Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kanjivellam………Energy Drink, Home Remedy, Hair Care & Much More…..

Food evokes memories ………the smell wafting though the air and flavours lingering on the palate is powerful enough to glide us through the long forgotten days of childhood and in my case, sometimes even a mere mention of a particular food, takes me back to those days that has begun to fade away from my little brain. That is exactly what happened when Mathew wrote “uppu itta kanjivellam is a favourite drink of mine..:-)”, as part of his comment for my post on Kanji Pidi.

While reading that comment, I did not have the slightest clue that I would end up writing a post on Kanjivellam which is nothing but the rice stock you get while cooking rice. When I read that comment, my first reaction was “ewww…” as I always associated it with those days when I was down with fever and vomiting……. I remember my mother giving me a glass of the same and asking me to take small gulps every now and then, after a series of my throwing up into that red plastic bucket, kept near the cot!! I remember my father massaging my hands and legs and me swallowing it like some poison as it was unbelievably bland and my requests for flavoring it with some ghee or pickle was denied ruthlessly because of high temperature and stomach upset!! Kanjivellam flavored with a dash of salt was our indigenous home remedy to cure stomach upsets, prevent dehydration of the body and regain physical strength.

Though I got absorbed in my daily routine, at the back of my mind this thread linking back to my memory lane, was going on in a loop. As the habit goes, knowingly or unknowingly I started plowing through my memory fields which opened up a deluge of images that came flashing back to my mind. I saw our maid, Omakutti Chechi, asking my mother for that hot kanjivellam, just drained from the Kanjikalam, rice cooker before she left for my uncle’s house….it was a sort of energy drink for her. It was the same case with the worker Chothi, whom my father appointed every year to clean up our yard after the monsoons……..a hot bowl of Kanjivellam fetched him energy to dig the yard with a shovel for a couple of hours.

At this juncture of my thoughts, I shared what was going on in my head with CJJ and I saw his face lit up with a smile at the mere mention of “uppitta kanjivellam” aka salted rice stock and he added how the field workers in their estate knocked at the back door of their kitchen asking, “Chechee…..kurachu kanji vellam kitto…?“ meaning, “Ma’m …can we get some rice stock? " !!!! That’s when it struck me how this humble ordinary homely drink is woven into the lives of a Malayalee …..and I knew it was time for me to bring Kanjivellam into the limelight :)

Kanjivellam is not just an energy drink or a simple home remedy, it turns out to be our traditional alternative to modern shampoos. Yes, it was also used for hair care!!! I remember, in my early childhood, before I gained the courage to buy that blue bottle of Clinic Plus Shampoo, our hair wash on weekends included ceremonious soaking of a crushed and dried variety of herb called, ‘enja’ in Kanjivellam and later mixed with another leafy herb called, ‘vellilathaali’ as an organic alternative to shampoo. My maternal grandmother soaked ‘Pappadam’, Kerala wafers in ‘Kanjivellam’ to wash her was used to make the hair more stronger and shinier... So I would call this as Kerala’s ‘organic shampoo’ :)

This is again Kerala’s indigenous yet clever discovery for wrinkle –free cotton ‘Mundu before spray starch and powdered starch made its entry into the market. Washed clothes got a quick drench in Kanjivellam diluted with water and then hung on ropes to sun-dry and later ironed to get wrinkle free clothes and a crisp finish!

This might sound strange to some but if you go to a small town or village in Kerala, you will see men using Kanjivellam for mixing ‘Pinnakku’, a type of cattle food to feed cows…..I remember my uncle doing the same before milking the cow every morning when I was there to collect cow's milk, just up from slumber, with puffy eyes and hair standing in the air like that of Fido-Dido of 7Up!! You might also come across people using one-day-old ‘Kanjivellam’ as a plant food for Plantain or banana trees!

So that was ‘Kanjivellam’ playing the role of organic energy drink, home remedy, hair care, laundry starch, cattle food and plant food! :)

If you find this whole post silly, blame it on Mathew…he is the one who fired up my dead memory cells :) On a serious note, Thanks pal… did help me recollect some of the images I haven’t thought about in almost a decade!

Moral of the story – be careful while leaving comments in this blog, consequences can be as dangerous as this post :)

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Neichoru – Fragrant ghee rice….

