I had this idea of Clay pot Cooking (mud pot/ Man paanai) for a long time. But due to some reason or other it was getting postponed.
Finally the day came when I with my husband and son went to a pottery shop in the outskirts of the city. "So here we are in the ruins of Harappa to buy a pot", my husband joked. I could literally see a tradition of making pots at its brink of extinction.
The shop looked more like a house and it had a distinct smell of clay. Pots were everywhere around us, even on the top of the roof, some well rounded and some broken.
I took a lot of patience in choosing and analysing each and every pot he showed us. I finally chose a medium sized well rounded unglazed Clay pot.
Advantages of Clay pot Cooking:
1) Clay pot is porous and heat circulate through the pot which retains the aroma and nutrition of food. I tried Keerai kadayal in Clay pot , and can smell the nice aroma and it was delicious as well.
2) The food is cooked slowly and completely and no need to add extra fat or oil. In addition, this Slow cooking process retains all the nutrients of the food that we cook.
3) You can cook almost anything in it and is even suitable for microwave.
4) The Clay pot retains temperature for a longer time as compared to steel utensils and hence no need to transfer it to casserole.
5) Last but not least, it makes the food tasty comparing to cooking in other utensils.
1) Alkaline food is best for our body but in today's fast world we prefer more acidic food which produces toxins. Since Clay is alkaline in nature and when food is cooked it neutralizes the PH balance of food and hence acts as natural detox.
2) Cooking in Clay pot is same as the process of steaming and hence retains the nutrition in the food.
3) No extra oil is needed for cooking which helps to maintain cholesterol levels.
4) Reheating the food always leads to loss of nutrition but if you cook in clay pot it retains the temperature for a longer time and no worries for reheating.
Method for curing:
1) Boil plenty of water in a container and add a fistful of rice to the water.
2) Once the rice is cooked, strain the rice and keep the left over water.
3) Pour the left over water in mud pot and leave it overnight and discard it the next day.
4) Repeat this procedure next night and continue for a weeks time.
5) on final day, boil water in Clay pot add few dal (split green gram dal or toor dal) and cook for few minutes.
6) Use wooden whipper and whip the dal nicely and discard it.
This method will help to cure and remove mud from the pot and make it ready for cooking.
Apart from the above mentioned method, I have another method used for curing.
1) Immerse and soak the new Clay pot in a big vessel full of water for one day, then scrub off the mud inside the clay pot using a scrubber. Finally, Sun dry it for 4-5 hours. This will help to remove all mud particles.
2) Apply castor oil or any vegetable oil inside and outside the clay pot. Heat this clay pot in low flame or medium flame for 2-3 minutes on a stove top. You will see fumes coming up. Switch off the flame and leave it to cool down. Wash it once and start using the clay pot.
You can choose which ever method that suits you to cure the earthen ware.
1) Cleaning the Clay pot after cooking is also easy, clean it with a brush or scrub pad and wash it with warm water .
2) Do not use any soap or detergent as the Clay pot is porous and absorbs it and when you cook again it will get into your food.
3) For stubborn stains, take rock salt in scrub pad and scrub it nicely. Fill the pot with hot water and wait for half hour. Discard the water and wash it again.
Precautions while cooking also while handling the Clay pot:
1) While cooking use wooden spoons or spatulas and avoid metallic ones as it will not scrap the mud off the pot.
2) Clay pot cooking needs more care than normal kadai cooking, since it tends to break or develop cracks if you don't handle it properly. It is better to place the hot clay pot after cooking on a towel or a holder instead of keeping them on the kitchen slab or wet surface directly to avoid cracks getting developed. Or you might leave it on the burner for some time till it attains room temperature then you can keep in slab.
3) The first dish that you cook in mud pot should be cooked in medium or low flame. If you leave it to get burnt in high flame then the burnt smell gets attached to the pot also will be transferred to all the further cooking that you make with the pot. If in case your mud pot gets burnt in high flame then it is better to discard the mud pot and go for a new one since the same smell continues with all the further dishes that you prepare with the same pot.
4) The chances of clay pot developing cracks is more if you drop the clay pot down. So it is better to handle the clay pot with utmost care and if you are a first time user better to avoid cooking with clay pot in busy morning routines, instead save it for your leisure cooking.
Will my Clay pot burst if I keep it on Stove top?
This is one of the biggest question rather a concern that arises for first timers. NO, your clay pot will never burst instead it might develop cracks to show the age of clay pot then you need to discard it and buy new one. If you continue using the cracked mud pot then the cracks will widen and will leak the dish over the burner of your stove.
Life of Clay pot:
An interesting fact associated with Clay pot is: In Tamil Nadu villages, a new clay pot is gifted to married daughters by their parents during Pongal festival so that they start their cooking with the new pot on auspicious day. When the next pongal comes, they will discard the old one and start using new ones.
From above, you can very well guess the lifetime of a Clay pot/ man chatti.
The clay pot's life time will be around 6-12 months then you can discard it and go for new one. Or you can use the clay pot till you can see visible cracks on both inner as well as outer parts. Either of one will apply to decide the life of Clay pot.
1) In India, you get to see the road side vendors selling unglazed clay pots in reasonable price.
Another interesting use of mud pot is storing water in it, for which you will get a different pot. Click on thee picture to know more.
Interested more to know about other traditional cooking methods, try Cooking in cast Iron.