Barley is grossly under-appreciated. When I found myself in the grains aisle at a Lebanese grocery store in Houston a few months ago I happened to add a bag of barley to my cart. When I got home I realized that it is an amazing grain – it is low in calories and high in nutrients.

In India, barley is most traditionally used for barley water which is a drink made with boiled barley and consumed when one is sick. It is also very cooling to drink on hot summer days. I have tasted barley water and have to confess that it is the blandest and most uninspiring drink I have ever tried. It tastes like starchy water and gives the impression that it would be full of nutrients.

It is not often found in Indian recipes but the ones I found are conjee, a thin porridge eaten throughout India, and khichdi, a simple rice and lentil dish that can be called comfort food.

Barley is consumed as a possible preventative for kidney stones, reducing the occurrence of kidney stones and other ailments by flushing toxins out of the body. I found an article in the Times of India (2013) that promotes drinking barley water as a way to achieve a thinner waistline. Hmm, I think that I need to try this!

Barley Kesari

Barley Kesari is a fusion of barley and Indian Kesari.

Barley is also very high in nutrition. It contains large amounts of both insoluble and soluble fiber which is known to reduce cholesterol. It is high in protein and other important nutrients to keep one full and healthy. I like eating barley because of its ‘meaty’ texture; I feel like I am eating something substantial that will stick with me throughout the day.

Barley is available hulled and pearled. Just the outer hull is removed in processing for hulled barley. This kind has the most nutrients left intact. It takes a long time to cook, over an hour. It is very chewy in texture and makes a great breakfast cereal. Pearled barley has had most of the outer husk removed so it is not considered a whole grain. It is still very nutritious but some of the fiber has been removed. It takes much less time to cook and is not quite as chewy as the hulled variety. It is more suited for most recipes. Do not worry if you purchased hulled or pearled; either one can be used for a delicious dish. The only change that must be made is cooking time.

It is also available as a quick version that takes just 10 minutes to cook because it is precooked and dried. I have not tried cooking with it but my daughter bought it and says it tastes fine.

Barley Kesari

This healthy recipe for Barley Kesari uses a bit of butter, brown sugar and dried fruit for tasty flavor and sweetness.

My Barley Kesari combines barley with a traditional Indian desert recipe called Kesari which is made with cream of wheat and a lot of butter and sugar. In my healthy version, I use a tiny bit of butter and a fraction of brown sugar but include dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, mango and pineapple chunks to add different flavors and textures as well as sweetness. To make Barley Kesari the most difficult task is to be patient while the barley boils. It can take over an hour until it is tender. Once it is cooked, adding the sugar, butter, fruit, saffron and cardamom only takes a few minutes. Once it is ready, serve immediately with fresh raspberries on top while hot. It is delicious as well as healthy!

Barley Kesari

Barley Kesari and fresh raspberries are a perfect match!

I wanted to incorporate the favorite nut of India in a different way that I usually use them. I roast them, spice them and use them to thicken curries. This time I wanted to see what would happen if I ground them to a paste.

Cashews are grown on on trees on farms in India. We can thank the Portuguese explorers who brought them to India back in the 1500s for their tasty donation to the lands they visited.

They are actually the seeds that grow at the bottom of the red or yellow cashew apple. Yes, it does even look like a bright red or yellow apple with a cashew glued to the bottom. I saw some at a spice farm I visited a few years ago and thought they looked rather odd. Cashews are very healthy in that they have less fat than other nuts. They have a healthy amount of monounsaturated fats which is good for one’s heart. They are also loaded with antioxidants and other minerals. Just what the doctor ordered.

Sweet Cashew Cream and Fresh Berries

After soaking them for a short time, I ground a cup of raw cashews in a blender until a smooth paste formed. The resulting flavor was similar to a very thick almond milk and it looked like whipped cream. I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it.

I added a few of my favorite Indian spices, cinnamon and cardamom, along with some sugar. I stirred it all together and I had a vegan version of flavored whipped cream. It is a perfect topping to fresh berries. I use strawberries in my recipe but any fresh berries will be delicious.

You may have noticed over the years that I don’t make very many desserts. I try to ignore them since being in the same room with them increases my waistline. This recipe is so healthy and easy to make that no one will turn down an offer of this dish.

Now that I’ve shared a very simple recipe for Sweet Cashew Cream and Fresh Berries that is really tasty and good for you, I hope you enjoy it!

Falooda is a popular cold drink served in India for dessert or as a cold treat on a hot afternoon. It is believed to have originated with the Mughals and quickly migrated to all parts of Pakistan and India. Rose syrup (yes, made with real rose petals) provides the key exotic flavor and color while basil seeds, noodles, pistachios and sweet milk or ice cream bring out different textures, colors and flavors. I think of it as a party for the taste buds!

