I can’t even begin to describe how the house smelled whenever badi mummy (my grandma) used to make besan ladoos. If you have ever worked with besan (chickpea flour) and tried roasting it, you would know what I mean. It takes an extra sniff to brace in all of it, embracing it in all your senses. It’s the aroma of home – sweet & comforting. If there is any indian mithai (sweets) which I choose over gulab jamuns, it has to be this. I just said that.
Similar to a never empty cookie jar on kitchen counters, there was hardly any time when besan ladoos were not stocked in my grandma’s house, the only difference was that these were securely kept in a stained brass jar on the top most rack in the kitchen. Just so that we only eat them after having meals and not as a meal- highly addictive as they were. Sneaking in a couple of them with cold unsweetened milk before leaving for school is one of the best ways we relished them as kids.Some of you might contest how something loaded with ghee and sugar could possibly be a morning ritual but at times few foods become such a part of you that the nourishment becomes secondary, it’s just the comfort of eating. Similar to donuts and coffee,I guess. Plus childhood could absorb in all those calories.
I think I never made besan ladoos after getting married.When mom visited me last year during my pregnancy days, she made a big batch and I was hooked again. Mindful, clean, healthy eating is fine but lets keep it away from the comfort such recipes evokes. This is one of those few recipes which takes me back in time, engages me in the memory of those years. I have put together a batch almost three or four times in last one year. Not that I eat them for breakfast but its a thorough guilty pleasure when I need sugar.
Besan(chickpea flour) ladoo (sweet confection) is an extremely popular no-occasion mithai in India.In homes these are served just to cater to sweet tooth after meals, for casual snacking or as an instant energy boost.Requiring just four ingredients, the recipe is very forgiving and gluten-free. Coarse chickpea flour is roasted in ghee till it starts emanating a nutty fragrance. Sugar, nuts and dried fruits are added and then the flour is rolled into small dumplings. Sweet and simple. You could add in a variety of nuts and seeds but I like to add only raisins. If the flour is not slow roasted properly, there will be raw after taste so bring lots of patience when you decide to make these. Other than that the recipe is a no brainer.
Ingredients (Makes 12-15 ladoos)
3/4 cup ghee (measured at room temperature)
2 cup ladoo besan (coarse chickpea flour)
1/2 cup powdered sugar +1/3 cup crystal sugar
5-6 cardamom pods
1/3 cup raisins
Coarse Chickpea Flour (Ladoo Besan/Mota Besan is easily avialbale in indian/pakistani stores)
If you do not get coarse chickpea flour, add 2-3 tbsp of fine semolina while roasting to get the right texture.If you do not want to add semolina and keep them gluten free,use usual chickpea flour that you could get but add lesser quantity of ghee (about 1/2 cup) than what is mentioned in the recipe, add more melted ghee later if you feel that the roasted flour-sugar mix is dry or if required when shaping the ladoos.
The right texture for ladoos is coarse and chewy – they should not to stick to gums.
You could use coconut oil in this recipe in place of ghee for a vegan version but frankly the taste changes totally and I did not like it much.
I add a mix of powdered and crystal raw turbinado sugar to better the chewy texture though traditionally powdered sugar (boora) is used.
The ladoos from this recipe are very moist so if in case you have a difficulty while shaping them, refrigerate the flour mix for 10-12 minutes and roll out. They will not fall apart once shaped into balls.
In a large pot, combine ghee with besan and using your fingers combine well so that there are no lumps. Transfer the mixture to a heavy bottomed kadhai/wide pan. Put the kadhai on stove and let heat on medium low for 5-7 minutes. When the kadhai has warmed up, reduce heat to low.
Cook on a low flame, stirring continuously. The slow roasting is extremely important so as to ensure that the raw taste of besan is gone. Besan will slowly start changing color and you will smell a nice aroma. After about 30-35 minutes of slow roasting, you will also see ghee starting to separate on the sides. Take off the stove, mix in the raisins (or nuts if using) and set aside to cool.
While the mixture is cooling, crack open the cardamom pods and in using mortar and pestle crush the seeds to a fine powder.
Once the roasted besan is cooled (but not cold) and easy to handle, add in the sugar and cardamom powder. Combine nicely so that everything is mixed together. Make even sized balls. You can moisten your palms with little melted ghee (if required) while making balls.
It is Diwali day tomorrow in India.Commonly know as the festival of lights, Diwali is a five-day long fare celebrated across the country with a lot of tradition & merriment.The grandest among the Hindu festivals and dated about 11000 years back, it celebrates the homecoming of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years of banishment and a triumph over the demon king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, people of the kingdom decorated their homes, lit diyas (earthen lamps) & rejoiced.Till today, lightning a string of diyas around the house and place of worship is said to remove negativity and is symbolic of inviting gyan (knowledge) inside the house.
