from here!.


3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups diced peeled papaya
1-1/4 cups lightly salted roasted cashew nuts

  • Preheat oven to 190 deg C.

  • Prepare muffin pans.

  • In a bowl beat oil and sugar for 2 minutes then add eggs and vanilla and beat 1 minute.

  • In another bowl stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.

  • Add dry mix to wet mix then stir to just combine.

  • Stir in papaya and cashews then spoon batter into pans.

  • Bake for 25 minutes.

  • Cool 5 minutes before removing.

Mom has halved the original recipe above, which yielded about a dozen medium sized muffins.The combination of the fruit and the nuts and the bursting aroma of the cinnamon and ginger were of course sinfully delicious as mentioned in the site!.

Little Mister returns from school in the evening, carefully pinches out the fruit pieces and the nuts, nibbles the cake along with the proclamation,"ma, this is not bad, but next time when you make this, you do the job what I am doing right now, yourself, before baking…ok??"

Chithi, hope you are happy to receive what amma had made specially for the AFAM-Papaya event. Amma, daddy and akka did enjoy them”. :)

Bindiya, this is also for your cute event of My favourite things-Cakes and Muffins.:)
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Saturday, January 5, 2008

RCI-Chakka-Kumbil Appam/ Steamed Jack fruit dumplings.

Chakka Appam or Kumbil Appam is an authentic dish belonging to 'God’s own country'.
The sweet bits of Jack fruit bulbs incorporated with rice flour and jaggery, the wet dough wrapped and rolled carefully in bay leaves, pinned up using the tender midribs of coconut palm leaves, steam cooked to perfection, is indeed a delicacy, worth trying!.

This is my first entry to RCI-Kerala hosted by Jyothsna.

To Yield about 20,
You Need:

Ripe Jack fruit Bulbs (preferably Varikka chakka) ,chopped fine-1/4 kg or 2 cups
Molasses/jaggery(preferably karutha sarkara of Kerala),scraped or broken to lumps-1/4 kg
Grated coconut, ground coarse-1 cup
Rice flour-2 cups
Cumin seeds/jeerakam, crushed coarse-1/4 tsp
Salt-A pinch
Cardamom, powdered-1/4 tsp


1. Melt Jaggery in ½ cup water, filter impurities and boil till thickens to attain the consistency of honey, in a broad and thick bottomed pan.

2. Add the chopped fruit pieces and grated coconut into the syrup and mix for a couple of minutes to blend well.Turn off the flame.Cool down to bearable warmth.Add rice four, 1/2 cup at a time, cumin seeds, salt and knead well to form a soft batter.Add water if necessary or the dough is too thick.This should neither be too thick nor too loose so as to wrap in the bay leaves.

3.Drop a tbsp of batter or more according to the size of the leaf, at one end, centred.

4. Wrap and roll the leaf to a cone shape so as to cover the batter. Secure the main stem of the leaf by tucking into the batter as in the picture.

Tiny pieces of the mid rib of a tender coconut leaf(eerkkili) is also used as a pin to secure the edge of the leaf to the cone body. Steam cook for 20 minutes.If you pressure cook, avoid inserting the ‘weight-knob’ on the lid. Serve appams when cooled down to room temperature.

Note-Jack fruit pulp is commonly used to make these, but I used chopped bits.Traditionally the ripe bulbs of Koozha chakka,the pulpy variety are scrubbed on the rough surface of an inverted hand woven basket, a kotta, to collect the pulp! of the methods people used to follow, those olden days before the birth of electrical blenders, juicers or mixers!!...So the pulp can
be extracted by the modern methods and can be proceeded..

Kumbil appam can also be prepared using Chakka varatti (the picture in the right) or the Jack fruit preserve, with minimised efforts.
One has to add rice powder, coconut gratings etc to the varatti, directly and proceed.The featured ones here were made like wise.
I followed rough line measurements for the same. A cup of chakka varatti was mixed with 1/2 cup each of rice flour and finely grated coconut, 1/4 tsp coarsely crushed cumin seeds, a pinch of salt and 'no' cardamom..(I love the natural cinnamony flavour contributed by the vazhana ila)were all blended with just enough warm water to make a soft dough and coned with the leaves after checking the sweetness. Steam cooked for 20 minutes.

