Puttu is a staple in Kerala households, something that can be made in a jiffy, something that can be made with readily available ingredients in any Kerala household, something that can be accompanied with any variety of side dish and probably that is the reason why it is repeated so frequently in a week. I remember our childhood days and that mad rush hours in the early mornings, before going to school……my mother, like many others, was so skilled at multi-tasking, used to finish cooking breakfast and a full lunch, from the scratch and pack our lunch and snack boxes before 7.45am, for three of us….and it was also common that she would be holding one of our textbooks, preparing us with our lessons and also helping us complete our homework and my father would be pressing our uniforms and helping my mother in all the non-cooking activities, like breaking a coconut by striking on the shell with a machete like knife and very tactfully collecting the coconut water onto a glass……there was acute competition for grabbing that glass of coconut water as it used to be utterly sweet……and then Mummy used to sit on that Chirava, a wooden seat attached with a serrated blade, for scrapping the coconut and then mixing the rice flour and grated coconut mixture in a haste and then steaming the dish in a bamboo cylinder…..and after going through the entire process, as though she was on a time bomb, when she brought that plate of Puttu to her two lovely kids, who would be waiting to say ,” Ohh…again…??? “So naïve and irresponsible!!! I feel so embarrassed when I unpack my memory sack to those days, considering the fact that whipping up two meals from a scratch consecutively for four days, is enough for me to take a day off on the fifth day!!!! How the hell did she manage cooking up three full meals from the scratch and a home made evening snack on all 7 days a week, at a period when dishwasher and microwaves and frozen vegetables and fruits were not a familiar sight in the markets!!.
Well, the story does not end here…..After forcefully having that breakfast, I used to run to catch my school bus and while waiting for the bus, my attention would be probably at the Chaaya-kada (tea-shop) , across the street……various breakfast items shelved in the glass racks….and the man over there crushing Pappadam (Indian wafers) to the white cylindrical Puttu and squishing ‘em with kadala Curry (Black Chickpeas) and popping it in his mouth and sipping piping hot tea along with it ….Slurrrrrppppppp!!!! Having said NO to homemade, hygienic, love coated Puttu, this sight was something irresistible for me!! May be this is something like ‘neighbors plate envy’ syndrome…I don’t know….but if given a plate of Puttu and Kadala curry at that moment, I would have gobbled them up instantaneously :)
And it was during my hostel days in Chennai, I literally realized the value of Mummy’s food and Puttu in particular, as what we were served occasionally in that name was something like steamed rice flour with no signs of grated coconut. And when I started my married life, I tried making Puttu but failed miserably as my Puttu never used to cook well, until my dear friend AL pointed out that the mixture should not be stacked in the mould, instead loosely fill them and from then onwards, I never grumbled or got to hear any complaints as well.
Puttu can be made with rice, wheat, ragi flour etc. The accompaniments to Puttu vary from Kadala curry (black Chickpeas) to steamed ripe plantains or spicy meat curry or ghee and a dash of sugar, or cherupayar curry (Green Grams) to my all-time favourite combo, Puttu and Fish curry. There are some who would like to have with fresh ripe bananas or ripe mangoes and there are some who like to have with black tea or a milk-tea! Erachi Puttu (Steamed rice flour cakes with spicy meat layers) is another variety. Last month a friend of mine mentioned about this variety, after she had it from a Mappila/Muslim food festival at our hometown in Kerala and she tried to give me a rough idea about the meat mix and then I remembered having seen a recipe HERE. Finally I decided to try this and tweaked my cutlet mix recipe a bit and there was a winner! :)
Ingredients for Meat Mixture:
- 1 ½ cups cooked or uncooked minced meat
- ¾ cup minced big onion (1 medium size)
- ¾ tbsp minced ginger
- ¾ tbsp minced garlic
- 4-5 green chilies minced
- 1 spring curry leaves coarsely chopped
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tbsp coriander powder
- ½ tbsp pepper powder
- ½ tbsp garam masala + ¼ tsp
- ¼ tsp finely crushed fennel seeds/Perinjeerakam
- 1 tbsp ketchup OR ¼ to ½ cup finely chopped tomato *
- A handful of green peas (around 1/8 cup)
- 1tbsp oil
- Salt to taste.
- Heat oil in a pan and throw in minced onions and cook until they begin to look golden brown. Add minced ginger, garlic, green chilies and curry leaves and cook until they are soft. To this add turmeric powder, coriander powder, pepper powder, crushed fennel seeds and garam masala and stir well until the raw smell goes and the spices are well coated with the fresh ingredients. Now add tomato and mix well and cook till it is soft and at this stage add the uncooked minced meat and salt and let it cook thoroughly; this might take 10-12 minutes. If the cooked minced meat is used, then stir-fry only for 2-3 minutes until all the ingredients are well combined. When it is almost done, add green peace and cook for 3-4 minutes and also sprinkle ¼ tsp garam masala to retain the aroma of the spices. Once it is done (should be moist), let it cool down a bit in room temperature.
- 2 cups Rice Flour
- 1 ½ cups grated coconut + ¾ cup for layering
- ½ to ¾ cup water OR Coconut water (depending on the quality of rice flour)
- ½ tsp salt
- Dry-Roast the rice flour in low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously and when it is just warm enough, when you touch with fingers, remove the flour to a large bowl and let it cool. Do not engage yourself in any other activities during this process, so as not to burn your rice flour.
- In a large bowl, mix roasted rice flour with salt and grated coconut and sprinkle water intermittently while mixing with hands and break the lumps formed as you mix. Mixing should be gentle enough and mix well until the mixture is damp enough or slightly wet. The right consistency is when the rice flour-grated coconut mixture is a damp-powdered form and not sticky dough; As my S aunt taught me, “when you grab a handful of the mixture and make a fist with it and if it holds together and then breaks when you loosen the fingers, then you have reached the right consistency!!”
- To make the Chirattaputtu (Meat Puttu in Coconut shell): Drill a small hall in the halved and emptied coconut shell/chiratta and make a first layer with a tablespoon of grated coconut, another layer with ¼ cup of Puttu mixture, third layer with meat mixture, one more layer with Puttu mixture and sprinkle some grated coconut on top. You should not stack the mixture, just fill in loosely. Heat water in a pressure cooker and when the steam starts coming out, place the Chiratta/shell on the nozzle of the pressure cooker and keep a kitchen napkin as a lid for the chiratta/shell. Let it steam for 6-8 minutes in medium heat and then remove and invert the chiratta/shell on to a plate and slowly lift the shell. If it is cooked well, then the Puttu will come off of the chiratta/shell very easily, in the shape of the shell itself. Serve hot.
- To make Kutti puttu/ Cylindrical Puttu, use a Puttu Kutti/Puttu Maker and layer the mixture the same way as mentioned earlier and place it on the pressure cooker and let it steam-cook for 8-10 minutes. Once it is done, place the cylinder on to a place and using a skewer, slowly push from the bottom of the cylinder and Voila! If it is perfectly cooked, you will get a cylindrical shaped Puttu without breaking or crumbling :)
Phew!!!!! I have never experienced so much of confusion and difficulty in explaining a recipe. If "A picture is worth a thousand words", then there is no equivalent to this pictorial which gives a thorough understanding of the entire Puttu Making Process. For more , click here.
This goes to WBB#12, hosted at Trupti’s.
Wonder why Puttu is not served here in Indian Restaurants in US, along with Naan, Roti, Idli, Dosa and Pongal ! Aren't we/they missing something ??