Friday, October 17, 2008

An unexpected award

Never having thought of awards, I'm overwhelmed by this one.
Just doing the blog is reward enough for me, as it has always made me happy to share what I know. This summer it has given me something to do that I enjoy and helped alleviate the problems the heat causes diabetics.
Most of all, it's like opening a new gift every day to visit a blog...old or new and read a new recipe that I can't wait to try.

I am now an award winning blogger! Thanks Viki of Viki's Kitchen for the very first award I have received for this site...and for the very kind words.
The rules of the award are: Put the logo on your blog. Add a link to the person who awarded you. Nominate 10 other blogs. Add links to those blogs on yours, and leave a message for your nominees on their blogs. I am happy to pass on this award to my fellow blogger friends.

Tastes Like Home
Malabar Spices
Art of Cooking Indian Food (Let Us All Cook)
Aayi's Recipes
Paajaka Recipes
...and a little bit more...
For The Love Of Food
Zaiqa, Modern Hyderabadi Cuisine

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Indian Sweets: RAWA PUFFS

Indian sweets aren't the candy of America or the toffees of England...they are the 'sweets' made for tea each day,and at religious festival times. Hindus have specific sweet dishes to be made for each festival...and of course each part of India has different sweets to make and offer...all delicious and infinitely varied.
To get back to the important ritual of 'tea-time',one sweet and one spicy/kara/savoury item was the norm in our house. My mother had two Britannia biscuit tins which she filled routinely with goodies for tea time. For those of you not familiar with them, these tins were made of aluminum, rectangular in shape about eighteen inches high and ten inches wide and deep. We got them from the station canteen manager who saved them for my mother, after the biscuits were sold.
After lunch or in the evenings my mother and the servant would make enough sweet and spicy things to fill these tins and then for ten days we would all work on emptying the tins and her job would begin all over again.
When guests came visiting, these snacks would be served to them with tea, coffee or that famous Indian drink, Orange Squash.
Most of the items for tea in India were deep fried. In Britain, where the custom originated, these goodies were usually baked.
For the spicy/kara/savoury part of the tea, we would have one of these: murku, papubilla,kodbilla,salty biscuits, bajjis, pakodas...the last two being made fresh of course.
For the 'sweet' part we would have one of these: some kind of halwa, kesari, mithai/barfi, rawa puffs, duckies and dollies...the name taking it's shape from the cutters my Mom used on the jaggery and flour biscuits that were deep fried...there were teddy bears too but they were not included in the name somehow.
The Rawa Puffs were one of my favorite tea time snack and at Diwali they were made in huge quantities. On the day of the festival each neighbor was sent a tray with all the sweets my Mom had worked diligently on for the last two weeks. The neighbors reciprocated on their special festival days...a tiffin carrier of biriyani on Eid came from one, Christmas trays of plum cakes and baked delicacies from another and so on. How rich this sharing made our lives and no matter which religious holiday it was, all the children felt the keen joy of anticipation for the goodies that filled every home.

Now as Diwali approaches and I am filled with memories of home, I decided to try out the Rawa Puffs for myself as I have found a shortcut that is doable in spite of the weakness that is a part of the Diabetes.
In addition, the summer heat has finally relented and the cooler weather has given me some of my energy back.


This is my entry for Paajaka Recipes 'Deep fried or steamed sweets' event.

(got the dates mixed up so I guess it's not in the event.)

This is also my entry for All Thingz Yummy' Yummy Festival Sweet: Diwali event


1 cup rawa/sooji/cream of wheat.
(If you are buying this from an Indian store buy the medium coarse not the fine variety).
2/3 cup sugar.
(this seemed a little extra sweet to me but that may have been because I have become used to cutting back on my sugar intake. You could use half a cup, taste and then add a little more if needed.)
1 level tsp powdered cardamom.
1/3 cup chopped cashewnuts.
(Halve each cashew and then halve it again)
1/3 cup raisins. (I'll increase this next time).

Heat pan, roast rawa with cardamom powder for three -five not brown or burn.
Remove rawa from pan.
Heat one Tbsp ghee or oil.
Fry cashewnuts, when half done add raisins and fry till raisins plump up.
Add rawa and fry for another minute or two.
By this time the kitchen should be filled with a heavenly aroma.
Remove from stove, add sugar and mix well.
(our sugar is really fine here so if you have granulated sugar, powder a little but not completely).
Cool filling.

