Yesterday was the Bengali New Year… “Poila Baishak”, that is, first day of the month “Boishak”. Of course India being a multi cultural, multilingual land we could not suffice with just a financial year and a calendar year, we had to have a separate Bengali calendar year (and there are separate regional calendars !!) which begins in mid april, Baishakh being the first month. There are separate names for all the months. The first day of the new year, like every other occasion, is celebrated with good food, new clothes, cultural events and paying respect to elders and sharing greetings by calling up friends and families. This day is also celebrated in other parts of India with different names and associated history. For further info on this you might have to refer to Wiki.
In West Bengal Poila Boishakh is also associated with “Haal Khata”, a festival celebrated mainly by shopkeepers and is marked by closing of the old ledgers, settling old debts and opening a new ledger. Jewellery shops would give you steep discounts on making charges of gold ornaments. Boxes of sweets and snacks would be distributed as a token of goodwill between the trader and the customers.
This year ours was a quiet affair, involving weekend house cleaning and chores, sharing greetings with friends and family – not on WhatsApp or facebook but actually calling them up and chatting with them. That took most of the morning. My MIL cooked us a “Doi Mach” for lunch, to keep it simple and to prep our digestive system for the upcoming dinner invite to one of our cousin’s place. No Bengali occasion is ever complete without sweets and non veg so we had plenty of that and concluded the night with small doses of ‘Unienzyme’ and ‘Gelusil’.
Hangover from last night resulted in a no breakfast mode for us and a simple lunch. Thanks to my MIL I did not have to bother much about food and got time to write a post for you all.
Todays post is a Microwave recipe for besan laddoo that was pending since I last made them during Dusshera 2014. These laddoos were one of the biggest (food related) projects done till date :-). That year, while living in New Britain, CT, I got associated with the Bengali community of Stamford, CT and being one of the volunteers I had agreed to make some 200 laddoos, ultimately making 250 so that I could share the extras with my friends and keep some for myself too. Since it was supposed to be for the Durga Puja I was not comfortable using my regular utensils and hence decided to do it in Microwave. I made it in small batches and it took me 3-4 days to complete them. Since these laddoos store well if kept in an airtight container, time was not a bother and I had plenty to spare then. I would make 3-4 batches of the laddoo mixture in the microwave and keep them aside to cool. As time permitted I would form them into balls while watching a movie, or listening to music or just thinking and contemplating on life. Many of my friends would wonder at the effort I was putting in but honestly it was fun to do. By the second day I actually had a rhythm going on and on completion was amazed myself at the achievement.
I had clicked some good pics out of it and should have posted this long time back. Better late than never. I found this microwave recipe much easier than the traditional style of roasting the besan on flame.
- Ladoo Besan/Coarse chickpea flour – 3 cups. You can also use the regular besan or chickpea flour as well. The only difference will be in the texture.
- Ghee – 1 1/4 cup approx. Adjust accordingly.
- Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
- Sugar (fine or powdered) – 1 cup to 1.25 cups or to taste
- Chopped nuts of your preference – optional, you can add them into the ladoo mixture before forming the balls or you may garnish the ladoos on top with chopped nuts. I did not use any.
- Take a microwave safe bowl and add ghee to it. No need to cover it.
- Microwave it on high for 1 min.
- Add the sifted ladoo besan and mix it well with a spatula or a big spoon so that there are no lumps.
- Microwave it on high (uncovered) as follows:
- 2 mins, then take out and mix everything well.
- 1 min, again take out and mix well
- 1 min, take out add 1 tsp of water to it and mix everything well. This step is supposed to add on to the grainy texture of the ladoos.
- 1 min, take out and mix well.
- 1 min, take out and mix well.
- 30 sec, take out and mix well. Besan should have a light brownish (or deep golden) color due to the roasting. If making in large quantities and feel the besan has not been roasted well enough, you might have to add another minute of half.
- Keep aside to let it cool a little bit.
- Once the roasted besan has cooled off a little bit, add sugar, cardamom powder. Add sugar gradually, do a taste test in case you need to adjust the quantity according to your preference. Mix everything well and keep aside for it to cool even further.
- Once cool to touch, grease your hands with a little bit of ghee, scoop out a small portion of the mixture and try to form a ball out of it. If it is crumbles and cannot hold the structure then add some more ghee and try making ladoos again.
- Once done store them in airtight containers and they will store well for quite some time.
This Janmashtami I made Coconut Ladoo which in Bengali we call “Narkel-er Naru“. Janmashtami – the day celebrated in Hindu mythology as Lord Krishna’s birthday – is a grand affair at my in law’s. Me and my husband, well lets say, though we are spiritual at heart we do not follow any set rules for such religious celebrations. However this time, hearing my Ma-in-law talking about the preparations for the festival made us want to do something as well. So Hubby B decides to go veg (which is a BIG thing!). That was all I needed to workup a feast of luchi (pooris), cholar dal (chana dal) and sooji halwa. Narkel naru was added later to it and to keep it simple and quick I thought of using the can of condensed milk lying in the pantry.
You can also make it with jaggery and it looks brown, but we love the white sugary ones. This is probably the simplest and quickest of the sweets that I know and does not require too much of effort or ingredients or preparation.
- Coconut, shredded/grated (unsweetened) – 2 cups; I used coconut powder
- Milk – 3 to 4 cups, if using half and half or evaporated milk or a combination of any of these – adjust the quantity accordingly; I used 3/4th of a can of Condensed Milk – approx. 300 gms and 1/2 cup of 2% milk
- Sugar 1/2 to 3/4 cup or as needed, may need no sugar/less sugar if using condensed milk.
- Cardamom powder – 1 to 2 tsp, optional (I did not use it)
- Heat a pan on low heat. Add the shredded coconut and dry roast it, stirring continuously, for a couple of minutes.
- Add milk /half and half / condensed milk or a combination of any of these to it. I added a combination of condensed milk and 1/2 cup of milk.
- Raise the flame to a medium and let the milk come to a boil. Keep stirring continuously and do not let any of the mixture stick to the bottom of the pan. May have to keep scraping it off!
- After around 10-15 mins the mixture starts to thicken, the timings depend entirely on the thickness of the milk used. If using sugar add at this point as to taste. The milk thickens considerably after adding sugar. If using condensed milk only, may not need any sugar at all.
- As the mixture dries up add some cardamom powder to it if desired. I skipped this step.
- You will know the mixture is ready when you can take a small portion of it and be able to form a firm ball out of it. Then, remove it a plate and let it cool.
- Once completely cooled, grease your palms with a little oil, and make small lime sized balls out of it.
- Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.