Therattipal (Palkova)

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No festive occasion or social function among Tamilians is complete without therattipal as one of the dishes in the cuisine. A very laboriously prepared dish by simmering huge quantities of milk over low flame to reduce the bulk with constant stirring to ensure that the milk does not get burnt, this dish is quite time- consuming too. Once “Aavin” started selling this sweet it became an easily accessible sweet in our family and the effort one needs to invest was forgotten.  At one point in one of my family member’s place I happened to taste microwaved therattipal and it was quite like the traditional dish and was pleasantly surprised to learn that it takes principally just two ingredients and less than 15 minutes to prepare the sweet. In a family that loves this sweet, there couldn’t have been a better treat!

It saved the bother of full-cream milk and sweat over the steady stirring The caramelization is so perfect that it gives you the color as in traditional preparation.

The best part is that we do not have to worry about sugar proportion and the texture that depends on the milk quality. Yogurt added ensures on the grainy texture and gives a lovely feel.

Ingredients

Condensed milk  1 can (400 ml)

Thick yogurt  2  tsp

Ghee ½ tsp

Almonds (slivered)  2 tsp

Saffron strands 1 pinch (optional)  but I prefer to add them

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  • Grease a large glass bowl (1 liter or bigger) with ghee and pour the condensed milk into the bowl. Add the yogurt to the milk and mix well to blend the curd and milk.

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  • Place in the microwave at 900 W (high) for 5 minutes  and make sure to track the cooking.  Stir every 2 minutes to ensure a smooth texture. You will see the granular texture and caramelized color appearing after about 3 minutes or so.

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  • Reduce the wattage to 600 W and micro for another  minute or two until the mix looks solid and all fluid is vaporized. Add saffron strands and mix well.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Garnish with almond slivers.

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Chef’s Note

  • Clarified butter (ghee) is not part of the dish but used to grease the bowl to avoid the grains from coating the wall.
  • Ensure the bowl is twice the size of the quantity made to avoid spill-over while cooking.
  • As the milk has a lovely taste and flavor I do not use cardamom although some may prefer to add the same.
  • Do not transfer immediately after removing from the oven as the color may be lighter. let it wait to cool to get the color.
  • For those who prefer to avoid microwave oven, the same can be done on gas flame in a heavy-bottomed wok over low flame and it may take about 15 to 20 minutes.
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Karachi Halwa

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Karachi Halwa as the name implies comes from the Sindh region. Much as it was popular in the Northern part of the country as Bombay Halwa, it is now popular across the globe. As a child I remember gawking at the nut-filled bars of the sweet wrapped in cellophane sheets and displayed in the mithai shops and used to wonder how such differently colored bars in green, yellow, red, and orange  could  be made in plenty. The first time I tasted was again an experience of its kind – the gummy-chewy bar with filled with crunchy nuts.
Took sometime to figure out that it is not too much of a task to make this and now microwavable versions are also available.

For all the chewy texture it takes up less ghee as  to other bars such as mysorepak.

Ingredients

Corn flour 1 cup

Sugar 2 cups (and a half if you like it very sweet)

Water ½ + 1½ cups

Crushed cashew  ¼ cup (you can add crushed pistachios and almonds too)

Cardamom powder  ¼ tsp

Clarified butter (ghee) 2 tbsp

Orange color   a few drops or a pinch of powder

Method

  • Add half a cup of water to cornflour in a bowl and whisk it into a smooth paste. Add the color to the paste and mix well.
  • In a thick-bottomed wok make a syrup with sugar and 1½ cups water. As the syrup starts boiling simmer the flame and let the syrup get thicker but it is not necessary to get a string consistency.
  • When the syrup gets sticky add the flour mix to the syrup and keep stirring continuously. As the mix starts thickening it gets translucent and glossy. Ensure there is NO lump formed.

kakarachi halwa thickeningins

  • As  the mix thickens add ghee and stir longer till the jelly-like mix starts leaving the sides of the wok.
  •  Add the crushed nuts and cardamom powder and blend them by stirring a little longerIMG_2157
  • Transfer the mix quickly to a well greased plate and tap the plate a little to get an even spread.

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Let the plate cool enough (up to an hour) for the jelly to set before cutting them into desired shape and size.

Store the pieces in an airtight container up to a week or longer in the refrigerator.

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Chef’s Note

  • If you want the jelly to set faster leave the plate in the refrigerator for an hour.
  • Depending the color you like you can vary the color to green or yellow
  • I tried adding turmeric powder as a natural color and found that those  pieces had a turmeric flavor and thus it was not a great idea 😦

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Rava Kesari (Auto-cook)

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Rava kesari as known in Southern states or Sooji ka Halwa as popularly known in Northern region is an anytime dish as dessert or even as vrat ka prasad. Often one finds lumpy texture either because sugar crystallizes and forms lumps of sooji or possibly because inadequate water gives way for lumps when sugar is added. Standard recipes suggest two measures of water for a measure of semolina that should be sufficient but it can fail even experts at times.

