I am someone who would travel all the way to India to buy myself some proper Indian sweets.
It all started with the shiny gift box my mother placed in my hands after coming back from India many many years back. I was barely 6 years old and my mother had accompanied one of her friends to India in her quest of finding the perfect wedding saree for her daughter (as is the custom of Sri Lankans of particular tastes) and in returning, this wonderfully smelling box and a story book of Indian myths (it was the legend off Savitri, the princess who managed to convince Lord Yama to return her dead husband to her), was what she brought back, both of them wonderfully exquisite gifts. There was a faint smell of sandalwood and sweet spices, saffron and something else that I could not place hovering around both these items – these are the smells that I associate with India to this very date.
In opening the box I was greeted with a sigh of beauty. It was all very mystical, gold and silver kissed globes, squares and diamonds dotted the box. I wasn’t sure whether they were edible and mother sensing my doubt urged me to take a bite. It was this bite that did me in. I was in love. Hopelessly, irrevocably, undeniably in love.
Fast forward few years later we followed my father around in his line of work around the world and ended up in India where I learned the names of all the different sweets on offer by no other way than consuming kilos and kilos of these signature sweets made of milk, ghee, nuts and various spices. My recent visit to India just for the heck of it prompted this recipe – to try MY hand at making one of my favorites, the khoya based milk cake, one of the most commonly found sweets found all over India.
Do be warned, this recipe requires hours of standing over the stove, stirring, making sure the milk does not burn. But I promise you, the result is definitely worth it.
Indian Milk Cake
- Whole Milk - 3L
- Sugar - 250g
- Lemon - 1 (Juice of)
- Cardamom powder - ½ tsp
- Ghee - 1 tblsp
- Almond slivers - Few, for garnish
- In a heavy bottomed pan, boil the milk until it reduces to 1/3. You can do this in two pans to make the process a little quicker.
- Add the lemon juice to the milk. The milk will curdle slightly and the whey will separate. At this point, you can opt to ladle some of the whey out of the pan.
- Add in the sugar and the cardamom powder. Keep stirring so as to avoid burning until the whey completely evaporates.
- Grease a 6 inch cake tin with ghee and press the mix into the tin. Sprinkle the almond slivers on top and let it set for 24 hours.
- Once set, cut into 1 inch squares and serve.
A square packed with intense milkiness, grainy silk and crunchy almond slices. The cardamom fragrances and punctuates the milkiness of it all, combined with the sweetness of the sugar, makes for a rich, luxuriant treat. This is something that should be reserved for a truly special occasion, for the making of it is a labor of love.
- Be very, very careful in boiling the milk. Since this is comprised of amazingly simple and delicate flavors, even the slightest burn is very detectable and can change the taste of the dish entirely. Burnt milk is not very appetizing in this dish.
- Adjust the sugar as you wish. You can even add jaggery for a richer, darker milk cake.