Roti/Chapati – Everyday Indian Flatbread



Sinfully Spicy - Roti/Chapati, Everyday Indian FlatbreadI can’t remember a single meal in my home when there weren’t homemade flatbreads to eat.Except a few days when khichdi( gooey lentils & rice) formed dinner, soft and steam filled rotis smothered with homemade ghee or  with grainy white butter were brought fresh off the tawa (griddle) to everyone’s plate.You would hardly count how many you to eat,the ladies of the house took rounds to roll, puff and help each other on occasions like Sunday lunch when the whole family was eating together.Always; there were always plenty for everybody.

My badi mummy made the best rotis and parathas that I have ever tasted.She rolled perfect rounds,as if  a compass or a cutter has been used with the dough, rotis so soft that you could use just thumb and index fingers to break a bite, perfectly charred with black spots from the high flame on both sides. My mother makes the second best to her, paper-thin and larger rounds but still delicate and slightly chewy.I might already be sounding obsessive with these sorts of descriptions but trust me in indian homes, especially in norther parts,roti making is a serious business.A deft technique which is taught to daughters when their  wedding day approaches. It is the bread of life, something you start and end your day with. Giving away a roti to a needy & poor is symbolic of highest level of ‘punye‘ or good deed in Hindu vedas, it is a thing which subsides the hunger of animals, birds or humans equally. The daily bread is revered.

Roti is a everyday unleavened flatbread in our homes,cooked on stove, chapati is similar to roti just rolled out much thinner, phulka is another name used in India for rotis, a Hindi word denoting the puffy look of it.Parathas(skillet-fried dough) or Pooris (deep fried dough) are also made from the same dough, layered or unlayered, stuffed with fillings, rolled in all different shapes.You could see my triangle paratha as an example. But, necessarily, the dough remains the same. It is only the handling and shaping that differs Hoping I have not confused you too much!

It would be really surprising but as compared to the naan, which got more popular in the west, in indian homes, you will found rotis and parathas cooked on a daily basis. Naan, fine all purpose flour (maida) flatbread is a once in a while thing, something you order when eating at restaurants or like in my home,when mom made really special exotic curries or we had family gatherings with lots of guests, she would send us with home-made yeasty dough to the street side guy with the tandoor and we came back with stacks of naan for supper.

Let’s get to making some rotis.Shall we? I have invariably used the word ‘atta’ in my post and recipe. Atta is nothing but Hindi for whole wheat flour (loosely used for both dry, wet flour as well as the dough)

Measure the atta (durum wheat flour) and slowly, start adding (warm) water to it.In India, we use a paraat (a utensil made of brass/copper/stainless less specifically for kneading roti dough). The one you see in pictures, is some 40 year old treasure from my grandmother, still going strong.

Incorporate water in a circular motion into the atta with your fingers.Start kneading gently.

As the atta absorbs water,it will start clumping up. Continue to add water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour starts to come together.

At this point,ensure that the atta is not very dry,try to squeeze it between your palms as if making a fist and it should be soft and sticky (and messy!). Start using your knuckles to knead the atta next.

Use your knuckles to flatten it out and then pull it all together towards yourself using your palm & fingers,then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 5-7 minutes. At any point you feel that the dough is tight or drying out, add a light splash of warm water.

Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast).You could add a bit to oil while kneading to make it smoother.

Time to rest those gluten.Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 15-18 minutes.You could smear a layer of melted ghee or oil on top but you really do not need it if the proportion of water is correct and you made sure that the dough didn’t feel or look dry when kneading dough will stay moist during rest time but starts losing moisture after 20 minutes. So if you are not planning to make rotis right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.

When ready to make rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions. Approximately.If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter.

Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make rotis!

Roll each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly from edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.

Dust the board or the roti as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.

It takes practice to get the shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, doesnt affect the taste.The trick to roll perfect rotis is that when you are rolling the dough it should also be moving in circular direction by itself. If not, you can move it yourself and flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.

Another tip (from my grandmother) to get thin edges of rotis is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of the roti.

Meanwhile, place a tawa (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on high to heat up. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to store rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift the roti.

Place the roti on the hot tawa.  Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too) on first side,just so you see the surface changing color or trying slightly. I would say about 25% cooked.

Flip using kitchen tongs and let cook for another 30-40 seconds on the other side. You might or might not get charred dots but do not cook on griddle for too long else the rotis will dry out.

Lift the roti with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to help it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storing rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewy rotis, so you can char them to liking.

In case, you have a electrical stove with no flame, see the recipe on how to puff up the rotis.

Very gently press on when you puff the second side too. Smear with ghee and wrap in a kitchen towel to store.

Typically, you can serve rotis as a side bread with all sorts of things – curries (both dry & wet) to lentils to as a wrap or fried and a chips or any which way you like. One of my personal favorites is warm roti, smothered with ghee and sprinkled with sugar, rolled up. In India, it is normal to consume rotis for all meals, two, sometimes three times a day,sometimes in our house we serve roti alongside spicy egg scramble for breakfast or quick lunch too.

One of my close friend once told me a very interesting way to introduce the correct way of eating rotis to the western world.”Use roti as a spoon to eat the curry and later eat the spoon”, he said.Spot on!

