Saturday, April 30, 2011

Recipe: Chakka Pradhaman

Pradhamans are unique sweet dishes of Kerala. Pradhaman means numero uno. Pradhaman basically is payasam prepared with coconut milk, excepting pradhamans like Palada Pradhaman which is made with dairy milk. Varieties of pradhamans are made in Kerala, like Chakka Pradhaman, Ada Pradhaman, Godambu (Wheat germs - dhalia) Pradhaman, Rice and dal Pradhaman, etc. In the olden days, 4 pradhamans, 4 chips and 4 pickle varieties were served in grand wedding feasts. The concept of serving payasams in cups were not known then. Payasam was served with a big ladle (measuring up to 1 cup) on the banana leaf and 2 to 3 ladles were served at one time and it was repeated for a second and third time. There was a payasa pattu (payasam song) also while payasam was being served. Singing a song during payasam course gave the diners a chance to wait for the payasam to settle down so that they could have another go at it. Chakka Pradhaman is a very important item in any grand feast.

Preparation of chakka pradhaman at home for a few people is very easy if one has chakka varatti (jack fruit jam) readily available. During weddings and other big functions, instant chakka varatti is made. This chakka varatti is not boiled to a very thick consistency as it is used instantly.

When one has chakka varatti at home chakka pradhaman can be prepared at any time. Depending on the sweetness of the jam, one can adjust the amount of jaggery used. My chakka varatti is very sweet and I did not add any jaggery at all.


Chakka varatti: 1 cup
Jaggery: depends on the sweetness of chakka varatti
Coconut milk: extracted from one small coconut
coconut pieces cut into very small bits: 1 tbsp.
dry ginger powder: 1 tsp.
jeera: 1tsp.
ghee: 1tbsp.


Keep a piece of coconut aside for cutting into small bits (this is for garnish). Extract coconut milk from the coconut as explained here. Heat the third milk in a wide mouthed heavy bottomed pan  and melt the jaggery in it. Strain the solution to remove fine sand particles and reheat the same. Add the chakka varatti and keep stirring to dissolve the chakka varatti. The chakka varatti will melt in the coconut milk. Boil until the mixture thickens. Add the second milk and boil again stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens. Finally add the first milk and turn off the stove. Keep stirring until the milk is incorporated. Add the dry ginger powder(chukku podi)

Heat the gheee in a pan and fry the coconut pieces to a golden brown color. Add the jeera.When the jeera crackles pour the ghee with coconut pieces and jeera into the Pradhaman.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Recipe: Coffee Mocha Cake

Ugadi day also happened to be very important for us this year, as our handsome and charming son's birthday fell on the same day. As I have already said, we celebrate our children's birthdays twice every year, one by the Indian calendar (the star birthday) and the other by the western calendar. The Indian calendar birthday falls on a different date every year and it coincides with the actual date of birth every 19 years.

We had already celebrated the star birthday this year with Rice and dal pradhaman and 4th April was the actual date of birth. I usually bake a cake for my children's birthday and I was wondering what cake to bake. That is when my younger son suggested the Coffee Mocha cake as they had baked the cake for the monthly date of birth of my adorable and perfect grandson.

The original recipe is here. As I was baking an eggless cake and also because some of the ingredients are commercially not available here, I made some changes in the orginal recipe. The result, however, was awesome according to the tasters.

The recipe calls for sour cream and confectioner's sugar, both of which are not available here. Hence instead of confectioners sugar, I used home made powdered sugar and added 1 tsp. of corn flour to it.

I had a problem with sour cream. My son suggested I use buttermilk. However, I was not happy with the option because I thought buttermilk would be too thin. After scouring the web, I decided on making my own sour cream. I beat in 1 tbsp. of butter into 1 cup of fresh curds. I feel it would taste as good without beating in the butter. Just use plain fresh curds.

Let's get into the actual preparation of the cake.


