Sunday, November 16, 2014

Til Ke Laddu/Tiler Nadu- A rolling laddu gathers no ants, gets picked up by hands

Sesame Seed Brittle sweet balls with caramelized Jaggery, Til Ke Laddu Gurr walen , Tiler Nadu Gurr diye

So just before Diwali in this year I made something sweet, these laddus made out of sesame seeds and jaggery, laddu is an Indian term which describes any sweet spherical in shape, a ball, so a laddu always refers to a ball shape. Now I love sesame seed laddu, they have a unique flavor, subtle, pleasant and heartwarming.  I have not posted anything in my blog for 2 weeks which is a long gap I fear and my readers must be disappointed with me so my apologies dear readers and trust me when I made these luscious laddus this October I thought of you all, I thought of telling you all as soon as I made them on that very day, I imagined all of your smiling faces at different corners of the world, the love for good food –this is what connects us. So here I am in mid-November telling you about it and just to make it up to you I have to give you something sweet to sweeten things between us, so here I gift to you the Sesame Seed Sweet Brittle Laddus. Have your big bite J

                               As a kid these laddus were a delicacy to me and my sister simple because these will appear during a certain month on the year, especially around the Durga Puja n Laxmi Puja. There are certain food that are associated with a certain event, religious or social which are made only during a certain period of a year and when that time is over so will disappear these foods like magic! My elder sister just loved these laddus like anything, I remember the expression of fascination and happiness on her face as she hold the laddus in her hand and shared it with me and then the moment when we bite into one, crunchy, chewy, sweet. Oh how satisfied was that look on her face after the bite and how we cherished those moments n the laddus. And all those laddus in childhood came from either sweet shops or from someone’s home during that puja. My mother never made these at home, rather she made coconut laddus. 

                                                   One thing that is important n memorable about a sesame laddu/Til ke laddu is the ‘Bite Experience’. When you bite into a sesame laddu often times it is hard which requires a bit of strength of your teeth and at times the laddus are relatively softer which give away under a slight pressure under your teeth. Now it all depends on the level to which the jaggery has been caramelized- if the jaggery is caramelized only slightly it will not hold the shape of the laddus, if the jaggery is taken to a very thick n dark stage it will be very hard when cold and this will create a real hard bite experience, when the stage is in between the laddus when cold they will be soft to hard creating a rather easy bite experience. Now a very hard til laddu will have a longer shelf life but we don’t need a longer shelf life for til ke laddu because they get finished so quickly!

                                                                                So it makes all the sense to make the sesame laddus bit softer, easy to bite. By the way did I tell you that some of the sesame laddus are so hard that if you throw them to someone it can seriously hurt them! Or in case you are playing cricket and lost the ball you can replace with a sesame laddu and it will be just fine! Hahah. But the laddus I made this year were a pleasant bite always, softer n happier.

           I have added a layer of flavor in the laddus, the beautiful flavor of the fennel seeds which are known as saunf or meeth saunf or mouri, goes so well with the flavor of the jaggery and the sesame seeds. The experience is so aromatic because of the presence of the fennel seeds. Now I will tell you the recipe so that you can make it in your kitchen.

For The Recipe: You will need
Sesame seeds- 250 gm
Jaggery/Gurr- 200 gm
Fennel seeds- 2 tsp
Salt- tiny pinch

1. First take a big wok or kadai or a big pan, it is easy to prepare this in a big wok rather in a small deep wok or pan, in a big wok it becomes easy to move around the mass of jaggery n sesame seeds. So take a big wok and add the sesame seeds and the jaggery and mix well with your hands until they are roughly distributed uniformly. Then put the heat on to medium flame, soon you will see that the jaggery has begun to melt under the heat. With a wooden spoon stir the mixture almost after every 30 seconds so that the jaggery never gets burned at the bottom of the wok. For this reason it is better to do it in a wok or pan with a thick base in which things don’t burn very easily.

2. Now after 5-8 minutes all the jaggery will melt completely, keep stirring every 30 seconds well and mix well everything, as the jaggery melts the whole mass will look more like a thick liquid, keep stirring and don’t move away from it for a minute, it burns quickly. However if it burns just a little bit its okay, don’t panic, it has happened with me to and it doesn't ruin the things until you have left for 2 whole minutes and it has burned quite a bit. So stay with it, don’t go anywhere, and don’t leave it alone for a minute.

3. Once the jaggery melts completely keep it on medium flame for 2-3 minutes, then put the flame to low and watch it n stir it every 30 seconds. At this time you will see the jaggery bubbling because it has melted, after about 5 minutes you will see the jaggery will thicken a bit but the bubbles will be slightly stronger in intensity and the mass will look a bit more liquid-ish in nature. As I said this will happen after 5 minutes once the jaggery has melted or roughly it will take  about 5 -8 minutes to get there depending on the temperature. Increase the heat to medium high at times stirring continuously for duration of 1 minute and then reduce it to low flame again. Just don’t keep the mass on high flame for more than a minute and if you are stirring very often you have very less chances of burning anything.

4. So 5-8 minutes after the jaggery has melted, the mass is bubbling and looks more liquid-ish than before, this is the stage when another transformation will take place, very soon the bubbles will reduce the whole mass of jaggery n sesame seeds will begin to thicken. So on a low or low to medium flame stir the mixture and watch it, after about 5-7 minutes the whole mass will thicken a bit more than before, it becomes a little difficult to stir it since it is thickening, at this stage add the fennel seeds and stir uniformly, add the tiny pinch of salt, stir and watch it. At this point take a teaspoon of the mass on a plate and when it cools slightly try to give it a round shape with your hands, see if you can do that easily or when you try to give it a round shape does it hold that shape or it feels quite soft when you try to give it a shape. Don’t forget to stir in-between, mostly when you will try to give it shape it will be a bit too soft to hold shape or just begin to hold shape, if it is too soft to hold shape give it 1 minute and try to do it again, if not there give it another minute until it comes to the stage when it just begins to hold shape.

5. Keep the heat always very low at this stage, so we will take little portions of the mass and test it like this until it just begins to hold shape, when the mass is at this stage we can still make laddus but they will be very soft, so we will give this mixture some more time-about 2-3 more minutes. So we will check again after 2 more minutes and see if now we can give it shape comfortably and it holds the shape or not. So we will give this another 1-2 minutes and when tested to give shape it will hold the shape properly. At this put the flame off and take the off the flame and pour the whole hot mass very carefully on big flat iron or steel plate.

6. Now it is time to face the heat! Take a bowl of water and wet your hands n pick up about a teaspoon of the hot mixture carefully in your hand and roll it between your palms to give it a spherical ball shape. The water is to protect your hand, after one has been done wet your hands again pick up another teaspoon of the mixture and make a ball out of it. it is advisable to work with one more person with you or 2 more persons with you doing the same, because as the mixture cools down slowly it becomes more hard so it becomes a little difficult when it is almost at room temperature, so having one more person with you will help making the laddus quickly before it gets to room temperature and also it will make the work faster. In case you are working alone and the mixture has got cold and you can’t make the laddus anymore, return the mixture in the wok and warm it slightly and pour it back in n start making the laddus again. But I will advise you to work with someone.

7. So now the laddus are done, try it, bite into it, it is hard but still breaks off easily under little pressure. As for cleaning the wok I will tell you the easiest way , pour some water in the wok, heat it, as the water heats up a bit with the wooden spoon make the hot water go all over the surface of the wok where it has got sticky and it will melt in no time. This is the easiest way to clean the wok with hot water, it is just jaggery that has caramelized and hardened when cold. So now the laddus are waiting, share the laddus with your loved ones and have the bite experience. Bon Appetit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

For The Love of Durga Puja – An Indian Thali

A Vegetarian Thali dedicated for the 6thday Of the Durga Puja in Bengal, a journey across the taste buds

Durga Puja is a huge affair in India, especially in the region of Bengal, a religious festival at its core; it celebrates the ‘Devi Shakti’, the celebration of the divine goddess power winning over the power of the demons.  It is a six day festival, starting from the sixth day the days of the names are respectively sasthi, maha-saptami, maha-astami, maha-navami n vijaya-dashami. In some parts of India, Navratri is being celebrated at the same time and the tenth day of Navratri is the day of the Dashera/ Vijayadasami. This puja is widely celebrated across the states of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Manipur, Tripura and West Bengal.