The Fresh Green Bay leaf used for wrapping imparts that distinct, heavenly ‘Cinnamony’ flavour to the Appam.Yes, the leaf falls under the category of 'Bay leaves'.I am not sure whether these are the regular Tej patta. Commonly known as Kumbil ila ,Vazhana ila or Edana ila, in the state, I tried my best to search the sources in the net.The image here shows the closest properties of the leaves, but dried.

The quest continues..where did the delicacy originate?..Central Kerala?.. Palai to be precise?..Requesting my blogger friends to share any more news about the same.

Updated- Jan 17 '08

Aparna, one of my enthusiastic blogger friends, had been so sweet to mail me the following-

This is the info. I've been able to gather.

1. Kumbil appam is also called Vaavu Appam by some communities in Kerala (seems to be mostly towards the south of Kerala and in Trivandrum) as they make it when performing "bali"/ remembering those who have passed on, during Karkataka Vaavu. Other communities prepare the Ela Ada for this ritual and prepare the Kumbil Appam as a sweet during the Jackfruit season.

2. The "edana" leaf that is used to make them is not the same as the cinnamon/ bay leaf. The edana leaf does have a somewhat cinnamon flavour and looks a little like the cinnamon leaf but is longer in shape.

Hugs to you !! Aparna :)

Rajani of vegetarian in ME has come up with her awesome step by step illustrations of making the same. A must see!!..

Great work Rajani! :)

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Best of 2007..A Look Back!...

The year that I got introduced to the world of blogging, virtual warm friends, encouraging readers, typing recipes, food photography, the real interest to try out new foods and so on….

It all started like to share a few good home recipes with the blog world which had rendered a great self satisfaction leading the way to checking more, confirming the authenticity, eventually blogging in, giving due importance to my dear blogger friends.Each and every one of friends is special and I am thankful to all those heartfelt, encouraging words...

Like any blogger I’d felt an extra attraction to a few of my readers who had gone an extra mile, trying out the recipes and informing me.I truly appreciate Nanditha, (a blogger with rich values and principles) who had tried more than half a dozen recipes, followed by her prompt feed backs, with all those casual explanations, no matter whether her trials were successful or not!..

Thankfully Nupur’s brilliant and thoughtful event of The best of 2007 had made many of us go back, scan our older pages and come out with fresh self-evaluations.Thank you for considering my late entry, Nupur..

The Top 10 Recipes.

Raw Banana Chips

One of my earliest readers’ hits.The comments would suggest the same.Many had tried this recipe and got back to me.

Sambhar Powder and Drumstick Sambhar

One of the readers’ as well as the net searchers’ spot!.Surprisingly they receive at least 30 hits each day!..

Ghee Rice

Received a very warm welcome; approved by the ‘celebrity’ bloggers!:)

A simple Tamil preserve which gets at least 20 hits from the net-searchers, world wide!..

I enjoyed clearing queries when a few had ventured to carry on with this ever-hot desi snack!

A dish which I enjoyed making,every moment of it, as a part of the Arusuvai Friendship Chain..well received by the bloggers too..

One of my favourite posts.The proudest and the most elegant post, I believe, of all…

Gained popularity and urged many to try.The hit was bcoz it contains no coconut.Simple and hazzle free too..

One of my hot favourites, again the approval among the non vegtrn malayalees was due to the no-coconut and grind free gravy part.Truly authentic as well.

The Recipes I tried from other blogs.

They very first was the oil free ground nut snack which always gets finished off in a jiffy.
The Ultimate Pav Bhaji which has become a part of the weekly menu is appreciated by all at home.Thank you Nupur, for sharing this 'easy to make yet yummy' side dish! :)
The Mexican wedding cookies, The melting moments and the No-Knead Bread encouraged the 'baker' in me.

I am planning to experiment more with new cuisines, post recipes with better pictures, participate in more events and visit blogger pals’ place with words of encouragement, without fail, as always!.

Looking forward to your fabulous posts as well!...
Have a fantastic year!..
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