Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kesar pista sandesh- saffron scented cheese fudge

I am back with another sweet treat!! This is my third recipe in a row with Saffron. This is a definite Hat trick. Isn't it?

Sandesh or Sondesh is a soft melt in the mouth fudge made of fresh cheese. This cheese fudge is a gift from Bengal, the Eastern state of India. Unlike the Sweets of the western parts of India, Bengali sweets are made with curdled milk or chenna. For Bengalis, no celebration is complete without Shondesh. I recently read that, this sweet treat is also called as the "Pranhaara" which means the heart stealer. 

The word "Sandesh" has a clear meaning. It means news. As this fudge is an integral part of the Bengali festivities and jubilation, Sandesh became the bearer of good news creating an atmosphere of merriment and celebration in all Bengali households.

I would be lying if I said that I grew up eating Sandesh. As a matter of fact, I tasted Sandesh only a couple of months back. And that too by accident. It was an unusually hot day and I found myself with a large quantity of curdled milk. I usually end up making Paneer when something like this happens. But I was in an adventurous mood on that day and I decided to try Sandesh. And the cheese fudge was ready before I knew it. After that, I decided that I would make this delightful fudge for Dassehra. I did make it as well. But then I couldn't post it because of my unexpected trip to India. It's sad that I couldn't post the recipe for Dassehra or Diwali. However, this fudge doesn't need any special occasion. For Sandesh can turn any occasion a special one.

Kesar pista Sandesh:
Preparation time: 25min+draining time
Cooking time- 10-15min
Makes- 15-20pieces

Milk- 2ltrs
Juice of two lime
Confectioners sugar-1/2 cup
Saffron-10-15 strands soaked in 1/2 a teaspoon of milk
Cardamom- 6-7 pods finely powdered.
Ghee- a teaspoon for greasing.
Shelled pistachios: 8-10, sliced

  • Heat milk in a thick bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Keep stirring the milk so that the milk doesn'the burn. Allow the milk to simmer for a minute before taking off the heat.
  • Let the milk to cool for two to three minutes before adding the lime juice gradually a teaspoon at a time. Once the milk is curdled, you will see the milk solids and the whey separate.
  • Line a colander with two layers of cheese cloth and set it down in the kitchen sink. Pour the curdled milk into the cheese cloth lined colander. Gather the edges of the cloth in your hands and squeeze out the whey. 
  • Gently rinse the milk solids under running water so that the sour taste from the lemon juice is removed. Tie the ends of the cheese cloth to the kitchen faucet and allow the cheese to drain for about 30mins to an hour.
  • Unwrap the drained chenna and transfer it to a clean plate/tray or a work surface. Knead the chenna with the heal of your palms for 10-12min or till smooth. Add the sugar, saffron mixture and the cardamom powder and knead for 3-4mins more.
  • Transfer the chenna mixture to a thick bottomed pan or wok and cook over low heat while mixing continuously. 
  • Continue mixing till you see the chenna leaving the sides of the pan. This will take abut 10-12mins. Ensure that the mixture is not completely dry. The mixture should be a little moist.
  • Take the chenna mixture off the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Divide the mixture into 15-20 portions. Grease your hands with a little ghee and shape each portion into a ball and flatten it slightly with your palms. 
  • Garnish with sliced pistachios and serve immediately or Store in an airtight container and refrigerate and consume within two days of making it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kesar Kaju Katli- Saffron Scented Cashew Fudge

Finally!!! I managed to squeeze some time off from my busy Deepawali Schedule to post this recipe. But before I proceed with my Ramlings, Let me wish you a very Happy Deepawali and a Very Happy New Year to all of you!!!

Now coming to my ramblings, The past three weeks has been extremely busy, exhausting, and lots of fun. It all began when S asked us accompany him on an official trip Bangalore. Since Purvi also had her mid term break, I decided to join him. And before I knew it I was flying to Bangalore. My three week stay in Bangalore was hectic. But it was great fun. This time, I spent a week with my Sister and her family. Watching Purvi and my niece play and connect was pure bliss to say the least.

Since I returned only two days prior to Diwali, I got busy with the preparations almost immediately. This time, I made a large batch of Boondi Laddu, Mysore Pak, Murukkus, Namak Paare and Kaju Katlis. Making all these dishes in a short span of time was a difficult and tiring. But the delightful expression on Purvi's face when she saw all her favorite dishes made my effort seem worthwhile. 

