November 5, 2014

The Diwali faraal making escapade-Part I ~ Mitha Gaja / Shankarpale~

The glittering diyas, the bright, vivid hues of a meticulously rendered rangoli and the warm appetizing aroma of fried snacks hanging buoyantly in the air while my spirited family and friends gather around the porch to light up firecrackers– this is all that Diwali means to me. The celebration of virtue and compassion with an inanely fair amount of lip-smackingly delicious snacks – that’s surely something everyone wants to come together for. So to commemorate everything that makes Diwali remarkable, I had resolved that no matter how difficult it might seem to fit anything at all into my schedule right now, I am going to try and make as many snacks as I can and replicate “our gharwali” Diwali and this being our very first one after the wedding made it extra worth the effort. So homemade snacks, decorating up our home with lots of diyas, rangoli and lights, a celebration with friends and lots of food to share for our potluck – that became the highlight for our Diwali festivities this year.

And so it all began with making a list of usual Diwali snacks or faral that I wanted to make – Besan sooji ladoo, Chivda, Karanji, Shankarpale, Masala Mathri and one entrée for the potluck. I had already had experience with making Besan sooji ladoo and Chivda, so while making those were a breeze, everything else was somewhat tasking yet an extremely delightful learning curve. Making of each of these individual snacks taught me a few lessons I learnt along the way and I resolved to make sure that I document it well for my reference for Diwali faral making next year. I am sure a lot of you might have had similar experiences and you know very well how much having to re-do something from scratch teaches you. So this will be a series of posts with all these recipes I learnt this Diwali and my kitchen centric adventures with them.

The center of discussion for my first post is the perfectly sweet and crunchy, melt-in-your mouth shankarpale or as I knew it – “Mitha Gaja”. Mitha gaja/ Shankarpale has always been one of my favorite snacks that my grandma made. It was her specialty and so uniquely hers. One fine day if we found mitha gaja at our place, we would know who sent it. I have even been lucky enough to have observed her make it and considered myself privileged to have been allowed to cut the rolled out dough into its characteristic diamond shapes. At that time, being a part of something so intricate had made me inanely happy and extremely proud of myself. So as I began my adventure of making mitha gaja, I of course knew who to call for help. My grandma seemed so elated to share her knowledge built over the years with great detail and of course with very encouraging words. With a help and a little bit of trial and error, I got it. These turned out exactly as I like them and I was the happiest little bird in town.

So here’s the detailed mitha gaja recipe which resulted in perfectly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth multilayered gaja that I so loved and am very happy to write it down for your and my own reference for Diwali faraal making next year. t.

~Mitha Gaja / Shankarpale~

These crispy, flaky, melt-in-the-mouth sweetened fried festive snacks are a must-eat during Diwali. Made up of simple easily found at-home ingredients, these diamond shaped goodies are usually over before you know it.

Ingredients: (Makes enough to fill a 1 lt jar)
½ C Milk
½ C Sugar
½ Ghee
2 C + 2 Tablespoons Maida/All purpose flour

Method:
1. Warm up the milk till it just boils and add the sugar to it. Let them sit.
Note: I microwaved the milk at 100% power for 1 minute and it was warm enough. The whiteness of the milk will look diluted and transparent. Do not panic, that’s ok.
2. In a seperate mixing bowl, pour the ghee and fluff it with kneading action such that it becomes creamy (about 4-5 mins).
Note: I used the flat beater attachment on my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and let the mixture turn light & fluffy (~ 2-3mins).
3. Once the ghee turns fluffy, add in the milk-sugar mixture and stir it a little bit.
4.Then, add in the flour little by little and bring it together. Knead for ~ 1 min and keep aside.
5. Divide in to 5-6 rounds balls and roll it 1/4 inch thick.
6. Cut diagonals on the roti and fry.
7. Fry these at medium- medium low heat (the knob of the gas range stays around 5-6 on a scale of 10). When you add it to the oil keep it at medium so that the exterior seals. Then lower the heat slightly for it to cook through and harden.
Note: At very low temperature the dough dissolves, so make sure that when you add the pieces to the oil its at medium (5 on a scale of 1-10) and then lower it to 4 when the exterior sets.
8. Take them out on paper towels, let them cool and store it in air-tight containers.

And this is how I learnt a new skill this Diwali and while it was not all smooth sailing, it was every bit worth the journey :) A few mishaps, a few soft shankarpales later..I nailed it and there's no better feeling than acquiring something you thought was difficult. And there again it proves that "Never ever give up" is a life lesson that helps every where.

So until the part II..(which will be coming up soon!!)
Happy learning!

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