The Royal pieces: Decadent, delicious and delightful

Published: July 9, 2013
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Fried pieces of bread, spiced with saffron and cardamom, dipped in cream and sweetened with sugar syrup! PHOTO: SAADIA TARIQ

People say I have a wicked sense of humour. And if that’s true, I think I know where it came from. I was cradled by humour since the day I was born.

A chest surgeon by profession, my chacha, Dr Aamir Ijaz has spread laughter lines much more than the stitches he has sewn. He claims to be my adopted mother and used to shower me with gifts, hugs, shoulder rides, and till date endless laughter. Wit, a one-liner, pun, wisecrack, pulling someone’s leg or a dirty joke – he is the master of all.

I have seen my 90-year-old grandfather teary eyed with laughter at his jokes and I have also seen my six-year-old daughter smiling up to him shyly as he related a silly remark to her. Tall, handsome and caring, he is a walking comic. As much as he loves food he avoids it to keep his figure fit.

Once, at a family get together his wife had made “Shahi Tukras” and he kept inviting everyone to come and try the ‘royal pieces.’

And when I came across this particular recipe it instantly reminded me of him.

The Shahi Tukray have been part of the South Asian dessert collection since the time the Mughal emperors ruled in the 15th century over regions that now comprise of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Originally from Pakistan, this dessert has many variations. Simply put – it is fried pieces of bread, spiced with saffron and cardamom, dipped in cream, sweetened with sugar syrup or condensed milk (modern version) and finally garnished with slivered almonds and chopped pistachios. For some it is also an Eastern version of the bread and butter pudding.

During one of my dinners at home I decided to serve a desi dessert knowing too well that our guests would love a taste of home – sitting far from home here in Singapore. I came across the original recipe on www.spicespoon.com, by a Pakistani food blogger, based in Canada, Shayma Saadat, who has an excellent relationship with food and her readers. However, I have tweaked it a bit to suit our sweet palate and hope that you will soon indulge in this royal dessert.

Ingredients (serves eight-ten sweet-toothed people)

1.  10 slices of stale bread

2.  ¼ lb (100 g) unsalted butter (and some extra for buttering the baking dish)

3.  Oil for frying

4.  ¾ cup (200 ml) full cream milk

5.  ¾ cup (200 ml) double/whipping cream

6.  2 cups (500 ml) double cream

7.  Sugar syrup

8.  ¾ cup (200 ml) water

9.  1 ¼ cup (330 g) sugar

10. Seeds from 4-5 cardamom pods

11. 2 generous pinches of saffron

12. Garnish

13. ½ cup (65 g slivered) slivered almonds

14. ½ cup (65 g) chopped pistachios

Method

  • Lightly grease a two-quart (two-litre) baking dish and set aside.
  •  Cut off the edges of the bread and slice in half on the diagonal.
  • Place a frying pan on medium heat and generously smear with some butter and oil (approximately two tbsp) and fry the bread slices till lightly toasted on both sides. (Repeat this step until the whole batch is done.)
  • Transfer the fried bread pieces into a single layer in your baking dish; reserve any extra pieces.
  • In a jug, stir together, milk and double cream. Slowly pour over the bread pieces.
  • While the bread pieces are soaking up the creamy liquid, combine water, sugar, cardamom seeds and saffron in a saucepan and boil over high heat.
  • When the sugar mixture starts changing colour to deep amber and slightly thickens, take off heat (will take approximately be five-seven minutes to thicken.)
  • Pour half of the extra double cream (500 ml) on the bread slices followed by the sugar syrup.
  •  If left with additional pieces of bread add more layers to the baking dish by pouring in the rest of the milk-cream mixture and waiting for the bread to absorb the liquid, followed by the remaining double cream and sugar syrup.
  •  Let the bread mixture sit on the counter for 20 minutes before placing it in a pre-heated 180c (350-F) oven.
  •  Bake for 35 minutes until the bread is puffed up, glowing in the colours of saffron and caramelised sugar and ever so creamily soft. Garnish with nuts just before serving.

Note: This dessert can be served hot or cold, the choice is yours!

Feasting recommendations:

Although, this pudding is best eaten on the same day, it tastes exceptionally well the next day too. It can be served after a meal, at teatime or even for breakfast.

Back to my chacha, those who know him will not disagree that he himself is a “royal piece” of our family. Witty, nutty, sweet, caring and ever so funny and loving!

This post originally appeared here 

PHOTOS: SAADIA TARIQ

Read more by Saadia here.

Saadia Tariq

Saadia Tariq

The writer is a food consultant, blogger and food photographer. You can see her work on her website www.capturebyst.com, her Facebook page www.facebook.com/capturebyst or follow her on twitter @capturebyst (twitter.com/capturebyst).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.