A stage artist, Karpagavalli rose to great heights with her talent and grit. While studying in Class 4, she acted in a play based on Mahabharata as Bhima and got thunderous applause. The sound of the clapping and adulation made her decide that one day she would be on stage with arclights on. Her grandfather was a famous mridangam player and her two aunts were famous dancers, so talent was in the genes. Karpagavalli’s mother used to make dishes like masala puri, coconut rice, paniyarams and fish curry.
Having grown up in an atmosphere of traditions, heritage food and creative expressions, the actor was influenced in the right way to head towards her dream. Karpagavalli distinctly recollects certain traditions which went with each festival. During Ganesh Chaturthi, her grandparents and aunts used to come over to her place. Dishes like modak, badam halwa, groundnut ladoo, puliodharai were a must. For ten days, different sundals and prasad were made. During Deepavali, her grandmother used to give a spoon of legyam to eat.
In school, Karpagavalli had won many awards for her plays and dance skits. Her two greatest passion are acting and cooking which started exhibiting themselves in various ways. Once, she had gone to see a play by her favourite actor Kathadi Ramamurthy. After the play when she went to congratulate him, seeing her enthusiasm, he asked her if she was interested in acting. Her favourite was Crazy Mohan’s Honeymoon Travels. From plays, she ventured into TV serials. Presently, she is acting in a serial called Nee Thane En Pon Vasantham. After her son was born, she took a sabbatical from acting and focused on cooking and attended cookery classes to learn Indo-Chinese, baking and heritage North Indian dishes. The food she carried for all her co-stars was so tasty, that many suggested she open a restaurant. Karpagavalli tells me that love is the main ingredient she puts into food. Her kitchen is the busiest place as there are some delicacies always being made — whether it is hot gulab jamuns, fresh butter murukku, fried rice or appam and stew.
One of her favourite dishes is kuzhi paniyaram from which several similar dishes originated. One of them is idli made in roughly the same manner as kuzhi paniyaram. Karpagavalli’s take on the present-day situation is that we are not civic conscious. We don’t wear masks properly, spit in public, leave used masks around and don’t adhere to rules. Today, she is sharing the recipe of her most favourite dish kuzhi paniyaram.
Raw rice (paccha arisi ponni): 1 cup | Parboiled rice (idli rice): 1 cup | Urad dal: 1/4 cup | Fenugreek seeds: 1/2 tsp | Ghee: 3 tbsp | Sesame oil: 2 tbsp | Jaggery: 1 cup | Cardamom/elaichi: 3 | Dry ginger powder/sukku powder: 1/2 tsp | Salt to taste | Grated coconut: 2 tsp
KITCHEN TIPS BY KARPAGAVALLI
- Use a non-stick kuzhi pan with separate containers, as this helps in easy cooking Adding mashed bananas to the batter is an option.
- Many Keralites follow this method Use dry ginger — it brings out the flavour and the same batter can be made into savoury by taking out the jaggery and adding chillies and onions
- Soak rice and dal separately.
- Add methi seeds to the rice while soaking.
- Soak for 4 hours Grind rice and dal separately very fine and mix adding salt Keep for 2 hours to rise nicely Take a pan, add ghee and jaggery.
- Add powdered cardamom, coconut and dry ginger powder.
- Add a pinch of salt once jaggery is melted Strain before adding ingredients and then add to the batter Take a non-stick kuzhi paniyaram vessel.
- Grease it with oil and ghee Place it on the gas and pour the batter into the moulds Cook on medium flame.
- When one side is done, turn over and add a little ghee and let it brown and rise It will take 10 min for each batch to cook Remove and serve hot
PREP TIME: 7.5 hours
COOKING TIME: 10 mins for each batch
SERVES: 12 pax
CALORIES: 218 for two pieces
— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes