Puthandu 2023: Family Recipes From The Archives
Image Credit: Unsplash

Vishu and Puthandu have been important family occasions for everyone to get together and share treasures from home kitchens which are otherwise just silent feeders of a household. Cooking and eating is so integral to celebratory experiences because of its unanimous effect on making people happy. More so that, food brings a sense of acceptance, unlike any other medium essentially does. Often times, simple food always pleases a crowd and comforts them; giving them a sense of belonging. Although subtle, festivals are always an opportunity to exchange and experience culinary ideas and influences through a multi-sensory medium. For Vishu and Puthandu, we spoke to three women who have been the wizards of their home kitchens, having fed people by the hundreds over the years, all thanks to them being influenced by the places they travelled to and the food they were fascinated by to even the homes they were married into. Read on to know more.

Leela Anantharaman – Mor Kali

79, Coimbatore

Image Credits: Archana's Kitchen

At her ripe old age, Leela Anantharaman has toned down her everyday connections with her kitchen, because of other domestic challenges. However, in her own words, she never misses a chance to cook during a festival day. Leela is up by 4:30 am, roasting and grinding rice into a fine powder; sieving and sifting flour to make mor kali or mor koozh – a South Indian version of dhokla, for breakfast. Made using a batter of rice flour and buttermilk, the steamed traditional dish from Tamil Nadu, was a recipe she learned from her sister-in-law, when she married her husband, M.G.Anantharaman, who was the youngest son in his family of eleven children. She chuckles when she admits that she was a below-average cook who didn’t know how to make a cup of tea but has picked up tricks from all the places she lived in, over the years. When quizzed about what to eat the mor kali with, she confesses that although it is perfectly well to be eaten on its own, she loves to dab the pieces of these steamed cakes in a fiery red-chilli shallot chutney.

Ingredients [For Mor Kali]

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 cup yoghurt
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons gingelly oil
  • 4-5 curry leaves, torn
  • 1 round chilli
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Ingredients [For Chutney]

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 15-20 baby shallots
  • 6-7 red chillies, soaked in warm water
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic


  • Drain the red chillies and add them to a grinder along with the garlic, shallots and salt. Grind into a fine paste and transfer to a bowl.
  • Heat the coconut oil and temper the mustard seeds. Pour the hot oil and spluttering mustard seeds over the chutney. Set aside.
  • Whisk the yoghurt along with water until it turns into a smooth, diluted buttermilk. Add the rice flour and whisk until there are no lumps.
  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the asafoetida; followed by the curry leaves, mustard seeds and chilli. Gently pour the rice slurry into the pan once the tempering crackles and stir continuously for 10-12 minutes on a low simmer.
  • As the rice slurry begins to thicken, add another spoonful of oil and continue to stir the mixture until the moisture evaporates and it resembles a thick, sticky dough.
  • Pour this on to a greased and walled plate and spread it along the surface using the back of a spoon. Allow it to cool for five minutes and cut into cubes. Serve warm with the chilli chutney.

Kamala Swaminathan – Sticky Toffee Pudding

75, Coimbatore


Image Credits: The Happy Foodie

Thanks to Kamala Swaminathan’s husband being a businessman that travelled far and wide for work during their heydays, her fondest memory of spending time outside India was when she lived in Nairobi between 1984-1990. Kamala mentions that they were assigned quarters around an Indian community of other businessmen and gentlemen that worked with insurance companies, whose wives and children would often meet in each other’s homes for lunch or high tea. Admittedly, Kamala shrugs off any judgement about not particularly leaning towards cooking the food she grew up eating but more towards dishes that her cook in Nairobi made – one of which was a syrupy sticky toffee pudding with a hack so absurd, she decided to learn how to bake it. Once her children were born and Kamala’s family moved back to India, they would insist on having the sticky toffee pudding, over Indian sweets, even for their birthdays. As her children grew up and moved out eventually, Kamala continues to make this pudding for the staff in her gated community and for any kids who follow the aroma to her house.


  • 1+ ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 + ¼ cup flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1.5 cups chopped dates


  • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Combine the flour and half a cup of sugar in a large bowl and set aside. Whisk together the milk, vanilla, eggs and three tablespoons of melted butter.
  • Combine the wet mixture with the flour and sugar and whisk into a batter. Add this batter to a greased baking dish and spread it around evenly. Sprinkle the remaining cup of sugar and use the butter to dot all over the sugar.
  • Pour two cups of boiling water over the sugar and place the dish in the oven. Bake for 45-47 minutes until you see a spongy pudding on top. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack, before serving hot with whipped cream on the side.

Karthika Sreenivasan – Pazham Nirachatu

45, Mavellikara


Image Credits: cookpad

Cooking for a crowd is no mean feat for Karthika Sreenivasan, who is no stranger to a hundred medu vadas being fried to give around as a snack, to children in a neighbouring town, as part of the community service she undertakes with her husband, Sreenivasan Kurup. Living in multiple homes in different cities over the years did not cloud her hankering to be back in Kerala, where her roots laid and she brought the flavours and tastes of the food she grew up with, to feed the children she has met in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and many other places. Her own son is away from home, trying to find his ground in another city but Karthika powers through the distance and finds solace in filling up sweetened coconut between banana halves to make pazham nirachathu or stuffed banana fritters. Typically eaten as a tea time snack around chaaya kadas in the state, her husband’s dietary restrictions don’t allow them to enjoy this delicacy as often as she’d want to. So, she compromises her worries on days like Vishu to treat both of them to these deep-fried, melt-in-your-mouth tropical bites.


  • 3 ripe bananas
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 1 tablespoon sugar +
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, for batter
  • 1 pinch baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cashews
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ghee
  • Oil, for frying


  • Heat the ghee in a small pan and toast the cashews until they turn a light brown colour. Add the coconut and sugar and continue to sauté until the sugar melts into the coconut. Add the cardamom powder and mix well. Set aside to cool.
  • For the batter, mix both kinds of flour, sugar, baking soda, salt before adding some water to make a thick batter. Whisk to make it lump-free. Slice each banana lengthwise and dip into the batter.
  • Heat 4-5 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and place one banana half, flat-side up and add the coconut mixture on top. Dip another banana half into the batter and place it flat-side down, so as to sandwich the coconut mixture in-between.
  • Fry on all sides for 2-3 minutes, until browned and crispy on the outside. Cut into quarters and serve hot, with a cup of tea on the side.