Bura na mano Holi hai!

What’s unique about Holi is the riot of rich colours which when combined with high spirits rejuvenates life on earth. Holi Festival is a celebration of life, love, happiness and good spirits!

Holi, the most colourful of Hindu festivals, falls on the full moon day in the Hindu month of phagun, which is the month of March as per the Gregorian calendar. LathmaarHoli, DulandiHoli, Rangpanchami, HolaMohalla and Shimgo are some of the names Holi is known as. The customs and traditions are more or less the same with miniscule changes in different regions. It is one of the most famous and widely celebrated festivals in India. As it is with every Hindu festival, Holi is associated with a lot of traditional sweets and savories.

Not to forget, some of my most fond childhood memories are associated with Holi. As the cold winter months would fade, marking the arrival of spring, me and my friends would eagerly wait to start our Holi celebrations! We would go to the market in large groups where there would be an entire stream of shops displaying all the things we need to celebrate a grand Holi! Mounds of powdered colours, pichkaris of every imaginable shape and size, gulal, water balloons, food items – you name it! Getting drenched in water and colour and going back home exhausted only to be welcomed home with the smell of hot crisp gujiyas and other treats my mother would prepare for Holi. Sigh! Those were the good old days.

Holi is a time to forgive and forget all woes of the past and begin new friendships. People throw water balloons and gulal on passersby’s and follow it up by saying “bura na mano holi hai!” It works as a way to get away with almost anything on this day. People indulge in singing and dancing on special Holi songs, spraying coloured water with pichkaris, enacting plays based on Holi legends, etc. Large common Holi celebrations are organized, where rain dance is a common attraction. Holi is one of the most interactive and social festival I know of. People get together and celebrate in union, irrespective of the caste, creed, age, gender or status. Eco friendly Holi is a concept which we must welcome. Use of limited amounts of water and herbal colours to play is good not only for the environment, but also for our personal health. We could also celebrate Holi with tomatoes, like they do at the Tomatina Festival in Spain!

Holi calls for a lot of activity and activity activates hunger pangs! If one travels across India, one could probably have a taste of various regional sweets. The one binding factor across the states is the beverage called thandai that is specially prepared on the occasion of Holi. Thandai can be in two versions: one that has bhaang (cannabis) and the other tamer version for kids and for those who do not want to get inebriated!

The buds and leaves of cannabis are squashed and ground into a green paste in a mortar with a pestle. Milk, nuts and spices are then added. Some prefer to add the leaves to fried savoury dumplings called pakoras and as the unsuspecting guests consume them the intoxicating effect of the bhaang becomes evident. While bhaang has never been a part of my personal Holi celebrations, there is another drink known as – kanji! My mother used to make the traditional gajar ki kanji, by soaking pieces of carrots (preferably black carrots) in a mixture of water and spices for a couple of days. Back then I used to avoid drinking this as much as possible but now I absolutely love it! I will surely be making it this time and so should you as it is a healthy and nutritious addition to any Holi menu!

At the more organized Holi parties, food orders are outsourced to catering companies. However, the real deal lies in making the treats yourself!

Traditional Holi eats:

 

While it is very important for us to celebrate our rich heritage, it is also extremely essential to conserve and not pollute existing resources around us. Keeping this in mind we can easily cut back on some of the more extravagant ways of celebrating this festival by using eco friendly herbal colours, ensuring minimal water wastage, avoiding dangerous rubber balloons, maintaining hygiene and ensuring that everyone around us is having a safe Holi. Remember, Holi is a festival of colours, joy and celebration! The real way to celebrate is to spread the universal message of love to one and all. Let the spirit and colours of Holi make a big splash in your life in the most positive way ever.

Here’s wishing one and all a very happy and a colourful Holi!

