Dal ka Seera (Moong Dal Halwa)

Dal ka Seera (Moong Dal Halwa)

Moong dal halwa or Dal ka seera as it is called in marwadi is probably one of the best desserts from Rajasthan. It is a dessert made from coarsely ground split yellow moong dal, ghee, sugar, and dry fruits. Given the small list of ingredients, it is not at all a quick dish to prepare. Have loads of time at hand and want to give your arms a workout – then do go for this one. It is worth all the hard work. My mom prepares this in kgs for family and friends and this is her recipe. Very easy to prepare and minimal ingredients but tons of hard work and patience. Want to give it a try? Read on!

Do not reduce the amount of  ghee. It is a very important part of getting it right. Traditional sweets are high on fat and sugar but that is the reason they are unmatched and still so popular. You can replace khoa with condensed milk if khoa is not available. I like to keep it as authentic as possible so that it can match the taste of my mom’s recipe.

Use the husked moong dal and soak it in plenty of water for a good 6-8 hours. I like the seera grainy so I don’t grind the dal too fine. Grinding the dal coarse (resembling sugar) with prevent the seera from becoming sticky and paste like.

The most important part is roasting the ground dal. This is where all the hardwork comes in. You have to make sure that you roast it in on a low flame. Semolina is added to the ghee before adding the dal so that the dal does not stick a lot to the pan. But you need to keep scraping the edges and mixing it non stop till the dal stops sticking to the pan.

By end of appx 30 minutes, you should have nice brown granules of roasted dal. The aroma is enough to tell that the dal is roasted (or over roasted 🙂 )

The color of the roasted dal should be liked the skin of almonds. To make sure that the dal is roasted properly, keep mixing it even if the dal stops sticking to the pan.

The second important thing is the sugar syrup. It should be less than one string (approximately 220 degrees F or 85-90 degrees C. Cool it for couple of minutes before adding the dal.

This is  a winter time dessert and  it tastes good when it’s hot. If it gets too cold or dry, add a table spoon of milk and reheat it. Do not add water to reheat the seera.

Dal ka Seera (Moong Dal Halwa)

 

Ingredients

  • ½ cup yellow split moong dal
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup khoa
  • ½ cup ghee
  • 2 tbsp almonds chopped
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder (ilaichi)
  • 1 tsp semolina (rava)
  • 1 cup water

Recipe

Soak the moong dal in water for 6-7 hours. Drain water and grind the mung dal coarsely.

Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pan or a thick kadhai. Add semolina and sauté for 10-20 seconds. Add the moong dal paste and keep mixing it on slow flame till the dal is brown in color. Add khoa and mix again for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the moong dal mixture to another bowl and keep it aside.

To make the sugar syrup, mix sugar with 1 cup water and bring to boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes. The consistency should be less than 1 string (approximately 200 degrees F/85-90 degrees C). Switch off the gas. Let the syrup cool for 2 minutes. Add the moong dal mixture and mix well. Switch on the gas and cook for 2 minutes while mixing continuously. Add almonds and cardamom powder and mix well. Serve hot.

Mango Panna cotta

Mango Panna cotta

Mango Panna cotta is my twist to the classic Italian dessert Panna cotta which is made of cream, milk, vanilla, and sugar and topped with berries, fruit coulis or caramel. With Mango season ruling the mind, heart, and wallet, I gave in to the temptation and bought mangoes (read very expensive) in Singapore. The idea was to add Indian taste to the Panna cotta. I flavoured the cream with saffron instead of vanilla and also added mango pulp to the cream to add a bit of sour taste to the panna cotta.

Experimenting with expensive mangoes is a risky thing, especially when you have to travel one hour to buy them. But then I had been waiting for a long time for mangoes so that I can try this new idea of mine. As guessed, one variety was pretty bad (was not even close to be called a Mango) but luckily the second one – Alphonso, was delicious. It truly is the best of Mangoes. You can rarely go wrong with it. Though it’s not my choice of Mango but I don’t mind it if the Hyderabadi Rasaal Mango is not available.

While making the mango sauce, make sure to strain the mixture so that the sauce is smooth and shiny. You can prepare the sauce in advance and use it as required. For the cream, I used the thick cream or double cream as it is called. You can also use half cream and half milk if you want a lighter dessert.

