When I was a kid I loved Summers because they meant freedom from school and from homework for two months. The first half of our holidays was spent lazing at home and the latter half was spent in Bangalore, at my grandparents’ house.
We never went to camps. Our home was our camp. We simply played hopping (langdi tang), 4 corners, 8 corners (hopscotch or ‘stapu‘ as we used to call the game in Hindi), catch (pakdan-pakdai), hide ‘n seek (chupan-chupai), chor-sipahi or swung below the banyan tree clutching its strong,drooping roots. When we weren’t playing we would embark on discovering the eggs in the hedges, making whistles of bamboo stems and roll over the green grass much to our maali’s (gardener’s) distress!
When we were in the North, April meant receding Winters and hot Summers. The thatched curtains that had been rolled up tight and secured to the roof during Winter, would be pulled down, brushed and watered in April to protect the porch from the scorching Summer heat. I remember my sister P and myself eagerly looking forward to this grand opening. The workers would be ever so careful while rolling open the thatch curtains because the curtains would be filled with baby squirrels that had been laid there during Winters. Mother would keep warning the workers to be careful lest the babies should fall and get injured. I have no idea what eventually happened to the poor things.
Summer also meant a mela (fair) in the kitchen. Mother would make jellies, ice creams and custards on regular basis. Once a week – mostly Sundays – mum made one of our meals ‘extra’ special, usually either lunch or tiffin. Those were times when food was organic, natural and wholesome. There was no threat of pesticides, injected growth enhancers or GM Foods. There would be pooris/bhaturas for lunch accompanied by chhole or kofta. Tiffins offered more scope for variety on weekends as the timing was always perfect. Sundays used to be a time when we would have cousins over, which meant that tiffin was a meticulously delicious affair with traditional delicacies like ‘Madur vadai’, sevai, bondas and bajjis.
Being a home maker has its own advantages and as a working woman I tend to compare whether I do as much as mother did for us. I do not even make many dishes from my childhood when they require planning ahead. I ensure that my children get enough of play during Summers and less of ‘computer games’ but there are many things I do differently. I take a few days off and take them to places around the city. We see movies, play Dumb Charades, and I assist them bake cookies or chocolate cakes (since they never tire of chocolate). A thing that remains the same is the visit to their grandparents’.
I also make a lot of tasty dishes for them, though I keep trying healthier alternatives quite tirelessly. One of the things I experimented a lot with is trying to bake fritters and bajjis instead of frying. It was a disaster! The many hands that would reach out and polish off the delicacies hot off the strainer usually, had to be coaxed to try out the baked versions. P would have a plastic grin, Jr.H would reach out for a cup of water after each bite and Jr.P was the worst of all – he wouldn’t even pretend! Instead he would hold his throat and hang his tongue out as if choked – enough signs to ward me off from the path of health once in a while.
It is not so always. Baked doughnuts and baked gujiyas have been hits. The rest, I am sad to say were flops. I now fall back on making mummy’s Sunday treats. One of her quick Sunday tiffins was ‘killu pakoda’. ‘Killu’ in Tamil means ‘pinch’, and ‘pakodas’ mean ‘fritters’. Naturally these delicacies are simply ‘pinched fritters’!
Killu pakoda does not require any planning, is made with ingredients easily available in any kitchen and is relatively less oily as compared to other fried savouries.
Dish: Killu Pakoda or “Pinched Onion Fritters”
Yield: Serves 4
Bengalgram flour / Besan / Kadalamaavu – 3 cups
Onions – 1 cup, chopped fine
Green chillies – 2 chopped fine
Curry leaves – Separated from steam and chopped rough
Peanuts or cashewnuts (quartered) – 1/2 cup
A pinch of turmeric powder
Water – 3-4 tbsps. or just enough to bind
Hot oil – 2 tbsps.
Fine rice flour – 3 tbsps.
Salt to taste
Oil to fry
Mix the flours together and add the rest of the dry ingredients.
Stir well to distribute evenly.
Add hot oil and mix quickly.
Sprinkle water, a tablespoon at a time and squeeze the dough in fistfuls together.
This usually happens with two tablespoons of water, as onion tends to leave out some water due to added salt. The dough should come together when held tight but look crumbly otherwise.
Heat oil to medium hot. Drop a tiny bit of the dough. If it makes a sizzling sound and floats up the oil is ready to use.
Pinch out small pieces and drop into the oil. Fry till reddish brown, turning frequently in between so that the fritters are thoroughly cooked inside.
Serve hot. No accompaniment required.
Change spice levels according to preference. The onions are optional. I recommend adding them unless you abstain from consuming onions for any reason. You can substitute cashews with peanuts if you prefer.
As you will notice in the end the preparation is not all that oily. Since it is low in water content, it does not absorb oil and can be drained well. These fritters stay good for two to three days and are excellent to be carried on journeys and camping.
The fritters are very crisp on the outside, crumbly and powdery on the inside, very rich and nutty in aroma and you know what is best? They keep your fingers clean and non-sticky.
How did you spend your Summers as children? If you have children, do you send them to camps? How has the scene changed from your childhood to theirs?