Things have been so quite here but not so much in my kitchen. Most days, we are eating fresh and home cooked, the kitchen is so busy but other priorities in life have made me slightly busy that there is less time to set up shoots and hence the lack of posts. But I guess, sometimes in life, you need to cut the routine to see how doing nothing or something different feels. This summer I am involving myself in things which I have not done in last few years, more on that later. It is good to be away for a while. Hope you missed me 🙂 However, I will keep this space buzzing whenever I can.Meanwhile, you can catch me on Instagram & Facebook.
I grew up eating it in small grey cardboard cups which had a flip lid. You flip away the lid and a couple of chubby brown raisins stared at you on top of blushing pink with soft bits of cashews scattered in. I always used my nails to pick the raisins out first and then the paddle shaped wooden spoon to scoop the rest. One cup disappeared after another in no time, sitting under the shade of kumquat tree in blazing indian summer heat, sweaty foreheads, dripping cream on our dresses and white foamy mustaches, oh to be a child again!
I came up with this recipe fueled by this tradition in my kitchen to come up with an ice cream recipe each summer.It came out amazing, like most homemade ice creams do. I used a subtle flavor of green cardamom but vanilla will work great also. The husband loved it.I loved it and so did our little girl who is fond of all things cashew. I hope you will love it too!
Update 10/03/2015 Recently Sinfully Spicy was included in Top 50 Blogs of India. Link here
Soak 1 cup raw cashews for 5-6 hrs. Drain. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the soaked cashews and let boil for 5-8 mins. Drain and let cool down completely. Transfer to a blender and using 1/3 to 1/2 cup evaporated milk (or full fat milk) grind the cashews to a coarse paste.
Mix 2 cups of heavy cream with a 14oz can of condensed milk. You can add sugar(about 1/4 cup) if you want to adjust sweetness. Mix the cashews paste along with 1 tsp fresh ground cardamom. Combine well, transfer to the dish in which you want to freeze and freeze for 5-6 hours. When the mixture starts freezing and has a pudding consistency,add in handful of dry toasted cut up cashews(optional) along with 1/2 cup of golden raisins. Freeze overnight. Scoop and serve.
Since last year, our indian grocer is bringing to us green mango exports straight from the heart of India. Whats different about them you would ask? They are much smaller in size, fibrous & sour and bring back picture perfect memories of those pickles & sharbatin the kitchen that I have grown up on. I am making chutney with them, as well as adding them to lentils.
However, such special things do always come with a big price tag (I paid $12 for 5 small pieces), so after spending that fortune last week, I made sure to come up with something new. After much thinking, this granita was made to beat the extreme summers that have hit our part of the world.
On a different note, this summer, I have been lucky with homegrown herbs and a little vegetable patch after trying hard for years. Each year my pots fell victim to weeds and heat but this time, so far all looks great. Even a small twig of it feels so rewarding. I used homegrown mint to infuse the refreshing notes in this recipe. It is the tang of the green mangoes enhanced with sweet lemon & tart lime juice and grassy heat of the green chili which makes it special, along with a much-needed refreshing notes from fresh, homegrown mint to a lightly sweet, healthy dessert for summer months. Granita (in Italian also granita siciliana) is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings. Originally from Sicily, it has a coarser texture. It is a very simple thing to make except that you need to stare open at a freezer scraping the bowl every other hour or so.
So if you do not desire to put in the baby sitting it needs, turn the same recipe to a sorbet. It tastes as good.
1.5 tablespoon fresh lime juice (adjust quantity depending on how tart the mangoes are)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (adjust quantity depending on how tart the mangoes are)
1.5 teaspoon black salt (kala namak, reduce amount if the mangoes are really tart)
1/4 teaspoon regular salt ( or to taste)
Wash the mangoes. Bring the water to a rolling boil in a pot and add the whole mangoes. Let boil on high heat for 5-8 minutes or until the skin turns pale and they are slightly soft to touch(take care that the mango skins do not break open). Take the mangoes out of boiling water and leave to cool off. Once cooled, peel off (the skin will separate in a squeeze) and discard the skins.
While the magpies are boiling, in another small pot, combine sugar and water and place over medium heat,cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the stove, immediately add the mint stems and leaves and leave aside to steep for about 3-5 minutes (do not leave for too long else the syrup will turn bitter). Strain the syrup through a sieve and let cool down.
Transfer the mango flesh and green chili( if using) to a blender and pulse to smooth. Take out in a large bowl and add the mint simple syrup, lime & lemon juice, black salt and salt to taste to it. Mix to combine. Strain through a sieve to a smooth mixture.
Pour mixture into a 11 inch by 7 inch glass pan. Cover and let freeze for 1 hour and 30 minutes uncovered. Scrape the icy edges with a fork. Freeze again. Scrape every 45 minutes until completely frozen (about 6-8 hours). Remove from freezer every hour or so; scrape with a fork until fluffy. Once semi solid ice crystals are formed, scrape till fluffy.Cover tightly and freeze. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep frozen.
Scrape granita into bowls and serve garnished with lime wedges and mint.Dust with a pinch of chaat masala or black salt just before serving(optional).
