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Cover: Some like it hot

Desserts

01Oct 12

Kaju Burfi

Kaju BarfiKaju Burfi is a traditional Indian sweet made with cashew nuts. Perhaps because it is a bit expensive to produce, it is considered an exquisite gift. I love to give my friends and family home-made Kaju Burfi on Indian festivals. I have also been known to give it to my non-Indian friends for their birthdays.

One of the reasons Kaju Burfi is so dear is that it contains saffron. Each saffron flower has only three delicate red stigmas which have to be collected by hand, making this one of the most expensive spices in the world. But despite the high price, saffron is definitely worth springing for. It has a unique flavour that really has no substitute. As you know, I am always happy to suggest substitutions for the more exotic ingredients in some of my recipes. However, I just cannot think of any other spice that matches the flavour.

Saffron is what gives so many Indian sweets and desserts their exotic hint. The funny thing about this spice is that despite the fact that its delicate strands are red, it actually colours food yellow.

If you like this idea, have a whirl at my coconut burfi as well.

 

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Kaju Burfi
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
 
Kaju Burfi is a traditional Indian sweet made with cashew nuts.
Ingredients
  • 300g ground Cashew nuts
  • 200g Sugar
  • 600ml Milk
  • 200g Ghee
  • 1tsp Cardamom power
  • Pinch of Nutmeg
  • 3 strands of Saffron
  • 50g grated Coconut
  • 10g chopped Pistachios
Instructions
  1. Soak the cashew nuts in water for 15 minutes.
  2. Blend the cashew nuts finely in a blender on high together with the sugar and the milk.
  3. Heat up the ghee in a large pan.
  4. Add the cardamom power, nutmeg, saffron and grated coconut. Let cook on a low flame for 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Add in the cashew mix from the blender.
  6. Lower the flame and stir. It should become quite thick.
  7. Keep stirring until it thickens to the point that it is all in the centre of the pan.
  8. Remove from heat and put in a greased dish.
  9. Spread it out flat with a spatula.
  10. Let it set for 20 minutes.
  11. Cut into squares or rectangles, garnish with chopped pistachios and serve.

 

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20Aug 12

Pineapple Shrikhand

Pineapple Shrikhand
Pineapple Shrikhand
is a refreshing Indian dessert that is perfect for hot summer days. Served cold, it is light and low-calorie. Like most Londoners, I will be closely following the Olympics this summer. And I will be snacking on this classic West Indian dessert while I do so!

Shrikhand is a bit like a yoghurt-based mousse. The yoghurt is traditionally sweetened with sugar and then spiced with saffron and cardamom. Many people also add nuts and fruits. I have experimented with all kinds of garnishes over the years, but my favourite is this Pineapple Shrikhand. However, feel free to replace the pineapple with any other fruit that takes your fancy, such as mango.

The trick to getting a nice, thick consistency for your Shrikhand is to drain the yoghurt first. Remember, it shouldn’t be a drink like a Lassi. It is more like a mousse.

Saffron is the spice that lends this dessert its exotic taste. I find its striking flavour and aroma to be absolutely enchanting. It is a very expensive spice, but if you spring for it once in a while, you will be glad you did.

If you like yoghurt -based desserts, try my low-fat mango and mint lassi recipe or this white chocolate mousse.

Pineapple Shrikhand
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Shrikhand is a bit like a yoghurt-based mousse dessert. The yoghurt is traditionally sweetened with sugar and then spiced with saffron and cardamom.
Ingredients
  • 600g Yoghurt
  • 250g Sugar
  • 8-10 strands of Saffron
  • 50g Milk
  • 100g chopped Pineapple
  • ½tsp Cardamom powder
  • ½tsp crushed Pistachios
  • ½tsp crushed Almonds
Instructions
  1. Put the yoghurt in a strainer or a muslin cloth, over a bowl. Let drain in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Afterwards, place the thick yoghurt in another bowl, add sugar and mix.
  3. Soak the strands of saffron in hot milk for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir the saffron into the yoghurt.
  5. Chop the pineapple into small chunks and stir them into the yoghurt.
  6. Stir in the cardamom powder.
  7. Crush the pistachios and almonds and stir them into the yoghurt.
  8. Let chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.

 

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27Jul 12

Ras Malai

RasmalaiI am an absolutely incurable sweet tooth. I think I may have gotten that from my aunt, who is a total whiz at whipping up sugary treats.

