Today is Advent Sunday. It not only welcomes the birth of Christ but also the start of the festive feasting. I found this recipe for Viennese shortbread cookies in the All Colour Cookbook. When I tried this in my kitchen, I found that they were very light and crisp cookies, so easy to bite into and chew. The orange flavour from the rind was tantalizing, and the sprinkling of icing sugar made it a little sweeter. I dispensed with the butter cream filling to make it less calorific. The original was piped out through a flower nozzle but I rolled out the dough and used cookie cutters. My method yields around 50 cookies.
Thirunelveli Lime Rice is different from the typical Madras Lime Rice in that it is very mild, and fresh ingredients like onion, green chillies, and coriander leaves are used, and it is also served with Paruppu Thuvaiyal. The acid in the lime juice changes the anthocyanin pigment in the onion to a beautiful reddish pink colour and makes the texture crisp. This makes it a most attractive dish.
My father’s youngest sister, Jeyanthi, relocated to Erode from Thirunelveli when she got married. She had picked up several new recipes from her Erode friends and acquired relatives. My mother had enjoyed her cooking and collected a few recipes from her. This Kathirikkai Curry is one of those precious dishes. Kathirikkai is a staple ingredient in Tamil cooking because different varieties of kathirikkai are available throughout the year. I prefer to use the deep purple variety. This curry turned out to be absolutely fabulous, and it can be served with plain rice, Easy Peas Pulav, Potato Pulav, or chappatis.
Manathakkali (Solanum nigrum) greens are known for their medicinal properties due to their high Riboflavin content. Apart from the leaves, the unripe berries are also used for cooking, but only in their dried form or vattral. The dried berries are now commercially available, and I was lucky to get some. They are fried and used in a very strongly flavoured tamarind curry. We add a large amount of coconut ground to a fine paste to reduce the bitterness of the berries. The kuzhambu is served with plain rice and Urullaikizhangu Pittu.
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.
My son’s colleague, Akshaya, hails from Mannargudi (a small town 310 kms south of Chennai). She gave us maavattral (dried mango) prepared by her mother and told me that they make a kuzhambu (curry) with it. I asked her for the recipe and found it to be quite similar to the Vendhaya Kuzhambu I prepare, with the addition of dried mango. I was taken aback a little to hear that they don’t add ground coconut to the curry, as that would be an essential ingredient in Thirunelveli cooking. I have prepared this as given by her, but still believe that it could be improved with the addition of a little coconut 🙂 I served it with plain rice accompanied by fried appalams and koozhvattral (dried rice batter vattral) which makes for a delicious meal 🙂
Baking your own bread or rolls is a huge challenge in India, mainly because we are not used to baking in our homes and prefer to buy cakes and breads from bakeries. Most Indian homes only have a microwave oven. My first experience with baking bread was as a college student way back in 1966, where my attempt sat in the bowl like a stone. I never had the confidence to try after that, but now that my daughter is showing a lot of interest in bread making we have been experimenting with baking different types of bread. My daughter found this recipe on YouTube which we then modified slightly to suit the Indian kitchen.