Please respect the fact that this is a humble attempt from my side to record some recipes, handed over to my family through grandmas & great-grandmas and also share some favourite dishes of my family, including the one I married into. All the content in this blog (text and photographs) are mine, unless noted otherwise. Copying, re-writing, republishing, redistributing or altering any text or photograph or part of the text, for any commercial or non-commercial purposes, without my written consent is strictly prohibited. Users with non-commercial purposes may link to the page or a specific post, but not allowed to reproduce or alter the content( text and photographs) without prior written permission. Please ASK first at email@example.com. Kindly use comments section for any recipe clarifications and e-mails will not be entertained in this regard.
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Quite a vague memory of my grand father’s house…..night time……dull light comes from a petromax lantern….a wooden dining table …..my grandpa sitting on a wooden bench and having Kanji/rice gruel with ‘an organic spoon’ made of plavila/jackfruit tree leaf…..and I am sitting , on the other side, insisting my aunt that I want one of those spoons too……
Memory Disk 2: Sometime in my early teens…..our family is heading back home after our annual vacation to some place…all of us exhausted and just waiting to reach home and take a shower, my mother asks, “ Is kanji (rice gruel) and uppumanga chammanthi (brined mango chutney) ok for dinner?”. “yes…”, “yes…”, “.I am fine with that too”…all of us travel back with the hope of digging into our comfort food.
Memory Disk 3: One of those hostel days in Chennai……..Just before reaching the Chennai central railway station, to catch the train to Kerala, Yours truly calls up her mother, to make sure that someone will be there at the destination to pick her up…her mother picks up the phone and after collecting all the information, she throws the very important question,”….so…what do you want for breakfast tomorrow….? Shall I make Appam and Stew or you want puttu and kadala ? “. “ I don’t want all that…..could you pls make some kanji and payar? “, a very affirmative answer from the other side!
Memory Disk 4: A newly married couple …….girl gets back home quite late from work…completely exhausted….…..makes some fresh sweet-lime juice ……throws herself in a chair, grabs the remote control and switches on the TV…………picks up the phone and calls her husband, “ hey….what time you will reach home..? I am too tired …….want something very light for supper…what do you prefer? “ Husband says….” How about Kanji & payar ?” …A sigh of relief from the girl!
Memory Disk 5: After 2 years stay in US of A, dying to reach home and meet the family and enjoy mom’s food, Yours truly calls up her home and gives all the flight information and arrival time…..and just before winding up the call, her parents ask, “ so that means you will be here in the morning…so what do you want for breakfast? “ Answer comes quickly,“…hmm…I will be happy to clean up my system with some Kanji & payar, after eating all that lousy flight food “, an answer that is not so welcome to her parents who are eagerly waiting to show all their love and compassion, in the form of food, when they meet their daughter after all those years.
Should I say anything more to show how much Kanji & payar mean to me and my family ?:) Kanji is a rice gruel, a comfort food for many Keralites. As macaroni and cheese is to Americans or Risotto to Italians , so is Kanji and Payar to a Keralite. A light breakfast or a light supper……Though Kanji & payar ( Stir fry with cooked green grams) is the most popular and traditional combo, Kanji can be served with a variety of chutneys, pappadam (Indian wafers) , pickles etc.
Now anyone interested to know why I thought of blogging this? When Mallugirl of Malabar Spices announced her Summer Express Cooking Event, she wanted to know what I was planning to contribute. Honestly speaking I had no plans to participate as I could not think of any interesting dishes to whip up in 30 minutes, I responded with an impish smile saying, “Kanji & Payar is the only thing I can cook in 30 minutes and do you really want me to blog that? “, thinking that I can escape from this and enjoy the round-up happily. But she was quite persistent and gave me a green signal. And there was one more innocent looking silent character from here, who did everything she could to pour oil to the flame!!! And they wanted my ‘stories’ too!!! And today I found myself, cajoling my husband for accompanying me to an Indian store in downtown, driving 16 miles up and down to buy the traditional Kerala rice used for preparing kanji and here I am making you all travel down my memory lane ! You blame those two girls from here & here :)
Pre-requisites for Express cooking Kanji & Payar :
2 pressure cookers + 1 shallow pan OR
1 pressure cooker and 1 rice cooker + 1 shallow pan OR
1 pressure cooker and A microwave + 1 shallow pan
Time Frame :30 mins
Wash rice and keep it in pressure cooker.
