That's Krsna consciousness whether you consider
the philosophy, the lifestyle, or the cuisine.
One day in the fall of 1970, when Srila Prabhupada was in Amritsar, India, one of his disciples asked him about a slogan popular among India's impersonalistic philosophers: tat tvam asi. (The impersonalists cite this phrase from the Vedic literature to support their philosophy that we are all God.) Prabhupada explained that tat tvam asi indicated the living entity is one with God in quality both are spirit. But as far as quantity goes. God is infinite, and the living entity is infinitesimal. To say we are all God, therefore, is a gross misapplication of this statement from the Vedic literature.
"These impersonalists will just talk and talk Vedanta philosophy," Srila Prabhupada said. "It is simply mental speculation, and they will never come to any conclusion. They will go on speculating for years and lifetimes, but we'll realize God simply by eating." And from the plate of prasadam (vegetarian food offered to Krsna) sitting in front of him, Srila Prabhupada selected a sweet and popped it into his mouth.
Because impersonalists do not accept the Personality of Godhead, their philosophy and way of life are dry. In their ambition to become God they try to renounce all activities of the material world. This world, they say, is false; only Brahman, the all-pervading, impersonal spirit is truth. Unfortunately, along with material activities, they also reject the activities of devotional service. Therefore, although they are trying to turn from the meager pleasures of material enjoyment, they have not yet found the superior pleasure of spiritual life. Devotees, however, being personalists, realize the highest spiritual truth by such devotional activities as preparing and offering food for the pleasure of Krsna and then accepting the remnants as His mercy (prasadam).
This month we're featuring sweets so that you can offer them to Krsna and then pop them into your mouth, just as Srila Prabhupada did. The art of making these sweets has been preserved through generations of specialized sweet-makers in India. There the sweet repertoire is extensive and elaborate, and although preparing such sweets may appear simple, to do it masterfully requires great skill.
Of all cooking oils, ghee (clarified butter) is best suited for making grain sweets, because the flavor of the sweet greatly depends on the flavor of the oil. You may economize, however, by using a mixture of half ghee and half clean, mild vegetable oil.
Traditional sweet-makers place stress on the texture, color, and shape of each type of sweet. Some sweets are made into balls or pressed into decorative molds. Others are cut from solid sheets into cubes, wedges, triangles, diamonds, or oblongs. Some are folded, others are stuffed. Each region has its own popular sweet specialty and shape. And each sweet, alter it's been offered to Krsna, will give spiritual benefit to whoever eats it.
Srila Prabhupada further explained the benefits of eating prasadam during a conversation he had in New York (a year after Amritsar). A disciple had asked him the result of distributing a sweet called Simply Wonderfuls. (See this month's recipes.) Srila Prabhupada told him, "Then it is wonderful simply wonderful. He has not tasted such a wonderful sweet in his life. Therefore, you give him wonderful, and because he is eating that wonderful sweet, one day he will come to your temple and become wonderful. Therefore it is simply wonderful. So go on distributing this Simply Wonderful. Your philosophy is simply wonderful, your prasadam is simply wonderful, you are simply wonderful. And your Krsna is simply wonderful. Krsna acts wonderfully, and it is acting wonderfully. Who can deny it?"
(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)
Yield: 12 pieces
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 cup skim milk powder
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
up to 1 teaspoon milk
1. Combine the butter and sifted powdered sugar in a small mixing bowl and cream until smooth.
2. Add the powdered milk and cardamom powder and mix into the soft dough. The ingredients may need to be adjusted slightly by adding a sprinkle of milk or additional powdered milk, if necessary. The dough will harden as it sets, so immediately divide into 12 pieces and roll into smooth, round balls.
3. The balls may be pressed into candy molds to yield attractive shapes before being offered to Krsna.
Melt-in-Your-Mouth Chick-Pea Flour Sweets
Yield: 15 balls
½ cup butter
1 cup sifted chick-pea flour
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon cardamom powder
1. Melt the butter in a 10-inch nonstick or heavy frying pan over a medium-low flame. Sprinkle in the chick-pea flour and mix well. Stir-fry until the mixture turns golden brown. Remove from the flame.
2. Add the sifted powdered sugar and cardamom powder and thoroughly blend the ingredients, using a wooden spoon.
3. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, roll it quickly into neat balls or press into decorative molds and offer to Krsna.
Variation I: Pistachio Nut Laddu Prepare as directed, adding finely chopped, blanched, raw pistachios with the cardamom powder.
