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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kozhakattai (Modak)

Ganesh Chaturthi has long gone by. Infact, even Navaratri just passed us by. So, it's high time I posted this recipe! As I mentioned in my last post, I make kozhakattai for neivedyam every year on Ganesh Chaturthi. After all, that's what Bappa loves to eat - right? 

Every year it used to be a hit or miss thing, mainly because the covering would either crack open or be a very thick layer. The reason for this was that I was using ready made rice flour just because I was too lazy to use soaked rice to make it! Finally, this year I decided that a well made kozhakattai is worth a little time and effort! And it worked! This year the kozhakattais were awesome and got consumed pretty fast.

I usually make 3 kinds of kozhakattais - the sweet ones (vella kozhakattai), the savory ones (uppu kozhakattai) and the tiny roasted ones (ammini kozhakattai). I love all three of them and so does my husband.  Its mainly just the former two kozhakattai that are usually made for neivedyam, and the left over dough from the outer covering is used to make ammini kozhakattai, but I love these so much that I make enough dough to ensure  the making of the tiny kozhakattais. These make an excellent snack item.

Making kozhakattais is not too difficult - it is just an elaborate and time consuming process. And the sad part is the rate of consumptions is inversely proportional to the time and effort put in!

Rice Soaking Time: 2-3 hours       Cooking Time: 2 hours           Makes: 12-15 of each kind

Ingredients:

For the Covering:
Rice - 1 cup
Water - to grind rice into a smooth batter
Oil - 1 tablespoon
Salt - a pinch

For the Sweet Filling (Vella Poornam):

Coconut -½, grated
Jaggery - 1 cup
Cardamom - ½ teaspoon

Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 2 tablespoons

For the Savory Filling:
Urad Dal (Black Gram Dal)- 1 cup
Channa Dal (Bengal Gram Dal) - 2 tablespoons
Green Chillies - 4
Red Chillies -2
Grated Coconut - 2 tablespoons
Cilantro - a few sprigs
Lemon Juice - 2 tablespoons
Salt - to taste

Tempering for the Savory Filling:
Mustard - 1 teaspoon
Asafoetida (Hing) - a pinch
Curry Leaves - a few
Oil - 1 tablespoon

For the Ammini Kozhakattai:
Mustard - 1 teaspoon
Urad Dal (Black Gram Dal) -  1 teaspoon
Red Chillies - 2

Asafoetida (Hing) - a pinch
Red Chilli Powder - ½ teaspoon
Grated Coconut - 2 tablespoons
Curry Leaves - a few
Oil - 1 tablespoon

Method:

For the Covering:
  • Rinse and soak rice in water for 2-3 hours. 
  • Grind it into a smooth batter adding sufficient water to make it into a smooth paste a little thicker than idli batter.
  • To this batter add a tablespoon of oil and cook over a medium flame, stirring constantly till it thickens up to form a smooth dough. Now take it off the flame and cover it with a damp cloth/kitchen towel till it is ready to be used.

The same dough is used for all three kozhakattais.

 For the Sweet Filling (Vella Poornam):
  • Melt the jaggery, don't let it burn.
  • When the jaggery melts add in the  grated coconut and cook stirring constantly. 
  • Once the mixture thickens enough to form balls, add the ghee and the cardamom powder and remove from the flame.
  • After the filling cools enough to handle, make small balls out of it.
  • Now, take a little bit of the dough for the covering, knead it well and make a small ball out of it. Using the tips of your fingers shape this ball into a small cup. 
  • Place a little amount of the sweet filling into this cup and shape them into modaks by pulling the ends together.
  • Steam these kozhakattais in a cooker/idli steamer for about 10 minutes.
  • Turn off the gas and wait for a couple of minutes before taking the kozhakattais out - if you try to pull them out immediately, they tend to crumble. Yummy kozhakattais are ready for neivedyam.

 For the Savory Filling:
  • Soak the urad dal and chana dal together for about an hour. Drain and grind them to a coarse mixture along with the green chillies, red chillies and salt.
  •  Roll these into balls and steam them in a cooker for about 10 minutes.
  • Once they cool, crumble them and add the grated coconut, cilantro leaves, lemon juice and the tempering of mustard, asafoetida and curry leaves.
  • Now take a small quantity of the covering dough, knead it well and place it inside a ziploc bag or between two plastic sheets. Use a round bowl to press it into a circular shape.
  • Place this circular piece of dough in a mold, place some of the savory filling into each and seal the edges by closing the mold. If you don't have a mold, then simple seal the edges with your fingers, to give the kozhakattai a semi-circular shape. You could use the back of a fork to crimp it's edges to make a design. 
  • Steam these in cooker/idli maker for about 10 minutes. 

