Shrikhand – An all time favourite

Shrikhand

Any Marathi manoos worth his salt loves Shrikhand, that special milk dessert that is eaten for special occasions. This milk dessert, creamy and dreamy with its delicate saffron colour, hints of cardamom and nutmeg is sweet with just that touch of sourness to give it a unique taste.  And most people will talk lovingly of the way their granny’s shrikhand used to taste since most mothers these days have resorted to the easy way out of buying one of the millions of ready made Shrikhand available in the market. Amul‘s Shrikhand is very popular but if you want the closest to what your granny made, go for the Chitale Shrikhand.

Shrikhand is made out of hung curd so the whole process is quite laborious. To give you an idea

  • 4 hours for the curd to set
  • 2 hours for the water/whey to drain
  • 2 hours for the sugar to dissolve
  • 1 hour for the mixture to be sieved
  • 5 minutes for it to be eaten up

So you can imagine why your mother didn’t make it at home! I often used to take the easy way out by buying the ready made Shrikhand from the ever ready Baniya downstairs and then adding my own saffron and powdered cardamom to give it that made at home feel.

Of course the children caught on soon enough especially when they could make out the difference between the one actually made at home and the other one just tweaked at home but when they realised the labour involved in making it, they quite accepted the Shrikhand from the Baniya.

But in case you do want to make it at home, here’s how.

You will need

  • 2 litres of pasteurised milk – preferably not from a tetrapak.
  • 1 tbspn of curd
  • 500 g sugar
  • 1/2 tspn powdered cardamom
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 3-4 strands of saffron – more if you like it really dark orange.

What you will have to do is set the 2 litres of milk into curd in the regular way. ( Coat a bowl with the curd so that is is spread evenly. Pour in the warmed milk and cover and allow the curd to set)

After the curd is set, pour into a thin, muslin cloth and  hang onto a kitchen knob or so that the whey drains out.

Transfer the drained curd into a pot and add the sugar. Stir well, cover and allow the sugar to dissolve.

After the sugar has dissolved either blend with a hand blender ( not in a mixer or food processor as the Shrikhand becomes very runny) or if you really want to do it the traditional way, strain the mixture through a muslin cloth which is spread taut over a bowl. You can do this with a spoon if you want to avoid getting your hands dirty but honestly if you do it by hand, it goes down faster saving you almost 20 minutes.

When the mixture is creamy and well blended add the cardamom, saffron and grated nutmeg. Serve chilled with hot puri.

When I was growing up, Shrikhand was modernised by adding mango pulp or pieces of mango (Amrakhand) while some hostesses added chopped grape/strawberry or any other fruit to make it more exotic. People even added bits of pistachio nuts.

Of course you could try all those variations but give me good old Shrikhand the way my granny made it any day!

Incidentally if you asked my granny how to make it, she start off by saying

First you hang the curd and then………………

http://www.desifiesta.com/2014/12/kesar-shrikhand-recipe-quick.html

http://sizzlingveggies.com/challenges/blogging-marathon/poori-with-shrikhand/

Semolina Ladoo for Diwali and other celebrations

Several years ago I remember reading Jacob Bronowski‘s book ” The Ascent of Man” where he mentioned that wheat which was the earliest cultivated crop and quintessential to man’s transformation from hunter -wanderer to farmer settler human settlements was a mutant form of grass!  Wheat which was originally grown in the Levant region or the Middle East countries of Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Since then it is cultivated almost world wide and is enjoyed as a main source of food among several cultures and cuisines. Whether it is ground coarsely or fine, it is used as a food staple.

Semolina or one of its coarsely ground variations is very popular among sweet dishes in Indian cuisine. Known as Rava or Sooji, it is used to make ladoos to celebrate occasions particularly the festival of Diwali. This is how I made Ravyache ladoo this year. There are many ways of making this ladoo but I chose to make it the way my grandmother made it – traditionally, slowly roasting the semolina on the fire, adding a generous amount of home made ghee and finally rolling them out after letting them rest for 2-3 hours.

I took

  • 4 cups of semolina
  • 1 /2 cups pure ghee
  • 2 cups fresh grated coconut
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon of slivered almonds
  • a handful of raisins de-stemmed.
  • 1 tspn cardamom powder
  • 4-5 strands of saffron

And here’s what I did

I roasted the rava and ghee in a thick pan (to prevent it from burning)and stirring all the while, till it became a light pinkish brown and released the aroma or roasting grain. I then added the coconut and roasted for a few more minutes.

