Kapi Falhaar#6 - Ragi Manni | Ragi Falooda (Finger Millet Pudding) ~Gluten Free & Vegan

I know that I have said this many many times before but one of the most satisfying aspects of blogging are the kind of people you get to 'meet' along the way and how they end up becoming a special part of your life. Over a period of time I have virtually met so many different kinds of people over social media. Some took detours along the way while many are still with me as my closest friends and confidantes. One such special friend is a person who knows to add cheer to everyone's life with her puns, jokes and positive outlook towards life . There are people who can joke about all and sundry and then those who can actually take a joke (on their own selves) like this person. So when she asked me for the recipe of the Ragi Manni which she had eaten at a restaurant in Bangalore I decided to give it a try. This was way back in 2012. A few recipes were found, tried and tested but over a period of time it was put on the back burner due.

After having abandoned 'Project Ragi Manni' for so long, I suddenly sprung into action yesterday and on a whim, without a proper recipe in hand, soaked the ragi. I told myself that I better pull up my socks and complete this task before going on vacation or another year would pass by without having made it. I randomly looked for recipes online and eventually adapted it from my own rice manni recipe. I remember my old domestic help, Sheela raving about it to me a few years ago. She said it tasted heavenly and promised to make it for me but the project was eventually ditched as she was clueless about the recipe. In the end the millet had to be donated to my top maid as I was not much of a cook let alone a blogger in those days. I didn't want history to repeat itself this time and I am glad it didn't have to.

Now coming to the other unusual name given to this recipe - Ragi Falooda. I was just as surprised as you are when I first heard of it from one of my readers who requested this recipe. At first I thought she was referring to a refreshing beverage made from ragi but she quickly added that it was more like a halwa/pudding and that it was prepared especially during Ramzan in some places along Karnataka's coast. A quick Google search helped me conclude that Ragi Falooda and Ragi Manni were indeed the same thing! Apparently it is prepared during Ramzan and eaten during and after Iftar as it is very cooling and healthy, two aspects that need to be kept in mind during the rigorous fasting. The complex carbohydrates in the millet help release energy slowly over the long hours of fasting and also helps balance the energies in the body making you less prone to sickness.

I was eager to showcase this recipe on my blog as it is not only traditional (so intrinsic to Karnataka's culinary heritage) but is also healthy as ragi is known for its many health benefits. Being a great source of protein, it is ideal for vegetarians. It has the highest amount of calcium and potassium and is ideal for people with low haemoglobin as it is a great source of iron. Easy digestibility makes it an excellent first (weaning) food for babies and also for people of all ages. This humble millet is a great source of dietary fibre (keeps you full for longer) and aids weight loss. It is a low fat, gluten free wonder food that everyone must benefit from and after reading so much on the net about it I have fallen in love with it. This is something that will be back on my weekly menu from now on, so do stay tuned for more ragi recipes. 

For now here's the recipe of a traditional, healthy, wobbly, delicious pudding/halwa (minus the overload of calories) that goes by the names Manni/Mani/Falooda dedicated to my dear friend Caroline Martis Radhakrishnan and my reader Nazia Azad.

Ramadan Kareem to all my Muslim readers!

Do check out the other ragi recipes on the blog
Ragi Dosa (Finger Millet Pancakes)
2. Ragi Muddhe (Finger Millet Balls)
3. Ragi Idli (Steamed Finger Millet & Rice Cakes)

Ragi Manni | Ragi Falooda (Finger Millet Pudding)
Prep time: 5-6 hours (soaking time) | Cooking time: 20 mins | Yield: 9" round dish or 8-10 ramekins

Cup measure used 1 cup = 240ml

1. Wash the ragi and rice in 2-3 changes of water and soak together in plenty of water for at least 2 hours. 
2. Drain the water and grind the grains with approx 1/2 cup of water to a thick (slightly coarse) paste with a texture of rava/sand. If it is too fine then the husk will slip through the sieve, too coarse and you have underutilized the ragi.
3. Strain the mixture through a tea strainer or thin muslin cloth placed over a deep bowl. Rinse the mixer jar with approx 1/2 cup water and add this to the strainer. Reserve the husk (ground mixture) and grind it once again by adding another 1/2 cup of water and this time strain it through a finer sieve as the husk will be finely ground. Once all the 'milk' has been extracted from the ragi, discard the husk.
4. Cover the bowl and keep it undisturbed for at least 3 hours for the sediment (ragi paste) to settle. After 3 hours carefully strain off the clear liquid at the top of the bowl taking care to see that the sediment doesn't get mixed up. Discard the clear liquid.
5. To extract the coconut milk, grind the grated coconut to a coarse paste using 1/2 cup of hot water. Transfer contents to a bowl lined with thin muslin cloth and squeeze till you get thick milk. You need 1 cup of thick milk. Transfer the coconut back to the grinder and add another 1 cup of warm water to it and grind it fine. Repeat the process to get another cup of thin milk. We need a total of 2 cups of coconut milk.
6. Before you begin the process check if everything is ready (ingredients). Grease a 9" steel thali (plate with tall sides) with ghee. You may also use approx 8-10 ramekins of 150ml each. Reserve 2 teaspoons of ghee to grease your palms while spreading out the manni. Give this process your undivided attention.
7. Lightly grease a heavy based pan or non stick kadhai with ghee (skip this if for dairy free version). Place the ragi paste, coconut milk, 150 grams jaggery, pinch of salt and cardamom powder and stir to mix. Check the sweetness and increase it if you wish.
7. Place the pan over a medium-low heat and stir continuously ensuring that there are no lumps. Continue to cook until the mixture, turns glossy and begins to leave the sides of the pan. This could take about 18-20 mins so have patience. Watch out for the mixture sticking to the base as it could burn easily.
8. When the mixture completely leaves the sides of the pan and looks like a big lump, pour it into the prepared thali, quickly grease your whole palm with the reserved ghee and pat down the mixture evenly and smoothen the surface - do this quickly and use as much ghee as is required.
9. Place the thali on a wire rack to cool down completely. Once cooled, run a knife greased with ghee to make square or diagonal shapes.
10. Garnish with nuts and serve. This dish tastes wonderful when chilled.

There are many recipes for this dish that don't require the use of coconut milk. You may substitute coconut milk with regular milk. The same quantity should work but do make sure the temperature is kept low while cooking as the milk could curdle. You may also use water but I am not sure of the quantity and how it will taste.
You may lightly fry the nuts in ghee before garnishing. This is optional

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