P uttu (steamed rice flour and coconut) with Kadalakari (black chickpeas in a spiced coconut gravy) is a popular breakfast dish in Kerala. It is also very popular as a Sunday breakfast in our home. I tend to make Kadalakari as often as I make Cherupayarukari (whole moong beans in a spiced coconut gravy) just for variety.
P uttu and kari is really complete only when served with the small and sweet variety of yellow bananas. Some people would argue that even this is incomplete unless “pappadam” (Kerala style blackgram/ urad dal pappads) is also served!
Puttu is made from rice flour to which salt is added and then moistened with water so that the rice flour still remains fluffy but holds its shape when scrunched in your palm (see pictures). This moistened flour is then packed loosely, interspersed with spoonfuls of freshly grated coconut, into the cylindrical part (now made of steel, but traditionally fashioned from bamboo) of the puttu steamer and then steam cooked.
Nowadays, the rice flour for puttu is available ready made. Before this improvement, raw rice (not basmati) was soaked in water for about an hour. After draining the water, the rice would be spread out on a cotton towel for another hour or so to remove the moisture from the rice (not in the sun). Then the rice would be pounded into a powder (in my grandmother’s time) or powdered (in a mixer/ grinder these days) till fine but grainy to touch. This would be used to make the puttu.
Puttu can also be made with wheat flour, millet flour, corn flour (all these are powdered specially for making puttu, packed and available in the stores in Kerala) or semolina.
To make puttu, you also need a special steamer called a “kodam” and “puttukutti”. A “kodam” is a round aluminium vessel (with a flat bottom) into which water is poured and the mouth of which is sealed with a cylindrical aluminium tube into which the puttu and coconut is filled. This whole assembly is kept on the stove.
The water in the lower vessel would boil and produce steam which pushes through the puttu in the upper cylindrical chamber or “kutti” and cooks it. Nowadays, the kodam has largely been replaced by the pressure cooker and a stainless steel “kutti” which sits where the weight normally does, is available (see pictures).
The Kadalakari is usually made with black (smaller dark brown) variety of chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Here I have used whole “Cherupayaru” (whole moong beans) instead. Should you wish to make Kadala kari, just substitute the whole moong beans with the chickpeas and follow the same recipe.
For this post, I have used Chemba puttu podi (powdered reddish variety of whole rice) which has a nice aroma and a sweet taste. Remember the rice flour used here is not regular rice flour. But a fine flour which feels slightly grainy to the fingers.
For making Puttu:
1½ cups Chemba rice flour (puttu podi)
½ tsp salt
Enough water to moisten the flour (approximately ¾ cup)
1 cup freshly grated coconut
Put the rice and salt in a deep bowl. Sprinkle the water, a little at a time, and using your fingers keep mixing till the flour starts looking like crumbs. If you take a little in your fist and scrunch it up, it should hold its shape when you open your palm. Let the moistened rice powder rest for about 10 minutes.
If you add too little water, the puttu will be dry and uncooked when steamed. If you add too much water, the puttu will be a lumpy mass after steam cooking. Judging the water required to moisten the flour needs a little practice.
Now fill your pressure cooker or “kodam” with water till two thirds full. Place on the stove. Take the cylindrical part, place the small plate with holes (this comes with the puttu maker) in the bottom, and put in 2 tbsps of coconut followed by moistened rice flour till ¼ th is filled. Now put in about 2 tbsps coconut onto it. Fill with some more flour till half filled. Put in 2tbsp coconut followed by rice flour till ¾ is filled and then 2 more tbsp of coconut. Cover the cylinder and place on the cooker spout or “Kodam” once the steam starts coming out. The rice flour must be loosely filled and not packed.
The steam will push its way out through the rice flour and the small holes on top. Steam for about 12 minutes till cooked. Then remove the cylindrical part from the steamer and push the “Puttu” variety, onto a plate, out slowly from underneath using the steel rod provided for this.
Use up the remaining flour and coconut similarly.
I try to reduce the coconut used here, so what I do is to add about ½ to ¾ cup of garted coconut directly to the moistened rice flour. Then there is no need to alternate layers before steaming. Just fill the cylinder till about ¾ full and steam cook.
Update (13th September, 2008):
Talking to another blogger yesterday and some comments at the end of this post suddenly made me realise that puttu could be made without a puttu maker. And if you are not planning to make puttu very often, then investing in a puttu maker is not worthwhile.
Most of us (Indians, at least) would be having a set of idli trays. So you can use these to make puttu. If you want to layer the moistened flour and coconut separately, then first put some fresh grated coconut in each depression in the idli tray. Then loosely pack the depressions with the moistened flour and steam till done. If you use coconut mixed with the moistened flour, similarly loosely pack it and steam till done.
Do not press the flour down into either the puttu maker or idli depression or the puttu will not cook prperly since there is no place for the steam to get through the puttu. The puttu may look like like an idli, but will taste most definitely like puttu!
Cherupayarukari (Whole Moong Beans in a Spiced Coconut Gravy):
There are different versions of this preparation and most of them use onions but no cumin seeds. Jaggery is also not normally used. This is supposed to be a spicy preparation and I find that the jaggery balances the spiciness without taking anything away from the taste.
My version has no onions and uses cumin seeds. If you would like to use onions, slice 1 big or 2 small onions and sauté them till light brown and add this to the ingredients to be ground into a paste.
Substitute the whole moong beans with kadala (black chickpeas) if you prefer to make a Kadalakari. They need to be soaked over night and cooked till soft, before using in this preparation. The moong beans do not need to be soaked before cooking.
1 ½ cups whole moong beans
½ cup freshly grated coconut
1 ½ tbsp coriander seeds
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
2 or 3 dry red chillies
1 ½ inch piece cinnamon
4 or 5 cloves
4 pods green cardamom
2 sprigs curry leaves
2 tsp oil (coconut oil if you prefer)
1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp asafetida
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp powdered jaggery
salt to taste
Cook the moong beans till they’re soft and done but not mushy. Keep aside.
In ½ tsp oil, lightly fry the coriander and cumin seeds till golden. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and dry red chillies. Keep aside.
In the same pan, roast the coconut over low heat till it is lightly reddish brown and gives off a lovely aroma. Take off the heat. Now finely grind the roasted spices and the coconut along with 2 tbsps of the cooked moong beans using enough water to get a thick and smooth paste. Keep aside.
Heat the remaining 1 ½ tsp oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the curry leaves, the asafetida powder, and stir once. Immediately add the cooked moong beans with the water it has been cooked in. Add the turmeric powder, salt and powdered jaggery. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the coconut-spice paste and mix well. Allow the “Cherupayarukari” to simmer for a further 5 minutes and then take off the heat. Serve with puttu. Both these recipes will serve 4.
This “Cherupayarukari” goes well with chappathis or plain parathas too. It can be served with rice also.