Puran Poli – A labor of love.

Background:

Puran poli is one of my all time favorite sweets. It is one of those dishes that are made occasionally when people visit or for festivals though nothing specific comes to mind. For me it is a labor of love. Mixing, measuring, grinding and patting it in shape. Amma pours her love into it when she does make it. With just over a week before she left for home, I made my request for polis and she obliged. As always. Like moms do.

Stuff you will need:

For the Puran (filling)
Channa dhal 1 cup – steamed till cooked but not mushy. Should crumble to touch.
Powdered jaggery or brown sugar – 1 cup
Shredded coconut – 1/4 cup
Cardamom – 1 tsp

For the shell

Maida – 1 cup
Gingelly Oil – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Turmeric – a pinch

How to make it?

Grind together the cooled, cooked, crumbled channa dhal, jaggery and coconut to a smooth paste. Mix powdered cardamom. Set aside. Make a dough of the maida with salt, turmeric and water. Add oil to make it a loose stretchy dough. This is important as it needs to be loose and stretchy to make the poli later. Set aside for a few hours.

When dough is rested, make equal parts of dough and the filling. On a flat surface, use a non stick sheet (vazha ilai or ziploc bag) and spread the dough to the size of a small puri. Place the puran ball on it.

Cover the ball with the dough.

Pat to make a flat circular poli.

Remove to hot tawa.

Cook on both sides with a couple of drops of ghee till crispy and browned.

Remove and cool on plate.

Serve hot or cold with a dollop of butter or ghee.

Makes 18 – 20 polis depending on size.

Special notes:

Do not skimp on oil when making dough. A tight dough will cause cracks in poli and will not allow for proper coverage. Puran made with brown sugar instead of jaggery tastes milder.

Thenkuzhal – Deep fried snack made from rice and urad flour

Background:

Every time we are in the mood for a simple home made snack that can put store brought chaklis to shame, K and I beg my amma to make this for us. Called thenkuzhal in tamil it is a mix of urad dhal flour and rice flour laced with a hint of asafoetida in it and deep fried. A cousin of the more famous chaklis this is not hot and goes well with the afternoon tea or coffee.

Stuff you will need:

A chakli press
Rice flour – 3 parts
Urad flour – 1 part
Asafoetia – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Ghee or butter – 2 tbsp
Oil to fry (I use canola)

How to make it?

Knead a tight dough of urad dhal, rice flour, salt, cumin seeds, asafoetida, butter and water. Make the dough just before you are ready to fry to ensure thenkuzhal that takes in minimal oil.

Make balls the size of a fist and Using the chakli press pictured below, press the dough to extrude into thin noodles into the hot oil. Once the thenkuzhal swims to the surface of the oil, turn occasionally till a golden brown. Remove to a tissue lined plate or vessel.

Makes 15 – 20 thenkuzhals based on size.

Special Notes:

Adding more butter or ghee makes for a crispier thenkuzhal. If any dough is leftover, resist the temptation to make seedais out of it since they have a tendency to burst.

Pooris/Puris – Thin deep fried whole wheat bread

Background:

Poori Masala is my idea of comfort food. It perks up a gloomy day and in my mind brings back memories from my childhood of lazy Sunday afternoons lining up in the kitchen with my siblings for the next poori. It is reminiscent of the carefree nature of my youth. Of family time and leaning against appa as he sat satiated from a hearty meal.

Stuff you will need:

Whole wheat flour – 2 cups
Salt – to taste
Sugar – a pinch
Ghee – 3 tsps
Water – as needed
Extra flour
Rolling pin
Flat surface
Oil – Enough to fry

How to make it?

Add the sugar, salt and ghee to the whole wheat flour and mix with your hands till the ghee is dispersed well in the flour. Add water to knead the dough sparingly. You need a tight dough with minimal water to ensure the pooris are not soaking up oil when they fry. Another key is to make the dough and fry the pooris as soon as possible. Resting the dough causes the pooris to soak up oil too.

Heat oil in a shallow frying pan. When the oil is ready, make a small ball of the dough and on a clean flat surface use the rolling pin to roll out a small circle from the dough ball. Slide in oil and turn when it bubbles up and forms a fluffy ball. Remove from oil when golden and stack on a paper tissue lined vessel.

Serve hot with potato masala or even plain old tomato ketchup.

Makes 12 small pooris

Special Notes:

Pooris make excellent finger food. They are ideal for picnics and long journeys. They keep well and can be had with pickle for train journeys.

Potato Masala – Potatoes boiled and mashed to make a hearty stew with onions and tomatoes

Background:

Poori in my home is always paired with Potato masala. To me this combination represents all that is good in life. This simple hearty dish is comfort food for the cold nights.

Stuff you will need:

Potatoes – 3 small boiled, peeled and mashed
Onion – 1 large cut into long pieces
Tomato – 1 small chopped
Ginger – Small cube diced
Green chillies – 3 slit
Curry leaves – 1 sprig chopped
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Turmeric – 1 pinch
Salt to taste
Oil – to temper
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dhal – 1 tsp
1 lime – juice squeezed

How to make it?

