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Monday, April 23, 2018

Mahim Halwa/ Ice Halwa

This is a halwa I had eaten eons ago as a kid when I visited Mumbai. We didn't indulge in this sweet a lot because the ones that are store bought are made using hydrogenated oil and were thought to be too unhealthy. I was searching for this recipe because a sweet that a friend shared reminded me of it. I came across many recipes but they all used semolina/rava as the main ingredient. The original version is made using corn starch. I wanted to make it as close to the store bought version but use clarified butter or ghee instead of hydrogenated oil. I liked the video demonstration of the technique on Bhavna's kitchen channel. It is a fairly straightforward recipe and the only thing that makes it challenging is the continuous stirring that it essential to getting the right texture.





Ingredients
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp ghee (you can increase the ghee amount to 1/2 cup if you want)1 cup water or milk 1 cup sugar1 tsp rose water (optional)1/2 tsp cardamom powder15-20 strands of saffron crushed1 tbsp finely sliced almonds and pistachio (optional)



Method
Make sure to prepare the surface on which you will roll the halwa ready. You can use a silicone mat and a sheet of parchment or a couple sheets of parchment (approx 2 ft in length). If using aluminum foil or  the back surface of a baking sheet, make sure to grease it with ghee before you start the cooking process. I do not use plastic sheets as the mixture is hot and I do not want any plastic leaching into the halwa.

In an open flat saucepan (helps with faster evaporation) mix together the corn starch,1/4 cup ghee, water/milk and sugar. Stir it and keep it aside for 20-30 mins and let the ingredients soak. Then stir the mixture well to dissolve most of the sugar and ensure that there are no lumps of cornstarch. Then put it on low medium heat and stir this mixture continuously. In the beginning while it is still very fluid, you do not need to stir it constantly but as soon as the mixture starts to heat up, keep stirring constantly to avoid lumps. This is a little laborious but well worth it in the end. Keep the heat at medium low and keep stirring and press down any lumps that start to form( about 20-30 mins) till it comes together like a dough. Now turn off the heat and add the remaining 2 tsps of ghee and knead it with your spatula and bring the mixture together and then mix in the rose water, if using. 




Now it is important to work fast. Pour this dough onto a silpat/parchment/prepared aluminum foil. Place another parchment paper on top of the dough sandwiching the dough between the two. Then roll out the dough as thin as possible. Peel the paper intermittently and check how thin it is. It should be transparent. That's when you know it is at the right thinness. Then sprinkle the cardamom, saffron and nuts over the rolled dough, place the parchment paper again and lightly roll over the sprinkled spice and nut mixture embedding it into the halwa. Now peel the paper and let it dry. 



When it is semi dry, cut the rolled sheet into squares. It can take from a couple of hours to a few hours or overnight for the halwa to dry and get the perfect texture, depending on the weather, humidity, and rolled dough thickness. Separate into squares when completely dry. Alternate wax paper or parchment paper sheets cut to the same dimensions as the halwa, between each halwa slice. Your halwa is ready to serve. Store in the fridge.


Tips
If you use rose water when the heat is still on, the fragrance will disintegrate and you may not get that rose fragrance. You can also make colorful halwa by adding a few drops of color to the mixture when you soak the ingredients together.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sutarpheni/ Sutarfeni - Take Two - The Professional Version

I had made this a few days ago and the version made with just all purpose flour, water and ghee was a big hit at home. However it didn't look the same as the store bought version which is usually white and has very fine strands. I was however not completely happy with the result. I wanted to figure out how to make the same version as the professionals in the sweet shops make. I had to figure out a way of stopping the threads from collapsing into each other as they became thinner and another was to find a way to be able to cook the sutarpheni and keep it a white color instead of a golden brown. Also I had to use a finer instrument than a fork to separate the threads out.

So I made a couple of adjustments to the original recipe, eliminated some steps which didn't seem essential to the thread making process and was able to make the perfect sutarpheni, just like the store bought one. This version was as laborious as the first one but the end result was so perfect, I was completely thrilled. So here is the recipe for the professional version. 




Ingredients 
1 cup all purpose flour
Water to knead dough and for syrup
3/4 cup ghee to soak dough
2 tbsp corn flour
1/2 cup oil
1/4 tsp salt
Oil for frying
1 cup sugar
sliced almonds and pistachios for garnish (optional)
rose water (optional)



Method
Add the salt to the flour and using minimal water, knead the all purpose flour into dough. It should be a tight dough. Cover the bowl and let it rest for at least 1 hour upto 3 hours. The dough will soften.

