WW – Breathtaking sky!

Beautiful clouds
Amazing patterns
Awesome colors in the sky
Sunset or sunrise…

People see them
High up above
And think of me
Asap…

Clicks them
And shares with me
For me to post
And show the whole world!

There are lovely people
Around me
Who knows what I like…
I cherish them all
They are a blessing
In my life!

 

Malligaipoo Idly

This phrase has been with me for as long as I can remember – malligaipoo mathiri idly irukanum (Idly should be like jasmine flower)!

My amma used to make the softest idlies which I can remember. Those days, she never used a cooker for steaming the idlies. The big iron kadai (irumbu ilupachatti) was half filled with water and brought to a boil. The big circular idly mold (idly thattu) which has molds for 7 idlies was covered in a white wet cloth cut in the shape of a circle.  Idly batter was poured on the cloth exactly on top of the mold, which held the batter intact. This idly thattu fitted exactly on the iron kadai. A tomb shaped lid was used to cover the idly thattu. When the idlies were done steaming, the whole house could smell it. That was the power of cooking, which can evoke the senses even before we started to eat. The idly thattu was removed from heat. Then water was sprinkled on the idlies, which helped them to cool fast so that they can fall off easily from the cloth. A big plate was used to collect the idlies from the idly thattu. Using the cloth for steaming helped in maintaining the moisture content so that idlies remained soft for a long time.

These idlies were soft…amazingly. We can bite into it without any great effort. And yet they held on to the shape and they don’t break at the touch of human fingers.  Its no wonder that the softness quotient was compared to that of a malligaipoo.

Now, the major ingredient for that amazing softness is the urid dal (ulutham paruppu). The correct proportion of this dal is required for that right amount of softness. Less the urid dal, harder the idlies. Similarly, when the urid dal is more, then idlies are not fluffy – they come out as flat discs. After choosing the right proportion of urid dal, it is important to soak it for the right amount of time. Long hours of soaking will make the urid dal accumulate froth and starts smelling too and needs excessive cleaning. Ideally one hour is enough for the urid dal to soak to the right consistency. And while grinding the urid dal, the right amount of water should be used so that the batter is fluffy and soft. Grinding for a long time will make the batter loose its fluffiness.

Rice can be soaked for a long time, no restrictions there. But the rice should be ground enough that its neither too soft to touch nor too coarse. A light coarseness is good for idlies and for crispy dosas too. A very fine rice batter is good for dosas but not for idlies. A balance needs to be achieved here.

After getting all these proportions and grinding consistency to the right level, the right amount of salt should be added for proper fermentation. Depending on the temperature of the place we live in, the batter should be left out for fermentation. Ideally 4 to 5 hours is enough for a warm place like Chennai. There is another important factor – using our hand to mix salt will induce our body heat to the batter. And accordingly the fermentation will happen faster or slower. We need to watch the batter for fermentation levels and accordingly refrigerate it, so that the batter doesn’t turn sour.

When I write the whole thing down, it sure sounds like a lot of instructions and rules to follow. I’ve grown with all these small tit bits ingrained into the soul by practice and a lot by observing amma and paati. My paati used to grind idly batter for others in the colony and me and my sister were assigned the work of grinding all those batches. Years of grinding it, day after day, to the same consistency makes it a part of the soul.

This batter is sure to give idlies as soft as the malligaipoo and will melt in the mouth too. The softness is so crucial as it can absorb the idly milagai podi spiciness or the tangy taste of the sambar so well.

Today’s idlies came out amazingly soft to touch, melt in the mouth kind and the chef in me is very happy at the outcome!

If you see keenly, you can actually see the air pores in the idly, which conforms that they are light and soft.

Also, I try my level best to make the batter at home. I’ve tried commercially sold batter once or twice and I hated myself for buying it – they were tasteless and idlies came out very hard to bite. Somethings are better when done at home, especially the idly batter.

Monday musings: My paati – an inspiration and strength (A guest post)

I touched a chord somewhere in a dear person’s heart, when I wrote about my paati.  And when she wanted to share a few things about her paati, I am just thrilled.

Please welcome Ms. Swarna Venkataraman, where she has tried to give words to her emotions on her paati.


