Ellu Unde | Black Sesame Seeds Laddoo

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 | Aamras | Mango Pulp in Coconut MilK

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:

  

Gulkhand Banana Shake

Rose Petal Preserve and Banana Shake

In my perfect world, children would eat anything and everything the mom makes at home. No whining, no fussing over foods, no hatred for vegetables or fruits and always an appetite for good food. How nicer can it be, right?

Only, for me, it happens in my day dreams!

This is where I did not get lucky, where that castle in the air comes crumbling down and my day dreams crash into harsh reality. Whatever I’ve done, somehow my little girl’s and my intentions are at logger heads with each other when it comes to eating, especially when spelled as FRUITS..

She does not cry for anything, except when I ask her to eat, u guessed it – fruits!

Recently, after a hand blender came as an addition to my kitchen gadgets, in yet another plan to sneak in fruits into her diet, I started churning out smoothies and milk shakes. And, the first fruit of choice for milk shakes was none other than the humble yet mighty Banana.

I would still want her to relish her fruits the right way, but until then…

Rose – a name for beauty, fragrance and color all put in one wonderful nature’s package. Hats off to that someone who thought of immortalizing its deliciousness in a jar!

Gulkhand [Gul – flower; Gulab – Rose in Hindi; khand – sweet] is rose petals preserved in sugar and honey. A health tonic as per Ayurveda, it can be easily made at home if you have access to organic roses non-sprayed by pesticides or other chemicals.

I love relishing Gulkhand just as is, by the spoonful. Ever since I paired it with bananas and milk for my little girl, I’ve become a guzzler of this soothing drink myself!

A few everyday uses of Gulkhand:

Add a spoon to breakfast oats for a special breakfast treat.

Mix it with greek yogurt for a snack with a twist

Include in fruit salads to add a romantic nuance

Replace jaggery with Gulkhand in Rasayana

If you have the habit of unwinding with a warm glass of milk before hitting bed, stir in a spoon of Gulkhand for a relaxing drink. Just don’t make it too hot.

Spread it on whole wheat toast along with Peanut butter or almond butter instead of the same old PBJ sandwich

Of course, because it is sweetened, eating in moderation is always the key.

Owing to its incredibly delicious taste and Gulkhand’s cooling and revitalizing properties, it makes for an excellent summer drink.

Gulkand Banana Shake goes to #IndianFoodPalooza, an event Prerna of Indian SimmerKathy Gori of The Colors of Indian Cooking and Barbara of The Creative Culinary are hosting this month to celebrate Indian food.

How do you like to enjoy your dose of Gulkhand?

Gulkhand Banana Shake Recipe

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
1 ripe banana

1 tsp Gulkhand or Rose Petal jam

1 cup Milk Almond Milk / Coconut Milk / any Non Dairy Milk or a half-half mix of your choice

1 or 2  drops of rose water ~ optional

crushed pistachios or almonds for garnish ~ optional

How it’s done:

Blend everything together. Serve chilled garnished with crushed pistachios or almonds

Note:

  • Alter the milk/non dairy milk ratio to suit your taste as well as the desired thickness
  • Gulkhand has enough sweetness, so no other sweetener is essentially needed
  • I bought my Gulkhand from the local BAPS store. It can also be found in middle-eastern or persian food stores.

Read more about benefits of adding Gulkhand to your diet here

Gulkand Ice Cream by IndianSimmer is an interesting take on ice cream with Gulkhand stirred in.

