Tag Archives: diwali

Sweet Potato with Toasted Coconuts and Warm Jaggery Syrup

Sweet Potato with Toasted Coconut and Warm Jaggery Syrup

It’s been a week of sweets around here! The Indian festival of Diwali is on the 26th of October this year. As part of our celebrations, I’ve posted an Indian or Indian inspired dessert every day this week. All of them have incorporated seasonal, local ingredients.

Looking back to the previous posts this week, I’ve realized that I came up with a way to make all of them healthier, typically with adding less sugar or using a ‘natural’ substitute. The beets, parsnip, applesauce all substituted for sugar and added great texture and crunch. I didn’t really set out to make this a healthy Diwali, but if I have to eat sweets five days in a row, they had better not be bad for me!

Here’s this week’s lineup:

Monday – Golden Beets with Roasted Cashews (Halwa)

Tuesday – Kesari Baath: Easy Cream of Wheat Dessert with Parsnips and Dates

Wednesday – Cashewnut Squares with Spiced Applesauce (cashew burfi)

Thursday – Pear Lassi with Ginger and Honey

Today’s recipe is Indian inspired rather than Indian. The recipe just came together on its own after I baked the sweet potato and was wondering what to make with it. You get yams in India but they are sweeter than the yams or sweet potatoes you get here. Jaggery is unrefined cane sugar. It is sometimes also made from palm sap. The flavor of jaggery is quite different from that of refined table sugar.

Microwave baked sweet potato

Diced sweet potato

Jaggery

Jaggery syrup - reduced with green cardamom

Serves 3-4

Recipe

  • 1 big sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon ghee (or unsalted butter)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut chips (frozen or dried, thaw first if using frozen)
  • 4 tablespoons jaggery (brown sugar or demerara can be used too)
  • 3 cardamom pods, slightly crushed

Pierce the sweet potato 3-4 times with a fork or knife. Cook on high for 8 minutes or till soft. Turn over half way through.

Peel and dice into 1 inch cubes.

Heat the ghee in a saucepan on medium heat. Toast the coconut chips for 4-5 minutes while stirring frequently. They should be lightly browned and crisp.

Heat the jaggery with 1/4 cup of water in a small pot over medium heat. Add cardamom pods. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 10 -15 minutes or till the sauce has reduced and is the consistency of maple syrup. If you need to, add more water.

Mix the sweet potato and coconut chips and drizzle the jaggery sauce over them.

This has been a very special week as I don’t often get to indulge in Indian sweets. Thanks for following along and Happy Diwali!

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Cashewnut Squares with Spiced Applesauce

Cashewnut burfi or squares

Its Day 3 of the Diwali Dessert week! Today’s recipe is inspired by one of my grandmother’s signature desserts – cashewnut ‘burfi’ or squares. But because of all the ghee and nuts that she used, she’d only make it for special occasions such as my birthday! After the ground cashews and melted sugar are cooked together, the dough is flattened out onto a plate and left to cool before cutting into diamonds. But I could never wait till the squares were formed and I’d get a small cup of the smooth and gooey dough. And then I’d eat it one spoon at a time slowly savoring its rich feel on my tongue. Eating the squares was just as tasty but a different experience entirely.

When I finished making this today, the light was already fading fast. The squares hadn’t fully formed yet but I had to shoot the pictures. I regretted not having cooked the cashew dough a while longer. But then I remembered that I preferred it this way.

Traditionally, the ingredients for this dessert, also called kaju katli, are cashews, sugar, ghee and either milk or water. Instead of milk and most of the sugar, I added spiced applesauce. This was one of the suggestions made when I asked for what local / seasonal ingredients you’d like to see featured. I’ll confess that I wasn’t sure at all if the slight acidity of applesauce and the nuttiness of cashews would go together. But I loved it. It was surprisingly good. I was relieved as I didn’t have a back-up.

Organic applesauce

Roughly ground cashew meal

Cashewnut burfi before laying out to cool

Recipe

Lightly toast the cashew meal for 2-3 minutes on medium low. Simmer the applesauce with the cinnamon, clove and sugar in a thick bottomed pot. Do this for about 8 minutes on medium heat or till the sauce has gone slightly past bubbling to leaving the sides of the pot.

Add the cashew meal and ghee and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly for 5 minutes while incorporating into a dough. If you can take a small amount of the dough and make into a ball, it is ready to cool.

Smoothen out in a quarter inch layer on a plate. Leave to cool for 2-3 hours in the fridge before cutting into squares or diamonds. Or if you’re like me, just scoop some out into a bowl and dig in right away.

Thanks Grandma.

Cashewnut squares or kaju katli

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Kesari Baath – Easy Cream of Wheat Dessert with Parsnip and Dates

Kesari Baath - cream of wheat with almonds, dates and parsnip

It’s Day 2 of our Diwali Dessert week. Didn’t catch the golden beets with roasted cashews yesterday? Tut-tut, but I’m sure this will corrected very soon! Today, we’ll be making Kesari Baath (saffron semolina pudding) but again with a twist. It’s also called Sooji Halwa in North India.

Indian sweets use a lot of sugar. I can’t eat much sugar so doing a week of desserts is a challenge! I mentioned yesterday that low glycemic sugar alternatives like coconut crystals are a great sugar substitute. Today’s dessert uses parsnips as a natural sweetener. Cool, huh?!

Another trick while making desserts less sweet is to heighten the experience by adding different layers of texture. The dates in the recipe do this but also add some sweetness as well. The nuts add great crunch. When I make this again, I think I’ll chop the parsnips instead of grating to add another layer of texture.

