No-Bake Melon Cheesecake Bars

FOR THE CRUST:
9 1/2 ounces/269 grams graham crackers (about 18 whole crackers)
1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)

FOR THE FILLING:
2 (1/4-ounce/7-gram) packets powdered gelatin (about 5 teaspoons)
1 1/4 pounds/566 grams peeled cantaloupe, diced (about 3 cups)
1 (8-ounce/226-gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
1/2 cup/120 milliliters heavy whipping cream
Honey, for drizzling (optional)

Prepare the crust: Place the graham crackers in a resealable plastic bag. Close the bag and, using a rolling pin, heavy can or other blunt object, crush the graham crackers into a coarse rubble. To the bag, add the melted butter, sugar and salt, and mix thoroughly.

Transfer the crumbs to an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan and press into the bottom of the pan with your hands, forming a thick, sturdy base. Place in the freezer to set while you make the filling.

Make the filling: In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together 1/4 cup cold tap water and the gelatin. Let sit to bloom. Meanwhile, use a blender to purée the cantaloupe, cream cheese, sugar and salt until smooth.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan on the stovetop over medium until simmering at the edges or in a small bowl in the microwave until hot to the touch, 45 to 60 seconds on high. Add the bloomed gelatin to the hot cream and stir vigorously until smooth. Transfer the cream to the blender and blend with the cantaloupe until smooth.

Take the pan out of the freezer and pour the filling over the graham cracker crust. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours or up to overnight. Cut into bars and serve, drizzled with honey, if you like.

Pressure Cooker Sweet Coconut Rice (Narali Bhath)

1 cup basmati rice
1 teaspoon saffron
1 tablespoon warm milk
2 tablespoons ghee divided
20 whole cashews
2 whole green cardamom pods
6 cloves
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh coconut grated (frozen works well)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons raisins
1 teaspoon cardamom powder

Wash, rinse, and soak rice in water for 20 minutes. Drain the rice and keep it aside. Soak saffron in milk and set aside for garnishing.

Turn Instant Pot to Saute(more) mode. Add half of the ghee and cashews. Cook the cashews for a minute or until they turn golden brown, stirring constantly. Take the cashews out and keep them aside for garnishing in the end.

Add remaining ghee to the pot. Add cardamom pods and cloves. Cook for 10-15 seconds as they release the aromas. Add drained rice and toast gently for a minute stirring constantly.

Add water and salt. Mix well. Make sure all the rice is submerged underwater. Close Instant Pot with the pressure valve to sealing. Pressure Cook for 6 minutes followed by 5-minute Natural Pressure Release.

Open Instant pot. Add coconut, sugar, raisins, and cardamom powder. Mix well.

Set Instant Pot to Saute(less) mode. Cook with a glass lid on for 5 minutes. Garnish with fried cashews and saffron. Enjoy!

Notes:

Soak rice for at least 20 minutes so the rice looks fluffy and light. If you do not have time to soak the rice, add 1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of rice and cook it on low-pressure mode for 5 minutes followed by a quick release.

Once the rice is cooked, fluff it gently with a fork or silicone spatula. This will prevent the grains from breaking.
For nut allergies, skip cashews.

To make a vegan variation of sweet coconut rice, use neutral cooking oil or coconut oil for the ghee and soak the saffron in warm water instead of milk.

Although, I like to use basmati rice for this recipe other short-grain white rice such as Jasmine, Ambe Mor, Surati Kolam, etc can be substituted. Just note that the final dish may have a bit sticky texture but will still have the same delicious taste and delicate aromatic flavors.

Jaggery can be substituted for sugar in this recipe, although the color of the final dish will be different.

Easiest Lemon Curd (with Variations)

1/2 cup/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup/240 milliliters freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 6 lemons)
3/4 cup to 1 cup/150 grams to 200 grams granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt

Put the butter in a large (at least 6 cup) microwave-safe glass bowl or measuring cup. Set your microwave on 50 percent power and melt the butter, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Pour butter into a blender and add lemon zest, juice, sugar, eggs, egg yolk and salt. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into the same glass bowl you melted the butter in. (You don’t need to wash it.)

