With festivals coming up we normally end up making so many sweets. And Payasam being such a common one we end up making different combination in making it. This payasam was another special treat that Amma makes. The addition of carrot makes it attractive for the kids and makes it very healthy also.

I always remember Amma making some kind of payasam for Saturday Pooja. Infact I started loving semiya payasam only after eating it so often every Saturday. To ease the monotony, Amma twists the recipe frequently. I remember her using Sago on many occasions. That silky texture that renders when you chew a sago gives you a distinct taste. With flavoursome carrots this payasam was one I can always remember.

Ingredients Needed:

Sago - 2 tsp
Vermicelli / Semiya - 50 gms
Milk - 1/2 litre
Carrot, grated - 50 gms
Sugar - 50 gms
Cardamon - a pinch
Clarified Butter / Ghee - 3 tsp
Cashew Nuts, Raisins - handful

Method to prepare:

Soak Sago for 1/2 hr prepare cook with water just enough to cover it. Cook till it is tender. Keep it aside.

Heat a pan with ghee, roast the nuts and keep it aside.

Grate the carrots and roast it in ghee followed by Vermicelli.

Meanwhile boil milk in a pan, once it thickens, Slowly add Sago along with water, roasted semiya and carrot to the milk, simmer till everything gets done to partial.

Add sugar and simmer for 10 mins for the sugar to dissolve.

Finally add the roasted nuts. Bring to boil and switch.

The mix of all three ingredients makes it unique and at the same time very healthy. If required, you can reduce the sugar if the carrots used are sweet.

Semiya Payasam gets done on most Festival days. Do share what special dishes you are planning to make for the Diwali. 

Here's wishing you all a great week ahead!

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We celebrate Diwali with lots of sweets and crackers. To smoothen our stomach and to avoid indigestion, we prepare this marundhu – proper English translation is Medicine. Our ancestors used to add many ingredients in this which cannot be ground in our modern mixie. But in this fast world, everything is simple – we get ready made powder called – Diwali Marundhu powder in shops. Just you have to add jaggery and prepare it. That’s all. Some may not trust the ingredients (like me?). So they make it simple and prepare this with fewer ingredients at home. Here is a simple recipe which can be prepared at any time as the ingredients are easily available everywhere.


Coriander powder 1 small cup
Jeera powder ½ cup
Fresh ginger paste or Chukku/dried ginger powder ¼ cup (I used ¼ cup ginger juice and ¼ cup chukku powder for extra hotness)
Dates Syrup 1 cup or Vellam/Jaggery 1 ¼ cups
Elaichi powder ½ tsp
Ghee ¼  cup

If you use fresh ginger – peel and grind it nicely in the mixie. Or else to avoid the fiber, you can extract juice through juicer and add it. Or else use dried ginger powder alone. Either way you can follow.

In a MW vessel, add everything and cook on high for 5 minutes, stirring in between. Cook few more minutes till you reach the consistency.

Or else, take a bottom thick vessel, dissolve jaggery with ½ cup of water. Strain for impurities and boil the syrup. After few minutes add all other ingredients and stir it continuously by adding ghee in installments. When it starts thickening remove. It will harden while cooling. This process might need more ghee.

Instead of jaggery, I added dates syrup (store bought one). The taste is very nice.

Normally it is prepared during Diwali times. But it can be prepared at any time and kept handy which is good for indigestion. Select tender ginger for this. 

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This one is our traditional sweet and normally prepared during Diwali. As usual each one has got their own method of preparing it. I prefer the following way, as it gives soft granules. By this way you need less ghee also.


Channa dhal ½ cup
Tur dhal ¼ cup
Moong dhal ¼ cup (Or you can use only channa dhal also)
Grated fresh coconut ¾ cup

Vellam/Jaggery 1 cup (as per your taste)
Elaichi powder ¼ tsp
Fried Cashews
Ghee 3 tbsp


Dry roast the dhals and wash and soak in water for 2 -3 hours. Drain the water and leave it in colander for at least 30 minutes. Grind it in the grinder without adding water. Need not be too smooth but not too grainy too. When you touch the batter it will not stick to your hand. It will be like this

Remove it and steam cook this batter in the idli plates for about 12-15 minutes. Let it cool. Break it into granules. It will look like this.

