Kashi Halva

Kashi Halva is a Karnataka specialty, often served during weddings and other special occasions. It is one of the simplest, most delicious sweets from South India.

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Winter melon – Source: Wikipedia

4 cups grated Ash gourd / White pumpkin / Winter melon

2 cups sugar

1/8 tea-spoon saffron soaked in 2-3 table-spoon hot water

1/4 tea-spoon ground cardamom

6  tea-spoon ghee

1/4 cup cashews and raisins

Method:

  1. In a bowl, mix saffron and hot water. Keep aside.
  2. In a small pan add a spoon of ghee and shallow fry cashews and raisins until cashews turn light brown and raisins plump up.
  3. In a broad pan, add 1 tea spoon of ghee and add the grated pumpkin. Cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add sugar and 2 tea-spoon of ghee.
  5. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so.
  6. Add saffron water and 3 tea spoons ghee. Mix well and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. When you see pumpkin come together and ghee oozing from the sides, the halva is done.
  7. Take the pan off the stove. Add cardamom, cashews, and raisins. Mix well.

Makes about 6 servings.

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Pastel de Tres Leches

Feliz Día de San Valentín!

Tres Leches Cake – “Three Milks Cake” – is a popular dessert from Mexico and Latin America. This rich cake oozes with the goodness of three milks: Sweetened condensed milk, Evaporated milk and cream. Ever since I had this cake at the Cafe Versailles in Miami, I couldn’t wait to make it at home. If you have a sweet tooth and like milk, you’ll love this cake.

Tres Leches Cake

Feliz Día de los Enamorados!

For the Cake:
1 cup Flour
4 eggs
1 tea spoon Baking powder
1 tea spoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Sugar
¼ cup milk

For the Tres Leches (Three milks) Mix:
1 ½ cup evaporated milk ( I boiled 2 cups milk for about 20 minutes; You can use store-bought evaporated milk)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk (I used nestle brand available in a can)
½ cup cream

For the Icing:
1 cup whipping cream
3 table spoon sugar

Method:
1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Grease and flour 9 x 13 inch cake pan.
3. In a wide bowl, sift flour, salt and baking powder together.
4. Separate egg whites and yolks.
5. In a blender, mix yolks and ½ cup sugar for about 2 minutes. Add ¼ cup milk and the vanilla extract and stir into the flour mixture gently.
6. Similarly, whip Egg whites and ½ cup of sugar for about 3 minutes and stir into the flour mixture gently.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes. 8. Keep an eye on the cake after 25 minutes. You will see the cake browning lightly soon after you put it into the oven. Don’t get alarmed.
Take the cake out from the oven and let it cool.
9. As the cake cools, mix the three milks.
10. Prick the cake all over with a fork (7-8 times)
11. Pour the three milks all over the cake, including the slides.
For the icing:
12. Whip the cream with sugar for 2-3 minutes until stiff. Spread it on the top and sides of the cake.

13. At this time, if the presentation is important, transfer the cake to a decorative tray/plate, along with the extra milk floating on the sides. Make sure you pour the milk gently on the sides of the cake.
You can decorate the top of the cake with strawberries or raspberries.

14. Keep the cake in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.
15. To serve, cut a slice of the cake, arrange it on the serving dish and drizzle 2-3 table spoon of the milk sauce on the sides.

Tiramisu Parfait

 

Tiramisu

Pick me up! That’s what Tiramisu means in Italian. The “Pick me up” coming from eggs, sugar and the caffeine. I think it’s called pick me up because it’s so fabulous you can’t say no to it. The uniqueness of this decadent Italian dessert  lies in the creative combination of  coffee, chocolate and the rich mascarpone cheese and cream. I have loved this dessert since the very first time I ate it. It’s rich but not too sweet, just the way I like a dessert.

The standard recipe involves sponge cake or ladyfingers dipped in coffee liqueur and then layered with a rich pudding made out of cream, marsala wine, eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese.  Ladyfinger biscuits, mascarpone cheese, and marsala wine can be replaced with pound cake squares or rounds, cream cheese and sweet wine or port.

