Monday, 14 July 2014

Moody Monsoon!

                                      Oops! I have done it again, disappearing one more time, remaining silent and leaving behind confused readers.  Well, initially I did decide to leave a gap before I posted my next recipe, as I wanted "The making of ghee" post to reach more people and create awareness that just any block of butter can never produce pure ghee, but the gap widened a little looooonger than I had planned, as I got myself involved in activities that I had long desired, which kept and still keeping me away from my own blog for days.  But, Wow! It feels so good to be posting again, especially on a day, when the weather is so nice and cool. Hot coffee and good music is all I have in mind right now.

                     My untouched camera, dust gathered props and the unused beautiful porcelain wares constantly remind me of my absence and what I am missing. I know I promised a recipe and I shall post it when I get back to my kitchen, until then enjoy the monsoon, the best season of the year that elevates the mood to an ecstatic level, after long dry days. The above picture is a pencil sketch of mine based on a beautiful photograph found on the web. I can totally understand, if you are too urged to change/close the page, not able to withstand looking at it!

Monday, 12 May 2014

How To Make Ghee (Nei) - The Traditional South Indian Method - Home Made Ghee

                The very second the Drumstick leaves are dropped in the hot ghee, the lovely crackling sound and the aroma wafting through the air, will bring my son where ever he was running to the kitchen and ask with such happiness in his face, if it was going to be ghee rice with that ‘leaves’ for lunch that day. A delightful food experience that he will never forget, like I never did.

                     He grew up on home made ghee until we had the luxury of fresh milk from our home bred cow. I remember making a litre or two of ghee every few months and add a tsp of ghee while feeding him dal rice or with rasam, or with greens, or with sambar almost every day and all that ghee never made him fat. A tsp of home made ghee made the traditional way is recommended for good health, even otherwise I wouldn’t say no to home made ghee.  If you have ever made ghee the way we South Indians make, I can assure you that, neither the experience nor the aroma of the ghee made in this manner will leave your memory ever.

                  To make ghee, we need butter. Butter can be made in two different methods. Traditionally butter is churned from home made curd on a full moon day and the ghee made from the traditionally churned butter happens to be the healthiest and the pure form of ghee suitable for consumption, especially for growing kids. It takes only less than a day to make ghee using the traditional method.

          In the traditional method of churning butter, the reason I have used a clay pot is, due to its earthen nature the clay pot keeps the content cool and the butter is churned far quickly than when churned in other vessel and moreover the narrow neck of the clay pot prevents the liquid from splashing all over and spilling outside while churning which is what usually happens when made in a regular vessel making the entire surrounding a messy place. I would strongly suggest to use a clay pot if following this method for the best result.

The second method is by collecting the cream that settles on top of the milk for several days ( a little curd is added to the cream halfway through the collecting period) and then the collected cream is churned to extract butter which is then melted to make ghee. The ghee made in this manner is of second quality with little health benefits as it is neither made fresh nor it is properly cultured like the traditional method.The ghee made in each of this method has its own character and effect when consumed.

                    I have shown the two methods of making ghee right from scratch, from milk to curd to butter to ghee, which happens to be the traditionally practised method of churning butter in a time when there was no refrigerator or other electric gadgets and the second method of churning butter from cream collected over a period of time. However since it is not feasible for all to get fresh cow milk you can use fresh cream available in some bakeries or in stores in cartons to churn butter. If in India you can use Milky Mist Fresh Cream to churn butter.

Empty the contents of the carton ( chilled milky mist cream) into a bowl and beat using an electric beater on high speed until the butter separates leaving behind butter milk. I have tried this too successfully, although I wanted to include this in the video, since I didn’t have any store bought cream in hand I couldn’t . Butter churned in this method can be used to make ghee following the procedure shown in the video. In the video you will see:
How to make Curd from scratch using raw milk,
How to make butter from curd
How to make butter from cream
How to make Ghee from Home made butter, in the traditional SouthIndian method.

Home Made Ghee ( Nei) from scratch, using whole milk/ How to hand churn butter from Curd/ How to churn butter from Cream

Since it is always advised to use melted ghee for better health, store the ghee in a steal jar with a handle as it will be easy to melt the ghee whenever needed.

Don’t ever be mislead by suggestions that tell you to use commercially available butter to make ghee, as what you will be getting is only melted butter and not ghee. I have tried that too during a period when there was no more cow and no more fresh milk and when I was desperate for home made ghee. I tried making ghee with the commercially available butter and without a second thought, it went straight down the sink hole. For someone who have tasted real ghee for years and made from scratch using fresh raw materials, I can say with conviction that the methods I have given here are the only best ways to make home made ghee and I would suggest to never ever make ghee from store bought butter, because it is not ghee, it is just plain melted butter.

