Fasting and Feasting

Alisha Shinde
Saturday, 11 August 2018

The onset of Shravan month is marked by observing fast and giving up on meat and fish for a month. For those who think vegetarian food is boring, Alisha Shinde has collected these tasty, and healthy dishes

The Indian festival calendar, as we all know, is designed keeping in mind the seasonal changes that affect our mind, body and spirit. Shravan, considered to be the auspicious month in Hindu almanac, signifies fasting, and detoxifying our body and mind, by abstaining from certain food items, like meat. 

Shravan usually falls in the months of July-August, when it’s raining and bacterial and fungal infections are on the rise. Our immunity is low and therefore Ayurveda recommends giving up non-vegetarian food, or food cooked in too much oil and spices, as it might affect digestion. 

Religiously speaking, certain days of the week in the Shravan month, are considered auspicious and pious. Shravani Somwar (Monday) is when most people fast, because it’s the day on which Lord Shiva is worshipped. Being a food loving community and also one of those who follow our religious beliefs, we take our fasts and abstention of certain food items seriously. 

We have been turning to sabudana or tapioca, for sustenance during Shravan. But in the fast paced lives that we are leading, our palate has evolved. We want to please our elders and the gods, but also eat something delicious that ticks all the boxes of a diet meant for upvas, including ‘good for health’ and ‘hassle free to cook.’ 

Says Ronak Mehta, chef, Becky’s Binging Bay, “The monsoon diet must be lighter, warm and less watery. However, there are ways in which one can make the regular Shravan food interesting. One needs to explore different kinds of cuisines, nationally and internationally, in the vegetarian style.” 

Food can be made interesting by combining different kinds of fresh and dry ingredients like coriander, chilli, chilli oil, and lemon in Indian food.

Fresh/dry herbs like oregano, basil, paprika etc can be used in continental food to give it a twist.  

“You can try vegetable stir fry dishes in which food is cooked at high temperature for a low period of time, thus retaining the original texture of the vegetables and also killing the bacteria,” he adds. 

Mehta also points out that cooking food in Shravan comes with a responsibility. “It’s always challenging and interesting to come up with vegetarian dishes without using onion and garlic. One option is to marinate the vegetables with paste of coriander/parsley oil/harissa) before cooking and eating them semi-dry like it is served in burrito/quesadilla. The challenge is in creating a dish, which is equally appetising and appealing at the same, giving the consumer the best of the ingredients in the healthiest way.” 

Priyanka Borude, a home-cook based in Pune, says, “The food that is cooked in Shravan has its own health benefits. But people add some twists to make the spread interesting. My personal favourite is the Sabudana Vada, which I make with boiled potatoes, crushed peanuts and soaked sabudana. To make it interesting, I stuff it with tasty coconut chutney.” 

Raman Dadu, owner of Dadu’s Sweet Emporio, adds that food items are cooked specially for festivals with specific ingredients. “The ingredients used in these dishes are significant to that particular month, because of which they have an important place in the food prepared during this period,” he says.

Dadu points out that Indian desserts such as Ghevar in various flavours, Shakaraparas, Karanji, Gond Laddu and Moong Dal Halwa are some authentic dishes, prepared in north India, during Shravan. “The desserts made during Shravan are specifically rich in nutrients and are aimed at keeping the body warm and the bones healthy. They are prepared in pure ghee and sprinkled with dry fruits which are very good for your health,” he adds.

Ghevar, which is the most traditional and customary dessert during Shravan, is a disc-shaped sweet cake made in desi ghee, milk and sprinkled with dry fruits. This honeycomb sweet can be made with various toppings to make it tastier. “Gifting Ghevar, known as Sanjara, is a tradition in Rajasthan. It marks the start of a positive relationship with good hope. There are many varieties of Ghevar like plain, mawa and malai. Aata (flour) or Gond ke Laddoo is another delicious and nutritious choice during the festive month as these laddoos are packed with the goodness of almonds, cardamom and gond,” says Dadu. 

He goes on to add that there is a reason why people crave Indian desserts. “English desserts may not be the healthiest form of carbohydrates, but Indian desserts have the right blend of good fats and nutrients, hence people keep coming back for more,” he affirms. 

When asked how an interesting twist can be given to our traditional desserts, the sweetmaker says, that we can pick ingredient used in English desserts like chocolate, berry flavours, fruit extracts, cheese and create a fusion of flavours. 

