Tiranga Shrikhand Bars (frozen yogurt bars)

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Ever since my friend Shruti told me how to make shortcut Shrikhand (a sweet and creamy dessert from my home state of Maharashtra in India, made with hung yogurt, sugar, ground cardamom and saffron) using Labneh, I must have made it dozens of times. It comes together in no time – whisk together Labneh (extra thick middle-eastern yogurt cheese aka yogurt that is the consistency of cream cheese) and sugar with a pinch of ground cardamom and saffron, and chill in the fridge for a bit. That’s it!

I make it quite frequently to go with elaborate Indian meals – meals that have 7 or 8 other components as it is. So making the shortcut version is an easy win, especially if you make the mango version of it, called Amrakhand (Aam = mango), with mango pureé subbing for half the sugar. I’ve had this idea of converting Shrikhand to a bite-size, easy to freeze format, so that its easy to get a quick taste of it occasionally without investing any time/effort. I thought it would be a great idea to try a “Tiranga” (Indian tricolor) version of it to celebrate the upcoming Indian Republic Day (January 26th).

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[for young chefs] Corn and Cheese Galette (Tart)

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This freeform buttery pastry tart (“galette” in French) is as beautiful as it is delicious – full of sweet corn and cheesy goodness! The puff pastry sheet makes this recipe extra easy and extra quick. In the time it takes for the oven to preheat, your galette will be ready to go in the oven. Anyway who sees (and tastes) this galette will never know just how easy it is to put together! Easy enough to make for our young chefs at home, of course under adult supervision!

Galettes have all of the deliciousness of pies and tarts, with just a fraction of the effort. Following a few basic steps when handling puff pastry sheets opens up a whole world of quick and delicious appetizers and desserts, so its definitely an ingredient worth getting to know! Typically sold frozen (by Pepperidge Farms and Pilsbury), it can be super easy to work with if handled with care!

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[for young chefs] Kheer in a jiffy

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Kheer is a classic Indian sweet pudding, made with all sorts of things, from vermicelli to rice, to wheat berries, to tapioca pearls – the flavors are as diverse as the different states of India that make it!

Vermicelli Kheer (shevai or semiya kheer) is one of those quick desserts that we make to celebrate things big and small: the traditional recipe involves cooking vermicelli (previously sautéed low and slow in ghee, or clarified butter) in warm milk, perfumed with cardamom, until the milk reduces to about half its original volume. Raisins are plumped up in more ghee, cashews fried in some more, and finally the entire saga of it all is topped with saffron (bloomed in a teaspoon or so of warm milk).

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[for young chefs] Jam Tartlets

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Super easy and fun Jam Tartlets that come together with just 2 ingredients – 1 puff pastry sheet and half a cup of jam. Easy and fun to make for tiny hands (with a bit of help from mom or dad, of course!)

Just roll out a sheet of thawed puff pastry, cut into 9 or 16 squares (you could also use a round cookie cutter or a glass to make circles instead of squares!), add a dollop of your favorite jam (you could mix and match with different jams!), and bake!

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Sweet Pongal (Sakkarai Pongal)

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Sakkarai Pongal is a rice and lentil pudding sweetened with jaggery, spiced with ground cardamom and tempered with cashews and raisins, a Tamil delicacy made for its eponymous festival, Pongal! This is the sweet variation of Ven Pongal, which is savory (tempered with cashews and black peppercorns), and usually made all year round.

It’s a warm, sweet and comforting pudding, and can be made as simple or as decadent as you prefer, simply by adding more ghee (clarified butter) and dry fruits and nuts. A friend of mine made this for Makar Sankrant/Pongal over a decade ago, and it still remains one of my favorite Indian desserts of all time!

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Rose Cheesecake Squares (No Bake)

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No-bake cheesecakes are a world of their own, so quick, fuss-free, make-ahead, endlessly adaptable and eggless to boot! The eggless aspect of it lends well to a lot of Indian-flavored desserts, something my sister experiments a lot with. She had once made individual no-bake cheesecakes in these clear dessert cups for a party, and they were very well received!

My love for rose and all flavors floral is well-documented on this site, so when this fruity and floral decaffeinated Blood Orange tea showed up in my Simple Loose Leaf tea box, this chilled, no-bake Rose Cheesecake seemed like a really good idea. The mild, tangy and creamy cheesecake lets the fruit and floral flavors shine, the buttery crust provides a good contrast for the sharp and bright flavors, and the coolness of the cake makes it perfect for the upcoming warm weather, where the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven!

The crust is a simple, no-bake one with Nilla wafers (or you can use graham crackers or any neutral, buttery cracker), butter and a pinch of salt. The filling is softened, whipped cream cheese, with whipped cream for extra lift, and flavored with citrus zest (I used lemon, but orange or blood orange would be even better) and rose water/extract. Assembled in the fridge for 4-6 hours, or ideally overnight, this cheesecake is ready to go in all its glory for your teatime and dessert needs – no water baths, collapsed fillings, soggy crusts.

Shall we?

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