Top 5 Indian Desserts – the stately kaju katli

Of all the nut based mithais kaju katli is perhaps the rage. The best is made of a delicate mixture of coarsely ground cashewnut powder and powdered sugar. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But then how does the flavour come through so greatly? Some more indepth research gave the info that the cashewnuts should be of topmost quality as also the grinding of it be done in short bursts of the grinder so that the heat generated does not harm the flavours which will begin to emanate once the cashewnuts undergo the grind. As it is an oily nut and almost never sold in the shell, which contains an unpleasant blistering oil. The nuts are roasted and shelled before distribution. It was also a revelation to discover how cashewnuts grow. In a most peculiar fashion. The nut, enclosed in a hard kidney-shaped shell, is suspended beneath a pear-shaped fruit, the cashew apple. Botanically it is not a fruit at all, but the swollen stem of the nut.
Kaju katli, per se, is dull in colour, the upper layer prettied up with silver warq, shaped like diamonds and more important, as thin as one eighth of an inch. Looks don’t count really as its popularity is unquestionable. The fragrant orange coloured Kesar Kaju Katli (flavoured generously with saffron), the rich crunchy Anjeer Kaju Katli (dried figs add their special touch), the inviting rosy Gulab Kaju Katli (topped with a thin layer of Gulkand) and the regal emerald coloured Kaju Pista Roll (the excellence of pistachios make them richer) are the other versions available. Quick Kaju Barfi is worth a look. Perfect kaju katli should look uniform – both in shape and thickness – and taste of fresh cashewnuts and remain tasteful for days. The idea of investing in this mithai is to have something sweet on hand that maintains its flavour and texture without refrigeration. In fact, kaju katli will lose its excellent flavour and malleability if refrigerated. Some qualities of kaju katli deserve mention as they have more proportion of sugar, or an added enhancement of ground peanuts, or melon seeds, but this is not what we are looking for. The best bite of kaju katli would be of one which tastes distinctly of cashewnuts, is not overpoweringly sweet and most importantly is moist and firm and yet melts in the mouth. While cooking the mixture of cashewnut powder and powdered sugar (in the right proportion where the former should be more than the latter) there is a magical point at which the mixture should be whisked away from heat. Then the final product would be that which is moist and firm yet melts in the mouth! There are some who do use cashewnut paste instead of powder but cashewnut powder definitely gives better flavor. When you read the recipe given below you will realise that kaju katli is very easy to make. Not only that, one can get more quantity for a lesser price!
Cook1 1/5 cups (240 gms) sugar and 2/3 cup (160 ml + 1 tbsp) water together till it begins to boil. Cook for three to four minutes or till the syrup reaches 118°C and you get multi strings. Then add 2 tbsps. (40 gms) liquid glucose and stir well. Remove from heat and add 2 cups (400 gms) powdered cashewnuts stirring continuously. If necessary add one tablespoon of water and keep stirring till the temperature comes down to 65°C. Knead lightly to make a soft dough. Roll out on a flat greased surface to one centimeter thickness. Rub a butter paper over the surface to smoothen it evenly. Apply silver warq and cut into diamond shapes.

Top 5 Indian desserts

It’s time for confessions. Confessions about the love for confections! For a true Indian palate will vouch for the passion for mithais. For us in India, happiness means sweets, mithais or mishthan, call what you may! We love all sweetmeats and love them very sweet. Somebody from a western country might just comment that they are too sweet because their palate just cannot take it. It is the occasion and the celebration that necessitates the distribution of sweets for they are the symbol of spreading sweetness and happiness.

Mithais seem to have won the taste buds the world over and Indian sweets have extremely high visibility these days. Be it the fudge like dry sweetmeat barfi and peda, or the syrupy Gulab Jamun and rosogulla that require a bowl and a spoon, the sticky deep fried balushahi and gujiya, the fragrant hot halwa and jalebi, round besan laddoo and motichoor laddoo, creamy milk puddings like rice kheer or seviyan and then shahi tukre. A description of Indian sweetmeats requires reams of paper, a gourmet to relish them and the constitution to digest them. A quicker version of kheer is the ever popular phirni and a variety like Badam Pista Phirni, Rasgulla Phirni, Kesari Phirni make interesting bowlful of dessert at parties.

Indian sweetmeats and sweet makers are a world unto themselves, a world that draws anyone who has a very sweet tooth into a series of temptations! Indian sweetmeats are not only sweet, but also rich. If you do have a good supplier of fresh mithai like the local halwai then your life is made because making the sweets themselves can be a sticky (rocky) road to success. What one needs is the inclination to try it out the very first time and then remove all fear of failure. Generally, sweet making is a family business handed down from one generation to the next. Halwais are understandably reluctant to pass on their recipes and the tricks that make them work, so finding the perfect recipe requires luck and persistence. Then, as in all branches of confectionery making, it requires not only the ability to follow a recipe, but practice and observation of how the mixture behaves at every stage of preparation so that the end result is worth the time and effort invested.

Some traditional desserts that will never go out of fashion are given here for you: Gajar Halwa, Rasmalai, Kesari Kulfi!

Good time at FoodFood bash!

As another Monday arrives so does the list of work to be done this week! Beginning shoot for my show on FoodFood in two days’ time. Got to put down my list of recipes that I would like to cook.
Our party, hosted by Sandeep Goyal and myself, at Bungalow 9, Bandra on Friday went off really very well. We both had made it a point to invite all our guests personally and it was so wonderful to see friends and their families grace the occasion. I would like to use this space to thank each and everyone who took the time off to come to the party. It was a pleasure being with all of you. Giving you pictures in these elinks:
Food was the highlight, so to say, and I am sure everyone enjoyed themselves. We had a tremendous variety but giving just a glimpse here: Dimsums from a live counter, Sofiyani Paneer for veg starters, Lava Grilled Chicken and Crab Roll for non vegetarians. Salads were a great hit: Baby Potatoes in Curried Mayo and Prunes and Olives in Orange and Walnut Dressing were much appreciated. Italian Breads and Honey Wheat Mini Loaves graced the table. Whole range of pizzas and pastas were prepared live. I mixed the main courses, lots of Oriental and Indian: Vietnamese Chicken, Awadhi Chicken, Thai Green Curry, Paneer Pasanda and the quintessential Kali Dal. These had the supporting baskets of different rotis – all prepared live. The desserts were the star attraction and these were classics like Tiramisu and Phirni and new offerings like Red Wine Kulfi, Blueberry and Gin Cheesecake, Lime and Lychee Crème and Chocolate Madagascar Ice cream.
We had a small parting gift for all our guests: a FoodFood apron, hand gloves and a copy of my new book 100 Favorite Recipes. That they were thrilled was evident by the effusive thanks we got!
After such a huge meal at the party, spent the weekend eating light foods only! Some of my weekend specialties.

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor