Ambrosia

This medley of fruits in a sugar syrup with dry fruits, honey and nuts is a dish that our family makes every year for a festival called Dussehra. It’s a celebration that lasts for about nine days and is celebrated by Hindus all over India.

I love the richness of this dish which is so satisfying and yet so light and refreshing. The aroma of the ghee and cardamom is delicious. It’s also vegan and could be served as dessert with a dollop of coconut cream.

It’s very simple to make. Once the sugar syrup is done you just have to add all the fruits and nuts, honey, ghee and cardamom. For those of you who want to cut down on sugar, you could add less of it.

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PREP: 30 minutes COOK TIME: 10 minutes SERVES: 6

Ingredients

½ cup jaggery

½ cup water

1 apple

2 bananas

2 oranges, segmented

2 guavas, cut into cubes

1 cup grapes, cut into two

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp ghee

1 tsp cardamom powder

½ cup dates, chopped roughly

½ cup cashewnuts

½ cup raisins

Instructions

Combine the jaggery and water and cook over a moderate heat until the jaggery melts. Strain into another pan and bring to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Add all the ingredients except the apple and bananas. Core and cut the apple into small cubes. Add to the sugar syrup immediately. Slice the bananas into the sugar syrup and mix well. Refrigerate and serve with a dollop of coconut cream.

Semolina Pudding

A very light and tasty pudding – this pudding is very easy to make. It’s called kheer/payasam in India. There are many varieties of this which can be made with sago, vermicelli, nuts and even bread. Most of them are milk based and it usually accompanies a traditional lunch or dinner.

Most Indian desserts have cardamom, saffron, nuts and raisins. This pudding also has edible camphor. A very little of it goes a long way. The taste that this camphor imparts to Indian sweets is very unique.

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PREP: 10 minutes COOK TIME: 30 minutes SERVES: 6

Ingredients

  • !/2 cup semolina
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ cup cashewnuts
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • A small pinch of edible camphor
  • ¼ cup+6 tbsp ghee
  • A few strands of saffron (optional)

Instructions

Heat a large wok or pan and add the 6 tbsp ghee. When it melts, add the semolina and saute it until it just starts to change colour. Do not allow it to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the remaining ghee in a small pan and add the cashewnuts. When they turn a light golden brown, add the raisins. When the raisins swell up, remove immediately and set aside.

If using saffron, take the strands in a small cup and pour about 1 tablespoon of hot water or milk on it. Using the back of a spoon, press the strands until the colour oozes out. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat the sugar and milk. Stir until the sugar has melted. When it starts boiling, reduce the heat to simmer and add the fried semolina very gradually, stirring all the while. Do not allow it to form lumps. Cover and cook until the semolina is soft. Add the cardamom powder, saffron (if using) and the fried nuts and raisins. Remove from heat and cool. If it becomes too thick, you can add some more milk. I added another cup of milk and a little extra sugar. This can be served hot or cold.

Old-Fashioned Fried Apple Tarts

These fried apple tarts are really indulgent – crisp morsels of delight. The pastry is just right – flaky and melt-in-the-mouth and when you bite into it it’s just bursting with the goodness of apples.

I had some apple filling left over from my Apple Icebox Cake and I thought this is the perfect way to finish it up. Please refer to my previous recipe Apple Icebox Cake for the apple filling recipe. It freezes beautifully; when apples are in season you can make the filling which can be used in a variety of bakes and desserts and freeze them.

You can also use cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top for that extra touch of deliciousness. Make sure that your filling is not soggy and the oil is at the right temperature.

This recipe is definitely a family favourite. So easy to make and fun to serve.

They tend to disappear really fast! This recipe makes around 15 pies.

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PREP: 30 minutes (plus 20 minutes for resting the dough) COOK TIME: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups self-raising flour (sifted)
  • ½ cup butter (cold)
  • 1 ½ cups apple filling (chilled)
  • About 5 tbsp cold water
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

Cut the butter into the flour with your hands or a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add about 5 tablespoons of cold water, mixing until the pastry holds together. Knead briefly and chill the pastry in a refrigerator wrapped in cling film for 20 minutes.

Roll the pastry into saucer-sized circles. Place a small amount of apple filling in the centre of each circle. Wet the edges with water and fold in half. Press the edges lightly to seal the pastry.

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the pies until they are golden brown. Turn the pie only once during the frying process. Drain.

Sprinkle confectioners sugar while still warm and serve immediately.

Dark and White Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel

Thank goodness for some rain; the weather is more pleasant now. It’s always the best time for cold desserts though in Madras.

An incredibly easy mousse and takes so little time to set as well. It’s just one of those recipes that looks as though you have put in a ton of effort into making it. I prefer using cream for making mousse because I’m not too fond of raw eggs as in a traditional recipe. However, you could make it anyway you choose.

You can use the same method for the white and dark chocolate mousse. I used store bought salted caramel because this is a quick and easy dessert.

I used dark chocolate to offset the sweetness of the white chocolate and the salted caramel just gives it the right balance to taste the different flavors of sweet and bitter. Indulgence in a glass!

