Back in the 1990’s in India, our usual dinner menu was either Idli, Dosa, Adai, Upma, Pongal, Idiyappam- the rice noodles, Chapati or Poori. One week’s worth of recipes shuffled and shuffled along with some new recipes seen on TV or tried from a recipe book. As a surprise, once in a while amma made these upma kozhukattais, which (even now) she makes in her uruli (bronze vessel). The uruli gives the upma a very different taste, and sis and I usually fight for the lightly browned upma crust at the bottom of the vessel. This recipe is termed as grandma’s recipe and boring but secretly many of my friends who call it boring, crave to have these kozhukattias once in a while.
There are two steps in making these cakes, first to make the upma and then the pidi kozhukattai.
Recipe to make arisi upma(the first stage) can be found here.
Rice – 1.25 cups
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Grated coconut- 4 tbsp
More-milakai (yogurt chilies)-2
Chana dal- 1 tsp
Curry leaves- a few
Asafoetida- 1 pinch
Oil- 1 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Water- 3 or 4 cups
For the coconut chutney:
Un-Sweetened coconut- 1/2 cup
Urad dal- 1 tsp
Chana dal- 1 tsp
Red chilies- 4
Water- just 2 tbsp or so
Pound the rice at home according to the instructions given here, and proceed to make the upma.
Sprinkle rice with some water, just a tbsp or so and mix well. It should be done in such a way that rice is slightly wet but not soaked through. Keep aside for 5 minutes.
Heat oil in a pot and add asafoetida and mustard seeds. When they splutter, add cumin seeds, chana dal, curry leaves, the chilies and stir fry for a minute. Add the coconut and just stir once. Add about 3 cups of water, salt to taste, cover and let it boil.
Now back to the rice. The rice should be slightly dry now and should have absorbed all the water. Pulse it using a blender so that it is not a powder like rice flour, but coarse and smaller in size than a grain of rice. Say, almost to the size of mustard seeds. You can also sieve the finer particles out but I just use everything, coarse and fine.
When the water is boiling, reduce the flame to a low-medium and slowly add the rice and keep stirring to avoid any lumps. Cover and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes. Make sure that there is enough water to cook the rice, but not so much that the upma will be mushy or so less that it will be dry and uncooked. If you have to add any water, add some warm water as that will quicken up the cooking process.
Check if rice is cooked through.Let the upma cool down since we have to shape the cakes by hand.
Once the upma is warm enough to handle, gently mix it once to combine all the coconut, chilies and curry leaves.
Then take a lemon size ball out of the upma and make a shape like cylindrical rods. Arrange it on a steamer.
Repeat the same procedure for remaining upma.
Once all the upma rods are arranged in the steamer(pressure cooker or idli cooker), steam the kozhukattias for just around 10 minutes. The kozhukattias should not be soggy but slightly firm. Serve it with coconut thogayal (dry-chutney).
Method to make coconut chutney:
Toast chana dal, urad dal and red chilies till golden brown in color. Blend them to a fine powder, then add the coconut and blend again. Add just enough water (2 tbsp) and grind them to a smooth paste. Serve it with upma kozhukattai. Enjoy the grandma style of cooking 😉