Winter starts with a promise of festivities. Everyone starts warming up for more and more shopping just as the nip in the air hits our skin. Yes, shopping for home, shopping for loved ones and shopping for more festive food.
The shopping is at it's peak at Diwali time as all kind of products are launched or heavy discounts given to lure the consumer. While one can manufacture more cars, more mobile phones and more television sets I never understand how so much 'festive' food comes into the market overnight. All this festive food used to be mostly milk based in older times but even now the traditional festive food includes mithais and desserts of all types.
I remember no one used to buy any milk products during Diwali back home, especially khoya even though a dedicated khoya gali in Banaras does brisk business, just because we always doubted where is all this khoya coming from. So we either made khoya at home or depended on mithais that don't need khoya like besan ka laddu and shakkarpara. Or we will make sondesh, kheer, rabdi and malpua etc. with the milk we used to get from the neighborhood milkman.
But we don't have the luxury of the neighborhood milkman now. Most city dairies procure milk from faraway corners of the country and have good quality control so we can trust them fairly.
I asked Mr. Anant Choudhary, Director, Freshmen's Valley, a dairy brand based in Moradabad that distributes throughout Uttarakhand and western UP, about how they ensure good quality milk. He said that their objective is to create an amalgam of traditional values and high-end technology. He informed how they are using robust procedure of quality checks and measures coupled with international testing standards at the reception (or milk) level. They source their milk from Terai region of Himalayas which has the best milk fat and SNF, ensuring good quality milk.
I think it is better to get milk and milk products from reputed dairy brands and make all the desserts and mithais using those. I am sharing two dessert recipes using yogurt (dahi) and paneer that we easily get without the concerns of adulteration.
The recipe using plain dahi (cultured yogurt) is the quark cheese mousse with candied berries.
(serves 6 or more)
1 kilo dahi (plain yogurt)
200 gm fresh cream
100 gm strawberry preserve
75 gm candied mixed berries or try sun dried strawberries
1/4 tsp of pure vanilla extract
fresh fruit for garnish (optional)
Whisk the dahi and fresh cream together and let it rest for an hour at room temperature (27-30C).
Now line a strainer with cheesecloth and pour the dahi and cream mix into it. Let the whey drain keeping this apparatus in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. Once the whey is drained completely the quark cheese is ready.
Now chop the candied or sun dried berries finely and fold into the quark cheese with a light hand. Spoon this mousse into serving glasses, pour some strawberry preserve over it and garnish with a slice of any fresh fruit in season.
Chill well before serving. This quark mousse with candied berries stays well in the fridge for 2 days.
Gluten free lemon and vanilla doughnuts made with paneer.
The round donuts made with paneer are very soft inside with a nice crisp crust that holds. I adapted this recipe loosely from here, replacing ricotta with paneer along with some more adjustments and the result was very encouraging.
Lemon and vanilla being a favourite flavouring these gluten free donuts will be made frequently for sure. More because it responded well to shallow frying in a Paniyaram pan (or Ebelskiver pan), I used drizzle of ghee to make the crust brown while the crumb remained soft and melting even after the donut rising to almost double it's volume.
*You can deep fry these in hot ghee or oil too.
(makes about 25 round donuts)
150 gm paneer
120 ml fresh cream
5 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
2 tbsp sugar
zest and juice of one large lime
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp soda bicarb
2-3 tbsp powdered sugar
juice of one lime
about 2 tbsp ghee for shallow frying. *More if you want to deep fry.*
Crumble the paneer with fingers and mix it with the ingredients listed for batter. Blend this mix in a mixie blender or your food processor till it becomes a smooth batter. The consistency has to be like a cake batter.
Now grease the paniyaram pan with ghee and heat it. Pour about a tablespoon batter into each depression and let it get crisp from one side while the donuts fluff up. Turn each one of them with the help of chopsticks or a thin stick. Even the tip of a knife works well for this purpose. Drizzle more ghee to cook the donuts nicely.
Fry more batches the same way. Keep the flame medium while frying the donuts.
Mix the powdered sugar with lemon juice in the meanwhile and whisk till it makes a thick glaze that can be poured.
Collect all the donuts in a serving bowl and drizzle the lemon glaze generously and uniformly all over the donuts.
Serve warm or hot. These donuts tastes good enough even after they were cold at room temperature but it is the best when hot.
It is better to fry these donuts after finishing the meal if you are planning to serve as a dessert. Hot paneer donuts drizzled with lime glaze are really a delight. The firm and crisp crust gives way to a melt in your mouth crumb and that makes one addictive dessert. But since it is low on sugar and ghee and gluten free too, you can have a second helping without a feeling of guilt.
* If you are planning to deep fry these donuts, reduce the amount of fresh cream to half and drop spoonfuls of thick batter in hot ghee or oil to fry. Keep the flame medium to cook them thoroughly and serve hot.
Make this paneer donut if you want something hot and the quark mousse if you are the one who likes chilled desserts. These healthy options for Diwali desserts will be great even if you don't have much time left for making something nice for the family.