Diwali celebrations and shenanigans

Vibrant Diwali festival is full of sparkling colour’s, which celebrates life and family. Five days of sheer bliss and alluring aromatic indulgences with near and dear ones. The first day Dhanteras celebrations are followed by Narak-Chaturdarshi or Chhoti Diwali hullaballoo. On this particular day, people make it a point to get up early and each member of the family is expected to have an early tailabhyangam (oil-bath) and later this is followed-up by aromatic uptan application to cleanse the body and calm the soul with herbs (like turmeric) that are scented with essential oils.

In the good-old-days, matriarch of the household was in command and demanded each member to finish the elaborate bathing ritual and dress up in their new clothes bright and early.  Once ready post-bath; the womenfolk of the household decorated the courtyards with rangoli’s (drawing traditional motifs with colorful powders.) Now, they have that the festive stage is set and traditional puja thali decorated and lit;  worship of Lord Krishna’s victory over evil wicked demon king Narakasur ensues. Post puja the sweet and savoury indulgences start.

Legend of Narak-Chaturdashi- The second day of Diwali is dedicated to the victory of Lord Krishna over the wicked demon king Narakasur. Narakasura was the son of Bhoomi God and despite of the righteous parentage, he possessed devilish tendencies. Ancient scriptures have it that Naraka after a severe penance had acquired immense powers due to a blessing given by Lord Brahma. Under his rule everyone suffered a lot of hardship and torture. Also, Narakasura attacked the heavens and got hold of the army of elephants of Lord Indra. In his arrogance he even snatched away the splendid earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi who was a relative of Lord Krishna’s wife, Satyabhama. Narakasur imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of Gods and saints of marriageable age in his harem, and intended to marry them. This created chaos everywhere. When Lord Krishna learnt about Narakasur’s evil deeds, he decided to destroy him. On hearing this Satyabhama, Lord Krishna’s wife, took this task upon herself and with his help killed the demon in the early hours of the fourteenth day of the dark half of Ashvin.  The women imprisoned by the demon were liberated.  As a symbol of the victory Lord Krishna smeared his own forehead with the demon’s blood. On his return, the womenfolk massaged his body with scented oils and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth.  Since, then the custom of taking a bath before sunrise on this day has become a traditional practice.

In South India before sunrise people break a bitter fruit that represents the head of the demon king that was smashed by Lord Krishna and apply a mixture of kumkum (a red powder applied on foreheads generally by women) and oil on their foreheads; to re-live the glorious victory of good over evil. They then have an oil bath using sandalwood paste.

After Narak-Chaturdashi, Laxmipujan is performed on the third day of Diwali.  As the story goes on this particular day Goddess Laxmi emerged from the ocean of milk called the ksheersagar. She carried with her wealth and prosperity blessings for mankind. This emergence of Goddess Laxmi is celebrated with great splendor and grandeur. A lot of people believe that the Goddess of prosperity and good fortune visits the homes of devotees on this day after sunset. Hence, they perform the puja at the stroke of midnight!

For the following alluring aromatic Diwali delights, there would be no need to burn the mid night oil. Try out the dishy dishes!

Phuljari Kebab

SantraBarfi with Lauki


True Diwali Spirit

Commonly known as the festival of lights, Diwali has lost its true sheen and real meaning, along the way. The core meaning of it is triumph of good over evil. Deepawali or Diwali means the victory of righteousness by defeating the spiritual darkness. The bigger take away lesson in it would be being virtuous and doing good by defeating the evil or negatives we all have within our own selves. 5 Day Diwali celebrations in India are popularly celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

  • In the northern regions of India, the Diwali celebration is associated with return of Lord Rama to Ayodha after defeating demon Ravana.
  • In the Southern regions of India, Diwali commemorates the triumph of Lord Krishna over wicked – Narakasura.
  • To the Jain population, Diwali is celebrated to mark the spiritual triumph of Lord Mahavera who attained Nirvana.

People start Diwali preparations in advance and it beings with cleaning and decorating their household’s weeks in advance. It is believed Goddess of wealth likes cleanliness and roams the earth on festive days and enters only those households that are neat, clean and very well illuminated. Thus every household does their best to clean the house top to bottom and decorate it with flowers and rainbow coloured rangolis. Marigold flower torans adorn the main gate of most homes and lit-diyas are generally placed uniformly on each side of the main door, to attract wealth and prosperity.