For the cake:

Maida or refined flour: 2 cups (approximately 250 gms)
Sweetened condensed milk: 300ml.
Butter: 10 tbsp ( approximately 350 gms)+1 tbsp.(for sour cream)
curds : 1 cup
baking powder: 1tsp.
baking soda: ½ tsp
salt: ¼ tsp
vanilla essence: 2 tsp.
Chocolate chips: 2 tbsp.
Instant coffee: 2 tbsp.

For the Glaze:

Instant coffee: 1½ tsp
Strong coffee decoction: 2-3 tbsp.
powdered sugar: 3/4 cup


Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt twice.

Melt the chocolate chips in 2 tbsp. of warm water. Mix the instant coffee with 2 tbsp. of warm water.

Beat 1 tbsp. of butter with the curds until well combine (to make sour cream ).

Beat the remaining butter and condensed milk until well combined. Add vanilla essence and beat well. Add the flour mixture alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture and fold in lightly. Divide the mixture into 3 parts.

Add the chocolate mixture to the first part and stir well.

Add the coffee mixture to the second part and stir well.

Keep the third part as such.

Grease and dust an 8" square pan. Pour one half of the first part on to the greased tin followed by one half of the 3rd part and one half of the 2nd part. Repeat.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Bake at the centre of the oven until the cake turns golden brown(approximately 50 minutes) or until a skewer inserted comes clean.

Remove and cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.


Stir together the instant coffee and strong coffee decoction until the coffee powder is well dissolved. Add the powdered sugar and stir until well combined. Pour glaze over the cake and allow to settle.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Sweet Tidings (Gulab Jamun recipe)

In India, it is traditional to break all happy news along with sweets. I understand that in North India the type of sweets distributed changes with the gender of the new born baby. Thus people will easily know it is a boy if laddus are distributed (I frankly do not know what sweet is distributed if it is a girl or perhaps they don't distribute any sweets at all if it is a girl). In the south, the saying, "Vayile sakkarai podanum," (put sugar in the mouth) was literally followed until couple of decades ago. So when a baby is born, it was customary to distribute a small packet of sugar and one banana along with one measure of paddy and a coin to all. The ritual is known as varadanam. The idea here was to request  the blessings of everyone for the well being and long life of the new born baby. (We children promptly exchanged the paddy for aval from "aval Krishnan"). With no fast communications systems like today's global network, the news of the new addition to the family was communicated to the paternal grandparents personally along with a tray of sugar and banana (sometimes it took 2 or 3 days as the news had to be communicated on an auspicious day only). This ritual is known as "Shobhanam Chollal." Varadanam was performed in the paternal grandparents' home as well. Also when the friends and relatives arrived to visit the new born, they brought along some sugar and put a pinch of sugar in the little one's mouth. These customs have become obsolete these days. Feeding the new borns with sugar is not allowed for more reasons than one.

When my own grandson arrived, I prepared Gulab jamuns, as it was also Deepavali in a few days. Deviating from the practice of using the readily available Gulab Jamun mix, I prepared it the traditional way, using khoya and the result was yummilicious!

Here is the recipe  for all of you to relish this yumy sweet.


Unsweetened Khoya : 200gms
Maida:                        1 tbsp.
Soda-bi-carb               1 pinch(strictly)
fresh curds: 1 tbsp.
Raisins/blanched almonds : 1 tbsp. (optional)
Oil for deep frying
Sugar                            : 500gms
Rose essence: 1 tsp.
Cardamom powder: 1 tsp.

Heat sugar and 500ml. water in a wide mouthed pan and boil until the syrup is thickened to a sticky consistency. Add cardamom powder and rose essence. Keep aside.

Crumble the khoya. Add maida and soda-bi-carb. Mix lightly with finger tips. Add curds if necessary and make a soft dough. Make small marble shaped balls of the dough and stuff a raisin or almond in each of them. Heat the oil in a pan. Dont allow it to smoke. When the oil is heated, lower the heat and fry the jamuns few at a time. When they swell and are fried to a deep brown color, remove, drain the oil and put in the hot sugar syrup. Allow the jamuns to soak for 10-12 hours.


Happy Ugadi

Wishing Every One a Happy Ugadi and prosperous New Year!