Bachelor-friendly, Festival Recipes, Sweets

Carrot Payasam

During winter season in India we get the red longer variety of carrots as opposed to the orange smaller thicker variety that is available all through the year. The red variety is sweeter, juicier, and more tasty. The red carrot variety is the most ideal to make this simple and yummy kheer/payasam made with minimal ingredients.

Red Carrots (diced) – 2 cups
Milk – 1/2 liter
Sugar – 3/4 cup – 1 cup
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Pista flakes – 1 tbsp

Boil the milk in a sauce pan.
Wash the carrots thoroughly, scrape the carrot skin to remove any impurities, and then dice them into small chunky pieces.
Place the diced carrots in half a cup of milk in a pressure cook and cook to one whistle. Let it rest until the pressure releases completely.
Open the pressure cooker, take out the cooked carrot pieces and after they cool down, puree into a smooth paste using a mixer.
Transfer the carrot puree to the rest of the milk and bring to boil. When the milk and carrot mixture starts boiling, add the sugar. Stir well. Taste and adjust as desired.
Add cardamom powder and garnish with pista flakes.

Notes: You can make this kheer with orange carrots also but since they have more pulp and are less juicy and not sweet like the red carrots, the taste will be very different. Red carrots give the ideal taste.

Festival Recipes, Indian, Snacks, Sweets, Tiffin

Shakkar Para (Sweet Diamond Cuts)

Mildly sweet and crunchy deep fried bits. A snack for evening or to munch for no reason at all. Has a good shelf life. So you can make it and store it for Diwali or before guests are expected. This sweet is usually made of maida but I made this with whole wheat.

Wheat Flour – 2 cups
Jaggery – 3/4 cup
Ghee – 1 tbsp
Roasted Fennel seeds/saunf (optional)- 1 teaspoon
Cardamom Powder – 1/4 tsp
Water – 1/3 cup
Oil for deep frying

Preparation Time: 10 mins + 30 mins (Resting time for dough)
Cooking Time: 30 – 40 mins
Makes: 1 liter jar full of Sharkara para

Heat a pan and add water and jaggery. Heat until the jaggery dissolves completely. No need to bring to boil or thicken into a syrup. Filter the diluted jaggery to remove any impurities.
Take 2 cups of wheat flour, cardamom powder, roasted fennel seeds, and mix well. If you are adding baking soda, you may add now. This will make the shakkar para crispy.
Heat ghee to melt it. Add ghee to the flour mixture. Mix well. Add the jaggery syrup in small quantities, mixing it into the flour. Knead the flour to make a smooth dough. If the dough is dry, you may added small quantities of water. Keep aside to rest for for an half hour.
Take small portions of the dough and shape into lemon-sized balls.
Use a rolling pin and a smooth surface to roll them into thick chapathis. You can use dry wheat flour to dust the surface. Can be a little tricky as the dough is very dense and a little sticky because of the jaggery.
Use a dull-edged knife to cut the chapathis horizontally and vertically to cut them into diamond shapes.
Place a thick iron wok on fire and pour oil into it. When the oil is adequately heated, drop the diamond shapes into the oil gently taking care not to splash oil. Keep the flame low. Due to the presence of jaggery, the shakkar paras could get really dark. When they start turning darker and gets roasted, remove from oil and place on an absorbing paper to drain oil. Fry the remaining diamond cuts in batches.
Cool and transfer into an airtight container.

Note: You can make salty and spicy variations by substituting jaggery with salt, chilly powder, and asafetida.

Millet Recipes, South Indian, Sweets, Vegan

Ragi (Finger Millet) Custard


We all make different variations of easy ragi pudding – cooking powdered ragi in water/milk with jaggery or sugar – an easy way to provide good nutrition to kids. This is a slightly more sophisticated, tastier, nutritionally beneficial custard made from whole ragi. It is soft and has a melt-in-the-mouth texture with the mild flavors of coconut milk and goodness of ragi. It is easy to make, uses minimal ingredients, has excellent nutrition and safe even for small children. Ragi is high in proteins and minerals. Since this sweet uses jaggery and not sugar, healthy amounts of it will not do any harm even to diabetics. Also, the use of minimal ingredients helps us enjoy the mild and natural flavors rather than multiple ingredients vying for attention. But what fascinated me most about this recipe is the use of jaggery and coconut milk rather than sugar and cow’s milk. The taste is completely different and mild when coconut milk is used. I would never even want to try the other version or think of shortcuts like using readymade coconut milk or ragi powder instead of grinding whole ragi. The custard tastes delicious only when made as described below. The soaking and grinding does seem like a lot of effort but trust me it isn’t and the taste will motivate you to make it again. The original recipe calls for extracting ragi and coconut milk separately but I have simplified it by grinding both together. This does not compromise the taste in any manner.

Whole Ragi / Whole Finger Millet – 1 cup
Grated coconut – 1-1/2 cups
Jaggery – 3/4 cups (adjust to taste)
Elaichi powder – 1/4 tsp
Water as needed

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves 5-6

Soak the whole finger millet overnight (or 8 hours) in plain water. Wash and drain the water.
Add jaggery to a cup of water and let it melt. No need to heat this as we will be heating all the ingredients together later. Just let the jaggery dissolve in room temperature water. Sieve to remove any impurities and keep aside.
Add the soaked ragi into the mixer jar along with grated coconut. Add small quantities of water and blend well. If you are adding whole elaichi, you can add it along with the ragi and grated coconut. Transfer the blended mixture into a muslin cloth. Squeeze the contents in the muslin cloth and extract the milk out of the blended mixture into a cooking pan.

This step needs to be done thrice to extract the maximum milk from the coconut and the soaked ragi. Add small quantities of water, blend the mixture well, and then extract milk by squeezing the mixture through the muslin cloth. You will end up with a pan of light pink milk extract. (If you have access to cows near your house, you may give them the pulp remains of ragi and coconut. They will love it!)

Add the strained jaggery water into this light pink milk.


If you are adding powdered elaichi, you may add now. Keep the pan on fire and stir continuously. Keep the fire low and cook slowly. Do not stop stirring.


You will notice that the mixture starts thickening slowly.

When the whole mixture thickens, turn off the fire. Let it cool. Transfer to small bowls / moulds and refrigerate for about 4-5 hours. Custard is ready to be served.

Recipe courtesy – Ragi-Ragini: Chronicles from Aji’s Kitchen by Anjali Purohit

Festival Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets

Vella Cheedai / Sweet Cheedai – Deep Fried Sweet Balls

Salt Seedai / Cheedai as well sweet cheedai is made during Gokulashtami as a Naivedyam to Lord Krishna. Sweet cheedai is slightly tricky to get right. If your proportions are not right, they might break apart while frying. But using the proportion mentioned below you can make good sweet cheedai. Vellai cheedai are crispy but soft to bite into as opposed to salt cheedais that are dense and hard to bite into.

Raw rice flour – 1 cup
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Grated jaggery – 3-4 tbsp (adjust to taste)
Butter – 1 tbsp
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
Sesame seeds – 2 tsp
Oil (for frying) – 300-400 ml
Water as needed

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 30-35 mins (7 mins per batch)
Makes 200 gm Cheedai

Dry roast the raw rice flour until the raw smell of the rice goes away and you get a nice roasted aroma.
Remove from fire and sieve to ensure that the powder is fine and no lumps are present.
Dry roast the urad dal until the dal turns pink. Remove from fire and pulse in a mixer to a fine powder.
Sieve the urad dal flour twice to ensure that you take only the fine powder and you discard the coarse powders.
Grind the grated coconut to make a coarse paste. It is okay even if the coconut is not fully ground. You may add small quantities of water while grinding.
Add the grated jaggery powder to a pan and mix few spoons of water. (Be careful about the amount of water. Do not dilute it too much). Place on low fire to let the jaggery melt. Once melted, use a strainer to sieve any lumps/impurities.
Mix a tablespoon of sieved, finely powdered urad dal flour along with the sieved rice flour. Add the ground coconut, jaggery syrup, butter, and sesame seeds to this. Use your fingers to mix the flour and jaggery well.
Add small quantities of water if needed to make a dough. The dough should be soft but not loose.
Take a small portion of the dough, place this dough on your left hand and use the long three fingers on the right hand to roll the dough into marble-sized balls. Place them on a paper. It is recommended that you allow this to dry a bit before you deep fry them.
Heat oil in an iron kadai.
Once the oil is hot, gently and carefully drop a batch of the marble-sized dough balls into the oil. Ensure that the balls are fully immersed in oil. Retain the fire in medium in the beginning for about a minute. You will notice a lot of bubbles during this time. When the bubbles reduce, lower the fire and stir often until the balls change color to golden brown.
Use a strainer ladle to remove the cheedai from the oil. Place on an absorbent paper to absorb excess oil.
Store in an air tight container once it cools down.

1. Sieve the flour at least twice to ensure that the rice flour and urad dal flour used is finely powdered. This will ensure there are no accidental oil splashes while frying the cheedai.
2. Although it is recommended that the rolled cheedai balls should dry off a bit before they are deep fried, you need not roll the entire dough into balls and then start the frying process. You may roll enough for 2-3 batches, start frying batch by batch and as you are frying, you may roll new batches of cheedai.
3. Use a thick bottomed iron kadai for frying to ensure uniform heating.
4. While deep frying, maintain the flame first in medium and then in low
stirring occasionally.
5. Due to the jaggery in the dough, vella cheedai tends to turn black in excess heat. Be careful about the amount of heat or you will end up burning the cheedai.
6. Vella cheedais are not as crispy as salt cheedai. The outer crust will be crisp but inside may be a little chewy.
7. Following the proportions and instructions right is key to getting this right.

Sweets, Vegan

Tender Coconut and Litchi Ice Cream

A simple and easy non-dairy ice cream that can be easily made at home. For all those who are lactose intolerant or avoid dairy for ethical or other reasons.

Litchi fruit – 15 (10 + 5)
Tender coconut flesh – one tender coconut
Liquid Jaggery (joni bella) / Sugar – to taste
Vanilla essence – 1/2 tsp
Corn starch / Arrowroot powder – 1 tbsp
Water – 1/2 cup

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 5 mins
Makes 5 scoops

Blend tender coconut in the mixer until smooth. Take about 10 litchi (peeled and pitted) and add it to the tender coconut puree in the mixer and blend until smooth. Transfer this into a bowl.
In a small pan, mix about 1/2 cup of water and 1 tbsp of corn starch (i used arrowroot powder) and make a thin mixture. If you are using sugar, add sugar at this stage. Cook this in low heat until the mixture starts to thicken.
Turn off the fire and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Add vanilla essence.
Add this to the smooth puree of tender coconut and litchi. If you are adding liquid jaggery, add at this stage. Mix well and let this chill in refrigerator.
After couple of hours, take the chilled mixture and blend it in the mixer to make the mixture creamier and smoother.
Chop the remaining litchi into smaller chunks and add to the ice cream mixture.
Mix and chill this in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours.
Store in freezer until ready to serve.

Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Sweets

Navara Nei Payasam – Kerala Temple Prasadam-Style Rice Kheer with Jaggery

Navara (Njavara in Malayalam) is a unique nutritional rice variety indigenous to Kerala. Like how mango is the king of fruits and almond the king of nuts, Navara is considered top class among the rice varieties for its rich aroma and medicinal properties. For centuries, Ayurvedic healers have been using Navara for its miraculous healing properties. It aids in treating skin ailments and even helps heal internal wounds. It helps build immunity against common ailments, especially during the monsoon season. Rice gruel / kanji made from Navara is safe food for diabetes and can even prevent cancer. Navara is suited for people of all ages and is a source of general wellness.

The cultivation of Navara has become rare now due to non-availability of pure seeds, low yield, and high production cost. But, a handful of farmers who have realized the value of this grain are trying to revive this precious crop. Growing Navara itself is challenging and to grow it organically, even more so. Mr. Narayana Unni of Navara Eco Farm is an award winning third generation farmer who almost single-handedly revived the organic cultivation of the medicinal Navara rice over the period of a decade. His farm, Karukamani Kalam, is spread over 12 acres and is located near the banks of Shokanashini river and Chittur college. What makes Unni ettan’s Navara unique is the purity of the seed variety as well as the organic and USDA certifications.

You can buy this special medicinal rice at ShopSwasthi, the online Indian ethnic store. ShopSwasthi is a treasure house of such precious items. What makes this online store extraordinary is their collection of rare traditional and contemporary items. For instance, one of their products bamboo wind chimes are labors of love crafted by artist Rajiv using handpicked bamboos from the Idukki rain forests and chiseled and tuned to reproduce sounds from Nature. Sitting in your drawing room, you could enjoy the calming sounds of the rain forest, woods, rains, and gentle forest streams. Unbelievable, right? Listen to it here and you will believe. Read Rajiv’s story here. The Shop Swasthi team focuses and features passionate farmers and artists such as Mr. Unni and Mr. Rajiv who are dedicated to their crafts. In this heritage and ethnic store, you can also find cereals, everyday spices, food supplements, along with traditional Indian handicrafts and artifacts. Okay, I got carried away. But, blame it on the charming sounds of the bamboo wind chimes and Mr. Unni’s story. These are not like the mass-produced items that you find at a curio store, but individually and carefully crafted pieces of art that help you re-connect to Nature.

Navara can be used to make rice gruel / kanji or to make jaggery payasam. The traditional sweet offering / prasadam / neivedyam, especially at Devi temples, are made from raw rice, jaggery, and ghee. The payasam is prepared on firewood and cooked in an uruli, a heavy brass vessel. This payasam is thicker in consistency and is a little too sweet compared to other payasams. It has lots of ghee and is supposed to be eaten only in small portions. This payasam is also called kadu madhura payasam, i.e. very sweet payasam. I have not used as much jaggery or ghee as they would ideally in a temple prasadam. You could add more, if you prefer so.

Navara rice – 100gm
Jaggery – 250gm
Water – as needed
Cardamom powder- 1/2 tsp
Ghee – 3 tbsp
Chopped coconut pieces – 3 tbsp

Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves 7-10

Wash rice in water, add it to a cylindrical vessel. Add 3 times water to the rice. Ensure there is enough space in the vessel for rice to get cooked. Place this vessel in a pressure pan and cook 4-5 whistles. Turn off the fire after 4-5 whistles and wait for the pressure to release naturally. Rice should be cooked soft but not mushy. Since the Navara rice variety is a little hard, it would take some time to cook it to the soft consistency.
Meanwhile, as the rice gets cooked, soak jaggery in warm water (1 cup – do not make it too dilute). Heat this solution until all the jaggery pieces dissolve completely. Pass this solution through a strainer to remove impurities if any, and keep the solution aside.
Heat a heavy bottomed vessel and add the jaggery solution to this vessel. Cook in a low flame until the jaggery syrup starts bubbling and thickening. When the bubbles start reducing (a sign that the syrup is thickening), add the cooked rice.
When you add the cooked rice, the jaggery syrup gets diluted again. Mix well and cook until the rice and jaggery syrup blends together and starts to thicken. Add ghee in small quantities. Stir well.
Stir occasionally until the payasam thickens comes to a saucy consistency. Add cardamom powder and switch off.
In a small frying pan, heat a spoon of ghee and add coconut pieces chopped into small rectangular pieces. Roast the coconut pieces in ghee until they turn golden. Turn off and add the roasted coconut pieces along with the ghee into the payasam. Stir well. Delicious sharkara payasam is ready to eat.