Wash Cherupayar/green grams and keep it in pressure cooker
Peel off small onions and garlic and make a coarse paste.
Set the table and clean up the kitchen counter and relax until the steam is fully out from the cooker.
Heat the pan and stir-fry cherupayar/green grams.
Kanji- Rice Gruel (Serves 2)
1 cup rose-matta rice/Kuthari
5-6 cups water
Wash the rice thoroughly in water. Along with 5-6 cups of water, cook rice in a pressure cooker or rice cooker, in medium heat, until it’s cooked well and soft enough. Generally, I wait for 4-6 whistles from the cooker. (Note: Rice can be prepared in microwave too. Rice varieties like boiled ponni rice and sona masoori rice take only 25 minutes in microwave. Rose-matta rice might take more time; since I have never tried cooking this in microwave, I am unable to give you the right cooking time.)
Cherupayar Mezhukkupuratti – Stir-fry with cooked green grams.
¾ cup cherupayar/green grams
2 ¼ cups water
4 green chillies slit opened lengthwise
7-9 red pearl small onions/shallots
3 cloves of small garlic
2 dried red chillies
1 ½ to 1 ¾ tsp red chilly flakes
1 small sprig of curry leaves
1tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil
Salt to taste
Wash the cherupayar/green grams in water and drain the water fully. Heat the pressure cooker and very mildly roast the cherupayar/green grams until they are dry and warm to touch. Add 2 ¼ cups water, green chillies and salt to taste and cook in the pressure cooker and wait for about 5-6 whistles in medium heat.
Using a mortar and pestle set, crush the small onions and garlic and make a coarse paste. If you dont have a mortar-pestle set, keep all the ingredients on the chopping board and crush with a rolling pin.
Heat oil in a shallow pan and when it’s hot enough, reduce the flame to low and add 2 dried red chillies and sauté for 4-5 seconds and add the coarse paste of small onion and garlic. When it turns transparent, add red chilly flakes and blend thoroughly with the onion and garlic and sauté for a minute. Now, add the cooked cherupayar/ green grams ( there will not be much water left in the cooker except 1-2 tbsp, which can be poured to the pan along with the green grams/cherupayar) and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Do a taste test here and adjust salt and just a minute before turning off the heat, add the curry leaves for a tempting aroma. Serve with Kanji; sprinkle some salt on top of Kanji :)
Note: There is a jet fast way of cooking this dish, which is by replacing big onion for small onions and saute the onions until transparent; add chilly powder and cook for 1-2 minutes; add cooked cherupayar/green grams and curry leaves.
For a very informative post on Kanji and Payar, Click Here.
Click on the icon to go to the online craft village
Like good food, there are few other things that can make me go “slluuurrrp..., wish I could have that”! And one of those things is craft...especially traditional Indian Crafts. Sometimes I really miss not being able to visit those seasonal craft exhibitions, inside rows of colourful stalls where artisans from several rural parts of the country, would have set up a feast, for craft lovers like me.
So when a friend of mine, Kaira, said she had opened an online craft village, it felt like a dream-come-true! Kaira, an ardent craft lover, has set up a website to display her hand-picked collection of crafts from across India and tells craft tales that she picked up from books and her interaction with artisans. What I liked most about her site is the personal touch, that leaves you feeling that you visited your friend's cosy neighbourhood store. One could pick from the beautiful pieces that are available or make a custom order. And you can get it delivered at your door step or courier a gift to a dear one for his/her birthday/wedding/house-warming...Kaira guarantees the authenticity of every item on her store since she has personally chosen each piece.
I enjoyed reading the brief notes given for each craft and finding out how they are made. It's fascinating to know how some of them originated centuries ago and are still practiced. The site has a limited collection at present, but Kaira seems to have just got started...I am sure she will have lot more 'crafty stuff' coming up, to quench the appetite of craft-lovers like me! Oh, by the way, if you want to check out her website, go to www.just-craft.com.