I used some of the caramel to toss the popcorn in and used it to decorate the top. You could however, just do any garnish that you like – chocolate shavings, nuts, etc.

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Ingredients

For the White and Dark Chocolate Mousse

  • 100 gm each of good quality White and Dark chocolate
  • 100 ml milk
  • 300 ml double cream

To garnish:

  • 1 cup salted caramel
  • Popcorn

Melt 100 gm of dark chocolate in a double boiler. Heat half the milk until boiling, then whisk in the dark chocolate. Cool. Whip 150 ml of the cream until soft peaks form, then fold in the chocolate. Spoon the contents into a serving glass or bowl. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes until set.

Repeat the same process for the white chocolate using the 100 grams of the White chocolate and the remaining milk and cream. Spoon the mixture over the set dark chocolate. Refrigerate for another 15-20 minutes until set.

Spoon some salted caramel on top and garnish with the caramelized popcorn. Enjoy.

Apple Icebox Cake

Summer in India can be really hot (and I mean sweltering hot) – especially Madras, which has a lot of humidity. Spending a long time cooking on the stove is a nightmare. Eating frozen desserts, ice creams and chilled drinks are about all one feels like doing. So, when I read this recipe from King Arthur Flour, it seemed the perfect one to try.

The cookies were so delicious, you can just eat them on their own. I wanted to try the filling with apples. I used apple pie filling that I made from scratch. I got the recipe from the following link – https://www.spendwithpennies.com/quick-stovetop-apple-pie-filling/ . You could also use ready made filling.

You can also use your imagination to use another fruit filling. Or even chocolate can be a wonderful filling for this versatile cookie. This is perfect for a Sunday lunch.

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I stacked four cookies and then covered the individual stacks with sweetened, whipped cream. You could also lay the stack on its side on a large serving plate. Repeat the process until you have used up all the cookies.

Once it’s refrigerated, the cream softens the cookies and they become softer, almost like cake. Absolutely scrumptious.

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PREP: 1 hour 40 minutes COOK TIME: 20-25 minutes SERVES: 10

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 tbsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups flour

Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment.

In a small bowl, combine the vanilla, or baking powder and salt. Stir to dissolve; the salt won’t fully dissolve.

Place the vanilla mixture, sugar, and butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the flour and mix to combine. The dough will seem dry at first; continue mixing until the dough comes together.

Scoop the dough with a  teaspoon cookie scoop  and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2″ between portions. Press the tops down with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar to make flat cookies about 1/4″ thick. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies are very light golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

For the filling, please visit https://www.spendwithpennies.com/quick-stovetop-apple-pie-filling/ .

To make the whipped cream, place the cream in a chilled mixing bowl with the sugar. Whip (slowly at first, until the cream begins to thicken, then more vigorously) until the whisk’s tracks are visible in the bowl. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the cream is stiff but not curdled.

To assemble, spread some apple filling on a cookie, then place another cookie on top. Continue this process until you have four cookies stacked up. Coat each stack with whipped cream on all sides. Chill for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

Refrigerate with cut sides covered with cling film for up to a week.

 

 

 

Sticky Caramelised Pears with Cardamom Custard

I was going through some recipes and came across one for caramelised figs. So, when I saw some juicy pears at the market, I decided to try and do the same with them. Pears are so versatile and are perfect with pastry, salad and puddings. This dessert looks so elegant and it’s really easy to make. Just the thing for a special dinner party!

I decided to pair the caramelised pears with a baked custard. The nice thing about baking a custard is that you can just fill the ramekins and pop them in the oven. So easy! I used cardamom powder to sprinkle on the tops of the custard. When I turned out the custard, the cardamom was nicely settled at the bottom and looked beautiful.

Absolutely delicious – succulent pears coated with this gooey, melted caramel sauce and the subtly flavoured cardamom custard. Just yummy!

Recipe:

Caramelised Pears:

8 small pears

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup castor sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed firmly

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

A pinch of salt

For the Cardamom Custard:

2 cups milk

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

A pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 teaspoon cardamom powder

Method (Pears):

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Peel the pears leaving the stalk intact. Cut in half and remove the core. Rub the pears with the lemon juice.

Melt the butter in an oven proof frying pan. Add both the sugars and stir, but do not let it dissolve. Put the pears into the mixture with the cut side facing downwards. Spoon the melted sugar mixture over them occasionally. Put the pan into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, taking care to baste the pears from time to time.

Remove the pan from the oven and flip the pears carefully. Bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the cores are golden and the pears are cooked through. Transfer the pears to another dish and place the frying pan on heat. Cook the mixture for a few minutes until it is a rich golden brown. Add the honey, salt and vanilla and mix well. Remove from heat.

Method (Cardamom Custard):

Scald the milk. Combine the sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat well. Add the milk to the egg mixture gradually (you do not want to cook the eggs). Beat until smooth and pour the custard into 4 ramekins; place the ramekins in a shallow pan in hot water. Sprinkle the custard with the cardamom powder. Bake at 180C for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Cool and turn out carefully while serving. Serve with the pears and spoon the caramel on top.