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

Look after yourself

Even as I write this, I can hear the roll of drums and the reverberating dholaks on the roads – processions are already on with fifth day of Lord Ganesh’s festival being marked with immersions. Have we ever wondered at the following? How Ganesha’s big head can inspire us to think big and think profitability, how His big ears show openness to new ideas and suggestions, how His narrow eyes point to the deep concentration needed to finish a task well and how His long nose encourages curiosity and learning! Well, have given you enough to dwell on for the time being!
I was also reading how the mission Crater Mumbai has been shaping up. That the roads are in bad shape is in the news is not anything new. But what is alarming now is that we are losing our posture slowly and gradually thanks to them. The traveler on the road is suffering from bad backs. On the other end, even desk bound people who are in their office chairs at hours on end need to improve their posture. I hear of bad backs and stiff necks and slipped discs. I am sure anyone can do some stretching exercises after every hour of work : walk around a bit, swivel the neck, flex the fingers etc. You have to look after yourself, come what may.
A bit tied up with some work on the recipes that I will be shooting for the new schedule of Teen Patti beginning tomorrow. Time just seems to fly, really, as I am already on the sixth schedule for my show on FoodFood. What I am really excited about now is the telecast of MahaChallenge which is on from Sept 9th! You will definitely enjoy it as the show is full of challenges, goal setting, going for the goal, emotional highs and lows and of course, the inimitable hosting by Madhuri Dixit.
As I have spoken about looking after oneself, how about some healthy recipes for this rainy season.

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor.

Lord Ganesh is on His way!

Rain or floods, Lord Ganesha is coming to town and just two three days from now, Mumbai will be resonating with music and fanfare and lots of fervour! With this festival comes the joyous cooking of treats for the God who loves His food! I suggest you see our list of suggestions visible on www.sanjeevkapoor.com for ideas. It also makes sense to decide now what you want to cook and purchase all the dry ingredients at least so that there is not much of shopping to do on the last day. Pick up your fresh fruits and vegetables on THE day.
Things are also looking up regarding the new website to be launched. Anything new is bound to have loads of excitement attached to it! A makeover was long overdue and as life as it is on the fast lane for everybody, we too have taken the step and are making the website smarter and faster. I do hope you all are looking forward to it as much as we are! Next week, some shooting schedules for Turban Tadka and Teen Patti are on the anvil.
When the days are so wet and damp, let’s not dampen our spirit of cooking! So treat your family to some nice warm food every evening. For some starters and soups, click on the following:


Wishing you all a delightful festive season ahead!


Till I write again
Sanjeev Kapoor.

Fun filled festivities with fewer calories!

Everyone is looking out for Indian festive recipes now that the festive season is here well and good! It means those who have a sweet tooth and are health conscious will be literally looking at tightening their belts! It is so easy to go overboard in these days because there is so much food visible – fancy foods are made not only at home but there is so much variety available in the market too. You will find a flood of sugarless sweets and low calorie savouries on the shelves now. It is easy to get tempted and buy a lot of them with the thought that consuming them may not mean a lot of calories. But beware, drop by drop does an ocean fill! Too much of ‘low-calorie’ can also add up to too many extra calories! Secondly, there is always a trace of doubt as to what the commericalised ‘low calorie’ can mean!
Indian festive recipes are needed as festivities in our homes can mean a round of lunches, dinners and parties with a lot of snacky food and desserts. It is not always possible for the hostess or host to provide an absolutely ‘healthy’ menu to the guests: some people expect traditional fried foods too! But here we can suggest that you avoid whatever you think does not fit into your daily meal plan. Go for those dishes that look low in fat.
It is not so difficult to provide low calorie foods during festivals. Switch to baking instead of frying. One can bake samosas, namakparas and karanjis. For a sample try Baked Namakpara. You can also rustle up a variety of mini idlis and dhoklas. In sweets, sugar substitutes are the answer. Take a look at Sugar Free Mathura ka Pedha and Gajar Halwa Sugarfree. Otherwise use natural sources like dates and anjeer to add sweetness. For example, Date and Anjeer Baked Karanji and Date and Walnut Laddoo are good recipes.
It is the trend now to gift fresh fruit baskets instead of dry fruit boxes as the former are lower in calories! The trick to remain fit during the festive season is to eat in moderation. You will not be bogged down with any guilt pangs then! And then you always this little spot where you can read up on low calorie Indian festive recipes!