This recipe does not include any liqueur or eggs. I have eaten many different varieties of this dessert and not including eggs or liqueur made no difference to the taste of Tiramisu. I used ladyfingers (available at Raley’s supermarket, $2 for a dozen) but I think pound cake is better as it allows you to present tiramisu in different styles. You can buy pound cake slices and cut them in squares or rounds. In any case, the idea is to create a double layer of cake and the pudding.

Here it is, the lacto-vegetarian Tiramisu!
Makes 4 individual servings.

For the pudding:
1.5 cups whipping cream
1/8 cup sugar
5 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 tea spoon vanilla extract

For the Coffee Syrup:
2 tea spoon instant coffee powder
1 table spoon coffee extract (left over coffee decoction works)
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 table spoon cocoa powder (I used ghirardelli’s unsweetened cocoa)

6 ladyfingers (Each can be separated into two, like English Muffin, so you have a total of 12)
1 tea spoon cocoa powder to sprinkle
Chocolate shavings (Optional)
10-12 berries to sprinkle on top (raspberries and/or blueberries)

To make the Pudding:
1. Beat cream and sugar until fluffy (approx. 2 minutes)
2. Remove approx. 3/4 cup and refrigerate. This is to be used later as a garnish.
3. Add mascarpone cheese to the remaining cream and blend for about 30 seconds. Add Vanilla extract. You can also add any sweet wine at this time.
4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the coffee syrup:
In a medium size pan, combine all ingredients except vanilla.
Boil on medium heat for about 8 minutes.
Let cool completely.
Add vanilla extract and mix.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve:
1. Arrage 3 lady fingers on the sides of your individual serving bowl/parfait glass. (As shown in the picture)
2. Fill the glass with the pudding until it covers half way up the glass (about 3 table spoons.)
3. Pour approx 3 table spoon of coffee syrup on the pudding and the lady fingers.
4. Top with a dollop of the cream that you saved for garnish.
5. Sprinkle cocoa powder, chocolate shavings and berries (if you like) on top.

Note: To sprinkle cocoa powder, I put the powder in a small tea strainer (the kind used in India) and hit the side of it against my palm gently. This sprinkles the powder evenly and beautifully around the dessert.

To eat:
break a ladyfinger piece from the bottom of the glass, scoop some custard on your way up and enjoy.

Another way to assemble tiramisu:
1. Soak pound cake squares or or lady fingers in the coffee syrup and layer it on a flat serving dish.
2. Spread pudding evenly all over the lady fingers.
3. Create one more layer of lady fingers and pudding on top of the first layer.
4. Spread the garnish cream and decorate with cocoa powder, chocolate shavings and berries.

Cashew Almond Halwa

********होली है!********

It’s Holi and people all over the food blogosphere are celebrating this colorful festival. This seemed like the perfect occasion to make my cashew-almond Halwa I had been thinking of for some time. This is really a wonderful dessert and believe it or not, doesn’t take too long to make. Removing skin from the almonds is a bit boring task and you do have to pay  undivided attention to the Halwa while making it but the end result is worth it.

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1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup almonds
3/4 cup milk
4 table spoon ghee
3/4 cup sugar
A pinch of saffron

1. Soak almonds and cashews separately for 6 to 8 hours. Remove the skin from almonds.
2. Grind almonds and cashews with sugar and milk until almost smooth.
3. In a non-stick pan, add 1 table spoon ghee and add the blended mixture.
4. Cook on medium low heat for about 10 minutes by constantly stirring the pan with a  rubber spatula or a whisk.
5. Add another table spoon of ghee. If you want halwa more sweet, add some more sugar. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
6. Add a table spoon of ghee and saffron strands. Stir well and cook for 3 more minutes.

It’s very important to keep the heat to medium-low and to continuously stir the halwa while cooking.

