Festive Food | Moong Dal Halwa, Dark Chocolate Nut Clusters, Baklava from scratch … have a sweet Diwali

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”
Oprah Winfrey

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa 1Moong Dal Halwa,  Dark Chocolate Nut Clusters, Baklava from scratch how can we not go sweet on Diwali, the festival of lights? The halwa is special. The recipe is from the very sweet, talented and humble Chef Kunal Kapur, of Indian Master Chef fame. Masterchef Kunal Kapur judged a charity cook-off between a few chosen ones from the canola India Facebook contest and a couple of food bloggers. The chosen contestants came together to cook some healthy Diwali treats, in canola oil, for the underprivileged children from the NGO – Katha.

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa With an attempt to “Lighten up Diwali” for underprivileged children, Canolainfo joined hands with Masterchef India Judge Kunal Kapur to put together an inspiring afternoon and some delectable Diwali treats.

Phase I was online: inviting all food enthusiasts to upload a recipe of an interesting Diwali treat in order to participate in the “Light Up This Diwali With Canola Oil” contest sponsored by Canolainfo. Top 3 contestants were selected/invited to attend a charity cook-off, along with a few bloggers, at Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology wherein Masterchef Kunal Kapur judged the cook-off and interacted with the contestants. All the contestants were given recipes to make, in canola oil. The best out of all – Ms. Deeba Rajpal, chosen by Chef Kapur was given a hamper from Canolainfo. This was phase II of the event.

For the last and final phase, the Diwali treats made by contestants of the cook-off, was served to children of Katha, a non-profit that promotes children’s literacy. The event concluded with the children enjoying a healthy meal cooked in canola oil, put together for them along with an interactive session with Chef Kapur.

Canola, Chef Kunal Kapur, Katha

The spirit of the season took over. My first competitive cooking competition, which initially had me on the edge. Once we got talking, time really flew by. The entire experience was amazing. From weighing ingredients, working in a very very basic kitchen with just a bunch of utensils, shared space and basic ingredients, one simple dessert recipe bought us all together. It was a sense of community. That we had the timer on for 40 minutes was challenging is a small way. None of us had ever made a moong dal halwa before, let alone in oil. This was Chef Kunals recipe. It was cooked in oil versus clarified butter, then the oil was drained off. The texture was very interesting as there was a small portion of semolina in it that added texture to the halwa.

Moong dal ka halwa Otherwise a pretty straightforward recipe, the only important thing while cooking a halwa is to give it some TLC. Patience while roasting halwa is a virtue you need to develop. Hurry it up and you might not get the prefect end result! Kunal was a gem. Interacting with everyone, dropping pearls of wisdom when needed, the key was to keep your ears and eyes open! Suddenly, there was a twist. We had to incorporate any one of each the available fruits and spices in the halwa.

moong dal ka halwa On offer were cheekus, bananas, oranges and limes. The spice box offered nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mace, cardamom etc. I opted for orange and nutmeg, and infused the sugar syrup with a whole orange, chopped up, peels bruised and grated nutmeg. It was a beautiful halwa in the end. I loved doing it. I won first place for mine too. Happiness!!

Katha, NGO, DiwaliTime really flew by. Before we knew it , we headed for Katha, an amazing and beautifully done up school. Seeing Chef Kunal interact with the bright eyed, eager enthusiastic kids was an emotional and satisfying experience. He has a gift, a special gift. Within 10 minutes he had broken ice and had all the kids literally eating out of his hands.It was time well spent!

moong dal ka halwa It was a nice launch of the festive season. With sweet cravings arising with Diwali, it wasn’t long before I hit the sugar on fast track. It’s just once in a while that I go on a sugar overdrive. Mr PAB and the lad had been on my case for moong dal halwa.

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa So that had to be made on priority. Dark chocolate nut clusters was what I made as gifts to a few folk that I like gifting over Diwali. I enjoyed doing them a lot, packing them onto pretty white platters, finished with a hand made card from the daughter. Coco was right in the middle of everything as usual!

diwali 2013, CocoThen of course, I got bitten by a terrible bug. I had some home made phyllo left over form the Daring Baker challenge {for savoury pot pies which I still have to post}. I made the pies using homemade phyllo as the base pastry. I doubled the pastry because I have wanted to make that baklava once again.

