Category Archives: Desserts

Tarte au Fraise – Strawberry Pie

Today was the very first time I have ever made a fruit tart/pie.

It’s one of those things Ma’s never made, nor have I ever watched a friend make one.  So I’ve always felt uncertain about so many details – the handling of pastry shells, the right sort of pan to use, the thickness of the sauce/custard that helps set the filling, etc.

But the girls were so keen to try and make this strawberry pie ever since Romi gifted us the book, this summer in India, which has this recipe, that I decided we’d attempt to make this for dessert tonight because we had Celine and her parents, Doris and Jean -Luc, coming over for dinner.

And the result of our maiden effort was very successful indeed; dessert was thoroughly enjoyed by all, with everyone either helping themselves to or gladly accepting seconds.

This recipe is adapted from the one in “Everyday Light Meals”, a great collection published by the Reader’s Digest magazine group.

Tarte au Fraise – Strawberry Pie


While the girls hung around the kitchen and helped a lot – they did the time-consuming job of placing all those strawberries on the pastry shell – I also thanked again, in my mind, the friendly French couple I talked to in the supermarket aisle where I picked up the roll of pastry dough. I was confused by the choices available and asked them to help me choose the appropriate variety. They were very pleased to hear that I was going to make a dessert which they said was “tres typique, un vrai dessert Francais” and so took the time to explain which would be the right kind of pastry dough and why, as well as the right size of pastry dish to look for.

Romi, thanks again for this wonderful addition to our cookbook collection !

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Chawal ki Kheer, or Indian Rice Pudding

I go through phases when I feel I must have a small dessert after dinner and the small pots of rice pudding – riz au lait in French – that we buy in the supermarkets do satisfy the craving.  Despite the vanilla flavoring,  they serve as a reasonable substitute for home made chawal ki kheer.

So I haven’t made this kheer in a long while.  Then, this last weekend, we had friends for lunch on Sunday and as I planned the meal the previous day I asked Shri what might make a nice dessert given the weather, since it was forecast to be a cold, rainy day.  He very firmly insisted I make chawal ki kheer, since he loves it too.

I am glad I went along with his idea especially because all the children, including eighteen month old Vihaan, seemed to enjoy it.  As did I, for this is the real Mccoy.

As did Shri, I was pleased to see.  He is usually very cautious about his intake of sugar but this time  he asked for a small bowl of kheer each evening after dinner till it was all gone by tonight.

Chawal ki Kheer

50 gms of Basmati rice

1 kilo of full cream milk

sugar to taste (3-4 large spoons – such as a serving spoon – and then more to taste)

freshly powdered green cardamom, 1/2 a teaspoon

a handful of raisins (about 1/3 of a katora/small bowl), soaked in a cup of hot water for about 15 minutes

15-20 almonds, soaked in hot water for at least an hour, then peeled and sliced in to quarters

Wash and soak the rice in 1-2 cups of cold water for about 30 minutes.Then drain all the water out.

In a large, thick-bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil on medium heat.  Add the rice and stir.  Continue to simmer the milk and rice mixture on a medium-low heat, stirring often – scrape gently at the bottom each time to make sure that the milk does not stick to the bottom; that will spoil the taste completely as the milk will acquire a burnt smell and flavor – till the rice is very well-cooked (the grains will break up a bit and no longer be long as they originally were) and the milk has thickened a little. At this point, the milk acquires the signature, like-old-cream color of all milk-based desserts which involve cooking for a long time.

Sometimes I find that the milk starts to become too thick before the rice is as soft as I like it, so then I add a little more milk.

Add the sugar, the raisins and the almonds and cook for 5-7 minutes. Stir in the cardamom powder, then take the kheer off the heat.

It’s delicious eaten warm in the winter, it’s delicious eaten cold  in the summer !

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Carrot Cake: a third recipe

2010 got off to a very pleasant start with the open house this afternoon at the home of Rick and Angela, the parents of Indira’s friend Nicola.

I took along a carrot cake which Indira liked very much, as did some of the parents.

This particular recipe (from “The Little Book of Baking Recipes”) – which makes for a large cake – has cinnamon, which seems typical for carrot cakes, but also powdered green cardamom and this latter adds a very special flavor.

This recipe is  heavy on the butter though, so I suppose it is one that’s best kept for special occasions.

Carrot Cake

2 eggs

180 grams of softened/melted butter

225 grams of flour

180 grams of  brown sugar

225 grams of grated carrots

1/4 teaspoon of freshly powdered green cardamom

1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon

90 grams of raisins

60 grams of chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons of honey

1 teaspoon of baking powder

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and the sugar thoroughly. Now crack the eggs in to the mixture and blend everything well. Then mix in the flour (with the spices and baking powder mixed in). Add the carrots next , as well as the raisins, the walnuts and the honey. Mix everything well and turn the batter in to a non-stick cake pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour  at 180degrees C. Check towards the end by inserting a knife to test if the mixture has set well. Take the pan out and leave the cake to cool completely before turning it out on to a cake tray.

The cake is rich enough already but it would be just perfect with some ice cream on the side, I think 🙂 Or, for an healthier option, a little Greek yogurt would be quite nice as well.

Maybe that’s why the original recipe suggests dredging the cake with icing sugar before serving?  Either way, it’s delicious.

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A Diwali treat – Coconut Laddoos

This was one sweet I loved when I was in school.

Ma made it for most festivals and I loved the color – she added something that always made for very pretty pink barfi or laddoo– as much as I did the taste !

I made these with dessicated coconut a couple of years ago when she was here, when I took some Indian food for the international day at the CIV that year. Those tasted quite nice too, but when I called Ma for the recipe last week – not having made this dessert since then – she encouraged me to make this mithai with fresh nariyal – not for her,the packaged, dessicated stuff ! – so I did, since I trust her judgement about these things and do agree with her general principle that “fresh is best”.

As it turned out, the taste of the laddoos was close enough to the memory I have of her delicious barfi that I was glad I followed her advice.

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Coconut Laddoos

Fresh coconut – 1 (this will be enough for around 20 laddoos)

Milk – 500 ml

Sugar – 3/4 cup (to be honest I approximated this so start by adding half a cup, then add more if the mixture doesn’t seem as sweet as you’d like)

Raisins – a small handful

( I did this too totally by approximation and then found that eventually there were about 2-3 in each laddoo. Use less if you like)

Powdered green cardamom – 1 tsp or a little more if you like

1 and a 1/2 tablespoons of Ghee

Take out the flesh of the coconut from the hard shell, remove the brown skin using a knife or a peeler, then chop in to chunks. Put it through a food processor to obtain a very fine texture.

Bring the milk to a boil  in a thick-bottomed pan, then add the coconut. Cook the two together, on a moderate heat, stirring thoroughly occasionally, till the milk begins to be absorbed.

You may find you need to add a little more milk if the quantity you started with dries up before the coconut is as soft as you’d like (though it will retain a bite and not go totally soft even if you add more milk).

Once the milk is almost completely absorbed, add the sugar and the raisins and cook the mixture for a few more minutes till it appears quite dry. Now add the ghee and the cardamom powder and cook the mixture again for a few minutes till it starts to leave the sides of the pan.

Take the pan off the heat, let the mixture cool a little for , say, 5 minutes. Now apply some ghee on your hands and roll the laddoos with the mixture (about 1 tablespoon of the mixture will make one laddoo). Try and finish rolling all of them as quickly as you can because the mixture tends to dry a bit gradually, making it a little more difficult to handle.

The girls love these, which makes the effort worthwhile. Not that it is that tough, anyway. Except the first part (preparing the coconut ) which does take time, the rest of it is something that one can do while there is a whole lot of other stuff going on.

Yesterday morning, while the milk and coconut mixture cooked ( I made twice the amount for an after-dinner Diwali party that we had been planning with friends, so that took a while), I also made a wheat berry salad for lunch,  supervised Indira’s homework, had two cups of tea through the two tasks and there might have been another chore that got done as well that I am forgetting now, including some stuff I did with Noor, I think.