In other news, Sinfully Spicy was featured last week by SBS Australia as a favorite indian food blog in their food section. You could read the feature here.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 15 rotis roughly 6-6.5″ inch )

  • 2.5 cups durum wheat atta (fine ground whole wheat flour made from durum wheat)
  • 1 +1/4 cup warm water or more/less if needed

Also Required

  • 1/2 tbsp – 1 tbsp any neutral oil (to moisten the dough when it rests, optional)
  • Ghee to spread on warm, cooked rotis (optional but recommended)
  • about 3/4 cup dry atta, needed when rolling the rotis

Tools Needed

  • A wide, heavy shallow dish large enough to knead and dough. In India, we use a paraat (a brass or stainless less dish specifically for kneading roti dough). You could use your mixing bowl too but a wide dish will make it a lot easier.
  • A flat, clean, smooth rolling stone or surface
  • Rolling Pin
  • 2-3 kitchen towels (to cover the dough when resting as well as to wrap the cooked rotis)
  • 1-2 sheets of paper towel (I line the kitchen towel with paper towel to absorb the moisture when storing rotis else they turn too soggy)
  • A wide container (8-10 inch in diameter) with lid to store the wrapped rotis. If you do not have, you could use a couple of dinner plates.
  • Tawa or cast iron griddle (I use my 12″) to cook the rotis.
  • A pair of tongs to be used when puffing the rotis on direct flame

Method

There are superior varieties of Indian wheat which are stone ground to make atta (fine whole wheat flour). Largely, you could choose between durum wheat or sharbati wheat. Infact, a lot of leading atta brands in India now have a mix of both. It is important to understand that atta  is different from the pastry whole wheat flour available in baking aisles. It is a much fine ground which make the rotis soft and less chewy.You will need to visit indian/pakistani grocery stores to get it.There are multigrain and high fibre atta varieties also available and all are suitable for making rotis. A 10lb pack will usually cost you $7-$8 and it has a really good shelf life of 3-4 months.

In a wide, shallow dish measure and place the atta. With one hand slowly start adding (warm) water and mixing in circular motion with the fingers of other hand. Incorporate water a little at a time and start to kneading gently.

As the atta absorbs water,it will start clumping up into a ball.Continue to add warm water till all the dry flour becomes wet, your hands will be mighty messy but the flour will come together.Remember not to add too much water at a time.

Once a ball is formed, ensure that it is not very dry by trying to squeeze the dough ball between your palms as if making a fist and it should feel soft and sticky. Start using your knuckles to knead the dough next.

Use your knuckles to flatten the dough out and then pull it all together towards yourself, using your palm & fingers, then knead again with knuckles to flatten out. Knead this way (flatten and bring together) repeatedly for 7-8 minutes. At any point you feel that the dough is tight or drying out, add a light splash of warm water.The dough should not feel or look dry at any point.

Towards the last 1-2 minutes of kneading, use both hands to knead for a very smooth & elastic dough (this will work up the gluten really fast). Once the dough looks and feels really really smooth, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for (not more than) 20-25 minutes.You could smear a layer of melted ghee or oil on top but you really will not need it if the proportion of water is correct and you made sure that the dough didn’t feel or look dry when kneading. The dough will stay moist during rest time but starts losing moisture after 30 minutes. So if you are not planning to make rotis right away, place the dough into an air tight container with lid and refrigerate.

When ready to make rotis, uncover and divide into equal portions. Approximately.(Note: If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 10-15 minutes before and let sit on kitchen counter)

Take each dough portion between palms of your both hands and roll to make as smooth balls as possible. Flatten the balls. Get some loose atta on to the dish. Its time to make rotis!

Roll and cover each ball in the loose atta and place on a smooth rolling stone or pastry board or kitchen surface. Flatten out lightly on edges using tips of your finger. Using a rolling-pin, start rolling the dough to a flat circle.Dust the board or the roti as and when required when rolling. Initially, you will need to dust more but it will get easier as you continue.

It takes practice to get the perfect circle shape. Even if you don’t get perfect rounds its okay, it doesn’t affect the tasteThe trick to roll perfect rotis is that when after 1-2 minutes into rolling the dough it should also be moving in circular direction by itself. If its your first time, this might not happen but remember practice will make you better and better each time. If not, you can move the roti yourself to roll and evenly flatten from all sides to get a 6-7″ round.

Another tip to get thin edges of rotis is that towards the last 15-20 seconds of rolling, your rolling-pin should be half on the board and half of the roti as you roll.

Meanwhile, place a tawa (griddle), I use 12″ cast iron on to heat up on high. Keep the box lined with kitchen towel near by to store rotis. When the griddle is hot, flour one of your hands and carefully, lift the roti.

Place the rolled roti on the hot tawa.  Cook it for 30-40 seconds (this time will depend on thicken of your roti too) on first side,just so you see the surface changing color or trying slightly. I would say about 25% cooked.

Flip using kitchen tongs and let cook on the griddle on the second side for another 30-40 seconds. You might or might not get charred dots but do not cook on griddle for too long else the rotis will dry out.When you cook on the second side, you will see that little puffs coming up on the surface.

Lift the roti with tongs and place it on open flame on the first side directly on fire and very lightly press with tongs to help it puff.Let puff and get charred on first side. About 10-15 seconds.

Flip and repeat for the second side. If you storing rotis, you should not let it brown too much else it will dry up. Some people like crispy and chewy rotis, so you can char a little longer to liking.

In case you do not have electrical stove, you can puff up the rotis on the griddle itself. Once the second side is cooked, reduce the heat to medium and gently start pressing the roti with a soft kitchen towel on all side. It will puff up.

Smear ghee on the hot rotis and server right away or store then wrapped in a kitchen towel. I line the kitchen towel with a small piece of paper towel, this helps in preventing them from getting soggy.

In case you want to freeze the rotis (yes it can be done), make all the rotis and let them cool down to room temperature wrapped inside the towel. Then stack them on top of each other with a large piece of wax or parchment paper in between.

When wanting to use the frozen rotis, thaw them in the fridge and warm up on high for 8-10 seconds in the microwave.

