Easy Basundi Recipe (With Condensed Milk)

When I think of the years we lived in Ahmedabad, I cannot not think of basundi. It used to be a favourite, favourite sweet dish, rich and creamy without being overly so, loaded with nuts. This cousin of the North Indian rabri is something I associate with festive times, specifically Diwali.

It isn’t easy to find good basundi in Bangalore city, so we prefer making our own at home. Traditionally, this sweet dish is made by boiling milk and cooking it constantly, reducing it and reducing it and reducing it till it becomes thick and creamy and utterly delectable. The recipe that we use, though – the cheat’s basundi or the easy basundi recipe, as I refer to it – is super simple. It uses condensed milk for the thickening, and doesn’t require standing by the stove for hours on end. It might not be the authentic recipe, but this version tastes just as delish, I can vouch for that.

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Let’s check out our easy basundi recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (makes about 6 servings):

  1. 1 litre full-fat milk (I used Nandini)
  2. 400 grams sweetened condensed milk (I used Amul Mithai Mate)
  3. 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon rose essence (optional)
  5. 7-8 cashewnuts, chopped finely
  6. 7-8 almonds, chopped finely

Method:

  1. Take the milk and condensed milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Mix well.
  2. Place pan on high heat and bring to a boil, stirring intermittently.
  3. Now, turn down the heat to low. Add in the sugar. Mix well.
  4. Cook on low-medium flame till the mixture reduces to about half of its original size – 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring intermittently, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cream will begin to form on the edges of the pan – keep scraping it back down into the pan with a spoon.
  5. When the mixture has reduced, add in the chopped cashewnuts and almonds. Mix well.
  6. Cook more on low-medium heat till the mixture reduces further. Meanwhile, keep stirring intermittently and scraping the cream back into the pan.
  7. When it reaches a thick but still runny consistency, add the rose essence. Cook for a couple of minutes more, stirring intermittently, continuing to scrape the cream back into the pan. Switch off gas.
  8. Serve piping hot, warm or after chilling in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Personally, I think the basundi tastes best when chilled.

Notes:

  1. Increase or decrease the quantity of sugar you add, depending upon personal tastes and preferences. If you think the sweetness of the condensed milk is enough, you could skip adding sugar altogether. Personally, though, we prefer adding 2 tablespoons of sugar, considering that we have huge sweet teeth.
  2. Intermittent stirring throughout the process of making basundi is necessary, to prevent too much sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. The rose essence can be omitted altogether, if you don’t want to add it.
  4. Cardamom powder can be used in place of rose essence. Add it in at the same time when you need to add the rose essence – it adds a beautiful fragrance and taste to the basundi. We like both versions, but I am slightly biased towards the rose essence one.
  5. You could slightly roast the almonds and cashewnuts before chopping them and adding them to the basundi, too. I usually add them raw, though.
  6. It is important to keep scraping back the cream from the sides of the pan, into the pan, throughout the proceedure. This is what will give a beautiful, creamy consistency to the basundi.
  7. You can keep the consistency of the basundi as thick or as runny as you like. We like it slightly thick, still runny. The basundi thickens slightly on cooling.

Do you like basundi? How do you make it? Do you like this easy basundi recipe? I hope you’ll try this out!

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Foodie Monday Blog HopThis post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Diwali recipes’.

 

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The Husband’s Birthday Lunch At Farzi Cafe: An Underwhelming Affair

Farzi Cafe had always been on my list of eateries to visit in Bangalore, thanks to a number of blog posts I have read praising the place. I was in awe of the very innovative ways in which the cafe presents its food. So, it was Farzi Cafe in UB City that we chose to celebrate the husband’s birthday recently, and headed to for lunch. True to the reviews that we had read, the cafe did dish up food in very different ways, but we, sadly, ended up underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Ambience and decor

Located in the posh UB City, Farzi Cafe has an ambience that I would call ‘buzzing’. The eatery was teeming with people when we visited, and most of the ample seating area was occupied. Thankfully, though, we didn’t have to wait for long for a table to open up.

The seating was quite uncomfortable, we felt, a fact that has been pointed out in several Zomato reviews. The place tends to get quite noisy too (something we noted during our lunch, and on several past visits to UB City), so it is definitely not somewhere you visit if you want to have an uninterrupted conversation.

