Bachelor-friendly, Festival Recipes, Sweets

Carrot Payasam

During winter season in India we get the red longer variety of carrots as opposed to the orange smaller thicker variety that is available all through the year. The red variety is sweeter, juicier, and more tasty. The red carrot variety is the most ideal to make this simple and yummy kheer/payasam made with minimal ingredients.

Ingredients:
Red Carrots (diced) – 2 cups
Milk – 1/2 liter
Sugar – 3/4 cup – 1 cup
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Pista flakes – 1 tbsp

Method:
Boil the milk in a sauce pan.
Wash the carrots thoroughly, scrape the carrot skin to remove any impurities, and then dice them into small chunky pieces.
Place the diced carrots in half a cup of milk in a pressure cook and cook to one whistle. Let it rest until the pressure releases completely.
Open the pressure cooker, take out the cooked carrot pieces and after they cool down, puree into a smooth paste using a mixer.
Transfer the carrot puree to the rest of the milk and bring to boil. When the milk and carrot mixture starts boiling, add the sugar. Stir well. Taste and adjust as desired.
Add cardamom powder and garnish with pista flakes.

Notes: You can make this kheer with orange carrots also but since they have more pulp and are less juicy and not sweet like the red carrots, the taste will be very different. Red carrots give the ideal taste.

Festival Recipes, Indian, Snacks, Sweets, Tiffin

Shakkar Para (Sweet Diamond Cuts)

Mildly sweet and crunchy deep fried bits. A snack for evening or to munch for no reason at all. Has a good shelf life. So you can make it and store it for Diwali or before guests are expected. This sweet is usually made of maida but I made this with whole wheat.

Ingredients:
Wheat Flour – 2 cups
Jaggery – 3/4 cup
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Roasted Fennel seeds/saunf (optional)- 1 teaspoon
Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
Water – 1/3 cup
Oil for deep frying

Preparation Time: 10 mins + 30 mins (Resting time for dough)
Cooking Time: 30 – 40 mins
Makes: 1 liter jar full of Sharkara para

Method:
Heat a pan and add water and jaggery. Heat until the jaggery dissolves completely. No need to bring to boil or thicken into a syrup. Filter the diluted jaggery to remove any impurities.
Take 2 cups of wheat flour, cardamom powder, roasted fennel seeds, and mix well. If you are adding baking soda, you may add now. This will make the shakkar para crispy.
Heat ghee to melt it. Add ghee to the flour mixture. Mix well. Add the jaggery syrup in small quantities, mixing it into the flour. Knead the flour to make a smooth dough. If the dough is dry, you may added small quantities of water. Keep aside to rest for for an half hour.
Take small portions of the dough and shape into lemon-sized balls.
Use a rolling pin and a smooth surface to roll them into thick chapathis. You can use dry wheat flour to dust the surface. Can be a little tricky as the dough is very dense and a little sticky because of the jaggery.
Use a dull-edged knife to cut the chapathis horizontally and vertically to cut them into diamond shapes.
Place a thick iron wok on fire and pour oil into it. When the oil is adequately heated, drop the diamond shapes into the oil gently taking care not to splash oil. Keep the flame low. Due to the presence of jaggery, the shakkar paras could get really dark. When they start turning darker and gets roasted, remove from oil and place on an absorbing paper to drain oil. Fry the remaining diamond cuts in batches.
Cool and transfer into an airtight container.

Note: You can make salty and spicy variations by substituting jaggery with salt, chilly powder, and asafetida.

Bachelor-friendly, Breakfast, Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Indian, Snacks, Tiffin, Vegan

Sabudana Upma / Khichdi

Sabudana / sago / Javvarisi is preferred food across India during fasting and for festivals. It is also a good snack item. Sabudana is nothing but tapioca pearls and hence mostly starch / carbohydrate. Sabudana pearls cooked in a tadka of cumin seeds, chilies, boiled and roasted potatoes added, garnished with grated coconut, coriander leaves, and lemon juice make a delicious item that can be easily cooked. Although easy to prepare, you need to understand the different kinds of sabudana available in the market – big pearls, small pearls, nylon variety are some. Each requires a different cooking method to get the perfect texture. If it is normal sabudana (not the nylon variety), I recommend soaking the pearls in water overnight. If using the nylon sago variety, 1-hr soaking time is sufficient.

