Category Archives: Kids Will Love

¤ NAVRATHRI SUNDAL ¤

India, a land of festivals with varying rich cultural heritage, celebrates ‘Navrathri’!

‘Navratri’, Sanskrit word meaning nine nights, ends victoriously on ‘Vijaydashmi’ or ‘Dusshera’. These nine days, nine incarnations of the Goddess are celebrated in various parts of the country following different rituals but the underlying essence is the same.

Some of the salient features of this celebration, in different parts of the country –

In the  North – On Dusshera, Ramleela, a theatrical act of Ramayana is enacted, culminating by burning the effigies of Ravana along with Kumbhakarna and Meghanada, celebrating the victory of good over evil.

In the West – Garbha or Dandiya-Raas, a famous dance form is performed on all the nine nights and celebrated by people participating from all over the globe.

In the East – Durga Pooja is performed, where exquisitely crafted and decorated life-size clay idols of the ‘Goddess Durga’ slaying the demon ‘Mahishasura’ are worshipped and then immersed in the river.

In the South – In Tamil Nadu, ‘Golu or Kolu’ –  A set of steps displaying an arrangement of dolls, is set up in our home. The number of steps are in odd numbers i.e 3,5,7 or 9. The dolls are unique, antique, modern, hand made or ready made dolls. They are of deities, saints, leaders, plants, animals or also displayed in themes like a wedding, market, minature parks, zoo, sports stadium or any other suitable theme. An exhibition signifying, all of the creator’s creations.

‘Marapachi bommai’, an inseparable part of the Golu, is made from teak or rose wood. These traditional wooden dolls are preserved for generations, depict husband and wife, representing prosperity and fertility. Authentic ‘Marapachi’ are rare and available only in Tirupati and Channapatna. Likewise are the Chettiar-Achi pair which is invariably a thalai aati bommai, traditionally made in Panruti, Tanjore, the place famous for its clay and workmanship. Decades earlier, potters of Panruti used to make the dolls around a frame of thin wires, which gave the dolls a perfect shape and build. They were weightless too and women found it easy to lift them and place them on the steps | padis. These dolls generally formed a part of the daughter’s wedding trousseau. Golu dolls are treasured legacy, tokens of the family’s proud possessions, valued aesthetically and sentimentally.

During Navaratri, colourful Golu dolls flood the markets as people add new ones to their collection. Yet, say many, the charm of old dolls is unmatched. Those days, the dolls were much bigger in size and yet proportionate. Even the facial expressions would be intact and the colours didn’t fade that easily. Earlier every single doll was hand-crafted individually, however these days, dolls are mass-produced using readymade moulds and hence the features aren’t sharp. Some neighbourhoods even conduct competitions and award prizes for the best Kolu of the year.

In the evening it is customary to invite relatives, friends, accquaintances for viewing the Golu. Women and girls are offered Vethala Pakku | Haldi Kumkum. Tasty and healthy Sundal, made with different variety of beans, is generally the ‘prasadam’ distributed to all, who come home and admire their creative efforts. Vinayaka Chathurthi : Kozhukattai,  Deepavali : Bakshanam and Navratri : Sundal are synonymous. Apart from Sundal, payasam is also prepared for naivedhyam. When we were young, we went to neighbouring houses, officially to see the Navaratri kolu but the main attraction was the sundal. When we came out of a house, we would open the pack | pottalam immediately to see what sundal variety was inside!

For Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati Puja is performed on the 9th day, books and musical instruments, are placed alongside the Golu. Ayudha Puja is also conducted in South India. Weapons, agricultural implements, all kinds of tools, equipments, machinery and automobiles too, are worshipped on this day.  Vijayadashami, the 10th day, marks new and prosperous beginnings. Start ups on this day are believed to flourish. It is also the first day of school for many children, learning any new skill on this day assures definite success in that field. On the eve of ‘Vijayadasami’, any one doll from the ‘Kolu’ is symbolically put to sleep and the Kalasa is moved a bit towards North, to mark the end of that year’s Navaratri Golu. After prayers, Golu is dismantled and packed up for the next year. To preserve the colour and maintain them intact, they are wrapped in a soft cotton cloth or newspaper. Neem leaves are also sometimes used to keep termites and insects at bay.

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Kolam – one of the many more creative exhibits during Navrathri!