My paati – an inspiration and strength

She was so beautiful, inside out! She looked so radiant in her glittering ear studs, which she used to wipe clean everyday with her sari pallu to make them glitter more. Actually it was her personality that glittered all through. Her 9 gajam pudavai felt rightly made for her.  And that kumkum pottu on her forehead was such a magnet. She always chose to use the dark majenta color kumkum and somehow it suited her so well.

There are days like these when I keep pondering about her a lot – the way she tied her sari or the way she polished her ear studs or how her mookuthi shone on her nose or the way she sat on that oonjal – small details like that and I am overwhelmed with emotions about her.

My Kunjamma paati! Her actual name Kamalambal refers to the Goddess Lakshmi and she looked and lived like that Goddess – always smiling, always giving to anyone and everyone who came to her. It’s a feat extraordinary to have brought together the families of all her children and their children.

Many a times I’ve prayed for inner strength like her as she held together a family of 9 adults and 19 children! She was a great administrator taking care of every small detail in the running of such a big household. Even though my thatha and mamas were there around, it was always paati who used to organize things for every function or event.

I strive hard every day to make paruppu thogaiyal like her but I can’t compete with a legend. Thinking of that keerai masiyal made in a kal chatti or a vetha kuzhambu makes me yearn for those childhood days!

The most amazing thing that I can remember about my paati is that she can milk the cows at home. And those cows knew her so well that they will not allow anyone else to milk them, of course except the guy appointed for that purpose. The knack and skill she possessed to handle the cows always made me stand in awe of her.

She had an excellent voice and knew a lot of songs. If I close my eyes and listen carefully, I can hear her singing the Dikshitar kriti Akilandeswari set to ragam Dwijavanthi and that is capable of stirring my soul.

Every now and then, I remember her through a song, through a dish, through a sari color, through the passing cattle by my home and I feel so blessed to have been there with her.

When musings touch the soul…

“Mind my side burns…do not touch them”

“Up to down action on my neck”

“Down to up for upper lip”

These are instructions issued by the father to his son, while the son is trying to help his dad by shaving for him.

While watching this video, I sniffed a little, smiled a little and then there was a tug at my heart! And that probably was my Appa…

When I moved base to Chennai, I was not very happy about it. But I strongly felt that there was a reason behind it. And just after a year of my move to Chennai, my Appa passed away. Wasn’t that the tug that brought me to Chennai, in the first place?

He is here, with me. I could feel him many times, when I did something wonderful and I knew he did do his proud smile for me.

This video is no less…the patient way in which the son is taking care of his dad, does something inside. Its heartening to see the warmth. Its a happy feeling to see such bonding happening.

Go on…see this video and give a hug to your father!

 

 

Here and there in my foodie world!

I think cooking skills are there in my genes!

When I have a bad headache and over time it spreads to the neck and becomes a dull throbbing pain and I can’t even utter normal responses to questions directed at me and all I wanted to do was scream at everyone at sight, the husband takes the role of the silent man and acts as if the dumb idiot box is actually intelligent.

And then I take refuge in the kitchen with the beginnings of a coffee…aaahhh….that helps a little. He tries to help by suggesting that I take a pain killer tablet but I refuse. I hate those tablets. For me, the biggest healer is sleep and I’ll go to it at the right time.

Then, with the continuing pain, I enter the kitchen and decide to make vengaya thogaiyal and rasam with lots of pepper and garlic! The frying onion smell can heal, you know 😛 Also, the fried urid dal tastes awesome when popped into the mouth while they are golden crisp. The whiff of garlic while the rasam is boiling makes me bend over the rasam pot and inhale the flavours of pepper, jeera, garlic thereby helping my headache to heal by itself.

After eating the hearty meal and a good sleep in the night, makes me all refreshed for the next day. The headache is gone.

Food is a healer and along with sleep, the benefits are double. And then there are days when there is a satisfying feeling of facing an awesome day, just because the cooking turned out great that morning!

A few pics from my lunch box to tempt you 😛

Podi Idly for breakfast 🙂

 

Capsicum and tomato sambar, mix veg fry, mangai vella pachadi from the lunch box 🙂