We wish you all a very Happy Onam !

Making pazham ada from scratch

Five days from today, people in a green strip of land in southern India will sit down for a splendiferous vegetarian feast called “sadya”, served with great reverence on a banana leaf, fresh flower carpets called “pookalam” adorning their front yards, vivid memories of the season from years gone by floating in their heads. The rest of us from that place scattered around the globe, will scramble about to see if we can make at least one curry from the sadya fare, luckiest will find an Indian store nearby to gather everything they need to make the sadya, many will still prepare one no matter what, some will actually find fresh banana leaves, but all will be thinking of Onams gone by!! Regardless of where you are, if you have experienced an Onam before, you will surely be thinking about it, it is that kind of a season!


From here, I could go on a nostalgic rant (plenty of whiffs and sobs included) and make you flee from this blog instantly; instead I chose to make some ada from scratch for making a payasam for this year’s Onam and post a pictorial of sorts. . For beginners, ada in this context is a crushed up eggless flat rice noodle used for making payasam, the king of all desserts from my place. This is a melt in the mouth – oh-so –really –good – ada almost exclusively made of mashed ripe plantains, with just enough rice flour to hold everything together. The result is absolute plantain flavor explosion in every bite! Once you prepare the ada, you have two delectable options ahead of you, make ada pradhaman (payasam with jaggery) or prepare a pal payasam (with white sugar). I am making pradhaman for Onam, for the trial run I made some pal payasam.

If you are to make this the way it is traditionally made, you will dip your hands in batter, and with fingers pointing down, gently wave over a banana leaf which in turn will be rolled up and steamed. The batter in the traditional recipe is thinner than the one I used here, and could contain more rice flour than this recipe as well. I purposely decided to digress because
1) we are using parchment paper instead of banana leaf, less water in the batter is better.

2) I wanted this ada to be extra smooth and bursting with plantain flavor.

If you are planning to make this paysam, you still have enough time to do so. Making this will only take some 60 minutes out of your life. This freezes incredibly well, I have a batch in my freezer waiting for Onam as we speak.

Here you go, 1-2-3 !

step 1 copy

step 2 copy

step 3 copy

Making Pazham – Ada

Plantains (ripe, with plenty of black spots on the skin) or very ripe bananas – 5 nos
Unroasted rice flour – 3/4 cup
Ghee or clarified butter– 1 tsp

Peel plantains and puree till very soft in a blender, add ghee followed by rice flour 2 tbsp at a time, blending in between. Add some water to loosen the batter if it gets too thick. The batter should fall from the spoon in thick sheets when lifted.

Cut 30 cm x10 cm parchment paper pieces. Spread 4 tbsp of the batter on the paper, making it as thin as possible. An offset spatula is very helpful in doing this. Roll the paper tightly starting from the short side; keep the roll seam side down in a steamer. Repeat the same with the rest of the batter. Steam the rolls for 30 minutes. Let the rolls cool down for 20 minutes, peel the paper backing off. Chop the cooked ada sheets into thin pieces. Use fresh for making pradhamans or freeze up to a month. Before using in the paysam, crush some ada with your hands, so that some will break down into irregular pieces, which to me improves the ruggedly look of the payasam.

Pal Payasam

Ada – 3 cups

Milk – 10 cups

Sugar – 21/2 cups

Crushed cardamom – 4 pods

Long method
In a thick bottomed pan, melt sugar with ½ cup of water. When the syrup forms, add ada, cook with stirring for about 10 minutes. When the mixture thickens, add a cup of milk to loosen it. Add the rest of the milk, turn the heat to medium, and cook with occasional stirring till the milk reduces to about ¾ th of its initial volume. At this point turn off the heat, add crushed cardamoms and keep it covered. The payasam will thicken as it cools.

Quick method
Add all the ingredients to a pressure cooker. Keep on the stove in high heat till you see steam coming out of the vent. At this point keep the valve weight and turn the heat to very low/simmering mode. Cook for 40 minutes this way, occasionally lowering the heat if the cooker readies to blow a whistle. Open the cooker 20 minutes after turning the heat off. This is pretty much a hands off method, and the end result is just as good.

Ada Pradhaman

Ada – 3 cups
Brown sugar – 2 cups
Molasses – 1 cup
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Coconut milk – 2 cans (13 oz each)
Dried ginger powder – ½ tsp
Coconut slivers fried in ghee – ½ cup Optional

Mix molasses, brown sugar and ¼ cup water in a thick bottomed pan. Heat till the sugar melts, add ghee, ada and cook with constant stirring for 5-10 minutes. Mix 1 can of coconut milk with 3 volumes of water and add to the mix. Cook with stirring till the ada pieces are tender (~20) minutes. Add the remaining can of coconut milk, cook for 2 more minutes with constant stirring, and turn off the heat. Add powdered dried ginger and fried coconut pieces. Let it stand for 20 minutes for the flavors to blend.