For the cover: (Here's the shortcut).

From your local Mexican supermarket buy the frozen empanada covers.
If you don't have a Mexican supermarket in your area, here are my sympathies and the recipe for the cover.

1 1/2 cups flour
(I use the chappatti atta/whole wheat flour from the Indian store is ground really fine. Some people use only all purpose flour but I feel this combination is more nutritious.)
1/2 cup all purpose flour.
1 Tbsp olive oil.
1 tsp salt.

For frying: I mix half olive oil and half corn oil for frying as it works better than just olive oil.

Mix all the ingredients. Knead with slightly lukewarm water to poori dough consistency.
Roll out either into into one big round, cut out circles using four inch cookie cutter (you can make smaller circles depending on the time you have to spend on them),or roll out as individual small pooris/circles.
(For newbies trying this recipe for the first time, poori dough consistency is like pizza dough and when rolled out this should be as thin as tortillas).
Fill each 4 inch circle with one Tbsp filling, wet edge of circle with water and fold half the circle over to meet the other half.
Using your fingers and then the tip of a fork, press down edges very firmly.
(If puffs open while frying, the filling will leak into the oil and that case switch off stove, allow oil to cool, strain and then resume your is easier to make very sure puffs are well sealed in the first place).

Heat oil in frying pan. Deep fry puffs till golden brown.
Do not overheat oil as these puffs come out better when they fry at just the right temperature. Is this a riddle to see if you know what that is? No, it's not. The right temperature is when you put in a tiny piece of dough into the heated oil and it rises to the surface immediately.

Last instruction:
Eat one hot...they are so.o.o good this way then eat one cold later on...can't make up my mind which way they taste better. I made three, which is all the time I could stand in the kitchen for...meant to be fair and share fifty-fifty with HD (Hubby Dearest) but he wasn't home, and two were sacrificed to the noble task of tasting.
Hope he returns before the third goes in search of the first two!

1. One to two Tbsps grated coconut can also be roasted and added to filling.
2. Empanada covers can be filled and baked to cut down on the fat but this recipe comes out better when fried.
3. Fat is not absorbed by these puffs or any other dish, if oil is heated to the correct temperature before anything is fried using the small test given above.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

5 star badam halwa for Navratri

Navratri literally means nine nights. This festival honors Devi/the Indian Goddess who fought against demons who wanted to conquer heaven and earth.
Devi was created by the light that emanated from the Gods and she was endowed with the special power of each of the Gods.
They sang her praises in special hymns, recorded in the Devi Mahatmyan when they needed her and she appeared and rescued them from the scourge of the demons.
These nine days are celebrated all over India, in different ways...Gujratis hold 'garbha sessions' which convene at 8 or 9 at night in which they celebrate with song and dance till mid-night when the 'arti' is performed, Bengalis perform Durga Puja for these nine days, South Indians perform pujas at home,some set up a display of dolls and grow fresh grains in a plate for nine days. People visit each others homes to see the dolls and eat the 'goodies'.
For those who cannot make elaborate dishes, fruits and milk are offering enough when served with devotion. I also mix nuts and dried fruit and serve this.
The tenth day Vijaya Dashmi is the day of Victory.
The simplest explanation of Navratri is it is the fight of good versus evil and eventual victory by all that is good. By celebrating the festival, we affirm this.
The simplest worship is to follow all that is good every day of our lives in thought, action and deed. The light of goodness will always dissolve the darkness of evil.

Here's an easy dish that is a great offering, a great dessert and simply a great sweet.

5 star badam/almond halwa

1 can condensed milk
1 cup blanched almonds, powdered coarse.
(If you do not have a food processor, then do this in a blender with a little milk)
1/2 cup milk powder.
1 tsp Elaichi/ cardamom

Put all ingredients in a pan on medium heat.
Stir till thick and halwa falls from spoon like a mass.
Remove and transfer to a serving dish.
Serve small portions as this is a rich dish.
No one will believe you haven't spent hours making it!
Picture coming soon!!!