Monday, August 31, 2009

Kozhakattai - food for the Gods

Vigneshwara or Ganapathy as he is more popularly known is the remover of all obstacles. Chathurthi is his special day and people pray to him and offer him several goodies which they then proceed to relish. I am not very big on the fanfare associated with festivals, but I happened to go out the day before Chathurthi and saw the streets so full of people buying clay idols of Ganesha, different kinds of garlands to deck him up in, umbrellas to place on the idol.....and so many other things which I couldn't even fathom a use for. Watching the huge crowds of people thronging the streets, making last minute preparations to please Ganesha, did what nothing else could - it infused the spirit of the festival in me. I actually bought some of those garlands that I saw in the market (something that I've never done before), and then stopped at a store on the way to pick up some rice flour and jaggery - the key ingredients for making kozhakattai.
Now, even though I am not a huge fan of all the ceremonies associated with each festival, the food is something that I always enjoy.
Kozhakattai, in my parents' home is made not only during Chathurthi, but any time my grandma decides that Ganesha has to be propitiated. So, if there is a marriage in the family, a birth, a celebration, admission into a new college, a new job in the offing....well, you get the idea....anytime any one of us embarked on anything new, my grandma would promise the lord a certain number of kozhakattais. Depending on the importance of the new venture, the number would range anywhere from 101 to 1001. When DH and I got married, my mother and grandma made 1001 kozhakattais and distributed it in the neighbourhood.
To make kozhakattai you need:

For the outer cover
Rice flour - 1 cup mixed into a smooth paste with one cup of water
Water - 1.5 cups
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp

Heat the water and let it come to a rolling boil. Add oil, salt and the rice flour +water mixture. Reduce heat to low and keep stirring until it gets cooked and forms a smooth dough.
Set aside to cool.

For the therattipaal (inner filling)
Fresh grated coconut - 1 cup
Jaggery - 1 cup
Ghee - 1 tsp (optional)

Add a little water to the jaggery and heat until it melts. Add the grated coconut to this and keep stirring until all the moisture evaporates and the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan. Stir in the ghee and mix well. You can also add some cardamom powder at this point, if you'd like.

To make kozhakattai
Take a small lemon sized ball of the rice flour dough. With your fingers, shape it into a thin, flat circle with a dip in the middle. Spoon some of the filling into this and then close the edges. Do this until you've used up all the dough. Steam for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!!!(Kozhakattai, vadai, chundal and therattipal rolled into small balls -for Ganesha)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Falafel wrap

When I was a child, rain is something that I always looked forward to. For that matter, I still do love rain. Every year, school would reopen on the first of June or the closest working day to that and the start of school always coincided with the onset of the monsoon. Rain in Kerala is the most beautiful thing you can see. The green that the leaves take on after the first rain is so different from the summer green and so much more refreshing.
Making paper boats during the rains was a major pastime and something of an art. Some of my friends used to come up with double-decker and triple-decker boats!!! Jumping in puddles, getting deliberately drenched in the rain - things that were so commonplace to us, these are the little pleasures that the present generation of kids are missing out on. Walking to school in our new uniforms, squeaky new rain-wear shoes and vibrantly coloured umbrellas was so much fun. To this day, I don't think I've bought a black umbrella - yes, I do have one stashed away in the cupboard, but that's for the DH. Give me my pretty flowered umbrella any day.

This falafel wrap was made a few days back on a nice, rainy day here in Chennai. Unfortunately, the rain is gone and the sun is back in all it's "glory".....but the recipe is a keeper.

What you need:

For the falafel (makes about 20 medium sized falafels)

Kabuli channa/ chick peas - 1 cup, soaked in plenty of water overnight
Onion - 1, chopped into large chunks
Green chilli - 2 or 3
Fresh coriander - a handful
Juice of one lemon
Garlic - 4 cloves
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Italian seasoning - 1 tsp (optional - I happened to have a packet that I got from Pizza Hut which I didn't want to throw in it went)
Oil - for deep frying
Take all the ingredients except lemon juice in a blender and grind to a coarse paste adding as little water as possible. Add lemon juice to this. Refrigerate for half an hour.
Shape into lemon sized balls. Flatten slightly and deep fry in hot oil. Set this aside.For the tahini sauce :
White sesame seeds - 2 tbsp
Sesame oil - 1/2 tsp
Thick yogurt - 1 cup
Garlic - 2 pods
Cumin powder - 1 tsp

Take the sesame seeds and sesame oil in a blender. Add a little water and salt and grind to a smooth paste. To this, add the yogurt, cumin powder, garlic and salt. Blend again. If you'd like to,you can squeeze a lemon over this and also add a tsp of olive oil. I didn't.

To make the wrap:Rotis- as many as needed. I made these thicker than normal rotis, because I didn't want it to get soggy with the sauce. Usually, pita bread is used....but that is not available in my part of the world.
Spread some of your favourite veggies on the roti. I used grated carrots, tomatoes, salt, corriander and squeezed some lemon juice over it. Place one or two falafels over it and then pour some tahini over it.

Recipe source : A cookery show that I watch on Jaya TV.What I think of the dish : Definitely a keeper. I love the tahini few ingredients and so much flavour. It turned out to be a little watery, though. Next time around, I think I will reduce the amount of yogurt used. I think it would make a great dip for chips as well. The falafel and the tahini make for a great snack and served this way, in a roti, it is a complete meal.