In a plate/tray which has an edge, pour the ghee and oil. Add cornflour to it and whisk up the mixture with your fingers or a fork for a minute or two till it is well mixed. 
Then divide this dough into 3-4 pieces, each a large fistful. Roll each piece into a ball, flatten it and make a neat hole in the center of it (like a doughnut) and place each ball into the tray. The ghee, oil and corn flour mixture will rise up into the center hole and prevent it from closing up. Make sure to place these in an order. Now start with the first dough ball. Stretch the center hole as long as you can (the dough shouldn't tear) and place it back in the plate. Do the same with all the pieces. Make sure you maintain the order. Then let them rest for a minute or two. Then start with the first dough piece and stretch the center out further. If it becomes a very long loop, wrap it over itself (like you would wrap a thread). Do this with each piece. Repeat this process or elongating and wrapping till you start seeing fine threads in your dough ball (see video below). Keep winding the threads onto themselves as you keep elongating it. It took me about 1.5 hours of wrapping to get really thin threads.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Once hot (test the oil temperature by adding little dough and if it comes up immediately, it is hot) place one of the dough ball which should look like a thread ball into the ghee. Use a sharp skewer to tease the dough strands away from each other. Fry at a medium high temperature and fry it till the bubbles start to subside. It will take a a minute or two. Then flip it over and fry for another 30 seconds to a minute. It will feel soft as you turn it

Remove it and drain completely. At this stage you can store it for later use.






To make the syrup
Cover the sugar with just enough water to submerge the sugar. Now bring it to a boil and boil it for a couple minutes and make a simple syrup. Once cool, pour this syrup over the sutarpheni or dunk the sutarpheni in the syrup. You can add rose water to the syrup. 
You can also sprinkle powdered sugar on the sutarpheni when hot and let it melt.

Garnish with slices pistachios and almonds. 



Tips
Addition of the cornflour helps in keeping the threads separate and prevents them from collapsing into each other, as the other dough balls are being processed. It is easier to control the oil temperature and things fry at a slower pace in oil than in ghee. Hence the color of the sutarpheni can remain white even when it is completely cooked.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Sutarpheni/Sutarfeni - A Delicacy

This is another delicacy that I had never made before. It is fine strands of dough wrapped in a circle that is deep fried and then covered by syrup. You may have seen recipes using the shredded phyllo dough. I wanted to know how to make it from flour directly instead of the store bought phyllo dough. If you have been reading the blog, you know I enjoy trying out traditional recipes using the original method. So without wasting time, I called up my Mom and asked her if she knew how to make it. She had an old marathi recipe book which provided the traditional method of making them. I noted it down, discussed it with mom and decided to tackle it immediately. The end result was fantastic.  The only difference from the store bought version was the color and hence the texture was also little better and crispier instead of the chewy texture that the store bought one tends to have. I didn't want to risk leaving any part of the sutarpheni uncooked, so I fried it till t was a folder brown color. 

I am ecstatic that I was able to reproduce this delicacy at home, that too from scratch. Even though it is laborious, the process is so much fun that I plan to make it frequently. I enjoyed taking photos of this dish and this post has a lot of pictures.








Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
Water to knead dough and for syrup
1/2-1 cup ghee to soak dough
1/4 tsp salt
Ghee for frying
1 cup sugar
Sliced almonds and pistachios for garnish (optional)
Rose water (optional)




Method
Using minimal water, knead the all purpose flour into dough. It should be a hard and tight dough. Cover the bowl and let it rest for at least 3 hours. The dough will soften a little. Then using a pestle, pound the dough and add a little water at a time. Then knead it again. During the last step of the process, dissolve the salt in a tsp of water and add this water to the dough. Pound it and knead it well. Make sure to add enough water and pound it till the dough is very soft, smooth and extremely pliable. 

In a plate which has an edge, pour half cup of ghee (to begin with) and whisk it up with your fingers for a minute or two. You may need to add more ghee as you process the dough.
Then divide this dough into 5-6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, flatten it and make a neat hole in the center of it (like a doughnut) and place each ball into the ghee. The ghee will rise up into the center hole and prevent it from closing up. Make sure to place these in an order. Now start with the first dough ball. Stretch the center hole as long as
you can (the dough shouldn't tear) and place it back in the plate. Do the same with all the pieces. Make sure you maintain the order. Then let them rest for a minute or two. Then start with the first dough piece and stretch the center out further. If it becomes a very long loop, wrap it over itself (like you would wrap a thread). Do this with each piece. Repeat this process or elongating and wrapping till you start seeing fine threads in your dough ball. Keep winding the threads onto themselves as you keep elongating it. It took me about 1.5 hours of wrapping to get really thin threads.

Heat the ghee in a frying pan. Once hot, place one of the dough ball which should look like a thread ball into the ghee. Using two forks, work
Quickly to tease the dough strands away from each other. Fry it till it starts to turn golden. Once it starts to turn golden the color turns brown very fast, so be quick in removing it from the ghee. Fry all the dough thread balls. Let the ghee drain and cool them. At this stage you can store them for later use.





