Make your own meetha: These easy recipes, with a regional twist, promise deliciousness, health and flavour


Social media, too, helped in turning many into DIY experts.Social media, too, helped in turning many into DIY experts.

The pandemic has changed our lifestyle for good. During the lockdown, in fact, many people found themselves cooped up at home and turned to quarantine cooking and stress baking. Social media, too, helped in turning many into DIY experts. So, this festive season, why not throw a DIY sweet surprise for your loved ones? After all, no celebration in India is complete without a touch of sweet. Plus, winter is the best time of the year to relish healthy, scrumptious recipes made with coffee, chocolate, ghee, crunchy nuts and even ginger. Here, we present some gluten-free, vegan and decadent treats by the industry’s best to make your Diwali even more festive and delicious. These easy recipes, with a regional twist, promise deliciousness, health and flavour.

Sweet Polenta Dunes with Nuts & Berries

This vegan and gluten-free nouvelle Indian dessert recipe is a great guilt-free option. Polenta, or cornmeal, is a high source of fibre and protein, and can, therefore, be used to make a deliciously healthy dessert.

Ingredients

(No. of portions: 4)

Polenta (coarse maize flour), or suji (not gluten-free): 1/2 cup

Desiccated coconut: 1/2 tbsp

Desi ghee or olive oil (to make it vegan): 1 tbsp

Coconut sugar or gur shakkar: 1/4 cup

Green cardamoms: 1/2 tsp

Water: 2 cups

Topping 1

Cashews: 1.5 tbsp

Whole almonds: 1.5 tbsp

Walnuts: 1.5 tbsp

Topping 2

Dried cranberries: 1.5 tbsp

Dried black currants: 1.5 tbsp

Fresh strawberries: 1.5 tbsp

Method

* Sauté the polenta with ghee or oil for a minute, add water and cook for five minutes.

* Add coconut sugar, desiccated coconut, green cardamom powder and cook for another

two-three minutes.

* To serve the polenta cake, put topping 1 in a mould, top with polenta mixture and demould

on a serving plate.

* Repeat the above step with topping 2. Your polenta cake is ready to serve.

—Recipe by chef Sunil Chauhan of Fabcafe, Delhi

Chocolate Coffee Barks

This playful dessert is for anyone who loves nuts, sweets and chocolate!

Ingredients

(No. of portions: 4)

Almonds: 120 gm

Hazelnuts: 120 gm

Castor sugar: 250 gm

Instant coffee powder: 10 gm

Water: 30 gm

Unsalted butter: 120 gm

Corn syrup: 15 gm

Vanilla extract: 5 gm

Dark chocolate (chopped): 200 gm

Baking soda: 2 gm

Method

* Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Place almonds and hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake them for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

* Once the nuts have cooled to room temperature, chop them roughly into small bite-size pieces. Keep 60 gm almonds separate.

* In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, water, butter and corn syrup. Have the baking soda, coffee powder and vanilla extract ready.

* Bring the sugar mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook until the mixture reaches 140 degrees Celsius on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat, add the baking soda, coffee powder and vanilla extract, and stir to combine.

* Immediately pour this mixture evenly over the nuts on your baking sheet. Then place the chopped chocolate over the hot toffee. After a few minutes, the chocolate will be soft enough to spread with a palette knife (or back of a spoon) in an even layer over the toffee. Sprinkle the remaining (60 gm) chopped almonds over the melted chocolate. Place the pan in the refrigerator until the chocolate is firm. Then cut the barks into pieces, using a sharp knife.

—Recipe by Bombay Sweet Shop

Healthy Chana Dal, Matcha Tea, & Coconut Burfi with Flax Seeds and Dry Ginger

This is the perfect Indian healthy dessert for the festive season. You wonder why? Because it is free of gluten, as well as sugar. Not just that. This scrumptious dessert comes with a great twist of flavours—matcha tea, dry ginger and the crunchiness of tossed flax seeds.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Roasted and powdered chana dal: 3/4 cup

Ghee: 4 tbsp

Honey: 6 tbsp

Dry ginger powder: 1/4 tsp

Matcha tea powder: 1 tsp

Freshly grated coconut: 3/4 cup

Roasted flax seeds: 1 tbsp

A pinch of cardamom

Method

* Put half amount of ghee in a non-stick pan & heat, add coconut and sauté for two minutes. Keep aside and repeat the process with chana powder.

* Once the two mixtures have cooled, mix them with the other ingredients—matcha tea powder, cardamom, dry ginger powder, and rub softly with hands.

* Now, add honey, mix gently and set in a tray. Let it set for two hours.

* Remove from tray, top with flax seeds & cut in equal sizes.

* Place in an airtight container and store in a cool place.

—Recipe by Prem K Pogakula, executive chef, The Imperial, New Delhi

Mama’s Banana Split

Crispy, crunchy and piping hot banana fritters meet a snowball-sized chilled ice-cream scoop. In this recipe, this traditionally American dish gets an Oriental touch with the addition of coconut. Quick and easy to make at home, this dessert packs a punch of flavour, calories and delight.

