Mornings show streaks of red in the Eastern sky and night glows with a golden hue from thousands of lamps, as everyone revels in festivities. Dry spells are filled with glittering and intense booming fireworks. Incessant rains cannot dampen the pervading festive spirit.
However this year, as of now, it is all sun and skies!
Various stories for celebrating Diwali are
Goddess Lakshmi’s birthday
Victory of Rama over Ravaana
Krishna killed the demon Narakaasur
Vamana, Vishnu in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali
Return of the Pandavas
Worship of Kali Ma and Ganesha
Nirvana of Lord Mahavira
The Sikh Guru Hargobind Ji, freed from imprisonment
In all interpretations, one common thread rings true—the festival marks the triumph of good over evil and celebration of life!
In South India, on Deepavali, people wake up early in the morning and take an oil bath, wear new clothes, light fireworks and eat sweets and savouries. They greet one another asking, “Have you had your ‘Ganga snanam’?” referring to the morning oil bath, symbolising a dip in the purifying holy Ganges.
Click on the links below for Diwali Special homemade recipes, you may want to try out this year
On the friday following the Varalakshmi Vratham poojai, Coconut payasam is prepared. The coconut which was kept on the ‘Kalasam’ for the poojai is stored in a rice bag, through the week and then used for this preparation.This payasam recipe is vegan and gluten free.
Pure goodness of delicious, smooth, flavoured coconut milk is indeed a treat for the Gods!
Prep time : 30 mins; Cooking time : 30 mins; Serves : 4
1 large coconut
2 tsp rice
3/4 – 1 cup sugar or jaggery
7 – 9 green cardamoms
7 – 9 saffron strands
a dash of grated nutmeg powder
a pinch of edible camphor | pachai karpooram
Wash, rinse and soak the rice in lukewarm water for about 15 mins.
Grate the coconut. Peel and powder the cardamom in a mortar and pestle.
Grind the grated coconut along with the soaked rice and about 1 1/2 cups of warm water in a blender. Filter with a strainer or a muslin cloth and obtain the 1st extract of (coconut + rice) milk. Repeat the procedure twice, to obtain the 2nd and 3rd extract of (coconut + rice) milk.
Mix and pour all the milk extracts into a vessel and heat it over a low flame and stir continuously. When it gets heated up, add sugar or jaggery and when it starts to simmer, switch of heat and add cardamom powder, grated nutmeg powder, saffron and pachai karpooram (lends a divine aroma). Coconut payasam is ready for neivedhyam.
Do not allow the milk to boil as the milk will curdle. On the other hand, if removed too soon, it will have a raw smell. The thumb rule is to allow the milk to get hot enough i.e upto its simmering point but not be allowed to boil.
Since it is for neivedhyam, one can err on lower levels of sugar. If required one may add more sugar after the neivedhyam.
I see mangoes everywhere I go, mangoes hanging down from homegrown mango trees, farmer’s market, grocery stores and on the home front too, T who loves mangoes, is always tugging at my sleeve asking for a Mango Milkshake or a Mango Lassi or maybe even a Mango ice cream, whenever we step outdoors. In fact, she gravely announces to me yesterday “Maa, I think I have ‘Mangoes going extinct’ phobia”. Are those fantasy fiction library books to be blamed?!
A tough ask now would be, to think of anything but Mangoes!, this reminds me of ‘The Popular Hilsa fish Story’, an interesting story, that I would like to share with you.
Once upon a time, Hilsa fish, being available only once a year had everyone’s attention and interest. Come Hilsa fish season, house wives exchanged recipes, shopkeepers haggled with customers over the latest price of Hilsa and fishermen talked about catching the biggest Hilsa of the season.
The then ruling King, Krishnadevraya was surprised to see even his ministers discussing Hilsa fish rather than important state issues, unable to bear this anymore, he announced a reward to anyone who could bring to the palace, a big Hilsa fish from the market, without a soul talking about it.
Tenali Raman, the court jester takes up the challenge. Next morning, shaves off, half his beard, dishevels his hair, covers himself with soot, wears torn and tattered clothes and walks out of the house looking like a tramp but please note, royally jostling a Hilsa fish in his hand.People, shocked by his appearance wonder, if he had finally gone mad. The palace guards, who hardly recognised him, went inside to inform the king. The king summoned Tenali. One look at him and the King laughed and announced Tenali, the winner of the challenge. No one had noticed the Big Hilsa Fish, in the hands of his clever and witty court jester.
Forgot about the mangoes for a while, did we? Maybe a reward for me would be in order, right?!
Coming back to our subject, a trivia on mangoes is that, the lovely colour of the mango is called ‘Mambazha colour’ in Tamil and is a very popular colour choice for the famous South Indian traditional Kanjeevaram Silk Sarees.
Personally, love to gorge on the juicy mangoes, as is, but if you are toying with the idea of civilizing them, Mango Milk | Mango Smoothie is the way to go.
Prep time : 15 mins; Serves : 4
Mangoes ( Alphonso | any variety, fully ripened) – 6
Milk – 1 Liter
Brown Sugar – 8 – 9 tbsp s
Green Cardamom – 1
Saffron – 3 – 4 strands
1. Peel and crush the cardamom to fine powder in a mortar and pestle
2. Boil the milk, then add add sugar, saffron and cardamom powder when hot. Let it cool down then strain the milk with a strainer.
3. Chop the mangoes into small pieces and puree them in a blender. Add the cooled, boiled, strained milk to the mango puree and mix well.
