23 August 2012

Tried & tasted: Bhagyashri's Gajar Halwa (with condensed milk)

A long time back, a friend asked me if I had a recipe for Gajar halwa prepared with condensed milk. Given how long it takes for me to do things these days, its only now that I have time to post this recipe. This post is for her :)

For the non-desis, Gajar halwa (gajar=carrots, halwa=pudding) is a rich Indian dessert made with carrots and milk. Traditionally, the dessert makes use of khoya (thick, evaporated milk) which lends the dessert its rich flavour. However, khoya is not easily available in many places both within and outside India. I wasn't able to find good quality khoya in either Vancouver or here in Boston. Which is why I (and my friend) have been on look outs for recipes which give good gajar halwa minus the khoya.

Bhagyashri's recipe below is a superb one for gajar halwa using condensed milk. I had tried in back once in Vancouver when I was in the mood for some sweet. This time around too, I decided to try it before sending the recipe to my friend. Partly because I wanted to make sure this was in fact a good Gajar halwa recipe and partly because I wanted to use up a can of condensed milk sitting in my fridge for almost 2 weeks. I must admit that the halwa turned out superb; its delicate and flavourful and is ready in less than half an hour. The best part, you wont miss the khoya at all. Worth a try.

Here is a link to Bhagyashree's video. I followed the recipe to the tee, but for anyone not wanting to watch through the entire video or has connection problems (which can abound in India), I am also listing out the recipe here for quick reference.

2 lbs shredded carrots (Bhagyashri recommends not shredding them too thin- I agree)
1 (14oz) Can of Condensed Milk
3 Cups Whole fat Milk
2 tbsp Sugar (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp Cardamom Powder

For garnish: 
1 tsp Ghee/clarified butter
2 tbsp chopped nuts (your choice- I used cashews and almonds) 

1. Mix the carrots, condensed milk, whole milk and sugar in a nonstick pan.
2. Cook the mixture on medium heat- Stir regularly until the mixture comes to a boil. 
3. Reduce heat a little and let the mixture cook until the milk reduces (Don't forget to keep stirring).
3. Once the milk evaporates, add the cardamom powder and mix well. 
4. Take off the heat, add the ghee & nuts. Serve!

A couple of tips to make sure you don't mess up:
1. Make sure you use good nonstick cookware for this recipe
2.Don't forget to keep stirring throughout- so don't leave your halwa to catch your favorite TV show :) You will almost surely end up with a burnt halwa.

05 August 2012

Marathi movies, take a bow

First off, for all those who don't know what Marathi is, thats the regional language of Mumbai. The place where I come from and the place I proudly call 'home-final-final'. 

First let me explain the ' home-final-final' bit. There was a guy I worked with who was not exactly super competent when it came to computers and files. This one time he was working on a study plan which underwent a few revisions and each time, he saved it on this desktop with an additional 'final' in the filename ('study plan final' became 'study plan final final' and then became 'study plan final final final'). Pharmaceutical Quality Assurance nightmare, I tell you! But somehow, the idea stuck. N and I have moved a couple places now and while each place is now home, Mumbai remains the 'home-final-final'. 

Coming back to the main topic i.e. Marathi movies, I do not know what is the deal with them these days but they have suddenly become super sensible. There was a time when Marathi movies were exclusively filled with Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde's mindless comedy. Dont get me wrong, they are/were both good actors but the last couple of decades saw them only churn out some pretty idiotic (and repetitive) stuff. Senseless storylines, outdated costumes and embarassing dances made Marathi movies almost unwatchable.

But things probably changed with Shwaas (meaning breath). Here was one of those select first Marathi movies that had a real story and some superlative actors. The journey of a little boy stricken with cancer and his grandpa from the village to the city as they battle fate and time touched a chord. In fact, it was selected to be the India's Oscar entry for 2004. 

Since then, Marathi movies seemed to have gotten a new brain, a new heart and overall a new life altogether. Take for instance Nital (meaning crystal clear), one of my all time favorite Marathi movies. Here is a story of a young girl, a gifted eye specialist , who faces turmoil both within herself & from outside because of her vitiligo (white patches). The crux of the story though is about the reactions she faces when she comes to meet the family of her well educated doctor colleague, whom she has fallen in love with. Watch this movie in case you haven't already- it is a beautifully told story.

3 more Marathi movies which are totally worth a watch.Each of these are very simple stories but good acting coupled with superb story telling makes them an absolute treat:

- Bokya Saatbande (thats the first & last names of the lead character): A story about a young urban, middle class boy whose big heart & empathy for others lead him to help others in a simple ways but with big results.

- Ek cup chya (meaning one cup of tea): Story of a rural bus conductor & his family who face much discomfort & pain when they receive a humongous power bill by error. 

- Masala (meaning spice mix): A heart warming story of a hardworking, well-meaning young couple who somehow never succeed in any business until they realize that the best business for them is the one that comes from their heart.

The last movie was especially fun to watch. Probably because it reminded me so much of my uncle & aunt (mama-mami) back from India. Just like the lead characters in the movie, my uncle & aunt are two of the most tireless, selfless & easy going people I have ever met. I want to especially mention my aunt here, because as nice as my mama is, I really dont think he could have achieved as much without mami's constant, smiles & support. Hats off to you both!

Finally, for anyone who wants to watch Marathi movies or shows, but doesn't have the channels, apalimarathi.com is a superb online and FREE resource. You should be able to watch these movies on this website (& probably more!) 


02 August 2012

Brothers and sisters

To my brothers & my two sisters, since today is the day of rakhi:

We grew up together, 
Shared memories & love, tantrums & fights.
You were there when I needed a friend,
Some unconditional love and some silent support.

That time seems like a distant memory now,
New relations & work taking its toll,
Each one of us now busy with their own lives,
There's barely the time to sit down & chat.

An occasional phone call & a facebook message,
I know from them that you are okay,
And even though I might seem to be lost,
I want you to know that you are always in my heart.

Some things will never change,
Like the love & the support & the playfulness we had,
You will always be a friend, a companion
But most of all, a constant in my life.

Happy raksha bandhan to you all.

Sharing with you a picture postcard our 6 year old niece made for little v. It was such a heartwarming surprise to see this. Am sure little v could not have asked for a nicer rakhi; he is blessed to have such a loving sister!

And finally signing off with a picture of rakhi my 3 year old niece made herself for little v; the image is blurry but I HAD to post it. I really don't think there can be anything sweeter on the face of this earth than this band of love a little girl made with her own hands for her little brother. The fact that she is in India & he is here in United States & that they have personally met only for a couple months does nothing to stop her from thinking about him every day & making this band to tie him with her love.

Can there be anything more beautiful than these two rakhis?