Among the few festivals I manage to celebrate to my satisfaction, Vinayaka Chathurthy is among the top, a few others being Gokula Ashtami, Navarathri, Deepavali, Arudra/Thiruvadirai, Karthigai, Karadayan Nonbu and, of course, Vishu - the New Year.
Apart from the symbolism and the rituals, each festival has its own special menu. The primary attraction I have is that most of the festivals we celebrate at our home are marked by mellow and subdued observances, solemn, meaningful and simple rituals, quite modest and unceremonious, yet, sincere and heart-warming.
The special menu item, offered as prasadam, that my mom usually makes for Vinayaka Chathurthi is this Poorna Kozhakattai aka Modakam pictured here. Today being Vinayaka Chathurthi, I was happy to make this poorna kozhakattai.
And, as with most of my recipes, this is probably not entirely traditional as I have adapted it to the ingredients handily available in my kitchen.
Kozhakattai, in general, is a steamed dumpling-like dish, which can be sweet or savory, with the stuffing inside making up the attractive part of the dish. Poornam is the term we used in my family to refer to a concoction of coconut+jaggery+water, (sometimes black sesame seeds+jaggery, instead of coconut) in proper proportion so it sets to a soft candy consistency. This poornam is usually encased in the dumpling shell made of rice flour+water, and then steamed to make this dish poorna kozhakattai.
The amount of dumpling dough and poornam can be varied, so, adjust the quantities as needed, while keeping the proportion of ingredients fairly the same. I usually make a small batch...
for the poornam:
¼ cup water (optional)
1/3 cup fresh or dry grated coconut or 1/3 cup toasted black sesame seeds
1/3 cup brown sugar* (plus a few Tbsp more, if preferred)
*jaggery if it is clean, else need to strain to remove mud and residue
for the kozhakattai dough:
½ cup water
2/3 cup fine rice flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp canola oil
Kozhakattai: heat the water in a pan just to boiling, add the salt and oil, then gradually add the rice flour while stirring constantly till the dough just comes together; off heat, cover with a damp cloth till poornam is ready
Poornam: heat the water in a pan, add the brown sugar (jaggery if it is clean, else need to strain well to remove mud and residue), when it comes to a boil, add the coconut and keep stirring till it just thickens but not too long or it gets hard as a rock; off heat allow to cool for a few minutes, grease your palms and roll into 1" diameter balls while still hot. (Or any size you prefer, I like little ones...)
Shape a small portion (say 2" diameter ball) of the dough into a cup, add one poornam ball, and close it by gathering all sides and forming a cone-of-sorts at the top, all the while turning/rotating the dough cup so it seals tightly, and is shaped as in the picture.
Note: the dumpling can be oval or round, but traditionally, poorna kozhakattai is round as seen in picture.
Steaming: Place the prepared dumplings in a steamer or idlee cooker and steam them briefly - the dough turns a little translucent when done.
p.s: came across Yum Blog's Ganesha Chathurthi event on Ashaji's blog, and thought I must send this along...