Saturday, October 29, 2011

Looking for the Lights

Couldn't find any clay deyas in Port of Spain, and neglected to get them in
Central, so  I made my deyas with clear plastic cups and tea lights!
Divali is one of my favorite holidays. It marks the end of a period of fasting and meditation for Hindus. Through the enactment of the Ramayan, we are invited to consider the heroic journey of Lord Rama and his wife Sita in exile. On Divali day - in the twilight - we light little lamps ("deyas") to show their way home to Ayodha. Through the legend, we learn that each of us can be a little light in the world, just turn up the flame of your soul!

The Divali holiday was first introduced in Trinidad sometime in the early sixties. I remember hearing the radio ads for the first time, and my sister remarking -with the force of her British primary school upbringing - "Why don't they say it properly, the rally, instead of de-wali?" We've come a long way since then, but still have a giggle at her expense.

This Divali, I was determined to make a special sweet. After going through many recipes on-line, in the newspaper supplements, I settled on Barfi (also called burfee, burfi etc). It is a very milky sweet often accented with the crunch and salt of pistachios. Recipes start with a sugar-water syrup and milk. I started with condensed milk which is easy to find here so that I would add no sugar. Here's the recipe, and the result. 

Condensed milk, one can (14 ounces)
Ginger, two thumbs, peeled, finely sliced or chopped
Powdered milk, full cream, 2-3 cups
Pistachios, cup of nuts, chopped
(Alternate: almonds and cranberries, coarsely chopped)

Grease a square pan or dish. Heat condensed milk and ginger very gently in a pot, stirring, for about 10-15 minutes. Watch it carefully or it will start to burn. It will turn a warm buff color. Reduce heat to warm, stir in powdered milk, a cup at a time. Stir in pistachios. The mixture will be slightly stiff. Push it into the greased dish and allow it to cool and set. Turn out on a board and cut in squares with a sharp knife.

This version is decorated with almonds and cranberries, but I like the complement of pistachios better.

Chopping ginger

Cranberry and almonds for the topping

Dense milky texture and flavour - almost fudge like but not so sweet.

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