Walnut Date Squares with Flax seeds and Dark Chocolate
Cannot believe this year has flown by so fast, it is that time of the year already!
Cannot believe this year has flown by so fast, it is that time of the year already!
Remember, in my after vacation come back post, I mentioned that all I did was eating and zero cooking, when I was back home in India? It was true. And, I also hoped to share recipes of some lovely food I ate then. So, this is from one such unforgettable eating experiences.
While I was in Mysore, my maami (uncle’s wife) had prepared special sweets and savories to welcome the longtime visiting family, ahem, us. When she offered me a coconut burfi, at first , I was judgemental. How didfferent can a coconut burfi be?
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?
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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 Simmer, Kathy 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?
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
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.