Recipe: Aval Payasam or Poha Kheer

Earlier this week was Avani Avittam, the only festival dedicated to men in Hinduism (or rather tambramism) and since it was BB’s first one, we had to go down to the temple for a special prayer and then the next day was the recitation of the Gayatri Mantra. This sacred mantra is said to be the root mantra and it is said that reciting it 1008 times is said to be very beneficial.

On Avani Avittam, I made my Vermicelli payasam and the day of Gayatri Mantra, I made this easy Aval payasam or Poha Kheer. It’s a simple dish that can be made in less than 30 minutes, start to finish so even an FTWM can make this on a festival.

Aval Payasam/Poha Kheer


  • 1 cup poha
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-litre full cream milk
  • a handful of cashew nuts
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tbsps ghee


  • In a pan heat the ghee and fry the cashew nuts and once brown, keep aside.
  • In the same pan, fry the poha till they slightly turn brown and at this point, add half the milk. Let the poha absorb the milk and then add the remainder of the milk.
  • When the milk comes to a rolling boil, let it boil for another 5 minutes until the poha is soft and has completely absorbed the milk
  • Add the sugar, cashew nuts, saffron and cardamom powder and let the kheer boil for another five minutes.
  • The kheer is ready to serve. Drink hot or cold, though we prefer to drink it cold!



Recipe: Mysore Rasam

IMG_0639This a very typical rasam made in tambram households, yet at the same time, this is not something we usually make on a daily basis. You can call this a version of the arachavitta sambhar, only this is a rasam. In this recipe, you do not use the rasam powder at all, instead of making the masala paste fresh just before you start cooking.

I know of a friend, when she first got married, had a culture shock of sorts as she had to make the paste for sambhar and rasam on a daily basis as her in-laws did not like to use powders for the two items. So what we used to eat on special occasions, she had to cook daily. Now after years of marriage, she has converted her husband to liking rasams and sambhars made with powders, so things are a lot easier for her now.

I made this over the weekend when I was bored of making the same three-four things over and over. It does take a bit of time to make, but the end result is lip-smackingly delicious. You can also drink this as a spicy soup, especially when the weather is cold or rainy.

IMG_0641Mysore Rasam


  • 1 cup toor dal, washed and cooked until done in a pressure cooker or on the stove. The dal has to be mushy and has to be completely disintegrated
  • 1 small, lime-sized ball of tamarind, soaked in warm water for 20-30 minutes and the pulp squeezed and water extracted. Alternatively, use 2-3 tbsps of tamarind paste
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered and halved again
  • 1 tsp jaggery. You can omit this or substitute brown or white sugar instead
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

To be ground into a paste

  • 4-5 dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp peppercorn
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp chana dal
  • 2 tbsps grated coconut
  • 1 tbsp ghee

To temper

  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves


  • In a pan, heat the ghee and fry the dried red chillies, peppercorn, coriander seeds and chana dal till they start turning brown. Now add the grated coconut and fry until the coconut loses its moisture and turns brown. You need to keep stirring once you add the coconut, otherwise, the coconut will burn.
  • Cool this and when cool, grind this to a smooth paste and keep aside.
  • In a large vessel, add the tamarind water,  some water to reach the level of sourness you want, the chopped tomatoes, salt and asafoetida powder and let it boil.
  • Boil for a while till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away and then add the mashed dal and let it boil for a couple of minutes more.
  • Now add the blended masala paste and let it boil well till it comes together. Add the jaggery if you are using it this point.
  • The rasam will start frothing and at this point, add around 1/2 cup water and when it starts to boil again, switch off the flame and remove the rasam. Check for seasoning and adjust if needed.
  • In a smaller skillet, heat the ghee and when it is warm, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add the cumin seeds and the curry leaves. Pour this over the rasam. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with hot rice and a vegetable of your choice.






Recipe: Pooshnikai Kootu aka Ash Gourd Stew


Another typical tambram food, which I made for the first time for the sumangali pooja. This was really good with a medley of tastes. A keeper which I plan to make often.

Pooshnikai Kootu aka Ash Gourd Stew



  • 1 medium sized pooshnikai or as gourd, chopped into small pieces with the seeds and fibres removed
  • 3/4 cup toor dal or red gram dal, cooked with a pinch of turmeric till mushy
  • 1/3 cup chana dal or bengal gram dal, cooked with a pinch of turmeric
  • 2 tsps coriander seeds
  • 1.5 tsps bengal gram dal
  • 6-8 dried red chillies
  • 4-5 tbsps grated coconut
  • a lime sized ball of tamarind, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and the pulp squeezed and the juice removed and kept aside. Alternatively use 2-3 tsps of tamarind paste
  • 2 tsps oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp urad dal or black gram dal
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste


  • In a large pan, take the chopped ash gourd and cook it with just enough water to cover the vegetable. Add some salt and turmeric powder.
  • When the ash gourd is half cooked, add the juice of the tamarind and let it cook till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away.
  • In the meantime, in another pan, with 1 tsp oil, fry the bengal gram dal,  coriander seeds, dried red chillies and the coconut until the coconut looses all it’s moisture and becomes dry. Blend this coconut mixture into a smooth paste. Add a bit of water if needed to do this.
  • When the ash gourd is cooked, add the cooked toor dal to the ash gourd and let it mix well. Bring it to a boil and then add the blended coconut paste and let it boil for around 5 minutes
  • In a seperate pan, heat the balance oil and when warm, add the mustard seeds, urad dal, asafoetida, curry leaves and red chillies and stir for a few seconds till the urad dal is brown the curry leaves are crisp.
  • Season the kootu with this and remove from the gas. Serve hot with a rice of your choice or any flatbread.


