It all started this way. Year after year, as a child, it was a familiar sight to see dearest Amma look up the Mathrubhumi (Malayalam) calendar. She marked the family’s birthdays as per the star/nakshathra in which we were born, since the nazhikas of each naalu – the number of times it appears each month – had to be considered. Thus our birthdays would vary every year and every single one was celebrated with both my parents being attentive to minute traditional details, the way it was done by my grandparents and their forefathers before them. So it was with great trepidation and uneasiness that I faced my children when they insisted that their date of birth was their real birthday and not their pirannaalu / star birthday. Growing up in the city, influenced by peers, lifestyles and environment, I understood their doubts, but stood firm in my beliefs, pacifying them with a cake for their birthday. Children need wings; they also need strong cultural roots to keep them grounded. In recent years, I was happy to see my daughter marking her family’s birth-stars on the calendar, and promising her son a cake for his birthday. Indeed, life has come full circle! A Keralite is truly spoilt for choices when it comes to heavenly breakfast options. No, I am not exaggerating when I say that. Whether it is the lacy Appam/ Hopper with stew, steaming Puttu with kadala curry, Idiappam/ string hoppers with coconut milk and sugar, the soft, fluffy Idli or crisp Dosa with sambar / chutney, they are all healthy, nutritionally balanced and tasty. Kerala’s own Puttu is usually accompanied by kadala curry, payaru, pappadam or ripe sweet yellow bananas.The truth is that it’s versatility is such that it can be eaten with almost any curry, vegetarian or non – vegetarian.
Until recently making puttu was an uphill task. Raw rice was soaked in water, drained, pounded, sieved and roasted to get rice powder. Now we get puttu rice powder from the nearest store.The puttu maker or puttu steamer has two parts – the lower round puttu pot with a narrow neck and the upper cylindrical puttu – kutti. Earlier hollow cylindrical bamboo stems or coconut shells / chiratta were used for cooking puttu. Chiratta puttu maker is also available now. Alternately idli moulds can be used for making puttu.
PUTTU / STEAMED RICE FLOUR & COCONUT PREPARATION
Preparation Time – 45 min. Cook Time – 10 min. each Serves 3
- 2 cups Puttu (Rice Flour)
- 1/2 fresh grated Coconut
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 3/4 cup Water (approx.)
- Stir salt and sugar into the water.
- Take the rice flour in a flat vessel or bowl. Sprinkle water little by little and mix thoroughly by rubbing with your hands or a flat spoon, till it is soaked well, without lumps and resembles grains. Cover and keep aside for half an hour.
- If you wish, you may transfer the wet rice flour to a dry mixie after the resting period, and grind it for a second to uniformly distribute the moisture and to break lumps if any. This step is optional.
- Boil water in the puttu vessel.
- Layer loosely the puttu kutti with 2 tbsp coconut. Top it with 4 tbsp rice flour, alternate thus, with 2 tbsp of coconut followed by 4 tbsp rice mixture and lastly grated coconut. One point to note is that the first and the last layer has to be grated coconut to ensure the smooth passage of steam, failing which, the moisture and flour will cake together and block the perforated cover of the puttu kutti.
- Cover the puttu kutti and carefully set it upright on the puttu pot.
- In high heat, cook for 8 – 10 minutes after steam is seen rising from the upper end of the puttu kutti.
- Off the stove and very carefully, remove the kutti, and push the hot puttu out ( I use a rolling pin) onto a serving bowl or plate. Do the same with the rest of the prepared flour. Serve hot. Enjoy!
- Instead of plain water, coconut water can be used to wet the flour.
- Do not pack the puttu-kutti solidly by pressing down the ingredients.
- Preparation of the puttu powder for breakfast, can be done the night before and refrigerated.
Quick Tip: While grinding to make idli / dosa batter in the mixie, the batter may get heated and it may not ferment or rise as it should. Adding small portions of cold water intermittently while and for grinding helps. Quick Snack: Cut medium-ripe plantains into round slices onto a micro safe bowl. Dissolve 1/2 tsp sugar in little water and sprinkle it on top of the cut pieces. Microwave for 2 minutes. Cool and serve. Plantains are highly nutritious.They are rich in carbohydrates, potassium and Vitamins A and C.