Sugar-Laced Sweet Pakistani Vermicelli/ Qawami Seviyaan

I mentioned last week that I was in charge of the desserts for our Eid gathering.  One of the things that I made were these Qawami Seviyaan, which are Pakistani style vermicelli that are cooked in a simple syrup.  My in-laws traditionally only eat Sheer Khurma on the Eid following Ramadan, but my family has a tradition of making and eating Sheer Khurma on both Eids.  This past Eid felt strange without any Seviyaan, or vermicelli, so I quickly whipped up this version on Eid morning.  Qawami is the Urdu word for simple syrup, and Seviyaan is the Urdu word for vermicelli.

This is a very simple recipe that can be prepared and on the table in a matter of 15 minutes.  And it’s fancy name and display is a sure way to impress even the harshest of critics 😉

QawamiSeviyaanPic

Qawami Seviyaan

Yield:  6 – 8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 cardamoms
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 200 grams Pakistani style vermicelli, torn up into 2-inch pieces
  • Crushed pistachios or almonds, for garnish

Directions:

Combine water, sugar, cardamoms, and saffron in a saucepan.  Cook over medium high heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large cooking vessel, melt butter over medium heat.  Add vermicelli and cook, making sure to stir often, until golden brown, up to 5 minutes.  Add prepared sugar syrup and allow the vermicelli to soak up all of the liquid; Keep an eye on the vermicelli because it doesn’t take long for all of the syrup to be absorbed.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.  Garnish with crushed nuts.

Zuni’s 2nd Birthday / Baklava

Last week my blog-baby turned one, and this week my real baby turned 2!

To celebrate the occasion, my parents flew in from California and we hosted a birthday bash that included both sets of grandparents, close friends, and plenty of food.  Our menu included:

Appetizers- Chips and Salsa, Chicken Spring Rolls, and Channa Chaat

Main Meal- Chicken Biryani, Karhai Chicken, Aloo Palak (Potato and Spinach Curry), and Vegetable Pasta

Desserts- Gulab Jamun, Cake, and Baklava

With such an intensive menu, I wanted to start preparing in advance.  I didn’t want to stand around in my kitchen all day when my parents were visiting from so far, so preparing as much as I could before they arrived was the smartest thing to do.  I prepped the vegetables that were to be cooked a day before I cooked them, and I was even able to make the Baklava almost 5 days before the party!  I had found a recipe at Maureen’s website (love her site!) for Baklava that can keep well at room temperature for 2 whole weeks! 2 weeks people!  That’s perfect party-prep language!

Baklava has been on my to-do list for quite some time, and adding the fact that it stays so well at room temperature only fueled my desire to make it for Zuni’s birthday party.  Although it may seem intimidating, Baklava is actually pretty simply to make.  Maureen’s recipe provides a way to skip the usual buttering of each phyllo sheet, and instead pour the butter over the entire sheet of Baklava.  The end result tastes the same as if each sheet had been buttered separately.  Hey, it keeps well for long amounts of time, and it has shortcuts?  I’m in, and you will be too 🙂

BaklavaPic

Baklava

Yield: One 9”x13” Pan

Ingredients:

For Syrup:

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water

For Clarified Butter:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter

For Baklava Layers:

  • 1 pound phyllo dough, at room temperature
  • 3 cups nuts, toasted (walnuts, almonds, cashews, and/or pistachios)
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Directions:

Make Syrup:

Combine sugar, water, and lemon juice in a saucepan and boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, add orange blossom water, and refrigerate.

Make Clarified Butter:

Heat butter in a saucepan over low heat until completely melted.  Allow the melted butter to simmer and foam.  When the foaming subsides, remove from heat and skim the foam off with a spoon.  Line a jar or bowl with a paper towel and pour the butter into the vessel.  The paper towel will separate the excess solids.  Set aside.

Assemble Baklava:

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Grind nuts in a food processor into a coarse crumb.  Add sugar, mix, and set aside.

Brush the bottom and sides of pan with clarified butter.

Trim the phyllo dough to fit a 9”x13” pan.  Divide the dough in half (about 20 sheets) and place at the bottom of the pan.  Spread ground nuts over the dough evenly.  Place the remaining phyllo dough on top of the nuts, making sure that the top sheet is not torn.  A sheet from the center of the layer can be used if the top is torn.  Brush the top layer with clarified butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamonds by cutting six rows horizontally, and nine rows diagonally.

Pour the remaining melted clarified butter over the baklava and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.  Bake, on the shelf second from the top, for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

Remove from oven and immediately pour the cold syrup over the hot baklava.  Allow it to soak overnight.

