Diwali, Coconut & Quinoa Kheer and Win Flights to India!

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (2 of 5)

Of all of the stories that are associated with Diwali, the tale of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman has to be the one that is dearest to my heart.  It is a tale of honour, exile, self-control and eventually, triumph.  This part of the epic Ramayana begins with the self-imposed exile of Rama after an administration bungle involving his stepmother and the throne.  Despite the pleas of his father the King, honour drives Rama into the forest, where he is willingly followed by Sita and Lakshman to begin what is to be an adventure-filled, fourteen year camping trip.

And what of Sita?  Her adoptive father, also a King, discovered baby Sita in the fields (one assumes she was discovered by one of his staff as what King would toil the fields?).  He is delighted with his find, which if you ask me is a refreshing change in the attitude of that time, when female babies were generally considered a consolation prize to sons.  He raises her as his own and when she is of marriageable age, hosts the equivalent of a celestial weight lifting championship to filter out the men from the mice.  Thus, Rama is found.  He is known in Hindu mythology as Purushottama, literally the Supreme Being, or Perfect Man (thereby confirming that on Earth, one may find Mr. Right but can forget any hopes of finding Mr. Perfect).

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (5 of 5)

So after having to suffer through watching keen suitor after keen suitor attempt to lift the heaviest bow in the world, the Princess Sita finds her perfect man, marries him and is rewarded with a honeymoon of more than a decade in the woods with no mobile phone connection and barely a hairdryer to her name.  As if having to wander around in the forest with your husband and the third wheel his brother wasn’t trying enough for the poor lady, she manages to get herself kidnapped by Ravana, an obnoxious demon with appalling table manners.

So Diwali marks the return from exile of the trio, after Rama proves his perfection by slaying the evil Ravana, rescuing his wife and bringing her back to civilisation before she can get herself into any more trouble.  Known as the Festival of Lights, an important feature of Diwali is the lighting of lamps and of firecrackers.  The flames and bursts are a symbol of good triumphing over evil, of light obscuring the darkness.

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (1 of 5)

In Sydney, the law dictates that we be content with the lighting of sparklers and of small oil filled lamps, or diyas.  When I was in Mumbai as a child however, it was a different story.  Weeks before the much anticipated festival, we would stock up on firecrackers of all shapes, sizes and colours.  Then the day would come and after the religious rituals were duly observed and obscene amounts of food eaten, all of the inhabitants would gather in front of the apartment block, the youngest kids hoisted safely onto their fathers’ shoulders.

We would often start softly, with flower pots that would spray a bouquet of light upwards and chakkars (wheels) that would spin madly when lit, spraying colourful sparks unpredictably in all directions.  Some of the braver boys would venture onto rockets, placing them in used soda bottles. These had to be lit quickly, legs in take-off position, so that the mad dash to safety could be done before they launched.  The grand finale would be strings of tiny ‘Dum Dum’ crackers, named so for the deafening cavalcade of explosions that began when they were lit, leaving ears ringing till Christmas.  When the boxes of firecrackers had all been systematically reduced to burnt paper and the air was heavy with the strangely intoxicating scent of over-done popcorn, we would all head back into our homes (or each others’) to enjoy a vast array of sweets for dessert.

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (3 of 5)

Firecrackers and sweets jostle for first place among the highlights of Diwali and in Australia, where the law is limiting, sweets win every time.  There are no rules against sugary, milky gratification and indulge we do, with at least three different types of sweets every year.  This year, I played with a variation on kheer, a popular condensed milk and rice pudding.  In this version, the quinoa lends a nuttiness which cuts through its creamy, mildly sweet coconut vehicle.  There is a pleasant coating of the tongue of thickened coconut milk and the delicate balance of the cardamom, saffron and vanilla that it carries.  Jaggery lends a warm, caramel sweetness, but you could use brown sugar if you don’t have any on hand.  An abundant drizzle of toasted, crushed nuts is mandatory and gives the molars something to work on in an otherwise soft world.  I chose almonds and also used some Persian fairy floss that I happened to find strutting around in the pantry.  From a nutrition perspective, quinoa is mostly protein and therefore a healthier option to rice.  Also, the natural sweetness of coconut products means that only a small amount of sweetener is required.  Serve in small bowls, as both quinoa and coconut milk are filling entities and the last thing we all need is dessert fatigue*.

