Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
For today’s column, I have asked LLCC student Amandeep Kaur to write on Indian festivals and related foods. In addition to being a full-time college student, she plays a major role in managing her family’s Springfield restaurant, Flavor of India. She is also a member of the LLCC Student Government Association, Phi Theta Kappa academic honors society and the LLCC Honors Program.
India is a country with diverse cultures, humble traditions and lively festivals. People have different religions, speak different languages and follow different cultural values; overall it’s a very diverse country. I lived in Punjab India for 15 years before my family and I moved to Illinois 4 ½ years ago. For 2 ½ years, we have been in Springfield where my family now owns and runs Flavor of India in Montvale Plaza. We love serving our customers while also celebrating the many festivals to celebrate. Everyone in the country respects and happily celebrates every festival. Most of our festivals are religious festivals that we celebrate. Now, with many religions like Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Christianity and Islam, comes different traditions and many festivals to celebrate. So throughout whole year we have many festivals with many traditions.
One of the first festivals of the year is one which is celebrated every year on Jan. 14. This marks the end of winter and the return of the sun to the northern hemisphere. Makara means the Capricorn and Sankranti means when sun passes from one sign of zodiac to another, a fresh start. It is celebrated all over India. This marks that days will be longer and nights will be shorter from now on. Punjab, where I am from, is in the northern part of India where December and January are the coldest. The night before the festival, a huge fire is lit and sweets and sugarcanes are eaten.
On the day of Makar Sankranti, families get together and we dance until we get tired. Then we eat sweets made out of sesame seeds and jaggery, a block of cane sugar. They are called Kurmura Ladoo. We look forward every year to these sweets which are eaten after dancing and celebrating the end of a long winter.
*2 cups puffed rice (Kurmura)
*1/2 cup jaggery (gur)
*1 tablespoon ghee or butter
- Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat, add ghee and jaggery.
- Cook it until the syrup attains a soft ball consistency.
- Add the puffed rice and mix together.
- Divide the mix in equal four parts and shape them in ladoo.
Ladoo are shaped in small round balls.
Another one of the famous festivals is Holi, the festival of colors. It is celebrated on the day after the full moon on the Hindu month of Phalguna (early March). It celebrates the beginning of spring and is based on Hindu mythology of acceptance of all people. It is spread over two days. On the eve, we burn a bonfire that symbolizes the burning of Holika (the evil). The next day is when Holi is celebrated, during which we dance and put powder or water color on each other, which reduces the gap between people.
One of the famous sweets that is eaten is gulab jamuns. They are like dough balls with honey syrup in them. It’s very sweet but great to eat after we are done playing with colors. Again, I took the recipe from Flavor of India, our Indian restaurant in Springfield.
*1 tablespoon rose water
*1 cup milk powder
*½ cup all-purpose flour
*½ teaspoon oil
*A pinch of salt
*A pinch of baking soda
*Several blanched pistachios
*1 to 2 tablespoons yogurt
- Mix the milk powder and flour together in a bowl.
- Add oil and yogurt, mix and keep adding yogurt until the mix is soft mixture.
- Make smooth small balls from the dough.
- Heat the oil on low heat.
- Add the balls and fry them, stirring it often until you get even coloring on the all sides of balls.
- When they are golden brown, take them out and put them in sugar syrup. Let them soak there for about 1 hour.
- Gulab Jamun can be served hot or cold, but room temperature is best.
For sugar syrup
*2 cups water
*1.5 cups sugar
*A pinch of saffron
- Mix water, sugar and saffron.
- Keep this sugar solution on fire and cook until you get a syrup consistency.
- Stir in the rose water and put it aside.
During these dark days of winter, try adding a little sweetness to your recipes. Explore all the fascinating flavor India has to offer. Celebrate the end of long winters with a few Indian desserts at home.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.
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