As Kaju Katli is a favorite with all of us, I decided to include this in my Diwali menu. This fudge has only four basic ingredients and can be put together in minutes. All you have to do is keep a few pointers in mind when you are making it. With this, you can have the popular, delicious, gluten free and vegan Kaju KAtli right in your home. So shall we go ahead and see how it's done?? 

Kesar Kaju Katli Recipe:
Preparation time: 10min
Cooking time: 30-40min
Makes- 25-30 pieces

Saffron- a large pinch
Warm Milk- 1-1/2 tbsp
Cashew nuts- 2 cups or 500ml
Sugar- 1 cup
Water- 1/2 cup
Ghee- 1tbsp

  • Soak the saffron in warm milk for two hrs and set aside.
  • Dry roast the cashew nuts till hot. DO NOT let it turn brown. Keep aside to cool completely.
  • Once cooled, transfer the cashews to a dry blender jar and grind them to a fine powder. Try and powder them in one go. Pulsing can make the cashews clump up and turn pasty. If there are a few big pieces that not ground, then sift the powder in a sieve. But avoid over grinding the cashews.
  • Grease a plate with a tea spoon of ghee and set aside.
  • In a thick bottomed pan, mix the sugar and water and cook on low heat till the sugar dissolves. Add the soaked saffron and allow the mixture to simmer for two minutes.
  • Stir in the cashew powder and mix well. Cook the mixture on LOW HEAT while mixing continuously. 
  • Continue mixing for 15minutes after which, the mixture will start to thicken. Keep mixing for another 4-5mins. At this stage you will see that the mixture will reach a thick paste like consistency and start leaving the sides of the pan. To check if the mixture is ready, take a small portion of the cashew mixture and roll it in your with your fingers. If the mixture is cooked, then it will form into a dough a dough almost immediately. Take mixture off the heat at this point.
  • Transfer the cooked mixture to the greased plate and allow it to cool slightly. Grease your hands with a tea spoon of ghee and gently knead the dough for 4-5mins or till the mixture turns into a smooth dough.
  • Place the mixture between two layers of butter paper and roll it out to 3-4mm thickness. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into desired shapes. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for upto a week. 
  • The cooking time will vary depending on the quantity you are making. 
  • Any kind of flavorings can be used to make this fudge. The Saffron can be replaced with cardamom, rose essence or Screw pine water.
  • For a vegan version, the ghee can be replaced with oil.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kesar Shrikhand- Sweetened Greek Yogurt

I must have been  four or five when I first visited the city of Mumbai.Mumbai or Bombay as it was called then, was something more than I had seen or dreamt of. Before visiting Mumbai, I had never seen a beach Or the Planetarium. I had never seen a city so crowded. And I had never eaten Shrikhand before that.

I remember like yesterday when my mother and I had spent a couple I'd days in my grand aunt's house. She was my mother's paternal aunt. She was a talented and an enterprising woman who loved to create. She was a fabulous cook and had a penchant for arts and crafts. It was in her house that I first tasted Shrikhand and instantly fallen in love with it. The Shrikhand she had served was yellow, thick, creamy, and had a custard like consistency.  The combination of tart and sweet flavors bowled me over completely. 

From that moment on, I Shrikhand became a favourite dessert of mine. I used to buy Amul shrikhand from time to time lick away the creamy goodness. It was only a few back that u actually thought of making it myself.

The process of making Shrikhand can be a little time consuming but very simple. All you need is a large quantity of thick yogurt, sugar and a piece of clean muslin cloth or a fine sieve and a few hors of refrigeration and shrikhand will be ready. It might seem like a long and tedious ordeal but this creamy dessert is worth all time and effort.

Since Navratilova is on, this dessert will be perfect for the festivities. You can serve this as a desert or as a side dish along with puri. Wishing you all a very happy Navratilova!!!

Shrikhand recipe:
Preparation time: 3-6hrs
Cooking time- nil
Serves- 4 to 6 people

Full fat yogurt- 12 cups or 3quarts
Confectioners sugar- 1 cup or 240ml
Saffron- 15-20 threads, Soaked in 1/2 a tbsp of milk
Cardamom- 10, crushed to a fine powder
Pistachios- 15-20, finely chopped
Slivered almonds- 2tbsp.