The simplest festive dish where the divine ghee along with an exotic set of Indian spices dress up the fragrant basmati rice with caramelized onions and ghee fried golden raisins and nuts into a beautiful dish………

Ingredients: Serves 3 Adults

For Rice:

  • 2 cups Basmati Rice
  • 4 ¼ cups Water
  • 1 small size golden yellow big onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 6 cloves
  • 5-7 small ½ inch long cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole mace/javinthri
  • 4 tbsp Ghee/clarified butter
  • Salt to taste
For garnish:
  • 1 small size, golden yellow big onion thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup halved cashew nuts
  • A pinch of sugar
  • 3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) + more ghee/oil for frying onions
  • Wash and drain the rice on a paper towel. When it is medium dry, heat 4 tbsp ghee in a large pan and splutter cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mace and bay leaf; add thinly sliced onion to this and sauté till it turns golden and edges begin to brown. At this stage add rice stir continuously for 2minutes in very low heat.
  • Cook Rice: Microwave Method: Pour the fried rice along with onions and spices into a microwave safe bowl and add 4 ¼ cups of water, flavour with salt and pop it in the microwave and cook for 23-25 minutes or until rice is done. Stove-top Method: Boil water in a heavy bottom cooking vessel, and when it comes to boil, add all the ingredients and bring it to a boil again and then reduce the flame and cook covered in low-medium heat, until rice is fully cooked and water is absorbed.
  • While rice is cooking, heat 3 tbsp ghee and fry the raisins, stirring continuously until they turn plump or look like golden grapes and keep them aside; fry the cashew nuts in the same oil, till they turn golden in colour and keep it aside. Add more ghee or oil to the same pan and start frying thinly sliced onion; when they turn translucent, add a pinch of sugar to speed up the process (also adds a nice taste) and fry until they reach a caramel or brown color.
  • Once rice is done, using a fork, gently separate/fluff the rice, so as not to get sticky and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add ghee fried raisins, nuts and caramelized onion to the rice, keeping a handful of all these three ingredients for garnishing later and gently mix well. Garnish with rest of the fried onions, nuts and raisins.
  • Serve hot with Mutton curry, Raitha- (Coarsely chopped onions and cucumber mixed in yogurt with a dash of salt and pepper), Pappadam and date pickles. That’s a tasty divine family!
Related Posts:

Fried Rice Vegetable Ghee rice Chicken Biriyani Egg Biriyani Chemmeen Biriyani

On a different note, last week I had to deal with a handful of content theft issues ……..I would like to thank some of my readers and blogger buddies, especially Meeta, Silverine,Maria, Nikhil, Mathew, Pooja, Liz & Rashmi for bringing it to my attention as well as helping me with guidance and tips. Though in most cases helplessness has chained me down, I just wanted to let you all know that I am truly honored and moved by the care and support you show for this little space and the person behind it and it has only boosted up my spirits to keep this page more active!!

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kanji-Pidi – Rice-flour dumplings cooked in gruel.....Re-creating the forgotten taste from my father’s childhood!

“Hi S…..I am trying to rewind back to my childhood days, a very lengthy period of around fifty eight years back…..I am sure that it will be a very tough mental exercise, especially at this stage when the memory area of my brain has been partly dried…..I am trying to make it wet.

I still remember the year 1949- 50……. I was admitted to the 1st standard of Boys High School Cranganore …..that was the name given by the Portuguese to Kodungallore. As usual classes started on the 1st of June. Heavy rain….. fully damaged village roads ….. extreme cold climate….. newly stitched shirt and trouser that got wet in the rains……. an old umbrella which was supposed to be black, but it was almost white, as it was manufactured even before I was born! ………strange faces, a very strict class teacher always carrying a “Chooral” in his hands……..somehow managed the first day with a mid-day break for lunch at your Achichan’s Vaidyasaala (grandpa’s clinic).

After school, with hunger pangs at its peak, we walked half an hour from school, thinking of the food item that will be served by your Ammumma. On reaching home, I rushed to the kitchen……it was just getting ready. I saw steam coming out of the Iddli-chembu …..the very smell of it doubled my hunger…….I jumped onto the Adappinpottam (kitchen counter) and sat there waiting with a hungry looking face. Your Ammumma could read my face……She opened the Iddli-chembu…..WHOWOHH…… hot steam coming out with a fresh smell of mixed rice powder and thengapeera (grated coconut)…… really irresistible fragrance and that was nothing other than the great ‘naadanKANJIPPIDI, a slightly salty snow white oval shape cakes with your Ammumma's fingerprints clearly visible on the surface ………it was usually cooked with kanji but sometimes was steam cooked like this too…… you know, it was really delicious and it was the monsoon season, most suitable period to have such a steaming dish served right from the cooking dish. I don’t know how she prepared it…..rice powder, salt, thengapeera etc made the trick, I think. This was one of the main items served by Ammumma during those evenings when we returned from school…… anybody can make this but Ammumma’s touch was really fantastic…..hmm…….for a short period my brain got delighted recollecting that monsoon day and those steamed cakes”

