Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Non-Semolina Experiment. Show Me The Pudding!

Rava Sheera is a traditional South Indian dessert. A rich creamy pudding with cashews and raisins,it's traditionally served with a dab of Shir-kand (sweetened condensed yogurt).
We've been working hard lately to make a Friday script deadline. For us this means eating in, no wandering around town and a craving for desserts. It seems that any time I'm confined for too long I want to start whipping up dessert. I'm sure there's something deeply psychological about it but who cares when one wants something sweet. What to do, what to do.
Since it's been suddenly drastically cold here at night (good for the grapes) I decided that a warm semolina pudding would just hit the spot. Of course, I had no semolina. I did have polenta however, and I figured...well, I could just switch out the semolina for the polenta. That would work. Wouldn't it?
Off to the internets I went, to look up the technical difference between the two. What I found was, that they could be switched out. There would be a different texture, but I like the sort of grainy crispy mouth feel of polenta with wild mushrooms etc. Would it work in a dessert though with raisins? I had to try.
I started with:
1.) 2 Tbs. of chopped pistachios, and 2 Tb of golden raisins.
I sauteed them lightly in 2 Tbs of oil in a karhai or skillet till the raisins puffed up and the pistachios started to toast
I set them aside on a paper towel to drain and wiped out my pan. Then, I took my pan and added
1.) 6 Tbs of unsalted butter. I melted it.
2.) To that I added 1 and 1/3 cups of polenta
and stirred and stirred until it turned golden brown and toasty. About 10 minutes or so. Till it looked like this:

3.) then I took it off the burner and added in 1 cup of sugar. This time I used regular white sugar, next time I'm planning on doing this with Jaggery.
4.) a pinch of powdered green cardamom
5.) a pinch of saffron dissolved in 2 Tbs of warm milk
6.) 2 Tbs of rose water
I stirred all of this good stuff into my semolina and then put it back on a low flame to cook for another 5 minutes or so. Then,
7.) I added in my pistachios and raisins and took it off the stove.
I put the whole thing in a buttered cake pan let it cool then popped it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

A note about this fridge business. Do this if you're planning on serving this cold, or at room temperature as I did. The pudding would be equally good, if maybe not a tad better served warm, which is what I'm planning on doing the next time I make this.
Now to dress this dish up so that people don't say, "what is this...mush?" when it's served. That's where the Shir-kand comes in.
Shir-kand is a simple reduced yogurt that can easily be made in the fridge on a couple of hours notice and looks just so cool hanging around till it's ready. This is how to do the Shir-kand.
I put 1 and 1/2 cup of plain yogurt into a square of cheesecloth twisted it up and suspended it from a wooden spoon, over a bowl on the top shelf of my fridge. It doesn't get any easier than that. Just let it hang around and drip till you're ready for it.

When the yogurt is ready it'll look like this:

Tight. Right? But we're not done yet.
Before you top anything with this add in
1.) a pinch of powdered green cardamom
2.) 3 Tbs of sugar
3.) 1/2 a pinch of saffron dissolved in a tablespoon of warm milk.
Blend all of this into your Shir-kand and you're good to go.
Now, when I served this I must admit I was concerned. I didn't know whether the polenta would be too grainy for this dessert or would it add an interesting texture.
The evening started off, or rather was supposed to start off with a screening of Yasujiro Ozu's film Autumn Afternoon
20 minutes into the film, the disc glitched, stuttered and stopped.Ok, so scratch Ozu for this evening. Since we have Netflix streaming with our new blu-ray player we decided to sample a few streaming films, a Danish film that turned out to be blurry, the AnnMargaret opening from Bye Bye Birdy, (yeah, we're Mad Men fans)and finally Ed Wood's classic film Bride of the Monster. But without Johnny Depp, Ed Wood wasn't quite Ed Wood, if you know what I'm talking about. I was getting very nervous. The evening was not off to an auspicious start and here I was going to foist my polenta pudding on company. If it failed it would be a perfect end to a not so perfect evening.
I warned everyone. I spooned it into my little French bee glasses. Our guest who travels to India to visit friends regularly dug in. My husband tasted. They liked it.
The polenta worked just fine, not as silky smooth as the semolina might have been but delicious in a rustic sort of way. I'll definitely try it again..after I try it with for real semolina, just because I have to. As soon as I can get my pie hooks on another copy of Autumn Afternoon.


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