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No surprises here, Only what you ordered for.

We have written many posts about what we sell and how we procure or make them… This post is to give you a clear idea of how each product will be when you receive them after you place an order. We will start of with soapstone cookware.
 
Soapstone vessels:
Except the soapstone curd jar, and lamps, vessels that are used for cooking will be seasoned when you receive them. Seasoning of a soapstone vessel is clearly explained in our blog.  An unseasoned soapstone vessel will be light grey in color. A seasoned vessel will be blackish in color. It will be sticky when you receive it. The castor oil and turmeric powder application will make it sticky. This helps in keeping the vessels long lasting and easier to cook with. One needs to understand that this is a product made with rocks. And when we heat rocks, without seasoning them, it will lead to cracking. In order to prevent that, seasoning has to be done properly. We sell only seasoned soapstone vessels to make sure that each vessel can be used to the full extent as possible. Once you receive the vessel, kindly scrub clean with an iron scrub and any dish wash agent. Then dry with a cloth. Add some water the vessel and put it on the stove at low flame. Add a spoon of urad dal to the water and boil it. This will remove excess turmeric powder and castor oil that sticks to the vessel. It also helps eliminate any lingering smell of castor oil. This is the most traditional way of seasoning such cookware. The thickness of the castor oil makes it most suitable for stone cookware. 
These blog posts are written to help you make the most out of the traditional vessels you buy from us. Thank you for keeping the art of traditional cooking alive and well..

Clayware making process

Clay cookware and kitchen ware are all made with a mixture of red clay and river mud for strength and longevity. The potter will create his pot and leave it in sun light to dry up a bit. Then he mixes the red clay with water making a watery paste. Then using a cloth, this paste is applied all over the pottery. Then it is allowed to dry in sun light again. This process is done for up to three to four times before the pottery is baked in a kiln for the final output.

This method of applying a paste makes it stronger, more finished and easier to clean and cook with.

Imperfection is Signature…

Factory made is perfect. Machine made goods come uniform. One dress like another. One pen like another. One toy like another. But our soapstone play set is unique. Each set comes with about 20 tiny pieces of traditional cookware. This includes the flat grinding tool(Ammikal), batter making tool(aatukal), flour making tool(Yendhiram), cookpots, stove etc.

Many of our customers buy these play sets to show their children the tools of the yore. Some of us are extremely lucky to have access to our native villages to go back in time. Whenever I visit my village, I feel like life is much more slower and patient. Food tastes better even if it is the most simple. Laughter is louder…

In a quaint village, at the foothills of the Eastern ghats, there are a couple of families that have stone vessel making as their livelihood. Once a few villages with 300 or more families were indulged in this means of living. But today there is only a mere couple of families in scattered villages across the state who pursue this as a worthy way of life. The men folk were involved in making cook pots and tawas while the women folk made oil lamps, and play sets. Once upon a time, these vessels and cooking tools were a prominent member of the South Indian kitchen. There was one Kalchatti(Soapstone cookpot) for rasam, one for gravies, one for sambar and so on. Idly, dosa batter would be stored in a Kalchatti and buried 3/4th in cool river sand(which was the fridge in old times) in the kitchen. Stone pots were prized and treasured. Even today,my grandmom would not part with her well seasoned soapstone cook pot. I have heard about many more grand moms and moms who wouldnt part with their seasoned cook pots…

Now, coming back to our kitchen play sets, Artisans who make these sets have to be slender and flexible. The reason being, these tiny pieces are carved out of small pieces of stone. The artisans, usually women, hold down each piece of stone with their foot and carve it. While using their carving tools and manipulating these stones, each piece is unique and has grains over them or lines cut over them. None of these sets will be uniform. And that is exactly what makes these sets special. Hand made and imperfect is what these play sets are. So are many of the soapstone products. Especially the soapstone curd pots, though hold the same amount of curd inside, will be of different heights and diameters. The shapes are different and weigh differently too.

Lets appreciate the hard work of another person and cherish such simple, hand made toys. Encourage these artisans by sending out a gift to a loved one.