Microwave the curd mixture, on full power, in 1-minute intervals for 5 minutes. Whisk furiously between intervals, especially around the edges of the bowl. It should start to thicken. (If it looks like it’s starting to thicken before 5 minutes, stop and continue to the next step; microwaves can vary.)

Reduce power to 70 percent and continue to microwave for another 1 to 2 minutes, whisking every 30 seconds, until the curd thickens enough to coat a spoon, and looks slightly puffed and spongy. (It will continue to thicken as it chills.) An instant-read thermometer should register 180 degrees.

Whisk well and inspect the curd. If you think there are any coagulated bits of egg, strain curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Or if it looks smooth, you can leave it in its current bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and let the curd cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.

Grapefruit-Campari Curd: Reduce the lemon juice to 2/3 cup, the lemon zest to 1 teaspoon and the sugar to 3/4 cup. Add 3 tablespoons each freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and Campari, and 1 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest.

Makrut Lime Curd: Substitute lime juice and zest for lemon juice and zest. Once the ingredients are blended in Step 2, add 1/3 cup finely slivered makrut lime leaves to the glass bowl, along with the blended mixture. (Don’t blend the lime leaves.) Strain the lime leaves out in Step 5.

Pressure Cooker Zarda (Pakistani Sweet Rice)

Saffron Mixture:
2-3 threads Saffron Strands
2 teaspoons (2 teaspoons) Sugar Or Other Sweetener Equivalent
1/4 cup (61 g) Whole Milk

For the Rice:
2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) Ghee, divided
2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) Sliced Pistachios
2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons) Sliced Almonds
1/4 cup (36.25 g) Raisins
1 cup (185 g) Basmati Rice
1.5 cup (375 g) Water
3/4 cups (150 g) Sugar Or Other Sweetener Equivalent
1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) Ground Cardamom
1/2 teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (0.13 teaspoon) Ground Cloves

Make the Saffron Mixture: In a mortar and pestle, grind together the 1 teaspoon sugar and saffron strands. You’re doing this so that the saffron mixes well with the rice later.

Mix the saffron with 1/4 cup warm milk (15 seconds in microwave) and set aside.

You can also just soak the saffron threads with 1/4 cup warm milk (15 seconds in microwave) and set aside, but grinding the saffron first releases more aroma and color into the rice.

Turn your instant pot on sauté High and when it is hot, add 1 tablespoon ghee. When the ghee is hot add the nuts and raisins and cook until they are lightly browned and the raisins are puffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove nuts and raisins leaving behind as much of the ghee as possible.

Add another tablespoon of ghee and all remaining ingredients including rice, water, sugar, saffron milk (saffron and milk together), ground cardamom, ground cinnamon, and ground cloves.

Cook at high pressure for 6 mins HP and allow it to release all pressure naturally.
Add reserved nuts and raisins, mix with a gentle hand so as to not break the rice, and serve.

Pressure Cooker Coconut Rice (Sweet Narali Bhat)

1/2 cup (40 g) dried unsweetened coconut shreds
1/2 cup (125 g) hot water

1 cup (185 g) Jasmine Rice, rinsed and drained
1.25 cups Water
1/2 cup (100 g) Sugar Or Other Sweetener Equivalent, or preferred sweetener
1 ounce (28.35 g) Raisins
2 teaspoons (2 teaspoons) Ghee
Pinch Saffron Strands
4 (4 ) Whole Cloves
3-4 sticks (3 sticks) Cinnamon
4 (4 ) Cardamom Pods

1/2 teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) Ground Cardamom

Soak the dried coconut shreds in the 1/2 cup of hot water while you gather all the other ingredients together.

Pour rice, water, sugar, raisins, ghee, saffron strands, cloves, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods into the inner liner of your Instant Pot or pressure cooker.

Drain the coconut of excess water and add the rice.

