Kaju katli (cashew fudge) should be declared the national sweet of India without doubt. It’s clout crosses all regional boundaries. So while you will not expect to find MysorePak in north India and Gujhiya in the south – you will find Kaju Katli in each and every part of the country – same diamond shape, same taste. So while Nilesh may claim that the only ‘authentic’ samosa is the one sold in Varanasi and I am super proud if the authenticity of Indori poha, there is no authenticity claims around the humble kaju katli. You always get the real deal – buy it from anywhere from the airport outlet or small town mithai shop. With only three ingredients – this classic magical sweet goes strong – without any competition touching it.
Now the reason this post goes on and on about kaju and not badam is that I made badam katli because I miss kaju katli immensely. This may sound strange to a lot of people but in my small town in Canada, I can easily buy almonds, walnuts, pecans and other nuts I have never heard of before,but I can’t find raw cashews. The Indian Store sells some in small packets, but I dont go anywhere near stuff without a ‘packed on’ or ‘best by’ date, so that’s a no go for me.
So the story is that I was missing kaju katli and Aditi was missing ‘diamond mithai’ as she calls it and I was browsing the food blogosphere when I saw this badam katli recipe – which is modeled after a kaju katli recipe. It looked pretty promising and I decided to give it a try. The results were great. It’s quick and easy – and has to potential to make you happy and a bit sad with nostalgia in the same moment. Give it a try and you will know what I mean.
Recipe Source – Spicy Treats (step by step instructions are here)
– 1 an 1/4 cup blanched almond flour OR 1 cup whole almonds (badam)
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup water
– 1/4 tsp ghee or 1 tbsp milk (optional, only if required).
1. If you have blanched almond flour, go right ahead with rest of the recipe. I made my own almond flour using these steps –
a. Heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Let it come to a rolling boil.
b. Switch off the heat and dump the almonds in the boiling water. Cover and let it be for half an hour.
c. Take the almonds out of the water and give them a quick wash in cold water. Proceed with taking out their brown peel. It is super easy to peel them – Aditi did that for me. Let the peeled almonds dry on a kitchen towel – I just left them on the kitchen counter overnight.
d. The peeled, dried and soft almonds are now ready to be ground into flour – I used my magic bullet for it. Dont try to make into a smooth and fine powder – you will end up with almond butter. Try to get a grainy, no-big-chunks powder and you are good. One cup almonds will yield 1 and 1/4 cups of almond flour. Keep aside.
2. In a thick bottom wok, dump the sugar and water. The water will barely cover the sugar but that is what we want.
3. Stir occasionally on medium heat till the sugar is all dissolved and things start to boil – we are looking for a single string consistency syrup. It took me five years to get what it exactly means – keep trying and you will too!
4. When the desired consistency is reached,reduce the heat to low and tip in the almond flour. Mix and mix to get a lump free deal.
5. Increase the heat to medium again and keep stirring for another 3 minutes, the whole mixture should come together as a single mass and when you try to roll some between your fingers, you get a not-very-sticky ball. Switch off the heat and let this cool down to being warm not hot. This takes half an hour.
6. dump the contents to a parchment paper or big plate and start to knead. The almonds will release a lot of fat and your hands will be all glossy. If you have over-cooked it, your mixture will be a bit dry and crumbly – dont lose heart. Add the ghee and milk little by little and start to knead – you will get there.
7. Once it looks smooth and glossy, put another parchment paper on ball of dough and start to roll it to get a sheet of 1/2 inch thickness.
8. Cut into diamond shapes and store at room temperature. If you did not need any milk to knead it, this will have a very long shelf life. Else, finish them in a couple of days.
‘Chaman’ is a term we used in my hometown Indore to refer to a weirdo! It always brings a smile on my face when I hear someone being called a chaman! However – while eating out in the north, I realized chaman does not refer to someone, but to something – something that has methi in it. Though I am very conservative at what I eat at restaurants, usually I don’t go out of my comfort zone, but I do make sure I read the entire vegetarian menu – they have the name of the dish and a little description that follows. Something like – ‘Paneer Methi Chaman – A mildly spicy gravy full of soft paneer flavored with methi.’ I am not sure if they hire people specifically for writing these, because if they do, I am a candidate. I say this more as I can also boast of being a compulsive flyer/ pamphlet reader – the ones that come with my daily newspaper – ‘free home delivery’ outlets – most of them have at least two chaman dishes on them.