To buy soapstone choppu set:

Travel Diaries-Wild flowers of Rural Southern India

Its a tiny, white flower that grows in bunches of a bulb .It is a small roadside plant which grows wild. It is called as Thumbai poo(Tamil), Thumbe hoovu(Kannada), Thumba Poo(Malayalam) and Thummi poovulu(Telugu). The scientific name of this plant is Leucas aspera. My mom grew up in a village and she has told me stories of how they collect these tiny, delicate blossoms and kind of loosely fit the flowers within each other to form small round shapes and call them murukku. Apparently it was a favorite play time chore she and her friends did.

Apart from having such play worthy benefits, these flowers have a range of medicinal uses too. Ayurveda and Siddha medicines prescribe these flowers for sinus, headaches, and even snake bits…

I wanted to write about these incidental posts because it reminds us of the simple ways of living that our previous generations had. And it is very important to take this indigenous knowledge to the next generation. As mothers, many of us who grew up in an urban setup did not have the privilege of understanding or experiencing such naive acts of everyday lives. I am summarizing the uses of these flowers from the various comments we have received from our Instagram and Facebook post.

I have heard of a story which elaborates as to why this flower is special to Lord Shiva. The story revolves around a woman whose name was Thumbai. Impressed by her sincerity towards holding up her Dharma to her job, she wins Lord Shiva s respect and he grants her a wish. She was in shock that Lord Shiva had appeared before her and instead of saying that she wants his feet on her head all the time, she said the opposite. She said that her feet should be on his feet. And as her name was Thumbai, Lord Shiva wears the Thumbai flower in his matted locks.

Apart from using these flowers for worship, it is also used in making a concoction to cure cold, sinus, head aches. Its fragrance is mild and sweet. I can also be eaten raw for its health benefits. One of the comments also states that in order to wean babies off breast milk, they are given boiled goats milk with thumbai poo added to it.

 

Simply Soapstone-How to use?

A lot of us have seen soapstone vessels in our grand mom’s kitchen or in our native villages. But never have used one personally. But with the availability of soapstone vessels today, it is best to know and learn how to use it before pouncing head first. It is not complex trigonometry, but there is a certain way to use these vessels.

We sell “seasoned” soapstone vessels. If you have questions as to what “seasoning” means, kindly go click on the following link to understand it better

Seasoned soapstone vessels can be used directly on the gas stove after purchase. Be it a soapstone dosa tawa or a soapstone kadai, once seasoned, it can be used directly on the gas stove. But caution is always needed. These are basically made of stone and what happens to stone when heated? It expands leading to cracking. But this does not happen to our vessels because we have seasoned them. But still, to start getting used to soapstone vessels it is always a good idea to start slow.

First step to follow after you purchase a soapstone cook pot or kadai should be to wash, scrub and clean the pot well with any regular dish wash agent and scrub pad. Then dry it with a cloth. Apply any cooking oil on the insides and allow to soak for about 30 minutes. Then to start with boil vegetables or dal in your cook pot or kadai. Add water to the cook pot, switch on the gas stove and add your dal or vegetables and cook them. This gives you a safe opportunity to learn the heating speed, temperature of the pot and other basic characteristics of the soapstone vessel. Once the vegetables or dal is about 3/4th cooked. You can turn off the cook pot and put a lid on top. The heat retained in the stone vessel will cook the contents to the fullest.

Follow this for about 3 to 4 times at least, before you start off with a sambar or a Rasam or any curry for that matter. When you make a curry, do not put to an empty cook pot or kadai on the flame and pour oil into it. This will definitely lead to cracking. If you have to make a tadka and fry onions as the first step in that dish recipe, please do that part in a different vessel and add it to a cook pot and continue with cooking in it for the rest of the preparation. This will help in seasoning it even better. After a couple months of this routine, your cook pot will be well seasoned and ready for cooking any dish completely in it.