So this is another one of those dishes that sort of cooks itself – once the basic prep has been done of course ( I did that the previous night so yesterday morning it was as easy as taking the prepared coconut  out of the fridge and putting it in to the milk, which took the pain out of it).

For me, this is the real McCoy – though the recipes that use dessicated coconut and condensed milk make for very nice laddoos too and save so much time and effort – so I would probably make the laddoos again this way 🙂

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Lemon Loaf

This turned out to be so much nicer than I’d expected.

For some odd reason I have never tasted a cake before with a lemon flavor and therefore I have always instinctively chosen to bake ones with other flavors – cocoa, dates, pineapple, raisins, apricots and even poppy seeds, but never lemon.

But Indira has often said that children at school love lemon cake, which has often made me curious about it’s appeal.  So last weekend when I needed to bake some dessert in a hurry to take to the school picnic, I decided to try this recipe. I thought I’d keep one tiny piece for all of us to try as it would a good way to find out what lemon tasted like  in cake and whether the girls liked it enough for me to make again. And if they didn’t, I figured I luckily didn’t need to worry this once about how the the rest of it would be used up since it was to be eaten by all the other folks at the picnic !

Well as it turned out, Shri and Indira – Noor had left already for a birthday party – both said “hmmm!! nice !” after eating their little portion of that piece so I made it again yesterday for gouter.

Noor, especially, seems to like it a lot, just as she does the orange loaf.

lemonloaf 002

Lemon Loaf

2 eggs

1/2 a cup of softened butter

1 cup of sugar

1/2 a cup of milk

1 and 1/2 cups of flour (either white or a mixture of wholewheat and white) with the following mixed in –

zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of baking powder

For Glazing –

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup of sugar

Blend the butter,eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl, then stir the  milk in. Now gradually fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter in to a loaf tin.

Pre-heat the over for 5 minutes to 18o degreesC, then place the loaf tin near the bottom shelf  and bake the cake for 45-50 minutes, till done.

A minute before the cake looks ready to come out, prepare the glaze by mixing the sugar and lemon juice, to combine them well,over moderate heat. Allow this mixture to simmer for 1/2 a minute (make sure not to let it get at all thick or syrupy) then take the cake out and pour the glaze all over, using a large spoon to spread it evenly.

When the cake has cooled completely, take it out very carefully as it will tend to stick a little to the sides because of the glaze.

This cake has a slightly moist softness because of the glaze and a beautifully even, mild hint of the lemon.

Simply yummy !

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Til Gud

This surely won me some points with Shri !

For as long as I have known him, he has talked most fondly of tilgud, a Maharashtrian sweet that is traditionally prepared for “Makar Sankranti”, a harvest festival that is celebrated elsewhere in India too.

In Punjab, this is the festival they call lori and I have fond childhood memories of the bonfire that we always celebrated this festival with, and the gajak and revri that we munched as we sat around the fire in the winter cold.

This year, to mark these festivals (celebrated on consecutive days in January- Lori on the 13th and Sankrant on the 14th) I decided to try my hand at making tilgud for the first time ever, with pretty decent results.

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Tilgud

(this recipe is also onTil Gud on Foodista )

1 cup of sesame seeds

1 cup of roughly crushed/crumbled jaggery

1/2 cup of peanuts

1/2 tsp of green cardamom powder (freshly ground)

1 tbsp of ghee

1/4 cup of water

Roast the sesame seeds on medium heat until they are a medium brown color (don’t let them burn).Take them out in to a bowl.

Grind the peanuts without letting them become powdery fine. They should just break up into smallish bits and chunks. Mix these with the sesame seeds.

Heat the ghee in a pan and add the jaggery and the water. Heat the mixture in to a thick syrup till it reaches the stage where a drop of it put in to a bowl of cold water will retain it’s shape. This stage can take a while to reach so keep stirring the mixture every once in a while until then.