  • Turn off the flame and wait a couple of minutes before removing the kozhakattais, otherwise they will crumble. Delicious uppu kozhakattais are ready to be served.

For the Ammini Kozhakattai:
  • Roll the outer covering dough into tiny balls and steam them in an idli steamer/cooker.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add mustard, urad dal, asafoetida, red chillies and curry leaves.
  • When the seeds splutter, add in the steamed rice balls, red chilli powder, grated coconut and salt and cook them till they begin to get evenly roasted and crunchy
  • Tasty and fun ammini kozhakattais are ready for munching.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ganesh Chaturthi



And I am back! Had a wonderful reunion with my parents, sister and relatives back in India after a gap of 3 years…

Well, to be honest, it’s been almost two months since I got back but have just been a little homesick and too lazy to do any serious blogging. First it was getting over the jet lag, and then it was cleaning and stocking a house that had been closed for a few weeks. Next came the back to school event! All in all, I had plenty of excuses to not start writing. But enough is enough. Hopefully, this was just something akin to a writer’s block, and this first post will help open the floodgates! 

Before beginning anything auspicious, we Hindu’s generally pray to Lord Ganesha. And since this a second beginning of sorts to my blogging, what better post than one associated with the festival that just passed us by – Ganesh Chaturthi!


“वक्रतुंडा महाकाय सूर्या कोटि समप्रभा
निर्विघ्नं कुरु मे देव सर्व कार्येशु सर्वदा ”

Mine is a Ganpati crazy family - be it my parents, sister or me - Ganpati Bappa happens to be our favorite God! Though I believe that there is one supreme power, all Gods are the same etc etc, when I close my eyes to count my blessings or ask for help, I envision the sweet elephant faced deity riding a mouse as my savior!

Every time I go to Mumbai (which is every visit to India), I make it a point to visit the Siddhivinayak temple there. Whenever I see an elephant on the road, I feel thrilled, as though it is a sign of good things to come. Call me superstitious if you wish, but it is what it is!

Everytime me or my sister would go on a picnic, fair, trip or any outing, we would purchase a Ganesha idol for our parents. We still do the same, but just not as often. I have lost count of the number of idols in different poses, styles and materials in my parents' house.

My dad's brother deserves a special mention here. His house in Thane is a Ganesha museum in itself! Babu chitta, as I call him, opens it for the people to come and visit during the 10 days of festivities. He also has established a Ganesha temple at Badlapur. The picture below is a collage of some pictures taken at his house when we visited him last month. The image in the center is of the temple. 


Having grown up in such an atmosphere, is it any wonder that Ganesh Chaturthi is my favorite festival? As a kid, I remember seeing the huge Ganesha idols being decorated and readied for Ganeshotsav in Mumbai. I have lived in quite a few places in India (my dad had a transferable job), but the pomp and gaiety of that city does not match any other city that I have seen, as far as this festival is concerned. 

My school was at RCF colony, Chembur and while going home in the school bus we would get to see the preparations being done at RK studios and Dukes. On the day of the sthapna (installation of the idol at the place of worship) the streets would be crowded with people dancing in processions around huge trucks that would bring the idols to the pandal. The pandals would be decorated with lights and garlands. Over the years, the competition at various madals has grown stronger and there are huge investments. A lot of current affairs and political themes are being incorporated. Lal Baugcha Raja is reportedly the most visited mandal in Mumbai!

Not to be outdone, each residential building or society also usually has their own idol. The size of the idol, the decorations, the theme – everything is a cause for rivalry! There is even competition as to who bursts the most crackers! Remember the 5000 and 10000 ki ladiyaan anyone??

For the 10 days, there is an air of festivity and excitement. At home also, we would get a small clay idol. Usually people offer prasad and prayers to the Lord for the 10 days. Then on the day of the Visarjan, the idol is carried in processions, accompanied by loud music and dancing as well as bursting of fire crackers, to the sea/river and immersed in it. Shouts of “गणपति बाप्पा मोर्य, पुड्च्या वर्षी लौकर याrent the air. It is with bitter sad feelings that we say good bye to Ganeshji and pray for him to come back soon the next year.

Usually I just do pooja on Ganesh Chaturthi every year and prepare kozhakattais. But this year, I got a chance to share in this awesome atmosphere even here in the US thanks to a couple of friends who bring home Bappa every year. It was wonderful to attend aarti in the evening and gorge on modaks. My son also got a taste of Ganeshotsav for the first time!  He even learnt a new rhyme – “Twinkle twinkle little star, Ganpati Bappa Superstar!” chanted the kids :). In fact he insists on listening to “सुख करता दुःख हरता” every evening when I light the lamp in front of God!


Thank you dear friends for the wonderful darshan!

My favorite part of the festival is of course the  kozhakattais! So, next post up - the recipes for kozhakattais or modaks...