It was one of the most important day of my life as we drove through wide but still crowded roads due to evening traffic, long after sun down to Kashmiri Gate, to the university campus in Old Delhi to figure out if I made it to that year’s list of DCE or Delhi College of Engineering. I remember me and mom sat and waited in the car while dad walked out to check the notice board. Those fifteen minutes,that day, might have been the longest of my life, as I sat and observed the varied expressions of cheer and dismay on the faces of others coming out of the red-painted door and then walking towards the crowded parking lot. As many parents passed our car, clear among the noisy chaos of honks and shouting kin, I could hear the conversations of celebrations, as also the consoling whispers of ‘there are few more results left’. Every time those sounds touched my ears, my heart rejoiced for half a second and next moment, the random thoughts weaved an abyss against hope. I might have blinked my eyes lesser than usual, my throat felt dry and itchy but my glances just waited for dad to emerge out of that red-painted door. I could hear mom’s cell phone ringing constantly, every other relative & rest of the family calling in to check if I ‘got through’. She pretended to be normal, but I could segregate the egdy tones of anxiety when she uttered ‘pata nahi‘ (don’t know).
The engineering entrance exam system in India gets more tough each year than the actual exam itself mainly due to the exponential increase in number of takers. Colleges in big metropolitan cities are more sought after and it definitely boils down to minute differences in performance to rank you higher or not. I had been preparing for this exam for almost a year and as expected I was nervous on the result day. Badly.
It was 7:43 pm. Dad emerged out of the door with a flat face.My heart skipped a beat and I started sweating like a pig. I could feel my ear lobes turning red and my throat choking. We could not keep inside the car anymore and I forced myself and ran to him. Mom rushed after. I looked at him with deer eyes.He still kept a straight face. I don’t remember but for the first time in last fifteen minutes I would have opened my palms to clutch his sleeve. He looked at us and with the most lovely smile spreading across his face that I might have witnessed ever, he said ‘ho gaya, mithai khilao‘ (You got in, get the sweets!). Tears rolled down my eyes. Music to my ears. The world at my feet. I was through!
Mithai or sweets form an integral part of indian culture.Each occasion of life is celebrated with them.The streets and neighborhood of the country are dotted with sweet shops and if you find ever yourself stuck in a desert, you would be less than a mile away from one. ‘Peda‘ is one of the popular sweets from the ‘Uttar Pradesh’, the part of India my mother hails from and these are essentially fudgy, thick, semi soft, sweet chunks made with mava (milk solids)sugar and ghee. However, these fudgy cashew almond peda, I made are dairy free as well as need very few ingredients for preparation.My daughter loves any mithai made with cashews, so these were mainly made for her though we enjoyed them as well. The slight hints from the orange paired very well with the nuts even though the aroma of sweet green cardamom is more prominent. These could get addictive. These gluten-free, vegan balls can be an excellent after school snack. Make some and enjoy!
Glutenfree, Dairy Free & Vegan sweet fudge made with cashew and almond meal.
Ingredients (Makes 25 )
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1.5 cup cashew nut meal (or powdered raw cashews)
1 cup almond meal (or powdered raw almonds)
1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
6 green cardamom pods, seeds crushed
1 tbsp ghee (optional, required during kneading, use any vegan substitute)
1/2 cup powdered sugar to roll
In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 12″ skillet) or a kadhai, mix up the sugar and water. Set the pan on low flame and let the sugar dissolve. Stir (I use my rubber spatula) the solution once or twice while the sugar dissolves so that the sugar does not stick to bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, grease the surface that you will be using to knead with 1/2 tablespoon ghee.
Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add the cashew and almond meal to the pan. Mix everything and brace yourself for some hard work. Keep on stirring and stirring as the mix cooks on low flame. The process will be slow in the beginning and you will feel that it will take forever but do not worry. Keep on stirring, scraping the mixture on low flame, do not let the mixture stick to the sides of the skillet.
After about 20-22 minutes, you will see that the mixture starts thickening and coming together.We will shortly be getting there, once the mixture is thick, do not bother much about scraping the sides as they will be really dry. Around 24 minutes, the mixture will start resembling a soft, sticky dough and will clump up around the spatula. If you try to bring the mixture together in one place on the skillet, it will try to slowly spread (similar to how a glug of cold honey spreads on a surface). Mix in the orange zest and crushed cardamom. Put off the stove.
Immediately transfer to the greased surface and leave to cool a bit until its safe to handle.Once the dough has cooled slightly, rub a teaspoon of ghee on your hands and very gently knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Remember that the dough needs to be warm when you knead so just wait till its safe to touch, do not let it cool down completely, else it will not knead and remain grainy.Do not press very hard as you knead else the nuts will start oozing their oil. You can grease you hands or the dough with ghee in between if it starts feeling sticky.
While the kneaded dough is still warm, pinch small portions of it and roll into a smooth ball. Roll the balls in powdered sugar.
Once cooled, store the peda in air tight container for up to a week.
Thank you for stopping by!
The time of cooking noted in this recipe will vary if you are using any other kind of sugar than granulated, since the water content of different varieties of sugar is different.
You can use any kind of flavorings – saffron or kewra (screw pine water) instead of orange zest & cardamom.
