Boondi ke Laddu

Boondi Laddu is an Indian sweet. Pretty commonly made and easily available in all sweet stores, well almost. They are different from Motichoor Laddu since the boondi isn’t tiny. Motichoor Laddu has a different preparation method as well. Getting back to Boondi ke Laddu. I have a special connection with them, which I feel every kid brought up in India has. Every Independence Day and Republic day, schools in India have it mandatory for children to come to school and attend the flag hoisting ceremony along with programs that teach us the importance of freedom and also pass the information of how our freedom fighters worked together and fought to gift us a free country.

Boondi ke Laddu was a staple sweet distributed to all the kids at the end of the ceremony. Not just that, every Ramadan when the 27th Shab-e-qadar was celebrated and around that time the reading of the Quran in the local mosque, Boondi ke Laddu were distributed by my father. There were so many occasions and this sweet seemed to be the perfect thing for distribution and I have never met anyone who didn’t like them.

I never saw anyone ever make them at home but since we are all now in the USA and the Indian sweet stores here do not make these Laddus, so I had to get down and make them at home. I searched a few blogs and also some food websites, but the pictures they had and the explanation they had were more of Motichoor Laddu. See the fact is that at times you don’t want anything fancy but you just want to relive your childhood or you want to just get a taste of your country.

I tried making the Boondi Laddu a long time ago but the boondis came out long and they could not be bonded. Then during one of my visits to India, my Rakhi brother took me to a store that makes specialized ladles used for making boondis. I then tried making the Laddus again after coming to USA. Though I don’t think anything you make here can ever bring back the same happiness as being in your motherland and enjoying it since you would still miss the people you would enjoy those foods with. But as they say, you cannot fight your destiny, but you can always enjoy things that are around you and do everything that’s under your control.

These Laddus will definitely remind you of your childhood days. Though they require a little extra effort and it gets a little messy too, but it’s all worth the effort.

Badusha

Some sweets are connected to beautiful festivals. They always remind us of occasions and celebrations. I always connect Badusha or Balushahi with Diwali. I had friends who would serve homemade and sometimes store bought Badushas and they would be loved by everyone. I know this post should have actually been a Diwali special but sweets don’t need an occasion, they just need a sweet craving and zest and time to make a sweet dish.

Diwali is over but still posting this delicious balushahi recipe as I can’t resist my cravings and eternal love for Indian desserts or mithai. Since we don’t get Badusha in USA as it ain’t that popular here, mainly I feel its because the people have not tried it. So, I decided on making my own, multiple unsuccessful trials but I just had to make it perfect and I am glad I did. The temptation was too strong to let it go.

My mom is a big fan of this sweet dish. In fact I have heard stories that this was one of the sweet dishes made on my parent’s wedding. There is an old sweet market in my home city Jodhpur called “Pongal pada” and the street has variety of Badushas in different colors and textures and are called Maakhan Bada [meaning sweets made using butter]. Though Badusha is soaked in sugar syrup, the Maakhan Bada is covered with thick coated sugar, something close to fondant but slightly hard.

Once I cracked the recipe of the Badusha, there was no looking back. Its easy, flaky and your desire to eat just one, Did I say eat just? No one eats just one Badusha. Never!!! Its Balushahi in North India and called Badusha in South India. So, no matter what you call it, do try the recipe and make your own. These come out awesome, flaky and light. Once you try them, you will never bother getting them from the market sweet store anymore. Hope you like and enjoy them as much as I did.

Gajar Ka Halwa

Gajar ka Halwa is our winter favorite. The lovely sweetness of carrots mixed with sugar and milk and a hint of cardamom with desi ghee leaves you taste buds asking for more. Every family has their own version of Gajar ka Halwa and it’s the most common dessert in winters and can be found in most homes, specially during winters. With fresh carrots available in the market and the need to finish every meal with a dessert, this Gajar ka halwa definitely scores high.

I make mine with grated red carrots, milk, Khoya and sugar. It’s a winter delicacy and is made using the juicy red carrots. I also make it another way, which is my Mother’s recipe. Growing up I always felt that my mom makes the best ever carrot halwa. She would in fact even freeze the Halwa so we could enjoy it longer. My mom would cook her Halwa for hours on low heat and I as a kid, I would look forward to the Halwa. This sweet dish is mainly associated with North India. It is a rich, the texture is slightly grainy, with sweetness that makes the warm winter dessert taste delicious. I haven’t heard of any Indian who doesn’t love a good carrot halwa.

Garnished with slivers of dry fruits, it goes well with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side. I have a recipe of Gajar Ka halwa with Vanilla Ice cream on this blog too. That Halwa is made using condensed milk. So, it can be made any which way, eaten warm, with/without Vanilla Ice cream.