                It is a fantastic festival, the biggest Hindu Festival in all these states and as years pass by the celebration only gets bigger n more colorful. Though it is a religious festival, everything about life comes to life during this time-food, fashion, music. It is the food scene which gets interesting here-I can actually divide the whole range of food during the festival in 2 categories, one will be the food for the Puja and another will be food not intended for the puja. The food that is offered during the 6 days to the goddess Durga is mostly vegetarian, though on certain day fish is offered to her. All the food that is offered to her is termed as ‘Bhog’, which is food offered for the divine. Interestingly most of the vegetarian food is cooked without onion n garlic. Bhog is cooked in enormous amounts at times, which is offered to the goddess and then distributed to the people worshiping her and the food is considered blessed.

                                          So on the 6th day of the puja this year I went to my kitchen and cooked up 6 dishes and 1 salad which made up my puja thali. ‘Thali’ is the word meaning a whole meal served in one big plate, the plate can consist of dishes from 6 to 16! However often several small bowls of food are served alongside one big plate and all the savory n sweet comes together in the package. So there I was with my first ever puja thali, in fact my plan was to cook a new thali for each day and to present it with all of you, but my computer did crash just then! May be it was a divine plan! 

                                                                         For this thali I made 6 dishes, one CHOLAR DAL/CHANA DAHL, which is a lentil dish, a dish of green beans n potatoes pan-fried with spices, deep-fried flat bread called LUCHI,  SAFFRON PULAO/PILAF of Govindobhog rice, VERMECELLI PUDDING /SEWAI PAYESH, PLASTIC CHUTNEY of green papaya and a simple salad of cucumber n tomatoes and fresh strips of coconut.

The ‘CHOLAR DAL’/ ‘Chana Dahl’ is a savory lentil dish, flavored with coconut n hing (asafetida) n green chilies the taste is balance of salty n sweet. Very subtly spiced with turmeric, its color is light bright yellow and it is fantastic paired with the deep-fried flat bread ‘LUCHI’ or ‘POORI’.

‘LUCHI’ is made from plain flour, they puff up as they are being deep fried, lightly crisp on the outside n soft inside, the proud moment of a LUCHI is when it has puffed up with a lot of air inside him!

                                                                 The ‘Green Beans with Potato’ is spiced with ginger, cumin seeds, red chili powder, turmeric, coriander. The green beans still have a little crunch in them while the potato is soft n has absorbed all the flavors together. This dish is good paired with the saffron pulao of ‘GovindoBhog Rice’ which I served.

                                                                             The ‘ GovindoBhog Pulao with Saffron’ is made using the ‘GovindoBhog’ rice , the rice grains are small in size and they are very aromatic, they impart a beautiful flavor both to sweet n savory equally, so much so, they are often used in cooking the food for the gods-‘BHOG’ and often at home where something special is being cooked. The pulao is flavored with saffron, cloves, green cardamom, a touch of turmeric and raisins are added to them.

                                           The ‘Simui/Sewai/Vermicelli pudding’ is a sweet dish, made from thin vermicelli strands with milk, Ghee, cashew nuts, raisins, Indian bay leaf,  it gives fulfilling sweet feeling, I like it cold.

The ‘Plastic Chutney’ is sweet chutney of green raw papaya, light n fresh in its taste. The thin papaya slices becomes translucent being cooked in sugar syrup, so they look like tiny plastic chips. The chutney has the flavor of the papaya, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, lime juice, sugar, raisins and it also has the crunch of the almonds in between. Fantastic stuff it is.

                                                                           So in this post I guess there will be 6 recipes, in fact 5 because you can read about plastic chutney in my previous post. So hold on dear reader because simply it’s a lot of cooking.

For The Recipes:

For the Sewai/Vermicelli pudding
Vermicelli- 1 cup thin or thick
Ghee-2 tbsp
Sugar- 3-4 tbsp
Cashew Nuts- 7, chopped
Raisins/Kismis- 2 tbsp        
Milk- 2 cups
Indian Bay leaf- 1
Green cardamom pod-1

1. In a flat pan, melt 1 tbsp of ghee in a medium heat, when the ghee melts add the vermicelli and mix well, in a medium flame toss the vermicelli around for a minute, then lower the heat give it around 5-8 minutes, toss them every 1 minute and you will see they will more reddish in color after 5 minutes, once you have the reddish color developing, take it off the pan to a plate.

2. In the same pan add another tbsp of ghee n add the chopped cashew nuts , the bay leaf, slightly crushed cardamom pod,  once the cashew nuts start to get light brown, add the raisins, then add the milk, and keep the flame to low. Let the milk come a slight simmer,  add the sugar, first add 3 tbsp, taste then add if you need, let the milk simmer in a low flame for about 2 minutes, then add the fried vermicelli and mix well. The vermicelli will absorb all the milk when it will be cooked n it will take about 5-6 minutes, add a tiny pinch of salt to the milk in between, and if you want you can add a little more milk because once it will be cooled it will absorb more milk. So when the vermicelli has got tender and has absorbed most of the milk take it off in a bowl and let it cool.

For the Cholar Dal/Chana Dahl
Bengal Gram dal/cholar dal/chana dahl- 1 cup, wash n soap in water for 30 minutes
Fresh coconut- 3 tbsp, chopped in 1 inch cubes
Fresh strips of coconut- a couple to serve
Green chili-2, slit
Turmeric- ½ tsp
Water- 4 cups
Sugar-1 – 1 ½ tbsp
Hing/asafetida- ½ tsp
Vegetable oil- 2tbsp

1. First we will put the soaked dal in a pressure cooker, take a green cardamom and crush it slightly, then in a pressure cooker add the soaked dal, 3 ½ cup of water, ½ tsp salt, crushed cardamom, ¼ tsp turmeric powder and put it in high flame, as the water just comes to a simmer close the pressure cooker. On a high flame reach one whistle then lower the flame to low and give it 8 minutes, then increase flame to high until one whistle. After that take it off the heat, let the pressure be normal as it cools down.

2. In a wok take 2 tbsp of vegetable oil like sunflower or soybean, let the oil be moderately hot, then add the chopped fresh coconuts and reduce the flame, toss the coconut pieces now n then, add the slit green chili in between, after about 5 minutes the coconut will start to get some light brown color, once they are light brown in color, add the hing powder, then the rest of the turmeric, then add 1 tsp of water, we are adding the water so that the turmeric powder doesn’t burn , give it all a minute, then open the pressure cooker and the dal should have softened inside, check by pressing with a spoon or in-between your fingers if the dal can be smashed, add the dal to the wok now. Taste and adjust the salt, add the sugar and taste. Simmer the dal for 4 minutes on low heat, then stop the flame and give it 2 minutes of standing time, then pour it in a bowl. Add some fresh strips of coconut with the dal, it’s just lovely.

For the Luchi
Plain flour- 200 gms
Water- around 120 ml
Salt – a pinch
Oil -3 cups for deep frying

1. Mix the flour and the salt and 1 tbsp of oil together until combined, then make a well in the center of the flour and add half of the water, start working from around the water mixing it with the flour, then add the water gradually as you keep doing it, once 100 ml of water has been added, add the water gradually, once the dough comes together comfortably it is there. The dough should not be tight and a little to the soft side only, start kneading the dough for about 2-3 minutes, as the dough just becomes smooth in texture we are done, we don’t want to knead the dough more than that or we will develop the gluten too much which we don’t want, so 2-3minutes of kneading will do. Then roll the dough and give it the shape of a log of 2 inches diameter, then tear off small balls from the log, like about 1 tbsp of dough each ball and roll the balls slightly to make them smooth, then sprinkle some oil over them, lightly coat in that oil and rest it for 30 minutes by covering it.

2. After 30 minutes take out your rolling pin and a bit of oil for rolling the Luchis. Take a ball of dough and coat it with a little oil, then put it on the board, press it lightly n with a light hand roll it to a circle of 4 inches in diameter, take it off, start with a new ball, coat it in oil and do the same. After all the balls have been rolled it is time to deep-fry them. in a deep wok heat the 2-3 cups of oil, once the oil is quite hot test by submerging a one disc of dough, it should start to bubble, if it does the oil is ready, add one luchi carefully n slowly into the oil, don’t drop it into the oil from a height, the oil will splat, slide it into the oil being close to the oil surface. as it goes into the oil it will sink for some seconds then it will start to float up, as it starts to float up, press that surface lightly with a slotted spoon, give this side 1 minute and turn it over, you will see this side has started to go light brown, other side will take less than a minute, the luchi should be light brown on both sides. Likewise fry all the remaining luchis.

For The Green bean n Potato Sabzi
Green beans-100 gm, chopped in 1 inch diagonal pieces
Potato-2 medium, chopped in 2 inch sticks
Tomato -1 medium chopped
Cumin seeds-1 tsp
Turmeric- 1/4th tsp
Butter – 1 tsp
Vegetable oil – 2 tbsp
Coriander pwder-1 tsp
Chili powder -1/2 tsp
Sugar- a pinch
Ginger- grated ½ tsp

1. In a frying pan on a low heat add the butter, 3 tbsp of water, then add the green beans, cover the pan on a low heat, the water will soon come to a simmer n start to steam the beans and the butter will emulsify with that water, give It about 7 minutes, toss the beans once in between, add a little more water if the water dries out completely. After 7-8 minutes the beans will be quite tender, still green, at this time take them off the heat and keep the beans in a bowl.

2. In the same pan heat 2 tbsp of oil, to the hot oil add the cumin seeds, as the seeds begins to sputter add the potato, increase the heat to high and toss the potatoes for 1 minute. After that reduce the flame and give the potatoes 5-7 minutes, they will go brown on that side, then toss them and give the other side about the same time, as the potato go soft add the grated ginger , mix well. Give them 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and also add the beans, now add a pinch of sugar, then add the turmeric , coriander powder, chili powder and add 1 tsp of water in the pan, mix well, give them 30 seconds then add the salt, taste n adjust. Then take it off the heat.

For The GovindoBhog Rice Pulao
GovindoBhog Rice- 1 cup (Basmati rice or any white rice if you don’t have GovindoBhog)
Water-2 cups
Green cardamom-2
Ghee-1 ½ tbsp
Raisin/Kismis- 2 tbsp
Turmeric – small pinch
Saffron strands- 1 big pinch
Sugar- 1-2 tbsp

1. Begin by washing the rice in water till the water almost becomes cleans, then soak in water for 30 minutes, after 20 minutes drain the water n leave it aside.

2. After 30 minutes take a deep pan or wok on medium heat, add the ghee, when the ghee is hot, add the crushed cardamom pods, the cloves. Give them 30 seconds on low heat, then add the kismis, toss them around for a minute, then add the rice and sprinkle the turmeric powder over the rice, put the heat to medium and toss the rice in the wok for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low and give the rice 5-6 minutes on low heat, toss them at every minute, after 6 minutes add the saffron strands, mix well, then add the water, salt to taste n sugar. Taste to see if the salt is okay, the rice will absorb the salt so add a little more salt than needed, it will balance out. Put the heat to high now, let it come a simmer then cover the pan with a heavy lid, reduce the flame to low and give it around 12-15 minutes. After 12 minutes open the lid and with a fork check if there is any water in the bottom of the rice, if no its just done, if yes cover it again and give it 3 minutes, once the water is absent put the flame off, give it 2 minutes of standing time and then with a fork toss the rice lightly. And that’s it. Pulao is ready to serve.

For the cucumber n Tomato Salad
Cucumer-1, washed n thinly sliced
Tomato- 1 medium, thinly sliced
Lime- 1 wedge

1. Simply toss the cucumber n tomato slices in the lime juice, add a pinch of salt. That’s it!

For the recipe of the Plastic chutney it is already in my previous post, here is the link

So there it is-The Fantastic Thali for Durga Puja especially for the 6th day, sasthi. In fact you can cook it on any puja occasion and it will be delight to eat. Serve it to your loved ones and see their faces light up, which is fantastic thing you will agree. So come on in, the Thali is waiting. Bon Appetit.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Charm of a Tangy Fresh-Tamarind Chutney

Fresh-Tamarind, Imli Chutney-The Journey of a Tamarind freshly picked from the tree to your plate n how it can make our fries come to life!

