Earlier this week, we had plans for a Deepavali dinner, maybe some lights, no fireworks (not a big fan of those anymore), a shot at cultural immersion of sorts ... I go back and forth on these festival days, the nostalgia aspect of celebration is pretty high since we celebrated every festival and puja growing up. However, I'm not too big on any conservative or overly (note the highly subjective usage :)) traditional notions behind festivals - a classic example being Karadiyar Nombu - when women pray for the well-being of the men in the family ... hmm, not be a bad idea, but it does bug me that there are no puja days when the men honor the women!
Back to Deepavali 2007 and what became of it ... wednesday evening involved a reasonably non-threatening visit to the vet - Vodka's had this weird-looking hotspot on his side that was bugging me enough to warrant a trip to Redwood. Well, after a long physical, several needle aspirations and a short wait, he was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor. And he was scheduled for surgery yesterday. I staggered out of the clinic, my head swimming with worst-case scenarios and illogical fears. Well, things seem a little better now - he's out of surgery (looking like he's been through a battle!) and recovering, the next week is going to be long and tedious - as we await the results of the biopsy. *bleh*
Anyway, all this made for a toned down Deepavali - but it did involve food, some of which Vodka sampled :) I was craving something comforting, yet festive - Bisi Bele Huli Anna - roughly translates to hot lentils with tamarind and rice, I believe. There are a zillion recipes for BBB out there, I mostly worked with what my mum told me - one of the big differences about her recipe is the 1.25:1 ratio of rice:lentils - I really like this proportion - makes the BBB a lot more chunky and earthy. The other thing I usually do is bake the BBB at 275 F for about 30-40 minutes -this gets the flavors to soak in quite a bit. Given my sleep-deprived state, I'm probably going to skip posting the details of the recipe since there are a zillion awesome versions out there, like here, here and here and more.
Often, a raita brings out the BBB flavors better than anything else - so that's what we went with. A simple carrot and pomegranate raita - very refreshing.
Well, Deepavali warrants a dessert - that was my excuse for trying out a variation of this walnut barfi recipe that my friend Yamini emailed me about the other day.
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup cashews
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 T butter
a few strands of saffron
1/4 cup of milk
Soak the walnuts and cashews in hot water for about 20 minutes.
Drain them and grind into a coarse paste, adding milk as needed to make the paste.
Toss this into a saucepan along with the saffron and stir on low heat for 1-2 minutes before adding the butter. This recipe apparently calls for a whole stick of butter, but I couldn't quite get myself to use that, so I opted for less butter but more stirring to get the barfi to set.
After about 20 minutes of stirring, I ended up pouring this into a pan hoping it would cool and harden. Well, it didn't :( Tasted great, but was all gooey. I finally ended up sticking it in the oven at 300 F for about 30 minutes, I think that was a bit much - about 20 minutes should've been good enough.
Tasted pretty good, but I definitely need to fine-tune the stirring/baking/etc times.