Diyas lit up and placed around the house, the sights and sounds of sparklers being waved, bijilis exploding, rockets zooming past, morning prayers and pujas seeking the Almighty’s blessings for prosperity and health, are all synonymous with Diwali. The festival of lights, called Diwali or Deepavali - a major religious and cultural occasion for the Hindu community in India and around the world, is just around the corner. Observed in the month of Kartika according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar which generally coincides with the period between mid-October to mid-November, this time around, Diwali falls on November 4, 2021. Apart from all the excitement of bursting crackers in a safe manner, dressing up in new and colourful traditional attire and visiting temples to carry out devotional rituals, food is a central part of Diwali, with a plethora of customary Indian sweets and savouries being prepared in households.
What with friends and family gathering to enjoy the revelries, a variety of traditional desi mithai are whipped up to relish with near and dear ones. Moreover, people of all ages have become increasingly health-conscious, looking for ways to reduce sugar consumption to avert inflammation, diabetes, while still craving for some saccharine delights. And if you are concerned about consuming too much of sugary foods amid all the merriment, set all your worries aside. Here are two lip-smacking Indian sweet recipes made with natural sweeteners such as jaggery and honey, sans sugar – Dry Fruit Basundi and Ragi Laddu, that are loaded with nutrition, for a tasty and healthy Diwali.
Dry Fruit Basundi
2 cups milk
½ cup jaggery powder
½ cup dry dates
½ cup dry figs
½ cup raisins
1 tsp elaichi/cardamom powder
1 cup mixed nuts - almonds, cashews, pistas - slivered
In a bowl, soak the dry dates, dry figs and raisins in water for 3 hours.
Transfer the soaked dry fruits to a blender and pulse on high to obtain a homogenous paste.
In a pan, boil milk until it reduces to half its original volume, then switch off the flame and allow it to cool down a bit.
Add the jaggery powder to the boiled milk, mix well, then pour in the dry fruit paste and sprinkle some elaichi powder.
Mix the thickened sweetened milk well, garnish with almonds, cashews, pistas, chill in the fridge for 1 hour and serve the Dry Fruit Basundi cold.
Milk supplies proteins and calcium for strong muscles, bones and joints. Jaggery is an excellent source of iron for improved blood circulation, averting anaemia, while dry dates are high in dietary fibres, potassium for digestive health and heart wellness.
1 cup ragi/finger millet flour
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup shredded coconut
½ cup jaggery powder
2 tbsp ghee
Heat ghee in a pan on medium flame and mildly fry the ragi flour so that it emanates a pleasant aroma, then let it cool down.
Dry roast the sesame seeds and coconut flour and set it aside to come down to room temperature, then grind to a fine powder in a mixer.
Combine the cooked ragi flour along with jaggery and the roasted powder and shape them into even-sized round balls with a bit of ghee.
Store these Ragi Laddus in an air-tight container so it stays fresh for up to 1 week and savour them this Deepavali.
Ragi is a superb plant-based source of proteins, supplying the essential amino acid tryptophan that augments brain power, mental wellbeing, promotes memory, concentration and alleviates depression, anxiety. Imbued with antioxidants and magnesium, sesame seeds prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar levels and help manage diabetes. Ghee is a storehouse of vitamins A, D, E, K, besides healthy unsaturated fats, for enhanced heart functions, bone health and immunity.