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Festival Samayal—An Offering to the Gods by Viji Varadarajan. Orient Enterprises. March 2006. Paperback. 98 pages. $21.95.

Divali is upon us, and it is time to pull out cookbooks and handwritten recipes to prepare dishes associated with the festival of lights. Viji Varadarajan’s book, Festival Samayal—An Offering to the Gods is a handy manual, and offers recipes associated with the celebration of all the festivals in the Hindu calendar. The South Indian community in the diaspora can use this as a ready reference guide to explain the significance of festivals to youngsters, while using the recipes to cook the appropriate dishes associated with each festival. The photographs by V.K. Rajamani greatly enhance the presentation of the recipes. Page after page of aesthetically designed presentations of dishes can be found. In an email exchange, Viji mentions that she has deliberately tried to make the recipes very simple and easy-to-follow. She has also presented photographs of the ingredients mentioned in the cookbook to help novices shop for groceries before entering the kitchen. Given below is a recipe for badam halwa fom her cookbook.

Badam Halwa
Saffron Almond Fudge

2 ½ cups almonds/badam
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup milk
a few strands saffron/kesar
1 cup clarified butter/ghee

1. Soak the badam in hot water for 30 minutes. Peel and bend into a coarse paste, using very little milk and set aside.
2. Prepare the saffron by mashing it in a little warm milk until the milk turns a deep orange.
3. In a deep non-stick saucepan, mix the sugar and almond paste and stir over a medium fire for 5-7 minutes.
4. Add the milk and keep stirring until the paste thickens and begins to leave the sides of the saucepan. Add teh saffron liquid and the freshly melted ghee.
5. Stir for 2 minutes and remove from fire.

Serve this fudge hot or cold. Wrap them up in butter paper or toffee paper or serve in tiny paper cups.

Timely tip: Soak the almonds in a little water and microwave for a couple of minutes. Remove and peel.

First Published on 2007-11-06

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the editor of India Currents magazine. 

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