Orange Flavored Cashew- Almond Fudge (Peda)

Sinfully Spicy : Orange flavored Cashew Almond Sweet Balls (peda) #glutenfree #vegan

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(Delhi College of Engineering0. I remember me and mom sat and waited in the car while dad walked out to check the noticeboard.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 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’,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!

Printable Recipe

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
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar to roll

Method

In a wide, heavy bottomed pan (I use my 12 inch 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.

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, 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!

Notes 

  1. 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.
  2. You can use any kind of flavorings like saffron or rose instead of orange zest & cardamom.

Stay Spicy!

Mango Pudding

On days when I have to have a dessert, either we drive down to Freeds Bakery, or just about any bakery that is open after 8 pm. I bing on a slices of florentine cheesecakes and parisian chocolate cake or almond croissants with extra shot of espresso and phew, I am covered for a week. If it’s way too late to step out I make this quick mango pudding. The sugar craving is taken care of in hardly any time, I like it lightly warm.

After a dessert making hiatus of over two months, (when I made these ladoos),this long weekend,while the husband was pretty much glued to world cup for most part of the day, I whipped up a couple of them back to back.It started with this mango pudding after I got reminded of this childhood favorite in one of the indian buffets and the other one was put together rather compulsively because I wanted to finish up that 20oz of mango puree leftovers.

Done right, this could be a luscious dessert that you can put together in no time. My mom used to make a lot of pudding for after dinner treats growing up, I remember how in winters, the warm, luscious vanilla custard was topped with caramelized apples while the chilled mango version was a summer thing. In the most clumsy way, I always licked that velvety, thick thing more from the back of the spoon for it was gooey and almost coated all your taste buds – comforting just like a sweet dish should be!

This eggless custard is such a breeze to make and one of those baby steps in indian dessert cooking, infact the recipe is a no brainer, cornstarch is used to thicken the sweetened dairy, cashwes add some extra flavor and texture and then you let it sit in the refrigerator to set. The only way to spoil it is during the time when the mixture is on stove (I say that from experience), its slightly tricky to stop cooking just when the custard begins to thicken and though I have noted times in the recipe, I strongly recommend you to trust your instincts and gut when the stove is on.

The pudding can be served as it is,with any kind of seasonal fruits you like. You can fill up a tart base for a decadent dessert or top it with few teaspoons of sugar and brûlée it (ideas!) Do not mix fresh fruit with the custard unless you are serving all of it right away, this way it can keep good in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Ingredients (Serves 4-5)

  • 200 ml whole milk, cold
  • 200 ml heavy cream, cold
  • 1.5 tbsp cornstarch/cornflour
  • 2 heaped tbsp fine ground cashew or almond powder
  • 8-10 saffron strands or cardamom powder
  • 3-5 tbsp sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1.5 cups mango purée/mango pulp
  • Grapes, Mangoes, berries, toasted coconut(or any fruit or nuts of choice to serve)

Notes

  • I use tinned mango puree available in indian/pakistani stores, if using fresh, choose the sweetest mango variety and grind to make a smooth pulp.You can add little bit of saffron for color and flavor.
  • You can substitute the heavy cream with whole milk but the cream makes the custard nicely rich and (of course) creamy and delicious.

Method

Grind saffron strands with pinch of sugar and infuse in warm milk.

In a heavy bottom pot, mix cold milk, cream, cornstarch and cashew or almond powder. Whisk thoroughly till all the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Place the pot on low medium stove and stirring  continuously let the mixture warm up. It will take about 5-6 minutes. Once you start seeing little bubbles on the sides, reduce the heat to lowest and continue to stir. The mixture will thicken fast from here and will stick to bottom if you do not stir.

To test if the milk-cream mixture has thickened, check the back of the spoon by drawing a line with your fingers in the middle, the gap or lines should stay separate. Immediately  add the sugar and mango puree. Whisk thoroughly and let cook on lowest heat for another minute till sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add the saffron or cardamom. Mix well.  Strain using your soup strainer into a bowl so that any lumps are removed. At this point, you can mix the dried fruit if using. They will swell lightly as the pudding chills. Tear a large cling film and place it right on the surface of the custard, this avoids the formation of skin as the pudding chills.

Chill overnight or for at least 5-6 hours. Divide into serving bowls. This is thick and creamy. Serve with fresh fruit/nuts of choice.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Mewa Chikki – Nut & Seed Brittle (Gluten & Grain Free)

Paani, cheeni se kam hona chahiye‘, mum replied that the quantity of water should be less than sugar. I had called in to ask the ratio of sugar and water for the syrup before setting out to make this chikki.

Agar ek katori cheeni hai to kitna paani?‘ I re worded the question knowing that if at all, sometimes she measures using katori (small bowl).The reply remained the same ‘Paani kam aur cheeni jyada‘ (more sugar, less water). I gave up knowing that those teaspoons and cups that I am slowly becoming slave to, have no place in her kitchen.

There, lies the beauty of Indian cooking,everything done with accurate approximations, andaza.There isn’t a need to fish through kitchen drawers ahead of cooking to locate cups and spoons, neither to flip through recipe books because there aren’t any written ones. My mum and aunts could cook off an entire meal discussing the neighbour’s daughter in law, it’s just eyeballing,tasting and adjusting the flavors in between. There are no hard and fast rules, the methods are traditional,the food comes out wonderful each time. It’s all about cooking with good impulse and feeling.Though it takes while to learn those techniques and pointers to dish out your bestest recipes, but once you are on it, you can trust your gut for the lifetime.

