A simple yet sophisticated Indian Dessert.
By Vedant Shah
India- a society steeped so highly in tradition, anything and everything holds symbolic value. Food is no exception, be it a form of offering in holy temples (‘Prasad’), or as feasts to commemorate the end of religious fasts. In fact, every apprehensive Indian child is fed curd and sugar (‘Dahi Chini’) prior to any exam as a form of good luck; the curd serves as a coolant and the sugar as an energizer!
As we approach the auspicious Indian festival of Diwali, which signifies the triumph of good over evil, it is only fair that I share a recipe that my family members hold very dear to them. Kansar (pronounced Cun-Saar) or Lapsi (pronounced Laap-si) is a traditional Indian dessert that symbolizes wealth. It is eaten in tandem with a medium spicy curry made of yard long-beans, which symbolizes longevity. Together, they exemplify the desire to live a long and prosperous life.
Lapsi is a very simple dish, easy to prepare and cook. However, the end product is a delectable dessert that incorporates the wholesomeness of broken wheat and the tantalizing aroma of fresh cardamom. The primary ingredient is a fine-sized broken wheat, which has a firm and very fine texture. Broken wheat is basically a form of couscous or semolina, and is made by coarsely milling whole raw wheat grains. This wheat is healthier than others because it does not undergo any refining, which gives an additional incentive to prepare this dessert. Thus, it shrugs off the stereotypical “sinfully sweet and fattening” image that is often associated with Indian desserts. When cooked, what we get from the wheat is a hearty aroma and a grainy taste- pleading to be lapped up when mixed with the correct ingredients.
½ cup broken wheat
½ cup sugar
½ tbsp. cardamom powder
3 tbsp of rich ghee
Shaved almonds and fine pistachio slivers
Heat the ghee on low heat in a non-stick pan, and then add the broken wheat and let it cook. Cook for up to 7 mins or until it has a lovely golden brown color. Stir it continuously while cooking, albeit carefully.
Next, add 2 cups of warm water and cook on high ‘till the water starts simmering.
After that, bring the heat back to low and gently cook for 15 mins, ‘till the broken wheat appears wholly cooked and moist.
Add the sugar and cardamom powder together, mix the ingredients thoroughly and let it continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until the ghee separates and coats the mixture evenly.
To add a bit of rich creaminess to the texture you can add 2 tbsp of milk as well.
Serve hot, and garnish with the almond and pistachio slivers.
So there you have a very simple yet scrumptious dessert. Bursting with the richness of the ghee, the whiff of the cardamom and the consistency of the wheat- it is a satisfying dessert, both healthy and hearty.
I have always enjoyed Lapsi prepared by my grandmother. I have a real penchant for dishes that are subtle, in which only a few ingredients are used and the best is brought out of them. Any dish that is overcomplicated or way too flavorsome is a serious deterrent for me. She knows full well about this and resists her grandma like temptation to shower it in sugar. The one she makes is always moderately sweet, full of texture and has a refined flavor. I think it shows very well the fruits of following the clichéd adage, “keep it simple silly!”
Materialistic possessions may come and go- however, the enjoyment of lapsi on Diwali amongst all extended family members symbolizes for me the abundance of non-material wealth we are all blessed to possess, in the form of our relationships with loved ones.
Note- Lapsi has several health benefits. Since the dessert uses the outer bran of the wheat, it is loaded with fiber and is a great source of roughage. The wheat also has a low glycemic index, which balances the richness of the ghee and sugar.