In 1 tsp ghee, roast the cashews first then roast the grated coconut till golden brown.

Now take a thick bottom vessel and boil the jaggery with ½ cup of water. Strain for impurities. Leave it to boil again till you reach soft ball consistency.  When you leave ¼ tsp syrup in 1 tsp water, you must be able to form a soft ball. At this stage, add the elaichi powder, coconut and the steamed batter. Mix well adding ghee in installments. As the batter is already steam cooked, it may not take more than 3-4 minutes. By this way, you can reduce the ghee also. I added only 2 tbsp. Garnish with cashews. A grainy ukkarai is ready. Very tasty with the mixture of dhals.

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Verakadalai Chundal
Verakadalakai chundal ~ Peanut sauté

It is Navratri in India. A time to dance, to rejoice over the peace brought on earth by Goddess Durga according to Indian Mythology and an excuse for getting in touch with near and dear ones! If you look more closely, you will find that it is a celebration of women power (Goddess Durga being a manifestation of Shakti in various forms). Each day of Navratri is characterized by offering prayers to the Goddess Durga and other female deities. Gujarat and Bengal bring in the festival with vibrancy. Gujaratis play garba (a folk dance) in colourful outfits while bengalis play with kumkum. South has a more subdued form of celebrating the festival. We set up a 'golu', steps filled with statuettes of Gods and Godesses, figurines depicting the life and culture of people and sometimes a small garden by the side of the golu. Setting up the 'golu' was fun as kids. It is something similar to decorating a Christmas tree requiring imagination, energy and joy!

No festival however goes without its share of sweets and savouries and in India these are made in abundance! All nine days of Navratri we make different types of sundals (chundal / sautes) to offer as 'prasadam' towards the end of each prayer session.

What is the point of making so many sweets, you might wonder! Well, it is all about sharing. During the nine nights of Navratri, we have a gathering of women friends and we offer them the prasad along with a momento and an assembly of betel leaves, turmeric packet, kumkum (vermilion tilak powder) and betel nuts. [picture below]

Some of these ideas have already been shared by Viji earlier in Beyond Curries. Today I am presenting yet another sundal. This time it is made of peanuts (ground nuts), a legume belonging to the family fabaceae. Sundals hardly take any time and can be used as a side dish with gravy and rice as well as a tea time snack by themselves. They are so versatile!

Recipe: Kadalai sundal ~ peanut sauté
Preparation Time : 10 minutes excluding soaking time
Serves : 2 persons
Recipe Level: Easy
Recipe/Post by: Sunshinemom


Raw peanuts - 1 cup (Soaked overnight or for 4 to 5 hrs.)
Green chilli - 1
Coconut, grated freshly - 2 tbsp.
Curry leaves - 1 sprig, leaves trimmed
Asafoetida - A pinch
Oil (any neutral oil, preferably coconut oil) - 1 tsp.
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp.
Split, husked, blackgram - 1/2 tsp.
Salt to taste

Verakadalai Chundal
Verakadalakai chundal ~ Peanut sauté


Steam, pressure cook or boil and strain the soaked peanuts with a little salt till cooked. Drain and set aside.

Heat a wok or kadhai with the oil. When hot, splutter mustard seeds followed by the blackgram. When they turn light golden add the curry leaves, hing and peanuts in the same order.

Adjust salt if needed.

In a mortar crush a tsp. of coconut with the green chilli well.

Add the crushed mix and the rest of the coconut to the wok and saute till the ingredients are uniformly distributed.

Makes a good tea time snack!

I always add a tablespoon of finely chopped raw mango as well. It brings a nice surprise while eating, but is optional.

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Sounds like classic combination? Yes it is. I have tried before cashew, coconut and milk which is my favorite. Very rich and creamy. With the use of Microwave (MW), with less fat, it came out very well and topped with chopped almond nuts (raw) it was a real treat.

When you try make sure, you keep the sugar level right which is the binding agent in all sweets. If you reduce it, you won’t get the consistency. And the timings here I have given will also vary as per the vessel, oven, and the ingredients quality. If you are trying for the first time and not sure about the consistency level, try in small quantity to avoid wastage. If you have taken before the time and it is halwa consistency, add some milk powder and adjust it but not any flour. These are only remedies when you go wrong.