These are few lines my father wrote to me recollecting a mundane day from his childhood, when I asked him to share his thoughts …………as I saw him getting excited on this very simple dish his mother used to prepare, on one of my casual conversations with my parents. This humble dish still continues to excite my father’s memory and palate as it did several decades back to that young handsome slim boy with sharp features, wearing a shirt and short trouser with black oily hair combed neatly to one side….that’s how I have seen my father in those black & white family photos. After reading his mail, I could almost visualise that innocent boyish image of my father, jumping on to the kitchen counter and waiting impatiently for his mother to serve those steamed dumplings and it did bring a smile on my face :)

Kanji-Pidi is a very unassuming, down to earth and visually unappealing dish that may never satisfy today’s younger generation whose palate is used to meat patties and aerated drinks. It is essentially rice flour softly cooked with hot water first and then mixed with grated coconut and flavored with an extra pinch of salt and then thrown into the boiling rice bowl and cooked along with Kanji (gruel) to make it nutritious. Pidi can be roughly translated to a “fistful” (of rice flour and grated coconut) and since it was cooked along with Kanji (gruel), it has been called as ‘Kanji-Pidi’. This was usually cooked along with the rice for lunch and served as a mid-morning snack for young boys in my paternal family but when it was to be served as a school-time snack, my grandma resorted to the steamer, to serve her dozen kids.

Though I have tasted Pidi in my childhood and teenage days especially when my mother had some extra dough from Idiappam (String hoppers) which she prepared for breakfast and gave a makeover to the leftover dough by adding some grated coconut and then steamed in Idli-Steamer, I was quite fascinated by this method of preparation after listening to my father. So today, I made an attempt to “recreate the forgotten taste” of my father’s childhood delicacy from his mother’s unpretentious kitchen in my modern American kitchen!

Ingredients: (Makes about 10-12 )
  • 1 ½ cups rice flour, mildly roasted
  • Around 1 - 1½ cups hot boiling water or enough to make a smooth dough
  • ¾ cup grated coconut
  • 1 ½ tsp salt ( salt needs be a tad bit more than the usual amount)
  • Add around 1½ tbsp warm water to grated coconut and crush it with a fork to invigorate the grated coconut and make the juices come together.
  • Mix rice flour and salt; to this add the boiling hot water, just enough to make a soft and smooth dough; use a spoon to stir well and then add the grated coconut and blend everything well. (Note: the dough should be looser than the Chappathi/roti dough but as soft as the Idiayappam/string-hoppers dough). Take a fistful of dough and shape it like the ones in the picture. When the dough comes together in your fist, gently press to emboss your finger prints on them.
  • You can throw these dumplings into a boiling rice bowl (the rice should be ‘almost’ cooked by now) and cook for about 10-12 minutes and then using a slotted spoon, collect each of them draining the ‘Kanjivellam’, starchy water and place it on a serving bowl. Another alternative method is to use an idli-steamer or any other steamer or in a pressure cooker without keeping the weight, filled with enough water, and steam for 10-12 minutes, or till it is fully cooked, in medium heat.
  • Serve warm with a cup of tea or coffee.
Related Posts:

Kozhukkatta Ela Ada Kanji & Payar

This may not be an exotic dish worthy to be blogged but it is special to me and I want to chronicle it here as part of saving many things close to my heart!

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

It's Festival Time Again !

This morning when I got off the phone with my parents, I felt a sort of numbness……a numbness that comes out of an unsettling helplessness and painful realization that we will not be there at home with our families this year too, to be part of those celebrations around this festival time of Onam. The holiday spirit that spontaneously brings a refreshing mood amongst the family members…………utmost carefulness on the faces of the women making the shopping list and that last minute soft reminder to the men folk going to the market to buy only the freshest of the vegetables …………..the maddening crowd at those specially set up seasonal markets, Onachantha………unusually packed electronic shops lit with fluorescent lights and huge display boards with the special rates and irresistible discounts targeting the middle class………..families walking by the sidewalks carrying a handful of shopping bags from the city's best textile shops…………… the heaving flower markets selling various colours of marigold to make the ornately decorated floral carpet, Pookkalam though one cannot ignore the simplicity of Pookkalam made with 'naadan' flowers like mukkuttippovu, chemabarthippovu, chethi poovu plucked from one's own garden and backyard and sometimes from the fence too…… the phone bells ringing unremittingly with friends and relatives calling to greet each other………..a visit to 'Tharavadu', paternal/maternal houses ………..the overall rhythm of those festival days , the sound of the loved ones and the smell of the flowers and banana leaf and flavors of the feast just gets rekindled as I try to hunt for some familiar vegetables in this temporarily adopted foster home!!!!

We wish you all our readers a very homely and festive Onam……..enjoy these happy days with family and friends and ofcourse the elaborate feasts. And don't stain your Onakkodi, the new dress bought for celebration, while slurping that decadent Pradhaman/Payasam :) Well, this humble blog of mine, Mishmash! also gets its Onakkodi this year……a new template and new look :) Hope the readers of this blog finds this change pleasant!

Once again, festival greetings to all of you !

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.