Citizens, today marks the beginning of the magnificent holiday of Diwali! 🙂
Diwali or Deepavali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere (spring in southern hemisphere).
It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. One of the major festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.
Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.
Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices. On Diwali night, people dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Deepavali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.
It is with Diwali sweets that we are concerning ourselves with today – specifically, one of the most famous and beloved in India!
Kaju kathli (literally “cashew slice”), also known as kaju Katari or kaju barfi, is an Indian dessert similar to a barfi. Kaju means cashew nut in Hindi. Barfi is often but not always, made by thickening milk with sugar and other ingredients (dry fruits and mild spices). Kesar kaju kathli is a kaju barfi recipe that includes saffron. The kesar version of this sweet dish is considered to be more exotic and rich.
My version – of course – exemplifies the lush and sweet nature of this dessert, with specific directions cribbed from the great blog vegrecipesofindia.com on how to best make this delicious treat! The ingredients, however, are my own. 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 cup kaju (cashews)
½ cup sugar or as required
5 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon rose water
½ teaspoon freshly-ground cardamom
8-9 strands of saffron (optional)
Edible silver foil (varq)
1: Add 1 cup cashews/kaju in a dry grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a smooth powder. I usually keep cashews at room temperature, hence the cashews are dry. Avoid using refrigerated cashews. Also make sure you don’t over do the grinding process as oil should not release from the cashews. I ran the mixer at a stretch first and then scraped the sides and ran again at intervals for a couple of times.
The cashews should be in powder form and not become pasty. If there are tiny pieces in the cashew powder, then just let it be… Or you can also sieve the cashew powder and keep aside. Use a medium fine sieve and not a fine one to sieve the powdered cashews.
2: Take ½ cup sugar (or as required) and 5 tbsp water in a thick bottomed pan (or kadai or a non stick pan).
3: Keep on low flame and let the sugar dissolve in the water. There is no consistency in the sugar syrup like one string or two string. Just let the sugar dissolve in the water and then proceed with the next step.
4: When the sugar completely dissolves in the water, add the cashew powder.
5: Stir and keep on stirring and stirring on a low flame. If there are lumps then break the lumps as you stir and continue to stir.
6: The mixture would start thickening and almost come together. When it starts coming together in one form and starts looking like a very very soft dough… its time to remove the whole lump of the mixture from the pan and place it on a work surface. This process of getting the cashew dough took me exactly 8 minutes on a low flame.
Depending on your temperature, pan etc you can use a time span of 7 to 9 minutes after adding the cashew powder. another way of checking is taking a small piece of the dough and form it into a ball. The ball should not stick to your fingers and be smooth. Don’t even bother to scrape the edges, they are chewy.
7: Put the entire cashew dough on the work surface. Add cardamom, rose water, optional saffron and coconut oil. The dough would be very hot… so when the heat is enough to handle, begin to knead the dough.
8: Knead the dough lightly. Don’t over do as this will release oil from the cashews. The grainy texture in the cashew dough goes away as you knead it. Remember the dough should be hot while kneading. You can also apply some oil or ghee on your palms instead of adding ghee/oil separately. In case the dough is soft, then add a teaspoon of dry milk powder. If the dough looks dry or dense, add a teaspoon of milk to soften it.
9: Flatten the dough and place it on a greased plate or tray. You can also place it on a large piece of buttered wax paper. The cashew dough should still be hot or warm when you start rolling it, as it cools it will harden more and becomes difficult to roll.
10: Gently roll with a rolling pin to make it slightly even. There will be fine cracks on the dough.
11: To smoothen the cracks, place buttered waxed paper on top and roll more. This will smoothen the cracks and the kaju katlis will have a smooth appearance. The cashew dough can also be rolled between two butter papers.
12: Roll to get a thickness of about 3 to 5 mm. Let the rolled cashew dough cool.
13: Once cooled completely, cut the cashew dough into squares or diamond shapes. Scrape off the uneven edges and you can have them to snack.
14: Using a butter knife, gently remove the kaju katli pieces from the bottom, taking care that they do not break.
15: Remove and arrange kaju katli on a plate. Garnish with varq and serve kaju katli immediately or store them in air-tight container.