When it comes to using a dosa Kal or Paniyaram Kal for the first time, wash and clean thoroughly. Pat dry with a cloth and apply cooking oil on the cook area. Then let it soak for about 30 mins. Then put the Kal on the gas stove and turn the flame on low. Keep checking the surface for optimal heat and add the batter to it once temperature is perfect. Once the dosas or Paniyarams are made and done, the and after turning off the flame, leave the Kal on the stove for a good 30 mins before removing from the stove. These are heavy and therefore caution is needed to remove when they are hot. It is better to remove once the Kal or pots have cooled off.

Another word of caution is not to pour cold or room temperature water into a hot pot. This will also lead to sudden cooling of the vessel thereby cracking.

The art of giving Thamboolam

Every birthday party has a customary return gift for its participants, be it children or adults.. This is not something new  to our culture.  Every guest was given “Thamboolam” before they took leave. The return gift in this case was anything between a fruit such as banana or lemon or even a coconut along with betel leaves and betel nut. This was a gesture to show their appreciation to the guest for visiting their home. Chewing betel leaf and betel nut was common sight even today in villages. Anyone who visited would be given a drink of water first followed by a tray filled with betel leaves, betel nut and various other condiments that could be added according to the guest and eaten before even beginning to talk. Till date after marriage, the husband can receive a folded betel leaf to chew only from his wife. Other wise he can fold it himself before he chews on it. It would be considered offensive otherwise.

Today, we serve either coffee or tea to our guests, predominantly in cities. Our return gifts predominantly contains the addition of plastic containers or plastic bags. With the ban of plastics in big cities, lets hope that thamboolam becomes the new return gift.. Eco-friendly, natural, local produce which benefits the farmer and the local community.

Today, most of the lifestyle diseases caused such as obesity, diabetes, cholesterol etc are caused because of improper intake of processed foods. Betel leaf and betel nut chewing helps in the digestion of food. It has many anti oxidants that help in keeping the body free of toxins in the blood stream. There are capsules available today in stores of a mixture of dried betel leaves and betel nut. Indigenous knowledge and ancient customs are coming to the forefront today with increased knowledge and health benefits that local vegetation contain.

The art of thamboolam was to wish the guest good health and prosperity.

Seasoning of Soapstone Cookware

Soapstone cookware or Kalchatti( in Tamil) or Raati Chatti(in Telugu) literally means stone pot. Made with a soft rock, these cookware have been in use for at least a 100 years. Making, seasoning and using a Kalchatti is an art by itself.  First these stones are cut out of huge rock formations in the eastern ghats. Not every rock can be cut and used for making this cookware. Only a trained eye can choose the correct rock parts. If the wrong rock is chosen, it will break or develop cracks in all likelihood. There were many villages full of artisans breaking and carving these stone cookware to be sold throughout the southern states. But now only a handful of families remain who hand down this knowledge and craft from generation to generation.

Once the rocks are chosen, they are manually carved out of the larger mother rocks. Then these are broken into smaller sized rocks. These smaller rocks are carried on cycles to the respective homes of the artisans who hand sculpt it into different shapes and sizes. Once cookware is completely sculpted and ready, they go through a process of seasoning.

As already mentioned in the previous post, seasoning is the process of making cookware usable in a fire. Oil, turmeric powder, rice starch water are the main ingredients in the process of seasoning of soapstone ware. A completed cook pot is first cleaned thoroughly to remove any dust or small stones sticking to it. Then a mixture of cold processed castor oil and turmeric powder is applied all over the pot. Then the pots are left in sunlight to help in absorption of the mixture. Slow heating in the sun helps in this process. Then the cookpots are applied with the same mixture every morning and left in the hot sun to soak and absorb. This process continues for about 15 days.

Once this process is over, all the pots are washed clean to remove any turmeric powder sticking to it. Then rice water is filled in each of the pots and left in the sun. Everyday new rice water is filled and left to soak in the sun. This continues for 5 days. After which we have a fully seasoned, ready to use soapstone cookware.

For Soapstone Dosa kal and Paniyaram kal, the rice water processing is done for 2 to 3 days only.

