Category Archives: Sweet Things

The Indian food chain in the west very much focuses on the savoury and there is a very simple reason for this in that Idian Sweets or Puddings are for the most part very complex in that many require processes and ingredients that can be fairly easily produced but take some considerable time. Add to this that these ingredients are not long lasting and you have the reason that sweets and puds play a small part in the cuisine of the indian resaurant, but that is not to say that you shouldnt make them!

Masala Chai…A hug in a mug

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 SAM_2997There have been very few drinks that have affected a nations wealth and prosperity as much as tea, a drink that my own beloved countries government went into the wholesale dealing and distribution of opium to get their hands on. Tea a very powerful substance indeed and as such one that is so deeply ingrained into the British Psyche as to be considered an institution, it is very difficult to go anywhere without someone suggesting “a nice cup of tea”. I for one love it, my wife the venerable Mrs Demonology hates it although is always happy to make me a cup of the steaming brew whenever I may ask!

That said she prefers coffee, a drink that I deal with everyday at work short and strong, no cappuccino for me Espresso all day everyday, keeping me wired and on the edge. I find  strong short black coffee assists me to deal with the drudgery of the everyday existence that is my working world.

At home however my preference is always tea, and is the first and last drink of the day for me. Again my preference here is none of the fancy pants lap sang su shong, or the myriad of teas that you can see through that taste of little or nothing, without the addition of a little lemon to get the tea to taste of something; as a lover of curry and lover of strong tastes I guess you might have already worked that one out about me, with my preference being the lovingly entitled Builders Tea!

That’s not to say that I am not fairly picky in that I go for one brand Yorkshire Tea not grown on the high altitude tea plantations of the Yorshire moors just north of Wakefield but  a tea that originates from the Asam tea plantations of India and one that is high in tannin, caffeine and the strong dark leaves that make up that particular blend.  This is real tea  and the perfect example of everything that is the basis of the term Builders Tea named as such  during the first world war by the Ministry of munitions to indicate an all round tea that could be served during the tea breaks that speckled the working day of that time…..Builders Tea is and was never meant to be a refined drink  always served in a mug and if sticking to the pure meaning of the term Builders Tea containing at least two teaspoons of sugar and of course an ample quantity of milk but always strong and robust. I fully support that idea entirely, however I do prefer my cup or mug to be made of China but apart from that I follow the idea of builders tea lock stock and two teaspoons of sugar thank you very much………

My point here is that tea is a preparation not merely an infusion of leafs which brings me on to where I would suggest the origins of Masala chai lay!

Masala Chai is in the Premier League of Tea and is world renowned as something that is above and beyond the normal, so much so there are instant variations on sale and many many pre-prepared mixes of spices to please the palate. I on the other hand prefer the longer version and make my own from scratch and usually reserve it for those days when you have let the “bastards grind you down” Masala Chai fixes much on that level, this you can and should believe. Alternatively on a cold winters day is a warming and satisfying beverage that never fails to warm and satisfy……

This recipe is the milk version and as such is very rich and for that reason keep it real if you choose to follow this recipe and don’t use the skimmed variety of milk this is supposed to be creamy and satisfying so forget the fat and enjoy it for what it is …

The Whats in it…per  Large cup or Mug

I teabag strong Asam Tea

I inch ginger peeled and sliced

3 black Peppercorns

5 Cardamom Pods brokenSAM_2991

2 Teaspoons Sugar

1 inch Cnamon stick

Cupfull of milk……

The How to

Crush the herbs roughly and place them and the milk together in a saucepan, and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes or so until you can smell the aromatics of the spices and the milk has changed colour from the brilliant white of pasteurised milk, to a creamy off white colour.

You can then add the tea bag and the sugar to the simmering milky spice mix.

Continue to simmer for a few minutes more allowing the full flavour of the tea bag to infuse into the milk turning it to at least the colour of Peanut butter or darker if you prefer, sieve and serve…….

You may want to add a little boiling water after you have served this as the milk will reduce down and become even more creamy, not to mention less in volume, this is not a must merely a matter of taste, whatever you decide you can now drink it and allow the hug from the mug to wash away the strains of all that is your life ….. enjoy!

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Shrikand….Yoghurt of the chilled out kind

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This is yet another great secret in the world that is sweet things, Indian food does sweet is usually something that is quite rare , especially if it is if it is done well, and this is one of those recipehung yoghurts that if you are prepared to take your time and to follow the recipe, the end result is better than good, oh yes I like it that much.

There is a tricky element in following the recipe, so lets start right there, one of the ingredients takes a little fiddling around to achieve. The basis of this dish is yoghurt and the Indians, when they use yoghurt in a lot of dishes, like to hang it first, this helps to remove the water and thicken the yoghurt up, this then being called hung yoghurt…..

Its easy enough to do, just place a piece of muslin or cheesecloth in a strainer that is large enough to take the yoghurt that you intend to use for the recipe, and then simply pour the yoghurt into the sieve whilst holding it over the sink. Once the initial flush of water has drained from the yogurt, pull up the sides of the cloth to form a bag and tie it all up nice and tightly to form a pouch, hang that over a container for at least 30 minutes, or until you think that the yoghurt is well drained. The end product you can keep in the fridge for up to a day, noting that the more you cool it, the more solid it gets….Once this step is achieved everything else is simple in this delicious and very tasty recipe.

