Sunday, October 22, 2017

Boondi - tiny little sweet and savory pearls, a perfect Deepavali treat

When I started blogging, I had this dream of making different themed sets of recipes for every Indian festival, international holidays etc so my readers could easily click on a page and find all relevant recipes for any particular occasion. I have seen many of my blogger friends do it and keep enhancing the lists every time they add a post. As for me, that dream is still far away, I know I have special dishes blogged in the space and tagged but maintaining that ever ready list and more importantly having it accessible before a major festival has remained a distant goal :-). Well, that gives me something to work for, doesn't it? Everything has a silver lining. Some day, you will come to my blog and search for Deepavali recipes (before the festival ofcourse :-)) and I will be able to present a list of recipes, but for now as I work on making that happen, the blog has plenty to offer albeit a little after the fact :-)

So, here is me wishing a very happy Deepavali to all of you. May the festival of lights stay in spirit with all of us long after the days of festivities end and help us spread the light of love around us.
I was out on a work related trip last week and came back towards the end of the week when the festivities were already in full blown mode and people were wishing everyone a happy Diwali even before I had a chance to clean my kitchen and get ready. Truth be told that I am not in the habit of preparing dishes in advance for the festival. I am more of the 'make & eat on the same day' kind of person but I still had to exercise those grey cells to come up with a late in the game plan for celebrating DeepavaLi.

Our DeepavaLi celebrations are a little different from the more public aware celebrations of the festival. DeepavaLi is still a 5 day affair in the south of India but has different names from its counterparts in north of India. The first day is called 'neeru tumbo habba' literally translates to filling the water tanks (old world equivalents of today's geysers) with fresh water. Hande water used to be heated with wood logs. This starts with a major cleaning initiative that reaches every dark nook & cranny in the house including the bath room, the 'hande' or water tanks are given a thorough wash and made to shine. There is fresh rangoli (mandala designs) on the hande and infront of it before lighting the fire to the logs and start heating the water. For us kids that is when the festival started and the school holidays began as well so we were free to roam around the neighborhood.
2nd day of the festivities is called Naraka Chaturdashi in honor of Lord Krishna killing the demon Narakasura and saving the 16000 princesses from captivity.  Other than eating a lot of good food, there wasn't much else to do on this day as we were told to save the fire crackers for the day after and not light them yet :-). Oh yes, there were new clothes to wear and go around flaunting them.

3rd day is the amavasye or new moon. There was no real festivities on this day unless you owned a business. If you were a business owner, there used to be a grand Lakshmi pooje and they would start their annual accounts afresh. Growing up in a very diverse community, we always used to get invited to the pooje by the merchant families in the neighborhood which meant more sweets to collect.

4th day is Bali Padyami, house would be decorated in preparation for the lighting of the lamps in the evening. Lots of flowers and huge rangolis in front of the house made the day so much brighter. I remember DeepavaLi always brought with it a slow & steady rain, not really big but just enough to create anxiety about the survival of the lamps and the firecrackers in the shower and wind. But somehow, every year the lamps survived and the firecrackers made huge sounds to everyone's glee.

5th day is celebrated as sodara bidige (similar to Bhai dooj in the north) but by this time we would lose interest as schools would have restarted and mechanically did what was told and headed off to school with a heavy heart :-). Oh, the drama of DeepavaLi.

Now, how do I condense all of the 5 day festivities into one quick evening? I pick the things & rituals that make the most sense to me and have a celebration. I don't even have a geyser, hot water comes automagically from the tap and I don't need to clean it. I don't do firecrackers (have not done it for years now) as I don't personally like the noise & air pollution they cause. Best part of DeepavaLi for me is the lighting of the lamps and we do that whole heartedly. This is how part of our home looked like on Friday..

When I returned and turned on my laptop to peek into the blogosphere, my fellow bloggers had not left a single stone unturned. The offerings spanned from traditional to modern, from handed down recipes to creative bests, from sweets to savories and everything one ever relates to DeepavaLi. Honestly, I felt a little left out not contributing to the rush of preparing for the festivities. I decided to make some quick treats for DeepavaLi and landed on boondi. If you do not know what these are, here is a quick catch up description. A batter of gram flour is passed through a ladle with holes to get small, round pearls. If you are making savory, the batter is dressed up with salt, chili powder, if you are making the sweet version, batter is plain and deep fried pearls are later soaked in a sugar syrup. Both are yummy, they can be eaten as snacks and the savory one also makes a perfect raita accompaniment for pulavs or paranthas when soaked in yogurt. We used some of the khara boondi to top our next day BBB and it tasted delicious :-)

Though it looks like a lot of work, boondi is one of the easiest recipes and the result is very impressive. You just want to follow a few tricks to get the best boondi. Read on for the process and the tips and bookmark it for next DeepavaLi :-). a little bit of these special treats, a plate of homely food and lots of lamps together made the DeepavaLi a memorable celebration. 