• Substitute molasses and brown sugar with three cups of grated jaggery
• If using fresh coconut milk, use 6 cups of thin milk for the first step and 3 cups of thick milk for the second.
Simple desserts - Farina Pudding with warm berry compote

Simple is not always plain, it is not definitely boring, and if you are talking desserts, at times it can be out of this world delicious! We always reserve the flamboyant sugary creations for those occasions when we have company (which blessedly we have often - another reason to love Portland), but savor simpler ones whenever we wish. What I make often is influenced by the taste dispositions of two prominent members of our household. They both love fresh fruits, milk products and keep their distance from anything cloyingly sweet.

Farina pudding 1

This simple rava pudding serves them right, it pleases me enormously since regardless of the miniscule amount of effort that I put in, it looks inviting and tastes soothingly good. If you are making this pudding, be sure to top it with sharply contrasting compotes made of berries, for as much as I know peach doesn't sit right on this.

Farina pudding 2

Everything is served with a berry on top in our house now! You can’t help noticing the riot of colors in the fruit section of the grocery shop and buy a pack or two. We know that very soon we will have to dive into our freezers to find some, so while it is fresh and plenty, we are trying our best to enjoy it. The berry compote I usually make for topping this pudding has both cooked and uncooked strawberries in it for the color and the crunch respectively.

Number of Servings - 4

Rava (Farina) - 1/4 cup

Evaporated Milk - 1/4 cup

Milk - 2 cups

Sugar - 1/2 cup

Salt - a pinch

Water - 2 cups

Vanilla essence (optional) - 3 drops

In a thick bottomed pan, boil 2 cups of water, add rava and salt, cook stirring constantly ( with a wire whisk preferably) at medium heat, till the mixture is thick ( Takes about 5-7 minutes) Turn the heat to low, add milk, vanilla and cook with stirring till the mixture coats a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and add evaporated milk. Now the mixture will have the thickness of crepe batter, it will set while cooling. Pour into serving dishes and chill for at least 11/2 hours. Serve with warm berry compote on top

Fresh strawberry compote

Chopped up strawberries - 1 cup

Thinly sliced strawberries - 1 cup

Sugar - 3/4 cup

Lemon zest (optional) - 1/4 tsp

Mix sugar, chopped up berries, cook in a thick bottomed pan till the sugar dissolves in the released berry juice and the mixture turns red. By this time pieces will be tender. Turn of the heat; let it cool to room temperature. Add lemon zest and thinly sliced berries. Serve atop the pudding.
Lemon sun pickle

Just like our neighbors and their neighbors in the place where I grew up in Kerala, we had and still have a good number of mango trees growing in the yard of my home there. That meant one formidable sight come April every year, rows of sparkly clean -labels removed -Horlicks bottles glistening in pure sunshine neatly arranged on the rim of our well to dry. My mother then made mango pickles using an assortment of methods, one better than other, which were filled in these bottles and either aged or given out. Yet, I never knew that lemon pickles can be made this way till I read this post four years ago. All I wanted to add to it was to speed up the cooking a process a bit. Slicing lemons pretty thin and adding more lemon juice considerably helped with that.

lemon pickle

Most of the lemon pickles I am familiar with are either aged for many months, or the lemons are pre-cooked to get past the waiting. Now when the sun shines, I buy lemons and work hard for about 20 minutes and then let sun almighty do his little trick for a week. On day 6 your pickle is ready.

lemon pickle2

For making this pickle you need day time temperatures above 80oF for 5 days, so check your local weather predictions before you begin.
Lemon – 10 nos
Ginger julienned – 1 cup
Garlic, each clove cut into two – 1 cup
Mustard seeds – 1 ½ tbsp
Curry leaves – 20 nos
Green chilies (jalapeno or your choice) – 5 nos or to your taste
Fenugreek seeds – ½ tsp
Turmeric (optional) – ½ tsp
Lemon juice – from 5 lemons
Oil (olive or Mustard) – 1 tbsp
Cut lemon into two halves. Thinly slice each half into 8 slices. Cut jalapeno peppers into thin rounds. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds allow it to splutter, turn the heat to low, add fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, garlic, ginger, turmeric and green chilies. Mix well till the ginger pieces are tender. Add ½ tsp salt, turn off the heat. In a wide mouthed glass jar with a lid mix lemon with the mustard seasoning you just prepared. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt, pour in the lemon juice, and mix well with a spoon. Close the lid and keep the jar outside where you get sun for at least 6-8 hours. In the evening bring the jar in, give it a good shake, and repeat this for 4 more days. By the end of day 5 you will see that the lemon pieces are very tender, it is then ready to use. Keep refrigerated.


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