Hindus in India and around the world have been celebrating Navatri . This is a 9-day festival of dance and song. The name comes from “nava” which means “nine” and “ratri” which means “night”. The festival leads up to Diwali which means “festival of light” and takes place between 11 and 15 Nov this year.
Navatri occurs in Autumn which is a time of renewal. Just as the shedding of leaves makes way for fresh growth so Navaratri rejuvenates the inner spirit. The festival encourages us to look inwardly, to find renewed energies for the spirit and to feel creative with our lives.
The festival is celebrated in many ways. Local community groups get together for dancing and feasting. Garba and Dandiya rass danced to worship Goddess Durga s. The sticks dance representing her swords. Representing good over eveil. There are special foods to cleanse the body none of which contains meat. It has to be remembered that India has 400 million vegetarians - several times the population of the UK - a topic to which I shall return on another occasion.
One of those special foods is saffron and cardamom penda which is a bit like fudge. I made some for the festival and here is my recipe.
1½ cups milk powder . ½ cup sugar . ½ cup ghee . ½ cup milk.2 to 3 strand of saffron . Drop orange food colouring.10- 15 cardamon pods ( green) . Pistachio s to decorate.
1. Boil the milk add a few stands of saffron and simmer on a lower heat. Add the sugar and dissolve and ghee and allow it to cook though for 4- 5 mins until the milk has reduced a little. Stir regularly.
2. Lower the heat further and stir in the milk powder along with some cardamom seeds powder to taste. Remove seeds from the pods and crush using a pestle and mortar. Cook for further 3- 4 mins. Stirring continulously. You will know when its done as it starts to come away from the pan sides.
3. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the food colouring and stir in and allow it to cool for15 mins.
4. Spread it out evenly on a baking tray until set and cut into cubes and press in a half cut pistachio into each cube.
5. Alternatively omit the food colouring and make little round balls and flatten between your hands and add shavings of pistachio nuts on top.
These can be stored for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. These pendas can be presented to the goddesses for their blessing. The blessed food is called Prashad to be shared out amongst friends and family.