Rava (Sooji/Semolina) Laddu – Easy!!
Navaratri started on the 7th of October 2010!! The festive season has begun!! As kids, we used to love this season. Its like the Christmas time in the US with festivities that go on for 10 days!! South Indians celebrate this time with a Bommai Kolu – a decorative display of dolls and essential part of Navarathri. These are not your ordinary kids toys, but are dolls that are cherished and handed over from one generation to the next and are proudly displayed during this time. This can vary from a very simple display to a very grand one, the grandest ones almost occupying a full room, with 11 or more steps!! Here is a picture of the traditional kolu.
(Bommai Kolu at Sri Subramania Samajam, Hyderabad, 2010)
It is so much fun to visit all the houses that have the kolu. All the women and kids, especially girls, get dressed in their best clothes and visit everyone’s house. We get together, sing songs and of course eat!! The special treat during navarathri is ‘Sundal/Chundal’. These are usually lentils, like chickpeas, split peas, peanuts, etc., boiled and then tempered with coconut and south indian spices. Nine different varieties are made for the 9 days. The ninth day is the puja of goddess Saraswati and tenth day is celebrated as Vijya Dashami/Dussera.
In Hinduism, Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, music and arts. On Saraswati puja, we keep the books near the goddess’s idol and the best part was that you are not supposed to touch/read books on that day!! So that was one day of the year when parents asked us kids not to study! Can you imagine!!! But yes, the next day as soon as you get up, the first thing to do would be to take a bath and read the books that have been kept in the puja. Well, we can do that after a day of no books, can’t we
Coming to today’s recipe, it is not necessarily a sweet made during navarathri, but it is a favorite in our house. And with Diwali just a few days ahead I yearned to make sweet something for us to savor. This is a pretty simple recipe with very basic ingredients. But super delicious and addictive. The laddus keep very well for 2-3 weeks stored in a dry airtight container. Trust me, they won’t last so long!!
The speciality of this recipe is that we use powdered rava to make theese laddus. A lot of people make rava laddu with just roasted rava. But for this one you will have to grind the rava to a very fine powder. To get a very fine powder you will have to get the roasted rava ground up in a flour mill. As we do not have flour mills here in the US, my best bet was my coffee grinder. It grinds up the rava to a coarse but fine texture, and it is okay with me. You can definitely decide what you want to do, to grind or not to grind. I personally prefer the ground version rather than the whole rava. Or you can just buy the ‘Fine Semolina’ available at the Indian grocery stores.
Sooji (Rava/Bombay Rava) – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cup (or 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar)
Ghee – 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Cardamom/Elaichi powder – 1 tsp
Cashew nuts – a handful (use more or less to your liking)
- Roast the rava in a dry skillet until aromatic (the raw smell must go away).
- Grind the rava in your coffee grinder/blender to a fine powder (as fine as possible). There is no need to cool the rava before grinding.
- Powder the sugar also into a fine powder or use 1 1/2 cups of store bought confectioner’s sugar. (One cup of sugar yields about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar).
- I dry roast the cashews and grind them into a fine powder. But if you like to bite into cashew in your laddu, break the cashew nuts into small pieces and roast them in some ghee until golden brown.
- Combine the powdered rava, sugar, cashew nuts (powdered or whole) and cardamom powder and mix well.
Tip: Cardamom is pretty hard to be ground into a fine powder and store bought cardamom powder lacks the flavor of the freshly ground ones. So grind 10-15 green cardamom pods with 2 Tbsp of sugar. This will help break down the cardamom easily and you can achieve a fine powder texture.
- Heat 1/2 a cup of ghee (on the stovetop/microwave). The ghee must be melted and warm but not hot to touch.
Tip: My mother always uses freshly made ghee for making any kind of laddus. She says the ghee loses its flavor when reheated. I’m mommy’s girl and did the same. But it is purely up to you. If you are used to making ghee at home, why not make some when you make these?? Think about it!
- Add 1/4 cup ghee to the mixture from step 5. Mix throughly, with a spoon or your hand. The mixture will resemble small crumbles.
- Now try to take some of this mixture and mould into a ball. If the ball holds its shape, go ahead and make small balls, about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. If not, add more ghee and test again. When the laddus/balls hold their shape well, you can repeat the process with the rest of the mixture. And don’t worry if your laddus aren’t perfectly round, they will still be delicious!
Store in an airtight container for 2-3 weeks.