I am so tired of waiting for winter to arrive in Delhi. It is so sunny during the days that it is impossible to venture out till 6PM and so humid during the nights that you cant sleep without the air conditioning on. Summer is not getting over and I get up every morning hoping that I may feel some chill in the morning air – but am disappointed every day. Now, I am so desperate for winters not because I love wearing layers and hiding behind sweaters and jackets, but for the wonderful food options it brings along. I love going to the weekly vegetable market in winters – there are rows and rows of fresh greens, heaps of peas, carrots and cauliflower that I can never have enough of. I am also able to cook dishes which are on the richer side, in the name of ‘foods that keep you warm’ . They say that our digestive system goes lethargic in summers and gets more agile and accepting in winters – and hence most rich halwa(s) and other sweet treats are usually prepared in winters.
I had been eyeing so many almond halwa/ burfi and laddu recipes on the food blogosphere and was longing to try them. As evident from my rant, I was waiting for a hint of winter to get to it, but totally gave in the temptation and went ahead with these kesar badam laddus this weekend. And how I loved myself for my decision! It was an absolute delight and these bright, yellow balls of almond joy filled our mouths and hearts with their delicate flavors. The mild hint of cardamom along with the saffron pushed the entire thing to a new level. I could not help notice the articles about eating healthy in the newspapers as it was ‘World Heart Day’, but overcame my guilt by reminding myself that this did not contain a single drop of fat/ ghee. The natural oil within the almonds was enough for these to get soft and glossy. This recipe is what I evolved during the cooking process and is an amalgamation of all the recipes I went through. Another reason why I wanted to record this on my blog.
Almonds/ Badam – 2 cups
Milk – Half cup
Sugar – 1 cup
Cardamom / Ilaichi powder – Half tsp
Saffron/ Kesar strands – 3 pinches
Almonds – 10 – 12 for garnishing (optional)
1. Blanch the almonds. For this, put the almonds in a wide bowl with water. Keep the bowl on the flame for 5-7 minutes, the water will start to boil. Switch off the gas, and cover the bowl. After 10 minutes or so of waiting you should be able to pick the almonds and remove the peels easily. Alternatively, soak almonds overnight and peel them in the morning.
2. Spread the peeled almonds on a kitchen towel so that they dry up a bit.
3. Put the almonds along with one-fourth cup of milk in a blender jar and blend to a smooth paste.
4. Put a thick bottomed wok on the gas, on low-medium heat.
5. Pour in rest of the milk in the wok and let it come to a boil (1 minute).
6. Add the almond paste, sugar, cardamom powder and saffron strands.
7. Now, let this mixture cook for a good 20-25 minutes, stirring continuously.
8. Meanwhile, chop the almonds for garnishing to small bits and spread them on a plate.
9. Once the mixture reaches a soft dough consistency, switch off the gas and let it cool. It will get all glossy due to the almond oil.
10. While still warm, pull out small portions of the mixture and roll it into a small ball/ laddu with your palms. Roll this laddu on the plate containing the almond bits so that they stick to the surface of the laddu.
11. Repeat for the entire mixture. Keep the laddus in the refrigerator.
12. Pick one whenever you want and bite into the chewy soft ball. You will feel transformed to paradise, as the texture of almonds and flavors of saffron and cardamom fill your mouth and soul. Repeat with the rest of them!