Diwali is a festival we celebrate a bit differently from many other parts of the country. Early on Diwali morning, before sunrise, some households burst crackers. But a lot of Iyer families in Kerala do not. We also do not light lots of lamps in the evening.
Traditionally, the eldest member of the household gives all the the members of the family their set of new clothes (marked inconspicuously with a bit of turmeric). After a head and body oiling with coconut oil and then a bath, the new clothes are worn and blessings of the elders are taken. Those who can, visit the temple in the morning or else in the evening.
The important meal, for us, is breakfast – dosa with sambhar and chutney and the sweet is ukkarai which is made with chana dal and jaggery. Traditionally no other particular sweet is made for Diwali, though most households, nowadays, do make at least one sweet for the occasion. Having spent a large part of my life outside Kerala, I have been used to Diwali with a variety of sweets and the ritual of lighting clay lamps at dusk.
I usually make a different variety of sweets every year, these days largely dictated by my daughter’s demands, but pokkuvadam (more popularly known as ribbon pakoda) and mysore pak are musts for our Diwali.
Dosas, sambhar and chutneys are quite common in Indian kitchens, so I am only putting down my recipe for ukkarai.
Ukkarai is traditionally made only with chana dal. I use equal quantities of chana dal and moong dal. For measuring I have used a “glass” as this is a family recipe. In our houses, we have steel glasses (tumblers!) for drinking water which typically contain about 200ml of liquid. Any suitable measure may be used.
½ glass chana dal
½ glass moong dal
½ glass grated coconut
¾ to 1 glass jaggery( depending on sweetness)
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp cashewnuts
½ tsp cardamom powder
Roast both dals separately till light brown. Soak them together in water for about 3 hours. Then allow to drain well for about ½ an hour. Then grind the dals to a thick batter without adding water. Place batter in idli moulds and steam cook for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and then break with hand till granular in texture. I could not do this in time and the batter had cooled into a hard mass!! So I grated it fine. The end result was just as good.
Heat ghee and roast cashews till golden. Keep aside. Roast coconut till brown and keep aside. Dissolve jaggery in half a glass of water and boil the syrup till it reaches the 1 string stage. To this syrup, add the dal mixture, coconut and the ghee. Mix well till the dal absorbs all the jaggery to become dry and fluffy. Add the cardamom and cashewnuts and mix well. Serve warm.