Friday, October 24, 2014

Boondi Laddu

It's that time of the year again!! The time of the year when your heart is filled with inexplicable cheer. A time when there is warmth and brightness everywhere. A time when everything you see seems to have a special glow. Diwali is a time for new clothes, Diyas, crackers and above all, love and laughter. Most importantly, Diwali or Deepavali is a time to celebrate the victory of light over darkness, Knowledge over ignorance and good over evil.

I know I am a little late in wishing you all a happy Diwali. But I hope that everybody had a great Diwali and I hope you have a wonderful year ahead.
Among all the Indian festivals, Deepavali has always been my favorite. There are new clothes to be worn, crackers to be burst. Making Large batches of sweets and savories and the best part is sharing them with your friends and family. The greetings, happiness and smiles. That I think is the most beautiful part of Deepavali.

When I asked Purvi what she wanted me to make for Diwali. She asked me to make Kaju Katli, benne murukku and Laddus. I knew Purvi loved Kaju katli and chaklis but I didn't know she was so fond of laddus as well. So this time, I decided to make boondi laddus among other things.

The boondi laddus also happens to be one of my favorite sweet treats. I especially love the laddus that are served in South Indian weddings. The laddus served in the Weddings are a little different because they are laced with the flavor of cloves. The cloves lend a warm spicy flavor to this sweet dish making it all the more delightful.

I had never made boondi laddus before this. So I spent a lot of time going through a lot of recipes and videos. The laddus turned out great and they almost like the ones they serve in South Indian weddings. I say "almost" because, I omitted the edible camphor. Both S and Purvi loved the Laddus and they were over within no time. 

These laddus have a relatively long shelf life. So they make a perfect edible gift for all festivities. They are a little time consuming. But the taste and the delightful expressions on your loved ones faces will make every ounce of the effort worth while.

Boondi Laddu recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time: 30min
Makes- Approximately 2 dozen laddus

For the batter:
Gram flour or besan- 2 cups or 480gms
Fine semolina or chiroti rava- 2tbsp
Baking powder- A pinch
Yellow food color- A pinch
Water- 200ml or as required
For the syrup:
Sugar- 2cups or 480gms
Water- 2cups
Saffron- A large pinch
Cardamom powder- 1/2tsp
Other ingredients:
Oil to deep fry
Melon seeds or charmagaz- 1tbsp
Ghee or clarified butter- 1tbsp+1tsp
Cloves- 6
Cashew nuts- 1-1/2 tbsp
Almonds- 1-1/2tbsp
Raisins- 1tbsp


For the batter:
  • Sift the gram flour along with the semolina and baking powder. Add the food color and mix well.
  • Add the water gradually and make a batter which has the consistency of dosa batter. i.e. The batter should thickly coat the back of the spoon. Mix well and set aside.
For the Sugar syrup:
  • Mix sugar and water in large pan and bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer while stirring continuously.
  • Allow the syrup to simmer till it reaches single thread consistency. That is, if you touch a drop of the syrup and stretch it between your thumb and index finger, the syrup should come away in a single thread. If this happens, then the desired consistency has reached.
  • Add the saffron and cardamom powder. Take off the heat and set aside.
To proceed:
  • Heat oil in a wok. Take a perforated ladle (boondi ladle) and place it a little above the hot oil. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the ladle and gently tap it to the sides of the wok. Tiny drops of batter will fall into the pan. Fry till the batter turns golden in colour. DO NOT allow the batter to turn crispy. Remove the boondis once the bubbles and the hissing sound is reduced.
  • Drain the fried boondi in absorbent paper and repeat the process for the rest of the batter.
  • Once the batter is used up, Transfer the fried boondi to the vessel containing Sugar syrup and mix well. 
  • Transfer the boondi and the syrup mixture to the stove and cook the mixture on a low heat for five minutes. Take off the heat and set the mixture aside for 10mins.
  • In the meantime, heat two table spoons of ghee in a separate pan and add the cloves. Once they pop, add the cashews and almonds and fry till they turn golden in color. Add the raisins and fry till they puff up. Take off the heat and add this mixture to the syrup soaked boondi.
  • Add the melon seeds and edible camphor if desired and mix well. 
  • Grease your hands with ghee and take two table spoons of the boondi mixture and shape them into balls or laddus. 
  • Store in air tight containers. The laddus tastes best within 3-4 days of making them.
  • Traditionally, gram flour of coarse texture is used to bake the gram flour batter. The semolina is added only if the flour is of fine texture. So if your gram flour coarse, then reduce the quantity of semolina or simply skip it.
  • The water required to make the batter depends on the quality of the flour. So adjust as per requirement.
  • If the batter is thick, the boondi will have tail ends and if it is thin, then the boondi will be flat. If you feel the batter is thin, then just add more flour and if you feel the batter is thick, then add a little more water.
  • Wipe the boondi ladle clean after each use.
  • Hold the Boondi ladle about 6-8 inches above the wok to get perfectly round boondis.
  • Shape the boondis into laddus while the mixture is till warm.
  • You can skip using cloves altogether. The laddus will smell and taste great with just cardamom powder.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Spaghetti with nutty avocado mint pesto