Now that the festival fever has come down, I have a question that has been bothering me for over a week. Is it possible to be literally fatigued just looking at the vast collection of delicious Deepavali sweets & savories in the blogosphere? I think it is possible, I am actually tired and need a break from all ghee laden, sugar coated Deepavali treats for a while and need to get back to simple living and comfort eating :-), so don't be surprised if I went directly back to blogging about every day food in my next post, until then have a great time, enjoy the left overs.

What do you need to make sweet & savory boondi? 
For khara boondi: 
1 cup besan/gram flour/kadle hittu
1/4 cup rice flour
1 and 1/4 cup water
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp red chili powder
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup fried gram/hurigadle
2 Tbsp grated kobbari/dry coconut (optional, may skip if unavailable)
10-12 curry leaves

For Sweet boondi: 
1 cup besan/gram flour/kadle hittu
1/4 cup rice flour
1 and 1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
For sweet boondi syrup: 
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 Tsp pacha karpoora/edible camphor
4-5 saffron strands
2 Tbsp raisins
2-4 cloves

3-4 cups of Oil to deep fry both varieties of boondi (I normally use peanut oil)

Heavy bottom, wide kadai or pan to fry boondi in
1 ladle with small holes (I use a steel one for draining oil when deep frying)
1 ladle to lift fried boondi from oil

How do you make sweet boondi? 
  • In a sauce pan, take water & sugar and let it come to a boil. 
  • Keep stirring until the syrup gets to a single thread consistency. 
  • Let the syrup thicken further for another 10mins on medium heat. 
  • Add cloves, edible camphor and saffron to the syrup. 
  • Add raisins to the syrup (I don't fry them but letting them soak in the hot syrup plumps them up), switch off keep it warm.
  • Make a batter of sieved besan, rice flour and water. Whisk the batter with a hand whisk to make it light.
  • Heat oil in a pan and drop a small amount of batter to check if the oil is hot enough, if the batter comes to the surface immediately, you are ready to start frying. 

  • Hold the ladle with the holes in your left hand directly above the oil(I am a right hander, switch the sides if you are a left hander), using a spoon put the batter on the ladle and let the batter drop into water. 
  • Using the other ladle, give a swish to the boondi in the oil so it gets cooked uniformly on all sides. 
  • Remove them with a slotted spoon when it the bubbles int he oil slow down. Sweet boondi doesn't have to become very crisp unlike the savory version. Place them in a plate lined with a tissue or paper napkin. 
  • Clean the ladle with the holes completely before reusing. 
  • Repeat the process until all the batter is used up.
  • Once the frying is complete, put all the fried boondi into the hot syrup and mix well. 
  • Take them onto a wide plate and spread. 
  • Let it cool and as it cools it becomes dry absorbing any extra syrup in the process. 
  • Store in a dry, clean container. 
How do you make Khara boondi? 

  • Sieve besan to remove any lumps, add rice flour, salt, red chili powder, asafoetida & turmeric powder. Mix well. 
  • Add water slowly to make a lump free batter of dropping consistency. See notes below to adjust consistency. 
  • Taste a tiny drop of the batter and adjust salt or spices as needed. Whisk the batter with a hand whisk to make it light.
  • Heat oil in a pan and drop a small amount of batter to check if the oil is hot enough, if the batter comes to the surface immediately, you are ready to start frying
  • Hold the ladle with the holes in your left hand directly above the oil(I am a right hander, switch the sides if you are a left hander), using a spoon put the batter on the ladle and let the batter drop into water. 
  • Using the other ladle, give a swish to the boondi in the oil so it gets cooked uniformly on all sides. 
  • Remove them with a slotted spoon when it has attained a golden color all over and the bubbling stops in the oil. Place them in a plate lined with a tissue or paper napkin. 
  • Clean the ladle with the holes completely before reusing. 
  • Repeat the process until all the batter is used up. 
  • Add peanuts to the oil and fry until they are crisp
  • Add fried gram to the oil for 30secs to crisp them up and remove
  • Add curry leaves and fry them until crisp. 
  • Mix boondi with peanuts, fried gram, grated kobbari and curry leaves. when cool, store it in a air tight container.

