Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Raagi Besan Laddu

"Onam Greetings to all those who celebrate the Festival"
Yesterday, I was planning to make some sweet for Onam. Meena had made Madgane/Chana Daal Payasam just 4 days ago, and I didn't want to make payasam again. As I was checking the ingredients for Besan Burfi or similar sweet in the fridge, I found a pack of raagi flour lying idle since months. Immediately I thought of Besan Laddu with added Raagi Flour.

Raagi or finger millet is a healthy cereal which is used much in Indian cuisine. It is also adapted in baking and making sweets. I am inspired by the Churmundo(Wheat Flour Laddus) that my mother used to make. She used to add little besan or chickpea flour while preparing the ingredients for that extra taste, flavour and stickiness. It is a fusion of Churmundo and Besan Laddu to be precise.

Having helped my mother in making churmundos during my younger days and also having seen how she made them those days, I have made these Raagi Besan Laddus, which are loaded with taste and flavour. One difference is, my mother didn't add raisins and nuts to churmundo, but I added, so that they taste more delicious. Though they look dark, the goodness of raagi will certainly make you turn a blind eye for the appearance and ecstatically indulge in relishing these pick me ups! I guarantee you, once you start tasting them, you will not stop at one! Kids may also keep sneaking into the pantry and ransack the jars to fish them!
Ingredients:
Raagi(Finger Millet) Flour - 1 cup
Besan(Chickpea Flour) - 1 Cup
Ghee - 2 Tbsp(30 Ml) + for greasing the hand
Cashewnut Bits - 30 Gm(Small 1/8 or 1/16 size)
Castor Sugar - 3/4 Cup(increase according to taste)
Green Cardamom - 4 Pods
Raisins - 30 Gm

Method:
Peel and crush cardamom seeds in a mortar with pestle.
Keep a wide shallow basin or platter ready for mixing the laddu ingredients.
Heat a thick bottom nonstick pan/skillet and dry roast the raagi flour on medium low flame until a nice aroma emanates.
Keep mixing with a strong wooden spatula, and take care not to char the flour.
This may take 5-8 minutes.
Remove and keep aside on a platter to cool down.
Add ghee to the skillet and fry the cashewnut bits until golden.
Drain and transfer on to the same platter containing roasted raagi flour.
In the same ghee, roast the besan until raw smell disappears and besan turns golden red, assuming a smooth pasty texture.
Transfer to the same platter.
Add castor sugar, raisins and crushed cardamom seeds, when the mixture is still hot, mix all the ingredients well with your hand.
Apply little ghee on your hand.
Take two teaspoonfuls of the mixture and shape it with your first three fingers by pressing and rolling into small lemon size laddus(balls).
Make 20-25 such laddus and allow to cool down completely.
Store in an airtight jar.
This recipe yields about 500Gms laddus.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Prawn Green Sukkha

Prawn Sukkha is a Tuluva dish, a cousin of Chicken Sukkha originated from Mangaluru and spread worldwide today. Any auspicious function in Tuluva household is incomplete without sukkha. I like Prawn Sukkha, we have been making the regular sukkha adding dried red chillies for too long, and I wanted to experiment with green masala. 

I replaced red chillies with green chillies and added chopped coriander and onion greens instead of cumin seeds while grinding the coconut for the final stage in making sukkha. That gave the brilliant green colour as well as good taste and flavour of fresh coriander leaves. Adding butter while cooking enhances the flavour of prawns, and coconut oil gives the authentic Mangalurian touch.

