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Round Up Of 2015 and A Happy New Year

Happy New Year

By two_kittehs

Looking at my archives from last year I realize that I blogged about India a lot more than I had done in the previous years. My interest in India’s colonial history and the period preceding that was piqued by Shashi Tharoor’s spirited case for reparations from Britain. That initial spark led to my renewed interest in Hindi movies and music from India as well.

I have also been following the latest political news from India a lot more closely than before, especially since  Mr. Modi became its Prime Minister. Realizing with growing alarm that he and his bhakts (devotees) are trying to change the very idea of India, I watch the changes with dread and disgust from afar. Sectarian tensions have always been present under the surface in India but the venom the bhakts feel free to spew publicly against those who disagree them is new.

As for domestic politics here in these United States, the less said about it the better. I am paying close attention to the primary races of both parties but don’t have much to add at this point. That might change when the primary ballots are actually cast.

I have been thinking about the direction of the blog for the new year.  I have been wondering whether doing ongoing series and/or features and posting on a regular schedule would be better than what I have been doing so far. I don’t want to kill all spontaneity but I also think that some structure might actually be helpful. Regular features could include movie and TV reviews, recipes, roundup of Punditubbies etc.

Thanks for reading, commenting and following this blog.If you have any suggestions for me I want to hear them.  Much love, from my kittehs and me. Happy New Year!

Best Post : My contribution to Vagabond’s scholar’s Jon Swift Memorial annual round up

Post that got the most clicks : Special thanks to Anne Laurie of Balloon Juice for highlighting this post.

Kitteh that got the most clicks

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Happy New Year

Whoever decided that the coldest month of the year in the northern hemisphere would be a great time for new beginnings? After the short spell of warm weather (>30 degrees F) we are back in the icebox again, with the temperatures at night and early mornings in the teens and single digits.  On the bright side, it was sunny this morning. Why not begin the new year at the start of spring, after all that’s the time when nature renews itself.  New year’s resolutions would stand a much better chance that way.

Not that anyone else cares, one of my bloggy resolutions for this year is to blog more. Last year especially in the latter half of the year, blogging had been sporadic, since other shiny things were vying for my attention.  All said and done, it is hard work being a kitteh of many worlds.

I want it all and I want it now

By two_kittehs

Happy New Year

Laser_Eyes_1

Boss Cat and Zen Cat wish you a Very Happy New Year. May your 2014 be as bright as their laser eyes!

Before You Party They Need to See Your ID

Bouncer Kittehs

Lol by two_kittehs

Happy New Year!!!  I will see you in 2014.

Karanjis, Turnovers with Coconut Filling

Ring in the end of the year with a sweet treat. These little flaky baked empanada look-alikes are filled with a sweet coconutty goodness. My mother’s karanjis are my favorite sweet Diwali treat. Although, Diwali celebrations are long since over it is never too late to make karanjis.

Now for the recipe, my mother doesn’t believe in writing down her recipes and even when she does write down her recipes her instructions are extremely vague as she does not use measuring cups or spoons but cooks by instinct. So it is a challenge to recreate her recipes. This is my attempt at reverse engineering her recipe for karanjis.  After several attempts spread over many years, I think I have finally nailed it this year. This is not the traditional recipe. I have made many changes to speed up things and lighten calorie content but the end result is just as delicious. Even so, this is not the easiest or the quickest or the lightest recipe in the world but it is well worth the effort. I make the dough at least a day before and keep it in the fridge. You can also make the filling ahead of time, up to a week before is fine too. So you can break up the process over several days. Karanjis are meant to be eaten as snacks like cookies, although they make a great after dinner dessert with some coffee.

karanji

 

The Dough

My mother’s recipe for the dough was very similar to the classic puff pastry dough recipe, although she used shortening instead of butter. Until this year I was too timid to make the dough from scratch, so I have experimented with store brought puff pastry dough and pie dough. This year I decided to make the dough myself and it was a modified pie dough recipe. The recipe was inspired by America’s Test Kitchen’s pie dough recipe, but uses less butter.

Pie-Dough Recipe (makes 24 karanjis)

2 cups unbleached sifted all-purpose flour

1 stick of butter (kept in the freezer for a few hours before making the dough)

2 tablespoons vodka

4 tablespoons ice-cold water

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

First cut the stick of butter into small pieces; then add all the ingredients to my food processor. Slowly add the water and then the vodka till the dough comes together. Wrap it in plastic wrap till you are ready to work with it.

Filling

It’s the filling that makes these special. The original recipe starts with fresh coconut. Processing fresh coconut is not an easy task so I usually rehydrate unsweetened coconut flakes, which you can usually find at either an Indian grocery store or a natural foods store. You can also use fresh grated coconut in the freezer case if available. Under any circumstances do not use the overly sweetened coconut flakes from the baking aisle. To add sweetness to the coconut flakes you will need unrefined raw cane sugar chunks called jaggery. These chunks are what make the filling unique. You can find them in your Indian grocery store. I have substituted jaggery with a mix of maple syrup and honey and that was quite good, a couple of years ago when I could not find jaggery. You also need fresh nutmeg, slivered almonds, golden raisins and cardamoms.

Recipe for the Filling (makes 48 karanjis)

8 oz. dried coconut flakes

1 pound of jaggery

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup slivered almonds

2 cups hot boiling water

4 cardamom pods

2 teaspoons canola oil

Pinch of salt

½ cup water at room temperature

1. Add water to the dried coconut flakes, set aside for a couple of hours to reconstitute the coconut flakes.

2. Break the lump of jaggery into smaller lumps using a chef’s knife and then pulse them in a food processor.

3. Grate the nutmeg, remove the cardamom from the pods and process in a mortar and pestle or a clean coffee grinder that you only use for spices.

4. Use a heavy bottomed skillet or saucepan for this step.

5. Add the oil to the pan.

6. Add the processed jaggery and the reconstituted flakes sprinkle some water, mix well.

7. Add raisins and the slivered almonds.

8. Add nutmeg and powdered cardamom.

9. Add a pinch of salt.

10. Cook until the coconut mixture attains a light golden brown color, this will take about half an hour to 40 min. This step requires a lot of patience; you can sprinkle some water or add a little melted butter to prevent sticking and the mixture catching at the bottom.

Baking

You can either make little empanadas; this is the way karanjis are shaped traditionally. Or you can make tiny pies or tartlets, using a mini muffin pan. You will need to adjust your baking time accordingly. To make the empanada shape, roll out tiny circles of about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. This will support a tablespoon of the filling. The recipe for the pie dough included above makes 24 karanjis.

1. Preheat the oven to 450F

2. Roll out 24 discs and add a tablespoon of filling to the bottom half of the disc. Fold the top half over the bottom half. Repeat with all 24 discs. Crimp the edges with the back of a fork

3. Arrange on a cookie sheet, don’t overcrowd.

4. Bake between 12 and 18 minutes, till the crust is crisp and golden brown.

5. Cool on a cooling rack.

6. Store in a container with tight fitting lid. Karanjis will keep at room temperature for at least a couple of weeks, if they are not long gone before then.

I made 24 karanjis for Diwali and another batch of 24 for Christmas, the coconut filling will keep for a month in your fridge.