Friday, March 5, 2010

Sweet Shankarpali

I am leaving for India in a couple of days and wanted to keep some snacks ready to eat for DH. One of the snacks I made is Shankarpali, because they have a long shelf life and are quite filling.

Shankarpali is a Maharashtrian snack often made for Diwali. A dough for Shankarpali is formed by boiling together milk, ghee and sugar and then adding flour to it. Small squares are then cut and deep fried. All purpose flour is often used in making shankarpali, but shankarpali made with whole wheat flour are also popular.

To make Shankarpali, simply follow these steps-
1. In a saucepan mix a cup each of milk, sugar and ghee (clarified butter) and bring to a boil. Add a quarter teaspoon of salt to the boiling mixture. You can also add oil instead of ghee, but according to me, ghee tastes much better.

2. Take the mixture off heat and add as much whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour) as needed to form a soft dough. Make sure that flour and milk mixture are properly combined. You probably would need about 3-3.5 cups of flour.

3. Let the dough cool. Once cool enough to handle, knead it well and let it rest for about 1.5-2 hours. Before making Shankarpali knead it once again.

4. To make Shankarpali, take a small ball of dough and roll it about quarter of an inch thick. Make sure that you don't roll out the dough very thin. This will make Shanarpali hard once they are fried.

Cut into squares (or diamond shape) with a traditional Shankarpali cutter (which is like a rotary cutter) or regular pizza cutter. Luckily I have a cutter that has multiple cutters attached to a rolling pin, which makes my job a lot easier. This is how it looks like -

5. Deep fry the cut squares in oil or ghee until golden brown. Let them cool. Store in an airtight container.

Appetizing Black Chana Salad

About twelve years back, I traveled to Himachal for a trek. It was a long and boring journey as the train got delayed. On one of the stations, a guy hopped in the train just as it was about to leave, with a bamboo basket hanging by his neck. We were hungry and eager to see what was in there. He was selling some chana chaat. We were a little disappointed to see that it was only chana that he had. We had not tasted it before and decided to try it. As soon as I tasted it, I was in love with it. After that we kept on buying more one after the other. I can never forget the taste of that chaat. It had cooked black chana, onions, tomatoes, lime juice and some spices. Black chana is a type of chickpeas, but is smaller than chickpeas. It has a nutty taste and is high in iron and proteins.

After that trip, I have made black chana salad numerous times using the ingredients that were in the chaat. When I made it for the first time mom and dad both loved it. 'A' too loved it when he had it for the first time and now is a big fan of this salad. I make it often in summer. I generally use sprouted chana but soaked chana is totally fine.

To make chana salad you need -

2 cups black chana (cooked)
1 cup raw onion (chopped)
1 medium tomato (chopped)
Handful of minced cilantro
2-3 green chillies (cut in rounds or finely chopped)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp chaat masala
Salt to taste

To get chana ready for salad, soak it in water overnight. The next day pressure cook it until tender. If you want to use sprouted chana, drain the soaked chana and keep it in a sprout maker. After 6-8 hours you will have it ready. When you pressure cook chana, add some salt to it. For making salad, in a bowl mix cooked chana, onions, tomatoes, chillies, and cilantro. Add salt, chaat masala and fresh lime juice. Mix well. Salad is ready to be served. Serve it cold or at room temperature.

Just a couple more things - add green chillies according to your heat preference. Green chillies blend very well in the salad. If you cannot tolerate much heat, just add a green chilli, split open vertically, and take it out once all the ingredients are mixed well. That should give just enough kick to the salad.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Homemade Yogurt - Indian style

Making yogurt at home is not a big deal in India. Setting the yogurt is a daily chore. It is a part of routine to boil milk and add a spoonful of the day's leftover yogurt to it before going to bed. The next day you have a perfectly creamy yogurt. I am a big fan of such homemade yogurt for its texture and taste. I truly missed it when I first tasted yogurt in the US. My yogurt consumption subsided noticeably. Though I missed the fresh yogurt that I was used to eating, I eventually got used to this new taste . I have tried setting the yogurt with plain store bought yogurt, but never got the results.

Some days back I read a post on One Hot Stove about making homemade yogurt. I was so excited to read it. Nupur mentioned that she used Yogourmet culture. I decided to give it a shot and went to the local organic grocery store. There were a couple of yogurt starters. As soon as I saw a packet of Yogourmet, I jumped on to it :) I simply followed the instructions on the packet and woke up to a perfect yogurt I was dreaming for.

I used the following -

4 cups whole milk
1 sachet of Yogourmet culture (5gm)

I boiled the milk and let it cool. Since I did not have a candy thermometer, I used my judgment to gauge the temperature of milk and added the culture to the warm milk. I let it sit for about 6-7 hours and got amazing results. You must read the original post by Nupur (and I strongly recommend it) where she has explained the process step by step in detail. I cannot thank her enough for letting us know about this yogurt culture. The only reason I am writing this post is because I am super excited to see the way this yogurt turned out.

Another thing that I did differently was that I did not remove the malai (skin that forms on the milk) before adding culture. That is the thick patch you see on yogurt in the picture above. It is all malai that happened to set on one side of the casserole. I wanted to see if I can churn any butter, but that did not succeed. Anyway I am happy that I can now eat fresh yogurt everyday :)

March 2: An update

Today I tried setting a new batch of yogurt with the leftover yogurt from previous batch and it worked beautifully :)