Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Indian, Sweets

Carrot Halwa – a seasonal delight

carrots stacked in the marketIndian cooking highly emphasizes eating right for the season and using seasonal produces. We have festivals based on change of season and harvests; and dishes based on the ingredients available in a season. Winter is the season for undhiyu, thiruvathira puzhukku (similar to undhiyu), gond (gum resin) laddu, carrot halwa, and the likes. It’s the season for red carrots (usually only orange carrots are available during other seasons). The red carrots stacked in the subzi mandi (vegetable market) invariably tempt me to make carrot halwa.

carrot halwa

Ingredients:
Carrots – 250 gms
Milk – 1 cup
Sugar – 100 gms
Ghee – 100 gms
Almonds/raisins/cashewnuts – 8-10 pieces
Elaichi powder – 1/4 tsp

Method:
Soak the almonds in water for half an hour and peel and cut to small pieces. Cut the cashewnuts into smaller pieces. Wash, peel, and grate the carrots. Place a thick wok on fire and pour a teaspoon of ghee. Roast the almonds, cashews and raisins in this ghee. When the nuts and raisins turn golden brown, remove from fire and keep aside.

Pour milk into the thick wok. Empty the grated carrot into milk and cook in medium fire. Stir occasionally. You can use water instead of milk or use a mix of milk and water. The advantage of using milk is that you can cut down on the usage of ghee.

When the milk is fully absorbed and the grated carrot is tender and cooked, lower the flame and add sugar. At this stage, the mixture becomes a little loose. Stir occasionally and cook until all the water is fully absorbed. You can modify the quantity of sugar depending on your taste.
Add ghee in small quantities, mix, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add elaichi powder and the roasted nuts and raisins. Mix well. Remove from fire. You can serve carrot halwa hot or cold. Try it with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

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Everyday Simple Recipes, Festival Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, South Indian, Sweets

Thiruvathira Kali (Rice Halwa)

KaliThiruvathira Kali, a festival special, the sweet rice halwa, also a kind of dance that women in Kerala perform during the Thiruvathira festival and during Onam. I still remember the kali that my ashalaathu mami (neighbor) used to make. Mami is a sweet person and a terrific cook! My amma learned the recipe from her. Since amma and I love sweets, specially the ones made with jaggery, this recipe has been a favorite for both of us and we do not wait for Thiruvathira to satisfy craving.

Ingredients

Ingredients:
Raw rice (dry roasted and coarsely powdered) – 3/4 cup
Green mung dal (dry roasted and coarsely powdered) – 1/4 cup (optional)
Jaggery – 1 cup
Water – 3 cups
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Grated coconut – 1/4 cup

Thiruvathira KaliMethod:
Wash, dry, and then dry roast the raw rice and green mung dal separately until golden brown. Cool and grind coarsely using a mixer. Dissolve the jaggery in water. Strain to remove any impurities. The proportion of rice, jaggery, and water are 1:1:3. So if you are taking 1 cup of rice powder (+the optional roasted green mung dal powder), dissolve 1 cup of jaggery in 3 cups of water. An easy way of cooking kali is to mix the rice powder (+the optional roasted green mung dal powder) in the jaggery water, add cardamom powder and then pressure cook to a whistle. Turn off and then wait for the steam pressure to reduce. Open the cooker and you will see that the mixture is well cooked and thick with no trace of water. Add the ghee and grated coconut to the rice powder cooked in jaggery. Mix well.

You can cook this in a kadai also. Place the melted jaggery water on the stove and when it boils, add the powdered rice and mung dal and keep stirring. When the mixture thickens, add the ghee, cardamom powder, and grated coconut and mix well.

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

Modakam, Madura Kozhukkatta (Sweet Dumplings)

Sweet dumplings, a favorite of Lord Ganesha, a special offering on Ganesh Chathurthi.

modakam

DSC08971Ingredients:
For Method 1 (Best results):
Raw Rice – 1 cup
Water – 2 cups
Sesame oil – 1/2 tsp
Salt a tiny pinch

For Method 2 (Easier/Faster):
Rice Flour – 1-1/2 cups
Water – 1 -1/2 cups
Salt a tiny pinch

For Filling:
Jaggery – 3/4 cup
Water – 1/2 cup
Coconut (grated) – 1 cup
Cardamom – 1 teaspoon
Sesame seeds – 1 teaspoon (optional)

Preparation Time: 1 hr
Cooking Time: 20 mins

coconut

Method:
Let’s make the filling first. Dissolve the jaggery in water and place it on the stove. Let the jaggery melt. Strain this solution to remove impurities.
Heat this in a thick bottom pan until the jaggery syrup becomes frothy and thick. Add grated coconut. Mix well until the mixture turns thick.
Turn off and add cardamom powder and sesame seeds.
Tip: Always make the filling first then make the dough for the outer covering. This ensures that the rice dough does not get dried up.

