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Archive for September, 2007

Nagapattinam is a small port town in the east coast of Tamil Nadu. It hit the headlines three years back as one of the places most affected by Tsunami. My story also has some connection with the destruction caused by the sea waters.

Soundaraja Perumal Kovil in Nagapattinam is one of the 108 divya desams of the Vaishnavites. Almost all temple towns have the temple at the center and the houses built in rows around the temple to form Veedhi or streets. Our ancestors lived in the street which is on the right hand side of the Soundaraja perumal koil. Adjacent to their home is the Krishnar koil. They owned almost an entire village by name Perungkadamanoor, a few kilometers away from Nagapattinam.Very affluent, some of them also took up employment as officers in the port as a hobby. They had taken interest in a small temple built for Lord Krishna by some Raja in 14 th century. They spent all their time and energy to revive the glory of this temple. Nithya pujas (Daily pujas) were performed elaborately by the men of the household as all of them were highly qualified in vedas to be priests.

But then this peaceful life came to an abrupt end when all their property was destroyed by the sea ingress in 1875. They shifted to Srirangam town to built a new life leaving behind the large house for the temple trust. They literally stuggled to build back their fortune. This large family always stayed together, but unfortunately very few descendants are left! What surprises me most is why none of the later generations ever feel like visiting the temple so lovingly taken care of by their fathers and grandfathers!! We either visited Tirupathi or Uppali appan koil in Kumbakonam during special occasions. Srirangam being the 1st of the 108 divya desams and also called Boolooga Vaigundam (manifestation of LordVishnu’s abode on earth) , may be there was no urge to visit other places. I grew up hearing stories of our ancestors from my parents and grandma. For long, I too did not develop any interest to visit the Krishnar koil in Nagapattinam. Some of my uncles and aunts who visited Nagai Soundaraja Perumal Kovil as a part of their piligrimage, could never get a darshan of Lord Krishna as the temple was closed everyday around 10 am after a simple puja! The temple did not have enough funds for elaborate pujas and maintenance after our ancestors left the place.

Around 6 years back I started practicing meditations. One day while I was meditating I got a glimpse of an image of Lord Krishna holding a cup of butter in one hand dancing on Kalinga Nagar, which I had never seen any where! By some strange intution I knew that it was of the image of Lord Krishna in the Temple at Nagapattinam. My husband says may be the image was stored in a gene I inherited from my ancestors! I tried convincing my father to visit the temple but did not succeed as he felt he was very weak to travel. My urge to visit the temple grew but I definitely wanted to take along some of our family members. When I spoke to my sister in law Padma, she decided that we should visit the temple. We decided to take along my nephew on his birthday to the temple. Suddenly it seemed like the lord was pleased by our devotion, with the help of my aunt Komala, we could organize everything for the visit coordinating with the people taking care of the temple and arranging for special pujas! It so happened that we visited on the first purattasi sanikizhamai, an auspicious day to have a darshan of the Lord! I found the same image of Lord Krishna doing the Kalinga Narthanam in this temple! Now a few members of our family have decided to do their best to bring back the temple to its original glory.

One of the best loved tales on Krishna’s childhood involves his defeat of the serpent Kalingan whose poisonous presence on the river Yamuna terrorized villages on the banks. Little Krishna’s dance on the five headed serpent Kalingan hood is a popular piece in almost all classical dance forms. The image of Krishna at the Krishnar Kovil at Nagapattinam is of Krishna doing the Kalinga Narthanam or dance on the serpent Kalingan’s head.

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Krishnar Temple entrance, Nagapattinam

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Vimanam over Sanctum Santorium, right above the place where the idol of Krishnar is placed
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Images of Twelve Azhwars (Vaishnavatite saints) In the sanctum sanctorium of Lord Krishna

There were many photos of Krishna’s childhood tales in the Temple Praharams(premises)

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Kalinga Narthanam

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The uthsava murthy of Lord Krishna at the temple

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Kolam or rangoli drawn by devotees at Soundaraja Perumal Kovil

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Dwarapaalakas at Soundaraja Perumal Kovil

We also visited the Soundaraja Perumal kovil and Desikar Kovil in Nagai. On the same evening we visited Ranganatha Perumal Kovil in Srirangam where my aunt* and uncle* settled down with their family, after retirement.

