Oats and Coconut Payasam

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Payasam is very similar to kheer. It’s called “kheer” in North India, while usually referred to as “payasam” or some variant thereof in South India. A lot of dishes are kind of like that: similar dishes, different names. Just to make things nice and confusing for the foreigner. But you get the hang of it pretty quickly!

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Anyway,  a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. And sweet, this is. Sweet and spicy and crunchy and smooth and creamy. Payasam (according to wikipedia) comes from a “peeyusham” meaning nectar or ambrosia… An accurate description.

You’re probably wondering, ‘okay, what is this, whatever the name is!?’ Well if you haven’t read my banana kheer post (shame on you), kheer/payasam is basically pudding/porridge made with various ingredients: usually some grain (or banana!), nuts, ghee, sugar, spices and milk.

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I got this recipe from VahChef at http://www.vahrehvah.com. His Indian cooking YouTube videos are hilaaarious and I highly recommend.

Oats and Coconut Payasam

Adapted from VahChef

1-2 tablespoons ghee

15-20 cashews, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon golden raisins

2-3 tablespoons of oats (I ended up using a bit more)

1/2 cup freshly grated coconut (You could probably use unsweetened desiccated coconut, or go ahead and test your coconut cracking skills)

2 cups or 500 mL milk

1 cup water

Sugar: I used 1 cube of jaggery and a sprinkle of granulated sugar. Original recipe says 1/2 cup sugar. Add to taste.

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Sliced almonds for garnishing

Heat ghee in a pot, add cashews and raisins and fry until the raisins puff up and cashews are golden brown.

Add the oats and coconut and stir until you can smell some coconutty fragrance/you see a slight color change. (2-3 minutes)

Add the milk and water and cook on low heat for a while until the milk reduces and the mixture thickens. You can add more water to dilute if it gets too thick.

Add sugar and let it melt; add the cardamom and take off the heat.

Sprinkle almonds on top and serve, warm or cold. Or room temperature. It will basically taste yummy in any form.

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This was so good. I wouldn’t really mind eating this for breakfast every day. I gave some of this to my neighbors and landlords in return for goodies that they gave to me! I got good reviews from them, so let that be your guide and just go ahead and make this. MmmmMMm.

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Beetroot Halwa

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Tonight I finally used the six beets I purchased a while ago, then sort of forgot about.

I painstakingly peeled them and grated each one manually, making for very pink fingers.

Then, I ran out to the shop next door and bought some fresh Amul milk — 500 mL, in a little plastic pouch (TetraPak).

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Halwa is an Indian dessert that’s often prepared during festivals, like Navratri or Diwali (so I am told by Wikipedia). Indian desserts can be simple or super complicated — luckily, halwa is pretty easy! It’s basically beetroot pudding with cashews (kaju) and golden raisins, flavored with cardamom.

I’ve had lots of halwas in my day now, including carrot halwa, moong daal (a type of lentil/pulse) halwa, and suji ka halwa (semolina flour). This is my first attempt. Feast your eyes.

Beetroot Halwa

Adapted from Veg Recipes of India

3 cups beetroot, peeled and finely grated (about 6 small beets)

500 mL milk

2 tablespoons ghee

1 cube of jaggery (or 4-6 tablespoons of sugar)

1/3 teaspoon cardamom powder

15-20 whole cashews* (maybe extra if you’re prone to nibbling on cashews)

1 tablespoon golden raisins*

Combine the milk and beetroot in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir and boil/simmer until most of the milk is evaporated.

Stir in the sugar and ghee and cook a bit more until the milk is almost completely evaporated.

Add the cashews, cardamom, and raisins and cook until no more milk is left and it is cooked.

Ta da!

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Tender beetroot made into a delicious, and actually rather healthy dessert. This was so good. Going easy on the ghee and sugar (beets are sweet by themselves so not much sugar is necessary) makes for a very tempting dessert/snack.

*Next time, I would toast these in ghee before adding for extra flavor.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Berry-Chia Compote

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Finally took the new Vitamix out for a test run by pureeing cashews into the creamiest cheese-cakey filling ever.

It so beats “regular” cheesecake. Which does seem very regular in comparison to this scrumptious concoction.

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Check out that crust, first of all. It is just ground walnuts and medjool dates, with a sprinkle of dried unsweetened coconut. Less is more.

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Complete with a raspberry/blueberry compote, which couldn’t be easier to throw together.

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Yeah, you won’t regret making this.

