Happy All Hallows Even ! :)
And may we remember the martyrs, saints and blessings in our life tomorrow. For the we live and life is a treasure.
No, I am not turning soft. I am though fascinated by the history and culture and have been doing a bit of reading on this day that now stands for anything other than the solemnity in which it was originally conceived. Did you know, that the history of the day is marked by Pope Gregory III, who in the Eighth century, designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs. This day is name All Hallows Day or All Saints Day.
Beginning as a celtic tradition, the evening before, the day straddles pagan and Christian beliefs. The day before, hence became All Hallows Eve. In Scottish (I have developed a rather sudden and intense crush on Northern Scotland and hence my enthusiastic researching on all things to do with Celts), the word for Eve is 'even' and is slanged to e'en or een. So, thus was Halloween.
Jack O'Lanterns were representative of souls that belonged to neither Heaven nor Hell. Traditionally, on this evening, fires were lit to guide these souls on their way and deflect them from haunting honest Christian folk. In Scotland and Ireland, it was marked by carving turnips because that was the harvest of the season. This festival was called Samhain, or "Summer's End" in Old Irish, marking the end of harvest season and beginning of Winter and the colder/darker part of the year. In parts of Northern Scotland, winter days are so short that daylight was but a few hours and everything was dark, gloomy and bitterly cold.
The association of Pumpkins began in the Americas, where they are harvested at this time of the year, and these squashes took the place of the turnips. As a casual immigrant I was well taken in by the concept as is the modern application of it here. Since, it typically coincided with Diwali, the festival of Lights for Indians, I was happily taken in by all the glittering pumpkins.
In fact, I still love it for that reason, rather than the dressing up. I like the idea of light up the way for souls. Diwali is celebrated to bring light into our lives and about appreciating family and friends, those who enrich us and make us thankful. Kind of parallel thinking, eh! :)
Anyway, in honor of all that is Hallowed, and appreciating the confluence of several cultures,
May the Light Shine Through You!
And, I share a recipe for a typical Saffron Halwa that is made on many festive occasions, especially in the South, where I come from. Since I am gluten free, I made this halwa with finely cracked rice, called rava, which, is available in Indian stores. You can also use fine semolina or very fine corn meal to make this. The flavors will be accordingly slightly different but the essence quite the same.
Saffron Rice Halwa
1 cup Rava, cracked white rice
1-1/2 cups whole milk, warm
3/4 to 1 cup cane sugar
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1/2 cup mix of nuts and dried fruits
5-6 T of ghee, clarified butter + more for the mold
In a heavy bottomed pot, warm about 4 tablespoons of ghee on low heat. Add the rava and sauté the rice until ever so lightly browned and it does not taste raw, approximately 4 minutes.
Add the sugar and sauté for a few minutes. Add in the milk and whisk briskly to prevent lumps.
Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a quick boil and reduce it back again to medium-low. Cook, stirring continuously, until most of the liquid is absorbed and it is of the consistency of porridge. Fold in the remaining ghee into the cooked halwa.
Spread a little ghee at the base of a 8 x 4 inch baking dish. This will be the mold. Spread the halwa evenly on it and press in to the mold. While the halwa is resting, gently roast the nuts and fruits in ghee until fragrant and golden.
Pour the nuts and any ghee in the pan over the halwa layer and press into it. Let the halwa cool to room temperature. Unmold the halwa on to a plate and cut into pieces to serve.