I’m excited. It’s Diwali on Wednesday, my first here in India. Mumbai is a hive of activity, homes and shops are decorated, the streets light up colorfully at night and there’s a general air of festivity.
Back in London, Diwali is a more laid back affair for me and usually means getting together with my family for a celebratory meal, exchanging gifts and eating mithai (Indian sweets).
Of course there’s no shortage of excellent mithai here, but there’s nothing quite like the taste of homemade ones. Not ones made with ready-made condensed milk, though they do have their place, but those that you sweated (literally in my kitchen!) over the hob for for a few hours reducing milk to make mawa to get that nutty, caramel flavor of the traditional mithai. Yep, nothing can beat those.
Last year I made barfi, but this year I’ve tried my hand at penda (in Gujarati, peda in Hindi). These are small, round discs of fudgy tasting sweetened mawa that are thought to have originated the states of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Like the barfi from last year, they take a bit of time but are well worth it.
Wishing you all a very Happy Diwali!
Mawa Penda (makes approx. 18)
2 litres whole milk, plus 3 tbsp extra
50g golden caster sugar
¼ tsp finely ground green cardamom seeds
1 tsp ghee or soft butter, plus a little extra for shaping
Handful of pistachios
First make the mawa using the method in my barfi recipe. The longer you continue to reduce the milk, the darker and more caramel tasting the mawa becomes. Allow to cool. The mawa can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge if you fancy splitting the work over 2 days.
Cut the pistachios into slivers and keep aside.
Grate the cooled mawa, place in a wide non-stick frying pan and heat on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly until soft.
Add the extra milk, caster sugar, ground cardamom and teaspoon of ghee to the pan. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Keep stirring for another 5 minutes or so until you have what looks like a sticky dough and then remove from the heat. Taste and add more sugar if you wish – mine are not very sweet.
Allow the mawa to cool until you are able to handle it comfortably. If it loses too much heat it will be difficult to shape the penda.
Grease your hands with ghee or butter and roll out the mawa into balls a little larger than an inch in diameter. Place a sliver of pistachio on the top of each one and use a glass with a flat base to gently flatten into thick discs. They should be around 1½ – 2 cm thick.
Allow to cool completely, after which they are set and ready to eat. Store in an airtight container.