Desserts/Baking

Gajar Halwa

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection001

When food connects to a memory, there is a sense of warmth that crosses the heart.That time, those days, chatter, loud laughter, aroma of food, one thought after the other and I m suddenly transported to my grandma’s house where we had a huge aangan (backyard). I used to stroll through the vegetable patch soaking in the morning sun, brushing my teeth. We used to eat lunch after coming back from school there, sitting on charpai (four-legged cots),plucking & eating delicate garlic chives. When the sun decided to call it a day, we played in the mud while the gardener picked up potatoes and harvested the winter greens.

Oh Memories,so far are thee. yet so close in my heart…

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection002

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection002

Those sweet days are behind me but as I stir couple pounds of shredded carrot on stove, I think about the days when gajar halwa was made, my grandma just scraped, peeleed & grated all morning sitting there. There were no food processors then so she used a stainless steel rectangular grater placed on top of a large paraat. In between, she chatted with the lady who came in to clean the house or the next door aunt who stopped by for a cup of tea. She even tried giving me knitting lessons if I was just lazying around but the grating never stopped.

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection002

When there are few ingredients, the recipe gets all the more tricky,this is what I learned on my trip to India couple of months back. Everytime I made it, my halwa hardly came out good. I blamed it on the variety of carrots (we get those red, juicy carrots in India during winters) or on the quality of dairy blah blah… All my bad. I was mixing up steps in the recipe is what I realized.

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection004

In India, Halwa is usually an after meal or breakfast (like in my home) treat.Made with different kinds of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and even with lentils, it is a very popular thing when it comes to desserts. 

Gajar Halwa is an indulgent confection of shredded carrots slow cooked in milk & ghee for hours. It is a winter speciality in northern parts of India. Too bad that I am making it at the fag-end of the season (yep, it almost feels like spring in my part of the world). There are a lot of recipes which use khoya (solidified milk),condensed milk to make it rather rich & decadent.I don’t add all those because I don’t want to steal away the taste of the carrots and also that much dairy makes it quite heavy. You can add a cup or so of khoya to this recipe towards the end if you like.

Sinfully Spicy :Gajar Halwa-Indian Carrot Confection005

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 servings)

  • 2 lb carrots (preferably organic, they make a lot of difference in taste)
  • 2 tbsp + 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 cup + 3/4 cup whole milk,warmed
  • 3/4 cup crystal sugar (can go to 1 cup) 
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • Almonds & Raisins or cashews for garnish (use roasted nuts of any kind you like)

Method

Peel the carrots and thoroughly wash them under running water, air dry the carrots completely before proceeding to grate. Using the food processor, shred the carrots.

In a heavy bottomed kadhai/pan (preferably cast iron) on medium heat, tip in 2 tbsp ghee, after it melts, add the carrots. Mix nicely so that the carrots are coated in ghee. Let the carrots cook for about 20-25 minutes, uncovered. You can stir occasionally in between so that they do not stick to the bottom.You will see a lot of steam coming up and the carrot shreds start to break down but this is fine because we want to cook off the moisture.

After 20-25 minutes of cooking, add warm milk to the kadhai/pan. Be careful when you do so because there will be splutter. Combine the milk & carrots thoroughly. Now, again let the carrot & milk mixture cook on medium – low heat. You need to stir and move around so that nothing sticks to the bottom. Keep the heat low medium. We want the carrots to cook in milk and let the water of milk liquid evaporate leaving behind milk solids. This will take approximately 2- 3hours (or more depending on how juicy your carrots are).You will see the carrots turning a dark shade of orange and little drops of fat (from ghee & milk)on the sides of the pot, some of it might start sticking to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat to low or take off from stove for few minutes if that happens.

After all the milk has evaporated, add the sugar. Immediately the carrots will become watery again. Don’t worry. Keep cooking. In about 20 minutes the water from sugar will evaporate. Add the ghee  and keep on sautéing the carrots on low heat for another 15-20 minutes.At this point, you can try to pinch a little bit of carrots between your fingers, it should feel dryish. The point is to completely dry out the carrots, they should be glossy just because of ghee. The halwa will start clumping around the spoon and start leaving the pan/kadhai. It will be darkish orange in color and you won’t be able to see long shreds of carrots you started with. 

