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Festival of Food

October 2003
Festival of Food

Behind the official definition of Diwali as a ?Festival of Lights'

lies what it practically is? a festival of food.


By Neeta Sanders

The word Diwali is a colloquialism of the Sanskrit word Deepawali, meaning "a row of lit lamps." It is therefore aptly called the Festival of Lights. But around this time, whether in Indian homes or in the marketplace, what is abundantly evident is the rows of food. Each state, region, and even home, has their own specialties that define Diwali for them. From North Indian to South Indian and from Bengali to Gujarati, the variety of Diwali food customs and specialties are virtually endless.

It is therefore a particularly daunting task to select from such abundant a culinary canvas. Nevertheless, I have picked a few recipes that might help liven the festive times in your home. Moreover, keeping in mind our American suburban existence, I have listed shortcuts and substitutes where possible. Believe me, they taste just as good! You'll have people thinking you spent hours slaving over a hot stove, when in reality most of these recipes take only 15-20 minutes to put together!

Sindhi: Naan Kathai

(Indian cookies)

2 cups plain flour, sifted; � cup self-rising flour, sifted; � cup wheat flour, sifted; 1 cup sugar; � teaspoon cardamom powder; 1 tablespoon pure ghee; 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix plain flour, self-rising flour, wheat flour and cardamom powder.

2. Heat pure ghee and oil in a pan.

3. Add heated ghee and oil to the flour mixture and knead until a soft dough forms.

4. Form dough into round balls and flatten. Add a shelled pistachio nut on top of each cookie for decoration.

5. Bake in a preheated oven at 350� (180�C) or Gas mark 4 for 15 minutes (or until cookies look a golden brown color. Do not over bake).

Gujarati: Ghughra

(Pastry stuffed with almond/pistachio flavored mawa)

Fillo pastry sheets; 1 can sweetened condensed milk; 1 small container ricotta cheese; 1 stick of butter; � cup of crushed mixed nuts: almonds and pistachios; 1 tsp Elaichi, or cardamom powder.

1. Melt 1 stick of butter in the microwave for 1 minute.

2. Remove from microwave, add the milk, ricotta cheese, mixed nuts and cardamom powder.

3. Fill mixture into fillo pastry sheets, fold over and seal edges.

4. Bake in a preheated oven at 400�F (200�C) or Gas mark 6 for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is a golden brown color.

Punjabi: Kaju Burfi

(Cashew nut sweet meat)

3 cups Cashew powder; 2 cups Sugar; a few pinches of powdered Elaichi (cardamoms); � cup Water.

1. Heat water, then add sugar and elaichi to make a syrup of almost 2 thread consistency.

2. Add cashew powder to the syrup and keep stirring until the mixture thickens.

3. Grease a stainless steel plate.

4. Spread the cashew mixture onto plate to desired thickness.

5. Cut the barfi into small diamond shaped pieces.

Bengali Samosas

(These samosas have the traditional Bengali filling, but to facilitate the cooking process, the wrapper used for the recipe is puff pastry ? readily available at most grocery stores. Plus, these samosas are not deep-fried but rather baked so they make a healthy alternative)

For the wrappers: 2 puff pastry sheets (ready sheets available at the store)

For filling: 1 cup cauliflower, steamed and finely chopped; 2 cups potatoes, boiled and mashed; 6-7 green chilies, finely chopped; 1 tsp. ginger grated; 1/2 tbsp. coriander finely chopped; 1/2 tsp. amchoor (dried mango) powder; 1/2 tsp. garam masala; 1/4 tsp. turmeric, salt to taste; 1/2 tbsp. raisins, 1 tbsp. cashew pieces; 3-4 pinches hing (asafetida); 1 tbsp. oil

1. In a pan, heat oil, saut� ginger for a few minutes until slightly browned.

2. Add cashews and fry for a few minutes till they reach a golden color.

3. Add the potatoes, cauliflower and green chilies.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

5. Remove from fire. Keep aside.

6. Roll out puff pastry sheets until they are about 24 inches x 11 inches.

7. Cut into 4x4 squares.

8. Place the filling in the middle of the square.

9. Fold over the square diagonally and secure edges by pressing firmly together.

10. Bake in a preheated oven at 400�F (200�C) or Gas mark 6 for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is a golden brown color.

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