First of all Happy Diwali to everyone. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Diwali is fireworks!! Surprisingly, It is not food, but that is the second thing :) Now, a short social studies lesson... I'll keep it short, I promise. Diwali is called 'The festival of lights' and is one of the most popular festivals of India. Kids and adults alike, love this festival. It is celebrated as the win of 'good' over 'evil'. The mythological story behind the celebration is different in different parts of India. In the south, it is the win of Lord Krishna (and his wife Sathyabama) over Narakasura. In the north, it is the win of Lord Rama over Ravana. The festivities involve, getting up in the wee hours of the morning (I hate this part), taking oil bath (Ganga snanam), puja (prayers), wearing new clothes, eating yummy food, sweets and snacks and the best of all bursting crackers. Let me stop the lesson here. See, I keep promises :)
Being in the US, we miss all these grand festivities, yet try to keep up the tradition. Murali misses the crackers the most!! I have some sweet memories... If you know me well enough, when I said sweet, you would have guessed it will be about food!!! Mom making adhirasam is the highlight. You can never be sure how it would turn out. It is the 'finikiest' sweet ever!!! But she would somehow conquer it almost every time. She relates to the time when I was 2 or 3 years old and loved even the worst ever adhirasam she made. I just named it 'tulsi' (God knows why I named it that!!) and ate a lot of it. The other thing I enjoyed during Diwali is rangoli, the colourful Indian art. More about it here. I remember those Diwali days that were completely washed down by rain ruining all the fun, especially with fire crackers. Okay... I hear you shout "Enough of Nostalgia". I'll stop.
These days, Diwali for me is more about the food. Trying out traditional Indian recipes and preparing them the traditional way from scratch without any short cuts. Theratti pal or pal kova or milk halwa is a very popular diwali sweet in south India. It is a VIP sweet, that in brahmin weddings, the groom and his family are welcomed by the bride's mom with this one. It tastes awesome and is Murali's favourite sweet. It is made with minimal and simple ingredients found in any kitchen. The only thing needed is lots of patience.
Milk (preferably whole milk) - 5 cups
Sugar - 1/2 cup (or a little less, based on your taste buds)
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
In a non-stick pan (taller the better - prevents too much spluttering), boil milk on medium heat. Keep stirring to avoid burning and boiling over. Believe me, it can be a tough mess to clean up. When the milk is reduced to half, add the sugar and mix well. When the mixture slowly thickens, it will start spluttering. Now, add cardamom powder and start stirring continuously until a light brown thick granulated texture is attained. Enjoy hot, warm or at room temperature.
It stays good on the counter for 1-2 days. But if you want to store longer, transfer to a dry container with a tight lid and leave it in the refrigerator (can stay up to 15 days). To serve, warm up in the microwave oven and indulge in deliciousness!!