Diwali greetings to you all. Neera called up to wish me, and we realised that this was her family's first Diwali since their return to India last December. While talking of Diwali's past, both here and abroad, and the dishes we used to make, I remembered my first Diwali as a bride, and the amazing sweet I created! Thanks, Neera!
I come from a family with a long tradition of making various festive sweets and savouries at home, so I was quite confident of my culinary abilities. Our first Diwali seemed like a good time to impress the spouse, who was definitely more Resident then, than he is now!
(He used to work shifts, but that's another matter. He didn't travel. Did I tell you that he's away this Diwali? I may have to call him the Very Occasionally Resident Engineer.)
We were living in a small township near a small town in Thailand. In those days even potatoes were mostly ordered in from Bangkok, a good 125 km away. We were a young team- some couples with young children, some newly weds, all determined to create a home away from home.
We consulted each other, exchanged recipes, learned what was locally available. That first year, I decided to make gulab jamuns, among other goodies. I asked my neighbour for the proportions, bought a packet of Molly Milk Powder, and made a large bowlful of delicious looking gulab jamuns. We were sharing a flat at the time, (the other wife was still in India), and my spouse and our flatmate came home for lunch.
I served them a gulab jamun each. (No, I hadn't tasted them till then). I watched them anxiously. Both of them said, oh very nice, delicious, but something was definitely amiss. Their spoons were going through the GJs much too slowly. I took one myself, and learned, to my great chagrin, that my precious GJs were very very hard. So hard as to be inedible. A light bulb moment happened- I had completely forgotten to put in any ghee, which would have ensured a soft, delectable GJ. (That's when I decided to always write down recipes!)
But how could I throw away such a large quantity of a dish made with fairly expensive ingredients? Wasting food is just not on.
The men went back to the factory. I proceeded to puree the gulab jamuns in the blender. Even the blender moaned and groaned, they were that hard. I roasted some atta. I did some magical things, which I can no longer recall. When the guys came home that evening, for dessert there was this rather delicious and absolutely unique sweet- Gulab Jamun Barfi.