Boil the potatoes in the jackets, peel and mash. Set aside. In a shallow pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds, when they are ready to burst, add urad dhal. When urad starts to turn brown, add ginger and green chillies. Then add onions and saute till pink. Add the chopped tomato, cover and cook till done. Add the mashed potato and one cup of water. Stir and let simmer till the stew comes together. Turn heat off and squeeze the juice of one fresh lime.

Serve hot with pooris or rotis

Special Notes:

My husband and I like this masala a tad “liquidy” as we call it. My mom used to make it more like a dry curry. Either styles taste good. To make it dry, eliminate adding water along with the potatoes. Optionally to make it rich, when adding urad dhal, broken cashew may be added as well.

Kaju Kathli – Cashew, Sugar, Saffron, Cardamom combined to make a flavorful cake

Background:

With Deepavali tomorrow, for the first time in seven years, I gave into the urge to make something sweet. Considering both K and I enjoy cashews a lot, it only made sense for me to make Kaju Kathli or Cashew Cake. After scouring the Internet for recipes that ranged from powdering the cashews and boiling it in a mix of sugar and water to grinding the cashew in milk and then boiling it in sugar syrup I decided to follow whatever seemed to make life easier for me. Even if I say so myself, I was proud I was able to make squares out of it.

Stuff you will need:

Cashews – Powdered – 1 cup
Sugar – 1/2 – 3/4 cup depending on taste
Water – 3/4 cup
Milk – 3 tbsp
Saffron – a few strands
Cardamom – 5 shelled and pounded
Ghee – 2 tsp to grease plate

How to make it?

Grind the cashew using a spice grinder into a fine powder till it makes about one cup. Set aside. In a shallow non stick pan, heat water and add the milk. When it starts bubbling, add the saffron strands and stir in the sugar. When the sugar syrup starts foaming and bubbling, add the cashew powder taking care to stir it in without forming lumps. On a medium heat, stir this mixture till it starts forming powdery trails around the outer edge and you can stir it without the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. At this point, mix the cardamom powder in and remove from heat.

On a greased plate, pour this mixture in and pat till it is of even thickness. Allow it to cool slightly before making squares or diamonds. When cool, separate and store in an air tight container.

Makes 30 pieces

Special Notes:

I used 3/4 cup sugar and thought it was too sugary for my taste. The next time I try this, I will definitely reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup. I am not sure if the high sugar content was what helped it become cake like instead of halwa. I highly recommend adjusting the sugar content to please individual palates.

Coating with silver varki is optional. I do not do it as I am not a big fan of varki.

Kathrikai Curry – Tiny eggplants spiced with salt and paprika and shallow fried.

Background:

Katrikai aka Brinjal aka Eggplant is K’s favorite vegetable specially when made crispy and shallow fried to a golden brown. I hate this vegetable but since K loves it, I try and make it each time I make Okra so each of us have our favorites.

Stuff you will need:

Brinjal/Eggplant/Kathrikai – 1 lb cut into 8 pieces each
Sambar powder/Paprika – 1.5 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard – 1 tsp
Urad Dhal – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch

How to make it?

In a shallow kadai, heat water till it boils. Add the cut and soaked kathrikai and let cook till the skin turns color and the flesh starts becoming translucent. Remove from heat, drain and set aside. In the same kadai now heat oil till its hot enough. Add mustard and urad dhal and let cook till mustard bursts and the urad dhal turns a golden brown. Add asafoetida. Now add the previously boiled and cooled kathrikai and let it be coated with the oil. Let cook till the oil is absorbed and then add the salt and sambar powder. If sambar powder is not available, add a mix of paprika and ground coriander seed powder (dhania). Mix well and let the kathrikai cook on low medium heat till well done. Remove and serve hot with rice.

Serves two.

Special notes:

Cutting the kathrikai and soaking it in water with lime juice in it helps prevent oxidation. This calls for a tad bit more oil when compared to other south indian curries as well.

Vendakkai Curry – Okra spiced with salt and paprika and shallow fried.

Background:

Vendakkai aka Lady’s finger aka Okra is my favorite vegetable specially when made crispy and shallow fried to a golden brown. I love it as a side to the thayir sadam. Moving to the US, I sure missed my willowy favorite for all I could find were the short stubby cousin of the vendakkai I grew up with. I was told growing up that consuming vendakkai could do wonders for my pathetic Math scores. Now, I realize nothing could have helped 🙂

Stuff you will need:

Okra/Vendakkai – 1 lb sliced into 1/4 inch pieces horizontally.
Sambar powder/Paprika – 1.5 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard – 1 tsp
Urad Dhal – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch

How to make it?

In a shallow kadai, heat oil till its hot enough. Add mustard and urad dhal and let cook till mustard bursts and the urad dhal turns a golden brown. Add asafoetida. Now add the cut okra and let it be coated with the oil. Let cook till the oil is absorbed and then add the salt and sambar powder. If sambar powder is not available, add a mix of paprika and ground coriander seed powder (dhania). Mix well and let the okra cook on low medium heat till well done. Remove and serve hot with rice.

Serves two.

Special notes:

Cutting the okra and letting it dry allows for a nice crisp curry without the standard stickiness associated with okra. This curry does ask for a little more oil than associated with regular south indian curries.