  • Adding rice flour makes boondi crisp, you can reduce the amount to a Tbsp for the sweet boondi version to get juicier boondi. 
  • You can leave khara boondi without any peanuts or other embellishments if you like but adding them enhances the taste. 
  • I recommend you try the batter out with a small spoonful to check the consistency, your oil temperature etc. 
  • Consistency of the batter is critical for getting perfectly round boondi. If your droplets have a small tail attached to them, thin the batter with a few drops of water, if the boondis look flat when they fall in the oil, add a little bit of besan to thicken the batter. Trial & error helps you get the look & feel. 
  • Make sure you hold the ladle with the holes at about 6 inches from the surface of oil. This distance helps the batter form perfect round boondi as it falls into the oil. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Choco Banana muffins - easiest and most delicious muffins, new post after many moons

Yep, no talking about where I have been, what I have been doing, how glorious  my summer was, and the current weather now that it has turned into colorful autumn, and yada, yada, yada... Today it is all about cutting to the chase directly. Some day, when I am able to sit down, relax and write a mile long story, I will share all the good, bad & ugly of the missing months if you are interested. Life has been busy and full and I am not able to spend the time I would like to with my blog baby. I came back from the hiding due to the overwhelming response to my muffin picture on FB last week and all the requests I received to share the recipe. I sincerely think these super delicious muffins will make up atleast in part for all the unaccounted absence. And if you haven't heard, chocolate makes everything better :-) And yes, baking happened in the Sattvaa kitchen after many moons too..
A banana muffin is good and tasty but a choco-banana muffin is better and soul satisfying. If you haven't had one, I implore you to try this at your earliest.  This is such an easy recipe that delivers the softest, most moist and delicious muffins every time (and I should know as I baked 2 batches in a week). So DD was home a week ago for a short weekend and while I cooked stuff for her to carry, I also baked these muffins for her and her group of hungry friends. I had forgotten the blissful feeling that baking awakens in me until the aroma from the banana started to waft through the kitchen. The gooey chocolate, soft & moist muffins that came out of the oven just 12 mins after they went in were some of the best muffins that I have tasted ever.
As DD packed the entire batch to take with her, I decided to bake another batch just 2 days later so I could take some to work for my coworkers. The entire box of about 20 muffins was gone by the end of the day.

This recipe is tweaked from Nigella Lawson's original recipe. I skipped the eggs, used coconut oil in place of vegetable oil and added chocolate chips additionally. The texture is super light and moist. I don't like the taste of very ripe bananas personally, I use them up when they are just soft. These impart the best flavor in breads and muffins. When I posted the teaser picture on FB last week, one of the readers asked me about the variety of the bananas, I only use the the chiquita bananas as they are easily and widely available here, these are very similar to the variety called pacha bale hannu in kannada which have a green skin when unripe that turns a golden yellow and starts to develop black spots as the fruit ripens. You can use other ripe bananas as long as they are soft. As the size varies with the variety I have specified the quantity of the mashed banana in cups as well, hope this helps. The recipe below is for about 18 good size muffins but I also made them slightly smaller (for my health conscious yet sweet toothed colleagues) and got 24 muffins.
Feel free to add nuts of choice to make it more nutritious.

PS: Thanks for all the support, just when I think that nobody really misses me if I didn't blog, you guys pour your love and ask me for a recipe or leave a comment to say how you liked one of my recipes. Your love & support makes me come back even after an awkward gap on the blog :-). I will see you again with another delicious recipe as soon as I am able to.

PPS: I have another work related travel coming up next week and will be missing Deepavali at home. Here is an early Deepavali wish to all of you celebrating the festival of lights, may the festival usher in good times where people treat each other with love and respect. May Deepavali bring in the light to fill in every life with hope, joy and prosperity. 
What do you need to make the muffins? 
Recipe source: Nigella Lawson
4 ripe bananas (4 cups of mashed banana)
4 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar (reduce it if your bananas are sweet)
1.5 cup AP flour
1 Tbsp vanilla essence
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup unsweetened chocolate chips
1 Tsp baking soda
How do you make muffins? 

