Easy Food Smith

Posts Tagged / Holiday cooking

THANDAI LATTE

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Trying to kill two birds with one stone. Here is a post that is the first among a series of posts that will follow through to the colorful festival of Holi. Thandai is specific to Holi, however, this nutty, spicy, aromatic beverage makes for a great drink for those celebrating Valentines Day. Spices are so integral to Indian way of cooking that you will find them in savories, sweets, pickles, chutneys and our drinks. And why not?! They give every dish a boost in taste and health, taking them to the next level i.e. if they are used judiciously and in the right amount. Balance is the key when using spices especially ones that are bitter or really intense such a turmeric or asafoetida. ‘A little goes a long way’ is the mantra one needs to follow.

Coming back to the Thandai, also called as Sardai, it is consumed chilled as a beverage on the festival of Holi and also Maha Shivratri. Another version that is popular among some, is the Bhaang Thandai which makes use of cannibis leaves that is used along with other ingredients for making thandai.

I have however, turned the drink into a latte and it became my nightcap of sorts through the winters. The spices and nuts give it a rich flavour and make it a beautiful and comforting beverage for chilly winters. Feel free to reduce or increase the amount of which ever ingredient you wish to, to suit your taste.

Here is the amount of ingredients I had used for this delicious hot beverage 🙂

12 Almonds

12 Cashews

12 Pistachios

1 tbsp Melon seeds

20 – 25 Black Pepper corns

2 tsp Poppy Seeds (white poppy seeds are used for this beverage)

1 tsp Fennel seeds

1/3 C Water

½ tsp Cardamom powder

1 pinch Saffron plus extra for garnish

3 tbsp Milk

1 tsp Cornflour

3 tbsp Milk

4 – 5 tsp Sweetner of your choice (I had used agave nectar)

600 ml Milk (dairy or non dairy)

Wash and soak the first seven ingredients in one third cup water, over night.

Soak saffron in a three tablespoons milk. Set aside for atleat an hour. (the longer the better)

Grind the soaked seven ingredients, along with the water, to a smooth paste.

Heat milk and add the saffron milk to it along with the paste.

Stir well and simmer on low heat for 5 – 7 minutes. Stir every now and then.

Mix the cornflour well in remaining three tablespoons milk and add gradually to the simmering milk, stirring all the while.

Add cardamom powder and simmer further for a minute.

Switch off the heat and add sweetener of your choice.

(You can sieve the milk before serving or you can serve it as it is.)

If you like the milk frothy, you can whisk it using a hand whisk or an electric mixer or perhaps an immersion blender.

Pour in serving glasses and garnish with finely chopped pistachios and slivered almonds and a few threads of saffron (garnish is optional)

(Don’t forget to check the ‘NOTES’ below)

Note – Since we do not like rose flavor, so I gave rose petals a miss. Feel free to use it if you enjoy the flavors of rose. And if you do not have rose petals then swap it with gulkand (rose petal preserve).

Note – We like just a subtle hint of fennel therefore I used one teaspoon of fennel seeds. Go for 2 tsp if you like to have pronounced flavors.

Note – Also, once the latte is ready, I prefer to set it aside for 15 – 20 minutes for flavors to infuse really well. Then reheat it before serving.

Note – I had removed the skin of almonds before making the paste.

Serves – 5 (120 ml each)

Thanks for your visit. See you soon again with another exciting recipe!

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GULAB JAMUNS (Milk Powder Dough balls in Fragrant Syrup)

The gulab jamun post has been there in my recipe archives since 2011. I am reposting it with some pictures this time around. Amongst all the Indian mithais, gulab jamun can be labelled as the king of them all, especially in the north India. You are most likely to find a recipe for gulab jamuns without fail on almost every blog or website dedicated to Indian food. I think rasogullas and gulab jamuns will win hands down as almost everyone’s favourite Indian confection.

In the year 2006, my husband was posted abroad for almost a year and to cater to one’s sweet tooth to traditional Indian sweets, one had to either rely on the Indian cooks working in some Indian restaurant or dish them out by ourselves. I didn’t quite like the preparation of the cooks who charged a bomb and still the taste was nowhere near satisfaction. I was at loss on how to make gulab jamuns at home since khoya/ mawa (reduced milk) was not available anywhere and making my own was too cumbersome a job. I usually avoid cooking very elaborate recipes. Indian traditional sweets, especially, are mostly quite elaborate and involve a lot of time and effort in either the preparation or the cooking. Exasperated I surfed the net for an easy gulab jamun recipe. Lucky for me, I happened to stumble upon a recipe that used milk powder. This recipe has been with me for over 10 years and after some heavy tweaking it has proved to be a fool proof one.

I had never before made any Indian sweets at home except for halwa or kheer. And at that point of time I wasn’t that confident about pulling it off. But making gulab jamuns with powder milk proved to be an absolute cakewalk! It is simple, easy and yields almost professional results. The gulab jamuns are soft and grainy, exactly the way they are supposed to be. For the syrup instead of using rose water (I can’t stand roses, rose flavour or rose water in my food or drink) I have used saffron and cardamom. On a closing note I can definitely claim that whenever I served the gulab jamuns at the parties, they were always a hit and I was bombarded with requests for its recipe. So go ahead and… INDULGE!!