Goodies from Home

Last week I eagerly awaited my nephew Supreet’s arrival from India. Getting ready to go to the airport, greeting him at the airport and seeing his bright face and a brighter smile, hearing about interesting stories or incidents that happened in my family back home, it was all very exciting. Of course, most fun was in opening the suitcases and getting the goodies out. And there they were, boxes of Nandini milk pedas, dharward pedas, Mysore Pak, Laddus, packets of spicy mixtures, kodubale and of course Yellu and Sakkare Acchu. Leelamma, the grandma, captured the scene well by saying “With so many sihi and khara items, the house feels likes a Maduve mane”.

Yellu is made of sesame seeds, neatly cut jaggery & coconut pieces and peanuts. Many Indian customs are waning away but the tradition of making and giving yellu and sakkare acchu to friends and relatives during Makar Sankranthi is very much alive even now. Sakkare Acchu is made by pouring hot sugar syrup in  molds.  Once the syrup cools down, it solidifies into the shape of the mold. Creating a perfect sugar figurine is really an art. One has to know exactly when to pour the syrup into the mold as even a few seconds before or after can make a huge difference in shape and color. Some of the more popular shapes that I have seen are Tulsi brindavan, temple, swan, Nandi bull,  sugar cane, and lotus flower.

Nandini brand of sweets are quite popular in Karantaka. They are affordable, of high quality and delicious. Doodh pedas are made from milk and sugar and last for a week at room temperature. Dharward pedas are a specialty from this town called Dharward. These brown colored pedas, also made from milk and sugar, have a distinct smell and are often sprinkled with sugar. For Mithai lovers these Nandini sweets are a great treat.

For days now these goodies have been satisfying that craving to eat something sweet or spicy.

Thanks Amma, Valli and Supreet!

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Posted in Sweets. 5 Comments »

Badusha

Sal Mubarak!
Diwali is here and it’s difficult to resist the temptation of eating (and making, in my case) all those snacks and sweets. I generally don’t prepare a Diwali menu well ahead of time. Just a day before the Diwali, I go through my recipe collection and a few cookbooks and pick a few things to make. This year, I had decided on Boondi Laddus and that’s when my sister Rajashri called. She raved about this Badusha recipe she had learned as a teenager from a cooking class in Bhavnagar! Ah the memories… I need to write another blog to talk about the culinary prowess of my sister but for now, suffice it to say that she is a wizard in the kitchen. I wrote down the recipe right then and there and made Badusha today. They looked great and tasted great. Boondi Laddus will have to wait for their moment, which I think will come soon..

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1.5 cups maida/plain flour and a pinch of cooking soda
OR
1 cup plain flour and ½ cup self-raising flour
½ cup yoghurt (preferably sweet, not sour)
1/3rd cup ghee
3-4 cups vegetable oil for frying
½ tea spoon powdered cardamoms/elaichi
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

1. Mix flour, powdered cardamom and soda. Add ghee to the flour and mix well.
2. Add yoghurt and mix everything together to make a stiff dough. You shouldn’t need any water. If you do, just add enough to make the dough. Also, once the dough is made, don’t knead it too much.
3. Cover the dough and put aside for about ½ hour.
4. When ready to make badusha, heat oil in a frying pan/kadhai.
5. Make 3-inch thick puris and make a slight depression in the center of the puris using your thumb. (see the picture.) This is to stop the badusha from turning into a ball when frying.
6. When the oil is medium-hot, fry badusha on low heat until golden brown. This will take approx. 10-12 minutes per batch.
7. Before you fry the last batch of badusha, heat sugar and water in a pot until you have almost a 2-string consistency syrup. (about 10 minutes) To test, you can pour a couple of drops of the syrup in a spoon and feel the syrup with your thumb and forefinger. If it almost forms two strings, the syrup is ready. Take the syrup off the stove.
8. Fry the last batch of badusha.
9. Immerse each badusha in the syrup for about a minute, take it out and arrange it on a platter. If there is any syrup left over, you can fill a spoon with the syrup and spread it on the badusha. Badusha will have a shiny glaze after an hour or so.
Note: It’s important to make sure that both the syrup and badusha are fairly warm in step 9. If you wait too long, the syrup will thicken and form crystals. And if badusha are not warm, they won’t absorb sugar properly.

