Sheero

Sheero - Sajjige - Sooji Halva - Seera

Sheero - Sajjige - Sooji Halva - Seera

In Gujarat, Sheero is synonymous with Satyanarayan Katha, a Hindu religious ceremony. It is offered to the presiding deity as food and distributed among the guests at the end of the ceremony. I remember going to many of these kathas just to get my share of less than 1/4 cup of sheero.  Anyone who has lived in Gujarat and gone to these kathas will agree that this sheero has a magical taste to it.  Roasted semolina smothered with milk, ghee, cardamoms, raisins and cashews. The result is a fabulous pudding; soft, fluffy and rich!

I once made Sheero for a Pot-luck party at work and it was a huge hit; received many a requests for its recipe, proving its cosmopolitan appeal. Sheero assumes many different names in India like Sajjige, Kesari Bhat, Rava Kesari, Sheera or Sooji Halva. You can also add fruits such as banana, grapes, apples and pineapple to give it a sweet and fruity flavor. For a high energy breakfast, mix sheero with some banana slices. And pineapple lovers will be in for a special treat if pineapple bits along with some juice are added to the sheero during its last stage of cooking. During season, I top sheero with pomegranate seeds. Tastes really good.

Here is the recipe.

You’ll need:

A broad, preferably non-stick pan with a lid and a big serving spoon or a spatula for stirring.

1 cup semolina/ravo/sooji (coarse or fine variety)
2 cups low-fat milk
1 cup water
1/3 cup ghee (5-6 table spoons)
1 ½ cups sugar
10 cardamoms, ground into a coarse powder (about 1/2 tea spoon)
¼ cup raisins
2 table spoon cashews pieces (optional)
1 table spoon almond pieces (optional)

Preparation:

1. Measure sugar and keep ready.

2. Measure ghee and keep ready.

Method:

1. Add milk and water in a pan and keep it on the stove on low heat.

2. In another broad, preferably non-stick pan, roast semolina/ravo/sooji in for about 10 minutes on low flame.

3. Add raisins, cashews, almonds and 2 table spoons of ghee  to the semolina and fry for another 3-4 minutes. The semolina will have a very slight pinkish hue at this stage.

4. By this time the milk will have formed bubbles. When it starts to boil and rise, pour it slowly on the semolina, stirring vigorously.  (Basically, the milk should be very hot when you add it to the semolina.) Cover the pan for about a minute.

5. Remove the lid. Most of the milk will have been absorbed by now.  Add sugar and rest of the ghee. Stir/mix for another 3 minutes.

6. By now the sheero will be soft and fluffy. Add cardamom powder. Keep the mixture covered on stove for another 3 minutes stirring every now and then.

7. Shut off the stove and keep the pan covered for about 5 minutes before serving.

Variations:

Pineapple Sheero: When you add sugar in the above recipe, add 1/2 cup of pineapple pieces along with 3-4 table spoons of juice. Reduce sugar to 1 cup.

Banana Sheero: Add 3/4 cup of sliced banana after the sugar is added.

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Panchkuti Daal

panchkuti-daalsmall1

I never get tired of talking about the incredible variety that exists in Indian cuisine. So many different ways to cook so many different things. Having been intimately exposed to both Gujarati and South Indian cooking, I really have no excuse for making the same type of food everyday. If I put my mind to it, I can make a different type of daal or sambar each day of the year and at the end of it say that the year wasn’t long enough. And talking about daal, apart from the sweet gujarati daaL, I really like the Panchkuti daal. Nutritious, hearty, brimming with flavors and very tasty. Made with 5 different types of pulses, the unique taste and flavor of this daal comes from the freshly ground spices fried in ghee. I usually make it with onions and use an extra half a cup of water as I don’t like the daal to be too thick. If you don’t want to use onions, you can happily skip them. However you make it, it will bring out the best of roti or rice. If possible, make this daal with ghee and not oil. Ghee gives it a very nice aroma and taste. If you don’t have ghee, butter can be substituted.

Here it is, the famous Panchkuti daal from Gujarat.

