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Do You Diwali?

November 4, 2013

Yesterday I attended my first ever Diwali party. It’s embarrassing to admit, but last week I knew little to nothing of this holiday. Now, I’m totally enamored of it.

This international community at IAS is really remarkable. On Friday night the Fussies hosted a potluck in our apartment. I made chana masala and a split mung bean dal. Our Indian neighbors brought a bowl of fragrant spiced minced chicken (and some bread). The Israelis from across the courtyard made a tray of moussaka. And the other American family made a variation of tabouli that tied into their Lebanese heritage.

I also made baba ganoush, because I’ve been making a lot of baba ganoush lately. More on that soon.

But this was the first time that I was serving some of my homemade Indian food to people from India. It was more than a little bit harrowing, but they were very polite and complimentary. I did make a point though to include garnishes of red onion and cilantro, a delicious finishing touch that I usually skip, mostly because those two ingredients are reviled by 75% of the Fussies.

With this modest success under my belt, I decided to take on something a bit more out of my comfort zone for Diwali.

As far as I can tell, Diwali takes the best parts of Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, Halloween, and Christmas, and swirls them into a colorful spectacular of sweets, presents and lights.

I want to go to a Diwali celebration every year.

Given that this was my first, I did a little research and discovered that when you are invited over to someone’s home on Diwali, it is traditional to bring sweets. I learned this on Saturday evening after it was far too late to go out for ingredients, and it was probably inadvisable to start on a cooking project.

But that never stopped me before.

Fortunately, I had all the ingredients and tools on hand that I needed to attempt Kesar Kaju Katli. That included raw cashews, plenty of sugar, a little bit of milk, a bit of ghee and a pinch of saffron.

In theory this can be a pretty easy dish to make, especially if you are starting out with cashew flour. But I only had whole cashews, so I was going to have to break out the big guns.

There are a lot of recipes floating around for this dish. None of them really quite explain what is going on during the process. Part of me wanted to try and combine the best parts of several recipes, but without a firm understanding of the technique, I thought it was really best to just choose one recipe and try to faithfully recreate that version of the dish.

So that’s what I did, and this was ultimately the recipe I made.

While I thought these tasted great, they didn’t quite have the visual appeal I was hoping for. But looking back on it, the version I pulled off looks an awful lot like the ones from the recipe page. Granted, I took no pictures myself, because I didn’t find them to be especially photo worthy.

One’s first attempts are rarely as good as subsequent efforts. But I’m looking forward to making these again, because I loved the distinctive notes of saffron laced through this sweetened, earthy cashew paste.

Our hostess had never made these herself, so she didn’t have a lot of pointers to help me improve my technique. But she did serve an amazing goat stew, for which I’m hoping she will be willing to share her recipe.

And maybe, if anyone is throwing a Diwali party in the Capital Region next year, I can bring both dishes to help in the celebration.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2013 10:25 am

    I’ve been aware of Diwali for decades because my wife used to do advertising for Sprint, and they would try to get people in the US to call home to India and wish their relatives Happy Diwali. It’s definitely a great, celebratory holiday.

    If you want to translate it to the Cap District, though, you may have to take the initiative yourself. There was a photo of the Diwali observance at the Hindu Temple in Loudonville and those are some of the glummest celebrants imaginable. Lighten up, people! (Pun intended.)

  2. November 5, 2013 5:05 am

    I love Diwali! I went with some friends to a function, and it was fun! I look forward to Diwali every year.

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