Cuisine

Farzi Cafe has a varied and extensive menu, including Indian as well as fusion dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The eatery is known for its off-beat take on popular foods as well as innovative presentation styles.

The food and drinks

First up, we ordered the Mac N Cheese, served not the usual way, but in the form of deep-fried balls. The taste was strictly okay.

The Orange OK, an orange-based mocktail, that we ordered was just average too.

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Left: Orange OK, Centre: Mac N Cheese; Right: The complimentary Mishti Doi Shots

The Vada Paav we ordered next – paav inside the vada, and vada outside the paav, deep-fried – was presented beautifully, but, again, we found it just okay taste-wise.

For main course, we ordered their English Paav Bhaji, paav bhaji made with ‘English’ vegetables and served with foccaccia instead of the paav that usually comes with it. Presentation-wise, it was terrific, and the taste was definitely not bad, but we didn’t find it really out of the ordinary. I typically use all sorts of veggies to make paav bhaji at home, and this was the same.

We were offered a complimentary tamarind palate cleanser in between the two courses, with great fanfare, the sticks plucked out of a large white ceramic tree. It was okay, and I’m not complaining about that either.

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Left: Vada Paav, Centre: The tamarind palate cleanser offered complimentary in between courses; Right: English paav bhaji

The Rasmalai Tres Leches Cake that we ordered next was good. The presentation was good, and the taste was good, too.

We were given some complimentary mishti doi shots, which we loved. The paan (cotton candy shells filled with dehydrated paan mix) was good, too.

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Left: Rasmalai Tres Leches cake; Centre: The complimentary paan; Right: The typewriter in which our bill was presented to us!

Service

We found the service to be okay – the staff was polite and courteous, but they took ages to bring each dish to the table. It wasn’t really a problem, because we did want to have a leisurely meal.

Prices

We felt the food to be quite expensive here – like everything else in UB City is. We paid INR 2500 for this meal.

In hindsight…

We felt more than a bit underwhelmed by this birthday lunch at Farzi Cafe, a fact that is as sad as it gets. Overall, I guess, we had built up too much of expectation thanks to all those rave blog reviews, and those didn’t match up to the reality. Maybe, we are purists who don’t like their food to be tampered with too much. Maybe, we just didn’t choose the right dishes. Maybe, it just wasn’t our day – we kept feeling like the lunch we had had here wasn’t a hearty affair. Maybe, this is the sort of place where presentation is key, and that isn’t always the lookout for us.

I’m confused about whether I should give this place another go or not.

Proso Millet Sweet Pongal| Millet Sakkarai Pongal

This festive season, let’s offer something healthier to the Gods and to our bodies, shall we? How about some millet sweet pongal?

This sweet pongal contains absolutely no rice, which has been substituted with proso millet. You can even use a mix of different types of millet, really. The pongal also uses jaggery and not sugar, which is commonly used in festival sweetmeats. It tastes absolutely delish, just like the regular sweet pongal, but a much healthier alternative. The hint of edible camphor that is added to it takes the fragrance and taste of the pongal to new heights. What’s more, this dish is a breeze to prepare too!

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Now, let’s check out how to make this millet sweet pongal, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 6):

  1. 1 cup proso millet
  2. 1/2 cup moong daal
  3. 3 cups powdered jaggery
  4. 2 cups milk (boiled and cooled)
  5. 2 pinches of edible camphor
  6. 2 pinches of cardamom (elaichi) powder
  7. 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons ghee
  8. 5-6 unsalted cashewnuts
  9. 5-6 unsalted almonds
  10. 5-6 pieces of unsalted pistachios
  11. 2 tablespoons raisins

Method:

