Srivalli's lovely blog has its Mithai Mela on and I just scrolled through my archives to find my favourite dessert recipes, since I'm trying not to make any right now for weightloss and too-hot-weather reasons - a crisp slice of really cold watermelon is the perfect dessert for now. It turns out there are a couple of themes running through my archives: Indian being one, and crazy-about-chocolate being the other. It turned out this is a great way for me to collate my favourite dessert recipes in one place, too.
So here are links to the Indian ones:
There's our favourite winter dessert - exotic, rich and completely unexpected... (I realized when I scrolled through my archives that I haven't put down a specific recipe for this, so you'll just have to live through the experience…J)
Then there's the annual feast standard - rich, exotic and favorited by all our friends. I've been known to get threatening phone calls before our annual Id party if I even think about not making this...
1 cup almonds
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup ghee ( clarified butter)
a little milk ( about 1/2 cup)
5-6 strings of saffron
Soak the badaam so the peel gets loosened and peel them. Puree them with as little of the milk as you can add to still get a very fine puree.
Soak the saffrom strands in 1 tsp hot milk until the orange colour infuses the milk.
Put the sugar into a pan and add 1/4 cup water. Let it cook on a medium flame until it gets a one-string consistency. ( You can test this by dipping your index finger into the syrup and then pressing your finger and thumb together and then pulling them apart. If you get one strand of sugar syrup between your thumb and finger that's it. But be careful - this syrup can burn the skin off your hand!)
Put in the almond paste, turning the heat to low and add the saffron. Cook, stirring frequently but slowly until the mixture starts sticking to the bottom of the pan.
At this juncture, add the ghee (clarified butter) little by little until the mixture takes on a halwa texture and stops sticking to the pan. Keep stirring throughout the process!
Serve hot or cold. This quantity would be enough for about 10 people (it's very rich).
And of course, festival times are synonymous with this dish, which is a classic...
Fistful of dried, thin vermicelli
1 tablespoon of ghee
1 litre milk
1 and a quarter cups sugar
4-5 saffron strands soaked in hot milk
Cashews broken up into quarters and fried in ghee until somewhat brown
2-3 cardamom pods, coarsely powdered with a rolling pin or in a mortar and pestle
Break the vermicelli into about 1 cm pieces by hand. Fry it on medium heat in the ghee until it starts turning a light brown and emanates a fragrance. Add the milk, ideally full cream, the sugar and the saffron and let it cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vermicelli is fully cooked – it'll look translucent. Add the raisins and cardamom and serve it hot or cold garnished with cashews.
I usually like it cold so I refrigerate it and sometimes serve it with vanilla icecream.You can also choose to serve this dish as dessert, garnished with a few pomegranate bits, halved green or puple grapes or almond slivers.
And this one's perfect for every day, any day of the year...
And then there are my two favourite chocolate recipes. I'm always after recipes that have a big inflexion point - i.e. easy on effort but seemingly difficult and having maximum 'theater'.
This is a restaurant favourite - most restaurants love to show off their chops to unsuspecting customers who're impressed with molten chocolate cakes, little knowing how easy they are to make...
350 grams best quality dark chocolate, softened
150 gms caster sugar
50 gms good butter ( try and get French butter if possible), softened
1 tsp vanilla - or Frangelico/ Godiva, maybe even Tia Maria - or Cointreau...Drambuie...ok, now I'm drooling all over again!
50 gms flour ( Nigella recommends Italian 00 which I don't know what it is – I just used plain maida)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C ( if baking right away).
Grease 6 pudding cups ( I used aluminum muffin cups, not having any other kind to hand, but am immediately inspired to invest in ceramic ramekins, since I think the possibility of making these on a regular basis is quite high) and line the bottoms with baking sheet.
Cream the butter and sugar together.
Add the eggs and the salt and beat together.
Add the vanilla and the flour and blend together well.
Scrape in the softened chocolate ( try not to be greedy enough to leave lots behind in the bowl so you can lick it off all by yourself!) and blend the batter well together.
Pour into the pudding pans and pop into the oven for 10 minutes.
If not baking these immediately, you can make the batter ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. In that case, keep the timer at 12 minutes for the baking process.
As soon as it's done – the tops will look done, but don't pop in a knife to check, the inside will be wet unlike a conventional cake – take out of the oven and invert onto individual dessert plates or shallow bowls.
And then there's the unexpectedness of a cake with no flour...
435 grams chestnut puree
125 gms unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs, separated
250 gms best dark ( but sweetened) chocolate (softened)
50 gms caster sugar
20 gms light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp dark rum
As always, didn't have all the ingredients, so went along and improvised. Also, have done the best in terms of photography, what with my meagre camera skills and the morning light which is harsh as opposed to lambent - but do, please, do try making this cake. You'll never regret it!
In a deep bowl, mix together the butter and the chestnut puree until well mixed. Then add the vanilla, rum, the egg yolks and the chocolate and blend until well mixed.
In a separate bowl, beat the whites of the eggs with the salt until foamy. Add the caster sugar gradually, and continue beating until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Scatter the muscovado sugar on top and fold in until well mixed.
Working confidently, fold the egg whites into the chocolate-chestnut batter, one third at a time.
Pour the batter into a 22 cm Springform greased and lined tin. Bake at 180 degrees C for 45 minutes ( or thereabouts). The top of the cake will have cracks in it, but who cares - it's meant to look that way. Cool on the rack for 20 minutes. Before serving, dust icing sugar on top and make sure whoever you're sharing this with is already in the room. Otherwise, all you'll have to show for your efforts is a pile of crumbs and a tiny brown smear on your chin!
And oh, ok, for a while back there I'd joined the Daring Bakers and made this rather hideous and decoratively challenged but amazing tasting cake...