Monthly Archives: November 2019

Deepawali 2019 – The Laddu Saga

Laddu might be a favourite sweet for many. Any type of Laddu, called ‘Urundai’ in Tamil, denotes, sweet balls made with different ingredients… like neiurundai/split green gram laddu, kadalai maavu urundai/bengal gram laddu or the unavoidable thengai urundai/coconut laddu.

These traditional urundais are healthy with the roasted lentils, in comparison to the white flour based creamy sweets. With new age food therapies from bloggers like me, there are other healthier versions – flax seed urundai, ragi urundai, and other millet based sweet balls.

But, no one can beat the Boondi Laddu. The King/Queen of Laddus in the south is the boondi laddu and, in the north of India, it is the ‘Moti choor Laddu’. The Moti choor of north India, is named due to its miniature pearls. The boondi, must have been named after the Hindi word- ‘Boond’ which means ‘droplet’.

One version of the South Indian Laddu, is the most popular Laddu of the Temple of Thiruppathi. The Thiruppathi laddu must be the most sort after, next to the presiding deity in the temple. The Boondi Laddu of the south, is made with slightly bigger pearls, than its northern counterpart. In colour too, the north prefers orange and the south prefers yellow. The Thiruppathi laddu though is brownish, as the pearls are deep fried and, taken out after they reach a darker colour. This might be for longer shelf life.

So, Laddu has been on my bucket list for many years. Before starting to make the Laddu, I wanted to do my homework well. I had my cousin in Chennai, who was and is still an expert in making Laddus. I approached her during one of my holidays, and that was my ‘Laddu Workshop’, in its best and simplified form. After that fruitful lesson, I thought Laddu was not as hard as I used to believe.

The hands that gave me a live demo and a true workshop on Laddu..

Thanks Sweety for that excellent demonstration!! These are the beautiful laddus we made.

So, inspired by the skillful workshop on Laddus by Sweety, I was confident, my laddus were going to be perfect.

Last Deepawali, I decided to make Boondi Laddu, along with Flax seed/black sesame Laddu – (https://dosaikal.com/2018/11/24/the-good-fat-black-ball/). But, I messed up with the Paagu or the sugar syrup. The sugar syrup got a bit thicker and couldn’t bind the laddus together. instead, we had them as dry sweet boondi. It was not a waste, that had to be thrown away, or altered to settle down in other variations, like the athirasam. But my mission remained unaccomplished.

I felt like the same maths student in my previous article (https://dosaikal.com/2019/11/07/deepawali-the-victory-story/), whose procedures were right, yet answer went wrong.

I researched into the shots, that I had taken at my cousin’s. Then I went through this youtube -demonstration- Laddoo by Revathy Shanmugam

After setting myself into a Yogic meditator’s mode, I went into the kitchen, at 9 in the night. I told the chatting and helping enthusiasts at home, husband and daughter, not to come near the kitchen, till further instructions.

Two alterations I did to the original recipe –

  1. No food colour or turmeric powder was used.
  2. Since I didn’t want to use white sugar, I used unrefined cane sugar.
  3. Also, Mrs. Revathy Shanmugam’s recipe suggested 1 1/2 cups sugar for 1 cup of bengal gram flour. I took equal quantity of both, as my family needs less sugar.

Even then, we found the Laddus to be too sweet for us.

Hence, with no food colour and brown sugar, the colour of Laddu was not as yellowish as it is available normally, still the taste was unaltered.

Ingredients (makes approximately 25 laddus)

  • Kadalai Maavu/bengal gram flour (store bought) – 1 1/2 cups
  • baking soda – a pinch
  • water – to make batter
  • unrefined cane sugar – 1 1/2 cups
  • cashew nuts – 10-15 halved
  • raisins – 10-15
  • cardamom powder – 1 tsp

Method of Preparation

Before we start making boondi for laddu, it is advicable to make the sugar syrup. As Mrs. Revathy Shanmugam mentions, mixing boondi in hot syrup doesn’t yield the best of laddus. Let the syrup cool a bit, then the boondi or bengalgram pearls can be mixed.

First – Soft Ball/Single String consistency – How to make the quintessential syrup?

the syrup – a bit brownish because of the cane sugar
  • In a wide pan, take 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/2 cup water
  • Bring it to boil and then keep the stove in sim position
  • Check for Soft ball consistency.When the sugar syrup is boiling well in the vessel – keep a bowl of water and add a few drops of the syrup. The drops should settle in water and one should be able to make a soft ball out of the droplets. 
  • Soft ball consistency is same as single string. Take very little syrup in between thumb and index finger (be cautious… the syrup is too hot), now, single string should be formed. This is the right consistency of syrup.

Now that the syrup is ready, leave it aside to cool.