Treat yourself to more:

 

Pumpkin Halwa | Happy Deepavali

Deepavali,  a sanskrit word meaning “A row of lights” is as much a festival of fun and frolic as much it stands for a deeper meaning. Celebrated as a symbolic of victory of good over evil, light over dark, knowledge over ignorance, it signifies freedom for the mind from the clutter of dark thoughts and spiritual illumination for the soul.
While in North India, it is celebrated to commemorate Lord Rama’s return with Seetha after his triumph over Ravana, the ten headed wicked demon who abducted her, Deepavali in many parts of South India is mostly celebrated over three days for different legendary reasons. The first day is Naraka Chathurdashi on the 14th day of the Hindu month to celebrate the victory of lord Krishna over the mighty demon, Narakasura. The second day is Lakshmi Pooja on Amavaasya (New moon day) to celebrate the rebirth of goddess Lakshmi during Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean of milk) and lastly the third day, Bali Paadyami on Paadya (first day of the month)  to celebrate the victory of Lord Vishnu incarnated as a dwarf (vaamana in Dashaavataara) over the demon king, Bali when he was pushed to Paathaala, the netherworld.
Sitting miles away from home in front of the laptop, typing this post away, what I miss the most are the nuances of the festival that made it so special throughout my childhood and adolescent years.
Typically, the evening before Deepavali known as Neeru tumbo habba (literally translates to Water filling festival), bathrooms would be cleaned to a shine and decorated with flowers and rangoli and water be stocked up in as many huge containers and cauldrons as possible in preparation for the next morning’s Abhyanga Snana (full body oil bath). A huge copper cauldron full of boiling hot water heated through the night awaited us at 4:00 in the morning. After a customary Enne Shastra the “oil ritual”, a full body oil massage followed ending with an almost scalding hot water bath with Shikakai and besan only as soap. Dressed in brand new clothes smeared with a pinch of turmeric for auspices, mouth full of sweets, a lit incense stick in one hand and a favorite fire crackers in the other, rushing out the door to be the first on the street to burst them almost always make up the first of the mental pictures of my flashbacks of this day..
Today, I cannot help but recount and hope that I can relive those beautiful memories when my little girl gets to enjoy the simple richness of that experience some day..

Traditionally, Gulab Jamun and Vella Kozhukattai for sweets and Paruppu Urundai and Khara Sevai for savory have been the norm since childhood.
Food experiences make up for most of our nostalgic memories and as much as I miss celebrating the traditional way, being here in the US, I felt it was appropriate to celebrate fall and the festival of lights together in one! And Pumpkin Halwa has got to be one of the simpler sweet recipes calling for just five ingredients and the best way to do exactly that..

I wasn’t too fond of Pumpkin until my foray into blogging, when holiday recipes such as this Pumpkin Pie lured me into opening my mind and broadening my cooking/baking horizon. Since then, I haven’t looked back much when it comes to this sunset-orange autumn vegetable.

Verdict
None could tell there was pumpkin in it, even when they were certain that a vegetable was in there! I was quite pleasantly surprised myself with how instantly I fell in love with its mild taste, daintily sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth!

The recipe is so simple and unassuming that it might quickly become a part of your culinary repertoire without your knowledge. Just give it that first chance.

Wish you a Happy and Wonderful Deepavali! 

May this Deepavali brighten your lives with much joy, bliss, love, peace and serenity..

Pumpkin Halwa Recipe

(makes about 9 – 1 oz cups)

Printable Recipe

Things you’ll need:
  • 4 tiny pumpkins or 1-1/2 cups cooked pumpkin pulp
  • 1/2 can fat free sweetened condensed milk*
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1-2 tbsp ghee
  • skinned pumpkin seeds for garnish
*  (1 can = 14 oz or 396 g)  I use Borden – Eagle brand
How it’s done:
Wash and cut the tiny pumpkins in half, remove the seeds and pith and microwave cut side up for 5-6 minutes or until soft. Do not add any water. Let cool and scoop out the cooked pulp with a curved spoon. Mash this pulp for uniform consistency.
Heat ghee in a thick bottom pan on medium. Sauté mashed pumpkin for 10 mins or until rawness subsides. Add condensed milk and crush saffron between your fingertips into it. Cook stirring well intermittently until the Halwa comes together as one mass away from all sides of the pan or about 20 mins. Switch off and let cool. Take care to not let the halwa burn or brown.
To roast the pumpkin seeds, microwave on a plate for 2 mins in 30 sec intervals, shuffling them in between. Alternatively dry roast on a pan on low heat until fragrant.
Serve warm or cold garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Notes:
If you can’t find tiny pumpkins, use the slightly bigger sugar pumpkins, they are also pulpier. Store bought pumpkin puree can also be used. It might take a little longer to cook as it has more moisture content.
Do not leave the stove to attend to other things or the Halwa can get burnt in a  jiffy. Stirring intermittently is an important thing to do.
If you are not a big fan of pumpkin seeds, feel free to use a garnish of your choice. I don’t see why ghee fried or roasted and slivered cashews, pistachios or almonds won’t go well.
If you don’t have ghee, substitute with butter. Whatever happens, please don’t use oil.

