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Dig in: Desi desserts to beat the chill


It’s the season of warm fuzzies, hot beverages and holidays. But is it truly winter if your home is not redolent with smell of freshly grated carrots or wheat flour, getting roasted in hot ghee with a healthy helping of dry fruits, ready to be served as halwa? The only confusion being, which meetha to have from an assortment of season’s best! Having a sweet course may sound sinful to many, but traditional Indian desserts not only satiate your sweet craving, they also help keep the body warm. With temperatures dropping steadily, we bring you a platter full of lip-smacking winter’s sweet offerings.

Sweet warm up

Winter desserts in India are traditionally loaded with ingredients that help you stay warm through coldest of days. “Ingredients like black and white sesame seeds, fenugreek seeds, edible gum, jaggery are used generously in majority of the winter sweets. Assorted nuts, raisins, figs, winter special fruits/vegetables like carrots, radishes and woody spices such as cinnamon, mace along with ghee are other vital ingredients,” says Girish Nayak, chef, Bombay Sweet Shop.

Halwas, laddus and more

In winter, there is a halwa and laddu for everyone, besides other regional offerings. “Halwas of all types are popular across India, including gajar ka halwa made with grated red, white or black carrots. However, each region in our country has its own version of a winter dessert, such as the creamy nimish in Uttar Pradesh; melt-in-mouth nolen gurer sandesh in West Bengal; rich bajra churma and moong dal barfi in Rajasthan; crispy til patti in Madhya Pradesh and crumbly panjiri in Punjab. Rising popularity of regional cuisines, has eased out the availability of most desserts across the country,” adds Nayak. Bihari desserts like thekua, tilkut, rabri and malpua are very suitable for the winter season. “Malpua is sweetmeat to which all Biharis swear by for every special event and festival and it’s a must have for winter season. Its batter is made by mixing flour, milk, sugar and mashed bananas and is deep fried in such a way that the edges go all crispy while the center is all soft,” says Manjari Singh, founder of The Chhaunk.

Gur naal ishq mitha!

Think of winter desserts and gur (jaggery) pops up instantly in our minds. While it is a main ingredient for many sweets, using it properly is not everyone’s cup of tea. Culinary expert Reetu Uday Kujagi doles out fail-proof tips. “If it’s a jaggery block, shave or grate it, then mix with water to prepare a syrup. Keep stirring occasionally and removing, discarding the froth/dirt with a ladle. Strain the syrup with a cheese or muslin cloth. Use as required,” she says.Fancy a fusion?

For those who love Indian desserts with a global twist, the likes of gajak mille-feuille, panjiri tart/cheesecake, etc. are up for grabs. Chef Tarun Sibal, Street Storyss, Bengaluru, shares, “Adding orange peel, citrus elements or marmalade has elevated the taste for the gulab jamuns I make,” he shares. For chef and founder of House of Millets, Natasha Gandhi, it was the panjiri base for cheesecakes, til chikkis as praline for garnishing and the like, that added to the fusion taste. She sums up with some tips. “Use ingredients in moderation, as they have heating properties. Avoid overcooking and keep the flavours light and simple,” she adds.

Panjiri Tart is a fusion sweet dish made with panjiri

Panjiri Tart

Ingredients:

Bajra ½ cup

ghee 4 tbsp

jaggery 2 tbsp

water 1tbsp

edible gum 1tbsp

nuts and seeds 50gm

dry ginger 1tsp

Wheat flour 3/4 cup

jaggery 2 tbsp

Method:

-For the tart :

In a bowl mix 1/2 cup bajra flour along with 1 tbsp ghee, 2 tbsp jaggery and 1 tbsp water as required to form a dough

Press into tart mould and shape

Bake for 13-14 mins at 150 degrees Celsius

-For the panjiri filling

Add 1 tbsp ghee in a pan and fry some edible gum or gond till puffy

Remove and keep aside

Now sauté some nuts and seeds and poppy seeds

Use a mortar pestle to crush the nuts and edible gum along with 1 tsp dry ginger

In a pan heat 1 tbsp ghee, 3/4 cup wheat flour and Jaggery and cook till brown

Add the grinded nuts and edible gum and fill in the tart shells

By chef Natasha Gandhi



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