Kesari is probably the fastest Indian dessert to make. Just be prepared for some fast and furious stirring. Nonetheless it requires very basic simple ingredients, is fast to make and can be served immedaitely without needing much standing time…which is why many a time, when unexpected guests sudedenly pop by, kesari is always the fist treat to be whipped up. It makes us look like fabulous hosts when actually, it takes little more than fifteen minutes to serve up a bowl of the sweet, richly flavored confection.
After a request from mariya, I looked through my Indian cookbooks -and a few websites- for kesari recipes and to my surprise, discovered that there were actually various versions of this South Indian dessert. I decided to try out two…the first the kesari we are familiar with in Singapore: made with roasted semolina (rava), sugar, liberal lashings of ghee and studded with raisins and cashews…. and the second, a rather unique recipe that uses flattened rice (aval), jaggery (vellam) and ground cardamon.
While both tasted good, I must say the orange semolina version was much more well received by everyone at home. The smooth almost meltin richness of the semolina won everyone over while nobody really could identify with the broken rice version as kesari…although I got a few comments that it tasted a bit like vajay—that Malayan glutinous rice dessert..
Semolina Kesari (makes 4 servings)
55g semolina (rava)*
1/4 cup melted ghee
5/8 cup boiling water
a pinch of kesari colour powder or orange coloring+
3 cardamons, pounded
a pinch of ground nutmeg
a handful of cashews, halved
a handful of golden rasins
1 tbsp of ghee, extra
1. Heat a tablespoonful of ghee in a small saucepan and fry cashews and raisins till golden brown. Set aside.
2. Heat the 1/4 cup of ghee in a wok over medium-low heat and fry semolina until fragrant and it darkens slightly… this would take about 3-5 minutes.
3. Pour in water and stir vigorously. When it is cooked and thick, add sugar, coloring, cardamon, nutmeg, fried cashews and raisins. Cook, stirring all the while over gentle heat till it thickens.
4. Pour into a tray and cut into squares, or press into small bowls and unmould on a plate to serve.*The semolina best for making kesari is the coarse kind, very easily found in Indian grocery stores. Just ask for a small packet of rava.
+While food coloring works just as well, kesari powder is what makes the confection have a gorgeous deep reddish orange hue. The powder is sold in Indian grocery shops as well, and a small bottle costs only 80 cents! Just ask for orange kesari powder.
Frying cashews and raisins in ghee…how decadent, not to mention unhealthy, is that?
Roasting semolina in ghee
Cheap but powerful kesari powder
Aval Kesari (makes about 10-12 squares)
200g beaten rice (aval),
soaked for 25 minutes and drained
125g golden jaggery (vellam)
5 cardamons, pounded
a small pinch of salt
1. Boil together jaggery, sugar and water until sugars are dissolved. Strain syrup into a wok.
2. Over low heat, add beaten rice and ghee and cook until all the syrup is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Add cardamon and salt and mix well.
3. Pour into a small tray, flatten surface and cut into small squares to serve.
Golden jaggery…nature’s sweetener
Beaten rice, otherwise known as aval. Easy to prepare-just soak for at most 30 minutes- and much fluffier than regular rice.
Cooking the aval with ghee and syrup.
Poured into a tin and flattened…waiting to be cut into squares.