Although I celebrate many festivals throughout the year, Janmashtami is the festival that I celebrate most elaborately. Many years ago, ajji was there with me to celebrate janmashtami and we prepared 108 special items together.
One of the sweets I had made was this burfi, which I had adapted from an old cookbook by Rajlakshmy Subramanian. The recipe was simple and ajji had loved it so much that she wanted the recipe. While I don't recall if I ever shared the recipe with her, I want to do so today with all of you, in her memory as an offering to the lord on the auspicious occasion of janmashtami.
The offering of bhog to the Lord has been a sacred ritual in India for thousands of years and to this day this unbroken practice is followed in temples and homes of devotees across the world. In the Bhagavad gita, (chapter 9 verse 26), Lord Krishna says:
patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
which is translated as: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit a water, I will accept it."
But the devotees of the Lord love to offer a wide variety of food based on sattvic principles made with love. Food offered this way is known as "Prasad". According to the Srimad Bhagavatam, food offered to the Lord belongs to the category of shuddha sattva and transcends sattvic, rajasic and tamasic gunas or the modes of nature and has a unique spiritual energy to it. It is also important to remember whether it is one item or 56 items, it is the love and devotion with which a dish is prepared, is what is accepted by the Lord.
Based on religion and region, different kinds of foodstuffs are offered to the lord. Many temples follow the ritual of offering food that has six kinds of taste:sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent and 4 types of textures: food are offered to the lord- charvya (chewed) chushya (sucked), lehya (licked) and peya- (drunk).
The secret ingredient in this recipe is the chutney dal also known as daliya or phutana which is nothing but roasted bengal gram dal. This is easily available in all Indian stores and is an important part of chutney and other preparations. I still remember being served spoonfuls of ground mixture of phutana, sugar, cardamom and dried coconut in my childhood in small gatherings after a pooja or a class. It tasted delicious!
I also remember being given pieces of exquisite burfis made from varying ingredients like flour, dry fruits or fruits made by expert homecooks. Back in the 80s most women were experts in preparing culinary gems passed down through generations and they also happened to be experimental cooks, trying out recipes from magazines and newspapers. The results of these experiments were generously shared with friends and family.
This burfi is very easy to make and requires no cooking. This can be made for janmashtami or any other festival or celebration. It is particularly great for those who want to make something exquisite but don't have the patience for an elaborate recipe.
I loved and still love celebrating life with a laddu or a burfi. I would give extra points if the burfi is homemade. If you are reading this, I hope you will make this burfi, remember the Lord with gratitude and share the marvelousness with all your near and dear ones.
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Quick and Easy No Cook Burfi | Janmashtami Special Recipe
240 gm (2 cups) phutana or daliya*
330 gm (1½ cups) sugar*
10 cardamom pods, shelled
115 gm (1 cup) milk powder
100 gm (½ cup) ghee, melted
125 ml (½ cup) milk
A few strands of saffron (optional)
Grease and line an 8" square pan.
Lightly roast the phutana in a pan and after it cools down, grind it to a fine powder in a blender or mixer.
Add the sugar with the cardamom seeds into a blender and powder until fine.
In a large bowl, put in the powdered phutana, the sugar and the milk powder and mix well with a whisk or a spatula. If you are using saffron, now is the time to add it.
Make a well in the centre and add the melted ghee into it. Pour in enough milk and mix well until a nice smooth ball is formed. Transfer the smooth mixture to the greased pan or plate and flatten it with the base of a cup until it is smooth and uniform. Place the tray in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set.
With the help of a knife, cut into squares.
Makes 25 pieces
- Phutana or daliya is roasted bengal gram dal. This is readily available in the market and is very light in texture and highly nutritious. Please do not use bengal gram dal and roast it for this recipe.
- If you have a sweet tooth use 2 cups sugar. The original recipe had 2 cups sugar, but I used 1 1/2 cups sugar and it worked well for me.
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