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Posts Tagged ‘memories’

We had a long weekend and I took to blog hopping and posting random musings – like this previous post on Nagapattinam with pictures of my family temple. While I was blog hopping I saw almost everyone showing off their cook books! After seeing Suganya’s Tassajara cook book, I had to muster some courage to show off my humble belongings! 🙂 . I have a modest collection of cook books. I gather most of my cooking knowledge from my mother and aunts, my friends and acquaintances and their mothers and patties, random people I meet on holidays like this person who cooks at a guest house in a remote hill station, chefs at marriages and functions at all kinds, cookery shows like that of Sanjeev Kapoor and now food bloggers and food websites. Having travelled throughout India, I have met a whole lot of interesting people and been introduced to their cuisine.

So here are my cook books with some memories. Hope you don’t find my narration boring! 😀

Just before my marriage, I was attending a Nirmal (a traditional art form) painting class, around 5 km from my home. I wanted to join the bakery course conducted in the same place. One day on my way back from the classes I lost my purse with around Rs.7! Rs. 7 in those days was a loooooooooot of money for a youngster. I was so upset that I created a scene after reaching home! My mother got scared seeing my crest fallen face and refused to send me to the class from the next day. I somehow convinced her and joined a painting class closer home, though I was pretty upset about not being able to attend the baking class. Since I was so keen to learn baking my Appa who travelled a lot as a part of his job at Telecoms bought a cake book from Manneys, Poona for Rs. 50. Yes 26 years back the book was only Rs. 50 !!


Woman’s Own Cook Book of Cake Decorating and Cake Making is a large collection of recipes published by Hamlyn Publishing, London. No author/s have been mentioned anywhere in the book. This book was my introduction to the world of baking. Though my mother baked eggless cakes in a round gas oven, I learnt baking and decoration from this book! For the rich fruit cake I follow the recipe from this book, omitting rum.

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The other book I cherish is my handwritten note book which is a treasure house of recipes from my mom and aunts, with exact measurements and rare dishes! This is the only book I follow 100%, with no modifications to the recipes. 🙂

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I am also fond of the Tupperware cook book in which some of my recipes were published. 😉

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I have a few cook books by Tarla dalal – some of them are with my daughter now. I like her North Indian recipes – simple and practical. Supersoft naans with Navratna kurma is the first dish I prepared from her books. TarlaDalal comes across as a simple and lovable person in her cookery shows! 🙂

I would like to send this as my entry for “Show me your Cook Book” the event hosted by Nags (Nags, please do accept my entry even if it is 3 days late!:)

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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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Mysoor pak is my daughter’s favourite sweet. I prepared it on her birthday on August 12th.

Mysoor Pak

In slightly ancient times I would invoke “great conversations” in my family for being ‘a girl who dint know cooking’. As a result of those great conversations, a few weeks before my marriage I stayed with many of my aunts to learn some recipes. One of these “observing and learning sessions without getting hands dirty” was with Paapa Sithi. Every day would be a feast, she would prepare sweets and lots of other special dishes so that I could learn to cook. As the ‘bride to be’ I was only required to enjoy the visual treat and scribble on a notebook the details of preparation.

After marriage I never tried preparing Mysoor Pak as it involved some techniques though I experimented quite a bit with the Western sweets. I had become popular among my friends as a wonderful cook who could prepare super soft idlies, delicious cookies and a variety of cakes. About two years after my marriage, while chatting with my regular circle, one of my friends said, “Mysoor pak is very a difficult sweet, I have never got it right”.

I am compulsive optimist looking out for kitchen adventures all the time. So statements like these which make a dish sound impossible will immediately invite my dismissal!!! 😀

Almost implusively I said, “Actually it is very easy and can be prepared at home”. Little did I realize that I would be asked to prepare it that very instant. Vijaya’s logic could not be argued with – all ingredients were available, here were a bunch of people dying for some good Mysoor Pak and there was a cook who found this dish simple – perfect setting for a Mysoor Pak preparation!!!

