It was quite a task keeping my food cravings in check as I wrote my sixth book in the History Mystery series for children, Tughlaq and the Stolen Sweets! A huge source for my research was Ibn Battuta’s travelogue, the Rehla, which carries his incredulous reports on the variety of vegetables Ibn Battuta came across in this part of the world while serving as a qazi in Tughlaq’s court.
From comparing a coconut to a human head and detailed descriptions of the fruit’s many uses to his amazement at the jackfruit, he waxes eloquent about the grand court meals. Tughlaq and the Stolen Sweets had to open, therefore, over the Sultan’s lunch, a feast featuring murgh mussalam, sambusaks, seekh kebabs, rose sherbet, lobia curry, mango and green ginger pickles, jackfruit chunks, parathas, halwa, curd, and of course the Sultan’s favourite sugared melons from Khurasim!
In the book, the Thunderous Three, the investigators in search of the missing melons journey along the amazing horse and foot postal route. When no hope in catching the thief seems in sight, Ibn Battuta, the lead investigator makes a last-ditch attempt at soothing a furious Sultan by getting eleven trays of the choicest sweet dishes made for the Sultan.
While the melons going missing is fiction, Ibn Battuta as per his own account did try to get out of a pickle with the Sultan using this strategy and did, indeed, succeed.
Tughlaq and the Stolen Sweets is for children aged 7-12 years and I hope they enjoy slurping through the book and laughing over the utterly silly situations the investigators find themselves in.
There’s nothing like a sweet dish to cool a troubled mind, win a heart over or just have a royal feast! Here’s a super hit recipe with the kids in my home – phirni! I love sourcing the traditional terracotta bowls and setting phirni in it but any shallow bowl works as well!
- ¼ Cup Basmati Rice
- 1 litre Milk
- 4-6 Tbsp Sugar
- Saffron Strands
- 2 Green Cardamom
- Few slivers of Blanched Almonds (soak for a while to remove the skin)
- Wash and soak the rice for 3-4 hours in a bit of water.
- Remove the water from the rice and grind in the small jar of your blender till fine. I leave it a tiny bit grainy but if your kids prefer a smooth texture, grind till fine. Add as little water as possible.
- Start heating the milk in a wok. Add the strands of saffron to it now and the crushed seeds of the cardamom (reserve a bit for sprinkling on top).
- Add a few spoons of the milk into the rice to mix it well and remove any lumps and then add the rice to the milk that has been placed on the stove.
- Keep stirring the mixture. You can keep the flame on high initially and then reduce it to medium.
- After about ten minutes, you’ll begin to feel the mixture thicken. Keep stirring and add the fine sugar to taste.
- Keep the heat on medium to low and stir till it's like a thick custard coating the back of your ladle. The mixture thickens and sets further as it cools.
- Pour into your container and quickly sprinkle slivered almonds, a small bit of the reserved cardamom and even chopped up pistachios if you like.
- If anyone has a nut allergy or prefers a plain texture, you can omit the nuts entirely.
Since this is the festive season and mithai is part of our being, we have added a few more of our favourite dishes and hope that Tughlaq would have enjoyed them too.
Gajar Ka Halwa
Image source: http://chefinyou.com
- 2 cups /250g grated Carrots (use the small holed size to grate)
- 2/3 cup/145 grams Cane Sugar/ Jaggery
- 2-3 tbsp Ghee
- 2 tbsp Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder (unsweetened)/ Khoya/ Condensed milk
- 1/4 tsp Cardamom powder
- Roasted Cashews
- Pistachio Nuts for garnish
- Take a 2litre pressure cooker and layer ingredients in this order.
- Add 3 tbsp water to it.
- Add grated carrots next.
- Follow it up with sugar. You can increase the sugar if you like it sweeter.
- Add the ghee
- Top with the unsweetened milk powder or whatever alternative you are using.
- Close the lid with the weight on.The flame should cover the bottom of the cooker. Make sure it does not extend to the sides. Will cause the handles to burn.
- Set your mobile timer to 10 minutes. The cooking time can be anywhere from 6-10 minutes. Make sure not to extend 10 minutes.
- The number of whistles doesn’t matter in this recipe since it will depend on the amount of moisture in your carrots.
- Stay around the cooker to make sure no burning smell comes. Give it a good mix.
- If you think it seems watery, cook for a few minutes more in the open cooker.
- Garnish with nuts of choice and serve warm.
Kheer With Pears & Pecans
For the rice pudding:
- 1 Cup cooked Mashed White Rice
- 1 Cup Hot Water
- 1 Cup Coconut Milk (Or Any Milk Of Your Choice)
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1/4 Tsp Ground Cardamom
- 1/4 Cup Raisins (optional)
- 1/4 Cup Blanched & Slivered Almonds
- Palm Jaggery Syrup To Taste
- 1 Tsp Coconut Oil/Butter/Ghee
- Pinch Of Salt
For the syrup:
- 1/4 Cup Water Along With 1/2 Cup Grated Palm Jaggery
- 1 Tsp Freshly Grated Ginger
- 1/4 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine all the rice pudding ingredients
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until the rice is soft and creamy (add more milk if required). This can be served hot/cold. I love it chilled.
- In a separate pan, boil all the syrup ingredients together
- Let it simmer till it reaches the consistency of honey, then remove from heat and strain.
For the pecans:
- Heat 2 tbsp of palm jaggery syrup with a dash of vanilla and spices (ground cinnamon, cardamom and ginger) until it bubbles.
- Add 1/3 cup pecans and stir for a few minutes until they are well glazed.
- Remove from heat, spread on a greased plate to dry.
- Spoon a little palm jaggery syrup into your dessert bowl, add the rice pudding, garnish with pear slices, candied pecans, toasted almonds and enjoy!
- 35 gm/ 3 Tbsp Amaranth Flour
- 35 gm/ 3 Tbsp Buckwheat Flour
- 30 gm/ 2.5 Tbsp Water Chestnut Flour
- 3 Tbsp Milk
- 50 gm/ 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
- 4 Tbsp Ghee
- 6 – 7 Cashews
- 6-7 Almonds
- 8-10 Raisins
- Heat ghee in a pan. Add all the flours & roast well on medium-low flame for 6-8 minutes or until you can smell the delicious aroma of ghee. Roasting the flour is very important. So make sure you roast them properly until the raw smell goes away.
- Add milk slowly & keep stirring, at no point leave the mixture unattended as it can burn.
- Take the mixture off the flame and let it cool down for a few minutes. Stir in sugar and mix until well incorporated.
- After dry nuts and sugar are added, the mixture will come together like a ball of dough.
- You can also add unsalted pistachio & unsalted pumpkin seed if you wish to make it more healthy.
- Now mix everything together &; shape it like a round ball/ladoo. Repeat the process with the rest of the mixture and form the pinnis.
For all those who aren't sweet lovers, we have a savoury recipe too
- 400 Gm Boneless Mutton, Cut Into Cubes
- 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 3 Medium Potatoes, peeled and halved
- 1 Cup Hot Water
- 2 Tsp Garam Masala
- 1 1/2 Tsp Turmeric Powder (haldi)
- 1 Tsp Chilli Powder
- 1 Tsp Cumin Powder (jeera)
- 1 Tbsp Coriander Powder
- 2 Green Chillies, slit
- 2 Onions, Chopped
- ½ in Ginger, chopped
- 3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
- 4 Medium Tomatoes, quartered
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Mustard Oil (sarson oil)
- 1 Tsp Sugar
- Mix the meat with all the marinade ingredients. If you can, leave it for two hours.
- In a pan, heat the vegetable oil and when hot add the meat and the marinade.
- Stir fry for 15 minutes.
- Add the hot water, cover and cook on a medium flame for half an hour.
- Then add the potatoes and raise the flame. Cook for another half an hour until the meat and potatoes are cooked and there is no gravy left.
- Stir in the garam masala just as the gravy is drying up.
- This dish is great with parathas and luchi/puris
Kaddu Ki Sabzi
- 400 g Yellow Pumpkin (Kaddu/Petha) peeled and cut in cubes
- 1 Tbsp Mustard Oil
- Pinch of Asafoetida (hing)
- 1/2 Tsp Mustard Seeds
- 1/4 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds (methi)
- 1/2 Tsp Cumin Seeds (jeera)
- 2 Tsp Raw Mango Powder (amchur)
- 1 Tsp Red Chilli Powder
- 1 – 2 Tsp Coriander Powder
- 1/4 Tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 Tbsp Jaggery Crushed
- 1/2 Tsp Garam Masala Powder
- 1 Tsp Salt or more to taste
- Finely chopped Coriander to garnish
- Heat the oil in a kadai.
- Add the asafoetida, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds & cumin seeds.
- Once the mustard splutters, add the pumpkin cubes and toss well to coat with oil and whole spices.
- Cook the pumpkin for 5 minutes or so on medium flame.
- Then add all remaining spices and jaggery.
- Add 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook on low flame. This will take at least 15-20 minutes to cook. Keep an eye on it and add a little water at a time if you think it may stick.
- You should be able to mash the pumpkin with the back of a spoon if you press, but the shape should be retained.
- Adjust the spices to suit your taste. This is a dish with a good balance of spicy, sweet and sour.
- Garnish with finely chopped coriander. Serve with hot puris/parathas.
Note: If the pumpkin is very sweet, you can reduce the amount of jaggery you add.
Don't forget to tag us when you make these delicious treats on your special day!