Mysore Mithai or Haal Khova | Sweet Nostalgia

Cottage @ Lake Ouachita State Park, Arkansas

I have been away for a while now, to begin with, it was for a lovely fall vacation with friends in Arkansas. (BTW, Don’t miss the state park cottages, they are worth every penny). Then, it was to San Francisco to meet friends who are embarking on a “round the world trip” this weekend starting from Bogota, Colombia to cover the whole of South America and North Africa later. (Curious cats can track their adventures on their blog Crave to Travel). Also, very unexpectedly, a sweet co-incidence it was to meet up with the lovely ladies Sala Kannan of Veggie Belly and Prerna of Indian Simmer, thanks to a quick burst of tweeting! YAY! to Twitter.. Meeting them in flesh and blood over a lovely Thai dinner felt like a dream come true.. After that, in a much unexpected turn of events I spent the whole of Thanksgiving weekend in and out of ER nursing my injured back to normalcy until now..

With so much to share and not being able to communicate with you was difficult enough.. Thank you for your understanding unbeknownst my saga, staring at the same page of Curry Leaf all this while..

So I am back to writing this special post. No recipes this time, but I bring you “this” something very close to my heart, with a big grin and sparkly eyes..

It arrived by mail in a brown box from an unidentified address.

It couldn’t have been any kind of factory made commercial product. It looked very familiar as though something long lost from my childhood. It had been much more than a year since the two of us had met each other. They were about eight geometric packets nicely wrapped in a bling gift wrap, contents playing peek-a-boo from the insides of the rectangular cuboid carefully hand wrapped in see-through wax paper wound with delicate white cotton threads securely knotted at the top.

I smiled.

There was a familiar comfort at sight. How could I know so much about this sweet unless…. I grew up eating it?

My eyes lit up like that of a small child handed with a bar of her most favorite chocolate, only it wasn’t this time.. But I knew exactly what it was and where it came from and perhaps who had taken the pains of mailing it in a box to me. What a splendid surprise!

It was like the most unexpected box parcel that one dreams of getting, when one sees a mail van passing by, thinking wish it was me. This day, it was mine..

If you are a Mysorean, most likely you know it.

If you have grown up in Mysore or have gone to school or college in Mysore anytime between the 80s and now, you might have even guessed what it is when you read the post header.

Haal Khova, Haalu Khova, Mithai – call it by any name and this humble geometrical sweet miracle never fails to melt in your mouth the moment it lands there..

On a small indistinct street somewhere in the heart of Mysore, a pious Brahmin family churns out this sweet daily in pre-fixed number of carefully hand made batches from scratch in their own home all by themselves, using the freshest ingredients. All just home made, Ahan!

“Mithai” as they call it, is their way of life and a sweet packet of bliss for others who get to enjoy it!

By now, the skeptic in you (or at least some of you) might have a question – how can a milk sweet survive travel by mail for so many days and still land in good condition? Yes, this sweet has a decent shelf life – two weeks if it is nowhere near water.. Not bad huh?

If you plan to visit Mysore soon and simply can’t wait to get hold of this sweet, drop me a comment with your email id and I can share the details with you..

And some of you with relatives in Mysore, you know what you can do.. :)

Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did sharing a sweet piece of nostalgia from my childhood days.

Also, don’t miss to read how calling it a “piece of paradise”, Ramya Krishnamurthy waves her verbal wand of magic in a heartwarming write-up on this humble Haal Khova on Churumuri.

Mawa Gujiya

Deep fried pastry purse with a nutmeg flavored nuts and dried milk filling

[maa waah; goo jee yeah] (hindi)
If you are wondering why I haven’t kept up with my usual pace of posting recipes, I agree to have been quite preoccupied lately. But, I have reason to stay away from the laptop and get outdoors.
My Attayya (mom-in-law in Telugu) is with us on a visit. Sure, it means my kitchen is busier than usual and we are having a ball of a time enjoying a whole lot of yummy food. Why should I have all the fun by myself? I want you to be a part of it too and hence in the coming weeks, you’ll get to see dishes from her repertoire featured here.
Attayya is a very versatile cook herself. Having well-travelled within India and abroad, her cooking reflects her unending enthusiasm for learning and sheer excitement for life. She is a foodie from any angle and her expansive culinary repository is the result of an insatiable curiosity and an open mind for experimenting with ingredients.
From the Punjabi chana masala to a Tamil Brahmin Adhirasam, or an Andhra pachadi to a Bengali dal, from cakes and brownies to ice creams and cold coffees, Italian or Middle Eastern – talk about anything and I’m sure she’ll have something to add. Very swift in the kitchen, she whips up dishes out of thin air in no time. I know, those are too large a shoes to fill!
Hope you enjoy her dishes as much as we do.