Dismissal of the impossible comes easily but doing a dish that one has never tried before successfully to prove that its easy is a different ball game altogether – especially when there is no precious notebook of “amma and sithi recipes” to help you. Bravely without a trace of twitching on my face, I tried to recollect how Sithi had prepared Mysoor Pak. I went on to make this sweet and it turned out to be a great success. I too din’t realize that I could such an expert with sweets!:D Must have been all the baking perhaps?!! Or do genes play a role in this? From that day I have been making this “melting in mouth” Mysoor pak!

This is a post on the special request of Nithya, who asked for “melting in mouth” mysoor pak. Nithya, do let me know how this turns out.

Ingredients

  • Besan (Kadalai mavu) – 1 cup
  • Sugar – 2 and 1/2 cup
  • Ghee – 3 cups + 4 teaspoons for spreading on plate.
  • Water – 1 cup

Method

  1. Mix Besan with 2 teaspoons ghee and rub well to remove lumps.
  2. Smear 2 teaspoons ghee on a steel or glass plate and keep it aside.
  3. In a heavy bottomed pan mix sugar and water and simmer on a low to medium flame.
  4. In another Stove melt the ghee and keep a deep ladle ready in it.
  5. Once the sugar melts totally, add little ghee and all the besan and keep stirring.
  6. Keep the flame in medium and add ghee a little at a time every 1 minute, stirring all the while.
  7. After all the ghee has been added, cook till the mixture forms a honey comb like appearance. This is the most important step for getting the Mysoor Pak right.
  8. Once the whole mixture becomes like honey comb, pour it into the greased plate. The whole mixture will fall as a lump unlike other sweets.
  9. Allow to cool for just two minutes and mark with a thuduppu or sharp knife to cut into desired shape and size.
  10. Your melting in mouth mysoor pak is ready and you can serve and eat as you please.

Tips

Heavy bottomed pan is a must. If you don’t have buy a hawkins or prestige pan.

Keep things ready before you switch on the stove as stirring continuously is a must.

Try a small amount till you are confident. But don’t give up. 🙂

In case the mysoor pak you made is semi solid, just cook again in the same pan on a low flame for a few more minutes.

Mysoor Pak

Update: This goes to Asha of Foodie’s Hope as an entry for RCI-Karnataka</em>

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Whatever you do, do it with love and respect is the advice given to us by our elders.

The Iyengars respected their cuisine. Read on to know more.

1. The Kitchen is Madapalli in Tamil. The Iyengars add a Thiru to it and say Thirumadapalli.

2. All the dishes are followed by an Amudu (Amrit or Nectar)

Saathamudu for rasam, Kariamudu for curry, Thirukkannamudu for payasams , and so on.

Making noise with the vessels was to be avoided, as it meant less food for the others in the household who are yet to have their meals.

Until six months ago I never had a maid to wash the vessels as I was averse to the noise made while handling the vessels.

I usually work silently in the kitchen, unless I want to show my anger of course!

In tamizh culture a well balanced diet is served. The menu has all the nutrients required for good health.

There was also a day of fruit diet once in a fortnight. On Ekadasi many tamilians fast or have only fruits.

There was also restriction on the diet served for dinner. Heavy and spicy food is generally avoided. The dinner usually consisted of podis and some medicinal herb. Curd rice is a must to culminate the meal.

Some of the delicious preparations for dinner are as follows:-

Veepampoo sathamudu.

Kandathippili sathamudu.

Milagu sathamudu.

jeeraga sathamudu.

milagu kuzhambu.

Paruppu thogayal.

Angaya podi

And so many more. The recipes will be posted in the coming days.

Also included in the menu are

Manathakkali vethal and Veepampoo Fried in a teaspoon of ghee.

Manathakkali is also called black night shade or sun berry or wonder cherry.The dried fruit is called vethal.

We can get the manathakkali vethal in tamizh stores all over India. It is available as salted and plain variety.

Fry 1 table spoon of the manathakkali vethal in 1 teaspoon of ghee, in low flame till the berrys bulge. Crush and mix the fried vethal with 1/2 cup cooked rice (Hot)and a little salt.This manathakkali vethal saadam is really yummy, and a good relief from the regular heavy food.

You can also have the fried vethal as a side dish for thayir saadam(curd rice).