 

Falooda is a festive and delicious treat.

Falooda is a festive and delicious treat.

 

It is available on the streets in North India and in many Indian restaurants. Falooda is even available as an ice cream flavor in many Indian grocery stores. I became aware of it a several years ago when my husband brought home a pint of the ice cream. (I have to confess that homemade Falooda has the best flavor and texture.) Since my recent blog posts focused on the varieties of Indian noodles, I thought it would be a good idea to share my recipe for it. It is incredibly easy to make.

 

Falooda is a cornucopia of textures starting with the basil seeds, also called subja, subza and takmaria seeds. These tiny black seeds, when soaked in water, form a glutinous ball somewhat like the tapioca balls in boba tea from Taiwan. They don’t have a flavor but they bring texture and a lot of nutritional value. Made from arrowroot flour, the falooda noodles possess a very subtle flavor. They absorb the color of the rose syrup and turn pink. These noodles make Falooda fun. The special ingredient, that makes Falooda unique, is the rose syrup. It is made from rose water and sugar, just like making simple syrup. Rose water is a by-product when oil is removed from roses for making perfume. It has a wonderful scent. When these ingredients are combined with milk and ice cream, a wonderful, rich milkshake-like dessert is created. Yum!

 

 

Falooda for Two
 

Falooda ingredients include noodles, soaked basil seeds, pistachios and rose petals.

Falooda ingredients include noodles, soaked basil seeds, pistachios and rose petals.

2 cups whole milk

2 tsp basil seeds

2 Tbs sugar

1 oz falooda noodles

1 Tbs rose syrup, plus more for drizzling

2 generous scoops vanilla ice cream

1 dozen pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped

a few rose petals

 

 

 

 

1. Soak basil seeds in a cup of water for 30 minutes then drain off any remaining water.

 

2. Fill a large bowl with boiling water. Immerse the falooda noodles in the bowl for 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain.

 

3. Mix the sugar and the milk together.

 

4. Into two large glasses, add the following ingredients in layers:

basil seeds

falooda noodles

1/2 tablespoon of rose syrup

sweetened milk

ice cream

 

5. Garnish the glasses by drizzling a few drops of rose syrup over the top followed sprinkling the chopped pistachios and a few rose petals over the top. Serve immediately.

 

 

Tips:

– If you don’t have basil seeds, chia seeds work nearly as well.

 

– The falooda noodles can be broken into smaller pieces before adding them to the glasses to make the treat more dignified to drink. I prefer using the noodles intact forthe added fun of slurping them.

 

– Rose syrup can be purchased at any Indian grocery store. If it isn’t available, you can buy rose water and make your own syrup easily.

 

– These proportions are the ones I prefer. Feel free to change them to suit your preferences.

 

– If you are serving this for a dinner party, the basil seeds and noodles can be prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator. Final assembly should be done just before serving.

·      

 

I hope you enjoy this treat as much as I do. It makes an elegant and fun way to end a meal or cool off on a hot day. Enjoy!

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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I have neglected Indian sweets because I have been on a diet over the past year. Sugar and butter have been off limits for me. Now that I have (almost) reached my goal, I have decided that one of the most basic, but popular, South Indian recipes should be highlighted.

 

My husband used to make this Kesari recipe often when we were first married. I think he really made it because he wanted it. This Indian recipe is one of the easiest to make, requiring only a few ingredients and not much time. It is very a very flexible recipe as well by including different nuts and fruit, changing the spices, and varying the texture of the final product for entirely different results.

 

The primary ingredient in my Kesari recipe is coarsely ground wheat that is called rava in Hindi and semolina from Italy. In the U.S. it is often called cream of wheat. It is cooked with butter, or ghee, and sugar to make it into a sweet ending to a meal. Recipes based on these ingredients are found in many different cultures from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

 

Since Kesari is easily served cold it is a great treat for parties or family events. I ate my share in my younger days and now make it for my children. They love sampling it when it is still hot in the pan! 
 

Hot Keseri made cream of wheat, butter and sugar is a delicious Indian dessert.

Hot Keseri made cream of wheat, butter and sugar is a delicious Indian dessert.

 

I hope Kesari becomes one of your favorite Indian dessert recipes. Yum!

 

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

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The recipe I select for this month is called Modakam because it is a traditional sweet that is prepared for Vinayaka Chathurthi, the celebration of Lord Ganesh’s birthday that occurred on September 1st. It is a rice dumpling that is filled with coconut and jaggery. Some people call it Kozhakatta but I consider the two very different. The inside of Modakam is sweet while Kozhakatta contains roasted mustard seeds, dal and red chilies. The only similarity is they are both dumplings.