Close the Instant Pot lid. Set the Instant Pot at High pressure for 4 minutes. When cook time is complete, let pot release pressure naturally for 10 minutes, and then release all remaining pressure.
Serve as a sweet side or as a dessert.

Varitions:

Use freshly grated coconut rather than dried. You can often find this in the frozen section of an Indian grocery store.

Use Jaggery or Piloncillo for your sweetener.

Sprinkle with ground cardamom before serving.

Omit saffron in this Coconut Jasmine rice if you don’t have it.

Pan fry some cashews and raisins in ghee, and garnish.

Use coconut milk rather than water to cook coconut milk rice. If you want to do this however, cook it in a rice cooker.

Cooking Rice on the stovetop is another method, as coconut milk tends to separate under pressure.

Lemon Crepe Pudding

Ingredients

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup store-bought lemon curd
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
24 (10-inch) store-bought crêpes
1 medium Meyer lemon, very thinly sliced and seeded
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat cream cheese, lemon curd, and 1/8 teaspoon salt with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Grease a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with butter. Arrange 1 crêpe on a work surface. Using a small offset spatula, spread 1 1/2 tablespoons cream cheese mixture evenly over crêpe, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold crêpe in half, and then fold in half again. Place folded crêpe in prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining crêpes and remaining cream cheese mixture, overlapping folded crêpes in baking dish. Bake in preheated oven until crêpes are heated through and edges are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low. Add lemon slices, sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lemon peel is softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in maple syrup, and remove from heat. Spoon lemon sauce over casserole. Dust with powdered sugar, and serve.

Classic Panna Cotta

2 (1/4-oz.) envelope unflavored gelatin (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons cold water
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, split
2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons apricot jam, peach preserves, or orange marmalade, warmed

Sprinkle gelatin over 3 tablespoons cold water, and let stand 5 minutes to dissolve, stirring once. Meanwhile, heat milk and sugar in a small saucepan over medium. Cook, whisking often, until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat; whisk in gelatin mixture until fully dissolved. Let cool slightly, whisking occasionally, about 10 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean pod into gelatin mixture; discard pod. Gently whisk in buttermilk and salt.

Divide mixture evenly among 8 (12-ounce) straight-sided glasses (about 1/2 cup each). Cover and chill until set, at least 8 hours or up to overnight. Serve in glasses or invert onto serving plates. Spoon about 2 teaspoons jam or marmalade on each serving.

Lemon Custards with Strawberries

FOR THE CUSTARDS:
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 to 2 lemons)
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)

FOR THE STRAWBERRY TOPPING:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 to 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

In a medium saucepan, combine cream, sugar, lemon zest and salt over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar. Simmer vigorously until mixture thickens slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let sit until mixture has cooled slightly and a skin forms on top, about 20 minutes.

Stir mixture, then strain through fine-mesh strainer into a measuring cup with a spout; discard zest. Pour mixture evenly into six 6-ounce ramekins or small bowls.

Refrigerate, uncovered, until set, at least 3 hours.

As the custards chill, prepare the strawberry topping: Toss strawberries and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Let fruit macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until the sugar is dissolved.

To serve, top each lemon custard with some strawberry topping and grind black pepper on top.

Classic Rice Pudding

1/2 cup (100 grams) long-grain rice, preferably jasmine
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 quart (946 ml.) whole milk
1/4 to 1/3 cup (50-67 grams) sugar (to taste)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Rinse the rice under cold running water, then turn it into a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Add the salt, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.

Rinse the saucepan with cold water, shake out excess (don’t dry) and pour in the milk and sugar. If you’re using a vanilla bean, scrape the pulp into the pan and drop in the pod (if you’re using extract, you’ll add it later).

Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stay close: Milk is notorious for bubbling over.

Lower the heat, stir in the rice and cook at a steady simmer, stirring frequently (especially at the start) for 30-40 minutes, or until the rice is very tender, the pudding feels just a little thick as you stir it and most of the milk has been absorbed (the pudding will have cooked down by about half). It’s hard to give an exact time because it depends on the rice, the size of the pan and the amount of heat beneath it.