This berry has some medicinal values. I am not an expert to provide the details on this subject. So please refer to ayurvedam.com

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“As good as Grandma”

One of my best memories is of the day I became “as good as patti (grandma in tamil)” at cooking.

My daughter is the first grandchild on both sides of the family – my husband’s and mine. Naturally she’s pampered to no end by her grandparents.

My amma whose cooking skills are legendary would go great lengths to fulfill her chella pethi’s (granddaughter) demands. From mouth watering savories to tangy pickles to rich sweets – my daughter had it all, at any time she wanted. Obviously she grew up accustomed to the idea that as far as food was concerned, anything she wanted was at her beck and call.

When my daughter was around 4 years she asked me to prepare Jangiri – a sweet made usually only by professional chefs. Even my amma, the great Iyengar Mami famous around select circles for her sweets and savouries, had never prepared this at home.

I tried to explain to my daughter that Jangiris are very complex to make and that I don’t feel like trying. But would the Princess listen? She made a long face and said, ” If I had asked Patti, she would have made it immediately”. Aha, now that was enough to set forth the dormant chef in Latha roaring. I said, ” Patti has never made this sweet. But I am making it just for you today. I am as good as your Patti at cooking”. And yes, I made Jangiris and I’m proud to say that my daughter found them super delicious.

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After my first enthusiastic attempt at cooking, the kitchen dint seem to excite me any more – especially during my teenage years. I was a highly rebellious person. Like all rebels who love their independence I seemed to follow the law of every action has an equal and opposite reaction! So when I was nine and not allowed into the kitchen, I wanted to cook. But at 14 when I was expected to help in the kitchen, I wanted to be miles away from cooking. Tch, tch….Not something desirable in a “brahmana ponnu” (Brahmin girl). Predictably my amma (mother) and patti (grandma) were highly unhappy and would wait for an opportunity to lament on how I was failing miserably on an “oh so crucial” front – women of the Ranganathan household were known for their delicious preparations. Adding to their misery was the fact that my cousins were becoming experts in the kitchen.

Obviously no amount of nagging, lamenting and authority could counter my fiercely independent nature spiced up by generous amounts of feminism, though I did have my spurts of dabbling with food. Obviously amma and patti dint have the energy to nag me all the time :).

Once on a lazy afternoon on the rare occasion when I was not being pestered (amma was taking her afternoon nap), my brother and I made some Kesari Bath – a delicious sweet made of rava, sugar, milk and generous amounts of ghee. Amma wasn’t that easy to please though, she complained that both of us had wasted all the ghee in the house – she could hear the ladle clattering against the ghee vessel. The truth however was that there was very little ghee in the house and my brother and I took to scraping whatever little was left. I thought we did quite well, given the strained resources at hand :).

My amma is a typical Brahmin lady with her “as shiny as marble” skin, big red pottu, “vaira thoodu” (diamond studs), “vaira mookutthi” (diamond nose ring) and nine yard podavai (saree). Her expertise in the kitchen is legendary. She’s never had good eyesight, with one blind eye and a high power that no technology can counter in the other. Her culinary skills are so highly developed that she cooks with the aid of an impeccable sense of smell. So you can imagine how difficult it is to beat her standards.

This cacophony of “oh my, how will she manage cooking” reached obsessive heights once my marriage had been arranged. Great lengths of time were devoted to voluminous discourses on “How will Latha manage cooking after marriage?” – and as with typical Indian festivities, my large family of dozens of uncles, aunts, grand uncles, grand aunts and cousins soon joined in this never ending conversation.

Finally the great and grand Ranganathan family decided that I should stay with each of my aunts for week and learn new recipes. Besides I was the “chella penn” (favourite daughter) of the household and I could spend time with family.

Well, I definitely did end up having a great time, pampered with all the yummy delicacies my aunts cooked up. The only work I was allowed to do as a “to be” bride was to scribble notes. I did end up experimenting most of the stuff I wrote down in the first year of my marriage – with little intervention from my husband (though my husband insists that he taught me cooking to this date). Ah but to match my amma’s legacy….now that’s another story…

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