I remember that many mornings at my badi mummy’s (grand mother’s ) house opened with a warm bowl of sooji halua, a ghee laden dessert made with toasted semolina and milk, speckled with grains of woody black cardamom. In fact,it would not be exaggerating to say that the strong,nutty aroma of toasting sooji filling the air of the house sometimes managed to pull me out of the bed early,especially on the lazy weekend mornings. With half closed eyes, I headed straight to the verandah where we usually ate breakfast . Sometimes, there were cups of chai and warm bowls of halua already waiting to be eaten, many times, the eating had to wait a bit longer, for it took a extra while to roll and deep fry pooris to go along. Yes halua – poori is exactly what I am talking about here, an immensely carbohydrate loaded meal but at the same time so comforting. Those the days when you could eat as much as you wished to.The variety of foods at our mealtimes were many.An amazingly beautiful thing in the house that I grew up in, a tradition that instilled in us the virtue of sharing and caring.In those times, childhood could absorb so much sugar, oil and calories. Much unlike now when a bowl of halua will push me a step closer to long naps during mid day, I remember playing around the aangan (back yard) for hours. Semolina is quite a popular flour of choice when baking cakes in indian homes.There were a couple of sweet as well as savory cakes that my mother baked for us using it.Most of the cakes were steamed inside the pressure cooker(for she did not own an oven then) and they came out pretty awesome.In contrast to the sugar syrup drizzle that I used in my recipe, inspired by arabic desserts, the pressure cooker cakes from my childhood were really moist and soft.They didn’t need any glaze, drizzle or makeup, as mum says. This cake is full of flavors from those days of sooji halua eating mornings.The ingredients are very few and the condensed milk and nutty almond meal makes it a lot, lot better than the actual dessert. It is quite a dense cake and a small portions will instantly make you feel full. I would really recommend not skipping that sugar syrup to cut down the sweet else it may taste dry.I do not soak the cake in entire quantity of the syrup and save some to drizzle just when serving. It keeps the cake moist just when you are about to enjoy it. You can substitute any nut powder of choice here and make it. Also, I found that this cake travels and packs really well,once it cools down completely and you cut the slices, they can be packaged for lunch boxes, care packages and on the go snacks.Serve with black or green tea. Printable Recipe
Ingredients (Makes a 9″ round)
1 no 14oz sweetened condensed milk can
10 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted + more for the cake pan
1/2 cup +1 tablespoon whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 + 1/3 cup coarse semolina (not the instant,quick cooking kind)
1+1/3 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon green cardamom powder (from 5-6 pods)
1/3 cup raw almonds for top (optional)
For the Sugar Syrup
10 tablespoon crystal sugar (I use raw)
6 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom powder (from 2-3 pods)
I use ready made almond meal, if you plan to make your own, do not crush the blanched almonds to a point that they release their oils.Let there be a coarse sandy texture.
This cake does not rise much. So if you want a high rise cake, use a smaller dish to bake it.
For the Cake
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9 “X 2” round cake pan. I use parchment paper lining for easy handling.
In a large bowl, mix whisk together condenser milk, melted butter, milk and baking powder to smooth slurry. Add semolina and almond meal to it along with cardamom powder. Mix together to combine to a smooth batter. Do not over mix.
Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Scatter the raw almonds on top. Bake for 35 minutes or so or until a skewer comes out clean and the edges are nice and golden brown.
Once the cake is baked, take it out and drizzle liberally with the sugar syrup (recipe below) while still warm.
I sometimes, reserve 1/4 cup or so of the syrup to be used for instant moistening when serving the cake (optional)
Let cool completely. Slice and serve.
For the Sugar Syrup
While the cake is baking, in a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Cook for 10-12 minutes on low medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup has thickened a bit. Put the stove off and add cardamom powder to the syrup.Keep the syrup warm. Drizzle the warm syrup on the cake as soon it comes out of the oven.
The winter season back home always bought with itself a different feeling than the sun -lit mornings I wake up to here in the Valley.I ponder for few minutes and those foggy mornings & biting chilly winter winds come hovering in my mind, that peak of the cold season spread over few days at the end and start of another year which forced enough reasons to wear multiple layers of clothes, those endless cravings of rich, heavy food and the countless cups of hot beverages that comforted me before darting out of the home to get to work. I often recall those evening trips to crappy street food joints to carelessly stuff on piping hot vegetable momos and egg rolls without any guilt or doubt. I remember those cloyingly sweet adrak(ginger) chai & frothy coffee which I snuggled within my palms on cold weekend mornings, lazily fliping through the newspaper on the couch. Suddenly all I can feel is the warmth of those memories in my heart.
What is your fond winter memory? A warm bowl of soup caressing your numb fingers or a strong cup of coffee to relax your clattering teeth? The silence that wraps the streets of neighborhood at five in the evenings or the mellow sun already preparing to call it a day mid-afternoon? The crisp winds which feel the chilliest on the tip of the nose or the beautiful grey that surrounds the snow days?The beholding sight of snow sculptures outside or the beauty of the flickering fireplace inside?
I recall that badi mummy (my grandmother) would often feed us this smooth and rich atte ka halwa during these winter months, sometimes to soothe our sore throats, other times just as a quick after meal dessert . There we sat on a hand-woven couch in the veranda, wrapped in cozylayers of thin shaleen razais (velvet quilts) and oiled hair, clutching stainless steel katoris (bowls) and spooning this comfortingly warm, golden brown pudding into our tummies.She insisted that nothing could benefit the body more than grains & ghee.This halwa is indeed wholesome – whole wheat flour is slow roasted in ghee till its turns glistening golden then sweetened with gud(jaggery), resulting in a rich concoction few spoons of which will instantly make you feel full.