Now onto the competition! St.George Bank is giving away 2 tickets to India this Diwali (see the video below), and if I hadn’t spent my leave galavanting around Tuscany and the UK, I’d be entering.  To enter, all you have to do is snap a pic of some aspect of your Diwali celebrations.  Post the pic on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, with the #StGeorgeDiwali by 12 noon Sunday, October 26.  The best entry will win flights for 2 to India!  The competition is open to NSW, ACT and QLD residents.  For further info, including T & C’s, head to http://www.stgeorgediwali.com.au/

So whether your Diwali consists of Dum-Dums and squealing children, or quiet rituals and too much food, may it be filled with light, love and sweetness.  Happy Diwali!

Looking for other eggless sweet options? Try these chocolate burfi. or this raw mint slice, or these truffles or these ones.

This is a sponsored post, but words, opinions and ramblings are my own.

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (4 of 5)

Coconut and Quinoa Kheer (Pudding)

Makes  8-10 serves

Get:

1/2 cup quinoa
1 tin coconut milk
1 tin coconut cream
50-70g jaggery, powdered, or brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
The insides of 6-8 cardamom pods, roughly powdered
1/8 tsp (generous pinch) saffron strands
1/2 or 1 whole vanilla bean
About 1/4 cup crushed, toasted nuts of your choice

Make:

Boil the quinoa in plenty of water for 6-8 mins. Drain and rinse the quinoa well.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place the drained quinoa, coconut milk, coconut cream, powdered jaggery or brown sugar, powdered cardamom seeds and saffron.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds.  Place the seeds and the bean into the pan.

Bring gently to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the pudding has thickened to a porridge consistency.  Crush and toast the nuts in another pan while this is happening.  Serve topped with crushed nuts and whatever else happens to be serving a purely decorative purpose in your pantry.

 

Notes:

*We all know dessert fatigue is a myth, but the weak amongst us claim it exists.  Also, I may have made way too much of this and eaten it for breakfast 3 days in a row.

Jaggery is an unrefined Indian brown sugar that you can pick up at Indian grocery stores.

If you don’t have vanilla beans, you can substitute with vanilla extract or paste.

Coconut Quinoa Kheer Pudding (7 of 2)

 

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Raw Mint Slice for The Sweet Swap 2014

The punch of peppermint is what first makes

It’s presence known in the rich nutty base

Then sexy dark chocolate, creamy with coconut

Widens the smile on the indulger’s face

Mint Slice 3

So as a nibble with tea

Or an after dinner zing,

This raw mint slice will make

Your taste-buds sing!

Mint Slice 4

Ok so a poet I clearly am not.  But I am kinda tickled pink with this recipe, and boxes of the decadent yet goodness-filled squares went out to three lovely bloggers.  Amanda of Chewtown, Bryton of Food in Literature and Cassandra of Journey From Within each received a box of these gluten-free, low sugar, raw goodies.  In turn, I welcomed sugary goodness in the form of Butterscotch Pecans from Fiona of Tiffin and Raw Date and Almond Truffles from Karla of Get On Up.  In its second year, the Sweet Swap, organised by Amanda (Chewtown) and Sara (Belly Rumbles) is a fun, innovative event that brings Aussie bloggers together and benefits a worthy cause.

Raw Mint Slice

Makes 24 squares, approx 4cm x 4cm

Get:

Base:
3/4 cup cashew or macadamia nut butter (homemade or store bought)
2 tbsp milk powder (or pea protein powder for a vegan option)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp rice syrup
4 drops peppermint oil (available at cake supply shops)
1 1/2 tsp spirulina powder (for colour, optional)

Topping:
120g good quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp thick coconut cream* (see note)

To Sprinkle:
Small handful cacao nibs or shredded coconut

Make:

See the note below first regarding coconut cream.  Prepare a tray lined with grease-proof paper.  To make the base, place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir.  It will probably be a little too thick to stir, at which point you can knead with clean hands.  If the nut butter you use is on the runny side, you may need to add a little more milk or protein powder to achieve a bread dough consistency.  Press the mixture down into the tray to roughly a 6-8mm thickness.

