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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A tribute to Radha n Lord Krishno on Janmashtomi- Sooji Caramel Halwa with Taal Kheer

Suji Makhdi Halwa with Taal-kheer-Semolina Caramel Halwa with Sugar Palm kheer- A Bhog for Radha Krishno

This post is going to be about a sweet recipe that brings together two sweet elements together n will capture your imagination-one is a Sooji/Semolina Halwa with Caramel and another is a beautiful Taal-Kheer, which is classic Bengali dish. The season of the festivities is catching up in India, just 6 weeks ago it was Janmashtami-the religious celebration on the occasion of the birth of Lord Krishno, it was during that time when I created this dish keeping Janmashtami in mind. I wanted to create something unique for Lord Krishno, so this dish is dedicated to him.

Now let me tell you about “Taal” tree, it is called as Asian Palmyra palm, toddy palm, sugar palm, the tree is native to India n Southeast Asia, it is the ripe fruits of this tree from which the taal-kheer is made, brilliant orange in color, it has that unique flavor to it with a touch of bitterness to it, the bitterness is balanced by adding scarped coconut to it, the sweetness of the coconut balances the bitterness of the ripe taal juice.

The fruit is called Taal in Bengali, Tala in Oriya, Nungu in Tamil, Tari in Hindi, Tadfali in Guajarati, Taati ningu in Kannada, Munjal in Urdu. Ton taan in Thai. When the fruit is unripe the top part is cut and from there 3 jelly like portions are obtained which looks like fruits themselves, they have mild flavor n translucent to look at and on the inside each of them has a watery fluid- sweet n absolutely wonderful, the jelly like flesh is itself slightly sweet.

When the fruits ripen the outer fibrous portion becomes all orange and from them comes out the orange colored juice which forms the base of the Taal-Kheer. It is a tedious process to get the juice out of the orange fibers, often they are done by rubbing each seed on another or on a traditional grater. I will give you the recipe of the taal-kheer also in this post, the collected juice is simmered with grated coconut, sometimes with milk n sometimes with a touch of sugar until it becomes slightly thick like double cream and it has a beautiful orange color n amazing flavor.

The sooji caramel halwa is filled with the flavor of caramel n semolina, and it’s not overly sweet, the caramel has a slight touch of bitterness to it which only a super-taster will be able to identify, every bite of this halwa gives a enriching satisfying filling, it is soft, melts in the mouth. The caramel gives it the dark brown color and I added roasted almonds to it to add a new flavor at some bites. 

If you are trying to make this dish I will suggest you make the taal-kheer a day before, it develops its flavor over time being in the fridge and also it makes the work easier for us, so after you make the halwa we are ready to serve and it will be a true labor of love, shared with family n close friends. So here is the recipe.

For The recipe: You will need

For the Semolina Halwa

For the Semolina Halwa

Semolina/Sooji-1 cup/100gm, soaked in water for 20 minutes
Vegetable oil- 1 cup/250 ml
Sugar-1 cup/200gm
Water-1 cup/250ml
Green cardamom-2/3, slightly roasted n powdered
Almonds-2 tsp, chopped

I used Taal flavored oil, previously I made Taal dumplings/taal er bora in oil, I used that oil to make the halwa, it gives a background flavor of Taal in the halwa itself.

For the Taal kheer

Taal juice- juice of 1 medium whole Taal fruit
Grated fresh coconut- 1 whole coconut
Milk full Fat- 1 cup (optional)
Sugar- ¼- ½ cup
Salt – a pinch

1. Heat the oil in cooking deep pan/wok/kadai to medium high, add sugar and wait until it caramelizes, when the sugar start to go brown reduce the heat to low, sometimes the caramel goes to dark brown stage very quickly, we don’t want that, we want the caramel to be nicely brown and not overly burnt brown, the more dark brown it will reach the more bitter it will get, so when the caramel is a good brown, add the water carefully, it splits slightly n mix it well. After that add the semolina and stir continuously for 15 minutes. The semolina will go some transformation in these 15 minutes, at first it will be white, then soon it will be a mix between brown n white, after 10 minutes it will start to look a little glossy n translucent as if and it will start to release oil. The mixing is a little painstaking process, check it every 1-2 minutes because it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, so scratch it and mix well. Add the roasted green cardamom powder n mix well, remove from the heat and add the almond slices.

2. Put the juice of the taal in a deep pot and make it come to a simmer, soon it will start foaming, with a ladle collect the foam and discard it, do it until the foaming almost stops, add the milk and keep simmering it, you can skip the milk too, add the grated coconut and keep simmering it for 20 minutes, check the sweetness, if the taal is still more bitter add some sugar to balance it, if you like the taal kheer to be more sweet you can add some sugar, the fresh coconut gives it a its own natural sweetness, add a pinch of salt in the kheer. After 30 minutes the kheer has thickened a bit, so take it off the heat and let it cool, then refrigerate.

3. Put the warm halwa in a plate, arrange the lightly roasted almond pieces on it then pour the cold Taal kheer around it and then dig in.

The warm halwa mixed with the cold Taal kheer, it is very hard to stop eating, in fact why do we have to stop? Gobble on. Bon app├ętit.