Happy Diwali to all. I love love love Diwali…I think I say that whenever a festival is here..:P. The excitement, the preparation, meeting family and friends, decorations, and food. Along with the message of love and peace that almost all of our festivals bring, there is a sense of community which brings out the best in all of us. Diwali is undoubtedly the biggest festival in our families. It marks the celebration of Lord Rama returning home after an exile of fourteen years. To welcome Him back to His kingdom, people lit lamps of ghee and oil, hence the name “Festival of Lights”, a celebration of victory of good over evil and a beautiful homecoming.
When we were younger we would always celebrate Diwali at my grandparents’ house in the beautiful city of Jaipur. Days leading to Diwali involved cleaning and painting the house, new curtains were hung up on the windows, beautiful string lights were set up to dangle from the roof top and it was so exciting for us kids to walk around the neighborhood and admire every house lighted up. Jaipur’s Diwali is famous for its lights display. With a rich cultural heritage and architecture, all the historic forts, palaces, temples, and bazaars are beautifully lit up and it’s a view to hold in your minds and hearts forever. Our Diwali day would involve setting out all our fireworks and arranging them so that we would have easy and planned access to them at night. We would dress up in fancy clothes and then go to the bazaar for some gift shopping. As the sun went down, a tour around the city to look at all the beautiful lighting was mandatory. The entire family would then settle down together for Lakshmi Pooja and pray to Goddess Lakshmi to bless us with good health and wealth. Candles and diyaas (earthen oil lamps) were lit and put all around the front and back yard. Elaborate dinner and lots and lots of sweets was followed by hours of fireworks. We would wrap the night with another big pooja and our grandmother would light a lamp that would burn all night. The soot from that lamp was collected all night on the back of a spoon and in the morning all the grand kids would get a tiny bit of that soot rubbed on their foreheads to ward off all the evils. I don’t know how I feel about this last tradition but I will leave it at just that…
Here in the states, we celebrate Diwali trying to follow the traditions of our childhood and creating new ones with our own kids. It’s a fine balance to keep our kids tied to our culture and rituals while letting them explore all the experiences that this beautiful country and culture has to offer. I always tell our kids that we are double blessed since we get to celebrate double the festivals – of our Indian culture and religion as well as our wonderful “adopted” festivals like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and so on. Double the fun!
This recipe is besan burfee recipe (here) revisited. Few days ago I wrote about Karvachauth (here) and how we had a potluck dinner to celebrate the occasion. One of our friends brought this besan burfee to share with us. I asked her and she happily shared her recipe. The basics of the recipe still remain the same with the addition of ground almonds and ricotta cheese to enhance the richness. The result is more texture, depth of flavor and toasted besan flavor. I would say this recipe is still a work in progress for me, but Diwali calls for a some mithaaii..so here it is.
I also have a kesar malaai peda recipe lined up for you guys. Hopefully soon!
Besan/Chickpea/Gram flour – 1 cup
Sooji/Rava – 2 tablespoon
Ghee/ Unsalted butter – ½ cup + 1 teaspoon
Sugar – scant ½ cup
Green cardamoms – 2
Ground almonds – ¾ cup
Ricotta Cheese – ¼ cup
Chopped Pistachios – 2 tablespoon (optional)
Take out the seeds from the green cardamom pods and grind them into a powder. Set a deep, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat and start dry roasting the rava, after about two minutes add besan and dry roast it till its color deepens and bit and a toasty aroma fills up your kitchen, about five minutes. Remove the besan and rava mixture into a plate and add ghee or butter into the same pan. Wait till ghee melts. If using butter, let it melt and let it heat up for a minute. If you are a fan of non-stick pans, feel free to use one.
Add besan+rava to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Start roasting the besan and stir it continuously to avoid burning. After about 5-6 minutes, the besan will start changing its color to a deeper golden. At this point, turn the heat off and add sugar, cardamom powder, ground almonds and ricotta cheese. Mix thoroughly. Turn on the heat back again to medium low and bhoono or roast the mixture for a little bit longer. As you add ricotta, it will release some moisture, the idea is to get rid of this moisture and let the mixture dry up a little bit, about 7-10 minutes. Let the besan burfee mixture cool in the pan (and give your arm, that is sore by now from all the stirring, some rest..:P).
While the besan mixture is cooling, line a small cookie sheet with parchment/wax paper. Spread the cooled besan mixture on this cookie sheet to get about a ¼ inch thickness. Spread the chopped pistachios, if using, on the surface and press them lightly into the burfee. Let the burfee set in the refrigerator for about one hour. After which, take it out, and using a sharp knife, cut into diamonds of desired size (Cutting in diamonds also results in burfee scraps that are great to snack on). Enjoy!
This burfee stores well in the refrigerator. Best served at room temperature.
Love – Vaishali.
Mortar and pestle
Wide, Heavy bottomed pan