Ellu Unde

Black Sesame seeds and Jaggery Laddoos

If there is a time of the year that I totally miss being in some place, it is got to be now and in Mysore! Wherever I am at this time of the year, golden memories of my Mysore childhood days beckon me. Just a mention of Mysore and my heart goes tender.

The festive fervor in the air, elephants trumpeting away in the palace grounds under the crimson red gulmohar trees, the smell of wet grass and elephant dung, churmuriwallahs along the footpath sides, the dazzling Mysore palace illuminated with its hundred thousand light bulbs and that moment when pigeons fly out into the sky as the lights go on, the regal grandeur of the ten day long celebrations, the tradtional Dasara procession, a most awaited Dasara exhibition and all the evening music kacheris (recitals) or quite simply the anticipation of it all before the season began. Priceless! I never knew those days would be priceless.

Wherever you are, whether you celebrate or not, a symbolic of the victory of good over evil, I Wish you a Happy Navraatri and a festive Dasara!

 

Dressed in pattu langa (traditional long silk skirts), hopping from house to house in the neighborhood, curious to see what’s new in their houses for Dasara Bombe Habba (a traditonal arrangement of dolls) and for “Bombe baagina”, a gift of sweets or savories for us visiting kids was perhaps the most exciting part of the festivities.

The lure of a different sweet or savory snack everyday for all of the ten days in every house visited was hard to resist for any kid of those days. Even if nothing was prepared, we were assured of at least small cubes of dark brown jaggery, never to return empty handed.

Speaking of sweet snacks, Ellu Unde is perhaps the most easily prepared sweet dishes. Two simple ingredients and less than 15 minutes is all it takes to put together these lovely black laddoos.

Yes, it is really as simple as it sounds when I said that. And it fits so well with the season too with fall in the air and winter soon waiting to knock at our doors with her cold, dry hands.

Reason is, per Ayurveda, sesame seeds are a heat generating food and hence good to be part of the cold season diet. Besides, jaggery is the best unrefined sugar with all its minerals not stripped apart. And so, Ellu Unde is considered a nourishing food for young girls at puberty and for women alike. Flax seeds can also be added for increased nutrition without compromising the taste.

Many a fond childhood memories of eating this sweet are ironically also from the Shraddha feast, as I would longingly look forward to snacking on these for days after. Ellu Unde was prepared at my grand dad’s home as one of the “Shraddha” foods, during the annual ritual to pay homage to one’s ancestors.

It is also prepared on Mahahalaya Amavasya, the new moon day on the Hindu calendar before Dasara begins and so I did.

Black sesame seeds are not exotic, but a commonly called for ingredient in many an Iyengar dishes, sweet or savory alike, Puliogre being the most popular.

If you have never tried black sesame seeds, their bold flavor can be a little bit of an acquired taste. One can start with white sesame seeds and progress to the black variety as you get comfortable. Black and white sesame seeds are two different varieties of sesame seed and have slightly different flavors. While the black variety is nuttier with a slight bitter afternote, white ones are milder.

How do you use black sesame seeds in your cooking?

 Ellu Unde Recipe

Printable Recipe

makes about 15 small laddoos

Things you’ll need:

1/4 cup Black sesame seeds

1/4 cup Jaggery (preferably dark brown), crushed

few drops of ghee ~ optional

How it’s done:

Dry roast black sesame seeds on medium heat until they appear plump and begin to crackle. Do not let them smoke or burn or they’ll turn bitter.

Tip roasted sesame seeds and crushed jaggery into a mixer/grinder. I find it works best to crush jaggery in a mortar & pestle or using a rolling pin.

Grind the mixture until it lumps up. If you pinch on it, it should hold shape. Remove onto a plate. Press and roll about one tsp of it at a time between your three fingers to make small laddoos. Add ghee if the mixture feels dry to hold shape.

Store in an airtight container. No need to refrigerate.

Note 

Use Jaggery and black sesame seeds in equal proportions, in case you want to scale the recipe up or down.

If the sesame seeds are old, they may not crackle.

Jaggery is available in most Indian grocery stores or world markets. Sucanat can be used as a good alternative. I wouldn’t use any kind of sugar though.

Ellu Unde is best consumed within a week of preparation or it can begin to taste rancid.


Treat yourself to more :

 

Maavina Hannu Seekarane

Mango Pulp in Jaggery sweetened Cardamom Coconut Milk

Is it that time of the year, already? Talk about March madness.. means different things to different people..isn’t it?

