Ganesh Chaturthi: Savoury recipes from a Tamil kitchen
Although modaks are mandatory, the real showstopper is an irresistible snack made with leftover ingredients
Ammini kozhukattai, a savoury snack made once a year during Ganesh Chaturthi in Tamil homes, is the most popular seasonal food item in Deepa Balasubramaniam’s home in Mumbai. On Ganesh Chaturthi, her family prepares a traditional South Indian meal of vadas, idlis, paal payasam and a variety of kozhukattais—steamed dumplings that can be called the Tamil version of modaks.
During Ganesh Chaturthi, Tamil households usually make four types of kozhukattais. The most common one is the sweet vellam kozhukattai stuffed with coconut and jaggery, which comes closest to the popular Maharashtrian ukadiche modak. There's another sweet variation with sesame called ellu kozhukattai; a savoury modak with a urad daal filling known as uppu kozhukattai and, finally, ammini kozhukattai. The last one refers to mini dough balls tempered with chilies and mustard seeds and served as a snack, made with leftover dough. “Ammini kozhukattai is such a hit with my family and friends that we knead extra dough just for this dish. Basically, leftovers become the showstopper," says Balasubramaniam.
A quick online search for ammini kozhukattai leads to recipes with rice dough. Balasubramaniam has her own take; she believes using only rice yields a bland dish. She likes to add some zing and body with the urad daal stuffing which is essential for the uppu kozhukattai mentioned earlier. When Lounge reached out to her for a recipe of ammini, she shared the ingredients and cooking method for the uppu too.
Uppu Kozhukattai (Savoury urad daal dumplings)
For the outer coating
1 cup rice flour (sieved)
1 cup water
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp oil
For the stuffing
1 cup urad dal, (soaked for an hour or more)
2 green chilies
2 red chilies
Half cup grated coconut (optional)
Salt to taste
Half tsp mustard seeds for tempering
One-eighth tsp asafoetida
1 tsp oil
1 sprig curry leaves
To make the outer coating
Heat water in a pan, add salt and oil. When the water starts to boil, turn off the flame and swiftly add the rice flour in one go. Mix well with a spoon till all the water is absorbed and there are no lumps. Transfer the dough to a damp muslin clothe and keep it covered. This keeps the dough moist.
To make the stuffing, grind green chilies with salt and asafoetida in a mixer. Add urad dal and run the mixer only twice or thrice. It should have a course texture. In a greased idly plate, steam this mixture for 8-10 minutes. Let it cool and then crumble it.
In a kadhai, heat oil and season with mustard, asafoetida and curry leaves. Then add the steamed mixture and fry in medium flame till the contents becomes dry. It will take less than 5 mins. Add grated coconut and fry for a minute. The mixture should be fluffy. Let it cool.
To make the kozhukattais
Take half the dough and knead again. Keep the remaining covered in the damp cloth. After kneading, divide it into lemon-sized portions. Grease your hands with a little oil and hand-roll them into balls. Flatten them delicately by using your fingers. Each will be about 4-inch discs. Gently cup one disc in the palm of your hand and scoop out a teaspoon of filling. Place it in the centre of the disc, apply a little water on the edges and seal it. It should look like a karanji or empanada. In an idli steamer, cook them for about 15 mins and they will be ready.
1 cup rice dough (take the remaining rice dough from the earlier recipe)
One-fourth cup urad daal filling (leftover from the earlier recipe)
1 tablespoon grated coconut
Half teaspoon green chili paste
Half teaspoon mustard seeds
Pinch of asafoetida
Few curry leaves
Half teaspoon urad daal
Sesame oil for tempering
Knead the rice dough well with the urad daal filling and chili paste. Tear small portions. Grease your hands with a little oil and make mini marble-sized balls. In a kadhai, heat the oil and add mustard seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves, urad daal and grated coconut. Toss in the rice balls, lightly fry and turn off the gas in a few mins.
In Balasubramaniam’s home, ammini kozhukattai is so loved that it is the last course during lunch on Ganesh Chaturthi. As guests walk in to join the celebrations, they know the highlight is this snack. Usually, the festivities last for three days to up to a week in her family, but it is prepared only on day one when dough is readied for other kozhukattais too. This makes it all the more precious.
Most recipes and dishes get tweaked a little in different families. Food vlogger and food consultant Preetha Srinivasan makes ammini kozhukattai solely with rice dough. In her home, it qualifies as a dinner item. “Through the day we are so busy with the festivities that by evening we need something easy to prepare," she says and adds, “I’d say it is a clever filler recipe."
Utilising leftover dough in this manner is not unique to Tamil cuisine. In Maharashtrian homes too, there is a similar food item known as Nivagrya. The dough is kneaded with some sliced chilies and cumin seeds, rolled out into palm-sized discs and steamed over banana leaves. This lesser known Maharashtrian snack is served with curd. And just as ammini kozhukkatai, it demands second helpings.
FIRST PUBLISHED21.08.2020 | 10:17 AM IST