With Diwali just round the corner,lets start with some interesting sweets and snacks.After contemplation,lot of self capability evaluation along with little consultation from Aai (mother) decided to begin the quest of learning with a simple-sweet rice recipe that could enchant our hubbies and guests over a divali brunch or dinner.Though,I would have to agree that the best "Sakhar bhaat" (Sugary Rice) ever eaten is made by my Aji (granny),this attempt would atleast make her happy if not proud.
Madame Ogale follows the "bowl & spoon" method of measurement.This is the most common method of measuring in india wherein one needs to have a standard size of bowl (wati/katori/glass bowl -enough to carry a muffin),teaspoons and tablespoons to measure the quantities.One could also opt for "Cup & Spoon" method for standard quantification.
The conventional recipe by Kamala Aji (author of our source book Ruchira) includes "Ambemohar" (a special quality of fragranted rice in India),but we would be using the good old Sona Masuri Basmati rice available in the Bay area and most of the parts of US.
We are experimenting and hence it would be ideal if the quantities were kept bare minimum so that in case the recipe flops the wastage is not much!The preparation is for 2 and the total time [total time(T.T)=cooking time (CT)+preparation time (P.T)] is about 2 hours roughly.
- 2 muffin-full bowls of rice (basmati,long grain white rice is preferred)
- 3 muffin-full bowls of boiled water to add to the rice prior to cooking
- 3.5 muffin-full bowls of sugar (the sugar is quite fine and processed in US,so sugar must be added as per required for absolute sweetness)
- 1/4 muffin-full bowl of unsalted butter or ghee (home-made/Amul etc would do).However,we are going to replace it with half portion of vegetable cooking oil and half portion of ghee.
- 5 cloves
- 7-8 almonds (soaked in warm water for 10-15 minutes and de-skinned)
- 7-8 cloves of powdered cardamom (instead of whole I prefer the powder)
- 1 small piece of cinnamon (my addition)
- 10-12 raisins or walnuts
- Few strands of Saffron (dissolved in 3 tbsp of milk)
- 1 lemon
- Shredded fresh coconut (optional).
For the Rice:
Before catching up a movie on netflix,I rinsed the rice and set it aside for an hour.The wait was long and my eagerness to prepare something different was accelerating,even "A Wednesday" could not keep me interested for long.Finally,the cooking clock rang and I was all so ready to take the struggle by horns [:P].If it were in India,my huge black non-stick saucepan would have been replaced with a Copper vessel used by my great grand mother,but never mind ; non-stick still rocks!
The sauce pan was put on a medium flame and I added the half-half portions of lubrication (ghee and vegetable oil) and sauteed cloves,cinnamon as well as rice,one after the other,then together.Cooking the rice within the saucepan could be time consuming and cost exhaustive too.Hence,I opted for a pressure cooker.The rice was cooked "fadfadit" with 3 bowls of boiling water (non-sticky rice,all grains of rice disjoint from each other yet symbiotic).The authoress suggests cooking the rice with "haldi or turmeric and a pinch of salt" but my granny made it plain,so I like it that way.But,those of you who like it yellow with turmeric can add a teaspoon of it before it goes into the cooker and whistles thrice.
For the Sugary Syrup (Sakhrecha Pak):
While the rice cooked,I made the sugar-syrup to add sweetness to the rice.I dissolved 3 muffin-full bowls of sugar into 2 bowls of water.Kept it over flame (medium flame)after adding freshly squeezed lemon juice and powdered cardamom to it.
The Final Stroke:
It always is a nail biting task when it comes to mixing rice with gentle hands without disturbing the innocence of the grains.I added the rice to the Sakhar Pak and mixed it,adding the saffron mixture gradually to it.Keep stirring from time to time to avoid any rashes.The fresh shredded coconut could be added now,but I refrained from it.The beautification was done by the almonds and raisins.The aroma was heaven and took me home to my Aji's (grand-mother) residence in the crowded suburbs of Bombay.Similar recipe with coconut milk is made for Raksha Bandhan in India.As it cooked on medium flame,drinking all the moisture content in the syrup,the aroma of saffron,cinnamon and cardamom spread all over the house! Waiting to be served to Monsieur Ranade pour le diner!
Its important that the cook tastes the delicacy before serving,so I gluttoned it happily [:)].Looking forward to your experiences and nuances.
Till then,Feast over Sakhar Bhaat,
Savkaash hou dya!(let the aromas sink in to your soul slowly)