Most households in North Indian have their own recipe to make Gajar ka Halwa and with minor changes here and there, the taste changes drastically. This recipe of Carrot Halwa is my own and is one of the quickest and best I have had.

I grate the carrots and cook them in Ghee till they start releasing water. Once the water is dried, I add milk and cook the carrots till they are completely soft and the milk thickens while cooking the carrots and is only 1/4 left. I then add Khoya followed by sugar and cardamom powder. Cook till everything blends well and there is no liquid left in the Halwa. I only add Almonds, Pistachios and sometimes, cashews to my Halwa. But some people like adding Raisins which is completely optional and a personal choice.

I make Gajar ka Halwa pretty often and it finishes pretty quickly as well. You can easily double or triple the quantity of the ingredients and make a bigger batch if you want to. Along with the ingredients, the cooking time will also increase.  I try and pick carrots as red as possible and in case if I don’t get my hands on carrots that are red, I sometimes use a pinch of orange food color. It’s completely optional though.

Rava Coconut Laddu

Laddus are everyone’s favorite sweet. We all love them, from Besan to Motichoor to Coconut. Different kinds different occasions and just little edible balls of delicious taste that spread joy and happiness. I always loved Motichoor laddus, kind of my all the time go to and get happy sweets.

After I started on my venture of self discovery of being a home based chef, I started making different kinds of laddus. This is when Mr. Parveez asked me to make these Laddus with rava and coconut. These Laddus were something he ate during his childhood and still craved for. Now before I go ahead with the recipe and more details, let me also tell you that this was my third trial and the one that was closest to his childhood flavor.

Rava was roasted in ghee and then I added Besan to help the laddus bind better. I further roasted the grated coconut as well. I also roasted the cashews and Raisins in ghee. Mixed everything together and added sugar to it. Added the remaining ghee and shaped them. These Laddus can be kept in airtight container for up to 10 days.

Murgh Hyderabadi Biryani

Hyderabad has numerous varieties specially when it comes to Biryanis. I have tried making a wide range of different styles of Hyderabadi Biryanis. Each one has its own distinct flavor and ingredients. I always love how beautifully the heritage of Nizams is displayed in Hyderabadi food.

The dishes are not just rich in ingredients but also the recipes show how rich the food culture has been with the Nizams. We always hear stories of how generous the Nizams were when it came to entertaining and welcoming their guests. How lavish their Dastarkhaan or tables were. The curries, Haleem, so many varieties of sweet dishes that are served with oodles of dry fruits and cooked in clarified Butter are an evidence how much effort the Nizams made their Khansamas/chefs put into food.

The Nizams had a very influential. The history showcases the rich taste not just in Gems and Jewelry, but also in food. Use of Milk solids, Ghee, Dry fruits of different kinds is pretty common in most dishes. This dish has a paste of poppy seeds, cashews and coconut. Though the spice level isn’t too high, but the Biryani uses a paste of green chilies and you can always increase the green chilies if you wish to make it more spicy. Using Kewra with food color makes the Biryani smell rich and inviting as well. Besides that the Biryani is pretty easy to make. This dish is great for Beginners too. Enjoy!!!

Plum Cake

Plum cakes are just so special. Christmas all around the world is always so festive and beautiful. I love the old city charms, snow and the gorgeous decorations everywhere. Though, things were pretty festive while I was growing up but in a little different way. I went to catholic convent school and Christmas was always celebrated in an awesome way. The teachers, nuns and students would always put up a grand show on the last day before the Christmas break. One of the teachers would dress up as Santa Claus and distribute gifts to everyone.

What also made me look forward to Christmas in India was Plum cake. For some reason, Plum cake was always made only during the Christmas season. A local and very popular bakery in my hometown made delicious Plum cake and my father made sure he gets ample supply for the family because we all loved it and it was only available for a short period of time. Not just that, I would always look forward to visiting my Christian friends on Christmas and would love their awesome cake preparations on Christmas. Being a Muslim, we couldn’t eat Plum cake everywhere, since most people soak their dry fruits in Rum for a month or more and we could never try those. Thank God! the bakery was owned by a Muslim family.

I could never figure out what exactly they soak their dry fruits in and how exactly they make it so delicious, yet not adding any alcohol and making it exactly the same way as its traditionally made was simply amazing. But, of course, no baker would ever share the recipe, Right? and so, we would just enjoy the yummy Plum cake while the season lasted. After getting married, I discovered that Bangalore’s Iyengar bakeries have a non stop flow of Plum cakes all year round and since, we were travelling to India only during summer. Not just that, we also searched almost all bakeries in Indian areas in New Jersey only to find out that Plum cakes are not in demand so they don’t make it.