             Shrikand

Shrikand

Ingredients

This is more than enough to serve six, or three people with a sweet tooth!

1 tsp Saffron

1tbsp Milk

1 Litre?1.75 Pints hung Natural Yoghurt

100Gm/ 3.5 oz Caster Sugar

1 tsp cardamoms

 8-10 Unsalted Pistachio nuts

Method

This is really simple , first off place the Saffron in a small bowl with the milk and allow to soak for a few minutes. Place the hung yoghurt in another bowl and whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then stir in the saffron and milk , sprinkle over the pistachios and cardamoms , place it in the fridge for a couple of hours and serve when nice and chilled that’s the Shrikand not you……

Shahi Tukra Sweet Morsels for the Prince

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shahi-tukdaA life without sweet things, is no life at all, and when puddings are the order of the day, my experience is less than vast where the puds of India come to mind. One of my great favourites in British cuisine however is Bread and Butter Pudding, that milk and dried fruit hot sweet that comes usually after a large Sunday Roast of Beef and Yorkshire puds.

Shahi Tukra my research tells me comes from Pakistan, and the translation  Morsels for the Prince, which I love as an idea that this dish emanates from a royal palace at some point. That said today my sources tell me this dish can be found all over India and Pakistan and is a special treat for Eid and festivals. Wherever it comes from and whatever the ingredients are as it is a much varied dish as you are free to choose which dried fruits and nuts you include, so feel free to sprinkle and adorn the recipe with the nuts and fruits that you enjoy!

Putting all that aside when you do get to eat this dish you will understand that it could very easily be confused with the Traditional Bread & Butter Pudding of my mums traditional British cookbook, without the glorious scents and aromas of rosewater and cardamom……

Ingredients

35g / 1¼oz (¼ cup) raisins
pinch of saffron threads
2 tablespoons rosewater
2 teaspoons ghee or vegetable oil
4 slices white bread
2 tablespoons condensed milk
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kewra water or rosewater
½ teaspoon lime juiceSAM_2505
250ml / 8fl oz (1 cup) milk
¼ teaspoon ground green cardamom
1 teaspoon blanched almonds, silvered
1 teaspoon unsalted pistachio nuts, blanched and silvered
4 edible silver leaves, to decorate (optional)

Method

Soak the raisins in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes, to rehydrate them, drain them and set them aside, also place the Saffron in a small bowl and soak in the two tablespoons of rosewater until required.

Next heat the ghee in a flat heavy based pan a frying pan is ideal and fry off the bread pieces that should be cut into diagonal quarters and de-crusted. Fry the until they are an even rich golden brown all over, press them well with a fish slice to get as much ghee out of them as possible, being bread their inclination is to soak up whatever they can,before placing them on some kitchen towel to drain.SAM_2512

With  the condensed milk in a bowl place in 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the single teaspoon of rosewater and mix well together, with the remaining sugar add this to a cup or two of water, in a small saucepan and warm until all of the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and reduce to a one string consistency syrup( See Gulab Jamun recipe), then add in the Lime Juice!

SAM_2515Now place the fried bread slices back into the cleaned frying pan and add the Milk, warm it gently then add the sugar Syrup, and cook over a low heat for at least 10 minutes, or until the milk has thickened and begun to change colour, you will need to stir but be very gentle as the bread will be soaking up the milky sweet mixture, and the slices will be inclined to break, you will also need to turn the slices, take care again you have come so far. You can now add the fruits nuts and Saffron, and a sprinling of the cardamon before finally spreading the condensed milk mixture onto the slices apply it evenly over both sides of the bread pieces, a thin coat is all you will need as this is already a very sweet dish. Now is the time to remove from the pan and serve utilising the Silver to add that extra touch of luxury to a fantastic sweet dish that will be loved by all with a sweet tooth, and that includes your mother!

Gulab Jamun the hard whey?

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Unfortunately when you come into the land of puds and sweets generally speaking very little is simple. The west creates pastries and creamy delights for that final dish to complete or end any special meal or banquet; India is no different,  equally as complex, equally as satisfying and equally as sweet. We  human beings just love our sweet things.

It should be remembered that if you visit the majority of indian take-aways, or restaurants that the extent of the sweet menu is farcical, never going much beyond  a bit of Gulab Jamun or Khoya Bonbons in Syrup as the translation goes those most delightful of sweet tasting sugar syrup soaked balls, delicious for sure,but packet made of that you can be certain of in the restaurants. For restaurants the genuine recipe for this dish contains two ingredients most cooks would shrink away from, and for the most part can’t be purchased at the corner store, or supermarket, and restaurants neither have the time market or inclination to make properly, so packet made is what you get and thats not to say that the packet version isnt delicious but….

That said we are not most cooks are we…No of course we are not I hear you say.

So make these tricky things we will….

