January is the harvest time in Tamil Nadu. Pongal is the harvest festival and is the most important festival for Tamilians. It is celebrated on the first of the Tamil month Thai, which usually falls on January 14th or 15th. Pongal is the name of the dish made to celebrate the harvest and gets its name from the boiling over of the rice. Traditionally it is cooked in the front yard of the house on firewood, in a new mud pot. I modified the traditional recipe for those who do not have front yards, firewood, or mud pots.
This recipe is a family specialty that has been handed down from my great-grandmother. It was originally made with Karuppatti (Palm Jaggery), but my mother substituted the karuppatti with regular jaggery (made from sugarcane) as karuppatti has a lot of grit (jaggery also has some grit but it can be removed easily by straining). It is always had with the onion thuvaiyal which is hot, sour, and pungent as the sweetness of the dosai is contrasted with the thuvaiyal’s strong flavour.
Merry Christmas everyone! Every Christmas feast should have a dessert. Vennai Pittu derives its name from the Tamil word vennai which means ‘butter’ due to its soft and uniform consistency. This light and easy dessert is a delicious way to wind up the heavy protein-and-fat rich Christmas lunch or dinner.
I don’t believe Ravai Idly is native to Tamil Nadu, though Tamil Nadu is famous for its rice idlies. I have no recollection of my mother ever making ravai idlies. I came across ravai idlies only in cookery books. This dish uses curds to prepare the batter, and as I used to rack my brains for ways to utilise the leftover curds at home, I decided to give this a try. I was very pleased with the flavour of the idlies and the substantial breakfast they made.
In Tamil, the term Surulappam means rolled (or curled) flat fried bread. In this case, the bread happens to be a pancake. It also has a sweet stuffing of fresh coconut, sugar, and freshly crushed cardamom, which gives it the most exquisite taste and flavour.
The poori is a North Indian dish. When it came to South India it captured the hearts, and stomachs, of all South Indians. It is consumed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is freshly fried and served across the spectrum of eateries, from 5-star hotels to roadside snack bars. Mothers pack leftover pooris from breakfast as lunch for their children. It makes a filling meal that satisfies everyone.
In Thirunelveli (where I hail from) Adai is made traditionally by soaking rice, red gram dhal, and green gram dhal, and grinding these in a wet grinder. Red chillies are soaked in water the previous night and are ground along with the batter. I have always found it tedious to prepare adai for breakfast in this manner. One day I was wondering what to do with a cup of leftover dosai batter. A bulb flashed in my head and I thought why don’t I try to make adai using this batter with bengal gram dhal flour (kadalai maavu/basan) which is readily available in India and skip the time and labour involved in grinding. Apart from the batter, I have strictly followed the ingredients my mother used to use in the preparation of adai, including the oil.