|Apricot and almond in coconut, plus cashew and carob|
This is traditionally cut-up fruit and Indian milk sweets such as pera (penda) or sandesh. With children to look after and a part-time job, I felt I didn't have the time to be boiling things for hours (this is actually often done during the night, ready for the following morning) so I discovered the less traditional but nonetheless delicious art of healthy sweets made quickly and easily from dried fruits, nuts and seeds and a few other basics. I could easily make these in a few minutes while cooking the evening meal or even in the early morning. I don't have any set recipes as such, but here is a list of possible ingredients and combinations. One essential for making these quickly and easily is a grinder; I used the attachment which came with my blender.
- nuts: unsalted shelled peanuts, almonds, cashews, desiccated coconut, etc. Only grind nuts as you need them, as they can rapidly go rancid. Even peanut butter (I prefer to use the smooth kind) can be added.
- seeds: sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds, ground or whole. I prefer to grind the larger seeds.
- dried fruit: raisins, apricots (the Hunza kind if you can get them), cranberries,goji berries, dates etc.
- other sweeteners: try out carob powder, honey or gour
- Additional ingredients: ground cardamom seeds (elaichi), unsalted puffed rice (mamra) and your own imagination...
- Peanut, coconut and cranberry: Grind the peanuts and mix with dried cranberries and a little desiccated coconut. form into balls and roll in more coconut. Also really delicious made with almonds instead of peanuts.
- Apricot, almond and honey
- Raisin and sunflower seed: (Remember Shepherd Boy bars from wholefood shops? -Well that's what this is.) Grind up raisins with a little water to make a sweet paste, and add ground sunflower seeds and/ or peanuts. Simple and yummy.
- Carob and peanut butter "fudge": Carob powder and peanut butter, firmed up by adding ground peanuts. If you want them sweeter, you could add a little powdered gour or some agave nectar. Finish by rolling in more carob.
- Date sweets for ekadasi: Chop stoned dried dates finely and combine with ground cashew. Roll into balls and coat with desiccated coconut if you like.
- Sesame sweets: These take a little cooking, but are still in the "quick and easy" category. Melt gour gently in a small thick-bottomed pan; it does not need to boil. Add ground sesame seeds to make a thick, doughy consistency (it will thicken as it cools). When cool enough to handle, form into balls and roll in whole sesame seeds.