To shop for soapstone cookware:

What is seasoning?

Seasoning is the process of application of cooking oil to a new iron/cast iron cookware and heating it at appropriate temperatures for it to absorb the oil. Any cooking oil that is regularly used can be applied for this purpose. Application of oil and heating is done continuously at our premises for 3 weeks for an iron/cast iron vessel to make it ready to use.

To start with, we will scrub and clean the vessels with soap water and remove all the dirt and grime sticking to it. Then the vessel is washed with clean cold water. After this each vessel is dried with a towel. Then cold pressed sesame oil is applied on all of them. Oil is applied all over the surface of the vessel. This includes the cooking surface and the outer surface too. Then the vessels are left to dry in sun light for a few hours. Towards evening, all the vessels are stored inside. The next morning, oil is applied once again and the vessels are left out in the sun. This process continues for two weeks. Once this process is complete, the vessels are cleaned with a dry cloth. Oil is applied liberally over the cooking surface and the vessel is heated at a low temperature for 3-4 minutes. This continues for 5-6 days. After which the vessel is ready for use.

This is the process followed for seasoning an iron or cast iron vessel. The intention of seasoning is to make these vessels ready to use. With prolonged usage, the oil absorbed inside the cookware will prevent the vessel from getting rusted.

The seasoning process for clay and soapstone cookware is slightly different and will be explained in the subsequent posts.

You can buy our seasoned Iron and Cast-iron products by following the link below:

Surround yourself with Nature…

When you take a drive from Chennai towards Pondicherry on the East Coast Road, you can notice that either sides of the tollway have a multitude of flora and fauna. Out of them standing tall and proud are our native palm trees, also called as panai maram(in tamil). These trees grow wild and require very less water to thrive. Though they have a multitude of uses, they are not commercially grown on groves or farms like the coconut trees.

Palm trees have a bounty of uses and there are a number of artisans who base their livelihoods on these trees. If asked today, a number of city dwellers would know only about the Toddy collected from the palm tree, but from the palm fruit, to the nungu or Ice Apple, Palm Sugar, Palm Jaggery are also some of the products that is obtained from these trees.

Palm leaves are hardy and have been used as a medium to write on in the past. Today palm leaves are mostly used to make mats, baskets, bags, boxes and other decorative items too.

We have palm floor mats in bright and beautiful patterns. These mats are simply amazing. They are washable but without soap. They are very easy to use and cool to the touch. Even during the scorching summer months, these mats can be an inviting refuge with their cool nature. They are very light and can be folded for storage purposes too.

Click on this link to shop for palm floor mats:

Ammikal/Sil Batta

The ammikal or Sil Batta is a rectangular shaped rough unpolished stone with a cylindrical, movable stone on top is used to make wet/dry masalas and chutneys in Indian households. In modern kitchens, an Ammikal seldom finds a place sadly. But if given a chance, if the modern cook is wiling to take up the task of grinding a simple chutney or masala using an ammikal, the legend will live on….

The sheer aroma that an ammikal imparts to the most simplest of chutneys is just over the top. Anyone who has not experienced this will not a word of what I say, and it is understandable too… After all how can a simple stone impart so much aroma and flavor? But the truth is simple. The freshness of the ingredients and the rich aroma that fills your kitchen is testimony to it.

A new ammikal will require seasoning and regular usage to remove any grainy particles on it. Therefore it takes atleast 2-3 weeks of usage before anything edible can be made on it. During these few weeks, use your Ammikal atleast 4-5 times a week to grind any vegetable refuse in your kitchen with some water and clean it once your done. This helps in removing any grains of stone on it and helps in seasoning the kal(stone). 

Today simple, slow cooking is being brought back in a lot of urban kitchens. Adding an ammikal to yours should be one of the steps towards that journey. It might look like a lot of work, but really it is not. It takes only a few minutes longer if at all. But the result is enormously worth it. After eating mixie ground chutneys you are sure to find a remarkable difference in your ammikal ground chutneys.

You can buy by clicking on the link below: