Saturday, November 2, 2013

Deepavali special: Date and Mixed Nut Laddus


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To all my readers celebrating this joyous festival, wish you a very happy Deepavali!

Deepavali or Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year. It literally translates to "row of lamps". Being South Indian, I use the term Deepavali while referring to this festival. The two main significant events associated with Deepavali are: welcoming the return of Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years of vanvas (exile) and the slaying of the evil demon Narakasura by Krishna. This bright and vibrant festival marks the triumph of good over evil. Now what could be a better reason to celebrate? 

I have a whole treasure trove of Deepavali memories. Growing up in India, every year, me and my family would go to my grandparents sprawling house near Manipal where aunts, uncles and cousins would congregate. On the day of Naraka Chaturdashi, we would wake up early, take a fragrant oil bath and get dressed in opulent new clothes (Deepavali shopping is a whole other story by the way!). We girls would get decked up with shimmering jewellery, sparkling bindis, colorful bangles and get our hair adorned with sweet-smelling jasmine flowers. The day would go by in a flurry of activities with us taking part in prayers and rituals at home with a customary visit to the temple, greeting visitors, receiving gifts from doting grandparents, lighting oil lamps thus making the house look resplendent, bursting firecrackers of all shapes, sizes and varieties and last but never least, savouring an assortment of mouth-watering food and delectable sweets traditionally served on a plantain leaf.

The myriad colors, warmth of glowing lamps, pomp and splendor of firecrackers, fragrance of coconut oil, incense, jasmine and the sizzling sounds and aromas emanating from the kitchen sums up Deepavali for me. The merry-making didn’t end with the celebrations on that day. During the couple of days that we were there, we would do some of the things that we often did during the summer holidays - play card and board games, engage in a game of hide and seek around the large estate, listen intently for spooky noises coming from the allegedly haunted hovel behind the house, sneak off to the beach, go visit our grandfather’s farm where we would pluck wild (and potentially poisonous!) berries and drink tender coconut water to our heart's content, roam around Manipal stopping by familiar haunts, visit relatives who lived in the area and go to restaurants in a large group to enjoy a meal together (the restaurant Diana in Udupi being a hot favourite). Those were good times and I get quite nostalgic while recollecting those wonderful years!

This year Deepavali in our household in Singapore is going to be fun because we have family who are arriving shortly from Kuala Lumpur to celebrate with us. The addition of relatives is going to turn the festival into an eventful one. The preparations are currently underway with a shopping trip to Little India, customary house cleaning, mammoth prep work in the kitchen, stringing of aromatic mango leaves into a welcoming thorana (festoon) to adorn the front door, colorful rangoli at the entrance-way, flower decoration for the God's mantap and arranging of lamps around the house. Once the guests arrive, we plan to spend time together, light the lamps, burst some sparklers and feast on a lot of food! So even though the celebration will hardly be on the same scale of what I was used to in India, I'm sure that it will still be lovely 

I made these date and mixed nut laddus for the festival. I decided to make a super simple Indian sweet because I also made chocolate chip cookies and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for my young nephew and niece who are due to arrive. In an earlier post, I have already chronicled my fondness for dates so making these laddus was a no-brainer. And did I mention that it takes only 20 min to come together? Now if that isn't incentive to make it, I don't know what is! 



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Date & Mixed Nut Laddus

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Makes: 15-18 laddus
Recipe Category: Dessert/Indian
Recipe Level: Very easy
Recipe Source: Adapted from Edible Garden

Ingredients:

18 soft dates (I used medjool dates)
1 cup of raw mixed nuts of your choice (I used cashews, almonds, pistachios & peanuts)
1 tsp of ghee or unsalted butter
1 tsp honey, Optional
1/2 cup of desiccated coconut, Optional but recommended

Method:

1. Remove seeds and grind the dates to a coarse paste (without water). Set aside.


2. Dry roast the nuts one kind at a time until they start to brown in patches. Take care not to burn them. I slightly increased the quantity of nuts than what is mentioned in the recipe but I would recommend sticking to the quantity mentioned.


3. Pulse the nuts in a blender or food processor until you have a coarse mixture. You can leave some chunky pieces because it adds a nice bite to the laddus.


4. Heat the unsalted butter or ghee in a non-stick pan.

5. Add the dates and cook on low flame until it turns soft (about 3-5 min). The date mixture will absorb the butter/ghee completely.


6. Add the chopped nuts, honey (if desired) and blend in. Turn off heat. The mixture will be sticky and tough to blend (you may feel like it is never going to come together) but keep mixing with your spatula and soon you will have a homogenous mass of dates and nuts.


7. When it's cool enough to handle, make laddus of your desired size and roll in the desiccated coconut. You can also use roasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds or finely chopped roasted nuts in place of coconut. Or if you like things simple, just leave the dates laddus plain.




Notes:

  • If the dates are hard, you can microwave them in a microwave-safe bowl for a minute or two
  • You can finely chop the dates instead of making a coarse paste

So, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed the festive season. Stay happy and blessed 


Cheers,


6 comments:

  1. Happy diwali to u too Megha :) I am off to India today. Looking forward to the festivities .

    The ladoos look divine! Yummy.

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  2. Thank you Pallavi. Have a wonderful time in India!

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  3. So wonderful to read your childhood memories of Diwali! What a great festival it is - Mumbai is crazy tonight! Happy Diwali to you and your family:-)

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  4. Thanks Eli. Yes I have heard of the legendary Mumbai festivities. Hope you had fun!

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  5. Hey megha..never saw any post on Facebook. Anyway I might have missed ...They look yum :)
    I will definitely try these.

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  6. I had put it on FB Shibi. I think u must have missed it. Please try and let me know what you think :) I've been wanting to try one of ur recipes too. Will do sometime!

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