Recipe: Pudalangai Kootu aka Snake Gourd Stew


This is a typical tambram recipe which is made in perhaps every household at some point or the other. But surprisingly I had never made it before and so when I had to make it for the Sumangali pooja, I had to rely on my tambram cooking bible – Cook and See by Meenakshi Ammal. I am reproducing the recipe as it is published. Even though I was cooking it for the first time, it was yummy and I realised, I actually liked it a lot.

This recipe is pretty standard for a kootu, in that it has the vegetable, some dal and a coconut spice blend. What was different was that instead of chillies, the coconut was blended with black peppercorn, which made the difference in taste.


Pudalangai Kootu or Snakegourd Stew


  • 2 snake gourds
  • 1 cup moong dal, washed and cooked with a pinch of turmeric powder till it is mushy
  • 4-5 tbsps grated coconut
  • 1.5 tsps peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp split urad dal
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • salt to taste


  • To chop the snake gourd, slit it lengthwise first and remove all the seeds and fibre from inside. Then cut it in half lengthwise and then into thin slices horizontally.
  • In a pan cook the snake gourd with minimum water, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and some salt.
  • While the snake gourd is cooking, in a blender, blend the coconut, peppercorns and cumin seeds to a fine paste and keep aside.
  • When the snake gourd is cooked, but still keeping its shape, add the cooked dal to it and mix gently. Now add the coconut paste and add a bit of water if needed. Kootus are generally thick, but you can adjust the thickness of the dish as you like.
  • Check for salt and when it comes to a rolling boil, let it boil for five minutes and switch off the gas.
  • In a smaller pan, heat the oil and when it becomes warm, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle, add the urad dal, asafoetida, curry leaves and dried red chillies and let the dal brown and the curry leaves become crisp. Pour this seasoning into the kootu and serve hot as an accompaniment to rice.



Sumangali Pooja Part 2

Please read Part 1 before continuing to read Part 2

Before the sumangalis come, the house is decorated with rice flour rangolis and the lamps are lit in the home altar. Two separate big silver lamps called kuthu villaku are also kept ready to be lit just before the function starts.

When the sumangalies come, we welcome them and give them haldi and kumkum as well flowers to keep in their hair. Then the lady of the family (aka me) lights the big kuthu villakkus. We kept each lamp next to an altar, one each for a sumangali and the young girl. The altar was made using a small low stool (called palagai in Tamil) which has some rangoli done on it. On this is kept the nine-yard saree (which has been made madi in the morning) and the pavadai (for the sumangali and the kanya) and then a mirror is kept behind it in such a way your reflection is seen. This is so that any sumangalis or kanyas of the family who are dead, but who are present in the house at the time of the function can see themselves. We also decorate the mirror with a comb, haldi kumkum, flowers and some gold ornaments like chains, bangles etc. A small pooja is then performed and the entire family (including men if present) offer prayers to the ancestral women of the family and seek their blessings.

We then invite the sumangalis and the kanyas to sit down to eat on plantain leaves. Two leaves, one on top of the other lightly apart, is also kept for the God (called Swami Elai) which in some families, one member of the family would then eat. Before the women sit down (they have to first stand in front of their leaves), the lady organising this function will call the names of all sumangalis in the family. If no names can be found (like in our case), we just call for all known and unknown sumangalis of the family to come and partake the meal. The invited sumangalis and kanyas are actually eating on behalf of the departed souls.

While serving, the food served has to be served to the swami elai first and then to the others in a clockwise direction. In my place, what we did was everyone helped in serving the dishes and then just before the rice was served, the sumangalis sat down to eat. After the rice is served, all the women and girls will have to be given a drop of water from a silver cup called Panchpatram which is a small silver cup with a spoon which men usually use for their gayatri mantram and sandhyavandhanam after they have their sacred thread on.

The menu is fairly traditional and so I prepared Paruppu payasam, sweet mango pachadi, grated cucumber pachadi, raw banana curry, beans curry, ash gourd kootu, snake gourd kootu, bitter gourd pitla, mor kozambu, Mysore rasam, plain white rice, urad dal vadai, boli, panagam, neer mor (like a thin buttermilk) and a chutney made with curry leaves. My mother-in-law made the pitla at her home and also the dough for the vadai and boli which we then made in my home. A mix of sukku podi (dry ginger) and jaggery also will be kept, which is given to all after eating to enhance digestion.

Once the food is served, the lady organising the function willl do neivedhyam and show karpooram to the pudavai ilai and all the people from the host’s family will put flowers on the pudavai ilai and do namaskarams to that. Generally while putting flowers elders will tell us to pray for a wish to happen and then do it. It is strongly believed that the wishes made during this time will be fulfilled.

Once the lunch is over, the lady of the house has to clean the leaves used for eating. Then the women are given pan to eat and also asked to apply the specially prepared turmeric and mehendi and also given flowera again. We also offer them haldi kumkum again and give them the saree/blouse/pavadai. This is actually optional, but since this was the first time I was doing this, we decided to buy sarees for all plus pavadais for the little girls. I also gave them some money to make up for the lack of providing them with the oil, soap, shampoo that morning.

After this, the four of us (BB, GG, S & me) bowed down to the women and did namaskar to them and they blessed us with akshadai (rice made yellow with some turmeric which is very auspicious). They also blessed BB for his poonal and then left. We then sat down to eat.

By the time everyone went home and I was able to put my feet up, I was up on my feet for almost 12 straight hours! I was super exhausted that day.

I hope with this post, I’ve been able to shed some light on the customs of our community. This post is also a reminder for me if I have to do this another time on this function and also for BB & GG in the future. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below….