To make the topping, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave.  When it is fully melted, quickly stir through the coconut milk before the chocolate seizes up.  Quickly spread the mixture evenly over the base and sprinkle with cacao nibs or coconut.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before slicing with a sharp knife.

Notes:
Use coconut cream with no additives (I use Ayam brand), and pop the can in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Then, open the tin without shaking and use the thick part of the cream off the top of the tin.

Mint Slice 2

Stepping-Stone Nutty Chocolate Eggs (low-fructose)

Beyond the overstuffed floral sofas, past the assortment of porcelain milkmaids and ceramic puppy dogs, there was a scuffed old desk pushed up against the wall.  The tiny old lady gingerly pulled out the chair and perched herself on it, gesturing for my uncle and I to take a seat nearby.  She was my uncle’s dearest patient, and he had brought me along on a house visit to meet her.

stepping stone eggs 1

Carefully, she pulled open a draw and held out a plastic tube, paper thin skin stretching over arthritic knuckles as her hands curled around it.  Peering into the container, my eight-year old eyes widened in delight.  Eggs of all sizes were nestled in together.  They twinkled in their colourful foil wrappers, unlike anything I had seen before.

‘Pick one’ urged my uncle.  I snapped out of my bewilderment to choose a bright blue one, about the size of a chicken egg, and unwrapped it slowly.  A cobblestone chocolate surface was revealed as the soft foil fell away under my eager fingers.  The hollow centre was a real surprise, and there was something about that thin chocolate shell, perhaps the way it just seemed to give way on my tongue, that did it for me.  I’ve been weak at the knees for Easter eggs ever since.

stepping stone eggs 2

Those first few months after we migrated to Australia are mostly a blur, but there are certain memories, like this one that linger vividly within the childhood section of my mental filing cabinet.

The lovely old lady is long gone.  But that little girl’s first taste of a chocolate Easter egg, sitting in the living room of her uncle’s favourite patient, is never to be forgotten.

stepping stone eggs 3

These eggs were a happy accident in my quest to create a low-sugar creme egg.  While they are not quite what I envisioned, they are a stepping-stone towards a creme egg, and turned out too good not to share with you. The centres of these are creamy, albeit a bit too firm to call them a creme egg.  They have a natural sweetness provided by the nuts and boosted by the tiny amount of sweetner, which is nicely balanced by the bitter dark chocolate shell.  As for the original goal…..well, there’s always next Easter.

For other low-sugar chocolaty treats, try these or these.  Or even these.

Happy Easter to you all!

stepping stone eggs 4

Stepping-Stone Nutty Chocolate Eggs

Get:

Makes 12-15 small eggs

1/4 cup cashew or macadamia nut butter
100 grams (2 sachets) coconut paste
1-2 tsp rice syrup or honey
100g good quality dark chocolate

Make:

Dip the unopened packets of coconut paste in boiling water for a couple of minutes to soften.

Place the nut butter, coconut paste and syrup or honey in the food processor and blitz to a smooth paste.  Transfer to a bowl and freeze for 20 mins or so until quite firm.  Alternatively, you could pour the mixture into silicone chocolate moulds and place that in the freezer.

If hand-shaping the eggs, remove the mixture from the freezer and using the spoon, scoop out small amounts (about a tsp) of it.  Usig clean hands, knead and roll into balls, then flatten slightly to make eggs.  Place on grease-proof paper on a tray and freeze until very firm.

In the meantime, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in 20-30 second bursts in the microwave.  Roll the frozen eggs (or whatever shape you choose) in the melted chocolate.  Use a couple of spoons to cover the eggs in the chocolate and place back on the grease-proof paper lined tray.  Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

Eat!

