Friday, January 20, 2012

Soft Chewy Tilwadi

Of Tilwadi, Traditions and distant memories of days gone by..................

The new year brought with it many new ideas but as a child, I loved welcoming the new year with Sankranti. To me, Sankranta, was tilgul ladoos, kites and of course haldi-kumkum! Haldi- Kumkum was actually the best part about the whole deal, according to me.
Every year, as my Mother and I sat making tilgul ladoos, I would talk endlessly about my plans of haldi-kumkum. The ladies I wanted to invite (yes, aunties of the neighborhood), the 'vaan' / gift I wanted to give, and snacks to be served. I would pester my Mom to take me to Dadar flower Market to buy aster flowers and gajras and the vaan, which was some small gift article like a spice container or steel vaati, oh, it could be anything, half a dozen steel spoons for each guest or forks.. anything that was useful.
Oh I used to be SO excited! I would help my Mom clean the house, dust all corners ( a thing I hate), get a black dress cleaned and ironed, on the day, lay a shawl of delicate design in beautiful contrasting colors on the coffee table and place the flowers on them.

On one side, we would place a small end table with the mango shaped haldi-kunku container (check the last picture in Meera's post), traditional silver attar daani- which had a cotton ball soaked in perfume (attar/ ittar) and a gulaab daani filled with refreshing rose water waiting to be sprinkled on our guests. The vaan- a symbolic gift given to the ladies and  a bowl filled with tilgul and halwa. The snack was ready in the kitchen ( usually poha/ upma/ idli- chutney or something similar) water, glasses, tea-cups all set carefully on the dining table to be carried out at the right moment.
The ladies would arrive, all wearing black saris, there would be some chit-chat and I would get antsy and  wait for my mother to start the 'function'. Sure enough, after all the ladies had arrived, we would start,  Mom would apply halidi- kunku on the foreheads of all ladies and I would be a step behind her, with the perfume and the rose water, I would diligently apply the perfume and sprinkle rose water on every lady, smiling all the while like the cheshire cat. After the perfume and rose  water routine, Mom would bring the vaan and while giving it to the ladies would touch their feet and I would carry the tilgul bowl, one step behind her, do the same.
Finally after  all the formalities, Mom would bring out the snack bowls and  we would all sit and eat, talking of this and that. It felt so good! While we followed many traditions, there was no pressure to do it for religious reasons and I guess that is why I enjoyed all these little functions and cherish the memories even today.

But these are tales of days gone by, today, many things have changed and not for the better, I'm afraid. People  are too busy, working, partying ( I am by no means an old fashioned, orthodox auntie) and not wanting to be shackled by old traditions. 
These days, my Mom tells me, the ladies straggle in for haldi-kumkum, anywhere from 5 pm to 9:30 pm, whereas earlier it was a small get together which everyone looked forward to. 

Stragglers or not, my Mother makes these Tilwadis which are divine! They are soft, chewy and addictive.
Also easy on their ( my parents) aging teeth, she tells me! And very easy to make. No need to stand by and agonise watching the jaggery cook not knowing when it will go from crunchy type to rock solid.

Here is my Mom's super easy Tilwadi recipe:

1 cup sesame / Til- roast n cool and rough grind (makes almost 2.5 cups)
2 cups Roasted peanut powder / daney kut
1.5 cup Shredded Coconut- Dry / sukka khobra powder- lightly roast and powder
1tsp green Cardamom powder / velchi powder
3 - 3.5  cups Grated Jaggery ( 3.5 cups will make it very sweet) I suggest you first check how sweet the jaggery is and then add as per taste.
1tbs Ghee
1 tbs Water

Do the prep. DRY Roast sesame till golden brown. Set aside to cool. Once cool, grind to a semi rough powder. Do not wait for it to become fine, that will result in a paste. You don't want that! 

Roast peanuts till golden brown and crunchy, set aside to cool. Once cooled, grind to a powder , if using 
ready roasted (unslated) peanuts, grind to a powder. Not too fine, we do not  want  peanut butter.

Roast dry shredded coconut, cool and grind to a powder.

To all the above, add 1 tsp. Cardamom powder.

Grate and set the jaggery aside.

Grease a plate with ghee and set aside. Keep a vaati/ steel bowl next to the greased plate. stay with me here, I'll explain why later. Keep a serrated knife or pizza cutter at hand.

Heat a wok/ kadhai over medium heat. 

Add 1 tbsp Ghee, once the ghee melts and is warm, add one Tbsp water.