  1. Wash the proso millet in running water a couple of times, draining out the excess water every time. Make sure all the impurities are washed out.
  2. Take the washed and drained proso millet in a large vessel, and add in enough water to completely cover it. Let the millets soak for 2 hours.
  3. After 2 hours, drain out all the excess water from the soaked millets.
  4. Mix the moong daal and the soaked millets together, and add in the 2 cups of milk + 2-1/2 cups of water. Pressure cook this for 7-8 whistles. Let the pressure release entirely.
  5. Once the pressure has completely gone down, open the cooker and remove the container with the cooked millets and moong daal. Now, we will set about making the jaggery syrup for the pongal.
  6. Pour 2 cups of water in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add in the 2 cups of powdered jaggery. Set on high flame. Cook till the jaggery has entirely dissolved in the water.
  7. When the jaggery has completely dissolved, add in the cooked millets and moong daal to the pan. Turn the flame down to medium.
  8. Add in 1 tablespoon of ghee.
  9. Keep cooking on medium flame for 5-7 minutes, stirring intermittently, or till the mixture starts thickening.
  10. Roughly chop the almonds, pistachios and cashewnuts. Keep aside.
  11. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee in another pan. Add in the raisins and chopped almonds, pistachios and cashewnuts. Let them stay in for a minute. Add the fried nuts, raisins and ghee to the pongal in the pan.
  12. Add in the edible camphor and cardamom powder to the pongal too.
  13. Let the pongal cook on low-medium flame, for about 2 minutes more, stirring intermittently. Switch off the gas when the pongal is considerably thick, but still quite runny. It will thicken further on cooling.
  14. Serve the pongal warm, or at room temperature.

Notes:

  1. You could dry roast the moong daal before making the pongal. This gives the pongal a nice fragrance. I skipped this step.
  2. Don’t miss out on soaking the millets for a period of at least 2 hours. This ensures that the pongal turns out soft and well cooked, rather than grainy.
  3. The quantity of jaggery powder that you will need depends upon its quality and level of sweetness. We commonly use twice the jaggery powder as the quantity of moong daal + millet. Here, I have used 3 cups of jaggery powder for 1.5 cups of moong daal + millet (1 cup millet + 1/2 cup moong daal).
  4. Feel free to increase the quantity of ghee you use in the pongal. I know some households who love their pongal dripping with ghee. We are comfortable with just about 3 tablespoons in our sweet pongal.
  5. Do ensure that the pistachios, raisins, cashewnuts and almonds do not burn while frying them.
  6. Increase or decrease the quantity of milk you use to cook the pongal, depending upon personal preferences. If you don’t want to use milk, you can skip it entirely and pressure cook the moong daal + millets in 4-1/2 cups of water instead.
  7. Do not cook the pongal too much after adding the edible camphor and cardamom powder in, as this might lead to a slight bitterness.
  8. Edible camphor is different from the camphor that is lit in temples and in poojas, as an offering to God. Please do not confuse between the two.
  9. Ensure that you do not add more than two pinches of edible camphor to the pongal. The smell can be quite overpowering, and overdoing it can cause the pongal to acquire a slight bitterness as well. If you don’t have edible camphor, it is okay to skip it entirely.
  10. I have used proso millet to make this sweet pongal, in place of rice. You can even use a mix of millets – like barnyard millet, foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet – for the same.

Do try out this millet sweet pongal too. I hope you like it as much as we do!

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Check out the other millet-based recipes on my blog!

Gulkand Coconut Laddoos| Easy No-Cook Dessert Recipe

Festival season in India is officially here! Today is Aadi 18, tomorrow is Varamahalakshmi Pooja, and soon it will be time for Raksha Bandhan and Ganesh Chaturthi. There is an aura of good cheer and festivity everywhere, a lot of good food and holidays to look forward to.

If you are still thinking about what sweet dish to whip up for the upcoming festivals, I am here to rescue you. As much as I love our traditional Indian sweets, I always try to make something different from the usual for festivals, to break the monotony and to keep the element of surprise intact. This year, for the Varamahalakshmi Pooja at my mother’s place, I am taking these beautiful Gulkand Coconut Laddoos.

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These laddoos are super simple to make, and can be done in minutes, with just a few ingredients. They taste absolutely delish, if I may say so myself, and make for a refreshing change from the regular Indian sweets. Coconut and gulkand go really well together, and the gentle rose fragrance in these laddoos will surely make them a hit with family and friends alike. What’s more, this is a dessert that requires absolutely no cooking!

What are you waiting for, then? Try out these gulkand coconut laddoos too!

Here’s how I made them.

