Of all the recipes in desi kitchens, mithais are seen as some of the most demanding. There’s the tedious process of turning milk into khoya and the long wait for mithais to set. Time, it seems, is the most precious ingredient in making these sweets.
A new cookbook by food writer Chetna Makan simplifies this process. It features about 80 Indian dishes which take no longer than 30 minutes to make. She writes that the idea occurred to her via feedback from social media. Through the lockdown, she shared recipes on her YouTube channel, Food with Chetna, and realised that while people invested a lot of time and effort in making lavish meals about a year ago, it was a short-lived phase.
The release of Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian is well-timed: offices are reopening and the festive season is around the corner—Janmasthami is on Monday. Here are two mithai recipes excerpted from the book.
Chocolate nariyal laddoo
These coconutty laddoos are the best little sweet ever, and so quick to prepare. My mum makes these all the time and I remember helping her to roll them out when I was growing up. I have added some chocolate to make them even more appealing for kids, and you can also roll them in chocolate sprinkles or colourful cake sprinkles instead of the pistachios if you have little people to please.
MAKES ABOUT 12
100g (3.5 oz) desiccated coconut
30g (1 oz) pistachio nuts
200ml (7fl oz) condensed milk
30g (1 oz) 70% cocoa dark chocolate, melted
Blitz the coconut in a food processor until finely ground and set aside. Then blitz the pistachios until coarsely ground and spread out on a plate.
Heat a pan, add the coconut and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t colour at all.
Add the condensed milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the melted chocolate, mix well and cook for a minute or so until the mixture starts to leave the sides of the pan and come together in a clump. Take off the heat.
Let the mixture cool slightly. Take a small portion of the mixture at a time and roll it into a walnut-sized ball, then roll in the ground pistachios to coat. Don’t let the mixture cool down too much, otherwise it will be too hard to form into balls. Let the balls rest for 5 minutes and serve warm, or let them cool completely before serving.
The laddoos will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3–4 days.
My mum makes a few Indian sweets at home and this is one of them. She uses something called khoya (a thick milk concentrate) to make them, but since I couldn’t get hold of any, I have started making them without it and they still taste amazing.
100g (3.5 oz) ghee, plus extra for greasing
170g (6 oz) gram flour (besan/chickpea flour)
60g (2 and one-fourth oz) icing sugar
20g (three-fourth oz) ground almonds
One-fourth teaspoon ground cardamom
10g(one-fourth oz) toasted flaked almonds
Heat the ghee in a pan. Once it has melted, add the gram flour and cook over a low heat for 8 minutes, stirring often, until it starts to change colour and smell toasted. The mixture will start off clumpy but will gradually bubble and become smooth and creamy.
Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, grease a 20cm (8 inch) square cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper.
Mix the icing sugar, ground almonds and cardamom together in a bowl, then add the toasted gram flour mixture and stir to combine.
Transfer the mixture to the lined tin, then spread it out and level the surface with a spatula. Sprinkle the toasted flaked almonds on top and let it cool in the refrigerator for 5–10 minutes until firm.
Cut it into small squares and serve.
These sweets will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Let them sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.
Excerpted with permission from Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian by Chetna Makan, published by Octopus Publishing, distributed by Hachette India.