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A south indian sweet made from semolina (rava), ghee, sugar and saffron. This treat is served warm or cut up once set and served cold. With little to no time you can make this recipe with a few ingredients, making for the perfect dessert this Onam.
The word “Kesari” comes from the word “Kesar” meaning saffron. Hence its a no brainer that this recipe uses saffron. Now if you don’t have fresh saffron stands you could use the powdered stuff but I would recommend using the strands. Some people use a pinch of turmeric powder to give the gleaming golden color however the saffron doesn’t only add color, it adds flavor as well and a little goes a long way so it is worth investing into.
As it is a rich and decadent sweet treat Kesari is made during festivals and auspicious occasions in south India. With the festival of Onam upon us it only seemed fitting to make this dessert. With a few pantry staples you can prepare this in no time. It needs no oven or fancy equipment, making for a very easy dessert recipe.
I don’t want to get too technical here but since I mentioned “Onam” it only seems fitting that we briefly understand what it is. Onam is a festival, celebrated in Kerala, South of India. It is a huge annual harvest affair which also happens to be the state festival.
It is celebrated with Pookolam/Pookalam consists of two words – ‘Poo’ (flowers) and ‘Kolam’, decorative pattern or rangoli (as per the times now news definition) and a lavish spread of food that is traditionally served and eaten on a banana leaf that brings family together. This is known as Onam Sadhya which consists of over 25 dishes.
This Kesari recipe today is perfect for an Onam Sadhya as it is easy to make and doesn’t need many ingredients as well. To make the Kesari you need semolina (rava), ghee, sugar, saffron, water, dried fruits and a little cardamom adds a floral flavor to the dessert. I love eating this warm but I have seen people spread out the mixture flat on a plate once cooked, it is left to cool, then cut into diamond shapes or squares before serving. I used cashews and raisins here for this recipe and they work best.
As there aren’t that many ingredients here, there aren’t any substitutes. In saying this I have eaten Kesari made with jaggery and coconut sugar instead of white sugar and it was still tasty. However I would recommend using white sugar here. It is meant to be indulgent and rich so unless absotuletly necessary, don’t substitute. Some times recipes call for milk and water or milk alone but I have used water here. I think it works well and you don’t need the milk either. I have mentioned a few more notes on substitutes in the Notes section below the recipe.
I think we have chatted a good amount so lets get cooking. Happy Onam Ninjas!
- Medium saute pan with lid
- Small sauce pot
- 6 tbsp Ghee
- 3 tbsp Raisins
- 1/2 cup Cashew nuts
- 1 cup Rava semolina
- 1/2 cup Castor sugar
- 3 cups Water
- 10 strands Saffron depending on how strong it is
- 1/4 tsp Cardamom powder
- Pinch of salt
- In a medium sauté pan, add the ghee and fry cashew nuts and raisins until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
- In the same ghee add the rava and fry on low heat. You don’t want to brown it but it should have a light golden color.
- While this is happening in a small sauce pot add the water, sugar, cardamon, salt and saffron. Bring to a boil and let it bubble while the sugar dissolves.
- Once its a transparent liquid mixture take off the heat and slowly pour it into the rava pan. It will bubble up so be careful and pour a little at a time.
- Stir it around and break up any lumps, add 3/4 of the cashew nuts and raisins. Cook for 3-4 mins, stiring, until thickened.
- Once the rava has absorbed the liquid and it looks relatively dry cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Let it steam for 5 mins - this is ESSENTIAL.
- Serve it warm with the remaining cashews and raisins garnished on top.
- You can serve this cold as well. Transfer the hot kesari to a flat plate and spread it out evenly. Once its cooled, cut into diamond or square shapes before serving.
- This recipe works well with ghee but you could use butter or if you wanted to keep it vegan, coconut oil.
- It works well with cashews but you could use chopped almonds or pistachios instead.
- It is essential to let the sugar melt completely. You could use fine sugar, castor sugar, or powdered sugar but adjust the sweetness accordingly.