Now, to make the dough for the outer covering, follow either of the two methods.

Method 1: Wash and soak the raw rice in 1 cup of water for at least 3-4 hours. Drain the water and set it aside. This water can be used while grinding.
In a mixer, blend the soaked and drained rice into a smooth paste. You may add small quantities of the water that was used to soak the rice. You need to ensure that the ground rice is a very smooth and lump-free paste.
Heat a heavy bottomed wok and add a cup of water into it. Bring it to boil. Add a speck of salt and 1/2 a tsp of oil to this water.
When the water is bubbling and hot, turn the flame to low and gently pour/transfer the finely ground rice batter. Keep stirring while you do this. Parts of the batter starts to thicken and you would need more strength to stir the mixture. Keep stirring, turning the batter to all sides. Do not take your attention away even for a second or the batter will stick to the bottom of the vessel. In about 3-4 mins, you will notice that the batter has become a thick and soft lump.
Turn off the fire. Close the vessel with a lid and keep it aside for about 5 minutes to let the dough be cooked in residual heat inside the vessel.
After 5 minutes, remove the lid and using the ladle, mix the dough well and transfer it to a large bowl/plate. Use your hands to knead the dough while it is still warm. Grease your hand with a dab of sesame oil and knead the dough to a smooth and pliable dough. Cover with a wet cloth or air tight lid. This is to prevent the dough from turning dry.

Notes: This dough gives the best result and the modaks made from this dough retain moisture and stay soft and fresh for more than 24 hours.

Method 2: Take rice flour in a wide vessel.
In a pot, boil water to boiling point (bubbling hot). Carefully add small quantities of boiling water to the rice flour. Ensure that the water is boiling hot when you add it to the rice flour. Otherwise the dough will not get cooked properly.
Stir using a flat ladle, mix well, to make a soft, smooth, elastic, half-cooked dough. Be very careful with the amount of water you add.
When the dough is tight and soft, stop adding water. Use your hands to roll the dough into a tight yet smooth and elastic mass. Ensure that there are no lumps in the dough.

Notes: This dough is easier to prepare. The modaks made from this dough are soft when fresh but tend to get slightly harder after 5-6 hours.

To make kozhukattai/modak:
Smear sesame oil or ghee on your hands. Take some rice dough (medium lemon sized) into your palm. Make a small ball of the dough and flatten them into small cups using your thumbs.

rice-cups

Take a spoon of the coconut jaggery filling and place it in the middle of the flattened dough.

filling-in-cups

Cover the sides while ensuring the filling is safely cocooned with the soft rice dough covering the filling from all sides.

close the cup

Repeat to make more.

Mould and filling

Place the dumplings in the steamer/idli tray of a pressure cooker (without weight) and steam for 10-15 mins. Remember to lightly grease the steamer plate/idly tray. After 10-15 mins, turn off the stove, carefully take out the plate/tray of modaks. Wait for a couple of minutes before you touch them because they would be delicate due to all the steam and and heat and tend to break easily. Let them cool off a bit and take out gently and place on a serving plate.

Health Benefits/Alerts:
This is a delicious and healthy dessert as it is steamed and oil usage is minimal.

Notes:
Always make the filling first then make the dough for the outer covering. This ensures that the rice dough does not get dried up.
Remember to lightly grease the steamer plate/idly tray in which you arrange the modaks for steaming. This ensures that they don’t stick to the plate.
After the modaks are steamed, turn off the heat and take out the plate/idly tray of modaks. Let it cool off a bit. Wait for a couple of minutes before you touch them because they would be delicate due to all the steam and and heat and tend to break easily.

Trivia:
The filling by itself is delicious and hard to resist. Modakam moulds are available in the market these days. Those of you who have trouble making the rice cups can try out the modakam mould.

Addendum: An alternative way of making the rice dough yields excellent results but is slightly

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