Here is the recipe:

Syrup  

400 gm Sugar

400 ml Water

1 tsp Lemon Juice

½ tsp Cardamom Powder

A few strands of Saffron

Gulab Jamun Dough

1¼ C Milk Powder (unsweetened)

4 tbsp Maida (Flour)

¼ tsp Baking Soda (Bicarb of Soda)

50 ml Whipping Cream

1 – 2 tbsp milk (as required)

Ghee to deep fry the dough

Mix sugar, lemon juice and water in a pot and place it on high heat. Bring to a boil while stirring to ensure that the sugar does not stick or crystallise at the bottom of the pan. Let t be on a rolling boil for 4 – 5 minutes yet careful not to bring the syrup to one string consistency.

 

Remove the pot from the heat and sieve the water to a casserole warmer and add the cardamom powder and saffrom strands. Close the lid and keep it aside.

Heat the ghee in a kadai (wok) or pan on medium low temperature. (I prefer a wok)

While the ghee is heating, whisk together the milk powder, maida and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Add whipping cream and very gently mix it into flour. Add a tablespoon of milk to make soft sticky dough. DO NOT knread the dough. You just need to bring everything together. (Add the other table spoon of milk only if the dough looks dry)

Grease a plate with a little ghee and make 28 balls. Ensure that the balls are smooth else they will break or split while frying. Cover them with damp cloth.

In three to four batches fry the dough balls turning them gently every now and then to ensure even cooking and browning.

Once the dough turns brown, remove them from oil with slotted spoon and drop them in the syrup. Close the lid of the casserole warmer to allow the balls to soak the syrup.

Fry rest of the balls in a similar fashion. Allow the balls to remain in the syrup for atleast an hour or till the balls have absorbed the liquid and softened.

You can serve them with their syrup or drained. The gulab jamun is ready! Serve hot garnished with nuts. ENJOY!

Yield: 28 Gulab Jamuns (medium size)

 

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CHHENAR PAYESH / छेनार पाएश (Cottage Cheese & Milk Pudding)

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The festive season has begun and you are going to see more of desserts and traditional Indian confections/ mithai here. The variety of Indian confection is staggering. The base for most desserts is either mawa i.e. thick reduced milk (also called khoya) or chhena (freshly made paneer). We have our Suji Halwa, Aata Halwa and halwas made from vegetables and even nuts but they fall in another category of desserts. I am here talking about Indian mithai or what you can call Indian confection. While the khoya (reduced milk) is the base for most north Indian mithai (Indian confection)  it is chhena that is most loved by eastern states of Odisha and Bengal. I have grown up loving khoya mitha such as Gulab Jamun but I equally love the mithai made with chhena. Rather I prefer chhena mithai now as it is easy on the tummy than its rich counterpart mawa. Payesh is Bengali for kheer or milk based pudding. It can be Sabudana Payesh or it can be Chaler Payesh (rice pudding) and many more such varieties of payesh. But chhena payesh is the best in my view. I can have it every single day of the year! I tried to replicate the taste of the chhena payesh made by the ‘Sweet Bengal’ confectionery and I believe it is pretty close to it; although I would have loved it more, had it been made with the date palm jaggery but I had run out of stock. It is difficult to find date palm jaggery throughout the year but it is easily available during the cold winter months albeit for a short duration. The best way to enjoy this jaggery all through the year is to buy it in bulk when available and freezing it. I enjoy my cake sweetend with this jaggery. You can try this Wholemeal Jaggery Cake scented with cardamom if you are a fan of wholesome healthy cakes.

1 litre Full cream Milk

1½ litre Cow’s Milk

1½ tbsp Lemon Juice

1 tsp APF (Maida)

600 – 650 mls Water

250 grams Sugar

1 – 1½ tsp Cornflour

A few teaspoons Milk

½ tsp Cardamom Powder

In a heavy bottom pan or wok, boil the full cream milk. Reduce the heat and allow it to simmer. Keep stirring every now and then to prevent it from catching at the bottom and getting burnt.

Keep simmering the milk of low heat stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile boil the toned milk and and remove it from heat. Stir in the lemon juice. The whey will start to separate from the milk. Give it a few more minutes before the whey and paneer separate completely. If not, put it on heat again and stir for a few minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth or muslin cloth and drain the whey (or reserve it for making dough, adding to curries or soups etc.).

Wash the paneer under running water to get rid of the sourness of lemon juice.

Hang the cheesecloth with paneer, over a faucet, for an hour to get rid of excess liquid.

Transfer the chhena (paneer) to a plate and mash for four to five minutes or till it becomes smooth. Add a teaspoon of maida and incorporate it in the chhena.

Make smooth, marble sized, balls out of the mashed chhena. (the paneer balls will increase in size so do not get tempted to go beyond this size)

Boil the water in a wide pot and add sugar to it. Once the sugar has dissolved and the water comes to a rolling boil, drop in the chhena balls (Ensure that the pot is not over crowded with the chhena balls. The balls will double in size once they get cooked so leave enough space for them to swell)

Cover the pot and cook the balls on high flame for four minutes. Switch off heat and allow the balls to sit in the liquid for five minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the cornflour to a few teaspoons of milk and ensure that there are no lumps.

Once the simmering milk has reduced to approximately 650 – 700 ml amount, add the cornflour mix to the milk and stir it well. Cook for half a minute and remove the milk from the heat.

Remove the chhena balls from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and add it to the reduced milk.

Allow the chhena to sit in the milk for 5 minutes (do stir it once in a while, while it is cooling) and then taste the payesh. Add sugar if required. (Since we do not like our desserts too sweet, I added one tablespoon of sugar)

The pudding will thicken as it cools. Do keep stirring it occasionally till it cools completely. Chill in the refrigerator before serving or serve at room temperature.

Serves – 4 – 6

Thanks for visiting. See you soon again with another exciting recipe!

 

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