It's always memorable for friends and family to usher in the festival season with a hectic round of homecooking.
Let's choose from a few traditional vegetarian recipes you can quite easily prepare yourself at home and relish as you get soaked up in the festivities ahead.
Durga Puja is still a few days away, but the Navratri celebrations -- which commenced Monday and will continue till Dashmi -- are in full josh.
The festival, spanning nine nights, is marked with zabardast grandeur in several Indian states -- West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Gujarat, Maharashtra, among other states in India. While in the South, celebrations focus on a lavish bringing in of Dusshera.
Interestingly, the ways to worship the Goddess Durga and the Goddess Amba are quite different -- in Bengal and eastern India devotees prefer to feast, while in western and northern India they fast for their goddess.
On the food front, Navratri -- like so many other Indian festivals -- opens up a multiverse of flavours with all its special delicacies that are meant to nourish the mind, body, and soul.
A quintessential Navratri thali would have a good amount of millets, legumes, root vegetables like sweet potato or tapioca, and essential fats in the form of ghee or peanut oil.
Termed sattvik bhoj, Navratri meals are designed so those fasting attain a must-needed energy boost to power them through the day.
Every aspect of Navratri is associated with delectable dishes that are relished across the country during these divine nine days -- from lip-smacking savouries to wholesome sweets.
As a treat for these festive days, we offer five diverse Navratri and Durga Puja recipes.
Maharashtra's Ratalyacha Kees or Savoury Sweet Potato Fry
Sweet Potato is a root vegetable frequently used in Maharashtrian cuisine in both sweet and savoury forms.
This traditional recipe is low in calories and balanced in complex carbohydrates, proteins, and essential fats.
- 1 cup grated sweet potato, raw, peel on
- ½ cup roasted coarsely ground peanut powder
- 1 tbsp chopped green chillies
- 1 tbsp jeera or cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp ghee or peanut oil
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp grated fresh coconut
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh dhania or green coriander or cilantro
- 1 slice lime
- In a heavy-bottomed kadhai or saucepan, heat the ghee or oil.
Add the cumin seeds and chopped green chilies and saute for a minute.
Now add the grated sweet potato and mix well.
Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes.
Add the roasted peanut powder and salt.
Mix, cover and cook further for 5 minutes and take off heat.
- Garnish with the fresh coconut and chopped coriander.
Serve with a slice of lime on the side.
Gujarat's Sabudana Kheer or Sago Pudding
Sabudana Kheer is a delicious, filling fasting dessert and due to its unique texture and interesting mouth-feel, kids love it.
- ½ cup sabudana or sago
- 4 cups of full-fat cow's milk
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ tbsp or less green elaichi or cardamom powder
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 2 tbsp chopped cashews and almonds
- 1 tbsp raisins
- Soak the sabudana in ¾ cup of water and keep aside for at least an hour.
- Boil the milk in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
Add the soaked sabudana pearls and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now add the sugar and cardamom powder.
Boil for another 2 minutes.
Take off heat and keep aside to cool a little.
- Heat the ghee in a small frying pan and saute the nuts and raisins for 1-2 minutes over low heat, taking care not to burn them.
Add the roasted nuts to the kheer and mix.
Serve warm or chilled.
Editor's Note: Veganise the kheer by using almond milk instead of cow's milk and cashew butter instead of ghee.
For sugar-free kheer use stevia powder. Each brand of stevia has its own stevia for sugar substitution ratio provided on its packing.
Rajasthan's Singhara or Water Chestnut Laddoos
These super yum laddoos are high in dietary fibre and are good sustenance on a fasting day. The laddoos can be made with either sugar or jaggery.
- ½ cup singhara or water chestnut flour
- ¼ cup ghee
- ½ cup desiccated coconut
- 3 tbsp mixed nuts
- ½ cup sugar or jaggery powder
- 1 tsp green elaichi or cardamom powder
- Heat 2-3 tbsp ghee in a non-stick frying pan and roast the singhara flour over low heat, taking care not to burn it, till aromatic.
- In the same pan roast the desiccated coconut over low heat, taking care not to burn it, for 2-3 minutes.
- Roast the nuts, in the same pan, over low heat, taking care not to burn and keep aside.
- In a bowl, mix the sugar or jaggery powder, cardamom powder, the roasted singoda flour and nuts.
Roll the mixture into small 1-inch diameter laddoos and if they are not hanging together add a little milk.
Spread the roasted desiccated coconut and roll each laddoo in it.
Editor's Note: Veganise the laddoow by substituting ghee with cashew butter.
For sugar-free laddoow, use stevia powder. Each brand of stevia has its own stevia for sugar substitution ratio provided on its packing.
North India's Kuttu Ki Pooris or Deep-Fried Buckwheat Flatbread
A popular vrat or fasting recipe, these crispy, deep-fried Kuttu Pooris go well with aloo bhaji. Kuttu or buckwheat flour is gluten-free.
- 2 cups kuttu or buckwheat flour
- Rock salt to taste
- Oil or ghee, for frying
- Make a semi-stiff dough combining the kuttu flour, water and rock salt.
Divide the dough into equal small balls and flatten them into pooris using a rolling pin.
- Heat oil over high heat in a deep-frying pan or kadhai.
Fry the pooris, in batches, in hot oil, flipping, so both sides are golden brown.
Serve up with sweet curd or yoghurt or a simple boiled alu tadka.
Bengal's Luchi Aloor Dum ormDeep-Fried Indian Flatbread with Curried Potatoes
For Bengalis, Luchi and Aloor Dum is combination made in heaven, and perhaps that's why it is a staple breakfast in Bengali households on weekends.
During Durga Puja, you'll be able to relish this combo at almost every puja pandal.
For the curry
- 15-20 baby potatoes
- 4-5 tbsp onion paste
- Pinch sonf or fennel seeds
- ½ cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 2 tsp Kashmiri chilly powder
- 1 tsp haldi or turmeric powder
- 1 tsp dhania or coriander powder
- ½ jeera or cumin powder
- ½ tsp garam masala powder
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- Salt to taste
For the luchi
- 2 cups maida or all-purpose flour
- 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Salt to taste, about ½ tsp
- Warm water
- Oil for deep frying
- Maida for rolling
For the Aloor Dum
- Boil the potatoes in a pressure cooker, with a dash of salt, over medium-high heat for 2 whistles.
Take off heat and let the potatoes cool before peeling them.
- Heat the mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed kadhai or frying pan and fry the potatoes until reddish-brown.
- Heat the peanut oil in the same pan and add the onion paste and saute until golden brown.
Now add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and fry until oil gets separated.
Add the dry spices, sonf and a little water.
Cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the pre-fried potatoes and give it a stir so the masala coats the potatoes.
Add ¼ cup hot water.
Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes.
Add the garam masala and cook for 1-2 minutes over low heat.
Take off heat and garnish with the chopped coriander.
Serve hot with Luchis.
For the luchi
- Sieve the maida and salt.
Transfer into a bowl and add the oil.
Pour in a little warm water and knead to form a soft dough.
Cover with a moist cloth and allow the dough to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Knead the dough once again.
Divide it into small, equal-sized 1-inch diameter balls.
Flatten each ball and roll it out, like you would a poori, on a wooden board or chakla sprinkled with loose maida, with a rolling pin or belan.
- Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed kadhai or deep frying pan.
Deep-fry the luchis in batches, in hot oil, flipping, so that they turn golden brown evenly.
Serve hot with Aloor Dum.