Besan Ladoo in microwave

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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.
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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.
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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.
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Ingredients:
  • 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.

Method:

  • 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.

 

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Shubho Mahalaya and a Kalakand recipe (in Microwave)

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My city, like all others, is always buzzing with activity, with people and their busy lives, but this time of the year it is at its peak. This is the festive season, season to celebrate, to rebond with friends and families, to share smiles and exchange furtive glances with your special one. It is the time when everything else is forgotten and forgiven… everything other than love and happiness. Mahalaya brings about the final countdown towards 10 days of maddening glee. Hands filled with bags of bargained and non bargained items, bellies filled with food which is a must after hours of shopping, minds filled with ticking off items from the to do lists while adding some more to it, and hearts filled with content. ‘Pujo ashchey…’

My city, the city of joy, is not always filled with joy. Most often you see it struggling with the nuances of daily lives, with the shackles of its non progressive approach to simple things and competing feebly and, may I add, complacently with the other fast growing cities. The city which was once the capital of this country, which was once and still is the abode of great men and women, the centre for literature, art and culture, now appears to be saddled by its own legacy. Do not get me wrong,  I am completely in awe with this place. I came here unwillingly, fell in love with it inspite of all my prejudices and then lived here for 10 years. So I am already a victim of its irresistible charm. I know there is something so special here that will touch your heart and make you yearn for it when you are far far away. May be that is why when I look at other cities and countries, I realise that there will never be a place like Kolkata, but on the other hand I also wish it was so much more… So much potential and yet the stagnancy here drives all us Kolkata lovers away from it. Bengal has always and will continue following the “Cholchey – Cholbey” policy irrespective of who is in power. There was a time when I would defend this city with all reasonings, and with hope. Sitting miles and miles and mountains and oceans apart I am confused at the mixed emotions this city arises in me – to just give up and move on with my life or to hold on to that blind faith that someday something good will happen out of it.

Pic Courtesy: Bedabrata Chatterjee
Pic Courtesy: Bedabrata Chatterjee

However this isn’t why I am here. Today I wanted to convey my best wishes for the coming days. “Mahalaya” which in Hindu mythology means Homecoming of the Goddess Durga and the dawn of this day marks the ceremony of ‘Chakshudanam’ – literally meaning giving eyes to the Goddess (the artists, who make the idols, paint the eyes of the Goddess on this auspicious day). And Durga puja, being the main festival of Bengal,  is now in its final stages of preparations. I can see it all infront of my eyes… the roads all lighted up, the streets scurrying with innumerable people with their last minute puja shopping before they start pandal hopping, bamboo barricades being set up for the visitors, long queues for big and small restaurants, no place to walk in almost any part of the city.

But amidst all this I can not resist writing about the irony of this day and the bizarre situation of the city with the recent events. While on one hand we are all set to wroship the epitome of feminine power and strength, there is a section of the city (if not whole) which is hurting. Hurting against injustice, struggling against the inaction against female attrocities, fighting against a failing system. While one half of the city is getting together to celebrate, the other half is hoping that their rage will bring some change, will stir the conscience of a dying world, will empower people to have the right to walk and talk freely without being questioned about the lateness of the hour or the length of the dress. As we embark upon the celebratory mood, let us not forget this other half, let us keep reminding ourselves that we have to fight against the disappearing humanity. It might be a long time before we reach that goal, but lets hope and act for a better tomorrow!

So Shubho Mahalaya and may you all have a safe and delightful time!