Preparation Time: Overnight or 1 hr (Soaking time) + 10 mins
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
Sabudana – 1 cup
Potato – 1 medium sized
Capsicum – 1 medium sized (optional)
Oil / ghee – 1-1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 3-4
Curry leaves 1 sprig
Salt to taste

For Garnishing:
Crushed roasted peanuts (deskinned) – 1/4 cup
Lemon juice – 1 teaspoon
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
Chopped coriander leaves – 2 tbsp

Method:
Rinse and wash one cup of sabudana pearls in water two to three times. If using normal sabudana (not the nylon variety), soak in two cups of water overnight. If using the nylon sago variety, fill water just enough to touch the top level of the sabudana pearls and soak for an hour.
Chop potatoes into small cubes. Cook the cubed potato in little bit of oil until well cooked and the sides turn golden color. Add salt and stir well. Remove and keep aside.
Add oil in a kadai. When heated, add cumin seeds and finely chopped green chilies. Shallow fry for a minute. Add curry leaves and chopped capsicum. Stir for a minute or so.
Add the soaked sabudana pearls into this. Stir well. Close with a lid and cook for about 5 mins. Keep stirring every 30 seconds in between. As the sabudana pearls get cooked, they start turning translucent. Check for this. If the sabudana pearls have become too dry and is undercooked, you can sprinkle water (very little).
When the capsicum gets cooked and the sabudana pearls start turning transparent and start sticking together, add salt, stir well. Add the roasted potato cubes into this and stir well. Add grated coconut and crushed roasted peanuts, finely chopped coriander leaves and stir well. Add lemon juice and serve hot.

Festival Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets

Vella Cheedai / Sweet Cheedai – Deep Fried Sweet Balls

Salt Seedai / Cheedai as well sweet cheedai is made during Gokulashtami as a Naivedyam to Lord Krishna. Sweet cheedai is slightly tricky to get right. If your proportions are not right, they might break apart while frying. But using the proportion mentioned below you can make good sweet cheedai. Vellai cheedai are crispy but soft to bite into as opposed to salt cheedais that are dense and hard to bite into.

Ingredients:
Raw rice flour – 1 cup
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Grated jaggery – 3-4 tbsp (adjust to taste)
Butter – 1 tbsp
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
Sesame seeds – 2 tsp
Oil (for frying) – 300-400 ml
Water as needed

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 30-35 mins (7 mins per batch)
Makes 200 gm Cheedai

Method:
Dry roast the raw rice flour until the raw smell of the rice goes away and you get a nice roasted aroma.
Remove from fire and sieve to ensure that the powder is fine and no lumps are present.
Dry roast the urad dal until the dal turns pink. Remove from fire and pulse in a mixer to a fine powder.
Sieve the urad dal flour twice to ensure that you take only the fine powder and you discard the coarse powders.
Grind the grated coconut to make a coarse paste. It is okay even if the coconut is not fully ground. You may add small quantities of water while grinding.
Add the grated jaggery powder to a pan and mix few spoons of water. (Be careful about the amount of water. Do not dilute it too much). Place on low fire to let the jaggery melt. Once melted, use a strainer to sieve any lumps/impurities.
Mix a tablespoon of sieved, finely powdered urad dal flour along with the sieved rice flour. Add the ground coconut, jaggery syrup, butter, and sesame seeds to this. Use your fingers to mix the flour and jaggery well.
Add small quantities of water if needed to make a dough. The dough should be soft but not loose.
Take a small portion of the dough, place this dough on your left hand and use the long three fingers on the right hand to roll the dough into marble-sized balls. Place them on a paper. It is recommended that you allow this to dry a bit before you deep fry them.
Heat oil in an iron kadai.
Once the oil is hot, gently and carefully drop a batch of the marble-sized dough balls into the oil. Ensure that the balls are fully immersed in oil. Retain the fire in medium in the beginning for about a minute. You will notice a lot of bubbles during this time. When the bubbles reduce, lower the fire and stir often until the balls change color to golden brown.
Use a strainer ladle to remove the cheedai from the oil. Place on an absorbent paper to absorb excess oil.
Store in an air tight container once it cools down.