The traditional Kesari Bath uses cashew nuts but since I used them yesterday, I went with almonds. I’m sure pecans or hazelnuts would work well too.

Almonds and dates

Parsnip as a sweetener

Grated parsnip

Recipe

  • 1/2 cup of almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 dates, pitted and chopped (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons ghee (or unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup cream of wheat or semolina
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 cup grated parsnip (optional, helps sweeten and thus reduce amount of sugar needed)

Heat the ghee on medium heat in skillet till it melts. Roast the nuts and dates for 3 minutes while stirring frequently. Remove the nuts and dates and leave out to cook. Roast the cream of wheat in the same skillet for 3 minutes or till it turns slightly brown.

Heat the water and milk in a pot over medium heat. Add the grated parsnips, sugar and saffron. When the milk just starts to simmer, slowly add the roasted cream of wheat while stirring. Once all the cream of wheat has been added, remove the pot from heat and stir till cooked.

You can either mix in all the nuts and dates or use them as garnish.

Enjoy this easy, yummy dessert!

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Golden Beets with Roasted Cashews

Diwali, the Indian festival of lights is on October 26th this year. This is one of the most popular festivals in India! Most people celebrate with fireworks, new clothes and families and friends exchange sweets. I’ll confess that I don’t often eat sweets. For one, they go directly to my waistline and for another, they usually have some ingredient that I can’t eat. Plus when I crave food, its usually something savory. I really dislike how sickly sweet most Indian sweets are. BUT, when you make it yourself, you’re in control. And with healthy ingredients like beets, I don’t feel guilty at all.

I love the natural sweetness of the beets and didn’t feel the need to add much sugar at all. There are layers of texture in this simple dessert. The cooked grated beets still retain some of their crunch. The roasted cashews are crisp. The raisins plump up when cooked with the beets and milk and are almost juicy when you bite into them.

Golden Bulk beets for beet halwa

Cashews roasted in ghee

Beets are in peak season right now and there are so many ways of preparing them apart from slicing them up for a salad. I love beets but hate the mess of cleaning up after them! Golden beets though come with all the crunch of beets, a mild sweet flavor and none of the mess. So here goes, the first recipe for this week of daily Diwali dessert inspiration!

This recipe is a take on carrot halwa.

Serves 4-6

Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons ghee (or unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup whole cashews
  • 1 big or 2 small golden beets, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1.5 cups milk, divided (A non dairy milk will work too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar (for a low glycemic alternative, use coconut crystals!)
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Heat 2 teaspoons ghee  over medium heat till it melts and starts to froth. Roast the cashews for 3-5 minutes or till slightly brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool and crisp up.

Microwave 1/2 cup milk for 30 seconds. Gently crush saffron in your palms and add it to the milk. Stir and let sit for a few minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons ghee in a pot over medium heat till it starts to froth. Saute the grated beets for 3 minutes. Add the milk with saffron, the rest of the milk, raisins and sugar. Stir. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. The beets should be cooked but still have some bite to them. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, garnish with the roasted nuts before serving.

For a nice presentation, you can dust with powdered sugar.

Golden Beet 'Halwa' for Diwali

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Celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights

Diwali or Deepavali, the festival of lights, easily the most popular of Indian festivals, is celebrated tomorrow this year. While the main festival is on Saturday, the ceremonies run for five days to commemorate various events in Indian mythology. Here are some of the stories behind the celebration of Diwali.

As told in the great epic, Ramayana, the Prince Rama having been exiled from his kingdom returns home after winning a battle with the demon king Ravana. During his years of exile, Rama, his brother Laxmana and wife Sita lived as ascetics in the forest. Wanting to take revenge upon Rama, Ravana kidnaps Sita and takes her to his faraway kingdom of Lanka. Rama and Laxmana head to Lanka accompanied by the monkey god Hanuman who had found the whereabouts of Sita. After a long battle, Rama claims victory after killing Ravana and returns to Ayodhya with Sita and Laxmana. The citizens of Ayodhya welcome their rightful King with diyas (small clay lamps) lit to show him the way home.

Many celebrate the birth of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth during Diwali. The story goes that Devas (minor gods) convinced the Asuras (bad deities) to work with them to churn the ocean to bring up the pot of the nectar of immortality. The beautiful goddess was brought forth to earth from the depths of the ocean holding the pot of nectar. She helped ensure that only the Devas were able to partake of the nectar thus restoring a previous imbalance in power between the Devas and the Asuras.

Diwali is not just celebrated by Hindus. In Jainism, Diwali is celebrated as the day the sage Mahavira attained enlightenment in 527 BC. Diwali is important in Sikhism as it commemorates the return of Guru Hargobind from rescuing 52 Hindu kings after defeating the Mughal Emperor Jahangir who imprisoned them.

The stories surrounding Diwali abound but the common thread of good over evil prevails. Since light symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, Indians light many diyas around the house. In India and other countries, people exchange sweets and light fireworks.

Here in Seattle, USA, how are we celebrating Diwali? No fireworks here but the diyas are lit at home and I will be celebrating with friends.

But I want to share one of my favorite festivals with others. I’ll be cooking up a big batch of curry from one of the Veena’s Market kits and giving away samples at the Savour store in Ballard (2242 NW Market Street). If you live in the area, stop by between 3 and 6pm and I’ll be there till I’m out of curry!  If you need more reason to stop by, there will also be wine tasting going on at the same time.

Happy Diwali!

Veena

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