In a Crunch: Masala Makhana (Spicy Roasted Foxnuts)

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The munchkin loves to snack. Unfortunately, she currently has the attention span of a goldfish and is rather picky too…

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Something she loved yesterday is absolutely ‘yucky!’ today. So I am kept on my toes when it comes to cooking for her.

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The snack also needs to be highly portable as she flits from place to place and non-messy, because she is nuts about keeping her hands clean (seriously, can’t bear sticky hands; should I be worried?)

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And she loves drama: anything that comes unusually packaged, or looks interesting or pretty, she is willing to give a chance…

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So, yesterday, I fixed this quick little snack for her: roasted, lightly spiced Foxnuts, known as Makhana or Phool Makhana in India.

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The official name of Makhana or Foxnuts is Euryale ferox. It has numerous health benefits, has been used by the Chinese in medicine for thousands of years and is loaded with calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, and vitamin B.

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In India, it is used to make snacks, curries as well as in puddings which are often an auspicious offering to certain Gods and Goddesses.

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This snack itself is a real breeze to make. All you need to do is roast the foxnuts for a few minutes and it makes them deliciously crunchy like popcorn, but so much healthier.

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Then you add spices or flavorings as you like and you have a healthy, wonderfully crunchy snack that anyone, old or young would just love to much on.

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And if you manage to stop yourself from eating all of it at once, it can also be stored in an air-tight container for about 2 weeks!

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Here’s the recipe.

Masala Makhana (Spicy Roasted Foxnuts

  • Servings: Makes 2 cups
  • Time: Approx 15 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 cups Makhana or Foxnuts
¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder
¼ teaspoon Red Chili Powder (adjust as per taste)
½ teaspoon Chaat Masala (optional)
Salt as per taste
2 teaspoon Oil or Ghee

Directions:

Heat the oil in a pan.
Add the foxnuts and roast for about 8-10 minutes on a low flame, stirring continuously, till they become crisp and crunchy.
Then add all the spice powders and salt.
Switch off the heat as you don’t want the spice powders to get burnt.
Mix well.
Serve the masala makhana right away.
Or cool them down and store in an air-tight container.

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2nd Blogiversary Celebrations: Danish Old-fashioned Apple Cake (Gammeldags Æblekage)

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Two years?? Seriously? It really doesn’t feel like I have been blogging for that long! Clichéd statement, maybe, but true nevertheless…

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And what can I say about this experience that I haven’t already said before? About how much fun I am having? Cooking, clicking, writing…

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And making friends, of course, from all parts of the world. The pleasure that you get when someone across the world tells you that they are heading out to the market to buy the ingredients for something you just made is just so heartwarming <3

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I can’t say I am cooking any groundbreaking food yet, but that wasn’t my intention to begin with anyway. I am cooking what makes me and my loved ones happy, so all good there :)

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Oh, and I have started looking at everything from the point of view of whether it would make a good prop. The husband is worried, very worried ;)

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To celebrate the Big Two, I made a cake that is actually a parfait in disguise. A Danish Old-Fashioned Apple Cake. The ‘Old Fashioned’ is actually part of the cake’s name, the Danish name being ‘Gammeldags Æblekage‘. This cake was created around the mid 1800’s.

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It has oodles of old world charm and is absolutely delicious. It is made by cooking apples with vanilla till it is mush. The apple mush is layered with some crunchy bits and whipped cream.

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There are many variations to the crunch. Some recipes use stale hard breadcrumbs which have been cooked with sugar to form a crumble. Others use crushed amaretti biscuits.

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Another popular option is to use muesli, which is what I did. But not just plain muesli. I roasted the muesli till crisp, added honey to it and roasted again with lots of honeyed almonds to make a gorgeous golden crumble.

