Saturday, November 12, 2016

Holiday Soiree: Guru Nanak Jayanti

The Holiday: Guru Nanak Jayanti(India)
This joyous holiday celebrates the birthday of Guru Nanak Jayanti, the first Guru, and creator of Sikhism. He was from what is now Pakistan. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with it's roots in both Hinduism and Sufism, though it is entirely its own religion. It was created in the late 1400's.

Sikhs are known for being very peaceful people, yet oftentimes they are mistaken for terrorists by people who don't know any better. Because Sikhs wear head coverings, and many Muslims do as well, some people don't know the difference and also think all Muslims are terrorists, jump to the wrong conclusion. If you have any Sikhs in your life, make sure to wish them a happy celebration on Monday!

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The Food: Lassi and Badam Halwa
This holiday is actually known for a traditional food, Karah Prasad, a sweet made with semolina flour, but I completely forgot this in my researching for recipes and came up with the other two recipes instead.(This week has been rough, and my mind has been a bit distracted. It's sort of a miracle I managed anything all today, actually.) Oh well, maybe next year I'll remember! I made sure the recipes I did choose were sweet, because that is what this holiday is known for most. At least I got that right!

The first recipe is Lassi, or a beverage made from yogurt. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand, which is always nice! This is ridiculously easy to make. I will provide the link to the recipe here, but describe the process.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and use a hand-held blender to combine it all. Be careful with the rose water, it is very strong. I didn't measure the sugar, but I think it ended up being about a tablespoon or so. When you blend it, taste it and adjust the sugar and rose water to taste. That's really all it took to make this. Probably three minutes tops!

The next recipe, the Badam Halwa, is a little more complicated and took a bit more time. Here is the recipe. Badam Halwa is an almond pudding that tastes a little like marzipan.
You start by soaking almonds in water for two hours. I stirred them around a couple times while they soaked.
After they've finished soaking, you drain the almonds and remove the skins. I placed them in a towel, rolled it up, and rubbed it on the outside, which is what you do to remove the skins on toasted nuts. Alas, this does not work on soaked nuts. I had to come up with a different way. That way ended up being, actually squeezing the skin off of each individual nut. It took about 20 minutes to do, but as you can see, it worked pretty well. I should note, that these were raw almonds, not toasted.
The almonds are placed in the food processor, with the milk, and ground up as finely as you possibly can get it. I needed a spatula to scrape down the sides several times before it was as fine as it would get. During this time, I was also melting the butter for the ghee, and making the simple syrup. Because I tend to not read recipe instructions well, I missed that you were supposed to put all the sugar in the water for the syrup, and only put 1/4 cup sugar into an equal part of water. I found this to be plenty sweet, so keep that in mind if you make this. You do not need the full amount of sugar the recipe calls for.
This is what it looks like after you mix the almonds into the simple syrup, add the saffron(which I didn't have, and used a pinch of turmeric instead. Turmeric is also known as "poor man's saffron," so I thought it would be an acceptable replacement.) I also added 2 drops of yellow food coloring.
This is the finished product for both items. You can see how frothy the lassi gets. Almost an inch of foam on the top. The flavor is very unique. The tang of yogurt, floral note of the rose water, sweetness of the sugar, and the inexplicable flavor of cardamom blend into something I can't really describe. It feels like a substantial drink that you could drink instead of a smoothie. I'm not sure I would drink this a lot, but it's worth trying once, at least.

The badam halwa is really sweet and almondy. It is very much like a soft marzipan. I found a little went a long way. I was sweeted out after a few bites. I'm not sure why mine didn't seem as gummy-looking as the picture in the recipe looks, but as I look over the recipe again, I see that I was supposed to do all the stirring and mixing over heat...I didn't do this...That probably explains why mine didn't get as tightened up as the recipe version. I really do need to actually read these instructions before I cook! It still turned out good, though.

I am not very familiar with Indian food, either eating or making, so this was a good way to introduce myself to it. I believe I have at least one more Indian holiday scheduled in this project, so there should be more chances for me to try it out in greater depth. Maybe try something in the savory realm too. I did research savory recipes, but didn't have an opportunity to track down some of the more hard-to-find ingredients.

Well, as I said, it's been a rough week for all of us, hasn't it? After the election, I wasn't sure if I would be able to do a blog post today, or if I should even continue this project. Did anything matter now? Wasn't a project like this too trite for the world we now live in? But after a day or so, I developed that old theatre adage: The show must go on. Our lives will go on, and in times like these, levity, joy, and celebrations are more important than ever. So, I will continue this project, to give myself and others a brief moment of enjoyment, and also to show that I am not going to let anybody have that power over me. Nobody gets to take away what I love to do and what make me happy. If I let somebody have that power over me, then they have won over me, and I will now allow that to happen. So, I hope to see you all next week, and I hope we all get out there and continue to look out for each other. Let's reconvene next weekend to relax for a moment, and enjoy the next holiday soiree.

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