2 table spoon chana daal
2 table spoon mung daal
2 table spoon urad daal
1 table spoon toor daal
1 table spoon masoor daal
1 medium sized onion/pyaaz
1 tomato
1 table spoon ghee/butter
1 tea spoon salt, some curry leaves/kadhi patta

Following to be ground into a paste

1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tea spoon cumin seeds
¼ tea spoon turmeric
2 whole red chilies
1-inch piece of ginger
3 small green chilies (half, if using jalapeno pepper)
2 Cloves
a small piece of cinnamon
4 Black peppers
1 tea spoon salt

Preparation
1. chop onions.
2. Grind the masala ingredients into a paste by adding 2 table spoon water.
3. Pressure cook the dals in 1.5 cups of water until soft.

I don’t like my daal to have a pasty texture so I don’t mash it after it is cooked. I just add it as is, along with the water in which it was cooked.

When ready to make the daal, fry chopped onions and curry leaves in 1 tablespoon ghee for about 5 minutes. Add the ground masala paste, salt, and the chopped tomato. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Add the cooked dals and ½ cup of water. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Ghughara/Gujiya

I made Ghughara (called Karagadabu in Kannada and Gujiya in Hindi) for Ganesh Chaturthi. The cute, pot-bellied God Ganesh loves them and so does everyone else. Gugharas are a deep fried pastry with a sweet filling consisting of coconut, sugar and nuts. Crispy on the outside and soft, sweet filling on the inside. YUM!

Ghugharas take a long time (and patience) to make. The preparation for filling takes some time but the frying part takes the longest. They need to be fried on very low flame and each batch will take about 12-15 minutes.

Ghughara

Ghughara

For the dough:

2 cups maida/all purpose flour

4 table spoon melted ghee

a pinch of salt

¼ cup water

For the filling:

1 cup dry coconut powder

1 cup powdered sugar (I used my mixie to make it into a fine powder)

½ cup raisins and ½ cup cashew pieces shallow-fried for about 3 minutes

¼ tea spoon saffron/kesar

½ tea spoon powdered cardammom/elaichi

1 table spoon roasted khus-khus/poppy seeds

3 cups oil for frying

First, prepare the dough by rubbing ghee in the flour for about a minute. Add no more than ¼ cup of water to make a stiff dough. Knead it for about 3 minutes, after which you will see that it has become softer. Cover it with a wet cloth.

Next, mix all the filling ingredients.

Now knead the dough again for 2-3 minutes. Pull a golf-ball size dough (may be even smaller than that) and roll into a thin, 5 inch puri. You can use a round cookie cutter to get perfect rounds. Neatly put 1 table spoon of filling on the one half of the puri. Dip finger in a water bowl and run the finger along the edge of the puri. Fold the puri in half and seal the edge properly. You can twist/fold the edges further to create a nice design.

Deep fry 6-8 ghugharas in oil for about 12-15 minutes.

Capsicum curry

In my cookbook collection, I have a book called “100 easy-to-make Gujarati Dishes” by Vanamala Desai and Veena Shroff. This petite, unassuming book has some very unique and tasty recipes. The first one I tried was capsicum curry and just loved it. I tried many recipes after that and each one of them was truly wonderful. The book, which until now received only casual glances, has became a prized possession.

Capsicum curry has no gravy but contains a nice coating of chickpea flour and spices. Indians, especially south indians, oftentimes eat rice with chutney or some chutney-like dish before moving on to their daal or sambar. I did the same by mixing this curry with hot, steaming rice, and a tea spoon of oil. I quite relished it. This curry turned out to be quite spicy (I like it that way.) if you prefer medium spicy, use 1/2 tea spoon of red chili powder.

Capsicum curry and Paratha

Capsicum curry and Paratha

2 bell peppers/capsicum (red, green or 1 of each!)
3 tea spoon besan/chickpea flour/chana no loat
1 tea spoon red chili powder
1/4 tea spoon turmeric/haldi
3 table spoon oil
1 tea spoon sugar
1 tea spoon mustard seeds/rai
1/4 tea spoon asafoetida/hing
1 tea spoon salt
Half lemon (optional)
In a small bowl, mix together besan, red chili powder, salt, turmeric, sugar and 1 table spoon of oil. This is the masala powder.
Cut capsicum lengthwise into thin strips. I used one green and one capsicum. Heat 2 table spoon oil in a pan and do tadka/vaghar with rai/mustard seeds and hing. Add the capsicum and cook it uncovered on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Now sprinkle masala powder all over capsicum and cover the pan. Do not stir capsicum after adding the masala. Cook for 5 more minutes and take it off the stove. Mix well. If you like, you can add lemon juice from half a lemon (about 1 table spoon.)