The same procedures can be followed to make ghee using buffalo milk too, but the ghee made from buffalo has its own character.
Don’t try to make using store bought milk you will not succeed. I have tried that too using milk with even 6% fat , churning for more than an hour and there was not a trace of butter.
The milk we buy in packets undergoes various stages of processing not just stripped of its nutrients and fats but added with various chemicals to prolong its shelf life so it is not possible to extract butter from commercially available milk and the same applies to butter blocks that you buy from the store, which is not fit for making ghee.
The ghee on cooling begins to solidify with a lovely sand like texture  as seen in the picture. ( Shot on the second day of making)
For the second and third method the cream must be cold before it is churned.
Don’t use frozen milk, avoid even the so called organic milk that comes frozen, the truth is, it is barely edible, can’t take more than a sip !
Try to source fresh milk from someone who owns a cow for the best home made ghee that is absolutely nutritious and flavoursome.

Apart from cooking, Ghee can be applied on mouth ulcers to get cure. It also helps in treating skin rashes. Also when skin is scalded, ghee can be applied to prevent the formation of a scar.

Save a little ghee until I post my next recipe using the ghee which is going to be an even more traditional food, which you might not have heard of!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies With Pistachios And Rose

                             Some time during the 90’s, whistling a happy tune and fiddling in the kitchen, I caught the attention of my father who was working in the garden to peep through the window, only to be surprised to see his teenage daughter whistle like a boy. Music on the background, whistling along, has always been my happy quotient and a sure indicator that I am completely enjoying what I do. Especially If I happen to be cooking, my good mood reflects in the food prepared. Blessed are those people who create music, as they are truly gifted. I may not be gifted, but love the sound of music resonating around me and whistling happens to be my comfort level of expressing, even though it may not follow any of the rules laid down by the Music Grammar!

                        Recently Chennai was blessed with musical showers by not one, but two orchestras. One, by The BBC scottish Symphony Orchestra and the other by Yaani. I was fortunate enough to attend both and witness the musical extravaganza that rocked Chennai for the first time. It was a lively atmosphere at Yaani’s performance, as the crowd cheered for every single movement by yaani and every word he spoke. His exuberance was so contagious, that the crowd never sulked even for a moment, but rather the smitten fans demanded for more. While you could not hear nothing more than a loud applause at the BBC SSO, from the so called elegant crowd, who even responded only feebly when they were wished Good Evening, it was totally a contrasting scenario. Living in the land of Ilayaraja whose music reigns and the home town of an oscar winner, it would be a sin not to love music and aptly chennaites have proved it all right by appreciating the beauty of music in both these orchestras.

                  My recent obsession has been listening to ABBA’s chiquitita and I am totally driving everybody crazy playing it over and over again! Well, who can resist Classics! Vanessa Mae and Estos Tonne ( His "Between Fire and Water " , "The Golden Dragon" and "Cuban Dance and Rhapsody" will surely make you fall for this Jesus look alike guy) are two other musicians whose live performance I wish to watch in the future, if I am lucky. Anything can happen anytime in Chennai!

Flour                        200 g
Oil                           6 Tbsp
Light brown Sugar     1/2 cup ( packed )
Pistachios                   1/2 cup ( chopped )
Rose Essence              1/2 tsp
Earl Grey Tea bags     2
Baking Powder           1 tsp
Milk                         1/3 cup ( 5 1/2 tbsp)

Grind the light brown sugar to a fine powder.
Empty the contents of two tea bags into a bowl and to this add flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and mix well.
Add the oil and rub into the mixture using hands, until well mixed and resembles wet sand.
Add chopped pistachios and the rose essence and give a stir.
Add the milk and gather everything to form a soft dough. Do not knead.
Place the dough in between two plastic sheets and roll into a thin sheet of 1/4 inch thickness or desired thickness and cut out shapes.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper and spray oil or grease it with butter or oil.
Arrange the cut out cookie dough on the prepared baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180Âșc for about 15 minutes.
Let it rest in the oven for another 5 minutes before removing from the oven and cooling it.
The cookies will become crispier as it cools down.

