Friday, January 15, 2016

TiLachi vaDi or chikki - Sesame Brittle

तिळगूळ घ्या गोड बोला।।

Makar Sankrant is just around the corner. It marks end of winter solstice. It is believed that the Sun starts moving towards Northern Hemisphere on this day by length of one sesame seed! This is the only festival in India is celebrated by Solar calendar, all others are celebrated according to Lunar calendar. It is celebrated all over India. It is called Sankrant in most of Northern India and as Pongal in Southern India.
It is winter time in India in January so Sesame seeds are used in abundance.  It is believed that people should eat more healthy oils during winter time to fight cold weather. Jaggery produces heat and believed to be better for health if eaten during wintertime.

Making chikki or brittle is easy but can be tricky. It needs little patience to make it crispy and not chewy. Here is my mom's recipe which she learned from my grandmother (her mother-in-law). My mom makes the best chikkis ever! I learnt to make these from her when I was in college. And easiest available ingredients to practice were churmure/kurmure (puffed rice) or roasted peanuts. And growing up in a sugarcane capital of Maharashtra helped because we always had organic jaggery in abundance at home!

TiLachi Vadi (Sesame Brittle)

Here is how my mom makes chikki -

1 cup Sesame Seeds
1/2 cup Roasted Peanut Powder (coarsely ground)
1 cup Grated Jaggery
3-4 Cardamom Pods
2-3 tbsp Graded Dry Coconut
2 tbsp Walnut Oil / Ghee (divided use)

Preparation - 
Pick over sesame seeds and dry roast them on low heat. Seeds will plump up once they are roasted properly. Do not let the seeds burn. Set it aside once roasted.
Grease stainless steel plate (10-12" diameter) and a flat bottom stainless steel bowl with little ghee or walnut oil).
Add jaggery in a heavy bottom pan, add about 2 tbsp water.
Start heating jaggery water mixture on low-medium heat. Do not increase heat as it will burn jaggery quickly and color of the final product will be darker.
Soon the syrup will start boiling (4-5 minutes), keep stirring to avoid burning the jaggery. Syrup will start bubbling. Take 1/2 cup water in a separate bowl and drop single small drop of syrup in the water. Move the drop in water to cool it. Now see if that has become hard like candy. You can try chewing it. If the ball does not stick to your teeth and is crunchy then syrup is ready. If it is chewy then keep stirring on low heat for couple more minutes and taste for the crunchiness by adding another drop in water bowl.
Once syrup is ready add 1 tbsp ghee or walnut oil and mix quickly. Remove the pan from heat then add roasted sesame seeds, peanut powder and dry coconut and quickly mix everything. It will form a ball, quickly pour that in greased plate and flatten with back of a greased bowl. You have to work quickly as jaggery will start cooling off quickly making it hard to work with.
Once the surface is flat and the thickness is even then using sharp knife cut into diamond shapes without going through the brittle.
Let it cool completely (3--40 minutes) and then make the pieces on the scorched lines. Enjoy!

They last for more then 15-20 days if stored in a airtight container.

Here is collage of steps -

Sesame Brittle Step By StepTips -
  • The process sounds tedious and lengthy but start to finish it takes maximum 30 minutes. 
  • Making the candy consistency of jaggery is the key. Do not rush through that step. 
  • I usually make it in a non-stick pan and at the end of the process my pan is clean as it it was never used. 
  • I cover my large cutting board with aluminum foil and grease that and a rolling pin with walnut oil. And roll it quickly to make thin (1/4 centimeter) brittle. 
  • I have never used candy thermometer to make these, if you use it, please drop a line about that process. 
Other Makar Sankrant Specials -

Monday, January 04, 2016

Light Paav Bhaaji

Paav Bhaji is a crowd pleasing one dish meal that almost everyone loves. I like to slurp the bhaji with least amount of paav(breads) possible. I like the taste of all the vegetables together and spicy soup like paav bhaji. Everyone has their own recipe and they swear by its authenticity and I am no different. I like my vegan version of Paav Bhaji with crusty sourdough bread. Little while ago a friend told me she uses Kasuri Methi to garnish at the end and I tried that and fell in love with it. Another time different friend told me she uses mushrooms instead of potatoes and she loves that version. I am not a great fan of mushroom so I have not tried that version.

Later one day when I was making paav bhaji I remembered the conversation and wanted to cut down number of potatoes. So I decided to use big chunk of Dudhi or Ash Gourd which was eagerly waiting in my fridge to be used in something fancy(or not)! I had to pay attention to few things while making the final version but the general result was very light but tasty version of paav bhaji. I loved it, but significant other thinks its good for us to enjoy at home but might not be as crowd pleasing as the original version. Now I am looking for guinea pigs for my next round of trial :)

Here is the recipe for you to try and report if you liked it or still prefer the original potato heavy version!

Light Pav Bhaji

Serves 4 people generously.

2 Medium White Potatoes
1/2 of medium Dudhi (Ash Gourd)  (2-3 cups cubed)
1 Large Bell Pepper/Capsicum (I use red)
1 Small Carrot
Few Green Beans
3-4 Medium Tomatoes
1 cup Green Peas (Please do not use Petite Green peas they are too sweet)
3-4 Byadagi Chilies
1 Small Blob of Ginger (grated)
2tbsp Paav Bhaji Masala (or per taste)
Red Chili Powder - Per Taste
Salt - per taste
3-4 tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
Water as needed

Garnish - 
1 Small Onion
Chopped Cilantro
Lemon Wedges

Pav/Sourdough Dinner Rolls/Dinner Rolls

Preparation -
Wash all the vegetables. 
Peel potatoes, cut in half.
Peel carrot and cut in 3-4 pieces.
Peel dudhi and dice in 1" cubes.
Quarter one tomato.
Add all these vegetables in pressure cooker, add one cup of water and pressure cook for about 15-20 minutes on medium heat or until done.
Meanwhile, chop onion, tomatoes, and bell pepper in 1/2" dice.
Mash all cooked vegetables with potato masher.
Heat oil in heavy bottom pan, add chopped onion and sauté onion until golden brown.
Mix in chopped tomatoes and sauté till oil separates.
Now its time to add chopped bell pepper and sauté until done.
Add green peas, pav bhaji masala, red chili powder and salt. Mix and cover for 3-4 minutes util peas are cooked. Mash with potato masher.
Add grated ginger and all mashed up vegetables, mix well.
Adjust salt, pavbhaji masala and chili powder.
Let the bhaji boil.

Serve piping hot as usual with toasted pav, chopped ciltantro, chopped onion and lemon wedge.

Tips -
  1. You can use zucchini or any other summer squashes instead of dudhi. 
  2. Please use water as when needed, dudhi or summer squashes contain water and can make bhaji bit watery. 

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