Sunday, October 22, 2017

Boondi - tiny little sweet and savory pearls, a perfect Deepavali treat

When I started blogging, I had this dream of making different themed sets of recipes for every Indian festival, international holidays etc so my readers could easily click on a page and find all relevant recipes for any particular occasion. I have seen many of my blogger friends do it and keep enhancing the lists every time they add a post. As for me, that dream is still far away, I know I have special dishes blogged in the space and tagged but maintaining that ever ready list and more importantly having it accessible before a major festival has remained a distant goal :-). Well, that gives me something to work for, doesn't it? Everything has a silver lining. Some day, you will come to my blog and search for Deepavali recipes (before the festival ofcourse :-)) and I will be able to present a list of recipes, but for now as I work on making that happen, the blog has plenty to offer albeit a little after the fact :-)

So, here is me wishing a very happy Deepavali to all of you. May the festival of lights stay in spirit with all of us long after the days of festivities end and help us spread the light of love around us.
I was out on a work related trip last week and came back towards the end of the week when the festivities were already in full blown mode and people were wishing everyone a happy Diwali even before I had a chance to clean my kitchen and get ready. Truth be told that I am not in the habit of preparing dishes in advance for the festival. I am more of the 'make & eat on the same day' kind of person but I still had to exercise those grey cells to come up with a late in the game plan for celebrating DeepavaLi.

Our DeepavaLi celebrations are a little different from the more public aware celebrations of the festival. DeepavaLi is still a 5 day affair in the south of India but has different names from its counterparts in north of India. The first day is called 'neeru tumbo habba' literally translates to filling the water tanks (old world equivalents of today's geysers) with fresh water. Hande water used to be heated with wood logs. This starts with a major cleaning initiative that reaches every dark nook & cranny in the house including the bath room, the 'hande' or water tanks are given a thorough wash and made to shine. There is fresh rangoli (mandala designs) on the hande and infront of it before lighting the fire to the logs and start heating the water. For us kids that is when the festival started and the school holidays began as well so we were free to roam around the neighborhood.
2nd day of the festivities is called Naraka Chaturdashi in honor of Lord Krishna killing the demon Narakasura and saving the 16000 princesses from captivity.  Other than eating a lot of good food, there wasn't much else to do on this day as we were told to save the fire crackers for the day after and not light them yet :-). Oh yes, there were new clothes to wear and go around flaunting them.

3rd day is the amavasye or new moon. There was no real festivities on this day unless you owned a business. If you were a business owner, there used to be a grand Lakshmi pooje and they would start their annual accounts afresh. Growing up in a very diverse community, we always used to get invited to the pooje by the merchant families in the neighborhood which meant more sweets to collect.

4th day is Bali Padyami, house would be decorated in preparation for the lighting of the lamps in the evening. Lots of flowers and huge rangolis in front of the house made the day so much brighter. I remember DeepavaLi always brought with it a slow & steady rain, not really big but just enough to create anxiety about the survival of the lamps and the firecrackers in the shower and wind. But somehow, every year the lamps survived and the firecrackers made huge sounds to everyone's glee.

5th day is celebrated as sodara bidige (similar to Bhai dooj in the north) but by this time we would lose interest as schools would have restarted and mechanically did what was told and headed off to school with a heavy heart :-). Oh, the drama of DeepavaLi.

Now, how do I condense all of the 5 day festivities into one quick evening? I pick the things & rituals that make the most sense to me and have a celebration. I don't even have a geyser, hot water comes automagically from the tap and I don't need to clean it. I don't do firecrackers (have not done it for years now) as I don't personally like the noise & air pollution they cause. Best part of DeepavaLi for me is the lighting of the lamps and we do that whole heartedly. This is how part of our home looked like on Friday..

When I returned and turned on my laptop to peek into the blogosphere, my fellow bloggers had not left a single stone unturned. The offerings spanned from traditional to modern, from handed down recipes to creative bests, from sweets to savories and everything one ever relates to DeepavaLi. Honestly, I felt a little left out not contributing to the rush of preparing for the festivities. I decided to make some quick treats for DeepavaLi and landed on boondi. If you do not know what these are, here is a quick catch up description. A batter of gram flour is passed through a ladle with holes to get small, round pearls. If you are making savory, the batter is dressed up with salt, chili powder, if you are making the sweet version, batter is plain and deep fried pearls are later soaked in a sugar syrup. Both are yummy, they can be eaten as snacks and the savory one also makes a perfect raita accompaniment for pulavs or paranthas when soaked in yogurt. We used some of the khara boondi to top our next day BBB and it tasted delicious :-)

Though it looks like a lot of work, boondi is one of the easiest recipes and the result is very impressive. You just want to follow a few tricks to get the best boondi. Read on for the process and the tips and bookmark it for next DeepavaLi :-). a little bit of these special treats, a plate of homely food and lots of lamps together made the DeepavaLi a memorable celebration. 

