Pumpkin Saffron Kalakand

During my studies up at the Mount Madonna Ayurvedic Institute, one of my fellow cohorts brought in the most AMAZING dessert one weekend as an offering to Ganesh. (We would always have a Ganesh figurine in the classroom and would either give him flowers, sweet treats, breakfast leftovers, what have you, every weekend.) I had no idea what it was sitting over there in the corner, but I could definitely tell Ganesh was pleased. A round pie dish filled with a white, creamy looking pudding with ground pistachios scattered in the “om” symbol. Once it was time for us to spoon out a sample, the sweet aroma of cardamom, ghee, and pistachios filled up the classroom. Smiles were soon to follow. My goodness. This was simply heaven on earth. I had never had such a thing before. We were all exclaiming how amazing it was and asking her for the recipe and what was in it. Homemade paneer. Sugar. Cream. Milk powder. Cardamom. Pistachios. I think that was it. She insisted she would email all of us the recipe ASAP but that never happened. And I kicked myself for never writing down what this incredible Indian dessert was called.
Every so often I would think of this dessert and wonder about what it was exactly. It started to drive me nuts, to tell you the truth. So one day I took it upon myself and checked out a book from the schools’ library, The Indian Grocery Store Demystified. I wasn’t expecting to find this particular recipe in there, but sure enough there was a list of Indian desserts. I was determined to find it. It HAD to be in there. Burfi? No. Halva? After making a sweet potato version, definitely not it. Kalakand: a popular Indian and Pakistani sweet made out of solidified, sweetened milk and cottage cheese (aka. paneer). Also known as a cheesecake made from sweetened milk with chopped nuts and sometimes saffron and edible foil. AHA! Thank goodness!
So of course I resorted to Google for some Indian Kalakand help. I knew they wouldn’t fail me. Most of the recipes I found were to be cooked in the microwave, which I was definitely skeptical about, but I remember my friend saying that’s what she did, also. After searching for quite a bit, I started to wonder if a pumpkin version existed. Because if it didn’t already, it was about to be.
I went off of this Microwave Mango Ricotta Kalakand recipe, substituting pumpkin puree for the mango. And oh my goodnesssssssss. I think I am on to something.
Pumpkin. Ricotta. Pumpkin pie spice. Cardamom. Saffron. Pumpkin seeds. Ghee. I think I just invented the perfect Ayurvedic dessert. Kind of a drier, cheesier, textured version of pumpkin pie with minus the crust.
Brought this to a Halloween party and it was perfectly different than anything anyone had ever tasted. There were mmm’s and ahh’s so I think it was quite a success. That’s good enough confirmation.

Pumpkin Saffron Kalakand
Serves 10-12 people

1 1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tbsp ghee
3 cups fat free milk powder
2 tbsp sugar (although I think it could have easily used 1/2 cup or so)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp saffron threads
raw pumpkin seeds, for garnish

Combine all ingredients (except the pumpkin seeds) in a large microwave safe bowl.
Microwave in 4-5 minute intervals, for a total of about 14-15 minutes, stirring in between. It may take longer depending on how much moisture is in the pumpkin and ricotta. (It took me almost 20 minutes, I believe, which is kind of ridiculous and makes me think it would be easier to bake in an oven to prevent my microwave from exploding. Next time.)
Stop microwaving when the mixture is a thick curd-like texture and has lost most of its moisture. You want to be able to form a small ball with your fingers.
Pour into a greased, glass 9-inch pie dish.
Garnish with extra saffron threads (optional) and the pumpkin seeds.
Let it cool and put in the refrigerator to make it set better.
You can cut into any desired shape. Cookie cutters are also very appropriate and fun! I made a few owls and pumpkins but it was too late by the time my camera got to em. 🙂

Enjoy! And I’d love to hear your feedback. I also think some more ghee would be delicious in there for more flavor.

Here are some additional kalakand recipes I found that I’d love to experiment with next time:
Video: How To Make Kalakand (including how to make homemade paneer)

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