Notes:

If you would like to make your own nut butter, find the method here.  You will need about 1/2 cup of nuts to make 1/4 cup of butter.

I found coconut paste in the Asian food section of large supermarkets.  I found it in a box of 5 sachets of 50 grams each.  I believe it is also available in some Asian grocery stores (thanks for the tip JJ!).

stepping stone eggs 5

 

 

 

Or La La Banana Bread (Paleo) from Clean Living Cookbook

We have talked before about my cookbook fascination.  You very sweetly didn’t judge me when I revealed that I own many more cookbooks than I actually use.  I recently had a glimpse of what lay in my future when I visited the home of a friend of a friend whose cookbook collection put mine to shame.  “Let me show you something” She said as she slid open her wardrobe doors to reveal a wall of cookbooks.  An entire wall.  Vintage tomes, the pages yellowed and slightly fragile sat alongside crisp, contemporary recipe collections adorned with breathtaking photography.  It was not quite heaven but pretty darn close.

Banana Bread Clean Living 1

One of the latest additions to my collection (and one step closer to the coveted cookbook wall), is the Clean Living Cookbook (Hachette, Australia), by My Kitchen Rules alumni Luke Hines and Scott Gooding.  I cooked from it no less than six times in the last two weeks, and I think it’s a safe assumption that this is one member of my cookery book army that will soon be thoroughly covered with ingredient stains, a sure sign of affection.  It is packed with uncomplicated recipes for wholesome, moreish dishes that your body as well as your taste buds will thank you for.

Banana Bread Clean Living 3

Deciding which recipe to share with you wasn’t easy, but in the end, this one was an obvious choice.  You see, I used to make banana bread with such frequency that I have been accused of buying bananas and deliberately ignoring them until they are ready for the banana retirement village that is banana bread.

When I decided to cut down on sugar, I reluctantly gave up my habit due to the sugar content of most banana bread recipes.  Scott and Luke’s recipe on the other hand, is Paleo friendly, which makes it free of refined sugars as well as gluten.  This is not the cakey, oversweet slice you get in cafes.  No, this Or La La Banana Bread is a much more healthful loaf, dense with the chew that coconut offers and the rich, tight crumb that almond meal brings.  I tweaked it very slightly, adding a little more oil for a more moist outcome.  If you don’t have coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil would also work.

Banana Bread Clean Living 5

It is best straight out of the oven, still hot slices tossed gingerly between fingertips, or toasted and slathered with your favourite spread.  Soon after I made it for the first time, I happened to discover some ripe mango flesh in the freezer, a welcome remnant of the summer just gone.  So then there was a mango version, which was equally lovely and disappeared just as fast.

Banana Bread Clean Living 4

Or La La Banana Bread

Very minutely modified from Clean Living Cookbook

Makes 1 loaf

Get:

2 cups almond meal
3 eggs
2 tbsp nut butter (I used peanut)
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 large ripe to overripe bananas (or 1 cup ripe mango flesh for mango bread), mashed
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped (walnuts, cashews or pistachios work well)
A small handful of shredded coconut, pepitas or sunflower seeds to sprinkle on top (optional)

Make:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line a loaf tin (the boys recommend 10 x 20 cm) with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the almond meal, eggs, nut butter and oil into a thick batter.  Add the coconut, banana (or mango), cinnamon, chia seeds and nuts, and combine well.

Pour the batter into the tin and level out the top using a knife or spatula.  Sprinkle coconut or seeds (if desired) over the top.  Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 mins, or until a knife passed into the centre comes out fairly clean.  Allow to cool completely before turning out (if you can wait that long!).

Banana Bread Clean Living 2

Dessert Wontons with Sweet Dipping Sauce

Dessert Wontons 1

It’s not quite a recipe, really.  More like an assembling of things to be steamed, dipped and devoured.  It all started when I was invited to a Chinese themed High Tea at Four Friends, and I started to wonder what I could contribute given my very limited Asian dessert repertoire.  The thought that lingered in my mind was one of dessert wontons.