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Old-fashioned it may be, but it is packed with flavor. The tart apples (from my little apple tree!), the vanilla, the cool whipped cream and the crunchy muesli: it is one heavenly dessert, perfect for summer. What better way to celebrate to celebrate a little bloggie birthday :D

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And it’s Friday, which means its time to Fiesta! I am bringing along this lovely dessert to Angie’s Friday Fiesta. Today’s shindig is being co-hosted by two wonderful bloggers: Prudy @Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs and Jess @Cooking Is My Sport. I can’t wait to see what everyone is bringing :D

Here’s the recipe.

Danish Old-fashioned Apple Cake

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: Approx 30 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

5 cooking Apples
1 Vanilla bean
3 tablespoons Apple Juice
1/4 cup Sugar (add more if desired)
1/2 cup Muesli
1/4 cup Almonds, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Butter
2 tablespoons Honey
1 cup Whipping cream

Directions:

Peel, core and roughly chop the apples.
Add the apples to a pot along with the apple juice. Slit the vanilla bean, take out the seeds and add them to the apples along with the empty vanilla bean.
Cook on a medium flame with a lid on.
Stir from time to time, ensuring that the apples don’t burn.
When the apples have turned to mush (about 10 minutes), discard the vanilla bean. Add sugar to the mush and mix well.
Cook for a minute or so till the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
In a fry-pan, heat the butter. Add the muesli and roast, stirring constantly till the muesli is golden and crunchy.
Add a tablespoon of honey. Mix again and roast for a further couple of minutes.
Empty onto a plate and set aside to cool.
Dry roast the chopped almonds in the same pan till golden brown. Add the remaining honey to the almonds and mix to coat well.
Add to the plate with the muesli. Cool.
Mix to incorporate the muesli and the almonds and also break down any large lumps when the muesli has cooled.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.
To assemble, take individual serving bowls and add a first layer of muesli. Top with a layer of apple vanilla mush and then a layer of whipped cream.
Repeat the 3 layers.
Serve!

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Summer Lunch Ideas: Green Peas & Edamame Hummus and a Quick Sandwich

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It is crazy hot here! I mean sweaty, sticky, barely-able-to-keep-my-eyes-open-past-noon hot! Luckily I am on vacation this week too, so I am allowed to nap :D

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The munchkin is at home with me too, so I still need to make nutritious lunch for the two of us, instead of sticking to a bag of chips and iced coffee (yes, have done that on occasion!)

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But when it is so hot, you don’t really want to stand in front of the stove for too long, salads and sandwiches to the rescue!

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I like to mix up my sandwiches now and then. Instead of the usual veggie and cheese, yesterday I made this lovely open-faced sandwich.

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The star of this sandwich was this lovely, vibrant Green Peas and Edamame Hummus…

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Look at that color! Isn’t it gorgeous? The munchkin loves Edamame, so this hummus was just perfect for her too.

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The sandwich was simply a slice of Danish rye-bread, Rugbrød, (very nutritious and a staple of Danish cuisine) slathered with oodles of the hummus and topped with a soft-boiled egg and slivered radish.

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The runny yolk, the hummus and the sharp rye-bread, heavenly!

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The best part: the whole meal comes together in about 20 minutes!

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You can also use the hummus as a dip to dunk veggies, crudites, crackers or pita chips. Or use it to make your own sandwich.

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It is creamy, lemony, gorgeous and is sure to pep up any regular sandwich!

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Here’s the recipe (adapted from Just A Taste).

Green Peas & Edamame Hummus and an open-faced Sandwich

  • Servings: Makes 1 cup of Hummus
  • Time: Approx 20 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

1/2 cup frozen shelled Edamame
1/2 cup frozen Green Peas
1 tablespoon Tahini
1 Tablespoons freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
1 Garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon Salt or as per taste
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 sprig Cilantro, to garnish

Directions:

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.
Add the edamame and cook just until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove the edamame to a colander. Return the water to a boil, add the peas, and cook just until tender, about 1 minute.
Transfer the peas to the colander with the edamame to drain.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the edamame, peas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, chilli powder, 1 tablespoon water and salt until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil and continue processing until the mixture is a smooth puree.
Taste the hummus and season with additional salt if needed.
Transfer the hummus to a bowl, top with chopped cilantro and serve.