Start making Boondi.

the first batch came out really perfect
  1. Sieve kadalai maavu; Add baking soda
  2. Add water little by little and mix into a batter, almost suitable for dosa or pancake
  3. Heat oil in a pan. The oil shouldn’t be too hot – then the boondi would turn brown immediately, without being properly cooked. The same way, oil shouldn’t be low in heat too. Boondi would turn out soggy.
  4. Like the porridge of the baby bear, in Goldilocks Story, the oil should be – ‘not too hot not too cold’- just right.
  5. Keep the boondi ladle over the oil and pour enough batter
  6. Tap the ladle so that beautiful pearls drop in harmony
  7. Do not make too many pearls in one ladle, as they would reduce the heat of oil, in turn, the boondis would become soggy
  8. When they are done, that is, when they reach a beautiful yellow colour, take them out on kitchen tissue
  9. Finish the whole batter
  10. When the batter is done, in the same oil, fry the cashewnuts and raisins and mix with the boondi.
  11. Add powdered cardamom powder too.

Making Laddu

  1. By now, the syrup must have cooled.
  2. Mix the boondi to the syrup and stir well. Leave it aside for at least a couple of hours or even overnight. This helps the boondis to soak in the sugar syrup well.
  3. I couldn’t wait beyond a couple of hours… so, I started making Laddus by middle of the night.
  4. The well soaked and cooled boondi in syrup, binded beautifully to make perfect Laddus.

Truly, a happy ending to a fruitful Saga!

Deepawali – The Victory Story

Deepawali in the south of India or Diwali in the north, the festival signifies victory of good over evil. In the north, it is Lord Rama’s homecoming, after his victory over Ravana; In the south, it is the day of Lord Krishna’s victory over demon Narakasura.

Now, my victory story, doesn’t involve any such philosophy. It is the victory of perseverance, victory of persistence, diligence, commitment and the list is endless. Why have I suddenly drenched myself in a sea of boastfulness? Let me elaborate. Exactly on the victorious day of Deepawali – I was a changed person. I suddenly felt my soul reached an unexplainable ecstatic state – with my victory over two things.

One – victory over the tricky Athirasam and Two – victory over the complicated Boondi Laddu! Doesn’t that sound awesome??

Athirasam

Athirasam has always been a tricky affair, since my first article on Athirasam in November 2011. It seems to have been a long journey, but this time, I am a contended soul.

I prayed very hard to all Gods, not for me, not for Athirasam, and also not for the Gods to whom I devoutly offered…. but extensively for my family. They are super appreciative of my efforts in the kitchen. A few times, I succeeded making replica of flattened pumice stone with the athirasam batter. Though it was capable of breaking any tooth, as strong as diamond, they appreciated the polished texture of the thing I made.

A few other times, the batter disintegrated in oil, they sweetly commented, it looked like blooming flowers in a lake. I was smart enough to stop with the first batch. I converted the batter into Appam with Banana or sweet Paniyaram. I even got hugs and kisses for being so very innovative.

Though, my heart brims with pride, having made them proud, on such countless occasions, I could somehow feel they were worried souls, on the eve of Diwali. They were in fact getting panic attacks, when I was preparing the Athirasam batter. With a true feeling of helping them out of this stressful situation, this time I prayed to all Gods, with utmost Devotion.

Thankfully, the Gods didn’t drop – good looking, perfect athirasams from Heaven. That’s when, I started to think, and hence, got so much stories to share with you guys.

So what made the difference? There were a few things I thought I should re-analyse. All numeric ratios were checked and they seemed just right. The measurements were perfect; the ingredients were exact; the procedure was flawless. I felt like a school going kid, with my math problem gone wrong. All formulas right, done in the exact step by step procedure, rechecked several times….. but the answer went wrong. All my teachers stood in front of me, and seemed to be telling me – Maths is all about Practice. Not only Mathematics, anything in life comes with a price – and the most important of all might be…. Time – Devoted Time to practice and practice again.

I realised, making Athirasam was more than a tough mathematical calculation. Practice was not enough. But, learning new nuances from continuous practice helped. What I learnt from continuous Practice is listed below-

  1. Rice flour used for Athirasam needs to be moist and not too dry. That’s why, raw rice is soaked, dried at home for an hour or so, and powdered in the mixer while slightly wet.
  2. Jaggery used should be the darker variety and also one which is right for syrups – we call it the ‘Paagu Vellam’ in Tamil.
  3. Though the ratio is provided, always keep additional rice flour. Because, some varieties of jaggery might take in more flour. If there isn’t enough flour, the mixture would be watery, a consistency not suitable to make athirasam.
  4. Also, always mix rice flour to syrup and, do not pour the syrup into rice flour. This helps in binding the mixture well, and gives room to add more rice flour if needed. But, while pouring syrup into the flour- one might end up having a very thick batter. And, if there isn’t more syrup in hand, it would be difficult to alter the consistency of batter.
  5. The most important of all – THE SYRUP…. that makes the difference. What we need, is a single-string consistency or soft ball consistency syrup.

Soft Ball consistency – How to make the quintessential syrup?

  • Heat jaggery with 1/4 cup water in a vessel to dissolve
  • Filter when jaggery is dissolved and make a syrup.
  • Check for Soft ball consistency? When the jaggery is boiling well in the vessel – keep a bowl of water and add a few drops of the syrup. The drops should settle in water and one should be able to make a soft ball out of the droplets.
  • Soft ball consistency is same as single string. Take very little syrup in between thumb and index finger (be cautious… the syrup is too hot), now, single string should be formed. This is the right consistency of syrup.