Take the kadhai/pan off from the stove and add the chopped roasted nuts,cardamom powder & raisins and combine. Let the halwa sit for 10-15 minutes to cool down a bit.

Whenever you want to serve, reheat & serve garnished with more nuts.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Appetizers/Snacks · Brunch · Indian Curry/Stew

Amritsari Tawa Macchi – Pan Fried Fish

Sinfully Spicy : Amritsari Tawa Macchi, Pan Fried Spicy Fish 001

The pungent smell of the mustard oil was engrained in the walls of the shop.Over the years, a gleaming fluorescent tube had replaced the flickering bulb above the rusty shutter and a bunch of green chilies & lemon needled in a thread hung below it,the same way as it did years back, grabbing your attention more due to its location even though tactfully  situated to be hidden.Its the same dusty clock at the center of the column that I saw years back, looks like no one cared to wipe it, I told myself, waiting.

It was biting cold outside but the inside was surprisingly warm,for it was cramped with people who wanted that crispy fillet, one that just popped out of the bubbling oil in the kadhai.

Sinfully Spicy : Amritsari Tawa Macchi, Pan Fried Spicy Fish 002

He sat behind the counter, fluffing thick, spicy besan batter, side by side keeping an eye on the smoky oil and dealing with customers, all at the same time.He looked a lot older than what I could remember. The hair had turned grey and the skin was tanned sitting in oily vapor for years. You could not help but notice the facial expressions which also remained the same – calm & peaceful. Few things are best if they don’t change, I told myself again.

If you ask him the recipe, he would just smile. Maybe he didn’t have any, it was just the magic of hands. This is the taste of fish which stays with you for days – you want to go back and have some more and then more. The kind you want to talk about, spread around the word about and write stories about.

Sinfully Spicy : Amritsari Tawa Macchi, Pan Fried Spicy Fish 003

Saying that the fried fish he made sold like hot pancakes would be an understatement. He ran out of the stuff within an hour or so of starting the trade.Wrapped in soiled pieces of newspaper, topped with thin onions rings seasoned with a generous dash of chaat masala and a lime wedge to squirt, the fried fish was better than the best I have ever had in my life.

Sinfully Spicy : Amritsari Tawa Macchi, Pan Fried Spicy Fish 004

Ingredients

  • 1 lb minced lamb/beef/chicken (I use 80% lean)
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with canola/vegetable)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 green cardamom pods , cracked open
  • 1 ” cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • To garnish – chopped cilantro

Coarsely grind together:-

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns (adjust to tolerance)
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds

Method

  • In a cooking pot with lid,on high, heat up the oil till you see ripples on the surface and it smokes slightly.
  • Reduce the heat to medium.Temper the oil with bay leaf ,cinnamon stick and green cardamom pods. Add the onions next.Cook the onions till they turn light brown.About 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic & ginger next and saute for about 1 minute till you smell the aroma.
  • Next, add the coarsely ground spices to the pot.Toast the spices for another minute.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes next along with turmeric and red chilli powder.Cook for 3-5 minutes or till you see oil separating on sides of the pan.Add the potatoes next, mix together, reduce heat to low and cover the pot.Let cook covered for 8-10 minutes till the potatoes are almost 70% cooked. Remove the lid.
  • Turn heat to high and add minced lamb to the pot & and work it with a spoon for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat.The meat will start separating,changing color, sweating and becoming watery.Do not worry, everything is going as per plan.
  • Next, add yogurt, 1/4 cup water and salt to the pot. Mix well.Turn the heat to the lowest possible on your burner, cover the pot with lid and let simmer on low heat for about 22-28 minutes.You ll need to stir and check periodically to ensure that lamb is not sticking to the bottom. Add more water if needed
Note : The cooking time will vary if you are using beef or chicken. Also, do not add too much water at the beginning because ground meats leave moisture as they cook.Add water at intervals as per the consistency you want.At the end of about 20 minutes of cooking you will see that oil separating from and change in color of the ground meat. Check that the potatoes are cooked through at this point. 
  • Remove the lid,check the salt and cook on high again for 5 minutes till everything comes together.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm with flatbreads & salad.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Desserts/Baking

Sabudana Kheer – Tapicoa Pudding (Glutenfree)

Sinfully Spicy - Sabudana Kheer, Indian tapioca Pudding 001

My grandma used to make sabudana kheer on days when she observed fasts, not so much otherwise.I remember skipping meals and tucking down quite a number of bowls of it on those occasions.

