Friday, December 2, 2011

"Happy To You .."


I heard you squealing and bursting with laughter, when Appa said , "sharkbait hoo ha haa .."

I saw you blushing everytime i let you complete "Ring of .....F I R E"

I enjoyed thoroughly , when you charmingly said " neme..neme..nem" to my question , where is Nemo's house?

I was dazzled every-time you chuckled, watching  Marlin  sharing the joke of sea cucumbers..what made you laugh so much, little dude?

I loved the way you said , Daa....(r) la  'skeeming' (screaming) when we reached the page with the picture of Darla in  your " nema" book

And I was half asleep when you woke up crying "nema box venam" (want nema box)  in the middle of the night , pointing your tiny fingers to a box of wipes , placed on the dresser , with the picture of your favorite fish!

I  will never  forget that expression on your face  as i pulled out your "happy to you cake"  from the fridge....and the image of you bubbling with laughs as we lit the candles...the twinkle in your eyes as the candles sparkled....I wish I could freeze those precious moments.....!!

And you know what, our precious Little Peanut , your "babytha" was sleeping cozy in your grandmas hands as you cut the cake, just like he curled up  inside me almost an year ago when you started watching your friend, Nemo!


We celebrated Little King 's second birthday last week. I made a Nemo Cake for him. It was a layered chocolate cake, filled with chocolate butter-cream, covered in fondant  and decorated with gumpaste. I thoroughly enjoyed working with gumpaste, making undersea creations. Now looking at the corals, Little King says, ""  :)  

We were really amazed by the way some of you remembered his birthday and sent him advance wishes and blessings.I say this everytime , I am at a loss for words whenever  i realise the way you guys have given us a place in your hearts and the way you love our little boys . I wish I had the words to convey how much it means to us.... Truly , you leave me speechless! All I can say is. "thank you.." from the bottom of 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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A September Surprise !

It was a spring morning early this year….. I was enjoying the glint in his eye as Little King watched one of his favourite songs, “Mine” by Taylor Swift. As we watched the video ,capturing some  picture perfect  family moments of a young couple with two little boys running around the beach, doing pillow fights jumping up and down on a bed, I heard CJJ asking me, “ nammalum ethu pole aayirikko?” (Are we going to be like them?). I sat there smiling, secretly wishing for that picture perfect family moments, not knowing whether the flutters I had been experiencing on my womb were from a little boy or girl. 

And on a beautiful  September morning, with a twinkle in his eye and dimple on his chin, he came into our life….. a precious baby boy , our Little Peanut, a beautiful September Surprise… :)

These days as  I  Iie down there sandwiched between Little King on my left and Little Peanut on my right, I can’t stop smiling and I keep saying, “ Am blessed… is beautiful, indeed, with my three men army! “ ?

Little King has been incredibly sweet and caring to his baby brother and he calls his tiny wonder “Babytha..” :)

I cannot thank you enough for all the thoughtful and wonderful messages you sent our way when I disappeared without even saying a word. At times, I still cannot comprehend how someone out there who has never even met us , can give us a place in your hearts and say, “ we miss you…”.  Yet, neither could I update this page nor could I reply to the comments and messages left by you, wonderful readers and blogger friends. Our life has been on a roller coaster ride for the last few months with pregnancy, changes in work schedule and routine and later, two wonderful boys. Thank You for being there and keeping us in your thoughts!

It’s been a long time since I logged into my blogger account and now as I draft this post, I realize, I miss writing here!!

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, January 30, 2011

Cherupayar Payasam – A traditional dessert with sweetened green grams, from Kerala

Cherupayar Payasam – A rustic beauty from the home kitchens of my native land where in, the green pearls get dressed up in the silky coconut milk , along with the seductress dark beauty, jaggery and perfumed by the sweet scent of crushed cardamom and divine ghee.

A favourite of mine and someone else too….. none other than the first man in my life, my father. Along with the many passions he shared with me, he also passed me the gene to take delight in some real old world beauties, some classics from the dark kitchens of yore, like this Payasam, Poruthal Ada, and the temple Payasam - Panachamritham from the Pazhani Temple of Tamil Nadu. Few of these tasty treasures bring out the kid in my father …….bring smiles on my face thinking about those close-to-my heart moments we shared. Those happy moments of the past, make me look out of the window and walk in the valley of memories and am sure, I may never complete writing this post, not being capable of capturing those emotions in right words!

