Categories
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

Categories
Mucho Gusto

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