janet @ the taste space

Cardamom Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi) & Indian Cooking Unfolded Cookbook Giveaway!

In Book Review, Desserts on December 12, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi)

Panela and I were first introduced in Colombia. An unrefined sugar, typically sold in block form, it is commonly used in South American desserts. I brought some back to Canada and was interrogated by the US immigration officer as we transferred in Miami. I told him I had bought panela (pa-nell -la), a type of sugar. He explained to me that I wrong. It was pronounced pa-ney-ya. The women in the market that sold it to me spoke Spanish, and I heard her loud and clear: it was panela. With an L. In any case, when he told me I could bring my sugar across the border, I scooted right on out.

I rarely see panela in Canada, but have seen it countless times in Houston. Oftentimes, it is labelled as piloncillo, the Mexican name as panela is also a type of Mexican cheese. A small cone can be found for 70 cents or so, at most supermarkets but it can also be found in large blocks and possibly ground.

In the spirit of holidays, candies and confectionaries, I broke it out for my latest treat: Indian Burfi. It sounds more dramatic, but really it is similar to my maple pecan shortbread cookies because it is simply nuts and sweetener with an Indian twist from cardamom and saffron. I used panela as my sweetener of choice, but you could substitute brown sugar (likely coconut sugar, and possibly maple syrup or agave, too) which imparted a delicious molasses undertone.

Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi)

I called these Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars or Kaaju Pista Burfi, as this was what Raghavan Iyer called them in Indian Cooking Unfolded. I have told you about this lovely cookbook earlier, but it bears repeating because I really like it. Iyer has taken Indian cooking to its elemental components and teaches you how to cook Indian from the ground up. The recipes span meat, vegetarian and vegan options, with limited ingredients. He has capped himself at 10 ingredients, and many recipes are far more simple. While he may sacrifice in authenticity, he does not sacrifice in taste, coaxing the most from limited ingredients.

I bring up authenticity, but I lay no claim to being an expert in traditional Indian cuisine (although we make killer dal). Iyer openly admits burfi is typically much more sweet than this recipe and is actually an adaptation of a raw recipe from Jugalbandi who seemed to have sinced moved to Nitrivore, but it too, is an abandoned blog. Soma’s recent post makes me think these treats are closer to katli instead of burfi, which she describes as a sugar-nut treat. Truthfully, my fusion spin with panela, makes them even less authentic but no less delicious. As Iyer promised, these are not uber sweet. There is a subtle hint of cardamom among the molasses-infused treat. Rob thoguht it needed more saffron but I thought it was perfect. I can not really taste the saffron, so feel free to omit it.

While I typically shy away from Indian desserts, I am thrilled that I tried these. They were delicious. While Diwali has come and gone, this would be equally suited for something different on a holiday cookie spread. I blame it on the cardamom. Or the molasses. Or the nuts. They all taste like hugs. 🙂

Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi)

I really want to share this cookbook with you and I am thrilled because the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to FOUR lucky readers living in the continental United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Iyer recipe (he has also penned our favourite Indian cookbook, 660 Curries). If you haven’t made anything by Iyer yet, have a look through Indian Cooking Unfolded on amazon or google books (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 24, 2013. Good luck!

PS. Recipes from Indian Cooking Unfolded spotted elsewhere:

Smoky Yellow Split Peas (Tamatar Chana Dal)

Sweet Corn with Toasted Coconut (Thénga Makkaí)

Blistered Smoky Peppers

Braised Beet Salad with Golden Raisin Vinaigrette

Ultimate Chicken Curry (Tamatar Murghi) 

Poppadums with Chile-Spiked Onion and Avocado Pomegranate Dip

Vegetarian Samosa Cakes with Tamarind Chutney

Festive Lamb Chops with Cardamom

Cardamom Fennel Scallops

Spinach Phyllo Samosas

Curried Ginger Date Bok Choy with Soy Knots

This is my submission to this month’s Cooking with Herbs.

Cardamom Cashew Pistachio Bars (Kaaju Pista Burfi)
Adapted from Indian Cooking Unfolded (original recipe here)

1 cup ground (unsalted, raw) cashews
1 cup ground (unsalted, raw) pistachios
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp saffron threads (optional, I did not really taste this)
1/2 cup panela or jaggery (or sweetener of choice, the original recipe was for white sugar but brown sugar is more similar to panela/jaggery)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom, or more, to taste (I used black cardamom seeds, unground)

1. If you don’t have ground nuts, pulse each nut separately in a food processor fitted with a S-blade. Mix both together in a bowl and set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, heat water, saffron and panela over medium heat until the panela dissolves. It should become slightly tacky after 5 minutes. Add cardamom and remove from heat.

3. Working quickly, pour in half of the nuts and stir to combine. Stir in the remainder of the nuts and continue to mix until fully combined. Spoon batter into silicone molds or a greased 8″ or 9″ square pan. I found them very sticky while still warm and it was easier to push into the molds after it had cooled slightly, after 10 minutes. I then popped them into the freezer to set for a few hours so that I could remove them from the molds more easily. Otherwise, your molds need to be well greased. Freezes well.

Makes 24 small treats.

  1. I’ve never been drawn to Indian sweets before because they are usually so sweet but bet I’d love these treats. I’ve not heard of panela but I’m sure you’re right that it’s pronounced with an ‘l’ not a ‘y’. If it was a double ‘l’ it would be ‘y’ so piloncillo would be ‘pilonc-ee–yo’ 🙂
    Hehe, I’m a linguist so these things matter to me!

  2. I love Indian sweets but have yet to experiment with making them. This seems like a great starting point, and very accessible. Thanks for posting!

  3. I’ve never heard of panela and have very little (none!) experience with Indian sweets, but I definitely like the look of these. Basically, I like the look of anything with cardamom 🙂

  4. Indian desserts are my favorites. They are CRAZY sweet. But I love how cardamom and nut-rich they are. So happy you recreated these!! Burfi are so good.

  5. Oh I love the addition of saffron here!

    You are just the queen of cookbook giveaways lately aren’t you? So cool 🙂 Just have some for us Canadians soo mmm k? 😉

  6. I make lots of curries, but I’ve never had an Indian dessert!

  7. I have never made any of Iyer’s recipes. Sweet Corn with Toasted Coconut sounds interesting. The Cardamom Cashew Pistachio Bar recipe sounds real good also. I love Indian food. Thanks for the giveaway.

  8. I’ve never made any of Iyer’s recipes, but I would really like to try the Vegetarian Samosa Cakes with Tamarind Chutney. I like samosas generally, but I’ve never tried to make them before.

  9. […] swear, I wasn’t planning on sharing yet another dessert. But once I made these (uber wonderfully, possibly, yes, confirmed, the […]

  10. I neeeeed to try out the Sweet Corn with Toasted Coconut (Thénga Makkaí), YUMMMY!! Corn and coconut, who knew! I would have never tried that combo

  11. Wow, I’d love to try my hand at the Curried Ginger Date Bok Choy with Soy Knots. The cookbook sounds fantastic!

  12. […] PPPS. Other giveaways I am sharing right now: 30 Minute Vegan’s Soup’s On! and Indian Cooking Unfolded. […]

  13. that last bok choy dish caught my eye! I love that stuff. I’d leave out the soy knots though.

  14. Love cardamom! I’d like to try his paneer recipe

  15. WOW! What a FABULOUS entry into cooking with herbs for December and my spicy theme, and such lovely photos too! Thanks so much and Happy New Year! Karen

  16. […] The winners for Indian Cooking Unfolded are Michaela, Elizabeth, Marsha, and […]

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