Notes

  1. Roll the dough very well and as evenly thin as possible.This helps in puffing up the rotis.
  2. Store the leftover dough in the refrigerator for not more than 1-2 days in an air tight container.
  3. If you are wanting to serve rotis later in the day, you can make ahead them. In this case, add 2 tbsp of melted ghee while making the dough.They will remain soft.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

 

Egg Curry

The thought of eating steaming rice mixed with thick, chili hued masala from the curry fills me with as much joy as that of a kid waiting upon a bowl of macaroni & cheese. In our house, a weekday suddenly turns exciting when its egg curry for dinner. It is not an immensely difficult meal to prepare and trust me it spoils your taste buds given how quick it is ready to serve. I use my basic masala recipe with a few whole spices added in.

The husband can live on eggs and for me, particularly at this time of the year when the evenings are colder, diving into a thick tomato gravy with redolent of kasuri methi and warm tones of ginger is enough to drive me hungry out of turn.

In India, egg curry is an immensely popular dish. Usually, hard-boiled eggs are thrown in the home specific curry recipe and served as a protein side to the meals. The recipe varies from home to home as well as region to region. The north indians mostly prepare it in a tomato – onion base while the south indian version is done with coconut & curry leaves.Few regions use a mustard paste base and fry up the lightly hard-boiled eggs before dunking them in the sauce.It is commonly served as a side to flatbreads or plain rice.

My mum always used to add fresh peas to the gravy but the husband prefers potatoes so I started making it that way. If you get a chance, fresh peas, sweet and tender beautifully balance the heat of the spices but potatoes taste quite delicious and comforting too.You can use just eggs too depending on how you like it. The gravy is very flavorful with normal day-to-day spices used in and comes together quickly while the eggs boil.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 5-6 eggs
  • 1 generous pinch turmeric powder
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3-4 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with canola/grapeseed oil)
  • 1 green cardamom, cracked open
  • 1/4″ cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 small garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger (adjust quantity to taste)
  • 1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped (slight sour variety)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/8 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1/2 cup water (or more depending on desired consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, skip if you do not have)
  • salt
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish – as much as you want

Method

Hard Boil the eggs. I use this recipe to get perfectly hard -boiled eggs.

Peel the eggs, slit (but not all the way through) them using a sharp knife  and rub them with a generous pinch of turmeric powder and let sit.

In a heavy bottomed pot, add the oil and heat on medium – high till you see faint ripples on the oil surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat it a little longer till to do away the raw smell.Reduce heat to medium. Add the cardamom and cinnamon stick and let crackle for 10-120 seconds. Add the finely chopped onions next and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes.

Next, add the garlic & ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes till you start smelling a nice aroma.Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with coriander,turmeric,chilli,garam masala & amchoor powder. Start to cook this masala on low heat. After about 3-4 minutes add the potatoes, cover and cook the masala till you see the oil separating on the sides of the pan. About 8-10 minutes. In between, if you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some water. .This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, do not rush.Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color and the potatoes are 90% done.

Add the turmeric rubbed eggs to the pot, sprinkle the kasuri methi, add more water (if you want a thinner gravy),cover and let cook for another 5-7 minutes. Put off the stove and let sit at least 2 hours before serving.

Warm up, garnish with cilantro and serve!

Jalebi

Come end of September and its time of autumn festivities for Indians.Hindus all over India celebrate Navratri (nine days of fasting & feasting),worshipping Goddess Durga  in nine pristine forms,each form depicting a virtue . Ramlila is a traditional, nine or ten-day long drama staged during these days in northern india to portray the life events of Lord Rama and his victory over the demon king Ravana.The last day which is a celebration of this triumph is observed as Dusherra.

Year after year we looked forward to Ramlila  days. There would be a nip in the air,schools would be off and bazaars all geared up to witness the hustle and bustle of upcoming festivals.Quite a lot of big and small fairs dotted our town,each locality showcasing its grandeur through decorations,much pomp & show,some having lighted displays,other luring crowds with musicals.Before you go into thinking about a fairyland, the ramlila grounds were dusty and crowded, cramped shoulder to shoulder with people,with flashy neon or fluorescent light banners and the music shows – a cacophony of loudspeakers which sore your ears few minutes into listening but, in those days I LOVED all of that. My enthusiasm could be might low if I visit the fair now but in those days,every evening, dressed our best,we left the house together to visit a new ramlila ground.

Walking through the dimly lit,narrow roads and holding each other’s hand, carrying goodies in the other, we would come back home around midnight from the last day at ramlila,after having witnessed the demon effigies burnt to ashes and the fireworks that followed to cheer the triumph of good over evil.Legs aching due to long waits in the queue for almost everything but stomachs stuffed to content with piping hot jalebis fresh from the halwai stalls and our hands full with knickknacks bought from the toy stalls – bubble guns, imitation bows & arrows, helium balloons, pinwheels and candy.All we chatted about were the rides at the fair and how to make next few weeks to Diwali fun!

Sometimes I feel how growing up, for us the means of entertainment were so uncomplicated.I remember playing on terrace for hours with tiny earthen pots and tea cups bought from the potter stalls at ramleela, on few days we played cricket for hours in the aangan (yard),on most evenings we wandered miles and miles in the park chasing butterflies and bees or hopelessly trying to create colorful illusions with pinwheels. Festivals like HoliDusherra and Diwali were longed for, for months. Mum tells me that I had quite a keen interest in all things culture and mythology.

No computer, no DVDs, no play stations, no just dance, no karaoke. Entertainment did not come out of  LCD screens, it was way real. Sorry for sounding like a grandma but I dare not talk about the simplicity of those days!