My curiosity made me order it in my last dinner out and it turned out pretty good – the methi took the regular paneer dish to a new level, though all attempts were made to sideline it with addition of cream and even khoya/ mawa. Maybe they want only the color of the methi, and not the taste. I tried to recreate it at home, minus the cream/khoya/mawa and let methi prevail. It was awesome! Confirmed that ‘chaman’ is meant to bring a smile to the face – be it a person or a dish!
Paneer Methi Chaman – Restaurant Style
Fresh, green methi/ fenugreek leaves – cleaned, washed and chopped fine – 1 cup
Ginger – 1 inch piece, cleaned and chopped.
Onions – 2 large – cut into chunks
Tomatoes – 2 medium – cut to chunks
Paneer cubes – 1.5 cup or a 200 gm block cut into pieces
Kaju/ Cashews – 3 , broken to pieces
Salt – as per taste
Haldi/ Turmeric- 1 tsp
Jeera/ Cumin – half tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Garam Masala/ Kitchen king masala – 1 tsp
Oil – 3 tsp
1. Heat oil in a kadhai/ wok.
2. When oil is hot, add jeera, let it crackle. Add onion pieces. The onions should get pale and soft and start browning at the sides. At this point, go to step 3.
3. Add ginger, tomatoes and cashews. Also add haldi and salt. Sauté till tomatoes are soft and pulpy. This takes around 10 -12 minutes.
4. While the tomatoes are cooking, blanch the chopped methi leaves – put them in a cup of water and let it boil on a sim flame for 10 minutes. Cover with a lid once done.
5. Once the onion and tomatoes are cooked, switch off the gas and let it cool.
6. Once cool, put the stuff in a blender. Add a little water (I used the water I boiled the methi in) and blend to a smooth paste. The cashews will give the paste a rich and smooth texture.
7. Put the blended paste in the same wok and put it on flame again. Keep sautéing – add rest of the spices – red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder too. Keep doing this for 5 to 7 minutes, till the deal is bright and oozing oil.
8. Add the paneer cubes. Strain out the boiled methi leaves from the water and add them here. Also add some water (the same water in which you boiled the methi).
9. Mix all of it and let it come to a boil – 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the spices, salt.
10. Serve hot with rotis.
When hubby N brought in a box of gajar halwa from the best sweets shop in the town – I was really excited! However, I was a bit taken aback when I opened the box – it was not red or anywhere near – but all nearly white with an overload of khoya/ mawa. Still, I put in a spoonful in my mouth and could not believe it qualified to be called ‘gajar’ ka halwa. There was ghee, khoya, sugar, cardamom and whole pieces of dryfruits. Looked like they did not even bother to grate the carrots – there were chunks which still had a bite to them. I don’t think I ate more than a spoon of this – what a huge disappointment. No wonder mom always believed in making her own soft and creamy version – even if it was five kilos for a birthday party. Nostalgic with memories of the entire house filled with the aroma of carrots cooking in bubbling milk with a hint of cardamom – I decided to make my own and could not help swelling in pride when hubby N and baby A kept asking for more.
Gajar ka Halwa in its glory!
Carrots – 1 kg, red thick ones
Ghee – 3 tbsp or more if you like
Milk – 2.5 cups or more if you like it creamier
Cardamom powder – 2 tsp
Sugar – 4 tbsp or more if you like things sweeter/ the carrots are not sweet
Dryfruits like cashews and almonds – a handful, chopped
Lets enjoy it together
1. Wash and peel the carrots. Grate them. I use my hand grater as I don’t deal with large quantities. It is done in 15 minutes. However, you can use the grating blade of your food processor.
2. Add 2 tbsp of ghee in a wide thick bottomed kadhai and put it on low-medium heat.
3. Add the grated carrots and cook, turning around every few minutes. We want the carrots to go soft and pale – that happens in 15 minutes.
4. Add the milk and let this cook on a low flame. Keep stirring at regular intervals.
5. Now, the liquid released by the carrots and milk will start to boil and evaporate. Once most of it is gone, add in the sugar and cardamom powder.
6. Let this cook till the carrots get glossy and all of the liquid evaporates. This will take nearly 30 more minutes.
7. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of ghee and mix.
8. Cool and store in the refrigerator.
9. When ready to serve, re-heat and add in chopped dry fruits for garnishing.
1. You can add as much of ghee, milk, sugar as you want – to make things richer and creamier. The amount of sugar I have added is very less, I like the taste of carrots to prevail.
2. It is a notion that this is a tiresome job, but it is not true. Once you are done with the grating, there is not much active cooking involved. Give it a shot!