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Gulab Jamun

A classic Indian dessert, Gulab jamuns are these scrumptious dumplings that look and taste wonderful. In a party or in a holiday meal, a bowlful of Gulab jamuns on the table adds an extra touch love and warmth to the menu. The name itself works magic on your taste buds. Gulab means rose (traditionally, the syrup used to have rose essence) and jamun stands for round ball and is also the name for a dark purple berry, grown in India. Gulab Jamuns have a soft, moist texture and together with saffron and cardamom flavored syrup, make a very delicious dessert. The jamun color varies from golden yellow to dark brown. I always make them dark brown to contrast the outside with the inside. In Bihar and Bengal, Kala jamuns are quite popular. They are made with Khoya and paneer and have a very dark brown, almost black color and are large in size. I have also heard people raving about Gulab jamuns with plain whipped cream or Vanilla Ice cream. I should try that some time….

This recipe is thanks to my very accomplished sister Sharada who lives in Sydney. Every time I make Gulab Jamuns, I think of her and wonder if this same recipe would taste slightly different in another continent. Quite possible, I would think.

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The recipe has two parts to it. First, you prepare the sugar syrup in which the jamuns/dumplings are to be immersed. The second part consists of making the Jamun dough and frying the jamuns. This recipe makes about 20 jamuns. Some points to remember are:

1. Make sure the syrup is very warm when you immerse the jamuns in it.

2. Fry Jamuns on low heat and move them around delicately so that it has a uniform brown color.

3. Fry Jamuns until they are a nice brown all over.

4. Let the Jamuns sit in the syrup at least for 3 hours before serving.

5. The jamuns will almost double in size after keeping them in sugar syrup.

6. The trick to making perfect jamuns is in getting the dough to the right consistency and frying the jamuns on low heat. Don’t make the dough too soft. When you make balls from the dough, they should retain their shape. The quantity of cream I have given here works well. If you think you need more cream to bind the dough, add a few tea spoons of cream until a nice yet firm dough is achieved. And fry them on low heat for at least 6 minutes. Don’t be in a hurry to take them out.

Half cup self-rising flour or plain flour/maida

Note: If using maida/plain flour, add 1/4 tea spoon baking powder and a pinch of salt.

1 cup non-fat milk powder (any brand)

100 ML cream/whipping cream

1 tea spoon coarsely powdered cardamoms/elaichi

1/4 tea spoon saffron/kesar OR half tea spoon rose water

3 cups vegetable oil for frying

3 cups sugar and 2 cups water for the syrup

1. In a large cooking pot, mix sugar and water and bring it to boil. Once the syrup starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring it a few times in between. Take syrup off the stove. Add cardamoms/elaichi and saffron/kesar to the syrup and stir a couple of times. If using rose water, add rose water instead of the saffron.

2. In a bowl, mix milk powder and flour with a spoon. Pour cream all over the mix. Let it stand for 3 minutes. Now knead a soft dough with hand for about a minute. If you think you need more cream to bind the dough, add a few tea spoons of cream until a nice yet firm dough is achieved.

3. Heat oil in a frying pan on medium high setting.

4. Make small balls (jamuns), about 1 inch diameter, from the dough and make sure they are perfectly round and smooth all over with no cracks on the surface.

5. Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to medium low. Pull out a very tiny bit of dough from one of the jamuns and put it in oil. It should sizzle softly and float up in 2-3 seconds. If it does, the oil is ready for frying.

6. Fry the jamuns in batches depending on the size of your pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan with jamuns. Turn the jamuns around often to ensure uniform cooking. Once they turn dark brown all over, collect them on a large spoon with holes, let the oil drain and then immerse them softly in the syrup. I generally rest the spoon under a paper towel for a couple of seconds to make sure all oil is absorbed and then immerse them in the syrup.

7. Let the Jamuns sit in the syrup for at least 3 hours before serving.