Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Deepavali Marundhu

Happy Deepavali to all of you! 

You can get the hang of Deepavali once you have all the sweets and savories, new clothes ready and everywhere you can hear the bursting of fireworks. But it is complete only when you have this marundhu (medicine) or Deepavali lehiyam ready to eat this in empty stomach on the day of Deepavali. This is very important as it helps you have good digestion when you eat different kinds of snacks and a big feast during festive times. I am from a traditional Iyengar family and these kinds of home remedies and specialty recipes are the ones that I love the most though I try out many different cuisines. This lehiyam is my all-time favorite. I make this now and then and have a steady stock of this since we all love to eat a small gooseberry size often which helps in keeping our system tuned up. 

There are two methods: either you can roast and grind all the ingredients or soak them overnight, grind and make. I mostly make in the latter option. In both ways, the taste is the same and when you make it, the aroma of all these spices fills your entire home.


Jaggery - 1 and 1/4 cup
Sesame oil - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 4 tbsp
Cardamom - 1
cloves - 2
Dried ginger - 2in piece
fresh ginger - 3 in piece
White pepper (whole) - 1 tbsp
Black pepper (whole) - 1 tbsp
Galangal root (chitharathai) - 3 in. piece
Licorice (athimathuram) - 3 in. piece
Piper longum fruit (arisi thipili) - 4 or 5
Piper longum stem (kanda thipili) - 3
Coriander seeds - 1/2 tbsp
Cumin - 1/2 tbsp
Ajwain (carom seeds) - 50g
Dates - 15
Mace - a tiny bit


Take all the ingredients in a bowl. Crush the chunkier ones a little so they soak and grind well. Add boiling water till all the ingredients are immersed. Cover and let it soak overnight.

The next day, grind all of it to a smooth paste. In a pan, heat half cup of water with jaggery. Once it dissolves, filter and heat again the pure jaggery liquid. Add the ground spices and sesame oil.

Take care since the mixture will splatter and stir. Add the ghee and keep stirring on a medium flame.

The mixture thickens and at one point it will swirl around without sticking to the pan. Take a little in a spoon and if it doesn't stick in your hands, it is in the exact consistency or else continue cooking it for a few more minutes.

When the mix doesn't stick, switch off the flame and it will continue to thicken as it cools. In about 15 - 20 min. you will have this wonderful home remedy Deepavali Marundhu. If you grind and do this even tomorrow morning you can follow the same steps and do this and enjoy your festival. Have a HAPPY and SAFE DIWALI!


Even if you don't have all the ingredients, you can do with minimum requirements too. Ajwain, dried, and fresh ginger, pepper are more important. So try this with what you have and enjoy good health during festive times.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Whole Wheat Halwa - Traditional Way for Diwali

When we grew up, there was not a single Diwali that we celebrated without this wheat halwa. We enjoyed watching my mom make this, sniffing the aroma of it and waiting eagerly for a slice to be tasted, sharing it friends, relatives, and neighbors..........those days are precious. This is my mom's recipe. After we all moved out and due to her health condition, my mom reduced making this halwa, though everybody asks for her trademark dessert. After over a decade, this year I spent my time with my mom during Diwali and we made this whole wheat halwa and jangri (my aunt and cousin joined us too).  Back then, my mom alone would make a very large batch of this halwa. But now I felt sad that her bone health is not allowing her to do like usual way, but she is a great guide. Under her guidance, we did learn to make the halwa in the perfect consistency. Thanks, mom! It was fun making together and I could feel as if it was the time back then......true festive spirit and fun.


Whole wheat (Sambha wheat) - 1 cup
Sugar - 2 cups
Cardamom - 2
Clove - 1
Red food color
Corn flour - 2/3 tbsp
Ghee- 1 and 1/2 cup
Cashews - 1/4 cup


Wash and soak the whole wheat overnight. The next day wash it and grind with about 750ml of water. Once nicely ground, filter through a cheesecloth and extract the milk. This is the first pressed milk and reserve this. To the gooey mass, add another 750ml water and grind again. Filter to get the second pressed milk and reserve this too. Add another 500ml water to the solid gooey wheat and grind again to extract the third pressed milk. Discard the gooey mass. Grease a tray with ghee and keep ready.

