Happy Diwali to all! Diwali is a time of great celebration and joy in India–it is the festival of lights. I have fond memories of visits to India during Diwali. Our normally quiet street would be lit up by all varieties of fireworks. There was the ‘chakra’ or discus that once ignited would spin around rapidly creating a bright circle of light and throwing off sparks in massive rays onto the street. There were others that spewed forth a bright fountain of light and others that made loud booming noises and bright flashes of light. And of course, there was always food, plenty of food, and always something sweet.
|The garnishes for Shiro: Center-golden raisins and slivered almonds, Clockwise-slivered pistachios, whole cardamom seeds, powdered cardamom, coarsely ground cardamom|
Diwali is a holiday that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It is the day that King Rama, the seventh incarnation of the god Vishnu, defeated the evil king Ravana and returned triumphantly from a 14 year exile back to his hometown of Ayodhya. It is said that on the day of his return, all of the citizens of his kingdom lit lamps to light his pathway home and celebrate his return.
|Saffron dissolving in milk|
Diwali is also the day that we honor the goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort and the goddess of wealth and prosperity. It is said that Lakshmi will come and specifically bless the home that has been illuminated the most brightly and beautifully. She bestows upon the family wealth, prosperity, and many blessings. Families across India light up their homes with brass or silver lamps filled with cotton wicks soaked in rich and pure ghee (clarified butter). It truly is a spectacular sight.
|The Ingredients: Clockwise from top: the garnishes, sugar, saffron milk, coarse ravo|
Saffron Sweetened Cream of Wheat ~ Shiro
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: serves 4||Total:|
A delicious Gujarati dessert made of milk, coarse semolina, sugar, and cardamom. A delicious way to celebrate the Indian festival of lights!
- 1 cup coarse soji/rava, or coarse semolina, or cream of wheat.
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups milk, preferably 2% or whole milk
- 1.5 - 2 Tbsp. ghee
- 1 pinch saffron, gently crushed between your fingers.
- 2 Tbsp. golden raisins
- 2 Tbsp. slivered almonds
- 1 tsp. slivered unsalted pistachios
- 0.5 tsp. cardamom seeds
- 0.5 tsp. coarsely ground cardamom seeds
- 0.5 tsp. finely ground cardamom seeds
- Place the milk in a large saucepan. Add the saffron to the milk and stir to blend. Place on the stove and heat over medium-high heat.
- At the same time, melt the ghee in another large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the raisins and stir. Cook until the raisins swell and seem to turn opaque. At this time, add the soji/rava, half of the whole cardamom seeds, and one pinch of the powdered cardamom to the ghee and raisin misture and continuously stir for 3-5 minutes. The soji should seem to feel lighter as you stir and will darken just a bit and start to smell warm and toasty. Once you are able to see a bit of the ghee separate from teh grains at the bottom of the pot, the soji is done. Do not let the soji turn too dark otherwise it will be unable to absorb the milk.
- By this time, your milk should be on the verge of boiling. Turn off the heat under the milk and carefully pour it into the soji pan. Add half of the almonds. Whisk to blend and make sure that there are no lumps. Once the mixture begins to thicken, switch to a spatula and continuously stir. It will continue to thicken and reduce. Cook until the mixture looks shiny and some ghee is visible at the bottom of the pan when the mixture is scraped away. (When stirring always go down to the bottom of the pan otherwise the milk may burn.)
- At this point, add the sugar and stir continuously. As soon as the sugar is added, the whole mixture will seem to melt and become more liquidy. This is normal and to be expected. Continue to stir for about one more minute and ensure that there are no lumps left and the sugar is fully incorporated into the soji mixture. Turn off the heat, cover with the lid ajar, and let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes have passed, uncover carefully ensuring that no water drips into the pot from the condensation on the lid. Give the shiro a few brisk stirs and transfer it into a serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining cardamom, almonds, and pistachios, and serve. Enjoy!
Soji/Rava is available in all Indian stores. Please look for the variety that specifies that the soji/ravo is 'coarse' otherwise the shiro may end up being more like porridge. Unsalted pistachios are also available at Indian stores. If you can't find any, buy shelled pistachios and soak them in water to wash off the salt and the skins and slice them with a small paring knife. Also, check out the links in the ingredients for online shopping.