Scrape the pudding into a heatproof bowl, and remove the vanilla bean, if you’ve used it. If you’re using extract, stir it in now.

Cover (if you want to avoid a skin, press plastic wrap against the surface of the pudding), and cool to room temperature or refrigerate. Tightly covered, the pudding will keep in the fridge for about four days; serve cold or at room temperature.

Coconut Rice Pudding

1/4+cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, plus more to serve
1 13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk
1/2 cup Arborio rice, briefly rinsed, then drained
4 inch strip orange zest, white pith removed (see note)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup shelled roasted, salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, salt and cardamom; set aside. In a large (6- to 8-quart) Dutch oven, stir together the coconut milk and 2½ cups water.

Bring to a boil over medium-high, then stir in the rice, sugar mixture and orange zest. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake until the rice is tender and the pudding is creamy, about 50 minutes.

Stir in the vanilla, transfer to a bowl and cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or cool completely, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days (let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving). Sprinkle individual bowls with pistachios and dust with additional cardamom just before serving.

Cherry Clafoutis

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dusting
5 large eggs
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond flour or almond meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces sweet cherries, pitted
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 10-inch round gratin dish and dust it with granulated sugar. In a large bowl, whisk the 1 cup of granulated sugar with the eggs and vanilla seeds. Whisk in the all-purpose flour, almond flour and salt until just incorporated. Add the milk and cream and whisk until light and very smooth, about 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared gratin dish and arrange the cherries on top.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the clafoutis is set and golden. Let cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream.

The clafoutis can be wrapped and refrigerated overnight. Serve at room temperature.

Chia Pudding with Maple

1 cup whole milk (or coconut milk)
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 – 3 Tbsp Runamok Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup (Whiskey, Bourbon, Rum or Apple Brandy)
1/2-tsp vanilla extract
Sliced fruit, nuts, toasted coconut or other topping (optional)

Combine the first four ingredients and stir. Put in a small container, cover and place in the fridge. Leave for eight hours or overnight, stirring occasionally. Serve with fresh fruit, nuts, toasted coconut or extra maple syrup.

Kesar Ras Malai

for the thickened milk:
800 mls whole milk
200 gms of condensed milk
100 gms caster sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
A good pinch of saffron

For the milk dumplings/paneer:
2 pints whole milk
juice of 2 lemons

for the syrup:
200 gms caster sugar
400 mls water
Pinch of saffron
Chopped pistachio and silver varkh to garnish

Get all the milk sauce ingredients together in a heavy bottom sauce pan. Bring to a gentle boil for 1 hour 30mins or so until it has reduced by half and is a bit thick. Turn the heat off and cool. Refrigerate until the milk dumplings are ready.

For the dumplings, bring the whole milk to a gentle boil in a heavy bottom non stick sauce pan. Now add the lemon juice and leave it to boil for 30seconds or so until you start to see it curdling. Take it off the heat and strain it through a muslin. Rinse the curdled mix under cold water; this helps it to come together and also takes away any sour taste. Keep the muslin on a sieve and leave to drain through for an hour to get rid of any excess water.

In the meanwhile, bring all the ingredients for the syrup together and bring to a boil. Knead the dumpling mix well to bring it together. Divide into 6 equal portions and flatten. Tip them into the syrup and cook for 7-10 minutes until they are firm.

Remove them from the syrup and cool slightly. Add them to the chilled milk sauce to soak in the thickened milk flavours. Chill the Ras malai for 4-5 hours. To serve put the dumplings in a bowl with the sauce. Topped with chopped pistachios and silver foil.

