July 23, 2012

Maavu Laddu (Pottu Kadalai Laddu)

   Maavu laddu is a sweet delicacy mostly popular with the people of southern Tamil Nadu. It is made from Pottu kadalai or Pori Kadalai which is the south Indian name for split gram dal, which in turn is chutney dal. Or more specifically the gram dal used to make coconut chutney. Pottu kadalai being a very rich source of protein, these laddus are usually made in many households with little children. It is called Maavu laddu, since all the ingredients are in powdered form ('Maavu' in Tamil means powder) and 'laddu' is any sweet in the form of a sphere.I recently came to know that these laddus can also be made from Pasi paruppu or whole moong dal and are called Pasi paruppu laddus. I haven't tried making them with moong dal yet, but I may give that a shot in future. I have seen these maavu laddus in quite a few sweet shops selling traditional sweets, but never bothered to buy them or even taste them as they never appealed to me. I had my first taste of this laddu after my marriage at my in-laws home. My co-sister makes these very often for her kids and I found the taste of the laddus to my liking, albeit I always felt there was something missing in the laddu. I eventually got to make these laddus myself when I found a nice way to get my son to eat ghee...apparently, he doesn't enjoy the taste of ghee with his rice and curry :) And ghee (clarified butter) being essential for a child's growth, these laddus are very handy. Its another story that a calorie conscious me can never eat these laddus. But I really enjoy making them. And what I found was missing in my co-sister's laddus was the fact that she always made these laddus the traditional way. That is, just grinding the pottu kadalai with the sugar, adding ghee and making laddus. She never roasted the split gram dal. Well, I found that roasting the dal, cooling and then grinding it makes a lot of difference in the taste of these laddus. You should try doing the same. Ahem, I think I'll go and take a dig at just one laddu from my kitchen.

Maavu Laddu


Split gram dal (Pottu Kadalai) - 1 and 1/2 tea cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Ghee - 1/3 cup or 1/2 cup (depending on how rich you want it)
Cardamom - few grains or 1 pod ( as per individual taste)
Cashew nuts - 1 tsp or 1 tbsp (finely broken)
Raisins - (optional)


1) First you need to make a trip to the Indian store to buy 'Chana Dalia', as that's the name under which pottu kadalai/ split gram dal is sold in the Patel store. Next, heat a kadai or heavy bottomed saucepan on high. When it is hot enough, reduce flame to medium and quickly dry roast the gram dal till it is a slightly golden color. Stir continuously so as not to burn the dal. This should take few minutes. Most people usually just grind the gram dal along with sugar to make the laddus. As the raw smell disappears, you will find that this dry roasting really enhances the taste of the laddus. 
2) Transfer the dal to a plate and allow to cool completely. On cooling, grind it to a fine powder along with sugar. In case you use fine powdered sugar, like we do in the US, you don't have to grind it along with the dal. Mix the roasted gram flour and sugar in a large bowl and set aside.

Sugar mixed with powdered gram dal
3) Warm the 1/3 or 1/2 cup ghee in a microwave. Use a little of this ghee to stir fry the cashew and raisins, in case you desire to add them to the laddus. I usually don't add either as my little son does not like biting into them while eating his favorite laddu :) 
4) Powder the cardamom and add it to the gram flour mixture. Mix well. Now, pour the warmed ghee little by little into the mixture. Using a spoon or ladle, constantly stir the ghee into the mixture. Actually, using your hand would be better as you will know just when to stop adding any more ghee. The mixture should have just about enough ghee, so as to easily shape it into laddus. No problems if you use up all the ghee to make the laddus....just make sure you workout more in the gym afterwards ;)

Mixture after adding few tbsps of ghee

Mixture ready to make laddus after adding more ghee

This recipe will make approx. 25 - 27 small ladoos. Since the protein in the dal and the oodles of ghee added make this sweet a little heavy on the stomach, you may want to limit the quantity consumed by very small kids, say in the age group of 2-5 yrs. Agreed that they play a lot and burn all the calories, but it is better to be cautious :) Also, I have used a measuring cup to measure out the ghee, but you can add as much as your heart desires. Just know that it is the ghee which actually brings out the taste in this delectable sweet.

