“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.” -Bethany Hamilton
I spent the first half of the day today preparing for Kanjaka, a ritual held on the eighth of the nine day festival, Navratri. I remember when I was a kid, my mom and her friends would gather all us girls together to give us prated which consisted of halwa, poori and kale channe. In the evening my Dad would come home and give me an extra bonus (read: money or presents) for being ‘ghar ki kanjak’.
Kanjaka or Kanya Pooja is celebrated in North Indian families on Ashtami, the eighth Navratra. The day is celebrated by preparing poori, halwa, chana for young girls and doing their puja. Kanjaks, young girls are considered a form of Devi, the divine goddess and are invited into homes for feasts, gifts and prayers. Their feet are washed and tikka is applied on the forehead of each young girl and they are worshipped as goddesses. People often give the young girls money or gifts in addition to the feast prepared for them.
I love continuing the traditions I grew up with and celebrating Kanjaka with Little Mirchi. I’m sharing one of the important items made for this puja, Sooji ka Halwa. Sooji (semolina) is roasted and cooked with sugar, cardamom pods and ghee or butter, resulting in a sweet pudding like dessert. Sooji ka Halwa is also one of the first foods given to babies (minus the sugar) when they start solids.
- 1 cup fine sooji, semolina
- 2 tablespoon ghee or butter
- 3 cardamom pods
- ⅓ heaping cup of sugar
- 2 cup water
- In a clean pan, dry roast the semolina until it turns from white to light golden in color. Remove from heat and place in bowl. This step helps you avoid using less ghee or butter. When you dry roast you help remove some of the moisture in the grain. In the same pan melt ghee or butter and add the semolina, mix. In a separate pan boil two cups of water. After it comes to a boil turn off heat and add sugar and cardamom pods. Mix to make sure all the sugar melts. Once the semolina and butter mixture starts browning and looking like wet sand, slowly add the sugared water. Be careful while adding the water as the mixture will sputter. Mix and let bubble away. Once the halwa starts thickening and pulling away from the sides, turn heat off. Enjoy warm.