The dish turned out finger licking good and we ate this with Ghee rice for dinner.
Prawn Green Sukkha with Ghee Rice
Ingredients:
1. Jumbo Prawns - 500 Gms shelled and deveined(18-20 prawns)
2. Onion - 1 big, finely chopped
3. Garlic - 8+2 cloves
4. Green Chillies - 4 chopped
5. Coriander Seeds - 1.5 Tsp
6. Cumin Seeds - 1 Tsp
7. Fenugreek(Methi) Seeds - 1/4 Tsp
8. Black Peppercorn - 1/4 Tsp
9. Tamarind Pulp - A pea size pinch
10. Salt - 1/2 Tsp(Or to taste)
11. Turmeric Powder - 1/4 Tsp
12. Grated Coconut - 1/2 Cup
13. Coriander Leaves - 1/2 Cup Chopped
14. Onion Shoot(Optional) - 1 Sprig chopped
15. Curry Leaves - 1 Sprig
16. Coconut Oil - 4 Tsp
17. Butter - 2 Tsp

Method:
Wash and pat dry prawns.
Heat 1/2 Tsp oil and roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and peppercorn.
Grind together the roasted spices, chopped green chillies, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 chopped onion and tamarind adding very little water, until smooth.
Remove the ground paste and in the same mixer jar coarsely grind grated coconut along with remaining garlic, coriander leaves and optional onion shoot.
Heat 2 Tsp oil in a saucepan and fry 1/2 chopped onion on high flame until transparent. 
Add prawns and turmeric powder and fry on high until prawns turn opaque.
Add the masala paste and fry for 2 minutes on high.
Add 1/4 cup water and butter, add salt, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes until prawns have just cooked.
Heat remaining oil in a frying pan.
Add curry leaves and fry until crisp, add  coarsely ground coconut garlic and greens paste.
Saute well for 1 minute on high flame and add this to the cooked prawn masala.
Check for salt and simmer for another 2-3 minutes, until the masala is thick and dry.
Serve hot as starter or side dish.
Prawn Green Sukkha with Sannas/Soft Idlis
Note: 
You can make Chicken Green Sukkha with 700 Gms Chicken pieces instead of prawns.
You can add 2 sprigs mint leaves while grinding the masala for that extra flavour.
You can also add 1/2 Tsp garam masala powder along with coconut in the end.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Theek Paav - Whole Wheat Flour Masala Paav Bun

Those who have visited Taj Mahal Cafe in Mangaluru must have tried a unique spiced poori or Theek Rotti there. Theek Rotti is a Konkani invention and it is made with whole wheat flour adding mashed banana and few masala ingredients. In our household, mother used to make theek rottis most of the times as per my father's demand, and normal plain pooris were a rare sight until the mid Seventies.

I had made Whole Wheat Flour Paav Bun some months ago. I was thinking, why not try making masala paav buns with theek rotti formula. My intentions to blend traditional Mangalurian dishes and snacks with North Indian or western innovation with few simple inventions, have mostly been successful. So I tried this one as well and succeeded. This is a fusion of Paav Bun, Theek Rotti and Mangalore Buns. At least 4 people who tasted these gave me full marks!

The variation I made to the whole wheat flour paav bun apart form adding masala ingredients, was to add mashed bananas and honey. Both add to taste and flavour, also helping in making them fluffy. Adding caramel makes the colour a beautiful brown inside out. You can make them more tasty and nutritious by adding wheat flour and plain flour in the proportions mentioned, or make them with just plain flour.

Why don't you try making this on a lazy rainy monsoon day? These buns will energise you and keep you warm, especially when they are washed down with a cuppa hot tea or coffee. 
Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Flour - 1.5 Cups
Refined Flour(Maida) - 1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons
Salt - 1 Tsp(or according to taste)
Sugar - 2 Tablespoons
Active Dry Yeast - 2 Tsp
Warm Milk - 3/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon for milk wash
Warm Water - 1/2 Cup
Mysore Banana(Optional) - 2 small or you can add Cavendish banana pulp(around 100 Gms)
Melted butter - 2 Tablespoons + 1 Tsp
Honey - 2 Tsp
Caramel(Optional) - 2 Tsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 Tsp
Green Chillies - 2 Finely chopped
Coriander Leaves - A handful, finely chopped
Mint Leaves - A handful, finely chopped
Crushed Black Peppercorns - 1 Tsp
Asafotoeda Powder/Hing(Optional) - 1/4 Tsp

