Diary of Hobbitt

Monday, March 01, 2010

"Mission Aappam"

Today morning I made aappam and vella thengaipaal (coconutmilk with jaggery in it) to go with it.Aappam is a delicacy which is made in most south Indian homes. It is a variation of dosa,-soft & fluffy in the centre and thin & crisp at the edges. It is also prepared in a slightly different way. Traditionally aappam is served with sweet coconut milk. Once upon a time, especially in Chennai and Madurai ,there used to be streetside aappam sellers doing brisk business in the morning. Today , however this street side favourite is served in most restaurants in Tamil Nadu.

While aappam by itself is quite harmless, the same cannot be said about coconut & the milk that is obtained from it- a 'must-avoid'for those whose cholesterol levels ( needless to say ,the bad one of course!) maintain an all time high ! Making aappam at home is a rare event what with my better half taking every care to keep his cholesterol level in check ! However aappam being a favourite , once in a while he likes to take a break from 'keep in check cholesterol level' measures and relish aappam !

Armed with my mom's recipe (handed down to me some 30 years back and which I look up everytime I make aappam- I must confess , I simply do not remember any recipe which I make once in a blue moon !), I embarked on "Mission Aappam " with great fervour ! Took equal proportions (1/2 cups) of raw rice ,idli rice (also called ukkada chawal ), urad dal and a tsp of fenugreek seeds (methi dana)and soaked all of them together for 4 hrs (even 2 hrs will do- I went out -hence , longer the number of hrs soaked !). removed, washed and ground batter to a fine & slightly watery consistency, and finally left it overnight to ferment. Next morning 20 min before making aappam, I added a pinch of cooking soda to the batter and stirred it thoroughly.(In the olden days, the streetside aappam sellers used to add toddy to the batter .) This is done to ensure fluffiness & softness .

Next morning I started the IInd phase of "Mission Aappam"- i.e. making thengai paal or coconut milk . Broke one coconut and grated it. Adding just enough water to it I ground it in the mixi . Removed the coconut and pressed it thru a sieve to extract the milk. Put back the coconut in the mixi and repeated the procedure. Voila ! the coconut milk was ready.I still remember my childhood summer vacations spent at my grandparents ancestral house in south. The cook would grind coconut in the aattukal (grinding stone )to extract milk . Counting uncles, aunts, granparents , & cousins , there must have been at least 25 in all at any given time during summer vacations !, According to traditional recipe sugar is added to the coconut milk. However, I have devised my own recipe of adding jaggery to the milk instead of sugar. For this I boil 1/4 a glass of water and when it starts to boil I add jaggery (about 1/2 cup or more , as preferred ) and let it dissolve . I then pour this into coconut milk. (Coconut milk should not be boiled or it might get spoilt.) I then crush 4-5 cardomoms and add to the mixture. Now the thengaipaal is ready. (a word of caution- do not drink too much of it by itself -it tends to have an intoxicating effect ! A friend of mine commited that mistake and spent the day in a state of stupor ! )

Ideally to make appam one needs aappam pan(a special kind of kadhai with handles on either side& a lid) Nowdays one can get teflon coated aappam pan in the market. If not, one can make do with any kadhai. Placing the my non- stick aappam pan on flame and greasing it slightly, I poured the batter in the centre and immediately holding the handles I swiveled the pan to allow the batter to spread evenly around. Covered the pan with the lid, kept it on low flame. Within a minute the aappam was ready- soft & fluffy in the centre and crisp around the edge. I gently removed it from the pan with a wooden spatula.

Taking a porcelain bowl, I placed the aappam and poured the coconut milk over it and served it to my better half & my offspring. "That tasted good. The aappam simply melted in the mouth and the coconut milk tasted yummy, amma" remarked my jigar ki tukdi ,an ardent fan of my cooking. As for my better half ( he belongs to the silent type and only voices comments if the food is !not up to the mark !) I knew he enjoyed it too ,for he had more than his usual quota ! That made my day!

As for me, I too relished aappam & thengaipaal ,trying not to think about my ever present companion- Diabetes !