The main ingredient here is atta (durum whole wheat flour) and a fine grind is what gives the halwa a smooth & velvety texture.In case you have some atta leftover from that package of durum wheat flour you bought to make rotis, this is another recipe for you to try. Gud or jaggery, an unrefined sugar made from boiling date, sugar cane or palm juice is an extremely popular sweetener used all over India. It is considered a benefiting to the body in Ayurvedic medicine and is available in blocks, loaves or powdered form.The unique mild taste of jaggery adds a taste comparable to molasses and a light caramel color to the dishes.The color & the sweetness of this halwa depends mainly on the content of molasses in it.
You can ration the quantity of the halwa you eat & serve but I suggest not reducing the amount of ghee when making this recipe else the halwa loses its rustic appeal and gets chewy. It is supposed to be enjoyed in less quantities but essentially with the richness from all that ghee.I like my halwa mildly sweet and the amount noted in the recipe perfect for that. You can adjust the quantity of jaggery if you like.
1 cup jaggery, powdered (I scrape jaggery from the block using a sharp knife. Jaggery is easily available in indian/pakistani stores.Use 3/4 cup raw sugar if you cannot find jaggery)
scant 1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
Nuts & Raisins to serve (optional)
In a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai, heat the ghee on a medium low heat till it melts. Once the ghee has melted, add the clove and wait till it crackles. Next, add the flour and roast on medium- low heat, stirring constantly until the wheat flour gets golden brown colour and you smell a nutty aroma.Do not rush this step else the flour will remain raw.It should take about 10-12 minutes and you will see golden brown, glistening syrup like melted ghee & flour in the pan.
Meanwhile, on the second stove, in a sauce pan, heat water on high.Put off the stove. Wait for 1-2 minutes. Add jaggery to the warm water and stir until the it completely dissolves. If you have broken jaggery from the block and the big chunks are taking time to dissolve, heat up the water a little bit (but do not let it boil). Let sit near to stove.
Once the wheat flour has turned dark brown and it has roasted nicely,reduce heat to low and very carefully pour in the jaggery water into the roasted wheat-flour. It will splutter so be careful. Add the cardamom powder as well.
On low heat, stir quickly and continuously (to avoid lumps) and cook for a minute or less until the mixture turns smooth.Once you add the water, the mixture will immediately cup up and increase in volume.Do not cook for long time else the halwa will thicken and turn dry. Pick the cloves and discard.
Mix in the nuts and raisins (if using ) and combine.
Memories tied to food is a wonderful thing, isn’t? I say it more often than not but I am an emotional eater. I get bouts of voracious eating depending on if I feel happy or sad that day. Sometimes I just cook and eat solely because that food is supposed to be associated with the season,or only coz a bowl of warm kheer (rice pudding) will see me through that dull, gloomy day or because I got to know about it when I chatted with mom or some aunt in the family last week. You can categorise these cookies as a baking activity that happened on such a whim. I spoke to mum the other evening discussing the picky food habits of my daughter and she happened to mention if I have tried feeding her ‘bakery wale biscuits‘ with milk.
All along mixing the dough, the only thought that rattled in my mind was how these should taste of cashew predominantly & not just flour and sugar, just like original ones from a little bakery with blue & white candy cane style painted walls near my house in Delhi.
Ingredients(Makes about 4.5 dozen)
3/4 cup cashew meal (I used ready-made cashew meal from Trader Joes you can grind raw cashews to a (not very fine) powder at home if you do not get ready made)
1.5 cup all-purpose flour
1.25 cups confectioners sugar/castor sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
5 green cardamom pods, break open & powder the seeds
a generous pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
10 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup finely chopped raw cashews
1/4 cup oil (any neutral oil will work)
2 – 5 tbsp cold milk (just so the dough comes together, I used 3.5 tbsp)
Cashew bits for top (optional)
In a bowl, mix cashew meal, flour, sugar,baking powder, soda & salt together. Dump the flour mix in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the cardamom & nutmeg. Add the butter cubes. Pulse for a minute or so till the butter becomes pea sized.
Remove the metal blade and fit the dough blade in the jar. Add the 1/2 cup finely chopped cashews. Add the oil. Start the processor and start adding cold mix 1/2 tbsp at a time till the dough just comes together. Stop. Open the lid and take out the dough on a clean surface. The dough will be slightly sticky & loose but that’s okay. Knead gently with dry hands for a minute or less and bring it together. Divide into two portions. Wrap the dough portions in plastic/cling film. Make sure that the cling film is large enough since we will be rolling the cookies later in it. With the help of your palm, flatten each wrapped dough portion. Refrigerate for at least 30-35 minutes or till firm. Now, if you plan to bake them later, you can freeze one or both of the dough halves.
Once the dough is firm, roll the flattened dough still wrapped in the cling film to a square sheet about 1/4″ thick. After rolling, refrigerate the rolled out dough again since the heat from your hands and rolling will melt the butter.
Preheat oven to 300F. Line cookie sheet with parchment/ wax paper. You might need a couple of baking sheets or you can bake in batches.
Once the rolled dough is firm, using a sharp knife, cut very small squares (about 1/4″ by 1/4″) since these cookies will spread quite a bit while baking. Try to cut as evenly sized squares as possible. Press some cashew bits on top and arrange the squares about 2″ apart on the baking sheet. Refrigerate again for 20-25 minutes.
If you do not want to roll the dough, pinch small portions of the dough, shape into balls and press few cashew pieces on top.