  • Take a cloth that has been chosen for the purpose of straining. You can use a white teeshirt, a tea towel or a cheese cloth. Stretch the cloth over the top of the bowl and secure the edges with rubber bands or a thread around the outside of the bowl. Pour the yogurt onto the strainer and place the bowl along with the suspended yogurt in the fridge. Allow the yogurt to drain for 3 to 6hrs or overnight. Alternatively a fine sleeve can be used for this purpose.
  • Transfer the drained yogurt to a bowl. Add the sugar, soaked saffron, cardamom powder and mix gently with a balloon whisk.
  • Stir in the chopped pistachios and slivered almonds and chill for an hour or so before serving.
  • Ready to use Greek yogurt can be used to make shrikhand. But it will lack the characterstic tart flavor that home made yogurt has. 
  • You can add some fruit puree or berries to give this dessert an exotic flavor.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Cream of Asparagus Soup

I tasted asparagus only a fortnight ago. I had neither seen nor heard about them when I was in India. I came to know about their existence only after moving to Africa. To me they seemed like long stems with little feathery leaves. It was only later that I came to know that the "stems" were called as Asparagus and it was actually a vegetable. It did seem very healthy and full of nutrients. Despite this, I couldn't bring myself to cook these spears. Simply because, I really didn't know how to include asparagus in my style of cooking. 

About two weeks ago, I came down with a nasty flu. For three days, I was going around with a throat that felt like it was rubbed with Sand paper and a temperature that refused go down. It was during this period that I craved for a bowl of soup. Since I was not in a condition to make that bowl of soup, S took me to one of my favorite restaurants and ordered this Asparagus soup for me. At first, I was extremely skeptical. It did look rich and creamy. But would it taste as good? I reluctantly took a sip and I was completely bowled. I had never expected the soup to taste so delicious. 

I am not sure if it was the flu, the ambiance of the restaurant, the garlicky flavor. Or simply the combination of all these. The soup was so good that I could have easily licked the bowl clean. After that, I simply had to make this soup. It wasn't very long before I got a large bunch of Asparagus. 

My version of Asparagus tastes a little different than the one that was served in the restaurant. But it is just as delicious. This soup is incredibly flexible and I am sure it would taste just as great with countless variations. 

I know it's not great to fall sick. But a steaming bowl of soup can make things a lot brighter!!!

Cream of Asparagus Soup Recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time- 20 min
Servs- 4

Butter or oil- 2tbsp
Garlic- 3 cloves, peeled and chopped
Asparagus- 20-25spears
Spring onions- 5, finely chopped
Salt- To taste
Black Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp or to taste
Vegetable stock- 250ml
Milk- 200ml
Cream- 3tbsp
Red chili flakes- 1/2 tsp (optional)

  • Wash the asparagus and break off the woody ends. If the skin is tough and thick, then peel it. Cut the asparagus into 1/2" cubes and set aside.
  • Heat the butter or oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add the chopped garlic and fry till the raw smell subsides.
  • Add the chopped spring Onions, Asparagus, Salt and pepper and fry for 3-4min.
  • Add the Vegetable stock and cook covered for 10-15mins or till the vegetables are completely cooked.
  • Remove the mixture from heat and set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, blend the mixture in a blender till smooth.
  • Transfer the ground mixture back to the pan. Add the milk, mix well and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. 
  • Stir in the cream and allow the soup to simmer for five more mins.
  • Adjust the salt and pepper if required. Sprinkle the red chili flakes if desired and serve the soup hot with some croutons on the side.
  • Leeks and/or potato can be included in the soup.
  • The Spring onion can be replaced with one medium sized onion.
  • The milk and the cream can be replaced with 200 ml of half and half.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kobbari Mithai aka Coconut Fudge

Among all the traditional sweets, the Kobbari Mithai or the Narial ki barfi or Coconut fudge has to be the easiest one to make. With a handful of easily available ingredients, this fudge comes together in no time.

I still remember like yesterday when my grandmother would make these Burfis. She would have a large batch of Kobbari Mithai ready when we arrived at her place for vacation. Apart from that, she also made another large batch and pack them for our return journey. I wish I had the recipe for her version. Anyways!!!