Like most puddings, this one does not require much effort in cooking since soaked tapioca cooks pretty fast. It was not the cooking time but the wait till sunset that got me impatient. Despite the fact that I wanted to lick it right away from the pot as soon as it was ready, we waited until prayer time. She would then ladle the kheer in bowls and spoon over generous amount of ghee sautéed raisins and almonds.

Sinfully Spicy - Sabudana Kheer, Indian tapioca Pudding 002

This luscious kheer is as comforting as a rice pudding, but much more smooth, almost custard like.The fluffy, opaque tapioca pearls melt down in the bubbling milk, naturally thickening it, become translucent and get pleasantly chewy as the kheer cooks. You can smell the mellow aroma of the starchy pearls and the saffron, the starch from the tapioca also makes the consistency silk-like.

Sinfully Spicy - Sabudana Kheer, Indian tapioca Pudding 003

Kheer forms a quintessential part of indian cuisine. It is a perfect accompaniment to spicy food and is usually a must during religious celebrations and festivals as offering to God.Wedding and special occasion menus are incomplete without certain kind of kheer, making it the most popular way of rounding off the meals.

Sinfully Spicy - Sabudana Kheer, Indian tapioca Pudding 004

I am such a huge fan of puddings and fail to understand how can somebody (like my husband ) doesn’t want to eat it. There’s something so comforting about a gooey, warm bowl of kheer, redolent with an aroma of saffron with nuts adding a texture.

Go imaginative with the kind of aroma you want to flavor this pudding with, I have tried, vanilla, orange zest and rose-water. It tastes as wonderful with each of them.

Sinfully Spicy - Sabudana Kheer, Indian tapioca Pudding 004

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Sabudana Kheer

Indian Tapioca pudding with saffron
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time45 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup sabudana (tapioca)
  • 2 tsp ghee
  • 1/3 cup nuts of choice ( I used sliced almond &raisins)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 whole cardamom pods
  • 10-12 saffron strands grind the saffron with a pinch of sugar and soak in 1 tbsp warm milk
  • 1/2 can (7oz) condended milk or to taste

Instructions

  • Wash the tapioca pearls 1-2 times in water, drain the water. Add the tapioca pearls to a bowl, add 1/2 cup of water and set aside for 2 hours. The tapioca pearls will plump up as they soak. The time of soaking depends on quality of your sabudana, it can take upto 10 hours to soak.Make sure that after soaking, the tapioca pearls are soft and can easily be squeezed between thumb and finger. Drain the water(if any) after soaking. Set aside.
  • In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the ghee on low. Add the nuts to it and sauté for about 20-25 seconds till you smell the aroma. Take out in a bowl and set aside for garnish.
  • In the same pot, add the cardamom seeds and slowly pour the milk. Set the stove on medium and let milk come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let the milk reduce for 20-25 minutes. You will need to stir and scrape sides in between to make sure that the milk is not sticking to the bottom.
  • Once the milk is reduced a little, add the soaked tapioca to the pot and mix well.
  • Cook on low – medium heat for 30-35 minutes with continual stirring till you see that tapioca pearls have started to become translucent and are cooked through. The kheer will thicked and become silk like consistency as you cook it.
  • Add the saffron milk at this point mix well. Let cook for another 5-10 minutes on low till the tapioca are cooked through. You can pinch one of the pearls between fingers to check that they are soft. When the kheer is thick enough(thicken it more than you think, since condersed milk will thin it out),mix in the condensed milk, simmer for another 5 mins(keep an eye since the kheer gets little sticky) and then take off the stove and let cool down for 10 minutes.
  • You can mix the ghee sautéed nuts. Serve the kheer warm or cold garnished with more nuts (if desired) .

Notes

  1. Depending on the size and quality, you will need to soak tapioca pearls for 20 minutes (smaller variety) or up to 3-4 hours(larger variety).
  2. You could use a combination of cream & milk or half and half depending on how rich you want the pudding.
  3. The amount of milk in the recipe can be varied as per desired thickness of the pudding.
  4. Cooking time of tapioca pearls will depend on variety and how long it takes them to swell up and is cooked through.Please adjust accordingly.
  5. The pudding thickens up as it sits but you can thin it out with little warm milk if serving next day. You can boil up the milk, add to the pudding and reheat