As much as I love eating junkies like the bondas & bajjis, I hate deep-frying. The stench of burnt oil in the house, the oily slick that forms on the cooking range (and on the microwave that sits right on top of the range) – cleaning is a nightmare after a deep-frying session. Well, this labor day weekend, my husband and I made lofty plans of visiting the Lassen Volcanic National Park, then Napa Valley, then Mendocino – but everything fell through and we ended up doing nothing. On Saturday when we got totally bored lazing around in the house, we decided to bring out our camp stove, set it up in the backyard and make bajji & toast corn on the cob. This way, there is no oil stench and clean up is also not very difficult. Once we had a plan in place, we set about executing it to perfection. To make it a little more interesting, I threw in Semiya Kesari (Kesari is also known as Sojji).
As most of you know by now, I try to avoid using sugar as much as possible. We normally drink milk in any avatars (coffee, tea, viva etc) sans sugar and of late, I am even trying to replace the sugar in sweets with honey. This was the first time, I tried that in Kesari and I couldn’t tell the difference at all. To make Kesari,
for a cup of semiya (or rava), you will need about 1/2 cup of ghee and 3/4 cup of honey (if you are using sugar, you will need 2 1/2 cups).
First, roast semiya (or rava) in 1/4 cup ghee till it gets a red tinge – also notice the nice aroma that emanates from the roasting. That is the cue. While the semiya is being roasted, bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add the water to the roasted mixture and let it cook. Once the semiya (or rava) is half-cooked, add honey or sugar, whichever you are using, to the mixture and also the red food coloring. Continue cooking the mixture till it is well done and garnish it with cardamom powder and ghee-roasted cashews & raisins. You can add a few strands of saffron and nutmeg powder, optionally.
Bajji (or Pakoras, as known in North India) is possibly the best evening snack one can ever have. Hot bajjis with chai is the perfect snack on a rainy day. But you don’t have to wait for the rains to make this lip-smacking dish, it is good on any day, as long as you have a good appetite. Heck, I don’t think you even need one – just the sight of the gorgeous bajjis, can make you hungry any time of the day! Mirchi Bajji is of course most famous, but you can also make bajjis using any veggies like Potatoes, Onions, Chayote squash, Brinjal, Raw Banana and the list goes on. You can get absolutely creative with this. The base batter can be prepared by mixing 1 cup of besan (red gram flour) with 2 tbsps of rice flour. Add a pinch of asafoetida, 1 tbsp of salt, 2 tbsps of red chilli powder. Add water and make it into a consistency that is close to dosa batter. When you dip the thinly-sliced veggies into the batter, it should coat well on them and not be very runny. Make it a little thicker to begin with, and as you start dipping the veggies in the batter, you will get a feel for the consistency. Learning by experience is the way to go to make a good bajji batter. Once you have the batter, the rest of it very simple. Just dip the veggies in the batter and deep-fry them.
Finally, we also had the corn (on the cob, of course) – roasted, liberally brushed with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and red chilli powder – salt mixture. Delicious!