I have an incurable sweet tooth. Somehow I manage to have at least a small piece of sweet every single day. Despite the ill effects of sugar, I am hooked. Sugar like a lot of other stimulants does lead to a sort of addiction much like nicotine. I cannot help myself from that bits of chocolates, Laddoos, Burfis that seem to seek me out. I am thinking of going sugar free for a few weeks to experiment with myself. More on that later. For now it is all about Burfi.

Burfi is the Indian equivalent of fudge. It is sweet, rich and crumbly, mostly made of fatty milk from native Indian breeds. It has relatively a small list of ingredients but it is the technique that is slightly complicated. Because of the simplicity of the ingredients the quality of the ingredients is what differentiate the end product. Somehow Burfis made from the homogenized milk in the regular American super market can never beat the taste of the ones made from fresh and fatty cow /buffalo milk back home. Again not the homogenized, processed junk that comes in plastic bags in India, they are just as crappy as the ones in the cartons here in America.

Not that I have the perfect Burfi, But I am on the way.  This particular draft has been lying in my folder for three -four years now but somehow I never posted it. Recently I made a batch as a hostess gift at one of the dinner parties we were invited to. Our hosts loved it, so did other guests. So here we do.

We will need,

Milk powder /dry Mawa 2 cups
Evaporated milk  1 small tin

Sugar 3/4 cup
Butter 4 tbsp + extra
Pista 4-5 chopped or Tooti-fruiti  1 tbsp chopped

  • Butter the insides of a baking dish about 8"-10" square. Cover the bottom and  sides with a piece of wax paper. Set it aside.Take a small bowl of water and set it aside.
  • Combine the milk powder, evaporated milk, sugar and the 4 tbsp butter in a sauce pan. Stir using a wire whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Set the pot on medium heat and stir constantly. 
  • The mixture will start boiling and there will be bubbles all around. Reduce heat and cook for five minutes or so. 
  • Now take about half a teaspoon or so of the mixture and pour it into the bowl of water that was set aside earlier. Try to wrap it into a ball in the water. It can be hot, so got to watch out here. If the mixture is in soft ball stage that is, if a ball can be made from the mixture, remove from heat and keep stirring till the mixture hardens slightly. 
  • Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread it around.Garnish it with chopped Pistas/ Tooti-fruti.
  •  Let it sit for a few hours, preferably overnight 
  • Once the Burfis are set cut it into pieces. store it in an air tight jar for a few days.

Mixed Veg Paddu

One very critical as aspect of cooking in the ability to innovate. There are times we realize we  have run out of an ingredient mid way through the cooking. Or there are times when we have to accommodate someone with a dietary restriction. Our grandmothers and mothers were exposed to such situations much better than we were. Therefore they are better cooks. My grandmother might not have known Al Dente pasta, but she sure knew how to dish our finger licking food even at the end of the month when most of her pantry would be empty.

It is one such constraint that lead this dish. Paddu is typically loaded with crunchy onions along with a bunch of other ingredients to make it crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the insides. However one of my family members visiting from India had a dietary restriction that particular morning I was all set to make regular Paddus. As I chopped the onions, I casually asked if they were ok with onions in their food. Reluctantly they answered they would like something without any onions.  I had by then no other option to fall back upon and I chanced upon a hunk of cabbage sitting in the refrigerator. Quickly in went the Cabbage and out went the onions. The results were surprisingly good. Now cabbage stands in for onions in several of my dishes and we love it.

We will need,

Left over Idli/Dosa batter
Cabbage finely chopped
Carrots grated
Green Chillies minced
Coriander fresh chopped
Curry leaves
Channa dal soaked in water for 1 hour
Salt to taste
Oil to grease the Paddu skillet

  • Sprinkle a generous pinch of salt on the chopped cabbage and set it aside for 30 minutes. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible. 
  • Stir in all the ingredients gently into the batter.
  • Preheat the Paddu skillet. Grease some oil into each of the molds. Pour a spoon fulls of batter and cook covered. Add a dab more oil if it looks too dry. Flip and cook on the other side till golden and crispy all over. 
  • Remove and serve with coconut chutney

Avalakki Spinach Uppittu

In this age of hyper information, as much as life gets easier, it also gets complicated in other ways.  We are constantly bombarded with 'health' foods and panaceas on all of media. Reader's Digest to The Hindu to 24x7 TV channels, radio. Everyone seem to have an opinion on what constitutes 'health' foods and what will help us as a society to lead a healthy and long life. But how credible are these bits of information. Do these bits reflect current scientific evidence? Going beyond, how solid is the scientific evidence. How much of it is truth and how much of it is paid for by vested interests. It is all questions and more questions.

It is my pet peeve when people recommend the latest fad. Oats was one a  few years back. Now it is mainstream. Australia Oats lobby successfully marketed their surplus oats to 'health conscious' Indians. Now everyone seem to think Oats is a healthier than say rice/ragi/wheat. The truth is oats is as good or as bad as any other grain. It might have a slight edge over polish rice, but not unpolished rice. And then there was a the 'fat-free' fad. Everything was made fat free. But at what cost?  remove  fats and replace it with salt and sugar. How else can something that is processed to remove all fats stop tasting like cardboard? We now know that it was the sugar industry here in the USA that funded research studies that kept trying make fats look bad even though the earliest of unbiased research did show the problems associated with sugar consumption.

The fat versus sugar battle was the longest running sham show we have ever seen.
Now there seems to be a trend somewhat extolling the virtues of our own millet. Millet do not need as much water as say rice or wheat so they are environmentally friendly. They have a slightly better nutrition profile over polished grain. They can be substituted for rice/wheat in a variety of traditional recipes too.But for today we will stick to Avalakki or beaten rice. Not just any Avalakki, it is the red rice avalakki/poha. This variety retains a portion of the barn and has a slightly reddish hue. It is cooked the same way as the regular Poha. In this recipe I have bumped up the veggie quotient by throwing in spinach.

We will need,

Red Rice Avallakki/ Poha  1 cup
Peanut oil   2-3 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/8 tsp
Jeera 1/4 tsp
Hing  a dash
Curry Leaves a handful
Urad dal 1 tsp
Channa dal 1 tbsp
Onion chopped 1 large
Green Chillies slit into two 4-5 (adjust according to taste)
Turmeric a  generous pinch
Spinach 1 bunch (washed, patted dry and chopped)
Salt and lemon juice to taste
Toasted peanuts to top (optional)

  • Wash the Avalakki in several changes of water. Sprinkle 2-3 tbsp of water on the avalakki and set it aside to plump up and soften.
  • Place a Kadai on medium heat. Once it is hot, pour in the oil, quickly followed by mustard, jeera, hing, curry leaves, Urad dal and Channa dal. the spices and dal will pop and sizzle. 
  • Once the dals are golden, throw in the onion and green chillies. Saute till the onions are translucent.
  • Make a spot in the center and place the turmeric and cook it for a few seconds to soften the pungent edge of the turmeric. Stir well.
  • Throw in the spinach and saute for a couple of minutes so the spinach wilts but is not mushy.
  • Fluff up the Avalakki with your fingers /fork. Once the grains are separate, throw it into the Kadai. Add salt, lemon juice and gentle fold it all into the onion/spinach mixture. 
  • Once the Avalakki is completely warm, remove from heat and scatter the peanuts. Or the peanuts can be scattered on individual servings as well.
Notes: I can easily think of substituting spinach with other greens. Any tender greens will work in this recipe.