First day of Diwali – Dhanteras: On this day Goddess Lakshmi who is the goddess of wealth and prosperity is worshiped. A very famous story connected to Dhanteras – once there was this King called Hima who was destined to die young by a snakebite. However, his wife saved his life. The day he was destined to die, Hima’s wife did not allow him to sleep and she blocked his room by heaps of gold ornaments. She lit a million diyas all around the house and inside his room such that bright lights dazzled reflecting more light of the gold ornaments as well. Yama – the God of death came disguised as a serpent to take Hima’s life but the brightness of diyas and the dazzle of the gold ornaments prevented Yama from entering the room. He fell asleep outside and in the morning left, sparing King Hima’s life. In remembrance of this story, people pay their homage to Yama on Dhanteras which is also known as Yamadeepdaan.

This day is considered very auspicious and people buy gold, silver and jewels and businesses start their new accounting year. People also buy new cars, offices and utensils on this day.  Trying out these recipes on new utensils bought that day seems only fair. Try out the suggestions listed below…

Stuffed Gulab Jamun

Gajar Halwa Burfi

Mawa Gujiya

Our innovative Diwali treats!

Well, yet another Diwali has come and gone, but the taste of our innovative Diwali treats lingers on! The festivities had begun with full gusto and they ended with a keen competition amongst four teams that cooked to their hearts’ content for the Innovation Station. Began the week with a havan, and it was really peaceful and tranquil after the chants and prayers got over.
Then, there was this super duper excitement for all Khazanaites regarding the Innovation Station Competition on Tuesday. So it was 4 teams, 2 hours each and 3 dishes each…quite challenging, I must say it was more exciting to select the winner among
st all the creativity dished out before me! All the teams were in full form to make their dishes and it was quite difficult to decide the winners. But the team that was a stand-out performer of course won! They made a starter called Soya and Suran ka Jhatka. The main course was Jugalbandhi Tokri with Kedegree and the dessert was Pachim Falooda Mousse. Team members – Satyaki Mukherjee, Dilpreet Kohli, Nisha Dingra, Sheetal Kadam and Rohit Mangela – well done all, and congratulations!
You can see the creations in the pictures and in the same space I will be sharing their recipes soon. Diwali was different this year around and I hope my team keeps honing their skills all through the coming year.
So with all this fun and amazing food set before us, how about using these traditional recipes for the weekend guests?

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Diwali Dhamaka

If Diwali is around the corner, can food and fun be far behind! My team is excited about the challenge thrown to them…create an innovative Indian dish in under 2 hours! This is on coming Tuesday. Will also be having a havan on next Monday. Long time since we have had one in the office and so it will be a good thing. Then some break from work for everyone!
Last week, spent some time in Aurangabad giving a demonstration of recipes at the MGM Institute of Hotel Management. Yes, my new offering was a hare choliye ki pani puri!
So what is cooking this Diwali! Tell you, there is hope in the air as even the rising prices have not been able to dampen the festive spirit. The markets are aglow with sale of diyas and electric lahrees, the saree shops seem to be always packed (!) and soon we will see the same rush in mithai shops….
Wherever you turn, you witness some innovation in the food offered to you. The palate is growing at such a fast pace that restaurateurs are on their toes! People want new foods, new tastes and textures and I really think this is time that food is shining in India. But let us not forget the traditional greats. If we do not make them at home, how will our children learn about them and continue cooking them for the future generation? I urge you to write down all your grandma’s recipes, your mother’s recipes, your mother in law’s recipes, your elder sister’s recipes, your aunties’ recipes….whatever you can get hold of…because soon we will be floundering under so many fusions and innovations that our great cultural heritage will be ignored. I do take documentation quite seriously and hence so many books. Have you seen the latest book Cooking with Love which carries food cooked by my mother and mother in law? It is a cherished treasure for me.
So, as the mood goes, let us look at the good old home made Diwali treats. Go for them!

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor.

Karanjis and gujiyas – recipes for this Diwali

Karanjis are half moon shaped mithais with fluted ends: unmistakable pieces of art that bring joy every Diwali. Interestingly, these were made exactly the same way in ancient times as today but then they were called ‘samyavas’. There is mention in ‘Kalpastham’ of Shri Sarth Charak Samhita about ‘Karanjis’ and ‘Anarsas’ and their ingredients like cardamoms, aniseeds, dry coriander and cinnamon having medicinal values.
Call the Maharashtrian karanji, gujiya in Hindi and ghughra in Gujarati, the name might change but the basic structure and content remains similar. Made with superfine flour covering, it is the stuffing that adds variety. In Maharashtra, stuffing is prepared with lightly roasted fine semolina, grated dry or fresh coconut, sugar and lots of sliced dry fruits. In North India, a stuffing of khoya (mawa) is preferred. What with an eye-catching shape, karanjis are consumed almost as soon as they are ready. Mawa Gujiya does not have shelf life whereas karanjis with a well roasted nutty filling will keep well in airtight containers for a week or so.
Here is old fashioned Coconut Karanji also called Ole Naralachi Karanji.
Sieve 1 cup refined flour (maida) into a bowl. Add 1½ tablespoons semolina (rava) and 4 tablespoons ghee and mix with fingertips till mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Knead into semi-soft dough with ¼ cup milk and sufficient water. Once the dough is ready, cover it with a damp cloth and keep it aside for half an hour. For stuffing, roast 1 cup scraped coconut in a non stick pan till lightly browned. Add 15-20 chopped raisins, 1 cup powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon green cardamom powder and mix well. Let it cool. Knead the dough once again and divide into twelve small balls. Roll out each ball into a circle, place it in a greased karanji mould. Place a small portion of the prepared filling in the hollow. Apply a little water on edges, close the mould and press firmly. Heat sufficient ghee in a kadai and fry the karanjis till crisp and golden brown on medium heat. Drain on absorbent paper and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.
For adding variety to your karanji collection do try Date And Anjeer Baked Karanji and Chocolate and Nuts Karanji too.

