One of the contradictions that makes me miserable is that I’m lazy, while also harbouring an insatiable greed for homemade mithai (which, for the purpose of this blog, means all indigenous desserts, including all payasams, pradhamans, pithas and chikkis). Sure, I will eat store-bought mithai, and even pastry and chocolate bars, if nothing else is available but, really, only home-made, desi sweets can satisfy my sweet tusk (yes, not tooth, because it’s THAT large). I will, of course, occasionally make mithai at home – besan ke laddoo and golpapdi being my go-to recipes because they are fairly simple to make – although, ideally, someone else should make them for me to really enjoy them.
But one of the hard lessons of life has been that no one else is going to make every single thing one craves (which is actually why I began cooking in the first place), and mithai is no exception.
During these hot months, I’ve been satisfying my mithai urges with store-bought stuff, as well as ice-cream and the occasional chocolate bar (in the process getting a clearer picture of how exactly I’ll pass beyond the veil when the time comes). But nothing has made me happier than the shrikhand that I whipped up at home in, let me assure you, no time at all!
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But wait, that’s not entirely accurate: shrikhand isn’t one of those dishes that can be made to satisfy an immediate craving. It takes some planning. But really, that is all the effort that one need put in – and this is what makes it such a winner in my book. Because once you have the main ingredient, hung curd, it’s the simplest thing in the world and one that is utterly, deliciously satisfying.
Some notes on shrikhand before we proceed: while this luscious, cold, creamy dessert is perfectly fine when eaten by itself, in my experience, it is best with hot, fluffy puris and a savoury dry sabzi (usually potato). A couple of my very inspired friends also discovered that if the shirkhand isn’t too sweet, it makes an excellent dip for plain potato chips. It sounds outrageous, but I tested their theory and have not only lived to tell the tale, but spread it further. I’m definitely Team Shrikhand ‘N’ Chips.
Kesar Elaichi Shrikhand
1 litre – Fresh dahi (make sure it’s absolutely fresh and not sour at all)
1 cup – Powdered sugar (adjust this according to how sweet you want the shrikhand to be)
1 tbsp – Warm milk
15-16 – Strands of saffron
4-5 – Green cardamom pods, pounded in a mortar and pestle
For garnishing (any or all of the following): slivered almonds and pistachios, raisins, chironji (charoli)
*The best shrikhand is thick, creamy and smooth and to get the right consistency, the curd needs to be hung for 15-16 hours so that all the whey is separated. To do this, take a length of clean muslin cloth or a large, cotton kitchen towel. Whatever you use, though, make sure it isn’t dyed with colours that will stain the dahi.
*Take a large strainer or colander (about 1 litre), place it over another vessel (to catch the whey), line the colander or strainer with the cloth and dump your dahi into this and tie the cloth tightly so that the whey starts to squeeze out. First, however, make sure this whole contraption will fit into your fridge, because that’s where it will stay for the next 15-16 hours. If it stays outside, especially in this weather, the dahi will become sour and you’ll need to add more sugar that you want to.
*Once all the whey has drained out, scrape out the thick dahi – which is called maska – into a large bowl and mix in the sugar and whip it till it’s smooth and glossy. While you do this, leave the saffron strands soaking in the warm milk.
*Add the sugar little at a time, so that you can stop when you think the dahi is sweet enough. Once the curd is smooth and all the sugar has dissolved, add the pounded cardamom and the saffron milk and mix thoroughly.
*Leave in the refrigerator for another couple of hours.
*Serve chilled, with garnish of choice.
[The Back Burner is a biweekly blog that will talk about all things food (with recipes, of course)]
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