Most recipes you search will always ask you to soak the dry fruits in Rum or some other kind of alcoholic beverage and there is no alternative to it. Finally, I got this recipe from a friend’s aunt who happens to bake a traditional Plum cake for the family every Christmas and does not use alcohol. Initially I wasn’t so sure how the cake would turn out, because a few things in the recipe are not hard but slightly tricky but, once you get the hang of it, its a walk in the park. Just make sure you red and follow all the directions mentioned. I promise the cake will make you relive those beautiful childhood memories.

Tellichery Biryani

This recipe also happens to be from Kerala and is the second Biryani from this state that I tried out. Kerala is a state of distinct flavor. I know every state has their own flavors that are distinct and are easily distinguishable from the use of their local grown spices with methods of cooking different cuisines and also availability of local vegetation. Not forgetting their natural climate. Isn’t it amazing how every place has different things popular during different seasons and few things that are good to eat during all seasons. Hats off to generations before us who tried, tested and made so many different varieties of food that we just need to follow. And though, it all seems walk in the park, we still do not follow those age old recipes because we find them too time consuming in our busy lives today.

Thalassery town of Northern Kerala has a unique blend Arabian, Persian, Indian and European styles of cooking as a result as its long history as Maritime Trading Post. Tellichery is an anglicized name for Thalassery. The original name of Thalassery has been restored post Independence. Although both refer to the same place, the Tellichery Biryani is different from the Thalassery Biryani. This one is a little simpler version.

This Biryani does not use the Jeerakshala/Kaima Rice like the Thalassery Biryani and should be cooked with Long grain Basmati Rice. This recipe also displays the influence of Mughals in its flavors but seems to be slightly revised. Going through the ingredients, I do not find any ingredient that would distinguish this dish as a dish from Kerela. The recipe makes me feel that its made by some settlers who still did not adapt to the flavors of Kerela cuisine and were still new to incorporating the spice or certain ingredients to the dish. In all, this dish is great for all Biryani lovers, specially for Beginners. Therefore, if you happen to be someone new at making Biryani, this is for you. An easy, delicious and simple way of making a delicious Biryani.

Rose Kulfi

The wonderful world of cold desserts and the version of ice creams served in India “Kulfi”. The word Kulfi or Qulfi is an Indian word derived from the Persian word “Qufli” which means “covered cup”. The dessert was likely originated during the era of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. The mixture of milk, sugar and nuts. Kulfi is a gifted recipe from the Middle eastern travelers and settlers to India and neighboring countries. Along with so many architectural gifts to India, like the Taj mahal, which even till date makes our country so proud and has millions of visitors travel India only to see Taj Mahal once in their lifetime and so many gorgeous forts, along with Red Fort where the PM addresses the nation every year are all an awesome example of Mughal architectural skill.

Coming back the Kulfi, Indian cuisine were not aware of using Orange blossom, Rose water, saffron or a wide variety of dry fruits in the cuisine. The Mughals while introducing their cuisines and blending them with Indian flavors resulted in wide variety of Biryanis, Kebabs, curries and sweet dishes including Gulab Jamun, Jalebi and Rabri to name a few and of course, Kulfi.

This sweet dish is rich in flavor and can be made in various flavors and is always served cold. It can be served with Basil seeds or sabza that are soaked for an hour, as falooda. It can be flavored while serving as well. I usually like mine to be served with Rose syrup, or the popular Rooh Afza.

This particular recipe has Milk boiled till it thickens and reduces. Added Khoya and cooked further after adding sugar, cardamom powder, saffron, crushed Rose petals, Rose flavoring, a little red food color and Milk powder to thicken the mixture making the Kulfi more dense and creamier. You can always change the flavors in a Kulfi keeping the base the same.

I also use Silver leaf for decoration, but that’s always optional, but something that makes you home kulfi different from the restaurant and trust me, even better.

Kolhapuri Chicken Biryani

Biryani is an absolute classic that needs no introduction. India offers so much on its culinary platter but the one dish Non vegetarian Indians unanimously love indulging in is the mouth-watering biryani. With local and hyperlocal variations having evolved into distinctive styles of biryanis, one is spoilt for options when it comes to experiencing this melting pot of flavors. The delicious complex blend of spices are the reason behind the love this dish gets from people of all generations.So if you are a die-hard fan of this delicious dish, take things up a notch and tease your taste buds a little more with the story of what makes biryani so extraordinary.