March brings in the onset of spring, a thing of beauty and joy forever… It is also the time when the Indian Summer bears fruit. Not something ordinary, but the king of fruits – the one and only Mango. And this is exactly the time of the year, I want to be nowhere else, than in India and my hometown Bengalooru (and Mysore), to gorge on these luscious juicy beauties by the basket full. Well, at least I wish!

When I am just left with wishing, I run to the nearest Sam’s and buy a box full of Ataulfo mangoes, fill them in a brown bag, put them in the darkest corner of the laundry room and wait for them to ripen. After a couple of days when they’re ready, I ‘try’ to satiate my mango cravings with these fully ripe, not so flavorful, not as juicy and not quite sweet ‘mango look a likes’ of Indian mangoes…


Eating a mango is more than just delicious, it is pure fun – licking the juice running down the palm or squishing the pulp off the seed to leave no trace of the fruit on it are some of the few times when messy is good! And that is how I always love to eat them..

But, once in a while, when I need a little extra with minimal sophistication, I love this simple Seekarane desert recipe. This is as close a desert can get to real fruit. This recipe needs no selling. The ingredients do all the talking for themselves.

Seekarane or Rasayana is a traditional dessert prepared by squeezing ripe mangoes to pulp, may be due to the lack of mixer/grinders in that era. Even with the latest kitchen gadgets today, I wouldn’t change a thing about how it is made. That’s just me, I guess!

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, Maavina Hannu is Mango in Kannada btw..

So, what is your favorite mango dessert?

Maavina Hannu Seekarane Recipe

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:

4 small-medium ripe mangoes, preferably juicy
3/4 cup freshly grated coconut
3/4 cup water
2 small cubes or abt 4 tbsp grated jaggery (preferably dark variety)
4-5 cardamom pods

Other:

grater
mortar & pestle

How it’s done:

For the mango pulp:

This part can be a little messy, but it is all worth it. Traditionally, most of this is done by squishing the mango to a pulp, by hand. We’ll get some help from the grater though.

Wash the mangoes well and pat dry. Slice off the top at the stalk. Cut off the cheeks on either sides of the mango first. Remove the skin off the seed. Using the grater, grate the fruit off the seed or just squish the seed with your hand until all the fruit is off the seed. I prefer doing this way as there is minimum wastage of fruit.

Halve the cheeks or quarter them with the skin intact, depending on your convenience for grating. Grate the fruit to get all the pulp out of the skin. Do not hesitate to get any remaining fruit either with a spoon or your trusty fingers. Repeat with all the mangoes. Once all the pulp is extracted, give it a nice stir or squish to get a uniform consistency. Taste the mangoes for sweetness.

For the coconut milk:

Blend the freshly grated with a little water to a smooth paste. Add the remaining water to this, stir to mix well and strain the coconut milk. If using frozen coconut, thaw first and use warm water for blending so that the fat does not separate. Refrigerate the remaining strained coconut to be used later in cooking.

Mix Coconut milk with the mango pulp. Grate jaggery into this, less or more depending on the sweetness of the mangoes.

In a mortar, smash the cardamom pods with the pestle and pry the seeds out with your fingers. Save the skin for later for flavoring tea or water. Smash the cardamom seeds first and crush them back and forth with the pestle for a fine powder. Sprinkle generously, not too much though.

Give it a good stir and serve as soon as possible. Tastes best when fresh.  This dessert gets ready in a jiffy. Explaining how to do seems more tedious than the actual doing.

Note

Jaggery can be substituted by brown sugar, but the depth and flavor of Jaggery cannot be. Other mexican unrefined sugars like Pillonchillo or Succanat may come a tad closer than sugar.

Jaggery is available in Indian stores. Always look for unbleached Jaggery

Freshly grated coconut works best, if not, thawed, frozen coconut works just fine if you are not too particular.

Fresh coconut milk is the star of this recipe. If you would rather save yourself the trouble of making it from scratch (which isn’t too difficult), you could use canned coconut milk. I won’t promise great results.

Milk can be substituted for coconut milk and this variation comes out well too.

Raspuri mangoes are best suited for this recipe. In its absence, Alphonso works well. I’ve used Mexican Ataulfo mangoes (that’s the best I can get here) and they are fully ripe when wrinkled and golden yellow.

If you’d rather not get your hands messy, you could blend the cut up mango pieces instead. Blending makes a juice out of the pulp though and doesn’t quite result in a hand squished consistency.