Panna cotta tastes the best if it is let to set and chill for 10-12 hours. This dessert can be made ahead and stored for couple of days. Just cover it lightly and refrigerate it.

Mango Panna cotta

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • ¼ cup thick cream
  • 4 tbsp mango pulp
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • ½ tsp china grass (agar agar)
  • 4 tbsp water
  • Few drops of oil/butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped mangoes (for topping)

Mango Sauce

  • 3 tbsp mangoes chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp water

Recipe

For the Panna Cotta

Oil two ramekins or bowls and keep aside. I used 4″ inch bowls.

Combine cream, mango pulp, sugar, and saffron in a thick bottomed pan and heat on low flame. Do not let the mixture boil. It should be hot. Switch off the gas when you see small bubbles on the edges.

Meanwhile, sprinkle water on powdered china grass and cook on low flame. Do not let the china grass boil. It should just melt in water. Switch off the gas when you see small bubbles on the edges.

Strain the china grass into the hot cream mixture. Do this quickly and mix well. Make sure there are no lumps. You can also use a blender to mix the china grass into the cream mixture. Quickly pour the mixture into oiled ramekins or bowls. Cool the ramekins/bowls at room temperature and cover and refrigerate them for 5-6 hours or until you are ready to eat/serve it.

For the Mango Sauce

Add all the ingredients in a non-stick pan and cook till the mangoes are pulpy (4-6 minutes). Strain the pulp and cool it.

To serve

To unmould the panna cotta:

Fill a large bowl with hot water. Run a thin knife carefully around the edges of the ramekin/bowl. Dip the ramekin/bowl in hot water till the rim and hold it for around 4-5 seconds. Invert it on a damp serving plate and shake gently. Reposition if required. Top it with a spoon full of mango sauce and few chopped mangoes. Serve immediately or you can even chill it for few more hours by covering it lightly.

You can even top the panna cotta with sauce and mangoes and serve in the ramekins/bowls.

 

Til Papdi (Caramelized Sesame Seeds)

Til Papdi (Caramelized Sesame Seeds)

Til Papdi or caramelized sesame seeds is a sweet prepared in India for the winter festivals like Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri etc. Variety of sesame seed sweets are made and exchanged in various parts of India during winters and especially for the festivals of Sankranti/Lohri. At my home it is mostly Til Laddus (sesame laddus) for Sankranti but my dad and I like Til Papdi more and my mom makes sure to have enough supply at home. There is no winter in Singapore and no festival feeling either. When my mom called to wish me and asked me to make Til papdi for my son, I was apprehensive as I had never made this before. I am glad I made it as he just loved it and enjoyed eating it as much as I do. This recipe does not include any nuts as I was making it for my little one. You can add chopped nuts if you like.

The names of the festivals and the way they are celebrated differs throughout the country. Only practice common is to eat sesame seeds on the festival day. Sesame seeds are high in iron and calcium and also helps in lowering cholesterol levels. Roasting the sesame seeds lightly adds the crunch to til papdi.

This sweet can be made very quickly and needs very few ingredients. If you want a healthier version, you can replace sugar with jaggery. Be very careful while working with sugar. If you let the sugar melt longer, the til papdi will taste bitter.

Though it takes very less time to make this sweet, it needs lot of practice. The thinner you can roll out a til papdi, the better it tastes. Speed is the key to making perfect til papdis. You need to roll out the papdi before the mixture cools down. You can either make papdi mixture in small batches or put the bowl of the papdi mixture in hot water so that the mixture remains hot while you roll out the papdis. Once you have mastered rolling out the papdi quickly, you can try cutting it in various shapes while it is still hot. Store til papdi in an airtight container and put a butter paper or plastic sheet between two papdis so that they don’t stick.

Til Papdi (Caramelized Sesame Seeds)

Ingredients

Makes 10 pieces

  • 100 gms white sesame seeds
  • 75 gms sugar
  • Little ghee for greasing

Recipe

Lightly roast the sesame seeds and keep aside. Heat sugar in a thick bottomed pan. Once the sugar melts, quickly add the sesame seeds and switch off the gas. Mix well.

Grease a clean flat work surface and a rolling pin. Take a little mixture at a time and roll it out as thinly as possible. Make rest of the papdis in same manner. If the mixture cools down, heat it up a little and you should be able to work with it again.