Take the pan off the heat now and stir in the cardamom powder and the sesame seeds and peanuts mixture. Mix thoroughly.

Cut through the mixture to make 4 equal parts, then apply some ghee on your hands and form equal sized balls (you should be able to make about 5 from each of those 4 portions). Place these on a plate that you would have greased with a little ghee already while the syrup cooked.

After they have cooled, the tilgud will acquire a yummy toffee-like texture. And in fact that is what Noor thought it was, when she tasted one of these laddoos !

The tilgud will keep well for at least a few days in an air-tight container.

A note from Lori/Sankrant, 2010 – I used peanut koot this year – which I typically add to salads and raita –  since I found I had run out of peanuts to grind as described above, but the laddoos taste just fine anyway.


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Date Cake

Loaded with soft dates, this cake has a special, really delectable taste.

I almost did not buy the creme anglaise to go with it, when I decided to make it for dessert last Saturday, but then I was glad I did because everyone seemed to enjoy the combination !

Date Cake

1 egg

1 and ¼ cups of chopped dates

½ cup of chopped walnuts (optional but a nice touch)

¾ cup of brown sugar

¼ cup of melted butter

1 and a ½ cups of any flour (refined is probably ideal, though I often bake with even whole wheat flour)

1 and a 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence

½ tsp of salt

1 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp of baking powder

Soak the dates in 1 cup of boiling hot water, after adding the baking soda and leave them aside to cool. In the meanwhile, beat together the egg and the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla to this mixture.

In another bowl, combine the flour, the salt, and the nuts.

Add the dates once they have cooled to the first mixture, then add in the flour mixture.

Now stir in the melted butter and combine well.

Put this cake batter in to a cake mould, and leave it to stand for 15-20 minutes.

Then bake in a preheated oven at 180degreesC for 1 hour, or till a table knife inserted in to the middle comes out clean and dry.

Like the chocolate and date loaf, this cake makes for quite a fancy dessert, eaten with crème anglaise or vanilla ice cream 🙂

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Sevai Kheer (aka “Pasta” Kheer)

I have not had any cooking to do today, since we are invited to eat at the home of a friend this evening.

So I decided in the afternoon that this would be a good opportunity to make some kheer for the girls’ gouter. They often have a glass of milk when they come back from school, with some fruit , or a slice of cake, or a muffin. But milk is not something Indira especially is particularly fond of; so a bowl of kheer will break the monotony in that routine.

They both like this kheer a lot, as does Shri. I often make it for dessert when we have friends at home for a meal, and most people love it.

When the girls were younger, they called it “pasta” kheer and they were not wrong, because I do in fact make it with angel hair pasta, instead of with vermicelli, which is difficult to find here. This kheer cooks fairly quickly too, which is always a plus in my book 🙂

Sevai Kheer:

6 tablespoons of sevai(vermicelli) or angel hair pasta

3 tablespoons of ghee

2 tablespoons of raisins

4-6 tablespoons of sugar (add less or more, depending on how sweet you like your kheer)

750 ml – 1 litre of milk

1 teaspoon of freshly powdered green cardamom seeds

In a thick-bottomed pan, warm the ghee, and add the vermicelli/pasta.

Fry the vermicelli for a few minutes, turning it occasionally, till it begins to acquire a light brown color. Now add the raisins, and fry everything for another couple of minutes, till the vermicelli starts to turn a darker brown. Add the milk now, and cook the mixture, stirring every few minutes, till the vermicelli is very soft. By this point, the milk will have started to thicken too, so scrape the sides of the pan every time you stir the mixture, to recover and add back the bits on the side -this is basically khoya, I guess, and certainly adds to the taste of the kheer🙂.

When the vermicelli is as soft as you’d like,add the sugar and the cardamom powder, and allow everything to cook together for another 5-7 minutes before taking it off the heat.

Ideally, the kheer should by now be a very light brown/creamy color.

