Recipe & Food Styling | Steamed rice dumplings aka Kozhukattai – Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times
“Amma, could you believe that I made close to 140 perfect looking Kozhukattais (steamed rice dumplings) yesterday for the shoot… Iniya the actress who acted in the commercial, rushed towards me after the shoot and asked if she could take a few of those brown coloured yummy Kozhukattais home.” I paused for a while sipping the strong & frothy filter coffee and stretched my legs to sit comfortably on the large wooden swing in my mother-in-law’s living room.
“I was busy packing up my props when the crew disposed off all the Kozhukattais after the shoot was complete” I continued narrating an incidence that happened during a recent shoot to my mother-in-law, the other day.
My MIL, who was all ears to me replied, “You know, you would make me smile every-time you struggled to shape a perfect Kozhukattai and tried your best to spell the name in Tamil, when you first visited me in 1996 after your marriage. But I knew that you are a passionate girl and you will master both, the language and our South Indian cooking techniques in no time.”
“And now, I am not surprised when you are called to cook and style our very traditional festive recipe, kozhukattais for a television shoot…but this sure makes me a proud MIL, yet again!” told my delightful mother-in-law.
Another day and yet another television shoot was finalized at the advertising agency for a popular South Indian brand, Anil. The company is launching varieties of ready-to-use, processed rice-lentil flour to make various snacks and festive sweets using the same. And this time it was all about making perfect Kozhukattai, a delicacy from South India which is also a very popular festive recipe.
Exotic locations, great food, good money and working with celebrities on sets make any television shoot look one of the most fun and lucrative jobs for any aspiring food photographer or a food stylist.
Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Harsh lighting, uncontrollable sweat, never ending cacophony of loud speakers, mad rush of people running helter-skelter on the set and the back-breaking prolonged working hours can easily shatter the confidence of a normal person.
There are times when I was on my toes for close to 18 hours in a day in television shoots and reached home at midnight.
But then, as they say “Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times”. I certainly have no regrets as long as the work I am doing is letting me relive my dreams to the fullest. One needs a positive mental attitude and hard work to make anything possible, I suppose.
And then there are incidences like the one which happened on the set of my recent television shoot which makes all the efforts worth while!
The shoot happened at two different places. This was a traditional Kerala house overlooking a beautiful garden. And that’s me with all my set up dishing out the Kozhukattais. Unlike the professional studios you don’t get a perfect set up to work in most of location shoots.
Sample of some of the varieties which I prepared for the shoot….every piece was checked for any cracks before it went under the camera.
I was skeptical using ready made rice flour to make these Kozhukattai, as I have always used home made rice flour to make the same. After chatting and confirming with a few food blogger friends (Aparna, Niv, Lata, Harini), I was confident of using the store bought flour to make Kozhukattai at the shoot. And it did turn out good.
I was the first to reach this location for the 2nd phase of TVC and could not resist myself to take a few pictures of this lovely house facing the seashore.
One of the shots where the actress is singing a jingle with the Kohukattais prepared for the TVC.
I am not a movie person and felt really awkward when I had to ask a staff about who this actress was…they gave me a ‘are-you-from-Mars‘ look and told that she is Iniya, a popular South Indian actress 😉
Hmm…that is me…completely exhausted and sleepy after the shoot was done around 10.30 pm…..with the beautiful Iniya.
“Mom, can’t you take out a minute and look camera friendly before clicking a picture with her” asked my daughter who was quiet upset seeing her haggard-looking mom in the picture 🙂
Steamed Rice Dumplings aka Kozhukattai
During the shoot I was asked to present different shapes of Kozhukattai arranged in a platter. I made a few batches of normal sweet and savory Kozhukattai, some of which I learned and have been making for years with my mother-in-law at home.
But what next….I wanted to break the monotony of white and thought of using Burra sugar (raw sugar) and cocoa powder which I had taken with me for the shoot. And to my surprise those Kozhukattais tasted and looked lovely in the shots.