I have a quick recipe for you – ‘Kalakand’ in microwave. This is an Indian sweet/dessert usually made with milk. Inspite of the hustle bustle of the Puja days, this sweet will take just 18 mins of your time and 2 main ingredients. Although, if in India, you can easily buy it from the local sweet shop wouldn’t it be nice to surprise your guests with this homemade version? This recipe is taken from Showmethecurry

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Ingredients:

  • Ricotta cheese – 15 oz
  • Condensed Milk – 14 oz
  • Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp (optional, but preferred)
  • Chopped nuts – for garnishing, I used chopped pistachios. (optional)

Method:

  • Pour the condensed milk into a microwave safe bowl, preferably a square or rectangular one. That way it becomes easy to slice the sweets.
  • Add the ricotta cheese to it and mix it well witha  spoon/ whisk.
  • Cook it in the microwave as follows:
    • 5 mins – uncovered. Then Take out and mix everything well.
    • 3 mins – uncovered. Then Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – covered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – cross covered / partially covered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
    • 2 mins – uncovered. Take out and mix again.
  • Once done, sprinkle the cardamom powder and mix well.
  • Level out the mixture evenly by pressing it with a spatula or a flat spoon.
  • Sprinkle the chopped nuts for garnishing and press it lightly onto the surface of the prepared sweet.
  • Cover it and allow it to cool down and set a couple of hours. You may set it in the refrigerator (if in a rush) for an hour but I avoided it as I did not want it to harden too much.
  • Once set, take a knife and cut into the desired shape – squares / rectangles / diamonds.

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Sevai Kheer / Semai Payesh / Vermicilli Pudding

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Becoming Beautiful…

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being pretty and beautiful is every girl’s dream… chasing it is a folly of which we are all guilty of once in a while as am I.

Some of us are born beautiful.. then there are those who grow out of their braces and bangs into a beautiful woman while some of us acquire it with good clothes or a good hairdo or a great makeover. Whatever the case may be we are all beautiful in our own unique ways and yet every morning we wake up and stand infront of the mirror trying to be a little more beautiful… we all long for a little bit more than what we already have.

I cant say I was ever a very pretty child, maybe cute … sometimes… but mostly plain and simple looking. I remember once when someone had commented on my ordinary looks my mom had defended me saying that whatever I lacked in looks I made up in personality and brains. I do not know if she said that to protect me/my feeling or to comfort herself or because she really believed that swapping beauty with brains / personality works in the world we live in. Not that I ever remember pining for being beautiful but I did long for the attention and glances that came with it. When I left home for college, with all the other things, my mom gave me several homemade beauty solutions for me to try on. She was doing what every mother loves to do for her daughter.

Those first two years after high school were pretty challenging ones, leaving home, staying in a hostel, realizing that the much coveted independence was not as desirable any more, trying to find my way in this world and all the accompanying upheavals, changes, struggles and resurgence of family bondings was a very humbling experience for me. It made me comprehend what counts in life, what matters most to me and what I can do without. I guess that was the time I grew up to be a little more kind, a little more caring, loving and dependable person. It was as if for the first time I was introspecting on my life, my priorities and becoming a better person each day… Looking back I realize that I was becoming beautiful inside out.

My mother, on the other hand, was perseverant in her endeavors, constantly prompting me with her tips for a healthy skin and hair and sending over her remedies. I can’t define what really worked for me and when, but it did. I may not be an exceptionally good looking creature around but I surely do stand up as a quite pleasant one. I was surprised that I stumbled upon beauty when I least expected it, but I understood that besides my mother’s tireless efforts (for which I will always be grateful) it had something to do with my inner self.

Beauty is not only about looking good, but also feeling good from within. So take time and dress beautifully everyday, keep your surroundings neat and clean, dress them up a bit, pamper yourself, take care of your body, exercise, spend sometime with nature (if refreshes your mind, makes you think and adds perspective) and smile – a Lot! Do something good – Talk good, you really don’t need any more negativity around you. The world is a wonderful place to be and so are you.

This post is my way of acknowledging all those people who came and will come into my life, who touched my heart and made me little better, little stronger and a little more beautiful – Thank you!

Now about today’s post – Sevai Kheer, also called in bengali as Semai’r Payesh or simply put Vermicelli pudding. I made this for my husband’s birthday way back in May as this is the only kind of kheer that he likes. I used the recipe from showmethecurry blindly (as my versions have gone wrong before) and it turned out to be pretty good.

