Mahanandi

Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Pumpkin Halwa with Butternut Squash


Pumpkin Halwa with Butternut Squash and Almonds ~ For JFI:Deepavali Treats

When talented food writer, photographer and blogger Vee of Past, Present and Me announced special edition of Jihva to celebrate Diwali festival, I was really elated and thought it was an appropriate idea. “Jihva for Ingredients” (JFI), is an online food blogging event, created to celebrate the natural ingredients and what they can do for our Jihva.

The ingredients that we use in our cooking may not be constant but love, family and tradition, the natural, real ingredients that we share to celebrate the Deepavali festival are going to be constant and would always be there to sustain us through our life journey. Also if there is one festival that truly unites India, it is Deepavali~the festival of lights. All ages and religions joyously participate - Lighting the divas, sharing sweets, presents or enjoying firework displays. The festival has something for everyone. Even the grinch among us would shine and smile during this time.

Deepavali is also about giving and receiving a second chance in life and I am glad to share with you my second chance with pumpkin.:) To tell you the truth, I am not a big fan of pumpkin, I never was. My dislike of this vegetable started in my childhood, continued through upto now. But after seeing several of my fellow food bloggers’ fabulous creations with this vegetable, I too wanted to join the fun. But would the pumpkin accept me, I was skeptical. So I took the help of almonds, milk kova and of course our true friend that would instantly bring joy to any occasion, ‘the sugar’. With the help of all these ingredients I have prepared pumpkin halwa with butternut squash. Boy, oh boy, what a delight that was. I was astounded by how generous the pumpkin was with its gentle sweetness and its ready mixing with other ingredients. It may look all bulky and intimidating, but the vegetable has a sweet taste of a kind giant.

Many thanks to my fellow food bloggers (dear InjiPennu , where are you?), to my new friend pumpkin for inspring me to take this second chance and also to lovely Vee for hosting this special edition of Jihva. If it’s not for you guys, I would have never tried pumpkin again, I think. And this pumpkin halwa sweet truly is a special Diwali treat for us, and is going to be a tradition from now on in my family.


Butternut Squash ~ Cut in Half and Grated

Recipe:

Butternut Squash, almonds, milk and sugar
Ghee, rose water and cardamom

Prep work:

1. Almonds - Soak half-cup almonds in warm water for about 2 hours. Remove the skins and make a smooth powder in a food processor.

2. Butternut squash (2 pounder) - Peel the skin and cut into half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and finely grate using a mandoline. Comes about 3 cups of tightly packed grated squash.

3. Meanwhile prepare milk-sugar syrup: take 5 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of sugar in a big, thick-bottomed vessel. Cook the mixture until is gets thick and is reduced to about one fourths of the original quantity. Takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

4. Take 8 cardamoms, remove the skins and in a mortar pound the seeds into fine powder with a pestle.

Showtime:

1. In a big sturdy, wide bottomed vessel, heat about 2 tablespoons of ghee on medium heat.

2. Add the grated pumpkin to the melted ghee. And with a big slotted spoon, gently mix and cook the pumpkin. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring in between, until the raw smell of pumpkin disappears and color changes from yellow to orange-yellow.

3. Add the almond powder and condensed milk-sugar kova. Add cardamom powder and two teaspoons of rose water. Gently mix and constantly stirring, cook the whole mixture until it comes together into a solid firm mass. Takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Remove the halwa to a pan. Level it even and let cool. Keep it in the freezer for about one hour to firm it up even more. Remove and cut into squares or use a cookie cutter to cut round shape discs.

5. Serve chilled.

I think this halwa can stay fresh upto one week, when refrigerated.


Pumpkin Halwa ~ Our Diwali Treat ~ For 101 Indian Sweets
and My Entry to VKN’s “Festival Foods” Event

Recipe source: My own creation
I have prepared this halwa on less sweet side. My preference. Increase the sugar quantity if you like more sugary sweet taste.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Almonds, Sugar, Milk, Indian Sweets 101, Pumpkin (Thursday October 19, 2006 at 2:08 pm- permalink)
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Banana Halwa (Nenthra Pazham Haluva)

For Independence Day Food Parade, following recipe is contributed by the regular comment poster at “Mahanandi”, always entertaining ‘Kerala Girl (KG)’:

Banana Painting  - From My Home
Oil Painting of Bananas

I have chosen a dish from my hometown - Calicut/Kozhikode (land of Banana chips and Halwas) from Kerala for IDFP. Kerala - the God’s own country is also land of Kera (coconut). To a malayalee, banana or the plantains probably come next to coconut but still it’s importance is written all over the malayalee’s life. Banana is one plant whose every part is useful in one or the other form. In addition to the banana fruit we also eat it’s flowers and the softer inner trunk. The leaves of the banana plant are the less sophisticated version of today’s disposable plates. Traditional Kerala cuisine is incomplete without the pleasant taste of bananas.