One of my favourite desserts that she taught me how to make is Ras Malai. Ras Malai is a traditional Indian sweet made of tasty little pieces of cheese in a sugary syrup. I like to flavour it with cardamom or pistachios. As I have said before, Indian desserts often play with the wonderful combination of dairy foods and cardamom. To me, there is really just nothing like milk or cheese and cardamom together. It brings me back to my childhood in my aunt’s kitchen.

This rich dessert is always served cold, which makes it especially refreshing on a hot summer afternoon, which is when my aunt always used to serve it.

I strongly recommend you make this recipe with paneer cheese. This traditional Indian cheese will give your Ras Malai the authentic taste you are going for. You can probably find paneer cheese at an Indian speciality foods shop. If they do not stock it, you can always ask them to. However, some people prepare this dish with cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. If you are unable to get paneer cheese, you can substitute with these two alternatives.

If you are looking to try out more Indian desserts, and you enjoyed this combination of dairy and cardamom, why not whip up this delicious Malai Kulfi dessert?

Ras Malai
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
Ras Malai is a traditional Indian sweet made of tasty little pieces of cheese in a sugary syrup.
Ingredients
  • 1kg Paneer Cheese
  • 200g Sugar
  • 2L Half and Half
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Pinch of Saffron
  • 4 Cardamom Seeds
  • 1tsp.Vanilla Syrup
Instructions
  1. Mix the sugar and Paneer Cheese in a bowl.
  2. Put them in a flat baking pan and cover the pan with aluminium foil.
  3. Bake them in the oven for 1 hour at 200 degrees Celsius. The cheese should be a light golden brown colour.
  4. Simmer the half and half on a low heat in a pot. Simmer until it reduces to half the amount.
  5. When the half and half has reduced, slowly stir in the bay leaves, saffron, cardamom seeds, and vanilla syrup. Let simmer for a few more minutes.
  6. Remove the baked cheese and lay it on a flat plate. Cut it into 2cm by 2 cm pieces.
  7. Slowly stir these cheese squares into the pot with the half and half.
  8. Remove and let cool.

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17Jul 12

Salty Ginger Lassi Drink

Salty Ginger LassiI absolutely love whipping up lassi drinks. Lassis are thick, creamy drinks made from yoghurt blended with various spices and fruits. They make a great alternative to fattening milkshakes for those of you who are watching your weight, since yoghurt is much lower in fat content than ice cream. Like milkshakes, they are served ice cold, so they make a refreshing snack on a hot summer afternoon.

Now, I know most of you think of milkshakes as sweet drinks. Similarly, those of you familiar with Indian food might possibly think of lassis as only sweet beverages. Many people order mango lassis with cardamom and pistachios in Indian restaurants at the end of a spicy meal. However, there are other variants of the lassi recipes as well—something my friends were delighted to learn last weekend when I served them this Salty Ginger Lassi Drink. (If you like the taste of ginger, I recommend this sugar-free gingerbread.)

Another great thing about lassis is that they are so easy to make. You can whip one up in just a few minutes, and it really takes no effort at all.

This recipe is for a fairly thick beverage, but you can adjust it to the consistency you want. If you want a smoother testure, just add a bit more water or milk. You want to blend the ingredients for long enough that the lassi has a smooth consistency, but not so long that the blender starts to warm the drink up a little. Remember, you will want to serve this very cold!

Salty Ginger Lassi Drink
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This is a Salty Ginger Lassi Drink
Ingredients
  • 400ml Milk
  • 500ml Yoghurt
  • ½tsp Salt (or Salt to taste)
  • 1tsp Ginger Powder
  • Ice Cubes
Instructions
  1. Pour in the milk. You can use skim milk for a less fattening version.
  2. Add in the yoghurt. Again, I recommend low-fat yoghurt if you are watching your weight.
  3. Blend the milk and yoghurt in the blender.
  4. Add in the salt and the ginger powder and give it another quick blend.
  5. Test the consistency. If you find it too thick, add in a bit more milk (or even water) until you are satisfied.
  6. Serve ice cold in glasses with ice cubes, although you could also blend the ice with the other ingredients.

