Kuzhi paniyaram or guntha ponganalu: Toad in the hole – India ishtyle

I first encountered these little balls of deliciousness – crisp and browned on the outside and deliciously, steamily soft on the inside at an aunt’s place in Bellary. Being brought up on a diet of sambar and koora (dry vegetable curry), with an occasional biryani thrown in for the sake of Hyderabad, we hadn’t been exposed to the finer side of  South Indian cuisine very much! This aunt, Meera kaaki, was one of those very painstaking cooks who MUST get it right – and boy, did she!
Oops, i still haven’t told you what this thing is, right? It’s Tamil name is kuzhi paniyaram but i much prefer the hilariously descriptive Telugu version – ‘ guntha ponganaalu’ – literally – ‘ the thing which swells in the hole’!!!!
Meera kaaki served it with the most awesome peanut chutney and i tried for years before finally cracking it! Being the nutrition conscious niece of Malathi Mohan, i had to find ways to make it lower in fat and here’s my version.
The picture, btw, was part of, operative words, being ‘part of’ Kanchana’s brekker today – the other parts consisting of a large bowl of leftover pasta and Boost as a pre-breakfast ‘digestive’! The post breakfast thing you see on the plate is a glass of banana mango milk shake – and no, this is NOT my biggest glass! I had to put in a tiny glass (my share) to fit the whole thing in the frame! Let’s get to the matter though.
Guntha ponganalu with peanut-mint chutney
Dosa batter – well, if you have a family with a large appetite, about 8 to 10 cups. For normal human beings 1 or 2 cups should suffice!
Ponganala pan – here’s a picture of it – scroll right on the main picture above.
Oil – a couple of tsps.
To make the ponganaalu, heat the pan on the stovetop on medium heat, add a few drops of to each of the holes and swirl around. Lower heat, pour in enough batter into each hole till it’s almost at the brim. Cover and cook on a low flame till the appams swell ( get it??) and the batter draws away from the sides. Test by peeking under one – with a skewer, silly – till they’re golden brown. This should take about 3 minutes. Turn over each appam and let cook, uncovered for a further two minutes.
Peanut and mint chutney
Peanuts (surprise!) – 1/2 cup
Mint – 1 cup
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Chana dal (bengal gram) – 1 tbsp
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Asafoetida – 1 lump about the size of a chana dal
Green chilies – 3
Red chilies – 3-4 – believe me, the kick is worth it!
Tamarind or tamarind paste – 1 tsp
Jaggery – 1 1/2 tsp
Salt – about 1/2 tsp
Coconut grated – 1 to 2 tbsp.
Cabbage – shredded – 1/2 cup – this recipe actually calls for more coconut but i have substituted a lower cal option. You are free to choose to pile ’em on but jes’ giving a statutory warning here!
Sesame oil – preferred – but can do with any other oil too – no, no, Arch NOT diesel oil!
Heat oil in a saucepan, add asafoetida and peanuts and roast for 3-4 minutes till the peanuts smell ‘roasty ‘. Add the mustard, let ’em pop, add the rest of the ingredients except the jaggery and stir fry on a high flame for about 3-4 minutes. Switch off, add jaggery and grind to a rough paste adding about 1/2 glass water – makes a thick, ‘sitting-on-the-plate’ and not ‘me-running-behind-to-catch-it’ kind of consistency!
Dat’s it! Eat! And tell what you think..  😉
 And finally, ta-da, the first batch of Kanch’s breakfast!

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