Vegan Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Berry-Chia Compote

Adapted from The Vegetarian Times magazine, July 2008

2 cups raw walnuts
1 ½ cups raw cashews
½ cup pitted Medjool dates (I used 5-6 large dates)
¼ cup dried, unsweetened coconut
6 Tbs. coconut oil, melted (gently warmed)
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup agave nectar
The scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
Compote
3 cups mixed berries, such as blueberries and raspberries (I used frozen)
1/3 cup (probably unnecessary) raw sugar
zest and juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 tablespoon chia seeds
Soak walnuts and dates in one bowl of water, and cashews in another bowl, for 3-4 hours. Drain.
Pulse walnuts and dates in a food processor until crumbly and pressable. Sprinkle dried coconut in the bottom of an 8-inch pie pan or springform pan. Scatter the walnut/date mixture in the pan, right on top of the sprinkled coconut, and press to cover.
Place drained cashews, warmed coconut oil, lemon juice, vanilla beans, and agave nectar in the Vitamix. Process until smooth and delicious. Pour the mixture into the crust, and freeze 1-2 hours/until firm.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the berries, sugar, and lemon juice + zest until bubbling, then lower the heat and simmer. Add and mix in the cornstarch and chia. Once most of the liquid has evaporated and it reaches a jelly consistency, remove from heat. Allow to cool.
When ready to serve, allow to thaw a bit and then top either the whole cheesecake with compote, or each individual slice. Alternatively, you can serve this with fresh berries.

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This was absolutely the bomb. So delicious. Vanilla beans running throughout and the lemon juice do well to lighten an otherwise decadent dessert. The tart berry compote–with chia seeds, full of fiber and other goodness–contrasts the subtle sweetness of the cake perfectly. One slice is so satisfying and chock-full of healthy fats. Do not fear the fat.

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I will definitely make this again. Even my die-hard cheesecake-loving brother ate it without question. I’m not sure if he even suspected it was anything less than the cheesecake he knows and loves.

Vegan or not, you will be the most popular person at whatever party you bring this to… or, the most popular person in your house if you just make it for fun!

Cream of Broccoli Soup (vegan)

Four heads of broccoli in the fridge.

Then I stumbled upon Joy the Baker’s vegan cream of broccoli soup.

And I had some cashew butter on hand from those peppermint patties that were oh-so-good.

So I made soup on a hot summer night.

But it was worth it!

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Adapted from Joy the Baker

about 3/4 cup raw cashew butter or 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 1 hour then drained

1 small onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 heads of broccoli, chopped into bite-size florets

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

pepper to taste

juice of half a lemon

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar + 1 teaspoon molasses, mixed (to make vegan worcestshire sauce)

about 4 cups of water

If using raw cashews, soak raw cashews in warm water for 1 hour.  They’ll soften slightly.  Drain.

Steam broccoli until tender–about 8 minutes in the microwave ought to do it. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, sauté onions until tender/translucent. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add cumin, salt, mustard, black pepper and cook 30 seconds. Add broccoli and remove from heat. Add water and cashews (or cashew butter, if using). Using an immersion blender, blend until blended. Heat over low heat, and add lemon and worcestshire sauce. Taste and season as necessary.

Okay, so it’s hard to capture this soup in photos (Joy the Baker does a much better job). But it was so good–and so creamy! You’d never guess it was cashews that provided such creaminess. We ate this with melba toasts smothered in almond butter, or just plain. I meant to have garlic bread with it, but I ended up not being hungry enough because I tasted the soup so much in the making of it (taste. does it need more lemon? taste. More pepper? taste. What what? Taste taste taste).

But, I made this on a Saturday. So that means the weekly shipment of random food (current favorites are oranges, bananas, celery, lettuce, Chinese sponge cake, lettuce, potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, tomatoes) came home with Dad, from Grandma. So even though I halved our broccoli stores by using 2 heads for this soup, the total heads equaled four once again due to two new heads’ arrival.

… Oh well. At least we don’t have six heads of broccoli now.

Peppermint Patties (vegan)

Yes!

A slight experiment, tweaked from the original recipe…

You’re going to love it. It tastes exactly like a peppermint patty.

Vegan Peppermint Patties

Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

4 tablespoons melted coconut oil

1 tablespoon agave nectar + 1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 capful peppermint oil + 1 capful peppermint oil

2 tablespoons raw cashew butter (soak some cashews in water, food process until ground)

two teaspoons water

Mix the melted coconut oil (mine was liquid at room temperature in this hot summer heat; or, microwave until clear) and mix with 1 tablespoon agave nectar and 1/8 capful peppermint oil.  Mix in cocoa powder until thick. (It will be a dark, peppermint chocolate coating, on the more bitter side.) Taking a tiny spoon, put about a teaspoon into mini silicone muffin cups, coating both the bottom and sides of the cup, and freeze until hard.

In a separate bowl, mix the cashew butter with water, 1 capful peppermint oil, and 1 tablespoon agave nectar until combined. Spoon a bit into the frozen chocolate, and top with more chocolate, and freeze again… if you can stand the wait. Any leftover chocolate can be pressed between sheets of wax paper and frozen to make frozen peppermint chocolate bark.

These were so delicious and a perfect little portion. Cashew butter might seem weird but it really worked well in this recipe–I swear it tastes just as good or better (you know, because of that whole TLC thing) than a store bought peppermint patty. Super refreshing and perfect for these warmer days!

Note: They do melt fast. So eat right away! Not that that will be a problem, I assure you.