Another reason why I have chosen banana as ingredient for this event is I hail from Calicut - the land famous for Calicut Halwa and one of the best halwa’s I have tasted there is banana halwa (a hard jelly like sweet). Calicut is very famous for its sweets and one the famous places in Calicut is Sweet Meat Street (SM Street). It is the busiest street in Calicut and derives its name from the times when the street was lined with sweetmeat stalls. So I thought of celebrating our independence with my favorite sweet - Banana Halwa (Nenthra Pazham Haluva). The recipe source is one of the old recipe books by the great cookbook author Mrs.K.M.Mathew. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

Ripe Bananas - 1 and 1/2 Bananas
Sugar - 2 and 1/2 cups
Water - 1/2 cup
Lemon juice - 1/4 cup
Ghee - 3/4 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
Cashews roasted or plain - handful for decoration
All purpose flour - 3 tsp

Method:

Pressure-cook the bananas until soft. Remove the outer skin and deseed (remove the black layer inside). Mash the bananas to a paste in a food processor or blender.

Make syrup of sugar by dissolving in 1/2 cup of water. It should be of string consistency. When this consistency is reached add the lemon juice and again allow it to reach the same thick consistency. To this add the mashed bananas.

To thicken the halwa, at this stage add flour dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Keep on stirring the mix to attain a thick mass. Add ghee little by little. When this becomes a thick mass add the cardamom powder. Mix well and pour into a pan greased with ghee. Decorate with cashews.
When cool cut and enjoy. This can be stored in refrigerator for a week minimum.

A Toast to our independence with this sweet dish!

Banana Halwa
Banana Halwa for IDFP

~ Guest Post by Kerala Girl (KG)

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Zen (Personal), Fruits, Cashews, Bananas, Sugar (Monday August 14, 2006 at 2:21 pm- permalink)
Comments (22)

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Jaggery~Tamarind~Cumin Candy

A food parade without candy, no way!

Here is my contribution to Independence Day Food Parade - a candy from my childhood. The main ingredients are jaggery, tamarind and cumin and the candy tastes sweet, tangy and fragrant. It’s one of those super good, can’t get enough types of candies and often prepared in our homes by loving parents.

This humble village candy is now flying high. You would see this candy often served on domestic flights in India as part of welcome kit at the beginning of the flight. The Hajmola candy they serve in flights is just like this candy and tastes similarly. Main purpose of course is to prevent nausea and jet sickness associated with air travel. Those three natural ingredients have some good ayurvedic properties that are healthy to us, that’s what my grandma says.

The recipe is simple. Jaggery, tamarind pieces, cumin and a pinch of salt - all pounded together in a mortar to smooth paste and then made into small balls. A stick is inserted for a lollipop style candy or wrapped in paper for a stylish presentation. Either way these sweet tangy candies are irresistible and lip smacking good.


Ingredients for the Candy ~ Jaggery, Tamarind and Cumin


Making the Candy ~ Pounding the ingredients together in a stone mortar with a pestle


Sweet, Tangy and Fragrant Candy from India
For the Independence Day Food Parade & For Indian Sweets 101

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Indian Sweets 101 (Monday August 14, 2006 at 10:49 am- permalink)
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Paramannam (Sweet Rice)


Paramannam Prasadam for Indian Sweets 101

Recipe:

6 cups of milk
2 cups of cooked rice
1 cup of sugar/powdered jaggery or to taste
¼ cup of - golden raisins and cashews together, roasted in ghee
4 cardamom pods - seeds powdered
1 tablespoon of ghee

In a large, thick-bottomed saucepan, combine milk and sugar (or jaggery). Cook until sugar melts and milk thickens (just a little bit). Add cooked rice, cashews, golden raisins, cardamom powder and ghee. Mix thoroughly and cook on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring in-between, until the whole thing comes together. Turn off the heat. Keep it covered for few minutes. Paramannam further thickens on cooling. Serve warm or for a cool refreshing taste, refrigerate for about one hour.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Biyyamu (Rice), Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets), Cashews, Milk, Sona Masuri Rice, Golden Raisins, Indian Sweets 101 (Friday August 4, 2006 at 2:55 pm- permalink)
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Sunnundalu(Urad Dal Laddu)~Indian Sweets 101

Sunniundalu

When Sailaja of Sailu’s Food selected dals to feature this month’s Jihva For Ingredients, I was ecstatic. The one and only ingredient that truly represents India is the variety of dals, in my opinion. There are rice states and there are wheat states, but common to all 28 states in India are dals. Each state has dazzling array of dal dishes both sweet and savory. Menus always include dal dishes for everyday, for celebrations and as well as for festivals. Even in a foreign land, our meals always would include dals in one way or other. It’s not stretching the truth, when I say dal dishes are the true heart and soul food of India.

By the way, if you haven’t been to Sailaja’s blog already, please go visit now. She blogs from calm, coastal city of Vishakapatnam by the Bay of Bengal, from my home state Andhra Pradesh. Her recipes are visual delight and pure gold. Whenever I visit her blog, I feel happy to see her creations and also feel nostalgic about what I am missing being away from home.