Eggless Blueberry Cheesecake

Eggless Blueberry Cheesecake

Blueberry cheesecake – Eggless – No Bake! Any better way to start the New Year? I enjoy making eggless desserts and enjoy it even more when people around me love to eat them. This is one of my dear friend’s favorite dessert. This post comes a little late but I wanted to make something special to thank her for all the effort she has put in helping me create this blog. Thank You Sowmya for all the late night nonsense discussions, answering my silly questions, and helping me create this blog. Hope this post will remind you of the time we spent in Bangalore searching for the perfect blueberry cheesecake.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, yummy, are in season now, and most of all I got them cheaper at the supermarket this week. Traditionally, cheesecakes are made using cream cheese but I have used Mascarpone cheese for this cheesecake. Combination of Mascarpone and fresh whipped cream seldom goes wrong.

I have used Mcvites Digestive Biscuits for the base. You can use graham crackers or even Marie biscuit based on your choice. Oreo is another great choice if you are a Oreo lover. I like the base nutty so I have added cinnamon powder. You can experiment with the base too by adding powdered almonds, walnuts, and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.

You can substitute blueberries with other berries like strawberries, raspberries, or even cherries. If you are lazy to make the compote, you can buy the ready made fruit preserves available in the market. Happy New Year!!!

Eggless Blueberry Cheesecake

Ingredients

Serves 6

For the Base

  • 6 digestive biscuits
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter at room temperature

For Filling

  • 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2/3 cup heavy fresh cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

For Topping

  • 2/3 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2-3 tsp lemon juice
  • Whipped Cream (Optional)

Recipe

Crush the digestive biscuits to crumbs. You can use a hand mixer for this. Mix rest of the ingredients for base. The mixture should be like moist sand. Press down the mixture tightly into a spring form pan and put it in fridge for 15-20 mins to set.

In a bowl, whip together the cream and 2 tbsp sugar till stiff peaks form. Keep aside.

In another bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with remaining sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla essence till it is smooth and creamy. Fold in the whipped cream carefully and spread this mixture on the base. Let it set in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

In a pan, put the blueberries, sugar, and ¼ cup water and cook on low flame till you get a thick sauce like consistency. This should take approximately 7-10 minutes. Add the lemon juice in the end and mix well. Keep aside to cool completely.

Once the cheesecake is set, spread this blueberry topping and serve chilled. You can use whipped cream also to decorate the cheesecake.

 

 

Eggless Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes

Eggless Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes

Merry Christmas! It is eggless chocolate and vanilla cupcakes for the Christmas. It’s a rainy Christmas in Singapore and with all the neighbors gone, our floor is even gloomier so I just needed something to cheer me up. What better than baking a cake! I like to bake cakes more than eating them. The smell of a freshly baked cake just lifts up the spirits and makes me happy. Baking or rather eggless baking has always been very satisfying for me. As kids, we never had any cakes for birthdays or any occasion for that matter. It was not a Marwadi thing or rather not a middle class thing to afford. But being the odd one out always, I have been trying to bake since my school days. From pressure cooker cake disasters to decent cakes in convection oven, I have tried lot of baking at home. Now that I have a wonderful oven in my kitchen, I experiment even more.

I don’t know what it is with eggs and baking. The more things I want to bake the more I need to research on how to bake an eggless version of it. Once you try these cupcakes you will agree that eggs don’t matter really. For me the most important lessons of baking are Follow the recipe point to point; PREHEAT the oven – however excited you are to put your cake in; ALWAYS use the best quality and exact measurement of Ingredients.

I have made chocolate and vanilla flavors as few members in my family prefer vanilla flavor to chocolate. Really! If you wish to make all chocolate cupcakes, just double the quantity of cocoa powder and mix it in the whole batter or if you wish to bake only vanilla cupcakes, leave out the cocoa completely and double the quantity of vanilla essence.

One thing to keep in mind while baking them is that every oven has a different baking time. Best would be to bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes and check them once and then continue baking as required. These mini cupcakes go well with tea, or as a dessert after a meal or just eat them when you like. You can choose to ice them or just eat them warm.

Eggless Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

Makes 40 mini cupcakes or 25 normal cupcakes

  • 1 ½ cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup oil (preferably rice bran)
  • ½ cup curd (Indian curd)
  • ½ tbsp. vanilla essence

Recipe

Mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl and pass this mix through a sieve once or twice so that the soda gets mixed with the flour.