Churma Laddu

Churma La Douce !

Churma Laddus

Churma Laddus

VanuBa, my dear friend Kamal’s mother, is a loving and sprightly lady. Whenever I go to her home, there is always something sweet and spicy waiting for me. No one who goes to her home will leave hungry from there. It’s just one of those things of Indian culture and I love it.  Ever since I ate Churma na ladu made by her, I was pining to eat them again. They are not only deliciously sweet but also very satisfying. Generous amounts of ghee, sugar/jaggery and wheat flour come together to create a rich and unforgettable taste. Laddus are also a favorite Prasad item in India so when my Outlook Calendar reminded me of the upcoming VaraMahalakshmi Puja, I instinctively thought of Churma Laddus and knew it was time to make them.

Vanuba dictated and Kamal wrote down the recipe for me. As is the case with many Indian sweets, Churma Laddus can be made with GoL/Jaggery or Sugar. Since I was making them for the first time, I decided to use sugar and use 2 cups of wheat flour instead of the 3 as in the recipe and came up with my own milk and water ratio for the dough. The laddus tasted great and I was very happy. Goddess Lakshmi is said to bestow 16 types of wealth so when the number of laddus turned out to be exactly 16, it brought a big, happy smile on my face!

There are 4 main steps to making this Laddu. Kneading the dough, frying, grinding, and  finally, adding the sugar.

2 cups wheat flour

1/4 cup sooji/semolina

2 cups ghee

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup almond pieces

1 tea spoon powdered cardamoms

1/3 cup Khus-Khus (optional)

Mix wheat flour, semolina/sooji/ravo and 2 table spoon ghee . Add milk and water and knead into a dough. On the side, heat ghee in a frying pan. Make small balls/muthias/koftas out of dough (shape is not important). I just pulled a small amount of dough and pressed it in my fist.

Deep fry the balls/muthias/koftas a few at a time in ghee on low heat. (about 5 minutes)

Churma Laddu Koftas after deep frying

Churma Laddu Koftas after deep frying

When they cool down a bit, mix them in a food processor or grinder and make into a coarse powder. In most cases, when you use a grinder or a food processor, you will get a powder that is of uniform consistency. You can pass the powder through a sieve if you think it’s necessary.

Mix ghee (left over from frying), powder and almond pieces and fry it for 5 minutes on low heat.

Add powdered sugar (I just powdered the regular sugar in a small coffee grinder) and cardamoms. The laddu mix is now ready.

Make laddus when the mixture is still hot. Traditionally, these laddus are flat at the bottom and round at the top. Also, it’s common to roll the laddus in khus-khus. This ensures uniform coating of khus-khus all over the laddus and gives them a distinct look.

Thank you VanuBa for your wonderful recipe.

Lapsi

Congratulations Abhinav! I was ecstatic to hear that you won an Olympic Gold for India.  You were representing a country of 1 billion people,  and amidst enormous pressure you delivered a gold. You got for India her first-ever Individual gold medal in Olympics. I am very happy for you today and it’s time to celebrate!

To celebrate an occasion by cooking something sweet is a common Indian tradition and I decided to carry it on by making a Gujarati sweet called Lapsi. There are new-world sweets and old-world sweets. Lapsi certainly belongs to the latter category. I think it was always a must-have item on the wedding menu at one time, but I am not sure if that is the case any more. For me, every cuisine/dish invokes different types of feelings and Lapsi reminds me of the hospitality and good nature of the Gujarati folk.

A big fan of jaggery/goL, I decided to make make Lapsi with brown sugar this time and was quite pleased with it.