Can use butter ( 80 g) instead of oil for a rich buttery taste. ( I have tried )
These cookies can be made without the tea also and using various other combinations.( I have made them)
Like, pistachios and rose can be skipped and instead orange zest can be added along with the earl grey for a lovely citrusy shortbread.
The cookies can be made much thinner than the ones shown here but adjust the cooking time as it will take less time to cook.
The pistachios can also be coarsely powdered and added to the flour and made into thin crisp cookies which also tastes delicious. ( I have made them)
You can use rose water  if available instead of rose essence. ( Rose water is available in ‘NutsnSpices' shop)
You can use French Earl Grey Tea which is rose flavoured, in which case skip using rose essence or rose water.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Fruit Mix Sarbath, Nongu Sarbath - Summer Drinks, Mixed Fruits Sherbet and Palm fruit/ Ice Apple Sherbet

                               It took me some time to decide not to abandon my blog, casting away the frustrations  that was eating me up in the recent months, seeing my recipes repeated elsewhere. I wonder how, even their food experience seems to be same as mine,  May be, if I happened to say, I saw an ant swallow an elephant, I guess even that would be replicated!

 Perhaps everything comes with a price for a reason I suppose! As I sit to compose a post every time, I am thinking I don’t want to share this here, as I know there’s going to be similar version of my recipe elsewhere sooner or later and that has prevented me from posting several recipes, which I guess will be saving them for reasons I don’t know right now. Here I am, staring at my almost abandoned blog, still learning to ignore such annoyance and trying to keep my blog alive.

The following recipes are a summer treat for all genuine readers of my blog. Two beautiful drinks that I have enjoyed always and happy to share.

Fruit Mix Sarbath
It was a sunny April afternoon in the year 2000, when one of my colleague asked me If I wanted a fruit mix, as they were going to send someone to buy. They wouldn’t believe me when I told them I don’t know what a fruit mix was. Soon, the fruit mix came parcelled in several small plastic bags and they all began to gorge on the drink.When I was offered my share, I told them to reserve until I finished my work. Hours passed by and finally when I finished my work and asked for my share of the fruit mix, they happily told me they finished my drink too as it was too tempting! I didn’t complain, but the curious drink just stayed in my head.

A few years later, stepping down from the bus holding my son’s hand, once again on a sunny april afternoon walking towards my parents place, I decided to treat myself and my son with a fruit mix not just to quench our thirst, but also my ever pending thirst for the fruit mix that seemed eternal and so for the first time, both of us had our first fruit mix and do I have to tell that we did have another glass of fruit mix each?

               It became a habit every year to stop by the shop for the fruit mix, until one day when the shop was closed forever and I ended up enquiring another fruit juice shop if he had any, which he didn’t and he told me sheepishly," if only you know how it is made, you wouldn’t be asking for the drink"!
Now, that I know why he said so, I make my own and summer needn’t be that terrible, if you have such delicious drinks around you.

If you wonder how can a fruit mix that sounds and appears like a super healthy drink can possibly go wrong, I suppose fruits that were too ripe or not fit for sale were used up to make this drink ( that usually gets thrown away or goes wasted causing loss for the seller) As a drink it actually benefits them by giving profit and in the disposal of second quality fruits.

Nongu Sarbath
Travel down south of Tamil Nadu, especially towards Nagercoil, you will find men and sometimes women standing by the National Highway Roads, with a big bunch of tender Palm fruits by their side, a sickle in their hand, coloured sarbath bottles, ice box, several glasses, a steel bowl and a steel tumbler, all arranged on a stool, ready to fix the drink when asked. During our road trips, I usually give a heart attack to people who drive, by suddenly shouting to stop the car if I ever spot palm fruit by the road side. Now, people automatically slow down when they spot one and would look at me for confirmation.

Recently, I was more than surprised when I spotted nongu sarbath being sold this past january during our road trip down south, as it wasn’t even summer yet and naturally we gave the woman who fixed our nongu sarbath a good business for the thirty minutes we stayed there. As she was slicing the palm fruit to extract the tender ones, we rummaged her small stall of snacks, murukkus made in coconut oil stacked in glass jars and we tried to knock down tamarind fruit from the trees near by throwing the dried palm fruit husk and we went for a second drink when we knew just one glass of that delicious drink wasn’t enough.  The palm fruits were really tender with a light skin which she used them all without peeling it and I have shown the exact method she did to fix the drink for us. I still remember my father teasing her saying that, "what an ingenious idea, you don’t even require a mixie"!