Almond meal/flour 1.5 cups
Gram/besan flour 1 cup
Milk 1 cup
Sugar 3 cups
Ghee 5 +1 tbsp for greasing (fresh home made)
Elaichi powder 1 tsp
Broken raw almonds 2 tbsp for garnishing

One big MW proof vessel.


Dry fry the besan flour for 2 minutes. Leave it cool.

In a MW vessel take sugar and milk together. MW high for 2-3 minutes. Add the almond meal and besan flour and mix well. Since it is fried a little bit before, it is will not form lumps. Add 1 tbsp ghee and cook on high for 2-3 minutes again. Add the remaining ghee in installments. When you can form a soft ball out of the mass stop cooking. It took me 13-15 minutes totally. I used to keep stirring, after taking it out from the oven for a while before spreading. If you want soft ones, spread it immediately.

Spread this on a greased plate (1 tbsp ghee) and smooth the top. I have used a small flat bottom steel vessel greased with ghee to even the top. Press the chopped almond on top. Slice it with sharp knife. Let it cool.  

Normally we get ready made almond meal (flour). If not available soak 10-12 badams, peel the skin and grind it with little milk into fine paste and use it. I find this almond meal is a handy one for my baking.

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When one attends a typical Tamilian Wedding, one is sure to be feasted on a Paruppu Usili. I remember since childhood always looking forward to this dish. And I never stopped. I don't remember Amma preparing this at home during my childhood. It was only much later that she finally started making it herself. There are so many ways to make this. Most times we follow the shortest method to arrive at the most delightful dish one can imagine.

I already posted a Usili, then recently ended up making it again in 3 different ways. And of course the vegetable that goes in also changes the way it tastes. I have known this being made with French Beans, Banana Blossoms, Cluster Beans, Banana Stem and the latest addition made by Amma were these beautiful Red Capsicum. 

Though Green Capsicum is common at home, Red and Yellow makes it sometimes to the pantry. And one such time, it also ended up as an Usili.

Capsicum Parupu Usili

Recipe: Red Pepper With Chickpea Saute | Capsicum Parupu Usili
Soaking Time : 30 minutes
Preparation Time : 20 minutes

Recipe Level:Intermediate
Recipe/Post by: Srivalli


Red Pepper/ Red Capsicum - 1 large
Channa Dal / CheckPeas - 1/2 cup
Red Chilis, dry - 3 -4 
Salt to taste
Curry leaves - few leaves
Mustard Seeds, Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp

Utensils Needed - Non Stick pan

Method to prepare:

Wash and soak Channa dal for 1 hr. Grind coarsely along with Red chili and salt.

Chop the Capsicum into long pieces. Heat a non stick pan with oil,  season with mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves. 

Once the mustard splutters, add the channa dal coarse mix along with capsicum. Cover with lid and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Keep stirring in between to ensure it doesn't get stuck to the bottom.

Serve this with Sambar and steaming rice.

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Navrathri is nearing and everyone in India is busy in buying dolls. Preparing different Neivedyams for evening pooja for distribution is a real fun. There are different dishes prepared during these 9 days. Each one follows their own custom of doing it.

Each day one Sundal; Savor (any dhal sauted with mustard seeds, green chili or spices) or Sweet (with jaggery). On Fridays we prepare Puttu for distribution. Saturday we prepare Ellu podi. Rest of the days as per their custom and convenience. But each day has got specific neivedyams for a specific God.

Sundals - All the dry beans can be used as plain or sprouted to enhance its nutrients.

For sprouting, I normally soak it for 24-36 hours minimum exchanging water 3 times (every 12 hours). Then drain it for 5 minutes. Knot this in a muslin cloth (or any thin kitchen towel). Keep it on the table and cover it with a wooden basket (or any plastic one with holes) – I mean cover it ¾ only. After 12 hours start sprinkling water to keep it moist. Any hard dhals can be sprouted like this. But moong dhal doesn’t take much time to sprout. By this way you increase the protein content of dhals.

For all beans (except mentioned specifically here), to add spice use my SIMP powder - or else roast red chili, channa dhal, coriander seeds, curry leaves and hing in 1 tsp oil and powder it coarsely in the mixer to sprinkle it at the end.