I had posted the recipe for coconut fudge many moons ago. You can find the recipe here. That version was made with condensed milk and cream. Although that version tastes rich and delicious, I wanted to make Kobbari mithai in a simple and uncomplicated way. And this recipe fits the bill perfectly. It is simple, uncomplicated and can be made in minutes. Since Dussehra is round the corner, I suggest you give this fudge a try. This white fudge, with soft melt in your mouth texture, is sure to leave you craving for more.

Coconut Fudge recipe:
Preparation time: 30min
Cooking time: 20-25min
Makes- 25-30 pieces 

Ghee- 2tbsp+1 tbsp to grease
Grated Coconut -5 cups
Sugar- 2-1/2 cups+2tbsp
Milk powder- 2tbsp
Cardamom- 8 pods, crushed to a fine powder
Ghee- to grease.


  • Grease a plate or tray with a table spoon of ghee and set aside.
  • Heat a thick bottomed pan and add the ghee, grated coconut and sugar and mix well.
  • Keep mixing the mixture on medium heat to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Continue mixing for 15-20min. At this stage the mixture will leave the sides of the pan and comes together in a lump. 
  • Stir in milk powder and cardamom powder and mix for  a minute more. Turn off the heat and transfer the mixture to the greased tray.
  • Level the mixture and run a knife to cut the mixture into squares. Allow the mixture to cool and set in the tray for at least an hour.
  • Once cooled, transfer the precut burfis and serve immediately or store in an air tight containers. This fudge stays fresh for upto two weeks.
  • When grating the coconut, make sure you don't include the brown portion of the coconut. Or you will end up with burfis that are brown in color.
  • Do not reduce the quantity of the sugar. The burghs will not set if the sugar is reduced.
  • The burghs can be garnished with chopped almonds, pistachios and saffron.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Baingan Ka Bharta

I was never a fussy eater. I just love all the vegetables and eggplant or the aubergine was, and still is, one of my favorite vegetables. I loved aubergine in all forms but when it came to baingan ka bharta was something I couldn't bring myself to like. I couldn't understand how someone could love a fish mash that had burnt flavor in it. But dislike for this earthy curry changed to pure love a few years back.

It was during a get together at a friend's place that I actually tasted baingan ka bharta for the first time. My friend had made this curry as an accompaniment for rotis and I saw the others eating this "mishmash" of a curry with great gusto. "Can it really be that good?" I wondered. I decided to take the plunge and taste the curry. After all, half a tea spoon wouldn't do a lot of harm. I braced my self and tasted a small tea spoon of the bharta and the rest as they say is history. It was love at first bite.

Baingan Ka Bharta is typically a North Indian Dish. Baingan which literally means aubergine and Bharta means mash. It is a simple recipe with ingredients that are readily found in the pantry. But what really draws me to this dish is the bold and rustic taste that it imparts. There is something about that earthy aroma that makes your mouth water whilst preparing the dish.

This Punjabi dish makes a great accompaniment to both rice and rotis. Yes, the roasting of the egg plants is a little time consuming and messy but then this scrumptious dish is worth every bit of all the time and mess it can create.

Baingan Ka Bharta Recipe:
Preparation time: 20-30min
Cooking time- 10min
Serves- 4

Aubergines- 2med sized (approximately 700-800gms)
Oil- 1/2 tsp for greasing
Ghee- 1tbspn
Cumin seeds- 1/2tsp
Onion- 1med sized, finely chopped
Ginger-Garlic paste- 1tspn
Green chili- 1, finely chopped
Fresh or frozen peas- 1/4 cup (optional)
Tomatoes- 2 med, finely chopped
Salt- to taste
Sugar- 1/2tspn
Turmeric- 1/2tsp
Coriander powder- 1tspn
Cumin powder- 1/2tsp
Red chili powder- 1/2 tsp
Garam masala- 1/2tspn
Coriander leaves to garnish


  • Smear some oil on the aubergines and roast it on an open flame till they turn completely black and are cooked through.
  • Once roasted, take off the heat and set aside to cool. Peel the skin once they are cool. Cut the stem and mash the cooked aubergine thoroughly and keep aside.
  • Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pan and add the cumin seeds. Once they crackle, add the chopped onion, green chili and fry for a min.
  • Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell is subsided.
  • Stir in the peas and the chopped tomatoes and fry for a few seconds. Add the turmeric, salt, red chili powder, sugar, coriander-cumin powder and fry for a minute more and cook cover for 2-3minutes or till the oil separates.
  • Add the mashed aubergines and Garam masala and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or rotis.