As an entry to JFI~Dals, I have prepared Sunniundalu, a traditional Andhra sweet. Roasted urad dal is ground with sugar into super fine sand like powder, mixed with pure ghee, and the mixture is shaped into round balls. This sweet is much beloved because of its unique taste and nutritional value. These are often prepared for special occasions like baby showers (srimantham) etc., I am so happy that I am able to recreate this favorite sweet of mine for JFI, an event created to celebrate the natural ingredients.

Recipe:
(for 15 medium-sized laddus)

3 cups of whole urad dal - roasted to golden color slowly and on low heat, continuously stirring in a big iron skillet
1½ cups of sugar
1 cup of melted ghee at room temperature
For grinding - esirayyi (grain mill) or Food processor
How this sweet tastes, 50 percent, depends on grinding method. Old world stone grain-grinder is the traditional method of choice. High powered, sharp bladed, food processor comes close. Whatever machine/method you use, the end product must be like fine sand.

Whole urad dal - Roasted to light gold color
Whole urad dal - Roasted to light gold color

Grinding urad dal and sugar to superfine sand like powder using a grain mill
Grinding urad dal and sugar to superfine sand like powder using a grain mill

Adding melted ghee to the urad dal-sugar powder
Adding melted ghee to the urad dal-sugar powder

Urad dal-sugar powder and ghee mixture being made into laddus
Urad dal-sugar powder and ghee mixture being made into laddus.

Sunnundalu
Indian Sweets 101 ~ Sunnundalu for JFI-Dals

Many thanks to Sailaja for hosting this month’s Jihva For Ingredients. I am sure the roundup of this event is going to be spectacular. The entries that I have seen so far - Munthirikkotthu (Sweet Moong Dal Balls), Dal Podi Sushi Roll (Indianized Sushi roll), Mid-Eastern Mujadarah (rice-lentil dish) and Azuki paste ravioli in caramel sauce make this obvious. Have a fun and happy dal day on this July 4th weekend, everyone!

Notes:
Grain mill brand Name: PORKERT’s Kitchen Grinding Mill, Type 150
Purchased at a clearance sale from Tuesday Morning.
Sailu’s Sunnundalu - Link

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Sugar, Ghee, Urad Dal (Washed), Indian Sweets 101, Jihva For Ingredients (Saturday July 1, 2006 at 12:02 am- permalink)
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Moong Dal Payasam (Pesara Pappu Payasam)

A Cup of Moong dal Payasam
A Cup of Moong dal Payasam for Indian Sweets~101

If I have to choose between a cup of payasam and a slice of cake, I’d always go for the cup. Here, mothers prepare cakes lovingly; back in India, payasams are the norm. Every Saturday my mother would prepare payasam for puja naivedyam. I believe she prepared payasam mainly because of us, four little darlings:), who would come home from school hungry for something sweet. We had half-day school on Saturdays and afternoon meals at my mother’s home always included a type of payasam. Creamy rich with full of cashews and golden raisins, it was like spoonful of heaven on a warm afternoon.

Together between my mom and mother-in-law, there are recipes for at least a dozen different payasams. Who would really need a cook book when you have this type of rich resource right a phone call away? Because they all follow a basic method, it’s not that difficult to remember the procedure. Moong dal payasam is one such easy recipe I picked up from the family.

Moong dal is cooked in sweetened and thickened, rich poppy seed milk. Light golden hue, incredible, inviting aroma and delight to the senses - this is how I would describe this payasam.


Roasted in Ghee - Yellow Moong Dal

Recipe:

Moong dal, yellow (pesara pappu) - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Milk - 5 cups
Poppy seeds (Khus-khus, gasa gasalu) - ¼ cup
(Soaked in ½ cup of warm water for at least half an hour, to soften them)
Cashews and Golden Raisins, each - ¼ cup
Cardamom (Elachi, aluka) - 6
Ghee (neyyi) - 2 tablespoons

Prep Work:

1 In an iron skillet or tava, heat a teaspoon of ghee on medium heat. Add and roast, yellow moong dal until the color changes from yellow to light red and releases the wonderful fragrance. Remove them to a plate. Aromatherapy starts with this first step.

2 In the same iron skillet or tava, heat a tablespoon of ghee on medium heat. When it is hot, add and toast first golden raisins and then cashews. Golden Raisins puff up like little gold balloons and cashews turn from creamy white to light gold. Take care not to burn. Remove them to a plate.

3 Powder cardamom seeds to smooth powder in a mortar using the pestle or in a spice grinder.

Toasted in Ghee - Cashews and Golden Raisins
Toasted in Ghee - Cashews and Golden Raisins

In a pressure cooker, take roasted moong dal, sugar, milk and soaked poppy seeds along with the water it’s soaked in. Mix and close the lid. Pressure cook until two whistles. Once all the valve pressure is released, remove the lid and with a wood-masher or immersion blender lightly mash the dal. Pressure-cooking is my method; I follow it mainly for the convenience of not stirring and for the speed. In actual recipe, they would take all the ingredients in a wide, thick-bottomed vessel and cook until the dal reaches fall-apart stage. If you don’t have a pressure cooker at home, then follow the second method. It may take little bit more time, but the end result will be worth the trouble, I promise.

