Oct 10th was the first day of our college life.I wonder if any of my old hostel mates and friends remember that. My hostel days were best enjoyed at the evening tea time... we get back from a hard day (:))!!!)at the college, tired and hungry and rush to the mess. A cup of tea with the snack of the day and we all sat down on the steps trading gossip and news about co-hostelers, classmates, teachers..no one was spared. A lot of laughter and leg pulling punctuated our nonstop talking.
The steps were a important element in the Hostel's layout. The hostel's plan was a large octagon encircling a courtyard. There were only two diagonal points of entry stepping into the courtyard..one at the entrance and one on the other side of the courtyard...critically located just outside the TV room, en route to the mess(cafeteria). To reach any room, you could either cut across through the courtyard or take the long route around inside the walls.
Sitting at the steps opening into the courtyard was the final rung in the hierarchy of the senior -junior relationships. The freshers at the beginning of a year would skitter away from the steps, walking briskly, almost hugging the walls, trying not to meet any one's eyes to escape the senior's questioning, taking the longest possible route to get back to their dorms. But by the end of the year, most of them would be leisurely sharing a laugh with the same seniors and awaiting the next batch of freshers with relish.
The rush to the mess was to get the tea as hot as possible and to test our luck with the snacks. The mess was (is?) ruled by the three top (iron) chefs, "chechis"/ladies who could only be called "prosperous" to be politically correct. Looking at them , you could understand why the hostel inmates always looked hungry..(as the guys used to tease us saying we get only kanchi-payar in our cafeteria).
The snacks ranged from Uzhunnu Vada, which was pretty good to sukiyan, which I never endeared to, to dried up tea cakes wrapped in old parchment. Sometimes the snacks were so horrible that you just wanted to trade them away and sometimes they were the only redeeming feature of the whole day's menu.
Love letters, as the mess cooks called it, was something that had a taste and resembled good food reworked into mass quantities. It was a thin layer of a crepe like soft roll filled with coconut and sugar that oozed out when you bit into it. I tolerated it at first but over the years there, slowly got a fondness for it. We did wonder why they called it "love letters" though. Probably due to its scroll like design.
Mishmash and Ian gave me two other commons names for these crepes, Mutta kuzhalappam and Madukku San which is what you must be familiar with so I have added that to the title now.
This is one versatile pancake or crepe or love letters, whatever you want to call it. Just like crepes but much easier and lighter in preparation, they are a bland backdrop to any filling that can flavor it..sweet or spicy.
You Will Need:For about 8-10 crepes
All Purpose Flour/Maida: 1 1/2 cup
Milk -About 2 to 1 1/2 cups
Salt - a pinch
Lightly beat the egg and then add to the flour with salt and milk. You could replace 1/3 of the milk with water with no taste difference. Whisk everything till its well combined and of a pourable consistency. Heat the griddle/ non stick pan and lightly grease it as you would do for a dosa or pancake. When the pan is medium hot, lower the heat and pour one small ladle of the batter. Quickly spread it in an even circular motion, making sure there is only a thin layer everywhere. As soon as the crepe changes color to a golden brown and the underside comes off in one sweep, its' cooked. It takes less than a minute to get one done. Remove to a plate, and spread filling of your choice and roll.
Ghee-sugar: Spread a thin layer of ghee (clarified butter) on the hot crepe/love letter and sprinkle sugar evenly. Start rolling from one side tightly to get the roll.
Coconut-Sugar: Toast the coconut on medium heat for 2 minutes and then add sugar (to taste) and stir till the sugar melts and the coconut is sweetened. Add cardamom powder for a spice kick.
Coconut-Jaggery: Same method as above but add melted and filtered jaggery syrup to the coconut. Substitute with brown sugar to save time. Add chopped ripe plantains as an option.
Apple pie filling: Apples cut into tiny pieces, cooked with cinnamon and sugar till they turn soft and gooey.
Spicy Filling: any of the fillings used in the erachi samosa/meat samosa or the meen pathiri/fish pie will go well with this.