The Weirdest Diwali…

Happy Diwali !!!

Well, belated, at least.

Now, this is another festival Indians go crazy about.

Fire crackers, sweets, gifts (oh yeah!), dry fruits, rangoli, new clothes (yet again!) and more sweets! Plus, Bengalis have their Kali Puja the very next day. So we just have to let go of watching our blood sugar levels for the two days.

It’ll be difficult for anyone to find a town, city, suburb or countryside free of noise, colors, light, fumes from the fireworks or plates and plates of badam burfi piled high.

Indians don’t celebrate with food – they celebrate food itself.

Every festival in India is always up for a million dollops of pure ghee, barrels of molasses, milk by the gallons, saffron by the fistfuls, nuts and fruits by the kilos. Some of the concoctions melt in your mouth, some fill you up with the first serving, some you get addicted to, some taste strange, some reminds you of something ancient and historical, some burst with flavor, others are subtly strong – but all of them make your mouth water, frankly.

This year was slightly different for me. Well OK, a lot different.

Firstly, it rained cats and dogs day before yesterday, which was a mood-killer. The dampness not only affects the performance of the crackers (obviously), but it dampened all our spirits. The fireworks industry in India is massive. And for a day the dealers sat with their hands holding up their heads!

Secondly, I cut down on the amount of crackers.

Well, because after 20 years of experiencing fascination and borderline obsession with fireworks, I got bored this year…much to the surprise and shock of my family and friends.

Thirdly, because I made sweets. And not the traditional burfi or kheer or halwa. But, I made truffles.

Yes, you read that right. Truffles.

Gorgeous dark chocolatey, walnutty ones.

All for a mid-morning coffee snack! And for two very special gift-packages. Recipes are right at the end of this post.

Evening was spent lighting lamps and diyas all throughout the house. And the rest of it was spent inhaling the fumes of burning nitrates and carbonates!

Anyway, back to the aforementioned truffles. I’ve been obsessed with them since……well, since Sunday. That’s when we were gifted this gorgeous box of six sinfully chocolicious rum and brandy truffles! Too bad, none was left to photograph. So, I made some of my own with walnuts, considering the fact that we have a whole kilo of walnuts leftover from when I made cookies a week back.

Chocolate Truffles rolled in Walnuts:

– 250gms of dark chocolate (I used one with 60% cocoa content)

– 150ml of heavy cream

– Walnuts, roasted and chopped coarsely

Chop up the chocolate in shards and chunks and put all of it in a bowl. Heat the cream till it reaches its boiling point. Be careful not to let the cream boil over, at this point. Pour it over the chopped chocolate and let stand for a minute. With a whisk or a wooden spoon start stirring the cream-chocolate mixture, from the center towards the sides of the bowl. Mix thoroughly till all the chocolate has melted. We don’t want any streaks of cream either. What you have now, is chocolate ganache. Pour in a shallow bowl/tin lined with aluminum foil and chill in the freezer for 2-3 hours or till a tablespoon of it can be rolled into a ball.

After the ganache has set, spread the chopped walnuts on a plate. With a teaspoon (or one of those rare melon scoopers, if you have any) scoop out some and start rolling into a ball. The consistency of the chocolate at this point should be such, so it doesn’t stick to your palms much. Roll the balls in the chopped walnuts till they’re coated evenly and pop all of ’em into the freezer again for about an hour before trying any.

Walnut Rock Truffles with extra crunch!

– 125gms of dark chocolate

– Half a cup of roasted walnuts, chopped

– 6 tablespoons of granulated white sugar

– 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

– 1 egg white

– 2-3 drops of vanilla essence

Chop the chocolate. Add butter to it and melt on a double-boiler. Meanwhile, combine the walnuts and sugar in a bowl. Start adding the egg white to the mixture slowly to make a dough. You won’t be needing all of the egg, since we want the “dough” to be sticky and disintegrated. Take the chocolate off the heat and add the vanilla essence. Now, my essence was too strong for my taste, thats why I only used a few drops. Go ahead and add a few drops more, if yours is milder. Add this melted chocolate to the “dough” and mix well. Pour (or spoon, rather) it onto a plate lined with aluminum foil and chill in the freezer for 2-3 hours or till you can cut it into pieces.

The extra chocolate shards and curls that were leftover…I just added ’em to my coffee. 🙂

All in all, this year Diwali, was kinda weird……

Pears for Autumn

Late September and its already impossible to walk down the pedestrian pathway without ending up with leaves on your shoulders. I can literally smell the fumes emanating from the dhunuchi and the air is filled with sound of a dhak playing…radio stations trying to get everyone into the Durga Puja mood.

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Neither is it sweltering hot, nor unreasonably chilly. I feel lazy and excited at the same time, now that the Indian festive season is upon us. I can’t wait for October!

Meanwhile, here’s an almost “funky” pear fruit recipe, to make mid-morning a little fizzier.

The pears in our refrigerator have been ripening since last Tuesday. I know.

So I pulled a couple of them out. Poached ’em in a lime-vanilla-cinnamon bath and added some fizz (which I honestly didn’t think would work)…but amazingly, it turned out yummy and fun!

Fizzy Pear fruit Drink (or soup, if you may) – Serves 2

– 2 medium sized pears

– 3 cloves

– 1 medium-sized cinnamon stick

– Half a pod of vanilla, bruised slightly (you could also use vanilla essence)

– Juice of 1 lime

– 2 cardamoms, flattened with your knife

– 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup

– 1 cup of water

– 7Up or Sprite to serve

Halve the pears and remove the seeds. I did not peel the skin off, but you can, of course, if you want. Set the water to simmer on low heat. Add the cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, lime juice, cardamoms and honey. Drop the pear halves in the simmering water, cut side down. Cover and cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the pears have softened considerably. Turn them over (skin-side down) and poach for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Chill the fruit in the refrigerator. Cut the halves into thirds. Put them in a shot glass and fill it up with 7up or Sprite. Top with crushed ice (optional) and serve.