Method:
Heat 1/2 tsp butter in a frying pan, add cumin seeds. 
Allow them to splutter  and then add the chopped green chillies and fry until the chilli bits turn whitish.
Keep aside to cool down and then add in chopped coriander and mint leaves.
Take the warm milk in a glass tumbler or a non metallic bowl, mix in sugar and yeast, cover and keep for 10 minutes to proof/activate.
Mix 1.5 cup wheat flour, 1 cup maida and salt in a mixing bowl.
Make a pit in the center and pour the yeast milk mixture.
Add 2 tbsp melted butter, honey, caramel, mashed bananas, crushed black peppercorns, optional hing and the cumin green chilli mint coriander masala mixture.
Knead well adding warm water little by little, for 10 minutes, or until you get a moist but firm dough.
Grease the bowl, apply melted butter on the dough ball, cover with kitchen cloth and allow to raise for one hour at warm room temperature.
The dough will have doubled by then.
Prepare baking tin by greasing the inside and sprinkling little flour if necessary.
Sprinkle little flour over the dough, punch it to release the air and knead again adding little flour for 5 minutes.
Roll the dough into a thick rope or log, cut into 16 equal parts if using 8x8 baking tray or upto 24 equal parts, if using 9x12 baking tray.
Shape each part into a smooth ball and arrange them as close as possible to one another in the tray. 
If you can't accommodate all the dough balls in one medium size tray, you can place them in two small trays or even shape the remaining dough into hot dog rolls or regular round buns.
Cover the dough balls and keep for another hour or slightly more, when they double up again, stick to one another and fit snugly in the tray.
Give milk wash over the top surface of the dough balls.
Preheat oven at 180°C for 10 minutes, and place the tray on wire rack, bake for 25-35 minutes or until the bread becomes browned on top.
Remove from oven, allow to cool down for 10-15 minutes, detach the bread from the baking tray using a butter knife and relish.
These go well with a cup of tea or hot strong coffee.
You can also relish them with choice of veg or nonveg curries.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mango Kaju Katli

Kaju Katli is one of the best North Indian Sweets which is more popularly known as Bombay Sweet. No one can resist it for its unique delicious taste and subtle sweetness. Kaju is of course Cashewnut and Katli means kernel. These katlis are made as thin as 5 mm at the most, and are normally cut into diamond shape.

I was working for a bank in Chickpet Bangalore in the Eighties. the managers performed weekly Laxmi pooja on Friday for which a sweet was being distributed as 'prasadam', most of the times some Bengali Sweet like Champakali Chamcham or Malai Sandwich, sometimes Kaju Katli from nearby Kanti Sweets. Kanti Sweets and Arya Bhavan were quite famous those days for North Indian sweets and they made kaju katlis pretty well. They were soft melt in the mouth type with right amount of added sugar. In Mangaluru, we get the best kaju katlis at Shreya's Sweets and Phalguni Cashew center.

I had also seen some of my food blogger friends and home makers making kaju katlis and presenting them on social media. I too wanted to make them at home, but never seriously gave it a thought and got into action. Just a few days ago I was planning to make Mango Burfi again for my niece Deepa and her daughter Sonali who are on a visit from the USA.

Meena said, "Why make mango burfi again and again? Try and make something different". I agreed and decided to make Mango Kaju Katli. Having perfected the art of making mango burfi, making mango kaju katli for the first time was cakewalk for me.