Kondakadalei Sundal  - Kabuli black channa – sprouted one.

Sprout them as mentioned above, cook in pressure cooker till soft and termper with mustard seeds, curry leave and one tbsp of SIMP powder.

Sprouted Kondakadalei Sundal   - white one
Sprout them and temper them the same way mentioned above.

Sprouted moong dhal
The same way, but need not be pressure cooked - can be steam cooked to avoid nutrition loss.

Mochai Sundal (Lima Beans) – plain one
The same way of channa Sundal

Karamani vella Sundal (Black eyed beans with jaggery)

Soak one cup of  karamani for 5 hours. Pressure cook it for 2 whistles. Drain and keep it aside. Melt ¾ cup of jaggery (or less than this) with ¼ cup of water. Strain for impurities. Add 1 tbsp of fresh coconut, ¼ tsp elaichi powder and boil it again for 3 minutes. Now add the Karamani and cook for few more minutes.

Peanut Sundal

For this you have to use raw (not roasted) ones with skin. Soak them for 5 hours and pressure cook along with salt for 2 whistles. Then temper it with mustard seeds, one red chili, curry leaves and a pinch of hing.

Red beans Sundal
The same way of Channa Sundal

Kollu (Horse gram) Sundal - sprouted
The same way of Channa Sundal

Jaggery Puttu

This is very famous during Navrathiri. I never miss the Friday during the 9 days to collect this delicious puttu from my friend’s house. Though looks very tedious to prepare, it is easy if you practice. When you follow the steps clearly, it won’t go wrong. The texture must be so soft. That’s the secret of this recipe.

Raw rice flour 1 cup
Jaggery ¾  cup
Fresh coconut 1 tbsp
Elaichi powder ½ tsp
Ghee 1 tsp
Cashews few broken


If you are using raw rice, soak for 30 minutes and then dry it on a towel. Grind it in mixie to fine powder. Sieve well. Dry roast this flour well till the colour changes to light brown.

Take one cup of water with a pinch of salt and haldi. Heat it. When it is lukewarm start adding this water slowly to the roasted flour. At one stage you will get soft granular consistency. You can hold the flour. But if you open your hand, it will flow. That’s the right consistency. Stop adding water at this stage. You might use the full 1 cup water or less than that. It all depends on the rice. I never used more than ¾ cup.

Steam this for 10 minutes along with coconut and elaichi powder.

Now prepare the jaggery syrup with ¼  cup of water. Once it dissolved, strain for impurities. Again boil it till you reach soft ball consistency. If you add ½ tsp syrup to water, you should be able to form a ball (not too hard). Switch off the stove, and add this to the steamed flour slowly and mix well. Break any lumps. Add the fried cashews along with the ghee. That’s it. It’s very tasty and soft too. 

Sesame balls

On Saturday they used to prepare yellu podi (sesame flour with jaggery). I just love this. Some used to prepare it in ball shape and distribute. Here is my version.

Sesame Seeds 1 cup
Jaggery ¾ cup
Desiccated coconut ½ cup
Cashews broken 2 tbsp (fried or raw ones as per your choice)
Elaichi powder ½ tsp
Melted Ghee optional 1tbsp


Roast the sesame seed into slightly brown stage as shown in the photo (if you get roasted ones, use it directly). In ME we always get fried sesame seeds. Add all the ingredients except cashews and grind it in mixie. If you have traditional grinder it will be very tasty. When you do it with traditional grinder no need to add ghee as the seeds will release its own oil. Still if you add little ghee it gives nice aroma.

Once it is grinded well add the broken cashews and shape it to small balls. Sounds tricky, but when you shape it, you will find it very easy.
Not only during navrathri festival, it can be prepared once a week to have healthy snack.  

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Uppu Kozhokottai ~ Steamed savoury snacks
Uppu Kozhokottai ~ Savoury steamed dumplings with blackgram dal filling

I hail from Palakkad and our cuisine is a combination of the best from the regions of Tamilnadu and Kerala. Every festival is celebrated with sweets and savouries that are unique to that festival. The traditional sweets made for Ganesh Chaturthi in Palakkad, are 'vella kozhokottai' (Steamed jaggery and coconut filled sweets) and 'sugiyan' (Fried jaggery and coconut balls). The savouries comprise of vadai (savoury fritters) and many varieties of savoury kozhokottais (steamed dumplings).