Pasayam (South Indian Kheer)

50 gms Basmati rice
110 mls full fat milk
250 mls coconut milk
40 gms jaggery or unrefined brown sugar
5 cardamom pods; seeds only pounded to a fine powder

to serve:
2 tbsp butter
A tbsp of cashew nuts, pistachios & raisins
Pinch of saffron

In a wide heavy bottom sauce pan add the rice, full fat milk, coconut milk over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir frequently. Simmer and add the jaggery & cardamom powder. Cook for an hour stirring often scraping the bottom & sides of the pan making sure it doesn’t stick. Once the rice is cooked and the pudding is a creamy consistency turn the heat off and cover with a lid. Leave to cool slightly.

In a frying pan heat the butter and add cashew nuts and brown slightly, add the pistachios and raisins. Fry for a few seconds. Pour the fried nuts along with the butter over the Payasam & serve warm.

Semiya Pasayam (Vermicelli Kheer)

4 cups milk divided (3 cups + 1 cup)
1 cup vermicelli (semiya)
1 cup water
6 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp condensed milk
1 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter), divided
10 cashews broken
10 almonds sliced
10 golden raisins
10 pistachios sliced

Boil milk in a saucepan and keep it aside.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon ghee in a pan. Once it is hot, fry the cashews, almonds, pistachios & raisins separately, until they all turn golden brown. Remove them from the pan and keep it aside.

In the same pan add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon ghee. Fry the vermicelli until it starts changing its color and becomes slightly golden. (This step can be skipped if using roasted vermicelli).

Then add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of boiled milk to the pan. Frequently stir the mixture else the milk will burn at the bottom.

Keep adding milk progressively as and when the mixture thickens. Add about 1-1/2 cup milk, and cook the vermicelli until it becomes soft.

Once the vermicelli gets cooked, add the condensed milk and sugar. Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk and keep it on the stove for few more minutes until the sugar dissolves.

Turn off the stove and add cashews, almonds, raisins, and pistachios. This thickens on cooling. Keep an extra cup of boiled milk at hand. So if you are serving later & it thickens, you can add some more milk (according to your consistency preference) and serve.

Recipe Notes
You can get readymade roasted vermicelli in Indian grocery stores. Use them for convenience.

Condensed milk is completely optional. It helps in thickening the base and therefore a rich taste.

You can adjust the sugar amount based on your sweet preference. When using condensed milk, be extra careful as it has some sugar.

This can be served chilled or at room temperature or even warm.
The amount of milk depends on one’s preferred consistency. Payasam can be drunk from a glass or spooned. The amount mentioned above yields a thick creamy dessert. You can thin it more by adding extra boiled milk. The consistency is of medium thickness and is thinner than rice pudding

Almond Kheer

Rice – 1 cup, washed and drained
Water – 1 1/2 cups
Whole milk – 3 cups, divided
Sweetened condensed milk – 1/2 cup or slightly less
Salt – a pinch
Butter – 1 tbsp
Golden raisins – a small handful
Almond extract or syrup – 1/2 – 1 tsp (depending on how strong the flavor is)
Almonds – a small handful, chopped

Gently boil the water and 1/2 cup milk in a deep pan. Add rice, turn heat to low, cover and cook the rice.

When rice is cooked, add the rest of the milk and simmer for 20 minutes or so, till rice is very soft and pudding is thickened. Gently mash some of the rice with the back of a wooden spoon and mix well.

Now add sweetened condensed milk as per your taste. (I added just under half cup, you can add more if you like a sweeter pudding). Add a pinch of salt, mix well and remove from heat if the consistency is to your liking. If it is runny, simmer for some more time. If it is too thick, add a few tablespoons of milk and heat thoroughly.

Once done, mix in the almond extract or almond syrup. If you are using an extract, a little goes a long way and half a teaspoon will suffice. Always start with a small amount and work your way up.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan, fry the golden raisins till plumped and mix in the pudding.
Garnish with chopped almonds and serve warm or chilled.

Notes:

You can add vanilla extract in place of almond extract/syrup. You can also add a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg powders if you like their flavor in rice pudding.
For an Indian flavor, try a combination of cardamom powder and saffron to flavor the rice pudding. Also, use ghee instead of butter.
I am sure this would be lovely flavored with rose syrup as well. Rose syrup will tint the rice pudding pink, so if you want to retain the white color, use edible rose-water.

