Its that time of the year again, Diwali, a.k.a the festival of lights.. The brain rewinds to memories from long ago of childhood, the aroma of Diwali savories deep frying in a variety of oils, Peanut oil for the 'mixtures' (as chivda is known down south) & 'omappodi' , coconut oil for the 'murukku' & 'thenkozhal' and lots and lots of ghee for the sweet stuff. Every family had (& still does) its traditional set of munchies. My favorite memories are that of waking up from my afternoon nap to the aroma of curry leaves being sauteed with asafetida to be added to the 'Miccher' (mixture). There would be a one foot high hill of various ingredients piled high on layers of newspaper to be mixed by hand before being ladled into the large stainless steel containers.(to be unopened, preferably, until Diwali Eve. Yeah, like that curfew was ever obeyed!!).
Fast forward to this century...Start the Car, drive to Edison, NJ , pick up boxes of stuff from Sukhadia...:-( Go ahead, replace the italicized words with your town & store of choice!
And yet, the heart yearns to recreate the marathon munchie making sessions of the previous generation and I usually like to at least make one sweet & one savory dish to celebrate the event. (in addition to the mandatory Lehiyam). Old traditions carried on, as in the Diwali Eve dinner of Onion & Coconut Sambhar with crispy roast potatoes and deep fried papad, (a tradition adopted from my husbands side of the family).
and some new creative liberties that I began taking last year with classics such as Okkarai (morphed into a health bar)
and a Lavender Badaam 'Cake'.
Well, This year, its my mom's recipe for 'mullu thenkozhal' for the salty part,
|My li'l notebook of recipes dictated by 'amma' a week before she passed away.
and the introduction of a new member of the nut family into the South Indian 'sweets', Hazelnut.
Aside from flavored coffee, the first place one associates hazelnuts is Nutella and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Since it was the first time I had worked with these in South Indian food, I combined it with some almonds but, in retrospect, I realize, the hazelnuts would have been great by themselves.
Hazelnut-Almond 'Cake' (Makes ~ 45-50 1 inch squares)
1 cup hazelnuts, with the outer skin removed
1/2 cup blanched and peeled almonds
1 1/2cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (since this dissolves almost instantly)
1 1/2 cup milk (2 % will do since there's plenty of fatty goodness from the heavy cream)
10-12 strands saffron (Disclaimer: I was rather generous with this, resulting in the darker color)
2 -3 tablespoons ghee.
On a low heat, lightly toast the peeled hazelnuts til they just barely start turning brown & emit a light aroma.
Dissolve saffron in 2 tablespoons of the milk.
In a food processor, combine the toasted hazelnuts and almond & process to a coarse grit. Keeping the machine running add the heavy cream and allow to grind to a coarse paste. Dilute with the milk and transfer contents of the food processor jar into a non stick pan.
Add the confectioners sugar, mix well and cook the mixture on a low medium heat (take care to avoid burning the mixture at the bottom of the pan).
Once the mixture begins to simmer, add the saffron infused milk along with the strands.
Stirring frequently, continue to heat the mixture till it begins leaving the sides of the pan. Add the ghee, & continue to heat the mix till it has the consistency of pizza dough and comes together as a ball. (for want of a better comparison!)
Line a small 6 x 8 inch sheet pan (or a small thali) with Parchment paper or Aluminum foil (brushed thoroughly with ghee).
Drop the mixture into the sheet pan and smooth over with an offset spatula.
Place in refrigerator and allow to set.
When completely cooled, cut into squares. Press halved toasted hazelnuts into the center and serve.
|That is my 5 yr old piling on the nuts!
Wishing everyone of you a wonderful & happy Diwali.