To make the syrup
Cover the sugar with just enough water to submerge the sugar. Now bring it to a boil and boil it for a couple minutes and make a simple syrup. Once cool, pour this syrup over the sutarpheni or dunk the sutarpheni in the syrup. You can add rose water to the syrup. 
You can also sprinkle powdered sugar on the sutarpheni when hot and let it melt.

Garnish with slices pistachios and almonds. 





Tips
Fry the dough immediately after the last round of wrapping. Letting it rest after that for more than a couple of Minutes will lead to the strands merging into each other and you will
not be able to tease out the threads easily. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mande - A Delicacy from Belgaum

I had eaten this delicacy called Mande once when I was a child. It was store bought and I remember it was absolutely delicious, but I didn't know what it was called and hence couldn't request for it to be bought again. Also, I never came across it in a store again. So that was the end of that till I ate this again recently. A friend came back after visiting Belgaum and brought the delicacies found there for us to taste. As soon as I saw it, I knew what I was looking at and it still tasted as delicious as I remembered it from childhood. Of course, a taste was not enough and considering that I was thousands of miles from Belgaum, the only option was to figure out how to make it myself.  I was so motivated that for the next few days my focus in every free minute was to research how to make it. I didn't really find any elaborate recipes or videos or techniques. Came across many puran poli videos which also seem to be called mande (a new learning for me) but not much in regards to this version of Mande.

This version of Mande is a large very thin flaky poli/chapati which is filled with a slightly sweet mixture and the stuffing is so thin and fine, that the poli seems to be made of sweetened dough rather than filled with stuffing. After several discussions with Mom, I decided to try it out based on the data I had gathered. Oh! The result was perfect and delicious and so flaky. Of course, all of it was eaten as soon as it was cooked and I could just save one till I took some photos before it was also devoured. One of my favorite preparations that is difficult to make, but so worth it.  If you are a proficient puran poli maker, this will prove to be a little bit easier but definitely a preparation that I would rate as difficult. But if you can make this you will be so happy with the result that you will want to keep making and eating this till you run out of ingredients.



Ingredients
1 cup fine semolina/rava
1.5 cups all purpose flour/maida
1/2-1 cup water
1 cup powdered sugar (not icing sugar)
1/4 cup poppy seeds (white)/khus khus (do not use black poppy seeds), roasted and powdered
1/8 tsp cardamom/elaichi powder
1/4 cup clarified butter/ghee
1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 cup rice flour, to roll the mande
oil/ghee to roast the mande



Method

For the dough
Mix the rava and 1 cup of maida together. Add salt. Then add a little water at a time and knead the dough. The dough should be very hard, kneaded with  minimal water. Cover it and keep it aside for 30 mins. Then add a few drops of water at a time and using a pestle, pound it and knead it till the dough becomes very soft and pliable.

For the stuffing
Whisk the ghee till it is fluffy, then add in the poppy seed powder, sugar, cardamom powder and the remaining 1/2 cup all purpose flour. knead this all together. It should all come together as a very soft pliable dough. The consistency should be similar to the dough made for the covering. If the dough is dry, add some more ghee, till it comes together as becomes a soft ball

To make the mande
The mande need to be flaky and soft and so need to be cooked on a low indirect heat. So they cannot be cooked directly in a pan or tava. So place a thick walled pan or an earthen pot which has a dome shaped base upside down on your gas. You can also use an old cooker which is not flat bottomed. I placed a cast iron tava on my flat cook top and placed an old dome shaped steel pan upside down on it as my cooking surface and let it heat up as I rolled out the mande.

Make 2 equal sized balls of the dough covering. Make a ball of the same size of the stuffing. Now flatten each ball into similar shaped round discs of approximately the same radius and thickness. sandwich the stuffing disc into the two covering dough discs and pinch the seams to close the stuffing in it. Now taking care, start rolling the made into a flat thin disc (poli/roti/tortilla/chapati). Roll from the center to the edges making sure that the stuffing also gets rolled out along with it and spreads to all the parts of the disc. Dust the rolling surface with rice flour to keep the disc from sticking to the rolling surface or the rolling pin. Roll the disc as thin as you can. If proficient you can take a small rolled out disc and use your hands to stretch it paper thin into a circle.

It should be translucent and you should be able to see through it. Now place it onto the hot upside down pan and cook it till you start seeing small bubbles. Then flip it over and cook it till light brown spots appear. Flip it again till the partially cooked surface gets completely cooked. Apply a little oil or ghee while roasting. The cooking process takes time as it is indirect heat, so be patient.

Once cooked, fold it up a couple of times to make a neat rectangle. Serve with milk. It tastes great when warm as well as when it is at room temperature.











Tips
If you do not have powdered sugar, use your mixer/blender to powder normal sugar. Sift it before use. If you have made puran poli, the dough should be soft like the puran poli dough.