Dessert Wontons 4

You see, us Indians make a steamed rice parcel stuffed with coconut and jaggery that if done right, will fall apart in the mouth leaving behind a puddle of seductively melted brown sugar and chewy coconut.  How I went from contemplating modakam, and onto deciding to stuff my wontons with peanut butter, chocolate and coconut is probably a function of my ever tangental mind.

If you don’t have a bamboo steamer, you could use a metal colander sprayed with a little oil or lined with grease-proof paper, in a large covered pot with water in the bottom of it.  However you make them, they are best eaten fresh and dipped generously in the sauce.

Oh! And speaking of sweets…..if you live in Sydney and are of a sugary inclination, don’t forget to enter the giveaway to win tickets to the Cake Bake and Sweets Show March 21 – 23 here.

Dessert Wontons 2

Nutty, Chocolatey Dessert Wontons with Coconut Dipping Sauce

Makes about 15

Get:
75 g dark chocolate
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1-2 tbsp rice syrup or honey

Wonton Wrappers

For the dipping sauce:
1/3 cup coconut cream
2 tsp rice syrup
Few strands saffron (optional)

Make:

Blitz the filling ingredients together in a food processor until a coarse paste forms.  Start with 1 tbsp syrup and add more if you prefer it sweeter.

Fill the wonton wrappers.  I used about a tsp of mixture per wrapper, placed it in the centre and folded the edges together.  I used a little water around the edges to make them stick.

Sprinkle the wontons with water and steam them for about 20-25 mins, or until the wrappers are cooked.

Make the dipping sauce by whisking the ingredients together well.

Serve the wontons with dipping sauce for dessert.

Dessert Wontons 3

Apple, Coconut and Jaggery Hand Pies for SABH

This month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme is Childhood Favourites, hosted by Sophie from the Sticky and the Sweet. The theme set my mind racing.  After all, aren’t we all spoilt for choice when it comes to the sweets we were introduced to as kids? For me as a small child in India, there were gems (Indian equivalent of Smarties), 5-Star Chocolate bars, Amul Pista ice-cream and countless traditional Indian sweets.  When I moved to Australia, there was even more sugary goodness to be discovered and toffee apples, Chupa Chups, push pops, Buffalo Bill ice-creams and Jelly Pythons came into the picture.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 2

It is a special quality of childhood enjoyments that often when we try them as adults, we either don’t quite enjoy them as much, or we do but are old enough to know how appallingly lacking in nutrition they are (I’m talking to you, sherbies and redskins!).

So I decided to choose something that I would happily indulge in even now, and not just for the sake of nostalgia.  Two things, to be precise.  The first is that bubbly pastry pocket of lava-hot goodness, the McDonalds Apple Pie.

The second is a South Indian dessert that my mum has made for as long as I can remember.  It is mostly made as a religious offering on festival days a few times a year, making it all the more appealing.  Sliced bananas are tossed in jaggery (unrefined Indian brown sugar), cardamom and fresh grated coconut.  Sometimes a little saffron or a handful of raisins and cashews are sprinkled in.  It is good fresh, amazing half an hour later and a sludgy, syrupy mess the day after, if it even makes it that far.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 1

I used apples instead of bananas for two reasons.  They stand up better when baked in pastry than do bananas, and I had an abundance of them after going apple picking in Bilpin last week.  So it was that two desserts from my two worlds came together in these hand pies.

The pastry was the trusty sour cream pastry from Smitten Kitchen that I have now used several times because it is so good.  In hindsight though, a traditional, thinner shortcrust pastry may have suited these pies better, although I’m certainly not complaining abut the outcome.  The apple pie filling was enhanced by the coconut and almost caramel-like jaggery, with a bite of cardamom just to remind me exactly where I’m from.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 3

Apple, Coconut and Jaggery Hand Pies

Makes 12-15

Get:

Filling:
5 or 6 small red apples, diced (I used Aussie Royal Galas)
1 ½ cups (about 300g) of firm Jaggery
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
The insides of 15-18 cardamom pods, powdered
Generous pinch saffron strands

3 quantities of this pastry (leave out the ajwain and cumin seeds and only use 1/2 the amount of salt)

Make:

Toss the filling ingredients together in a bowl and allow to sit for 10-20 mins.

