A Readable Feast: Diwali Treats!

Welcome back to A Readable Feast, where I convince my wonderful coworkers to share their most treasured recipes with us! This time around I've landed a real gem, folks. The Indian holiday of Diwali (or Deepavali) is just around the corner and one of my lovely coworkers has shared a favorite Diwali-related recipe with me.

If you don't know much about Diwali, here's a very short explanation: Diwali is a festival of lights to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. It's celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists, and it has taken on lots of different meanings for the cultures and religious groups in India over the millennia.

Celebrations often include lighting lamps and candles, setting off fireworks, special prayers, the exchange of gifts, big family meals, and the eating of sweets. So it's kind of like rolling New Year's, Christmas, and Halloween all together into one enormous 5-day holiday. For more information on Diwali, check out this discussion of the different ways it's celebrated.

Sweets are a big deal during this holiday (they are often homemade) and I managed to get my hands on a recipe for a Diwali classic from my friend Shara.


Badam Burfi (Homemade Almond Fudge)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds (badam)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder (optional)
  • few strands of saffron (optional)
  • clarified butter (ghee) for greasing the plate
  1. Soak the almonds in hot water for about 2 hours. Then drain and peel the skin away from the almonds with your fingers. (You can use blanched or slivered almonds instead, but you should still let the nuts sit in hot water for at least an hour.)
  2. Transfer the peeled almonds to a blender jar or food processor, add some milk, and grind to a smooth paste. You don't have to use all of the milk; just enough to help it grind. The more milk you add now, the longer it cooks later.
  3. Take a square or circular plate (any kind) and grease it with ghee or butter.
  4. In a medium saucepan, add sugar, cardamom (if using), saffron (if using), and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat until it reaches single string consistency. (This is thread stage, 230° to 235° F on a candy thermometer.)
  5. Add the ground almond paste. Stir to blend into the sugar syrup and continue to stir until the mixture changes color, thickens, and rolls like a ball without sticking to the sides of the pan. Scrape well.
  6. Turn the heat off when you see a frothy, bubbly layer as you stir.
  7. Pour the almond mixture onto the greased plate and flatten it with a greased rolling-pin. Cut into desired shapes while dough is still warm.
  8. Store in an air-tight container for 3-4 days, or refrigerate to keep longer.

*The recipe can be made vegan by using a non-dairy milk to grind the almonds, and greasing the plate with oil instead of ghee.

Thank you for the lovely recipe, Shara! I'll have to go home and try it out. Diwali begins on November 7 in 2018.

If you're interested in learning more about Indian cooking, try Indian for Everyone by Anupy Singla, which does a great job of covering the basics of Indian cooking in an eye-catching and approachable way.