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Dahi Vada – An Indian Street Food Affair

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[ I wrote this post last week before the baby’s arrival; am simply posting it  today. We are at home, resting, nursing and catching up on sleep. Will resume blogging soon!]

Pushpa: Le Dahi Vade kha le.

Urmila: Nahi mann nahi kar raha.
Pushpa: Arre Dahi Vade khane ka mann nahi kar raha. Agar kisi ladki ka Dahi Vade khane ka mann nahi karta to do cheeze ho sakti hai,

  • ya to woh dheere dheere ladki se ladka ban rahi hai…
  • ya to usse PREM ho gaya hai

Ek din mujhe bhi Dahi Vade khaane ka mann nahi kiya, teen din baad pata chala ki mujhe Bunty se Prem ho gaya hai 🙂 (and bluntly blushing)
Bol ri! Kya naam hai unka?

Urmila:(sharmate hue) Lucky naam hai…

[Don’t worry if you don’t understand the dialog exchanged in Hindi above. The humor will be lost in translation.It doesn’t really impact the recipe or why you should make it. You should make this recipe to get a taste of India, regardless of movie scene that recommends it.]

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This is a classic scene ( copied from being desh blog) from a very popular oldie- goldie Hindi movie “GolMaal”. Its hilarious in its reasoning.

Dahi vada’s have been on my mind lately. At least since mom is here. And they always remind me of GolMaal.

There is a reason why these are not on the menu of any and every Indian restaurant that you have visited. Unlike Saag Paneer, Chole or Alu- Gobi, dahi vada’s are tricky, need a lot of patience and muscular strength.

The lightest,fluffiest melt in your mouth vadas are made solely by whipping the batter with your hands. Whip and whip till you feel that your arms are going to fall off. And then some.

Then this fluffy batter is deep-fried in hot oil.

Once golden brown, they are dunked in a buttermilk bath to soften the core and then immersed in cool tangy yogurt sauce. It is served with a variety of spices – cumin powder, red chilli powder and a tangy tamarind chutney.

But once made and chilled, they are these lightly puffy yogurt soaked lentil balls that you will fight  over.

One bowl or serving will never be enough. At least plan on 2 to 3 servings per person.

This is one recipe that is worth the effort. Every single time.

Here is mom’s recipe below.

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Dahi vada Recipe

For vadas 

  • 3/4 cup urad dal (black lentils)
  • 1/4 cup moong dal 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
  • Pinch of asafoetida (optional)

For buttermilk bath

  • 1/2 cup curd
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste

For the Dahi ( Spicy yogurt sauce)

  • 3 cups thick yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For garnish

  • Tamarind – date chutney (store-bought, to taste)
  • Green chutney (store-bought, to taste)
  • Finely chopped cilantro ( for garnish)

1. Wash both the urad and moong  dal well ( at least 7 – 8 times in plenty of water) till the water runs clear. It will be milky at first and then run clear.

Soak dal in plenty of water for at least 5-6 hours to overnight.

2. Discard water from the dal and finely grind it with as little water as possible. Set aside the dal batter for 1 – 2 hours.

3. In the meantime prepare the buttermilk bath. Whisk all the ingredients listed till you get a thin batter. Set aside in a large shallow bowl.

4. Heat oil in a wok on medium-high heat.

Add salt and ginger to the dal batter. Whisk the batter with hand for at least 10 minutes in a flat plate. Whisk and whisk some more till you feel the batter to be light and fluffy.

4. Fry small golf ball sized vadas in hot oil till golden brown. Test one vada to ensure that the vada is cooked evenly through the center. If not, lower the heat and cook till they are golden brown.

6. Soak the vadas in buttermilk bath for at least 2 hours. Remove the vadas from the buttermilk bath and keep aside covered. They can be kept at room temperature.

7. Prepare the yogurt sauce by missing all the ingredients and adjusting to taste. Keep the yogurt in the refrigerator to chill till ready to serve.

8. When ready to serve, layer the vadas in serving bowl. Pour the yogurt sauce over the vadas.

Garnish with chutneys and cilantro.

Serve with additional bowls of chutney, cilantro, cumin and chili powder to add per taste.

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The Daring Cooks July Challenge: Misti Doi ( Bengali Style Sweet Yogurt)

Misti Doi

I am hopelessly late for this months Daring Cook’s challenge. But I have very good reason(s). Work was in the way. I didn’t have starter yogurt to make a fresh batch. And I wanted to make Bengali style sweet yogurt which we had for almost every meal in Calcutta. It starts with thickened milk made by stirring milk over low flame till it is halved in volume. And since I have never seen misti doi in anything but earthen pots (matkas), I also wanted to make it only when I bought the little pots and set the yogurt in that.

I tried it once and failed. So tried it again. It was better, similar in taste but in quiet in color.

See, I told you I had perfectly valid reasons why I am late.

Nevertheless, this is a recipe for a caramelized smoky sweetened yogurt. I am sure it is never made at home, almost always store bought. Just like the French buy their baugettes rather than make them from scratch, Bengalis eat misti-doi on their post-dinner stroll rather than making from scratch.

Either ways, give this light dessert a try. Am sure once you succeed at making this you will make this a regular. It can be eaten as is, stuffed in canoli for a unique filling or served in phyllo cups for an indo-western fusion dessert.

Note: For yogurt making tips, read this article. It has tips from using yogurt maker, to slow cooker to heating pad to have an optimum temperature to make yogurt at home.

Misti doi Recipe

Makes 2 servings

  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoon sugar + 1/2 tablespoon water to caramelize
  • 1/4 cup starter yogurt

1. Boil milk with sugar on low flame, stirring continuously till reduced in half. Make sure you scrape the fat that gets lined on the edges of saucepan and incorporate that back in the milk.

