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Diwali Foodies' Goodies
October 19, 2014, 3:15 pm
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Diwali brings with it myriad ways of enjoying the five-day festival.  This festival of light,personified by active socializing, includes visiting families, friends and relatives and sharingan array of mouth-watering sweets and snacks.

No festival is complete without reveling food, and so is Diwali. A profusion of traditional goodies means the festival of lights might almost be called the festival of sweets. There are no set menus or recipes for Diwali except for the sweets and snacks that are usually made or brought in readymade. Nevertheless, there are some recipes and dishes that are linked to the festival and food revelers cannot miss them. Diwali is irredeemably associated with a mind boggling array of sweets, known collectively as ‘mithai’.If there is one element that captures the Indian culinary psyche, it is the mithai, a cross between snack, dessert and confectionery.

To me, Diwali brings along with it memories of childhood; of colors, lights and sights; of menfolk sitting and shelling piles of pistachios, while discussing  government, business, market andtheir new Diwali purchases. Memories of young frivolling kids going aroundwith their Diwali firecrackers and toy-guns mimicking super-heroes and film-stars; ofladies heading outdoors decorating the floor and doorways with bowls of rangoli colors.

However, the most pervasive memory of all isthe taste of homemade dishes and snacks, their tantalizing aroma wafting in the airas mother fried them in large pans. Memories ofgrabbing handful of fresh and hot all-time Diwalifavorites likemawakachorisorgujias. Those littlemorsels nibbled throughout the day, on their own, with masala chai, or as part of a meal alongside savory items, continue to allure so many moons later.And it is these tempting memories that made me head to the kitchen to try out some of those old recipes, in the fond hope of mimicking the taste that still lingers.

NamakPare

Method
Sieve together1 cup wheat flour, 1 cup white flour, ¼ tsp baking soda and salt to taste
Add1tspajwain (carom seeds) andmix with the rest of the sieved flours
Add3tbsp oil or ghee and about ¾ cup water and knead into firm dough
Cover and keep for 30 minutes
Make medium sized balls from the dough and roll them out on a floured board
With a knife gently make criss-cross patterns on the rolled dough
Remove the diamond shaped patterns and deep fry them in hot oil till crisp and golden brown
Drain the namak pare on paper napkins to remove excess oil and cool.
Once cooled, store in an airtight container

Other snacks include:
Chivda:a crisp, savory mixture of any combination of sev, beaten rice flakes, potato straws, split chickpeas, assorted nuts, fennel seeds, curry leaves and other spices. There are dozens of varieties (sometimes made with popular branded breakfast cereals), and many cities in India are renowned for their own unique versions.

Pakoras:light, fluffy ball-shaped fritters made from potatoes, onions, fenugreek leaves and whole mild chilies dipped in spiced chickpea flour batter and deep fried, are a much enjoyed evening chat-snacks during this festival.

Farsi puri:crisp white plain flour puri spiced with cracked black pepper and cumin seeds, popular amongst kids who snack onto these while fire-crackers become their main predisposition

Chakri:literally meaning 'spirals', the ultimate savory snackinterestinglyshapedwith a special hand-held nozzle, is made from rice and chickpea flours, cumin, sesame and ajwain seeds, red chili powder and turmeric. The south Indian version, known as 'murukku' comes in different shapes such as ribbons and twists, and is made from urad lentil and rice flour.

Diwali Dishes

Red lentil curry
This is an easy and budget busting vegetarian curry that is tasty and filling and is lovely served with naan bread. You can add spinach or even other veggies like cauliflowers and potatoes to the recipefor a different taste. Often relished during Diwali and other times to, red lentil curry is greatfor using up many of the ingredients you may have in your cupboard. Using tinned lentils makes this an even quicker dish to cook.

Naan bread
This perfect partner to curries and really easy to make bread,tastes perfect when made with black carawayfound in the herb and spice aisle of most supermarkets. Add some garlic too for an extra punch.

Ingredients
2½ cups (280 gm) plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 tsp black caraway seeds
1 tbsp runny honey
4 tbsp plain/Greek yogurt
1 tbsp melted butter/ghee
100ml cold water

Method
Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix in yogurt, honey and butter
Gradually add water and knead well until you have smooth non-sticky dough
Cover it let it sit in a warm place to prove for an hour or so.
Preheat the grill to high and grease a baking tray
Divide the dough into around 8 pieces and roll into 10cm circles
Place the rolled dough onto the baking tray and grill for a few minutes on each side until brown Leave to cool on a wire rack or keep warm in a low oven until you are ready to serve them


Sweets for a Sweet Tooth
While ladoos, barfis and halwas are universally popular, some of other items like mawakachori, motipakand, sohanpapdi are more regional specialties requiring elaborate preparation. It is customary to exchange extravagantly decorated boxes of mithai, dried fruit, nuts on silver serving dishes with family and friends.

