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Authentic Holiday Gatherings

Posted Jun 10 2009 12:21am
Not since the mid-90s have I spent Christmas with friends. Not to dismiss quality time with family over the other years, but my favorite holiday memories have been with my friends. Potluck dinners, everyone happy and wanting to be together, curling up with hot drinks and sharing ideas. This year we were a small group sharing an Indian meal of sag paneer and chana masala (made lovingly by one zen chef/occupational therapist), samosas (made by a Devon Street baker), salad (made by 4-season salad lover), and carrot halva. The meal was followed by curling in front of the tv (a treat for me) watching Bob Marley in concert and Elvis in Blue Hawaii. A very non traditional celebration but completely authentic and real.

My contribution was cherry tamarind chutney and an experiment in non-dairy, non-cane sugar carrot halva.

This is what I did:

Carrot Halva
1 lb carrots, grated
1 qt combination of soy milk and soy creamer
3 pods of cardamom (or pinch of powder)
2/3 cup agave nectar
¼ tsp rose water
1/3 cup almond flour
1/3 cup of hazelnut flour

Combine carrots, soymilk, and contents of 3 cardamom pods (or pinch of powder) and simmer a really long time. The dairy recipe even says to be patient. Soy cannot be boiled or the milk is destroyed, therefore you will have to be very patient. You must s i m m e r, watch and stir the entire time. When it reduces by half add the agave nectar and rose water. Eventually you want the mixture to hold a shape or at least, when stirred, not flow back to cover the other side of the pot. Add 1/3 cup almond flour, if it is still not thickened enough; add the 1/3 cup hazelnut flour. Spoon into serving dishes, garnish with a whole almond and hazelnut. Serve hot or cold. This made 7 - 1/3 (heaping) cup servings

This is what I learned:
Start with 1 pint of soy milk. If it seems the carrots are cooked enough with that amount, stick with the pint. If you need more add a ½ cup at a time. Why? One, I started the halva at 8 pm and finished at 4 am. I don’t want you to be surprised that you’ll be in the kitchen for 8 hours. Maybe I was TOO careful not to boil the soymilk, but I wanted to get it right. At the 7th hour, I was standing prepared to thicken with an egg yolk to custard dessert. Two, I think the carrots were a little over-simmered with 8 hours on the stove and with 1 qt of milk.

Cherry Tamarind Chutney
1 loosely packed cup of cherries
1 T tamarind paste
2 dried orange slices
minced ginger root maybe 1 – 2 tsp
1 cup water
the last of my pear vinegar maybe a ¼ cup

1T allspice
1 T coriander
juice of half a lemon
1/3 cup minced sweet onion

In a small sauce pan combine cherries, tamarind, orange slices, ginger and water. Bring to boil and simmer with allspice and coriander until cherries are break-ably soft. Add vinegar. Puree in food processor, spoon into bowl and combine with lemon and onion. To allow flavors to enhance, refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
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