BaklavaThe first time I had made it was for the Daring Bakers two years ago. That was a beautiful challenge, and still evokes great memories. ’twas was only when I began rolling the phyllo, that I realised I was a glutton for punishment. WHY??? It was a rather long drawn exercise, with me cursing myself all along. Yet, I DID IT!BaklavaOnce you pop the layered and cut baklava into the oven, you feel like you’ve conquered the world. Once you take it out an hour later, pour the infused honey syrup all over it, you begin to smell sweet success! Just looking at the tin the next morning, and  you realise it’s been so worth every bit of heartache and hard work! You can find the baklava recipe here, though I used a slightly different phyllo pastry recipe.

Baklava, moong dal ka halwaThe dark chocolate nut clusters are easy. They are just tempered dark couverture chocolate with nuts mixed in, then dropped in spoonfuls on butter paper and allowed to set in the fridge.

Hope you have a safe and bright diwali. Eat a lot of sweets, light up some lamps, share loads, laugh lots!

Don’t miss a post Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

No Bake | Date & Prune Chocolate Truffles … truffles on a diet don’t get better than this #festivefood

“Life is like a box of chocolates … You never know what you’re gonna get.” Forrest Gump

Date, Prune & Walnut Chocolate TrufflesDate, Prune & Walnut Chocolate Truffles are something I never thought I’d make. Yet a chance FB update sighting a while ago set me on the track. And my, what a great idea. Healthy, delicious, a power house of energy and guilt free indulgence, truffles on a diet don’t get better than this!Date, Prune & Walnut Chocolate Truffles These were fun to make, and so fast track! No bake, no cook, practically no work … almost like instant gratification! I got to step one in a matter of minutes but one bite into it was like, “Ummm nice, but something was missing, not indulgent enough“. Into the fridge they went!Date, Prune & Walnut Chocolate TrufflesThey sat there bugging me the next morning. Thought of adding some dark chocolate to the truffles and running them in the processor again but the task of remaking the little balls bothered me! Seemed daunting for a fast track dessert.Date, Prune & Walnut Chocolate TrufflesNext idea, and it turned out to be a good one. The dark couverture I had ordered reached that same morning. Melted some in the microwave and had such a great time dunking each little ball into luscious, thick, satiny melted dark chocolate.Date, Prune & Walnut Chocolate TrufflesMelted ooeey gooey dark chocolate is strangely therapeutic.  Is it just me? Whatever, but I really enjoyed this part and was rewarded in a while.Date, Prune & Walnut Chocolate TrufflesThese were GOOD! The teen loved them till the junior told her they had dates. “I don’t like them“, she declared, but soon was back digging into the bowl. ‘These are really good,” she declared. “Butter?” … the diet goes on, very conditional though!!  {Note: Thank you Sangeeta for the wooden board above. I ♥ it!}Date, Prune & Walnut Chocolate Truffles These make for good gifts in the festive season. They were a great addition to the Porcelain Buono Decoration Plate Silver from Urban Dazzle. It’s quite reasonably priced too. This was one of the many products I received for review which I shared when I made one bowl cocoa wholewheat almond brownies .Date, Prune & Walnut Chocolate TrufflesAbout the truffles. They have a wonderful texture. You can play around with the combinations since both prunes and dates afford a good sticky base. Don’t like walnuts, use almonds. Don’t like nuts or are allergic to them, use dark chocolate, crystallised ginger, candied peel. Roll them in sprinkles after the dark chocolate has almost set; jazz them up if you like! Urban Dazzle Diwali Range Also, thank you Urban Dazzle for giving me a chance to review your Diwali range. I really love the variety and the quality of stoneware, ceramic, porcelain, drinkware and bakeware. You can see some of the range in my picture up there. I did wholewheat gingerbread men the other day and they looked so HAPPY on the platters, ornamental & ceramic.Panna Cotta 3 waysI also did a vanilla panna cotta in three flavours paired with three dessert sauces – coffee with a dark chocolate sauce, raspberry with a raspberry lime sauce, and saffron with  salted caramel saffron sauce! Then did mini panna cotta in these tiny little white ceramic bowls, three on a plate {The honeycomb plate is from a set my sis sent me from the US. White love!}Urban Dazzle Diwali RangeThe bowls are really versatile. Dipping sauces look great served with them. Else a good extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and queen olives with a sour dough bread served on a matching Mediterranean inspired ceramic platter! So much inspiration