The sweetness of the payasam will vary based on the jaggery variety you use and the amount of molasses in that jaggery. If your jaggery variety is very sweet, you could reduce the amount of jaggery by 50 gm.
You can even add / substitute coconut pieces with cashew nut pieces roasted in ghee.
The payasam thickens when it cools down. Hence, stop cooking it when the consistency is a little dilute.
Use only raw rice (unpolished red variety is ideal) to cook the payasam.
Add the cooked rice to the jaggery syrup when the consistency of the syrup is thick. If the syrup is too dilute and then you add the cooked rice, it can take a long time to get thicker and this can harden the rice.

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Festival Recipes, Indian, Sweets, Vegan

Roasted Cashewnut Burfi

Cashews, in the form of roasted salted nuts and burfis are highly addictive. Usually these are purchased from shops but making them at home is so easy and there is marked difference in taste. Making sweets at home using whole ingredients is a very rewarding and satisfying experience. The delicately nutty flavor of the cashews is enhanced in the homemade version, which is usually missing in the shop-bought versions. I highly recommend making this sweet at home and I think you will stop visiting the sweet shop and start making your own for festivals and when friends visit. It is much more tastier, flavorful, and economical too.
Some people think of cashewnuts as fattening. Please note that while cashewnuts are high in calories, they are rich in heart-friendly mono saturated fatty acids and soluble dietary fibers, vitamins, and minerals. For this sweet, I have used unrefined raw sugar. This is made from the sugarcane juice and has some minerals and nutrients. Refined sugar is devoid of all nutrients. So, if you have to eat some sweet anyway, rather than binging on empty/harmful calories, try to eat healthy homemade sweets, such as these.

Cashewnut – 250 gm
Unrefined sugar – 1 cup/250 gm
Saffron/kumkuma poovu – 4-5 threads
Water – 1/2 cup
Ghee/Virgin coconut oil – 1 tsp

Preparation Time: 25 mins roasting time
Cooking time: 10 mins
Makes approximately 25 one-inch square pieces

It is best to oven roast the cashew nuts to roast them evenly. Since I do not use an oven, I used the traditional stove top method to roast the cashews. Add the cashews to a heavy bottomed vessel and dry roast until they turn golden. Turn off the fire and let them cool.
Use a mixer to powder them coarsely. I like to keep it coarse and not too fine. When you powder 250 gm roasted cashew nut, you get roughly 2-1/4 cups of cashew nut powder.
Take a wide plate and grease it lightly with ghee or virgin coconut oil. Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed vessel, add water, saffron threads, and unrefined sugar. Stir occasionally and bring to boil. Cook until the sugar syrup reaches a one-thread consistency. To check this, dip the ladle in the syrup, take it out, blow into the syrup to cool it off a bit and while the syrup is still warm, touch a tiny portion of the syrup using your index finger. Try to stretch this drop of syrup on your index finger between your index finger and thumb. If it stretches for half a centimeter and forms thread and breaks beyond that, you are good to go.

Add the coarsely powdered cashew nuts to the syrup and stir. In about 5-6 minutes, you will the mixture swells up and thickens into a single mass when you move it using the ladle. It does not stick to the bottom of the wok. This means that it is time for you to transfer the cooked burfi into the greased plate that you have kept ready.

Pour the mixture on the greased plate. Tap to even out the surface using a rolling pin/potato masher/flattener. Use a knife to make horizontal and vertical divisions on the rolled out mixture. Let the mixture cool for about 10 mins.

In a quick move, turn the plate with the mixture upside down onto a bigger plate.

Gently separate the individual pieces. Store in an airtight container. Stays good for a week.

I referred to Harini Prakash’s Tongue Ticklers to make this sweet. I have been a huge fan of Harini’s writing style and brilliant photographs since I first came across her web site. So, thanks to Harini for this detailed and flawless recipe.

Recipe courtesy:

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