Navrati celebrations are in full swing with garba and dandiya nights intensifying the festive vibe.
Navratri is also about fasting all through the nine days. Most people avoid non-veg food, onion and garlic. But despite following strict rules, the taste of the food should never be compromised. We speak to a few chefs to know how to make Navratri vrat (fasting) food more interesting and delicious.
Shevali Mathur, who owns Tasty Tongues and Jalebi Junction, says that pure ghee is an important ingredient in the preparation of Navratri food. She further adds that a dish like Sabudana Vada can be made in different ways to satiate your taste buds. In Maharashtra and a few other regions, the vada is seasoned with green chilli and hara dhaniya (coriander sprigs), and fried in pure ghee.
“Besides, you can have Rabdi, Aloo Ki Sabzi, Matar Ki Sabzi, Paneer Ki Sabzi sans garlic and onion. In some regions, people do not consume tomatoes during Navratri, hence both paneer and other sabzis can be made without them. Those who do not want to have Rabdi can go for Kulfi,” says Mathur.
Apple Rabdi by Chef Kamlesh Rawat
Apples (medium) 3
Milk 1 litre
Sugar 4 tsp
Green cardamom 1/4 tsp
Almonds (blanched and
Pistachios (blanched and sliced) 8-10
Pour milk in a broad vessel and bring to a boil. Simmer till reduced to half the original quantity.
Add sugar and keep stirring continuously. Peel and grate two apples. Add the grated apples to the reduced milk and mix.
Cook for three to four minutes. Add cardamom powder, almonds and pistachios.
Pour into a serving dish. Thinly slice the remaining apple. Arrange the slices all around the dish. Serve hot or cold.
Dates and Nuts Laddoos
Large dates (pitted).... 20
Mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts) ....1/4 cup (240 ml cup)
Coconut (desiccated) ....1 tbsp (optional)
Dry roast nuts for a few minutes on the stove top and set them aside to cool. Or microwave for about two minutes and stir in between at least twice.
To the same pan, add dates and heat them till they turn soft. If in a microwave, add dates to the same tray, microwave for about 30 to 60 seconds to soften them. Add desiccated coconut if using.
Knead or blend the dates and set them aside. Add nuts to the blender and pulse them coarsely or chop. Mix dates and nuts well or put them in a blender.
Take small portions and roll them into balls. You can roll them in desiccated coconut to give a laddoo look.
If you wish to store the laddoos for about a week or so, then heat the dates a little longer.
Keeping up with tradition
Maharaj Babulal Choudhary, corporate chef, Khandani Rajdhani, says that in some parts of the country people consume grains (excluding rice and wheat), but in other regions, especially in the North, they strictly abstain from grains and regular salt.
“Besides avoiding non-vegetarian food and onion, garlic, regular oil and processed salt, many people also do not eat grains. Instead ingredients like singhare ka atta (water chestnut flour), sendha namak (rock salt), sabudana (tapioca pearls), banana, kuttu ka atta (buckwheat flour), shakarkand (sweet potato), rajgira, samo rice or sama chawal (a kind of millet), fruits, potatoes, etc are used in interesting ways to make vrat food,” Choudhary says.
Some of the traditional items which you can relish during Navratri are Sabudana Vada, Farali Patty, Banana Cutlet, Kuttu Ke Pakode or Puri, Singara ke Pakode or Puri, Sabudana Tikki, Kaccha Kela Patty, Aloo Sukha Bhaji, Kele Ki Sabzi, Paneer Vatana, Sitaphal Ki Sabzi, Dahi Pudina Aloo, Khatta Meetha Kaddu, Tomato Vatana, Tomato Dal, Rajgira Kadhi, Singhare ki Kadhi, Pineapple Raita, Potato Salad, Thaalipeeth and so on. Here, Choudhary shares his Sabudana Khichdi recipe:
Sabudana... 1 & 1/2 cup
Peanuts... 1/4 cup
Green chillies (finely chopped).. . 4-5
Potato (medium). ..1
Ghee.. . 3 tbsp
Curry leaves.. .1-2 sprigs
Cumin seeds.... .1 tsp
Rock salt to taste
Lemon juice.. ..1 tsp
Coconut scraped.. .2 tbsp
Coriander leaves (chopped)....a few sprigs
Wash sabudana and then soak in one cup water for three to four hours. Sabudana grains should be separate and moist.
Roast peanuts on a hot griddle, peel off the skin and then grind coarsely. Peel and wash the potato and cut into cubes.
Heat ghee in a pan, add curry leaves, cumin seeds and chopped green chillies. When cumin seeds crackle add the potato cubes.
Cook till the potatoes are done. Add sabudana, scraped coconut and ground peanuts, sauté for four to five minutes, stirring well. Sprinkle a little water, add salt and lime juice. Mix well.
Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot.
Taste bhi, health bhi
Maharaj Vijay Singh, chef at Maharaj Bhog, Juhu, Mumbai, says multigrain (made with barley, flax, millet, oats, edible seeds such as flaxseed, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds) is an ideal ingredient to have during Navratri as it is very nutritious.
“For breakfast, you can have multigrain oatmeal with some blueberries mixed in and have two slices of multigrain bread with homemade peanut butter and strawberry jam,” says Singh.
A healthy portion of multigrain Khichdi is good for dinner. However, a healthier version of consuming multigrain during Navratri is to have baked Murukku, also called Chakli, which is also a source of iron.
“Consuming enough iron allows you to produce functional red blood cells, the cells your body relies on for oxygen transport. Murukku made during Diwali is deep fried in oil, but the baked version is healthy,” suggests Singh.
Vrat food doesn’t always mean Sabudana Khichdi or Kuttu (buckwheat flour) Ki Puri. Kamlesh Rawat, executive chef, Grand Sarovar Premiere Mumbai, has curated a few recipes which are extremely delicious and they have a high nutrition value too.
He says that Apple Rabadi which is made with apples, milk, cardamom and dry fruits will satisfy all your cravings during the fasting period and those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the mix of these ingredients where calorie intake will also be less if one chooses to add sugar-free instead of sugar.
Ask him which sweet dish is the healthiest for Navratri and Rawat promptly replies, “Try Dates and Nuts Laddoos. These extremely delicious yet nutritious laddoos can be kept in your bag and you can have them while on the go. Made with almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, dates and some coconut, the laddoos are very tasty and healthy.”