27 October 2011


For Diwali this week, our housekeeper showed me how to make laddu, one of the traditional sweets. They're made with besan, which is lentil flour.

She started with 500 mL ghee, which is clarified butter. She heated it up on the stovetop until it was clear. Then she took small spoonfuls of the ghee and put it in a frying pan with a few spoonfuls of the besan, heating it all up together until it was all incorporated and the mixture was free of clumps. She did this for a long time, until she'd combined the ghee with about half of a kilogram (about one pound) of besan. It takes a while because you have to do such small amounts at once, in order to keep the besan from burning.

Then she put half of a kilogram of sugar in the food processor until it was very fine, and she stirred that into the besan-ghee mixture. She also added a few shakes of ground cardamom.

Once everything is mixed and is the right texture, you pick up small handfuls and form little balls. You can also add chopped nuts to the mixture and our housekeeper did half with cashews and half with pistachios. They sit in a cool room (we had to blast the air conditioner over the dining room table) until they've hardened up enough to not fall apart. Then they are eaten!

I liked them. They are heavy and sweet, but also quite filling because of the lentil flour so I tried to convince myself that one or two with a cup of coffee wasn't the worst treat in the world. Muffin enjoyed them as well.

According to our housekeeper, laddu are also given to women in labor to help ease the pain and they are also given the children who are deemed "too skinny."

These are easy to make, but I probably won't make them again until next Diwali because they are too sweet and heavy to enjoy on a regular basis. Next year Muffin will be old enough to get her hands in the dough and help shape the little balls.

Heating up the ghee.

Heating up the besan with ghee.

After the sugar and cardamom is added, shaping the dough into little balls.

A tray full of laddu.

More laddu pleeeeeeeeease!

13 October 2011

dreaming of macarons

For some reason I've become obsessed with macarons. Not the coconut macaroons, the French macarons made from almond flour. I've only had them once in my life, in Paris, but I've decided that one of my goals by the end of the year is to perfect making macarons in India. India loves sugar and food coloring, which are part of the specialness of macarons. But once my supply of almond meal from the States is used up, I'll have to grind my own from almonds that are expensive here. There's also a bit of a humidity problem this time of year. And I may have to grind granulated sugar in order to make it "superfine," as many of my recipes call for. It's going to be tedious and messy and time-consuming -- but hopefully delicious -- and I will have to run many miles to combat all the sugar and butter I'll be test-tasting over the next few weeks.

Armed with Cecile Cannone's Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the MacarOn Cafe, I'll be making my first attempt this weekend. I'll be separating the eggs tonight, as Cecile suggests, in order to bake on Saturday or Sunday.

Stay tuned!

Image from Ladies Day to Play, "Interview with Cecile Cannone."
Note: I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on the book link and ultimately decide to buy it, I will receive a small amount of money. That will go toward purchasing almonds, most likely.

12 October 2011

gluten-free flours, grains, and legumes in india

This is more for my personal reference, but if it helps anyone else, that's great! I'm sure this is not a comprehensive list. I'm making additions and adjustments all the time as I learn about new flours and different names in different regions. I can't really guarantee ultimate gluten-freeness because you never know about cross-contamination and kitchen conditions, but I can say I've been living in Hyderabad for almost a year now and I've only had one gluten incident, and I know exactly where it came from so I can now avoid it.

Here's what I've been working on:

India to English
 amaranthus = amaranth
 bajri = millet
 besan = lentil
 chana = chickpea
 cholam = sorghum
 corn flour (sometimes “corn flour” is actually corn starch)
 corn meal
 dhokla, dhokra = blend of rice, urad dal, and chickpeas
 gram = chickpea
 jowar = sorghum
 kurakkan = millet
 kuttu = buckwheat
 moog dal = lentil
 mung dal = legume
 okhla = buckwheat
 ragi = millet
 rajgira = buckwheat
 rice flour
 soya = soy flour
 urad dal = legume

English to India
 amaranth = amaranthus
 buckwheat = kuttu, okhla, rajgira
 chickpea/lentil/legume = besan, chana, dal (moog, mung, urad), gram
 corn flour (sometimes “corn flour” is actually corn starch in India)
 corn meal
 millet = bajri, kurakken, ragi
 rice flour
 sorghum = cholam, jowar
 soy = soya
 blend of rice, dal, chickpeas = dhokla, dhokra

I have compiled this list through personal experience, discussions with bakers and cooks here, and with help from Cook's Thesaurus and the discussion boards at Celiac.com.



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