Now, on a heavy-bottomed large pan or pot, add sugar and the third pressed milk and heat on a medium flame. Make sure to keep on a medium flame and be near it to stir, else it may burn, and also it will overflow. By now two layers would have separated in the second and first extracted milk. Slowly decant and add the top clear liquid to the mixture that's cooking and reducing in quantity. Once that reduces to half the quantity, add the thick second extracted milk and repeat the process. Again, after this has reduced add the thick first extracted milk.

Continue to stir and cook. Slowly it would become much thicker. This is the stage to add the cornflour (mix with 2 tbsp water) and red food color. Make sure to stir continuously, so that it doesn't scorch at the bottom. Heat ghee in another pan, and start to add slowly a ladle full of ghee now and then as the mass thickens.

Crush the cardamom and clove to powder and add to the halwa. Continue stirring the thickening halwa and adding all the ghee (reserve a couple of tbsp) slowly. In a few reserved tbsp of ghee fry cashews and add to the halwa and keep stirring. After some time, some of the ghee that had been added before will ooze out a little and that's quite normal.

At one point, the halwa will twirl around without sticking to the pot or to the ladle, when stirred. This is the stage that halwa is perfect. 

You can test it by spooning a little amount on a tray. If it doesn't stick in your hands and also solidifies to a soft mass, it's perfect. Switch off the flame and pour it onto a greased tray. 

Allow it to cool for 15 - 20 mins. and slice. Let it cool completely and take out the slices and store. This yields about 30-35 slices. 

The tray pictured here is big, since we tripled the quantity mentioned here. Also, the time taken to cook this halwa for the given quantity is around 1 and 1/2  to 2 hours (soaking, grinding, and milk extracting time not included).

  • Continuous stirring is essential. Making halwa is time-consuming and labor-intensive, so if you need help, plan ahead for a helping hand.
  • Keeping on a medium flame is essential, as a high flame may burn the milk and cause it to overflow making a mess.
  • As soon as you have extracted the milk, start to cook them. If you store for longer, it may develop a sour taste.
  • Once you keep the third extracted milk with sugar on the stove, try and clean the grinder immediately, or else cleaning the sticky mass is very very hard.
  • After you pour it onto a greased plate, you can remove the excess ghee that is there on the sides of the tray with a small spoon or ladle (this is optional). This ghee can be used later.
  • If you do not want to slice it, and you prefer as a jiggly mass, you may omit the cornflour.
  • Pure ghee brings out great flavor.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Karasev - A Quick Savory Snack

Karasev is a popular savory snack in south India. It is very easy to make but equally tasty and crunchy to have with tea or coffee (or for just snacking). If its a rainy day, what can you ask for more with this tasty and spicy crunchy snack and a cup of hot tea! Also, it goes well with rasam rice, sambhar rice, and puliyodharai too. Karasev is also served in the wedding feast or any other important occasion....it's that great!

It's been quite long since I made karasev. So for this year's Diwali, Karasev was one of the items we made(even though there are a few days ahead and half of it is already gone). It is even more special since it was great fun making it with my mom, aunt, and cousin, chatting and enjoying the snack as well as our time. When you make these snacks with friends or relatives as a group, I kinda feel it gives the true festive spirit and enjoyment than being alone. Here is the recipe for you to do and enjoy with friends and family!


Bengal gram flour - 1 cup
Rice flour - 1 cup
Black pepper powder - 1 tbsp, coarsely ground
Ghee - 2 tsp
Oil to deep fry


Sieve the flour. To this add ghee, salt, and black pepper powder. Knead to a smooth dough with water. It should be just enough to squeeze through the ladle with hand (make sure it is not too tight or loose).

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and when it is hot enough press or rub a ball of dough on the karasev ladle (available in stores) and squeeze it through the holes. About 2-3 inches long stings of dough would fall straight into the oil and fry them on a medium flame till golden brown. Remove the karasev from oil and drain on a paper towel.

If you do not have the specific karasev ladle, you can be innovative and use what you have in hand. I have shown a picture here that uses the reverse side of a grater.

This yields about 2 and 1/2 cups. Delicious and easy to make karasev is all ready to be served.


1. There is a special ladle for making Karasev. You don't really need one as you can use something that you have at hand. For example,
    1. Box grater or simple grater (picture shown here in the recipe part)
    2. If you use a chakli or murukku press, make like murukkus and break it after you fry and cool it or press 2-3 inches in hot oil, cut with a knife and continue doing the same till you finish.