  • Peel, and mash bananas using a potato masher or with clean hands so there are no pieces left
  • In a microwave safe bowl put 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and microwave it for about 2 mins taking it out every 30 seconds to stir.
  • Once the chocolates melt, add the coconut oil and mix it in. I use virgin coconut oil and it always stays solid at room temperature, so heating it helps it to become liquid. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, take the mashed banana, add melted chocolate+coconut oil, vanilla and mix it well with a whisk. 
  • Sift AP flour, cocoa powder & baking powder using a fine sieve into the mixing bowl, this helps distribute baking soda into the batter and not form bitter, untasty lumps. 
  • Once the flour is added, mix it all in gently together. Add the remaining chocolate chips to the batter. 
  • Line your muffin trays with liners and spoon in a big tbsp+half into each liner. 
  • Preheat the oven to 400F and bake for 12minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. 
  • These are best had warm out of the oven but they stay good for couple of days and can be reheated. 
  • I used coconut oil as I was out of vegetable oil but liked the texture and the flavor.
  • Use good quality chocolate, I sneaked in 2 squares of Ghirardelli dark chocolates and I honestly believe the quality of chocolate makes a difference.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hunise gojju or Puliyogare gojju - a homemade gojju to make that authentic Puliyogare

Hello all, sorry I went AWOL once again since the last post. But in my defense, I have not been too far away from blogging or food, on the contrary have been cooking up almost a storm especially during the long Memorial day weekend we had recently. If you follow me on fb or like sattvaa page you would have seen all the drool worthy pictures of elaborate meals that was going on in my kitchen. And those of you who visit here often and are generally familiar with what goes on in my life, yes you guessed it correctly, DD was home for the long weekend and hence all the extra cooking and eating. It was a last minute trip and she was happy to be home as we were to have her home. Other than a few small outings, three days went by in a flash and all three of us resembled a sloth after it has eaten a good meal, slower to talk, slower to walk.. you get the picture :-). We are now trying to become active in an attempt to lose part of those abundant calories we hoarded up in a matter of 3 innocent days:-) and hoping that they don't like us too much and make a permanent home in unwanted places.
To that end and also to celebrate our first summer weekend without rains, we hit the trails yesterday and today. It felt wonderful to be back amidst the lush greens, beautiful mountains and scenic lakes. It definitely helped in reducing the guilt feeling of eating all that unnecessarily extra calories last week :-) although it would take many, many honest hikes before it ever begins to even out. Weather is cool and skies are not blue yet, I can only imagine how much more gorgeous this view will be when summer is truly here but I am thankful for the cooler temperatures as I huff and puff up the mountain. This picture doesn't even come close to what it looked like or felt like from atop the ridge but that is the best an electronic gadget can do, enjoy.
So last weekend, one of the pictures I posted was that of the ever popular rice dish from Karnataka - Puliyogare. Also known as puliyodharai, puli sadam, pulihora or tamarind rice in other parts of south india. I made the gojju at home as I sent some of it off with DD so she can mix it any time with rice. The response and request for the home made gojju has been overwhelming ever since I posted the teaser on fb. I had no plans of writing a blog post because I am sure there isn't much in this simple hunise gojju (aka tamarind gojju) as we called it at home. Also, there were no pictures of the 'making of gojju' at all and a blog post is not a blog post without the step-wise pictures, agree? But here I am writing about it a week and half later partly as a way to record it on the blog and partly to help all of you who requested for the recipe. And yes, I did make another batch earlier today so I could take some pictures of the process for visual aid purposes :-).
If you are a South Indian, you will start nodding your head at precisely this point. All of us south Indians (bear in mind that there are exceptions to the rule always, but majority is what I am talking about here :-)) are in love with tamarind rice, no matter what it is called in local dialects. This tangy, sweet, flavorful rice is a staple at home, temples, weddings and all other occasions. It is easy to put together and always has an appeal whether you are making it for lunch box or for a get together. Some of the best tasting puliyogare are available in south Indian temples, not just in south india but here in US. Go visit Pittsburgh temple if you haven't and you will agree with me on this :-). The instant pickle and puliyogare in that temple kitchen have a way luring you to the temple as does the deity.

