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Prashanti’s Chili Bajjis

This is the forty-fifth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

SIZZLE! SIZZLE! SIZZLE! When I was young, I often came home from school to this sound. I’d immediately run to the kitchen to see what my mom or dad was making. Most days, someone was preparing a curry; the sizzle I’d hear was the onions browning in the pan. As a child—and still today—I loved curry. However, because I ate curries practically every day, the excitement I felt wore off after a while. Every so often, I would hear something else: the sizzle of green chillies being deep fried. On those days, my dad would be making one of my favorite snacks, chilli bajjis. 

Chilli bajjis are incredibly spicy but delicious deep fried green chillies—an Indian fritter of sorts. Eaten as a tea time snack or sold by street vendors in India, chilli bajjis are a staple of South Indian cuisine. While the first bite of the chilli bajji is extremely crunchy, the second bite is when the spice really kicks in. It feels like your mouth is on fire. Your eyes may even begin to water. You continue eating the bajiis anyways; it’s that delicious. The next bite is surprisingly refreshing. That’s when you finally taste the onion filling and its hint of red chilli powder and lemon juice. 

Choosing the correct chilli for this snack is very important. In India, people tend to use the spiciest chilli they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, these chillies are not sold in regular American grocery stores. Instead, people usually buy them from specialized Indian supermarkets. When I had a chilli bajji in India for the first time, I was shocked by the sheer amount of spice. My eyes watered as I ate, but it was so delicious that I had to finish it all. As I’ve gotten older, I have become more accustomed to the spiciness of these chillies and react more quietly to it. For those with a lower spice tolerance, eating the chilli bajjis with some sort of tamarind sauce or chutney reduces some of the spiciness of the snack. Some people go so far as to use normal chillies that can be found in any American grocery store. 

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 medium sized green chillies  
  • 4-6 cups vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 2 cup besan flour 
  • ⅔  cup water 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder or baking soda 
  • 2 tsp. salt 
  • 4 tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1 medium yellow onion 
  • ½ lemon

Instructions:

First, clean the chillies by running them under warm water. Use a paper towel to pat them down, making sure that they are completely dry. With a sharp knife, make one long slit down the length of the chilli. When doing this, make sure that you do not accidentally cut the chilli in half. This step is important, because it will allow you to add a filling into the chillies after they are fried. 

Chillies with a slit

Next, make the batter that you will dip the chillies in before frying them. To do this, mix the besan flour, baking powder or baking soda, salt, 3 teaspoons of red chilli powder, and water together until all the ingredients are well combined. This should form a batter that is similar in consistency to pancake batter. If the batter is too thin, add some more besan flour; if it is too thick, add a little bit of water. 

Prepare to deep fry the chillies. Add the vegetable oil to a large pot and heat it on medium flame. To test the temperature of the oil, place a drop of the batter in the oil. You will know that the oil is hot enough to use when the batter rises to the top and begins to sizzle. Dip a chilli in the batter, make suring that it is evenly coated. Gently place the chilli in the pot of hot oil and fry for 3-5 minutes or until it has a nice golden-brown color. Repeat this process for the rest of the chillies. Set the deep fried chillies aside so that they can cool as you proceed to the next step. You can either dispose of the oil or save it for your next deep-fried dish!

Chop the yellow onion into small pieces. In a small mixing bowl, combine the onions with the remaining teaspoon of red chilli powder. Squeeze half of a lemon into the onion mixture and combine well. 

Finally, add 1-2 spoonfuls of the onion mixture into the slit of the fried chillies; make sure that the onion mixture is spread evenly throughout the slit of the chilli. This recipe should be served right away, and it tastes even better when eaten with tamarind sauce or chutney. Enjoy!

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Mucho Gusto

Prashanti’s Tindora Achaar

This is the forty first installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Written by Leela Kodali & Edited by Prashanti Kodali 

At college, when I’m away from home, I miss eating my parents’ home-cooked meals; I miss the flavor, especially the spiciness. Weirdly enough, I miss the sensation of my mouth burning and my eyes watering because of the spice level. Perhaps my favorite food to eat is achaar—a delicious, spicy, and traditional Indian pickled condiment eaten with rice. Typically made from oil and a spice blend, achaar always features a staple ingredient—anything from red chilies to lemon to raw mango. Today, I am sharing my mom’s recipe for our family’s favorite type: tindora achaar. Resembling a cucumber, tindora is a slightly bitter vegetable commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisines. Because of its odd texture, tindora is a very controversial vegetable – some people love it; others hate it.

Fresh tindora

Here’s the story of how my mom came to appreciate tindora: 

“When I was a little girl, I used to despise tindora. I thought the vegetable was flavorless and had an awful texture. I remember begging my mom to never make a tindora curry. If I saw that she was cooking with tindora, I’d shudder in disgust. To this day, I still strongly dislike eating tindora in most other foods—its slimy texture will always irk me. 

