Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mystic India

Upakarma - Avani Avittam

oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tat savitur vareṇyaṃ
bhargo devasya dhīmahi
dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt
This is one of the ancient Vedic rituals practised in India even today. The event is conducted once a year, around August - September. The main activity performed in an Upakarma is the changing of the Yagnopavita or the Holy Thread. (source: Wikipedia)

Well, we're in Darwin at the moment, we could call it 'being away from home'. I have not located the Indian store here yet. But I had this unexpected urge to cook a festival meal which resulted in Project Puje Lunch with Limited Resources! M did not have a new Janivaaram (Holy Thread) here, but he chanted the Gayatri Mantra and although we did not light a lamp or offer flowers, I had my little conversation with God as I cooked. It went like this - "We offer to you all the special things I'm cooking today. We are thankful to you for giving us so much and we're able to cook this meal because of your love and blessings. Please watch over us at all times and be there for us. Err, hope you enjoy the payasam."

The usual festival menu has payasam (sweet porridge), lemon rice and vada (kannada households have ambode while tamil households have vadas) and on festivals that involve a puje (a prayer ceremony that involves offerings such as flowers, sweets, and fruits) no onion or garlic is used in the cooking. Today, I made all the three and some curd rice as well.

So, here's my Project Puje Lunch with Limited Resources -

Cracked wheat/Bourgal Payasam

  1. cracked wheat, 1/2 cup (soaked for about an hour)
  2. 2 tspns ghee
  3. 2 tbspns sultanas/raisins and cashews
  4. 1 medium tin condensed milk (I used a 400g tin, skimmed version)
  5. 1 tbspn sugar (optional)
  6. 1/4 cup milk
  7. 2 tbspns dessicated coconut
  8. a pinch of cardamom powder
In a microwave bowl, heat the ghee on HIGH for about a minute.

Add sultanas and cashews and cook on HIGH for 40secs.

Add soaked and drained cracked wheat, pour in the milk and stir well. Cook on HIGH for about 2mins.

Stir in the condensed milk, sugar, coconut and cardamom powder and mix well. Cook on HIGH for about 2mins.

Serve either hot or chilled. Add milk to alter consistency before serving.

Now, ideally I would've used fresh grated coconut and jaggery (molasses) instead of sugar and condensed milk. But you know my situation, don't ya?

Lemon Rice aka Chitranna / Elimicha Saadam

  1. 1 cup cooked long grain/basmati rice
  2. juice of one lemon
  3. 3-4 fresh green/red chillies, slit
  4. a piece of ginger, grated
  5. for tempering - mustard seeds, chana dal, urad dal, jeera and a pinch of hing
  6. 1 tbspn peanuts
  7. 3 tbspns dessicated coconut
  8. some chopped coriander/cilantro
  9. 1 tbspn oil
  10. 1/2 tspn turmeric powder
  11. salt to taste and a pinch of sugar
Heat oil in a wok/pot and add the ingredients for tempering.

Add chillies and ginger and saute for a few seconds before adding the peanuts. Wait until the peanuts are slightly roasted.

Add dessicated coconut, turmeric powder, salt and a pinch of sugar.

Take off the heat and add the lemon juice and chopped coriander and mix it all well.

Add the rice and gently give it a good mix. Lemon rice is ready to serve.
Again, I would've normally used fresh coconut. By the way, fresh coconut is very much available here in Darwin, but I wasn't enterprising enough to devise a way to break it open and grate it :-) I don't have a hammer and I don't have a food processor here either! And oh, yes, if not for the puje, a whole lot of chopped onion makes this recipe even better.

Now, about the vadas- yes they are the ones that look like doughnuts :-) It is quite a tedious process, at least for an amateur like me. I would struggle with it, even if I had everything that the recipe demanded. But fortunately for me, my brain was in standby mode and I had a packet of instant dosa mix which was a clever substitute, phew that was close! So the vadas were made with minimum fuss and tasted great by the way. In fact, I'm thinking 'dosa mix it is' every time I want to make vadas, or better still I could actually get an instant vada mix, ha (think slapping myself on the head!).

Anyways, that was my story and the moral of the story (as M put it) "where there is a will, there is a way!"


K said...

Nice thali for upakarma. I loved that small prayer.Well expressed and very true:) Nice blog! keep going! cheers!

Divya Rao said...

Thanks for stopping by K!


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