Quickly add the grated jaggery and mix well.

Wait until all the jaggery has melted ( and DO NOT raise the heat, keep it at medium only) 

Once the jaggery has melted, switch off the heat and add the mixture of sesame, peanuts and coconut.

Combine thoroughly and pour the mix into the greased plate.

Now, apply a drop of ghee to the bottom of the vaati/ steel bowl and use it to flatten and spread the mixture evenly on the plate.

Let the mixture set for a few minutes. Now using the knife or pizza cutter make diamond shapes and let it cool completely.

Once cool, remove and store in an airtight container.

* Edited to add: My Mom uses 4 cups of jaggery and claims it is the perfect ratio. I probably picked a batch or type of jaggery that is cloyingly sweet and hence had to reduce the quantity.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aloo Tikki Chaat (Stuffed Potato Shells)

Lunch time in school was special. Small recess and long recess. 2 lunch boxes/ dabbas to carry. One with a small snack and the other with lunch. These definitely added to the weight of the already heavy school bag, but was there any other option? I, for one, couldn't do without  the lunch box ( the big one) ! Besides, lunch time was the ideal time to gather round and share my lunch box with everyone and laugh over silly jokes or gasp at some bit of gossip or an 'inhuman punishment' by a teacher. 
 Those days were fun! I'd demand 'interesting' lunchbox options from my Mom. No 'poli-bhaji' (roti/ flat bread & vegetables) everyday for me please! and I always wanted extra so there'd be enough to share and for me as well. Did you all also have fun times like that? Did you share lunch boxes and have a really good time?
These days I hear of children complaining about what their Mom packs in lunch boxes and say things like, "don't give me any of that yucky green spinach thing" or " I don't want anything that looks different" and also that there is no sharing. 
So what is a 'good' lunch box ? Peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Not that I have anything against that, of course, I like PBJ just as much as anyone else, but I like variation and yes, I like to share.
I still remember the fun we used to have in school, small recess, we'd just share a few biscuits , wafers (cookies and chips) or some nuts and swap books or stamps, coins whatever one was interested in. Hastily check if we had done our homework or quickly scribble it with a bit of help from a friend's notebook. During the long recess we would all gather in a large group, a dozen or so girls, smiling , giggling and all with their dabba. Ready to share! There was a variety to share, someone had idlis or dosas, and then someone had theplas or rice or poli-bhaji. everything was yummy and everything was to be shared. We would eat with our hand. No one said,"eeww" to that, no one scorned the contents of a lunch box.Sometimes a girl did not bring lunch, maybe her Mom was unwell or maybe our friend forgot to pack it in her school bag, it did not matter, there was enough for her to eat with us. It was all so much fun. Back then, lunchtime was a time to bond over food. A thing that continued even when I went to college and then work.

I have for you today, cutlets, which make a good lunch box option for the fussy ones as well as the not so fussy ones and something that has a healthy filling too, moong/ mung bean sprouts.  It's been a while since I blogged from one of my favorite cookbooks, 660 Curries.  This particular recipe was bookmarked, dog eared, actually... and then I guess, in the routine, I quite forgot about it. I spied a small unopened packet of moong beans that needed to be used up. What better way to start the year!
Cutlets , specially stuffed ones are my favorite. I like to have them for lunch or dinner, preferably both!

M and I enjoyed these and little S also (to my satisfaction, after the surprise) ate half a cutlet, considering that it was after his dinner, he did it justice and warmed my heart! Squeeze my baby bunny!
I shared some with my friend in the apartment community I live in and she gave it her stamp of approval too!

These make good lunch box options if you have a microwave in the office to warm food and your colleagues will surely want some! So share the goodies aound, your friends will love you for these tasty treats!

You can make these on one day (if you have sprouts oh hand) or like me in stages, boil potatoes  and make the stuffing a day earlier, the chutneys/ sauces in the morning and then final assembly at tea or dinner time.

To begin with, do the prep. Sprout the moong beans.

For the Potato Shells:
1 pound Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
1 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp Oil
4-6 slices firm white bread

For the filling:
2 Tbsp Canola oil
1/2 cup Red onion , finely chopped
1 cup sprouted moong (or red cowpeas)
2 tbsp Finely chopped Cilantro
1/2 tsp Toasted Cumin-Coriander Blend
1/2 tsp Cayenne (  ground red pepper)
1/2 tsp salt

About 6 tbsp Oil for shallow frying 
Chaat masala for dusting

To make the shell, place the mashed potatoes in a bowl and add the salt.

