When I read the word ‘endangered recipes’ in the FAHC announcement, the first dish I thought of was ‘kali'(களி). Kali is a ball made with ragi -rice mixture and koozh (கூழ்) is the porridge form of it.
Ragi known as finger millet is considered the poor man’s diet. In many tamil cinemas you can hear the hero saying his lover that ‘I will work hard and atleast earn you a ragi porridge all my life’. (மூட்டை தூக்கியாச்சும் உனக்கு வாழ்க்கை முழுக்க கூழ் ஊத்தறேன் kind of dialogues)! The reason for this is that ragi does not require much irrigation and so available for a cheaper price. (Not in US – a pound of ragi is nearly $2 , which is 5 times the price of rice sold here.)
I have heard that my grandma used to make this forour farm workers in a large scale. She used a tennis bat shaped wooden tool to make the balls and would use her other hand to shape the steam hot balls. That was a time when rice was considered to be a luxury food for the common man. So, if it is your lucky day, you get rice added in your kali or else it is just the ragi cooked and shaped as balls.(This is called the orumavu kali).
The time changes, the scenes have changed and now even my mom does not know how to do this kali and everytime my neighbours do it for us, as we (my brothers and I ) love it. Though my mom know not how to make them, she will be always in the tug of war with my brothers and me to share the kali. And we purposely preserve a ball for making the ‘piece of heaven ‘ porridge, called koozh in tamil. I learnt this dish from my husband’s athai (father’s sister) who taught me a lighter technology to get the same great taste.
Ragi rice balls/Kezhvaragu kali/ragi mudda :
Sona masoori rice/ broken raw rice (Noi arisi)- 1 cup
Ragi flour- 1 cup
Salt to taste
Wash and soak the rice for 1/2 hr. In a large pot, boil about 3 cups of water, add rice and let it cook well. When it is cooked, add ragi flour as a heap with salt and cover with a lid. Let it cook for another 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon stir continuously and vigorously, without letting any lumps to form. When the mix comes together, turn off the heat. Take a stainless silver / nonstick bowl , sprinkle a tablespoon of water (this prevents the kali sticking to the sides ), drop a big scoop of mix into. Swirl it fast to give the ball a good shape.Transfer to the serving dish. Serve with a dallop of ghee (optional) and keerai (spinach dall – recipe follows..) /inji poondu kuzhambhu / varutha paruppu kuzhambhu.
There are other ways of doing this, yet this is easiest , atleast to me. Soak the ragi balls (cooked as above) in water over night. The balls need to be just covered in water. In the next day morning, using your beautiful hands homogenise (a great technique we use every day to make rasam ) the balls, adding yogurt/ buttermilk and salt according to your taste. Adjust the thickness to that a smoothie. This energy drink could be as such taken, but always we add some attractions like lemon pickle/ raw pearl onion/ fresh peanuts. As fresh peanuts were not available, I soaked the dried peanuts overnight and added to the koozh.