Notes:
1. Sieve the flour at least twice to ensure that the rice flour and urad dal flour used is finely powdered. This will ensure there are no accidental oil splashes while frying the cheedai.
2. Although it is recommended that the rolled cheedai balls should dry off a bit before they are deep fried, you need not roll the entire dough into balls and then start the frying process. You may roll enough for 2-3 batches, start frying batch by batch and as you are frying, you may roll new batches of cheedai.
3. Use a thick bottomed iron kadai for frying to ensure uniform heating.
4. While deep frying, maintain the flame first in medium and then in low
stirring occasionally.
5. Due to the jaggery in the dough, vella cheedai tends to turn black in excess heat. Be careful about the amount of heat or you will end up burning the cheedai.
6. Vella cheedais are not as crispy as salt cheedai. The outer crust will be crisp but inside may be a little chewy.
7. Following the proportions and instructions right is key to getting this right.

Festival Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, Snacks, South Indian

Salt Cheedai / Uppu Cheedai – Deep Fried Savory Balls

Seedai / Cheedai is made during Gokulashtami as a Naivedyam to Lord Krishna. Apart from festival celebrations, it is associated with a lot of fond memories for me. It is one of my favorite savory items. Hard yet crunchy, peppery along with the taste of cumin seed and a hint of hing and coconut. Well worth the effort. Amma often makes it at home. Since it is time consuming to shape the cheedai into balls, she always makes it when all of us are available to help. Even grandma used to join. But today I made this all by myself and it was not tough at all to make cheedai with two cups of rice flour. I could manage time very well by simultaneously frying as well as rolling the dough.

Although cheedai is easy to make, it is also slightly tricky because if you do not do things the right way, the chances are more that you will not get it right or something might go seriously wrong, for example, cheedai bursting inside the hot oil and causing oil splash. For this reason, one needs to be really careful while attempting to make this.

Ingredients:
Raw rice flour – 1 cup
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Butter – 1 tbsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Black peppercorns – 6-8
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
Sesame seeds – 2 tsp
Asafetida powder – 1/4 tsp
Oil (for frying) – 300-400 ml
Salt as needed
Water as needed

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 30-35 mins (7 mins per batch)
Yield 300 gm Cheedai

Method:
Dry roast the raw rice flour until the raw smell of the rice goes away and you get a nice roasted aroma.
Remove from fire and sieve to ensure that the powder is fine and no lumps are present.
Dry roast the urad dal until the dal turns pink. Remove from fire and pulse in a mixer to a fine powder.
Sieve the urad dal flour twice to ensure that you take only the fine powder and you discard the coarse powders.
Grind the grated coconut along with the jeera and black peppercorns to make a coarse paste. You may add small quantities of water.
Mix a tablespoon of sieved, finely powdered urad dal flour along with the sieved rice flour. Add the ground coconut, cumin, and pepper paste into the flours, add sesame seeds, asafetida powder, salt, and butter. Use your fingers to mix the flour and powders well.
Add small quantities of water to make a dough. The dough should be soft and firm but not loose.
Take a small portion of the dough, place this dough on your left hand and use the long three fingers on the right hand to roll the dough into tiny marble-sized balls. Place them on a paper. It is recommended that you allow this to dry a bit before you deep fry them.
Heat oil in an iron kadai.
Once the oil is hot, gently and carefully drop a batch of the marble-sized dough balls into the oil. Retain the fire in medium in the beginning for at least 2 mins. You will notice a lot of bubbles during this time. When the bubbles reduce, lower the fire and stir occasionally until the balls change color to golden brown. Use a strainer ladle to remove the cheedai from the oil. Place on an absorbent paper to absorb excess oil.
Store in an air tight container once it cools down.

Notes:
1. Sieve the flour at least twice to ensure that the rice flour and urad dal flour used is finely powdered. This will ensure there are no accidental oil splashes while frying the cheedai.
2. Although it is recommended that the rolled cheedai balls should dry off a bit before they are deep fried, you need not roll the entire dough into balls and then start the frying process. You may roll enough for 2-3 batches, start frying batch by batch and as you are frying, you may roll new batches of cheedai.
3. Use a thick bottomed iron kadai for frying to ensure uniform heating.
4. While deep frying, maintain the flame first in medium and then in low stirring occasionally.
5. Following the proportions and instructions properly is key to getting this right.

Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Sweets

Navara Nei Payasam – Kerala Temple Prasadam-Style Rice Kheer with Jaggery

Navara (Njavara in Malayalam) is a unique nutritional rice variety indigenous to Kerala. Like how mango is the king of fruits and almond the king of nuts, Navara is considered top class among the rice varieties for its rich aroma and medicinal properties. For centuries, Ayurvedic healers have been using Navara for its miraculous healing properties. It aids in treating skin ailments and even helps heal internal wounds. It helps build immunity against common ailments, especially during the monsoon season. Rice gruel / kanji made from Navara is safe food for diabetes and can even prevent cancer. Navara is suited for people of all ages and is a source of general wellness.

The cultivation of Navara has become rare now due to non-availability of pure seeds, low yield, and high production cost. But, a handful of farmers who have realized the value of this grain are trying to revive this precious crop. Growing Navara itself is challenging and to grow it organically, even more so. Mr. Narayana Unni of Navara Eco Farm is an award winning third generation farmer who almost single-handedly revived the organic cultivation of the medicinal Navara rice over the period of a decade. His farm, Karukamani Kalam, is spread over 12 acres and is located near the banks of Shokanashini river and Chittur college. What makes Unni ettan’s Navara unique is the purity of the seed variety as well as the organic and USDA certifications.

You can buy this special medicinal rice at ShopSwasthi, the online Indian ethnic store. ShopSwasthi is a treasure house of such precious items. What makes this online store extraordinary is their collection of rare traditional and contemporary items. For instance, one of their products bamboo wind chimes are labors of love crafted by artist Rajiv using handpicked bamboos from the Idukki rain forests and chiseled and tuned to reproduce sounds from Nature. Sitting in your drawing room, you could enjoy the calming sounds of the rain forest, woods, rains, and gentle forest streams. Unbelievable, right? Listen to it here and you will believe. Read Rajiv’s story here. The Shop Swasthi team focuses and features passionate farmers and artists such as Mr. Unni and Mr. Rajiv who are dedicated to their crafts. In this heritage and ethnic store, you can also find cereals, everyday spices, food supplements, along with traditional Indian handicrafts and artifacts. Okay, I got carried away. But, blame it on the charming sounds of the bamboo wind chimes and Mr. Unni’s story. These are not like the mass-produced items that you find at a curio store, but individually and carefully crafted pieces of art that help you re-connect to Nature.

Navara can be used to make rice gruel / kanji or to make jaggery payasam. The traditional sweet offering / prasadam / neivedyam, especially at Devi temples, are made from raw rice, jaggery, and ghee. The payasam is prepared on firewood and cooked in an uruli, a heavy brass vessel. This payasam is thicker in consistency and is a little too sweet compared to other payasams. It has lots of ghee and is supposed to be eaten only in small portions. This payasam is also called kadu madhura payasam, i.e. very sweet payasam. I have not used as much jaggery or ghee as they would ideally in a temple prasadam. You could add more, if you prefer so.

Ingredients:
Navara rice – 100gm
Jaggery – 250gm
Water – as needed
Cardamom powder- 1/2 tsp
Ghee – 3 tbsp
Chopped coconut pieces – 3 tbsp

Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves 7-10

Method:
Wash rice in water, add it to a cylindrical vessel. Add 3 times water to the rice. Ensure there is enough space in the vessel for rice to get cooked. Place this vessel in a pressure pan and cook 4-5 whistles. Turn off the fire after 4-5 whistles and wait for the pressure to release naturally. Rice should be cooked soft but not mushy. Since the Navara rice variety is a little hard, it would take some time to cook it to the soft consistency.
Meanwhile, as the rice gets cooked, soak jaggery in warm water (1 cup – do not make it too dilute). Heat this solution until all the jaggery pieces dissolve completely. Pass this solution through a strainer to remove impurities if any, and keep the solution aside.
Heat a heavy bottomed vessel and add the jaggery solution to this vessel. Cook in a low flame until the jaggery syrup starts bubbling and thickening. When the bubbles start reducing (a sign that the syrup is thickening), add the cooked rice.
When you add the cooked rice, the jaggery syrup gets diluted again. Mix well and cook until the rice and jaggery syrup blends together and starts to thicken. Add ghee in small quantities. Stir well.
Stir occasionally until the payasam thickens comes to a saucy consistency. Add cardamom powder and switch off.
In a small frying pan, heat a spoon of ghee and add coconut pieces chopped into small rectangular pieces. Roast the coconut pieces in ghee until they turn golden. Turn off and add the roasted coconut pieces along with the ghee into the payasam. Stir well. Delicious sharkara payasam is ready to eat.

