A majority of my ancestors were farmers, my maternal grandfather became the last agriculturist of our family due to several reasons. They mostly grew rice & lentil crops in their farmland. There were large amounts of nutrient-rich broken rice and broken lentils kept inside kudhil (a gigantic earthenware used to store foodgrains) in my grandfather’s house. Since those small uneven particles of rice & lentil (kurunai) could not be sold in the market, they were used by our grandmother for making upma, payasam, kanji, kurunai dosai, etc.
Naan is a traditional flatbread made using the dough enriched with ghee (clarified butter) & curd (yogurt) and cooked at a high temperature inside a clay oven called tandoor. Lately, naan dough is prepared just like any other bread dough using leavening agents such as yeast, baking soda, or baking powder and baked like pizza over a hot stone kept inside the oven. Here I have added turmeric powder to make my naan bread bright & beautiful.
Oil bath is almost a forgotten weekly routine followed by every South Indian family until 3 or 4 decades ago. Surprisingly it offers pretty much the same benefits of Ayurvedic massage. But people nowadays prefer to visit Ayurvedic clinic for massaging therapy, and spend a few hours & a few bucks there. Most of us take oil bath at home only as a religious ritual on the day of Deepavali festival every year.
It is really challenging to prepare piquant poriyal using mildly sweet earthy-flavored beetroots. I tried various beetroot poriyal recipes by adding different ingredients to mask the sweet flavor and make it more palatable. Incidentally, I found that we can add a burst of flavor by sauteing beetroot along with garlic in coconut oil and spicing it up by adding pepper. I have also added nicely fluffed up yellow lentils along with deep red beetroot chunks for adding beautiful color and delicious texture.
Vada pav is similar to American burger, here we use a pull-apart pav bread stuffed with spicy potato dumpling instead of patties. It is a popular street food in Mumbai, anyone traveling to Mumbai won’t like to return home before relishing the street foods like vada pav, pav bhaji, paani puri, etc. It is so fascinating to find people from every walk of life whether a celebrity or a taxi driver dropping in to such eateries to savor these tantalizingly delicious goodies.
Sodhi is an exotic Sri Lankan curry prepared with lentils and vegetables stewed in coconut milk. Although sodhi is not a spicy curry, it has grown popular among the people living in & around Tirunelveli who usually enjoy spicy curries. The banana leaf platter served at our family wedding feasts is a lavish spread of creamy sodhi, pungent inji pachadi, spicy potato fries, crunchy appalam, scrumptious coconut milk dessert (payasam), sweet boondhi and fresh curd as shown below. Wedding in our family is usually hosted by bride’s family. However bride’s family is treated with a sumptuous meal (maruveetu sappadu) with sodhi the day after marriage, and it is a unique custom prevalent here to signify the confluence of both the families.
Aloo paratha, an Indian bread stuffed with spicy potato, is a hearty meal that can be packed for children’s lunch box. We can serve hot aloo paratha for breakfast or dinner along with spicy garlic-tomato dip (instead of pickle) & refreshing onion raita.
Idli Milagai podi is an indispensable condiment in every south Indian’s pantry. I find idli podi satisfying only when I feel the coarse grits inside my mouth. Hence I prefer to use the gritty home-made podi over the powder-like store-bought idli podi. We use roasted rice for its sandy texture, roasted asafoetida & raw garlic for the wonderful aroma that brings everyone to the kitchen while grinding idli podi.
Nei kadalai is one of my favorite childhood snacks that I relished along with wheat halwa. It brings me back fond memories associated with this delicious savory as our family get-togethers were incomplete without spicy crunchy flavorful nei kadalai and soft gelatinous wheat halwa. I still cherish all those happy moments with my father when he brought me nei kadalai and Tirunelveli halwa.
Puli Kuzhambu or Tamarind Curry is a traditional south Indian curry prepared using garlic & shallots. We can enjoy its taste to the fullest only when the flavors of all the spices are completely infused into the curry. So this curry can be used for 2 or 3 days without being refrigerated (used for 15 days when refrigerated). Puli kulambu tastes divine when served with soft idli or spongy dosa/ uthappam/ appam the next day.