To make the Open-faced sandwich: Take a slice of dark rye-bread and slather it generously with the hummus. Top with a soft-boiled egg and slivered veggies. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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Rose to the Occasion: Baked Gulab Jamun (Indian syrup-soaked Donuts)

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I have written a lot in past posts about the diversity of Indian food as well as about the affinity of Indians to all things sweet.

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Put those two things together and you can’t begin to imagine the sheer, unparalleled variety of sweets and desserts available all over the country :D

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One very popular dessert, consumed at most special occasions is ‘Gulab Jamun’. ‘Gulab’ means Rose in Hindi, a reference to rose essence which is sometimes used to flavor this dessert.

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‘Jamun’ is a tart-sweet purple fruit, probably referring to the shape of this dessert, which can be round or slightly oblong.

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This dessert is made by making small balls of khoya, which is simply milk that has been cooked for a very, very long time till most of the moisture is evaporated. These milk solids are mixed with a bit of flour, formed into balls and deep-fried to golden perfection.

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Then the balls are soaked in a sugar syrup which has been flavored with cardamom, saffron and rose essence. The balls absorb the sugar syrup and become these lovely, delicate, juicy dumplings, which literally melt in your mouth.

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It is generally served warm, about 2-3 jamuns in a bowl with some of the soaking syrup. Absolutely divine!

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I took a few liberties with the traditional method, using milk powder instead of khoya and baking the balls instead of deep-frying them. It results in jamuns that are a bit harder and need to be soaked for longer.

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Also, I made a thicker sugar syrup, so that the syrup coated the balls and became more like donut holes that one could eat without extra syrup. A bit lighter than the traditional recipe and still luscious! Saffron and cardamom scented deliciousness :D

I have just returned from a lovely vacation (all about it soon!) and am late to Friday Fiesta this week. The party is in full force and being hosted by an awesome twosome: Hilda @Along The Grapevine and Julianna @Foodie On Board!

Here’s the recipe (adapted from Veggie Belly).

Baked Gulab Jamun (Indian Sugar-soaked Donuts)

  • Servings: Makes 24 Jamun
  • Time: Approx 2 hours
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the Jamuns:
1 cup unsweetened Milk Powder (not coffee creamer)
1 tablespoon Butter at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
3 tablespoons All-purpose Flour
A pinch of Salt
1/2 teaspoon white distilled Vinegar
1/3 cup Whole Milk
A teaspoon of Oil or Ghee for greasing

For the Sugar Syrup:
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Water
Seeds from 4 Cardamom pods, crushed
A drop of Rose essence (optional)
A small pinch of Saffron threads (optional)

Directions:

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan.
Bring to a boil and watch for the sugar to dissolve.
Once its dissolved, boil for another 5 minutes.
Turn off heat and add cardamom powder (and rose essence and / or saffron, if using).
Set the syrup aside.
Now make the Jamuns. In a mixing bowl, add milk powder or dry milk, baking soda, flour and salt. Mix well.
Then add butter and vinegar. Add milk a little at a time and mix till it forms dough.
You may not need all of the milk.
When a soft, sticky dough forms, stop adding milk. Cover and let the dough stand for about 20 minutes.
After resting, the dough will be less sticky, airy and a little firmer.
If it’s too sticky, sprinkle a little flour. If it’s too dry, add a little milk.
Knead the dough for some time.
Dip your fingers in oil or ghee, divide the dough into 24 even pieces and roll them into balls.
Dip your fingers in oil as and when needed to avoid sticking.
Bake the balls on a silicone baking mat in a preheated oven, at 300 F (150 C) till they are brown and risen, about 7-10 minutes, turning them over once in between.
Remove from oven and let them cool.
Add the jamuns to the sugar syrup. Stir gently so the jamuns are well coated in syrup.
Cover and let the gulab jamuns soak in the syrup for at least an hour before serving.
Serve warm.