First of these tricky things is Khoya, a milk reduction that is also found in many other sweet dishes Pinni for example, a quick translation is Bon Bons, and a fair description as in reality it is a sweet ball of sugar, flour, dried fruits, and khoya. You can also find Khoya in a many other dishes that require that concentrated milk taste,and there is a Khoya pudding that is delicious on its own but more of that some other time.

There is only one ingredient in Khoya and that is  whole Milk

2 litres will make 400 gm or 14oz

First of all put the milk into a large heavy based pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to very low and stir every 5 minutes, the object here is to reduce the quantity prety much the same as you would do with any sauce, in this instance reducing by half. You will need to stir constantly and remove the dried layer of milk that sticks to the side of the pan. Carrying on with tkhoyahis reduction until your milk has reached the consistency of  mashed potato. Once you have achieved this you can transfer to another pan and allow to cool…job done in about 90 minutes for the quantity suggested above. It will store in this condition in the fridge for at least a couple of days.

You can also store for a lot longer of you dry it another process that takes a little time but is worth the effort.

Place the paste into a cheesecloth or muslin bag , place it in the sink and weigh it down and leave it for at least an hour, the object being to get as much of the liquid out as you can, the resulting solid can be stored in the refrigerator, and can be grated or crumbled.

The next of the two vital ingredients for the traditional Gulab Jamun is Chhena

There’s one more ingredient here that you will need, besides milk in this recipe

160ml white Vinegar

2 litres milk

This is another milk process but one that relies on the curdling power of the white vinegar and again will require constant attention, with at least an hour of your time, and again your full attention as all good cooking should do!

Again you need to put the milk into a heavy saucepan and bring it to the boil, then immediately remove it from the heat and add the vinegar making sure that you spread the vinegar over the whole surface of the hot milk in a steady stream, and then stir for about three or four minutes, the end result of this should be a curdled milk or whey as it should really ber called.

This should be poured into a muslin bag or into a  cloth placed in a strainer or colander in a sink to allow the liquids to drain away leaving the whey behind.chhena

This achieved you should then start to prod and squeeze the bag until the milky whey starts to Ooze out.

Now comes the fun part whilst the whey is still warm spread it out on to a flat surface and begin to knead it, almost as if it was a bread dough using the palm of your hand and continue to do so until you have mashed out all the granules and it is as smooth as it will go. That’s essentially it.

All you need do now is allow it to cool, wrap it in foil and store in the refrigerator, but use it quick as its only any good for about 24 hours.

Mission accomplished

Well almost. the rest is easy……

So now is the time to make those Gulab Jamun that you have always promised yourself and trust me on this they are far superior to the mix that you can buy!

This recipe is the real McCoy and worth every second of the time it takes, rest assured the results will speak for themselves

 Ingredients

Pinch of Saffron Threads

1 teaspoon Rosewater

300g/11 oz Khoya (See above)

50g/1.75 oz Chenna (see above)

4 Tbsp All purpose plain flour

1tsp Baking Powder

1tbsp Ghee

6 tsp cardamon seedsgulab_jamun_0

12 unsalted Pistachio Nuts

1kg/2.25 lbs Sugar

0.75 tsp Lime Juice

Enough clean oil to Deep fat Fry!

Method

First thing soak the Saffron in a finger sized bowl and soak in the Rosewater until required.

Crumble the Khoya and the Chhena to remove any lumps into a large bowl , add the flour, baking powder and 1 tbsp of Ghee and mix roughly   make a soft dough, you will now need to knead this dough for no less than 5 minutes on a flat surface, you can lightly flour the surface to reduce sticking, or you can use a little ghee or oil to achieve the same result.

Oil your hands and start pinching off and rolling the dough into balls of about 1 inch in diameter.

Heat your deep fat fryer to around 170 degrees and deep fry for about 3 to 4 minutes or until they are a golden brown remove from the fryer and allow to cool and drain on some kitchen roll.

The great pleasure of this sweet is the Syrup that the Gulabs should be soaked in; and as such the recipe that follows for this is traditional but don’t be shy or scared to use any sweet flavouring that takes your fancy, or flavouring that appeals, Vanilla works just as well as Rosewater

However the start of  a good syrup is achieved by filling a heavy based pan with water and adding all the sugar, yes all of it, you don’t need teeth for these pudding delights!

Heating the water gently to start whilst stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved. Now increase the heat and bring to the boil, continue to boil and remove the scum that floats to the surface with a slotted spoon, until the syrup reaches a one thread consistency, this should be done with extreme caution as this syrup is very hot indeed, but to test allow some to cool slightly on a spoon befor touching and then  take some syrup between your thumb and forefinger and draw your fingers apart, the syrup will then form fine threads, the number of the threads indicates the correct consistency, but please be carefull we do not want any burns here!

Once this is achieved add the Rosewater and infused Saffron to the syrup, stir and then transfer the golden fried Gulab balls to the syrup, and leave for at least 30 minutes for the gulabs to soak up the syrup before serving. It is worth noting that the Gulabs will continue to soak up syrup for many hours and in my opinion are best left for a couple of hours for best results, however some people prefer them completely deliciously gooey. My suggestion is make a batch stick em into soak and eat them over a period of twenty-four hours to find your ideal soak time…..or is that just a bit too greedy for ya?