Healthy Gond Laddoo
Ingredients
- Gond (edible gum)...    200gm
- Wheat flour...    200 gm 
- Sugar..    .350 gm
- Water..    ¾ cup
- Ghee...    250 gm
- Almonds..    .30 to 35
- Cardamom...    10 cloves
Method
- Break the gond into small pieces. 
- Heat the ghee in a pan. Keep adding small quantities of gond to the heated ghee and fry it on a low flame.
- Once the gond puffs out, set it aside to cool.
- Add the flour to the remaining ghee in the pan and lightly roast it till it starts changing colour.   
- Cut almonds into small pieces. Peel and crush the cardamom. 
- Once the gond cools down, press it with a rolling pin to give it a finer texture. 
- In a saucepan, add sugar and water to make a sugar syrup with a solidifying consistency.
- Add the gond, flour, almonds and crushed cardamom to the sugar syrup and mix all the ingredients properly with your hand. 
- Take little amount of mixture in your hand and roll it into laddoos of the desired size.  
- Keep the Gond Laddoos in open air for an hour before storing it in an air tight container.
— Recipe by Priyanka Borude, Home Chef

Traditional Ghevar
Ingredients (1 cup = 250 ML)
For batter
- Ghee..    .½ cup 
- Ice.    ..1-2 cubes
- Maida/plain flour/refined flour...    2 cups
- Chilled milk…     ½ cup
- Chilled water..    .3 cups
- Lemon juice.    ..1 tbsp
For sugar syrup
- Sugar...    1 cup
- Water…     ¼ cup
Other ingredients
- Oil/ghee....     for deep frying
- Dry fruits..    . for garnishing
- Cardamom powder…     ¼ tsp 
- Silver varak...     for garnishing
Method
- Take ghee and rub with ice cubes. Add maida and crumble well.
- Add chilled milk and roughly mix it.
- Add chilled water and lemon juice to the mixture and make it into a smooth flowing consistency 
- Make the sugar syrup in a saucepan by bringing the water and sugar to a boil. Turn the heat to low flame and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely.   
- Heat oil in a kadhai and pour out the batter in it, maintaining a safe distance from the hot oil. The batter will splatter, froth will form and later subside. Repeat this for 10-15 times.
- Pull the Ghevar out once cooked, and drain off the oil completely
- Pour the sugar syrup over ghevar, garnish with chopped nuts and sprinkle cardamom powder.
- Garnish the Ghevar with silver varak

Depending on the palate of the consumer, the toppings can be altered.
— Recipe by Raman Dadu, owner, Dadu’s Sweet Emporio 

Nutritious Dry Fruit Shake
Ingredients
- Milk...    2 cups
- Sliced banana...    1
- Raisins...     ¼ cup
- Chopped dates...     ¼ cup
- Cashews...     ¼ cup
- Unsalted almonds..    . ¼ cup
Method
- Soak the almonds and cashews in lukewarm water for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Peel the almond skin.
- Grind the almonds and the cashews into a smooth paste.
- Add the paste to the banana and the milk in a blender and blend till you get the desired consistency.
- Pour into a serving glass with a couple of ice cubes.
- Garnish with roughly chopped dry fruits.

— Recipe by Priyanka Borude, Home Chef

Burnt chilli Stir Fry
Ingredients
- Kashmiri chilli..    .4-5 
- Green chilli (finely chopped).    ..4
- Diced carrots..    .1 cup
- French beans    ...6
- Zucchini (sliced).    ..1
- Red, yellow and green capsicum (diced)..    .1 cup
- Mushroom of your choice...1 cup (optional)
- Broccoli…    1 cup 
- Bok choy…     1 bunch
- Sprouts…     ¼ cup
- Corn starch…     1 tbsp  
- Vegetable stock…    1 cup
- Swiss Chard..    .2-3 leaves
- Chinese cabbage...    2 leaves 
- American corn...    1 cob 
- Rice..    .1 bowl
- Coriander paste...    1tsp
- Fresh coriander
- Soya sauce...    1 tbsp
- Sugar     as required
- Chilli oil     as required  
- Oil     as required
- Salt     as required
Method 
- Heat oil and add green and Kashmiri chillies and toss them well, till they burn slightly on high flame.
- Slow down the flame and add boiled carrots and French beans.
- Add thick slices of zucchini, red yellow and green capsicum, broccoli, mushroom, babycorn, bulb of the bok choy and stir fry.
- Now add vegetable stock along with soya sauce. Add a pinch of salt and chilli oil with a hint of sugar. Now add cornstarch to thicken the gravy.
- Add leafy vegetables like Chinese cabbage, Swiss Chard, Bok choy leaves and sprouts.
- Take it off the flame and serve with corn coriander rice.
Coriander Rice
- Add oil and chopped American corn along with boiled rice and coriander paste in a pan and mix well.
- Add a pinch of salt and white pepper. Once the rice is cooked, garnish with freshly chopped coriander

— Recipe by Ronak Mehta, chef, Becky’s Binging Bay

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