PACHAI PAYAR SUNDAL | GREEN MUNG SUNDAL 

Prep time : 15 mins; Cooking time 15 mins; Serves : 4 – 6

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Ingredients :

  • 500 gms Mung beans
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp udad dal | black gram lentil
  • 3 – 4 broken whole red chilies
  • 3 stems of curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 th of a fresh coconut

Method :

  1. Wash and soak the green mung for 10 -15 mins. Drain, wash and pressure cook the mung beans with turmeric powder and 1/4 cup of water, till 3 – 4 whistles.
  2. Grate the fresh coconut. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a bandli | skillet and add mustard seeds, once they splutter add the udad dal. red chilies, curry leaves in that order. Then add the pressure cooked mung beans, red chilli powder and salt. Toss and mix well till the mung beans are dry and well coated with the seasonings.
  4. Garnish with grated coconut and it is ready to be distributed.

KONDAKADALAI SUNDAL | CHICK PEAS SUNDAL (same as for Varalakshmi Vratham)

Prep time : 9 hrs; Cooking time 15 mins; Serves : 4 – 6

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Ingredients :

  • 500 gms kondakadalai | chick peas | kabuli channa
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp udad dal | black gram lentil
  • 3 – 4 broken whole red chilies
  • 3 stems of curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 th of a fresh coconut

Method :

  1. Wash and soak the chick peas overnight. Next morning drain, wash and pressure cook the chick peas with turmeric powder and 1/4 cup of water, till 3 – 4 whistles.
  2. Grate the coconut. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a bandli | skillet and add mustard seeds, once they splutter add the udad dal. red chilies, curry leaves in that order. Then add the pressure cooked chick peas, red chilli powder and salt. Toss and mix well till the chick peas are dry and well coated with the seasonings.
  4. Garnish with grated coconut and it is ready to be distributed.

Variations :

Sundal can be made with any variety of bean or lentil like Bengal Gram Dal, Black gram lentil, Red gram lentil, HorseGram, Black Chana, Soya Beans, Peanuts, Cowpeas, Black eyed beans, Dried Green Peas, Kidney beans or even fresh corn kernels (in trend, nowadays).

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♧ QUESADILLA ♧

“Howdy Y’all?”, miss hearing this quintessential Texan welcome greeting, with a long drawl or a twang and of course Texas, where as the saying goes, everything is Big!

When we were posted in Texas, a couple of years back, we had to face evacuation due to Hurricane Katrina, closely followed by Hurricane Rita – Alphabetical order of women names – why women?! cause they rock your world and could leave you with out your car and house!

‘Hunkering down’ (a phrase new to me, until then) was an option we took for Hurricane Rita, were we stayed put and had a camping adventure in our own house without electricity for a few days.

Notable, was the way evacuation was handled. I was awe struck by a calm | composed | polite | respectful | organised | orderly evacuation, in times of adversity. Hats off Houston, Texas!

Quesadilla, one of the Tex-Mex dishes, is a jackpot or should I say piñata, I hit upon, when in Texas, as T loves it and this healthy recipe is a keeper!

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Vegetable Quesadilla

Prep time : 20 mins; Cooking time : 20 mins ; Serves : 4 – 6

Ingredients for the tortilla (organic and unrefined) :

  • 3 cups of Wheat flour
  • 1 cup Corn flour
  • 2 cups of water approx.
  • salt to taste

Ingredients for the filling (organic and unrefined) :

  • 3 onions
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 capsicum | green bell pepper
  • 1/4 lettuce or cabbage
  • 1 – 2 Jalapenos or green chilies
  • 3 sprigs of Cilantro | coriander leaves
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne | Paprika | Red chilly powder or flakes
  • Rock salt to taste
  • 200 gm s or as required Cheddar Cheese or any melting cheese
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Perfecto!

Directions :

1. Prepare the dough by kneading the wheat flour, corn flour and salt together to get a soft dough. Cover with a damp cloth, till ready to roll out the tortillas. Set aside.

2. Prepare the filling by finely chopping the onions, tomatoes, capsicum, cabbage or lettuce and green chilies. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add paprika powder and salt just before you prepare the quesadillas, as the vegetables will ooze out water, once salt is added. Set aside.

3. Grate the cheese and set aside.

4. Make round balls with the soft dough and roll out the tortilla on a tortilla maker manually or make them with an electric tortilla press. Cook the 2 tortillas well on both sides on a pan or an electric press.

5. Spread out on one tortilla, about a tbsp of the filling and sprinkle, grated cheese the amount you desire, all around on the vegetables. Cover by placing the other tortilla on top. If one is cooking, on a electric tortilla maker, then close the top plate over the bottom one but if one is cooking on the pan, place a heavy weight, like a heavy plate on top of the tortilla such that the 2 tortillas are sandwiched, well together and cook for 1 – 2 mins. Flip carefully, so as not to let the filling spill out and on this side again, close the 2 plates of the electric tortilla maker or if on a pan then place a heavy weight on the tortilla and cook for another 1 – 2 mins. Make sure to turn the tortillas around while cooking, so that they cook and brown evenly.

