Monday, November 16, 2015

'To Life, to Life, Lehiyam' - Lehiyam gelato

Lehiyam Gelato

Call it what you will, but every year around this time, I can't but help humming this song from 'Fiddler on the Roof'  in my head , except,  the Hebrew word L'Chaim gets twisted into the Tamil 'Lehiyam'. It makes perfect sense though, doesn't it? L'Chaim translates as 'To Life' and the iconic Lehiyam is a life enhancing tonic served up at Diwali. Fits perfectly into the grand scheme of things, in my opinion.

Lehiyam , that iconic signature item prepared in every TamBrahm household for Diwali. Its like advertising to the world that while the rest of the Diwali celebrating population is off partying and gambling away, us goody two shoes actually partake of tonic to keep healthy . And, truth be told, the ingredients that go into the Lehiyam are all geared to combat indigestion - ginger figures at the top of this list.  But in real life, we'd all be severely overdosing on the tonic if weren't for the fact that it is made in limited quantities, never more than a cup to be shared between extended family (which translates to about a tablespoon or less per person).

Lehiyam ingredients

I made a significant substitution to  my Lehiyam batch this year . The sweetener of choice every year is regular Jaggery (Gud), but this time around I had a stock of 'Karupatti' (Toddy Palm Jaggery) that I'd picked up from my visit to the iconic 'Dabba Chetty Kadai' in Mylapore, Chennai last June.

The store needs no introduction to anyone who has a familial connection to Chennai. But for those from other parts of the world. If you are remotely a food aficionado, this little store should be on your list if you ever visit Chennai. The walls of this little store are lined from floor to ceiling with little tin containers (hence the name Dabba - box) with the most unbelievably huge selection of herbs and spices. 

Ingredients for Neo natal potions (including dried Calamus, Ginger & Galangal)

Dried Blossoms and herbs used in traditional scented Bath mixtures,
the large yellow chunks are a variety of non edible aromatic turmeric.

 For more details, here is a newspaper article that my blogging buddy Lata Raja (Flavors and Tastes) sent me. The staff , including the proprietor Mr. Badrinath are very friendly and helpful. I guarantee that one visit is worth a million bucks in terms of what you learn.

I never got around to taking fancy pictures of my purchases and so all I have is one or two snaps from my Phone that I captured at the store.

Bags of the Toddy palm (Jaggery, crystals and rock sugar) and a bag or aromatic 'Kasturi' Turmeric

Back to the edible ingredients. I've covered some details about Toddy Palm Jaggery in this post from a couple of years ago and  have posted a couple of recipes showcasing the flavors of "Karupatti' (Toddy Palm Jaggery). Here are the links:

For those residing outside India, the toddy palm sweeteners may be hard to acquire, and the substitution for Jaggery/gud to Karupatti is the same, so just use the same quantity of the toddy Palm variant in lieu of the standard sugarcane version. Or vice versa. Coarse Muscovado sugar crystals would work in lieu of the toddy Palm sugar.

My latest recipe featuring this native sweetener is a light gelato, The flavor is refreshing and palate cleansing in one shot. Unlike a traditional custard like ice cream, its not heavy and cloying. The Ginger confers an added digestif property to this delightful dessert.

Toddy palm sugar

Lehiyam Gelato

You need:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 - 5 long pepper, broken into small bits
  • 2 tablespoon coriander seeds, roughly crushed
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup Lehiyam (for the detailed recipe follow this link)
  • 1/2 cup toddy palm sugar (or regular muscovado sugar)

Combine the milk, heavy cream, icing sugar,  the long pepper and coriander. Bring to a gentle boil on low heat and simmer the mixture for about 15 minutes. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for about 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Place the ice cream maker container in the freezer and chill it according to the manufacturers instructions.

On the following day, when you're ready to make the gelato, Strain the milk/cream mixture and discard the coriander/pepper bits.
Start the ice cream churner and gradually pour the mixture into the chilled chamber to churn. The total time it took me was about 30 minutes, but it probably varies depending upon the machine, so follow your appliances instructions.

