The only constant in my life…

…has been and always will be “Idly maavu in the refrigerator”…ha ha…did you for a minute think that I am going to talk about the man in my life ?? 😉  He is there…always there. But Idly maavu (batter) is for both of us, you see.

With Sundays converted as work days for me, the handy man is the Idly maavu. I can make idlies for breakfast which is quick. And when I get home tired from work, I just have to close my eyes and make dosa and eat and sleep. You see, its a pleasure to not to think about “what to cook” 😀

I just keep making different vegetables for lunch. But this constant Idly maavu is what makes my life easier.

I might get into the mood to make upma, pongal or poori for breakfast, provided the constant is stocked in the fridge always. And when the maavu goes below the mark of “one more day to go”, I get jittery. All I can think that its time is to soak rice and dal for making the idly maavu.

I wonder what’s this funny relationship between me and this maavu or perhaps idly or dosa? These thoughts keep coming to me now and then, edging me to write about it.

Anyway, my constant is FULL now. One more week of utter bliss awaits me. Also with a batch of adai maavu, I feel well stocked…ha ha…the foodie me never stops thinking of food 😉


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.

Food is memories


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 !


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 !


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

Picture courtesy – Google

Day 4 – When laughter came to meet me :)


For this November blogging, I made this decision to write about the goodness around me. But then what about the goodness that happens to me? 😉 I feel a strong urge, almost equivalent to thrill, to share this here.

Yesterday, was a day to remember when my home was filled with laughter and non-stop chatter for nearly 4 hours, when I listened and listened and smiled and laughed along with her. Yes…am talking about the awesomely lovely Pinoo with her impeccable laughter!

When she called to say that she’s coming, the first question I asked was “What do you want to eat at  home?” And she was like “How about Rava dosa?” – she just knows the way to my heart.

But then yday, she went suddenly like “Can you give me Sambar rice?” How can I refuse a request for food?! Made capsicum sambar and loved watching her love my food…its a special moment for me.

As we all say we never felt like we’re meeting for the first time…it happens with us bloggers always 🙂

I hugged her tight like I do to my girls even though she kept saying that she’s sweating…ha ha…who doesn’t sweat in this hot city Chennai 😀

A memorable yesterday and a feeling good me !

Microblog Mondays – A perfect breakfast

The alarm rings
But I switch it off
And then doze off
To be woken up by a feeling
Of being late
Some Mondays begin this way !

Then I hurry
In between sips of coffee
To cook
Plan out things for the day
So that nothing is forgotten !

And when this is what I get
After rushed moments
In the hot kitchen
The smile blossoms
Just like a flower
Its a happy soul
That sees the perfect idly
Soft too
With jackfruit seeds sambar
And Podi
Its a match made in heaven !


WOW !!
What a great beginning to this week
And to this day too !


My kitchenology

There is this paal pathiram
And of course the vaal pathiram
The rice goes in the pottu pathiram
Sambar in kuzhambu pathiram…

Kuzhivu pathiram is for keerai masiyal
Which goes with vetha kuzhambu, always loyal…
The kuzhivu helps the wooden mathu to mash
So that the combination is one of royal.

We even had a abhisheka pathiram
And a thenga thiruval muram.

The Aappam chatti
The Iluppachatti
And the kal chatti.
Not to forget the Appakarai
To make the delicious sweet bombs
Called the Appams !
Idly paanai
Arisi paanai
Thanni sombu
Eeya sombu
Ennai sombu
And the puja special pithalai sombu !

Separate are the plates to eat
And are never mixed with the rest of the fleet.

It can be Non-stick or made of Iron
But Dosa tawas are treated as kitchen scion
For it’s the perfect dosa spread
That many people tire in dread
Which can make a Super-Chef out of an ordinary person !

We do have a few more rules
Of tea spoons, dinner spoons and other kitchen tools
Wooden spatulas and their steel angles
Not to forget the baking chronicles!!
Then there are the bottles and candles
And the recipes to handle…
Being in a kitchen humbles
As even an expert can fumble.

Every pathiram has a job to do
And they hold onto it like glue
The jobs don’t get interchanged
It’s a rule of my kitchen game.

I believe that there is methodology
In my kitchenology 😀


Pathiram – Vessel

Paal – Milk

Vaal – The vessel with the handle

Pottu – Dots – The vessel with a dotted design all around it

Kuzhambu – Sambar and stuff similar to it

Kuzhivu – Curved at the base

Keerai – Greens similar to palak

Masiyal – Name of the keerai dish – just cook keerai with jeera, mash well with a spoon of rice flour, add salt and do a tadka of mustard seeds and red chillies – basic and delicious.

Mathu – Masher

Abhishekam – Its the bathing ritual for God. We had a separate vessel to hold the water for God and we never used it for any other purpose.

Thengai thiruval muram – Coconut scraping plate

Aappam chatti – The kadai to make Aappam – the hemisphere like rice pancakes
Iluppachatti – Kadai
Idly paanai – The vessel meant for steaming idlies
Arisi paanai – The vessel to store rice
Thanni sombu – The pot to store water and drink from it too…small and handy
Eeya sombu – The special pot made out of tin alloy for making rasam which smells like heaven…seriously.
Ennai sombu – The pot for storing oil.
Pithalai sombu – The brass pot used in puja.

Dosa tales :D

It’s a matter of pride for me.  The dosa I make is always crispy, the perfect golden brown and the concentric circles look very appetizing. I take time to temper my tawa to the right temperature and always maintain a consistent temperature while spreading the batter. And I feel like a scientist when I talk about how the high and low temperatures affect the texture and crispness of the dosa.  Also when someone tries to make dosa using my tawa and they don’t get it right, I have this feeling of proud ownership, where my tawa listens only to me. And the next moment, in front of their eyes, I make a fabulous dosa in my tawa – it’s all about the correct temperature, you see 😉

From the time I started making the dosa batter, its been a learning curve. The proportion of rice to urid dal, the coarseness of the ground rice, the amount of fermentation everything plays a major role in getting that perfect dosa.  And I’ve experimented and learnt on the way.

When I was in Grade 8, my thatha gave me the test of making dosa. I’ve already written about it many times but that exhilarating feeling of making a perfect dosa the first time and the nod of appreciation from my maternal grandfather, is just too good to pass by without mentioning.  And I’ve graduated well from that day in Grade 8 to an expert on making dosa.  Give me any variant, I’m all for it – Rava dosa, Masala dosa, Wheat dosa, Ragi dosa and even the jaggery variant.  With coconut chutney, sambar and milagai podi, its a match made in heaven ! Of course the sweet variants need pickle 😀

I’ve always admired my amma’s dosa making skills. That perfectly round dosa has taken me to heavenly bliss when I used to come back from work, tired and drained. Her rava dosas are a class apart. She actually sits on the kitchen top during the rava dosa sessions as it always takes a hell a lot of time. And I’ve always dreamed of making rava dosas like her. Now…when she appreciates my rava dosa skills, it’s a moment to behold and smile at the perfect transfer of genes pertaining to dosa.

I had the most amazing iron dosa tawa which was a fabulous gift from my amma during my wedding. But, I’ve switched to non-stick pans owing to my tennis elbow problem. The use of iron tawa needs a bit of effort and my strained muscles used to hurt a lot and then I switched to non-stick pans. And I keep changing the pans quite often for that perfect outcome of dosa.

That reminds me the reason for this post. I realized this morning that my dosa tawa needs to be replaced and I’m going to buy a new one. Sigh…more crispy dosas await everyone at home 🙂