A tamarind tree, standing tall, un-ripened tamarinds are hanging from the tree. Have you ever seen that? Some of you might have, some of you might not have recognized it while you passed by a tamarind tree. Fresh tamarind is elongated, a bit flat cylindrical in shape like our fingers; outside the layer is light brown, inside it looks fresh light green with the seeds arranged carefully which are white inside. Years ago while I was walking past a tree I casually looked at it and saw some brown long slender fruits hanging among the light green airy leaves, it took me some moments to realize that I was looking at a full grown tamarind tree bearing fruits! Before this I have never looked at a tamarind tree-consciously, so looking at that site brought a new feeling and that frame from that time got printed in my memory. Years later today when I am writing about this in the blog I realize it stayed with me n I can access it. It is a good feeling.

                               Unlike mature tamarind which is dark brown in color, young tamarind is light green inside and both has almost the same amount of tang, perhaps the fresh one is a bit more tangy but the flavor is where you can taste the difference. I don’t know how will I describe the flavor that comes into being when I made this fresh tamarind chutney, I almost don’t have a reference taste to relate it to, at max it slightly reminds me of lemon lozenges but those lemon lozenges didn't taste like lemon either, so it doesn't take us anywhere I guess. Its fresh, something aromatic about it, acidic in nature, the pulp is pale light green in color and when I simmer it with sugar syrup for some amount of time it turned amber golden, what a beautiful color it is to look at.

The above pic is taken from Wikipedia.
The scientific name of tamarind is Tamarindus Indica, Tamarind is hugely popular across the cultures around the globe, and the tree is probably indigenous to tropical Africa, however it has been cultivated in the Indian sub-continent for such a long time that it is also considered indigenous. We can find the love affair of tamarind in the cuisines of the south-east Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Tropical Africa, Northern Australia, The middle-east Asia, China, Taiwan, South-America particularly Mexico. It is used extensively in both sweet n savory dishes.

This sweet n sour chutney is very simple to make, first I boil the young tamarind fruits to soften n extract the green pulp, then I simmer them in sugar syrup with fennel seeds and dried mango cakes known as “Aam-Satto”or “Aam-papad”. So in the flavorful tang of the tamarind and the sweetness from the sugar we have the background flavors of fennel seeds n dried mango cakes and a touch of dried roasted red chili, for the flavor n not for the heat.

You know what! This is such a versatile chutney, I serve it with samosas, fried dumplings, chicken puffs/vegetable puffs, sometimes I add it when I am making a snacks with puffed rice with vegetable like onion n tomato n spices, sometimes I eat it with a little white rice, they are great with fried papads n flat breads like paranthas n roti. Eat it the way you like it, use it in Bhelpuris or Bombay Mix, and use it in Papdi-chaat or salads. Most importantly have fun eating it.

So once you have found yourself young tree-picked tamarinds in your local market or supermarket, give them a try and you will be delighted. Since they are quite sour we have to balance them with sugar or salt or both and any flavors or spices that go with it.

Now it’s time for the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need
Young Tamarind fruits-200 gms
Granulated sugar-1/2 to 1 cup
Salt –pinch
Turmeric – pinch
Dried Mango cake/Aam-Satto- chopped in 1 cm cubes about 2 tsp
Fennel seeds-I tbsp, keep ½ tbsp seeds apart
Water- 2 cups

1. Let’s begin by boiling the tamarind fruits. So in wok or deep pan add 1 cup of water and then add the tamarind fruits to the water by breaking them into 2 to 3 pieces by your hand. Add the pinch of salt and the turmeric and let the flame be medium as the water comes to simmer, then make the flame low, cover with a lid and give it 5-10 minutes. After that time you will see the firm tamarind fruits have softened in their shells and if you press them with a spoon you can easily smash them now. So take it off the heat and take the fruits off the water with a spoon and let it cool before we can handle them, keep the remaining water.

2. Now take a pan and on low heat add half of the whole fennel seeds and toss them for a minute, then in a mortar n pestle crush them slightly to a coarse powder.

3. Once the tamarind is cold with a spoon or your finger scoop out the green flesh from the brown outer layer, we don’t need the layer to eat so we have to scoop all the flesh from inside like this. Keep the seeds in the pulp. Once you have scooped out all the light green pulp from the outer layer it is time to prepare the sugar syrup. Discard the outer layers.

4. In a wok or deep pan add the sugar and 1 cup of water and the remaining water from boiling the tamarinds, on low heat let the sugar melt completely, once melted increase the heat until the sugar syrup comes to a boil, then reduce the flame, add the tamarind pulp, crushed fennel seeds, dried mango cakes. Cover and give it around 7-10 minutes, after covering take a small dried red chili and keep it near the flame where it will get slightly roasted being in proximity of the flame. After 7-10 minutes the syrup will look more concentrated, taste at this time to see if the sourness is balanced with the sugar, if not add a little more, it depends on the personal choice. So by this time the syrup will have attained golden amber like color and thickened. Take it off the heat and add the rest half of whole fennel seeds into that and take the roasted chili, which will be little more darker in color now, break it into 3 pieces, shake off the seeds and add to the syrup, let them infuse for 5 minutes off the heat. After that pour it in a bowl and let it come to room temperature if you can wait that long. We are done.

Now it is time to lick the chutney. Bon Appetit.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jalebi khane kaun aa rahen hein?

The spiral way to a sweet bite: Good old Jalebi/Jilipi/Jilawii/Zulbia

There is something about sweet crunchy things and then there is something about sweet sticky crunchy spiral things. That thing is Jalebi. Before the spiral jalebi twist your neurons let me tell you it is easy to make and you can have fun making jalebis! Yes jalebi is easy to make, well almost. A simple batter of plain flour and water fermented over some hours either with yeast or without yeast and then deep fried in oil and finally dipped into flavored sugar syrup-and then the world has jalebis.

              Well  I have fantastic  memories with jalebis, some of them take me back on my school life while some take me back on distant mornings when my dad would brings jalebis on his way back home from the local market and it was such a high moment for me being a kid. Not that jalebis don’t get me high now, they recently did when I made them for the first time in my life, so I was pretty excited that day.

                                                      Back to the time when I was in school, our school used to serve us snacks around the middle of the day, that was one unique thing about our school.  Some days they will serve us something savory while some days they will serve us something sweet like jalebis! Right inside the school premises and adjacent to the big green football field there was the complex where our mid-day snacks used to get prepared; there were series of rooms with men busy preparing food for all the students, which was a huge task. While kids from other school used to envy us for this we felt it was an asset. Even the school bunking kids would show up around the mid-day so they can get their snacks! Food is powerful ;)

                                                                                     Some days the great cooks from our school would surprise us by making jalebis! We used to call them Tiffin-man, in the Tiffin time all the students would queue up along the corridor of the complex, the students walking away collecting 3 jalebis in his hand, he was being watched . And to tell you our beloved Tiffin-man made big fantastic jalebis n not just jalebis they made everything made tasty for us. Thank you our Tiffin-man, for you all did a very good work.

                                                                                                 Do you know that jalebi is popular not just in India but equally in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran- in fact Jalebis are popular across the middle-east Asia, Northern and Eastern part of Africa. So if you haven’t tried it yet you know just what to do. In India Diwali is coming, just around the corner, on 23 rd October this year and Diwali and Jalebi are very good friends together. So I am thinking that on this Diwali if we want to give it a sweet personal touch and make it extra special you know what we should all do? Yes!!! Make jalebis at home, there is nothing quite like it huh!

The origin of the jalebis in India perhaps can be traced to the medieval time, during the time of the Persian invaders. In Iran jalebi is known as Zulbia, in fact a 10th century cookbook over there gives several zulbia recipes, in the 15th century India jalebi has names like ‘Kundlika’, ‘Jalavallika’.

                            So this makes me think the hands of the jalebi is pretty long, it has won hearts in so many countries , in Iran it is ‘Zulbia’, in India it is ‘Jalebi’/’Jilipi’/’jilapi’, in Egypt, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon it is ‘Zalabia’ /’Zalabiya’, in Bangladesh it is ‘Jilipi’, in Maldives it is ‘Zilebi’, in Nepal it is ‘Jeri’, in Algeria and Tunisia it is ‘Zlebia’ /’Zlabia’.

                                           Now since the shape of the jalebi is like spiral and overlapping and complicated it is even in metaphor like if someone who has a complicated heart or brain we sometimes that ‘Oh! Your heart is like a jalebi!’, and at times since our intestine is also twisted n a bit spiral so when someone is having a wicked idea secretly and sensing that we say ‘ummm... there are spirals in your stomach like the jalebis’.

Now I will simply give you the recipe. Fry on.