Kozhokottai (pronounced as koyo-ko-tie, the 'y' is pronounced with a roll of the tongue), is much loved and for some reason I seem to make it only during Ganesh Chaturthi and not otherwise. It is said to be Lord Ganesha's favorite snack. Our's too! It is basically a sweet or savory filling wrapped in rice flour dough. This is then steamed till the rice flour covering becomes translucent. The feeling as you cut through the covering and bite into the filling can only be described as 'heady'!

There are two methods to make the covering. The popular method involves using pounded rice flour. I used to follow the rice flour method until my sister told me to try the one I am sharing here. I find the results so good with this one that I haven't bothered to look back! Using raw rice batter yields a softer covering as compared to the one made with shop bought rice flour. This is because shop bought rice flour does not contain moisture.

Recipe: Uppu Kozhokottai ~ Steamed savoury snacks
Preparation Time : 30 minutes
Serves : 15 pieces
Recipe Level:Intermediate
Recipe/Post by: Sunshinemom

1.5 cups, raw rice
1.5 + 1.5 cups, water
3 tbsps. oil (I use sesame oil)
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup Black gram dal (Urad dal)
Water to cover the dal
salt to taste
1 green chilli
A sprig of curry leaves
3 tbsp. of fresh grated coconut


Soak the split, husked, black gram dal in just enough water for at least half an hour.
Drain completely and add the chopped green chillies and chopped curry leaves. Mix in salt.
Grind without water to a rough paste. (We do not want a soft paste. The paste has to be dry and retain some coarseness due to broken dal). See picture below.
Steam the mixture in a steamer or cooker (without weight/whistle) for about 15minutes till done.
Cool and crumble to granules. Mix in grated coconut to distribute it uniformly throughout the mixture. Set aside and prepare the covering.


Rice flour dough for covering

Soak rice in 1.5 cups of water for at least an hour.
Grind to a smooth paste with the water used for soaking. Do not add more water.
In a heavy bottomed vessel or wok, heat the oil. Add 1.5 cups of water and salt and bring it to a boil.
Now pour the rice paste into the water stirring all the while to avoid lump formation.
You will not be able to avoid the lumps completely but keep stirring and if any lumps form on the sides of the vessel, scrape it back into the center.
Cook, stirring till all the liquid forms into a rough ball, leaving the sides of the vessel. It will take about 5 to 6 minutes on medium flame.
Cover with a tight lid and let the dough cook in residual heat without disturbing for another 10 minutes.
After 5 minutes, remove the lid and let cool till warm enough to handle.
Turn onto a large 'paraat' or plate or working space.
Grease hands lightly and knead the dough till firm, smooth but soft.

Formation of kozhokottais:
Pinch a ball of dough about the size of a table tennis ball. Roll it between your palms to a smooth sphere. Flatten lightly and keeping it on a clean surface, keep pressing with light fingers to form a disc about 5 to 6 cms in diameter. The disc should be about 2mm in thickness.

Shaping the kozhokottai

Place a tablespoon of the filling in the center. Fold to a semi circle and press the sides of the semi circle to seal the opening.
Similarly form the rest of the kozhokottais.

Uppu Kozhokottai ~ Second setting
Serving kozhokottais
Place the kozhokottais on a greased plate, in a steamer and steam till the covering turns translucent and cooked. About 15 minutes.
If you do not have a steamer, heat water in a pressure cooker. Place a deep vessel filled upto 1/4 of its height with water. Now place the plate of kozhokottais over the vessel. Cover the cooker and steam for 15 minutes with the lid on and no weight, on moderate heat.
When cool enough to handle, remove the plate from the steamer/cooker.
The kozhokottais are now ready to be served.
Traditionally it is eaten without any accompaniment and tastes good.
I however like it with a dash of spicy szechuan sauce - an unusual combination for a traditional delicacy.

Special Notes/Tips:
  • Do not hurry up and skip the part where you have to fit the lid and let the dough cook in the residual heat because, the five minute steaming helps the uncooked areas to cook through well.

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