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Summer Jammin': Apricot & Vanilla Jam + Jam Tarts (A guest post at SimplyVegetarian777)

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One of the best things about blogging is all the wonderful people you get to meet and have virtual parties with. A bit nerdy maybe, but a whole lot of fun!

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I first met Sonal at the fabulous weekly potluck Friday Fiesta hosted by the inimitable Angie, the (not so!) Novice Gardener.

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And since then, Sonal has been such a wonderful supporter of my blog and a real friend, she writes the most lovely, supportive comments on my posts and has made my day, so many times with her sweetness.

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And she is a force of nature when it comes to cooking up a storm (mixed metaphors, I know, but it’s Sonal I’m talking about). She makes the most amazing meals for her family and friends. Check out what she cooked for her husband’s birthday, for instance and try not to drool :P

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So, when Sonal asked me to do a guest post, I couldn’t show up with just one dish, could I? That’s the reason for the double whammy today: Homemade Apricot and Vanilla Jam…

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And these little dainty Jam Tarts filled with the aforementioned jam.

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Perfect for tea with friends, aren’t they? They are incredibly easy to make and the tarty, golden apricot jam with the big hit of vanilla works beautifully with the salty pastry.

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Well, it all began with some apricots that the munchkin insisted on buying at the supermarket. And of course she refused to eat them once she found out they were tarty.

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When life gives you tart fruit, you make fruit tarts! But first you make jam! Lovely golden jam, with Vanilla, always Vanilla :D

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The jam itself is really easy too. You simply macerate the apricots with sugar till it is almost mush and then cook it with Vanilla to complete the process. Couldn’t be simpler.

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For the rest of the post and the recipes, head over to Sonal’s.

These little guys are joining me at Angie’s Friday Fiesta this week. This week’s potluck is hosted by a lovely trio: Indu @Indu’s International KitchenSelma @Selma’s Table and Hilda @Along The Grapevine. Come party with us, won’t you?

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Celebrating Local Flavors: Kothimbir Vadi (Cilantro Croquettes)

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India boasts a fantastic array of snacks and street food, as varied in flavor as night and day. And they belong to every flavor profile, be it the spicy Chhole tikki, the sweet Jalebi, the sour roasted tamarind seeds…

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Sometimes they are also a jumble of all of the above flavors, like every member of the ‘Chaat‘ family. And they are very local too, like the Macher Chop from Kolkata or the Idli/ Dosa/ Uttapam from south India.

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Now, in most metros and large cities, thanks to migration, you will find almost all of these snacks, albeit with slight variations and fusions.

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Mumbai for instance is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. But there are certain snacks very quintessential to the Mumbai experience. Like the Batata Vada or Bhel Puri on Chowpatty Beach.

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And Kothimbir Vadi from traditional Maharashtrian (Mumbai is in the state of Maharashtra) eateries… Kothimbir is the Marathi (local language in Maharashtra) word for Cilantro and Vadi means fritter, cutlet or croquette.

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Words are not enough to describe this wonderfully delicious snack, but I will try. Close your eyes and imagine this:

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Crunchy, spicy little cakes, full of delicious Cilantro and peanut flavor. These are made by steaming a batter of chickpeas flour with loads of fresh cilantro, spices, roasted peanuts and sesame seeds until cooked, cutting the cake into bite-sized pieces and frying them till they are wonderfully crunchy on the outside.

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It is a Cilantro lover’s dream come true! I should know, I’m one of them :D

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Traditionally they are deep-fried, not my usual cup of tea… So of course, I pan-fried them. It takes a bit longer to pan-fry, but it’s so worth it.

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I looked at a lot of recipes for the perfect Kothimbir Vadi and settled upon this brilliant recipe by Dassana of Veg Recipes of India. The ingredients seemed to match the taste of the vadi back home and it was absolutely spot-on!

