Spread sweetness and light this Diwali with sumptuous traditional delights.
India is a land of festivals! That is something that no one can deny and each festival is celebrated with colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, rituals and prayers. Though Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the biggest and grandest ones, there are numerous other festivals which are celebrated throughout the year and by different communities and regions. Each festival has its own special sweets which are more often than not, lovingly prepared at home.
A true Indian palate has a passion for mithais or sweetmeats. Mithai recipes have been handed down to us by our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, albeit with slight changes over the years. Our lifestyles have changed so much that our food habits have changed too! Simplicity, speed and fewer calories are what we look for now when it comes to preparing sweets.
We would still like the sweets of yesterday, be it the barfis, pedas, phirnis and laddoos, in all their glory, but with a little of their richness sacrificed at the altar of healthful eating. Traditional Indian sweets are mostly milk-based or made from lentils, rice or even sometimes with some flour. Quite a bit of ghee or oil is utilised, and of course plenty of sugar or jaggery is added for sweetness. All these ingredients contribute to making traditional sweets very rich and not always healthy to eat often. I am sure their love for sweets causes great distress to health-conscious folk.
Come Diwali, there is going to be a lot of exchanging and distribution of sweetmeats. In many Indian homes people start preparing for Diwali a week in advance. They are totally engaged in filling up large containers with goodies that they share with family and friends. I, for one, look forward to the delicious gujiyas and laddoos made by friends. There may be a few sweets, which may not be available everywhere or all the time. Hence, if you know the secrets, it becomes easy to prepare and enjoy these sweet Indian temptations at home at any time.
For those of you who want to provide home-made goodies to all your friends and relatives, the recipes that follow will be of great help to you.
To be well-organized for the festive season, do some pre-planning. Gujiya or karanjis (sweet turnovers) can be made two or three days before the festival. Store them in airtight tins. Incidentally, these can also be baked for a healthier version.
You can also prepare mohan thaal and besan laddoos beforehand. Boondi laddoos should be made just a day before and consumed or distributed as fast as you can. All khoya-based barfis should be refrigerated or consumed as soon as possible. Serve home-made jalebis and gulab jamuns hot to your guests, who will appreciate the gesture.
All packs of sweetmeats that you receive as gifts should be unwrapped and inspected immediately, for if they contain perishable Bengali sweets or malai barfi, they are best consumed the same day or refrigerated till ready to serve. Kaju katli-based mithais have become very popular these days. The basic mixture is excellent for shaping into attractive shapes such as miniature watermelons, custard apples, corn-on-the-cob, a kalash (traditional pot), and what have you.
My best wishes for a Happy Diwali to all of you. And as sweets spread the message of happiness, I am sharing some of my favourite sweet recipes with you – Badam Katli and Bombay Halwa. Try them out, share them with your friends and then make some more!
– Chef Sanjeev Kapoor
For recipes click below