Many of the regional festivals often are the quiet and solemn kind (but still elaborate nonetheless) and they are often associated with fasting. Fasting is a way of worship where you eliminate certain food groups from your diet for the period of the fast or sometimes, depending on how resilient you are and the method the particular festival dictates, not eat or drink at all.
Growing up, fasting was a common practice in my family. There were quite a few festivals when mom would observe a partial fast. These were mostly the kind where consumption of grains and salt was prohibited. That is when Sabudana or sago used to come to the rescue. It is very apt for these occasions as it cooks and feels like a grain but in fact isn't one. I still vividly remember mom made several preparations using sabudana for those fasting days. Some savory and some sweet. The savory ones were without salt but still tasted fabulous due to some craft use of other ingredients like peanuts which tendered a natural taste to the dish. So much so that you wouldn't miss the salt at all (well almost).
Among the sweet sabudana preparations, the sabudana kheer was the favorite. The sound of fasting brings this beautiful and exotic yet rustic dessert like a flash before me and to this day, I still keep the age old tradition and cook this up during fasts that we observe in my family.
Milk ................................ 3 1/2 cups
Sugar .............................. 1/2 cup or to taste
Tapioca (sabudana, sago ) ...... 1/2 cup
Saffron ............................ 1/2 tsp
Cardamom powder .............. 1/2 tsp
Nuts - Pistachios, Almonds, Raisins
1. Wash and soak the tapioca in about 1/4 cup water for at least 1 - 2 hours, till it absorbs all the water and becomes a little plump and fluffy. It should not be sticky.
2. Bring the milk to a boil in heavy bottom pan. Let boil on medium to medium-low heat for about 12-15 minutes to thicken. Make sure to stir occasionally so milk does not burn at the bottom of the pan. Add the saffron, stir.
3. Add the tapioca, cook until tapioca is soft, bigger and translucent. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Squish a pearl between your fingers to ensure the center is cooked as well.
4. Add sugar, cardamom, pistachios, let boil for 1-2 minutes. Simmer till sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat. As the kheer cools it gets a little thicker.
5. Serve warm or chilled. ENJOY!