*Father’s sister and father’s brother.

Raja Gopuram at the entrance of the Srirangam Town built around the temple.

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Gopuram at Srirangam Kovil entrance

On Saturday and Sunday when we visited the temples our breakfast, lunch and dinner was the prasaadams offered at these temples. The venn pongal sarkairai or kalkandu pongal, puliyodarai (tamarind rice) and dhidyoannam(curd rice) tasted heavenly!

A replica of the Image of Lord Krishna in Nagai. We bought this for the puja to be performed at home.

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In bangalore tomato is available throughout the year. The only problem is , the price fluctuates from Rs.5 per kg to Rs.40 per kg with in a span of three months! I buy a few kilos when it is cheap and make this paste. The paste can be stored in the freezer for more than three months, in Tupperware containers. I am giving the timings for 1 kg tomato.
Fresh Tomato

Fresh tomatoes

Method

  1. Wash the tomatoes and drain the water.
  2. In a Microwave safe container, MW at 600 watts covered for 10 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool for a few minutes and grind to a smooth paste. Pass through a strainer if required and grind again.
  4. Transfer the pulp to the same MW container and MW at 600 watts for 1/2 hour stirring once in 5 minutes.
  5. Pour this into a freezer container and allow to cool. Keep in the freezer and use as you like.
  6. Take out the pulp from the freezer 15 minutes before use. It is easy to scoop out with an ice cream scoop.

This is my entry for Srivalli’s basic MW cooking event.

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After cooking in MW for 10 minutes
After keeping for 10 mins in microwave

Tomato Paste

Storing in freezer container

You can use the pulp for Preparing

  1. Tomato thokku.
  2. All gravies for which you need tomato paste.
  3. Chutney
  4. Rasam
  5. Soup
  6. Tomato rice

Hope all of you find this preparation useful.

I have published a post on Microwave cooking tips almost 2 months back. That is my second entry for Srivallis event.

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Maavilakku
Maa Villakku

My ancestors are from the town of Nagapattinam – they were trustees of the Krishnar Kovil at Nagapattinam. About five generations ago, when Nagapattinam was beseiged by sea water ingress, and all land became barren and soaked in salt, my ancestors abandoned all property and the temple for the city of Srirangam to start a new life. In those days losing so much of property and wealth was considered a shame of great volumes and people quietly moved to another place to build a new identity.

Krishnar skipped almost four generations in popularity as “Kula Daivam” (concept similar to patron saint), often referred only in “thatha- paatti” (grandparents) stories of ancestors. For almost 130 years no one from the family visited the temple.

I am very happy to say that last week my sister in law Padma, my athai Komala and I visited Krishnar at Nagapattinam to peep in and say that we are still devoted to him. It was a wonderful journey and we were spell bound by the sculpture of Krishnar at Nagapattinam. I will do a detailed post on our journey soon.

We offered Maa Villakku to Krishnar – we used “Nattu Sakkarai” (a kind of yummy sugar) instead of Jaggery. Click here to see the recipe for Maa Villakku that I posted earlier.

I am linking to Maa Villakku recipe on the request of Gayatri who wanted it for Purattasi Sanikizhamai Balaji Puja (Puja to Lord Balaji on the saturdayof Purattasi month in Tamil Calendar).

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Milk Chocolate

I am posting this recipe on the request of Sameera, one of our regular readers.

Many of the recipes I have in my collection have evolved over repeated experiments in the kitchen. I first read a recipe for making milk chocolate at home in a Tamil magazine – although the recipe din’t exactly give me desired results. After a few attempts, I made additions and modifications that gives milk chocolate that looks and tastes like milk chocolate.

Chocolate

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • Milk Powder – 4 cups
  • Cocoa – 1 cup
  • Sugar – 2 1/2 cups
  • Water – 3/4 cup
  • Chopped Nuts – 1/2 cup
  • Butter – 1/2 cup

*cup = teacup measures approximately 4 oz. Can be subtituted with any small cup you use at home as long as the ratios are maintained.

