Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mando (Mande/ Chavde/ Mandige)

As a child in India, our second semester exams followed Ganesh Chaturthi vacations. We got school holidays for a week to celebrate the festival. I hated this, simply because this was the only time of the year I could play with my community friends and burst an array of unlimited crackers. We badly wanted to help Mom in the kitchen (trick to dig in some sweets) and she in turned pushed us back to our books. Unlike other households where a girl child had extra pressure to learn culinary skills in kitchen, my Mom would always pester us to study and get good grades and excel in exams and co-curricular studies.

Mom dedicated 3-4 days before Ganesh Chaturthi festivities exclusively for sweets and snacks preparation. The good thing is all ladies from neighbourhood helped out each other and together we all would have finished a hundred's of Chakli, kilo's of Chivda, hundred's of Karanaji/ Nevri, 2-3 large platters of Besan Laddo's and more. Some of the sweets were prepared at home just because they needed a deft hand and craft which requires good practice. One such sweet which is dear to my heart is Chavde/ Mande/ Mandige. By the time, she would finish making the sweets, some of them would have already disappeared from the platter. Incidentally, this was one of the sweets served during my wedding along with Gava Pitta Undo/ Wheat Flour Laddo. This seeking inspiration from the traditional marriages from olden days where every person attending the wedding would leave with a bag of sweets - Undo/ Mando and the rest of the heavenly and tasty ghee laden sweets.

Incidentally, they are known as Chavde in Marathi, Mando/Mande in GSB Konkani and Mandige in Kannada. The crispy disc needs a a very deft hand while cooking because if the disc gets over fried, you will get a crispy disc which cannot be maneuvered, if you fry less then the disc is not pliable at all. Timing is crucial and once done, I dare you to eat just one! They are uber delicious and super tasty. This time around when I visited India, my Pachi got me a pack of Mando which she made at home. I liked that they were tiny as compared to the conventional size of regular Mando and were super delicious. This festive season I wanted to make these at home and recreate the childhood memories of super fun festive season.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to all those who celebrate!

~ Ghaas Mando ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 15 Sweets

Flour Disc - Mando -
All Purpose Flour - 1/2 cup
Milk (optional) - 1/2 cup approx.
Ghee or any vegetable shortening - 2-3 tbsp
Vegetable oil - for frying

Sugar Mixture -
Powdered sugar - 3/4 cup
Flattened Rice or Pohe (Thick Pohe) - 5 tbsp
Cardamom powder - 1 tsp

First knead a smooth pliable dough with flour, ghee and salt. You could also use milk for kneading the dough which results in a well flavoured texture. Spread the dough with little oil all over and set aside. Cover with a damp kitchen cloth to prevent drying of dough.
Roast 5 tbsp of Pohe on a low flame on its own, just lightly roast and allow to cool. Grind it to a coarse powder along with Sugar and Cardamom seeds. Mix the sugar mixture well and set aside.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan and let the oil reach a high smoking point. Begin rolling out Puri sized discs of the kneaded flour. Do not dredge them in flour as they are already coated with oil. The discs have to be 3-4" in diameter. Fry them in batches of 5-6 at a time. Keep in mind, the discs should not be crisp like a Papad, so once its pliable enough, transfer to a plate, dab kitchen towel to absorb extra oil. Sprinkle sugar mixture and fold over 2 times (the same way you would fold over Neer Dosa). Spread them on a platter and not over top of each other. The heat causes sugar to turn viscous owing to which they may stick to each other which is something you should avoid. Allow to cool, they turn crispy and gain firmness. Munch over before they disappear!

Verdict: I was apprehensive initially when I decided to make these for 'neivedyam'. With little confidence I followed my Mom's instructions and kept in mind the texture which was etched in my mind when I had eaten these last. The discs were melt-in-mouth delicious and were so tiny that we almost forgot how much we ate! :)

Note - Do not fry the discs to a golden brown; once they wilt in oil and are puffed up, transfer and begin the sugaring process. Make sure you sugar atleast 3 times to ensure all the layers and folds of the discs get the sugar-cardamom flavour. Do not compromise on adding the shortening, because that's what offers holds the dough together and adds crispness and texture to the sweet.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Soyi Saakhar Prasad

Today is Krishna Janmashtami, the holy day when Lord Krishna was born. Growing up, Janmashtami or Ashtami as popularly known in GSB Konkani was a revered festival and still is. I loved to rush home from office and enjoy Mom's festive banquet. Her standard dishes were Gajbaje, 5 types of Phodyo, Gava Pitta Undo/ Lhaaye Godda Undo, Dalithoi, Sheet, Chakkuli, Kodbale and Doodh-Paak.

I love the flavour of Soyi Saakhar Prasad. Soyi implies grated coconut and Saakhar implies Sugar. Prasad is festive food which is blessed by Lord and then offered to everyone in household. I learnt this from our Konkani friend who was a hale and hearty septuagenarian. I love the flavour of this prasad item and serves apt for smaller to larger portions.

~ Soyi Saakhar Prasad ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Processing time: 10 minutes

Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1 cup
Crushed Cashew nuts - 1/4 cup
Crushed Almonds - 1/4 cup
Sugar (powdered) or Honey
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp

Crush the cashew nuts and almonds separately. Do not powder, but crush in a pestle and mortar to a coarse powder. Mix all the ingredients together. For best results, mix and serve just few minutes before eating.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Horsegram Soup (Kulitha Saaru/ Hurali Saaru)

This year we witnessed an uncommon heat wave. With temperatures soaring high my tiny matchbox kitchen feels like a furnace, my motivation to cook elaborate dishes has changed to quick cook recipes. I prefer recipes which takes less than 15 or 30 minutes to cook. More often than not, Saaru and Upkari seems to be the order of the day - simple, healthy and nutritious.

