A delicious start to a New Year

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 12 April 2018

In India, almost every region and community celebrates the new year based on various factors like the lunar or solar calendars, and harvest time. With Punjabis celebrating Baisakhi on April 14 and Bengalis and Assamese celebrating Poila Boishakh and Bihu, respectively, on April 15, Amrita Prasad talks to chefs about a few festival recipes 

Punjabi cuisine is known for its masaledar and flavoursome dishes like Kulche Chole, Naan, Butter Chicken, Sarson Ka Saag and Makki Ki Roti, and so on. But Baisakhi calls for special celebrations and a dish that will add tadka to the Punjabi fare is Apple Halwa, which stands out for its simplicity and delicious taste. 

Sunil Menon, executive chef, Four Points by Sheraton, Nagar Road, says that Apple Halwa, a typically North Indian sweet dish, is flavourful and made during Navratri and Baisakhi. “Made of apple, milk and dry fruits, it is light on the stomach and is loaded with health benefits,” he says adding that the dessert is extremely easy to prepare. 

- Apples (grated)... - 4
- Condensed milk..... - ¼ cup 
- Sugar.. - ..2 tbsp
- Cinnamon powder.. - ..¼ tsp 
- Clove powder.... - .a pinch
- Cardamom powder.... - ¼ tsp 
- Raisins... - .2 tbsp
- Ghee as required

- Grease a pan with ghee and fry the raisins. Remove and keep it aside.
- Combine apples, cinnamon powder, clove powder, and cardamom powder in the same pan.
- Cook, stirring continuously on a low flame.
- Add sugar and condensed milk. Stir on low flame until it thickens.
- Smear a plate with ghee and transfer the cooked halwa into it.
- Flatten it gently and top up with fried raisins. Let it cool.
- Slice into preferred shapes (if need be). 
- Garnish with dry nuts before serving.

Rongali Bihu is celebrated to usher in spring, along with the Hindu New Year in Assam. Bihu is celebrated to show our gratitude to nature and elders. That said, no festival is complete without feasting, dancing and merry making,” says chef and founder president of North East Food Forum, Kashmiri Barkakati Nath from Guwahati, Assam.     

Talking about Bihu and the dishes that are made during the festival she says that on the first day of the Hindu solar calender, which falls on April 15 this year, an elaborate feast for family and friends is laid out to usher in the new year. There is fish, poultry and duck along with a huge variety of vegetables and greens and pitha. “Eating greens during the Bihu feast is a tradition. With spring sprouting a variety of leafy greens and herbs, they are consumed to boost good health. A typical Bihu feast will begin with a bitter dish, followed by a Saag Bhaji. Traditionally, it used to be 101 varieties of greens, collected the day before foraged from the forests and cooked on the day of Bihu. We now, make do with 11 varieties but Rongali Bihu feast is incomplete without Saag Bhaji,” she says and shares the recipe:    

- Mixed greens (mustard, bhatua, spinach, sorrel, amaranth, and other local greens)... - .1 big bunch  
- Ginger (finely chopped).... - 1 inch
- Garlic (finely chopped).... - 4-6 cloves 
- Green chillies (finely chopped)... - .2
- Fenugreek seeds.... - ½ tsp 
- Turmeric powder.....    - 1 tsp 
- Mustard oil... - .1 tbsp 
- Salt to taste

- Wash the greens and chop them finely. Keep aside.
- Heat a wok and then add  mustard oil and splutter some fenugreek seeds. 
- Now the add the finely chopped garlic and ginger. Sauté for two minutes till  the raw smell disappears.
- Add the chopped greens and then add  turmeric, salt and the green chillies. Give it a good stir. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes.
- Uncover and stir for a few minutes longer or until there is no water left and the greens turn dry.
- Serve hot with steamed rice and dal.

Bengalis have a deep connection with food and most of their conversations revolve around it. Be it Roshogolla (Rasgulla), Fish Fry (fried fish fillet), Mishti Doi (sweet yoghurt) or Macher Jhol (Fish Curry), Bengal’s culinary delights have secured a special place in India’s food map. 

On Poila Boishakh, Bengalis will be preparing an elaborate fare for the new year and Kosha Mangsho — the classic Bengali mutton gravy — is likely to feature in the list. “New Punjabi Hotel, which is popularly called Golbari, in Shyambazar, Kolkata, is famous for its Kosha Mangsho. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of a semi-circular house and hence called golbari, and the dish is also called Golbari Kosha Mango,” says Susanta Dey, Bengali speciality chef, Marriott Suites Pune, Koregaon Park. If you are not planning to visit Kolkata anytime soon, fret not because Golbari Kosha Mangsho is a part of the Boishakhi festival at Sen5es, Marriott Suites, this weekend, or you could cook at home.   

- Mutton (medium-size pieces with bone).... - 1 kg
- Onion... - ..250 gm
- Cumin powder.. - .1 tbsp
- Green chillies.... - .4 to 5 
- Salt to taste
- Ginger-garlic paste... - ..100 gm
- Sugar.... - 1/2 tbsp
- Garam masala.... - 1/4 tsp
- Mustard oil... - ...150 ml
- Yoghurt..... - .50 gm

For marination 
- Raw papaya paste...... - 50 gm
- Kasmiri chilli powder...... - 2 tsp
- Turmeric powder..... - 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Ginger-garlic paste...... - 25 gm

For tempering
- Whole dry red chillies... - ..3 to 4 
- Black peppercorn.... - ..6 to 8 
- Green cardamom..... - .4 to 5 
- Cloves.... - ..4 to 5 
- Cinnamon stick.... - .2 to 3
- Bay leaf.....3 to 4 

- Marinate the mutton with all the marinade ingredients and keep aside for about  2 to 3 hours. 
- Heat oil in a kadhai and put all the ingredients for tempering and the julienne pieces of onion, and fry till light brown. 
- Now add the rest of ginger-garlic paste, mix well and sauté properly.
- Add Kashmiri red chilli powder and cumin powder and cook well, then add the marinated mutton into this mixture.
- Mix and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add 250-300 ml hot water cover properly and cooked in slow flame for 45-50 minutes. 
- Check it after 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once the mutton is cooked properly, serve hot with rice/ roti/ paratha/ luchi. Cooking time depends on the quality of meat.

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