Add the toasted cashews and golden raisins along with the ghee they toasted in. Also stir in the cardamom powder to the cooked payasam. Have a taste and add sugar and milk, if needed. Simmer the payasam on medium-low heat about 20 to 30 minutes, until it reaches thick, creamy consistency. Serve warm or cold.


A Cup of Moong Dal Payasam with Poppy Seeds, Cashews and Golden Raisins

Poppy seeds can block the cooker nozzle and that may create a mess, if they not soaked in warm water beforehand. Soak poppy seeds in water first, if you are to cook this in a pressure cooker.
Chana Dal Payasam - Link

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets), Sugar, Milk, Moong Dal (Washed), Indian Sweets 101, Poppy Seeds (Friday June 9, 2006 at 8:31 pm- permalink)
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Sweet Potato Gulab Jamuns (Ranga Alur Puli)

Kova Gulab Jamuns with Sweet Potato

The recipe that was in my mind to be tried is Sury’s sweet potato dessert or Ranga Alur Puli. The fabulous food blogger, Sury from Delhi, not only writes about food but also studies American English. She recently published her first book “Making Out in America” on American vernacular. Congratulations Sury!

Few weeks ago, she blogged this recipe in her blog. The name of this sweet, the way it was prepared and the traditional Bengali aspect, all captured my interest. When I read her recipe, I did imagine the taste and I couldn’t wait to give it a try. Finally today I prepared this delicious sweet.

I did change the recipe little bit. Instead of adding flour and sugar to sweet potato pulp, I mixed it with gulab jamun powder. Also in addition to traditional coconut-milk-sugar fudge filling, I added some chocolate chips and butterscotch chips, just to create variety. I’ve been preparing gulab jamuns in this way, so I applied the same idea here.

Steam-Cooked Sweet Potato
Steam-cooked sweet potato (yam)

Recipe:
(for 15 pieces)
For Dough
1 medium sized sweet potato (yam)
1 packet of gulab jamun powder (100g)
For Filling
½ cup of coconut fudge (coconut-milk-sugar halwa)
¼ cup of chocolate chips - plain and butterscotch
To Deep Fry
2 cups of peanut oil or ghee
For Sugar Syrup
1 cup sugar
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon of rose water
¼ teaspoon of powdered cardamom

Sweet potato-gulab jamun dough, coconut fudge, chocolate and butterscotch chips
Chocolate Chips, Coconut Fudge, Sweet Potato-Gulab Jamun Dough & Dough balls

Preparation:
1. Cook the whole sweet potato on steam until just tender. Remove the skin and mash the sweet potato to smooth paste.

2. Take gulab jamun powder in a vessel. Mix it with sweet potato paste. The moisture of sweet potato is enough to prepare a firm dough. After a rest period of 15 minutes or so, divide the dough into big marble sized rounds.

3. Make a dimple by pressing the dough ball with your thumb. Fill the dimple with a teaspoon of coconut halwa(fudge) or with chocolate chips. Cover the hole with dough from the sides; roll into smooth round ball. Prepare all the dough balls like this and keep them ready for deep-frying.

4. Meanwhile prepare sugar syrup. Take sugar and water in a big pot. Bring to a boil. Let simmer for few minutes (5 to 10 minutes maximum on medium heat). Have a taste and add more sugar if needed. This is just plain sugar syrup, do not thicken the syrup and do not cook it for longer period. Just before turning off the heat, stir in rose water and cardamom powder.

Deep-Frying the Jamuns
Deep Frying the Jamuns

5. Heat oil in a kadai or in a saucepan. Deep-fry the jamuns until golden on medium-low heat. One tip is, keep the heat medium and do not overheat the oil. Deep-fry the jamuns, slowly. The color changes from light gold to much deeper color gradually within 3 to 4 minutes. If the colour changes to brown immediately after dropping into oil, it is a signal that the oil is too hot. In that case, reduce the heat or turn off the heat for few minutes. You need to cook these slowly on moderate heat because the dough should get cooked evenly inside also.

6. Remove the jamuns and place them on a paper towel to dry off any oil that’s attached to them. Quickly and gently drop them into sugar syrup. Take care not to spill the oil into sugar syrup.

7. Keep them soaked in syrup for about 15 to 30 minutes. Jamuns will absorb the syrup and will increase in size a little bit. I would like to serve gulab jamuns cold, so usually, I keep them in the refrigerator for one hour before serving.

Sweet Potato Gulab Jamuns (Ranga Alur Puli) with coconut halwa filling
Sweet Potato Gulab Jamuns (Ranga Alur Puli) ~ For this week’s “Indian Sweets 101

They tasted great, just like I’ve imagined, particularly the coconut halwa filled ones (shown above) and the ones filled with butterscotch chips.

This is my contribution to “Blog Party - Bite Sized Desserts” hosted by dear Stephanie of Dispensing Happiness.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Sugar, Chocolate, Indian Sweets 101, Sweet Potato (Wednesday April 19, 2006 at 10:06 pm- permalink)
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13. Chana Dal Payasam (Sanaga Pappu Payasam)

Yesterday, on Ugadi, the weather was perfect with temperatures around 70 F. It felt like spring and Andhra weather. To celebrate this perfect day on Ugadi, I prepared chana dal payasam (sanaga pappu payasam) for puja.

