Firangi Festive Twist
The festive season is upon us! YAY! I love festivals. Regardless of what the festival is, I am always excited. Yes, yes, news flash, I love all things festive, even though for most of the non-festive times through the year, I roam around with a scowl and crinkled eyebrows, festivities make me glow! Of course, the main reason being, I get to try out new and deliciously twisted recipes on unsuspecting Guinea pigs. It’s a pleasure really; both, theirs and mine! It’s simple, I get to experiment with new and different flavour profiles and ingredients, and the guests get to drool over food they have never tasted before. So, all in all, a win-win I’d say!
Anyway, this festive season, I am going to take desserts from around the world and give them a desi twist. Because, well, you do need to up your game every festive season! And frankly, though I know that most of us like to cling to the traditional feast, especially sweets, during festivals; upping the ante never hurt anyone. In fact, it could just make you the culinary magician among your family and friends.
While on that subject, let me have the pleasure of bestowing you with the magic wand of eclectic sweets, which end up in a perfect marriage. First up, I’d like to introduce you to the humble pastillas. They are a Balcan, Phillipino dessert, which traditionally take a fair bit of effort to make. But of course, I have tweaked them to match our Indian palette because what we enjoy is a burst of flavours and textures.
Pastillas are chewy milk and sugar candies. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But the real pastillas take a lot of effort to get right. Regardless, as always, you can always trust me with a cheat method. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to brush off the traditional methods, but just adapt them to my convenience and my comfort, to bring out the best in the ingredients and flavours. Let me explain; most of us don’t possess the expertise of our ancestors to make a decadent dessert. But, that does not mean we can’t tweak it to adjust to our lifestyle and abilities. It’s not hipster, it’s just clever.
So, here I bring to you a twist to a traditional dessert, pastillas. One that honours the tradition but also makes it accessible and simple for even a dessert rookie to create, relish and shine!
Chocolate and Fruit & Nut Pastillas
The name itself sounds delicious right? I know. And believe you me, once you see how simple they are to make, you are going to stop ordering out sweet boxes this festive season.
The current measurements make about 12 pastillas. Do the math (if you suck at math like I do, use a calculator), and increase or decrease the quantity of ingredients according to your needs.
Milk powder – 1 ½ cups
Condensed milk – 1 tin
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Cocoa powder – ½ cup
Marshmallows – 12 nos
Nuts (pistachios, cashews, almonds) – ¾th cup
Dried cranberries – ¼th cup
Pitted dates – ¼th cup
- Coarsely grind the nuts and coarsely chop the dried cranberries and dates. Mix the dried fruits and nuts together, cover with cling film and leave it in the refrigerator.
- In a bowl, sift together the milk powder, cocoa powder and salt.
- Add the Vanilla extract and condensed milk.
- Mix until the mixture forms a nice, smooth and cohesive dough form.
- Cover the mixture with cling film and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. The mixture will have a darkish brown colour.
- Now divide the dough into 15 equal parts and press them with your hands to form even sized circular disks (like so).
- In the centre of each disk, place a marshmallow. (As shown in the picture).
- Cover the marshmallow and smooth it with your hands, to get and even cylindrical pastillas.
- Take the crushed nut and dried fruit mixture.
- Generously roll each pastilla in the mix (with a light hand). And set aside. Done.
- You can refrigerate these for up to 15 days. Just make sure, when you serve them, you do so at room temperature. But for the sake of humanity, do not ever heat them in a microwave or otherwise.
Okay now this section is going to be longer than usual. So here goes…
- I haven’t added sugar, because I love the balance of sweet, to salty to slightly bitter. But, you could jolly well add a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar during the second step, if you like it sweeter. I wouldn’t advice so, but, the choice is up to you.
- If you feel rather generously festive and want to add glitter (which I am not a fan of, but to each his own), use edible gold or silver leaves or as we know it, ‘varak’. Add a dash of bling to make it shine like a diva!
- You can add different flavours to the main dough like ground cardamom or saffron strands (soaked and heated with 3tbsp of the condensed milk), to give a more robust Indian flavour to your dish. But please do me a favour and let the marshmallows be. They do add the surprise element to the dish. And trust me, they work like a dream.
- If you like you could do away with the cocoa powder and add on the same quantity of powdered milk with flavours of your choice (viz. cardamom, saffron, cinnamon and whatever else your mind can conjure up.).
Well, that’s it. Enough “gyaan” for one recipe. But I hope you use your creativity to explore various options that can be made with this basic recipe. And while you are at it, do follow my social media handles and do write tome about twists and turns you’d like to know more about. Unfortunately, I am not always at your service, but I will always answer your queries and make sure you aren’t let down!