 

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13Jul 12

Coconut Burfi

Coconut BurfiIt is no secret around my house that I have a sweet tooth. I just love a sugary treat—for breakfast, for an afternoon snack, or for a mid-morning pick-me-up. To me, coconut is absolutely one of the tastiest ingredients in any dessert. (Try it in Grandma’s chocolate tiffin.)

I think I inherited this love of sweet coconut desserts from my mother. In fact, this is one of her favourites to prepare. For this recipe you can use fresh coconut, but it is sometimes hard to grate. I find that buying the coconut already grated from the market is much easier.

Sweet, flavourful and chewy, coconut burfi is one of my favourite sweets. The recipe is simple, the method is very easy, and the taste is absolutely heavenly. Can you tell I love it?

Burfi has a shelf life of about 10-15 days, so you can make it in advance and keep it ready to serve when needed. During the hot summer, you should probably only keep it for about a week because the heat will make it go bad sooner.

Just a quick warning—Coconut Burfi is very chewy, so people with retainers or braces on their teeth should not indulge.

 

Coconut Burfi
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
A fantastic coconut dessert
Ingredients
  • 500g Coconut, finely grated
  • 500g Sugar
  • 300ml Water
  • 2tbsp Milk
  • 20 Pistachios, whole or in slices
  • 4tbsp Ghee
  • Pinch of Cardamom Powder
Instructions
  1. Roast the 20 pistachios lightly in a pan with no oil. Remove them and set them aside.
  2. Heat up 1tbsp of ghee in a pan. Fry the finely grated coconut in this pan. Do not fry it for too long. You do not want it to turn brown.
  3. In a separate pot, boil the water.
  4. When it is boiling, slowly stir in the sugar. Keep stirring. The water with the sugar must come to the boil again.
  5. Now add in the milk and bring to the boil while stirring.
  6. Once it boils, lower to a medium flame and stir until it reaches a syrupy consistency.
  7. When it is syrupy, slowly pour it into the pan with the fried coconut.
  8. Keep stirring on a medium flame until it forms a thick paste.
  9. Grease a rectangular casserole dish with the rest of the ghee.
  10. Now remove it from the flame and spread it in this rectangular dish. Flatten the coconut mixture.
  11. With a knife, cut it into 20 small squares.
  12. Sprinkle a pinch of cardamom powder over the burfis.
  13. Put one pistachio on each square.
  14. Let cool. It is ready to serve!

 

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11Jul 12

Sarkarai Pongal

Sarkarai Pongal
Sarkarai Pongal
is a traditional sweet dish from South India. It is made during the Pongal festival, and symbolically offered to the sun god before being eaten. But you don’t have to go all the way to South India during the Pongal festival to enjoy this tasty treat. I’m going to teach you how to prepare it from the comfort of your own home.

This recipe calls for mung daal, which are mung beans that have been stripped of their hulls. These healthy legumes can be found in speciality vegetarian shops or speciality Indian shops.

You will also need to buy jaggery, a healthy natural sugar, to prepare this dessert properly. The refined white sugar you buy at the supermarket has been heavily processed with many chemicals. Jaggery, however, is naturally processed from sap, without any added stuff. This means it retains all its natural properties and minerals. And apart from being much healthier, it has a richer taste. Jaggery is a bit like buttery molasses.

Preparing Sarkarai Pongal with this sweet substitute will add authenticity to the dish, so it is well worth buying. And, as always, the ghee in this dessert can be substituted for regular butter.

To scoop up all the gooey sweetness in my recipe, I recommend this raisin bread.

Sarkarai Pongal
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Sarkarai Pongal is a traditional sweet dish from South India. It is made during the Pongal festival, and symbolically offered to the sun god before being eaten.
Ingredients
  • 2L Milk
  • 225g Rice
  • 50g Mung Daal
  • 250g Jaggery
  • 2tbsp Ghee
  • 15 Almonds
  • 15 Cashews
  • 50g Raisins
  • 1tsp Cardamom powder
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • 10 strands of Saffron, crushed
Instructions
  1. Bring the milk to the boil.
  2. Wash the rice and mung daal and stir them into the milk once it is boiling.
  3. Cook the rice and mung daal for 15 minutes on high heat.
  4. Grate the jaggery with a regular cheese grater. Use the larger holes on your grater.
  5. Slowly stir in the jaggery and the ghee. They should melt fairly quickly.
  6. Lower the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  7. Chop up the almonds and cashews very finely.
  8. Slowly mix in the almonds and cashews.
  9. Add in the raisins, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron.
  10. Bring to the boil again and let cook for another 5 minutes. Stir constantly.
  11. Sarkarai Pongal can be served hot or cold. In the summer, I prefer to eat it cold.

