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.
Egg bonda is a snack made by deep frying boiled egg halves dipped in thick batter. Egg bonda is usually made with Bengal Gram flour batter and fried like a bhajji (vegetable fritter). I have tasted this in many places, but always felt that the Bengal Gram flour dominated the taste of egg. Therefore, I have created my own batter using a large amount of rice flour and a small amount of Bengal Gram flour and maida to help in the binding, which achieves a more balanced flavour. I have also added a green masala to the batter to enhance the flavour.
The yam that is commonly available in the markets here in Chennai is Elephant Yam, cut into large chunks. Yam is sliced into thin pieces and made into chips in most households. My mother also used to make that, but I used to dislike it 🙂 It did teach me that yam could be diced and fried, and I developed my own, simple yam fry that is easy to make. I am sure there are several recipes with various spice combinations available, but mine uses the minimum of spices for a mild flavour.
I first heard of Latkes in the 90s, and I immediately wanted to make them as I was fascinated by the idea of potato pancakes. I was fortunate to come across the Cockney Cookbook a few years ago in a bookstore, and it had this recipe and an interesting description of accompaniments, so I grabbed it. I tried Latkes for breakfast recently and was it a great success – not a crumb was left behind! The book suggested waxy potatoes, but in India we are limited by whatever is available in the stores, which in my case were non-waxy potatoes. I have modified the recipe slightly by increasing the onion and pepper content to suit our palate. Though the book recommends serving Latkes as an accompaniment or appetiser, I used it as the main breakfast dish, and it can be even used in a packed lunch.
Doctors also can be good cooks 🙂 This recipe is from my ophthalmologist cousin Suriya, who specialises in low fat cooking. She served these cutlets when we had gone over for dinner, and we loved it. She was very happy to give the recipe. Her method used the entire chicken as she doesn’t get only the skinless, boneless breast. I have modified the recipe by using chicken breast and also cooked the chicken using my own recipe for chicken stock. In this way, I get the cooked chicken for the cutlet and the stock for other dishes.
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.
May is the month when Tamil Nadu experiences extreme heat. Fresh mint leaves are widely available as everyone believes in their ability to cool. I got a big bundle of the freshest mint leaves and tried to find a recipe that used mint leaves, but wasn’t satisfied with the ones I found as they involved a lot of labour. I came up with this Pudhina Chicken recipe that could be prepared quickly as I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen in this heat.