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.
In India, we use the term prawn for shrimp also. While I was looking for something special to make for Christmas, I came across the recipe Idaho Tuna Puffs in The Family Circle’s Casserole Cookery Book. I decided to substitute prawns for tuna, as tuna is not easily available here, and to make it suitable for the Indian palate. I deleted the cheese from the ingredients because it didn’t contribute either to the flavour or the texture. I used silicon moulds to make these puffs. I used some of the dough to make small pies to give variety in shapes.
The potato bonda is one of the favourite snacks in South India. It is deep fried boiled and spiced up mashed potato coated with a batter of Bengal gram flour and rice flour. People in Tamil Nadu occasionally use colocasia instead of potato. Though it is never sold in shops, because of colocasia’s sticky and gooey texture, it is made and enjoyed in homes. I wanted to explore bonda without deep frying. Therefore I hit upon using my kuzhippaniaram mould. I also wanted to make it different from the traditional potato bonda. The spice combination that I have used is also different from the potato or colocasia bonda that is traditionally made. It is an interesting dish whose lovely crisp exterior, when bitten into, yields the sticky, gooey colocasia. My daughter and I love this.
I believe in using my culinary equipment as often as possible. I therefore like to experiment and create different kinds of kuzhippaniaram (fritters) to make use of the kuzhippaniaram mould. I have already given recipes for Kuzhippaniaram with dosai batter and All Wheat Kuzhippaniaram without dosai batter. I have always wanted to combine cheese with the milk and egg batter and make fritters without deep frying to arrive at a high protein, low fat snack. This is a western kuzhippaniaram as I have used oregano seasoning for flavouring. I would have liked to use dry garlic powder, but it is not easily available in Chennai and has a poor shelf life even if it is, so I have used fresh garlic in the preparation.
The typical vegetarian cutlet available in Tamil Nadu has a very firm outer surface with a very spicy mix inside, which I dislike. We used to make the traditional spicy type in the WCC cookery lab when I was a student, which is where I learnt the concept of using rice flour as a coating. I was convinced that I could make a better cutlet which wouldn’t assault my taste buds. I developed this recipe once I retired – better late than never 🙂 – to have a tasty yet mild flavour, with a thin crust to make it easy for children and elders to eat.
Vazhaikkai (unripe bananas/plantains) are available round the year if you are lucky enough to live in South India :). The bananas are used in a variety of dishes as part of a dish like aviyal or kootanchoru, or as the primary ingredient in preparations like these cutlets. I have adapted this recipe from my grandmother’s vazhaikkai vadais. I prefer this as it is shallow fried with very little oil.
Both my mother and my mother-in-law had a kuzhi paniaram chatti (griddle), but I had never seen them use it, and I had not tasted kuzhi paniaram till I saw it being made at a South Indian delicatessen, The Grand Sweets and Snacks. I was not impressed by the taste of it or the accompaniments (chutney and sambar) served with it. I believe that the main item should have its own distinctive flavour, and the accompaniments should enhance rather than clash with it.