Sunday, May 06, 2012

Down the memory lane to Ammamma's kitchen

Pic courtesy : Shiva Shankar

During my growing up years I used to have a nickname lovingly bestowed to me by one of my neighbors - "choorunnatha kutti"(the girl who doesn't eat rice).

Although I am not at all proud of it, even now whenever I feel lazy I conveniently replace my lunch and dinner with some breakfast/snack items. Although I tell myself it is because you need to have all sorts of varieties for your health, I realized the only flour which gets over in my kitchen is the rice flour. Whenever I go to the store, I stack up on all kinds of flour - wheat, raagi, bajra, corn, multi grain, rava but I can't remember any of them getting over, ever. Mostly after 1-2 months it goes to the maid only to be replenished during my next store visit. But rice flour has a different story altogether. I need to refill it at least once a month or even earlier if I have any guests. Many a times I tell myself I won't take it unless I finish the other flours and hide it in the bottom of my flour container but the very next time I involuntarily dig out the same thing. Today for some reason I had a flash back and realized where the roots are...

I had mentioned in my previous post about the initial activities during the harvest season at my ammamma’s house. But ammamma’s work used to continue for few more weeks. The manually beaten straw would still have many more grains in it. So they used to spread it out on the road early in the morning and collect it back in the evenings. During the course of the day, the vehicles and people who walk over it would have done the effect of 'methikkal' and the separated grains would have fallen off in the road. Since this ritual was done by everyone in the neighborhood, it was fun to see the road during this time which would be an endless yellow hay carpet. As kids we often used to play in it as it won't hurt even if u fall unlike the hard stone paved roads (which became tarred later).  Once most of the grains are extracted which took a few days (or weeks may be?) the hay will be stacked in the backyard around a pole or tree which will be fed to the cows later. The harvested grains are then cleaned and separated into different portions - the largest went for making parboiled rice which will be the rice supply for the whole family for the entire year. Then some are kept as broken rice for making kangi and the rest goes for making those savory snacks and breakfast. This group is also divided in to different categories - some are kept raw, some will be powdered and some of it will be powdered and roasted. There was a small rice mill right across our house and that used to my favorite hangout. Every time ammamma goes there to get the rice powdered I used to follow her and always marveled at the way the big belts moved and the rice poured in at one end came out powdered at the other end.

Once all these pre-works got over, ammamma used to be little free and then it's time to convert these things to mouthwatering snacks. One of the things that were always made was avalosepodi - by roasting the raw rice powder along with grated coconut and salt. This is a filling snack and supposed to have a shelf life of almost a year. But with us around we never really got a chance to check that ;) Another favorite snack used to be ariyunda made by frying parboiled rice and then powdering and mixing it with jaggery and grated coconut. Some times when it is cashew nut season this also turns into andi unda or cashew nut balls with ample amount of powdered cashew nut added to the ariyunda mix. Some of the other snacks I remember are unniyappam, velichennappam etc. which was made depending on the kids and their demands. Then there were vatteppam and one of my favorite - inderi appam.  Although traditionally made during Vishu, vishukkata was also frequently made by her. She also used to make some other trademark appams which were all rice flour n coconut (and sometimes jaggery and other flours) mixed in different forms. Unfortunately I don’t have the recipes for any of those and might never taste them again L Then some of the breakfast varieties - puttu kadala which is the standard Kerala breakfast and other days we used to have ila ada which is steamed rice flour with coconut and jaggery filling, wrapped in banana leaves. If members at home are less, instead of steaming, this is roasted in kalachatti (mud pot) as well which is much tastier but time consuming. Along with this there were some of amma's specialties - pathiri and orotti in coconut milk.  I have my own version of these which is akki roti – a spicy variant common in Karnataka. And sometimes I'll be in a mood for some nice idiyappam and stew. Again there are some more varieties when I have some extra flour from my breakfast - kozhukkatta, mani puttu, ari pidi etc. Whenever my friends come in, they usually ask for palappam and stew or puttu-kadala which is a novel dish for non-keralites and nostalgic for keralites.

Basically the simple rice flour takes different shapes and forms depending on my moods and nostalgic memories and with such varieties how can you blame me for skipping the boring rice n curry for lunch?
Pic courtesy : Shiva Shankar