Ayodhya, the birth place of Lord Rama, is kicked off with a grand celebration of Deepavali this year. Yesterday the residents of Ayodhya lit 551,000 lamps and illuminated the banks of River Sarayu. Even this pandemic could not dampen our festive spirit, special arrangements have been made across the nation to celebrate this Deepavali happier, healthier & safer than ever before. This year I have tried to replicate my grandmother’s Deepavali platter consisting of traditional Tamilnadu sweets & savories, and it reminds me of the festive feasts relished during my childhood days. Now I post a recipe for Manoharam, a sweet delicacy popular in southern districts of Tamilnadu, and you can also find my other Deepavali recipes here.
It is a new year and a new decade, I begin to ponder about the ancient Indian philosophy that advocates exemplary ways of life for individuals that are still relevant even in this decade. Our ancient scriptures proposed a rajasik way of life for kings (being the protector of people) and sathvik way of life for commoners. The rajasik qualities are strong, tenacious, self-driven, egocentric, energetic & trendy, whereas the sathvik qualities are natural, pure, calm, creative & virtuous.
Rose cookies (rosette cookies) are traditional Christmas cookies prepared in Scandinavian & a few European countries and also in most of the Southeast Asian countries. In India rose cookies are prepared for Christmas and also for Diwali, and they are known as achu murukku in Tamilnadu, achappam in Kerala, gulabi puvvulu in Andhra Pradesh, and Rose De Coque in Goa. Traditionally rose cookies are dusted with icing sugar and served with tea or coffee.
It is the peak of festive season here, Diwali is in the air, young girls & boys are on a shopping spree buying clothes, accessories, electronic gadgets, fireworks, etc. to celebrate this Diwali grander than the previous years. Men are looking forward to spend this weekend with his near & dear. Women are toiling away in the kitchen to treat her family & guests with scrumptious goodies. We usually prepare coconut burfi a couple of days before Deepavali as it is made using fresh coconut meat that won’t stay fresh longer.
Sneha is the Sanskrit word for oils extracted from plants & animals, and it also means “friendly” in Tamil, Hindi, and other Indian languages. Apparently oil is viewed as a friendly substance and according to Ayurveda oil purifies, calms, and nourishes our mind & body. Since oil signifies purification, peace & prosperity, it is no wonder that we follow the tradition of taking oil bath (ennai kuliyal) & heating up an oil pot (ennai chatti kaya vaipathu) on the day of Deepavali. Generally we use sesame oil for oil bath, peanut oil for frying savory stuffs and ghee for making sweets. My mother usually makes deep-fried mundhri kothu or suseeyam (sweet dumplings), vadai or bajji (savory dumplings) and ukkarai fried in ghee for every Deepavali.
During dynasty rule in China black rice was consumed exclusively by the royals for the tremendous health benefits particularly for greater longevity. Hence it was mentioned in ancient Chinese literature as Emperor’s Rice & Fortune Rice. In those days black rice was forbidden to general public. It was even considered an offence to consume black rice or grow black rice crops without royal permission, so it was widely known as the Forbidden Rice. At the dawn of communism in China people were granted to grow Forbidden Rice crops. Soon Emperor’s Rice reached the hands of ordinary people, and in due course black rice cultivation was spread to different parts of world. Initially black rice was brought to south India by the affluent business community in Chettinad, and they take pride in including an exotic kavuni arisi sweet (black rice pudding) in their lavish wedding banquets even today.
Generally we carry a box of assorted sweets, chocolates, or dry fruits when we visit our friends or relatives, likewise we also receive such gifts from our guests. We usually finish them all in a couple of days except the milk sweets, they remain untouched for few days. Ever since I read a slogan encouraging veganism “cow’s milk is for calves, not for humans”, I began to believe it is our greed that we use cow’s milk and on top of that we have no right to waste milk or milk products. So I always look for efficient ways of using left-over milk, curd or milk sweets, and I find carrot halwa as the most delectable transformation of milk sweets.
