Archives for posts with tag: Pakistani dessert

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I realized I don’t bake very much anymore.  I don’t know how this happened.  Several nights a week after dinner I scour through my cookbooks and online to find something to bake.  I always feel like eating something sweet after dinner and trying to satisfy my sweet tooth with fruit is essentially fruitless (hehe).  But after dinner I want quick satisfaction, so I head over to the cupboard and snack on a few chocolate chips.

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I want to bake marvelous cakes and pastries.  I could look at baking recipes for hours, but when it comes down to the actual execution I’m always hesitant.  I think it has something to do with me the fact that me baking always yields a tornado-like scene in my kitchen.  I have enough counter space and yet without fail I manage to make a huge mess to cleanup and that leaves me feeling bitter.  But of course if my baking project comes out as planned, I guess the tornado-scene is just the collateral damage to an otherwise successful (and delicious!) feat.

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Back to my laziness, these vermicelli squares are a godsend for the ultimate lazy sweet satisfaction seeker like myself.  It’s an easy recipe with just a handful of ingredients and not too many bowls and most importantly — no flour dust storms in the kitchen.  It also looks like you spent hours making it, when in actuality these squares require no effort at all.  My sister-in-law makes these and I never saw them before she made them one day.  At first I thought they were some sort of baklava, but they’re just Pakistani vermicelli with sweetened condensed milk, cardamom, butter, and nuts.  When she told me the recipe, I was shocked that it wasn’t something more complicated.  Either way, it’s a win-win situation and those post-dinner sweet cravings will be thoroughly satisfied with these sticky and sweet squares.

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Sweet and Sticky Vermicelli Squares (or Diamonds!)

Makes an 8″x 8″ pan

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter (unsalted or salted, doesn’t matter)

1 packet (about 200 grams) of Pakistani or Indian Vermicelli (found in Pakistani or Indian grocery stores)

1 (scant 2 cups) can of sweetened condensed milk

1 cup milk

2 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed slightly in a mortar and pestle

pinch of salt

1/2 cup crushed almonds and pistachios, you can add more or less

Method

Grease an 8″ x 8″ baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Heat a large pot on medium heat and add the butter and allow it to almost get to the brown stage (about 2-3 minutes).  Watch the butter closely because you don’t want it to burn.  Add in the cardamom seeds.  Next, tear the vermicelli into the butter and cardamom and allow the vermicelli to toast a little.  Keep stirring until the vermicelli begins to soften.  Add in a 1 cup of milk and let the milk evaporate, stirring constantly.  Pour in the sweetened condensed milk and lower the heat to medium low.  Mix in the sweetened condensed mik, until combined and keep stirring occasionally until the vermicelli is soft, but still has a little bit of a bite to it, about 20-30 minutes.  Allow the vermicelli to cool for 5 minutes.

Next, transfer the vermicelli to the 8″ x 8″ baking dish and press it down with a spoon, so that it is evenly pressed into the baking dish.  Press in the nuts over the vermicelli and leave it at room temperature for an hour or two.  Put out the parchment paper and cut the vermicelli into squares or diamonds.  Serve at room temperature.

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You all can’t even begin to imagine how excited I am for Eid (celebration at the end of Ramadan) this year.  Fasting this year was tough and there were rumors circulating that it might fall on Saturday depending on the lunar sighting.  As far as I was concerned, Eid was to be on Friday no matter what the council of whoever decided.

Most of this Ramadan was spent at my in-laws.  I previously mentioned how they are all about food.  Somehow my mother-in-law manages to spend the whole day cooking in the kitchen even though everyone is fasting.  Let me tell you, I have eaten my fair share this month.

My Mother-in-Law stirring away

If I am going to resort back to my previous eating habits I might as well end my over consumption  with a great bang.  One last hurrah, if you will.  I asked my mother-in-law to share her recipe for sooji ka halwa (semolina dessert with cardamom, nuts, and green raisins).

Growing up we would eat this on Eid and on other religious holidays.  A taste of this halwa brings me back many childhood memories of Eid and summers in Pakistan.  Halwa is usually eaten with pooris and chanay.  Pooris are a decadent treat that brings the indulgence of halwa to another level.  When you buy pooris from the market stall they soak the paper bags and newspaper with oil.  Hmm, I might just eat my halwa with a spoon.  On the other hand, halwa without poori, poori without halwa, whichever way you look at it something is missing.

My mother-in-law was quite excited for me to make this with her and also that I would be posting it.  She can make anything Pakistani and it most surely turns out to be absolutely amazing.  She doesn’t even trust me in the kitchen, partially because I cut corners where oil, butter, and ghee are concerned and she is never satisfied with food unless it is made by her.  If I help her in the kitchen my position is reserved for chopping onions and assembling her mise en place.  I have learned a great deal by watching her cook on our visits to my in-laws.  I might use less oil or whatever but, the main concept of sharing a recipe and learning from others is there, something that is priceless.  I have added new dish to my repertoire, a dish of tradition that I can share on upcoming Eid with others.

Eid Mubarak!

Sooji ka Halwa (Semolina Dessert with Cardamom, Nuts, and Green Raisins)

Serves 4-6 (servings here are relative, it could serve 8 if only having a small quantity)

Ingredients

1 1/3 cup finely ground semolina, sooji found in Indian-Pakistani grocers

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 green cardamoms, slightly crushed

2 cups water

1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds (can use whole almonds with skin and sliver them), plus extra for garnish

1/3 cup green raisins or sultanas, plus extra for garnish

3-4 drops of kewra water or rose water, optional

a few leaves of edible silver leaf, warq (we couldn’t find it, thus did not use it)

Method

Heat a wide pan on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter and the oil and drop in the cardamom pods and allow the aroma to infuse the oil for about 2 minutes.  Add in the semolina and stir the oil with the semolina so that it absorbs and becomes dry.

Keep stirring every 30 seconds until the semolina until the color changes and you smell the fragrance of slight roasting.  Roast until light brown, about 7-10 minutes and then add the remaining 2 tablespoons on butter and allow it ooze and melt into the semolina.  Remove the pan from the heat and add in the sugar and mix until combined.

Next, stream in the water and return to the heat (increase the heat to medium-high) and keep stirring until the semolina thickens, about 5 minutes.  When it has thickened reduce the heat to low.  Add in raisins, almonds, and the few drops of kewra water (if you are using it).  The consistency should be that of a thick porridge or oatmeal.  Garnish with the silver leaf, raisins, and almonds.  Serve warm or some like it chilled.  For a real treat serve with pooris.

*optional-you may infuse the oil with a few strands of saffron if you like.