Mango Halwa

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Mango Halwa

I’m sharing an easy and popular recipe for your next holiday gathering. I found the original here, and tweaked it slightly to suit my family’s tastes. This halwa can be made using grated paneer or ricotta cheese. While the ricotta gives a creamier taste, it took longer to cook. Simmer the halwa mixture for about 20-30 minutes for regular texture, and around 45 minutes for a fudge  texture (which is what we love).

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Mango Halwa

Mango Halwa

(Serves 10-12)

  • 1 (30 oz) can mango pulp – about 3.5 cups
  • 12-14 oz block paneer [OR] 30 oz ricotta cheese (about 4 cups of one)
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups dry milk powder
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder [OR] 2 tsp rose water
  • ghee to grease your serving platter
  • chopped nuts, saffron, silver leaf, etc for topping & presentation
  1. Finely grate the paneer if you are using it.
  2. Using a wide heavy-bottom pan (preferably non-stick or anodized), bring the mango pulp, cheese and sugar to a boil on medium-high flame.
  3. Once it reaches a boil, reduce flame to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes till mixture thickens, stirring frequently and making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the cardamom powder or rose water and the milk powder for thickness. Mix well. Cook for another 5-10 minutes and pour into a flat greased platter to cool.
  5. Alternately, continue cooking an additional 15 – 20 minutes if you like a thicker, fudge-like consistency. Then add the milk powder and flavoring, and cook for another 5-10 minutes and pour into your platter to cool.
  6. Spoon into individual bowls and top with nuts and serve.

NOTE: Make sure the pan is atleast 4-5 inches deep as this mixture will splatter as it thickens and simmers. Also, DO NOT ADD sugar mid-way unless you plan on increasing the cooking time significantly (yes, I learnt this the hard way!). The sugar will dilute your mixture and you will have to cook it down again – it’s like starting from scratch. Paneer gives the halwa more texture while ricotta makes it more creamy.

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Mango Halwa

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

Here’s a dessert that I’ve made dozens of times and it has always brought rave reviews. Thanks to my aunt Uma for the recipe. Super easy to whip together, Mango Pudding can be made a day or two ahead, and will keep refrigerated for a couple days if covered tightly. This is a great dish to take for pot-luck meals as it travels well; no sloshing and spilling on your party outfit :)).

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

(Makes 35 1/3-cup servings; approx 12 cups total)

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 8 oz plain cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 (30 oz) mango pulp can – [available at most Indian grocers]
  • 8 oz Cool Whip (thawed)
  • saffron, cardamom powder, almonds/pistachio to garnish (optional)

Mango Pudding

1) Boil 3 cups water on the stove and stir well to completely dissolve 3 packets gelatin in it. Cool till luke warm – about 10 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, in a large round bowl (at least 4 quart/4 liter capacity), add the cream cheese and beat with a hand blender till smooth.

Mango Pudding

(Yes, I know the photo shows cream cheese & sugar together. You could do that too :).)

3) Add the sugar and blend with the cream cheese till light and fluffy, and well incorporated.

4) Add the mango pulp and CoolWhip – a little at a time – and beat well till no lumps remain. Scrape down the sides if necessary and mix well with the sugar-cheese mixture.

Mango Pudding Mango Pudding

5) Now slowly add the cooled gelatin in batches and make sure to thoroughly mix it with the rest of the ingredients. This step is important for the entire dish to set.

Mango Pudding

6) Pour into a 3-quart serving dish or into individual serving cups and chill till set, at least 6 hours or overnight.

7) Garnish with more Cool Whip, chopped nuts or saffron before serving.

TIPS: Do not use hot gelatin water as the rest of the ingredients will change consistency. Make sure to add a little pulp at a time while beating or else the cream cheese will ‘ball’ and leave lumps. Mix the gelatin well with the rest of the ingredients for consistent consistency. If bubbles form while transferring into a serving dish, they will set and look weird (in my opinion – but then, I’m finicky like that!) Pour gently or spoon the mixture into your serving dish and shake out the bubbles if you see them. Garnish only after the pudding has set.

While this looks like a lot of steps, it is surprisingly easy to make and is totally worth the effort. Hope you enjoy this pudding, and leave some feedback on how it turns out.

Diwali Lighting Ideas

Diwali Lighting Ideas

I’ve shared some ideas for lighting up your home this Diwali.

The first two photos on the top show the easiest way to go; cover your table with a bright colored table cloth and top with a festive runner / dupatta /stole in complementary colors along the center. You can even use matching gift-wrap paper that is folded down to size as an easy & inexpensive alternative. Line the runner with clear votives and use tea lights in them. If you want to use decorative votives, use a plain runner. Consider using decorative chargers, mirrors, or silverware to hold your votives.

As with any source of fire, be careful and never leave it unattended, especially around children and pets.

The remaining four photos have been decorated to mimic henna / mehndi. Henna candles are all over Pinterest and I wanted to give it a try. Problem is, when henna dries, it shrinks and flakes off the smooth candle surface. The easier option was to use brown puffy paint (3D paint) instead. First, the paint adheres well to the candle surface; second, it does not need to be sealed when dry like actual henna. If you are experienced, make the designs freehand directly on the candles. If you are a novice like me, wrap the candle with a piece of blank paper and cut to size. Draw your pattern on it and trace onto the candle with graphite / transfer paper. Trace over the design and allow the paint to dry completely – about 24 hours. Burn the candle for a short while before your party so it forms a well by the wick. This allows the light to show through the candle and give a wonderful glow. (My candles are by no means perfect – I don’t have a steady hand – but the way to perfection is practice, isn’t it 🙂 ) The last candle with the peacock design is battery operated, making it the safest bet.