6. Cut them into even wedges or quarters and serve hot with salsa, sour cream and guacamole.

Vegan and Gluten Free Version :

Replace wheat flour by Pearl millet flour | Sorghum flour | Bajra atta | Kambu maavu or Amaranth flour | Rajgheera atta and dairy cheese by vegan cheese or tofu in the above recipe. Use only electric tortilla press to make gluten free tortillas. Serve hot with guacamole, salsa and tofu sour cream.

Buen Provecho. Adios, amigos!

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Si, por favor, Gracias!

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¤ THENGAI PAL PAYASAM| COCONUT MILK PAYASAM ¤

On the friday following the Varalakshmi Vratham poojai, Coconut payasam is prepared. The coconut  which was kept on the ‘Kalasam’ for the poojai is stored in a rice bag, through the week and then used for this preparation.This payasam recipe is vegan and gluten free.

Pure goodness of delicious, smooth, flavoured coconut milk is indeed a treat for the Gods!

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Prep time : 30 mins; Cooking time : 30 mins; Serves : 4

Ingredients :

  • 1 large coconut
  • 2 tsp rice
  • 3/4 – 1 cup sugar or jaggery
  • 7 – 9 green cardamoms
  • 7 – 9 saffron strands
  • a dash of grated nutmeg powder
  • a pinch of edible camphor | pachai karpooram
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1, 2, 3 Coconut milk extracts and the simmering ‘Coconut Milk Payasam’ made with palm sugar.

Method :

  1. Wash, rinse and soak the rice in lukewarm water for about 15 mins.
  2. Grate the coconut. Peel and powder the cardamom in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Grind the grated coconut along with the soaked rice and about 1 1/2 cups of warm water in a blender. Filter with a strainer or a muslin cloth and obtain the 1st extract of (coconut + rice) milk. Repeat the procedure twice, to obtain the 2nd and 3rd extract of (coconut + rice) milk.
  4.  Mix and pour all the milk extracts into a vessel and heat it over a low flame and stir continuously. When it gets heated up, add sugar or jaggery and when it starts to simmer, switch of heat and add cardamom powder, grated nutmeg powder, saffron and pachai karpooram (lends a divine aroma). Coconut payasam is ready for neivedhyam.

Note :

  1. Do not allow the milk to boil as the milk will curdle. On the other hand, if removed too soon, it will have a raw smell. The thumb rule is to allow the milk to get hot enough i.e upto its simmering point but not be allowed to boil.
  2. Since it is for neivedhyam, one can err on lower levels of sugar. If required one may add more sugar after the neivedhyam.

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¤ KARA KUZHIPANIHARAM ¤

Kara Kuzhipaniharam is a well known South Indian, savoury Chettinad dish made for breakfast and tiffin. This interesting offshoot of the Idli batter is tasty, vegan, gluten free, fermented, healthy and easy to prepare.

It is prepared on a traditional Kuzhipaniharam kalu chetty made of cast iron for heat retention, with several hemispherical indentations, placed directly on a stove top. Similar types of pan used in other cusines are Appam pan – Kerala, Æbleskiver pan – Danish, Poffertjes – Dutch, Gai dan jaan pan – Chinese, Takoyaki pan – Japanese.

Kuzhipaniharam’s distinctive sphere shape, makes it an inviting pick me up delight, fun and appealing to all, especially children.

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An avalanche of scrumptious Kara kuzhipaniharams for one and all!

Prep time :  2 – 3 hrs; Cooking time : 20 mins; Serves : 4-6

Ingredients :

  • 3 cups of fermented Idli Batter (rice | millet)
  • 1 tbsp Channa Dal | Bengal Gram lentils
  • 2 – 3 green chilies
  • 1/2 cup Sambhar onions | shallots or 2 onions
  • 3 stems of curry leaves
  • 3 sprigs of coriander leaves
  • Rock salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp Coconut oil or any cooking oil
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The Steps. Savoury Kuzhipaniharam sizzling away on the traditional kuzhipaharam heavy cast iron kalu chetty | pan

Directions:

1. Finely chop the onions, green chilies, curry leaves and coriander leaves. To the fermented Idli batter add all of these, bengal gram dal and salt, keeping in mind the already salted fermented Idli batter. Mix well. Set aside for 2 – 3 hours which helps to soften the bengal gram dal and makes it a chewy bite.