Don’t miss a post Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking | One bowl cocoa wholewheat almond brownies … Alice Medrich {#urbandazzle}

“I am endlessly inspired and challenged by ingredients and flavors; the craft involved both in bringing them together and writing about the process.”
Alice Medrich

Cocoa wholewheat almond brownies Cocoa Wholewheat Almond Brownies are a sweet opening to October, plated on the  new Diwali/festival gift collection from Urban Dazzle. Baked out of desperation since I had no good quality baking chocolate on hand, the wholewheat brownies were good unbelievably good!! They are adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrichauthor, dessert chef, chocolatier.Cocoa wholewheat almond browniesAlice Medrich is an iconic baker who changed the way we looked at food, desserts, chocolate and baking of course. She’s written a series of  cookbooks, the latest one Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts. Of the 9, Bittersweet and Pure Dessert are two of my favourites. Cocoa wholewheat almond browniesFood weaves a magical pattern. I baked an adaptation of her Orange & Olive Oil Cake in 2008. Some time later I made delicious  Dark Chocolate, Walnut & Craisin Scones from a recipe @ David Lebovitz , another hugely talented cookbook author, dessert maker, ice cream man, story teller. Turned out that recipe was an Alice inspired one too.Caramel cake and sconesIn late 2008, me, a very timid and shaky food blogger in far off North India, virtually met Alice via the Daring Bakers Caramel Cake with Caramelised Butter Frosting. Her Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels was an optional part of the challenge. Those caramels didn’t happen as we were just back from a trip to Sydney where the daughter fell ill with jaundice, was hospitalised …. and what not! Yet, it was another intriguing window into the creative world of Alice Medrich.Did I just forget to mention the Pebbly Beach Fruit Square cookies pictured above? Adapted from her cookbook “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy: Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Cookies”, these are typical Alice style. Classic, comforting and high on taste. The fruit squares recipe is highly adaptable.Cocoa wholewheat almond brownies

Buono Decoration Plate Silver

So when I craved baking brownies and googled for a cocoa version, one of the first matches was a Medrich recipe. There was no looking further. I experimented with substitutions mainly because of the high-ish butter content. Using just whole wheat flour and almond meal instead of plain flour, they turned out to be brownie heaven – deep, dark, chewy, moist! Importantly, one bowl cocoa wholewheat almond brownies; hand whisked and with minimal clean up! The bell rang while the brownies were cooling off, and it was the new festive Diwali range of products from Urban Dazzle. Seemed like an early Christmas as I got a staggering array of their recently launched festive ware which includes stunning stoneware, ceramics, porcelain and much more.Cocoa wholewheat almond browniesStoneware is right up my street and the colours and texture hold instant appeal, the quality excellent too!  The soothing blue stoneware platter above with a Mediterranean appeal; and cups, mugs, soup bowls all in pretty colours, stuff you can mix and match. The good thing is the almost inexhaustive choice. You feel like grabbing it all. And that’s the good part! If you love it, others will to.Cocoa wholewheat almond brownies Urban Dazzle is quite a dynamic online option. An e-venture based in New Delhi, they are constantly adding aesthetic, stylish and reasonable  kitchen accessories and home decor items. With Diwali around the corner, they promise to take some burden of gifting off your shoulders… though the extensive range promises to overwhelm you with what to choose & what not!You might like these stunning glasses, or a banquet footed platter, chic Borgonovo bottles, pot bellied  jugs and carafesthe variety is endless!A while ago someone inquired about these white ribbed fruit plates that I recently used for the Empanada Gallegas. I got mine all the way from Sydney two years ago. Imagine my surprise when I saw them on Urban Dazzle a few days ago! Raise a toast,  browse the topsellers, … or then just hit the ‘Sweet Spot’!

 

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India


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