Of Fasting, Feasting And Potlucks
It’s that time of the year again when the country comes together to celebrate good over evil. What makes Navratri so colourful is the fact that it is celebrated in different ways across the many states. While in Gujarat, people take to the rhythmic beats of dandiya-raas, in West Bengal, pandals are set to welcome Goddess Durga. The northern states enjoy the story of Ramayana for nine days, and in south India, it is celebrated as Ayudh Puja and Sarawati Puja.
While many fast for all nine days, others fast only on the eighth or ninth day of the festival. Special vrat or fasting foods are also made at homes on these days. When we were kids, my grandmother would fast for all nine days and we’d enjoy a range of special fasting treats. A falahari (vegetarian) dish would be prepared every day for those who would fast. In the process even we got to taste delicacies such as Kuttu singhade ki poori, Dahi wale aloo, Makhane ki kheer, Saboodane ke papad and Meve ke ladoo among others.
In the evenings we would visit the multiple puja pandals and fairs (mela) in the neighbourhood. These pandals would also compete with each other in the decorations and bring festivities to life. The melas used to be marked with stalls selling products like painted diyas and candles, special chaat counters and even games. It was fun using our pocket money to shop for little treats and eat to our heart’s content.
Now we stay in Bengaluru, which is very cosmopolitan with several communities and cultures living together especially where we reside. Apart from a special evening with garba dance, we also arrange for potlucks comprising recipes from all over India.
I will be taking one of my favourite recipes, Sama ke chawal, also eaten on fasting days during Navratri to the potluck. Also called Vrat Ke Chawal in Hindi, it is usually made with Barnyard millet. It is like kheer, and used to be the most prominent dish in our homes during all nine days of Navratri. The best part is that it comes out perfect each time I make it. I’m sure you would like this recipe too and prepare it for your celebrations.
Recipe for Sama Ke Chawal Ki Kheer
1 & 1/2 l full cream milk
4 tbsp sama ke chawal (Barnyard millet)
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup sugar
10 - 12 strands saffron, soaked in 2 tbsp milk
Almond and pistachio slivers for garnishing
1. Wash sama ke chawal and soak them in a cup of water for 30 minutes.
2. Heat milk in a heavy bottom pan.
3. Bring the milk to a rolling boil and then simmer the heat to low.
4. Drain the water from the chawal and add them in the boiling milk.
5. Add saffron soaked in milk and cardamom powder.
6. Simmer the heat and let the kheer cook for 20-25 minutes until it is reduced to almost half and is creamy and thick.
7. Add sugar and cook for another minute.
8. Garnish with almond and pistachio slivers and serve the kheer hot or chilled.
Neha believes in the adage 'pleasure in job brings perfection in work'. She loves to eat what she cooks, and also look forward to serve it in a perfect way. Neha also works with food brands and start-ups designing their menus, recipes, helping with food photography and contributing content.
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