Festivals give our taste buds a reason to crave a certain nostalgia. And even though, in the past few years, we have made everything including marzipan and macaroons a part of our celebrations, somehow nothing spelt Diwali quite as well as good old Indian mithai.
This season, the traditional mithais that we grew up on- gobbling them all through the festive season- make a triumphant return. But, this time, they are back in a more gourmet version.
Social observers and food experts credit the trend to the phenomenon of reclaiming our classics. As we grow more comfortable with our indegenous thoughts and practices, this trend becomes apparent on our kitchen shelves too.
Manisha Bhasin, executive chef, ITC Maurya says, "While western desserts can always be a take-it-or-leave-it-extra, it's encouraging that people are ready to go back and understand the philosophy of the ancient Indian kitchen, where each meal was customised to suit the seasons."
Artisanal offerings and gourmet delights are changing the traditional festive sweet platter
Bhasin reveals that the hotel is reviving mulethi and kishmish barfi.
"It is a great thing to have just at the onset of winters as mulethi prevents common colds," she says. There is also the pista dalchini bar, which has strong spices like cinnamon (dalchini) that builds immunity against the impending chill.
As laddoos go artisan and barfis are given exotic garnishes, the word 'mithai' will no longer make you think of a sweet that's ghee laden, calorie-rich and too-sugary-for-comfort.
Food technologist, Bharti Sanghi of HomeAloneFoods.com says, "India has a rich repertoire of traditional sweets, which just need some creative presentation."
Her company presents unusual options like peach sandesh (peach halves scooped and filled with cottage cheese), chenna pista apple barfi (coarse pista and stewed apples with cottage cheese) that combine the goodness of fruit with delicious festive calories.
Kazem Samandari of French patisserie L'Opera says, "Embracing local sentiments and customising the food to suit the cultural ethos is the way forward as festivals are the time when people want to go back to their roots. Keeping this in mind we had launched a range of eggless desserts during Navratri."
This Diwali, then, lets reclaim tradition with an additional ingredient- a dollop of nostalgia.
What: Choose from ladoos covered with rose petals, strawberry, custard apple and watermelon-infused kaju katlis and rose sandesh.
Deepti Chawla of Signature sweets takes online deliveries for gourmet mithais (Photo: Manoj Verma/ HT Photos)
USP: The online mithai operation unit Signature has mithais that contain dates instead of sugar.
Price: Rs 1000 to Rs 4000 for a kg
Mithais with winter spices
What: Specially for Diwali, there's rose petal halwa, chocolate besan ladoo, mini ghevar with white chocolate, pista dalchini fudge and mulethi kishmish bars.
USP: Traditional flavours and modern presentation. Grandmother's recipes for keeping colds at bay have been fused in the mithais.
Where: The Gourmet Shop at ITC Maurya
Price: Rs 1500 per kg onwards
All organic laddoos
What: Laddoos made with two simple ingredients- gur (jaggery) and til (sesame seeds)- were traditionally eaten during the winter to keep warm.
USP: Pulkita Parsai, who specialises in these goodies, says she uses the simplest most rustic recipe handed down to her by the older women in her family. Her new contribution to this age-old recipe? Every ingredient used is organic and is sourced from the interiors of the country to ensure that the quality is not compromised and the taste remains authentic.
Price: Rs 175 for a box for 7
Where: Nirvaaha the organic store, D 59, Defence Colony
What: Besan barfi and loose panjiri, a traditional Punjabi favourite, with dry-fruits such as pinenuts, avocados. Custom made as per preference.
Ridhima Narula with boxes of barfi and panjiri
USP: Ridhima Narula says she makes every piece on her own to ensure that the taste is consistent.
Price: Rs 525 per kg onwards
What: Pistachio panacotta, gulkand sweets and pista and badam opera- a layered pista and badam barfi.
USP: The specially-curated festive menu mixes traditional with posh presentation. There's also innovative petit four platters and saffron cheesecake with besan crust.
Price: Rs 299 onwards
Where: Foodhall, DLF Saket and Central Mall Gurgaon
Fondant coated mithais
What: A range of gourmet mithais including kaju jalebi, pista tartlets, peach chocolate sandesh and kaju badam samosa.
USP: Fondant is also used to coat mithai and shape it into floral designs. Seasonal fruits are used as stuffing in mithai.
Price: Rs 500-2600 per kg
What: Imartis with paneer filling and dipped in a jaggery syrup.
USP: While cottage cheese makes these traditional imartis more filling, gur replaces sugar and finds special favour with health freaks
Price: Rs 499 per kg
Where: Storm Bar and Grill, East of Kailash