Temple puliyogare is very saatvik, devoid of too many spices, almost always hot rice mixed with a tamarind+jaggery paste and scantily dressed with a seasoning of peanuts, mustard and some dals. It always tastes divinely delicious. While this is one end of the spectrum, there is the other end with artisan puliyogare where purists scoff at you if you were to add peanuts directly into the rice, they handcraft this coveted rice recipe with roasted, deskinned, and halved peanuts before they are approved to go into the rice :-), and again this tastes delicious too. The one place I stand clear of puliyogare is at Indian restaurant lunch buffets, they just can't get it right. Some versions (especially Andhra Pulihora) have a low/no sesame seeds and adds green chilies to the seasoning, this is more of a 'make it today and eat it now' variety while nammamma's version always had freshly roasted and powdered sesame seeds. Sesame seeds in puliyogare is an association that my neurons have made and without that, puliyogare is not puliyogare for me :-). Puliyogare and mosaranna (curd/yogurt rice) is what you need to have if you are trying to befriend a true blue south indian, there is no going back after eating this made in heaven match.

Growing up, I can't remember a time when this gojju was out of stock in our kitchen. I remember it even from the days when there was no refrigerator and the gojju was packed in a dry box and kept in a cool, dark corner of the kitchen. Instructions were clear not to dip any wet spoons into it so we didn't spoil it. It was a very sought after dish not only to whip up a yummy puliyogare on a whim but also doubled as a side dish for hot chapati/roti or served as a lip smacking side with a bland pongal/huggi. It was omnipresent and omnipotent, we only had to be creative to use it in all the different ways and there was no dearth of creativity where food was concerned :-). Eat it with some cool mosaranna in summer and you will be a life time fan of this delicious combination. Nammamma used it as a quick go to when the vegetable basket was empty or one of us needed a lunch box and she was running late. All she had to do was mix it with some cooked rice and viola.. a delicious  puliyogare would be ready to go.
Now I said earlier  it was a simple hunise gojju right? A little explanation is needed as to why I called it 'simple' while you can make an exotic puliyogare with it. In its bare, bare form hunise gojju is literally that - a gojju (semi solid gravy) made with tamarind, salt and jaggery. Obviously this doesn't make a puliyogare as we all know. So the gojju needs other spices and flavors added to it. Many people I know make and keep just the thread bare gojju as its shelf life is longer but nammamma usually added the spices and flavors into the gojju itself as it would also serve as a side dish. Also the point of making the gojju is to have this instant mix on hand and if you have to spend time on roasting and grinding spices later, it is not much of an instant mix, is it? My quantities are much less than what she made and usually gets over in a few batches of puliyogare, so i am not too worried about the shelf life. I will point out where to stop if you are planning to make just the hunise gojju. You can add the spice powder just when you are mixing it with rice.
Since I made it to send it off with DD for her lunches, I made the full blown version but packed the seasoning separately so the peanuts and dals retain the crunch when mixed with rice. While store bought mixes serve the purpose, home made version always is tastier because of the love that went into preparing it, definitely devoid of preservatives and is more flavorful.

Keep a container of this gojju in the refrigerator and I promise you will reach out for it for uses you wouldn't have thought of. Puliyogare is always a preferred travel food as it not only stays good for a couple of days but gets better as it ages :-). BH's favorite way of eating puliyogare is with a side of tangy yogurt and I put the blame/credit for this way of eating on Bengaluru Kadamba (a restaurant famous among other things for their puliyogare) which he frequented during his early working life. I sometimes like to eat it with some chopped onion or just a bowl of seasoned yogurt rice.
What do you need to make Hunise gojju?
125gms tamarind (I used half of the 250gms package I get from store)
6-7 cups water
1/2-3/4 cup grated jaggery (adjust the amount based on the tang from tamarind and your own liking for sweetness)
3 Tbsp saaru pudi
1 Tbsp Red chili powder
3/4 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 Tbsp oil
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
6-8 curry leaves
Spice mix:
1 Tbsp chana dal
2.5 Tbsp sesame seeds (I prefer to use black sesame just for the enhanced color, you can use polished if this is not available)
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 Tsp fenugreek seeds
1 Tsp black pepper corn
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
2 small dry red chilies (optional, ok to skip)
2 Tbsp grated dry coconut (Kobbari)
Seasoning (quantities depend on how much rice you are mixing with gojju):
1 Tbsp oil
chana dal
Urad dal
Curry leaves
Pots & Pans: 
Use a thick pan made from non reactive metal. You do not want to use cast iron or iron pans for making tamarind gojju. Use dry spatula to enhance the shelf life of the product.

