Diwali is to India as Christmas is to the western world…
India’s well-known ‘festival of lights’, Diwali comes with all the fanfare of a holiday celebration; from dazzling firework displays and colorful storefront decorations, to the latest fashion reveals and mouthwatering array of pan-Indian culinary favorites and sweet treats known as ‘Mithai’.
Growing up, I was always enamored by one of the most symbolic elements of Diwali; the ‘Diyas’, oil lamps flickering in beautifully painted clay pots, that light up every home at this time of the year, signifying happiness and prosperity. For us too, Diwali meant doorways bright with these colorful ‘Diyas’, tons of fun fireworks…and a home filled with relatives and its ensuing chaos.
A simplistic explanation for lighting ‘Diyas’ or oil lamps for this occasion: Diwali celebrates the return of Prince Ram with his wife, Sita and brother, Laxman to their palace after a grueling exile and victorious battle. To celebrate their return and symbolize the victory of good over evil, homes and streets in the entire city of Ayodhya came alive with ‘Diyas’(oil lamps in clay pots.)
Moving on to our other delicious Diwali must-have; the array of Indian sweets called ‘Mithai’ abundantly found in every home and at every market, especially at this time of the year. On Diwali, it is customary to present friends, family and business connections with an ornately decorated box of decadent, rich and colorful ‘Mithai’ or Indian sweets.
Turns out, putting on weight during the holidays is a global phenomenon & Diwali is no exception there…you see, authentic ‘Mithai’ uses ‘ghee’ better known as the Indian version of clarified butter (we’ve used butter to keep the recipe accessible to everyone.)
Today, we give you a simple and homemade ‘Mithai’ recipe; Diwali-inspired Almond and Pumpkin Fudge, also known as ‘Halwa’ or ‘Burfi’, using the seasonal convenience of fresh or store-bought pumpkin puree with warm Indian spice flavors like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and the crunch of sliced almonds.
To me, the fudge-like ‘Halwa’ placed on paper cups look like ‘Diyas’ or oil lamps; sure to bring health, happiness and prosperity to your home.
Makes 12-14 pieces
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup sliced almond
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
3 tablespoons semolina or pasta flour or rawa
½ cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 whole cardamom seeds, crushed
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Sliced almond for decorating
Mini muffin paper cups
Preferably in a non stick pan, melt the butter on a medium low heat. Add sliced almond and semolina/pasta flour/rawa to the butter. Cook stirring continuously for 3-5 minutes; the flour should roast but not burn.
Stir in the milk, sugar, spices and pumpkin puree. Cook the fudge or ‘halwa’ on a medium low heat for 10-15 minutes till it reaches a soft fudge-like consistency. Taste for sugar at this stage and add more based on taste.
Using a mini ice-cream scoop or teaspoon, put small roundels of the warm soft-fudge ‘halwa’ in mini-muffin paper cups or directly on a serving platter. Tip: spray the ice-cream scoop or teaspoon with canola oil so the fudge slides off it easily. Top each fudge piece with a slice of almond.
This Diwali-inspired Almond and Pumpkin Fudge ‘Mithai’ can be served at room temperature or slightly warmed. Store in an airtight box at room temperature for 2-3 days.