Combine hot water and sugar and beat them on medium speed till the sugar is almost mixed in water and you see very small grains. Add the curd and oil and blend on high speed for 2-3 minutes. Add half of flour mix and blend on low speed. Add rest of the flour mix and blend on low speed till the flour is mixed into the liquid ingredients and there are no lumps. Make sure to scrape the edges in between. 2-3 minutes should be enough to mix the dry and liquid ingredients well.

Divide this batter into two portions. Add vanilla essence to one portion and cocoa powder to another one. If you find the batter with cocoa too stiff, add one table spoon hot water at this time.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease a cup cake mould or put cupcake liners in a cupcake mould. Spoon the vanilla mixture in half the liners and cocoa mixture in half. Fill only 3/4th of the liners. Tap the mould lightly on a flat surface. This is to get rid of any air bubbles in the spooned batter. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes or till a skewer comes out clean when you put it in the cupcake.

For a variation you can also spoon alternate layers of chocolate and vanilla.

Once the cakes are baked, cool them completely and decorate with the icing of your choice.

Icing

I have used Betty Crocker’s Dark Chocolate icing and Cooked Flour frosting from leelabeanbakes.com.

In India, you can get the ready butter cream icing from Pillsbury. It is easily available at supermarkets like FoodWorld and Spencers. You can also try whipped cream or Nutella  Icing. Happy baking!!

Rasgulla

The pioneer of cookery shows and cook books in India, Tarla Dalal passed away on Wednesday, 7-Nov-13. She was truly the first master chef of India and has inspired generations of cooking enthusiasts. Be it traditional Indian food, healthy cooking, cooking for kids, or different types of cooking, list of her expertise is endless. She taught people to cook healthy and cook well. Whenever I am stuck or confused while making a traditional mithai, her recipes work like an encyclopedia. I am sharing her recipe and hope her recipes keep spreading the cheer and happiness that she always did. RIP Tarla Dalal.

After trying 4-5 different recipes and methods, it was this recipe of Tarla Dalal, which helped me make perfect rasgullas in a flash. Yes! The cooking time is not more than 12-15 minutes. This is the easiest and simplest recipe of rasgulla I have seen so far.

Rasgulla

Though there are only four ingredients you need to follow every step as mentioned to get the perfect rasgullas. Here are few tips before the recipe:

  • If possible, use half quantity cow’s milk and half quantity buffalo’s milk.
  • Quantity of lime juice required to curdle the milk depends on the quality of milk.
  • Adding excess lime juice will make the rasgulla lemon flavoured.
  • Do not touch the rasgullas once you place them on the plate.
  • Make sure the cooker has enough space for rasgullas to expand. They will double in size. If there is no space rasgullas will break.
  • Always cook rasgullas on high flame.

Soft and fresh chenna(hung curdled milk) is the key to perfect rasgullas. The process of making chenna looks long but it is worth it. Since rasgulla is milk-based, it is best enjoyed fresh. The shelf life of milk-based sweets is not very long. You can keep them in fridge for few days though.

Rasgulla

Ingredients

Makes 20 Rasgullas

  • 1 litre full fat milk
  • 1 -2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 cup + 1/4th cup sugar
  • 5 cups water
  • Little (1-2 tsp) refined flour

Recipe

Bring milk to boil and switch off the gas. Wait for 3-4 minutes, stirring it occasionally for the steam to escape. Stir in 1 tbsp of lime juice. If the milk starts to curdle, then you will not need more lime juice. Add little more lime juice if the milk does not curdle.

Let it sit for some time. Take a white muslin cloth and spread it in a deep bowl. Put the milk and tie the cloth. Now run the tied cloth under fresh water for 2-3 minutes so that the chenna (curdled milk) gets washed and gets rid of the lime flavour. Hang it over a sink or any clean place where water can drip. Hang it for 3-4 hours or till the water drips out completely.

Take the chenna in a plate and mash it with the heel of your palm till you get a smooth mixture. This should not take more than 2-3 minutes.

Dust the back of a plate with refined flour. Take little chenna at a time and make smooth balls and place on the dusted plate. Make sure there are no cracks in the balls.

