I am a self-confessed cashewnut addict. I love it plain, fried, salted, even soaked! That does not mean I use it in all my cooking. Jr.H is allergic to them (she says it has not been proved, but I am a cautious mom). My son seems to have inherited my love for these nuts and I have successfully passed it on to my husband of over ten years. As Diwali, the festival of lights approached closer, my husband realised that I would need a lot of cashews. Though I say so myself I make the best barfis, and I have tasted quite a few. My friends and family swear by my recipe for nut barfis. I am told it is moist, firm, and melt-in-the-mouth. So, a couple of weeks prior to the festival, when P travelled to Mangalore he returned with 3 kilos of the best quality cashews he could find.
I love traditional sweets but often traditional recipes come laden with ghee (clarified butter) and sugar. I like mine with just the right amount of sugar to help build the firmness, and I like trying out new twists every now and then. A week before Diwali arrived I tried making the traditional cashew burfis with ‘reduced’ orange juice (a sort of syrup). The result was excellent. It was tangy, sweet and vibrant orange in colour, but the barfis turned out like katlis – soft, malleable and a little sticky. My efforts to get firm ones did not work. The next morning I made the barfis again, this time using only the zest I saved from the previous day’s oranges, and the barfis turned out zesty, tasty, flavourful. The barfis did not turn bright orange but carried the faint colour. I do not recommend addition of colours, but if you would like to get a more vibrant colour, I suggest that you use saffron threads. It will alter the flavour slightly but it is infinitely better than using colour. I used navel oranges as the skins are orange in colour. The zest from these oranges are more flavourful than the Indian oranges and not as bitter. For raw consumption I prefer the Indian variety, and I consume a lot of fruits.
Because I used raw sugar (bhura or burra shakkar), the time needed for firming was slightly reduced. If using white sugar it would take a minute or two more to reach the one thread stage.
For plain cashew barfi please follow the recipe here. For soft cashew cakes known as kaju katli.
Recipe: Orange scented Cashew barfi (Cashew Squares / Kaju Barfi)
Vegan | GFCF | Dairy – free
Coarsely powdered cashewnuts – 1 level cup, loosely packed
Raw Sugar (Bhura or burra chini) – 1/2 cup, less 2 tbsps.
Water – 1/2 cup
Orange zest – 2 tbsps.
Rub the zest into the powdered cashews with light fingers. At this point you will find your house filled with the perfume of oranges. (Mine did. My daughter was drawn to the kitchen.)
Place the sugar and water in a heavy based pan on heat to form a one-string syrup, stirring a few times in between. This is achieved in about 7 to 8 minutes of heating on medium flame. To test for consistency stir, remove the ladle, allow the syrup to drip, blow and touch a drop of the syrup with your index finger. Press lightly with your thumb and pull away slowly. The syrup with stretch as a single string between your fingers for about 1/2 a centimetre. The string will not hold beyond that and break.
At this stage add the powdered cashews zested with orange. Fold the powder into the syrup and stir till the powder starts leaving the pan in a clean sweep, about 3-4 minutes on low flame.
Pour the thick cake immediately onto the pan and spread it lightly. Pat with the greased back of a bowl or place a foil over the cake and pat into an even layer. Cool for a few minutes and cut into squares or diamonds. After it cools completely, about 10 minutes, remove the cakes carefully with a pancake turner.
If you want to add colour, warm a few strands of saffron, crush with your fingers and add it to the syrup while it boils.
Keep your ingredients measured and ready to go. This sweet is made very quickly and if the ingredients are not ready to be used you might end up with sweetened cashew powder instead of neat squares.
Keep a lightly greased plate or jelly pan ready. This makes about 12, 1.5″ pieces so a small pan would be just right.