Notes:
The sweetness of the payasam will vary based on the jaggery variety you use and the amount of molasses in that jaggery. If your jaggery variety is very sweet, you could reduce the amount of jaggery by 50 gm.
You can even add / substitute coconut pieces with cashew nut pieces roasted in ghee.
The payasam thickens when it cools down. Hence, stop cooking it when the consistency is a little dilute.
Use only raw rice (unpolished red variety is ideal) to cook the payasam.
Add the cooked rice to the jaggery syrup when the consistency of the syrup is thick. If the syrup is too dilute and then you add the cooked rice, it can take a long time to get thicker and this can harden the rice.

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Festival Recipes, Indian, Sweets, Vegan

Roasted Cashewnut Burfi

Cashews, in the form of roasted salted nuts and burfis are highly addictive. Usually these are purchased from shops but making them at home is so easy and there is marked difference in taste. Making sweets at home using whole ingredients is a very rewarding and satisfying experience. The delicately nutty flavor of the cashews is enhanced in the homemade version, which is usually missing in the shop-bought versions. I highly recommend making this sweet at home and I think you will stop visiting the sweet shop and start making your own for festivals and when friends visit. It is much more tastier, flavorful, and economical too.
Some people think of cashewnuts as fattening. Please note that while cashewnuts are high in calories, they are rich in heart-friendly mono saturated fatty acids and soluble dietary fibers, vitamins, and minerals. For this sweet, I have used unrefined raw sugar. This is made from the sugarcane juice and has some minerals and nutrients. Refined sugar is devoid of all nutrients. So, if you have to eat some sweet anyway, rather than binging on empty/harmful calories, try to eat healthy homemade sweets, such as these.

Ingredients:
Cashewnut – 250 gm
Unrefined sugar – 1 cup/250 gm
Saffron/kumkuma poovu – 4-5 threads
Water – 1/2 cup
Ghee/Virgin coconut oil – 1 tsp

Preparation Time: 25 mins roasting time
Cooking time: 10 mins
Makes approximately 25 one-inch square pieces

Method:
It is best to oven roast the cashew nuts to roast them evenly. Since I do not use an oven, I used the traditional stove top method to roast the cashews. Add the cashews to a heavy bottomed vessel and dry roast until they turn golden. Turn off the fire and let them cool.
Use a mixer to powder them coarsely. I like to keep it coarse and not too fine. When you powder 250 gm roasted cashew nut, you get roughly 2-1/4 cups of cashew nut powder.
Take a wide plate and grease it lightly with ghee or virgin coconut oil. Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed vessel, add water, saffron threads, and unrefined sugar. Stir occasionally and bring to boil. Cook until the sugar syrup reaches a one-thread consistency. To check this, dip the ladle in the syrup, take it out, blow into the syrup to cool it off a bit and while the syrup is still warm, touch a tiny portion of the syrup using your index finger. Try to stretch this drop of syrup on your index finger between your index finger and thumb. If it stretches for half a centimeter and forms thread and breaks beyond that, you are good to go.

Add the coarsely powdered cashew nuts to the syrup and stir. In about 5-6 minutes, you will the mixture swells up and thickens into a single mass when you move it using the ladle. It does not stick to the bottom of the wok. This means that it is time for you to transfer the cooked burfi into the greased plate that you have kept ready.

Pour the mixture on the greased plate. Tap to even out the surface using a rolling pin/potato masher/flattener. Use a knife to make horizontal and vertical divisions on the rolled out mixture. Let the mixture cool for about 10 mins.

PA172471.JPG
In a quick move, turn the plate with the mixture upside down onto a bigger plate.

Gently separate the individual pieces. Store in an airtight container. Stays good for a week.

I referred to Harini Prakash’s Tongue Ticklers to make this sweet. I have been a huge fan of Harini’s writing style and brilliant photographs since I first came across her web site. So, thanks to Harini for this detailed and flawless recipe.

Recipe courtesy: http://tongueticklers.com/2014/10/bhuja-hua-kaju-barfi-roasted-cashew-barfi/

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