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.

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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.

Food is memories

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I had made rava upma the other day. While S loves it with pickle or chutney, his favorite indulgence is to have it with a sprinkle of sugar on top. That’s exactly how his grandmother used to eat it and all his siblings still follow her food combination, unconsciously.

Just like how thayir sadam always makes me want mavadu or dried narthangai – its a memory now but it filled my childhood days mainly because of patti doing such things. She loved her pazhaiya sadam (yesterday’s rice soaked in water so that it ferments overnight) with one watery buttermilk and narthangai or maavadu…sigh…am drooling while typing this.

Similarly, rava dosa kindles in me the comfort of a mother’s hug – my mom does it the best! Also, milagu poricha kuzhambu, milagu kuzhambu, arachuvitta sambar…sigh…endless !

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S will surely go for an extra helping if it’s his mother’s recipe for masala kuzhambu, parval fry, pagarakai nool katti fry (bitter gourd stuffed and tied with a thread and fried)! Not to mention her amazing dal poori – that’s something to drool for !

The other day, my brother wanted the recipe for thakalikai kootu, just as our Amma makes…see – childhood footprints playing again !

And when we grow up with such yummy foods, which related to our taste buds, its a hard thing to let go of it.  We might relish a pizza or a burger or a North Indian kulcha, but the food we grew up with has a special place in our heart, ok…the tongue and the taste buds !

The other day, my elder one was drooling for thavala adai and thengai chutney, while she gets awesome rotis and dals.  And when I made poori yesterday, the younger one was drooling for it. Even though they get awesome food wherever they are, sometimes the simplest of upma or dal will rekindle their memory and they’ll feel like coming home.

That’s where the root is formed and it needs to be simple and strong !

That’s why brought up is very important – both for cultivating food habits and moral habits too !

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So, what childhood food memory are you thinking now – to enjoy over the weekend ?


Picture courtesy – Google

Day 25 – Stories the pictures say…

24 days of blogging continuously !! WOW, I am surely giving a huge pat to myself !! And I hope I’ve not gone too much into the gyaan side and all 😉

All those new mothers out there, who are documenting every moment of their little one’s life in their blog – I envy you all. I didn’t think of documenting it in my little diary years back neither did I know about blogs and all that time. And even when I started blogging, I never wrote about day-to-day happenings with my girls…sigh !  Anyway, I’m trying my level best to remember all those little things from my memory and have them recorded here in this blog of mine.

The elder one always used to play with vessels and be in the kitchen with me. Even now, if I’m making dosa for her, she’ll come and sit in the kitchen, talk to me and eat there itself. She feels happy in the kitchen, just how Nigella says 😀  And so perfectly, she has chosen her profession to be a Chef !

The younger one, aaahhhh, I remember that her cousins used to call her as “Advisor”, as she is always at it – advising others on what to do and how to do.  As she keeps learning the right way of doing things from me, I can see her imparting that knowledge to others, even while playing. Many a times, that has been her complaint too – that other school kids are hesitant to play with her because she is always telling them what is right and what is not.  And now rightly, she has chosen to study human behaviour and stuff and want to become a “Counsellor” – How apt !!

There are things from your childhood which follows you always….we just need to look for the signs.

And when I was looking at some old pictures from the album, there were some photos which told a whole story…

There is a picture of the elder one on an elephant and recently I had written about her love for elephants – that’s such a cute picture.

The girls learning to swim and with their new swimming costume – damn cute I say !

All the funny faces the little one makes during picture clicking – she’s adorable with her glasses, which always tends to fall to the tip of the nose and her peeping tom eyes through that gap…sigh…do I miss those little girl days !!

Like the time in the cable car, how scared the girls were initially. But a little later, they both enjoyed the whole ride.

How wonderful it was to see them doing the rides and playing the silly bike games just because they have to follow suit their cousin brother!

And how the girls endlessly wore only shorts or pants, to copy their cousin brother – he was the super hero for them !  He even formed a group called “Extreme team” with all this little girl sisters and issued membership cards and all – super cute, I say 😀

How wonderful it was to see the elder one ride the cycle without supporting wheels and when she realized that she has done it on her own and her dad was not holding the cycle, she was super thrilled with her riding skills.

While my elder one is too good with drawing, painting, arts and making hand-made things, the younger one can’t draw a straight line using a scale.  But she is too good with music and a natural drummer too.

And how the picture of beach and waves made me smile at the fun times we had getting wet in the beach !

How the elder one started clicking pictures on her own and some of her pictures are too good for their lighting effects and angle. The flowers she clicks are too good, I say ! And the B&W ones too. And her subject for Food photography has helped her understand more intricate things to do with lighting and how that affects the outcome of the picture.  Its interesting, how I’m learning a lot of things from them.

Month of ramblings

Day 24 – Manifest your world

My little one is great at playing games. And the best memory I’ve is this:

When she was about 2.5 years old, we used to live in the first floor of an independent house. The house-owner stayed in the ground floor and they were very good people and very fond of my daughters. Every evening all of them will jointly play with my daughters and my younger one will conduct her famous game.

During those times, my husband was a lot into travelling and he’ll be talking about going to Trichy, then to Madurai and then to Tirunelveli. The little one was observing every word of this and made up her bus game.

Every evening, she’ll sit in the big cement seat in the ground floor and all the others will sit behind her and she’ll call out “Tissyyyyy”, instead of Trichy. And the elder one acting as the ticket conductor will ask everyone to pay money and buy ticket.  Off we all went to Tissyyyyy every evening, sitting on that cement seat, while she’ll be making the sound of a moving bus, with her lips vibrating against each other, increasing and decreasing the tempo while taking a deep breath, with saliva splashing during high-speed times – Oh my !! I still remember the tiny girl in a frock fake-driving a bus to Tissyyyyyy 😀

And behold !! My husband got a wonderful job offer and we moved to Trichy (Tissyyyyy) within six months.

