Recipe: Prasad, Food of the Gods

I discovered early in life that just like me, Gods are also foodies.

Every holiday and festival in India is celebrated with food, as it is in most cultures. I would know it's a special day when my mother would take a shower very early in the morning, to begin preparations for the ceremonies that were to follow, all day long. I was drawn to these rituals primarily because the house would be full of fragrant flowers for the ceremony and aromas of ghee (clarified butter), sweets, and an array of savory dishes that were made for the specific festival. Eventually, we would relish everything, but only after the gods were offered it all.

[jump] There was something else I got from these special days. As a child I could sense there was a grace and beauty about the ritual of making Prasad. There was love and devotion in these preparations, there was respect and honor in the offerings, as if gods were coming down to join us in the form of friends and family, to enjoy good times and celebrations. As a result, I was charmed by the sense of God early in life. He/She seemed like someone who loved life's rich experiences, the beauty in nature with all its offerings and I came to honor the same.

Prasad (also called prasada or prasadam) is a material substance of food that is a religious offering in both Hinduism and Sikhism, which is consumed by worshipers.

In particular, the festival of Baisakhi (celebrated on April 14 of this year) brings back special memories of a superbly simple yet delicious Prasad. The feast ritual commences with Sikhs and Indians visiting the local gurudwara (temple). After prayers, the celebrants have a communal Baisakhi meal at the gurudwara called the guru-ka-langar that begins with Kada Prasad.

Baisakhi is the harvest festival and the Solar New Year for Sikhs and Hindus, highlighting the fresh mustard greens (saag) that have just been harvested, served with unleavened corn flatbread (makki di roti).

Recipe: Kitchen Tantra Prasad dessert (serves 4-5). Cooking time: 20 minutes

1 cup jaggery powder or granulated sugar
3½ cups water
½-1 cup ghee (clarified butter)
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup almonds – crushed coarsely or slivers

1. In a pan bring the jaggery or sugar and water to a boil until the jaggery has melted completely. Let it simmer on medium heat.
2. Meanwhile heat ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Stir in the wheat flour in the ghee over a low flame till it turns to light brown and smells very fragrant.
3. Increase the flame to high on the sugar/jaggery syrup. Allow it to come to a high boil. Add the sugar syrup to the roasted wheat flour. Lower the heat to simmer and watch out as the mixture will splutter. Stir with whisk continuously so that the mixture does not get lumpy.
4. Simmer and let the mixture cook till it thickens slightly and the ghee starts to accumulate at the side of the pan.
5. Serve hot with slivered almond garnished on top.

Nalini Mehta is the founder of Route To India, offering individual and team building classes, and an array of vegetarian cooking classes, all rooted in the practice of Ayurveda, along with annual Ayurveda Culinary trips to India. Follow her on Twitter.

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