Bake the refrigerated cookies in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes till the cookie bases start & edges start turning golden brown and the top cashews changes color. I like my cookies slightly brown so I baked them a few minutes more, about 22 minutes.
Let cool completely on the sheet before storing them in air tight containers for up to 3 weeks. Serve with hot chai.
As I sit down with a cup of chai after having washed a truck load of dishes and mopping the floors spot free, all I can think of is how back home,my mum would barely have a luxury of five minutes to relax,drink tea and breathe today. It is the largest of Hindu festivals –Diwali in India – a celebration that lasts for at least five days.
Early in the morning she would have soaked rice to make rangolis(decorations)on the floor of the puja (prayer room).The flowers would have been plucked from the garden and tucked inside moistened cloth to keep them fresh till evening.The water soaked diyas(earthern lamps)would be sun bathing by now and she would be busy taking out fancy serve ware and cutlery for evening dinner from the boxes stacked below the bed.By noon, aromas of cardamom and ghee from the kitchen would be permeating the air of our house.There would be some kind of tangy chaat,stuffed dahi vadas resting inside the fridge and spicy jal jeera to greet the guests.
Diwali or Deepawali,the festival of lights is celebrated by most indians as an autumn festival signifying the victory of good over evil.According to legend,Lord Rama returned home after fourteen years of exile and defeating the demon kind Ravana on this day. People lit their homes with diyas to celebrate his homecoming and from then the day became a reason for celebration each year for the Hindus. Typically, the goddess of wealth & prosperity, Lakshmi is worshipped on this day, gifts are exchanged with friends and family, there are get togethers, much pomp and show, food, fun and fireworks.
I would lie if I told you that mum made Kaju katli at home. She didn’t. Never. She didn’t need to because the streets of Delhi are dotted with amazing halwaiwallas (sweet vendors) making and selling this best tasting confection with cashews.Instead she would be making besan ladoos, warm, nutty chickpea flour balls with ghee and sugar.
I have always been intimidated by mithai making at home. They are an art. The ingredients are few and most of them look plain but taste so heavenly if you get the texture right. It took me a lot of pushing by the husband to take up making this fudge treat this year. I was most certain that I would end up messing it up. You could perceive my confidence from the fact that I had planned a few things with the cashew sugar paste if everything did not come out the way it should. But, trust me I was in disbelief of how perfect katli came out.My daugheter, who would not eat any other indian mithai ate these little diamonds like candy,one after the other.
To me kaju katli has always been something really exotic. Fudgy,nutty thins of ground cashews sweetened plainly with sugar, its one melt-in-the-mouth confection. It is one of the most popular mithai in northern india. I always thought that it was a difficult thing to make but no, I was wrong. It is so easy, there are so less ingredients and few things to be kept in mind while you do it. Hopefully you get to make these delicious, gluten free & vegan treats for your family this year. Wishing all a Happy & Safe Diwali again!!
Ingredients (Makes 20-22 diamonds)
1.5 cups broken raw cashew pieces (Yield 1 cup +3/4 cup cashew powder)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp water
1-2 drops rose essence
1 tbsp ghee (Optional, required during kneading, use any vegan substitute)
Use cashews at room temperature. If you store your nuts in the fridge, take them out a night before and spread on the kitchen towel to air dry. The cashews should be at room temperature and completely dry before you start powdering them. Transfer the cashew pieces to a dry blender jar and in one go powder them as fine as you can. We need a loose, smooth powder. Take care that the cashews do not become pasty or release their oils and clump up or become sticky (this is very important). If you feel that there are few big pieces in the cashew powder, pick them out or sift the powder using a sieve, but do not overwork the blender to grind the cashews.
In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 10″ skillet) or a kadhai, mix up the sugar and water. Set the pan on low flame and let the sugar dissolve. Stir (I use my rubber spatula) the solution once or twice while the sugar dissolves so that the sugar does not stick to bottom of the pan. While the sugar is dissolving, rub about 1/2 tbsp of ghee on a kitchen board (or the surface where you will knead) and set aside.
Once the sugar has dissolved, add the powdered cashews to the pan. Mix everything and brace yourself for some hard work. Keep on stirring and stirring as the mix cooks on low flame. The process will be slow in the beginning and you will feel that it will take forever but do not worry. Keep on stirring, scraping the mixture on low flame, do not let the mixture stick to the sides of the skillet.
After about 18 minutes, you will see that the mixture starts thickening and coming together.Add the rose essence (or any other flavorings) now if using and incorporate. We will shortly be getting there, once the mixture is thick, do not bother much about scraping the sides as they will be really dry. Around 22 minutes, the mixture will start resembling a soft, sticky dough and will clump up around the spatula. If you try to bring the mixture together in one place on the skillet, it will try to slowly spread (similar to how a glug of cold honey spreads on a surface). It took me exactly 24 minutes to reach that stage. Depending on the flame settings and water content of the sugar, you can approximately look at 22-28 minutes to reach that stage.
Immediately transfer to the greased surface and leave to cool a bit until its safe to handle.Once the cashew dough has cooled slightly, rub a teaspoon of ghee on your hands and very gently knead the dough for 5-7 minutes to form a ball. Remember that the dough needs to be warm when you knead so just wait till its safe to touch, do not let it cool down completely, else it will not knead and remain grainy.Do not press very hard as you knead else the cashews will start oozing their oil but there should be enough pressure so that a small ball is formed. You can grease you hands or the dough with ghee in between if it starts feeling sticky.