Treat yourself to more:

  

Genasaale | Guest post by Chinmayie of Love Food Eat

I have been absent from the blog for a bit now but now, you know that I was “still” working on the blog behind the scenes. You should start seeing my posts soon. Before that, I have this lovely guest post by my good friend and fellow blogger Chinmayie of Love Food Eat, who also happens to be from Bangalore. On her blog, she writes about simple and super easy vegetarian recipes. Let the simplicity not mislead you to believe otherwise about taste though. When you visit her blog, don’t miss these gems – Guava Fudge, Pickled Black PepperTender Jackfruit in Rice and her local vegetable dishes like Sweet Sticky Purple Long Beans and Indian Winged bean Salad. I’m sure you’ll love them, her recipes reflect her personality – simple, honest and down to earth.

In today’s guest post, Chinmayie aka “Chin” as I like to call her, takes us on a step-by-step tutorial of making this faint sweet South Canara dish that happens to be her childhood favorite! All yours Chin..Genasaale – Steamed rice cakes stuffed with coconut and jaggery

I still remember seeing Radhika’s blog ‘Just Home Made’  for the first time. I spent a long time browsing recipes and was glad I found such an amazing blog with great recipes and even better photography! I wrote to her on twitter telling her how much I loved her blog and got a very cheerful reply back. We immediately connected as we both are from the same city. I have been in touch with her ever since and it’s been so great knowing her. I enjoy each and every post of hers and I am a huge fan of her amazing photography and styling. I love her detailed recipes with all the required notes. Her posts clearly reflect the amount of research and thought she has put into each one of them.

Whenever I see curry leaves I remember her ‘Curry plant’ post and ‘Sakkare Acchu’ had never looked better than her’s! I have made her ‘Bisibele Bath’ and I can confidently say that’s it’s been the best out of all the dozen variations I have tried. I am completely honored to be guest posting for her incredible blog today.

Radhika asked me if I could share a childhood favorite recipe of mine and it took me almost a month to finalize on one recipe! I just couldn’t think of something special enough to be on her blog and I am still quite nervous about coming up with good enough photos to match her standard. After a lot of thought I picked Genasaale for my guest post.

There are several foods from our childhood which are more dear to us now than before. While growing up we never realize how special they are. But later on when we look back, we can see the amount of care, precision, labour and love went into it when our mothers made it and suddenly it becomes a childhood favorite!  ‘Genasaale‘ is one such recipe. It was made on special occasions and loved every time.

Genasaale like most other Indian special delicacies is time consuming and labour intensive. But it’s very simple in it’s own way. A sweet coconut filling is wrapped with a ground rice batter and steamed covered with banana leaves.There are two variations of this recipe. One where finely chopped fresh jackfruit with fresh coconut and jaggery is used as a stuffing. This is a seasonal speciality and is extremely delicious with deep fruit flavors.

The other variation is made when jackfruits are not in season. I am making it in the second style where just fresh coconut and jaggery is used as the filling. These sweet cakes are simply steamed with banana leaves which lend their aroma into it. These steamed sweet rice cakes are gluten free, vegan and very healthy! They are best eaten piping hot fresh out of the steamer. Sometimes they are made for dinner and leftovers are served for next day breakfast at room temperature. I am sharing my recipe for Genasaale with all of you today. Hope you enjoy it.

Genasaale Recipe

makes 10-12

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
1 cup rice
1 cup + 1/4 cup freshly grated coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered jaggery
3-4 banana leaves

How it’s done:

Soak the rice in water for 3-4 hours. Drain all the water and grind it with 1/4 cup coconut, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water. Make the batter smooth and grain free.

In a bowl combine fresh coconut with powdered jaggery and mix it well. You can taste the mixture at this point and add more jaggery if you want it sweeter.

To prepare the Banana leaves, separate them from the stalk in the center. Place it on the fire/stove for a few seconds on each side. This will prevent the leaf from breaking while folding it later on.

To assemble, place a piece of banana leaf on a flat surface. Spread the rice batter into a round shape with a spoon. Make sure it’s not too tick. Now place the coconut jaggery mixture on one half of the circle. Fold it over into half and then fold the edges to seal it completely. Place it upside down into your steamer. Continue till all the rice batter and the filling is used up.

I used my mono steamer to steam them. You can use any steamer or even a pressure cooker without the weight. Steam them for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve them hot with a dollop of ghee (optional).

