Skip to main content

Ashtami Food



Yesterday was ashtami, the eighth day of the navratras. Twice a year in my home state of Punjab, in April and then again in October, ashtami is celebrated as kanjak. Technically, this means that it is a day you pray to the Goddess Durga and invite 7 girls to your place to treat them to a meal. But given the logistics of everyone needing to invite girls (there are only so many kids in the neighbourhood after all), here is how it works: my mum and dad will get up early in the morning and make the traditional ashtami meal of puris, semolina halwa and dried black chickpeas. We will then create little snack packs with two puris topped with a scoop of halwa and another scoop of the chickpeas.

One of us will then go out out get hold of neighbourhood kids - both boys and girls are welcome and the more the merrier. They will come in, you will spend 5 minutes doing the puja. My dad will light the traditional lamp, hand over tiny bites of halwa as prasad to the kids and then fill the plates they bring with them with the ashtami food, some gifts and typically some money. For kids, these are the two favourite days of the year. They get all the attention and get nice gifts like toys and bangles and what not. Plus my four year old niece certainly raked in enough money yesterday to keep her high on candy for a week.

As a child, my favourite time was when the puja was over, all the kids had gone home and my mum will fry fresh puris for us to eat. Everyone knows dozens of halwa recipes but my pick of the meal was black chana. For some reason, this curry was only made at our place twice a year and never more. Maybe because it's considered to be too simple compared to other curries. Because the meal is offered in prayer to Goddess Durga, no onions or garlic can be used. But even with dry spices, the curry comes out flavoursome and a great match for oily puris and the rich halwa. Here's how you make some.

Ingredients
1/2 cup black chickpeas
1 tbsp ghee
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tbsp amchur (dried mango powder)

Soak the chickpeas overnight in at least 4-5 cups of water. Drain and wash in running water, then set aside. In a pressure cooker, heat the ghee. Add cumin seeds and wait for 15-20 seconds until they start to splutter. Then add haldi and stir it around to take the raw turmeric smell off. Add the soaked chickpeas, salt and chilli powder as well as 2 1/2 cups of water. Put the pressure lid on and cook for 5-6 whistles until the chickpeas are soft. There will still be some water left over from cooking, if not add 1/2 cup water, garam masala and amchur, then put the chickpeas back on heat. Cook on a medium heat until the water dries up and the chickpeas are nicely coated with spices. Serve hot with puris or paranthas.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Bowlful of Comfort

I have a friend who is quite the globetrotter. Lunches at her place, often right after her trips, are a treasure trove of global flavours. But the last time we met, she was just back from Tamil Nadu and out she brought a bowl of curd rice. I love curd rice and have eaten a lot of it over the years but my friend's version was so full of flavours and textures, it was a revelation. Obviously, I asked for the recipe.

The genius of this curd rice lies in adding the tempering or the tadka twice, once to mix in the rice so it absorbs all the flavours. Then you make a second batch to top the rice with just before you serve, so it adds crunch to the usually mushy dish. The recipe also has a few other elements added in for texture, freshness and flavour.

I over-ate at lunch at my friend's and I over-ate again when I made this for myself for lunch. Plus, all the ingredients you need are likely in your kitchen already so you may as well go make it now.

Ingredients
1/2 cup rice
1 cup plain…

Fruits of the Forest

I know there hasn't been a new recipe on these pages for a while. But worry not, I'm back with a real zinger. Earthy, creamy, crunchy - this is an appetizer that ticks all the right boxes. And if you happen to be a mushroom lover like me, this is the best way to eat mushrooms I've found so far. I present to you, for all your year end parties and appetizer cravings - creamy mushroom pate on toast.

Its mushroom pate two way - just on its own and panko-crumbed and fried. Both go on a crisp garlic baguette with watercress and some kewpie mayonnaise. Here's the recipe.

Ingredients
Crunchy garlic butter toasts (I buy them as is, but you can also slice and toast baguettes)
200 grams button mushrooms
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
kewpie mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise)
watercress or micro herbs
salt and black pepper to taste
oil for deep frying

First, make mushroom pate. Y…

Summer Garden

Think of healthy food in Mumbai and Bandra immediately comes to mind. When these Bandra hipsters are done hanging out at Yoga House and head to work to Lower Parel, there are the likes of 212 All Good to lunch at. But try eating healthy food outside of these two neighbourhoods and your choices are a couple of sad salads tucked in the corner of restaurant menus.

Summer Garden is changing that for Powai. Set a tiny bit away from the busy Central Avenue, the outdoor cafe is right next to Hakone entertainment centre. It twinkles with fairy lights at night and pets are welcome all day (they even get their own treats!). We sit down with our freshly squeezed juices to chat with the young and bubbly chef Suchin on her food philisophy.

Cute handwritten menus aside, there is much to love about how they cook at Summer Garden. Nothing comes our of a jar or a bottle. There is no refined flour or white sugar or refined oil in any dish. They soak their whole grains and bake their own bread and jui…