Before making these kaju katlis, others' failures guided me what to do and what not to do. Here are a few tips to make perfect kaju katlis:

1. Making sugar syrup first is mandatory, as kaju katlis become soft but not brittle that way, and they remain fresh for days. Sometimes making one string sugar syrup may get overdone and the katlis may develop sugar crystals which may make them harder. Hence, for plain kaju katlis, there's a wonderful additive called 'Liquid Glucose' which stabilises the sugar syrup and stops it from crystallising. Other alternative is adding lemon juice or honey. So, add a tablespoon of any one of these to achieve perfect texture for the sugar syrup. For Mango Kaju katli it is not necessary to add them, as mango pulp takes care of stabilising the sugar syrup.

2. Add right amount of sugar to kaju katlis. Too less or more may spoil the taste. My calculation is, for 1 cup of cashewnut powder, we can add little over 1/2 cup of sugar. Mixing in little corn flour and castor sugar in the end makes them smooth but firm.

3. Tiny cashewnut bits are fairly cheaper than whole cashewnuts and grinding them into a powder in the mill will also be quicker.

4. Avoid adding cardamom powder if you add saffron, fruit pulp or rose essence to katlis. Cardamom over shadows the flavour of other additives.

5. Spread the hot mixture from the pan on the kitchen work area if you have granite or marble top. Cover with a plastic or butter paper sheet and roll with a roller pin as soon as you spread the mixture. That way you get a even layer of katli which will also be easier to cut into diamond shape.

6. While storing the katlis, better keep a layer of butter paper in between each layer of katlis, so that they don't stick to each other.  

Follow this recipe and I am sure, you can parallel even the best kaju katlis available in the world!
Ingredients:
Cashewnut bits - 1.5 cup, finely powdered in a mill
Fresh Mango pulp/puree - 1 Cup
Sugar - 3/4 Cup
Castor Sugar - 4 Tsp
Corn Flour - 2 Tbsp
Saffron - A pinch soaked in 1 Tbsp hot milk and a pinch for garnishing
Ghee - 2 Tsp

Method:
You can lightly roast a pinch of dry saffron fronds reserved for garnishing, and keep aside.
Clean and wipe kitchen work area dry, apply a teaspoon of ghee.
Heat a nonstick pan, add one teaspoon ghee, sugar and 2 Tbsp water.
As the sugar starts to melt and foam, add mango pulp and keep stirring until the syrup thickens and becomes sticky.
Add cashewnut powder and keep mixing on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to burn the contents.
Add saffron soaked in milk.
Keep mixing on medium low heat, until the mass starts to leave the sides.
Add corn flour and mix well for 2 more minutes.
Switch off the flame, mix in castor sugar.
Knead the mixture well using a paav bhaaji masher or your palm, flatten on the greased kitchen work area.
Cover with plastic sheet or butter paper and using the rolling pin, roll into 5 mm thick spread.
Remove the covering sheet, sprinkle saffron fronds and roll again to embed the saffron fronds.
Cut into equal size diamond shaped burfis with a sharp knife.
Once completely cool, loosen with the sharp knife edge and store in an airtight box, preferably layered with butter paper.
You can keep them at room temperature for 2-3 days, then shift into a fridge.
Note:
You can also make Kaju Katlis adding vanilla or other exotic essence and also with different sticky type fruit concentrates such as strawberry, fig, apricot, pineapple, grape, lychee and orange.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rasam Vada

Rasam Vada is a combo snack served in Udupi style restaurants. Though Chennai is famous for this snack, it was popularised by the Madhwa Brahmins from Udupi. Crisp and hot Medhu Vada is topped with piping hot sweet hot and tangy Udupi style Rasam. Tastes heavenly on a rainy day!

I first tasted this combo snack in the Eighties at Mohini Vilas, a traditional Udupi style restaurant in Mangaluru where they also served Ghasi vada and Mor Kolumbu Vada alternatively. Janatha Deluxe serves nice rasam vadas these days in mangaluru. They make them pretty well, but I didn't know the perfect recipe for authentic Udupi Rasam until two weeks ago.

Once I found the recipe for Udupi Rasam, I was surprised to see Meena preparing medhu vadas for breakfast the same day! I immediately grabbed few vadas and made Rasam Vada. My niece from USA Deepa visited us that evening with her mother and daughter. They all liked the rasam vada very much.

