Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Pongal Post- Finally an Update!

pongal kolamI am like the worst blogger. Ever. Okay, that is probably an exaggeration- neither do I update only once a year nor do I leave random burns on other blogs. But I am down there with the ones that seldom reply to the comments you leave on their blogs and the ones that never post recipes to yummy food they put up pictures of. Anyhoo, Happy New Year and Happy Pongal, people!

I have been monstrously busy since 2014 slid in and I am still trying to find time to click pictures of stuff that Amma (or I) cook. No, seriously. I am so behind on blogging that I haven’t even done my post for the monthly Photo Styling Challenge and we are done with two Mondays already this month. I am aiming at getting that up over the weekend. We had good holidays, ate wonderful food, like this Orange Cola Cake (with leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving) that the NJ aunt made-
orange cola cakeI know, crappy pic but it was a rainy day and  I had to click before anyone got to it, which meant switching on the kitchen lights in a very photogenic kitchen. Blasphemy, I know! So we got back down south on New Year day and hence began the same ol’. Preparing for the commencement of semester, running behind Aarabhi and finding a good daycare. All of the above were achieved, I went to school for a couple of weeks, we celebrated a rather important Indian festival, Pongal. We call it the Indian Thanksgiving but during the three days of Pongal, we show our gratitude to the Sun, the hardworking farmers that plow our fields of rice, without which almost all South Indians would starve!
pongal4
The first day of Pongal, called Bhogi, signals the end of one Tamil month (Margazhi) and the beginning of another (Thai). Until around ten years ago, people used to burn leaves and papers amongst other things, signifying the death of all things old and the beginning of everything new (and good). Well, the good news is that we have stopped setting fire to random combustible objects but  Bhogi still means  let the good times roll, baybay!

The second day is the most important day of all four: Pongal. On this day, we make a huge feast which begins with boiling new rice with milk and jaggery. When this concoction boils over, we yell “Pongal-o Pongal”, which literally means “Boiling over, boiling over!” Sounds weird, right? It is actually so much fun at home, when all of us are peering over the brass pot perched on the cooktop, with a metal plate and ladle in hand. And when the white milk rises to the brim, bubbles up and starts overflowing, with clangs and clings, we yell (most of the time into each others’ ears) with all the lung power we can muster!
pongal2After all the screaming (at the pot of milk by the whole family and later, by Paati at us to go take a shower), we get clean, wear new clothes, bring out all the yummy food and thank the sun for being merciful on our farmers and the crops. Phew! That was a pretty long narration. This year, Pongal was special because it was A’s first and for the first ever time since we got married, we had a set of parents at home with us to celebrate with. Thankfully the weather behaved itself too, a surprise since we have been seeing a lot of rains.

So about the blog: the url has changed! You can find us at http://www.chefettespicy.com from now. We have a new banner also. And as always, I will do my best at keeping the updates consistent and constant. Thassal, folks!

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Detailed Post with Pictures: Pori Urundai aka Puffed Rice Balls

Gluttony is described by most dictionaries around the world as over-indulging oneself with food. This is also what we have been doing at home since my mommy and daddy-in-law came from India a week ago. This is where I side-track from the topic of food. More than 75% of this world has a raw deal when it comes to in-laws. They are either the Cinderella stepmother kind or the nonchalant, I-care-a-rat’s-rear-about-what-you-do-in-your-life kind. I am one of the lucky 25% of the population. Coming to think of it, I am the even luckier 2% of the world with the most wonderful parents-in-law (and yes, an equally wonderful brother-in-law too, K!) ever.
pori urundai2I have awesome, bordering on hilarious, story about meeting them for the first time but I am saving that for later. As a girl who lost her father in her life, my daddy borrowed has become that constant father figure and everyone only knows that it is always merrier to have two mothers. And I have the best of em! So a lot of excitement has been happening (and all of them revolving around the baby of the family) since they arrived last Sunday with four huge suitcases, three of which were filled with Indian food! Food! Food! While we are still in the process of demolishing the stock, we had a South Indian festival called Karthigai yesterday which required a whole new and very specific set of goodies that we made at home. Ahem, okay, L Amma made at home and I clicked pics of and pretty much got in her way.

So this post might be picture-heavy, text-heavy and every other heavy there is. I went crazy with the camera, you see! Pori is nothing but puffed rice and Urundai is the process of molding the balls. So we essentially made Rice Krispies balls, a close cousin to Halloween popcorn balls. Instead of sugar syrup, we use jaggery syrup. Karthigai is the day we in the South of India celebrate the birth of Lord Muruga, Lord Ganesha‘s younger brother.

