Memories of a grandmother’s kitchen….

A guest post today – am excited because it’s a very unusual recipe and a lovely story from Bindu Borle – thank you, Bindu – I can almost see your grandmother’s kitchen and your grandmom too, doling out goodies!!
I do believe, that the most interesting, yet the most beautiful kitchen, was my Naani’s (grandmother’s) kitchen. It was amazing, how one kitchen was divided into two parts, the relatively ‘modern’ kitchen and the traditional Indian one, and the difference between the former and the latter were poles apart. Amma, as we used to call our grandmother, had a ‘modern’ kitchen, which was very interesting. When you entered the kitchen, there was a window with bars, and just below that, was an old calendar with a bhagwaan ki photo, and the ‘modern’ gas stove right below that, on a shiny black cement counter. On the left, there used to be a large, open window facing the inner courtyard, and right in front of that, was an old, British colonial style table fan, which added to the strangeness of the whole experience. To the far right, was a bluish-green old wooden cupboard, which, when opened, was like seeing the treasures of Shangri-La for us. The cupboard had all the good stuff, like the bottle of Nesquick, or a jar of jelly, or maybe some ketchup, and spices, and all the western, American stuff, that we craved for, but rarely got, back in the 70’s. Having eatables from abroad got us three sisters instant popularity among all our friends!
But that was just one part! The most interesting part came, when we entered the inner, traditional Indian kitchen. Connected by a door to the outer one. Footwear was a complete no-no, and our hands needed to be thoroughly cleaned with the horrid-smelling Lifebuoy soap at the outer sink, before we came in. The inner kitchen was like the Garbh Grih, or the sanctum sanctorum of a temple, and it was a mélange of weird, fascinating and interesting things, with a set of quite a few rules to follow. As we entered, we could see a big kitchen, with Amma sitting in it, towards the left of the door. She sat, cross-legged on the ground, towards the left of the kitchen, tending to the angeethi, which was a traditional North-Indian, wood burning brazier, and the wall beside her had a small window, that led the smoke out towards the aangan, the aromas of which enticed everyone in the family towards the kitchen. There was a washing area, with a tap, and some ash to clean the brass and copper utensils present over there, near the angeethi.
Slightly above the brazier was a large, wooden cupboard with all of amma’s valuable utensils. Move right, and we used to find the old, wooden jaali-wali cupboard, which we called a doli, with all sorts of bottles and jars with God-knows-what filled in it, and all the sweets and namkeen that was made in the house! Even the mithais, which were bought home by guests, were hidden there! This was one place which we always eyed as it was the most valuable in terms of interesting food, and we hung around in the kitchen, solely in the hope that we would get some delicacies from the doli.
In the extreme corner of the kitchen, all sorts of strange devices were kept, which were used to grind and powder many things. They looked both horrible and extremely funny at the same time! Amma’s kitchen and her culinary skills bloomed at the times of festivals. This was the time when everyone got together to share the joys, laughter, festivities, and the good food! This delicacy – choorma laddoo was made especially during the festival of Makar Sankranti.
She would fry the thick puris in pure ghee and once they became cold, she would rub them with her hand on the backside of an old iron sieve. The holes had small edges, which helped it to grind evenly. She did not trust the electronic grinder for this work. Everything was done with extreme precision and devotion. All three of us would sit and watch her with this hope that she might call either one of us to come and taste the laddoos! Our hungry eyes and mouths didn’t mind waiting ever, as it was always worth it!
Those freshly made puris ground into fine powder, boora, raisins, almonds and pistachios and ghee all bound together by Amma’s love and affection, made the delectable Choorma Laddoos.
It is one dish that we have a lot of fond memories of my Amma’s kitchen and I am re-living those memories through this recipe. Though my sisters and aunts still follow the original recipe, this recipe has been modified to suit my time constraints and convenience.
(Makes about 20 laddoos)
•2 cups atta (whole-wheat flour)
•11/4 cups roughly powdered sugar or boora
•3 tbsp + 1/2 cup ghee
•1/4 cup finely chopped nuts/raisins
•1/2 tsp Elaichi (cardamom) powder
•Desiccated coconut (optional)
Ghee for searing
•Saffron strands for garnishing
In a large bowl, combine the atta (whole-wheat flour) and 1/2 cup of the melted ghee and water and mix well. Knead it into smooth soft dough. Take a medium sized ball from the dough, flatten and dust with some flour.
Now with a rolling pin, roll the ball into a disk of about 10 cm in diameter and spread some ghee on the dough circle. Fold it in a half and spread some ghee on this half folded dough. Fold sideways to get a triangular shape or if you prefer, you can just make them circular.
Preheat the tava to make the parathas. Once the parathas are thoroughly cooked, keep them aside to cool completely. Once cool, crush them in a food processor to get a coarse powder resembling breadcrumbs. Add the elaichi powder, powdered sugar, chopped nuts, raisins and desiccated coconut to the mixture and combine well. Our choorma is now ready.
Once the laddoos are made, garnish them with the saffron strands before serving. You can add more ghee to bind the choorma and shape them to make laddoos.
P.S: Though ideally, these laddoos are served at room temperature, some people prefer to have them warm, especially during winters.