You can’t escape ladoos of any kind in Pakistan, be it semolina, chickpea flour or wheat. Many bakeries in Pakistan have a mithai (sweetmeat) corner as Pakistanis and their sweet tooth wouldn’t go far without a ladoo. I love these, as they melt in your mouth.
- 150 g (5½ oz/generous 1 cup) blanched almonds
- 2 pinches of saffron threads
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 200 ml (7 fl oz/scant 1 cup) condensed milk
- 2–3 tbsp desiccated (dry unsweetened) coconut, plus 2 tbsp for rolling
- 50 g (1¾ oz) khoya/milk fudge (see Note)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time: Overnight
Place the almonds in a heatproof bowl and pour in enough hot water to cover. Allow to soak overnight.
The next day, soak the saffron in a little hot water for 15–20 minutes.
Drain the soaked almonds, and using about 2–3 tablespoons of the saffron water, grind the almonds to a paste in a food processor.
Heat the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the ground almond paste and fry for 3–4 minutes stirring constantly. Add the condensed milk and coconut and stir until the mixture comes together and forms a shiny ball in the saucepan. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Using your hands, shape the mixture into 10–12 golf ball-sized balls, then roll them in some khoya (just a little will stick to the surface) and coconut. Serve immediately or store, covered, in the fridge for 1–2 days. Best eaten at room temperature.
• Milk fudge is the closest comparison to khoya – a key base ingredient in many Pakistani desserts. Khoya is essentially thickened milk, cooked down for hours to resemble dulce de leche. The milk is cooked without any added sweetener but over hours of slow cooking it develops a slight sweetness from the concentration of lactose. Be careful to keep the milk over a low heat and stir frequently to keep it from burning. There are cheat versions using dried milk in a microwave, but if you have time try the following: In a heavy-based saucepan, bring 1 L full cream (whole) milk to the boil. Keep stirring and scrape any dried milk from the sides of the pan, stirring it into the boiling milk. Keep cooking on a low heat until the milk reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes or ricotta cheese (around 45 minutes). Allow to cool in the pan. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. Use within a week. Khoya can also be purchased from some Indian sweet shops and suppliers.
Recipe from Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani (Murdoch Books, hb, $39.99). Food photography by Joanna Yee. Read more about Pakistani sweets and find more of Sumayya’s recipes here.