February is for the sweet-toothed among us; a month dedicated purely to desserts and chocolate and candy. (Although I do wish my elementary school aged son didn’t receive Valentines candy from his young classmates with a message saying ‘take a bite out of me!’…moms in the US, you know what I’m talking about here.)
Let’s start with the well-loved Indian ‘gajar halwa’, a carrot dessert that spells comfort and hugs, followed by my grandmom’s recipe for creamy soft crème caramel like Parsi caramel pudding with a hint of spices, and end on a note of chewy candy-like dark chocolate Indian fudge burfi.
On my Indian Desserts Menu:
- 1lb carrots, grated
- 1 cup low fat milk (use whole milk for a richer dessert)
- ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 4 cloves cardamom (or ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder)
- ¼ cup butter
- 1/3 cup almonds toasted and crushed
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
- In a microwave safe bowl, mix together honey, lemon and powdered sugar. Microwave the drizzle on high for 30 seconds and stir. Put it in a pouring cup and leave aside till ready to serve.
- Heat a shallow sauce pan with the milk, condensed milk, ¼ cup of sugar, vanilla essence, cardamom and grated carrots. Let the mix come to a boil and reduce the flame to medium. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring at regular intervals till it thickens and all the milk is absorbed. It should look like a carrot pudding at this stage.
- Now add the butter and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar to the carrot pudding and fry till it caramelizes and sizzles in the pan; the final outcome looks like a delicious carrot pudding with a fudge-like chew to it. Mix in the toasted almonds while still hot, so they maintain their crunch but absorb the flavors of the halwa or pudding.
- The Fudge-like Carrot and Almond Pudding can be served warm with a drizzle of the Honey Lemon sauce.
- Or create a decadent dessert treat: top the Fudge-like Carrot and Almond Pudding with frozen Vanilla yogurt or ice-cream, some toasted crushed almonds and the Honey Lemon drizzle on it.
- 4 ¼ cups or 1 liter whole fat or 2% reduced-fat milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 whole cardamoms, cracked open
- 3 eggs, mildly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 8-10 tablespoons sugar, melted in a pan
- In a saucepan, bring the milk and whole cardamom to a boil. Reduce the flame to medium low, add sugar and let the milk simmer for 7-10 minutes. At this point, taste the milk for desired sweetness and pull out the cardamom shells. Let the milk cool while you make the caramel.
- Caramel to Coat the Caramel Pudding Ramekins: To make caramel, heat sugar on low heat in a pan till it starts melting. Always keep an eye on the sugar, since it burns fast. Once you achieve the golden brown color of caramel, pour it into individual ramekins or large mold. The caramel should coat the bottom of the molds in a thin layer.
- Next, whisk mildly beaten eggs and vanilla essence into the cooled milk. Pour the milk and egg mixture over the caramel in the mold.
- Mix ground cardamom and nutmeg in a small bowl and sprinkle the warm spices over the pudding.
- Put the pudding mold on the pressure cooker rack (or use an inverted metal container.) Pour water to the base of the cooker. Once the pressure is reached, cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the pressure cooker and leave it standing till the steam reduces and the pudding cools.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the pudding in a baking pan (preferably on a baking rack) and add two inches of water to the baking pan to aid steaming. Bake for 40-45 minutes till the pudding top is firm. The pudding top does not have to brown, check for doneness with a knife.
- When the caramel pudding cools, refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before serving. To serve, run a knife along the edge and unmold the caramel pudding by inverting onto a plate or serving platter.
- Mamaiji’s Caramel Pudding is best served just as is…Alternatively it can be topped with vanilla whipped cream or fruit compote.
Using old Indian entertaining wisdom and today’s modern approach to food from a global perspective, my cookbook ‘Spice Up Your Celebration’ offers an easy to prepare collection of mouthwatering recipes that can be used for any occasion from intimate family and friends dinners, to hosting larger holiday celebrations.
As always, my dishes are inspired by India’s varied and flavorful smorgasbord of regional cuisines and made with everyday fresh ingredients, basic spices and simple step-wise directions.
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