Though it may appear to be a dish indigenous to  India, in reality the dish originated quite far away. Biryani is derived from the Persian word Birian, which means ‘fried before cooking’ and  Birinj, the Persian word for rice. While there are multiple theories about how biryani made its way to India, it is generally accepted that its a gift to the Indian cuisine from the Mughals. Along with extraordinary skills of architecture and artillery, they also came along with the beautiful flavors of orange blossom, screw pine water and Rose water mixed with saffron and the skill of using the beautiful spices India offered with other spices from the middle east and create so many non vegetarian dishes that would make Indian/Pakistani cuisines thank them till the end of the world.

One legend has it that the Turk-Mongol conqueror, Temur, brought the precursor to the biryani with him when he arrived at the frontiers of India in 1398. Believed to be the war campaign diet of Temur’s army, an earthen pot full of rice, spices and whatever meats were available would be buried in a hot pit, before being eventually dug up and served to the warriors.

The Nizams of Hyderabad and Nawabs of Lucknow were most famous for their appreciation of the subtle nuances of biryani. Their chefs are renowned the world over for their signature dishes. These rulers popularized their versions of the biryani, which by the way, just in Hyderabad is around 20-25 varieties along with mouth watering accompaniments like mirchi ka salan, Dahi ki chutney/ Raita, khatte baingan, Dalcha and baghare baingan. All different regions in India offer different accompaniments with the Biryani that they serve.

The perfect biryani calls for meticulously measured ingredients and a practiced technique. Other than the technique, spices also play a critical role in dishing out a good biryani – some recipes call for a very limited use of spices while others use more than 15 different spices. Meat or chicken is often the main ingredient, though in some coastal varieties, fish, prawns, and crabs are also used. Use of rose water, screw pine water / kewra water in biryani is also common, a practice prevalent since the medieval era. The pot, sealed around the edges with dough, or covered with a cloth with the lid or something heavy is placed on the lid that doesn’t allow the steam to escape and for the meat to tenderize in its own juices while flavoring the rice.

This recipe of Biryani as the name indicates is from the princely state in Southern Maharashtra, Kolhapur, also popular for its footwear. Though the original recipe also has Raisins, but I have not added them as I do not enjoy sweet with spicy in my Biryani. You can always add it if you prefer. This recipe is super spicy, since most Maharashtrian foods are spicy so this one is a little more for the daring ones. But for sure a recipe that’s a must try for any Biryani lover.


Kalakand

Kalakand is a popular and delicious Indian sweet. Its made by mixing Paneer with sugar and further mixing them with Reduced milk. Its a pretty dense milk fudge. It’s soft, grainy and delicious. It has a light flavor of Cardamom and saffron.

It has a subtle flavoring of cardamom and fragrance of Saffron. The top is decorated with Almonds and pistachios. You can also add some Rose petals. This recipe helps you make Kalakand at home with ease. The fact is when you are in a country far from home and you don’t get your favorite sweets where you live, then you have to make them at home. This recipe has all the details that will make the perfect Kalakand, the exact flavor from our home country.

Not that this recipe will be easy, but for sure the steps from this recipe are simple to understand and if you follow them properly, your Kalakand will be as amazing as it should be. The recipe is made from scratch and you can do it pretty easily, no fancy gadgets or ingredients needed either. It requires basic skills to stir well and stay focused for an hour and trust me, the result won’t just amaze you but it will be worth every second you spend. My hometown Jodhpur has some wonderful stores that specialize in making Kalakand and every time my family wanted kalakand, we would always get it from that particular sweet shop. When I tried making it at home, my mother definitely thought that I have gone completely nuts, but I didn’t have another option. Another problem with sweet stores in USA is that they do not make sweets other than those which are popular like Bengali sweets, one or 2 kinds of laddus, jalebi to name a few. They do sell Burfi but if you ever feel that you will find a wide variety like India then you will be highly disappointed and that’s when people like me come in and teach you easy ways of making your own.

Kalakand recipe is made using a handful of very basic ingredients like Homemade Cottage cheese/Paneer, Milk, cardamom crushed / cardamom powder, saffron, sugar and almonds+pistachios to garnish. As fancy as it looks, there is actually nothing too hard about this scrumptious sweet dish. Kalakand is best served cold, so make sure you keep it refrigerated.

Just make sure you keep a few things in mind when you decide on making Kalakand. Its always advisable to use freshly homemade Paneer. Fresh Paneer is soft in texture and blends well when we cook it with milk, giving that perfect grainy texture to the Kalakand, which is what you really want. A store bought Paneer is usually not too fresh and becomes firm. A firm and old Paneer or a frozen Paneer will never give you the same results. Almonds, Pistachios are rose petals look on Kalakand. To make it look more expensively rich, adding a few saffron strands would be great too. Enjoy!!!