Tiny shrimps are referred to as Chenna Kunni in Tamil Nadu. They are salted and dried whole i.e., with the head and shell intact. These are combined with vegetables and prepared as poriyal (fry). I came up with this recipe as I wanted to prepare a very high protein side dish, and dry shrimp has very concentrated protein. I used broad beans as their water content is not very high, and that goes well with the dry shrimp. Chenna kunni is usually combined with drumstick leaves in Tamil Nadu.
Kandhar Appam is a festive sweet preparation. Though many claim that it originated in Chettinad, it is very popular in Thirunelveli district also. It is usually prepared during Deepavalli, the festival of light and sound that is enjoyed by anyone with a sweet tooth 🙂 Though the homemade sweets have been replaced by the commercial North Indian sweets oozing ghee, kandhar appam is still the reigning Tamil sweet during the festive season.
The Northeast monsoon is expected to commence towards the end of October. That means there will be days when one will not be able to set out shopping. My mother used to make vattral of vegetables (sun dried at home) and also stock dried fish as even my father would not be at home to go shopping. My mother would make this Karuvadu Kuzhambu when it was raining heavily outside and serve it with Urullaikizhangu Pittu (and with white rice).
Back in the day, a Christian wedding in Thirunelveli would last 3 days: the day before the ceremony, the day of the ceremony, and the day after the ceremony. Only vegetarian food was served on the first two days, with meat being reserved for the day after the ceremony. Guests sat on jamakkalams (Tamil Nadu cotton carpets) laid on the floor, and the vegetarian feast was served on a plantain leaf. Generally, the salt is always served first, and a tablespoon of this dhal is served after it. The other vegetables, pickles, appalams, etc., are served only after these two. When sambar is served for the rice, this dhal is again served in large quantities. The first tablespoon of dhal is served as a nod to its significance as an important source of protein in a vegetarian diet, and is therefore served immediately after salt even though its actual role in the meal comes later.
When my daughter’s doctor prescribed very bland food (for an Indian) as part of her treatment for a gastric condition, I looked around for a preparation that would be easy to digest and provide very good quality protein. I found that she was able to tolerate cauliflower, eggs, and cheese. I also love cauliflower and cheese and found recipes for the elaborate cauliflower au gratin, but I wanted something simpler. The Complete Australian Cookbook in my personal library gave me a recipe for cauliflower and cheese. I modified the recipe using some features from the au gratin and made the measurements of the ingredients easier. I also omitted the heating of the cheese with the white sauce because of the stringy texture it gives. Instead I sprinkled the cheese on top, and it not only gave a beautiful colour, but also a delicious aroma while baking.
The tiny freshwater fish Ayirai is made only into a kuzhambu, or curry. It is the most delectable fish curry I have tasted. My grandmother used to prepare it especially for me when I visited Palayamkottai during summer vacations. Though my mother did not record this preparation, I have reconstructed the recipe from my evergreen – and ever hungry 🙂 – memory of this delicious treat. It was always served with Keerai Kadaiyal.
I have a habit of copying interesting recipes which are different from my family’s traditional dishes. This recipe comes from Your Food and You written and published by Mrs. H. K. Philip (maybe in the 1940s), who was a well known social worker. Her recipes used traditional and comparative units of measure and random procedures, which I had to standardise through repeated experiments. I was impressed by the recipe because it was very simple compared to dishes typically made here, combines potatoes with meatballs and does not use coconut.