And just like this “Holi” dawned upon us, slowly, quietly without a word in a country where most people that I am surrounded by do not share the same cultural identity as me, it gets hard to remember what Indian festivals are passing me by. While most of us expats try and do something to retain a little bit of flavor of the day, it is hardly ever the same.
As kids, we looked forward to playing Holi all year around. My grandfather had a “Gulak” (piggy bank), and we would be encouraged to store any loose change in it. So during Holi & Diwali, we were allowed to take money from it to buy colors or crackers. The princely sum of 30 Rs that we would be given was like a lottery ticket for us. We would go mental buying different colors, water pistols and balloons and it was all terribly exciting.
We had a huge verandah in the house we grew up in, where my father would put one big tub of water for us to fill our water balloons ready to corner an unsuspecting friend. Both of us would fill plastic bags with our various tools of ambush and I would go with all the girls and he would take off with the boys. We would roam around in packs looking for a poor soul to unleash the array of colors that we carried with us. While we were not allowed to throw the balloons at strangers, all the uncles, aunties and kids from the neighborhood would not be spared. It was time to settle old scores with other children and it was all in good fun. It was an enjoyable time, walking around so unashamedly, faces painted black, blue and even silver, hair in disarray, looking ridiculous with not a care in the world.
Over time better sense prevailed or maybe the fact that the colors became synthetic, people lost the decency of playing Holi in the right spirit or maybe my grandfathers Gulak went with him; we just lost the will to play Holi. It has been years since bright pink ‘Gulal’ was applied on my cheeks. God knows I am thankful that I walk on the streets of Australia without having to worry about a Balloon filled with water or something worst dumped unceremoniously on my head out of the blue. But the memories of those innocent days always come washing back when you are so far away to make any of your own.
As I did not have the time or patience to make any traditional sweets this Holi, I did make this colorful “Raspberry Panacotta” to remind myself of days when life had a million different colors than just Black & Grey. Eaten chilled these little glasses of heaven were a perfect way to end a day that was filled with memories.
Recipe (Cooking time 15 minutes, setting time 5 – 6 hours, makes 6 puddings)
For the Panacotta
150 ml Full-fat Milk
500 ml thick Cream
160 gms Caster Sugar
1 Vanilla pod split with seeds scraped
3 leaves Gold Leaf Gelatine
Handful of Raspberries to add to the Panacotta
Add the Cream in a thick bottomed pan and add the Milk, sugar, and scraped vanilla beans and pod in a large pan.
Stir over low heat till it gently comes to a boil. Just before the mixture starts to boil turn off the heat.
Place the gelatin leaves in a shallow dish, and then cover with cold water to soften for 5 minutes. Remove the gelatin from the water and squeeze out the excess water. Gently whisk it into to the cream mixture until dissolved.
Allow the cream mixture to cool slightly and then strain through a sieve into a jug. Pour into small glasses, if serving straight from the glass. Add 2 – 3 Raspberries in each glass and then transfer to the refrigerator for 5 – 6 hours or until set. The Panna cottas should still have a slight wobble to them once set.
For the Raspberry Coulis
1 cup frozen Raspberries
1 tbsp Icing Sugar
Blitz the Raspberries and Icing Sugar in a grinder for 3 – 4 minutes till some of the berries have broken.
Add this mixture to a pan and cook over low heat, stirring till the berries have all melted and it has become a thick slush.
Using a sieve strain the mixture in another container and let it chill in the fridge.
Drizzle some coulis in each glass before serving along with some dried flowers (optional) for decoration.