Keep an eye on this to prevent the milk from burning.

2. Once the milk is halved in volume, take it off the heat and set aside to cool.

3. In a smaller saucepan, caramelize the sugar. Once it is browned and sticky, remove from the flame. Add this to the reduced milk mixture. Stir well.

4. When the milk is lukewarm, add the yogurt and whisk well.

5. Pour into bowls and set aside to form yogurt in a warm place. This will take about 6- 8 hours in a warm place. Once set, put the yogurt in the refrigerator to set.

Serve chilled.

Lychee Yogurt Mousse with Tropical Fruits

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Its been ages since I have posted a dessert recipe. I was looking forward to making something sweet. But I have put on weight and really can’t handle any more weight gain. So I wanted to make something light and refreshing without being sinful. And also seasonal. Lychees – juicy, plump and sweet- are in season and I wanted to incorporate them in some way.

Lychee

A search for lychees on foodgawker revealed mousse’s with lychee or drinks with lychee. Heavy cream, eggs, full fat milk featured in all recipes and while my heart as tempted my waistline said a firm “No”.  Not till I lose another 10 lbs or so.

I continued searching online and came across this concept of yogurt mousse. Made with drained thick yogurt, this looked light, refreshing and healthy. Something like Indian Srikhand or Middle Eastern Labneh but with gelatin. Akin to Italian Panna Cotta but without the cream. I was intrigued and decided to give it a try. Yogurt was left to strain in a cheese cloth over a bowl. Fresh lychees were promptly peeled, de-seeded and pureed. Everything was mixed together and left to set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

We went out to do some chores, came back home to a creamy dessert. Lightly sweetened and naturally flavored it was a hit. The diced mangoes complemented the lychee yogurt. Kiwi’s added a hint of tartness and crunch with its seeds.

We could make only 2 servings as we didn’t have too much yogurt on hand. But this recipe can be easily scaled up for a party or a potluck. Individual cups make serving a breeze. I am going to make this again – probably with peaches and tender coconut! Yumm!

Lychee mousee eaten

Lychee Yogurt Mousse Recipe

For mousse

  • 2 cups yogurt
  • Fresh Lychees – 10 (peeled and de-seeded) (Or use canned lychees, drained and patted dry)
  • 1/4 cup sugar ( optional on sweet the fruit it) (skip if using canned as they would be sweetened with syrup)
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin (or agar-agar if vegetarian)

For garnish

  • 1 small mango diced
  • 1/2 kiwi peeled and sliced
  • Fresh lychees, peeled and de-seeded

1. Set a colander over a bowl. Drape a cotton cloth over it. Pour the yogurt in it. Gather all the ends together and form a pouch. Squeeze the top to remove moisture from the yogurt. Let this sit for an hour or so.

Remove the drained thick yogurt in a bowl.

2. Puree the lychees in a blender with sugar.

3. Sprinkle the gelatin on lychee puree and let sit for 5 minutes to bloom.

4. Pour the lychee mix on the yogurt. Mix well.

5. Ladle the mix into serving bowls and refrigerate for couple of hours. For larger serving size, refrigerate overnight else the center may not set well.

6. Garnish with fruits and serve chilled.

Eggless Orange Semolina Cake

Cake glazed

When my cousin Neha shared her eggless rava (semolina) cake recipe, I had to make it right away. This eggless cake is my aunt’s specialty (the same aunt who made the halwyache dagine)  and the recipe has been handed down to my cousin from her mother. It has always been a hit at any picnic or potluck or dinner.

Orange semolina cake batter

Few ingredients. Semolina or Rava, Sugar, Yogurt and Baking soda. As I took the ingredients out on the countertop, oranges begged to join the party. We have one too many oranges at home and I thought about adding fresh orange juice to the time-tested recipe and then glazing it with orange syrup. A light dose of citrus freshness to an already perfect yogurt cake! Excited 🙂

Glazed cake

Cake slice

After glazing, this turned out to be a lovely semolina cake. Moist and fluffy. Lightly sweetened so we could have more than one piece without the guilt. Wrapped up in foil, this is moist even the next day. But it has a catch. Although the recipe is simple, it involves setting the cake mixture aside for a couple of hours at the very least. This allows the semolina grain to soften up. This cannot be made at the last-minute. Patience is the key. And it rewards amply.

Orange Cake sideview

Try it for yourself. You may find it hard to set aside for the next day.

Eggless Orange Semolina Cake Recipe

  • 1 1/2  cups Fine Semolina or Rava
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

For the Orange glaze

  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 cup sugar

1. Measure semolina and sift it in a large bowl. Add baking powder and salt. Mix and set aside.

2. Whisk yogurt and sugar together till sugar dissolves. Add vanilla extract and orange juice and whisk till blended.

3. Add the yogurt mix and orange zest to the semolina mix. Mix well and put it in the refrigerator for 2- 3 hours. The mixture will appear very loose and runny but don’t worry. It will thicken as the semolina absorbs the yogurt-orange goodness.

4. In the meantime, in a saucepan, mix the syrup ingredients and let it come to a boil over medium heat. Squeeze as much juice out of the orange as possible and then strain this syrup.

5. (Optional) Instead of discarding the orange, carve out the pith and seeds and cut up the peel into small pieces. Feel free to add these to the cake, save for garnish or simply save them for another project (marmalade , anyone?)

6. After 3 hours, pre-heat the oven to 180 C ( 350 F). Generously grease a baking pan with butter and set aside.

7. Remove the cake batter from the refrigerator, add the candied orange peel, baking soda and mix well. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes till the tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8. Remove from the oven, and immediately pour the orange glaze over the cake.  The glaze syrup may seem too much for the cake but trust me, the cake will absorb it all.

9. Let cool. Garnish with orange slices and the candied peel. Serve.

Enjoy!

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