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Jiggle Happy!

Jiggle Happy!

Today's post is prompted by a saying on a tee that one of the staff is wearing today at the place where I work for free and pay for over-priced coffee (ok, really wifi-priced coffee) 

"Sorry, I am Different" it says.

So, I told her "Don't be!" and she laughed sheepishly. Why?!

I have always known I was different. I couldn't quite describe how or why but growing up in India, I just felt like deer caught in headlights all the time. ...

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Saffron Pistachio Kulfi Pops

Saffron Pistachio Kulfi Pops

Kulfi and I have history. One that has roots from high school! I honestly don't remember much of my school days. Looking back, I realise I went most of it a haze of self-defense. I never fit, so I choose to exclude myself voluntarily, thereby creating a myth of control and years of no nostalgia. 

But amidst all of that barrenness are a few flickers of bright memories, the few times, I indulged in life and life ruffled my hair and said you can laugh and have fun. Kulfi is one of those few happy memories I retain from that time of my life. And, through it the longest friendship of my life. Although, I haven't been a good friend most of the time in that relationship and the tenuous connection continues only because of the other person. I am sorry for that. And, I am kinda hoping to make up for that, by dedicating this recipe to her.

It was like this.

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Hallowed be thy Halwa

Happy All Hallows Even ! :)

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Cracked Rice Saffron Halwa

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.

Cracked Rice Saffron Halwa

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

Cracked Rice Saffron 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.

Yellow for LIVESTRONG Day - Saffron Aioli

Rosemary Roasted taters & Saffron aioli
Every year, October 2nd comes and goes... For most of my life, there was not much significance to this date, aside from me getting a day off, for the time that I was in India (It is Gandhi's birthday. As a Father of the Nation, one is expected to celebrate it... But, well, let's not go there. My views are anarchical on the subject!)

However, for the last four years, it carries a weight. The weight of unresolved loss. The burden of not understanding, Why?!.

Every year, this day, I am reminded of that fateful morning as I waited at a gate at JFK to board my flight to India to see my grandfather one last time before I lose him to the ravaging force of cancer.I was cheated off it. 15 minutes before boarding, I got the call. He had passed away.

Saffron Aioli

Yes, he did not suffer much in his last moments, they told me. It was better this way, everyone said. At least, he was not in too much pain. Dragging on would not have been good, after all, his fate was drawn. But, for me, the cruelty of the circumstance, still lingers... unaddressed....

That was when I lost faith. Twist of fate, perhaps. But, I am, unfortunately, too rational to swallow a line. I never made my peace. I don't think I can. I don't know how.

And, so, every year, this day, I relive the pain. That, which never goes away and overwhelms me at sudden, unexpected moments. That, which, I don't know how to control. That, which, tells me I am human, after all.

Kickass sandwich

Cancer runs in my family. One day, I may fall prey to it. I don't know. But, I do know, it is a disease that has touched too many people in the world and continues to prey on the younger every generation.

I have the misfortune of knowing many, fighting, and some losing the battle to, cancer. The need to find a cure only increases every day and I hope they do, soon.

In the mean time, we non-scientists can only show our support to the foundations that believe in the Hope of the Cure and pursue it with determination! And, as food bloggers, we come together, this day, to make something Yellow for the cause and in solidarity ...

Rosemary roasted potatoes with Saffron Aioli

This recipe is in honor of the man who lived for food! My grand-dad! Whose only motivation to fight the disease was for the chance of enjoying good food as he had his entire life. Today as always, I toast to his palate!

Garlic Aioli

3 egg yolks

3/4 cup good olive oil
1 T champagne vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
generous pinch of saffron

Warm the vinegar and lemon juice and soak saffron in it for 5 or so minutes until the color and aroma release.

In a processor, pulse together the yolks, saffron mixture and garlic. With the blade running, pour the oil in a steady stream until the mixture emulsifies.

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate. Fresh aioli will last upto 4 days in the fridge.

Rosemary Roasted Baby Potatoes

Handful of baby red potatoes, halved (NOT peeled)

2 T rosemary leaves, torn
olive oil to drizzle
salt & pepper to taste

Toss all the ingredients together and bake for 20-25 minutes at 425 F until browned, crispy on the outside and soft inside!

Drizzle aioli generously and serve!


Saffron Caramel candy barks

The Holidays...It's that time again.... about sharing and showing the caring... :-)

As cold as this time of the year usually is, I love the warmth that permeates everywhere.. from careless laughter... bright, cheery smiles as people walk by festive store windows... joy of shopping... and more importantly for me.. the joy of giving...

I will always remember my granddad's words... the joy of giving is so much more than the thrill of receiving.. and I could not agree more. I am delighted when I receive gifts, oh yes! But, I have to say that the happy glow from the giving is definitely longer lasting.

Saffron Caramel candy barks 1

From thinking of the perfect gift, to the words on the card... it's all about remembering and celebrating why someone is special to you....

This year, I baked and made candy. For an extra special touch, I added saffron in the candy and topped off with saffron salt. It's a crumbly candy with a satisfying butter scotch finish and a lingering after-taste of the silk route.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah!!! :)

Saffron Caramel Candy Barks
(adapted from Epicurious)

1 cup heavy cream
5 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp salt
generous pinch of saffron
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 T water
3/4 tsp saffron salt (optional)

Arrange parchment paper on the bottom of a 11 x 7 inch baking pan.

Bring cream, butter and salt to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in the saffron and set aside for atleast 15 minutes.

In a heavy bottomed pan large enough to hold a gallon of liquid, boil the sugar and water stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue boiling while gently swirling the pan until the mixture is a light golden caramel.

Slowly stir in the cream mixture into the caramel (please be careful, the cream boils up a wrathful fury!) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 250°F on thermometer. It will take about 12 minutes. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan, sprinkle the saffron salt, if using, and cool for about 1.5 hours.

Using a sharp knife, score across the cooled candy to make pieces. They will tend get away from you and break away on their own. Fret not, go with the flow. It needn't be perfect!

That's love, peeps!

Saffron Caramel candy barks  gifted

Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK