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Saffron Pistachio Kulfi Pops

Saffron Pistachio Kulfi Pops

Kulfi and I have history. One that has roots from high school! I honestly don't remember much of my school days. Looking back, I realise I went most of it a haze of self-defense. I never fit, so I choose to exclude myself voluntarily, thereby creating a myth of control and years of no nostalgia. 

But amidst all of that barrenness are a few flickers of bright memories, the few times, I indulged in life and life ruffled my hair and said you can laugh and have fun. Kulfi is one of those few happy memories I retain from that time of my life. And, through it the longest friendship of my life. Although, I haven't been a good friend most of the time in that relationship and the tenuous connection continues only because of the other person. I am sorry for that. And, I am kinda hoping to make up for that, by dedicating this recipe to her.

It was like this.

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Saffron and Almond Malai Shots

Saffron and Almond Malai Shots

So, we are back again.. With another Velveteers creation.

Aparna challenged us to make Ras Malai, the decadent, melt-in-your-mouth Bengali sweet that is quite popular in rest of India. The state of West Bengal has a history of making distinctive cheese based desserts that are served in various forms, simple Rasgolla, Ras Malai, Cham-cham and more..

Rasgollas are perhaps the best known outside of the state especially because they can be canned and made available in stores in the remotest corner. They also sort of age well. The others are more delicate and best eaten fresh, homemade or store bought.



I don't really have a tooth for Indian sweets as they tend to be rather too sweet. And, since our experience of Bengali sweets has been primarily through non-Bengali sweet shops in Chennai and Bombay, I confess, we have not been much partial to them. Those tend to be chewy or spongy and none too delicate!

However, a few months back, our world was thrown wide open when we went to a friend's place. Her mom's Ras Malai, which, I have mentioned here, is TO DIE FOR! No really! The man, who typically crinkles his nose at such sweets, was fighting tooth and nail with me on our shares.

Ras Malai

Needless to say, when Aparna threw this challenge, I was fretting away. I had no illusions. I am in no way going to be able to even meet the bar that auntie had set with her perfect melt-in-your-mouth discs of steamed fresh cheese. No, that was not going to happen and indeed, did not! :D

Oh yes! My cheese balls were an abyssmal failure and I know why! I did not ask Auntie for her recipe. I know, DUH! So, all is not lost. I may yet be able to resurrect in the ras making area.

Vague flowers

But, the Malai recipe ROCKS! Yes, I said, ROCKS. I can say that myself because it's one I always make for many milk based sweets and it works e.v.e.r.y t.i.m.e! Joys of consistency.So we skipped the discs and indulged on the malai, of which, as always I made generous quantities.

I definitely recommend having it as Malai Shots with a touch of vada pav on the side!!!

Malai Through the flowers

I also recommend taking some time for yourself and enjoy what is surely going to be a brief Spring in the North East. Within 2 days, the cherry blossoms went from full bloom to quite green! Nevertheless, the beauty of new leaves is a breath of fresh life and makes you always smile!

So, smile, relax and enjoy the week. No matter what it throws your way, there will be a weekend coming your way! ;-)

Saffron and Almond Malai Shots

Saffron and Almond Malai Shots

Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 45 min
Total Time: 1 hour

1 litre whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp saffron
1/3 cup almonds

In a heavy bottomed pan, over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Lower the heat to low, add the saffron threads and reduce to half while continously stirring. Yes, it's a bit tiresome but, well worth it to avoid both a film forming and milk solid residue.

When it has reduced to about half, add sugar a tablespoon at a time, stirring and tasting. Don't make it too sweet as the milk will continue to reduce a bit more. Continue stirring for about 10 more minutes until it is just under half the orginal volume.

Coarsely grind the almonds and add to the Malai. Continue cooking for five more minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Chill for atleast 2-3 hours before serving.

Pink Blossoms

Wish you a Happy 2011!!! :)

First Mint Chai

Ah! Bright and not-so-early first morning of 2011. Sipping my mint chai (a very Parsi way of making chai) and not really contemplating.. Peaceful.. Especially after a night that started as a quiet evening with a friend and ended with a party of rambunctious Xbox fun!! No resolutions for the year ahead but am seriously considering buying a Kinect!! It's so much fun and a whole lot of exercise too... :)

Wish you all a fabulous Jan 1st and a glorious year ahead!! :)))

Steeped Mint Chai

1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1-1/4 tsp Pekoe tea (or any Indian tea)
2 tsp fresh mint leaves
sugar per taste

Bring water and milk to a simmer. Add the tea and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer for 30 seconds. Add the mint leaves and simmer for another 20 seconds. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for a minute. Strain the tea and serve immediately.

Honey Mangoes, Pudding and Winning ....

Honey Mangoes
I was thinking of an appropriate way to introduce one of my favorite fruits and came upon this wonderful ode to it (What would we do without Google!!) by Ravi.

In you,
colors of sunset
envelope juice so succulent
sugar and honey blush.

And sticky rivers of laughter
trickle from fingers to elbows
as strands of delicious memories
stick between my teeth.

For in you,
I still taste our childhood joy
perched high in grandma’s tree
so busy searching for the ripest, sweetest prize
that we rarely managed to make it
past the front yard and into the house
for weekly afternoon tea.

Thank you Ravi for this wonderful piece of poetry. It captures everything I wanted to share about my love for the fruit in such a beautiful way!

Mango trees are a common sight in Chennai (formerly Madras, South India), where I come from. They are long lived, and, with some care, bear wonderful, luscious fruits. They also represent familial bonds and generations of care and love. Almost every old house in Chennai will have a mango tree and mine is no exception.

The tree in our house was planted by my maternal grandmother, over 50 years ago. She grafted two flavorful varieties and the resulting fruit is unique for it's large size as also it's sweet taste. My grandad would tend to it with sufficient water (we were one of the lucky houses with a well on our grounds), fertilizers (organic coz our house is a perpetual zoo, no kidding!) and pesticides.

With all their loving care, it spread its roots deep and sent out branches in all angles providing the perfect summer retreat; whether you wanted to climb the branches and nestle up there eating unripe mangoes or rest in the generous shade it offered.

Both my grandparents have passed away... but the mango tree keeps them alive through memories. It is symbolic of their love, the family they cherished, the wisdom they shared and the countless moments of happiness of me playing around it as my grandad sipped tea under it's shade....

Here in the US, I neither have a tree nor, until recently, access to sweet mangoes. Then, over the last couple of years, I started seeing this particular variety of the fruit sold by street vendors that was succulent and sweet!! Even, Mr. FSK, who only ever eats the Alphonso and Kesar varieties, concurred that they were good fruits! They go by many names - honey mango, champagne mango etc. I prefer Honey Mango because their flesh does taste like sweet nectar!

There are many things you can do with mangoes depending on their ripeness and Indian cuisine offers recipes for the very young, raw ones to the very sweet, ripe fruits (like the Mango Saffron Ice Cream). Today, I share with you a recipe for ripe mangoes that pair well with a milk pudding made with tapioca pearls (sago/sabudana/javarici)...

It brings back memories... hot afternoons giving away to cooler evenings, the leaves of our tree gently swaying in the breeze, me playing and my grandpa and granny enjoying tea and watching me....

On another happy note, I was super thrilled that my photo of the wonderful Blue Eggs won me a DMBLGIT award in the Aesthetics category. Many thanks to Andrew for hosting this month's edition!

Styling note: I wanted to showcase the pastel shades of eggs without using too many accessories that would take away from such an elegant subject. So, to bring out the colors, I used a blue table cloth as the primary background. The burlap was styled for a nest-like effect that would cradle the eggs..

Mango Tapioca Pudding

1 cup soaked tapioca pearls (soak them for a couple of hours in cold water until soft)
2 cups whole milk (if you want a richer version, you can substitute some of this with condensed milk)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp crsuhed cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh mango puree (if you using sweetened puree, adjust the amount of sugar)

Bring tapioca, milk and sugar to a boil. Lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the mixture thickens and milk has reduced to half. Off the heat, stir in the crushed cardamom and nutmeg. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

When cool, gently fold in the mango puree, taking care not to mush the swollen tapioca pearls. Serve chilled or at room temperature garnished with roasted cashews.