Location: A small town in Kerala Characters: Yours truly and her aunt Almanac: Late 80’s
Scene: A young girl……in her favourite topaz blue frock, printed with cute little heart shapes in white, with laces around the neck, tied with a pretty little bow on the back, sitting casually on the kitchen counter, indulging herself in a casual conversation with her aunt who is also in a very light mood…..smiling and talking to the little girl while she pounds a handful of prawns with a mortar and pestle set…and mixes some spices…..fires up a small “cheena-chatti” ( a mini Chinese wok).....pours some oil….then she goes out in a haste and comes back with a fresh plantain leaf cut from the backyard……washes the leaf in a hurry…..and takes some mixture, makes a ball….flattens them on the plantain leaf….slides each of ‘em into the hot oil…..she keeps the fried ones aside on a plate…..our little girl, still talking incessantly, sitting on the counter, kicking her legs in the air carelessly, picks up the fried ones and nibbles 'em, still entertaining her aunt with all her stories ……..this frying and talking and nibbling continue…..and after almost 10-15 minutes aunt notices an empty plate on the side and hiding her astonishment, she tells the little girl, “Honey…..keep 1-2 for your uncle as well!” Girl realizes her mistake and in embarrassment she replies,” ohhh….I am so sorreee…..I forgot that completely…….and this tasted so yummmmmmmm ….I have never had such a tasty snack " :)
- The End -
This is one of the many childhood yarns associated with yours truly, in our family circles……an anecdote that excites everyone while narrating whenever there is a family get-together over food, with a prawn dish in particular…….my aunt still affectionately recollects this episode whenever I meet her……she did not fail to share the story with CJJ, the day she got to entertain him with her tasty preparations… this was a double appetizer for him…….and after all these years, even when I was on my vacation last year, when I was enjoying my full piece of Karimeen Porichathathu, fried pearl spots, she went on to dig up the old thread again!!!!! :) And I do enjoy all those teasing…some of my childhood memories that’s still evergreen in my mind……..and for more than a month, this childhood episode was hitting the shores of my mind with waves of nostalgia, and I saw myself finally cooking up this delicacy! :-) This time I had no competition as uncle was not there and CJJ, not being a prawn lover, I got to eat the maximum and had to share only 2-3 with him :D
½ lb (Approx. ¼ kg) prawns or shrimp peeled, deveined and washed thoroughly.
4-5 small red pearl onions/shallots
½ to ¾ tbsp finely chopped ginger
7-9 fresh green chillies
A small sprig of curry leaves coarsely chopped
¼ tsp of turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying
Using a small jar of the food processor or blender, make a coarse paste of the small onions, green chillies, ginger and curry leaves. To this, add the cleaned prawns or shrimp and run the processor until everything combines well, forming a coarse paste and add turmeric powder and salt to taste. Do not make them too smooth as you do for chutney or other condiments.
Make around 10-12 small balls with this mixture and flatten them into a round shape; For flattening, keep the ball of mixture onto your left palm and press it with your right palm. You can do this either on a plastic wrap sheet or a plantain leaf as well, whichever is convenient.
Heat oil in a small saucepan, deep fry each of them, in low-medium heat, until it is cooked or reaches brown colour. Serve warm with a hot cup of tea/chai.
Mistakes made and tricks learnt: I added only 7 green chillies which did not provide me the required heat, so I ended up adding ½ tsp red chilly powder, which compromised the visual appeal, resulting in a slightly black colour, according to my mother. So it is better to go with green chillies alone. From the photographs, my mother felt that my base mixture of small onion, ginger, green chillies and curry leaves were not a coarse paste exactly, which was true to an extent :D Yes, she is a perfectionist in cooking! So, make sure that you follow both the tips to make your Chemmeen Vada/Prawn Fritters, appealing not only to your palate but also to your eyes :)
Verdict: A ‘must try’ for prawn lovers! The ones in pictures were the last two ‘saved’ with great difficulty, for the sheer act of photographing this dish, to blog!!