Salty Malty Pudding | The best of both



We’re inching towards the middle of Ramadan and the temperature is rising steadily but with His Mercy, the humidity still hasn’t set in yet. If you entertain quite a bit, this recipe would make a perfect dessert considering it is a no-bake one. This dessert is especially for those who hated their daily dose of milk. Chances are that a spoonful of malt powder went into the glass and was vigorously stirred and handed over in the hopes it would be go down without gagging revolts. Regardless this is almost effortless and something sweet to end a long day of fasting.


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The new academic year in Kerala coincided with our summer holidays in Dubai.  When I would go to stay at Verammas’ (my maternal grandmother) during our summer break, one of the first things I would do having entered, even before I changed my clothes, was survey her pantry for treats I could dig into later. The morning hours would pass rather slowly considering our cousins went to school. Obviously, I would while away the time taking rounds in the kitchen nibbling on whatever is in line of sight every now and then. When I was younger, most of the cooking was still done over hearth. The wall running parallel to it had niches that made spices accessible. Sitting right next to them would be a bottle of Bournvita. I’m sure these bottles were depleted much quicker when I went to stay. I’d grab a spoon and slowly pace around that wall. There is a window of ten seconds to unscrew the lid, dig deep and scoop out as much as you can, hurriedly close it and dash before you were caught in action. And you had to run. That’s not easy considering it is powder. And so, I would pop in the spoon and hold it between my lips and dash for the door. More often than not, Veramma would call out in mock reprimand and I could hear giggling right after.



The first time I bought malted chocolate powder was when Ali fell a bit ill. This fellow has his milk cold right out of the refrigerator and sans any flavoring. As with all illnesses, he would lose his appetite but he would still ask for milk. I would hesitate giving cold milk when he was sick which is when I bought Milo for the first time in my adult life. It is one of the things I’d rather not have sitting in my pantry considering the easy access to the tin with no adults to tell you off. Ali doesn’t like milk being warmed and this was my way of cajoling him into a glass. Chocolate flavored milk has always been a treat for him and I had to explain to him that the milk had to be warmed for the chocolate to mix in well. Once he was feeling better and he switched back to the cold milk, if he sees the green tin he’d ask for a ‘little powder in mine mouth.’

Are you familiar with the magic of Agar Agar? This vegetarian substitute for Gelatine can practically transform anything into a pudding with that and sweetened milk. It is bloomed in water for a while and then boiled on a high flame where it will melt completely. It is then sieved to separate stubborn lumps and is stirred into flavored and sweetened boiled milk. It will take trial and error to figure out exactly how much to add for the pudding to set. Too little and you’ll have soup at hand and too much means it would set but there will be a smidgen of resistance when you spoon into it. Once you crack the code of ratio, let it come to the rescue every time you’re planning a menu for last minute guests. For this recipe, I’ve put in a little more than I normally would so that it slices easily.  

And if  you don’t fancy pretzel sticks you can use salted peanuts instead. Or even salted popcorn! Crush them a bit coarsely so you get a good bite and keep them salted to cut through the malty sweetness. And trust me, you’re going to be asked for seconds.

Salty Malty Pudding

INGREDIENTS

  • MilK – 2 cups

  • Chocolate malt powder – 8 tbsp

  • Cocoa Powder – 2 tbsp

  • Sugar – 2 tbsp

  • Fresh OR Heavy cream – ½ cup

  • Salt flakes – ½ tsp

  • Agar Agar – ¼ bunch

  • Pretzel sticks

  • Malted chocolate spheres – to garnish (optional)

METHOD

  • Soak the Agar Agar strands in water that submerges it completely for at least 30 minutes.

  • In a saucepan, boil the milk, sugar and salt flakes till it is completely dissolved.

  • Take ¼ cup of boiling milk and briskly stir in the malt and cocoa powder making sure there are no lumps.

  • Pour this milk back to the saucepan and simmer the mixture.

  • Boil the soaked Agar Agar mixture till it melts completely and the water boils.

  • Using a sieve, pour the Agar Agar mixture into the simmering malted milk mixture and stir well.

  • Remove from heat and cool the mixtures for 5 minutes.

  • Slowly pour the cream into the milk and stir well.

  • Pour the pudding mixture into a glass or ceramic dish.

  • Once it has cooled down considerably, place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.

  • Right before serving, crush the pretzel sticks and sprinkle them on the perimeter of the pudding.

  • If you wish, you can garnish with malted chocolate spheres.

Have a good food day.

 

Chakkara Paalu | The Vegan Mylkshake of Yore


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Ramadan Kareem! My blog is the busiest at this time of the year and it has become a ritual of sorts picking and planning on what to share with you. This year, I started looking into recipes from my parents’ time. A few of them were dishes Umma made only during Ramadan too. With all the recipes out there, I was convinced that there would be some variation of this drink on the internet. It is part of planning process to see how many variations of the recipe are available and only pick to publish those recipes that aren’t too common to avoid adding more to the mainstream. So imagine my surprise when I found no recipe even remotely similar to this. I did a quick pop quiz with the above photograph too with the grand prize of a sinfully chocolate cake freshly baked. Alright, I did make it difficult and gave the bare minimum clues. I thought given the few ingredients seen, I would have at least one right guess. The guesses bordered on the dessert spectrum including panna cottas and cheesecakes. Nothing remotely traditional except for one lovely lady who suggested a beverage particularly given to increase lactation in new mums. If you’ve drunk that, I’m wincing with you too.

Everyone, meet Chakkara Paalu. Vellima had this made for her only son every day during the holy month and it was the sole reason Vappa would wake up for the Suhour meal. In Umma’s house it was a part of the celebrations of Eid-Ul-Fitr and was had to end lunch on a sweet note. It’s made from bananas native to South India combined with melted jaggery and fresh coconut milk and stirred coconut meat. Umma would make this particularly during Ramadan for Vappa and I would happily skip dinner for a couple of glasses to myself. In fact, I would stick my share into the refrigerator for a half hour after it was prepared and indulged myself with a spoon. It has tiny lumps of banana which would weigh down in the glass and I didn’t quite like forcing it to the top via gravity. I preferred picking and chewing on them at leisure. The ingredients sound rather basic (right?) but believe me, this is something you have to try once.



Given the recipes I’ve seen and written from both my grandmothers’ repertoire, sugar was never one of them. At least not in the form we use today. Jaggery was what was used to sweeten recipes. The juice extracted from the sugarcane is prepared exactly how you’d prepare caramel. It’s boiled in humongous vessels for hours and over high heat to allow the water content to evaporate. It boils down to a sticky paste which is ladled on flat surfaces, cooled and then moulded into blocks or mounds. The taste from jaggery is deeply mellow, in comparison to sharp spike of sweetness of white sugar. It is very similar to Maple Syrup but the consistency, when melted, is much heavier and thicker.


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When it comes to Jaggery, I’ve learnt to pick the darkest looking mound available. It will be the most purest form of extraction and the least refined. A lighter gradation is directly proportional to its refinement as is the case of white sugar.  At home, a block of Jaggery is placed in a saucepan with water and left to melt for a while till it foams and is reduced to viscous gold. It is always strained before storing to separate sand(!) particles and assorted minuscle grime. The sieving stage is another litmus for the test of jaggery quality. You shouldn’t unearth, quite literally, a lot of particles while sieving if it is a good one. Invariably during Ramadan, Umma used to melt jaggery in bulk and refrigerate it for quite a few recipes, the culmination being for Payasam on the day of Eid.


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Convenience has shortened hours we spend in the kitchen. Gadgets blend, puree, whisk, extract, chop, slice, spiral and even (my favourite!) wash up after we’re done. And with all the time we have saved, there is still a million things to plan for and schedule and complete and yet, it is never enough. We’re all wishing for longer hours in the day, especially when you have children. I think about how things were so different in the home kitchen in Kerala even half a century ago. Close to none of these inventions existed and yet menus, simple and elaborate were made. Meals where tiny stones are picked and sieved from rice and lentils and fish scaled and cleaned in under 20 minutes. Where hand powdered rice is transformed into dough with the help of boiled water and paves the way for scores of options for breakfast and dinner, coconuts cracked and their meat grated by the dozen and sun soaked spices ground on the Ammi Kallu. Piping hot meals prepared on an open hearth made it to the table like clockwork. All this, and more, done with only bare hands. 

When I think of traditional recipes, one of the sore points for me is the extraction of coconut milk. Sure, even that is available in cans with the option of Organic too. But when convenience replaces the old-school method, the flavor I’m hoping to savor from memory is almost always lost. There is a Naadan Parippu, a Moong Dal Curry I can eat for days, where freshly squeezed coconut milk is added to the mushy-beyond-recognition lentils in the very end, right before tempering. And the first time I made this adding milk from a can, I felt defeat. When a dish as simple as dal is cooked entirely differently 275 km south from your hometown in Kerala and you’re desperately cooking it for familiarity and comfort, I learnt why coconut milk has to be made from scratch. It was barely a quarter of a cup but it made a world of difference to me. Now, I will take the luxury of buying freshly grated coconut. A few tablespoons of warm water is blended briskly with coconut meat to ease extraction. I bought a tea strainer and set it aside exclusively for sieving coconut milk. Umma says back in the days the meat would be squeezed tightly between palms with a few drops of warm water to extract the thickest milk. That’s when I thought a muslin cloth would do my job and involves minimal mess. I get more volume compared to straining from the sieve and it’s far easier to clean. It spoils pretty easily even in the refrigerator so I’m guilty of adding more than what is required when I’m cooking. Let me tell you no dish of mine has ever been ruined by that.



When I think about the meals we had in Kerala over the summer school break, there isn’t a meal without bananas. In the form of Plaintains, or Robasta, a parrot green skinned variety similar to Chiquita and of course, Cheru Pazham. It’s a smaller banana that is very soft and has a note of tanginess at the end. Ali loves these and we’ve named them baby bananas. Marrying into Trivandrum exposed me to varieties of banana I hadn’t eaten before and the fact that these bananas are called Rasakadali. It took me three attempts to write that down here so I don’t even try pronouncing that.

I do remember, very clearly, while washing up after eating lunch,  Vellima would call out to either Umma or my brother and I to have one baby banana. I’d eat it depending on my mood and if I didn’t eat one she’d remind me persistently to have one every hour. I did love it squeezed into my Puttu and Umma would sprinkle sugar on top and give me a spoon. It has a rather slimy texture once squished and I didn’t fancy using my fingers then.



To safeguard the sanctity of this recipe, I’m using only my hands to prepare this milkshake. You could use a hand blender but I cannot guarantee a similar experience of satiety. To assist in the instructions given below, I’m hoping these step-by-step photographs will help elaborate the process.

Let’s begin. Start by adding three peeled bananas into a daily large bowl. Gently, using your fingertips, coarsely mash the bananas. You could use a potato masher but I’d rather you not be a spoil sport. The banana pulp will start becoming a bit watery so continue till the texture resembles the photograph above. If you’re doing this for the first time, I’m stressing on being gentle, because we do want small bits of pulp to chew on in the very end.



Begin adding two teaspoons of melted jaggery and continue mashing and mixing the pulp together. Since the jaggery is melted, it will make the consistency a bit more fluid as you continue mixing. Now begin adding coconut milk, a little at a time, and continue blending with your fingertips, being gentle all the while.



This is what it would like after 2 minutes of slow blending. I’ve added close to a cup of coconut milk in parts and blended before adding them in increments. It is very important that it looks like a slightly thick batter and there are yet there are tiny lumps of banana. Test for sweetness and add more jaggery if required.



At this stage, you are done with blending. Finally add grated coconut and give it a quick mix. There’s no limitation to how much coconut you add and I love my coconut so I sprinkle a little over the top right before drinking it.

My husband is the rare breed of Malayali that doesn’t like coconut milk or anything colored ‘brown’ with jaggery. Ali didn’t quite understand why I would crush his baby bananas to make this and was concerned I’d used them all. Now that you knows exactly what goes into it, be my guest and burst my bubble if this is something you’ve eaten or even know that exists. For now, I am pleased to be the first one blessing the Internet with this recipe.



Chakkara Paalu

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS

  • Rasakadali or Lady Finger Banana – 3
  • Freshly squeezed Coconut milk – 1 ½ cup 
  • Melted jaggery – To taste
  • Fresh grated Coconut – ½ cup

METHOD

  • Take a large bowl and put the peeled bananas. 
  • Using your fingers or a potato masher, break down the bananas until they’re a bit watery and mushy with large pieces of pulp. 
  • Add 2 teaspoon of melted jaggery and mix well.
  • Start by adding 1/4 cup of coconut milk and mash the mixture.
  • Continue blending with fingers till the mixture is similar to a puree adding coconut milk as required. It should still have small pieces of banana pulp. 
  • Test the mixture for sweetness.
  • If it needs more sweetness, add the melted jaggery, a teaspoon at a time blending well and tasting before the next addition. 
  • Finally add the grated coconut and give a final mix.
  • Ladle into glasses and add half a teaspoon of jaggery
  • If you love coconut, sprinkle grated coconut on top.
  • Serve immediately.

NOTES

  • This recipe cannot be made before hand as the bananas will begin blackening after a while.
  • I like having this chilled so I refrigerate it immediately after preparation and consume it within an hour.

Have a good food day.