Ingredients (makes about 8 medium-sized laddoos):

  1. 1 cup dry, grated coconut
  2. 4-5 unsalted cashewnuts
  3. 4-5 unsalted almonds
  4. 7-8 unsalted pistachios
  5. About 1 tablespoon raisins
  6. 3 tablespoons of gulkand, or as per taste
  7. 2-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, or as required
  8. Ghee or unsalted butter, as required to grease hands

Method:

  1. Take the dry, grated coconut in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Chop the cashewnuts, almonds and pistachios into slivers. Add these to the coconut.
  3. Add the raisins and the gulkand to the coconut too.
  4. Add the condensed milk to the mixing bowl as well.
  5. Mix everything well. Grease your hands with the butter or ghee, and form balls out of the mixture, and arrange them in an air-tight box.
  6. Allow the box to chill, covered, in the refrigerator (not in the deep freezer) for a couple of hours. By this time, the laddoos will set, getting slightly harder.
  7. Serve the laddoos after letting them come to room temperature.

Notes:

  1. You could add about 1/2 teaspoon of rose essence to make the flavour more pronounced. I skipped this.
  2. These laddoos are best stored in the refrigerator till you are ready to serve them. Refrigerated, they stay good for 5-6 days.
  3. Increase/decrease the quantity of gulkand you use, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
  4. Use just as much condensed milk as needed to bring the mixture to a pliable consistency, which is just right to form balls out of.
  5. If you feel the level of sweetness is less, you could add in powdered sugar to taste.
  6. You could even roast/fry the cashewnuts, almonds, pistachios and raisins before adding them in, for an added crunch. I skipped this, and my laddoos were still quite delicious.

You like? I hope you will love these gulkand coconut laddoos as much as we do. Don’t forget to write in and tell me how you liked them!

Saragva Ni Kadhi| Gujarati Drumstick Kadhi

Saragva ni kadhi, a Gujarati dish made using curd and drumsticks (‘saragva’ is Gujarati for ‘drumsticks’), is a hot favourite at our place. One of our Gujarati friends taught us how to make this kadhi, years ago, and I have been making it ever since. The husband loves it, the bub loves it, and so do I. This kadhi is something I prepare often at home, whenever there is sour curd left over. Hey, sometimes I even set extra curd just so I can make this! 🙂 Beloved as this dish is, it was only natural that I chose to make it recently, on the OH’s birthday.

It is a commonly held myth that all Gujarati dishes are sweet, that they have at least a dash of sugar in them. That is SO not the truth. There are a whole lot of Gujarati food items that do not contain any sugar at all. This saragva ni kadhi is one such no-sugar preparation.

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Saragva ni kadhi or Gujarati drumstick kadhi

This Gujarati drumstick kadhi tastes absolutely delish, and is a delight to eat with rotis and rice alike. It is a great way to get those super-healthy drumsticks into your diet, and to make use of any excess curd lying around in your kitchen. What’s more, it is fairy easy to make too, a matter of minutes.

Now, let’s find out how to make saragva ni kadhi, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the garnish:

  1. 2 tablespoons oil
  2. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  3. 2 dry red chillies
  4. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  5. A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

Other ingredients:

  1. 2 medium-sized drumsticks
  2. 1 medium-sized serving bowl of thick curd
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Red chilli powder, to taste
  5. 2 green chillies, slit length-wise
  6. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  7. 3 tablespoons gram flour (besan)
  8. A few fresh curry leaves
  9. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Remove the ends of the drumsticks, and chop them into 2-inch pieces.
  2. Heat some water in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add a little salt to it. Drop in the drumstick pieces. Cook them, covered, on a medium flame, till they are tender. This will take 4-5 minutes. You will need to keep checking on them in the interim, adding more water if required.
  3. While the drumsticks are cooking, get the curd ready to make the kadhi. Take the curd in a large mixing bowl, and add in about 1/2 cup of water. Add the gram flour, salt to taste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, slit green chillies and curry leaves to it. Mix well, ensuring that everything is well incorporated together.
  4. When the drumsticks are cooked, add the curd mixture to the pan. Keep the flame on medium.
  5. Stirring intermittently, let the curd mixture come to a boil. At this point, turn down the flame to low.
  6. Let the kadhi simmer for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, get the garnish ready.
  7. For the garnish, heat the oil in a little pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop. Add in the fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds, and then switch off the gas.
  8. Add this garnish to the simmering kadhi. Mix well. When the 2 minutes of simmering are up, switch off the gas.
  9. Add in the finely chopped coriander leaves. Mix well.
  10. Serve hot or warm with rotis or rice.

