Naivedya: Sweet Appe

Nothing shouts coastal cuisine than an abundance of coconut in it. Other than seafood, that is. But we are still in the festive mood and so lets just stick to the coconut part. If I had any doubts regarding the role coconut plays in our life, they are crushed to smitterens every time I ask my mom for a traditional recipe. And it was replayed again when I asked for the recipe of Goud(Sweet) Appe (dumplings?). These appe are the traditional naivedyam offered to Ganpati during the Chavathi festival. They are made of, among other things, coconut and jaggery which seems to be a recurring theme in all the forms of prasad that is offered to this diety. Of course, growing up they were not my favorite things but as is the case with things, once they were no longer present I missed them. I asked my mom for the recipe so that I could recreate it this year. Now we are all familiar with the way moms tend to dispense recipe nuggets. However, with traditional recipes like these which are made once a year, my mom has exact proportions for all the ingredients except they are in coastal cuisine lingo.

Do you all remember basic geometry theorems? You have one-line theorems that you have to prove using other one-line theorems that could be proved using the current theorem you are trying to prove? You do? Good. Because deciphering the recipe is almost the same. Of course, there are some basic assumptions.

First, the ingredient list.

“Ekka Narla-ka, ek Kilo Goud aNi ek Kilo Rawa”

Translation:

For one coconut, one kilo jaggery and one kilo rawa.

Assumptions:

1) One coconut = gratings of one coconut.
2) Size of said Coconut = medium.
3) Any konkani worth his/her salt would know what a medium coconut is. (Have I not taught you anything, O clueless child of mine?)

Procedure Part 1.

Narla Vatooche, goud ghalnu melNu yevve tai vatooche. Kadeke rawa ghalnu ek pati ghundache

Translation:

Grind coconut, add jaggery and grind till everything is mixed. Finally add rawa and blend once to mix.

Assumptions:

1) 1 kilo Jaggery = 1 kilo jaggery grated.
2) Cardamom not mentioned is cardamom included.
3) Grind coconut = grind coconut till just enough.
4) Any konkani worth his/her salt would know how much is just enough. (Have I not taught you anything, O clueless child of mine?)

Procedure Part 2.

Don ghante puNi bareen kaNu dAvarche. Maagiri hoguru Ujjari toLNu kadche.

Translation:

Keep aside for at least two hours and deep-fry on a low flame.

Assumptions:

1) Deepfrying Fat = Ghee.

The last one is the best because she manages to give the most important tips for the recipe in one sentence. One, to let the mixture rest and two, to deep fry on a slow flame. How do you know when it is cooked? Any Cook worth his/her ……

—-Sorry Mom—–

Goud Appe

The biggest challenge after deciphering the recipe was to convert it into cup measures. Even though I have access to a coconut, the necessary implements for grating it and the enthu to grate it, the output from those proportions would still take us weeks to finish off. The second problem was the deepfrying the mixture. There is essentially no binder ingredient (like flour) in this mixture and it depends on the rawa absorbing all the liquid from the coconut and jaggery to help keep it together. The resting period goes a long way in achieving that. I have cribbed about my bender before and I do it again. In my kitchen, it is doing a job it is not engineered to do. Extra liquids go a long way in achieving this. More liquids means more trouble for the mixture to bind together. So, I decided to forgo the deepfrying to actually making them like appe. Which means access an Aebleskiver pan or the japanese takoyaki pan or the appam pan is essential.

Recipe :

Grind in a blender/ mixie, till the gratings seem like an homogenous mixture and not separate grains

2 cups Coconut gratings

using water, only as required. Once done, add

2 1/2 cups of jaggery, grated

and blend till the jaggery disintegrates. Add

1/2 tsp Cardamom/Elaichi powder, fresh always good.
1 cup Rawa/Sooji

and blend once just to mix everything together. Remove to a bowl and set aside to rest for at least 2 hours. I kept it for 4 hours.

Heat the appam pan. Lower flame to medium-low. Pour

1 tsp melted ghee, in each depression

When the ghee heats up, add

2 tbsp of the mixture, in each depression

This needs to be done very gently, be careful of the splattering ghee. Cook uncovered till the mixture on top changes color. Gently turn the appe over. You might have to slightly scrape the sides of each depression to do that. I use a small knife for the scraping and a spoon to turn it over. Cook until the other side browns up. Remove and drain on paper towels.

This recipe yields 32 appe. This post also joins the Festive cooking series: Ganesh Chaturthi at The Yum Blog.

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Naivedya…Malai Modak

 

Both my kids were born on Tuesdays. Now, in the US , they say that the tuesday kid is full of grace.The old and the wise (read that as the elders in our family) say that tuesday kids are stubborn and bull-headed. I dont know about the first but my son is definitely showing signs of the later. But, now that I think about it, he does have a certain grace about his stubborness. There is a 'certain grace' with which he will plop on the floor and throw his legs about when he wants something he is not supposed to have and there is a 'certain grace' with which his voice reaches tempos, that most opera singers can only dream about, within a nanosecond of something going against his wishes or if he is at his pediatricians'. Oh yes, my little dude does have 'grace'. I wonder ,though, why his pediatrician can't see it. :). My daughter is too young (2 months as I type this) to show signs of this. However, she observes everything that her brother does very intently, so that can't be far behind.

The point, you ask. In hindu mythology, tuesday is the day of Shri Ganesha. Yes, the elephant-headed god Himself. I have always had a special affinity towards this deity. You can't be part of Bombay and not feel so. Ganeshotsav is always a big part of Bombay. This festival celebrates the diety's birthday and it is done with great pomp and splendour. To have both my kids born on His day has only made it that much more special for me. Every Month, the fourth day of the second fortnight(Krishnapaksha) is considered Sankasthi chaturthi. Thats the day after the new moon. They (again, the old and wise) say that fasting on this day gets rid of all the sankat (hardships, troubles) coming your way. Fasting includes not eating regular food, eating only satvik foods till the moon rise. Pray to Shri Ganesha, pay homage to the moon, offer naivedya to both and only then eat regular food. Satvik food is pure and fresh vegetarian food that is prepared without the influence of onion and garlic, and with very little spices. The category is further shortened when your regular grains and cereals are also supposed to be avoided. So no rice or wheat. Basically, you are supposed to avoid food that generates too much heat in your body.  Naivedya is an offering to God (Niveda is sanskrit for offering hence Naivedya items).

I observe a fast on this day.

Don't ask me why. I am not gullible enough to believe that fasting for a day, every month would really make life all smooth and full of rose-tints. I do it, however, because it gives me a feeling of control with regards to something that I actually do not have any control over. It makes me feel that I am doing something to protect my family. Its all a part of being a parent, all part of trying to make life perfect for the kids. Deep within you, you know there is no such thing as a perfect world, you know that they are going to have to overcome their own share of hardships to make a good life for themselves, you know there are going to be pitfalls before they reach the peak of success and more importantly, you know that there is not a darn thing you can do about it except tend to their bruises and wounds. Thats where the prayers come in. Its funny how being a parent humbles you.

You would think that depriving youself of food for a whole day would be tough, but its not. There is an entire different set of recipes that are just so filling and delicious that you almost forget that you are fasting. Almost. There is an equally delicious set of recipes that are used as naivedya. Since I do this every month, I am now starting a series of monthly posts recording foods I prepare for fasts and naivedya.

So,  join me for delicious food , snippets on hindu mythology and a prayer.

I made Malai Modak as naivedya today. Modak is a steamed dumpling stuffed with coconut and jaggery and is supposedly Shri Ganesha's favorite. I decided to make these non-stuffed modaks the way I make malai pedas, just shaped like modaks. I make these with ricotta cheese. If you are one of those purists who consider that blasphemy, you are most welcome to make khoya in the time honored way of heating up a gallon of milk in a heavy bottomed vessel and then reducing it on low flame constantly stirring it. In about 3 to 4 hours, you should have khoya. Me, I have a pact with God. The only allowance I make, seeing that this is naivedya, is that I buy organic ricotta cheese with no preservatives.

The recipe…

16oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

1 cup Heavy Cream

1/2 tsp Cardamom Powder

3-4 Strands Saffron

1/2 cup Sugar

2 tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 

Heat the ricotta cheese in a wide mouthed pan on medium heat for 6-7 mins. Stir quite frequently. The cheese would first melt and then regain its texture. Add the cream, saffron and cardamom powder and keep stirring all together till all the liquid dries up. Crush the saffron strands between your fingers before adding them, this way they will bring in more color and taste. Keep cooking till the mixture regains the texture of ricotta cheese, about 10-12 mins. Add the sugar and cook on high flame till the mixture forms a ball. Remove from flame, add the ghee and mix well. Allow to cool a little and shape into modaks or pedas.

To shape into modaks, take 1 tbsp of mixture and make a smooth ball. Now, using the all your fingers pull a little bit of a mixture ,elongating it. Press the other side of the ball on the counter or the plate. To shape into pedas, take a tsp of the mixture, shape into a ball and flatten it a little between your palms.

This recipe will make 21 modaks/pedas, exactly the number for the naivedya.