For The Recipe: You will need
For the Jalebi mixture
Plain flour/Maida- 1 cup
Water –around 3/4th cup
A pinch of baking soda
A pinch of salt
½-1 tsp of sugar

For the Sugar Syrup
Sugar – 1 cup
Water- 3/4th or 1 cup

For Deep-frying the jalebis
Vegetable oil or ghee- Around 3 -4 cups

1.When the fried jalebis are dipped in the sugar syrup make sure the syrup is slightly warm and not all cold.
           2. About the consistency of the batter, lift the batter in a spoon and it should fall slightly thickly off the spoon, not very easily and not like it has some difficulty falling off the spoon; it should fall freely but with some resistance.

1. Let’s begin by making the batter which will need 24 hours to ferment, so simply in big vessel take one cup of plain flour and add the sugar and then start adding the water little by little. Add a little water at first and whisk to make sure that there are no lumps; once you have done that add more water and whisk. The consistency will be not thin but not too dense, so if you take up the batter on a spoon and let it fall it should fall just freely and if you try to make some shape like 8 with the batter on the batter itself you should be able to do it and the figure should be visible for about 10 seconds. If you add more water nothing to worry, it can be adjusted by adding some more flour or if you have made a thicker one add a little more water. Once the batter is ready, cover it with a cling film and leave it for 24 hours and it will ferment and develop an unique flavor. Keep in mind after the fermentation the batter will go little lighter because of the air bubbles so we might have to add some more flour in case it has gone a bit more light than what we need, which happened in my case. So I simply added some more flour and let it rest for 30 minutes.

2.  So now after 24 hours our batter is ready, add the salt and a tiny pinch of baking soda or baking powder. Now we will make the sugar syrup, simple in a wok add the sugar and the water, turn on the heat to low and let the sugar melt completely, after that up the heat to medium and let the mixture simmer and it will need about 5-8 minutes to get to the stage when we drop some mixture in a plate and when slightly cooled we pick the drop between our 2 fingers it feels a bit sticky like honey, we are not looking for 1 or 2 string consistency, just when it gets like honey and not too watery, it’s ready. Take it off the heat.

3. Now we will fry the jalebis, in a wok or semi-flat deep pan add the oil and heat it up until the oil is moderately hot, we don’t want the oil to be very hot when frying or the jalebis will color immediately, so first heat the oil moderately and drop a little of the mixture with a spoon to the oil and look for they begin to bubble immediately but not gets colored or burnt immediately, it is happens the oil is too hot so remove it from the heat for a minute or in case the oil is too cold, and the little drops of batter in the oil take a bit of time to bubble heat the oil a little more.

4. Now take polythene cone or a piping bag with simple ½ cm hole nozzle or a squeeze bottle with a nozzle or a traditional Jalebi cloth with a stitched hole in it or just like what I did, I took a empty thin milk packet, open it up and put some of the batter in it and cut a little hole in one corner! So now the oil is hot, let’s start. Before you do your first jalebi spiral on the hot oil itself, do it several times on the batter, practice it. simply move your hand in a round shape as the batter falls and it will create a spiral and make 2 zigzag movements so the batter creates a straight line on the spiral itself, it will hold the spiral in shape, if we only do the spiral without the zigzag straight lines it won’t be able to hold its shape when we turn them over, so to hold it we need to connect the spiral with overlapping straight lines to hold their shape. So one jalebi is down in the oil, quickly move to a new surface in the oil to make another one and then another. Make 3-4 at a time. Now depending on the temperature of the oil the jalebis will take about 2 minutes on each side to get brown, don’t get them dark brown, once they get light brown turn them over and give 2 more minutes, take them out on a plate and them dip them in the sugar syrup for a about 2 minutes on each side, while they are in the sugar syrup start the new batch of jalebis in the oil.

5. You can make the jalebis light brown or dark brown both and they both have a different taste because they have been fried to a different level. Both are enjoyed so I suggest you to make both kinds, brown some of the jalebis a little to the dark brown stage on one side , then turn them over and do the same, while in next batch fry the jalebis as they just begin to color and turn them over and do the same to the other side. Keep the jalebis in the sugar syrup for total about 5 minutes, not more than that, about 2 minutes in each side and take them off. And when all of them are done, serve them.

Come on now! Crunch on, Happy Jalebis to you. Bon app├ętit. J