Notes:

  1. Use curd that is slightly sour, for best results.
  2. You may add a dash of sugar or jaggery to the kadhi if you want, but that is purely optional.
  3. I sometimes tear the curry leaves, using my hands, before adding them to the curd. This way, I make sure they are consumed along with the kadhi, and not left on the side of the plate.
  4. Add more or lesser water to the curd, depending upon how thick you want the kadhi to be.
  5. Make sure the drumsticks are just about cooked, and not overcooked.
  6. Do not cook the kadhi for too long after it has reached boiling stage. Overcooking might cause the kadhi to curdle or lose its taste.

Did you like the sound of this Gujarati drumstick kadhi? I hope you will try this out, too!

If you make this kadhi at home, I would love to hear of your version!

 

 

Eid Special| Thoughts About Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix

Eid Mubarak to all those who are celebrating today! 🙂

This day, I had to break open the packet of Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix that I had been hoarding for a while! It is the day of Eid after all! Let me tell you, I absolutely loved the way it turned out, and so did everyone at home.

What is sheer khurma?

For the uninitiated, sheer khurma or sheer korma is a special kind of milk pudding, containing dates and vermicelli, that is commonly prepared by Muslims on the occasion of Eid. Wikipedia tells me that this pudding constitutes festival day breakfast or dessert, and is largely prepared in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia.

The backstory

I have always been intrigued by sheer khurma, and have always wanted to try out an authentic version. I have even bookmarked a couple of recipes for the pudding from the Internet, but somehow, never got around to making the pudding from scratch at home. Recently, when a fellow foodie, Soumya Gopi, posted about her highly successful attempt at making sheer khurma using a ready mix by Shan, I was tempted to try it out too.

I have frequently come across garam masala and other spices by Shan in departmental stores, but never picked them up. After Soumya’s post, I kept my eyes open for the sheer khurma mix and, soon enough, found it, a while back. Today seemed to be a very auspicious occasion for experimenting with it.

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The delectable sheer khurma that I prepared using Shan Mix

About Shan Foods

Shan Foods produces and offers a wide variety of spice mixes that are commonly used in making Pakistani dishes. This Pakistan-based firm has been around since 1981.

I have been hearing great things about their pulao masala and meat masala, but this is the first product by them that I am trying.

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Left: Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix, Centre: The pouch inside the mix, carrying all the magic, Right: The contents of the pouch, the magic mix

My thoughts about Shan Sheer Khurma Mix

1. Like I said earlier, all of us at home loved the way the sheer khurma turned out. It was absolutely delish, and disappeared within minutes of the making!

2. I liked how the sheer khurma had a generous quantity of dried fruits and nuts, unlike some ready mixes where they are added just for the name’s sake.

3. There was no chemical, artificial smell to the sheer khurma, which sometimes happens in case of pre-packaged mixes. The pudding tasted as if it had been made fresh, from scratch, in my kitchen.

4. I would have loved to see slightly more dates in the sheer khurma. Also, the dates didn’t seem to have any taste to them – I’m guessing that is because they had been dried before packaging. Using fresh dates would have made a whole lot of difference, I think, but of course, that isn’t possible in a pre-packaged mix.

5. I loved how it was so very simple to make the sheer khurma. All I had to do was boil a litre of full-cream milk, add the mix to it, and simmer for a few minutes. The pack came with clear instructions about usage, which were no trouble following.

6. The package suggested how to make three different versions of the sheer khurma, each one with a subtle difference in taste. I followed one of these instructions, and added 1 cup of condensed milk to the boiled milk, along with the mix. The pudding turned out perfectly creamy and just the right amount of sweet. I am not sure if I would had to add extra sugar, had I not used the condensed milk. I think the pudding would still have been creamy, sans the condensed milk, because I used full-fat milk to make it.

7. I loved how the mix had strands of thin vermicelli in it, and not big, fat ones. The vermicelli added to the taste of the dish, rather than becoming one big, goopy mess.

8. This 150-gram mix yielded enough sheer khurma to generously serve 5 people. So, for the INR 70 that the package costs, I think it is totally worth it.

9. It must not have taken me more than 15 minutes to get the sheer khurma ready. It would, therefore, work wonderfully for those times when you need to whip up a dessert for guests within minutes, and do not have ingredients (or experience!) on hand. It would make for a lovely, different-from-the-usual dessert, too.

10. Shan masalas (and this mix as well) are readily available in several departmental stores in Bangalore. You can find them on Amazon as well. After this, I am sorely tempted to try out their other mixes and masalas! Like Soumya says, food does not (and should not) have any boundaries!

11. I am not qualified enough to comment on the ingredients listed on the package, so I will refrain from doing the same. 

Disclaimers

  1. This is not a paid or promotional post. I paid for the packet of Shan Special Sheer Khurma Mix and wrote about it here because I really liked the result.
  2. The views expressed here are entirely my own, and are not influenced by anything or anyone.
  3. I do not recommend the use of processed and pre-packaged mixes, and rarely buy them. I do get tempted by unique stuff such as this, though, and pick them up to try them out.

How do you make sheer khurma, if at all you make it at home?

Have you tried out products by Shan? What are your thoughts about them?

 

Kumbakonam, In The Midst Of Masimagam

The husband and I mostly travel during festivals, when he manages to get considerable time off work. Lately, we seem to be walking into places only to find ourselves in the midst of big celebrations, surrounded by throngs of people wherever we go. While we are planning our trip, we never know that our destination is a hot-spot for such a major event, and are always taken by surprise. Not good in some ways, but great in some other ways.

For instance, we landed in Calcutta in the thick of Kali Pujo, without ever expecting it. Now, recently, we ended up in Kumbakonam in the midst of Masimagam, quite by chance. We planned the Kumbakonam trip around the Hindu festival of Shivratri, and happened to be there right on the auspicious day of Masimagam, when thousands of devotees from across India visit the place, too.

Wondering what on earth is Masimagam? Here you go!

Masimagam is considered to be a highly auspicious day, particularly in South India. This day is when the planets align a certain way, an incidence that occurs only once annually, generally during February-March, when the Magam star is prevalent during the Tamil month of Masi. On this day, it is believed that all the rivers of India meet at the Mahamagam tank in Kumbakonam, and a dip in the waters of the tank is supposed to cleanse one of all sins. Grand poojas are conducted in all the major temples of Kumbakonam on Masimagam, with processions being carried out on the streets throughout the day. Devotees and holy men from everywhere, as well as tourists, visit Kumbakonam on this day, either to be a part of the bathing ritual or witness and record all of it.

Once every 12 years, this day becomes even more special, because of certain planetary alignments. This day is then called Mahamagam, or ‘the great Magam‘ in Tamil, when there are literally millions of people thronging Kumbakonam and clamouring for a dip in the waters of the tank. A few incidences of stampede have been recorded, in Kumbakonam during Mahamagam. The last Mahamagam was in the year 2016.

(Check out this Wikipedia link for more details)

Soaking in the spirit of Masimagam in Kumbakonam

The husband and I had booked a hotel in Kumbakonam very near the Mahamagam tank, quite by chance again. We were in for a big, big, big surprise the minute our auto guy turned towards the tank. There were hundreds of people on the street, many dripping wet from their bath in the tank, with pooja paraphernalia in their hands.

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Processions from temples across Kumbakonam, making the rounds of the streets on Masimagam day

Our auto neared the tank, and we were in for an even bigger surprise – the atmosphere there was not unlike a fair!

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The Kasi Viswanath temple, adjacent to the Mahamagam tank in Kumbakonam. A visit to this temple, especially on the day of Masimagam or Mahamagam, is believed to open the gates of heaven to one.

Fruit and vegetable vendors, loudspeakers, police patrolling, flower sellers, people distributing free water and buttermilk, beggars asking for alms, balloon and toy sellers, processions from various temples around town, tourists wanting to photograph every bit of it, devotees vying to get a dip in the tank.. it was BUSY, for sure. And, it was super-duper hot!

A rangoli on the street, near the Mahamaham Tank

DSC03542 Devotees taking a dip in the holy waters of the Mahamagam tank. Can you see how dense the crowd is?
We walked around with the bub, slowly, soaking in the atmosphere around us, taking pictures, committing things to memory.

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Selfie with the Gods?

We didn’t dip ourselves in the holy water, but enjoyed every bit of the looking around we did, getting to know more about this important cultural event in South India.

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On the left: Prasadam being distributed from one of the many chariots making the rounds of the Mahamagam tank; On the right: A close-up of one such chariot

What saddened us a whole lot, though, was the piles and piles and piles of garbage left around the Mahamagam tank, by evening, when the rituals had slowed down and the streets had started emptying. I heartily wish this could be changed, for the better, about ceremonies like this.

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Have you read my other posts about our visit to Kumbakonam? I hope you have! If you haven’t, though, here you go!

Acquainted finally: Degree coffee in Kumbakonam

What dining at a 100-plus-year-old eatery feels like: Sri Mangalambiga Vilas, Kumbakonam

Travel shot: The man and his friend, the beast

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!

A Very Mexican Birthday Lunch At Chinita, Indiranagar

For my birthday this year, the husband and I decided to head to Chinita in Indiranagar for a Mexican lunch. This post is about our experience at the eatery.

Location and ambience

Chinita is a small place in Indiranagar, one among the multitude of restaurants that the locality boasts of. The eatery had been on my hit-list for quite some time, though, because of the rave reviews I had been hearing about the food here. We decided to head to Chinita because we wanted to try out the ‘authentic’ Mexican food that we heard that this place serves, vis a vis the fare at Mexican food chains like Taco Bell.

The eatery wasn’t tough to locate. We went in just a bit before the lunch rush had started, so we got seats immediately. Very soon, the place got quite crowded (it was a weekend when we visited), and I hear weekends are always like that here. They don’t accept reservations over the weekends, so you just have to head down and try your luck, like we did.

Chinita has a nice, relaxed vibe to it. It has the feel of a casual dining area, with its brick walls and wooden benches and tables. The small potted plants on each table charmed us, as did the arrangement of plants alongside the door. We also loved that the place is bright and airy, and not dull and dingy.

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Mexican music was playing in full swing while we visited and, with the lunch hour noise of patrons, it was tough to hold a conversation as we ate. I wish this could be rectified, though, I must say, the music was lively and energetic and beautiful – something I’d like to listen to.

The food and drinks

Like I said before Chinita serves Mexican fare, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

First up, we asked for an Almond Horchata, a traditional Mexican non-alcoholic drink made of almond meal and rice. We were told that a horchata is not for everyone and that liking one needs an acquired taste, but we decided to go for one all the same. I took one sip and realised that it wasn’t for me. The husband loved it, and so the drink was duly given to him.

I went for a Virgin Margarita, with fresh lime juice and pineapple. I loved this, and sipped on it through our meal.

drinks
On the left: Almond Horchata, on the right: Virgin Margarita

Then, we ordered an appetiser of Mexican-style grilled corn which is, apparently, all the rage on the streets of Mexico. The corn came beautifully done, with just the right amount of cheese and chilli powder smeared on it, served with wedges of lemon. Both the husband and I loved this dish to bits. Both of us would need one full plate of the appetiser for ourselves, though!

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Mexican-style grilled corn

Then, for the main course, we opted for Roasted Cauliflower Tacos which, we were told, wasn’t a part of the regular menu, but became quite popular with the patrons when the eatery served it at Christmas-time, resulting in them still making it. The tacos were good but, we felt, the stuffing lacked the ‘Wow!’ factor – it could have done with some more flavour.

We also ordered a Sauteed Green Peppers And Onions Burrito, asking for it to be divided into two portions. Overall, we liked the burrito, but we felt, again, that the stuffing could have done with more flavour. It had too much rice in it, too. Good, but not great.

The tacos weren’t very filling, but the burrito was.

main-course
On the left: Roasted Cauliflower Tacos, on the right: Sauteed Green Peppers And Onions Burrito

We had a little space in our tummies left by then, so we went for a Roasted Zucchini And Corn Burrito Bowl. Again, we felt that the dish was good, but not great because it lacked flavour. The dish was quite filling.