One you get a smooth ball, flatten it out slightly. Place a large and wide sheet of wax or butter paper on the dough and using a rolling-pin, roll it out to a 1/3″ thickness, or you can roll out as thin or thick as you like. Using a sharp knife (or a ravioli cutter, like I did), cut into diamonds or squares or any shape you like.
Serve or store in an air tight container at room temperature for 5-6 days.
The time of cooking noted in this recipe will vary if you are using any other kind of sugar than granulated, since the water content of different varieties of sugar is different.
You can use any kind of flavorings – cardamom, saffron or kewra (screw pine water) instead of rose essence .
Come end of September and its time of autumn festivities for Indians.Hindus all over India celebrate Navratri (nine days of fasting & feasting),worshipping Goddess Durga in nine pristine forms,each form depicting a virtue . Ramlila is a traditional, nine or ten-day long drama staged during these days in northern india to portray the life events of Lord Rama and his victory over the demon king Ravana.The last day which is a celebration of this triumph is observed as Dusherra.
Year after year we looked forward to Ramlila days. There would be a nip in the air,schools would be off and bazaars all geared up to witness the hustle and bustle of upcoming festivals.Quite a lot of big and small fairs dotted our town,each locality showcasing its grandeur through decorations,much pomp & show,some having lighted displays,other luring crowds with musicals.Before you go into thinking about a fairyland, the ramlila grounds were dusty and crowded, cramped shoulder to shoulder with people,with flashy neon or fluorescent light banners and the music shows – a cacophony of loudspeakers which sore your ears few minutes into listening but, in those days I LOVED all of that. My enthusiasm could be might low if I visit the fair now but in those days,every evening, dressed our best,we left the house together to visit a new ramlila ground.
Walking through the dimly lit,narrow roads and holding each other’s hand, carrying goodies in the other, we would come back home around midnight from the last day at ramlila,after having witnessed the demon effigies burnt to ashes and the fireworks that followed to cheer the triumph of good over evil.Legs aching due to long waits in the queue for almost everything but stomachs stuffed to content with piping hot jalebis fresh from the halwai stalls and our hands full with knickknacks bought from the toy stalls – bubble guns, imitation bows & arrows, helium balloons, pinwheels and candy.All we chatted about were the rides at the fair and how to make next few weeks to Diwali fun!
Sometimes I feel how growing up, for us the means of entertainment were so uncomplicated.I remember playing on terrace for hours with tiny earthen pots and tea cups bought from the potter stalls at ramleela, on few days we played cricket for hours in the aangan (yard),on most evenings we wandered miles and miles in the park chasing butterflies and bees or hopelessly trying to create colorful illusions with pinwheels. Festivals like Holi, Dusherra and Diwali were longed for, for months. Mum tells me that I had quite a keen interest in all things culture and mythology.
No computer, no DVDs, no play stations, no just dance, no karaoke. Entertainment did not come out of LCD screens, it was way real. Sorry for sounding like a grandma but I dare not talk about the simplicity of those days!
Jalebi is the one of the popular mithai which was popular in my part of town on Dusherra, which falls on 3rd Oct this year.For me on this day nothing else will suffice as dessert if it’s not jalebi. Comparable to a funnel cake but eggless and fermented, jalebi is a crisp, deep-fried maida (flour) batter,soaked in sugar syrup long enough to sweeten it but not let it turn soft. The sugar syrup may or may not be flavored with cardamom, saffron or rosewater. As the fermented batter is piped into the hot oil, it swells and comes sizzling up,changing its color to golden. The crisp concentric fried batter are then dunked in warm sugar and served with cold unsweetened milk or rabdi. However, my favorite way to serve hot jalebis is with dahi (plain unsweetened yogurt).
Ingredients (Makes 20-25 Jalebis)
For the Jalebi
1 cup maida (all-purpose flour)
1.5 tbsp cornstarch
1.5 tbsp besan (fine ground gram flour)
1 tsp yeast
1.5 tbsp melted ghee (use any neutral oil for vegan version)
2 tbsp whole milk plain yogurt, at room temperature (skip for vegan, see notes)
1/8 tsp saffron powder (crush a few saffron threads between palms)
1-2 drops orange food color(optional)
1/4 to 1/3 cup luke warm water + 2-3 tbsp warm water for dissolving yeast (adjust water quantity for right consistency)
Canola/Sunflower Oil for frying (You can add 1-2 tbsp ghee to it for a nice aroma)
For the Sugar Syrup
1.5 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1-2 green cardamom pods, cracked open or 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Optional Flavorings – rose water, kewra (screwpine water)
In a small bowl, add of scant pinch of sugar and 2-3 tbsp of warm(not hot) water, dissolve yeast and let sit for 5-8 minutes. Let the yeast bloom (you should see froth on top).If the yeast does not bloom, discard and start the batch again.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sift the maida, besan and cornstarch. Add the saffron powder.Using your finger, lightly mix the ghee and yogurt with the flour. Add the bloomed yeast mix, orange food color and slowly add luke warm water to make a smooth,lump free batter. Be doubly sure that the batter has no lumps, it is a very important step. Add the water a little at a time and incorporate.The consistency should be like a thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with a cling film and set aside in a warm place to ferment for 2-3 hours. (The batter will ferment quickly, about 1-2 hours during summer months but could take longer during winters) Do not disturb it during fermenting.