Variation II: Crunchy Laddu
Prepare as directed, adding 3 tablespoons toasted, slightly crushed sesame seeds, 3 table-spoons dessicated coconut, and 2 tablespoons toasted, chopped cashews or peanuts.
Deep-Fried Chick-Pea Flour Pearl Sweets
Yield: 14 to 16 Balls
Special Equipment: 2 circular, large, flat perforated spoons: one with 1/8-inch holes, one with 3/16-inch holes.
Ingredients for the chick-pea flour pearls:
1 ¼ cups sifted chick-pea flour
2/3 cup water or water mixed with milk
3 cups ghee (clarified butter) for deep-frying or 1 ½ cups ghee and 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
Ingredients for the syrup and assembling the sweet:
1/3 cup sugar
1 ¼ cups water
1 ½ tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon rosewater, optional
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed
¼ cup raw almonds, sliced fine
¼ cup raisins
1 ¼ cup minced dates
2 tablespoons finely shredded coconut
1/8 teaspoon medium-ground black pepper, optional
Pour the 2/3 cup of liquid into a blender jar. Cover, remove the feeder cap in the lid, turn on the machine, and slowly feed in the sifted chick-pea flour. Blend thoroughly, then turn off the machine and check the consistency of the batter. Flour varies in absorbency, so a little more liquid or flour may be required to prepare a batter thin enough to fall through the holes in the 1/8-inch perforated spoon in pearllike drops. Transfer the batter to a bow], cover, and set aside while assembling the syrup and remaining ingredients.
To prepare the syrup and remaining ingredients:
Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy 2-quart saucepan, place it over a medium flame, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Raise the flame to medium-high and boil for about 10 minutes, or until the syrup reaches about 235°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the flame, add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and set the pan over the lowest possible flame.
To fry the pearls and shape the sweets:
Heat the clarified butter in a 10- to 12-inch wok or deep-walled pan until the temperature reaches about 340°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Place 2 ½ tablespoons of the batter on the 1/8-inch perforated spoon. Hold the spoon about 6 inches above the surface of the hot ghee, and allow the batter to fall through the holes in neat, round pearls. If the batter is too thin, it will fall too swiftly through the holes and produce elongated squiggles. Thicken the batter by adding small quantities of flour. Fry the pearls, stirring them with the second perforated frying spoon, until they are golden brown and crisp. Remove the pearls and transfer to the warm syrup. Fry the remaining batter in several batches. Thoroughly stir each batch of pearls into the syrup.
If sugar crystals form in the syrup, add a sprinkle of hot water and raise the heat slightly. When all the chick-pea flour pearls have been added, remove the pan from the heat and cool the mixture until it is bearable to handle. Press a golf-ball-size portion firmly between buttered palms until the ball holds shape. The balls will become hard as they reach room temperature. Offer to Krsna.
Deep-Fried Pastry Cubes in Sweet Syrup
Yield: 30 cubes
1 cup sifted, unbleached white pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon each of salt, sugar, and baking soda
¾ teaspoon black cumin seeds, if available
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 ½ tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
3 cups ghee for deep-frying or 1 ½ cups ghee and 1 ½ cups-vegetable oil
Ingredients for syrup:
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1. To prepare the pastry, combine the flour, salt, sugar, soda, black cumin seeds, and sesame seeds in a mixing bowl. Using the fingertips, rub the ghee into the dry ingredients until the texture resembles dry oatmeal. Add the yogurt, stir briskly, and gather the mixture into a loose dough. If the dough crumbles, add small sprinkles of water until the particles adhere; knead the dough on a clean counter-top or marble slab for at least 5 minutes or until it is smooth and silky. Gather the dough into a neat ball, cover, and allow to sit for at least ½ hour. Then roll the dough into a rectangle 1/3-inch thick; cut into 30 small squares.
2. To prepare the syrup, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a small 1 -quart saucepan and boil it over a medium-high flame for about 7 to 10 minutes. Keep the syrup warm over the lowest possible flame.
3. Heat the 3 cups of clarified butter in a 10-to 12-inch frying pan over a medium flame until the temperature reaches 360°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Remove the pan from the flame and add all of the squares. Allow them to cook off the flame until the temperature falls to 260°F and the ghee stops simmering. Replace the pan over the flame and fry slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, regulating the heat between 260°F and 270°F. When the pastries are properly cooked, they turn a soft gold color, swell slightly, and become crisp. As they finish frying, transfer to absorbent paper to drain.
4. Slip 6 or 7 pieces of warm pastry into the warm syrup, stir, and soak for 10 or 15 seconds. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on a cake rack resting over a plate. Glaze all of the pastries in this way and offer to Krsna.