Enjoy the festive season with vegan versions of your favourite Indian desserts.
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Veganism, the practice of abstaining from all kinds of animal-based products not just in the diet but also lifestyle in form of clothing and other products has been gaining momentum in the last few years. The vegan lifestyle condones cruelty towards animals, which is why the people who follow it stick to a plant-based diet, ethical vegans also avoid anything and everything tested on animals. In India, most people are lacto-vegetarians (diet that includes vegetables and dairy products), but lately, a lot of people have embraced veganism for reasons such as health and to adopt a more sustainable life change.

Indian desserts are made predominantly with milk and milk products such as cream, ghee, milk and milk solids (khoya and mawa). Replacing such a heavy reliance on milk products is daunting, but vegan-friendly ingredients such as coconut cream, soy milk and nuts, gives you the opportunity to make delicious vegan versions of traditional Indian desserts. 

Ahead of the festive season, we share with you some vegan-friendly dessert recipes that you can make at home by simply replacing dairy products with vegan-friendly ingredients. Chef Alok Verma, Executive Sous Chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu says, " The idea behind giving a vegan treatment to classic dessert is to redeem the reputation of the dessert which is already there in the culinary world from last so many years. These complex looking desserts can be easily be made vegan; the simplest way of converting a dessert into vegan is to replace milk or dairy product with something non-dairy such as coconut cream, soy milk or almond milk."

Here are some dessert recipes made using only vegan ingredients: 

Vegan Kaju Katli

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This classic Indian dessert is traditionally made with kaju (cashew), milk, ghee and sugar, decorated with silver varq. It is similar to barfi and is a popular Indian dessert that is doled out on festivals, weddings and other special occasions. Here is a vegan version of one of the most-loved Indian dessert. 

1. To prepare vegan kaju katli, grind 2 cups of raw cashew nuts in a mixer with 1/3 cup of water. Strain the ground mixture and keep it aside. (Read: How to make vegan cheese)
2. To make the sugar syrup, mix 1/2 cup of sugar with equal amount of water and boil it to a single thread consistency. Once done, add the ground cashew to this sugar mixture and cook till it pulls away from the pan.
3. Pour it on a flat tray and spread it evenly with a rolling pin. Once cool cut it to the required shape.


Vegan Kaju Kesar Pista Roll

Kaju kesar pista roll is another Indian dessert that is served on most festive occasions. Made with cashew, pistachio, saffron, condensed milk and butter, the long cashew rolls are filled with pistachios is a delight to have. Here is a vegan version of the dessert.

1. To make the vegan dessert, grind 2 cups of raw cashew in a mixer with 1/3 cup of water. Strain through a fine strainer and keep it aside.
2. Now prepare sugar syrup by boiling 1/3 cup of sugar in equal amount of water and about 6 strands of saffron, till you get single thread consistency. Add the ground cashew paste to sugar syrup and cook till it comes of the edges of the vessel.
3. Blanch 1/4 cup of pistachios in hot water, crush them and add a little sugar syrup to it. Cool and keep aside.
4. Transfer the cashew mixture on a flat tray. Roll with rolling pin and then spread the pistachio mix on the flattened cashew layer. Carefully roll and keep it to cool for a while. Once cool, slice it as required.

Vegan Gulab Jamun

You will come across a lot of variations of this juicy and sugar syrup filled delight in forms of pantua, kala jamun, etc. What makes this dessert a perfect indulgence is that a single bite offers the goodness of mawa and decadent aromas of the rose-flavoured sugar syrup. We have earlier shared with you tips to make the perfect gulab jamuns at home and also a restaurant-style baked version of it, here is another interesting recipe of making vegan gulab jamun.  

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1. Mix all the dry ingredients first; 1 cup of fresh bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, a pinch of corn flour, a pinch of baking power, 30 grams of ground cashew powder and a pinch of salt. To this add a little bit of oil and enough water to make a soft dough.
2. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, grease your hands with oil and make small round and even dough balls. In a heavy bottomed pan pour oil to deep fry the dough balls. Fry the gulab jamuns in medium hot oil, until they turn golden brown.
3. Make a sugar syrup of one-string consistency by boiling 1/2  cup sugar, 1 cup water, few crushed cardamom pods and a dash of lemon juice. Place the gulab jamun in warm sugar syrup, leave it for an hour to absorb the syrup and then serve.

Vegan Crème Brulee with Almond Sable

If you want to try something other than the traditional Indian vegan desserts, then you can try making crème brulee with almond sable with tofu, soy milk and lemon grass. Though this recipe involves an elaborate method of preparation, the end result will leave you asking for more.

1. Start by blending 60 grams of silken tofu (has a softer consistency when compared to regular tofu) until very smooth.
2. Bring 250 ml of soy milk to boil with a pod of vanilla and a lemongrass stalk.
3. In a bowl whisk 80 grams of caster sugar and 5 egg yolks until pale. Pour the infused milk in to the bowl, add tofu puree and mix well to combine. Pour the mixture in to individual ramekin bowls and bake at 160⁰C in a water bath until set. Chill the mixture before serving. Sprinkle some sugar and caramelise with blow torch until golden brown.
4. To prepare the almond sable, beat together 150 ml of coconut oil, 75 grams of sugar, few drops of vanilla extract and a salt until well combined for a couple of minutes.
5. Stir in 120 grams of almond flour and knead by hand until dough is formed. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into rectangular shape cookies. Bake the cookies until set and very lightly colored, 16 to 20 minutes and serve with crème brulee.
Inputs from chef Rajesh Shetty, Executive Chef, Travel Food Services, Mumbai  and chef Alok Verma, Executive Sous Chef, JW Marriott 
Mumbai Juhu.

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