Coming from Thirunelveli where we didn’t use much wheat back in the day, my introduction to Aloo Paratha was in Delhi where I attended a Summer Institute in Lady Irwin College in 1969. When we went on a tour, the North Indian cooks prepared very light parathas for us with a pickle as side dish. It was really delicious with good satiety value. When I got married I tried this out, but it took a very long time to cook this, and the parathas were very heavy. Now with my daughter’s help I have created my own recipe which has very few ingredients, and is easy to make. I also serve it with Fresh Mango Pickle and Boiled Lime Pickle.
Colocasia can be bought and stored longer than many other vegetables. Therefore it has become one of the favoured vegetables during the coronavirus lockdown. I have already posted recipes for Colocasia Bajji, Colocasia Bonda, and Colocasia Fry. I came across this recipe in Aachi Samayal Saivam, a Chettinad recipe book. I had to do quite a bit of guesswork to figure out the recipe and I then standardised it. I was delighted with the outcome – this dish tastes very different from any other colocasia dish in a good way 🙂 It can be served with rice or chappati.
I first had Birinji Rice when my family moved to Chennai in 1957. It was a vegetarian delicacy served at weddings instead of mutton biriyani. Though my family felt disappointed at the lack of meat, I loved its taste, and I used to pester my mother to make it but she didn’t know how – which is not surprising as the key ingredient, kalpasi, was not known in Thirunelveli at that time. Fast forward 63 years, and I finally made my own version which matches the flavour of the birinji rice I used to enjoy so much at Christian weddings. This also makes part of a nice feast at any occasion where meat side dishes are served. It can also be used for a purely vegan/vegetarian feast along with Vegetable Kuruma and Sweet and Sour Brinjal Masala.
During the coronavirus lockdown, people rush around buying vegetables which would keep for more than a week unrefrigerated. Yam and colocasia are in great demand (but not as much as potatoes). Yam is known as senai in Tamil Nadu and kolla means globe. Fried yam balls are made by a few families. Though my mother hadn’t bothered to write down the recipe for me, my husband’s aunt used to make these. I never liked it, perhaps because she wasn’t a great cook 🙂 During this lockdown I bought a lot of yam and then created my own version of Senai Kolla. My son usually doesn’t eat vegetables, but even he didn’t mind this 😀
When we moved to Chennai née Madras in 1957, the first thing we did was to visit the beach. An integral part of the beach experience is sundal (dried peas snack), which is usually sold by mobile snack sellers who offer it along with many other traditional Tamil snacks. The speciality of the Madras beach sundal is that it is flavoured with coconut and unripe mango and served in a newspaper cone. As a child, the flavour was absolutely divine even with the inevitable sand from the beach. The green chillies made it so spicy that I used to cry into the sundal but still loved it 😀 I have now recreated the beach sundal but made the flavour a lot milder so that you can enjoy it in your living room minus the tears and the sand 🙂
During the lockdown, we are forced to stock up on vegetables that can be stored for some time, such as colocasia. That doesn’t mean we have to make only the typical colocasia preparations. I’d previously given recipes for Colocasia Fry and Bonda. I have now come up with this Colocasia Bajji recipe as people are longing for the fried delicacies they used to enjoy before the lockdown. Since the colocasia has a slight sweetish taste, I have used coriander and cumin powder in the batter to complement the flavour. The crisp coating and the soft interior make it a very interesting and scrumptious snack.
Though Easter follows 40 days of vegetarianism, Tamil people don’t have a great spread for the festival. I wanted to offer an alternative to the traditional chicken or mutton biriyani, and I chose this Bacon and Sausage Pulav as it is the same meat-and-rice type of dish, but is also very different and very mild flavoured. This is a scrumptious one-dish meal, and it only needs ketchup as an accompaniment if required.
Now that it is Palm Sunday we can begin planning the Easter feast 🙂 During this lockdown, one has to make do with what we have stocked up on. I needed a dish that I could make with the ingredients I had at home and found this recipe in the Encyclopaedia of Creative Cooking. The original required almonds to be mixed into the batter, but I didn’t have any so I replaced them with cashew nuts on top of the cookies. I also added a quarter teaspoon of salt to the recipe to emphasise the sweetness. These cookies turned out to be very crisp and were polished off with a lot of noise in no time!
In Tamil cooking, potatoes are fried in large chunks and used in Pulavs and biriyanis. I wanted to make a rice dish that was different from the traditional cuisine. I came up with this Double-Fried-Potato Fried Rice which gives a lovely contrast of crunchy potatoes with the soft texture of rice. My fried rice includes spices used by the Chinese, and therefore it is very mild. I served this along with Murgh Makkanwali, and it was a smash hit! Though the double-frying takes a bit more time, it is very easy to make and the results are worth it 🙂
I’m always tempted to prepare snacks in the non-stick kuzhippaniaram mould to reduce the consumption of oil. March is when we get good quality tomatoes in Chennai, especially the country variety – these are very sour and quite popular in Tamil cuisine. I decided to use pulsed tomato to prepare the batter. Needless to say the tomato flavour invites a lot of spice in the preparation, so I used chilli, garlic, mint, curry leaves, and onion (of course!). I chose maida and rice flour which give a mild/neutral flavour so that the tomato and the spices will not be smothered. This dish makes an excellent spicy snack that can be served without an accompaniment, and it can also be served as an intriguing side dish to the typical Tamil festive meal.