This space of mine has been quite for quite sometime now. If this virtual kitchen has been quite then it hasn't been the same in my real kitchen. I have been cooking like crazy since the past few days. I even got to capture a few of them. But somehow the uploading and editing part took a back seat. It was only since the past week that I started uploading and editing the photographs. I hope to post regularly from now on.

I think my love for avocados is not a secret anymore. I just love avocados. Be it in smoothies, in sandwiches, in desserts or with tortilla chips. I simply love them.

Did you know that Avocado is an extremely unique fruit. This is because, unlike other fruits, it has more good fats than carbohydrates. Avocados are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folates, potassium, Vitamin B5 and B6. This antioxidant rich fruit are said to extremely beneficial for arthritis, and said to improve vision. It is said, that avocados are said to prevent certain kinds of cancer. It is even said that avocado extract helps to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Now, what's not to love about this wonder fruit.

The rich creamy texture of this fruit makes it easy it to incorporate in many dishes. I have myself included this fruit in sweet as well as savory dishes alike and each time they turned out delicious. This fleshy fruit can be a great substitute for cream, cheese and mayonnaise.

As mentioned earlier I have used avocados in a number of dishes. But somehow I had not tried combining it with Pasta. So I decided to make a pesto with the avocado along with some mint and the little cashew meal that was waiting to be used up. The result was simply phenomenal. The creamy pesto was filled with strong flavors of mint and there was also the zing from the lemon juice. The cashew meal added a mild sweet taste to the pesto. This dish is super simple to make and without a doubt, add a healthy boost to your plate.

Spaghetti with nutty avocado mint pesto recipe:
Preparation time: 25min
cooking time: 10min
Serves- 3-4

Spaghetti- 200gms
Salt- 1/2 tsp+1tsp
Olive oil- 1tsp+3tbsp
Onion- 1med, chopped fine
Garlic- 2 pods, peeled and finely chopped
Avocado- 1 large, halved, stoned and flesh scooped out
Juice of half a lemon
Mint leaves- a hand full
Freshly ground black pepper powder- 1/2tsp
Powdered cashewnuts- 1-1/2tbsp
Chili flakes- 1/2tsp (optional)

Pepitas- 1 tbsp, toasted and cooled.

  • Cook the spaghetti along with 1/2tsp of salt and a tsp of olive oil in enough water. Drain and reserve half cup of the stock and set aside.
  • To make the pesto, heat olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté till they turn brown and tender and keep aside.
  • Combine the avocado flesh along with the lemon juice, mint leaves, cashew meal, pepper powder, salt and the sautéed onion and garlic in blender jar or a mortar and pestle and grind till smooth.
  • Pour the prepared pesto over the cooked spaghetti and toss well. Add the chili flakes and pasta water only if required and mix well.
  • Garnish with toasted pepitas and serve immediately.
  • To make the cashew meal, toast about 8-10 cashew nuts in pan. Cool completely and grind in a blender to a slightly coarse powder. Store in airtight container till further use.
  • My preparation time was slightly longer because I ground the pesto in a mortar and pestle. It will not take you more than 10mins if you make the pesto in a blender.

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