Cooking Filipino for Kulinarya Cooking Club - Blood Orange Leche Flan

Leche Flan

Food News Journal featured this post in their Best of Blogs section on March 1, 2010! WOOHOOO!!

There are times when I ponder existential questions.. the ones about what am I meant to do, where am I heading, What am I.. etc.. Over the course of self-soliloquizing I think I have answered one question - what excites me? I realise the thrill of learning something new and yes, mastering it ofcourse, is what drives me to do anything - from acads to work to blogging to cooking. The idea of "new and not yet discovered by me" holds a potent attraction for me!

So, when I read on Trissa's blog about the Kulinarya Cooking Club that is all about showcasing Filipino cuisine, I eagerly messaged her about becoming a part of the club. Here was an opportunity to learn a new cuisine and, quite expectedly, I jumped all over it. Today, I present to you, my first creation as part of this club - Blood Orange Leche Flan.

I have to admit, I am not a big fan of flan. I think it has to do with the circumstances surrounding the first time I tasted it. A bunch of friends had been to dinner to this fantastic Peruvian joint near my house. There was in that group a friend of a friend whom the rest of us did not know. Long story short, let's just say, the newbie and I didn't quite become the long-lost-friends-suddenly-reunited. (My hub actually said it was like watching two alpha cats sharpening their claws.) So, well, the new person ordered the flan presumptuously for the whole table and well.. it didn't go down with a good taste for me. :-)

Life does have a warped sense of irony, doesn't it?! I have never ordered flan again since that night. So, when the month's dish was revealed, I had to smile... I decided I would go into this challenge with an open mind; let bygones be bygones and give the flan another chance not marred by circumstantial politics... :))

Leche Flan Baked

I googled for the recipe and found that making it was soo simple. I chose to do a blood orange flan because citrus adds a touch of freshness to desserts. This recipe calls for quite an amount of sugar in the caramel as well as the condensed milk. I have a sweet tooth but do not like very sweet stuff. I find that the citrus cuts into the intense sweetness.

The traditional Filipino way of cooking the flan is by steaming it. You can also bake it in a water bath much like Spanish flans are. I decided to try both methods, just for the sake of experimenting. You can see in the photo that there are some textural differences in the end result between the two methods of cooking. The one in the foreground is steamed..

Leche Flan Baked vs Steamed

Verdict: The flan was creamy and smooth but a tad too rich for my taste. We preferred the steamed flan more than the baked one as the latter the denser and heavier while the steamed one was more airy.

Note to self: Next time I won't cook the caramel for as long as I did. Removing the flan was a bit of an issue because I had cooked the caramel to the hard ball stage, so it offered a loot of resistance exiting the mold! But, all good! :) Also, will reduce the amount of condensed milk. This one was too sweet and heavy.

Blood Orange Leche Flan
(3 individual serves)

For the flan:
3 eggs yolks
4 T condensed milk
4 T evaporated milk
1 T blood orange juice
zest of one orange

For the caramel:
1/3 cup blood orange juice
5/8 cup sugar

In a small sauce pan bring the sugar and juice to a boil and heat until sugar caramelizes. I did this till the thermometer read 250F, which, was too long. I think before 230F (thread phase) would be better. If you are using only water then the color change is a better indicator.

Immediately pour the caramel into the molds and set aside. Using a wire whisk gently break the egg yolks and whisk them lightly with the zest. Add the evaporated milk and gently stir to incorporate. Stir in the condensed milk and juice. Divide the flan mix equally between the molds.

Steaming: Place molds in a steam ready with boiling water and steam for 15 minutes or so until the top is set but the content jiggle when shaken

Baking: Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Cover each mold with foil. Place molds in a hot water bath and bake for 30-35 minutes until just done.

Cool on rack to room temperature and then refrigerate. When ready to serve, place the molds in a hot water bath to melt the caramel. Place a plate over the mold and invert. Spoon any remaining caramel over the top of the flan. Serve garnished with a slice of orange or sprig of mint.


Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine.

Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.

If you’re interested in joining our Kulinarya Cooking Club, please feel free to drop by our foodblogs and leave a comment – we would love to hear from you!

Trissa -

Trisha -
Kath -
Olive -
Caroline -
Peach -
Cusinera -
Malou -
Cherrie –


Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK