Mysore Trippin’!

Remember the holiday I was desperately craving to go on? Well, it happened! We went to Mysore over the weekend, with two additional days thrown in. I got some of what I needed – a break from the routine, quality family time, and a change of scene. The trip was shorter and more hectic than we wanted it to be, I didn’t get any one-on-one time with the husband, we couldn’t do everything we wanted to, and I can’t say it healed my body and soul, but it was still good. It was a last-minute decision to embark on this holiday, and we are glad we did. We got to see different sides to Mysore that we haven’t seen before, and came back with enough ideas to plan another trip around.๐Ÿ™‚

This goes down in history as Bubboo’s first trip with her parents, alone – all the little and big travels we have had before with Bubboo have had someone or the other accompanying us.

Bubboo was a mixed kind of traveller on the trip, cranky and crabby at some times, super accommodating and understanding at other times. She just needs to get used to being out of home, I think, and the change of scene has done her a whole lot of good. She is tired, as of now, as her parents are too – nothing that a day of rest wouldn’t cure.

I will soon be back with stories from Mysore. Till then, you guys be good and take care!

 

Your Ideas, Please!

Friends,

I am fast approaching the end of the (free) media upload limit for this blog, The Girl Next Door. This means I will soon not be able to upload any new photos/videos on this blog.

I am here to ask you for suggestions as to what you would like me to do in this case. I have the following ideas:

  1. Keep this blog going as long as there is free media space available (and till I use up the posts that I have saved as drafts), and then shift to a new domain entirely.
  2. Shift to my other blog The World Through My Eyes, after the media upload limit has ended and all the drafts have been used up.
  3. Apply for the purchase of extra media space for this blog.
  4. Continue writing non-photo posts on this blog, and do the photo posts on The World Through My Eyes.

What would you recommend me to do? Any of the above or something else altogether?

Do let me know! I’m all ears. Thanks!

 

Crispy Honey Chilli Lotus Stem

A lot of you guys requested for the crispy honey chilli lotus stem recipe, when I asked for suggestions a while ago. So, here I am with the recipe! Dreamz And Clouds, Suko, Perspectives & Prejudices and Greenboochi, this post is for you.๐Ÿ™‚

This crispy honey chilli lotus stem recipe is quite new to me, too. It was arrived at after a few experiments, taking notes and making changes along the way. The final recipe that I arrived at – what I am going to tell you about today – is customised to the taste preferences of our family. I must, therefore, tell you to make changes in the proportions of the sauces used, to suit your taste buds.

This recipe turns out a perfectly crispy and delicious starter, a wonderful mix of sweet, sour and spicy. It has fast become a favourite in our family, and that is no wonder! It tastes exactly like the lotus stem starter we are used to having at a favourite restaurant, and now we can make it at home whenever we want to.๐Ÿ™‚

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Now, let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 large lotus stem (washed thoroughly to clear it of mud, peeled and thinly sliced – the slices should fill up about 3/4 of a large bowl)

2 tablespoons oil + more for deep frying the lotus stem

1 tablespoon sesame seeds (til), dry roasted

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons tomato sauce

1 teaspoon soya sauce

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons red chilli sauce

A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Salt to taste (optional)

Red chilli powder to taste (optional)

2 tablespoons cornflour

5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Method:

  1. Take the chopped lotus stem in a large mixing bowl, and add the cornflour. Mix well, ensuring that all the lotus stem is thoroughly coated with the cornflour. Keep aside.
  2. Heat the oil to fry the lotus stem, in a deep-bottomed kadhai. Let it reach smoking point.
  3. In another bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, soya sauce, red chilli sauce, vinegar and honey. Add salt and red chilli powder to taste, if using, but they are not really required, as the sauces have all the tastes that this dish really needs. Mix well. Keep aside.
  4. When the oil is nice and hot, turn the flame down to medium. Fry the lotus stem pieces in the oil until crispy and well cooked inside and out. Fry them a few at a time, and then remove them onto a plate.
  5. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add the chopped garlic. Fry for a couple of seconds and then add the fried lotus stem. Add the mixed sauce and toss or mix with a ladle, ensuring that everything is well mixed together.
  6. Arrange the lotus stem on a serving platter and garnish with the finely chopped coriander leaves and roasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  1. You could increase or decrease the quantity of vinegar and the sauces, to suit your taste buds.
  2. I don’t usually remove fried items on to tissue paper. You could do that, if you want to.
  3. Red chilli powder and salt are not really needed in this dish, but you could add them if you want to.
  4. You could even use 1 tablespoon of rice flour and 1 tablespoon of cornflour, or 2 tablespoons of rice flour, to coat the chopped lotus stem.
  5. You could use dry red chillies and spring onions in this dish, too. Just add them while you are adding the chopped garlic.

You like? I hope you will try this recipe out, and that you will like it as much as we did!

If We Were Having Coffee…

… I’d tell you that Bubboo is better now, touchwood. She seems to have undergone a transformation as far as her favourite tastes are concerned – that is probably what the hunger strike she went on a while back was all about. I read somewhere that a lot of kids go through a phase like this at 21-22 months of age, where they just refuse to eat anything. It is a time when they are evolving rapidly as a person, and their tastebuds are too. At this stage, they begin to question the stuff they have been eating all this while, refusing food point blank, putting the parents in a very scary situation. Phew! I’m glad I’m out of those worries now.

… I’d tell you that, thanks to some sage advice I received from my paed and fellow moms, I think I dealt with the hunger strike well. After a point, I stopped making so much of an effort to feed Bubboo. I let her get hungry, and then come to food, instead of taking food to her. I let her pick and choose the foods that she wanted to eat. I gave her a change of scene by taking her to my in-laws’ place for a short stay. Slowly and gradually, her taste buds started working, and she began eating normally. She asks for different kinds of foods now – from vadams to khakras to sweet dishes, strange considering the way she wouldn’t even touch sweets earlier. Anyways, I am not complaining!

…. I’d tell you about how, of late, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the huge amount of chemicals and unwanted substances we are introducing into our stomachs and using on our skins. Soaps, shampoos, shaving cream, diapers, sanitary pads, packaged foods, talcum powder, hair oil, and even raw grains and vegetables that we buy – everything is laced with chemicals to some extent or the other. I’m glad we took the plunge and started using hand-made chemical-free soaps a year ago. I want to, slowly and gradually, switch over to entirely bio-degradable, natural and chemical-free stuff all around our house. I am researching, reading up on that, making enquiries, experimenting, and trying to figure out what will work for us and what not. In entirety, this change will take us a long, long, long while, but I do hope that we will get there, some day.

… I’d tell you of how the OH is facing a whole lot of politics, ill attitude, and stress at the workplace. It is frustrating to see him put up with all of it so that he can give his wife and kid a good life. It is worrying to see him so very tired at the end of each work day, more mentally drained than physically. It is mentally tiring for me to stand by and watch all of it happen, while I am unable to chip in and do anything for him, except make his time at home more comfortable. Sigh!

… I’d tell you about the lovely experiences we have had of late. First Dastkar, then the trip to Goravanahalli and the visit to the village santhe at Udigere, then the visit to the Bangla Mela. Each of these experiences has changed me, made me more aware, made me think a whole lot, knocked at my conscience and asked me to make some changes in the way we live our life.

… I’d tell you just how much I am craving for a vacation. It has been ages since the OH and I went on a trip that wasn’t undertaken with a religious purpose or to a family member’s home. I want to travel like we would before, seeking out experiences, relaxing, feeling the stresses of everyday life lose their grip upon our minds and bodies. I don’t know how well Bubboo would take such a trip, but this is definitely something we want to try out.

… I’d tell you of how Bubboo is getting naughtier by the day. I just can’t fathom how she gets up to 20 different kinds of mischief in the span of a few minutes. This morning, she put her hands into the commode, opened the tap in the bathroom, threw about half a bucket of water all over herself, insisted on drinking dirty water from the dishes stacked up in the kitchen sink, asked me to carry her around for close to an hour so that she could touch each and every plant in our balcony garden, climbed up on my computer table, threw all of the OH’s visiting cards on the floor, and what not. All of this after I got back from my morning walk. Any wonder I get exhausted before noon?๐Ÿ˜ And while she is at the in-laws’, she is such a goodie-good girl that no one can believe she can ever get up to any mischief! These kids, I tell you!

… I’d tell you of how I try to cook something new at least once every week, in spite of all the sleep deprivation, tiredness and stress that I am undergoing now. I think it is only now that I am coming into my own, as far as my passion for cooking goes. My family doesn’t understand why I need to burden myself with one more thing – i.e. cooking – when we already have a cook, but I insist. A lot of people ask me how I muster up the enthusiasm to cook when I already have so much going on in life. I tell them the same thing I told Pepper, in a comment on one of my recent posts, “Well, I muster up the enthu because the cooking helps keep my stress levels at bay. It keeps me sane by giving me something to do, for myself. In between dealing with the kid, keeping house, trying to lose weight, dealing with a husband who has a very stressful job, being stuck at home without any kind of social life, having to depend on the husband for commuting anywhere, the worries about not having an income flow, cooking and writing about it are wonderful therapy. It gives me immeasurable relief to know that I can cook to save my life (and, maybe, make a living out of it too). Moreover, experimenting with different kinds of ingredients is a passion โ€“ it gives me pleasure to see something edible (or delicious) come out of it.:)

… I’d tell you about how we now have a bunch of ideas on how we want to celebrate Bubboo’s second birthday. We are mulling on a few things, and I’m hoping to have a small but beautiful celebration.๐Ÿ™‚

… I’d tell you of how glad I am to be on Facebook, in spite of all the angst that social media receives these days. Too much of anything is bad, I agree, Facebooking included. I Facebook (that is, pretty much, the only kind of social media that I use regularly, apart from this blog) in moderation, I think. I love being a part of the Facebook groups that I am part of – they offer me food for thought, force me to take well thought-out decisions, and are there to offer suggestions and advice whenever I feel lost. I love writing about my discoveries, foodie and otherwise, on Facebook, and getting advice on them by people with different types of ideologies – it goes a long, long way in broadening my horizons. The people I come into contact with through these Facebook groups are so very inspiring, in a whole lot of ways. I don’t think I am addicted to Facebooking, and I love what I am doing with it. The time I spend there is totally justified, I feel.

… I’d tell you about the huge amount of growth I see in Bubboo over the last couple of months. It feels as if she suddenly grew into this big girl from a little one overnight. She is a full-on chatterbox, chattering away about this and that. I am amazed at the sheer number of new words and phrases she learns every day, from all and sundry, from times when we think she’s not even listening. She surprises us with her understanding at times, confounds us with her tantrums at others. She is at a highly impressionable age now, and we are very careful about what we do and talk in front of her. I don’t think it will be long before she starts asking questions about the world around her. We’d better be prepared!

… I’d tell you about the lot of life projects that I am currently working on, with Bubboo. For instance, I’m trying to potty train, trying to get her more comfortable out of doors, trying to get her to love physical play outdoors. These things keep me occupied, but satisfied. Wish me luck with these projects, will you, please?

… I’d also ask about you and your loved ones, about what’s up with you.

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For Weekend Coffee Share, an interesting meme here. Do check it out!

 

 

En Route To Goravanahalli: Thoughts After Visiting Two Village Santhes

Last weekend, the OH and I drove down to the Lakshmi temple at Goravanahalli, near Tumkur, along with Bubboo. It was a beautiful day, thanks to which we had a pleasant ride. Bubboo, too, thankfully, was a right soldier through most of the trip, dozing off and eating and drinking and playing in the car.

We encountered some beautiful, untouched rural scenes on the way, stopping by every now and then for a spot of photography. We ran into not one, but two proper village santhes (Sunday santhes, I think) at Goravanahalli and Udigere, en route, and were utterly charmed by them.

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Part of the santhe at Goravanahalli

My camera was overworked by the time we had finished with both the santhes. How could it not be that way, tell me? Both santhes were a riot of colour and smell, a feast to the senses. They were humble and utterly unpretentious, with no hint of commercialisation. On offer were a huge variety of vegetables, direct from farms, something which is a rarity for people like us, from big cities. There were also basic staples on sale, most of it farm-fresh, including pori, pulses, soaps, tea and coffee powders, rangoli powders, shampoo pouches, sugarcane juice, mixture and spices.

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Rangoli powders and vadams on offer at the Udigere santhe
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Fresh, fresh, fresh cumin and mustard on sale at Goravanahalli

We had our fill of ogling at all that gorgeous produce, and bought quite a few things as well. You know what, most of the vegetables were so very fresh they were good enough to eat raw! And we did see a lot of the villagers eating the vegetables raw, okra and tapioca roots included. I have never seen vegetables as fresh as the ones I saw here, I can safely say. The prices were unbeatable, too – 4 kg of tomatoes at INR 10, 250 grams of chillies at INR 20, a huge bunch of greens at INR 5, okra at INR 20 per kg, and beans at INR 20 a kg! Just what happens on the way from the village to cities like Bangalore for the vegetables to lose all that freshness and for their price to multiply, I wonder.

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Can you see just how humble this farmers’ market at Udigere is? That is precisely why I loved it!
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See how fresh that produce is! The okra was bigger than the palms of my fingers! The tapioca root that we bought was so fresh the skin peeled off at just one touch of the hand!
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Drool, drool, drool!

I came back with a big bag of vegetables, which I wanted to cook immediately and didn’t have the heart to put in the refrigerator. But then, some of it had to go into the refrigerator, sadly.

On the way back home, I peppered the OH with questions, most of them concerning the possibilities of buying fresh produce from santhes like this every week. It would cost us way too much in terms of fuel, he said, and most of the produce would have to be stored in the refrigerator till it was time to cook it, anyways. He was right, of course, but the temptation to do this kind of shopping every weekend just doesn’t go away.

I am, however, seriously worried about just how these farmers are making ends meet. How on earth do they afford to sell at these rates? Or are they just selling off whatever produce they can, at cost price, just so it doesn’t go to waste? That’s how the OH thinks it is, by the way, but I’m not sure. Any thoughts on this? I would love to help farmers like this, but I have no clue about where to start. Ideas, please!

Snapshots From Bengal Santhe 2016

I wanted to go to the Bangla Mela aka Bengal Santhe at Ulsoor, as soon as I got to know about it, a few days ago. The Santhe is, apparently, an annual affair in the city, organised by the Bengali Association, Bangalore, but I hadn’t heard of it before. We made it to the event today, and I am glad we did.

Thanks to the event, I got to know so much about Bengal, a state I have always been intrigued about, but, largely, been unaware about. I also realised how pitiful my knowledge is about Bengali food, a fact that I am not very happy about, considering the huge diversity the cuisine boasts of. Anyways, I am hoping this event will be the start to a learning process – learning about, and sampling, the lovely vegetarian dishes that the state of Bengal has to offer. I came away from the Santhe in a very thoughtful mood, clutching a bag of Bengali foodie souvenirs close to my chest. I can’t wait to cook with the products I bought, and hope they will lead me on some amazing foodie discoveries.

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The Santhe was quite small, smaller than we had expected it to be, and very uncommercial, much to our happiness. Prices were reasonable, and we were happy to find some authentic Bengali goodies there, including sarees, Govindobhog rice, panch phoron, dress materials, jewellery, show pieces and much more. We felt the food stalls could have been a tad better organised, though – there was a whole lot of chaos buying food, and the vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes were all jumbled up. Honestly, though, better organisation of the food stalls was the only thing I would like to see changed about the Santhe. The rest was just perfect.

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A saree on display at the Santhe
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A gorgeous Ma Durga showpiece at the Santhe

I picked up some lovely hand-made crotchet shoes for Amma and some beautiful hand-made hairbands and clips for Bubboo. I picked up a few very Bengali ingredients I know nothing about, but with which I would love to experiment in my kitchen. We also brought home a little parcel of some Bengali sweets that looked interesting.

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The foodie souvenirs that we bought at the Santhe
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Mishti doi, labang latika and kheer kadam – parcel from the Santhe

I am sure we will be going to this Santhe every year henceforth. Meanwhile, I will try my best to learn more about this beautiful state that I have always wanted to visit, but have never.

Does the event sound interesting to you? Go here to know more about the Santhe.

If you are in Bangalore, do visit this festa. This year, it is a two-day event, ending tomorrow, August 21, 2016, at the Bengali Association, Ulsoor. Entry is free.

Here’s A Glimpse Of…

… some things that have been cooking in our kitchen of late.

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Ari nelikkai or half gooseberry pickle
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Leftover vegetable rava upma and cheese cutlets
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Ragi dosai, OH style
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Crispy honey chilly lotus stem
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Simple palak keerai kootu
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Asparagus curry
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Easy chocolate fudge
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Lemon poha
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Easy-peasy chocolate pudding
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No-cook orange-infused dates & nut pedas
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Mexican chaat
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Ragi and whole wheat flour cake with Nutella icing

I would love to know which of these goodies interests you the most! Which of these recipes would you like to see up on the blog first?

Pachai Tomato Kootu| South Indian-Style Green (Raw) Tomato Curry

The recipe that I am going to tell you about today – Pachai Tomato Kootu or a South Indian-style curry made out of raw, green tomatoes – comes from my maternal uncle. This uncle of mine never married, because he wanted to devote his life to taking care of his parents. He grew up as a spoilt brat, the only son among three sisters, and never had to do any household work. However, when he took it upon himself to care for his parents after all his sisters were married and left, he morphed, slowly and gradually, into a housekeeper and cook par excellence. Today, his father and my maternal grandpa is no more, but he is still devotedly caring for my maternal grandma, who can’t see. Sigh!

So, this kootu recipe, this is my Mama‘s specialty. I am not very fond of the South Indian kootus, but I love this one to bits. It tastes delectable, the green tomatoes lending it a gentle sourness that goes perfectly with the spices in the curry. I learnt the exact proceedure for making this curry from my Mama on one of our visits to his place, and it is now a hot favourite at our house too. (That reminds me, I should really buckle up and get down to the project that I badly want to get around to – the learning of our family’s special recipes from the elders)!

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This kootu goes best with piping hot rice, which has a generous helping of ghee poured over it, but it tastes great with rotis too.

Now, let’s get around to telling you how to make this curry?

Ingredients (for about 4 generous servings):

6 green, raw tomatoes (Choose firm ones that are either entirely green or largely green with a speckling of red – remember that they should be raw and not entirely ripe)

2 fistfuls of moong daal

Salt, to taste

A few curry leaves

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

Red chilli powder to taste (optional)

2 tablespoons of oil

A pinch of asafoetida

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

2 tablespoons dry coriander seeds (dhania)

3-4 dry red chillies, depending upon your taste

2 tablespoons of chana daal

1/2 cup fresh grated coconut

Method:

PicMonkey Collage
Follow the 4 steps on the right first, then the one on the left!
  1. Wash and chop the green tomatoes into large pieces. Wash the moong daal thoroughly in running water a couple of times, and drain out the excess water. Pressure cook the chopped green tomatoes and moong daal along with a little water, adding salt to taste and turmeric powder. Give it about 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally. Keep the cooked tomatoes and moong daal aside.
  2. Dry roast the dry red chillies (broken), chana daal and dry coriander seeds till the dal turns brown and starts emanating a fragrance. Let this mixture cool down completely and then grind it to a paste along with a little water and the grated coconut. Keep aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds, and allow them to splutter. Add the asafoetida.
  4. Add the boiled moong daal and tomato pieces to the pan, as well as the ground coconut paste. Check for seasonings, and add red chilli powder and salt if needed.
  5. Add curry leaves, and a little more water if you think the curry is too thick. Mix well.
  6. Let the curry cook on a medium flame for 7-10 minutes, stirring intermittently. When everything is well incorporated together, switch off the gas.
  7. Serve the kootu with rice or rotis.

 

 

 

Chocolate & Nut Laddoos| No-Cook, Easy Dessert Recipe

The season of festivals has officially started in India. Last week, it was Varamahalaxmi Nombu and today is Avani Avittam and Raksha Bandhan. Soon, it will be time for Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri. There are a whole lot of occasions to make and eat sweets these days, right?

Like I have said several times here, I suck at making the traditional Indian sweets like mysorepak and gulab jamun. I would rather make something unconventional that is easy to cook, or which requires no cooking at all. Yes, you read that right. I am in love with the easy dessert recipes that I have been discovering of late, and some of them do not require cooking at all!

One such example of a no-cooking easy dessert is Marie Biscuit chocolate & nut laddoos, which I made recently. It turned out super delish and was much loved by everyone at home. This is the perfect dessert to turn to at the last minute when you need to put a sweet on the table and you aren’t prepared at all.

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I used this recipe to make the laddoos, with a few little modifications of my own.

Here is how I made them.

Ingredients (yields about 15 laddoos):

10 Marie biscuits (or any other low-sugar biscuits of your choice)

5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

100 grams almonds

12 tablespoons milk powder (which contains added sugar)

About 4 tablespoons sugar

Dry coconut powder to roll the laddoos in

Sweetened condensed milk to bind the laddoos (I used Amul Mithai Mate)

Boiled milk to bind the laddoos (brought to room temperature)

Method:

  1. Grind the almonds to a powder in a mixer. Keep aside.
  2. Grind the Marie biscuits to a powder in a mixer, separately. Keep aside.
  3. Powder the sugar in a mixer, separately. Keep aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the powdered Marie biscuits, sugar powder, cocoa powder, milk powder, and powdered almonds. Mix well, ensuring that everything is well combined together.
  5. Use a mix of condensed milk and boiled milk to bind the mixture into a roti dough-like consistency. Add the condensed milk and boiled milk little by little and start binding the dough. The proportion of condensed milk and boiled milk to be used would depend on your preferences totally. Use just enough condensed milk to infuse the dish with as much sweetness as you prefer, ensuring you do not use too much. Stop when you think you have put in enough condensed milk, for using it in excess will make the dish very sweet. Use boiled milk for the rest of the binding. I used about 10 tablespoons of condensed milk for the binding, and used boiled milk for the rest of it. Only with practice will you get the hang of exactly how much condensed milk is enough.
  6. Grease your hands with a little butter and shape approximately 15 laddoos out of the dough.
  7. Take the dry coconut powder in a plate, and roll each laddoo in it, till they are all well coated with it.
  8. Refrigerate the laddoos for at least 2 hours, covered.
  9. Serve chilled or at room temperature, as you like. These laddoos stay for 3-4 days when stored in the refrigerator.

You like? I hope you will try out this delicious dish this festive season, and that you will love it too!

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Here are some other easy dessert recipes that I have tried out and loved.

Boondi Laddoo Rabdi

OPOS Coffee Flan

No-Bake Eggless Chocolate Ganache And Strawberry Tart

Eggless Mango Ice Cream Without Ice Cream Maker

Chocolate & Coconut Balls With Dry Fruits

Eggless Lemon Ice Cream Without Ice Cream Maker

No-Bake Vanilla Ice Cream Pie With Fresh Grapes, Strawberry & Butterscotch Syrup

Panchamritam, The Food Of The Gods

Home-Made Date & Nut Fudge

Fruit ร‹xtravaganza

Eggless Coffee Pudding