1. Chocolate Kozhukattai
I have used the ready-to-use rice flour to make these recipes but the best result come from homemade rice flour which is soaked, dried and then ground before making the recipes.
(make about 10 pieces)
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbp. oil
- Water as required
Method; Combine rice flour, powdered sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl
Heat about 1 cup of water in a pan and pour it over the rice flour in the bowl.
Stir the mixture with a ladle to form soft dough.
Grease your palm with oil and knead the warm dough for a few minutes.
Pinch small dough and shape into round balls.
Place the chocolate rice dumplings on a perforated plate and steam for 8-9 minutes.
2. Pearl millet Kozhukattai
I have used Burra sugar to make these Kozhukattai. Burra sugar is nothing but dehydrated sugarcane juice which is made by heating the sugarcane juice till it transforms into granules. The molasses in the Burra sugar gives a wonderful taste and aroma to any dishes it is added to.
(make about 8-9)
- 1 cup Pearl millet flour
- 3/4 cup raw sugar or Burra sugar
- 2 tbsp. grated coconut
- 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
- A pinch of salt
Method; Dry roast pearl millet (bajra) flour in a pan on medium heat for 6-7 minutes. Make sure to keep stirring it to avoid the flour getting burnt. You can replace half cup of pearl millet flour with rice flour if you dislike millet taste.
Take out the roasted flour in a large bowl and add powdered sugar and cardamom powder in it.
Heat about 1 ½ cups of water and dissolve raw or Burra sugar in it.
Pour this sweet and warm water in the bowl of millet flour and combine well with a ladle.
Shape the dumplings into any shape you like and steam for 8-9 minutes. I have a few moulds with which I shaped these Kozhukattai at home.
3. Savory Pidi Kohukatta
Pidi refers ‘to hold’ in Tamil, and these Kozhukattai are shaped by holding the cooked dough in palm and pressing it gently to give the impression of finger prints over the dough. These dumplings look very rustic and is one of my favorite snack to make.
(makes about 7-8)
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1 large carrot
- 2 tbsp. Green gram
- 2 tsp. oil
- A pinch of turmeric powder
- Pinch of asafoetida powder
- A few curry leaves
- Salt to taste
- Water as required (about 1 1/4 cups)
- 2 tsp. oil
- 1 tsp. de-husked black gram
- 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
- 2 red chillis
Method; Wash and soak De-husked green gram (Dhuli moong daal) for 20 minutes or more.
Take a large bowl and add rice flour, grated carrot, finely chopped curry leaves, turmeric powder, asafoetida powder (hing) soaked green gram and salt in it and combine well.
Pour water in a pan and bring it to boil.
Pour hot water over the rice flour little by little and keep mixing the dough with a ladle.
Knead the dough well with your hands while it is slightly warm.
Grease your palm with oil, pinch a small lemon sized dough, roll it in your palm to remove any cracks and place it the dough.
Place the rolled out dough in the center of your palm and press it gently with your finger to give the impression of your fingers over the dough.
Repeat the same with all the dough and grease a perforated plate for steaming these dumplings.
Place all the pidi Kozhukattais on the plate and steam it in a pressure cooker (without weight) for 8-9 minutes.
Heat oil in a small pan and crackle mustard seeds in it.
Add finely chopped red chilly and shredded curry leaves in the pan and sauté for a few seconds.
Pour this tempering over the steamed Pidi kohukattais and serve with chutney or sauce of your choice.
- Make the Kozhukattais when the dough is still warm to handle or else the dumplings will turn out rubbery and hard.
- I have used the ready-to-use rice flour to make these recipe but the best result come from homemade rice flour which is soaked, dried and then ground before making the recipes.
- Keep the dough covered all the time to avoid it become dry and hard.
- Replace rice flour with semolina to make Pidi Kozhukattai, the texture comes out really well with semolina.
- To get the best from these recipes, shape the Kozhukattai when the dough is still warm and savor it immediately after steaming it. These delicacies tend to become rubbery and hard after a few hours.