While you are making the chenna balls, put sugar and water in a cooker and bring to boil on a high flame.

Once the sugar water comes to boil, add the balls to it by tilting the plate. Do not touch the balls. Close the cooker and cook on high flame for 8-9 minutes without the whistle. Switch off the gas. Let the cooker get cooled. Do not touch the rasgullas still.

Open the cooker and slowly transfer the rasgullas to a bowl. Chill them in a refrigerator for 45 minutes to 1 hour before eating/serving.

 

 

Chandrakala (Sweet filled with Khoa and nuts)

Chandrakala (Sweet filled with Khoa and nuts)

Two three days before Diwali, my home resembles a sweet shop. The aroma of the sweets and savories can be felt in the neighborhood. My grandmother, mom, and aunt make lot of sweets and savories to be distributed to family, relatives, friends, employees, friends of friends, the postman, sweeper, and anybody and everybody who comes home to get the Diwali inaam. The most popular of these preparations is chandrakala. I end up eating them for lunch the day they are being made. This is the by far the best mithai/sweet my grandmother makes. No garnishes, no saffron in sugar syrup, plain simple chandrakala which is crispy outside and melts in mouth with each bite. Heaven!

This mithai is a sweet kachori/pastry filled with dry fruits, fried in ghee/oil and dipped in sugar syrup. Its heavy on calories but isn’t Diwali a perfect excuse to indulge.

Folding the chandrakala is an art. I have learnt this from my grandmother. Once you seal two puris with the stuffing inside, gently pinch the edges and twist them to form a pattern. This will make sure that the filling does not come out while frying.

Do not keep these in fridge. They can be stored in an airtight container for few days. Enjoy the sweet treat this Diwali. Wishing you and very happy and sweet Diwali!

Chandrakala (Sweet filled with Khoa and nuts)

Ingredients

Makes 20 Chandrakalas

  • 1 cup refined flour (maida)
  • ¼ cup ghee (clarified butter)
  • Oil for frying

Filling

  • ¼ cup khoa/wava (dried whole milk)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp coarsely crushed dry fruits
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder

Sugar Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ tsp ghee (optional)

Mix the refined flour and ghee till it resembles bread crumbs. Add very little water at a time and make a firm dough. The dough should not be very stiff or very soft. It should be of medium consistency. Cover and keep it aside for 15 minutes.

Put khoa in a microwave safe bowl and heat it on full power for 20-25 seconds. Add sugar, nuts, and cardamom powder immediately and mix well. Keep aside.

You can even fry the khoa in a pan for 1-2 mins and move it to a cool bowl immediately and mix other ingredients.

Divide the dough into 40 portions and roll out small puris (approximately 3 inches). Take two puris at a time. Put one portion of khoa filling in one puri, cover it with the second puri and seal the edges and pinch and fold the sides in a pattern so that the edges do not open while frying. You can use the moulds available in the market.

Heat enough oil in a deep pan/kadhai and fry the chandrakalas few at a time, till they are golden brown. While you are frying the chandrakala, bring to boil the water and sugar for sugar syrup and make a sugar syrup of one thread*.

Once all the chandrakala are fried, poke each chandrakala on top with a fork. This will help it absorb the sugar syrup. Put them in the hot sugar syrup and coat them with sugar syrup on all sides. You can leave the chandrakala in the syrup for few minutes (3-4) and remove it carefully. Garnish with dry fruits or eat as it is.

*Sugar Syrup

Consistency of sugar syrup is very crucial for Indian desserts. You need to be very careful while working with sugar as it gets extremely hot and can even burn your skin. This recipe calls for one thread consistency of sugar syrup.

One thread consistency is when a single thread is formed when you take little syrup between your index finger and thumb and pull apart the fingers gently. The thread should not break.

Second way to test this is, pour the syrup in a small plate with water. If the syrup does not dissolve immediately and dissolves when you try to gather it, it is one thread consistency.

Another simpler way is to use the cooking thermometer. Single thread syrup is approximately 220ºF – 222ºF/104º-105ºC and is used for sweets where it needs to be absorbed

To test the consistency of sugar syrup, dip a wooden spatula in the syrup and lift out. Allow to cool for a few seconds. Now touch the syrup with a clean index finger to pick a small amount of syrup and bring your thumb and index finger together and pull apart gently.