This post was supposed to come on Monday before Diwali and for the Food Day. I support Meatless Monday so this was going to be my contribution to the website for the Food Day celebration. But then I pulled a back muscle real nice and landed on the bed. Well, this recipe was kind of the culprit in that too but hey I cannot complain! That's what festivals are all about, isn't it? Unless you have a few pulled muscles, a couple cuts and burns here and there, a few broken dishes and a lot of chaos, how can you make memories? Isn't that the best part about celebrations? In spite of all such small mishaps and those family dramas which I am sure every family has (at least mine did and still does), all we remember later is that everyone got together, had a few laughs, enjoyed a meal and celebrated each other. Yes, that is what a festival is all about. Its about telling them that you care and you cherish them!
While I am sitting here on my couch next to a big pile of unfolded laundry and two empty coffee mugs writing this, miles away my mummy, papa, my kid brother and a lot of people I care about must be busy celebrating one of the biggest festivals of India. Its Diwali in India today and the whole country will be dressed up like a new bride. There must be colored luminescent lights hanging on every balcony and yard. Mithaiwalas (sweet shop owners) would be up before sunrise prepping for the big day - as soon as they open the shop, they will not have a second to catch a breath. Mummy and all my aunties will get together to cook some Diwali treats. But mainly they would want to know who is wearing what and mentally plan how to outdo each other. The male members couldn't care less and must be sitting together sipping on some hot chai that ladies will be sending out every hour with those treats, perfuming the entire house.
In the evening everyone dresses up in a traditional attire, meet at someone's place (usually the eldest one) and do Diwali pooja (prayers). As soon as they will be done with pooja and step out of the house, there will be diwali lights everywhere. Every nook and corner of the city will be illuminated and so will every face. There will be fireworks, old stories, some tears and a lot of laughter. That is Diwali, the festival of lights as they say.
When Lord Rama, after freeing his wife Sita from the hands of evil Ravana, came back home along with his beloved brother Lakshmana after 14 years of banishment, he was welcomed home with diyas (ghee lamps). The entire city lit ghee lamps to show how much they loved him and were happy to have him back. Ever since, the day is celebrated as Deepavali which literally means "row of lamps". The main essence of this festival is to celebrate your inner light and take pleasure in simple things in life that have the most meaning after all.
Now if you would excuse me, I should go get the house ready so that when the little one wakes up in the morning, we are all ready to make our own memories of Diwali. Leaving you with a traditional Indian sweet recipe which happens to be my all time favorite. This one again counts as one of my recipes with the smallest ingredient list. I tried to give an old favorite Kaju Katli (sweet cashew thins) a new modern face but the essence and taste is still the same. Check out the recipe!
Ingredients: (Makes approx. 35 kaju katli and 10 truffles)
1/2 pounds dried cashews (soaked in water overnight)
1 cup sugar (I like it mildly sweet, you can increase the amount of sugar if you like it sweeter)
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) (add a vegan substitute for ghee like margarine for a vegan version)
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Soak cashews in water overnight (or atleast 6-8 hours). They will look puffed up and should have lost oil which should float in water.
Drain out the water and wash the cashews thoroughly.
Now grind them in a blender using very little oil. Just enough to let the blades move, making a smooth paste. Paste should be very thick.
Mix sugar to the cashew paste and transfer it to a wide pan and my friends brace yourself for some hard work. And when I say hard work then I REALLY mean hard work because I have to admit I underestimated the fact when I took up this task, I ended up pulling a muscle. But again laying on the bed when I was munching on those Kaju Katli truffles, I couldn't feel any pain!
So transfer the contents to a wide pan and turn on the heat and keep it to medium low.
Two things stay constant in the cooking of Kaju Katli paste- medium low heat and constant stirring. If you increase heat a little it will start burning and if you stop stirring for long then also it starts sticking to the pan.
When starting the process of cooking the mixture of cashew paste and sugar the mixture will be very loose and easy to stir. Using a rubber spatula or a whisk (if you are not using a non stick pan) should make the process easier.
After cooking for a few minutes the mixture starts getting thicker and darkens in color. Continue the process for 15-20 minutes and a point will come when the paste starts to become very thick and sticky almost like a dough. Add ghee/butter at this point. You will be losing energy by this time but keep going because you are now very close to the end.
By adding ghee, the paste will again start getting lighter and will be sticking to the spatula (add a vegan substitute for ghee like margarine for a vegan version or can omit completely if you want) Keep stirring until it starts to turn into a ball. When you press it with a finger or back of a spoon it should not stick to your finger. The paste is now ready.
Take it out and place it over a greased surface (baking sheet or kitchen counter). Let it cool for 10-15 minutes until its easy to handle.
Using your hands, make a big ball off of the dough.
You can either place it between two sheets of a plastic wrap or lay it on a greased work station and roll it out using a greased rolling pin or you can make small balls off of it.
Roll it out to the thickness of a thin pizza crust. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the rolled out sheet into squares or diamond shapes. Dust them with powdered sugar if you want. Enjoy them right away or store them in refrigerator.
Wishing you all a Very Happy and Prosperous Diwali!