Sitting on the couch as I write this post on a grey, cloudy afternoon, not a single thing is fluttering outside or inside the home. All I can hear is the sound of tall palm trees swaying relentlessly in the winds. It is a strange cone of silence that draws my mind towards it, at the same time my heart is bubbling with memories of Diwali from back home. Innately, each half an hour I look at the clock & wonder what would happen as the day starts in few hours.
Mom would start by spreading the overnight soaked diyas (earthen lamps) in the courtyard to dry out before the evening , give finishing touches to her colorful rangoli. She would cook all day to feed an army of guests who will throng the house to greet & exchange gifts. Dad would keep himself busy decorating each nook & corner of the house with all kinds of luminescent lights & eating mithai (sweets) every hour. By evening, the house would be decked up as a new bride, prayers offered to goddess of wealth, Laxmi, prasad distributed among family members,dinner served among chatter & chaos followed by night long gambling, which is considered auspicious today.
‘Burfi’ or ‘Barfi’ is a very basic sweet, fudgy confectionary in India. Quite like the western counterpart, its made with loads of sugar & milk and is necessarily flavored with cardamom, saffron, fruit extracts or rose-water. Traditionally, milk solids to ground nut powders to different types of flours are used but now even fancier versions with chocolate and cheese are hugely popular . For me, Diwali is incomplete without gulab jamuns & some kind of burfi.
Like all Hindu festivals, Diwali is necessarily a sweet rally. I missed out on making any sweets at home last year, this time I was keen on doing something for sure. Anything with coconut is an instant favorite in the house. Keeping it quick & simple, I prepared this 15 minute coconut – dulce de leche burfi last night.
My grandmother’s coconut burfi recipe involves caramelizing whole milk from scratch, simmering it slowly over stove top for hours, stirring it patiently to release the natural sugars in there & achieving an intense, grainfree consistency. The creamy, gooey milk solids at the end of the toil are dreamy. If I may say, it’s probably one of the things I would love to lick for my last meal. So good!
However, for now, instead of making it from scratch, I used dulce de leche in my recipe. I love the anticipation that builds up when I m trying to tweak things in the kitchen. It all looked falling into place from the beginning , right from when coconut flakes toasted in ghee to the divine aroma that lingered while dulce de leche warmed up, loosening slowly & combining with the ingredients. Trust me in this concoction, the humble latin spread did not disappoint. The fudge came out dense, perfectly sweet & almost melt in the mouth like. P said that it reminded him of the coconut burfi from the favorite sweet shop in his hometown. You don’t miss anything here, except maybe the opportunity of licking the pot as fresh milk thickens when you do it from scratch.
Cooking time : 10 minutes + setting time in the refrigerator or at room temperature
Ingredients Makes 8-10 squares (approx 2″ X 2″ X 1/2″ thk)
4 tbsp ghee
3 cups dried coconut flakes, unsweetened
3 tbsp almond meal (or fine crushed almonds)
1 no 13.4 oz (380gms) dulce de leche can
8-10 green cardamom pods or 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
2 tsp ghee (for greasing the tray)
For garnish : 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)
Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and crush them into a fine powder using mortar & pestle.Set aside. Skip this step if using ready-to- use cardamom powder.
Liberally grease the tray/brownie pan you want to set the fudge in with 2 tsp ghee. Set aside.
In a heavy, wide-mouthed ( I use my 12″) pan, melt the 4 tbsp ghee on a low heat. Add the almond meal and roast it for 1-2 minutes until it smells fragrant but does not change color.Next,on low to medium heat, add the dried coconut flakes & toast them stirring continuously until you smell the aroma and they just start to turn light brown.About 2-3 minutes.
Add the crushed cardamom next & mix well.
Reduce heat to low. Add dulce de leche. Immediately stir everything together till the mixture clumps up together. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Put off the heat.
Transfer the mixture to the greased tray and spread evenly to a uniform thickness.You can use back of a spatula or spoon to smoothen out the surface. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Cover the surface with a wax paper next and let set in refrigerator (during summers) for at least 1.5 hours or outside (in winters) until firm to touch.With cold weather in,I let the tray sit on the countertop overnight.
Melt the white chocolate chips over a double boiler and drizzle over the fudge. Let set for another hour till the chocolate dries out.
Cut into neat squares using a sharp knife dipped in hot water.
I use dried, desiccated, unsweetened coconut flakes available in the bulk supply section at Whole foods. You can use fresh or frozen coconut (skinless) in this recipe but you will need to adjust (increase) the toasting time in that case.Ensure that the moisture has totally dried out before you add the other ingredients.
I stock whole green cardamom pods, break open,crush the seeds using mortar/pestle and use in my recipes. It is a much fresh & economical option.
You can leave the fudge as it is or use any kind of nuts,semi sweet chocolate , edible silver/gold foil for garnishing.
Allow me to call it a beauty.I dont mean fancy or flashy.Neither I want to hint that I toiled over this dessert for hours. It is something hopelessly easy to make, yet succeeds in achieving the delight a dessert is supposed to bring. Softly tart yogurt flavored with freshly ground elaichi (cardamom),topped with a luscious mango saffron compote – as simple as it can get but like a little sunshine on the spoon.
It is hard to believe that something so unfancy & minimal as yogurt & sugar can turn into a creation which appeals to the sweet tooth. I admit that cardamom & cream add more body to the dessert – making it a little more wonderful.Cream is traditionally not used – I like it for the added richness that it lends here. Trust me, never a easy dessert would taste so very spectacular.
Shrikhand is a yogurt based sweet dish originally from western parts of India. But now, it is popular all over the subcontinent. Basic shrikhand recipe is like a blank canvas – some like to add nuts, some combine chopped or pureed fruits with it and some let the melt in the mouth consistency remain unadulterated. Experiment as it pleases you.
I ate shrikhand for the first time prepared by one of my friend’s mom in Pune. She served it along side pooris (deep-fried flatbread) & a spicy bean sprouts curry. The combo was tad odd for me. Supposedly the yogurt is supposed to calm down the spices of the meal as you eat.I m not exactly sure how few bits of that first not-so- appreciable taste testing stuck with me.Eight years down the line & now I immensely enjoy shrikhand with pooris. Just like any comfort food, the sugar & oil overload is quite addictive.
Usually, pureed mango is mixed with hung yogurt & shrikhand becomes amrakhand. My favorite summer fruit is here. I bought season’s first batch last week & they seemed perfect to add a texture to the dessert.The mangoes were ripe & sweet – a compote was definitely on my mind. Addition of saffron to it seemed an obvious decision to accentuate the exotic flavors. The fact that I prepared the dessert with homemade dahi (indian style yogurt) made me a little happy than usual.
Preparation Time :- About 8 hours (includes draining in the refrigerator)
Cooking Time :- 10 minutes (for both shrikhand & mango compote)
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
For the Shrikhand
1.5 cups whole milk plain dahi (substitute with plain yogurt)
100ml heavy cream, cold
1/3 cup granulated sugar (or to taste)
8-9 green cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp cardamom powder)
pinch of nutmeg powder
For the Mango Compote
3 tbsp luke warm water
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp lime zest
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, cored, diced
Needed:- Colander, Muslin/CheeseCloth,Bowls
Line a colander with muslin/cheese cloth large enough that you can tie up its ends. Place the colander over a large bowl. Ensure that there is gap between the colander bottom & the bowl bottom to collect the draining liquid. Pour the dahi into the colander,wrap up and tie up all the ends of the muslin/cheesecloth. Let the dahi drain for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight inside the refrigerator.
Note :-Dont leave dahi while it drains outside, else it will turn sour.Discard the whey once drained. Reserve the muslin/cheesecloth.(If in hurry, you can use Greek yogurt to make shrikhand too. Skip this step if doing so)
Transfer the strained, thick, cold dahi into a bowl. Add cream to it and start whisking using a hand beater. Slowly add the sugar and beat until you get slightly stiff peaks.
Again tie the dahi – cream mix in the muslin/cheesecloth & let drain in the colander arrangement (as explained above) for another 2 hours inside the refrigerator.
Break open the cardamom pods & grind the seeds using a mortar & pestle.Tip – Always buy whole cardamom pods.This way of making your own powder saves a lot of money.
After 2 hours, transfer the drained dahi mix to a bowl. Add cardamom & nutmeg powder and stir gently with a wooden spoon. Let chill for at least 3-4 hours or till ready to serve.
Scoop the chilled shrikhand into serving bowls & top with mango compote (recipe below). Keeps well in fridge for 2-3 days.
Making Mango Compote
In a medium bowl, dissolve the saffron in lukewarm water till it dissolves. About a minute or so. Stir in the lime juice, sugar and mix till sugar dissolves. Add in diced mangoes. Cover and chill upto 1 day.