Before I move to the recipe, let me explain the difference in the pictures above: When my parents visited us in 2009, they brought some naadan sharkkara, the jaggery available in the stores in Kerala and Payasam on the right was cooked using the same. When I prepared it a couple of weeks back ( the one on the left), I used the jaggery available in my local Indian grocery store, and its is quite darker in shade and also tastes slightly different , to be specific more overpowering than the ones we get in Kerala. The darker shade of my Payasam is often a point of query in one of my previous posts too and I hope, this explanation justifies. As for the consistency part – my preparation looks thicker than the one my mother made and that’s because I photographed my version much later in the day after making it and by then , it had become little thick. These types of Payasam tend to get thicker as the resting window expands and one way to dilute is by adding more coconut milk and bring to boil again, just before serving. Though implied, let me write it clearly that one should aim for the consistency in my mother’s preparation.

Traditionally, any type of Payasam (a traditional dessert that is made similar to a rice pudding, but with a consistency of a thick milk-shake) is prepared in a big Uruli, a wide mouthed bell metal vessel and this particular one is made using freshly extracted coconut milk , of various consistencies, added to the mixture of green grams sweetened with jaggery and a small amount of grated coconut, cooked down to a very thick consistency. At my place, the same mixture of sweetened green grams is used for making another traditional snack called Sughian which is deep fried fritters, using the same mixture as filling. So when Mummy prepared it last time, she used the same mixture prepared for Sughian and added coconut milk and finished it with a drizzle of ghee and ghee fried coconut chips and cashew nuts. This time when I made it I took a short cut ‘coz of lack of time, using some of the leftover cooked green grams , frozen grated coconut, refrigerated melted jaggery and canned coconut milk. Kindly check the notes below , if you re using freshly squeezed coconut milk.

Here’s how I made it.

Ingredients: (Approx.)
  • ¾- 1 cup cooked cherupayar/green grams/whole moon bean, without salt
  • ½ cup melted and filtered jaggery (as per the sweetness)
  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ cup canned coconut milk , diluted with ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup canned coconut milk , diluted with 2 tbsp water
  • 4 pods of green cardamom, crushed
  • 1 tsp + 1 ½ tbsp ghee/clarified butter
  • 2 tbsp Thangakothu / coconut slices/cuts
  • 2 tbsp broken cashew nuts.
  • In a wide sauce pot, heat melted and filtered jaggery; when it is hot add the grated coconut with a pinch of salt and stir for about 2 minutes and then add the cooked cherupayar/green grams. As you let it cook in low heat, keep mashing the cooked cherupayar/green grams, with the back of a wooden spoon, until the mixture reaches a very thick and almost dry consistency; At this stage, when you keep stirring, it becomes a huge round mass. At this point, add 1 tsp ghee and crushed cardamom. (Note: If you decide to finish the rest of the cooking later, you may turn off the stove now and let it come to room temperature, before refrigerating the cooked mixture. Its refrigeration life depends on how well you cooked down the mixture to an almost dry consistency.) Now dilute ½ cup of canned coconut milk with ½ cup of water and pour it to the sweetened mixture and loosen it; let it come to a boil, and let everything bubble together in very low simmering heat. Now, add the thick coconut milk (¼ cup canned coconut milk , diluted with 2 tbsp water) and bring to a boil and again simmer for few more minutes. You can turn off the stove when it still has a liquid consistency (as Cherupayar Payasam like many of its siblings, tend to thicken as they rest ).
  • In another small pan, heat 1½ tbsp ghee and fry some broken cashews and keep aside; fry some small coconut slices/Thangakothu, till its turns golden brown in colour and pour everything, both the broken cashews and coconut slices, including the leftover ghee to the Payasam and serve warm after 30 minutes.
Notes: Please note that the taste of this Payasam is purely dependent on the Sharkkara/jaggery – coconut milk proportion and hence go generous on the latter but use jaggery according to your sweet tolerance. Coconut milk is a significant ingredient in enhancing the taste. The above measurement is as per our family’s taste preferences; feel free to adjust the proportions. This tastes better if you are using freshly squeezed coconut milk but canned coconut milk, diluted with water, is also good. Also, please keep in mind that those using freshly extracted coconut-milk, should be going for more quantity as the consistency of the canned one is totally different from the freshly squeezed one; hence make changes accordingly as coconut-milk is the taste enhancer here. Adjust the number of crushed cardamoms based on its strength. Some home grown ones are quite strong.


