The colours on your plate

Alisha Shinde
Saturday, 6 October 2018

Our outfits bring a cheery, bright vibe to a festival, but why should the food be left behind? Alisha Shinde tells you how this Navratri, you can relish some colourful delicacies, one for each of the nine days of the festival, and take the colour game a notch higher

Red makes us feel liberated and yellow gives vibes of sunshine and warmth! Our mood defines the colours we choose to wear. Or is it the other way round — that the colours we wear enhance our mood, appearance and overall well-being? Whatever the fact, one thing is sure, that colours do have an influence on us, and that is in evidence when our round of festivities begins — be it the harvest festivals like Sankranti, Pongal or the ensuing nine-day Navratri. 

No wonder then the colour co-ordinated attire on each day of the Navratri is something that all women look forward to. But this time, besides playing the dressing up, let’s bring out the colours that please the devi in the food that we serve to her (as bhog/ naivedya) and our guests. Not only will the colours in the dish stand out, but you will also be able to add some healthy ingredients to your plate through it. We talk to a few city chefs and bring to you the most convenient way to put together a dish according to the festive colours. 

Royal blue in your beverage
Our festivities are associated with certain dishes that we all share as family and they become a part of our family memory. But mostly, food takes prominence while beverages are not talked about so much. Pravin Shetty, director Kwality Family Resto Bar, Magarpatta, has a different take though. “There are festivals like Holi, in which thandai drink is very popular. Why not extend it to other festivals?,” he wonders.

He then goes on to explain how you can serve a beverage this season, in the colour royal blue. “Royal blue is associated with night. It is the colour of the goddess form — ‘Kaalratri’ and it represents the devi’s fierce form and offers protection from all troubles. How can such a colour be incorporated in drinks? I would suggest making use of blueberries,” says Shetty.
 
One easy recipe to make a Blueberry Lemonade at home is by squeezing some lemon juice and mixing it with the strained puree of blueberries and blackberries. “You can also use the readymade blue syrups which are easily available in the market to make the lemonade,” says Shetty.

“During the festival, one can make unconventional choices with the available blue colours in food. Otherwise there is always a natural way of making the colour. It can be added to cake frosting or as a dressing. One can be very creative with natural food colours,” he grins and says.

Grey in your Chikki
For Siddharth Mehta, owner, Zaga Art Cafe and Bar, Navratri is associated with the delicacies cooked in desi ghee. And, therefore he chooses food items like Sadubana Khichdi and Makhana Chikki, which represent the colour grey. Says Mehta, “Grey represents a vulnerable mother who can become a storm cloud whenever needed to safeguard her baby from danger. The colour is a little uncommon when it comes to food, so subtle hints of the shade can be found in Sabudana Khichdi. You can also get the colour grey by using ingredients like mushrooms, cauliflower and some off-white coloured fruits and vegetables.” 

During this season, people tend to gorge on high fat, sugary and calorie dense foods. But Mehta advises that it’s best to stick to traditional ingredients because they are very healthy and wholesome and include essential nutrients that protect us from diseases. He suggests using singhara and amaranth as they are great sources of fiber, protein and antioxidant polyphenols. 

A strawberry red
The Tamilians celebrate Navratri in the post-monsoon season and have different reasons and rituals for revering the celestial beings,” says Prabhakar, unit chef, Savya Rasa. Coming to rituals, he says that the colour red is considered holy and is seen in almost every ritual or festival. And, the naturally red foods have beneficial nutrients and antioxidants like lycopene and anthocyanins. Red foods are also rich in vitamin A and C. “The easiest way to incorporate the colour into food is by using tomato juice or tomato, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, pomegranates and strawberries. These ingredients can be used in with the traditional dishes to give them a 21st century makeover and a dish that people will remember,” he adds.
 
Citing an example, Prabhakar says you can make Strawberry Mini Tarts with a dollop of cream cheese, lemon juice and zest along with whipped cream topped with strawberries. 

Go yellow with kesar
Riya Shah, director, The Quick Wok, picks yellow to be used in food as it signifies brightness, freshness, positivity and energy. She suggests using kesar in cooking the festive meals during Navratri.

“Kesar is known to be a very good antioxidant. So you can use it in sweet preparations like kheer and halwa,” she says, adding, “The best part of Navratri fast food is that it is super healthy, tasty and very light on the tummy.” 
Shah also recommends eating Sabudana and potato as they are loaded with good carbohydrates and the starch in them will lift up your energy levels during the nine days of fast, and while playing the garba.

