It’s Deepavali today (aka Diwali), the Hindu festival of lights, one of India’s biggest holidays. The holiday metaphorically celebrates light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, new beginnings, and the triumph of good over evil (Rama’s return to his kingdom after 14 years of banishment and vanquishing Ravana, in one telling). We celebrate by lighting lots of lamps, praying to the goddess of wealth for a prosperous year ahead, firecrackers, which is where the name comes from. Deepa is light+ Avali which is a row=a row of lit clay lamps.
Key to the celebration is also FOOD! So last night, I tried my hand at a classic celebration food of sorts–payasam. K asked for semiya payasam (aka: vermicelli noodle pudding). I put aside my preference for Paal Payasam (rice pudding)…and set to work ;). And it was taasty!!
Here’s a quick-ish and healthy-ish version:
Payasam for 2 (obviously you can double this to stretch it)
2 cups of milk (i used skim, some people would go with whole)
3 Tablespoons of 2 percent milk powder (other recipes tell you to go with Condensed Milk…a good option)
1/2 package of vermicelli noodles
1/4 Cup of Sugar (more to taste)
2 handfuls of cashews (**my hands are tiny, FYI 😉
2 handfuls of raisins
2 pats of butter
2 pods of cardamom
4 strands of saffron
In a heavy bottomed saucepan (like my mom, I used my enameled cast iron one), heat up the milk on medium, stirring regularly, until it comes to a boil. You can cover the pot, just keep checking on it. Neglect it and it will boil over or scorch.
In a separate frying pan, melt one pat of butter til sizzling. add in the vermicelli and gently swirl it around until it takes on a light golden color. remove from the heat.
When the milk comes to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer, add in the milk powder and the vermicelli. Stir gently and cook for 10-15 mins (til the noodles are tender). Add in the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Cover the pot again.
Add another pat of butter to the frying pan and stir fry the cashews and raisins til the cashews are lightly golden and the raisins plump up (5-7 minutes probably). Then Crush up the cardamom pods with a mortar/pestle or a rolling pin if you don’t have one of those. Or a coffee grinder.
Add the cashews and spices to the pot and keep simmering for another 5 mins.