July 17, 2012

Kara Kadalai (Spicy Peanut snack)

   Peanuts or Monkey nuts have always been a favorite food of mine, albeit ever since I began counting the calories, they are not as dear as before! 'Kara Kadalai' was always a great snack to have, especially during the summer vacations when I loved getting lost, reading my favorite Enid Blyton books. Just loved digging into the kadalai and sipping cold 'Rasna', the most popular flavored drink of those times. Kara Kadalai derives its name from 'Karam', which means 'hot and spicy' in Tamil and 'Kadalai,' meaning peanuts. So it is basically 'Hot and spicy peanuts'. You can find these in most savory shops in south India. I have tasted the shop made kara kadalai......they were deep fried and almost always dark red in color, maybe due to the red chilly flakes added to make them spicy. But they were never anywhere close to the kara kadalai my mom made, either in taste nor appearance. They also seemed to lack the besan coating of the home made kadalai. The measurements given below are based more on judgement rather than accuracy, since I sometimes increase or decrease the quantity of all the ingredients mentioned. To start with, you could use about 1 teacup of raw peanuts and try out this recipe, altering the quantity of all the ingredients. Since my mother used her experience in making this snack, her proportions always went by 'a handful'. This recipe is from her favorite old, handwritten recipe book.This is one easy snack to make, so do try it :)

Kara Kadalai


Raw Peanuts - 1/4 or 1/2 kgs (use whole peanuts with skin)
Besan (Gramflour/ Chickpea flour)) - 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Chilli powder - 1 tbsps (add more if you like it very spicy)
Salt - 1 tsp or as per taste
Water - 1/4 cup
Oil - 1 cup


1) Place the raw peanuts in a large bowl and sprinkle just enough water so as to just coat all the nuts with water. Take care not to soak the nuts, else you will get lumps of peanuts while adding besan. Kara kadalai is supposed to have individual peanuts coated in gramflour. Don't worry if the 1/4 cup water mentioned above is not used up entirely. The peanuts should have just enough water, so the besan sticks to them properly. An easy way to do this would be to toss the nuts around in the bowl :)
2) Now add a handful of besan, chilli powder and salt to the peanuts and toss them around till they are well coated in the besan. Taste the raw peanuts to check for salt and chilli powder. Add more besan, chilli and salt, in case you feel it is less. Sprinkle some more water on the peanuts if you feel it is too dry and the besan is not sticking to it. The reason I recommend using a handful of besan at a time, rather than just adding 1/4 or 1/2 cup to the peanuts is to ensure that you don't over coat the nuts in the gramflour. This way you can adjust the flavor. Want to taste more peanuts, add less gramflour. Want a spicy flavor, add more gramflour, salt and chilli powder.

Raw peanuts coated with Gramflour, Chilli powder and Salt
3) Heat the 1 cup oil in a kadai or heavy bottomed saucepan on high flame. Once the oil is ready, test it by adding one peanut. If it sizzles, you should lower the flame and add a handful of nuts to the oil. Fry the nuts on very low flame till it appears light brown in color, taking care to stir them continuously, lest they burn.
4) Place the fried nuts on a paper towel and put them in an airtight container once they are cooled. They should  remain crunchy for upto two weeks.

  The peanuts will appear to taste soggy when you take them out of the oil. But they will become crunchy once they cool down.