My little girl, you manifested that brilliant move for you and in effect for your daddy too !!

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This Horlicks Ad was a favorite with my girls, when they were about 10 and 8 years old.

Why this was a favorite one?? Having spent so many years in individual houses, they really wanted to play with more children and be part of a big group of friends. Whenever this Ad used to come on TV, they’ll squeal with delight that this is the kind of place they want to live in – a huge apartment with many flats in it.  And that they’ll have a lot of friends, go swimming, keep playing till night and never ever get bored.

And when we took them to book our own flat, they were excited but they didn’t realize how their manifestation has worked. After we moved into our new home, the girls were super excited – they made a lot of friends, went swimming, played till night and never got bored there 😀 Yeah…seriously, it happened !!

See, isn’t this wonderful !! How you manifest your own world by thinking about it and game-playing about it – actually the belief in your heart is what matters.

So, what are you waiting for ??? Just manifest your world and be happy.

Month of ramblings

Day 18 – Honest perspectives

There’s a kind of honest policy that runs as the base in my family. When we met before our wedding for the first time, that was something we started following – being honest – without realizing that we are making way for our daughters to follow suit.  And that has been the biggest example to live by and also the most responsible lesson taught, in my view.

For whenever things go wrong during school life, or when they get reprimanded in school for something, I’ll always be given the honest explanation of what really happened.  When friendships fail or when they want to talk about somebody, there’ll be an honest talk about it.  It could be because of a misunderstood problem by the daughter or by the friend. But the moment a transparent and honest view-point is presented before me, I just go with my child and support her to the fullest. I just trust them implicitly as they’ve learnt the “being honest” lesson very well.  I stress over this one point – Even when she has made a mistake, I support her. Because she has been honest in accepting it to me.

It gives a mom like me, who used to be paranoid for various things that happen around, a sense of peace to know what really happened.

I used to sit with my girls during their class exams to help them revise the subjects.  But I always had it in the back of my head that I should let them be how they are and they should be allowed to study to their level and the level I expect them to study and score marks.  So, I helped them all along till Grade 5 and left them to study on their own from Grade 6. Their projects were theirs to do. Maybe I’ll help them to go shopping for buying stuff for their projects.  And the little one, suddenly went from 95% to 75% or so, when she started studying on her own. I knew the teacher will be shocked. I was waiting for the PTA to happen.  And when the teacher saw me, she just started worrying so much about the percentage that has suddenly dropped. I calmly smiled at her and said that this 75% is her own effort, with no help from me. And so it needs to be appreciated.  The little one was very happy that I told her teacher honestly that it is all her effort and that she needs to be appreciated.  And I too understood that it is not enough to talk about honesty, we also need to set an example of living by it.

Once when her friend suddenly stopped talking to her, the younger one was very upset. I suggested that she ignore it and leave it.  But she went up to her and told her “Whatever problem you have just tell it to me honestly. Do not hide behind this silence !”  Yeah, she can be just bluntly honest.

She was being teased with another boy, when they were hardly 11 years old. She and this boy are good friends and she didn’t like being teased like that. So, she used to shout at all the friends and tell “Honestly, we are only friends”. But this boy had kept quiet, enabling the others to continue teasing.  She was very upset with him because he didn’t tell the truth – which was that they are only friends.  She refused to talk with him till he apologized to her properly.

Once she left the Tupperware tiffin box in the railway station and boarded  the train, while coming back from school. She realized her mistake. Got down in the next station. Went back and checked and it was gone. Came home and told me the whole thing.  Accepting the mistake and owning it up makes one a better person.  We, as parents, are not going to gobble them up for when they tell us about a mistake done.

My husband too always insists on owning up for their mistakes, for we are human.  It actually helps us to deal with it in a better way than knowing from others about what our children have done.

All said and done, now its a way of life. And that is how things are done here.  It feels good to have instilled one of the best qualities to my children.

Month of ramblings

 

Day 15 – Of marriages and children

Recently I read this cute post by Comfy [link] and I suggest you read it too 🙂

It’s absolutely sweet and funny when children talk about marriage and children.  Their perception of the whole thing at that age is super cute, I say.

My younger one used to say “Ma, I think I like boy babies. They are more naughty than girl babies.  And also I would like to have a baby boy when I grow up.  No….no….I don’t want to get married and all, just one baby boy is fine.  And you stay with me to take care of the baby boy”.

She even asked me once if I was pregnant with a baby boy, looking at my not-so-fit tummy. And I was so annoyed that my tummy looked like a pregnant lady when I was not so. Somehow the idea of a baby brother appealed to her so that they can jointly do mischief.

Watching kissing and hugging scenes in movies used to make them giggle and whisper among themselves a lot. But we have better conversations and bonding now, that they directly talk to me about it all. No inhibitions and I love it.  Sometimes I want to know how different their mind can mind.

And the elder one too has never agreed about getting married – of course, none of us force them to.  They just keep talking about this and that to me and this used to be one favorite topic for a long time – her justification of not to get married.  But later on she decided that she’ll have a simple wedding and the extravagant spending of money doesn’t appeal to her.  While the younger one is poised for a grand wedding.

I don’t know how they’ll change when the marriages do happen in time.

My classmate’s daughter is getting married on Wednesday and the whole day my mind has been filled with such thoughts related to it.

Month of ramblings