A simplified method that overcomes all these hurdles and makes it super easy for the first-timers to handle with ease is to cook the sweet in its steam whereby even the flavor is enhanced compared to traditional method. An ideal vessel for making this dish is a pressure pan or a Dutch oven (basically a heavy-bottomed thick vessel with a tight lid).  This method has been successfully tried by many culinary experts and referred to as “autolysis” by one food group. I disagree with the term andthe technique is  what I mention here. We work on the principle of high temperature where the food is auto-cooked in contrast to autolysis, where the enzyme works on the substrate and breaks it down.  Enzymes cannot work at this high temperature. When boiling water is added to the base ingredient it helps in swelling up of the food particles and closed /sealed environment retains the steam and flavors too.

This will work well for uppuma too and any porridge kind of preparation.

Ingredients

Semolina 1 cup (1 measure)

Sugar 1½ cups (1½ measures) I used 2 measures as our family has supersweet tooth 🙂

Clarified butter/Ghee ¼ cup (¼ measure. In case you like more fat in your dish you can make it ½ measure)

water 3 cups (3 measures)

Kesar color 1 pinch

Saffron strands  1 pinch

Milk to soak saffron 1 tbsp

Cardamom powder ½ tsp

Cashew nut 10 (broken to small pieces)

Raisins  1 tbsp

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Method

  • Soak the saffron strands in a small bowl of milk and let it release the color.
  • Heat  water in a saucepan and as it  starts boiling add sugar and the kesar color to it and wait for it bubble.
  • While the sugar syrup is getting ready, take one spoon of ghee in the pressure pan and roast the cashew on slow fire till it turns golden in color. Add the raisins and as soon as they swell up transfer them to a dish to be used for garnishing later.
  • Add the remaining ghee to the pan and roast the semolina on low flame till the aroma is released.
  • Keeping the pan on low flame, transfer the sugar syrup to the sooji in the pan quickly and also the saffron in milk. Add cardamom and as soon as you the mix bubbling close the pan with the lid and add the weight.
  • Switch off the flame and wait patiently for 15 to 20 minutes for the process to complete.
  • After the required time to auto-cook open the lid and transfer to a bowl and garnish with the dry fruits.

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Chef’s Note

The ingredients have been given in measures so it becomes easy for one to cook in large measures too with ease as for parties.

Basbousa

A traditional Arabic cuisine call it Egyptian, Lebanese (nammoura), or Turkish (revani ),  this dessert with a typical rosewater flavor or orange blossom flavor, is a favorite in Arabic homes. Typically made from semolina and most often with coconut it is soaked in sugar syrup and is savored by all! It is somewhat similar to kesari (sooji ka halwa)  made in Indian homes most often. Unlike our dessert that is cooked over fire (shall soon post a traditional recipe and one that is  made  in microwave mode) this is baked and gives a grainy texture. Baking makes the dish simpler as one does not have to keep stirring strenuously to get a smooth mix as in  cooking over the flame.

Often egg is used in this dessert for softness; this dish being eggless, yogurt was used for the spongy texture. If need be a little milk can also be used. The measure given here makes about 35 to 40 pieces.

Basbousa

Ingredients

Semolina 2½ cups

All purpose flour 1 tbsp

Dessicated coconut 2 tbsp or freshly grated coconut  ½ cup

Caster sugar 1 cup

Melted butter ¼ cup (2 tbsp) + 1 tsp for roasting semolina

Vanilla essence  ¼ tsp

Yogurt 1 cup (thick)

Baking soda  1 tsp

For the syrup

Sugar 1 cup

Water  1 cup

Rose water  1 tsp or rose essence ½ tsp

Lemon juice 1 tsp

Sliced almond 20

Method

  • Roast the semolina in butter in a heavy-bottomed pan till it changes color slightly. Transfer it to a bowl and add the other ingredients viz sugar, yogurt, butter, coconut, baking soda, and essence. Mix well with a spatula to get a smooth mix. If the mix looks very thick loosen it with milk to get a thick batter consistency.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C while working on the mix.
  • Grease a 12″ × 8″ baking tray and layer the tray with the batter. Let the tray have  a ½” space for the mix to rise. Cut squares of 2″ × 2″ with a thick knife and arrange the sliced almonds in the center of each square. Leave the tray in the oven at 200°C  for 30 minutes or  a little longer till the surface turns golden brown.

To enhance the caramelized look, brush the surface with milk half-way through baking.