  • The peas are an optional ingredient. You can omit them if don't want them in your bharta.
  • You can roast the aubergines in the oven. But the egg plant will not have the distinct smoky flavor in it.
  • For this recipe choose eggplants that are large with a smooth surface. For they are likely to have fewer seeds in them.
  • For a vegan version, the ghee can be replaced with mustard oil or any other oil.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nuchinunde- Steamed Lentil Dumplings

For those of you how don't know what nuchinunde is, it is nothing but steamed lentil dumplings. These dumplings are loaded with protein and rich in fiber. This dish is perfect if you are watching your waistline. When I say that this dish is healthy and steamed, it doesn't mean that nuchinunde lacks in flavor. The liberal use of green chilies and herbs and coconut is sure to leave your taste buds tingling. 

Since it is customary to make steam baked dishes on the occasion of Naga Panchami, you are sure to find nuchinunde on the festival menu. These dumplings can be made either using only pigeon peas or with two to three kinds of lentil combinations. It can also be flavored with herbs like dill, coriander, mint, and vegetables like carrot, french beans and Cabbage. This is one versatile dish that can be experimented with various flavors. 

Ironically, this wholesome snack is not something that you will find in restaurants. I feel that it's appearance at home cooked meals is also becoming rare. To me, nuchinunde is one of those dishes that almost always transports me back to my mother's and my grandmother's kitchen. The scene of piping hot nuchinunde served in a small plate with a big dollop of ghee is still vivid in my mind. 

Nuchinunde can be served with coconut chutney or with ghee. But I like it best when it is served with hasi majjige. Hasi majjige is nothing but a yogurt based gravy, in which all the ingredients are raw. This gravy is delicious and it takes about five minutes to whip it up. Try having nuchinunde with this spicy tangy sauce. I am sure you will not be able to stop at one.

Nuchinunde recipe:
Preparation time: 20min+soaking time
Cooking time- 15-20min
Makes- 12-14 pieces

Toor dal or Pigeon peas- 1 cup or 120ml
Moog dal or yellow lentils- 1/2 cup
Ginger- 1" piece, grated
Turmeric- a pinch
Green chilies- 3-4, finely chopped
Freshly grated coconut- 1 cup
Curry leaves- 1 sprig, finely chopped
Coriander leaves- 3tbsp, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Oil or Ghee to grease the pan

  • Wash the toor dal and the moong dal and soak in enough water for atleast 5hrs or overnight.
  • Drain the soaked lentils and transfer to a blender jar. Add the grated ginger, green chilies and turmeric to the drained lentils and pulse in a blender for five to six times. The lentils should not be ground to a fine paste. It is ok if some portion of the lentil is left whole.
  • Transfer the ground lentils to a large bowl and add the grated coconut, curry leaves, coriander leaves and salt and mix well.
  • Divide the lentil mixture into 12-14 portions and shape them into oval shaped dumplings. 
  • Grease a pan or steaming plate with oil or ghee and place the dumplings in it. Steam the dumplings in a pressure cooker or steamer for 10-12mins. 
  • Serve hot with coconut chutney or Hasi Majjige.

Hasi Majjige Recipe:
Preparation time: 10min
Cooking time: nil
Makes- 2cups

Coconut- 4tbsp
Mustard seeds- 1/2tsp
Roasted gram or Dalia- 1tbsp
Green chlies- 2
Ginger- 1/2"piece, chopped
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves- 1tbsp
Yogurt- 1 cup, whisked

For the seasoning:
Oil- 2tspn
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- 5-6
Asafetida- a pinch.

  • Combine the coconut, mustard seeds, ginger, green chilies, roasted gram, coriander leaves and salt in a blender jar and blend till the mixture is coarsely ground. Add quarter cup of yogurt to the mixture and blend till smooth.
  • Transfer the ground mixture to a bowl. Mix the remaining yogurt and mix well and set aside
  • For the seasoning, heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the curry leaves and asafetida and fry till the curry leaves turn crisp. Take off the heat and add the seasoning to the hash majjige and serve immediately.

  • You can substitute the moong dal with equal quantity of toor dal or chana dal.
  • The coriander leaves can be substituted with baby dill and an onion.
  • If you want to serve nuchinunde as a side dish, then simply dunk the steamed nuchinunde in majjige huli gravy. The majjige huli should be made without any vegetables though.
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