Method

  1. Mix Milk Powder and Cocoa together in a bowl. Keep chopped nuts and butter ready. Grease a flat plate or oven dish with some butter or ghee.
  2. Boil sugar and water in a deep kadai on a medium flame till you get a syrup of one thread consistency. This is very important to get the chocolate right.
  3. Take off the flame and add in the Butter. Stir to mix the butter.
  4. After the Butter melts add chopped nuts and milkpowder/cocoa mix and stir well with a flat ladle. This should form a soft ball. Other wise add some more milk powder and cocoa powder.
  5. Transfer this into the greased plate or oven dish. With a back of a greased clean flat container (like a dawara in tamil) smoothen the surface and cut into pieces with a plastic knife, when it is lukewarm.
  6. Take out the pieces after it cools down and store in an air tight container. If your chocolate did not set, it means the syrup had not reached one thread consistency.

Cadbury’s cocoa powder and Brittania’s Whole Milk Powder give the best results in my experience. Try making milk chocolate in small quantities first.

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Ragi Rotti is another unleavened bread made in Karnataka. For previous ragi recipes from Karnataka refer to Ragi Mudde and Ragi Dosa.

Ragi Rotti
Ragi Rotti with Uchellu Podi

Ingredients

  • Ragi flour – 2 cups
  • Fresh Sabakki Soppu (Dill) or Fresh Coriander – 1/2 cup (finely chopped)
  • Onions – 1/2 cup (finely chopped)
  • Water
  • Green chilly – 2 finely chopped (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil

Method

  1. Mix all ingredients except the Oil and knead into a smooth soft dough. The dough is a softer than Wheat flour Roti dough. Divide the dough into 2 inch diameter balls and set aside.
  2. Spread a plastic sheet/ banana leaf on a smooth surface. Grease with a drop of oil. Take a ball of the dough and pat into a round pancake of 6 inch diameter. Use a little oil to aid in patting the roti.
  3. Transfer to a skillet and cook both sides over a medium flame until the roti turns brown in colour.
  4. Repeat for the remaining dough.

Serve hot with Uchellu Podi, Green Tomato Chutney, Vethal Kozhambu or Gojju.

Asha, Ragi Rotti for RCI Karnataka.

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Long before the Green Revolution supplanted traditional crops with paddy and wheat across India, there was Ragi, Jowar and Bajra. Ragi, Jowar and Bajra were traditionally cooked up in a likes cakes, pancakes or unleavened breads especially in places whose natural constitution made only one crop of a water sucking variety like rice in a year possible. They constituted the much needed dietary fibre content in the Indian spread.

Ragi or Finger Millet is associated with the labour classes – in a typical feudal set up the lady of the master’s house prepared ragi based foods for the farmers who worked on their lands.

As a baby, I was a snob at the other end of the spectrum – I hated canned cereals preferring traditional Kanji or Porridge. No I wouldn’t settle for anything less than Ragi Malt – a concoction of Ragi, Jaggery and Milk that I was fed daily.

Fortunately, a generation after the Green Revolution made ragi “unfashionable”, the grain seems to be picking up pace as a health fad. Elaboration of Ragi’s goodness cannot be missed in modern media – superior in mineral and fibre content as compared to rice, a health grain for the diabetic, food that digests slowly, food that can be grown with environment friendly practices, food that is cooling – ragi is now being heralded as the “wonder grain”.

Kezhvaragu (in Tamil) or Ragi Dosa is a preparation from Kongunadu’s cuisine. Describing Kongunadu is difficult but you can vaguely think of it as the stretch from Coimbatore, Nilgiris, Pollachi to Erode, Salem and Dharmapuri.

Ragi Dosa
These Ragi Dosas are medium sized ones. You could pour batter to make larger dosas.

