Thursday, April 7, 2016

Shrikhanda and Spring- new beginnings on Gudi Padwa 

Miniature version  of a Gudi
The March equinox or the spring equinox marks the beginning of the spring season. To be precise, this is true for the northern hemisphere only hence, while we in India, celebrate beginning of Spring season, my sibling in the far away land of Australia is getting ready for autumn. The spring season heralds the beginning of a fresh new cycle of the seasons. The days are getting brighter and longer. The calls of the cuckoo bird are prominent and louder. The many mango trees which were earlier laden with blossoms are now bearing fruits. The season of the famed “ Hapus “ or the Alphonso mango is here, the days of “Kairi Panhe” are here. This season marks the beginning of a new agricultural cycle for the farmers.  
In Maharashtra we are readying for the first festival of the year; Gudi padwa. Also known as the “chaitra shukla pratipada”  , this festival is celebrated to usher in the Hindu New Year. Considered as an auspicious day for new beginnings, Gudi padwa is celebrated in Maharashtrian homes by putting up "gudi" adornment- a long bamboo stick with a silk cloth and inverted copper vessel.
Being a shy and reticent blogger, I haven’t posted the many posts that lie in my drafts collection. Taking a cue from this new season, I intend to break free from my own barricades and write and post all that I feel is worth talking about. A recent trip to Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal’s #perfectpartea reinstated the joy and happiness of being among like-minded fellows who share a common interest that is food. That triggered and pushed me to revive this space. And what better way than writing about a food ritual that is very close to my heart and the one which the entire family enjoys. And yes I am talking about the “making of shrikhand”- the sweet creamy yogurt perfumed with delicate flavours of elaichi, kesar and pista.
The making of Srikhand is a fairly simple process with highly rewarding returns. The only shortcut I take here is ready made, store bought curd. 
The curd is hung in a cheese cloth for about 6 hours and the resultant creamy thickened curd is mixed with equal quantities of sugar and mixed thoroughly to make a homogenous, creamy texture.  


The last touches which eventually lend the Srikhand its character is the addition of nuts and spices-almond flakes, generous pinches of elaichi (cardamom) powder and keasr (saffron) and pistachio flakes. And yes, not to forget a pinch of nutmeg.

For making Kesar Pista Shrikhnad, these are the things you will need;

·         1 kg thick curd ( I used the easily available Amul masti)
·         750 gm sugar- approximately 4-5 cupfuls
·         2 tsp green elaichi/ cardamom powder
·         1 tsp nutmeg powder
·           Almond and pistachio flakes,  
f    Few strands of kesar /saffron in 1 tbsp of warm milk

This is how I make the Srikhand:
1.       Place a clean square cotton cloth in a bowl and empty the curd container onto it.
2.       Tie the opposite ends of the cloth to make a “potli” or a bag like structure so that it can be easily hung on the kitchen counter. Leave it for a good six hours. I left this for the entire night.
3.       The next morning untie the cloth and measure the creamy, hung curd that with a bowl or cup. Mine was about 4 katoris.
4.       Place the hung curd in a big, wide bowl and add  the same amount of sugar to the curd as the number of hung curd you have, measured with the bowl/ katoris and mix it thoroughly with hand. Since I had 4 katoris of hung curd I added 4 katoris of sugar.
5.       Next, run it couple to minutes in a food processor with a dough kneader attachment. This lends the Shrikhand its signature creamy, homogenous texture. Overdoing this step may result into a liquidy mass. Just pulse it for a couple of minutes at a time till a creamy homogenous texture is achieved. This should not take more than 3-4 minutes.
6.       Remove the ready Srikhand mix in a bowl, big enough to stir and fold.  Now lovingly add all the adornments- the elaichi powder, the saffron strands, the nutmeg powder and the almond, pistachio flakes. Leave it to chill until serving time.
Kesar Pista Shrikhand
Learnings from over the years:
1.       Big grain sugar takes longer to dissolve hence it is better to use fine grain sugar.

2.       Running it in a food processor yields a very desirable texture but running it in a mixie turn it into liquid-like mass. May be the heat generated in a mixer is at work here. So choose a food processor 

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