Recipes: Potato Halwa

Happy Navratri! Today is the first day of the nine days that are spent in prayer, contemplation, and celebrating women.

Last year during Navratri, I wanted to make a different sweet each day as an offering to the Goddess. One of the days, when I didn’t know what to make and had some boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes in the fridge, I made this recipe which I found online. Usually only made from potatoes, I added sweet potatoes to the mix and the result was a super delicious halwa, which nobody could believe was made from potatoes!

This recipe is slightly heavier during the summer months because of the carb and starch content in the potatoes and so is apt for winters. Also, because it is heavy, you can make it if you are fasting as potatoes are the quintessential fasting vegetable.

Potato Halwa

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes, boiled, peeled, and mashed
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato, boiled, peeled, and mashed
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1/3 to ½ cup sugar according to taste
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • A generous pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp chopped mixed nuts like cashews, almonds, and pistachios
  • 1 tsp raisins

Method:

  • Take the saffron in a small bowl and add 1 tbsp warm milk to it let the saffron dissolve. You may need to stir it a bit or even cook it in the microwave in 30-second increments.
  • In a small pan, with 1 tsp ghee, fry the mixed nuts and raisins and keep aside. You can also dry roast them as I did to make the recipe slightly healthy. Keep aside.
  • Heat ghee in a pan and when the ghee heats up, add the mashed potatoes.
  • Sauté on low heat for about 5-6 minutes until the potatoes start to change in colour and start becoming golden brown.
  • Add in the milk, sugar, cardamom powder and saffron and mix well to combine. The sugar will start to melt and the mixture becomes watery. Make sure you stir well that there are no lumps in this mixture.
  • Stir continuously until the halwa turns dry again and the ghee starts oozing out.
  • Add half the chopped nuts and raisins and mix well.
  • Cook for another minute and switch off the flame.
  • Serve warm garnished with the remaining nuts and raisins.
  • This dish is best served warm, so if you are planning to make it ahead of time, just warm it in the microwave or the stove and serve.

Recipes: Phirni

I like to think of Phirni as a sophisticated cousin of the Payasam. Also known as Kheer, Kheeri, Payesh, Payox, Payasam, Phirni is a sweet dish and a type of wet pudding, usually made by boiling milk, sugar or jaggery, and rice, although rice is sometimes substituted with dals, tapioca or vermicelli. It is typically flavoured with desiccated coconut, cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, pistachios, almonds, or other dry fruits and nuts and is typically served as a dessert. The word kheer is derived from the Sanskrit word for milk, ksheer and is also the archaic name for sweet rice pudding. The difference as I see between kheer or payasam and phirni is that payasam has whole rice grains cooked in it while Phirni has powdered rice, usually, Basmati added to it. Tasting great both hot and cold, we prefer it cold, but this is a personal preference.

Phirni

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup basmati rice
  • 1-litre full cream milk
  • ½ cup sugar or as required
  • 10 to 12 almonds, blanched and peeled, keep about a tbsp for garnishing
  • 10 to 12 pistachios, blanched and peeled, keep about a tbsp for garnishing
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder
  • A large pinch of saffron strands
  • 2 tsp rose water

Method:

  • Rinse the basmati rice a couple of times in water. Drain the water and dry the rice by spreading them on a tray or plate. Let the rice dry completely and keep it aside.
  • Grind the rice in a grinder till the consistency resembles fine semolina or couscous and keep the ground rice aside.
  • In a small bowl, add the nuts, add boiling water to it and keep aside for about 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, drain the water and let the nuts cool slightly. Peel the nuts and slice or chop them finely and keep them aside. Keep aside about 1 tbsp each of the almonds and pistachios for the garnish.
  • Heat milk in a thick-bottomed broad pan.
  • When the milk starts to boil, take 1 tbsp of the milk into a small bowl, add in the saffron strands and stir it until the saffron dissolves and the milk becomes a lovely orange colour.
  • Let the milk in the pan reach a rolling boil, lower the heat and add the ground rice. Stir and add the sugar.
  • Cook the ground rice in the milk on low to medium heat on the pan with the pan uncovered and keep stirring at intervals so that the milk is completely lump-free.
  • Add In the cardamom powder, almonds, pistachios, cardamom powder and saffron-infused milk.
  • Stir and cook for another five minutes, or a bit more until the Phirni thickens and the rice granules are softened and cooked completely.
  • Switch off the flame and drizzle the rose water.
  • Garnish it with the reserved chopped nuts and cover tightly and let the Phirni cool down.
  • Once the Phirni is cool, refrigerate until it becomes cold and serve cold as a dessert. It should stay for 2-3 days in the fridge, but I doubt it will last that long!

Recipe: Pineapple Halwa or Pineapple Kesari

One of the simplest sweets, a kesari or Halwa is made of semolina or rava and is usually the go-to sweet in many South Indian households. Very simply put, a kesari is a sweet sweet upma.