When the mixture begins to appear lumpy (bits of soft frozen chunks begin to appear) add the lehiyam morsel by morsel. This is important, you don't want to add the lehiyam in one shot, it will harden and not mix into the gelato. Wait for the lehiyam to get incorporated well before adding the next bit.

Once the mixture freezes to almost to a soft serve consistency, pour in the toddy palm sugar crystals in a steady stream. This ensures that the crystals distribute evenly over the gelato.

Transfer the soft mixture into a container and freeze overnight to set to a firm consistency. To serve, scoop out into chilled ice cream bowls and garnish with an extra sprinkle of the toddy palm sugar crystals.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

This Diwali, Leave the G**, Take the Cannoli, the Therattipaal Cannoli

When you read through Rachel Laudan's book 'Cuisine and Empire' :Cooking in World Historyone of the things (or lack thereof) that strikes you, -- especially hard if you are a South Indian -- is that despite being the Ground Zero for spices, South Indian cuisine simply does not get mentioned as a world cuisine. The culinary narrative stops geographically at Goa before sailing off towards the Phillipines and on to South America as part of the Catholic trade route.

And with this historical trade route, one particular dish traveled halfway across the world and became entrenched as a signature dish from Latin America - Its Spanish moniker is Dulce de Leche, but its original ancestral version is still revered as a signature dish amongst the South Indian communities. Its none other than the iconic 'Theratti Paal'.

Its a classic 2 ingredient dessert. All you need is good quality whole milk and some sugar. And plenty of time and a consistent low heat source to cook it.

It took me close to 4 years to actually get this dish plated and devoured. I bought the cannoli pipes (used to make traditional Cannoli shells) way back in 2011. It wasn't until last year that I mustered up the courage to try and make the dessert. Learned 2 important points. 1. It isn't as easy as simply stuffing the therattipaal directly into the cannoli shells. Authentic Cannoli filling has a light whipped texture. 2. Store bought cannoli shells simply do not work. they contain eggs and Vanilla, and these flavors do not harmonize well with the caramelized flavor that is the signature of the South Indian classic.

Therattipaal Cannoli (Cannoli with a classic South Indian Dulce de Leche filling)

You need: (For the Therattipaal)

  • 1/2 Gallon whole milk (brownie points if you can get hold of the creamy top variety)
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cups sugar

Heat the milk in a heavy pan, making sure you keep stirring until it reaches a boil. Lower the heat to just above a simmer level and allow the milk to evaporate to about 1 /5 of its original volume. Keep peeling off the creamy skin that forms over the surface and stir it back into the liquid. Once it has reduced to a fifth of the original volume, stir in the sugar. Increase the heat slightly, keep stirring until all the moisture evaporates, leaving behind a thick caramelized blob of flaky sweetened milk solids. 

Store in a refrigerator.

Cannoli shells

You need:

  • 2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar.
  •  water for kneading
  • Oil for frying.

Combine all the ingredients together and knead into a soft pliable dough. Pinch off marble sized bits of dough and roll into a thin (and I mean really thin) circle. Using a fork, stab holes evenly on the surface. Cut out a circle using a 3 inch circular cookie cutter. Moisten a small arc at the edge of the disk, where the two opposite sides of the dough will be sealed. Wrap the disk around the cannoli tube and seal the edges as shown.

Fry the dough (along with the cannoli tubes) until they  turn golden brown. Carefully remove the fried cannoli shells from the oil onto kitchen towels. Wait for the tubes to completely cool before sliding the shells off. 

Store in an airtight tin until required.

For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's (Icing) sugar
  • 1 cup prepared therattipaal
  • Strands of saffron, crushed

Combine the chilled heavy whipping cream, saffron and icing sugar, using a hand blender whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks. 

Add in the  Therattipaal in batches incorporating it into the whipped cream, Sample as you go to determine the level of sweetness and flavor as per your personal preference.

 Fill the cream into a piping bag fitted with a broad nozzle tip and pipe in the cream into the cannoli shells.

Dust with Icing sugar and serve with a cup of hot filter coffee.

Here are some links to my other Diwali favorites (which in turn have links to more Diwali specials)

Lehiyam Truffles

Baked Granola Chivda

Okkarai bars

Hazelnut and Almond Barfi

Wishing all my readers a happy Diwali and prosperous Year ahead.

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Memory recall - Gnudi Kadhi

I think the technique for this posts recipe was the first victim of  my extended hiatus from regular blogging.
The event was the Indian Food Bloggers Meet (#IFBM2014) last August, KitchenAid (India) had sponsored a cooking Demo by the Executive Chef of JW Marriot, Bengaluru, Chef Surjan Singh Jolly. The general consensus among the bloggers was that we were being talked down to, but he did an interesting demo of poached chenna (Paneer that's not been pressed completely into shape.) in a tomato gravy. Tchamankut, I think he called it. Unusual name not withstanding, it still fundamentally translated to a simple 'gnudi' - ricotta cheese gnocchi with a touch of flour and eggs used as a binder.

I had tried out the technique of poached chenna (in a gravy of creamed baby kale ) last September, but I never got around to writing the recipe down quickly enough. Some of my tastiest recipes have been lost to this particular negative quirk of mine.

Its been over a year (14 months to the day, the date on the photograph is 7th September 2014) before I got around to using the technique again and my current spice blend of interest happens to be Vadouvan, a heady mix of shallots, garlic and fenugreek. Its a .curry powder' contribution from the erstwhile French colony of Puducherry in South India. For a first introduction, I picked up a bottle of this spice from my local Williams - Sonoma, but Savory Spices carries the spice too  -- Ironically, Vadouvan is hardly ever ever found in an Indian Grocery store like its British cousin 'curry powder' is) 

To poach the 'Chenna', you have to knead the paneer until you've pretty much eliminated any extra moisture, or else you'll be left with a messy cloudy pot of boiling water. This is important especially when making your own paneer.

Vadouvan spiced Gnudi Kadhi.

You need: (for the spiced gnudi)

Heat the ghee until melted and add the Vadouvan and the tomato paste. Once the spices 'bloom' and emit the signature aroma, pour over the crumbled paneer, salt and cornflour. Knead into a smooth mass. Pinch off marble sized pieces and roll. (you could run these over the tines of an inverted fork to get those gnocchi like ridges if you want). 

Set aside while you prepare the kadhi.


You need :
  • 2 cups yogurt (if its tart, all the better)
  • 1 - 1.5 cups water.
  • 1 tablespoon Chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 tablespoon Ginger garlic paste (one clove of garlic is enough, the Spice blend has garlic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt to taste

  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1.5 teaspoon Vadouvan spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Vadouvan spice blend
  • 1-2 green chilies slit lengthwise
  • A pinch of Asafetida
  • 1 sprig curry leaves torn.

Whisk the yogurt, with the water, besan,  ginger garlic paste. salt and turmeric, ensuring that there are no lumps.

Heat the ghee until smoking and add the coriander, cumin and fenugreek seeds. once the whole spices have 'bloomed' add the Vadouvan, green chile, curry leaves and the asafetida. Pour in the Yogurt mixture and bring it to a gentle boil on low-medium heat.

In another large pot bring about 2 Liters of water to a boil. Add a pinch of citric acid or some lemon juice to the water (just an extra bit of insurance to make the proteins in the paneer seize up to prevent them from disintegrating)

(This photograph is from a year ago and the Paneer was being poached in water with whole spices added to it. The current recipe already has spices kneaded into the paneer). 

Add the Paneer in batches to the boiling water. You do not want to add it all at once and crowd the pot.  The Paneer will initially sink to the bottom and then rise up to the surface as the water heats up again. Once they float to the top gently remove them using a spider skimmer and add them to the Kadhi.

Gently transfer the Kadhi to a serving dish and garnish with finely chopped cilantro. Serve with steamed rice or plain roti.

 Bon appetit!

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