All you need is Medhu Vadas following this 'Biscuit Ambade' recipe, but to make medhu vadas you need some practice. You need to dip your hand in water, make a lemon size ball with biscuit ambade batter and with your thumb and index finger, press the batter to make a hole in the center. Immediately drop this in hot oil and fry until crisp.

Make Udupi Rasam, arrange vadas in soup bowls, pour 1/2 cup rasam over each vada and garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

Udupi Rasam

This is a tasty aromatic rasam(Soup) that has roots in Udupi Krishna Math, concocted by the Madhwa Brahmins and spread the world over. I found this awesome recipe for the authentic Udupi Rasam on Udupikitchen blog but made changes according to my taste and convenience.

According to legend, Udupi Math cooking had no red chillies tomatoes and such global ingredients in cooking. Locally available spices condiments and vegetables were added to rasam, sambar and curries. Black Pepper was widely used in Udupi cuisine, and according to the cookery book by Kadambila Saraswathi, even today the seers in Udupi Ashta Mutts eat the traditionally made food. It is for the public they have adapted the global ingredients and innovated the Udupi cuisine.

It is very simple to make this rasam if you have the Udupi Rasam Powder in stock. Other ingredients are also readily available and the preparation takes hardly 20 minutes. You can enhance the taste of this rasam by adding congi water obtained from cooking rice, but I added a teaspoon of rice powder to the boiling water to get the same effect.

You can relish this with steamed white rice, with medhu vada as 'Rasam Vada' or even pour this over piping hot idlis or guliappa(Paniaram). I also sip a glass of rasam during dinner as appetiser. The unmistakable flavour of Udupi Rasam will take you on 'Cloud Nine' for sure!

Ingredients:
Tuvar Daal - 1/2 Cup
Water - 1 Liter(Or plain water 500ml and congi water 500ml)
Rice Powder - 1 Tsp(If using only plain water)
Tomatoes - 2 medium or 100 Gms, finely chopped
Coconut Kernel(Or grated coconut) - A handful finely chopped
Tamarind - Chickpea size ball soaked in 1/2 cup water or 1 Tsp tamarind paste
Rock Salt - 2 Tsp(Or salt to taste)
Green chillies - 2 chopped into small round bits
Jaggery Powder - 2-3 Tsp
Coriander Leaves - Two handfuls chopped(Preferably with stem)
Udupi Rasam Powder - 3 Tsp
Ghee - 2 Tsp
Mustard Seeds(Optional) - 1 Tsp
Curry leaves(Optional) - A sprig
Asafotoeda/Hing(Optional) - A small pinch
Lemon - 1/2
Method:
In a saucepan, boil one liter water, prepare a paste of rice powder in 1 tbsp water and add to the boiling water.
Stir well.
Add chopped tomatoes, grated coconut or coconut kernel bits, green chillies and half of the coriander leaves with stem.
Allow to simmer and boil for 10-15 minutes.
In the meanwhile, wash and pressure cook tuvar daal, adding a cup of water.
Mash cooked daal and keep aside.
Add salt, jaggery and cooked daal into the boiling soup.
Mix well and bring to a boil.
Mix tamarind paste and Udupi Rasam Powder into a thin paste adding little water.
Add the rasam powder tamarind paste to the boiling soup.
Simmer for 5 more minutes.
If you prefer, prepare a seasoning with mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves in ghee.
Otherwise simply add ghee to the rasam.
Squeeze lemon, garnish with remaining chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Udupi Rasam Powder

Udupi is a pilgrimage center in Karnataka, also famous for Madhwa Brahmin style cuisine. Besides the favourite South Indian breakfast staple idli, vada and dosa, they have some excellent sambar, curries, soups and fries to offer us. Udupi Rasam is one such tasty and aromatic tomato soup which goes well with steamed white rice, Idlis, Vada or even Paniaram or Guliappa.

