The memory of eating this pudding came suddenly one afternoon when I was preparing lunch for Ali. For some reason the smell of carrots cooking down reminded me of this pudding. The memory that came rushing was sitting in the back of the car peeping out of the window on a Friday morning with my father driving the car to Abu Dhabi. My mothers’ eldest brother stayed and we would drive down to see them. I vividly remember how the highway was deserted and billboards would appear on the horizon about every five minutes and I would slowly grow in height as the car grew nearer. Some months, we would drive down every other weekend. The advertisements weren’t changed too often back then and I would make a mental note of what was the last hoarding that stood at the outskirts of Abu Dhabi which meant the city wasn’t too far away. This is a pudding my aunt used to make. I was never fond of Payasams. Ammayi was a pioneer when it came to making non-traditional desserts. Crème caramel, brightly colored Agar Jelly Pudding and cool glasses of Falooda were a few of the desserts she made 25 years ago. On that day in my kitchen, I wanted to try my hand at making this Pudding. I didn’t even know what was in it and I called my cousin inquiring about the sweet orange colored pulp with custard on top. She instantly knew I was talking about her Pumpkin and Carrot Pudding.
The twentieth day of Ramadan. Today marks three years since my paternal grandmother left us. In her loving memory, today I want to share her recipe for Pazham Pori. This is essentially a snack made right after a long siesta and is served alongside piping cups of tea. She was very fond of bananas and she always tried to convince me to have a couple of Cheru Pazham or baby bananas immediately after lunch when we visited her for the summer. Plantains were never out of stock in her kitchen. When visitors would come unannounced as was the norm in her time, in all probability she would have the help make a plate of these. Ripe plantains are slivered and dipped in a batter, which I later learnt, was her original recipe. I didn’t care too much for them till I started tasting versions made in other households. I still remember waiting for Umma to finish frying them so I could help myself to the bowl of leftover batter. It tasted blissfully similar to cake.
Nishana is one of the many wonderful people I have met after being married. Our husbands are technically uncle and nephew in relation but only a few years apart in age. We all spoke together on a conference call after our engagement when she was expecting their first child. I visited her home in Kerala after she had her baby and then they visited us in Abu Dhabi when they were flying back to United Kingdom. That was the beginning of innumerable number of hours spent on the telephone. A decade later, we have shared recipes, travel lists, pregnancy and labor stories’, and countless laughs. The number of times we have met in person can actually be counted on one hand. Ever since we’ve both had children, the number of chats have lessened too. Yet, our conversations, filled with warmth and quite laughter, flow effortlessly even when we haven’t spoken for months. When we do talk, it always ends with inviting each other to holiday at their part of the world. We did so late last year and that is when she made this incredible Chicken Fry.
I fall into the category of Malayalees that would be thrilled at the sight of steaming hot Vellappam for breakfast. Or dinner. Mind you, they’re best eaten if they’re made by mom so they are magically replenished and you can tuck into them leisurely. With tiny variations in ingredients according to the region, the batter is essentially rice and coconut ground together and allowed to ferment overnight. Its lacy edges and pillowy soft centers are characteristic features of these hoppers that are popular in the south of India and Sri Lanka. It is made in an Appam Chatty which is pretty similar to a wok. Ladlefuls of batter are poured into the heated pan and then swirled by the handles to spread where it rests against the sides to crisp and brown. The residual batter trickles to the centre where it is would be cooked through from the steam of the covered pan. One of the food resolutions I made for the new year is to tackle my list of food fears. This list has recipes that I have tried myself and they have fallen flat in either flavor or because of my imperfect technique. I have re-read these recipes and the thought of failing again and discarding the failed product puts me off. And sitting right on top of this list was Vellappam.
For the past few years, Ramadan has been arriving in the peak of Dubai summers. The golden lining, if I may say so, is the influx of seasonal mangoes from the Indian subcontinent. They’ll slowly start appearing, tart, green and far from the ripening stage in the early days of May. Towards the end of the month, the color lightens revealing tints of yellow and before you know it the aisles of the supermarket will be hosting Mango ‘festivals’ where you get to pick and choose from over a dozen varieties that have arrived across the breadth of these countries. Rajapuri, Mallika and Malgova from the southern coastal areas, Alphonso and Kesar from the western parts and Chaunsa and Sindhri from across the border. I gravitate towards Badami and undoubtedly the most popular one, Alphonso.
In a household where at least one fried dish is expected for Iftar, you’re constantly looking for new options. Kerala has plenty of fried food options and Cutlets and Samosas stuffed and filled with meat are a staple on most tables. My home is no different and we have some form of fried dish almost every day for my husband. It’s mostly boiled egg, spicy Potato masala or thinly sliced onions dipped in Gram flour batter and fried till gold and crisp. These options are rotated throughout the week and he’s content with the options. On the other hand, I still look out for new recipes that are a bit different from the usual Malayali fanfare. Last year, I was introduced to these Mozzarella stuffed Potato Croquettes. I added one little tweak and it’s now one of my go-to recipes when entertaining family members for Iftar.
Ramadan Kareem to all my lovely readers. Another Blessed Month has descended upon us and I’m geared with a quite a few goals I pray to accomplish. My blog is rather dormant given the time restraints of raising a toddler. However, every year I have the urge to share with you recipes my family enjoys suited for the month of Ramadan. This year is no different. I’ve planned way ahead and have a few recipes in my kitty that I can’t wait to share. Given that I know quite a few children who will be fasting this month, the first recipe I have is for the little believers amongst us who are fasting. For their will and determination, a little something for the little hearts patiently waiting to break their fast.
How quickly has the final week of Ramadan arrived! In a few days, our routines will return to normalcy. There are a lot of goals I haven’t completed and yet the ones I have been able to, have struck a chord. Having eliminated the distraction of food, what I could finish reading resonated deeper than usual. Such is the beauty of this month. I’m hoping to leave it behind firmly clutching a few resolves. Speaking of Ramadan coming to an end, it also means that soon we are getting back to eating breakfast. Well, that is if you are that sort of a person.
The final recipe I want to share here will make the transition from Iftar evenings to breakfast post Ramadan smoothly. Considering you have the little ones at home for the summer, I can vouch this won’t be abandoned. Ever since Ali could eat more than mush, I have made these pancakes for him and he finishes them without a fuss. In fact, it is one of his favourite meal options and on occasions he has enjoyed them for dinner too.
Can you explain the appeal of Pizza? It took a whole new meaning after our honeymoon in Italy. Making pizza at home never really replicated the ones we had at the pizzerias. I tried buying a pizza stone for the oven but taking it out was always a mess without a peel. And then I found out that pizza can be made on the stovetop. All under 20 minutes! The weather in Dubai right now is pizza conducive. The heat will allow yeast to bloom and rise in no time. Considering Iftar is late into the day, I’m looking for options beyond the fried food platter. This recipe is going to help me on that front this month. More than a good dough recipe, mastering a few techniques promises rustic pizzas every single time. I’m sharing my tips and tricks so that you can perfect the stovetop pizza.
Ramadan Kareem everyone!
I was never the child who winced at the sight of the milk. Nor the one who stealthily poured it down the sink when mom was not looking. I don’t start the day to pretty lattes or a steaming mug of tea. It is a habit lost on me. I start my day with tepid milk most likely with muesli. When we eat out for breakfast, there’s always a little part of me missing my glass of milk. Coming home from school, there’s usually a tall glass of milkshake (usually banana) waiting on the kitchen table. In the cooler months it was a mug of warm Cadbury hot chocolate.