Friday, March 5, 2010

Of puttu and coconut and all things yummy!

The term 'F World' was coined by my husband who named one of his photo albums on facebook the same. He had uploaded photos of food I'd cooked in that album. And let me tell you. That was one of my proudest moments. Ever! I loved the fact that he wanted to do that and I also loved the comments those pictures generated.

One of the pictures that brought in a lot of response was the 'Erachi puttu' one. Now for those of you non-Malayali souls, erachi=meat and puttu= well, a form of steamed rice cakes. Lots of people loved the pictures. They wanted to know the recipe too. But guess what; my erachi puttu came about because of leftover chicken masala and due to lack of coconut in the house.

Every Malayali girl, on getting married, gets entrusted with a puttu maker in the hope she'll carry on her Malayali legacy. I did too. :) Puttu is a wonderful Keralite dish made by steaming powdered rice, each cake separated by grated coconut. But you see, I never bought coconut till very recently. (My ancestors must be turning in their graves now!) Only because I did not know how to crack open one. So, the other day, when I was out of ideas on what to cook, I remembered my puttu maker growing senile in its corner of the cupboard. And I thought why not! I put forward the idea to my husband and he was all for it too. Watch me making it that is.

Here, I have to mention that my mom has been my lifeline. Every time I have a doubt or need to know something, I call her. Most of the food I cook are her recipes, or my take on them. More on my mom in a different post. But a word of advice to girls new to the kitchen: Please have your mum on speed dial and on Skype. You'll need it.

So I called my mom up (as always). She gave me the instructions on puttu making which I now write below.


Things you need:
1. Puttu powder - any brand or the one your mom sent you.

2. Puttu maker - See picture on the right

3. Water
4. Grated coconut
5. Salt

1. Mix the powder with salted water till you get a very coarse powder. Almost in a ratio of a cup of powder to 3/4 cup of water. It may be quite runny in the beginning when you add the water but as you keep mixing it will turn drier.
2. Now sprinkle a bit of the coconut in the puttu maker. Add around 2 handfuls of the rice powder. Repeat this to form layers of rice separated by thin layers of coconut.
3. Boil water in the bowl and place the maker on top of it. Once the steam starts coming out of the top, wait for another 3 minutes before taking the maker off the stove.

4. Push out the puttu onto a plate and Voila!

But you see, that day I did not have any coconut at home. But I did have some leftover Chicken masala from the previous day in the fridge. So I just substituted the coconut with the chicken. :)

There is no Nazi rule to make any dish. Cooking is all about improvising. (Wow, I need to copyright that quote.) So that's the story of my erachi puttu. Gitu, I guess this answers your question.

By the way, I think puttu has to be had with kadala curry(black chana curry). I don't think it does justice to the puttu when people have it with bananas and sugar. No way. And the easiest and yummiest way to make kadala curry is as below:


1. Black chana - 1 cup (soaked overnight)
2. Onion - 1 (finely sliced)
3. Tomato - 1 (chopped)
4. Green chilli - 2 (slit)
5. Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
6. Coconut Milk - 1 cup
7. Coriander powder - 3 heaped tsp
8. Chilli powder - 1 tsp or lesser if u fancy your curry less hotter
9. Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
10. Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
11. Mustard seeds
12. Shallots - a few (finely sliced)
13. Curry leaves
14. Salt - As required

Before I write something here, I need to thank Denis Papin, the inventor of the pressure cooker. May God rest his soul in peace. I just love the thing. It really makes life so much easier. Right, the curry now:
1. In a pressure cooker, dump ingredients 1 to 5.
2. In a small pan, dry roast the powders 7 to 9 till the raw smell is gone. Add that to the pressure cooker. Add the garam masala too.
3. Add a little water and cook it for about 3 - 4 whistles.
4. In a small pan, add a little oil, splutter the mustard seeds. Add the shallots and curry leaves and fry till the shallots turn brown.
5. Open the cooker and add the mixture from step 4 and the coconut milk*. Boil it on gentle heat and remove from the stove. Curry done!
* Coconut milk is easy. You get to buy it everywhere My personal preference is Maggi coconut milk powder.

I just realized I'm terrible at writing recipes. Hopefully, will improve with time.

If any of you try this at home, do let me know. And don't worry if you don't have a puttu maker. Use your idli maker. The puttu will be shaped different that's all.

P.S. Turns out it is actually easy to break a coconut. Keep hitting it with a decently heavy possession of yours. (I use my big knife.) Start with the side where the wide eye is. (If you look carefully, you'll see a coconut has three eye-like marks on the top, one wider than the other two.) Keep hitting around the coconut and it'll break open when it feels like it. You don't even have to apply much force.

The picture below is when we tried the same thing at Chithra's place with her leftover chicken masala. Must say that was YUMMY!


  1. Thanks Febin!! Sounds easy enough!! And i agree, cooking is all about improvising (copyright Febin :)

    .1. Reduce erachi to 5-10% of puttu size.
    .2.Erachi should have been split into fibres by hand. The the masala should have been again fried to golden brown/dry.Then put fibred chicken in it roast it dry.Cool it and use it to layer puttu.

  3. I wont be trying the menu netime soon...
    but the food does look yummy :)
    All the best to your innovative side...

  4. Already making veena read this...waiting to see what my puttu has instead of coconut... pls add a line saying no veggies or soya nuggets shud be used as a substitute...pls pls pls

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  6. Febin i thought i was dreaming when i saw ur blog........didn't know u were so into cooking.....but ur writing keep it up ........oh and ya the food does look yummy:)......

  7. Febz ur erachi puttu looks so delicious..
    slurrp!!.. prolly a copyright on the recipe is a good idea :D!! cant wait to try it !!...And wow u r one amazing cook (lucky yash!!).... am experimenting with my cooking too, my guinea pig being my hubby.. :) but girl why dont u use frozen coconut.. it is such a bliss in these days!!... Am waiting for ur other recipes too esp the apple tart, double layered chocolate cake( yummmmmmm) , pineapple pudding, mutton curry..I can go on n on n on!!
    cheerzz Deeshna!!!

  8. I know where I'll be staying next time I'm in the UK.
    So whats next? Beef Kanji?

  9. Thank you all.
    Okay Manu, here goes. Veena, please never use soya substitutes ever! :) For the sake of good food.
    Deeshna, I did use frozen coconut before I started buying fresh ones. But I rarely cook food with coconut though. I prefer coconut milk.
    Shanaj, Beef Kanji can be thought about some day! :)