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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Unakka-meen Chathachathu – Crushed Dried Fish spiced up with pearl onions & dry red chilly

……..Amma has her version of Unakkameen chathachathu, which is so good and lasts very long! “ wrote Ria on my last post.

Her words hit me like a twister. My hankering was strong that I secretly wished I had not trashed that last packet of dried fish my parents got me when they visited us year before last.

Yet, I rummaged around the refrigerator, hoping that my memory was wrong and I would find that last packet, tucked away in some corner and luck was on my part that day !!!!

Called up home on Saturday morning and got the recipe from my mother and she fuelled my craving with her “ooh..aahs” about this dish. Decided to make it for lunch, ignoring the fear of complaint from the neighbours for that strange but horrible smell, a warning letter from the Leasing Office for spoiling the aura of the community, living in an house where everything from your couch to remote control to your own hair stink like dried fish and ofcourse, overlooking my man’s inherent disdain for such dried fish concoctions.

I made it for lunch.

I served it with some hot, plump , creamy and starchy bowl of goodness Kanji, rice gruel.

WE devoured every bit.

WE ate it for dinner too.

The bowl was polished off at the end.

And …

I heard my man saying as he chew on each bite, “ …Adipoli…..…awesome!! WOW!! “

On learning that it was the last packet left in the refrigerator,, he made a light joke that “…..we should salt some fish and oven -dry it “. Hmmmmmmmmmm………!!!

Well, he had a philosophical addendum too , for his newly found liking for this dish, “….mm.....I think, with age, I am developing a liking for certain dishes that were not appetizing while growing up…

Honestly, I was not certain whether it was worth responding to such talks when I was sitting in our living room stinking like a dry fish store house, with aroma candles lit in all corners of the house and with balcony doors wide open in a freezing weather outside!!!! When my nose was being tortured with all that strong smell, it would have been atleast pleasing to my ears had he said something like ,”……..loved it this time …may be ‘coz I liked how you made it “ . I know, cheesy it would have been, yet…..…..:P

Well, my stomach was full, satisfied and I was one happy soul yesterday! :)

Here’s how I made it:

Ingredients: (Approx)
  • 1 cup dried fish/ Unakka-meen chunks (Check under ”Directions” for notes on soaking & cleaning instructions)
  • ½ cup small red pearl onions, sliced
  • 6-8 dry red chilly
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • Coconut oil for shallow frying the fish
  • Notes: Soak dried fish ( I used about 150gm “bral” ) in water , along with some small newspaper pieces , to soften the fish for about 30 mts ( newspaper helps to absorb the excess salt content on the dried fish). Remove newspaper, drain water and remove the scales from the fish , if any; cut the tail and all the unwanted parts of fish and cut them into small chunks.
  • Crush and shred the dried fish chunks in a mixer or ideally using a mortar and pestle and keep it aside.
  • Next, crush the onions and dried red chillies together and make a nice coarse mixture.
  • In a shallow pan, heat some coconut oil and fry the dried fish until almost fried (Do not fry them too crispy at this stage) and keep it aside. In the same pan, to the same oil ( add more oil if required), tear off the curry leaves and throw them into the pan, followed by the onion and red chilly mixture and cook till a nice aroma comes, for about 1-2 minutes. At this point, add the fried fish and combine everything together and cook for another 2-3 minutes till everything is nicely combined.
  • “Ultimate” when served with Kanji/rice gruel .
Dear Ria, thank you for that appetizing comment, we had two satisfying meals ‘coz 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.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Unakka-Meen Curry - Dried fish cooked with raw plantains in a curry sauce.

Start the first recipe post of the year with something sweet…..weave the words with a poetic touch…… speak from the heart and write to my glory .....hmmmm. Well, sat at my desk few days back, trying to find my missing writer’s cap and kept wondering when that auspicious moment would strike me like the streak of heavenly lightening from the sky. Nothing magical happened and the blank screen stared at me and seemed to be teasing me.

