Ugadi Special| Ellu Bella Ice Cream| Tilgul Ice Cream| Lonavali Ice Cream| Creamy Home-Made, No-Eggs, No-Churn Sesame-Jaggery Ice Cream, Without Ice Cream Maker

Not a single summer goes by without me thinking of the gorgeous Lonavali ice cream that is available in small family-run ice cream parlours in Ahmedabad. These parlours specialise in sort-of home-made ice creams, both common flavours like Kesar Pista and Chocolate and some highly uncommon ones, like Lonavali.

Lonavali ice cream, as the name suggests, is a tribute to the famous chikkis of Lonavala. With a faint hint of rose, a gorgeous green colour, a generous dosing of pistachios, and bits and pieces of crunchy sesame brittle or chikki in it, Lonavali would make for a fabulous treat any time of the year. My friends and I would down cupfuls of this green beauty, especially in the hot summer months. Sadly, though, it has been ages since I had a cup of Lonavali – it isn’t available anywhere in Bangalore.

I had been wanting to try out my own version of this ice cream, at home, since ages, but it kept being pushed to the back burner again and again and again. Finally, the experiment happened yesterday, and was a happy one at that. I managed to create an ice cream with sesame-and-jaggery brittle that was very, very close in taste to the Lonavali, and everyone at home loved it to bits. Coincidentally, yesterday was Ugadi, the Kannada new year day, when it is customary to consume ellu (sesame) and bella (jaggery). So, yay to that!

Left: Lonavali aka Tilgul ice cream, Right: The rose-flavoured sesame-and-jaggery revdi I used to make the ice cream

I’ll be improvising on this recipe with time, but, for now, let me share with you the one that I used yesterday. So, here’s presenting to you Lonavali aka Ellu Bella aka Tilgul ice cream!
Ingredients (Makes about 4 servings):

  1. 200 ml fresh cream (I used Amul)
  2. 200 grams sweetened condensed milk (I used Amul Mithai Mate)
  3. A pinch of salt
  4. 1 teaspoon rose essence
  5. 1/4 cup sesame-jaggery revdi (use the large ones that have a rose fragrance to them)
  6. 1/4 cup jaggery powder or to taste
  7. About 2 tablespoons roasted, unsalted, shelled pistachios

Method:

  1. Lightly crush the revdi using a mortar and pestle. Do not make a fine powder, and let large-ish chunks of the revdi remain. You should get chunks of the revdi in your mouth as you eat this dish – that is the whole point of this ice cream! Keep aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, take the condensed milk, cream, salt, pistachios, rose essence, crushed revdi, and jaggery powder. Whisk well, until everything is well combined together.
  3. Transfer the mixture to an air-tight, clean, dry box.
  4. Put the box, closed, in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator. Freeze at maximum temperature for 3-4 hours or until the ice cream is set well. That’s it!

Notes:

  1. I used fresh cream to create this dish, but you could use whipping cream, too. Whipping cream will give you creamier, richer ice cream.
  2. Adjust the quantity of jaggery that you use, as per your taste preferences.
  3. The jaggery will add a slightly salty undertone to the ice cream. If you are not okay with that, use sugar to taste instead. Alternatively, you could use a mix of jaggery and sugar. It is the jaggery and the revdi together that give this ice cream its lovely caramel colour.
  4. I used revdi to make this ice cream because of the hint of roses that they possess. I would strongly recommend using revdi, but if you don’t have them, you could use sesame chikki instead, too.
  5. The Lonavali ice cream in Ahmedabad makes use of sesame chikki, as far as I remember, so I used revdi with sesame too. You could make this recipe using peanut chikki or peanut brittle as well.
  6. This ice cream melts dreadfully fast, in a matter of seconds. It melted before I could bring a cupful of it from our kitchen to the living room, to take a picture! So, remove the box from the freezer only when you are ready to serve the ice cream.
  7. Add green food colour if you want, if you wish for the ice cream to look exactly like Lonavali from Ahmedabad. I skipped that, though.

You like? I would love it if you could try out this recipe at home, and I hope you’ll love it too!