Women of all virtues are regarded as goddesses in our society even today, it is a common sight in some families here that men treating his worldly wise mother as Sarasawathi, the goddess of wisdom & knowledge, his caring wife as Durga Devi, the goddess of strength & protection, and his lively daughter as goddess Lakshmi who brings in prosperity. Even our prime minister, a devotee of goddess Durga, inducted a righteous woman into his cabinet of ministers as the national defence minister. Ironically we could find several references in our ancient literature which stress the need for the respect of women in unequivocal terms. Thiruvalluvar, an enlightened sage lived in 300 BC, wrote about the eternity of values to be followed by kings, men & women in all walks of life in Tamil (the oldest language in the world) and compiled Thirukkural, the greatest Tamil literary masterpiece known till today. Interestingly he did not miss to highlight the women power in his classic text 2000 years ago as below:
I wish all my readers a blessed New Year full of happiness and health! In this new year I aspire to rise up, glide above my comfort zone and hanker after the recipes I never dared to try before. Now I have tried traditional boli that I enjoyed in my childhood days but I never had the courage to try. There are a number of varieties of boli prepared by South Indians, but the traditional boli is the most delicious boli I ever tasted in my life. Those boli were made thin, flaky, papery & large and stuffed with mashed sweetened lentils. It is really challenging to prepare perfectly shaped boli as it is made thinner than any other boli and hence it turned out to be a larger boli. Nowadays it is hard to find these traditional boli in the sweet shops here, they are usually made thick, chewy, greasy & small which I feel unpalatable.
Dumplings are not only traditional but also universal, they are ubiquitous in almost every cultural cuisine in various forms be it boiled, baked, steamed or fried. Chinese dim sum, Italian ravioli, Nepalese yomari, Jamaican fried dumplings, Polish potato plum dumplings, British herb dumplings, American apple dumplings, etc. are some of the old-fashioned adorable dumplings that still delight the gourmets across the globe.
Ashoka halwa is a protein-rich sweetmeat usually prepared during festivals or special occasions. Ashoka halwa is also offered to deities as neivedyam and served as prasadam particularly for Navarathri. It is one of my favorite sweets for its beautiful silky texture and the sweet aroma, and I find this as the best alternate for kesari. So I like to prepare this often and serve for the breakfast on any special occasion.
Generally truffles are made of nuts, dry fruits and dark chocolate that are rich sources of vitamins, minerals & anti-oxidants; dark chocolate is good for healthy heart & brain. So truffles are not only delicious but nutritious treats that can be ideally prepared to gift our loved ones on any special occasion. These chocolate coated truffles act like protein-rich energy balls and may be packed as a mid-morning snack for school-going children.
Neivilangai has always been featured in our family’s Deepavali menu every year. (You may check out our other Deepavali recipes here.) These melt-in-mouth lentil flour laddu are popular among Indians & Sri Lankans also. North Indians use Bengal gram flour or wheat flour, whereas south Indians use green gram flour or black gram flour for making delicious laddu.
Porivilangai is a traditional laddu made using pan-roasted rice & palm jaggery. Our grandmother used to prepare these laddus for Deepavali that falls in October or November, and my aunts used to keep them for us till our visit during summer. In those days these flavorful porivilangai were made into hard orange-sized balls but now I have made small soft laddus that can be stored only for few days, you can also check out the recipe for a similar laddu called Neivilangai made of lentil flour.
This is my first post in the second year of blogging. On this first anniversary I thank WordPress team for their fantastic support, readers & fellow bloggers for their amazing encouragement and my family, relatives & friends for their kind cooperation, invaluable assistance & honest reviews. I also thank Lord Ganesha by posting the most appropriate recipe, a recipe for Modhagam that we usually offer to Him on his birthday (Ganseh Chathurthi). In this process of sharing our family recipes in here for the past one year, I have been learning much more than what I learnt through the years of my cooking experience. And now I am so glad to share a new method that I found very helpful for making soft silky dough for modhagam.
Preparing Sweet Pongal used to be a difficult task for me when I started cooking, it took really a long time for me to meet my expectation of making sakkarai pongal similar to the one served in temples.
Ulundhu kali is a soft silky ebony sweetmeat specially prepared for girls & women as it helps to strengthen the uterus & hip bones. It is a traditional south Indian delicacy mainly served to young girls (during their cycles particularly in their first cycle) and also to pregnant women.