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Roasted Butternut Squash : The Holiday Buffet

There is a first time for everything and this time, it is with Butternut squash for me. While the only squash I had eaten in India is the pumpkin, being in the US introduced me to the others like the yellow squash, acorn squash and only now, the butternut squash. Somehow, I had never gotten close to this one so far, probably because I knew no recipe that calls for it in the first place!
And the reason for me to make this side, is not because I am a big fan of butternut squash. Well, how could it be with this being my first try? During one of those browsing extravaganzas, when I stumbled upon Sala’s Roasted Butternut Squash recipe on veggiebelly, it was not a case of love at first sight. But several days later, its picture kept flashing back to me in an almost haunting way. Better yet, when I accidentally chanced upon the sight of different squashes on sale in Kroger, it was a mad rush of adrenaline that got me out of Kroger with the bag in hand before my brain could process it. It’s a different matter that it lay on my kitchen counter for a couple of days before the absolute ‘muhurat‘* happened today.
What I discovered is a very interesting taste, nutty, squashy and pleasantly sweet thanks to the added cane sugar. If you plan to eat it as a side as given in this recipe, I seriously suggest not to skimp on the sugar. I say this with experience because I did exactly that, only to realize later upon tasting that without the right amount of sugar and fat combined, it does not turn out half as good as how it is meant to be. So before you are disappointed, take my 2 cents of (unsolicited) advice.
And then, you can enjoy it scooping right out of the squash ‘bowl’ one small spoon at a time. You have to eat it to really understand why they named it “Butternut” squash in the first place. When roasted properly, one can experience the unification of buttery and nutty tastes at one place at the same time.
Ground black pepper and cinnamon are my substitution to the chipotle powder in the original recipe and although I generally do not like to mix sweet and hot, their contrasting tastes seemed to work in unison in a strange reciprocity.
What do you think of this combination. Have you tried that before? Do not hesitate to put down your thoughts in the comments box.

*A time or moment considered lucky (in India), often used to mark the commencement of a project or important work as per Wiki
This recipe is my contribution to the event Blog-Bites-9 : The Holiday Buffet hosted by Nupur of One Hot Stove!

recipe source: veggiebelly.com

Things you’ll need:
  • 1 small Butternut squash
  • 2 tsp butter / olive oil
  • ground black pepper and salt mix
  • ground cinnamon
  • 4 tsp cane sugar (or as per your taste)
How it’s done:


  • Preheat oven to 400°F
  • Cut the Butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and fibre with a spoon. If required, cut off the top of the squash near the stem. I let mine be, just like that.
  • With a butter knife, drop tiny bits of butter scrolls about 1 tsp on each half of the squash everywhere and in the pit. If using olive oil, brush or drizzle all over the squash.
  • Sprinkle in the cane sugar 2 tsp on each of the squash halves, all over and drop some in the pit. Repeat with cinnamon and a tad bit of ground pepper and salt mix.
  • Oven roast with the pit-side up (obviously right) until the squash is tender (when a fork is poked into) or about 30-40 mins. Keep a close watch towards the end when you hear the sugar sizzling in the pit, to just let the sugar caramelize and not burn.
  • Serve warm.
Note:
  • Butternut squash can be hard to cut. I found my chef’s knife particularly helpful. As per this tip that I found here much later, for an easier cut, pop the squash in the microwave for 60 seconds after piercing with a fork and then proceed to cut.
  • The recipe called for brown sugar, but I had cane sugar at hand, so used it. Suit yourself as per your pantry stock.