Roll out the pastry to 4-5mm thickness.  Cut out shapes of your choice.  I went for squares, so I cut strips of pastry that were about 25 cm x 10cm.  I spooned the filling into the middle of one side of the pastry, leaving the edges clear.  I then folded the pastry over to cover the filling.

Use your fingers, then a fork to press around the edges.  Place the pastries in the fridge again for about 20 mins.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 C.

Place the tray of pastries in the oven and bake for about 20-25 mins or until the pastry is crisp and cooked.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 4

Spiced Tamarind and Date Truffles

Anyone who has lived in India will know about Dabur’s Hajmola, the digestive tablet packed with various spices that are known to aid digestion.  Hajmola became so popular that they released candy with same spices in two different flavours, Imli (tamarind) and Aum (Green Mango).  Now I’ve made no secret of my love for tamarind here and here and my almost equal love for green mango here.

So it is a logical conclusion that I went through a phase when I was positively addicted to Hajmola candy.  I may or may not have, on one trip to India, purchased all of the candies at one tiny street-side shop to bring back with me.  I left the shop keeper completely bewildered, as he handed over the large bag of candies to a fully grown adult with not a kid in sight.

Tamarind Date Truffles

When December’s Sweet Adventures Blog hop theme of Truffles was announced by JJ of 84th & 3rd, I had the borderline insane idea of creating a Hajmola candy inspired spiced tamarind truffle.  It was one of those things that could have failed miserably and yet in a strange way, it worked and the results were really quite enjoyable. I have avoided adding sugar but if you like things a little sweeter, throw in about a tablespoon of honey.

I have said before that I like things to be textural around here, so I added cashews but you could choose any nut.  The toasted sesame seeds that coat the whole business add a lovely crunch and totally redeem themselves for getting annoyingly stuck in your teeth, but you could use shredded coconut or more crushed nuts if you feel like it.

Tamarind Date Truffles 2

Spiced Tamarind and Date Truffles

Get:

 1 ping pong ball sized piece of tamarind
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cloves
3/4 tsp kala namak (Indian black salt)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup cashews
500g dates
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Make:

 Shred the tamarind roughly with your fingers and place in a small bowl.  Pour the boiling water over it.  Allow it to soak until the water cools enough to handle, mashing with a fork a couple of times while it is still hot.

In a non-stick fry pan, roast the cumin, black pepper and cloves until fragrant.  Grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and set aside.

In the same pan, toast the sesame seeds until they are golden brown.  Remove from the pan and set aside in a food-grade plastic or paper bag.

In the same pan, heat the coconut oil and fry the cashews till golden brown.  With a spoon, remove the cashews from the pan and set aside, leaving as much of the oil behind as possible.

When the tamarind/water mixture has cooled enough to handle, use a (clean) hand to squish the tamarind between your fingers to make a thick tamarind flavoured water.  Strain the water into the frypan with the oil, on medium heat.  Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the water has visibly reduced.

Add the dates and cook, stirring, until the dates are softened (about 7-10min).  While stirring, add the spice mix and black salt.

Allow to cool and blitz in the food processor with the cashews until a smooth dough forms.  Roll into balls (mine were about a tablespoon of mixture each).  Drop the balls into the bag of sesame seeds, 3 or 4 at a time.  Hold the top of the bag closed and shake the bag to coat the truffles.  Place the sesame coated truffles on a plate or tray and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up before eating or serving.

Tamarind Date Truffles 3

Crumbly Olive oil, Rosemary and Pear Cake

I don’t have many words for you today. What I do have though, is a cake.  A simple offering that is so thoroughly unattractive that you just know it’ll be divine.

Last weekend, this cake was my plus one to lunch at the home of my sparkly friend Julia.  Lunch was followed by a dessert buffet of sorts.  Some stunning cupcakes, a decadent chocolate mousse, giant scoops of ice cream and of course, this cake.