Sweet offerings for Diwali

As Diwali draws near, there is so much talk about making mithais at home this year! Well, kaju katli is a personal favourite but let us veer away from the ordinary and make Badam Katli.
Of all nut based mithais Badam Katli is becoming quite a rage. And at one time I used to wonder why? And then I decided to go a little bit in depth researching it. The best is made of a delicate mixture of coarsely ground almond powder and powdered sugar. Some more in-depth research gave me the info that the almonds should be of topmost quality as also the grinding of it be done in short bursts of the grinder so that the heat generated does not harm the flavours which will begin to emanate once the almonds undergo the grind. Badam Katli, per se, is dull in colour, the upper layer prettied up with silver warq, shaped like diamonds and more important, as thin as one eighth of an inch.
For me the best Badam Katli is the one my wife Alyona makes at home. I have always maintained there is nothing like ghar ka khana and that is the absolute truth. Not only that, one can get more quantity for a lesser price! So this Diwali, let’s roll out sweet carpets of silver covered badam katli and treat our loved ones to home made mithai. For more such recipes click on Kaju Katli, Blueberry Sandwich Katli, Badami Besan ke Laddoo
How to make Badam Katli:
Blanch 250 grams almonds in two cups of boiling water for five minutes. Drain and peel. Spread the almonds on an absorbent towel to dry. Once completely dried, dry roast the almonds in a non stick pan for about seven minutes or till fragrant and light brown. Cool and powder. This makes (yield 190 grams). Cook 190 grams (¾ cup) sugar with three fourth cup of water in another non stick pan, stirring continuously till the sugar dissolves. Add 1 tablespoon milk and when the scum rises to the top, remove it with a ladle and discard. Cook the syrup till it reaches multi-thread or hard ball consistency. Take the pan off the heat and add the almond powder and 1¼ teaspoons liquid glucose and mix well. Continue to mix till the mixture is smooth and pliable. Transfer the mixture onto a flat surface and spread to cool a bit. Knead with your hands. Grease a table top with ghee and roll out the mixture to about quarter inch thickness taking care that the same thickness is maintained throughout. Rub the surface with butter paper. Decorate with silver varq, cut into diamonds and serve.

Some tricks from treats

Food recipes for Diwali are very much in the air. As Rakshabandhan has gone leaving a trail of mithai boxes at home, soon it will be time for Diwali and the same story of excess mithai in the fridge. And I am sure all of us are feeling replete and not wanting to eat anything heavy for years! But the fact remains that there are these boxes of sweets in the fridge that you would rather give away, and packet of fried stuff in the snack bins that you don’t feel like eating right now so what does one do?
In fact, what happens now as practice could well become your food recipes for Diwali in a couple of months’ time! Dry fruits will keep for quite some time tucked away in the corner of the fridge. In fact as the weather turns cooler, convert some pistas, almonds and cashewnuts into Dry Fruit Chikki. If you have boondi ladoos, use as stuffing in paranthas and call it Boondi Laddoo Parantha. The kaju katli can well be used to thicken phirni, it will give a nutty taste too, and you can make something as exotic as Barfiwali Chocolate Phirni. The pedas, as they are made with khoya, can be whisked with a little thickened milk and frozen in moulds to give you Kesar Pista Kulfi. The plain barfis can be grated and used as stuffing in paranthas, yet again, and remember to serve with rose syrup and rabdi.
I am sure your thoughts are going towards the namkeens too! I would convert the chivdas into bhels, the kachoris into chaats, the ganthia into a sabzi with a gravy of onions and tomatoes, crush the chaklis and mix it with crushed khakhras and serve this new farsaan with élan! As for those karanjis and ghughras, they are best consumed either fresh or then ‘refreshed’ with a dash of butter and baked for ten minutes.
Well, here is wishing you a comfortable journey in your quest for food recipes for Diwali 2011!