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Fresh from oven
  • While the mix is getting baked make the sugar syrup by adding water to sugar in a pan and boiling on low flame till the sugar melts. When the syrup starts boiling switch off the flame and add rose water and lemon juice and let the syrup cool.
  • Remove the tray from the oven and pour the syrup over the hot bake so that it gets soaked in the syrup. bake for another 5 minutes and let it cool to room temperature.
  • Leave the cooled tray in the refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes before separating the pieces.
  • Savor the flavor of rose and enjoy!

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Chef’s note

In case you have orange blossom water use the same in place of rose water.

Sakkarai Pongal

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Sakkarai pongal is made normally made with jaggery or some prefer it with sugar too. What is made on Sankaranthi is cooked in milk and has a different taste and thus sankaranathi pongal   is a little different in taste from traditional pongal. At home following Sankaranthi on Maattu Pongal day also it is traditional to make pongal and hence the variation without milk 🙂

Ingredients

Raw rice 1 cup

Moong dal ¼ cup

Jaggery 1½ cups

Ghee ¼ cup or less

Cardamom 4 (powdered)

Mace 2 petals (crushed)

Nutmeg powder  1 pinch

Cashew pieces 1 tbsp (10pieces sliced)

Raisin 1 tbsp

Saffron 1 pinch

Method

Quite similar to Sakaranthi pongal with variation in water added . More water added in place of milk.

  • Roast the dal and rice on slow fire until aroma is wafted.
  • Wash the dal-rice mix in water, add 3 cups water and pressure cook till done (4 to 5 whistles should do … 2 whistles in high flame and the rest in reduced flame)
  • While the rice is getting cooked melt the jaggery in a wok in ½ cup water and as it starts boiling strain it through a tea strainer to remove dirt and keep it ready.
  • Add a spoon of ghee in a wok and roast cashew and raisin and keep them ready. Soak the saffron a spoon of milk and keep ready
  • In the same wok transfer the mashed rice and keeping a low flame stir in  the  molten jaggery syrup and stir till evenly done. Add the remaining ghee and mix well. Add cashew-raisin, nutmeg powder, cardamom powder, mace and mix well.Add the saffron filaments in milk and mix well.
  • Serve hot

Sankaranthi Pongal ( 4 servings)

Harvest festival ,,, Sankaranthi is celebrated nationwide in different forms and among the South Indians too there are some differences although pongal is the basic dish for the day. Even today there are households that follow the tradition in cooking pongal on firewood and in earthen pots bought for the occasion .

At home we use bronze pots coated with lime and rice flour (basic idea to prevent the vessel from soot when cooked on firewood) as per the tradition and cook on gas flame.

 

Sankaranthi 2014
Sankaranthi

On festival day the rice is cooked in milk but can be done with less milk or no milk otherwise and the taste of course is distinct either way.

 

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Ingredients

Raw rice  1 cup

Moong dal  ¼ cup

Jaggery (powdered)  1½ cups

Milk 1 cup

Ghee ¼ cup or less

Cardamom 4 (powdered)

Mace 2 petals (crushed)

Nutmeg powder  1 pinch

Cashew pieces 1 tbsp (10pieces sliced)

Raisin 1 tbsp

Saffron 1 pinch

Method

  • Roast the dal and rice on slow fire until aroma is wafted.
  • Wash the dal-rice mix in water, add milk and 2 cups water and pressure cook till done (4 to 5 whistles should do ..2 whistles in high flame and the rest in reduced flame)
  • While the rice is getting cooked melt the jaggery in a wok in ½ cup water and as it starts boiling strain it through a tea strainer to remove dirt and keep it ready.
  • Add a spoon of ghee in a wok and roast cashew and raisin and keep them ready. Soak the saffron a spoon of milk and keep ready
  • In the same wok transfer the mashed rice and keeping a low flame stir in  the  molten jaggery syrup and stir till evenly done. Add the remaining ghee and mix well. Add cashew-raisin, nutmeg powder, cardamom powder, mace and mix well.Add the saffron filaments in milk and mix well.
  • Serve hot

Makahna Kheer /Lotus Seeds (4 Servings)

Ingredients

Makhana (puffed lotus seeds)  50 g (app 2 cups)

Ghee 1 tsp

Milk 1¼ litre

Sugar ¼ cup

Condensed milk  ¼ tin (100 ml)

Almonds 15 to 20 (slivered thin)

Pistachios 10 to 15 (slivered thin)

Saffron  1 pinch

Method

  • Cut makhana into halves and roast them in ghee on a low flame. take less than a handful of roasted makhana and crush and crush them well.
  • Heat milk in wide-bottomed pan and let it reduce in quantity to three-fourths its volume.
  • Add makhana (whole as also crushed) and let it cook for 10 minutes on a low flame.
  • Add sugar and condensed milk and let it cook on a low flame till sugar is completely dissolved and makhana is very soft.
  • Add saffron dissolve in milk and garnish with slivered pistachios and almonds.
  • Serve hot or chilled as desired.