For those of you who celebrate Janmashtami or Krishna Jayanthi – hope you have a joyous celebration! I am not a very ritualistic person, so celebrations at our home are usually more about having faith and giving thanks and rather than adhering to the actual rituals to the T. The story of Krishna’s birth tells us that he was born at midnight, so celebrations in Tamil Nadu usually happen the evening before…..but yesterday being a working day and today being the holiday in the North, it was more convenient for us to do the small pooja this morning.
I was glad I decided to do that, since I could spend all that time with my 4 year old daughter and answer every question of hers – from the garland of flowers, to polishing the silver lamp, to making the cotton wick, pouring oil into the lamp, drawing the rangoli, making the small “padhai” or Krishna’s feet leading from the door to the pooja room, telling her how I made the glass painting of Krishna. I guess rituals like these are more about family traditions for us and bind us together in yet another way….atleast for me it brings me closer to my family as much as it does to God.
The traditional offering for this festival that I remember when I was growing up, was “seedai” – small round balls of rice flour dough, delicately spiced (as well as sweetened) and deep fried to crisp, crunchy balls. None of that today, no time to make and nowhere to buy near our home – this is when I miss Grand Sweets in Chennai! And of course, there has to be white butter – the Makhan Chor’s favourite – and milk as well. We had freshly churned butter at home but that was more coincidence than planning! My daughter and I both enjoy eating “white” butter on our toast and I manage to collect enough cream over 3 weeks to get a bowlful.
Since hubby was working and I wanted to have the pooja before he left, I made a simple Parippu Payasam for the neivedyam. Payasam refers to a milk based sweet which is made in South India – also called Kheer in the North. It is usually a creamy dessert made with milk which has been thickened and sweetened and has either vermicelli or sago or rice added to it with raisins and other dryfruits.
Parippu Payasam is quite different in that it is made with lentils (mung dal) which have been roasted and then cooked till soft and then finished with jaggery and coconut milk. What made this version even more special was that I made it with jaggery which I had brought back with me from my last field trip to the cane fields of Uttar Pradesh. I was presented a box of jaggery “mithai” – basically very good quality jaggery which was cut into squares and had loads of almonds and pistachios in it. I had never seen anything like that before! There was no way I was going to have it the way it was recommended by the kind gentleman – “100gm everyday like a sweet - good for health”!
So, I used it to sweeten the payasam – the dry fruits were a nice addition, I would have usually just fried raisins and cashews in ghee and added it to the payasam, but the almonds and pistachios gave a nice crunch to the creamy consistency.
1 cup moong dal split
1.5 cups thick coconut milk
1 cup grated jaggery
1 tsp elaichi powder (cardamom powder)
1 tbsp raisins and cashew nuts
1 tsp ghee
1. Roast the moong dal for about 5 minutes on a low flame till it gives out a nutty fragrance taking care it doesn't burn.
2. Cook the dal in a heavy bottomed pan in about 4 cups of water (just enough) till soft and can't hold its shape.
3. Then add the grated jaggery to it and half a cup more of water if needed so that it melts.
4. Put in the coconut milk and cook on a very low flame for about 4-5 minutes, taking carre it doesn't split.
5.Meanwhile, fry the raisins and cashewnuts in ghee and then add to the payasam along with the elaichi powder and remove from heat.
6. Serve warm or cold.