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Sakkare Acchu

Sugar mould figurines

Wow! The last time I thought it was the beginning of a new year, blink and almost a  fortnight has vanished just like that. I knew the days are passing by really fast, but this year, it seems faster than I expected. Weeks are passing by like days, or is it just me?

And, Sankranthi is already here!

I had been looking forward to this day of the year to make Sakkare Acchu right from Deepavali last year. Luckily enough, I got the traditional wooden moulds well in time from India. So, for the very first time in my life, I made Sakkare Acchu. And, it feels like a humongous achievement!

The vision that I always had, of learning it from my mom, making it side by side in her kitchen and she teaching me how to stir the sugar with her arthritic hands though, did not become reality. My mom refused to teach me over the phone as she felt it was way too complicated to explain the nuances of this art form for someone who had zilch as experience. Since my requests for lessons over phone went futile, I made it all by myself on a quiet afternoon early this week after watching my friend do it in her kitchen.

Proof is right in front of you and even now I wonder, if it was beginner’s luck or did I really get it? I don’t mean to brag nor do I want to scare you, but I have seen my aunt struggle to get the right consistency, ending up with burnt brown caramel many a times. May be, mom was apprehensive that even I’d end up with a whole lot of wasted effort and burnt sugar without her hand holding. Whatever it was, I am super glad I tried.

Sakkare Acchu is a wonderful art form, very local to some parts of Karnataka, mostly in and around Bangalore, Mysore, Hassan, Mandya and few other parts. One needs a lot of patience, time and of course sugar to make it. And, these days no one likes sugar, isn’t it? There’s no wonder why it is a dying art form.

I never ate Sakkare Acchu as a kid. I would promptly refuse, I couldn’t imagine eating something so intensely sugary. After twenty years, I don’t think I have a different opinion. But, what drives me so much to learn how to make it, is the simple reason that I want to be the bridge to my next generation, for, if I know, there is a sliver of hope that my daughter has a solid chance to learn someday.

{Sugar syrup just poured into the wooden moulds}

Sankranthi (in India) marks the end of winter and the movement of the sun into the northern hemisphere known as “Uttarayana” indicating longer sunnier days. Sankranthi and Uttarayana both are sanskrit words. Unlike other Hindu festivals for which the exact date varies from year to year based on the lunar calendar, the date of Makara Sankranthi remains fairly constant between 14th and 15th of January year after year.

In most parts of India including Karnataka, it is a major harvest festival celebrated with much fervor. I find the origin of local customs and rituals depending upon the cultural, geographical, agricultural, religious and social influences, around this festival very fascinating. As Sankranthi also happens to be the day of first harvest of sugarcane in Karnataka, historically, it feels natural that this brilliant art form of making sugar mould figurines “Sakkare Acchu”, must have been born out of the need to celebrate the abundance of sugarcane and to share the recent harvest with others as decorative giveaways.

Things that I took for granted as a kid, enjoyed as part of the vivacity of the festival, has a much deeper meaning to me now.

Home made acchu is the purest way to enjoy these beauties. You never know the additives in the store-bought ones!

Tulsi katte (Tulsi pot) has got to be my all time favorites..

{The aftermath of Sakkare Acchu!}

Here’s a comparison of the outcome of experiments with varied ingredients. Hope you get some idea.

I can completely understand if this recipe gives you creeps at the very thought of trying. Most people are; even I was, until I tried.
Sakkare Acchu by MyIndiaRecipe is the single relevant video I found on YouTube on this topic. The Grandma in the video is not only adorable (even without appearing) has done a great job of explaining. Watch it if you are really interested to make Sakkare Acchu and need visual cues.

Wish you all a very happy and prosperous Pongal and Sankranthi. May your year be filled with abundance in food, love, peace, harmony, health and happiness and may you share it with all your near and dear ones..

Happy Sankranthi!

SAKKARE ACCHU RECIPE

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
makes about 12-15 small figurines
(depending upon the size of the mould)
1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp milk (I used 1% milk)

1/2 lemon~ optional

Other:

Traditional Wooden moulds

soft cotton cloth with a high thread count

firm rubber bands

How it’s done:

Wash and soak the wooden moulds in water for a few hours or overnight.

Add water to sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and let soak or dissolve for a few hours.

Just before embarking on the Sakkare Acchu making, pat dry the moulds with a cloth, assemble and secure tightly with firm and preferably broad width rubber bands.