Bhapa Doi (Bengali Baked Yogurt Pudding)

For the bhap doi (baked yogurt pudding):
Condensed milk – 1 cup
Greek yogurt – 1 1/2 cups
Cornstarch – 1 tsp (optional)
Milk – 1 tbsp (optional)

For the pomegranate coulis:
Pomegranate – 1, large
Water – 1/4 cup (or as needed)
Sugar – 2 tbsp (or as needed)
Lemon juice – 1 tsp
Cornstarch – 1 tsp

To garnish:
Almonds and cashew nuts – a small handful, crushed
Dried rose petals – a few

Bhapa Doi (Baked Yogurt Pudding): Pre-heat the oven to 300 deg.F. Boil water in a kettle for the bain marie. Line a large baking pan with a folded kitchen towel and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the condensed milk and Greek yogurt. Mix the cornstarch in milk and add to the mixture. Mix well so that no lumps remain. (The cornstarch is totally optional, but it helps to ensure a well-set pudding).

Divide yogurt mixture among four large ramekins or 6-8 smaller ones. Place ramekins in the prepared baking pan and fill with hot water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (The kitchen towel under the ramekins will keep them from sliding around in the hot water.)

Bake for 30-35 minutes or till yogurt is set, but slightly jiggly in the center.

Remove and cool down to room temperature. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. This keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Pomegranate coulis: Prepare pomegranate coulis when yogurt is in the oven. Dissolve cornstarch in a tablespoon of water and set side.

Remove the pomegranate arils and blend them together. Add enough water to make at least a cup of juice. Strain this mixture and discard the seeds.

Take pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the cornstarch slurry and simmer for 4-5 minutes or till sauce thickens slightly. Taste and adjust sweetness accordingly.

Cool this down and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator till needed.

Serving bhapa doi: To serve the pudding, top each ramekin with some of the pomegranate coulis, some crushed nuts and rose petals. Enjoy!

NOTES:
1. Since Greek yogurt is naturally thick, it is best suited for this recipe and combines easily with the condensed milk. If you are using regular yogurt, make sure it is whole fat and drained of most of the liquid. You should have 1½ cups of thick, strained yogurt to start with.

2. You can flavor bhapa doi by adding cardamom powder or a little bit of saffron steeped in warm milk. You can also add some fruit pulp (mangoes work best) to make fruit flavored bhapa doi.

3. Instead of preparing a fruit coulis or sauce, you can top the pudding with chopped fresh fruits of choice. You can also top the pudding with just nuts and maybe even saffron.

Gulab Phirni (Rose Kheer)

Whole milk – 4 1/2 cups
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Basmati rice – 1/4 cup
Sugar – 6 tbsp
Rose syrup – 2 tbsp (can be replaced with 1 tsp rose water or 2 drops of pure rose essence)
Almonds – 2 tbsp, chopped (can also use pistachios)
Dried rose petals – a few, to garnish (optional)

Wash the basmati rice in water a couple of times and soak in water for half an hour. This will make the grinding part easier. using a blender, grind rice to a fairly smooth paste, adding a few tablespoons of milk. Set aside.

In a large, thick-bottomed saucepan, start heating the milk on medium-high heat. When the milk boils, add the rice paste and reduce heat to medium. Cook the rice, stirring often to avoid any lumps. In about 10-15 minutes, the rice will be cooked. Cook the pudding further till it reduces and thickens, maybe 10 more minutes.

Add sugar and rose syrup. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Taste and add more sugar or rose syrup, if needed.

Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes, but not more than that as the pudding will begin to set as it cools.

Transfer phirni to a big serving bowl or individual dessert bowls and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for a couple of hours so that phirni sets properly.

Serve cold phirni garnished with chopped nuts and dried rose petals.

NOTES:
1. It is important to use whole milk in this recipe to achieve the creamy texture. Doing so will ensure that you do not need to add any canned condensed milk or pother such products.