It also marks the beginning of the Tamil month of Karthikai. On this day, we make lots of delicious food, light rows of lamps and decorate the house with flowers. My grandfather used to enjoy watching us beautify the house. After a few minutes of offering our birthday wishes to Muruga, we would dig into the delicious Pori Urundais, reveling in the joy of the warm taste of caramelized jaggery-coated puffed rice.

The picture part of this post commences here. I have recorded the complicated method of making in pictured. Since Amma is a pro at making these sweet treats, she was pretty deft. I did my best to keep up with her. Some of my pics ended up being a complete failure but I managed to capture ’em all!

Freshly scraped coconut

Freshly scraped coconut

vellam

Powdered jaggery mixed with water, ready to be boiled

Puffed rice

Puffed rice

pagu

Boiling the jaggery… waiting for it to reach the right consistency is one of the toughest acts of patience. Ever.

The jaggery is done when  it forms a ball when a few drops are trickled into a cup of cold water

The jaggery is done when it forms a ball when a few drops are trickled into a cup of cold water and rolled with the tips of your finger

The jaggery solution is mixed with white sesame seeds, coconut scrapings and dry ginger powder, and the mixed with the puffed rice

The jaggery solution is mixed with white sesame seeds, coconut scrapings and dry ginger powder, and the mixed with the puffed rice

The mixture is finally shaped with loving hands and made into tight balls

The mixture is finally shaped with loving hands and made into tight balls

Lamps adorning the house

Lamps adorning the house

 

pori urundai

Ta da! They are finally ready to be offered to Lord Muruga for his birthday


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A Very Indian Lunch

(Clockwise from right) Rice, Spicy-fried Colocasia (taro/eddoe), Jaggery rice pudding, Fritters, yogurt, Sambar and Rasam

Today was one of those random and not very major Indian festivals that called for very Indian cooking. I thought I would be bursting myself for four-hours at least to make the feast. Surprisingly, it took me an hour and a half, if you count the million times I stood there in the kitchen, sneaking glances at the television, watching random shows ranging from Good Morning, America to reruns of Will and Grace too. What can I tell you? I am a sucker for morning television  and wish I could wake up early everyday to catch the shows on a regular basis.

Coming back to food, while this ceremony did not call for the full-fledged South Indian fare, I had to make a complete meal, something I never do on a regular basis. The more elaborate version consists of all the yummies tagged in the picture plus a few more. I have a reason why I took the short-cut to lunch time: I woke up late. I was planning to be up by 5 o’clock (though I did the cleaning, chopping and measuring last night) and cook before the Mister left home at 7 o’clock (this ceremony is performed by men. For the more curious ones, it is called Avani Avittam or Upaakarma. You can click on the link to read more but I warn you. Your life is much easier without knowing the details) But my plan failed miserably and I was not even half into cooking when he left home . So much for following my Girl Scouts motto!

Yellow Pumpkin Sambar with freshly ground spices

Anyway, by the time I was finished with it, I realized that my cooking pace has improved considerably. A year ago, the same menu would have taken me three grueling hours and I would have gone straight to bed after, forsaking the million food-photography opportunities. Today, I clicked away. This post comes with only one recipe: for the fritters. There is time and lot of space on this blog for others. Enjoy!

Rasam in a very traditional Rasam container

Medhu Vadai (Indian Black-Gram Fritters)

Ingredients:

One cup black-gram Dal

One small Thai chili chopped

Half tsp salt

Two cups water

Two cups canola or vegetable oil

Method:

(This recipe required a little bit of pre-planning but apart from the soaking time, it is easy-peasy)

Soak the black gram Dal for at least two hours. When done, drain the water (but save it for later), put it in the blender along with chopped chili, salt and pulse it. Now add one Tbsp of the reserved water and grind it. Make sure it is coarse, not very water-y but not too thick. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom wok or a dutch oven (or in my case, the saucepan). When the oil is really hot, start shaping the fritters. To check if it is, drop in a small piece of the batter in. If it sizzles and rises to the top, it is.You must be able to shape the batter into a thick disk with a hole in the middle. I wish I had pictures of the process to show you.

Carefully drop the shaped-fritter dough into the oil. You can make up to three Vadais at a time but reduce the heat to medium because the fritters need to cook on the inside and turn crunchy on the outside. This takes at leat five to six minutes. When it gets golden-brown and shiny, transfer onto paper towels to drain the oil. This tastes great just by it self but you can serve yours with spicy coconut Chutney or Sambar.

Vadai