Later on in life, I remember going to an Indian restaurant while visiting my family in New Jersey. My brother begged me to try the restaurant’s tindora achaar. I initially refused, but he was relentless. I finally gave in so that he would stop talking. To my surprise, I was captivated by the incredible flavor and surprising texture of the tindora achaar. I was gobsmacked! The tindora was full of flavor and crunchy instead of slimy! 

As soon as I came home, I immediately Googled how to make the tindora achaar and quickly discovered how simple it is to make. I found out that the tindora wasn’t slimy because the pieces are dried before they are pickled. The combination of spices that was used sounded heavenly. The only hard part about making this recipe was waiting the full two days for the tindora pieces to absorb all the spice. 

Nowadays, I make this recipe for my family all the time. It isn’t time consuming at all and is one of the few recipes everyone enjoys. I keep the tindora achaar in our refrigerator, at all times; if I’m working or I’m feeling lazy that day, my family is more than happy to eat it with rice. No one complains.” 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups tindora 
  • ½ cup chili powder
  • ½ cup mustard powder 
  • ½ tbsp. turmeric powder
  • ½ cup salt 
  • ¼ cup lemon juice 
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 6 dried red chilies 
  • ½ tsp. chana daal 
  • Optional: ¼ tsp. Asafoetida powder

Instructions:

Begin by cutting the tindora into small pieces. The best way to do this is to first cut off the ends of the tindora. Next, cut the tindora in half lengthwise twice, resulting in four long pieces. Cut each quarter into bite size pieces. After this, spread out the chopped up tindora onto a large plate, or multiple plates if necessary, and let them dry. When placing the tindora onto the plate(s), make sure that the pieces are evenly spread out and that none overlap. It is best to let the tindora dry outside under the hot sun for at least 1 hour. 

Pieces of dried tindora

When the tindora is finally dry, place the pieces into a large mixing bowl. Add the chili powder, mustard powder, turmeric powder, and lemon juice to the bowl, and mix until all the pieces are evenly coated in the spices. Set this aside. 

Tindora after adding the above mentioned spices and lemon juice

Next, add the vegetable oil to a medium pot and heat on a low flame for approximately 5 minutes. Add the dried red chilies, chana daal, and Asafoetida powder. Asafoetida is a blend of spices commonly used when pickling foods and in various South Asian recipes. The Asafoetida adds a nice punch to this already spicy recipe. However, it is not necessary, as it can be hard to find; the other spices already add tons of flavor! Remove the pot from heat once the golden yellow chana daal becomes lightly browned. Let this cool for 2-3 minutes before adding it to the mixing bowl with the tindora pieces.

Then, stir the mixture enough so that the tindora pieces are even coated in the spices and oil. Transfer the tindora achaar into a large glass jar and store in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 days. This allows the tindora pieces to absorb all the oil and spices, maximizing the pickling effect.

The tindora achaar can last up to 3 months if stored in the refrigerator. A spoonful of the tindora achaar is typically eaten with a serving of rice. Some people like to add ghee (clarified butter) to the rice and achaar mixture as it reduces some of the spiciness. Enjoy! 

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Mucho Gusto

Prashanti’s Sooji Halwa/ Rava Kesari

This is the thirty-seventh installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

When I was in 5th grade, I remember coming home on my 10th birthday to the smell of something incredibly sweet and buttery: roasted nuts and melted ghee (clarified butter). Back then I had—and admittedly still do today—the biggest sweet tooth. I bolted upstairs to find my mom in the kitchen as the sweet aroma of the traditional Indian dessert she was preparing left a wide grin across my face. She was making one of my favorite recipes: rava kesari, also known as sooji halwa in other parts of India. As I watched my mom work, I was in awe, amazed by the dessert’s bright orange color. Ten years later, I learned how to make this exact dish so that I could surprise my mom for her birthday. 

Sooji halwa is a delicious North Indian dessert made primarily from sugar, ghee, and semolina— a type of wheat commonly referred to as sooji in North India. The South Indian counterpart for this tasty dessert is rava kesari. Like sooji, rava is another name for semolina. Kesari means “saffron color” in many South Indian languages, a reference to the bright orange color of this treat. Interestingly, the addition of the saffron water—and thus the difference in color—to the semolina in the rava kesari is what differentiates it from sooji halwa. 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup semolina 
  • 1 cup water 
  • ½ cup sugar 
  • ¼ cup + 1 ½ tbsp. ghee (clarified butter) 
  • ¼ tsp. cardamom powder 
  • Handful of roughly chopped nuts (cashews, almonds, and/or pistachios) 
  • Handful of golden raisins 
  • Optional: 2 tbsp. water, saffron

Instructions:

First, add a few pieces of saffron to two tbsp. of water. The water should immediately become a golden yellow or orange color. Set the saffron water aside until the final step. By the time you are ready to use the saffron water, it should be a bright orange or red color. 

