Ok you like them or loath them but Indian Sweet dishes aren’t as well received in the UK as they are in the sub-continent.
So, I thought I’d talk about them and you can decide whether you’d give them a go with tips on what you need to look out for on the menu at your next visit to a curry house.
There are a lot of sweet options to tickle your taste buds after eating a hearty spiced Indian feast.
Milk plays a huge role in Indian pudding making.
Firstly it’s always going to be whole milk. Fuller, fatter and if you are as old as I am, have the old fashioned gold top ( yes the blue tits always got there first to take the cream from the milk or in
The winter it would freeze and the gold top would be suspended in the air with the cream firmly holding it up) you need to buy this. Don’t even try skimmed you’ll be stirring for years to achieve the Khoa which I’ll talk about in a while.
As a baby I was allergic to milk so that’s didn’t help, but I do love a small amount and it’s got to be creamy and rich.
When I grew up I’d have to stir a large pot of milk to stop it from catching at the base of the pan.
My mum hadn’t come across non- stick saucepans for a while so I’d be using the amazing, well used, aluminium pots that she’d brought with her from Kenya.
The idea of heating up the milk on a gentle heat would be to thicken it. The smell is wonderful. Your arm would be rather tired but it’s worth the wait. The evaporation would take place and form a deposits around the sides. I would scrape these off to ensure this wasn’t wasted. It was where the flavour is and it’s a nightmare to clean afterwards.
Using this method of cooking I used to make basudi or Indian rice pudding. We’d gently heat up the milk and add basmati rice to the pan. Stirring occasionally not to burn the base or the rice. We’d then add aromatic spices and a sweetener to be served alongside a meal ( yes you read that correctly - alongside a meal).
If you reduce the milk to a thickened paste you will achieve Khoa. A thick creamy solid condensed cream block that is rich and adds depth to a pudding. For the amount of milk you would evaporate to make 500g you’d need quite a few litres of milk. To make life easy Khoa can be purchased in specialist Indian shops so the hard work has been done for you. Head to the fridge section it’s sold in 250g weigh blocks.
Condensed milk or powdered milk
These are used widely in small sweets called burfi or gulab jambu. This adds richness and depth to a pudding.
Burfi can be made in various flavours. My family like coconut burfi and chocolate burfi in particular.
Sugar yes lots of it. White caster, granulated sugar is used widely however jaggery ( sugar cane) is also a common product used in Gujarati food. It has a fudge like depth and a little goes a long way. We love sugar cane juice squeezed through a press served with a dash of lemon juice to cut through the sweetness. It’s probably why many of mums friends are all suffering from diabetes from eating sugary delights . Just burn off the calories and perhaps eat less.
Spices it’s all about the aromatics not about the heat. Cardamom, cinnamon or Cassia or my favourite nutmeg. Cloves are also amazing when used in small quantities. I love spices in puddings but be careful not to just throw them in, they can destroy the dish if used to loosely. You can cook them whole and remove before serving or you can take out the seeds eg cardamom pods and crush them before throwing them into your sweet dish.
Nuts traditionally used are almonds , pistachios, peanuts. Crushed, chopped, ground and just left whole. They’re are so many options. When selecting a nut it’s about texture, colour as well as flavour. I love pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds and opt for this combo often for selfish purposes.
With all this talk about puddings here’s a recipe to share. It’s a rice pudding which takes a while to cook on the hob or like me, life’s too short and I pop it into the oven and go for a run before I delve into it. A guilty pleasure.
Bini’s Indian Spiced Rice Pudding
Basmati rice or pudding rice 50g
Butter or ghee 1 tspn
Sugar 25g ( or to taste depending on how sweet your tooth is)
Cardamom pods 4 keep them whole
1 cardamom pod - seeds removed and crushed
Grated nutmeg 1/8th tsp
2-3 stands of saffron (mixed with some of the milk to release the colour)
Slivered almonds - 1 tbsp (as desired)
Pistachios Kernels - 1/2 tbsp chopped
Oven on at 150C
Preheat the oven
Place all the ingredients (except the pistachios and almonds) into an ovenproof dish and mix well.
Pop it into the oven uncovered and cook for 50 minutes.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the nuts serve with vanilla ice cream and a dusting of grated nutmeg.