Payasam is the most common type of dessert served in homes across south India. Prepared with basic ingredients and following a simple method, Payasam- the liquidy dessert, is a people pleaser. Usually the base is a thickened milk and sugar or jaggery syrup. The solid component varies - protein in the form of chana dal or moong dal are added. Or by adding carbos like rice, vermicelli, sabudana and nuts like almonds; different types of payasams are prepared. Real easy and the outcome is always sweet mouthfuls, it is a favorite among children and adults all alike. Here is the recipe for one of my favorite payasams:

Recipe:
(For two)

1 cup chana dal
¼ cup sabudana (Sago, Saggu Biyyam)
separately, soak them in water for at least two hours. Presoaking both chana dal and sabudana (sago) reduces the cooking time, considerably.
For sweet syrup
1 cup of powdered jaggery or sugar
3 cups of milk
Flavoring
1 tablespoon of ghee
¼ cup of cashews and golden raisins
4 cardamom pods - seeds finely powdered

Chana dal, Sabudana (Sago), Milk and Jaggery - Ingredients for Payasam

1. Take chana dal and one cup each of milk and water in a pressure-cooker. Pressure-cook the dal until one whistle, just to soften the chana dal. Do not disintegrate the dal; take care not to over cook.

2. Meanwhile in a thick bottomed, big vessel, take half cup of water. Add sugar or powdered jaggery. Stir and cook, until the sugar/jaggery melts. When the syrup starts to thicken, add the soaked sabudana, and 2 cups of milk. Cook them on medium heat for at least 15 minutes, stirring in between. To this milk-sugar-sabudana syrup, add the contents of the pressure cooker - chana dal and the milky liquid it is cooked. Stir and check the sweetness level, add sugar if needed. Simmer on medium heat, Uncovered, stirring occasionally for another 15 minutes or until it reaches consistency/thickness, you desire. Keep in mind payasam further thickens on cooling.

3. When all this is happening, heat a spoonful of ghee in a small pan. Add and toast - first cashews, then golden raisins until light brown. Add these toasted things along with ghee, to the simmering payasam.

4. Finally stir in powdered cardamom, simmer another 5 minutes. Switch off the heat, cover the pot with a lid and let it sit for at least half an hour. Serve warm or cold.

Golden Raisins fried in ghee, Cashews, Soaked Chana dal, Payasam (Sanaga pappu Payasam)
Chana dal payasam (Sanaga Pappu Payasam) ~ For this week’s Indian sweets 101

Variations:
I also prepare the same payasam with chana dal(bengal gram) without adding the sabudana(sago).
Sometimes, I also add fine semolina instead of sabudana to chana dal payasam.
Toasted fresh coconut gratings are also added along with cashews and golden raisins for that rich nutty sweetness.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Chana Dal, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets), Milk, Indian Sweets 101 (Friday March 31, 2006 at 1:15 pm- permalink)
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12.Mango Halwa (Mango Flavored Ravva Kesari)

“Heavenly” - that’s how I remember Indian mangoes. “Damn…” That�s what comes out of my mouth, whenever I buy mangoes here. Mangoes available here look big and bulky and if you cut them open, there won’t be rich yellow color, there won’t be any heavenly aroma, and the less said the better about the taste. The product of poor soil and excessive fertilizer use. Well, that’s what we get here. At first, the taste was a shock, then over the time we began to ‘appreciate’ the poor taste of mangoes, of course we don’t have a choice.

Whenever I crave Indian mangoes, out comes the treasured family recipe, mango halwa. Preparing like halwa intensifies the mango flavor. In this recipe, mango puree is cooked with toasted semolina in sugar syrup. The result - rich yellow color is back, heavenly taste and aroma of mangoes that we remember from India is there. Also milk free and relatively low calorie. A little bit different than how the regular halwa is prepared, this favorite of mine is more like - mango flavored ravva kesari.

Mango Halwa
A delight to the senses - mango halwa

Recipe:

3 ripe mangoes or 6 cups of cut mango (3 Costco/Samsclub kind of mangoes)
½ cup fine semolina (Suji ravva works fine too)
¼ to ½ cup sugar (add less or more according to the mango sweetness)
1 tablespoon of melted ghee
3 cardamom pods - seeds finely powdered
1 cup of water

Ripe Mango, Cardamom, Semolina and Sugar - Ingredients for Mango Halwa

1. Peel the mangoes, cut them into cubes. Keep a quarter-cup of finely cubed mango aside. Take the remaining mango in a mixer, blend into fine, smooth puree, without adding water.

2. Heat a half tablespoon of ghee in a skillet, add and lightly toast semolina, just until it leaves raw smell. Remove and keep it aside.

3. In a thick bottomed, wide pan, take water and sugar. Heat them slowly until the sugar melts. Then increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Wait for sugar syrup to thicken a bit and stir in blended mango puree and toasted semolina. Cook the mixture, on medium heat, stirring in-between to prevent sticking, until the mixture reduces by one third. It takes at least 20 minutes. At this stage, sprinkle the cardamom powder and finely cubed mango pieces that were kept aside. Stir, stir…for 2 to 3 minutes and then turn off the heat.