Travel Shot: Panneer Drakshe Aka Indian Gulabi Grapes 

If you happen to be in Tamilnadu this time of the year – when it’s hot, but not yet the peak of summer – there’s a high likelihood that you will come across carts of almost translucent-looking, plump, purple grapes, on the streets. The vendor will catch you ogling at them, and invite you over for a taste. You will choose a fat one that will hold the promise of juiciness, and pop it into your mouth. One bite, and the sun-warmed grape will fill your mouth with flavour – a delicious sweetness, with the hint of roses in it. You’ll encounter some seeds, too, which you can chomp down or spit out as you please.

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I’m talking about none other than ‘Panneer Drakshe‘ (‘panneer‘ and not ‘paneer‘, mind you!), a special variety of grapes that is grown in Tamilnadu. ‘Panneer’ means ‘rose water’ in Tamil, hence the name. Also called ‘Indian Gulabi’, I’m not sure if this variety of grapes is as popular – or has even been heard of – outside the state of Tamilnadu.
On our recent trips to Tamilnadu, first to Madurai and then Kumbakonam, we had our fill of these gorgeous grapes. You should too, if you encounter them.

Madurai Diaries: Of Hogging At Nagapattinam Halwa Shop

Most tourists in Madurai are here to visit the famed Meenakshi Amman temple. At the most, these passersby try out the jigarthanda here (because you absolutely cannot miss the shops selling it! They are smack in your face!). The city, though, has many well-kept secrets, foodie and otherwise.

One relatively unexplored aspect of Madurai’s food scene is its halwa kadais or shops selling halwa. Not many know that Madurai is home to a number of halwa shops, most of them existing for almost a century now, most with a loyal following of customers. Which of these shops will serve you the best halwa, though? Asking locals (who have been around in Madurai for a while) will get you one or more of these names – Nagapattinam Halwa Shop, Prema Vilas, New Nagalakshmi Bhawan Halwa Shop, and Happy Man Iyengar Halwa Shop.

On our recent trip to Madurai, we explored the city at considerable length, as many of its nooks and crannies and foods and drinks as we could manage. However, we were able to visit only the Nagapattinam Halwa Shop, out of the four touted-as-best stores in Madurai.

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Located on West Chitrai Street, near the Meenakshi Amman temple, Nagapattinam Halwa Shop is an unpretentious thing. It is so non-descript that you might write it off as nothing if you are passing by, and do not know about its history. This is the very shop that dignitaries like MS Subbulakshmi and MGR frequented, once upon a time.

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The entirely non-descript facade of the Nagapattinam Halwa Shop, Madurai

The shop was started by a K.S. Vishwanatha Iyer in the year 1901, when he came to Madurai from Kumbakonam. Iyer apparently had with him a traditional recipe for wheat halwa, which was a relatively unheard-of thing in Madurai of yore. So, the gentleman set up shop opposite the Meenakshi Amman temple, and his halwa went on to become hugely popular. The shop became very famous as ‘Ambi Iyer kadai‘ (Ambi Iyer’s shop) and ‘Nei mittai kadai’(ghee sweet shop).

The outlet shifted to its present location, on West Chitrai Street, in 1942. Over time, apart from halwa, they also started making other sweets and savouries, but the halwa remains one of their best-selling items till date.

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The equally non-descript interior of the little shop

Presently, the shop is owned by V.A. Venkataraman, the fourth-generation member of the same family.

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The list of goodies sold by Nagapattinam Halwa Shop

When we visit, at about 5.30 PM one evening, the shop is manned by an elderly gentleman who talks in Tamil from a bygone era, which we have a little trouble deciphering, even though the husband and I speak the language very fluently. We ask for some of the shop’s signature halwa, and are handed about 200 grams of it, packed neatly in a plastic wrapping. We are told the halwa is very fresh, but isn’t hot (if you want to have hot halwa, you need to visit as soon as the shop opens, at about 10 in the morning, I believe).

Eager to get our first taste of the famous halwa, we open the packet then and there, and put a wee bit of it in our mouths. And then, magic happens. We are transfixed. We are unable to stop eating, till all the halwa is gone. We stand there, speechless, with silly grins plastered on our faces. This is, clearly, one of the best halwas the husband and I have ever had – absolutely beautiful silky-smooth texture, gorgeous taste, redolent of ghee, and very, very fresh. We head back to our hotel, armed with some more of the halwa to take back home as a souvenir, as well as some of the shop’s famous kara sev.

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The gorgeous, gorgeous halwa at Nagapattinam Halwa Shop

For those of you who are interested, the halwa is priced at INR 320 per kg.

Back at the hotel, we snack on the kara sev, which is just as beautiful, just the right amount of crunchy, salty and spicy.

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Halwa is not the only thing that this shop is famous for, though.

We go back to the shop the next morning at about 10.30 AM, to see if we can get our hands on their famed ‘kizhangu pottalam‘ (which literally translates from Tamil into ‘root vegetable parcels’. The kizhangu pottalam is nothing but a cone of spicy potato curry, parceled in a dried lotus leaf, available for sale at the shop every morning. Priced at INR 10 per cone, these pottalams sell like hot cakes, we hear.

On the left: A kizhangu pottalam
from Nagapattinam Halwa Shop, On the right: the spicy potato curry inside the

Apparently, Madurai, in years past, used to have a huge influx of people from the neighbouring villages, every day. These people would work here as construction workers. These villagers would start from their homes in the villages quite early in the mornings, armed with a box of day-old rice and some curd for their lunch. The Nagapattinam Halwa Shop started selling this spicy potato curry at nominal prices, as a sort of service to these construction workers, so that they would have something to eat their rice with. The curry became such a big hit with the Madurai denizens that the shop continues to sell it. Legend has it that the prices of the pottalams haven’t changed much over the years.

We are lucky to get our hands on two of these pottalams, before they get entirely sold out. The potato curry in them tastes lovely, but is way too spicy for the husband and me. It is heavily laden with fennel (sombu), I think thanks to the influence of the neighbouring Chettinadu. I can see how this curry can become a hot favourite with people who are used to high spice levels in their food. And, then, the curry was originally meant to be an accompaniment to curd rice, not eaten as is.

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Don’t miss this place, whenever you are in Madurai. You’ll be missing out on some seriously beautiful halwa otherwise!

We will certainly be making a pit-stop here, again, the next time we visit Madurai. The other famous halwa kadais are still on our radar, too.

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Have you read my other posts about Madurai? I hope you have!

If you haven’t, do check them out.

On a jigarthanda trail in Madurai

Our street food (and drink) journey in Madurai

Thoughts after visiting MS Subbulakshmi’s house in Madurai

 

Vegetable Panchmel Khichdi| Mixed Daal And Vegetable Khichdi| Panchratna Khichdi With Veggies| Five-Lentil Vegetable & Rice Dish| One-Pot Recipe

Khichdi is my go-to food, whenever I am in need of some comfort, or when times are a little stressful. It is also the dish I turn to whenever I need to cook something warm and nutritious, but don’t have much time on hand. This particular khichdi – made with five types of lentils – is a big-time favourite in our household.

To make this khichdi, I use those colourful packets of mixed lentils that are commonly available in most supermarkets – they are a mix of masoor daal, toor daal, chana daal, split black urad daal, and split green gram daal. These daals go by different names – mixed daal, panchmel and panchratan daal, for instance.

Along with the lentils, I also use rice and whatever vegetables I have handy, in this khichdi. So, you can imagine just how packed with nutrition this dish is! It is quite flavourful too, and is extremely easy to put together. Served hot, with curd or a drizzle of ghee on top, this khichdi soothes the soul like nothing else.

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Here is how I make this khichdi.

Ingredients (serves 4):

Basic ingredients

  1. 1 cup rice (I use Sona Masoori)
  2. 1/2 cup mixed lentils

Salt and spices

  1. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. Red chilli powder, to taste
  4. About 2 teaspoons of garam masala/ chana masala, or to taste

Vegetables

  1. 2 green chillies, slit length-wise
  2. 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and chopped into large cubes
  3. 1 medium-sized potato, peeled and chopped into large cubes
  4. 4 tomatoes, chopped into cubes
  5. A fistful of shelled green peas
  6. 1 small capsicum, chopped into large pieces
  7. A fistful of sweet corn kernels
  8. 1 medium-sized onion, chopped length-wise
  9. About 8 French beans, strings removed and chopped into large pieces 
  10. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Spice paste

Grind these two ingredients into a paste in a mixer, using very little water. Keep handy.

  1. A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  2. 4-5 big cloves of garlic

Seasoning

  1. 2 teaspoons ghee or oil, or 1 teaspoon each of oil and ghee
  2. A pinch of asafoetida
  3. 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  4. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  5. 2 small bay leaves
  6. 4-5 cloves
  7. 4-5 pods of cardamom

Method:

 1. Wash the rice and lentils under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water. Keep aside till it is time to use these ingredients. 

2. Heat the ghee and/or oil in a pressure cooker bottom. I use a 5-litre pressure cooker to make this khichdi

3. Add in the mustard. Allow to splutter. Add the asafoetida, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and cardamom. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds. 

4. Now, add the chopped onion, beans, carrot and potato, along with the corn kernels and green peas. Add in the ginger-garlic paste. Saute for a minute. 

5. Add the slit green chillies, as well as the washed and drained rice and lentils. Mix well. Saute for a minute. 

6. Add 6 cups of water, the chopped tomatoes and coriander, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt, garam masala or chana masala, and sugar (if using). Mix well. 

7. Taste the water, and add more seasonings, if required. 

8. Close the pressure cooker when the water begins to boil. Put on the whistle. Allow to cook on high flame for 4 whistles, and switch off the gas. 

9. Let the pressure come down naturally, before you open the cooker. Give the khichdi a stir before you serve it. 

10. Serve hot with plain curd or raita or with ghee drizzled on top. 

Notes:

1. The little quantity of sugar that you add to this khichdi will not make it overly sweet. In fact, it helps in bringing out the flavours of the dish even more beautifully. 

2. Increase or decrease the quantity of water, depending on how you want the consistency of the khichdi to be. This recipe yields khichdi that is soft, but not overly soggy, and is just right for us. 

3. 4 whistles of the pressure cooker works just fine for us. Adjust the number of whistles depending on your family’s preferences. 

4. You could use broken wheat (dalia) or brown rice for a healthier version of this khichdi, instead of ordinary rice. Alternatively, you could use basmati rice, too. Adjust the quantity of water that you use, accordingly. 

5. I love using chana masala in this khichdi, sometimes, for a change, rather than garam masala. Using either masala makes for a tasty khichdi

6. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. I have listed out the veggies that I commonly used to make this khichdi

7. Skip using the ginger-garlic paste, if you don’t want to use it. It adds to the flavour of the dish, but isn’t a must. 

8. You could skip using the garam masala or chana masala, too. The khichdi will then be simple, but still delish. 

You like? I hope you will try this out too, and that you will love it as much as we do! 

 

 

Echoes, Koramangala: Dining With A Difference 

Just last week, the happening locality of Koramangala in Bangalore saw the launch of a brand new restaurant. This restaurant, however, is very unique. It is different from the rest. In what way?, I hear you ask. Well, this place, Echoes, is different because it promises you a different sort of dining experience.

Echoes, Koramangala, is fully managed by hearing- and speech-impaired staff. This includes the overall running of the outlet, except for the kitchen, as far as I understand. The same hearing- and speech-impaired staff serve customers as well. Noble thought behind the outlet, right? I was humbled to be a part of a bloggers’ table at Echoes, recently.

This is Echoes’ second outlet. The first one, in Delhi, has had a really good innings.

The concept and ambience

Echoes has a wonderful warm and friendly vibe to it. The decor is absolutely beautiful, there is no doubt about that. Brick walls, tastefully chosen knick-knacks, cosy nooks, a spacious sit-out, the smiling crew, the thoughtful quotes on the walls, the lovely motto on the T-shirts of the service staff – everything adds to the effect. It is clear that a whole lot of thought has gone into creating just the right sort of place and atmosphere at Echoes.

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From left to right: 1. A cosy corner that I fell in love with, at Echoes, 2. Sign language basics!, 3. A signboard at Echoes

I especially loved the way they have done up one of the walls entirely using kitchen utensils. Classy!

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From left to right: 1. My personal favourite wall at Echoes – the one decked up with kitchen utensils, 2. The uniform for the staff – THAT motto!, 3. A quote up on one of the walls that I absolutely loved (The picture in the centre is courtesy of @200 deg)

Echoes has taken several steps to ensure a hassle-free ordering and dining experience for its patrons. Each dish on the menu, for instance, has a number alongside it, which is to be written down on a notepad when the service staff visits a table to take an order. (Each tubelight, fan and bulb here also has a number, to facilitate things for the staff – I loved the way they have paid attention to these little details!).

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From left to right: 1. The set of placards that is a part of each table at Echoes, 2. The calling bell that every table at Echoes is equipped with

Furthermore, each table is equipped with a calling bell, which will summon the service staff when pressed. The tables at Echoes also have a set of placards, each one containing a word that is commonly used in communication between the patrons of a restaurant and the wait staff – ‘Menu’ and ‘Plates’, for instance, or ‘Please get the manager’. Hold up the right card, get your word across to the service crew!

Very well thought-out, right?

The food and drinks story

Now, let’s move on to the grub we had at Echoes, shall we?

Echoes has a mixed sort of menu – there’s a little bit of everything on it. There’s Italian, Mexican, Indian and Chinese, among other cuisines. The eatery serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.

Here’s a round-up of the food and drinks I sampled at Echoes.

Raju Veg Tiffin Service: This was a beautifully presented dish, with papad, butter roti, and rice on a plate and two different kinds of gravies (butter paneer and rajma) served in an old-world tiffin carrier. I loved the taste of everything that was a part of this combo.

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The Raju Veg Tiffin Service at Echoes!

Baked Cheesy Nachos: These were simply lovely! The sauce the nachos were served with were just the right amount of tangy, and the cheese was simply perfect.

Rajma Galouti: I thought this was very ordinary. It seemed to lack flavour.

Vegetarian Steamed and Tandoori Momos: Both the versions of momos lacked flavour, in my humble opinion. There’s definitely scope for improvement here.

Stuffed Shrooms Tikka: This dish, again, was quite unexceptional. It felt quite bland.

Paneer Makhani Pizza: This pizza had paneer as well as two other types of cheese, with a makhani-style gravy. It was quite average, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of taste.

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Top left: A platter of steamed and tandoori vegetarian momos, Top right: Baked Cheesy Nachos, Bottom left: Paneer Makhani Pizza, Bottom right: Stufffed Shrooms Tikka

Makhani Pasta: This was something very new to me – penne pasta served with a paneer-butter-masala kind of sauce. Odd combination, probably, and maybe not meant for everyone, but I loved it to bits. I thought it was really well done.

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The lovely Makhani Pasta at Echoes!

Milkshakes: Echoes has a whole lot of milkshakes for the chocolate-lover, with every conceivable flavour on offer – Oreo cookies, Snickers, Kit Kat, Black Forest, Ferrero Rocher.. you name it, they have it! We tried most of these chocolate-based milkshakes, and they were really very well done. Good job on this! My personal favourite milkshake, though, was the Red Rave, a red velvet cake-based shake that was mildly sweet, with bits of cake in it. Try out the milkshakes here, but don’t miss the amazing Red Rave, I say!

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On the left: The Snickers and Oreo milkshakes, On the right: The Red Rave milkshake, all at Echoes

Strawberry Lemonade: This was a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful drink, both in terms of taste and looks! The blend of sugar, strawberry and lemon was just perfect, making this a very refreshing thing to have. It sure didn’t have that ‘cough syrup’ taste that I have come across at a lot of other eateries, in case of strawberry-flavoured drinks. This is a must-have here, for sure.

Virgin Mo: The Virgin Mo or mojito at Echoes was just perfect. It was very well executed, with the mint, sugar and lemon all perfectly balanced. Quite the salve for parched throats. This, again, is a must-have, as per me.

Pricing

The prices here seem to be slightly on the higher side, but not too exorbitant. A meal for two would set you back by about INR 1,000.

Overall experience

  1. I absolutely loved the time I spent at Echoes, Koramangala. The service staff seemed to be so put-together and well-organised, and all of them had a warm and welcoming smile on their faces. That said, I was here as part of a very formal set-up, so I am yet to experience the entire ‘service experience’ as such. I would definitely love to go back to this place, any time!
  2. The place seems to have quite a strong hold over Indian cuisine. We loved the Indian dishes here a whole lot more than the other fare. Likewise, the eatery is very, very strong with respect to its mocktails, juices and milkshakes. Every single one of the drinks we tasted here was beautifully done.
  3. I loved some of the food I sampled here, but was not overly impressed by some stuff. The place is very new, though, so it would only be fair to give them some time to gain a foothold. I would wait and watch as to how the food story here unfolds in the times to come.
  4. The ambience and decor here is absolutely amazing. Full marks to that. I would go back to this place just for the ambience, the service experience and the drinks!

Disclaimer:

I was served this meal free of cost, along with a group of other food bloggers, in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed herein are entirely my own, not influenced by anything or anyone.

Have you been to this place yet? I would definitely urge you to visit!