And this morning I called home; after a long talk, just when my father had curled up to his slumber and at that last minute of wrapping up the conversation, my mother asked me .

….edee….annu nammal onakka-meen curry vechappo thenga arachu chertho? “ (…did we add ground coconut to the dried fish curry we made that day? )

My impulse would have been to say “which one ? did we really make that ? I don’t remember…“. had I not spotted the picture of the same, last week or so, while digging into my ‘yet-to-post’ folder (that has a galore of pictures marked from 2009, most of them taken during my parents’ visit) . As I hurriedly flipped the pages of my little yellow notepad to check the recipe for her, I could hear my mother from the other end recollecting how much I enjoyed that dish, with a plateful of boiled rice, consecutively for two days, while pregnant with my Little King !! Her exact words were, “…nee annu payasam kazhikkunna poleyaa kazhiche…” !!!

Knowing that my mother wanted to make that curry once again , this time to satisfy my sister-in-law’s pregnancy cravings, I quickly ran her through the recipe and brushed her memory. At the end of the call, she asked me “ ….athokke post cheythoode…? “ (“…why don’t you start posting all those recipes…?”). Though I gave her a set of excuses at that time, bits and pieces of that conversation has been playing at the back of my mind , all through the day.

Few minutes back, I found myself walking up to the desk and keying in again………that conversation with my mother gave me the nudge I wanted……. her words refreshed my taste memories and here I am ready to make one more post!!

Though my mother prepared this dish during her stay with us, the framework of the recipe indeed belongs to my mother-in-law. Years back, she had given me a rough idea about this dish, with roots tying to her Kuttanadan background, and I had jotted it down hastily in the drafts folder of my mailbox (yeah, I use my mailbox for non-mailing purposes too). Somehow the combination of dried fish and plantains sounded quite appealing and appetizing to my palate, not to ignore the fact that a fish curry with dried fish itself was completely new to me. I love such rustic food , especially when seafood is combined with a vegetable.

Here’s the details of the recipe, as my mother made it:

Ingredients: (Approx.)
  • 150gm dried fish /Unakka-meen
For cooking:
  • 1 ¼ cups raw plantain, cut into crescent shape ( Soak as per the directions noted below)
  • 3 green chillies, split lengthwise
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 -2 pieces of Kudampuli/Gamboge (adjust as per the strength of Kudampuli as some are very tart)
  • 1 cup water
For Grinding:
  • ½- ¾ cup freshly grated coconut
  • 2 – 2 ½ tsp red chilly powder ( adjust as per your tolerance)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • Around ¼- ½ cup water
For seasoning:
  • 1-2 tbsp Coconut oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dry red chilly
  • 2-3 small red pearl onions/kunjulli
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • Soak the cut pieces of plantain in some water with a couple pinches of turmeric, for about 15 minutes, before rinsing and draining.
  • Soak dry fish in water , for about 30 minutes, along with some newspaper sheets. This is to soften the dry fish; also the newspaper sheet absorb all that salt from the fish. Cut the fish into pieces, as per your choice.
  • Grind freshly grated coconut with chilly powder and turmeric powder , along with water, to make a fine paste.
  • In a curry chatti/earthenware or a sauce pan, cook plantain , with all the ingredients listed under “ For cooking”, and bring to a boil, on medium heat . At this point add the dry fish chunks and cook along with plantains and herbs. When it is half done, pour the ground paste and bring to a boil again. Now reduce the flame and let it simmer and cook till the fish is completely cooked. (Note: Please make sure that plantains and fish pieces are cooked just right and retain shape) Do a taste test and add salt if needed. In another pan, heat some coconut oil , crackle mustard seeds , followed by dry red chilly and small onions and sauté for a minute or till onion slices turn transparent, now switch off the heat and immediately tear some curry leaves and throw them into the pan. Pour the entire thing into the curry chatti , over cooked fish and plantain; please DO NOT stir immediately after pouring the seasoning and let it rest for atleast 30 minutes.
  • We served with some warm rice.
See you soon with more :)


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Saturday, January 1, 2011


With hopes for a healthy and happy year ahead ....

Shn, CJJ & Little King.

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