 

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13Jun 12

Puran Poli

Puran PoliPuran Poli makes a mouth-watering meal. It is a type of flatbread similar to Naan but with a sweet flavour. It is tied for my favourite breakfast food along with spicy Indian scrambled eggs, either of which can be served with ghee. As a tasty dessert, puran poli can be served sprinkled with powdered sugar or chocolate syrup.

Ingredients:

  • 400g Chana Dal
  • 400g chopped jaggery
  • 2.5 tsp. cardamon powder
  • 500g Maida (all-purpose flour)
  • 4 tbsps. vegetable oil
  • pinch of salt

Preparation Method:

  1. Wash the Chana Dal thoroughly. Cover them with water and leave them to soak overnight.
  2. Drain the Chana Dal. Put in a pot with 1 litre of water and cook until soft (about 35 minutes).
  3. Strain the water. Lower the flame.
  4. Add the chopped jaggery. Stir slowly until they melt. Make sure all the liquid fully evaporates. The Chana Dal and the jaggery should form a solid paste.
  5. Slowly stir in the cardamon powder.
  6. Set it aside in a bowl and allow it to cool.
  7. Sieve the Maida and salt in a sieve or a sifter.
  8. Put the sieved Maida flour in a bowl. Add some water and vegetable oil.
  9. Knead the dough until it is soft, elastic and smooth. If you find that the dough is not becoming soft enough, just slowly add in a bit more water, but do not overdo it!
  10. Divide the dough into 8 portions. Slowly roll each portion into perfectly round balls.
  11. Prepare a rolling surface by cleaning it and sprinkling it with flour.
  12. Take one of the 8 dough balls and flatten it into a round, thin circle. Do this first gently with your fingers. Then use a rolling pin afterwards.
  13. Take a small spoon of the paste and place it gently in the centre of the flat dough circle.
  14. Pick the sides of the dough up and press them against the paste. Do this until they entirely cover the paste. Try not to break the outer covering of the dough. If a small hole appears as you are closing the seams over the paste, just take a small dollop of dough and press it gently over the hole so that it is covered.
  15. Flatten the ball with your fingers. With a rolling pin, gently roll it into a flat circle.
  16. Heat pan on a medium flame. When it is very hot, place the rolled poli on it and cook.
  17. Flip and fry it on the other side until it is well cooked.

Takes: 10 hours (including soaking time).
Makes: Enough for 8 servings.

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07Jun 12

Coconut Chutney

Coconut ChutneyCoconut Chutney is a lovely type of chutney that is perfect for breakfast. You can spread it on your toast in the morning for a healthy treat. This chutney is quite filling, so it will keep you going all morning. However, keep in mind that coconut is actually quite fattening, so you will not want to spread too much on your morning toast—unless you are planning to go for a jog afterwards!

For another variation, you can try this green coconut chutney used on rice flour pancakes.

Coconut Chutney also goes well with Bhaturas.

Ingredients:

  • 40g cashews, crushed
  • 30g Channa Daal
  • 500g shredded coconut
  • 8 whole red chilli peppers, dried
  • 5 curry leaves
  • ½ tbsp. ginger power
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp. whole cumin seeds
  • Salt – to taste
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil

Preparation Method:

  1. In a frying pan, heat a small amount of vegetable oil on low heat.
  2. Crush the cashews. I typically use a mortar and pestle for this. Or, you can put them into a ziplock plastic bag and hammer them on the counter with the bottom of a pan for a minute
  3. Add the Channa Daal and crushed cashews to the frying pan, stirring slowly for a few minutes.
  4. Remove the Channa Daal and crushed cashews and put them in a blender.
  5. With the same vegetable oil, slowly fry the shredded coconut on low heat for a few minutes. Remove the coconut and add it to the blender.
  6. Put the ginger powder in the blender.
  7. Blend thoroughly.
  8. Add salt to taste and give it a final stir.
  9. Remove this paste and put it in a serving bowl.
  10. In a separate pan, heat more vegetable oil on high heat.
  11. Add the mustard seeds, but be careful! They will pop, so don’t let them splatter on you.
  12. Now add the cumin seeds to the pan and stir quickly.
  13. Add the dried red chilli peppers to the pan and stir with energy. Remember, these chilli peppers are whole. Do not chop them, or the hot, spicy taste will become too intense and will overwhelm the chutney.
  14. Add in the curry leaves and stir for 30 second more.
  15. Remove this and pour it directly on the chutney paste in the serving bowl.
  16. The coconut chutney is now ready to be served. Enjoy!