4. Coat a pan or tray with melted ghee and spoon the cooked halwa into the pan. Allow it to cool (halwa thickens further as it cools) and cut into squares. Remove and serve.

Mango halwa tastes great warm or cold. This time, I spooned it into muffin cups for individual sized servings and kept the muffin pan in the refrigerator for about one hour.

Mango Halwa - in Muffin size
Celebrating spring with mango halwa ~ For this week’s Indian Sweets 101.

Makes about 6 regular sized muffin cup portions.
Recipe Source: family
Kitchen Notes: Prepare it with fresh ripe mangoes. Fresh mango puree tastes better and the fiber etc., when cooked contributes to faster thickening of halwa. For this reason avoid store bought watery and preservatives added mango concentrate to prepare this sweet.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Mango, Suji/Semolina, Indian Sweets 101 (Thursday March 23, 2006 at 2:20 pm- permalink)
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Coconut Burfi (Kobbari Paakam, Kobbari Lauju)

Coconut Burfi

Sweet, flavorful and chewy, coconut burfi is one of my favorite sweets. Fresh coconut meat cooked in cardamom flavored sugar syrup - recipe is so simple, method is very easy and the taste is heavenly. We, in our family prepare it without adding milk in contrast to some other versions, where milk and ghee are also added along with fresh coconut to sugar syrup.

Last weekend, weather was so perfect and spring like. We felt like having some sweet. So we went to neighborhood Rulli Brothers grocery shop and purchased two coconuts, each for about 79 cents. Came home, prepared the sweet and enjoyed it. We still have some pieces of burfi left but the spring like weather - gayab ho gaya (disappeared). It’s snowing here today!

Grating the Coconut

Recipe:
(For 12 medium sized squares)

2 cups of fresh grated coconut
1½ cups of sugar (or 2 cups - your choice)
Half glass of water
2 cardamom pods, seeds finely powdered
A tray greased with ghee (for pouring the cooked mixture)

Freshly grated coconut, Indian sugar, Cardamom pods

Method:
In a big sturdy vessel take water and sugar. Keep the heat on medium-low allowing the sugar to melt completely to prepare the sugar syrup. Cook it until the sugar syrup reaches softball like consistency. To know the right consistency - do the cold water candy test. Take few tablespoons of water in a cup, add a drop of sugar syrup to water. If it holds its shape (softball) doesn’t dissolve into water then it’s at the right consistency.

Fresh Grated Coconut Plain sugar syrup
Fresh Grated Coconut ………………Sugar Syrup on the way to softball stage

Grated fresh coconut is added to sugar syrup Coconut Burfi cooling
Fresh coconut is added to the thickened sugar syrup…… Coconut burfi - pressed into a squarepan to cool

Add the grated coconut and cardamom powder to the sugar syrup. Keep the heat on medium and cook, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. In 10 to 15 minutes, the mixture will be reduced to half, becomes very thick and comes away easily from the sides of pan - this is the signal to turnoff the heat. (At this stage, you’ve to be fast and alert, otherwise, the mixture will be overcooked and turns into dry sweetened coconut flakes - commercial kind of mixture.) Immediately pour this mixture into the greased tray. Level it evenly with a spatula, and cut into squares. Let cool.

To serve or store, reverse the tray onto a big plate, separate the squares and store them in an airtight container. Because it doesn’t have any milk products, this sweet can stay fresh up to two weeks.

Kitchen notes:
Authentic South Indian coconut burfi is prepared only with fresh grated coconut. Grating the coconut takes little bit effort but I think of it as an exercise, mainly upperarm workout.
Checkout this site for clear photo and video demonstration of sugarsyrup stages.

Tray of Coconut Burfi
Indian Sweets 101 - Celebrating Holi with Coconut Burfi

Recipe Source:Amma

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Sugar, Coconut (Fresh), Indian Sweets 101 (Tuesday March 14, 2006 at 11:07 pm- permalink)
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Indian Sweets 101 ~ (a series by Indira)

As much as we, Indians are famous for our spicy food, we also love and prepare lots of sweets for every occasion. You wouldn’t notice this if your Indian culinary knowledge were gained from reading Indian cookbooks or eating out at Indian restaurants. Even the seasoned chefs, cookbook authors of Indian descent also shy away from detailing the Indian sweets recipes.

For preparing Indian sweets, though some are very easy, you really need to know the technique and must have experience. The levels can be novice, good and expert…. I can say I’m ‘good’ - both in the number of sweets I know to prepare and the method I follow. This series is my E-notebook of 101 Indian sweets, in a nutshell a 101 on Indian sweets; My attempt to chronicle (explain and learn) the Indian sweets, following the traditional way, both in preparation and in ingredients.

Link to the page and recipes of Indian Sweets that I blogged sofar: Here

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets) (Tuesday March 14, 2006 at 10:47 pm- permalink)
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Cashew~Walnut Laddu (Kaju-Akhrot Burfi)

When I invited my friends to celebrate Sankranthi festival, in addition to the traditional ’sweet pongal’, I also prepared cashew walnut laddu. Low in sugar calories, high in nut energy! Cashews and walnuts are first roasted and powdered, then cooked in milk-sugar kova till they all came together into solid fudge like consistency. Cooling further solidifies the mixture and then small portions are taken and shaped into rounds -’laddus‘ or cut into squares-’burfis‘. I like the round shape, so I always go with round laddus. Very convenient to hold and eat, children particularly love laddus.

Cashews, Walnuts, Milk and Sugar in the Background

Recipe:

Half gallon- Whole milk
2 cups-sugar (3 cups if you like the laddus on the sweeter side)
1 cup - cashews
1 cup - walnuts

Preparation:

Milk and Sugar: In a thick bottomed big pot, bring milk to boil. Add sugar. Stirring occasionally, simmer the milk-sugar mixture until it gets thick and is reduced to about one fourths of the original quantity. It takes at least 45 minutes to one hour.:) Do this on medium heat. Avoid high heat and take care not to scald the milk.

Cashews and Walnuts: Meanwhile, lightly roast cashews and walnuts separately in an iron skillet. Let them cool down to room temperature. Separate 10 pieces from each and chop them into small pieces. With the remaining ones - make fine powder of them in a food processor/mixer.

Milk and sugar simmering thickened milk and sugar after 1 hour on the stove
Milk and sugar simmering………………..Thickened milk and sugar kova after one hour on the stove

Kova into Laddu: Add this fine powder to the thickened milk-sugar kova and cook for 15 minutes, stirring continuously, until the mixture is firm. Sprinkle chopped chunks of cashews and walnuts that were kept aside. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes until the mixture is almost crumbly and comes away easily from the sides of pan.

Take a spoonful of mixture and press it with your hands into a ball. If it holds shape, then mixture is ready for cooling. Turn off the heat. Spoon the mixture into a greased square or round pan. Level it with a spatula and let it cool for at least 4 to 5 hours. Cut into squares for burfis or take a spoonful of mixture, shape it with your hands into a round ball for laddus. Store the laddus in glass jar. They will stay fresh for upto one week.

(This recipe makes 15 medium sized laddus.)

Cashew-Walnut Laddu

One medium sized cashew-walnut laddu, my entry to ‘Sugar-Low Friday’ event hosted by lovely Sam of Beck & Posh.

By the time my friends left, I had only four laddus remaining out of 20. Two for me and two for Vijay, enough for us. This is how I do my ‘Sugar - Low’, by portion control. In my view, this is also one of the ways to lower the sugar consumption.

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Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Walnuts, Cashews, Sugar, Milk, Indian Sweets 101 (Friday January 27, 2006 at 7:16 pm- permalink)
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Sweet Pongal, The Sankranthi Sweet

Sankranthi:

Harvest festival Sankranthi is all about celebrating rice in our part of world. Particularly in South India, rice plays an important role as the main cultivated grain and as nourishing food that people subsist on every day of their life. It’s no wonder that there is a festival dedicated to the almighty rice. Equally worshipped are the man’s best partner, the kind-hearted cow, and the elements - sun, earth and water. They make rice cultivation a success, and also add a magic touch to the rice, making the rice a cherished, beloved food of the people.

Sona Masuri Rice - Grown and Imported from Andhra, India
Sona Masuri Rice - Grown and Imported from Andhra Pradesh, India

Sweet Pongal (Tiyya Pongali):

This famous south Indian, Sankranthi sweet is traditionally made with freshly harvested rice. Very simple to make but spectacular in taste, the ordinary rice becomes mouthwateringly extraordinary in sweet pongal. The rice soaks up the milk, absorbs the jaggery, picks up the cardamom scent and takes up the generously added moong dal, cashews and golden raisins. And in this new avatar, becomes an offering to the Gods (naivedyam, we call it), and also simply irresistible to all who try it.

Some Tips:

Jaggery:

I follow the classic recipe and don’t do or like shortcuts. Method is neat and easy and the end result is always like the prasadam offering of temples. Jaggery is the traditional sweetener of sweet pongal and my choice too, simply because sweet pongal tastes better when made with jaggery and not sugar.

Rice:

The rice that I prefer is Sona Masuri. Because this variety is grown and imported from my home state Andhra Pradesh, and is the variety that I grew up on. Grain is thin, medium sized and very lightweight. Available in almost all Indian grocery shops here in US. Little bit pricey, but the taste is worth the money and farmers in my state really can use the money. Support farmers and buy this rice.

Consistency:

Sweet pongal is like a rice-dal porridge, consistency must be gooey thick and sticky. That means, the amount of liquid I usually add for sweet pongal recipe is more than the amount that I normally add to cook plain rice of equal measurements. Also, I always use equal amounts of water and milk for this recipe. Variations are - you can cook the rice-dal entirely in milk or in coconut milk, or if you are lactose intolerant and diet conscious, then in just plain water. Just add more liquid compared to the regular rice preparation.

