Take a few diyas, flowers, firecrackers and a beautiful rangoli. Throw in some ethnic threads and maybe that plasma TV too. Add lots of goodwill and cheer and you have the near perfect recipe for a great Diwali! The only missing ingredient - delectable Diwali mithai; Diwali sans the sweet treats is like Shrikhand without sugar! And on whom does the responsibility of producing a 'ghar ka meetha' (homemade sweet dish) fall? Of course, it's the women of the household, who first spend hours thinking of a new dish and then slog in the kitchen to make it.
But, readers, this year there's expert help in the house. And from none other than Cook-Book Queen, master of all things vegetarian, editor of bimonthly magazine, 'Cooking & More' and TV show host, Tarla Dalal; as well as chef extraordinaire, restaurateur, author, personal FMCG brand owner and host of an iconic TV show ‘Khana Khazana’, Sanjeev Kapoor. So this Diwali, get ready for a sweet journey down the sugary slope.
First up Tarla Dalal dons her apron...
"Diwali brings with it a chance to take an exciting break from our busy lifestyles - to revel in the lights, the rangolis, new clothes, and most of all the sweets. The recipe I have chosen is an all time favourite - the Coconut Barfi. Making it the traditional way can be tiresome, so for those who want an alternative, I present its microwave version that combines ease with taste ... Go ahead and indulge! And wish you all a Happy Diwali!"
Coconut Barfi (Kopra Pak)
Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 15 minutes. Makes 20 pieces.
2 cups freshly grated coconut
2 cups sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
A few strands of saffron (kesar)
1 tsp milk
1/4 tsp cardamom (elaichi) powder
2 tsp ghee
5 pistachios, blanched, peeled and cut into slivers
1. Warm the milk in a small vessel. Add the saffron and stir it in till it dissolves.
2. Combine the sugar with one cup of water and bring it to a boil. Add the lemon juice.
3. Remove any floating impurities using a slotted spoon and strain the syrup if necessary.
4. Boil the syrup again until it is of two-thread consistency.
5. Add the coconut, ghee, prepared saffron-milk and cardamom powder. Mix well and remove from the flame, while stirring continuously.
6. Spread the mixture in a thali and allow it to cool.
7. Garnish with the pistachios. Cut into desired shapes and serve.
Coconut Barfi in a Microwave
Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 5 minutes. Makes 10 pieces.
1 tsp ghee
3/4 cup freshly grated coconut
5 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp crumbled khoya (mawa)
1 tsp milk
6 to 7 strands of saffron
A few drops of lemon food colour (optional)
Ghee for greasing
1 tbsp finely chopped pistachios
1. Combine the ghee and coconut in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on HIGH for 1 minute.
2. Add the sugar, mix well and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes.
3. Add the khoya, milk, saffron and lemon food colour, mix well and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes.
4. Remove from the microwave and cool slightly.
5. Spread the mixture in a thali and press gently using the back of a spoon.
6. Garnish with pistachios and keep aside to set for at least an hour.
7. Cut into desired shapes and serve immediately or store in an air-tight container.
Handy tip: At step 5, you can also pat each portion of the mixture into moulds of your choice and then set aside for one hour.
Now that the kitchen is up and running, it's time for Sanjeev Kapoor to dish out some traditional treats, even as he goes down memory lane. Of course, Diwali is also the perfect time to pick out recipes from Kapoor's book, 'Simply Stylish Entertaining at Home', on the art and joy of sharing home-cooked meals with family and friends.
"I grew up in Delhi, and on Dhanteras all of us kids would be taken to the market to buy crackers, candles, diyas and hatri (a small house-shaped mud structure which has the Goddess Laxmi seated in the middle). I remember I was allowed to only light phuljaris (shiny sparklers), while the grander crackers like flower pots and rockets were for the older boys. How I wanted to be a grown up at that time!
"Festivals are a time to be with family and friends munching on the choicest of traditional sweets and savouries. Today, though we want our traditional festive foods, the deep fried samosas and mawa burfis have been replaced by baked samosas and karanjis and its whole wheat flour instead of refined flour. So apart from the sinful Mawa Gujiya, I have chosen a delicious and healthy Date and Anjeer baked Karanji!
2 cups refined flour
3 tbsp ghee
1/2 cup grated and roasted khoya (mawa)
3-1/4 tsp desiccated coconut
15 chopped cashew nuts
15 blanched and chopped almonds
A pinch of nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
Ghee for frying
For the gujiya covering -
1. Sieve the flour and rub in the ghee.
2. Add cold water and knead into a stiff dough. Cover with a moist cloth and keep aside.
For the stuffing -
1. Take the khoya in a bowl and add desiccated coconut, chopped cashew, almonds, raisins and nutmeg and green cardamom powder.
2. Add the sugar and then mix well.
To make the gujiya -
1. Grease your hands and divide the dough into small balls. Grease the gujiya mould too.
2. Roll out the dough into small puris, place them on the mould and press lightly.
3. Fill the hollow portion with the stuffing. Dampen the edges slightly. Then close the mould and press firmly.
4. Now, open the mould and remove the extra dough.
5. Keep the prepared gujiyas covered with a damp cloth.
6. If you do not have a mould, roll out puris and cut into a round shape with a katori.
7. Place stuffing on one half, lightly dampen edges and fold the other half over the stuffing and press edges firmly using a fork.
8. Now heat ghee in a kadai and deep fry the gujiyas on medium heat till golden brown.
9. Drain and place on absorbent paper. Allow them to cool slightly before serving.
Date and Anjeer Baked Karanji
1 cup refined flour
2 tbsp semolina
2 tbsp ghee
1/4 cup milk (for peda)
2 tbsp milk (for stuffing)
3/4 cup chopped, seedless dates
3/4 cup chopped figs
15-20 crushed cashew nuts
15-20 crushed pistachios
1 tsp green cardamom powder
1 tsp roasted poppy seeds
For the Dough -
1. Take the flour in a bowl.
2. Add the semolina, ghee and 1/4 cup milk
3. Knead into a semi soft dough.
4. Divide into equal portions and shape them into pedas and keep them covered with a damp cloth.
5. Preheat oven to 180°C.
For the stuffing -
1. Take the dates and figs in a bowl.
2. Now add the cashews, pistachios, green cardamom powder and roasted poppy seeds and mix well.
3. Mash lightly with fingers and add a little milk.
For the karanji -
1. Place the dough peda in the karanji mould.
2. Fill the hollow with a little stuffing.
3. Dampen the edges, close the mould and press firmly. Remove the excess dough. (To make without the mould, follow the same procedure as for the gujiyas),
4. Place the karanjis on a greased baking tray.
5. Brush them with a little ghee and bake at 180°C for 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Cool and store in an airtight container.