By Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji
The Punjabis are known for their great love of food and especially desserts! And the festive season only whets their appetite for a sugar rush. But there’s no reason why the rest of us can’t partake of Punjabi sweetness too!
The reason I’ve selected these specific sweets is that they can prepared a day or several days in advance, so that you can focus on your loved ones when the festivals come around. These recipes also reduce food wastage, as leftovers can be refreshed as a new dessert.
The Sikh festival Gurpurab falls on November 23 this year, so I have shared my recipe of karah prashad. It should not be treated as just a dessert, as it is an offering to the Almighty. (No wonder it’s divine!)
Punjabi panjiri can be stored for three months in an air-tight glass jar and six months if refrigerated. Shahi tukda — which has Mughal origins and is popular across north India from Punjab to Uttar Pradesh — can be prepared one day in advance provided the rabri is poured one hour before it is served.
8 slices of bread with crust removed (usually cut into triangles)
60 gm ghee to fry the bread
150 ml mildly sweetened warm milk or sugar syrup or as required for dipping the fried bread
For the rabri:
5 cups full cream milk
½ cup sugar
10 gm pistachio nuts, blanched, peeled and chopped
10 gm almonds, blanched, peeled and chopped
For the flavoring:
¼ tsp green cardamom powder
For the garnishing:
1 sheet silver leaf
1 gm saffron, broiled
15 gm raisins
10 gm pistachio nuts, blanched, peeled and slivered
10 gm almonds, blanched, peeled and slivered
8 rose petals, dried and edible
Instructions (for the rabri):
1. In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, add milk; bring to a boil.
2. Add the sugar and cardamom powder and simmer over low flame.
Do not stir too often, as a layer of cream should form over it.
3. After the layer is formed, keep pushing it away from the sides towards the centre with the help of a wooden spatula.
4. Keep stirring the milk below it gently to avoid scorching or burning.
Repeat the process till 1/3rd of the volume of milk is left. The wider the vessel and the richer the milk, the faster it will thicken.
5. When done, the colour changes to a beige-cream or off white, and the cream that was pushed aside collects in layers. Add the chopped nuts.
6. Remove from the flame. Let it cool, and transfer to a glass bowl.
Refrigerate to chill for at least an hour.
For the shahi tukda:
1. With the help of a cookie cutter, cut the bread slices into neat shapes (usually triangles but I prefer round).
2. Shallow fry in clarified butter. Place on an absorbent paper to remove excess ghee (clarified butter).
3. Before serving, dip the fried bread in sugar syrup or mildly sweetened warm milk for five to eight minutes.
4. Place on the serving plate, pour the rabri over the fried bread.
5. Serve chilled, garnished with broiled saffron (optional), silver leaf, raisins, slivered pistachio nuts, almonds and rose petals.
You may use brown bread or multi-grain bread if you prefer.
1 cup whole-wheat flour (coarse)
1 cup desi ghee
1 cup sugar (or as desired)
3 cups hot water
1. Heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed nonstick kadhai. Add the whole-wheat flour; cook stirring continuously till the flour turns golden and you get the aroma of roasted whole wheat flour.
2. Once the ghee oozes out, add the sugar. Let it dissolve, do not caramelize it, else it will end up with a burnt flavour.
3. Add hot water. Stir very carefully.
4. Continue to stir, so that no lumps are formed. The karah will absorb water and continue to thicken quickly.
5. When it is semi thick. Switch off the flame. Serve it hot or warm.
The karah tends to get thicker as it cools. So add water accordingly.
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup semolina, dry roasted
6 tbsp desi ghee
¼ tsp carom seeds (ajwain), lightly roasted
A pinch of dry ginger powder (sonth)
¼ tsp green cardamom powder
A pinch of fenugreek seed powder
¼ tsp fennel seed powder
¼ tbsp lotus seeds (makhana) fried and coarsely ground
¼ cup raw cane sugar powder (desi khand)
¼ tbsp almonds, fried
16 cashew nuts, fried
¼ tbsp mixed melon seeds (char-magaz seeds), fried
15 gm charoli (chironji), fried
1. In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, dry roast the whole wheat flour till it gets a nutty aroma (approximately 10 to 12 minutes).
2. Add the ghee, cook till it is well combined on a slow flame. Add the semolina.
3. Stir with a spatula. You will see the beautiful brown colour of the flour and semolina. Do not overcook. Cook for another five to six minutes only till the raw aroma of the flour disappears.
4. Add the powdered dry ginger, green cardamom, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, carom seeds and coarsely ground lotus seeds.
5. Add the fried almonds, cashew nuts, charoli and mixed melon seeds.
6. Switch off the flame and let it get a little cooler. Then add the powdered sugar and mix till well combined.
7. Cool the panjiri completely.
8. Store in a sterilized and dry air-tight glass jar. It may be consumed as and when required. The shelf life of panjiri is three months at room temperature and six months if refrigerated.
1. You may add lightly roasted desiccated coconut to the panjiri.
2. You may add dried dates (chuara) or coarsely ground pistachio nuts and raisins.
3. Usually edible gum (gondh) is roasted in clarified butter till it puffs and is added, but I have prepared panjiri without adding it.
Reetu Uday Kugaji is a chef, culinary expert, food blogger, mentor, author, and a hospitality and food consultant with 20+ years of experience.
First published in the Winter 2018 issue of eShe magazine.