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Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Tower of the Beautiful Boondis

Meethe Boondi, Mishti Bonde, small fried balls of chickpea flour dipped in sugar syrup

First of all I will tell you what are ‘Boondis’- well basically they are a sweet snack, they are prepared from a mixture of Besan/Chickpea flour and water, then deep fried in oil, then dipped in a sugar syrup, so the result is numerous crispy tiny balls coated with sugar syrup or often they are also soft n coated with sugar syrup. Whether they are crispy or soft one thing is common about them, that are they are just delicious in both ways, there is something about the flavor of the besan, the flavor of the oil, the sugar syrup absorbed inside, the crunch and the softness that is addictive. We just wanna keep on munching at very short intervals. Ha-ha.

This is one of my sweet favorites right from childhood, I think first of all it is the appearance that attracts everybody to boondis, the numerous small yellow balls hold together at times by a light coating of sugar syrup or the shiny soft balls that is indeed tempting. When we taste after the visual bite there is a satisfying feeling, they are not very sweet, moderately sweet.  

When I was a kid my dad would sometimes bring boondis/bonde from the sweet shop on his way back home from office or market and my elder sister n I would kinda jump on them-mostly we used to eat them on their own or at times we would eat the boondis with Luchi/Puri, crispy puffed rice known as ‘Muri/Murmure/Mamra’ and at times with rotis. The boondis that my father used to bring from the shops were always soft n shiny and we will mix them with crispy muri, which was such a play of texture, the soft boondis and the crispy puffed rice…let me say yummm... Try the boondis with paratha and you will also lick your fingers.

Still to this day when my elder sister/didi visits us, often she goes to the sweet-shop and she comes back with packet of soft boondis, she loves it now equally if not even more! My mother she loves the old way when she combines them with the crispy puffed rice.

Making boondi is rather easy, it is not very hard at all, in fact there are some crucial steps which if not done properly will make it go wrong, here I will tell you about them, so let me say this again, making boondi is easy. First of all the mixture of the chickpea flour/besan with water has to be beaten well with a ladle or whisk, you have to beat the mixture for about 10 minutes totally in 2 stages. Secondly the mixture of the besan n water has to be light n not thick, if it is thick the boondis will tend to have a tail with them and they will be quite hard, so keep the batter light that easily pours from the ladle, so thin consistency. Thirdly the oil has to be moderately hot, when we will place a drop of batter in the oil it should come floating to the surface of the oil in about 5-7 seconds, if the oil is lower in heat them the boondis will absorb a lot of oil and they won’t come to the surface in that time, if the oil is too hot then immediate they will go brown and before you can take them out they will go dark brown, so moderate heat and low to medium flame. Keep a big slotted spoon at hand which is called ‘Jhanjhri’ in Hindi in hand, in fact keep 2, one to produce the drops of boondi and one to take them out of the oil.

So let’s get making them! Here is the simple recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need
For The Boondis:
Chickpea Flour/Besan- 2 cups
Water- about 3/4 cup
Salt- tiny pinch
Vegetable oil- 1 ½ tsp
Vegetable oil-4 cups for frying

For The Sugar Syrup:
Sugar- 2 cups
Water-1 -1 ½ cup

To serve: Fresh Pomegranate seeds

1. First of all in a bowl add the besan, half of the water and with a ladle mix the besan so that there are no lumps , if you add all of the water at once you will have a hard time finishing off the small lumps in the watery batter, so add little water while the batter is tight n make the batter go smooth in that condition , then add some more water, make it go smooth again, then some more do the same, add the pinch of salt, mix well. Now the consistency has to be thin pouring consistency, so the amount of water I have mentioned may vary.  When you drop the batter from a height it should fall freely, test the batter by pouring a ladle of batter on the slotted spoon and drops of the batter should fall from it freely at almost one second or half second intervals. If the batter is thick the boondi will be hard and they will tend to have an elongated part with them-the tail. So the batter will be on the thinner side, not thick. When the batter is at this consistency whisk the batter for about 5-6 minutes, then rest the batter for 10-15 minutes more.

2. Let’s make the sugar syrup, so in a pan or wok add the sugar n the water, on a low heat stir this until all the sugar melts, then increase the heat to medium and give it about 3-5 minutes, after 3 minutes check the syrup by placing a drop of syrup on plate and test it with your 2 fingers, and it should feel slightly sticky like honey. So after 3 -5 minutes if you find the syrup has gone a bit thick n has become like honey, put off the flame and remove it from the flame.

3. In meantime when the batter is resting, heat 4 cups of oil in a big, kinda shallow wok/kadai or pan, make sure that the wok or pan is not deep; we need more surface area so that we can pour a lot of boondis at one time. If the pan is deep n small then we will have to fry the boondis in many batches. So heat the oil on a medium flame till it is moderately hot, test by dropping a drop of the batter and it should come floating to the surface in 5-6 seconds and also see if the boondi is round in shape.

4. After 15 minutes add 1 ½ tsp of oil in the batter and whisk it in, whisk the batter again for 5-6 minutes well. This whisking is important. So now we are ready for making the boondis. Take the slotted spoon and pour a ladle full of batter on the slotted spoon and you will see that tiny drops are falling on the surface of the hot oil and moving away to the rim of the wok, take another ladle full of batter n do the same. Do it until the whole surface of the oil is almost filled with little drops of the batter. Give them a minute then with another slotted spoon move around the tiny balls and flip them lightly in the oil. When the balls start to go light brown n crispy take them off with the slotted spoon and place them in the sugar syrup.

5. Now we will make the next batch, so make sure the oil is not cold or too hot, then do the same as before to make the boondis, and after about 1 ½ to 2 minutes when they are light brown n crispy take them out and place them on the syrup. Keep the boondis in the syrup for about 10-15 minutes, then take them off on a plate and now you can munch on and share with your loved ones or hated ones just to make them love you! Combine them with fresh pomegranate seeds and see the magic of both of them together!  So please enjoy and keep the smile on. Bon Appetit!

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.