You’ll have to watch the video to learn how to fix these drinks, as it will be much easier to understand when seen.
Watch the video for the recipe

All the syrups mentioned in the video can be homemade and the recipes are already given in the blog.
You can always add water if required, if you find the drink too sweet.
Can squeeze in some lemon juice to the drink for added taste.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Cheeni Mittai, Karupatti Mittai

                                    Now don't get me all wrong and assume I am digging into traditional recipes on purpose. Believe me, it is pure coincidence! What started as a road trip to kancheepuram this past december ended in Alagar koil this january like a pilgrimage and the past few posts and the present one are just reflections of my food experience en route.

                                                                     Cheeni Mittai
                                                                    Karuppatti Mittai

A short break at keezha Eral to shop for cheeni mittai, kadalaimittai, kaarasev, motta sev, karupatti and karupatti mittai proved to be more exciting for the old guys than us, as it kind of ignited their school time memories of savouring cheeni mittai while walking back from school in Madurai. Well, nothing prevented them even now to chew on some cheeni mittai, forgetting they were all diabetic for a moment.

                                                                 Jangiri Cloth
                        As perfect as a name could fit, cheeni mittai is an extremely sweet  and a traditional sweet meat popular down south. I would call it the uncorrupted version of the jangiri as it is made without adding any synthetic food colour or artificial essence. While Jangiri is made entirely of urad dal and a little rice, cheeni mittai and karuppatti mittai are made with more of rice and less urad dal. Cheeni mittai will be crisp soaked in a lovely cardamom scented sugar syrup, while jangiri will be soft with a rose scented sugar syrup coating its orange swirls. Cheeni Mittai and karuppatti mittai are actually broken into weighable pieces before it is sold, as originally it is one large piece of mittai arranged in a wide plate in a circular pattern one over the other.
                                                          Soaking in sugar syrup

                     Using a jangiri cloth of smaller sized hole will give a good texture to the cheeni mittai.  I have shown using an icing nozzle to make cheeni  mittai as well as using a jangiri cloth. Jangiri cloth is nothing but a Gaada cloth with a small cut, which is stitched like a button hole.

Rice                             1 cup
Urad Dal                      1/4 cup
Sugar                          2 cup
Water                         1 cup
Cardamom                   8
Dried ginger powder        1 tsp
Use karuppatti (palm jaggery) to make karuppatti mittai

Rinse and soak rice and urad dal for about 5 - 6 hours.
Grind them to a thick batter.
Using a jangiri cloth, pipe the batter into a pan of hot oil and cook on low heat only till done. Do not let it change colour, it has to be pale in colour, yet cooked. Place the cooked mittai  in the suagr syrup.
Make a sugar syrup by combining sugar or Karupatti and water in a pan, bring to a boil, add the split cardamom and the dried ginger powder and turn off when it comes to a sticky syrup stage.
Immerse the cooked mittai in the hot sugar syrup and leave it soak.
Cheeni mittai has to be crisp yet juicy, when bitten.
Use karupatti to make karupatti mittai. Even though I like cheeni mittai, Karupatti mittai tops in terms of taste and flavour.

Holding a camera in one hand and working with hot oil is not an easy task, so initially I have shown a rough demo on how to make the pattern, which should be enough if you prefer to use less oil. Follow the same procedure to make karuppatti mittai, you will have to use palm jaggery syrup instead of sugar syrup, although it will not be shown in the video.

So many things can go wrong while making cheeni mittai, since it is made with more of rice if you fry it longer you will end up with a hard and crunchy cheeni mittai and if it is under cooked you will end up with a soggy mittai. This can happen even if your batter is not of the right consistency.
Can add pinch of salt to the batter before frying.

The original Cheeni mittai sold in Thangapandian mittai kadai, at Keezha Eral, main road.

Border Kadai 
                 When talking about southern delicacies, It won't be right if I didn't mention the popular food spot a few kilometres from Kutralam, also called as Border kadai, drawing swarms of people, not just tourists, but even people from far off places, who come exclusively for the food and unless you are an early bird, getting a spot to sit inside this busy eatery is not guarantied . For once, if you can stop thinking about hygiene and health issues, it's a perfect place to enjoy some delicious food. It's natural to be surprised at this heavily crowded shop, but there's nothing attractive about the place, except the food, that's delicious in every bit you savour.

                                                      At least six men working at a mind blowing speed and this is just one  side of the eatery, as there are more men working on the other side as well, catering to a different section of crowd.

 Fat, cholesterol, cleanliness, hygiene, are words not to be spoken here, other wise you might sound like a preacher among non-believers. While some people will be worried about the amount of oil that goes into the making of these food, most of them will be worried if they will ever get enough of their favourite food without running short of it!
Food is fantastic, business is busy, why talk about other things?

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