Lapsi - An "Old World" sweet made in western parts of India

Lapsi - An "Old World" sweet made in western parts of India

1/2 cup broken wheat

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup ghee

1/4 cup raisins and almond slivers

1/2 tea spoon powdered cardammom

brown sugar, wheat (fada), almond-raisin, ghee

Clockwise: brown sugar, wheat (fada), almond-raisin, ghee

I roasted the wheat in ghee for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. You will see the color of the wheat change from pale brown to a reddish brown. This is a good time to add the raisins and almonds. On the side, boil 2 cups of water and add to the wheat mixture. Stir well and cover the pan with lid. Keep the heat low and cook the mixture for about 10 minutes. Stir the mixture a couple of times in between. After 10 mintues you will see that wheat has soaked up  all the water and looks nice and fluffy. Add the sugar, cardammom powder and mix well.  cook for 5 more minutes.

Khandvi

It’s amazing how a few simple ingredients like chickpea flour (besan), buttermilk, and salt can turn into a delectable delicacy. Everyone in India is familiar with the Gujarati Khaman-Dhokla. Khandvi is equally popular in Gujarat and Maharashtra but has somehow managed to have a slightly elevated status. I think this is because there is that suspense involved in getting the mixture to the right consistency before spreading it and each strip of has to be individually and carefully rolled. Of course the end result is worth all the effort. Soft, slithery rolls of khandvi smotherd with oil, mustard seeds, coconut and cilantro are indeed difficult to resist. Even though Khandvi has a “complicated and difficult to make” reputation, it is actually quite an easy and fun dish to make.
This recipe is tried and true and will make absolutely authentic and delicious 30 rolls of Khandvi in about 35 minutes. Of course, no multi-tasking, not even minor distractions allowed. Keep all ingredients ready, on the counter before starting. There are 5 steps. Mixing, cooking, spreading, rolling and vaghar.

    A plate of Khandvi with a glass of Chai - A nice tea time treat

A plate of Khandvi with a glass of Chai - A nice tea time treat

Preparation: clean and dry the surface on which you will spread the batter. Kitchen counter with granite will work very well. Otherwise, use the back of a cookie sheet or a big thali, smeared with about 1/2 tea spoon of oil. If using granite counter top, no need to oil the surface.

For the batter:

  • 1 cup besan
  • 1 tea spoon salt
  • ¼ tea spoon turmeric
  • 1 cup water + 2 cups sour buttermilk OR 1.5 cups sour yoghurt/dahi + 1.5 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 tea spoon red chili powder
  • 1 thai green chili + ½ inch of grated ginger; both made into a very fine paste

For vaghar:

  • 3 table spoon oil
  • 2 tea spoons mustard seeds/rai
  • 1/2 tea spoon asafoetida/hing
  • ½ tea spoon red chili powder
  • 1 tea spoon sesame seeds/til (optional)

For garnish

  • 1.5 table spoon dry coconut powder (optional)
  • 2 table spoons finely chopped cilantro/hara dhaniya/leela dhana

Step 1 (mixing): Mix the batter ingredients and blend with a hand blender or an electric blender for 3 minutes.  

Step 2 (cooking): In a non-stick fry pan, about 10 inches wide, add 1 table spoon oil. Add the batter and cook on medium-low flame stirring constantly. You will see the batter coagulating, but keep stirring the batter with the back of a spatula or ladle to keep the batter smooth. This step will take about 10 minutes.

Step 3 (spreading): On a smooth surface or on the back of a big cookie sheet, smear oil. When the batter is ready after 10 minutes, pour 2 ladleful batter on the surface and spread the batter in a circular fashion as if you are making dosa. You will have to press the back of the ladle firmly on the surface to get thin and even strips. Do this for the rest of the batter.

Step 4 (rolling): Cut strips with a dinner knife  such that you have 2’’ by 5’’ strips. Roll the strips from the 2’’ side and arrange neatly in a serving dish.

Step 5 (vaghar/tadka): Heat 3 table spoons oil and do a vaghar of mustard seeds/rai, sesame seeds (optional) and hing. Take it off the stove and add 1/4 tea spoon red chili powder. With a tea spoon, spread the vaghar over the khandvis making sure each khandvi gets a nice coating of the vaghar. Sprinkle dry coconut powder and cilantro.