Orange in your juice
This season you can feast on the best vegetarian dishes that are made using regional ingredients,” says Rounak Kinger, executive chef, Courtyard by Marriott Pune. The most common dishes prepared during the festival include Undhiyo, Handvo, Dhokla and Khandvi. But what catches Kinger’s attention is the use of specific colours like orange during the festival.
 
“A natural orange colour can be easily obtained from orange juice, carrot juice, and dried carrot powder. They not only add a vibrant colour to the dish they also have benefits of their own. Carrots contain antioxidants which help the body fight free radicals, cell damage and inflammation. Vitamin C in carrot juice provides an immune system boost, helping you to get through the cold and flu season,” he says.

Kinger also recommends sundried potato chips, fruit salad and roasted makhana for those who want to continue with their strict diet to stay healthy. “If you don’t want to consume the same monotonous food during Navratri, then you can indulge by eating Buddha bowls (comprising greens, raw or roasted veggies and healthy grain like quinoa) which are trending on social media,” he adds. 

Sky blue in halwa
Sudesh Agarwal, owner WS Bakers, recommends using colour blue in desserts, because festivals can never be complete without sweets!
 
“There are numerous desserts that people can work with and get the beautiful glaze with a hint of sky blue. Blueberries, blackberries and raisins are some of the blue coloured food that can be incorporated for Navratri,” he says adding that Blueberry Halwa or Kheer or even a Blueberry Milkshake can be rustled up.
 
Blue coloured foods are extremely nutritious but a bit difficult to include in one’s daily diet. “Blue-purple foods are rich in anthocyanins and resveratrol which are important nutrients and have a lot of benefit,” he says. Agarwal informs that a lot of people are adding a twist to traditional sweets by making Motichoor Ladoo Cake or Mix-Fruit cake. 

Green for your super food
The Navratri festival is a fine balance of science and religion. You detoxify your body by eliminating certain kinds of food and including certain dishes,” says Abhishek Shetty, director, Kalinga Veg Gourmet Kitchen.
 
Shetty chooses colour green for his recipes, since the shade is associated with nature. When it comes to food, the colour indicates natural elements and health. “Greens are super foods because they help in maintaining the health of the liver and wash out the toxins from our body,” he says. Since most of the people follow a vegetarian diet during this festival, there are a number of Indian dishes which can be made using spinach, broccoli, collards, cabbage and lettuce etc.
 
“If you want to retain the green colour naturally, make sure to use a combination of ice cold water, vinegar, salt, and lemon as they optimise the colour,” he says, adding, “Blanching and dunking the vegetable leaves in cold water helps in retaining the nutrients as well.”

One can also choose to play around with combinations to create new and interesting dishes. “A good combination would be of fruits with spices, dips made of yoghurt with honey and chilli, which will give one a melange of flavours that are different than the ordinary,” adds Shetty. 

White to keep you light 
Navratri is probably the best time to indulge in all kinds of vegetarian dishes, a few traditional and a few fused ones. “It is the best time to get innovative and try our hand at different flavours and be masterchefs in the kitchen, making not only the goddess happy but the family members too,” says Ronak Mehta, consulting chef, Becky’s Binging Bay. 
 
He chooses the colour white, which is associated with goodness, innocence and purity. “When the colour is incorporated in food, it keeps the dish light and flavourful. Milk is the best ingredient which can enhance the flavour while white pepper powder gives a wonderful flavour to dishes like pasta.”
He says that children these days mostly enjoy Western food. Keeping in mind the Navratri tradition, one can easily whip up a Chilli Cheese Muhammara toast which is a snack made with Muhammara paste (made with nuts and Mexican chillies) applied on the toast. 

A rose pink smoothie
The colour pink depicts hope and a new beginning for Sagarika Ghosh, Jr. Sous chef, Sorted Delicatessen, Kalyani Nagar. If one wants to make a dish with the colour pink, then Ghosh suggests using beetroot. “One can use beetroot instead of potatoes to add a vibrant pink colour and sweetness to the flavour or even blend rose petals and banana with yogurt to make a flavoured smoothie. Strawberries, hibiscus flowers and even rhubarb can be used to achieve the colour,” she adds. 

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