Enjoy a health-driven sweet rice gruel, traditionally made during monsoon month, karkidaka masam in Kerala. Try this uluva kanji (fenugreek porridge) sweetened with jaggery that takes away the bitterness of the whole fenugreek seeds. See yourself to a month of health and self-care this season.
What is karkidaka masam ?
The Malayalam calendar has a significant month allocated towards the monsoons, Karkidakam. The otherwise sunny climate is quickly taken over by the southwest monsoon. This is between the months of June to August. The climatic changes, though may sound cruel, are most necessary for the main rice crop to grow. There is a significant rise in humidity, chances of catching diseases and overall lack of sunlight. The low morale is overset by building confidence in people through reading the epic Ramayana. Hence the karkidaka masam is also called ramayana masam (masam meaning month).
During this season it is best to keep your visits to Kerala limited as heavy rains and flooding in low-lying areas have become common over the past few years.
Why is Karkidakam so important?
Along with stories of dark and demons (that play well with the climate), this month is one that is set aside for self-care, detox and well-being. It is a cleverly placed system for people to nourish and look after themselves. Since the changes in the weather bring diseases more often, spending time to rebuild immunity is key. The month is spent in various ayurvedic chkiltsa (treatments) or home-based health care.
Food consumed during Karkidaka masam
Rice is the main grain consumed throughout the year. Rice gruel infused with herbs, called the Karkidaka kanji is one of the main recovery food for the time. However, very few families actually know and identify the herbs by foraging, the others seeking the commercially available packs. Along with this plenty other versions of rice gruels from the main food. The paalkanji with Navara rice or payaru kanji are two varieties we commonly make at home. If having a rice meal, the golden yogurt curry ( moru kaaachiyathu) is a common sight on the table. Today we have the sweeter, uluva kanji ( fenugreek porridge).
Uluva kanji for health
Uluva kanji is a unique preparation that is made during the monsoon months and is also a part of the postpartum diet. Kanji as such is a regular part of the evening meal or morning breakfast in Kerala. The sweet version of this fenugreek porridge is traditionally made with raw red rice, not matta rice. The uluva kanji is served as such without many accompaniments either in the morning or at lunch.
The ingredients and substitutions
Rice– for uluva kanji, raw red rice or payasa pachari is used. The red outer bran is rich in nutrients and gives the porridge a deep colour. The rice itself is sweet when cooked. Matta rice, parboiled red rice is not a substitute for this recipe. It is a bigger grain and has a totally different flavour.
Fenugreek- one of the medicinal elements in this kanji is fenugreek seeds. The small seeds are bitter. These are soaked for a few hours to swell before adding to this kanji. This makes the seedcoat gelatinous and cooked through.
Coconut milk- the kanji is best cooked in coconut milk. In fact, it is not the thick coconut milk here. Freshly grated coconut to which water is added and blended have different levels of thickness. Onnam paal is literally a very high content of coconut cream and is not heat-stable. The second time the process is done gives less thick milk (like we have used in ishtu). Add water again and squeeze out a third time. This is perfect for making this kanji as it is thin and yet flavourful.
Karupatti vellam or jaggery- The sweetness comes from deep-coloured palm jaggery. This is the extract of the Palmyra tree. If this is not available use sugarcane jaggery. The flavour is slightly different but still close. Please avoid sugar to feel the real flavour. Palm jaggery is easy to procure in Indian grocery or Asian stores.
Ghee– the clarified butter added with the final tempering imparts a soothing aroma and flavour to the kanji. This is not a huge necessity and you can skip it to keep it vegan.
Nuts- nuts roasted in the ghee is just a way of getting the kids to have some. It is not essential to the recipe, but a nice touch to it.
- Pressure cooker
- deep pot
- 1/4 cup coconut milk 1st extract
- 1 tsp green cardamom powder
For the kanji base
- 1 cup Raw rice red variety, unakkalari or payasa pachari
- 2 cups drinking water
for the jaggery syrup
- 400 grams Palm Jaggery
- 1/2 cup drinking water
For getting the kanji to right consistency
- 2 cups coconut milk thin version
- 1-2 tbsp fenugreek seeds adjust as per your tolerance to the bitterness.
for the tempering
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 10-12 cashew nuts
- 1-2 shallots
- Soak the fenugreek for 3- 4 hours. Set it aside till needed.
- crush the palm jaggery and soak it with a half cup of water. Set it aside till needed.
- Into a pressure cooker add the washed rice, water and the third extract of coconut milk.
- Add the soaked fenugreek and pressure cooker for 4-5 whistles or about 20 minutes.
- Once the pressure is naturally released, mix the gruel well and set it aside.
- Mix well the palm jaggery syrup and strain the impurities with a fine mesh.
- Add this jaggery syrup to the gruel and st it on a simmer.
- Add the jaggery syrup cooks, add the thick coconut milk and cardamom powder and remove from heat.
- In a small pan add the ghee, slices shallot and set on medium heat.
- When the shallots turn golden, add the cashews and roast till they are both golden.
- Pour this tempering over the prepared kanji and mix well.
- Serve this kanji warm.
- I have avoided the tempering and just added roasted cashew nuts as my family is just getting warmed up to the idea itself.
- I have reduced the fenugreek quantity by half. This helps to adjust the body to the flavour and the cooling effect. High amounts of fenugreek can cause diarrhea as the seed coat is a laxative.
In postpartum diet
Though the uluva kanji is not a difficult recipe it is a highly valuable one. In the postpartum care routine, the uluva kanji has a significant place. Here are some reasons why it works.
Fenugreek is a lactostimulant, enhancing breastfeeding milk production. Being bitter is hard to have, but palatable in this kanji recipe.
Kanji has plenty of water hence helping to keep up the water content needed for a breastfeeding mum.
The kanji is soft cooked rice making it easily digestible.
Red rice is higher in vitamin content and added jaggery in iron and minerals.
Ghee aids the smooth gut functioning and fat content of the lactating mum.
Overall it is an easy one-pot recipe that keeps one full with enough fibre content.
Though the climate has changed, floods and rains time themselves differently, the tradition of Karkidaka Masam continues. Setting aside some time to look after yourself is the best takeaway. So this rainy season, give yourself some time. Try out this fenugreek porridge and let us know how you like it. When you make this Kerala nadan dish, rate us in the comments. Subscribe to get the content to your inbox as soon as we publish.
For now, feel the rain, and spend some time bringing back what you need. See you in the next post.