How do you make gojju?
  • Remove seeds and any thick veins from tamarind and loosen up the block. Tamarind I get here is very hard and made into a block to make exporting easier, so I like to open it up a little before soaking in water. If you get freshly dried tamarind, go ahead and use it as is. 
  • Put the cleaned tamarind in a bowl, add about 6 cups of water and let it soak for atleast 6 hours. I always soak it overnight. 
  • When it is soaked and soft, using the power of your finger and hands, squeeze the life out of tamarind and collect all the juice. I like to squeeze it over a sieve so the clear juice can be collected. 
  • Add another cup of water and make sure you get all the juice possible :-). 
  • Discard any remaining pith, seeds etc. 
  • In a seasoning pan, add chana dal and start to dry roast it. Give  it a head start and once it starts to turn light pink, add the remaining ingredients except for sesame seeds and dry coconut. 
  • Once the dal turns golden and you can smell the aroma of fenugreek & coriander, add sesame seeds and roast. Make sure you are stirring frequently. 
  • Once sesame seeds start to pop (takes about a minute or less depending on the heat), switch off, add dry coconut and mix. Let this mixture cool on the side completely before making a powder of it. 
  • Now pour the strained tamarind juice into the pan and heat it on medium heat. 
  • Let it come to a boil before adding turmeric powder. 
  • Let it keep boiling until the liquid reduces by half, thickens and loses the raw tamarind taste. It took me 20mins to get to this stage. 
  • If you want to stop with a simple hunise gojju - version 1, add salt here, switch off and let it cool before storing. If you are following along to make spicy puliyogare gojju, read on.
  • Add saaru pudi, salt and jaggery at this stage and let it cook for a few minutes. 
  • You have reached hunise gojju - version 2 here, you can switch off, let cool and store. This version is great with chapati/roti etc as well. 
  • If you are continuing as I did, add the powdered spice mix and mix it in. 
  • As the mixture would have thickened, this is the stage where bubbles pop in and out of the pan, be careful around them and reduce heat. 
  • Once the mixture reaches a dropping consistency, add oil, mix it in well and let it cook for 1-2mins before switching off. 
  • Gojju usually thickens as it cools. Cool completely, store in a dry, airtight glass or porcelain container. If refrigerated, it lengthens the shelf life and also retains the flavor. 
How do you make Puliyogare?
Below instructions are for 1 cup cooked rice:
  • Cook rice with a couple drops of oil so the grains are separate. 
  • Spread cooked rice in a wide plate so it cools down. 
  • Add 1 Tbsp gojju (adjust the quantity based on taste, it depends on the quality of saaru pudi and other spices you have used). I like to add gojju on the hot rice so the flavors release into the rice. But do not mix at this stage. 
  • Add seasoning on top of the gojju, and let rice cool down completely.  
  • Mix everything together with gentle fingers. Let it sit for an hour atleast before eating. 
  • You may need to adjust/add salt as you add rice. Taste test and decide. 
  • Puliyogare tastes best the next day. 

  • Quantity of tamarind above makes enough gojju to serve puliyogare for 18-20 people or 3 people 5-6 times.
  • I used my home made saaru pudi (linked above), you can use a store bought one or your favorite. Fresher the powder better the taste. 
  • I added Kashmiri red chili powder which has a vibrant color but not very spicy. Adjust the amount of this or skip it altogether if you wish. 
  • Jaggery is entirely your taste, we like our puliyogare to be sweet, sour and flavorful all at the same. Puliyogare is never spicy hot. 
  • Don't worry too much over the consistency of the gojju, key is to make sure there is no raw tamarind smell and to make sure it doesn't burn at any stage. 
  • If it gets slightly over cooked or gojju turns hard, nuke it in the microwave for 20-30secs before adding to the rice.
  • I like to add a couple spoons of grated dry coconut while mixing the rice. This is optional and can be skipped.  
  • I always make seasoning on very low heat so that dals retain their crunchiness for longer time after mixing in with rice. 
  • Long storing can impact the flavor of puliyogare, if you feel your gojju is slightly lackluster, bring it to life by adding freshly ground sesame seeds. Dry roast a tbsp of sesame seeds, powder it and add it while mixing puliyogare. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Halbai or Halubayi - Mother's day, parenting and more

A very happy Mother's day to all you lovely mammas and motherly ladies out there, hope you all had a wonderful day in the company of your loved ones and enjoyed your special day!! 