4. Refrigerate for 4 hours or more before serving it chilled.
1. You can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the Mango Milk and call it Mango Milkshake.
2. Vegan version – Blend Almond Milk, sugar and the mango puree. Chill and serve.
To make your own Almond Milk, soak about 250 gm of Almonds in warm water overnight. Peel and blend them with about 4 – 41/2 cups of water, adding the water gradually, in installments, to get the required consistency.
This ‘Mango Nectar’ must be savoured slowly, spoon by spoon!
Prep time : 1 hr; Cooking time : 45 mins; Serves : 4
Ingredients for the pastry crust :
11/2 cups plain or wheat flour (GF flour for GF version)
1/4 tsp Baking powder
a pinch of Baking soda (optional)
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 tbsp icing Sugar to be dusted on top
150 gms of cold unsalted butter (cooking oil for vegan version)
1/4 cup yogurt (skip for vegan version)
1 tsp (milk +honey) for milk wash (almond milk for vegan version)
Requisite amount of cold water for kneading the dough
Ingredients for the filling:
6 large apples
1 – 1/2 cups of sugar
11/2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp cinnamon powder
a pinch of nutmeg powder (optional)
1/2 cup of water
Knead all the ingredients given for the pastry crust into a dough. Cover with a wet cloth and refrigerate it for upto an hour.
Thinly slice the apples lengthwise. Cook them in a pan along with half a cup of water, brown sugar, juice of a lemon, cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder. To thicken the filling, add cornflour mixed in 2 – 3 tsps of water.Switch of heat, once the apples are soft and cooked.
Thinly roll out 2/3 rd of the cold dough and place it as the base of the pie dish. Fork all around, a few times and bake it for 15 mins at 180C. Once baked, place the cooked apple filling on the base.
Thinly roll out the rest of the dough and cover the filling and the base. Make slits from the centre radiating outward and also if desired, make fluted patterns at the edges of the circular pie. Brush the pie with milk wash. Bake at 180C for about 30mins , till the crust is golden brown on top. Sieve and sprinkle icing sugar on top before slicing and serving.
Prep time : 10 mins; Cooking time : 15 mins; Makes : 30 – 40 pieces
500 gm s or 3 1/2 cups of Ragi | finger millet flour
3/4 – 1 cup coconut oil or unsalted butter
3 – 3 1/2 cups powdered brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven at 170 C for 10 mins and evenly grease the cookie tray with a tsp of butter or coconut oil.
In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients, namely flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon powder and baking powder. Then add coconut oil or melted butter and knead the flour into a pliable dough.
Roll the dough into little balls and flatten them. On the front side, mark them with the back of the fork.
Bake them for 12 – 15 mins and let them cool down completely on a cooling rack, before attempting to touch them!
Store in an airtight container and enjoy with a cuppa of milk, tea or coffee.
Other flours, like pearl millet, oatmeal, almond meal, whole wheat, multigrain or all purpose can be used.
1 – 1 1/2 tsp dry ginger powder can be added.
1 well beaten egg can be added for a chewy texture.
Chocolate chips and 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder can be added.
Dry fruits like raisins, almonds, cashews and pistachios can be added whole or chopped.
After kneading the dough, roll the dough into a cylindrical log with the help of a cling wrap and tighten the ends. Refrigerate for at least an hour, then remove the wrap and cut into circular discs and bake.
Prep time : 15 mins; Cooking time : 30 mins; Serves : 4 - 6Ingredients :
400 gms unsweetened khova | khoya
500 gms sugar | 2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
a pinch of baking soda
3 - 6 strands of saffron
a pinch of pachaikarpooram | edible camphor
Oil or ghee for frying
1. Take khova in a broad base tray, add baking soda and flour. Knead well with the palm and check if it can be rolled into balls. If not, sprinkle a little water. Take the Khova + flour dough and roll into small balls. Keep covered for 5 mins.
2. Prepare the sugar syrup. 2 1/2 cups of sugar need 3 1/2 cups of water, boil just till it becomes sticky ie one string consistency. Switch off heat. Now mix in the saffron and pachaikarpooram to the syrup.
3. Heat oil on a very slow flame. Take maximum upto 5 jamoons and fry them till golden brown in the oil, making sure they are browned evenly on all sides. The oil temperature needs to be regulated all the time. If it gets too hot, switch of the gas and let temperature come down and then relight the gas. This is essential for the jamuns to be cooked through and not get burnt only on the outside.
4. Once golden brown, remove out all the excess oil with a perforated spoon and put the Jamoons in the syrup. After soaking for half an hour it is ready to be served.
1. A tsp of Rose water or 1 - 2 drops of rose essence can be added to the syrup.
2. Nuts like almonds and cashews can be stuffed inside the gulab jamoon and prepared.
Serving suggestions :
1. Can be served hot along with cold ice cream.
2. Can be garnished with chopped pistachios and rose petals.
1.The amount of ghee may be different in different Khova, hence the flour required, may vary. If the jamoons disintegrate whilst frying, add 1 - 2 tbsp more of plain flour.
2. Few drops of lemon juice can be added to the syrup to prevent it from crystallizing.
Diwali Special :
Prep time : 15 mins; Cooking time : 30 mins; Serves : 4 - 6
500 gms or 3 1/2 cups of Ragi | Finger millet flour
3 cups powdered sugar
250 gms or 1 1/2 cups or as required to form the ladoos of melted ghee
9 - 10 cardamom pods
1. Dry roast the ragi flour in a wok | bandli, till a nice nutty aroma arises.
2. Peel and grind the cardamom pods to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or a blender.
3. Knead the roasted ragi flour, powdered sugar, cardamom powder and melted ghee, little at a time. Take small quantities in greased hands and prepare lemon sized ladoos. Cool and then store in an airtight container.
Raisins, cashewnuts, almonds, pistachios or melon seeds can be added to the flour.