I never understood the ‘taar‘ or the number of strings method that they use to make sugar syrup for indian sweets. Putting it in a very lame way, after a few minutes of bubbling, you are supposed to squeeze the boiling sugar (ouch! ) between your thumb and index finger and count the number of strings formed to know if the right consistency has been reached.Again, something which comes with experience.

Making this chikki from scratch has been one of the most brave things I have done this summer. Studded with lots of nuts and seeds, edible gum resin (gond), not only is this good for you, but you can play around with the type and quantity of nuts in the recipe. Do  make this delicious snackage for the upcoming winter months, it promises to keep you warm and happy.

In my family, makana or foxnuts and coconut are the main ingredients in making this.Read about foxnuts in one of my earlier posts here.

Edible Gum or gond is an extract from the bark of gum tree and is used a lot in indian sweets. It is either white or brown in color, crystal like. When cooked in oil, it puffs up like popcorn and turns opaque. It provides heat to the body and is usually eaten in cold winter months. In India, it is very much used during postpartum of women since it strengthens the body and helps in lactation of new mothers.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups makhana (foxnuts), roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp gond (edible gum resin)
  • 3/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut shavings
  • 1/4 cup melon seeds
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3 tbsp ghee, divided
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • few saffron strands soaked in 1/2 tbsp of warm water (optional)

Also needed – Any well-greased plate/thaali or simply line your brownie sheet with parchment.

Notes :-

  1. If you are using edible gum,make sure that it is completely dry (you can keep it in sun for few hours), else it will not bloom well when you roast it.
  2. Feel free to use any kind of nuts or seeds in this recipe. If you cannot find foxnuts or edible gum, you can increase the quantity of coconut, almond or walnut by equivalent amount.
  3. Use sunflower/pumpkin/pepitas in place of melon seeds.
  4. Add crasins, dried cherries, cranberries, dehydrated blueberries or raspberries to this recipe.

Method

In a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai, on low-medium heat, warm up 1 tbsp of ghee. Add the sliced foxnuts and lightly roast on low heat for 2-3 minutes till you smell the aroma. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add another 1/2 tbsp of ghee in the kadhai and add almonds, walnuts and coconut shavings to it. Lightly roast on low heat for 2-3 minutes till you smell the aroma. Take care that the nuts do not change color. Transfer to the large bowl.

Next, on very low heat add another 1 tbsp of ghee and add the gond crystals. Keep on stirring constantly, the crystals will puff up and turn opaque as they roast. This will take  about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to the large bowl.

Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of ghee to the kadhai and roast the melon seeds on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the raisins. Stir again for 1 minutes or so. Transfer to the large bowl.

Mix all the roasted nuts and seeds well in the large bowl and let sit for 5-8 minutes so that they cool down a bit.

Keep your greased plate or parchment lined dish ready.I used a 9′ X 2′ brownie pan to set the chikki.

Pour water and sugar into the kadhai next and bring to a boil on medium heat. When the sugar starts to bubble around the edges, add cardamom powder, soaked saffron and reduce heat and let simmer for about 2-3 minutes.Remove from heat and immediately pour over the roasted nuts. Stir everything quickly using a spatula so that the nuts are coated in sugar and transfer to the setting plate/pan. Lightly press with hands or spoon to spread out to a uniform thickness. Let sit at room temperature to completely cool down.

Break into desired size chunks or pieces.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping  by!

Litchi/Lychee Pannacotta With Mango Jelly

Litchi Pannacotta [Serves 4-5]

Printable Recipe

Recipe adapted from The Culinary Chronicles

  • 1 20oz can lychees [substitute with fresh pitted litchis]
  • 3/4 tbsp unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar [adjust to taste]
Mango Jelly
  • 1 cup fresh mango puree  [substitute with store bought]
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp sugar [adjust to taste]
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • a pinch of cardamom powder [optional]
  • 3/4 tbsp unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1/4 cup water
Making the Litchi Pannacotta:
In a small bowl, pour the water and sprinkle gelatin over it.Let the gelatin bloom for about 5 minutes.Meawhile,tip in the canned litchis in a blender or a food processor along with syrup and crush them.Drain the crushed litchis thorugh a sieve once.In a sauce pan, add the milk, sugar and drained litchis and let warm on low heat until sugar is dissolved.Do not let the mix boil,it should be warm but not hot.Remove from heat and add the bloomed gelatin to the pan.Mix well.You can whisk gently to ensure that everything has combined well.Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and then pour into your serving bowls/glasses.Refrigerate and let set for 3 hours.
Making the Mango Jelly :
 In a small bowl, pour the 1/4 cup water and sprinkle gelatin over it.Let the gelatin bloom for about 5 minutes.Mix mango puree with 1/2 cup water , lemon juice, cardamom powder and 3 tbsp sugar and warm slightly (about 3-5 minutes] in a sauce pan over low heat.Again do not let boil.Mix in the bloomed gelatin and combine well.Let stand to cool off for about 10-12 minutes and add on top of the set litchi pannacotta.Let set for another 3 hours.
Add subsequent layers and keep on chilling.
Garnish with nuts or fresh fruit, mint and serve chilled.
How to create the swirls:
While you transfer the glasses to chill in the refrigerator, tilt the glasses/bowls.I usually use my cupcake pan to do this wherein I stuff little paper towels at the base of cases and rest the stem- tilted on them.Using a cupcake pan makes the handling easier when making a lot of servings but then there are lots of way of doing it.Devise your own.
Notes: It is important to add subsequent layers only after the bottom layers have set.The swirl you see in pictures took me half a day to set in and adding layers.You can do whichever way you like.Keep it simple or make a pattern.
Variations: Use coconut milk & agar agar flakes in place of whole milk & gelatin respectively to make a vegan version.I think litchi goes very well with papaya as well.I intend to add those layers next time I make it.
Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!