Add 1 ½ tbsp. of ghee to a medium-sized pan on medium heat. Once the ghee has completely melted, add the nuts and raisins. I like to use cashews and almonds for this recipe, but pistachios work as well. Lightly roast the nuts and raisins for 2-3 minutes, or until the nuts are lightly browned and the raisins absorb some of the ghee. Continuously stir the nuts and raisins so that they do not burn. Remove the nuts and raisins from the pan and set them aside. Do not remove the ghee from the pan, as you will use it in the next step. 

Add the semolina to the leftover ghee in the pan. On medium heat, lightly toast the semolina until it absorbs all the ghee and becomes slightly brown. Be sure to stir the semolina consistently so that it does not burn. This step should take approximately 3-4 minutes. It is very easy to burn the semolina so keep a careful eye on the pan. 

Next, in a medium-sized saucepan, boil the water. On low heat, add the toasted semolina to the water. Stir this mixture continuously until the semolina completely absorbs the water. Make sure there are no lumps. Add the sugar to the pan, and stir continuously until the mixture is well combined. After 2-3 minutes have passed, the sugar should be completely dissolved. 

Add the saffron water and ¼ cup of the ghee to the mixture and stir. Place a lid onto the saucepan and let the mixture simmer on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the roasted nuts, raisins, and the cardamom powder to the pan. Stir so that everything is evenly distributed throughout the mixture. 

This quick and yummy recipe should take no more than 15 minutes to prepare, and it should last for several days if stored in the refrigerator. Enjoy! 

Recipe adapted from Hebbars Kitchen’s “rava kesari recipe | kesari bath recipe | how to make kesari recipe or sheera recipe

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Prashanti’s Boondi Laddus

This is the thirty-third installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

When I was a little girl, I absolutely loved going to sweet shops when visiting my family in India. A wide grin across my face, I would stare in awe at the rows and rows of sweets in the store, most of which were not available in the United States. The sugary smell that filled the store made me giddy. I was instantly drawn to the sweets’ bright colors and different shapes. I distinctly remember going to the sweet shop at 7 years old, seeing boondi laddus in the display case, being taken aback by their sweet aroma and shiny appearance, and begging my parents to buy me one. I loved that the boondi laddus were made up of tiny droplets, almost like puzzle pieces. I was mesmerized by the fact that the boondi, something I had only ever eaten in savory foods, could be used to make something, laddus, so sweet and delicious.

Boondis are small droplets of fried besan flour batter that are used to make many different Indian snacks, both sweet and savory. Some people season the boondi with a small amount of salt and chile powder and eat it with diced yellow onions and finely chopped green chiles. Others go one step further and add this delicious combination to raita, a traditional Indian yogurt dipping sauce. My favorite way to prepare boondi is to make boondi laddus.

Laddus are heavenly Indian sweets that are made from sugar, oil or fat (ghee), and a base, which can be anything from besan flour to rava to boondi. Laddus come in all sizes and colors and are the staple of many different Indian festivals and holidays, including Diwali. While there are many types of laddus, I like boondi laddus the best because they deliciously pair the crispiness of the boondi pairs with sugar-water syrup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ⅔ cups besan (chickpea) flour 
  • 2 ⅓ cups water 
  • 4-5 cups vegetable oil or melted ghee 
  • Handful of golden raisins 
  • ½ tbsp. ghee (clarified butter)
  • ½ tsp. cardamom powder
  • 1 ⅔  cups sugar 
  • Optional: food coloring
  • Optional: a handful of nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios)

Supplies:

Instructions:

To make the boondi, add 1 cup of water to the besan flour in a mixing bowl and use the spatula to stir. This should form a batter with a similar consistency to that of pancake batter. If the batter is too thick, add a little more water; if the batter is too thin, add a little more besan flour. Some people choose to add food coloring to the batter so that the final product is bright and colorful. Let the batter sit for at least 20 minutes at room temperature. 

Pour the vegetable oil in the large pot and heat; this should take at least 10 minutes. To add more flavor, some people prefer to use ghee for this step instead. After heating the oil for several minutes, drop a small amount of the boondi batter into the oil. When the batter rises to the top, the oil is hot enough to use. Once the oil reaches the appropriate temperature, pour the batter into the oil through the skimmer. Doing this should cause small droplets of batter to form as they fall into the pot. Fry these droplets for approximately 30 seconds or until golden. Use the skimmer to remove the boondi from the oil. Let the boondi cool while proceeding to the next step. You can either dispose of the oil or use it to deep fry other foods.

