Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shree Rama Navami

          On the day of punarpusam nakshatra and navami, this month Shree Rama Navami is celebrated. I tell my kids simply that its Lord Rama's birthday. The special offering or neivedyam today are Neer mor, panagam, and soaked moong dal with citrus or raw mango.

Neer mor
curd  1/2 cup
curry leaves 5-6
rock salt as needed
asafoetida  a big pinch
mustard seeds 1/4tsp
oil for tempering
juice of half lime/raw mango(finely diced)optional

1.Mix about 1 and half cups of water with the curd and pulse it till it incorporates well and the consistency is one of thin buttermilk.
2.Crush the curry leaves to release aroma and add to the buttermilk or neer mor.
3.Heat a little oil and pop the mustard seeds and then the asafoetida. Pour it in the neer mor.
4.Optional- if the butter milk is not at all sour then add the juice of lime or a few spoons finely diced raw mango.

Jaggery / raw sugar powdered 1/2 cup
Chukku/dry ginger powder 1/4 tsp
cardamom powder 1 tsp

1. Dissolve in 2 and half cups of water the jaggery completely, by stirring vigorously.
2. Add the dry ginger and cardomom powder, mix thoroughly and serve.

Vadai paruppu
Moong dal/ payatham paruppu 4 tbsps
asafoetida  a big pinch
mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
raw mango finely diced 2 tsps
salt as needed
oil for tempering.

1.Soak the dal/paruppu in water for about half an hour.Drain the water.
2.Dissolve the asafoetida in about 1 tsp of water .Mix it with the paruppu.
3.Add the raw mango and salt.
4.Heat a little oil ina tempering pan, pop the mustard seeds and add to the dal/paruppu and serve.
          These are the three most important neivedyam/offering on Shree Rama Navami. Other than these, a payasam / kheer  or any sweet delicacy could be offered. Susvaad.   
 (pictures will be updated after neivedyam).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chinna Vengaya Vatral Kuzhambu

        Chennai, still known as Madras is famous for various things. Among them is Chinna Vengayam or Madras sambar onions/ red onions. In US, we get them frozen or even fresh. For the real Madras onions, you have to have the mann vasanai (fragrance of the earth). In the vegetable markets in Madras, these onions are sold as close  to the place they came from. The vegetable vendors heap these on sack cloths on the ground. When you buy them although they appear dry, you get that distinct smell of just plucked freshness mixed with your own imagination of the future meal of onion sambhar or vatral kuzhambu. I honestly don't get that smell on the ones we get here in US, still I get them for the taste.
      My dad used to tell us stories of this amazing Vatral kuzhambu his grandma Ooramma made. The kuzhambu was made in kar chatti or stone pots, they retain heat longer and will allow the kuzhambu to reduce and thicken without burning. Vatral kuzhambu if made in the morning is eaten with appalam in the evening. Ooramma  made vatral kuzhambu to the consistency of honey, fiery hot and glistening with nalla ennai. In the evenings, she mixed rice with the kuzhambu and made rice balls of this kuzhambu sadam and gave each of her many grandchildren a few big rice balls to eat with appalam. My dad still gives me kuzhambu sadam this way, I love it.

     Whenever Vatral Kuzhambu is made, a good combination to make are kootu, keerai or any roast kari. As kids, this kuzhambu was served with paruppu saadam with nei and vegetable side dish, as it is spicy. As you grow up and get used to spiciness you could take it mixed with hot rice and kari.

Chinna Vengaya Vatral Kuzhambu


Small Madras onions- 1 cup
sambar powder 2 heaped tsps
kadala paruppu / chana dal   1 tsp
mustard seeds   1 tsp
Venthayam / fenugreek seeds  3/4 tsp
curry leaves   a few
red chillies halved    2
Tamarind paste 1 1/2 tsps
Nalla ennai / sesame oil   2 tbsps
Rice flour 1 tsp
Asafoetida 1/4 tsp
jaggery 1 tiny piece(optional)
salt to taste

1. Heat 2 tsps of oil in a thick bottomed pan, pop mustard seeds.Then add the chana dal and let it become red. Add the venthayam, let it  heat lightly , then add red chillies , asafoetida and curry leaves.
2. Add the onions and fry till translucent.
3. Some people add  the sambar powder at this stage and fry it a little bit, it is optional, you can add it to the    tamarind water. Dissolve the tamarind paste in 2 cups of water and add it to the pan. If not yet added then add the sambar powder next.
4. Let this mixture come to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium and let it gently boil for 10 minutes.
5. The kuzhambu thickens a little, if not then make a paste of the rice flour and water and add it to the kuzhambu. In a few minutes it thickens.
6. Now add a tsp of sesame oil/ nalla ennai to the the kuzhambu and jaggery and turn off heat.

 Serve it with steamy hot rice, a touch of nalla ennai and side dish of your choice or just plain sutta appalam (flame roasted papadom). Susvaad.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Kids say the darndest things...3

   I had told my son that his friend Nikhil might come to visit him during the weekend. I asked him not to mention it to his other friends, as Nikhil hardly had time to meet anyone else and they might feel left out. Next day, when he met one of his friends, he immediately turned to me and said,  "Amma, can I tell him the secret that Nikhil is coming? ". 
   After school, I was explaining to him the mistake he made in the morning. I told him he should ask me whether he can tell the secret and not include the secret in the same sentence. Without batting an eyelash, he nods to me okay I GOT it, " I should have said, COULD I tell him the secret that Nikhil is coming? ". Hmm...Boys!