Diwali 2015 – Festival of Lights, and laughter
Even though the national dish of the UK is rumoured to be chicken tikka masala, and most British families have an Indian recipe or two in their repertoire, I have never had a homemade Indian dessert. In multicultural Singapore there was the chance to witness many special festivals and as food features prominently in most of them, there was always something to learn. Diwali, or Deepavali, the festival of lights is being celebrated this year on November 11th, so why not try making something different?
Sweets or ‘mithai’ are as part of Diwali as the tin of Quality Street chocolates is at Christmas in the UK. Sweets are also given to, and received by, extended family and business contacts during this period, just like mooncakes for the lunar festival in the Chinese culture. They also figure prominently at weddings and all kinds of celebrations from graduation to weddings and the welcoming of new babies into the family.
Barfi (or burfi) is one of the easiest types of Indian set to recreate at home, as it is naturally gluten free, unlike many of the others. Almost like a fudge, it is made by boiling together milk and sugar, with the addition of ingredients such as coconut, cardamom, rosewater, pistachios. There are even recipes now for chocolate barfi! I would serve this cut into tiny squares (it is VERY rich!) alongside clementines or dates and nuts as a platter for dessert with coffee.
While I was in Singapore recently I recorded a podcast of this recipe with my friend Karen who runs the Singapore Coeliacs support group. If you’d like to hear me talking about this recipe (and me laughing a lot), then you can find it here.
- 3/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup double cream
- 1 cup dried whole milk powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom seed
- Roast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat till they are golden in colour - about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- In a non-stick frying pan combine the cream and dried milk powder. Heat over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously until the mixture starts to bubble. Lower the heat to medium and keep stirring and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan for 8-10 minutes, until mixture comes together to form a thick paste.
- Add the roasted sesame seeds and mix well. Stir for another 2-3 minutes until mixture starts to look like a soft dough.
- Lower the heat to low and add sugar and cardamom powder and mix well. Keep stirring for 1-2 minutes and bring the burfi back to a dough-like texture.
- Spread barfi mixture in a lightly greased 6"/15cm square cake tin to approximately ½"/1.25cm thick. Let it set for two hours at room temperature before cutting to desired shape.
- The pieces of barfi will store well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.