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Roasted Zucchini And Corn Burrito Bowl

We finished up our meal with some churros (how could we not?!), served straight off the stove in a mug, with a liberal dosing of cinnamon sugar on them, along with a small cup of molten chocolate. The churros were just lovely, and both of us loved them. They were nice and crispy on the outside, soft on the inside – just perfect. The chocolate was so delicious I licked off every last bite of it!

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My first-ever tryst with churros – can you believe it?

Service

Service was quite fast, we felt. The staff was attentive, friendly and courteous, offering suggestions and enquiring whether we liked the food at every stage through the meal.

Price

Prices are on the higher side. We paid about INR 1600 for our meal, inclusive of taxes.

Overall experience

We loved the place and the service here, but our overall experience with the food was a little disappointing. Value for money, this meal didn’t feel like, sadly. 

Everything we ordered was very, very fresh. However, our taste buds probably need more of a punch than that, I think. 

I might go back to this place, maybe once, to try out their nachos, toastadas, enchiladas and guacamole, of which I’ve heard good things. 

Birthday Special Bhapa Doi| Bengali Steamed Yogurt| OPOS Recipe| Easy Dessert Recipe

A day before my birthday, recently, I decided to try my hands at making Bhapa Doi, the famed Bengali curd-based cheesecake, at home. I found a recipe that sounded too simple to be true. I had all the ingredients at hand, too. I gave it a shot, and the end result was so, so, so very gorgeous! A great birthday gift to myself, me thinks.

I used the OPOS (One Pot One Shot) method to make the bhapa doi, using a pressure cooker. It needed just two ingredients, and was so easy to put together that even a child could do it. It unmoulded beautifully, and the taste was so lovely we couldn’t keep our hands off it. What more could you ask out of a dessert?!

opos-bhapa-doi
On the left is the bhapa doi, just out of the pressure cooker, ready to be cut. On the right is the bhapa doi that has been cut – can you see its gorgeous texture?

This recipe is surely a keeper, I say. It is a life-saver when you have guests coming over and you need to whip up a quick dessert, or when you need a sweet pick-me-up yourself and are in no mood to labour for hours over the stove. You need to try this recipe out to believe it, honestly!

Here’s how I made it.

Ingredients (makes 5-6 servings):

  1. 400 grams sweetened condensed milk (I used Amul Mithai Mate)
  2. 1 cup fresh curd (Use curd that isn’t too sour or too watery)
  3. Ghee/ unsalted butter to grease the vessel you will make the bhapa doi in

Method:

  1. Pour the sweetened condensed milk in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the curd to the mixing bowl. If you want to add any flavouring – like mango puree or cardamon powder or saffron – you must do so just after you add the curd. I didn’t use any flavouring agents, and yet, the bhapa doi tasted just awesome.
  3. Whisk the two ingredients well, until they are thoroughly combined.
  4. Grease a bowl with ghee or unsalted butter, and pour the mixture into it.
  5. Add about 1.5 cups water to a pressure cooker bottom, and set it on the gas. Put in the bowl. You could use a stand below the bowl to avoid water getting into it, or even cover the bowl. I left the bowl open.
  6. Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Turn the flame down to medium.
  7. Let it cook for 15 minutes exactly, and then switch off the gas.
  8. Let the pressure release naturally, and then open the cooker. Gently drain out any water that might have entered the bowl.
  9. Slide the bhapa doi onto a serving plate. Turn the bowl upside down over a large serving plate, and the bhapa doi will slide onto it. (See the video that I have linked to, above, to understand this step better).
  10. Let cool slightly and then cut into pieces. You can serve it warm, cold or chilled in the refrigerator.

You like? I hope you will try this out at home, and that you will love it just as much as we did!

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Recipe courtesy:

The term OPOS and One Pot One Shot are registered trademarks owned by Mr.Rama Krishna. This recipe has been obtained from the United By Food FB page.

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Want to read about my other experiments with the OPOS way of cooking? Here you go:

OPOS Coffee Flan

OPOS Papad Pickle Pulao