I’m rejoicing! I’m getting a taste of centuries of family recipes lovingly passed down generations. Sure! There is plenty to be said about restaurants, about masterchefs, about modern and fusion cuisines too. But, give me original, authentic and traditional recipes anyday. They brim over with love, they preserve a flavor of history, tradition and culture. They are created by home makers who keep in mind economy, speed, efficiency and health. These are steadily not only getting lost over time but also diluted and corrupted.
So when I come in contract with Gold medalist in M.Sc maths, ex- Scientist in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre Kalpana Venkatesh a brilliant cook herself who continues to be inspired by her mother in law Muthulakshmi Gopalan, I am overjoyed.
“Amma” as she is affectionately called by her family is a feisty and multi-talented native of Papanasam (Tirunelveli district). The seventy year old grand dame is extremely erudite, loves reading, is involved in family finance and family management and ofcourse her cooking is unmatched. Amma continues to have a very close and affectionate relationship with her family, especially Appa.
MUTHULAKSHMI’S MUTHUS (PEARLS)
Muthulashmi (Amma) learnt cooking from her mother Chellammal and with great precision and meticulousness has preserved each recipe. Traditional and authentic, these pure vegetarian recipes also inspire her daughter Viji.
Today, even their fourth generation of Nethra , Nikhil and Raji love these dishes.
Harmonious flavors are coaxed out of Jaggery, nutmeg, urad dhall, rice, milk, ghee and more. Some are served as parsadam, some celebrate special occasions.
On my request Amma shares some of these recipes. Here’s my second request to them…that they preserve them in a book so that the whole world can partake of Ammas recipes and love.
Pori Vilangai (Porulangai) Urundai
Moong dhal = 4 cups
Jaggery = 6 cups
Fresh coconut (cut into small pieces) = ½ cup
Cardamom powder = 1 tsp
(Optional) Dry ginger powder = ½ tsp
Take a thick bottomed pan and dry fry the moong dhal, till it is golden brown and a nice aroma starts emanating. Take care not to over brown it. Cool and grind it into a fine powder in a blender. Transfer the contents to a wide thali or plate. Add cardamom powder, dry ginger powder and mix well. Spread it out on the plate.
Take a thick bottomed vessel. Boil the jaggery in 150 ml water over medium flame, till it dissolves completely. Strain for impurities. Reboil the jaggery water along with the coconut pieces till it comes to a consistency as follows: If you put a drop of the jaggery syrup in a cup of normal water, it should stay like a globule. Switch off the stove.
Add 2 laddles of jaggery syrup to a portion of the powdered dhal mix on the plate, just enough to be able to make into small laddu balls. Mix and make small laddus. Repeat this procedure, till the jaggery syrup and dhal mix get exhausted. Speed is very important here since otherwise the jaggery syrup tends to harden. These laddus have a shelf life of about 10 days
Instead of 4 cups of moong dhall; we can use 3 cups of moong dhall and 1 cup of channa dhall.
- S: This is an important traditional Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) sweet dish, served during Deepavali day.
Ukkarai ( Deepavali Sweet dish)
Channa dhal (Bengal gram) = 400 grams
Jaggery = 500 grams
Ghee = 150 ml
Grated fresh coconut = ½ cup
Cardamom powder = 1 tsp
Cashews = 100 grams
Salt = ¼ tsp
Soak Channa dhal in water for one hour with ¼ tsp salt. Strain the channa dhal and grind to a thick paste in a blender without adding water. Spread the mixture in an idli plate and steam cook for 7 minutes (As similar to idli making). Remove it from the idli plate and let it cool off for about 10 minutes. Put the cooled cakes in a blender and grind to a powder. Transfer the contents into a bowl and keep it aside.
Take a pan; add ghee and fry the cashews till golden brown. Similarly fry the grated coconut in ghee till golden brown. Keep it aside.
In another thick-bottomed vessel, boil the jaggery in 100 ml water until it dissolves completely. Now strain this for impurities and re-boil the jaggery water on medium flame, till froth comes fully, along with good aroma. At this stage, add the powdered dhal mixture and mix well. Keep stirring for 5-7 minutes till bread-crumb like texture is achieved. Add the fried cashews, grated coconut & cardamom powder and mix well.
Spread in a flat bottomed dish, garnish with fried cashews. Dish is ready to be served.
1. Instead of channa dhal, a combination of Channa dhal 200 gms + Moong dhall 100 grams + Tur dhal 100 grams can be used.
2. Replace jaggery with sugar. To prepare sugar syrup, boil 500 grams of sugar in 100 ml of water and bring to 2-string consistency (when you take the syrup between thumb and index finger and release it, you can see two strings). For additional flavor, along with cardamom, a pinch of edible camphor can be added.
- S: This is an important traditional Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) Iyengar dish, served during Deepavali day.