I have tasted very good rasam at Udupi Krishna Math when I was in school, then at a small Udupi Brahmin hotel named Sharada Bhavana in Manipal, then at Mitra Samaj, Woodlands, Kediyoor and other restaurants in Udupi. Woodlands, Vishwa Bhavan, Mohini Vilas, Udupi Krishna Bhavan, Panchami, Swagath, Krishna Vilas and Janatha Deluxe in Mangaluru also served fantastic rasam.

I am a fan of Rasam Vada, a combo snack introduced in Mangaluru in the Eighties by Mohini Vilas. Mohini Vilas has since closed down and a swanky hotel called Saffron cropped up in that spot, now we depend on Janatha Deluxe where we get authentic Rasam Vada even today. However, my attempt in getting the right formula for the Udupi Rasam failed over the years, when we tried books on Udupi cuisine or recipes given by my ex-colleagues. They all lacked something in them, and the taste or looks of the rasam was not exactly like Udupi Rasam!

When it is monsoon season in Mangaluru, it pours heavily for days, and we feel like eating some spicy stuff. I was reminded of Rasam Vada last week and was about to ask Meena to prepare vadas and I thought of preparing the rasam using my own imagination. I did some mental work and assumed what all spices go into the awesome Udupi Rasam Masala Powder. 

Then when I was browsing through the net to test my luck, I bounced on this recipe following the blog Udupikitchenwhich I slightly modified to suit my taste and convenience. It is authentic and I guarantee you, the rasam will turn out better than what you get in restaurants and may come very close to what you have tasted at Udupi Krishna Math. 

It is very easy to prepare Udupi Rasam adding this masala along with commonly available ingredients. If you prepare the masala powder in bulk, you can store it in an air tight container in the fridge and use it for months. 

So what are you waiting for? Get going and surprise your family to a royal treat of rasam made following this fantastic authentic Udupi Rasam Powder!
Ingredients:
Red Long(Byadgi) chillies - 25-30
Curry leaves - A handful(2-3 sprigs)
Mustard Seeds - 1 Tsp
Cumin Seeds - 2 Tsp
Coriander Seeds - 4 Tsp
Black Gram(Urad) Daal - 2 Tsp
Fenugreek(Methi seeds) - 1 Tsp
Black Peppercorn - 1/2 Tsp
Turmeric Root - 2" piece(Or 1 Tsp powder)
Asafotoeda - A generous pinch(Around 5 Gms)
Coconut Oil - 2 Tsp

Method:
Heat 1 Tsp oil in a frying pan and roast chillies and curry leaves, fry for 2 minutes on a medium flame until crisp. 
Transfer to a plate.
Heat remaining oil and add mustard seeds and cumin seeds, allow them to crackle, then add coriander seeds, urad dal, turmeric root, peppercorn, asafotoeda and methi seeds and fry until the contents turn brownish.
If you are using turmeric powder, you need not roast it.
Transfer to a plate and allow to cool down completely.
Once the roast ingredients cool down, dry grind them into a powder in a mixer/mill. 
Allow to cool down and then fill in airtight jar and store in a cool, dry, dark place or a fridge.



Note: 
To make one liter Rasam, you can add 3-4 Tsp of this masala powder to 1 cup cooked tuvar daal, 2 chopped tomatoes, 2 chopped green chillies, handful of grated coconut/chopped coconut kernel, handful of chopped coriander leaves, juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and 2 tsp powdered jaggery.
Adding congi water or a teaspoon of rice powder to boiling water enhances taste of the rasam.
Udupi Rasam need not be topped with seasoning. 
If you wish, you can prepare a seasoning with mustard seeds, curry leaves and a pinch of asafotoeda in 2 Tsp ghee and add to the rasam.
This powder can also be used to make Udupi sambar or the vegetable dry curry Thaallu.

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