Pouring the boondi batter through a skimmer

Finely chop the assortment of nuts. For this recipe, I prefer almonds and cashews. People also like to include pistachios, but you do not need to include any nuts to make the boondi laddus. In a small pan, heat the ghee until it melts completely. When the ghee is hot, add the finely chopped nuts and the golden raisins and roast for a few minutes. The nuts should be lightly browned and the raisins should become “plump” because they absorb some of the melted ghee. Set the roasted nuts and raisins aside for now. It is very easy to burn the nuts, so make sure you are paying attention! 

On a stove, in a different large pot, add the sugar to 1 ⅓ cups of water on medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves, add the cardamom powder and bring the mixture to a boil until the sugar-water mixture forms a sticky syrup of sorts. Use the spatula to periodically mix the sugar-water syrup as it boils. The sugar-water syrup must be the correct consistency or else you will not be able to properly shape the laddus. If the sugar-water mixture is too thin, the boondi will not be able to absorb all of the syrup; if the sugar-water mixture is too thick, there will be too little syrup to coat the boondi. One way to determine if the sugar-water mixture is the correct consistency is to observe how the mixture falls off the spatula. When lifting the spatula above the sugar-water mixture, if the mixture on the spatula falls off in a continuous stream, the mixture is too thin and still needs to be reduced. Conversely, you can tell that the sugar-water mixture is the correct consistency if it forms small droplets as it falls off the spatula. 

Next, add the boondi to the pot and stir with a spatula until every droplet is coated in the syrup. Add the roasted nuts and golden raisins from before and stir. Make sure the nuts and raisins are evenly dispersed throughout the boondi mixture. After 1 minute has passed, remove the boondi mixture from heat. 

To form the laddus, take a small handful of the mixture and mold it into a ball. The best way to do this is by placing a small handful of boondi mixture in one hand and placing your other hand directly on top of the handful of boondi mixture you are already holding. Continuously press the boondi mixture in your hands until a firm ball forms. If you do not press the boondi mixture hard enough or long enough, the shape of the laddu will not be spherical. It may also be helpful to put a little bit of oil on your hands before working with the boondi mixture. It is important to do this step as quickly as possible so that the sugar-water syrup does not dry up before you form the balls. Be careful while doing this step, as the mixture is still a little bit hot. Let the boondi laddus harden for a minimum of 4 hours. These sweets do not need to be eaten right away and can last for up to 1 month if they are stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Enjoy! 

Recipe adapted from CookingShooking’s Boondi Ladoo Recipe | Easy Perfect Boondi Laddu – Indian Sweets, Everything Explained,Halwai Secrets

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Prashanti’s Homemade Ice Cream

This is the thirtieth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

It’s a hot summer day, and the school year has just ended. My friends and I are walking towards the local ice cream shop, celebrating our first official day of freedom as all our responsibilities from the school year wash away. For a split second, it feels as if we are all little kids again. The first bite is heavenly, taking us back to our youth and innocence. 

Many of my best childhood memories involved eating ice cream, whether at parties or just with friends. When I was in elementary school, I often begged my parents to buy an ice cream cake for my birthday. I believe that no matter where you’re from in the world, you’re bound to love ice cream, so today, I am sharing a simple recipe for a homemade version of the treat. This is a cookies and cream flavored ice cream that can easily be modified to your liking. 

Time: 4 hours & 10 minutes total 

Ingredients & Supplies: 

1 medium mixing bowl 

1 hand blender or mixer

1 rubber spatula

1 rolling pin 

1 Ziplock bag 

1 cup heavy cream  

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅓ can of sweetened condensed milk (approximately 5 oz.)

Optional: 4-5 Biscoff cookies, or any type of cookie (Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, etc.)

Instructions:

Add the heavy cream to a medium mixing bowl. Use a mixer or hand blender to mix the heavy cream until it forms whipped cream. Be careful not to blend the heavy cream too much as it will form butter instead. 

Add the vanilla extract and sweetened condensed milk. Use the mixer or hand blender to mix the ingredients together until they are well combined. If the mixture is not sweet enough, add more sweetened condensed milk to taste. 

Place 4-5 Biscoff cookies in a Ziplock bag, and use a rolling pin to crush the cookies. Add the crumbled cookies to the whipped cream mixture. Use a rubber spatula to incorporate the bite-sized cookie pieces into the mixture. If you prefer, you can skip this step and make plain vanilla ice cream instead. 

Freeze the whipped cream mixture for a minimum of 4 hours before eating. Freezing overnight produces the best result. 

Adapted from Eitan Bernath’s  “Four Ingredients Oreo Ice Cream”