Jalebi is the one of the popular mithai which was popular in my part of town on Dusherra, which falls on 3rd Oct this year.For me on this day nothing else will suffice as dessert if it’s not jalebi. Comparable to a funnel cake but eggless and fermented,  jalebi is a crisp, deep-fried maida (flour) batter,soaked in sugar syrup long enough to sweeten it but not let it turn soft. The sugar syrup may or may not be flavored with cardamom, saffron or rosewater. As the fermented batter is piped into the hot oil, it swells and comes sizzling up,changing its color to golden. The crisp concentric fried batter are then dunked in warm sugar and served with cold unsweetened milk or rabdi. However, my favorite way to serve hot jalebis is with dahi (plain unsweetened yogurt).

Ingredients (Makes 20-25 Jalebis)

For the Jalebi

  • 1 cup maida (all-purpose flour)
  • 1.5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1.5 tbsp besan (fine ground gram flour)
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1.5 tbsp melted ghee (use any neutral oil for vegan version)
  • 2 tbsp whole milk plain yogurt, at room temperature (skip for vegan, see notes)
  • 1/8 tsp saffron powder (crush a few saffron threads between palms)
  • 1-2 drops orange food color(optional)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup luke warm water + 2-3 tbsp warm water for dissolving yeast (adjust water quantity for right consistency)
  • Canola/Sunflower Oil for frying (You can add 1-2 tbsp ghee to it for a nice aroma)

For the Sugar Syrup

  • 1.5 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 green cardamom pods, cracked open or 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Optional Flavorings – rose water, kewra (screwpine water)

Method

In a small bowl, add of scant pinch of sugar and 2-3 tbsp of warm(not hot) water, dissolve yeast and let sit for 5-8 minutes. Let the yeast bloom (you should see froth on top).If the yeast does not bloom, discard and start the batch again.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sift the maida, besan and cornstarch. Add the saffron powder.Using your finger, lightly mix the ghee and yogurt with the flour. Add the bloomed yeast mix, orange food color and slowly add luke warm water to make a smooth,lump free batter. Be doubly sure that the batter has no lumps, it is a very important step. Add the water a little at a time and incorporate.The consistency should be like a thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with a cling film and set aside in a warm place to ferment for 2-3 hours. (The batter will ferment quickly, about 1-2 hours during summer months but could take longer during winters) Do not disturb it during fermenting.

10-15 minutes before you are ready to fry the jalebis, in a medium,wide pot, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Once the sugar syrup is boiling, reduce the heat, add the cardamom and let simmer for 7-8 minutes so that the syrup thickens up  a bit. We are not looking for any string consistency here but if you take a tiny drop of syrup in between your thumb and pointer finger, it should feel sticky and not watery. Once the sugar has simmered and thickened, add lemon juice, stir and put off the heat.Wait for 2-3 minutes and then if you are using saffron or cardamom powder or any other flavorings, add it to the sugar syrup. Let sit near to where you will fry up the jalebis.

Use the widest pot or wok or pan that you have in your kitchen to fry the jalebis. I use my 12″ skillet.Pour 1-2 inches of oil in it and let heat up on medium heat.

At the end of two hours, the fermented batter will not exactly double up in volume but you would see that it is much more light and fluffy than what we started with. Once fermented, do not mix the batter much. We want it to remain airy and fluffy. Just cut and fold once or twice using a spatula (just the way we handle cake frosting) and pour it into a squeezable bottle with nozzle.  Try to squeeze the batter out of the nozzle, it should come out like a tooth paste from a tube. (see notes for other ways of checking batter consistency). If you feel that the batter is thick, add a little water for the right consistency or if the batter is thin, add a couple of tablespoons of flour and mix gently so that there are no lumps.

To test the right temperature of oil, drop a small quantity batter in the oil, it should come up sizzling to the top but without changing color (if batter changes color, reduce heat and let the oil temperature reduce a bit). Squeeze the batterout of the nozzle, applying constant pressure and making 3-4 concentric circles in the oil and sealing them in the middle.Work from outside towards inside. It takes time and experience to get proper shape and it gets better and better batch after batch. Do not fry more than 4-5 jalebis in a batch. Once you have piped the jalebis in hot oil, in 2-3 seconds they will come floating up, flip and let turn golden on the other side too. Once golden, take out of from the hot oil, tilting the spider or frying spoon so that excess oil is drained.

Add the fried jalebis to the warm (not hot)syrup. Let soak for not more than 25-30 seconds and take out again tilting the ladle to drain excess syrup else they will break and turn soggy.

Fry up all the jalebis and soak in syrup. Serve warm with cold unsweetened yogurt.

Few Tips and Notes:

Indian Cooking especially mithai (sweets) making rides on a lot of approximations and tips and tricks learnt through experience. In our homes, rarely gadgets are used to test the oil or sugar syrup temperatures or times.Lets say we trust our sight and smell senses more when cooking.  Mithai making is an art and gets better with practice. Here are few of the things I have learnt from mum and my own trials.

