Prasadam - Raisins, Part 2
BY: SUN STAFF
May 16, 2010 CANADA (SUN) A journey through India: border to border, bhoga to prasadam.
Raisins are one of the most versatile, tasty and economical ingredients you'll find in a devotee's bhoga pantry. From the simplest to the most complex preparations, raisins add texture, color, sweetness and flavor to all sorts of dishes. They can be added either whole or chopped, cooked or uncooked, hard or soaked until soft, or ground to a flavorful paste. Used in sabjis and rice dishes, you can throw a handful of raisins into the ghee while tempering spices, then toss these excellent fried jewels into the prep. This is a great way to use older raisins that have become gritty, which is caused by crystallization of the sugars.
Raisins can be infused with flavor from a variety of other seasonings, too. It's best to soak the raisins for about 10 minutes, because they'll take on other flavors more easily when they're plump and soft. (If you soak them longer, you'll lose flavor and nutrients.) You can make a paste or sauce by grinding other ingredients together, then soaking the plumped raisins in the mixture for a few hours before adding to a dish.
Just like frying raisins in ghee while you're chaunking spices, raisins can be deep fried by the handfuls in ghee. Coat them in a nicely spiced batter then fry, for the smallest, but tastiest of pakoras. Add to a simple batter of chickpea flour and water some ginger paste and coriander, or a mixture of tamarind and powdered jaggery. Coat the raisins with thick batter, deep fry like boondis, and drain. These spicy fried raisins are a wonderful addition to so many dishes: sweet cakes, rice, dal, sabjis, salads, or offered as a snack.
Raisins are often taken as a snack, and like most dried fruits, they're great energy food. During Lord Caitanya's lila, in the 16th century, raisins were one of the most common dry fruits of the day. They were often mixed with almonds, dates, pistachio or coconut for a quick snack, taken in the field by farmers and laborers.
Raisins are sweet due to their high concentration of sugars, most of which is fructose. Different varieties of grapes produce the different types of raisins found in the market. Thompson Seedless grapes produce the most popular variety, Sultanas. Golden raisins are beautiful additions in any dish, but they're not as natural. To get the golden effect, these Sultanas are treated with Sulfur Dioxide, then flame-dried. A seedless grape, the Black Corinth, is sun-dried to produce currants, which are smaller and have a more tart flavor. There are many colors of raisins: green, black, blue, purple, and yellow, and many different sizes and shapes.
Many well-known Indian temples feature prasadam items that include raisins. In Aravade, Maharashtra, where there is an ISKCON temple, farmers make a special offering of harvested green grapes to the deities. After the main harvest festival, the green grapes are dried into raisins, and a selection of the finest dried fruits are offered with devotion to Sri Sri Radha-Gopala.
In Udupi, on the day after Sri Krsna Janmastami, the Vittla Pindi festival is held. Lord Krsna Vittala is honored with various milk sweets (pindi is a pot containing milk, curd or butter). Among the traditional dishes offered to Sri Krsna on this day are several types of raisins.
In Jagannatha Puri, during the observance of Makara Sankranti (January 13-14th), the Deities are offered a special preparation called Makara Chaula. The dish is made from fresh uncooked rice that is well moistened with milk, to which raisins, ginger, ripe banana, black pepper, coconut, cheese, sugar candy, and camphor are added.
In Balasore, a few hundred miles northeast along the Puri coast, is the famous Gopinath Temple. Sri Gopinatha is the Deity who stole sweet rice for Madhavendra Puri. One of the favoured prasadam items here is a delicious kshira called Amrita-keli. The preparation is made from condensed milk and fresh cream sweetened with sugar and raisins.
One of the most popular uses of raisins in prasadam dishes, aside from the wide variety of laddus, jamuns and other sweetballs, is in the category of puddings. These are generally found in two categories: milk puddings, and grain puddings. Among the milk puddings, Krsna devotees often enjoy vermicelli payasa at ISKCON temples, as well as khir (khiri) or sweet rice, made of sweetened condensed milk or khoa with raisins and nuts, and often flavored with bay leaf, cardamom and sometimes camphor.
In the category of grain puddings there are several additional types of payasa (payasam), thulli, sheera, and holige, and these are very popular in South India.
Moong Dal Paayasa (Hesara Bele Paayasa)
2 cups of Moong dal
1-3/4 cups Sugar
1/2 tsp Saffron
1-1/2 tsp Cardamom powder
2 Tblsp Raisins
2 Tblsp Cashews
a few cloves
1/2 cup Milk (full cream)
Roast the dry Moong dal in a ghee and then cook until soft. Fry the raisins and cashews in a little ghee and set aside. To the cooked dal add the sugar and milk, and bring to a boil on medium heat. Add the remaining ingredients, bring back to a boil and cook for a few minutes until slightly thickened.
Thulli (Doodh Dalia)
This opulent Marwari recipe was pictured at the bottom of yesterday's segment.
1-1/2 cups Cracked Wheat/rava (dalia)
2 cups of Milk (doodh)
Sugar to taste
a handful of golden raisins
a few Saffron threads
½ tsp. Cardamom
a few Almonds, slivered
a little Ghee
Fry the dalia in a little ghee until it darkens a few shades. Add twice the amount of water and pressure cook until done. Soak the saffron in a little warm water, and in another dish soak the raisins for a few minutes to plump them.
Bring the milk to a boil and add the cooked dalia and sugar, stirring to mix. Add more milk as needed to get a nice, thick pouring consistency. (It will thicken more as it cools.)
Add all the remaining ingredients, mix well, and remove from heat. Let the Thulli cool with the lid on for several minutes, then garnish with almonds, and offer.
Peach and Raisin Chutney
In the category of chutneys, there are really too many variations to mention. Raisins are a staple ingredient of chutneys because of their sweetness, and also because the dried fruit holds its texture nicely in the cooked relish. One of our favorites is this Peach & Raisin Chutney. As feature ingredients, raisins pair exceptionally well with both peaches and dates in chutney. In our Prasadam Recipes section at HareKrsna.com, you'll find a collection of five more Raisin Chutneys we hope you'll enjoy preparing for Lord Krsna.
Peach & Raisin Chutney
1 firm ripe peach
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped fine
1 fresh serrano or jalapeno chili, seeded and chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon asofoetida
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Halve and pit peach and cut into 1/8-inch dice (about 1 1/4 cups). In a bowl combine peach, raisins, chili, gingerroot, and cumin. Chill chutney, covered, at least one hour and up to 2 hours. About 1 hour before serving, stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Serve chutney at room temperature.
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