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Diwali Sweets

Posted Sep 15 2009 4:47pm

Till we moved to Kochi 3 years back, we lived in Goa. There, we had neighbours from various parts of the country. So Diwali was a whole lot of fun. Many of us would exchange sweets while those among us who did not celebrate Diwali would come by to wish us and sample the fare. After dusk we would light lamps and burst firecrackers. Children would have a wonderful time.
We miss this a bit as Diwali is a not a big affair in Kerala. Only migrant communities here celebrate Diwali.
This year, apart from my regular mysore pak and pokkuvadam (from my palakkad iyer repertoire), I also made thattai and carrot-coconut burfi. Thattai is a snack made from rice flour and urad dal flour and resembles the Gujarathi matri, somewhat.

Pokkuvadam

Ingredients:
3 cups fine rice powder, sieved
¾ cup gram flour (besan), sieved
¼ cup Bengal gram (dalia/ pottukadalai)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ tsp asafetida powder
chilli powder and salt to taste ( I prefer a little less of the fire!)
oil for frying

Method:
Roast Bengal gram till golden, cool and powder very well. Now mix all the ingredients together. Add enough water to mix into a stiffish dough. Fill into the dough press fitted with the proper plate for the pokkuvadam. When the oil is hot, press dough into the oil in a circular motion so the pressed dough spreads and cooks well. Fry till golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels, cool and store in airtight containers.

Thattai

Ingredients:
2 cups fine rice flour
1 handful urad dal
1 handful Bengal gram (dalia/ pottukadalai)
1 handful chana dal soaked for an hour
1 tbsp unsalted butter
chilli powder and salt to taste( this snack is meant to be a bit spicy)
oil for frying

Method:
Roast Bengal gram till golden, cool and powder very well. Now mix all the ingredients together. Add enough water to make a stiffish dough. Grease a medium sized plastic sheet and taking a small ball of the dough, press it out into a circle (reasonably thin and about 3 inches in diameter) on the sheet using middle three fingers. Oil your palm lightly so the dough does not stick when being pressed out. Heat the oil and slowly peel off the circles from the plastic sheet and slide into the oil. Fry on both sides till golden brown. Drain on paper towels, cool and store in an airtight container.

Mysore pak

Ingredients:
1 cup gram flour (besan), sieved
1 ¾ cup sugar
1 cup ghee
½ tsp cardamom powder

Method:
Use a heavy bottom deep pan. This ensures that cooking is at constant heat without the food sticking to the pan. I use the pan of my pressure cooker.
Dissolve the sugar in ½ cup of water and boil to prepare a one-string syrup. Switch off the heat and add the gram flour. Mix well till blended. Meanwhile melt the ghee and keep warm. Keep the pan back on heat and stir constantly or else the mixture will stick to the pan. Adjust the heat as required. When the mixture starts thickening, pour a ladleful of melted ghee. Keep stirring carefully till ghee is absorbed. Add all the ghee, a ladle at a time, stirring all the while. Once all the ghee is absorbed and the mixture starts leaving the side of the pan to form a mass, pour into a greased thali. Allow to spread uniformly and use the back of a greased spoon to smoothen the top without pressing down. You have to work quickly or the mysore pak will set and look unattractive. Mark into squares while warm. Cut when cool and store. This recipe makes about 20 small pieces.
Be prepared for quite a bit of stirring and bicep-strengthening exercise!

This recipe (and the ones for mysore pak and pokkuvadam) comes down from my grandmother and mother and uses much less ghee than some recipes. The mysore pak will not be as soft as the SreeKrishna sweets variety (to those familiar with this) because of this.

Carrot-Coconut Burfi This recipe is adapted from one of my cookbooks – The Vegetarian Menu Book by Vasantha Moorthy. I have made it many times and the burfi combines the taste of coconut burfi with carrot halwa.

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups grated coconut
2 cups grated carrot
2 cups sugar
2 cups milk
2 tbsps ghee
½ tsp cardamom powder
halved cashewnuts, as required

Method:
Fry the cashewnuts in ½ tbsp ghee till they start to turn golden and keep aside. Cook the grated carrot in the milk till tender and the milk is reduced by half. (This can be done in the microwave too) Add the coconut and cook till a little thicker. Add the sugar and boil till the mixture thickens. Now add the ghee and keep stirring till the mixture leaves the side of the pan. Allow to cool till it can be handled. Make little balls of the mixture, flatten slightly and press a cashewnut half onto each piece. Allow to cool. This burfi will dry out as it cools and tastes best the next day.
Alternatively, pour the hot mixture into a greased thali, press down and allow to cool. Cut into pieces and store. This recipe makes about 16 – 20 pieces.

P.S. I had wanted to do this post before Diwali but could not quite manage it.
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