2. A shortcut method to make phirni is to use store-bought rice flour instead of making your own rice paste:

Milk: 2 cups.
Rice flour: 2 tbsp. You may use any, white or brown.
Sugar: 2 to 3 tbsp.
Cardamom powder: 1/4 tsp or a generous pinch
Saffron: 15-20 threads soaked in 1 tbsp milk
Pistachio slivers and Almond slivers: 1 tbsp each for topping the dessert.

Dissolve. Rice flour in 1/4 cup water avoiding lump formation. Use stirrer.

Boil the milk with cardamom powder, in a heavy bottom pan.

When milk boils, add the rice flour paste to the boiling milk.

Simmer the milk with rice paste for about 2 minutes on medium low flame. Keep stirring with a stirrer or manual egg beater.

Once the milk and rice mixture gets slightly thick, add dissolved saffron and sugar. Cook for 2 more minutes while stirring often to avoid burning of the milk at the bottom.

Take it off the flame. Pour it directly in your dessert bowls. Let it cool down to room temperature and then garnish with the nuts. Refrigerate for an hour or so and enjoy this silky and smooth rice pudding called Phirni.

Sabudana Kheer / Javarisi Payasam (Sago Pearl Kheer)

Sabudana (javvarisi or sago pearls) – 1/2 cup
Water – 2 cups
Whole milk – 2 cups, warm
Sugar – 1/3 – 1/2 cup (as per taste)
Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp
Rose water – 1/4 tsp
Saffron – a small pinch
Pistachios or almonds – 8-10, chopped
Dried rose petals – for garnish (optional)

Wash the sabudana or sago pearls in water 3-4 times or until the water runs relatively clear. Soak sabudana in 2 cups of water for at least 20 minutes.

Take sabudana and water in a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat until they begin to turn translucent.

Add warm milk and continue cooking until all the sabudana are cooked and soft. The sago pearls will rise to the surface once cooked. Keep stirring often to prevent milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add sugar and cardamom powder and simmer until the kheer thickens slightly, not more than 25-30 minutes of overall cooking time. Stir the kheer once in a while.

When almost done, stir in rose-water and saffron. Remove kheer from heat and serve immediately or cool it slightly before serving. Garnish with chopped nuts and dried rose petals, if desired.

Store leftover kheer in the refrigerator. If kheer has thickened too much, warm it with a few spoons of milk before serving.

Shavige Payasa (Indian Vermicelli Pudding)

1/2 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter + 1 teaspoon
2 tablespoons raw cashews, broken or chopped into large pieces
2 tablespoons yellow raisins
1 cup angel hair pasta or thin rice noodles*, broken into 1 inch pieces
2 cups water
2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
few saffron threads
3-4 tablespoons sugar or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cardamom powder

*In the Indian shops, these noodles will be labeled as vermicelli and may come pre-roasted and broken in small pieces.

In a saucepan on a medium flame, add ½ tablespoon of ghee. When ghee is melted, add in cashews and stir continuously until they start to brown. Quickly add in raisins and stir until they plump up. Turn off heat and transfer cashews and raisins to a bowl to cool.

Add another teaspoon of ghee to the pan and add in the broken up vermicelli noodles. Stir-fry them for about 3 to 4 minutes over a low-medium flame, until they start to turn golden brown. To the pan add 2 cups of water and make sure that all of the noodles are just covered. Bring to a boil. Continue to cook the vermicelli noodles on medium heat until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes for semolina noodles and less if using rice noodles. Add 2 cups of milk to the pan and heat over a medium-high flame. When the milk is warm, crush the saffron threads between your fingers and drop into the milk. When the milk starts to boil, add in sugar and cardamom powder. You can use a whisk to help dissolve the sugar and incorporate the cardamom powder evenly. Next add in fried cashews and raisins, reserving some for garnish. Turn off the heat.

Serve warm or chilled with the leftover cashews and raisins on top. Payasa thickens up after refrigeration so just add more milk to loosen it up again when re-serving it or leave as is if you prefer more a of rice pudding consistency.