Ingredients

(Serves 2)

Bananas: 2

Coconut or vanilla ice cream: 1 scoop

Cornflour: 90 gm

Refined flour: 90 gm

Japanese bread crumbs: 90 gm

Topping

Readymade chocolate sauce, or caramel sauce

Mint leaves: 2

Method

* Take the bananas and cut each into two parts.

* Mix the refined flour, cornflour & a little water to make a batter—it shouldn’t be runny and should coat bananas well.

* Dip banana slices in batter, coating them properly.

* Roll them in the Japanese bread crumbs and coat them properly.

* Heat oil and fry the coated bananas for five-eight minutes till golden-brown in colour.

* Serve with one scoop of coconut or vanilla ice cream.

* Garnish with chocolate sauce or caramel sauce and fresh mint leaves.

—Recipe by Mamagoto

Bhuni Shakargandi ka Halwa, Makhana Gur Patti

Nothing can be as seasonal as sweet potato, which marks the onset of winters. This slow-roasted, aromatic dessert, made with ghee, is a healthy option, apt for those with a sweet tooth.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

Sweet potatoes: 500 gm (five small pieces)

Desi ghee: 60 gm

Fox nuts: 75 gm

Mixed dry fruits (almonds, cashews, raisins): 100 gm

Khoya: 85 gm

Jaggery: 100 gm

For dusting

Cinnamon powder

Method

* Dry roast the fox nuts (the full quantity) in a pan till they are crunchy enough (five minutes approximately). Keep aside and let cool.

* Blitz 50 gm of the fox nuts into a fine powder.

* Reserve two sweet potatoes and roast the rest in a preheated oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes. Peel once done.

* Take the ghee in a shallow pan and heat on medium flame. Add the mixed dry fruits and shallow fry for two-three minutes. Drain the dry fruits once done and reserve the ghee.

* In a thick-bottomed kadhai, take the ghee, add the fox nuts powder (50 gm) and cook it for two minutes on medium heat. Add the peeled and roasted sweet potatoes to the kadhai.

* Keep stirring on slow flame. It shall break on its own into small chunks while stirring.

* Keep roasting for 15-20 minutes. The colour will change and you will feel the fragrance of roasting.

* Add the khoya and keep stirring for another five-seven minutes.

* Add the fried dry fruits and mix well. Take off the halwa from the kadhai and transfer to a serving bowl.

For caramelised fox nuts

* Melt the jaggery in a pan on slow flame till it turns into a thick viscous liquid.

* Add the remaining of the roasted fox nuts (25 gm) in the jaggery liquid and

mix well.

* Take the fox nuts on a well-oiled stainless-steel plate/tray. Let it cool down.

* Break into small pieces once cooled. Use it as a garnish for the halwa.

For sweet potato chips

* Peel the two remaining sweet potatoes and slice them as thin as possible.

* Keep them soaked in a bowl of water. Wash them nicely after 30 minutes.

* In a shallow pan, add vegetable oil (enough to deep fry the sliced sweet potatoes) and heat on

slow flame.

* Fry on slow flame till they become crispy and change colour to a light golden hue.

* Dust them with cinnamon powder and serve along with the halwa.

—Recipe by Dhiraj Dargan, executive chef, Comorin, Gurugram

Flavours of the season

From going back to the roots to using immunity-boosting ingredients, here are some sweet trends that you can follow this Diwali…

Health in our hands: There is a constant stress on consuming homemade healthy options today. Chef Sunil Chauhan of Fabcafe, for instance, finds a blend of handcrafted and healthy options like natural sweetening agents, grain-free variants in mithai and a significant shift from something as common as all-purpose flour to alternative ingredients like polenta, semolina and almond flour as big trends this season.

Ingredients that boost immunity: The new normal has changed our lifestyle completely and so desserts, too, will focus on both health and the palate. According to Manjul Myne, pastry chef, Andaz Delhi, there is a rich use of immunity-boosting ingredients that promise delicious sweetness with a dose of health like gelatos that now come in flavours like turmeric and honey, green tea and pistachio, orange and ginger sorbet, dark chocolate with spices, and papaya star anise sorbet. Indian herbs and spices—ashwagandha, mulethi, chandan, tulsi, kesar, saunf—among others, give a healthy twist to sinful desserts. Also, mono portions of desserts ensure contactless dining and zero wastage.

Back to the roots: Going back to the roots, being more ethical in sourcing and preparation of clean and healthier food with less sugar and flour, fruit-based meals and diets, natural sugar substitutes like dates and jaggery are quite relevant. Chef Ashay Dhopatkar, co-founder, Arq Mithai, an artisanal Indian dessert brand, feels it’s become important to add meaning and soul to all the meals, as nutrition without adulteration is the prime focus. Clean eating and experimenting with spices like turmeric latte or soup has been seen as a trend.

Modern yet regional: This festive season is all about traditional decadence in modern flavours, with desserts made with ghee, sugar, nuts or khoya. Indian desserts are indulgent and there is nothing better than a classic kesari phirni or gajar ka halwa to revive the festive spirit, says Ravi Saxena, corporate chef, Azure Hospitality, Delhi. These desserts come with a twist of exciting ingredients. The age-old regional recipes come in assortments—like sticky caramel comes with toasted hazelnuts and white chocolate for 100% vegetarians or the lal pedha-inspired dulce de leche pedha (candy made of milk) by Bombay Sweet Shop.

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