10-15 minutes before you are ready to fry the jalebis, in a medium,wide pot, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Once the sugar syrup is boiling, reduce the heat, add the cardamom and let simmer for 7-8 minutes so that the syrup thickens up a bit. We are not looking for any string consistency here but if you take a tiny drop of syrup in between your thumb and pointer finger, it should feel sticky and not watery. Once the sugar has simmered and thickened, add lemon juice, stir and put off the heat.Wait for 2-3 minutes and then if you are using saffron or cardamom powder or any other flavorings, add it to the sugar syrup. Let sit near to where you will fry up the jalebis.
Use the widest pot or wok or pan that you have in your kitchen to fry the jalebis. I use my 12″ skillet.Pour 1-2 inches of oil in it and let heat up on medium heat.
At the end of two hours, the fermented batter will not exactly double up in volume but you would see that it is much more light and fluffy than what we started with. Once fermented, do not mix the batter much. We want it to remain airy and fluffy. Just cut and fold once or twice using a spatula (just the way we handle cake frosting) and pour it into a squeezable bottle with nozzle. Try to squeeze the batter out of the nozzle, it should come out like a tooth paste from a tube. (see notes for other ways of checking batter consistency). If you feel that the batter is thick, add a little water for the right consistency or if the batter is thin, add a couple of tablespoons of flourand mix gently so that there are no lumps.
To test the right temperature of oil, drop a small quantity batter in the oil, it should come up sizzling to the top but without changing color (if batter changes color, reduce heat and let the oil temperature reduce a bit). Squeeze the batterout of the nozzle, applying constant pressure and making 3-4 concentric circles in the oil and sealing them in the middle.Work from outside towards inside. It takes time and experience to get proper shape and it gets better and better batch after batch. Do not fry more than 4-5 jalebis in a batch. Once you have piped the jalebis in hot oil, in 2-3 seconds they will come floating up, flip and let turn golden on the other side too. Once golden, take out of from the hot oil, tilting the spider or frying spoon so that excess oil is drained.
Add the fried jalebis to the warm (not hot)syrup. Let soak for not more than 25-30 seconds and take out again tilting the ladle to drain excess syrup else they will break and turn soggy.
Fry up all the jalebis and soak in syrup. Serve warm with cold unsweetened yogurt.
Few Tips and Notes:
Indian Cooking especially mithai (sweets) making rides on a lot of approximations and tips and tricks learnt through experience. In our homes, rarely gadgets are used to test the oil or sugar syrup temperatures or times.Lets say we trust our sight and smell senses more when cooking. Mithai making is an art and gets better with practice. Here are few of the things I have learnt from mum and my own trials.
In case you are making the jalebis for vegans, skip the yogurt in the recipe and use a little more water to get the right consistency of the batter.
Addition of lemon juice to the syrup prevents crystallization of sugar as well as lends it a mild tart flavor which is typical to jalebis.
Adding food coloring to the batter is a choice, if you do not want,skip it. I like to add color because my mum always does and I think it looks nice to the eyes.
Usually the batter gets a little runny after fermentation, so its better to keep it on the thickish side before you set it out to ferment. You can always add water later to get the right consistency.
One of the ways to check the consistency of batter is to take a large quantity in your hands and try to drop it in the bowl from a height, about 1-2 feet, it should fall is continuously, similar to how a lace or ribbon flows.
You could use a Ziploc bag with a hole cut up at the end to make the jalebis, but I find using the squeeze bottle much easier since if you keep on pressing the Ziploc bag, after a few batches, the hole becomes large in size and the jalebis become very very thick.I find the ziploc method quite messy too. The squeezable bottles are available in baking aisle for a couple of dollars. They are much expensive to buy online. But trust me, really easy and work with. Attaching a nozzle to a piping bag works fine too, just keep in mind that the thickness of the jalebis will depend on the nozzle size. Do not use a very big size nozzle since the jalebis will not cook properly inside once fried.
While frying, if the temperature of oil is too hot, the jalebis will come up sizzling, the batter will tear or have bubbles all over, it might every scatter in the oil and jalebis will turn over crisp and not absorb syrup properly. If the oil temperature is too low, the jalebis will remain flat and raw inside. Once you start frying, it will take you 1-2 minutes to know the right temperature of oil, the jalebis should come up within few seconds (2-3secs) of piping into oil and swell as you fry but at the same time do not get too brown. Don’t worry I also had few over brown ones, so you will know when its right.
Getting the right shape of the jalebis takes time, they do not have to be precise and perfect but as you make more and more, you will get a hang of it. Just keep in mind to squeeze the bottle/piping bag batter with a constant pressure and work in concentric circles, outside towards inside. Again, practice will help.However, whatever shape they come out,they will taste good.
The right texture of the jalebis is crispy on outside, if you take a bite, you will notice the tubular crossection filled with syrup. Without getting more technical,just know that they are not meant to be soft.
You will have leftover syrup after the jalebis are soaked. I usually dunk baked bread croutons/slices in them and serve as a snack. You could refrigerate it and use to make gulab jamuns if you like. Also, it can be used in smoothies or for making beverages too.
Jalebis can be stored for 2-3 days. Do not refrigerate. Just store at room temperature. I however, do not recommend or prefer storing them. Make small batches and serve rightaway.