  • In case you are making the jalebis for vegans, skip the yogurt in the recipe and use a little more water to get the right consistency of the batter.
  • Addition of lemon juice to the syrup prevents crystallization of sugar as well as lends it a mild tart flavor which is typical to jalebis.
  • Adding food coloring to the batter is a choice, if you do not want,skip it. I like to add color because my mum always does and I think it looks nice to the eyes.
  • Usually the batter gets a little runny after fermentation, so its better to keep it on the thickish side before you set it out to ferment. You can always add water later to get the right consistency.
  • One of the ways to check the consistency of batter is to take a large quantity in your hands and try to drop it in the bowl from a height, about 1-2 feet, it should fall is continuously, similar to how a lace or ribbon flows.
  • You could use a Ziploc bag with a hole cut up at the end to make the jalebis, but I find using the squeeze bottle much easier since if you keep on pressing the Ziploc bag, after a few batches, the hole becomes large in size and the jalebis become very very thick.I find the ziploc method quite messy too. The squeezable bottles are available in baking aisle for a couple of dollars. They are much expensive to buy online. But trust me, really easy and work with. Attaching a nozzle to a piping bag works fine too, just keep in mind that the thickness of the jalebis will depend on the nozzle size. Do not use a very big size nozzle since the jalebis will not cook properly inside once fried.
  • While frying, if the temperature of oil is too hot, the jalebis will come up sizzling, the batter will tear or have   bubbles all over, it might every scatter in the oil and jalebis will turn over crisp and not absorb syrup properly. If the oil temperature is too low, the jalebis will remain flat and raw inside. Once you start frying, it will take you 1-2 minutes to know the right temperature of oil, the jalebis should come up within few seconds (2-3secs) of piping into oil and swell as you fry but at the same time do not get too brown. Don’t worry I also had few over brown ones, so you will know when its right.
  • Getting the right shape of the jalebis takes time, they do not have to be precise and perfect but as you make more and more, you will get a hang of it. Just keep in mind to squeeze the bottle/piping bag batter with a constant pressure and work in concentric circles, outside towards inside. Again, practice will help.However, whatever shape they come out,they will taste good.
  • The right texture of the jalebis is crispy on outside, if you take a bite, you will notice the tubular crossection filled with syrup. Without getting more technical,just know that they are not meant to be soft.
  • You will have leftover syrup after the jalebis are soaked. I usually dunk baked bread croutons/slices in them and serve as a snack. You could refrigerate it and use to make gulab jamuns if you like. Also, it can be used  in smoothies or for making beverages too.
  • Jalebis can be stored for 2-3 days. Do not refrigerate. Just store at room temperature. I however, do not recommend or prefer storing them. Make small batches and serve rightaway.

Dal Tadka – Tempered Yellow Lentils


If you ever chance upon a dinner or lunch in India, dal or lentils is a must thing on the meal table. In north indian states it could be a choice between kaali dal (black lentils) or dal tadka (the yellow ones) but in other parts, quintessentially, it has to be the yellow one. Generously tempered with a fat (ghee, coconut,mustard or sesame oil) &  the crackling spices – cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves or mustard seeds, it is further flavored with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, onions, chilies (both green & red),turmeric and even jaggery (sugar).Essentially dal is quite an aromatic and soul nourishing food.

I like to compare dal preparation in Indian homes to the roasted chicken in the west. It is such a simple thing to make but the taste of dal can vary easily between two cooks.Comforting and satisfying food compounded with warm, smooth texture and laced with hints of spices. Every home has its own way of making it and that recipe is no doubt the best, certainly better than how it is done in your home (in case we get into an altercation ever!). We eat dal on days when we are sick as well as on days when we want to feast.Mostly severed with a spicy pickle (green mango in our house) and dollops of ghee on top, steamed basmati rice is the best vehicle for dal. In India, dal sums up the daily protein chunk for majority of indians who are pure vegetarians especially the ones who refrain from eggs also.

Between me and the husband we are poles apart when it comes to a favorite dal. For me its the black lentils which, at some point, I could eat every day with rotis (flatbread) but he is more of a chawal (rice) – dal kind. Since I mostly lost a knack for lentils after my pregnancy (its both amazing & weird what giving birth does to you!), he is having it his way in the house now.I usually mix a couple of lentils whenever cooking and the toor/arhar (split pigeon pea lentils) are an important ingredient here. Sadly I haven’t spotted it in regular or bulk grocery stores here so you might want to visit an indian/pakistani store to get it.

 

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

  • 1/3 cup arhar/toor dal (pigeon pea lentils,husked & split )
  • 1/3 cup masoor dal (red lentils,husked & split )
  • 2 tbsp moong dal (golden lentils,husked &split )
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped onion (I use red onion)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes (I use Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 fat garlic clove,finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp ghee, melted
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water +more
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder, substitute with fresh lime juice to taste)
  • Chopped Cilantro

For Tadka (tempering)

  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 whole dried kashmiri red chilies
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 2-3 whole red chilies

Notes –

  • The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time could be more. Also keep in mind that you use either all split or all whole when choosing lentils for this recipe
  • Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form. It aids digestion & is used more often than not in indian cooking, also a little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to dal but can be skipped if you do not have it.
  • If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but you can use any neutral oil.

Method

Thoroughly wash all the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Add chopped onion, tomatoes,garlic, ginger(if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 1 whistle (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30- 40 minutes or till completely tender.

Once you open the lid, add amchoor to the dal. With the help of a whisk or a spoon, thoroughly mash the lentils so that they are creamy. If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, return to the stove and let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds and let crackle. Also add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the garlic and let it cook for 30 seconds or so taking care that it does not burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and close the lid so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Top with chopped cilantro and serve.

Kesar Kulfi

Late Summer. The days are filled with blueberries and peaches and cherries before the seasons changes.This year we had an overdose of summer bounty in the house since most of our produce shopping was from Costco, there was hardly a day when we were out of fruits.May sound impatient, but I want those crunchy sweet tart apples and soft pears and ruby-red  pomegranates and rest these berries till next summer. In lieu of new, I picked up my first fresh figs this summer (yup, it took me five odd years to do that since I moved to the States) and kind of liked them but still didn’t understand the craze. The ones I ate though sweet,had a slightly slimy aftertaste so maybe they were unripe? Anyhow, the evenings turn up sooner and are much cooler than a past few weeks back.We are having a few rain spells every ten days or so which I am liking a lot since those are rare in this part of the world. I am barely able to decide if the air conditioning should be turned on or not all night even though I am waking up cold for last few days.