Hold the bread slices under running water  to drench them and then squeeze out as much water as possible. You should end up with a rolled up wad of moist but firm bread.

Work the bread into the potatoes and knead to form a slightly sticky dough. Rub oil over the dough and allow it to rest for 15-20 mins

Make the filling. Heat oil in a medium  size pan, add onion and stir fry till light brown. add the sprouts, cilantro, spice blend, cayenne and salt. cook stirring  frequently to warm the sprouts and cook the spices. Set aside to cool.

To assemble: (the author has a different and systematic way of assembling the shells, I did mine the unsystematic way, but with the same results, here is my way)

Pinch off a bit of the potato dough (should make about 12 patties) and using your palms, flatten the dough into a dumpling like wrapper. Spoon about 2 tsps of the moong filling in the center. Gather the edges and bring them together to the center pinching the seam to seal tightly. Gently flatten the top making sure the filling stays completely covered. Shape into a patty, roughly 3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.

Repeat the process for the remaining dough.

Line a plate/ cookie sheet with paper towels.

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet or a well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat. Arrange the patties in a single layer without crowding the pan and cook them till they are golden brown and crisp on the underside.

Flip over and cook on the other side till golden brown and crisp. Transfer the patties to the paper towel lined cookie sheet/ plate. Repeat for all the remaining patties .

To serve: Place 2 patties on individual serving plate. atop each patty, soon 1 tsp each of the chutneys (recipe follows), dust with chaat masala and garnish with cilantro ( optional) and serve.

For the chutneys ( I made 2, Mint-yogurt chutney with chilies and Tamarind - Date chutney)

Mint-yogurt chutney
1 cup firmly packed Cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
1 cup firmly packed fresh Mint leaves
1 tbsp thick Yogurt 
1 lengthwise  slices of ginger (21/2inches l x 1 inch w x 1/8 inch t)
1/2 tsp Salt
6 Green chilies
Pour 1/4 cup water in the blender and then pile in all the ingredients. Puree  until it forms a smooth green sauce. Store in an airtight container or freeze. Use as required.

Tamarind - Date chutney
1 tsp Tamarind paste / concentrate
1/4 cup crumbled Jaggery / firmly packed dark brown sugar
10 pitted Dated, coarsely chopped

Pour 11/2 cup water  into a small saucepan add tamarind and whisk  to mix well.
Add jaggery and dates and bring to a boilover medium heat.

Boil uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid had evaporated to half
Remove from heat and cool. Transfer the contents from the saucepan to a blender jar and blend till smooth.
Transfer to a jar ( glass or plastic) and store in the fridge. Use as needed. 

I am linking this post to the Sweet Heat challenge#4 - Let's Rock Indian hosted by Michelle and originally started by Lyndsey.

A while ago, my dear friend Ash shared this wonderful award and MeMe with me. Thank you so much dear Ash!

1. What makes you laugh, smile or giggle?
My baby and his antics. Reading P.G.Wodehouse books. When my Dad relates an incident- he is a raconteur, not unlike PGW !

2. What are your dreams for your future?
The least is to live a happy and healthy life. And oh! I wouldn't really object to wealth......

3. If you are going to a cruise, where would it be and why?
Round the world!  I want to see everything that there is to see! ( now you see why I will not object to question 2 stated above)

4. How would you spend your vacation and with whom?
Vacay with my family... how? hahahahahah! anybody can guess, having fun mixed with the usual vexations only a wife and mother of a 31/2 year old can know!
5. If given a life, what life would you choose ? Your life now or your past?
I'm happy with what is... but childhood definitely has a strong attraction... carefree days ( of course there was the dread of homework and exams, but what of it? easier than problems of adulthood, don't you think?)

6. Is there something that you wished before when you were young but you didn't get it?
Of course! Like most kids my list of wants (which I mostly confused for needs) was long enough to add grey hair to my parents head!

7. Have you been in a situation where you might have given up but you still choose to move on?
Yes, I always tell myself, into each life, some rain must fall.... it is my choice, to sit and grumble or dance in that rain. And though  a pathetic dancer, I am a rain lover and cannot resist it ;)

8. Is there someone in your life who has been your source of strength and inspiration? 
Sure! But it would be unfair to name one person, in different circumstances, different people/ personalities have inspired me and I am thankful to each one of them.

I invite all my blogger friends who would like to participate to do this MeMe. Play along ! 

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