This kheer sometimes thickens further by the time it cools down, so take that in to account while you are cooking it and waiting for the milk to thicken.

Eat it hot or cold – either way this kheer is quite delicious 🙂

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Their favorite Cake – Chocolate and Date Loaf

As I put together the ingredients, earlier today, for the cake that I took as dessert to the home of friends that we ate with this evening, I realized that this is the third time this month that I am baking the same cake. I made it for Indira’s birthday when we invited all our family friends to a picnic, and it is the one that I sent to school too, for her class.

But this is the cake that she and Noor love best, of all the various recipes I have tried over the years.

This recipe makes a large-ish cake (12- 16 quite big pieces) so tonight it was very gratifying to see it go quite quickly though we were only 5 adults, Indira, Noor, and our hosts’ 14 year old son 🙂

Chocolate and Date Loaf:

2 eggs

3/4 cup melted butter ( I use a cup that is a 200 ml measure)

1 cup sugar

2 cups of wheat (whole or refined) flour

1/2 cup of cocoa

1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1 cup of soft dates,finely chopped

1 cup of boiling water

1 tsp of baking soda

1 and a 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence

Combine the last 4 ingredients in a bowl and set aside to cool.

Best the first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Mix the remaining ingredients in another bowl.

Add the date mixture after it has cooled down to the eggs,butter and sugar mixture. Now stir in the rest of the ingredients, and pour in to a cake tin (if it is not the non-stick variety then of course the tin will need a light coat of melted butter and then a sprinkling of flour over that).

Bake at 180 degrees C for 50-60 minutes till a knitting needle/table knife comes out clean.

This cake goes really well with some creme anglaise or vanilla ice cream served on the side . It makes quite a fancy dessert at parties 🙂

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Remembering Biji – Gajar ka Halwa

I started this blog by talking about the shakkarparas and gajar ka halwa I made for Diwali last year.

So I am back to write about the halwa, a dessert that Indira and her father just love.

Though it is in my mother’s kitchen that I first learned to make it myself, I still remember watching my Biji (my maternal grandmother) cook this halwa on her chulha in my grandparents house in a village in Rajasthan, stirring in the cream – or ghee- that gives it that special taste. It was a special treat when we visited her during our winter holidays from school, and a couple of times  we even carried some back all the way from Rajasthan to Bihar, in a big steel box, for our father who loved it as much as we did.

And back in those days, since there were no microwaves, she would – as does my mother to this day -add a little more ghee to keep the halwa from sticking to the pan every time she re-heated the leftover portion, which enhanced the taste a little more each time…

My brother likes to tell my mother  that though she is a good cook, her gajar ka halwa is not in the same league as Biji’s.

Maybe it is the love and effort they put in to it, or it might well really be because of the copious amounts of cream and ghee; either way, I do agree with my brother that their gajar ka halwa is the best in the world.

Here’s my recipe, based on theirs:

Gajar ka Halwa

500 gms carrots

500-600 ml full cream Milk

4 tbsp ghee

10 almonds, skinned and halved

2 tbsp raisins

¾ cup sugar (a 200ml measuring cup)

5 green cardamom pods

a few small strips of beaten silver leaves

Peel, wash and grate the carrots in a food processor. Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the carrots, stir the mixture and leave to cook on medium heat, stirring quite frequently until the carrots are very soft and the milk almost completely dries up.

In the meanwhile, after adding the carrots to the milk, soak the almonds in hot water for about 20 minutes, then remove their skins  and halve them. Soak the raisins as well, in half a cup of hot water, then drain the water after 15-20 minutes. Powder the seeds from the cardamom pods.

Once the milk in the pan has almost dried up, add the sugar and cook again until the milk dries up completely. Now add the ghee and cook the halwa for another 7-8 minutes. To finish, stir in the raisins, the almonds and the cardamom powder and after transferring to a serving bowl, layer the silver strips on top.

You could also add a few teaspoons of khoya or dessicated coconut towards the end of the cooking process.

This is just a great dessert on a winter evening.

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