2. Heat up the Paniyaram | kallu chetty | pan on the gas stove, pour 1/2 tsp oil into each of the pits and then pour a spoonful of the prepared batter till each pit is about 3/4 full. Cover and let it cook on low flame for 10 mins. Uncover and with a stick, a skewer or back of a spoon, upturn the kuzhipaniyarams and let it cook on this side too, for about 5 mins. Make sure to cook till no raw batter is inside the kuzhipaniyarams.

Variations :

1. Grated coconut, grated carrot – either or both can be added to the batter.

2. Pour the batter upto 1/4 into the pit then add 1/2 tsp of green chutney / tomato onion chutney / any chutney of choice. Nowadays restaurants have come up with grated paneer / tofu / cheese additions too. Then pour over, some more batter such that the stuffing is sandwiched in the center and prepare stuffed Kuzhipaniharams.

Savoury kuzhipaniharams can be served along with coconut chutney, flax seed molaga podi and tomato onion chutney.

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☆ MANGO MILK | MANGO SMOOTHIE ☆

I see mangoes everywhere I go, mangoes hanging down from homegrown mango trees, farmer’s market, grocery stores and on the home front too, T who loves mangoes, is always tugging at my sleeve asking for a Mango Milkshake or a Mango Lassi or maybe even a Mango ice cream, whenever we step outdoors. In fact, she gravely announces to me yesterday “Maa, I think I have ‘Mangoes going extinct’ phobia”. Are those fantasy fiction library books to be blamed?!

A tough ask now would be, to think of anything but Mangoes!, this reminds me of ‘The Popular Hilsa fish Story’, an interesting story, that I would like to share with you.

Once upon a time, Hilsa fish, being available only once a year had everyone’s attention and interest. Come Hilsa fish season, house wives exchanged recipes, shopkeepers haggled with customers over the latest price of Hilsa and fishermen talked about catching the biggest Hilsa of the season.

The then ruling King, Krishnadevraya was surprised to see even his ministers discussing Hilsa fish rather than important state issues, unable to bear this anymore, he announced a reward to anyone who could bring to the palace, a big Hilsa fish from the market, without a soul talking about it.

Tenali Raman, the court jester takes up the challenge. Next morning, shaves off, half his beard, dishevels his hair, covers himself with soot, wears torn and tattered clothes and walks out of the house looking like a tramp but please note, royally jostling a Hilsa fish in his hand. People, shocked by his appearance wonder, if he had finally gone mad. The palace guards, who hardly recognised him, went inside to inform the king. The king summoned Tenali. One look at him and the King laughed and announced Tenali, the winner of the challenge. No one had noticed the Big Hilsa Fish, in the hands of his clever and witty court jester.

Forgot about the mangoes for a while, did we? Maybe a reward for me would be in order, right?!

Coming back to our subject, a trivia on mangoes is that, the lovely colour of the mango is called ‘Mambazha colour’ in Tamil and is a very popular colour choice for the famous South Indian traditional Kanjeevaram Silk Sarees.

Personally, love to gorge on the juicy mangoes, as is, but if you are toying with the idea of civilizing them, Mango Milk | Mango Smoothie is the way to go. 

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Mango Milk with the ‘Mambazha colour’ saree as backdrop

 Prep time : 15 mins; Serves : 4

Ingredients  :

  • Mangoes ( Alphonso | any variety, fully ripened) – 6
  • Milk   – 1 Liter
  • Brown Sugar – 8 – 9 tbsp s
  • Green Cardamom – 1
  • Saffron – 3 – 4 strands

Method  :

1. Peel and crush the cardamom to fine powder in a mortar and pestle

2. Boil the milk, then add add sugar, saffron and cardamom powder when hot. Let it cool down then strain the milk with a strainer.

3. Chop the mangoes into small pieces and puree them in a blender. Add the cooled, boiled, strained milk to the mango puree and mix well.

4. Refrigerate for 4 hours or more before serving it chilled.

Options :

1. You can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the Mango Milk and call it Mango Milkshake.

2. Vegan version – Blend Almond Milk, sugar and the mango puree. Chill and serve.

To make your own Almond Milk, soak about 250 gm of Almonds in warm water overnight. Peel and blend them with about 4 – 41/2 cups of water, adding the water gradually, in installments, to get the required consistency.

This ‘Mango Nectar’ must be savoured slowly, spoon by spoon!

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Mango Nectar

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🍋 FRESH LIME JUICE | LEMONADE | NIMBU SHERBET | NIMBU PANI 🍋

“It’s HOT! It’s HUMID!”, we utter

“This year’s the hottest”, echoes every summer

Mercury reaches 39 C, Breaking news play

Guess now it’s official! Touché

Fresh lime juice, a quick-fix potion

Refreshing, energising, thirst-quenching solution!