Now that the festival fever has come down, I have a question that has been bothering me for over a week. Is it possible to be literally fatigued just looking at the vast collection of delicious Deepavali sweets & savories in the blogosphere? I think it is possible, I am actually tired and need a break from all ghee laden, sugar coated Deepavali treats for a while and need to get back to simple living and comfort eating :-), so don't be surprised if I went directly back to blogging about every day food in my next post, until then have a great time, enjoy the left overs.

What do you need to make sweet & savory boondi? 
For khara boondi: 
1 cup besan/gram flour/kadle hittu
1/4 cup rice flour
1 and 1/4 cup water
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp red chili powder
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1/4 cup peanuts
1/4 cup fried gram/hurigadle
2 Tbsp grated kobbari/dry coconut (optional, may skip if unavailable)
10-12 curry leaves

For Sweet boondi: 
1 cup besan/gram flour/kadle hittu
1/4 cup rice flour
1 and 1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
For sweet boondi syrup: 
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 Tsp pacha karpoora/edible camphor
4-5 saffron strands
2 Tbsp raisins
2-4 cloves

3-4 cups of Oil to deep fry both varieties of boondi (I normally use peanut oil)

Utensils: 
Heavy bottom, wide kadai or pan to fry boondi in
1 ladle with small holes (I use a steel one for draining oil when deep frying)
1 ladle to lift fried boondi from oil


How do you make sweet boondi? 
  • In a sauce pan, take water & sugar and let it come to a boil. 
  • Keep stirring until the syrup gets to a single thread consistency. 
  • Let the syrup thicken further for another 10mins on medium heat. 
  • Add cloves, edible camphor and saffron to the syrup. 
  • Add raisins to the syrup (I don't fry them but letting them soak in the hot syrup plumps them up), switch off keep it warm.
  • Make a batter of sieved besan, rice flour and water. Whisk the batter with a hand whisk to make it light.
  • Heat oil in a pan and drop a small amount of batter to check if the oil is hot enough, if the batter comes to the surface immediately, you are ready to start frying. 

  • Hold the ladle with the holes in your left hand directly above the oil(I am a right hander, switch the sides if you are a left hander), using a spoon put the batter on the ladle and let the batter drop into water. 
  • Using the other ladle, give a swish to the boondi in the oil so it gets cooked uniformly on all sides. 
  • Remove them with a slotted spoon when it the bubbles int he oil slow down. Sweet boondi doesn't have to become very crisp unlike the savory version. Place them in a plate lined with a tissue or paper napkin. 
  • Clean the ladle with the holes completely before reusing. 
  • Repeat the process until all the batter is used up.
  • Once the frying is complete, put all the fried boondi into the hot syrup and mix well. 
  • Take them onto a wide plate and spread. 
  • Let it cool and as it cools it becomes dry absorbing any extra syrup in the process. 
  • Store in a dry, clean container. 
How do you make Khara boondi? 

  • Sieve besan to remove any lumps, add rice flour, salt, red chili powder, asafoetida & turmeric powder. Mix well. 
  • Add water slowly to make a lump free batter of dropping consistency. See notes below to adjust consistency. 
  • Taste a tiny drop of the batter and adjust salt or spices as needed. Whisk the batter with a hand whisk to make it light.
  • Heat oil in a pan and drop a small amount of batter to check if the oil is hot enough, if the batter comes to the surface immediately, you are ready to start frying
  • Hold the ladle with the holes in your left hand directly above the oil(I am a right hander, switch the sides if you are a left hander), using a spoon put the batter on the ladle and let the batter drop into water. 
  • Using the other ladle, give a swish to the boondi in the oil so it gets cooked uniformly on all sides. 
  • Remove them with a slotted spoon when it has attained a golden color all over and the bubbling stops in the oil. Place them in a plate lined with a tissue or paper napkin. 
  • Clean the ladle with the holes completely before reusing. 
  • Repeat the process until all the batter is used up. 
  • Add peanuts to the oil and fry until they are crisp
  • Add fried gram to the oil for 30secs to crisp them up and remove
  • Add curry leaves and fry them until crisp. 
  • Mix boondi with peanuts, fried gram, grated kobbari and curry leaves. when cool, store it in a air tight container.

Notes:
  • Adding rice flour makes boondi crisp, you can reduce the amount to a Tbsp for the sweet boondi version to get juicier boondi. 
  • You can leave khara boondi without any peanuts or other embellishments if you like but adding them enhances the taste. 
  • I recommend you try the batter out with a small spoonful to check the consistency, your oil temperature etc. 
  • Consistency of the batter is critical for getting perfectly round boondi. If your droplets have a small tail attached to them, thin the batter with a few drops of water, if the boondis look flat when they fall in the oil, add a little bit of besan to thicken the batter. Trial & error helps you get the look & feel. 
  • Make sure you hold the ladle with the holes at about 6 inches from the surface of oil. This distance helps the batter form perfect round boondi as it falls into the oil.