Spread the soft cotton cloth over another saucepan to ready it for straining the sugar solution. Bring the sugar solution to a gentle boil over medium heat and add 1 tbsp milk. Let it boil for a minute or so, until the milk solids float to the top appearing as scum. Strain it over the soft cotton cloth readied earlier. You’ll see the milk solids are trapped on the cloth leaving a mildly cloudy sugar solution behind.

Pour the filtered sugar solution to the first saucepan and bring it to a boil again over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 tbsp milk and repeat the straining process as above. This twice filtered cloudy sugar solution is the starting point for the sakkare acchu. And since sakkare acchu is better made in small batches (easier to find the right consistency without burning), divide this sugar solution into two parts.

Keep a shallow bowl of water next to the stove to check for the desired sugar consistency (if you are a beginner).

Bring half the sugar solution in the saucepan to a gentle bubble (not boil) over low heat. Take the saucepan off the stove and stir well with a ladle in a beating manner, about 5-6 times. Return to the stove and repeat this process for up to ten times. Do not increase the heat at any given point. If you are a beginner, after each time, drip a sugar droplet into the bowl of water to check for the consistency required. In the beginning, as soon as you drop, it will dissolve immediately; as we near the required consistency, the sugar drop stays put in the same place and can be rolled into a soft ball. This is the cue.

By this time, you will also notice that the sugar solution is beginning to thicken and appear creamy and you can see a plethora of tiny bubbles.

You can say the desired consistency is reached when, as you beat the sugar solution off the stove for almost the 8th, 9th or 10th time, the beating itself is very quiet and you just hear the liquid moving very smoothly as if the sugary liquid is insulating the ladle from the saucepan bottom. Beating removes air bubbles if any.

Optionally, now add a few drops of lemon juice before pouring out the syrup to add a hint of lemony flavor to it.

Beating it again a couple of times, ladle out this liquid swiftly into the secured moulds until the liquid covers the top, starting with a mould with the smallest opening. This is because, the sugar syrup can thicken in a matter or 4-5 seconds and be difficult to pour.

Let the moulds sit aside to solidify for about 20 mins before opening.

Repeat with the remaining half sugar solution.

To remove the acchu, use a sharp knife to trim the extras on the mould. Do not waste the extras or spilled pieces, just include them into your next batch.

Remove the rubber bands and gently loosen the moulds. Remove the sakkare acchu  when still slightly wet, gently pressing at the top where it was poured into. It is normal for the acchu to appear glazed or wet with a runny sugary liquid below the moulds.

Arrange them on a clean dry plate and let dry for an hour or two until completely dried. Store in a dry airtight container.

What if the sugar solution is not coming to a boil?

Ratio of water to sugar is approximate. You’ll need a little more than just enough water to cover the sugar or the sugar solution will not have enough water to come to a boil. Add a little water and try again.

Sakkare Acchu does not solidify or melts in place

Problem could be there’s too much milk making Sakkare Acchu too soft to solidify.

Too little or no milk will make it too crystalline to show off its design. This is a reason why milk is added. Milk lets the design show well by giving it just the right amount of opacity. Adding a little milk is also the secret to getting melt-in-your-mouth Sakkare Acchu or they end up being hard. Also, when added, milk (and even yogurt) boils forming a scum like layer on top. When filtered, it takes away any impurities or dark spots in sugar as well.

My aunt’s version:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 tbsp yogurt

1/4 cup milk

Some people like my aunt even believe in adding yogurt apart from milk. Start with yogurt for the first iteration and for the next two iterations, use half the milk for each, filtering with a soft cloth at every stage.

Benefit of doing this is, remnants of the acidity of yogurt in the sugar solution get the milk solids to separate well and little or no milk solids remain in the sugar solution thereafter.

Everything else is the same as explained above.

Notes

These stay well for up to a month. Do not refrigerate.

Alternatively, you could use candy/chocolate moulds in place of the wooden moulds.  I’d prefer wooden moulds any day as I’d rather not deal with worrying about the effects of hot syrups ending up in plastic/silicone.

Color of Sakkare Acchu depends on the sugar. Raw/cane/brown sugar will result in pale brown color.

Let the wooden moulds dry completely before storing away or they get moldy.

Now that you know what it takes to make these beauties, if someone gives you a homemade acchu and it is not up to your taste buds, do not discard them. Instead, accept them with a smiley face and use them in place of regular sugar in your hot beverages.

Can you make out which ones are made of what?

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