This is a post that talks of several firsts. And all this around my favourite time of the year. Diwali or Deepavali is my favourite festival. In fact, this is my favourite time of the year. Come what may, I try to spend the day with my family (read parents - I am only now slowly getting accustomed to the idea that my family is now S!). There was this one year, 1999, when I had just moved to Gurgaon, and I couldn't go back to Madras. In those days, a one way flight ticket from Delhi to Madras was almost what I took home as pay after taxes. Today, things are very different. Flights are cheaper and my has increased in 8 years. Thank heavens for small mercies! That year, I was to be all by myself. Thankfully, a senior from University contacted me and took me home to spend the festival with his family. It was fun being part of festivities that were alien to me. But Diwali to me is not one tenth as much about the rituals as it is about being with family. I came into this world on Deepavali day. So, my birthday according to the Indian calendar always falls on the same day as the festival. And one of the 9 names that were given to me during my namakaranam is, for the same reason, Deepa.
There has never been an opportunity for me to try my hand at making any of the Diwali sweets or savouries. Amma always made stuff at home every year and while I've helped her make the besan laddoos and other things, I've really always only been the taster. And I believe that has held me in good stead. Had it not been for all those years of meticulous tasting, I doubt I'd be even a fourth as good a cook as I am today.
This year, for a change, I thought I should make some bhakshanam for Deepavali. It was to be just S and me here in Gurgaon. So I had decided on besan laddoos and a few savouries. But then all of a sudden, we decided to go to Madras. I dropped all plans. I mean one wouldn't take Bhakarwadis if one were dining with Chitale Bandhu. Or imagine taking murukkus while going to tea with the folks at Grand Sweets. A phrase in Tamil, "Sooriyanukkey Torch a?" (Showing a torch to the sun.), seems apt.
But that is when Nandita played spoil sport. She asked me if I'd be interested in doing something jointly. She at her place in Bombay and me at mine, here in Gurgaon. I agreed and she shared the recipe with me. We were to make this "together" on Saturday. I forgot completely that my cousin and family were going to be here that weekend. I decided to make it today. It was almost like being part of a small daring baker's group. So, although we were all set to go to Madras and even though I had no plans of making any sweets for Diwali (just planned to binge on whatever Amma was making this year!) I was going to make something special for Diwali. So, there you go. I've already told you about two firsts. 1. That I made something jointly with someone in the blogosphere. 2. That I made something by myself for Diwali. Keep reading for the third.
This is a fairly simple recipe.
1 tin Sweetened Condensed Milk(400 g)
50g Butter (Amul butter is fine)
200 g Mava (khoa)
1/2 cup Milk
1/4 cup Milk (this is to be used if while mixing the wet and dry ingredients, if your batter is too thick).
1 1/2 cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 Cardamoms, peeled and powdered
Pinch of Saffron, pounded with a pestle using a bit of sugar
1/4 cup Cashew nuts, powdered coarsely
2 tbsp Cashews, coarsely powdered
Heat the wet ingredients together till butter melts and the mixture is homogenous. Cool the mixture to room temperature.
Sift the maida and baking powder three times. Add the cardamom, saffron, and cashew nuts. Whisk the dry and wet ingredients together. Use the 1/4 cup of milk if the batter is too thick. The final consistency should be that of idli batter, or the besan batter used for making pakoda. Bake in muffin cases (and sprinkle the cashews on top of the batter) for 20 minutes at 350F or till light brown on top.
This recipe yielded 33 muffins (the recipe said 12) and I'm not complaining. The first person to taste the mava cake was none other than dear Lakshmi. For the very first time, I met a fellow food blogger who had become a friend in the really short time that we've been in the food blogsphere. Lakshmi and her husband Satish visited me today for about an hour. It didn't feel like I was meeting them for the first time. It felt like old friends were re connecting. I lured Lakshmi to my place by promising her a fresh, home made pizza. And it seems like it was good enough for her because she was here, right here in my apartment. Talking about things, looking at my house and recollecting the different things she's seen in the pictures on my blog and then connecting those to the furniture, crockery and other stuff.
For me, Diwali has never been a season of giving and receiving gifts. It has been about being with loved ones. I must admit that it has also always been about food. I plan to make a batch of cupcakes and distribute them at an orphanage that my colleague visits on a regular basis. She had asked us to donate money for some chips and colas, but I thought this may be a better idea. It is going to require a great deal of effort, but given how much I love baking, I think it will be worth my while.
I am sending this to Meeta who is back with one of my favourite blog events, Meeta's Monthly Mingle. This time's theme is Traditional Feasts. She'd asked us to talk about why we made a certain dish if it was the first time we were making it. It is very simple. I wanted an Indian sweet, but my forte is really baking. This eggless cake seemed apt for this festival. It has all the flavours that traditional Indian sweets have and it is a baked goody. Moreover, when Nandita asks you to do something, it is very difficult to say no.
I'd like to wish all of you and yours a very Happy Deepavali. Have a wonderful time and I'll see you when I get back from Madras.