During one of our grocery shopping explorations, we also happened to bring home frozen mawa from the Indian store a couple of weeks back. And since then, we’ve been on a sweet roll of Gulab Jamun made fresh from scratch (not from a mix), Mawa Gujiya, Mawa Payash and more are in the pipeline.
Call them Gujiya, Kadubu, Karjikai, or even the Mexican Empanadas, they are birds of the same feather – deep-fried stuffed pastry, only the stuffing/filling makes them different as they can be.
Even though I have eaten Karida Kadubu or Karigadubu (Kannada), a sibling of the Gujiyas, for every Ganesha festival since I can remember, my interest spiked when Attayya described the stuffing for this one. It is a given that any milk based sweet is bound to be scrumptious, but the pairing of nutmeg with Mawa sounded rather fanciful and got me wanting for it.
As far as I have known (which could be very less for all you know!), the use of nutmeg in Indian sweets is few and far between in comparison to cardamom and saffron. In fact, for a long time, I had even assumed that nutmeg is best suited for home remedies and Ayurvedic medicine, which in fact is also true. Only after opening my mind to American cuisine did I grasp how ubiquitous this zippy spice is.
Mawa /Khova/ Khoya / Khoa are all but the same names for solidified milk made of either dried whole milk or milk thickened by heating in an open iron pan. More from wiki here.
Mawa/Khova is part and parcel of each and every regional Indian cuisine in various avatars. Because milk and sugar marry so well, Khova forms the key ingredient in copious varieties of rich sweets.
 Mawa gujiyas are a popular sweet prepared categorically during Holi, the Indian festival of colors to usher in a colorful spring and leave behind the harsh winter.
Mawa gujiyas are novel to me, but owing to how oh-so-delish they are, they are sure to be part of my recipe collection for a long time to come and of nostalgic stories to be shared in the future.

                  

{Lovely half-moon shaped ornate pastry purses ready to be deep-fried}
In north India or other parts where it is popular, readily available gujiya molds are used to render the process of pressing and sealing them easier. Here, I describe a method for hand-made gujiyas, without the use of such molds. Agreed it takes a bit longer, yet not a wee bit less yummy!
Need a hint on how this glistening golden snack tastes? Crunchy on the outside, crumbly on the inside with the mild salty outside meeting its sweet inside – an inter fusion of contrasting tastes in a mouthful, to please your palate.
Enough said.
Being the conscious eater that I am (or I was before eating them!), I must’ve downed at least 5 before I swore not to go near them – they are god-damn delicious!
Beware, you won’t stop at one.
Now, tell me about your most favorite Mawa/Khova preparation that you can never resist?

Mawa Gujiya Recipe

makes about 20 gujiyas
Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
oil for deep-frying (I used pure peanut oil)
for the dough
  • 2 cups chiroti rava /fine sooji/fine semolina or all-purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ghee/butter/oil
  • pinch of turmeric ~ optional
  • water
for the filling
  • 1/2 cup crumbled mawa/khova/khoya (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 powdered raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup powdered cashews
  • 1/4 cup desiccated coconut/ grated copra (sun-dried coconut)
  • 1-1/4 cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp powdered cardamom (about 4-5 pods)
other kitchen equipment
  • rolling-pin
  • kadai/heavy bottomed pan for deep-frying
Prep work
If using frozen mawa, microwave for 20-30 secs or let sit on the counter for 20-30 mins to thaw. Once thawed, gently squish with your fingers making sure to break all the lumps for a crumbled Mawa. If using freshly home made Mawa, make sure it is crumbly before use.
Pulse almonds in a blender/mixer for a few times until it resembles a coarse flour or corn meal. Do not run the blender continuously or you will end up with almond butter.
Ditto for the cashews.
Peel open cardamom pods and powder the seeds using a mortar and pestle.
How it’s done:
In a mixing bowl, mix chiroti rava /fine sooji with salt and turmeric, if you chose to. If using all purpose flour, sieve first. Add in your preferred fat and mix well. I prefer home-made ghee if not, pure butter, though oil is a pretty good substitute too. Using little water at a time, mix the dough to a chapati/roti consistency and set aside covered. Dough should be soft to touch but not sticky.
In another medium bowl, mix together all of ‘for the filling’ ingredients.
Slap the dough a few times on the rolling board or a clean counter and knead well. Divide the dough into portions the size of small key limes or about 1-½” diameter.
for the gujiyas,
Roll the dough into thin circles without using flour for dusting. For perfect round circles, cut out the rolled dough either using a round mold or any cup/container that fits the circumference. Prick it all over gently with a fork, which prevents it from bloating when deep-fried and later from losing its crunch.
Delicately spoon the filling on one half of the rolled dough. Wet the edges of the rolled dough with a few drops of water. Close by bringing both ends of the rolled dough together and press firmly to seal the edges making sure no air is trapped between the filling and the sealed edges.
Either press the edges with a fork or pinch and fold with your fingers to make ornate edges for this dough purse.
Heat oil in a kadai or heavy bottom pan on medium. When the oil is hot enough or shimmering, add a small pinch of dough to check, if it rises immediately, oil is ready for action.
Drop gujiyas one or two at a time and deep fry on medium until golden brown.  Remove onto a tissue to strain extra oil and let cool slightly before serving or the stuffing inside may be very hot.

Don’ts

Try not to use flour for dusting unless rolling the dough is almost impossible, in which case the dough might be sticky. Add a little flour to the dough, a few drops of oil and knead well until dough is of the required consistency.
Extra flour for dusting is best avoided to prevent it from getting burnt when deep-fried and clinging to the gujiya.

Note

Do not discard cardamom skin, use it in lemonade or drop it in the simmering tea for a delicate flavor.
Gujiyas store well for up to 10 days in an airtight container.

Aromas of freshly grated nutmeg and ground cardamom take the sweet to a whole new level. Use of fresh spices cannot be stressed enough.

I prefer using a small to medium size kadai (wok) for deep-frying. Due to its concave shape, lesser oil is required to fry with negligible oil leftover saving me from oil reuse.

 for variation, dried fruits like sultana raisins and even chocolate shavings make a grand addition
If you are interested in making Mawa/Khova fresh at home from scratch, Chef in You takes you step by step on How to make Khoya at home

Mawa Gujiya is off to “Your Best Recipe” – May Roundup held by Nancy of Spicie Foodie
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Kharjoor Badam Kheer

Almonds and Date Pudding

I wouldn’t totally like to call it a pudding, it is somewhat in between a pudding and a custard (yet neither), but I somehow like the sound of it

It was his birthday.
I had baked an Almond cake with chocolate frosting and buttercream icing for the midnight cake cutting celebrations, the day before.
Come morning, breakfast was simple, old-fashioned oats with fruit and nuts, just as usual like every other day. I had some idea on the menu for lunch – Kaduhu Ohre (kaduhoo oh ray) was surely one of them, it was his favourite after all. What I was undecided on was the dessert, goes without saying that I wished to conjure up something special eh? And then, there is a tradition back home, to make a payasam of some sort on festivals or for special occasions such as these. Even as a series of payasams made their entry and exit through my mind, I wasn’t quite convinced. What if I extend the almond theme to lunch as well? Some Medjool dates that I bought many days ago lay in silent meditation inside the refrigerator. How about showing them the path to salvation? Quite the choice, I quickly concluded.
I made a mental map and a rough sketch of  the ingredients, the method etc. One quick to-the-point call with my mom and a little googling later, my plan turned out concrete and ratified. Although, I won’t deny the temporary dilemma I was in, over Kheer* or Badam Burfi (Almond squares – popular Indian dessert) instead? You now know which prevailed!

Kharjoor Badam Kheer – An extremely exotic looking (and tasting too, don’t worry) yet deceptively easy to prepare dessert and a sumptuous one at it (of course, after all the expensive ingredients, it better be!). The crunch of fried cashews playing hide and seek in between the silky nuttiness of the almonds laced with the sweetness of the dates, the luminous sunset orangey hue of the saffron and rich fragrant aroma of cardamom makes this dessert almost divine – if you have someone you wish to wow, this ought to be your choice..

You know the best way to enjoy this Ambrosia? Once you are done with lunch (leave the dishes alone for once), pour it in your favourite color dessert dish with your favorite dessert spoon, curl yourself up on the couch (got any better place?) snuggled in between a few pillows (or your loved one!) and slowly lick away to almond wonderland…
Him and I and even our guest for the day Miss mmj loved it puddingy thick, suit yourself though – make it thinner if you so like it. After all, any food tastes best when tailored to one’s picky palette and individual nuances.
*Kheer is derived from the Sanskrit word Ksheera meaning milk

Kharjoor Badam Kheer Recipe

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup pitted chopped dates (I used about 6-7 Medjool dates)
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup non fat milk
  • 4-5 cardamom pods, peeled and seeds powdered
  • 6-7 saffron strands
  • 10 cashews, chopped
  • 2 tsp ghee
  • 6-8 pistachios, slivered (optional)
How it’s done:
  • To blanch the almonds, place them in a bowl, pour boiling hot water and let sit covered for about 5-10 mins. Discard the water and run cold water over them. To skin the almonds, hold the almond on one end and gently squeeze to pop the skin off the almond. Repeat with the rest.
  • In a blender, grind skinned almonds and chopped dates along with a cup of water to a smooth paste.
  • Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When ghee is hot enough, add chopped cashews and shallow fry until golden brown. Strain cashews over a tissue and keep aside. Pour the date-almond smoothie into the thick bottomed pot and bring to a slow boil over medium-low heat stirring intermittently.
  • In a saucepan, bring milk to a boil or heat milk in a microwave for 1 min, add the saffron strands, stir and keep aside covered.
  • When Kheer starts bubbling, add the saffron milk and sugar and simmer for about 10 mins or until sugar is fully dissolved. Switch off, sprinkle ground cardamom, give it a good stir, cover and keep aside.
  • Serve warm (or cold) garnished with fried cashews or alternatively with slivered pistachios
Notes:
A mortar and pestle works best to powder cardamom seeds. Freshly ground is always the best, cardamom gradually loses flavor once ground.
Saffron yields color beautifully when in hot liquids (just like coffee) and hence added to hot milk.
At any given point, try not go beyond medium heat. You don’t want some precious dessert and $$ going down the drain, do you?
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