Rice, Yellow Moong Dal, Cashews, Golden Raisins, Cardamom and Jaggery
Rice, Yellow Moong Dal, Cashews, Golden Raisins, Cardamom and Jaggery

Recipe:
For two people

1 cup - Sona Masuri rice
½ cup - yellow moong dal (pesara Pappu)
1 - 1½ cups - jaggery, crushed to fine
¼ cup each - cashews and golden raisins
¼ cup - ghee, melted
4 cardamom pods - skins removed and seeds powdered finely
3 cups each - milk and water (or 2 cups each, if you like a halwa like pongali)

Here is the 3-step method I follow to prepare sweet pongali at our home.

1.Toast and Roast:

Yellow moong dal:
Heat one teaspoon of ghee in an iron skillet. Add and roast yellow moong dal, on medium heat, until the color changes from yellow to pink. Take care not to brown. Slow-roasting freshens up and imparts a sweet smell to yellow moong dal. Remove them to a plate and keep aside.

Cashews and Golden raisins:
In the same skillet, add and heat two teaspoons of ghee. Add and fry the cashews and golden raisins till they turn to light gold. Remove and keep them aside.

Jaggery Syrup Cooked Rice-Dal Mixture is added to Jaggery Syrup
Jaggery syrup simmering…………Cooked Rice-Dal Mixture is added to Jaggery Syrup

2.Cook and melt:

Rice, moong dal and milk:

Take rice and roasted moong dal in a pot. Add water and milk. Mix well. Partially cover the pot and cook the rice and dal to tender soft. I use a pressure cooker but an electric rice cooker also works fine. Stove-top slow simmering also produces best tasting pongali.

Jaggery and water:

While the rice is cooking, in another pot, melt jaggery. Add the powdered jaggery and one cup of water. Stir and cook till jaggery melts. Bring the solution to a rolling boil. and reduce the heat and simmer for about five minutes. Turn off the heat. Let the jaggery syrup cool a bit.(Jaggery has to be cooked separately and you can’t add it directly to uncooked rice and milk. Because it prevents the rice from cooking properly and also splits the milk. Please keep this in mind.)

3. Stir and Simmer:

Adding the cooked rice: Add the cooked rice-dal pongal to jaggery syrup. Keep the heat on medium. Stir in the ghee, cashews, golden raisins and cardamom powder. With a strong laddle, stir well to combine all. Cover and simmer until the whole mixture comes together into a sticky, gooey mass. Turn off the heat. Cover and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Sweet pongal thickens further on cooling.

First offer to Gods as naivedyam (if you have this tradition), then serve it your loved ones, near and dear. Don’t forget to drizzle some ghee just before serving.

Sweet Pongal (Tiyya Pongali) - The Traditional Sweet of Sankranthi
Heavenly Sweet Pongal

For people hungering for a traditional, naivedyam kind of recipe but don’t have time or energy to make puran poli (bhakshalu), sweet pongal is The one. Speaking from experience, my suggestion is, keep your reservations aside and try it. You’ll be glad and can be proud of yourself for finally making one decent kind of naivedyam. I promise! Follow the recipe and this ancient classic delivers every time. People would ask for a second serving, diet or no diet.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Naivedyam(Festival Sweets), Cashews, Milk, Sona Masuri Rice, Moong Dal (Washed), Ghee, Golden Raisins, Indian Sweets 101 (Monday January 16, 2006 at 3:08 pm- permalink)
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Walnut Burfi (Akhrot Laddu)

Vijay got a good grade in this semester. He is studying for his master’s degree in software engineering, part time at Carnegie Mellon University. And the walnut burfi is for celebration. The combination of walnuts and milk-sugar is a classic. The resulting walnut burfi or laddu is a rare indulgence for us.

Milk, Sugar and Toasted Walnuts

Recipe:
(makes about 6 medium sized laddus)

2 cups of walnuts (Akhrots)
2 cups of whole milk
3/4 cup of sugar

Lightly roast walnuts in an iron skillet and let them cool down. Keep one fistful of nuts aside and grind the remaining walnuts into powder.

Boil milk and sugar until they come together into very thick mass almost like the final stages of pala kova. It takes about 30 minutes. At this stage, stir in powdered walnuts. Mix thoroughly and keep stirring until, the walnut-kova mixture leaves the sides of the pan and comes together into one big lump. Takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle the whole walnuts and mix once and remove the mixture into a pan. Allow it to cool and make small laddus with it or press the whole mixture evenly and tightly in a greased pan to cut squares.

Walnut Burfi (Akhrot Laddu)
Walnut burfi (Akhrot laddu) - Old fashioned

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Walnuts, Sugar, Milk, Indian Sweets 101 (Monday December 26, 2005 at 1:07 am- permalink)
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Priya’s Mysore pak

Priya from Little Rock, Arkansas, regular reader of this blog, kindly sent me this photo of Mysore pak she made for Deepavali following THE recipe.

Priya's Mysore Pak for Diwali

Mysore Paks, the silver plate and kumkum bharani - so pretty, I love them all, Priya. Thank you so much for sharing the festival sweets with us!

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Mitai, Zen (Personal) (Tuesday November 1, 2005 at 8:42 pm- permalink)
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