When it comes to food, Diwali is a time for indulgence. Home-made sweets and snacks are a must for some families, to serve unexpected guests. But with every passing Diwali, your guests are likely to be more calorie-conscious and snigger at heavy, ghee-cooked sweets, preferring something that looks lighter. Halwas, burfis and kheers are, of course, the Diwali staples, but I am sticking to three of my favourite, slightly unusual recipes. If you are diabetic or weight-conscious, substituting half the amount of sugar with Splenda (a very useable sucrose substitute) works well, and the difference is barely noticeable. You can, of course, substitute the entire amount with Splenda, but there will be a striking difference in taste. It leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste which, believe me, isn’t difficult to get used to. So here’s wishing you a happy, healthy Diwali.
Twist in taste: Opt for a low-calorie Diwali dessert by modifying traditional sweets like shrikhand.
(A tailored version of the Indian dessert)
2 tbsp almonds
2 tbsp unsalted pistachios
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp saffron, dissolved in a little warm water
2 tbsp rose water
Pour yogurt into the middle of a large piece of muslin, gather the corners together and tie them with a string or a rubber band and hang the muslin over a bowl for two to three hours to drain the excess water. Cook the nuts in boiling water for about a minute. Drain them well and rub off the skins with a cloth. Transfer the yogurt to a bowl, add honey and mix the two together thoroughly. Stir in cardamom, saffron and rose water. Put it in a large bowl or many small bowls and sprinkle nuts over it. Serve chilled.
Fresh fruit also tastes wonderful in this dish. Omit rose water and nuts and add one cup of mango or chikoo pulp to the mixture along with the honey. You don’t have to mix it too well as it looks and tastes good if the fruits rest on the marbled base of the shrikhand.
(With a twist to the traditional halwa)
1 cup misri (crystallized white sugar)
½ cup semolina
½ tsp green cardamom powder
1 tbsp ghee
¼ cup honey
Grind ginger and squeeze through a muslin cloth to obtain the juice. Boil the misri in a little water to make syrup. Add semolina to ginger juice. In a heavy saucepan, add ghee, ginger juice and the semolina. Stir constantly on a high flame. Add cardamom powder and sugar syrup and keep stirring. When this mixture is well browned and the ghee separates from the mixture, turn off the flame. Add honey and serve hot.
Strawberry and Green Pea ‘Kheer’
(A fruity alternative to pudding)
200gm green peas
1 litre milk
4 bread slices, crusts trimmed
½ cup/75gm sugar
1 tsp green cardamom powder
100gm fresh strawberries
A few blanched almonds for garnish
Steam green peas and grind into a fine paste. Boil milk and gradually mix in pea paste. Soak bread in water and squeeze out all excess moisture. Add to milk mixture. Add sugar and cardamom powder and continue to cook till thick. Cool. Chop strawberries and dip the pieces into the kheer. Garnish with blanched almonds. Serve chilled.
If using frozen peas, you have to give them one quick boil because they are already blanched. This will retain their bright colour too.
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