Talking of few weeks back, I broke my blender jar, it came shattering down on our tiled floor.The following day my year old Panini maker gave in as soon as I plugged it in. I smelled smoke and saw a spark. Short circuit. Dang. In the latest, every time I use it, I hear a scratchy sound while our food processor runs,looks like it will join that gang soon. Good lord. Just wondering if all the universe has joined hands against my kitchen equipment or is it really a coincidence?

The only good thing that happened was this kulfi, laced with saffron threads and sweet cardamom aroma.I badly needed to make something comforting to calm me down.A childhood ice cream treat from the streets,as kids we licked a few sticks each afternoon from the kulfiwalla(vendor) who visited our neighborhood. Needless to say, it was dirt cheap (may be few cents if you convert the currency) but came with huge flavor and texture. Traditionally, whole milk is simmered for hours and hours till it reduces to half its volume, the fat goes up and so does the sugar and protein content.Flavors are then added and its frozen immediately, no churning or custard business needed here.   As time and occasion permits,these days it also depends on how cranky the toddler is, I use either ways to make kulfi, sometimes I start with whole milk and sometimes with cans of evaporated milk or half and half to shorten the process.  This time, the husband offered to watch the little one and I took the traditional route – just like how mum used to make it at home filled with toil and sweetness of love.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup mava (milk solids, see recipe here to make your own, omit if you do not have)
  • 1 no 14oz sweetened condensed milk can
  • 2 tbsp fine rice flour + 2-3 tbsp whole cold milk (to dissolve)
  • 1/4 cup almond meal (or any nut of choice)
  • 1 tsp heaping saffron threads+ 1.5 tbsp warm whole milk (to dissolve)
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
  • Silvered almonds to serve 

Notes

  1. This recipe yields a lightly sweet kulfi (which is how it should be) but you can add more condensed milk or sugar as per taste.
  2. Addition of mava lends the kulfi both richness and a chewy texture but it can be skipped.
  3. Ideally, kulfi is not creamy, rather lightly chewy and grainy.
  4. You could use cornstarch in place of rice flour
  5. Substitute almonds with any kind of nuts (pistachios, cashews)

Method

In a heavy bottomed pot, bring milk to a boil. Once the milk is boiling, reduce heat to low and let cook down with constant stirring. You do not have to stand by the stove but check and stir every 10-12 minutes so that the milk does not stick to the bottom or sides of the pot.You will need to keep on scraping the side of the pot while you stir.  Depending on fat/water content of the milk it could take 3-5 hours for the milk to reduce to half of its volume.

While the milk is cooking, crumble or grate the mava (if using),there should be no lumps. Set aside. Dissolve the rice flour in cold milk and let sit. Crumble up saffron threads between palms of your hands and dissolve in warm milk. Set aside.

Once the milk has reduced, it will be light brownish in color, much thicker in consistency. Add the rice flour slurry to the pot with continual stirring (so that no lumps are formed) and let cook for 5 minutes on low heat . The mixture will thicken further and become smooth. Add the mava next and cook for another 5-8 minutes so that it softens a bit.

Remove from heat. Add the condensed milk, almond meal, dissolved saffron and cardamom powder to the milk mixture and combine well. Let sit to cool down,

Pour into kulfi moulds or popsicle moulds. Freeze for 24 hours with lid on.

Once ready to serve, use a sharp knife to loosen the edges and unmold the kulfi. You could run the mould under a stream of water to loosen it. Serve as it is or sliced up with nuts and falooda (recipe here)

Tandoori Chicken

On evenings coming back from work, when the bus was running terribly behind schedule, I volunteerd to get down way before my stop and walk down home.The side walk still wet from the rain spells an hour or two before smelled of decaying earth and lush green foliage all along looked as fresh as just bathed.The moist breeze of monsoon evenings was a much sought break after spending the whole day in air conditioning.

The fastest way to home get to home was through of busy market surrounded by the yellow government quarters (apartments) which looked like tiny match boxes stuffed on top of each other. In India, such streets are dotted with places to eat and these little food joints have been around for so many years that they turn into local favorites.

There was is a take out restaurant which was one of our favorites for non vegetarian food in the area. All you notice as a passerby were two or three young men wearing colored vests standing in front of the clay oven (tandoor)on one side,their hands stained in spices skewing marinated birds and tikka on to the slender iron bars, and some making rumali roti (paper thin flatbreads) on the other side. The aroma of smoke & cooked dough clinged to the blanket of air surrounding the entrance and the eternal long queue at the coupon station was a common sight.

When we went to Delhi last year, I made sure that the husband tastes the food from there. I remember we ordered garlicy naan, butter chicken and tandoori chicken for home delivery. Its been quite a while and we still talk about the meal from that night so you know what I mean. There must be thousands of places in Delhi serving bestest tandoori chicken but this little restaurant thriving in a tiny pocket of big city is where most of my family memories are woven around – of celebration, of laughter of cheerful Sunday meals around the table.

This recipe  took me quite a few attempts to get together. In India,the tandoori is more charred and blackish in appearance  than the orange hued you see here at restaurants. Infact, if you use good quality turmeric and kashmiri chilli powder, ideally the reddish-orange color should come along on its own during high heat roasting. In India, we do not eat chicken skin, so whenever making tandoori, use skinless chicken, the meat should be succulent and moist on the inside & chewy on the outside (not crispy).

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken drumsticks  (my package weighed total 2 lb, you could use any dark meat cut)
  • oil for basting
  • For serving – Chaat masala, onion slices, lemon wedges, fresh chopped cilantro.