My wishes are probably reaching most of you after the mother's day. I was debating whether or not to publish a post this time for Mother's day at all. I waited till the day was almost over writing, erasing, rewriting the post as I tried to make it acceptable to myself, hopefully I am able to make it not all personal. The silver line definitely is the wonderful recipe today, do try it sometime. I sincerely wish you all had a wonderful day and hope you were lucky enough to have had a chance to wish your own moms and mom-equivalents in person, over phone, via email etc. For many years now, ever since I realized there was a special day for mothers, I have wished my mom atleast by phone if I wasn't physically with her either in India or here. The first mother's day without my mom, without even a chance of being able to call her up and talk to her has been tough to say the least. A day of celebration that brings a lot of pride and happiness as a mom is also a day where the heart aches for the one special person I can never again celebrate this day with. As some of you may have noticed, I break my 'no personal pics on the blog' policy only for the mother's day posts, here is an old pic of my mom with me in her arms, needless to say one of my favorites :-)
I miss her asking me if I had lunch/dinner no matter what time of the day I called, I miss her asking how I was doing first before asking how BH and DD were doing making me feel just a tiny bit more special, I miss our conversations mostly about the grand child, less about me and the SIL, I miss the tenderness in her voice if I ever complained of a minor head ache during our calls, I miss the uncanny 'mom instinct' that caught any hint of cold/cough/uneasiness without me ever opening my mouth, I miss her contagious laugh as it trickled through the wire of the wireless communication across the continents, I miss her nostalgic memories of days past, I miss her dreams of the future for her children and grand children. Most of all I miss the love that laced every spoken and unspoken syllable in those conversations. It is especially hard as with her exit I lose the comfort of parents, the go-to source for all of life's bruises - minor and major alike. On the bright side, I recognize the legacy she has left behind with countless people - cousins, relatives, friends and others fondly remembering her and sending a kind word, showing a kind gesture which has made the last 9 months easier than it would have been otherwise.
My child didn't come with a manual, neither did my mom's. Infact the 5 children she raised are all such different individuals that they would have had to come with custom manuals every time they popped out if she had relied on written words, with no possibility of cross reference. Instead she drew her wisdom from elsewhere, while guiding and shaping us constantly but also knew well to let us be ourselves, fall and get up on our own. Considering the limited resources they had, I continue to be amazed at the wonderful job my parents did with all of us especially at how we all turned out (for most part and for most of the time atleast :-)). I got literally chewed up by some of my college classmates the other day on a related topic of letting kids be kids and not try to fill every moment of every waking day with an activity in preparation of the the unknown evil/extremely competitive world :-). It is almost like you want to hold the pencil in your child's hands every time they do the homework so you can turn the pencil the right way and not have them stumble. I know parenting is a very 'individualistic' approach and what works for me and my kid may not even be suitable in your situation, so I let it go without making the argument unnecessarily longer. But I am secretly glad my parents didn't have access to such articles or highly opinionated peer parents so they could use 'benign neglect' as they parented us :-). For that and everything else, all I can say is an honest, "I Love you" to both of them.
I keep going back to my mom's condition and how severely and quickly she deteriorated since the official diagnosis 3 years ago. In my own totally non medical way, I have read/watched every material (fiction, non-fiction, scientific, unscientific, personal and non personal) about Alzheimer and dementia ever since it hit so close home in an attempt to make sense of what I was experiencing with my mom. While I am still no smarter on what she would have thought/remembered in her most lucid moments, something that cast a line of hope was this gem by Lisa Genova, neuroscientist and author of 'Still Alice". She concludes one of her TED talks on how to prevent Alzheimer with, "You don't lose emotions, you only lose memories with Alzheimer and you are more than your memories". Knowing that my mom was in touch with her emotions even as dementia stripped her bare of her memories and other senses makes it a teeny bit easier. We all have our ways of dealing with life, and this is mine. I didn't mean to make this post blue and gray with personal grief, I hope this helps someone in a similar situation.