Now, after getting the consistency of syrup right, add the rice flour to the syrup and let the batter ferment overnight.

For recipe and ingredients of Athirasam, and my initial stories on how I learnt athirasam from our family kitchen, visit – https://dosaikal.com/2011/10/25/the-tricky-athirasam/

RICE FLOUR

The next important aspect of this year’s Athirasam making was the rice flour. I had store-bought rice flour, that was Idiyappam maavu. While I was wondering, how to use this flour, as an easy option .. this website came to my rescue. https://www.sailajakitchen.org/2018/10/adhirasam-recipe-using-ready-made-rice.html

It had an answer to keep the store bought dry rice powder in moist condition. The author asked to sprinkle water little by little on the rice flour, and after mixing, powder the bread-crumb-like flour with dry ginger and cardamom in a mixer. The moist rice powder for Athirasam is ready.

Isn’t this super smart! I adapted this method, with a slight correction in the syrup consistency- accurately soft ball.

Thank You Sailaja! you made my Day!!

After allowing the batter to ferment overnight, I made athirasam on the day of Deepawali. Gods had answered the prayers of my family. My Athirasams were just perfect.

I had mixed feelings… Had I scored full marks in mathematics? Or was I an athlete, who has just reached the finish line, faster than ever? I touched my head…. do I feel a chef’s cap? I suddenly realised, my feet didn’t touch the ground, then, I pressed myself down.

It might sound like an exaggerated triumph, but, this is no mean feat either. My mother agrees with me. Since Deepawali until today, she has been the lone soul, to have listened each word of my triumphant story of Athirasam, in complete silence on the other side of the telephone. And just said, ‘I’m proud of you’ with tears in her eyes, that I could visualise through my BOTIM call.

Navaratri in Abu Dhabi – Binding Traditions Stronger!

Come September, there are a number of festivals in line. And, for an Indian household, festivals mean exclusive traditions and exquisite food. Pillayar Chathurthi passed with mouth watering Modhakams or Poorna Kozhukkattai. Then came Navratri/Navaratri with many varieties of Sundal or the Healthy seasoned Lentil salads.

This year, Navaratri/Navratri was a special affair. Living in Abu Dhabi, one doesn’t feel out of homeland, with millions of Indians, especially South Indians quite huge in number. But, it is certainly an amazing place where festivals are celebrated in their best traditional way, with undoubted authenticity.

My Navaratri in Abu Dhabi, reminded me of Chennai, where I would go to houses of relatives and friends, to see Golu – the display of dolls/artefacts and many more, in beautifully decorated steps. Golu, showcases the innovative decorations of mostly the women in the house, and ofcourse without gender bias, the men do give a helping hand. Whoever contributes to it, It is creativity at its traditional best.

Why Abu Dhabi reminded me of Chennai, is purely because, the Golu display, Traditional attire, Sundal and singing of Keerthanais in Carnatic music, all part of Navaratri back home, came as a complete package this year. The only difference being, back in Chennai, I went in Pattu Pavadai – the traditional dress for little girls in south India; here in Abu Dhabi – I took my little daughter who came in Pattu Pavadai.

Nostalgia heavily strikes the middle aged .. has any philosopher/psychologist mentioned it? If not, then it’s me to profess it to the whole wide world.

I truly need to thank my friends here, Radha, Rekha, Shalini and Uma, who took me in a time machine and made me relive those splendid memories. Back at home, in one’s own homeland, one is always part of the already built-in society. Sharing traditions and remaining rooted, becomes an easy affair there. Here, in a land of one’s livelihood, one needs to become part of a new society, as well gather parts of their own society to remain culturally rooted. This Navaratri/Navratri and Golu that I write about, are not community events, transferring the cultural current from a core transmitter. Most admirable part here, is that, these women of the household, professionals in their own walks of life, have independently and individually transmitted the tradition and culture, they learnt from their parents, to friends and members of an extended society.

Here are a few pictures of the fascinating decorations in their homes, arranged to perfection. The Navaratri celebrations with the Golu, provided splendid feast for the eyes, soothing traditional music for the ears, scrumptious food for the tummy, and glorious memories for the heart.

The first home that I visited… Golu at Radha’s

the beautiful steps

the Krishna concept

the Devis

the Ganeshas

Golu at Shalini’s..

the beautiful steps

such eye-catchy colours..

the Krishna concept..

surprising twist.. Cambodian concept..Apsaras and Angkor Wat

This one, rekindled my Khmer Memories. Cambodia holds a special place in my heart, for the history of the land, warmth of the people, traditional cuisine and the connect with India, especially Tamilnadu- during the eras of the Pallava and Chola Empires. Nostalgia Overloaded. For more information on my love for Cambodia – please visit – https://dosaikal.com/category/the-cambodia-diary/

Golu at Rekha’s..

the beautiful steps…

Thanjavur thalaiyatti bommai – dancing dolls of Thanjavur – the shopkeeper’s gallery

A big ‘Nandri’ my friends!!