Good wishes for 'Vishu' - Happy New Year!
The second week of April generally marks the New Year in many Indian communities. Baisakhi (Punjab), Rongali Bihu (Assam) , Ugadi (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka), Gudi Padwa (Maharashtra), Varsha Pirappu & Vishu in Tamil Nadu and Kerala respectively. The week marks the passage of the Sun into the constellation Aries, and as with all other Indian festivals its marked by plenty of food as religious offerings. There is one particular tradition that makes Vishu an annual event to remember. Its referred to as the 'Vishu Kani' . The Lady of the house has a cornucopia of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and dals along with money and jewelry arrange in a beautiful 'Uruli' (An artisanal cooking pot made with a bell metal alloy).In the centre of the dish is a mirror and large Lamps are lit. Children are led to the prayer room where the Kani is arranged and are asked to open their eyes to view themselves in the mirror. The belief is that it is auspicious to open ones eyes to prosperity first thing in the morning. The head of the family then hands out the 'Kaineetam' gifts of Money and new clothes (Oh yeah, Its just like Christmas!). For a detailed version of the festival, I'm going to refer you to Ammini Ramachandran's informative article in Zesterdaily.
One of the classic desserts served up for a traditional Kerala Vishu feast is the Parippu payasam (a coconut milk and toasted mung based pudding sweetened with Jaggery) and a decadent Jam-like Pate made from Mango or Jackfruit. I hit it lucky this time around when I found some perfectly ripened Jack fruit at my local Indian grocery and converted it into this delightful dish with help from Mrs. Ramachandran's recipe from her book 'Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts'
The chakkai varatti (as the jackfruit pate is called in Malayalam) in my recipe is used as a filling in a sweet ravioli, Its a delicious dessert morsel to savor warm with just a dusting of powdered sugar, or for an elegant plated dessert, you may serve the ravioli over a layer of traditional Paruppu payasam. Since the sweetness in both the payasam and the jam come from the same jaggery, this tends to confer a singular note. To counter this I've added some spice through the addition of Ginger (I used powder, but adding juice from the fresh root will work beautifully as well).
Chakka Varatti: (makes a little over 1 cup)
(Jackfruit Pate - Recipe from Grains, greens and grated coconuts by Ammini Ramachandran -I've reduced the quantity of Jaggery as per my personal preference. The original recipe calls for equal amounts of fruit and Jaggery, and ~1 cup of ghee )
3 cups jackfruit (fresh or canned)
2 cups crumbled Jaggery (Gud)
1/2 cup Ghee
1 cup water
Cut the Jack fruit into thin strips (deseeding the fresh pieces of fruit from the entire chunk needs another blog post and I'll save it for later, in the mean time go ahead and get yourself 2-3 cans of the ripe fruit from the local Oriental grocery). If you do opt for the fresh fruit, do save the seeds, they taste just like chestnuts when roasted.
Once the mixture has reduced in volume by about a third, add the crumbled Jaggery (test for sweetness as the canned fruit can be cloyingly sweet from the syrup ) and cook down the mixture on low heat, constantly stirring the bubbling liquid. I use a spatter shield as a guard to prevent any drops from scalding me accidentally. Add the ghee gradually by the tablespoonful and let it get incorporated into the thick paste. As the water evaporates, the Pate begins to leave the sides of the pan and you can see the ghee sizzling at the edges. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before transferring into a glass jar for storage.
I used a pressure cooker to make the payasam but making it in a conventional pan is equally easy.
1/3 cup crumbled Jaggery loosely packed.
1/4 cup yellow mung dal, toasted golden
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon powdered ginger or 1 tablespoon ginger extract from the fresh root
½ tsp Cardamom powder
Pressure cook the toasted mung dal till soft. Mash well and add the jaggery, ginger and coconut milk. bring to a boil and immediately lower the heat to a simmer and allow the flavors of the ingredients to combine well (~ 10 minutes). Allow to cool down and chill until ready to serve.
For the Ravioli:
1 cup All purpose flour + some more for dusting
1/4 cup 2 % milk
a pinch of salt
Knead into a soft dough.
Store bought Wonton wrappers
Chilled Chakkai Varatti
Sesame Oil or Ghee for deep frying
1 teaspoon chickpea flour whisked with 2 oz milk for brushing
Spoon bits of the chakka varatti and roll them between your well oiled palms and set aside on a plate
Divide the dough into two and roll out 2 equal sized rectangles Setting aside one piece, lightly brush one rectangle of with the chickpea / milk mixture (this helps in sealing the two pieces of dough. Arrange the Chakkai varatti potions over the dough leaving ample space between the filling. Place the other sheet of dough over the pieces and, using your fingers, lightly press down to expel any air trapped between the layers of dough. Using a ravioli press stamp out the ravioli and arrange in a single layer on a plate. If you opt for the readymade wonton wrappers, then use 2 wrappers to make the ravioli as shown in the photograph below.
Heat oil / Ghee in a cast iron pan. Once the oil gets hot fry each ravioli one at a time.
To plate, Spoon a layer of the chilled payasam in a bowl. Place a couple of the fried ravioli and dust with microplaned pistachio, Or serve the Payasam on the side.
|Plated version 1|
|Plated Version 2|
For a homely casual version, Allow the Ravioli to soak and soften in the Payasam and serve chilled. I call this version 'Zuppa Keralese con ravioli'!!
Wishing all my readers in India a Wonderful, happy & prosperous New Year!