MawaKachori (Puffed Pastry)
Jodhpur is famous for its mavakachoris. Rich dry fruit and mava (khoya) stuffed crisp, deep fried kachoris are coated in sugar syrup. These kachoris, often called gujjiasare a welcome treat at any time of the day.

Ingredients
Dough for crust
1 cup plain flour (maida)
2 tbsp melted ghee
a pinch of salt

Filling
1/2 cup (750g) grated mava (khoya or milk solids)
5 to 6 almonds or badam slivered
5 to 6 pistachios slivered
1/2 tsp cardamom or elaichi powder
1 tbsp sultanas
1 tbsp sugar
a few saffron or kesar strands

Sugar Syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
a few kesar strands

Ghee for deep frying, a few kesar strands and chopped pistachios for garnish

Method
For the dough (crust)
Combine all the ingredients and knead well for 5 to 7 minutes into firm dough using enough water
Let it rest under a damp muslin cloth for 10 to 15 minutes
Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Keep aside

For the sugar syrup
Dissolve the sugar in ½ cup of water and boil the syrup for 4 to 5 minutes
Add the saffron and mix well

Divide the filling into 6 equal portions.
Roll out each portion of the dough into twelve 7cmcircles
Place a portion of the filling in the centre of six dough circle and cover with remaining circles 
Seal the ends with a little water and turn the edges of the kachori decoratively
Deep fry the kachoris in hot ghee over a slow flame till golden brown
Drain on absorbent paper and allow the kachoris to cool slightly
Dip the kachoris in the hot syrup. Drain and keep aside
Serve garnished with saffron strands and pistachios


Lapsi
This fabulously tasty Gujarati sweet features the goodness of broken wheat and the tantalizing aroma of cardamom.

Ingredients
1/2 cup broken wheat (dalia)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp cardamom (elaichi) powder
3 tbsp ghee
For garnish, a few almond (badam) and pistachio slivers

Method
Heat ghee in a non-stick kadhai, add the broken wheat and cook for 5 to 7 minuteswhile stirring continuously on a slow flame till golden
Add 2 cups of warm water and cook on a high flame till the water starts boiling
Cook on a slow flame for 15 to 17 minutes stirring continuously
Add sugar and cardamom powder
Mix well and cook on a slow flame for five to seven minutes till the ghee separates
Serve hot garnished with almond and pistachio slivers

Handy tip:If you make the lapsi in advance, before serving add two tbsp of milk to the lapsi, mix well and reheat it for two minutes.

Foods ordained for five-day Diwali festival
Thefirstdayof Diwali, or Dhanteras, is associated with wealth. On this day serving cracked wheat sautéed with ghee and sugar known as 'lapsi' is very popular, and may be accompanied by a curry of yard-long beans which, due to their length, symbolize longevity.

The second day is associated with the elimination of evil spirits. Specialtieson this day include 'anarasa' which is a rice-and-jaggery dish that can take up to seven days to prepare. Light, fluffyurad lentil pakoras are eaten alongside the milky rice pudding orkheer.

Diwali day dishes include: Galaka — a curry of courgette-like squash; Ukkarai — a south-Indian originated steamed dish of split chickpea and moong bean batter;Sheera — a fudgy sweet of semolina sautéed with raisins, cashewnuts, cardamom and saffron;Kansar — a steamed fine-grain cracked wheat porridge dolloped with ghee and sugar; Balushahi — a crumbly doughnuts  and Poli —a sweet flatbread stuffed with mashed pigeon peas, saffron and cardamom.

On the fourth day of Diwali, puris may be paired withshrikhand, a chilled pudding made from home-made yoghurt cheese, and mixed vegetable curries, made with as many varieties of vegetables as possible, as this symbolizes year-round culinary riches.

The last day of Diwali is a celebration of the bond between brothers and sisters. Women spend the entire day in the kitchen, making their brothers' favorite dishes and sweets, and are presented with lavish gifts in return.
 

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