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I am bringing these scrumptuous vadi to Angie’s Friday Fiesta! Today’s potluck is hosted by two gorgeous ladies:  Margherita @La Petite Casserole and Sylvia @Superfoodista. Looks like it’s going to be a red, white and blue party today, so I’m gonna add some green to the mix :P

Here’s the recipe.

Kothimbir Vadi (Cilantro Croquettes)

  • Servings: 2 - 3
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

1½ cups chopped Cilantro (Coriander Leaves)
2 cups Chickpeas Flour (Besan)
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
½ teaspoon Red Chili powder
1 teaspoon Ginger and Chilli paste
1 tablespoon Sesame Seeds
¼ cup Roasted Crushed Peanuts
1¼ cups Water
A pinch of Asafoetida (Hing)
Salt as per taste

Directions:

Mix together all the ingredients with water to form a smooth and thick batter.
Apply oil at the base and sides of a microwave safe cooker or bowl.
Add the batter mixture to the microwave safe bowl or cooker.
Cover it with its lid or a microwave safe lid.
Microwave on high for 3 minutes or till done.
The mixture should be cooked and firm.
Insert a knife or toothpick and if it comes out clean, the vadi is cooked well.
If after 3 minutes, the batter has yet not cooked, microwave for a minute or two more.
Let it cool.
Then remove the steamed cake on to a tray.
Cut it into bite-sized diamonds or squares.
Shallow fry or deep fry or pan fry in hot oil till crisp and browned.
Serve Kothimbir Vadi hot with tomato ketchup.

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A Bowl of Cool: Koldskål (Danish Buttermilk Dessert ‘Soup’)

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It’s raining, it’s pouring… This weekend has been pretty much rained out. But when the sun does come out, it is wonderful. The blue, blue skies interspersed with fluffy white clouds… picture perfect :)

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These picture-perfect Danish summers are never complete without Koldskål. ‘Koldskål’ literally means ‘cold bowl’ in Danish.

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It is a cold buttermilk dessert soup with the refreshing flavors of lemon and vanilla. When warm weather sets in, a lot of koldskål is consumed. And I mean a lot…

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Ready-made koldskål is easily available here and the largest dairy company sells over a million litres per week during the hot summer months.

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Koldskål is super-easy to make at home and uses few ingredients. It is normally eaten with these small crisp biscuits called ‘Kammerjunker’.

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And when it is really hot, it can be eaten with granola or berries too for breakfast or as a quick snack. Delicious, tangy and refreshing! If you can’t find kammerjunkere, try it with some broken up Oreos.. Ummm…

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If you like lemony desserts, you will love koldskål. It is an essential feature of summer in Denmark, as certain as the rain ;)

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There are many variations to koldskål, thick and thin versions and ones with or without lemon or vanilla. People also add yogurt or junket to it. I have made the basic version here and it is seriously good :D

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I am bringing this lovely bowl of goodness to ‘Soups with SS’, a soupy affair hosted by two wonderful bloggers, Sonal @Simply Vegetarian777 and Shruti @Cooking with SJ. Do check this event out! So many soups, so little time :D

Here’s the recipe.

Koldskål (Danish Cold Buttermilk Soup)

  • Servings: 4 people
  • Time: 15 minutes plus chilling time
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 pasteurized Egg Yolks
1 Vanilla Pod
4-6 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
Zest and Juice of ½ Organic Unwaxed Lemon
1 liter Buttermilk
To serve: Fresh Berries, Kammerjunkere, Granola, Muesli or Oreos

Directions:

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla and mash it together with a bit of cane sugar until you have a uniform vanilla paste.
Beat the egg yolks, sugar, the ‘vanilla sugar’ and freshly grated lemon zest together until it is airy and light.
Add the buttermilk, stirring continuously.
Add lemon juice and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours.
To serve, pour the koldskål into bowls and top with kammerjunkere, berries or other toppings as suggested.
Serve cold.

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