The Glories of Raghava's Bag, Part 10

BY: SUN STAFF

Poha: flattened rice
[Photo courtesy SpicyChili.blogspot]


Jan 25, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A journey through the nectarian contents of Raghava's Bag.


Puffed Rice Lugdoo

Today's description of the foodstuffs found among raghavera-jhali is from Caitanya-caritamrta Antya lila 10.28:

    kateka cida hudum kari' ghrtete bhajiya
    cini-pake nadu kaila karpuradi diya

    SYNONYMS
    kateka cida -- some of the flat rice; hudum kari' -- making into puffed rice; ghrtete bhajiya -- frying in ghee; cini-pake -- by cooking in sugar juice; nadu kaila -- made into round balls; karpura-adi diya -- mixing with camphor and other ingredients.

    TRANSLATION
    She made some of the flat rice into puffed rice, fried it in ghee, cooked it in sugar juice, mixed in some camphor and rolled it into balls.

Puffed rice, commonly known today as kurmura or murmura, is a staple food in India. Found on the table at all times of day, from breakfast to snacks, the puffed rice product is on the shelves, ready to use. This already puffed rice product looks very uniform, because today it's actually machine made. But in Damayanti's case, the cida was very sattvic.

Having sun-dried the rice, salikacuti-dhanyera, Damayanti flattened it herself. In the preparation described in Verse 10.28, we read that she also puffed it. She took only some of the flattened rice for the sweetballs, leaving the rest for use in other preparations.


Puffed poha with groundnut


Srila Krsnadas Kaviraj does not mention how she puffed the rice, but most likely she either dry-fried it in a heavy pan, or quick-fried it in ghee. Although frying is the fastest, easiest way, Damayanti was making a sweetball by frying the puffed rice in ghee, and this would mean frying it twice.

After frying the puffed rice in ghee, Damayanti cooked it in sugar juice. This could be one of several things: cane juice, or perhaps a light syrup made of cane or jaggery. The term cini-paka (cini is sugar) refers to cooking or boiling with sugar juice.

The preparation described here sounds like the traditional lugdoos that are much loved by the devotees. As the sugar syrup begins to get absorbed into the puffed rice, aromatic spices are added. Here Damayanti uses camphor which, as previously mentioned, has qualities that help to preserve food. Cardamom is another popular spice used in these sweetballs.


Sugar-soaked puffed rice


Once the flavorful sugar-soaked rice has cooled to the touch, the sweetballs are rolled by hand into the desired size. "Damayanti made some of the flat rice into puffed rice, fried it in ghee, cooked it in sugar juice, mixed in some camphor and rolled it into balls." The term used is nadu kaili -- made into round balls. The Sanskrit for camphor is karpura, and karpura-adi diya describes Damayanti, mixing the camphor with the other ingredients.

So this verse describes the preparation of a very basic type of lugdoo. There are many similar kinds of sweetballs that are famous in Bengal, starting with the simplest version of laddu, made of fine roasted besan powder that is blended into a smooth paste with butter and sugar.

A more complicated version may be referred to as laddu or lugdoo. These are composed of fried besan bundis. 'Bundis' are small fried chickpea balls that are used much like Damayanti used the puffed rice.


Fruit and nut Lugdoo


A even more opulent version of sweetball is the traditinoal lugdoo, which has various frieds, fruits and nuts compressed together in a sweetball. For the sake of comparison, we offer recipes for all three. The plan laddu and lugdoo recipes come from the classic 1970's Devotee Cookbook. This classic Hare Krsna lugdoo also features camphor.


Laddu

Gram (chick-pea) flour, butter, sugar, icing sugar. Melt 1 lb. butter in a sauce-pan, and then add 1 lb. gram flour and mix together. Keep mixture over a medium flame, allowing to sit and begin to brown, and then stirring thoroughly. Repeat this process until the mixture is a rich golden-brown colour. Then, turn heat down to very low and add in ½ to ¾ lb. icing (powdered) sugar. Stir this in, and the result will be crumbly. Keep stirring over low heat and the sugar will melt, so that the mixture becomes again pasty. Then add the rest of the sugar, up to 1 lb. total, and stir again until pasty. Then allow the mixture to cool, and roll into balls, by spooning some nearly firm mixture into hand and then quickly rolling into a ball. Allow these to cool. Do not store laddu balls in a warm place (they melt).

If you want less-sweet laddu, use less sugar and a bit less butter. Similarly, for thicker mix, use less butter. Some devotees like to add raisins or currants near the end of cooking. Many karmies like these balls.


Boondi Laddu

Besan 1 cup
Sugar 1-1/2 cups
Yellow food color 1 pinch
Cardamom 5 or 6
Cashew 10
Raisins 10
Cloves 4

Make the sugar syrup first. Add water to the sugar and keep checking the syrup consistency till single thread falls from a ladle. Immediately remove from fire. Add yellow food color to it. To make boondi, add water to the besan so that the paste resembles dosa batter. It should not be too watery (boondi will be flat) or too thick (boondi will be hard). If you have a ladle with holes in it, pour the batter in it and fry it in oil at medium high heat. As the boondi comes out, drain it on a paper towel and drop it into the sugar syrup. After finishing all the boondis, add the fried cashews, raisins, cloves and cardamoms in the syrup. Let the boondi soak for say an hour to hour and a half. Stir occassionally. Try shaping it into balls. If the boondi is still crisp try after it starts soaking. Makes 15 small lugdoo.



Lugdoo

Ingredients: fried chick pea flour, noodles, sugar, dried figs, raisins, chopped walnuts, candied cherries, camphor.

Make a pasty batter by stirring water into sifted chick-pea (gram) flour. Beat out the lumps in this batter, and then stir in more water until you have a thick but liquid batter. Beat up about two inches of ghee (or more) in a fairly deep pan. When the ghee is just beginning to smoke, adjust the heat down to about medium. Have a colander (bowl-strainer) handy which has small holes interspersed around its bottom. Hold this colander above the hot ghee, and pour a small ladle full of batter into it. If the batter is the proper thick-but-liquid consistency it should drip into the ghee, forming into small, drop-shaped noodles. When the ghee has about ½ inch of noodles frying in it, stop dripping them, and stir the noodles to break any up which may be sticking together. If they are browning too fast to cope with, turn the heat down a bit. When the noodles are a rich golden colour and crispy, dip them out with a fine wire-mesh spoon or spoon with holes in it. Drain them for a few seconds above the ghee, and place them in a fair sized pot. Do this repeatedly until you have produced as many noodles as you want. A pound of chick pea flour should produce enough noodles for approximately 30 good-sized sweet balls. You will need to add more ghee periodically as you fry.

When noodles are done, make a sugar syrup in this way: put a quantity of water in a pot. Figure (by volume) 8 parts noodles to 1 part water. In that water put two parts sugar (2 lbs sugar to 1 pint water). Stir this over the heat. Only as the water comes near a boil will all the sugar dissolve. Into this boiling heavy syrup add the dried fruit and nuts. If you have 6 pints of noodles, figure 1 lb. of raisins, ½ pound of chopped dried figs, ½ lb. chopped walnuts, ¼ lb. candied cherries (chopped in quarters or eights). When these fruits have been mixed in, the final addition is crumbled camphor. Liquid camphor-spirit can also be used, because all the alcohol boils off immediately upon hitting the boiling liquid (alcohol has lower boiling point than water.) Plenty of camphor should be used (the first lugdoo I tasted was made under Srila Prabhupada's personal supervision. When I bit into it the small of camphor shot up my nose very distinctly. The experience was vivid and ecstatic.)

As soon as the camphor is dissolved, pour most of the syrup and all the fruit and nuts over the noodles and stir together. Keep some syrup aside in case more is needed. (If not, use the syrup in making halvah). The noodles should become soft and sticky on the outside, but should remain a bit crisp in the middle. If they don't appear moist enough to stick together, add more syrup (if they are too soft-mushy - I'm sorry. Next time make less syrup). When the mixture is cooled down (as it cools, it becomes stickier), squeeze into big balls, about 1 ½ inches in diameter. These balls are difficult to roll because of the sticky mixture. I find it best to keep a bowl of water nearby and to rinse my hands after every few balls. When properly made this (along with kachories) is one of Srila Prabhupada's top favourites.


Lugdoo with puffed rice, coconut and channa dal



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