Of star struck mothers and how to “puttu kadalai!”

This thing about hero-worship tends to run in families, maybe, d’ya think?
Was looking at a picture of my daughter with Rahul Dravid – taken when she was about ten years old – and I can literally see the stars in her eyes! Well, maybe the flash was wrong, but still…
And then there was the occasion when Shashi Kapoor came to Chennai. The great actor was the brand ambassador for an NGO I do a bit  of work with and knowing just how star-struck I was, I was invited to a lunch with Mr Kapoor and seated right next to him – honest!
Initially I was too awestruck to talk much (yes, it’s been known to happen!) but he hasn’t been crowned Prince Charming for nothing! Pretty soon, I was telling him what a fan of his I was and reciting his dialogues back to him and getting so caught up with the image of SK in my mind that I quite failed to see the twinkle in his eye!
For almost the first time in my life, I was completely unconscious of what was on my plate – very little distracts me from food, you might have observed if you were looking very, very keenly ;)!
Well, the best things in life too have to end and so did that lunch…
Mr Kapoor shakes hands all around and finally comes to me – last because I am right next to him – smirk, smirk!
As starstruck as any teenager (I was about forty, I think!), I offer my hand. He grasps it in both his and looks around the room and in shuddh Bombaiya Hindi (if there is such a thing!), announces with bell-like clarity to the whole room (these actors don’t learn voice modulation for nothing!), “Kehti hai ki meri sabse badi fan hai lekin jab meri haath pakadthi hai, zor se squeeze thak nahin karti!” (She says she’s my biggest fan but when she shakes my hand, she doesn’t so much as squeeze it a little tighter!!”)
I haven’t turned that red since I was possibly sixteen! I thought of plenty to say later when I was falling asleep… but what I really would like to do is to serve him this…
  • 1 cup black chana – soaked overnight and pressure cooked till tender.
  • Sambar onions or shallots – chopped fine – 1/2 cup
  • Coconut grated – 1/2 cup
  • Ginger – minced – 1 tsp
  • Green chilies  minced – 2
  • Curry leaves – 2-3 sprigs
  • Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Dhaniya/coriander pwd – 1 tsp
  • Masala powder- 1 tsp ( lightly roast and grind together 1/2 tsp saunf (aniseed), 2 -3 strands of mace, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg, 1″ piece cinnamon and 3-4 cloves)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper – cracked
  • Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
  • Salt
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and when they begin to splutter, add curry leaves and sambar onions. Fry till pale yellow. Add ginger and green chilies and saute for another minute.
Add everything else except the garam masala. Add the cooked black chana and bring to a boil. I prefer doing it directly in the pressure cooker and bringing it to one whistle.Switch off and add garam masala.
Serve with puttu – which is one amazing accompaniment and pazham (little yellow bananas) and papadum – it is truly a perfect balance of tastes and textures…
  • Puttu rice flour (you could do the difficult thing and make it yourself but I highly recommend buying it in a packet!) – 2 cups 
  • Coconut grated-1/2 cup or more
  • Salt
  • Water
Mix the puttu flour with salt adding water a little at a time till you get a moist but crumbly texture – exactly like wet sand when you’re making sand castles on the beach?!
If you have a puttu kudam, you know what to do. If you don’t, never fear! Use a pressure cooker. Heat about 2 cups of water in the cooker with the lid on but no weight.
Fill the mould thusly:
About a tsp of coconut as the fisrt layer, then a generous handful of the rice mixture. Then one more tsp of coconut and so on till you fill it right up. Close and fix it on the little nozzle where the weight sits. Steam on high for 5-6 minutes. Open, run a knife around and release gently so the puttu doesn’t break apart.
Eat with kadala curry.
Then next time you meet your hero, you will be able to really puttu kadalai! (Putting kadalai is Tamil slang for hitting on someone! Sorry for pj’s – wink, wink!)
Pic courtesy Internet