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Fresh Lime Juice

Prep time : 15 mins ; Serves : 4

Ingredients  :

  • 1 juicy medium to large lime or lemon
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups of water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 – 9 tsp of sugar

Method :

  1. Cut the lime into 2 halves and squeeze out the juice into a vessel. Strain the juice to discard the seeds.
  2. Lime juice + water+ salt+ sugar. Mix well till completely dissolved. Chill and toss in a couple of ice cubes, just before serving. Cheers!

Variation :

  1. A pinch of black salt powder, roasted cumin powder, chaat masala powder, pepper powder, dry ginger powder, cardamom powder, few crushed mint leaves can be added to make Nimbu pani aka Shikanji or shikanjvi.
  2. Use clear soda instead of water, to prepare fresh lime soda or add a pinch of Eno to make the juice frothy.
  3. Sugar may be replaced with Jaggery syrup or honey.

Tips :

Taste the juice before serving. Quantity of sugar and salt may vary, according to taste and sourness of the lime.

 

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Chilled lemon sherbet

🌳 BROCCOLI PARUPPU USILI | VAZHAIPOO PARUPPU USILI | BEANS PARUPPU USILI | KOTHAVARANGAI PARUPPU USILI |VEGETABLE LENTIL CURRY 🌳

Paruppu Usili

“Really!”

Home folks willing support, in sucession

Weekday or weekend, is the discussion

Paruppu usili‘, veggie rich string of superlatives

A Sunday special, one off, childhood prerogatives

Vaizhapoo paruppu usili‘, though arduous ‘n’ labourious

Totally worth it, oh! so glorious ‘n’ scrumptious

Broccoli paruppu usili, a twist to the traditional tale

The gamut now notched up, the wellness scale

 

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Broccoli Paruppu Usili

 

Prep time : 1 hr; Cooking time 30 mins; Serves : 4 – 6
 Ingredients :

  • 350 gms Broccoli 
  • 1/2 cup Thuvaram paruppu / Red gram lentil
  • 1/2 cup Kadalai paruppu / Bengal gram lentil
  • 3 – 6 Red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp Milagu / Black peppercorns (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Jeeragam / Cumin seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Manjal / Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Kadugu / Mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Asafoetida / Perungayam powder
  • 1 sprig Curry leaves (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 – 6 tbsp Sesame Oil / Coconut oil / cooking oil of choice

Method :

1. Chop the broccoli into small florets. Steam cook them in a vessel with turmeric and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
2. Wash and soak Thuvaram paruppu and kadalai paruppu together for about an hour. Drain out completely.
3. Grind red chilies, peppercorns, cumin seeds and asafoetida in mixer jar, then add the drained out lentils. Coarsely grind them all.
4. Steam cook in a pressure cooker or steamer, the coarsely ground  lentil mixture on an oiled idli plate or vessel, for about 15 minutes.
5. Once cooked, roughly crumble the lentil mixture into small pieces, with a fork or spoon.
6. Heat oil in a wok or a wide base pan, add mustard seeds, once they splutter, add the curry leaves, the crumbled lentil mixture and roast well for about 10 mins. Then mix in the cooked broccoli florets and salt. Roast the curry for about 15 – 20 mins, till the lentils are golden brown and crispy. Serve hot with steamed rice and Goddu Rasam and/or  Moar kuzhambhu and/or Menthi khuzhambu.
Variations :
1. Vegetables like French beans, Broad beans, Cluster beans (Kothavarangai), Carrots, Cabbage and Plantain flower (Vaizhapoo) are used to make this preparation.
2. Green chilies can be used instead of red chilies.
3. Red chilly powder, pepper powder and cumin powder can be added instead of grinding the whole spices with the lentils.
4. Paruppu usili can also be prepared using only red gram lentil.
Plantain flower curry or Vaizhapoo Paruppu usili 
A classic heritage dish, where we need some additional steps to prepare the florets.
 Directions to prepare the Plantain flower ( also refer pic below ) :
  1. Oil the cutting board, knife and your hands, to avoid staining.
  2. Peel open the outer petal, to discover a bunch of florets inside.
  3. Remove the stamen out of each floret.
  4. Chop all the florets after removing the stamen.
  5. As you keep peeling off and discarding the petals, at one stage, the florets will be so small that you do not have to remove the stamen as they will be very tender, then chop it, as such.
  6. Soak the chopped florets, in bowl of water, to which a spoon of buttermilk is added to avoid discolouration, until you steam cook them in a pressure cooker or a pan.
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Vazhaipoo Paruppu Usili