2. For us, this combination gives a crunchy karasev even without the addition of baking or cooking soda. If you want, there is no harm in adding a pinch of cooking soda to the flour mix.

3. Instead of ghee, you can add hot oil too.

4. Can make it less spicy by decreasing black pepper.

Ellodharai (Ellu Sadam) /Black Sesame Seed Rice

Ellu sadam, ellodharai, or black sesame seed rice is a special we make during the Purattasi month (Tamil lunar calendar month). The Saturday is in that month are considered auspicious for god Vishnu and we make it as a neivedhyam on these days using the black sesame seeds. If you happen to go to Vishnu temple on these Saturdays, maybe you'll get this rice as a prasadham. We have the tradition to make this rice, ellu urundai (sesame seed balls or chikkis), and ellu podi (powdered sweet) during this month. Some people do Maavilaku for Purattasi Saturday. I was quite busy and hence couldn't post it during the Purattasi month. Now that you have the recipe here, you need not wait for the next year's Purattasi Saturday but can relish this simple dish any day.

Sesame seeds are very healthy. It is a good source of vitamin E and hence good for the skin. It is used widely all over the world. This nutritious nutty seed is used in many sweets and savories. Whether it is added to savories or made into sweet balls or topped in bread or in salads - it is one of my favorite. It is rich in oil and foods cooked with this oil are extra delicious. Make this rice using sesame oil for extra aroma and flavor, and you won't regret it.


Rice -  1 cup
Sesame seeds - 1/4 cup
Urad dhal - 2 tbs
Black peppercorns - 7 or 8
Dried red chillies - 3 or 4
Sesame oil - 2 tsp + 1 tbsp

Seasoning (optional):

Sesame oil - 1 tsp
Dried red chilli - 1
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Split urad dhal - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig


Cook rice and allow it to cool on a big plate by spreading. Also add 1 tbsp of sesame oil, to prevent the grains from sticking.

In a pan, heat sesame oil. Add red chillies, black pepper, and urad dhal. Fry till it turns light brown and then add the seasme seeds. Make sure you have a medium flame since the seeds splutter. Once the sesame seeds are roasted (the nutty aroma will tell you that it is roasted), switch off the flame and cool it. After it is cool, add salt and grind to a coarse powder. 

Add the whole powder to the rice and mix it thoroughly. 

Seasoning is not a must, but you can season with mustard seeds, split urad dhal asafoetida, and curry leaves. This rice is flavorful as such but a fried appalam or vadam (pappadums) is best together.


You can dry roast all the ingredients and make the powder too. In this way, you can store the powder for a few weeks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Whole Wheat Sweet Appam / Puffs - Navratri Special

I made this for neivedhyam during one of the nine  Navratri days. I was quite busy during Navratri and hence a little delay in posting here. This is a deep-fried sweet similar to pancake puffs. We prepare this delectable delicacy during many festivals like Rama Navami, Avaniavattam, Ganesh Chathurthi, Sri Jayanthi, Navratri, and Karthigai Deepam. It is very simple to make yet very delicious. Since this appam is made with whole wheat and also jaggery - it is a healthier snack once in a while (or often).....once you taste it, it's so addictive that I create many occasions to make this. This is exactly how my mom makes and hence it is very special.


Whole wheat flour - 2 cups
Jaggery - 11/2 cups, grated or powdered
Cardamom - 2, crushed
Water - about 1 and 1/2 cups
Oil - to deep fry

In a big bowl, add the jaggery and water, mix till all the jaggery dissolves (can microwave for 1 or 2 min. to dissolve). Filter and discard the impurities. To the jaggery water, add spoon by spoon whole wheat flour and mix thoroughly without any lumps. Add the crushed or powdered cardamom and mix. The consistency of the batter should be like that of idli batter - not too thick nor too thin. The batter should be like that shown in this picture.

In a pan, heat enough oil and keep in a medium flame. Once the oil is hot enough, add approximately a tablespoon of the batter and fry. Flip and fry till both the sides are nicely golden brown in color. Scoop it out of the oil, drain the excess oil, and serve. It keeps well for 2 days (even before that it gets empty in my home). The given measurement makes about 24 appams.


Keep the oil in medium heat only. If the oil is too hot, the appam color will become black and the insides may not be cooked.

Also, you will have to fry one by one. After you flip one appam, add another tbsp of batter for frying. If you add many spoonfuls at the same time, they cluster together.