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.
Advent rings the bell to start the Christmas baking season. These are ideal to serve guests or carolers who may drop in, since you can make around 50 cookies or more at one go with this recipe. They are also ideal to take with you when you go visiting. My daughter developed this recipe using cocoa powder instead of chocolate to arrive at these scrumptious dark chocolate cookies. They are also ideal for the Indian pocket as all chocolate is prohibitively expensive to use in cooking. The use of chocolate vermicelli in the recipe enhances the look and the taste.
With the monsoon still continuing, cooking with dried legumes becomes very useful. Those in Chennai are very familiar with dry peas sundal (pattani sundal) that is sold on the beach. Here you can use the same dry peas to make a curry and serve with chappati or bread. A steaming hot and fragrant curry will cheer people of all ages when it is raining heavily outside.
In the early ’80s, I had a Mangalorean student called Sudha who then managed the WCC Canteen for some time, when she introduced this dish on the menu. I was fascinated by its unusual combination of ingredients and flavour that was unique to Tamil taste buds. This is her recipe, which I’ve modified to suit the modern Indian kitchen and shorten the cooking time.
You can do more with pumpkins than just carve them for Halloween. Why not make halwa instead? In India, pumpkin halwa (a very rich and heavy sweet) is usually prepared with white pumpkin. My mother’s recipe book also mentions preparing pumpkin halwa with white pumpkin. In Tamil Nadu, yellow pumpkin is also used to make halwa but is not as well known as white pumpkin halwa. I have used the same procedure my mother gave me, changing only the method of removing most of the moisture from the pumpkin.
Happy Deepavalli everyone! In Tamil, Thirattuppaal means milk condensed to a semi-solid consistency. This is a speciality of Tamil Nadu, but it is curiously, nowadays, neither made at home nor found in shops, maybe because the North Indian milk sweets have become very popular. I chose this as a Deepavalli special as it can be made at home quite easily – but not quickly 🙂 – instead of buying sweets from stores, which is now the norm but also very expensive.
Pirattal in Tamil means stirring or turning. My mother called this recipe sadha meaning plain/ordinary/simple. It does live up to its name as only the coconut and ginger-garlic paste need grinding. She used only garlic, but I have substituted it with ginger-garlic paste to spice it up. This pirattal is so easy to prepare that even cooking noobs can try it 🙂