Cashewnut burfi or squares
Its Day 3 of the Diwali Dessert week! Today’s recipe is inspired by one of my grandmother’s signature desserts – cashewnut ‘burfi’ or squares. But because of all the ghee and nuts that she used, she’d only make it for special occasions such as my birthday! After the ground cashews and melted sugar are cooked together, the dough is flattened out onto a plate and left to cool before cutting into diamonds. But I could never wait till the squares were formed and I’d get a small cup of the smooth and gooey dough. And then I’d eat it one spoon at a time slowly savoring its rich feel on my tongue. Eating the squares was just as tasty but a different experience entirely.
When I finished making this today, the light was already fading fast. The squares hadn’t fully formed yet but I had to shoot the pictures. I regretted not having cooked the cashew dough a while longer. But then I remembered that I preferred it this way.
Traditionally, the ingredients for this dessert, also called kaju katli, are cashews, sugar, ghee and either milk or water. Instead of milk and most of the sugar, I added spiced applesauce. This was one of the suggestions made when I asked for what local / seasonal ingredients you’d like to see featured. I’ll confess that I wasn’t sure at all if the slight acidity of applesauce and the nuttiness of cashews would go together. But I loved it. It was surprisingly good. I was relieved as I didn’t have a back-up.
Roughly ground cashew meal
Cashewnut burfi before laying out to cool
Lightly toast the cashew meal for 2-3 minutes on medium low. Simmer the applesauce with the cinnamon, clove and sugar in a thick bottomed pot. Do this for about 8 minutes on medium heat or till the sauce has gone slightly past bubbling to leaving the sides of the pot.
Add the cashew meal and ghee and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly for 5 minutes while incorporating into a dough. If you can take a small amount of the dough and make into a ball, it is ready to cool.
Smoothen out in a quarter inch layer on a plate. Leave to cool for 2-3 hours in the fridge before cutting into squares or diamonds. Or if you’re like me, just scoop some out into a bowl and dig in right away.
Cashewnut squares or kaju katli
The poor coconut has been much maligned as being unhealthy and laden with cholesterol. That view may be changing now as I found out on a recent tour of a grocery co-op lead by a nutritionist. Though high in cholesterol, coconuts contain medium chain triglycerides, or MCT’s. MCTs are easily digested and are converted into energy right away as opposed to other fats that are stored. Some research suggests that consuming more coconuts can help you lose weight!
I’ve always loved coconut is all its forms! Tender sweet coconut water is the best thing on a hot summer day. The next best thing is scooping out the still tender white flesh that later thickens into meat. Grated fresh coconut adds instant deliciousness and texture to ‘curried’ vegetables – see my earlier post. And of course Thai curries and soups made with coconut milk (made by squeezing grated coconut meat) are so flavorful.
Writing about coconuts reminds me of my grandmother’s lovely garden where she has five or six coconut trees. One of my ambitions as a child was to climb one of these trees and harvest my own coconut. I’d seen men shinny up coconut palms using a technique where they alternated hands and feet. This was one ambition that was soon dropped as I could never replicate the frog-like technique. Fast forwarding to the present, I’m just happy that we can buy coconuts and coconut milk in the market!
I’ve noticed recently that many of my friends also love coconut and so I do end up using it quite regularly. For a recent dinner party, I’d offered to bring a dessert. I didn’t have any fresh coconut left but did have some Baker’s sweetened coconut flakes. Coconut “burfi” (a general word for many sweets in India that can be cut into squares) came to mind and I made it, though in a non-traditional way. It was moist and crunchy at the same time and everyone liked it. Best of all, it is super easy to make though after my introduction on how healthy coconuts are, I should probably stick to fresh instead of processed coconut flakes! Here’s the recipe. It serves 8.
- Baker’s coconut (sweetened) – 7 oz pack
- whole milk (I substituted soy milk creamer) – 1.5 to 2 cups
- sugar (or an alternate sweetener. I used jaggery, a raw form of cane sugar) – 1 tbsp
- green cardamom – 10, seeded and roughly ground using a mortar and pestle
- saffron (optional) – 7-8 threads, crumbled
Simmer the milk on medium-low till it comes to a rolling boil. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Simmer for 30 minutes or till the mixture has thickened and there is almost no liquid left. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. Let it cool a bit and spread the coconut mixture in a thick layer in a buttered pan. Refrigerate (or even freeze) for a few hours to get it to set. Don’t worry too much if it won’t harden. It will still taste fine.
Enjoy this yummy dessert and the lovely floral saffron with the woody notes of cardamom perfectly matched with sweet and crunchy coconut!
And a quick tip if you’re shopping for this amazing nut. Choose one where you can hear the liquid sloshing around inside when you shake it.