July 12, 2012

Poondu Kulumbhu (Garlic Curry)

   Garlic or Poondu as it is known in South India, is a very strong smelling, pungent root. Peeling garlic in the kitchen is despised by most women, thanks to the smell that lingers in the fingers. But everyone will agree when it comes to the health benefits of the garlic clove, that it is one ingredient they would love to include in all their cooking. Garlic pearls are known to purify blood, improve blood circulation and serve as an anti-oxidant, promoting the well being of the heart and immune system. Mom used to use garlic in all her dishes in one form or the other. Sometimes it was garlic paste, garlic powder, chopped garlic, whole garlic..... the garlic pod was a staple in our kitchen and together with ginger, it was essential to create many a gastronomic delight ! Mom used to make poondu kulumbhu a lot, especially in garlic season. This was my Dad's favorite and together with plain dal, he used to have a feast. I never liked poondu kulumbhu in my younger years, but developed a taste for this once I learned to cook. Like my dad, now I love the combo of having hot rice with  plain dal, a dollop of ghee on top and the poondu kulumbhu as an accompaniment or mixed with the dal rice. Absolutely delightful !

Poondu Kulumbhu (Garlic Curry)


Garlic cloves or poondu - 1 and 1/2 handfuls
Onion - 1 and 1/2 (finely chopped)
Tamarind - a small pellet (1/4 size of a lemon)
Tomatoes - 2 (pureed or finely chopped)
Fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) - 1/4 tsp
Sambar powder - 1 1/2 to 2 tsps
Grated fresh coconut - this is optional
Salt - to taste
Cooking Oil - 2 tbsps (use sesame/ gingelly oil as it is tastier)
Mustard - 1/2  tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3


1) Soak the tamarind in water for 20 minutes and extract juice by squeezing the pulp and straining. You can increase the quantity of tamarind in case you prefer a very sour flavor (pulipu flavor). You can also microwave the soaked tamarind in water for about 1 minute, cool it and extract the juice.
2) Heat some oil in a kadai or skillet. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds, urad dal, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves to season the oil. Take care not to add too much of fenugreek seeds, else the curry will turn bitter. These seeds are only added to enhance the flavor of the kulumbhu. Now add chopped onions, a little salt and stir fry till onions are slightly translucent.
3) Add the peeled garlic cloves. An easy way to peel garlic would be to microwave the garlic with the skin for about 30 seconds. Or else roast the garlic with the skin in a hot kadai/ saucepan for about a minute. The skin will loosen up and the garlic will become soft, making it easier to remove the skin. An advantage of this is the fact that the garlic cloves will fry faster and absorb the liquid curry better, making the kulumbhu tastier. If peeling garlic is not for you, then use the peeled garlic readily available in the freezer section in the Indian store or Costco. I am sure you get peeled garlic in India too, only I don't know the store names.
4) Now add the pureed tomatoes, the tamarind extract and the sambar powder to the fried onions and garlic cloves. Fry them for few minutes till the tomatoes are cooked. You can add chopped tomatoes too, but I feel adding ground/ pureed tomatoes increases the quantity of the curry and the garlic cloves blend well into the curry. You may need to add red chilli powder in case your sambar powder does not contain chilli powder in it. Since I use home made sambar powder already containing chilli powder in it, I have not added the same here. Add salt to taste. Add only required quantity of water to the mixture, making sure you do not thin down the consistency. This curry is usually an accompaniment to rice and dal, so should have a slightly thicker consistency. It can be eaten with rice as such too, not necessarily as an accompaniment. Watering down the curry would essentially ruin the taste. 
5) Bring the curry to a rolling boil till the raw smell of the sambar powder is all gone. You can add grated coconut before the curry starts to boil, in case you wish to tone down the sourness of the kulumbhu. I have had this kulumbhu with and without the coconut. I like the one without the coconut better as you get the actual sour flavor of the curry and the pungent but yummy taste of the garlic cloves.


  Try to use gingelly oil (sesame oil ) while doing seasoning as it enhances the flavor of the kulumbhu. You can also use regular canola, sunflower or vegetable oil. My mom says you should try grinding the tomatoes with 1/4 onion. Add a small pellet of jaggery to the kulumbhu before bringing it to a boil. This way you will sample a delightful combination of sweet, sour and spicy kulumbhu.

Serving size: Will serve 2 people for a single meal.