Website wonders!

Just in with some steaming facts about http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com, before the release of the new, improved and user friendly version of the website! Check them out…
  • The website finally crossed a 10 lakh visits landmark, with 12 lakh visits in just the last 30 days! I think this is a great achievement with whatever we had initially begun with. Kudos to my team for raising the bar to this level.
  • According to the statistics, most of the users has usually come in during the festivals to check out special features and recipes. This is pretty prominent from the fact that on August 12, 2011 alone about 50,000 users logged onto the site as the next day was a major Hindu festival – Rakshabandhan. Indians sure love food, and more, when its some festival or special occasion!
  • As far as the data related to the division of users on the basis of region is concerned – I just learnt that while the cream of the lot remains Indians with a 60% visitors, many visitors came in from the United States (14% visitors) and the United Kingdom (5% visitors).
Here’s hoping that our relationship continues to grow and flourish in all time to come. I am humbled by the love, affection and gratitude shown by the food lovers from different parts of the world. I also take this opportunity to thank all food lovers for their feedback, contributions and suggestions in making http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com a primary source for Indian recipes.
And what better could be done, than to celebrate this joy with some real scrumptious recipes…aptly some Parsi recipes…for Pateti.
Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Konkan cuisine- the secrets revealed

The relatively undiscovered palm fringed beaches of the Konkan region are home to many a fishing village. The ribbon-like coastal Konkan belt is full of coconut plantations and a variety of seafood. Quite predictably, this area has some of the best seafood recipes of India. Tourists who have explored these coastal havens confirm their affinity towards coconut laced curries with a punch. Fish is considered as the ‘Fruit of the sea’ and fishing trawlers can be seen all along the coastline to collect the bounty of the Arabian Sea. The most common fish that are found include mackerels, sardines, sharkfish, kingfish, squids, sting rays and many other small fish. Pomfret, though available, is not found in abundance, hence the high price at times. Variety of shellfish includes prawns or shrimps of all sizes, crabs, mussels, oysters, lobsters and crayfish.
As you go southward along the coast, you notice that certain ingredients of cooking are typical of this area, examples are Kokum, used in abundance in curries and vegetable gravies to add a touch of sourness; curry leaves, asafoetida, red chillies and coriander seeds. One of the favourite and famous vegetarian dishes, which will leave you with a taste that will haunt you for days to follow is the Solkadi. Though coconut is abundant in the Konkan, it is groundnut oil that is used as a cooking medium.
The highlight of the cuisine of this region is the two basic masala pastes that form the base for most of the dishes. One is the Rasgoli mixture made from fresh coconut gratings with a variety of spices whereas the second is the Bhajana mixture made of stronger spices with roasted coconut and onion. The former is used for fish curries and the latter for meat or chicken curries. Both the masala mixes can be used equally effectively for vegetable curries. The Konkanis are particular about the spices and herbs that are chosen after long hours of discussion. A vast variety of red chillies is available in the area with varying degrees of spiciness and colour. Since the colour and texture of the curry is as important to them as the flavour, each ingredient is chosen with care and used with patience.
An everyday meal consists of several accompaniments that are set out in a particular manner in the taat (plate). The taat vadhany (method of setting food on the platter) is an art that young girls are trained in as soon as they are 7-8 years old. It starts with a bit of salt at the top centre of the taat. On its left is set a small piece of lemon. Then follow the chatni (spicy accompaniment made of ground coconut and green chillies), Koshimbir (salad), bharit (lightly cooked or raw vegetable in yogurt) in that order. The vegetable with gravy never precedes the dry vegetable because the gravy will run into it. The meal is served by the woman of the house. Once everyone is seated, rice is served with a little toop (ghee) poured on it. The meal only starts after the eldest male in the house dedicates the meal to the Gods and everyone says a short prayer in thanksgiving.
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