**UPDATE: – Verizon problems, and my Internet connection has been going haywire the past few days. The post that went up yesterday was just an incomplete draft!! Not sure how it got posted. Anyway, here’s the updated version, and I hope the post makes more sense now.

I’ve also included links for other interesting ideas on the web. Hope you enjoy them. So many ideas – so little time! Lesson learnt – start getting blog entries ready early! Way Early!!

Check out how DECOR IN A SNAP uses beaded cuffs to make pretty and interesting tealight holders.

ODE TO INSPIRATION  has a simple tutorial on making beautiful Moroccan lanterns in jewel colors. Definitely on my to-do list; hopefully for next Diwali 🙂

Morrocan Lanterns

http://odetoinspiration.com/2012/07/ramadan-countdown-to-eid/

Sharing some more beautiful photos of Moroccan lanterns for inspiration:

DIY-Project-Idea-Moroccan-Glass-Jar-Candle-Holder-Votive-Lantern-Light-Upcycle-Craft-Tutorial-Blog

cremedelacraft.com

Badam Phirni – Almond-Rice Pudding

Badam Phirni

Phirni is traditionally made with fragrant Basmati rice that has been soaked for a few hours, then slow cooked for hours in milk till it turns into a creamy, decadent pudding that is flavored with sugar, saffron, and chopped nuts. My grandmother always made the most amazing phirni as a sweet accompaniment to  her famous mutton pulao. I am yet to eat something that matches – let alone beats –  her cooking!!

The recipe below is an easier version that is very simple to make. No soaking or hours of cooking required.  This phirni can be served warm, but it tastes best chilled. Make ahead the day before your Diwali party, and you have a fantastic dessert to serve.

Badam Phirni – Almond-Rice Pudding

(Serves 8-10)

  • 20 almonds, blanched
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 cups + 1/2 cups whole milk / half & half / cream* – (do not use skim milk – the cream in the dairy is what makes this dish tasty)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • pinch saffron

1) To blanch the almonds, soak them in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Test one almond by pressing between your thumb and forefinger. The skin should slide right off. If it doesn’t, soak for a few more minutes. Drain the water and skin the rest.

2) In a heavy bottom (preferably non-stick) pan, add 2 cups of milk and bring to a simmer on a low flame.

3) Meanwhile, in a small blender jar, add the blanched almonds, 1/2 cup milk and rice flour, and make into a fine paste. Set aside.

4) When the milk comes to a boil, add sugar and saffron, and simmer till all the sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly.

5) Still on a low flame, slowly add the almond-rice mixture and whisk so no lumps form, and the milk is creamy.

6) Add the cardamom powder and simmer about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. The phirni will thicken as it cools to the consistency of pudding.

7) Pour into serving bowl(s) and garnish with edible silver, nuts, saffron, etc.

8) Can be served warm, cool or chilled.

9) Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight containers.

*I plan on making a vegan version with Almond Milk the next time. Will update and let you all know how it turns out.

Fig & Dates Barfi

Fig & Dates Barfi

Helloooo…. anybody out there still reading my blog?

The last few months have been so busy, and I kind of lost track of how the time was flying. In fact, I find it hard to accept that we are at the end of October already. People are making Thanksgiving & Christmas plans!!! Coming out of summer vacation and back-to-school, I’ve sat at the computer couple times and drawn a blank when I had to post my recipes. But I’m finally getting back on track, and have lined up a few yummy, easy recipes for the Diwali and holiday season. I promise to try and update my blog at least once a week and share seasonal recipes as often as possible. Hope you all enjoy the next batch of Indian sweets I will be putting up.

 

The first in the series is a Fig & Dates Barfi that is made without any processed sugar. It takes 15-20 minutes to make, and it is delicious! It can be made ahead of time, and works well for boxing as gifts.

Fig & Dates Barfi

Fig & Dates Barfi

(Makes 16 2X2-inch pieces)

  • 1 1/2 cups dry figs / anjeer – (about 15-18)
  • 1  1/2 cups seeded dates / khajoor – (about 35-40)
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup pistachio
  • 1/3 cup ghee / clarified butter
  • Edible silver foil (optional)

1) Soak figs in about a cup of hot water for about 5 minutes. Add dates to same bowl and soak for another 2-3 minutes till they are all soft and plump.

2) While fruit is soaking, heat a small pan on medium, and lightly toast the nuts separately for 2-3 minutes each, stirring constantly. Remove to a bowl and cool.

3) Coarsely chop all the nuts by hand or in a food processor, and set aside.

4) Drain the figs & dates (reserving the water),  and puree in the same food processor jar as the nuts. Add a  little of the reserved water only if needed.

5) Grease an 8X8 pan, or line it with a double layer of parchment paper so that the edges hang outside like a handle. Set aside.

6) Heat a heavy bottomed, wide pan on medium and add ghee.

7) When ghee melts, add the fig & dates puree and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly and making sure not to burn it.

8) When it seems like there is not more moisture in the mixture, and it starts to leave the sides of the pan, add the chopped nuts and mix well.

9) Cook another 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly and watching to make sure the mixture does not burn.

10) Remove from heat. Pour into the greased bowl and press lightly into the edges, and to flatten top. Allow it to cool completely.

11) Top with edible silver foil, and cut into 16 squares.

Fig & Dates Barfi

Here’s another closeup. Bars can be stored in an airtight box for about a week.