Some tricks from treats

Food recipes for Diwali are very much in the air. As Rakshabandhan has gone leaving a trail of mithai boxes at home, soon it will be time for Diwali and the same story of excess mithai in the fridge. And I am sure all of us are feeling replete and not wanting to eat anything heavy for years! But the fact remains that there are these boxes of sweets in the fridge that you would rather give away, and packet of fried stuff in the snack bins that you don’t feel like eating right now so what does one do?
In fact, what happens now as practice could well become your food recipes for Diwali in a couple of months’ time! Dry fruits will keep for quite some time tucked away in the corner of the fridge. In fact as the weather turns cooler, convert some pistas, almonds and cashewnuts into Dry Fruit Chikki. If you have boondi ladoos, use as stuffing in paranthas and call it Boondi Laddoo Parantha. The kaju katli can well be used to thicken phirni, it will give a nutty taste too, and you can make something as exotic as Barfiwali Chocolate Phirni. The pedas, as they are made with khoya, can be whisked with a little thickened milk and frozen in moulds to give you Kesar Pista Kulfi. The plain barfis can be grated and used as stuffing in paranthas, yet again, and remember to serve with rose syrup and rabdi.
I am sure your thoughts are going towards the namkeens too! I would convert the chivdas into bhels, the kachoris into chaats, the ganthia into a sabzi with a gravy of onions and tomatoes, crush the chaklis and mix it with crushed khakhras and serve this new farsaan with élan! As for those karanjis and ghughras, they are best consumed either fresh or then ‘refreshed’ with a dash of butter and baked for ten minutes.
Well, here is wishing you a comfortable journey in your quest for food recipes for Diwali 2011!

Indian mithais – loved the world over

Indian mithai or Indian sweets are the most important feature of the many festivals of India. India is known as the land of festivals and each festival is marked with colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, rituals and prayers. Practically every other day of the year there is a festival celebrated in some part of the country. Though Diwali is one of the biggest and the grandest ones, with this occasion marking the biggest sale of Indian sweets, there are also other festivals like Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Gokulashtami, Durga Puja, Onam, Sankranti. With each festival come the associated sweets which are basically home made. In fact, in many homes people start preparing for Diwali a week in advance. They are totally focused on filling up the snack tins with gujiyas and laddoos.

Indian sweets form an integral part of any celebratory or festive meal. They are perhaps more important than most other courses of the meal and certainly more enjoyable. Indian sweets are mostly served with the meal whereas Western desserts are served at the end of a meal. Whatever the case, be it the famed Gajar Halwa or the desi ghee Gulab Jamuns from Punjab, the sweetness of Mathura Pedas or the crunchiness of a Gujiya from Uttar Pradesh, the different notes of the Choorma and the spongy bites of Ghevar from Rajasthan, the creamy Doodh Pak and Basundi from Gujarat, the Mysore Paak and Payasam from the southern states, the sweet is the most awaited item of the meal.
Traditional Indian sweets are mostly milk based or made from lentils or rice or even sometimes with some flour. Quite a bit of ghee or oil is utilised and of course sugar or jaggery is added to give the sweetness. Ground spices like cardamoms, nutmeg, etc., add flavour and give that extra zing to the exotic sweets. For more of such Indian sweets recipes click on Chocolate and Nut Karanji, Fresh Nariyal Barfi, Malai Peda

Top 5 Indian Desserts – jalebi – the whirl of delight

Deep fried dough is a delicacy. French would eat ‘beignets’, the Italians ‘ciambelle’ and the South Americans ‘hush puppy’. In India we have the balushahi, gulab jamun and the jalebi. But for the time being, move over all, for we choose – as the star of this week’s search – jalebi. Interestingly, jalebi is a corruption of the word ‘zalabia’ which belongs to Arabic. Scripts have also given us proof that a Jain work by Jinasura dated 1450 AD mentions of a feast which includes jalebies. So we know it goes quite far back in history!

Well, every farsan shop, be it a nondescript Nandu at the corner of your lane or a glass shelved mithai centre in a strategic corner of the local station, would have a huge pile of yellow or orange coloured jalebi in the early hours of the morning: likely to be breakfast time. And they will sell as soon as the stuff comes out of the syrup. In fact, sometimes there is a waiting period especially on Sundays. The recipe varies in different parts of the country. In South India, they use ground urad with a little rice flour or a mixture of besan and wheat flour. In the north, it is either white flour or besan or a mixture. In Bengal, they make jilipi using saffron to give the orangish colour and the base is white flour or a mixture of chenna and khoya. Though made in small and large sizes, this spiral sweet has been made even three feet wide at one time. Some jaleba! Wonder how many people would have feasted on it?

Our feast begins with the normal eight centimetre ones available. Best had hot if one carries them home, the temperature is bound to come down. In any way, it is good that way because then you are absolutely ready to eat it! This recipe will make about 30 pieces. Place 1½ cups refined flour (maida) in a bowl, add 1 ½ cups water and beat with your hands for ½ hour. The batter should not have any lumps and should be absolutely smooth. Cover the bowl and keep in a warm place to ferment for 20 hours.

Beat the batter with your hands again for 15 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon edible yellow or orange colour and 2 tablespoons refined flour and beat again for 10 minutes. To prepare sugar syrup, cook 2 cups sugar with 2 cups water. Cook, stirring continuously, till all the sugar dissolves. Add ½ teaspoon green cardamom powder and cook, stirring, till the syrup reaches one string consistency. Let the syrup cool but ensure that it remains lukewarm. Heat 2 cups ghee in a jalebi kadai. Pour some of the batter into a plastic squeezy bottle. When the ghee is heated, lower the heat and holding the bottle over the hot ghee, gently squeeze the batter into the ghee in round spirals. Start from outside to inside for better results. Fry, on both sides, till the jalebis are evenly golden and crisp. Drain and soak in the sugar syrup for 2-3 minutes. Drain and serve hot.

Traditionally, the batter is squeezed through a jalebi cloth which is a piece of thick cloth in which a three mm hole is made in the centre. Jalebi making takes some practice and patience. To start with, try making individual jalebis and when you have perfected that, try making them together in a row. To make crisp jalebis, add a little rice flour to refined flour. Only after you feel confident about making jalebis progress to making imarti at home.