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laddoo

Laddoo -the round ball of melting sweetness – is a pan–Indian favorite!

The Laddu or Laddoo is named after its shape…a round spherical ball. Laddoos are generally bite-sized delectations that are held in the hand and stuffed into the mouth at one go or relished bite by bite, gradually.

In North India it is called motichoor laddoo, taking its name from the drops of fried gram that resemble little pearls. In the south there is a drier version with the most famous laddoo coming from Tirupathi, the home of Lord Venkateswara.

This boondi laddoo is also called ‘kunjaa laadu’ in south India. Gunjaa is Sanskrit for berry. This berry was used as a measure of weight, especially for gold. Since a laddoo, a tightly packed sphere of many boondis or droplets of fried gram flour, looked like tiny berries, it became kunja laddu.

The laddoo can also be made from roasted gram flour and powdered sugar with melted ghee as a binder. This is called besan ka laddoo and it can be garnished with nuts. In the South it is made from powdered rava (semolina) and sugar with nuts added to it.

Motichoor Laddoo

Ingredients

1 ½ cups                           Besan/chana dal/kadalaimaavu flour

3 tablespoons                       Semolina/rava

1 ½ cups                           Sugar

1 ½ cups                              Water

1/8th teaspoon                      Saffron color

½ cup                                   Small slivers of cashews and almonds

½ cup                                Melon seeds

1 teaspoon                            Cardamom powder

Oil for frying

2 teaspoons                       Ghee

A boondi making ladle or colander with small holes.

Method

  1. Mix besan, semolina, 1 tsp melted ghee and the saffron color in a bowl.
  2. Gradually add in water to the dry ingredients to make a batter of dropping consistency. Make sure to beat the batter to break up all the lumps.
  3. Heat the oil for deep frying in a wok or deep saucepan until it is hot. Check by dropping a blob of the batter which should sizzle and rise up to the surface instantaneously.
  4. Take a colander or a perforated ladle. Place it at right angles above the saucepan with hot oil.
  5. Drop a ladle full of batter into the colander/perforated ladle and push it through the perforated ladle and allow drops of besan batter fall into the oil. Quickly stir and brown and then drain these fried globules with another ladle.
  6. Remove the boondis from oil and place on a paper towel on a plate. Fry all the batter in two or more batches.

For the syrup

  • Mix 1 ½ cups of sugar and 1 ½ cups of water in a thick pan and place on a high flame. Keep stirring until the sugar melts and the syrup comes to a single-thread consistency. From the ladle touch your fingers to the cooled syrup and pull apart. The syrup should just form one string.
  • Take the syrup off the stove and add cardamom powder.
  • Add crushed nuts and melon seeds.

To make the laddoo

  1. Mix the deep-fried boondis into the sugar syrup.
  2. Set aside for 1ten minutes until the boondies puff up with the absorbed syrup.
  3. Squeeze gently to extract extra syrup.
  4. Smear and layer your hands with ghee and roll the boondies into ping-pong sized balls.
  5. Keep on a plate in such a way that they don’t touch each other. When firmly set, say an hour or so, cover and store in a wide dish.
Besan/Navadaanya Laddoo

A popular laddoo all over India, the trick to getting the best laddoo is in the roasting of the dry ingredients.

Ingredients

4 cups                              Besan (Bengal gram flour)

1 cup                               Ghee

2 cups                              Powdered sugar

1/4 cup                            Slivered cashewnut/almonds

2 tablespoons                    Raisins

1/2 tsp                                 Cardamom (elaichi) powder

2 tablespoons                        Milk

Method

  1. You can either heat the ghee in a deep wok and then add the besan and roast it till golden and emits a lovely aroma. Time around 10 minutes
    OR
    Dry roast the besan till it is golden in color and then add melted ghee, mix thoroughly.
  2. Take the wok off the stove and continue to roast in the heat of the wok.
  3. Place the roasted besan in a wide platter and cool it.
  4. Meanwhile, in the wok, add a teaspoon of ghee and roast the cashew/almonds/raisins.
  5. Add the powdered sugar, cardamom powder to the cooled besan and ghee, and mix well. Rub the mixture between your palms till it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  6. Grease your palms and fingers with ghee.
  7. Take a small ladle full of the mixture and place in your left palm and with the fingers of the right hand, shape it into a round ping-pong ball sized laddoo.
  8. If you find that the laddoo is not forming, add a little more ghee or milk.
  9. If the laddoos are wobbly, place in the fridge for a short while and the ghee will solidify and make the laddoos firmer.

Note:

  • There is a fine line between roasting the flour until you get a lovely aroma and burning it. Under-roasting the flour will leave a bitter under-taste. Once the flour starts emanating the roasted aroma, reduce the flame or heat to minimum or simmer….and don’t take your hand off the ladle.
  • The proportion of ghee and besan is equally important to avoid ending up with a dry laddoo or a dripping laddoo.
  • The shelf life is a week. If you add milk it is better to refrigerate them after a couple of days. 
Rava laddoo

 This is a traditional South Indian sweet that is made by the Marathi and Gujarati households as well.

 1 cup                      Fine semolina/rava

1 cup                        Sugar

1 tablespoon             Broken cashewnuts

1 tablespoon             Raisins

½ teaspoon              Cardamom powder

½ cup                       Melted ghee

Method

  1. Heat 2 teaspoons of ghee in a wok, roast the cashewnuts, plump up the raisins, drain and set aside.
  2. Add another teaspoon of ghee to the wok and add the rava/semolina and roast it. Use a low flame and roast it non-stop till the rava turns slightly golden and smells cooked.
  3. Powder this rava in a blender.
  4. Powder the sugar as well.
  5. Mix the powdered rava, one cup of powdered sugar and cardamom powder and mix it thoroughly with your fingers. Place in a wide platter and make a well in the middle.
  6. Liquefy the ghee by heating it and pour inside the well made in the rava mixture.
  7. Smear ghee on your hands as it will help roll the laddoos and protect your hands from the heat.
  8. Mix some of the rava/sugar in a little ghee and shape into ping-pong sized balls. This must be done when hot.
  9. Place on a plate with a little distance between the laddoos.
  10. After the laddoos cool down, store them in an air-tight container.
Rava-Coconut Laddoo

Ingredients

1 cup                               Rava/semolina/sooji

½ cup                                  Freshly grated coconut

¾ cup                                  Powdered sugar

¼ cup                               Cashewnuts/raisins/blanched almonds

½ teaspoon                        Cardamom powder –

1/3 cup                               Milk

2 tablespoons                     Ghee

 Method

 Heat a tablespoon of ghee and roast the rava on simmer in a wok. It should become golden in color and smell roasted!

  1. Powder the sugar.
  2. Heat another tablespoon of ghee and fry the slivered cashewnuts and almonds golden and puff up the raisins.
  3. Add the grated coconut and sauté for a few more minutes till it sweats.
  4. Add the roasted rava and mix thoroughly.
  5. Finally add the powdered sugar, cardamom powder and sauté for a few more minutes. Take the wok off the heat.
  6. Add milk gradually while you continue to mix the ingredients.
  7. Test run if you can make the laddoo. Then no more milk needs to be added.
  8. Grease your hands and divide the mixture into equal parts and make small ping-pong ball sized laddoos (15 to 18).

Note: Rava coconut laddoos should be stored in an airtight container and used up in a couple of days.

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Padmini Natarajan calls herself Dame Quixote for she is forever tilting at windmills! A storyteller, poet, columnist, blogger, editor and journalist, she has specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. She has worked for over 15 years as Part-time Language Editor and Writer of manuals, curriculum textbooks and other material with an E-education organization, EZVidya/Chrysalis that is aimed at empowering Teachers, Students and Parents. She taught Vedic Heritage at Kalavardini to children from the ages of 3 to 14 and written and directed skits and plays. She won the Gourmand Special Jury Award in Paris in 2009 as co-author of ‘Classic Tamil Brahmin Cuisine’. Her book of short stories - ‘Crossroads: Stories from South Indian Lives’ - has good reviews on Amazon. Padmini has been concerned with paying it forward with her involvement in organizations like Sneha, a suicide prevention NGO, Canstop, Cancer Support group and many women’s organizations. Her other passion was acting, on stage, TV and screen. She is a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff, a music maniac who listens to Golden Oldies and has a strong Facebook presence. Nowadays she is an armchair activist and world traveler from the safety of her home. Quite the hypochondriac, she is exploring spiritual enlightenment through Vedanta and loves to spout philosophical thoughts to unwary audiences.