Holi Celebration With Milk And Cookies

Holi is one of India’s biggest holidays, arguably more popular than even Diwali. It marks the celebration of spring and what better way to do it than with an explosion of color – quite literally. Whilst the faint hearted should consider staying at home, those with a bit of ‘oomph’ put on their gleaming white apparel and join the their neighborhood of fellow white clad community outside. Like a block party, everybody joins in; kids, extended family members, neighbors, local vendors. And the dress code is specific with it’s serene white varieties of pants, t-shirts, saris and salwar kameez – yet what follows is anything but serene. The commotion starts. Kids fling chipkaris (little balloon bombs filled with colored water) and grown-ups grab handfuls of colored flour and throw them at each other. Some duck and dive, whilst others launch themselves amidst the convivial chaos. Across the country, all those bright-whites turn in to a sea of tie-dye. This is a typical way to commemorate the day all over India . But then there are regional ways to get involved, for example, in Mahrastra, clay pots filled with milk hang like pendants between the tops of buildings and men climb up on each other forming a pyramid – the man that reaches the top of the pyramid and cracks the pot is considered the town hero.

This year, Holi is on March 27th. Whilst it is hard to recreate the festivity at that level outside of India, it would be a shame to let a holiday slip that expresses such gratitude to vitality. I called my friend Surbhi Sahni of Bittersweet NYC, and a native of New Delhi. A trusted advisor on tradition and treats to match, Surbhi can always be counted on to come up with something fun yet relevant for the occasion. She reminded me of the traditional thandaii that is served to guests at Holi– a chilled glass of fresh almond milk steeped with saffron and cardomom. As we shared stories on the unleashing of our inner child at Holi parties – a play on milk and cookies felt like the obvious thing to do. She then baked me a fresh batch of carom seed cookies to pair with the thandaii. Oh, my family is certainly ‘in’ for quite a treat this Holi.

Thandaii and carom seed cookies courtesy of Surbhi Sahni

Recipes For Thandaii and Carom Seeds Cookies Courtesy Of Surbi Sahni, Bittersweet NYC

Recipe for Thandaii


A pinch of saffron

10 whole black peppercorn

¼ tsp. cardamom powder

½ cup blanched, sliced almonds

½ cup whole raw cashews

2 tbsp. crushed pistachios

3 cups whole milk (or 2%)

1/2 cup sugar

Soaking the nuts for Thandaii


1) Soak all the ingredients except for the milk and sugar in hot water for at least 2 hours. Drain and blend to a smooth paste

2) Pour milk and blend well

3) Chill and serve

Recipe for Carom Seed Cookies


12oz All Purpose Flour

½ tsp. salt

1 tbsp. carom seeds (available at specialty stores like Kalustyans)

6oz butter

4oz sugar

1oz lemon juice (2 tbsp.)

1.2oz yoghurt (3 tbsp.)

¼ tsp. baking powder

Carom Cookie Log


1) Sieve flour with salt. Sprinkle carom seeds and sugar over the top. Rub the butter with the flour using your fingertips, bringing the mixture to breadcrumb consistency (avoid over mixing)

2) In a separate bowl, mix lemon juice, yoghurt and baking powder. Combine with flour to firm dough. Make 2 logs out of the dough and allow to rest in the freezer until firm. Slice in to ¼ “ rounds and bake on a sheet pan for 7 minutes, turn them over and bake another 7 minutes. Cookies should feel firm. Remove and allow to cool on wire racks

Saira Malhotra, is of British–Indian descent and is a chef, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York City. Raised in Hounslow, U.K, or rather ‘Little India’, where the air is aromatic with roasted spices, little did Saira know these moments would follow her from being a student in France and Italy to residing in NYC with her husband and kids and parlay themselves unexpectedly in to a culinary career. She is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City. Come visit her at her food blog: where she shares approachable and international recipes

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