Here is my mother's day recipe for today, it couldn't have been anything outside nammamma's kitchen, right? This is a special dish she had totally mastered and dished out just perfect every single time she made it. Once while washing clothes in the backyard in Mysore, she fell down on the slippery floor and fractured her right arm. Her primary concern was whether she would ever be able to make halbayi and mysore pak again (as they need constant stirring), talk about priorities :-). I like to think that this is a Kannadiga dish because I haven't seen anything similar in other cuisines. I had posted a quick (cheat) version of it a while ago here but nothing beats the real deal as you can imagine. Let me know if any of you are familiar with a similar dessert, I would love to learn the details.
Halubayi or halbai (as it is called in colloquial Kannada) is a coveted sweet dish made with humble ingredients. It is a labor of love as there is no way you can hurry it up but have to just let it take its natural course and end up on that deliciousness. For the minimalistic ingredients used, there is just one cardinal rule while making this recipe, do not use dessicated coconut, if you don't have access to fresh or atleast frozen coconut, please put off making this recipe until you can get some :-). There is really not much to the actual process except to let the liquid content evaporate and get to that non sticky mass consistency. I give the details of the consistency in the steps below as well as in the cheat version, this is soft, malleable and unlike the more solidified, harder fudgy burfis from India and that is the specialty of this dish too. We called it 'emme naalige (~translated as buffalo's tongue)' but I have no idea why since I have never touched a buffalo's tongue to see how it feels, it must have been one of those childhood idiosyncrasies is all I can say :-)

I made this twice in the last month, once when a cousin visited home and the second time when we went to visit DD. I can confidently say that the recipe works perfectly and whether you have previously been a Halbai fan or not, it will satisfy your sweet tooth and give you that very homely feeling. I have a feeling my mom would have approved this one herself.

Go ahead and try this recipe and let me know how it turned out. Love to hear from you all as always.

What do you need for making Halbai? 
1/4 cup rice (I use sona masoori)
1 tightly packed cup grated coconut (fresh is best, if using frozen thaw it before using)
1 loosely filled cup grated jaggery (See notes below)
3-4 green cardamoms
6 cups water
1 Tsp ghee (clarified butter)

Thick bottom wide pan
a sturdy flat mouthed spoon for stirring
A fine mesh/sieve for straining melted jaggery
A steel plate or a baking sheet to spread halbai

How do you make Halbai? 
  • Wash rice twice and soak it in 1/2 cup of water for 6 hours (soak it overnight if you have time)
  • Take soaked rice along with coconut and cardamoms (I put whole cardamoms as they get ground fine) into a blender jar and grind into a very fine paste. 
  • Add water from the 6cup reserve as needed for grinding.
  • The paste should feel smooth when you run it between fingers with no trace of rice, cardamom pods or the coconut gratings. 
  • Mix all the reserved water to the ground paste and keep it ready.
  • Optional:  
  • Take grated jaggery into the pan, add 1/4 cup water and let it melt. 
  • Switch off the stove, sieve the melted jaggery through a fine mesh and discard any dirt that is found in some store bought jaggery. 
  • Smear the plate/sheet with a little bit ghee all over the surface including the side edges if any. 
  • Clean the pan and return it to the stove. 
  • Add the ground mixture, cleaned jaggery into the pan and bring it to boil on medium high flame taking care to stir frequently. 
  • Once it starts to bubble gently, reduce the flame to low and keep stirring the mixture until it thickens. 
  • It took me 70mins to get the thick mass in the pan with the quantity I started. 
  • When you see a glob in the pan, add ghee to it and continue stirring until it stops the bubbles completely (an indication that all the water content is gone) and gets a nice shiny top coating.
  • Wet your fingers and hold a small amount of the mixture between them, if it is not sticking to the fingers, you are ready to pour it in the plate. 
  • At this stage, transfer the contents to the prepared plate/sheet and immediately flatten it to the desired thickness. 
  • Take a butter knife and draw marking lines to your desired shape/size and let it cool. 
  • Cut the pieces with a knife and enjoy. 
  • Do not hurry this dish, it needs to be done with patience
  • I use Indian jaggery and have not made it with brown sugar, so cannot vouch for its replacement confidence.
  • Adjust jaggery to required sweetness by tasting the mixture after adding the ground paste together. 
  • Soft, light colored jaggery is best but any good quality jaggery works too.
  • Color and quality of the jaggery determines the ultimate color of the finished halbai, it is generally between light golden and dark golden.