Makes: Enough for 8 servings.
Takes: 45 minutes (plus 8 hours soaking time)

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01Jun 12

Tasty Rava Ladoo

Rava LadooI absolutely love this Rava Ladoo recipe. Rava Ladoo is a tasty dessert that is easy to make. Ladoos are small ball-shaped treats made with plenty of sugar and other spices such as cardamom, a typical spice that we Indians love to add to dessert (try these Pistachio and Cardamom Bicuits).  Ladoos are excellent for parties because they are a nice, small snackable size. This is why in India they are served during holidays and festivals. Once made, ladoos can be stored and last up to a week, so you can prepare this dessert well ahead of any party you’re planning on throwing. That way you don’t have to leave them until the last minute.

Ingredients:

  • 150ml unsalted butter
  • 80g raisins
  • 400g semolina
  • 400g sugar
  • ½  teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 25g cashews and pistachios, crushed
  • 400ml whole milk

Preparation Method:

  1. Crush the cashews and pistachios and set them aside. The mixture should have the same amount of cashews as pistachios.
  2. In a large frying pan, sauté the raisins in the butter. Stir them slowly so they are all evenly cooked. This should make the raisins nice and plump.
  3. Take the raisins out of the butter. Drain them well so that they are not greasy. Set them aside.
  4. Using the same butter, add the semolina. Stir it constantly for 3-4 minutes so that it is evenly cooked.
  5. Add the sugar and continue stirring slowly.
  6. Add in the cashew and pistachio mixture, cardamom powder and the raisins and keep stirring.
  7. Slowly stir in the whole milk.  Stir until the milk is fully absorbed.
  8. Once the milk has been fully absorbed, take the frying pan off the stove and let everything cool down for 5 minutes.
  9. Now you are ready to make it into little lime-sized balls. Don’t wait until it gets too cold, because then it will not hold the shape. But since it is still very hot, I recommend using an ice cream scooper to form the balls.
  10. Leave them on a slightly greased platter. They should be separate so that they don’t stick together.
  11. Let them cool down for at least an hour before serving.

Makes: 35-40 ladoos

Takes: 30 minutes

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19May 12

Low-fat Mango and Mint Lassi

Low-fat mango and mint lassiThis is a another deliciously refreshing lassi drink. You are probably thinking, “Jay! You have already shared a lassi recipe!” And, of course, you are right. However, this version is my low-fat mango and mint lassi is for those who are already preparing for bikini season.

This recipe is even healthier than the last because I include 2 mangos instead of just a few grams. It is made with low-fat yoghurt so that those of us who are watching our figures can enjoy a nice dessert without having to worry about the number of calories. I also replace the sugar with saccharin or other such sweeteners and the milk for skimmed milk.

I once served my friend a Thai green curry with chicken, and she started sweating. She was about to grab her glass of water, when I stopped her and made her this lassi. It immediately soothed her taste buds. I had to laugh because even though the dish was spicy, she kept digging in, all the while taking swigs of the lassi for a good balance. She learned that day why my family likes to have lassi after a spicy meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large fresh mangos, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 900ml low-fat plain yoghurt
  • 520ml skim milk
  • 4 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 8 teaspoons of saccharin

Preparation Method:

  1. Put the skim milk, low-fat yoghurt and mango into a blender and blend for 1 minute. The mango should already be well chopped so that you don’t have to blend for too long.
  2. Add the saccharin and blend for 1 minute.
  3. Add the mint and blend for 1 minute more.
  4. Add the crushed ice and blend for 30 seconds. You don’t want to blend for too long here because the ice is already crushed, and you don’t want the blender’s motor to end up heating up the ice. After all, this is supposed to be a cold, refreshing drink.
  5. Serve in a tall glass with a straw.

Takes: 15 minutes

Makes: 4 glasses

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