By NK Mridula
Breakfast in our north Kerala home was always an elaborate affair. This is my memory from 60 years ago and we have not broken this habit. Neither has it become boring. It continues to excite our palate even today, every morning.
Although we are mostly pescatarian, preferring sea fish for lunch, breakfast has always been an all-vegetarian affair, made with the indispensable rice flour, grated coconut and coconut oil. Appam, idli-dosa, puttu and iddiappam are the most common breakfast preparations with numerous variants, often served with suitable accompaniments such as chutney, sambar, channa masala, vegetable stew and so on.
In the old days, we used toddy to let the appam batter ferment. Now we use yeast, yet most of the other raw materials used are from our home garden: from drumsticks to curry leaves to coconuts and potatoes to tomatoes to onions to garlic and ginger. We are net producers and net consumers! Here are three favourites.
Rice Iddiappam with Vegetable Stew
Ingredients (serves 2):
For the stew: 2 chopped potatoes; 1 chopped onion; 1 chopped carrot; handful of chopped French beans (or peas); 5 gm chopped ginger; 4 chopped green chillies; salt; ½ tsp black pepper; few curry leaves; ½ tsp corn flour, 150 gm fresh coconut milk or 100 gm readymade coconut milk
For the tadka: 1 tbsp coconut oil; few curry leaves; 1 finely chopped onion; a pinch of rai (mustard seeds)
For the iddiappam: 300 gm rice powder; 75 gm grated coconut; water; salt. You will need an iddiappam press.
1. In a cooker, put all the chopped vegetables with 350 gm water and salt. Cook for 3 whistles. Open when cool and add corn flour mixed in water. Bring to a boil and add coconut milk and black pepper. Turn off the heat.
2. Prepare the tadka by boiling oil in a pan with all the ingredients until rai starts sputtering. Add it to the stew.
3. For the iddiappam, prepare the dough by mixing rice powder with water (as per packet instruction) until it is one soft mass. Run it through the iddiappam press (a device that churns out fine noodles). Collect the noodles and place small quantities on idli maker (or steamer) in round, flat shapes. Add flakes of grated coconut on each. Steam for 10 minutes.
4. Remove by scraping with spoon or knife from idli maker. Serve with stew.
Rice Puttu with Black Chickpea Curry
Ingredients (serves two):
For the curry: 150 gm black chickpea (kala chana or Bengal gram) soaked overnight; 1 small chopped tomato; 1 small chopped onion; 5 gm chopped ginger, 2-3 sliced green chillies; ½ tsp haldi; 1 tsp red chilli powder; 1 tsp coriander powder; 1 tsp garam masala; 100 gm fresh coconut milk or 75 gm readymade coconut milk; salt to taste
For the tadka: 1 tsp coconut oil; 1 dry red chilli; pinch of grated coconut; 1 tsp rai (mustard seeds); curry leaves
For the puttu: 500 gm puttu podi (boiled rice powder); salt to taste
1. Mix puttu podi with cold water until it is moist and coarse in consistency (see photo). Mix in the grated coconut. Put water inside the puttu maker (cylindrical steel device) or idli maker, and stuff in the puttu podi, alternating with layers of grated coconut. Steam for 10-15 minutes or until the puttu feels spongy. Remove and keep aside.
2. For the curry, cook all ingredients (except garam masala and coconut milk) in a cooker for five whistles. Open cooker once cool, add garam masala and boil on low flame. After 15 minutes, add coconut milk and immediately turn off the heat.
3. Heat oil in a small pan. Add rai, grated coconut, red chilli and curry leaves. When the rai starts sputtering, remove tadka from heat and pour into the curry. Stir and serve hot with puttu.
Rice Roti with Vegetable Kurma
Ingredients (serves 2):
For the curry: 2 tsp coconut oil; 1 chopped carrot; 2 chopped potatoes; handful of chopped beans; handful of chopped cauliflower; 1 big chopped onion; 2-3 sliced green chillies; 5 gm chopped ginger; 5 cashew nuts; 1 tsp poppy seeds; 2 cardamoms; 1 cinnamon stick; 2-3 cloves; few curry leaves; salt to taste; pinch of haldi (turmeric powder); 1 tsp red chilli powder; 2 tsp coriander powder; ½ tsp garam masala; 100 gm fresh coconut milk or 75 gm readymade coconut milk; a few fresh coriander leaves; salt to taste
For the roti: 200 gm rice powder; salt to taste; grated coconut
1. In a cooker, take the coconut oil. Add cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, curry leaves (optional), and fry for some time. Then add all the vegetables and fry for 10 minutes.
2. Add all the spices and mix well. In 3-4 minutes, add 300 ml water and close the cooker. After 3 whistles, turn off the flame.
3. In the meantime, grind cashew nuts and poppy seeds with a bit of water until it is a fine paste.
4. Open the cooker when cool, and then add the paste to the curry. Mix well and heat. Once it begins to boil, add coconut milk and coriander leaves, and turn off. Serve hot.
5. For the rice roti, make a batter with rice powder, grated coconut and a pinch of salt with water (hot or cold as per instruction on rice powder packet). 6. Cook it on a tawa, flipping on both sides, until it begins to brown.
7. Serve hot.
First published in eShe’s January 2020 issue