Horsegram is one of the most widely used pulse in Konkani cuisine. It is also known as Kulith in GSB Konkani and Hurali in Kannada. I get my stash from India; the only problem with the quality of pulse we get is more often than not they have lot of stones and grime. Hence the entire stash needs a round or two of thorough cleaning before use. Another quirky nature of this legume is that its loaded with heat giving property (garmi). Ammama served this with a dollop of home made butter and I prefer it that way. Use your choice as per your dietary practice. Many many decades ago, we had a tiny stable with cows who were my Ajja's and Ammama's beloved ones, their names were Ganga and Yamuna. She soaked couple of padee's of horsegram and boiled them in a gigantic copper pot the next day; the stock was preserved for making Saaru for the entire family and the cows happily munched on the boiled legume.

Horsegram is a storehouse of Iron. It is primarily a cattle feed, it is believed to improve the dexterity of their calve muscles and improve their bone strength. In many Konkani homes I know, this Saaru is regularly fed to growing kids for strong calf muscle strength and dexterity. The horsegram is of dubious nature when it comes to cook time, sometimes the legumes cook in a blink and sometimes they take hours together, all this is relative to the yield of crop, gene pool of seeds and the harvest season as well. Some of the other dishes made using Horsegram are Kulith Idli (Sannan), Kulitha Chutney, Kulith Koddel, Kulith Upkari.

~ Kulitha Saaru ~
Preparation time: Soak time of 8-10 hours

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Horsegram (Kulith) stock - 3 cups
Cooked Horsegram - 3 tbsp
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2

For seasoning -
Red Chilli (Byadgi) - 1
Garlic jumbo pods (crushed) - 4-6

Soak the horsegram in ten times the volume of water after thoroughly cleaning them and rinsing them in three changes of water. They will proliferate in size the next day around. Pressure cook them for 4-6 whistles with little salt and a tsp of oil. Once cool, strain off the stock (cooked liquor) and set aside 3 tbsp of cooked horsegram. Set aside the rest of the cooked horsegram.
Bring the cookes stock to a rolling boil, season with salt, green chillies. Blend the cooked horsegram to a puree with little water. Add this paste to the boiling stock. Bring to boil and simmer on low flame for 5-8 minutes, cook till the rawness goes off and the stock is a smooth blend. In a separate frying pan, heat few spoons of oil and season with red chilli split into two and crushed garlic. Saute till the garlic turns light brown. Pour this seasoning on the cooked stock and cover with a lid. Mix while serving and if desired, serve with a dollop of butter (home made). Pair with white rice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Temple Saar (Devasthan Saaru)

Devasthan is temple in GSB Konkani. Saar or Saaru is a soupy version of spices, herbs and vegetables cooked in vegetable stock/plain water. While I was growing up, this was the version of Saaru available during festivities and celebrations with mass lunches and dinners served in temples, thus was coined the name - Devasthan Saaru. There are many different variations which are practiced. The taste of this Saaru is superb and very spicy. Certainly not for the faint hearted and meant for those who enjoy a spicier version of Saaru. Some versions add the seasoning some don't, either ways the broth tastes awesome with cooked white rice.

~ Temple Saaru ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1/4 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/3 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/3 tsp
Warm filtered water

Saaru masala -
Coriander seeds - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 4-5
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 3 tbsp
Asafoetida (edible gum) - one small lump
Curry leaves - 5-6

For seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3-4

In a frying pan, heat few spoons of oil and roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida. Allow to cool. Set aside. Grind to a smooth paste with grated coconut and warm water to form a paste. Bring the ground paste to a bubbly boil, add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt as per taste. Once cooked, cover with a lid. In the same pan used previously, heat few spoons of oil and season with curry leaves and mustard seeds. Pour this seasoning on the cooked broth. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Mix before serving and serve with cooked white rice.

Note: Use whole spices for good taste and flavour. Do not use powdered asafoetida, use the edible gum which is lumpy and strong flavoured. Add seasoning or omit seasoning as per choice. Cooked Toor Dal and Tomato can also be added to bring about volume and lessen the spice level.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lemon Rasam (Lemon Saaru/ Nimbe Saaru)

I love Lemon Saar or Nimbe Saaru (Nimbe's Lemon in Konkani/ Kannada) along with white rice. Mom has been making this Saaru for many years now and we all appreciate the tart and tangy flavour of Lemon juice in the Saaru. Fresh green chillies are pan seared with little oil and then ground to a smooth paste with coconut and spices. I like this simple Saaru for light lunches and dinners during scorching hot summer days.

~ Lemon Saaru ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes

Lemon juice - 5 tbsp
Coconut grated (fresh or frozen) - 5 tbsp
Green chillies (fresh) - 2
Coriander leaves - 5-6 strands
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

For seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3-5

In a deep pan, heat few spoons of oil and sear the chillies. Be careful to protect your face from spurting chillies which could potentially have the seeds flying in all directions. Allow the chillies to cool. Grind grated coconut, turmeric powder, fried chillies and salt together with little water. During the last spin of blender, add the coriander leaves and blend to smooth paste. Bring this paste to bubbly boil, add lemon juice and adjust salt, once done & cooked, turn off the flame and set aside. In the same pan used previously, heat the remaining oil and temper with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Pour the seasoning mixture on the boiled broth. Mix well and serve hot with rice.

Note: The searing of chillies should be carefully done since they have a tendency to burst open and fly everywhere around. Immerse the chillies completely in oil and use the same flavoured oil for seasoning later. If you are allergic to the heat of chillies, wear kitchen gloves to protect your hands.