This blog has one purpose. It is to provide my Grandchildren a place of inspiration, a place that reminds them of their Indian ancestry. Recipes herein are a passage to India, and I trust, will journey the reader to the glorious flavors and aromas of the Andhra kitchens.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Makara Sankranthi-The harvest festival

It is celebrated in the month of January, and the dates usually fall on 13, 14, 15th of January. January 14th marks the start of "Uttarayana punyakalam" or the holy days of northward journey of the Sun (The point when sun enters the Capricorn or Makara). It also marks the end of southwest monsoon in Andhra Pradesh and is also end of harvest season, and is celebrated very widely in villages.

The first day is Bhogi - On this day, people wake up before dawn and take oil bath, wear new clothes. A fire is lit up in the back courtyard, and people go around it thrice, praying god and asking for fulfillment of their wishes. House is decorated with muggulu (color and floral designs in front of house) and toranalu (mango leaves tied together for the door frames). In the evening, for children below 5 years, there is a special ritual called "bhogipallu" in which Reggipallu (sort of berries) and cheruku (sugar cane pieces) along with some currency coins are taken in hand and it is rotated thrice around the head of the child by the women. It is done to ward off the evil. This is then given off to the workers employed in the house.

The main ingredient of feast today is rice and it includes Pulagam and Paravannam.

The second day is Makara Sankranthi. This is the day of merriment. People get up early, wear new clothes, have a sumptuous feast, and visit the fair. The feast this day includes Boorlu and Pulihara.

The third day is Kanuma Panduga - The ritual followed today is - getting up early again, applying oil to the body, taking a regipandu (berry) and putting it on head and pouring water on it letting it slip away while chanting "Crow, Crow, take your color and give me back my color" (telugu version is Kaaki Kaaki ne rangu nuvvu teesukuni, na rangu naaki icheyi). This was the procedure we used to enjoy a lot and even now even though I feel funny, I religiously do it for fear of not getting my color back :)) During winter, the skin color darkens due to dry weather in India.

On the third day, we have to eat any preparation made by "Minappappu" or "Urad dal". So usually the fare includes Garlu and Avadalu.

The recipes are described below:

1. Pulagam: This is one of the simplest recipes. Ingredients required are Rice 1 cup and half cup of pesarapappu (Split green gram). Salt to taste and ghee 2 tablespoons. Milk Rice, green gram, wash it thoroughly and add 3 cups of water, add salt and cook it preferably in a pressure cooker. After it is done, add ghee on the top and serve hot. It tastes good with Avakai.

2. Paravannam: Ingredients are a cup of washed rice and two cups of milk, and a cup of shreded jaggery. Take a pan, put in the washed rice and add milk to it. Cook it in a slow flame until done. The rice should become very soft and should be mashed. Then add jaggery and again cook for few minutes while mixing properly. Care should be taken not to burn it and not allowing lumps to form. Remove from flame. For garnishing, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee and add Cashew nuts, fry them brown and add Green cardamom powder and mix it to the cooked rice. Tastes good both when hot and also cold.

3. Bobbatlu: This is a complicated dish, but can be easily mastered with practice. Bengal gram 2 cups, jaggery pieces 2 cups, Green cardamom powder. A cup of maida (plain flour). Mix the flour with watar and make a soft batter (consistency should be softer than required for chapathi). Keep it aside covered with a moist cloth for 20 minutes. Cook the bengal gram with required amount of water. When done, drain the water completely and mash it well. Take a nonstick pan, add the cooked dal and jaggery. Keep mixing while cooking on slow flame until the mixture starts separating from the edges of pan. Allow it to cool and make big lemon sized balls of the mixture. Oil a flat plate (if banana leaves are used instead of plate, it will the best) and also hands well, take small pieces of flour, spread it on the plate by pressing until it is around 4-5 cm in diameter, place the mixture, and cover evenly with the spread flour batter on all sides. It will be round in shape now and it should be pressed slowly to flatten it about 5 inches in diameter. Put it on a heated pan and fry it on low flame adding a spoon or 2 of oil and turning it. The oil preferably should be refined groundout oil. When it is light red on both sides, remove and store. It should be served with a spoonful of ghee put on it. This stays for 7 days without refrigeration.

4. Garlu: Soak the minapappu (Split black beans) for 2-3 hours. Grind it to paste by adding very very little of water, add salt to taste, and keep the batter aside. Heat oil and when it is very hot, decrease the flame, moisten hands with water, take a small lump of batter, flatten it on the hand itself and make a hole in center of the batter and slowly drop it into the oil. Deep fry it on slow flame till golden red. Remove and drain off the oil well. This is served with allapachadi or ginger pickle.

5. Avadlu: First "Garlu" are prepared using the above mentioned procedure. In a bowel, take 2 cups of Yoghurt, finely cut tomatoes and Coriander, slit green chillis, salt to taste, and mix them well. The garlu that are prepared should be dipped in this mixture and should be kept aside for atleast 2 hours so as to allow them to soak up the yogurt.