 

When I told my husband the name of the recipe I picked, he couldn’t remember what it was. After I described it he was thrilled because it had been one of his favorites as a child.

 

Modakam recipe

Modakam

It is an incredibly easy vegetarian recipe to make. First you make the dough then the filling. Then you bring the two together to make the dumpling. This is the tricky part. The first two I made were disasters – partly because my dough was too watery. The second batch of dough was better because the water was hotter as I added the rice flour and I added it not quite as slowly. The trick to making a good Modakam is to make the dough thin enough to cover the filling but not so thick that it will taste doughy.


When I served my easy dessert after dinner, half of them disappeared right away. They were wonderful!
 
 

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Halwa is a popular dessert that can be found in many countries. Some people say it originated in India while others say it originated in the Middle East. Since this is my blog, I’m going with Kerala, India as the point of origin and halwa spread from there to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The recipe evolved to use local ingredients as it traveled. There are a few key ingredients that are usually found in the different recipes: flour or semolina, sugar, cardamom and butter. Nuts (pistachios, almonds, cashews or sesame seeds), dried fruits (raisins, figs, etc.) and various spices (cinnamon, saffron or nutmeg) are added based on preference.


The most famous (and best) halwa in India comes from the town of Kozhikode (formerly known as Calicut) in Kerala. Halwa is traditionally made from carrots, chickpeas, cashews or lentils but in Kozhikode one can find many exotic flavors like coconut, pineapple and rice. This is the town in which Kachi’s husband, Balakrishnan, was raised so I guess that the delicious sweets in the town contributed to the development of his sweet tooth.

Carrot Halwa

Carrot Halwa recipe

The recipe of the month for April is my Carrot Halwa recipe. It is based on Kachi’s recipe but I have added a few of my own touches. To make this wonderful sweet, milk is boiled with sugar and grated carrots and then flavored with ground cardamom and cashews. After the milk is reduced, the thickened halwa is poured into a flat pan. After cooling, it is cut into small squares and served. The total time to make it is about an hour but I promise it is one of the easiest recipes I have ever prepared. This Carrot Halwa recipe will become popular in your kitchen.

 

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The two Indian recipes I selected for November are two of the most popular sweets in India and are always included in the sweets presented to family and friends at Deepavali. The photo below is a plate full of a wide variety of sweets that are usually distributed during Deepavali.

 

A plate of assorted Indian sweets.

A plate of assorted Indian sweets.

Even though they take some time, both recipes are very simple to make. I will warn you up front – they will disappear quickly. I know this since my father-in-law considers himself a sweets expert and has ranked these at the top of his list. 

Coconut Burfi Recipe

Coconut Burfi (large pick square at the bottom of the picture) is one of the most popular sweets in India and is eaten all over the country. If you love coconut, you will love this recipe that yields a rich, soft treat.

Mysore Paak Recipe

Mysore Paak (two tan squares on the right hand side) is a traditional recipe from south India with a texture that is similar to a delicate shortbread cookie but with a rich buttery flavor. This became my favorite sweet when I discovered it during my first trip to Chennai on my honeymoon.

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

 

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This month I am focusing on a traditional dessert that is a central part of the Indian culture.  Payasam is traditionally made with boiled milk, a starch like rice or wheat, and sugar then flavored in a variety of different ways. 

Semiya Payasam, Vermicelli Payasam

Semiya Payasam (Vermicelli Payasam), is made with boiled milk, vermicelli noodles, cardamom, cashews and saffron.

It is given as an offering to the gods in south Indian Hindu temples as well as served at all important south Indian celebrations and important occasions, including birthdays and weddings, and feasts.  Serving Payasam is considered a sign of hospitality and welcome in Indian households.  Kachi served it to me when I first visited her home in Madras after my wedding.  It meant that her family welcomed me into their family. It can also be served at tea time as a special treat.  I have been told that the rice pudding made in England today derived from Payasam a thousand years ago when traders took rice to Europe.


There are many different varieties of Payasam that are made with different ingredients.  It is typically made by:

  • boiling milk with sugar,

  • adding rice, wheat (vermicelli) or lentils , and

  • flavoring it with cardamom, raisins, saffron, and/or nuts.

Two delicious recipes are featured for July.


Pal Payasam Recipe

A very simple and easy to make Payasam, called Pal Payasam, is made with mike, rice and sugar. I am including both the traditional method of making it as well as one that has been adapted to use the microwave oven and is really easy to make. 

Semiya Payasam Recipe

Another, Semiya Payasam (Vermicelli Payasam), is made with boiled milk, vermicelli noodles, cardamom, cashews and saffron.  This recipe is my favorite and is served for our family birthdays.


Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

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