By Anuradha Vashisht January 2004 At Sri Veda Vidya Gurukulam on the outskirts of Delhi, in matters of gastronomy, health and family welfare, Renuka Guruswamy holds the reins firmly in her hands. At Sri Veda Vidya Gurukulam on the outskirts of Delhi, in matters of gastronomy, health and family welfare, Renuka Guruswamy holds the reins firmly in her hands. It is no mean a job to personally prepare three meals a day for a 25-member household—and also ensure that each one gets the best and the healthiest food to savour. For, “unless you prepare and offer food with love and involvement, it would never taste so good”, says Renuka. “A food prepared in anger, boredom or as a work of drudgery can never be health-enhancing or spiritually uplifting. Anything that we prepare has to be imbued with a thought that it is an offering to God, it is prasadam. Anything we prepare with our mind on God has to taste wonderful and has to be wholesome.” She cooks not just for her own family of 10 members, but also for the 15 young boys who live in-house to study Vedas at the family-run gurukul. That the gurukul is totally sustained by donations leaves Renuka totally unruffled. When she prepares her daily offering for God and distributes the rest as prasadam to others, the toughest of times just glide past smoothly. As she deftly prepares the dishes fit for gods, one notices how completely in command she is. Here we give recipes of some of the sweet dishes which she often makes for the household, since she believes that such dishes are a psychological boost to children’s mental health. All of us must have savoured one or the other of these at some temple or shrine in the country. Renuka imparts to them her own touch of simplicity and health.In the preparation of these dishes, sugar is not used as the sweetening agent since it harms our health in the long run. Secondly, the use of oil, butter or ghee is negligible in their preparation. So those averse to fat can freak out. These dishes can also be naturally preserved for a longer period, say about two weeks, though it is recommended they be consumed as fresh as possible. Moreover, they are simple to prepare and do not require much time or elaborate ingredients. And yet they taste divine!This fare is spread out for our readers after many personal trials addicted me to them. Moong Ladoos Ladoos with almost no ghee! Makes about 20.Ingredients1 cup yellow moong dal1 cup khaand or gur shakkar (jaggery powder)2 tbsp ghee½ tsp elaichi powder20 gm cashewPreparation• Dry-fry dal till crispy pink and grind thoroughly in a grinder.• Add shakkar, elaichi powder and dry fried cashew to the powdered dal.• Sprinkle heated ghee on the mixture and mix well with your hand.• Shape it into balls and refrigerate for 20 minutes.Kaju BarfiOn any festival, make this at home. Serves 6.Ingredients1 cup powdered cashews1 cup khaand (unrefined sugar)½ tsp ghee¼ cup water Preparation• Make light syrup from khaand and water.• Add powdered cashew and ghee and stir for 10 minutes.• Remove from fire and keep stirring till it cools.• Spread in a tray and cut out the desired shapes. Nutty ChocolateHere is another wholesome option to cocoa-based chocolates, without compromising on taste. Makes about 20 toffees.Ingredients1 cup grated coconut¾ cup gur shakkar 20 gm cashew2 tbsp shelled groundnuts1 tsp ghee½ tsp elaichi powderPreparation• Heat and blend coconut and shakkar in a pan.• Add crushed cashews and groundnuts, elaichi powder and ghee.• Keep stirring till the preparation thickens like a ball.• Remove from fire and spread it in a thali (tray).• Cool it in the fridge for 20 minutes and cut into desired shapes. Chirwa HalwaThis is a healthy option for those who want to avoid the conventional halwa dripping with ghee. This makes 10 ‘usual’ servings. My kids ensured I couldn’t serve more than five.Ingredients250 gm chirwa (flaked rice)1 whole grated coconut2 cups gur shakkar1 cup water1 tbsp ghee1 tsp elaichi powder20 gm cashew20 gm kishmish (raisins)Preparation• Wash chirwa and drain the water thoroughly.• In a heated pan, saute cashew in ghee and add chirwa.• Add water. Let it come to simmer and blend.• Add shakkar and keep stirring till it thickens.• Add grated coconut, raisins and elaichi powder. Saute for another couple of minutes till it reaches the desired consistency of halwa.• Remove from fire and serve warm. Suji ladoosMakes about 12.Ingredients½ cup suji (semolina)1 cup khaand1 tbsp ghee½ tsp elaichi powder10 gm cashew3 pcs clovesPreparation• Dry-fry suji till it is crispy red. Grind and blend with khaand.• Lightly heat the cashew and cloves. You can break cloves into smaller pieces. • Add cashews, cloves and elaichi powder to the suji and khaand mixture.• Sprinkle heated ghee on the mixture and mix well with your hand.• Shape it into balls and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Milk ChocolateThis preparation is the yummiest of the lot, and a far more wholesome alternative to marketed milk chocolates. Makes about 10-12 servings.Ingredients1 litre milk1 cup grated coconut1 cup gur shakkar 1 tsp ghee½ tsp elaichi powderPreparation• Heat the milk in an open pan till it thickens to half its original quantity.• Mix coconut, gur shakkar, elaichi powder and ghee to the thickened milk and mix well.• Keep stirring till the preparation leaves the sides of the pan.• Remove from fire and pour it in a thali.• Cool it in the fridge for 20 minutes and cut into desired shapes. AppamsMy kids call them yuppams! Makes about 25.Ingredients1 cup wheat flour2 ripened bananas1 cup gur shakkar¼ cup grated coconut½ tsp elaichi powder1 cup unrefined sesame or groundnut oilPreparation• Add water to wheat flour and shakkar and blend well to make a liquidy paste of slightly thin consistency.• Add mashed bananas, elaichi powder and grated coconut to the paste.• Pour half ladle oil in a pan with a narrow base and heat. If fried in a broad-base pan, the paste will spread and the desired shape will not come.• Pour one teaspoon of the paste into the heated oil. Roll over. Remove when both sides are crispy brown. The appam is ready.• Keep adding about half a teaspoon of oil as you add one teaspoon paste for each appam. Meethi Chana Dal RotiThis is sweet paratha. Makes about 25.Ingredients1 cup dry-fried and ground split chana (gram) dal1½ cup gur shakkar1 cup grated coconut1 tsp elaichi powderWheat flour dough for roti2 tbsp gheePreparation• Fry coconut till pink. Add to it the powdered chana dal, shakkar and elaichi powder. Blend well.• Stuff a bit of this mixture into a small ball of wheat flour dough and flatten it into a roti. Spread it on a heated tawa and toss till light brown. Remove from tawa and spread half a teaspoon of ghee.• It can be served both warm and cold. Ideal for journeys, since it retains its flavour and freshness for a week.
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