The usual way to make a Kesari is to make it exactly like a plain upma and substitute salt with sugar. Most people add a bit of orange colour to get the distinctive orange hue. During Navaratri last year, I decided to make this on one of the days and added pineapple to it to make Pineapple Kesari. Because I didn’t have any colour on hand, I used a bit of saffron which is why my Kesari is pale cream or yellow. If orange or yellow colour is used, it would have a bright yellow colour.

Pineapple Kesari

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semolina or rava, roasted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 12-15 cashewnuts
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tin canned pineapple
  • 1-2 drops natural yellow or orange colour
  • 1 large pinch saffron

Method:

  • Dry roast the semolina until it starts to emit an aroma. If it is already pre-roasted, you just need to dry roast it for a couple of minutes.
  • Boil the water in a kettle or pot and keep aside, letting it be boiling until needed.
  • Heat 2 tbsp ghee in the same pan in which the semolina was roasted and when the ghee becomes warm and fry the cashew nuts until they are golden brown. Drain the ghee and remove to a kitchen towel and keep aside.
  • Fry the raisins for a couple of seconds and remove and keep aside.
  • Keep aside some of the pineapple and chop it into tiny pieces and keep aside. Blend the balance pineapple into a fine puree and keep aside.
  • Heat 2 tbsp ghee and fry the pineapple pieces for a few minutes. Add in the puree and saute covered for about two minutes.
  • Now add the sugar and stir well. Add in the water and let the water come to a rolling boil. Add in any colour if you are using as well as the saffron.
  • Now add the roasted semolina and quickly stir so that there no lumps form. Add in the cardamom powder as well as the fried cashew nuts and raisins and stir constantly so that lumps are avoided. A rule of thumb I use is that to make the kesari slightly watery so that it does not harden as it cools. Once the water has been absorbed, cover and serve hot.

Notes:

  • If the kesari is cold, you can warm it slightly before serving as this sweet tastes better warm rather than cold.
  • If you are not using tinned pineapple, you will need to cook the pineapple pieces for a bit and soften it before adding the semolina.

Recipes: Paruppu Payasam aka Moongdal Payasam

A very simple traditional recipe which does not take much time to prepare, I made this payasam the day after Avani Avittam, when S and BB had to say the Gayatri Japam 1008 times. It is traditional to make a sweet on this day, and since I didn’t have much time in the morning, I decided to go with this simple and tasty sweet dish.

Paruppu Payasam

Ingredients:
1 litre milk, boiled and cooled
1/3 cup moong dal
10-15 cashewnuts, halved
¼ to ½ cup powdered Jaggery or brown sugar
1 tbsp ghee
1/8 tsp cardamom powder
Water as required

Method:
Heat a pan and once the pan is warm, dry roast the moong dal till you get a a lovely fragrance. Make sure you don’t over-roast it and burn it. Remove from the pan and keep aside.

Fry the cashewnuts in the ghee until they are nice and brown and keep aside.
In a small pressure cooker or a container which you can put inside the cooker, mix the roasted moong dal with some milk and water and pressure cook it for some 3-4 whistles. Open the cooker when it cools down and lightly mash the dal.

If you are doing this on a stove top, the method is the same, only keep an eye on the dal when it is cooking and top up milk or water as needed and then lightly mash the dal.
Once the dal has been mashed up a bit, add in the powdered jaggery and mix well.

Put this back on the flame and then add the balance boiled and cooled milk and cook on a low flame for another 5 minutes until the milk, dal and jaggery gets completely mixed together.

Now sprinkle the cardamom powder and the fried cashewnuts along with the ghee.

Do a taste test and serve hot or cold. If you are making this as an offering, then of course, you can’t taste it. We prefer eating this cold as I feel this enhances the taste, but this is personal preference.

You can also make this with only milk to get a richer taste. Also some people use coconut milk plus normal milk, but I don’t make this version.

Recipes: Almond Cashew Pudding or Badam Kaju Kheer

The day S was supposed to fly off for his Sabarimala pilgrimage, I wanted to send him off with something sweet. Since he was flying in the morning, I also wanted to make something quick. This Badam Kaju Kheer is that perfect recipe.

Badam Kaju Kheer or Almond Cashew Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre full cream milk
  • 20 almonds
  • 20 cashewnuts
  • 5-6 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 pinches saffron strands
  • 1 tbsp ghee

Method:

  • Soak the almonds and cashew nuts in hot water for 15-20 minutes. When they cool, peel the nuts and keep aside.
  • Chop around 5 each of almonds and cashew into slivers and keep aside.
  • Blend the balance nuts together with some milk to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  • Boil the milk in a pan and when it comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat and stir for around 10 minutes to thicken the milk.
  • Add the sugar and the almond cashew paste and stir well. Let it come to a rolling boil.
  • Now add the saffron strands and cardamom powder and stir well. Remove from the fire and keep aside.
  • In a small skillet, add the ghee and the slivered nuts and stir until the nuts are brown. When the nuts turn brown, drain from the ghee and garnish the pudding with the nuts and some strands of saffron.
  • Have this hot or cold, but I feel cold is better as it tends to thicken some more. If you find the pudding too thick for your taste, dilute it with some milk.