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Ingredients:

  • Sevai, Semai, Seviyan, Vermicilli – 1/2 cup
  • Ghee / Butter – 1/2 tbsp
  • Milk / Evaporated milk or a combination of these – 6 cups of milk, if using evaporated milk reduce the amount accordingly. Can also use condensed milk in addition to it in which case reduce the sugar content.
  • Sugar – 1/4 cup or to taste
  • Dry fruits: Cashew halves, sliced almonds, pistachios, raisins – use any of these or a combination of these – as you like it.
  • Cardamom Powder/Elaichi, to garnish – 1/4 tsp approx.

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Method:

  • Heat ghee in a pan and roast the dry fruits lightly, Drain and keep aside.
  • In the same pan roast the sevai till it changes color. Keep stirring on medium heat. I generally use the roasted sevai variety that is available in the Indian store and skip this step.
  • In a heavy bottomed pan (can use the same one for roasting as well) boil the milk. If using a evaporated milk/condensed milk in combination, this step will take lesser time.
  • Once the milk starts to thicken slightly, add the roasted sevai and let it get completely cooked. At this stage if it is getting thicker that you like add little bit of warmed milk to it.
  • Keep stirring and checking if the sevai is cooked completely and the milk is thickened to your desired consistency. Remember it will thicken more on cooling.
  • When almost done add the sugar and the roasted dry fruits and mix well.
  • Once done, sprinkle the cardamom powder and let it cool a bit.
  • Serve cold or warmed.

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Butter Cookies

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All those who know me or read my blog will know how much I love to bake. There is no better mood-booster than beating up a dough and baking it till perfection. So when my husband got a $50 gift coupon from Sears beginning of this year, I knew instantly how to put it to good use. Thereby came home an electric mixer and a food processor. And thus my effortless entry into the world of baking.

More than savoring the home-baked goodies, I like the process of preparing it; taking out my measuring cups, scooping out the flour, kneading the dough with my hands, sprinkling flour, the wonderful aroma – everything is like a therapy for me.

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Last winter was terrible. With 3-4 inches of snow piled outside there was no way I wanted to go outside to buy those blue boxes of Danish butter cookies; so when the craving set in, out came my bakers hat and I inaugurated my hand mixer with this butter cookie recipe from here while BBC helped me in clicking some of the pics. Since that winter morning I never got around to upload this post and was looking for a special occasion to do so.

Now as I participate in the Bake Fest Event #21 hosted by AmritaVishal of Sweet ‘n’ Savory , I think it is a good timeBakeFest-200 to share this entry of Home Baked Butter Cookies with you all. And trust me, if you have a hand mixer you can do this in a jiffy!

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 Ingredients:

  • Butter, unsalted and softened – 1 cup or 8 oz
  • Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Vanilla extract – 1 1/2 tsp
  • Egg yolk – 1 large
  • All-purpose flour – 2 cups

Method:

  • In a big bowl add the softened butter, sugar, salt and vanilla and beat them together until smooth and creamy.

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  • Add the egg yolk and beat in till everything is well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

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  • Add the flour and beat just until incorporated.

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  • Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface and transfer the dough.
  • Knead it lightly just till the dough smooths out.
  • Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a log (round or square) that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Using the flat surface of the knife smooth out the sides so that you have sharp edges.

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  • Wrap each log in a plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until firm (at least two hours or preferably overnight). Can also freeze the unbaked logs for up to two months.

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  • Before baking, preheat the oven to 325°F. and line the baking sheets with a parchment paper.
  • Once the log is firm, with a sharp knife, slice the dough about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick or as you want.
  • Place the slices on the lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart.

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  • Sprinkle some finely chopped nuts like walnuts or almonds if you want to and press them onto the surface of the unbaked cookie.
  • Bake them for 12 – 15 mins or just until done.
  • Once done remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

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Note:

  • While shaping them into logs ensure that the dough is tightly packed or else you might get holes in the center. Some of my cookies got that, but not much so it was okay.
  • Baking time may vary from oven to oven. Remember that the cookies keep baking even after taking them out of the oven. So do not over bake and allow them to cool on a cooling rack completely; if they are still soft, you can put them back in the oven for a couple of  minutes again.
  • You can roll out the dough and cut them in various shapes using a cookie cutter.
  • You can decorate it using colored sugar or dip them half into chocolate.

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Rasogolla ‘r Payesh -aka- ‘faux’ Rasmalai

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I remember a play me and my brother (who was a year senior to me) along with some others enacted in our high school. Me (Grade 11th) and my brother (Grade 12th) were both very good at stage dramas and participated in most of them. Our much-loved chemistry ma’am, also my class teacher had this play for us for some occasion that I do not recall right now. I do not recall the name of the play as well, but given a chance now I would name it – ‘Heal the world’ and have the MJ song with the same title play at the end / beginning of the play. So this play was about the world (called Mr. World and played by my brother) which was battered and injured and bleeding. I remember making the costume for Mr. World using my grandmothers plain beige shawl, sticking a world map and making fake red stains (to show it bleeding) and fake holes in it. Attempts would be made to heal this world. Some of our friends represented money, power, etc., etc. (I do not remember the rest clearly) and they would then try to heal the world but with no success. Finally towards the end I would enter the stage, dressed in pristine white, representing ‘Love’, will give a small speech on how I could heal the world from all the vices and its injuries. It ended with the world being a cleaner and a nicer place.

The moral of this play was understood clearly by all of us, but somehow today I understand the real implication and lesson behind it. The lase week had been a rough one and had made me anguish over the fact that the world was becoming such a chaotic place. So much is happening around us that should not be. No country is unscathed from man-made disasters (as I like to call them) as if natural disasters weren’t enough. To think of what kind of world we will be leaving to our next generation – it really bothers me. The entire last week I had been scrolling through all the newspapers and reading so many awful crimes that made me feel so sullen. But I am trying to keep myself away from the newspapers for a while and boost my spirits by trying to think of good things… And that brings me back to my blog.

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This is a long due post and I made it for Holi. Back at home we call this Rasogolla ‘r Payesh but I guess it is a sort of ‘Rasmalai’ made with Rasogollas. I remember this as my Dida’s (maternal garndmother) special dish and she makes it using milk and sugar. However, I had it the easy way and used some evaporated milk and some condensed milk.

Ingredients:

  • Rasogollas – 10 – 12. (My Dida used the large ones and would cut it into half but mine were mid size so I kept it as it is.)
  • Whole Milk – 3 cups roughly
  • Condensed milk – 1/4 of a 14 oz can
  • Evaporated milk – 1/2 of a 14 oz can
  • Cardamom powder – to garnish

Note: You can use either the above mentioned combination, or you can choose to adjust the proportions, or omit the condensed milk and/or evaporated milk. If not using condensed milk add sugar as required. In the latter case it will take a little more time to thicken the milk.

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Method:

  • Put a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat. Add the evaporated milk and whole milk and bring it to a boil. Keep stirring in between.
  • Add the condensed milk and stir well. Add sugar at this stage if not using condensed milk.
  • Meanwhile using hands gently squeeze out the sugar syrup (without squashing) from the rasogollas and keep it aside.
  • Once the milk is sufficiently thickened to your liking and sugar adjusted, add the squeezed out rasogollas and let it simmer for almost a minute. Do not stir much as the rasogollas, being soft, might break.
  • Sprinkle some cardamom powder for garnishing and let the rasogollas absorb the milk.
  • Transfer to a serving plate or bowl; refrigerate till chilled and serve.

Note:

  • If you are not sure of handling the squeezed out rasogollas you can also put them in a serving plate or bowl and pour the thickened milk over it and let it soak.
  • If you have the thickened and sweetened milk in excess, like I did, use only what is required and keep the rest aside and chill. You can serve it later as a ‘sort-of-thandai’.