Note:  Baklava can be kept at room temperature for two weeks.

Cheesecake Cupcakes

Cheesecake is on my bucket-list of recipes to perfect because I’ve only had failed experiences so far.  I’ve followed countless recipes, used water-baths, used “guaranteed” tips, only to be left disappointed.  My biggest issue isn’t the taste, but it’s the giant crack that runs through the center of each and every cheesecake recipe I’ve tried.

::Sigh:: I guess I just have to keep looking!

In the meantime, I’ve been making do with these cute cheesecake cupcakes I found over at Annie’s Eats.  They’re perfectly portioned, and are surprisingly light (as opposed to a traditional dense cheesecake).  The only thing I changed was that instead of a fruit swirl, I topped each cheesecake with a strawberry topping.

If you have any tips or suggestions for me, please leave them in the comment section.  In the meantime, my search for the perfect cheesecake continues!

SwirledCheesecakeCupcakesPic

Swirled Cheesecake Cupcakes

Yield:  12 to 15 Servings

Ingredients:

For Crust:

  • ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar

For Filling:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

For Swirl:

  • 3 ounces of raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:

Make Crust:

Preheat oven to 325°F and set aside muffin tins fitted with liners.

In a small bowl, combine all of the crust ingredients.  Mix well to make sure all of the dry ingredients are moistened.

Press 1 tablespoon of crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Bake for 5 minutes, or until just set.  Cool on a wire rack.

Make Filling:

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese on medium-high until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Pour batter over crust in each cupcake cavity, filling no more than ¾ of the way up.

Make Berry Puree:

Combine berries and sugar in a bowl and allow it to sit for a few minutes.  Blitz in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove any seeds.

Using ½ teaspoon worth of puree, spoon a few dots over the cheesecake batter.  Use a toothpick to lightly swirl and create a marbled effect.

Fill a roasting pan with water and place on the bottom rack of the oven to create a water bath.

Bake cheesecakes until the filling is set, about 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Pound Cake

The 15th just passed and my lovebug is now 1 ½ years old!  I decided to make a cake trifle, a family favorite.  It consists of repeated layers of pound cake, custard and jelly.  I used this recipe from Taste of Home (their recipes always yield great results!) and basically just halved it and swapped out the sour cream for yogurt.  The nice thing about this pound cake is that it’s moist and doesn’t dry out even after a few days.  We enjoyed it in the trifle, but it was amazing even plain with a nice hot cup of tea 🙂

PoundCakePic

Pound Cake

Yield: 1 Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F and set aside a greased loaf pan.

Combine all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, cream butter.  Slowly add sugar and whip until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined.  Mix in yogurt and vanilla, and fold butter mixture into dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan 15 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Note:  Can be doubled and baked in a 10-inch tube pan for approximately 80 minutes.

Gulab Jamun

The 15th has passed yet again, and my little lovebug is now 17 months old.  This month I decided to make one of our family favorite desserts- Gulab Jamun.  Gulab Jamun is basically the Pakistani/Indian version of donut holes.  They’re small balls of fried dough that are soaked in a cardamom and saffron infused simple syrup.  This recipe is a no-fail and results in perfectly soaked and soft little balls of heaven 🙂

Gulab Jamun

Yield: 15-20 Pieces

Ingredients:

For Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 cardamoms
  • Pinch of saffron

For Dough

  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons butter (melted), or oil
  • Milk, enough to knead the dough (less than ¼ cup)
  • Oil, to deep fry

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients for the syrup in a saucepan, and cook at a medium temperature until the sugar dissolves.  Be sure not to overheat, as this will cause the sugar to caramelize.  Continue cooking on low after the sugar has dissolved.

Begin warming the oil in a separate vessel to fry the gulab jamun in.

Prepare the dough by combining all of the ingredients, and kneading with enough milk to form a medium-hard texture.  To check if the texture is right, roll a small amount of dough between your hands for approximately 30 seconds.  The ball should be smooth and firm.  If you notice cracks in the ball, knead more milk into the dough.

Divide the dough into small balls, roughly the size of a ping-pong ball.  Be sure to cover them with a damp cloth.

Fry the gulab jamun a few at a time, making sure to gently agitate them to ensure even browning.  Add the fried gulab jamun to the sugar syrup, and transfer to a serving dish.

Allow the gulab jamun to soak overnight for best results.

Can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Note:  If the dough seems to dry out while rolling into balls, add a splash of milk.