Late Summer. The days are filled with blueberries and peaches and cherries before the seasons changes.This year we had an overdose of summer bounty in the house since most of our produce shopping was from Costco, there was hardly a day when we were out of fruits.May sound impatient, but I want those crunchy sweet tart apples and soft pears and ruby-red pomegranates and rest these berries till next summer. In lieu of new, I picked up my first fresh figs this summer (yup, it took me five odd years to do that since I moved to the States) and kind of liked them but still didn’t understand the craze. The ones I ate though sweet,had a slightly slimy aftertaste so maybe they were unripe? Anyhow, the evenings turn up sooner and are much cooler than a past few weeks back.We are having a few rain spells every ten days or so which I am liking a lot since those are rare in this part of the world. I am barely able to decide if the air conditioning should be turned on or not all night even though I am waking up cold for last few days.
Talking of few weeks back, I broke my blender jar, it came shattering down on our tiled floor.The following day my year old Panini maker gave in as soon as I plugged it in. I smelled smoke and saw a spark. Short circuit. Dang. In the latest, every time I use it, I hear a scratchy sound while our food processor runs,looks like it will join that gang soon. Good lord. Just wondering if all the universe has joined hands against my kitchen equipment or is it really a coincidence?
The only good thing that happened was this kulfi, laced with saffron threads and sweet cardamom aroma.I badly needed to make something comforting to calm me down.A childhood ice cream treat from the streets,as kids we licked a few sticks each afternoon from the kulfiwalla(vendor) who visited our neighborhood. Needless to say, it was dirt cheap (may be few cents if you convert the currency) but came with huge flavor and texture. Traditionally, whole milk is simmered for hours and hours till it reduces to half its volume, the fat goes up and so does the sugar and protein content.Flavors are then added and its frozen immediately, no churning or custard business needed here. As time and occasion permits,these days it also depends on how cranky the toddler is, I use either ways to make kulfi, sometimes I start with whole milk and sometimes with cans of evaporated milk or half and half to shorten the process. This time, the husband offered to watch the little one and I took the traditional route – just like how mum used to make it at home filled with toil and sweetness of love.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
5 cups whole milk
1/4 cup mava (milk solids, see recipe here to make your own, omit if you do not have)
This recipe yields a lightly sweet kulfi (which is how it should be) but you can add more condensed milk or sugar as per taste.
Addition of mava lends the kulfi both richness and a chewy texture but it can be skipped.
Ideally, kulfi is not creamy, rather lightly chewy and grainy.
You could use cornstarch in place of rice flour
Substitute almonds with any kind of nuts (pistachios, cashews)
In a heavy bottomed pot, bring milk to a boil. Once the milk is boiling, reduce heat to low and let cook down with constant stirring. You do not have to stand by the stove but check and stir every 10-12 minutes so that the milk does not stick to the bottom or sides of the pot.You will need to keep on scraping the side of the pot while you stir. Depending on fat/water content of the milk it could take 3-5 hours for the milk to reduce to half of its volume.
While the milk is cooking, crumble or grate the mava (if using),there should be no lumps. Set aside. Dissolve the rice flour in cold milk and let sit. Crumble up saffron threads between palms of your hands and dissolve in warm milk. Set aside.
Once the milk has reduced, it will be light brownish in color, much thicker in consistency. Add the rice flour slurry to the pot with continual stirring (so that no lumps are formed) and let cook for 5 minutes on low heat . The mixture will thicken further and become smooth. Add the mava next and cook for another 5-8 minutes so that it softens a bit.
Remove from heat. Add the condensed milk, almond meal, dissolved saffron and cardamom powder to the milk mixture and combine well. Let sit to cool down,
Pour into kulfi moulds or popsicle moulds. Freeze for 24 hours with lid on.
Once ready to serve, use a sharp knife to loosen the edges and unmold the kulfi. You could run the mould under a stream of water to loosen it. Serve as it is or sliced up with nuts and falooda (recipe here)
Remember I mentioned that I made two desserts back to back over the 4th of July weekend? This is the second one besides the mango pudding. It is rather an assembly than a cooked or baked dessert but it came out so well. It is a spontaneous idea that I trying to share with you.But this layered thing came out so well and mainly because it is the best thing I have made so far this summer,I wanted to share it. Share it badly so you can try it this season itself before the mango & berries are gone. I don’t even know what to call it, maybe an indian cassatta because that’s closest to what I had in mind when I was it putting together. Maybe an ice cream cake? Or let’s just call it a frozen-layered-dessert.
Literally, I played with food. I just had an idea to start with and few leftovers – mango puree after making the pudding, cake slices and heavy cream nearing expiration. A dessert which brings together pound cake, ice cream, berries, mangoes and cream and nuts(if you like)could hardly not taste good. It like hitting the bull’s eye standing at arm’s length. This was a bomb.Literally. It is not everyday that the husband complains that I should have considered a 8 or 9 inch round instead of the little 6 inch cake pan. But then, I wanted to finish off the leftovers rather than start something new in itself. Anyhow.
You can use the recipe just as a guideline and play around with whatever flavor or textures you like. I wanted to sneak in some dried mixed fruits and nuts but held back since the other half is not very fond of textures in food (how boring, right?). Whatever, make this dessert before summer ends and if your kids are of that age, involve them in the fun too.
It took me half a day to put all these layers all together – freezing the previous one and topping with next one and all. But so worth it. When I saw family asking for second or third serving, I decided that the next time I make this, it would be a 9″ or 10″ round.