First Marinade

  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne (adjust to tolerance)

Second Marinade

  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 black cardamom, seeds only
  • 1 green cardamom, seeds only
  • 2 cloves
  • 8 raw cashews, broken (or use 2 tbsp cashew meal)
  • 1 small twig of cinnamon (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup thick plain yogurt
  • 1″ fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1.25 tbsp chaat masala
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder (this lends the color,not the heat)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • scant pinch of ajwain seeds
  • 1 tbsp ghee, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp good quality saffron threads (optional)

Notes:

  1. Indian cinnamon is quite sharp as compared to the sweet cinnamon used in the west, that’s why I have noted a small quantity, adjust as per taste but do not go overboard.
  2. Black Cardamom has no substitute in this recipe. It has a woody, strong flavor and aroma much different that the sweet smelling cardamom. If you do not have it simply skip it.
  3. Chaat Masala is a tangy blend of spices which is used in indian cuisine.In this recipe it makes the marinade thick as well as lends it distinct hints of sharpness & smokiness,if you do not have it, use some lemon juice and a bit of roasted cumin powder in its place. If you want you can order online  or buy at indian/pakistani store. It keeps well for almost a year and can be used in salads, roasted vegetables or meats etc.
  4. You can make the tandoori marinade and immediately freeze it up to a month. When using, thaw it in the refrigerator and mix in the proteins or vegetables you are using.
  5. I recommend not using lean or boneless cuts like chicken breast for making tandoori because the high heat of cooking will immediately make the poultry chewy. You could use whole boneless thighs though.

Method

Skin the chicken and wash it under a running steam of water. Using paper towels, completely pat the chicken dry.Using a sharp knife, make incisions in the chicken and place in a bowl. Thoroughly rub the chicken with lemon juice, salt and chili powder. Set in the refrigerator.

Lightly crush the the black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon in mortar & pestle.Place them into the blender. Add the cashews, yogurt,ginger, garlic, garam masala, chaat masala, kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric, nutmeg, ajwain, ghee, saffron and salt to the blender.Blend everything very very well till a smooth paste is formed. Refrigerate this paste for 30 minutes for flavors to mix.(If its not very hot, you can leave it on the kitchen counter top else in the fridge so that yogurt does not turn sour)

Mix in the chicken and the marinade and let sit refrigerated for 18-24 hours (at least). This time of marination is really important. You could marinate up to 2 days in advance.

Once ready to cook, leave the chicken pieces out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil (this makes cleaning easy) and set a rack over it. Also, preheat your oven to its highest temperature  (600 F in my case). Place the chicken pieces over the rack and roast for 20 -25 minutes or until done, basting liberally with oil. Use a lot of oil for basting, this is very important for a moist chicken. You will need to open up the oven door and brush the chicken 3-5 times, keep on turning it to cook on all sides. Alternatively you could grill the chicken outdoors,basting it at intervals

Serve hot immediately with chaat masala, onion slices, lemon wedges, fresh chopped cilantro.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Layered Mango & Raspberry Dessert

Remember I mentioned that I made two desserts back to back over the 4th of July weekend? This is the second one besides the mango pudding. It is rather an assembly than a cooked or baked dessert but it came out so well. It is a spontaneous idea that I trying to share with you.But this layered thing came out so well and mainly because it is the best thing I have made so far this summer,I wanted to share it. Share it badly so you can try it this season itself before the mango & berries are gone. I don’t even know what to call it, maybe an indian cassatta because that’s closest to what I had in mind when I was it putting together. Maybe an ice cream cake? Or let’s just call it a frozen-layered-dessert. 

Literally, I played with food. I just had an idea to start with and few leftovers – mango puree after making the pudding, cake slices and heavy cream nearing expiration. A dessert which brings together pound cake, ice cream, berries, mangoes and cream and nuts(if you like)could hardly not taste good. It like hitting the bull’s eye standing at arm’s length. This was a bomb.Literally. It is not everyday that the husband complains that I should have considered a 8 or 9 inch round instead of the little 6 inch cake pan. But then, I wanted to finish off the leftovers rather than start something new in itself. Anyhow.

You can use the recipe just as a guideline and play around with whatever flavor or textures you like. I wanted to sneak in some dried mixed fruits and nuts but held back since the other half is not very fond of textures in food (how boring, right?). Whatever, make this dessert before summer ends and if your kids are of that age, involve them in the fun too.

It took me half a day to put all these layers all together – freezing the previous one and topping with next one and all. But so worth it. When I saw family asking for second or third serving, I decided that the next time I make this, it would be a 9″ or 10″ round.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

Mango Pudding

On days when I have to have a dessert, either we drive down to Freeds Bakery, or just about any bakery that is open after 8 pm. I bing on a slices of florentine cheesecakes and parisian chocolate cake or almond croissants with extra shot of espresso and phew, I am covered for a week. If it’s way too late to step out I make this quick mango pudding. The sugar craving is taken care of in hardly any time, I like it lightly warm.

After a dessert making hiatus of over two months, (when I made these ladoos),this long weekend,while the husband was pretty much glued to world cup for most part of the day, I whipped up a couple of them back to back.It started with this mango pudding after I got reminded of this childhood favorite in one of the indian buffets and the other one was put together rather compulsively because I wanted to finish up that 20oz of mango puree leftovers.

Done right, this could be a luscious dessert that you can put together in no time. My mom used to make a lot of pudding for after dinner treats growing up, I remember how in winters, the warm, luscious vanilla custard was topped with caramelized apples while the chilled mango version was a summer thing. In the most clumsy way, I always licked that velvety, thick thing more from the back of the spoon for it was gooey and almost coated all your taste buds – comforting just like a sweet dish should be!

