Happy Monday everyone.
Let’s explore my Indian side today :) I must admit that when it comes to the cuisine from my father’s side of the family, I’m quite lost. Eating it is no problem, but cooking it? Not very confident at all.
Mum didn’t cook Indian style dishes very often, and although we visited my grandparents (on dad’s side) almost every weekend, I was more interesting in playing with my cousins than checking out what was happening in the kitchen. So I never really watched and learnt how dishes like putu (a south Indian style rice cake) and puris (type of puffed, fried bread), dosai (type of bread), rasem (pepper water) and curries materialised. Of course I’m kicking myself now, but thank goodness for the internet and food blogs eh? Bloggers of the world, please keep documenting those family recipes!
Having said that, my grandmother never made laddu at home. It was actually easier to buy a few pieces and it was relatively easy to find these treats in many Indian restaurants. Usually, as you walked through the door of these restaurants, there would be a huge glass cabinet filled with all manner of sticky, sweet, technicolour confections. Imagine what these would have looked like to a child!
My pick was almost always the laddu, my dad usually got halwa and if I remember correctly my brother would get the Pal gova (milk fudge) or was it the Mysore pak? Mum claimed she didn’t like sweets but I reckon she was hedging her bets because she got to taste 3 sweets instead of 1 as we’d always offer her a little bit of ours ;P.
What is laddu? Well, it’s not the most impressive looking sweet to choose from, this little lumpy looking, yellowish ball. But for laddu lovers, there’s just something about the texture of sweetened, deep fried droplets of chickpea batter, redolent with cardamom that gets us every time.
I must say that I am extremely proud of myself because the laddu I succeeded in making tastes “just like a bought one” - only better.
Before I tell you how I made it, do remember to visit my friend Suresh at 3 Hungry Tummies, he’s back from an enforced hiatus (broken computer), and has put together a delicious round up of mouthwatering Malaysian goodies. Thank you to all of you who took part! I’ll be hosting for this month, so send your MM entries by the end of the month, to me (Shaz) at its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com.
Have a great start to the week!
Laddu/ Laddoo (I think this kind of laddu is actually called boondi laddoo)
(I found a fantastic and highly detailed recipe here at indianfood.about.com, but it looked like it would make a lot of laddus and I know my willpower isn’t that strong! Then I found a very simplified version here, so I used these two recipes to create a little hybrid recipe that worked for me. Hope it works for you too.)
(makes about 1 dozen)
- scant 1/4 cup unsalted cashews - roast until golden if using raw ones. Chop finely - not to a powder but fine enough so it can mix well with the other ingredients.
- Pinch of saffron (optional, but it does make a difference)
Cardamom powder - I ground the seeds from 6 cardamom pods but would add a little more next time. For an interesting way to grind small quantities of cardamom, I found info here, and used a rolling pin and a teaspoon of sugar. It wasn’t the finest grinding, and my rolling pin got a little pockmarked, but it worked.
1 cup coarse Besan flour (chickpea flour)
1 tbsp rice flour
just under 1/4 tsp baking powder
about 3/4 cup milk (added a little at a time)
1 cup sugar and 1 cup water fro syrup (Makes more than needed)
Oil for deep frying (I used a mix of sunflower and olive, but traditionally I think Ghee is used)
Equipment needed - a fine sieve and something to deep fry in (I used a wok).
First toast the saffron in a dry frying pan until it gets brittle, then crumble the threads into 1/4 cup of the milk. Set aside.
Place the besan flour, rice flour, baking powder, ground cardamom and pinch of salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, then use a fork to beat in the 1/4 cup saffron milk. Then add more milk, a bit at a time until the right consistency batter is reached. The batter cannot be too runny but needs to be able to fall from the sieve in droplets - I placed the sieve over the mixing bowl to test a tablespoon of batter at a time.
When batter is ready, heat the oil and drop a bit of batter in to test. The oil shouldn’t be too cold otherwise the batter will sink to the bottom and absorb oil, nor should it be too hot otherwise it will cook immediately then brown. We’re aiming for the droplets to fall in, puff up a little, float then gently cook until yellowy golden. Try to keep the oil quite medium, if it starts to get too hot, remove from heat. Remove the fried droplets (boondi) and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
This is the boring painstaking part - fry up all the batter, I could only manage about 1 tablespoon at a time without overcrowding the pan.
The fried droplets showing a selection of just right, overbrowned and clumped variations.
When all the droplets are ready, crush 1/4 of them with a fork, and leave the rest whole - the actual ratio depends on how you like the laddoo, I like it with lots of whole droplets. I did find that my droplets wouldn’t crush easily until I added the sugar syrup.
Cook the sugar and water until it reaches 1 thread consistency/ soft thread stage (if you touch a slightly cooled droplet of the sugar syrup, it should pull away in a single thread. Please be VERY careful doing this, sugar syrup is VERY HOT and can cause bad burns!!!!).
Place the droplets in a bowl and pour in about 3/4 of the sugar syrup - keep the rest aside and use for something else. Mix well and when cool enough to handle, form mixture into walnut sized balls. Technically, that’s what’s supposed to happen, but my mixture wouldn’t set, probably because I pulled the sugar off the heat too quickly. So I poured the mixture into the sugar syrup pan (which now didn’t contain any syrup), added a splash of milk (about 1 tbsp), then stirred the whole thing with a wooden spoon, like making fudge. This helped the sugar crystallize and I could then roll the mixture into balls.
Leave to cool and store in an airtight container. It should keep for up to a week, but I doubt it because it’d be long eaten before the week was up!