I intended to take more photos of my offering……some action shots of it being devoured perhaps.  Or more of it’s slices, so that you can gain a better visual appreciation of the robust exterior surrounding the moist crumb, studded generously with perfectly baked chunks of pear.

Olive oil Pear cake 2

Suffice it to say that when a dish disappears so fast that you don’t get a chance to photograph it as you intended, that can only really be a good thing.

The recipe is from Valli Little’s delicious. Love to Cook, and for once I followed the recipe fairly closely.  The only exception is the addition of cinnamon, which was politely requested by the pears themselves.

Olive oil Pear cake 3

Crumbly Olive Oil, Rosemary & Pear Cake

Modified slightly from delicious. Love to Cook, Valli Little (ABC Books, Harper Collins)

Get:

1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
3/4 cup (120g) wholemeal flour
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil (fruity or light variety)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and diced pears (about 3-4 pears)
2 tsp chopped rosemary leaves
1/4 cup dried cranberries, currants or sultanas
mascarpone, creme fraiche or whipped cream to serve

Make:

Preheat the oven to 180 C.  Grease and flour a cake tin- mine was 18 cm, Valli Little uses a 26cm tin.

Sift together flours, baking powder and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.  Add sugar and mix.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs, olive oil and vanilla, then add to the flour mixture and stir to combine.  Gently fold through pear, rosemary and currants

Spoon mixture into cake tin and level out with a spatula.  Bake on the middle shelf for 45-55 mins or until a skewer that is inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Best served warm with a dollop of mascarpone or cream.

Olive Oil Pear Rosemary cake

Six Ingredient Microwave Chocolate Burfi (Indian milk sweet)

Yes, yes I know….it’s been a bit of a dessert overload around here, hasn’t it?  I mean, there were these Pots de Crème and these feline Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars.  Oh OH! And this Crumble!

But let’s just think about that phrase…..dessert overload.

Is there such a thing, really?

No, no I thought not.

Chocolate burfi 2

Certainly not at this time of the year when the air is ripe with the cheer of one festival or another.  For Hindus, the one just gone by, Diwali, is a major one and surely not a time to be worrying about silly things like the waistline.

Diwali, or Deepavali is the festival of lights.  Yes you read that right- a festival named after me.  Or was it the other way around?  I’m not keeping track.

The lighting of lamps and the setting off of firecrackers symbolises an awakening.  An illumination by the light of truth to dispel the darkness of ignorance.

Diwali to us is like our Christmas and New Years rolled into one.  We pray to the Goddess Lakshmi for prosperity and exchange gifts of new clothes to symbolise fresh beginnings.

And after the prayer is done, lamps are lit and gifts are given, we do what we do best…….cook up a storm and eat ourselves into a food and sugar coma.

Chocolate burfi 1

This year, Mum and I put together several sweets in addition to the main meal.  I decided to try my hand at Chocolate Burfi, which it will surprise none of you to hear is one of my favourite Indian sweets.  There are two versions of this sweet that I have seen.  Many like to mix cocoa powder in with the basic burfi (milk sweet) mixture.  My preference is the way that the sweet shop down the road from me used to make it when I lived in London.

The base is a fudgy, milky layer and it is topped by a good thick layer of dark chocolate.  I like a chocolate to milk sweet ratio of around 1:2. You could use milk chocolate, but I enjoy the way the dark chocolate cuts through the sweetness of the bottom layer.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.  For those who celebrate, I hope your Diwali was filled with love and decadence, and was the fresh start you needed.

Chocolate burfi 4

Chocolate Burfi

Makes 32

The microwave milk sweet technique is also described here

Get:

For the milk sweet layer:
120g butter, cubed
1 can condensed milk
2 cups full-cream milk powder

For the chocolate layer:
200g good quality dark chocolate (I like Plaistowe 70%)
2 tbsp thickened or double cream
1/3 cup nuts coarsely ground (I used pistachios)

Make:

Prepare a tray.  I used a greased silicone 20cm x 20cm baking pan.  If you are using a non-flexible pan, I suggest you grease it and line it with baking paper.

In a large microwave safe bowl, place butter and microwave until melted (about a minute).  Add condensed milk and milk powder and whisk well.

Microwave on high for a minute, then whisk again till smooth.

Microwave on high for another minute and whisk again.

Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then 30 seconds again, whisking in between.

Spoon into the prepared tray and spread evenly.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

When the milk sweet layer has set, melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between.  When the chocolate has melted, stir in the cream.  If the mixture starts to seize up, microwave for a further 20 seconds.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the milk sweet layer and spread evenly. Sprinkle with coarsely ground nuts and refrigerate until the chocolate is set (at least 3 hours).

With a sharp knife, cut into shapes of your choice. I went for squares that were then cut diagonally to make triangles.

Chocolate burfi 3

Rose and Saffron Pots De Crème

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It’s a funny thing, is rosewater.  Too much of it in a dish and each bite is like a group hug with a gaggle of perfumed grannies.  Although, get the balance right and you are greeted with a sensation that is more a scent than a flavour.  A nuance that adds a romantic and intoxifying quality to the dish, whether it be a scented middle eastern fried rice, a soft and yielding Turkish delight or the Indian Gulab Jamun.

In India, rose is a default flavour, much like chocolate or strawberry in Australia.  Growing up, rose milk, rose Kulfi and the Gulkand (rose jam) that my mum used to buy me from tiny footpath stalls in Bangalore were well-loved and anything but exotic.

Rose Saffron Pots 4

We Indians have the middle-east to thank for rosewater, which was obtained by chemists in the ancient Islamic world using a steam distillation method.  We now not only use it in our cooking, but also in Ayurvedic medicine and as a perfume.  It is not uncommon for unsuspecting wedding guests to be sprinkled with a liberal amount of it upon their entry to the venue as a welcoming gesture.

Rose Saffron Pots 1

When a friend gifted me a copy of the beautiful Delicious Home Cooking by Valli Little, I immediately zeroed in on the recipe for Honey Pots De Crème, the cogs in my mind turning as I worked out how I could make it a fructose-free version with Indian flavours.  The result was a smooth baked custard wafting with the fragrance of roses and saffron, which lends itself to a biscuit for dipping or a sprinkling of nuts as it pleases you.

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Rose and Saffron Pots De Crème

Modified from Delicious Home Cooking, Valli Little (ABC Books, Harper Collins)

Serves 3-4 in ramekins or 7-8 in shot glasses

Get:

150ml thickened cream
1/4 cup + 1 tsp rice syrup or honey
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp Rosewater*
Generous pinch saffron strands
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean
1 tbsp pistachios (optional)

Make:

Preheat the oven to 160 C.

In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the cream, milk, rosewater, saffron and syrup or honey until just simmering (but not boiling!).  Stir gently to incorporate the syrup/honey. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little.

Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into a mixing bowl.  Put the bean casing into the cream mixture.

To the bowl with the vanilla seeds, add the egg and egg yolks.  With an electric beater, beat until pale and a little thickened.  Add the egg mixture to the cream mixture and stir until well combined (do not beat or you will create more froth).  Set aside off the heat for 5 mins to infuse.  In the meantime, boil a kettle of water.

Place the ramekins (3 or 4) or shot glasses for smaller portions (8) in a deep ceramic baking dish.  You can also use small glass jars.  Strain the mixture into a jug and divide the mixture between the ramekins or shot glasses.

Set the dish with the ramekins on the middle shelf of the oven and carefully pour boiling water into the dish to a level about half of 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 40-45 mins or until set but with a slight wobble.

Remove the dish from the oven and carefully lift the ramekins out of the hot water and onto a tray.  Allow to cool completely, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.  I roasted the pistachios for about 6-7 mins, then crushed them and sprinkled them over the Pots de Crème before serving.  You could use anything that provides a bit of a crunch like other nuts, wafers or honeycomb.

*Rosewater is available at Indian and Middle eastern grocers.

Rose Saffron Pots 6