This takes quite a while so don’t be impatient and stop stirring or the rava will roast unevenly.

Then I dissolved the sugar in the water and brought it to the boil to make a syrup of single thread consistency. I added the cardamom, saffron , raisins and almonds to the mixture and poured the whole into the dry ingredients.

I covered it for 2-3 hours and then rolled them out into ladoos while they were still warm. You may have to roll them out twice because they tend to become flattish at the bottom the first time they are rolled out.

While this is a foolproof recipe, care must be taken that the syrup is of the right consistency – too sticky and the ladoos will be hard and brittle, too thin and the laddoos won’t hold at all. Don’t be alarmed when you mix the syrup and the dry ingredients and see a goopy mess. As the mixture cools it comes together but just in the freak chance that the ladoos don’t bind, heat up the mixture again and cook till the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan. Make sure you are stirring all the time . Once again roll into ladoos when just warm.

I prefer making my ladoos smaller than what my granny made them simply because people nowadays prefer bite sized portions. I also like to serve them in cupcake cases so that they are easier and cleaner to handle.

 

Hot, steamy and absolutely yummy

All food ( unless of course its icecream or cold cuts ) tastes absolutely yummy when its hot, steaming hot or piping hot, burn your gullet as you swallow hot……you get the drift I’m sure.

But what is absolutely most divine is the fresh coconut stuffed modak that is made in our home only for that time of year when Lord Ganesh comes visiting by. Story has it that Lord Ganesh so stuffed himself with modak that when he was returning home after a heavy dinner one night, on his tiny Mouse( the equivalent of the modern day Beetle or Pinto or Chevrolet – cars that have been named after animals ?) he fell off and his stomach burst open and all the modak came tumbling out. The moon who was the only one watching couldn’t stop himself from laughing and the more he laughed the angrier Lord Ganesh got. He got up cursing the moon ” For your insubordination I shall make sure you don’t shine anymore!”

Immediately the world was plunged into darkness and everything went haywire – the tides, the diurnal cycles of all living creatures indeed the whole world went upside down. So the Gods begged Ganesh to revoke his curse so he modified it such that anyone who sees the moon during the ten days that Ganesh comes down to earth will have to face bad luck.

The world then went back to its ways of the world and Ganesh went back to his happy days. But just to make sure that his stomach doesn’t split open again, he belted it with a snake and gave the world its first snakeskin belt!

Steamed modak have always been hard to resist so it is not surprising that Lord Ganesh stuffed himself so. If you want to follow His example go down to a shop that specialises in Maharashtrian cuisine and ask for a dozen or so steamed modak stuffed with fresh coconut. There are fried modak too make out of flour and there are modak stuffed with dried coconut as well so be very specific that you want Steamed modak with fresh coconut stuffing. However for those of you with a culinary bent, why not make them yourself?

For the stuffing you will need
1 large coconut grated – making sure that the meat is white.
sugar or jaggery to taste
1 tspn powdered cardamom
2-3 strands of saffron

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside till the sugar dissolves. Then heat it on a low flame till the coconut turns translucent and the mixture comes together….

For the pastry you will need
2 cups of rice flour
2 cups water
pinch of salt
1 tspn ghee

Bring the water to the boil  in a saucepan and then briskly add the rice flour stirring quickly to prevent it from becoming lumpy. Add the salt and ghee and turn off the heat and cover the pot and leave to cook in its own heat. When cool empty the dough into a deep dish and knead well to form a smooth sticky dough.

To assemble the modak you will have to make a flat disk the size of  a saucer either with your hand or rolled out thin on a pastry board. Place a tablespoon of the stuffing in the centre of the disc and bring the sides together pinching at regular intervals to make a fluted bowl. Bring the rim of the “bowl” to the centre and close with a sharp point. The modak resembles a garlic bulb. Place the modak in a colander or steamer lined with a moist cloth to prevent sticking and steam for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with a generous drizzling of ghee.

Tip :

Make sure that the dough is kept covered to prevent it from drying out and carefully take out just as much as you need to make a disc. Similarly, once you assemble the modak, keep covered under a moist cloth till you get enough to steam a batch.

I must warn you that making modak sounds easier than it really is. To make the perfectly fine, delicate pastry stuffed just right takes a lot of practice…….So why are you waiting. Get started right away!!!