Here’s the recipe:

Preparation Time: 20 minutes (includes soaking), Cooking time: 5 minutes, Yield: 10 – 12 Dosas/ Pancakes

Ingredients

  • Ragi # – 2 cups
  • Grated Coconut – 1 cup
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Fresh Coriander – 3 twigs
  • Curry Leaves – 4
  • Green Chilly – 1 no.
  • Jeera/ Cumin – 1tsp
  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Water – 4 1/2 cups (approximately, this will vary with how much water the flour soaks)

*cups= 225ml, approximately 8 oz

# Ragi flour doesn’t stand for long – so I suggest buying in fresh small quantities for best results.

Method

  1. Soak Ragi flour (Millet flour) in some warm water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Grind the Coconut, Green Chilly, Coriander, Curry Leaves, Jeera and Salt in a blender.
  3. Add this to the soaked Ragi flour (Millet Flour) and mix well. Add water to bring to Rava dosa batter consistency. Note: This will be somewhere between butter milk and dosa batter or fresh cream consistency.
  4. Dust a broad skillet or tawa with 1/2 tsp oil and heat it for 30 seconds. On a high flame pour the batter from outside towards inside to form a round. Cook on a high flame. Turn and cook the other side on a high flame. Reduce flame to low and turn and cook for a minute. Take out dosa on to serving plate.
  5. Repeat for remaining batter. Refer to Rava Dosa making technique to get lacy, crispy dosas.

Alternatively, one could make these like soft Uthappams

  • At step 3, mix water enough to bring to to dosa batter or fresh cream consistency.
  • Pour a ladle full in the center of a tawa on a medium flame. Cover and cook for 30 seconds on a medium flame. Repeat for remaining batter.

This recipe was handed down to me by my mother in law, Vasantha Ayyaswami – who makes many other dosas of Kongunadu in varying styles – having lived in Coimbatore for many years. So technically speaking, I have been introduced to this as part of Kongunadu’s cuisine.

But then I don’t see why people on the Karnataka side of the border would not be indulging in this Ragi delicacy. After all when I mixed the batter together, I was greeted by a very prominent almost musty smell of Malnad – if you have ever treated your nostrils to the fresh dew on earth from a mild early morning drizzle, you know what I am talking about. I must warn you that it’s a smell that refuses to go. :)

To further the argument, if you look at the ingredients closely, its almost like neer dose or pan pole. I can almost imagine obscure homes in remote bits of Shimoga cooking this up. For the record, google led me to one more person who seems to think of this as Pan Pole – Manjula at Dalitoy!!!

So Asha, do you think this could pass off as Ragi Pan Pole or Ragi Neer Dose?

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Coming to think of it, I am sure your “toothless” Thatha must have savoured these besides the standard Mudde. :)

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Panchamrutham literally translates into five nectars – Pancha means “five” and amrutham means “nectar”. It is a sweet concoction prepared using five ingredients and is made during festive occasions and in all temples for abhisekham(ritual bathing of the representation of the divine) and prasaadam. The five ingredients used for making Panchamrutham vary – Banana, however, is ubiquitous. I haven’t come across a Panchamrutham that is served without Banana. Some of the other ingredients that take the place of the other four ingredients include milk, honey, jaggery, coconut, coconut water, raisins, dates, curd and sugar. Some versions of Panchamruthams include a medley of fruits like grapes, jackfruit and so on as one ingredient, making it almost a fruit salad. Panchamrutham is synonomous with Murugan Kovils (temples), served as prasaadam that is a mineral rich glucose sugar burst after devotees climb up the hill for a glimpse of God. Pachamrutham served at the Pazhani Swamy temple is considered to be the tastiest version. Conducting abhisekham (ritual bathing) with Panchamrutham is believed to bring wealth and prosperity.

Banana
Bananas for Panchamrutham

Banana
Banana – Rich and Pulpy

Panchamrutham
Panchamrutham (pronounced as “Panjamritham” colloquially)

Here’s the version that we prepare in our family:

Preparation time: 5 minutes, Cooking time: ZERO, Serves: 2

Ingredients

Method
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Eat immediately or serve chilled.

*Measures of ingredients for Panchamrutham are never exact – this is a classic “kannalavu” (measured by the eye) dish. Unlike the photograph (which my daughter Lakshmi took) the ingredients are slightly mashed and overall Pachamruthams have a slightly squashed look.

Panchamrutham is my entry for JFI-Banana hosted by Mandira from Ahaar. Jihva for Ingredients (JFI) is a series started by Indira of Mahanandi that showcases recipes of one ingredient each month – this month’s theme is Banana.

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