This eggless custard is such a breeze to make and one of those baby steps in indian dessert cooking, infact the recipe is a no brainer, cornstarch is used to thicken the sweetened dairy, cashwes add some extra flavor and texture and then you let it sit in the refrigerator to set. The only way to spoil it is during the time when the mixture is on stove (I say that from experience), its slightly tricky to stop cooking just when the custard begins to thicken and though I have noted times in the recipe, I strongly recommend you to trust your instincts and gut when the stove is on.

The pudding can be served as it is,with any kind of seasonal fruits you like. You can fill up a tart base for a decadent dessert or top it with few teaspoons of sugar and brûlée it (ideas!) Do not mix fresh fruit with the custard unless you are serving all of it right away, this way it can keep good in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Ingredients (Serves 4-5)

  • 200 ml whole milk, cold
  • 200 ml heavy cream, cold
  • 1.5 tbsp cornstarch/cornflour
  • 2 heaped tbsp fine ground cashew or almond powder
  • 8-10 saffron strands or cardamom powder
  • 3-5 tbsp sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1.5 cups mango purée/mango pulp
  • Grapes, Mangoes, berries, toasted coconut(or any fruit or nuts of choice to serve)

Notes

  • I use tinned mango puree available in indian/pakistani stores, if using fresh, choose the sweetest mango variety and grind to make a smooth pulp.You can add little bit of saffron for color and flavor.
  • You can substitute the heavy cream with whole milk but the cream makes the custard nicely rich and (of course) creamy and delicious.

Method

Grind saffron strands with pinch of sugar and infuse in warm milk.

In a heavy bottom pot, mix cold milk, cream, cornstarch and cashew or almond powder. Whisk thoroughly till all the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Place the pot on low medium stove and stirring  continuously let the mixture warm up. It will take about 5-6 minutes. Once you start seeing little bubbles on the sides, reduce the heat to lowest and continue to stir. The mixture will thicken fast from here and will stick to bottom if you do not stir.

To test if the milk-cream mixture has thickened, check the back of the spoon by drawing a line with your fingers in the middle, the gap or lines should stay separate. Immediately  add the sugar and mango puree. Whisk thoroughly and let cook on lowest heat for another minute till sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add the saffron or cardamom. Mix well.  Strain using your soup strainer into a bowl so that any lumps are removed. At this point, you can mix the dried fruit if using. They will swell lightly as the pudding chills. Tear a large cling film and place it right on the surface of the custard, this avoids the formation of skin as the pudding chills.

Chill overnight or for at least 5-6 hours. Divide into serving bowls. This is thick and creamy. Serve with fresh fruit/nuts of choice.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Chole Paneer

Chandani Chowk,one of the busiest area in Old Delhi has been around for more than three centuries. Wiki tells me that all the merchants & invaders who ever crossed the walled city flocked past it,thus speaking volumes about its popularity and worth. The congested lanes dotted with shops selling linen,clothing, jewellery, books, electronics, footwear and what not turn so busy after noon,the peak time when the wholesale dealings begin that you could skip a breath trying to carve your way past them. Being in hurry is a way of life in this part of the city which is eternally teeming with people but has something to offer to everybody who lands here.

For me, the area is one of the best places to shop and eat if you happen to be in Delhi. It has a charm, a retro yet modern feel which is missing inside the food courts & malls.However, it is quite unfortunate that I caught on to the magnificence of the area quite late. I remember my first time there with dad and how claustrophobic I felt. In an effort to catch the glimpse of the sky, I looked up and all I saw were a cacophony of electric wires and the countless birds sitting on them, the rows of laundry sun drying and dilapidated balconies of houses, spaced at arm’s length from one another.

It was again during school years that I visited the place for our book hunting and chaat (street food) tasting hangout with friends. In those years, the Delhi Metro was still in the works and reaching Chandani Chowk from my home meant commuting through a couple of buses to a central point & then either hopping on to a rickshaw or walking down to your destination.It took effort, a whole lot of it.

I thronged the area much more during my pre wedding months, the place is a heaven for women interested in shopping for bridal gear and mom and me really looked forward to our Saturday shopping trips.We used to catch the morning metro as early as possible to get there and finish by noon before the shopper frenzy started.

For obvious reasons I skipped breakfast on those days.The food choices were unlimited and dreamy.We ate a different thing at a different eatery each time. It was on one of those trips that I discovered Chole Paneer from a street side eatery, served with ribbon thin onion rings and puffy bhaturas (fried flatbread) and hot, really hot pickle. It is fit to be the best chickpeas dish I have eaten in a long long time.Oily, spicy and creamy from soft melt in the mouth chunks of paneer, I am already salivating as I write this after so many years, so you can imagine what I mean here.

Over the years, I have come up with a recipe which (sort of) caters to the needs & tastes of my family – the husband doesnt want the ‘yellow’ from turmeric and if he had his way he would pick out the paneer too. I like how the lightly mashed chickpeas pick up the milky richness from paneer and would not give up on that ever! Although in the real world, I serve it with naan or kulcha,I bet they are no comparison to those oil drenched soft bhaturas!

 

Besan Ladoo (Chickpea Flour Confection)

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

Notes

  1. Coarse Chickpea Flour (Ladoo Besan/Mota Besan is easily avialbale in indian/pakistani stores)
  2. 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.
  3. The right texture for ladoos is coarse and chewy – they should not to stick to gums.
  4. 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.
  5. I add a mix of powdered and crystal raw turbinado sugar to better the chewy texture though traditionally powdered sugar (boora) is used.
  6. 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.

Method

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.

Store up to two weeks at room temperature.